John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, A Study Guide, Lesson 6


Introduction (pp. 83-95)

Christian and Faithful come upon the Town of Vanity. Evangelist had already warned them of its dangers. In Vanity Fair, our Pilgrims meet with men and women who are greatly offended by their speech and lifestyle. Their faith is tried and Faithful dies as a martyr.



Narrator (83) – a good amount

Christian (83) — normal amount

Faithful (83) – normal amount (he dies)

Evangelist (83) —about two pages

a citizen of Vanity (87) — one line

Lord Hate-good – a judge (90) — not too much

Envy (91) — half a page

Superstition (91) — very short

Pickthank (92) — very short

Mr. Blind-man, No-good, etc. (94-5) — short statements



“quit your selves” (85) = conduct yourselves

thorow (86, 87) = through

Bedlams (87) = madman, lunatic

Pillory (88) = “a device formerly used for publicly punishing offenders consisting of a wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands can be locked” (Merrian-Webster)

on’t (90) = “of it”

Pickthank (91 — see †) = “one who ‘picks a thank’, i.e. flatters, or curries favour” (302)

Runagate (92) — a vagabond, fugitive, runaway

Sirrah (92) — “sir” (pronounced “seer –rah”)


Questions (pp. 83-95)

Page #

85        Both the town and the fair were called “vanity.” Simple as the question might be, what does “Vanity Fair” represent? Why must all Pilgrims go through (“thorow”) it? Isn’t there a way to avoid it?

86        Explain what Bunyan is referring to on p. 86 (the exchange between Beelzebub and the Prince of Princes).[1]

87        Why was there such a “hubbub” over the Pilgrims’ arrival into the Town of Vanity? What “three” things made these Pilgrims so different from the rest of the people? Should that be the case with all Christians? Why or why not?

87-88   Why would the people of Vanity think that the Pilgrims were lunatics (“Bedlams”)? Is their anger against the Pilgrims reasonable? Is this depiction realistic? Why or why not?

88        When the Pilgrims were beaten, they did not respond in anger. Why was that? Can all Christians do that? Ought they? Why or why not? How will you know if you will be able to when the time comes?

91-94   The Judge[2] along with witnesses against the Pilgrims present their case. Explain how they come across as sane and lawful in this court of law? Are all “legal” matters necessarily holy and good? Could a trial like this happen in America? Why or why not?

95        We are told that Christian escaped. How did that happen?[3] What does this teach us?


Observations & Notes


Christian called “Evangelist” a “Prophet.” Why? Reformers and Puritans often called preachers and/or evangelists “Prophets.” Preaching was a form of prophesying. Prophesying meant either foretelling (speaking about future events) or forth-telling (setting forth God’s truth as revealed in His Word). Many of them believed that eminent godly men could prophesy regarding the future. Though we may disagree with them, some of the anecdotes are quite interesting if not persuasive.


Calhoun says that this Vanity Fair represents “the days of Charles II and the Restoration. Kelman comments that ‘in the figures of these two pilgrims austerely walking through the noisy streets of Vanity, we can see the forms of such men as Owen, Baxter, Goodwin, and Howe, walking apart amidst the dance of contemporary English life.” (Calhoun, 65)[4] Cheever gets at the essence of this city: “Vanity Fair is the City of Destruction in its gala dress, in it most seductive sensual allurements. It is this world in miniature, with its various temptations.” (Cheever, 363)

Barry Horner makes an important observation from this (something we must always remember). When the Pilgrims entered Vanity Fair, they did not “incorporate the lifestyle of Vanity into their methodology; they are not to reach out with the media that are so popular in Vanity.” Rather, they witnessed by their holy lifestyle, by speaking the truth of Scripture and by their manifest graciousness. “In this situation, it is particularly the uncluttered consistency of the truth, its uncompromising proclamation, even unto death, that begins to make inroads into Satan’s entrenched domain.”[5]

Cheever perceives another danger in Vanity Fair. It is something against which our own generation must fight. “Vanity Fair itself may be full of professed pilgrims, and the pilgrimage itself may be held in high esteem, and yet the practice of the pilgrimage, as Christian and Faithful followed it, may almost have gone out of existence. With the increase of nominal Christians there is always an increase of conformity to the world; and the world appears better than it did to Christians, not so much because it has changed, as because they have changed; the wild beasts and tame ones dwell together, not so much because the leopards eat straw like the ox, as because the ox eats flesh like the leopard.…there is not so such a marked and manifest distinction between the church and the world as there should be; their habits, maxims, opinions, pursuits, amusements, whole manner of life, are too much the same; so that the Pilgrims in our day have lost the character of a peculiar people, not so much because they have become vastly more numerous than formerly, as because they have become conformed to the world, not like strangers, but natives in Vanity Fair” (Cheever, 371-2).


Following Bishop Ussher and other similar divines, almost all the Puritans calculated the year of the earth from Adam unto their present time to be a bit over 5,000 years old. Bunyan is stating that the town of Vanity existed from the beginning.


These three “contrived here to set up a Fair…” The town is a trap, it is the world in which we live; it is seduction of the world (“This Fair therefore is an Ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great Fair.” p. 87). It is remarkably similar to the role of Babylon in the book of Revelation (chs. 17-18). The beast carries Babylon (Rev. 17:3, 7, 8) and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion erected this Fair. The world and its “stuff” present themselves to us. Will we yield to vanity or will we reject her wares? That was the question Christian and Faithful had to answer with their very lives.

[1] Note, this small episode is not found in some versions of Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, it is not found in The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to That which is to Come, Special Tercentenary Edition (New York: American Tract Society, n.d.).

[2] Apparently, the Judge’s words and manners mirror some of the judges who served on King Charles, cf. Cheever, 368.

[3] “But he that over-rules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it about, that Christian for that time escaped them, and went his way.” (95)

[4] Calhoun is citing Kelman, The Road, A Study of John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ (Port Washington, NY, 1970), 1:205.

[5] Horner, 368-370.


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