Review of John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1666, reprinted 2018.
In 1666 Bunyan, who was to spend twelve years in prison for refusing to not preach, published his spiritual autobiography, which may be second only to Augustine’s Confessions in terms of its influence. On the first page was printed the invitation from Psalm 66:16, ‘Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.’ Bunyan was a tortured genius, who, of course, produced a brilliant work of Christian literature in The Pilgrim’s Progress, so his autobiography is well worthy of our study.
This is an account of a soul wrestling with God, as Jacob did, and there are times when one wants to shout at him that it is all of grace. The struggles no doubt add depth to the account as well as frustrations to the reader. Not all will identify with the extremes of his soul, as God dealt very vividly with this most earnest man. In all things he is most quotable, and preachers would do well to learn resilience and faithfulness from his mission statement: ‘In my preaching I have really been in pain, and have, as it were, travailed so as to bring forth children to God; neither could I be satisfied unless some fruits did appear in my work. If I were fruitless it mattered not who commended me; but if I were fruitful, I cared not who did condemn.’ Small wonder that John Owen appreciated and indeed envied, in a godly way, the preaching powers of the tinker.