The first time I returned to the dear heavenly home after my long delay on earth, as I approached the entrance, in the company of my brother-in-law Frank, we saw a tall young man standing close by the open gate, looking wistfully the way we came. As we drew near, he said in an almost pathetic voice: “Is my mother coming?”
A closer scrutiny revealed his identity, and I exclaimed with joy, extending both hands to him, “My dear Carroll!”
He smiled a bright welcome as he extended both hands, but said wistfully, “I so hoped my mother would return with you, aunt, when you came back. Did you see her?”
“Once only, for a brief moment. She is very happy and bears her years well. She will come to you now before long, but then you know it will be forever.”
“Yes, I know,” he answered brightly. “I will be patient. But,” he added confidentially, “I so want her to see the lovely home I am building for her. Will you come and see it?”
“Of course I will, gladly.”
“Yes, if I may;” looking at my brother-in-law for his sanction.
He nodded his head pleasantly as he said: “That is right, Carroll. Have her help you in every way you can. I will leave you two together, and you will bring her to me later?”
“Indeed, yes,” said my nephew; and we went away happily together.
“Where is this wonderful house,” Carroll?”
“Not very far beyond Mrs. Wickham’s,” he said.
We soon reached it, and I was truly charmed with it in every way. It was fashioned much like my brother, Nell’s home, and was, like it, built of polished woods. It was only partly finished, and was most artistically done. Although uncompleted, I was struck with the fact that everything was perfect so far as finished. There was no debris anywhere: no chips, no shavings, no dust. The wood seemed to have been perfectly prepared elsewhere—where, I have no idea. The pieces were made to fit accurately, like the parts of a great puzzle. It required much skill and artistic taste to properly adjust each to its place. This, my nephew, who even in the earthly life was quite a mechanical genius, seemed to have no difficulty doing, and the house was slowly growing into beauty and symmetry. After showing me all over the house, he at last drew aside the hangings before an entrance, beyond which were two rooms, not only entirely finished, but beautifully furnished as well.
“I finished and furnished these rooms complete, so that if my mother came before the house was ready, she could occupy them at once. You know there is no noise from workmen here; no hammering, no unwelcome sounds.”
I thought at once of the Temple of Jerusalem, where, during its erection, there was “neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house.”
“It is very beautiful, my dear boy,” I said enthusiastically. “It will give her great joy to know you did it for her. But what is this—a fireplace?” pausing before a lovely open chimney, wherein wood was piled ready to be lit. “Is it ever cold enough here for fires?”
“It is never cold,” he answered, “but the fire here never sends out unneeded warmth. We have its cheer and beauty and glow, without any of its discomforts. You remember my mother loves to sit by an open fire; so I have arranged this for her.”
“It is charming! But didn’t you make the stained-glass windows also?”
“No, I have a friend who has been taught that art, and we exchange work. He helps me with the windows, and I in turn help him with his fine woodwork and inlaying. I am going to make a ‘flower room’ for my mother similar to yours, only of lilies and violets, which will retain their perfume always.”
“How lovely! I want to thank you, dear Carroll, for your share in our ‘flower room.’ It is the most exquisite work I ever saw; and it is doubly so when I remember whose hands fashioned it.”
“It was a labor of love with us all,” he said simply.
“That is what enhances its beauty for me,” I said. “But sit here by me now, and tell me about yourself. Do you spend all your time at this delightful work?”
“Oh, no, indeed! Perhaps what we used to call two or three hours daily. Much of my time is still spent with my Grandfather Ruter. I do not know what I should have done when I first came here, but for him. I was so ignorant about this life, and came so suddenly.”
“Yes, dear boy, I know,” I said sympathetically.
“He met me at the very entrance, and took me home at once, where he and grandma did everything possible to instruct and help me. But I was, I am still, far below what I ought to be. I would give a year out of this blessed life—I would even go back to the old life for an entire year—if I only could go to my old friends, or better, into every Sunday school in the world, and beseech the girls and boys to try to understand and profit by the instruction they receive there. Why, I used to go to Sunday school, Sunday after Sunday, help sing the hymns, and read the lesson, and listen to all that was said; and I really enjoyed ever moment of the time. Sometimes I would feel a great longing after a better life, but there seemed to be no one to especially guide or help me, and, the greater part of the time, what I heard one Sunday was never once spoken of or even thought of till another Sunday came, so that the impression made was very transient. Why don’t boys and girls talk more about what they hear at Sunday school? We were all ready enough to talk about a show or whatever, after it was over, but seldom of the Sunday school, when we were together. Why don’t teachers take more interest in the daily lives of their students? Why is there so little helpful talk in ordinary home life? Oh, I wish I could go back and tell them this!”
His face beamed with enthusiasm as he talked, and I, too, wished it might be possible for him to do as he desired. But alas! “they will not be persuaded even if one arise from the dead,” I thought.
“It is now time for me to go with my grandfather,” he said, rising, “but we will walk together as far as your home; and you will often let me see you, will you not?”
“Gladly,” I answered, as we set forth.
We still conversed of many things, as we walked, and when we parted at the door I said, “I will soon learn how to weave lovely draperies; then I can help you, when you are ready for them.”
“That will make my work more delightful still,” was his reply, as he hastened on in the direction of my father’s home.
As time passed, and I grew more accustomed to the heavenly life around me, I found its loveliness unfolded to me like the slow opening of a rare flower. Delightful surprises met me at every turn. At one point a dear friend, from whom I had parted years ago in the earth-life, would come unexpectedly upon me with cordial greeting; another time someone—perhaps on earth greatly admired, but from whom I had held aloof, from the fear of unwelcome intrusion—would approach me, showing the lovely soul so full of responsive kindness and congenial thought, that I could but feel a pang of regret for what I had lost. Then the clear revelation of some truth, only partly understood in life, though eagerly sought for, would stand out clear and strong before me, overwhelming me with its luster, and perhaps showing the close tie linking the earth-life with the divine.
But the most wonderful to me was the occasional meeting with someone whom I had never hoped to meet “over there,” who, with eager handclasp and tearful eyes, would pour forth his earnest thanks for some helpful word, some solemn warning, or even some stern rebuke, that had turned him, all unknown to myself, from the paths of sin into the “life everlasting.” Oh, the joy to me of such a revelation! Oh, the regret that my earth-life had not been more full of such work for eternity!
My first impulse every morning on arousing from happy, blissful rest, was to hasten to the “river of life” and plunge into its wonderful waters, so refreshing, so invigorating, so inspiring. With a heart full of thanksgiving and lips full of joyful praise, morning after morning—sometimes in company with my brother-in-law, sometimes alone—I hastened there, always returning full of new life and hope and purpose to our home, where for a time I listened to my brother-in-law’s entrancing revelations and instructions.
One morning, soon after my return from my first visit to earth, as I was on my way to the river, my voice joined to the wonderful anthem of praise everywhere sounding, I saw a lovely young girl approaching me swiftly, with outstretched arms.
“Dear, dear Aunt Rebecca!” she called, as she drew near, “don’t you know me?”
“My little Mae!” I cried, gathering the dainty creature into my arms. “Where did you spring from so suddenly, dear? Let me look at you again!” holding her at arm’s length for a moment, only to tenderly draw her to myself again.
“You have grown very beautiful, my child. I may say this to you here without fear, I am sure. You were always lovely; you are simply radiant now. Is it this divine life?”
“Yes,” she said modestly and sweetly; “but most of all it’s being near the Savior so much.”
“Ah, yes, that is it—being near Him! That will make any being radiant and beautiful,” I said.
“He is so good to me; so generous, so tender! He seems to forget how little I have done to deserve his care.”
“He knows you love him, dear heart; that means everything to him.”
“Love him! Oh, if loving him deserves reward, I am sure I ought to have every wish of my heart, for I love him a thousand-fold better than anything in earth or heaven. I would die for him!”
The sweet face grew surpassingly radiant and beautiful as she talked, and I began to dimly understand the wonderful power of Christ among the redeemed in heaven. This dear child, so lovely in all mortal graces, so full of earth’s keenest enjoyments during the whole of her brief life—pure and good, as we count goodness below, yet seemingly too absorbed in life’s pleasures to think deeply of the things she revered and honored in her heart. Now in this blessed life counted the privilege of loving Christ, of being near him, beyond every other joy! And how that love refined and beautified the giver! As a great earthly love always shines through the face and elevates the whole character of the one who loves, so this divine love uplifts and glorifies the giver, until not only the face but the entire person radiates the glory that fills the heart.
“Come with me to the river, Mae,” I said presently, after we had talked together for some time; “come with me for a delightful plunge.”
“Gladly,” she said; “but have you ever been to the lake or the sea?”
“The lake or the sea?” I echoed. “No indeed. “Are there a lake and a sea here?”
“Certainly there are,” said Mae, with a little pardonable pride that she should know more of the heavenly surroundings than I. “Shall we go to the lake today, and leave the sea for another day? Which shall it be?”
“Let it be the lake today,” I said.
So, turning in an entirely different direction from the path that led to the river, we walked joyously on, still talking as we went. So much to ask, so much to recall, so much to look forward to with joy! Once she turned to me and asked quickly: “When is my Uncle Will coming?”
My hand closed tightly over hers, and a sob almost rose in my throat, though I answered calmly: “That is in God’s hands alone; we may not question.”
“Yes, I know. His will is always right; but I so long to see my dear uncle again; and to ‘long’ is not to fret.”
She had grown so womanly, so wise, this child of tender years, since we parted, that it was a joy to talk with her. I told her of my sad errand to earth, and the sorrow of the dear ones I had left.
“Yes, yes, I know it all!” she whispered, with her soft arms about me. “But it will not be long to wait. They will come soon. It never seems long to wait for anything here. There is always so much to keep one busy; so many pleasant duties, so many joys – oh, it will not be long!”
Thus she cheered and comforted me as we walked through the ever-varying and always perfect landscape. At length, lifting her arm and pointing with her rosy finger, she cried: “Behold! Isn’t it divinely beautiful?”
I caught my breath, then stopped abruptly and covered my face with my hands to shield my eyes from the glorified scene. No wonder my brother-in-law had not brought me to this place sooner; I was scarcely yet spiritually strong enough to look upon it. When I slowly lifted my head again, Mae was standing like one entranced. The golden morning light rested upon her face, and, mingling with the radiance that had birth within, almost transfigured her. Even she, so long an inhabitant here, had not yet grown accustomed to its glory.
“Look, darling auntie! It is God’s will that you should see,” she softly whispered, not once turning her eyes away from the scene before her. “He let me be the one to show you the glory of this place!”
I turned and looked, like one but half awakened. Before us spread a lake as smooth as glass, but flooded with a golden glory caught from the heavens, that made it seem like a sea of molten gold. The blossom and the fruit-bearing trees grew down to its very border in many places, and far, far away, across its shining waters, arose the domes and spires of what seemed to be a mighty city. Many people were resting upon its flowery banks, and on the surface of the water were boats of wonderful structure, filled with happy souls, and propelled by an unseen power. Little children, as well as grown persons, were floating upon or swimming in the water; and as we looked a band of singing cherubs, floating high overhead, drifted across the lake, their baby voices borne to us where we stood, in notes of joyful praise.
“Come,” said Mae, seizing my hand, “let us join them;” and we hastened onward.
“Glory and honor!” sang the child voices. “Dominion and power!” caught up and answered the voices of the vast multitude below; “be unto Him who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever,” sang both child-voices and multitude together; and I found that Mae and I were joining in the strain. The cherub band floated onward, and away in the distance we caught the faint melody of their sweet voices and the stronger cadence of the response from those waiting below.
We stood upon the margin of the lake, and my cheeks were tear-bedewed and my eyes dim with emotion. I felt weak as a little child; but oh, what rapture, what joy unspeakable filled and overmastered me! Was I dreaming? Or was this indeed but another phase of the immortal life?
Mae slipped her arm about my neck and whispered, “Dearest, come. After the rapture – rest.”
I yielded to her passively; I could not do otherwise. She led me into the water, down, down into its crystal depths, and when it seemed to me we must be hundreds of feet beneath the surface, she threw herself prostrate and bade me do the same. I did so, and immediately we began to rise slowly. Presently I found that we no longer rose, but were slowly floating in mid-current, many feet still beneath the surface. Then a marvel appeared to me. Look where I would, perfect prismatic rays surrounded me. I seemed to be resting in the heart of a prism; and such vivid yet delicate coloring, mortal eyes never rested upon. Instead of the seven colors, as we see them here, the colors blended in such rare gradation of shades as to make the rays seem almost infinite, or they really were so; I could not decide which.
As I lay watching this marvelous panorama (for the colors deepened and faded like the lights of the aurora borealis), I was attracted by the sound of distant music. Although Mae and I no longer clung together, we did not drift apart, as one would naturally suppose we might, but lay within easy speaking-distance of each other. Nevertheless, few words were spoken by either of us as the silence seemed too sacred to be lightly broken. We lay upon, or rather within, the water, as upon the softest couch. It required no effort whatever to keep ourselves afloat; the gentle undulation of the waves soothed and rested us. When the distant music arrested my attention, I turned and looked at Mae. She smiled back at me, but did not speak. Presently I caught the words, “Glory and honor, dominion and power,” and I knew it was still the cherub choir, although they must now be many miles distant. Then the soft tones of a bell – silver bell with silver tongue – fell on my ear, and as the last notes died away, I whispered: “Tell me, Mae.”
“Yes, dear, I will. The waters of this lake catch the light in a most marvelous manner, as you have seen; a wiser head than mine must explain it to you. They also transmit musical sounds – only musical sounds – for a great distance. The song was evidently from the distant shore of the lake.”
“And the bell?”
“That is the bell which in the city across the lake calls to certain duties at this hour.”
“There never was a sweeter call to duty,” I said.
“Yes, its notes are beautiful. Listen! Now it rings a chime.”
We lay and listened, and as we listened a sweet spell wrapped me round, and I slept as peacefully as a child on its mother’s bosom. I awoke with a strange sense of invigoration and strength. It was a feeling wholly dissimilar to that experienced during a bath in the river, yet I could not explain how. Mae said: “One takes away the last of the earth-life, and prepares us for the life upon which we enter; the other fills us to overflowing with a draught from the Celestial Life itself.”
And I think the child was right.
When we emerged from the water we found the banks of the lake almost deserted, everyone having gone, at the call of the bell, to the happy duties of the hour. Groups of children still played around in joyous freedom. Some climbed the trees that overhung the water, with the agility of squirrels, and dropped with happy shouts of laughter into the lake, floating around upon its surface like immense and beautiful water-lilies or lotus flowers. “No fear of harm or danger; no dread of some mishap; security, security and joy and peace! This is indeed the blessed life,” I said, as we stood watching the sports of the happy children.
“I often think how we were taught to believe that heaven was where we would wear crowns of gold and stand with harps always in our hands! Our crowns of gold are the halos His blessed presence casts about us; and we do not need harps to accentuate our songs of praise. We do see the crowns, and we do hear the angelic harps, when and as God wills it, but our best worship is to do his blessed will,” said Mae as we turned to go.
“You are wise in the lore of heaven, my child,” I answered; “how happy I am to learn from one so dear! Tell me all about your life here.”
So as we walked she told me the history of her years in heaven—her duties, her joys, her friends. Her home was distant from our own – far beyond the spires of the great city across the lake – but she added: “What is distance in heaven? We come and go at will. We feel no fatigue, no haste, experience no delays; it is blessed, blessed!”
Not far from our home we saw a group of children playing upon the grass, and in their midst was a big, beautiful dog, over which they were rolling and tumbling with greatest freedom. As we approached, he broke away from them and came bounding to meet us, and crouched and fawned at my feet with every gesture of glad welcome.
“Do you not know him, auntie?” Mae asked brightly.
“It’s dear old Sport!” I cried, stooping and placing my arms about his neck, and resting my head on his silken hair. “Dear old fellow! How happy I am to have you here!”
He responded to my caresses with every expression of delight, and Mae laughed aloud at our mutual joy.
“I have often wondered if I should not someday find him here. He surely deserves a happy life for his faithfulness and devotion in the other life. His intelligence and his fidelity were far above those of many human beings who we count immortal.”
“Did he not sacrifice his life for little Will?”
“Yes; he attempted to cross the track in front of an approaching train, because he saw it would pass between him and his little master, and feared he was in danger. It cost his life. He always placed himself between any of us and threatened danger, but he seemed to consider Will his special charge. He was a gallant fellow – he deserves immortality. Dear, dear old Sport, you shall never leave me again!” I said, caressing him fondly.
At this he sprang to his feet, barking joyously, and frolicked and skipped before us the rest of the way home, then lay down upon the doorstep, with an upward glance and a way of his bushy tail, as though to say, “See how I take you at your word!”
“He understands every word we say,” said Mae.
“Of course he does; he only lacks speech to make him perfect. I somehow hoped he might find it here.”
“He would not be half so interesting if he could talk,” said Mae.
“Possibly not. How silken and beautiful his long hair is!”
“He has his bath in the river every day, and it leaves its mark on him also. Do you know I think one of the sweetest proofs we have of the Father’s loving care for us is that we so often find in this life the things which gave us great happiness below. The more unexpected this is, the greater joy it brings. I remember once seeing a beautiful little girl enter heaven, the very first to come of a large and affectionate family. I learned afterward that the sorrowful cry of her mother was, ‘Oh, if only we had someone there to meet her, to care for her!’ She came, lovingly nestled in the Master’s own arms, and a little later, as he sat, still caressing and talking to her, a remarkably fine Angora kitten, of which the child had been very fond, and which had sickened and died some weeks before, to her great sorrow, came running across the grass and sprang directly into her arms, where it lay contentedly. Such a glad cry as she recognized her little favorite, such a hugging and kissing as that kitten received made joy even in heaven! Who but our loving Father would have thought of such comfort for a little child? She had evidently been a timid child; but now as the children gathered about her, with the delightful freedom they always manifest in the presence of the beloved Master, she, looking up confidingly into the tender eyes above her, began to shyly tell of the marvelous intelligence of her dumb pet, until at last Jesus left her contentedly playing among the flowers with the little companions who had gathered about her. Our Father never forgets us, but provides pleasures and comforts for us all, according to our individual needs.”
“When shall I behold the Savior? When shall I meet face to face him who my soul so loveth?” my hungry heart began to cry out in its depths. Mae, as though understanding the silent cry, placed both arms about my neck, looked tenderly into my eyes, and whispered: “You, too, dearest, will see him soon. He never delays when the time is ripe for his coming. It will not be long; you to will see him soon.”
So we parted, each to the duties of the hour.
After an interesting hour of instruction the following morning, my brother-in-law said to me: “Shall we go for the promised visit to Mrs. Wickham now?”
“Indeed, yes!” I answered eagerly. So we at once set forth.
We soon reached her lovely home and found her waiting at the entrance as though expecting us. After a cordial greeting to our friend, my brother-in-law said, “I will leave you together for that ‘long talk’ for which I know you are both eager, and will go my way to other duties.” The, turning to me, he added, “I will find you at home later on.”
“Alright,” I answered. “I am familiar with the way now and don’t need any help.”
After he had gone, my friend took me all over her lovely home, showing me with great pleasure the rooms prepared for each beloved member of her earthly household still to come. We entered a very large room with open windows at each end. The blossom and fruit-laden boughs of immortal trees were evidently her special care; and she whispered to me, “Douglas always did like a large room. I am sure he will like this one.” And I was sure he would.
Returning down the broad stairway, we entered into a very large music room with broad galleries supported by marble columns, running across three sides of it, on a level with the second floor. In this gallery there were a number of musical instruments—harps, viols, and some other instruments unlike any I had ever seen elsewhere. The room itself was filled with easy-chairs, couches, and window-seats, where listeners could rest and hear the sweet harmonies from the galleries.
“My daughter,” my friend explained, “who left us in early childhood, has received a fine musical training here, and is fond of bringing her young friends here and giving us quite a musical treat. You know our old home of Springville has furnished some rare voices for the heavenly choirs. Mary Allis, Will Griggs, and many others you will often hear in this room, I trust.”
We reentered, from this room, the dainty reception hall opening upon the front veranda and outer steps. Here Mrs. Wickham drew me to a seat beside her and said, “Now, tell me everything of the dear home and everyone there.”
We talked for hours, holding each other’s hands; she asking questions, I answering, things too sacred to be repeated here. At last, she said, rising hastily, “I will leave you for a little while—but you stay here,” as I started to get up, “there is much yet to be said; wait here, I will return.”
I had already learned not to question the judgment of these wiser friends, and yielded to her will. As she passed through the doorway to the inner house, I saw a stranger at the front entrance and arose to meet him. He was tall and commanding in form, with a face of ineffable sweetness and beauty. Where had I seen him before? Surely, surely I had met him since I came. “Ah, now I know!” I thought. “It is St. John, the beloved disciple.” He had been pointed out to me one morning by the riverside.
“Peace be unto this house,” was his salutation as he entered.
How his voice stirred and thrilled me! No wonder the Master loved him, with that voice and that face!
“Please come in. You are a welcome guest. Enter, and I will call the mistress,” I said, as I approached to bid him welcome.
“No, don’t call her. She knows that I am here; she will return,” he said. “Sit here awhile beside me,” he continued, as he saw that I still stood after I had seen him seated. He arose and led me to a seat near him, and like a child I did as I was bidden; still watching, always watching, the wonderful face before me.
“You have only recently come?” he said.
“Yes, I am here but a short time. So short that I don’t know how to reckon time as you count it here,” I answered.
“Ah, that matters little,” he said with a gentle smile. “Many continue to cling to the old reckoning and the earth-language. It is a link between the two lives; we would not have it otherwise. How does the change impress you? How do you find life here?”
“Ah,” I said, “if they could only know! I never fully understood until now the meaning of that sublime passage, ‘Eye hath not see, nor ear heard, either has entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.’ It is indeed past human conception.” I spoke with deep feeling.
“‘For them that love Him’? Do you believe that all Christians truly love Him?” he asked. “Do you think they love the Father for the gift of the Son and the Son because of the Father’s love and mercy? Or is their worship often done out of duty rather than love?” He spoke reflectively and gently.
“Oh,” I said, “you who know the beloved Master so well —who were so loved by Him—how can you doubt the love He inspires in all hearts who seek to know Him?”
A radiant glow overspread the wonderful face, which He lifted, looking directly at me. The mist rolled away from before my eyes, and I knew Him! [Apparently at this point, John is inexplicably transformed into Jesus.] With a low cry of joy and adoration, I threw myself at His feet, bathing them with happy tears. He gently stroked my bowed head for a moment then, rising, lifted me to His side.
“My Savior—my King!” I whispered, clinging closely to Him.
“Yes, and Elder Brother and Friend,” He added, tenderly wiping away the tears stealing from beneath my closed eyelids.
“Yes, yes, the chiefest among ten thousand, and the One altogether lovely!” again I whispered.
“Ah, now you begin to meet the conditions of the new life! Like many others, the changing of faith to sight with you has engendered a little shrinking, a little fear. That is all wrong. Have you forgotten the promise, ‘I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, there ye may be also?’ If you loved Me when you could not see Me except by faith, love Me more now when we have really become co-heirs of the Father. Come to Me with all that perplexes or gladdens. Come to the Elder Brother always waiting to receive you with joy.”
Then He drew me to a seat and conversed with me long and earnestly, unfolding many of the mysteries of the divine life. I hung upon His words. I drank in every tone of His voice. I watched eagerly every line of the beloved face. And I was exalted, uplifted, upborne, beyond the power of words to express. At length, with a divine smile, He arose.
“We will often meet,” He said. At that, I reverently kissed the hand still clasping my own. Then laying His hands a moment in blessing upon my bowed head, He passed noiselessly and swiftly from the house.
As I stood watching the Savior’s fast-receding figure passing beneath the flower-laden trees, I saw two beautiful young girls approaching the way He went. With arms intertwining they came, happily conversing together, sweet Mary Bates and Mae Camden. When they saw the Master, they flew to meet Him with a glad cry. He joyously extended a hand to each. They turned, and, each clinging to His hands, one upon either side, they accompanied Him His way.
Looking up trustingly into His face as He talked with them, they were apparently conversing with Him in happy freedom. I saw His face from time to time in profile, as He turned and looked down lovingly, first upon one, then the other lovely, upturned face. I thought, “That is the way He would have us be with Him—really as children with a beloved elder brother.”
I watched them until the trees hid them from my sight, longing to gather the dear girls to my heart, but knowing His presence was, at that moment, more important than anything else. Then I turned and passed softly through the house to the beautiful entrance at the rear. Just before I reached the door, I met my friend Mrs. Wickham. Before I could speak, she said, “I know all about it. Do not try to speak. I know your heart is full. I will see you very soon—there, go!” She pushed me gently to the door.
How my heart blessed her—for it indeed seemed sacrilege to try to talk about ordinary topics after this blessed experience. I did not follow the walkway, but went across the flowery turf, beneath the trees until I reached home. I found Frank sitting on the veranda, and, as I ascended the steps, he rose to meet me. When he looked into my face, he took both hands into his for an instant and simply said, very gently, “Ah, I see. You have been with the Master!” and stepped aside almost reverently for me to enter the house.
I hastened to my room, and I threw myself upon the couch. With my eyes closed, I relived every instant I had spent in that hallowed Presence. I recalled every word and tone of the Savior’s voice and fastened the instructions He had given me indelibly upon my memory. I seem to have been lifted to a higher plane of existence, to have drunk deeper truths from the fountain of all good, since I had met “Him whom my soul loveth.”
It was a long, blessed communion that I held thus with my soul. I wondered why I had not at once recognized Christ. But I concluded that for some wise purpose my “eyes were clouded” until it was His pleasure that I should see Him as He is.
When I arose, the soft, golden light was about me. I knelt by my couch to offer my first prayer in heaven. As I knelt, all I could utter over and over was, “I thank Thee, blessed Father; I thank Thee, I thank Thee!”
When I at last descended the stairs, I found my brother -in-law standing in the great “flower room.” Going to him, I said softly, “Frank, what do you do in heaven when you want to pray?”
We praise!” he answered.
“Then let us praise now,” I said.
And standing there with clasped hands, we lifted up our hearts and voices in a hymn of praise to God. Frank with his clear, strong voice was leading, I following. As the first notes sounded, I thought the roof echoed them. But I soon found that other voices blended with ours, until the whole house seemed filled with unseen singers. Such a grand hymn of praise, earth never heard. As the hymn went on, I recognized many dear voices from the past—Will Griggs’ distinct tenor, Mary Allis’ exquisite soprano, and many other voices that wakened memories of long ago. Then as I heard sweet child-voices and looked up, I saw above us such a cloud of radiant cherub faces that my heart was flooded with joy. The room seemed filled with them.
“Oh, what a life—what a divine life!” I whispered as Frank and I returned to the veranda and sat in the golden light.
“You are only in the first pages of its unfolding,” he said.
“Its blessedness must be gradually revealed to us, or we could no, even here, bear its dazzling glory.”
Then followed hallowed fellowship when Frank led my soul still deeper into the mysteries of the glorious life upon which I had now entered. He taught me; I listened. Sometimes I questioned, but rarely. I was content to take in the heavenly manna as it was given me, with a heart full of gratitude and love.
The next day, when my brother-in-law was away on an important mission, I started out alone to see if I could find my dear, young friends I had seen previously. I knew that all things were ordered aright in that happy world, and that sooner or later I would find them again. Yet, I could not help hoping it might be very soon. I recalled the happy light upon their fresh young faces as they had met the beloved Master, and I longed to talk with them. From thinking of them, I began again to think of my blessed interview with Him. I became so absorbed in these thoughts that I was even oblivious to the beautiful world around me.
Suddenly I heard someone say, “Surely that is Mrs. Springer!” Looking up, I saw sweet little Mary Bates a few steps away regarding me intently.
I cried joyfully, “My precious Mamie!”
She flew to me and, folding me in her arms, drew my head to her shoulder in the old caressing way almost sobbing in her great joy.
“Dear, dear little muzzer!” – a pet name often used by her in the happy past – “How glad I am to have you here! I could scarcely wait to find you.”
“How did you know I was here, Mamie?”
“The Master told me,” she said softly. “Mae had already told me, and we were on the way to find you when we met Him. He told us He had just left you. Then we knew we must wait a little while,” she said reverently.
How my heart thrilled! He had thought about and had spoken of me after we parted! I longed to ask her what He had said, but dared not.
Seeming to discern my thoughts, she continued, “He spoke so tenderly about you and said we must be with you often. Mae had work to do today, and as she had already seen you once, I came alone. She may be here later on. May I stay a long time with you? There is so much to tell you, so much to ask about!”
“Indeed you may. I had started out to find you, when we met. Come, dear child, let us return home at once.”
So, clinging to each other, we set out toward my home. “What shall I tell you first?” I asked.
“Everything about the dear ones – every individual member of our beloved household. Begin with my precious, heart-broken mother.” Here her voice broke a little, but she soon continued. “If only she could be with me here, could know God’s wisdom and love as we know it, how the cloud would lift from her life! How she would see that the two lives, after all, are but one.”
“Yes, dear” I answered. “I always urged her to think of it in that light and to trust implicitly in the Father’s tender care and never-failing love. But it is difficult for us to see beyond the lonely fireside and the vacant chair.”
“Ah, if she only knew that I need just that to complete my happiness,” she said. “We cannot sorrow here as we did on earth, because we have learned to know that the will of the Father is always tender and wise. But even heaven can never be complete for me while I know that my precious mother is forgetful of her many rare blessings, simply because I may not be with her in the flesh to share them.
‘There are my father and the boys – why, I am as truly hers still as they are! My dear little mother! Why must she see me to recognize this? But this is almost complaining, is it not? Some day she will know all – we must be patient.”
We walked on slowly and conversed about the earth-life, still in many phases so dear to us, she asking eager questions, I answering as best I could. Then we saw a group of four persons, three women and a man. They were standing under the trees a little to one side of the walkway. The man’s back was toward us, but we at once recognized the Master. The women were all strangers, and one of them seemed to have just arrived. The Savior held her hand as He talked with her. All were intently listening to His words. We regarded the group in silence as we slowly passed, not hoping for recognition from Him at such a time, but, just as we were opposite to them, He turned and looked upon us. He did not speak – but oh, that look! So full of tenderness and encouragement and benediction! It lifted us; it bore us upward; it enthralled and exalted us. And as we passed onward, the clasp of our hands tightened, and unspeakable rapture flooded our hearts.
We finished our walk in silence and sat down on the marble steps in the shadow of the overhanging trees. The dear child nestled close against my side and laid her head upon my shoulder, while I rested my cheek caressingly upon it. After a time I whispered, half to myself, “Was there ever such a look!”
Instantly she raised her head and said eagerly, “You think so, too? I was sure you would. It is always just so. If He is too engaged to speak to you, He just looks at you, and it is as though He had talked with you for a long time. Is He not wonderful? Why, why could we not know Him on earth as we know Him here?”
“How long were you here before you met Him?” I asked.
“Oh, that is the wonderful part of it! His was the first face I looked upon after I left my body. I felt bewildered when I first realized that I was free, and I stood for a moment feeling uncertain. Then, I saw Him standing beside me with that same, tender look on His face.
“At first I felt timid and half afraid. Then, He stretched forth His hand to me and said gently, ‘My child, I have come to take care of you; trust Me; do not be afraid.’ Then, I knew who He was, and instantly all fear left me. I clung to Him as I would have done to either of my brothers. He did not say much to me, but somehow I felt that He understood all of my thoughts.
“What a blessed life this is!”
I can only give this brief outline of our conversation. The remainder of our discussion is too sacred to be scanned by curious eyes.
We watched the little birds nestling in the vines, heard the solemnly joyous notes of the angels’ choral song and joined our voices in the hymn of praise. Later, we went to my room and sat down upon my dainty couch for rest. The last words I heard before sinking into heaven’s blissful rest were tenderly whispered. “Dear, dear Rebecca, I am so glad and happy that you are here!”
More than once the question has been asked, “Was there night there?” Emphatically, no! What, for want of a better word, we call day was full of glorious radiance, a roseate golden light which was everywhere. There is no language known to mortals that can describe this marvelous glory. It flooded the sky; it was caught up and reflected in the waters; it filled all heaven with joy and all heart with song. After a period much longer than our longest earthly day, this glory mellowed and softened until it became a glowing light full of peace. The children ceased their playing beneath the trees, the little birds nestled among the vines, and all who had been busy in various ways sought rest and quiet. But there was no darkness, no dusky shadows even – only a restful softening of the glory.
Not long after this my brother-in-law said, “We will go to the grand auditorium this morning; it will be a rare day even here. Martin Luther is to talk on ‘The Reformation: Its Causes and Effects,’ and this will be supplemented by a talk from John Wesley. There may also be other speakers.”
It was not the first time we had visited this great auditorium, although I have not described it yet. It stood upon a slight eminence, and the mighty dome was supported by massive columns of alternate amethyst and jasper. There were no walls to the vast edifice; only the great dome and supporting columns. A broad platform of precious marbles, inlaid in porphyry, arose from the center, from which the seats ascended on three sides, forming an immense amphitheater. The seats were of cedar wood highly polished; and back of the platform were heavy hangings of royal purple. An altar of solid pearl stood near the center of the platform. The great dome was deep and dark in its immensity, so that only the golden statues around its lower border were distinctly visible. All this I had noted at former visits.
When we entered, we found the building filled with people eagerly waiting for what was to follow. We soon were seated and also waiting. Soft strains of melody floated about us, from an invisible choir, and before long Martin Luther, in the prime of a vigorous manhood, ascended the steps and stood before us. It is not my purpose to dwell upon his appearance, so familiar to us all, except to say that his great intellect and spiritual strength seemed to have added to his already powerful physique, and made him a fit leader still, even in heavenly places.
His discourse would of itself fill a volume, and could not be given even in outline, in this brief sketch. He held us enthralled by the power of his will and his eloquence. When at length he retired, John Wesley took his place, and the saintly beauty of his face, intensified by the heavenly light upon it, was wonderful. His theme was “God’s love;” and if in the earth-life he dwelt upon it with power, he now swept our souls with the fire of his exaltation, until we were as wax in his hands. He showed what that love had done for us, and how an eternity of thanksgiving and praise could never repay it.
Silence, save for the faint, sweet melody of the unseen choir, rested upon the vast audience for some time after he left. All seemed lost in contemplation of the theme so tenderly dwelt upon. Then the heavy curtains back of the platform parted, and a tall form, about whom all the glory of heaven seemed to center, emerged from their folds and advanced toward the middle of the platform. Instantly the vast concourse of souls arose to their feet, and burst forth as with one voice into that grand anthem in which we had so often joined on earth:
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all.”
Such a grand chorus of voices, such unity, such harmony, such volume, was never heard on earth. It rose, it swelled, it seemed to fill not only the great auditorium, but heaven itself. And still, above it all, we heard the voices of the angel choir, no longer breathing the soft, sweet melody, but bursting forth into paeans of triumphant praise. A flood of glory seemed to fill the place, and looking upward we beheld the great dome ablaze with golden light, and the angelic forms of the no longer invisible choir in its midst, with their heavenly harps and viols, and their faces only less radiant than that of Him in whose praise they sang. And he, before whom all heaven bowed in adoration, stood with uplifted face and kingly mien, the very God of earth and heaven. He was the center of all light, and a divine radiance surrounded him that was beyond compare.
As the hymn of praise and adoration ceased, all sank slowly to their knees, and every head was bowed and every face covered as the angel choir chanted again the familiar words:
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen, Amen!”
Slowly the voices died away, and a holy silence fell upon us. Presently, slowly and reverently, all arose and resumed their places. No, not all. Sweet Mary Bates had accompanied us to the sanctuary, and I now noticed that she alone still knelt in our midst, with clasped hands and radiant uplifted face, her lovely eyes fixed upon the Savior, as he still stood waiting before us, with such a look of self-forgetful adoration and love as made her herself truly divine. She was so rapt I dared not disturb her; but in a moment the Master turned and met her adoring eyes with such a look of loving recognition, that with a deep sigh of satisfied desire, as he turned again, she quietly resumed her seat beside me, slipping her little hand into mine with all the confidence of a child who feels sure it is understood to the utmost.
As I looked upon the glorious form before us, clothed in all the majesty of the Godhead, my heart tremblingly asked: “Can this indeed be the Christ-man whom Pilate condemned to die an ignominious death upon the cross?” I could not accept it. It seemed impossible that any man, however vile, could be blind to the divinity so plainly revealed in him.
Then the Savior began to speak, and the sweetness of his voice was far beyond the melody of the heavenly choir. And his gracious words! Would that I could, would that I dared, transcribe them as they fell from his lips. Earth has no language by which to convey their lofty meaning. He first touched lightly upon the earth-life, and showed so wonderfully the link of light uniting the two lives—the past with the present. Then he unfolded to us some of the earlier mysteries of the blessed life, and pointed out the joyous duties just before us.
When he ceased, we sat with bowed heads as he withdrew. Our hearts were so enfolded, our souls so uplifted, our spirits so exalted, our whole being so permeated with his divinity, that when we arose we left the place silently and reverently, each bearing away a heart filled with higher, more divine aspirations, and clearer views of the blessed life upon which we were permitted to enter.
I can touch but lightly upon these heavenly joys. There is a depth, a mystery to all that pertains to the divine life, which I dare not try to describe; I could not if I would, I would not if I could. A sacredness enfolds it all that curious eyes should not look upon. Suffice it to say, that no joy we know on earth, however rare, however sacred, can be more than the faintest shadow of the joy we there find; no dreams of rapture, here unrealized, approach the bliss of one moment, even, in that divine world.
No sorrow; no pain; no sickness; no death; no partings; no disappointments; no tears but those of joy; no broken hopes; no mislaid plans; no night, nor storm, nor shadows even; but light and joy and love and peace and rest forever and forever. “Amen,” and again my heart says reverently, “Amen.”