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John Bunyan as a spiritual guide.

You may expect a very short article on such a subject as John Bunyan as a spiritual guide. Although Puritans borrowed many things from medieval contemplatives, they did not revive or recreate the office of spiritual director common in Roman Catholic religious orders.

Bunyan himself resisted conformity to The Book of Common Prayer to the point that in I Will Pray with the Spirit, which he wrote in 1663 while in prison for unlicensed preaching, he railed against the use of set forms of prayer, including the Lord's Prayer. Praying such prayers would be only "a little lip labor and bodily exercise," he said. (1) How then, you ask, can you conceive of John Bunyan as a spiritual guide?

Spiritual guidance takes place in ways other than the office of spiritual director, and all churches must provide some kind of spiritual guidance, whether for formation or for deformation. Notice that I prefer the term "guidance" to "direction," because the latter sounds more officious and authoritarian.

Recipient of Spiritual Guidance

Bunyan himself experienced spiritual guidance during his battle with depression through some "poor" women in the Bedford Church, through the pastor John Gifford, and through the congregation itself. Bunyan related this about Gifford's guidance. Members of the Bedford church told Gifford about Bunyan, who recorded that Gifford ...
   took all occasions to talk to me, and was willing to be well
   persuaded of me, though I think from little grounds: but he invited
   me to his house, where I should hear him converse with others,
   about the dealings of God with their souls; from all of which I
   still received more conviction, and from that time began to see
   something of the vanity and inward wickedness of my heart; for as
   yet I knew no great matter therein; but now it began to be
   discovered unto me, and also to work at that rate as it never did

What Bunyan described there would most assuredly fall under the title of group spiritual direction, (3) and we do not have to strain the evidence from Bunyan's ministry as a pastor to conclude that he followed the example set by his mentor.

The Bedford congregation, too, Bunyan makes clear in both Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim's Progress, figured significantly in the resolution of the crisis in his spiritual journey. In a dream or vision he saw the church under the image of a high mountain warmed and lighted by the sun but surrounded by a wall through which Christian (Bunyan) desired to pass, with only a "straight and narrow passage to allow him to enter." With effort he slid through, rejoicing, and "went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun." (4) It was in this gathering that the scripture that resolved his crisis, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor 12:9), darted three times into his mind and heart. In The Pilgrim's Progress he depicted the Bedford congregation in the image of Interpreter's House, where Christian met the Comforter "to guide thee in the way that leads to the City." As he departed, he penned how crucial the House and the Interpreter (almost certainly John Gifford) were for his pilgrimage.
   Here I have seen things rare and profitable;
   Things pleasant, dreadful, things to make me stable
   In what I have begun to take to hand;
   Then let me think on them and understand
   Wherefore they showed me were; and let me be
   Thankful, O good Interpreter, to thee. (5)

Quite clearly, then, Bunyan knew something about spiritual guidance. The main object of the rest of this essay is to show how he served as a spiritual guide for others. My contention is that he sought to offer direction to people who struggled, sometimes not too successfully, to live as they thought God demanded. While he was free to preach during the two years of Richard Cromwell's reign (1558-60), he would have been able to do one-on-one spiritual guidance through the tiny gatherings in the Bedford church. During his long imprisonment (1660-1672, 1675) he was forced to do most of his guidance through his writing. He wrote nine books during the first half of his jail term (1660-1666) but only two during the second one. After his release in 1675 he would have relied also on preaching, but it would not have served as effectively because it was addressed to a large audience and not one person.

One-on-one and in Writing

Mushrooming crowds and fame after Bunyan's release from prison temporarily in 1672 and permanently in 1675 (after a six-month re-imprisonment under the Test Act) did not cut off entirely his one-on-one connection with people. One-on-one spiritual guidance was very much in evidence at the end of his life; indeed, it probably contributed to his death at age sixty. In August of 1688 he rode horseback to Reading to effect reconciliation between a father and son. He accomplished his mission. On the forty-mile trip back to Bedford he rode the whole way through drenching rain. Predictably, he came down with pneumonia. Ignoring the state of his health, however, he preached on Sunday, August 19, but the pneumonia worsened and he died on August 31.

Bunyan explicitly acknowledged an effort to offer spiritual direction through writing in the preface to Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, which he wrote while in prison in 1670. Writing, in some contrast to preaching, engages only one person at a time, the reader, and not a large audience as a sermon might do. This book, which he described as ''something of a relation of the work of God upon my own soul," he published in the hope "that, if God will, others may be put in remembrance of what [God] hath done for their souls, by reading [about God's] work upon me." He explained, "It is profitable for Christians to be often calling to mind the very beginning of grace with their souls."

In his apology for the use of allegory at the beginning of The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan confessed that he did not write it "to please my neighbor" but "my own self to satisfy." Yet he went on to identify a larger purpose. "May I not write in such a style as this?" he asked. "In such a method too, and yet not miss/My end, thy good? Why may it not be done?" As fishermen use various snares, lines, angles, hooks, and nets or bird hunters guns, nets, lime-twigs, light, and bell, so he employed metaphors to enable God to speak to others. "My dark and cloudy words they do but hold/The truth, as cabinets enclose the gold." The prophets and Christ resorted to metaphors. Why not he?
   Come. Truth, although in swaddling clouts [clothes], I find,
   Informs the judgment, rectifies the mind;
   Pleases the understanding, makes the will
   Submit, the memory also to fill
   With what doth our imagination please;
   Likewise it tends our troubles to appease.

Bunyan insisted that he did not abuse this vehicle but sought in its use "the advance of truth." The truth must be free "to make her sallies upon thee and me." He promised:
   This book will make a traveller of thee,
   If by its counsel thou wilt ruled be
   It will direct thee to the holy land,
   If thou wilt its directions understand;
   Yea, it will make the slothful active be;
   The blind also delightful things to see.

In words anticipating what he would gain during his stay at Interpreter's House, he asked, "Art thou for something rare and profitable?" and answered, "Then read my fancies; they will stick like burrs,/And may be to the helpless comforters." (7)

Although Bunyan would probably never have thought of himself as a spiritual director, these prefatory comments leave no doubt that he was functioning as one through his writing in much the same way Thomas Merton served as a spiritual guide for thousands of people outside the Abbey of Gethsemani through The Seven Storey Mountain, The Sign of Jonas, No Man Is an Island, his journals, and other writings as well as through a small book on Spiritual Direction and Meditation and a vast correspondence. Although regrettably we do not have Bunyan's correspondence, we do have extensive published writings, many of which responded to persons seeking spiritual guidance through a wilderness created in part by traumatic social upheaval and in part by the Puritan perspective on life. A considerable amount of his guidance of others responded to deep psychological and spiritual needs he confronted in his own journey. How closely he came to hitting the target is attested by the popularity of The Pilgrim's Progress, not only in his own day but also for two or three centuries afterward.

Encourager of the Despondent and Depressed

Bunyan's struggle of soul qualified him in a special way for spiritual guidance, and it should occasion no surprise that The Pilgrim's Progress, probably begun during his six-month return to jail under the Test Act in 1675 but not published until 1678, took off. (8) Between 1678 and 1688 the book went through twelve editions (printings?)! It was translated into French and Dutch in 1684, the year Bunyan added the second part about the pilgrimage of Christian. Obviously it spoke to masses of people seeking spiritual guidance.

Calvinism set people up for depression with its doctrines of predestination and election. Bunyan himself got caught up in the Puritan endeavor of letting scriptures dart into his mind and heart to tell him whether he was one of the "elect" or not. Sometimes he heard a reassuring word, but more often than not he received one that unhinged him, especially the passage from Hebrews 12:16 about Esau selling his birthright. He feared he was a modern Esau who sold both his natural and Christian birthright. His moods went up. They went down. He found some help in the introduction to Luther's Commentary on Galatians, (9) Scripture, however, had to give the final approval. It did.

For about seven or eight weeks, 2 Corinthians 12:9 fixed itself on his mind and heart, first in prayer and then in the worship service at Bedford. He recorded in Grace Abounding how powerfully these words penetrated: "oh! methought that every word was a mighty word unto me; as 'my,' and 'grace,' and 'sufficient,' and 'for thee'; they were then, and sometimes are still, far bigger than others be." (10) That wasn't the end of Bunyan's struggle. He prayed that the two texts, about Esau and about grace, would dart into his mind and do battle. They did. Grace won. Bunyan depicted this in The Pilgrim's Progress as the battle of Christian with the Giant Despair at Doubting Castle.

As a spiritual guide to others who faced prolonged struggles to find security much as he had, Bunyan armed himself with texts that could reassure them. He selected passages of scripture that emphasized the incalculable grace, love, and mercy of God. In what was probably initially a sermon based on Psalm 130:7 ("Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption") and then became a brief treatise, he focused on hope. Hope presupposes faith, the "mother-grace." In words reminiscent of his own struggle, he cited despair as the worst evil. (11) Hope is the offspring of true faith. God is a God of great mercy, and that is the ground of our hope. In sum, he calculated and enumerated the unlimited capacity of God's mercy. God has

* tender mercy for us

* great mercy

* rich mercy

* manifold mercy

* abounding mercy towards us

* compassing mercy wherewith we are surrounded

* mercy to follow us wherever we go

* mercy that rejoices against judgment

* mercy from everlasting to everlasting. (12)

He invoked a text that played a crucial role in getting him through his worst crisis, Hebrews 4:16: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." The throne of grace, he explained, "is the humanity, or heart and soul of Jesus Christ, in which God sits and resteth forever, in love towards them that believe in him." (12) We approach the throne of grace through Christ's humanity. In him, humanity united forever with divinity to reconcile us to God. He knew our suffering. Sounding like Bernard of Clairvaux's hymn, "Jesus the Very Thought of Thee," Bunyan explains: "The child by nature nuzzles in its mother's bosom for the breast; the child by grace does by grace seek to live by the grace of God." (14) To find grace is to know the love of Christ that surpasses human comprehension. To know that love is to know that it is beyond our understanding. Because of such love, we should cast ourselves upon it. Interjecting a word to the despondent, he added, we should remember that Christ loves with a love that we can't comprehend and that God is able to do all above all we ask or think. (15)

He underscored over and over the breadth, length, depth, and height of God's grace and mercy in a sermon and brief treatise based on Ephesians 3:18-19. Thoroughly Augustinian in his understanding of grace (grace as God's gift of Godself, the Holy Spirit), (16) he insisted, as the great bishop did against Pelagius, that only supernatural grace, the gift of the Holy Spirit, will suffice: "Nature's ability depends upon graces, and the ability of graces depends upon the mighty help of the spirit of God. Hence, as nature itself, where grace is not, sees nothing; so nature by grace sees but weakly, if that grace is not strengthened with all might by the spirit of grace." (17) Above all, we want to know the love of Christ that surpasses human comprehension. There is no comparison between the love we are capable of and the love of Christ. Such love should make us aware of God's good will toward us and entice us to cast ourselves upon it, not held back by despondency.

Bunyan pointed the fainthearted and despairing, above all, to Christ as our intercessor with God. In a sermon on Hebrews 7:25, "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them," he offered strong assurance. Saving means deliverance from sin and the law and justification by grace. "To the uttermost" means "not to the uttermost of his ability, but to the uttermost of our necessity." (18) Our faith, our graces, and our actions are all defective. But we must not lose heart, for Christ is the perfecter as well as the beginner of our faith. Christ's intercession "is nothing else that I know of, but a presenting of what he did in the world for us unto God, and pressing the value of it for our salvation." (19)

Highly sensitive to the difficulty of escaping depression and despair about one's relationship with God, Bunyan devoted a substantial sermon or treatise to John 6:37: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." At the beginning he responded to a series of objections to "coming," the kind of objections he had raised often during his battle with depression. In this text, he argued, we have an absolute promise of God. Whatever objections we raise, we have the promise, "I will in no wise cast out." He ticked off the whole list:

* "But I am a Sinner," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I am an old Sinner," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I am a hard-hearted Sinner," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I am a Back-sliding Sinner," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I have served Satan all my Days," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I have sinned against the Light," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I have sinned against Mercy," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.

* "But I have done no good thing to bring with me," say'st thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. (20)

Nothing should prevent us from coming to Christ. He is a full Christ--full of Grace = Love and full of Truth = Faithfulness.

Guide in Essentials of the Christian Life

When Protestant Reformers opted for scriptura sola over against the teachings of the medieval church, closed the monasteries, and discounted writings of the saints through the Middle Ages, they created for themselves the challenge of guiding the faithful in essentials of Christian life, including something so basic as prayer. Martin Luther, for instance, wrote a pamphlet titled A Simple Way to Pray for his barber, Peter Beskendorf. In England, during the reign of Edward VI (1547-53), Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer filled the gap in Anglican spirituality by putting together two editions of The Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1552. When radical dissenters such as Baptists refused to worship according to The Book of Common Prayer, "mechanic preachers" such as Bunyan had to come up with an alternative that defended in a substantive way their alternative mode of worshipping God. Bunyan did this in I Will Pray with the Spirit, which he composed in 1663, during his initial imprisonment for violating the Uniformity Acts passed by Parliament soon after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

Bunyan gave his definition of prayer based on 1 Corinthians 14:15 and proceeded to define and defend it over against insistence on the use of The Book of Common Prayer. His decided emphasis on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit makes it appropriate to think of him as a charismatic, not in the sense of speaking in tongues, but clearly in the sense of reliance on the Spirit. As I have pointed out elsewhere, (21) his understanding of prayer looks remarkably like that of the desert fathers and mothers: "Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or, according to the Word, for the good of the Church, with submission, in Faith, to the Will of God." (22) Typically of Puritans, Bunyan saturated his explanation of each of the seven clauses with quotations from scriptures.

In two other sections of his treatise, Bunyan elaborated on what it means (1) to pray with the Spirit and (2) to pray with the understanding. In both he takes hearty swipes at the use of set prayers in The Book of Common Prayer, including even the Lord's Prayer. Without the Spirit, believers cannot:

* "think one right saving thought of God, of Christ, or of his blessed things" (23)

* pray effectually

* recognize their human need that compels them to pray

* would run away from God and despair of mercy

* know how to come to God in the right way

* be able to claim a share in God, Christ or Mercy with God's approval

* lift up the soul or heart to God in prayer

* hold up the heart to God

* express themselves to God in prayer

* fail to prosecute the work of prayer. (24)

The Common-Prayer-Book will not do it: "The one word spoken in Faith, is better than a thousand prayers, as men call them, written and read, in a formal, cold, luke-warm way." (25) Recitation of the Lord's Prayer is not the way to teach children how to pray; only with the Spirit can we lift up our hearts to God: "The best prayers have often more groans than words; and those words that it hath, are but a lean and shallow representation of the heart, life, and spirit of that Prayer." (26)

Bunyan's exposition of "to pray with the understanding" replicates much of what he said about "to pray with the Spirit." It means:

* "to pray as being instructed by the Spirit, in the understanding of the want of those things which the soul is to pray for;" (27)

* to discern in God's heart a readiness to give the soul what it needs

* to discover a way through which the soul should come to God

* to see enough largeness in God's promises to encourage it to pray

* to make way for the soul to come to God with suitable arguments

* to help in both the matter and manner of prayer

* to keep the soul continuing in the duty of prayer. (28)

At the end of this list, like many another good spiritual guide, Bunyan interjected a personal note based on his experience:
   Much of my own experience could I here discover; when I have been
   in my fits of agony of spirit, I have been strongly perswaded (sic)
   to leave off, and to seek the Lord no longer; but being made to
   understand, what great sinners the Lord hath had mercy upon; and
   how large his Promises were still to sinners; and that it is not
   the whole, but the sick, not the righteous, but the sinner, not the
   full, but the empty, that he extended his Grace and Mercy unto.

   This made me, through the assistance of the holy Spirit, to cleave
   to him, to hang upon him, and yet to cry, though for the present he
   made no answer; and the Lord help all his poor tempted and
   afflicted People to do the like, and to continue, though it be
   long, according to the saying of the Prophet, Hab. 2. And to help
   them (to that end) to pray not by the inventions of men, and their
   stinted Forms, but with the Spirit, and with the understanding
   also. (29)

Almost as if he had someone sitting in front of him, posing questions and making objections, he responded to two queries and several objections. The questions basically focused on not knowing how or what to pray and the inability to find words to pray in secret. Bunyan's answer is: Prayer is an affair of the heart. Let your heart guide you. God doesn't listen to words but to hearts. One of his dying sayings was: "When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without heart." (30)

Indicative of his conviction that the heart is "where it's at," Bunyan devoted his last writing, published just before his death, to a commentary on Psalm 51:17: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." God will accept four things:

1. Christ's sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10)

2. unfeigned love to God

3. walking holily and humbly and obediently towards and before God (Mic. 6:6-8, 1 Sam. 15:22)

4. a contrite heart.

Bunyan asked whether a broken heart was necessary to salvation and replied, "There is a necessity of breaking the heart in order to salvation, because a man [or woman] will not sincerely comply with the means conducing thereto until his [or her] heart is broken." (31) Speaking like a true Puritan, he added: "Conversion, you know, begins in the heart." (32) After listing nine reasons the heart must be broken, he enumerated five ways to keep the heart tender after it has been broken:

1. Labor after a deep knowledge of God--God's presence, piercing eye, power, justice, and faithfulness.

2. Strive "to get and keep a deep sense of sin in its evil nature, and in its soul-destroying effects upon the heart."

3. Consider death, its certainty and the uncertainty of the time it may come.

4. Think about judgment.

5. Reflect on Christ's compassion and tender yourself. (33)

Bunyan developed much the same argument in a book devoted to Luke 18:10-13, Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee appropriated conversion to himself, rejoiced in it, attributed his goodness to God's goodness (as persecutors do), and based salvation on morality and ceremony. Righteousness, however, is a gift that must be imputed first. By contrast, the publican cast himself totally on God's grace and mercy. He had and did exercise the very spirit of prayer. He prayed sensibly, seriously, affectionately, hungering, thirsting, and with longing after that for which with his mouth he implored the God of heaven; his heart and soul were in his words, and it was that which made his prayer prayer; even because he prayed in prayer; he prayed inwardly as well as outwardly. (34)

The publican's actions expressed "the temper, frame, and complexion of his soul." They showed he was "a sensible soul, a sorrowful soul, a penitent soul." (35)

Can We Call Bunyan a Spiritual Master?

Soon after the death of Thomas Merton, Flavian Burns OCSO, the Abbot at Gethsemani, called Merton a spiritual master. It may be presumptuous on my part, hut I think we would not err if we called John Bunyan a spiritual master. We could compare him to Francis de Sales (1567-1622), one of the greatest Roman Catholic spiritual guides. De Sales antedated Bunyan by more than a half century, but they both had troubling early experiences with Calvinism and came out with remarkably similar responses in spiritual direction. De Sales, of course, had to address some issues raised by Jesuit spiritual guidance that Bunyan did not face, and Bunyan wrestled with aspects of Puritanism of which De Sales knew nothing. Both, however, directed people to Jesus, providing assurances to those who aspired to live a devout life, and emphasized the love and grace of God. De Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life and The Love of God did not match the popularity of The Pilgrim's Progress, hut they reached a wide constituency, and Salesian spirituality, especially in its emphasis on gentleness, has continued to shape the spiritual life of many.

Many Catholics may question whether enough of a tradition in spirituality stood behind Bunyan to qualify him as a spiritual director. Certainly he was not immersed in a rich tradition such as Merton experienced at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Indeed, I think Merton's lasting contribution will rest in the way he fed the vast wisdom of centuries through his own mind and heart, "mertonized" it, and expressed it in fresh language intelligible to persons of his own day-not only Catholics but also persons in all religious traditions and even non-religious persons.:,B Bunyan, however, as we have seen, did not lack completely a connection with the contemplative tradition.

I Will Pray with the Spirit and allusions in other writings show remarkable similarities to the teaching of the desert fathers and mothers on prayers. We must remember, too, that Bunyan started his spiritual pilgrimage in the Church of England, whose contemplative riches were evident in shapers of Anglicanism such as Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), John Donne (1571/2-1631), and George Herbert (1593-1633). The Puritans deliberately returned to medieval contemplatives to find help in achieving heart religion manifested in transformed lives. Bunyan's first wife gave him two Puritan classics--The Practice of Piety by Lewis Bayly (d. 1631) and The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven by Richard Dent--that immersed him in this tradition. Even though he strongly criticized set, formal prayers, he knew their centrality in spiritual formation.

More important than tradition, which, as a Baptist, Bunyan would have seriously questioned, in equipping him as a spiritual master were his own titanic religious struggle in a traumatic period in his country's history and the intensity with which he pursued that search as what I would call a charismatic contemplative. (37) Henri Thlon has pointed out that Bunyan exaggerated his lack of learning, as many Baptists did at that time, but "we can agree, since he insists on it, that the development of his genius owed very little to books, and that what was most fruitful in his learning was given him by life in one of the most troubled periods of English history." (38) Bunyan obviously would not have wanted book knowledge used to explain a transformation and growth that enabled him to guide others in their spiritual lives. What equipped him, rather, was an intense life of prayer along lines he sketched out in I Will Pray with the Spirit and Grace Abounding. His evolution toward spiritual master paralleled in more ways than one might imagine, though not in a monastery, that of Thomas Merton.

Both Bunyan and Merton lost their mother early in life and their father soon afterward. War threw a bombshell into their young lives. In Bunyan's case it was the English Civil War (1642-1946), and he served two years in the Parliamentary army; in Merton's it was World War II, which he escaped because of health problems and in 1941 entry into the Abbey of Gethsemani. Both also experienced dramatic spiritual battles.

Marrying soon after leaving the army, the two Puritan books given Bunyan by his wife awakened his religious sensitivities and put him on the perilous path mapped out by the Puritan quest to ascertain whether one belonged to the "elect" or not. Thanks to John Gifford and the little congregation at Bedford, Bunyan finally found in scripture the more assuring concept of faith he would share with others for the rest of his life: the sufficiency of God's grace.

A monastic community and a discerning abbot, Frederick Dunne, aided Merton as he wrestled with his conscience and a burning desire for sainthood. Several epochal events in 1948 and 1949--publication of The Seven Storey Mountain, the death of Dom Frederick and election of a new abbot, and ordination to the priesthood--plunged Merton into what he called a "submarine earthquake." He came out of this experience with a very different understanding of and attitude toward the world. He became, in his words, "a grown-up monk."

Both Bunyan and Merton did most of their spiritual direction and left their most lasting legacy through their writing. Curiously, similar circumstances dictated the mode.

Bedford jail, Bunyan's residence for more than twelve years, constricted his direct contacts and also correspondence. Confinement, however, inspired him and allowed time for writing. In his writing Bunyan seems to have envisioned a reader sitting directly in front of him. Jail walls did not hold him back in the communication of his message.

Merton's monastic vocation limited his face-to-face contacts with persons outside the monastery until about 1960, when Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) eased the rules somewhat. The publication of The Seven Storey Mountain in 1948 made Merton a world celebrity and opened the floodgates for mail. He left behind 3,500 file folders filled with his correspondence.

Both Bunyan and Merton continue to influence people beyond their all-too-brief lives. Some of the writings of each, though not all, have and will remain in print. Merton will probably be the most widely read spiritual writer of all time. Of Bunyan's eighty books, The Pilgrim's Progress and Grace Abounding continue to be widely read in many languages. This alone, I think, is enough to qualify Bunyan as well as Merton a spiritual master.


(1) John Bunyan, I Will Pray with the Spirit, ed. Richard L. Greaves (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 277. See also E. Glenn Hinson, "Contemplative Roots of the Baptist Tradition," in Ties That Bind: Life Together in the Baptist Vision, ed. Gary A. Furr and Curtis W. Freeman (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1994), 69-82.

(2) John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners 77, in Doubleday Devotional Classics, ed. E. Glenn Hinson (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co, 1981) I: 237.

(3) For an informative look at this type of direction, see Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, Group Spiritual Direction: Community for Discernment (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1995).

(4) Bunyan, Grace Abounding 54; Hinson, 232.

(5) John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, Chapter V; Hinson, 348.

(6) Bunyan, Grace Abounding, Pref.; Hinson, 217.

(7) Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, Pref.; Hinson, 318-23.

(8) Henri Thlon, John Bunyan: The Man and His Works (London: Rockliff, 1951), 166-68.

(9) Bunyan, Grace Abounding 129, 130.

(10) Ibid., 206; Hinson, 273.

(11) In Grace Abounding 84, Bunyan described his deep insecurity: "I fell, therefore, at the sight of my own vileness deeply into despair, for 1 concluded that this condition I was in, could not stand with a state of grace. Sure, thought 1, I am forsaken of God; sure, I am given up to the devil, and to a reprobate mind; and thus I continued a long while, even for some years together" (Hinson, 239).

(12) John Bunyan, Israel's Hope Encouraged; or, What Hope Is, and How Distinguished from Faith With Encouragement for a Hoping People in Works, 4th ed. (Edinburgh: Sands, Murray, and Cochran, 1769) IV: 381.

(13) John Bunyan, The Saints Privilege and Profit in Works, 361.

(14) Ibid., 391.

(15) Ibid., 496-98.

(16) Bunyan expressed this most clearly in a small volume titled The Water of Life: or, A discourse shewing the richness and glory of the grace and spirit of the Gospel, as set forth in Scripture by this term, The water of life (London: Printed for Nathaniel Ponder, 1688). He defines the water of life as "the Spirit of Grace, or the Spirit and Grace of God" (p. 3). The term is used "because it is only by the Grace of God that we live. The river is deep because grace is abundant. It proceeds from an ocean of grace. Grace is the element in which the saint lives like a fish in water. There is nothing over-mastereth the Heart like Grace, and so obligeth to sincere and unfeigned Obedience as that" (p. 40). "The Spirit then, and Graces of the Spirit, which is the River here spoken of, is that, and that only which can cause us to live; that being life to the Soul, as the Soul is life to the Body" (p. 71). The Spirit implants light, repentance, faith, fear, love, desires after God, hope, sincerity, and whatever else is needed to make saints (p. 73). It also effects the blessing of communion. "Without this Water of Life, Communion is weak, flat, cold, dead, fruitless, lifeless" (p. 77). Grace keeps us humble. There is no worse offense than to question the sufficiency of the Grace of God. "Wherefore despairing Soul, for 'tis to thee I speak, forbear thy mistrusts, cast off they slavish fears, hang thy misgivings as to this upon the Hedge: and believe, thou hast an invitation sufficient thereto, a River is before thy face" (p. 115).

(17) John Bunyan, The Saints Knowledge of Christ's Love, or, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ in Works, 448.

(18) John Bunyan, Christ a Complete Saviour; or, The Intercession of Christ, and Who Are Privileged in It in Works, V: 19.

(19) Ibid., 65.

(20) John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, or, A Plain and Profitable Discourse on John VI verse xxxvii, Shewing the Cause, Truth, and Manner of the Coming of a Sinner to Jesus Christ: With his Happy Reception and Blessed Entertainment, 12th ed. (London: C. Hatch, 1762), 106.

(21) E. Glenn Hinson, "Prayer in John Bunyan and the Early Monastic Tradition," Cistercian Studies 18 (1983): 217-30.

(22) Bunyan, I Will Pray with the Spirit, ed. Greaves, 236.

(23) Ibid., 250.

(24) Ibid., 249-59.

(25) Ibid., 252.

(26) Ibid., 258.

(27) Ibid., 261.

(28) Ibid., 261-66.

(29) Ibid., 266.

(30) Bunyan's Dying Sayings in Works (London: Thomas Nelson, 1845), 271,

(31) John Bunyan, The Acceptable Sacrifice or The Excellency of a Broken Heart (Harpenden: Gospel Standard Street Baptist Tfust Ltd, 1978; Foreword by George Cokayn, September 21, 1688), 44f.

(32) Ibid., 46.

(33) Ibid., 80-83.

(34) John Bunyan, The Pharisee and the Publican in Works (London: Thomas Nelson, 1845), 227.

(35) Ibid., 239, 240.

(36) For a full exposition of this perspective, see the essay I have written titled "The Catholicizing of Contemplation: Thomas Merton's Contribution to the Church's Prayer Life," Perspectives in Religious Studies 1 (Spring 1974), 66-84; Cistercian Studies 10 (1975). 173-89.

(37) I have argued in Baptist Spirituality: A Call for Renewed Attentiveness to God (Macon, GA: Nurturing Faith, Inc, 2013), 13-29, that Baptists began as heirs of the contemplative tradition. Subsequently they evolved into a conversionist, then a corporatist spirituality.

(38) Thlon, John Bunyan 2.

E. Glenn Hinson is Emeritus Professor of Spirituality and John Loft is Professor of Church History at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond.
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Author:Hinson, E. Glenn
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Article Type:Biography
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Date:Mar 22, 2015
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