Monday, July 12, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress - Mr. Byends

We read the account of Byends, Mr. Moneylove and Mr. Hold-the-World and Mr. Save-All now several times. There was something about this encounter that especially caught me - some quality about it that I wanted my girls to catch - to recognize and to learn. And I think this encounter catches something that is so BUNYANESQUE for me.

Bunyan has a way of displaying to our ears conversations full of thoughts and reasonings that sound so familiar to us. Perhaps we think: "I've thought like that." or "That's been said to me but I didn't know how to respond." or even "Ah, here in this conversation is the wisdom and insight I need for I encounter this kind of thinking without and within."

Who is ByEnds? He is a man from the city of Fair Speech. He thinks it good and right to follow whatever means necessary to reach the desired end. If religion will advance him, then he pursues religion for advancement. He loves religion, "In its silver slippers" and "not against wind and tide." Byends finds Christian and Hopeful to be rather overly-rigid. It's offensive to him that they stand by religion even against wind and tide, silver slippers or rags. Byends has left the company of Christian lagging behind them to join up with Mr. Moneylove, Mr. Save-All and Mr. Hold-The-World. And to these men Byends poses a question and Mr. Moneylove answers.

Let's consider ByEnds and Moneylove and how their thinking works as Mr. Byends proposes the following question:

By-Ends: My brethren, we are, as you see, going all on pilgrimage; and for our better diversion from things that are bad, give me leave to propound unto you this question.

Suppose a man, a minister, or a tradesman, etc., should have an advantage lie before him to get the good blessings of this life, yet so as that he can by no means come by them, except, in appearance at least, he becomes extraordinary zealous in some points of religion that he meddled not with before; may he not use this means to attain his end, and yet be a right honest man?

How would you answer? IS it not right to act against your opinion and principal and appear to be something you are not if gain might be had? Sounds rather dark to me but listen to the eloquent logic and reasoning of Mr. Moneylove:

Mr. Money-Love: I see the bottom of your question; and with these gentlemen’s good leave, I will endeavor to shape you an answer. And first, to speak to your question as it concerneth a minister himself: suppose a minister, a worthy man, possessed but of a very small benefice, and has in his eye a greater, more fat and plump by far; he has also now an opportunity of getting it, yet so as by being more studious, by preaching more frequently and zealously, and, because the temper of the people requires it, by altering of some of his principles; for my part, I see no reason why a man may not do this, provided he has a call, aye, and more a great deal besides, and yet be an honest man. For why?

1. His desire of a greater benefice is lawful, (this cannot be contradicted,) since it is set before him by Providence; so then he may get it if he can, making no question for conscience’ sake.

2. Besides, his desire after that benefice makes him more studious, a more zealous preacher, etc., and so makes him a better man, yea, makes him better improve his parts, which is according to the mind of God.

3. Now, as for his complying with the temper of his people, by deserting, to serve them, some of his principles, this argueth, 1. That he is of a self-denying temper. 2. Of a sweet and winning deportment. And, 3. So more fit for the ministerial function.

4. I conclude, then, that a minister that changes a small for a great, should not, for so doing, be judged as covetous; but rather, since he is improved in his parts and industry thereby, be counted as one that pursues his call, and the opportunity put into his hand to do good.

Quite a string of convincing Logic:

It's certainly lawful for a man to desire to improve his station in life. To seek better for himself and his own - is it not? And if for any man why not also for a minister.

Besides see how this desire for improvement of things will bring the minister to study harder, to preach more and more zealously. Look what his desire for more causes - it causes good to come.

And if that minister must deny his own principals and appear to hold to the verbal plenary inspiriation of scripture, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, and penal substitionary atonement - why he is evidencing SELF-DENIAL in this. And self-denial is a good virtue in a minister.

How can we not conclude such a man good who pursues this path? How can we call him covetous from whom his desire for a better and bigger lot in life produces such good things.

Maybe you are convinced now concerning that minister based on the words of Mr. Moneylove but certainly they don't apply to the worker who is not in the full time minister. Wouldn't it be rather base for such a man to pretend to be religious in order to improve his substance to gain by godliness.

Mr. Moneylove has an answer for that as well:

And now to the second part of the question, which concerns the tradesman you mentioned. Suppose such an one to have but a poor employ in the world, but by becoming religious he may mend his market, perhaps get a rich wife, or more and far better customers to his shop; for my part, I see no reason but this may be lawfully done. For why?

1. To become religious is a virtue, by what means soever a man becomes so.

2. Nor is it unlawful to get a rich wife, or more custom to my shop.

3. 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.

Who can answer such logic? For me there is a nagging thought that even with this good line of logic and reasoning it still sounds covetous - it still sounds wrong. But with great confidence Byends, Moneylove and friends decide they will STUMP Christian and Hopeful for sure, so they speed ahead to catch them and put the same question to them and here is how Christian answered:

Then said Christian, Even a babe in religion may answer ten thousand such questions. For if it be unlawful to follow Christ for loaves, as it is, John 6:26; how much more abominable is it to make of him and religion a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! Nor do we find any other than heathens, hypocrites, devils, and wizards, that are of this opinion.

1. Heathens: for when Hamor and Shechem had a mind to the daughter and cattle of Jacob, and saw that there was no way for them to come at them but by being circumcised, they said to their companions, If every male of us be circumcised, as they are circumcised, shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs be ours? Their daughters and their cattle were that which they sought to obtain, and their religion the stalking-horse they made use of to come at them. Read the whole story, Gen. 34:20-24.

2. The hypocritical Pharisees were also of this religion: long prayers were their pretence, but to get widows’ houses was their intent; and greater damnation was from God their judgment. Luke 20:46,47.

3. Judas the devil was also of this religion: he was religious for the bag, that he might be possessed of what was put therein; but he was lost, cast away, and the very son of perdition.

4. Simon the wizard was of this religion too; for he would have had the Holy Ghost, that he might have got money therewith: and his sentence from Peter’s mouth was according. Acts 8:19-22.

5. Neither will it go out of my mind, but that that man who takes up religion for the world, will throw away religion for the world; for so surely as Judas designed the world in becoming religious, so surely did he also sell religion and his Master for the same. To answer the question, therefore, affirmatively, as I perceive you have done, and to accept of, as authentic, such answer, is heathenish, hypocritical, and devilish; and your reward will be according to your works.

Then they stood staring one upon another, but had not wherewith to answer Christian. Hopeful also approved of the soundness of Christian’s answer; so there was a great silence among them. Mr. By-ends and his company also staggered and kept behind, that Christian and Hopeful might outgo them. Then said Christian to his fellow, If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do with the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?

And so we are grateful once again to learn wisdom and discernment.

By the way, I had to look up stalking horse and found this in wikipedia (see picture above):

The term stalking horse originally derived from the practice of hunting,[1] particularly of wildfowl.[2] Hunters noticed that many birds would flee immediately on the approach of humans, but would tolerate the close presence of animals such as horses and cattle.

Hunters would therefore slowly approach their quarry by walking alongside their horses, keeping their upper bodies out of sight until the flock was within firing range. Animals trained for this purpose were called stalking horses. Sometimes mobile hides are used for a similar purpose.

Our study guide defined stalking horse as "a mask or pretense."

1 comment:

WhiteStone said...

Interesting post. And also interesting info about "stalking horse".