Here is the official charge against John Bunyan: he had “devilishly and pertinaciously abstained from coming to church to hear divine service, and was a common upholder of unlawful meetings and conventicles to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom,contrary to the laws of our Sovereign Lord, the King.” Otherwise known as reading the Bible with a few people in a barn.
Here is how John Brown described the arrest:
The time previously fixed for the service not being yet come, Bunyan passed out of the house, and paced the field by which the house was surrounded. It is still fringed with elm-trees, which were more numerous then, and beneath the leafless branches he passed to and fro, the burden of grave responsibility strong upon him. His thoughts, he tells us, were these: He had hitherto showed himself hearty and courageous in his preaching, and through God’s mercy had been able to encourage others. Were he now, therefore, to turn and run, it would have a very ill look in the country round. What would the new converts think but that he was not as strong in deed as he was in word? Besides, if he ran before a warrant, others would run before mere words and threats. If God in His mercy had chosen him to go upon a forlorn hope in the country, had honoured him to be the first that should be opposed for the gospel, and he should fly, this would be a discouragement to the whole body that might follow after. Moreover, the outside world would certainly take occasion from such cowardliness to blaspheme the gospel, and to suspect worse of him and his profession than it deserved. Back, therefore, to the house he came, with mind more resolute than before. There was still time to flee if to flee he wished, for it was yet a full hour before the constable would arrive; but flee he would not, being resolved to see the utmost of what they could say or do unto him.
Meantime his friends were gathering. Along the path by the elm-trees from Harlington, and across the fields from Higher Samsell and Pulloxhill on one side, and from Westoning and Flitwick on the other they came to the meeting, and Bunyan began. He began with prayer. Prayer was always a real thing to him, and probably never more real than then. Prayer being over and their Bibles opened, Bunyan was proceeding to speak to the people, when the constable, with Mr. Wingate’s man, came in upon them, ordering him to stop and go with them. Bunyan turned to go, but as he did so he begged the people not to be discouraged, for it was a mercy to suffer upon so good an account. They might, he said, have been apprehended as thieves or murderers, or the like, but blessed be God it was not so; they were only suffering as Christians for welldoing; and, after all, it was better to be the persecuted than the persecutors. As Bunyan went on thus, the constable grew impatient, and would have him away; and so they left the house.
Mr. Wingate not being at home that day, a friend of Bunyan’s, possibly some neighbouring farmer of substance, engaged to bring him to the constable next morning, “otherwise,” says he, “constable must have charged a watch with me or have secured me some other ways, my crime was so great.”
The next day Bunyan and his friend went first to the constable, and then all three to the justice. Their path led through pleasant fields to the height on which stands Harlington church, from which a few minutes’ walk brought them to Mr. Wingate’s house.