The Rocky Island - and Other Similitudes
by Samuel Wilberforce
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Transcribed from the 1849 (tenth) Francis & John Rivington edition by David Price, email



"Fed my lambs."—S. JOHN xxi. 15.



{The Rocky Island: p0.jpg}


The advertisement to a work of similar character to the present expresses the author's principle and wishes as to this little volume. It is constructed on the same plan, and, like the former, has had the test of the observations of his own children before it was given to the public. The reception of "Agathos" has shewn that many parents have felt the want which these little volumes are intended to supply, and leads the author to hope that he has in some measure been able to meet it.

It is a peculiar gratification to him to be able thus to enter many a Christian household, and fulfil, in some measure, his Master's charge, "Feed my lambs."

May it please God to give His blessing to this new attempt.

S. W

Winchester, Sept. 29, 1840.

The Rocky Island.

I saw in my dream a rough rocky island rising straight out of the midst of a roaring sea. In the midst of the island rose a black steep mountain; dark clouds rested gloomily upon its top; and into the midst of the clouds it cast forth ever and anon red flames, which lit them up like the thick curling smoke at the top of a furnace-chimney. Peals of loud thunder sounded constantly from these thick clouds; and now and then angry lightning shot its forked tongue, white, and red, and blue, from the midst of them, and fell upon the rocks, or the few trees which just clung to their sides, splitting them violently down, and scattering the broken and shivered pieces on all sides. It was a sad, dreary-looking island at the first view, and I thought that no one could dwell in it; but as I looked closer at its shores, I saw that they were covered with children at play. A soft white sand formed its beach, and there these children played. I saw no grown people among them; but the children were all busy—some picking up shells; some playing with the bright-coloured berries of a prickly dwarf-plant which grew upon those sands; some watching the waves as they ran up and then fell back again on that shore; some running after the sea-birds, which ran with quick light feet along the wet sand, and ever flew off, skimming just along the wave-top, and uttering a quick sharp note as the children came close upon them:—so some sported in one way, and some in another, but all were busily at play. Now I wondered in my dream to see these children thus busy whilst the burning mountain lay close behind them, and the thunder made the air ring.

Sometimes, indeed, when it shone out redder and fiercer than usual, or when the thunder seemed close over their heads, the children would be startled for a little while, and run together, and cry, and scream; but very soon it was all forgotten, and they were as full of their sports as ever.

While I was musing upon this, I saw a man appear suddenly amongst the children. He was of a noble and kingly countenance, and yet so gentle withal that there was not a child of them all who seemed afraid to look in his face, or to listen to his kind voice when he opened his mouth, for soon I found that he was speaking to them. "My dear children," I heard him say, "you will all be certainly killed, if you stay upon this rocky island. Here no one ever grows up happily. Here all play turns into death—the burning mountain, and the forked lightning, and the dreadful breath of the hill-storm,—these sweep down over all that stay here, and slay them all; and if you stay here, for these childish pleasures of yours, you will all perish."

Then the children grew very grave, and they gazed one upon another, and all looked up into the face of the man, to see if he spoke in earnest. They saw directly that he did, for that kind face looked full of care as well as of love: so from him they looked out upon the waves of the sea, and one whispered to another, "Where shall we go? how shall we ever get over that sea? we can never swim across it: had we not better go back, and play and be happy, until the time comes for us to die?"

"No," said the man, looking round kindly upon them all; "you cannot swim over; you never could get over of yourselves: but you need not stay here and die; for I have found a way of escape for you. Follow me, and you shall see it."

So I saw that he led them round a high rough rock, to where the calm waves of the sea ran up into a little bay, upon the white sand of which only a gentle ripple broke with a very pleasant sound. This bay was full of boats, small painted boats, with just room in each for one person, with a small rudder to guide them at the stern, and a little sail as white as snow, and over all a flag, on which a bright red cross was flapping in the gentle sea-breeze.

Then when the children saw these beautiful boats, they clapped their little hands together for very joy of heart. But the man spoke to them again and said, "You will all have a deep, and dangerous, and stormy sea to pass over in these little boats. They will carry you quite safely, if you are careful to do just as I bid you, for then neither are wind nor the sea can harm them; but they will bear you safely over the foaming waves to a bright and beautiful land—to a country where there is no burning mountain, and no angry lightning, and no bare rocks, and no blasting hill-storm; but where there are trees bearing golden fruits by the side of beautiful rivers, into which they sweep their green boughs. There the trees are always green, and the leaves ever fresh. There the fruit ripens every month, {6} and the very leaves upon the trees are healing. There is always glad and joyful light. There are happy children who have passed this sea; and there are others who have grown old full of happiness; there are some of your fathers, and mothers, and brothers, and sisters; and there am I ever present to keep and to comfort you." Now when they heard this, all the children wished to jump into the boats, and he was kindly ready to help them, only he put each one in carefully and slowly; and as he put him in, he gave him his charge. He told them that they must never look round to this island they were leaving, but must be always setting their faces towards the happy land they sought for. He told them that they must leave behind them all the shells and the berries which had pleased them here, for if they tried to take these with them in their boats, some accident would certainly befall them. Then some of the children, when they heard all this, drew secretly away, and ran round the point, and gave up the boats and the sea, and began their old idle play again. And some of them, I thought, hid the shells and the berries they had got, and then jumped into the boat, pretending they had left all behind them.

Then I saw that the man gave different presents to each of them, as they seated themselves in the boat. One was a little compass in a wooden box. "This," he said, "will always shew you which way to steer; you are to follow me, for I shall always be before you on the waters; but often when the darkness of the night comes on, or the thick mist seethes up from the wave's brim, or the calm has fallen upon you so that your boat has stood still,—often at such times as these you may not be able even to mark my track before you: then you must look at the compass, and its finger will always point true and straight to where I am; and if you will follow me there, you will be safe." He gave them, too, a musical instrument, which made a soft murmuring sound when they breathed earnestly into it; "and this," he said, "you must use when you are becalmed and so cannot get on, or when the waves swell into a storm around you and threaten to swallow you up." He gave them, too, bread and water for many days.

So I saw that they all set out upon their voyage, and a beautiful sight it was to look upon. Their snow-white sails upon the deep sea shone like stars upon the blue of the firmament; and now they all followed close upon the leader's ship, and their little boats danced lightly and joyfully over the trackless waves, which lifted up their breasts to waft them over: and so they started. But I looked again in a little while, and they were beginning to be scattered very widely asunder: here and there three or four of the boats kept well together, and followed steadily in the track of the leader's vessel; then there was a long space of the sea with no boat upon it at all; then came a straggler or two, and then another company; and then, far off on the right and on the left, were other boats, which seemed to be wandering quite away from the leader's path.

Now, as I watched them closer, I saw that there were many different things which drew them away: one I saw, soon after they started, who turned back to look at the rocky island, forgetting the man's command. He saw the other children playing on the beach; he heard their merry voices; and then looking round again towards the sea, it looked rough and dark before him; and he forgot the burning mountain, and the terrible thunder, and the bright happy land for which he was bound, and the goodly company he was in, and the kind face of the kingly man; and he was like one in a dream, before whose eyes all sorts of shapes and colours fly, and in whose ears all sounds are ringing; and he thought no more of the helm, nor watched the sails; and so the driving swell carried his boat idly along with its long roll; and in a few minutes more I saw it at the top of a white foaming breaker, and then he and it were dashed down upon the rocks which girdled the sandy beach, and he was seen again no more.

Then I turned my eyes to two other boats, which were going fast away from the true course, for no reason which I could see; but when I looked at them more closely, I saw that they were in a sort of angry race; each wished to get to the wind-side of the other; and they were so busy thinking about this, and looking at one another with angry glances, and calling out to one another with angry words, that they forgot to look for the leader's ship, or to watch the finger of the compass; and so they were going altogether wide of the track along which they should have passed.

Then I looked closely at another, which was shooting quite away in another direction; and I saw that the poor child had left the rudder, and was playing with something in the bottom of the boat; and as I looked nearer in it, I saw that it was with some of the bright berries of the rocky island which he had brought with him that he was so foolishly busy.

Foolish, indeed, he was; and kind had been the warning of the man who bade them leave all these behind: for whilst I was watching him, and wondering what would be the end of such a careless voyage, I saw his little boat strike suddenly upon a hidden rock, which broke a hole in its wooden sides, and the water rushed in, and the boat began to sink, and there was no help near, and the poor boy was soon drowned in the midst of the waves.

Then I turned sadly away to watch the boats which were following their leader; and here, too, I saw strange things; for though the sea when looked at from afar seemed just alike to all, yet when I watched any one, I saw that he had some difficulties, and some frights, and some helps of his own, which I did not see the others have.

Sometimes it would fall all at once quite dark, like a thick night, all round a boat; and if he that was in it could hear the voice of a companion near him for a little while, that gladdened him greatly; and then oftentimes all sound of voices died away, and all was dark, still, deep night, and he knew not where to steer. Now if, when this fell upon him, the child went straight to his compass, and looked close upon it, in spite of the darkness, there came always a faint flashing light out of the darkness, which played just over the compass, so as to shew him its straight blue finger, if he saw no more; and then, if he took up his musical instrument, and blew into it, though the thickness of the heavy air seemed at first to drown its sound, yet, after awhile, if he was but earnest, I could hear its sweet murmuring sound begin; and then directly the child lost his fears, and did not want company; sweet echoes of his music talked with his spirit out of the darkness, and within a little time the gloom would lift itself quite up again, or melt away into the softest light: and lo! he had got on far on his voyage even in this time of darkness, so that sometimes he could see the beloved form just before him; and at times even the wooded shore of the happy land would lift itself up, and shine on his glad eyes, over the level brim of the silver sea.

From another boat it would seem that the very air of the heaven died away. There it lay, like a painted sail in a picture—the snow-white canvass drooping lazily, or flapping to and fro, as the long dull swell heaved up the boat, and let it sink again into the trough of the waves: other boats, but a little way off, would sail by with a full breeze; but he could not move; his very flag shewed no sign of life. Now if the little sailor began to amuse himself when this happened, it seemed to me that there he lay, and would lie, till the dark night overtook him, and parted him from all his company. But if, instead of this, he took up his musical instrument, and played upon it with all his earnestness, its soft breath, as it whispered to the wind, soon woke up its gentle sighing; the long flag lifted itself on high; the blood-red cross waved over the water; the snowy sails swelled out, and the little boat danced on along its joyful way.

I noticed also that before those boats which were passing on the fastest, the sea would every now and then look very dark and threatening. Great waves would seem to lift their white heads just before them; whilst every where else the sea looked calm and enticing. Then the little sailor would strain his eye after his master's course, or look down at the faithful compass; and by both of these sure signs he saw that his way lay straight through these threatening waves. Well was it for him, if, with a bold heart and a faithful hand, he steered right into them. For always did I see, that just as he got where it seemed to be most dangerous, the tossing waves sank, as if to yield him an easy passage; the wind favoured him more than at any part of his voyage; and he got on in the right way faster than ever before. Especially was this so, if at first he was somewhat tossed, and yet held straight on; for then he shot into a glassy calm, where tide and wind bore him steadily along unto the desired haven. But sad was it for him, if, instead of then trusting to the compass, he steered for the smoother water. One or two such trembling sailors I especially observed. One of them had long been sailing with the foremost boats; he had met with less darkness, fewer mists or troubled places, than the boats around him; and when he saw the white crests of the threatening waves lift up their strength before him, his heart began to sink; and after wavering for a moment, he turned his little boat aside to seek the calmer water. Through it he seemed to be gliding on most happily, when all at once his little boat struck upon a hidden sandbank, and was fixed so firmly on its side, that it could not get afloat again. I saw not his end; but I sadly feared that when next the sea wrought with a troubled motion, and the surf broke upon that bank, his little boat must soon be shivered, and he perish in the waves.

The other who turned aside followed closely after him; for this was one thing which I noted through all the voyage. Whenever one boat went astray, some thoughtless follower or other would forget his compass, to sail after the unhappy wanderer; and it often happened that these followers of others went the farthest wrong of any. So it was in this case; for when the first boat struck upon the sandbank, the other, thinking to escape it, bore still farther off; and so chancing to pass just where the shoal ended, and an unruly current swept by its farthest edge, the boat was upset in a moment, and the poor child in it drowned.

And now I turned to three or four boats which had kept together from the time they left the harbour. Few were forwarder than they; few had smoother water or more prosperous gales. I could see, when I looked close into their faces, that they were all children of one family; and that all the voyage through they were helping, cheering, and directing one another. As I watched their ways, I noticed this, too, which seemed wonderful. If one of them had got into some trouble with its tackle, and the others stayed awhile to help it, and to bring it on its way, instead of losing ground by this their kindness, they seemed all to make the greater progress, and press on the further in their course.

And now I longed to see the ending of this voyage; and so looking on to those which were most forward, I resolved to trace them to the end.

Then I found that all, without exception, came into a belt of storms and darkness before they reached the happy land. True, it was much rougher and more dark with some than others; but to every one there was a deep night and a troubled sea. I saw, too, that when they reached this place, they were always parted one from another. Even those which had kept most close together all the voyage before, until just upon the edge of this dark part, they, like the rest, were scattered here, and toiled on awhile singly and alone.

They seemed to me to fare the best who entered on it with the fullest sails, and had kept hitherto the straightest course. Indeed, as a common rule I found this always true—that those who had watched the compass, and held the rudder, and cheered themselves with the appointed music, and eaten the master's bread, and steered straight after him, they passed through this cloud and darkness easily and swiftly.

Next to these were those who sought most earnestly to cheer its gloom with the sound of their appointed music. The Lord of these seas, indeed, had many ways of cheering His followers. Even in the thickest of that darkness His face of beaming love would look out upon them; and He seemed nearer to them then than He had done heretofore through all their voyage.

Then, moreover, it was never long; and bright light lay beyond it. For they passed straight out of it into "the haven where they would be." Sweet sounds broke upon their glad ears even as they left that darkness. A great crowd of happy children—parents who had gone before them—friends whom they had loved, and holy persons whose names they had long known—these all lined the banks, waiting to receive and welcome them. Amidst these moved up and down shining forms of beautiful beings, such as the children's eyes had seen only in some happy dream; and they, too, were their friends; they, too, waited for them on the bank; they, too, welcomed them with singing, and bore the happy new-comer with songs of triumph into the shining presence of the merciful King. Then, on the throne royal, and with the glorious crown upon His head, they saw the same kind face of gentle majesty which had looked upon them when they played on the shores of that far rocky isle. They heard again the voice which had bid them fly the burning mountain. They saw Him who had taken them into His convoy; who had given them their boats; who had been near them in the storm; who had given them light in the darkness; who had helped them in the dull calm; who had never left them; but who had kept and guided them across the ocean; and who now received them to His never- ending rest.

* * * * *

Father. Who are the children playing on the shores of the rocky island?

Child. The fallen children of fallen parents, born into this sinful world.

F. What does the burning mountain, and the lightning, and the hill-storm, represent?

C. The wrath of God ever burning against sinners.

F. Who is He who warned these thoughtless children?

C. The Lord Jesus, who, by His ministers, warns men to "flee from the wrath to come."

F. What are the boats by which they are to escape?

C. The "ark of Christ's Church," into which we are admitted by baptism.

F. Many of the children who embarked in the boats were lost,—what is shewn by this?

C. That it is not enough to be received into the congregation of Christ's flock; but that we must always "manfully fight under His banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and continue Christ's faithful soldiers and servants unto our lives' end."

F. What is the compass, and the musical instrument, and the bread, and the water?

C. God's word, and the privilege of prayer and holy sacraments, and the other gifts of God to His Church.

F. What is the gentle wind which the musical instrument awoke?

C. The grace of God's Holy Spirit, promised to the members of His Church, to be sought by earnest prayer, and in all the means of grace.

F. What means the boy playing with the berries, and so striking on the rock?

C. One who having been given up to Christ in baptism follows worldly pleasures, and so "makes shipwreck of the faith."

F. What are the dark places and calms into which different boats enter?

C. The different temptations and dangers of the Christian life.

F. What are the threatening waves which seemed to be right ahead of the boat?

C. The dangers and self-denials which they must meet with who will follow Christ.

F. What is meant by the boat which turned aside, and ran upon the shoal?

C. That they who will turn aside from following Christ because danger and self-denials meet them cannot reach heaven.

F. What is shewn in the boat which followed this one?

C. How ready we are to follow a bad example, and go beyond it.

F. What was the little company of boats which kept together?

C. A Christian family earnestly serving God.

F. Why did those who helped others find that they got on the fastest?

C. Because God, who has bid us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ," will greatly help and bless all such.

F. What is the belt of storm and darkness which all must pass through?

C. Death.

F. Why were all separated in it?

C. Because we must die alone.

F. Who are those that generally passed through it most easily?

C. Those whose life had been most holy and obedient. "Keep innocency, and take heed unto the thing that is right; for that shall bring a man peace at the last" (Ps. xxxvii. 38).

F. Who were the next?

C. Those who entered on it with much prayer.

F. What was their great support in it?

C. The presence of Jesus Christ our Lord.

F. What declaration have we on this subject in God's word?

C. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee." "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on me shall never die."

F. What lies beyond this to the faithful Christian?

C. The blessed rest of paradise and the bright glories of heaven.

The Vision of the Three States.

I saw, in my vision, two glorious creatures walking together through a beautiful garden. I thought at first they must be angels, so bright and happy did they seem. The garden, also, in which they were, seemed too beautiful for earth. Every flower which I had ever seen, and numbers which my eye had never looked upon, grew in abundance round them. They walked, as it were, upon a carpet of flowers. The breeze was quite full of the rich scent which arose from them. The sun shone upon them with a brightness such as I had never seen before; whilst the air sparkled with myriads of winged things, which flew here and there, as if to shew how happy they were.

All through the garden, too, I saw every sort of beast, in all its natural grace and beauty; and all at peace. Great lions moved about amongst tender sheep; and striped tigers lay down quietly to sleep amongst the dappled fawns which sported around them. But, amidst all these beautiful sights, my eyes followed more than all, the two glorious forms which were walking together with such a kingly majesty through the happy garden: they were, truly, I could see, beings of this earth; they were talking to each other; they were speaking of ONE who had made them out of the dust of the earth; who had given to them living souls: who was their Father and their Friend; who had planted for them this beautiful garden, and made them the rulers of all that was in it.

Now I marked them as they talked, and I could see that their eyes were often turned from all the beauty round them towards one far end of the garden; and as I watched them, I saw that they were still passing on towards it. Then I also fixed my eyes there, and in a while I could see that, at the end of the garden to which they were moving, there was a bright light, brighter and purer than the light of the sun; and I thought that in it I could see here and there heavenly forms moving up and down, flying upon silver wings, or borne along upon the light breath of the sunny air. But as I strained my eyes to pierce into it, it seemed to dazzle and confound them by its great lustre. Then, again, I heard the words of the two; and they spake of what was before them; of the bright light, and the heavenly forms: and I found that they were only travellers through this beautiful garden; that the King who had placed them in it dwelt in that light, the brightness of which had so confounded my gaze; that they were on their way to His presence, and that when they reached it, they should be happy for ever; even as those shining spirits were already, whose golden figures I had been just able to discover.

Now, whilst I was pondering upon these things, and casting my eyes round and round this beautiful garden, I heard all at once a most terrible sound, as of thunder, such as man's ears had never heard. I looked up, and the bright light at the end of the garden seemed to turn itself into angry fire, and to flash red and threatening through thick black clouds, which were forming themselves into terrible shapes all over the garden. Then I looked for the two that I had seen before: I could just see them; sorrow sat upon their faces, and fear made them deadly pale; a serpent was gliding from them into the bushes; and their eyes were fixed upon the air, as though voices, which I heard not, were speaking terrible things to their inner ears. Then, as I looked, it grew darker and darker—the thunder pealed all round me—cries came forth from every hill, as of fierce and deadly beasts in wild dreadful fight. The flowers round me were withering up, as if a burning blight had passed over them; and soon it was all dark, and dreary, and desolate.

Then when my heart was very heavy within me, methought there stood by me one of the forms of light whom I had seen at the garden's end; and my knees smote together through fear of his glory; but he looked upon me kindly, and spoke to me in a voice of pity, and he said, "Wouldst thou see the end of this sight?" Then my heart gathered courage, and I told him, that if it were lawful, I would indeed fain look upon it.

With that he lifted me, and we flew through the air, and I knew not where he had borne me; but in a while he set me on my feet, and bade me look right down beneath me. Then I looked down at his word, but could see nothing. My eyes seemed to rest upon the thick mantle of the night, and they could not pierce through it. Now, while I was striving to pierce through the darkness, strange noises rose from it to my ears. All sounds that ever were, came up from it, so mingled together that I could not say what they were. Whether it were a groan, or a cry, or a roaring, or music, or shouting, or the voice of anger or of sorrow; for all of these seemed joined together into one; but the groaning was louder than the laughing, and the voice of crying well nigh drowned the music. Then I asked my guide what was this strange noise; and he told me that it was the voice of all THE WORLD, as it rose up to the ears of those that were on high. Then I begged of him, if it might be, to let me see those from whom it came. With that he touched my eyes; and now methought, though the darkness remained, that I could see in the midst of its thickness, even as in the brightness of the day.

It was a strange place into which I looked. Instead of the beautiful garden I had seen before, and two glorious creatures passing through it; now I saw a multitude of men, women, and children, passing on through a waste and desolate wilderness. Here and there, indeed, there were still flowery spots, but they were soon trodden down by the feet of those who passed along. Strange too were their steps. Now, instead of passing straight on, they moved round and round, for they were all in the black darkness. The ground was full of pitfalls, in the low bottoms of which I could see red fire burning fierce and hot, and one after another fell over into these pitfalls, and I saw them no more. Evil beasts, too, moved amongst them, slaying one, and tearing another; and as if this was not enough, oftentimes they would quarrel and fight with one another, until the ground all around was covered with their bodies strewed upon it.

Yet for all this, some would sing, and dance, and frolic; and this seemed to me the saddest of all, for they were like mad men; and mad in truth they were, for in the midst of their dancing and their singing, one and another would get near the side of some great pitfall, and step over into its flames, even with the song upon their lips.

In vain did I strain my eyes to see any light at the end, as I had seen it in the garden. If it was there, the black clouds had rolled over it so thick and dark that not a ray of it was left.

Yet I heard one and another offering to lead those that would follow them, safely through this terrible wilderness; and such men never wanted followers: so I watched many of these leaders, to see what they would do for those that trusted them. Little help could any of them render. Some put their followers on a path which led straight down into the deepest and most frightful pitfalls; some set them on a path which wandered round and round, and brought them at the end back to the same place from which they started; some led them into thorny places, where the poor pilgrims pierced their bleeding feet with many a wound: but not one did I see who brought them into any better place, or took them any nearer to their journey's end.

How they found their way at all, was at first my wonder. But as I looked more closely, I saw in all their hands little lanterns, which just threw a feeble light upon the darkness round them. These were always brightest in the young, for they soon grew very dim; and the falls and blows they met with, bruised and shattered them so much, that some had hardly any glimmering left, even of the feeble light which they had seemed to cast of old.

I looked at them until my heart was very sad, for there was no peace, no safety, no hope; but all went heavily and sadly, groaning and weeping, or laughing like madmen, until, sooner or later, they seemed all to perish in the fearful pitfalls!

Then my angel-guide spoke to me again, marking my sadness, and he said, "Hast thou well observed this sight?" and I answered, "Yes." Then he said, "And wouldst thou see more?" So when I had said "yes," methought we were once more flying through the air, until again he set me on my feet, and bid me look down. Now here, too, strange noises reached my ears; but as I listened to them, I found that there were mixed with them such sounds as I had not heard before. Sweet clear voices came up now from the din, speaking, as it were from one close by me, words of faith, and of hope, and of love; and they sounded to me like the happy talking which I had heard at the first between the glorious beings in the garden.

So when my guide touched my eyes, I bent them eagerly down into the darkness below me.

At first I thought that it was the same place I had seen last, for there was a busy multitude passing to and fro; and there was music and dancing, and sobbing and crying; there were pitfalls, too, and wild beasts. But as I looked closer, I saw that, in spite of all this, it was not the place that I had seen before. Even at a glance I could see that there were many more flowers here than there; and that many amongst the pilgrims were going straight on, with happy faces, by a road which passed safely by all the pitfalls. I could see, too, that at the end of the road was a dim shining of that happy light which had been so bright in the beautiful garden.

Now, as I looked, I saw that there were but a few who kept to this straight safe road, and that many were scattered all over the plain. I saw many leave this path even as I looked upon it; and very few did I see come back to it: those who did, seemed to me to find it very hard to get into it again; whether it was that its sides were slippery, or its banks so steep, many fainted and gave up, after trying to climb into it again. But it seemed quite easy to leave it; for every one who left it went on at first lightly and pleasantly. Sometimes, indeed, they seemed greatly startled after taking their first step out of it, and some of them turned straight back, and after a few struggles, more or less, such always got into it again. But if once after this first check they set out for the plain, they seemed to go easily along, until their path lay straight by the den of some destroying beast, or led them into the midst of the pitfalls, where they wholly lost their reckoning, and knew not how to get on, or how to get back.

I saw, too, after a while, that they had got lanterns in their hands, some of which gave a great deal of light. Those which were carried along the narrow path shot out bright rays on all sides, until towards the end they quite blazed with light. I could see, too, that these travellers had some way of trimming and dressing their lamps; and that much of their light seemed to come from an open book which they carried in their hands, from the leaves of which there flashed out continually streams of light, which made their lamps burn so brightly that all their road shone with it. But as they got further and further from the path, their lamps began to burn dim. All these travellers, too, had the book of light closed; or if they now and then opened it, they shut it up again, some carelessly, and some as if its light frightened them; and not one could I see who stopped to trim his light: so that just when they got amongst the pitfalls, and wanted light the most, they were all the most nearly in darkness.

Now, when I had looked at them for a space, and wondered, my guide said to me, "Wouldst thou see how they enter on this plain?" Then he took me to a fair porch, which came from the wilderness I had looked upon before; and there I saw a man standing in white robes, and speaking good words, and giving good gifts to each one as he came in. There were persons coming in of all nations and people, and some, too, of all ages, though the greatest number were little children, so small that their little hands would not hold the man's gifts, and so he hung them round their necks, for them to use as soon as they were able.

Then I joined myself to the group, to hear and see the better what was passing. The man in white was speaking with a grave kind voice as I came up. He told the pilgrims that the great Lord of the land had built that porch, and set him there to help the poor travellers, who were before without hope or help amongst the beasts, and snares, and pitfalls of the terrible wilderness; he told them that the blood of the King's own Son had been shed, that that porch might be built; that the King had prepared them a narrow way to walk in, which led straight from that porch to His own blessed presence, and that they might all pass along it safely if they would; he told them that if they left that path, they would surely get again amongst the pitfalls which they had left in the wilderness; nay, that they would be worse off than they had been even there, for that there was no other porch where they could again be set right, and no other place where the gifts that he was giving them now, could ever be got any more, if they were once thrown quite away.

Then I looked to see what these gifts were. I saw the man bring forth clear and sparkling water, which shone as if with living light; and with this he washed from them the dirt and the bruises of the terrible wilderness: with this, too, he touched their little lamps, and as it touched them, they grew so bright and clear, that the light within poured freely forth on all around them. Then he looked in their faces, and gave them a name, which he wrote down in the King's book; and he told them, that by this name they should be known, not only by their fellow-travellers, but that this would remain written in the King's book here, unless they wholly left His path; and that every name which remained written here, they would find written in another book in letters of gold and of fire, when they reached the other end of the path; and that for every pilgrim, whose name was written there, the golden gate would open of itself, and he would find a place and a crown in the presence of the King.

Then, as he spoke all these glorious words, my heart burned within me to see how the travellers sped.

But he had not yet done with them; for he brought out of his stores a golden vial for each one; and he told them that in it the King had stored the oil of light and beauty for the dressing of their lamps.

Then he shewed them how to use it: not carelessly or lightly, for then the oil would not flow; but earnestly, and with great care; and then sweet odours issued from the vial, and the flame of the lamp burned brightly and high. He gave them, too, the precious light-book, which I had seen; and he bade them read in it when it was dark, or the way was slippery; and that they should ever find that it was a "lantern unto their feet, and a light unto their paths." He put, too, into the hand of each a trusty staff, suited to their age; and then he told them, while they leant upon it, it would bear them up at many a pinch, and ever grow with their growth, and strengthen with their strength. "Church-truth" he called these staffs; and they were made after a marvellous fashion, for they were as if many wands had been woven together to make one; and as I looked, I could see "example," and "experience," and "discipline," and "creeds," written upon some of these wands, which grew together into "Church-truth."

Then I longed greatly to follow forth some of these whom I had seen under the porch; and as I gazed, I saw the man look earnestly into the face of a fair boy, who stood before him: he gave him the name of "Gottlieb," {45a} and entered it in the book, and put the staff in his hand, and washed him with living water, and hung the vial at his side, and put the banded staff into his hands; and, bidding him God-speed, set him out upon his journey.

Then he looked steadily into the face of another, and it, too, was fair to look upon; but it had not the quiet happy peace of the last. The man wrote it down as "Irrgeist;" {45b} and I thought a shade of sadness swept over his brow as he gave to him the King's goodly gifts.

Then he sent forth a third, whose timid eye seemed hardly firm enough for so long a journey; and I heard the name that was given him, and it was "Furchtsam." {45c} Close to him went another, with a firm step, and an eye of steady gentleness; and I saw, by the King's book, that he bore the name of "Gehulfe." {46}

So these four set out upon their journey; and I followed them to see how they should fare. Now, I saw that at first, when they started, they were so small that they could not read in the goodly book, neither could they use the golden vials; and their little banded sticks would have fallen from their hands, if they had not been small and thin, like the first green shoots of the spring. Their lamps, too, cast no light outwardly, yet still they made some way upon the path; and whilst I wondered how this might be, I saw that a loving hand was stretched out of the darkness round them, which held them up and guided them on their way.

But, anon, in a while they were grown larger; and I could see Gottlieb walking on the first, and his book of light was open in his hand, and his lamp burned bright, for he often refreshed it with oil, and he leant upon his good staff, and strode along the road.

Then, as he walked on, I saw that there stood upon his path a shadowy figure, as of one in flowing robes, and on her head she seemed to wear a chaplet of many flowers; in her hands was a cup of what seemed to be crystal water, and a basket of what looked like cool and refreshing fruit. A beautiful light played all round her, and half shewed her and her gifts to the boy. She bid him welcome, as he came up to her; so he raised his eyes from his book, and looked to see who spoke to him. Then she spoke kindly to him; and she held forth the cup towards him, and asked him if he would not drink. Now, the boy was hot with walking, for the air was close, so he stretched out his hand to take the cup; but though it seemed so near to him, he could not reach it. And at the same moment she spake to him again, and asked him to come where these fruits grew, and where the breeze whispered amongst the boughs of yonder trees,—and there to drink and rest, and then go on his way again. Then I saw that she had power to call out of the darkness the likeness of all she spoke of. So he looked at the trees to which she pointed; and the sun seemed to shine around them, and the shade looked cool and tempting under them, and the pleasant breeze rustled amongst their fresh leaves; and he thought the road upon which he was travelling was hotter and darker, and more tiring than ever; and he put up his hand to his burning brow, and she said to him, as he lingered, "come." Now, the trees to which she pointed him lay off his road, or he would gladly have rested under them; and whilst he doubted what to do, he looked down to the book that was open in his hand; and the light shot out upon it bright and clear, and the words which he read were these, "None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life." {49a} And as he read it, he looked again at the stranger; and now he could see more clearly through the wild light which played around her, and he knew that it was the evil enemy who stood before him; the sparkling cup, too, and the fruit, turned into bitter ashes; and the pleasant shady grass became a thorny and a troublesome brake: so, pushing by her with the help of his staff, he began to mend his pace; and looking down into the book of light, there shone out, as in letters of fire, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word." {49b}

Then I saw that he was feeding his lamp, which had begun to grow dim as he parleyed with the tempter, and that he ceased not till it streamed out as bright and as clear as ever.

But still the air was hot and sultry, and no cool breath blew upon him; and if he looked off for a moment from his book, the fair form of the tempter stood again beside him in silver light; the cold water sparkled close to his lips; and trees with shady boughs waving backward and forward over fresh green grass, and full, in every spray, of singing-birds, seemed to spring up around him. For a little moment his step faltered; but as his lamp streamed out its light, all the vain shadows passed away: and I heard him say, as he struck his staff upon the ground, "I have made a covenant with my eyes;" and even as she heard it, the tempter passed away, and left him to himself. Scarcely was she gone, before he passed by the door of a beautiful arbour. It was strewn with the softest moss; roses and honeysuckle hung down over its porch; light, as from a living diamond, gleamed from its roof; and in the midst of its floor, a clear, cool, sparkling stream of the purest water bubbled ever up from the deep fountain below it. Now, as this lay on the road, Gottlieb halted for a moment to look at it; and the light of his lamp waxed not dim, though he thus stayed to see it; the book of fire, too, spoke to him of rest, and of halting by "palm-trees and wells of water;" and as he looked, he read in letters of light over the door-way—

Faithful pilgrim, banish fear, Thou mayst enter safely here: Rest for thee thy Lord did win; Faithful pilgrim, enter in.

Then Gottlieb rejoiced greatly, and cast himself gladly upon the mossy floor, and bent down his parched lips to drink of the cool spring which bubbled up before him.

Now, whilst he was resting safely here, I turned to see how it fared with the others who had set out with him from the porch, for they had not got as far as Gottlieb.

The first of them was Irrgeist; and when I looked upon him, he was drawing near to the place where Gottlieb had fallen in with the tempter. Irrgeist was walking quickly on—so quickly that, at the first glance, I thought he would soon be by the side of Gottlieb. But, upon looking more closely, I saw that Gottlieb's steps had been far more steady and even than those with which Irrgeist was pressing on; for Irrgeist's lamp burned but dimly, and gave him no sure light to walk in. Very near to the place where Gottlieb had met with her, the tempter stood beside Irrgeist. He was not looking at his book, as the other had been; and he did not wait to be spoken to; for as soon as he saw the light which played round her figure, he began to speak to her, and asked who she was. She told him that her name was "Pleasure;" and forthwith she shewed to him her crystal cup and fruits; and she brought before the charmed eyes of the wanderer all the gay show with which she had tried before to mislead the faithful Gottlieb. There was the bright sunshine, and the green path, and the waving trees, and the rustling of the wind, and the song of birds, and the sweet resting-shade. Irrgeist looked eagerly at all she shewed him, and in his haste to reach out his hand for the cup, he dropped altogether the trusty staff of "Church-truth." Then the cup seemed to draw away from him, just as it had done from Gottlieb; but he followed thoughtlessly after it. And soon I saw that he left the path upon which he had been set; and though he started suddenly as soon as he was off it, yet it was but a moment's start,—the cup was close before him, the shadowy form led him on, the grass was green, and the trees and the sunlight but a little farther.

And now I saw him drink some of the enchanted water; and as he drank it, his look grew wild, and his cheek burnt like the cheek of one in a fever; and he walked after the deceitful figure with a quicker step than ever: but I saw that his lamp was almost out, that the book of living light had fallen from his hands, and the golden vial hung down, ready, as it seemed, to fall from him altogether.

Still he walked on; and a strange flitting light, from the form which was before him, lightened the darkness of the valley, so that he could pass on quickly; the meadow, also, was smooth and even, and there was a rustling breeze, which played around him: so that he got on faster than he had ever done upon the narrow path, and thought that he was getting well on to his journey's end. Many times did he put forth his hand for the sparkling cup, and drank of it again and again.

But now I saw, as I thought, a strange change which was coming over him; for he drank oftener of the bowl, but appeared each time to find it less refreshing. Sometimes it seemed almost bitter, and yet he could not but take it the very moment he had thrust it from him. The shadowy form, also, before him seemed altogether altering; he looked again, and her beautiful features and pleasant countenance had changed into a sharp, stern, and reproachful frown. His own voice, which had been heretofore almost like one singing, grew sad and angry. The very figure of his guide seemed vanishing from his eyes; the light which floated round her grew wilder and more uncertain, and his own lamp was almost out. He felt puzzled and bewildered, and hardly knew which way to go: he had got into a broad beaten path, and he found that many besides himself were going here and there along it. Sometimes they sang; and, in very bitterness of heart, he tried to sing too, that he might not think: but every now and then, when a flashing light came, and he saw the look of the travellers amongst whom he was, it made his very heart shiver—they looked so sad and so wretched. Now, none went straight on: some turned into this path, some into that; and then he soon lost sight of them altogether. Sometimes he heard fearful cries, as if wild beasts had seized them; sometimes a dreadful burst of flame from the horrid pits which I had seen, made him fear that they had fallen over into them: for poor Irrgeist had got now into the midst of the deep pits and the ravenous beasts. And soon he found how terrible was his danger. He had been following one who had made him believe that he had light to guide his steps; he had gone with him out of the beaten path; and they were pressing on together, when Irrgeist suddenly lost sight of him in the darkness; and whether it was that he had fallen into a pit, or become the prey of some evil beast, Irrgeist knew not; only, he found that he was more alone than ever, and near to some great peril. Poor Irrgeist sprang aside with all his force, thinking only of the danger which he feared; but, feeling his feet slipping under him, he turned, and saw that he had got upon the treacherous brink of a fearful pit; down which, at the very moment, another pilgrim fell. The fierce red flames rose out of it with a roar like thunder, and a blaze like the mouth of a furnace; and the wind blew the flames into the face of Irrgeist, so that he was singed and almost blinded. Then the poor boy called in the bitterness of his heart upon Pleasure, who had led him out of the way, and now had forsaken him; but she came no more—only terrible thoughts troubled him; and he heard the hissing of serpents as they slid along in the bushes near him, and all evil noises sounded in his ears, till he scarcely knew where he was standing. Then he thought of his staff, which he had dropped when Pleasure had first tempted him, and he grieved that it was gone; and he felt in the folds of his mantle, hoping that he might still have the book of light within it; for he had too often thrust it there at the beginning of his journey; but he could not find it. Then he strove to get some light from his little lamp; for, hurt as it was, he had it still in his hand, and he thought there was just a little blue light playing most faintly within it; but this was not enough to direct him on his way, rather did it make his way more dark. Then at last he bethought him of the golden vial. Few were there of those near him but had lost theirs altogether, and his hung only by a single thread. But it was not gone; and when he had striven long, he just drew from it a single drop of oil, and he trimmed his lamp, and it yielded forth a little trembling light, just enough to shew that it was not altogether dead. With the help of this light he saw that when he had dropped his book of fire, one single leaf had been torn from it, and stuck to his mantle; so he seized it eagerly, and strove to draw light from it; but all that it would yield was red and angry-looking light, and all that he could read was, "the way of transgressors is hard."

Poor Irrgeist! he sat down almost in despair, and wept as if his heart would break. "O, that I had never trusted Pleasure;" "O, that I had never left the path;" "O, that I had my book of light, and my lamp's former brightness, and my goodly stick;" "O, that one would lighten my darkness."

Then did it seem to me as if in the murmur of the air around him two voices were speaking to the boy. One was like the gentle voice of the man whom I had seen at the porch of the valley; and it seemed to whisper, "return," "return;" "mercy," and "forgiveness." And as he listened, something like hope mixed with the bitter tears which ran down the face of the wanderer. But then would sound the other voice, harsh, and loud, and threatening; and it said, "too late," "too late," "despair," "despair."

So the poor boy was sadly torn and scattered in his thoughts by these two different voices; but methought, as he guarded his golden vial, and strove to trim his dying lamp, that the gentle voice became more constant, and the voice of terror more dull and distant.

Then, as I was watching him, all at once the boy sprang up, and he seemed to see a light before him, so straight on did he walk: many crossed his path and jostled against him, but he cared not; he heard the sweet voice plainer and plainer, like the soft murmuring of the cushat dove in the early summer, and he would follow where it led. Hitherto his pathway had been smooth, and he had hastened along it; but this did not last, for now it narrowed almost to a line, and ran straight between two horrible pitfalls; so he paused for a moment; but the roaring of a lion was behind him, and forward he pressed. It was a sore passage for Irrgeist, for the whole ground was strewed with thorns, which pierced his feet at every step, and the sparks from the fire-pits flew ever round him, and now and then fell in showers over him. Neither did he hear now the pleasant sound of the voice of kindness; whether it were that it had died away, he knew not, or whether it were that the crackling and roaring of the fierce flames, and the voice of the beasts behind, and his own groans and crying, drowned its soft music, so that he heard it not.

I had looked at him until I could bear it no more; for the path seemed to grow narrower and narrower; the flames from the two pits already almost touched; and I could not endure to see, as I feared I should, the little one, whom I had watched, become the prey of their devouring fierceness. So, with a bitter groan for Irrgeist, I turned me back to the road to see how it fared with Furchtsam and Gehulfe.

They had fallen far behind the others from the first. Poor little Furchtsam had a trembling tottering gait; and as he walked, he looked on this side and on that, as if every step was dangerous. This led him often to look off his book of light, and then it would shut up its leaves, and then his little lamp grew dimmer and dimmer, and his feet stumbled, and he trembled so, that he almost dropped his staff out of his hands. Yet still he kept the right path, only he got along it very slowly and with pain.

Whether it was that Gehulfe was too tender spirited to leave him, or why else, I know not, but he kept close by the little trembler, and seemed ever waiting to help him. Many a time did he catch him by the hand when he was ready to fall, and speak to him a word of comfort, when without it he would have sunk down through fear. So they got on together, and now they came to the part of the pathway which the evil enchantress haunted. She used all her skill upon them, and brought up before their eyes all the visions she could raise; sunshine, and singing-birds, and waving boughs, and green grass, and sparkling water, they all passed before their eyes,—but they heeded them not: once, indeed, poor Furchtsam for a moment looked with a longing eye at the painted sunshine, as if its warm light would have driven off some of his fears; but it was but for a moment. And as for Gehulfe, whether it was that he was reading his book of light too closely, or trimming too carefully his lamp, or helping too constantly his trembling friend, for some cause or other he scarcely seemed to see the visions which the sorceress had spread around him. So when she had tried all her skill for a season, and found it in vain, she vanished altogether from them, and they saw her no more. But their dangers were not over yet. When Gottlieb passed along this road, he had gone on so boldly, that I had not noticed how fearful it was in parts to any giddy head or fainting heart. But now I saw well how it terrified Furchtsam. For here it seemed to rise straight up to a dangerous height, and to become so narrow at the same time, and to be so bare of any side- wall or parapet, that it was indeed a giddy thing to pass along it. Yet when one walked over it, as Gottlieb did, leaning on his staff of Church- truth, reading diligently in his book, and trimming ever and anon his lamp, such a light fell upon the narrow path, and the darkness so veiled the precipice, that the pilgrim did not know that there was any thing to fear. But not so when you stopped to look—then it became terrible indeed; you soon lost all sight of the path before you; for the brightest lamp only lighted the road just by your feet, and that seemed rising almost to an edge, whilst the flash of distant lights here and there shewed that a fearful precipice was on each side.

Furchtsam trembled exceedingly when he looked at it; and even Gehulfe, when, instead of marching on, he stopped to talk about it, began to be troubled with fears. Now, as they looked here and there, Furchtsam saw an easy safe-looking path, which promised to lead them in the same direction, but along the bottom of the cliffs. Right glad was he to see it; and so taking the lead for once, he let fall his staff, that by catching hold of the bushes on the bank, he might drop down more easily upon the lower path; and there he got with very little trouble.

It was all done in a moment; and when he was out of the path, Gehulfe turned round and saw where he was gone. Then he tried to follow after him; but he could not draw his staff with him through the gap, or climb down the bank without letting it go. And, happily for him, he held it so firmly, that after one or two trials he stopped. Then, indeed, was he glad, as soon as he had time to think; and he held his good stick firmer in his hand than ever, for now he saw plainly that Furchtsam was quite out of the road, and that he had himself well-nigh followed him. So leaning over the side, he began to call to his poor timid companion, and encourage him to mount up again, by the bank which he had slipped down, and venture along the right way with him. At first Furchtsam shook his head mournfully, and would not hear of it. But when Gehulfe reminded him that they had a true promise from the King, that nothing should harm them whilst they kept to the high way of holiness, and that the way upon which he had now entered was full of pitfalls, and wild beasts, and every sort of danger, and that in it he must be alone,—then his reason began to come back to him, and Furchtsam saw into what an evil state he had brought himself; and with all his heart he wished himself back again by the side of Gehulfe. But it was no such easy matter to get back. His lamp was so bruised and shaken as he slid down, that it threw scarcely any light at all; while it had never seemed, he thought, so dark as it did now: he could not see the bushes to which he had clung just before, or the half path which had brought him down. Gehulfe's voice from above was some guide to him, and shewed him in which direction to turn; but when he tried to mount the bank, it was so steep and so slippery, he could scarcely cling to it; and he had no staff to lean upon, and no friendly hand to help him. Surely if it had not been for the kind encouraging voice of Gehulfe, the weak and trembling heart of Furchtsam would have failed utterly, and he would have given up altogether.

Now, just at this time, whilst he was reaching out to Furchtsam, and urging him to strive more earnestly, he heard a noise as of one running upon the path behind him; and he looked round and saw one of the King's own messengers coming fast upon it: so when he came up to Gehulfe, he stopped and asked him what made him tarry thus upon the King's path. Then Gehulfe answered very humbly, that he was striving to help back poor Furchtsam into the right way, from which he had been driven by his fears. Then the messenger of the King looked upon him kindly, and bid him "fear not." "Rightly," he said, "art thou named Gehulfe, for thou hast been ready to help the weak; and the Lord, who has bidden his children 'to bear one another's burdens,' has watched thee all alone thy way, and looked upon thee with an eye of love; and forasmuch as thou seemest to have been hindered in thy own course by helping thy brother, the King has sent me to carry thee on up this steep place, and over this dangerous road." With that, I saw that he lifted up the boy, and was about to fly with him through the air. Then, seeing that he cast a longing look towards the steep bank, down which Furchtsam had slipped, and that the sound of his sad voice was still ringing in his ear; the King's messenger said to him, "'Cast thy burden upon the Lord.' 'The Lord careth for thee.' 'For the very hairs of your head are numbered,' and 'the Lord is full of compassion, pitiful, and of great mercy.'" So the heart of Gehulfe was soothed, and with a happy mind he gave himself to the messenger, and he bore him speedily along the dangerous path, as if his feet never touched the ground, but refreshing airs breathed upon his forehead as he swept along, and silver voices chanted holy words to his glad heart. "He shall gather the lambs in his arms," said one; and another and a sweeter took up the strain and sang, "and he shall carry them in his bosom." And so he passed along the way swiftly and most happily.

Then I saw that he bore him to the mouth of the arbour into which Gottlieb had turned to rest. And now as he came up to it, Gottlieb was just coming forth again to renew his journey. Right glad was Gottlieb of the company of such a comrade; so they joined their hands together, and walked along the road speaking to one another of the kindness of the King, and telling one to the other all that had befallen them hitherto. A pleasant thing it was to see them marching along that road, their good staffs in their hands, their lamps burning brightly, and their books sending forth streams of light, to shew them the way that they should go. But now I saw they got into a part of the road which was rough and full of stones; and unless they kept the lights they bore with them ever turned towards the road, and looked, too, most carefully to their footing, they were in constant danger of falling. The air, also, seemed to have some power here of sending them to sleep, for I saw that Gottlieb's steps were not as steady and active as they had been; and he looked often from this side to that, to see if there were any other resting-place provided for him; but none could he see: and then methought, as he walked on, his eyes would close as he bent them down over his book, like one falling asleep from exceeding weariness.

Gehulfe saw the danger of his friend; and though he felt the air heavy, his fear for Gottlieb kept him wide awake. "What are those words," he asked his drowsy friend, "which burn so brightly in your book?" When he heard the voice, Gottlieb roused himself, and read; and it was written, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation; the spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak." Then, for a little while, Gottlieb was warned, and he walked like one awake; but, after a time, such power had this sleepy air, he was again almost as drowsy as ever, and his eyes were nearly closed. Then, before Gehulfe could give him a second warning, he placed his foot in a hole, which he would have easily passed by, if he had been watching; and, falling suddenly down, he would have rolled quite out of the road (for it was raised here with a steep bank on either side), if Gehulfe had not been nigh to catch him again by the hand, and keep him in the path. He was sorely bruised and shaken by the fall, and his lamp, too, was dusted and hurt; so that he could not, at first, press on the way as he wished to do. But now his drowsiness was gone; and, with many bitter tears, he lamented that he had given way to it before. One strange thing I noted, too: he had dropped his staff in his fall, and he could not rise till he had taken it again in his hand; but now, when he tried to take it, it pricked and hurt his hand, as if it had been rough and sharp with thorns. Then I looked at it, and saw that one of the stems which were twined together, and which bore the name of "discipline," was very rough and thorny; and this, which had turned inwardly before, was now, by his fall, forced to the outside of the staff, so that he must hold that or none. Now I heard the boy groan as he laid hold of it; but lay hold of it he did, and that boldly, for he could not rise or travel without it, and to rise and travel he was determined. Then he looked into his book of light, and he read out of it these words, "Make the bones which Thou hast broken to rejoice." And as he read them, he gathered courage, and made a great effort, and stood upon his feet, and pressed on beside Gehulfe.

Then I saw that the road changed again, and became smoother than they had ever known it. Gottlieb's staff, too, was now smooth and easy in his hand, as it had been at first. Soon also a pleasant air sprung up, and blew softly and yet cool upon their foreheads. And now they heard the song of birds, as if the sunshine was very near them, though they saw it not yet. There were, too, every now and then, sounds sweeter than the songs of birds, as if blessed angels were near them, and they were let to hear their heavenly voices. A little further, and the day began to dawn upon them—bright light shone out some way before them, and its glad reflection was already cast upon their path. But still there was one more trial before them; for when they had enjoyed this light for a season, and I thought they must be close upon the sunshine, I saw that they had got into greater darkness than ever. Here, also, they lost sight of one another; for it was a part of the King's appointment, that each one must pass that dark part alone—it was called "the shadow of death." Gehulfe, I saw, walked through it easily; his feet were nimble and active, his lamp was bright, his golden vial ever in his hand, his staff firm to lean upon, and the book of light close before his eyes: he was still reading it aloud, and I heard him speak of his King as giving "songs in the night,"—and so, with a glad heart, he passed through the darkness. The brightest sunshine lay close upon the other side of it; and there he was waited for by messengers in robes of light, and they clad him in the same, and carried him with songs and music into the presence of the King.

But Gottlieb did not pass through so easily. It seemed as if that darkness had power to bring out any weakness with which past accidents had at the time affected the pilgrim: for so it was, that when Gottlieb was in it, he felt all the stunning of his fall come back again upon him, and, for a moment, he seemed well-nigh lost. But his heart was sound, and there was One who was faithful holding him up: so he grasped his good staff tighter than ever, though its roughness had come out again and sorely pricked his hand; but this seemed only to quicken his steps; and when he had gone on a little while thus firmly, as he looked into his book he saw written on its open page, "I will make darkness light before thee." {76} And as he read them, the words seemed to be fulfilled, for he stepped joyfully out of the darkness into the clear sunlight. And for him too the messengers were waiting; for him too were garments ready woven of the light; around him were songs, and music, and rejoicing; and so they bare him into the presence of the King.

Now, when I had seen these two pass so happily through their journey into rest, I thought again of the poor trembling Furchtsam, and longed to know that he had got again into the road. But upon looking back to where I had lost sight of him, I saw that he was still lying at the foot of the steep bank, down whose side he had stepped so easily. He had toiled and laboured, and striven to climb up, but it had been all in vain. Still he would not cease his labour; and now he was but waiting to recover his breath to begin to strive again. He was, too, continually calling on the King for aid. Then I saw a figure approaching him in the midst of his cries. And poor Furchtsam trembled exceedingly, for he was of a very timorous heart, and he scarcely dared to look up to him who stood by him. After a while I heard the man speak to him, and he asked him in a grave, pitying voice, "What doest thou here?" Then the poor boy sobbed out in broken words the confession of his folly, and told how he had feared and left the road, and how he had laboured to get back into it, and how he almost thought that he should never reach it. Then I saw the man look down upon him with a face of tenderness and love; and he stretched forth his hand towards him; and Furchtsam saw that it was the hand which had been pierced for him: so he raised the boy up, and set him on his feet; and he led him straight up the steepest bank. And now it seemed easy to his steps; and he put him back again in the road, and gave the staff into his hand, and bid him "redeem the time, because the days are evil;" and then he added, "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, 'be strong:' 'fear not.'" {79a} Such strength had his touch, his words, and his kind look, given to the heart of the timid boy, that he seized the staff, though its most prickly "discipline" sorely hurt his tender flesh; and leaning on it, he set bravely out without a moment's delay. And I heard him reading in his book of light as he climbed up the steep path which had affrighted him; and what he read was this: "Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept Thy word." {79b}

When he had almost reached the arbour, another danger awaited him; for in the dim light round him he saw, as he thought, the form of an evil beast lying in the pathway before him. Then did some of his old terrors begin to trouble him; and he had turned aside, perhaps, out of the way, but that the wholesome roughness of his staff still pricked his hand and forced him to recall his former fall. Instead, therefore, of turning aside, he looked into his book of light, and there he read in fiery letters, "Thou shalt go upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet:" and this gave him comfort. So, on he went, determining still to read in his book, and not to look at all at that which affrighted him: and so it was, that when he came to the place, he saw that it was only a bush, which his fears had turned into the figure of a beast of prey; and at the same moment he found where it was written in his book, "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there." {80}

And now he stood beside the arbour, where he rested a while, and then pursued his journey. Now I noticed, that as he got further on the road, and read more in his book, and leant upon his staff, that he grew bolder and firmer in his gait: and I thought that I could see why Gehulfe, who had been needful to him in his first weakness, had afterwards been carried away from him: for surely he had leant more upon him, and less upon his book and his good staff, unless he had walked there alone.

However this might be, he grew continually bolder. As he drew near the last sad darkness, I began again to tremble for him; but I need not have done so; for he walked on so straight through it, that it seemed scarcely to make any difference to him at all. In the best part of the road his feebleness had taught him to lean altogether upon Him who had so mercifully helped him on the bank, and who had held up his fainting steps hitherto; and this strength could hold him up as well even in this extreme darkness. I heard him, as he parsed along, say, "When I am weak, then am I strong;" and with that he broke out into singing:

"Through death's dark valley without fear My feeble steps have trod, Because I know my God is near; I feel His staff and rod."

With that he too passed out of the shade and darkness into the joyful sunshine. And oh, it was indeed a happy time! It made my heart bound when I saw his face, which had so often turned pale and drooped with terror, now lighted up with the glow of the heavenly light; when, instead of the evil things which his fears had summoned up, I saw around him the bands of holy ones, and the children of the day: and so they passed along. And soon, I thought, he would see again the hand which had been stretched out to save him on the bank, and hear the kind and merciful voice which had soothed his terror and despair, and live in the present sunshine of that gracious countenance.

And now methought I heard an earnest and sorrowful voice, as of one crying aloud for help; so I turned me round to see where he was that uttered it, and by the side of the King's path I could see one striving to mount the bank, and slipping back again as often as he tried. He was trying in right earnest: his cries were piteous to hear, and he laboured as if he would carry his point by storm. But it was all in vain; the more he struggled, the worse his case grew; for the bank, and all the path up to it, got so quagged and miry with his eager striving, that he seemed farther and farther from getting safely up. At last, as he was once more struggling violently up, his feet quite slipped from under him, and he fell upon his side: and so he lay sobbing and struggling for breath, but still crying out to the King, who had helped him before, and delivered him from the flames of the pit, to help him once more, and lift him again into the right way. My heart pitied the poor boy, and I looked more closely into his face, and saw that it was Irrgeist—not Irrgeist as he had been when he had walked at first with Gottlieb along the road, or as he had been when he had first followed the deceitful phantom "Pleasure" out of it,—but Irrgeist still, though brought by his wanderings and his trouble to paleness, and weariness, and sorrow. Now, whilst I was looking at him, as he lay in this misery, and longing for some helper to come to him, lo, his cries stopped for a moment, and I saw that it was because One stood by him and spoke to him. Then I could see under the mantle, which almost hid Him, that it was the same form which had visited Furchtsam, and delivered him when he had cried. Now, too, I saw the hand held out, and I saw Irrgeist seize it; and it raised him up, and he stood upon his feet: and the staff was given to him,—exceeding rough, but needful and trusty; and his lamp shone out, and the book of light was his; and his feet were again in the road.

But I marked well that Irrgeist trod it not as the others had done. Truly did he go along it weeping. Whether it was that the thought of what he had gone through amongst the pitfalls dwelt ever on his mind; or whether it were shame of having wandered, I know not,—but his road seemed evermore one of toil and sorrow. Still, in the midst of tears, a song was often put into his mouth, and his tongue was ever speaking of the great kindness of Him who had restored the wanderer: his head, too, was so bowed down, that he marked every stone upon the road, and therefore never stumbled; but still his speed was little, and his troubles were many. When he got to the dark part, he had a sore trial: his feet seemed too weak and trembling to bear him; and more than once I heard him cry out, as if he thought that he were again between the pitfalls, and the fire were ready to break out upon him. But then did it seem as if there were some sweet hopes given him, and his face brightened up; and in a faint, feeble voice, he would break out again into his song and thanksgiving. As he drew towards the end, things somewhat mended with him; and when he was just upon the sunlight, and began to see its brightness through the haze, and to hear the voices of the heavenly ones, methought his heart would have burst, so did it beat with joy: and withal he smote upon his breast, and said,—"And this for me! And this for the wanderer! O mercy, choicest mercy! Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardonest iniquity?" And so saying, he entered on the heavenly light, and left for ever behind him the darkness and the danger of the pitfalls, and the face of shame, and the besetting weakness; for he too was clothed in raiment of light, and borne with joy before the Lord the King.

* * * * *

Father. Who were those who were walking in the beautiful garden as its lords?

Child. Man in Paradise before the fall.

F. What was the dreadful change that came upon them?

C. Their fall into sin and misery.

F. What was the second estate seen in the vision?

C. Their fallen children in this sinful world, without the knowledge of God; wandering in the darkness of heathenism amongst the pitfalls of error.

F. What was the porch which let them into a better way?

C. The entrance into the Church of the redeemed by baptism.

F. What does our Catechism say about this?

C. That it is our being "called to a state of salvation."

F. What are the gifts bestowed upon them?

C. God's word is the book of light; conscience enlightened by God is the little lamp of each; the oil in the golden vial is the help and teaching of God's grace; and the staff is the help and assistance of the Church.

F. Why was it so easy to get out of the path, and so hard to get back?

C. Because it is easy to go wrong, and very hard to return into the way of righteousness.

F. What were the baits which the phantom offered to the youths?

C. The pleasures of sin, which are but for a season.

F. Why was the staff rough to those that were coming back from wandering?

C. Because the discipline of the Church, which is easy to the obedient, is often galling to those who offend.

F. Why was Irrgeist, after he was brought back, still so sad a pilgrim?

C. Because, though he was accepted and forgiven, the effects of his former sins still weakened and grieved him: as says the Lord, by the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel (chap. xvi. ver. 63), "That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God."

The Little Wanderers.

In a miserable little hovel, built on the edge of a wide and desolate common, lived a poor widow woman, who had two sons. The eldest of them was quite young, and the least was scarcely more than an infant. They were dressed in torn and dirty rags, for the widow had no better clothes to put upon them; and often they were very hungry and very cold, for she had not food or fire with which to feed and warm them. No one taught the biggest boy any thing; and as for the poor mother, she did not know a letter. She had no friends; and the only playfellows the little ones ever knew were other children as poor, and as dirty, and as untaught as they were themselves, from whom they learnt nothing but to say bad words and do naughty tricks. Poor children! it was a sad life, you would say, which lay before them.

Just at this time the widow was taken very ill with a fever. Long she lay in that desolate hut, groaning and suffering, and no one knew how ill she was but the little children. They would sit and cry by her miserable bed all day, for they were very hungry and very sad. When she had lain in this state for more than a week, she grew light-headed, and after a while died. The youngest child thought she was asleep, and that he could not waken her; but the elder boy rushed weeping out of the house, knowing that she was really dead, and that they were left alone in the wide world.

Just at that very moment a man passed by, who looked into the pale, thin, hungry face of the sobbing child, with a kind, gentle look, and let himself be led into the wretched hut, where the poor dead mother lay. His heart bled for the poor orphans, for he was one who was full of tenderness: so he spake kind words to them; and when his servants came up after a while, he gave orders that their dead mother should be buried, and that the children should be taken from the miserable hut, to dwell in his own beautiful castle.

To it the children were removed. The servants of the Lord of the castle put on them clean fresh clothes—washed their old dirt from them; and as no one knew what were their names, they gave them two new names, which shewed they belonged to this family; and they were cared for, and given all they wanted.

Happy was now their lot. They had all they wanted: good food in plenty, instead of hunger and thirst; clean raiment, instead of rags and nakedness; and kind teachers, who instructed them day by day as they were able to bear it. There were a multitude of other happy children too in the castle, with whom they lived, and learned, and spent their glad days. Sometimes they played in the castle, and sometimes they ran about in the grounds that were round it, where were all sorts of flowers, and beautiful trees full of singing birds, and green grass, and painted butterflies; and they were as happy as children could be.

All over these grounds they might play about as they would: only on one side of them they were forbidden to go. There the garden ended in a wide waste plain, and there seemed to be nothing to tempt children to leave the happy garden to walk in it, especially as the kind Lord of the castle bid them never set foot on it: and yet it was said that some children had wandered into it, and that of these, many had never come back again. For in that desert dwelt the enemies of the Lord of the castle; and there was nothing they loved better than to pounce down upon any children whom he had taken as his own, and carry them off, to be their slaves in the midst of the waste and dreary sands.

Many ways too had these enemies by which they enticed children to come on the plain; for as long as they stayed within the boundary, and played only in the happy garden, the evil one could not touch them. Sometimes they would drop gay and shining flowers all about the beginning of the waste, hoping that the children would come across the border to pick them up: and so it was, that if once a child went over, as soon as he had got into his hands the flower for which he had gone, it seemed to fade and wither away; but just beyond him he thought he saw another, brighter and more beautiful; and so, too, often it happened that, throwing down the first, he went on to take the second; and then throwing down the second, he went on to reach a third; until, suddenly, the enemy dashed upon him, and whirled him away with them in a moment.

Often and often had little Kuhn {95a}—for so the eldest boy had been named—looked out over this desert, and longed, as he saw the gay flowers dropped here and there, to run over the border and pick them up. His little brother, who was now old enough to run about with him, would stand and tremble by him as he got close to the desert; but little Zart {95b} would never leave him: and sometimes, I am afraid, they would have both been lost, if it had not been for a dear little girl, who was almost always with them, and who never would go even near to the line. When Kuhn was looking into it, as if he longed for the painted flowers, the gentle Glaube {96} would grow quite sad, and bending her dark sorrowful eyes upon him, their long lashes would become wet with tears, and she would whisper in a voice almost too solemn for a child, "O Kuhn, remember." Then Kuhn, who could not bear to see her sad, would tear himself away; and the flowers seemed directly to lose their brightness, and the desert looked dry and hot, and the garden cool and delicious, and they played happily together, and forgot their sorrow.

But it was very dangerous for Kuhn to go so near. The servants of the Lord of the castle often told the children this; and seeing a bold and daring spirit in Kuhn, they had spoken to him over and over again. What made it so dangerous was this,—that the flowers of the wilderness never looked gay until you got near to its border; afar off it seemed dusty, dry, and hot; but the nearer you got to it, the brighter shone the flowers; they seemed also to grow in number, until you could hardly see its dry hot sands, for the flowery carpet that was drawn over them.

Poor Kuhn! he was often in danger. Never yet had he crossed the border; but it is a sad thing to go near temptation; and so this unhappy child found to his cost.

One day he was sauntering close to the forbidden border, when the hoop which he was trundling slipped from him and ran into the desert. In a moment he was over after it; and just as he stooped to pick it up, he saw, right before him, a beautiful and sparkling flower. He would certainly have gone after it, but that at the instant he caught the eye of Glaube looking sadly after him, and it struck upon his heart, and he hastened back, and was safe. For a while his legs trembled under him, and Zart looked up quite frightened into his pale face; Glaube too could scarcely speak to him; and it was long before they were laughing merrily again under the tall palm-trees of the garden. But by the next day all Kuhn's fears had flown away, and he went with a bolder foot than ever to the very edge of the desert.

{The Little Wanderers: p98.jpg}

Glaube was further off than usual; and just as Kuhn and Zart were in this great danger, a beautiful bird started up under their feet. The boys had never seen such a bird. All the colours of the rainbow shone upon his feathers, and his black and scarlet head seemed quite to sparkle in the sunshine. It tried to fly; but whether its wing was hurt, or what, I know not, but it could not rise, and ran before them flapping its painted wings, screaming with a harsh voice, and keeping only just before them. The boys were soon in full chase, and every thing else was forgotten; when, just as they thought the bird was their own, he fluttered across the border, and both the boys followed him,—Kuhn boldly and without thought, for he had been across it before; but poor little Zart trembled and turned pale, and clung to his bolder brother, as if he never would have crossed it alone.

Once over, however, on they went, and the bird still seemed to keep close before them; and they never noticed how far they were getting from the garden, until suddenly they heard a dreadful noise; the air looked thick before them, as if whole clouds of dust were sweeping on; shining spear- heads were all they could see in the midst of the dust; and they heard the trampling of a multitude of horses. The boys were too much frightened to shriek, but they clung to one another, pale and trembling, and ready to sink into the earth. In a minute rude hands seized them; they heard rough voices round them; and they could see that they were in the midst of the enemies of the Lord of the castle. In another minute they were torn asunder, they were snatched up on horseback, and were galloping off towards the sad abode in which the evil men of the desert dwelt. In vain the boys cried, and begged to be taken home; away galloped the horses; whilst no one thought of heeding their cries and prayers. They had gone on long in this way, and the dark-frowning towers of the desert castle were in sight. The little boys looked sadly at one another; for here there was no flowering garden, there were no sheltering trees, but all looked bare, and dry, and wretched; and they could see little narrow windows covered with iron bars, which seemed to be dungeon- rooms, where they thought they should be barred in, and never more play together amongst the flowers and in the sunlight.

Just at this moment the little Zart felt that, by some means or other, the strap which bound him to the horse had grown loose, and in another moment he had slipped down its side, and fallen upon his head on the ground. No one noticed his fall; and there he lay upon the sand for a while stunned and insensible. When he woke up, the trampling of horses had died away in the distance; the light sand of the desert, which their feet had stirred, had settled down again like the heavy night-dew, so that he could see no trace of their footmarks. The frowning castle-walls were out of sight; look which way he would, he could see nothing but the hot flat sand below, and the hot bright sun in the clear sky above him. He called for his brother, but no voice answered him; he started up, and began to run he knew not where: but the sun beat on his head, the hot sand scorched his weary feet; his parched tongue began to cleave to his mouth; and he sunk down upon the desert again to die.

As he lay there he thought upon the castle-garden and its kind Lord; upon the sorrowful face with which Glaube was used to look on them, when he and Kuhn drew near to the forbidden border; and his tears broke out afresh when he thought of his brother in the enemies' dungeon, and himself dying in the desolate wilderness. Then he called upon the Lord of the castle, for he remembered to have heard how He had pitied wandering children, and heard their cry from afar, and had brought them back again to His own happy castle. And as he lay upon the sand, crying out to the Lord of the castle, he thought that he heard a footstep, as of one walking towards him. Then there came a shade between the sun and his burning head, and looking languidly up he saw the kind face of the Lord of the castle turned towards him. He was looking on the poor child as He had looked on him when He had pitied him by the side of the hut; and that kind face seemed to speak comfort. Then He stretched out to him His hand, and He bade him rise; and He lifted up the child, and bore him in His bosom over that waste and scorching wilderness, nor ever set him down until He had brought him again into the pleasant garden. Once as he lay in that bosom, Zart thought that he heard in the distance the tramping of horse-hoofs; and he saw the dusty cloud lifting itself up: but he felt that he was safe; and so he was, for the enemy did not dare to approach that Mighty One who was bearing him.

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