Part 29 — The River of Death by John Bunyan audio
Now, I further saw, that between them and the gate was a river — but there was no bridge to pass over it, and the river was very deep. At the sight of this river, the Pilgrims were bewildered.
But the men said to them, “You must go through the river — or you cannot enter in at the gate.”
The Pilgrims then began to inquire if there was any other way to the gate — to which the men answered, “Yes, but only two since the foundation of the world have been permitted to tread that path — namely, Enoch and Elijah. Nor shall any others go that way until the last trumpet shall sound!”
The Pilgrims then, especially Christian, began to lose heart. They looked this way and that — but they could find no way by which they might escape the river. Then they asked the men if the waters were all the same depth.
“No,” they replied, “You shall find it deeper or shallower — just as you believe in the King of the City.”
The Pilgrims then approached the water. Upon entering it, Christian began to sink! Crying out to his good friend Hopeful, he shouted, “I am sinking in deep waters! The billows are rolling over my head — all His waves are washing over me!”
Then Hopeful replied, “Take courage, my brother — I feel the bottom, and it is firm!”
Christian then cried out, “Ah! my friend, the sorrows of death have compassed me about! I shall not see the land which flows with milk and honey!”
With that, a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see ahead of him. He also, in great measure, lost his senses — so that he could neither remember, nor talk coherently of any of those sweet refreshments which he had met with along the way of his pilgrimage. But all the words that he spoke still tended to manifest his horror of mind and heart-fears — that he would die in that river, and never obtain entrance at the gate.
Here also, as those two men who stood by perceived, Christian was much in troublesome thoughts concerning the sins that he had committed — both before and since he began to be a Pilgrim. It was also observed by his words, that he was troubled with apparitions of hobgoblins and evil spirits.
Hopeful, therefore, labored hard to keep his brother’s head above water. Yes, sometimes Christian almost drowned — but then, in a short time, he would surface again, half dead.
Hopeful would also endeavor to encourage him, saying, “Brother, I see the gate — and men standing ready to receive us!”
But Christian would answer, “It is you — it is you they are waiting for! You have been Hopeful ever since I first knew you!”
“And so have you,” responded Hopeful.
“Ah, brother!” cried Christian, “Surely if I were right with Him — then He would now arise to help me. Because of my sins, He has brought me into the snare, and has left me.”
Hopeful reminded him, “My brother, you have quite forgotten the text where it is said of the wicked, ‘They have no struggles in their death — but their strength is firm. They are not troubled as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.’ These troubles and distresses that you are going through in these waters, are no indication that God has forsaken you. Rather, they are only sent to test you — as to whether you will call to mind what you have hitherto received of His goodness, and live upon Him in your present distresses.”
Then I saw in my dream, that Christian was in deep thought for a while.
Hopeful then added this word, “Take courage — Jesus Christ makes you whole!”
With that, Christian cried out with a loud voice, “O! I see Him again, and He tells me, ‘When you pass through the waters — I will be with you. When you go through the rivers — they shall not overflow you!'”
Then they both took courage. After that, the enemy was as still as a stone, and could no longer hinder them. Christian therefore felt firm ground to stand upon — and found that the rest of the river was but shallow. Thus they both crossed over the river.