« AnteriorContinuar »
no more? We cannot conceive, to be sure, of another sense, or how there can be another ; but neither could we have conceived, if we had now only four senses, what the fifth would reveal. Suppose, for example, that there never had been any sense of hearing ; how, by any possibility, could we then have imagined the harmonies of sound, the articulations of speech, the melodies of rushing winds and falling waters and singing birds, and the tender intonations of human language? Or, if there had never been such a thing as sight or the human eye, who could have conceived beforehand of the possibilities of form, color, sunrise, starlight, the blue sky, the green woods, the beauty of flowers, and the loveliness of the human face ? Many more senses may hereafter be given us, by which new regions of enjoyment and new gateways into nature may be opened. “ In my Father's house are many mansions ;" who can limit in thought the creative power of the Almighty?
In this world, all our activity and all our joy come from three sources Thought, Love, Work. First there is intelligence, exercise of intellect, creating our knowledge, giving the power of thinking accurately and justly; there is that inspiration which all men share more or less, by which a stream of new ideas flows into the mind from some upper
This is one fountain of human joy. A man who is thinking and learning something has a certain contentment and satisfaction of mind in that. A second source of contentment is work. To be able to exercise our powers, to accomplish something, to imitate God by creating, to bring order out of confusion, to add something to the wealth of the world - this is another great source of satisfaction, And, thirdly, there is love. To be able to go out of ourselves; to sympathize with others, to enter into their needs and perplexities, to help them forward, to enjoy and reverence great qualities of mind and heart, to feel at home in the so
ciety and friendship of other minds - this is another of the essentials of happiness. But when we have them all united, we have a sort of heaven, even in this life. We have a perfect contentment when we work steadily for a good end; work in sympathy and friendship with others, and work intelligently, with new thoughts coming to us, and getting new knowledge out of our work evermore. That makes heaven here, and that is why Paul spoke of sitting in heavenly places with Jesus Christ now.
Heaven hereafter is probably the same thing, only carried upward and onward. A new world, new senses, new faculties, will give us more to know, so that all we have learned in this life will seem like the ignorance of a little child. And who can tell us how much there may be to do hereafter? What great works may not be going on in the universe? The insoluble problems of life, which daunt and confound us here, are but the shadows thrown down on our globe from the vast events going forward in worlds beyond. The conflict between freedom and fate, the antagonism of soul and body, the existence of evil in a present world, these mysteries are suggestions of how much there is to be known and done hereafter.
And how much, also, to be loved ! Love here is one of the best things we have ; but love here is only in its rudiments. What may it not become in the other world, when we shall be lifted into communion with the wise, the good, the noble, the beautiful, who have gone up ;
when we shall be surrounded by their sympathy, blessed by their affection ; when Christ shall come to find us with the angels and archangels; and when we, in our mansion, in our sphere, shall be able to work with them in theirs, for the advancement and redemption of the universe. Love made perfect which casts out all fear, shall bring us into a heavenly sympathy with the whole creation of God.
The essential difference between heaven and hell, according to St. Augustine and the early Church Fathers, is this that heaven is the sight of God, and hell is the loss of that sight. This is the beatific vision, or sight of God, which makes heaven, and the absence of which makes hell.
But we may see God in this world — not directly, indeed, for he dwells in light inaccessible and full of glory. He is not hidden from us by darkness, but by light. As our ears are only tuned to hear a few octaves of music, and all the other harmonies of heaven and earth escape us, so, while “this muddy vesture of decay” shuts us in, our eye can only range through a certain scale of light. All above it is too bright, all below it too dark. God is present in nature around us. He is present in our own soul. But we only see him in these indirectly. Yet we see him as in a glass, darkly; see him as through a veil. In the order and wonder of creation, in the majesty of sunrise and sunset, in the infinite range of the midnight heavens, we see God's presence.
We have the sense of an Infinite Power behind all finite forces; an Infinite Ordering Mind behind all law; an Infinite Love behind all goodness. And, in the trials and perplexities of life, in hours of sorrow and of sin, the heavens are sometimes opened and we see God. A calm peace comes down into the soul, a new life, a new power fills our heart and our thought. We realize the presence of our heavenly Father.
Thus we can understand a little how we shall see God hereafter. Though we cannot look directly at the sun, we feel sunlight and see it all around us. So we may see the shining of God, the sunlight of his love, all around us, as by some other sense, by some deeper power than we have
The religious man is as sure of God's presence in
this world as he is of his own. He does not believe in God because of any argument. He knows God by the intuition of his own soul. When Paul said “ In Him we live and move and have our being,” he was just as sure of God's being as of the world around.
In the other world, what Paul and other religious men have felt, we shall all feel. “Blessed are the pure in heart," said Jesus, "for they shall see God.” We all shall see God, and know him, as we now know the reality of things which the senses cannot show. We are not more sure of the existence of our bodies than we are of joy, sorrow, hope, fear, choice, reason, beauty, love. These are realities, though they cannot be touched, tasted, or seen with the outward eye.
So shall.God be known as near, as our life, as our strength, as our joy, as the root of all we are, as the hope of all we desire, as the boundless fountain of love, flowing evermore into our heart and our soul.
But Christ said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He may prepare a place for them and for us there, as he prepares it here.
But, if our mansions are already existing in our Father's House, mansions so various and numerous as to suit all needs, how does Christ prepare a place for his disciples ? Why does he say, “I go to prepare a place for you,” if all these mansions already exist? And in what way can he prepare a place in the other world ? He can prepare us for à place that we are accustomed to believe - but how can he prepare a place for us?
Here is another difficulty: I answer it in this way Although God has made many mansions here for his children, and introduces every one into his appropriate place in this world, yet Christ prepares the place for us here, and we enter a world Christianized for us by his influence. We enter a home where the hearts of father, mother, brother
and sister, have been more or less influenced by the spirit of Christ. The infant is welcomed into the world by a Christian welcome. Christian waters of baptism touch its innocent and unconscious brow. Christian love watches its slumbers, prays by its bedside, and teaches it to be true, just and obedient. The boy enters a school where Jesus Christ has modified all the teachings by his truth and life.
This young man enters a society where Christian churches shed a hallowing influence on all parts of life and conduct. So Christ prepares a place for us here, and the essence of this preparation is a spirit of love. There is more of love in the world because Christ has been in it. God is loved rather than feared; man is loved rather than hated. Jesus harmonizes, unites, and pacifies mankind. His religion is the great element of concord in the world.
And so Jesus prepares a place for us in the other world in a like manner. When he went into the other world, he went not merely to seek there his own joy, but to prepare
He went not to stay, sitting on a throne of glory; but, having prepared our place, to come and receive us to himself. He did not lose his love for the world, or for mankind, or cease to work for our redemption when he entered heaven. His love for us did not diminish as he went nearer to God, but increased. He went into his rest in heaven, but his rest is a greater activity of good. He became “highly exalted," but how? "to be the head over all things in his church,” the living head, the active head, the blessed Redeemer and Saviour, “who lived and was dead, and behold he is alive forevermore."
Perhaps in the other world he prepares a place for us by diffusing his spirit there among the angels. Perhaps he turns the thoughts of exalted and ascending souls to earth, and to man's needs. Perhaps he creates a heavenly sympathy, an angelic pity, in those great spheres of thought