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22 The Pilgrim goes home in distress.
In this plight therefore he went home, and restrained himself as long as he could, that his wife and children should not perceive his distress ; but he could not be silent leng, because that his trouble increased : wherefore at length he brake his mind to his wife and children; and thus he began to talk to them : ‘O my dear wife,” said he, “and you the children of my bowels, I your dear friend am in myself undone, by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me; moreover, I am certainly informed that this our city will be burned with fire from heaven ; in which fearful overthrow, both myself, with thee my wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruin; except o: which yet I see not) some way of escape may be found, whereby we may be delivered.’ At this his relations were sore amazed ; not for that they believed that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought some frenzy distemper had got into his head; therefore, it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all haste they got him to bed : but the night was as troublesome to him as the day; wherefore, instead of sleeping he spent it in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they would know how he did ; and he told them worse and worse. He also set to talking to them again, but they began to be hardened : they also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriages to him : sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and sometimes they would quite neglect him. Wherefore he began to retire himself to his Evangelist meets and instructs Christian. 23
ful temporal satisfactions, while he trembles at the thought of impending destruction.” “The book in his hand in which he read’ implies, that sinners discover their real state and character, by reading and believing the Scriptures; that their first attention is often directed to the denunciations of the wrath to come; and that in this case they cannot but continue to search the Word of God, though their grief and alarm is increased by every perusal. The “burden on his back’ represents that distressing sense of guilt, and fear of wrath, which deeply convinced sinners cannot shake off; ‘the remembrance of their sins is grievous to them, the burden of them is intolerable; their consciences are oppressed with guilt, even on account of those actions in which their neighbours perceive no harm; their hearts tremble at the prospect of dangers of which others have no apprehension; and they see an absolute necessity of escaping from a situation in which others live most securely: for true faith “sees things that are invisible.” In one way or other, therefore, they soon manifest the earnestness of their minds, in inquiring “what they must do to be saved " The circumstances of these humiliating convictions exceedingly vary, but the life of faith and grace always begins with them ; and they who are wholly strangers to this experience are Christians only in name and form:
“He knows no hope who never knew a fear.” Cowper. * Heb. xi, 8, 24–27,
chamber, to pray for and pity them : and also to condole his own misery. He would also walk solitarily in the fields, sometimes reading and sometimes praying; and thus for some days, he spent his time. (c) Now I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was (as he was wont) reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, “What shall I do to be saved P”* I saw also that he looked this way and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still, because (as I perceived) he could not so which way to go... I looked then, and saw a . man named Evangelist coming to him, and he asked, “Wherefore dost thou cry P. He answered, Sir, I perceive by the book in my hand that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment; and I find that I am not willing to do the first nor able to do the second.t Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die, since this
* Acts xvi. 30,34, f Heb. ix. 27. Job. xvi. 21, 22. Ezek. xxii. 14.
(c) The contempt or indignation, which worldly people express towards those who are distressed in conscience, commonly induces them to conceal their inquietude as long as they can, even from their relatives; but this soon becomes impracticable. Natural af. feetion also, connected with a view of the extreme danger to which a man sees the objects of his most tender attachments exposed, but of which they have no apprehensions, will extort earnest representations, warnings, and entreaties. The city of Destruction, (as it is afterwards called) signifies this present evil world as doomed to the flames; or the condition of careless sinners immersed in secular pursuits and pleasures, neglecting eternal things, and exposed to the unquenchable fire of hell, “at the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” They, who are ignorant of the Seriptures and unaccustomed to compare their own conduct with the divine law, will be amazed at, such discourse; and, instead of duly regarding the warnings given them, will commonly ascribe them to enthusiasm or insanity: and, as prophets, apostles, and the Son of God himself, were looked upon as visionaries or beside themselves by their cotemporaries; we may be sure that no prudence, excellence, or benevolence, can exempt the consistent believer from the same trial. Near relations will generally be the first to form this opinion of his case ; and will devise various expedients to quiet his mind: diversions, company, feastings, absence from serious friends or books, will be prescribed ; and by these means a false peace often succeeds a transient alarm. But when any one has received a genuine humiliating discovery of the evil and desert of sin, such expedients will not alleviate but increase the anguish ; and will be followed by still greater earnestness about his own salvation, and that of others. This commonly strengthens prejudice, and induces obduracy: and contemptuous pity gives place to resentment, ill usage, derision, or neglect. The disconsolate believer is then driven into retirement, and endeavours to relieve his burdened mind by reading the Scriptures, and meditating on his doleful case, with compassionate prayers for his despisers: and thus he sows in tears that seed, from which the harvest of his future joy will surely be produced.
24 Christian begins to run from home.
life is attended with so many evils P. The man answered, Because I fear that this burden that is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave, and I shall fall into Tophet.* And, Sir, if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit to go to ...; and from thence to execution: and the thoughts f these things make me cry.(d)
Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, why standest thou still P He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a Parchment-roll; and there was written within, “Flee from the wrath to come.”f(e)
The man therefore read it, and, looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I flee ? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder Wicket-gate of The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining Light? § He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the Gate; at which when thou knockest it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.
So I saw in my dream that the man began to run. . Now he had not run far from his own door, but his wife and children perceiving it began to cry after him to return ;|, but the man put his fingers in his ears, and ran on, crying Life! life! eternal life . So he looked not behind him," but fled towards the middle of the plain.(f)
(d) The Scriptures are indeed sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, as well as to shew us our guilt and danger: yet the Lord commonly uses the ministry of his servants, to direct into the way of peace, even those who have previously discovered their lost condition.—Though convinced of the necessity of escaping from impending ruin, they hesitate, mot knowing what to do; till Providence brings them acquainted with some faithful preacher of the gospel, whose instructions afford an explicit answer to their secret inquiries after the way of salvation.
(e) The able minister of Christ will deem it necessary to enforce the warning, “Flee from the wrath to come,” even upon those who are alarmed about their souls; because this is the proper way of exciting them to diligence and decision, and of preserving them from procrastination. They, therefore, who would persuade persons under convictions, that their fears are groundless, their guilt far less than they suppose, and their danger imaginary, use the most effectual means of soothing them into a fatal security. And no discoveries of heimous guilt or helpless ruin in themselves can produce despondency, provided the salvation of the gospel be fully exhibited and proposed to them.
(f) The awakened sinner may be incapable, for a time, of perceiving the way of salva. tion by faith in Christ; for divine illumination is often very gradual: as the Pilgrim could not see the Gate, when Evangelist pointed it out to him. Yet he thought he could discern the shining Light; for upright inquirers attend to the general instructions and encourage.