Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
[ocr errors]

far but the River and the way for a time parted; at which they were not a little sorry, yet they durst not go out of the way. Now the way from the River was rough, and their feet tender by reason of their travels: so “the souls of the Pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way.” Wherefore, still as they went on, they wished for better way. Now a little before them, there was on the left hand of the road a Meadow, and a stile to go over into it; and that Meadow is called By-path-meadow. Then said Christian to his fellow, If this Meadow lieth along by our way-side let's go over into it. Then he went to the stile to see, and behold a path lay along by the way on the other side of the fence. 'Tis according to o said Christian, here is the easiest going ; come, good Hopeful, and let us go over. (e) Hope. But how if this path should lead us out of the way P That's not like, said the other. Look, doth it not go along . by the way-side –So Hopeful being persuaded by his fellow went after him over the stile. When they were gone over, and were got into the path, they found it very easy for their feet; and, withal, they looking before them espied a man walking as they did, and his name was Vain-confidence: so they called after #. and asked him whither that way led P He said, to the Celestial Gate. “Look,” said Christian, “did

[ocr errors]

o (e) Believers, even when in the path of duty, walking by faith, and supported by the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, may be abridged of those holy consolations which they - have experienced: and if this trial be accompanied with temporal losses, poverty, sickness, the unkindness of friends, or ill usage from the world, they may be greatly discouraged ; and Satan may have a special advantage in tempting them to discontent, distrust, envy, or coveting. Thus, being more disposed to wish for a better way, than to pray earnestly for an increase of faith and patience, they are tempted to look out for some method of declining the cross, or shifting the difficulty which wearies them: nor will it be long before some expedient for a temporary relief will be suggested. The path of duty being rough, a by-path is discovered which seems to lead the same way: but, if they will thus turn aside, though they need not break through an hedge, they must go over a stile. The commandments of God mark out the path of holiness and safety: but a deviation from the exact strictness of them may sometimes be plausible, and circumstances may seem to invite to it. Men imagine some providential interposition, giving ease to the weary; and they think that the precept may be interpreted with some latitude, that prudence should be exercised, and that scrupulousness about little things is a mark of legality or superstition. Thus by “leaning to their own understandings" and “trusting in their own hearts,” instead of asking counsel of the Lord, they hearken to the tempter. Nor is it uncommon for Christians of deeper experience, and more established reputation, to mislead their juniors, by turning aside from the direct line of obedience. For the Lord leaves them to themselves, to repress their self-considence, and keep them entirely dependent on him; and thus teaches young converts to follow no man further than he follows Christ.

[ocr errors]

146 . The Pilgrims turn aside,

not I tell you so F by this you may see we are right.” So they followed, and he went before them. But behold the night came on, and it grew very dark; so that they that were behind lost the sight of him that went before, (f) He therefore that went before, (Wain-confidence by name,) not seeing the way before him, fell into a deep pit,” which was on purpose there made by the prince of those grounds to catch vain-glorious fools withal, and was dashed in pieces with his fall. (g) Now Christian and his fellow heard him fall : so they called to know the matter; but there was none to answer, only they heard a groaning. Then said Hopeful, Where are we now * Then was his fellow silent, as mistrusting that he had led him out of the way; and now it began to rain, and thunder, and lighten, in a very dreadful manner; and the water rose amain. (h) Then Hopeful groaned in himself, saying, “O that I had kept on my way !” Chr. Who could have thought that this path should have led us out of the way ? Hope. I was afraid on’t at the very first, and therefore

* Isa. ix. 16.

(f) It would not be politic in Satan to tempt believers at first to flagrant crimes, at which their hearts revolt: and therefore he endeavours to draw them aside, under various pretences, into such plausible deviations as seem to be of no bad repute or material consequence. But every wrong step makes way for further temptations, and serves to render other sins apparently necessary: and if it be a deliberate violation of the least precept in the smallest instance, from carnal motives, it involves such self-will, unbelief, ingratitude, and worldly idolatry, as will most certainly expose the believer to sharp rebukes and painful corrections. The example also of vain pretenders to religion, of whom perhaps at the first interview, too favourable an opinion has been formed, helps to increase the confidence of him who has departed from the path of obedience: for these men often express the strongest assurance, and venture to violate the precepts of Christ, under pretence of honouring his free grace, and knowing their liberty and privilege! But darkness must soon envelop all who follow such guides, and the most extreme distress and danger are directly in the way they take.

g) This circumstance may represent the salutary effects, which are sometimes produ: ced on offending believers, by the awful death of some vain-glorious hypocrite, to whom they have given too much attention. The Lord, however, will in one way or other deliver his servants from the temporary prevalence of vain-confidence; while presumptuous transgressors perish in the pit of darkness and despair.

(h) The holy law condemns every transgression: when the Christian, therefore, has tallon into wilful sin, he is often led to fear that his faith is dead, that he is still under the law, and that his person as well as his conduct is liable to its righteous condemnation. Thus he is brought back again, as it were, to the tempest, thunder and lightning of mount Sinai. * Jer. xxxi. 21.

[ocr errors]

gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoke plainer, but that you are older than I. Chr. Good brother, be not offended, I am sorry I have brought thee out of the way, and that I have put thee into such imminent danger : pray, my brother, forgive me; I did not do it of an evil intent. Hope. Be comforted, my brother, for I forgive thee; and believe, too, that this shall be for our good. Chr. I am glad I have with me a merciful brother : but we must not stand thus ; let us try to go back again. Hope. But, good brother, let me go before. Chr. No, if you please, let me go first, that if there be any danger I may be first therein; because by my means we are both gone out of the way. (i) No, said Hopeful, you shall not go first ; for your mind being troubled may lead you out of the way again.—Then, for their encouragement, they heard the voice of one saying, “Lettline heart be towards the highway; even the way that thou wentest turn, again.” But by this time the waters were greatly risen, by reason of which the way of going back was very dangerous. (Then I thought that it is easier going out of the way when we are in, than going in when we are out.). Yet they adventured to go back; but it was so dark, and the flood was so high, that in their going back they had like to have been drowned, nine or ten times. (k)

(i) This dialogue is very natural and instructive, and exhibits that spirit of mutual tenderness, forbearance and sympathy, which becomes Christians in such perplexing circumstances. They, who have misled others into sin, should not only ask forgiveness of God, but of them also ; and they who have been drawn aside by the example and persuasion of their brethren, should be careful not to upbraid or discourage tilem, when they become sensible of their fault.

(k) When such as have turned aside are called upon in Scripture to return to God and his ways, the exhortation implies a promise of acceptance to all who comply with it, and may be considered as immediately addressed to every one with whose character and situation it corresponds. It might be thought indeed, that an experienced believer, when convinced of any sin, would find little difficulty in returning to his duty and recovering his peace. But a deliberate transgression, however trivial it might seem at the moment, appears upon the retrospect to be an act of most ungrateful and aggravated rebellion; so that it brings such darkness upon the soul, and guilt on the conscience, as frequently causes a man to suspect that all his religion has been a delusion. And, when he would attempt to set out anew, it occurs to him, that if all his past endeavours and expectations, for many years, have been frustrated, he can entertain little hope of better success hereafter; as he knows not how to use other means, or greater earnestness, than he has already cmployed as he fears to no purpose. Nor will Satan ever fail, in these circumstances, to

148 6iant Despair finds the Pilgrims ;

Neither could they, with all the skill they had, get again to the stile that jo. Wherefore at last, lighting under a little shelter, they sat down there till the day-break: but being weary they fell asleep. Now there was, not far from the place where they lay, a Castle, called. Doubting-Castle, the owner o Giant Despair: and it was in his grounds they now were sleeping. Wherefore he getting up in the morning early, and walking up and down in his fields, caught Christian and Hopeful asleep in his grounds. Then with a grim and surly voice, he bid them awake, and asked them whence they were, and what they did in his grounds P They told him they were Pilgrims, and that they had lost their way. Then said the Giant, You have this night trespassed on me by trampling in, and lying on, my ground, and therefore you must go along with me. So they were forced to go, because he was stronger than they. They also had but little to say, for they knew themselves in a fault. The Giant, therefore, drove them before him, and put them into his Castle into a very dark dungeon, nasty and stinking to the spirits of these two men. (l) Here then they lay, from

pour in such suggestions as may overwhelm the soul with an apprehension that the case is hopeless, and God inexorable. The believer will not, indeed, be prevailed upon by these discouragements wholly to neglect all attempts to recover his ground: but he often resembis a man who is groping in the dark and cannot find his way, or who is passing through a deep and rapid stream, and struggling hard to keep his head above water.

(!) When David had fallen into the depths of sin and distress, he cried most earnestly to the Lord ; and Jonah did the same in the fish's belly. Extraordinary cases require singular diligence; even as greater exertion is necessary to get out of a pit than to walk upon level ground. When believers, therefore, have brought themselves, by transgression, into great terror and anguish of conscience, it is foolish to expect that God will “restore to them the joy of his salvation,” till they have made the most unreserved confessions of their guilt; humbly deprecated his deserved wrath in persevering prayer, and used peculiar diligenee in everything that accompanies repentance and faith in Christ; and tends to greater watchfulness, circuinspection and self-deuial. But they often seek relief in a more compendious way: and, as they do not wholly omit their customary religious exercises, or vindicate and r, peat their transgressions; they endeavour to quiet themselves by general notions of the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, and the security of the new covenant; and the storm in their consciences subsiding, they ‘find a little shelter, and “wait for a more convenient opportunity” of recovering their former life and vigour in religion. Indeed the very circumstances which should excite us to peculiar earnestness, tend, through the depravity of our nature, to blind and stupify the heart: Peter and the other disciples “slept for sorrow,” when they were more especially required “to watch and pray, that they might not enter into temptation.” Such repeated sins and mistakes bring believers into deep distresses. Growing more and more heartless in religion, and insensible in a most perilous situation, they are led habitually to infer that they are hypocrites; that the encouragements of Scripture belong not to them; that prayer itself will be of no use to them : and, when they are at length brought to reflection, they are taken prisoners by Despair, and shut up in Doubt. ing-Castle. This case should be carefully distinguished from Christian's terrors in the City

[ocr errors]

.And shuls them up in 1joubting-Castle. 149

Wednesday morning, till Saturday night, without one bit of bread, or drop of drink, or light, or any to ask how they did : they were, therefore, here in evil case, and were far from friends and acquaintance.” Now in this place Christian had double sorrow, because it was through his unadvised haste

... that they were brought into this distress. (m) * Psa. lxxxviii. 8.

of Destruction, which induced him to “slee from the wrath to come;” from the Slough of Despond, into which he fell when diligently seeking salvation; srom the burden he carried to the cross; from his conflict with Apollyon, and his troubles in the Valley of the Shadow of Death; and even from the terrors that seized him and Hopeful in By-path-meadow, which would have speedily terminated if they had not slept on forbidden ground, and stopped short of the refuge the Lord hath provided.—Despair, like a tremendous giant, will at last seize on the souls of all unbelievers : and when Christians conclude, from some aggravated and pertinacious misconduct, that they belong to that company, even their acquaintance

with the Scripture will expose them to be taken captive by him. They do not indeed sali

and perish with Vain-confidence: but for a season they find it impossible to rise superior to

prevailing gloomy doubts bordering on despair, or to obtain the least comfortable hope of

deliverance, or encouragement to use the proper means of seeking it. Whenever we delib' erately quit the plain path of duty, to avoid hardship and self-denial, we trespass on Giant . Despair's grounds; and are never out of his reach till renewed exercises of deep repentance and faith in Christ, producing unreserved obedience, especially in that instance where before

we refused it, have set our feet in the highway we had forsaken. This we cannot attain to.

without the special grace of God, which he may not see good immediately to communicate ,

in the mean time every effort must be accompanied with discouragement and distress: but is, instead of persevering, amidst our anxious fears to cry to him for help, and wait his time

of shewing mercy; we endeavour to bolster up some false confidence, and take shelter in a

resuge of lies, the event will be such as is here described. It will be in vain, after such perverseness, to pretend that we have inadvertently mistaken our way: “our own hearts will condemn us;” how then can “we have considence toward God, who is greater than ot:1 hearts and knoweth all things?" the grim Giant will prove too strong for us, and shut us up in his noisome dungeon, and the recollection of our former hopes and co.i.forts will colo serve to aggravate our wo.—These lines are here inserted:— “The Pilgrims now, to gratify the flesh, Will seek its ease, but, oh how they afresh Do thereby plunge themselves new griefs into Who seek to please the flesh themselves undo.' on) Perhaps the exact time, from Wednesday morning till Saturday night, was met." tioned, under the idea that it was as long as life can generally be supported in such a situ. ation. The believer may be brought by wilful sin to such a condition that, to his own apprehension, destruction is inevitable. Even a true Christian may sink so low as to have no light or comfort from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit; nothing to sustain his almost expiring faith and hope ; uo help or pity from his brethren, but severe censures or more painful suspicions; the horrors of an accusing conscience, the dread of God as an enemy, connected with sharp and multiplied corrections in his outward circumstances; and all this as the price of the ease or indulgence obtained by some wilful transgression! Now who that really be 'i, ces this, will take encouragement to sin from the doctrine of final persever. once : Would a man, for a trivil gain, leap down a precipice, even if he could be sure that he should cscape with his life? No, the dread of the anguish of broken bones, and of beivg made a cripple to the cond of his days, would effectually core him from snch a madne".

« ZurückWeiter »