CHRISTIAN ENCOUNTERS WORLDLY-WISEMAN
NOW as Christian was walking all alone, he noticed someone else in the distance on his way across the field coming to meet him. And so it happened that they met just when their paths crossed.
So this man met Christian and acted as if he knew of his coming beforehand; the reason was that pilgrims setting out from the City of Destruction were usually the subject of intense gossip that spread to many distant towns. Therefore because Mr. Worldly-Wiseman had some inkling of his coming, he was easily able to observe Christian’s laborious approach, his sighs and groans and the like, and thus engage him in sympathetic conversation.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Hello there, my good fellow, and where are you traveling with such a burdened manner?
CHRISTIAN: Yes, it certainly is a burdened manner, and as good a one as any poor creature ever had. As to where I am going, sir, let me tell you. I am on my way toward that distant Wicket-gate that is just ahead; for there, I have been told, I will gain entrance into the way that will lead to the removal of my heavy burden.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Do you have a wife and children?
CHRISTIAN: Yes, but I am so weighed down with this burden that I cannot enjoy them as much as was formerly the case. In fact, it now seems as if I had no family at all.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Then will you listen to me if I give you good advice?
CHRISTIAN: Certainly I will, provided it is good, for I am in great need of wise counsel.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Then I would advise you to get rid of your burden with all possible speed; for you will never have
peace of mind until then: nor will you be able to enjoy the
CHRISTIAN: What you describe is certainly what I am seeking after, namely to be rid of my burden. But I cannot get relief by myself, nor do I know of a man in our country who can lift it off from my shoulders. So for this reason I am heading in this direction, as I told you, so that I may be rid of my burden.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Who directed you to go this way so as to be rid of your burden?
CHRISTIAN: A man who appeared to me to be a very great and honorable person; his name, as I remember it, is Evangelist.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: I most certainly beshrew [condemn]
him for his advice, for there is not a more dangerous and troublesome way ahead in all the world than that into which he has directed you; and you will prove this to be so if you submit to his guidance. Indeed, you appear to have experienced some of this trouble already, for I notice dirt on you that surely comes from the Slough of Despond.
Yet that Slough is but the beginning of your sorrows, even as other pilgrims experience along the same way. Listen to me, since I am older than you! As you proceed along the way ahead, you are likely to experience wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and in a word, death, and what else? These things are certainly true since they have been confirmed by the testimonies of many pilgrims.
So why should a man so carelessly place himself in danger by paying attention to the advice of a stranger?
CHRISTIAN: Why, sir, this burden on my back is more terrible to me than all of those things that you have mentioned.
No, to give careful thought, I don’t care what I meet with in the way as long as I can eventually be delivered from my burden.50
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: How then did you come by your burden in the first place?
CHRISTIAN: By reading this book in my hand.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: I thought so. It has happened to you in the same way that other weak men, in meddling with things that are too high for them, have suddenly fallen into the same bewilderment that you presently suffer. Now this confusion not only humiliates men, even as I observe that you have suffered, but it also causes them to pursue desperate causes, and so seek that which they know little about.
CHRISTIAN: Well, I know what I want to obtain, and that is relief from my heavy burden.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: But why do you seek for ease with regard to your present way seeing that it involves so many dangers? If you had but patience enough to listen to me, I would advise you how to obtain what you desire, only without the perils that you are certain to encounter if you follow the way ahead. Yes, and further, the remedy I would suggest is close at hand. Besides, I will offer yet more, for instead of dangers you will meet with much safety, friendship, and content.
CHRISTIAN: Pray sir, do explain to me this secret.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Why a short distance away is the Village Morality, in which their lives a gentleman whose name is
Legality. Now he is a very judicious man of the highest reputation, and as such he is well able to assist men with the removal of burdens from their shoulders such as you have. In fact to my knowledge he has been a great help to many pilgrims in this regard. Yes, and besides this, he is most skillful in curing those who are plagued with anxiety concerning their burdens.
To him you should go right now for immediate help. His house is less than a mile from here, and if perhaps you should not find him at home, then he has a very pleasant son named Civility who is able to give the same assistance as his father.
As I have said, there you can be relieved of your burden, and should you then prefer not to return home, as I would indeed recommend, you can then send for your wife and children to come to this Village. There you will also find suitable empty houses available that are reasonably priced. Living standards and food, while being inexpensive, are of a very high quality.
51 Mr. Worldly-Wiseman does not like that men should be serious in reading the Bible.
52 Here Mr. Worldly-Wiseman prefers Morality before the Straight Gate.
Now Christian was somewhat of two minds concerning what he should do. But he soon concluded that if what this congenial gentleman said was true, then his wisest course would be for him to take his advice. So with this in mind, he further spoke with Mr. Worldly-Wiseman.
CHRISTIAN: Sir, which way is it that I should take to this honest man’s house?
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Do you see a high hill that is just ahead of you?
CHRISTIAN: Yes, very clearly.
WORLDLY-WISEMAN: Then you must go beyond that Hill, and the first house you will come to is that of Mr. Legality.
CHRISTIAN SEEKS AFTER THE VILLAGE OF MORALITY
SO Christian departed from his present course so as to head toward Mr. Legality’s house for help. But notice that when he had drawn very close to the Hill, it seemed so high that it appeared to almost hang over him and threaten to crush him.
Being paralyzed with fear, he stopped rather than go any further. As a result he did not know what to do. Also his burden now seemed much heavier than when he was formerly in the way.
There also came flashes of fire erupting out of the Hill that made Christian fear that he would be burned. For this reason he was terrified and began to sweat and tremble in his body.
Now he was sorry [repented] that he had taken Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s advice. Yet at that very moment he saw Evangelist coming directly toward him, and this caused him to blush with shame. So Evangelist drew near, while appearing to be most indignant in his mood, for he seemed eager to talk soberly with Christian.
EVANGELIST: What are you doing here? (At this Christian was at a loss for words. He just stood speechless.) Are you not the same person that I found weeping outside the walls of the City of Destruction?
CHRISTIAN: Yes, my dear sir, I am that man.
EVANGELIST: Then how is it that you have so quickly turned aside from my direction, for you are now going the wrong way? CHRISTIAN: Soon after I left the Slough of Despond, I met a very sympathetic gentleman who persuaded me that I could, in the Village just ahead, find a man who was able to relieve me of my burden.
EVANGELIST: Who was he?
CHRISTIAN: He appeared to be such a gentleman in both his appearance and conversation. Eventually he got me to yield to his advice, and so I came here. But when I drew close to this Hill and discovered how it hangs over the way, I immediately halted lest it should fall on my head.
EVANGELIST: And what did that gentleman say to you?
CHRISTIAN: Why he asked me where I was going, and so I told him.
EVANGELIST: And what did he say to you then?
CHRISTIAN: He asked me if I had a family, and I told him.
But I also explained that on account of being so heavily burdened down, I did not have as much pleasure in them as was formerly the case.
EVANGELIST: So what did he then say?
CHRISTIAN: He advised me to be quickly rid of my burden, and at this I explained that I really did want the relief that he recommended. I further told of my traveling toward the Gate ahead for the purpose of receiving direction as to how I might reach the Place of Deliverance. So he said that he would show me a much better and shorter way, being far less troublesome, sir, than that which you counseled me about.
So he pointed me to another gentleman’s house where, he explained, there were men well able to take away burdens such as mine. So I believed him, and departed from the way along this alternative route with the hope that I might soon be eased of my burden. But when I came to this place, and saw things as they really are, I immediately stopped in my tracks out of fear of great danger, as already described. But now I do not know what to do.
EVANGELIST: Then stand still for a little while, so that I can explain to you the Word of God. (Christian quietly listened and trembled.) Make sure that you do not reject he who speaks to you as was the manner of Israel. For if God’s ancient people did not escape judgment when they refused to heed God’s messenger on Earth, how much more shall we not escape if we turn away from he who speaks from Heaven?
Moreover, the just shall live by faith; but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Then he made specific application.) You are the man who, in running into such a miserable backslidden condition, have begun to reject the counsel of the most high God and withdraw your feet from walking along the way of peace, even to the point of being in danger of eternal perdition.
Then Christian fell down at his feet as if dead, lamentably crying, “Woe is me, for I am undone [ruined].” At the sight of this Evangelist caught him by the right hand saying, “All manner of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven men; be not faithless, but believing.” As a consequence Christian revived a little more and stood up trembling before Evangelist, even as he had first done.
Then Evangelist continued to speak, saying, “Give more earnest attention to the things that I shall tell you about. I will now show you who it was that deluded you, and also to whom it was he sent you. The man that met you is none other than Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and how right it is for him to have this name.
The reason is partly because he favors only the doctrine of this world, therefore he always attends church in the Town of Morality, and partly because he loves the doctrine of that Town the best, for it saves him from the Cross. So because he is of a carnal nature, therefore he seeks to oppose my ways, even though they are right.”
“Now there are three things in this man’s counsel that you must utterly detest.
- His ability to lead you out of the way.
- His zealous effort to portray the Cross as abhorrent to you.
- And his directing of your feet toward that way which leads to the administration of death.”
“First, you must despise his ability to turn you out of the way; yes, and your own agreement to such a proposal as well:
because this is to reject the counsel of God for the sake of the counsel of a Worldly-Wiseman. The Lord says, ‘Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate,’ the gate to which I am sending you; ‘for strait is the gate that leads to life, and there are few that find it.’ This wicked man has turned you from the Wicketgate and the way that leads up to it, and almost brought you to destruction. Therefore hate his ability to turn you out of the way, and loathe yourself for listening to him.”
“Second, you must abhor his zeal in attempting to depict the Cross to you as offensive; for you are to prefer it to the treasures of Egypt; besides, the King of glory has told you that he who will save his life shall lose it; and he who follows Him, but does not hate his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes even his own life as well, cannot be His disciple. Therefore I say, for a man to work hard to persuade you that the King’s advice will lead to your death, yet without any support from the truth, is to be detoured from the way that points you to eternal life. So you must completely loathe this doctrine.”
“Third, you must hate his directing of your feet along the way that leads to the ministration of death. And in this respect you must carefully consider the person to whom he sent you, and especially how unable that person is to deliver you from your burden. He to whom you were sent for ease, that is Legality by name, is the son of the Bondwoman who is in bondage along with her children; she represents Mount Sinai as a mystery, which you have feared would fall on your head.
Now if she, with her children, are in bondage, then how can you expect to be made free by them? Therefore this Legality is not able to set you free from your burden. No man has ever got rid of his burden by him, no, and is not likely to be so delivered in the future.”
“You cannot be justified by the works of the law; for no man living can be rid of his burden by means of the works of the law.
Therefore Mr. Worldly-Wiseman is an alien guide, and Mr. Legality a cheat; as for his son Civility, in spite of his simpering [smiling] manner, he is yet a hypocrite and cannot help you.
Believe me, there is no substance in such blustering talk that you have heard from this sottish [works intoxicated] man. His only design has been to deprive you of your salvation by means of turning you from the way along which I sent you.”
After this Evangelist called aloud to the Heavens for confirmation of what he had said; and immediately there came words and fire out of the Mountain, under which poor Christian stood, that made his hair to stand on end. The words that poured forth were as follows: “As many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone who does not continue to live according to all things that are written in the Book of the Law, that is to obey them.”
Now Christian anticipated nothing but death, and so gave out an agonizing cry, even cursing the occasion when he met
Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and called himself a thousand fools for paying attention to his advice. He also felt terribly ashamed to think that this gentleman’s arguments, though originating from the flesh, should prevail with him and be the cause of his abandonment of the right way. So having scolded himself, he again directed himself to Evangelist with great earnestness.
CHRISTIAN: Sir, tell me what you think. Is there any hope for me? May I now return to the right way and then approach the Wicket-gate? Or shall I be abandoned on account of my waywardness, and be sent back to certain shame at the City of Destruction? I am heartily sorry for having listened to this man’s counsel; yet may my sin be forgiven?
EVANGELIST: Your sin is very great since you have in fact committed two evils; you have forsaken the way that is good, and then pursued forbidden paths. Nevertheless, the man at the Gate will welcome you because he offers goodwill to approaching pilgrims. Even so, be careful that you do not turn aside again, for then you may perish altogether when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Then Christian made preparation to return to the right way.
After Evangelist had kissed him, encouraged him with a smile, and commended him to God’s keeping, the pilgrim quickly pressed forward; he was now especially careful not to speak to anyone; even if spoken to by a stranger, he would not offer a reply. Now his manner of walking was as if he was stepping on forbidden ground in unsafe territory; he seemed so intent on reaching the right way where he was first beguiled by the counsel of Mr. Worldly-Wiseman.
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…To be continued