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Christian and Pliable in the Slongle of Despood.
Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very`miry slough, that was in the midst of the plain ; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here therefore they wallowed for a tiine, being grievously bedaubed with dirt ; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.
Pli. Then said Pliable, Ah! neighbour Christian, where are you now?
Chr. Truly, said Christian, I do not know.
Pli. At this Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect betwixt this and our journey's end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me'. And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and Christian saw him no more'. .
Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone: but still he endeavoured to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest *
of sin ; while an entire ignorance of this subject evinced that, with all his talk and all his enjoyment, Pliable was but almost persuaded to be a christian. " It is not enough to be pliable.
Anticipating nothing but pleasure in religion, when stonyground professors meet with “tribulation because of the word, they are offended, and so endure but for a while." A profession of religion does not renew the heart ; and if the heart be not changed, afflictiuns for the sake of religion will soon influence persons to be angry with real christians, as if they had deceived them: they will then speak tauntingly even of the heavenly glory which christians are seeking after, and expect to possess; they then return to their old companions, principles, and pursuits; and prove the truth of Mr. Bunyan's note, “It is not enough to be pliable."
. * Christian, in trouble, seeks still to get farther from his own kowe.
Christian rescued from the Slough of Despond.
from bis own house, and next to the Wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out because of the burden that was upon his backy: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him, “What he did there ?"
Chr. Sir, said Christian, I was bid to go this way hy a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come. And as I was going thither, I fell in here.
Help. But why did you not look for the steps ??
Chr. Fear followed me so hard, that I fled the next way, and fell in.
HELP. Then said he, Give me thy hand: so he gava him his hand, and he drew him out, (Ps. xl. 2.) and set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his waya.
y Deep convictions of sin, when not effectually counteracted by clear and believing views of the gospel, produce despondency; and christians whose minds are thus exercised and distressed, sink deeper in the miry clay of fear and horror even than hypocrites, and may continue much longer in a state of soul affliction. But the anxiety which they evince to be delivered from the pollution of sin, by struggling hard after the Saviour, is a demonstrative evidence that God has created in them a clean heart, and renewed a right spirit within them.
Mr: Bunyan, in the account of Christia, in the Slough of Despond, describes his own despondency, which continued for several years, and the account of which may be read at large in Grace abounding. “But all this while, (he says,) as to the act of singing, I was never more tender than now: my hinder parts were inward : I durst not take a pin or stick, though but so big as a straw; for my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch: I could not tell how to speak my words, for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how cautiously did I then go, in all I did or said! I found myself as in a miry bog, that shook if I did but stir, and was, as though left both of God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and all good things." IVIMEY'S LIFE OF BUNYAN, p. 38.-It was into this bog that Christian fell.
The promises. · Deliverance from desponding thoughts and tormenting fears is here properly attributed to divine “ help." To shew that such a The Siough of Despond described.
Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, “Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the city of Destruction to yonder gate, is it, that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security ?” And he saini unto me, “ This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended : it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attend conviction for sin do continually run, and therefore it is it called the Slough or Despond; for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arise in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place. And this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
“ It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad. (Isa. xxxv. 3, 4.) His la. bourers also have, by the direction of his Majesty's surveyors, been for above these sixteen hundred years employed about this patch of ground, if perhaps it might be mended: yea, and to my knowledge, said he, here have been swallowed up at least twenty thousand cart-loads, yea, millions of wholesome instructions, that have at all seasons been brought from all places of the king's dominions, (and they that can tell, say, they are the best materials to make good ground of the place,) if so be it might be
state of mind arises from a want of faith in the promises of God, Christian is reproved for not having looked for the steps. He is brought to acknowledge, that a slavish fear of hell had led him to pass by the side of the promises, and thus to fall into despondency. The mercy of God in removing such horrible fears and apprehensigns, and restoring peace and joy to the heart, is illustrated by a reference to the experience of David, who, in the language referred to, was a remarkable type of the suffering Saviour. "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my 'feet upon a rock, and established my goings," Ps. xl. 2.
b What makes the Slough of Despond.
The Slough of Despond described.
mended; but it is the Slough of Despond still, and so will be when they have done what they can.
“Truè, there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps, placed even tirough the very midst of this slough; but at such time as this place doth much spue out its filth, as it doth against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen ; or if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step besides, and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps are there ; but the ground is good when they are once got in at the gate“.” (1 Sam. xii. 23.)
• The promises of forgiveness and acceptance to life by faith in Christ.
• The information which is derived from the allegorical person named Help, in reply to the question, What makes the Slough of Despond? is very scriptural, and remarkably instructive. The fears and doubts and discouraging apprehensions, which attend deep convictions of sin when the mind is awakened to its lost condition, naturally produce despondency, and tend strongly to despair. There is nothing in the Scriptures to encourage this feeling, but every thing to counteract and prevent it. The uniform language of Scripture respecting repenting and returning sinners is, "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not,” Isa. xxxv. 3, 4. The labours of all the ministers of the gospel have been employed in this work of comforting the feeble-minded, and the very best means have been made use of for that purpose: but such is the nature of despondency, while supplied and strengthened by unbelief, that the most wholesome instructions are all lost upon such persons, while they neglect the use of those good and substantial steps, “the promises of forgiveness and acceptance to life by faith in Christ." These are such as the following:-"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon," Isa. lv. 7. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," 1 John i. 9. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," Matt xi 28. « Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," John vi. 37. These are good and substantial steps, which the de
The Slough of Despond described.
Now I saw in my dream, that by this time Pliable was got home to his house. So his neighbours came to visit him ; and some of them called him wise man
sponding mind overlooks, especially at times of peculiar gloom, and confusion of soul : then it is such persons are " beinired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps are there.” Nor will awakened sinners ever find themselves standing upon firm ground, until they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. “The ground is good when they are once got in at the gate," and not till then.
Mr. Bunyan, in this account of the "help" which Christian received, and by which his feet were again set upon a rock, describes his own experience as it is recorded in his Grace abounding. “In this condition I went a great while; but when the counforting time was come, I heard one preach a sermon on these words in the Song, “ Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold thou art fair," Song. iv. I In the course of the sermon the preacher had remarked, “jf it be so, that the saved soul is Christ's love when under temptation and desertion, then, poor tempted soul, when thou art assaulted and afflicted with temptations, and the hidings of God's face, yet think on these two words, my love, still.******Then (says Mr. Bunyan) I began to give place to the words which, with power, did ever aná anon make this joyful sound within my soul, Thou art my love, thou art my love, and nothing shall separate thee from my love.' And with that my heart was filled full of comfort and hope ; and now I could believe that my sins would be forgiven me : yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home. I thought I could have spoken of his love, and have told of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been able to understand me. Wherefore I said in my soul, with much gladness, Well, would I had a pen and ink here, 1 would write this down before I go any farther; for surely I shall not forget this forty years hence.” IVIMEY'S LIFE OF BUNYAN, P. 41,
By placing the Slough of Despond in the way to the Wicketgate, Mr. Bunyan has intimated, that all genuine converts either pass through it, or by taking heed to the promises go safely over it. Doubtless, distress on account of sin always precedes joy and peace through believing: it is not, however, from the degree of that distress, but from the tendency of it in leading the awakened sinner to depend upon Christ, that the genuineness of conversion is to be concluded.