Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

190 Temporary, Turnback, and Saveself ;

Chr. Well, we will leave, at this time, our neighbour Tgnorance by himself, and fall upon another profitable question.

Hope. With all my heart : but you shall still begin.

Chr. Well then, did you not know, about ten years ago, ove Temporary in your parts, who was a forward man in religion then ?

Hope. Know him! yes, he dwelt in Graceless, a Town about two miles off of Honesty, and he dwelt next door to one Turnback.

Chr. Right, he dwelt under the same roof with him, Well, that man was much awakened once : I believe that then he had some sight of his sins, and of the wages that was due thereto.

Hope. I am of your mind, for, (my house not being above three miles from him,) he would ofttimes come to me, and that with many tears. Truly I pitied the man, and was not altogether without hope of him : but, one may see, it is not every one that cries, Lord, Lord.

Chr. He told me once that he was resolved to go on pilgrimage, as we go now; but all of a sudden he grew acquainted with one Saveself, and then he became a stranger to ine.(6)

Hope. Now since we are talking about him, let us a little inquire into the reason of the sudden backsliding of him and such others.

Chr. It may be very profitable ; but do you begin.

Flope. Well then, there are in my judgment four reasons for it.

1. Though the consciences of such men are awakened, yet their minds are not changed : therefore, when the power of guilt weareth away, that which provoked them to be religious ceaseth : wherefore they naturally turn to their own course again ; even as we see the dog that is sick of what he

(6) Temporary was doctrinally acquainted with the gospel, but a stranger to its sanctify ing power. Such men have been forward in religion, but that is now past ; for they were always graceless, and came short of honesty, in their profession, if not in their moral con. duct, and were ever ready to turn back into the world at a convenient season. They have indeed been alarmed ; but terror without humiliation will never subvert self-confidence : and of the numbers with whom some ministers converse under trouble of conscience, and of whom they hope well, how many disappoint their expectations, and after a time plunge deeper into sin than ever ! Such convictions resemble the blossoms of the fruit tree, which must precede the ripe fruit, but do not always produce it: so that we cannot say, "The more blossoms there are, the greater abundance will there be of fruit ;' though we may be assured that there can be no fruit if there be no blossoms. The reasons and the manner of such men's declensions and apostacy are very justly and emphatically stated; though perhaps not with sufficient delicacy to suit the taste of this fastidious age.

Reasons of their turning back.

191

hath eaten, so long as his sickness prevails he vomits and casts up all : not that he doth this of free mind, (if we may say a dog has a mind,) but because it troubleth his stomach : but now, when his sickness is over, and so his stomach eased, his desires being not at all alienate from his vomit, he turns him about, and licks up all ; and so it is true which is written, "The dog is turned to his own vomit again.”* Thus, I say, being hot for heaven, by virtue only of the sense and fear of the torments of hell, as their sense of hell, and the fears of damnation, chills and cools, so their desires for heaven and salvation cool also. So then it comes to pass that, when their guilt and fear is gone, their desires for heaven and happiness die, and they return to their course again.

2. Another reason is, they have slavish fears that do overmaster them :-I speak now of the fears that they have of men : "for the fear of men bringeth a snare.”+ So then, though they seem to be hot for heaven so long as the flames of hell are about their ears, yet, when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts, namely, that it is good to be wise, and not to run (for they know not what,) the hazard of losing all, or at least of bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles ; and so they fall in with the world again.

3. The shame that attends religion lies also as a block in their way: they are proud and haughty, and religion in their eye is low and contemptible: therefore, when they have lost their sense of hell and wrath to come, they return again to their former course.

4. Guilt, and to meditate terror, are grievous to them ; they like not to see their misery before they come into it; though perhaps the sight of it first, if they loved that sight, might niake them flee whither the righteous flee and are safe : but because they do, as I hinted before, even shun the thoughts of guilt and terror ; therefore, when once they are rid of their awakenings about the terrors and wrath of God, they harden their hearts gladly, and choose such ways as will harden them more and more.

Chr. You are pretty near the business, for the bottom of all is, for want of a change in their mind and will. And therefore they are but like the felon that standeth before the judge : he quakes and trembles, and seems to repent most Leartily; but the bottom of all is, the fear of the halter, not

[blocks in formation]

192

The Steps to Apostacy. of any detestation of the offences; as is evident, because, let but this man have his liberty, and he will be a thief, and so a rogue still; whereas, if his mind was changed, he would be otherwise.

Hope. Now I have shewed you the reasons of their going back, do you shew me the manner thereof.

Chr. So I will willingly.-They draw off their thoughts, all that they may, from the remembrance of God, death,

and judgment to come :—then they cast off by degrees private duties, as closet-prayer, curbing their lusts, watching, sorrow for sin, and the like then they shun the company of lively and warm Christians :-after that they grow cold to public duty ; as hearing, reading, godly conference, and the like : -then they begin to pick holes, as we say, in the coats of some of the godly, and that devilishly; that they may have a seeming colour to throw religion (for the sake of some infirmity they have spied in them,) behind their backs :-then they begin to adhere to, and associate themselves with, carnal, loose, and wanton men :—then they give way to carnal and wanton discourses in secret ; and glad are they if they can see such things in any that are counted honest, that they may the more boldly do it through their example.—After this, they begin to play with little sins only :-and then, being hardened, they show themselves as they are. Thus, being launched again into the gulf of misery, unless a miracle of grace prevent it, they everlastingly perish in their own deceivings. (c)

Now I saw in my dream that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the Country of Beulah,* whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves

* Sol. Song ii. 10-12. Isa. lxii. 4–12. (C) “The hypocrite will not pray always ;" nor can he ever pray, with faith or sincerity, for spiritual blessings : but he may deprecate misery, and beg to be made happy, and continue to observe a form of private religion. But when such men begin to shun the comp&ny of lively Christians, to neglect public ordinances, and to excuse their own conduct, by imitating the devil, the accuser of the brethren, in calumniating pious persons, magnifying their imperfections, insinuating suspicions of them, and aiming to confound all distinction of character among men ; we may safely conclude their state to be perilous in the extreme. While professed Christians should be exhorted carefully to look to themselves, and to watch against the first incursions of this spiritual declension ; it should also be obscrved, that the lamenteel infirmities and dulness of those who persist in using the means of grace, and striving against sin; who decidedly prefer the company of believers, and deem them the excellent of the earth ; and who are severe in judging themselves, but candid to others, are of a contrary nature and tendency to the steps of Temporary's apostacy.

The Country of Beulah.

193

[ocr errors]

there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land.-In this Country the sun shineth night and day : wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair, neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the City they were going to : also here met tbem some of the inhabitants thereof : for in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed : yea, here, "as the Bridegroom rejoiceth over the Bride, so did their God rejoice over them.” Here they had no want of corn and wine ; for in this place they met abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimages. Here they heard voices from out of the City, loud voices, saying, “Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold his reward is with him!” Here all the inhabitants of the country called them “the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, sought out-" &c. (d)

Now, as they walked in this land, they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the Kingdom to which they were bound ; and drawing near to the City they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of pearls

(d) The word Beulah signifies marriell ; and the prophet in the passage whence it is quoted, predicted a very flourishing state of religion, which is yet in futurity: but the author accommodates it to the sweet peace and confidence which tried believers commonly experience towards the close of their lives. This general rule adınits inderd of exceptions: but the author, having witnessed many of these encouraging scenes, was willing to animate himself and his afflicted brethren with the hope of similar triumphant joys. The communion of saints in prayer, praises, and thanksgivings, with liberty and ardour, and hearts united in cordial love ; the beauties of holiness, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit ; the healing beains of the Sun of Righteousnicoss, sliining by the sweet light of divine truth upon the soul ; exemption from darkening temptations and barassing doubts ; lively earnests and near prospects of heavenly felicity; a cheering sense of communion with the heavenly host, in their servent adorations, and a realizing apprehension of their ministering care over the beirs of salvation ; a comfortable renewal of the acceptance of Christ, sealed with

the tokens, piulges, and assurances of bis love ; gratitude, submission, confidence in God, hope, and the sweet exercise of tenderness, sympathy, meckness, and humility, but little interrupted by the working of the contrary evils:-tiese things ser in to constiute the happy state here represented.--It is remarkable that the Psalins (which were intended, among uther ust's, to regulate the devotions and experiences of believers,) abound at first with confessions, complaints, fears, anul carnest cri's of distress or danger; but towards the close betame more and more the language of confidence. gratitude and joy, and conclude with unnaingled praises and thanksgivings.

R

194 The Pilgrims enter the King's Gardens. and precious stones, also the streets thereof were paved with gold; so that, by reason of the natural glory of the City, and the reflection of the sun-beams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick; Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease ; wherefore here they lay by it a while, crying out because of their panys, “If you see my Beloved, tell him that I am sick of love." (e)

But, being a little strengthened, and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way, and came yet nearer and nearer, where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now, as they came up to these places, behold the Gardener stood in the way'; to whom the Pilgrims said, "Whose goodly vineyards and gardens are these ?? He answered, .They are the King's, and are planted here for his own delights, and also for the solace of Pilgrims.'—So the Gardener had them into the vineyards, and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties ;* he also shewed them there the King's walks and the arbours, where he delighted to be: and here they tarried and slept.

Now I beheld in my dream, that they talked more in their sleep at this time than ever they did in all their journey ; and, being in a muse thereabout, the Gardener said even to me, Wherefore musest thou at the matter ? it is the nature of the fruit of the grapes of these vineyards "to go down sosweetly as to cause the lips of them that are asleep to speak.” (f)

So I saw that when they awoke they addressed themselves to go up to the City. But, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon the City, (for the City was pure gold,t) was so extremely glorious that they could not as yet with open face

[blocks in formation]

(e) In the immediate view of heavenly felicity, Paul "desired to depart hence and be with Christ, as far better” than life; and David "fainted for God's salvation." In the lively exercise of holy affections, the believer grows weary of this sinful world ; and longs to have his faith changed for sight, his hope swallowed up in enjoyment, and his love perfected, and secured from all interruption and abatement. Were this frame of mind habitual, it might unfit men for the common concerns of life, which appear very trifling to the soul when employed in delightful admiring contemplation of heavenly glory.

(f) Attendance on the public ordinances is always the believer's duty and privilege ; yet he cannot at all times delight in them : but, when holy affections are in lively exere cise, he sweetly rests in these earnests of heavenly joy ; and speaks freely and fervently of the love of Christ and the blessings of salvation, to the edification of those around him; who often wonder at witnessing such a change, from reserve and diffidence to boldness and earnestness, in urging others to mind the one thing needful.

« ZurückWeiter »