John Bunyan (1628-1688), the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote another, less well-known allegory of the Christian life, The Holy War (1682). The Holy War portrays the struggle that goes on in the in the heart of every Christian as a war for the town of Mansoul (the individual human soul) between Diabolus (Satan), on the one side, and King Shaddai (God), Prince Emmanuel (Jesus) on the other.
The following excerpt is adapted for modern readers.
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In the town of Mansoul, there was a man named Mr. Carnal-Security. Even after all the mercy bestowed by Prince Emmanuel, this man brought Mansoul into terrible slavery and bondage. Here is a brief account of him and his doings.
When Diabolus first took possession of the town of Mansoul, he brought many Diabolonians along with him. Among these was Mr. Self-Conceit. Diabolus, perceiving this man to be active and bold, sent him on many desperate missions. He was very successful on these assignments and pleased his lord more than most who served him. Finding Mr. Self-Conceit suitable for his purposes, Diabolus made him second in command to the great Lord Will.
In those days Lord Will was pleased with Mr. Self-Conceit and his achievements, so he gave his daughter, Lady Fear-Nothing, to be his wife. Now the son of Lady Fear-Nothing and Mr. Self-Conceit was Carnal-Security. There were many of these mixed marriages in Mansoul, and it was hard in some cases to figure out which were natives and which were not. Mr. Carnal-Security was related to Lord Will on his mother’s side, but his father was a Diabolonian by nature.
Carnal-Security took after his father and mother. He was self-conceited; he feared nothing; and he kept very busy. No new idea, doctrine, or change came about in the town except that he was at the head or tail of it. Yet, in the midst of any conflict, he always rejected those he considered weak and sided with those he deemed to be strongest.
When Shaddai the mighty and Emmanuel his Son made war on Mansoul, Mr. Carnal-Security was in town. He was very active among the people, encouraging them in their rebellion and hardening them in resisting the King’s forces. When the town of Mansoul was taken over and converted by the glorious Prince Emmanuel, Mr. Carnal-Security saw Diabolus ousted and forced to leave the castle in great shame. He realised that the town was filled with Emmanuel’s captains and weapons and men, so he slyly wheeled about. As he had served Diabolus against the Prince, so now he feigned to support the Prince against his enemies.
Having obtained a smattering of information about Emmanuel’s plans, Mr. Carnal-Security ventured into the company of the townsmen and attempted to chat with them. He knew that the power and strength of Mansoul was great and that it would please the people if he flattered their might and glory. Therefore, he exaggerated the power and strength of Mansoul’s strongholds and fortifications, saying that the town was impregnable. He magnified the captains and their weapons, assuring the townsmen that the Prince would make Mansoul happy forever. When he saw that some of the people were tickled and taken with his discourse, he made it his business to walk from street to street, house to house, and man to man, until he at last convinced them to dance to his tune. Soon they became almost as carnally secure as he was. So from talking, they went to feasting and from feasting to playing, and from playing to other things.
Mayor Understanding, Lord Will, and Mr. Conscience were also taken with the words of this flattering gentlemen. They forgot that their Prince had warned them to be careful not to be deceived by any Diabolonian trickery. He had further told them that the security of the now flourishing town did not lie so much in her present fortification as in her desire to have Emmanuel abide within her castle. The true doctrine of Emmanuel was that Mansoul should take heed not to forget his and his Father’s love for them. They were also to behave themselves in a way that would keep them in his love.
It was a grievous mistake for them to become so infatuated with one of the Diabolonians, especially one like Mr. Carnal-Security, and to let him lead them around by the nose. They should have listened to their Prince, feared him, and loved him. They should have stoned this carnal mischief-maker to death and walked in the ways of their Prince. Their peace would have been like a river if their righteousness had been like the waves of the sea.
Emmanuel saw what was happening in the town. He realised that by the policy of Mr. Carnal-Security, the hearts of the men of Mansoul had turned cold in their love for him.
First, he went to his Father’s Secretary [the Holy Spirit] and bewailed, “Oh, that my people had listened to me and that Mansoul had walked in my ways! I would have fed them with the finest of the wheat and sustained them with honey out of the rock.” Then he said in his heart, “I will return to my Father’s court until the people of Mansoul consider and acknowledge their offence.”
He did so, and as a result, the people no longer visited him at his royal palace as they had before. In fact, they didn’t even notice that he no longer came knocking on their doors. The Prince still prepared the love-feasts and invited them to come, but they neglected his invitations and no longer took delight in his companionship. The people of Mansoul didn’t seek or wait for his counsel but became confident in themselves, imagining that they were now strong and invincible. They believed Mansoul was secure and beyond all reach of the enemy.
Emmanuel realised that, by the craft of Mr. Carnal-Security, the town of Mansoul no longer depended on him and his Father. Instead, they trusted in the blessings they had received. At first, he grieved over their fallen condition; then. he attempted to make them understand that the way they were going was dangerous. The Prince sent his Lord High Secretary to forbid them to continue in their ways. But twice when he came to them, he found them at dinner in Mr. Carnal Security’s parlour. The Secretary realised that they weren’t willing to listen to reason concerning their own good, so he was grieved and went his way . When he told the Prince about their indifference, Emmanuel was also offended and grieved. So he made plans to return to his Father’s court.
Even while he was still in Mansoul before his departure, the Prince began to keep more to himself than he had formerly. If he came into the company of the townsmen. his conversation was no longer as pleasant and familiar as it had been before. He no longer distributed treats like he had done. And when the townspeople came to visit him, as now and then they would, he was not as easy to speak with as they had found him to be in the past. Formerly, at the sound of their feet, he would have run to meet them halfway and embrace them in his arms. But now they’d knock once or twice, and he’d seem not to hear them.
Emmanuel continued to behave this way, hoping the people of Mansoul would reconsider their actions and return to him. But they did not take note of his new ways toward them, and they were not touched with the memory of his former favours.
Therefore, the Prince quietly withdrew himself—first privately from his palace, then to the gates of the town, and finally away from Mansoul. He left the town until they would acknowledge their offence and earnestly seek his face. Mr. God’s-Peace also resigned from his post and, for the time being, would no longer perform his duties in the town.
So the townspeople walked contrary to their Lord and in response he walked contrary to them. But, alas! By this time, the people were so hardened in their ways and so intoxicated with the teaching of Mr. Carnal-Security that the departure of their Prince didn’t touch their hearts. In fact, they didn’t even notice that he was gone, and his absence didn’t seem to matter to them.