Then I saw in my dream that when they had left the borders of the wilderness, they immediately saw a town before them. The name of that town is Vanity, and in the town there is a year-round market called Vanity Fair. It bears its name because the town that hosts the fair is only concerned with things that are unimportant and vain. All that is bought and sold at the fair is likewise vain and worthless. As the ancient saying goes, ‘All that cometh is vanity.’ This fair is no new business but has been established from ancient times. I will now explain to you its history and origins.
Almost five thousand years ago, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, just as Christian and Faithful were doing. Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, seeing that the pilgrims’ path went right through the town of Vanity, conspired together to set up a fair in which all sorts of vain merchandise were sold all year long. This merchandise consisted of houses, lands, trades, places, honors, positions, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, such as whores, lewd entertainment, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and whatnot. Moreover, at this fair can always be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Also to be seen , and at no charge, are thefts, murders, adulteries, and false witnesses who cause death with their lies.
As in other fairs of less importance, where there are several rows and streets all properly named for the different wares that are vended, so also Vanity Fair has the proper places, rows, streets (countries and kingdoms) where the wares of this fair can be found. Here is the Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row, where various sorts of vanities are to be sold. Also as in other fairs, where one particular commodity is in great demand, so it is in Vanity Fair. Here the ware of Rome is greatly promoted and desired, and only a few nations, including England, have taken a dislike to the goods of Rome.
Now as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town where this lusty fair is kept. Anyone going to the Celestial City who will not go through this town must “go out of the world.” The Prince of princes Himself, when He was here, went through this town to His own country. I think it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, who invited Him to buy some of his vanities. He even offered to make Him lord of the fair if only He would show him reverence as He went through the town. Because the Prince was such a person of honor, Beelzebub took Him from street to street and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time in order to, if possible, allure the Blessed One to cheapen Himself and buy some of his vanities. But the Prince had no interest in the merchandise and left the town without spending so much as one penny on anything there.
This fair is a great, ancient, and long-standing place. Now these pilgrims, as I said, must pass through this Vanity Fair. And so they did, but as they entered into the fair, they created a great commotion, and all the people in the fair turned their attention to the two pilgrims.
There were several reasons for this:
First, the pilgrims were dressed differently from the people trading at the fair. The people of the fair looked at them in astonishment. Some said they were fools, some said they were lunatics, and some said they were just outlandish men.
Secondly, as strange as the pilgrims’ attire appeared to their onlookers, their speech was judged even stranger. Very few could even understand what the pilgrims said since they spoke the language of the promised Kingdom rather than the language of the world, which was the common language of the fair. So from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed like barbarians to the others.
Thirdly, the thing that most annoyed and puzzled the merchants was that these pilgrims put no value on the fair’s goods. They did not even enjoy looking at them, and when the merchants called out to them to buy this or that, the pilgrims put their fingers in their ears and cried out, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity” and looked upward, signifying that their trade and traffic was in Heaven.
One merchant, observing the strange conduct of the pilgrims, mockingly said to them, “What will you buy?”
But they, looking sternly at him, answered, “We buy the truth.”
This special printing of The Pilgrim's Progress, written by John Bunyan, is made available through Truth For Life by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.