« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
their prey, as the Psalmist says, so do these roaring lions, now when God hath withdrawn the light of his countenance, and night comes on, and these damps and fogs of jealousies and guilt begin to arise out of a man's own heart, then come these forth and say, as David's enemies said in his distress, Come, let us now take him, for God hath forsaken him, let us now devour him, and swallow him up with darkness and despair. And as God says of those enemies of his church, I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction ; so, when God is angry with his child, and but a little doth hide his face for a moment, yet Satan watcheth that hour of darkness, as Christ calls it, and joins his power of darkness to this our natural darkness, to cause, if possible, blackness of darkness, even utter despair, in us."
It is much such a picture, as this, that Bunyan, our great master of spiritual allegory, hath set forth in such glowing colors, in the passage of his Christian through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is night; night in Christian's soul, and therefore night in this Valley. He is walking in the path of duty, and no forebodings of evil, though he had them abundantly, can turn him back ; and yet, it is night in him, and night around him, Gloomy dark mountains shut in the horizon; the chill air penetrates his soul with images of the storm before it breaks on him ; the path is exceedingly narrow, and on either side there are terrible pitfalls and quagmires, which must needs prove fatal to any that fall therein. What can Christian do? He is plainly in the case represented in the prophet
Isaiah, being here, as I said, in the way of duty, and in the path direct to the Celestial City. “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that walketh in darkness and hath no light ? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” There is but one thing for him to do, and that is, to grope his way forward with fear and trembling, remembering that God can, if he will, save him even here; and that, even if he were in kings' palaces, and God would not save him, he would be no better off than in the midst of that Valley. Besides, should a man whom God had delivered from the hand of Apollyon, be afraid of any of the fiends of darkness, or fear to trust God's mercy in the midst of them?
There arc Christians, who, as Bunyan says, are strangers to much combat with the devil ; and such cannot minister help to those who come, as Christian did, under his assaults. No man is introduced to the aid of Christian in all these severe conflicts ; all the help he finds is in Gud only ; direct to Christ he must go, for there is no other helper. This was Bunyan's own experience. While himself under the assaults of Satan, in the midst of this Valley of the Shadow of Death, he did at one time venture to break his mind to an ancient Christian. This was a good man, but not one of deep experience, and evidently unable to enter into Bunyan's difficulties, or to understand his state of mind. Bunyan told this man that one of his dreadful fears was that he had sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost; and the man answered him that he thought so too! This was indeed but cold comfort, and the man that
could administer it must have had a most narrow mind, as well as an insensible, unsympathizing heart ; but you often meet with this want of tenderness among certain spiritual* comforters, who take severity and want of feeling to be marks of faithfulness.
Poor Bunyan was forced again from man to God. “Wherefore I went to God again as well as I could, for mercy still. Now also did the Tempter begin to mock me in my misery," and under this mockery, even the free, full and gracious promises of the Gospel were as a torment to Bunyan, for the Tempter suggested that they were not for him, because he had sinned against and provoked the Mediator through whom they were given, and also that his sins were not among the number of those for which the Lord Jesus died upon the cross. He was as if racked upon the wheel; he was tossed to and fro like the locust, and driven from trouble to sorrow. Every part of the Word of God seemed against him; he was as one shut up in a house in flames, and running first to one door then to another for egress, but they are all fast barred against him. Nor could he, by reason of his own unbelieving fears, succeed, by any use he could make of the Scriptures, in driving the Tempter away from him. It was even suggested that it was in vain for him to pray; nevertheless, he kept crying out for mercy, and in answer
to prayer, notwithstanding all that Satan could do, deliverance came. It must be this experience which Bunyan has in mind, when he makes Christian to pass hard by the mouth of hell, in the
midst of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, beset with fears and distresses, which he could put to flight by no use he could make of the Word of God. “ Now, thought Christian, what shall I do? And ever and anon the flame and smoke would come out in such abundance, with sparks and hideous noises (things that cared not for Christian's sword, as did Apollyon before, that he was forced to put up his sword, and betake himself to another weapon, called All-Prayer: so he cried in my hearing, O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.”
So did Bunyan cry unto God in the midst of his distresses. “ Will the Lord cast off forever, and will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever, and doth his promise fail forevermore ? Hath God forgotten to be gracious, hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ?" And that promise sustained Bunyan, My grace is sufficient for thee; though it was long indeed before he could take fast hold upon it, or enjoy to the full its abundance of blessing. Long was he in passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death : much longer than it seems to take Christian to grope his way out of its darkness. And, as you will observe, that Christian's conflict with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation lies in the stage immediately before the Valley of the Shadow of Death, so that he has to pass frome one directly to the other without any interval, save in the precious season in which the hand came to him with leaves from the tree of life for his healing ; so it was with Bunyan himself: so it had been in his
own experience. He had two distinct, long, and dreadful seasons of temptation to pass through, each of them lasting for more than two years—the first more nearly resembling this dreadful conflict, hand to hand, with Satan, with Apollyon, and the second more fully depicted in Christian's fearful journey through this Valley of Death, after that conflict. There was but a short interval of ease and
peace between them. “By the strange and unusual assaults of the Tempter,” says Bunyan,
my soul was like a broken vessel, driven as with the winds, and tossed sometimes headlong into despair : sometimes upon the covenant of works, and sometimes to wish that the new covenant and the conditions thereof might, so far as I thought myself concerned, be turned another way and changed. But in all these I was as those that jostle against the rocks—more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors, that are effected by a thorough application of guilt yielding to desperation! This is as the man that hath his dwelling among the tombs with the dead, who is always crying out and cutting himself with stones." “ Now was the word of the gospel forced from my soul, so that no promise or encouragement was found in the Bible for me. I had cut myself off by my transgressions, and left myself neither foothold nor hand-hold among all the stays and props in the precious word of life. And truly I did now feel myself to sink into a gulf, as a house whose foundation is destroyed. I did liken myself in this condition unto the case of a child that was fallen