Trivium Pursuit

Part 4 Pilgrim’s Progress — Mr. Worldly Wiseman

Part 4 — Mr. Worldly Wiseman by John Bunyan audio

Mr. Worldly Wiseman by John Bunyan read-along text

Now as Christian was walking by himself — he spotted someone afar off, traveling over the field — and they happened to meet just as they were crossing each other’s path. The gentleman’s name was Mr. Worldly-wiseman. He dwelt in the town of Carnal Policy — a very large town, close by the City of Destruction, from whence Christian came. This man, meeting with Christian, had some knowledge of him — for Christian’s leaving the City of Destruction was much talked about, not only where he had lived — but also, it was the talk of the town in other places. Mr. Worldly-wiseman, therefore, beholding Christian’s difficult journey, and observing his sighs and groans, and the like — began to enter into conversation with Christian.

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“Say there, friend — where are you going in this burdened manner?” asked Worldly-wiseman.

“A burdened manner, indeed, I think — as any poor creature ever had!” replied Christian. “And since you ask me where I am going — I will tell you. Sir, I am going to yonder narrow-gate which is ahead of me. There, I am informed, I shall be instructed how to be rid of my heavy burden.”

“Have you a wife and children?” asked Worldly-wiseman.

“Yes,” replied Christian “but I am so weighed down with this burden on my back — that I cannot take pleasure in them as I once did. In fact, it is now as though I had no family at all.”

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“If I give you counsel — will you take my advice?” asked Worldly-wiseman.

“If it is good counsel, I will,” replied Christian, “for I am in need of good advice.”

“I would advise you, then,” responded Worldly-wiseman, “that you rid yourself of that burden on your back, as quick as possible! For you can never have happiness or peace of mind until you do!”

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“That is what I am seeking for,” answered Christian. “I desperately want to be rid of this heavy burden — but I cannot get it off myself! Nor is there any man in our country who can remove it from my shoulders. Therefore I am going this way, as I told you — that I may be rid of my burden!”

“Who told you that this was the way to rid you of your burden?” replied Worldly-wiseman.

“A man who appeared to be a very noble and honorable person,” answered Christian. “His name, as I remember, is Evangelist.”

“I curse him for that counsel!” snarled Worldly-wiseman. “There is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in all the world! You shall find this out for yourself — if you follow his advice. I see that you have met with trouble already — for I see that the mire from the Swamp of Despond is upon you. That swamp is just the beginning of the sorrows which attend those who continue in that dangerous way.

“Listen to me — for I am older than you. On that narrow way — you are sure to meet with weariness, pain, hunger, peril, sword, lions, dragons, darkness — and what not! In a word, you will meet with death! These things are certainly true, having been confirmed by many testimonies. And why should you so carelessly cast yourself away — by giving heed to a stranger?”

“Why, Sir,” answered Christian, “this burden upon my back is more dreadful to me — than all the things which you have mentioned! Indeed, I don’t care what danger I meet with along the way — as long as I get deliverance from my burden!”

“How did you get your burden, in the first place?” questioned Worldly-wiseman.

“By reading this Book in my hand,” answered Christian.

“I thought so!” snapped Worldly-wiseman, “and it has happened unto you as to other weak men — who, meddling with things too high for them — do suddenly fall into the same bewilderment that you now suffer. In this perplexing state, they undertake dangerous ventures, to obtain — they know not what.”

“I know what I want to obtain,” asserted Christian, “ease from my heavy burden!”

“But why do you seek for ease in this perilous way,” asked Worldly-wiseman, “seeing that so many dangers attend it? Especially since, had you but sense to listen to me — I could direct you how to obtain what you desire, without all these dangers! Yes, and with my remedy, you shall gain much safety, friendship, and happiness!”

“Please, Sir — reveal this secret to me!” begged Christian.

Worldly-wiseman began, “Why, in yonder village named Morality — there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality. He is a very sensible man, having a good reputation — who has ability to help remove such burdens like yours. Yes, to my knowledge, he has done a great deal of good this way — and besides, he has skill to cure those who are somewhat crazed in their minds, because of their burdens. To him you may go, and be helped in a very short while. His house is not quite a mile from here; and if he should not be at home himself — his handsome young son, whose name is Civility, can help you as well as the old gentleman himself!

“There, I say, you may be eased of your heavy burden; and if you do not want to return to the City of Destruction, and I encourage you not to return — you may send for your wife and children to join you in this village. In the town of Morality, there are many vacant houses — one of which you may have at a reasonable rate. It is inexpensive to live there — and all the neighbors are honest and fashionable. To be sure — this will make your life more happy.”

Now Christian was somewhat in a dilemma; but he shortly concluded, that if what this gentleman had said was true — then his wisest course was to take the advice of Worldly-wiseman.

So Christian inquired, “Sir, what is the way to this honest man’s house?”

“Do you see yonder hill?” asked Worldly-wiseman.

“Yes, very well,” replied Christian.

“You must go by that hill,” directed Worldly-wiseman, “and the first house you come to, is his.”

So I saw in my dream, that Christian turned out of the narrow way, to go to Mr. Legality’s house for help. But, behold, when he got near the hill — it was so high, and it so hung over him — that Christian was afraid to venture further, lest the hill should fall on his head! Flashes of fire also came out of the hill, which made Christian afraid that he should be burned alive!

Therefore he stood still — and did not know what to do. His burden now seemed even heavier to him — than when he was in the narrow way. He was so frightened, that he trembled with fear! He now began to be very sorry that he had taken Worldly-wiseman’s counsel.

Just then, he saw Evangelist coming to meet him — at whose sight, he began to blush with shame. So Evangelist drew nearer and nearer; and coming up to Christian — he gazed upon him with a solemn countenance, and thus began to address Christian.

“What are you doing here, Christian?” asked Evangelist.

Christian did not know what to answer — and stood speechless before him.

Then Evangelist continued, “Are you not the man that I found weeping outside the City of Destruction?”

“Yes, kind Sir, I am the man,” replied Christian.

“Did I not direct you to the way which leads to yonder narrow-gate?” questioned Evangelist.

“Yes, dear Sir,” Christian said.

“Why is it, then — that you have so quickly turned aside?” asked Evangelist, “for you have now gone out of the narrow way!”

Then Christian explained, “Soon after I had gotten over the Swamp of Despond, I met a gentleman who persuaded me that in the village of Morality, I would find a man who could take off my burden.”

“What did this man look like?” asked Evangelist.

“He looked like a gentleman,” replied Christian, “and talked much to me, until he persuaded me to leave the narrow way. But when I saw this hill, and how it hung over the path — I could proceed no further, being afraid that it would tumble down on my head!”

“What else did that gentleman say to you?” inquired Evangelist.

“Why, he asked me where I was going — and I told him,” responded Christian.

And what did he say then?” asked Evangelist.

“He asked me if I had a family? And I told him yes, but I was so weighed down with the burden on my back, that I could not take pleasure in them as formerly,” responded Christian.

“And what did he say then?” inquired Evangelist.

“He entreated me to get rid of my burden as fast as I could — and I told him that this was the very thing I sought — and that I was going to yonder gate, to receive further direction how I may get to the place of deliverance. Then he said that he would show me a better way — much shorter, which was not so attended with difficulties as the narrow way in which I was going. He said that this new way would bring me to a gentleman’s house who had skill to take off my heavy burden. So I believed him, and turned out of the narrow way — hoping that I might soon be eased of my burden. But when I came to this place, and beheld these dreadful things — I stopped for fear of the danger — and now I do not know what to do!”

“Then,” said Evangelist, “stand still a little, that I may show you the Words of God.”

So Christian stood trembling.

Then Evangelist began, “See that you do not refuse to listen to the One who speaks from Heaven, ‘The just shall live by faith — but if any man draws back, I will not be pleased with him.’ Christian, you are the man who is running into this misery; you have begun to reject the counsel of the Most High God, and to draw back from the way of peace — even to the hazard of your soul’s perdition!”

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Then Christian fell down at his feet as dead, crying, “Woe is me, for I am undone!”

At the sight of which, Evangelist caught him by the right hand, saying, “All kinds of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven. Stop doubting and believe.”

Then Christian began to revive, and stood up trembling before Evangelist.

Then Evangelist proceeded, saying, “Give more earnest attention to the things I shall tell you. I will now show you who deluded you — and to whom he sent you. The man whom you met is one named Mr. Worldly-wiseman, and he is rightly called; partly, because he delights in worldly thinking, and partly because he loves worldly teaching — for it saves him from the doctrine of the Cross of Christ. Therefore he always goes to the Town of Morality to church. And because he is of this worldly temper — he seeks to oppose the way of the Cross. Now there are three things in this man’s counsel, that you must utterly abhor:

First, his turning you out of the right way.

Secondly, his laboring to render the Cross odious to you.

Thirdly, his setting your feet in that way which leads unto eternal death.

“First, You must abhor his turning you out of the right way — and your consenting to his false guidance. This is to reject the counsel of God — for the sake of the counsel of the world. The Lord says, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow-gate,’ the gate to which I sent you. ‘For narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it!’ From this little narrow-gate, and from the narrow way — this wicked man has turned you, and has brought you almost to destruction! You must hate, therefore, his turning you out of the narrow way — and abhor yourself for hearkening to him.

“Secondly, You must abhor his laboring to render the Cross odious unto you; for you are to prefer it ‘before the treasures of Egypt!’ Besides, Jesus, the King of glory has told you, that he who ‘will save his life — shall lose it!’ And, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be My disciple!’ Therefore I say, if any man labors to persuade you that the Lord’s counsel will lead to your death — you must completely abhor his false doctrine.

“Thirdly, You must hate his turning your feet into the way which leads unto death. And for this, you must consider to whom he sent you — and also how unable that person is to deliver you from your heavy burden.

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“He to whom you were sent for relief, is Mr. Legality — the son of the Bondwoman who is in bondage to the Law, along with her children. She represents Mount Sinai, which is the mountain you feared would fall on your head. Now, if she, along with her children, are in bondage — how can you expect to be made free by them? This Mr. Legality, therefore, is not able to set you free from your burden. No one was ever freed from their burden by him. No, nor can this ever be — for you cannot be justified by the works of the Law; for by the deeds of the Law, no man can be rid of his burden! Therefore, Mr. Worldly-wiseman is a liar — and Mr. Legality is a cheat! And as for his son Civility, notwithstanding his pleasant looks — he is but a hypocrite, and cannot help you either!

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“Believe me, there is no substance in all this blustering talk which you have heard of these deceivers. Their only design is to cheat you out of your salvation, by turning you from the narrow way in which I had sent you.”

After this, Evangelist called aloud to the heavens for confirmation of what he had said — and immediately words and fire came out of the mountain under which poor Christian stood. This made the hair of his neck stand up.

These are the words that came forth: “All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to obey all these commands that are written in the Book of the Law.”

Christian now expected nothing but death — and began to cry out woefully. He even cursed the time when he met with Mr. Worldly-wiseman — calling himself a thousand fools for hearkening to his false counsel. He also was greatly ashamed to think that this man’s worldly advice, coming only from human reasoning — should so easily prevail with him, as to cause him to forsake the right way.

Christian then spoke to Evangelist with great earnestness, “Sir, is there any hope for me? May I now go back, and then proceed through the narrow-gate? Or shall I be abandoned in shame, because of my waywardness? I am sorry I hearkened to this man’s false counsel. Can my sin ever be forgiven?”

Then said Evangelist to him, “Your sin is very great, for by it you have committed two evils: You have forsaken the right way — to tread in forbidden paths! Yet the man at the narrow-gate will still receive you. Only take heed that you never again turn aside, lest you perish in your disobedience, for God’s anger can flare up in an instant!”

Then Christian committed himself to return to the narrow way. Evangelist then kissed him, and encouraged him with a smile, commending him to God’s safe keeping.

So Christian went on with haste, and did not speak to anyone along the way. And if anyone addressed him — he would not hearken to their counsel. He traveled like one who was treading on forbidden and dangerous ground, and could never feel himself safe — until he was back on the narrow way, which he had left to follow Mr. Worldly-wiseman’s false advice.

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