6. "Pray, sir, make me up twelve boxes of them; for if I can get these, I will never take other physic." "These same pills," he replied, "are good also to prevent diseases as well as to cure when one is sick. But, good woman, thou must take these pills no other way but as I have prescribed; for if you do, they will do no good." I have taken one illustration from William Law's life; I shall take another from that world of such illustrations and so close. "O God, let me never see such another day as this. Let the dreadful punishment of this day never be out of my mind." And it never was. For, after that day in hell, Law never laid down his head on his pillow that he did not seem to remember that dreadful day. William Law would have satisfied Dr. Skill for a convalescent. For he never felt that he had any right to touch the body and blood of Christ, either at communion times, or a thousand times every day, till he had again got ready his heart of true repentance. My brethren, self-destroyed out of Beelzebub's orchard, and all my brethren, live a life henceforth of true repentance. Not out of the sins of your youth only, but out of the best, the most watchful, and the most blameless day you ever live, distil your half-pint of repentance every night before you sleep. For, as dear old Skill said, unless you do, neither flesh nor blood of Christ, nor anything else, will do you any genuine good.
Now as they were going along and talking, they espied a boy feeding his father's sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a very fresh and well-favoured countenance, and as he sat by himself he sang. Hark, said Mr. Greatheart, to what the shepherd boy saith. So they hearkened and he said:
He that is down, needs fear no fall; He that is low no pride: He that is humble, ever shall Have God to be his guide. I am content with what I have, Little be it or much: And, Lord, contentment still I crave, Because thou savest such. Fulness to such a burden is That go on pilgrimage: Here little, and hereafter bliss, Is best from age to age.
Then said their guide, Do you hear him? I will dare say that this boy lives a merrier life and wears more of that herb called Heart's-ease in his bosom than he that is clad in silk and velvet."
Now, notwithstanding all that, nobody knew better than John Bunyan knew, that no shepherd boy that ever lived on the face of the earth ever sang that song; only one Boy ever sang that song, and He was not the son of a shepherd at all, but the son of a carpenter. And, saying that leads me on to say this before I begin, that I look for a man of John Bunyan's inventive and sanctified genius to arise some day, and armed also to boot with all our latest and best New Testament studies. When that sorely-needed man so arises he will take us back to Nazareth where that carpenter's Boy was brought up, and he will let us see Him with our own eyes being brought up. He will lead us into Mary's house on Sabbath days, and into Joseph's workshop on week days, and he will show us the child Jesus, not so much learning His letters and then putting on His carpenter's clothes, as learning obedience by the things that He every day suffered. That choice author will show us our Lord, both before He had discovered Himself to be our Lord, as well as after He had made that great discovery, always clothing Himself with humility as with a garment; taking up His yoke of meekness and lowly-mindedness every day, and never for one moment laying it down. When some writer with as holy an imagination as that of John Bunyan, and with as sweet an English style, and with a New Testament scholarship of the first order so arises, and so addresses himself to the inward life of our Lord, what a blessing to our children that writer will be! For he will make them see and feel just what all that was in which our Lord's perfect humility consisted, and how His perfect humility fulfilled itself in Him from day to day; up through all His childhood days, school and synagogue days, workshop and holy days, early manhood and mature manhood days; till He was so meek in all His heart and so humble in all His mind that all men were sent to Him to learn their meekness and their humility of Him. I envy that gifted man the deep delight he will have in his work, and the splendid reward he will have in the love and the debt of all coming generations. Only, may he be really sent to us, and that soon! Theodor Keim comes nearest a far-off glimpse of that eminent service of any New Testament scholar I know. Jeremy Taylor and Thomas Goodwin also, in their own time and in their own way, had occasional inspirations toward this still-waiting treatment of the master-subject of all learning and all genius--the inward sanctification, the growth in grace, and then the self-discovery of the incarnate Son of God. But, so let it please God, some contemporary scholar will arise some day soon, combining in himself Goodwin's incomparable Christology, and Taylor's incomparable eloquence, and Keim's incomparably digested learning, with John Bunyan's incomparable imagination and incomparable English style, and the waiting work will be done, and theology for this life will take on its copestone. In his absence, and till he comes, let us attempt a few annotations to-night on this so-called shepherd boy's song in the Valley of Humiliation.
He that is down, needs fear no fall.
The whole scenery of the surrounding valley is set before us in that single eloquent stanza. The sweet-voiced boy sits well off the wayside as he sings his song to himself. He looks up to the hill-tops that hang over his valley, and every shining tooth of those many hill-tops has for him its own evil legend. "He thinks he sees a little heap of bleaching bones just under where that eagle hangs and wheels and screams. Not one traveller through these perilous parts in a thousand gets down those cruel rocks unhurt; and many travellers have been irrecoverably lost among those deadly rocks, and have never received Christian burial. All the shepherds' cottages and all the hostel supper-tables for many miles round are full of terrible stories of the Hill Difficulty and the Descent Dangerous. And thus it is that this shepherd boy looks up with such fear at those sharp peaks and shining precipices, and lifts his fresh and well-favoured countenance to heaven and sings again: "He that is down, needs fear no fall." Down in his own esteem, that is. For this is a song of the heart rather than of the highway. Down--safe, that is, from the steep and slippery places of self-estimation, self-exaltation, self-satisfaction. Down--so as to be delivered from all ambition and emulation and envy. Down, and safe, thank God, from all pride, all high- mindedness, and all stout-heartedness. Down from the hard and cruel hills, and buried deep out of sight among those meadows where that herb grows which is called Heart's-ease. Down, where the green pastures grow and the quiet waters flow. No, indeed; he that is down into this sweet bottom needs fear no fall. For there is nowhere here for a man to fall from. And, even if he did fall, he would only fall upon a fragrance-breathing bed of lilies. The very herbs and flowers here would conspire to hold him up. Many a day, as He grew up, the carpenter's son sat in that same valley and sang that same song to His own humble and happy heart. He loved much to be here. He loved also to walk these meadows, for He found the air was pleasant. Methinks, He often said with Mercy, I am as well in this valley as I have been anywhere else in My journey. The place, methinks, suits with My spirit. I love to be in such places where there is no rattling with coaches nor rumbling with wheels. Methinks, also, here one may without much molestation be thinking what he is, whence he came, and to what his King has called him.
Low in his own eyes, that is. For pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Yes; but he who is low enough already--none of the sure destructions that pride always works shall ever come near to him. "The proud man," says Sir Henry Taylor, "is of all men the most vulnerable. "Who calls?" asks the old shepherd in As You Like It. "Your betters," is the insolent answer. And what is the shepherd's rejoinder? "Else are they very wretched." By what retort, reprisal, or repartee could it have been made half so manifest that the insult had lighted upon armour of proof? Such is the invincible independence and invulnerability of humility."