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Chapter XVIII: The Family of Heaven
As Myhanene came towards us my companion’s designation of him as a living epistle of humility lingered in my mind, but I also thought I could detect the realisation of another ideal raised by Jesus, to which His followers should strive to attain – ‘Ye are the light of the world; a city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid.’ Shining with the self-radiating lustre of spiritual truths which he had learned and assimilated in the greater altitudes of his brighter home, how could he be other than welcome; coming as the prophet of that life which lies before us – like an advance guard to indicate what we shall be when we reach those heights.
Having folded us each in his embrace as he breathed his salutation, he turned to me and said:
“Arvez told me you were here, so I came to ask you to accompany me to a festival to which I am going.”
“You are very kind to think of me,” I replied; “in the press of all your duties I should have thought you would have forgotten me long ago.”
“We never forget here,” he replied, with such a peculiar emphasis upon the latter word as to impart a volume of meaning to it.
“Surely I know it, and ought not to have given expression to such a thought, after all the experience I have had, especially with Arvez and the little fellow we so recently brought here from ‘The College.’”
“Poor darlings; how glad such children are to come away from their hard and cruel lives. Do you know it always seems to make this life a trifle brighter for myself when one of their number arrives.”
“Of course I cannot understand all you know and feel,” I replied; “but even I experience a sense of peculiar joy at the thought of the change in store for Jack. What a mighty transition, what a new life it will be for him.”
“Yes,” he answered reflectively, “and what an amazing compensation. Sometimes I almost wish I could feel what passes through the soul of such an one when first he realises what has taken place, and fully understands the reality of the change. What a revelation of the love of God must seem to overwhelm them. When I think of it I can almost feel grateful that he has permitted man to sin, because nothing else could have opened up the possibility of sounding the matchless grace of His full forgiveness and restoration.”
“When you came, Myhanene, I was wishing to ask a question about that boy, which perhaps you would answer.”
“If I can I will be pleased to do so.”
“Why was he brought here above all other places – had he nowhere else to go?”
“He had nowhere else to go,” he replied, “not that he was an outcast, but because he, like every other person, is subject to a law. The earth-life produces types or qualities of soul, and every quality has a provision made for it here; in each condition there are souls who are specially attracted to us and we to them – these become our friends and companions. Our sister, here, finds that attraction in this little waif from earth, and so will love, cherish, and help him to understand the elements of his new career.”
“Perhaps I did not make my meaning clear,” I replied. “I wondered if he had no father, mother, or other relative here to whom he would naturally go?”
“I understood your meaning well. You have fallen into a very common error, and one which I had better explain and uproot at once, or it will involve you in difficulties by-and-by. You must now learn to draw a distinction between relationships of the body and those of the spirit; the latter being the only ties we recognise here.”
“Do you mean –”
“That one is our Father, even God, and all we are brethren,” he replied before I had time to finish my question.
“That must be true in a sense,” I answered, “but I cannot forget that one of the common ideals framed of heaven is to have the family complete. Am I to understand that this, like so many others, is an erroneous one?”
“Very erroneous, and almost impossible, since heaven could not exist under such circumstances, from the simple reason that to complete any one family you would be compelled to break at least two others in order to furnish the parents to the children. Then consider the variety of tastes, dispositions and spiritual development which you find in the same family, and the provision made in this life to minister to each under the most favourable circumstances. Selfishness is eradicated and our happiness augmented tenfold more by the absence of those we love, when we know such secures their well-being, than it would be by their presence and the sacrifice of advantage which would necessarily ensue.
“Every individual soul born into our life has become, by its life on earth, self-conditioned, and God has provided for it, having respect to two facts only, first, the law which ever works to secure holiness; and next, the means to attain that condition under the most favourable circumstances to the individual. Think for a moment of the endless complications which would arise if your ideal could be put into execution; then, I am sure, you will see how impracticable the idea becomes, and that by no other means could happiness be secured to us than by this, God’s own appointed law.
“What the future holds I know not, but develop as it may I can only see the possibility of forming groups of twin souls in the one great family of heaven, until many other stages have been passed. Such kindred souls are by no means unusual, and in their influence act and re-act upon each other and so are drawn together in a communion of which the earth friendship can form but a very faint conception. There relationships are rightly termed blood-relationships, but flesh and blood cannot enter this life, and therefore kinship has to be lifted into another and more spiritual bond – of God the Father we are born into the spirit and thus become brethren and sisters of the one great family of heaven.”
“Would you preach this doctrine on earth?”
“Of course I would; it is truth and ought to be proclaimed. Is such not the gospel of the Christ, extending the horizon of the family to earth’s remotest bounds, destroying in its unrollment the distinctions which exist between class and class, erasing the animosity of nations and obliterating all traces of colour, language and time? Would not such a recognition be the charter of ‘Peace on earth, and goodwill to man?’ Would not the feud between capital and labour, the tacit understanding between nations that might is right, and the doctrine of the survival of the fittest find their natural termination and solution in the influence of such a revelation?”
“In other words, if we had a free course to preach this gospel, can you tell me any more direct method of answering that sentence and supplication in our Saviour’s prayer that the earth is continually repeating – ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven?’ That granted, what would naturally result? The recognition of the one great fact that pure affection, whether between members of the same family or not, is an attribute of the spirit, not of the flesh, and can only be secured or dissolved by spiritual approachment or estrangement. God, who is Spirit, gives birth to such relationships, and ‘whatsoever God hath joined together no man can put asunder.’”
“I must bow before your reasoning,” I replied, “but to return to our little friend. Is it possible that he will never see his parents again?”
“I cannot by any means say that,” he answered. “First, because I am ignorant of who or what his parents are; and second, because we do not know what infinite possibility our Father has in reserve for future revelation. But sometimes when I meditate on what may be, my vision seems to catch a glimpse of a glorious possibility which, I feel certain, lies well within the scope of God’s great and boundless love. In such visions I have seen the last repentant soul of earth approach the throne, while all heaven was silent in the presence of the awe-inspiring joy that by His forgiveness of this last sin God was about to add the final touch to the glory of the redeemed – and with breathless wonder we looked upon each other, and on Christ, asking in mute anticipation what the attendant revelation – the climax of all redemption – would be.
“Heaven complete! Who can understand, anticipate, or picture it? Every group and every circle perfected! Every prayer answered, every ideal attained, every soul saved! Each change through which we have passed from glory to glory having transformed and re-adjusted us as we grew in likeness more and more in the image of our Divine Head. Then I have thought that when every piece in the complicated mosaic of infinite love shall be placed in its God-appointed position of the eternal design; when the mighty doors of that final revelation shall swing back, that we may enter the very presence of our Father, and behold Him as He is, then we shall find that between the days of the flesh and that re-union there has been some subtle connection by which every family has again been united, to pass the throne complete, in the great review of all peoples, climes and tongues, chanting the one universal anthem of thanksgiving. Oh! what a sight. The fathers of every race in the van of its vast battalions, and after them their families complete, linking on with those who follow, until every age, and kindred, and colour shall be included and not one soul be absent from the countless family, who shall cry ‘Our Father’ to Him who bids them ‘Welcome home.’”
“Do you think such a consummation is possible?”
“Yes, and it is the only way by which I can imagine that God can bring all things into subjection to Himself as He has promised. If only one soul, even Satan himself, shall at last be alienated from God, He cannot be all in all, so far as I am able to understand the meaning of the kingdom, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, but to grant such liberty to only one alien soul would be to risk again the ruin of the whole by his influence, and thus again necessitate another scheme of salvation; to lose but one solitary soul from the family of mankind would shatter the attribute of God’s omnipotence, because He could not remain Almighty if, while He willed the salvation of all, He failed to secure the one that would then remain estranged.
“Yes, my brother, it is possible for such a consummation, for is it not declared that ‘God will have all men to be saved,’ and furthermore, that ‘as in Adam all died even so in Christ shall all be made alive’; the two ‘alls’ are co-extensive, and it is an act of basest injustice to our Father to entertain for but one moment the thought that His scheme of redemption would not be as complete and efficacious as the necessity of sin demands. God so loves humanity that He has provided a way of escape, and having done this, and also being able to save to the uttermost, do you think it reasonable to suppose He will be thwarted in His design?”
“But are you not neglecting the fact that salvation very much depends upon the willingness of the individual – a condition which is always attached to the invitation?”
“No! I am not forgetting anything,” he replied. “You are thinking of man’s free-will and opposing that to God’s supremacy, as though man is able to stand against Him. Circumstance and condition are the centre and circumference of man’s boasted free-will, the only dwelling-place of the Absolute is infinity. Men close the door of the grave over the body of a departed brother and say, ‘his doom is sealed,’ and in their ignorance know not that behind the veil the clearer light of God is falling upon the new-born soul, leading him under more favourable conditions to understand that the ‘accepted time ‘ for his repentance is God’s eternal ‘now.’ No! no! probation is not bounded by mortality; man by his perversity and rebellion may hinder and delay, he cannot prevent the achievement of salvation. The ultimate lies in God. ‘who will have all men to be saved.’”
“You know not, my friend, what joy this knowledge gives to my soul,” I cried; “when I met Eusemos he began to open this discussion to me, but it seemed too much, too glorious, and I feared to press it lest it should by some means fail in all it seemed to promise to me; since that time Cushna has shown me much which has revived and strengthened my hopes; my sister here, and again yourself, have both unfolded more of the Divine mind in this direction, until what was once a hope only becomes a knowledge, for I feel the weight and truth of your communion, which is not a discussion but a revelation, for which I am more than grateful. There is still another point, however, upon which I would ask for information, if you will yet permit me to press another question.”
“Ask and ye shall receive,” was all he replied, but in his look and tone there was a volume of meaning that made me almost forget my question for the time. They were the words of the Master’s promise, and in the utterance there seemed to be so much of the spirit and influence of the Christ that involuntarily I turned to see if any addition had been made to our company. When next I looked upon Myhanene, I thought his face seemed even softer than before, a deeper expression beamed from his eyes, and a presence rested upon him before which I bowed my head, even while I felt more desirous than ever to ask my question.
“Would you also teach this truth on earth?”
“Yes!” he answered, “I would declare the whole counsel of God simply and unreservedly.”
“Where, then, would be the restraining power from sin?”
“Such a gospel would change that entirely. Now men are taught to come to God from fear of the torments of hell, but I do not think that is God’s ideal way. If I understand Him aright He would have them drawn by the story of His love, rather than driven to Him by the lash of terror.”
“But the animal element is so strong in human nature, I am afraid, that without some restraining power it would be difficult to keep the masses in check, and if they heard the doctrine of final salvation for all, what incentive would they have to live moral, not to say righteous, lives?”
“I say I would declare the whole counsel of God, and I have full confidence in its sufficiency without any fictitious invention or device of man. The truth, as we know it, is quite enough for every purpose. Let me recall to your mind the case of Marie, which you saw; does it require any more than the knowledge of her punishment to be an effectual warning against jealousy and the evils which spring from it; and yet Marie’s punishment is not eternal. She has passed its ordeal, and the poignancy of it is wearing away, until presently she will take her place and position among the saints in light, nothing remaining by which her sin will be recognised by those with whom she associates.”
“Now I will ask you to try and cast your mind forward across the ages until we reach the time of which I told you I sometimes catch a glimpse, when earth’s family shall be all redeemed. Marie will be there, white and radiant, and holy as any in all that countless throng. No soul looking upon her will be conscious of that great sin which has been atoned for and forgiven; but will she herself then have forgotten it? No! The pain of the sin will be gone, the punishment will be over, no trace of it will remain to be read by any curious beholder, but the scar – the memory – will be there, and for herself eternity will never be able to wipe out its recollection. Imagine what the regret of a soul will be, brought into close contact with Christ and God, feeling to overflowing the intensity of the love wherewith He hath loved us, and yet to know that it has sinned against and grieved such love. Such knowledge would have a restraining power from sin, or at least this is God’s provision for so doing; surely He knows best, and there I am quite content to leave it. But we must go.”