« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
the vision. And some who have once entered the Castle have staid there a great while, because they have tried many other means of escape, than by the blood of Christ; because they have used picklocks, and penances, and stratagems, and the help of friends outside the Castle, but not the Key of Promise, or not aright, not throwing themselves on the Saviour alone for pardon, peace and justification. A man who gets into difficulty through sin, will never get out by self-righteousness, nor are past siris, nor the burden of them, to be ever removed by present morality ; nothing but Faith, nothing but the precious blood of Christ, can take away sin, can remove the stain of it, can deliver the soul from its condemnation.
Perhaps, notwithstanding there are so many examples of great sins bringing men into his power, yet, with the majority of Christians, it is little sins neglected, and sins of omission, and duties undone, that shut them up in Doubting Castle, kept by Giant Despair. Duties undone are in reality great sins, but they do not strike the conscience with such immediate terror as open sins, and therefore perhaps they are the more dangerous.
The sonl gets sadly accustomed to such neglects, and there is always some plausible excuse in the first instance, in the beginnings, a man being always determined to repair the neglect immediately; but it soon grows into a habit, and then the conscience ceases to be so tender on that point, and at length there comes to be such an accumulation of neglects and omissions, that there is no computing them.
Now, when this is the case, and yet a man attempts to keep on in his Christian course, beneath the burden of such neglect of duty, he is much like a man who has failed in business under a heavy load of debt, and attempts to set up again before his crcditors have released him, so that if at any time they come upon him, all his new earnings are gonc at once, and he is penniless. So a Christian without coming to a reckoning with himself and Christ concerning such neglects of duty, and such habits of neglect, may think he is going on well, but the moment a sense of these sins comes to him, he finds himself in the grounds of Giant Despair, and is taken away to his Castle, and there he has to bewail his guilt and misery, sometimes many days before mercy comes to him.
And never can he find mercy, but by casting himself, with all his accumulation and burden of sins upon Christ. And oh what mercy it is to be reclaimed from such habits of neglect to a habit of watchfulness, even at the expense of ever so many days and nights in this Castle! Better by far to be seized by Giant Despair while mercy may be sought, while Christ is, as it were, yet within hearing, than to be left to go on at ease amidst neglects of duty, and to become hardened in sin without meeting the Giant, without being wakened to a sense of guilt by his black countenance and his heavy club. Men sometimes neglect secret prayer for present business or pleasure ; this is getting over the stile, and taking a few steps in By-Path Meadow ; then a few steps farther are taken, and
thus gradually the soul gets farther and farther from God, from Christ, from grace, from duty, and duty becomes more difficult, and the allurements of By-Path Meadow more dangerous, perhaps openly sinful; and then the night and storm come on, and in the morning, Giant Despair, prowling about his grounds, takes the trespassers, and shuts them under lock and key in his dungeon.
The pursuit of duty, though it be the way of self-denial, is without doubt the only way of peace and safety. But some Pilgrims get into Doubting Castle by neglecting one set of duties while they perform others. In all our callings there are some duties inore difficult than others, and some that are more pleasing to our natural inclinations. A merchant or tradesman loves to be diligent in his business, and all the active duties and even great fatigue in the course of it, are yet pleasing to him; but the Word of God and prayer are not so naturally pleasing to him, and spiritual fatigue is not so readily encountered by him. A farmer loves the external occupations of his farm, and he must make hay while the sun shines, and he is not likely to get into By-Path Meadow by neglecting the making of his hay; but it is not so natural for him to pray, and he may possibly get into Doubting Castle by neglecting his prayers in August, that he may get in his hay in its season during the fair weather. A minister, who loves more to study, or to visit, than to pray, finds it very easy to study but very hard to pray; sometimes his very sermons may so occupy him, that he too may think he has not present time
for prayer ; nevertheless, by neglects and omissions in any way, he may fall into Doubting Castle, kept by Giant Despair. A prudent, busy house-wife may love much better to be like Martha, anxious and troubled about many things, bustling and busy from morning till night, than to be like Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Domestic avocations often constitute a By-Path Meadow, where spiritual duties are neglected, and so the soul wanders into the regions of Giant Despair.
The delineation of By-Path Meadow, with the experience of the Pilgrims in it, is very affecting and very beautiful. Every man knows what ByPath Meadow means, as well as what Doubting Castle signifies. In general, some habit or mode of self-indulgence, some shrinking back from the hardness of the pilgrimage, and some departure from its duties, for indulgence to the flesh, is here shadowed forth. But it is observable that just before the Pilgrims wandered from the right way into this Meadow they had a season of great delight in the Word of God, great enjoyment in their Christian pilgrimage. After by divine grace they had been delivered from the temptations of Demas, they had sweet communion with God, - reviving communications of the Holy Spirit, rich draughts from the Water of Life, delightful views of the preciousness of Christ, and such green pastures, such quiet meadows, with lillies and still waters, that it seemed as if all their conflicts were over, and they had nothing to do but to enjoy these abundant consolatious. The passage in which Bunyan has descibed these earnests of the
Spirit, these sweet foretastes of the heavenly rest, comprehends one of the most ravishing intervals in the experience of Christian and Hopeful.
“ I saw then,” says Bunyan, “that they went on their way to a pleasant river, which David the King called the River of God, but John, the River of the Water of Life. Now their way lay just upon bank of the River; here therefore Christian and his companion walked with great delight; they drank also of the water of the river, which was pleasant and enlivening to their weary spirits. Besides, on the banks of the river, on either side, were green trees with all manner of fruit; and the leaves they ate to prevent surfeits, and other diseases that are incident to those that heat their blood by travels. On either side of the river was also a meadow, curiously beautified with lillies ; and it was green all the year long. In this meadow they lay down and slept, for here they might lie down safely. When they awoke, they gathered again of the fruit of the trees, and drank again of the water of the river, and they lay down again to sleep. Thus they did several days and nights."
Here was a season of deep and exquisite enjoyment in the Word of God, and the exercises of the Divine Life. How could the Pilgrims turn aside from it so soon? Perhaps it was by forgetting the Saviour's purpose in granting these enjoyments, taking that for their rest which was only meant to add to their holiness, and prepare them for labor. The truth is, that the active duties of the Christian pilgrimage are never in themselves