The Pilgrim's Progress
A religious allegory by the English writer, John Bunyan, published in two parts in 1678 and 1684. The work is a symbolic vision of the good man’s pilgrimage through life. At one time second only to the Bible in popularity, The Pilgrim’s Progress is the most famous Christian allegory still in print. It was first published in the reign of Charles II and was largely written while its Puritan author was imprisoned for offenses against the Conventicle Act of 1593 (which prohibited the conducting of religious services outside the bailiwick of the Church of England).
About John Bunyan
John Bunyan was born in 1628 to Thomas and Margaret Bunyan at Bunyan's End in the parish of Elstow, Bedfordshire. Bunyan's End is about halfway between the hamlet of Harrowden (one mile south-east of Bedford) and Elstow High Street. Bunyan's date of birth is not known, but he was baptised on November 30, 1628, the baptismal entry in the parish register reading "John the sonne of Thomas Bunnion Jun., the 30 November".
By his own account, Bunyan had as a youth enjoyed bell-ringing, dancing and playing games including on Sunday, which was forbidden by the Puritans, who held a particularly high view of Sunday, called the Lord's Day. One Sunday the vicar of Elstow preached a sermon against Sabbath breaking, and Bunyan took this sermon to heart. That afternoon, as he was playing tip-cat (a game in which a small piece of wood is hit with a bat) on Elstow village green, he heard a voice from the heavens "Wilt thou leave thy sins, and go to Heaven? Or have thy sins, and go to Hell?" The next few years were a time of intense spiritual conflict for Bunyan as he struggled with his doubts and fears over religion and guilt over what he saw as his state of sin.
During this time Bunyan, whilst on his travels as a tinker, happened to be in Bedford and pass a group of women who were talking about spiritual matters on their doorstep. The women were in fact some of the founding members of the Bedford Free Church or Meeting and Bunyan, who had been attending the parish church of Elstow, was so impressed by their talk that he joined their church. At that time the nonconformist group was meeting in St John's church in Bedford under the leadership of former Royalist army officer John Gifford. At the instigation of other members of the congregation Bunyan began to preach, both in the church and to groups of people in the surrounding countryside. In 1656 he published his first book, Gospel Truths Opened, which was inspired by a dispute with Ranters and Quakers.
The religious tolerance which had allowed Bunyan the freedom to preach became curtailed with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The members of the Bedford Meeting were no longer able to meet in St John's church, which they had been sharing with the Anglican congregation. That November, Bunyan was preaching at Lower Samsell, a farm near the village of Harlington, thirteen miles from Bedford, when he was warned that a warrant was out for his arrest. Deciding not to make an escape, he was arrested and brought before the local magistrate, Sir Francis Wingate, at Harlington House. The Act of Uniformity, which made it compulsory for preachers to be ordained by an Anglican bishop and for the revised Book of Common Prayer to be used in church services, was still two years away, and the Act of Conventicles, which made it illegal to hold religious meetings of five or more people outside the Church of England was not passed until 1664. Bunyan was arrested under the Conventicle Act of 1593, which made it an offence to attend a religious gathering other than at the parish church with more than five people outside their family. The offence was punishable by 3 months imprisonment followed by banishment or execution if the person then failed to promise not to re-offend. The Act had been little used, and Bunyan's arrest was probably due in part to concerns that non-conformist religious meetings were being held as a cover for people plotting against the king (although this was not the case with Bunyan's meetings).
In prison, Bunyan had a copy of the Bible and of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, as well as writing materials. He also had at times the company of other preachers who had been imprisoned. It was in Bedford Gaol that he wrote Grace Abounding and started work on The Pilgrim's Progress, as well as penning several tracts that may have brought him a little money. In 1671, while still in prison, he was chosen as pastor of the Bedford Meeting. By that time there was a mood of increasing religious toleration in the country and in March 1672 the king issued a declaration of indulgence which suspended penal laws against non-conformists. Thousands of non-conformists were released from prison, amongst them Bunyan and five of his fellow inmates of Bedford Gaol. Bunyan was freed in May 1672 and immediately obtained a license to preach under the declaration of indulgence.
Following his release from jail in 1672 Bunyan probably did not return to his former occupation of a tinker. Instead, he devoted his time to writing and preaching. He continued as pastor of the Bedford Meeting and traveled over Bedfordshire and adjoining counties on horseback to preach, becoming known affectionately as "Bishop Bunyan". His preaching also took him to London, where Lord Mayor Sir John Shorter became a friend and presented him with a silver-mounted walking stick. The Pilgrim's Progress was published in 1678 by Nathaniel Ponder and immediately became popular, though probably making more money for its publisher than for its author.
In 1688 Bunyan fell ill with a fever. On August 31, 1688, he died in London at the house of his friend, John Strudwick.Biographical text taken from Wikipedia