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HUMAN LIFE APTLY COMPARED TO A JOURNEY.
HEBREWS, X111. 14.
FOR HERE HAVE WE NO CONTINUING CITY, BUT WE SEEK ONE
No imagery throughout Holy Scripture is more expressive, and scarcely any appears to be more frequently employed, than that which views the state of man upon earth in the light of a journey; which considers the inhabitants of this perishable globe as strangers and pilgrims cast upon its surface; and which supplies a measure both of their duties and expectations by pointing out that home, which the way-worn traveller is never again destined to forsake. “ I am a stranger and a sojourner with you,” said faithful Abraham to the sons of Heth a. « The days of the
years of my pilgrimage” (said his grandson Jacob to the monarch of Egypt) “ are an hundred and thirty years : few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." Now that the expressions “ strangers,” “ sojourners ” and “pilgrims” are not confined to the fact of Abraham being the native of a distant country, and com
a Gen. xxiii. 4.
b Gen. xlvii. 9.
mencing his residence in the land of Canaan, when his life was well advanced; but that they had a further and more general meaning, and applied to the uncertain and wearisome condition of human existence, may be gathered from a passage of the Psalmist: “ Hold not thy peace at my tears; for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
prayer of the same holy monarch, recorded in the First Book of Chronicles, is still more to our purpose : “We are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers : our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” But the most decisive proof of the solemn and practical meaning, which belongs to these expressions of the Patriarchs, arises from the light, in which they were evidently regarded by the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Of Abraham he says; “ by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Then he adds, “ These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off; and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
The imagery no doubt was peculiarly adapted to the feelings, as well as comprehension, of the Jewish
a Ps. xxxix. 12.
b 1 Chron. xxix. 15. c Heb. xi. 9, 10, 13.
people; because their national history so often represents them as placed in a strange land, or as wandering without
settled habitation. The condition of their early ancestors has been already noticed. For some centuries their descendants abode in Egypt; but abode with a fixed purpose, as well as a Divine promise, of returning.–When at length they were permitted to occupy Canaan, their idolatries and crimes drove them into captivity, and scattered them among the nations of the earth. But before they were permitted to occupy the promised land after their return from Egypt, they were doomed to wander “ through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and droughts, where there was no water.” b
In allusion to the comfort and tranquillity, which awaited them in the land of Canaan after their toilsome and disquieting journey in the wilderness, the sacred Writers aptly use the term “ rest,” as significant of the happiness of heaven after the troubles and vexations of this earthly state; an allusion, which would be still more significant in the early days of Christianity, when good men were so much more exposed to obloquy and hardship, because they obeyed the dictates of their conscience, and manfully adhered to the cross of Christ. Hence the Apostle says, “ God will give you rest, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven.” And in the Epistle to the Hebrews ", " There remaineth a rest for the people of God "--and the admonitory inference, which he draws, is as useful to Christians of the present day, as it was to the writer's contemporaries : “ Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest :” or as the same idea is differently expressed by St. Peter, and with a still nearer approach to the general notion, upon which we are discoursing ; “ Dearly beloved, I beseech
a Deut. xxviii. 64. c 2 Thess. i. 7.
b Deut. viii. 15. See i. 19. div. 9.
you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” a
Now if this be an accurate description of the condition of human life; if we be truly represented as strangers and travellers ; we should consider what consequences naturally flow from such a representation.
-If we are only strangers upon earth, there should seem to be some native city, to which we properly and permanently belong. If we are placed in the situation of travellers; there must be some point, to which our thoughts should be directed as the end of our journey. If we are performing the part of pilgrims, there must surely be some place deserving our utmost reverence, to which our steps are bending; where we may reasonably expect to find a recompense for the fatigue and irksomeness, the toil and inconvenience, of a long and hazardous enterprise. “ If," as the Apostle assures us in the text, “ we have here no continuing city;" it follows almost as a necessary consequence, that “ we seek one to come.”
It becomes then a matter of no little interest to discover, whether such a description of human life corresponds with the reality of things—whether the picture, which is thus drawn of our condition and prospects in a state of mortality, corresponds with our actual experience; in short, whether the image of a journey, a voyage, a pilgrimage, to which existence is so often compared, be exact or not. After such inquiry, we shall be better able to ascertain the nature of those expectations, which we may reasonably cherish concerning the end of this earthly pilgrimage; and we may learn to estimate duly the desirableness of that “ city,” to which our thoughts and our hopes are by such authority directed, as “ about to come.”
a 1 Pet. ii. 11.
Now, when we see any one pursuing a journey, the first idea that enters the mind is, that he is merely passing from one place to another ; that he is continually shifting his ground; that the objects before him are as often varying; and that, as objects change, his mind is differently affected, and sometimes diverted from the purpose, with which he originally set out.-That this is an accurate resemblance of human life, no one, who possesses the capacity of reflection, can for a moment doubt. For not only is the whole of existence a mere passage from the birth to the grave; but, in a great variety of instances, it is actually passed in a state of motion.--Not only do the different stages of our existence furnish so many distinct situations in which we are placed, while we travel, almost imperceptibly to ourselves, from one to another; but in many cases the transition is marked by a change of abode. New objects present themselves ; new connexions are formed; new hopes and new fears arise in succession; and the scheme of the