« PredošláPokračovať »
The joy of finding them awaiting us
Yet is not this a thought sufficient to make us very grave, that we must ourselves pass through that gate of mystery and pain, as they have done, and venture all its unknown possibilities of change, before we can ever see our beloved again ? That necessity stands between us and them, and what it involves, who can certainly say? There is an old tradition,--surely the invention (if, indeed, invention) of a mind inspired with a great acuteness of conception of, and insight into the tremendous realities of death, that the first words of Lazarus, one of the few revenants from the unseen world, anxiously asked of our Lord if he must again pass through those solemn portals and die again, and that, upon learning that he must again tread that way, he, so it is related, was never known again to smile.† When the last rites of death are, as now, being turned into floral spectacles by a hideous perversion of taste, (to put it on the lowest ground,) it is well to recall such a story, and to recover for the infinite majesty and grandeur of death something of its lost dignity, and to remember that its best ornament is the solemn homage of a sacred awe, and of a simple religious sorrow.
In 'The Octavius' of Minucius Felix, a Roman lawyer converted to Christianity, and whose treatise is an doubted relic of the earlier primitive times, -although it is
• Ezekiel,' p. 21, slightly altered. + Trench, ‘On the Miracles,' p. 416, note.
I St. Jerome, tom. X. 280, G. Dean Milman considers 'The Octavius' more like in style to 'the golden days of Latin prose' than any late treatises (“History of Christianity,' iii., p. 362. Cf. also 322, n.). If Tertullian borrowed from Minucius, as Niebuhr and Muralto suppose, the date would be about 166 A.D. ; on the contrary supposition, probably some fifty years later.
still disputed whether certain similarities between it and Tertullian's famous 'Apology’imply an earlier date for "The Octavius' or 'The Apology,'—these striking words occur : “We (Christians) do not crown the dead. In this indeed I the more wonder at you (heathen) for applying to a lifeless person, who does not feel, a torch ; or a garland to one who does not smell it, when either, as blessed, he does not want, or, being miserable, he has no pleasure in flowers. We (Christians) adorn our obsequies with the same tranquillity with which we live, and we do not bind to us a withering garland, but we wear one living with eternal flowers from God, since we are animated to the hope of future felicity by the confidence of His present majesty.' It may
be added that in his learned edition of the 'Apostolic Fathers,'* Bishop Lightfoot has discussed the date of • The Octavius,' and assigned it to the earlier date, circa 160 A.D., upon what seem tolerably conclusive premises.
Let our thoughts end with some beautiful words, written long ago by one, from whom we have already quoted, and who belonged to the same religious school as devout George Herbert ; of one of that spiritual choir whose songs of the new life in God sound so unlike the poor, thin voices of these world-loving days :
“They are all gone into a world of light,
And I, alone, sit lingering here ;
And my sad heart doth clear.
Like stars upon some gloomy grove ;
Aster the sun's remove.
• Dear, beauteous Death! the Jewel of the just,
Shining nowhere but in the dark,
Could man outlook that mark ! “He that hath found some fledged bird's-nest may know
At first sight if the bird be flown;
That is to him unknown.
Call to the soul, when man doth sleep,
And into glory peep.
My perspective still as they pass ;
Where I shall need no glass.'
* Henry Vaughan, ‘Poems' (“Silex Scintillans ’), p. 152.
THE GARDEN OF PARADISE.
* Three hours of an unfathomed pain,
• Be more to me at last, О words,
A little for the harps to play.'
BISHOP ALEXANDER, 'St. Augustine's Holiday,' p. 84. To how many the Unknown and the Eternal has no interest! It only teases and frets them, if it even intrudes unbidden into their thoughts, because it embitters momentarily their content with the present. These earth-centred, time-chained souls are only vitally interested in the life that is. It would even seem as if most hearts were so idolatrously devoted to time, its fashions, interests, ambitions, that they resent, even angrily, the intrusion of eternity, which yet, with its immense arms stretched forth hungrily towards our creaturehood, must in the end receive and possess us for ever. Yet the shallow reaches of time are suffered to drown the unsounded depths of eternity in our thoughts, and the narrow ways of this hurrying life rudely to jostle aside all longing for, and even the remembrance of the wide home of love that is in God.
But there are hearts inspired so far with a consciousness of immortality as to be perpetually haunted by thoughts of the supernatural. It is become like a hidden presence of awe invisibly felt, a projection of the unseen into the commonplace existence of to-day. Where is' (they cry) that Unknown Land that lies beyond the mystery of death? And what are the conditions of life and of being there? Does the liberated soul exchange its present activities for a dull unconsciousness and for annihilated sensibilities? Or does it yet live ? And under what altered and new conditions ?' Such questionings from hearts adventurous and heroic enough to climb to the