Hebrews 11, 10.—He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
These words refer to the Patriarch Abraham, one of the most extraordinary characters of any age. "Without going into his biography at large, let me call your attention to two circumstances, which especially distinguished this great man from others. In the first place, he was the Friend of God. I mean not merely that his history entitles him to this honourable appellation; not merely that God treated him and looked upon him as his friend; but that he is expressly called the Friend of God in Scripture. By the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said to Israel: "Thou art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend."
And why was he thus honoured? Was not Abraham a child of wrath even as others? Yes. He could not therefore be entitled meritoriously to the distinction which this name implies. No, he himself well knew that it was not for any merit of his own, that he was allowed to be the Friend of God. On the contrary, it was by renouncing all dependence on himself that he acquired this honour. Faith was his grand distinction; simple reliance on the word of God; belief in his promises, and acquiescence in his method of salvation. It was thus that Abraham became the friend of God. But was not this a meritorious faith? Did not this very self-renunciation and reliance upon God entitle Abraham to claim his favour? It would have done so, but for this simple reason, that his faith was the gift of God, and that the same glorious Being who rewarded him, bestowed upon him that which was rewarded. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? The law of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. It was faith, my brethren, faith that rendered Abraham pre-eminently great, so great as to be called the Friend of God, and the Father of the Faithful.
This is the second honourable title which I propose to mention. Abraham, the Friend of God, was also the Father of the Faithful. Not, as the Jews supposed, the Father of their nation merely. This mistaken notion made them cry out in reply to our Lord's severe reproofs, "We have Abraham to our father." And what was his answer ?" God is able even of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." That is to say, though all Israel should fail, Abraham might still have a numerous spiritual seed; and God can give him such even from the most unexpected quarters, the most unpromising materials. While the unbelieving natural descendants of Abraham are cast out, the degraded heathen can be put into their place by the power and grace of God. He is able, even of these stones, to raise up children unto Abraham. It was not of Jews then, but of true believers, that Abraham was the spiritual Father; the Father of the Faithful.
He was their father, first, as being their exemplar. He is held up as a model of strong faith to all believers, and they who follow the example of his faith, are in that respect his children. In this sense he is the Father of the Faithful. But he is also the Father of the Faithful, because the promise made to him embraced all believers who came after him. The condition of this promise was not obedience to the law, but faith in the gratuitous mercy of God, and in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. And this was the condition, not to Abraham only, but to his spiritual seed, i. e., to all who should believe as he believed. "For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." As one of the contracting parties in this gracious covenant, or rather as the representative of those to whom these promises were given, Abraham was the Father of the Faithful.
Passing over all his other claims to high distinction your memory will readily suggest, I desire you to fix your eyes on these two titles of nobility bestowed upon Abraham in the word of God, and measuring his rank by these, to take into consideration a remarkable fact in his history to which I now invite your attention. This fact is, that Abraham, the Friend of God and the Father of the Faithful, was a homeless man, a wanderer, who sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tents like an Arab or a Tartar. This fact, though not inexplicable, is so far singular as to deserve our particu lar attention
Why, then, was Abraham a wanderer, a homeless man, a sojourner in the land of promise? I remark (1) that it was not on account of poverty. In the East, indeed, the wandering mode of life is not in any case a sign of poverty. Powerful chieftains and whole tribes of warriors lead such a life from choice, or because it is necessary for the subsistence of their flocks and herds. But even if it were in general a criterion of poverty, it could not be so in this case. Abraham was rich—rich by inheritance—rich by acquisition—rich by the blessing of G-od on the increase of his possessions—and rich through the favour of the kings and chiefs whose friendship he enjoyed. His history is that of one who lived in ease and affluence, practising the characteristic hospitality of an eastern chief.
2. Was it then because he had no real estate, no landed property, to which he could lay.claim, and on which he might reside? The whole land of Canaan was in one sense his own. It was his by express grant from Jehovah—made sure to him and to his heirs forever. It is true that when he needed a possession of a burial-place he bought it with his money of the children of Heth. But this was a part of that same course of self-denial and forbearance which is now in question. The same motive that made him a sojourner and wanderer, led him to forego his rights as the legitimate owner of the soil, and the question still arises what these motives were.
3. We read that when Abraham first crossed the Jordan from the east, "the Canaanite was in the land." The Hivite, the Hittite, the Jebusite, the Amorite, and other sons of Canaan, had possession of the country. And so thickly were they settled, in the central part at least, that there was not room for Abraham and Lot to live together. May it not be, therefore, that these actual possessors of the country would not suffer him to dwell among them? Had they known his pretensions, or, to speak more properly, his rights, they might have hated him and driven him away. But as he made no efforts to enforce those rights, nor even to assert them; and as he came among them from the east with flocks and herds, and as an independent chieftain, they received him with respect, and this respect increased.
It is, indeed, an interesting feature in the history of Abraham's expatriation, that in Egypt, in Philistia, and in Canaan, he was treated by the natives, not only as a man respectable for wealth and power, but as a Prince, a "Prince of God," and as a Prophet, one who held immediate intercourse with God, and was an interpreter of the divine will. In these characters he was known and reverenced by the heathen who surrounded him; and except in the case of the attack on Sodom and Gomorrah by the " confederated kings," all his relations with the Canaanites were amicable. And in the only case where he applied for land, it was granted by the Hittites in a manner most courteous and cordial. It was not, therefore, on account of any enmity between him and the Canaanites, that, instead of founding or accepting a great city, he preferred to live a wandering and what we would call a homeless life. There must be other reasons for his course.
4. Since then it was neither poverty, nor the want of land, nor opposition on the part of its possessors, that deterred hiin from inhabiting a city, or, at least, from leading a more settled life, it may be suggested, that his perseverance in a wandering course, shows him to have been a mere barbarian, one who was unable to appreciate the comforts of a settled life, or rather, who had never had experience of them. Thus we find that in Arabia there are tribes of Bedouins who regard their wandering life as the most honourable possible, and laugh to scorn those pleasures and advantages of civilized society about which they know nothing by experience. But let it be observed that these tribes inhabit the Arabian desert, where cultivation exists only in detached spots, and where the herdsman is obliged to change his pasture-ground and home continually.
Abraham, on the other hand, was in a fertile, cultivated, thickly settled country, full of proud cities, walled towns of inferior size, and villages innumerable. There is strong reason to believe that the Canaanites who were then in the land, had reached a pretty high degree of civilization. Scanty as our information is about them, there are incidental indications of improvement which are not to be mistaken. But even supposing that they were barbarians, it does not follow that Abraham was also one. Coming as he did from that part of the globe which seems to have been first settled after the flood—from a country, which in later times, claimed, and was allowed to be, the cradle of knowledge by the heathen world, it is not to be supposed that he was a barbarian. The mere possession of the true religion, would have had, in this as well as other cases, a refining influence. No, he was no barbarian. • It was not because he knew no better that he chose to sojourn as a stranger in the land of promise—to dwell in tents instead of houses—and to govern an encampment, not a city or a kingdom.
5. Was it then because he thought it wrong to lead a settled life in towns and cities, that he dwelt in tents? There is no trace of such a doctrine in the word of God, and Abraham was too well grounded in the divine will, to hold it as a superstition. He was no ascetic. His mode of life, as I have said already, was a generous one, without fanatical antipathies— without the practice of monastic austerities or the will-worship of self-inflicted mortifications. It was not because he looked upon a settled life and civilization as sinful, that he was willing to relinquish them. What then was his motive?
6. To some the thought may here occur, that we are searching for the explanation of a fact which needs none. Why should Abraham's wandering be considered stranger than the wandering of any other eastern Chief? And as those of the highest rank lead such a life to this day, it need not be regarded as below the dignity even of the Father of the Faithful and the Friend of God. He came into the country with his flocks and herds; and as the land was densely peopled, he was under the necessity of frequently changing his encampment and his pasture. This would be wholly satisfactory, but for the Apostle's mention of the patriarch's unsettled life, as a re
raarkable evidence of faith. If it arose merely from the nature of his property, and in fact contributed to his convenience and increase in wealth, it would hardly have been said of him, that "by faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs of him of the same promise." We are, therefore, forced to the conclusion that his motive for pursuing such a course, was very different from that which leads the ordinary herdsmen of the east to shift from place to place, and to live and die beneath a roof of camel's hair or goatskins.
7. Having thus determined negatively, that it was neither poverty, nor want of title to the land, nor opposition on the part of the inhabitants, nor ignorance, nor mere ascetic self-denial, nor a regard to temporal convenience that induced him to reside in tents, rather than in a palace and a city worthy of so great a prince, we are ready to receive the explanation of the text, which is this, "he looked" or was looking "for a city." There is an ambiguity in the English version which is not in the original. "To look for," in modern English, means to search for or to seek. In the English of our Bible, where the phrase is not uncommon, it means simply to expect. The sense then, is not that Abraham was wandering in search of a city upon earth, but that he lived in quiet expectation of a city. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." It was this "patience of hope" that rendered Abraham indifferent to the walled cities of the Canaanites around him, whose antiquity was of ancient days, and whose defence was the munition of rocks. Nothing so effectually breeds indifference to present objects, as the hope of better things to come. The traveller pressing homewards after a long absence, can pass, with a contemptuous smile, or absolute unconsciousness, those very objects which the homeless traveller dwells upon with rapture. As the venerable patriarch journeyed from Dan to Beersheba, passing among the cities and domains of the Canaanites, we may imagine that we saw him looking ever and anon beyond these objects to one more remote, and losing sight of Kirjath-Arba and Jebus, since called Hebron and Jerusalem, with their tall towers and heaven-scaling walls, amidst the loftier battlements and turrets of that real yet ideal city, towards which he was journeying. "He looked for a city."
8. And what sort of a city did he look for, in contempt of those around him? How did the city of his expectations differ from the cities of the Canaanites and the Philistines, from old Damascus, and from Ur of the Chaldees? It had foundations. "He looked for a city which hath foundations." And had not they foundations? In one sense, they had none. They were liable to change. In the same sense, Abraham's city, which he looked for, had foundations, has them now; for observe the present form of the expression. It was a city, therefore, not of this world; for in this world there are no foundations time-proof. And whence had the city of his hopes these firm foundations? From the Architect.
9. Whose builder and maker is God? God does not build like man. The foundations of his structures are laid deep in his decrees, and the cement has been growing hard from all eternity. His power over the materials he uses, is not merely the disposing power of a builder, but the absolute power of a maker. What he builds he creates. The city of which he is the maker and builder, is eternal: it has foundations which decay can never weaken, and which laugh at the violence of storm and earthquake. Abraham lived in expectation of a city which was not of this world. It was what we call heaven, in the highest sense, the residence prepared by God for his true followers after death—a faithful city in which dwelleth righteousness, the new Jerusalem which John beheld in vision. It is a city which has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And who are its inhabitants ? • "The nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it." And are none to be excluded? Ah, yes! "There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." And no names are found there but the names of those who wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. This is the grand distinction of the city for which Abraham looked. It is a city free from sin. In this it differs from all earthly cities. It is hard to conceive of one of our great cities without the associated images of filth, riot, drunkenness, debauchery, and wretchedness. But if we ever reach the city of Abraham, and rest upon his bosom at its sumptuous feasts, we shall know how to separate these hateful concomitants from our conceptions of a city.
And why is it called a city? Because with a city we associate ideas of substantial strength, immense wealth, regular government, social intercourse, refinement of manners, and external splendour. But what are all these, in the cities of the earth, to the surpassing glories of that city for which Abraham looked, and where the saints shall be enthroned as kings and priests unto God? No wonder, then, that Abraham, forgetting things around him, looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
10. Here, then, we begin to see a marked resemblance between his case and our own. However foreign and remote from our experience, what has hitherto been said of his condition, at last we are alike, we are all sojourners and strangers upon earth, we seek the same city as the Patriarch. However well we may be pleased with it, however fully satisfied with what it can afford, we know that our abode in it is only for a time: it is not the place of our rest. And of this we are receiving constant admonitions. If man's relations to his fellow-man remained unaltered during the present life, he might be tempted to believe that this was his final resting-place. But Providence has left no room for such an illusion. The cords that bind us to the world are breaking one after another, and the very ground on which we stand seems to slide away from under us; so that, in middle life and old age, we appear to tread no longer the green and smiling earth we trod in childhood. We have within us also abundant indications that we are mere sojourners. The sense of a hereafter, the instinctive stretching of the thoughts towards it, teach us the same lesson; while the voice of conscience sometimes shrieks, and sometimes whispers, Arise and depart hence: this is not your rest. You may, perhaps, have heaped up wealth, and used various methods, in order to persuade yourself that you are here at home, and you may be ready to exclaim, What, am I a mere sojourner, surrounded as I am by all this permanent prosperity? You are like a man upon a journey homeward, who should tarry at a wayside inn, and expend his time and money in furnishing and decking his temporary lodgings. And do you not at times feel yourself that it is so? Have you not often an uneasy sense of present insecurity and approaching change? And is not this sufficient to obscure the brightness of your precious metals, and to impair the verdure of your pleasant fields? And you, O men of pleasure, have not you the same experience? In the midst of your exciting and degrading pastimes, have you not paroxysms of alarm and restlessness? Amidst your voluntary madness, have you not your lucid intervals, in which you feel you are mere sojourners in a foreign country? All feel it; all know, though all will not allow themselves to act as if they knew that they are not at home, and that a journey is before them. homelessness, is, as you well know, incompatible with happiness. In order to be happy, you must have a home, either present or in prospect. Have you such a home? Remember that earthly homes, in reference to eternity, are nothing worth. Look at the households breaking up around you, and say whether these can be your solace and your stay forever. What will you do then? Will you waste yourselves in misanthropic discontent? No! do as Abraham did: look forward to the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The more unsatisfactory you find this world, look the more eagerly and steadfastly on that which is to come. Are you just beginning life, and have you, as yet, experienced no vicissitudes? Oh, then, be wise beforehand. Do not wait till your heart is sickened and your temper soured by disappointment. But now, when your feelings are elastic, and your affections ardent, even now, look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11. Now, this feeling of uneasiness, this sense of
If, on the other hand, experience has taught yon the treacherous hollowness of sinful pleasures, and your heart is almost breaking with defeated hopes, unsatisfied desires, and a sense of want, then have you the less excuse for looking any longer at those objects which you have already proved and found unsatisfactory. Oh, begin at last to look away from this world, with its cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces— look away from the baseless fabric of a vision, to a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
12. But here let us guard against a fatal error— the error of imagining that mere expectation is alone required. Believe me, multitudes have looked for that city who have never reached it. There is but one path to it through the wilderness of life, and that path is a narrow one. It was by that path that the Father of the Faithful gained the object of his faith and hope. If you would gain it likewise, you must walk in the footsteps of the Friend of God. Do you ask what path he travelled? I reply, the path of humble, childlike faith. We know from the life of Christ himself, that Abraham desired to see his day, and saw it, and was glad. It was faith in God's mercy, and that was counted to him for righteousness. It was a firm belief that God would set forth a propitiation for the sins of men, and a hearty acceptance of the pardon thus provided for himself.
These are the footsteps of the Father of the Faithful. If then you are merely looking forward to the happiness of heaven, without knowing or caring how it is to be obtained, learn from the example of Abraham, that you must renounce all sin and self-reliance, and believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your souls, if you would look, with any well-grounded hope, for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
13. And now let me turn to you who have your faces turned to Zion, and are already looking for that city to which Abraham aspired, and where he reigns in glory. It is said that when the caravan of pilgrims to the sepulchre of Christ cross the mountains of Judea, worn with hunger and fatigue, they are sometimes ready to relax their efforts and despair of safe VOL. n.—12
arrival. They may even repent of their own folly in attempting so adventurous a journey, and wish themselves in safety at their own distant firesides. But these thoughts all vanish when the summit is attained, and from the mountain's brow, they catch a.glimpse of Olivet and Zion, and the Forsaken City seated in her widow's weeds upon her throne of hills. That sight reanimates their courage and renews their strength. With simultaneous energy they rise and hasten onward, and the roughness of the journey is forgotten in the presence of Jerusalem. Oh, brethren, we are also strangers and pilgrims, and our way through the world may be precipitous and rugged, and so long as we look only at the things around us, our hearts may well grow faint and our knees feeble. But amidst these trials and discouragements, look upward to the heavenly hills, and through the dust and smoke of this world's troubles, keep the Eternal City steadfastly in view. That sight will make your hearts beat with new vigor. It will nerve your arm for battle and your bosom for resistance. It will enable you to look down with contempt upon the pleasures and temptations of the world; it will preserve you from illusions, painful even to the Christian, and ah! how often fatal to the unbeliever. "With such illusions, we may rest assured the world, the church, the experience and the souls of men are ever teeming.
Upon one or two such, I may dwell for a moment in conclusion. If the scenes which I describe are but ideal, they may serve, at least, as types of a most solemn reality. Let us imagine that we see one standing, even now, upon an eminence, a rising ground hi life, and looking forwards. He sees nothing but green fields and waving forests—all is fresh and all is smiling—an unruffled stream of pleasure rolls through his imaginary landscape, and the distinctions which he hopes for, rise like moimtains in the distance. Upon these delightful and inspiring objects his eye rests and feeds. He has no desire to look beyond them. At times, indeed, he may catch a momentary glimpse of something bright, and towering above the highest of the heights before him. Sometimes, when the sun breaks out with sudden splendour from behind a cloud, it seems to be reflected, for an instant, from a thousand glittering points, as though there were a city in the sky. But in a moment it is gone, and he forgets it, or congratulates himself that he is no enthusiast, to give up the real and substantial splendours of the scene before him in exchange for cloud-built palaces and castles in the air.
This proud reflection brings him back, with new complacency, to the Elysian fields which lie before him, and he drinks in with new pleasure the delightful sights and sounds presented to his senses. ZSTo wonder then that he refuses to listen, or listens only with incredulous contempt, to the fanatic who would tell him that this fairy prospect is a cheat, a mere illusion—that its colours fade and its music ceases, on a near approach, and that the city in the clouds, which he supposed he saw, is not only real, but the only refuge from approaching dangers. He turns with pity or disgust from such forebodings, and then passes on, until he stands upon the verge of the eminence from which he has been gazing. He looks down into the valley, and beholds with fresh delight, its verdure and its fruits—its sunshine and its shade. He envies the retirement of its peaceful hamlets, and listens with awe to the distant murmur of its populous cities. All seems delightful—all substantial—and above all, near at hand.
Enchanted with the prospect, he contemplatively lifts his eyes to yonder dim horizon, as if to satisfy himself that there is nothing there to lure him onward. And nothing does he see but fleecy clouds, or "the body of the heavens in its clearness." Or if he does for an instant see again that strange unearthly gleam, and catch a faint sound like the dying swell of distant music, the flash is transient, and the sound no sooner heard than it is hushed. He pauses for a moment at the point where the upward and the downward paths diverge; he looks up the narrow winding way into the mountains, and then plunges into that which leads him gently down through groves and gardens into the deep valley. Once and again he may stand still to listen as a voice of warning comes again upon his ear. But his election has been made. He passes downward and still downward, guided by the hum of distant voices, and the gentle rush of water far below. He observes with surprise that as he passes on, the distant prospect still seems bright and beautiful, but objects near at hand have no such charms. However far he journeys, the green fields are still as far off as at first; the fields around him appear parched and barren. Flowers are in the distance, but at hand are thorns and briers. Gardens Like that of the Hesperides are yonder, but here a garden like that of the sluggard, full of weeds and unenclosed. He begins to imagine that all nature droops and fades at his approach. The grass seems to wither where his footsteps fall; his breath seems to poison vegetation and the atmosphere. The healthful airs of heaven become hot winds of the desert when they touch his cheek; and the glassy streams which were to slake his thirst dry up as he bends over them, and leave a putrid slime in their forsaken channels. The birds whose song allured him, become owls or vultures, or drop lifeless from the branches. Hamlets and cities turn to rocks and sandhills; and the shadowing trees, now leafless, leave his head exposed to sorching rays from an unclouded sun. As he looks up to tell him how he hates his beams, his torment is enhanced by another passing glimpse of that mysterious city in the clouds above the mountain tops, and another dying echo of its music. In despairing spite he stops his ears and hastens onwards, and the heat soon grows more tolerable, for the sun is hidden and the sky is overcast. Winds begin to howl and whistle; thunders mutter angrily, and a thousand echoes from the hills around proclaim the coming tempest. The very earth beneath him quakes, and the illusions of the fairy landscape cease, and cease for ever. All, all is desolate, not even a shelter from the driving rain. The traveller looks desperately around for refuge from the storms of life, and then madly plunges into some dark cavern of pre-eminent iniquity; and now unable to arrest his progress, passes furiously onwards in the midst of darkness and strange noises, till he Buddenly comes forth into the light of day upon the margin of* a precipice. With convulsive energy he pauses on the brink; for nature sickens at the gulf below, and the instinct of self-preservation gives him strength to stop, but only for a moment. The impulse of his downward progress is too strong to be resisted, and a fierce wind from behind still pursues him. Forced to look down, his brain begins to swim; he loses his balance; he falls in; he sinks; he catches with the strength of desperation at a twig or a projecting point, and looks up from the mouth of that devouring chasm with a piercing shriek for mercy. And in that last, dying, and despairing upward look, he is entirely and forever undeceived. He knows what he has done, and oh, unutterable anguish! he knows to a degree which plants a thousand daggers in his dying soul, he knows what he has lost. For there, far above him, at the end of the narrow path which he despises, is the city in the sky which he had learned to laugh at as a baseless vision. But he sees it no longer as a shadowy pile of clouds. Its walls and battlements are of -adamant; its deep foundations reach beyond the view of the lost sinner, as he loses his last hold upon the upper world, and after unavailing and convulsive struggles, sinks, sinks, like lead in the mighty waters, his eye still fixed upon that city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God, until it is withdrawn to be fixed forever upon sights, which, God.forbid that you or I should ever see. Let me for one moment shift the scene, and show you another instance of illusion equally powerful, but oh how different in its nature and its end! Let me show y»u a small company of pilgrims, who have
chosen the rough, narrow, upward path which leads away from the green valley into the recesses of the bleak and barren mountains. Some you might see passing onwards with alacrity, forgetting all below them and behind them, or remembering it only to accelerate their progress towards that city with foundations, upon which their eyes arc fastened. It is not of these that I would speak.
Others I might show you pressing on in the same course as long as sunshine lasts, or moonlight gilds the pinnacles of yonder city; but when black clouds hide the sky, and thick mists veil the earth, they avert their faces, they begin to linger, and to cast a longing glance into the depth below them, where the world and its temptations are arrayed in fatal splendour, and from which the voice of mirth and business constantly ascends, until sooner or later they hang over the edge with too intense a curiosity, and what follows is only known by the sound of a heavy plunge in some depth below.
But it is not of these that I would speak. It is of one who neither lingers nor looks back, nor gazes down into the valley, but whose face is still turned Zionward, whose progress though now faster and now slower is perceptible and constant. I wish to show you one who, while he thus moves onward in the right direction, is no less the subject of illusion than the wretch whose end I have described to you.
He journeys towards the heavenly city, but he sees it not. Jerusalem is in his heart, but not before his eyes. He even dreams that he has taken the wrong path. Imagination magnifies the dangers of the journey. Every step appears to lead into some hidden snare, and every stone to be the mark of some deep pitfall. Every thicket is an ambush; every dark spot an expected place of conflict. The hardy plants that bloom along the rugged path seem poisonous; the springs provided by the Master for his pilgrims are passed by in timid and suspicious thirst. And when at length the body sinks exhausted and in need of slumber, all seems lost; and the man of little faith sleeps in the belief that he shall never wake. And when he does awake, it is only to a repetition of the same illusion. He is still afraid that he shall never reach the city. He is still unable to discover it in the distance; he will not look for it, but keeps his eyes fixed on the ground; or if he looks, he will not look to the right point; or if he looks to the right point, he finds the mist too dense, or the light too bright for his diseased vision. Or if he sees the object, he refuses to believe his senses, and suspects delusion on the only point where he is free from it.
Thus goes the doubter on, often ready to lie down and die, and sometimes tempted to go back or turn aside, but still moving onward because Christ is in his heart, and the secret hope that, notwithstanding all his fears, he shall yet appear in Zion before God. But see, the prospect changes. Real dangers now arise. The storm which deluges the valley sweeps across the mountain also. The doubting Christian gives up all for lost. But the very dangers which alarm his fears, quicken his footsteps, and although he may believe that he is going wrong, the tempest and the earthquake drive him on and up, until the last ascent is gained, until the last cloud breaks away, and he who thought himself approaching to the verge of an abyss, finds himself standing on an everlasting rock, and at the threshold of an everlasting door. If shame can then be felt, he blushes as he looks back for a moment at the scene of his imaginary terrors, which now seem so sweet; the sun breaks out upon the path which he has trodden, and gladdens every dark spot where he wept or trembled; the noises which once terrified him and have still pursued him, now begin to blend with shouts and songs of triumph within; the everlasting doors lift up their heads, and with one farewell look at earth's baseless fabrics, the emancipated soul enters, never to return, the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.