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Very distressing to Christian.
85 • I saw then in my dream that when Christian was got to the borders of the Shadow of Death, there met him two men, children of them that brought up an evil report of the good land," making haste to go back; to whom Christian spake as follows:
Whither are you going?
They said, Back! back! and we would have you to do so too, if either life or peace is prized by you.
Why? what's the matter said Christian.
Matter! said they, We were going that way as you are going, and went as far as we durst; and indeed we were alinost past coming back: for had we gone a little further we had not been here to bring the news to thee.
But what have you met with ? said Christian.
Men. Why we were almost in the Valley of the Shadow of Death it but that by good hap we looked before us and saw the danger before we came to it.
But what have you seen ? said Christian.
Men. Seen! why the Valley itself, which is as dark as pitch: we also saw there the hobgoblins, satyrs, and dragons of the pit: we heard also in that Valley continual howling and yelling, as of a people under unutterable misery, who there sat bound in affliction and irons; and over that Valley hang the discouraging clouds of confusion : death also doth always spread his wings over it. In a word, it is every whit dreadful, being utterly without order.
Then said Christian, I perceive not yet, by what you have said, but that this is my way to the desired haven.
Men. Be it thy way; we will not choose it for ours.
also, as disordered by nervous or hypochondriacal affections, gives energy to the distressing conclusions which men often draw from this dark state of mind : and indeed diseast may operate as a direct cause of it ; though the Holy Spirit will overcome this, and all other impediments to comfort, when "he sheds abroad the love of Gol in the heart.”- The Seriptures also evidently teach us that fallen spirits never fail, when permitted, to take advantage of a disordered state, whether of body or mind, to mislead, perplex, or defile the soul. Persons of a melancholic temperature, when not aware of the particular causes whence their gloom originates, are apt to ascribx it wholly to the Lord's displeasure, on account of some peculiar sins they have committed; and to look upon it as a direct proof that they have been self-deluded hypocrites ; which exceedingly enhances their distress. The author himself had been greatly harassed in this way; and therefore he has given as a larger proportion of this shade than is generally met with by consistent belieters, or than the Scriptures give us reason to expect. Indeed it is probable that he nieant to state the outlines of his own experience in the pilgrimage of Christian.
86 The Ditch and the Quag. Christian's Perplexity. So they parted : and Christian went on his
but still with his sword drawn in his hand, for fear lest he should be assaulted. (u)
I saw then in my dream, so far as this Valley reached there was on the right hand a very deep Ditch; that Ditch is it into which the blind hath led the blind in all ages, and have both there miserably perished. Again, behold, on the left hand there was a very dangerous Quag, into which if even a good man falls he finds no bottom for his foot to stand on : into that Quag king David once did fall, and had, no doubt, therein been smothered, had not he that is able plucked him out.*
The path-way was here also exceeding narrow, and therefore good Christian was the more put to it; for when he sought in the dark to shun the Ditch on the one hand, he was ready to tip over into the mire on the other: also when he sought to escape the mire, without great carefulness he would be ready to fall into the Ditch. Thus he went on, and I heard him here sigh bitterly : for besides the dangers mentioned above, the path-way was here so dark, that ofttimes when he lift up bis fooť to set forward, he knew not where, nor upon what, he should set it next.
About the midst of the Valley, I perceived the mouth of hell to be, and it stood also hard by the way-side. 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
* Psa. Ixix. 14.
(u) These men were spies, not Pilgrims : and they related what they had observed at a distance, but had never experienced. They represent those who have been conversant with godly people and bring an evil report on the good land,' to prejudice the minds of numbers against the right ways of the Lord. Such men pretend to have made trial of re. ligion, and found it to be comfortless and dreary: they give a caricatured description of the sighs, groans, terrors and distresses of pious persons, and of all the dreadful things to be seen and heard among them: and they avail themselves of every unguarded or hyperbolical expression, which escapes a tempted believer, of the enthusiastic accounts which some people give of their experience; and even of the figurative language, which is often employed in speaking of inward conflicts under images taken from external things. Thus they endeavour to excuse their own apostacy, and to expose to contempt the cause which they have deserted. Nothing they can say, however, concerning the disorder or confusion to which religion may sometimes give occasion, can induce the Christian to conclude that he has mistaken his way, or that it would be advisable for him to turn back, or deviate into any by-path; on the contrary their representations are suited to excite lis vigilance and circumspection.
A band of Fiends approach Christian. 87 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.”* Thus he went on a great while, yet still the flames would be reaching towards him : also he heard doleful voices, and rushings to and fro, so that sometimes be thought he should be torn in pieces, or trodden down like mire in the streets. This frightful sight was seen, and these dreadful noiscs were heard, by him for several miles together: and coming to a place where he thought he beard a company of fiends coming forward to meet hirn, he stopt, and began to muse what he had best to do. Sometimes he had half a thought to go back; then again he thought he might be half way through the Valley : he remembered also how he had already vanquished many a danger; and that the danger of going back might be much more than for to go forward. So he resolved to go on : yet the fiends seemed to come nearer and nearer: but when they were come even almost at he cried out with a most vehement voice, "I will walk in the strength of the Lord God;" so they gave back, and came no further. (w)
* Psa. cxvi. 4. Eph. vi. 18.
(xv) The fatal presumption, into which men are soothed, through ignorance and false doctrine of various kinds, is intended loy the deep Ditch,' into which, "the blind lead the blind" and perish with them. The dangerous Quag,' on the other side of the narrow way, represents the opposite extreme, despair of God's merey: and the mire of it agrees with that of the Slough of Despond-In these opposite ways multitudes continually perish; some concluding that there is no fear, others that there is no hope. But the danger to which a real believer is exposed, of verging towards one of these extremes in times of inward darkness and disconsolation, is especially implied. They, who have had much opportunity of conversing with persons professing the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, have met with many who once were zealous and joyful: but their religious affections have diclined; their duties are comparatively scanty and formal; their walk unsteady, and their hearts cold and uncomfortable. They call themselves backsliders, and complain of de. sertion: y.t they have no heart to use proper means of recovering their vigour and cheer. fulness; but love to be soothed in their present condition; and quiet themselves by pre. surning they are true believers, and abusing the doctrine of final perseverance.- Many of this cast are doubtless wholly deceived. But even the true Christian, when greatly discouraged, may be powerfully tempted to seek peace of mind, by arguing with himself on the safety of his state, or trying to be satisfied without his former zeal, activity, and consolation: and Satan will find prompters to suggest to him, that this is the case of all established believers, and that fervent love belongs only to young converts, who are strangers to their own hearts. This is the more plausible, because the increase of sound judgment and abiding spiritual affections abates that earnestness (often indiscreet and disproportionexle) which sprang from mere selfish principles: and, when religious profession is so commoon as not to expuse a man to reprouch or persecution, many retain it, who have scarcely any appearance of spirituality, and who infect others with their contagious converse and
Christian did not know his own Voice.
One thing I would not let slip: I took notice that now poor
Christian was so confounded that he did not know his own voice; and thus I perceived it: just when he was come over against the mouth of the burning pit, one of the wicked ones got behind him, and stept up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies to him, which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind. This put Christian more to it than any thing that he met with before, even to think that he should now blaspheme him that he loved so much before ; yet if he could have helped it he would not have done it: but he had not the discretion either to stop his ears, or to know from whence those blasphemies came. (x)
When Christian had travelled in this disconsolate condition some considerable time, he thought he heard the voice of
'example. But, while the well instructed consistent believer, under the deepest discourage ment, dreals and shuns this presumption, he is liable to sink into despondency; and may be led to condemn all his past experience as delusion, to rank himself among the stoneyground hearers, to conclude that it is useless for him to pray or seek any more, and to lie down in enfeebling dejection. And again, perceiving this danger, he finds it very difficult in the present dark state of his soul, to avoid is, without now abust uie iree grace of the gospel. This state of mind is attended by much distress and perplexity, and makes way for many terrors and temptations : so that, though a man he not perplexed with doubts about the truth of the Scriptures, he may be unable to make much use of them fax hic direction and confort; and earnest instant prayer must be his only resource.Cases sometimes occur, in which, through a concurrence of circumstances, this trial continues and increases for some time : but the true Christian is, as it were, constrained to press forward, and by faith he will at length put his enemies to flight.-Some have thought that the general notions of apparitions also was here alluded to, as giving the tempter an occasion of increasing the terror of such persons as are in that respect credulous and timorous.
(r) The case bere intended is not uncommon among conscientious persons of strong imaginations, in circumstances of distressing temptation. Thoughts are suddenly excited in their minds, with which their previous reflections had no connexion, even as if words were spoken to them. These suggestions are suited to induce them to think harilly of God, or his service, or his decrees ; and this they abhor as direct blasphemy: or to harass them with other hateful ideas ; which thcy consider as unpardonably criminal, inconsistent with a state of grace and a mark of final reprobation. Yet did these suggestions accord to the state of their hearts they would be defiling but not distressing; and instead of rejecting them at once with decided abhorrence, they would give them entertainment, and willingly employ their thoughts about them, as far as they dared : "for the carnal mind is enmity against God," and can only be deterred from blasphemy, on many occasions, by the dread of his vengeance : so that the distress they experience is exactly proportioned to the degree in which they have learned to love God, and hate every thing displeasing and dishonourable to him; and is itself an evidence of their conversion. Our author had been so much baffled by this stratagem of the tempter, that it would have been extraordinary had he omitted it: for the subsequent discovery he made of his mistake, and of the way of resisting the devil in
Christian is comforted by hearing one Speak. 89 a man, as going before him, saying, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear none ill, for thou art with me."*
Then was he glad, and that for these reasons : First, because he gathered from thence, that some who feared God were in this Valley as well as himself :Secondly, for that he perceived God was with them, though in that dark and dismal state: and why not, thought he, with me; though by reason of the impediment that attends this place I cannot perceive it?t-Thirdly, for that he hoped (could he overtake them) to have company by and by.-So he went on, and called to him that was before : but he knew not what to answer; for that he also thought himself to be alone. And by and by the day broke : then said Christian, "He hath turned the shadow of death into the morning. "I (y)
Now morning being come, he looked back, not of desire to return, but to see by the light of the day what hazards he had gone through in the dark: so he saw more perfectly the Ditch that was on the one hand, and the Quag that was on the other; also how narrow the way was which lay betwixt them both: also now he saw the hobgoblins, and satyrs, and dragons of the pit, but all afar off, for after break of the day they came not nigh; yet they were discovered to him, according to that which is written, “He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.”S
Now was Christian much affected with his deliverance from all the dangers of his solitary way ; which dangers
• Psa. xxiii. iv. † Job ix. 11. Amos v. 8. $ Job xü. 22. this case, qualified him to give suitable cautions to others. The intrusion of evil thoughtsshould excite us to greater earnestness in prayer, pious meditations, or adoring praises ; for this, above all things, will be found to close the mind most effectually against them The following lines come in here, as before :
"Poor man ! where art thou now? thy day is night:
Cheer hold out, with thee it shall go well.' (y) Few things more effectually support the tempted, than to learn that others, whom they consider as bilievers, have been or are in similar circumstances: for the idea, that such a state of mind is inconsistent with true faith, gives the enemy his principal advantage. Indeed, this often proves the means of their deliverance: for in due season that light, aff-ction, and consolation, for which they have long mourned, thirsted, prayal, and waitu, will be vouchsafed them ; and the review of the dangers tiey have is caperi, now more clearly discerned than before, will enlage their hearts with admiring praticadle to their great and gracious Deliverer.