Now I saw in my dream that Pilgrim had entered a richer and more fertile country.
The mountains and valleys which for some time he had been traversing, and many of which were bleak and sterile, were exchanged for a region waving with crops of great luxuriance, relieved, at times, with verdant meadows and wooded slopes.
He arrived at a place shadowed, on either side, with trees of enormous size, whose umbrageous tops formed a noble archway over his head; and the walls, which rose on either side, intimated that he was in the neighborhood of some princely residence.
He had not advanced far when he observed the road was terminated by a gateway surmounted with the arms of royalty.
The gate was flung open for the free passage of travelers; and on inquiring at the lodge to whom it belonged, he was informed it was the Palace of the Royal Psalmist of Israel, who had made provision, in his regal mansion, for the comfort and refreshment of wayfarers to Zion.
Pilgrim had now been for some days without sleep, and he rejoiced at the prospect of approaching rest. As he walked along the avenue which led to the Palace, his ear caught melodious sounds proceeding from the interior of the building.
He stood for many minutes entranced with delight, as he listened to the morning orison of praise, in which timbrel, and lute, and harp, and organ, seemed to have combined their richest harmonies in summoning all nature to rise and do homage to its Maker--
Praise you the Lord.
Praise you the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
Praise you him, all his angels: praise you him, all his hosts.
Praise you him, sun and moon: praise him, all you stars of light.
Praise him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters that be above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.
He has also established them forever and ever: he has made a decree which shall not pass.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you dragons, and all deeps:
Fire and hail; snow and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:
Both young men and maidens; old men and children:
Let them praise the name of the Lord:
For his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
He also exalts the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints;
Even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him.
Praise you the Lord.
When the cadence of this anthem had died away, Pilgrim approached the door, and on knocking, a servant of the palace welcomed him in.
On entering he found himself in the center of a hall, built of the choicest timber from the cedar forests of Lebanon, and hung all around with the trophies of battle. On one side were many gleaming coats of mail, which had been taken as spoil from the giants of Philistia, several of which measured six cubits in length.
On the other he beheld the tawny hide of a lion, with the fleece of a little lamb by its side, the memorials of some hard-won encounter with this monarch of the forest.
A few stones suspended in a sling, hung over an enormous javelin, whose staff was like a weaver's beam, and read the story of a bloody encounter, in which the prowess of some daring champion had been humbled by a few pebbles from the brook.
After gazing on these, Pilgrim was conducted by the attendant to the hall from which the music proceeded, and which still rolled on in solemn grandeur. When he entered, he beheld an aged monarch, his head silvered with years, seated on a golden throne, with a harp in his hand. Around him were collected groups of singers and choristers, performing on different instruments.
The Royal Psalmist cast a glance at the stranger; but without interrupting the sacred song, he beckoned on him to come and join their chorus: "O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together." "Come, you that fear the Lord, and tell what he has done for your soul."
"I sought the Lord," said Pilgrim, unable any longer to keep silence, "and he heard me, and delivered me out of all my fears." "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."
The Psalmist converted this into a new theme of thanksgiving, and again he awoke his harp-strings: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
"O, fear the Lord, you his saints; for there is no want to those who fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but those who wait on the Lord shall not lack any good thing."
And then, turning to the bands of youthful choristers below, he continued his song: "Come, you children, hearken unto me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile; depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it."
Sometimes a more plaintive chord was struck; and the recollection of by-gone transgression coming before the mind of the aged monarch, would draw a tear to his eye. At other times, not himself, but the triumphs of the King of the Way formed the burden of his song:
"You have ascended on high. You have led captivity captive. You have received gifts for men; yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
At others, his eye, glowing with prophetic fire, would make the chords tell of the glories of a millennial morning, when, instead of a few solitary travelers, the Narrow way would be crowded with Pilgrims to Zion, and the Lord Immanuel would be exalted on the throne of universal empire.
"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish, and of the isles, shall bring presents.
The kings of Seba and Sheba shall offer gifts. His name shall endure forever. It shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him. All nations shall call him blessed."
When these majestic notes had died away, Pilgrim was conducted by his attendant to a chamber in the Palace, where he had prepared for him water to wash his feet, and refresh himself.
"How often does your Royal Master," inquired he, engage in these exercises of devotion?"
"Seven times a day," answered the other, "does he praise God because of his righteous judgments. Often does he 'meditate upon him in the night-watches' and at midnight rises to give thanks to him for his mercies!"
On his return to the banqueting-hall, he shared with the aged king "a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined."
Besides these, there was a plate of heavenly manna, gathered in the pleasure-grounds of the Palace; a jar full of pure water from the Fountain of Salvation, and honey from the rocky sides of Mount Pisgah, which, from the window, rose full in view.
When the banquet was finished, the monarch poured some of the living water into the cup of salvation, saying, "Let us take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. Let us now pay our vows together, in the presence of his people."
I saw that the guest and his entertainer, as they continued sitting together, encouraged one another with conversation touching the Lord of the Way, and the glories that were in keeping for his travelers.
"What shall we render," exclaimed Pilgrim, bursting into a transport of holy gratitude for the rich provision which was set before him--"what shall we render unto God for all his benefits toward us?" "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!"
"I will sing," exclaimed the other, "unto the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being." "O how great is his goodness, which he has laid up for those who fear him; which he has wrought for those who trust in him before the sons of men!"
"The sorrows of death," said Pilgrim, again detailing the wonder God had done for him--"the sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord. O Lord! I beseech you, deliver my soul." "He delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling; and he has now set me in a large place, and delivered me, because he delighted in me. He has fed me also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey from the rock has he satisfied me."
"O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works unto the children of men!"
"I have been young," responded the aged monarch, detailing, in his turn, the experience of an eventful life--"I have been young, and now am old; yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help: whose hope is in the Lord his God."
With such themes of converse the Psalmist of Israel and the traveler to Zion regaled themselves at the close of the day. Night was beginning to close around them. Rock, and forest, and mountain, which were spread before them in the extensive prospect from the window of the banqueting chamber, began to be enveloped in its sable covering.
Soon after, the sky was bespangled with stars, and the silvery moon rose behind the summit of Mount Pisgah. The Psalmist, with his harp in his hand, conducted Pilgrim out to a large balcony in front of the window. The harp-strings were once more awakened; and amid the stillness of night, the air was again vocal with praise.
"The heavens," commenced the aged king, joining his voice with the music; "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies shows forth his handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge."
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers; the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man, that you visit him?"
Their evening ascription being ended, Pilgrim was again conducted to his sleeping apartment, where he mused in gratitude on all the goodness and mercy which had been made to pass before him; and having imparted a brighter than ordinary polish to his armor, he cast himself on his couch, and closed his eyes in slumber.
His sleep was crowded with dreams of the preceding day; and he continued to enjoy his soothing rest undisturbed, until an early hour in the morning, when, once more, the soft cadence of the harp stole upon his ear. Raising himself from his pillow, he listened. It was the aged monarch already begun his orisons.
The words reached him: "My voice shall you hear in the morning, O Lord! in the morning will I direct my prayer unto you, and will look up." "I laid me down and slept; I awaked: for the Lord sustained me!" "My soul waits for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than those who do watch for the morning!" "When I awake, I am still with you!"
Pilgrim could joyfully have tarried many days on this spot of holy ground; but he saw it would be needful for him to prosecute his journey.
He resolved, therefore, to set out without delay, in hopes that the morrow's dawn would find him on the summit of Pisgah, across which his pathway led, and from whence he would obtain a nearer glimpse of the Land of Promise, and the Celestial City. Accordingly, having anew girded on his armor, he bade his royal entertainer an affectionate farewell.
The aged Psalmist once more embraced his guest, and committing him to the keeping of the King of the Way, invoked on his harp a benediction on his departure:
"The Lord hear you in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend you; send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion. Remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt-sacrifices. Grant you according to your own heart, and fulfill all your counsel."
Pilgrim proceeded on his journey until the last faint sound of the melody died away on the morning breeze. He was soon once more outside the gate in the depths of the forest; but, full of faith and hope, "he went on his way rejoicing."