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so delightful as the River of the Water of Lite flowing through the soul; that is, they require selfdenial, and are attended with difficulty. When the affections are drawn out after Christ, and are warm towards God and heaven, and all external things go pleasantly, how easy and how sweet it is to wander up and down along the banks of the River, treading the soft grass, eating the wholsome and delicious fruits, and breathing the fragrance of the flowers. Do we not sometimes have such seasons ?
But they are given to us, as the Arbor was in the midst of the Hill Difficulty, not for indulgence to the flesh, but to invigorate and prepare us for active duty; not to constitute a rest, which we may quietly enjoy, but to fit us for remaining toil, for increasing activity and usefulness.
Now, then, if the Pilgrims think too much of these comforts, if they are rather seeking after spiritual enjoyment, than for usefulness and growth in grace by active discipline and duty, it is possible that spiritual enjoyments themselves may become a snare, making the Pilgrim unwilling to separate from such a blessed quietness of life, when the pilgrimage leads to a rougher road, where the river and the road part for a season. To read the Bible and to pray are easy duties, even for weak Christians, when the heart is full of love, and God's countenance is shining ; but to go out into the highways and hedges, to visit the poor and afflicted, to do missionary work, to bear trials, to seek to win sinful men to Christ, as you have opportunity, this always requires self
denial; so that By-Path Meadow may be very attractive, and those very persons may be tempted to pursue it, who have been enjoying much in the Word of God and in prayer, but who, when trying times come on, and painful labors are necessary, listen to the voice of self-indulgence. This we are always apt to do, and nothing but divine grace can make us submit to divine discipline.
A spirit of discontent and repining amidst trials, a spirit of rebellion because God takes away our mercies, is likely at any time, if indulged, to bring the soul into the Castle of Giant Despair. If we have been enjoying much of God's goodness, both inward and external, and then, because the path of duty leads through suffering, or because God sends us on errands humiliating to our pride, we shrink back from duty, and take some compromising course, we may seem to be travelling in a meadow, but the end thereof is danger and gloom. When a man refuses to undergo such labor and suffering for Christ as lie in the way of his duty, he will have to suffer far more inwardly than he ever could have done outwardly. The sufferings of Christian and Hopeful in the grounds and castle of Giant Despair were incomparably greater than all the fatigue they could have endured while travelling the rough road of their pilgrimage. Yet we often forget, when hardness comes, that our business is to endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
Our simple heavenly-minded Pilgrims seem to have forgotten this for a season, and to have expected nothing but enjoyment all the rest of the
way. But now the river and the way for a time parted, and the way was rough; so still as they went they wished for a better. Here were the first beginnings of discontent, and they ought to have repressed them. They should have said, It is true this way is not so pleasant as the Meadow, but it is the Lord's way, and the best, doubtless, for us to travel in; these trials are of God's making for us, and they come in the way of our duty ; so we must still go on and be thankful. But they said, How very rough is the way, how painful, how fatiguing! I wish there were a better way ; can we not find an easier way? When Christians thus allow themselves to wish for a better way than the way of God's appointment, Satan is generally at hand to point out some way that seems easier and better, and to tempt the soul to wander in it. A man speedily enters into temptation when he becomes discontented with God's allotments; then Satan presents allurements, and from wishing for a better way the soul goes into a worse. The discontented wish is father to a sinful will; 1 wish for a better is followed by I will have a better ; and so the soul goes astray.
The Pilgrims had no sooner wished for a better, than By-Path Meadow presented itself, with a convenient, tempting stile. This is very opportune, said they, just what we were wishing for; we'll not walk in the dust, when we can tread upon grass and flowers, especially if the meadow lies along the wayside. So they went to the stile to see. This was entering into temptation, this was looking on the wine when it was red, this was a wandering,
sinful desire, not checked but dallied with. It is the same thing, said they, the meadow and the road go on together. But it is a dangerous thing to be trying the experiment how far we may sin safely. These Pilgrims, contrary to their usual wont, were now trying the experiment with how little selfdenial they could get along in their pilgrimage, and of course with how much self-indulgence it might consist. But this, I say, is very dangerous. It is like venturesome schoolboys trying how far they may make the thin ice bend under them over a deep place, without breaking through. This going as far as you can on debateable ground is a great injury to the tenderness of the conscience. A man who will go as far as he may, is sure to go farther than he ought, and then a tempestuous night and Giant Despair's Castle are not far off.
So deceitful are the ways of sin, that the first steps of travel in them seemed to these Pilgrims but as an indulgence to wearied, sore-footed Virtue. True, there is no want of company in such a case. There are those who travel in By-Path Meadow without any scruple at all; so the Pilgrims speedily espied a man going before them at a great rate, whose name was Vain-confidence, of whom (silly men) they asked if this were the way to the Celestial City; and he told them Most certainly, he was straight in it himself! So sometimes the real Pilgrims take counsel and example of strangers, of worldly men, and of presumptuous, careless persons, who have little or no conscience. Vain confidence is a sad guide any where, but especially when one has wandered out of the way.
Now there were four capital errors which the Pilgrims had already committed ; (1,) they had discontentedly wished for a better way; (2,) they had gone up to the stile to look over it ; (3,) they had climbed over the stile ; (4,) they had taken encouragement by a wrong example, and followed Vain-confidence; and, what was strange, the older and stronger Christian had led the younger and weaker one out of the way. Now when the night came on, and the storm, they began to find how evil and bitter a thing it is to wander from God. They heard the fall of Vain-confidence into a deep, dreadful pit, and they heard him groan, but could see nothing; and now they bemoan their folly, and though they are both in a sad case, yet Christian's is certainly the worse, for having led Hopeful out of the way; and most humbly and ingenuously does he beg his brother's pardon.
But why, in that tempestuous night, when the waters were rising around them, did they not obey the voice which they heard, and persevere, amidst all dangers, till they had gotten again into the King's highway? Sometimes the Pilgrims, who have thus wandered into darkness, seek relief by duties, and not by Christ; and so conscience gets a temporary quiet, but a false one; there is no place of safety, short of Christ. Some such relief these Pilgrims seem to bave gotten in that they reached a rising ground, above the waters, and there being thoroughly tired, and not being able, or thinking they were not, to reach the King's highway that night, they there lay down and slept. But ah, what sleep can there be until the soul has come