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60 Christian in vain reasons with Formalist and Hypocrisy.
as above a thousand years, would doubtless now be admitted as a thing legal, by an impartial judge ; and besides, said they, if we get into the way, what's matter which way we get in F If we are in, we are in ; thou art but in the way, who as we perceive came in at the Gate; and we are also in the way, that came tumbling over the wall : Wherein now is thy condition better than ours ?
Chr. I walk by the rule of my Master, you walk by the rude working of your fancies : you are counted thieves already by the Lord of the way; therefore I doubt you will not be found true men at the end of the way. You come in by yourselves without his direction ; and shall go out by. yourselves without his mercy.
To this they made him but little answer; only they bid him look to himself. Then I saw that they went on every man in his way, without much conference one with another ; save that these two men told Christian, That, as to laws and ordinances, they doubted not but they should as conscientiously do them as he. Therefore, said they, we see not wherein thou differest from us, but by the coat that is on thy back, which was, as we tro’, given thee by some of thy neighbours to hide the shame of thy nakedness.
Chr. By laws and ordinances you will not be saved,” since you came not in by the door. And as for this coat that is on my back, it was given me by the Lord of the place whither I go; and that, as you say, to cover my nakenedness with. And I take it as a token of his kindness to me; for I had nothing but rags before ; and besides, thus I comfort myself as I go ; Surely, think I, when I come to the gate of the city, the Lord thereof will know me for good, since I have his coat on my back! a coat that he gave me freely in the day that he stript me of my rags. I have moreover a mark in my forehead, of which perhaps you have taken no notice, which one of my Lord's most intimate associates fixed there, in the day that my burden fell off my shoulders. I will tell you moreover, that I had then given me a Roll sealed, to comfort me by reading as I go on the way; I was also bid to give it in at the celestial Gate, in token of my certain going in after it: all which things I doubt you want, and want them because you came not in at the Gate. (q)
* Gal. ii. 16.
(q) The true Christian will always be troubled at the vain-confidence of many professors: but he is more surprised by it at first than afterwards; for he sets out with the idea, that
The direct Way up the Hill Difficulty. 61
To these things they #. him no answer; only they looked upon each other and laughed. Then I saw that they went on all, save that Christian kept before, who had no more talk but with himself, and that sometimes sighingly and sometimes comfortably ; also he would be often reading in the Roll that one of the shining ones gave him, by which he was refreshed. (r) I beheld then that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty; at the bottom of which was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways, besides that which came straight from the gate; one turned to the left hand and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, and drank thereof to refresh himself,” and then began to go up the hill, saying— “The hill, though high, I covet to ascend, The difficulty will not me offend ; For I perceive the way to life lies here: Come, pluck up heart, let's neither faint nor fear : Better, though difficult, th’ right way to go, Than wrong, though easy, where the end is wo.' The other two also came to the foot of the hill ; but when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go ; and supposing also that these 62. Roads called Danger and Destruction."
* Isa. xlix. 10.
all apparently religious people sincerely seek the salvation of their 'souls. But at length experience draws his attention to those parts of scripture which mention tares among the wheat, and foolish virgins among the wise—Formalist and Hypocrisy soon come in his way. These are near relations: the first represents such as by notions and external observances deceive themselves ; the second those who more grossly attempt to impose upon others. They are both actuated by vain-glory, and seek the applause of men by their most zealous profession and most specious actions, while the credit thus acquired subserves also their temporal interests: but repentance, conversion, and the life of faith, would not only cost them too much labour, but destroy the very principle by which they are actuated. By a much ‘shorter cut,’ they become a part of the visible church, are satisfied with a form of godliness, and kept in by the example of great bers of professed Christians, in every age and place. Their confidence, however, will not bear the light of scripture; they, therefore, shrink from investigation, and treat with derision and reproaches all who would convince them of their fatal mistake, or shew them the real nature of evangelical religion.
(r) True Christians even when most assured of their acceptance, and competent to perceive the awful delusions of false professors, find cause for sighs amidst their comforts, while employed in serious retired self-reflection. Nothing can exclude the uneasiness which arises from in-dwelling sin, and from the crimes and miseries they witness around them.
two ways might meet again, with that .# which Christian went, on the other side of the hill; therefore, they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. so the one took the way which is called banger, which led him into a great wood ; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no
Inote. o I looked then after Christian to see him go up the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to going, and from going to clambering upon his hands and knees, because of the steepness of the place. Now about the mid-way to the top of the | was a pleasant Arbour, made by the Lord of the hill, for the refreshing of weary travellers. Thither therefore Christian got, where also he sat down to rest him ; then he pulled his Roll out of his bosom, and read therein to his comfort; he also now began afresh to take a review of the coat or garment that was given him as he stood by the cross. Thus pleasing himself a while, he at last fell into a slumber, and thence into a fast sleep, which detained him in that place until it was almost night; and in his sleep his Roll fell out of his hand. Now, as he was sleeping, there came one to him and awaked him, saying, “Go to the ant, thou slug
(s) The hill Difficulty represents those seasons and situations which require peculiar self-denial and exertion ; and are suited to prove the behiever's sincerity, after he has obtained “a good hope through grace.”—The frowns of the world, the sacrifice of temporal interests, outward circumstances of sharp affliction and distress, together with the painful task of overcoming inveterate evil habits or constitutional propensities, (which during his first anxious earnestness seemed perhaps to be destroyed, though in fact they were only suspended;) prove a severe test of his integrity : but there can be no hope, except in pressing forward; and the encouragements of the gospel prepare the soul for every conflict and effort.—But there are also by-ways ; and the difficulty may often be avoided without a man's renouncing his profession : he may decline the self-denying duty, or refuse the demanded sacrifice, and find some plausible excuse to his own conscience, or among his neighbours—The true believer however is suspicious of these easier ways, on the right hand or on the left : his path lies straight forward, and cannot be travelled without ascending the hill ; which he desires to do, because his grand concern is to be found right at last. But they, who chiefly desire at a cheap rate to keep up their credit and considence, venture into perilous or ruinous paths, till they either op. miy apostatize, or get entangled in some * fatal delusion, and are heard of no more among the people of God. These lines are here inserted— - “Shall they who wrong begin yet rightly end? Shall they at all have safety for their friend ? No, no ; in headstrong nanner they set out, And headlong they will fall at last, no doubt.”
Timorous and JMistrust run back. 63
gard : consider her ways and be wise.” . And with that Christian suddenly started up, and sped him on his way, and went apace till he came to the top of the hill. (t) Now when he was got up to the top of the hill there came two men running against him amain ; the name of the one was Timorous, and the other Mistrust : to whom Christian said, Sirs, what’s the matter you run the wrong way P Timorous answered, that they were going to the city of Zion, and had got up that difficult place : but, said he, the fartherwego the more danger we meet with ; wherefore we turned, and are going back again. Yes, said Mistrust, for just before us lie a couple of lions in the way (whether sleeping or waking we know not;) and we could not think, if we came within reach, but they would presently pull us in pieces. z Then said Christian, you make me afraid : but whither shall I flee to be safe P. If I go back to mine own country, that is prepared for fire and brimstone, and I shall certainly o there : if I can get to the Celestial City, I am sure to je in safety there.—I must venture: to go back is nothing but death ; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.—So Mistrust and Timorous ran down the hill, and Christian went on his way. But thinking again of what he heard from the men, he felt in his bosom for his Roll, that he might read therein and be comforted ; but he felt, and found it not. Then was Christian in great distress, and knew, not what to do ; for he wanted that which used to relieve him, and that which should have been his pass into the Celestial City. Here therefore he began to be much perplexed, and knew not what to do. At 64 Christian misses his Roll,
*Prov. vi. 6,
(t) The difficulties of believers often seem to increase as they proceed: this damps their spirits, and they find more painful exertion requisite than they once expected, especially when rejoicing in the Lord : yet he helps them, and provides for their refreshment that they may not faint-But, whether their trials be moderated, or remarkable divine consolations be vouchsafed, it is, alas, very common for them to presume too much on their perseverance hitherto, or on the privileges to which they have been admitted; and thus their ardour abates, their diligence and vigilance are relaxed, and they venture to allow themselves some respite. Then drowsiness steals upon them, darkness envelopes their souls, the evidences of their acceptance are obscured or lost, and the event would be fatal, did not the Lord excite them to renewed earnestness by salutary warnings and alarms. Nor aré they at any time more exposed to this temptation, than when outward ease hath succeeded to great hardships, patiently and conscientiously endured : for at such a crisis they are least disposed to question their own sincerity: and Satan is sure to employ all his subtlety to lull them into security, and so in fact tempt them to abuse the Lord's special goodness vouchsafed to then*1 Thess. v. 7, 8. Rev. ii. 4, 5.
Iast he bethought himself that he had slept in the Arbour that is on the side of the hill; and falling down upon his knees he asked God forgiveness for that his foolish act, and then went back to look for his Roll. But all the way he went back, who can sufficiently set forth the sorrow of Christian’s heart : Sometimes he sighed, sometimes he wept, and oftentimes he chid himself for being so foolish to fall asleep in that . which was erected only for a little refreshment from is weariness. Thus therefore he went baek, carefully looking on this side and on that, all the way as he went, if happily he might find his Roll that had been his comfort so many times in his journey. He went thus till he came again within sight o the Arbour where he sat and slept ; but that sight renewed his sorrow the more, by bringing again, even afresh, his evil of sleeping unto his mind. Thus therefore he now went on bewailing his sinful sleep, saying, “O wretched man that I am s” that I should sleep in the daytime !” that I should sleep in the midst of difficulty that I should so indulge the flesh, as to use that rest for ease to my flesh, which the Lord of the hill hath erected only for the relief of the spirits of Pilgrims' How many steps have I took in vain . . Thus it happened to Israel for their sin, they were sent back again by the way of the Red Sea: and I am made to tread those steps with sorrow, which I might have trod with delight, had it not been for this sinful sleep. How far might I have been on my way by this time ! I am made to tread those steps thrice over, which I needed not to have trod but once: yea, now also I am like to be benighted, for the day is almost spent:—0 that I had not slept! (u)
(u) Some persons are better prepared to struggle through difficulties, than to face dan. gers. Alarming convictions induce them to exercise a temporary self-denial, and to exert themselves with diligence; yet the very appearance of persecution drives them back to their forsaken courses and companions. Through unbelief, distrust and timidity, they fear the rage of men more than the wrath of God; and never consider how easily the Lord can restrain or disarm the fiercest persecutors. Even true Christians are often alarmed by the discourse of such persons; but, as they believe the word of God, they are “moved by fear” to go forward at all hazards. Nay, the very terrors, which induce mere professors to apos, tacy, excite upright souls to renewed self-examination by the Holy Scriptures, that they may “rejoice in hope” amidst their perils and tribulations: and this discovers to them those decays in the vigour of their affections, and consequently in the evidences of their acceptance, which had before escaped their notice.—Christian's perplexity, remorse, complaints, and self-reproachings, when he missed his roll, and went back to seek it, exactly suit the experience of humble and conscientious believers, when unwatchfulness has brought their state into uncertainty: but they do not at all accord to that of professors who strive against