As we read through the “Vanity Fair” scene in Pilgrim’s Progress last night, I was surprised at how much it affected me… again. This being our second time reading this lovely book as a family, this particular scene is all to similar to our time today, with very dis-similar results. I’ll attach the story, but knowing full well that few (if any) will take the time to read it, I’ll give away the ending (we do live in America, afterall, and can’t possibly have any more than about 2 seconds until we have to move on to the next “thing”… in fact, I’m surprised you’ve even read this far… ) Christian and Faithful come to a city that constantly has a fair going on called Vanity Fair – where all kinds of meaningless things are bought and sold daily – homes, lands, lusts, pleasures, etc… everything that we in America call necessities. And, the story points out, that EVERY pilgrim has to walk through this fair and most wind up stuck and staying in this city, rather than moving on to the “Celestial City”. It’s pretty convicting (to me) to think of how stuck I’ve become as I fall more and more in love with what this world has to offer, and less enamered with the job that I’ve been given from God to work with Him in expanding his Kingdom.
If you want more, you’ll have to carve out about 7 minutes and read the actual story now:
ow when they were near the end of this wilderness, FAITHFUL happened to cast his eye back, and caught sight one coming after them, and he knew him. “Oh,” said FAITHFUL to his brother, “who is that coming yonder?” Then CHRISTIAN looked, and said, “It is my good friend, EVANGELIST.” “Yes, and my good friend too,” said FAITHFUL; “for it was he that set me in the way to the gate.” Now EVANGELIST had come up to them, and so saluted them:
Evanelist. Peace be with you, dearly beloved; and peace be to your helpers !Christian. Welcome, welcome, my good EVANGELIST! the sight of your face brings to my remembrance your past kindness and untiring efforts for my eternal good.Faithful. “And a thousand times welcome,” said good FAITHFUL; “O sweet EVANGELIST, how desirable is your company to us poor pilgrims!”Evan. Then EVANGELIST asked, “How has it gone with you, my friends, since the time of our last parting? what have you met with, and how have you behaved yourselves?”Evan. “I am very glad,” said EVANGELIST–” not only that you met with trials, but that you have been victors; and also that you have (notwithstanding many weaknesses) continued in the way to this very day. I say, I am very glad of this thing, and that for my own sake and yours: I have sowed, and you have reaped; and the day is coming when both he that sowed and they that reaped will rejoice together–that is, if you hold out: for in due time you shall reap, if you faint not. The crown is before you; and it is an incorruptible one: so run that you may obtain it. There are some that set out after this crown; and after they have gone far for it, another comes in and takes it from them! Hold fast, therefore, to that which you have: let no man take your crown;
Then CHRISTIAN and FAITHFUL told him of all things that had happened to them in the way; and how, and with what difficulty they had arrived here at this place.
- “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” John 4:36 Galatians 6:91 Corinthians 9:24-27 Revelation 3:11
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
you are not yet out of the gunshot of the devil; You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. Let the Kingdom be always before you; and believe steadfastly concerning things that are invisible. Let nothing that is on this side of the other world get within you; and, above all, look well to your own hearts, and to the lusts of it, for they are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Set your faces like a flint; you have all power in heaven and earth on your side.”Evan. My sons, you have heard in the words of the truth of the Gospel, that you must “through many tribulations enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” And again, that in every city chains and afflictions await you; and therefore you cannot expect that you should go long on your pilgrimage without them, in some sort or other. You have found something of the truth of these testimonies upon you already, and more will immediately follow; for now, as you see, you are almost out of this wilderness, and therefore you will soon come into a town that you will by and by see before you; and in that town you will be beset with formidable enemies, who will go out of their way to kill you. And you be sure that one or both of you must seal the testimony which you hold with blood; but you be faithful unto death, and the King will give you a crown of life. He that shall die there, although his death will be unnatural, and his pain perhaps great, yet he will have the better of his fellow; not only because he will arrive at the Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other will meet with in the rest of his journey. But when you arrive at the town, and find fulfilled what I have here related, then remember your friend, and behave like men; and commit the keeping of your souls to your God in doing well, as unto a faithful Creator.
Then CHRISTIAN thanked him for his exhortation, but told him nevertheless, that they would have him speak further to them, for their help the rest of the way; because they well knew that he was a prophet, and could tell them of things that might happen to them on the way; and also how they might resist and overcome them. To which request, FAITHFUL also agreed. So EVANGELIST began as follows:
hen I saw in my dream, that when they came out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is “Vanity”; and at the town there is kept a fair, called “Vanity Fair”; it is kept running all the year long. It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is sold there, or that comes there is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, “All that comes is vanity.”
- “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” Isaiah 40:17Ecclesiastes 1:2Ecclesiastes 1:14Ecclesiastes 2:11Ecclesiastes 2:17Ecclesiastes 11:8
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”
“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
“Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”
“But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all, Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity.”
This fair is no newly erected business; but a thing of long standing. I will show you the origin of it.
Almost five thousand years ago, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are; and BEELZEBUB, APOLLYON, and LEGION, with their companions, realising by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the City lay through this town of Vanity, contrived to set up a fair here; a fair where all sorts of vanity should be sold, and that it should last all the year long. Therefore at this fair all such merchandise is sold: such as houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms; lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts–as whores, brothel keepers, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not.
And what’s more, at this fair there is at all times to be deceivers, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues and that of every kind.
Here are to be seen, too–and that for nothing–thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood red colour.
And as in other fairs of less significance, there are the several rows and streets, under their proper names, where such and such wares are vended; so here likewise you have the proper places, rows, streets (viz., countries and kingdoms), where the wares of this fair are quickly found: here is the Britain row; the French row; the Italian row; the Spanish row; the German row–where several sorts of vanities are to be sold. But as in other fairs, some single commodity is as the chief of all the fair, so the wares of Rome and her merchandise is greatly promoted in this fair: only our English nation, with some others, have taken a dislike to them.
Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town, where the lusty fair is kept; and he that will go to the City, and yet not go through this town, would need to go out of this world.
The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair day too; and as I recall, it was BEELZEBUB, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities; yes, he would have made him lord of the fair, if he would have worshiped him as he went through the town. Because he was such a person of honour, BEELZEBUB had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure that Blessed One to cheapen himself and buy some of his vanities. But he had no mind for the merchandise; and therefore left the town without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities.
This fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.
Now these pilgrims, as I said, had to go through this fair: well, so they did; but behold, even as they entered into the fair, all the people in the fair were moved, and the town itself as it were in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons. For–
First, the pilgrims were clothed with such a kind of garment as was diverse from the clothing of any that traded in that fair. Therefore the people of the fair stared intently at them: some said they were fools; some they were lunatics; and some they are outlandish men.
Secondly: and as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said. They naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but those that kept the fair were the men of this world: so that from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other.
Thirdly: but that which did not amuse the merchandisers at all was, that these pilgrims had very little interest in all their wares–they did not even care so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;” and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven.
One tried mockingly, seeing the attitude of the men, to say to them, “What will you, buy?” but looking gravely upon him, they said, “We would buy the truth”.
At that there was an occasion taken to despise the men all the more: some mocking; some taunting; some speaking reproachfully; and some calling upon others to strike them. At last, things came to a hubbub and great stir in the fair, so much so that all order was disrupted. Now word was presently brought to the great one of the fair, who quickly came down, and deputed some of his most trusty friends to take these men in for examination, about whom the fair was almost overturned. So the men were brought to examination: and they that sat to judge them, asked them where they came from; where they were going; and what they were doing there in such unusual garb?
The men told them that they were pilgrims and strangers in the world; and that they were going to their own country, which was the heavenly Jerusalem;
and that they had given no occasion to the men of the town, or to the merchandisers, to abuse them, and to hinder them in their journey. However, when one asked them what they would buy, they said they would buy the truth. Now they that were appointed to examine them did not believe them to be anything other than lunatics and mad, or else such as come to put all things into a confusion in the fair. Therefore they took them and beat them, and smeared them with dirt; and then put them into the cage, that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair. Therefore they layed there for some time, and were made the objects of any man’s sport, or malice, or revenge; the great one of the fair still laughing at all that befell them.
But the men were patient, not rendering insult for insult, but, on the contrary, blessing, and giving good words for bad, and kindness for injuries done. Some men in the fair that were more observing and less prejudiced than the rest, began to check and denounce the baser sort for their continual abuse towards the men. They, therefore, in angry manner, let fly at them again: counting them as bad as the men in the cage, and telling them that they seemed to be confederates, and should be made partakers of their misfortunes. The other replied, that for all they could see, the men were quiet and sober, and intended nobody any harm; and that there were many that traded in their fair that were more worthy to be put into the cage, yes, and the stocks too, than were the men that they had abused. So, after many words had passed on both sides–the men behaving themselves all the while very wisely and soberly before them,–they fell to some blows among themselves, and did harm one to another.
Then these two poor men were brought before their examiners again, and there charged as being guilty of the latest hubbub that had occured in the fair. So they beat them pitifully, and placed them in irons, and led them in chains up and down the fair for an example and a terror to others, lest any should speak further on their behalf, or join themselves to them. But CHRISTIAN and FAITHFUL behaved themselves even more wisely; and received the dishonour and shame that was placed on them with so much meekness and patience, that it won to their side–though few in comparison of the rest–several of the men in the fair. This put the other party into an even greater rage; so much so that they concluded that these two men should be put to death. Therefore they threatened that the cage nor irons would serve their purpose; but that they should die for the abuse they had done, and for deluding the men of the fair.
Then they were remanded to the cage again, until further orders should be given them. So they put them in, and tied their feet in the stocks.
Here then they again called to mind what they had heard from their faithful friend, EVANGELIST; and were the more confirmed in their way and sufferings by what he told them would happen to them. They also now comforted each other, that whose lot it was to suffer, even he should have the best of it; therefore each man secretly wished that he might have that preferment; but committing themselves to the all wise disposal of him that rules all things, with much content they rested in the condition in which they were, until they should be otherwise disposed of.
The TrialEnvy. Then ENVY stood forth, and said to this effect: “My lord, I have known this man a long time; and will attest upon my oath before this honourable bench, that he is—“Lord Hategood, the Judge. Wait; give him his oath!Judge. Then the judge asked him, “Have you any more to say?”Envy. “My lord, I could say much more; only I do not wish to be tedious to the court. Yet, if need be, when the other gentlemen have given in their evidence, rather than anything be left wanting that will dispatch him, I will enlarge my testimony against him.” So he was bidden to stand by.Superstition. My lord, I have no great acquaintance with this man; nor do I desire to have further knowledge of him. However, this I know, that he is a very pestilent fellow, from some discussion that I had the other day with him in this town; for talking with him then, I heard him say that our religion was worthless, and one by which a man could by no means please God; which sayings of his, my lord, your lordship very well knows what necessarily will follow this: namely, that we still worship in vain; are yet in our sins: and finally shall be damned. And this is all I have to say.Pickthank. My lord, and all you gentlemen, I have known this fellow for a long time; and have heard him speak things that ought not to be spoken. For he has insulted our noble Prince BEELZEBUB; and has spoken contemptibly of his honourable friends, whose names are, the Lord OLDMAN; the Lord CARNALDELIGHT; the Lord LUXURIOUS; the Lord DESIRE OF VAINGLORY; my old Lord LECHERY; Sir HAVING GREEDY; with all the rest of our nobility: furthermore, he has said, that if all men were of his mind, if possible, not one of these noble men would have a place in this town any longer. Besides, he has not been afraid to abuse you, my lord, who are now appointed to be his judge; calling you an ungodly villain, with many other such like defaming terms, with which he has bespattered most of the gentry of our town.Faith. May I speak a few words in my own defence?Judge. Sirrah, sirrah!–you deserve to live no longer, but to be slain immediately at this place; yet that all men may see our gentleness towards you, let us hear what you, vile apostate, have to say.Faith.
hen, a convenient time being appointed, they brought them forth to their trial, in order to condemn them. When the time had come, they were brought before their enemies and indicted. The judge’s name was LORD HATEGOOD. Their indictment was one and the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form; the contents thereof was this:
That they were enemies to, and disturbers of, their trade; that they had made commotions and divisions in the town, and had won a party to their own most dangerous opinions, in contempt of the law of their prince.
Then FAITHFUL began to answer, that he had only set himself against that which had set itself against him that is higher than the highest. “And,” he said, “as for disturbance, I made none, being myself a man of peace; the parties that were won to us, were won by observing our truth and innocence, and they are only turned from the worse to the better. And as to the king you talk of, since he is BEELZEBUB, the enemy of our Lord, I defy him and all his angels.”
Then proclamation was made, that they that had anything to say for their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar, should forthwith appear and give in their evidence. So there came in three witnesses: ENVY, SUPERSTITION, and PICKTHANK. They were then asked if they knew the prisoner at the bar? and what they had to say for their lord the king against him?
So they swore him in. Then he said, “My lord, this man, notwithstanding his plausible name, is one of the vilest men in our country; he neither regards prince nor people, law nor custom; but does all that he can to possess all men with certain of his disloyal notions, which he, in the general, calls principles of faith and holiness. And in particular, I heard him once myself affirm that Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity were diametrically opposite, and could not be reconciled. By saying this, my lord, he not only condemns all our laudable doings, but us in the doing of them.”
Then they called SUPERSTITION, and directed him look at the prisoner; they also asked what he could say for their lord the king against him? Then they swore him in; so he began:
Then was PICKTHANK sworn in, and asked say what he knew on behalf of their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar.
When this PICKTHANK had told his tale, the judge directed his speech to the prisoner at the bar, saying, “You apostate, heretic, and traitor !–have you heard what these honest gentlemen have witnessed against you?”
- I say, then, in answer to what Mr. ENVY has spoken, I never said anything but this: That what rule, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity. If I have spoken amiss in this, convince me of my error; and I am ready to make my recantation before you.
- As to the second, that is, Mr. SUPERSTITION, and his charge against me, I said only this: That in the worship of God there is required a divine faith; but there can be no divine faith without a divine revelation of the will of God: therefore whatever is thrust into the worship of God that is not agreeable to a divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith; and such faith will not profit to eternal life.
- As to what Mr. PICKTHANK has said, I say–avoiding terms, such as I am said to abuse, and the like–that the prince of this town, with all the rabble–his attendants, by this gentleman named–are more fit for being in hell than in this town and country; and so the Lord have mercy upon me!
Then the judge called to the jury–who all this while stood by, to hear and observe,–“Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man about whom so great an uproar has been made in this town; you have also heard what these worthy gentlemen have witnessed against him; also you have heard his reply and confession: it lies now in your breasts to hang him, or save his life; still I think it good to instruct you as to our law.
“There was an act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, servant to our prince, that in case those of a contrary religion should multiply and grow too strong for him, their males should be thrown into the river.
There was also an act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, another of his servants, that whoever would not fall down and worship his golden image should be thrown into a fiery furnace.
There was also an act made in the days of Darius, that whoever, for some time, called upon any God but his, should be cast into the lions’ den.
Now this rebel has broken the substance of these laws; not only in thought (which is not to be allowed), but also in word and deed, which, therefore is intolerable.
“For the law which Pharaoh made was upon suspicion to prevent trouble, no crime yet being apparent; but here a crime is apparent. For the second and third, you see he disputes against our religion; and for the treason he has confessed, he deserves to be put to death.”
Then the jury went out, whose names were, Mr. BLIND-MAN, Mr. NO-GOOD, Mr. MALICE, Mr. LOVE-LUST, Mr. LIVE-LOOSE, Mr. HEADY, Mr. HIGH-MIND, Mr. ENMITY, Mr. LIAR, Mr. CRUELTY, Mr. HATE-LIGHT, and Mr. IMPLACABLE; and everyone gave in his private verdict, against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. And first among themselves, Mr. BLIND-MAN the foreman said, “I see clearly that this man is a heretic.” Then Mr. NO-GOOD said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth!” “Yes,” said Mr. MALICE, “for I hate the very looks of him.” Then said Mr. LOVE-LUST, “I could never endure him.” “Nor I,” said Mr. LIVE-LOOSE; “for he would always be condemning my way,” “Hang him, hang him!” said Mr. HEADY. “A sorry scrub,” said Mr. HIGH-MIND. “My heart rises against him,” said Mr. ENMITY. “He is a rogue,” said Mr. LIAR. “Hanging is too good for him,” said Mr. CRUELTY. “Let us dispatch him out of the way,” said Mr. HATE-LIGHT. Then Mr. IMPLACABLE said, “Might I have all the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him; therefore let us bring him in forthwith, guilty of death.” And so they did; therefore he was presently condemned to be taken from the place where he was to the place from where he came, and there to be put to the most cruel death that could be invented.
They therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their law; and first they whipped him, then they beat him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords; and last of all they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus FAITHFUL came to his end. Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for FAITHFUL, who–as soon as his adversaries had dispatched him –was taken up into it, and straight away was carried up through the clouds, with the sound of a trumpet, the shortest way to the Celestial Gate. But as for CHRISTIAN, he had some respite, and was remanded back to prison; so he there remained for a time. But he that overrules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so fashioned the circumstances that CHRISTIAN, for that occasion, escaped them, and went his way.
And as he went he sang, saying:
“Well, FAITHFUL, you have faithfully profest
Unto your Lord, with whom you shalt be blest,
When faithless ones, with all their vain delight,
Are crying out under their hellish plight.
Sing, FAITHFUL, sing!–and let your name survive;
For though they killed you, you art yet alive.”