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THE TRIAL AND INCARCERATION OF JOHN BUNYAN - debunked?

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  • THE TRIAL AND INCARCERATION OF JOHN BUNYAN - debunked?

    I see this pop up from time to time in Christian publications, but I haven't really seen anything documenting it as actual court record.
    Has anybody seen this confirmed or debunked?

    THE TRIAL AND INCARCERATION OF JOHN BUNYAN

    John Bunyan was a Baptist preacher, a pious man, and a man well-beloved by all who knew him. John Bunyan was incarcerated in the Bedford jail in England. The following account is taken directly from a transcript of the trial on October 3, 1660, that led to his imprisonment at Bedford:

    Judge Wingate: “Mr. Bunyan, you stand before this Court accused of persistent and willful transgression of the Conventicle Act, which prohibits all British subjects from absenting themselves from worship in the Church of England, and from conducting worship services apart from our Church. You come, presumably, with no legal training, and yet without counsel. I must warn you, sir, of the gravity of the charge, the harshness of the penalty, in the event of your conviction, and the foolhardiness of acting as your own counsel in so serious a matter. I hold in my hand the depositions of the witnesses against you. In each case, they have testified that, to their knowledge, you have never, in your adult life, attended services in the Church of this parish. Each further testifies that he has observed you, on numerous occasions, conducting religious exercises in and near Bedford.”

    John Bunyan: “The depositions speak the truth. I have never attended services in the Church of England, nor do I intend ever to do so. Secondly, it is no secret that I preach the Word of God whenever, wherever, and to whomever He pleases to grant me opportunity to do so. I have no choice but to acknowledge my awareness of the law which I am accused of transgressing. Likewise, I have no choice but to confess my guilt in my transgression of it. As true as these things are, I must affirm that I neither regret breaking the law, nor repent of having broken it. Further, I must warn you that I have no intention in the future of conforming to it.”

    Judge Wingate: “It is obvious, sir, that you are a victim of deranged thinking. If my ears deceive me not, I must infer from your words that you believe the State to have no interest in the religious life of its subjects.”

    John Bunyan: “The State, M lord, may have an interest in anything in which it wishes to have an interest. But the State has no right whatever to interfere in the religious life of its citizens.”

    Judge Wingate: “The evidence I hold in my hand, even apart from your own admission of guilt, is sufficient to convict you, and the Court is within its rights to have you committed to prison for a considerably long time. I do not wish to send you to prison, Mr. Bunyan. I am aware of the poverty of your family, and I believe you have a little daughter who, unfortunately, was born blind. Is this not so?”

    John Bunyan: “It is, M’lord.”

    Judge Wingate: “Very well. The decision of the Court is this: In as much as the accused has confessed his guilt, we shall follow a merciful and compassionate course of action. We shall release him on the condition that he swear solemnly to discontinue the convening of religious meetings, and that he affix his signature to such an oath prior to quitting the Courtroom. That will be all, Mr. Bunyan. I hope not to see you here again. May we hear the next case?”

    John Bunyan: “M’lord, if I may have another moment of the Court’s time?”

    Judge Wingate: “Yes, but you must be quick about it. We have other matters to attend to. What is it?”

    John Bunyan: “I cannot do what you ask of me, M’lord. I cannot place my signature upon any document in which I promise henceforth not to preach. My calling to preach the Gospel is from God, and He alone can make me discontinue what He has appointed me to do. As I have had no word from Him to that effect, I must continue to preach, and I shall continue to preach.”

    Judge Wingate: “I warn you, sir, the Court has gone the second mile to be lenient with you, out of concern for your family’s difficult straits. Truth to tell, it would appear that the Court’s concern for your family far exceeds your own. Do you wish to go to prison?”

    John Bunyan: “No, M’lord. Few things there are that I would wish less.”

    Judge Wingate: “Very well, then, Mr. Bunyan. This Court will make one further attempt in good faith to accommodate what appears to be strongly held convictions on your part. In his compassion and beneficence, our Sovereign, Charles II, has made provision for dissenting preachers to hold some limited meetings. All that is required is that such ministers procure licenses authorizing them to convene these gatherings. ”You will not find the procedure burdensome, and even you, Mr. Bunyan, must surely grant the legitimacy of the State’s interest in ensuring that any fool with a Bible does not simply gather a group of people together and begin to preach to them. Imagine the implications were that to happen! Can you comply with this condition, Mr. Bunyan?

    “Before you answer, mark you this: should you refuse, the Court will have no alternative but to sentence you to a prison term. Think, sir, of your poor wife. Think of your children, and particularly of your pitiful, sightless little girl. Think of your flock, who can hear you to their hearts’ content when you have secured your licenses. Think on these things, and give us your answer, sir!”

    John Bunyan: “M’lord, I appreciate the Court’s efforts to be as you have put it - accommodating. But again, I must refuse your terms. I must repeat that it is God who constrains me to preach, and no man or company of men may grant or deny me leave to preach. These licenses of which you speak, M’lord, are symbols not of a right, but of a privilege. Implied therein is the principle that a mere man can extend or withhold them according to his whim. I speak not of privileges, but of rights. Privileges (licenses) granted by men may be denied by men. Rights are granted by God, and can be legitimately denied by no man. I must therefore, refuse to comply.”

    Judge Wingate: “Very well, Mr. Bunyan. Since you persist in your intractability, and since you reject this Court’s honest effort at compromise, you leave us no choice but to commit you to Bedford jail for a period of six years (Editor's Note: This six ultimately became 12 1/2 for his repeated refusal to sign the license). ”If you manage to survive, I should think that your experience will correct your thinking. If you fail to survive, that will be unfortunate. In any event, I strongly suspect that we have heard the last we shall ever hear from Mr. John Bunyan. Now, may we hear the next case?”

    Of course, neither Judge Wingate nor the world had heard the last of John Bunyan, for during his lengthy incarceration in the old Bedford jail, with his Bible as his constant companion and guide, Bunyan gave to the world the epic Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan was denied pen and paper, and Pilgrim’s Progress was written with pieces of charcoal from the fire that kept his body warm on the paper wads used as stoppers in the milk bottles from which he drank.
    The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
    I see this pop up from time to time in Christian publications, but I haven't really seen anything documenting it as actual court record.
    Has anybody seen this confirmed or debunked?
    I don't know that official transcripts as such for minor trials in provincial courts would even have been officially registered. The record of the trial is part of the collection known as the "Breedlove Papers." There is no mention of the papers being considered questionable (that I can find) at any level.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...IM_yAxWvfSbepG

    Thomas Breedlove was an English legal scribe whose job it was to record court proceedings.
    Breedlove passed from the scene around 1675 leaving nearly one-thousand verbatim accounts of
    primarily minor trials from the period of 1660 to 1675, this during the time of King Charles II. What
    follows is the transcript of the trial of His Majesty, King Charles II, against John Bunyan, tinker and
    sometime preacher of a relatively new and strange--as well as illegal cult--known as Baptists.



    ETA: Records were kept. Trying to search them is a nightmare.
    Last edited by tabibito; 06-26-2022, 04:54 AM.
    1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
    Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
    .
    "when the church no longer teaches its people why they believe what they believe, the world will often step in and fill in the gaps." Ryan Danker

    "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by tabibito View Post

      I don't know that official transcripts as such for minor trials in provincial courts would even have been officially registered. The record of the trial is part of the collection known as the "Breedlove Papers." There is no mention of the papers being considered questionable (that I can find) at any level.

      https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...IM_yAxWvfSbepG

      Thomas Breedlove was an English legal scribe whose job it was to record court proceedings.
      Breedlove passed from the scene around 1675 leaving nearly one-thousand verbatim accounts of
      primarily minor trials from the period of 1660 to 1675, this during the time of King Charles II. What
      follows is the transcript of the trial of His Majesty, King Charles II, against John Bunyan, tinker and
      sometime preacher of a relatively new and strange--as well as illegal cult--known as Baptists.



      ETA: Records were kept. Trying to search them is a nightmare.
      Thanks, Tab --- I have no reason to question it other than it's so easy for people to "come up with" old documents that are not otherwise validated.
      The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

        Thanks, Tab --- I have no reason to question it other than it's so easy for people to "come up with" old documents that are not otherwise validated.
        You still going on about how you think that my Letter of Marque authorizing me to seize bacon shipments is a phony

        I'm always still in trouble again

        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
        "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          You still going on about how you think that my Letter of Marque authorizing me to seize bacon shipments is a phony
          Yes, and Francis Bacon's security detail was mad as heck at all your squirrelly attempts.
          The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

          Comment


          • #6
            So is somebody claiming that Bunyan was never imprisoned, or is there just a question about the details of his trial?
            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
              So is somebody claiming that Bunyan was never imprisoned, or is there just a question about the details of his trial?
              Just the details of his trial. It sounds like a really good sermon illustration or story, so I wanted to make sure there wasn't somewhere that it was "debunked".
              The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                Just the details of his trial. It sounds like a really good sermon illustration or story, so I wanted to make sure there wasn't somewhere that it was "debunked".
                Ah, we probably can never know something like that for sure but if you said something like "one account of the story" or "supposedly" then you would for sure be telling the truth anyway.
                "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post

                  Ah, we probably can never know something like that for sure but if you said something like "one account of the story" or "supposedly" then you would for sure be telling the truth anyway.
                  Yup - I just didn't want to get surprised by somebody saying "yeah, that's been going around the internet, but....."
                  The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                    Yup - I just didn't want to get surprised by somebody saying "yeah, that's been going around the internet, but....."
                    Considering the time, the transcript has provenance as good as can be hoped for. An interesting tidbit; John Donne was incarcerated in the same jail while Bunyan was there.
                    1Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω
                    Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                    .
                    "when the church no longer teaches its people why they believe what they believe, the world will often step in and fill in the gaps." Ryan Danker

                    "The synoptic gospels claim that Jesus was crucified on the 15th day of Nisan and buried on the 14th day of Nisan:" Majority Consensus

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                      Considering the time, the transcript has provenance as good as can be hoped for. An interesting tidbit; John Donne was incarcerated in the same jail while Bunyan was there.
                      Interesting --- thanks Tab!
                      The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                      Comment

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