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"See how careful we should be when we speak in the Name of God.
God will not permit idols, but God permits strong affections. He has made our hearts for them ; He has made them for the human heart. God wills that we love Him with all our energy, but to reign He has no need to create a void. If He afflicts, it is that affliction is good for us. The furnace is good, if the gold can be no otherwise purified.
Do not transfer our own little passions to God. In our happiness, such a God degrades us. We rather counterfeit a love for Him than feel it. In our misery, such a representation of the Divine Being revolts us, or overwhelms us; in either case it separates us from the true God.
'Others say to you: “Do not weep; God does not will that you should weep. Rejoice! He desires a glad heart."
‘Yet He says, Weep, weep ! but not as those who are without hope !
“Our bereavements must be sorrows, if the gifts of God -love and life—are joys. If God strikes us, it is that we should feel. Without doubt, even in the trial itself is found I know not what penetrating sweetness. I have felt it even at that moment when I sunk prostrate under the hand of God. But this is not a joy that bursts out in cries of victory and gladness. The joy I felt-poor vacillating light !sheltered itself in the recesses of my heart, and threw its pale glory before me as I knelt and, with face hidden in my hands, wept on in silence."*
These are very true words, and of a great pathos. Who, that has sorrowed, has not felt what they so vividly express? And perhaps—for it is God's will, and this is not our rest, but our probation—the painful and depressing toils and duties of our pilgrim-life are more healthful and fruitful in * Countess de Gasparin, 'Near and Heavenly Horizons,' pp. 185-188.
patience, gentleness, and in a sweet leisure from ourselves to comfort others, than visions of Paradise and the Blessed Life would be.
We have called the Apostolic words “The Vesper Hymn of Death.' And surely we need such gentle consolation, when the great pulses of our fear, like the slow, measured beat of a clock, heard by a wakeful listener in the house, where the dying lie, and where the Presence of fear is entering without asking of leave or any courtesy, so terribly paralyse all our energies, uniting and fastening the few unexhausted powers of our minds to the one thought of Eternity, which every beat brings sensibly nearer to one whom we have loved more dearly than perhaps we knew, till death opened in our own hearts an unsuspected fountain and treasure of love,—so cruelly late! Oh, why, why are we always so miserably behindhand in our prizing and cherishing of the love that we may not keep? Why do we only realize all it was to us in the beautiful past, when that past is to be so for ever the past, as only death can make it? Yet is it not true that the full fragrance of another life is not known by us till the frail vessel of the heart has been broken by the vandal-fingers of death, and the fragments only are left with us, and the sweetness has escaped to God? Oh, poor blindness ! one of the worst sadnesses of our mortality, that we love too late, and only awaken from our dream of neglectful and secure possession with the rude shock of loss ;—the loss as well of them and, with them, of how many opportunities of love and ministry, and of unselfish, softening kindnesses !
But it is all ended now; and so ended, for they are gone, and we are left. We must begin life again, crippled and mutilated in our energies, and exposed to its storms and hazards, aged and worn as we are by the necessities of sorrow, and stripped of the ivy-like gentleness of the dead loves that once had twined about us to clothe and to comfort in every wintry hour. As we pass on by this solitary way, like cloakless travellers shivering in the north wind, will not these far-off echoes of the music of Paradise, where they are comforted and wrapped in the mantle of the eternal love, almost reconcile us to the solitude and unshared painfulness of the way? For they will give us an assurance of their peace, which beckons us onwards also. Alas that we travelled so many miles with them, and yet with so little careful love for them, and so much for ourselves, so that, when they went, it seemed as though God took them as a gift too precious to be longer neglected, and therefore taken back, almost in a retribution for our ungentle and unloving ways !
But peace to such sad thoughts! Do not forget how, if in the later words of the twelfth chapter of this Epistle, as Irenæus* supposes, the blessed Apostle relates two revelations, t--one of the final state of glory, and the other of the separate or disembodied state,—this requiem must gain an added sweetness, being sung (for the words have a rhythmical tone in their soft cadence) by one who had actually entered in an ecstasy the Paradise of the Blessed Dead. The term 'mortality,' as expressed in the Greek, TÒ Ovntòv, intends that which is mortal in man; not so much, that is, the estate of mortality by which he is surrounded and conditioned in his present life, as that part of his composite nature which is mortal, yet with all its limitations and conditions of existence and being as nevertheless consequentially involved.
We may consider the whole argument by the analogy which the successive stages of human life, if united to the
* Cf. Irenæus, * Adv. Hær.,' ii. 30, 7.
+ Bishop Wordsworth favours this view (Greek Test. : 2 Cor. xii. 4). But cf. Dean Alford, also in loc.
life that is only in God, present. When a man has attained to years of maturity, with what strange feelings does he look back to the days of his undeveloped powers! How does he recall his childish dreams and fancies with a halfcontempt, not all unmingled with regret for the vanished innocence and simple joys of childhood! Yet he disdains to think of the weakness, the necessary playtimes of his early years. A tenderly gentle allowance for the immaturity of childhood is made by this Apostle himself in the words : “When I was a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child ; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.' As life, then, flows on in an increasing stream, and with a constantly deepening and stronger current, the laughing, unthinking child develops gradually into the grave, serious, thoughtful man, with lines, the handwriting of care, upon his brow, now recognising his relation to eternity, if its intense light has once arisen upon his heart, till his mind ascends to the contemplation of the highest truths upon which the intellectual powers of man or angel can be exercised.
And as the child is lost in the man, so, yet infinitely more, is mortality swallowed up of life for everyone of the redeemed, so soon as they silently pass through the veiled portals of death, and are initiated into the secrets of the Unknown. What must be the highest conceptions here of Divine things to the illumination they enjoy in Paradise ? Only as the earliest streaks of the coming dawn in the eastern skies to the ascendant glory of the sunrise, or the meridian splendour of the high noon. What are the richest enjoyments of spiritual gladness here, or the largest fruition, possible in this life, of the holy, supernatural joys symbolized in the clear, deep, tranquil waters of the river of the city of God, that gladdens the society and Church of the saints ? Only as the trickling fountain, the tiny silver thread of the rill, from which the river takes its first rise, in contrast with the full-flowing wideness of the great river when it solemnly enters the ocean. Yet the widened faculties of Paradise will not be inconsistent with a sweet childlike simplicity, the beauty even now of grace, and the perfected loveliness of that Blessed Life, nor with an ingenuous, guileless habit of soul, and a simple openness, impossible even to the saintliest heart here, where the necessities of prudence compel some disguisement and reserve. Perpetual childhood in the home of love, with all the spontaneous and unaffected enjoyments of such a beatific childhood, infinitely supernaturalised by the constant Vision of the human Face of God, and united also with maturity of power and of spiritual cognition,—this is our idea of Paradise and the blessed life.
Now, there must be an intimate continuity between the life that now is and that which is to come. This is far too little urged in religion, and yet it might be a great stimulus to the mystical life of grace. If the entire purification in death (we carefully do not say 'of,' for it is not a natural or inherent quality of death, but a supernatural grace by the secret operation of the Holy Ghost) will perfect the sanctity of the soul, it will effect this interior purification in a strict correspondence to its already-attained habit and measure of holiness, and it will also preserve the distinguishing characteristics of its present sanctification, though infinitely expanding and enlarging them. All the holy souls will be golden vessels of election, free from all alloy and dross, but some of a richer, finer gold, in a just correspondence to the heat and intensity of their earthly ordeal, and to the spiritual benefits that the fiery trial of life wrought in them, but so wrought in them only by the Divine grace. For in the ancient art of metallurgy, that the ore might not be consumed in the heated crucible, there was always a