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Isaiah, being here, as I said, in the way of duty, and in the path direct to the Celestial City. “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." There is but one thing for him to do, and that is, to grope his way forward with fear and trembling, remembering that God can, if he will, save him even here; and that, even if he were in kings' palaces, and God would not save him, he would be no better off than than in the midst of that Valley. Besides, should a man whom God had delivered from the hand of Apollyon, be afraid of any of the fiends of darknes, or fear to trust God's mercy in the midst of them ?
There are Christians, who, as Bunyan says, are strangers to much combat with the devil ; and such cannot minister help to those who come, as Christian did, under his assaults. No man is introduced to the aid of Christian in all these severe conficts; all the help he finds is in Gud only ; direct to Christ he must go, for there is no other helper. This was Bunyan's own experience. While himself under the assaults of Satan, in the midst of this Valley of the Shadow of Death, he did at one time venture to break his mind to an ancient Christian. This was a good man, but not one of deep experience, and evidently unable to enter into Bunyan's difficulties, or to understand his state of mind. Bunyan told this man that one of his dreadful fears was that he had sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost; and the man answered him that he thought so too! This was indeed but cold comfort, and the man that
could administer it must have had a most narrow mind, as well as an insensible, unsympathizing heart; but
often meet with this want of tenderness among certain spiritual comforters, who take severity and want of feeling to be marks of faithfulness.
Poor Bunyan was forced again from man to God. “Wherefore I went to God again as well as I could,
mercy still. Now also did the Tempter begin to mock me in my misery,” and under this mockery, even the free, full and gracious promises of the Gospel were as a torment to Bunyan, for the Tempter suggested that they were not for him, because he had sinned against and provoked the Mediator through whom they were given, and also that his sins were not among the number of those for which the Lord Jesus died upon the cross. He was as if racked upon the wheel; he was tossed to and fro like the locust, and driven from trouble to sorrow. Every part of the Word of God seemed against him; he was as one shut up in a house in flames, and running first to one door then to another for egress, but they are all fast barred against him, Nor could he, by reason of his own unbelieving fears, succeed, by any use he could make of the Scriptures, in driving the Tempter away from him. It was even suggested that it was in vain from him to pray ; nevertheless, he kept crying out for mercy, and in answer to prayer, notwithstanding all that Satan could do, deliverance came. It must be this experience which Bunyan has in mind, when he makes Christian to pass hard by the mouth of hell, in the
midst of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, beset with fears and distresses, which he could put to flight by no use he' could make of the Word of God. “ Now, thought Christian, what shall I do? And ever and anon the flame and smoke would come out in such abundance, with sparks and hideous noises (things that cared not for Christian's sword, as did Apollyon before, that he was forced to put up his sword, and betake himself to another weapon, called All-Prayer: so he cried in my hearing, O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.”
So did Bunyan cry unto God in the midst of his distresses. “Will the Lord cast off forever, and will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever, and doth his promise fail forevermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious, hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" And that promise sustained Bunyan, My grace is sufficient for thee; though it was long indeed before he could take fast hold upon it, or enjoy to the full its abundance of blessing. Long was he in passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death : much longer than it seems to take Christian to grope his way out of its darkness. And, as you will observe, that Christian's conflict with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation lies in the stage immediately before the Valley of the Shadow of Death, so that he has to pass frome one directly to the other without any interval, save in the precious season in which the hand came to him with leaves from the tree of life for his healing ; so it was with Bunyan himself: so it had been in his
own experience. He had two distinct, long, and dreadful seasons of temptation to pass through, each of them lasting for more than two years—the first more nearly resembling this dreadful conflict, hand to hand, with Satan, with Apollyon, and the second more fully depicted in Christian's fearful journey through this Valley of Death, after that conflict. There was but a short interval of ease and peace between them. “ By the strange and unusual assaults of the Tempter,” says Bunyan, “ my soul was like a broken vessel, driven as with the winds, and tossed sometimes headlong into despair : sometimes upon the covenant of works, and sometimes to wish that the new covenant and the conditions thereof might, so far as I thought myself concerned, be turned another way and changed. But in all these I was as those that jostle against the rocks-more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors, that are effected by a thorough application of guilt yielding to desperation! This is as the man that hath his dwelling among the tombs with the dead, who is always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” "Now was the word of the gospel forced from my soul, so that no promise or encouragement was found in the Bible for me. I had cut myself off by my transgressions, and left myself neither foothold nor hand-hold among all the stays and props in the precious word of life. And truly I did now feel myself to sink into a gulf, as a house whose foundation is destroyed. I did liken myself in this condition unto the case of a child that was fallen
into a mill-pit, who thought it could make some shift to scramble and sprawl in the water : yea, because it could find neither hand-hold nor foothold, therefore, at last, it must die in that condition. So soon as this fresh assault had fastened on my soul, that scripture came into my heart, * This for many days ;” and, indeed, I found it was so ; for I could not be delivered, nor brought to peace again, until well-nigh two years and a half were completely finished.”
This was the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and so did Christian go trembling and astonished, and sighing bitterly by reason of his distress of spirit. The pathway was exceedingly narrow, with ditches on one side and quagmires on the other; also, for a time it was pitch dark, except the lurid dreadful light of the flames that were reaching into the path towards him; no other light did there seem to be,
Save what the glimmering of those livid flames
Also, in the midst of the darkness, there were doleful voices and rushings to and fro, as of mad companies, so that he thought he should be torn in pieces, or trodden down like mire in the streets. But what distressed and terrified Christian, more than all other things that he met with in his passage through this dreary valley, was the horrid blasphemies that were whispered into his ear by the fiends coming up behind him, in such manner that he really thought they proceeded from his own mind; but he had not the discretion either to