We left Christian a prisoner in Vanity, but God, who orders all things according to His own purpose, so decreed that he was at length allowed to have his liberty again. As soon as he was liberated Christian resumed his journey towards the Celestial City, singing as he went:
Well, Faithful, thou hast faithfully professed Unto thy Lord: with Whom thou shalt be blest; When faithless ones, with all their vain delight,
Are crying out under their hellish plights, Sing, Faithful, sing; and let thy name survive, For though they killed thee, thou art yet alive!
Christian had not gone far, however, before he was joined by another man whose name was Hopeful, who had been made so by seeing the godly lives of Christian and Faithful, and hearing from their lips the glorious gospel of the grace of God. As a lost and guilty sinner, Hopeless (for that was his name at that time) received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, and was filled with hope and peace through believing. When Christian heard that another poor sinner had been brought to know Christ through his life and testimony, he was overjoyed and thanked God and took courage.
Christian and Hopeful now entered into a brotherly covenant to travel the highway of life together, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, till death should them part. We are thus introduced to another pilgrim who is to continue with Christian until the end of the journey. Truly, “God buries His workers, but He carries on His work.” From the ashes of Faithful others were raised up to take his place in the ranks of the redeemed.
This also illustrates what soul winning means. There is no joy to be compared to that which fills the heart of the Christian who realizes that God, through his life and testimony, has used him as the instrument to bring another fellow sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ. Has this ever been your happy experience, Christian reader? Do you know of anybody who is a Christian because you are one? If you have never had this unspeakable privilege and joy, seek it by all the means in your power. Let your life so speak for Christ, your lips so testify for Him, and your heart so go out to them in love and prayer, that they may be attracted to the Lord Jesus and, through the Spirit’s conviction and regeneration, be led to journey with you along the heavenward way.
This is the responsibility of every Christian, and not a favored few. The Lord commands all His own to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” This does not necessarily mean that we must all preach sermons, for all are not gifted alike; but surely all who are saved can tell others how salvation, full and free, may be their portion. A lady once asked a noted evangelist what was the best method of soul winning. His reply was, “go and do it.” There are many ways of preaching the gospel. Tract distribution is a splendid means to this end. Get some good, sound gospel tracts and distribute them carefully and prayerfully. This will be a great aid in opening a conversation on spiritual things. Hospital visitation, open air work, and personal conversations all provide opportunity for soul winning. Paul’s maxim was, “I am made all things unto all men that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Be not as the dying Christian who had to lament, “Yes, I am saved and going to heaven, but I am going empty handed, without having won one soul for Him.” The Lord Jesus had no greater joy than to do His Father’s will, and the Father’s will is that “none should perish.” Shall we not heed the words of the poet:
Go labor on, spend and be spent
Thy joy to do the Father’s will;
It is the way the Master went—
Should not the servant tread it still?
Toil on, faint not, keep watch and pray;
Be wise the erring soul to win;
Go forth into the world’s highway,
Compel the wanderer to come in.
Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice,
For toil brings rest, for exile home;
Soon shalt thou hear the Bridegroom’s voice,
The midnight peal: “Behold, I come”!
As they proceeded they overtook a man who was going before them whose name was By Ends, so they asked him who he was and where he was going. He told them he was from the town of Fairspeech and that he was going to the Celestial City, but he did not tell them his name. Then said Christian: “If you come from Fairspeech, then you come from a wealthy place.” At this By Ends smiled and replied: “O yes, and I have many rich relatives there.” When Christian asked him who his relatives were, By Ends informed him that amongst his many kindred in that place were Lord Turn-about, Lord Time-server, Lord Fairspeech (from whose ancestors that town first received its name), Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, Mr. Anything and the parson of the parish, Mr. Two-tongues. Continuing, By Ends remarked: “To tell you the truth, I am become a gentleman of good quality; yet my great-grandfather was but a boatman who looked one way while he rowed the other, and I got most of my money doing the same thing.” Then Christian inquired if he was a married man. By Ends replied that he was happily married to Lady Pretender’s daughter, and they were both agreed on two points of religion; first, they would never strive against the wind and the tide, but would always go whichever way the wind blew. Second, they would be most zealous for religion when it walked in silver slippers, and when the sun was shining, and when everyone applauded those who were religiously inclined.
When the pilgrims heard this, Christian turned aside to Hopeful and said: “I believe this man’s name is By Ends and, if it is, he is one of the worst men in these parts. He is a shame and disgrace to anyone.” Then Christian stepped up to him and inquired: “Is your name By Ends of Fairspeech?” By Ends replied: “That is not my name, but is a nickname given me, but I bear it as part of a reproach that other good men have borne before me. I got it because I had always the luck to jump in my judgment with the way of the times, and I made considerable money in this fashion.” Christian then told him in plain language exactly what he thought of him and his ways, and concluded by informing him that if he would walk with them, he must be prepared to go against the wind, the storm and the tide; and to take his stand for Christianity when all men derided those who named the name of Christ, and counted them a reproach and shame. To this By Ends would not for a moment agree, so they left him and went their way.
As By Ends stood in the middle of the road, he saw three of his old school companions coming along the path, whose names were Hold-the-world, Money-love and Save-all. They had been in school together many years before in Love-gain College in Coveting county, and their head master had been a Mr. Tight-fist who had taught them the ignoble art of gaining wealth, either by fraud, violence and flattery, but especially by putting on the mask of religion. These pupils had become so expert in this line of things that they could quite easily have set up a school for themselves! After the usual salutations were over, Mr. Money-love asked: “Who are those two men going on the road before us?” By Ends then related to them what Christian and Hopeful had said to him, and concluded by saying: “The men before us are so rigid and love so much their own notions, and so lightly esteem the opinions of others, that, let a man be never so godly, if he does not agree with them in all things, they thrust him out of their company.” “Ah,” ejaculated Save-all, “I see that they are righteous overmuch! I affirm that the person who puts on the mask of religion in order to get wealth, gets two good things. He gets religion which is good and money which is good.” This sentiment was heartily applauded by all the rest of his like-minded companions, and they moved slowly in the track of the two pilgrims.
We need not spend much time in explaining the meaning of these characters, as the speech of these four men carries its own condemnation. There are people today who are doing exactly the same thing as these men. How many there are who put on the cloak of religion and join some denomination in order to stand in well with the community where they have their business. They thus use their profession of Christianity to better themselves financially, socially and commercially. Judas, one of Christ’s own disciples did this. He pretended to be a follower of the Lord, but it was because of the bag of money he had charge of, and from which he often stole for his own benefit. His awful end and fearful doom should be a warning to others who seek to follow his example.
The Pharisees who lived in the time of our Lord sought to do this, and were unsparingly exposed and condemned by the Savior Himself in these words: “Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. For ye devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers, therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matt. 23:14). God hates sham and hypocrisy in any form and has declared: “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” (or wealth). He also reveals that “the hope of the hypocrite shall perish.” The only way to deal with such persons as By Ends and his companions is to do what Christian did, refuse to associate with such. The Bible enjoins the believer: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…but come out from among them and be separate.” The question is asked: “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” Such pious frauds should be mercilessly exposed and their company refused, lest they contaminate one’s own soul, for it is written, “evil communications corrupt good manners.”
Soon Christian and Hopeful came to a plain called Ease where they walked with much contentment but, as that plain was narrow, they quickly crossed it. As they reached the other side they saw a little hill called Lucre Hill or Money Hill, that lay right alongside the straight and narrow path. In this hill was a silver mine that had caused many to turn aside from the path in order to enrich themselves; but the ground around the edge of the mine, being loose and treacherous, had broken underneath them and caused some to be killed and others to be maimed for the rest of their lives.
As they came close to it, a man named Demas called to them and suggested that they should combine business with pleasure and turn aside from the path for a little while, and help themselves to the rich and rare treasures of the silver mine. He then went on to assure them that they would thus be enabled to spend the remainder of their journey heavenward in ease and comfort. This sounded good to Hopeful and he exclaimed: “Let us go and see!” Christian, however, put his hands upon his companion’s shoulder and said: “I have heard of this place before and of the many who have been slain; and besides, that treasure is a snare to those that seek it, for it hinders them in their pilgrimage.” With these words Christian persuaded Hopeful to reject Demas’ advice, and they continued on their way.
God’s word speaks of Money Hill, and warns the pilgrim thus—“They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness” (1 Tim. 6:9-11).
This is a very real danger in the pilgrim path. You will have noticed that it was at the end of the plain called Ease that the temptation came. It is when things are going easy with the Christian that the subtle temptation comes to set his eyes and heart on getting money until, gradually, the love of money becomes the absorbing thing of life. When the love of money fills the heart, it displaces the love of Christ; the love of reading, studying and meditating in God’s word; the love of prayer, the love of winning souls for the Savior, and the love of meeting together with God’s people. This love of money, like a cancer, eats at the root of the spiritual life and produces coldness of heart, laxity in service and barrenness of soul until the Christian loses his pilgrim character, his usefulness in Christ’s service and his own joy of salvation. He develops into a shame and disgrace to the name of Christ, and becomes a stumbling block in the way of the unsaved.
Notice that the Bible does not say that “Money is the root of all evil,” but that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Money is an excellent servant when controlled but is a terrible and tyrannical master when it dominates the soul. The Lord Jesus addressed Himself to such as follows: “Thou sayest thou art rich and increased with goods and hast need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked. I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Rev. 3:17-18).
Beware of the lust of wealth, for it ruins the believer’s life of communion with the Lord. The love of Christ and the love of wealth can never occupy the same heart. It is far better to be poor in this world’s riches and be rich towards God, than vice versa. Money has been well described as “a universal provided for everything but happiness, and a universal passport to every place except heaven.” The Lord Jesus said: “Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” God will see to it that all the needs of His children will be met. His promise is: “God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” If any Christian reader feels that his money is running away with him, let him speedily get rid of some to support some servants of Christ in far off needy fields with the gospel, or to alleviate some necessity that is near at hand. God will be no man’s debtor and the Christian’s investment shall return in the way of blessing to his own soul, with interest compounded a hundredfold!
When By Ends and his companions arrived at Money Hill, and heard the invitation from Demas, they rushed towards the mine without a moment’s hesitation. Whether they fell into the pit, or went down to dig, or were smothered by the foul gases at the bottom, John Bunyan does not tell us but he adds: “This I observed, they were never seen again in the pathway.”
Presently the pilgrims came to a place where a monument stood which immediately aroused their curiosity. It looked as though it had been a woman transformed into a pillar. As they stood before it, Hopeful spied some handwriting on the head of the statue and Christian read out the words which were these: “Remember Lot’s wife.” Then Christian realized that this was the pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife had been turned as she looked back while fleeing from the city of Sodom. Let us recall the story and lay to heart the lesson in these three significant words: “Remember Lot’s wife!”
Lot was the nephew of Abraham and they both dwelt in the land of Canaan, where each had large herds of cattle. The time came, however, when they must part, for there was strife between the herdsmen of Abraham’s cattle, and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. Accordingly Abraham said to Lot: “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Lot then looked around and, seeing the well watered plain of Jordan, chose this for himself and Abraham went the other way. In this plain of Jordan was a wicked city called Sodom, and soon Lot moved into this city and reared a family there.
After some years, the wickedness of this city became so great that God determined He would destroy it with fire from heaven; but before He did so, He sent two angels into the city to warn Lot and his family of its impending doom so that they might escape. Lot, in turn, sought to warn his sons-in-law of their danger, but they paid no attention to him. At last the two angels took Lot and his wife and two daughters, brought them to the gate of the city and said: “Escape for thy life! Look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain! Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed!” Thus commanded they began to flee from the doomed city, but Lot’s wife, who loved Sodom with its wickedness, defied the angels’ words and turned to look back, no doubt with a longing desire to re-enter the city where her heart really lived. God, that moment, came in judgment upon her and turned her into a pillar of salt. Many years afterward the Lord Jesus, turning to His audience, exclaimed solemnly: “Remember Lot’s wife!”
There are three things we shall do well to remember about Lot’s wife. The first is, remember her privileges. These were threefold. First, she was related to a righteous man, whose “soul was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked,” but this did not save her. The fact that a person is related to a child of God does not save that individual. Each person must be saved individually through faith in the finished work of Christ, and acceptance of Him as his own Savior. To be a child of Christian parents is indeed a great privilege, but it carries with it no guarantee of salvation. Perhaps some person reading this has parents who are on the way to heaven, while he is still traversing the broad downward part to hell. Perhaps some wife is a child of God while the husband is still a child of wrath. How sad to think of being related to a child of God and then lost eternally!
Second, think of the privilege of being warned by two angels sent down from heaven! Yet, in spite of this, she was lost. God warns the unsaved in this day by something far more authoritative than angels. He warns by His own word, the Bible, and bids the sinner to “flee from the wrath to come”! He furthermore “commands all men everywhere to repent.” Has the reader heeded these and many other warnings; or have you, like Lot’s wife, allowed them to pass unheeded?
Third, she knew the way to be saved and yet she perished in her sins. It is possible for one to memorize verses in the Bible that may make the way of salvation plain, and yet be lost. It is far better never to have known God’s way of salvation than to know it and neglect, reject or despise it. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation.” Let the example of Lot’s wife be a warning to any who know how to be saved and yet are not saved.
Next, remember her sin, the sin of unbelief. She heard the warning voice of the angels, but proved she did not believe them by her disobedience to their command. Unbelief is the damning sin and causes thousands of souls to be eternally lost. Many realize that they are sinners and, as such, are under God’s condemnation. They have heard of a Savior’s love and of His death for their sins on Calvary’s cross. They have heard that all who will believe on Him and receive Him as their own Savior will be eternally saved. Yet they still linger in their sins and trifle with the proffered mercy and grace of God! What keeps them in this position? Unbelief! Unbelief stands between them and God. If any reader is in such a condition, mark well the words: “Remember Lot’s wife!”
Last, remember her doom. She perished in the destruction of that on which she had set her heart. All her treasure was in Sodom, a picture of this world, and when Sodom perished, she perished with it. One day, we know not when, the Lord Jesus is to be “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Woe unto those, in that day, who are living for this world alone. There are many like Lot’s wife, whose god is fashion, fancy, pleasure, power, sport and money. Their life is centered upon the passing things of this world. Although warned of the fate of one who did the same thing yet they go on, heedless, careless and godless; until the time comes when, upon a death bed, they seek to flee from the wrath they richly deserve. They attempt to disentangle their minds from that which has occupied them all their lives but, in their weak and dying condition, they realize, too late, that there is no escape for those who neglect so great salvation. Before they are awake, their poor Christless souls have passed into a Christless eternity, where there is endless weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Thus they perish, victims of their own mad folly and wilful rejection of God’s great salvation. Well may each unsaved reader weigh carefully and soberly the meaning of these three intensely solemn words: “Remember Lot’s wife!”