The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/pilgrims-progress-study-7-vanity-fair/
Christian and By-Ends
- Why do you think Christian and Hopeful immediately meet By-ends and his friends, after leaving Vanity Fair? How do these people differ from, and how are they the same as the people of Vanity Fair?
- Why is Mr. By-ends rich?
- When is By-ends willing to be religious? (Btw, for Bunyan “religion” has no bad overtones. He simply means being a Christian.)
- Look through the book of Amos: Amos is prophesying against a wealthy group of people who seem to hold to outward religion, and yet will only be for any sort of religion as long as it profits them:
It is easy for the rich and happy to believe that they have divine approval. What better assurance could they have than the pleasure and power in which they stand? In these secure ones the nation felt itself not only prosperous but divinely favored. Since they are conscious of representing the country, interference with them and their pursuits would be interfering with the country’s welfare. To disturb their order is to disturb the social order. To criticize their religion is to prove oneself a heretic and a blasphemer. God is on the side of those in power (they think), and so to the security of financial and political position the leading people of Amos’ day added the comforting conviction that they were Jehovah’s chosen people—chosen to be thus superior and secure.
Amos, Prophet of a New Order, Lindsay B. Longacre, 1921.
- How does By-ends explain himself to Christian? What sort of “luck” does he have? What are his goals?
- What does Christian tell By-ends he must do if he will go with Christian and Hopeful? How does By-ends respond? Note carefully the language used by By-ends (“You must not impose nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you.”). Consider this exchange between Christian and By-ends: how would this look in “real life”?
- What is the characteristic of those who do make company with By-ends? How do they understand Christian and Hopeful? How do they make decisions? (Remember where this conversation is taking place in the story — immediately after Vanity Fair. Now, consider, what might this conversation look like within the Church?
- Consider Luke 6:20-26.
- How do the companions of By-ends dress up their talk of coveting? 10. Consider your own heart: While you may not be as blatant as By-ends and his friends, are there places or times where you find yourself threatened with such compromise?
- Thomas Brooks: “The reason why men doat upon the world, and damn their souls to get the world is, because they are not acquainted with a greater glory.” Precious, Dev. 1, Rem. 6.
- Brooks says that one reason people fall into sin is that they look to the difficulty of those who profess Christ consistently and truly. Brooks provides 6 “remedies” to this thought:
First, Though they are outwardly poor, yet the are inwardly rich….Though saints have litte in hand, yet they have much in hope.
Second, God has had some in all ages who have been great in this world.
Third, Spiritual riches are better: “The riches of poor saints are durable; they will bed and board with them; they will to the prison, to a sickbed, to a grace, yea, to heaven with them.”
Fourth, their present appearance is not truly who they are.
Fifth, “That it will be but as a day before these poor despised saints shall sine brighter than the sun in his glory.”
Sixth, look to the end.
- What are the reasons that Money-Love gives for ministers moving with times and being compliant to the culture. Consider this language from City Church (previously a PCA church):
Our pastoral practice of demanding life-long “celibacy”, by which we meant that for the rest of your life you would not engage your sexual orientation in any way, was causing obvious harm and has not led to human flourishing
- As you read through Money-Loves discussion, consider Thomas Brook’s note that we can be led to sin by “painting sin with virtue’s colors.” As a remedy, Brooks writes,
Remedy (3). To look on sin with that eye [with] which within a few hours we shall see it. Ah, souls! when you shall lie upon a dying bed, and stand before a judgment-seat, sin shall be unmasked, and its dress and robes shall then be taken off, and then it shall appear more vile, filthy, and terrible than hell itself; then, that which formerly appeared most sweet will appear most bitter, and that which appeared most beautiful will appear most ugly, and that which appeared most delightful will then appear most dreadful to the soul. Ah, the shame, the pain, the gall, the bitterness, the horror, the hell that the sight of sin, when its dress is taken off, will raise in poor souls! Sin will surely prove evil and bitter to the soul when its robes are taken off. A man may have the stone who feels no fit of it. Conscience will work at last, though for the present one may feel no fit of accusation. Laban shewed himself at parting. Sin will be bitterness in the latter end, when it shall appear to the soul in its own filthy nature. The devil deals with men as the panther doth with beasts; he hides his deformed head till his sweet scent hath drawn them into his danger. Till we have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when we have sinned, he is a tyrant. O souls! the day is at hand when the devil will pull off the paint and garnish that he hath put upon sin, and present that monster, sin, in such a monstrous shape to your souls, that will cause your thoughts to be troubled, your countenance to be changed, the joints of your loins to be loosed, and your knees to be dashed one against another, and your hearts to be so terrified, that you will be ready, with Ahithophel and Judas, to strangle and hang your bodies on earth, and your souls in hell, if the Lord hath not more mercy on you than he had on them. Oh! therefore, look upon sin now as you must look upon it to all eternity, and as God, conscience, and Satan will present it to you another day!
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 17.
- How does Christian respond to the By-ends crew when they confront him? What reasons does he give for his rejection of their “religion”?
- What does Christian finally pronounce upon them? What time frame does Christian use to evaluate their conduct? How do we remember — as a practical matter — to put all things into an eternal time frame.
They that can be contented with a little, are most likely to be true to God and conscience. They can better suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, and other troubles for the gospel: Acts 20:24, ‘None of these things move me;’ that is, made no great opposition and perturbation in his mind. It is no strange thing to them when trials come. They can part with all things under the sun, rather than quit their duty to Christ; for temptations have lost their force when worldly desires and lusts are mortified. They withered in persecution that received the good seed for a time, Mark 4:17. When religion carries one way, and the world another, then farewell religion for the world’s sake. When Christ had spoken so much of the cross, then Judas turneth apostate. When Demas saw the world went on otherways, he forsook Paul, 2 Tim. 4:10. When Christ told the young man of parting with all, he went away sad, Mark 10:22. If heaven cost so dear, it is no pennyworth for him. So men will come into no danger or trouble for Christ, because they are not contented with a little.
Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 2, Sermon on 1 Timothy 6:8, (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), 313–314.
Demas and the Plain of Ease:
- What is the danger of Ease?
- Who is Demas? Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:10. What caused Demas to fail?
- Who is Gehazi?
- How do they escape Demas?
- What happens to By-ends and companions when they come to Demas?
- Who is Lot’s wife? Genesis 19:17 & 23-26.
- J.C. Ryle, A Woman to be Remembered:
The history of the sin which Lot’s wife committed, is given by the Holy Spirit in few and simple words: “She looked back from behind her husband, and she became a pillar of salt.” We are told no more than this. There is a naked solemnity about the history. The sum and substance of her transgression lies in these three words: “She looked back.”
Does that sin seem small in the eyes of any reader of this message? Does the fault of Lot’s wife appear a trifling one — to be visited with such a punishment? This is the feeling, I dare say, that rises in some hearts. Give me your attention while I reason with you on the subject. There was far more in that look than strikes you at first sight — it implied far more than it expressed. Listen, and you shall hear.
That look was a little thing — but it revealed the true character of Lot’s wife. Little things will often show the state of a man’s mind, even better than great ones; and little symptoms are often the signs of deadly and incurable diseases. The apple that Eve ate was a little thing — but it proved that she had fallen from innocence and become a sinner. A crack in an arch seems a little thing; but it proves that the foundation is giving way, and the whole fabric is unsafe. A little cough in a morning seems an unimportant ailment; but it is often an evidence of failing in the constitution and leads on to decline, consumption and death. A straw may show which way the wind blows — and one look may show the rotten condition of a sinner’s heart (Matthew 5:28).
That look was a little thing — but it told of disobedience in Lot’s wife. The command of the angel was clear and unmistakable: “Look not behind you” (Genesis 19:17). This command Lot’s wife refused to obey. But the Holy Spirit says that “to obey is better than sacrifice,” and that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam. 15:22, 23). When God speaks plainly by His Word, or by His messengers, man’s duty is clear.
That look was a little thing — but it told of proud unbelief in Lot’s wife. She seemed to doubt whether God was really going to destroy Sodom: she appeared not to believe there was any danger or any need for such a hasty flight. But without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The moment a man begins to think he knows better than God, and that God does not mean anything when He threatens — his soul is in great danger. When we cannot see the reason of God’s dealings — our duty is to hold our peace and believe.
That look was a little thing — but it told of secret love of the world in Lot’s wife. Her heart was in Sodom, though her body was outside. She had left her affections behind when she fled from her home. Her eye turned to the place where her treasure was — as the compass needle turns to the pole. And this was the crowning point of her sin. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). “If any man loves the world — the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
This aspect of our subject deserves special attention; let us focus our minds and hearts upon it. I believe it to be the part to which the Lord Jesus particularly intends to direct us. I believe He would have us observe that Lot’s wife was lost by looking back to the world. Her profession was at one time fair and specious — but she never really gave up the world. She seemed at one time in the road to safety — but even then the lowest and deepest thoughts of her heart were for the world. The immense danger of worldliness is the grand lesson which the Lord Jesus means us to learn. Oh, that we may all have an eye to see and a heart to understand!
I believe there never was a time when warnings against worldliness were so much needed by the church of Christ as they are at the present day. Every age is said to have its own peculiar epidemic disease; the epidemic disease to which the souls of Christians are liable just now — is the love of the world. It is a pestilence that walks in darkness, and a sickness that destroys at noonday. It “has cast down many wounded; yes, many strong men have been wounded by it!” I would sincerely raise a warning voice and try to arouse the slumbering consciences of all who make a profession of religion. I would sincerely cry aloud, “Remember the sin of Lot’s wife!” She was no murderess, no adulteress, no thief; but she was a professor of religion, and she looked back!
- What lessons to Hopeful & Christian draw from Demas and Lot’s Wife? What does he mean by the reference to pick-pockets?
The River of God
- Why does the River of God come after Demas & the Plain of Ease?
- What does this look like in this life?
APPENDIX: A Comparison of Thomas Watson’s The Great Gain of Godliness & Pilgrim’s Progress
Commenting on Malachi 3:16-17, particularly the clause, “Then they that feared the LORD spake often to on another”, Thomas Watson wrote:
The profaneness of the times should not slacked but heighten our zeal. The looser others are, the stricter we should be….The more outrageous others are in sin, the more courageous we shoud be for truth. (The Great Gain of Godliness)
But why should we be so? Watson gives two reasons:
- Because of the divine injunction….AS God’s Word is our rule, so his will is our warrant.
- To be holiest in evil times is an indication of the truth of grace.
Watson then gives two applications to this proposition.
Use 1. See hence how unworthy they are of the name of Christians, who use sinful compliance, and cut the garment of their religion according to the mode and fashion of the times. They do not consult what is best—but what is safest. Complying spirits can truckle to the desires of others; they can bow either to the East or to the West; they prefer a whole skin before a pure conscience. They can, with the planet Mercury, vary their motion; they can, as the mariner, shift their sail with every wind and, as the mongrel Israelites, speak the language of both Canaan and Ashdod. These are like the Samaritans of whom Josephus says, when the Jews flourished they pretended to he akin to them—but when the Jews were persecuted, they disclaimed kindred with them. The old serpent has taught men crooked windings, and to be for that religion which does not have truth on its side—but worldly power.
Use 2. Let us keep up the vigor of our zeal, in degenerate times. We should by a holy contrariness—burn hotter in a frozen age. We live in the dregs of time; sin is grown common and impudent. It is excellent to walk contrary to the world, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world!” (Romans 12:2). Let us be as lilies and roses among the briars. Sin is never the better, because it is in fashion! Nor will this plea hold at the last day—that we did as the most did. God will say, Seeing you sinned with the multitude—you shall go to hell with the multitude! Oh, let us keep pure among the dregs; let us be like fish that retain their freshness in salt waters; and as that lamp which shone in the smoking furnace (Gen. 15:17).
John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress gives us a wonderful example of Watson’s “complying spirits”. After Christian leaves from Vanity Fair in the company of Hopeful, they come upon one Mr. By-ends.
When Mr. By-ends refuses to be consistent in his religious profession, he leaves off from Christian and Hopeful and falls in Mr. Money-Love, Mr. Hold-The-World and Mr. Save All. Their conversation, in part, runs as follows:
By-ends. Why, they, after their head-strong manner, conclude that it is duty to rush on their journey all weathers, and I am for waiting for wind and tide. They are for hazarding all for God at a clap, and I am for taking all advantages to secure my life and state. They are for holding their notions, though all other men be against them; but I am for religion, in what and so far as the times and my safety will bear it. They are for religion when in rags and contempt; but I am for him when he walks in his silver slippers, in the sunshine, and with applause.
Hold-the-world. Ay, and hold you there still, good Mr. By-ends! for, for my part, I can count him but a fool that, having the liberty to keep what he has, shall be so unwise as to lose it. Let us be wise as serpents; it’s best to make hay while the sun shines; you see how the bee lieth still all winter, and bestirs her only when she can have profit with pleasure. God sends sometimes rain, and sometimes sunshine; if they be such fools to go through the first, yet let us be content to take fair weather along with us. For my part, I like that religion best that will stand with the security of God’s good blessings unto us; for who can imagine, that is ruled by his reason, since God has bestowed upon us the good things of this life, but that he would have us keep them for his sake? Abraham and Solomon grew rich in religion; and Job says, that a good man “shall lay up gold as dust.” But he must not be such as the men before us, if they be as you have described them.
The comparison of the two texts helps us to see what the doctrine is (a necessary consistency is required for true faith), and yet how the doctrine is explained away by others.
Watson then asks, how can we keep up our profession when it runs contrary to our world. The fifth answer of Watson runs as follows:
Answer 5. If we would keep up the sprightly vigor of grace in evil times, let us harden our hearts against the taunts and reproaches of the wicked. David was the song of the drunkards (Psalm 69:12). A Christian is never the worse for reproach. The stars are not the less glorious, though they have ugly names given them, the Bear, the Dragon, etc. Reproaches are but splinters of the cross. How will he endure the stake—who cannot bear a scoff? Reproaches for Christ, are ensigns of honor, and badges of adoption (1 Peter 4:14). Let Christians bind these reproaches, as a crown about their head. Better have men reproach you for being godly—than have God damn you for being wicked! Be not laughed out of your religion. If a lame man laughs at you for walking upright—will you therefore limp?
Bunyan demonstrates this ridicule:
Money-love. I see the bottom of your question: and with these gentlemen’s good leave, I will endeavour to shape you an answer. And first, to speak to your question, as it concerneth a minister himself: Suppose a minister, a worthy man, possessed but of a very small benefice, and has in his eye a greater, more fat and plump by far; he has also now an opportunity of getting it, yet so as by being more studious, by preaching more frequently and zealously, and because the temper of the people requires it, by altering of some of his principles. For my part, I see no reason why a man may not do this (provided he has a call,) ay, and more a great deal besides, and yet be an honest man. For why?
- His desire of a greater benefice is lawful, (this cannot be contradicted,) since ‘tis set before him by Providence; so then he may get it if he can, making no question for conscience sake.
- Besides, his desire after that benefice makes him more studious, a more zealous preacher, &c. and so makes him a better man; yea, makes him better improve his parts, which is according to the mind of God.
- Now, as for his complying with the temper of his people, by deserting, to serve them, some of his principles, this argueth,
(1.) That. he is of a self-denying temper;
(2.) Of a sweet and winning deportment; and (3.) So more fit for the ministerial function.
- I conclude, then, that a minister that changes a small for a great should not, for so doing, be judged as covetous; but rather, since he is improved in his parts and industry thereby, be counted as one that pursues his call, and the opportunity put into his hand to do good.
And now to the second part of the question, which concerns the tradesman you mentioned: Suppose such an one to have but a poor employ in the world, but, by becoming religious, he may mend his market, perhaps get a rich wife, or more and far better customers to his shop; for my part, I see no reason but this may be lawfully done. For why?
- To become religious is a virtue, by what means soever a man becomes so.
- Nor is it unlawful to get a rich wife, or more custom to my shop.
- Besides, the man that gets these by becoming religious, gets that which is come of them that are good, by becoming good himself; so, then, here is a good wife, and good customers, and good gain, and all these by becoming religious, which is good.
Therefore, to become religious to get all these, is a good and profitable design.
This answer, thus made by Mr. Money-love to Mr. By-ends’ question, was highly applauded by them all; wherefore they concluded, upon the whole, that it was most wholesome and advantageous; and because, as they thought, no man was able to contradict it, and because Christian and Hopeful were yet within call, they jointly agreed to assault them with the question as soon as they overtook them; and the rather, because they had opposed Mr. By-ends before. So they called after them, and they stopped, and stood still till they came up to them; but they concluded, as they went, that not Mr. By-ends, but old Mr. Hold-the-world, should propound the question to them; because, as they supposed, their answer to him would be without the remainder of that heat that was kindled betwixt Mr. By-ends and them, at their parting a little before.
And so they come upon Christian and Hopeful and lay on their ridicule.
Then said Christian, Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions; for if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves (as it is, (John 6.), how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse, to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils and witches, that are of this opinion.
Heathens; for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there was no way for them to come at them but by being circumcised, they said to their companions, “If every male of us be circumcised as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs; be ours?” Their daughters and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain, and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story, Gen. 34:20-24.
The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion: Long prayers were their pretence, but to get widows’ houses was their intent; and greater damnation was from God their judgment. (Luk. 20:47.)
Judas, the devil, was also of this religion: he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was put therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition
Simon, the wizard, was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith; and his sentence from Peter’s mouth was according. (Act. 8:19-22.
Neither will it out of my mind but that that man that takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas designed the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question, therefore, affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept of, as authentic, such answer, is both heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works.
Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer Christian. Hopeful also approved of the soundness of Christian’s answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. By-ends and his company also staggered and kept behind, that Christian and Hopeful might outgo them. Then said Christian to his fellow, If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?
Now one may contend that Christian (and thus Bunyan) were being unChristian by being “unloving”. To this Watson answers:
Answer 1. Let us beware of having our hearts too much linked to the world. The world damps zeal—as earth chokes the fire. We are bid to love our enemies; but the world is such an enemy as we must not love, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” (1 John 2:15). The world bewitches with her blandishments, and kills with her silver darts! He who is a Demas—will be a Judas! A lover of the world will, for a piece of money, betray a holy cause, and make shipwreck of a good conscience.
Watson’s answer is twice interesting when compared with Bunyan, because in the next scene, Mr. By-ends and his crew are led aside by Demas and die in a silver mine.