"The Pilgrim laid down in a large upper chamber, whose window opened toward the sun-rising--the name of the chamber was Peace. There he slept until break of day, and then he awoke and sang."--Pilgrim's Progress.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"? Isaiah 40:27

"When I awake, I am still with You." Psalm 139:18.

Then Jacob woke up and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn't even aware of it." He was afraid and said, "What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God—the gateway to heaven!" Genesis 28:16-17

This is an interesting transition and turning-point in our sacred chronicle. Among the group of Biblical illustrations in the Memorial chapel at Windsor, which magnificently enshrines and illustrates the virtues of England's departed Prince, is included that of the Patriarch and his dreamland. The point of time, however, selected, differs from the usual treatment. It is not, as generally, when the wayfarer lies fast asleep on his pillow of stone, with angels over his head. The artist has chosen rather the moment which we have now reached– that is, when, waking from his sleep, he looks wistfully and hopefully upon the clear heaven, as if in the act of uttering the exclamation which precedes this chapter.

We can picture and realize the scene--the tender light of a Palestine morning when the sun was just purpling the sky above the somber wall of Moab--the dew lying thickly on the grass around him--the last of the night-stars just vanishing from the sky, and the last of the night-breezes fanning his brow.

"The dawn--the dawn has died away,
And east and west, without a breath,
Mixed their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day."

He rises from his pillow; and with no eye or thought for the unfamiliar landscape around, the one fresh memory, or rather the present vivid and overpowering impression, inspires the first words which break upon the solitude--"Surely the Lord is in this place! I laid me down last night, lonely and joyless, sad and fearful. I saw no friendly form, I heard no friendly voice. Bleak wasteland and desert-stones appeared to be my sole silent companions. But I am conscious now that I had Divine watchers. I thought the God of my fathers had only His special consecrated haunts and His saintly favorites; that, though condescending to reveal Himself by the tent and the altar, He never would have deigned to own common-ground like this, on which I sought repose for my weary body. But, surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. This place! I supposed it only the rough couch of a wayfarer--lo! I find it a habitat of Angels, as if Eden were spread out around me, and the God of early Paradise talked with me. This is none other but the House of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven!"

Thus was the evening dirge of the exile turned into a morning of praise.

And yet, how natural, also, were the feelings of the moment, and the farther utterance they prompted! It seems, from his waking words, as if he could hardly realize all he had seen and heard. Though it be only momentarily, he is in a state of strange bewilderment, no of positive fear. "He was afraid." We are reminded of other Bible instances descriptive of similar emotions, under similar circumstances. Gideon, on first waking up to the consciousness of having seen a heavenly visitant, exclaimed, "Alas, O Lord God! I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face" (Judges 6:22). The Greatest of the Prophets had suddenly revealed to him, in the Temple-courts underneath the winged seraphim, "the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up." Overpowered with the splendor of the vision, he breaks forth with the utterance, "Woe is me! for I am undone–my eyes have seen the King--the Lord of hosts!" (Isa. 6:1-5.) Another favored Israelite of a more distant day, as he beheld an angelic form standing by the altar of incense, "was troubled, and fear fell upon him" (Luke 1:12). The beloved Disciple, when in the opening vision of the apocalypse he gazed, in His ascension-glories, upon the Christ on whose bosom he had leaned on earth, "fell at His feet as dead" (Rev. 1:17).

But in the case of the Patriarch, as of his descendants, the first moments of fear were speedily displaced and superseded by very different feelings. As he starts up from his couch, the words of the no longer trembling Zacharias scarcely seem inappropriate in his lips--"Through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Dayspring from on high has visited us!" (Luke 1:78.) No more sense now of loneliness and friendlessness--no more cause, for the present at least, to cherish emotions of dread. No need of the oblivion-power of sleep to cancel sadder memories--no more anticipation of feverish visions of revenge and blood, which might well banish slumber from a softer pillow. After the shock of amazement and wonder is past, all such agitations rock themselves to rest. Better still, as the assured child of the covenant whose inalienable blessings have been ratified to him, there is an end to further plottings and counter-plottings--to questionable human devisings and subterfuges. He has ONE with him, above him, around him, with resources mightier than if all the tents of Kedar had mustered sword and bow on his side--"The Lord of hosts" is with him, "the God of JACOB" is his "refuge."

The Patriarch's experience has its parallel and counterpart in that of many still, who can tell of their times and crisis-hours of "revival"--an intensified religious fervor--when, as with him, there is a quickening of spiritual apprehensions; a waking up to a more vivid consciousness of the realities of life; and more especially of the Great Unseen Presence in whom we live, and move, and have our being. The emotions of such could not be better delineated than by the picture of a dreamer rising from his pillow and exclaiming, "surely, the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!"

These solemn memorable wakings come in various forms and with various accompaniments. At times they are the result of DELIVERANCE FROM GREAT TEMPTATION--owing to some sudden but successfully resisted invasion of a spiritual foe. The soldier, made alive to the vigilance of the enemy and the imminence of danger, rises from his perilous camp-slumber, exclaiming, "It is high time to awake out of sleep"--"Let us put off the unfruitful works of darkness, and be clothed with the armor of light."

Take, without figure, the season specially dwelt upon in these pages--YOUTH'S OUTSET IN LIFE--the commencement of the Pilgrim path--when some of those legion foes, under the garb of pleasure, have presented themselves--done their worst to assault and enfeeble the soul, and then to crush and ruin it. The antagonist forces of right and wrong, good and evil, vice and virtue, confront one another. They have joined in the clang of battle--the hot and deadly strife. But virtue has come off triumphant. Trembling on the verge of the precipice, the imperilled one has been graciously rescued--the keel of the vessel was just grazing the rocks when, by a timely turn of the helm, it was saved. Then comes the grateful realization of deliverance. From that hour the charter of duty, "the solemn league and covenant" of obedience to God, loyalty to conscience and honor, is anew signed and sealed. "One will say, 'I belong to the Lord'; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and will take the name Israel." (Isa. 44:5).

That crisis-hour puts into the lips a votive hymn of praise and new obedience. "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my foot upon a rock, and established my goings. And He has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God" (Ps. 40:2, 3) "Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple--I was brought low, and He helped me. Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living" (Ps. 116:5-9).

But most frequently such soul awakenings are produced by means and instrumentalities already more than once referred to--those SORROWS and AFFLICTIONS which, in every stage of life, occur in the course of God's all-wise but often mysterious Providence. How many a child of trial can bear testimony! Existence, and its solemn responsibilities, had previously been feebly and imperfectly realized. Immortal truths had lain dormant. As barren creeds--dead dogmas, into which true vitality had never been breathed, they exercised no influence on the character. In the case of some they met only with the incredulous smile, or sceptic sneer.

But by reason of sickness, worldly disappointment, personal or family disaster, there has been a new and before undreamt-of apprehension of the sanctities of life and the grandeur of its destinies--along with this, a kindling up of faith, and hope, and spiritual aspiration. The awakened dreamer looks with a new eye on all around. What before were absorbing earthly interests, now dwindle into nothing compared with the interests of the Soul and Eternity. Emancipated from the tyranny of the present, he is undisturbed by trifles which formerly were used to vex and annoy. He has no ear for the little waves furrowing the sands and murmuring at his feet--his eye is on the wide horizon and the gleaming distance which the mist had hitherto obscured. A new atmosphere enwraps his being. He has "seen God." Long content to be outside divine influences, or to hover in the dim twilight, he is now, like the Apocalyptic Angel, "standing in the Sun." The instincts of immortality have been roused within him. To that immortality he now belongs as he never did before. Enlisted in the army of great souls, "all old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

Take the most common and startling of these messengers of God sent to rouse the spiritual sleeper--BEREAVEMENT. Hitherto the world was paramount--its vanities, its ambitions, its hopes. His vision was bounded by its haunts of pleasure, and marts of gain; his life-motto was, "This is my rest forever." But, "he awoke, and behold it was a dream!" Like the man opening his eyes in the dull grey morning-dawn on the festal-hall, recently brilliant with gay lights and floral devices, now silent, deserted; its floor strewn with withered bouquets--"the fashion of this world passes away!" He has been touched to the quick; but these incisions he feels to be the living, loving probings of his Heavenly Father. He has learned by that sore discipline the secret of true existence. "My flesh and my heart fails--but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:26). Yes, and bereavement too may have appealed to his human, yet immortal instincts, in still another form. His spiritual waking-time may have been, when he saw those he loved vanishing from sight within the gates at the radiant summit! The severing of dear earthly ties may have been the means of opening up the first vista-views of a glorious future--an infinitude of being and of bliss undreamt of before. One of the angels on the ladder has pointed on high to those once mourned as 'loved and lost,' but now thought of only as loved and glorified; or lost from sight only to be found again.

"Oh what were life, if life were all? Your eyes
Are blinded by their tears; or you would see
Your treasures wait you in the far-off skies,
And Death, your friend, will give them back to thee."

The mourner's citizenship is transferred to heaven. He is like the imprisoned flower in the dark cellar, turning its blanched leaves towards the crevice in the roof above. Where the treasure is, there will his heart be also.

Reader! If God has roused you from your perilous dream, even though it may have been by "terrible things in righteousness," be grateful for it. You have reason only for joy, whatever be the means employed, if you have woke up with the great "Eureka! I have found Him whom my soul loves!" If you can say with the Psalmist, be the cost what it may at which such an awakening was secured, "I awake with Your likeness."--"When I awake, I am still with You," then your pillow may be the rock; your food may be weeping--the cherished ones in the Beersheba tent may be far removed; some of them--the Abrahams, and Isaacs, and Rebekahs of your early love and reverence--may have vanished for the forever of time. It may not be Beersheba, but Machpelah, where thoughts and memories now most fondly center. It matters not. That angel of sorrow has led you to the vision and fruition of God; and though on a couch of tears on earth, you are truly at "the Gate of Heaven".

But an important practical question, similar to that of last chapter, here suggests itself. How do we know when we can, with some good measure of lowly confidence, appropriate the words of Jacob and breathe his waking exclamation--"Surely the Lord is in this place"?

There might be many answers. A first and prominent one which may be given is this--We may conclude that we are in the enjoyment of God's presence and nearness, when we are conscious of an aspiration after the holiness and purity He loves, and a corresponding aversion to the sin which He dislikes. "Walk in light;" "Be the children of light." "Walk before me and be you perfect," was the patriarchal direction to insure being thus habitually encircled in the felt presence of the Holy One. That "God is with you of a truth" you will discover by your higher, better lives; by the increasing agreement of your wills with His. "You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy--for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Cor. 3:16-17). The "God-frequented temple" will be known by the subjugation of self, mastery of passion, purity of thought, nobility of purpose, unswerving loyalty to truth; love of love, and hate of hate; the humble walk, the mellowed temper, the tender conscience; in one word--by the holy life--making the beatitude of the Great Teacher your constant aim and aspiration--"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

With these upright aspirations--fusing the secular and the spiritual; protesting against the divorce of what God has joined together, when He wedded the duties and demands of earth to the sanctities of Heaven, you will be visited with the Dreamland Voice and Presence, go wherever you will. Not within consecrated walls alone; but in the every-day place of business; the realm of duty, wherever it is--the field, the office, the counter, the lonely lodging. What a preventive against temptation--what a stimulus to the performance of whatever is true and honest, and just, and lovely, and of good report, is the Psalmist's directory for daily walk--"I have set the Lord always before me--because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Ps. 16:8). The heart, the thoughts--even in the midst of the world's activities--gravitating ever towards Him as the central Sun of being and blessing.

Oh! noble souls, young or old, whether in a higher or a humbler lot, faithfully battling with evil, and having earnest strivings after what is righteous--keeping your hearts as an inviolate shrine--rejoice in the assurance that the God you love is very near you--not dwelling only in the habitats of nature--aloft on the everlasting hills, or in sublime solitudes beyond the stars--but anywhere--everywhere. "You compass my path" (in the day-time), "and my lying down" (in the hours of darkness and its silent vigils).

The duties of earth thus blended and united with heaven, it will be no mystic or dreamlike stair that connects you with the upper sanctuary. You will see that Gate of glory standing open before you, in all you do, and wherever you go. Common places will be transfigured into Bethels. And whether you close your eyes on your nightly pillow, or open them in the morning light, you will be able, not in figure of speech or with the thought of exile, to say, "Surely the Lord is in this place."

Young Pilgrim (if I may again, in passing, address to you a special word), there is but one spot, one occasion when you need to exclaim "How dreadful is this place!" It is when by evil influences; when, yielding to the momentary feebleness or indecision of the will, you are decoyed into the border-land of temptation; stifling conscience--perverting your capacities for goodness--when, allowing yourself to cancel better memories and resolves, you drift from the old, safe, and happy anchorage. This part of Jacob's waking exclamation may well be taken as the handwriting on the wall, which, unless timely heeded, is prophetic of doom and disaster.

Remember how many vessels, once freighted with promise, are now lying with splintered spars and gaping sides on the sands or rocks, hopelessly sundered from the retreating wave that might still have borne them buoyantly to sunny shores! Believe me, (to return to the symbol of the Dreamland,) if you thus abandon yourself to spiritual slumber--if you surrender the intellect and conscience and will to be drugged and stupefied with moral narcotics, the time will come when you will have no eye for the ladder and its angels, no ear for the heavenly voice! Lying on the edge of a volcano--"How dreadful is this place!"

Time, the prelude to an undying existence, is rushing on like an arrowy river. In some cases (possibly in your case) that river may be nearing the Eternal ocean, the boom of whose billows may already be falling on your ear; and with the thought of these great waves ever nearing, and no shelter yet sought or found for the frail bark--"How dreadful is this place!" And when death overtakes the irrevocable hour, and you feel that the world you had made your home and rest and portion is being wrenched from your grasp--"How dreadful is this place!"

Awake! arise! chase away these dreams of indifference, presumption, and procrastination. An old writer well says "indecision is a dreadful place"--living in a border-land, half-way between the regions of light and darkness. If bygone memories be those of sin, departed goodness, defiant unbelief, ungodly companionship, or unholy haunts--"Come out from among them, and be separate." Above all, do not for a moment allow yourself to lapse into a state of hopelessness. Never allow that word from the abyss "Too late" to grapple with efforts to rid yourself of an unhallowed past, and an unhappy present. Exorcize the devil-born thought of abandonment to fatalism and despair. There are bars of gold in yonder eastern sky which tell you, as they did Jacob, of a coming dayspring. If yours be the fear and dread of a first awakening, hear the voice of Him who never discourages, but ever stirs the pulses of the languishing soul by bracing to nobler deeds--"Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain which are ready to die."

Accept unhesitatingly and without delay the gracious overtures of ONE who loves to meet the outcast, the exile, the fugitive. Your trooping images of terror will gradually vanish before faith's steadfast musing on the stair of heaven, the footsteps of Angels, and the voice of God. With these, you will rebuild the collapsed purpose, the half-surrendered fortress; and out of weakness may yet be strong, "wax valiant in fight and turn to flight the armies of the aliens."

There is one other blessed and hallowed means here suggested of recruiting spiritual strength, and consolidating your resolutions of new obedience. The words of Jacob would seem to recall and enforce the Apostolic injunction--"Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." "The House of God"--the earthly Temple--is made, in the experience of many, as 'the Gate of Heaven.' And as the forfeiture and abandonment of the means of grace is not uncommonly the first step in the decay of the spiritual life, (neglected weeds allowed to grow up and choke the unfrequented footpath to the Sanctuary)--so is the return to the Place of Prayer and its stated services, often the first symptom and token of revival. The response once more to the Sabbath bell and its thousand memories is frequently the first means of re-awakening--stirring the decaying embers of the soul and fanning them into a flame. These Angels of the Patriarch's ladder, beckoning the dreamer upward, may be regarded as no unfit emblems of God-appointed instrumentalities to help us on our heavenly way. "The Lord loves the gates of Zion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob." It is on "the mountains of Zion" the dew of His grace and blessing specially descends--"There I will meet with you." "There He commands the blessing, even life for evermore." The name of every Temple-court, where there is a gathering of holy hearts, is "Jehovah-Shammah--The Lord is there."

Who among us have not hallowed remembrances of these 'Hills of blessing'? Drawn there, not for any poor conventional reason; but leaving, dusty and travel-stained, the hot and sultry highway for the bracing mountain air, to plead common needs, to bewail common infirmities, to obtain strength for daily duty and the endurance of daily trial. As we listen to the deeds of 'the Great ones of the olden time,' to realize what the sanctity of life is; to think of our departed--those who have dreamt their dream, and scaled their ladder, and who, endowed with immortality, are bending over those still left behind amid the desert stones and the wilderness path, to battle with windy storm and tempest. Above all, to ponder the mighty truths gathering around our own everlasting futures--that great Eternity for whose shores, following the wake of others, we must sooner or later set sail--"the land that is very far off," but which Psalm and Prayer and Litany bring to the eye of faith very near!

Fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God! Members of a brotherhood extending to all countries, and embracing all time, bear witness! Is not this oftentimes your experience and testimony? "A day in Your courts is better than a thousand"--"My soul longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, to see Your power and Your glory so--as I have seen You in the Sanctuary"? Yes, and if the Gate of Heaven be thus blissful and glorious, what will Heaven itself be? If these angel-visits of earth be thus hallowed, what will be that Temple of which the earthly courts are the feeble emblem and reflection?--the House not made with hands--the Sanctuary of holy hearts in a celestial world, where there is no recruiting of exhausted energy, no flaw or discord in the seraphic music! May it be ours to attain these glorious heights of the symbolic ladder.

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