The Prisoner's Journey – The Incredible Journey

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The Prisoner's Journey – The Incredible Journey

London is the world’s most popular tourist destination and one of the things that makes London so popular is that it has just about everything, including many famous British icons After Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and red double-decker buses, William Shakespeare is one of the most popular and enduring icons of England, his plays have been performed all over the world for the past 400 years and are more popular than ever today and this is where it all began this replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was built near the site of the original in Southwark on the south bank of London’s River Thames. Most of Shakespeare’s greatest plays were performed here, including Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Hamlet, he is regarded as the greatest English writer in history. Shakespeare’s influence has been immense; he introduced 3,000 new words to the English language, he’s the second most quoted writer in the English language, only the Bible is quoted more than Shakespeare. It’s no wonder Shakespeare is considered by many to be the greatest writer of all time, but despite his immense fame, talent and influence, he’s not the all-time bestseller in the English language, that honour belongs to a criminal. The best-selling book of all time, authored in English, was written in a jail that was located in a building on the old stone bridge here in Bedford, England, about 100 kilometres from The Globe Theatre in London. This book has made a huge impact, its reach and influence has been enormous, it’s inspired, encouraged and enlightened people around the world It’s brought inner peace and happiness to many, and maybe it can do the same for you, so stay tuned and hear all about it in our program ‘The Prisoner’s Journey’ No city in the world has impacted and influenced the world like London and whether you realise it or not this city has shaped your destiny, there is hardly any part of the world that London hasn’t changed, the United States was founded in reaction to London’s edicts, Australia was first peopled by London’s criminals, modern Canada, South Africa and New Zealand were cultivated by London, India’s course was irrevocably changed by the aspiration of London’s businessmen. Yes this city’s reach has touched every continent, its people, language, culture, music, poetry and drama have gone everywhere and no one to typifies this more than William Shakespeare, his work has been translated into 80 languages, generations of school children have studied his plays and theatre lovers everywhere still turn out to see them Shakespeare’s influence has been immense he introduced more than 3000 words to the English language including: critical, frugal, excellent, barefaced, assassination, and countless. His vocabulary was double that of the average person and consisted of about 29,000 words, his effortless use of words allowed him to use over 7,000 words only once and never again, that’s more words than occur in the entire

Bible, it’s no wonder Shakespeare is considered by many to be the greatest writer of all time, but despite his immense fame, talent and influence he’s not the all-time best seller in the English language, the best-selling book of all time, written in English, was authored by John Bunyan while he was serving a 12-year jail sentence, in the prison that was located here, in the county town of Bedford in the 17th century. Who was John Bunyan and what was his all-time best-selling book about? Well John Bunyan’s story begins here in the heart of England, in the leafy county of Bedfordshire. He was born in 1628, just 12 years after the death of William Shakespeare, he was born in the tiny hamlet of Harrowden near the Elstow Abbey Church, just south of Bedford. John was christened in this church in the Norman font on the 30th of November 1628 and as a boy he attended church services here regularly with his family, but he was not particularly religious and would rather be out playing with his friends than attending church, the abbey church tower is detached from the church and contains six bells, John Bunyan was a bell ringer here the fifth Bell is commonly called the Bunyan Bell because it is believed to be the only one that Bunyan rang before a church service, this fifth Bell could be rung from the doorway to the tower, and Bunyan is reputed to have rung this and not the others for fear that the tower would fall on his head as a punishment for his sins Picturesque, half-timbered cottages in the nearby street are a reminder of how the village of Elstow would have looked in the time of John Bunyan, he would have been familiar with these cottages, but he would have lived in far more humble surroundings His father, Thomas, was a tinkerer or metal worker, who traveled from house to house mending pots and pans, it was not a well-paid job so money was often scarce and the family was poor. By the time he was nine or ten he was often found roaming the Elstow village green with his friends, swearing and getting into trouble, by this stage he hated going to church as it reminded him of the bad things he’d done during the week. John was more interested in sport and bell ringing than he was in church and religion, he just wished that God would leave him alone. Unfortunately things only got worse for John, in 1644, when he was just 16, his mother died from a bad attack of influenza, within a month his 14 year old sister Margaret was also dead, John was absolutely devastated but this sorrow soon turned into anger when his father married another woman just two months later. At this time England was going through great changes, the country was torn apart by a devastating civil war, the English Civil War was fought between King Charles the first and the Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell, the war was over who shall rule England the king or the Parliament, John left home and joined Oliver Cromwell’s army which supported Parliament against the king, all the soldiers were expected to attend church and were given a little pocket Bible when they enlisted, but all that didn’t matter much to John, he’d turned his back on God and religion. But an important incident took place during his army service that made him start thinking about his eternal destiny, John’s company of soldiers had been ordered to surround and capture a tower, just as John was about to go on sentry duty a soldier asked if he could go in his place, John agreed but as the other man stood on guard he was shot in the head by a musket bullet and killed instantly, this was a sobering experience and John wondered if God was looking after him and had a plan for his life The war ended when King Charles the first was captured and executed. Oliver

Cromwell ruled England and then eventually a new king was crowned, however from then on the kings and queens of England had to give more and more power to the people and to Parliament After his war duties John returned to Elstow, he had gone away to war as a boy and now he returned as a man, by this time he was 21 years old, and just two years later he married a very religious local girl and settled in Elstow, they were extremely poor and so John followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a tinker, mending pots and pans, but John was living a double life, he would regularly attend church with his wife and would sing and say all the right things to please his wife, yet some of his actions showed he didn’t really mean it. As soon as he got home from church he forgot all about the sermon and would join his friends here on the village green, John was known in the area for his swearing and lying and he quickly slotted back into becoming the ringleader of the local gangs. John was very unsettled. On the outside life looked great, he had a wife, a home, friends and a job, but things are never quite that simple, because on the inside he was at war with himself, he knew what was right and how he should be living, but he was doing things he knew were wrong. John started to question everything, one of his favourite pastimes was bell ringing at church, but he began wondering what’s the point of it all? What’s the use of all this outward religious show if he wasn’t right with God on the inside? Church attendance, singing, bell ringing, is this all there is to religion? Something was missing in his life One day John was walking through Bedford town when he overheard a small group of women chatting as they sat in a doorway, they were talking about God, John was interested and so listened into their conversation, he soon realised by the way they were talking that they seemed to know God personally, they had a real vibrant personal relationship with God, John realised that this is what was missing in his life, this is what he wanted, John began reading the Bible as he’d never read it before, he began spending time praying to God, he began pleading with God to show him what was really right, he wanted to be a genuine Christian, a real one on the outside and the inside At this time the ideas of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, began to gain a foothold in England, people began to study the Bible and follow its teachings, they believed the Bible was true and that it should govern every part of their lives, they were no longer satisfied with just tradition and empty religion, as John studied the Bible he discovered the good news that God is a God of love, and that salvation is a gift, it’s free, that people’s sins are forgiven when they accept Jesus as their Saviour and believe that he paid the penalty for their sins and mistakes on the cross. John asked God to forgive his many sins, at last he had found what he was looking for: inner peace and happiness through a relationship with Jesus Christ He later became a member of the new church, St. John’s, located here in downtown Bedford, he decided to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and obey the teachings of the Bible, he read in the Bible that Jesus was baptised by immersion as an adult, he also read what Jesus said about the importance of true Bible baptism, in mark chapter 16 and verse 16: “He who believes and is baptised will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” John decided to follow the example of Jesus and be baptised by immersion and so in 1653 he was baptised here in a little inlet of the River Ouse at Duck Mill. The change in John was amazing, he was a new person and he desperately

wanted to share the good news about Jesus that had changed his life and brought him happiness So John began preaching, John loved the Bible and was soon preaching in the open air, in houses, cottages, barns and even in parish churches, large crowds would gather to hear him. At this time there wasn’t religious freedom in England, there were strict rules about when and where people could worship and open-air preaching was illegal, but John felt compelled to continue preaching, this placed him in serious danger The crunch came in November 1660, when John was asked to go and preach on a farm at Lower Samsell near the village of Westoning, he knew that he would be in danger if he went, but he felt a duty to proceed and so went anyway, just as the meeting was starting with prayer the police burst in and ordered them to stop. John was arrested and brought to Harlington Manor for interrogation, it was a large house surrounded by a huge brick wall with enormous wooden gates at the entrance. Today it’s the only building still standing that Bunyan is known to have stayed in, John was dragged away to jail. His only crime? Preaching about Jesus and the gift of salvation, he spent the next 12 years as a prisoner for the sake of the gospel and his conscience. He was imprisoned in two jails, he spent a short time in the town prison that was a building in the centre of the old stone bridge that used to cross the River Ouse, today a plaque relates to John’s imprisonment here in the town prison, but most of his time in prison was spent in the county jail, this plaque in the pavement in Bedford marks the spot where the county jail stood in the 17th century. It was demolished in 1801, John Bunyan was imprisoned here for 12 long years, conditions were dreadful, dirty and overcrowded, though Bunyan never complained about it. John didn’t waste his time in prison, he made bootlaces to help support his family and spoke to fellow prisoners about the Bible and Jesus Christ, he would also sit in his cell and write, it was here that he wrote the world’s best-selling book in publishing history, next to the Bible, the book is called The Pilgrim’s Progress, it’s a clever allegory about a man named Christian and his journey from his hometown the city of destruction to his heavenly destination, the celestial city, on his action-packed journey Christian faces many difficulties and meets many characters, some of them tried to discourage him and lead him away from the right path. On the positive side Christian also meets several godly individuals along the way who assist him and encourage him to stay on the right path, his adventurous journey takes him to many different places including various landmarks and towns like Vanity Fair, Hill Difficulty, the House Beautiful and the Valley of the Shadow of Death, John Bunyan was influenced in the creation of these places by his own surrounding environment, they are places and structures he regularly would have seen as a child and later in his travels on foot or horseback, for example the House Beautiful is Houghton House, built here in 1621, but a ruin since 1800. Throughout the first part of the journey Christian is carrying a terribly heavy load on his back, the weight of his sins, it seems to be dragging him down to hell, but then he reaches the wall of salvation where there’s a large cross, once he reaches the foot of the cross, his terrible burden miraculously falls away and disappears and he’s set free, he is also given a certificate that will be his entrance into the gates of heaven, Christian rejoices and continues his journey but even now Christian finds that his journey is not an easy one, there are continual difficulties, discouragements and temptations along the way,

he learns that pilgrims face the most trouble when they are tempted to deviate from the right path and try to follow what they perceived to be an easier way, he discovers that there are no shortcuts to the celestial city, eventually Christian reaches the borders of the celestial city and he crosses a river with no bridge and enters the kingdom on the far shore, he’s greeted by angels and trumpets and joins in praising the king of the land, by God’s grace he’s made it to the celestial City, even though written by a prisoner in a dark jail cell, John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress was an immediate success, within 10 years it had sold over 100,000 copies and was already translated into several different languages, today it’s the world’s best seller of all time and the most widely circulated book next to the Bible. It’s never been out of print and has been translated into over 200 languages, but why? What makes pilgrims progress so appealing that it’s been able to cross cultures languages and centuries? Well I think it’s because we can all relate to it, Christian’s story is our story, yours and mine as well as John Bunyan’s, we’re all on a journey, the journey of life and more specifically, if you know Jesus, then we’re pilgrims – our life is a journey, a pilgrimage, with a glorious destination. Notice what the Bible says in first Peter chapter 2 in verse 11: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Yes we’re all pilgrims on our way to the heavenly city that God is preparing, here’s what it says in Hebrews chapter 11 in verse 16 “Instead, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” And the Bible shares a lot of information about this city, about the ultimate destination of our life’s journey, for example notice what it says in Revelation chapter 21 verses 1 to 4 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth… and I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven… And God himself shall be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” That holy city is our ultimate destination and Christian’s journey in Pilgrim’s Progress reflects every Christian’s journey through life. There is only one path to heaven and it’s not always an easy one, it’s filled with trials and temptations, but even in the difficult times God watches over us and helps us along the way, with each trial that he brings us through our faith is strengthened Meanwhile we must stay on the right course, leaving our burden, our sins at the foot of the cross, where Jesus Christ has set us free We’re all on the same journey, but the big question is this: are you on the right path? If you would like to experience the freedom that only Jesus can provide, if you would like to experience true peace and happiness, if you would like God to guide you on your journey through life, why not ask him right now as we pray? Dear Heavenly Father, you are never far from those who seek you, please give us strength to endure this pilgrim journey, as we travel along the path that you have prepared according to your will, we face trials and temptations, please watch over us and help us along the way, guide us to our final destination and set our affections on the things above not on the passing vanities of this world, until we reach the peace and comfort of our heavenly home, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen

350 years ago John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while locked up in a prison cell on a bridge, today it’s the world’s best seller of all time and the most widely circulated book next to the Bible, why? Because we can all relate to it, it’s our story, yours and mine, we’re all on a journey, the journey of life and Christian’s journey and Pilgrims Progress reflects every Christian’s journey through life, there is only one path to heaven and it’s not always an easy one, it’s filled with trials and temptations, if you’re looking for support on your journey through life and would like God to guide you, then I’d like to recommend the free gift where for all our viewers today, it’s the Christian classic: Steps to Christ, this book is our gift to you and is absolutely free, there are no costs or obligations whatsoever, so please don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to receive the gift we have for you today Here’s the information you need: phone or text us at 0436 333 555 or visit our website to request today’s free offer and we will send it to you totally free of charge and with no obligation So don’t delay, call or text 0436 333 555 in Australia or 020 422 2042 in New Zealand or visit our website to request today’s offer Write to us at PO Box 5101, Dora Creek New South Wales 2264, Australia Or PO Box 76673, Manukau Auckland 2241, New Zealand Don’t delay, call or text us now. If you’ve enjoyed today’s journey to Bedford and our reflection on Pilgrim’s Progress be sure to join us again next week when we will share another of life’s journeys together and experience another new and thought-provoking perspective on the peace, insight, understanding and hope that only the Bible can give us. The Journey truly is television that changes lives Until next week remember the ultimate destination of life’s journey, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth… and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death. nor sorrow. nor crying. there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”