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The Delectable JMountains. 155
contrive with themselves what they should do at that stile, to prevent those that should come after from falling into the hand of Giant Despair. So they consented to erect there a pillar, and to engrave on the side thereof, “Over this stile is the way to Doubting-Castle, which is kept by Giant Despair, who despiseth the King of the Celestial Country, and seeks to destroy his holy Pilgrims.” Many therefore that followed after read what was written, and escaped the danger. (s) This, done, they sang as follows:
‘Out of the way we went, and then we found
They went then till they came to the Delectable Mountains, which mountains belong to the Lord of that Hill of which we have spoken before: so they went up to the mountains, to behold the gardens and orchards, the vineyards and fountains of water; where also they drank and washed themselves, and did freely eat of the vineyards. Now there was on the tops of these mountains Shepherds feeding their flocks, and they stood by the highway side. The Pilgrims therefore went to them, and leaning upon their staves (as is common with weary Pilgrims when they stand to talk with
(s) The promise of eternal life, to every one without exception, who believeth in Christ, is especially intended by the Key; but without excluding any other of “the exceeding great and precious promises” of the gospel. The believer, being enabled to recollect such as peculiarly suit his case, and conscious of cordially desiring the promised blessings, has the ‘Key in his bosom, which will open any lock in Doubting Castle;' and while he pleads the promises in faith, depending on the merits and atonement of Emmanuel, “as coming to God through him;’ he gradually resumes his confidence, and begins to wonder at his past despondency. Yet remains of unblief, recollection of his aggravated guilt, and fear lest he should presume, often render it difficult for him entirely to dismiss discouraging doubts.-But let it especially be noted that the faith which delivered the Pilgrims from Giant Despair's castle, induced them without delay to return into the high-way of obedience, and to walk in it with more circumspection than before, no more complaining of its roughness; and to devise every method of cautioning others against passing over the stile into By-path-meadow. Whereas a dead faith and a vain confidence keep out all doubts and flars, even on forbidden ground, and under the walls of Despair's castle; till at length the poor deluded wretch is unexpectedly aud irr sistibly seized upcn, and made his prey. And is Christians follow Vain-confidence, and endeavour to keep up their hopes when neglecting their known duty; let them remember, that (whatever some men may pretend.) they will surely be thus brought acquainted with Diffidence, immured in Doubting-Castle, and terribly bruised and frighted by Giant Despair; nor will they be delivered till they have learned, by pain.ful experience, that the assurance of hope is inseparably counceted with the self-denying obedience of faith and love.
156 The Pilgrims converse with the Shepherds.
any by the way,) they asked, “Whose Delectable Mountains are these ? and whose be the sheep that feed upon them * Shop. These mountains are Emmanuel's Land, and they are within sight of his City; and the sheep also are his, and he laid down his life for them. (t) Chr. Is this the way to the Celestial City P Shep. You are just in your way. Chr. How far is it thither ? Shep. Too far for any but those that shall get thither indeed. (u)
(t) When offending Christians are brought to deep repentance, renewed exercises of lively faith, and willing obedience in those self-denying duties which they had declined, the Lord “restores to them the joy of his salvation,” and their former comforts become more abundant and permanent.—The Delectable Mountains seem intended to represent those calm seasons of peace and comfort, which consistent believers often experience in their old age. They have survived, in a considerable degree, the vehemence of their youthful passions, and have honourably performed their parts in the active scenes of life: they are established, by long experience, in the simplicity of dependence and obedience: the Lord graciously exempts them from peculiar trials and temptations: their acquaintance with the ministers and people of God is enlarged, and they possess the respect, confidence and affection of many esteemed friends: they have much leisure for communion with God, and the immediate exercises of religion: and they often converse with their brethren on the loving kindness and truth of the Lord till “their hearts burn within them.” Thus “leaning on their staves,” depending on the promises and perfections of God in assured faith and hope, they anticipate their future happiness “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”—These things are represented under a variety of external images, according to the nature of an allegory.—The Shepherds and their flocks denote the more extensive acquaintance of many aged Christians with the Ministers and churches of Christ, the Chief Shepherd, “who laid down his life for the sheep.”—This is ‘Emmanuel's land;’ for, being detached from worldly engagements and connexions, they now spend their time almost wholly among the subjects of the Prince of Peace, and as in his more especial presence. Thc following lines are added here, as before:
“Mountains delectable they now ascend,
(u) The certainty of the final perseverance of true believers is continually exemplified in their actually persevering, notwithstanding all imaginable inward and outward impediments. Many hold the doctrine who are not interested in the previlege ; and whose conduct eventually proves, that they “had no root in themselves:” but the true believer acquires new strength by his very trials and mistakes, and possesses increasing evidence that the new covenant is made with him; for, “having obtained help of God,” he still “continues in Christ's word,” and “abides in him:” and, while temptations, persecutions, heresies, and afflictions, which stumble transgressors and detect hypocrites, tend to quicken, humble, sanctify, and establish him; he may assuredly conclude, that “he shall be kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.”
** 1 John ii. 19. " *
The Names of the Shepherds. 157
Chr. Is the way safe or dangerous P Shep. Safe for those for whom it is to be safe; “but transgressors shall fall therein.” Chr. Is there in this place any relief for Pilgrims that are weary and faint in the wa Shep. The Lord of these Mountains hath given us a charge “not to be forgetful to entertain strangers;”f therefore the good of the place is before you. I saw also in my dream, that, when the Shepherds perceived that they were wayfaring men, they also put questions to them, (to which they made answer, as in other places;) as, Whence came you ? and, how got you into the way P and by what means have you so persevered therein 3 for but few of them that begin to come hither do shew their face on this Mountain. But when the Shepherds heard their answers, being pleased therewith, they looked very lovingly upon them and said, “Welcome to the Delectable Mountains.” The Shepherds, I say, whose names were Knowledge, Exerience, Watchful, and Sincere, (w) took them by the and, and had them to their tents, and made them partake of that which was ready at present. They said moreover, We would that you should stay here a wo, to be acquainted with us, and yet more to solace yourselves with the good of these Delectable Mountains. They told them that they were content to stay: and so they went to their rest that night, because it was very late. Then I saw in my dream, that in the morning the Shepherds called up Christian and Hopeful to walk with them upon the Mountains: so they went forth with them, and walked a while, having a pleasant prospect on every side. *Hos. xiv. 9. t Heb. xiii. 1, 2.
(iv) These names imply much useful instruction, both to Ministers and Christians, by slewing them what endowments are most essential to the pastoral office.—The attention given to preachers should not be proportioned to the degree of their confidence, vekemence, accomplishments, graceful delivery, eloquence, or politeness; but to that of their knowledge of the Scriptures, and of every subject that relates to the glory of God and the salvation of souls; their caperience of the power of divine truth in their own hearts, of the faithfulness of God to his promises, of the believer's conflicts, difficulties, and dangers, and of the manifold devices of Satan to mislead, deceive, pervert, defile, or harass the souls of men; their watchfulness over the people, as their constant business and unremitted care, to caution them against every snare, and to recover them out of every error into which they may be betrayed; and their sincerity, as manifested by a disinterested, unambitious, unas. suming, patient, and affectionate conduct; by proving that they deem themselves bound to practice their own instructions, and by an uniform attempt to convince the people, that they “souk not their’s but them.”
153 Men Slain by a Fall from Jolount Error.
Then said the Shepherds one to another, Shall we shew these Pilgrims some wonders! So, when they had concluded to do it, they had them first to the . of an Hill, called Error, which was very steep on the furthest side, and bid them iok down to the bottom. So Christian and Hopeful looked down, and saw at the bottom several men dashed all to pieces by a fall that they had from the top. Then said thristian, What meaneth this The Shepherds answered, Have you not heard of them that were made to err, by hearkening to Hymeneus and Philetus, as concerning the faith of the resurrection of the body ? They answered, Yes. . Then said the Shepherds, Those that you see lie dashed in ieces at the bottom of this Mountain are they ; and they F. continued to this day unburied, as you see, for an example to others to take heed how they clamber too high, or how they come too near the brink of this Mountain; (or Then I saw that they had them to the top of another Mountain, and the name of that is Caution, and bid them * 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18.
(v) Human nature always verges to extremes. In former times the least deviation from an established system of doctrine was reprobated as a damnable heresy; and some persons, even at this day, tacitly laying claim to infallibility, deem every variation from their standard an error, and every error inconsistent with true piety. But the absurdity and bad effects of this bigotry having been discovered and exposed, it has become far more common to consider indifference about theological truth, as essential to candour and liberality of sentiment; and to vilify, as narrow-minded bigots, all who “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” however averse they may be to persecution, or disposed to benevolence towards such as differ from them. Thus the great end for which prophets and apostles were inspired, martyrs shed their blood, and the Son of God himself came into the world and died on the cross, is pronounced a matter of no moment 1 revelation is virtually rejected . (for we may know, without the Bible, that men ought to be sober, honest, sincere, and benevolent;) and those principles, from which all genuine holiness must arise, are contemned as enthusiasm and foolishness . Some errors may indeed consist with true faith : (for who will say that he is in nothing mistaken 2) yet no error is absolutely harmless; all must, in one way or other, originate from a wrong state of mind or a faulty conduct, and proportionably counteract the design of revelation: and some are absclutely inconsistent with repentance, humility, faith, hope, love, spiritual worship, and holy obedience, and consequently incompatible with a state of acceptance and salvation. These are represented by “the hill Error,” and a scriptural specimen is adduced. Professed Christians fall into delusions by indulging self-conceit, vain-glory, and curiosity; by “leaning to their own understandings,” and “intruding into the things they have not seen, vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind,” and by speculating on subjects which are too deep for them. For the fruit of “the tree of knowledge,” in respect of religious opinions not expressly revealed, is still forbidden; and men vainly thinking it “good for food, and a oo o*: wise ;” and desiring “lobe as gods,” understanding and corne aws. examples o,> an into destructive heresies, do immense mischief, and be
e warning of their contemporaries and successors.
Jolen Blinded by Giant Despair. 159
look afar off: which, when they did, they perceived, as they thought, several men walking up and down among the tombs that were there: and they perceived that the men were blind, because they stumbled sometimes upon the tombs, and because they could not get out from among them. Then said Christian, What means this 2 The Shepherds then answered, Did you not see a little below these Mountains a Stile that leads into a Meadow on the left hand of this way P They answered, Yes. Then said the Shepherds, From that Stile there goes a path that leads directly to Doubting-Castle, which is kept by Giant Despair: and these men (pointing to them among the tombs) came once on pilgrimage, as you do now, even till they came to that same Stile. And, because the right way was rough in that place, they chose to go out of it into that Meadow, and there were taken by Giant Despair, and cast into DoubtingCastle; where, after they had a while been kept in the dungeon, he at last did put out their eyes, and led them among those tombs, where he has left them to wander to this very day, that the saying of the wise man might be fulfilled, “He that wandereth out of the way of understanding, shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” Then Christian and IIopeful looked upon one another, with tears gushing out, but yet said nothing to the Shepherds. (y) Then I saw in my dream, that the Shepherds had them to another place in a bottom, where was a door, in the side of an hill, and they opened the door and bid them look in. They looked in therefore, and saw that within it was very dark and smoky : they also thought that they heard a rumbling noise, as of fire, and a cry of some tormented; and * Prov, xxi. 16. (y) Many professors, turning aside from the line of conscientious obedience to escape difficulties, experience great distress of mind; which not being able to endure, they desperately endeavour to disbelieve or pervert all they have learned concerning religion: thus they are blinded by Satan through their despondings, and are given over to strong delusions, as the just punishment of their wickedness." Notwithstanding their profession, and the hopes long formed of them, they return to the company of those who are dead in sin, and buried in worldly pursuits; differing from them merely in a few speculative notions, and being far more hopeless than they. This is not only the case with many, at the first beginning of a religious profession, as of Pliable at the Slough of Despond, but with some at every stage of the journey. Such examples may very properly demand our tears of godly sorrow and servent gratitude; when we reflect on our own misconduct, and the loving kindness of the Lord, who hath made us to differ, by first implanting, and then preserving, faith in our hearts. "2 Thess. ii. 11-13.