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Chapter IV: The Mount of God
Eusemos led me down the hill towards that point from which the different roads radiated, and which was necessarily a common meeting-place for the multitudes continually coming and going. There was no visible reason why this should be so – no barrier or hindrance to their passing directly from, or to, any particular road or point they wished to reach – no gate at which they must gain admission or examination to prove their qualifications, yet by mutual consent all persons gravitated towards that common centre in their passage either way. I grew momentarily more interested in my new and overpowering surroundings as every fresh thought and scene impressed itself upon me. It was while I descended into this busy, ever-changing, joyous throng that I for the first time fully comprehended the fact that death lay out of sight behind us, and as I did so I stopped – stopped to try and realise all I had passed from – what I had passed to, and the incomprehensible change of circumstances into which I had been carried, while yet myself I still remained the same. Every single incident with which I became acquainted appeared to self-contain a heaven, and more of it than I had had power to imagine on earth, yet each was so designed as to proclaim it but an instalment of our home where the word would be heard breathed from the lips of an Infinite Father in the perfect chord of love, the echoes of which will linger on for aye in the vast expanse of that eternal dome beneath which we shall ultimately find our rest.
The scene before me was one of the chief items in the earth idea of heaven, and since we had left time as well as death behind, there was no reason why I should not stay to study the realisation of that upon which every soul had so frequently meditated. My companion saw my desire, and standing silently at my side, seemed to add by his sympathy, to the intense enjoyment I there experienced. How many conquests over death I witnessed! The old enemy of man would have been routed a thousand times if he had marshalled his forces there. Husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister, friend and friends meeting after intervals more or less prolonged, with a full consciousness that they were now beyond the parting; hands rudely torn apart in the chill of the mists resumed their clasp with the knowledge that the death paralysis was powerless to intervene again; eyes on earth sightless, now feasted their hungry vision upon those who had guided them in their darkness; ears strained to listen to a mother’s voice were now entranced with the sweetness of that music; tongues long silent poured forth their gratitude; and arms, which had been powerless, closed in the rapt embrace of love. In all that joy it never occurred to me that I alone stood there without such welcome from those I knew, the yearning desire for one for whom my life had been a constant groaning, never once possessed me; I was so happy in the contemplation of the bliss of others, I had no idea that I was singular in my condition.
Neither was I. Had I not a friend, who though unknown to me before, was yet dear to me already as if he had been a brother – had I not been more blessed than many in the reception Helen had accorded me, and in the assembly of friends from whom I had but just parted for an interval? I was by no means a stranger in a strange land, but a favoured son who felt free to wander at will over his Father’s wide domain.
Favoured indeed! for the privilege which was mine I soon discovered was not the lot of all to enjoy. There are two sides to every picture, and it was not long before I found a reverse even to that which lay before me. I was not alone, but I soon saw one and then another who laboured to pass unnoticed through that joyous throng, anxious to avoid recognition, full of fear and terrified by apprehension lest their presence should be detected by individuals from whom they shrank. In a glance at such poor creatures I received a revelation, and learned a truth more emphatic than any argument could have presented to my mind; the relative positions of heaven and hell were practically illustrated, and I realised that.
In no geography can heaven be found;
But in the ocean of a righteous soul
It forms an island, with its coast rock-bound,
And quiet haven, where no tempests roll.
One breath of sin upon God’s throne would tell,
And start the conflagration of a hell.
My attention had been particulary attracted by the greetings passing between two who were evidently brother and sister, the former of whom had but just arrived; the fervent ardour of their youthful embraces, the happy contentment upon the face of the girl, the gratitude and satisfaction so visible in the boy, were very beautiful to look upon. As I watched their joy, participating in their happiness I was conscious of asking myself when my capacity of bliss would reach its limit, and whether it was not possible for me presently to awake and find that all had been a dream. With this, as if to give some weight to such a suggestion, my eye fell upon a woman, robed in a dress of reddish-brown who watched that boy and girl with looks and feelings I never thought possible to find in such a place. In her eyes the fires of terror blazed; from her face the perspiration rolled in beads of agonising fear; her limbs were palsied with dread, and she shrank and pushed to make her escape before they recognised her presence. Once and again she darted away from the spot on which they stood, as occasion offered her a chance to achieve her wish, but inexorable fate was fast upon her heels, and seemed to blast every hope almost before its birth. Each fruitless attempt but left her nearer to that happy couple who were unconscious of her until the crisis came, and the terror-stricken wretch was forced upon their attention in her frantic efforts to escape. No one in all that crowd showed any sign of sympathy for her in her distress; no hand was outstretched to help her clear a way by which that unpleasant encounter could so easily have been avoided; she was, in all that throng, so completely alone that I felt more than once as if I must go forward and render the assistance of which she stood so much in need; yet something held me back – told me that things were better as they were, and bade me watch and wait.
Speechless and motionless the terror-stricken woman stood, like a craven felon waiting for the law’s decree. The boy shrank back, but the girl with a look of infinite pity beaming on her face, stepped forward, and did what no one else had done: she,
Who might the vantage best have took,
Found out the remedy, –
cleared the needed way, and if she spoke a word it was but of pity and compassion, as she pointed where the woman could escape. With this came strength to move, and as the culprit – for such I felt convinced she was – darted away I saw a brilliant flash of light shoot from the eye of her benefactress, which struck and shone upon her troubled breast like a resplendent jewel.
“Did you see that flash?” asked my companion, whose attention had evidently been attracted by the same incident.
“Yes!” I answered; “what was it?”
“That girl’s forgiveness for some great wrong the woman has done. That light will remain with her until she has paid the penalty of her sin, when she will be enabled to realise its meaning, and it will have a powerful influence in working her salvation.”
“Poor soul!” I ejaculated; “where will she go? How sad it seems that in all this multitude there is no one to meet her – no one to give her advice, or offer a word of consolation.”
“It would be a mockery to do so at present,” replied Eusemos, and you will not find any of that here. Only those are met who can be welcomed. But if you watch her, you will see where she will go.”
“Are you not afraid she will go wrong in her ignorance?” I asked.
“Can men live beneath the ocean’s waves, or fishes consort with the eagle in his sunward flight?” he answered; “neither can she take a place for which she is unfitted. We need no angels with flaming swords to guard our ways.”
“But see!” I cried, “she is going wrong! Her dress is by no means the colour of the road she is taking.”
“Watch her,” he calmly responded.
I did so.
In her eagerness to escape from that dreaded presence, as she cleared the crowd, she darted heedlessly into the first road which presented itself, exerting all her strength to put a distance between herself and the girl she had wronged. Her idea seemed to be that safety lay in flight, so all her energies were called into force to make that flight as rapid as possible. Her course, however, was not long continued. Was it her strength that failed, or did she merely pause to take her breath? I knew not. Then I saw her reel as if grown faint from her exhaustion and excitement – reel and reach out for some support, but none was there; then she turned, and, though at such a distance, in that clear atmosphere, I could see an added agony of pain written upon her face. Something forced her to return – forced her to re-approach that from which she tried to flee. A second, and yet a third attempt she made, but all of no avail, the same inexorable power compelled her to return, until she entered on a path which by its colour I could see was right; down this she passed without a trace of effort, and soon was lost to sight beneath our feet.
“Poor soul!” I murmured; “where will that road lead her?”
“It abounds in subterranean caverns into which but little light can penetrate. In these places such as she rush to hide themselves from the presence of those they have injured, and who they fear will follow to torment them. Terror makes their hell. They know not who or what is near them, they feel that every soul they come in contact with has come to take revenge and thus each becomes a source of terror to the other. There she must stay until some spirit in a less miserable condition can gain sufficient of her confidence to induce her to leave those dens for a less wretched abode this being the first step towards the happiness it is possible for every soul to reach. But we will pass along.”
For some time our progress was not a rapid one, as my companion met numbers of his fellow messengers and others, all of whom had a word of welcome for me, and the many interesting features of my surroundings prompted me to make frequent pauses that I might the better understand them. When, at length, we had reached the outskirts of the multitudes, and were started upon our projected mission I was glad to hear Eusemos refer to that incident which had interested and yet so perplexed me.
“I see,” he began, “that you are unable to reconcile that woman’s presence here with the simple law of love governing this life.”
“Yes, I am,” I answered, “and should be glad if you will explain it to me.”
“I will, then you will see that the Lord is good unto all and His tender mercies are over all His works; and for myself I do not see where I could find a more forcible illustration of it than in such a case as that to which your attention has been called.”
“When she made her escape,” he answered, “you saw her take the path on which we are now walking; noticed how every person she met passed by without speaking or pointing out that she was wrong. Now I ask you to mark the buoyancy, the exhilaration, the happiness and peace which increases with every step we take, and say, if you can why it was that she turned back from such a path of her own free will?”
“I cannot tell,” I answered.
“It was simply because that which is a source of increasing enjoyment to you was the cause of pain to her; she was rushing into an unnatural condition as pronounced as that of a fish out of water. Of her own free will and deliberate act, she fitted herself on earth to take a certain place in this life, and she cannot, even if she would, assume any other without enduring the pain which would naturally ensue. She has made her choice, and love intervenes to save her from the additional torment that is the legitimate outcome of her own acts; this is fully manifest in the provision of that place to which she has now gone. She will not be abandoned and left altogether to the mercy of those will be her associates there; others in a happier condition go down to such as she, and tell them to hope, encourage them to repent, endeavour to induce them to come away, and finally lead them on the way to happiness.”
“Then she has not gone into that hell where the fire is not quenched?” I asked.
“The fire of hell is one of those metaphorical phrases misunderstood on account of its literal interpretation,” he responded.
“Will you explain it for me, as you understand it?”
“With pleasure and in doing so I will use the illustration you are most familiar with. It was said of Jesus, ‘He shall baptise with the Holy Ghost and with fire’; of Himself He said, ‘I came to send fire on the earth’; and man is assured that ‘our God is a consuming fire.’ Do you understand these to be as literal as the fires of hell?”
“Certainly not,” I replied. “But why not; what authority is there for making any distinction?”
“I am at a loss to answer you,” I replied, “other than it is in accordance with traditional custom so to do.”
“It is a creedal necessity,” he answered, “and this is the great source of so much confusion, contradiction, and spiritual ignorance. The word of God is spirit as well as truth and must ever be interpreted by the spirit, not the letter, that being merely the form in which the spirit finds expression, as the mortal body is but the organ of expression for the soul. The fire of the spirit is love. Therefore to say that God is a consuming fire is but another way of declaring that God is love. Now love in its debased form becomes passion, and if unrestrained will speedily burst all bonds and leave a man the prey to his own devouring lust with all the evil in his nature contributing fuel to the flames. When such an one is severed from the body and forced into this state of existence, where can he go? You have seen a case which does not present anything like such aspects of depravity, yet it was torture for her to stand where we are now, how much more would it be so for such a man as I describe? Even the very place to which that woman has gone would be intolerable to him, but still he must not be punished in revenge; therefore God has formed an abode congenial to such a nature, where, for the time being, he can plunge in his mad frenzy into the ocean of his unsubdued passions, and be tormented in gathering the harvest of the seeds he has sown while the unquenchable fire will burn and work its purpose But in that word ‘unquenchable’ our Father’s love is again made manifest, since the fire can only burn up the chaff; or in other words, the time will come when the lust and passion will consumed, then the wheat shall be gathered into the garner, and the soul will come out from the ordeal as gold well refined; but the sanctified fire of love will still be burning in that soul which will thus be saved from the very uttermost.”
“Do you know this,” I asked eagerly, “or do you only hope it will be so?”
“We know it; it is the one great law of life that you will find is everywhere in operation here. It should be so on earth but the multitude of the words of men have become the grave of knowledge, and the light of inspiration has been vanquish in the darkness of such a sepulchre. You will not find much preaching here as you are used to understand the word; with us to preach is to act, and all action has love for its incentive, since we have practically learned that he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.”
“Oh! what a gospel of love you proclaim,” I cried; “what music it would be to earth. With, such a message I can well understand that ‘love never faileth.’”
“The gospel we declare is that which was given to men, add is peculiarly fitted for the earth condition.”
“I have now another question to ask on a point that, as yet, appears to be at variance with your universal law of love.”
“Let me hear it, my brother,” he responded.
“How do you reconcile its application with that woman being allowed to enter with, and see the joy of happier persons?” I enquired.
“You imagine it has a tendency to increase her punishment,” he rejoined.
“I fail to see how it can be otherwise.”
“That I am perfectly willing to admit ; but first of all you must remember that the way you came is the usual way of admission, and that whatever punishment is endured is the natural consequences of deliberate sin, as things done in ignorance or without intention exact no penalty in the judgment of the mists. But those who have sinned with deliberate intent, or culpable negligence – in many cases following the same course for years, stifling the voice of conscience, and crushing out their spiritual life – receive their just reward and punish, and it must necessarily be that their pain is increased, as they realise, what might have been under other and better circumstances.”
“But might not that additional pang be saved them?” I asked.
“No! God never turns aside to avoid the consequences of a man’s folly; but on the other hand even that pang you so much regret is permitted by that same law of love. Although she is at present unconscious of it, that woman has gained one point of information which will give her hope and consolation presently, the which she could not have learned had she not had that unpleasant experience.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“She knows that there is no gate at which an angel is standing to keep her back from the way of life; and will presently be brought to understand that the only obstacle in the way of her happiness lies within herself. When she is able to recognise this it will become a powerful incentive to improve her condition; it will teach her that her punishment has been to purify and not vindictively inflicted; it will be a text upon which her teachers will build a hundred arguments, until she learns that even in her dark condition she has not been forsaken, but, though she knew it not, the hand of God was guiding her.”
“Thank you,” I said. “As you expound them I can understand how the tender mercies of God are over all His works, but now I have another difficulty I would like you to clear up. There are many children born who are morally incapable of discerning right from wrong; how is this regarded on their arrival here?”
“In all cases justice and equity are meted out unerringly,” he replied, “and the penalty of all sin will fall upon the shoulders of the sinner. In an earthly court a kleptomaniac or an idiot would be pitied for his misfortune, not punished, though he had broken a law. Is man more righteous than our God? That maimed body or unbalanced mind is the result of sin more frequently than accident and someone must bear the punishment thereof – who shall it be? Listen to this awful truth. ‘Every man shall give an account of the deeds done in the body’; one of those deeds is the deadly wrong of propagating life without thought or reference to a healthy and competent body in which it can perform the functions requisite to its advancement, which leaves the child to bear the consequences of the sins of its father or mother in its own organism. This may transfer the infirmity, but it cannot change the responsibility. The sins are borne by the child, but the errors committed in its incompetency are accounted as the sins of that father still, and he will be called to answer for them at the bar of God.”
“That is a terrible thought” I said, as he concluded.
“It is nevertheless true,” he replied “‘whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.’”
I had been too much engrossed in the subject of our conversation to do more than mechanically notice the scenes through which we were passing; but, at this point, my attention was arrested by a change that was taking place in the appearance my companion, who was now surrounded by a soft and momentarily increasing halo, from which I became conscious of drawing the necessary power to accompany him. Our course was along the brighter way, occupying the centre and crown of the landscape, but its character had so changed since we commenced our journey, that in its present transparency it looked like a path of sunbeams up which we sped our aerial flight, rather than a regular road in a kingdom more substantial than Greece or Rome because it held a more legitimate right to the designation ‘Eternal,’ since its creator and builder was God. The soft and fragrant atmosphere seemed to lift us in its embrace beyond the reach of weariness; the breezes redolent with life and rest kissed and wooed us with amorous caresses; the penetrating sunlight bathing the country pierced us through and through, until we shone with that glory, the like of which beamed from the face of Moses when he had been in the presence of God on Sinai.
It was to me as a delightful dream. The real and the unreal blended in perfect harmony, in which I found no room for even the suspicion of surprise. On more than one occasion I remember reasoning with myself that it was more than like – it was surely a dream; from which I should presently awake to face the stern realities of my disappointed life with an additional pang added thereto by the recollection of its pleasant illusion. And I am still conscious of a shudder running through me at the thought of how I could sustain such a heavy blow as I needs must suffer. My companion noticed this and drew me somewhat closer to him, while he answered my thoughts in one of those semiconscious reveries so characteristic of this life, and which have more of encouragement and suggestion in their tone than admonition. I caught more of the spirit of what he said than the letter, and as the whole was an impromptu, I could not ask him to repeat it to me, so that I am sensible of the injustice I do him in attempting to reproduce the lines which made such an impression upon me at the time; but the following will give a crude idea of what he said:
All dreams are as real as the waking;
Then why should we spurn their delights?
The soul climbs permissible heights –
When sleep bids the heart pause its aching –
And gazes with eyes which are bright and strong
On the promised home it will reach ere long.
The soul is the man, and eternal;
The body but lives for a day, –
’Tis of earth and must needs pass away
But the soul, in its visions diurnal,
From the mountains of sleep looks over the river
And hails the beloved in the land of ‘forever.’
The child, and the man, and the maiden,
Have dreamed and will dream evermore
’Tis the solace for all men – heart-sore,
And true rest for the soul heavy-laden
Till in that last sleep, the body forsaking,
The soul enters heaven – that dream without waking.
I had neither opportunity nor disposition to reply, for with the end of his rhapsody, we paused, turned, and the scene which lay before me caused me to break away from the train of thought which had called forth such a pregnant lesson, while I was carried captive by the indescribable glories of the panorama towards which he waved his hand.
As we stood upon the hillside from which we started, the one noticeable feature in the landscape, as I have said, was the radiation of the many coloured roads leading to the numerous cities now visible, but which then were hidden from our view. At our feet, running to the right and left, was one of darkest hue-crimson-black, having its termination round or underneath the hill, and down which I had watched that unfortunate and terrified woman pass from sight. This gloomy and foreboding path formed the basis or foundation of the scene; the next and each succeeding road assuming a lighter tint in almost imperceptible gradations, until the ray of purity up which we had travelled, formed a climax to the whole and capped the double prism as a crown. As I recalled that view in the light of the many explanations I had since received, I thought that the arrangement was a grand prophetic symbol of this happier life, showing the natural and uninterrupted progress which the soul was enabled to make from the far extremity of sin, to rest and perfect happiness in the time to come. And my heart was glad.
Another thought recurred to me at this time – the question I had put to my guide respecting the pang that former view was calculated to cause in the breasts of those more unfortunate persons I had met with, and I realised the unspeakable mercy and love that had been exercised in the design displayed before me. The former prospect was but the reverse of the picture, which now I had rounded to gaze upon such glories whereof eye had not seen neither could it enter into the heart of man to conceive. If that sight would serve to add a pang to any soul as it rose again before the memory, I could well understand how this would overwhelm it with despair. Truly, the mercy of God is over all His works.
Far, far away upon the western horizon, softened and warmed by the wide expanse which lay between us, hung the mists across the boundaries of the country. Their appearance now was not black and chill as when I last looked upon, but a soft, crimson hue suffusing them, made them to look like the rich tapestries the sun draws across the windows of the sky when the autumn day is closing, and the weary labourer hies him homeward before the tempest, which he hears rumbling in the distance, overtakes him. Behind us, at an altitude my vision could not estimate or measure, over the mountain peaks, stream rays of glory, bathing and nourishing all that land. It was as though, while one invisible sun was setting in the distant west, from out the eastern dawn another – the Sun of Righteousness, it might be – was rising from the bosom of the sea of love. Between this dawning and that sunset what a multitude of weary souls were enjoying that rest upon which, like myself, so many had but recently entered.
For the purpose of our view we were standing upon the slope of some majestic mountain chain, the height of which defied my powers of computation. If I sought its peak, my eyes were blinded by the arc of light which beamed upon me and frustrated my quest; while far away, until my vision grew uncertain in the distance, I could see the range extend like the natural boundary line of two adjacent nations. The path which served as vantage-ground for observation was like the even crest of a smaller range running from the base towards the brow of the glory-crowned and immeasurable hill behind me. In the distance lay a plain of apparently illimitable proportions, undulating and picturesque beyond description, in which hill and dale, lake and stream, terrace and plateau, park and pasture, grove and garden, city and homestead, palace and mansion, were so arranged and disposed as to contribute their own peculiar feature to the grandeur of the whole. Throughout that vast domain, each shrub and flower, each house and hill, each stream and lake, had its legitimate balance to maintain in the general harmony; and wonderfully beautiful was the effect produced in the accomplishment of the design.
In hours of weariness and disconsolation in the olden life, I had tried to frame an outline ideal of what heaven must be – who had not? My highest conception had a background of disappointment and irritation. It was like a fascinating painting of some glorious sunset, entrancing with its beauty as you first beheld it, but as you gaze upon it, strange, weird, half-visionary phantoms rise from out the canvas and cast their gloomy shadows like corpse-mantles over the genius which had first so charmed us; – phantoms of dissatisfaction, regret, and unreality. Everything upon the canvas is stiff, cold, lifeless; the drama has been caused to stop as the artist caught some situation most congenial, and of its poetry, no more will ever reach the ear of man than the irritating monotone on the lip when the command to stand was given. How can we know the sunset from such an inadequate presentment. The pigmy, momentary conception may be faithful, yea, perfect in its colour and situation at the instant it was caught, but it needs the quick succession of the changing tints, the rolling and curving of the clouds, the rapid entrances and exits of the dying hero, Day, accompanied by the soft sobbing and sighing of the breezes. It demands the presence indicated, and the increasing power portrayed, as step by step the sombre Night achieves his dark advantage, until at length he drowns the sun in the life-blood of his victim, and the black curtain falls over the tragic scene as Twilight, no longer able to sustain the unequal conflict, closes her eye in death. All this, and more, we need before the artist can depict his sunset faithfully upon the canvas; and so of heaven we need still further countless complications and impossibilities before we can conceive a faint ideal of that which awaits us. My previous conceptions fell thus short of the reality of the scene which lay before me as I stood upon that mountain side; yet this was not heaven itself, but only one of the first halting-places within the ranch of God’s infinitude, where homeward-bound souls could rest and refresh themselves in their migration from the earth, towards their Father’s house of many mansions.
I would pause here, nor further attempt the impossible, were it not for my yearning for the welfare of my brethren, who are still behind me, and cherish the many errors of the flesh in their ignorance of the life upon which I have entered. The consciousness of the inadequate powers I possess to convey a knowledge of the truth I have found, almost forbids me to proceed, but I will be content if only I can in some small measure make it known that this existence is not a vague and vapoury state with nothing more substantial than a cloud in which to lay the foundations of our habitations. To us it is as real and tangible as the earth is to you, and, therefore, when I use the designations of beauty and grandeur which are familiar to the earth, it is not that I would indicate this life to be as crude and gross as that which lies behind me, but rather that the means are not available for me to convey a just conception of its realities any more than the artist has power to reproduce the sunset in all its sublimity and entirety.
In those first moments of contemplation I became conscious of an enormous increase in my powers of sight, for as language fails me to express the quality of the scene unfolded to my view, so also am I powerless to convey an indication of the area over which that celestial panorama was unrolled, yet from the foreground to the far-away horizon I could plainly see in that haze-less atmosphere of eternity, not only the effects in aggregate but the component parts of each feature which in turn arrested my attention. Did I say it had its plains and streams? It were far more true to say my eye wandered over vast continents, fruitful and picturesque, each bounded by proportionate seas and oceans, from the poetic billows of which the sting of all destruction had been torn away. Mansion and palace gleamed resplendent in the shadowless sunlight, not cramped or circumscribed in detail or design, to suit the exigency of space or limit – not robbed of grace or beauty by the use of coarse material having the power to resist the storm and tempest as effectually as it can blast the architectural dream; – what need of such restrictions in the domain of the infinite, that kingdom where they refuse to traffic in the merchandise of tempest or decay. Each habitation had its terraces and crescents, gardens and quadrangles, all its own in such noble and magnificent proportions that its vision may have made to sleeping Nimrod the first suggestion of the royal and stately Babylon. The spiritual quarries from which coral and marble, porphyry and alabaster, malachite and jasper had been cast out as coarse and valueless, furnished the substance for each edifice, while the garniture was worked in multiform mosaics of diamond and sapphire, carbuncle and beryl, pearl and ruby, amethyst and emerald, relieved by gems of tint and lustre earth has never seen. The carvings were the work of sculptors who wore the rich mantle of perfect inspiration, a solitary thread of which had fired the ideality of Phideas and Angelo. Egypt may righteously have gloried in the magnificence of her hundred-gated Thebes; been proud of the unrivalled luxuries which found their home in the princely Memphis; extolled the unequalled perfumes compounded in the royal Zoan, but in her greatest glory she had never caught a glimpse of such palaces as these. The gardens of old Babylon were forgotten in the contemplation of such horticultural attainments; the statues of Apollo, Venus and. Athene in the admiration if which the Greeks exhausted their enthusiasm, were figments not to be recalled in the presence of such grace and beauty; the rose of Sharon blanched its cheek in the face of such rich blossoms; and the aroma from the sweet incense of Jerusalem only became a type of the perfume wafted by the breezes from those trees which are robed in a living green without the experience of an autumn tint.
The scene was animated by the multitude of persons who were everywhere moving to and fro, not with the hurried step of him who races to the gamble of the exchange, or the fear written upon the face of another who rushes to secure that skill which may save the life that is hanging in the balance ; there was no visible apprehension lest each bush or tree should hide an enemy, or trembling dread of some watchful tyrant’s frown; on the contrary, a serenity and leisure which took no cognizance of time or necessity seemed to sway an universal rule, while a quiet contentment defied all power to introduce disturbance. Peoples of every nationality intermingled without distinction; no cold formality, condescension, or patronage was visible amongst them, but rather a recognition that each possessed some power to augment the happiness of his fellow, and that the society of all was necessary for joy to reach its full ideal. It was a sacred, holy sight to gaze upon, and again and again, I asked myself what was the magic power which spread the hallowed feeling. around us ? I was unable to answer this until the soft winds swept past me and seemed to whisper:
“They rest from their labour to-day –
’Tis the lull when the storm is scarce o’er;
They are joining the friends they had missed,
Whom they thought had been lost evermore.
’Tis the peace of re-union which crowns them,
While their eyes are scarce dry from their sorrow
They have met and are resting to-day,
And there never can come a to-morrow.”
My eye moistened, and I bowed my head in gratitude as I received the revelation, and, turning to my companion, I asked:
“What is this place?”
“The Mount of God; one of the vestibules of heaven,” he answered.
“If this is but a vestibule, what will the glory of the inner temple be?”
“I cannot tell,” was his modest reply, but it was filled with the music of such an intense longing as to waken echoes in my soul, the cadences of which are even yet vibrating within me.
“Are there other entrances from the earth than this?” I asked.
“And are they all equal to this?”
“They might rightly be called vestibules of rapture,” I continued; “but there is one thing that very much surprises me.”
“And what is that, my brother?” he asked.
“To see the distinctive colour and feature of each nationality is retained here.”
“The erroneous idea that this will not be so is very prevalent on the earth; and yet it should not be, especially with those who make such a study of the Bible as your country professes to do. Does not John tell you that in one of his visions he saw: ‘A great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues?’ Now, seeing that colour and feature could be his only distinguishing marks, why should you be surprised to find his vision verified?” He smiled as he saw my confusion, as the truth of his broader and more literal rendering of the vision made me to recognise a phase of revelation from which my eyes had hitherto been held; and then continued: “All these mistaken ideas are due to the inconsistent methods which men apply to the reading of their sacred books; fact and metaphor, parable and history are so continually confounded for the purpose of establishing some very unimportant point, that in the minds of many persons it becomes at length an utter impossibility to distinguish the one from the other; while undue emphasis placed upon some sentences, irrespective of their connection, prevents the great majority of mankind from knowing really what are the plain teachings of the books they hold in such superstitious reverence. I noticed your astonishment just now when I told you that Myhanene is a ruler here. It was a look of incredulity, as if you thought I had spoken blasphemy.”
“That was because I had no idea of there being any other power here than God.”
“Neither is there; but that power is exercised through duly appointed ministers. The same thought applied to reading your Bible, as you have been accustomed to give to any other book, would have prepared you for this. Jesus, in the parable of the talents, clearly gave you to understand that the wise servants should be made rulers over two, five, or ten cities; He promised His disciples that they should sit as judges, and His followers look forward to the time when they shall reign with Him; why, then, should you be surprised to find that what He said was true, and that such offices really are in existence here? Another common error has reference to the character and nature of this land, and our methods of life. Jesus assures His disciples that there were many mansions in His Father’s house Ezekiel and John saw a city, pilgrims are reminded that on earth they have no continuing city, but are to seek one yet to come, whose builder and maker is God. Congregations are frequently singing of Jerusalem:
“When shall these eyes Thine heaven-built walls
And pearly gates behold,
Thy bulwarks with salvation strong
And streets of shining gold?
“They enter into compacts to meet each other at the fountain; anticipate their sweet communions while reclining on our green and flowery banks, or resting beneath the shadow of the tree of life, they revel in the glory which will be theirs when they gather at the river, speculate as to what they will do when they stand among that company which no man can number, every member of which will wear a golden crown while their hands shall bear the victor’s palm or strike the strings of a sweeter harp than David ever played; yet they would be seriously shocked if anyone was to tell them that all these things were really in existence here, and charge you with blasphemy – trying to make heaven a place as gross and material as earth. Their only conception of our present state of being reaching no further than that we are continually flying about in a cloudless ether singing ‘Glory! Glory! Glory!’ and have not so much as an empty cloud upon which to find repose; and that this unceasing flying and singing is our eternal rest. However, I must leave you at this grove until our friend Cushna shall arrive, when he will show you many points of interest and instruction.”
While he had been talking we were retracing our steps, and had now arrived at a magnificent grove of trees towards which waved his hand, as if my new conductor was to be expected that direction.
“I am very grateful for all the information you have given me,” I exclaimed, as he took me in a brotherly embrace, preparatory to leaving, “ but may I ask one more question before you go?”
“With pleasure,” he replied.
“Will you explain to me why I have been able to ascend so far above my own condition as to gain the sight you have shown me, while that poor woman was compelled to return until she had found her own?”
“Yes! Messengers or teachers have the power and are permitted to lend of their strength to those to whom they minister and thus help them to reach superior heights occasionally look upon those things which await them in the future. This stimulates new aspirations and incites to further progress. The limit to which I was enabled to carry you was reached at the point where we turned, but that was high enough to make you understand something more of the power of love operating in another direction for the purpose of continually raising up the whole community towards God.”
With this he bade me God-speed till we met again, and, turning, left me like a lightning flash and I was once more alone but my heart was glad.