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Legality’s house, past Mount Sinai, for by that way he must go, he set out. But behold, when he was now got hard by the hill, it seemed so high, and also that side of it that was next the wayside did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture further, lest the hill should fall on his head ; wherefore, then he stood still, and wotted not what to do. Also, his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in his way. There came also flashes of fire out of the hill that made Christian afraid that he should be burnt ; here therefore he did sweat and quake for fear. Poor Christian ! he could not get past Mount Sinai! Nay, happy Christian ! in that the terrors of the law got such hold upon him, that they would not let him pass ; for if he had gone by, he too, like many thousand others, would have gone to the town of Morality, and got comfortably settled in perdition. He would have become a member of Mr. Legality's parish, if he could have got past this mountain. But here Evangelist found him, half dead with shame, confusion and terror. And here, with the most ingenuous simplicity and contrition, Christian made confession of his guilt. Yes, dear sir, I am the man! And now the reproofs and instructions of Evangelist are incomparably beautiful, and Christian, bemoaning his folly and sin in listening to the wicked counsels of the Deceiver, applied himself again to Evangelist in words and sense as follows:
Sir, what think you ? Is there any hope ? May I now go back, and go up to the Wicket Gate! Shall I not be abandoned for this, and
sent back from thence ashamed ? I am sorry I have harkened to this man's counsel ; but may my sin be forgiven?
The mingling of reproof and encouragement with which Evangelist comforted the penitent, is exquisitely wise and beautiful. A rare pastor Bunyan found in holy Mr. Gifford, to be able to draw so sweet and grave a character from real life. Evangelist kissed him, gave him one smile, and bid him God speed. And now you may be sure there was no more turning of Christian out of the way, no more inclination after Sinai, or Mr. Legality, or the town of Morality, not though a hundred worldly wiseinen had beset him. As an arrow to its mark, he went straight with haste, neither spake he to any man by the way; nor if any asked him would he vouchsafe them an answer. rience of Sinai was enough for him, nor could he think himself safe, till in process of time he got up to the gate.
There he knocked with trembling earnestness, for over the gate was written, KNOCK,
AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU.
May I now enter here, said Christian,
May I now enter here? Will he within
Bunyan has put in the margin, the gate will be open to broken-hearted sinners; and so it was, and Christian went in. But as he was stepping in, the kind Master gave him a sudden pull, at which Christian wondered ; but he was told that at a little distance from the gate there was a frowning castle,
under command of Beelzebub, from whence they shot arrows at those that were entering the gate, or had come up to it, if haply they might die before they could enter. So Christian entered with joy and trembling.
This undoubtedly is an incident drawn from Bunyan's own experience; for often when he himself was standing at mercy's gate, and knocking as for his life for entrance, he had been assaulted by these fiends ; when he was praying, then especially would there sometimes come a fiery storm of the darts of the Wicked One, so that often he thought he should have died indeed beneath them. Doubtless something like this is the experience of all who come up to this gate ; for sometimes the point of greatest difficulty and danger is just that point where the
oul is summoning all its forces to come to Christ, or where it is just about sweetly to cast itself upon his mercy; or where there is a great decisive struggle at the Wicket Gate, between good and evil in the soul, and where the perishing sinner is just able to say, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief. All moments of decision are moments of danger, and when Satan, from his battlement, sees the soul knocking at the gate, then he says within himself, It is my last hope; my archers must destroy him now or never. And so sometimes just the point of mercy is the point of greatest strife and danger.
A characteristic instructive conversation ensued between Christian and the Man at the Gate, in the course of which, Christian, being questioned, told the man about his adventures in the Slough of Despond, and how Pliable had left him: and here
Bunyan has put in the margin, A man may have company
when he sets out for heaven, and yet go thither alone; but Christian also added, with sweet ingenuousness, that he was quite as bad as Pliable, for that he also had turned aside to go in the way of death, being persuaded thereto by the carnal arguments of one Mr. Worldly Wiseman. The Man at the gate comforted and encouraged him, and pointed out the strait and narrow way before him, so that he could not miss it ; and now Christian was about to gird up his loins, and address himself to his journey, but oh that heavy burden! Christian could not go without asking to be rid of his burden; so kind and skilful a man, (thought he,) may surely take it off, and I am sore weary with it. But the answer he received was memorable. As to thy burden, be content to bear it, until thou comest to the place of deliverance ; for there it will fall from thy back of itself. Bunyan has here put in the margin, There is no deliverance from the guilt and burden of sin, but by the death and blood of Christ.
Now there is a vast deal of instruction and comfort in this last incident. Young Christians are very apt to expect entire relief from all their burdens, and a complete deliverance from sin, the moment they are got within the Wicket Gate, the moment they have come to Christ. But very often this expectation is not realized, and then they faint and become disheartened, or filled with gloomy doubts on this account. Now this experience of Christian having to bear his burden so long, and yet going on so patiently with it, for you will observe, he asked nobody after this to take off his
burden, is very instructive and encouraging. The truth is, we are all more apt to be seeking for comfort, than for Christ; whereas Christ should be our first object, and comfort will come of itself; Christ first, and all things else shall be added.
By the experience of Christian and Pliable in their commencement of this pilgrimage we are taught some salutary lessons, as first, the importance of a deep and thorough conviction of sin at first setting out; second, the importance of a resolute purpose in seeking salvation, so as not to be turned back; and third, the importance of a hearty reception and thorough knowledge of God's word. The difficulties that Christian meets and overcomes in the beginning, do, instead of discouraging him, prepare him for constancy and conquest even to the end. It is no superficial Christian that Bunyan is describing, but a man of God, thoroughly furnished unto all good works ; a soldier clad in armor of proof, the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. He needed, as we shall see, a deep and thorough discipline from the beginning, in order to prepare him for the fiery ordeal through which he was to pass.
It is always thus that God deals with his people ; the discipline of the Christian race and conflict is such, in its very nature, as best to prepare them for usefulness here, and for their place in glory hereafter. If there is to be endurance to the end, there must be thoroughness at the beginning; if victory at the end, a fight at the beginning; if rest at the end, a burden at the beginning. There must be fires to consume the dross here, if there is