Spirit in the Letters: John Bunyan's Congregational Epistles

Davies, Michael
October 2009
Seventeenth Century;Autumn2009, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p323
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
The Church Book of the Bunyan Meeting or, more properly, A Booke Containing a Record of the Acts of a Congregation of Christ in and about Bedford, is widely recognised as a major document in seventeenth-century Nonconformist church history, and a key source of information concerning the life of its most famous member, John Bunyan. Less well known is that it is full of letters. This essay opens these epistles – typically signed by Bunyan, along with other Church officers, and addressing crucial and also controversial congregational affairs - within the persecutory, epistolary, and ecclesiological contexts of Restoration Nonconformity. Reading these letters, and recognising the communal spirit they evince, enables us to resituate Bunyan, and The Pilgrim's Progress in particular, within a clear, congregationally defined ethic of community. They offer, moreover, some of the finest passages of Nonconformist prose arguably of the period.


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