My Trunk of Gold
BY PAUL MATHERS
John Bunyan was an English Puritan who lived in the 17th century. He wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the enduring works of Christian literature and, without dispute, one of the most printed books in the history of humankind. It is a story of the trials and struggles of the Christian life on the road to the Celestial City, a story Bunyan himself lived in the face of great suffering.
Bunyan’s young life was rebellious and blasphemous. After fighting in Cromwell's civil war, he married a woman who owned little more than two books: The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, by Arthur Dent and The Practice of Piety, by Lewis Bayly. Bunyan read these, repented, and sought to mend his ways. He heard Christians talking about the joy of their conversion and it broke his heart with longing for the assurance that they had. One day, while walking through a field, it came to him that his righteousness was in heaven. He wrote, “There was nothing but Christ before my eyes . . . Oh, I saw that my gold was in my trunk at home . . . Now Christ was all!”
This sounds like a happy ending, but Bunyan's first child, a daughter he loved dearly, was born blind. Soon after, his beloved pastor died without warning. Fervent and irrepressible in his faith, Bunyan began to preach, pretty much wherever he could. Hundreds flocked to hear him.
But the political situation in England did not smile upon Puritans expositing scripture outside of the state church. He was arrested while preaching in a farmhouse to a large crowd. When told that he would be freed if he stopped preaching, he responded, “If I am freed today, I will preach tomorrow.”
He spent the next twelve and a half years in prison.
While being separated from his family was like a “pulling of the flesh from my bones,” Bunyan wrote prolifically in prison, penning works that have nourished the souls of many saints throughout the centuries.
In 1672, a church elected him as their pastor, but within a couple of years he was put back in jail for preaching. After six months, Bunyan was released again and spent his remaining years writing, traveling, and preaching. While traveling to help to resolve a family conflict within the church he fell ill with a fever and winged his way to that Celestial City.
In prison, Bunyan wrote “The Almighty God being my help and shield, I am determined yet to suffer . . . even till moss shall grow upon my eyebrows, rather than violate my faith and principles.”
May we all stand with such certainty in Christ!