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This work attempts to trace the footsteps of a great circumnavigator in the Divine Life, somewhat as an open boat might follow in the wake of the ships of Columbus into a New World. And yet it is not new, but as old as the grace of God in the heart of sinful man; and now, so many have crossed the sea, and prepared charts and maps of their passage for the use of others, that there is scarcely a league over which some compass has not been drawn, or into which some fathoming line has not been let down; though there is scenery still hidden, and there are depths never yet sounded, nor ever will be, inasmuch as the grace of God in the heart of man is unfathomable; and in sailing over this ocean, we can often do no more than cry out with the Apostle Paul, “O the depths!”. There is always much that is peculiar with every individual mind in crossing this sea; and likewise in following the traces of so experienced and wise a navigator as Bunyan, every individual will find something new to remark upon; so that these lectures, though on an old subject, will not necessarily be found common-place, or monotonous, or superfluous.
It ought probably to be mentioned, that a former essay by the author, printed in the North American Review, has been, in one or two of these lectures, worked up
A greater space also is occupied by that division of the work on the life and times of Bunyan, than was originally contemplated; but in the Providence of God, Bunyan himself, in his own lifetime, furnished as much matter for profitable meditation and instruction, as his own Pilgrim, in his beautiful Allegory. Of course the first division is more particularly biographical and historical, the second more meditative and expository.
The world of Christian Pilgrims may in general be divided into two classes, the cheerful and the depressed; those who have joy in the Lord, and those whose joy is overborne and kept down by cares and doubts, unbelief and many sins, fallings by the way and broodings over them. Indeed, there is a sad want, in our present Christian experience, of that joy of the Lord, which is our strength; and to give the reasons for this would by itself require a volume. There must be more of this joy, and it must be more habitual, if the church of Christ would be strong to convert the world, would be prepared to teach transgressors the way of the Lord, so that sinners may be converted unto him; for that is the meaning of the Psalmist, taking what is individual, and applying it, as we must, to the church universal, as the source of her power.
The importance of this joy for the strength of the church is manifest not only from the fifty-first Psalm, but from those remarkable words of our Blessed Lord to his disciples, “ These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The Saviour's own joy! What a depth of blissful meaning is contained in these words, as the portion of his people! It is not a doubting, weak, depressed piety, that is here recognised.
And yet there is provision in the same gospel for those who do not attain to this joy. There is mention made of those," whose hands hang down,” and of “the feeble knees;” and the arrangements made in the gospel for the sustaining and comforting of such do show that there will always continue to be, more or less, in the Christian race, and in the Christian church, hands that hang down and feeble knees.
Now it is at once a proof of the wisdom of the delineations of Christian character in the Pilgrim's Progress, and a source of the usefulness of that book to all classes, that it is not a picture of abstract perfections, nor drawn from any one extreme or exclusive point of view. It recognises both divisions of the Christian world, of which we have spoken. Nay, it recognises them at different times in the different experience of the same persons, which is in accordance with the examples of Scripture. For the same great saint who says, “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies," and, “ I will delight myself in thy statutes," says also, a few verses afterwards, " My soul cleaveth unto the dust,” and, “ My soul melteth for heaviness.”
There is in general more of this cleaving unto the dust, than of this rejoicing; but it is not always to be concluded, because the soul thus seems bound up in dust and heaviness, that therefore there is nothing of the Christian life in it. The straight lines of light and joy in the gospel falling into such a dense medium of cares and anxieties in this world, are refracted and broken, so to speak, and the reflection of the gospel comes from troubled waters,—waters ruffled and stirred,—and not from still lakes, where halcyon birds of calm sit brooding on the surface.
The Christian life is represented as a race, a work, a labour, a conflict, a warfare. It needs a strong, constant, unwavering purpose, along with the constant, ever present omnipotent grace of God. God is one all in all. Christ's strength must be made perfect in our weakness.
So David says,
“I will run in the way of thy commandments when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Here is the purpose, I will run;' here is the way, thy commandments;' here is the soul's dependence, when thou shalt enlarge my heart;' and here is the source of power, the grace of God in the heart, in the deep heart. To this Paul answers, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do.” Blessed harmony of God's working and man's working, of God's grace and man's obedience!
The Pilgrim's Progress is constructed throughout on this divine harmony, never losing sight of either side of the arrangement. So must our individual progress through life, in grace, be of the same divine harmony, a perpetual strife on our part, and God striving in us. So
in his own person,
66 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.' When these two things are kept together, then there is joy,-joy even amidst great trials and discouragements. Because we are cast down, it is not necessary to be destroyed; and the same Apostle who says, “ Rejoice in the Lord alway,” says also, with Barnabas, who was the son of consolation, that we must “through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
In all things we are brought to Christ, and thrown upon him; and this is the sweet voice of the Pilgrim's Progress, as of the gospel, “ Come unto me, all
that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. One consolation amidst our distresses is this, that " we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” And “unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”