Of Antichrist And His Ruin, by John Bunyan
I have read at least some of the large body of work by John Bunyan, best remembered for his allegory Pilgrim’s Progress , and I am struck by how excellent a writer he was and how broad his writing interests. This happens to be the third genre of his writing I have read, and like the rest of his reading it is certainly of deep interest and insight. Bunyan was not a well-educated man, at least by contemporary (or present) standards of learning, and was a skilled worker in the bronze trade, but in this particular posthumously published treatise he manages to demonstrate a great deal of biblical knowledge as well as sound historical judgement and a high degree of fierceness regarding the behavior of the Catholic Church during the late Middle Ages in England as well as the intolerant laws of the Anglicans that led him to be in jail for twelve years as a preacher without a license. As far as dissenting Protestant writings from the 17th century in England go, this one is an excellent one that is well worth reading if that is an area of interest.
The book itself is about fifty pages long, not an overwhelmingly long treatise by any means, and is organized rather straightforwardly. With a large number of seven point statements, the author discusses such matters as the nature of Antichrist in a false Christian religious system that is clearly identified with Roman Catholicism, some discussions of prophecy that manage to discuss patterns over history without undue speculation about dates and times, and a considerable attention to both biblical history as well as prophecy in the search for patterns about how Babylon behaves through history when it comes to God’s peoples. There are comments about the fall of Babylon as well as the death of the witnesses and the nature of spiritual warfare for believers that is contrasted with the physical warfare of this present age. Overall, this is a powerful work of writing that is probably obscure for very good writings, and that is written with a high degree of spirit and also a great degree of historical interest. Even if you may not agree with everything that he says, Bunyan avoids the pitfalls that many writers on prophecy make, which alone makes this worth the time to read it.
What makes this book particularly intriguing are the little touches. It is easy to see that the anti-Catholic and anti-authoritarian tone of this treatise make it a somewhat hard sell for contemporary readers, especially those interested in ecumenical movements. Likewise, the author’s uncompromising position on moral reformation makes this book likely enjoyed by only a small audience of English or American dissenting Protestants who still find much to agree with concerning the author’s historicist approach to Revelation as well as his on-point fiery attacks on authoritarian state religions. For me, though, the fierceness of this book is definitely matched by the sense of humanity that it shows and also for the touches of wit and praise from the editor of this book, which really help elevate the material even further. Given that the editor explains ways in which the author’s judgment came to pass concerning religious toleration as well as his historical criticisms of Catholicism and explain his use of unfamiliar technical terms, the work benefits from a skilled but light editorial touch that leaves this work able to inform and encourage far after it was written. It is only a shame that the author did not live to see this excellent work published, or that it is so little remembered today.
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