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tell it to him; God must teach him by the precious costly way of personal discipline. He can no more come to the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus without this discipline, than a babe could grow up to manhood without learning at first to creep, then to walk, then to speak, to read, to exercise all faculties. The great discipline which we need as pilgrims is mostly the experience of our own weakness, and the art of finding our strength in Christ; but it is astonishing what severe treatment is oftentimes necessary to teach this, apparently the simplest and most obvious of all lessons, but yet the deepest and most difficult to be learned.
We are now to be introduced to a new pilgrim, and Christian is no more to go on his way alone. . The sweet Christian communion depicted in this book forms one of the most delightful features in it, and Faithful and Hopeful are both of them portraits that stand out in as firm relief as that of Christian himself. Faithful is the Martyr Pilgrim, who goes in a Chariot of fire to heaven, and leaves Christian alone; Hopeful springs, as it were, ont of Faithful's ashes, and supplies his place all along the remainder of the pilgrimage. The communion between these loving Christians, their sympathy and share in each other's distresses, their mutual counsels and encouragements, temptations and dangers, experience and discipline, their united joys and sorrows, and their very passing of the river of death together, form the sweetest of all examples of the true fellowship of saints, united to the same Saviour,
made to drink into the same Spirit, baptized with the same sufferings, partakers of the same consolations, crowned with the same crown of life, entering together upon glory everlasting.
Here I cannot but speak again of God's tender love to his people in their spiritual distresses. It is but a little while, at the uttermost, that he lets any walk in darkness, and always this darkness prepares for greater light, and sometimes God darkens our room, that he may show us with greater effect those visions of his own glory, on which he will have our attention to be fixed, and which we either will not or cannot see in the glare of the noon day of this world. But always his thoughts towards his afflicted people are thoughts of
peace and mercy, and his language, even when they seem to be deserted of God, is of great tenderness. “ For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer.”
There are many things which may constitute a Valley of the Shadow of Death to the believer. There may be such an array of external evils as to do this. Sickness, poverty, want like an armed man, desertion and loss of friends, the disappointment and failure of all natural hopes and sources of enjoyment, the utter destruction of all schemes of usefulness and plans of life, the triumphing of the wicked, and the apparent prostration of the cause of God; all these things, or any of them may almost overwhlm the soul, and be to
it as a death-darkness. Elijah, Jeremiah, Job, David, were stricken down beneath such evils, sometimes accumulated together, so that they were ready to cry out for Death as a friend. But these things are not the real Valley ; this is not the hiding of God's countenance; there may be all these things, and yet heaven's sunshine in the soul. But when God departs, or when the soul loses sight of him, then begins the Valley of the Shadow of Death. For, who can stand against such abandonment? Who can endure a sense of the wrath of God abiding on the soul ?
'Tis Paradise if Thou art here
If Thou depart, 'tis hell!
This is the language of the believer’s heart, and this too, is the representation of the Word of God, and this is the reality of things. And men only need to see things as they are, and to feel things as they are, and they will see and feel that they cannot live without God; that without God, though every thing might be Heaven in appearance, yet, in reality it must be Hell. I say, men only need to see and feel the truth, in order to realize this, for God is the only life of the soul, and if he be not in it, and it be not alive in him, then is its existence inevitable misery. The heart without God is at enmity against him, and the conscience without God is at enmity against the heart, and the thoughts without God are self-accusing, fiery, tormenting ; and the imagination without God becomes a prophetic power in the soul, not only to start into fresher, fiercer life its present distress and sense of
sin and desolation, but to image to it all fearful forebodings of future wrath, of interminable desolation and misery, to fill its horizon with upbraiding faces, sometimes with fiend-like forms waiting to receive it, and brandishing a whip of the twisted scorpions of remembered, known, unforgiven sins. The gate of the future, through which the soul must pass, is in such a case,
With dreadful faces, thronged and fiery arms!
The sins of the soul, without God, without Christ, are the the prophets of its coming woes, and its life, when surrounded by them, when under a sense of them, when conscience calls them
and there is no sense of forgiveness, is the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This is the reality of things, even in this world, when the soul has a sense of its own true nature and accoutability. And yet, in this world it is but the prefiguring type of that Eternal Vale, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Here, it is but the Valley of the Shadow of Death ; once entered in Eternity, once experienced there, it is Death itself, Death without God, say rather, Life without God, with all those revenging miseries as Realities, which here at the uttermost were but predictions and merciful warnings to flee from the Wrath to come!
Ah, many a man, who is not a Christian Pilgrim, enters this Valley in this world, has experience of its horrors, who never tells what he felt, never lets it be known that he was so far awakened as to see and feel what dreadful elements and faces were
round about him, pressing upon his soul. Sometimes the souls of impenitent and hardened men are shaken with the terrors of God in this Valley, and wrapped in its gloom !
A very graphic writer (Mr. Borrow, in his instructive book, The Bible in Spain) describes an interview with an imprisoned murderer, who, at the close of the conversation, “ folded his arms, leaned back against the wall, and appeared to sink gradually into one of his reveries. I looked him in the face, and spoke to him, but he did not seem either to hear or see me.
His mind was perhaps wandering in that dreadful Valley of the Shadow of Death, into which the children of earth, while living, occasionally find their way; the dreadful region where there is no water, where hope dwelleth not, where nothing lives but the undying
This Valley is the fac-simile of hell, and he who has entered it has experienced here on earth for a time, what the spirits of the condemned are doomed to suffer through ages without end."
Yes! there is much foretaste of this suffering, even in this world, and often, even amidst their guilty pleasures, the wicked are made to feel that they are themselves like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. When Conscience takes a man in hand, and leads him up and down through the gallery of his own remembered sins, and stops at this picture and that, and points out shades and colorings that he never saw before, and sometimes darkens the room, and takes down a vivid transparency of guilt, and holds it before the fire to his vision, so that his past life seems to burn