« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
had a view of the Delectable Mountains ; then, from the Delectable Mountains, they had a view of the Celestial City; then in the Land Beulah, they even meet with the inhabitants of that City. In this land they also hear voices coming out of the City, and theydraw so near to it that the view of its glory is almost overpowering. Would to God that
all did better know the meaning of these images by our own blissful experience ; for certainly the imagination alone cannot interpret them to us. A very near, deep, blissful communion with God is here, portrayed, and that beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, by which daily the soul is changed more and more into the same image. Here the ministering spirits that do wait upon us are more frequent and full in their companies. Here the Spirit of Adoption is breathed over the soul, and it walks and talks with Christ, almost as Moses and Elias in the Mount of Transfiguration.
No other language than that of Bunyan himself, perused in the pages of his own sweet book, could be successful in portraying this beauty and glory; for now he seems to feel that all the dangers of the pilgrimage are almost over, and he gives up himself without restraint so entirely to the sea of bliss that surrounds him, and to the gales of heaven that are wafting him on, and to the sounds of melody that float in the whole air around him, that nothing in the English language can be compared with this whole closing part of the Pilgrim's Progress, for its entrancing splendor, yet serene and simple loveliness. The coloring is that of heaven in the soul, and Bunyan has poured his own heaven-entranced soul
into it. With all its depth and power, there is nothing exaggerated, and it is made up of the simplest and most scriptural materials and images. We seem to stand in a flood of light poured on us from the open gates of Paradise. It falls on every leaf and shrub by the way-side ; it is reflected from the crystal streams, that between grassy banks wind amidst groves of fruit-trees into vineyards and flower-gardens. These fields of Beulah are just below the gate of heaven; and with the light of heaven there come floating down the melodies of heaven, so that here there is almost an open revelation of the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
During the last days of that eminent man of God, Dr. Payson, he once said, “When I formerly read Bunyan's description of the Land of Beulah, where the sun shines and the birds sing day and night, I used to doubt whether there was such a place; but now my own experience has convinced me of it, and it infinitely transcends all my previous conceptions." The best possible commentary on the glowing descriptions in Bunyan is to be found in that very remarkable letter dictated by Dr. Payson to his sister a few weeks before his death. “Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter from the land Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant. The Celestial City is full in my view. Its glories have been upon me, its breezes fan me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the River of
Death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as be approached, and now he fills the whole hemisphere; pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun ; exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm.'
There is perhaps, in all our language, no record of a Christian's happiness before death, so striking as this. What is it not worth to enjoy such consolations as these in our pilgrimage, and especially to experience such foretastes of heaven as we draw near to the River of Death; such revelations of God in Christ as can swallow up the fears and pains of dying, and make the soul exult in the vision of a Saviour's loveliness, the assurance of a Saviour's mercy.
There is no self-denial, no toil, no suffering in this life which is worthy to be compared for a moment with such blessedness.
It is very remarkable that Bunyan has, as it were, attempted to lift the veil from the grave, from eternity, in the beatific closing part of the Pilgrim's Progress, and to depict what passes, or may be supposed to pass, with the souls of the righteous, immediately after death. There is a very familiar verse of Watts, founded on the unsuccessful effort of the mind to conceive definitely the manner of
that existence into which the immortal spirit is to be ushered.
In vain the fancy strives to paint
The moment after death,
In yielding up his breath.
The old poet, Henry Vaughan, in his fragment on Heaven in prospect, refers to the same uncertainty, in stanzas that, though somewhat quaint, are very striking.
Dear, beauteous Death, the jewel of the just,
Shining no where but in the dark,
Could man outlook that mark !
At first sight if the bird be flown,
That is to him unknown.
Call to the soul when man doth sleep,
And into glory peep.
Indeed, our most definite views of that glory is but a glimpse, a guess, a look as through a dim glass darkly, and what we know of the intermediate or immediate state of untabernacled souls is but little and in part. Perhaps the most general conception is that of an immediate, instantaneous transition into the vision and presence of God and the Lamb. But Bunyan has with great beauty and probability brought in the ministry of angels, and regions of the air, to be passed through in their company, rising and still rising, higher and higher, before they come to that mighty mount, on which he has placed the gates of the Celestial City. The angels receive his Pilgrims as they come up from the
River of Death, and form for them a bright, glittering, seraphic, loving convoy, whose conversation prepares them gradually for that exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which is to be theirs as they enter in at the Gate. Bunyan has thus, in this blissful passage from the River to the Gate, done what no other devout writer, or dreamer, or speculator, that we are aware of, has ever done; he has filled what perhaps in most minds is a mere blank, a vacancy, or at most a bewilderment and mist of glory, with definite and beatific images, with natural thoughts, and with the sympathising communion of gentle spirits, who form, as it were, an outer porch and perspective of glory, through which, the soul passes into uncreated light. Bunyan has thrown a bridge, as it were, for the imagination over the deep, sudden, open space of an untried spiritual existence, where it finds ready to receive the soul that leaves the body, ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who are to be heirs of salvation.
These ministering spirits he can describe, with the beauty and glory of their form and garments, and the ravishing sweetness of their conversation; he can also describe the feelings of the Pilgrims in such company, and their glorious progress up throgh the regions of the air to their eternal dwelling-place. He can image to us their warm thoughts about the reception they are to meet with in the City, and the blessedness of beholding “the King in his beauty," and of dwelling with such glorious company forever and ever ; but Bunyan goes no farther ; he does not attempt to describe, or even sha