GraceAbounding is the spiritual autobiography of John Bunyan, the author of the perpetually best selling The Pilgrim’s Progress. In this work, Bunyan gives the reader his torturous experience of blasphemy, conversion, sanctification, and his long quest for personal assurance of salvation. In this work, Bunyan admits to experiencing the most arduous spiritual exertions that a believer might encounter. Time and again, Bunyan experiences a familiar cycle of guilt, grace, gratitude, and glory—only to fall back into despair once again.
Reading this work as the companion to Pilgrim’s Progress will show discerning readers exactly where Bunyan derived his colorful ideas for his great allegory; they are drawn from the costly experiences of following Christ in his own life. Both books finally end in grace—Christian enters the Celestial Gates, and Bunyan is given full assurance in Christ before his death. Ultimately, albeit through much suffering and persecution from both men and devils, Bunyan does find peace and serenity at the cross, trusting Christ alone for his righteousness, although is spiritual turmoil is extreme.
The final chapters are really appendices to the main body, recounting Bunyan’s criminal trials and prison experiences, as well as that of his wife. These too, are the fountain of much pure devotional water to the thirsty modern pilgrim.
The beauty of this work is the Bunyan describes so poignantly what we all experience in our lives: doubt, despair, fears, and failures. Surely this work would give greater confidence to any “sinking and drowning” modern believer. He or she will find in John Bunyan a true companion for the many of us who suffer bouts of doubt, especially as it regards our own salvation.
This work is certainly a well-needed corrective to our modern understanding of salvation. Many today feel that their Christianity is assured by their having walked an aisle, said a sinner’s prayer, or even having been raised in a Christian home. Bunyan’s grappling match with his own salvation will provide for us an example of a man who refused to put his trust in anything but the crucified and risen Christ.
As this is recognized as a literary masterpiece, there is very little to critique here. Perhaps some readers will become frustrated with Bunyan as he seems to wrestle repeatedly with sins and doubts that he has already defeated before through the grace given by the Holy Spirit. But is this really any different from our own experiences? More likely, readers will find that Bunyan is a true companion in the path of discipleship, and a kindred spirit with our own inner confliction with sin and guilt in our own time.
Best Quote: “I never saw those heights and depths in grace, and love, and mercy, as I saw after this temptation; great sins to draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terrible and fierce, there the mercy of God in Christ, when showed to the soul appears most high and mighty.” (Location 1219).
--Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida.