I have over the years gotten much inspiration and a lot of devotional mileage out of the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Back at the first of the year (2009), I was rummaging around through the massive amounts of cassette tapes of sermons that I have and ran across a sermon preached by Pastor John Harrell in Bridge City, Texas. Sometime in the late ‘80’s or early ‘90’s he preached a two-part sermon series on Vanity Fair and although I only had the second part, it proved to be much for mental and spiritual rumination for me over the last eight months. In fact much of my encouragement to dig into Pilgrim’s Progress from a devotional standpoint came from my friendship with Brother Harrell. He is a masterful preacher that week –in and week-out does much from the pulpit in Bridge City.
From that old classic Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan there is a scene that serves well as a leaping off point for this blog. Christian and Faithful are on their way to the Celestial City and having come out of the wilderness find a city set up directly beside the road they are traveling. Bunyan is playing off of the pattern of the Lord coming out of the wilderness and then having to face the temptation of the devil. Christian and Faithful (and you and I) are no different in that we will have to face temptations along the way in our spiritual walk with the Lord.
Vanity is the city and Vanity Fair is the place of commerce in this vile place. It is created by the construction of the devil as he attempts to get every saint along the way to trade spiritual things for the superficial. Vanity has been around for a long time in fact its origin is from Babylon. It is populated with cheats, fools, knaves, rogues, and apes that spend their time fooling about with games, thieving, murders, adulteries, and false swearers. These types are the salesmen of the things that are being sold. In reality the merchandise there is nothing more than idols of distraction for the travelers.
It is a carnival that lasts year round and its devious salesmen are masters at their trade. According to Bunyan, they are selling merchandise to entrap even the heartiest of souls. The wares they offer are houses, land, trades, honors, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and sinful delights of all kinds. In addition to that other things for sale are husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, and even a mix of precious stones. There is something for every man because the trade of Vanity Fair is a serious affair. In fact it is as serious as heaven and hell and the currency of trade there is not money but rather the souls of men. The whole goal of Vanity Fair is to get men to turn away from the path of salvation and throw away their hope.
Immediately striking about this place is the voices that call out and attempt to get Christian and Faithful to turn from the path and sell out their soul. However, it was not very long before the hawkers of Vanity Fair realized that these two men were not going to be dissuaded. “Sir’s, if you aren’t interested in buying what we have, what do you want to buy?” Christian speaks quickly and surely, “We buy Truth.” That is the only real commodity in the realm of the Kingdom of God.
When the citizens of Vanity heard this they immediately began to persecute them for three reasons. First, for the way they dressed. They were dressed simply and modestly compared to the citizens of Vanity who were dressed provocatively and immodestly. In fact their clothing was in such contrast that the citizens of Vanity called them fools. Secondly they were persecuted for the way they talked. Their speech was clean and godly compared to the coarse, vile words that poured out of the heart of Vanity’s barbarians. Thirdly, Christian and Faithful did not even want to look at the merchandise that was for sale in Vanity.
There is much more to the scene at Vanity Fair but I will let you read the outcome and find out some of the unsavory characters there. Men like Judge Lord Hategood, Lord Carnal Delight, Mr. Blindman, Mr. Live-Loose, and many others. It’s worth your time!
This blog will be continued in several parts. I have just read an article from one of the “wizards” of blogdom and have discovered several things about my blog. . . My posts are too long. . . My content is too deep. . . My posts are not consistent (I agree). . . and a few other things that caught my attention. . . So I am going to shorten it, shallow it, and shore it up. . . and do a few other things. . .
Thanks for stopping by. . . . .
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