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By John Bunyan / Faithlife / 2006
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In this work, “. . .Man’s soul is figured under the simile of a town, which having surrendered to an insidious and mortal enemy, is besieged by its lawful Sovereign with all the ‘pomp and circumstances’ of war; the arch-enemy is driven out, the town retaken, new-modelled, and garrisoned by Emmanuel.” The editor, George Offor, calls it an “extraordinary book, manifesting a degree of genius, research, and spiritual knowledge, exceeding even that displayed in the Pilgrim’s Progress.”
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John Bunyan, of Elstow and Bedford, is important to the Reformed tradition, since his famous allegory is one of the chief avenues by which the Puritan spirit entered the mainstream of the English Reformation. With Calvinism as foundational, Bunyan’s prolific writings and fervent preaching embodied a vibrant awareness of Reformed theological thought and its implication for Christian living. The author of more than sixty books, he gained a unique place in history through Grace Abounding (1666), The Pilgrim’s Progress (pt. 1, 1678; pt. 2, 1684), The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680), and The Holy War (1682). Other works were primarily expository, doctrinal, and practical.
Bunyan joined the Bedford Baptist Church (1654) and soon began preaching in nearby villages. Prosecuted under an Elizabethan act against nonconformity, he was imprisoned for three months, which was extended to twelve years, with a brief respite during the sixth year.
Bunyan emphasized the centrality of the Bible as the foundation for belief and conduct, stressing the grace of God as the basis of predestination, the focal point of eternal salvation. Initiative in the salvation of sinners belonged to God, since God elected, within God’s purpose and framework of grace, certain individuals to eternal life. Subscribing to the doctrine of “effectual calling,” Bunyan believed it was impossible to resist the call because of the power with which the Holy Spirit accompanied and illuminated the sinner’s understanding. None of the elect could fall from grace.
Though Bunyan was primarily an adherent of the Calvinist tradition, his view of God as Savior, providing salvation from divine wrath rather than God as sovereign ruler, and his belief in the necessity of justification through grace alone showed influence of Luther. The separatist tradition shaped his view of the sacraments. He strongly opposed teachings of the Quakers and the Arminians.
—taken from The Encyclopedia of Reformed Faith