The Gate of Heaven, Chapter 11

Chapter XI: More New Friends

Omra’s purpose was evidently not to be so promptly carried out as he had intended. I lifted my eyes to take another yearning look across the bridge, when I espied Eilele, Myhanene, and a group of other friends, known and unknown, coming as if to meet us.

Eilele and the sister she was conversing with at once came forward to meet me, while I reluctantly had to await their approach.

“May I hope that Dracine and I are the first to welcome you as you reach this favoured spot?” she enquired, thus introducing her companion.

“Scarcely the first,” I replied. “Both Omra and Rael have already spent some time with me, and I have also had an interview with Walloo-Malie, which I shall never forget.”

“Then you have indeed been fortunate to have found Walloo-Malie here on your arrival.”

It was Dracine who answered me, taking both my hands in an impulsive outburst of welcome, contrasting markedly with Eilele’s calm and self-contained greeting. Then, having so expressed herself, she turned to another of the company as yet unknown to me, and continued: “Tasha! Aphraar has been speaking with Walloo-Malie.” Then, to me: “Did you not think him to be the most perfect reflection of the Divine love you have, so far, met with?”

“You need not ask that,” Tasha made haste to reply.

“Did you ever meet with anyone who, having been in his company, has doubted it?”

“He certainly touched a depth of feeling in me that had never been stirred before, and drew my soul to him in a closer, more sacred bond than even Myhanene had,” I replied.

“I can understand that’’ said Tasha, “perhaps better than most that know him, since it was my good fortune to be with him, have the charge of him in the days of the flesh, and the bands of affection which bound us together then have never been disturbed or weakened through all the intervening ages.”

“Were you his sister?”

“No! I was his mother’s slave—a fact that in itself declares the native magnanimity of his soul, which asserted itself so nobly as to lend to his barbaric nature almost an aureole of saintship.”

“Was all the excellence found in Walloo-Malie,” I enquired, “or did he catch something of its beauty by reflection from Tasha?”

“You are not the first to ask that question,” Dracine was delightfully prompt to interject,” and as you know Tasha better, you will not be surprised to see what children such a foster-mother can give to the world.”

“But you must carry your quest further back if you wish to discover its source,” modestly suggested Tasha. “Had it not been for the treatment I received from Layong-la’s mother, I should not have been the nurse I was. So, in the end, the brightness of my life was but the reflex of what I saw in my queen-mistress, while all the beauty of La-yong-la’s disposition came to him in his blood.”

“Why do you call him La-yong-la?” I enquired.

“Because I was speaking of Walloo-Malie in his earth stage, when that was his name.”

“Is it not somewhat confusing to use different names for the same individual?”

Myhanene, who had been speaking with Omra, joined us as I asked the question.

“Not in the least, my dear Aphraar,” he replied. “On the other hand, it frequently saves much explanation when we are referring to any particular stage in a personal career. Even on earth you adopt titles to mark your social or political progress; why, then, should it be confusing for us to use a change of names to designate the stages we have passed. Here you will never find two persons bearing the same name, and yet we are all of one family, and it is possible for any one of us to be the possessor of at least ten names at different stages of our ascent; and yet in all the assembly of the universal family in heaven there will not be two souls in any condition who have borne the same name.

“You had one given to you when you arrived here, when you pass the bridge over the great divide you will change it for another; but in all the ages to come, when any reference is made to your experiences in this early school career, you will always be spoken of as Aphraar. So will Walloo-Malie. In his earth life he was La-Yong-la, but in the stages he has passed through here he has borne the names of Areta, Caerell, Walloo-Malie, by which we always speak of him here, but he has yet another name connected with a yet higher station, which name is never used except in what may be called an official capacity.”

“May I know what he was and how long he has been here?”

“Nations, like individuals, are born, mature, and pass away, and Walloo-Malie is the child of a nation that has passed away and was lost before the foundations of Babylon and Chaldea were laid. A nomadic tribe of herdsmen had found a fruitful and congenial home in an upland valley among the Altai Mountains, where they discovered gold and stones which brought the small community almost untold wealth. Their home was in a secluded dale, where they were easily able to defend and hide themselves from whoever sought to discover their retreat or exploit their treasures. Under the successive control of a line of queenmothers, the little community developed into a noble race of barbaric fraternity, until the reptile of envy crept into the royal circle, bringing ruin and devastation.

“Walloo-Malie was the only son of the last queen-mother, and the story of his sufferings under the diabolical machinations of his traitress relative has become one of the cherished classics of heaven. I would advise you to ask Tasha, at some convenient season, to tell you the story. for she is better acquainted with all its details than Walloo-Malie himself or his sister Vedrona. Yes, get Tasha to tell you the matchless epic, and you will at once understand the sacred veneration in which we hold Walloo-Malie.” Then, turning to Tasha, he went on: “Do you hear the ministry I am outlining for you, Tasha? I know it will be one of love, and so I have not much doubt but that you will generously perform it!’

“It is not the first time you have asked it, nor does it come upon me as a surprise,” she answered with her vivacious winning smile. “So for your sake, as well as for my boy’s, I will find some opportunity to do as you desire.”

“I knew you would,” he replied, “and I almost envy Aphraar hearing the story, from such an authority, for the first time.

“How does it feel, Aphraar, to be swooped down upon and swallowed up by such a family circle without any consent or permission?” appealed Dracine as she thrust her hand through my arm and led me away.

“I am not at all disposed to offer any violent opposition to it,” I returned. “Do all new arrivals meet with such a reception?”

“I anticipate they do. It would be an absolute impossibility for anyone to reach the Court and cross the plains unattended. And every one of us has so many companions that it is not difficult to raise a party to extend a welcome. Myhanene mentioned to us, at Eilele’s, that he was coming to meet you, and we all at once suggested that we should bear him company.”

“But you did not know me.”

“The more reason we should come to meet you since you were coming to join us. We are no longer strangers and foreigners to each other—not even fellow-citizens—but members of the self same family. If by reason of our wanderings, misunderstandings, or even reported death we have been isolated or forgotten, is that not still a more empathic cause for our rejoicing at the heralded return? Every addition to the family increases the volume of its happiness, and makes the glory of heaven just one degree more radiant. Hence, from its battlements, its bulwarks, and its towers the innumerable multitude of the family who have reached the Homeland would cry, until the echo of the invitation should reverberate to the darkest corner of the lowest hell, ‘We are waiting for your coming to make our joy complete! ‘We did not know you, but we know you now, and in that knowledge we have each discovered that heaven had a certain sweetness we had not tasted before. Come! Let us go back to the Court and again recount the treasures our Father has lavished upon us.”

I shall make no attempt to record what took place in that memorable reunion. Such sacred festivals lie outside the boundaries of eloquence, have a wider horizon than imagination can scan, need the employment of more enthralling figures than poetry can devise, and the use of warmer colours than love has ever dreamed of before one would venture, even with unshod feet, to attempt to tell the story of the bread of life that was broken in that communion.

The record is immortally written on the walls of the holy of holies—the secret inner sanctuary of my soul, where none but God and myself can see to read it. So will the record of such a communion be written for you my brother, my sister, when your feet shall reach those hallowed precincts—when you shall be ready to bid your final farewell to the last, influences of the earth—when by the gate you are able to meet the cherished kindred of your soul and receive their welcome home. You need not despair. That time must come for you as it had come for me, since ‘God is no respecter of persons,’ and ‘He will have all men to be saved,’ so that ‘as in Adam all die, even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive again.’

When we had reached the Court, we disposed of ourselves in simple Arcadian abandon, and my interview with Walloo-Malie struck the keynote for the communion in which we so rapturously indulged to the accompaniment of a deep melody of thanksgiving. Almost every one had some reminiscence of interposition to relate in connection with that established ministry which needs not to rend, but just divides the tendrils of the veil, that falls between the domain of the spirit and the flesh, as the screen of foliage hung between the compartments of the Court in which we were gathered. The universe of God is not a concourse of rival and antagonistic nations brought by conquest under the sway of a victorious sceptre.

It is the palace of a King in very truth, but every soul that passes across its threshold is a natural son or daughter of the Monarch who sits upon the throne. It is the residence of a single family, not the rendezvous of a conglomerate rabble. In the perfection of its arrangements it has, necessarily, provision for any and every demand that may be made to ensure the security of the home life which has been commanded by the King; but from the highest tower to the lowest basement, from the banquet hall to the nursery, from the audience chamber to the corrective cell, there exists no barrier to a free and open communication according to the direction of the Father.

There are still numbers of wayward, prodigal, self-willed and rebellious children who, taking advantage of their Father’s great loving-kindness and tender mercy, have wandered into forbidden and defiant associations. After such the unchanging Heart is ever yearning, and from the palace messenger-members of the family have gone—are ever going-cast and west, and north and south, crying: “Come home! Come home!” and from mountain, sea, plain and city they are constantly returning, bringing one and another repentantly back. Nor will that Father’s yearning cease until the last missing lad or wayward girl has been restored to the anxious breast.

This was one of the visions that passed before my mind as I listened to the recital of providential interpositions by one and another of those around me. Interpositions such as I had encounted which had saved me from suicide at Putney, that had led me into a new walk and ministry at Whitechapel. Interpositions of gratitude in obedience to the impulse of the golden rule, such as had constrained me to break the silence of the grave and rush back again to earth to shout the blest evangel “There is no death”; and tell how much better were even the approaches to the palace of the King, than had entered the heart of man to conceive.

Oh! that I had ten thousand voices that could cry with an echo that should never cease against the blasphemy of those who lie to men in their ignorance of the immutability of God in His dealing with men as Father, as they picture Him in His capacity as judge. Did He ever send a single angel, under any circumstances, back to earth upon any mission, no matter when or where or how—whether it was to save Hagar’s child or to roll away a resurrection stone does not matter—whether to eat Abraham’s cutlets at Mamre or to destroy the cities of the plain is of no consequence—I only ask did an angel ever come back to earth with a commission from the beyond? Answer that. If so, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccles. i, 9). If you answer that you don’t believe an angel ever did return, then I pray you to be honest and cease to prate about a resurrection. Better far to be an avowed agnostic than a wilfully blind hypocrite.

So ran my mind, in dual action, as I contrasted the confident assurance of the “blind leaders of the blind,” with the testimonies of those who were around me, and I had scarcely reached my somewhat indignant conclusion when Eilele began to discourse upon the theme that had so moved me, but with a far more concise and trenchant enquiry than mine as she asked:

Know we the heavenly anthem
Soon as the organ rolls
Forth the symphonic prelude
That thrills our inmost souls?

Know we the noontide glory
When first the eye of day
Opens from night’s deep slumber
Kissed by the vanguard ray?

Would you permit the novice
Who fails to find his way
From Alpha to Omega
Greek classics to inveigh?

The landsman, who is making
His nauseous trial trip—
Say, would you trust his knowledge
To navigate the ship?

And so, earth’s mighty giants
Of intellect and mind
Are freshmen in the schoolroom
Which God of yore designed:

Imperfectly they master
The first two letters yet—
Philosophy and Science—
In His great alphabet.

How, knowing not two letters
Can they the volume read;
Or solve the hieroglyphics
Without a key to lead?

And, if the book defies you,
How can you comprehend
The sources of that wisdom
That Nature’s volume penned?

Eilele’s contribution to the testimonies that had gone before only served to change the key of my meditation. Or, perhaps, it would be more correct for me to say that she appeared to widen the cleavage of consciousness in my mind, so that I was able to follow two distinctly separate streams of thought, each with an added critical attention. I did not venture any attempt to analyse the strange phenomenon. I had enough to do to listen to the accompaniment she played, to the vision that was flooding my soul with a light that was expelling the shadows that had hitherto refused to vacate.

So far, in spite of all that had been said to me, there had been a lingering doubt, a failure to understand the drastic, almost vindictive prohibition with which any attempt to pass the gate was defended. Already several times had I been reminded that “there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. “Whenever I had heard it, it had seemed to me like an unnecessary going out to find some cause of objection which did not really exist, but in some curious and not very probable circumstances might come into existence; and the idea of it gave me a certain feeling of injustice I vainly tried to get rid of. It recalled the uncontrollable feeling of aversion I had always felt towards God when I had read that command which Samuel gave to Saul: “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Sam. xv, 3). Where was the justice of such a command that was reconcilable with everlasting loving-kindness?

The answer lay buried deep in the kernel, not in the outer shell of that command of the prophet. God is not only the only King who writes His despatches in cypher, that they may not be understood by His enemies. For they who have eyes to see and cars to hear—equipments which are bestowed for loyalty, fidelity and valour—they are as a lamp to the feet and an unfailing guide through the Egyptian darkness, while to the enemy they are the snares and pitfalls which entice to destruction.

In the parting of that stream of consciousness, I was carried down the broad channel of revelation where the light of God shines to the elimination of the last shade of doubt. In that allegory of Saul and Samuel lay the mystery to the enemy of righteousness—the clear solution to the heirs of the kingdom. There the light shone upon my darkness, enabling me to read and understand. The Amalekites were a race who had sprung from the seduction of the sons of God by the daughters of men, who in their marauding expeditions had entered and remained in the land promised to those over whom Saul had been made King. They had introduced their defilements into a land that was to be holy to Israel’s God, and therefore the command. The land must be purified, its atmosphere must be cleansed from the taint of leprosy, the last trace of contagion must be eliminated, the roots of epidemic must be plucked up and destroyed, not even a breath of contamination must remain within its borders.

The earthly Canaan was the antitype of the heavenly, hence the drastic command given by the unimpeachable wisdom of the King—“there shall in no wise enter into it anything” that is capable of producing or tempting to defilement.

I was pondering the revelation in a dream of profound thanksgiving when Dracine aroused me by asking:

“Have the influences of the Court been too much for you?”

“I should scarcely like to say that,” I answered, making an ineffectual effort to recover myself. “I should rather suggest that at present I am scarcely strong enough to carry such a weight of glory, as Paul expresses it.”

“Perhaps it would be well for you and I to take our contemplated trip while you recover yourself,” Omra volunteered.

“I am by no means anxious to break up such a gathering, I can assure you,” I replied.

“You need not think of that,” Dracine assured me. “Our reunions are not so easily disturbed. We are expecting Avita, and when he arrives we shall be well provided for until your return, if you are thinking of coming back.”

“Then we will rejoin you, so that we may cross the bridge together,” Omra paused, and, not without a shade of reluctance on my part, we left that first communion in which I had been privileged to take part.

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