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Jesus promised to the blessed thief that he should that day be with Him in Paradise ;' and afterwards he distinguishes, from St. Paul's words in 2 Cor. xii. 1-4, Paradise from the heaven of the blessed, being a receptacle of holy souls, made illustrious with the visitation of angels, and the abode of the happy dead.' Elsewhere he says : ‘Now without peradventure Christ spake so, as He was to be understood ; meaning by Paradise that which the schools and pulpits of the rabbis did usually speak of it. By “Paradise,” till the time of Esdras, it is certain the Jews only meant that blessed garden in which God once placed Adam and Eve; but in the time of Esdras, and so downward, when they spake distinctly of things to happen after this life, and began to signify their new discoveries and modern philosophies by names, they called the state of souls expecting the resurrection of their bodies by the name of Gan Eden, the garden of Eden. ... It is therefore more than probable that when the converted thief heard our Blessed Saviour speak of Paradise, of Gan Eden, he who was a Jew and heard that on that day he should be there, understood the meaning to be that he should be there where all the good Jews did believe the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be placed.' · And here we are reminded of a distinction noticed in so primitive a writer—though not precisely in a relation to the intermediate state—as Irenæus* (* Adv. Hær.,' v. 36), and which should be carefully observed between the final and eternal life, and the intermediate and transition-life of the dead in Christ; the former being generally compared in Holy Scripture to a city, or a state and commonwealth ; the latter to a garden, not trimly laid out in geometrical lines and squares, with exactly-ordered beds, and with terraces and avenues cut and trimmed in stiff and sombre Dutch fashion. It is rather a park, a sylvan Paradise, a wide, woodland scene, with sequestered glades and bowers, with grassy meadows, with hidden groves and pleasant fountains, and quiet river-side walks. For there the blessed wander by the streams and through the pastoral lands of the everlasting Life. This distinction, while preserving the clearly distinguished separation in the sacred Scriptures between Hades or the invisible and pre-resurrection state, and the final beatitude of the post-resurrection life, does not bring us into any direct or important conflict with the general opinion of our reformers; their denial of the intermediate state being chiefly intended as a protest against that distorted and corrupt doctrine of it which grew into the repulsive dogma of Purgatory. It is too much the tendency of human impulse in earnest controversies to forsake the golden mean, and to swing violently to the extreme of an excessive and unnecessary prejudice and dissent, and the hideous abuse of the doctrine of the intermediate state influenced those noble confessors and martyrs for the old and true faith rather unduly in this particular. Yet the difference between them and us is but slight and immaterial, being only upon their part a confusion, as it were, of the city with the gardens that surround and embrace it.
* He quotes 'the elders' as saying that some of the blessed shall be in heaven, some in Paradise, with reference to the future degrees of glory, but 'everywhere the Saviour (Latin, God) shall be seen.'
Paradise, then, is not a cloister, but a garden,* walled in
* Cf. Tertullian, 'Apol.,' c. 47. To that Paradise Tertullian, in his exaggerated views of martyrdom, allows none but martyrs to enter, placing the souls of the rest of the dead in some profound and vast place, retired and hidden in the very bowels of the earth.'— 'De Animâ,' cap. 55 (“in ipsis visceribus terræ'). But Lazarus, who was no martyr, was borne upwards, as Tertullian has himself remarked in a previous quotation, by angelic hands! Far sweeter, then, and more Christian, is the ancient Jewish gloss by the Chaldee paraphrast (on Cant. iv. 12), which says that the just are carried up into Paradise in the hands of angels.'
from the intrusive sadnesses of earth, and where no echo of the heart-breaking cry of the world's gigantic misery can enter. It is a retreat of peace and contemplation, fenced in from all possible intrusion of evil things ; 'a place of heavenly bliss' (locum divine amanitatis), in the words of Tertullian, though he adds, in rather a pagan manner, 'severed also from commerce with this world by a belt or zone of protecting fire.'
The gates of that dear garden,* though so often opening to admit other blessed souls, who may bring, perhaps, words and tokens from those left awhile in the land of mortality, yet never suffer any to return again to this land of our painful and weary exile. Of that sweet Paradise it is true, as of the ' Civitas Dei,' the eternal City of God, in Augustine's eager words : Who shall not desire thee, where no enemy can ever enter in, and no friend ever goeth out?' It is like an island-home, seen only through the coloured haze of the sunset in our indistinct vision, and raised so high above the monotonous surges of this unrestful time, that no echoes can climb up the steep and rocky sides of its inviolable sanctuary to vex and molest the ears of the souls that rest there. It may be called the true island of the blessed, † not floating in the unexplored
* Dr. Jeremy Taylor has, after Euthymius, seen in the agony and the burial of Christ, either of which was in a garden, a representation that we were by His death returned to Paradise, and the gardens of pleasures and Divine favours, from whence, by the prevarication of Adam, man was expelled. He finished the work of His Passion, as He had begun it, in a garden.'-'Life of Christ,' iii. 16.
+ We might almost discern an interesting additional contact between the inspired and the primitive revelation, which, though so darkened by the Fall, yet floated vaguely, like drift, among the waste waters of pagan myth, if the A.V. of Job xxii. 30 could be sustained ; but the word rendered island' is generally translated as a negative (cf. Speaker's Commentary, in loc.), though it by no means improves the sense. Cf. the passage in Hippolytus (ix. 22) referred to before.
western seas, as fabled in the ancient myth, but in the pure mid-ocean of the heavens, insulated wholly* from this lower sphere by the immensities of the sky, across which (if we may, indeed, speak as our Divine Lord spoke, in figure and parable) the angels of God, their wings seeming like the white sails of the ships, convey the happy souls that enter there to dwell for ever within its fastnesses of inmutable safety, and to walk amid the pastoral scenes, the shady avenues, and open lawns, with fairer scenery earth, in that dear land of God. If we could adopt more certainly 'the theory of a famous German astronomer, Mädler of Dorpat, that Alcyone, + the principal star in the cluster of the Pleiades, was the centre of the universe,' (and though later astronomy rather discountenances the belief, as founded upon far too slight and uncertain data for the solving of so vast a problem, it is at least worthy of respectful mention), how sweet a vision of eternal glory would such a thought, if concluded upon certain scientific reasoning, unveil !
For what can be the true centre of the universe but the Throne of God, with the golden City and the palacegardens of the true Eden ? As then, the mariners of old looked up to the seven stars, the constellation of the Pleiades, when they were kindled upon the battlements of heaven, the sweet sign to them of a favourable voyage, and so cheerfully set sail under the protection of their gracious banner in the evening-sky, so has the soul, whose Pilot is Jesus, the sevenfold grace of the Spirit of Christ to guide
* There is a reverent chapter, very unlike the mediæval superstition, in Hugo of St. Victor (iii. 511), in which he allows that the prayers of the saints in rest must be wholly unrelated to any possible knowledge of this life, simply saying: 'How shall they not pray, who are ever praying, even when we pray not ? But it does not belong to their beatitude to know anything outside their home in God.'
† Cf. Guillemin, “The Heavens,' p. 297, and Newcombe, ' Popular Astronomy,' p. 454.
and comfort her midnight-way over the dark waters of this life. For the Hebrew expression, the sweet influences of the Pleiades,' contains the very word 'Eden,' the name of Paradise, where grows the Tree of Life beside the River of God. And the star of hope, that guides the faithful over the watery wastes of this unquiet life, is the promise of Immortality, and the blessed hope, assured to us in Christ Jesus, that He will bring us to the shores of the eternal peace.
In the perpetual springtide of that happy isle, cradled amid the crystal seas of an eternal beatitude, no sharpness of frost and snow shall chill the hearts, as once mistrust and misunderstanding may here have, too often, vexed our sunniest hours and our holiest and truest friendships. No thorny brakes of bitter, wounding unkindness shall tear the tender flesh of the soul, nor the vulgar ways of earth jar, as now, the refinement and sensitiveness of the heart united to God. There shall be no autumn there, with its sere and falling leaves, no decay or sickening of the hope, which went out in the morning so often here with bright longing and sunny assurance of good, only to return at nightfall in sackcloth and with ashes upon its head. Dear hearts shall not change towards each other, nor love lose its youth and freshness. All the interchanges of love shall there be drawn forth and hallowed by the warm, sweet breath of the summer, that is made perpetual and everlasting by the presence of God, the Comforter.
Such-and how much infinitely more that cannot be told ! —is the joy of Paradise. What conception can be more beautiful than that of this celestial Eden, where the blessed walk among the unfading Aowers of holy delight, by the river-banks, where the living waters of Divine gladness make a perpetual music, and in the fields and meadow-lands of the eternal refreshing.