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Lively and engaging biography on John Bunyan, the man behind the world's second most printed book 'The Pilgrim's Progress'.
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Peter Morden's biography of Pilgrim's Progress author, John Bunyan: ‘The People’s Pilgrim’ is a beautifully illustrated, full colour, glossy-paper and scholarly account of the life, times and influence of the author and creator of the greatest and best loved novel of the Christian Journey.
With page after page of full scale photos an images from modern and historical sources, this coffee-table, gift quality book gives you the trials and tribulations of the man behind the world’s second most printed and reprinted book after the Bible. Peter Morden’s lively and readable account takes you into the world of the simple tinker who penned the most enduring and influential Christian novel of all time. Perhaps only the parables of Jesus have had a greater impact on our view of the Kingdom of God and on pointing us on our way to the Celestial City.
Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the truth of this Christian masterpiece and the mind of the man who wrote it, Peter Morden’s tale begins with Bunyan’s last sermon as a free man. Preaching in the open air and against the law, Bunyan urged his congregation to ‘be of good cheer,’ to have courage in the face of persecution and to press on toward knowing Jesus better.
From his prison cell, John Bunyan story-fied these themes of persistence and perseverance into his great allegorical novel: ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come.’ In a style that would be copied by novelists and moralists for centuries to come, the characters of the story adopt and demonstrate the names of virtues and vices including Goodwill, Prudence, Envy and Ignorance. Even the landscape becomes a character and a player in Christian’s journey of faith.
In John Morden’s biography, you discover how John Bunyan’s own experience of pilgrimage shows through in the widely known but, these days, less read tale. The story’s subtleties are explored in the context of Bunyan’s post Civil War world in relation our own times. Morden speaks of his own painful journey during the writing of the book, further enriching the experience of anyone who knows and loves this classic of literature, or is exploring its hidden depths for the first time.
The People's Pilgrim by Peter Morden was published by CWR in February 2013 and is our 13832nd best seller. The ISBN for The People's Pilgrim is 9781853458361.
Late 17th century England was not a safe place for Nonconformist Christians. Discriminatory laws and persecution weighed heavily upon individuals and congregations. John Bunyan spent 12 years in Bedford jail from 1660 to 1672, as what we would probably call 'a prisoner of conscience', imprisoned on account of his faith, with another, shorter jail term to follow, in 1677. But it was while he was locked up there that he wrote Pilgrim's Progress, one of the acknowledged classics in the English language, and the world's second most printed book (second only to the Bible). Peter Morden brings this amazing man, tinker, preacher, pastor and author, to life, including Bunyan's tortuous coming to faith, and his spiritual battles as a Christian. He guides us most helpfully through the six scenes of Pilgrim's Progress, and also introduces us to Bunyan's less well-known books. Each chapter ends with "Going Further", in which Peter Morden reflects some more on Bunyan's message, often from a doctrinal and theological point of view. Then the final section of each chapter is headed "Your Own Journey", and explores what it means to be pilgrims ourselves. The reader will gain great benefit from studying this, as it reflects some of the author's own "questions and struggles". He thanks God for "the amazing peace and strength" He gave, as the writing of the book coincided with his wife's serious illness. I recommend this excellent, beautifully produced book. But most importantly, I hope it will lead you to read Pilgrim's Progress, if possible in a somewhat modernised version.
1. Background and Early Experiences
2. Conviction and Conversion
3. Travelling Through the Storm (grace abounding to the chief of sinners)
4. Ministry Begins
5. Arrest Trial and Imprisonment
6. Surviving and Thriving: Life In Prison
7. The Pilgrim's Progress
8. Bunyan the Pastor
9. Two More Stories: The Holy War, The Pilgrim's Progress: part 2
10. The Final Journey
11. Conclusion: THie Influence of John Bunyan
“Who could have predicted that a ragged, impoverished, foul mouthed Tinker-mechanic would live to pen the bestselling novel of all time – The Pilgrim's Progress - its blockbuster sales second only to the Bible itself. Bunyan’s life, as Morden narrates it, is history at its most entertaining; full of insight, surprise, tension, courage and awesome endurance. Bunyan's fraught journey amid hostile seventeenth century intolerance and injustice, resonates with out times too, as religious bigotry – secular and sectarian – seeks to silence or imprison the outspoken believer today. John Bunyan is our role model: ‘Mr Stand-fast’, whose life work grips and inspires us. Who says the Puritans were dull? This enthralling and illustrated biography proves otherwise.” – Greg Haslem, Minister of Westminster Chapel, London.
“Peter Morden has produced another winning biography. In this vivid life story, we discover the secret of Bunyan’s enduring power to touch the heart with spiritual encouragement that emanates from his experience of hardship and suffering. John Bunyan’s personal progress has immense contemporary relevance for those who feel marginalised by society because of their Christian convictions. Read ‘The People's Pilgrim’ and you will be less likely to quit until your journey is over.” – David Colley OBE, Ambassador for BMS Worldwide.
“This book provides a fascinating and detailed insight into the life and background of John Bunyan. Although living conditions were totally different in the seventeenth century, the author cleverly transposes the stories of Bunyan's challenges to parallel with our own today. The results are thought provoking and inspiring!” - Fiona Castle OBE, writer and speaker.
One of the most powerful messages that comes through the book is how God works through the culture of the day and how, in the midst of so many difficulties he continues his work of grace. Yes here is a great man with all his humanness who manifested the grace of God.
The lay preacher who wrote the English moral classic ‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’ from his prison cell, also penned one of the most enduringly popular hymns of the English language. The original version of the poem that became the hymn appears in Bunyan’s 1684 edition of Part 2 of his allegorical tale. It refers to the words of Hebrews 11:13-16.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (From The English Standard Version, published by Crossway.)
Seekers after Christ after portrayed as pilgrims and strangers in the land – even exiles, searching for their homeland. The writer of Hebrews assures the travellers that God declares his ownership of them has prepared a city ready to receive them. Describing the journey and the spiritual hazards of a people seeking God, John Bunyan expands these verses into his novel and then condenses his novel’s essence into a poem.
Bunyan’s original words have been modified and modernised for church and school worship. Percy Dearmer prepared the version found in the 1906 The English Hymnal set to a melody by the popular British composer Vaughan Williams. Williams based his setting in the traditional Sussex melody "Monk's Gate". Other tunes have been used: earlier - the melody "Moab" by John Roberts in 1870, and later - "St. Dunstans" from Charles W. Douglas in 1917.
Among Percy’s modernisations was the sanitising of references such as "hobgoblin" and "foul fiend." However, one hymn reviewer of the 1940s, commented that: "Bunyan's burly song strikes a new and welcome note in our Hymnal. The quaint sincerity of the words stirs us out of our easygoing dull Christianity to the thrill of great adventure."
While most hymnals and songbooks use a modernised version of the poem, The original version is the school hymn for the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, Newcastle Grammar School and Reigate Grammar School. The latter continues to honour the spirit of the novel and the poem in the title of the school’s annual publication, The Pilgrim.
John Bunyan's Original 1906 The English Hymnal
1. Who would true valour see, 1. He who would valiant be
Let him come hither; ′Gainst all disaster,
One here will constant be, Let him in constancy
Come wind, come weather Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim. To be a pilgrim.
2. Whoso beset him round 2. Who so beset him round
With dismal stories, With dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound; Do but themselves confound -
His strength the more is. His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright, No foes shall stay his might,
He’ll with a giant fight, Though he with giants fight:
But he will have a right He will make good his right
To be a pilgrim. To be a pilgrim.
3. Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend[,] 3. Since, Lord, thou dost defend
Can daunt his spirit; Us with thy Spirit,
He knows he at the end We know we at the end
Shall life inherit. Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away, Then fancies flee away!
He’ll fear not what men say, I’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day I’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim. To be a pilgrim.
“…Just as Christian came up to the Cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, fell from off his back, and began to tumble down the hill, and so it continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre. There it fell in, and I saw it no more!” (John Bunyan – The Pilgrim’s Progress)
• John Bunyan
Born in 1628, at Elstow, near Bedford John Bunyan was the son of a tinker repairing and making pans and kettles, and grandson of a peddler. He experienced conversion and joined the newly formed Bedford Meeting in 1653, worshipping in St John’s Church. Hearing a voice within asking, “Wilt though leave thy sins, and go to heaven? Or have thy sins, and go to hell?” his life changed direction.
Bunyan was a Puritan in his faith, believed in the right to draw directly from reading the Bible without recourse to the organised church. Refusing to conform to the Book of Common Prayer or attend Church of England services - considered a political act of rebellion, Bunyan spent two periods of time in prison, the first of 12 years and the second of a few months.
In Bedford prison Bunyan, wrote several books, including his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, which was published in 1666, and the beginnings of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Published in 1678, it became an immediate success, and has since sold millions of copies around the world, The second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress, published in 1684, tells the story of Christian's wife Christiana’s journey.
• Peter Morden
Peter Morden is a tutor in Church History and Spirituality and a college chaplain at Spurgeon’s College equipping students for practical ministry and mission. His main area of interest and research is in how evangelical history and spirituality relate to ministry today.
Peter has written widely on these themes, including his own 2010 PhD on the spirituality of Charles Haddon Spurgeon; now published as ‘Communion with Christ and his People’. Writing less academic pieces, his popular biography of Spurgeon was published in 2009. He has also written and published works on the revivalist preacher, Andrew Fuller in ‘Offering Christ to the World: Andrew Fuller (1854-1815) and the Revival of Eighteenth-Century Particular Baptists Life’.
Serving as historical consultant for the award winning docudrama 'C.H. Spurgeon: The People's Preacher' he has written and presented a home group resource which draws on the film, entitled 'Growing Together with C.H. Spurgeon - The People's Preacher'; available from Eden.co.uk as product number 4067955.
Peter is a Fellow of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage at Regent's Park College, Oxford. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Married to Anne since 1991, the couple have always engaged in Christian work together. They have two children, Rachel and Joseph.
In John Morden’s biography, ‘The People’s Pilgrim’ you discover how John Bunyan’s own pilgrimage through hardship to grace shows through in the most widely printed and reprinted novel of the Christian faith. With an understanding of John Bunyan’s Puritan beliefs and troubled religious and political times, you will better understand the story’s subtleties and parallels with our own era. John Morden’s book is an essential addition to the Christian library of anyone who knows and loves this classic of literature, or is exploring its hidden depths for the first time.
|Author / Artist||Peter Morden|
|Publisher||CWR (February 2013)|
|Number of Pages||176|
|Page last updated||12th July 2018|