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one just setting out in the Christian life, whose habits for life therefore are now forming, Had you not better be employed in such an effort, even though you seem to fail, even though your soul be much discouraged by the way, and you seem to meet with enemies, of which others are entirely unconscious ? Would not that life be infinitely happier, which is so spent ? If you do not meet with those enemies, it is not because they do not exist, and if you be at peace without this holy effort after God, it is not because these enemies are overcome, or that sin is dead within you, or that your vision is bright toward heaven. It is rather because sin is alive, and you know it not, or care very little for it; it is because sensibility is dead, and not sin ; it is not because you are really secure that enemies do not trouble you, but because they are secure of you, and quietly waiting till they shall have full possession of you.
Now again in regard to this pilgrimage, it is clear that there is great blessedness in this search after God, and certainly no blessedness without it, although in it the earnest pilgrim may see his sins and his enemies with a clearness, of which they that are at ease can have no conception, and though he may have to pass through conflicts, which they that sleep know nothing of. Better by far to have these conflicts now, and rest and triumph at the end, than rest and peace now, and a conflict with sin and its consequences forever and ever. It were better to be all one's lifetime in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, to emerge from it into light and life eternal, than to be walking in a false light here, to be followed by the blackness of darkness forever.
It cannot be denied that the way of this pilgrimage is a straight and narrow way. The difficulties and hardships, and terrors, have not been magnified in the Allegory of Bunyan. It is a strictly scriptural representation. Nor can it be denied that the world spreadeth in our way many alluring baits, and that the sense hath for the time exquisite and intoxicating delights. So that in becoming a pilgrim, one seems to turn his back upon a present and positive enjoyment, and to choose self-denial, painfulness and sorrow. But at the very outset we are met by the tremendous question, What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?
We cannot unmake our being or annihilate its conditions. We must die and die only to be immortal. If while we live we live to the world, when we come to die and leave the world, we shall die to all blessedness. But if while we live, we die to the world, then when we come to die and leave the world, we shall live to blessedness perfect and eternal. So let the world be as pleasant as it may, and the pilgrimage as toilsome and forbidding as it may, in choosing between them we must remember, we are choosing between Heaven and Hell. If we would laugh now, we must do it at the cost of weeping forever; if we would laugh and rejoice forever, we must consent to be weeping pilgrims now. Now what will it profit you to gain the whole world at the cost of your soul ?
But when the choice is once made under the strong principle of duty, and the conviction of substantial and eternal gain ; and the man with
514 CHRISTIANA, MERCY, AND THE CHILDREN.
violent resistance shuts out the alluring voices of the world, by putting his fingers in his ears, and its alluring prospects by turning his back upon them, and runs for the entrance into the narrow way, crying out Life! Life! Eternal Life !—then there springs up the excitement, enthusiasm and joy of a new and glorious interest. What has he to do now? To become holy, like God; to lead the life of Love, like God in Christ ; to win heaven forever and ever? Having turned from the world, its fascinations depart from his soul like a light vapour and vanish into nothingness. And fixing now all the energies and insight of his being upon the work and prospects before him, the life of the pilgrim and the crowning rewards stand out continually in increasing beauty and glory. And thus is he more and more conformed to that which he seeketh after; and gaineth even in the winning of heavenly blessedness, a taste of it, which maketh the keenest delight of the world appear utterly insipid. The pilgrim has a precious reward as he goes along; it meets him at the cross, at the hill of difficulty, in the valley of humiliation, in the valley of the shadow of death, it meets him most abundantly when to the world he appears most wretched; it is an inward light and love which enables him to see, and draws him towards the gate of heaven—it is the promise and the earnest of the world to come. And when at last his flesh and heart faileth, then God becomes the strength of his heart and his portion forever.