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An Application of Bunyan: Evidence to Convict

December 18, 2019 | by

The day of the trial had arrived. Christian and Faithful were brought before the Judge, Lord Hate-Good, the indictment was read once again, and witnesses began to be called.  But what testimony could thses witnesses provide?  Christian and Faithful were innocent men.  Of course, in Vanity-Fair, which is Bunyan’s picture of the world, the fact that a defendant is an innocent man is of no necessary import.  Surely we remember another trial, in another place, in which the defendant, far more innocent that even Christian and Faithful…wholly and perfectly innocent, in fact…was nonetheless led to the slaughter on the word of false testimony placed in the mouths of lying and deceitful men.  But here in Vanity-Fair, those who were to testify would not have to lie…very much…for in Vanity-Fair, to be faithful followers of the true King, and to speak forth His truth, was itself a crime worthy of death. Faithful and Christian were to be tried separately.  Faithful, first.  Three witnesses were brought before the court.  Their names were Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank.  The witnesses were sworn in, and the testimony began. Envy and Superstition testified, truly, that Christian and Faithful had preached the gospel, and had declared that the religion of Vanity-Fair was in vain, and an offense to the true God. Furthermore, they had proclaimed that the residents of Vanity-Fair who rejected the truth of the gospel, and continued in their false worship, were still in their sins and would, should they remain so, be eternally condemned.  All this was true.  And all this, as far as the court was concerned, was proof of the pilgrim’s guilt. Pickthank was then called to the stand to testify regarding the final portion of the indictment, which stated that Christian and Faithful were in contempt of the laws of their prince, meaning the prince of Vanity-Fair…Beelzebub. Pickthank’s testimony against Faithful was as follows: “…he hath railed on our noble Prince Beelzebub, and hath spoke contemptibly of his honorable friends whose names are the ‘Lord Old-Man’, the ‘Lord Carnal-Delight’, the ‘Lord Luxurious’, the ‘Lord Desire of Vain-Glory’, my old Lord ‘Lechery’, ‘Sir Having Greedy’, with all the rest of our nobility; and he hath said moreover, that if all men were of his mind, if possible, there is not one of these noblemen should have any longer a being in this Town.” Would it be that every follower of the true King could be convicted of such charges!  But would we?  We followers of the King spend our lives passing through Vanity-Fair.  Certainly, those of us living in America and in the rest of the developed world, are not, at present, in much danger of being hauled up before a court for the sake of our faith, though there are signs that that situation is changing.  In other parts of the world, of course, the situation is very different.  But at present, we here in the West are blessed. Nonetheless, it is an interesting question to entertain.  If I were to be put on trial for my faith, would there be enough evidence for the prosecutor to obtain a conviction?   Would our conduct, our speech, and our zeal for gospel provide the evidence needed for our own condemnation, as it has for so many of our brothers and sisters before...

Application of Bunyan – The Indictment

December 17, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

As a general rule, men are not comfortable with the unfamiliar.  We become uneasy when faced with that which is different.  This is true not only of individuals, but of governments, as well.  It is much easier to govern, to rule, to control, when there is a uniformity among the people.  Differences in custom, belief, and ways of thinking will inevitably cause conflict and dissension, and if there is anything a government is concerned with, no matter its political form, it is concerned with maintaining the peace and maintaining control. When Christian and Faithful found themselves in Vanity-Fair, they also found themselves to be disturbers of the peace.  They were different, after all, so it didn’t take too long for the governing authorities to take notice.  Yes, they dressed differently, and they spoke the language of Canaan rather than the language of the world.  But that which was the cause of their future trouble arose from that which they valued. As the crowds there in Vanity-Fair surrounded and mocked them, one member of the mob asked them,  “What will ye buy?”  But the pilgrims were not interested in anything being sold at the fair.  They replied, “We buy the truth”.  This is what set them apart from all the others who had come to Vanity-Fair.  Christian and Faithful sought the truth and would settle for nothing less.  They would not be satisfied with shiny baubles or the latest fashions or amusing entertainments.  Christian and Faithful were seekers after the truth. Truth is what they valued, and truth alone is what they would purchase. It was only when this commitment to truth became the issue that authorities began to be concerned.  Christian and Faithful were brought in for examination.  In the course of their interrogation, they repeated what they had said earlier, that they were only interested in purchasing the truth.  As a result, their interrogators concluded that they were mad, for surely, only a madman would pass up all that was being offered at the fair for something as intangible and useless as “truth”.  And so, they were beaten, covered in filth, and committed to a cage, to be made a public spectacle before all who came to the fair.  Due to the testimony of Christian and Faithful, in both proclamation and behavior, some of those at the fair began to be won over. They thought that Christian and Faithful were being treated too harshly, and they rebuked those who were so terribly abusing these pilgrims.  This caused the authorities to treat Christian and Faithful worse than before, and once again, they brought before their examiners.  In all of this, they exhibited such patience and meekness that others were won over their cause. When their accusers saw realized that some at the fair were beginning to take the side of Christian and Faithful, their rage toward the pilgrims burned hotter still, and some began to cry out for their deaths!  Being returned to their cage, the pilgrims comforted one another with the memory of Evangelist’s prophecy, and committed themselves anew to the will of the good and gracious Ruler of all things. Finally, they were brought to trial.  The indictment read thus: “That they were enemies to, and disturbers of their trade: That they had made commotions and divisions...

Application of Bunyan: The Language of Canaan

December 17, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

What is your first language?  All of us have a language which we consider to be our “natural” language.  It is that language we understand most readily, speak most fluently.  It is the language in which we think, and when we dream, we dream in that language. Did you know that there is a language in which we live, as well?  Having concluded their conversation with Evangelist, Faithful and Christian came upon a town which was called Vanity.  In this town was a marketplace, then called a fair.  And so it was referred to as Vanity-Fair.  In order to continue on their journey, these two pilgrims were forced to travel through Vanity-Fair, for this is where their path took them.  In fact, this fair had been established five-thousand years before, by Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, for the sole purpose of ensnaring pilgrims such as these, and turning them from their way.  Here there were entertainments and trinkets of every kind, which, if the pilgrims were not careful, might turn one from a pilgrim into a Demas, who came to “love this present world”.  As soon as Christian and Faithful entered the fair, it was evident to all that they were not residents of this town.  They did not dress as those who lived and traded there, and they did not care at all for the things which were bought and sold at the fair.  These pilgrims saw them for what they were: worthless trinkets which, in the end, would cost far more than any sane man would pay. In addition to their clothing, there was another thing that set them apart.  It was their language. “As they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said; they naturally spoke the language of Canaan; but they that kept the fair were the men of this world: so that from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other.” It is no coincidence that the word “conversation”, which we now define as speech between two or more individuals, did, in ages past, mean, “behavior”, or “manner of life”.  In Bunyan’s allegory, this is how he uses the figure of language.  He is describing not only actual speech, although there is often a noticeable difference in the way believer’s speak and the speech we hear from those who are of the world.  But as Bunyan uses this figure, he is describing one’s entire life, or that which used to be meant by “conversation”.  We speak differently because we live differently because we think differently because we are different.  This is the very nature of the alien, the stranger, and the pilgrim.  We are different.  We do not speak the same language. We do not appreciate the same fashions.  We do not hold the same values.  The world looks at us and wonders why we care about the things we do.  And we look at them and wonder how they can place such a high value on things that will turn to dust.  The world wonders why we care about what is right and wrong, and they accuse us of being self-righteous and judgmental.  We, on the other hand, look with amazement at their inability to perceive the...

An Application of Bunyan: That Which is Very Much Better

December 16, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

An Application of Bunyan: That Which is Very Much Better Perhaps Faithful will not have so easy a journey, after all.  Continuing along their way, Christian and Faithful meet with their old friend and guide, Evangelist.  And what an encouragement he is! “Right glad am I”, said Evangelist, “not that you met with trials, but that you have been victors, and for that you have (notwithstanding many weaknesses) continued in the way to this very day.” But the joy they experienced in being reunited with Evangelist, and the encouragement which his words produced, would soon turn to solemnity.  For Evangelist was also a prophet, and his prophecy was a hard one, indeed. “…be sure that one or both of you must seal the testimony which you hold, with blood; but you be faithful unto death, and the King will give you a crown of life.” Violence.  Death.  Martyrdom.  Surely, in the back of their minds they had understood that this was a possibility.  And yet, their minds had been focused on an entirely different end.  From the time they had set out, they had been looking toward the fulfillment of their journey, which, they anticipated, would conclude in a more “natural” way.  They would journey to the end of the path, cross the river, and only then be welcomed to the Celestial City.  Now they were forced to face the fact that there is another way to the Celestial City, after all.  And one of them would soon experience that “other way”.  Sometimes, that path upon which we are led will lead places which we would not choose to go.  But even in that, there is grace.  For Evangelist’s prophecy was not yet complete.  Where one who has just been informed of his imminent death might be tempted to fall into despair, Evangelist seeks to renew the minds of these pilgrims so that they might not despair, but rather rejoice. “He that shall die there, although his death will be unnatural, and his pains perhaps great, he will yet have the better of  his fellow; not only because he will arrive at the Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other will meet with in the rest of his journey.” This is, of course, Bunyan’s expression of Paul’s attitude, revealed in Philippians 1:21-24: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” What an important truth this is for pilgrims to learn!  If we are pilgrims and strangers, as the Scripture teaches, then this world is not our home.  We ought to be uncomfortable here, as if we were dwelling in a foreign land.  We ought to carry with us that sense of longing…of yearning…for the peace and joy and contentment which can only be found when we arrive, finally, in that land which is, in fact, home. This world is glorious in so many ways.  It bears the marks of...

An Application of Bunyan: You Follow Me!

December 3, 2019 | by James M. Harrison

As Christian and Faithful continue their journey and their conversation, they compare notes, if you will, of their respective journeys.  As they do, one notices the very different journeys each have experienced. They have encountered different people, different trials, and different temptations.  Even the nature of the paths they have travelled had differed greatly.  Christian’s path led him to a great and furious battle with Appolyon.  As for Faithful, after his encounter with Shame he describes the rest of his journey as “Sunshine all the rest of the way…and also through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.”  In God’s good providence, every pilgrim makes his own unique journey.  One’s journey may be straight, level, and pleasant, or perhaps it will be winding, hilly, and difficult.  The nature of our journey is determined by the Master.  He knows not only what sort of path we need, but also what sort of path will serve to accomplish that which He desires. How can we not think of Jesus’ conversation with Peter at the end of the gospel of John?  As we read in John 21, after His resurrection, and while some of the disciples were fishing in the Sea of Galilee, Jesus appears upon the shore.  When they realized that it was Jesus, Peter, not wanting to wait until they hauled their miraculous catch to shore, dove in and swam to Him.  When the others arrived, they partook of the breakfast which Christ had prepared. Afterward, Jesus and Peter engaged in that wonderful conversation of restoration.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”, Jesus asked.  And Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”  Three times this question was asked and three times this question was answered, and each time, Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His sheep. And then, having restored Peter to service, Jesus told him how he would glorify God in his martyrdom. Peter would be bound and taken where he did not want to go. This must have been a somber moment, indeed.  But even here, Peter could not help but say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  As he and Jesus were speaking, Peter’s eyes rested upon John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, and seeing John, Peter asked, “Lord, and what about this man?”  To which Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow Me!” It is interesting to observe how the heart works, isn’t it?  We love to compare ourselves to others.  We love to ask, “Why don’t I have what they have?”  “Why does their life seem so blessed, when mine seems so hard?”  But have you noticed that far less frequently do our questions go in the other direction?  “Why did he get cancer, when I’m healthy?”  “Why did they lose their child, while my family is safe and secure?”  “Why was that brother martyred, while I live in freedom and peace?” Like Christian and Faithful, like Peter and John, Christ says to each of His followers, “I have a plan for you.  I have a path for you to walk which no one else will walk in quite the same way.  Don’t concern yourself with the path I have determined for others.  You simply follow...