An Application of Bunyan – Who Are You For?

December 18, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

Faithful has gone, arriving by way of chariot to the gates of the Celestial City and entering safely in, to a glorious welcome, no doubt.

But what of Christian? His Lord has other plans for him. We are not told how, but on his way back to prison, “He who over-rules all things” brought about Christian’s deliverance. And as he escaped the powers that desired to destroy him, he went on his way from Vanity-Fair, singing of his departed friend and fellow pilgrim.

“Well, Faithful, thou hast faithfully professed
Unto they Lord, with Him thou shalt be blessed;
When faithless ones, with all their vain delights,
Are crying out under their hellish plights:
Sing, Faithful, sing, and let they name survive;
For though they killed thee, thou art yet alive.”

So, on he went. But the Lord of the Celestial City, being most gracious, did not ordain that he should go on alone. A companion was provided for him, called Hopeful. Hopeful had been a resident of Vanity-Fair. But looking upon the behavior of Christian and Faithful, and listening to the words they spoke, even in the face of their suffering, he did indeed become “hopeful”, and joined himself to them. Thus, as Bunyan puts it,

“ died to make testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage.”

It was not long after escaping Vanity-Fair that they encountered one whose name was “By-ends”, from the town of “Fair-speech”. Who is this man, you may ask? He describes himself and his kind, thusly.

“…we somewhat differ in Religion from those of the stricter sort, yet but in two small points: First, we never strive against wind and tide. Secondly, we are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud him.”

Is this not the way of so many “religious” people? They will “never strive against wind and tide”, and they will bear His name only “if the sun shines and the people applaud him”. But as Christian declares to him,

“You must also own religion in His rags as well as when in His silver slippers; and stand by Him too when bound in irons, as well as when He walketh the streets with applause.”

What Christian describes here is nothing more than what is known as “discipleship”. It is, in fact, the normal Christian life. If this were not so, why would our Lord tell us to “count the cost”?

Oh, how many there are who name the name of Christ, but know nothing of discipleship. They are the modern-day embodiment of Mr. By-ends. Their faith is that of silver slippers and sunny days. But should their fine garments turn to rags, and the skies turn cloudy and dark, their so-called faith will reveal itself to be no true faith at all. These are those who love the gifts, but have no desire for the One who gives. They know not what Paul means when he speaks of being content in every circumstance. They cannot reconcile their false idea of faith with Jesus’ command to carry His cross.

This kind has always been with us. Today, they are known by many different names. Nominal Christians. Theological Liberals. Prosperity preachers. What they all have in common is that they see religion as a means to an end. They are as Mr. By-ends describes himself, in contrast to Christian and Hopeful.

“Why, they, after their head-strong manner, conclude that it is their 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 estate. They are for holding their notions, though all other men be against them; but I am for religion, in what, and so far as they 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 golden slippers in the sunshine, and with applause.”

In other words, he is for himself, and Christian and Hopeful are for God.

For whom are you?

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