Mr. Desires-awake dwelt in a very mean cottage in Mansoul. There were two very mean cottages in Mansoul, and those two cottages stood beside one another and leaned upon one another and held one another up. Mr. Desires-awake dwelt in the one of those cottages and Mr. Wet-eyes in the other. And those two mendicant men were wont to meet together for secret prayer, when Mr. Desires-awake would put a rope upon his head, while Mr. Wet-eyes would not be able to speak for wringing his hands in tears all the time. Many a time did those two meanest and most despised of men deliver that city, according to the proverb of the Preacher: Wisdom is better than strength, and the words of wisdom are to be heard in secret places, where wisdom is far better than weapons of war. Why should I not do all for them and the best I can? said Mr. Desires-awake when the men of Mansoul came to him in their extremity. I will even venture my life again for them at the pavilion of the Prince. And accordingly this mean man put his rope upon his head, as was his wont, and went out to the Prince's tent and asked the reformades if he might see their Master. Then the Prince, coming to the place where the petitioner lay on the ground, demanded what his name was and of what esteem he was in Mansoul, and why he, of all the multitudes of Mansoul, was sent out to His Royal tent on such an errand. Then said the man to the Prince standing over him, he said: Oh let not my Lord be angry; and why inquirest Thou after the name of such a dead dog as I am? Pass by, I pray Thee, and take not notice of who I am, because there is, as Thou very well knowest, so great a disproportion between Thee and me. For my part, I am out of charity with myself; who, then, should be in love with me? Yet live I would, and so would I that my townsmen should; and because both they and myself are guilty of great transgressions, therefore they have sent me, and I have come in their names to beg of my Lord for mercy. Let it please Thee, therefore, to incline to mercy; but ask not who Thy servant is. All this, and how Mr. Desires-awake and Mr. Wet-eyes sped in their petition, is to be read at length in the Holy History. And now let us take down the key that hangs in our author's window and go to work with it on the sweet mystery of Mr. Desires-awake.
1. Well, then, to begin with, this poor man's name need not delay us long seeking it out. In shorter time, and with surer success than I could give you the dictionary root of his name, if you will look within you will all see the visual image of this poor man's name in your own heart. For our hearts are all as full as they can hold of all kinds of desires; some good and some bad, some asleep and some awake, some alive and some dead, some raging like a hundred hungry lions, and some satisfied as a sleeping child. Well, then, this mean man was called Mr. Desires-awake, and what his desires were awake after and set upon we have already seen in his head-dress and heard in his prayer. His house, on the other hand, will not be so well known. For it was less a house than a hut--a hut hidden away out of sight and back behind Mr. Wet-eyes' hut. Mr. Desires-awake's cottage was so mean and meagre that no one ever came to visit him unless it was his next-door neighbour. They never left their cottages, those two poor men, unless it was to see one another; or, strange to tell, unless it was to go out at the city gate to see and to speak with their Prince. And at such times their venturesomeness both astonished themselves and amused their Prince. Sometimes he laughed to see them back at his door again; but more often he wept to see and hear them; all which made the guards of his pavilion to wonder who those two strange men might be. And thus it was that if at any long interval of time any of the men of the city desired to see Mr. Desires-awake, he was sure to be found at the pavilion door of his Prince, or else in his neighbour's cottage, or else at home in his own. From year's end to year's end you might look in vain for either of those two poor men in the public resorts of Mansoul. When all the town was abroad on holidays and fair-days and feast-days, those two mean men were then closest at home. And when the booths of the town were full of all kinds of wares and merchandise, and all the greens in the town were full of games, and plays, and cheats, and fools, and apes, and knaves, only those two penniless men would abide shut up at home. At home; or else together they would go to a market-stance set up by their Prince outside the walls where one was stationed to stand and to cry: 'Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Incline your ear and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live.' And sometimes the Prince would go out in person to meet the two men with nothing to pay, and would Himself say to them, I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, and white raiment, and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, till the two men, Mr. Desires-awake and Mr. Wet-eyes, would go home to their huts laden with their Prince's free gifts and royal bounties.
2. But, with all that, Mr. Desires-awake never went out to his Prince's pavilion till he had again put his rope upon his head. And, however laden with royal presents he ever returned to his mean cottage, he never laid aside his rope. He ate in his rope, he slept in his rope, he visited his next-door neighbour in his rope, till the only instruction he left behind him was to bury him in a ditch, and be sure to put his rope upon his head. The men and the boys of the town jeered at Mr. Desires-awake as he passed up their streets in his rope, and the very mothers in Mansoul taught their children in arms to run after him and to cry, Go up, thou roped head! Go up, thou roped head! We be free men, the men of the town called after him; and we never were in bondage to any man'. Out with him; out with him! He is beside himself. Much repentance hath made him mad! But through all that Mr. Desires-awake was as one that heard them not. For Mr. Desires-awake was full of louder voices within. The voices within his bosom quite drowned the babel around him. The voices within called him far worse names than the streets of the city ever called him; till all he could do was to draw his rope down upon his head and press on again to the Prince's pavilion. You understand about that rope, my brethren, do you not? Mr. Desires-awake's continual rope? In old days when a guilty man came of his own accord to the judge to confess himself deserving of death, he would put a rope upon his head. And that rope as much as said to the judge and to all men--the miserable man as good as said: This is my desert. This is the wages of my sin. I justify my judge. I judge myself. I hereby do myself to death. And it was this that so angered the happy holiday-makers of Mansoul. For they forgave themselves. They justified themselves. They put a high price upon themselves. Humiliation and sorrow for sin was not in all their thoughts; and they hated and hunted back into his hut the humble man whose gait and garb always reminded them of their past life and of their latter end. But for all they could do, Mr. Desires-awake would wear his rope. My soul chooseth strangling rather than sin, he would say. My sin hath found me out, he would say; I hate myself, he would say, because of my sin. I condemn and denounce myself. I hang myself up with this rope on the accursed tree. And thus it was that while other men were crucifying their Prince afresh, Mr. Desires-awake was crucifying himself with and after his Prince. And thus it was that while the men and the women of the town so hated and so mocked Mr. Desires-awake, his Prince so loved and so honoured him.
3. 'Oh let not my Lord be angry; and why inquirest Thou after the name of such a dead dog as I am?' said Desires-awake to his Prince. 'Behold, now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord which am but dust and ashes,' said Abraham. 'If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me into the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me,' said Job. 'My wounds stink and are corrupt; my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh,' said David. 'But we are all as an unclean thing,' said Isaiah, 'and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.' 'I am the chief of sinners,' said the apostle. 'Hold your peace; I am a devil and not a man,' said Philip Neri to his sons. 'I am a sinner, and worse than the chief of sinners, yea, a guilty devil,' said Samuel Rutherford. 'I hated the light; I was a chief--the chief of sinners,' said Oliver Cromwell. 'I was more loathsome in my own eyes than a toad,' said John Bunyan. 'Sin and corruption would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would bubble out of a fountain. I could have changed hearts with anybody. I thought none but the devil himself could equal me for wickedness and pollution of mind.' 'O Despise me not,' said Bishop Andrewes, 'an unclean worm, a dead dog, a putrid corpse. The just falleth seven times a day; and I, an exceeding sinner, seventy times seven. Me, O Lord, of sinners chief, chiefest, and greatest.' And William Law, 'An unclean worm, a dead dog, a stinking carcass. Drive, I beseech Thee, the serpent and the beast out of me. O Lord, I detest and abhor myself for all these my sins, and for all my abuse of Thine infinite mercy.' From all this, then, you will see that this dead dog of ours with the rope upon his head was no strange sight at Emmanuel's pavilion. And you and I shall still be in the same saintly succession if we go continually with his words in our mouth, and with his instrument in our hands and on our heads.
4. 'The Prince to whom I went,' said Mr. Desires-awake, 'is such a one for beauty and for glory that whoso sees Him must ever after both love and fear Him. I, for my part,' he said, 'can do no less; but I know not what the end will be of all these things.' What made Mr. Desires-awake say that last thing was that when he was prostrate in his prayer the Prince turned His head away, as if He was out of humour and out of patience with His petitioner; while, all the time, the overcome Prince was weeping with love and with pity for Desires-awake. Only that poor man did not see that, and would not have believed that even if he had seen it. 'I cannot tell what the end will be,' said Desires-awake; 'but one thing I know, I shall never be able to cease from both loving and fearing that Prince. I shall always love Him for His beauty and fear Him for His glory.' Can you say anything like that, my brethren? Have you been at His seat with sackcloth, and a rope, and ashes, and tears, and prayers, like Abraham, and David, and Isaiah, and Paul, and John Bunyan, and Bishop Andrewes? And, whatever may be the end, do you say that henceforth and for ever you must both love and fear that Prince? 'Though He slay me,' said Job, 'yet I shall both love and trust Him.' Well, the Prince is the Prince, and He will take both His own time and His own way of taking off your rope and putting a chain of gold round your neck, and a new song in your mouth, as He did to Job. There may be more weeping yet, both on your side and on His before He does that; but He will do it, and He will not delay an hour that He can help in doing it. Only, do you continue and increase to love His beauty, and to fear His glory. And that of itself will be reward and blessing enough to you. Nay, once you have seen both His beauty and His glory, then to lie a dog under His table, and to beg at His door with a rope on your head to all eternity would be a glorious eternity to you. Samuel Rutherford said that to see Christ through the keyhole once in a thousand years would be heaven enough for him. Christ wept in heaven as Rutherford wrote that letter in Aberdeen, and if you make Him weep in the same way He will soon make you to laugh too. He will soon make you to laugh as Samuel Rutherford and Mr. Desires-awake are laughing now. Only, my brethren, answer this--Are your desires awakened indeed after Jesus Christ? You know what a desire is. Your hearts are full to the brim of desires. Well, is there one desire in a day in your heart for Christ? In the multitude of your desires within you, what share and what proportion go out and up to Christ? You know what beauty is. You know and you love the beauty of a child, of a woman, of a man, of nature, of art, and so on. Do you know, have you ever seen, the ineffable beauty of Christ? Is there one saint of God here,--and He has many saints here--is there one of you who can say with David in the text, One thing do I desire? There should be many so desiring saints here; for Christ's beauty is far better and far fairer, far more captivating, far more enthralling, and far more satisfying to us than it could be to David. Shall we call you Desires-awake, then, after this? Can you say--do you say, One thing do I desire, and that is no thing and no person, no created beauty and no earthly sweetness, but my one desire is for God: to be His, and to be like Him, and to be for ever with Him? Then, it shall soon all be. For, what you truly desire,--all that you already are; and what you already are,--all that you shall soon completely and for ever be. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
'As for me,' says the great-hearted, the hungry-hearted Psalmist, 'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.' One would have said that David had all that heart could desire even before he fell asleep. For he had a throne, the throne of Israel, and a son, a son like Solomon to sit upon it. A long life also, full to the brim of all kinds of temporal and spiritual blessings. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. All that, and yet not satisfied! O David! David! surely Desires-awake is thy new name! One of our own poets has said:--
'All thoughts, all passions, all delights, Whatever stirs this mortal frame, All are but ministers of Love, And feed His sacred flame.'
Now, if that is true, as it is true, even of earthly and ephemeral love, how much more true is it of the love that is in the immortal soul of man for the everlasting God? And what a blessed life that already is when all things that come to us--joy and sorrow, good and evil, nature and grace, all thoughts, all passions, all delights--are all but so many ministers to our soul's desire after God, after the Divine Likeness and for the Beatific Vision.
'Oh! Christ, He is the Fountain, The deep sweet Well of Love! The streams on earth I've tasted, More deep I'll drink above; There, to an ocean fulness, His mercy doth expand; And glory--glory dwelleth In Emmanuel's land.'
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH