Yet love refuses to be taken in by “that pedlars Stall” – that is, this world, choosing rather pilgrimage:
7 Love pausing on’t, these Clayey Faces she
8 Disdains to Court; but Pilgrims life designs,
The combination of pedlar’s stall and pilgrimage has is most famous counterpoint in Pilgrim’s Progress:
Then I saw in my dream that, when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity-fair: it is kept all the year long; it beareth the name of Vanity-fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity: as is the saying of the wise, “All that cometh is vanity.” (Isa. 40:17. Ecc. 1: 2. and Ecc. 2:11, 17.)
This Fair is no new-erected business, but a thing of ancient standing. I will show you the original of it: Almost five thousand years ago, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are; and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the Pilgrims made, that their way to the City lay through this Town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long.
Therefore, at this fair, are all such merchandise sold, as nouses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts; as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this Fair, there is at all times to be seen, jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.
Here are to be seen too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood-red colour.
And as, in other fairs of less moment, there are several rows and streets, under their proper names, where such and such wares are vended, so here likewise you have the proper places, rows, streets (viz. countries and kingdoms,) where the wares of this fair are soonest to be found. Here is the Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row, where several sorts of Vanities are to be sold. But as, in other fairs, some one commodity is the chief of all the fair, so the ware of Rome, and her merchandise, is greatly promoted in this fair; only our English nation, with some others, have taken a dislike thereat.
Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town where this lusty fair is kept; and he that would go to the City, and yet not go through this town, must needs go out of the world.
The similarity between Taylor and Bunyan could lead one to think there is some dependence by Taylor on Bunyan. However, no such dependence need be found. It is quite likely that they both drew from the same common pool of pilgrimage imagery – not just from the Bible but as also developed among the Puritans.
On the matter of life as pilgrimage, the concept certainly did exist prior to Taylor and prior to the 17th Century: the Canterbury Tales give more than sufficient evidence on that ground. Yet, the concept of pilgrimage developed a distinct flavor during the time of the Puritans. The Puritans were sharp to distinguish their concept of pilgrimage from that which they understood of the medieval and Roman Catholic practice. Thus, John Owen writes in Indwelling Sin:
Beyond bare vows and promises, with some watchfulness to observe them in a rational use of ordinary means, men have put, and some do yet put, themselves on extraordinary ways of mortifying sin. This is the foundation of all that hath a show of wisdom and religion in the Papacy: their hours of prayer, fastings; their immuring and cloistering themselves; their pilgrimages, penances, and self-torturing discipline,—spring all from this root. I shall not speak of the innumerable evils that have attended these self-invented ways of mortification, and how they all of them have been turned into means, occasions, and advantages of sinning;
John Owen, vol. 6, The Works of John Owen., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburg: T&T Clark), 321. While the concept of pilgrimage was an existent idea, the Puritans did not associate pilgrimage with a trek to any place upon earth. The pilgrimage did not possess any intrinsic value – except to avoid being trapped alone the way. When it came to the matter of pilgrimage, one’s who desire was to avoid being trapped and seduced by the things along the way.
Edward Polhill in his work “Precious Faith” draws a connection very similar to that set forth by Taylor: a resignation to this world – but not of a mere Stoic resignation. Rather it is a resignation to the lesser so that one may obtain a better. In his poem, Taylor shuns this world’s offerings because he wants the Rose of Sharon:
Thirdly, This resignation is made to the word. There is the promise of eternal life extant, and there the way to eternal life is chalked out, there is the promise of eternal life mapped out, a mercy above all the sphere of nature: hence the ancient believers were as pilgrims here, (Heb. 11:13); as if the world were too little for them, they were altogether for the heavenly country, which faith sees at a distance in the promise: there, also, the way to eternal life is chalked out, “The world passes away, but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever,” (1 John 2:17). Riches and pleasures are but the way of time, but holiness and righteousness are the way everlasting, (Ps. 139:24); the good acts may pass, but their record is in heaven; the good men must die, but the holiness shall never see corruption; the repentant tears which fall to the earth are bottled with God: the charity which seems lost, as bread cast on the waters, will come to hand again. Polycrates, when he cast his ring into the sea, little thought to have met it again in his fish; but the believer doing good works, expects to meet them again in another world; a sowing to the Spirit, he looks for a crop in eternal life. Dorcas may leave her coats and garments behind her, but the charity will follow her into another world; The commandment is eternal life, saith our Saviour, (John 12:50); the very way to it. The believer obeying, may in some sense say, as dying Pollio, Jam ingredior in vitam æternam, now I am entering into eternal life, into that which will survive the world, and live in glory. Faith resigns to the word, not only as it is the charter of eternal life in the promise, but as it is the director to it in the command.
Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 244. The sermon, “Wherein the Love of the World is Inconsistent With the Love of God” explains:
(1.) To labour after a holy contempt of this dirty, soul-polluting world.—O what an essential obligation do we all lie under, to contemn the grandeur and sun-burnt glory of this fading world! What is there in this world you can call yours? Can you be content to have your heaven made of such base metal as mire and clay? O what a transient thing is all the glory of this perishing world! Consider the argument which our apostle useth in the words following our text: (1 John 2:17:) And the world—That is, all the splendour, pomp, beauty, pleasures, and grandeur of the world. Passeth away, ῶαραγει—As a scene, whereon men acted their parts, and then passed away, as 1 Cor. 7:31. Alas! were the world guilty of no other defect but this, that it passeth away, what a strong argument is this for the contempt thereof! Again: remember, this world is but your prison, and place of pilgrimage. And, O how scornful and disdainful is the pilgrim’s eye! With how much scorn doth he behold other countries! And ought not Christians, with a more generous disdain, [to] cry out?—“Fie, fie! This dirty world is not like my celestial Canaan!” Alas! what have we here to rejoice in but fetters and chains? How soon doth “the fashion of this world pass away!” (1 Cor. 7:31;) that is, the pageant or scene of worldly glory!
James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, Volume 1 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 664.
In language very similar to that developed by John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress, David Clarkson writes in “Of Living as Strangers”:
Ans. They are strangers and pilgrims:
1. In respect of their station, the place of their abode. While they are in the world, they are in a strange country; while they are present in the world, they are far from home. The world is a strange country, and their habitations in it, how much soever their own in civil respects, are but as inns in that journey homeward. The land of promise was but to Abraham a strange country; his dwelling there was but a sojourning, so far was he from thinking himself at home, ver. 9.
The world is a strange country to the people of God, and the men of the world are men of a strange language, strange customs, strange laws, far differing from that of their own country. A strange language, the language of Ashdod. To hear God’s name profaned, his people reproached, holiness vilified, miscalled; to hear unclean, unsavoury, revengeful language; to hear men wholly taken up with discourse of the earth, and earthly things, oh this is, or should be, strange language to the people of God; there is no such word ever heard in their own country. While in the world, they are amongst a people of a strange tongue, strange customs and laws too, such as were never enacted, nor had place in their own country. To neglect the worship of God in public, in their families, to make provision for the flesh, &c., to lay up treasure on earth, to neglect God, their souls, eternity, these and such like are customs of the world; and they think it strange (so common is it) that God’s people will not run with them, 1 Pet. 4:4, not swear, be drunk. A people of strange doctrines, Heb. 13:9; strange vanities, Jer. 8:19; of a strange God too, 2 Cor. 4:4. He is their lawgiver; the course of this world is according to his laws, Eph. 2:2. The laws of their own country have no place here: the law of faith, love, self-denial, loving enemies, &c. Such a country is the world to the people of God, a strange country; and in this respect they are strangers.
2. In respect of their design, their motion, it is still homewards. This strange country likes them not, nor they it; they are travelling towards another, that which is, that which they account, their home, that better country, that heavenly country, that city prepared for them, that city whose builder and maker is God. Thus these faithful worthies, ver. 14, they that say, i. e., that confess, &c., do plainly declare, ver. 16. That heavenly country is the place of the Lord’s abode; and because he is their God, this is their country, their home. This they look for, ver. 10, this they seek, ver. 14, this they desire, ver. 16; their expectations, their affections, their endeavours are for heaven, when they are like themselves. While they are present in the world, they are absent from home. So their life here is in motion; they are in a journey; they are travelling homewards, and that is to heaven. This is their journey’s end, the end of their pilgrimage; and till they come there, till they be at home in heaven, they are strangers.
3. In respect of their enjoyments. They are but accommodated here like strangers. Much would be a burden, a hindrance to them in their journey; they have more in hopes than hand. These worthies died, not having received the promises, i. e., all the good things promised: no, their richest enjoyments are at home; no matter for state and superfluities in a journey. They are not known in those strange places where they pass, no matter how they seem to strangers. Though they be princes, sons of God, heirs of a crown, their Father sees it best, safest for them, to travel in a disguise. No matter what strangers take them for, 1 John 3:2, what they now enjoy are but like the accommodations of an inn, enough for travellers. Their treasure, their crown, their glory is at home, their Father’s house; till they come there they are strangers.
4. In respect of their usage. They are not known in the world, and so are often coarsely used. In this strange country they meet with few friends, but many injuries. See how the world used those of whom it was not worthy, ver. 36–38. Here is strangers indeed, and strangely used. No wonder if a stranger be jeered and derided; his habit, his manners, his language, is not conformed to the place where he is. Their habit, language, practices, must be after their own country fashion, such as become heaven: now this being contrary to the world, meets with opposition, scorn, reproaches, hatred. This was the portion of Christ, of his disciples, of his people in all ages; and this is the reason they are not of the world, they are strangers, John 17:14. If they have something that commands outward respect, it may be they will find some; but the hearts of worldly men are against them, John 15:18, 19.
5. In respect of their continuance. Their abode on earth is but short. A stranger, a traveller stays not long in one place. Upon this account does David call himself and the people of God strangers, 1 Chron. 29:15. They dwell but as Abraham in tabernacles, ver. 9, in tents, moveable dwellings, quickly, easily removed; no dwelling that has a foundation that is lasting, durable, till at home, ver. 10. Continuance on earth but a shadow, but a passage.
6. In respect of their relations. Their dearest relations are in another country. Their Father, their Husband, their Elder Brother, their dearest Friend, their Comforter, and the far greatest part of their brethren and fellow-members, are all in heaven. He that lives at a distance from his relations may well pass for a stranger.
David Clarkson, The Works of David Clarkson, Volume I (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864), 243-45.