As the pilgrims walked together and conversed, they presently perceived a tall man ahead of them who looked better at a distance than he did near at hand. This man’s name was Talkative. As they drew up to him, Faithful asked him if he was going to the heavenly country, to which Talkative replied, “I am going to that same place.” They then entered into a conversation, which we have not space here to record, but which is very interesting and instructive. Faithful at first was greatly taken with him, for Talkative lived up to his name. He was a great talker on any subject, but when Faithful asked Christian in private what he thought of their new companion he replied, “This man is just a talker. Remember the proverb, ‘They say and do not,’ but the Scriptures declare that ‘the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.’ He talks of prayer, of repentance, of faith and of the new birth; but he knows only to talk of them. I know his family and have observed him both at home and abroad and what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of Christianity as the white of an egg is of taste; for in it there is neither prayer, nor sign of repentance of sin. He is a stain, reproach and shame on Christianity to all who know him! Scarcely can a good word be said of him through all that end of the town where he dwells. The common people that know him say of him that he is ‘a saint abroad, and a devil at home’!” In these few but pointed words, Christian correctly described Talkative; and Faithful, after another very interesting conversation with him, exposed him as a mere professor of Christianity without the real possession of Christ as his Savior.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of Talkatives still living today who pose as believers and who can talk glibly of Scriptural truths without ever having experienced the power of them in their lives. These “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.” Such persons are merely mouth Christians. All their religion is in their head, and they are only Christians from the teeth outwards! They are all lip with no life to back it up. They are all believe, but with no attempt to behave the gospel. They are all position, but no condition. They are all standing and no state.
It is this kind of person who does more harm to Christianity than all the infidels in the world. A wise man once remarked, “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” Each Christian is an open book that all the world can read, and the world is a good critic of what a true Christian should be. Paul had to write concerning certain ones, whose lives were so different from what they professed, that “the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles” through them (Rom. 2:21-24). Does the world see the Lord Jesus in our lives? It has been well put thus:
You are living a gospel,
A chapter each day
By deeds that you do,
By words that you say;
Men read what you live,
Whether faithless or true-Say,
what is the gospel
According to you?
As Faithful chanced to look back, he saw Evangelist coming towards them who, when he came up to them, greeted them warmly and inquired of their experiences since they had lost the burden of their sins. Accordingly Christian and Faithful recounted all that had befallen them on the way, of their sorrows and joys, their victories and defeats. The recital of these things brought great joy to Evangelist and he exclaimed, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth!” He then encouraged them to go on for the Lord until the end of the journey was reached.
Evangelist now warned them of what should befall them as they continued on the heavenly highway. He told them that they would presently come to a town through which they must pass and, as they passed through it, they would be subjected to temptation, persecution, shame and tribulation, and that one of them would be killed and thus seal his testimony with his own blood. Evangelist would not tell them which one would thus lay down his life, but he continued: “He that shall die there, though his death will be unnatural and his pain perhaps great; yet he will have the better of his fellow, because he will be arrived at the Celestial City soonest.” Then their friend exhorted them to “quit themselves like men,” and urged them to give a good ringing testimony to the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus Christ and to “commit the keeping of their souls to God, as unto a faithful Creator.” They then knelt down and commended each other to the Lord in prayer.
Christian and Faithful now addressed themselves to their journey, thinking much about Evangelist’s words to them. Presently, away ahead of them, they saw the outlines of a great city called Vanity. The history of this city was as follows. When Satan saw that the way to the Celestial City lay through this valley, he built this great city right over the path, so that every Christian had either to go through his city, or else go out of the world. In this place he organized a great fair that never ceased day or night. At this fair all sorts of things were displayed for sale which appealed to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life of all people. Here were sold such things as houses, lands, honors, popularity, pomp, fashion, pleasure, treasure, power, titles, lusts, wine and revellings of all kinds. Here men and women bartered their souls for the vanities of this present evil world. This fair was called Vanity-Fair, and it received its name from the fact that Solomon, the richest and wisest of natural man, after he had sampled all its dainties and pleasures had left it declaring: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”
Satan’s main object in building the town was to get Christians to forget that they were “strangers and pilgrims in the world,” and become so occupied with the vanities he displayed that they would lose their pilgrim character. Thus, instead of passing straight through, they would linger and, by and by, take up their residence in his town and be robbed of their joy in the Lord, their usefulness in the service of God and their effectiveness against himself.
Vanity-Fair, of course, is simply a picture of this world which God’s Word describes as “lying in the arms of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19) and which has Satan as its god (2 Cor. 4:4). By the word “world” God does not mean the beautiful world of nature, token of the creative power of the Son of God. Nor does it mean the people of the world which are loved by God. When the Bible speaks of the world, it means the present order of things that obtains in the world; in other words, the world-system. It has been well defined as “those persons, places, pleasures, and pursuits from which God is left out.” This is the world concerning which the believer is enjoined: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15-16).
As the pilgrims approached they heard the noises of the city: the ribald laughter of the worldling; the cries and tears of those who had been robbed, the music and songs of the lustful, and the shouting of those who were selling vanities. This caused them to pray to the Lord for strength to enable them so to live that “men should take note of them, that they had been with Jesus.” They then entered the city and immediately became the center of attraction for three reasons. First, their clothes were entirely different from those worn by the people who traded at the fair. This caused the townsfolk to have various opinions concerning them. Some said that they were fools; others affirmed that they were mad; while others declared that they must be foreigners. Second, their manner of speech was distinct from the language spoken by the inhabitants of Vanity. The pilgrims spoke the language of Canaan, and of the things touching their Lord and Master, so that it seemed as though they spake another tongue. Third, the pilgrims set no value upon the things that were offered them. In spite of all their inducements to get them to buy, they consistently refused to have anything whatever to do with any of the vanities offered them. Instead, they placed their fingers in their ears to shut out the noise and din and, looking up to heaven cried, “Turn away our eyes from beholding vanity.” Thus the pilgrims showed to the people of Vanity that they were indeed “strangers and pilgrims in the world”—strangers, because they were away from home, and pilgrims, because they were going home.
John Bunyan has given us a striking illustration of the effect of a godly and consistent Christian life upon the world, by means of the character, speech and conduct of the child of God. The clothes, of course, speak of the righteous character with which every Christian should be clothed. He should be honorable, righteous and truthful in his dealings with the world—and this will always distinguish him from this “crooked and perverse generation among whom he shines as a light in the world.”
Then again, his speech should be different from that of the world. The world loves to talk about its own things: its politics, fashions, scandal, sport, business, pleasures and lusts. But the child of God loves to “speak of the things touching the King,” and to talk of the dealings of God with him, and of the love and grace of the blessed Lord Jesus. It is written: “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name” (Mal. 3:16). Paul’s injunction to the believer is “let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” We need to remember that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” The speech is the evidence of the condition of the heart and is the barometer of the soul.
The most significant thing, however, is the fact that Christian and Faithful refused to patronize the vanities offered them in the fair. Here the conduct of the Christian is in view. This is what the world notices the most in the life of the believer. John Bunyan puts it thus: “They set very light by all their wares.” The Christian is a citizen of another country, for “his citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). In Titus 2:11-12 we read: “The grace of God, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.” Though it costs nothing to become a Christian, yet it costs the world to be one. A young woman once approached an old Christian, whose face was aglow with the peace of God and of a joy that was unspeakable, and exclaimed, “I would give the world to have your Christian experience!” The old Christian calmly replied, “That is just what it cost me.”
No Christian can enjoy the world and Christ. He must either have the world or Christ. The phrase, “a worldly minded Christian,” is as great an anomaly as a “heavenly minded Devil.” The Lord Jesus said of those who had believed on Him: “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:14-15). Thus the Christian pilgrim is known and recognized by these three characteristics: a righteous and godly character; a sound and gracious speech; and an unworldly, self-denying and God-glorifying manner of life. Let us, who claim to be Christians, ask ourselves if these things are true of us. If this is so, then the world will recognize that we are what we claim to be, Christ’s ones, or Christians.
This attitude of the pilgrims roused the anger of some and one man mockingly asked: “What will ye buy?” They replied: “We buy the truth.” This caused them to be despised the more and from mocking they went to taunting, and from taunting to threatening, until at length a great stir was caused in the fair. This aroused the attention of the ruler of that place who came down to see the cause of this confusion. When he heard that Christian and Faithful had refused to have anything to do with his dainties and vanities, he ordered them to be examined by the magistrate. Though the pilgrims declared that they had given no occasion to any of the merchantmen to abuse them, except to say that they would buy the truth, yet their word was not accepted. They were accordingly smeared with dirt and placed in an iron cage in the center of the town, there to be a spectacle to the world and to angels and men.
In this cage they remained for some time, and were the objects of the ridicule, scorn, sport and malice of the people of Vanity-Fair. But to all the ill treatment they received, they replied with not a word of abuse. They returned blessing for cursing, giving good words in return for revilings, and good deeds in return for the ill treatment they received. They told the very ones who treated them worst of the love of God for them, and of the gift of His dear Son to put away their sins and deliver them from the consequences of their guilt. When the townsfolk saw this, some of the most observing began to take the part of Christian and Faithful when others would have injured them. This caused a fight to take place between those who sided with the pilgrims and those who wanted to persecute them. The news of this riot caused the pilgrims to be again examined, and this time they were placed in irons and beaten and then marched up and down through the streets for an example and terror to others. But again Christian and his companion so conducted themselves that still more people were aroused to sympathy for them. When the ruler of Vanity perceived this, he determined to put them to death and thus end their influence.
Accordingly, they were again brought before the court, which was presided over by Judge Hategood, and charged with the crime of being enemies of the town of Vanity and of Satan their lord. When the charge was read, Faithful replied that he was a man of peace, and that those who had been won to their cause were won by their manner of life, and thus turned from the worse to the better. He concluded by saying: “As to the king you talk of since he is Beelzebub, the enemy of our Lord, I defy him and all his angels!”
The witnesses for the prosecution were then called and three men stepped forward. Their names were Envy, Superstition and Pickthank or Parasite. Envy testified that the prisoners were vile men, and that they neither regarded the Prince of the city, nor his people, laws and customs; but sought to teach them other laws and principles, such as faith and holiness. He further testified that he had heard the accused say that Christianity and the customs of Vanity were entirely different from each other, and could never be reconciled. Superstition then testified that he had heard them affirm that the religion of Vanity could never please God, and that those who held it worshipped in vain, were yet in their sins, and would finally be damned if they died in that condition. Finally Parasite was called, and informed the Judge that he had heard the accused speak disrespectfully of the nobility of the town, such as Lord Old-Man, Lord Carnal-Delight, Lord Luxurious, Lord Desire-of-Vain-Glory and other of the high citizens of Vanity, and had even alluded to Lord Hategood as an ungodly villain. This aroused the judge to a high degree of fury, and he shouted to Faithful, “Thou runagate, heretic and traitor, hast thou heard what these honest gentlemen have witnessed against thee?”
Then Faithful manfully addressed himself to the judge as follows: “In answer to Mr. Envy, I never said anything but this: that what rules, laws, customs or people were against the word of God were therefore opposite to Christianity. If I have said wrong in this, convince me of my error. In regard to Superstition I said only this: that in the worship of God there is required a Divine faith, and 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 Divine revelation is but by a human faith, which faith will not be profitable to eternal life. As to what Mr. Parasite hath said, I say again that the prince of this town, with all the rabblement and his attendants by the 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 the jury whose names were Blind-Man, No-Good, Malice, Love-lust, Live-loose, Heady, High-mind, Enmity Liar, Cruelty, Hatelight and Implacable. He charged them to render their verdict as to the guilt of the accused. With one consent the jury declared them guilty, and accordingly Judge Hategood savagely condemned them to death by the most cruel method that could be devised. For some reason the sentence against Christian was not executed; but Faithful was taken and, after being brutally beaten, was severely stoned. He was afterwards dragged to the marketplace where he was fastened to a stake, around which were piled heaps of wood. Then, amid the blasphemies and derisive yells of the populace, Faithful was burned to death.
As Christian stood looking upon the form of his beloved companion enveloped with flames, he saw something that none of the wicked mob perceived. As he looked up, he noticed a little gate opening in heaven. Through this gate came a beautiful golden chariot drawn by two horses, and driven by an angel, in whose hand was a crown. As he watched, he saw the chariot descend until it reached the foot of the stake to which Faithful was fastened. As the charred and lifeless form of the martyr fell on the chains that bound it, the spirit of Faithful entered the chariot. At this, the angel placed the crown upon him saying: “Thou hast been faithful unto death; behold, I give thee a crown of life!” The chariot then ascended higher and higher until the gate of heaven opened to admit it. As it did so, a gleam of the glory from that beautiful city shone right upon the upturned face of Christian, and this glimpse made him homesick for heaven ever after. Thus Faithful entered into that glorious place to enjoy the presence of the Lord Jesus for all eternity, and Christian was left alone in the city of Vanity. By this act Faithful sealed his testimony for Christ with his own blood, and was added to that innumerable company of martyrs who loved not their lives unto death, and of whom this world is not worthy.
The lesson for us is obvious. The world is still unchanged in its attitude towards those who live for Christ. As in the long ago the world crucified its Creator and shouted: “Away with Him, we will not have this Man to reign over us!”; so, in this present day and age, all “who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The world loves its own, but hates the one who, by his godly life and faithful testimony, takes his stand against it and its treasures, vanities, policies, power and pleasures. The age of physical persecution has, to a great extent, passed, and one is not likely to be killed for the testimony of Christ. Nevertheless the offence of the Cross is not ceased, and the opposition of the world will soon be felt by the one who seeks to live for his Lord and Master. It may cost the believer his health, wealth and life as it did Faithful; but the “well done, thou good and faithful servant” of the Master will more than compensate for the toil, self-denial and suffering of the way. Would that every born-again child of God who reads these pages could truthfully exclaim from the heart:
Take the world, but give me Jesus:
All its joys are but a name,
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
Take the world but give me Jesus;
Let me see His constant smile.
Then throughout my pilgrim’s journey,
Light will cheer me all the while.
One word to the unsaved reader. How is it with you? If you are not for Christ, you are against Him. If you are not living for Christ, you are living for the world that despised, rejected and crucified Him. Are you content to live with your back turned to the God who loves you; with your heart shut to the Savior who died for you, with your will resisting the Spirit of God who strives with you; and with your mind rejecting the word of God that can alone bring the light of the gospel into your sin benighted soul? Wake up, ere it be everlastingly too late! Come in all your sins and need to the blessed Son of God. Receive Him as your Savior and confess Him as your Lord. Then live for Him in the world in such a way that, like the pilgrim’s, your life shall tell for Christ. God will then use your testimony to be the means of leading others to know, love and serve His beloved Son.