As I was walking on a bright summer evening, among the Italian Alps, I came to one of the lovely valleys of the Waldenses. These, perhaps I should tell my young readers, are a pious race of Christians, who have, age after age, boldly |contended for the faith once delivered to the saints,| and kept the lamp of truth brightly burning, when all around was darkness.
This beautiful spot is surrounded by very lofty mountains, whose tops are almost lost in the clouds, while the little stream that murmurs below has its banks covered with vines and mulberry trees, rich corn fields, and happy villages. When I first entered it by the Alpine pass of La Croix, the whole valley was shrouded in a dense fog, with the exception of one bold and very remarkable Rock, which towered in solitary grandeur above the sea of mist, and seemed from its height like an island suspended in mid-air!
Upon inquiring what this Rock was, I was informed it is a place famous in the history of the Valley. When the poor peasants were persecuted by their foes, their cottages and hamlets plundered, their loved sanctuaries burnt with fire, and |all their pleasant things laid waste,| they would retire with their wives and little ones up to this rocky citadel, which the God of nature seemed to have reared as a shelter for His defenceless people.
Within this Rock that same God had wonderfully provided for their safety and comfort. It contains a large cavern, capable of holding many at a time; and in the very centre of this cave is a fountain of water, which yields a never-failing supply. When driven thither by the storms of persecution, the exiles provided themselves with food, from the plentiful wild fruits of the adjoining mountain, so that the Bible promise was made good to them, |Their bread shall be given them, and their water shall be sure!| Swords and cannon and other means of defense they had none, but a single man, stationed at the mouth of the cave, was enough to defy hundreds of armed soldiers. He had only to hurl fragments of loose stones (which were supplied from the sides of the cavern) down upon the foe, and they were instantly beaten back, thus fulfilling God's words to Israel, |Five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight.|
Often, often, then, when the wintry tempests and Alpine storms, and drifting snows, were raging fiercely around, adding to the terrors of the enemy, did these peasant warriors find in the Rock of Castello a secure shelter and retreat. With their fountain and blazing fire, their Bibles and their God, they would make the rocky cavern ring with praise. They |feared the Lord,| and had no other fear. He had |given his angels charge over them;| and they could boldly make the challenge, |God is for us, who can be against us?|
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When I heard about this Rock, which the |God of Nature| had upreared as a citadel for his oppressed people, it reminded me of a better ROCK, which |the God of Grace| has provided for perishing sinners!
Dear Children! -- You are all, by nature, like these poor Christians of the Alps, the inhabitants of a Valley. It is called |The Valley of Tears!| Like theirs, too, it is a lovely valley, far too lovely for sinful man; but though lovely, its name tells you it is a Valley of Weeping. Sin has made it so. And more than this, it is a Valley of Danger, a Valley of Death!
It is full of Enemies. I can not tell you them all, |their name is Legion, for they are many.| There are:
THE WORLD. Ungodly men, bad companions,
tempting you to sin,
and trying to keep you
back from fleeing to Jesus!
YOUR OWN The enemy within, the worst
HEARTS. of all, because the most
deceitful of all!
SATAN. The great enemy, who goeth
about seeking whom he
DEATH. The last enemy, a sudden
enemy, but oh! remember,
a sure enemy; other enemies
may come, He must
come, and the time of his
coming is generally |at
midnight,| when you least
look for him!
Methinks I hear my young readers exclaiming, If my enemies are so many, if my danger is so great, is there no place I can flee to? |What must I do to be saved| from those enemies in this Valley of Tears? Oh! whither shall I flee from the |wrath to come?|
Hear the voice of God: -- He is pointing to a Rock rising from the midst of the Valley, and is calling aloud to you, |Flee to this Stronghold, ye prisoners of Hope!|
Do you ask -- When shall I flee? He answers, |Now is the day of salvation!|
Do you ask -- May I not wait a few years? I am yet a young inhabitant of the Valley. Death, if he be the surest enemy, is the last enemy; have I not yet time enough? God answers -- TO-DAY! while it is called to-day! |Verily, there may be but a step between thee and Death!| |Haste thee; flee for thy life.|
Do you ask -- But must I leave all the pleasures of sin, and so much that I love in this valley of tears? God answers, |What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?|
Do you ask -- But is there no other refuge than this, no other means of safety but, amid storm and tempest, to climb to this Rock? God answers, |Neither is there salvation in any other! For there is none other name given under heaven, by which a sinner can be saved, but the name of Jesus.|
Dear children, let this be your prayer: |Lord, lead me unto this ROCK, that is higher than I!|
Oh! with what delight does that Great God look upon children, such as you, when they |flee for refuge to lay hold on this hope set before them;| and when they join their hearts and their voices together, saying, |Oh! come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise unto the ROCK OF OUR SALVATION!|
But I would like to tell my Young Readers something more about this Great |Refuge from the storm| -- this Great |Covert from the tempest.| Let us seat ourselves for a little in the Alpine valley, under the brow of the Rock of Castello; it may help us to some thoughts of the better |Rock of Ages!| I dare say many a poor Waldensian, when taking shelter in this earthly refuge, would be often reminded by it of the ROCK that can never be shaken!
First, The Rock of Castello is very High. So is Jesus; so High, that He is called the Son of the Highest -- |The Ancient of Days!| -- |God over all.| |The heaven of heavens can not contain Him!|
Second, The Rock of Castello rises from the Valley: so Jesus rose from poor parents in this valley of tears. He |humbled Himself,| to take upon Him our nature; so that |although he be HIGH, He might have respect unto the lowly!|
Third, The Rock of Castello was quite close at hand; though lofty, it was always near for fleeing to: so is Jesus, the |Rock of Ages.| We have not to say, |Who shall ascend into Heaven to bring Christ down?| |He is not far from any one of us.| Indeed, He is so very near, and so very accessible, that the only wonder is that there should be any found who do not |flee to Him for refuge!|
Fourth, The Rock of Castello was wont to shelter many children and helpless infants; many poor mothers, driven from their homes, carried their babes thither in their arms. Jesus, the living Rock, does the same. He delighted, when on earth, to fold children to his bosom, and say, |Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not!| It was neither His nor His |Father's will| that so much as |one of these little ones should perish.| He was so HIGH that angels adored Him; so meek and lowly, that infants smiled in his arms!
Fifth, The Rock of Castello has a large cleft or opening in it, which admits into the cavern. Jesus is a rent and smitten Rock! You can enter by faith into Him only through His opened side. Oh! what a smiting that was, by the rod of God's justice! and yet, had there been no such smiting, you and I, Dear Children, must have perished!
Sixth, The Rock of Castello was a Secure Hiding Place. No other spot in all the valley could have afforded shelter but this. On any of the surrounding mountains there would have been certain destruction to the exiles, from the Alpine snows, and fierce hurricanes and storms. But here, in their cavern, nothing could touch them, and if the storm raged, it spent its fury on the Rock!
Jesus is, indeed, a safe Shelter, while every other refuge will prove |a refuge of lies!| The tempest of God's wrath, and the curses of God's law, are still raging fiercely all around. But what matters it? They can not touch You, my Young Friends, if sheltered in the Rock! Upon that ROCK, eighteen hundred years ago, they exhausted all their fury. Jesus shelters and delivers you from that fearful storm of Law-curses, by himself being |made a curse for you!| The tempest may smite Jesus the Rock, but it can not touch those who have |won Him, and are FOUND IN HIM.|
Seventh, The Rock of Castello has a Fountain in it. Jesus, the Living Rock, has opened a Fountain not only |for Sin,| but |for Uncleanness.| He does not wish only to justify you, by sheltering you from the Storms of the Law, -- but He wishes also to sanctify you, and fit you for glory. He does not only wish to make you Safe, but to make you Holy. The HOLY SPIRIT is this Fountain in the Rock. Oh! Dear Children, bless God for this |Well of Water, springing up unto everlasting life.| It washes, and cleanses, and refreshes you. Without it, your naturally unholy hearts could never be fitted for the holy, happy heaven, of a Holy, Happy God.
Eighth, The Rock of Castello remains as it was to this hour, while all its brave inmates of past generations are no more. Jesus is an Everlasting Rock, unchanged and unchangeable. This is still |His name, and still His memorial,| |Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever!| For six thousand years, sinners have been crowding in, and |still there is room!|
Ninth, The Rock of Castello was only a safe retreat so long as those who fled for refuge remained within its cave. The enemy were continually on the watch, and to venture out, would be to perish! Jesus, the |Rock of Ages,| thus speaks to you, |Abide in me!| |Out of me, ye can do nothing.| It is only |the Righteous who runneth into Him that is safe! To abide in Jesus is to be secure from every danger, to leave Him is destruction!|
Tenth, The Rock of Castello had to be fled to in the first moment of danger. The only safety of the persecuted was in instant flight. On the first tidings of the enemy, houses, and lands, and vineyards, and all they possessed, had to be left, and, |forgetting the things that were behind, they pressed forward| to their Rock! Jesus tells you, dear children, your only safety consists in immediate flight to Himself, the Rock of Ages! Delay may be fatal! The storm-blast is gathering, the sky is darkening, there is the distant muttering of the thunder. The enemy is on the march -- Satan is watching -- Death is approaching. Already he may have strung his arrow. |Flee to the stronghold, ye prisoners of Hope, --
Oh! forbid that this should be your history now, and your history through eternity (How awful are the words!) --
|They lightly esteemed the Rock of their Salvation!|
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Reader! -- Have you fled to this Living |Rock of Ages?| -- Have you made it your prayer,
|Jesus! Refuge of my Soul!
Let me to Thy bosom fly?|
And in that bosom, and that refuge, are you hiding yourself until all Earth's |calamities be overpast?| The deeper you hide yourself in the clefts of the smitten Rock, the safer you are. Oh! do you ever pause and think that there is a day coming, when this Valley of Tears |and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up?| When |God shall arise in the glory of His Majesty, to shake terribly the Earth.| When every mountain peak shall be black with tempest -- and the whole valley shall be a sheet of living fire! Then (as I saw on the evening I entered this Alpine valley), there shall be but ONE ROCK seen rising far above the mist, and thunderings, and lightnings, and tempest! JESUS CHRIST, the Rock of Ages! the Sinner's Refuge! and the Sinner's Friend! Many voices shall be heard beneath in the valley, calling upon other Rocks, but it will be to hide them from the |wrath of the Lamb!| The loose fragments of stone thrown down from the Rock of Castello crushed hundreds: |On whomsoever THIS STONE shall fall, it will grind them to powder!|
Oh, when the voice of the Great Judge shall resound through the dens and caves of the Earth with the Question, -- |Sinner, where are thou?| -- How blessed if you shall be able, from your safe shelter, to reply, |Here am I, Lord! I heard Thy voice, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself!| Hid yourself! where? Hid myself in
|THE ROCK OF AGES.|