THE PILGRIMS (an allegory) by Hannah More

Posted at GraceGems.org:

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Hebrews 11:13 
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11

I thought I was once upon a time traveling through a certain land which was very full of people; but what was rather odd, not one of all this multitude was at home--they were all bound to a far distant country. Though it was permitted by the Lord of the land that these pilgrims might associate together for their present mutual comfort and convenience, and each was not only allowed, but commanded to do the others all the services he could upon their journey, yet it was decreed, that every individual traveler must enter the far country singly.

There was a great gulf at the end of the journey, which every one must pass along and at his own risk, and the friendship of the whole united world could be of no use in passing that gulf. The exact time when each was to pass was not known to any; this the Lord always kept a close secret out of kindness; yet still they were as sure that the time must come, and that at no very great distance, as if they had been informed of the very moment. Now, as they knew they were always liable to be called away at an moment's notice, one would have thought they would have been chiefly employed in packing up, and preparing, and getting everything in order. But this was so far from being the case, that it was almost the only thing they did not think about.

Now I only appeal to you, my readers, if any of you are setting out upon a little common journey, if it is only to London or York, is not all your leisure time employed in settling your business at home and packing up every little necessity for your expedition? And does not the fear of neglecting anything you ought to remember, or may have occasion for, haunt your mind, and sometimes even intrude upon you unseasonably? And when you are actually on your journey, especially if you have never been to that place before, or are likely to remain there, don't you begin to think a little about the pleasures and the employments of the place, and to wish to know a little what sort of a city London or York is?

Don't you wonder what is going on there, and whether you are properly qualified for the business or the company you expect to be engaged in? Do you never look at the map? And don't you try to pick up from your fellow-passengers in the stage-coach any little information you can get? And though you may be obliged, out of civility, to converse with them on common subjects, yet do not your secret thoughts still run upon London or York, its business, or its pleasures? And, above all, if you are likely to set out early, are you not afraid of oversleeping, and does not that fear keep you upon the watch, so that you are commonly up and ready before the porter comes to summon you? Reader, if this be your case, how surprised will you be to hear, that the travelers to the far country have not half your prudence, though bound on a journey of infinitely more importance, to a land where nothing can be sent after them, and in which, when they are once settled, all errors are not recoverable.

I observed that these pilgrims, instead of being upon the watch, lest they should be ordered off unprepared--instead of laying up any provision, or even making memorandums of what they would be likely to need, spend most of their time in crowds, either in the way of business or diversions. At first, when I saw them so much engaged in conversing with each other, I thought it a good sign, and listened attentively to their talk, not doubting but the chief turn of it would be about the climate, or treasures, or society they would probably meet with in the far country. I supposed they might be also discussing about the best and safest road to it, and that each was availing himself of the knowledge of his neighbor, on a subject of equal importance to all. I listened to every party, but in scarcely any did I hear one word about the land to which they were going, though it was their home, the place where their whole interest, expectation, and inheritance lay; to which also great part of their friends had gone before, and where they were sure all the rest would follow.

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