Bunyan’s Evolving Doctrine of Justification & An Attack on the Church of England - The First Edition - Complete With the Engraved frontispiece

Bunyan, John (1628-1688)

A discourse upon the Pharisee and the publicane. Wherein several great and weighty things are handled: as the nature of prayer, and of obedience to the law, with how far it obliges Christians, and wherein it consists: wherein is also shewed the equally deplorable condition of the Pharisee, or hypocritical and self-righteous man, and of the publicane, or sinner that lives in sin, and in open violation of the divine laws: together with the way and method of God’s free-grace in pardoning penetent sinners; proving that he justifies them by imputing Christs righteousness to them. Written by John Bunian, author of the Pilgrims progress

London: Printed for Jo. Harris, at the Harrow, over against the Church in the Poultry, 1685


Duodecimo: 14 x 8 cm. [8], 202 p. A4, B-I12, K7 (with the first blank. Lacking final blank).

FIRST EDITION, second of two issues.

With cancel title-page adding sixteen lines descriptive of the contents (as quoted above) to the original short title, and altering Joh. to Jo. in the imprint.  It has long been uncertain which title-page is the original and which the cancel.  Confusingly both have vertical chain lines (cf. BL copies), as it seems, does the frontispiece, although these are not distinct.  Evidence of priority was finally found in the Britwell copy, acquired by Cambridge in 1996, where the long title-page and the frontispiece are pasted to stubs, one of which has traces of [the short] title-page border.

A fine, genuine copy in its original sprinkled sheepskin binding (wear at corners, small loss to bottom of spine, hinges split.) The contents are in fine condition. Three of the original four blanks are preserved. Engraved frontis. laid down and with a narrow strip along the edge restored. The frontispiece depicts the Pharisee and the publican in the temple, within a cross-vaulted arcade. Below, there is a portrait of Bunyan at age 57. The first image is accompanied by these verses:

See how ye Pharisee in the Temple stands

And justifies himself with lifted hands

Whilst ye poor publican with downcast eyes

Conscious of guilt to God for mercy cries.

Printed one year after the appearance of the second part of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and in the same year that the Bedford magistrates ordered penal laws against nonconformists to be enforced, Bunyan’s “Discourse upon the Pharisee and the Publicane” is a fiery critique of the tyranny of the Church of England and of those among his readers who, like the residents of Vanity Fair and the Pharisee in the parable, prided themselves on superficial religiosity. “That the established church was the primary object of Bunyan’s withering critique of the Pharisee is evident in several respects, particularly his condemnation of ritual. ‘Great is the formality of Religion this day, and little the power thereof.’ Nothing is more conducive to hypocrisy, he insisted, than an emphasis on formality at the expense of substance. The pharisaical mistakenly elevate ceremony over faith, love, and hope, confusing true righteousness with ‘a few lean and lowsie Formalities.’”(Greaves, Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent, p. 530 ff.)

The work also marks an important departure from Bunyan’s earlier writings on justification. “Bunyan claimed that justification precedes faith and comes while one is yet ‘graceless.’ Notes Bunyan, ‘Justification before God is one thing; and Justification to the Understanding and Conscience is another. Now I am treating Justification before God, not of it as to man’s Understanding and conscience: And I say, a man may be justified before God, even when he himself knoweth nothing thereof… and so when and while he hath not Faith about it, but is ungodly.’ This is continuous with but not necessarily equivalent to eternal justification proper, due to what appears to be Bunyan’s emphasis on justification at the death of Christ. Bunyan seems to imply that justification in the conscience is assurance of justification, yet he claims men ‘gather’ it in time. He comes close to suggesting that actual justification or the ‘applying of that righteousness to the understanding and conscience’ occurs personally only when faith is expressed: ‘Here you see, that to be reconciled to God by the death of his Son is one thing; and for us to actually receive by faith, this reconciliation is another.”(McKelvey, “Eternal Justification”, in Haykin and Jones, “Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates within 17th c. British Puritanism.”

ESTC R3995; Wing (2nd ed., 1994), B5512A; Harrison 34