The Companions of By-ends

Now I saw in my dream that Christian and Hopeful forsook him, and kept their distance before him; but one of them looking back, saw three men following Mr. By-ends, and behold, as they came up with him, he made them a very low conge; and they also gave him a compliment. The men’s names were Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all; men that Mr. By-ends had formerly been acquainted with; for in their minority they were schoolfellows, and were taught by one Mr. Gripe-man, a schoolmaster in Love-gain, which is a market town in the county of Coveting, in the north. This schoolmaster taught them the art of getting, either by violence, cozenage, flattery, lying, or by putting on the guise of religion; and these four gentlemen had attained much of the art of their master, so that they could each of them have kept such a school themselves.

Well, when they had, as I said, thus saluted each other, Mr. Money-love said to Mr. By-ends, Who are they upon the road before us? (for Christian and Hopeful were yet within view).

By-ends: They are a couple of far countrymen, that, after their mode, are going on pilgrimage.

Money-Love: Alas! Why did they not stay, that we might have had their good company? for they, and we, and you, Sir, I hope, are all going on pilgrimage.

By-ends: We are so, indeed; but the men before us are so rigid, and love so much their own notions, and do also so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that let a man be never so godly, yet if he jumps not with them in all things, they thrust him quite out of their company.

Save-All: That is bad, but we read of some that are righteous overmuch; and such men’s rigidness prevails with them to judge and condemn all but themselves. But, I pray, what, and how many, were the things wherein you differed?

By-ends: Why, they, after their headstrong manner, conclude that it is duty to rush on their journey all weathers; and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap; and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men are against them; but I am for religion in what, and so far as the times, and my safety, will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.

Hold-the-World: Ay, and hold you there still, good Mr. By-ends; for, for my part, I can count him but a fool, that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it. Let us be wise as serpents; it is best to make hay when the sun shines; you see how the bee lieth still all winter, and bestirs her only when she can have profit with pleasure. God sends sometimes rain, and sometimes sunshine; if they be such fools to go through the first, yet let us be content to take fair weather along with us. For my part, I like that religion best that will stand with the security of God’s good blessings unto us; for who can imagine, that is ruled by his reason, since God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life, but that he would have us keep them for his sake? Abraham and Solomon grew rich in religion. And Job says, that a good man shall lay up gold as dust. But he must not be such as the men before us, if they be as you have described them.

Save-All: I think that we are all agreed in this matter, and therefore there needs no more words about it.

Money-Love: No, there needs no more words about this matter, indeed; for he that believes neither Scripture nor reason (and you see we have both on our side) neither knows his own liberty, nor seeks his own safety.

The Companions of By-endsIn the last post, Christian and Hopeful met a traveler named By-ends. By-ends claimed to be a fellow pilgrim, but his religion proved to be a pretense. Though he was walking on the pathway claiming to follow Christ, he was in fact following his own heart in pursuit of personal gain. Life in Christ was not his aim or reward, rather, it was a means to another end, a way to attain a more advantageous position in this life.

By-ends is certainly a regular church attender in our day, especially in communities where the church is looked on favorably and where the cost of identifying with Christ is low. But the emphasis given to By-ends in The Pilgrim’s Progress indicates that he must have been active in Bunyan’s day as well. Though Christian and Hopeful leave By-ends behind, Bunyan keeps the focus of the story on him and gives us more insight into his character. The falseness of By-ends’ faith is evident especially in: 1) his choice of companions, 2) his opinion of Christian and Hopeful, and 3) his view of religion.

By-ends Choice of Companions

Not long after Christian and Hopeful’s departure, three other travelers catch up to By-ends. They are all former acquaintances and By-ends readily welcomes them as his preferred companions. They greet him with a respectful bow and a compliment. Their names reveal a like-mindedness to By-ends’ way of thinking: Mr. Hold-the-world, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all. They all grew up together in the town of Love-gain in the country of Coveting. Their school teacher was Mr. Gripeman. Bunyan here uses an archaic definition of gripe meaning “to clutch or grasp or seize.” Mr. Gripeman’s students learned “the art of getting”—how to accrue possessions, power, pleasure and profit by any means necessary: violence, cozenage (deception), flattery, lying, or even by putting on the guise of religion. Though they prefer the treasures of this world to heavenly treasure, they all regularly attend church. They value the church, not as a place of humble worship and sacrificial service, but as a useful place to make connections, explore prospects, and gain people’s trust. They have learned well how to manipulate religion to their advantage in their pursuit of personal gain.

By-ends’ Opinion of Christian and Hopeful

Though By-ends considers himself to be a pilgrim, he distances himself from Christian and Hopeful. He describes them to his current companions as “far countrymen” not near neighbors or relations. His complaints against them are numerous: He does not count them as brothers, but feels slighted that they would not affirm his “reasonable” way of thinking. He thinks them to be rash and radical; they have their own “mode” of going on a pilgrimage. They are rigid and in love with their own notions. They lightly esteem the opinions of others. They won’t accept the company of any who do not act and think as they do. They are self-righteous in their condemnation of others. By-ends’ friends all agree with his assessment. They conclude that Christian and Hopeful have no regard for their own safety, have cast off their liberty, and are indeed unreasonable and even unbiblical.

By-ends’ View of Religion

It is clear from the testimony of By-ends and his companions that they believe themselves to be on a pilgrimage. Their faith is false. Their souls are in great peril. They are in love with the world, enamored by its mirage of prosperity and imprisoned by its fleeting comforts. Yet they believe all is well. Their guise of religion has fooled even themselves.

Though By-ends regards Christian and Hopeful as radical and unreasonable, he believes himself to be sensible and balanced. He will not journey in all weathers (willing to press on in faith even when the storms of life come), but waits for wind and tide (favorable conditions and comfortable circumstances). He will not hazard all for God “at a clap” (when tragedy or an adverse circumstance strikes), but takes every advantage to secure own his life and estate. He will not stand for truth when it is opposed, but seeks first for his own welfare and safety. He will not hold religion while in rags or contempt, but only when it “walks in his golden slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.”

By-ends is enthusiastic in justifying and rationalizing his views. He does so by:

  • Complaining about and degrading Christian and Hopeful
  • Offering his own ideas as the voice of reason
  • Seeking the support and encouragement of friends who think the same way as he does

Hold-the-world affirm his views. He does so by:

  • Appealing to nature and common sense—He draws analogies from serpents and bees, sunshine and rain, winter and harvest.
  • Appealing even to Scripture and biblical illustration—He refers (though out of context) to Abraham, Solomon and Job.

By-ends and his companions are convinced that they are right and that Christian and Hopeful are harsh and unloving for not accepting them on their own terms. They desire to hold to the world, love money and save all for themselves. But the Bible clearly contradicts them. We cannot follow Christ and hold to the world.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

We cannot love money and serve God as well.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10).

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).

And we cannot save all for ourselves and value our own life above all.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26).

The faith of By-ends and his friends is not confirmed by Scripture. Their love is not ultimately for Christ, but for themselves. Their religion is self-seeking and not God-honoring. In the next post By-ends and his friends defend their reasoning for using religion as a means to acquire personal gain.

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.

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