John Bunyan is born in the small English village of Elstow. His father is a tinker, or metal worker, who owns his own cottage, pays taxes, and conforms to the Church of England. John goes to school only briefly, and by the age of ten he considers himself a captive of the Devil and is given to cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming God. He experiences terrible dreams of Hell, fire, and judgment and eternal darkness, but ignores them and becomes a ringleader of young men who pursue their sins with enthusiasm. All the while he is learning the trade of tinker from his father.
As a teenager, John escapes death from near drowning, from a poisonous snake, and from musket fire (a companion who took his place as sentinel was shot in the head and died). He recognizes his survival as the grace of God in spite of his many sins. He gets married and starts going to church as much as twice a day. He describes himself as bewitched by the priests, vestments, and services of the Church of England. For about a year he works at controlling his vile tongue and tries to give his neighbors the impression he is a godly man.
Aware of his hypocrisy but not knowing what to do about it, one day his work takes him to Bedford, where he overhears women sitting in the sun and talking about God and the new life they enjoy as a consequence of their relationships with Jesus Christ. He is impressed by their happy and blessed condition and makes it his business to pay many visits and learn from these Puritans. He starts reading the Bible with new eyes and finds the Epistles of the Apostle Paul sweet and pleasant. Still, he fears there is a limit to the number of people who can go to Heaven and fears it is too late...
(The entire section is 698 words.)