Faithful and Christian began to comfort one another with the thought that the one whose lot it was to die in Vanity Fair should have the better of the two, each man secretly wishing he might be that one. Then they prayed together, committing themselves to the all-wise disposal of Him who rules all things.
They were therefore ready with complete composure, when they were brought to trial before Judge Hate-good’s court. Three false witnesses were dredged up out of Vanity Fair to testify against them. These were: Envy, Superstition and Pickthank. In these witnesses the character of the most active persecutors of Christians is described. As for Envy, the incomparable artist, Frederick Barnard, in the Winthrop edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, has depicted this character with clawed hand scratching at the gnawing, ranging1 serpent of discontent in his breast, and an evil eye rejecting the flame of ill-natured, malicious, malignant grudging (and therefore Envy is a form of hatred with desire to injure) for what another has or enjoys. Francis Bacon2 wrote in 1725, three years before the birth of John Bunyan, that envy is the vilest affection, also the most depraved, and so is the proper attitude of the devil. (The devil out of envy sows tares among the wheat).
Superstition is represented in the worshipper of Moloch. Mr. Superstition is worse than Mr. Atheist, for it is better to have no opinion of God at all, than to think that God would eat our children as soon as they are born. Atheism still bows to logic, argument, natural good, to principles of the same, and, most of all, to reputation. It at least makes pretense to Enlightenment, Superstition, to the contrary, unhorses all these and usurps as absolute tyranny over the minds of men. Superstition thrives in showy, sensual forms and ceremonies, in hypocritical piosity, in natural, intellectual religion and philosophical darkness, and in an atmosphere of occult barbarism. Superstition underneath its sham is contemptible deformation. Beneath the cardinal’s hat and effeminate chasuble there walks a dog on its hind legs.
Superstition represents a class of low-brow persecutors. Some of them are crypto-atheists. Yet they wear long religious robes deep-dyed in tradition, custom, formality, pompous mummery and theatrical ceremonialism. Their religion is one of tenacious ignorance, monkish austerity and childishly ridiculous self-denial. Their pride and fanaticism hardens their hearts. They suppose the imagined rightness of their cause and their sincerity in persistent wrong-doing sanctify their bitter rage.
The third witness appearing against the two pilgrims was a close-cropped, loose-mouthed, behind-the-hand whisperer named Pickthank. This peculiar name is from Pick-a-thank. Today, we would say he is one who is “always looking for a quarter.” A more recent term is Sycophant, literally, “fig blabber,” referring to a city law in Athens forbidding the exportation of figs. Certain fawning flatters of those in authority and influence would report to them whatever instances of illegal fig traffic they could uncover. They pretended to be devoted agents of the state and great enemies of the fig-smugglers. They were therefore spies and informers for their own ends. A Pickthank is then a menial who seeks the favors of those in power by officious attentions in order to get ahead in the world. Especially an Englishman would call him a toady. That means he is a cringing parasite who will do all sorts of dirty-work for his own paltry gain. Once the authorities, to prove to such a one what a wretch he was, set a dish of toads before him, which he ate and praised.3 Hence, the term toady. Pickthank, then, is really a false witness, a slanderer, a persecutor, a pragmatist, who despises, secretly, both the superstitious and the true worshiper. He is a Mr. Anything, a flunkie, an underling, a pimp, a look-out for Number One. These lying witnesses slander the people of God in every age.
These three stood before Judge Hate-good. Behind him sat twelve more of the pilgrim’s enemies, Hate-good’s jury. On the judge’s right hand dozed the foreman of the jury, Mr. Blindman. Whenever the jury went out after its sessions, the whole lot of them invariably fell into the ditch. This soon got them to be a dirty-looking bunch. Next to Mr. Blindman is the judge’s cousin, Mr. No-good. His friends appropriately call him “N.G.” No good he is everywhere – on the jury, in his business, in his church, at home, in relations with wife and children. No-good was good-for-nothing, except, perhaps, for his spot on this jury. Who else could fill such a spot? Then there was Mr. Malice, whose eyes and nose were always purple with rage, and whose teeth were always grinding together, or biting his nails, or gnawing his tongue, while he continually stewed and mumbled in hot-breathed perturbations against his neighbors, both strong and weak. Next with Mr. Love-lust, a lecherous, leering old man whose tongue hung out with drooling as he paged through a Sears, Robuck catalog. Next was Mr. Live-loose, heavy-lidded eyes forming a permanent expression of contempt with a perpetual sneer on his face. Even Love-lust was too naïve for him. The sixth juror was Mr. Heady. If he had horns, he could easily pass for a satan. His ears were pointed, his hair thick-bodied, like that of a porcupine. “Yet in a rather fierce way, as the devil-himself, distinguished looking. In conversation he emphasized his words with right fist thrusting piston-fashion at his addressee’s middle. His words were like a head of steam blasted at his hearers. Mr. Cruelty is seen in typical pose, leaning smugly with hands folded on a stainless steel cane. Mr. Cruelty’s cane is capped with an ivory death’s head, which is also the handle of a removable four-barrel; derringer. The body of the cane conceals a 32 calibre carbine. With the press of a button on its side a rapier-like bayonet flicks into position. Mr. Cruelty doesn’t take anything from anybody. He has used his cane in every one of its capacities on every creature known to man, including women and children. His smugness comes from pride in his lending library on torture, out of which he has supplied the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Philistines, Sanhedrin, Pilate, the Turks, the Inquisition, The Nazis, Smithfield, Moscow and Peking. Then Mr. High-mind sits in dreamy superciliousness, as though all of his colleagues are rather boors and dolts compared to him. He keeps telling himself that he is at least fifty pages beyond anyone in any book. Mr. Enmity is a masked anarchist, for although he has served on many a jury and has himself been a judge, he has never been subject to the law, and is constitutionally incapable of it. He is perhaps the worst of the lot, for they are all enemies of pilgrims, but he is Enmity itself. Mr. Liar was not screened out from this jury. He, too, is ideal for Judge Hate-good’s purposes. Like the rest, a child of the devil, but none more than he, for the devil not only speaks the lie, but is a liar (John 8:44), and the father of it, i.e., he is the father of the lie. He is not merely a liar, but he is the parent and father of the lie itself. All lies and deceit are the proper works of the devil (HC. 112). So Mr. Liar is busy, even in his sleep, doing and putting forward the words of his father. But his day is coming: Revelations 21:8! Though the court room is in shade and gloom, jury-man Hate-light sits with head lowered, one hand shading his eyes. He prefers the dark. That does not mean that he is so taken with it that he leaves the light alone. He never does that. But he so loves the dark that he hates the light and battles against it. It is not so much that he detests sunlight or daylight or public light, but the Light of the World. The Light is there, and Hate-light knows it is there. The light comes to him, but he does not come to the light. He deliberately avoids it, turning into the dark. He is attracted by the dark, his natural environment, and repelled by the light. He recoils from the light. He has chosen what is worthless (darkness), but does not want its worthlessness revealed. He wants to be left alone in thinking the worthless valuable. He and the others like him can do this as long as they remain unmolested in the dark where they cannot see.
The last member of the jury is Mr. Implacable. He is a Mr. No-truce. He and Mr. Enmity never cease their hatred to God. He is never willing to consent to truce. He has seen to it that there is never an age without war. After World War I there was an “armistice,” not a peace. Then followed civil war in Spain and Japan’s savagery in China. Then Germany overran Europe, and our nation tricked and enraged Japan into attacking us first, so bringing on World War II . . . war in Korea, Katanga, Hungary, Vietnam . . . broken treaties . . . now international suspicion . . . . Mr. Implacable is Mr. Human-nature.
This jury condemned Faithful to death. He was executed in the most cruel death that could be invented. He was scourged, beaten, cut with knives, stoned, pierced with swords, then burned at the stake. Many a Faithful receives the same treatment today. For one, it happened to Watchman Nee.
- Envy is a gadding passion, walking the streets and not keeping at home.
- A man who said of himself and his life, “I may truly say, my soul hath been a stranger in the course of my pilgrimage.”
- Dictionary of Phrase and Table by Rev. Dr. Brewer, p. 898.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 8 December 1971