At last ‘Banner’ have published an edition of this greatly valued Christian classic, and have done so in a format worthy of the lasting spiritual value of the work. John Bunyan (1628-1688) wrote voluminously, his collected making three portly volumes in the definitive nineteenth-century edition (available in facsimile reprint from the Banner of Truth Trust). His spiritual autobiography stands second only to the Pilgrim’s Progress, and has rarely been out of print since 1666.

The book’s content is described in the typically wordy original Puritan title: ‘Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, or, a brief and faithful relation of the exceeding mercy of God in Christ to his poor servant John Bunyan, wherein is particularly shewed the manner of his conversion , his fight and trouble for sin, his dreadful temptations, also how he despaired of God’s mercy, and how the Lord at length through Christ did deliver him from all the guilt and terror that lay upon him, whereunto is added a brief relation of his call to the work of the ministry and of his temptations therein, and also what he met with in prison. All of which was written by his own hand, and now published for the support of the weak and tempted people of God.’ And there you have the whole book in summary!

Bunyan graphically and pathetically describes his hard early life, his wild and careless youth, his first marriage to a Christian girl (whose main dowry was two Puritan books that were instrumental awakening his conscience), and then his long-protracted struggle with grace, conviction of sin, seeking, backsliding, temptations, despair and rejection of God, and renewed conviction: a painful process that for him extended over some years, narrated in detail over ninety pages of the book. At last Bunyan found peace and assurance of acceptance and salvation (and the reader breathes a sigh of relief!) Bunyan goes on to relate his call to the ministry, and growing maturity within it, from ‘crying out against sin’ to ‘holding forth Christ and all his benefits’, that is tempering the alarming with the comfort and assuring messages of the gospel. Says Bunyan, at that stage he was arrested (1660) and thrown into prison, where the record was penned.

This edition adds ‘a relation of Bunyan’s imprisonment’ by Bunyan himself, and, an anonymous ‘continuation of Mr. Bunyan’s life’.

The content of the book is the very opposite of modern ‘easy believism’. The Puritans over-exaggerated the law’s preparatory role leading to Christ, but here is something that every Christian can relate to.

The little book is beautifully produced: a smart hardback with gilt lettering, coloured endpapers and head and footbands. This book will be treasured by its owners – and would make an ideal and welcome gift.

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