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VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH.
Sympathy with spiritual distresses. The power of prayer.—Bunyan's own templa
tions depicted in Christian's distresses. The similar experience of Job, and that of David. The breaking of the light. --Comparison of the experience of Christian with that of Christiana and Mercy in this Valley. The uses of trials.-Effect of the hiding of God's countenance from the soul.-Christian's meeting with Faithful.
We are naturally less affected with sympathy for men's spiritual distresses, than we are for their temporal or bodily evils. The reason is to be found in our want of spiritual experience, and in the fact that we habitually look at, and are moved by, the things which are seen, and not the things which are unseen.
We are creatures of sense, and therefore a great battle, when a kingdom is to be lost or won, affects us more deeply than the far more sublime and awful conflict, where the soul and the kingdom of heaven are to be lost or won forever.
I have stood upon the sea shore, in a dreadful storm, and have watched the perils of a noble frigate, about to be cast upon the rocks, holding by only her last anchor, plunging and pitching
amidst mountainous breakers, as if she would shoot like a stone to the earth's centre. One after another I have watched her masts cut away, to see if that would not save her. The shore was lined with spectators, trembling, affrighted, weeping, unable to do any thing, yet full of anxiety and sympathy.
Now the sight of an immortal soul in peril of its eternal interests, beset with enemies, engaged in a desperate conflict, with hell opening her mouth before, and fiends and temptations pressing after, is a much more sublime and awful spectacle. A spiritual bark in the tempest, on the ocean of life, struggling at midnight through furious gales and waves, that by the lightning flashes are seen every instant, ready to swallow her up, has nothing to compare with it in solemn interest. But of all those multitudes of intensely anxious spectators watching the frigate, on a rock-bound shore, ready to perish, there was scarcely here and there one, who could have been persuaded to look with the spiritual vision at spiritual realities, or to listen to the most vivid descriptions of the danger of the soul, amidst its struggle with its enemies : scarcely one, who would even understand the danger of the costly spiritual vessel about to be wrecked for eternity, and still less any who would sympathise with the distresses of such a soul.
And yet, for one spectator watching the ship in a'storm on the Mediterranean, there were thousands tracing the course of such a soul as Bunyan's, out amidst the storms of sin and temptation, with fiends flying through the gloom, with fiery
darts hurtling the air, with sails rent, and the sea making breach after breach over the vessel. Angels, that see from heaven to earth, are busy, though we are blind. Clouds of witnesses survey the course of the Pilgrim, and when he passes through a place like the Valley of the Shadow of Death, there are, we have reason to believe, more good angels than bad ones attending him, though he does not see them, by reason of the darkness. If he has not earthly sympathy, he has heavenly ; and all the earthly sympathy he does get is heavenly, for it comes from God's own Spirit in the soul. They that have been new-born, understand his terrors ; they know that there is nothing to be compared with the peril of the soul beset by its great Adversary on the way to Heaven ; nor any anguish to be mentioned along with that which is occasioned in the soul by the hiding of God's counte
“When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble ? And when he hideth his face, who then can behold him ? Whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only!"
“Herein," says an excellent old writer, discoursing on the case of a child of light walking in darkness, “ believers wrestle not alone with flesh and blood, and the darkness thereof, but do further conflict also with those spiritual wickednesses, the Princes of Darkness, about their interest in heavenly privileges, even with Satan and his angels, whom the Apostle compares to a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devoor. And like as when God makes the natural darkness, and it is night, then the young lions creep forth, and roar after
their prey, as the Psalmist says, so do these roaring lions, now when God hath withdrawn the light of his countenance, and night comes on, and these damps and fogs of jealousies and guilt begin to arise out of a man's own heart, then come these forth and say, as David's enemies said in his distress, Come, let us now take him, for God hath forsaken him, let us now devour him, and swallow him up with darkness and despair. And as God says of those enemies of his church, I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction ; so, when God is angry with his child, and but a little doth hide his face for a moment, yet Satan watcheth that hour of darkness, as Christ calls it, and joins his power of darkness to this our natural darkness, to cause, if possible, blackness of darkness, even utter despair, in us."
It is much such a picture as this, that Bunyan, our great master of spiritual allegory, hath set forth in such glowing colors, in the passage of his Christian through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is night; night in Christian's soul, and therefore night in this Valley. He is walking in the path of duty, and no forebodings of evil, though he had them abundantly, can turn him back; and yet, it is night in him, and night around him. Gloomy dark mountains shut in the horizon; the chill air penetrates his soul with images of the storm before it breaks on him ; the path is exceedingly narrow, and on either side there are terrible pitfalls and quagmires, which must needs prove fatal to any that fall therein. What can Christian do? He is plainly in the case represented in the prophet