Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan

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 the 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 as part of their Reviewers Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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