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back to Christ? What sleep can there be amidst unforgiven sin? They had better not have slept at all, but kept struggling amidst the storm all night long, for these grounds were the grounds of Giant Despair, and Giant Despair found them, not striving to get back, but fast asleep for sorrow and weariness. Ah, what safety can there be for sleepers away from Christ? This sleep was worse for Christian and Hopeful that that in the Arbor. So do Christians sometimes make an imperfect return to duty in their own strength ; and conscience thus being imperfectly quieted, lulled by a sleep, and not sprinkled by the blood of Christ, Giant Despair after all finds them in his grounds, and carries them away to his castle.
Now were Christian and Hopeful in a dreadful case ; deep down in darkness, the bars of the earth and of death around them, no food, nor drink, nor light, nor comfort, the weeds were wrapped about their head, and in this dungeon they cried as out of the belly of hell, bemoaning themselves to one another with groans and lamentations. The description which Bunyan has given of their treatment by the Giant is exquisitely beautiful and affecting; no part of the Pilgrim's Progress makes a deeper impression than this; and the different manner in which the two Pilgrims endure these trials, forms a development of character which in no other portion of the work is more profound and instructive. Hopeful continues hopeful, even in despair; Christian at one time abandons all hope, and listens seriously to the Giant's infernal temptations to self-destruction. Hopeful
had not fallen so far as Christian, for Christian had been the more eminent and experienced Pilgrim of the two, and had also led his fellow astray. But this did not make all the difference. Hopeful's frame of mind was naturally more elastic than Christian's; he was of a more joyous temperament, and more apt to look on the bright side ; not so deep, grave and far-sighted as Christian, and not capable, in any case, of quite such deep trials of
trials of feeling. Hopeful's spirits soon rose again, but Christian, when he is down on account of sin, is brought even to the gates of hell. How affectingly instructive are Hopeful's arguments with Christian to dissuade him from suicide. Doubtless, good men have been tempted in this way, but strange enough it seems that a sense of God's wrath and desertion on account of sin should tempt a man to plunge deeper into such wrath, nay, to incur it past redemption.
Christian never dreamed of destroying himself when he was fighting with Apollyon, in passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death ; but a sense of sin, and of God's wrath on account of it, quite unmans the soul; none can stand against God's terrors.
A thousand fiends may easier be met with, than the remembrance of one sin. Besides, in the conflict with Apollyon, and the passage of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Christian was in the course of his duty ; both these dangers lay directly in the path to the Celestial City, so that, though hard beset, and pressed out of measure, Christian was not despairing, for he knew he met those evils in the right way ; but here
he was out of the way. Giant Despair's Castle could not even be seen from the King's highway; it was so far off that he wandered a long distance before he came in sight of it, and here the Pilgrims were far from the road, they knew not how far. They were in such desperation, that for a long time they could do nothing but brood over their gloomy thoughts, and they hardly dared to pray.
All this is related as a story, with such natural incidents, with such power of character, and such vivid coloring, that no story of a life could be more graphic; and yet it is allegory, it is the experience of the mind alone; but allegory so perfect, the experience so touched into life, that each becomes either, and may be perfect story or allegory, as you please. The temptations to suicide, presented by Giant Despair, constitute a description so wonderfully similar to a passage in Spenser on the same subject, that it would have seen as if Bunyan must have read the Fairy Queen. The effect of the vile arguments of Despair upon the knight in Spenser is very similar to that of the arguments used by the Giant upon Christian. The poor Pilgrim was almost beside himself in his misery.
And yet, this is the man who overcame the Hill Difficulty, and passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and passed so nobly through Vanity Fair. This is the hero of that dread conflict with Apollyon. And now he, whom the world could not overcome, nor fiends destroy, thinks of destroying himself! Oh the intolerable misery of an accusing conscience! The sense of the guilt of our departure from God is far worse to bear
than the mere hiding of God's countenance ; it makes cowards and slaves of the bravest.
In this state did Christian and Hopeful remain day after day, night after night, though it was all night with them, and no light but to discover sights of wo. Yet, after all, they would not give way to the suggestions of Giant Despair. It is a curious picture, which Bunyan has drawn of the intercourse between the Giant and his wife Diffidence. They form a very loving couple in their way, and the Giant takes no new step in the treatment of the Pilgrims without consulting Mrs. Diffidence over night; so that the curtain lectures to which we listen are very curious. But Mrs. Diffidence ought rather to have been called Dame Desperation, or Desperate Resolution ; for she seems, if anything, the more stubborn genius of the two; and when the Giant, very much astonished that “the sturdy rogues” hold out so long against his temptations and his beatings, brings the case to her at night for advice, she proposes his taking the Pilgrims into the Castle Yard, to show them the fearful heap of the sculls and bones of Pilgrims who have been by him destoyed.
Nevertheless, all would not avail utterly to subdue the Pilgrims; though in deep misery, they waited still, and Hopeful would still be encouraging his brother, though it seemed to be hoping against hope. Like as in the Slough of Despond, at first setting out on the pilgrimage, they were unable to see the promises, or in dreadful, sullen unbelief, refused to take hold upon them, as being beyond their case. And this was partly because as yet,
though bemoaning their sin and misery, they had not returned to prayer; a dreadful case, whenever it happens to the Christian; for when, from any cause, he is driven from the throne of grace, or yielding to temptation, stays away from that sure refuge, he is indeed in terrible danger, he is well nigh lost. And this cannot remain, for he he must either pray or be lost, and it is in prayer that he generally finds the first light after dark
So Bunyan, with exquisite beauty and truth, makes his Pilgrims resume this weapon of All-Prayer, compelled unto it by their very depth of guilt and misery.
It is Saturday night, and all night long they wrestle in prayer, till the very break of day; all night long before they see the promise. The Sabbath as it breaks, finds them in prayer; and now, as the dawn begins to make silvery gray the sky and the mountains outside the Castle, so the unwonted light is breaking on the soul in the Pilgrim's Dungeon. All at once, as if it were a new revelation, Christian finds and applies the Promises ; and indeed it is a new revelation, which none but the merciful Saviour could make; he it is, who has been watching over his erring disciples ; he it is, who has known their path, when their soul was overwhelmed within them; he it is, who has kept back the hand of Despair from destroying them. They have gone astray like lost sheep; he it is, who leaveth the ninety and nine upon the mountains, and seeketh the hundredth one, until he findeth it; he it is, who binds up the broken in heart, and healeth all their wounds.