THE LIFE AND LITERAURE OF JOHN BUNYAN
The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that Which is to Come;
Faithful and Vanity Fair
After passing through the dark and dangerous Valley of the Shadow of Death, Christian overtakes Faithful, also a former citizen of the City of Destruction. This lesson is a character study of the life and pilgrimage of Faithful, a man who is forever remembered because of his association with the town, Vanity Fair.
1: Fellowship with Faithful
Christian is clearly excited to be meeting a fellow pilgrim, his journey to this point having been taken alone. Bunyan describes the pilgrim running, passing Faithful in so doing, then falling to the ground while his new companion helped him to his feet. After this Bunyan describes them as having “sweet discourse”. The author had suffered horribly for his faith, and often alone. He would have valued greatly Christian company as we all must.
As Faithful talks to Christian it becomes apparent that he has met different people and had different experiences even though he walked the same path. There are not two believers with identical experiences, yet we all benefit by sharing our individual testimonies.
While Faithful was not troubled by The Slough of Despond, he did meet beyond this place, a woman called Wanton. She offered him “carnal and fleshly content” which he resisted through recalling the words of Scripture, “her steps take hold on hell” (Proverbs 5:5). The lure of immoral behaviour continues to be a temptation, which we all must guard against.
At the foot of the Hill Difficulty he met Adam the First from the town of Deceit. He promised his three daughters to Faithful, who were called the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes and the Pride of Life, if he would come and be his servant. Faithful was inclined to follow this man until he saw the words written on his forehead “Put off the old man with his deeds.” Likewise, the old man, our fleshly nature continues to assault us with all manner of allurements.
When walking up the hill, Faithful was then assaulted by a violent opponent who attacked him. Another passed by with holes in his hands who made the protagonist desist from his beatings. The attacker was Moses because the law pummels us, finding us guilty, condemning us to death. But then Christ comes pleading the merits of his sacrifice bringing his grace to the soul.
At this point Christian and Faithful meet another who is travelling on the same path. His name is Talkative and he can discuss spiritual matters with a high degree of understanding. Christian quietly warns Faithful as to the kind of person Talkative is:
“Deceived you may be sure of it; remember the proverb, ‘They say and do not’ (Matthew 23:3). But ‘the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power’ (1st Corinthians 4:20). He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them.”
When Faithful them attempted to challenge Talkative about his own personal experience the man “blushed”, grew uncomfortable and then bade them “adieu”. We must be on the alert for people like Talkative who can talk much but their life and character and personal experience do not match their profession. More importantly we must ensure ourselves that we are more than talk!
2: Suffering with Faithful
At this juncture their old friend and mentor Evangelist reappears. While he encouraged the two pilgrims for their victorious march, he warned them they were not yet out of the “gunshot” of the devil. As a preparation for the next chapter of their journey he told them that “you must through many tribulations, enter into the kingdom of heaven”.
The path now led the pilgrims into the town called “Vanity Fair”. Many believe that John Bunyan modelled his famous town of sin upon the fairs that were commonplace in England. They were notorious as places of sin, where the Christian would be totally out of place.
He describes Vanity Fair as a town in character where everything that was sold and produced within its streets as being “lighter than vanity”; devoid of substance.
Historically Vanity Fair had been erected 5,000 years earlier by “Beelzebub, Apollyon and Legion”, to ensnare pilgrims bound for the Celestial City. This is a place where robbery, murder, adultery and lying is common place. Among the merchandise sold are houses, lands, honours, preferments as well as whores, lives, bodies and souls. Therefore, Bunyan describes it as a “lusty fair”.
In design the fair is divided into rows which are named after countries; Britain Row, French Row, Spanish Row, Italian Row. The wares of Rome are on display, although not in Britain Row, according to the author, reflecting post Reformation England. Nevertheless, it is apparent that Protestant England had her own brand of sin to flaunt.
The relationship that Christian and Faithful had with Vanity Fair was in keeping with society and how it viewed the Puritans, especially the Non- Conformists in mid-17th Century England. Christian and Faithful were separate in their dress and their language. They also had no interest in what Vanity Fair had to offer. So, it should be for the believer today. We must travel through this world on our way to glory. Yet, it should be apparent that we are separate and have a totally different agenda than the men and women of the world.
Eventually Christian and Faithful were attacked by the citizens of Vanity Fair and challenged as to their identity. Regarding them as mad for their testimony that they were going to their own country which was a heavenly one, the pilgrims were imprisoned within a cage.
After some time, they were brought before the court of Lord Hate-good. The witnesses called included Envy and Superstition. They maintained that Faithful was “one of the vilest men of our country” and “that he is a very pestilent fellow”. The jury considered the case. Their names were Mr Malice, Mr Love-lust, Mr Live-loose, Mr Heady, Mr High-mind, Mr Enmity, Mr Liar, Mr Cruelty, Mr Hate-light and Mr Implacable.
These names relate to a society with no moral restraints and who detested these pilgrims because their lifestyle condemned their own. The curse of living for pleasure is the craze of this age, and men hate those who live by biblical standards.
The trial and the sufferings of Faithful and Christian were a presentation of the sufferings of Non-Conformists in Bunyan’s day. For example, these men were held in irons. In Carlisle Dorothy Waugh and Ann Robinson were dragged through the streets with an iron instrument called a bridle upon their heads. Their only crime was for attending a Church that was outside the Church of England.
How grateful we must be for our Gospel liberties!
3: Separation from Faithful
The Jury condemned Faithful and sentenced him to death. Bunyan movingly tells the story of his final moments:
“They, therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their law; and , first, they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; and that, they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords; and last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus came Faithful to his end.
Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude, a chariot and a couple of horses, waiting for Faithful, who was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate.”
Christian being left on his own in the prison, managed to escape. At first appearance it seems that he is alone again, having lost his companion. Amazingly he does not leave Vanity Fair alone. One by the name of Hopeful, being attracted to the pilgrimage by the testimony of Faithful and Christian, decides to abandon Vanity Fair:
“Thus, one died to bear testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes, to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage.”