Tag Archives: Witness

Envy Superstition and Pickthank

Then proclamation was made, that they that had aught 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, to wit, 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.

Then stood forth Envy, and said to this effect: My Lord, I have known this man a long time, and will attest upon my oath before this honorable bench, that he is—

Hold! Give him his oath. (So they sware him.) Then he said—

Envy: 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 which saying, my Lord, he does at once not only condemn all our laudable doings, but us in the doing of them.

Judge: Then did the Judge say to him, Do you have any more to say?

Envy: My Lord, I could say much more, only I would not be tedious to the court. Yet, if need be, when the other gentlemen have given in their evidence, rather than anything shall be wanting that will dispatch him, I will enlarge my testimony against him. So he was bid to stand by.

Then they called Superstition, and bid him look upon the prisoner. They also asked, what he could say for their lord the king against him. Then they sware him; so he began.

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 discourse that, the other day, I had with him in this town; for then, talking with him, I heard him say, that our religion was naught, and such by which a man could by no means please God. Which sayings of his, my Lord, your Lordship very well knows, what necessarily thence will follow, to wit, that we do still worship in vain, are yet in our sins, and finally shall be damned; and this is that which I have to say.

Then was Pickthank sworn, and bid say what he knew, in behalf of their lord the king, against the prisoner at the bar.

Pickthank: My Lord, and you gentlemen all, This fellow I have known of a long time, and have heard him speak things that ought not to be spoke; for he has railed on our noble prince Beelzebub, and has spoken contemptibly of his honorable friends, whose names are the Lord Old Man, the Lord Carnal Delight, the Lord Luxurious, the Lord Desire of Vain Glory, my old Lord Lechery, Sir Having Greedy, with all the rest of our nobility; and he has said, moreover, That if all men were of his mind, if possible, there is not one of these noblemen should have any longer a being in this town. Besides, he has not been afraid to rail on you, my Lord, who are now appointed to be his judge, calling you an ungodly villain, with many other such like vilifying terms, with which he has bespattered most of the gentry of our town.

Envy Superstition Pickthank

As the trial in Vanity Fair continues, the court sends out a summons for witnesses. The people of the town are encouraged to come and testify against the two pilgrims. Three witnesses answer the call. These witnesses represent three distinct motives behind the persecution of the church. Why does persecution and oppression arise? Bunyan identifies three causes: Envy, Superstition and Pickthank.

The first motive is Envy. The pilgrims were gaining a hearing in the town. Though few were convinced by their message, a growing number were curious. Those who hold influence in the town were alarmed by the attention and sympathy given to the pilgrims. They wanted Christian and Faithful silenced. Their envy gave rise to persecution.

Envy springs from covetousness in the heart. It is a discontent at seeing the success or prosperity of another. It is a longing to attain the rewards or status of another. It was envy that played a role in Jesus’ suffering:

Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy (Matthew 27:17–18).

It was envy that stirred the Jews to persecute Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia.

On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 13:44–45).

Paul told the church at Philippi that envy was even a motive for some who were preaching Christ, thinking that by doing so they would cause trouble for Paul and thwart his efforts to spread the gospel.

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice (Philippians 1:15–18).

The second motive is Superstition. This is not “superstition” in the sense that we often define it: an unfounded belief in or fear of the supernatural. Rather, it is the older definition that Bunyan has in mind: “excessive exactness or rigor in religious opinion or practice” rooted in “false religion; false worship” (Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828).

When Christian and Faithful came to Vanity Fair preaching the true gospel of grace, they exposed the false religions embraced by the town. True salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. All religions are false that attempt to substitute something or someone for Christ or insist that something more must be added to Christ. Superstition felt threatened when he heard the clear message of the pilgrims that by his own efforts, works and ingenuity he could “by no means please God.” He was offended that Christian and Faithful would think his “religion was naught.” And so he added his voice condemning them.

The final motive that underlies the persecution of the church is Pickthank. Pickthank is an archaic term that denotes “a whispering parasite” or “an officious fellow who does what he is not desired to do, for the sake of gaining favor” (Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828). A pickthank is one who bows to social pressure to be in with the crowd. He is the protestor who doesn’t really know what he is protesting. He is the angry voice in the mob who is only upset because everyone else is. He is not driven by personal offense or conviction to join others in their abusive behavior; he may even inwardly recoil at it. But he joins in anyway so not to be left out or singled out himself. The town had turned against the two pilgrims and had brought them to stand trial. Consequently, Pickthank is now willing to “pick” on Christian and Faithful in order to gain the “thanks” (acceptance and approval) of his fellow townspeople.

In his testimony Pickthank speaks of the friends of the prince who are the nobility of the town of Vanity. These noblemen represent our fallen human nature:

Lord Old Man

… put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22).

Lord Carnal Delight

… the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7–8).

For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Lord Luxurious (excessive indulgence)

For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury (Revelation 18:3).

Lord Desire of Vain Glory

Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26, KJV).

Lord Lechery (lewdness / lust)

Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Romans 13:13).

Sir Having Greedy (covetousness)

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).

These noblemen have corrupted the town and its fair. Apart from God all is Vanity. The town in its sinfulness has turned against the true King and against Christian and Faithful. In the next post we will hear Faithful’s reply to the charges brought by Envy, Superstition and Pickthank.

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.

Theater for God’s Glory

Theater of God's Glory

Calvin rightly called the world a “theater for the glory of God” [Institutes 1.5.8 and 1.14.20]. We are a part of this display. Our lives are to be a display and an offering for His glory. In all things we live to His praise. And that includes all things—what we do, what we say, and what we think. David prayed in Psalm 19:12-14 that he would be kept from sinning. He prayed that the words he spoke would be honoring to God. He prayed that the thoughts resounding in his heart would be pleasing to God. And not just his thoughts when he was in gathered worship with the people of God, or his words when he was singing praise, or his steps when he felt near to God, but all his thoughts and words and steps through life as he walked in the world.

We must learn to see the world this way, and live in the world this way. Our world is fallen and broken.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Our world is at enmity against God. But God does not intend that we hide away or abandon the world. He intends for us to be salt and light. He intends for us to live as Christians—a humble and grateful people who have been rescued from sin and death. And He intends for us to live out in the world as trophies of His grace for His glory.

Sometimes we can get messed up in our thinking—if we start thinking of church as where we meet with God and serve God, and the rest of life as out in world—our jobs, our recreation, our families. We can mistakenly assume that God is only glorified when we do sacred things—things like coming to church, praying, reading our Bible, or witnessing. And God is pushed aside or drowned out when we do secular things—things like our jobs, chores around the house, school, and sports. He is pleased and draws close when we are endeavoring to do sacred things, but less pleased and distant when we turn to what is secular.

The word “secular” comes from a Latin word meaning “world.” It refers to the here and now in which we live—our immediate concerns as we live day to day.

But we must not separate the here and now from God. All of life is sacred. It all belongs to God. We cannot take a breath unless God gives it to us. He is there, with us in every situation, in every activity, in every circumstance. By His design “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There is no separate place for God and another for the world. It’s all His—the world is His and we are His. He is at work—in every trial, in every triumph—in every joy, in every sorrow—shaping us and fashioning us for His glory. Our lives are on display. He has made the world for Himself. And He has placed us on the stage of the world to be a vessel of His grace and mercy, to be a testimony to His presence and power.

We need to see our world this way—in the spheres in which God has placed us—in our vocations, responsibilities and roles. These are but platforms on which to magnify Him—arenas in which we are called to display His glory and make Him known.

[This excerpt is from a Bible Study of Psalm 19 entitled “Theater for God’s Glory.” You can read the full Bible Study here.]

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

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.

Pilgrims Persecuted

There, therefore, they lay for some time, and were made the objects of any man’s sport, or malice, or revenge, the great one of the fair laughing still at all that befell them. But the men being patient, and not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing, and 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 blame the baser sort for their continual abuses done by them to 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 confederates, and should be made partakers of their misfortunes. The other replied that, for aught 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, yea, and pillory too, than were the men they had abused. Thus, after diverse 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 were these two poor men brought before their examiners again, and there charged as being guilty of the late hubbub that had been in the fair. So they beat them pitifully, and hanged irons upon them, and led them in chains up and down the fair, for an example and a terror to others, lest any should speak in their behalf, or join themselves unto them. But Christian and Faithful behaved themselves yet more wisely, and received the ignominy and shame that was cast upon them, with so much meekness and patience, that it won to their side, though but few in comparison of the rest, several of the men in the fair. This put the other party yet into greater rage, insomuch that they concluded the death of these two men. Wherefore they threatened, that the cage nor irons should serve their turn, but that they should die, for the abuse they had done, and for deluding the men of the fair.

Then were they remanded to the cage again, until further order should be taken with them. So they put them in, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Here, therefore, they called again 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 abode in the condition in which they were, until they should be otherwise disposed of.

Pilgrims ArrestedIn the last post Christian and Faithful faced the ire of the town of Vanity by being beaten and imprisoned. They resisted the town’s temptations and suffered the ensuing persecution. Their hardship was not to be brief. “They lay for some time” in their bonds facing the ridicule and antagonism of the world. They suffered long—and the longer they suffered, the worse their circumstances seemed to get.

Bunyan describes in the story a variety of reactions and responses from the people at the fair. Some are amused at the pilgrims, others are angry. Some dish out ridicule and scorn; others seek their harm. Still others are sympathetic and become upset with those who are giving out abuse. The abusers then react more violently still. But regardless of the response, favorable or not, Christian and Faithful act wisely. By God’s grace they endure with patience, even when falsely accused and more severely abused.

There are many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who face severe persecution and hardship because of their faith. Remember to pray for them. Pray for their endurance—that they would be humble and wise—that God would strengthen their faith. Pray for their witness—that they would honor Christ—that God would magnify their testimony to all who see them and hear of them. And pray for their captors—that God would stir in their hearts curiosity and compassion—that God would save them. Thankfully there are organizations like Voice of the Martyrs that remind us of brothers and sisters in chains. Pray diligently for the persecuted church.

In the face of persecution Christian and Faithful return blessing for railing and kindness for injury. They are “quiet” and “sober” and do not speak out against those who seek their demise. By enduring suffering with meekness, wisdom and patience, the two pilgrims are examples of Christ. Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ suffering:

He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
(Isaiah 53:7–9)

Jesus suffered for us and we are to follow His example. Peter quotes from Isaiah 53 as he exhorts us:

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:18–25).

As Christian and Faithful endure persecution, they trust that God is in control. They remember that suffering is a promised part of their pilgrimage. Evangelist had told them plainly that they would suffer for the sake of Christ. And so they comfort one another, knowing that the “worst” that could be done to them in this life (being put to death) is actually the “best” (because the one who suffers death will sooner be in the Lord’s presence). As Paul confesses: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

God is working all things together for their good and His glory—even pain and suffering. Just as God did with the cross—taking an evil act (crucifying the Son of the God) and bringing about great good (the salvation of sinners)—He uses the persecution and suffering of His people to accomplish good, strengthening our faith and testimony before a watching world. The testimony of Christian and Faithful is confirmed and strengthened in the crucible of persecution and suffering.

Bunyan contemplated his own suffering and possible death while in prison. He desired to endure and be faithful. He writes in his autobiography:

Before I came to prison, I saw what was a-coming, and had especially two considerations warm upon my heart; the first was how to be able to endure, should my imprisonment be long and tedious; the second was how to be able to encounter death, should that be here my portion; for the first of these, that Scripture (Colossians 1:11) was great information to me, namely, to pray to God to be “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.” I could seldom go to prayer before I was imprisoned, but not for so little as a year together, this sentence, or sweet petition, would, as it were, thrust itself into my mind, and persuade me, that if ever I would go through long-suffering, I must have all patience, especially if I would endure it joyfully [Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, par. 324].

Bunyan did indeed learn patience. His faith in God was strengthened and his trust in God’s good purposes was affirmed.

In Bunyan’s account of his imprisonment, he closes it with these words—“Thus have I, in short, declared the manner and occasion of my being in prison; where I lie waiting the good will of God to do with me as He pleaseth; knowing that not one hair of my head can fall to the ground without the will of my Father which is in Heaven. Let the rage and malice of men be ever so great, they can do no more, nor go any further, than God permits them. When they have done their worst, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28) [From Relation of Bunyan’s Imprisonment in The Works of John Bunyan (Banner of Truth) 1:54].

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 ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Run in with Shame

Christian: Met you with nothing else in that valley?

Faithful: Yes, I met with Shame; but of all the men that I met with in my pilgrimage, he, I think, bears the wrong name. The others would be said nay, after a little argumentation, and somewhat else; but this bold-faced Shame would never have done.

Christian: Why, what did he say to you?

Faithful: What! Why, he objected against religion itself; he said it was a pitiful, low, sneaking business for a man to mind religion; he said that a tender conscience was an unmanly thing; and that for a man to watch over his words and ways, so as to tie up himself from that hectoring liberty that the brave spirits of the times accustom themselves unto, would make him the ridicule of the times. He objected also, that but few of the mighty, rich, or wise, were ever of my opinion; nor any of them neither, before they were persuaded to be fools, and to be of a voluntary fondness, to venture the loss of all, for nobody knows what. He, moreover, objected the base and low estate and condition of those that were chiefly the pilgrims of the times in which they lived: also their ignorance and want of understanding in all natural science. Yea, he did hold me to it at that rate also, about a great many more things than here I relate; as, that it was a shame to sit whining and mourning under a sermon, and a shame to come sighing and groaning home: that it was a shame to ask my neighbor forgiveness for petty faults, or to make restitution where I have taken from any. He said, also, that religion made a man grow strange to the great, because of a few vices, which he called by finer names; and made him own and respect the base, because of the same religious fraternity. And is not this, said he, a shame?

Christian: And what did you say to him?

Faithful: Say! I could not tell what to say at the first. Yea, he put me so to it, that my blood came up in my face; even this Shame fetched it up, and had almost beat me quite off. But at last I began to consider, that “that which is highly esteemed among men, is had in abomination with God.” And I thought again, this Shame tells me what men are; but it tells me nothing what God or the Word of God is. And I thought, moreover, that at the day of doom, we shall not be doomed to death or life according to the hectoring spirits of the world, but according to the wisdom and law of the Highest. Therefore, thought I, what God says is best, indeed is best, though all the men in the world are against it. Seeing, then, that God prefers his religion; seeing God prefers a tender conscience; seeing they that make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are wisest; and that the poor man that loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him; Shame, depart, you are an enemy to my salvation! Shall I entertain you against my sovereign Lord? How then shall I look Him in the face at His coming? Should I now be ashamed of His ways and servants, how can I expect the blessing? But, indeed, this Shame was a bold villain; I could scarce shake him out of my company; yea, he would be haunting of me, and continually whispering me in the ear, with some one or other of the infirmities that attend religion; but at last I told him it was but in vain to attempt further in this business; for those things that he disdained, in those did I see most glory; and so at last I got past this importunate one. And when I had shaken him off, then I began to sing—

The trials that those men do meet withal,
That are obedient to the heavenly call,
Are manifold, and suited to the flesh,
And come, and come, and come again afresh;
That now, or sometime else, we by them may
Be taken, overcome, and cast away.
Oh, let the pilgrims, let the pilgrims, then
Be vigilant, and quit themselves like men.

Christian: I am glad, my brother, that you withstood this villain so bravely. For of all, as you say, I think he has the wrong name. For he is so bold as to follow us in the streets, and to attempt to put us to shame before all men, that is, to make us ashamed of that which is good. But if he was not himself audacious, he would never attempt to do as he does. But let us still resist him, for notwithstanding all his bravadoes, he promotes the fool and none else. “The wise shall inherit glory,” said Solomon, “but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

Faithful: I think we must cry to Him for help against Shame, who would have us to be valiant for the truth upon the earth.

Christian: You say true.

Faithful and ShameAlong with Discontent, Faithful encounters one other foe in the Valley of Humiliation. He meets one whose name is Shame. Based on their conversation, Faithful’s impression is that Shame is misnamed. His name suggests one who feels a measure of guilt or inadequacy, one who is convicted of sin or embarrassed by his actions. But Shame has no shame for himself. He is intent on disgracing others, especially those who would put their hope in God.

Shame is a champion of the world and a reviler of ways of God. He values worldly vice not heavenly virtue. He mocks those who would give serious thought and attention to God’s Word.

Shame is convinced that religion is foolish and belief in God is a weakness. Religion may be fine for the poor and those who are less fortunate, but it is unbecoming to the educated and enlightened, those who should know better. It is not seemly for those who would be mighty, rich or wise in this world to so abase themselves. He scorns those who would ask forgiveness, feel conviction, make restitution, sorrow over sin, give benevolence to the poor, or label vices as sin. He thinks it a shame that people would be so taken in.

But Shame’s belief and boast should not surprise us. God’s ways are not man’s ways. Paul tells us:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The very things that Shame would denigrate, God uses to display His power. The things that Shame would despise, God uses for His own glory. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

What the world believes is wise “is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19a). What the world highly esteems “is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Though Faithful is taken aback at first, he sees the emptiness of Shame’s objections. It is God and His Word that matter most, not man and his opinions. It is God who will one day judge the world. It is God who will receive all the glory. It is God who has highly exalted His Son “and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11). Christ is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). Having Christ is more valuable than having all the riches and accolades of this world. Paul goes on to say in Philippians:

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

Faithful is firm in his faith, but Shame is a persistent companion. Though Faithful attempts to ward him off, he keeps coming back, trying to make the world look more reasonable, trying to make religion look more futile.

Shame is a foe that we must be on guard against as well. He is one we are likely to meet on our own pilgrimage. He is the college professor who ridicules belief in God. She is the coworker who sees no need for God. He is the skeptic who has found reason to dismiss the claims of the Bible. We see Shame in the media as the Christian faith is portrayed as backward, irrational, and discriminatory. We hear his voice getting louder in our culture as Christianity is seen more and more to be out of step with shifting social standards.
We must meet Shame with courage and steadfastness. Like Paul, we must “not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). Jesus said:

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38).

We must take God at His Word, count all things loss, and pray for divine help to stand firm in our faith.

Christian commends Faithful for bravely resisting Shame. And he reminds Faithful of the proverb:

The wise shall inherit glory,
But shame shall be the legacy of fools.
(Proverbs 3:35)

By scorning the gospel, the only way of salvation and life, Shame lost an inheritance of glory. His foolish choice will surely in the end lead him to shame.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Faithful’s Escape from the City of Destruction

Then I saw in my dream they went very lovingly on together, and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their pilgrimage; and thus Christian began:

Christian: My honored and well-beloved brother, Faithful, I am glad that I have overtaken you; and that God has so tempered our spirits, that we can walk as companions in this so pleasant a path.

Faithful: I had thought, dear friend, to have had your company quite from our town; but you did get the start of me, wherefore I was forced to come thus much of the way alone.

Christian: How long did you stay in the City of Destruction before you set out after me on your pilgrimage?

Faithful: Till I could stay no longer; for there was great talk presently after you were gone out that our city would, in short time, with fire from heaven, be burned down to the ground.

Christian: What! Did your neighbors talk so?

Faithful: Yes, it was for a while in everybody’s mouth.

Christian: What! And did no more of them but you come out to escape the danger?

Faithful: Though there was, as I said, a great talk thereabout, yet I do not think they did firmly believe it. For in the heat of the discourse, I heard some of them deridingly speak of you and of your desperate journey, (for so they called this your pilgrimage), but I did believe, and do still, that the end of our city will be with fire and brimstone from above; and therefore I have made my escape.

Christian: Did you hear no talk of neighbor Pliable?

Faithful: Yes, Christian, I heard that he followed you till he came at the Slough of Despond, where, as some said, he fell in; but he would not be known to have so done; but I am sure he was soundly bedabbled with that kind of dirt.

Christian: And what said the neighbors to him?

Faithful: He has, since his going back, been had greatly in derision, and that among all sorts of people; some do mock and despise him; and scarce will any set him on work. He is now seven times worse than if he had never gone out of the city.

Christian: But why should they be so set against him, since they also despise the way that he forsook?

Faithful: Oh, they say, hang him, he is a turncoat! He was not true to his profession. I think God has stirred up even his enemies to hiss at him, and make him a proverb, because he has forsaken the way.

Christian: Had you no talk with him before you came out?

Faithful: I met him once in the streets, but he leered away on the other side, as one ashamed of what he had done; so I did not speak to him.

Christian: Well, at my first setting out, I had hopes of that man; but now I fear he will perish in the overthrow of the city; for it is happened to him according to the true proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Faithful: These are my fears of him too; but who can hinder that which will be?

Christian and Faithful now press on together toward the Celestial City. The two share a love and devotion to Christ and Christian is delighted to have a brother to walk with him. As they walk together they share what they have experienced in their pilgrimage. As their conversation begins, Bunyan highlights three lessons:

1. The Miracle of Christian Friendship

Christian and FaithfulChristian speaks of his joy in befriending Faithful. The Valley of the Shadow of Death was “a very solitary place” where Christian felt very much alone. The path was dark and treacherous. Now, walking in the light of day with Faithful as his friend, he finds the Way to be “so pleasant a path.” Faithful also speaks of his longing to have Christian’s company. He had hoped to flee Destruction with Christian, but Christian had left before him. The kindness of God has now brought them together and a miracle of His grace has made them companions on a pilgrimage. In the City of Destruction, Christian and Faithful might not ever have met or had anything in common. But their desire and commitment to follow Christ has “tempered their spirits” and placed them together. This is true of all Christian friendships. God has joined together hearts and lives in ways that astound the world and magnify the power of His grace and wisdom.

2. The Impact of a Changed Life

As the conversation continues, Faithful describes his escape from the City of Destruction. Christian’s departure had caused a great stir in the city. He is surprised to hear that many of neighbors were talking about him. Most did not believe him and spoke with scorn of his warnings of coming judgment. They called his pilgrimage a “desperate journey.” But God is not hindered by unbelief. The Word of God is powerful. God can prosper the gospel even when it is spoken in derision. Neighbors mocked and derided Christian, but Faithful heard and believed.

In Paul’s day there were some who preached Christ, not because they believed the gospel, but because they were trying to stir up trouble for Paul. Yet Paul could rejoice!

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice (Philippians 1:15–18).

We must be faithful to live for Christ and preach Christ, even when our testimony is likely to be scorned. We can grow weary of speaking of Christ among unbelievers as we see them respond again and again with contempt. Unsaved family members, co-workers and friends can wear us down with incessant ridicule and rejection. But we don’t know the impact our life might have on others around us. We don’t know how God may choose to use our testimony, even long after we are gone. It was Christian’s testimony that encouraged Faithful to flee Destruction, even while it was being disparaged by the world. May God keep us faithful and use our lives to point others to Christ.

3. The Danger of a Spurious Profession

Faithful also updates Christian on the outcome of Pliable. Earlier in the journey, Pliable had set out with Christian. He seemed at first to be a zealous pilgrim, hurrying Christian along, ravished with thoughts of heaven. But Pliable was discouraged when he and Christian fell into the Slough of Despond. Pliable chose to abandon his adventure with Christian and turn back. When he returned to the City of Destruction he was covered in the mud of the Slough (still marked by the shame and baseness of his sin) and met with scorn by those who saw him. He is compared to the Proverb:

As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly.
(Proverbs 26:11)

Bunyan inserts two verses likening Pliable to Israel in the Old Testament who chose to ignore the prophets who brought them God’s Word:

This says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not heeded My words, says the Lord, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the Lord (Jeremiah 29:17–19).

And to false teachers in the New Testament whose end is worse than their beginning:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20–22).

Pliable turned away from God’s Word and forsook the way of righteousness. His profession of faith was spurious. Now he is in more danger than before. He is shamed by the world, seen as weak and pitiful, viewed as a hypocrite and “turncoat.” His only hope is still the gospel, yet he is too ashamed to seek the company of those who would gladly share it with him. Instead he leers away and avoids uncomfortable confrontation.

The tragic example of Pliable teaches us the peril of shame. Shame is the stain of sin on the soul. Left unwashed it is deadly, and we are powerless to remove it. It is a stain that can only be cleansed by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Only in Christ can we find the hope and forgiveness we need. Yet shame by its very nature discourages us from looking to Christ. It wants to hide and cover itself. It keeps us downcast and resigns us to Destruction. If we are to avoid the plight of Pliable we must confess our sin and ever keep our eyes fixed upward to the cross.

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 ©2015 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Conversation with Charity

Then said Charity to Christian, Have you a family? Are you a married man?

Christian: I have a wife and four small children.

Charity: And why did you not bring them along with you?

Christian: Then Christian wept, and said, Oh, how willingly would I have done it! But they were all of them utterly averse to my going on pilgrimage.

Charity: But you should have talked to them, and have endeavored to show them the danger of being behind.

Christian: So I did; and told them also of what God had shown to me of the destruction of our city; “but I seemed to them as one that mocked,” and they did not believe me.

Charity: And did you pray to God that he would bless your counsel to them?

Christian: Yes, and that with much affection. For you must think that my wife and poor children were very dear unto me.

Charity: But did you tell them of your own sorrow, and fear of destruction? For I suppose that destruction was visible enough to you.

Christian: Yes, over, and over, and over. They might also see my fears in my countenance, in my tears, and also in my trembling under the apprehension of the judgment that did hang over our heads; but all was not sufficient to prevail with them to come with me.

Charity: But what could they say for themselves, why they did not come?

Christian: Why, my wife was afraid of losing this world, and my children were given to the foolish delights of youth. So what by one thing, and what by another, they left me to wander in this manner alone.

Charity: But did you not, with your vain life, damp all that you by words used by way of persuasion to bring them away with you?

Christian: Indeed, I cannot commend my life; for I am conscious to myself of many failings therein; I know also that a man by his conversation may soon overthrow what by argument or persuasion he does labor to fasten upon others for their good. Yet this I can say, I was very wary of giving them occasion, by any unseemly action, to make them averse to going on pilgrimage. Yea, for this very thing they would tell me I was too precise, and that I denied myself of things, for their sakes, in which they saw no evil. Nay, I think I may say, that if what they saw in me did hinder them, it was my great tenderness in sinning against God, or of doing any wrong to my neighbor.

Charity: Indeed Cain hated his brother, “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” And if your wife and children have been offended with you for this, they thereby show themselves to be implacable to good, and “you have delivered your soul from their blood.”

Charity now joins in the conversation and she begins to question Christian about his home and family. Charity represents our compassion and love for others. She is highly commended in Scripture. Paul teaches:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1, KJV).
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (1 Corinthians 13:13, KJV).

Conversation with CharityChristian arrived at House Beautiful alone and Charity voices her concern for his wife and sons. Christian tells her that his family was opposed to him going on a pilgrimage. Though he warned them “over and over and over” and tried to tell them of the danger of staying behind, they would not listen. Though he was brokenhearted, they rejected his pleas and mock his efforts to persuade them. Christian quotes from Genesis 19:14, comparing the response of his family to that of Lot’s family when he warned them to flee Sodom:

So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking (Genesis 19:14).

In the dialog between Charity and Christian, Bunyan offers some helpful lessons in how we should respond to loved-ones who reject the gospel and become offended with us who so desperately want to see them come to Christ.

1. We must pray for and plead with those we love to come to Christ, knowing that God alone can change their hearts.

Christiana was afraid of losing this world. The children were ensnared by the foolish delights of youth. Though Christian loved them, nothing he did could convince them to join him and escape Destruction. In their rejection we see the blindness and darkness of being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). They walked, as Paul describes, “in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18). Christian told them the gospel. He prayed for them. He lived before them. They could see his fears and tears for their sake, yet none of these prevailed. Their blindness was like that of Israel in the Old Testament. Israel saw the hand of God bring them out of Egypt. They saw Pharaoh’s army crushed in the sea. They saw the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, yet many died in unbelief. Even in the days when Jesus walked the earth, many heard the Savior teach and saw Him work miracles. They saw Him crucified, yet did not believe.

Our best efforts cannot break through the hardness and oppression of sin. As Bonar reminds us in the hymn Not What My Hands Have Done, “all my prayers and sighs and tears” will avail nothing without divine strength and power. We can strongly desire the salvation of those we love, but only God can change their hearts. Paul reminds us that it is God in love who triumphs over death and brings life.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).
And so, we must pray and plead, as Charity compels us, looking to God that He would do what we cannot do—that He would reach down and graciously save.

2. As we pray and plead, we must live before others in a way that commends the gospel and does not discredit it.

We must live the gospel ourselves. We must show love and be quick to repent and ready to forgive. Too easily our own sin trips us up and threatens to undo others around us. Our sin can dampen our testimony and our efforts to bring the gospel to others.
Charity asks: “But did you not, with your vain life, damp all that you by words used by way of persuasion to bring them away with you?” A hundred sound words and wise instructions can be washed away in one slip where we do not heed instruction and follow wisdom ourselves, and fail to live the gospel by repenting and asking forgiveness. We will never live before others perfectly in this life. But even our failings can strengthen our testimony when we respond to sin in right ways: confessing and owning our sin, repenting and seeking reconciliation, and loving and forgiving those who sin against us.

3. We must never give up praying for and pleading with those we love to come to Christ.

Charity commends Christian for following Christ and doing what was right, even though it made him offensive in the eyes of his loved-ones. Charity quotes from 1 John 3:12, comparing their response to that of Cain who was ensnared by “the wicked one and murdered his brother.” Christian did what was right and followed Christ, though it set him at odds with his family. The world is at enmity with God, even when that world is bound up in the hearts of those we love. Though Christian’s family was dear to him, he did not hold back his love to God in order to keep their approval. Rather, he did what was most compassionate and loving toward them. Their souls were in danger of Destruction, so he continued to warn them and plead with them to go with him.

Charity concludes with a quote from Ezekiel 3:19 reminding us of the role of a watchman:

Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul (Ezekiel 3:19).

We must stay at the wall and sound the alarm, whether our warnings are heeded or not. We must not give up, not step down, not keep quiet so not to cause offense. If the danger is real—and it is—we must continue to plead and to pray. We do not know how or when God may choose to use our testimony and answer our prayers.
Concerning Christian’s wife and sons, Bunyan relates the rest of the story in Part 2 of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Though Christian came to the end of his journey and died without seeing his family repent and come to Christ, his testimony remained. His family remembered his faith in Christ and his love for them. His prayers were, in God’s time, answered. In Part 2 Christiana and her four sons are convicted by their sin and how badly they treated Christian. They flee Destruction to follow Christ and make their own pilgrimage to the Celestial City.

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 ©2014 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.