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
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things, I had withdrawn my eyes from the scene that had so long held them;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
"And to the Lamb for ever and ever."