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Beauty and wisdom of this delineation.—Many ways of getting into this Castle.
Only one way to get out.-By-Path Meadow and its Allurements.-Enjoyment of Christian and Hopeful before they went into it.-Their discontent with the roughness of the King's highway. Their four errors.—Their sleep amidst the storm, and the discovery of them by Giant Despair. Their treatment and behaviour in the Castle-A Sabbath morning in prayer.—Discovery of the Key of Promise. Their escape.—The mercy and faithfulness of God in Christ.-Consequences of the hiding of God's countenance.-Misery of being without God in Eternity.–Solemn Realities of this Allegory.
We are coming now upon a scene in this pilgrimage, which is drawn from the experience of all travellers towards the Celestial City, and is in a greater or less degree familiar to them all. What Pilgrim does not know Doubting Castle, kept by Giant Despair? Its huge keeps and moss-grown frowning battlements rise before us almost as farniliar as the Wicket Gate ; and what Pilgrims are there, that have not, at some time or another, seen the inside of the Castle ?' They may not all have seen Giant Despair in person, but his wife Diffidence they have met with, and the underkeepers of his prison. They may not all have 'been thrown into the same horrible dungeon where Christian and Hopeful were confined, nor visited
by the Giant with temptations to make way with themselves in their misery. but in some cell or another they have had to bewail their sins, and to groan and suffer by reason of unbelieving doubts and fears. So, though the Dreamer, in the second part of his Pilgrim's Progress, gives an account of the destruction of the Castle, and the death of the Giant, yet no man believes that he is dead, and still from day to day the Pilgrims are straying into his grounds, and finding to their cost the depth and terror of his prisons. Giant Despair will never die, so long as unpardoned sin remains, or a sense of it burdens the conscience; nor is there any security against falling into his hands, but in the care and mercy of One who is mightier than he, even Christ Jesus.
The personification of Despair is one of the most instructive and beautiful portions of Bunyan's Allegory. It appeals either to every man's experience, or to every man's prophetic sense of what may come upon him on account of sin. It is at once in some respects the very gloomiest and very brightest part of the Pilgrim's Progress ; for it shows at once to what a depth of misery sin may plunge the Christian, and also to what a depth the mercy of God in Christ may reach. The coloring of the picture is extremely vivid, the remembrance of it can never pass from the mind; and as in a gallery of beautiful paintings, there may often be one that so strongly reminds you of your own experience, and carries you back into past life with such power, or that in itself is so remarkably beautiful, as to chain you before it in admiration, and keep
you dwelling upon it with unabated interest, so it is with this delineation of Giant Despair, among the many admirable sketches of Bunyan's piety and genius. It is so full of deep life and meaning that you cannot exhaust it, and it is of such exquisite propriety and beauty that you are never tired with examining it.
It is easy for fallen beings to get into Doubting Castle; conviction of sin, unaccompanied by a sense of the mercy of Christ, will take any man there at once; and the last possession and abode of the soul hardened in sin and abandoned of God must be DESPAIR. There are many ways in which even a Christian may come there.
Some men enter by unbelief, and whatever state of mind or habit of sin shuts out the Saviour, is sure to bring a man there at once. Some men enter by pride and self-righteousness; if a man trust in his own merits, instead of the blood and righteousness of Christ for justification, he may seem for a time to be at large, but when he comes to know his own state, the bars of the prison will be round about him; and Giant Despair will be his keeper.
Some men enter this Castle by habits of selfindulgence, some by particular cherished sins, some by dallying with temptations, some by sudden falling into deep sins, some by neglect of watchfulness and prayer, some by a gradual creeping coldness and stupor in the things of religion, the dangerous spirit of slumber not being guarded against and resisted. Some get into this prison by natural gloom and despondency of mind, of which Satan takes an advantage; others by brooding over
the threatenings, and neglecting the promises ; others by going to penances and duties for the relief of conscience, and not to Christ. Neglect of duty takes most men to prison, but duties themselves may bring us there if we trust in duties for acceptance, and not in Christ. Neglect of God's Word will take men to this prison, and leaning to one's own understanding. Distorted views of divine truth, speculative error, and the habit of speculation rather than of faith and life in divine things may shut up the soul in darkness. Some get into 'this prison by spiritual sins, others by sensual ; some by the lusts of the flesh, some by the lust of the eyes, some by the pride of life ; some by conformity to the world, and obedience to fashion ; some by the pressure of business, others by the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches ; they that will be rich are always on the way to this Castle, if not in it.
There is a way to this Castle from the Arbour on the Hill Difficulty, and also from the Enchanted Ground, if a man sleeps there and loses his roll, and then, instead of going to Christ, pursues his journey without it. And if a Christian, when he has sinned against God, stays away from him, and keeps silence towards him, then he will be so shut up and beaten in this prison, that his bones will wax old through his roaring all the day long. This was once the case with David. David fell into this Castle by gross sin, and fearfully was he handled by Giant Despair. Asaph fell into this Castle by doubting and complaining of God's unequal dealings with the righteous and the wicked,
so that he was as a beast before God. Job fell into this Castle by taking a wrong view of God's chastisements, and he only got out by this saying ; I know that my Redeemer liveth.
A child of God may fall into this Castle by making a wrong use, or rather by not making a right use of trials, by not receiving them as a child should receive the corrections of a father. A repining disposition will very quickly bring the soul into this prison. Jonah fell into this prison by running away from known duty, and preferring his own will to God's will. He went down to the bottoms of the mountains, so that he had to cry out of the belly of hell; and God heard his voice. Thomas fell into the Castle by obstinate unbelief, so that all the prayers and tears of his fellow disciples could not bring him out, and he came out only by that gracious voice of the Saviour, Be not faithless but believing! Peter fell into this Castle, about the same time, and wept bitterly, and it was nothing but the mercy of the same Saviour that brought him out. Satan would have kept him there, had it not been for that wonderful prayer of the Saviour before-hand, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.
Alas! alas ! how many ways there are of getting into this gloomy prison! Oh, if Christ be not always with the soul, or if at any time it go astray from him, or if its reliance be on any thing whatever but his mercy, his blood, his grace, then is it near the gloom of this Dungeon ; then may Giant Despair be heard walking in his grounds, and verily the echo of his footsteps oftentimes falls upon the soul before the grim form rises on