Part 17 — Vanity Fair by John Bunyan audio
Then I saw in my dream, that when Christian and Faithful had left the wilderness, they soon saw a town ahead of them named Vanity. At that town there is a fair called Vanity Fair, and it is kept open all the year long. It bears the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is held is lighter than vanity — and also because all that is sold there is vanity. As is the saying of the wise, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!”
This fair is no newly-erected business — but a thing of ancient standing. I will show you its origin: Almost five thousand years ago, there were Pilgrims journeying to the Celestial City such as these two honest people. Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, along with their companions, perceived by the path which the Pilgrims made, that their way to the City lay through this town of Vanity. They therefore contrived to set up a fair here in which all sorts of vanity should be sold, and that it should last all the year long.
Therefore all kinds of merchandise are sold at this fair — such as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts — such as harlots, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. Moreover, at this fair are always to be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, fakes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen also, and without cost — thefts, murders, adulteries and liars.
As in other fairs of less significance, 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 — namely, 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 sold. But, as in other fairs, some particular commodity is the chief of all the fair. So the wares of Rome and her merchandise are 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 directly through this town where this lusty fair is kept. He who will go to the Celestial City — and yet not go through this town, must need to go out of the world. The King of kings Himself, when here, went through this town to His own country — and that upon a fair day as well. Yes, and it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, who invited Him to buy of his vanities. Yes, he would have made Him lord of the fair — would He have but bowed down to Beelzebub.
Yes, because He was such a person of honor, Beelzebub took Him from street to street, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a short time — that he might, if possible, allure the Blessed One to yield and buy some of his vanities. But He had no desire for this merchandise, and therefore left the town without spending so much as one penny upon these vanities. This fair, therefore, is of ancient standing, and very renowned.
Now these Pilgrims, as I said, had to go through this fair — and so they did. And behold, as they entered the fair — all the people in the fair were perplexed, and the town itself was in a hubbub — and that for several reasons:
First, The Pilgrims were clothed differently from any who traded in that fair. The people of the fair, therefore, stared at them. Some said they were fools — some said that they were deranged — and some said that they were eccentric men.
Secondly, just as they wondered at their apparel — so they likewise were bewildered at their speech — for few could understand what they said. The Pilgrims naturally spoke the language of Canaan — but those who kept the fair were men of this world; so that, from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed to be barbarians to each other.
Thirdly, that which greatly disturbed the peddlers, was that these Pilgrims did not value their wares. They did not desire so much as to look upon them. If the Pilgrims were called upon to buy their merchandise — they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, “Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity!” and look upwards — signifying that their desires and concerns were in Heaven.
Beholding the behavior of the two men — one mockingly asked them, “What, then, will you buy?”
But they, looking solemnly upon him, answered, “We buy the truth!”
At that, the men of the fair took occasion to despise the Pilgrims all the more — some mocking, some taunting, some speaking reproachfully, and some calling upon others to smite them. At last things came to a hubbub and a great stir in the fair, insomuch that everything was in disorder. So word was soon brought to the lord of the fair, who quickly came down, and delegated some of his most trusty friends to take these Pilgrims, who had so disturbed the fair, into custody.
So the Pilgrims were brought to examination — and those who interrogated them asked them from whence they came, and where they were going, and why they were dressed in such an unusual garb?
The two men explained that they were Pilgrims and strangers in the world, and that they were going to their own country, which was the heavenly Jerusalem. They stated that they had given no reason to the men of the town, nor to the peddlers, thus to abuse them, or hinder them in their journey — unless it was, when one asked them what they would buy — and they said that they would buy the truth.
But those who were appointed to examine the Pilgrims did not believe them to be anything other than deranged and mad — or else that they had only come to cause trouble at the fair.
Therefore they took them and beat them, and besmeared them with dirt, and then put them into a cage — that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair. Therefore, the Pilgrims lay in the cage for some time, and were made the objects of every man’s ridicule or malice — the lord of the fair laughing at all that befell them.
But the Pilgrims, being patient, and not answering insult for insult — but rather a blessing; and returning good words for reproaches, and kindness for injuries done — some men in the fair who were more discerning, and less prejudiced than the rest — began to restrain and blame the examiners for their continual abuses to the Pilgrims.
They, therefore, in angry manner, railed at those who defended the Pilgrims, counting them as bad as the men in the cage. They accused them of being traitors, and said that they should be made partakers of the Pilgrim’s punishments.
Those who defended the Pilgrims, replied that for anything they could see — the Pilgrims were quiet and sober-minded, and intended nobody any harm. They also said that there were many who traded in their fair, who were more suitable to be put into the cage — yes, and the stocks also — than were the men that they had abused. Thus, after various arguments had passed on both sides — the Pilgrims all the while behaving themselves very wisely and soberly before them — the men fell to fighting among themselves, and harming one another.
Then these two poor Pilgrims were brought before their examiners again, and charged with being guilty of the hubbub that had been in the fair. So they beat them mercilessly, put them in chains, and led them up and down the fair, for an example and a terror to others, lest any should speak on their behalf, or join themselves unto them.
But Christian and Faithful behaved still more wisely. They received the disgrace and shame which was cast upon them, with so much meekness and patience — that it won several of the men of the fair to their side.
This put the persecuting party into yet a greater rage — insomuch that they sought the death of the two Pilgrims. Therefore they threatened that neither the cage nor the chains were sufficient punishment — but that they should die for the harm they had done, and for deluding the men of the fair.
Then the Pilgrims were thrown into their cage again, until further action would be taken with them. So they put them in, and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Here they remembered what they had heard from their faithful friend Evangelist — and were thence encouraged in their way and sufferings, by what he told them would happen to them. They also comforted each other, that he whose lot it was to suffer would have the advantage. Therefore each man secretly wished that he might have the honor of suffering. With much contentment, they committed themselves to the all-wise disposal of Him who rules all things, until they should be otherwise disposed of.
Then at an appointed time, they were brought forth to their trial, and hence to their condemnation. They were brought before their enemies to be arraigned. The Judge’s name was Lord Hate-good. Their indictment was one and the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form — the contents whereof were this: “That they were enemies to, and disturbers of the trade of the city; that they had made disruptions and divisions in the town; and had won some over to their own most dangerous opinions, in contempt of the law of their prince.”
Then Faithful responded: “I have only set myself against that which has set itself against Him who is higher than the highest. And, as for any disturbance — I made none, being myself a man of peace. Those who were won over to our sentiments, were won by beholding our truth and innocence. They have only turned from the worse, to the better. And as to the king you talk of, since he is Beelzebub, the enemy of our Lord, I defy him and all his minions!”
Then a proclamation was made, that those who had anything to say for their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar, should now appear and present their evidence. So three witnesses came in, namely — Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank. They were then asked if they knew the prisoner at the bar — and what they had to say for their lord the king against him.
So Envy came forth and said: “My lord, I have known this man a long time, and will attest upon my oath before this honorable bench, that he is . . .”
Lord Hate-good interrupted: “Wait! Give him his oath.”
So they swore him in, and Envy continued: “My lord, this man, notwithstanding his plausible name, is one of the vilest men in our country! He neither regards prince nor people, law nor custom — but does all that he can to influence others with certain of his disloyal notions — which he calls principles of faith and holiness. And, in particular, I myself heard him once affirm that Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity, were diametrically opposite, and could not be reconciled. By saying this, my lord, he at once condemns both all our laudable doings — and us in the doing of them.”
Then the Judge, Lord Hate-good, said to him, “Have you any more to say?”
ENVY: “My lord, I could say much more — but this would be tedious to the court. Yet, if need be, when the other gentlemen have given forth their evidence, if anything shall be lacking which would condemn Faithful — I will then enlarge my testimony against him.”
So Envy was told to stand by. Then they called Superstition, and asked him what he could say for their lord the king against Faithful. Then they swore him in — and so he began.
SUPERSTITION: “My lord, I have no great acquaintance with this man, nor do I desire to have any further knowledge of him! However, this I know from a discourse which I had with him the other day — that he is a very pestilent fellow! He said that our religion was worthless, and could by no means please God — and therefore we worship in vain, are yet in our sins, and shall finally be damned!”
Then Pickthank was sworn in, and ordered to say what he knew on behalf of their lord the king, against the prisoner at the bar.
PICKTHANK: “My lord, and all you gentlemen. I have known this fellow for a long time, and have heard him speak things that ought not to be spoken! He has railed against our noble prince Beelzebub, and has spoken contemptibly of his honorable friends — Lord Old Man, Lord Carnal Delight, Lord Luxurious, Lord Desire of Vain Glory, old Lord Lechery, Sir Having Greedy — along with all the rest of our nobility!
“He has said, moreover, that if all men were of his mind, that these noblemen would all be run out of town. He has also not been afraid to rail at you, my lord, who is now appointed to be his judge — calling you an ungodly villain, along with many other such vilifying terms, with which he has bespattered most of the aristocracy of our town!”
When Pickthank had told his tale, the Judge directed his speech to the prisoner at the bar, saying, “You renegade, heretic, and traitor! Have you heard what these honest gentlemen have witnessed against you?”
FAITHFUL: “May I speak a few words in my own defense?”
LORD HATE-GOOD: “You scoundrel! You do not deserve to live — but to be slain immediately right where you are standing! Yet, so that all men may see our gentleness towards you — let us hear what you, vile rebel, have to say.”
FAITHFUL: “First. I say in answer to what Mr. Envy has spoken — that I never said anything but this: That whatever rules, or laws, or customs, or people, which are contrary to the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity. If I have said anything amiss in this — then convince me of my error, and I will make my recantation before you.
“Secondly, to answer Mr. Superstition and his charge against me, I said only this: That a divine faith is required in the worship of God, and there can be no divine faith without a Divine revelation of the will of God. Therefore, whatever is thrust into the worship of God which does not agree with Divine revelation — is nothing but man’s vain religion, and will never lead to eternal life.
“Thirdly, in answer to what Mr. Pickthank has charged — I did say that the prince of this town, with all his rabblement and attendants, are more fit for being in Hell, than in this town and country! And so, may the Lord have mercy upon me!”
Then Judge Hate-good called to the jury, who all this while stood by to hear and observe: “Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man about whom so great an uproar has been made in this town. You have also heard what these worthy gentlemen have witnessed against him, and have heard his reply and confession. It lies now in your power to either hang him, or save his life. Yet first, I think it necessary to instruct you concerning our law.
“There was an Act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, servant of our prince, that lest those of a contrary religion should multiply and grow too strong for him — their males should be thrown into the river.
“There was also an Act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, another of our prince’s servants — that whoever would not fall down and worship his golden image, should be thrown into a fiery furnace.
“There was also an Act made in the days of Darius, that whoever called upon any god but him, should be cast into the lions’ den.
“Now this rebel here, has broken the substance of all of these laws — not only in thought (which is not to be tolerated) but also in word and deed — which is absolutely intolerable!
“For Pharaoh’s law was made upon a supposition, to prevent mischief — no crime being yet apparent. Yet here is an obvious crime. And as for the laws of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius — you plainly see that Faithful openly disputes against our religion! For the treason which he has confessed, he deserves to die!”
Then the jury went out — their names were, Mr. Blind-man, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, and Mr. Implacable. Each of the jury gave their verdict against Faithful — and unanimously concluded to charge him as guilty before Lord Hate-good.
First, Mr. Blind-man, the foreman, exclaimed, “I see clearly that this man is a heretic!”
Then Mr. No-good added, “Away with such a fellow from the earth!”
“Absolutely!” said Mr. Malice, “For I hate the very looks of him!”
Then Mr. Love-lust remarked, “I could never stomach him!”
“Neither could I!” added Mr. Live-loose, “For he would always be condemning my way!”
“Hang him, hang him!” Mr. Heady demanded.
“He is a sorry base fellow!” exclaimed Mr. High-mind.
“My heart revolts against him!” sniveled Mr. Enmity.
“He is a rogue!” Mr. Liar declared.
“Hanging is too good for him!” snarled Mr. Cruelty.
“Let us dispatch him out of the way!” snapped Mr. Hate-light.
Then Mr. Implacable exclaimed, “I would not be reconciled to him for all the world! Therefore, let us immediately charge him to be deserving of death!”
And so they did. Therefore Faithful was condemned at once. He was taken from the court, and back to his cage — and from there, he was to be put to the most cruel death that could be invented.
They then brought him out, to punish him according to their law. First, they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives! After that, they stoned him with stones, then pierced him with their swords. Last of all, they burned him to ashes at the stake! Thus Faithful came to his end.
Now I saw that behind the multitude, there was a chariot with horses waiting for Faithful, who, as soon as his adversaries had murdered him — was taken up into it. He was immediately carried up through the clouds, with the sound of the trumpet, to the nearest way to the Celestial Gate.
But as for Christian, he had some reprieve, and was sent back to the prison — and remained there for a time.
Then He who overrules all things, having power over the rage of His enemies in His own hand — so brought it about that Christian escaped from them, and went on his way. As he went, he sang,
“Well, Faithful, you have faithfully professed,
Unto your Lord, with Whom you shall be blessed,
When faithless ones, with all their vain delights,
Are crying out under their Hellish plights,
Sing, Faithful, sing — and let your name survive;
For, though they killed you — you are yet alive!”
Now I saw in my dream, that Christian did not journey alone, for there was one named Hopeful (being made so by beholding Christian and Faithful in their words, behaviors and sufferings at the Fair), who joined with him. Entering into a brotherly covenant, Hopeful told Christian that he would be his companion. He also told Christian that there were many more from Vanity Fair, who would be following after them.
Thus, one died to bear testimony to the truth — while another rises out of his ashes, to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage.