Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

150 Giant Despair urges them to Suicide.

Now Giant Despair had a wife, and her name was Diffidence : so when he was gone to bed he told his wife what he had done ; to wit, that he had taken a couple of prisoners, and cast them into bis dungeon for trespassing on his grounds. Theù he asked her also what he had best do fur: ther to them ? So she asked what they were, whence they came, and whither they were bound? and he told her.

Then she counselled him that when he arose in the morning he should beat them without any mercy. So when he arose he getteth a grievous crab-tree cudgel, and goes down into the dungeon to them, and there first falls to rating of them as if they were dogs, although they gave him never a word of distaste: then he falls upon them, and beat them fearfully, in such sort that they were not able to help themselves, or to turn them upon the floor. This done he withdraws, and leaves them there to condole their misery, and to mourn under their distress : so all that day they spent the time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations. The next night she talked with her husband about them further, and under. standing that they were yet alive, did advise him to counsel them to make away themselves : so when morning was come he goes to them in a surly manner, and, perceiving them to. be very sore with the stripes that he had given them the day before, he told them that, since they were never like to come out of that place, their only way would be forth with to make an end of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison: for why, said he, should you choose life, seeing it is attended with so much bitterness > But they desired him to let them go; with that he looked ugly upon them, and rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them himself, but that he fell into one of his fits, (for he sometimes fell into fits,). and lost for a tiine the use of his hand. Wherefore he withdrew, and left them as before to consider what to do. (n)

[ocr errors]

(n) Despair seldom fully seizes any man in this world; and the strongest hold it can get of a true believer amounts only to a prevailing distrust of God's promises, with respect to his own case : for this is accompanied with some small degree of latent hope, discoverable in its effects, though unperceived amidst the distressing feelings of the heart. Perhaps this was intended in the allegory by the circumstance of Despair's doing nothing to the Pil. grims, save at the instance of his wife Diffidence. Desponding fears, when they so prevail as to keep men from prayer, make way for temptations to suicide, as the only relief from misery: but when there is any true faith, however it may seem wholly out of exercise, the temptation will be eventually overcome, provided actual insanity do not intervene; and this is a very uncommon case among religious people, whatever slanders their enemies may eireuhnte, in orler to prejudice men's minds against the Muth.-Most, if not all, moder's

Hopeful's Arguments against it.

151 Then did the prisoners consult between themselves whether it was best to take his counsel or no; and thus they began to discourse :

Brother, said Christian, what shall we do? The life that we now live is miserable! for my part, I know not whether is best, to live thus, or die out of hand; "my soul chooseth strangling rather than life,”* and the grave is more easy for me than this dungeon! Shall we be ruled by the Giant

Hope. Indeed our present condition is dreadful, and death would be far more welcome to me than thus forever to abide : but yet let us consider, the Lord of the country to which we are going hath said, “Thou shalt do no murder ;” no, not to another man's person ; much more then are we forbidden to take his counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he that kills another can but commit murder upon his body: but, for one to kill himself, is to kill body and soul at once. And moreover, my brother, thou talkest of ease in the grave, but hast thou forgotten the hell whither for certain the murderers go? for “no murderer hath eternal life," &c. And let us consider again, that all the law is not in the hand of Giant Despair : others, so far as I can understand, have been taken by him as well as we, and yet have escaped out of his hands. Who knows, but that God, that made the world, may cause that Giant Despair may die, or that, at some time or other, be may forget to lock us in ; or but he may in a short time have another of his fits before us, and may lose the use of his limbs ? and if ever that should come to pass again, for my part, I am resolved to pluck up the heart of a man, and to try my utmost to get from under his hand. I was a fool that I did not try to do it before : but however, my brother, let us be patient, and endure a while : the time may come that may give us a happy release : but let us not be our own murderers. With these words Hopeful at present did moderate the mind of his brother; so they continued together, in the dark, that day in their sad and doleful condition. (0) * Job vii. 15.

aditions read, 'for he sometimes in sun-shiny weather fell into fits:' but the words in sunshiny weather, are not in the old edition before me. If the author afterwards added them ; he probably intended to represent those transient glimpses of hope, which preserve believers from dire extremities in their most discouraged seasons.

(.) They, who have long walked with stable peace in the ways of God, are often known to be more dejected, when sin hath filled their consciences with remorse, than younger pro fessors are; especially if they have caused others to offend, or brought rupro.ch on the gos.

was all.

152 The Giant fiercely threatens them.

Well, towards evening the Giant goes down into the dungeon again to see if his prisoners had taken his counsel : but when he came there he found them alive; and, truly, alive

For now, what for want of bread and water, and by reason of the wounds they received when he beat them, they could do little but breathe. But, I say, he found them alive; at which he fell into a grievous rage, and told them that, seeing they had disobeyed his counsel, it should be worse with them than if they had never been born.

At this they trembled greatly, and I think that Christian fell into a swoon; but, coming a little to himself again, they renewed their discourse about the Giant's counsel, and whether yet they had best take it or no. Now Christian again seemed to be for doing it, but Hopeful made his second reply as followeth.

My brother, said he, rememberest thou not how valiant thou hast been heretofore ? Apollyon could not crush thee ; nor could all that thou didst bear, or see, or feel, in the Valley of the Shallow of Death ; what hardship, terror and amazement hast thou already gone through, and art thou now nothing but fear? Thou seest that I am in the dungeon with thee, a far weaker man by nature than thou art; also this Giant has wounded me as well as thee, and bath also cut off the bread and water from my mouth, and with thee I mourn without the light. But let us exercise a little more patience : remember how thou playedst the man at Vanity. Fair, and wast neither afraid of the chain or cage, nor yet of bloody death : wherefore let us, at least to avoid the shame

pel. Their recent conduct, as inconsistent with their former character and profession, seems a decided proof of self-deception; they deem it hopeless to begin all over again ; Satan endeavours to the utmost to dishearten new converts by their example ; and the Lord permits them to be overwhelmed for a time with discouragement, for a warning to others : to vindicate the honour of his truth which they have disgraced ; to counterpoise such attainments or services, as might otherwise "exalt them above measure;" and to shew that none has any strength independent of Him, and that he can make use of the feeble to assist the strong, when he sees good. Hopeful's arguments against self-murder are conclu: sive: doubtless men in general venture on that awful crime, either disbelieving or forgetting the doctrine of Scripture concerning a future and eternal state of retribution. It is greatly to be wished, that all serious persons would avoid speaking of self-murderers, as having put an end to their existence ; which certainly tends to misliad the mind of the tempted, into very errou ous apprehensions on this most important subject.-This discourse aptly represents the fluctuation of men's minds under great despondeney; their struggles against despair, with purposes at some future opportunity to seek deliverance; their present irresolution ; and the way in which feeble hopes, and strong fears of future wrath keep them from yielding to the suggestions of the enemy.

His Wife's counsel concerning the Pilgrims. 153 that becomes not a Christian to be found in, bear up with patience as well as we can. (p)

Now night being come again, and the Giant and his wife being in bed, she asked him concerning the prisoners, and if they had taken his counsel :-to which he replied, "They are sturdy rogues, they choose rather to bear all hardships than to make away themselves.' Then said she, "Take them into the Castle-yard to-morrow, and shew them the bones and skulls of those that thou hast already dispatched, and make them believe, ere a week comes to an end, thou also wilt tear them in pieces, as thou hast done their fellows before them.' (9)

So when the morning was come the Giant goes to them again, and takes them into the Castle-yard, and shews them as his wife had bidden him : these, said he, were Pilgrims, as you are, once, and they trespassed in my grounds, as you have done; and when I thought fit I tore them in pieces, and so within ten days I will do you : go get you down into you den again.-—And with that he beat them all the way thither. They lay therefore all day on Saturday in a lamentahle case, as before. Now, when night was come, and when Mrs. Diffidence and her husband the Giant were got to bed, they began to renew their discourse of their prisoners; and, withal, the old Giant wondered that he could neither by his blows nor counsel bring them to an end. And with that his wife replied, I fear, said she, that they live in hopes that some will coine to relieve them, or that they have picklocks about them, by the means of which they hope to escape. And sayest thou so, my dear? said the. Giant; I will therefore search them in the morning.

(P) Serious recollection of past conflicts, dangers, and deliverances, is peculiarly useful to encourage confidence in the power and mercy of God, and patient waiting for him in the most difficult and perilous situations : and conference with our brethren, even if they mpo are under similar trials, is a very important mean of resisting the devil, when he would tempt us to renounce our hope, and have recourse to desperate measures.

(9) The Scripture exhibits some examples of apostates who have died in despair, (as king Saul and Judas Iscariot ;) and several intimations are given of those, to whom nothing “remains but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.” A few instanees also have been recorded in different ages, of notorious apostates, who have died in blasphe mous rage and despair. These accord to the man in the iron cage at the house of the Interpreter, and are awful warnings to all professors, “while they think they stand, to take herd lust they fall.” But the hypocrite generally overlooks the solemn caution: and the humble Christian, having a tender conscience, and an acquaintance with the deceitfulness of his own heart, is very apt to consider his wilful transgression as the unpardonable sin, and to four, lest the doom of former apostates will at length be his own. This seems intended, by the Giant shewing the Pilgrims the bones of those he had slain, in order to induce them to self-murder.

154 The Pilgrims begin to pray, and are Released.

Well, on Saturday about midnight they began to pray, and continued in prayer tiil almost break of day. (r)

Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech : "What a fool, quoth he, fam I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.' Then said 'Hopeful, “That's good news, good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom and try'

Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon door ; whose bolt as he turned the key gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out. Then he went to the outer door that leads into the Castle-yard, and with this key opened that door also. After he went to the iron-gate, for that must be opened too, but that lock went extremely hard ; yet the key did open it. Then they thrust open the gate to make their escape with speed, but that gate as it opened made such a creaking that it waked Giant Despair, who hastily rising to pursue his prisoners felt his limus to fail, so that he could by no means go after them. Then they went on, and came to the King's highway again, and so were safe because they were out of his jurisdiction.

Now, when they were gone over the stile, they began to

(r) Perhaps the author selected 'Saturday at midnight for the precise time when the prisoners began to pray, in crder to intimate, that the return of the Lord's day, and that preparation which serious persons are reminded to make for its sacred services, are often the happy means of recovering those that have fallen into sin and despondency. Nothing will be effectual for the recovering of the fallen, till they 'begin to pray’ with fervency, importunity, and perseverance. Ordinary diligence will in this case be unavailing : they lave sought ease to the flesh, when they ought to have "watched unto prayer;" and they must now watch and pray when others sleep: and they must struggle against reluctancy, and persist in repeated approaches to the mercy-stat, till they obtain a gracious answer.But such is our nature and situation, that in proportion as we have special need for earniestness in these devout exercises, our hearts are averse to them. The child while obedient, anticipates the pleasure of meeting his affectionate parent; but, when conscious of having offended, he from shame, fear and pride, hides himself and keeps at a distance. Thus unbelief, guilt, and a proud aversion to unreserved self-abasement, wrought on by Satan's temptations, keep even the believer, when he has fallen into any aggravated sin, from coming to his only Friend, and availing himself of his sole remedy: "He keeps silence, though his bones wax old with his roaring all the day long."*

But when stoutness of spirit is broken down, and a contrite believing frame of mind succeeds; the offender begins to cry fervently to God for mercy, with humiliating confessions, renewed application to the blood of Christ, and perseverance amidst delays and discouragements : au! then it will not be very long ere be obtain complete deliverance,

* Psa, xxxü. 3-5

« ForrigeFortsett »