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John BUNYAN was born at the village of Elstow, near Bedford, in the year 1628. His parents were persons in very
humble life, his father being a travelling brazier or tinker. Although poor, they took care that their son should be sent to school, where he was taught to read ; but being of a careless disposition, and getting into bad company, the little learning he had acquired was soon forgotten. In his autobiography Bunyan says, that while yet a boy he had few equals in profanity of language. He was once sharply reproved by an ungodly woman, who was greatly shocked by his oaths and imprecations. When he was about nine or ten years of age, he was frequently in great distress at the thought of a coming judgment. He
says, “even in
childhood, the Lord did scare and affrighten me with fearful dreams and visions.” As there is no reason to believe that his parents feared God, it has been supposed that Bunyan, being such an openly profane youth, had
attracted the attention of some of the pious people of Elstow, who reproved and warned him.
At the age of seventeen he enlisted in Cromwell's army. A narrow escape from death is recorded, which happened to him while thus employed. He was one of a number of men who were drawn to go to a certain place (probably Leicester) to besiege it. His own words are, “When I was just ready to go, one of the company desired to go in my room ; I consented: he took my
place, and during the siege, as he stood sentinel, he was • shot in the head, and died. Here was judgment and
mercy, but neither of them did awaken my soul to righteousness.” He was only two years in the army, and then returned to his friends. Not long after, he was married to the daughter of a pious couple, who had trained her in the fear of the Lord. This union proved a great blessing to Bunyan, for his wife, who was gentle and prudent, gained such an influence over him as to draw him away from evil companions; she also became his teacher in reading, which, in his unsettled life, he had almost forgotten. At the time of the marriage they were both so poor that they had not "a dish or a spoon between them.” Mrs. Bunyan, however, inherited from her father two volumes, “The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven,” and “The Practice of Piety.” These she reae to her husband, and thus kindled in his mind a desire for more knowledge. About this time he became acquainted with a poor Christian man, whose remarks on religion and the Scriptures touched Bunyan's heart, and he began to read the Bible. Pursuing his calling as a brazier, one day, in the streets of Bedford, he overheard three godly women conversing, as they sat on a doorstep. They spoke of the love of Christ, and what a change it had wrought in them, till the listener was deeply and permanently impressed. He now forsook for ever the company of his profane associates, desiring rather to unite himself with those who had a reputation for piety.
For a long time after this outward reformation he was tried with the most distressing doubts and spiritual conflicts, but was at last led to see in Jesus the very Saviour that was needed for him. He soon made an open profession of his faith, and after some years was invited to engage in the ministry. At first he preached privately to a few friends, but afterwards more publicly in some of the neighbouring villages. Increasing numbers attended his ministry, but as this excited the enmity of those in high position, he was arrested, and committed to Bedford jail. At the quarter sessions he was indicted,