by Robert Hawker
A series of graphic and interesting scenes illustrating the temper and conduct of the pilgrim on his way to Zion
IT was not until that I had passed a very considerable portion of time in the life of man, that I felt the full conviction of my being but “a stranger and a pilgrim upon the earth;” — and it becomes even now, one of the most astonishing circumstances, in the new view of things which are continually opening before me, that there should have been so much ignorance in my mind by nature, on a subject which in itself appears so exceedingly plain and evident. Not that I was altogether void of apprehension, that the present life formed a bounded prospect; but yet my ideas were like those of the great mass of unawakened characters, who believe as though they believed not; and who, though ready enough to confess in the general, that man is but a dying creature, yet, in the particular instance, as it concerns themselves, live as though they never thought to die.
I pause — in the moment of recollection, to look back upon the whirlpool, in which for so many years I was hurried on by the unceasing current! unconscious of the perilous situation in which I then moved, and unconcerned at what I saw of the sudden departure of those around me, swallowed up in the vortex!
Dread Power! awful even in thy mercies! Do I now stand secure on the edge, upheld by a strength not my own, no longer within the reach of the tide, and beholding the solemn prospect of thousands still engulfed? Can I call to mind the past danger and the present deliverance, unmoved with pity over the unthinking throng, and untouched with gratitude to thee the sole Author of every mercy? I feel (blessed be the grace that inspires it!) the rising hymn of thankfulness in my heart, while the tear drops from my eye: “Lord, how is it that thou hast manifested thyself unto me, and not unto the world?”
The reader who condescends to interest himself in the history of a poor traveller to Zion, must be content to admit of these occasional interruptions by the way.
You may, perhaps, my brother, consider every thing of this kind but as the unnecessary parentheses of the tale. But they are not so to the writer. The life of a pilgrim, and of Zion's Pilgrim particularly, furnishes but a comfortless view in the retrospect. It is like treading over large tracts of waste, thorny, and unimproved ground. Every little spot, therefore, which can be looked back upon with delight, is like the sweet herbage and the refreshing stream, here and there only to be found on the barren heath; — and which are, beyond all calculation, precious to the traveller.
If the reader cannot enter into a full participation with the writer in these enjoyments, he hopes he will at least suffer them to remain as so many episodes in the history. It is possible, from an unison of hearts, some fellow-traveller on the road to Zion may find in them an harmony of sound corresponding to his own song of praise; and to him they will not be uninteresting.
One reflection, I think, cannot fail to strike the gracious mind with force, in the review of a long period of unawakened nature, when once brought out of it; and that is, the distinguishing properties of preserving grace. I never knew, until grace taught it me, how much I owed, and was continually accumulating the debt, during the season of my unregeneracy, to this one principle: but now, under divine teaching, I have learned somewhat of this spiritual arithmetic, and can enter into the full apprehension of what the apostle means, when he says, “Preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” (Jude 1:1.)
Do you ask what that is? Every man's personal experience becomes the truest commentator: but for the grace of preservation in Jesus Christ, there never could have been a calling to Jesus Christ. Calculate, if you can, how long a space you lived, unconscious of your state, “without God and without Christ in the world” — and had you been cut off in the awful state of an unawakened, unregenerated mind, where would have been your portion? And were there no seasons of peculiar peril, no sickness, no intemperance, no hair-breadth escapes, in which life hung as by a thread over an hopeless eternity? Oh! the countless instances of preservation in Christ Jesus, before the redeemed of the Lord are brought to the apprehension of divine things which are of Christ Jesus! Have you never seen the unconscious babe watched over, in all its helpless, defenceless hours, by the sedulous tenderness and care of its anxious parent? Such, and infinitely higher, must be his preservation of his people, who not only watches over them “every moment, lest any hurt them,” (Isaiah 27:3.) but, what peculiarly endears his loving-kindness to the heart, he watches over them for good, in those moments also, in the days of their unregeneracy, when they are “making Him to serve with their sins, and wearying Him with their iniquities.” (Isaiah 43:24.) Is this view of the subject wholly unprofitable to the soul not in the actual possession of grace? I trust not. Is not every one a monument of sparing mercy, while continuing on praying ground? And if preserved in Christ Jesus, why not hope there may be yet a calling to Christ Jesus? I have often thought that if the most senseless mind could be but brought to stop in the mad career of folly, and put the questions to the heart, “For what purpose am I preserved to this hour? — and why is the morning light again vouchsafed [granted] to one who but lives to abuse it?” — such a solemn appeal to the heart, in the cool moment of reflection, if awakened by grace, would be blessed by grace, and induce a new train of thought, and new principles of conduct in the mind. “How doth the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you? and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment. Blessed are all they that wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18.)
I hardly know at what period to commence my history. All that part of life which I spent prior to my conversion, I cannot reckon in the estimate of really living. He only lives, who lives to God's glory; — all else is but a blank in creation. And were the sum total of my days to be made up under this numeration, it could only correspond to the character of him, who, being regenerated after he had attained the age of threescore, ordered for the inscription of his tomb-stone — “Here lieth an old man of four years old.”
I can only tell the reader, that if from my first apprehension of divine things must commence the calculation of my real life, I have but a little path to go over. But from this area would I desire to date my history.
What were the secondary means which the Lord in his providence was pleased to employ, it is not so interesting to the reader to be informed of, as to behold their efficacy under grace. It will be sufficient for him to know, that from an ardent pursuit, like that of the generality of the world, of the several objects which attract attention in the circle of life, I found my mind suddenly arrested by matters of an higher nature; and among the first evidences of the renewed life, I discovered two or three leading principles manifesting the mighty change. As for example: — from being occupied in an unremitting regard to things temporal, I now found my heart earnest to pursue the things which are eternal: and if at any time the necessary and unavoidable claims of the world broke in upon me, to call off my attention, my heart, like the needle under magnetic influence, which cannot be long diverted from the object of its attraction, soon was turned again to its favourite pursuit. In like manner the troubles of life and the disappointments necessary to the present preliminary state, which in the days of my unregeneracy operated with all their severity, now lost their power, or at least became lessened, in the great anxiety of what might be my situation in the world to come. This, like the ocean, whose boundless bosom takes in all the rivers flowing into it, swallowed up every lesser stream of sorrow; and an awakened concern for the “one thing needful,” made me forget every other consideration. Add to these, I had been exceedingly prodigal of time, while I knew not its value; and have been literally sending out into the streets and lanes of the city to invite passengers to take it off my hands; but when it pleased God to call me by his grace, I found every part of it to be so precious, that, like the fugitive man-slayer hastening to the gate of Refuge, I dreaded every moment lest the adversary should seize roe before I had found a sanctuary from his fury. As well as I recollect (and great cause have I to recollect every thing connected with a situation so critical) I was in this state of mind when my desires were first awakened to an inquiry after Zion: and the question involuntarily was bursting from the fulness of my heart, “Who will shew me any good? Lord do thou lift up the light of thy countenance upon me; and it shall put more gladness in my heart than in the time when corn, and wine, and oil increase!”
Awakened to a concern which I had never before experienced, and called upon continually by a voice from within, which neither the engagements of pleasure nor the clamour of business could wholly stifle, I found myself, insensibly as it were, entered upon the road to Zion, eagerly disposed to ask every one by the way, “Who will shew me any good?” though unconscious at that time what that good meant, or whether there were any means of attaining it.
It was in the midst of one of those highly interesting moments, when my heart seemed to be more than ordinarily impressed with the consideration of the importance of the inquiry, and perhaps too ready to receive the bias of any direction which might first offer, that it occurred to my recollection, there was a person who lived in the neighbourhood, who might help me in my pursuits of happiness; whom, for the sake of distinction I would call THE MORAL MAN.