Volume 45 - Issue 3
“Love One Another When I Am Deceased”: John Bunyan on Christian Behavior in the Family and SocietyBy Jenny-Lyn de Klerk
In the last two decades, Bunyan studies has seen an increase in scholarship that examines his life and thought from various angles, such as the psychological experiences and socio-political convictions found in his allegorical and autobiographical works. This scholarship has greatly enriched our understanding of Bunyan as a whole person living in a particular historical context. However, it has also led to some unwarranted critiques of Bunyan for being tyrannical, cold, and sexually immoral, appealing to his clearer didactic works like Christian Behaviour for proof. One way to balance these extreme views is to examine the context and content of Bunyan’s Christian Behaviour, as well as relevant aspects of his life.1 In the end, this will show that Bunyan intended to instruct his readers on what he considered to be a primary aspect of the Christian life, that these instructions called for a gentle, warm love both within and outside of the family, and that he sought to follow these instructions himself.
1. Bunyan’s Christian Conduct in the Family and Society
Since recent scholarship has evaluated not only Bunyan’s work but also his life, it is helpful to begin by summarizing information known about his personal behavior in the family and society before examining his teachings on this topic in Christian Behaviour. As a child, Bunyan followed in the footsteps of his unbelieving father who frequently used foul language by imitating this swearing and acting in a generally rebellious manner.2 Later in life he would recall that he felt embarrassed when a female shopkeeper rebuked him for saying profanities, yet he kept sinning.3 Unfortunately, it seems his father modeled questionable behavior in more than one way since only one month after his mother died, his father re-married, which “must have seemed to violate the canons of decency and abiding love.”4
After leaving home as a young man Bunyan began to recognize his own sin and even grieve it, but felt unable to repent; it is possible his reading of devotional manuals that seemed to emphasize works over grace made this worse.5 What eventually gave Bunyan the initial guidance he needed in understanding sin and salvation came from a group of “poor and unlearned” women who unknowingly sparked Bunyan’s curiosity when he heard them talking lovingly about their God.6 After Bunyan joined their conversation, they introduced him to their pastor John Gifford, who “lead Bunyan to repentance and faith”7 and trained him for ministry.
Bunyan’s dedication to ministry was so strong that he refused to stop preaching even when it led to his imprisonment for violating the Act of Uniformity. Sadly, this came with the consequence of being separated from his wife and children for over a decade. Yet, far from ignoring the ways this would negatively affect them, Bunyan sincerely lamented this and did what he could to financially and spiritually provide for them by selling shoelaces and writing books.8 In fact, Walker suggests, “it [was] in prison that Bunyan’s genius … for writing works that evangelise and enrich the spiritual commitment of his congregation to the Baptist faith, [was] confirmed and enhanced.”9 Perhaps Bunyan channeled his grief into his writing as he mourned for being away from his family, which he considered the worst part of prison, saying,
The parting with my Wife and poor Children hath oft been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from my bones; and that not onely because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind Child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.10
This must have been a difficult time for them, but perhaps they also learned to trust God from their father’s example, a lesson that Bunyan himself did not seem to receive as a child.
Unfortunately, even after his release from prison Bunyan continued to face trials, such as when he was accused of committing adultery with Agnes Beaumont. Beaumont was a young convert and new member of the Bedford congregation whom he once took on horseback to a church gathering. On the day she was meant to be taken to this gathering by another minister who never came, Bunyan happened to pass her house and was convinced by her brother to help them. Bunyan initially refused, thinking her father would be angry, but was eventually persuaded by her brother’s desperate plea, “if you do not carry her, you will break her heart.”11 Sadly, upon Beaumont’s return from church, her father locked her out of the house because he was suspicious of Bunyan, about whom he had heard disconcerting things. Further, as a nominal Christian he did not like his daughter’s newfound devotion to God as worked out in a socially subversive group, especially one led by a controversial figure.12 Though Beaumont and her father reconciled several days later, rumors spread about inappropriate behavior between Bunyan and Beaumont and the premeditated murder of her father since he had mysteriously died after their reconciliation.13 In the end, Beaumont denied committing adultery and was “found innocent” regarding her father’s death, and “Bunyan maintained his own innocence in the fifth edition (1680) of Grace Abounding.”14
This experience must have angered Bunyan, but he continued to preach and care for those around him until his death in 1688, which was caused by his insistence on getting from one pastoral duty to another.15 After riding to the town of Reading to reconcile an estranged father and son Bunyan had to endure harsh weather in order to get to his lodging before preaching the next morning, and though he succeeded in facilitating their reconciliation and delivering his sermon, he fell ill and died.16 In the conclusion to what would be his final sermon he preached, “Doest thou see a Soul that has the Image of God in him? Love him, love him … serve one another, do good for one another; and if any wrong you, Pray to God to right you, and Love the Brotherhood.”17
In sum, though Bunyan may have not been instructed well as a child, his conversion experience gave him an understanding of sin and salvation, which led him to devote his life to teaching and guiding those in his care, most importantly his immediate family and congregation. This is clearly seen in his conduct manual Christian Behaviour, or the Fruits of True Christianity, written in 1663, when he thought he would be executed in prison. McGee explains that though this expectation was incorrect because Bunyan misunderstood the law, “there were still reasons to fear the worst” since “prisons were dank, cold, unhealthy places.”18 Using what he thought would be his last days, Bunyan urgently wrote on what he believed was a primary aspect of the Christian life.19
2. Christian Behavior: A Plain Call for All Christians to Love
Bunyan opens his Christian Behaviour with an explanation of why he chose to write a book on good works, saying he wanted to compose the logical follow-up to his book on justification, present a gospelized treatment of specific good works (currently not available elsewhere), respond to accusations of antinomianism, provide a more accessible and affordable book on good works for new converts, personally testify of God’s fruit-producing grace in his own life, and encourage that which pleases God. Bunyan clarifies that his discourse is not only about good works in general, but also those performed in specific life roles, including husband, wife, parent, child, master, servant, and neighbor. After an introduction on justification and a definition of good works, Bunyan describes good works in these roles, identifies primary sins that keep one from doing good works, and offers motivations for good works.
First, Bunyan is adamant that works flow from faith, not vice versa. Yet, he simultaneously insists that good works are a necessary part of the Christian life, and that they must be maintained on an ongoing basis by motivating oneself using the doctrine of justification.20 Works must flow from faith because that is what defines a good work; it is axiomatic. Bunyan explains, “Good Works must come from a good heart … [and] from love to the Lord Jesus…. For Faith worketh by love, and by that means doth good, as Gal. 5.6.”21 In other words, good works cannot be carried out without knowing that God chose his children, loves his children, and forgives their sins, which is what faith reveals and uses to comfort and enliven the soul; good works live by the ongoing strength of Christ, which is communicated to the believer through faith. On the other hand, works are also necessary to prove one’s salvation to others. To support this point Bunyan repeatedly uses the biblical analogy of fruitfulness—that living plants always produce fruit. Showing his literary skill, he warns: “take heed of being painted fire, wherein is no warmth; and painted flowers, which retain no smell; and of being painted trees, whereon is no fruit.”22
Next, Bunyan defines a good work as having “the Word for its authority,” “flow[ing] from Faith,” “rightly time, and rightly placed,” and performed “willingly, [and] cheerfully.”23 A good work cannot be good unless it is informed by the truth revealed in God’s Word. Furthermore, all works have a proper time and place in which they should be done. For example, one should not be working when it is time to hear the Word, or be outside of the home when it is time for family worship. This also means that more important works should be done more often.
Then, Bunyan describes the specific good works to be done as a husband, wife, parent, child, master, servant, and neighbor. The husband must govern the family both spiritually, in order to “increase Faith,” and externally, by providing for physical needs.24 To increase faith, he should lead his family in private worship (i.e., praying, reading Scripture, and conferencing), lead them to public worship, and protect them from heresy. Bunyan reasons that the importance of leading a household is seen in the fact that Scripture says only those who succeed in this area can be considered as pastoral candidates. Regarding the family’s physical needs Bunyan warns husbands to not let work distract from spiritual duties, saying, “to feed, cloath, and care for, is as much as heart can wish” and to go beyond that is greed.25 Husbands are also responsible for maintaining harmony in the home, which includes not tolerating sin against God but also knowing when to humbly “pass by personal injuries, and to bury them in oblivion. Love covereth a multitude of sins.”26
This harmony is worked out between spouses, as well as parents and children. A husband married to a believer should thank God for her, doubly love her, and carry himself to her as Christ does. Overall, their relationship is characterized by a sense of sweetness.27 A husband married to an unbeliever should think about her lost state in order to develop sympathy for her, act rightly so that she does not have occasion to imitate sin she sees at home, overcome the evil she does with good, try to convince her of the gospel, speak purposefully, and not become angry.
In turn, a believing wife must look to her husband as head and be subject to him rather than participate in gossip, meddle in worldly affairs, talk idly, or dress immodestly. However, Bunyan clarifies, “do not think that by the subjection I have here mentioned, that I do intend women should be their husbands’ slaves. Women are their husbands yoak-fellows, their flesh and their bones … the wife is master next to her husband, and is to rule all in his absence.”28 Bunyan counsels the wife with an unbelieving husband to strive all the more to live a holy life and practice patience in the hopes of “win[ning] him to the love of his own Salvation.”29 When her husband is in a tender mood or is convicted of some sin, the wife should use that opportunity to speak respectfully and sympathetically to him about the gospel. Bunyan recognizes the severity of being in such a difficult situation and says the wife and her Christians friends should pray to God for help.
As a couple, parents must be careful to act rightly before their children and raise them in the Lord. This means instructing them with gentleness and words they understand, and only teaching them the truth, not fables. When correcting their children, parents should first “see if fair words will win them from evil” for “this is God’s way with his Children, Jer. 25.4, 5.”30 They can do this by speaking calmly and giving scriptural support for their words. Though parents must show their dislike of naughtiness, this should “be mixed with such love, pity and compunction of spirit, that … [the children] may be convinced, [their parents] dislike not their persons, but their sins.” Again, “this is God’s way, Psa. 99.8.”31
In response, children must obey, honor, and love their parents by considering their parents better than themselves instead of scorning them. Children should also be willing to help their parents since they brought them into the world, cared for them when they were helpless, and went through the painful ordeal of raising them. If one’s parents are unbelievers, one should yearn for their salvation, speak wisely, bear with their “railing and evil speaking,” and look for opportunities to share the gospel.32
Though masters and servants do not have the same relationship as parents and children, masters must treat their servant with respect and care like they would their own child so that their servant “may become [their] spiritual Son in the end, Prov. 29.21.”33 Bunyan explains, “know that it is thy duty so to behave thy self to thy Servant, that thy service may not only be for thy good, but for the good of thy Servant, and that both in body and soul.”34 This means masters should not overwork their servants and thus turn them into slaves (which would make them more like “Israels enemies than Christian Masters”), threaten them, set a bad example for them, misrepresent the work when hiring them, or underpay them.35 Rather, they should behave well towards them so that their servants have nothing to complain about. In sum, masters should learn from Christ how to treat their servants; they are to perform the same good works as a servant, namely, completing their tasks “as to the Lord, and not to men.”36
In turn, servants must remember that they are not on the same level as the master’s family; even if the servants are equally a part of Christ’s family as their masters are, there is still a hierarchy in the workplace. Furthermore, servants should remember that they work not with that which belongs to themselves, but to their master. Yet above all they serve God: the servant’s “work in [their] place and station … [are] as really God’s ordinance, and as acceptable to Him, in its kind, as is Preaching, or any other work for God.”37
Finally, neighbors must be courteous, charitable, and gracious, always ready to meet the physical needs of others (especially of the poor), talk about the gospel, and use kind language, rather than use offensive or provoking language, gossip, serve themselves, or talk about religion but never do anything to help others. Three chief sins in professors of religion are covetousness, pride, and adultery. The first can work itself out in being discontent despite having a comfortable life, the second leads to many sins against others (including deceit, prejudice, and murder), and the third easily overtakes people by immodest looks, speech, and dress. To avoid discouraging his readers Bunyan pleads, “My Friends, I am here treating of Good Works, and perswading you to fly those things that are hinderances to them; wherefore bear with my plainness when I speak against Sin; I would strike it through with every word, because else it will strike us through with many sorrows, I Tim. 6.9, 10.”38
Bunyan concludes that one of the hardest yet necessary parts of doing good works is continuing in them over time, though one is not saved by works. Actually, Bunyan argues, the best way to motivative oneself and others to do good works is by believing, thinking, and talking about the doctrine of justification by grace. This doctrine states that God freely clothes his children with Christ’s righteousness and gives them all Christ’s benefits, which then infuses a principle of grace in the believer’s heart that produces fruit. Bunyan explains the necessity of both doctrine and community by again using fruit and garden imagery. First, when “good Doctrine” is “planted” and “watered with the Word of Grace” in an individual’s heart, it produces the “fruit of Holiness, and the end everlasting Life, Rom. 6.22.” Then, Christians become “like the several flowers of a Garden, that have upon each of them the Dew of Heaven, which being shaken with the wind, they let fall their Dew at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of one another.”39 Reflecting his expectation that this would be his last work, Bunyan signs off saying that he has written this “because I desire that you may have the Life that is laid up for all them that believe in the Lord Jesus, and love one another when I am deceased.”40
3. Recent Evaluations of Bunyan’s Conduct and Christian Behaviour
In recent years, respected scholars like Greaves, Mullett, and Camden have helpfully brought psychological and socio-political factors to bear on Bunyan’s life and works, including Christian Behaviour. For example, Greaves explains that Bunyan’s instructions in Christian Behaviour are drawn from his own experience of gaining assurance, and that Bunyan offers “a sweeping indictment of Restoration society and its moral maxims,” rebukes the magistrates who put him in jail, critiques both Anglicans and Quakers, and presents a traditional view of gender.41 According to Mullett, Christian Behaviour shows that though Bunyan was associated with a radical church and identified with the large population of “plebeian English people” who had “emancipated themselves intellectually from the ancient thraldoms of monarchy, nobility, gentry, clergy, and academia,” he still had conservative politics.42 Similarly, Ross argues that Christian Behaviour shows Bunyan’s “solid belief in a hierarchical societal order.”43 Finally, Camden rightly highlights that in Christian Behaviour Bunyan roots outward sexual sin in inward lust, and that the Puritans considered this to be a particularly serious sin.44
However, at times these scholars take their method too far, and their more extreme statements form a picture of Bunyan as tyrannical, cold, and sexually immoral.45 First, Greaves claims that
to the wife who objects that her husband is a sot, a fool, and incapable of pursuing his vocation, Bunyan offered no hope, insisting she remember that her husband is her head and lord, that she not exercise authority over him, and that she not disclose her husband’s weakness to others.46
Greaves’s perspective on Bunyan’s view of women is also seen in his evaluation of the controversy with Beaumont. He posits that Bunyan reacted so severely against it because of the “not unnatural attraction he felt toward women, undoubtedly those who, like Agnes Beaumont, were awed by his ministerial prowess.”47 Even though he knew he did not behave immodestly, “the motive force of his denials of sexual impropriety suggest discomfort stemming from his probable battle with carnal thoughts,” which he admitted when he said, “‘Not that I have been thus kept [from sexual misbehavior], because of any goodness in me more than any other, but God has been merciful to me, and has kept me … from every evil way and work.’”48 Greaves concludes that even if Bunyan was pious, he was also human. Finally, Greaves explains that in Bunyan’s section on parents disciplining children, his “key point is that physical punishment must afflict a child’s conscience as well as his or her body,” and in general he “emphasized the pragmatic” in the parent-child relationship.49
Comparable to Greaves, Mullett claims that in Christian Behaviour “the cold, smug, silent and distant tyranny that Bunyan recommends to the husband of an ‘unbelieving’ or ‘carnal’ wife amounts to a kind of married divorce, imposed on the marriage by the all-powerful husband.”50 He says the same about parent-child relationships, summarizing: “Bunyan deals with fathers ‘governing’ their households,” “exercising religious leadership in families,” and “controlling their reading and thinking.”51 Overall, Bunyan’s “emphasis was in fact entirely on authority and discipline” as based on the “principles of paternal dictatorship.”52 Just like other men of his time, he “envisaged fathers in terms of authority, command and discipline rather than of intimacy and affection.53 Mullet admits there is an “occasional glimpse of a warmer, more personal and emotional relationship,” but believes that Bunyan’s teaching is “mostly conditioned by formal and doctrinal considerations and by somewhat judicial concept of ‘recompense’ by children for debts to their parents.”54 Here, Mullett connects Bunyan’s theology to his life saying, “there is little in this work on the family to suggest that Bunyan had a particularly close relationship of love and friendship with his father,”55 and his “theory of the family does not seem too far removed from the domestic regime of Agnes Beaumont’s father.”56
Searle, Ross, and Camden come to similar conclusions. For example, Searle argues that “in Christian Behaviour (1663), Bunyan’s imagined reader is distinctly male” because he says “‘Hast thou a Wife?’”57 Ross explains Bunyan’s view of women by quoting Hill, who points out that the duties of wives are twice as long as the duties of husbands in Christian Behaviour, and Sharrock, who suggests Bunyan may have added Giant Despair’s regret for taking his wife’s advice because of the controversy involving Beaumont.58 Furthermore, Ross finds it surprising that the social norm for women to obey their husbands in everything was waived by Bunyan’s congregation when a believing wife had to disobey an unbelieving husband to attend church.59
Last, Camden supports Davies interpretation of the “procreative, but also, and importantly, creatively onanistic” in Pilgrim’s Progress by saying that Christian Behaviour shows Bunyan’s own beliefs about how “uncleanness starts in the lusts of the inner man and proceeds, as it were, ‘outward’ in a kind of hierarchy leading to other sins of the body.”60 She concludes, “given the prevalence of what Davies calls Bunyan’s onanistic imagery, it is reasonable to speculate that Bunyan’s ‘worser thoughts’ partake of the secret thoughts referred to in Grace Abounding that may not be uttered nor written, they are so filled with vice.”61 She speculates that Bunyan’s “determination to go to prison for his faith … would have confronted him with loneliness and isolation and put him in direct conflict with his own … sexual impulses.”62 She even goes so far to say that “we can virtually witness Bunyan sublimating the[se] sexual urges” while writing in prison, and that he himself “affirms the motive of self-gratification” in Pilgrim’s Progress.63
4. Response to Critiques of Christian Behaviour
These critiques do properly interpret Christian Behaviour in some ways, such as Bunyan’s instruction for husbands to take a leading role in their homes, wives to not complain about their husbands to other people, and children to submit to their parents as a way of showing appreciation for their sacrifices. However, they also misrepresent specific statements and the overall tone of Christian Behaviour when they argue that it silences wives, promotes a transactional relationship between parent and child, and sets up the father’s role as primarily dictatorial. In short, these distort Bunyan’s emphases on the wife’s personal agency, warmth between parent and child, and father’s gentleness, all of which are undergirded by Bunyan’s ultimate concern for love in the family and society.64
First, Bunyan speaks to wives as individuals who have personal agency. He addresses them directly, provides instructions for them to follow as individuals, and never cuts them off from seeking help. In fact, Hill’s statistic and Searle’s conclusion are simply wrong—Bunyan actually listed more duties for husbands than for wives,65 and he repeatedly addressed women and children as readers in their respective sections.66 Contrary to Greaves, the wife of an unbeliever is addressed as the spiritually superior person who has control over herself and can influence a difficult situation by her behavior, showing she has hope not only in Christ but also in her own ability to improve her marriage. Further, Bunyan suggests the same course of action for Christian husbands with unbelieving wives. Both are exhorted to pay attention to their spouse’s dispositions in order to use the most opportune time to share the gospel so that their hearts would be open to it, and to do so with gentle behavior so the latter becomes “an argument that thou speakest in love”; all of this requires a genuine connection to another person and sensitivity to their state of mind.67 Contrary to Greaves and Ross, Bunyan never forbids a wife from getting help or even a divorce, which according to Packer, was allowed by both English law and the Puritans.68
Second, Bunyan’s instructions for parents and children are characterized by warmth. Contrary to Mullett and Greaves, Bunyan actually opposes the idea of an emotionally stunted parent-child relationship, as well as harshness and aloofness on the side of the parent. Bunyan’s first line to parents is “thy children have souls.”69 Further, even when correcting sin parents must be calm and affectionate. Bunyan says if (not when) they are led to use physical discipline, then
Strike advisedly in cool blood; and soberly shew them, 1. Their Fault; 2. How much it is against thy heart thus to deal with them; 3. And that what thou dost, thou dost in conscience to God, and love to their Souls; 4. And tell them, that if fair means would have been done, none of this severity should have been.70
Though parents must be firm in their punishment because sin is against love, they must also use “fair words” and not “unsavory and unseemly words in thy chastising of them, as railing, mis-calling, and the like” because “this is devilish.”71
Similarly, children must respect their parents even if their parents are in some way below them, such as social status. Bunyan instructs, “though thy Parents be never so low, and thou thy self never so high, yet he is thy Father, and she is thy Mother, and they must be in the eye in great esteem.”72 Those with believing parents must “love them because they are thy Parents; because they are godly; and because thou must be in Glory with them,” and those with unbelieving must “let thy bowels yearn towards them.”73 Bunyan plainly pleads, “remember the love of thy parents.”74 In response to objections Bunyan replies, “thou arguest like an Atheist and a Beast, and standeth in this full flat against the Son of God.”75
Third, Bunyan instructs husbands and fathers to be gentle. Again, contrary to Greaves and Mullett, Bunyan opposes controlling or tyrannical behavior. He literally rebukes husbands who do not make the most of loving their wives, exclaiming, “Oh! how little sence of the worth of souls is there in the hearts of some husbands, as is manifest by their unchristian carriage to, and before their wives!”76 Bunyan also tells the husband to overcome an unbelieving wife’s evil with “Goodness … Patience … and Meekness” and “speak to her very heart” when sharing the gospel, to bear with, help, and honor his wife since she is the weaker vessel, and to “let all be done without rancor” not just in his heart but even avoiding the “least appearance of anger.”77 More than this, the husband must carry himself towards his wife like Christ does by laying down his life, protecting her, and helping her in her employments in the world so that she will get the benefit of the ordinance of marriage.78 Even when his wife and children are being disobedient—not to him but to God by disbelieving or not attending church services—husbands are instructed not to force them against their wills, but to “get godly and sound men to thy house, and there let the Word of God be preached.”79 In this section Bunyan includes two women in the Bible (Hannah and Lydia) as examples for leading a family in worship.80 Furthermore, nothing is done primarily or solely for the sake of the husband’s authority or honor, but God’s, and upholding God’s honor leads to the good of everyone in the household.81 This is why Bunyan exhorts husbands to “be not like those that will rage and stare like mad-men when they are injured; and yet either laugh, or at least not soberly rebuke, and warn, when God is dishonored.”82
Clearly, contrary to Mullett, Bunyan would have never supported Beaumont’s father’s decision to lock her out of the house the night she returned from worshipping God, and it is uncharitable to assume that Bunyan’s negative experiences with his father meant there was no love in their relationship or that a lack of love would have driven his theological convictions later in life since his teaching on the family was characterized by love.83 In fact, it is probable that Bunyan would describe what he is critiqued of as unchristian, atheistic, or devilish based on his use of these terms in Christian Behaviour.84
5. Response to Speculations about Bunyan’s Conduct
In addition to these critiques of Christian Behaviour, Greaves, Mullett, Ross, and Camden also misrepresent aspects of Bunyan’s his life and character by speculating about his feelings for or relationship with Beaumont and vice versa.85 In short, these critiques are inaccurate because they are based on the claim that Bunyan and Beaumont were guilty of lusting after one another, though the only available information about this scenario (the internal proof of their accounts, which seem to include external proof like Beaumont’s acquitters) explicitly denies this. Instead of believing Bunyan and Beaumont, they interpret a denial as an affirmation, use words that would have been considered immodest by their subjects, and in doing so discount the grief that Bunyan and Beaumont experienced as a result of this trial.
First, Greaves is correct to say Bunyan was human and struggled with sin himself, but to insinuate that he lusted after Beaumont as a commentary on his specific denial of lust twists Bunyan’s words to mean the opposite. This use of a denial for an affirmation is also seen in Hill and Keeble.86 To accuse Bunyan of lust is to accuse him of real sin from his own point of view, as he makes clear in Christian Behaviour by saying adultery can be committed even when a man looks at a woman or has “thoughts of immodesty,” and that he wrote this book to bear personal testimony to the fruit-producing work of God in his heart.87
Second, Greaves’s choice of words are unnecessarily over-sexualized, and this would have been offensive to Bunyan and Beaumont. For example, when asking about the potential motivation for Bunyan’s warning against immodest dress, Greaves says, “as he looked down from the pulpit, was he uneasy because of what he saw?” Perhaps this was true, but when read in context it insinuates that while he was preaching, Bunyan was letting his eyes wander. More seriously, Greaves speculates about Bunyan’s supposed sexual thoughts, saying,
when he initially refused to share his horse with Beaumont, he must have known what feelings, however unwanted, would well up within him as they rode for seven miles, her body rubbing against his, her hands clasped tightly around his waist.88
Though Bunyan was not opposed to using striking imagery to convict his hearers, he would have been horrified to hear these words as a commentary on his own heart.89 In fact, it sounds like the “wanton and immodest talk” Bunyan says should not even be named.90 Of course, Bunyan admitted that he was a sinner. Yet to speculate about particular sins of the mind or heart that had no outward expression, and psychoanalyze his writings to find hidden meanings, is to take advantage of his openness.91
Last, these speculations discount the grief that this episode gave both Bunyan and Beaumont.92 The fact that accusations of adultery had been raised against Bunyan several times explains why he lashed out against them in Grace Abounding, which may have even been (on some level) appreciated by Beaumont since she wrote her own account specifically to testify to God’s help to endure this trial of being wrongly accused.93 Her experience—from her own perspective, in her own words—is worth hearing. It shows that her interests and emotions were set on worshipping God and associating with a godly man, rather than on lust, the accusation of which replaced her happiness with embarrassment. She recalls,
My heart was puffed up with pride, and I began to have high thoughts of myself, and proud to think I should ride behind such a man as he was … and sometimes he would be speaking to me about the things of God as we went along. And indeed I thought myself a happy body that day; first that it did please God to make way for my going to the meeting; and then that I should have the honor to ride behind him. But … my pride had a fall … there met with us a priest one Mr. Lane who … looked of us … and afterwards did scandalize us after a base manner, and did raise a very wicked report of us, which was altogether false, blessed be God.94
Thus, interpretations of Beaumont as looking for anything other than a means of getting to a worship gathering are not helpful but sexist. Sadly, representations of Beaumont are worse than Bunyan. Hill blithely says, “Agnes may have had a crush on her pastor,”95 and Camden argues Beaumont’s father “rightly senses that his daughter’s intense admiration for Bunyan constitutes an expression of her womanhood. Her ‘distraction’ is the distraction of the lover,” positing this was a way to break from her father’s reverse Oedipal complex.96 Payne even claims this characterizes the female sex: “like so many women before and after, Agnes’ enthusiasm for religion seems to have gone hand in hand with an enthusiasm for the man through whom her faith had been mediated.”97 These communicate the message that Beaumont, a silly girl who does not deserve to be called by her family name, was motivated by romance instead of worship or theology, which is a common theme in Christian women’s writings throughout history. Yet, the only hint of sexual issues in Beaumont’s narrative is not the truth but her record of the gossip; it is rather one sustained discourse of how she had to do the cognitive work of answering questions about practical theology, as well as the heart work of trusting God in a trial.
On the other hand, it seems Bunyan had much sympathy for Beaumont. Thus, instead of identifying Beaumont as the inspiration for Giant Despair’s wife or emphasizing Bunyan’s backlash against rumors, it is again most useful to look at what he explicitly did and said. In this case, the available facts are that he agreed to help Beaumont get to the church gathering despite perceived difficulties with this solution, and that he blamed the “slanders, foolish, [and] knavish lies, and falsehoods” said about him on the “the Devil and his Seed” rather than any woman.98
In conclusion, recent scholarship on Bunyan’s life and work in context has greatly enriched our understanding of who he was and what he believed, especially regarding the psychological experiences and socio-political convictions found in his allegorical and autobiographical writings. However, some evaluations that have grown out of this scholarship have unwarrantedly critiqued Bunyan for being tyrannical, cold, and sexually immoral, using his clearer didactic books like Christian Behaviour for proof. To balance these extreme evaluations, this article has examined the context and content of Christian Behaviour, as well as relevant aspects of Bunyan’s life. It has shown that in what Bunyan expected to be his last publication, he instructed believers on the necessity of a gentle, warm love in the family and society, and that he attempted to follow these instructions himself. Though future readers will certainly have qualms with different parts of Bunyan’s manual, it is important that studies on Bunyan accurately represent the general tone of this book and apply it to relevant aspects of Bunyan’s life story so as to interact with this historical figure both critically and empathically concerning conduct in the family and society.
 Johnson laments that “many critical studies of Bunyan, however, have adopted strategies so monolithic that they have overlooked or even distorted the one with which Bunyan expected his readers to begin: his theology…. Frequently viewing Bunyan’s Puritanism as a drawback to appreciating him as an author, they either reinterpret his theology as veiling social concerns and/or psychological issues, or they confess that his theology is now completely unpalatable and avoid it as much as possible.” Galen Johnson, “‘Be Not Extream’: The Limits of Theory in Reading John Bunyan,” Christianity and Literature 49 (2000): 448. These types of publications have only increased since Johnson’s critique. Similar to Johnson, Dunan-Page affirms the need to present a moderate picture of Bunyan, saying his “tendency to run to extremes in his most famous work of fiction cannot be read in isolation from [his] discourse of sobriety and poise.” Anne Dunan-Page, Grace Overwhelming: John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and the Extremes of the Baptist Mind (Bern: Peter Lang, 2006), 42. Furthermore, Underwood’s evaluation that Bunyan’s publications other than the four most popular (Pilgrim’s Progress, Grace Abounding, Mr. Badman, and Holy War) “deserve study” is still relevant for his Christian Behaviour. T. L. Underwood, “‘It Please Me Much to Contend’: John Bunyan as Controversialist,” Church History 57 (1988): 457. Swaim skillfully applies Christian Behaviour to the story of Christian leaving his family in Pilgrim’s Progress, but does not go beyond this specific issue. Kathleen M. Swaim, “Christian’s ‘Christian Behavior’ to His Family in Pilgrim’s Progress,” Religion and Literature 21 (1989): 1–15. Thus, this article seeks to continue on the trajectory of contributing to a well-rounded understanding of Bunyan.
 Christopher Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and his Church, 1628–1688 (New York: Random House, 1989), 42, 72.
 Hill, A Tinker, 72.
 Richard Greaves, John Bunyan (Appleford: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1969), 16.
 Danny Hyde, “Meet a Puritan: Lewis Bayly,” Reformation21, 14 March 2016, https://www.reformation21.org/blog/meet-a-puritan-lewis-bayly.
 Hill, A Tinker, 72.
 Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2006), 225.
 J. Sears McGee, “Introduction,” in John Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, The Holy City, The Resurrection of the Dead, ed. J. Sears McGee, The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan 3 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), xvii.
 David Walker, “Piety and the Politics of Anxiety in Nonconformist Writing of the Later Stuart Period,” in Puritanism and Emotion in the Early Modern World, eds. Alec Ryrie and Tom Schwanda (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 159–60.
 John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, ed. Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), 98.
 Agnes Beaumont, The Narrative of the Persecutions of Agnes Beaumont, ed. Vera J. Camden (East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1992), 43. See James Anderson, Memorable Women of the Puritan Times (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 2001), 2:216.
 According to Adcock, many thought Baptists promoted a view of society that was a threat to the family structure. Rachel Adcock, Baptist Women’s Writings in Revolutionary Culture, 1640–1680 (New York: Ashgate, 2015), 31, 41.
 This would have been “regarded as petty-treason because it re-enacted the monarch and subject relationship: the penalty was to be burnt at the stake,” according to Adcock, Baptist Women’s Writings, 32.
 T. L. Underwood, “Introduction,” Miscellaneous Works 4:xlii.
 See Michael A. Mullett, John Bunyan in Context (Pittsburgh: Duquesne Press, 1997), 114.
 Kevin Charles Belmonte, John Bunyan (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 136–38.
 John Bunyan, Last Sermon, Miscellaneous Works 12:93.
 McGee, “Introduction,” Miscellaneous Works 3:xvi.
 Richard Greaves, Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 161.
 John Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:11–12.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:12, emphasis original.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:10.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:18, emphasis original.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:22.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:25.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:26, emphasis original.
 “There is a sweet scent wrapped up in the relations of husbands and wives (Ephes. 5.32).” Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:27.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:34, emphasis original.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:34.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:29.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:30–31. Lynch comments that “the importance of upholding such a distinction [between hating a person and hating the person’s sin was] a key concern in manuals of spiritual conduct” in Bunyan’s time. Beth Lynch, John Bunyan and the Language of Conviction (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004), 91. For example, this distinction is seen in John Owen, True and False Religion, ed. William H. Goold, The Works of John Owen 14 (London: Banner of Truth, 1965), 65, 335.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:29.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:31.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:30–31.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:30–31, emphasis original.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:32.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:41.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:51, emphasis original.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:54.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:62.
 Greaves, Glimpses, 162, 164, 166.
 Michael A. Mullett, John Bunyan in Context (Pittsburgh: Duquesne Press, 1997), 52–53.
 Aileen Ross, “‘Baffled, and Befooled’: Misogyny in the Work of John Bunyan” in Awakening Words: John Bunyan and the Language of Community, ed. David Gay, James G. Randall, Arlette Zinck (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2000), 153.
 Vera J. Camden, “Carnality into Creativity,” in Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton, ed. John Rumrich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 85–86.
 The specific arguments addressed in this article do not represent all of the work done by Greaves and others, and thus does not discount their great contributions to Bunyan studies at large. Rather, it seeks to interact with specific critiques of his Christian Behaviour and related life issues.
 Greaves, Glimpses, 169.
 Greaves, Glimpses, 169.
 Greaves, Glimpses, 169.
 Greaves, Glimpses, 169.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 246.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 106.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 106.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 106.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 106.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 106.
 Mullett, John Bunyan, 106.
 Alison Searle, “Bunyan and the Word,” in The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan, ed. Michael Davies and W. R. Owens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 91.
 Ross, “‘Baffled,” 153–54.
 Ross, “‘Baffled,” 159.
 Camden, “Carnality,” 85. See Michael Davies, “Bunyan’s Bawdy: Sex and Sexual Wordplay in the Writings of John Bunyan,” in Trauma and Transformation: The Political Progress of John Bunyan, ed. Vera J. Camden (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2008), 117–18.
 Camden, “Carnality,” 85.
 Camden, “Carnality,” 86.
 Camden, “Carnality,” 86.
 This article has focused on Christian Behaviour, but Bunyan’s other works also show the priority he placed on love. For example, in his famous Differences in Judgement About Water-Baptism, No Bar to Communion, Bunyan bases his argument that baptism is not required for church membership on the fact that Christian fellowship is not primarily marked by baptism but love. He says, “Love, which above all things we are Commanded to put on, is of much more worth than to break about baptism,” and he emphasizes Jesus’s words, “By THIS shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love to one another, John 13.35” (Miscellaneous Works 4:225, 242, emphasis original). He makes the same argument in Peaceable Principles, claiming that those who break over baptism practically say that “Water is above Love” though “the Scripture…everywhere commandeth and presseth to Love” (Miscellaneous Works 4:280, 287, emphasis original). Similarly, in A Holy Life and Saving Faith Bunyan says love is a mark of salvation (Miscellaneous Works 9:282). Finally, in Jerusalem Sinner Saved he appeals to Jesus’s example on of love on earth, saying, “Remember your Lord, he was familiar with publicans and sinners to a proverb: ‘Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners’ (Matt 11:19). The first part … was an horrible slander; but for the other, nothing was ever spoke truer of him by the world” (Miscellaneous Works 11:11).
 The husband’s duties span pages 22–28, and the wife’s duties span pages 32–36. Since Bunyan’s list of duties for each role overlap one another, it is difficult to measure this in any other way.
 He says to women: “if thou art … a Mother, then thou art to consider Calling under this Relation and “Object. But my husband is an unbeliever … Answ. If so then…lyeth upon thee with an engagement so much the stronger. For first, thy husband…will be watchful.” Bunyan similarly answers the objections of children. Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:28, 34–40.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:35.
 Packer explains, “English law at that time recognised … declarations of nullity and judicial separation…but Puritan thinkers generally agreed that divorce with right of remarriage was biblically permitted after adultery…[or] desertion, broadly interpreted to cover all behaviour that nullified the matrimonial relationship in practice.” J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 269.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:18.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:30.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:29–30.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:37.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:39.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:39, 38.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:37.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:27.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:26, 27, 28, emphasis added.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:27. This is one of four notes that Bunyan makes in the margins (it is also the longest, compared to the other two which function more as short subtitles), which Hancock has shown “forc[es] attention to specific thematic and pictorial elements.” Maxine Hancock, The Key in the Window: Marginal Notes in Bunyan’s Narratives (Vancouver: Regent College Publications, 2000), 154.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:24.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:23–24
 Greaves notes that Bunyan believed the minister was “fundamentally a servant” of Christ and his church and though he “might be exalted to a place of service … by himself he had no power except as he was a channel of divine grace and authority.” Greaves, John Bunyan, 134–35.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:26.
 In fact, it seems that even Beaumont’s father did not think he behaved well. Beaumont recalls that, weeping, he “told me how trouble he was for me that night he shut me out, and could not sleep. But he thought I had been gone to my brother’s.” Beaumont, The Narrative, 61.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:27, 29, 30.
 Though historians must not shy away from a figure’s wrongdoings, it is inappropriate to plant in the reader’s mind the possibility of a sin for which there is no proof and to suggest it under the veil of historical inquiry. Even when offered as a speculation, it leaves a lingering feeling of veracity, not unlike the “tale-bearing” gossip that Bunyan warns against in Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:24. Johnson argues against Camden that conclusions like “it is at least plausible,” and “it is worth suggesting” actually “do not bolster confidence” that Bunyan “can be explained completely by the tools of modern psychoanalysis.” Galen Johnson, “Review of Trauma and Transformation: The Political Progress of John Bunyan,” in Christianity and Literature 59 (2009): 138.
 Hill argues, “Bunyan no doubt protests too much … this would account for his ‘roughness’ and apparent insensitivity towards Agnes Beaumont.” For Hill, allusions to fornication before conversion can be made into proof for sexual immorality later in Bunyan’s life: “Bunyan seems to never have been wholly at ease with women,” “God had made him ‘shy of women’ from his ‘first conversion until now’. (We can read what significance we please into that chronological reservation).” Hill, A Tinker, 303. Keeble similarly argues, “Bunyan’s defense goes beyond what is required to defend himself against any specific charge of sexual misconduct … the almost obsessive particularity of this defence, its determination to resist and avoid physical contact with women at all costs, invests with them a far more potently dangerous allure and disturbing mystique than is possessed by witches, Jesuits or highwaymen, to whose company Bunyan does not even bother to show he is falsely charged with belonging.” N. H. Keeble, “‘Here is her Glory, even to be under Him’: The Feminine in the Thought and Work of John Bunyan,” in John Bunyan and his England, 1628–88, ed. Anne Laurence, W. R. Owens, and Stuart Sim (London: Hambledon, 1990), 140. This is also partly seen in Ezell, who says, “as commentators have noted, Bunyan’s claim to be oblivious to women’s bodies is simply not borne out of his writings. Women’s bodies, especially exposed female flesh, are dangerous to men, and Bunyan, in Christian Behaviour (1663), highlights this in the section ‘of Adultery and Uncleanness.’” Ezell, “Bunyan and Gender,” in The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan, ed. Michael Davies and W. R. Owens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 124. However, this is not a contradiction since Bunyan meant he did not focus on women’s bodies in a sinful way, but would speak against immodest dress and behavior when necessary.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:50. In Greaves and others, sexuality is also connected to spirituality, but not in a way that the Puritans would have expressed the idea of love between Christ and the believer, which was a common theme. For example, Greaves mentions that “masochistic themes are common in nightmares of people suffering from moderate depression” when describing Bunyan’s struggle with nightmares earlier in life. Greaves, Glimpses, 8. Similarly, Mullett describes Christiana’s discourse as “erotically charged ecstasies,” and Sharrock says Christiana and Mercy are “idealized female characters … held up as female masochism.” See Mullett, John Bunyan, 247; Ross, “‘Baffled,” 154. These interpretations are used in recent publications, such as Immortality and the Body in the Age of Milton edited by John Rumrich and Stephen Fallon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) and approved by several reviewers like Parnham and Searle. David Parnham, “Review of Trauma and Transformation: The Political Progress of John Bunyan,” Church History 79 (2010): 211–12. Alison Searle, “Review of Trauma and Transformation: The Political Progress of John Bunyan,” The Journal of Religious History 35 (2011): 299–300.
 Greaves, Glimpses, 171, 311–12. Camden recalls that when searching for information about riding together, she found one instance of a man and woman who were caught fornicating. However, this seems to be a unique instance. Beaumont makes clear in her narrative that she was initially supposed to ride behind another minister and that this was approved by her father. Beaumont, The Narrative, 42.
 For example, in The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, Mr. Wiseman shows disgust at the proud, who abuse God’s majesty: “But what can be the end of those that are proud, I the decking of themselves after their antick manner? why are they for going with their Bulls-foretops, with their naked shoulders, and Paps hanging out like a Cows bag? … is it because they would … beautifie Religion…? No, no. It is rather to please their lusts.” John Bunyan, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, ed. James F. Forrest and Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988), 125. However, this is a rebuke of sin not the suggestion of a private sin in a certain individual’s life.
 Bunyan, Christian Behaviour, Miscellaneous Works 3:50.
 Other over-sexualized interpretations of Bunyan quoted earlier largely base their arguments on Bunyan admitting to vile thoughts that he could “not, nor dare not utter, neither by word nor pen.” However, when read in context, it is clear that Bunyan is referring to thoughts of “blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and the Scriptures,” meaning he questioned God’s existence, Christ’s divinity, and the Bible’s authority. Bunyan, Grace Abounding, 32.
 The affection between her and her father despite their disagreement is clearly seen in her narrative. See Beaumont, The Narrative, 19, 61, 65. Beaumont’s father’s death must have been traumatizing on a number of levels. First, she cared for her father on a daily basis before his death and witnessed his death in their home. Second, she had to deal with the legalities of proving her innocence against the accusation of murder while trying to grieve. Third, her mother died when she was young (which is why Beaumont cared for her father), and thus his death technically rendered her an orphan.
 Bunyan was also reacting to acts he disagreed with because they could be perceived as sexual in his context, such as greeting women with a holy kiss.
 Beaumont, The Narrative, 44–45. Cf. Anderson, Memorable Women, 212.
 Hill, A Tinker, 301.
 Vera J. Camden, “Introduction,” in Agnes Beaumont, The Narrative of the Persecutions of Agnes Beaumont, ed. Vera J. Camden (East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1992), 19, 20. Ezell is more moderate than Camden in her evaluation of Beaumont’s possible attraction to Bunyan, but still seems to link an admiration for him with sexuality instead of spirituality. In her words, “The incident with Agnes Beaumont in 1674 makes it abundantly clear that it was not due to a lack of interest in him by women. Beaumont herself records her pride at being seen in such a familiar pose with this famous preacher … and he was notably reluctant to let Agnes ride behind him.” Ezell, “Bunyan and Gender,” 123–24. Other scholars have suggested that Bunyan also had an Oedipal anxiety (see Ezell, “Bunyan and Gender,” 127). Thankfully, an alternative interpretation of “distracted” is offered in Adcock, who explains that Beaumont’s account is an example of the common Puritan practice of intense self-examination as a way of attaining assurance of salvation, which could sometimes be interpreted by outsiders as a mental health problem.
 She also describes Beaumont as a “rash girl.” Patricia Payne, “Agnes Beaumont of Edworth,” Baptist Quarterly 35 (1993): 5.
 Bunyan, Grace Abounding, 93. Bunyan himself does not identify with Giant Despair. Though a character or event could have been inspired or influenced by something the author then changed, this is difficult, if not impossible, to prove, when there is no clear connection.
Jenny-Lyn de Klerk
Jenny-Lyn de Klerk is a doctoral (PhD) candidate at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and works as Senior Writer and Editor as well as the Puritan Project Assistant at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.
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