Graceful Reading: Theology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan

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3 Of Things Seen and Unseen: Graceful Reading and Narrative Practice in Grace Abounding

Yea, and I am fully convinced of it, that it is possible for a Soul that can scarce give a man an answer, but with great confusion as to method, I say it is possible for them to have a thousand times more Grace, and so to be more in the love and favour of the Lord, then some who by vertue of the Gift of Knowledge, can deliver themselves like Angels.

(GA, pp. 91-2)

Bunyan's comment here (made almost at the very close of Grace Abounding) may appear to indicate some defensiveness about both the style and unscholarliness of his spiritual autobiography. After all, as a repetitive, diffuse, and labyrinthine account of a soul attempting to 'give a man an answer' to some unworldly questions, Grace Abounding may indeed appear to have been composed with little other than 'great confusion as to method'. Bunyan's justification for this, it might seem, is simply that the visible saint, despite being quite graceless stylistically (as well as socially), can yet have more grace than any who are able to discourse like eloquent 'Angels' (especially as 'the Lord looketh not at the outward appearance, but on the Heart, neither regardeth high swelling words of vanity, but pure and naked Truth' (MW iii. 71)). Aside from an obvious punning on notions of style, grace, and civility, such a statement is neither a defence of any confused mode of narration in Grace Abounding nor, as we get elsewhere in Bunyan's writings, an outright dismissal of human learning. 1 Rather, Bunyan's words

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