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of a contrite spirit, and who trembleth at my word.
Mercy was right in her preference of this sweet valley. The few noises here heard were as the voices of heaven to shepherds watching their flocks by moonlight.
Stillness, accompanied by sounds so soft,
This retired and lowly Vale was a scene for a spirit like Cowper's to linger in; though his soul was long in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Strange, that such a discipline should have been necessary for such a mind!
This Valley of Humiliation, as Christiana and Mercy found it, Cowper has described more beautifully than any other writer that ever lived.
Far from the world, O Lord I fee,
From strife and tumult far;
His most successful war.
The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree ;
For those who follow thee.
There, if thy Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her mean abode,
She communes with her God.
Then, like the nightingale she pours
Her solitary lays :
Nor thirsts for human praise.
Now if you wish for a commentary in plain prose on the sweetness of Bunyan's delineation of this Valley, you may find it in the Dairyman's Daughter, or in the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain. But it is very important to remember that those who would find a foretaste of heavenly rest in this Valley, must bring into it, in their own hearts, the spirit of Heaven; then, and not otherwise, is it a Valley of Peace. When God's discipline discloses to a man“ the plague of his own heart," then he is very apt to lay the evil to the score of circumstances, instead of the inveterate diseased heart, which needed so much, and perhaps such violent medicine for its healing. Oh, cries one, if I were only in a different situation, how easy it would be to live near to God! Ah, cries another, if I were in the place of this or that happy individual, how easy it would be to adorn my profession! Every thing in my very circumstances would lead me to it! Oh, exclaims another, if I had the health of such an one, how easy it would be to rise above my difficulties and walk with God! And I, complains another, if my occupation did not so absorb me, could be as godly as I ought to be! Oh, if I were in the place of my minister, how holy I would become!
Ah! I would, and I would, and I would, if it were so, and if it were so, and if it were only so! Here, dear friend, is the very plague of your own heart revealing itself. You are discontented with your situation. You are not submissive to the trials God has laid upon you. And, instead of seeking to be delivered from your heart-plague,
you are only casting about to find some position if possible, where it will not have occasion to vex you; where you suppose, in fact, that it will be easier, that it will cost less self-denial to serve Christ than it does now. But remember that you are not called to be holy in another's situation, but your own; and if you are not now faithful to God in the sphere in which he has placed you, you would not, probably, be any more faithful, let him place you where he might. For he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is neglectful in that which is least, is neglectful also in much. And as to circumstances repressing the plague of your own heart, they would only change its exhibition a little. The plague is in your heart, and not in your circumstances. Prosperous circumstances might, it is true, hide that plague ; in a different situation it might have been concealed from yourself, but would that be
Would really be any the better for that? The revelation of the evil might only be deferred till it should work your ruin. How much better it is to know it in season, and be humbled before God, though it be at the cost of ever so much offering.
And remember that those whose happy lot you, under the influence of this envious plague in your own heart, deem so desirable, if they are really living near to God where they are, would also have been very holy in your situation. Take Mr. Wilberforce, for example, a Christian in a sphere of life in society in all respects desirable and delightful in regard to this world, and llving in that
any gain ?
sphere to the glory of his Saviour. may perhaps think if you could only change situations with such a man, O how easy it would be to conquer the plague of your own heart ; how little should you feel it, how easy it would be, in such a conspicuous situation, with all your wishes gratified, to shine to the glory of your Redeemer. You could do it, you think, and it would cost you no self-denial at all. But in your present situation it is a hard thing to be a living Christian. Now remember that if a man like Mr. Wilberforce could change situations with you, he would be a very holy and happy man where you perhaps are vexed and discontented, and you, in his place, might be a very worldly and ambitious men, „where he was humble and prayerful. Be assured, it is not not place, nor opportunities, nor circumstances, that make character or minister grace, but it is rather character that makes circumstances, and grace that makes place.
So the next time you detect your heart, under the influence of the plague that is in it, saying to you like a concealed devil, O if I were in such or such an one's place, how much good I could do, or how holy a person I could become, just think of some eminent saint, and say, If that person were in my place, how much nearer he would live to God than I do, how many opportunities that I waste he would use for his Master's glory, how he would fill my little sphere, that now is so dark, with brightness and happiness! And you, if you will, may do the same.