Title: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
Author: John Bunyan
Date Published: 1666
Challenges: Literary Movement 2015, Renaissance; Reading England 2015, Bedfordshire; The Classics Club; and The Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge, Biographies
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, John Bunyan's spiritual autobiography, covered numerous reading challenges for me, especially for my Literary Movement Renaissance period, which tend to be religious in nature. It was only 77 pages, but what a formidable, little book!
In this short personal history, Bunyan recounts "the merciful working of God upon [his] soul." When God begins to prick the conscience of Bunyan, showing him his disobedience and wickedness, the author describes how he rebelled against and tried to hide from God. Gratefully, there were people in his life who introduced him to the Scriptures, and he immediately enjoyed reading God's word; however, it also opened his eyes to God's standards, and conviction weighed heavy on his heart.
This burden led to an extremely long and agonizing trek to salvation and conversion for Bunyan. If you have ever read The Pilgrim's Progress, then you will begin to see Christian's journey unfold before your eyes. John Bunyan suffered through temptation, doubt, lack of or little faith, and ignorance of truth. When he thought he found comfort in God's word, he become fooled and discouraged all over again, blaming Satan for misleading him in his faithlessness.
His most worrisome concern was a misunderstanding that he would never achieve salvation due to his blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, while tempting God. Imagine convincing yourself that you could never be saved, and yet fully understanding the ramifications of God's wrath! You could do nothing but wait for your coming judgment. Bunyan lived with this dread and trepidation day after day. And when the reader thought he finally found God's truth, love, and peace, Bunyan immediately turned to his anxiety, temptation, guilt, and doubt all over again. I think I wrote the word "finally" about six different times, thinking he was complete, until finally!!! He embraced God's free gift of grace, with no strings attached.
My favorite was this irrefutable moment when he said:
...it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse: for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, 'the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).'And immediately following, he continued:
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations also fled away: so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God...Bunyan's conversion was a long and slow process, but eventually he rose to be a great witness for Christ's glory. He spent twelve difficult years in prison, apart from his wife and children, because he would not conform to the Church of England. Of this suffering, he learned,
...I see the best way to go through sufferings, is to trust in God through Christ, as touching the world to come; and as touching this world, to 'count the grave my house, to make my bed in darkness, and to say to corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and sister...(Job17:13-14)'