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breathing of cool air through a chink in the side of the furnace when the furnace-doors were shut,-a sweet emblem of the comforts of God, hiddenly given to the heart, when most fevered and scorched by the intensity of its hour of temptation and sorrow. The Great Refiner will never cease breathing His inward consolations and interior inspirations of hope into the poor heart, which sobs like the molten gold in the fires, and can yet meekly pray in its anguish : 'Thy Will only be done, and let me not come forth until that Will is perfected in my purification and spiritual correspondence to Thyself.'
It will be found in the dawn of eternity that every consecrated suffering will have widened and expanded, as well as refined and beautified the soul, which has been submitted to its immense influences, for a larger fulness of joy in God, so that its impulses and volitions being 'strained clear from self-will, and its cross having been patiently and with submission endured and suffered, it will then possess a station of nearness to Christ exactly proportioned to its former increase in the graces of the mystical life. Does not a king love to place in his own immediate retinue those who have dared most and suffered most in his name, who have led forlorn hopes and won honourable scars in his wars ? Let, then, the warriors of the Cross, even to the meanest who have welcomed reproaches in the King's name, who have braved the vulgarity and rudeness of the world, so offensive to a soul refined by nearness to God, and who have offered daily interior battle to sin and self-love, be of good comfort. Even if we have been too heart-weary, too drained of all the large pulses of life, too enfeebled by the exactions of sorrow and loss and pain to enter again the arena of the hot conflicts of the world, and are only able to
* This is the exquisite expression in the Syrian homily of Mar Jacob on the martyrs Guria and Shamuna.
walk with slow, hesitating step, hand in hand with souls as crippled and wounded as ourselves, these quiet, unobtrusive lives of sympathy, that cool with their gentle touch, and can inspire by the calm, tranquil power of their chastened faith many a sick and fevered heart with hope and patience, shall have a great peace in the life to come. But whether passed in the retired ways of a hidden life with God, or in the heat and glare of the streets of the world, or upon the sanded amphitheatres of religious conflict, be assured that not one self-denial or self-sacrifice; not one conflict painfully endured in the soul, that great hidden battlefield of sin and grace ; not one endeavour after goodness, truth, and righteousness; not one reproach willingly suffered for Christ's name and honour, shall fail of a bright recompense there, however much (yes, and even more because) unknown and unrecognised here. And that recompense will be an enlarged capacity for the sanctities and for the fruitions of Divine and eternal joy in God. Many of the bold and ostentatious flowers that have grown tall-stalked and high in the visible Church will wither in death, and those that were hidden away in the nooks and corners, and ready, in a sweet leisure from themselves, for the humblest service in the mystical garden of the Church on earth, will suddenly bloom into glory in the awards of Paradise, the eternal Garden of God and of the saints. (Cf. Irenæus, 'Adv. Hær.,' v. 5.)
The intermediate state may be held guardedly to be a school, not of discipline, but of the highest instruction ; a Divine Schola Theologie,'*—where the blessed souls are perpetually illuminated, as the Catechumens and Mluminati of the celestial Church, by the Vision of Christ. There the whispers of great and high and noble aims, that scarcely stirred the still, sultry atmosphere of many a common-place life, as the soft wind on breathless evenings rustles only faintly among the thick leaves of the wood,-aims and longings scarcely recognised or even heard by hearts, that were yet linked in the intensest bonds of affection,-shall be developed and realized, not as visionary possibilities, dreamed of in high and elevated moments, but as actual creations and attainments. The spiritual powers shall be expanded and intensified into the highest degrees of knowledge and love.
* This has been suggested by Origen, but unhappily carried onwards to a germinal idea of Purgatory. Cf. 'De Principiis,' ii. 40. Irenæus has given, on the authority of the elders (Adv. Hær.,'v. 36), a curious conception of the ascending degrees of the perfect life, the heavens, Paradise, and the city being the several steps or degrees.
With this vast increase of spiritual illumination from the nearer Vision of Christ, all the impediments and inconveniences caused by the mutual reaction of the body and soul upon one another, which so often interfere with the pursuit of true sanctity, will have been removed. What an unimagined increase of refinement and purity, both of feeling and conception, must then pass upon the soul! If the imperfect conditions of the mystical life in God here yet imply the attainment of a certain degree of refined susceptibility and spiritual sensitiveness, the necessary fruit of intercourse with, and life renewed into God, how intensely must that new life be augmented there in these lovely qualities of grace and refinement, for though the flame of our most perfect sanctification is now so dull and yellow, our love and life in God is then to burn as an everlasting torch, the fires of which may have some splendour remaining and unquenched even by the presence of the uncreated Day. Many a light seems bright at midnight, which looks sickly and pale, and dying even, in the earliest glow of the morning Ah, my God! how will our created sanctities appear, even if they are continually snuffed, as were the sacred lamps of the old sanctuary, and evenly trimmed by a constant discipline, unless Thy grace in death perfectly refine Thy light in us, and fit us to be lamps hung by Thine own hands in the halls of Heaven, where Thy Morning perpetually shines !
Our doctrine, then, does not deserve the misrepresentation given of it in such words as these : 'If the soul has not been made perfect in this world, on the supposition that no change passes over it in its disembodied condition, then there is a long period in which the operations of God's Spirit upon it are suspended, and an imperfect soul is left to stagnate in its imperfection.'*
We allow of no such spiritual stagnation. We admit that a condition of perpetual progress is a necessary and radical imperfection of the most sanctified creaturehood; yes, and one necessarily belonging even to the perfect Life, if it be considered in its relation to the Divine and Abso. lute Perfection. This is our contention, that there cannot be attributed to the separated soul any such remaining moral soil or spiritual imperfection as would transmute Paradise into a purgatory or a penitentiary, with disciplinary methods and uses. It is argued, indeed, that we cannot conceive of life without progress. This must, of course, be limited to created spiritual life, life imparted in the new creation of grace, for the Blessed Life of God cannot increase in its infinite and immutable perfection. That Life is, at least, to be conceived of as infinitely above and independent of progress. Now there is, we believe, a supernatural grace in death by the Will of God; the seal of incorruption, and the very interior contrast of the outward change, the sad and ghastly superscription and seal of death upon the poor body. The soul is by this grace of God in death prepared for the intermediate state of rest, in which its most inward recesses are reached by the constantly rising tides, that never ebb again, of beatific life, and in which the soul is purified and consecrated immediately so to become a pure and holy shrine, where the inward illumination burns higher and higher in the perpetual Vision of Christ.
* Canon Luckock, . After Death,' p. 36.
We admit, then, of a progress in the intermediate state. But we go farther, and will also admit that the final state itself must have its own infinite progression. For the Life of glory itself will be like an eternally ascending stairs, or like marble altar-steps of perpetual ascent, ever leading the soul upward and still upward into the sanctuary of the Divine Life, and into the awful serenities and into higher revelations of the Divine Love. Yet who would attribute to the final state of glory any 'imperfection'? Perfection of sanctity must certainly be allowed to be the possession and endowment of the saints when risen and glorified, and yet a relative perfection only, and one not excluding the infinite possibilities,--and these are necessities surely in all union of the finite with the Divine and infinite, -of ascent to higher and higher altitudes and elevations of conscious knowledge of, and blessedness in God. Why, then, if we believe the Beatific Life itself capable of perpetual progression, yet excluding, as we must do, all idea of imperfectness from our ideas of that Life of immediate Vision, should we be accused of attributing stagnation to the blissful and preparatory life of Paradise because we insist on sublimating our conceptions of that life with its own immediate Vision,-though a vision subdued perhaps from its more awful glories into the soft vision of the Manhood of the risen Lord, and with 'broken gleams' only of the unveiled glory of God,*--from
Hugo of St. Victor has very beautifully said, though we by no means consent to all his deductions, that in our ascensions of soul towards the nearer contemplation of God, His perpetual veiling of Himself in visible veils and manifestations is the truest and only possible unveiling to the eyes of creaturehood.--Op. i., p. 347.