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Good Words 1860
A Vision of Life

I stood upon a rock, and, looking across a dark and stormy sea which rolled beneath, I discovered the shore of a distant country. Faint and shadowy at first, it seemed as I gazed to draw nearer; and I perceived that it was an island, surrounded on every side by that dark sea.

Very fair was the isle, gleaming in the sunlight that shone brightly upon it, though no ray ever pierced the surrounding gloom. The fields were green and luxuriant, and trees of varied form and hue spread out their leafy boughs, as if rejoicing in the genial air. Nor was this beautiful island without inhabitants. The shore was thronged with men hurrying to and fro, and the murmur of voices and the mingled sounds of busy life were borne to my ear. As the scene became more distinct, I marked the various occupations in which these people were engaged. Some were tilling the ground, some planting, some building, some were looking on in earnest attention or quiet enjoyment, while others wandered about contemplating the beauties of their abode, and searching out its wonders.

I watched them pursuing so eagerly their schemes of labour or of pleasure, thinking how happy they were in the rich resources and numberless enjoyments of their island home, when suddenly, to my horror and dismay, I saw a great wave roll on from the sea, and, dashing into the midst of a group of labourers, sweep away a number of them to the abyss. As I continued to gaze, I saw that to these islanders this was no strange or unusual event. The land rose little above the level of the sea, and when the tide swelled high, no part of the island seemed safe from its overflow. Every moment some wave came rolling in, now here, now there, and bore off its prey; and sometimes a great billow would sweep far along the coast, and overwhelm multitudes in its course. But great was my amazement to see that the people shewed little alarm in the midst of such imminent danger. It is true, they appeared troubled and sorrowful for a little while when a companion was swept away from their side, but soon it was forgotten, and they would return to their labour or their pastime as if they had no fear of such a calamity overtaking themselves. "O miserable men!" thought I; "how awful is the fate that threatens you! Is there no way of escape from that devouring flood?"

While pondering on these things, I had withdrawn my eyes from the scene that had so long held them; and becoming aware that some one was near, I turned, and saw one like a Holy Messenger standing beside me. I was about to ask for an explanation of what I had witnessed, when he gave me a little book, saying that it would tell me all I wished to know. I opened the book and found in it a history of the island and its inhabitants, which was as follows:—

"Long ago, a great King prepared this island to be a habitation for some of his subjects. He furnished it with everything needful for their comfort and happiness; and to secure it from the encroachments of the sea, he surrounded it with a high and strong wall. In this wall there was a gate; but the King, when he placed his people upon the island, strictly forbade them to open it, warning them of the consequences that would follow their disobedience.

"No sooner, however, were they left in possession, than they forgot the orders of their King. They went towards the gate, drawn by eager curiosity to know what lay beyond, and soon they ventured to unfasten its bolts. Now, too late, they saw what they had done. The strong tide passed on, and burst open the gate in spite of all their efforts to close it. While they fled in terror, the black waves came rushing in, and in their recoil swept away the gate, and overthrew the wall, leaving nothing but broken fragments.

"In their distress they did not call upon their King for assistance. The thought of their disobedience made them feel separated and estranged from him, and there was nothing they so much dreaded as his coming. Yet he, in his mercy, did not leave them to their fate. He sent his own Son for their deliverance, who, through many toils and sufferings, prepared for them a place of safety. He built up the broken wall, and then diving down into the abyss, he recovered from its depths the buried gate, and set it up, and secured it, that it should no more be opened. The walls of safety did not now surround the whole island, but the best and most beautiful portion of it was enclosed in them—a region wide enough for all the inhabitants to dwell in. None could be admitted by the great gate; for had it been in the power of the people to open it, they would have brought ruin upon themselves as before. So the Prince provided another entrance. In a place where the wall ran along the face of a hill, he made a passage beneath it, and placed there a door, which should open to all who applied for admission. The way thither is dark and low, but it is a way of safety, and a lamp is always burning at the door, so that the seeker cannot fail to find it."

Having read thus far, I raised my eyes to look for this place of refuge, which I had not discovered in my former observations. But now, directed by my companion, I caught sight of its walls rising at some distance from the shore.

"Ah ! why," I asked, "since a way of escape is provided, and safety is offered to all, why do these still linger on the brink of destruction ? Why do they not fly at once to the place of refuge?"

"Many," he replied, "have joyfully embraced their Prince's offers, and have entered into his kingdom, (for so he calls that place of safety, where his faithful servants dwell.) But, alas ! the greater number prefer remaining outside. They refuse his invitations, although he entreats them to come in, and has given them that book, which you have been reading, to let them know what he has done for them, and to point out the way of entrance.

"Some of them hardly ever think of their danger. They are so engrossed in the objects that surround them, that they never look towards the flood, or dread its threatening waves, till suddenly it overtakes them, and bears them away. Some think, that though there may be more security in the place of refuge, it is like a prison-house of restraint and gloom; and they cannot bear to leave all the enjoyments of their present abode, and confine themselves within those walls. They know not that all that is good and fair outside, is there in greater perfection—that the peace and love that reigns within gild all things with a brighter hue— that the air is softer, and the leaves greener—and the flowers of joy, so thinly scattered in the outer fields, so stained and broken by the black waves that have rolled over them, bloom there all fresh and beautiful.

"Many there are too proud to accept safety from any but themselves. You may see them toiling to raise up vain defences, which the first wave will overthrow. To others, the dark and descending path, the low door of entrance, are the great objection. They would gladly be admitted, but not by that way. So they waste their strength in vain efforts to climb over the wall, or in applying at that gate which will never open to them."

As I continued to survey the island, I saw that the people on its shore had many troubles besides the inroads of the sea. They had rebelled against their King, and thrown off his yoke, so he left them to shape their own course, and follow their own pleasure; and many were the ills they had brought upon themselves in consequence. Some indeed, seemed anxious to be at peace with their neighbours, and to do them kindness; but among most of them, I saw mutual wrong, hatred, and contention, and this at times kindling to such fury, that they would rush upon their own destruction, precipitating themselves and one another into the abyss.

But now I had gazed long enough on this melancholy scene, and my companion brought me to view the happy region of peace and safety. Many, I found, were the blessings enjoyed by those who entered here. Chief of them all is this, that they are now reconciled to their King, that he is become their friend and guardian, and looks upon them with favour and love. It is their constant delight to do his will, and obey all his commands. Their greatest grief is the condition of those who remain outside, and often they mount the wall and call to them, entreating them to come in.

But the King does not suffer them to remain on. this island for ever. After they have served him for a little time, he calls them away to a better country, to dwell with him in his own palace. When the summons comes, they must go down by a passage in the wall to that dark and rolling sea; but ere their feet touch the waters, a bark is ready to receive them, and bear them in safety to their eternal home.

When daylight began to fade over the island, I heard the evening hymn raised by the watchers on the walls, and swelled by a thousand voices from within. They sang in word? like these the praises of their Prince and Saviour—

'' Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
"And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father;
"To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
"Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne,
"And to the Lamb for ever and ever."

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