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you are only casting about to find some position if possible, where it will not have occasion to vex you ; where you suppose, in fact, that it will be easier, that it will cost less self-denial to serve Christ than it does now. But remember that you are not called to be holy in another's situation, but your own; and if you are not now faithful to God in the sphere in which he has placed you, you would not, probably, be any more faithful, let him place you where he might. For he that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is neglectful in that which is least, is neglectful also in much. And as to circumstances repressing the plague of your own heart, they would only change its exhibition a little. The plague is in your heart, and not in your circumstances. Prosperous circumstances might, it is true, hide that plague ; in a different situation it might have been concealed from yourself, but would that be any gain ?
Would you really be any the better for that? The revelation of the evil might only be deferred till it should work your ruin. How much better it is to know it in season, and be humbled before God, though it be at the cost of ever so much offering.
And remember that those whose happy lot you, ander the influence of this envious plague in your own heart, deem so desirable, if they are really living near to God where they are, would also have been very holy in your situation. Take Mr. Wilberforce, for example, a Christian in a sphere of life in society in all respects desirable and delightful in regard to this world, and living in that
sphere to the glory of his Saviour. may perhaps think if you could only change situations with such a man, O how easy it would be to conquer the plague of your own heart; how little should you feel it, how easy it would be, in such a conspicuous situation, with all your wishes gratified, to shine to the glory of your Redeemer. You could do it, you think, and it would cost you no self-denial at all. But in your present situation it is a hard thing to be a living Christian. Now remember that if a man like Mr. Wilberforce could change situations with you, he would be a very holy and happy man where you perhaps are vexed and discontented, and you, in his place, might be a very worldly and ambitious men, where he was humble and prayerful. Be assured, it is not not place, nor opportunities, nor circumstances, that make character or minister grace, but it is rather character that makes circumstances, and grace that makes place.
So the next time you detect your heart, under the influence of the plague that is in it, saying to you like a concealed devil, O if I were in such or such an one's place, how much good I could do, or how holy a person I could become, just think of some eminent saint, and say, If that person were in my place, how much nearer he would live to God than I do, how many opportunities that I waste he would use for his Master's glory, how he would fill my little sphere, that now is so dark, with brightness and happiness! And you, if you will, may do the same.
VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH.
Sympathy with spiritual distresses. The power of prayer. -Bunyan's own temptu
tions depicted in Christian's distresses. The similar experience of Job, and that of David.—
The breaking of the light.-Comparison of the experience of Christian with that of Christiana and Mercy in this Valley.—The uses of trials.—Effect of the hiding of God's countenance from the soul.-Christian's meeting with Faithful.
We are naturally less affected with sympathy for men's spiritual distresses, than we are for their temporal or bodily evils. The reason is to be found in our want of spiritual experience, and in the fact that we habitually look at, and are moved by, the things which are seen, and not the things which are unseen. We are creatures of sense, and therefore a great battle, when a kingdom is to be lost or won, affects us more deeply than the far more sublime and awful conflict, where the soul and the kingdom of heaven are to be lost or won forever.
I have stood upon the sea shore, in a dreadful storm, and have watched the perils of a noble frigate, about to be cast upon the rocks, holding by only her last anchor, plunging and pitching
amidst mountainous breakers, as if she would shoot like a stone to the earth's centre. One after another I have watched her masts cut away, to see if that would not save her. The shore was lined with spectators, trembling, affrighted, weeping, unable to do any thing, yet full of anxiety and sympathy.
Now the sight of an. immortal soul in peril of its eternal interests, beset with enemies, engaged in a desperate conflict, with hell opening her mouth before, and fiends and temptations pressing after, is a much more sublime and awful spectacle. A spiritual bark in the tempest, on the ocean of life, struggling at midnight through furious gales and waves, that by the lightning flashes are seen every instant, ready to swallow her up, has nothing to compare with it in solemn interest. But of all those multitudes of intensely anxious spectators watching the frigate, on a rock-bound shore, ready to perish, there was scarcely here and there one, who could have been persuaded to look with the spiritual vision at spiritual realities, or to listen to the most vivid descriptions of the danger of the soul, amidst its struggle with its enemies : scarcely one, who would even understand the danger of the costly spiritual vessel about to be wrecked for eternity, and still less any who would sympathise with the distresses of such a soul.
And yet, for one spectator watching the ship in a storm on the Mediterranean, there were thousands tracing the course of such a soul as Bunyan’s, oat amidst the storms of sin and temptation, with fiends flying through the gloom, with fiery
darts hurtling the air, with sails rent, and the sea making breach after breach over the vessel. Angels, that see from heaven to earth, are busy, though we are blind. Clouds of witnesses survey the course of the Pilgrim, and when he passes through a place like the Valley of the Shadow of Death, there are, we have reason to believe, more good angels than bad ones attending him, though he does not see them, by reason of the darkness. If he has not earthly sympathy, he has heavenly; and all the earthly sympathy he does get is heavenly, for it comes from God's own Spirit in the soul. They that have been new-born, understand his terrors; they know that there is nothing to be compared with the peril of the soul beset by its great Adversary on the way to Heaven ; nor any anguish to be mentioned along with that which is occasioned in the soul by the hiding of God's counte
“ When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? And when he hideth his face, who then can behold him ? Whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only!”
Herein,” says an excellent old writer, discoursing on the case of a child of light walking in darkness, “ believers wrestle not alone with flesh and blood, and the darkness thereof, but do further conflict also with those spiritual wickednesses, the Princes of Darkness, about their interest in heayenly privileges, even with Satan and his angels, whom the Apostle compares to a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And like as when God makes the natural darkness, and it is night, then the young lions creep forth, and roar after