Heavenly Non-Recognition -- By: John B. Perry
BSac 42:167 (July 1885) p. 536
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” are the words in which the Apostle to the Gentiles paraphrases the utterance of Isaiah. The mysterious truth of these and other biblical declarations regarding the future life is attested by the instincts, as well as the reason, of all devout men. Christians recoil from the realism of Swedenborg and his sentimental imitators hardly less than from the stern hypothesis of Michael Wigglesworth and some old theologians, that the saved, in their devout appreciation of the goodness and justice of God, will view with complacence, if not gratification, the sufferings of the lost. Neither picture satisfies the moral consciousness.
Yet we all project the associations and relationships of this world into that which is to come, and our faith is strengthened by the hope that we shall ere long rejoin those who are gone before. The recognition of friends in heaven is one of the most strongly cherished of spiritual expectations, and deservedly so within due limitations. Far be it from me to weaken its influence in any heart, or to deprive any mourner of solid consolation. It must appear evident to every thoughtful person, however, that there is another side to the question. Unless Universalism be literal truth, we must miss, as well as find, some of those we have loved on earth, should we be so favored as to reach the abode of the righteous.
Death, as some claim, is the mere passage of a narrow
BSac 42:167 (July 1885) p. 537
river, and so we reach the farther bank unchanged, save for the dropping of our fleshly burden. If this be true, we cannot see why the absence of those we hoped to meet, especially if accompanied by the knowledge that their sorrows are more than negative, should not disturb, and perhaps overbalance, our joys. George Macdonald, whose humanitarian fervor is often too much for his orthodoxy, and logical consistency as well, has drawn a striking, and if irreverent, not intentionally profane, picture of the working of this disappointment. One of his characters has a father, a dissolute man, though the subject of many prayers, who is supposed to be dead. The man’s strongly Calvinistic mother can see no good for him in eternity; but her grandson, with what Tennyson would call “the larger hope,” exclaims (we translate broad Scotch into every-day English):
“Well, if I were in there [heaven], the very first night I sat down with the rest of them I should rise up and say, — that is, if the Master at the head of the table did not bid me sit down, — ‘Brothers and sisters, all of ye...
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