The Gate of Heaven, Chapter 8

Chapter VIII: I Meet Walloo-Malie

There were fifty questions arising out of what Omra had been saying that I wished to ask, but since he had told me that he was simply glancing at the way by which I had come so far, and also assured me that an opportunity would come for me to study the whole course in detail, I restrained my desire until that more convenient season should arrive. Much that he said I had heard before from others, but each one had his own way of putting things, and each, according to his own point of view, gave more or less colouring or emphasis to one or another detail, so as to give a freshness and value to each and every exposition. Still, these variations were never suggestive of contradiction. In no sense were they opposed. If they were not in unison, they were perfectly harmonious, and each new note only added more volume to the choral effect. More noticeably so was the deep, clear, resonant, but unimpassioned statement I had just heard from Omra.

The one subject to which he had closely confined his remarks, others had treated in a somewhat superficial manner, but it had now been placed before me as a foundation fact upon which the whole superstructure of the life everlasting rested. And though he refused, to be drawn away from his theme, in all he had said he never professed to be doing more than glancing at an outline of his subject. What, then, would a full and explicit discussion of the question mean? Two very important thoughts relative to this, I very much desired to ask about, but he brought his observations to a close somewhat abruptly and the consciousness of it led me to restrain my desire, in deference to what I felt to be his wish.

In our communion we had drawn near to the upper end of the Court, where we stood looking across a most entrancing landscape towards the gate which lay, perhaps, half a mile away. Atmosphere, light, colour, perfume, everything combined to make an ideal prospect in which, for once, the presence of visitors seemed to add a final touch of perfection.

I can well imagine it might have been some such scene upon which the eye of Baxter fell, giving him the first suggestion of the Plains of Heaven, and in his sleep the genius of dreams filled in the wondrous details.

But this was no dream. I had long since bade farewell to sleep. Had not Omra told me in very surety that yonder gate was the entrance into the Homeland? Was not this the sacredly-appointed trysting place to which tear-dimmed eyes have looked uncertainly forward, and where broken hearts would have covenanted to meet; had not that icy grip suffocated speech as we slipped into the arms of the long silence? Yes, this was the place of the great reunion! No wonder it was bright and happy, and vibrant with music that was more than sacred—Divine! The whole environment was peace; the atmosphere instinct with strength. The unconventional freedom that was everywhere observable among the company before me was eloquent with fraternity; age, care, sorrow, doubt, sickness, weakness, and all the usual undesirables of the flesh were obvious by their absence, for every soul displayed the full vigour and beauty of dawning maturity.

It was in the observation of this fact that I discovered another wonder. I had always been more or less familiar with the idea of types of beauty, but the possibility of its almost infinite variety had never been even suggested to me before, I saw and understood it now, and why should it not be that beauty is as capable of diversity as ugliness?

The comparison was suggested to me by the presence of one who first attracted my attention by the peculiarity of the robe he wore. Not that it was assertively distinctive; on the other hand, its delicate tones were as if it modestly shrank from observation; but at the first recognition of it, my memory recalled what had been written of One who once would have humbled and made Himself of no reputation, but “He could not be hid” (Mark vii, 24).

History repeats itself in the case before me. In a casual glance the vesture had somewhat tile colouring of a deep creamy pearl, but a closer scrutiny revealed its strikingly unique character. It throbbed with a shimmering iridescence of colours of which I neither knew the name nor description, but the delicate modesty with which they manifested their existence blended exquisitely with the condescending grace of their princely wearer. There was no danger of his being lost in a crowd – his exalted rank needed no frigid isolation or hauteur to proclaim it, he could afford to be, and was genuinely lavish in his urbane companionship. Yet he was essentially a prince among his peers, even in that exclusive gathering.

As I contemplated the varied aspects of the scene before me, it seemed to be so wondrously idealistic—so perfect in every feature and detail—so far beyond any realization I had ever known, that I was tempted to doubt its reality; found myself questioning whether it was not a vision which had burst upon me, a vision which would just as suddenly disappear.

The doubt presently took such possession of me that I determined to refer it to Omra who evidently did not wish to disturb or interrupt my musing.

“I am in a quandary,” I said, scarcely knowing how to tell him what my difficulty was. “Will you help me to clear up a doubt?”

He turned his large brown eyes upon me with a benignant smile.

“I know—I understand,” he replied encouragingly. “But it will help you more if I let you frame the difficulty in your own way.”

“It is something of a relief to know that you regard it in the light of a difficulty,” I answered. “But—well, to put it briefly, is all this a reality or only a vision that will presently fade away?”

“What makes you doubt its reality?”

“Well—because—I wish I could find the words to express what I feel. I could understand it if it simply impressed me with a feeling of home and reunion, and left me to enter into the full enjoyment of it as a member of such a highly-favoured family. But it does not stop there. It is too much. It is all I could desire it to be, and a thousand times more, until the fullness of it comes upon me with all the force of a tidal wave and carries me, I know not where. That is why I ask—is it a reality or a dream.”

“You have expressed yourself splendidly,” Omra declared as he took me by the arm and led me forward into the slightly-rolling plain. “The superabundant sense of homeliness which you mention is the great attraction I have already spoken of, which makes this place a rendezvous where souls of every rank in the heavenly hierarchy are continually to be met and communed with. But beyond this stupendous advantage, there is also a personal matter of importance which we must not miss, since it constitutes the chief feature of the incident. In the transition of the second birth, you must naturally come into possession of higher faculties adapted to the requirements of the eternal condition. For instance, the doubt you feel as to the reality of this experience is due to the fact that you have arrived at a conclusion without being compelled to reason the process; or, as we should put it, Revelation has assumed authority and Reason henceforth occupies the subordinate position. Grasp that interpretation and accustom yourself to obey the higher power, then there will be no further room for doubt.”

“Oh, that the way to act upon your advice were revealed to me now!” I cried with ardent longing.

“Have a little patience. When once the vanguard ray breaks through the darkness the morning glory is not far away,” responded Omra.

“You mentioned the coming here of members of the higher hierarchy. I have noticed a most attractive and commanding personage, clad in a robe of most unusual tints, moving among the varied groups. Is it possible that he may be such an one?”

“Yes. It is Walloo-Malie. There are two circles between this and his own. His has been a very remarkable career. In his earth life he sounded the deeper depths of sorrow with a heavy plummet, which has qualified him in a special manner to minister to souls who stand in dire extremity.”

“Is he—” Then I stopped myself, astounded at the audacity of the question I was about to put.

Omra gave me a humorous but encouraging smile.

“Yes?—Is he—?” he queried.

“The thought of my presumption stopped me, or I was going to ask if it were difficult to approach him.”

“From your observation of his movements would you imagine it to be difficult?”

“Not in the least. In my eagerness perhaps I was—”

“Hoping to exchange a word with him?” Omra came to my relief by suggesting. “Well, that may be easily accomplished.”

It was—more readily than I imagined, for Omra had scarcely uttered the words before I was greeted by a kindly hand laid on my shoulder from behind, and a most musical voice saying:

“So we meet again, Aphraar; and, I hope, under more happy circumstances than before.”

“Again?” I asked in blankest astonishment.

But before I had spoken—before I had time to face him, he had turned aside and was speaking to one passing on the other side.

“Ah, my brother Cresvone, and so you have found your way so far from the midnight of your Gethsemane towards seeing the sun rise over the hill of Zion. I will speak with you presently. I am most anxious that you should hear and appreciate the sweetness of the music breathed by those cypress trees, as you would enjoy it now that the sob of your agony is over.”

“Shall I wait for you?” enquired the friend.

“Yes, do.”

Then Walloo-Malie turned to me with as calm a look as if he had been all attention to my response.

“Of course I said ‘again!’ Has Peter Stone, the Putney boatman, been quite forgotten? Has the memory of Clarice faded into forgetfulness?”

The quite deliberate enquiry was made with a most searching look, but it was marked by more persuasive sympathy than accusation.

“Do you seek to open that old wound again?” I asked, wondering at the drift of the strange questioning.

“Is it still a wound?” he queried with a curious smile, as of astonishment. If so I can scarcely understand your presence here. And, were it even so, I would only re-open it to pour in oil and wine. Did you not hear what I said to our brother Cresvone about the music of the cypress trees? In case I found upon you even the scar of that wound, I would ask you to come with us thither and hear how that one-time dirge of agony has now become a song of soul-inspiring thanksgiving. But you have already heard the thrilling rapture of its strains.”

He avoided any difficulty as to my reply by instantly and adroitly addressing himself to Omra.

“Aphraar, or Frederic as it was then, had just discovered his heartless desertion by one who was more to him then than life itself, and came to the conclusion that the cross were too heavy for him to bear. He staggered beneath it to the river side. But I was on duty there that day; we had a talk during which the burden grew so much lighter that he promised to try and bear it, and I think he has bravely succeeded.”

Then, turning back to me, he continued;

“I think it was about two months after this that you met poor Philip Ranger, sadly in need of a friend, down in Whitechapel, and in helping him you had an introduction to the Little Bethel where you found a congenial sphere of labour among the helpless, erring and fallen.”

“Was it as much as two months after?” I enquired. “I thought it was scarcely half so long.”

“Ah!” he responded, with a smile that carried a world of sympathetic meaning; “the cross must have grown lighter to allow the time to slip by so quickly. Yes; it was a day or two over the two months, before our second meeting.”

“‘Our second meeting’?” I re-echoed with incredulous astonishment. “What do you mean? Surely you would not insinuate—”

“No, my brother, I need not insinuate anything. The time has arrived when I may boldly declare—when the veil may be lifted that you, in looking back, may be able to understand some of the mysteries in which your earthly pilgrimage was occasionally enveloped, and recognize now, all unknown and unsuspected, ‘God has given His angels charge concerning thee’ to keep and guide thee on the homeward way. You read and believe that such a ministry was in operation in the patriarchal day; you profess to believe in an unchangeable God, who is the ‘same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,’ and yet your teachers tell you this allimportant ministry has long since ceased. It is no wonder that the mysterious burdens of life grow too grievous to be borne. The need for our ministry, under the circumstances, is greater now than ever before, and it is still as available as ever.

“Your desertion by Clarice was due to no sin or shortcoming of your own. In the sight of heaven you esteemed her above your own life, which you would have gladly laid down in your loyalty when you lost her. Such fidelity is far too rare to be lightly dispensed with among the sons of men; therefore when you went to lay your sacrifice on the altar, the saving ministry of Moriah—where Abraham would have offered Isaac – was called into operation, and I was the boatman sent to your deliverance. But the work was only half-completed when I bade you Godspeed at Putney. The worker thus preserved from destruction had still to be directed to a field of labour where his talent and fidelity could be employed in the Master’s vineyard, and when the opportunity offered again, following in the Master’s footsteps, I took on ‘another form,’ so that in the guise of Philip Ranger I could introduce you to a field where the labourers were few and badly needed. In that sphere you have been as faithful to God and your fellows as you would have been to Clarice.

“You are another seal added to my ministry for the Master—that is why I am here to greet you now. The fruit of your own labours and the bouquet of souls you have gathered from that mission as your offering at the dear Master’s feet, will be shown to you presently. But even now your work is not complete. You have voluntarily associated yourself with Myhanene’s mission, and are returning to earth in a desire to do for others that which I have been entrusted to carry out for you. May our Father, God, make you equally successful. Only be as faithful in this as in your former sphere, then great will be your reward. But I have here a special case in which I would ask your sympathy and assistance, if I may. I am speaking of poor Clarice.”

I started with surprise, but he took no notice and went earnestly forward. “She was but a moth, and then not a rare one. She saw a mate with brilliant colouring, which she wished to make her own. She was burnt fearfully; fell into a labyrinth of trouble from which she can find no way out. Will you go to her? You will be able to do for her, by your forgiveness and sympathy in return for her perfidy, far more towards redemption than any other soul I know. Will you go?”

“If you think I am capable of helping her, there is no service I would rather be entrusted with,” I answered, but I felt doubtful—very doubtful of my success.

“All I need is to know your willingness to go; God will undertake the rest with such a minister.”

With this he turned, moved away to join Cresvone, and was gone.