Fifth Stage: From the Valley of Shadow to Vanity Fair

Christian comes to a slight incline. From the top, he sees Faithful in the distance. He runs to catch up to his fellow pilgrim. Faithful left the City of Destruction shortly after he did. After Christian’s departure, everyone talked about the City’s impending destruction by fire. But he was the only one who left.

Christian asks what has happened to Faithful on his pilgrimage thus far. He made it to the Wicket Gate without falling into the Slough of Despond. However, he did encounter the woman Wanton. Although she promised him “things of a carnal and fleshly nature” and “all sorts of sensual pleasure,” he resisted her advances.

At the Hill Difficulty, he met an old man named Adam the First. This man promised him a job, decent wages and his three daughters in marriage. Yet Faithful sensed he would make him a slave, so he refused his offer and proceeded up the hill.

At the shady resting place, Moses came and knocked Faithful down because of his fondness for Adam the First. He did this two more times with deadly blows to the chest. Faithful asked him to show mercy but he didn’t know how. Then Jesus came by and demanded Moses stop his assault.

Faithful continued up the hill and passed by the Palace Beautiful. In the Valley of Humiliation, he met a man (Discontent) who tried persuading him to go back. He also met a man (Shame) who raised several objections against religion. Shame persisted and followed for a while, but Faithful eventually shook him.

Not meeting anyone else, he enjoyed sunshine the rest of the way through the Valleys of Humiliation and the Shadow of Death. Christian relates his battle with Apollyon and difficulties in the Shadow.

Then Faithful spots a man on the way named Talkative. He invites him to join them and discuss things that are profitable. Talkative laments how people waste their time with unprofitable discussion. He lauds conversation as a vehicle for religious truth and agrees to discuss whatever topic Faithful chooses.

Faithful is impressed. Yet Christian warns that Talkative is not as attractive as he seems. He is also from Destruction City, and his family and neighbors say nothing good about him. He speaks highly of religion, yet it “has no place in his heart, house, or conversation.” He is in fact a stain on genuine Christianity.

Following Christian’s advice, Faithful asks, “How does the saving grace of God display itself when it lives in the heart of man?” Talkative answers insufficiently, suggesting a mere outcry against sin and knowledge of gospel mysteries. Faithful declares “a true work of grace in the heart is evident to the person himself as well as it is to the people around him.” Indeed, it is “evidenced by a life that is in agreement with such a confession.”

Then he asks, “Have you experienced this and does your life and conversation match up with what you say?” He shares Christian’s report about him and concludes, “The way you live makes what you profess nothing but a lie.” At this, Talkative bids him farewell.

Considering Fellowship

So far, Christian has journeyed alone. He endured the Hill Difficulty, the fight with Apollyon and the horrors of the Shadow of Death by himself. That is why it delights him to find a fellow pilgrim. He tells Faithful, “I am glad I have caught up with you and that God has so strengthened our spirits that we can walk as companions.”

We are not alone on our pilgrimage. God gives us fellow Christians to share our burdens and make the way easier. Bunyan especially valued companionship with other believers; he spent twelve years in prison for officiating “unlawful” worship services! Through Christian and Faithful’s relationship, he shows the benefits of such fellowship.

First, companions lift us up. Christian initially runs past Faithful. He feels proud and stops paying attention to his feet, so he falls and can’t get up until Faithful helps him. Whether it’s from sin, doubt or difficult circumstances, there are times when we need others to lift us up as well.

Second, companions encourage us with their testimony. Christian and Faithful swap stories of their pilgrimages. Their conversation “made the way easy, which would have otherwise proven to be tedious to them.” We too are strengthened when other believers share how the Lord has saved and kept them.

Third, companions strengthen us during hardship. In the sixth stage, Christian and Faithful keep each other strong during their trial at Vanity Fair. Believers around the world draw strength from each other when suffering discrimination and persecution.   

But it is important to choose our companions wisely. There are many today like Talkative who speak of religion but know nothing of its power. Indeed, the modern church places a high premium on talking. We talk about the Bible, the Christian life and evangelism. But how many of us translate our words into action?

It’s one thing to talk a good game; it’s another to back it up with a godly lifestyle. John says, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Is your love for Jesus evident to those around you? Does the way you live prove or disprove your confession of faith? Simply put, are you walking the walk or just talking the talk?

Bunyan shows us how to deal with such Talkers. Christian commends Faithful for being stern with Talkative. He says, “You did well to speak so frankly with him…I wish all men would deal with such imposters as directly as you have done.” Many Christians today wouldn’t approve of this. Our favorite Scripture is, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Unfortunately, this verse is often used as an excuse to soften the truth or avoid it altogether. But hypocritical Talkers must be silenced. Sparing people’s feelings is not our highest priority when the reputation of the church and gospel is at stake.

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