« PreviousContinue »
was shown a man who was naked, and very meagre through famine. And I observed till one brought clothes and laid them before him: and he measured them to find whether they would fit him, and he examined them to see whereof they were made; and, behold, when he found that they would fit him, and moreover that they were very warm and comfortable, I expected that he should have put them on, but he recommended them to those that stood by, but did not clothe himself with them. And, again, I saw one bring him food, and it was rich and strengthening: and he set himself to know the name and the ingredients thereof, and cried out that it was food for hungry people, but ate not thereof himself. Then said I, Why is this? This man is naked and hath clothes, yet putteth them not on; and he is hungry and hath food, yet he eateth not of it. He recommends them to others, yet is he not the better for them himself. Then said the Interpreter, This is one who knoweth the Gospel, yea, and can preach it too; yea, and acknowledgeth its fitness for himself; yet doth he not receive it himself as the garments of salvation, (Isaiah lxi. 10.) or the living bread which came down from heaven. (John vi. 51.)
Then he took me by the hand, and brought me into another room, where was a man preparing for a journey. And his garment hung loose about him, and encumbered his steps, and very much hindered his progress, and tripped up his feet, and threw him to the ground. And what much surprised me was, that, notwithstanding this, he was still adding to the width and length of his clothes, yea, and putting more on, so that he became continually more and more encumbered ; and whereas, at the first, he had set himself to run in the way, by degrees he was brought down to very slow walking, and I much feared that he would stop altogether. Of which when I had asked the interpretation, This, said the Interpreter, is he who, setting out on a spiritual course, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; (2 Tim. ii. 4.) having food and raiment, and not being therewith content. (1 Tim. vi. 8.) He desireth and gaineth many of the good things of the world, which twisting themselves round his heart and affections, do sorely let and hinder him as he walks, cause him many falls, yea, and too often, as was the case with Demas of old, (2 Tim. iv. 10.) entirely put a stop to his progress.
Lastly, I was taken out into the garden belonging to the house, and here I was shown many strips of ground lying alongside of each other, in which were many curious shrubs and flowers. But these gardens were, for the most part, in a very dry and withering condition. In some of them, indeed, there was no sign of life and vegetation; the ground was parched, the trees burnt up, and the gardeners to whom they were severally intrusted, had forsaken their charge ; some declaring that they could do the borders they were placed over no good, and some more
strangely asserting that they were in a most flourishing state, and needed no care from them. Some gardeners again I observed very diligent in their respective strips of ground, hastening about from shrub to shrub with watering-pots in their hands; yet the effect produced was scarcely perceivable, the water not being given in anything like sufficient quantities, and being besides of an unwholesome quality, and drawn, as I was told, from a neighbouring spring, called “Moral exhortation.”. Now, while I grieved hereat, that so much ground should be lost, and so many beautiful and valuable plants perish for want of water, my eyes were caught by the verdant appearance of one of these strips. The shrubs were covered with leaves, the flowers in full blow, and the branches of the fruit-trees weighed even to the ground with fruit. And while I was admiring this beautiful spot of garden-ground, and wondering at the superiority of its appearance to that of the plots around, I found out the art by which the gardener had produced such an effect. He watered not the ground with any little waterpot of his own, or with water fetched from any unwholesome spring in the neighbourhood; but he had discovered the secret of drawing down the watery treasures from the clouds, above in plentiful showers, and his labour was employed in directing the streams thus obtained to the several parts of his garden, and to the different plants, therein. Then said I, Do not these gardeners represent the ministers of the Gospel, and their gardens their respective charges ? It is indeed, said the Interpreter, pity that it should be so'; but so it is. Those dry and withered strips of ground, that look as though they were under the curse of God, proclaim but too plainly the neglect of the overseers : nor do those that border upon them, where you see the gardeners diligently at work, show any very beneficial effects of mere moral arguments and exhortations to virtue. But he who has the treasures of heaven at command, (Isaiah xlv. 11.) who by prayer draws down upon the plot of ground entrusted to him the plentiful rain of the Holy Spirit, he it is whose garden shall be as the garden of the Lord. That Holy Spirit it is, who visiteth the earth and watereth it, who greatly enrichethi it with the river of God, which is full of water; who watereth the ridges thereof abundantly; who maketh it soft with showers, who blesseth the springing thereof; who crowneth the year with his goodness: the little hills rejoice on every side ; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing. (Ps.lxv. 9-13.)
Then was. I taken to the fourth window, and, behold, darkness and obscurity; yet were the first beams of the sun beginning to mix with the gloom, and it was as the morning spread upon the mountains. (Joel ii. 2.) And in the midst of the darkness I espied a traveller fretting and disquieting himself for want of light, and running from side to side. This man is unwise, I exclaimed, for I see the first beamings of the dawn, and the thick darkness beginneth to disperse itself. Why doth he not wait for the full light of morning? He doth not consider that it is approaching, said the Interpreter. He hath the pledge of it, said I, in that the darkness is more visible than it was. Methinks, too, he is unthankful for this light, which is sufficient to show him where he is. He doth not remember, said the Interpreter, that awhile ago he had none. Surely, said I, he will fall into some dangerous place or other, as he thus disquiets and turmoils himself. It is likely, said the Interpreter ; but, in thus saying, hast thou not condemned thyself? Hast thou been thankful for the beginnings of spiritual light ; remembering that there was a time, when thou wast altogether in darkness? hast thou borne in mind that it was only through the tender mercy of thy God, that ever the dayspring from on high hath visited thee? (Luke i. 78.) hast thou accepted these beginnings as the pledge that the Sun of Righteousness was rising (Mal.iv. 2.) as a pledge of a full noon-day light; yea, of that light of the sun which shall be seven fold? (Isaiah xxx. 26.) And in expectation of this fuller light hast thou waited without murmuring, and in the way of duty, trusting in the name of the Lord, and staying upon thy God? (Isaiah 1. 10.)— Then was I confounded at my hasty words.