Chapter XXIII: The Hero of Bozrah
Who can imagine what the arresting, stupifying, paralysing effect would be if the world was to awake some morning with a clear understanding and comprehension of the declaration of Isaiah—“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord”? What an inconceivable revolution would suddenly be experienced! The mad rush of egotism arrested; with what trembling anxiety would pride, arrogance and oppressive prosperity be deserted; what a concourse would be struggling at the fountain of hypocritical purity to wash, head and hands and feet—the outside of the platter—in the hope that the allseeing eye might not notice the plague-spot of the heart.
Well might the Master in the depth of His sorrow at the blindness of human perversity exclaim: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” The messengers of God do not always travel with royal robes in golden chariots, so as to be seen and greeted by men. It is recorded of one that, footsore and weary, he walked and climbed the hills and trod the plains of his missionary sphere—that at noonday, in a fainting condition. he approached a well, and craved a drink of water from a woman too vile for her neighbours to associate with—that he had not a place to lay his head at night- that he was a man despise and rejected of his fellow men, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” If this is so, Isaiah was right. God’s messengers, as the God they serve, seek to be known for what they are, not for what men judge them to be. Let all men be wise and careful whom they entertain.
Some such thought occurred to me as I saw Dracine approaching in company with a stranger. Had not Eilele spoken of him in an official capacity, I should not have regarded him with distinction, since he wore no dress or mark to denote it—no mayoral chain, no diplomatic insignia, no judge’s robe or pleader’s wig, no bishop’s apron, dean’s gaiters, doctor’s stole, or clerical collar. As a minister in the household of God he wore the uniform of his King, and was known to be one of the disciples by the love he manifested to his fellow men. He was not singular in this respect—it is the household rule laid down by the Master: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to the other.” Hence the change the recognition of this law would bring about.
But if I were about to make his acquaintance, I would be glad to know something of him.
“Did you say the Gardener?” I enquired.
“Yes. Why—does it surprise you?” she replied.
“I am not sure,” I hesitated. “It does seem somewhat strange to think of gardening here.”
Eilele’s face glowed momentarily with an amused, compassionate smile.
“Perhaps so; but for some reason I can scarcely explain I have habitually called him by that name since the special sphere of his ministry lies here, and I love to think of myself as being planted in the garden of the Lord, and in that way retain a claim I like to feel I hold on Voormere.”
“Thank you; that enables me to understand part of the difficulty,” I answered reflectively; “but it does not satisfy me altogether. Perhaps I am still not altogether sufficiently clear to understand.”
“Then let me try to help you. What is the particular point upon which you are not clear?”
“It is my failure to harmonize these—what I may call local appointments with the idea of the infinite opportunities I have recently been contemplating. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Perfectly. The confusion arises in regarding what is a voluntary ministry as a definite appointment. We each and all are now workers together with God, with an intense desire to find our own place and render Him our highest service. You answered to the same impulse when you wished to go to Clarice. That service has been in no wise hindered—it has rather assisted your passing through the gate, because your action was a Christ-like one and has already met with a certain reward, but the full measure of what you accomplished only eternity will reveal. God oftentimes conceals infinite results in the mustard seeds of a trivial act. In this way Voormere finds his present services best rendered here, but presently will hear a higher call, and then he will promptly reply.”
I could easily discern that she was pluming herself for another flight, but Dracine and Voormere were close at hand and she was compelled to restrain herself.
“Shall we be regarded as intruders?” Dracine enquired archly.
“The addition of Love and Wisdom could never be an intrusion,” Eilele returned as she made room for Dracine beside her.
“As I am neither of the virtues you name, I will leave Voormere to wear the double crown,” Dracine replied, taking the proffered seat.
“For myself, if I have but wisdom to love, and love enough to serve, I shall be well satisfied,” Voormere adroitly replied.
“I have been trying to satisfy Astroel’s desire to correlate and harmonize the different experiences through which he is passing,” Eilele explained.
“My suggestion would be to defer any such attempt for the present. They will naturally fall into orderly sequence presently, but until you are able to understand the relation of part to part, how is it possible for you to build up the whole? Let me illustrate what I mean by supposing a case in your own former profession. In the absence of a legitimate claimant a vast estate has been managed by a representative of the crown for three generations. One day a simple working man calls upon you and presents credentials which appear to establish such evidence as leads you to take up the case, and eventually you substantiate the claim. When you secure the decision, does that son of toil, whose past has been one long struggle to make both ends meet and live honestly in the sight of his fellows, immediately realize all that the decision of the court means to him—the peerage, extent of his acreage, the rent-roll, mineral rights, residences in town and country. foreign investments and accumulated capital at his bankers?”
“Thank you. I see it now. So far I have only been collecting evidence to make my claim, and when I reached the Court of the Voices I substantiated it. It is no wonder that I have been confused.”
“And even now,” Voormere continued, “you have only a very limited and partial conception of the inheritance upon which you are entering. Has the thought ever occurred to you that though you have many times seen the gate you have never caught a hint or glimpse of what lies beyond it?”
His mention of the fact struck me with an amazing force. Imagination may have filled in the background of the prospect, but calmly as I reviewed my vision I could recall no memory of anything that lay beyond the portal. It might have been oblivion.
“No-o! It never once occurred to me—but it is so.”
“And if you will quietly continue your survey you will make another astonishing discovery. In the visions and reviews you have been granted since you passed through the Court of the Voices, the new light which has so far been granted has led you to feel that every veil of mystery had been removed and you were looking upon things without a cloud between: but I ask you again—from where we are standing now—to cast your mind back to any single feature, and you will now discover that though certain veils have been lifted, enabling you to see what had hitherto been hidden, there are still veils remaining to be withdrawn before your eyes can look away into the infinite. You may have had flashes, but you have not yet beheld the glory. The flash passes and dies away: the vision is the light eternal, that never faileth or passes away. So far you see, know, understand and comprehend in parts, as you behold this garden; but when, by and bye, you stand upon the tower above the gate, you will be able to see beyond the colonnade which now bounds your vision and trace, not only all the way by which you have travelled to and through the flesh, but also the psychic gestation which brought you to the second birth, the which you have now accomplished. Then, turning round, you will look away along the pathway of the shining light, in its ever exceeding glory, until you reach the aureole of the vision beautiful. You have not even seen that yet, therefore it is no wonder that your mind is confused. You are like the erstwhile penurious claimant only standing on the threshold of your inheritance. Let me ask your company that I may show you an instance in the garden of the value of standpoint in relation to knowledge. We will rejoin our sister presently.”
As he finished speaking, without waiting for any reply, he turned and started to carry out his suggestion. We crossed the colonnade, passed through the creeper curtain draping the arches, and at once entered a more charming and beautiful shrubbery than that I had passed through with Omra across the gorge. With that tactful consideration I have so many times referred to, my companion made no attempt to engage me in conversation, seeing that I was already too engrossed with the indescribable floral attraction of the scene through which we were passing to pay even the slightest attention to anything he might have said. It was a symphony of colourable rapture in a variegated composition such as dreamland could not have suggested; and yet it was but the prelude to that which we presently beheld on entering a plain we reached through a narrow defile in a range of hills I had not hitherto observed.
In shape it was slightly rectangular rather than square, bounded on three sides by the chain of hills through which we had approached, and on the fourth by the abyss. In width it may have measured perhaps some half a mile, with a slightly added length, with a broad fringe of matchless sward running round its great central feature, towards which Voormere waved his hand and said:
“That is the illustration of which I spoke.”
“What is it, and its meaning?” I enquired after quietly contemplating the most curious, compact and gorgeous mass of bloom it had ever been my good fortune to behold.
“It is an allegorical picture woven in the warp and weft of carpetgardening for the purpose of dispelling such confusions as the one you have experienced. We have many of them occupying the borderland of heaven, written in the original language of your Scripture—eloquent with poetry, fragrant with inspiration, bright with revelation, melodious with love, and attractive with irresistible beauty, when once the soul has discovered the necessary point from which to study it in the true light. But failing to find that mystic spot for contemplation, the eye can see, and the mind trace nothing more than a riot of confused colour, void of any design, suggestion, harmony. balance, taste, or any other artistic feature.”
“Then it is evident that we have not reached the necessary point of vantage yet,” I ventured as my eyes wandered over the unattractive confusion.
“No! The approach has been especially designed to emphasize the contrast I have spoken of. Standing where we now are, and looking upon this great allegory for the first time, it arouses in your mind something of the same confusion as you have experienced in connection with your first contact with the new faculties and powers you are discovering in yourself, of which Eilele was speaking. To you, in both cases, the outlook is chaotic, but to myself, knowing the detail of each and every part, where you see confusion I can recognize the necessary individual strokes and shadings of colour that contribute to the superb beauty of the picture as you will presently behold it. You could not take away or change the position of a single flower—out of place as some of them may appear to you here—without the effect being noticeable, and the perfection of the design interfered with. Such is the difference and great importance of a correct view-point, not only in pictures, but equally in all affairs of life, as I will now show you.”
He turned, and we ascended one of the hills bounding the pass by which we had entered the enclosure.
There is only one Artist capable of sketching the perfect vision of the soul’s ideal: only one Chemist who has discovered the secret of the attraction of the perfume to the rose only one Poet who can correctly sing the song of rapture only one Psychologist who has ever been able to analyse and declare the purity of love—only One. That One has taken from the essence of each and compounded for the Emmaus heartburn a balm—a feast at which the stricken soul may sit, and eat, and live for ever. Voormere was not that One, but somehow, somewhere, somewhen, the mantle of that One must have fallen upon, or touched, the shoulders of Voormere, for never had I walked under the influence of such a sacred spell as I experienced in that never-to-be-forgotten ascent. Myhanene, Rhamya, Omra, and even Walloo-Malie, failed to be remembered in comparison with the soul-stirring music with which Voormere held my every faculty enthralled. It was not the vision Elisha’s servant saw around the Hill of Dothan that Voormere opened up to me; neither that the favoured three beheld on Tabor at the Transfiguration; nor yet again that of the seventy on the brow of Olivet, when the ascending Lord passed into the heavens; nor that of Paul in the third heaven; nor yet of John when the great revelation lay, unrolled before him. To me it was more than any—more than all of these, even though they were all combined in one—so great I dare not attempt – cannot find words to begin to essay a description of it. That is one of the things necessity ordains shall remain until such time as you, my toilworn reader, shall reach the same or kindred spot in your pilgrimage: then, should you be blessed with the companionship of Voormere or likeminded friend, you too will understand how my heart burned within me as I listened to his discourse, until he turned again and bade me sit down.
Then I beheld the picture, from which my eyes had been diverted in all the transporting beauty of its perfection. I was so overcome by the influence of the vision, as my eye fell upon it, that I gasped, but lacked the power of exclamation.
I was advisedly assisted to a seat before my companion’s hand invited my attention from his discourse to the scene! Long and silently did I study its subject, composition, detail and voiceless eloquence. Now I understood what Voormere meant when, down below, he had said that not a single flower could be changed or taken away without noticeably disturbing some point of detail. How I now rejoiced for the blessing I had been granted of his restraining presence.
Oh, how inestimable are the considerate anticipations of heaven. Our converse by the way had wooed me into a contemplative mood, and, being seated, I was left alone to read the story of the allegory as it should be unfolded to my particular need. The importance of the viewpoint was at once made clear. Soon, as the question of the subject began to suggest itself, I heard a voice, as if from the Court across the abyss, speaking to me, and in the language of the silver-tongued Isaiah afforded all the explanation needed:
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah – this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?”
The answer came as if on the roll of a great organ hidden somewhere in the heart of the garden, the music breathing also a perfumed flame which added another ray of glory to the scene.
“I that speak in righteousness—mighty to save.”
Again the enquiry came:
“Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine vat?”
Then came the minor response of infinite tenderness from the soul of the organ, changing to the shout of attack as the hero felt his powers strengthening him to victory:
“I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with me … and the year of my redeemed is come. I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore, mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.”
How often had I lingered over that fascinatingly mystical, but unsatisfactory picture in Isaiah 63. It was always attractive in its form, but vague and disconnected in its substance—at least, so it appeared to me, in the olden days. From the view-point of my new position, however, all this uncertainty vanished, and the divine allegory lay unrolled before me in a form that could not be misapprehended. The royal Shepherd, having lost one of His hundred sheep, had cast aside His kingly robe, and ventured into the jaws of the abyss where the goatherd Edom had his haunt. determined to discover and reclaim His lost one. The toil, the pain, the agony and the danger He braved was clearly written in the picture before me. But victory was with Him in His quest. He had found the lost one, and placing it upon His brawny shoulders had bounded back from the abyss to the threshold of heaven with a triumphant song of gratitude and thanksgiving in which He called upon all His friends to join.
As I looked upon the carefully limned-marred features of the Shepherd, I knew Him, though I knew not that we had met before. His was the greater love in search of which I had left my mother and travelled far; and the discovery threw the portals of heaven wide open for my admission. Then the fountains of the great deep opened, and the flood thereof carried me away.
My soul overflowed. I fell upon my knees and bowed my head in adoration. I did not—could not weep. The stream of the new fountain had washed away all tears, which had been replaced by a perennial joy. Voormere had left me, and yet I was not alone! Another—and unseen hand reached out of the surrounding glory to lift me to my feet again. Another—a softer, sweeter, more authoritative voice spoke to me:
“Come up higher. Rejoice with me, for I have found that which was lost.”
I looked, but could not see the speaker, and the whole scene had changed. Surrounded by a host of friends, known and unknown, I was standing within the gate, that cannot be shut at all by day—and there is no night—here.