The English Civil War began in 1642 between Royalist Anglican "Cavaliers" supporting King Charles I and the Puritan Parliamentarian-Covenanters, led by Lord Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell.
Charles I was captured and eventually beheaded in 1649.
His 21-year-old son, Charles II, fled to France in 1651, to be under the protection of his first cousin, the young 13-year-old King Louis IVX.
Cromwell demoted Anglican ministers, including Rev. Lawrence Washington, the great-great-grandfather of George Washington.
This led Rev. Lawrence Washington's son, John Washington, to become a merchant and sail to Virginia in 1657.
In 1658, Cromwell died.
Royalists began a movement to restore King Charles II to his father's throne.
John Bunyan had joined the Puritan Parliamentary Army in 1644, at the age of 16.
He fought under Cromwell during the English Civil War.
In 1647, after three years of military service, having escaped death several times, Bunyan returned to his cottage in Elstow, where he learned his father's trade of a tinker, and got married.
In 1657, at age 29, John Bunyan became a Baptist minister.
In 1660, Charles II was restored to the English throne.
Soon an intense period of royal retribution was carried out against Puritans and other dissenters.
Particular persecution was against those holding unauthorized religious meetings, culminating in the Act for the Uniformity of Common Prayer and Service in the Church, 1662.
It was during this period that John Bunyan was arrested for preaching without a license from the government.
He wrote in a Relation of My Imprisonment:
"Upon the 12th of ... November 1660 ... the justice ... issued out his warrant to take me ... as if we that were to meet together ... to do some fearful business, to the destruction of the country;
when alas! the constable, when he came in, found us only with our Bibles in our hands, ready to speak and hear the word of God ...
So I was taken and forced to depart ... But before I went away, I spake some few words of counsel and encouragement to the people, declaring to them ... that they would not be discouraged, for it was a mercy to suffer upon so good account ...
We suffer as Christians ... better be the persecuted, than the persecutors."
John Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years, during which time he tried to support his wife and family by making shoelaces.
While in prison, he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress, published FEBRUARY 18, 1678.
Pilgrim's Progress began:
"As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back.
I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and, as he read, he wept, and trembled; and, not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, What shall I do?"
It was an allegory of a pilgrim, named Christian, who fled the City of Destruction.
Christian quickly fell into depression in Slough of Despond, but was rescued by one named Help.
He was directed by Evangelist to follow the Narrow Path, being careful not to have Mr. Legality, on one side, overburden him with rules, or be deceived on the other side by Mr. Worldly Wiseman from the Town of Carnal Policy.
Later in the book, John Bunyan wrote that:
"Christian ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross ...
So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back."
Braving innumerable pitfalls and dangers, Christian saw in the distance the Palace Beautiful, but two ferocious lions prevented him from going further:
"Then said Christian, You make me afraid, but whither shall I fly to be safe? ... To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life-everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward ...
Frighted with the sight of the lions ... Christian said to himself again, These beasts range in the night for their prey; and if they should meet with me in the dark ... how should I escape being by them torn in pieces? ...
He lift up his eyes, and behold there was a very stately palace before him ... He entered into a very narrow passage ... he espied two lions in the way ...
The porter at the lodge ... perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying,
'Is thy strength so small? Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that had none. Keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee' ...
He went on, trembling for fear of the lions, but taking good heed to the directions of the porter; he heard them roar, but they did him no harm."
At the Palace Beautiful, Christian was given the Armor of God.
He left Palace Beautiful and descended into the Valley of Humiliation, wearing the Armor of God.
"But now, in this Valley of Humiliation, poor Christian was hard put to it ... a foul fiend coming over the field to meet him; his name is Apollyon.
Then did Christian begin to be afraid, and to cast in his mind whether to go back or to stand his ground.
But he considered again that he had no armor for his back; and therefore thought that to turn the back to him might give him the greater advantage with ease to pierce him with his darts.
Therefore he resolved to venture and stand his ground ...
The monster was hideous to behold; he was clothed with scales ... wings like a dragon, feet like a bear, and out of his belly came fire and smoke ...
Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said ... prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that thou shalt go no further; here will I spill thy soul.
And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it ...
Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot ...
This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker ...
Christian's sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, 'I am sure of thee now.' And with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life;
but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly stretched out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying,
'Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise'; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back ...
And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings, and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more ...
A more unequal match
can hardly be,-
Christian must fight an angel;
but you see,
The valiant man
by handling Sword and Shield,
Doth make him, though a Dragon,
quit the field."
Surviving the horrifying snares of the Valley of Humiliation, Christian met a fellow-pilgrim named "Faithful."
Christian and Faithful's path took them directly into Vanity Fair, filled with every worldly temptation.
They resisted the sensual traps, but their holy lives convicted the inhabitants, who jailed them in a cage.
A rigged jury sentenced Faithful to be martyred.
President Ronald Reagan greeted Australia's Prime Minister, June 30, 1981, referring to John Bunyan:
"Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, 'We are all travelers in what John Bunyan calls the wilderness of this world. And the best that we find in our travels is an honest friend -- they keep us worthy of ourselves.'"
Christian was released and soon met a new friend, Hopeful.
They were tempted at the Hill Lucre and were caught by Giant Despair, who imprisoned them in the dungeon of Doubting Castle.
The Giant threw poison and a dagger into the cell and told them to commit suicide.
"They began to pray, and continued in prayer till almost break of day.
Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech: -- What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle."
They escaped and their way to the King's Highway.
They were almost misled by Flatterer and barely kept from falling asleep while crossing the Enchanted Ground.
They refused to be persuaded to turn back by Atheist.
They endured many more deceptions and persecutions, till at last Pilgrim and Hopeful came to the last test, crossing the River of Death.
The waves almost overcame them, but crossing in faith, they were gloriously welcomed through the gates of the Celestial City of Zion.
Pilgrim's Progress was translated into over 200 languages and, after the Bible, was the world's best-seller for hundreds of years.
It has never been out of print.
It was found in nearly every colonial New England home, along with the Bible and Fox's Book of Martyrs.
Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Autobiography:
"My old favorite author, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress ... has been translated into most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has been more generally read than any other book, except perhaps the Bible."
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress inspired many subsequent novels, such as:
Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian (1818);
Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist (1838) is subtitled "The Parish Boy's Progress";
- Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Celestial Railroad (1846);
- Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868);
Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad or the New Pilgrim's Progress (1869);
L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz (1900); and
- C.S. Lewis' Pilgrim's Regress (1933).
Ben Franklin wrote in his Autobiography:
"From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased with the Pilgrim's Progress, my first collection was of John Bunyan's works in separate little volumes."
President Grover Cleveland had memorized Pilgrim's Progress as a youth, and commented:
"I have always felt that my training as a minister's son has been more valuable to me as a strengthening influence than any other incident in life."
President Theodore Roosevelt stated while laying the cornerstone of the office building of the House of Representatives, April 14, 1906:
"In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress you may recall the description of the man with the muck-rake,
the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck-rake in his hand, who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor."
Franklin Roosevelt referred to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress on January 19, 1936:
"When Theodore Roosevelt died, the Secretary of his class at Harvard, in sending classmates a notice of his passing, added this quotation from Pilgrim's Progress:
'My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it.
My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who now will be my Rewarder.'"