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grave, become realities quite as sensibly felt as those of our bodily surroundings. We have but to imagine one degree more of such separation from physical interruptions and sensations, and conceive ourselves as actually severed from the body, and it becomes clear that we should instantly, and from that circumstance alone, pass into a Purgatory. Even if we should retain no recollection of the special sins of earth, their consequences, sensible at last in our degraded natures, our mean and malignant sentiments, our withered hearts, would be the heaviest curse. Everything we have ever done of evil has undoubtedly left its stain on us in ways like these, even should the actual recollection of it be effaced with the brain-record of Memory. We our very selves, whatever in us can possibly survive the dissolution of the body—must carry with us—nay, rather in us, these dreadful results. As Theodore Parker says quaintly, “The saddler does not remember every stitch he took when a 'prentice, but every stitch served to make him a saddler.” So every act we have done of good or evil, every sentiment we have indulged of loving or hateful, has gone to make us saints or sinners. We may repent the past, abhor it, renounce it, with the whole force of God-supported will. But, as even Aristotle knew, “of this even God is deprived, to make the Past not to have been.” The sins have been committed, and the trail of them over our souls must remain, even if we forget them one by one. But if (as seems infinitely more consonant with the
Divine order) we pass through no river of oblivion on leaving the world, but, on the contrary, find all the Past unrolling itself in one long unbroken panorama from the hour of Death backward to the first hours of childish consciousness,—then will our Purgatory be complete indeed! Then as we look, unhurried, dispassioned, at one hour of mortal life after another, remembering all we felt and did in it, all the weaknesses and mixed motives which spoiled our purest moments, all the selfishness, the bitterness, the ingratitude, perchance the sensual vice or cruel vindictiveness which blackened the worst—then in very truth shall we learn at lastwhat it has been idly dreamed that only Hell could teach—"the exceeding Sinfulness of Sin.” The thought is almost too tremendous to dwell upon, yet it is but the simplest consequence from the laws of Mind, as we know them. There is no need for the Almighty to bare His arm and hurl us into the Lake of Fire. He has only to leave us alone with our sins; to draw the curtain between us and the world; and our punishment must come with unerring certainty.
This is the awful Purgatory which I believe awaits us all. Is there nothing but terror in it for the sinner and sadness for the saint? Nay, but is there not also somewhat of deep and stern satisfaction? At the best moments of life, have we not longed for such an insight into our own dark souls, such a sense of the guilt which we dimly knew existed, but under which our hardened consciences remained numb? Will it not be something gained when the scales which ever cover our eyes when we strive to look inward shall fall from them at last ? We shall then know, and be sure we know truly, what is the whole evil of our hearts, the sinfulness of our acts. There will be no more uncertainty and fear of self-delusion, of walking in a vain shadow of selfacquittal, or, it may be, of ill-allotted self-condemnation. We shall know our true place in the moral world, our true relation to the all-holy God. And we shall not only know what is true, but suffer what is just. We shall endure all the agony, and also learn the infinite relief, of a repentance at last adequate and proportioned to our sinfulness. The pain will fall, where it ought to fall, upon our hearts themselves; and, as Cranmer held his “guilty hand” to the fire, so perchance shall we, instead of striving to escape, even desire to hold them to their torture. That entire, absolute, perfect Repentance will be the great and true Expiation; and when it has been accomplished, the blessed Justice of God will be vindicated, and all will be well.
Is there an outlook beyond this Purgatory, wherein Time can have no meaning ? Assuredly there must be. There yet must remain for the souls which God has made and purified both work to do for Him and joy in Him and in one another. There must be the service of His creatures ; the learning of His truth; the reconciliation with every foe; the re-union of immortal affection; and the everlasting approach, nearer and nearer through the infinite ages, to perfect goodness and to Him who is
supremely good. But these things lie afar off, where eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, the things which God hath prepared for those who love Him—aye, and for those, also, who now love Him not.
DOOMED TO BE SAVED.
In old times, two or three centuries ago, men believed that they could sell their souls to the Devil. No one seems to think such a bargain possible now, though the belief in the existence of the strange Incarnate Evil, the Great Bad God, with whom it was supposed to be transacted, still forms part of the accepted creed of Christendom. I am not concerned now to discuss the absurdity and blasphemy involved in this doctrine of a cruel and relentless Wolf left freely by the Shepherd of Souls to prowl for ever through His hapless fold. But I shall ask of you to dwell in imagination for a few moments on the state of one of the hundreds of men and women who formerly believed, with unhesitating credulity, that they had bartered their existence to the Fiend, and were henceforth for evermore, and without hope of escape, the sworn servants of Satan.
Probably such imaginary transactions generally hap