February 12th, 1912.
MY DEAR OLD FRIEND,
Our old mutual friend came home with me to tea yesterday afternoon and I looked forward to having some profitable conversation during the evening. However, our purposes at times get overthrown, as mine were; for shortly after tea I had to retire, feeling poorly. This increased upon me, but after about four attacks of sickness I got some relief. I came downstairs and wished my old friend good night, and then retired to bed feeling considerable internal weakness consequent upon the strain of vomiting. After a short time, and feeling somewhat easier, having begged of my most propitious Lord to forgive all that had been amiss in the services of the day and to bless my friends and my enemies, to carry my old friend home in safety, to bless my dear wife and children and preserve us all through the night, I fell into a reverie. My thoughts not having come by way of the plain, flew off toward the hill-country; as a youngster I was fond of climbing, and this propensity still abides with me. I thought, as I had taken tea with my old friend, I would sup with you. My weakness for the hill-country is to be found in an Ancient Book in my possession, which speaks of "the chief things of the ancient mountains," and of "the precious things of the lasting hills." (Deut. 33:15) I was thinking of our little hill of Zion and of the two last Sabbaths spent therein: on one, the countryside was covered with snow; by the next, all the snow had disappeared. I thought: What a wonderful change! and what had caused it? This led me to think of the south wind which had brought about this wonderful change in nature, and my thoughts then took a peep into the Kingdom of Grace. I thought of what I had read in my Ancient Book, of the south wind blowing upon a certain garden, with the consequent fruits and effects--the spices thereof flowed out; and the request of this garden (the Church of Christ) that her Beloved might come into His garden and eat His pleasant fruits. I observed that the Keeper of this garden had a banqueting house, the banner over which was love, and that the south wind had a wonderfully reviving effect on the plants of the garden. These plants are godly souls whom I shall call pilgrims. The south wind continued to blow, and I observed that the more it blew the nearer these pilgrims were drawn (Hosea 11:4) to the banqueting house. At last, one by one, they entered, until the house was full of guests. The banquet was spread; the guests took their seats in order; there was no confusion. At the head of the table I observed the Host, a most glorious and gracious Person full of majesty and dignity, and withal so loving and solicitous; but I cannot tell you half His worth of a thousandth part of it. I must refer you to my Ancient Book, which gives an excellent portrait of Him. (in Songs 5:9-16) One thing I soon observed was that each guest was clothed in a robe which covered him completely from head to foot, and no garment that I ever saw did so perfectly fit the wearer. I noticed also that there was no crowding; each guest had ample room and free movement for all his limbs, so different from some of whom I read in my Ancient Book: "For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself of it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." (Isa. 28:20)
I observed also that these pilgrims were all looking one way. Each had his eyes fixed on his Divine and most blessed Host at the head of the table. The provision was rich and rare: the Paschal Lamb, fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees well refined; and, by way of dessert, I saw most excellent fruits, such as apples, grapes of Eshcol, figs, pomegranates, nuts, etc., and withal there was nothing to upset the digestion of the most delicate. The pilgrims, having an appetite for such desirable provisions, were much emboldened by hearing the invitation of their most propitious Host, which, to give you the exact words, ran as follows:--"Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." (Song 5:1) At this they fell to, and, as they ate, I noticed that they never took their eyes off the all-glorious and matchless Person of their Host. Having had a commission now for some years to look after the welfare of pilgrims, I had my eyes open and my ears attent. I soon observed that tears were running from the eyes, not only of one, but of all the company (for this is no place for dry eyes); and the more they ate and drank the more did they keep a steadfast eye on their Host, and the faster did the rears flow. I also noticed that they did not use a handkerchief to wipe their faces. This surprised me, until a little salve was applied to my own eyes by an unseen hand, when I saw a shining one in attendance upon each pilgrim. Then I thought of the ministry of angels. (Heb. 1:14; and 2 Kings 6:17) As I looked very narrowly I observed that each of these shining ones had a bottle in his hand and was catching the tears of the pilgrims. This led me to think of what I had read in my Ancient Book: "Put thou my tears into thy bottle." (Ps. 56:8) As pilgrims are not always in this life to remain in the banqueting house, I observed the most propitious Host withdraw a little from the table, as though He would go away. At the same moment the pilgrims, as one man, rose to their feet and made in the direction of their Host. I perceived that He was still seated, and the pilgrims gathered around Him. Here, I thought, there appeared to be a little shuffling amongst the pilgrims; but on closer observation I saw it was simply that each one was trying to get the lowest seat, and I was glad at heart to see that each got it. And so was our most glorious Host, for, on listening attentively, I heard Him say to each pilgrim as he took the lowest seat, "Come up higher." Now I stood motionless, and was all eyes and ears. Nothing less than John's pillow would satisfy either Host or pilgrim. Each one rose until his head reclined upon the breast of his most indulgent Host. I need not tell you that there was no noise, no confusion, no undue familiarity. The pilgrims were welcome to embrace Him, welcome to rest their heads upon His loving breast. But this was not all. Their most gracious and condescending Host bent down His head and kissed each pilgrim as his head reclined upon His breast, and, watching narrowly, I observed that each pilgrim kissed his Host in return. This sight led me again to the Ancient Chronicles: (Song 1:2) "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine;" and Psalm 2:12, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way." I noticed that the pilgrims were much intent upon abiding here, and each one gave expression to the following words, which fell upon my ears and put me in remembrance of my Ancient Volume: "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please." (Song 2:6,7) But now it was the voice of their most glorious Host that fell upon my ear, and He thus spoke to each pilgrim: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away," (John 16:7) and further, as He parted with each, I heard Him say, "Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," which brought again the Ancient Writings to my mind; (1 Tim. 2:3) but He promised that He would see them again and that their heart should rejoice. (John 16:22) One thing I had noticed amongst others was the noiselessness with which these pilgrims moved about. This caused me to look well to their feet, and I saw that they were shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.
Thus the secret was out, for all such go softly. They all appeared to feel the parting words of their most gracious Host. In this my reverie I thought I saw each pilgrim slowly and in order move toward the exit door of the banqueting house, and, as they turned round, I observed that each one was clothed in armor, and that by their glorious Captain and Host. Their loins were girt about with truth; they had on the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and in their hand the sword of the spirit. A full description of this armor is given in the Ancient Records. (Eph. 6) Now, as they marched past where I stood, I observed that their eyes looked straight before them, which brought to mind a passage I had read in those Ancient Writings, which runs as follows: "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee." (Prov. 4:25) They looked right loyal and noble soldiers of the Cross; but I felt for them, and the sympathy of my heart went out towards them as I thought of the many conflicts they would have to be engaged in, the many dangers they would have to encounter. As I was looking more at the way and the dangers of it, forgetting the King of the way, the Captain of our salvation, who has promised that we shall overcome through Him, I caught sight of the following words boldly emblazoned on the sword of each pilgrim: "Victory through the blood of the Lamb." This took me back again to the Ancient Writings, (Rev. 12:11) and, whilst engaged in musing thereon, the pilgrims had got beyond my range of vision, but, should I fall into another reverie, and again come across these pilgrims, you shall in all probability hear from me as to how it has fared with them. Meanwhile, adieu!
February 14th, 1912.
MY DEAR OLD FRIENDS,
I find my thoughts will make for the hill-country, notwithstanding the damp and fogs of these lowlands. I promised in my last letter that, if I fell into another reverie, you should in all probability hear from me again.
A little clearing of the stomach is good and necessary for pilgrims--at least I find it so. Much is got rid of which, if retained, might prove harmful, and it makes way for better fare. A tonic is of little use when we need a purging draught. I confess to a bad memory, but, as my most gracious Master bears with me and my many infirmities, I hope you won't use the rod. I omitted to inform you in my last that, as the pilgrims marched out from the banqueting house and were passing by where I stood with their eyes looking straight before them, girt in their Host's armor with sword in hand, upon the length of which I observed boldly emblazoned the words "Victory through the blood of the Lamb," they were all singing. And methought I never heard such singing in all my life; it was of that sort that always brings a lump up in my throat, and this is what I distinctly heard them singing:
"How sweet and awful is the place,
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.
"Here every bowel of our God
With soft compassion rolls;
Here peace and pardon, love and blood,
Is food for dying souls.
"While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
'Lord, why was I a guest?
"'Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there's room;
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?'
"'Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still ne'er had a taste,
And perish'd in our sin."
Such a song and such singing will inspire the dumb to sing and the lame man to leap as a hart. Whilst I was meditating upon these things, the pilgrims did outstrip me and got beyond my vision; but, not having a stiff joint or limb in all my body and my breathing apparatus being in good order, I ran at my top speed, and in a short time was alongside of the pilgrims. Thinking upon this dexterity, my thoughts went again to those Ancient Writings a copy of which I have, and wherein I had read of certain exploits by men of old: "And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel." (1 Kings 18:46) "So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre." (John 20:4) "The kings' business required haste." (1 Sam. 21:8) Now in my reverie I saw myself alongside of these pilgrims and was wont to fall into some conversation with them. But I observed there was rather a shyness on their part, which I took to be godly discretion; for I must inform you that they did not observe me in the banqueting house, as they had no eyes for any but their adorable Host and never took their eyes off Him for a single moment. I could tell by their manner and by what I had read in my copy of the Ancient Writings (I call them mine, because many years ago the Divine Author and Owner of these writings gave me a copy, and since then has many times confirmed this gift, and when I have called them mine He has looked on and smiled), that they wanted me to give a reason of the hope that was in me. (1 Pet. 3:15) This in no way put me about, and I proceeded to do so with meekness and fear; but a lump coming up in my throat stopped my talking and I could do little else but weep. When, however, I could look up I found the pilgrims had been affected in the same way. They looked and smiled, gave me the right hand of fellowship, and fell to talking agreeably to my Ancient Writings which then came to my mind: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heats to the Lord." (Eph. 5:19) Our conversation, as you will well know, was seasoned with salt; and the banqueting house, with the Divine Host and fare, was the subject of our communications. From the testimony of these pilgrims it appears that I did not hear all their glorious Host said to them as they rested upon His bosom and as He kissed them with the kisses of His lips, which are most sweet. I told you what I overheard, and what further He said I will now relate to you, because the mark of Cain is not upon you, and your countenances, as witnessed by me, speak of the Holy Anointing Oil having reached your hearts and show that you have tasted of the good wine of the kingdom which maketh glad the heart of God and man, in consequence of which your faces have been made to shine. This brings to mind a portion of the Ancient Writings: (Ps. 104:15) "Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine." I am particular here, because He who gave me these Ancient Writings bids me not to cast my pearls before swine; (Matt. 7:6) but I am persuaded of you, my dear brothers, that you can no more fill your bellies with the husks that the swine eat than I can, so now to the business in hand. I must first tell you that our Divine Entertainer has a voice peculiar to Himself. This again brings the dear Old Records to mind: "Never man spake like this man." (John 7:46) He can so address himself to each individual pilgrim that none but the one so addressed shall hear it, though he may at the time be surrounded by others. He has spoken to me when in the company of my wife and children, when surrounded by others in business, when in the train, when in the streets, at home and abroad, yet no one heard that voice but me. The Ancient Writings confirm this: "And the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out;" (John 10:3) also in Isa. 51:2, "I called him alone, and blessed him;" and again in Acts 22:9, "And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." In 1 Kings 19:12, it is called "a still small voice."
Now it was this still small voice that these pilgrims heard and I at the time missed. Their position was favorable, for they were near enough to feel the pulsations of His heart towards them; they were all ears for Him and for no other; as He kissed them each I distinctly heard Him say: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) I will guide thee with mine eye." (Ps. 32:8) "And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you." (Isa. 46:4) "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." (John 10:28-30) And then at parting He said: "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:22) In fact the pilgrims informed me that they swallowed the whole of the Ancient Writings, and they went down so softly that, though I was taking close observation, I observed it not. This brought to mind a portion I had read in my Ancient Records: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." (Jer. 15:16) Now it is common amongst pilgrims, when they are thus blessed, to bless again; and the feeling of their heart at the time is expressed in the Ancient Writings in the following words: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3) "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Pet. 1:3,4) They then began to relate a little of their feelings whilst banqueting with their Host. The agreement of the pilgrims is very noticeable: one spoke for all, the others expressing their consent and assent by nods and smiles. Each one felt himself to be the most unworthy one at the banquet, and willing to take the lowest place as the chief of all sinners and the least of all saints. There was not a command of their most gracious Host with which in their heart they did not comply. They set each other before themselves; all imperfections of fellow-pilgrims were hidden from view by a mantle called "love." This brought to mind some portions of the Holy Writings: "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." (Ps. 84:10) "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet." (John 13:14) They could forgive all those who had trespassed against them, and pray for their very enemies. This again took my thoughts to the Sacred Oracles: "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21,22) "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44) But the pilgrim who was addressing me said with much emphasis: "I can never forgive myself for my many sins of omission and commission, no, never;" as he uttered these words I looked him straight in the face, and I perceived tears running down his cheeks. His fellow-pilgrims were not content to nod assent this time, but each uttered aloud very boldly, "Nor I," Nor I," "Nor I," until it had gone all round the company, and, believe me, there was not a dry eye in that little assembly. There is a moisture about mine whilst I record these facts. Now the spokesman of the pilgrims informed me that, whilst they sat at the banqueting table and were partaking so freely of all the good things there provided, all their burdens were gone, their sorrows were turned into joy, their cup ran over with a joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:8) for the more they ate the clearer was the view of their most gracious Host at the head of the table. They beheld His wonderful condescension, which was a cause of much wonder to them, and, as they got a clearer view, they saw that He was all smiles. This made them weep and weep again, in fact, the one speaking to me said he felt as though he should swoon away, and, by the nod and smile of the others, I believe it was the same with them. This agrees with some Ancient Writings in my dear old Book: "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me." (Songs 2:4-6) The pilgrim who spoke for the rest said this feast was a cure for all ills. There was no complaint or sickness from which any of them had suffered, no trial or temptation, no suffering or persecution, no loss or cross, no pain or sorrow, no guilt or condemnation, no grief or misery, for which this feast was not a perfect remedy. Here were cleansing for the filthy, pardon for the guilty, clothing for the naked, food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, rest for the weary, salvation for the lost, full payment for the insolvent.
"Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine."
And all this free, without money and without price. This pilgrim informed me that their most glorious Host did not cease to smile during the whole banquet, and the nearer they got to Him the more He smiled. There was, he said, such a holy atmosphere pervading the whole chamber that it had a wonderful effect upon them; they breathed it into their very souls. This again brought a portion of the Ancient Writings to mind. "Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for ever." (Ps. 93:5) "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb. 12:14) He continued his narration, which was very sweet to my ears, and I gladly bade him go on. "Well," he said, "as our most glorious Host made as though He would withdraw from the table, we rose up and moved towards Him, being conscious of a constraining and drawing power. (Hos. 11:4) The nearer we approached Him, the more we saw of the matchless beauty of His Person, and the more were we conscious of the Spirit of Holiness being breathed into us. (John 20:22) Never did I feel (and I am sure I may speak for my fellow-pilgrims) such a spirit of humility as at this time; each of us most willingly took the lowest seat at His most blessed feet; when here, He said with a smile 'Come up higher.'" (Luke 14:10)
"Never," said this dear pilgrim, "shall I forget my feelings (though I cannot express them) as I rose up at His most blessed invitation. I sobbed and sobbed again, till my whole frame shook with convulsions. He drew me nearer to Him, until my head rested on dear John's pillow, His loving breast. As I sat at His feet I saw the nail holes, made when on the Cross. I wept over them and kissed them, and, as I arose, I caught sight of the spear wound in His side, and, as He put His left hand under my head and His right hand embraced me, I caught sight of the nail holes therein, and then my eyes beheld the thorn pricks that pierced His head. Little wonder I was in such convulsions. I could do nothing but weep; my feelings were: 'Why me! Why me!! Why me!!!' Oh," said the dear pilgrim, "if ever I hated sin, it was then. Oh, what a holy abhorrence I felt against all iniquity; sin to me then was exceeding sinful. It was my sins that nailed Him there! Oh, what redemption cost Him!--love and blood, love and blood." He could hardly get the words out for emotion, and I could hardly see him for tears. This brought to my mind a portion I had read in the Ancient Writings: "And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zech. 12:10) After such a season of holy indulgence and blessed intercourse with their Beloved, their feelings at His withdrawing can better be imagined than expressed. They told me of all the necessary armor with which they had been freely provided by their most gracious Host, and that they had been exhorted to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, remembering that they that endure to the end shall be saved. (Matt. 24:13) Now by this time we had reached a four-went way, and as the pilgrims for the most part were laboring men, poor in this world, rich in faith, (James 2:5) it was necessary for them to part here, that they might each go to their labor for the bread that perisheth, and provide things honest in the sight of God and man for themselves and those dependent upon them. True, I observed in the company one or two of the better sort; I mean, more prosperous in providence than the others, but they all had things in common. A word or two with one of these more prosperous pilgrims convinced me that he was a pilgrim indeed; he spoke of his feelings in the banqueting house and said the iron sinew of his neck dissolved and his hands were freed entirely from the thick clay with which they had long been encumbered. At this statement I observed a smile on the faces of one or two others who, I gathered from their appearance, had been much engaged at some time in this clay business. Now at this moment the good pilgrim, who had acted as spokesman for the rest, stepped up to me and quoted a portion of the Ancient Writings. I did not wonder at this, hearing from his own lips how he had swallowed the whole. I knew he must be very conversant with those Writings, and this is the substance of the portion that he quoted: "The good man of the house has gone and taken a bag of money with him," (Prov. 7:19,20) and added aside, as though he did not want the rest to hear, "I am getting short of spending money." Knowing well what it is to have an empty pocket, I felt much for him, and was just about to tell him of a certain Banker of pilgrims' fame, when he again quoted from the Sacred Oracles; and this is what he said: "I will go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth." (Songs 3:2) This rejoiced my heart, and I replied, "They that seek shall find." (Matt. 7:7)
Now, in my reverie, my thoughts hovered around these pilgrims at this parting point, and what I saw I will faithfully report. As they shook hands they all expressed a hope of meeting again shortly; and one, quoting from the Ancient Writings, said: "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching," (Heb. 10:25) to which the whole company gave hearty assent, promising to meet again, all being well, on the following Sabbath. As they parted, I particularly noticed the one or two to whom the King of pilgrims had given a little more of this world's goods, and though they turned their backs towards the place where I stood, I observed their hands go into their pockets. Though they appeared anxious that their left hand should not know what their right hand did, (Matt. 6:3) I could but observe that their pockets were turned inside out, and the contents most lovingly and willingly distributed amongst their fellow-pilgrims. This brought to mind a portion I had read in the Holy Writings: "And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." (Acts 2:45; and Acts 4:34,35) I noticed as they gave of their substance such a sweet peace on their countenances, tears being in their eyes, that I could not help thinking of my Ancient Writings wherein I had read: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) The pilgrims who received of this bounty were, I observed, as much affected as those who gave, and this accounts for the silence that reigned at that moment. Presently one of the pilgrims, recovering his feelings a little, said to their kind benefactors, "God bless thee!" and I distinctly heard the reply "And God bless thee!" With these words the dear pilgrims parted. Now, not being in any haste to leave the spot, I stood a few moments, when I heard the pilgrims singing as they wended their way to their respective spheres of labor, and this is what they were all singing--
"When is it brethren all agree,
And let distinctions fall?
When, nothing in themselves, they see
That Christ is all in all."
These pilgrims expected a rough and trying path because of the armor their glorious Host had fitted them out with, but I venture to assert it turned out to be far more so than they had anticipated. However, as they had swallowed the Ancient Writings, they well knew that it is recorded there that it is through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom. (Acts 14:22) Now, as I had found the company of these pilgrims good, it was my desire to keep in touch with them, and, as they had arranged to meet on Sabbath days, there was a feeling in my heart to meet with them, that I might learn a little how it fared with them. If in the company of these pilgrims you have felt your heart warmed and your bowels refreshed, give God the praise. If I fall into another reverie, you shall hear from me again. For the present farewell. God bless thee and the hill folk!
Yours affectionately to serve in the Gospel.
N. B.--As this business grows in my hand, I have addressed this second part of my "Reverie" to my old friend.....jointly with yourself, as I know you like things in common, and I send it by way of the hills, that there be no confusion. I know my old friend....though, like myself, residing in the lowlands, oft casts an eye towards the hill-country, and if you and he get your penny in reading, as I have mine in writing, we shall sit on the lowest seat when next we meet at the shepherd's tent.
February 16th, 1912.
MY DEAR OLD FRIENDS,
For the third time this week I am paying you a visit, and if you find me tiresome do not fall out with me; cast my paper kites on the fire, and forgive. But, to tell you the truth, I can no more keep my thoughts from going after these pilgrims than at another time I can make them go; and I promised that if I fell into another reverie you should hear from me again. When I awoke this morning a limb of the old man awoke too and began to show me the difficulties of the way, my many needs, my poor position, and the silence of God to all my groans and sighs. This put me to it for a time very acutely; but, my reverie coming on, I slipped off into the company of the pilgrims, when I breathed another air and forgot my misery. I concluded my last by speaking of the parting of the pilgrims and the liberality of the better-off ones to their poorer brethren. Just as I had written the verse I heard the pilgrims singing, someone came along with a sack of potatoes from one of these better-off pilgrims; and, as we were nearly out, I felt how opportune the moment and the gift, and I could say "God bless thee!" Whilst I am about the King's business He is looking after mine. I never had a better Master or a safer Banker. All I put into His hands He takes care of. I live on the interest and the capital is sure. I cannot touch it, and it is out of the reach of all that would. This reminds me of what I have read in the Ancient Writings: "Your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) Now for the pilgrims. Methought I saw them assembled together on the Sabbath, as previously arranged. I noticed they all had a cleanly appearance and a sober deportment, and one thing that pleased me much was their punctuality. Keeping close to them, I overheard one remark that he loved to be in time, as his Lord had not told him which part of the service He would bless, only that He would be there. This brought to mind the Ancient Writings where it says: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20) I thought to myself "This pilgrim has got an appetite," and, knowing my Master is wondrously kind and liberal to hungry souls, I kept my eye on this pilgrim. I was anxious to see how it fared with him, as I remembered reading in the Ancient Chronicles as follows: "He hath filled the hungry with good things," (Luke 1:53) and also, "Them that honour me I will honour." (1 Sam. 2:30)
I could not help noticing the number of young people in the congregation. Their quiet becoming manner and reverential attention did me good and pleased me much. I felt a prayer go out of my heart to the Lord, that He would abundantly bless them and make them pillars in His cause here, that they might be a people to praise Him and a generation to call Him blessed when those who are older in years have passed away.
The service commenced by one of the pilgrims giving out a hymn. I noticed his grave deportment and solemn demeanor; this caused me to take closer observation, when I saw he was no raw recruit, for I could distinctly see scars about his face and hands, which convinced me he was an old warrior. His articulation was clear, and he spoke through his throat. The hymn sung was the following:--
"How did my heart rejoice to hear
My friends devoutly say,
In Zion let us all appear,
And keep the solemn day!
"I love her gates; I love the road;
The church, adorn'd with grace,
Stands like a palace built for God
To show his milder face.
"Up to her courts, with joys unknown,
The holy tribes repair;
The Son of David holds his throne,
And sits in judgment there.
"He hears our praises and complaints,
And, while his awful voice
Divides the sinners from the saints,
We tremble and rejoice.
"Peace be within this sacred place,
And joy a constant guest;
With holy gifts and heavenly grace,
Be her attendants blest.
"My soul shall pray for Zion still,
While life or breath remains;
There my best friends, my kindred dwell;
There God my Saviour reigns."
Now, by taking close observation of the pilgrim referred to as having an appetite, I saw his lips did not move after singing the first verse. When the pilgrims began to sing the second verse, "I love her gates, I love the road," he was dumb. By his countenance I could tell the lump was in his throat, his eyes were moistened, he did not look about at others, his eyes were on his book. I knew the secret: "faith was mixed with what he read," and, with the eye of faith looks up, pilgrims have a way of dropping their head; so did this pilgrim, and the louder pilgrims sing with the heart the less noise they make. It brought to mind a portion of the Holy Writings, "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Eph. 5:19) I saw several pilgrims here who were not at the banqueting house, and I noticed some mingled with the pilgrims whom I took to be outer-court worshippers, not real pilgrims. This brought to mind what I had read in the old Writings: "We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach." (Isa. 4:1) They appeared to me to lack the spirit of humility: their eyes were all over the place, and I noticed some degree of wantonness about their look; they shifted about in their seats and had more care for the clock than for the service. There was a total disregard for the Lord of the place, no reverence for His house or His service. This grieved me not a little. Those words I had read in my old Writings came to my mind: "They were not all Israel that were of Israel." After reading a portion of the Ancient Writings, with some apparent feeling, the minister engaged in prayer. It did me good to hear him; he might have been living with me all the week, for he walked up and down in my breast until it was just as though I myself was praying. A pilgrim who sat next to me did really shake the seat with emotion. I could not help thinking of the Ancient Writings where it reads: "My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." (Ps. 22:14) It grieved me to observe by their heavy breathing that some, who I fear were outer-court worshippers only, were fast asleep during this solemn exercise. However, my appetite was now whetted for the discourse. I had been anxious to know where these pilgrims fed and what sort of ministry it was they sat under. Now, as I was favorably impressed, the minister had got my ear, having already got my heart. After having lifted up a prayer for the preacher and the hearers, and myself in particular, I was ready for the discourse. His subject was based upon the Ancient Writings; the words spoken from are to be found in Matt. 12:35, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things." He set about it like a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. He stripped the sinner of all his fancied righteousness, brought Moses to him face to face till the poor wretch cried out for quarter; but Moses said: "No quarter here; pay or die." The poor sinner kicked and plunged, tugged and toiled, groaned and sighed, and, though it was a lingering death, he died at last, for he had nothing to pay with. Now, said the speaker, this is how God makes a good man. I said, "Amen" to it. He did not leave him here, but showed most blessedly how the Holy Spirit directs this poor sinner to Calvary--to the bleeding, slaughtered Saviour; how, by faith in Him, the sinner receives this good treasure into his heart. Pardon, peace, sanctification, and redemption are all his by virtue of his union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Washed in the blood of the Lamb, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, this man now rejoices with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. This was the substance of the morning's discourse. I had noticed the countenances of some of the pilgrims; they were visibly affected, their faces brightened up, their eyes were moist, indicative of a soft heart; they seemed loath to leave the place, and so was I.
Now, in my reverie, methought after the service I moved about the company, and found myself alongside of the pilgrim who had been spokesman for the others after leaving the banqueting house, whom I greeted thus: "God bless thee!" and he smilingly replied, "God bless thee!" I inquired if this was his home. He replied: "God bored my ears to the door posts of His house here years ago." It had been to him the footsteps of the flock, and many times he had fed beside the shepherds' tents. (Song 1:8) He had found such rich pasture here that he had no desire to wander elsewhere. He said he was one that abode at home and dwelt among his own people. I replied: "The fare seemed rich and tasty as though it had not hung long on hand." "No," he said, "we generally get it hot from the spit. There are many that reject it, but they have saucy stomachs; never having been brought off the old cask, there is no relish and no room for the new wine." At this moment one passed us in the way and I inquired if he was a pilgrim. "Well," he said, "he professes to be, but his head is in the clouds; if you notice his gait, he does not walk straight, and if you were to talk to him for a month you couldn't get him down." "But," I asked, "how is it he can listen to such things as we have heard this morning?" "Well," he replied, "he is like a sink hole; he can drink down clean water as well as dirty; it is all the same to such professors." I sorrowfully thought of what I had read in my Ancient Writings: "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: there his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." (Jer. 48:11)
Presently we came upon a company of people who, my fellow-pilgrim informed me, regularly attended at the same shepherd's tent; so I hoped we should fall into some profitable conversation. As we drew nearer to them, I overheard one speaking about his crops, another his farm, another his merchandise; another was backbiting some pilgrims, and another finding fault with all and everybody but himself. I said to my fellow-pilgrim: "This is no company for us," and he replied "No, and I don't purpose having any of it;" so we made to go by, when one of this company sprang to our side and walked along with us, and I think I never heard a man talk so fast in all my life. He spoke of such solemn blessed truths with a lightness that wounded me. He had had a good hearing that morning and was full of glee; but, with all he said, he could not get himself down my neck, and, looking at my fellow-pilgrim, I could see he was bored with it. So I looked this talking-man straight in the face and I said, "Say Shibboleth," and for the life of him he could not frame his mouth aright to say it; (Judges 12:6) then we passed on. My friend said: "I know him very well; he always has a good hearing time, he never comes but what he feeds, and he feeds anywhere and everywhere; for next time we gather together he is likely to be gone. He is not one of those who abide by the stuff." The Ancient Writings came to my mind again: "Meddle not with them that are given to change." (Prov. 24:21)
Now, at this moment I observed a very serious looking man approaching us, and I thought from his appearance he would be good company; so, after greetings of a pilgrim kind, we fell to talking. He said some very good things, which found an echo in my heart, so I listened the more attent. My adorable Host's name was freely mentioned, His love, His blood, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection and intercession. He spoke of what privileges the pilgrims here enjoyed; he did not think there was one poor and feeble person among them. All the time he was talking I noticed that he kept his eyes looking upwards, and, having in my pocket a pair of scales, (1 John 4:1; Ps. 62:9) I weighed his utterances by them; but when I had put all in, I could not get 16oz. to the pound. Then I made reference to my Sacred Oracles, and I read in Obadiah, verse 4: "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord;" and Acts 1:11, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" I said to my fellow-pilgrim, "Do you know anything of this man?" "Know yes; only I thought you should test him yourself. I have known him for years: he is always the same, he never has any changes. (Ps. 55:19) I have never seen his countenance change, except when you want to touch his pockets; these he always keeps well buttoned. I have never heard him say he was a poor, lost, ruined, and undone sinner, neither have I ever seen him affected under the word. I have for a long time come to the conclusion there is nothing the matter there. He can sleep as comfortably under the preaching as on a feather bed." "Ah," I replied, "and more so, I expect," for I remembered a portion of the Holy Writings: (Ezek. 33:32) "And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not."
At this moment my fellow-pilgrim touched my arm and said: "See that man yonder coming this way?" I replied, "Yes." He said, "Let us make for him," and, as we drew nearer to each other, I observed that he was lame and poorly clad and his appearance indicative of much labor. I said to my friend: "The poor man is lame." He smiled and said: "Have you forgotten the Ancient Writings where it says 'the lame take the prey?'" (Isa. 33:23) I fell under the gentle reminder. By this time we had come up with him. My fellow-pilgrim introduced him to me as one of the pilgrims that sat at the table in the banqueting house; but I could not call him to mind. Besides I knew that none of the pilgrims there was lame. This put me to an inquiry, and, after our salutations, I said: "Well, friend, how is it you have come by this lameness, since I know your legs were equal when you sat at meat?" "Ah," he sighed, "when I came from that banqueting house I was as brave a soldier as any of my fellow-pilgrims, and our most adorable Host clothed me in armor, and gave me a sword the same as the rest." Here he paused, his voice seemed to fail him, and methought he was about to swoon. I saw tears in his eyes, and he sobbed out: "And I have lost the whole outfit." Having myself experienced this loss and the restoration of all again, I was about to speak of it to him, hoping that the King of pilgrims would bless the narration to my distressed companion. However, he was like a bottle wanting vent, and, as he seemed inclined to talk, I was just as much inclined to listen; so I bade him talk on. "Well," he said, "I would not unbosom myself to you, but, perceiving you are of my company, I have a mind to ease myself and hope I shall not burden you. I am not a little careful to whom I talk nowadays, for many are running to and fro with whom I cannot keep pace. One of this class overtook me recently, and bade me gird myself about, read the King's Chronicles, pluck up a spirit and move forward along with him; but I told him my wings could by no means help myself. He remarked that he was afraid I had been indulging in some sin, or had neglected to read the Ancient Writings and make proper use of the remedies therein prescribed. I replied, 'I never could, since I came on pilgrimage, be satisfied with reading the Ancient Writings, neither did prayer satisfy me.' He said: 'I see you are one of those conceited know-alls I have heard of that reside in these parts.' I replied: 'When the Ancient Writings read me I know it is the word of God, and when my prayers are answered I know God is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God.' 'Oh,' he said, 'you live on frames and feelings.' I replied: 'Blessed be my most gracious Host, I have better provision than my frames and feelings, but I would not be without my frames and feelings for all this world could bestow. He was about to make some further remark, but, being sick of his company, I raised my sword, and, seeing I meant business, he disappeared over the hedge." This statement of my fellow-pilgrim brought to mind a portion I had read in the Ancient Records: "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." (John 10:1) I bade the dear pilgrim go on. "I got a little elated over this exploit, and was beginning to think that, after all, I was making some headway, when there fell upon me a horror of great darkness. (Gen. 15:12) Such fears took possession of me and such afflictions came upon me inside and out, one calamity after another overtaking me, that my cup seemed filled with gall. I groaned and sighed, I cried aloud and roared like a bear, but all of no avail. The archers shot at me at the places of drawing water. (Gen. 49:23 and Judges 5:11) I was hedged up and hedged in on every side. The beasts of the forest crept forth, and, though they are named, they have never been tamed. I am sure you know them, or I would not give you their names; they are infidelity, unbelief, rebellion, hard heart, self-pity, blasphemy, pride, and filth. Without naming more, you will understand that there was, as one dear pilgrim puts it, a mutiny beneath deck, and it rose to such awful heights that, like Job, I cursed my day. Now in all this the bitterest ingredient in my cup of gall was the silence of God. He appeared to take no notice of all my miseries."
I asked him where his armor and his sword were that his kind Host had provided. He replied, "That is just what I am coming to. In the bitterest moment of my distress and in the darkest hour of this most awful night I heard the roaring of a lion, (1 Pet. 5:8) which much increased the terror of my soul."
I said: "Now for the sword!" "Yes," he replied, "I felt for it, but I had no strength in my arm to wield it, and this roaring lion found me and did most terribly mawl me about, and, smiting me on the right leg with my own sword, left me more dead than alive. After a time, coming to myself a little, I felt for my helmet, breastplate, girdle, sword and shoes, but I had been robbed and spoiled of all; and when I tried to arise it was with difficulty, and, as to walking, it was at the best but a poor limping set-out, as you can clearly see. And though, according to the Ancient Writings, (Isa. 59:19) I have not been given over entirely to the will of my enemy, I make but a poor show as a pilgrim, and worse as a soldier of the Cross."
I then remarked to him as follows: "I noticed you stated that this roaring lion of hell, who goeth about seeking whom he may devour, smote you on the right leg with your own sword. Is this really so?" "Yes," he replied, "and there are but few understand me when I speak as I have to speak--in fact, I did not come across one in all this path, for most must walk the darkest path alone. The devil, according to Ancient Writings, quoted scripture to the Lord Himself, and so he did to me; and with this he smote me and wounded me sore. That jeering voice of his I do not think I shall ever forget, as he sneeringly said, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from you;' and my leg has troubled me ever since, for, as you well know, the legs of the lame are not equal." (Prov. 26:7)
At this point I asked my lame companion why he had hobbled all this way, for he said he had come a considerable distance. "Well," he replied, "there is no surgeon about our parts skilled in such cases as mine. Formerly there were more about, but now they are indeed very far apart and but very few. Plenty set up in this business, but, never having been to college or walked the hospitals, they are really nothing but quacks, and I don't believe there are many in the county could make my legs equal. But, because of the many cures effected in this place, and the desperate cases our surgeon takes in hand, his fame has gone abroad, much jealously is stirred up, and his very name stinks in the nostrils of these quacks and all those that are at ease in this part of the King's dominions."
But how is it, I asked, that this surgeon is so skilled? "Well, he is not only a pupil, but a son, of the greatest of all Physicians (the pilgrims' most gracious Host), and his Father has seen to his training in view of putting him into His business. He has not kept him all his days dandled on His knees, but has made him rough it a good bit, as we country folk call it. He has had to take many a purging draught himself and wait for a tonic, so that he knows just when to administer both, and the effect they will produce is well known to him. As to surgery--well, his Father had him torn limb from limb, and dissected every part of him; and the sight, he will tell you to this day, he never will forget. His Father did not leave him here, or he would have died outright, but He put him together again, set him up on his legs, and he found he never walked better in all his life. This was done in secret and carried on for the most part out of sight; and when his Father set him up in business, so I have heard him say, He said to him 'What I have taught thee in secret proclaim thou upon the housetops,' and I believe he has been faithful to his charge. He ascribes all the glory to his Father, and gives Him, and Him only, all the praise and honor and glory for all the cures that are effected and the good that is done. He says it is his Father that does it all, and I have heard him confess that he is the most unprofitable and unworthy son that ever stood up in the name of his Father. He never takes a case in hand without prayer, he carries it on in prayer and finishes in prayer, yet is never satisfied with prayer. He wants prayer turned into praise, and when He sees life amongst the dry bones, the crying of the babes, and the sucking at the breasts of Zion's consolations, he looks for fruit and watches well the charge committed to his care. He takes out right eyes, cuts off right arms and feet, and is very skilful at bone-setting. A certain oil he uses supples every joint. I have seen pilgrims come to him here on crutches and go away with the free use of every limb, leaving their crutches behind them. Sometimes they, with tears, tell him of their cure. He always says: 'Give God the praise.' So I am bound for his tent. I heard this morning some good news, but I did not get a cure. He tells us we are all dependent upon his Father's will and bounty, and we know that well. He tells us we may have to come many times without getting a cure, and may not get it till we come to die; but we are bound to get it then, if not before. He traces out my case and brings the cure forth, but he says he cannot make an application of it. His Father must do that, and this I firmly believe, for it has been burnt into me in the furnace of affliction. I have heard him say he has a cure for the rickets, lameness, sore feet, stiff limbs and hands, empty stomachs and empty pockets, swelled heads, stiff necks and the shoulder-jib, hard heart and contracted bowels; and I believe it is true, having had at different times an attack of these disorders and obtained a cure of relief here, so you will not wonder at my coming to this tent today under my present conditions."
I was loath to leave the company of this good pilgrim. My companion the spokesman and myself had found a little warmth kindled in our breast as we had listened to his narration; but it was high time now to turn to the shepherd's tent for the closing service of the Sabbath. As we turned to retrace our footsteps towards the tent, my companion spoke to one I took to be a pilgrim; but I could not hear that he received any reply, so I said "Is he deaf?" "Deaf--no," he replied, "but his soul is not in his ears." I asked "How's that?" "Well," he said, "I hope he is a pilgrim, for I have hoped well of him for years; but he has had some money left him and has had a few good years in business. Now, somehow, you can't seem to get near him. If you look in his direction presently you will see him asleep. He has no ear for experimental truth or appetite for pilgrims' conversation." "Is he a good supporter of the cause?" I asked. "Well, he used to be when times were trying with him, but now I have heard it is hard work to get a sixpence from him." "Alas! Alas! the thick clay," I uttered as we entered the tent. The same old pilgrim gave out the opening hymn as in the morning, and this was it:--
"Once more we come before our God,
Once more his blessing ask;
O may not duty seem a load,
Nor worship prove a task.
"Father, thy quickening Spirit send
From heaven, in Jesus' name,
To make our waiting minds attend,
And put our souls in frame.
"May we receive the word we hear,
Each in an honest heart;
Hoard up the precious treasure there,
And never with it part.
"To seek thee all our hearts dispose;
To each thy blessings suit;
And let the seed thy servant sows
Produce a copious fruit.
"Bid the refreshing north wind wake;
Say to the south wind, Blow;
Let every plant the power partake,
And all the garden grow.
"Revive the parch'd with heavenly showers;
The cold with warmth divine;
And, as the benefit is ours,
Be all the glory thine."
As we took our seats I distinctly heard my spokesman-pilgrim who sat next to me say "Amen!" I touched his arm and smiled approval; the under-shepherd then read a portion from the Holy Writings which seemed as a goad in my side to urge me forward in the right way. In prayer he seemed to ransack every corner of my heart. I verily thought my spokesman-pilgrim must have been telling him all about our ups and downs. However, he had got my heart and ear too, so that, when he arose to resume this morning's discourse, I was all attention. There seemed a sacred air about the place, and I noticed that the people, for the most part, were quiet and attentive. In the morning, he said, "we traced out the experience of everyone whom God makes a good man; how God makes him so, what He does in and for him, and the sinner's feelings under these operations of the hand of God; the grace, favor, and mercy of God in the Person of His dear Son, by the operations of the Holy Ghost, being implanted in his heart. Now, this afternoon we are to speak of this good man bringing forth good things out of this good treasure of his heart, and, mind you, it is all by the gracious power of the Holy Spirit, whose every grace is in the heart of this man: faith, hope, prayer, love, patience, submission, godly sorrow, humility, meekness, godly fear, joy, peace and obedience, repentance and contrition, godly conversation, communion of saints, rehearsing the righteous acts of God and talking of His wonders in the deep." He spoke much upon the trials that come upon this good man to bring out these good things. As he traced the ups and downs, ins and outs of a pilgrim's life, I felt a south wind flow over me, which softened and humbled my spirit. I inwardly prayed, "Lord, help him! Lord, bless him!" and kept saying, as though talking to the preacher, "Go on! go on!" Having a care for others, I could not help thinking of my lame friend, and was wondering how it fared with him; so I just glanced around and I caught sight of him wiping away a falling tear, but he had no eyes for anyone but the preacher.
My spokesman-pilgrim touched my arm with his two or three times when the preacher made use of the very words we had been saying together, and so confirmed us that we felt it was no other than the house of God to our souls. As to the poor old lame pilgrim, I felt what a confirmation it was of all he had been narrating; and somehow my eyes would go now and again in his direction. The last time I looked his head was down, and I thought "faith is up." At the close of the service I hoped to get a word with him; but he rose quickly, and as he passed my seat he shook my hand most warmly and was gone, yet not before I had time to look at his face and observe his gait. The oil had suppled every joint, his legs were again equal, for his face did shine; I knew the secret of his quick exit and thought of the man who fell among thieves, so I knew there was wisdom in his slipping off to enjoy his morsel alone with his God. I wished my spokesman-pilgrim adieu; we parted in the hope of meeting again. I said: "Our lame friend has slipped off." He smiled and said: "'The lame man shall leap as an hart.' Farewell! farewell! my brother."
Now in my reverie methought I saw two hills the King of pilgrims has appointed for His little flock to ascend as they pass through this vale of sorrow, from the top of which they can get a sight of the King's country. I went to the foot of these hills (one was called Hill Mizar and the other Mount Hermon), and a shining one there, appointed by the King of Pilgrims, bade me ascend, which I proceeded to do; the air was calm and soft, and in such company it was smooth going. Arriving at the top, I first took a survey of the country beneath me, which at this distance did not look anything like so difficult and dangerous as I had experienced it to be in passing through it. Looking down, the path seemed straight enough, but oh, how crooked it had seemed to me, and, as I gave expression to these thoughts, the shining one smiled and said: "The crooks are all in you; the road is straight enough." I fell under it in my feelings, and said, "True, only too true!" I then thought I could see pilgrims from the north, south, east, and west wending their way towards these hills on which I was standing; for, be it known, these hills are right in the pilgrim's path to the King's country, and every pilgrim must ascend them--the King has so ordered it. I saw that some of the pilgrims were in difficulties: some were sighing and groaning, some were in imminent danger from the pitfalls and wild animals that infest these lowlands, and many were the sorrows of all. But, under the Divine guidance of their glorious Captain (though they could not see Him, He could see them), they were all making straight for these hills whereon I stood. My very bowels yearned over them, and after I had taken a glimpse at the land beyond, where there is no sorrow or sin, temptation, or trial, and our most glorious Lord, the Captain of our salvation, is the light thereof and the heat thereof, my shining one bade me farewell; and I descended there hills, being made to feel willing, for poor pilgrims' sake, to tarry awhile with them still, that I might be of some little use in directing, cheering, and comforting them, as our most glorious Host may see fit to order it.
Now if you have profited at all in the company of these pilgrims and felt somewhat enlarged and refreshed, give God the praise; and, as I have spent my penny in your company, I should welcome a few handfuls of corn winnowed with the shovel and with the fan. If you can bring some when next this way, I shall be glad to get my head into your nose-bag. It must be well winnowed, for now, getting on in life, and with bad teeth, I can't chew chaff; and my throat refuses to swallow husks--they bring on a fit of coughing. So please remember that I want the finest of the wheat well winnowed. I believe your stomachs are just as saucy as mine. Farewell! God bless you both! My love to the hill folk.
Yours to serve in the Gospel.
February 19th, 1912.
MY DEAR OLD FRIENDS,
Feeling that the damps and fogs of these lowlands are not agreeable, and fearing from conversation I have overheard from beneath deck, that, if I stay at home, this may prove a black Monday, I am determined to travel abroad in search of more congenial companionship, so find myself seeking after the pilgrims once more in hopes of breathing a milder and softer air than is to be obtained in this low country. I am a poor, leaky vessel, but if you, my dear friends, have got a little oil in the cruse and a little meal in the barrel, we may hope to endure till the fain or soft showers again descend. However, again falling into a reverie, I find myself once more in the company of pilgrims. It is congenial to me, and, having in the past reaped much profit from my associations with them, I hope this occasion may prove of like nature.
In my last reverie we parted company at the shepherd's tent to these parts, and my thoughts would go that way again. Methinks, if it was for no other purpose than that which I hope now to communicate, it may not have been in vain. I saw in my reverie, as I was drawing towards the tent, a poor man bearing the stamp of a pilgrim, and, overtaking him, for he made a poor hand at getting over the ground, I greeted him with a "Good morning, friend," to which he replied, "Same to you." "Wending your way to the tent, I see." "Yes," he replied, and sighed. He did not seem inclined to talk, and I had no springing well or pump to draw with, so I thought to pass on, but, by taking observation of him, I perceived he was well on in life, and, though not so lame as many, he walked with a stick, by way, I concluded, of a little assistance. I looked at him as I walked by his side, and I felt sure he was a man of a sober spirit, one that had weathered many storms. My heart went out to him, though he gave me no encouragement whatever, and I broke silence by saying: "I see, friend, you have had to take to a stick in your old age." "Ah," he replied, "I have had this stick many a day, and what I should have done without it I don't know." He said, "It came from the Holy Land." "Oh," I replied. "Yes, it's true, because I have had it confirmed by the King of that country." I looked closely at the stick, and as I did so my friend said, "Do you know the name of it?" "Yes," I said, "I do, and I can see the name is stamped on it from end to end. 'Who can tell?' (Jonah 3:9) is the name of it. I have one just like it, and what I should have done without it I cannot tell. I have climbed walls, gone through sloughs, floods, and flames with that stick." "Ah," he smiled and said, "you have ploughed with my heifer, or you would never have found out my secret, for many have looked at that stick and have been unable to read the writing, so they could not tell the name thereof." This seemed to touch a spring in our hearts, and we fell to talking. I said: "You referred to the King just now. Have you heard that He gave a banquet recently to some pilgrims in these parts?" He replied with a smile, "I should think I have, for I was there." "Oh," I replied, "I don't remember seeing you there." "That's very likely," he said; "For, if you were like me, you had no eyes for any but Him, and I am sure I didn't know another that was there only as I saw them afterwards and as they witnessed by their manner and conversation where they had been. It was to me as though there was not another anywhere but my most gracious Host and me. Lovers want no other company, and so I found it." "Well, old friend, then I will undertake to say you have got another stick beside this one." "Yes, I have; but that's at home. I never bring it out in cloudy weather, and, as it's a bit stormy this morning and mists hang over the horizon, I was forced to bring this one." "I see you are an honest man." "Yes," he said, "not only when my Master is looking, but when His back is turned. In my copy of the Ancient Writings I read: 'Let him that stole steal no more.'" (Eph. 4:28) "If not asking too much, I should like to know the name of the stick you have at home." "Well," "if you have got one of the same sort, you know without my telling you;" and then, with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "I believe you know as much about it as I do." "Well, my good friend, notwithstanding your remark, I should like to have the information I seek, for you have touched a spring in my heart that won't be turned aside." "Well," he said, "this stick I hold in my hand is common amongst pilgrims in these parts. I don't know one to whom the King of Pilgrims has not given one of these sticks. If it hadn't been for this, many a time I believe I could never have reached the shepherd's tent, neither could I possibly have endured until now; but the stick at home is not so common or general with pilgrims. True, our most gracious King is just as pleased to bestow it, but, for wise ends and purposes, many have to go on the greater part of their pilgrimage before He presents them with one. With that one at home I have done exploits. (Dan. 11:32) I have thrashed, within an inch of his life, the old man that dwells in my house and has often plagued me; sometimes it has taken him a long time to recover, for I have not left oft for his much crying. There was not a limb of him on which I did not leave a mark. (He can shed tears at a fearful rate, professes to be very sorry, and mimics repentance so much that at times he has deceived me.) I have routed hosts of enemies, internal and infernal, and once or twice I have given the devil such a thrashing that he as had to beat a retreat." "Well done, brother," I said. "Nay, nay, not so, my friend; you know where to place the crown." "Yes," I replied, "but I was thinking of the discourse I lately heard at the tent here on the good man and the good treasure." "Yes, it is all of grace," he said. "Agreed, my brother," I replied. "Well," he said smilingly, "can you tell me the name of my stick? For your further guidance I will just add that I take it our only when the sun shines; that is how it is I have not brought it this morning, and it is a native of the same country as this one." "Methinks," I replied, "that, as the name of the stick in your hand is 'Who can tell?' the name of the one at home is 'I can tell.' (2 Tim. 1:12) 'For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.'" "Well done, brother," he said, with a smile; "I know you are in possession of the same stick, but whether you have left it at home or have it beneath your waistcoat I can't say."
By this time we had reached the tent, and a goodly company had gathered together. I stuck close to my friend and took a seat beside him. The same old warrior, I was glad to see, was at the desk. It did me good to see him there. Novices in this position are dishonoring to the King of pilgrims. This was the opening hymn:--
"Come, saints, and sing in sweet accord,
With solemn pleasure tell,
The covenant made with David's Lord;
In all things order'd well.
"This covenant stood ere time began,
That God with man might dwell;
Eternal wisdom drew the plan;
In all things order'd well.
"This covenant, O believer, stands,
Thy rising fears to quell;
Seal'd by thy Surety's bleeding hands;
In all things order'd well.
"'Twas made with Jesus, for his bride,
Before the sinner fell;
'Twas sign'd, and seal'd and ratified;
In all things order'd well.
"When rolling worlds depart on fire,
And thousands sink to hell,
This covenant shall the saints admire;
In all things order'd well.
"In glory, soon, with Christ their King,
His saints shall surely dwell;
And this blest covenant ever sing;
In all things order'd well."
This seemed to bring a little of the soft air from the hills down to where I sat, so that I breathed more freely; and I noticed a quivering in the voice of the clerk as he read the third verse, telling me that the refreshing breeze had reached him also. This produced in me a fellow-feeling and set me looking out for more.
As the minister read and prayed I was attent, so was my friend who sat next to me. I could hear him now and again heave a deep sigh. The minister took for his text Ps. 66:6, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul." While the preacher was tracing out this fear of God, with its fruits and effects, I noticed that my old friend who sat next to me was visibly affected, so much so that after the service I exclaimed at seeing him walking with the same old stick. "Well," he said, "For a few moments I felt my heart all aglow and my very soul was in my ears, for methought I heard the wheels of my glorious King's chariot; but if I did, He passed by and did not stop where I was, so that at the close of the service I was glad to find my old stick near at hand. But I am glad I was here ('being in the way,' the Lord met with them), and 'who can tell?' still sticks with me." During the interval we walked away alone, and I found this pilgrim's company very congenial. He said: "I am very particular about my company; it is not all that make a show of being pilgrims with whom I can get on. Did you notice some come in late this morning?" he asked. I replied, "Yes, and always grieved I am to see it." "So am I," he said. The time is appointed, the King of pilgrims has promised to be there and to see how many totally disregard punctuality and thus cast a reproach on our King and His cause is grievous indeed. Of course, at times there may be a legitimate excuse; but some are habitual in this practice. I don't think they can feel much reverence for the house or the Lord of it, neither do I think they can have a case but what they can manage themselves. What say you?" "I am quite of your opinion," I replied.
At this moment a man came toward us whom, by his gait and general bearing, I took to be intoxicated and moved aside to avoid him; but he would not be thus denied, so he hailed us in pilgrim language and asked if we had been to the tent, to which we replied in the affirmative. He said this was not his home; he was on a visit to these parts, and, as was his custom, he had been to the sanctuary. Seeing that he could talk fairly clearly and thinking I might have misjudged him, I asked how he got on this morning at the tent. He said: "I am not quite used to that line of things; we have the Gospel at our place, not man's experience. I don't call that preaching Christ." At which remark I and my friend pricked up our ears, and I asked him if he could inform me how a man could preach Christ without experience. I said: "Allow me to make myself plain; we are a plain sort of people about here and, I hope, never above learning. How can a man preach Christ unless he has had an experience in his own soul of the preciousness of Christ in His incarnation, humiliation, suffering, blood-shedding, death, resurrection, and intercession, as the Apostle says in the Ancient Writings, 'Christ in you, the hope of glory?' (Col. 1:27) Allow me to add that the Lord Himself says: 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.' (John 6:53) Now how can a man preach Him if he has not eaten His flesh and drunk His blood? If he has not, he is but a dead man; and if he has, then in preaching Him he must speak of this feeding, with its fruits and effects, or how are his hearers to know whether he is a dead man or a living one? Without this it is but the preaching of a dead man, and he is preaching but a dead Christ--that is, Christ in the letter of truth." To this he made reply that he lived above frames and feelings and that their minister had publicly stated that he intended to preach Christ without experience. Then I said: "Tell your minister from me he is a dead man, and it is but a dead Christ he preaches." "Well, but," he said, "our congregation quite approves of our minister's statement and of his preaching; a more respectable and well-conducted cause there is not to be found in our part of the country." I could see his head begin to swell, and as he did not wish for a second edition of what he had heard in the morning, he bade us good day, hoping that we should ere long be led to see better. I replied that, if I could not see better than he could, I was afraid I should make as poor a hand at walking as he appeared to do, and I noticed as he left us how he staggered in walking. My friend remarked: "His head is heavier than his heart, and, whilst that is the case, he never will walk straight." I replied: "What fruit of such a ministry! These preachers do little else but produce rickety children."
We had gone only a few yards, when another grave-looking man greeted us with "Going to the tent younder?" "So we purpose," my friend replied. "Well," he said, "people may say what they like about experimental preaching, but nothing else will do for me. I know my heart is deceitful enough to damn a thousand worlds, and no man ploughed too deep for me yet. I like to hear a man go at it and trace out the malady, for he is sure to find me if he does that." I noticed that he spoke with a gruff, guttural voice, and at the same time I had my suspicions of him, so I quietly replied, "The malady only, my friend, will be a poor companion for a death bed;" but, without replying, he stopped to speak to someone passing, and we escaped him. I said to my companion, "Do you know that man?" "Know him--yes. If you watch him in the tent you will find that, so long as the minister is tracing out the malady, he will be all ears, but directly he brings forth the remedy he will go to sleep." "Well," I said, "how is that? If the man has the malady, what a foolish man he must be so to act when the remedy is brought forth!" "Well," said my friend, "the malady is in his head and not in his heart. He has never felt his sins to be a burden and himself a guilty sinner before a heart-searching God; he has never been brought to judgment. It is but the conviction of a natural conscience, as was Cain's which never leads a man to groan for deliverance with dear Paul: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24) Tomorrow you could find him hanging over a public-house bar, and more at home in the company of the ale-house than with the family of pilgrims." Truly awful! "Yes," he said, "I knew one of these guttural-talking men who never rose above or struck a higher note then the corruptions of his own heart." "Excuse me, my friend, this brings to my mind what I have read in the Ancient Writings: 'Dust shall be the serpent's meat.'" (Gen. 3:14; Isa. 65:25) "Yes," he replied, "and the end of that man was very solemn: he took his own life." "How truly awful! What a mercy if grace has made you and me to differ." "Mercy!" he replied, "was ever mercy so magnified in the salvation of a poor sinner as in my case?" "Friend, I must say the same."
By this time we had reached the tent and entered it with a case, one which neither of us could manage. We took our seat and, with a request to the Great Master of Assemblies for a blessing upon the service, His servant, the people, and ourselves, we were on the look-out for a crumb. Would it come from the desk or the pulpit? Pilgrims don't mind which, so long as it is a crumb of the Bread of life. The opening hymn was:--
"'Tis the gospel's joyful tidings,
Full salvation sweetly sounds;
Grace to heal thy foul backslidings,
Sinner, flows from Jesus' wounds.
"Are thy sins beyond recounting,
Like the sand the ocean laves?
Jesus is of life the fountain;
He unto the utmost saves.
"Hail the Lamb who came to save us;
Hail the love that made him die!
'Tis the gift that God has given us;
We'll proclaim his honours high.
"When we join the general chorus
Of the royal blood-bought throng,
Who to glory went before us,
Saved from every tribe and tongue,
"Then we'll make the blissful regions
Echo to our Saviour's praise;
While the bright angelic legions
Listen to the charming lays."
What a sweet opening! I felt I could say, "Here my best friends, my kindred dwell; here God my Saviour reigns." It seemed to put my heart in tune. A portion of the Sacred Oracles was read in harmony with the hymn given out, and the preacher's prayer was one of the Publican's stamp. He got access after a time, and I felt to enter with him. Oh, I thought, what a privilege is prayer!
"Who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there?"
Then the preacher proceeded with his morning's discourse, and, as he described the ups and downs, the ins and outs of the pilgrim's path, and what God had done for his soul in the many sorrows through which he had been called to pass, I felt my heart aglow. My seat was soft, there was a sacred stillness in the place and a holy calm in my breast; it was none other than the house of God to me. Having fared well, I was anxious to know how it fared with my companion, especially as I heard him say "Amen" two or three times during the discourse. When we got outside and had outstript the people, I looked at him with a smile and said, "Where's your stick?" He replied, "I lost it in the tent, but that was not so great a surprise to me as to find that the one I left at home was concealed beneath my waistcoat. Benjamin was not more surprised to find the silver cup in his sack than I was to find this stick beneath my waistcoat. Oh, what wonders love has done! What a blessed exchange! I came with a 'Who can tell?' I return with 'I know that my Redeemer liveth.' The struggles of hope, the triumphs of faith!"
There being a sweet union in my heart with this dear pilgrim, I invited him to my house; for he that gets into my heart is welcome to my table. I hoped to improve our time by some profitable and edifying conversation. I could tell he was a man of good sound judgment and discretion. After we had refreshed ourselves, I said, "The sun has shone to day, old friend." "Yes," he replied, "it makes my heart like wax." "Yes," I said, "not only warms it, but makes it stick." "Exactly," he replied; "I feel it sticks to Him who has wooed and won it. It sticks to His servant whom He has made use of today; it sticks to His gospel, to His house, to His laws, cause, and people; and, brother, it sticks to thee." "I know it does," I replied, "for I can feel it. I expect you will find that stick again," I remarked. "Yes, this is not the first time I have lost it; it will turn up again as soon as the sun goes down." "I wish the sun would always shine, don't you?" "Rather!" he replied. "I thought it would the first time it rose. What say you, brother?" I said, "You make me smile." "The smile of a pilgrim I love," he replied, "but 'the laughter of the fool' is like 'the crackling of thorns under a pot.'" (Eccles. 7:6) "Surely there are no fools in your part," said I. "How far do you live from one?" he replied. I smiled. He continued: "I used to think it was bad enough to live next door to one, but now I have one in my own house, which is a thousand times worse. I can't get away from him even when I go to bed. He is a sticker!" "You should muzzle him," I suggested. "Muzzle him!" he said, "have you ever tried it?" "I have had a hook put in his jaw," I replied. (Ezek. 29:4) "That won't kill him, brother." "No," I said, "but fools' eyes are weak, they can't stand the light, and the best cure I know of is the bright shining of the sun." "Well! whilst that shines, fools are quiet; you and I have proved that today."
"Now that our hearts are soft and warm and we can speak in love and without bitterness, I should like to know your views of Zion in this cloudy and dark day of sad declension." "Ah! my friend," he replied, "that is a big question, and withal a very solemn one." "Well," I said, "I would not have broached the subject had you been a raw recruit; but, as you are an old pilgrim, you must have noticed a great change come over Zion during your many years of pilgrimage." "True, I have, and not for the better. There are plenty of quacks who have got a cure for all her ills, but I know of one only who can do her any real good, and that is the Great Physician." "These quacks you speak of must be young in the ways of Zion." "Not so; some are well on in the pilgrim's path." "Well," I replied, "I don't think they can be much acquainted with the ills of Zion." "I tell you what it is," he answered, "they don't know much about the plague within, and that is just the truth of the whole matter." "You bring to mind a portion of the Ancient Writings where it says: 'Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.'" (Job 32:9) "Exactly so, my friend. Now, though an unlearned man in this world's education, I will, as you have requested me, 'shew mine opinion' upon the matter under consideration." "Say on, friend, and I will be attent." "Well, years ago, I read in the writings of a certain divine his opinion of the low state of Zion in his day, and he concluded that the primary cause was the ministry; and, by close observation of many years' standing, I am compelled to come to the conclusion that it is the same now. The ministry to a great extent is responsible." "Though not wishing to interrupt you, my friend, in what way do you consider this to be the case?" "Well," he replied, "if God plunges you into the furnace as He has plunged me, you will have the answer in your own breast." "Don't think I disagree with you, my brother, I asked the question only to draw you on a little. You have my heart and my ear. Pray go on." "Yes, I will, with your permission, for I feel my heart warms to the subject. In these days, if a man is really a tried and exercised believer--one whom God has plunged in the ditch till his own clothes abhor him, one called to walk in the path of great tribulation, tried inside and out, riddled in Satan's sieve till every particle of religion he ever had has gone through the meshes of that sieve, the devil roaring, his own heart full of rebellion against the way and the King of it, guilt and condemnation following him up closely, the throne of grace closed, the Word a sealed book, and God silent--he will have to travel many miles in most parts of the King's dominions to find a preacher who understands anything of his case. 'Guilty sinner,' 'condemned wretch,' 'rebellious monster,' 'lump of corruption,' 'a groveling worm,' 'a vile nature,' 'an infidel heart heaving out its filth and venom,' 'hell and damnation' are expressions seldom to be met with in the pulpits of the refined preachers of our day, being quite out of date. The things are touched upon in language more modern, such as 'Are you sad?' 'Do you feel a burden you would be glad to get rid of?' 'Do you after Jesus pine?' 'I know, by seeing you regularly here Sabbath after Sabbath in all weathers, that your heart is here. I know His cause lies near your heart, and the keen interest you take therein and your loving labor in the Sabbath school, or in other matters connected with the sanctuary services, show that you have passed from death unto life, for "by their fruits ye shall know them."' Thus hypocrites are made, and, when made, many of them are dragged into the Churches. I like to hear a man call a spade a spade. If he says 'an implement with a long handle, with a piece of steel or iron at the end,' I don't know which tool he refers to; it may be a hoe, or rake, or shovel, or spade. Well, this is a specimen of most of the preaching of the day. The speaker calls it 'a long handle with a piece of steel or iron at the end,' and leaves his hearers to draw their own conclusions. Thus he avoids offending any but the poor, tried, afflicted, bowed-down child of God, and, as the preacher does not look to him for his support, he cares little or nothing about him. He studies those who study or support him, and the others are neglected. Now, as God led me on and brought me into the furnace of affliction, I found that I had to drop many ministers to whom I could previously listen, and now those I can hear you might, I believe, almost count on the fingers of one hand." "One moment, my dear brother: in that back catalogue you just mentioned as being out of date, you did not mention God's fire in Zion, or His furnace in Jerusalem." "No, but those things I named go to constitute this fire and furnace; still, I am glad you mentioned it, as it brings a few thoughts to mind. We will then add to that black catalogue the words 'fire' and 'furnace.' Now I will undertake to say you may go and hear scores of sermons and never hear this fire or furnace mentioned." "How do you explain that, friend?" "Explain it? It is easy enough. The preacher had never been in either; therefore, he cannot meet the cases of God's poor tried and afflicted people who are there. And that poor man whom God takes in hand to make a preacher that shall meet the cases of His poor tried people, will have a tried path himself, and his life will be given him for a prey. He will be hated by all those that are at ease in Zion, both preachers and people; and these parsons at ease will take care that he never enters their pulpits, for his preaching would be a witness against them, and they know it. And when you find a minister advertising for an engagement, or, when he has got one, making a special advertisement of it, you may put it down at once that that man was never put by God into the ministry." "I quite agree. I would not lend such men my ears for five moments. But one word, old friend: that black catalogue is only one side of the matter; it is only the malady." "Thank you, brother; I might be put down as a corruptionist but for your timely hint." "Not by me, my friend. I knew it was only a lapse of memory for the moment and that you would come round to it presently, as I know you love the other side as much as I do."
"Well, to the point. If, when I hear a man preach, he does not set forth the malady, I know it is of no use listening to him; for he knows nothing of it, and therefore cannot bring forth the remedy. It is like a parable in the mouth of fools. (Prov. 26:7) The King of pilgrims, when on earth, joined Himself to two disciples on their way to Emmaus: 'And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.' (Luke 24:27) Now I love to hear a preacher bring his hearers face to face with Moses, and here the sinner must pay or die. If the preacher is a faithful man, I know he won't direct the sinner to Calvary until he is 'all over as any fiend black,' from head to foot, wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores, a perfect, total, and complete bankrupt, lost, ruined, and undone. Also he will trace out the feelings of this poor, condemned criminal; he will walk up and down inside the man and ransack every corner of his heart; he will read the sinner's very conscience; and thus, by an inward experience in his own soul of these bitter waters, will tell the man his very thoughts and his very feelings. Now, having brought the poor sinner to the spot where he has to put his hand on his mouth and fall down where there is none to help, he directs him to Calvary, to the bleeding wounds of our most adorable Redeemer. He brings forth the remedy, and it is all made known by the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit. He has taken the sinner in hand. As Hart says: 'A sinner is a sacred thing, The Holy Ghost has made him so'--that is, made him sensible of his sinnership. Now the gracious Spirit having written, by the holy law of God, the sentence of condemnation on this man's conscience, He directs the eye of faith to the bleeding Saviour, and, as the minister so minutely describes his case under the law, the sinner is encouraged to hope there may be mercy for him; and the Holy Spirit, working in, through, and by the ministry, raises up faith in this poor sinner's heart to believe what the preacher declares. The Lord Jesus Christ is looked to, hoped in, called upon, sought after, and believed in, according to the measure of faith. Some, in a full deliverance and the liberty of the truth by a powerful application of atoning blood to their guilty conscience, rejoice in Jesus with a joy unspeakable and full of glory; whilst others are brought to a sweet hope in the mercy of God in Christ, and can say their hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. Don't mistake me for a parson, brother, but I feel my heart warm to the subject." "Go on, my friend; if no parson, you are preaching a bit to me. God bless thee!"
"Well, to proceed. What does this poor sinner know about doctrine? Mention the word to him and he will ask for a dictionary; talk to him of experience and you have gained his ear. We hear much of doctrine nowadays. It is doctrine! doctrine!! doctrine!!! But mark my word, friend: a man may have his head filled with doctrine and drop into hell. I don't speak that lightly; it is a solemn truth; doctrine will never save a man; it is the grace of the doctrine, as experimentally felt in his heart, that a poor, hell-deserving sinner must know for himself in order to be saved. Doctrine will never make a man walk right, live right, or die right; but the grace of it will make him do all three, and enable him to fall in with that precious exhortation in Rom. 12:1, 'I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.' Nevertheless, I wish to love and earnestly contend for sound doctrine; I detest vulgarity anywhere, but especially in the pulpit. Some ignorant men are very prone to be vulgar in their preaching." "Well, brother, I love to hear you talk. I am one with you, and we can walk together because we are agreed. Bear with me a moment. If (as I believe) it is necessary to salvation that a sinner should be savingly made acquainted with the grace of the doctrine in his own soul, how is it we hear so much of doctrine and so little of the grace of it?" "Why, my friend, simply this: the preachers, for the most part, have more doctrine than grace. In fact, I fear that many who stand up today know nothing of this grace in their own souls. Consequently they can't preach it; and, when the children ask for bread, they are given a stone; when they ask for a fish, they are given a serpent; or for an egg they are offered a scorpion." (Luke 11:11,12) "How is this done?" "By preaching Christ in the letter--that is, in the Scriptures of truth. They trace Him in the types and shadows of the Levitical dispensation, in the Psalms and Prophecies, in the covenant of grace entered into by the Eternal Three ere time began, and in His incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection, as blessedly proclaimed in the New Testament. But the very place where a poor sinner wants to find Him--that is, in his heart the hope of glory--they pass by, entirely forgetting or ignoring the fact that the Word declares: (in Isa. 57:15) 'For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.' A humble spirit and a contrite heart are out of date nowadays; and further, if you will bear with me, the people love to have it so. 'Speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits,' (Isa. 30:10) is their cry; and there are plenty ready to supply it. They can be all things to all men. If they are speaking to a people renowned for smooth things, smooth things they deal out. If to the contrary, they can make a show at experimental preaching, and it is but a show. The living, exercised child of grace knows they cannot frame their mouth to say 'Shibboleth.' (Judges 12:6) 'Oh,' say the light and superficial hearers, 'he said some good things.' Well, I have asked such, 'Who could stand up and professedly preach the Gospel and not say some good things?' It is not so much what they say as what they leave unsaid. If you, my friend, want to find these men out, either in the pulpit or in the pew, let God but plunge you into the furnace of affliction, and you will soon find they swarm on every hand." "I believe you are right, my dear friend. It has been in the furnace of affliction that these hearers and preachers have been made manifest to me. Never themselves having had to pass through much affliction inside and out, they cannot set forth the blessed fruits and effects of sanctified affliction. Let them preach, talk, or write, it is all death, and like begets like; their progeny, like themselves, are all rickety." "Exactly so, my brother. With your leave I will proceed. Never perhaps, in the whole history of Zion in this country, was there so much preaching as in our day, neither were there at any time so many parsons, and perhaps never fewer hearers. It is not through the lack of preachers and preaching that we are in such a low state; but by far the greater part of preaching has no more taste than the white of an egg. Few that run are sent. If God sends men, they will have a message and people to hear it; and there will be outward evidences as well as inward testimonies that they are sent of God. It was so with Elijah and all the true servants of God. Zion's 'nurseries' are all over the land, children rule over us, and Zion loves to have it so. The Holy Spirit is grieved and, to a solemn extent, has withdrawn His power; nor do I see any near prospect of His gracious returning and the outpouring of His power upon Zion in a manifest way. When He does, it will come by way of affliction and not by friendly gatherings, shaking of the hands, and patting one another on the back. It will begin in the closet, not on the platform. There has been much said by some respecting the small decaying causes up and down the land; for my part, I don't wonder that some of them are decaying. The responsibility for much of it rests upon the shoulders of those holding office. Being unexercised men themselves, they take good care that no exercised preacher shall enter the pulpit where they bear rule. There is always an excuse ready to hand for keeping an experimental man out of the pulpit. 'We can't afford it,' 'he lives too far away,' 'he wouldn't come if we asked him;' 'we know he is always full up, it is useless to write to him;' and so on. Thus, as a friend said to me, the poor tried people of God will have to leave the chapels to the good people and meet together in rooms and cottages, and I really believe it will be so. Many of the small decaying causes are little happy hunting-grounds for would-be parsons, and the few people that meet together are often struggling for the mastery. They cannot meet in peace and love, and I have often thought it would be a good thing if some of them were closed. I question whether one in a score of the preachers going about Zion today, even if he could give a clear account of a call by grace, could do so concerning a call to the ministry. A call by grace is a call to suffering, and sure I am a call to the ministry is so too; yet how few ministers give proof by their ministry that they are walking in a path of suffering. On the contrary, they get fat and kick, they take the fleece, but do not feed the sheep. They get their legs under the tables of the better-to-do class, and as to whether or not the love of God is known in that house, it is of small moment to them. If they are servants of God or are in possession of His grace, there will come a time of reckoning. What say you, my friend?" "Indeed, I have been a careful and attentive listener to your remarks, and I feel persuaded your charges are but too true." "I am glad I have not given offence, brother, but in regard to the facts concerning the preaching generally in Zion today, I could bring many witnesses to the truth of them. I know at least a dozen godly, tried, exercised, established men who have to travel miles to hear a living experimental ministry such as their souls need and love; and I tell them I fear the day will come when they will have to travel still further unless the Lord should, ere then, take them home to glory. Fifty or sixty years ago the leading preachers in Zion were experimental, deeply taught men, the Lord owned and blessed their labors abundantly, and Zion then was in a flourishing state in comparison with what she is today. In so far as Zion has turned her back upon experimental preaching, so far has she turned her back upon God; and, my dear friend, with the utmost stretch of charity, we cannot say that the preaching popular in Zion today is experimental. The corners are rounded, the rough edges smoothed off, the Gospel being preached in such a way as not to give offence. The offence of the cross in this ministry is ceased. I have received witness to the truth of this assertion from the lips of a dying pilgrim, from others now living, and also the witness in my own breast. Needless offence is to be condemned as contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, but the latter faithfully preached is sure to give offence. But I must be going; time is getting on." "Stay a while, my friend, you must sup before you go, and, whilst refreshment is being provided, allow me to speak of another matter which at times has occupied my thoughts, on which I should like to know your mind. In my copy of the Ancient Writings I read (in Acts 9:36 and 39) of a certain woman named Dorcas who was full of good works and almsdeeds and a maker of coats and garments for the poor." "Ah! I anticipate your inquiry, you want to know if there are any about these parts in this business." "Exactly, friend!" "Well, I have often wondered, in these days of keen competition and difficulty that many find in getting employment, that there are not more setting up in this line. I know of no business in which there is a wider field or less competition, and of none more profitable, yet there are wonderfully few engaged in it!" "That confirms my view! How do you account for it, old friend?" "Well, most seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. (Phil. 2:21) There is little, if any, faith mixed with what they read, and consequently little love; therefore little fruit. Our most blessed Lord has given every encouragement to all who set up in this business: they are assured of splendid returns; their capital is secure; they can never go bankrupt; there is sure to be a good trade with plenty of customers, each of which will bless the shopkeeper, for the goods are bound to give satisfaction. The Lord Himself has promised to keep accounts and give to everyone engaged in this business the answer of a good conscience, a good pension, the promise of this life and of that which is to come. 'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord: and that which he hath given will he pay him again.' (Prov. 19:17) 'Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.' (Luke 18:22) 'Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.' (Ps. 41:1) 'He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.' (Prov. 14:21) 'The righteous considereth the cause of the poor.' (Prov. 29:7) 'And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.' (Matt. 10:42) 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' (Matt. 25:40) With all this, and much more might be quoted from the Ancient Writings to the same effect, one would wonder why there should not be quite a rush to set up in this business." "Well, old friend, one really would. I find it comes home a little and sets a bit tight. Are you clear?" "No, I must plead guilty; but you began it and must put up with what you get." "Agreed, my friend, I fall under it. 'A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.'" (Prov. 17:10)
"You do not mean to say there are no Dorcases in these parts?" "Oh, no, my brother, don't mistake me. Blessed be the Lord of the way, He has made provision for His poor pilgrims, and here and there we find those who love the poor and care for them. If they don't give in kind, they do in the coin of the realm, and I think just here we are a bit favored; but, if you look around, you won't find many engaged in this business, yet they hope to get to heaven. I don't know how they square their hope in the face of the Old Writings. (Matt. 25:31 to 46) Now I really must be going." "Well, dear old friend, I have been downright glad of your company, and when this way again I hope you will look in; for you have got into my heart, and you are welcome to such fare as I have. Good-bye! God bless thee!" "Farewell, my brother; and God bless thee; and if our conversation and companionship have been found profitable, to the Lord alone be all the praise." "Amen, brother, farewell!" So the pilgrims for the present have parted. My reverie is ended. That the Lord may own and bless it to the souls of those who read is the sincere desire of
Yours to serve in the Gospel.