TO THE READER I heard, within my spirit home, a wail: -
“If only one could come – could tell the tale
Of his experience on that other side;
Could rend the mists – could fling the portals wide,
That we might see – might understand – might know!”
The agony disturbed me, and my heart said – “Go!”
Love cheers me on, but ignorance resists
The power by which I hand this ‘Through the Mists.’
The Author A Voice from the ‘Other Side’
RECORDER’S NOTE TO THE FIRST EDITION
I have no desire to add anything to the following story more than a brief explanation of its origin, and my connection with the same.
It was Christmas Eve, and I was busily engaged with some annuals lying on my table, when a stranger - uninvited and unannounced - entered my room ‘while the door was shut.’ His presence did not disturb me, since I had entertained such visitors before; so, pointing to a seat, I bade him welcome, and asked the purpose of his coming.
He then explained to me a desire he had long cherished, and asked if I would aid him in its consummation. As soon as his mind comprehended the fact that he had passed the grave, a yearning possessed him to find some means of coming back, and telling how men erred in their conception of that life beyond. At first he feared he had no power to break the silence of the tomb, but with experience came the knowledge of the omnipotence of love, by which the lips of death could be unsealed, the proof of which was granted in our conversation. He desired me to write what he should dictate, then give his story to the world.
How could I answer “No!” Was not I, in common with every human being, seeking for that knowledge he had the power to give? Therefore I did not hesitate to take my pen.
I soon discovered his recital, though unorthodox, threw a flood of light upon the Bible teaching, clearing clouds of doubt away, and reconciling passages therein I could not understand before. He came to me a stranger, but I soon learned to love him, and awaited his return with impatience every morning; now, when he has ceased his record for the present, I look upon the seat whereon he sat so many hours as being in some mysterious manner half-way ‘Through the Mists.’
In sending this forth in obedience to his wish, let me append the prayer he breathed when last he left me:- “May God, the Father of the souls of all men, bless this effort of a yearning heart to lift a portion of the weight of ignorance from the shoulders of his brethren in the flesh; and grant that the light of its truth may be a lamp unto their feet in coming ‘Through the Mists.’” To this I add Amen!
Robert James Lees
PREFACE TO THE THIRD IMPRESSION
The necessity for a third impression of this book affords a welcome opportunity of expressing my sense of gratitude for having been chosen as the instrument through which this gospel of hope and comfort has been revealed to the world. Nor do I speak for myself alone, but the author, who is present with me as I write, also desires to add a similar confession for himself. His hope and endeavor was to reach and comfort a few of the wounded sons and daughters of sorrow, but already the testimony of ministry to a multitude lies before us, and now in company with its promised continuation – ‘The Life Elysian’ - we send it forth again to carry on its healing mission in other spheres.
In this connection I desire to answer an oft-repeated question and say that my note to the original edition as to how the book originated is to be taken as a literal fact. The volume is not a novel, nor in any sense a tour-de-force of the imagination, but - stupendous as the assertion may appear - so far as I am concerned, it is the record of experiences dictated to me by a visitor from that ‘home of the soul’ to which we are all hastening onward.
Many others, doubtless anxious to be favored by similar experiences as those I have now so long enjoyed, have asked how they may be attained to. Such an inquiry is not easily answered. Still, after long and prayerful consultation, my friends in the beyond, who understand these things so much better than myself, came to the conclusion to set the process indicatively before the world for the benefit of those who chose to profit by it. This was done, and may be read in the volume entitled ‘The Heretic,’ in which, following the example of Charles Dickens in his ‘David Copperfield’ - while the book is a story and in no sense a biography - the nature of the connection existing between us may be clearly traced, with the successive demands made to test my loyalty and devotion, and then the nature of the reward with which they have more than repaid my humble services.
It is, however, impossible for me to promise that another following in the same steps shall meet with identical experiences. ‘God giveth to every man severally as He will.’ As Paul says to the Corinthians: ‘There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal."
That spiritual gifts were to be the heritage of the followers of Christ is surely beyond question. That they were not intended to be withdrawn, but were promised to as ‘many as the Lord our God shall call,’ the history of saints in all ages and the invasions of the present day testify, for ‘God is no respecter of persons,’ and ‘whatsoever He doeth it shall be for ever.’ I can say no more.
Robert James Lees
November 1st 1905.
CHAPTER I COMING THROUGH THE MISTS
In my earth-life I was called a misanthrope. This is a strange admission with which to break my silence, but being now beyond the consequences to which such frankness might lead, I have no reason - even though I had the will - to speak with less reserve. If any apology be demanded for the pleasant task I have undertaken, let it be found in the ceaseless wail to which I have referred to in my preface to these pages. Is my statement true in that respect? I bid you turn that question inwards. Ask your own heart, and I will be content to take the answer, merely adding that as you are, so is all mankind.
Pardon me one or two sentences in necessary explanation of myself before I carry you across the borders of the other world. My life was overshadowed by the consequences of some prenatal trouble of which I knew nothing, save the phantom remaining to haunt me, and that it robbed me of a mother’s guiding hand. My father was an inflexible Calvinist, with a mode of life as carefully arranged as an architectural elevation, while its working details were as rigorously insisted upon. An elder of the Presbyterian Church, with a banking account of sufficient magnitude to allow him to live a life of most unquestioning faith, he spent all the years of his pilgrimage free from the shadow of reproach.
My brother and sister were not so strictly inclined, and their almost open rebellion, as they grew, by no means tended to soften my father’s character. For myself I neither received from, nor extended to, any member of the household any sympathy. No one ever spoke to me of my mother - her name, in fact, was seldom mentioned - but I always felt that had she lived we should have been all in all to each other, but she was gone, and I was left alone! Books were my only companions - the poets my greatest favorites. My earliest recollections are of the religious baby-farm to which I had been entrusted, whose managers I learned to loathe for the duplicity and hypocrisy they habitually practiced there. With a naturally morbid mind, the shadow of some unknown wrong above me, and a soul shrinking from the appearance of deceit, I soon learned to hate those who did not hesitate to lie in act and prayer, and plead with God to grant success to infamy.
By these things I was gradually led to draw all my comfort from books, and to entertain a great aversion to any fellowship with those about me.
I was naturally of a religious turn of mind, but preferred to solve its questions by the light of my own reason and the plain teachings of the Bible as I could comprehend them. A practical acquaintance with the public worship of the various sects only confirmed my original idea of there being much more of form and fashion than solid worship or spirit in them all, therefore in this, as in everything else, I learned to rely upon myself alone, and trust to the leniency and justice of a righteous God in respect to any error resulting from my honest Endeavour to do His will according to the light within me.
Nevertheless, I had companionship and sweet communion in my worship, after this manner: Led by some influence, to me nothing less than an inspiration, I would find myself in one of the courts and alleys so numerous in the East of London, where vice, poverty, and wretchedness most abound; where help, though urgently needed, is seldom met with; where the inhabitants are not learned in metaphysics, but hunger for the bread of practical sympathy. Among such outcast and fallen members of our common humanity, I always found I had a sermon to preach which was comprehended in every part, a gospel to proclaim that they would gladly hear, a seed to sow which brought forth fruit sixty or a hundredfold.
If the Church was right, and I at the last found that I was wrong, the gratitude which these poor unfortunates showed for the interest I took in them would be sufficient to make the pains of my punishment not only bearable but welcome. There would be plenty of good people in Heaven to ensure the happiness of every soul who should gain an entrance to those streets of gold. I had no voice to sing, and if the religious conversation on earth were fair specimens of what would be the standard there, the goody-goodiness would have no charm for me. Forced into such society, without any congenial work to do, the place would have no interest - no attraction - for me. It was not my idea of Heaven, consequently I did not want it.
It would be very different with the poor, cast adrift into that other place - for if the Church was right the division would be made more upon those lines than any other. The rich build the temples, keep them out of financial difficulties, are constant at the means of grace, make them fashionable, provide everything necessary to worship God in the beauty of architecture and ritual, while they generously subscribe towards the salary of the minister; paying in every way for their salvation, it is but right and honest they should meet with their reward. But the poor, who have to work long hours, with nothing to give, scarcely one suit to wear, and that unpleasantly suggestive by the odors of the workshop, with their vulgar habits and loud-voiced song, for whose accommodation the white-washed, ill-lighted, draughty mission hall is provided, have no right to expect such an abundant entrance as those who contribute better while they live, and can be drawn in a four-horse hearse when they take their departure.
For this reason the poor always had my sympathy. When I thought upon the subject, I often felt as if I should be glad to find the pearly gates shut upon me, if by that means I could be some little consolation to the multitudes in hell. It was wicked - blasphemous - to feel so, so the vicar once told me; but it was constitutional - part of my unfortunate malady, and he found it useless to attempt to change my mind.
I never could understand the righteousness of poverty here and damnation there; or the logical sequence of riches here and salvation there. It was not according to my reading of the Bible, or the teaching of Jesus in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, as I understood the English language. It may have been a defect in my power of analogy, but if so I held to the delusion.
It was one evening, when on my way to visit some of these uncared-for people, that the great change overtook me. I was walking along a crowded footpath, engaged in the contemplation of the lights and shadows visible on the faces of passers-by, when I heard a scream, and saw a child in deadly peril among the horses in the road. He was not far away, so bounding forward - with no thought but for his safety - I reached and dragged him from his hazardous position, then turned, and…
Something touched me. I clasped the boy more firmly and stepped forward. The noise ceased, vehicles and street faded away, as if some great magician had waved his wand, the darkness disappeared, and I was lying upon a grassy slope in an enchanted land.
Neither did all the changes lie in our surroundings. Few people would have been enamored of the ragged child I rushed to save, with his shoeless feet, matted hair, and unwashed face; but the angel I found lying upon my breast would have driven an artist into raptures. For myself, in that instant, I had changed my morning suit for a loosely flowing robe which somehow seemed to be a part of myself; and though I was fully assured of my own individuality. I was curious to know what had taken place, and by what means, in the interval of one solitary step, a transformation of such completeness had been effected.
The lad, though evidently conscious of the alteration, looked into my face with calm laughing eyes, void of any trace of fear; perhaps he expected me to give some explanation, but I needed that myself. Then he buried his head in my shoulder and fell asleep. I sat and nursed him, trying to answer the only question which occupied my mind – “Where are we?”
I was reclining upon the grass of what can only be described as the auditorium of an immense but natural amphitheatre, with the arena occupied by a multitude who appeared to be engaged in the reception of strangers, whom they were welcoming and congratulating. If only I could have understood it, the scene would have been as pleasing as it was brilliant, but, under the circumstances, my feelings were more of curiosity than of appreciation. It resembled the performance of an elaborate tableau of which I held no descriptive program, being alike ignorant of the place, the players and the purpose. This was all that I could understand: - There were two classes of persons represented - the one, evidently residents, attired in garments embracing almost every shade of color with which I was familiar, and some the like of which I had never seen before, and therefore have no means to make you understand. The other, by far the smaller of the two, gave me the idea of strangers, who, having just arrived, stood in need of the help and assistance so freely proffered. Where did they come from, I asked myself? To this I was enabled to find a somewhat satisfactory reply. Before me lay a plain, across which numbers were continually coming and going; at its further side I saw a heavy bank of fog lying, the outlines of which were boldly portrayed as if confined within certain limitations. The atmosphere was so unusually clear, that although the fog was perhaps some two miles distant from where I lay, I could easily discern that they entered the plain from that direction. I now became intensely interested in something which baffled my powers to determine whether it was real or an optical illusion. I noticed that the variegated color of the dresses worn by those who went from us towards the mists gradually faded, until in the distance but one uniform tone of grey was visible; on the contrary, as they, returned the original hues were as mysteriously restored. It seemed to me, at length, as if some magical influence was exerted by that vapor or that the plain was one which might legitimately, be called enchanted.
The moment I saw the fog I was conscious of a cold chill running through me, not due to any change of temperature, which was warm and genial, but such as one experiences at the thought of leaving a cozy fire to become enveloped in the piercing mist of autumn or early winter. What caused this is more than I can say - perhaps it was sympathy with those I saw emerging from such surroundings; for many were so overcome they scarcely had the strength to reach the open plain; while for some the watchers plunged into the mists and carried them through; others being borne all the way across the plain before they had the power to stand upon their feet.
How long I was thus employed I cannot tell, but suddenly my attention was attracted to someone standing beside me and I arose, for the first time becoming aware that the slope whereon I had been sitting was occupied by many, evidently strangers, like myself. This, however, did not interest me so much just then as it would previously have done; all my mind being centered upon the person who stood beside me, in the hope that he would be able to solve the problem so perplexing to me.
He divined my purpose before I had time to frame a question, and, stretching out his hands towards the still sleeping lad, said :
“There is someone coming who will answer all your enquiries, my duty is to take the boy.”
“To take the boy?” I answered, scarcely knowing whether I ought to give him up. “Where? Home?”
“But how shall we get back? How did we come here? Where are we?”
“You must be patient for a little while,” he answered, “then you will know and understand all about it.”
“But, tell me, is this delirium or a dream?”
“No! You will find you have been dreaming; now you are awake.”
“Then, please, tell me where we are, and how we came here; I am so perplexed to know that.”
“You are in a land of surprises, but you need not fear, it will bring for you nothing but rest and compensation.”
“That only increases my difficulty,” I said entreatingly.
“But just now it was night in London, where I saved that boy from being run over. Then everything faded like a flash and l found we were here. Where then, is this place. - What do you call it?”
“The land of immortality?”
“What! - Dead? - How?”
I was conscious of falling back a step as the stupendous announcement fell upon my ears, but there was something so reassuring in his manner that I instinctively returned and grasped the hand he held out to give me welcome. Among all the theories by which I had tried to solve the mystery, this one had never suggested itself - it would not have been entertained for a moment if it had, while the unexpected surroundings would have warranted me in dismissing it. I was astonished at the unquestioning faith with which I accepted his declaration, while his sympathetic composure absolutely forbade any sense of agitation as the startling truth was fully comprehended.
“No! Not dead!” he replied, after a moment’s pause.
Did you ever know dead men to talk, and be surprised? When a boy leaves home for school, or school to take his part in the more serious events of life - when a girl leaves her father’s for her husband’s home, have you been in the habit of saying they were dead ? Certainly not! Neither are you right in supposing you are dead since passing through the change which has overtaken you.”
“But I have made an unmistakable exit from one world and an entrance into another; therefore while I am alive to this new life, I am dead to that which I have left behind.”
“You will now be called upon to enlarge your conceptions and ideas; as your homes on earth are separate habitations, and nations form the dominions of different kings, so the various states and worlds in this life become the many mansions in the universal kingdom of our Father-God. Therefore you are only dead to earth in the same way as the schoolboy dies as a scholar, but has the greater power of a teacher; or as the girl ceases to be a resident, and becomes a visitor.”
“I do not understand you,” I replied.
“Let me give you the outline of a parable over which you may reflect until someone else is sent to afford you clearer information. Children are coaxed to sleep on earth by the singing of nursery rhymes, the fabulous heroes of which become historical characters in the minds of the little listeners, until the realities of life dispel the illusion. So children of a larger growth, upon entering this life, find that even so have they been lulled to spiritual slumber by the fictions of the nurses of their souls. It is the awakening to the truth of this fact which makes this a land of surprises, as you will find it to be as you proceed. But now I must leave you and take our little brother to the children’s home, where you will meet him again presently.”
With a kindly salutation he departed, and I was left alone to think on all he had said. His parable was pregnant with revelation that the future alone could intelligently unfold, but one thing was evident - I had taken the irrevocable step - had solved the grand secret; yet what had I learned? I was merely waiting with the knowledge that the act of dying had been unconsciously accomplished. What would be the result? Whatever it might be I could not now go back; I had to meet my fate. One thing I had been assured: there was no need to fear. I did not - was not even anxious - I was content. So I waited and pondered.
CHAPTER II THE JUDGMENT HALL
My reflections ran in something like the following strain:
A land of surprises, is it? Yes! And why did he not say a land of revelation as well ? How long have I been here? An hour - a day - a month? I know not. By my idea of time it seems as if I had but just made that attempt to save the boy; but measured by the revelation, I feel as if I had been here for years.
How strange that I should have no knowledge how I came away! I did not fall - felt no pain - had no indication of reviving from a swoon - how was it? How many people cloud their lives with fear born of the dread they feel of dying; how many teachers delight to dwell upon the terrors of that hour when the soul stands face to face with death? How vastly different has my experience been!
I wonder whether among all the surprises of this life I shall find it possible –
“Oh, God! I know not yet where Thou art, or who Thou art; but the revelation which has been given to me is full of love and bright with promise, therefore I feel it has come from Thee, and fills my soul with hope. I know not yet if I am saved or lost; but in Thy mercy hear me, and in Thy pity for the sons of men, permit me, if it be possible by some means which I do not know - by some method Thy love is able to devise - once more to make my voice to reach the mortal state, and help to lift the weight of error lying upon the shoulders of my fellow-men. Thou knowest, O my God, the blindness and ignorance of those who now profess to lead Thy children on. Many have not tasted Thy great love; many have not felt Thy grace; many are groping in the dark, blinded by the traditions of men; many have wandered from the fold. The songs of Zion have been forgotten in the greed for fame, and wealth, and power; and weary pilgrims tramp their homeward way, with sighs, and groans, and tears, beating time to the rhythm of their march. If any joy is here for me, O God, my Father, I am ready now to forfeit it. If the penalty I must pay is agony in hell, I am willing to endure it, if in Thy mercy Thou wilt send me back, with power to tell the truth of Thy unchanging love, and lift the load of doubt from those who, seeking, know Thee not.”
Is it wrong of me to say I know not where or who God is? Perhaps so! But it is honest, and I cannot but think that honesty is right. Everything around me is so contrary to what I expected, I feel afraid to trust to anything I knew; and the torment of yearning for my fellows to know the truth as far as I behold it, force me to breathe that prayer. If some strong hand could, but for an instant, tear the veil aside, and bid the multitudes of earth behold the future as it really is, what a revelation it would be! How it would change their sighs to songs, remove all doubts of God’s eternal love, and proclaim a gospel for which all hearts are crying. It would be to earth what it is to me; I who more than once, or twice, or thrice had been cautioned that the life I led could only meet with condemnation at the bar of God; and yet I found the first words addressed to me were words of hope and encouragement - ‘I need not fear’ - How different a declaration is made on earth, where the love of God is limited to suit the requirements of every sect, while wrath and retribution are left as infinite quantities to drive the sinner to salvation. What can such teachers think when they awake to a knowledge of the truth as I have found it here?
“Here! But where is ‘here’? That is a question that has not yet been satisfactorily answered. Is it heaven? No; surely not! Or if so, how strangely different from the harping, singing, crown-decked throng the Church expects to find. It is not - ! No! All the surroundings are just as incapable of such an interpretation. What then can be the condition of this place? Is it possible that there is an intermediate state after all? Perhaps so! And over the crest of these hills the judgment throne may stand to which I shall be summoned by and by. I had not thought of that; but the suggestion comes without a trace of fear, the words I have heard fill me with hope which I am sure can never be betrayed. Whatever the issue may be I am content to learn it in the usual course of events, in the meantime I will rest.”
It is a popular idea that our entrance to the spirit-world will be greeted by friends and relatives who have preceded us, and in any cases this is so; but strange to say, even after I had learned the nature of the change which had come over me, the thought of such a meeting never occurred to me, until I felt, rather than heard, someone call my name. I turned, and saw a young woman, clad in the daintiest of pink robes, coming down the hill towards me. I was not sure, but thought her face bore a resemblance to one I had known in the long ago, except that the old furrows of care and want had been transformed into lines and curves of beauty. I had long since forgotten her, but she remembered me, and with eyes brilliant with welcome, and hands extended to clasp my own, she was the first of all I knew to greet me.
“A thousand welcomes” she cried, as she grasped my hands; “I have but just received the news of your coming; am I the first to meet you?”
“Yes, Helen, the first of all I know.”
“I am glad of that; I always hoped it would be so. I have watched, and prayed and waited for it; it is all I can do to thank you.”
“Thank me for what?” I asked in astonishment.
“I need not tell you that,” she answered. “Our Father knows, and He will repay you.”
At that moment I found that heaven is quite as much a condition of the soul as a locality, and true friendship is a great factor in completing that condition. Only a short time before Helen’s advent I had almost satisfactorily assured myself that I was not yet in heaven, but her appearance had reversed the decision. It had brought me such an overwhelming sense of joy. I was so satisfied, I had no conception there could be more happiness to follow; and this resulted from the presence of one to whom I had been but imperfectly known on earth.
Her story, so far as I knew it, was not a long one. Her mother had died of sheer starvation in her Endeavour to maintain three children and a sick husband by her labors as a charwoman, supplemented by Helen’s scanty wages in a match factory. The girl was but fifteen years of age when the whole burden of that home fell upon her shoulders in its heavier form of greatly diminished means. Bravely she struggled on, toiling far beyond her strength to keep the wolf of hunger at bay, and save the home from its threatened destruction. But the wages for matchmaking are more easily counted in coppers than gold, and the little extra she could earn in other ways was but a drop in the ocean of their requirements, so she fell in the heat of the battle, crushed and broken-hearted.
I learned her story just before her death, and called to see her in the hospital where she was lying. On several days I sat for half an hour or so trying to comfort her with the assurance that the children would be cared for when she was taken away, for I found the uncertainty as to their welfare was the sharpest thorn in her dying pillow. She was deaf to the missionary’s entreaties to prepare her soul for death. - She had no fear for that. - Did not care about herself. She wanted to know the children would be safe, and when I gave her a solemn promise she grew calm and closed her eyes in peace.
Her personal connection with those children I had long forgotten, since our acquaintance was of such brief duration; but in the first moments of that re-union I felt I had discovered one of those consolations for which I had long been seeking - a sister’s love.
“Are you surprised that I should be the first to meet you?” she asked.
“I can scarcely say; surprises double on each other so rapidly that I begin to think they are natural here.”
“If not surprised, are you glad that you have met me once again?”
“Yes, Helen! More than glad,” I answered, “for your sake quite as much as for my own. You have been happier here than you expected, have you not?”
“Yes! Much happier; and it has always seemed to be increased by your assurances that it would be so. Once I almost feared you were wrong; but when I found that you were right, for your sake I was increasingly glad.”
“It always appeared to me,” I responded, “that whatever was done for love’s sake could not be wrong. I did not profess to know much about God, and now I am conscious of knowing even less than I thought, still I have not changed my idea.”
“Why, ‘God is love,’ Fred; that is all we know about Him. ‘That which is born of love is also born of God.’ Come home with me and let me tell you what I have learned about Him since I came here.”
“Not yet,” I answered. “You must not forget that I have just arrived, and do not know where I have to go at present.”
“You will learn all about that as you proceed,” she said, as she turned to go; “come with me now.”
“But have I no one to see? Is there no - ”
She saw the perplexity and uncertainty which must have been so plainly visible upon my face, at which she smiled and asked:
“Is it the judgment seat you are looking for?”
“Yes! For at present I know nothing of my position, nor where I must go.”
“Fred, get the earth ideas out of your head as soon as possible. You have already passed the judgment hall, and carry its verdict in the dress you wear.”
“Passed it? Where? I have no knowledge!”
“Perhaps not; but it lies there in those mists from which you see so many coming into the plain,” and as she spoke she pointed in the direction to which my attention had been previously called.
“Is that the way I came?” I asked.
“Yes; that is the only way of entrance into this life!”
“I knew nothing of it - was not conscious of anything until I found myself lying here where we are now standing.”
“That is quite possible, since yours was one of those sudden passages which hurry you so quickly into this state as to leave no consciousness of the event. I often think it is a great blessing to come in such a way.”
“Why? But do I weary you with my questions?”
“No. It will be a pleasure to tell you as much as possible though, as I have not been here so very long, you will have many questions to ask that I cannot answer, and will have to submit them to others who know more than me.”
“I feel that you are just the teacher that I require at present, since all is so different from what I expected. I am like a child with everything to learn.”
“I shall be glad to tell you what I can; but you must not talk of being tired, for no one wearing our color can grow weary.”
“Wearing our color” I repeated, not knowing what she meant.
“Yes. You will presently understand that the color of the dress is an indication of the condition of the wearer; but you cannot grasp this until you have seen it for yourself.”
“But tell me why you think it best to enter this life in the manner in which I came?”
“If you will regard the entrance of a soul into this life as birth, rather than death, and the sickness preceding it as a more or less prolonged labor, with a corresponding prostration to follow, you will understand me better. See,” she continued, pointing towards the mists, “how many have to be assisted - some even carried - into life; how some pause to gain strength to come forward, and tell me, do you not think it preferable to come as you have done?”
“When you consider it in that light of course it is; but you know we have been taught to look upon it from the other side.”
“That is a great error, which has to be corrected here. Man practically regards the earth life as the chief. rather than the subordinate condition of existence. As a spiritual being, he should be educated to look upon everything from a spiritual standpoint, in the same way as a schoolboy is encouraged to regard his studies in the light of what they will afterwards enable him to accomplish. Earth is not all, neither is it a finality of development, but rather the elementary stage, upon which this is the next advance, while the errors of the lower state have to be uprooted here before we can assume the positions we should be fitted to enter upon on our arrival; this, however will be more forcibly illustrated for you presently.”
“I am anxious to hear something about that judgment hall. If I came through it unconsciously, as I must have done, how can a righteous sentence be passed upon a man in such a condition?”
“The idea of the judgment hall is another misapprehension owing to the literal interpretation of what was only intended as a parabolic metaphor.”
“Do you mean that I have no knowledge of it, for the simple reason that no such place exists?” I asked.
“So far as there being a regular trial and sentence by a personal judge, it is a fiction; the verdict of the bar of God is more just and unerring than that could be, and asks no evidence other than the defendant offers. The text which hung above my bed in the hospital is the law upon which that judgment is given, and from which no appeal is asked or granted – ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.’ Justice cannot miscarry, since no man is called to give evidence against his fellow. As the soul comes into contact with those mists, it separates from the flesh, and is stripped of any false and seeming character, which may have been assumed, no matter under what circumstances or for what purpose. The function of the mists is to dissolve everything but the spiritual. There all the seals of life are broken, everything which has been hidden is revealed, the books are opened wide, whether to acquit or to condemn. It would be just as rational to expect a builder to say, as he put the final touches to a cottage, ‘that ought to have been a cathedral, and I believe it is’; or for a farmer to say to his men, ‘that field of turnips should have been wheat, and I believe it is; go and reap it,’ and find their belief honored in the transformation, as for a man, when he feels the chill of dissolution upon him, to think that by the acceptance of any creed or system of belief, he can, in that moment of fear, eradicate the evils of a life-time, and receive an abundant entrance into everlasting joy. No, Fred! As the mortal drops away there is evolved from the spirit a natural covering in accordance with its life and character, the color being determined by the acts and motives of the past - not by the creeds it has held or the professions it has made - and that color is the righteous sentence which the soul has passed upon itself by virtue of the invariable law of God.”
“Then you subordinate faith to works?”
“Works are to faith precisely what the spirit is to the body - the life. ‘Faith without works is dead,’ therefore faith can only be manifested by works. The teaching of Jesus is ‘Inasmuch as ye did it,’ not believed it, and nothing but love and noble deeds are able to enter this life in company with the soul; all forms of belief are lost in yonder mists.”
“Who then can be saved?”
“We hope that every individual child will be, ultimately, and I think if one shall be excepted it will be his own fault entirely.”
“Because that judgment is not final, it only determines what position the soul must assume on entering this life, it has still the power to elevate itself as well as the assistance of others who are always working to raise those in the conditions beneath them. Thus the sentence is not for eternity and vindictive; it is probationary and remedial.”
“Why, Helen, do you mean to say there is no hell?”
“Not by any means; we have hells of torment far worse than your imagination can picture, but they are only purifying conditions and have been provided in the fullness of our Father’s love, as you will presently be made to understand.”
“I have been fortunate in finding such a teacher to correct my ignorance,” I said. “Before I saw you I felt like a child at school whose education had been sadly neglected; but now, it seems that all I know is wrong, and has to be uprooted.”
“You will find that full provision has been made for all corrections as you proceed,” she answered. “And knowledge is easily acquired by those who wish to learn. It is an active life upon which you enter; every person capable of work has some appointed mission, so that we are all ‘workers together with God.’ My place for the present is here, to meet those who have just arrived, so I have been especially instructed in such matters as are first enquired into.”
“If the verdict is given upon works alone, who are they who receive the abundant entrance promised so liberally to believers?” I asked.
“In that judgment,” she answered, “every act, motive, and attendant circumstance in the life of a man has its legitimate consideration, and is appraised at its sterling value, and the balance struck accordingly. Acts of charity originating in expediency are gauged by the attainment of the object desired, and leave no balance to the life’s account; munificent philanthropy bestowed for political or selfish purposes is recompensed by the approbation it received; the building and endowment of a hospital or church by wealth amassed in the drink or such like traffic, is counterbalanced by the shattered lives and ruined homes of its many victims. Self-sacrificing love, to relieve pain, distress and want, not done to be seen of men, but from sympathy with the weak and unfortunate brother; the motive which prompts a man to give what he himself may need, to lessen the sufferings of another; the patient endurance of wrong until the Father determines to avenge; the charity which rises to the defense of the weak against the strong, at the expense of obloquy and shame; the heart which refuses to condemn when appearances are black because the whole circumstances are not known; the man who, when injured, steps in to break the blow of justice because he too would wish to be forgiven;- these are they who, in that judgment, lift up their heads and hear ‘well-done.’
This makes all men equal in their advantages and adds commensurate responsibility where wealth or power has been entrusted.”
“Would you teach men to repudiate wealth?” I asked.
“Certainly not; but we would teach them that every gift is only held in stewardship, and that they will be called upon to render an account in the mists. Our Father has placed upon earth enough to supply the needs and give some comforts to every one of his children; but the strong have taken away the portion of the weak, until luxury and starvation abounds. Is this right? No! And at the judgment, the plea that the wealth so held was honorably acquired will not avail, since God designs that it must also be, lovingly dispensed. Take one such man, who, having made division of his wealth among his children, saw the elder taking the portion of the younger son away; think you that father would be willing to complacently allow the wrong? Shall God be less just than we demand a man should be? Of course not! The bond of brotherhood is more powerful than legal right in the sight of God, and the verdict of His court is given in accordance with family responsibility, not mercantile law.”
“Suppose one was anxious to carry out a good work but pressure of circumstances prevented. How would that be regarded?”
“That will be more ably explained to you by others presently, but in the meantime I can partially answer it by telling you of one of the first receptions I attended after my arrival.”
“Do you hold receptions then in heaven?”
“Yes. Though they are somewhat different to yours. When any friends go across the boundary to bring a pilgrim home, we call it a reception. That I refer to was one of those abundant entrances you speak of, and Omra went to welcome the brother.”
“Who is Omra?”
“The governor of this state, and the highest spirit I have seen except Jesus.”
“Have you seen Him, Helen?”
“Yes, once; but He was at a distance from me, so I did not speak to Him. But to tell you of this reception. The man we went to meet was an inmate of a workhouse, but there were thousands of spirits present to receive him.”
“From a workhouse?”
“Yes! I shall never forget the scene. When Omra drew near to the bed, the closing eyes caught a sight of him, and the coming saint cried to his friend, who was asleep on a chair beside him: ‘John! John! I am going now; someone has come for me! John! Don’t you see how light the room is? See, the angels! And - and- No! Not Jesus! Not for me! Then the poor feeble frame, which had half risen in his excitement, fell back; and the watcher found it cold when he awoke, for the spirit had dropped its veil of flesh.
“As the soul came away, Omra threw his arm around him, and bade him welcome. Then, with a bewildered, almost frightened look, the man gazed upon the host that crowded round him, and, turning to Omra, stammered:
“This – is – not - for me! It is - a mistake! You - did not - come for me?”
“Yes, we did, my brother,” replied Omra; “we do not make mistakes; they are all behind you now.”
“But – but - it cannot be for me. I - I have not - been a good man! My Lord - it must be a mistake! What have I done?”
“Fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and ministered to the sick,” Omra replied.
“Ah! Now I know you are wrong. I have been almost all my life in the work ‘us. I never had any money to do it at all. I know’d it warn’t for me.”
“You once gave your dinner to a hungry lad.” said Omra.
“You gave a pair of boots, you could badly spare, to a wandering tramp; you gave your glasses to a poor old woman who could not see to read, and left yourself in the same condition; you sat beside an old comrade when he was ill, and nursed him back to health; you have been patient in your enforced poverty, and encouraged others to hope for the best and be contented. – Have you not?”
“Well, yes I did sit beside old Bill, a bit; but he’d ‘a’ done the same for me, if I’d’ a’ wanted it. I don’t know much about the rest.”
“But we do; such deeds are never forgotten with us, and there are many things you wished to do if you had but had the power. Such honest will is always accepted by God as if the deed had been successfully performed, and so, you see, we are not wrong.”
“By this time he had been carried some distance from his body, and had assumed his new robes, in which he was triumphantly escorted to one of the many mansions prepared for such as he.”
“What a surprise for him,” I remarked, as she concluded; why, it must have been as great as my own. But where are these homes you speak of? I have not seen anything in the shape of a building yet.”
“They are over the crest of the hill; have you not been to the top?”
“Come then, let us go; that will enable you to turn your back on the mists, and I will show you the country in another direction.”