Chapter XXIII: The Communion of Saints
Rhamya had finished his work, and taken his departure, but how shall I speak of the elfect his visit had produced?
I can well understand you, my reader, regarding the result as very unsatisfactory; all along his argument, as I have traced it, you have detected weak points, false conclusions and unwarrantable inferences. I allowed him quietly to assume positions you would have contested stoutly, and consequently had you been in my place Rhamya’s whole argument would have taken another complexion. That is, supposing the record is one of an actual event and not the creation of a mind inventing a hypothetical programme upon which to build another creed.
Had you been in my place: it is there where all the difference lies. Let me for a moment suppose that such had been the case. What would have happened? I can tell you perhaps better than you can imagine; all your present prejudices would have vanished; a thousand experiences which now lie between the two positions you and I occupy would have broken up your shallow knowledge of the things of God, and prepared you to receive the truth in furrows of deep expectant desire; the spiritual atmosphere in which you sat would be so clear and your powers of discernment so quickened that you would recognize and hail each truth in its approach, and, lose the power to cross-examine or seek to evade it in favour of a cherished but erroneous opinion. You, as myself, would have, joined hands with Thomas, and when the evidences were seen would neither have waited to touch or handle, but fallen at the feet of the all-too-certain Saviour and exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!”
That is what would have happened had you been in my place. Rhamya had said he intended to do no more than sketch the outline of the highway of the Christ. It was not necessary for him to attempt more. His simple indication of its direction made the whole course to shine with the radiance of divinity. It reduced a previous chaos to calm, and before my astonished sight lay the way along which the ransomed of the Lord might return with songs and everlasting joy to the fatherland and rightful heritage of divinity. In his mission of enlightenment Rhamya had broken down the cross-entanglements of theology, pushed his way through the contradictions of dogmatics, regarded as of no consequence the definitions of Fathers and Councils, ignored the confusing battlegrounds of schoolmen, found no occasion to discuss theories of Eden, man’s first estate, the fall, original sin and cognate subjects; if he knew that Israel were a peculiar people more dear to the heart of God than any other nation, he failed to mention it, nor did he call any by the name of heathen, or point out where they had been divinely appointed to be the bondslaves of others. The God upon whose shoulders he found the government to rest was truly no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him; a God who is not to be worshipped only in temples made with hands, but rather in the purity and holiness of consecrated hearts, cleansed and set apart as the appointed and guarded trysting-place where earth and Heaven blend in one. This, the only truly divine and appointed temple for the worship of Him who alone is God, can only be approached by the one ordained and Heaven-elected way which Rhamya had discovered to my mind, and, as I scanned its course, after his departure, I understood with a vividness and beauty I had never discerned before the fullness of the inspiration of the psalmist when he exclaimed, ‘The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.’
As I contemplated what had taken place I was more than astonished to find how closely associated was the question of the personality and work of Christ with every conceivable subject and detail of a religious nature. Rhamya had directed his attention to the very heart of things, and having made the one point clear the mists had apparently rolled away from every quarter of the spiritual horizon until no cloud remained, not even so large as a man’s hand.
Especially was this so with respect to the question of intercommunion. Rhamya’s interpretation had placed this upon an unassailable basis, and I could go forward to my work with a confidence and authority of which I had never dreamed. The communion of saints now appeared in a new and deeper sense than before, needing no commentator to expound that doubtful passage in Hebrews xii.: “Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh.” In the light I had just received I could read and understand this and many other hitherto mysterious passages for myself, having reached that highway to which Rhamya had so frequently directed my attention, where ‘the wayfaring man’ need not wander from the truth.
But speaking of the communion of saints suggests to me an incident which took place at this time, and placed in close relationship with the work of the Christ will pleasantly illustrate how the great law proceeds to its almost infinite adaptations. We have seen it working in its highest aspect between Jesus and the Christ; the case I have now to record is of a very different degree, but it shows the same Spirit and the same Lord to be directing it.
I had but recently returned, and was speaking with Vaone of all I had heard from Rhamya when Jack and his friend Dandy joined us.
“Did Eilele come back with you?” inquired the former at once.
“No. Why, do you want her?”
“Yes. I want her to talk to Dandy.”
“Is it anything that I can do?” I asked.
“There ain’t anythin’ to do at all,” the culprit explained. “l o’ny sed as things ain’t as they ought ter be; an’ if Jack ses they are, ’e don’t know, that’s all.”
“In what way are they wrong?” I asked, interested to know such a curious point of disagreement.
“Dandy says he ought not to be here,” said Jack.
“No, I didn’t say it like that,” cried the other.
“I said it warn’t right ter make me come away an’ leave Bully Peg wi’out anybody ter look arter ’im.”
“But does not God know what is best?” I asked.
“I don’t know what God knows or what ’E doan know. But if I’d been God I shouldn’t ’a’ done it that way.”
“If I’d been ’Im I should ’a’ knocked the box on the little kiddy, an’ killed ’im; the big un could look arter ’imself.”
“But God will look after Bully Peg,” I replied, catching the drift of his grievance. “He will be all right.”
“But ’e ain’t all right,” he affirmed with something very much like defiance. “He’s about as wrong as they meks ’em. An’ that’s where yer mek yer mistake!”
“What is the matter, Jack?” I inquired, anxious to gain some insight into the perplexing situation.
Whereupon I was informed that the lads had but just returned from a visit to the ‘College,’ where they had met Bully Peg and learned how the little fellow had fallen on evil times, and for the whole of the preceding day had been without food. At the best the lad had but very indifferent health, and Dandy resented the additional hardship he had to endure on account of the death of the elder. Had he been alive Bully would have been fed somehow. This was the extent of Dandy’s grievance, and he stoutly refused to accept the fact of his removal as absolving him from responsibility in connection with his friend. In his rough untutored logic the lad had worked out the proposition that the goodness of God was at fault somewhere to allow Bully Peg to bear this additional suffering under the circumstances of his bereavement.
As I heard the touching story, my heart went out in genuine sympathy towards the distressed Dandy, but where the lad only saw a hungry child he considered it to be his duty to feed, and that at once, I saw a yawning gulf, impassable to such a physical ministry, or so it presented itself to my doubtful and inexperienced mind.
It was a new and apparently unsolvable problem to me, how to secure and then transmit to Bully Peg that which Dandy had thoroughly made up his mind the child should have.
In my perplexity I recalled Myhanene’s counsel to do the best I could where I could not do all I would, and leave the rest to God. I would act upon it, though I knew how impossible it was for me to satisfy the demand that would not accept denial, for I saw the intense determination upon the face of the supplicant, who was ready to give up Heaven, if need be, that his friend might be fed.
“Try to be patient, Dandy,” I began, drawing the lad closer and laying my hand upon his troubled head. “It will be all right, though you nor I see how it can be so for the present. God will take care of your little friend for your sake as well as His own, since you are so very anxious about him. Who knows but that Bully Peg is coming to be with you and Jack shortly, and this is the beginning of the end of all his suffering?”
“But I thought God was very good and kind?”
“So He is—more good and kind than any of us know or can imagine.”
“But it ain’t good an’ kind o’ the butchers to keep calves wi’out anythin’ to eat before they kill ’em.”
“I did not say God was doing so. Only that…”
“I know all abart it,” he interrupted impatiently.
“But Bully Peg wants summat t’ eat, an’ I wants ’im t’ ’ave it at once. Can’t yer go an’ see God, an’ tell ’im ’ow ’ungry Bully is?”
“He knows all about it without our telling Him.”
“Then if ‘E’s as good as yer say, why doan ‘E let Im ha’ some?” Then with a flash of child-like inspiration he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! I know, p’raps ‘E ain’t got anybody ter tek it! Come on, let us go an’ tek it for Im.”
It was no use. The determined importunity, sympathy, precocity and artless faith of the lad were too much for me to attempt to cope with. I was worse than helpless—afraid that my incompetence would prove to be harmful to the lad, and in my perplexity I called for Myhanene.
In this I found the relief I so sadly needed.
Dandy recognized him in an instant, and accosted him before I had a chance to speak.
“’Ere! You killed me—didn’t yer?”
Myhanene patted his head, and smiled affectionately. “No-no! Not that,” he answered. “Dead boys do not talk excitedly, do they?”
“Well, yer brought me here away from Bully Peg, didn’t yer?”
“Ah yes; I will admit that.”
“An’ do yer know ’e can’t get anythin’ t’ eat—all day yesterday ’e didn’t ’ave a bite.”
“Poor little fellow! How did you learn this?”
“We have just come from the ‘College’,” replied Jack, “where he told us so himself.”
“Yes, an’ I want ter know ’ow God can be good an’ let Bully Peg be ’ungry all because God sent you to kill me. Why didn’t yer kill Bully and let me live?”
“I was not sent to do that.”
“But why warn’t yer? That’s what I should ’a’ done.”
“Perhaps so; but God knows what is best much better than we do.”
“It ain’t better ter let Bully be ’ungry. Can’t yer gi’ ’im summat ter eat?”
“Yes. God will give him something to eat,” replied Myhanene, sitting down and drawing the interceding Dandy close to him, “and when he gets it you will be able to see how very much better everything has been than if you had had your own way. God knows more than we, and what He does is always for the best.”
“But it isn’t best for Bully to be ’ungry.”
“Yes it is, for a little while.”
“Well, how is it?”
“That I do not know for the present; but I know God well enough to say that both you and I will see it has been for the best presently.”
“How shall I know?”
“We will go and see your friend as soon as I learn what to do, and you will see how God will find a way for him to be provided for.”
“Are you sure?”
“All right, then. But I wouldn’t be ’appy ’ere if he was goin’ ter be left ’ungry there.”
Waiting for God is never a long or trying ordeal under such circumstances. Dandy was most intensely earnest. He was asking help for his friend, and to secure it, if necessary, he was prepared to sacrifice everything, willing even to give up his own heaven for the time that the hungry one might be fed. Such importunity had to be answered. Myhanene knew it as soon as he saw it, and almost at once received his commission to proceed to the relief.
“Come with me,” he said with more of command than invitation in his tone, as his alert and ever-ready self was caught up by the urgent mandate. And in a flash of thought we found ourselves beside the hungry lad, who with unshod feet and tattered clothes was doing his best to sell matches among the passers-by in front of the Royal Exchange.
“’Ere we is, Bully,” cried Dandy joyfully. “Now yer can ha’ some…”
But his exclamation was cut short, for the eager little fellow darted past him, without taking the slightest notice, in answer to a call for “Matches” from the top of a ‘bus just pulling up at the kerbstone.
“Well! If that don’t tek the cake,” gasped Dandy. “But p’raps ‘e didn’t see us in the fog.” Then he added with anxious sympathy, “Fogs don’t do for Bully.”
Myhanene smiled and drew the little protector to him in a tender embrace, which spoke more eloquently than words.
“What are yer laughing for?” he asked naϊvely.
“At you thinking there is a fog,” he replied. “You forget that you have changed your eyes, and see what your friend cannot see, while he is not able to see that we are here.”
He started as he grasped an idea that had not occurred to him before.
“Yes. I forgot that! My eyes are dead uns, ain’t they? What shall we do?”
His appearance at this discovery was at once droll and pitiable. At length he realized what I had before seen—the apparently impassable gulf across which he wished to reach his friend.
“You must be satisfied for the present to let me do what I can to help your little friend,” said Myhanenee. “I have not time to explain, but when we get back Eilele will tell you all about it, if you ask her. But let me say that while I have come with you to let you see that Bully Peg has some breakfast, many other angels of God have gone away to bring someone here to give him what you wish, and perhaps more than you expect.”
“That’s all right,” he answered, willing to consent to any arrangement for the moment that would lead to the supply of Bully’s need. “But yer’ll g’ me a chance ter tell ’im who yer are, won’t yer?”
“You could not do that, my child. Your friend can neither see nor hear us.”
The astonished incredulous doubt that is born of ignorance again swept across his face.
“But why can’t ’e see us as well as we see ’im?” he asked.
“Did you never look from a dark hiding-place at people passing along a lighted street?” asked Myhanene.
“Many a time.”
“Did they see you as plainly as you saw them?”
“No! But we ain’t in the dark.”
“Not as we know darkness; but to your little friend we are in the blackness of death, and it is impossible for him to see us.”
“Then we can’t do nothin’ for ’im arter all.”
“Yes, we can. We shall perhaps be able to do more than you hope or expect. God is always far better than we anticipate, and if you will be content to wait until I and my friends have done all God will help us to do for little Bully, I am sure you will be more than satisfied.”
“Shall I?” he asked in eager acquiescence.
“Yes, I am sure you will.”
“Then if my tongue tries to speak agen, I ’ope my teeth’ll bite it off.”
As I listened to the anxious concern of Dandy for his friend, I wondered what would happen if the eyes of the hurrying, surging crowd around us could for one moment be opened, as were the eyes of Elisha’s servant, and our ministering presence be discovered. Ah, brethren, how little do even the wisest and best of men know of the invisible agencies which are continually being employed around them; how little do the most spiritually-minded know of the secret actions of the Lord, moving to correct the errors, frustrate the evil or accomplish that which is for their good? From a human computation in all that Mansion House throng there was no other person so insignificant or neglected as the little vendor of wax matches, and yet, in the estimate of God and salvation, the commercial interests of the world’s centre occupied a secondary place for the moment to the welfare of that lonely and neglected child. Had the veil been lifted, what Prince of Finance would not have forsaken the Exchange in favour of the lad, and wealth would have been laid at the feet of the pauper, in anticipation of the commendatory reward, ‘Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, ye did it unto Me.’
But would a service so rendered secure such approbation? Would it not rather be tendered more for the angels than the child and have its only reward in the vision granted? To secure the Master’s commendation needs the spiritual sight that can find the Christ in the rag-clothed, starving outcast, and the ministry must be in sympathy with need. This constitutes true and genuine service to the Master—to do good in all places, at all times, and without respect to person; to stand ready for whatever service may be required:—if it is to carry a message for an angel at the sepulchre to absent disciples, well; if to bind up the wounds of an outraged Lazarus, pouring in oil and wine, better. It is for God, and God will acknowledge it. No service rendered on His account shall pass unrecognized. God who seeth in secret will assuredly acknowledge each ministry with the reward inseparably linked to the action, which outcome is always to be foreseen in the seed of motive prompting the deed.
God’s justice never miscarries.
The veil, however, was not lifted; nor did our little protégé effect the sale he had hoped for. A fellow-traveller had offered his matchbox, the penny was returned to the pocket, and Bully was no nearer, apparently, to his breakfast than ever.
As the child turned from the ’bus with weary dejection, I sorrowfully sighed at my own inability to help to ease his little shoulders of the weight of trouble that was so visibly crushing him, and this in spite of the fact that I knew it was so near its end. If I could only make him know that we were present and that relief was at hand!
But this could not be. Though so near, we were for the present destitute of the necessary means to reach him and make him understand.
“Have you to wait?” I inquired presently of Myhanene, who seemed to be looking for assistance in every passing vehicle and pedestrian.
“Yes! I await the arrival of someone through whom the distress of our little friend may be relieved.”
“Do you know who it will be?”
“No. When I received my commission many other friends were sent forth to find servants of the Master whom they could impress with the idea to come to the Bank. Someone of the number will find a Christ-like soul who will be moved to respond. In some cases I have known two or even three answer the premonitive summons; but as soon as one sets out the fact is made known to the whole band of workers, who then relinquish their efforts with the many and concentrate their influence on the one, until in performing the service he presently recognizes how wonderfully the hand of the Lord has guided him in the matter.”
“Is that the work and purpose of premonitions?” I asked, as his explanation lifted the corner of another veil of mystery.
“Yes! At least it is so for those who stand with their loins girt with loyal readiness to do the Master’s will.”
“Suppose, as you say, it sometimes does happen that two or three equally respond to the same call?”
“Then he who arrived first would perform the service.”
“And the others would conclude that their feelings had deceived them?”
“I am not so sure of that, though it is quite possible it might be so. The ministers working the premonition would readily be able to determine which of the three would first reach the desired destination, and the pressure would at once be withdrawn from the others, who could also be apprised of the fact that the particular purpose had been accomplished, while in the result their ready response to the call will be accepted as equivalent to their having rendered the sole service, and the reward will be equally to each for having done what they could.”
“Would it not be possible to foresee who would respond to the call and thus save what I may call an experiment with many?”
“That is, no doubt, foreknown to those who stand at a distance above and are not actually employed in the mission. But God never makes scant provision for the success of any service. Where omnipotence is available no result must be placed in jeopardy. Every agent employed knows that the mission cannot fail, but it requires energy, concentration and whole-hearted effort on our part, for no one of us can foresee how much our particular service affects the whole. Again, these summonses to action serve to ascertain the value of the professions of those who pray to be used in the work of the Lord. Some men cry so loudly as to be unable to hear the still small voice calling them, and their lives pass by in workless praying. God has many devices for testing the genuineness of faith!”
“But are not premonitions rather unreliable tokens to act upon?”
“That depends entirely upon the reality or otherwise of a man’s profession. He who lives in unbroken communion with God will hear and need not be afraid to follow the ‘still small voice,’ but he whose life is but as a tinkling cymbal will easily be carried away by the imaginations of his own heart, which will drown the true voice of God. The operation of the law speedily draws the dividing line. ‘Many are called, but few are chosen’.”
“The opportunities and responsibilities of life are terrible realities,” I answered, as I saw how important the undercurrents become when thus converted into standards of trial by which so many unsuspected but terribly appalling judgements are recorded.
“They must needs be so, my brother, where every act and thought may become a factor in fashioning either an angel or a devil. There is no possible fibre or shade in the whole construction but is laden with inestimable potentialities. Who can tell the extent to which any single service or mistake may be developed? When eternal results may be concealed in an incautious moment, ought Men not to be ever on the watch-tower? Can we not understand with what significance the Christ said ‘Watch’? But, come, our fellow-worker approaches.” Then he spoke cheerily to Dandy. “Now you shall see the answer to your prayer for your friend.”
The child in whose welfare we were specially interested had, during this time, been busy plying his wares persistently as each new ‘bus drew up at the kerbstone, but in his efforts he was sadly handicapped by the presence of a bigger and stronger lad, who ruthlessly thrust the child aside and always secured for himself what business in the matchvending was to be done.
Again and again did I see the little fellow dart forward in the hope of effecting a sale, but at each attempt he was forestalled, and his rival danced a joyous step at his easy victory over the starving lad.
As Myhanene made his announcement to Dandy a Blackwall ‘bus drew up, and a gentleman on the top calling for matches, Bully dashed forward only to be encountered and pushed aside again by his more successful rival, and what was infinitely worse, his two remaining boxes of goods fell from his hand in the struggle under the moving wheel, ignited, and in a moment the broken-hearted Bully was a hopeless bankrupt, without resource or hope.
The heroic fortitude he had hitherto displayed now forsook him. Such a catastrophe was sufficient to crush a man under the painful circumstances, and while the jubilant rival howled with delight at the result of the scuffle, Bull broke down in his hopeless extremity and wept piteously.
As he looked upon the still blazing matches through his tears, an elderly man cautiously stepped out of the ’bus and noticed him.
“Here, here! What’s the matter—what’s the matter?” he inquired with a pompousness that was more assumed than real. “What’s all this crying about, eh?”
The little fellow looked at his burning capital, but could not speak.
“Dropped your matches, eh? Well, never mind—never mind! It’s only a penny, and—here, I’ll buy them.”
“It’s two boxes!” exclaimed the partly-consoled Bully.
“Two boxes, is it? Well, that’s only twopence. Here you are. I’ll buy the two. What’s your name?”
“Bully Peg, sir,” he replied with the sign of a smile breaking through his tears at the unexpected turn events had taken.
“Bully Peg!” repeated the gentleman. “Wherever did you get such a name as that from?”
“I don’t know; but that’s what it is.”
“Nor I don’t know either. Where do you live?”
“I don’t live nowheer.”
“But you have a home.”
“No, I ain’t.”
“Well, where do you sleep?”
“Have you a mother or father?”
“Not as I knows on.”
“‘Really me! This is very sad for one so young. What did you have yesterday?”
“And nothing this morning?”
“Now I know why the dear Lord put it into my heart to come to the City. Come on, my child; come and have some breakfast at once.”
“That’s all right,” joyously exclaimed Dandy; “I don’t care now Bully’s got ’is tuppence an’ goin’ to ’ave some breakfast. I’ll go back now if yer like.”
“Not just yet,” replied Myhanene.
“Your little friend has all you asked for him; but while we are here I want you to see how God frequently gives much more than we ask.”
“What more do you expect to accomplish?” I inquired.
“We shall do no more,” he answered, “our part in the ministry is over: but did you not hear our fellow-labourer say that he recognized a Divine interposition in bringing him to the City? The question now remains as to how far he will go in helping the lad. Let us watch him, but we have no commission to influence him further—that must be entirely a matter of free will.”
The little arab was by this time comfortably seated at a table in a café close at hand. The waitress eyed him suspiciously, but his guardian was ample protection, and presently the child was devouring with all the zest of starvation a breakfast such as he had never faced before. The gentleman took up a paper, not to read but rather to leave the lad more free to eat apparently unobserved, but the stealthy side-glances afforded full confirmation of the long fast, and we were able to read what the world never knew—a thankful return for God’s goodness in enabling him to perform such a service.
Presently he dropped the paper and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to give up selling matches and have a nice bed to sleep in?”
“Yes, if I could have summat to eat as well.”
“Of course I mean that, and nice warm clothes to wear.”
“An ’ave a ’ouse?”
“Yes, live in a large house.”
“Yer don’t mean a prison, do yer?”
“Certainly not. That is what I am very anxious to save you from.”
“Are yer? Well I should like it.”
“If I could get you into a comfortable home would you promise to be good and not try to run away?”
“What should I want ter run away for?”
We need not follow the details further. Sufficient to say that as soon as the lad had finished his meal, his friend took him eastward, where he knew he could find ‘an ever-open door for waifs and strays,’ and when Dandy returned to his home in Paradise, he had the consolation of knowing that Bully Peg was fully provided for by reason of an importunate prayer and a Father’s loving response.
Such is another aspect of the communion of saints in practical operation. We have already seen how the uncontrolled grief of those left behind may disturb the rest of friends in Paradise; here we have the answering sympathy and see how it is possible for those in advance to continue a loving ministry for the protection of those they have left behind. What a service it might render to the world if properly cultivated!