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MANY MANSIONS IN GOD'S HOUSE.
“IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE ARE MANY MANSIONS ; IF IT WERE NOT
So, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU. I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR
of Christ's resurrection. No fact in the life of Christ or the history of man has been celebrated with such perpetual, continual, triumphant joy as this. Easter is a greater festival than Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus ; greater than Whitsunday, which celebrates the birth of the Church. It is the feast of triumph — triumph of life over death, of good over evil, of faith and hope over despair.
There is no doubt that the Christian Church was built on faith in the resurrection of Jesus. We might almost say that without this faith the Christian Church would never have been, and that the resurrection of Christ was the resurrection of Christianity. Some great event happened which changed the utter despair of the apostles into a new faith ; their cowardice into courage ; their ignorance into insight. What was that something? What was the resurrection of Jesus?
As we read the simple and candid narratives, and lay them side by side, we seem only partially to understand them. We see the event as in a glass, darkly. At first it
seems as if Christ came back in exactly the same body he had before death. But further reflection shows that to be highly improbable. That would only have been the reviving of one thought to be dead, like the return of Lazarus to life, and would have produced no such astounding impression. A return to this world would not have opened the gates of the other world. Nor, on the other hand, was it a mere ghost that appeared to the disciples. Ghosts startle and terrify. A ghost may give information, or comfort, or warning, but could hardly so inspire the souls of men with faith as to create a new religion. “We are born again," say the apostles, “ by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into a living hope.” “ If Christ be not risen,” says Paul, “ our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain.”
The conviction the apostles acquired through this event was that Christ had abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. They saw their risen Master as one over whom death had no power. They seemed to be looking into a higher world, and understood that death was nothing to him who dies; that he does not taste death, but passes from life into a higher life. And so firmly rooted in their minds was this conviction, so sure were they of it, that they realized Christ's prediction, “He who believeth in me shall never die.” And this faith they transmitted to all to whom they preached, so that the world gradually became filled with a new conviction and a new hope.
Man, by nature, has an instinct of immortality; and through the inference of his reason he also has a belief in it. Hence, all races, all nations, all religions, have had faith in a hereafter. Brahmins and Buddhists, ancient Egyptians and ancient Persians, Greeks and Romans, Kelts and Teutons, Africans and Esquimaux, Mexicans and Peruvians, North American Indians and South Sea Islanders.
have all believed in a future life. And so have all the great thinkers, the philosophers, the poets. Serious Plato, noble Socrates, Cicero and Tacitus, Homer, Virgil and Dante, Descartes and Spinoza - all unite in the same testimony. The exceptions are so few as to prove the rule that man, both by his instinct and his reason, is a believer in a future life.
Hear Goethe, for example: “I should be the very last man to dispense with faith in a future life. I would say, with Lorenzo di Medici, that all those are dead, even for the present life, who do not believe in another. I have a firm conviction that the soul is an existence of an indestructible nature, whose working is from eternity to eternity. It is like the sun, which seems indeed to set, but really never sets, shining on in unchangeable splendor.”
In all the highest moments of life, death disappears utterly from our thought. The fear of death ceases in any moment when the soul is all alive. Even the excitement of battle, which gives a temporary vitality to man, lifts him above fear. But the martyrs, inspired by high convictions of truth, walked gladly to the stake and flame. John Brown, filled with the love of humanity, went to his Virginia gallows with a calm serenity which filled his deadliest foes with admiration.
What, then, has Christianity added to the universal human faith in immortality? Not any clearer notion about the hereafter ; it does not seem intended that we should know much about its details or circumstances while we are yet here. God means us, while we are in this world, to think about this life, not about the next, and therefore has hung a veil between the two worlds. What Jesus has done has been to make immortality more real to all mankind by putting more spiritual life into all mankind. As soon as Christianity began its course, death ceased to be the King
of Terrors. The early Christians did not speak of dying, but of going to sleep. They called their place of interment a cemetery — that is, a sleeping-place. Even when Stephen was stoned to death, they said of him, “He fell asleep.” Then there came over the world a sense of relief from the old horror of the under world. And to-day, in all Christian lands, faith in an immortality which takes us up to a higher state — not down to a lower is the universal hope. This supports the sufferer on his bed of pain ; this gives comfort to the worn-out child of toil. The slave, all whose rights here are taken from him, looks forward to a compensation hereafter. The victim of tyranny, of injustice, to whom this world brings no redress for his wrongs, anticipates a tribunal where all wrong shall be made right, innocence vindicated, and the truth become clear.
We do not know, as I have said, much about the other life. But we know this : that the same Being rules by the same laws in this world as in all other worlds. As God is always the same, we may be sure that his laws and methods in this world are not contradicted or opposed to his methods in other worlds ; and that we may learn something of what he does for us in the future by what he does for us in the present. The future life will not, indeed, be a mere repetition of this, but doubtless will correspond to it. As Milton has already suggested,
“ What if earth
Let us look, therefore, at some of these correspondences or analogies, in order to correct and elevate our ideas of heaven.
When a child comes into this world, he comes into a home which God has provided for him beforehand. He
finds father and mother, brothers and sisters, a house, rooms, books, schools, play — in-doors and out of doors, young companions; all made ready for his use. He is at once absorbed in these outward interests, and does not stop to look in and ask, “Who am I?” and “Whence did I come? All that is left for a future time.
So it may be, and very likely will be, with us when we enter the next world. We shall find a home provided for us; a place made ready ; wiser and older friends to meet and receive us ; enough around for us to see, to do, to love, to enjoy. We may become little children again all of We may lay down the burden of
and begin life anew under these glad, angelic auspices. All the knowledge and faculty which we have gathered in this life will seem childlike ignorance by the side of the wisdom of these lofty and grand souls who may be to us guardians, guides and friends. We shall feel ourselves little children beside them in our ignorance and weakness, and shall gladly be guided by their larger experience.
These homes provided for us beforehand may be infinitely varied there, as they are here. Variety seems to be one of the most universal laws of creation. What infinite variety in this world of climate, vegetation, scenery, races of animals and of men, national customs, modes of civilization. The infinite Being has by no means exhausted his creative power in making this little planet. Throughout the immense extent of the universe, during an infinite past, he has been unfolding his power and wisdom in creation. So, no doubt, the worlds into which we shall enter hereafter will be different in a thousand ways from this world. In this world we have objects of sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing. Who knows that in the future world, we may not have other senses, by which to perceive other qualities of things? Why should there be just five senses, and