Introduction



  
 
The Christian life is not all sunshine and roses; neither is it all shadows and brambles. All our skies cannot be cloudless; neither can all our roses be without thorns. The pilgrim's way to the Celestial City does not lie across a low, flat plain: instead, it leads through a great variety of scenery. Now we walk a smooth way, sunlit and bright, with a splendid vista outspread before us. Further along we pass into the foothills and our pathway rises and falls. Now we stand upon the summit and feast our eyes on the broad expanse and the glowing hilltops around us, basking in the sunshine of noonday. Again we go slowly down into the valley and walk beside the still waters, amid the green grass, and breathe the air perfumed by the flowers and hear the carols of the birds as they merrily pass the hours. Farther on we have a bit of steep climbing, with perchance many stones along the way, and here and there a thorn bush catches our garments and pricks our feet. Sometimes the way is toilsome, but presently we reach the top, and there in the clear air, under the dome of heaven, our souls are hushed and awed and filled with holy inspiration. Down from the mountain sooner or later we must go, sometimes over crags and where it seems no feet have trodden before us. With the outlook of the mountaintop left behind, our vision becomes narrow, and we make our way slowly and painfully down into the darkened valley. There are shadows in the valley. Sometimes a great cloud s ails overhead and the sunlight disappears. The bird-songs resound no more. The warmth is gone, and the chill of the evening comes on apace. The night falls; but the Celestial City lies still far away, and we must walk in the night as well as in the day. Sometimes then our footsteps falter. Sometimes strange shapes appear, and we hear voices that cannot be interpreted; but we must walk on. When the daylight comes again, there is joy and sunshine once more.

So is the journey of life - infinite in its variety. No matter how much of the old, there is always something new. No matter how much we understand, there is always that which is mysterious. Whether upon the mountain or in the valley, whether by the silent waters or by the gushing waterfall, whether in the calm sunshine or in the beating storm, we must press ever onward. Now and then we may stand upon some mountain of transfiguration and see all things illuminated with a heavenly glory and hear words impossible for man to utter. But we must come down from that mountain and go upon our way again. Sometimes we may catch a faint distant glimpse of the Celestial City, which is the goal of all our hopes; but much of the time it will be beyond our vision, and much of the time we shall see only the ordinary things of everyday life.

The path of life has, as it were, two sides - one bright and attractive; the other with its shadows, from which we instinctively shrink. But it takes both these to make up life's pathway. As children of God, we are still human. And with others we must bear the things that belong to human life - its cares, its perplexities, its unsolved problems, its frailties, in fact all those things which fall to the lot of other mortals.

So it would seem best in this volume that I should walk upon the shadowy side of the path, rather than upon that which lies in the sunshine, if perchance the rays of my lantern shall fall upon some of the dark places and shall make the footsteps of the pilgrim more certain and help him to define some of those shadowy shapes that trouble him. The bright side of life needs no illumination, and when the pilgrim walks through the sunshine on a plain path he needs no instructor, he needs no one to interpret life to him. It is when the shadows fall and perplexing things come, when he hears strange voices, and when he feels his need of counsel and of comfort, that he welcomes someone to interpret for him the things of lie, and to point out a safe and sure pathway. And so, reader, I offer to walk with you through some of these places, and I trust that we shall be congenial companions and that at last we shall both safely reach the Celestial City and join the white-robed throng in everlasting praises before the Majesty that sitteth upon the throne eternal.