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The Pilgrims leave the Enchanted Ground.
Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah , (Isa. Ixii. 4-12. Song ii. 10-12.) whose air was very sweet and pleasant; the way lying directly throngh it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun
very soon give up all respect for religion, and return to their former lústs and pleasures. The reason of this is, that as their hearts were never renewed, when they get rid of the fears of hell, there is nothing to restrain them from committing all iniquity with greediness. The carnal mind is enmity against God, and therefore it is not, and cannot be subject to the law of God. Then the fear of men, the shame that sometimes attends religion, and the misery of a terrified conscience, all lead them to shake off the restraints of religious feelings, principles, and connections. Though they feel convictions, yet they are not sorry for sin because they have offended God by it, but because it exposes them to his wrath and indignation. Had their hearts been changed, they would have hated sin as the greatest evil, and have fled from it as the greatest enemy. It is a saying of Mr. Bunyan's, which well applies here, “ To be truly sensible of sin, is to sorrow for displeasing God; to be more afflicted that he is displeased by us, than that he is displeased with us.” The gradual manner in which such backslide, is described in a very correct manner, and should be read by professors with serious attention, and honest self-examination. Mr. Bunyan was afraid, he tells us, of falling away, as he had known many do, who had given up religion. The following extract from his Life is very striking and instructive. " Then hath the tempter come upon me with such discouragements as these : · You are very hot for mercy, but I will cool you ; this frame shall not last always : many have been as hot as you for a spirit, but I have quenched their zeal.' And with this, such and such, who had fallen off, would be set before mine eyes. Then I would be afraid that I should do so too: but, thought I, I am glad this comes into my mind. Well, I will watch, and take what care I can. • Though you do, (said Satan,) I shall be too hard for you ; I will cool you insensibly, by degrees, by little and little. What care I (said he) though I be seven years in chilling your heart, if I can do it at last? Continual rocking will lull a crying child to sleep : I will ply it closer, but I will have my end accomplished. Though you are burning hot at present, I can pull you from this fire; I shall have you cold before it be long.""
sbineth night and day: wherefore this was beyond the valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were in sight of the City they were going to: also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the shining ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, “ as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them.” Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. Here they heard voices from out of the City, loud voices, saying, “. Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold, his reward is with him!” Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, “the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, sought out d,” &c.
d The land of“ Beulah,” which signifies“ married,” the predicted residence of the church in its most prosperous and happy state, and the figure of the union with himself into which God has brought his people, and of the delight which he takes in them, is selected by our ingenious author to set forth the extacies which believers enjoy in divine ordinances, while in the full assurance of hope, they are living in the anticipation of heaven. This is intimated by the scriptures referred to in the Song of Solomon, chap. vii, 10. I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me. Realizing their dignity and safe ty, as united to Christ, and walking in the light of God's countenance, they are relieved from all apprehensions of eternal death, and from all their doubts and fears. Experiencing such extatic pleasures in the communion of the church, believers feel as if they had arrived at the heavenly Jerusalem, and were associated with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with an innumerable company of angels. Thus walking as on the very borders of heaven, their fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Satisfied with the abundance of Sion's consolations, all their desires are granted ; and as they are happy themselves, they contribute to the happiness of others, who behold the manifestation of the divine favour towards those who are renewed, redeemed, and sanotified.
The Pilgrims arrive within Sight of the Celestial City,
Now, as they walked in this land, they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the king
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Such were the strong feelings of Paul, when he felt a desire to depart and be with Christ, which would be far better, and was willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, 2 Cor. v. 6–8. By the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, they receive the first fruits of the land of Canaan, the grapes of Eshcol, and these spiritual dispositions and enjoyments are the earnest of their glorious inheritance. The unspeakable enjoyments which believers sometimes express, fill beholders with surprise ; but they are satisfactorily accounted for by the language of divine inspiration as the effects of faith and love : yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory ; receive ing the end of your faith, even the salvation of your soul, 1 Pet, i. 8. Mr. Flavel relates in his Pneumatologia, p. 210, 2nd ed. 4to. (though with great modesty, using the third person, as the apostle did when speaking of his extraordinary revelations, when he himself was the person intended,) that being on a journey, he set himself to improve his time by meditation ; when his mind grew intent, till at length he had such ravishing tastes of heavenly joys, and such full assurance of his interest therein, that he utterly lost the sight and sense of this world and all its concerns, so that for hours he knew not where he was. At last, perceiving himself faint by a great loss of blood from his nose, he alighted from his horse and sat down at a spring, where he washed and refreshed himself ; earnestly desiring, if it were the will of God, that he might there leave the world. His spirits reviving, he finished his journey in the same delightful frame; and all that night passed without a wink of sleep, the joy of the Lord still overflowing him, so that he seemed an inhabitant of the other world. After this, a heavenly serenity and sweet peace continued long with him; and for many years he called that day one of the days of heaven, and professed he understood more of the life of heaven by it, than by all the discourses he had heard, or the books he ever read. See Nonconformists' Memorial, article FLAVEL. The glories of heaven are not to be conceived of in the present world, and can only be imperfectly beheld by faith, through the medium of divine revelation. Pure gold like unto clear glass, may be intended to represent the purity and knowledge to be enjoyed in the celestial city. It is highly probable that angels are employed, especially when believers are near death, to minister comfort and support to their happy minds, as they go out of time into eternity. Such comforts are earnestly desired by dying christians; but it is only by faith in the promises that they can be enjoyed. An angel from heaven
strengthened the Saviour in his agony in the garden jnst before his ideath, Luke xxii. 43. Angels are spoken of as conveying the soul
of Lazarus into Abraham's boson, Luke xvi. 22. And an angel was
and are refreshed in the King's Vineyards.
dom to which they were bound ; and drawing nearer to the City, they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of pearls and precious stones, also the streets thereof were paved with gold; so that, by reason of the natural glory of the City; and the reflection of the sunbeams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick; Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease: wherefore here they lay by it a while, crying out because of their pangs, “ If you see my Beloved, tell him that I am sick of love."
But, being a little strengthened, and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way, and came yet nearer and nearer, where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now, as they came up to these places, behold the gardener stood in the way; to whom the pilgrims said, “ Whose goodly gardens and vineyards are these?”. He answered, “ They are the King's, and are planted here for bis own delight, and also for the solace of pilgrims.” So the gardener had them to the vineyards, and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties ; (Deut. xxiii. 24.) he also shewed them there the King's walks and arbours, where he delighted to be: and here they tarried and slept.
Now I beheld in my dream, that they talked more in their sleep at this time than ever they did in all their journey; and, being in a muse thereabout, the gardener şaid even , unto me, “ Wherelore musest
sent to bring Peter out of prison, Acts xii. 7. It is a cheering and animating consideration, that these ministers of his who do his pleasure, and who probably have acted the part of guardian protectors, though unseen, through the whole of our earthly pilgrimage, will accompany us down to the gates of death, and meet us as our convoy to conduct us safely into the world of spirits, acting under the authority of HIM who is the great God and our Saviour: For this God is our God for ever and ever ; he will be our guide (by the ministry of angels) even unto death, Ps. xlviii. 14.
The Pilgrims arrive at the River of Death,
thou at the matter? it is the nature of the fruit of the grapes of these vineyards, 'to go down so sweetly as to cause the lips of them that are asleep to speak.'” :
So I saw that when they awoke they addressed themselves to go up to the City. But, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon the City (for the City was pure gold) was so extremely glorious, that they could not as yet with open face behold it, but through an instrument made for that purpose. So I saw, that as they went on, there met them two men in- raiment that shone like gold, also their faces shone as the light. .. . , - These inen asked the pilgrims whence they came; and they told them. They also asked them where they had lodged, what difficulties and dangers, what comforts and pleasures, they had met with in the way; and they told them. Then said the men that met them, “ You have but two difficulties more to meet with, and then you are in the City.”. . Christian then and his compaxion asked the men to go along with them: so they told them they would; “But,” said they, “ you must obtain it by your own faith.” So I saw in my dream, that they went on together till they came in sight of the gate. .
Now I further saw, that betwixt them and the gate was a river; but there was no bridge to go over : the river was very deep. At the sight therefore of this river the pilgrims were much stunned; but the men that went with them said, “You must go through or you cannot come at the gate.”
e The most happy believers, even when most desirous of being with Christ in heaven, feel an innocent reluctance, a clinging to life, when they think of dying: not (says Paul) for that we would be unclothed, but, if possible, we would be translated, clothed upon, as Enoch and Elijah were, and thus go to heaven without seeing death. This desire will not be granted to any until the last day, when those believers who are alive at that time, will not dic, but be changed.