An Allegory

From Miscellaneous Writings by

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2      Picture to yourself “a city set upon a hill,” a
         celestial city above all clouds, in serene azure and
         unfathomable glory: having no temple therein, for God is
5      the temple thereof; nor need of the sun, neither of the
         moon, for God doth lighten it. Then from this sacred
         summit behold a Stranger wending his way downward,
         to where a few laborers in a valley at the foot of the moun-
         tain are working and watching for his coming.

10    The descent and ascent are beset with peril, priva-
         tion, temptation, toil, suffering. Venomous serpents hide
         among the rocks, beasts of prey prowl in the path, wolves
         in sheep’s clothing are ready to devour; but the Stranger
         meets and masters their secret and open attacks with
15    serene confidence.

         The Stranger eventually stands in the valley at the
         foot of the mountain. He saith unto the patient toilers
         therein: “What do ye here? Would ye ascend the moun-
         tain,—climbing its rough cliffs, hushing the hissing
20    serpents, taming the beasts of prey,—and bathe in its
         streams, rest in its cool grottos, and drink from its living
         fountains? The way winds and widens in the valley;
         up the hill it is straight and narrow, and few there be that
         find it.”

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1      His converse with the watchers and workers in the
         valley closes, and he makes his way into the streets of a
         city made with hands.

         Pausing at the threshold of a palatial dwelling, he
5      knocks and waits. The door is shut. He hears the
         sounds of festivity and mirth; youth, manhood, and age
         gayly tread the gorgeously tapestried parlors, dancing-
         halls, and banquet-rooms. But a little while, and the
         music is dull, the wine is unsipped, the footfalls abate,
10    the laughter ceases. Then from the window of this dwel-
         ling a face looks out, anxiously surveying him who waiteth
         at the door.

         Within this mortal mansion are adulterers, fornicators,
         idolaters; drunkenness, witchcraft, variance, envy, emu-
15    lation, hatred, wrath, murder. Appetites and passions
         have so dimmed their sight that he alone who looks from
         that dwelling, through the clearer pane of his own heart
         tired of sin, can see the Stranger.

         Startled beyond measure at beholding him, this mortal
20    inmate withdraws; but growing more and more troubled,
         he seeks to leave the odious company and the cruel walls,
         and to find the Stranger. Stealing cautiously away from
         his comrades, he departs; then turns back,—he is afraid
         to go on and to meet the Stranger. So he returns to the
25    house, only to find the lights all wasted and the music
         fled. Finding no happiness within, he rushes again
         into the lonely streets, seeking peace but finding none.
         Naked, hungry, athirst, this time he struggles on, and
         at length reaches the pleasant path of the valley at the
30    foot of the mountain, whence he may hopefully look for
         the reappearance of the Stranger, and receive his heavenly

Page 325

1      The Stranger enters a massive carved stone mansion,
         and saith unto the dwellers therein, “Blessed are the
         poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But
         they understand not his saying.

5      These are believers of different sects, and of no sect;
         some, so-called Christian Scientists in sheep’s clothing;
         and all “drunken without wine.” They have small con-
         ceptions of spiritual riches, few cravings for the immortal,
         but are puffed up with the applause of the world: they
10    have plenty of pelf, and fear not to fall upon the Stranger,
         seize his pearls, throw them away, and afterwards try to
         kill him.

         Somewhat disheartened, he patiently seeks another
         dwelling,—only to find its inmates asleep at noontide!
15    Robust forms, with manly brow nodding on cushioned
         chairs, their feet resting on footstools, or, flat on their
         backs, lie stretched on the floor, dreaming away the
         hours. Balancing on one foot, with eyes half open,
         the porter starts up in blank amazement and looks at
20    the Stranger, calls out, rubs his eyes,—amazed beyond
         measure that anybody is animated with a purpose, and
         seen working for it!

         They in this house are those that “provoke Him in
         the wilderness, and grieve Him in the desert.” Away
25    from this charnel-house of the so-called living, the Stranger
         turns quickly, and wipes off the dust from his feet as a
         testimony against sensualism in its myriad forms. As
         he departs, he sees robbers finding ready ingress to that
         dwelling of sleepers in the midst of murderous hordes,
30    without watchers and the doors unbarred!

         Next he enters a place of worship, and saith unto them,
         “Go ye into all the world; preach the gospel, heal the

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1      sick, cast out devils, raise the dead; for the Scripture
         saith the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath
         made you free from the law of sin and death.” And they
         cast him out

5      Once more he seeks the dwelling-place of mortals and
         knocks loudly. The door is burst open, and sufferers
         shriek for help: that house is on fire! The flames caught
         in the dwelling of luxury, where the blind saw them not,
         but the flesh at length did feel them; thence they spread
10    to the house of slumberers who heeded them not, until
         they became unmanageable; fed by the fat of hypocrisy
         and vainglory, they consumed the next dwelling; then
         crept unseen into the synagogue, licking up the blood
         of martyrs and wrapping their altars in ruins. “God is a
15    consuming fire.”

         Thus are all mortals, under every hue of circumstances,
         driven out of their houses of clay and, homeless wan-
         derers in a beleaguered city, forced to seek the Father’s
         house, if they would be led to the valley and up the
20    mount.

         Seeing the wisdom of withdrawing from those who
         persistently rejected him, the Stranger returned to the
         valley; first, to meet with joy his own, to wash their
         feet, and take them up the mountain. Well might this
25    heavenly messenger exclaim, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
         thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which
         are sent unto thee,… Behold, your house is left unto
         you desolate.”

         Discerning in his path the penitent one who had groped
30    his way from the dwelling of luxury, the Stranger saith
         unto him, “Wherefore comest thou hither?”

         He answered, “The sight of thee unveiled my sins, and

Page 327

1      turned my misnamed joys to sorrow. When I went back
         into the house to take something out of it, my misery
         increased; so I came hither, hoping that I might follow
         thee whithersoever thou goest.”

5      And the Stranger saith unto him, “Wilt thou climb
         the mountain, and take nothing of thine own with thee?”

         He answered, “I will.”

         “Then,” saith the Stranger, “thou hast chosen the
         good part; follow me.”

10    Many there were who had entered the valley to specu-
         late in worldly policy, religion, politics, finance, and to
         search for wealth and fame. These had heavy baggage
         of their own, and insisted upon taking all of it with them,
         which must greatly hinder their ascent.

15    The journey commences. The encumbered travellers
         halt and disagree. They stoutly belay those who, hav-
         ing less baggage, ascend faster than themselves, and
         betimes burden them with their own. Despairing of
         gaining the summit, loaded as they are, they conclude to
20    stop and lay down a few of the heavy weights,—but
         only to take them up again, more than ever determined
         not to part with their baggage.

         All this time the Stranger is pointing the way, show-
         ing them their folly, rebuking their pride, consoling their
25    afflictions, and helping them on, saying, “He that loseth
         his life for my sake, shall find it.”

         Obstinately holding themselves back, and sore-footed,
         they fall behind and lose sight of their guide; when,
         stumbling and grumbling, and fighting each other, they
30    plunge headlong over the jagged rocks.

         Then he who has no baggage goes back and kindly
         binds up their wounds, wipes away the blood stains, and

Page 328

1      would help them on; but suddenly the Stranger shouts,
         “Let them alone; they must learn from the things they
         suffer. Make thine own way; and if thou strayest, listen
         for the mountain-horn, and it will call thee back to the
5      path that goeth upward.”

         Dear reader, dost thou suspect that the valley is hu-
         mility, that the mountain is heaven-crowned Christianity,
         and the Stranger the ever-present Christ, the spiritual
         idea which from the summit of bliss surveys the vale of
10    the flesh, to burst the bubbles of earth with a breath of
         heaven, and acquaint sensual mortals with the mystery
         of godliness,—unchanging, unquenchable Love? Hast
         not thou heard this Christ knock at the door of thine own
         heart, and closed it against Truth, to “eat and drink
15    with the drunken”? Hast thou been driven by suffer-
         ing to the foot of the mount, but earth-bound, burdened
         by pride, sin, and self, hast thou turned back, stumbled,
         and wandered away? Or hast thou tarried in the habita-
         tion of the senses, pleased and stupefied, until wakened
20    through the baptism of fire?

         He alone ascends the hill of Christian Science who
         follows the Way-shower, the spiritual presence and idea
         of God. Whatever obstructs the way,—causing to
         stumble, fall, or faint, those mortals who are striving
25    to enter the path,—divine Love will remove; and up-
         lift the fallen and strengthen the weak. Therefore, give
         up thy earth-weights; and observe the apostle’s admoni-
         tion, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and
         reaching forth unto those which are before.” Then,
30    loving God supremely and thy neighbor as thyself, thou
         wilt safely bear thy cross up to the throne of everlasting

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Love is the liberator.