« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
world. We imagine ourselves to be at home, when we are. really abroad, and upon a journey.
But although the traveller's first and chief delight is the recollection of his home, which lies as a cordial at his heart, and refreshes him everywhere, and at all seasons; this does by no means prevent him from taking that pleasure in the several objects presenting themselves on the road, which they are. capable of affording, and were, indeed, intended to afford. He surveys, in passing, the works and beauties of nature and art, meadows covered with flocks, valleys waving with corn, verdant woods, blooming gardens, and stately buildings. He surveys, and enjoys them, perhaps, much more than their owners do; but leaves them without a sigh, reflecting on the far greater and sincerer joys, that are waiting for him at home. Such exactly is the temper and disposition, with which the Christian traveller should pass through the world. His religion does not require him to be gloomy and sullen, to shut his eyes, or to stop his ears; it debars him of no pleasure, of which a thinking and reasonable man would wish to partake. It directs him not to shut himself up in a cloister alone, there to mope and moan away his life; but to walk abroad, to behold the things which are in heaven and earth, and to give glory to him who made them; reflecting, at the same time, that if, in this fallen world, which is soon to be consumed by fire, there are so many objects to entertain and delight him, what must be the pleasures of that world, which is to endure for ever, and to be his eternal home! Flocks feeding in green meadows, by rivers of water, remind him of the future happy condition of the righteous, when they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water.' From fading plantations, he carries his thoughts to the paradise of God, where, in immortal youth and beauty, grows the tree of life, whose leaf never withers, and which bears its fruit through the unnumbered ages of eternity. Earthly cities and palaces cause him to remember thee, O thou holy city, heavenly Jerusalem, whose walls are salvation, and thy gates praise, and the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple in the midst of thee!-He who sees the world in this light, will draw its sting, and disarm it of its power to hurt; he will so use it, as not to abuse it, because the fashion of it passes away; he
will so enjoy it, as to be always ready to leave it for a better; he will not think of settling at his inn, because it is pleasantly situated. He remembers, that he is a traveller, he forgets not, that he is a stranger in the earth.
We are not, however, to expect, that we shall meet with nothing but pleasure and entertainment, on the road of life. The traveller knows he is to look for difficulties and dangers upon a journey, especially if it be a long one, and through an enemy's country. The ways may be rough, or deep: the weather, stormy and tempestuous; robbers and murderers may attack him on the road, or wild beasts spring upon him from the forest; and the accommodations and provisions, from which he is to seek refreshment after his fatigue, may prove very ill qualified to afford it. Against all these incidents, possible and probable, the wise traveller is fore-armed with courage and patience; two qualities, without which, his expedition is likely to be very uncomfortable. And here he finds his chief support from the consideration, that all these inconveniences will have an end; that he is abroad upon a journey; and that all he can suffer, will be amply recompensed by the comforts and heartfelt joys which he is to experience at home.
Let the same mind be also in the Christian traveller, who is accomplishing his journey through this world to another. - Let him not think to find the path always smooth, or to tread continually upon roses. In a world like ours, there are more thorns than flowers. Often, in the concerns of life, will he find himself perplexed with doubts, and entangled in difficulties, through which he must make his way with toil, and not without pain. His passage will be obstructed by rocks of offence, at which, unless he tread with skill and caution, he will stumble and-fall.
As the road will not always be safe beneath, so neither will the sun always shine upon him from above. Life is a day; and, in a day, there are many changes of weather. Youth is the morning, when the sky, perhaps, is clear and serene; every thing smiles upon our traveller, and invites him to proceed. But anon, all is overcast, and the heaven grows black with clouds and wind. The hour of prosperity is past, and the storms of adversity and affliction gather round his head. The rain descends,—the lightnings flash-the thunder roars-and the Almighty seems to set his face against him.-Nor is this
the whole of his danger. There are those, who lie in wait, at such dark seasons, to despoil him of all that is truly dear and valuable. Evil men and evil spirits endeavour to deprive him of his honour, his virtue, his integrity, his religion, his life-his eternal life. The troubles of the world, consuming cares, and envenomed passions, are in motion, like the wild beasts of the forest, howling and hissing at him from all quarters. Now he has need of all his courage and steadfastness, and it behoves him to march on resolutely, holding fast, in one hand, the shield of faith,— in the other, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Such are the dangers and hardships to be encountered by the Christian traveller, who, considering himself as such, and knowing he can no otherwise attain to the end of his journey, encounters them accordingly, and at length overcomes them all, upon the principle thus laid down by St. Paul: Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal. For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'
On the same principle, the Christian traveller, like all others, takes up with the accommodations he finds on the road, and learns to be content with such things as he hath.' No traveller was ever in greater straits than St. Paul. But hear what he says of himself :- I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed, both to be full, and to be hungry, both to abound, and to suffer need.' If God vouchsafe us a share of the good things of the world in our passage through it, let us enjoy them with thankfulness; and let us be charitable and kind to our fellow-travellers, who are not so well provided for. If such good things are denied us, still let us be thankful for what we have. It is far better to want them, than to be wedded to them. Let us not forget, that he who travels, as well as he who contends for the mastery,' must be temperate in all things,' if he would travel with ease and pleasure: and therefore, considering the difficulty of continuing so in the
midst of plenty, it is happy for us, generally speaking, when temptations to be otherwise are not thrown in our way. I beseech you,' says St. Peter, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.' We are strangers and pilgrims; we must up, and be moving on. The Lord of life, to show that on earth he had no abiding city, was born at an inn; and there was no room for him, but in the stable. Such were the accommodations with which he was content. Did not he pass through it, as a foreigner, returning to the celestial mansions, from whence he descended? Did not he live and act as such? And was he not treated as such, by those to whom he came? Yes, verily; he was a stranger and a sojourner here below, as all his fathers, according to the flesh, were before him; and as all his children, according to the spirit, have been, and must be after him, upon the earth. The rule is a general one, and admits of no exception. What he once said to his disciples, he says to all, Arise, let us go hence.'
But it is not enough, that the Christian traveller be content. Let him be cheerful, and beguile the tediousness of the way with a sacred song- Awake up, my glory; awake, lute and harp!-I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people; I will sing unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. I will sing unto the Lord, as long as I live; I will praise my God, while I have my being. And so shall my words please him; my joy shall be in the Lord.' This is the language of the very same person, who says elsewhere, I am a stranger in the earth.' Thus it was, that he consoled himself under the fatigues of his journey, and rejoiced even in tribulation; because every step he set, however painful, brought him nearer to his eternal home. Consider the case of those two travellers, Paul and Silas, in the dungeon of a prison, at the dead of midnight, with their feet fast in the stocks. And in this situation, how did they employ themselves? In groaning and lamenting? No; they prayed and sang praises unto God.' Let us hear no more of murmuring and complaining. In all things let us give thanks, and be able to say, with David, 'Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.'
It will greatly contribute towards relieving the sufferings and hardships of our journey, if we can have the company of
some of like sentiments, tempers, and dispositions, who are travelling the same way; with whom we may converse about the country to which we are all going; consult upon the best means of arriving safely at it; and mutually communicate our observations upon the objects that present themselves, and the incidents that happen upon the road. They that fear thee,' says the Psalmist, will be glad, when they see me, because I have hoped in thy word. I am a companion of all them, that fear thee, and keep thy precepts.-We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God as friends.'-He who travels alone, will often find himself weary and melancholy: he will often want help and assistance. As the Wise man observes, Two are better than one; for if they fall,' (and who can, at any time, be assured he shall not?) the one will help up his fellow.' Much does it concern us, in making our connexions, and choosing our friends, to make and choose such, as will forward us on our way, and continue with us unto the end and it is happy for us, when they who stand in the nearest relation to us, and with whom we must, of necessity, spend the greatest part of our time,-are of this sort. Blessed are they, who thus go through life together, in peace and love, comforting and encouraging one another, and talking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. To these heirs of salvation, angels delight to minister; and that which happened to the two disciples, upon the road to Emmaus, will happen to them. Jesus himself,' though they do not know it, will draw near, and go with them.'
With such companions, and such a guide, our journey will scem short, because it will become pleasant: and there will be nothing formidable even in the last and worst part of it, death itself. In the history which the scriptures give us of good men in old time, it is worth observing, that their dying appears to have been a circumstance as easy and indifferent to them, as to the historian who relates it. With Moses it is only, 'go up to mount Nebo, and die.' With Aaron, ascend to mount Hor, and do the same.' And, before them, we find the holy patriarchs, when the appointed hour came, calling their children about them, bequeathing to posterity the promised blessing of salvation by Messiah; gathering up their feet into the bed, and dying with the same satisfaction and complacency as they would have fallen asleep. And why? But because,