Trial in Vanity Fair

Then a convenient time being appointed, they brought them forth to their trial, in order to their condemnation. When the time was come, they were brought before their enemies and arraigned. The judge’s name was Lord Hate-good. Their indictment was one and the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form, the contents whereof were 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 hath set itself against Him that is higher than the highest. And, said he, as for disturbance, I make none, being myself a man of peace; the parties that were won to us, were won by beholding 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.

Now, FAITHFUL, play the man, speak for thy God:
Fear not the wicked’s malice; nor their rod:
Speak boldly, man, the truth is on thy side:
Die for it, and to life in triumph ride.

Lord Hate-GoodIn many ways The Pilgrim’s Progress is a retelling of John Bunyan’s own pilgrimage as he escaped destruction to find eternal life. His journey was not easy. Throughout his ministry he faced many hardships for the sake of the gospel, including persecution and imprisonment. Now in Vanity Fair we read of Christian and Faithful enduring persecution and imprisonment. They are brought before the judge, Lord Hate-good, to face the indictment against them. As Faithful begins his defense, Bunyan’s own resolve to stand up for truth before his accusers can be heard. Cheever notes:

Now came on the trial. And here again, as in every part of the allegory, Bunyan’s own experience served him in good stead; here again he draws his picture from real life, from his own life. Little could he have thought, when a few years ago, amidst the taunts of his enemies, he himself stood at the bar to be examined for the crime of preaching the gospel, that the providence of God was then laying up in store materials of human life and character to be used with such powerful effect in his then unconceived imagined allegory. These phases of a world at enmity against God were indelibly impressed on Bunyan’s mind; and now, in all the freshness of their coloring, he transferred them to the tablets of the Pilgrim’s Progress. (from Lectures on The Pilgrim’s Progress by G.B. Cheever)

Christian and Faithful are described in the indictment as enemies, disturbers of the peace and law-breakers. They are accused of dividing the town, swaying some to accept their views, and speaking against the established traditions and laws of the fair. As Faithful answers the charges in the indictment, he tries to make clear that he only desires what is right for the glory of God and for the good of the town:

  • He is not set against the town or its people—their souls are of value
  • He is only set against that which is opposed to “Him that is higher than the highest” — it is better “to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)
  • He did not come to bring trouble or disturbance to the town—He is a man of peace (2 Timothy 2:2)
  • He did come speaking truth—He spoke God’s Word

Those in the town who aligned themselves with Christian and Faithful did so because they saw the truth and believed the pilgrims to be innocent. Faithful notes that “they are only turned from the worse to the better.” It is always right and good to be on the side of truth.

Faithful is willing to stand for the truth, though it may cost him his life. He recognizes that the town is under seize in a spiritual battle. He defies principalities and powers that would keep the town in darkness and bondage. Though scorned and beaten down by oppressors, he is not discouraged, but emboldened. Though cursed by the world, he is blessed by his Lord. Jesus taught those who are scorned and reviled for His sake to respond with joy, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10–12).

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

2 thoughts on “Trial in Vanity Fair”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *