John Bunyan (1628-1688): His Life, Times, and Work

By John Brown; Frank Mott Harrison | Go to book overview

JOHN BUNYAN:
(1628-1688)
HIS LIFE, TIMES AND WORK.

I.
EARLY CHURCH LIFE IN BEDFORDSHIRE.

JOHN BUNYAN, born in the English Midlands, may be taken as in some sense a characteristic representative of the region that gave him birth. For the tract of country between the Trent and the Bedfordshire Ouse, which from its northern half gave the Pilgrim Fathers to New England, furnished from its fens and fields in the south a succession of men of his own sturdy independence of thought, and in strong sympathy with his own Puritan faith. In the development of even the most original genius, the environment counts for much; it may help us, therefore, to a truer estimate of the man if we first briefly recall the spiritual antecedents of the county in which he was born and in which his life was spent.

When the Reformation broke in upon the old ecclesiastical system of England, Bedfordshire seems to have been more than usually receptive of the new ideas then rising over Europe. Not that the whole county, any more than other counties, was prepared to become Protestant at a stroke. Here, as elsewhere, many Englishmen, after their manner, were inclined to "stand in the ways, and see and ask for the old paths." Leading families, like the Mordaunts of Turvey, remained firm in their allegiance to the ancient faith, and turned their houses into hiding-places for its bishops and priests during the hard days of Elizabeth and James. Not a few, of the yeomen also held tenaciously to the old well-worn modes of religious thought, even

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