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This review is from: Grace Abounding (Paperback)In 1660 John Bunyan was sent to prison where he remained, expect for a short period in 1666, for the next twelve years during which time he penned his classic The Pilgrim's Progress and other books, including the autobiographical Grace Abounding. The restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 made it an offence to preach other than in accordance with the rituals of the Anglican Church or by anyone not in episcopal orders. Although initially confined for three months Bunyan steadfastly refused to stop preaching if he were freed so remained in prison preaching to a captive audience.
Grace Abounding is a description of Bunyan's early life and pathway to his Christian vocation. Even after more than three centuries it reflects the inner conflicts he felt before finding that vocation starting with his poor upbring and his first marriage to someone "as poor as poor might be - not having so much household stuff as a dish or a spoon between us." Although he started going to church regularly his lifestyle was one of pleasure characterised by impiety, swearing and sports. Grace Abounding is a record of his struggle with the guilt that his lifestyle was inappropriate and periods of spiritual self-doubt that echo through to today.
Attributing his doubts to the devil he set out many questions which are not unfamiliar to ourselves. He asked, "How can you tell but that the Turks had Scriptures equally as good to prove their Muhammad the Saviour as we have to prove our Jesus?" He wondered about those who did not have the advantage of Bible knowledge stating, "Everyone does think his own religion is the most right. Jews and Moors and pagans. What if all our faith and Christ and Scriptures would be a "think so" too?" Grace Abounding chronicles his constant struggle to justify his faith until he accepted he was justified by faith in a God whose love was constant no matter how sinful the sinner. This inner conviction of "the being of God and the truth of His gospel" gave him the determination to pursue his own chosen path as a preacher.
Prior to his imprisonment Bunyan regularly disputed the claims of those whose view of Christianity was different from his own. This included the Ranters, who claimed that as they had reached spiritual perfection they could not sin, Quakers who permitted practices based on the idea of each person's "inner light" and atheists who, far from being a modern phenomenon, were represented in the common body of social and religious opinion. Long before the Enlightenment Bunyan was arguing with people who did not believe that the Bible was the word of God, that there was any value in prayer or that Jesus rose from the dead. Debates on the subject are still ongoing, only the names of the participants have changed.
In 1672 Bunyan was released under the Declaration of Religious Indulgence and obtained a licence to preach. His success was resented by those who accused him of immoralities and regularly slandered him. By this time Bunyan was so comfortable in his beliefs that he welcomed attacks as evidence that he was doing God's work. He continued his disputations with the Quakers and others refusing to accept that ritual was an essential part of the Christian faith. Of his personal faith he wrote, "I must first pass a sentence of death upon everythng that can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me and myself as dead to them." Bunyan found his salvation in full submission to his God.
Bunyan often wondered whether his imprisonment would result in his being hanged and, in order to protect his family, especially his blind child, he transferred all his property to his wife. During the three years of James the Second's rule he published half a dozen books at a time when he knew his health was failing. He died in 1688 aged sixty and while some relics are preserved at the Bunyan Museum "best of all his spirit is preserved there also".
The book needs to be understood in the context of the Age in which Bunyan lived (1628 - 1688) and is an excellent source book for Puritan and general history and the inner psychological and spiritual conflict characteristic of that and any other age.