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date: 18 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the centrality of the invisible church for Bunyan and his readers. Called to lead the Bedford congregation in 1671, Bunyan was committed to defending and building the visible church, but its purpose was to nurture souls on the pilgrimage to heaven, the invisible church of glory whose members were known only by God. Doctrinal works on the theology of justification, polemical works on ‘things indifferent’ (such as baptism) or on essentials of faith, and pastoral works on the spiritual conditions of his readers, all attest to Bunyan’s single-minded focus on the invisible church in the 1670s. Religious toleration, like the visible church, was not a good in itself but a means to an end: the ‘desired countrey’ of union with God, the imagined community outside of time that made the present an interval of remembrance and anticipation.

Keywords: 1670s, invisible church, community, toleration, things indifferent, justification

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