Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Great Journey: A Pilgrimage through the Valley of Tears to Mount Zion, the city of the living God by John MacDuff [Chapter 9]

[chapter 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]

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Now I saw in my dream that the Narrow way conducted straight through the City of Carnality; for the Prince of Darkness, who, from the extent of his territories, was called the God of this World, had built many cities and villages close by, for the purpose, if possible, of enticing Zionward travelers. 

And this, at the time of Pilgrim's journey, he could accomplish the more easily, as the walls which were used, in former times, to separate the Broad from the Narrow-way-men, had been in great part demolished. 

For long there had existed between there a deadly enmity. But the Prince of Darkness's viceregent, Fashion, had interposed as mediator between the contending parties. It was now counted no disgrace, as in former times, for a Broad-way-man to be ostensibly enlisted in Immanuel's ranks. 

But the others suffered by their guilty compromise; for their communion with the Broad way travelers had led them to imbibe many carnal maxims and principles, and to conform to the practices of a "world lying in wickedness."

Now I saw that the Prince of Darkness had erected his metropolis near the extremity of the Valley of Tears; and many who had given fair promise of making the journey to Zion, and that, too, with their faces there, were entangled by the snares laid for them in this city, and never advanced a step nearer the Celestial Gates.

The shadows of evening were beginning to fall as Pilgrim and his companion approached its walls. Even from the twilight glimpse they obtained, they were awed by its dimensions and magnificence. 

In the center, crowning the heights, they beheld a palace, with a royal banner waving from its towers, and many lights gleaming from the windows of its banqueting halls. 

This, as Pilgrim afterward learned, was the residence of Freethinker, a powerful vassal of the King of the Broad way, who had been rewarded with ample honors for the service he had rendered to his lord. 

It was kept by a porter called Mammon, who made it his business to exact as large a revenue as he could for the Prince of Darkness, whose servant he was. The two travelers trembled as they stood in the presence of this man, who was of a harsh and repulsive countenance. 

On attempting to pass, he rudely approached them, and, with rough voice, demanded payment of tribute for the King's Highway.

"We are travelers to Mount Zion," answered Theophilus; "and the Lord Immanuel, to secure our admittance there, has already paid costlier tribute-money than we have to offer. 

We have not been redeemed, and the Celestial City is not to be purchased, 'with corruptible things such as silver and gold.'"

If you have no tribute-money," replied the other, it will be at least needful to leave behind you, in pledge, some part of your armor, which, during your adjourn in the city, will only encumber you; and it will be restored to you on your return."

"Return we cannot--we dare not," said Pilgrim, "we have our faces Zionward; and woe be to us if we turn back."

Now Theophilus seemed inclined to further and useless disputation; but I saw that a mild and modest messenger beckoned Pilgrim to turn aside and follow her without delay. It was evident that they were about to enter the city by the wrong avenue.

Pilgrim, therefore, at once retraced a few of his steps, and went along, by a narrow path, to a lodge by the side of the city wall. He was conducted within by his guide, (whose name was Piety,) and who there resided with her sister Devotion. 

They assisted him in brightening his armor, wiped the dust from his sandals, and replenished his bag with some simple food. 

After which, being warned of the imminent dangers with which he would be beset, and exhorted to "consider Him" who, himself once a pilgrim in that same city, "had endured such contradiction of sinners against himself", they directed him up the street, named Watch and Pray, to the residence of the Christian Graces, at the opposite gate, where he would be again refreshed, and receive further directions regarding his journey.

Now I saw that Pilgrim proceeded boldly into the heart of the town; and had penetrated a considerable way before he encountered any serious molestation.
Before long, however, the citizens began to be attracted by the peculiarity of his traveling attire. 

A crowd followed: some mocking, some deriding; some even lifting the mud and filth off the streets, and besmearing his armor. He tried first to remonstrate with them; then to rebuke and threaten. 

With the Sword of the Spirit grasped firmly in his hand he succeeded in parrying off many of the blows aimed at him; their stones and missiles rebounded from the Shield of Faith, with which he covered his head; and he felt it no small encouragement when his eye fell on one of the verses inscribed underneath: 

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

I saw in my dream, that before he had been able to proceed half way through the city, night overtook him. 

He began to despair of being able to reach the mansion where he had been directed at the lodge, and which he had intended making his resting-place for the night. Besides, the broad and open street which he had been pursuing was now involved in devious windings, and frequently became so narrow as to create in his mind serious apprehensions that he must have missed his way. 

When he ventured to make inquiry of the citizens, and solicit their assistance in regaining it, he was treated with rudeness and incivility; for the Christian Graces, and their residence, were, with them, hated names, and their visitors invariably treated with discourtesy.

Now I observed that the Lord Immanuel had appointed spiritual Watchmen, with the Lamp of Truth in their hands, to guide the feet of his people in the way of peace, and to direct erring travelers who had "gone out of the way." 

Some of these Watchmen, indeed, were found unfaithful; some had no oil of grace in themselves; consequently, their lamps burned with a feeble and sickly luster, and the trumpet which hung at their side gave forth an uncertain sound. 

Others (during the age in which Pilgrim passed) had so covered their lanterns with painted glass and tinsel ornament, as greatly to obscure the pure light of truth. 

Others, however, were distinguished for their vigilant watchfulness; ever faithful at their posts, "holding not their peace day nor night." 

Their lamps, being liable to be dimmed by the smoke of the city, they kept constantly rubbing with the Prayer-polish; and when any of the Zionward travelers, through weariness, or exhaustion, or sleep, fell down on the street, these faithful embassadors of the Lord Immanuel were heard sounding their trumpet of alarm, and exclaiming, "It is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is your salvation nearer than when you believed." 

As they met the Narrow-way-men, hurrying up the streets, sometimes they would accompany them for a little, to whisper words of encouragement in their ears if they saw them faint-hearted; at other times they allowed them to proceed, with the passing watchword, "ALL IS WELL!"

Now I saw that Pilgrim observed an individual with a haggard look running quickly up to one of these, and asking in great anxiety of mind: "Watchman! what of the night? Watchman! what of the night?" 

His name was Anxious Inquirer; he had been awakened from a slumber of self-security by the Trumpet of the Law, sounded by a watchman whose name was Boanerges. 

From that moment he had been hurrying, in a state of agitation, from street to street, and from watchman to watchman, with the question, "What shall I do to be saved?"

"Have you found no one, poor man," inquired the individual he now so importunately addressed; "have you found no one to soothe your troubled breast, and direct you to the Narrow way that leads unto life?''

"None! none!" was the reply; "the unfaithful watchmen that go about the city found me; they smote me, they wounded me. They tried to heal my hurt slightly, saying, 'Peace! peace! when there was no peace.' 

If you have any pity for a lost soul, tell me what time of night it is; for I am beginning to fear that 'the night is too far spent!' Methought, in hurrying along, I heard the tolling of the midnight bell, which seemed to say, as if with a living voice: 

'Too late! too late!' and the gloomy warders who met me exchanged the same dismal watchword. Tell me, O, tell me, have I yet space to repent? Watchman! what of the night? Watchman! what of the night?"

"The morning comes!" was the answer. "It is not yet come, but it comes fast. Though you are at the eleventh hour, yet see you how the star of Hope still twinkles in the sky? But, haste you, and follow me. 

Truly the night is far spent! Yonder bell will before long peal its last, proclaiming that 'time shall be no longer,' and that the hour of repentance is fled!"

So I saw that Inquirer, under the guidance of this devoted embassador, hurried through the crowd in the direction of the gate of the Narrow way. The eye of Pilgrim followed them until they were out of sight. 

The promises on his shield reminded him of the glorious recompense awaiting such faithful watchmen as he to whose guidance Inquirer had intrusted himself. "Those who turn many unto righteousness shall shine as the stars in the skies, forever and ever.

By this time Pilgrim had arrived at the termination of a narrow lane, which diverged into two different paths; and it became matter of perplexity to know which to select. 

As he stood in indecision, he observed an individual coming up to him with a lamp at his side, similar to those he had seen in the hands of the Watchmen. 

It emitted a feeble light; sufficient, however, to show that the stranger was attired in armor, which appeared similar to his own; and the manner of his address gave him reason to suppose that he was once more to be cheered by the company of a Zionward traveler. But he was mistaken. This man had only a name to live.

His name was Professor; he had the Lamp of Profession in his hand, but no oil of grace to feed it; he had just enough of light to distinguish him from his fellow-citizens, but not enough to let him see the way to the Celestial City. 

Though he had never entered by the Narrow-way Gate, he had contrived, at one time, to traverse, like many others, a considerable part of the way, with his face Zionward; but he had never got further than the town of Carnality, where he had taken up a permanent residence, ofttimes inviting passing travelers to the Celestial City to visit him, and thus had acquired a name for his hospitality. 

He was one of those whom Pilgrim had already frequently met in his journey, for whom he felt deep commiseration, whose pretended love for the Narrow-way-men, and partiality for their King, made them hated by the Broad way travelers; while they themselves had neither part nor lot with the subjects of Immanuel, either in their present privileges, or in their future glorious reward.

Pilgrim, after listening to his conversation, availed himself of his proffered invitation; and deferring his journey to the extremity of the city until morning, accompanied him to his residence to spend the night.

On arriving at the house of his new entertainer, Pilgrim found two guests seated at his table; and who, like himself, professed to be travelers to Immanuel's land. 

The name of the one was Antinomian, and of the other, Lukewarm. Antinomian had not so much as a shred of armor; no, he seemed even to glory in his state of fancied freedom from the self-imposed burdens (as he called them) to which his fellow-travelers unnecessarily subjected themselves. 

Lukewarm, again, was arrayed in the semblance of armor; but it hung so loosely upon him, and he talked so coldly of the Lord of the Way, and so slightingly of his blood-bought privileges, that it seemed matter of indifference to him whether he entered the gates of the New Jerusalem or no.

Supper was concluded; and Pilgrim, being fatigued with the exertions of the day, retired to rest. 

He arose as soon as morning began to break; and though urged by Professor to prolong his stay, he dreaded remaining longer in the company of those whose sentiments so little accorded with his own. 

Bidding his entertainer farewell, and whispering in his ear, before they parted, some serious counsel about his imminent danger, and that of his guests, he hastened once more to run with patience the race set before him.

Now I saw that, in prosecuting the remainder of his journey through the city, he passed immediately under the walls of Freethinker'spalace, which he had observed particularly on entering. 

He hurried by as quickly as he could. Above the massive archway which formed the entrance, he saw the words emblazoned: "No soul,"--"No judgment"--"No immortality"--"Death an eternal sleep"--"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 

He shuddered on listening to the voices of the scoffers in the banqueting hall within. They were blaspheming the name of the Lord of the Way, and saving, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation!"

The porter, whose name was Ridicule, stood at the gate, as he was used, heaping derisions on all the travelers who passed. 

He called after Pilgrim, and invited him to partake of Freethinker's hospitality, denouncing all the promises inscribed on his shield as "cunningly devised fables"--the Celestial City, with its fancied glories, as a dream--and recommended him to return without delay, and resume his communion with the Broad-way-men. 

But Pilgrim only hastened his footsteps, and hurried more quickly past, replying to his solicitation: "Truly, if I had been mindful of the country whence I came out, I might have had opportunity to have returned; but now I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly."

Walking boldly onward, he at last attained the outer wall of the city, and, with joyful heart, left its din and bustle behind him. 

On proceeding a little further, he found himself standing in front of a gateway leading to an elevated mansion in the suburbs whereon he read the inscription: "here abides these three--Faith, Hope, and Charity." 

This was the place to which he had been directed at the lodge, by Piety and Devotion. It was the residence of the Christian Graces, who made it their delight to receive toil-worn travelers after their passage through the city--to wash their stripes, bind up their wounds, and supply them with necessary refreshment for completing their journey.

Sweet were the hours of converse which Pilgrim enjoyed in this sacred resting-place. Sometimes their conversation turned on the Lord of the Way himself --sometimes on the experience of travelers who had now entered into their rest--sometimes on the glories of the Celestial City, whose shining gates, from the elevated situation which the mansion occupied, were full in view. 

On the top of the house was a balcony, where he often resorted in company with Faith and Hope, who directed his eye through telescopes, provided for the purpose, to the battlements of the New Jerusalem.

Being replenished, after a temporary sojourn, with what was needful for his journey, and having his shield and armor anew burnished with the Prayer-polish, which caused them to shine with dazzling brightness in the reflected beams from the Celestial Gate, Pilgrim once more found himself alone, a solitary traveler, hastening along the Narrow way, with his back to the City of Carnality, and his face to the City of Zion.

I saw that he continued to run with alacrity and joy the race which was still set before him, his path being like the "shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day." 

The season of trial and vicissitude, indeed, was not yet over. Difficulties and temptations, sorrows and discouragements, were still there, to remind him that the valley which he trod was, to the last, a Valley of Tears. 

But these only made him long more ardently for the day when every tear would be wiped away, every pang forgotten, every sorrow ended; when the weapons of earthly warfare would be exchanged for robes of glory; faith swallowed up in sight, hope in fruition, and death itself in eternal victory!

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