Now I saw in my dream that Pilgrim had approached near to the walls of the Celestial City; but there still intervened a dark valley, which formed the only access to its gates.
This valley was called the Valley of the Shadow of Death, similar in name and appearance to that which he formerly traversed. As he found himself about to enter it, he stood trembling with terror.
"Be you faithful unto death," said a voice behind him, "and the Lord Immanuel will give you the crown of life!"
"Welcome! welcome!" replied Pilgrim, beholding by his side the Embassador of the Lord Immanuel, who had so often appeared to him by the way; "welcome, you man of God! much do I need your salutary counsel and companionship in so dreadful an hour."
"A mightier than earthly counselor is with you," was the reply. "Though unseen, the only Friend that can avail you is by your side.
He himself has trodden this very valley before you: never yet has one of his travelers found him to fail. A few brief moments more, and sorrow and sighing will forever have fled, and you shall be in the uncreated presence of the Great King."
"True! true!" replied the other; "the brief sufferings of this present hour are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed.
One moment in yonder bright world will make me forget them all." And with this he sung to himself one of the sweet strains which he had heard in the Palace of the Psalmist of Israel: "Yes, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
"Yes," said Faithful; "no tear need bedim your eye. This hour which terminates your wanderings in a world of sorrow, is the commencement of a tearless immortality."
"Amen! even so!" exclaimed Pilgrim, as he seemed oppressed with the increasing gloom, and longing for the closing scene--"'Even so! come, Lord Jesus! come quickly! Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"
Now I saw that they had arrived by the brink of a dark and turgid stream, which terminated the valley. A dense mist hovered all around, so as to obscure from their view, for a while, the glories of the Celestial City.
"I feel a haze gathering round my eyes," said Pilgrim; "tell me, can this be death?"
"Your warfare is just closing," said Faithful. "The gloom prevents you seeing the portals of glory, though you are on their very threshold.
The passage through this river will be quickly over. Before you plunge in, let your eye rest, for the last time, on the shield of faith, and read there the promise of the Omnipotent One who will bear you through: 'When you pass through the waters I will be with you.'"
"The darkness yet grows deeper," said the other; "but though I cannot see, methinks I feel the support of arms underneath me. Is it so?"
"These," said Faithful, "are the Everlasting Arms, with which the Lord Immanuel upholds his own covenant people in their last struggle through the billows of death, so that to sink were impossible."
"But, hark!" said Pilgrim; "though mine eyes are failing, and mine ears can do no more than catch up the sound of your voice, methinks, hard by me, I hear the notes of celestial minstrelsy--the cadence of unearthly voices is falling on my spirit!"
"It is that of the angels of God," replied Faithful, "who are waiting on the other side of the river to carry you into the presence of the Great King; it is the signal that the Lord Immanuel's last intercessory prayer on your behalf has ascended and been heard:
'Father, I will that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory'; and that your name is now registered among the citizens of Zion!"
"Farewell, then! farewell!" said Pilgrim; the last faltering words of earth escaping from his tongue, and embracing in his arms the servant of his Lord--"Farewell! we shall meet in yonder bright world, where the Master you serve will not suffer you to lose your reward.
Farewell, earth! farewell, sorrow! farewell, tears! Welcome, death!--Jesus!--heaven!--glory!--victory!" With these words he plunged in, and the Embassador of the Lord Immanuel saw his face in the Valley of Tears no more.
Now I saw that angels were waiting on the opposite side of the river to conduct him into the heavenly City.
For a time he was lost sight of in the deep waters. Billow after billow swept over his head: at last he was borne in safety through, and thus welcomed by the angelic band: "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter you into the joy of your Lord!"
Pilgrim found himself walking by the margin of a "river, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."
The golden palaces of Zion were reflected in its still waters; and trees, waving with eternal verdure, and distilling immortal fragrance, lined its banks.
It was called the River of the Water of Life. Aged travelers and once toilworn warriors reclined on its margin, and drank its crystal streams.
Many of these had been covered with dust, others with blood; but in this placid river every vestige of pollution was taken away; and having washed their wounds, and bathed their temples, they hastened to ascend the Hill of Zion.
Death-divided relatives were seen crowding to meet them, wearing blood-bought crowns and harps of gold. Joyous were the reunions!
Pilgrim had now arrived in front of the entrance. The gate itself was of solid gold. The pillars which supported it were composed of jasper and onyx, and all manner of precious stones, which shone with a brightness dazzling to behold.
On presenting the Charter, sprinkled with the blood of Immanuel, which he had received at the Narrow way Gate, they opened to him the everlasting portals, exclaiming: "You shall walk with the Lord Immanuel in white; for you are worthy!"
On being admitted, Pilgrim was overwhelmed by the blaze of glory which surrounded him.
As he stood entranced in amazement, another retinue of angels came rushing down from the throne, singing hallelujahs, bearing in their hands a crown of pure gold, which they placed on his head, saying:
"You are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, to the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the General Assembly and Church of the First-born, which are written in heaven, to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect!"
Now I saw that he was borne away to the Third heavens, in company with these angels and saints, with shoutings and rejoicings.
He passed along through prostrate ranks of angel and archangel, cherubim and seraphim. As he got nearer and nearer the eternal throne, their ascriptions of praise waxed louder and louder.
When he first entered the gates of glory, it seemed as the sound "of much people;" as he ascended, it became "as the voice of a great multitude;" higher still, "as the noise of many waters;" until, at last, as the glory brightened, it became "as the voice of mighty thunderings"; and so loud were the deepening anthem-peals, that it awoke me from MY DREAM!