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the Mediator, and the assurance that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. There is no death there, nor sin, nor weariness, nor disorder; and the Christian is weary of his inward sickness, and would fain be where he shall sin no more, and with the company that shall continually cry, Holy, Holy, Holy!
After this, Charity in like manner conversed with Christian, and all the while they were at table their talk was only of the Lord of the hill, and all his grace and glory, and what he had done and suffered for them, and all his amazing endless love to poor pilgrims, and his tender care in building that house for them; and so they discoursed even till late at night, for how could they ever be wearied with such a theme! And how did Christian's heart burn within him as they spake of his Saviour's love, and suffering, and glory! It may remind us of the poet Cowper's exquisitely beautiful description of the conversation in the walk to Emmaus.
Ah, theirs was converse such as it behooves
This was a heavenly evening for Christian, a season of blessedness long to be remembered,
and to walk in the strength of it. They closed their hours of sacred converse with the sweetness of family prayer, and then betook themselves to rest; the Pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, whose window opened towards the sunrising ; the name of the chamber was Peace, where he slept till break of day, and then he awoke and sang
Now, after all this, can any be at a loss to understand the meaning of the House Beautiful, or that era in the life of the Pilgrim at which Christian had arrived ! We think every one will see drawn in these symbols, with great beauty and delightfulness of coloring, the institution and ordinances of the visible church of Christ on earth; the fellowship and divinely blest communion, the mutual instruction and edification, the happiness, hopes, promises, foretastes, enjoyments, growth in grace, and preparation for usefulness, peculiar to this sacred heavenly kingdom, belonging to the body of Christ, and growing out of a right use of its precious privileges.
'Tis a sweet tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love,
Is like to that above.
This was indeed to Christian something like the Mount of Transfiguration ; it was good to be there. It was like the day after those six days when Jesus took Peter and James and John, and went up into a mountain alone, and was transfigured before them. Bunyan himself had found such a season, about the time when he united with
the church of Christ in Bedford, and this glory and refreshing comfort continued with him many weeks, and his own feelings were like those of Peter. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, It is good for us to be here, and let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say, for he was sore afraid. And there was a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear him. “ Then I saw,” says Bunyan, “that Moses and Elias must both vanish, and leave Christ and his saints alone.” Mount Zion also was set before Bunyan, and his heart wandered up and down as in a labyrinth of glory, through the shining mazes of that passage, “ Ye are come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven; to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Testament, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” “ Through this sentence,” says Bunyan, “ the Lord led me over and over again; first, to this word, and then to that; and showed me wonderful glory in every one of them. These words also have oft since that time been a great refreshment to my spirit. It was in the memory of such experience that Bunyan composed his description of Christian's entertainment in the House Beau, tiful.
It is not, indeed, always the case that pilgrims find their anticipations realized in entering that house. Sometimes, it may be, because they expected miracles from it, because they relied more upon it than upon Christ, because they expected from an ordinance what is only to be got from grace, or because they came to it without that discipline of spirit in prayer, and that previous lowly walk with God, and that dwelling at the foot of the cross, which is requisite. But you will observe that this house is put quite far on the way; it is obvious that Bunyan would not have his pilgrims enter the House Beautiful so soon as they get within the Wicket Gate ; between the Wicket Gate and the House Beautiful, between the cross of Christ and the visible communion of saints, there was much experience, much instruction, much discipline, much difficulty, much grace. Infinitely less would Bunyan have put the visible church, the House Beautiful before the Wicket Gate, making church-membership the door of heaven, as some would do, to the destruction of multitudes of souls. Baptismal regeneration and salvation by the Lord's supper are two of the most unscriptural, ungodly, and pernicious figments, with which Satan ever succeeded in lulling men to security in their sins. Bunyan was so cautious of every thing like this, he had so much experience in his own heart of the dangerous, damning nature of a religion of forms, and he knew so well the wiles of Satan in that way, and the tendency of men, however warned and instructed, to rest in forms, that he almost went to the contrary
extreme. He made one of his best pilgrims, as we shall see, go past the House Beautiful without stopping at it. You may be sure this was because in Bunyan's time there was such a hue and cry after the church, with its glory, and exclusive privileges and forms, its baptism, prayer-book, bench of bishops, and no salvation beyond. So he made his Martyr-Pilgrim belong to no visible church at all; nor could he more quietly and powerfully have rebuked and resisted the fatal error that to enter the House Beautiful is to save the soul, nor the wicked intolerance, that would restrict salvation to membership and obedience in the Church of England.
It is well to remark here that the House Beautiful stands beside the road; it does not cross it, so as to make the strait and narrow way run through it, so as that there is no possibility of continuing in that way without passing through it. This would have been to make a union with the visible church necessary to salvation ; and the next step after this, and a very natural consequence of it, is that of making salvation an essential property of church membership, that of making every member of the church a saved man; and the next step, and quite as natural, is that of making a particular church the only church, The church, to the exclusion of all others; and the next step, and also very natural, is the excommunication of all dissenters, and the application of such penalties and persecutions as may benevolently operate to keep men from wandering to the ruin of their souls, into conventicles ; such penalties and persecutions as