Audio recording of Chapter 21:
Study group for Chapter 21 with Mary and Jesus, Session 1:
Session 2 and Conclusion:
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Session 2 and Conclusion:
Outline of topics for Chapter 21 (pdf):
Chapter XXI: Home
Every detail of this life is educational. When one has opportunities for retirement to meditate upon the knowledge he has gained, he is overcome by the mass of information which here naturally unfolds from a single episode, as also the unanimity of testimony to enforce the one great law by which this life is governed, even though the contributing agencies appear to have no possible connection with each other.
It will be remembered that one of the first incidents which attracted my attention after my arrival was the action of that poor woman trying to make her way towards homes for which she was unfitted; Eusemos explained the theory of the law operating upon and preventing her carrying out her desire; Cushna afterwards illustrated it for me in the case of Marie; and now Myhanene had given me a practical example of it in my relationship to the entrancing scene which lay before me. There was no external power present to prevent me reaching such abodes of rest, the way was open, and I was sure I should find a welcome if I could only reach their portals; but that ‘if’ was the all-sufficient ‘why’ I did not gratify my heart’s desire. There was no more barrier to my breathing the life atmosphere of those heavenly mountains than there is on earth to prevent the Laplander from sharing the beauties of the tropical summer; the only reason was in myself, my present nature was unadapted to the surroundings, hence they were not congenial to me; so, while it was heaven in a measure to Myhanene and his friends, I was overpowered – shall I say, uncomfortable – and anxious to be away.
But while I was standing on those heights, with my companion’s arm still around me, I learned one sweet lesson more completely than I had ever anticipated – the tender sympathy and humility with which those higher, holier natures render assistance to the weaker. Oh! the devices, the resources they have at command, and the readiness and the unostentation with which they are brought into requisition to stimulate and encourage one to put forth every endeavour to reach all possible developments and corresponding advantages! Their love takes hold upon the soul like a mighty magnet, and it feels wooed and lifted-unless the Divine influence is wilfully repudiated and released – almost against itself into continual re-births of holier being. There is no patronage, no attempt to kindle a feeling of indebtedness for the service they so willingly perform, but they commence – and carry on their mission – as if soliciting a favour, and all the advantages were theirs. Whatever they may have done, they have a wonderful power and aptitude of making you feel – no matter how great your enjoyment has been – that by far the greater happiness has accrued to them.
What was it that prompted Eusemos to show me that panorama of the country, or Cushna to give me the delight of witnessing the Chorale? Why should Siamedes instruct me in respect to the nature and condition of the sleepers, or Myhanene carry me to behold the delights in which he lives? I had no claim upon them, no power to render them, in the least, any compensation; there was only one motive, one reason – love, that great master impulse which sways its unchallenged sceptre throughout the whole domain of immortality! I knew it – felt it. The one desire which actuated all with whom I had been brought into contact, had been to prevent my becoming too satisfied at the outset of my new life with the conditions with which I should find myself surrounded, whatever they might prove to be. Activity is the natural heritage of the soul, excelsior its motto, and holiness its goal; thus their united endeavour had been to arouse in me a great desire to reach out after the ideals which ever lie on before; to realise the fact that the legitimate satisfaction of man can only be achieved when, like the Psalmist of old, he awakes to the consciousness that he has attained to the likeness of God.
Yes! I had learned that lesson, and as I gazed upon the vision before me, I felt conscious that their object would not be altogether frustrated, at least in my case. The wish to be able to roam those fields of bright glory, which were the home of my friends, but yet so far from me, was born within me, and I determined that my hope should not be crushed or thwarted by any object or duty which must necessarily lie in between, but through all and everything, I would press on until my feet had climbed unto this goal of my first desire in heaven. Myhanene prophesied that the sight would fire my aspirations if I could but attain to it, and he was right – these aspirations now were all aglow; I was anxious to find my present home, that I might understand from whence I was to commence the stupendous ascent. I knew not where I should find it – hitherto, had never given it more than casual thought – but I longed to reach it now. Wherever it might be, it could be no more than the resting-place for a sojourner; whatever its pleasures might be, I had gazed upon others for which my soul would pant, ‘as the hart panteth after the water-brooks’; however rich its beauties, I had beheld greater, the memory of which could not be effaced, and I should never rest contented till I called them mine.
Then the question involuntarily suggested itself – ‘Shall I be contented then?’ – but so it would ever continue to arise if I attempted to answer it, so I pressed it down, and determined to bound my first ideal here. But as I came to this conclusion, a shadow passed over my mind as I thought of what an almost interminable distance might lie between me and the object of my desire. Myhanene was instantly conscious of its presence, though he did not speak, but I felt a thought which proceeded from him that opened out before me into another reverie – revelation that had more influence and consolation than words.
There is but one way for all mankind to travel on their pilgrimage to God; the earth stages had been tampered with and rendered difficult to trace, but from where my feet were standing the way was clear and unmistakable. It was the way called Straight, whose engineer was God Himself, and it bore His stamp and seal, even as we find it upon the face of Nature. At this point Nature became to me the interpreter of grace, and my soul drifted with its flow into the ocean of another revelation. What man can stand with watch in hand and say – ‘The day is dead, and night is born?’ Who can divide accurately the seasons as they come and go? Who is learned enough to fix the boundary of sleep? The early frosts of winter are sandwiched into autumn’s golden days, and spring dove-tails her sunshine into icy blasts; daylight comes back with insinuating pulses, stealing a footing unobserved upon the cheek of night; the opening leaves put forth so stealthily that even though we stand on guard to watch, we should be compelled to say – “It is not; yes, it is.”
In Nature there are no leaps and bounds, no cul-de-sacs or chasms, or sharp divisions in its great law of progress; the order is, unfoldment from within, stimulated by the appropriation of congenial nourishment from without. This same development is also observable in the stages of life, so far as they come within the cognisance of mortals. Who is learned enough to discover the instant of being, or tell the time of the soul’s departure? Who can say when unconsciousness unfolds into consciousness, or the instinct of the babe gives place to intelligence? Who can define when responsibility is born, or draw a line between infancy and boyhood? So the parallel of nature and soul might be continued. But enough! If the same law is evident at the commencement, and continues as far as man can trace it, by what right do we assume that any change occurs beyond our ken? Given the same God as Creator and Preserver – Author and Finisher – and He unchangeable, why not the same law, and that Immutable?
The thought consoled me, gave me strength and peace. The distance between me and my ideal was no doubt great; but it would be reached by a natural process of which the duration, to a great extent, lay in my own hands. ‘God is no respecter of persons’; there is no royal road or cross-country cut to the throne reserved for an elect few, but One Way, which is ‘the way, the truth, and the life,’ and he who makes the attempt to climb by any other will be cast out as a ‘thief and a robber.’ No, no, the red-handed assassin neither by lip or heart confession can take one leap from the scaffold – untaught, still trembling, and with lips from which the echoes of profanity have scarcely died away – into the presence of that God who is ‘too pure to behold iniquity.’
Salvation does not guarantee a sudden transition from debauchery to the white-robed throng, from the ribald jest of profligacy to ‘sing the song of Moses and the Lamb’; it means ‘acceptance in the beloved’ when the penitent prodigal has carried out his determination to arise and go to his father – has made the pilgrimage from the far country to the homeland; passed the cross where he receives the promises and becomes an inheritor of that faith which ‘is the substance of things hoped for’; adopted into the family of saints and entering into the companionship of Christ, who will never again leave him or forsake him, he will be led on from glory unto glory, at each successive stage his soul unfolding that purity and holiness which will ultimately enable him to:
Dwell in the eternal Light
Through the Eternal Love.
My companion was by no means anxious to terminate my visit even though I had suggested it. He was happy – so happy – there; it was his home, and when I had an interval either in my reverie, or wonder, to bestow on him, I was conscious of the intensity of his fervent wish that it was mine also – but it could not be for the present, so next to that, he allowed me time to look upon it until the enthusiasm was strong within me, which declared it should be as soon as I could rise to its requirements; then a gentle pressure of his arm indicated his wish, and I turned away.
“How long have I been here – in this life?” I asked, when my power of speech returned to me.
“Only a few weeks according to the computation of earth,” he replied. “Why; are you tired?”
“No! I shall never be tired again, I can feel that; but I have learned so much and been so interested that I have never given a thought to time before.”
“Why have you learned so much?” he asked.
“That is a question you could answer best,” I replied.
“It is simply because you have asked so much. Your earth-life was one long note of interrogation; not so much to your fellow-men, for they did not understand – could not have answered – you; but your queries were to yourself, to us. Now you have commenced to find the answers in the little we have been enabled, at present, to do for you. But, remember, we have only begun, we shall be glad to continue presently; in the meantime I will take you to your home, where you may recall your experiences so far, while you rest for a while and get rid of those influences of the body which still cling to you, and would prevent your enjoyment of other revelations that await you.”
“Home,” I repeated; “did you hear my wish then, as I stood upon the hill? I have been so interested that I had not given one thought to this until I was looking upon yours, which made me wonder what distance could lie between the two. Was my thought a premonition of what was coming next?”
“Perhaps it was,” he replied; “come and see.”
Our way led through a succession of picturesque groves, alternated by lovely dells and glades, where we passed by few individuals, thus enabling our communion on many themes to be undisturbed, but I will not weary you with their recital here. I have volumes of greater experiences yet to relate, and if this effort but achieves its object, as expressed in the earlier pages, I will come again and continue my pleasant task. As we walked along, I observed every now and then the bright thought-flash speed away from my companion in advance of us, while ever and anon a response came back, telling me that while he was instructing me, he was also holding converse with some distant friend. At that time I was unskilled in reading such correspondence and was therefore entirely ignorant of its nature, but whatever it might be it only aroused a passing curiosity in my mind at its novelty – my interest was entirely centred in the subjects we were discussing.
In passing through one glen, which from its extreme beauty excited my admiration and put an end to our communion, we – to me suddenly and unexpectedly – came across Cushna, Aryez, and several other friends who were unknown to me. These, at Myhanene’s suggestion, joined us, as he evidently did not wish to linger on the way. Shortly afterwards we met Eusemos and a company of choristers, who greeted us with a song of welcome; they too joined us, and we went forward listening to their music until we encountered Azena, with a large company of women, who came to meet Myhanene when they heard he was coming that way. Other additions were constantly being made to our numbers, many of the friends bringing instruments, others wreathed in flowers, as I had seen them in the festival, until we became the central objects in a long procession, joyful and exultant in the songs they sang to welcome my companion, whom I could not wonder they loved so well.
Presently we entered a narrow valley between two ranges of hills, at the extremity of which we ascended a gentle slope whose summit commanded a view of a city magnificent beyond any earthly comparison. In appearance it looked as if built of pinkish alabaster, in design a regular square, with avenues running east and west, north and south, sub-dividing it into numerous sections easily distinguishable from where we stood by the broad divisions, and luxuriant in the mass of foliage which robed the trees.
The buildings were elaborately ornate in character, and though of a considerable height, were in the main but of a single storey, with flat roofs, serving the double purpose of garden and promenade. Each palace – for only such a designation conveys anything like an adequate conception of their proportions – was surrounded by grounds of considerable extent, which in their arrangement displayed the varied tastes and designs of their residents, but the whole completed such a perfectly harmonious picture that Myhanene’s ideal of the ultimate harmony of differences spontaneously flashed upon my mind. Everything, everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, proclaimed wealth, luxury, and repose; and as I looked over the wide area of the city I asked myself if it were possible that I should find my home in such blissful abodes as these.
As we paused to survey the scene a chime of bells added their welcome to the music with which we were surrounded. This appeared to be a signal for all the city to turn out of doors, and the whole multitude came forward to meet us. One of the first was Helen, and close behind her came one and then another whom I had known in those horrid dens and purlieus of London. Some of them were persons to whom I had been sent by that mysterious influence of which I had spoken and that I could never understand; some I had helped by reading to them, while to others I had been of service in other ways; with some I had talked and tried to solve their doubts, endeavouring to reconcile their painful surroundings with the consistency of a God of love; to others I had attempted to explain my vague ideas of heaven or sought to give them some little solace by expounding my hazy theology, the recognition of more than one brought to my memory a forgotten promise we had made to meet each other ‘beyond the river,’ to which they were true of purpose, while I could only claim to be so by accident.
As I looked upon these well-remembered faces – in spite of the marvellous changes which had been wrought upon them – I felt that their number had somehow multiplied considerably, for though every single individual was well known I had no idea the aggregate was half so great. They were no longer paupers, as when we parted, but in the interval, had somehow – and there is only one how – been converted into kings and queens, priests and priestesses to God the Father, and I felt more than honoured now to renew our friendship.
When I had come to an end of the more personal congratulations, the music swelled again into a chorus, in which the whole multitude joined, of welcome home. It was at this moment that I realised that all this ovation was on my account, and yet I could scarcely believe it so until I turned to Myhanene and asked “Is this really for me?”
“Yes, my brother!” he replied, “in this city you will find your home for the present, and our friends have come to bid you welcome.”
Then I understood that the thought-flashes which had excited my curiosity were only signals, and our meetings with Cushna and other friends along the path were parts of an arranged programme, I, all unknowingly, being the central object.
The procession re-formed, but this time upon a much more imposing scale, and I was led forward, the honoured one in such an honourable company, with Myhanene still at my side and my more immediate friends and acquaintances grouped around. Tears of joy and gratitude were my only response to the soul stirring welcome accorded to me, and the tokens of affection lavished upon me on every hand; even the bells seeming to become instinct with life as they breathed forth a sympathetic congratulation. Turning down one of the nearer avenues I could see our leaders passing into the grounds of a palace so exquisitely laid out as to engage my attention beyond all others, even when I first caught sight of them in the distance. But when I reached the entrance, and its full beauty burst upon me, I paused bewildered, to ask what place it was. “Home,” was the only word my companion spoke in reply, and led me forward under the influence of such an ecstasy as one is sometimes permitted to experience in the domain of dreams.
On nearing the house I perceived that the draperies which in this life serve the purpose of doors, had been drawn aside, indicating that all were welcome to enter; but the multitude fell back to the right and left, their song ceased, and Myhanene took my hand and led me on. On gaining the entrance I saw the spacious porch fill with a company which might have been the angel host at that festival I had so recently witnessed. The central figure was clad in robes of light, though I did not recognise him, for my eyes, as yet, were too unused to look upon such brightness. Again I paused, but my guide, divining my thoughts, answered, “It is Omra”; there was no time for more words, we were nearly at the crown of the steps, and in another moment I felt an inexpressible thrill of joy as his arms were thrown around me, and he exclaimed:
“Welcome, our beloved one, in the name of our Father; enjoy thy, rest”; then he raised my head and kissed me, while the assembly breathed “Amen.”
I did not speak. What could I have said? Who could find language appropriate for such an occasion? But there was no awkward pause, or feeling of discomfort that something was expected which I did not know how to perform. Omra avoided that.
“What a multitude of friends you have with you,” he remarked in a persuasive manner, as an invitation to view the scene.
At the foot of the steps, in a distinctive group, stood all those London friends of whom I have already spoken, and to these he drew my special attention, saying:
“My brother, the Lord has promised that ‘they who sow in tears, shall reap in joy’; in these, our friends, I wish you to behold the fulfilment thereof. Here you may see, so far as it has yet been gathered, the harvest of your life’s work. You went to them bearing seed more precious than you could estimate, and though with a trembling hand and an uncertain knowledge you scattered it, still as the word of God it accomplished that whereto He sent it; now your day in the harvest field is over, your work done; you return to the God who sent and commissioned you, bringing your sheaves with you. In the name of Christ who redeemed us, I thank you for your ministry of love for inasmuch as ye did it to these ye did it also to Him.”
In vain did I assure him that in the little I had been able to do I had been most greatly blessed; that the ministry to which he referred had been the bright spots in an otherwise most intolerable life; that the enjoyments which naturally accrued were far more than compensation for any sacrifice it might have demanded; while I was painfully conscious of how much I had omitted to do in comparison with the trifle accomplished. He knew all about it, as I should understand when at leisure to study the record of my work, which had been kept and was open to my perusal within. There I should see the nett results so far, compiled by one too wise to err in judgment or estimate. Then he gave me his benediction and departed, leaving Myhanene to further introduce me to my home.
I wish I could find words to convey even a faint idea of the beauty and completeness of that house, but if I attempted it I should fail, even at the outset. So that must pass. But there is one matter to which I must refer, because of its serious import to those still in the flesh. Jesus Christ, speaking of the many mansions in His Father’s house, said to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” But what about the furnishing thereof? This is a thought which had never once crossed my mind until I entered my new abode; then another great revelation was made to me. Every article of furniture, ornament or decoration, was most vividly associated with – as though it had been manufactured from – some act, word, or feature of my earth-life. It was a terrible truth to learn; how I wished I had known it earlier!
One of the rooms contained a series of pictures giving the record to which Omra had referred; at a glance I could see the result was by no means perfect. The original design, in every case perfectly visible, was always more or less spoiled in the equally apparent errors. In them I could easily detect the weaknesses I still laboured under, and the numerous defects which would need to be remedied before I could reach that higher link of life, from the view of which I had just returned. In studying this record, I could fairly estimate the work that lay before me, but was also conscious of the fact that such a home and surroundings wherein to undertake the task must in themselves be calculated to contribute half the success. Then again what inestimable advantages were available in the new and larger faculties which I had become possessed of; what companionships should I enjoy; what experience could I not consult?
Myhanene presently led me past one doorway, over which the curtains were closely drawn. I would have entered there, for some invisible power took possession of me; a voice from out the silence seemed to call me, and I paused in answer to its cry. But claiming my attention to other objects, as if ignorant of my wish, my guide led me up to the roof, from which I could take another view of the city, and one which, in the time to come, would be the most familiar and valued from its associations. The air, and the interest the view aroused, overcame the agitation I felt in passing that forbidden door, and when I had grown quite calm, my companion said,
“Now, my pleasant duty is at an end for the present; come with me one moment, and then I will say adieu.”
When we again reached that door he waved his hand for me to enter alone, then passed out and was gone.
I knew what he meant. In that room one was waiting to welcome me home, for the touch of whose vanished hand, and the sound of whose voice my heart had ever cried and groaned; one who had sacrificed her life in giving me mine; one whose absence had sadly unfitted me for the battle I had been compelled to fight; one whose name I had frequently called upon in the darkness of my desolation without any answering response. Had she but been spared to me even for the first few years, so that the presence of her memory could have remained with me, how different might my life have been; the misanthrope might possibly then have become a man, playing a manly part in the regeneration of the world, and accomplishing some little work worthy of remembrance. But alas! the shadow born with me could not be dispelled, and the burden of its gloom was the cross which was now to be finally lifted from my shoulders.
Reader, when I was at the home of the Assyrian I stood, like you do now, upon the threshold of such another meeting; but you will remember I told you when that moment came, which was too sacred for a stranger’s eyes to look upon, I turned away that I might not: profane the occasion by my, presence. Now I would ask you to pardon me if I should leave you here while I pass through the draperies; and for the first time in my whole existence, that I know of, gaze upon that long-sought face. The ground across this slight boundary is far too sacred to me for strangers’ feet to tread at present; the vision awaiting me too holy to offer for public inspection. For me earth’s fitful fever now is over; I have safely found my way, by our Father’s goodness, ‘Through the Mists,’ and for the present, wishing you an affectionate adieu, I raise these silken folds, to find myself at home within the loving arms of – MY MOTHER.