Page images

victim, can we conceive of the fitting close of the awful drama. The penitence of an enemy which shall be his salvation as well as his atonement to us, that we may accept with solemn joy even when risen a hundred-fold nearer to God than we are now. But his physical torture, “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched,” that we could not endure even were we to remain poor and imperfect human creatures still. All the glory of the skies would be blackened by the smoke of the Pit, and through the anthems of the archangels our ears would catch the discord of the wail of the lost.

In brief, then, the persons with whom we may confidently expect to have relationships in the world to come are

1. Those whom we have loved. 2. Those whom we have hated. 3. Those who have hated us.

I leave the reader to draw the very obvious conclusions regarding the influence which such expectations ought to have upon our present feelings. To look on those whom we love as ours for ever-ours in a purer sphere than this—is to ennoble and sanctify our love. To look on those whom we hate, or on those who hate us, as beings with whom some day or other we must be reconciled, is to deprive hatred of its sting, and almost to transform it into love.

But, admitting that our hearts in another life may be wide enough to gather into them every affection of the past at once, it would still seem hard to guess how the natural ties of our human nature will bind us hereafter. There are friendships which seem obviously made for an eternal world, which have had their roots in religious sympathies or the interchange of moral help, and which would scarcely need any modification to be transferred to the spiritual realms. They have been a part of our heaven, always. But, on the other hand, there are affections, if not more tender, yet more human than these, which when they are severed by death seem almost irreparably snapped asunder. We and the departed may meet again as Spirits in a world of spirits, but never more (so our hearts moan in their despair)-never more as mother and child, son and father, husband and wife. All the infinite sweetness of those purely human ties seems as if it must exhale and be lost when the last act of mortal companionship has been accomplished, and the kindred dust has been laid side by side. And yet need we be so sure it is so ? Are not our thoughts of these temples of flesh wherein God has caused us to dwell, far too little reverent, and too much tinged even yet with the old Gnostic notions of the impurity of matter, the unholiness of Nature, which have pervaded all postPauline Christianity? I cannot but think that it is in a true direction modern sentiment is growing, while it tends continually to dignify and hallow the body, and to find infinite beauty and sacredness in the relations which spring out of its mysterious laws.

So long as men and women deemed themselves holier as celibates than as husbands and wives, and that the laws of nature

were supposed to have been set aside to give Christ an immaculate Mother (as if natural Motherhood were not the divinest thing God has made),--so long as this was the case it was inevitable that the bonds of consanguinity should be supposed to be finally unloosed by death. But with other thoughts of our sacred human rights, of all the depth of meaning which lies (rarely half-fathomed here) in the names of Father and Mother, Brother and sister, Husband and Wife, Son and Daughter, shall we have no hope that when our spirits meet again, it will be in such sort as that the old beloved ties shall never be forgotten, but rather that what fell short in our comprehension and enjoyment of them will yet be made up? It seems to me almost to follow from the very statement of the problem that it must be so.

But Sin? What can we hope or think of future reunion when heinous guilt has been incurred on one side or the other? How are relations and friends, once dear to each other, to meet after the revelation of this gulf between their feet?

I confess that it has been with great surprise that I have read the eloquent words on this subject of a distinguished living writer, with whose scheme of theology in general I have almost entire sympathy, and for whose manly honesty and powerful grasp of thought I entertain sincere admiration. In speculating on the awful probabilities of “Elsewhere,” Mr. Greg lays it down, as if it were an obvious truth, that love must retreat from the discovery of the sinfulness of the person hitherto


beloved, and that both saint and sinner will accept as inevitable an eternal separation.* Further, Mr. Greg thinks it possible that at the highest summit of finite existence, the souls which have ascended together, through all the shining ranks for half an eternity of angelic friendship, will part company at last; Thought for ever superseding Love."Farewell, we lose ourselves in light.” It would, perhaps, be wrong to say that the two views hang logically together, and that the mind which (with all its capacity to understand and express the tenderest feelings) yet holds that there may even possibly be something more divine than Love, may well also imagine that Love cannot conquer Sin. But is it not only by a strange transposition in the true table of precedence of human faculties that either doctrine can be accepted ? Let us suppose two persons loving each other genuinely and tenderly in this life (so much is granted in the hypothesis). The very power of the worse to love the better truly and unselfishly, is ipso facto evidence of his being love-worthy, of his having in him, in the depth of his nature, the kernel of all goodness, the seed out of which all moral beauty springs, and which whosoever sees and recognizes in his brother's soul cannot choose but love. “Spirit,” says the Bhagvat Ghita in one of its deepest utterances,—“Spirit is always lovely." There is something at the very root of our being which, when revealed to any other spirit, calls forth spontaneously sympathy and affection. It is because we do not commonly see this innermost core of our fellow-men, because it is hidden under a mass of fleshly lusts and worldly ambitions, or because they cover it up carefully in a thousand folds of artificial and secondhand sentiments, that they are so little interesting to us.

* Enigmas, 1st edition, p. 263.

But let chance blow aside the mantle for an instant, let us see a human heart in the moment of its supreme joy or agony, remorse or victory, and, hard as the nether mill-stone as our own hearts may be, they will vibrate like the Lia-Fail when the true king stood on it to be crowned. When we conceive of a holy God loving such creatures as ourselves, it is only by the help of the faith that His eye can see this “lovely spirit” beneath all its coverings and concealments. Whether there exists, or has ever existed, a rational creature of God in whom there was no such germ of goodness and innermost core of loveliness, it is impossible to say. Hideous tales there are of men, with the hearts of tigers and the brains of murderers, who have passed through childhood and youth without once displaying a trait of infant tenderness or boyish affection, and who seem utterly incapable of understanding what self-sacrificing love may mean. The dog which dies to save his master is a million-fold more human than they. What may be

key to the horrible mystery of such lives of moral idiotcy, whether, indeed, they ever really exist in all the deformity which has been painted, and if so, whether fearful physiological malformations of brain and the

« PreviousContinue »