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“From worlds not quickened by the sun
A portion of the gift is won;
All truth to the humble mind, is poetry: spiritual truth is eminently so. We long to witness a better understanding of its sublime laws, an acknowledgment of its great fountain, and a more worthy appreciation of its nature; to have it felt and acknowledged that there is poetry in this world, only because light from heaven shines upon it, because it is full of hieroglyphics, whose meaning points to the Eternal World, because man is immortal, and this world is only the habitation of his infancy, and possesses power to rouse his imagination only in proportion as it is invested with moral grandeur by his own wonderful destiny, and by the light reflected down upon it from the habitation of angels. All on earth is shadow, and all in heaven is substance. Truly as well as feelingly did Burke exclaim, “What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue !" We are encompassed by shadows and flitting apparitions and semi-transparencies, that wear the similitude of greatness, only because they are near us, and interposed between our vision, and the world of eternal reality and light. Man of the world! you know not what poetry is, till you know God, and can hail in every created thing the manifestation of omnipresent Deity! Look at the highest creations of the art, and behold how they owe their power over the human soul to the presence of the Idea of that Being, the thought of whom transfigures the movements of the imagination with glory, and makes language itself almost divine! What
is it that gives to Coleridge's Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouney, the deep, unutterable sublimity, that awes the soul into worship, and suffuses the eye with swelling tears? What, but the thought of Him, to whose praise that stupendous mountain, with its sky-pointing peaks and robe of silent cataracts, rises like a cloud of incense from the earth!
“Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!
There is a spiritual world, and it is a world of light and grandeur! Man's relation to it is the greatest theme, that poet or philosopher ever yet exercised his powers upon. It broods over him like the day, a master o'er a slave,
“A presence, which is not to be put by!”
The truths that man is fallen, exposed because of sin to the just indignation of God, in peril of his soul forever, the object of all the stupendous histories and scenes of revelation recorded in the Bible, surrounded by dangers, and directed how to avoid them, pointed to Heaven, and told what to do that he may enter there, and watched in all his course with anxiety by heavenly spirits, do, rightly considered, throw round every spiritual movement a thrilling, absorbing interest; an interest, for the individual who knows and feels it personally, too deep and awful, till he is in a place of safety, to be the
subject of poetry. He can no more command attention to the sublimity of his situation, than Lot, hurried by the hand of the angel to Zoar, with the storm of fire rushing after him, could have stood to admire burning Sodom and Gomorrah. It was not amidst his distressing conflicts with the Enemy, when it seemed as if his soul would be wrested from his body, that a thought of the Pilgrim's Progress came in upon the Author's mind. It was when the Fiend had spread his dragon wings and fled forever, and the hand came to him with leaves from the Tree of Life, and the presence of God gladdened him, and on the mountain summit, light shone around him, and a blessed prospect stretched before him, with the Celestial City at its close, that that sweet vision rose upon his view. To the Pilgrim, looking back from a safe resting place, all the way is fraught with poetical recollections and associations. His imagination now sees a spiritual life full of beauty. In the new light that shines upon him, he loves to retrace it again and again, and to lift his hands in grateful, speechless wonder at the unutterable goodness of the Lord of the Way. He is like Jacob, sleeping in the open air of Padan Aram, and dreaming of Heaven. Angels of God are ascending and descending continually before his sight. His are no longer the
“Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized," but the rejoicings of a weary Pilgrim, on whose forehead the mark of Heaven has been placed, and who sees close at hand his everlasting rest. Once within the straight gate, and in the holy confidence
of being a Pilgrim bound from the City of Destruction to the City of Immanuel, and all past circumstances of trial or danger, or of unexpected relief and security, wears a charmed aspect. Light from a better world shines upon them. Distance softens and lends enchantment to the view. Proof from experience, as well as warnings from above, show how many dangerous places he has passed, how many concealed and malignant enemies were here and there lying in ambush around him, and in how many instances there were hair-breadth escapes from ruin. There were the Slough of Despond, the fiery darts at the entrance to the Wicket Gate, the hill Difficulty, that pleasant arbor where he lost his roll of assurance, the lions that so terrified him, when in the darkness of evening he could not see that they were chained ; there was that dark valley of the Shadow of Death, and that dread conflict with Apollyon before it. There were those fearful days and nights passed in the Dungeon of the Castle of Giant Despair, and the joyful escape from his territories. There were the Land Beulah, and the Delectable Mountains, and the Enchanted Ground, and all the glimpses of the Holy City, not dreamlike, but distinct and full of glory, breaking in upon the vision, to last in the savor of them, for many days and nights of the blessed pilgrimage! Ingenious Dreamer, who could invest a life of such realities with a coloring so full of Heaven! Who can wonder at the affectionate sympathy, with which a heart like Cowper's was wont to turn to thee !
“And e'en in transitory life's late day
The Valley of the Shadow of Death in Bunyan's experience.—Blasphemous sug.
gestions of Satan.-Bunyan's meeting with Luther.-Conflict of scripture with scripture in his mind.—The fiery darts of the Wicked One.-Power of conscience by the aid of memory.-Bunyan's intense study of the Bible.- Secret of his power in preaching.–Of the purity and simplicity of his style.—Bunyan's call to the ministry.-Existence and agency of Satan as the Tempter and Adversary of Mankind.
We come now to a great and important subject, Bunyan's temptations. In the midst of deep and terrible convictions of sin he received great comfort and joy on hearing a sermon preached on the love of Christ. He was so taken with the love and mercy of God, as he says, that he could scarcely contain himself till he got home. To use his own graphic language, “I thought I could have spoken of his love, and have told of his mercy to me, even to the crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me; wherefore I said to my soul with much gladness, Well, I would I had a pen and ink here; I would write this down before I go any farther; for surely I will not forget this forty years hence.” speedily began to be renewed the great power of inward temptation upon him. I must tell the
But now very