Mr. Worldly – Wiseman

“With all speed get thyself rid of thy burden.” -W.-W.
“The wisdom of this world…nought.”
“Foolish the wisdom of this world.”
“The world through its wisdom knew not God.”
“By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.”
As Christian proceeded on his solitary way, now on that side of the Slough of Despond farthest from his house, a man was seen hastening over the field to meet him. Like Pliable, he was a gentleman, a man of distinction, as anyone could immediately detect; none other than self-satisfied Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. He was an alderman in the town of Carnal-Policy, but always went once a Sunday to the town of Morality to church. There he was an elder in Mr. Sinai Church. He also belonged to a club of the social elite called the Autodikaios. In order to establish rapport with strong, influential men (he despised the weak) he naturally subscribed to Fortune, Time, Life, Newswreck, Psychoanalysis and New Thought. This man had some inkling and good guess of Christian, so that he took instant notice of his labored breathing, wearied pace, painful groaning and recurrent sighs. His greeting was not too appropriate, but typical of Mr. Worldly-Wiseman: “How now, good fellow! where to in this burdened fashion?” Note his pretended, sneering compassion. Christian agreed that he was, indeed, burdened and that he was on his way to the little narrow gate where he would be informed as to getting rid of his burden. To W.W. it seemed that a change to a more pleasant topic was in order. Hence, “Do you have a wife and children?” “Yes, but, burdened as I am, I no longer can take pleasure in them as formerly, being, then, as though I had none.” That was away over W. W.’s head, but did not prevent him from offering advice to Christian. “Get thyself rid of thy burden,” was the way he put it. To this it was necessary to reply that such was not possible; that there was not a man in the country who could remove it! Here was a man who in his humility, guilelessness, even in his naiveté, was too much for Worldly-Wiseman. Consequently, the latter showed his contempt for Christian’s capacity, hopes and aims.
“Hear me,” he counseled, “I am older than you. In the way you take, you will meet with weariness, pain, hunger, nakedness, peril, sword, lions, dragons, darkness and death.” The sound is much like that of Rom. 8:35. But he does not go on to, “I am persuaded…!” No, where he attends church he never hears a sermon from that book; nor does he ever read that book. “Weariness…and what not!” Christian everywhere in the world met with these things but they were not so terrible to him as the experience of how great his sins and miseries were! He feared the wrath to come more than dreaded evils in the world. The man who experiences this knowledge of misery cares not what he meets with in the world if only he can meet with deliverance. Now just how did this man come to get weighted down with such a burden, was what W. W. wanted to know! When Christian answered, “By reading this Book in my hand,” the reply was, “I thought so! This which has happened to you has happened to other weak men who meddle with things too high for them…They attempt to obtain they know not what!” There was a slap! Reading and living by the Book, a sign of weak intellect! But Christian hardly heard that remark. There he was pacifist; but as to the desperation “to obtain they know not what” he was militant. “I know what I would obtain: ease for my burden!” Mr. Worldly-Wiseman deserves to be detested. Yet isn’t there a large piece of him in us? We know not yet the plague of our hearts if we know not that we set more on the position and praise the world offers than on the position and praise that comes from God only. John 12:43. Watch and pray lest ye enter into Worldly-Wiseman’s temptations.
With a great deal of contagious self-confidence, a way was proposed which would get Christian what he wanted without the dangers to which he was exposing himself. Wouldn’t any man be glad for the key to such a secret? But Christian lived to be ashamed of that “secret,” a “gospel” which promised no sinful nature to contend with! It was one which led to horror and folly. It was, nevertheless, all very plausible. In the town of Legality there lived another gentleman, Mr. Legality, a man, as you can see, with a very good name, skilled in ridding men of their burdens or in curing those a little crazy in the head about “burdens.” The son of this indispensable person is a pretty man whose name is Civility, equally able as his father. Both their names come from their marvelous ability in making a righteousness of the law, or out of the sacraments, or out of their own works. The town was known for morality without faith, for faith without repentance and for repentance without works meet for repentance. Mere morality is not Christianity. The Morality of this town springs from self-love. Its aim is to acquire reputation, distinction or secular advantage. It cares nothing about humility and shows no delight in obedience to God’s law. It is prone, with the whole town, to worship the idol of humanism.
But Christian, taken with this folly, pressed on “to Mr. Legality’s house for help.” Now this place, full of motels with “occupancy”, reasonable rates and food cheap and good, was nevertheless so close to the Mount that it seemed to hang over Christian’s head. Flashes of lightning streaking out of its summit made him break out in a clammy sweat. Now, when he wasn’t shaking in fear, he was kicking himself for taking Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s advice. About then he saw Evangelist (II Tim. 4:7) coming to meet him. That embarrassing question recurring, “What doest thou here, Christian?” had him red-faced and nearly speechless as he tried to explain how he had fallen for “a better way, a short cut.” He began to feel better. Evangelist’s good counsel would compensate for the regrettable course just followed. But wise Evangelist had no happy word for him. This got Christian shaking again like an aspen. But as Evangelist went on, he shook more. “See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh….Thou hast begun to reject the counsel of God against thyself, to draw back thy foot from the way of peace and to hazard thyself to perdition!” Evangelist never did appeal to the backslider’s so-called “free will”, telling him, “You can choose” between the narrow way and the broad way. Nor did he evangelize on the false assumption that mere man can “refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isa. 7:16). Nor did he make begging, huckster-style invitations to come to the Lord. He rather commanded, “Be not faithless, but believing,” and “Give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip,” and “agonize to enter in at the strait gate.”
Mr. Worldly-Wiseman was a practitioner of delusion with his carnal policy and doctrine of this world. He loves this doctrine the best because it saves him from the Cross. He does business at Vanity Fair, buying and selling—selling the truth and buying destruction for his soul. A number of things are utterly abhorrent about this man. (1) He is continually turning people out of The Way, (2) removing the offence of the Cross, and (3) advertizing the ministration of death as the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness. He had misinformed Christian that the way he was in (the Way of Truth) would be his death. He had said that that would be his death which the Truth says we cannot be without and have eternal life. Damnable doctrine this, and must be abhorred! So Christian began to abhor himself for ever listening to such an alien as Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, to such a cheat as Mr. Legality, son of the bondwoman, to Civility, a simpering hypocrite. These all aim at misleading pilgrims away from the Narrow Gate.
Even then Evangelist did not salve Christian with sweet words. Comfort does not come that way. The stony-ground hearer receives the Word immediately with joy. Christian receiving the Word had the opposite reaction: it made him miserable. “Thy sin is very great,” admonished Evangelist, “for by it thou hast committed two evils: thou hast forsaken the good way and set foot in forbidden paths. Turn not aside again, lest thou perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.” Sin should never be minimized, regarded as trivial nor approached as needing only a hurried, embarrassing reference. Our pilgrim had to be made to see that his guilt was greater than he had supposed, though not too great for the infinite mercy of God in Christ crucified. As the two parted, Evangelist was heard to sing,

When Christians unto carnal men give ear,
Out of their way they go, and pay for it dear:
For Mr. Worldly-Wiseman can but show
A saint the way to bondage and to woe.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 8 December 1969