Chapter X: Nearer to Thee
Come now apart with me and rest awhile!
Rest in my peace—I fain would have it so.
Pillow thy head upon my loving breast
Where none may come but host and favoured guest.
So come that we may love’s deep fullness know.
Long have I sought thee, long have loved thee well.
Have known thee, though by thee I was unknown!
Come now apart, that I myself may show—
May speak with thee whom I have loved so
And win thy love, and make thee all my own.
Come, come with me and know divinest love:
Its joy, its bliss and rapture unexpressed;
Its height, length, breadth and depth—its heaven;
Its power o’er death; its peace for tempest-driven;
Its rest eternal! Come with me and rest!
After my tour in company with Ladas I was very desirous to be alone. So far in my new life I had met with no one who had spoken to me so unreservedly of Christ, and also sought to base all he said upon the simple teaching of that great authority. He seemed to possess a mysterious power—by his manner and method of teaching—of reducing all I had previously seen and heard into an orderly system in which it stood forth as a consistent scheme I had hitherto failed clearly to comprehend. I had never doubted that such a system did exist, but I had not so far grasped it until, under his guidance, all uncertainty vanished and I stood entranced before the revelation of divine law and order, which silenced and overpowered me with its majestic beauty.
I could now understand the necessity for this surprising silence about the Christ being so long maintained. Ladas did not leave the Master more than any of the others who had done so much for me. It was rather that the fallow ground within myself needed to be broken up and prepared to receive the seed he had sown with such forceful illustrations. All had been workers together to secure the result, each had faithfully performed his part, and the joy and reward of the harvest would be equally shared.
I was not presumptuous enough to imagine that I understood in detail all that Ladas had laid before me, but the perplexing and confusing mists had been so far dissolved as to allow me to trace a definite outline in God’s purpose. That outline I now perceived swept and embraced the whole are of creation, and required the three estates, earth, hell, and Heaven, as in the solar spectrum the three primary colours are blended in the softening gradations of the inter-sphering tones, all of which are necessary to produce the light of day. So that great spiritual spectrum began to blend—or I began to comprehend the blending—into the unity of the eternal day of the greater Fatherland. Both earth and hell were equally necessary to the plan as Heaven and the love of God was manifest alike in each.
The relationship they occupy now stood in legitimate perspective: Earth as an educational establishment in which man is intended to learn obedience to paternal control and receive training in the use and exercise of his divine potentialities; Hell, an equally necessary provision for the chastisement and correction of infraction of discipline and failure to make a suitable preparation to discharge the duties of the future; and Heaven, the Father’s house and natural home of the soul, where we shall all gather after the educational course is over.
I have here changed the figure of hell slightly from that in which Ladas used it, but it is equally consistent; or if agreeable it could, with the same force, be considered as a hospital for sin-sick souls; in neither case can a claim be set up to detention beyond the purpose for which the place has been established, and since the idea of death has been eliminated, the Father will see to it that the last of the lost ones shall be sought for, if occasion arises, “until He find it.”
This is the destiny of the human race, because God is all-mighty and will have all men to be saved,” for “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive again.” The scope, provision and power of God’s redemption is wide enough to rectify the work of sin, and it must do so, since there is none able to stand against Him.
We may not be able to explain the process by which every tangle in life will be resolved, but God understands, and we may safely leave it there. The best man on earth can only see the fabric weaving from the underside; how can he see and understand the complex minglings in the wonderful design?
God sits in the calm of eternal power
To guide the loom of the life of man;
He sees its warp and weft each hour
Weaving some part of His infinite plan.
He knows the use of its countless threads—
Each costly tint in the rich design;
And the shuttles are thrown with matchless skill
For the hand of the Weaver is Divine.
Don’t be afraid: God is working His own design upon His own loom. All must be well!
This readjustment of the attitude of hell, how it sweeps confusion from the Pilgrim’s path, allowing the scheme of salvation to stand forth in natural consistence with the eternal love of God, and opens vistas of more than hope to encourage those who are faithfully toiling in the vineyard. The heart grows strong and courageous under the inspiration of the strains of victory now, and we understand where the undeniable emphasis lies as we read anew the promise—“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” How often in the other life did I hear it said—“He that stands alone with God, stands with the majority,” but from the earth point of view I could never see it. The true light had come at length, and the axiom was now as clear as noonday, for God is all in all and patiently works towards the end He saw and appointed from the beginning. Earth, death and hell—if we deliberately elect to journey homeward by the latter route—are each and all stages in the pilgrimage, in which there is but one terminus where the Father awaits us. As long as there is an absent prodigal the paternal eye will be scanning the distant horizon, ready to go forth to meet the lad who remembers home and comes to ask if but for a servant’s position.
That the elder brother may take offence will have no weight with the rejoicing parent. The lad who comes through hell and from the company of devils, if you will, is a son after all, and the tortures he has suffered will both discharge his debts and purify his soul.
As I thought of this the words of my poetess friend came back to me with more striking force than when I first heard them:
Oh! ’tis not as men would teach us—
Just one step from earth to God;
Passing though the death-vale to Him
In the garb that earth we trod:
Called to praise him while aweary,
Or to sing while yet the voice
With earth’s farewell sob is broken—
Could we fitly thus rejoice?
No! We wait to learn the music;
Wait to rest our weary feet;
Wait to learn to sweep the harp-strings
Ere the Master we may meet.
Wait to tune our new-found voices
To the sweet seraphic song;
Wait to learn the time and measure,
But the time will not be long.
Whichever way the mind turned in contemplation the horizon lay away in the definite—evermore. Looking backward one could trace the patient, loving, protecting care of the Father in every step of the pilgrimage, not only to the mythical Eden, but away down the avenues of time, too vast for human estimate, until sight failed where it saw Him bending over the Moneron and covering with His omnipotence the helpless nucleus from which in coming aeons He would bring forth a family Divine. Then looking towards the future, even the stronger light lent by growing knowledge failed to bring the goal into sight. Who can measure such a distance? If the mind fails to say how long has been the pilgrimage from the Moneron to the Man, how is it possible to conceive the far greater distance which divides the man from God? And yet we have been seriously taught that when a dying thief came to the dividing line between the two he placed his hands thereon and vaulted over like an athlete taking a gate! How different is the truth from the traditions of men! To scale that stupendous precipice of light which rose before me neither hands nor feet would be of least avail, and I knew I had to wait until the uplifting powers of purity and holiness were strongly developed, the rudimentary forms of which were scarcely yet discernible.
Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be,
When placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight,
Can live and look on Thee.
O! how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark—whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
That uncreated beam?
One stands with unshod feet beside the saintly Binney as he humbly makes this inquiry, and the consolation we receive in reply is “God knows.” That is sufficient. We may rest in that. He is the author and finisher of the course. He planned the whole, marking its times and seasons, according to His perfect knowledge and wisdom. His time is best. It is for us to be careful not to delay. It is for Him to lead us by the way He knows so well. Ages are but as pulse throbs where the day is an eternal one. The infinite cannot change. There can be no late arrivals where time does not exist. The soul that keeps step with the love-march will move forward in the atmosphere of Heaven, its cup of joy overflowing all along the way. What more can it desire? As we grow the joy will increase, but we can never be more than full, and if we are so abundantly supplied by the way, is it not an added happiness to think that the end is yet so distant and unseen?
And then to think that in all creation, past, present and future, there is not one single soul outside the scope and operation of this design. He will “leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost until He find it.” Do you grasp this? Ye who could not agree with me when I said earthly relationship did not exist in Paradise, do you not see how much grander, nobler and wider is the law of God? Not only your brother, father, husband, wife, son and daughter are brought in; but every brother, father, husband, wife, son and daughter must come with them, that God may be all in all. That is what we shall find Heaven to be when we reach it. Is it not like what a Father-God would do?
How all this contrasts with the man-made idea of Heaven and hell, with the latter holding the larger half of humanity, and the denizens of the former looking over the battlements and deriving an increase of joy from watching the torments of the lost!
But enough of this. The mind turns with loathing and disgust from such a contemplation. No wonder the expounders of such inhumanity find their pews empty and intelligence turning from church to nature’s inspiration.
In this reverie I would let the Master have the last word. ‘Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me: for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ Rest! Ah, how we all need it! It is found only while yoked together with Christ. A priestly yoke, however gorgeous, will be irksome and wearying. It allows no feeding in green pastures, no refreshment beside still waters, but in the ecclesiastical vehicle to which you are harnessed is carried the authorized provender supplied by church fathers long centuries ago and supposed to satisfy every demand until all men have crossed the Jordan. But the yoke of Christ is easy and His burden light, because He trusts in God and prays ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ and will do the same to-morrow and every day. ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof’ is His rule of life, and the daily need for food keeps Him close to the Father, upon whom he is dependent for supplies. Fresh food for growing souls is His constant care. ‘Man does not live by (wheaten) bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’ and Christ would have us eat such food warm with inspiration, not break our spiritual teeth trying to masticate the fossil bread baked by ecumenical councils. Christ was a prophet, not a priest, and the wells of salvation from which He draws the waters of daily refreshment never run dry, but, like God, who sank them, are ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.’ ‘Stoop down and drink and live.’
‘Come ye apart with Me and rest awhile.’ For God so loved the world—’
So loved! So loved! I can say no more!
Its music-yacht drifted close by me,
I was dream-enwrapped as I stepped aboard
And the ‘Peace of God’ put out to sea.
With the flowing tide in a holy calm
Each wavelet kissing us on and on,
As I leaned my head on the Master’s breast
So loved! Enough! He and I were one.