In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, John Bunyan recounts his inner thoughts as he grappled with his faith. Bunyan takes us through the struggle of his own sin and how grace led him from a conflicted conscience to a powerful preacher of the gospel. Modern readers will find encouragement in Bunyan’s remedies for his own troubled conscience, as well as hope that God has used so greatly a man who struggled so deeply.
- A highly personal spiritual memoir
John Bunyan is best known for The Pilgrim’s Progress, the most famous of all Christian allegories. Kipling called him “the father of the novel.” But not as many people are aware of Bunyan the renegade preacher; imprisoned for sermonizing outside of sanctioned Church of England buildings and without approved Church of England materials (namely, the Book of Common Prayer). Bunyan’s post-Reformation England was an age of civil war, vengeful kings (and queens), religious oppression, and fear. A group of puritans had fled England for the religious freedom of the American colonies less than a decade before Bunyan’s birth.
This is the backdrop of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, John Bunyan’s brief autobiography. There is hardly any commentary on the volatile political climate, and very little time spent describing his imprisonments and preaching career. Most of the book is concerned with his internal agonizing over the nature of grace and his own persistent sin.
He struggles and struggles and struggles. By the time he finally finds relief in the Scriptures, I was relieved along with him. Bunyan was one tortured guy, despite his external ministry success. His oppressive guilt and temptations could well have been demonic or related to a mental illness of some kind. Yes, this is a Christian classic, but it is also a deeply personal spiritual memoir,
Bunyan had an amazing knowledge of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. Many of his spiritual breakthroughs came when he was meditating on Scripture, but not necessarily reading it. God would bring a certain scripture to his mind when he needed it. What a humbling picture of a true man of the Word! For Bunyan, every problem or challenge he faced was a theological one.
This is a great book. I particularly liked the last third of the book in which Bunyan discusses his preaching endeavors and imprisonment. His preaching was an overflow of his excitement for the Word, and he describes it as an almost involuntary reaction to his own study and application. He just HAD to preach the Word; he couldn’t help it even if he tried.
Despite its short length, Grace Abounding is not a particularly approachable book due to Bunyan’s complex Elizabethan English. Simon Vance, an Englishman, does a great job with the audio version narration, and I highly recommend this book for its theological, biographical, and historical value.
Please Note: This audiobook was gifted as a part of the Christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.
- Very Encouraging
I received this audiobook for the purpose of writing a review.
Narrator Thoughts: His voice was perfect for this role. Steady, yet full of emotion. As I listen he made the book come to life. Almost as if the real John Bunyan had invited me into his living room and was sharing this with me. I enjoyed it very much.
Book Thoughts: This was such an encouraging book for me. I've struggled with doubts of my salvation and fears about being close to God. To know that even those that are considered leaders in the church, have struggled and overcome fears, doubts, and attacks of the evil one.
In this book, Bunyan express his heart and struggle. He opens up about his deep inner thoughts and how God calmed him and gave him peace. He takes the reader on the journey of healing that God brought about in his life. It's an encouraging and refreshing book.
I liked one expression he would us in from time to time. "God dropped a thought in my head."
The only thing that was a slight drawback was that in was still in it's old english. I had to pay attention sometimes to understand what he was saying. But it did give me a good feel for the author and the times in which he lived.
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- How can I critique a spiritual giant?
Writing a critique of John Bunyan is akin to questioning Job on his view of suffering. This man is a spiritual giant and wrote a book that has become a classic, a book I grew up with. (That will not be the case with many writers today whose words will die with them.)
In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Bunyan writes of his life before Christ, his conversion and his suffering for his faith.
I found it interesting that the section on his imprisonment is quite short. If he were writing today we would expect his imprisonment to be the keynote of the book.
The longest section of the book, which was about an hour or recorded time, was about his conversion. I admit it was painful for me to hear. For years it seems Bunyan was vexed over his spiritual state. He had doubts about his conversion or whether he could even be saved.
I found myself saying "Get over it. Move on" and wondering if he had healthy biblical teaching, had a psychological problem or if I was missing something. I found myself leaning towards my own lack of appreciation for the grace of God.
The book was well read by Simon Vance and his reading took me to Bunyan's time. It would not have been the same if it had been read with an American accent.
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- A Real Life Pilgrim's Progress!
When you hear the word "Puritan", what do you think about? Black clothes, Legalism, or crabby ol' men?
If this is what comes to mind, you have never read the Puritans. Instead of learning from the original sources, we normally get our information second hand. That is why the Puritans have such a bad rap. Most people who teach those things about them have never read them.
Far from our caricature of the puritans, they were warm, compassionate, and above all passionate for the Lord. John Bunyan is no exception. In fact he is the rule.
Known for his classic novel, Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan is probably the greatest known Puritan of all time and no one can accuse him of being boring.
Here, we have a sort of autobiography. We see the real life Pilgrim. Bunyan gives us a guided tour of the misery and the joy of a man seeking for God. We see a man crushed by his sin. We see his heart filled with fear that he will die in his sin. We see him find redemption through the Savior.
It is both heartbreaking and joyous. His desperation will melt your heart and his salvation will bring a tear to your eyes. If you have never read the puritans, this is a good place to start. The narrator, Simon Vance, has a wonderful English accent that lends itself to the material.
I had already read this book once but now have had the privilege of listening to the audio version and totally loved it.
I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
I enjoyed this book courtesy of the Christian Audio review program at http://christianaudio.com and received the audio book, free of charge, from ChristianAudio.com and Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
- From the Author of The Pilgrim's Pro
Next to the Bible, John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress is probably one of the most widely read books of all time. Generations have been encouraged by this allegory of the Christian life, but few know much about its author. Bunyan was a Baptist minister in the 1600s who spent much time in prison for operating outside the authority of the state-supported Church of England. During this his imprisonments he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. Sometime before, in 1666, he wrote an autobiographical account of his journey to faith, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
Bunyun’s autobiography touches on his life both before and after placing his faith in Christ, and he gives an explanation as to how he came into the ministry and ended up in prison for preaching the Word. Much of what he writes centers on his struggle to accept Christ, believing that his sins committed after coming to a knowledge of Christ were unforgivable. He hoped that his struggle, as well as his ultimate rest in Christ, would be an encouragement to others who may have similar worries about becoming a Christian.
Reading a book written three hundred fifty years ago would pose some challenges because of archaic spelling and language, but listening to it read by Simon Vance eliminates or reduces most of these. The spoken word is much more intelligible, and gives a more contemporary feel to the book than you get from just reading it.
Christians should become familiar with the lives of faithful believers from times past. Bunyan’s autobiography is a rich resource giving insight not only into the events of his life, but also his thought processes and inner struggles as well. A welcome insight into the man who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Disclosure of material connection: I received a review copy of this work from the publisher.
- Deep, Practical, Timeless Truth
I suspect that most modern audiences would find the intense religious self-reflection of Bunyan, which was typical of the Puritans, somewhat neurotic and maybe even misguided. This, however, may reflect shallowness in our examination of life in light of the Word of God as much as it does excess on their part of the Puritans. This book is a window into the Puritan mind as it examines life in light of the Bible. Despite our modern conveniences, nothing fundamental has changed in human nature and so this book remains a treasure trove for any who struggle with reconciling what they know of the Holiness of God with the realities of their own thoughts and actions. Bunyan colorfully illustrates the various phases of the Christian experience through the lens of his own remarkable life.
This audiobook version was excellent. 17th century English can be a distraction for many listeners but the narration by Simon Vance was wonderful. Vance’s clear command of the rhythm and flow of the language highlights the beauty of Bunyan’s prose and adds warmth and depth to the work. Unlike some other readings from this period I have heard, this one was a pleasant listen.
The fact that Bunyan first published the book in 1666 and it is still being read gives us a hint as to its insightfulness. Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography is among the classics of Christian literature. Standing in the tradition of Augustine’s confessions it is an object lesson using the life of the author to illustrate great and urgent theological truths. We may wince at Bunyan’s occasional allegorization and his frequent proof texting but there is no denying the power of his lesson. He not only describes how the Word of God converted him, shattered the pride of his shallow confession, terrorized him, and finally comforted him, but also ministers to us where these same needs are present in our own hearts. It is an honest and practical, yet theologically deep examination of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
The authorities ordered Bunyan to stop preaching and imprisoned him because he refused. In the providence of God, this gave him time to write Grace Abounding and other works (while he was not preaching to the other prisoners) that have blessed generations of readers. Grace Abounding has reached far beyond the audience he had for his sermons. This book will be a great blessing and help to any believer who wishes seriously to examine his or her own faith and life. It will also be a help to any who are struggling with spiritual depression over their own sinfulness. Bunyan addresses all ends of the spectrum and leaves the reader/listener focused on the love of God and His Word. I recommend it and pray it is an encouragement to you.
* I received a free copy of this book from christianaudio.com as part of their Reviewers Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
- A testimony of geace than needs to be read.
Grace Abounding is John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) spiritual autobiography that was published in London in 1666. In this spiritual biography, Bunyan shows in great detail his wrestling with God for salvation. He lists how he often thought he was saved yet would willingly shun the Scriptures and correction by God in order to continue in his sinful ways. At one point, he actually began attending church because of the great name he was gaining within the village as a man changed by the workings of God.
After writing much of his false faith, he gloriously details his conversion and how he was changed, quite literally, overnight. Soon after, he was called to preach. While pastoring, he began writing. Bunyan is most well known for his The Pilgrim’s Progress which he wrote while in prison for preaching the gospel. Though that is his most famous book, he wrote many, many others all of which can be found in the three volume works.
Toward the end of this biography, Bunyan offers an apologetic (defense) against the charge of sexual immorality. I honestly do not know why he felt the need to address this particular topic in his spiritual biography (if anyone has insight, please comment!), but he does so at length. Also, toward the end of the book, he offers an account of his imprisonment which is when he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Listening to this spiritual biography was of great encouragement and blessing to me. It was a great encouragement for me personally as I read how he came with no Christian heritage or pedigree yet God saw fit to save his soul. I, too, came from no real Christian heritage (nominal Catholicism at best) nor do I have much of a spiritual pedigree in my family beforehand. To see how Bunyan, through Christ, was to live out his faith and come to grips with the sovereignty of God was refreshing to my souls. Many times I found myself thinking that I could relate to what Bunyan had written.
Bunyan is quite open with his life both before and after his conversion. He especially spends much time detailing his false faith leading up to his true salvation. This alone is worth the price of whichever book you purchase. There are many in the church today who, though they think they are Christian, are, in fact, anything but Christian.
Every Christian needs to read Grace Abounding not just for their own edification, but for their spiritual well-being as well. Bunyan tells it straight and in so doing, challenges everyone to take a hard look at their own standing in Christ. We need more testimonies like Bunyan’s (and I fear that there are many out there waiting to be told–Mt. 7:21) in today’s Americanized, apathetic Christian churches. Be sure to pick up a copy of Grace Abounding and rediscover the genius of Bunyan through his own eyes.