Chapter XVIII: Life’s Mosaics
Poor Dandy’s mind was in the state of doubtful spiritual confusion frequently experienced by many who have been far better circumstanced than himself in the earth-life. He had, like others, permitted his fanciful ignorance to mould and fashion the superstitious speculations of his dogmatic masters and pastors concerning an after life into a nebulous uncertainty, and when he entered upon it was surprised to find a condition of law and order, where he had anticipated an indescribable unnaturalness coupled with intangible eccentricities.
In this lies the root of the confusion experienced by almost every new arrival. The life Elysian is too real, too much a continuance of our old selves with only new surroundings adaptively arranged in harmony with the nature we have cultivated; it is too much the effect of causes we vainly imagined our mask of religion had concealed even from the suspicion of existence; it binds the two states too closely in one where we have comfortably deceived ourselves that death would end the whole and begin a new life, where spiritual ancestry could not be inconveniently traced.
Be not deceived, death is only an incident in life, not an end. Whatsoever is sown in the springtime of earth must be reaped in the autumn of Paradise.
Happy are they who can resume existence in the hereafter with no greater confusion than that of Dandy; we can listen to the expression of his bewilderment—even smile at it, but I have known many instances where the revelation appalled with its agony.
“Yer sure I is dead, Jack?” he asked his friend after again looking carefully around him and comparing his present with his past environment.
“Of course you are. Why! Don’t you want to be, now it’s too late to alter it?”
“Yis! I’m glad er that. But I wish them mission coves wouldn’t tell such lies, an’ stuff kiddies as they do. Wot are they got ter say that the angels’d meet us for, when we die, at the ’allelujah in the Strand, an’ sing us a welcome ‘ome? They know it ain’t true.”
“No, they don’t, Dandy.”
“Well, I do, then. The ’allelujahs ain’t got a place in th’ Strand. There’s the Tiv’li an’ the ‘Delphi an’ the Gaiety, an’ the Law Courts, but I’ve looked many a time for a ’allelujah place, but I never seed one yet.”
Eilele smiled and drew the mistaken lad closer to herself as she discovered his false impression and prepared to remove it.
“Now I understand the cause of your disappointment,” she said,
“and will explain the mistake for you. You thought the angels would meet you at a Salvation Army meeting in the Strand.”
“Ain’t they the ’allelujah people?” he inquired.
“Yes, sometimes they are called so. But the meaning of the hymn is that the angels would meet you on the shores of the glory-land.”
“O—oh! I didn’t know that.”
“No. That is how you made the mistake. Now, Myhanene and his friends met you just before you died, and did welcome you home.”
“But ’e didn’t sing it?”
Poor little fellow; he wanted the letter verified. Like many who are older, better circumstanced, and of greater intellectual capacity, the spiritual truth was lost to him in a verbal inaccuracy. But Jack, and several friends who had known Dandy at the College, carried him off and would speedily satisfy his most exacting demands, not perhaps in the manner he desired at the moment, but they would satisfy him none the less.
“Is this the first awakening at which you have been present?” Eilele asked when we were alone.
“Then you will scarcely understand the confusion of it, until you recall your own experience. Everything is so very different to anticipation, especially the discovery that death is nothing more than an ordinary sleep during which an unexpected transformation has been worked in everything but ourselves, and that alone which we expected death would change remains untouched. Was it not so with you?”
“Partly. I was sorely perplexed as to where I was and what had occasioned the change in my location. But, had someone been present from whom I could have received an explanation, I do not think my surprise would have been so great.”
“Then you were allowed to wake upon the slopes, and in your previous life had not troubled yourself much as to the nature of this existence?”
“No; I took very little interest in what always appeared to be useless speculations. My idea of religion was to do the best I could with the duty of the moment, and leave the future to look after itself. I hope my candid admission will not disturb you.”
“Not now,” she replied, with a somewhat amused smile. “It would have done so at one time, but I have learned to take a broader view, and understand more of the truth than I knew on earth. Much of what I once regarded as essential I now see to be more of a hindrance than assistance, and much that I despised would have helped me wonderfully. I lived more in the future than the present, and sketched my plan of Heaven with even more of detail than I myself imagined until I opened my eyes upon this life and realized the error. Perhaps that enables me to sympathize more with the disappointment of poor little Dandy than you can understand.”
“Kinship of experience would give you that advantage,” I replied.
“But such experiences are not to be coveted. He had only one confused idea of what Heaven would be—that of angels meeting him on some sort of Salvation Army platform he had located in the Strand, and singing him a welcome home. I can almost see the picture which had gradually taken shape in his mind; the crowded hall, and the platform filled with white-robed angels wearing golden crowns and opalescent wings, and he, the hero of the occasion, being led forward while the welcome home was sung. When I think of it I can sympathize with his disappointment, and do not wonder he refused to believe. The whole of his Heaven had disappeared; it was not quite so serious with myself. After my first recoil of surprise I found, if the accessories were absent, I had entered upon the rest; though the architecture was different, I recognized the Father’s house; though the wedding garment was not ready, I was conscious of having come nearer to the Bridegroom, and when I realized this I was content.”
“Only content—not satisfied?”
“The soul can never be satisfied until it awakes to find itself bearing His full likeness,” she replied gravely.
“While we remain unlike we shall also be absent from Him. The light of His holiness must radiate from ourselves before our sight will be pure enough to enable us to see Him. Then, and not till then, shall we be satisfied.”
“Did the discovery disappoint you?”
“In a measure, yes. But only for an instant, then I was glad. Everything was so different to all my expectations that I was compelled to revise every conception I had framed. But in doing this I was able to begin with the consciousness that everything immeasurably surpassed all that my former visions had pictured. With these great advantages available in my new arrangement, I no longer regretted my fictitious loss, but gloried in the gain. For instance, it was no hardship to drop the limitations of ecclesiasticism that I might have my hands empty to grasp this life.”
“But you do not renounce Christianity?”
“To that I must reply both Yes and No, but in doing so I want you clearly to understand what it is I renounce and what I retain. Looking back from this life I see religion to be a very different thing to even my own earth conception of it. As the light in passing through a prism becomes separated and forms a rainbow-tinted spectrum, so God’s truth in passing through humanity breaks up into many forms of religion, each emphasizing some particular ray. In God’s bow of promise there is room for every combination of colour. Justice and truth demand this recognition. Each is known and takes rank according to the fruit it bears. ‘All ye are brethren—love one another,’ is the Father’s law. Now, I try to apply this standard equally all the way round, and of my own church I ask: Is its history one of making wars to cease? Does it systematically protect the weak against the strong? is the policy of invasion of other countries always governed by a good Samaritan motive? has it always been characterized by freedom and good-will? do the Christian nations always act with brotherly unison in the matter of carrying their gospel forward ‘in honour preferring one another’? which so-called Christian church, by reason of its humility, is to be accounted greatest? is the Eastern Church of Russia, or the Western Rome, or England, protesting against both alike, the ideal leader of the forward movement? where is the spirit of the Christ for which we naturally look in the forefront of the policy of a nation calling itself by His most holy name? Yet, not one of the so-called Christian nations moves its army or its navy for action but from every pulpit in its land God is called upon to bless the slaughter for which they go forth and to crush the nation against whom they move. These are the broadly defined lines of systematized Christianity as it appears from where we stand, and such I now renounce as being anti-Christian—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Christ of God gave Himself for every man; the Christianity as exhibited to the world gives nothing unless it can take more from any or every man. On the other hand, I retain and hold that which Christian theology has forgotten and lost—the true Christ-life, which all who truly follow Him enter into and enjoy, between which and the theology usurping His name there is a gulf fixed across which no man is able to step and keep one foot on either side.”
“But you do not deny that there are good men within the church?”
“There are always men who are better than their creed, who remain within, but not of, their system—the heretics of to-day who will become the saints of to-morrow. Christ and modern Christian theology are irreconcilable. The teaching of the One is: ‘Let all your striving be to make your own calling and election sure until the Christ-power, generated from your own life, shall compel others to come in.’ The other practically allows: ‘Having been justified by His death without any effort or commendation of our own, without consideration of character, morality or fitness, we are commissioned to go into all the world and compel men to be better than we are on pain of everlasting torment.’ These are the simple laws governing a life and a system so much at variance as to be irreconcilable, the latter of which I am compelled to renounce that I may consecrate myself to the former.”
“I am no apologist for the churches,” I replied, “but when I hear you speak in such a strain I can scarcely believe it.”
“Your personal interest in the life and work of the Master has not yet led you to study these things in the light of the present,” she answered, “or you would not wonder at the expressions I use. I have no doubt but few of those who have read my writings would think me capable of speaking as strongly as I am now speaking, just as I myself once failed to understand how the meek and lowly Christ could scourge the priests and teachers of His day with the awful flagellation recorded in Matthew twenty-third. I can understand and cease to wonder at it now since He saw and understood what is here so plainly visible. But I must repeat what I have already said, there are good and holy men, saintly and selfsacrificing, whom the officialdom of theology has been powerless to touch; salt of the earth still preserving its savour in spite of the corruption; standard-bearers of the Master who keep the torch of truth burning in their holy lives as a protest to the Judas legion by which their Lord is betrayed. God has never left His people without this leaven, and it is in connection with this you will be able to work when you commence your ministry.”
“May I ask how you know what work I am about to engage in?”
“There is no secret in that,” she replied, “but you are not yet accustomed to think how easily we are known and read of all men in all things which pertain to the kingdom. It is my consciousness of this that led me to speak to you as I have done, because I am desirous that you should have my testimony as to the uselessness of many of the things our friends on earth most prize. Don’t forget in all your communion that Jew or Gentile, bond or free, church or chapel, Protestant or Romanist, Christian or Buddhist, profiteth nothing, but the one essential necessity is a new creature from whose life all the old things are passed away.”
“I am glad that you have been led to speak of my coming labours. It was in connection with this I most wished to speak with you, and ask your counsel and assistance. I have but recently learned that my hope in this direction will be realized, and already the weight of the responsibility it entails seems to be too much for me.”
“I can well understand that, my brother. Of all the vocations to which a soul is liable to be summoned here, I can conceive of none more important than that in which you will be engaged. It arises not so much from the difficulty in declaring what is true—that is comparatively simple when the teaching of the Master is taken to be the rule of what is declared, and you confine yourself to the things you know—but the complications and difficulties will arise in attacking those errors which have for generations been taught as truths, blinding the eyes of men and hardening their hearts until they have eyes that see not, ears that hear not, and but little true understanding is to be found in them. This will double your responsibility, try your patience, tax all your resources and test your powers. Still you need not fear if you take Christ’s yoke upon you; linked with Him your yoke will be easy and the burden light, for He is able to subdue all things to Himself, and with Him you cannot go astray.”
“I wish I had your knowledge and experience to begin with.”
“My knowledge and experience alone would be of little service to you in such a work.”
“Do you think so?”
“I am sure of it. If they really were the preparation for such a work as you imagine, I should no doubt be called to it myself. But in that I am not so called I know that I am not qualified for it. At present it may be wisely hidden from you wherein your own aptitude may lie, but you will see it, and then you will understand how my experience would have rather disqualified you than otherwise. If Myhanene has accepted you for service you may rest assured that God has so ordained it, and you have no need to be afraid.”
“Will you allow me to wish that I had your faith?”
“Yes, if that will help you; but when you know the Master as I know Him, I hope you will have a stronger faith than mine. You do not know Him—have not seen Him yet, have you?”
“No! Have you?”
“Y—es! I—have—seen—Him! And the rapture of it is unspeakable! It was a vision and a revelation, changing, explaining, correcting, and illuminating everything! At the sight of Him I understood what John affirmed—‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.’ Yes; life and light; eternal and shadowless! Full, overpowering, abounding! away, away into the everlasting evermore!”
I was silent. Her soul had taken wing and soared upward into heights I had no power to scale. In her sacred memory she had caught an echoing reflection of the vision of the King in His beauty, and worshipped in a holy consecration too exalted for me to reach.
“It was in the light of the radiance of that sight I spoke just now when you could scarcely understand the strength of my language,” she continued as she awoke from her reverie, “by which I also assure you that ‘what thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter.’ Have only one fear—to know Christ and speak the truth as it is in Him. Then all must be well!”
“Your experience also confirms that?”
“lt does! It must! ‘He is the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end’; therefore what begins must of necessity end in Him and be well. As He, in your ministry, has to be your theme, let Him also be your model. Speak simply, that all may understand you; kindly, that all may be drawn to you; patiently, that all may feel they have a friend in you; and naturally, that all may find in nature an exposition of your gospel. As far as in you lies, avoid all mysteries, but as the reaping is always governed by the sowing, so let it be known that the counterpart and consequence of all actions must eventually be found. Shall I read you another of my songs on this subject, the thoughts of which may prove helpful and suggestive to you?”
“Do, please! I shall never forget the assistance I received from the other.”
We had by this time reached her home high up on those delectable mountains from which one seemed able to look down the vale of an entrancing futurity into the eternal rest that remaineth. On either side the glory-crowned hills rose like janitors of peace, and the music of hidden cascades sang love-songs to the flowers. I sat me down where one of the fairest prospects gave invitation, and an instant later Eilele sat beside me, with her book lying on the table before her, from which she, without a word of introduction, read:
Life Mosaics. Who can answer
How, or what, or when, or why?
To the thousand mystic problems
That perplex us constantly?
Every heart is full of murmurs;
Every head is racked with pain;
Useless are all disputations,
Still the mysteries remain.
Life seems naught but showers and sunshine,
Mountain-tops or valleys deep;
Burning summers, freezing winters,
Toil and dream-distracted sleep.
Here are days of sombre blackness,
Now a few of pallid white,
Mingled with the grey and murky.
Still continue:—all is right!
Now the golden tints are needed,
Emerald or sapphire tones,
Jasper, ruby or carbuncle,
Pearls and other precious stones.
Here a groan and there a tear-drop;
Now a sigh that rends the heart;
Then a shout of exultation.
Life Mosaics, these are part.
Now come days of preparation
And of working—as He will,—
Fashioning as He designeth
With His wondrous matchless skill;
Sudden sweeps and sharper angles
We can never comprehend;
But He knows the why and wherefore,
How and when the task will end;
Knows the number of each colour,
Counts all tears and every sigh;
Finds the counterpart of sorrow
In some long-forgotten joy.
Other builders toil and labour
Bringing marble, wood and stone,
Other hands will come and finish
That which we must leave undone.
He who blasts the stone in quarry
Cannot carve the angel face,
In the rough hewn block of marble,
Full of tenderness and grace.
He who digs the ore can never
Fashion-chase the cup of gold;
Nor can he the robes embroider
Who attends the sheep in fold.
Weary toiler, think a moment,
God has given but a share
Of mosaics for thy portion;
Thou couldst never all prepare.
Other hands are working with thee;
Neither can they comprehend
Whither all these constant failings
And catastrophes may tend;
But the Architect well knoweth
All the plans which He has made,
Therefore do His bidding simply,
And thy penny shall be paid.
Learn—the discord in the music,
May but serve to change the key,
And become a fitting prelude
To some sweeter harmony.
So the groans which thou art breathing,
And thy fellow’s deep-drawn sigh,
May produce a touching trio
Blended with another’s joy.
In life’s agonizing piercings
Precious jewels may be set;
But the stones God is providing
Are uncut, unpolished yet.
When all quantities are ready
God will show the rich design;
And His own unerring fingers
Will the chosen tints combine,
Dovetailing the joys and sorrows,
Happiness with days of doubt,
Seasons of long disappointment
With the short triumphant shout.
Every shade and every pattern,
So-called flaws, will find their place,
Forming parts of decoration
Of surpassing matchless grace.
Thus all lives are spent in labour,
Often bitter, sometimes sweet;
Every action seems disjointed,
Every fragment incomplete,
But the Father wisely orders
Every consecrated life,
And will bring the sweetest music
Out of this apparent strife.
Trust Him—leave Him to resolve it
In His own appointed way,
Knowing we shall share the triumphs
Of the coming crowning day.
She closed the book as she finished reading, gently pushed it from her, rested one elbow on the table and her head upon her hand while she looked dreamily away down the valley.
“Perhaps the thought will seem vague, mixed and uncertain,” she said, “in its abrupt transitions from one side of life to the other, from doubt to confidence, from incertitude to clearness of vision, but I penned the lines just as the inspiration came, and they seemed to be governed by an easy adaptation to the subject of which they speak. I could not have written such verses in the lower life, I should not have felt the natural intertwining, but everything is so different when looking back; the guiding hand reaches out from the mysterious draperies, the shadows light up so beautifully, and the presence—the hitherto undiscovered presence—of the Master is so visibly near, perhaps closer in the seeming failures sometimes than we realize in the successes, that one needs must look them up and set them side by side. Ah, me! If we could only read the present in the light of the future, as we can read the past in the golden halo of the present, how much more faithful would our service be.” Then turning her soft, moist, poetic eyes with keen inquiry full upon me, she asked: “Do you understand what I mean?”
I could not trust myself to say more lest I should disturb her.
“I suppose that is as much as may be for the present. We are only able to know in part; how, then, can we hope to understand in full, especially when the ocean of Providence is so broad, so long, so deep? Who has been able to trace its confines? what mariner has discovered its ten thousand isles of beauty and holy romance? what compass is able to guide to its pole-less haven? The ocean and the secret hiding-place of God: how can we reach it? Must we ever drift upon the tide of Providence, upon the unknown, until some morning we awaken as our keel grates on the strand to find ourselves ‘For ever with the Lord’? It may be so. He knows, and I am constrained to be content with that. I can only look back and see clearly, before us lies the unknown for which we all must trust Him.”