After witnessing the death of his fellow companion, Faithful, under a faux trial at Vanity Fair, our last reading ended with Christian escaping from his cell and setting back on his journey, singing in honor of his victorious brother. Along this stage of Christian’s pilgrimage, he is joined by a new companion named Hopeful, and the pilgrims navigate their encounters with By-ends and Demas.
This seventh stage of Christian’s pilgrimage begins with a new companion joining the journey. Hopeful was a citizen of Vanity who marveled at the words and character of Christian and Faithful and at the martyrdom of Faithful. Bunyan as the narrator remarks, “Thus one died to make testimony of the Truth, and another rises out of his ashes to be a companion with Christian in his Pilgrimage” (112). Indeed, Hopeful is confident that more will become pilgrims in their own time.
This, of course, was the very kind of events that caused Tertullian to famously call the blood of martyrs’ seed. Just as Christ Himself triumphed over death through dying, so does His body still conquer. Remember the words of Revelation 12:11, “And they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Recall also the paradoxical nature of God’s kingdom. The last will be first. Those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake will save it. The humble shall be exalted. O’ let us never forget that Jesus’ church is never more powerful than when it seems to be most beaten and bloodied upon the cross of persecution!
Continuing on their path, Christian and Hopeful soon come upon a man named By-ends who was walking ahead of them. Over the course of their initial conversation, By-ends is reluctant to tell them his name. Whenever I first read this section, I assumed that the word by-end had a significant meaning, but I had never heard the term being used. So, if you are as unfamiliar as I was, allow me share Google’s enlightenment with you. A by-end is a private end or secret purpose, particularly a hidden selfish motive. As we see, By-ends more than lives up to his name.
Before revealing his name to Christian and Hopeful, By-ends is questioned by the two pilgrims, by which they discover that he comes from the town of Fair-speech, is related to Lord Turn-about, Lord Fair-speech, Mr. Smooth-man, and Mr. Two-tongues, and is married to Lady Feigning. But the most significant self-disclosure is By-ends’ admission that he differs from those who hold to a stricter religion on two 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.114
We might rightly call By-ends a fair-weather Christian, one who is only interested in being a pilgrim so long as the conditions make the journey comfortable and easy.
By this, Christian ventures a guess at By-ends’ name and then swiftly reports to him:
If you will go with us, you must go against Wind and Tide; the which, I perceive is against your opinion: 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.115
Here Christian, of course, describes nothing more than biblical Christianity. Christ Himself said that being His disciple meant taking up one’s cross, which was nothing short of a call to suffer and die for His sake. Paul, likewise, said in 1 Thessalonians 3:3 “that we are destined for this [namely, afflictions].” Furthermore, in Philippians 1:29, Paul speaks of suffering for Christ’s sake as a gift that He has granted to us. Far then from encouraging such fair-weather Christians as By-ends, the Bible goes out of its way to prepare us for storms and difficulty within this life.
By-ends answers Christian in the manner that those for whom Christianity is not worth suffering for so often do: “You must not impose, nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my Liberty, and let me go with you.” Of course, By-ends is right that he has the liberty to follow his easy and comfortable version of Christianity, yet he does not have right to go along with Christian and Hopeful while doing so.
So, it must be with us. We can and certainly should warn the fair-weather Christians around us about the vanity of their so-called faith, but we should refrain from Christian fellowship with them. We would do well to remember that Paul did not forbid the Corinthians from associating with sinners within the world “since then you would need to go out of this world” (1 Corinthians 5:10). Yet he did say “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (v. 11). Such a command is a hard word to accept, but it is a necessary one.
As soon as By-ends is rejected from joining Christian and Hopeful, he comes upon the company of some friends: Mr. Hold-the-World, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all. The conversation between these four men is gold in terms of giving examples of how so many justify their pursuit of worldly pleasures as a part of their religious behavior. They twist both Scripture and Reason to support them in their supremely valuing of Liberty and Safety. We ought to give thanks to our Lord that following Christ often does lead to liberty and security; however, each Christian will find plenty of moments where both seem to be overshadowed by bondage and danger. For we are indeed free from our slavery to sin, yet we are now slaves to Christ. And He has promised never to leave nor forsake His people, yet His pledge to keep us may very well mean taking us by chariot to Himself after calling us to seal our confession with our blood.
Having established a common agreement about their ability to be religious while also pursuing earthly wealth and comfort, By-ends presents a matter of discussion for the group: can a minister or tradesman use religious zeal for profit and still be an honest man?
Mr. Money-love volunteers to answer the question and speaks first to the minister and then to the tradesman. The sum of his argument is as follows:
Besides, the man that gets these by becoming religious, gets that which is good 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.119
One writer rightly calls this “worldly wisdom, infernal logic, and the sophistry of Satan.” And it is indeed. The whole line of logic presumes that money and worldly gain are good unto themselves, as is being religious. Thus, to pursue money through religion is to sanctify the pursuit even more thoroughly. Of course, Paul warned us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), and Jesus warned that “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” may “choke the word” (Mark 4:19).
Even being religious is not an end in itself. In Philippians 3:2-3, Paul recounted his own religious resume while he was yet a persecutor of the church and challenges any to prove that they exceeded him. Yet his conclusion is: “But whatever gain I had [that is, through religious zeal], I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8). Religion itself is not the goal; knowing and loving God is.
Yet by their infernal logic, thinking that they have soundly rationalized their beliefs, they pose the same question to the Christian and Hopeful. Christian then proceeds to dismantle their best laid arguments with repeated proofs from Scripture against hypocritical practicing of religion for worldly gain. Well did he say that “that man that takes up Religion for the world, will throw away Religion for the World” (121). That certainly proves true for By-ends and his companions, as we will shortly see.
Demas & Lot’s Wife
Being unable and unwilling to answer Christian’s response, the men keep silent and lag behind Christian and Hopeful. Christian then rightly ponders to Hopeful: “if these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God” (121-122)?
Continuing on, the pilgrims travel across the small plain of Ease, where the marginal note is correct in saying, “The Ease that Pilgrims have, is but little in this life” (122). Yet short as it is, the pilgrims welcomed the ease that came to them upon the Way. Even so, I think it is no accident that coming out of the Plain of Ease the pilgrims come to the hill called Lucre.
Upon seeing this hill, a man named Demas calls upon the pilgrims to turn aside to the Silver-Mine within the hill. Demas’ name, we should note, comes from Paul’s comment in 2 Timothy 4:10, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Therefore, this Demas stands beside Lucre Hill and calls for other pilgrims to turn aside from the Way for the hope of riches in this world.
Hopeful’s response is initially to turn aside, which should not surprise us since he so freshly came out of Vanity. Thankfully, Hopeful was not left to himself. Christian points out that Lucre has been a snare to many pilgrims and ought to be avoided. Thus, Christian and Hopeful pass by Demas and Lucre.
By-ends and his companions, however, do not fare so well. At Demas’ first call, they turned aside from the Way and “never were seen again in the Way” (124). Such is the ultimate end of all fair-weather Christians; their love of money, comfort, and ease will quickly lead them into the snares of the enemy.
Christian and Hopeful then come upon a monument with the message Remember Lot’s Wife written upon it. As Christian notes, “this is a seasonable sight” (125). Indeed, through the example of Lot’s Wife, Bunyan fittingly summarizes the dangers presented within this stage of the journey. As Hopeful notes, Lot’s Wife did not step one foot out of the Way but was judged only for looking back. We ought, therefore, to consider her judgment, for like Hopeful we often have the desire to turn aside after worldly treasures and it is only by God’s glorious grace that we are stopped. Hopeful’s words are a fitting conclusion to this section indeed: “This ministreth occasion to us to thank God, to fear before him, and always to remember Lot’s wife” (126).