J. MASTERS AND CO., 78, NEW BOND STREET.
This Sermon is the second of two Sermons preached at All Saints', on the Sunday after the Rev. W. Upton Richards entered into his rest.
In the second edition I have made one or two verbal alterations. The only one of importance is that I have used the term "spirit" instead of "soul." This change is made in compliance with the criticism of a brother priest, who urges the change as being in agreement with the threefold division of man's nature into "body, soul, and spirit."
Any one who wishes to test the general line of this Sermon by the teaching of the Early Church will find it well to refer to a note on "Paradise," in the works of Tertullian, in the Library of the Fathers. It is a clear and concise statement of that teaching.
As a loyal son of the English Church I have attempted in this Sermon to preach, as the true doctrine of the position of the faithful departed, this primitive doctrine. I am not however surprised that it has been criticised by some who accept the mediaeval doctrine of Purgatory—a doctrine which I reject, as wanting the sanction of the undivided Church.
Kirkby Misperton Rectory, Dec. 21st, 1873.
"I WOULD NOT HAVE YOU TO BE IGNORANT, BRETHREN, CONCERNING THEM WHICH ARE ASLEEP."—I THESS. IV. 13.
THE present condition of the faithful departed is a subject which must ever be one of great interest to Christian people. There are however times and sea son in which this interest has a peculiar intensity. On Easter Eve and All Saints' Day our interest in the unseen world is drawn out by the teaching of the Church. And on special occasions, when we have laid to rest some one dear to us, our minds are drawn to this subject with an irresistible attraction. Who can avoid at such a time the questions, Where is he whom I loved so dearly? what are the present conditions of his life? what is my present relation to him, and what duties arise from it? Since this is so, your minds are filled with such thoughts at this time. Only yesterday you laid in the grave the body of one you loved, and so were brought face to face with the mystery of the future life. I would endeavour this evening to examine this mystery with you. I am well aware that there will be much we cannot know now, [3/4] that many questions will arise we cannot answer. These are the secret things which belong to the LORD our God, and into them we will not seek to look. But He has revealed to us much of the present position of the faithful dead, and these revelations belong to us. Let us then to-night consider, with prayerful attention, what GOD has said, that we may not be "ignorant concerning them which are asleep."
In nothing is the power of CHRIST more manifest than in the revolution He has wrought in man's anticipation of death. Of old, it is true, certain philosophies trained their disciples to meet it with calm self-control. It is also true that in that distant past great passions, such as the love of country, overpowered men's dread of death, and led them willingly to lay down their lives. But the highest spirits never really recognised death as being a new birth, a great beatitude rather than an extreme ill. The vast majority of men draw back from the thought of it, filled with an intense fear. It is not difficult to see whence this is. In the face of scientific objectors I affirm that man was not made to die. Death is unnatural to him in the truest sense of the term. In his true position his body was as immortal as his soul. "Death passed upon all men, for that all had sinned." Man has missed the mark of his being, he has fallen from his true dignity into a degradation to which he was not born, he has succumbed to the power of the lord of death and hell, and is now held in subjection to death. Thus the spirit of man shrinks back instinctively from death as from that which is unnatural. Again, the sense of sin provokes this dread. This sense of sin [4/5] bespeaks man's consciousness of his responsibility to a power above him, and of his sense of being out of harmony with that power. His shrinking from death is not only physical, but moral. So true is it that "the sting of death is sin." There is yet another cause for this mysterious awe of death which is so wide-spread. Such utter gloom hides that world beyond the grave from man. An impenetrable veil hangs over it, which no mere man can destroy. It is darkness and night, and man's departure to it is like the departure of Judas from the upper chamber when we read, "He went out immediately, and it was night." This powerlessness to penetrate the mysteries of the world beyond the grave is a fruitful cause of dread. In agony man's spirit shrinks back from that last breath whereby it passes it knows not where, into a life of which nothing is known. Thus there is a mental as well as a moral and physical cause for that fear of death which all through his lifetime holds man subject to bondage.
JESUS, however, has worked a complete revolution in man's thought of death. He has made it to be a joy to many who have anticipated it with blissful expectation, even whilst they have awaited it with a cheerful patience. "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with CHRIST, which is far better: nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." "To me to live is CHRIST, and to die is gain." What a wondrous revolution is here to be recognised How great the change since the day in which another cried, "The grave cannot praise Thee; death cannot celebrate Thee: they that [5/6] go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth." Great indeed is the power of Him Who has swallowed up death in victory and so delivered man from an oppressive fear. His physical fear is not wholly indeed removed, for many shrink back from the act of dying. But JESUS by His death wins consolation for His redeemed in that dread hour, and if He does not remove this physical shrinking He nerves the spirit to meet it in His strength. The moral fear is wholly taken away. Drawing near to the unseen world, with his soul resting on the Passion of his LORD, the dying Christian is strong in CHRIST'S peace. Cleansed in the precious Blood, he knows God's reconciliation, and triumphs in the consciousness of sin forgiven. If memory recalls to him his sins, he looks at the Sin Bearer and knows his sins are there; that in Jesu's death is his life, in Jesu's sorrow his deliverance and joy. "Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption, for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back." The mental awe is also taken away, or at least materially lessened. By His words and by His own death Jesus hath revealed to us much of the future state of those who die in His peace. Thus revealing He scatters the darkness that enveloped the land. Thus revealing, He lifts the veil that hides the saints from our view, and bids us contemplate their lives. He would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep. He knows the deep needs of man's inner nature, and ministering, to them, gives an answer to many of those questions he eagerly proposes in the anxiety of a heart that mourns for loved ones taken home. Be it ours then [6/7] now as well as we can to learn from Jesus CHRIST about those "who are asleep."
Come with me in imagination to some deathbed where the soul has just passed from the body. Come with me to the most solemn of all deathbeds—to Calvary. On that Cross which is the hardest deathbed the world ever saw, Jesus lies dead. A moment since that Eye, now glazed in death, was full of living fire,—that Heart that now is still was beating with the tenderest love,—that Tongue that now is silent in the silence of the dead spake words of agony or triumph. The Body of JESUS is there on the Cross—the Eye, the Heart, the Tongue, are as of old, but where is Jesus Himself? The Body sleeps, for on His seventh day, which is the great sabbath, the LORD rests from all His work,—sleeping ere long He shall be carried to His tomb, and there shall rest in slumber deep.
"Slumber such as needs must be
After hard-wrought victory."
There He shall rest that wearied body until the morning of His resurrection when He shall arise to the joys of an unending day. And here Jesus is the forerunner of all His elect, except those who shall be on the earth at His Second Coming. One by one they fall asleep on the bed of death, one by one they are carried to the last resting-place, one by one they are laid as it were in Jesu's sepulchre, and even as to their bodies "sleep in Him." Thus they rest through the dark night of time "until the day break and the shadows flee away," when they shall rise from their beds and go forth with joy to meet the Bridegroom.
 "Saint after saint on earth
Has lived, and loved, and died,
And as they left us one by one
We laid them side by side
We laid them down to sleep,
But not in hope forlorn,
We laid them but to ripen there
Till the last glorious morn,
Come, then, LORD JESUS, come,"
Yes, we know where the bodies of the faithful departed are, we know in Whose safe keeping they are whilst they rest, we know the resurrection glory that awaits the sleeping flesh. The darkness of the tomb is scattered since JESUS lay in it, its wintry gloom is over, and light, and peace are there, and each one in CHRIST can say, "I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest, for it is Thou only that makest me dwell in safety."
At that hour of death on Calvary, where was the Spirit of JESUS? We are in danger of neglecting to think of the Spirit of our LORD. Practically, we speak and think as though He had no Spirit, as though His Divine Nature were to Him what the spirit is to man,—this is not the less true because theoretically we pronounce such an opinion heretical. There is often a great deal of practical heresy where there is the most loyal profession of adherence to Catholic truth. Ever remember, then, that whilst JESUS is Perfect GOD He is also Perfect Man of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. His Death was as ours, the separation of His reasonable soul from His human flesh. When, then, that separation took place, where passed the Spirit of Jesus? and what were the conditions of [8/9] its life after death? To know the answers to these questions is to know much of our future lives, and much of the present state of those who are gone before. The Spirit of JESUS went the way their spirits have gone and ours will have to go. His dwelling place, then, is theirs now, and shall be ours; His state, then, the state of all who sleep in Him.
We do know something of the life of the disembodied Spirit of Jesus. When bowing His Head He gave up the ghost the Spirit of Jesus went to Paradise. This we know from His answer to the prayer of the penitent thief. His prayer was, "LorD, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." The answer of our LORD was, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." Paradise then was the dwelling-place of the Spirit of Jesus during those mysterious hours in which His Body lay in S. Joseph's tomb. This Paradise is Hades or Hell, into which we say in the Apostles' Creed, that our LORD descended. It is the dwelling-place of the spirits of the faithful departed. "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." The spirits of the faithful then are in Paradise, whilst their bodies in the graves sleep in Jesus, and there they await the Resurrection morn when the redeemed spirit shall be clothed again with its body no longer subject to corruption. But where is Paradise? It is not Heaven, at least in the sense of that highest Heaven which is the sanctuary of the eternal FATHER. Our LORD descended into Hades, but ascended into Heaven. This language is supported by the authority of S. Paul, who speaks of CHRIST as "descending into the lower parts of the earth." But on the other [9/10] hand the same S. Paul speaks of the passage to Paradise as an ascension. "I knew such a man caught up into Paradise." The locality of Paradise is therefore not revealed to us,—all that we know is that in some definite spot in God's creation the spirits of the faithful await the Judgment Day. Like Joseph and the chief butler and the chief baker in Egypt, they are in the prison, "the place where the king's prisoners are bound," awaiting the day when they shall stand before the true Pharaoh. But where this prison is we cannot say, for it is not revealed. We can see why it is that it is not revealed. Our LORD would have us think of Paradise rather as a state than as a place. Where it is, it matters little; what it is, is all important to us.
"To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." Paradise then is a state. In it the faithful await the coming of Jesus, and near it, yet not in it, the lost await the Judgment Day. All the departed are bound in that prison of Hades, but to the faithful in it, as to Joseph of old, the Lord shows mercy and extends His kindness. There may be a physical separation between the Paradise of the faithful and that part of Hades in which the lost dwell. In all probability there is, for we read that between them is "a great gulf fixed." But be this as it may, there is certainly a great moral division, fixed and impassable, between the saved and the lost. The spirits of the faithful then are in the place of rest and satisfaction and holy soy, with JESUS in Paradise. Nor is there any inconsistency in speaking of Paradise as a prison. It is so spoken of by the Holy Scriptures. S. Peter, speaking of the disembodied Spirit of CHRIST, says, that "in it He went and [10/11] preached to the spirits in prison." I say advisedly, speaking of the disembodied Spirit of JESUS, for the whole language of the passage demands its application to it and not to the HOLY GHOST. In it and with a master hand the great Apostle paints the glories of the death of CHRIST. True He is put to death in His Flesh, but His death is but the quickening of a new life in His Spirit. Behold the triumphs of JESUS are first the triumphs of the disembodied Spirit ere He knows the triumphs of the Resurrection. His soul goes forth triumphantly, and as the victor of death He invades the territory of Hades, and there is Himself the herald to proclaim to waiting souls the grandeur of His victory. But in this case our LORD'S words to the penitent assure us that the name of 'this prison' is Paradise. We use our prisons for a twofold purpose,—they are not only places of punishment, but also places of safe keeping for those who are awaiting their trial. As was the prison in which Joseph was in Egypt, so is Hades to us a place of safe keeping for those who await the coming of the Judge.
Learning this about the Spirit of Jesus we learn more. The condition of the life of the disembodied spirit is revealed to us. It is not a state of unconsciousness and inactivity, it is not a sleep. I know the Holy Scriptures often speak of the dead as of those asleep, but this language is applied to the body, not to the spirit. The body is mortal, it therefore sleeps; the spirit is immortal, it never sleeps. "He went and preached to the spirits in prison," Death is not death, in the sense of passing into insensibility. It is a new birth to the spirit. As it passes into the life of this [11/12] world by its natural birth, as it passes into the life of the Church by regeneration, as it shall pass into the life of glory by the new birth of the Resurrection, so its passage at death into Paradise is a birth into a state in which the spirit of man receives new gifts and developes hidden powers. "Put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit." Some day thou shalt die. Friends with ministries of love shall surround thy dying bed. Thou shalt speak thy last farewells to those thou hast loved on earth. Then, it may be thy spirit shall become insensible to things of sense around. At last thou shalt breathe the last breath, and thy body shall be a corpse. But thou thyself shalt not cease to be for a moment, for the twinkling of an eye. If thou fall asleep in CHRIST, angels shall carry thee with more than lightning speed to the blissful fields of Paradise to be with JESUS there. One moment on the earth, the next in Abraham's bosom. One moment the imprisoned spirit beats against the flesh which weighs it down, the next and it is free to soar upwards to its God. Death is not then the passing of the spirit into a long sleep in an unknown abode, it is its blissful passage into the land of light and rest, where is the vision of God and the Lamb, and the holy fellowship of the angels and the saints.
This is made still clearer to us if we consider that picture of the unseen world given to us by our LORD in the parable of Dives and Lazarus. I cannot but look on this as a true revelation of that future state. I cannot believe that our LORD adopted the current language of the day when it was untrue without one word of warning or correction,—that He used without [12/13] amendment ideas that were false on a subject so important, simply to give a vivid colouring to the parable. Still less can I look on it as a fiction, in which our LORD as a novelist points out the consequences of social evils neglected, without any realities existing answering to His language. When the imagery of our LORD'S parables is borrowed from the world of nature, it is ever true to things seen. Therefore when it is borrowed from the world of spirits, we may be sure that even in minutest details it is a true revelation of the unseen. Now in this parable we see how unbroken is the life of the spirit at death. Dives lives on in torment—Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. Abraham himself is there with Isaac and Jacob, according to the word which said, "I am the GOD of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob." Personality, consciousness, memory, all live on in the disembodied spirit.
Personality lives on. The spirit of man is the seat of his personality. His body is but the tabernacle in which he dwells for a season. This body possessing mental and physical organs he uses as his servant, to obey the commands of that personality. The spirit uses the body to give expression to its will. It is this that directs the seeing eye and the movements of the outward man. It is this which concentrates the powers of the mind on the subjects it wills it to contemplate. This personality is independent of that corporeal frame in which it dwells, for the spirit is the man. The spirit of man may exist under two conditions of being, in the flesh and out of the flesh; but its existence from the moment of its creation is one even through eternity. "All live unto Him," Who is their personal GOD. [13/14] The individual personal existence of each one is a thing indestructible, Man cannot cast aside his personality. Death cannot do it, hell cannot do it, GOD will not do it. O it is a fearful thing to live when we face this fact and all its deep meanings. Yet it is full of consolation when we think of those who are with CHRIST. They are not dead, they have not—O believe me—they have not ceased to be. Do not concentrate your thoughts on that body which you gaze on after its death with such a fascination. Think not of it in the cold dark tomb as it returns to its mother earth. He whom you loved is not here. He lives with God, and JESUS, and the saints. It is not true that he shall return from oblivion in the resurrection at the last day. He lives now, I repeat, for in the verity of his being he is with CHRIST. Your wife, your mother, your sister, your brother, your friend, your child, have not ceased to be. Think not of them as of those who were, but are not; say not of a departed one as said the Sons of Jacob, "one is not;" but day by day raise your thoughts to Paradise, and see those you love there abiding with CHRIST.
Consciousness lives on. Those within the veil not only still possess personality, but consciousness. This personality might be theirs were Ihe sleep of the spirit in death as deep as the sleep of the body. But consciousness of this personality would be wanting. Their state is not, however, a state of sleep, but a state of consciousness. They receive their good things—they feast with CHRIST. Consciously they bask in the sunshine of His Presence; consciously they listen with joy and rapture to His Voice as to the Voice of the [14/15] Beloved; consciously they feast in the Banqueting Hall to which He has brought them. They can see the glories of the redeemed, they can hear the songs of the ransomed, they can feel the bliss of Paradise. Their whole spiritual being is developed in that wondrous land, and they are possessed through this development of a wondrous consciousness, Who can describe the marvellous powers of sensitiveness in the disembodied souls in Paradise? All those beauties of character that you admire on earth are there wonderfully developed. All those capacities of greatness which you recognise are there unfolded. All those little weaknesses that grieved you (and who is free from them?) are there cast away. Mind, heart, will, and spirit there rapidly are attaining their perfect development, for there through the vision of JESUS they are being purified unceasingly with a painless purification, and are being transfigured with His glory. And in all is the willing co-operation of each of CHRIST'S elect in that blessed world of spirits. "They are willing in the day of His power," and allied to this surrendered will is the evergrowing development of the powers of the soul.
From this consciousness arises the assurance of the heavenly recognition of saint by saint. He "saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom." If the sinner in torment recognises the saint in bliss, how much more shall saint recognise saint? The saints "in prison" recognised the Spirit of JESUS when He came and preached to them. So with all the faithful departed. They recognise the Holy Mother, they recognise each one of "the glorious company of the [15/16] Apostles," each one of "the goodly fellowship of the Prophets," each one of" the noble army of Martyrs." In all the beauties of their several characters each one is there fully known. But we must not now so confine the word "saint." I mean by it not only those whom the Church recognises as possessing a special sanctity, but all who are with CHRIST. There is a recognition of each by each. There the mother recognises her child, and the child his mother. There the husband recognises the long mourned wife, and the wife her husband. There brother meets sister, and friend meets friend in holy joy. There the poor man greets his benefactor, and receives him "into everlasting habitations." How blessed is the entrance into Paradise of the faithful soul Borne by angelic hands it passes through the golden gates and is with CHRIST. At first it sees only Him in His beauty, and listens first to His Loved Voice. But at length its eye surveys the multitude of the redeemed. Then it may be it rests on the Mother and the Saints, and in that Mother's honour the spirit, as it were, sings its Magnificat and shows forth the praise of Mary as it never sang it on earth. When its gaze passes with holy joy along the ranks of the redeemed, and recognises many that it knew on earth, until it rests on those who were dearest of all, who can describe the joy of that recognition? Who can tell the rapture of that moment when the long separated again meet, joined in an union never to be destroyed?
There is, following on this mutual recognition of loved ones in Heaven, the assurance of blessed intercourse with them. There will be felt the power of [16/17] special ties, of special love. The Love of JESUS possessing the heart fully will not expel other loves. The Vision of JESUS bursting on the entranced gaze of each of the elect will not withdraw that gaze from those around. Sweet intercourse with JESUS will not make the elect to be indifferent to the intercourse of spirit with spirit. The joys that flow to the redeemed in Paradise from CHRIST will not contract the limits of their love, but will cause those limits to expand, and that love to increase in fervour. What is called "individual Christianity" is not the ideal of Paradise any more than it is of earth. There as here we are members of a great family—children of a family in which our hearts beat high with love to the brethren. Nor will the wide embrace of that love militate against our feeling the power of special attractions and loving our own with a special love. On earth special loves strengthen and do not weaken general love. He who is most loving in his home is, as a rule, most loving in the world. I say loving our own, for the great ties of earth are recognised as still continuing there: "I have five brethren." Mary is the Mother of JESUS, and owned as such through the eternal years. S. Joseph is for ever known as the guardian of our Lady, and this is his glory there as here. The child and the parent each recognise the special relations that bind them in one. The husband and wife, there reunited, together live their life with CHRIST. The pastor claims his spiritual children there, as his joy and crown of rejoicing, Their lives are blended there. One common love binds hearts in one, one common toil keeps them in an union which knows no separation, [17/18] one common interest is there shared. The ties of earth, O doubt it not, live on there, for these ties are the creation of GOD, and those whom He thus binds together are joined in an union which cannot be broken save by eternal death. But if these ties live on, in those who possess individuality and consciousness, and the power of mutual recognition, then we have the assurance that the redeemed in Paradise have sweet intercourse with each other. Special intercourse, the result of special ties, general intercourse flowing from that common tie of union with GOD in CHRIST, which binds them all into one family. He cried, Father Abraham, and Abraham answered, Son. Think then of the joy of the faithful in Paradise in this holy intercourse with the great multitude. Think then of their joy in those special friendships which perpetuate there the sweet ties of earth. And as thus thou thinkest let thy heart beat high with the joy of sympathy as thou realisest the sweet intercourse they enjoy whom thou hast lost from earth.
Memory too lives on. Death is not a bathing in the streams of Lethe it is not a leaving behind all memories of the past. "Son, remember." All man's course on earth lies before his mind, and he can now contemplate his life as a whole. Boyhood, youth, manhood, grey old age, each of these is vividly before him. The sins of life are not forgotten, and the memory of them intensifies his gratitude and love. The ills of life are seen now to have been blessings indeed, for he recognises their connection with his present state. "In his lifetime Lazarus received evil things, but now he is comforted." Nor is memory simply [18/19] limited to that which touched him personally in the past. It clings now to the earth. The saints of GOD ever remember the struggling Church on earth. They ever think of their brethren in their FATHER'S House. They ever remember also those who are knit to them by special ties, until one by one they gain the heavenly land. I have "five brethren." The mother remembers her child, the wife her husband, the friend his friend. The separation whereby "one was taken and the other left," does not destroy memory, therefore it does not destroy the love that beats in the hearts of each, On earth we love, O how tenderly, those who are gone before. We love them as living, not their memory as dead we love them in the living present, and wait for our reunion with them. They within the veil, in thought (may it not be sometimes more than in thought?) linger near the loved spots of the earth, and hover o'er the loved one. "I have five brethren in my Father's House." The pure and God-blessed loves of earth live on there. Even amidst the joys of Paradise thy loved ones cling to thee in love, and their hearts are beating high with that love for thee, my brother, wherewith they beat on earth.
"I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep." To them, indeed, to die is gain to us they are not lost, but gone be. fore. To them it is gain, for whilst personality and consciousness live on, their powers are marvellously developed, and the great needs of their being are abundantly met. To us not lost, for whilst they live, and living remember, and remembering love, how can they be to us as lost? The privilege of speaking with [19/20] them face to face is not ours for a season, but this does not involve the loss of them, but of sensible intercourse with them. Comfort one another with these words and rejoice in the present position of those who rest in JESUS.
But the great feature in the life of the departed is that they are with CHRIST. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." Not that they are locally where JESUS is in the verity of His Humanity. JESUS is in the Presence Chamber of GOD, that Heaven which is far above all Heavens; the faithful are in Paradise. "That presence of Jesus," it has been well said, "consists in distinct, conscious vision, and in direct open communication. It has no reference to local nearness. If two men were able to speak familiarly and immediately one to another, and to see each other distinctly, they would have no sense of distance, although one were standing in a distant star, and the other on this earth. In this sense the faithful dead are with CHRIST—even though between Paradise and the Mercy Seat there are the innumerable heavens." They are with JESUS, that is, they rejoice in the Vision of JESUS, they hear the Voice of JESUS, and without Sacramental media by immediate contact with His Humanity they draw forth from JESUS the living water of His grace, Great are the blessings of His Church militant on earth, greater the blessings of the Church at rest in Paradise. "To depart and be with CHRIST is far better." Their life is one unending Eucharist, the centre of which is, not His Veiled Presence as in the Blessed Sacrament, but His Unveiled [20/21] Presence in the glory of Heaven. They see Him as S. Stephen saw Him when the Heavens were opened, as S. John saw Him when he was in the spirit.
Beneath the power of this vision their spirits attain to a perfect development. "The spirits of just men made perfect." Here this development is but partial, there it is perfect. The spirit is conformed to CHRIST'S Image by the power of His Vision. Marvellous is the effect on the soul of the Vision of JESUS in His glory as it bursts on it when the spirit leaves the body. It is transfigured, as in a moment. Just as the Vision of Jesus is revealed on earth to the soul seeking the Saviour, and changes its prayer into praise, and lights up the face with the joy of acceptance until it "shines as the sun," so it is with the Vision of JESUS as it bursts on the disembodied spirit. It burns up as with fire all that is impure, and it developes and perfects all that is lovely and good. True it is that the full meaning of this transfiguration is only drawn out in the progressive developement of the spirit's powers in Paradise. But the great change itself takes place as in a moment, with the first glimpse of the Glorified LORD. As the life of justification gives expression to the revolution wrought in the being by the vision of faith, so the life of the perfect soul in Paradise reveals the deep meaning of the revolution wrought in it by the Vision of the Glorified JESUS as it bursts on the spirit.
There the needs of the perfected spirit are met. In Paradise the redeemed are in the land of light and rest. Their minds are filled with the light that CHRIST gives. They have perfect knowledge of all things they [21/22] can yearn to know. There nothing is a secret thing, but all things are revealed. "There is no night there," where "they know as they are known;" and their spirits are filled with the grace of GOD, so that in this light they rest. Theirs is a perfect conformity to the light in which they live. There is in them no conscious spiritual want. "They hunger no more, neither thirst any more." No conscious spiritual want, I say, for one want does possess them, of which more anon.. This is certain, the wants of the spirit are perfectly met, in the power of the HOLY GHOST. Through His illumination they can gaze undazzled on the glories of JESUS, and so learn all they would know. Through His communicated strength they become conformed to CHRIST's Image: "Changed into His Image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the LORD."
Yet is their joy not perfected in actual fruition. Prayer is blended with their praise; even in Paradise the Church is the Church expectant. Beneath the altar they cry out, "How long, O LORD, how long?" They are waiting for the coming of the LORD Jesus CHRIST. Their position is the same as ours, for to them as to us that coming is the end of all sorrows, the entrance of all joys. The Second Coming of CHRIST is that in which the whole Church is intensely interested, yet it is a truth which practically we too often forget. Yet is it in Paradise as on earth the true hope of the Church, the event on which her expectation, when rightly guided, must ever fasten. A society of Christians, as we believe external to the Catholic Church, has arisen to call CHRIST'S people to their true position as regards the Second Coming. [22/23] I allude to the society popularly designated by the name of Irving. Their fundamental positions are true: the first, that the true position of the Church is to live waiting for CHRIST; the second, that when CHRIST comes there must be an Apostolate to be the centre of unity in the Church and to present her to CHRIST. But the system in which these truths find expression is based on a misconception. When CHRIST comes He will come first to the redeemed in Paradise. It is not the Church on earth which shall first be caught up, but the Church of the faithful departed. "We that are alive and remain unto the coming of the LORD shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the LORD Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of GOD, and the dead in CHRIST shall rise first." Thus is the Church prepared for His coming with all her ordered ministries. To it CHRIST'S elect shall be called out of His Church on earth, and out of those Christian societies which are external to the visible unity of His Church. All who wait for His Coming, having the seal of GOD on their foreheads, which is the witness of the HOLY GHOST, shall be "caught up together with them to meet the LORD in the air." As one Church shall we be presented to Him. And that one Church has her Apostles—not (I do not, believe me, speak it sarcastically)—not an Apostolate of comparatively unknown men that arose some thirty years ago (more or less) at Albury, but S. Peter and his glorious brethren—even the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. It is for this presentation to CHRIST that the faithful in Paradise do sigh.
 This for a twofold reason. The perfecting of the spirit does not meet man's yearnings. GOD made man body and spirit, and the spirit separate from the body has a maimed existence. It is waiting, therefore, for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. It groans, earnestly desiring to be clothed with the heavenly body. This re-union of the perfected spirit with the incorruptible body depends on the coming of CHRIST. At His appearing the spirit shall return to its body, and shall stand in the perfection of its whole nature before CHRIST, and then in body as in spirit shall it know the power of CHRIST'S Transfiguration, "for when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Again, Paradise is not the home of the spirit, heaven is its home. Where the Bridegroom is the Bride would be, knowing the joy of His embrace. Assured now of His Love to Whom she is espoused, the elect Church on earth and in Paradise waits for the coming of her LORD as the Bride for the Bridegroom. As she waits in joyful, restful eagerness she cries, "Why is His chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of His chariot?" But when He comes, His Church with joy shall enter into the Marriage Feast, and be for ever with her LORD in heaven. Till then in Paradise and on earth she can but sit and wait for the morning—
"Should not the loving Bride
Her absent Bridegroom mourn?
Should she not wear the weeds of grief
Until her LORD return?
Come then, LORD Jesus, come."
 If, then, we are asked, where are the faithful departed? and what is their condition now? we answer—They are with JESUS in Paradise, the place where faithful spirits await the coming of the LORD. Their condition is not one of sleep or oblivion, but, in the verity of their being, possessing full consciousness, they live in holy intercourse with JESUS and their brethren. Nor are they unmindful of those on earth, for they remember those they love. There they are in the enjoyment of light and rest, flowing to them through the HOLY GHOST, by the intercession of JESUS. Yet is not their joy perfected, for they are waiting in eager expectation for the coming of CHRIST.
But what are our relations with those who are gone before? That there are real relations existing now between us is an article of our Creed. "I believe in the Communion of Saints." That we are near to them, in a spiritual nearness, we are taught by the HOLY GHOST. "Ye are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." What is involved in this idea of Communion Time fails me to answer this question at length. I can but notice two great facts that seem to me to be involved in it.
This communion involves a belief in the intercession of the saints. The saints in Paradise are ever interceding mightily with God for their struggling brethren on the earth. If they are capable of speaking to GOD at all, or of holding in any way intercourse with Him—if the memory of earth abides with them and the love of the brethren beats in their hearts, it is impossible when memory recalls life's struggles, and love makes them full of sympathy for their brethren, but [25/26] that they should give expression to real sympathy to Him with Whom they have such intimate intercourse. Nor can we believe that the holy saints are absolutely ignorant of the Church's needs on earth. The fact that the ranks of the redeemed in Paradise are being constantly recruited from the Church on earth would make this improbable, if saint, indeed, holds intercourse with saint. There maybe other means of knowledge—such as the revelations of the Spirit and their own visions of the earth. But be this as it may, that the saints have a knowledge, more or less extensive, of what passes in the Church on earth, is surely involved in the fact that "we are come to the spirits of just men made perfect." That it is not a full knowledge of all that happens I quite believe: for such a knowledge were not to my mind consistent with their bliss. But be its limits what they may, it is a knowledge wide enough to sustain their interest, and to win the great blessing of their prayers. Mingled with much incense, the prayers of the saints are offered by our Great High Priest upon the Golden Altar which is before the Throne.
And doubtless, as it seems to me, each saint bears on his heart some on earth as a special burden. Remembering some loved congregation or community on earth, age after age he prays for some loved parish church or some dear cloistered home. The father pleads for his children in Paradise whilst the widowed mother pleads on earth. The wife pleads for her husband as he lives in his solitary home. The pastor pleads for the flock he left, and his prayers avail much. Ye orphaned ones who mourn your spiritual [26/27] father to-day, even as I speak, mayhap he pleads for you with deeper fervour and greater power than ever he pleaded at yonder altar.
This truth of the intercession of the saints does not involve the practice of direct invocation. Throughout I am using the term saint to designate the whole company of those who are with Jesus in Paradise. To invoke these with direct invocation has never been the wont of any portion of Catholic Christendom: no one has ever prayed to his mother or to his friend. Nor do I believe that we, in the Church of England at least, have any authority sufficient to sanction direct invocation to any saint. I speak on this point with great diffidence, because those whose judgments I respect and whose piety is beyond question great, differ from me here. But my own strong conviction is that direct invocation, for us at least, is wanting in dogmatic authority. And all devotion must be essentially dogmatic, we cannot pray upon a probability. Devotion above all things, must be free from sentimentality, and to be this it must be disciplined by dogma, which has universal acceptance in the Church in every time and place. But be this as it may, the saints of whom I speak as interceding are not an elect few. Yet how blessed is the thought of their intercession! How wondrously are we strengthened as we think of the great multitude pleading in Paradise! On the 20th of last December the sons and daughters of England's Church united in prayer to GOD for those who are seeking to extend CHRIST's Kingdom among the heathen. Can you not imagine how some isolated missionary in Africa or India would on that day fall [26/27] before GOD, and make personal that general intercession as he said, "LORD, remember me and my work in the great pleadings of this day?" Thus do you, brethren, realising the intercession of the saints, throw yourself before God and pray, Grant me an interest, O LORD, in the intercession of Thy saints, that through Thy grace I may be succoured now and for ever.
But whilst the truth of the Communion of Saints involves their intercession, it also reveals to us the privilege of prayer for the faithful departed. Commended in the Apocryphal Books, used in the services of the Jewish Church in which our LORD shared, such prayers are found receiving the sanction of S. Paul, in all probability, and are in every primitive Liturgy which has descended to us. Sometimes it is a prayer for their deliverance in the day of Judgment, as when S. Paul prays for Onesiphorus that "he may obtain mercy of the LORD in that day." Sometimes, in sympathy with the yearning of the faithful dead for CHRIST'S appearing, it is a prayer for that coming, as when we pray to God quickly to "accomplish the number of His elect and to hasten His Kingdom, that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of His Holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss in His eternal and everlasting glory." Sometimes, in the thought of the souls beneath the altar, it is a prayer for their eternal rest. Nor is the rationale of these prayers difficult to grasp. The bliss of the saints depends on the intercession of CHRIST through which the HOLY SPIRIT flows to them conveying light and rest. Were He to cease to intercede, and the HOLY [28/29] SPIRIT'S ministrations to end, then the light of Paradise would become darkness and its rest would cease. But CHRIST wills to unite His Church with Him in His work of intercession. In the oblation of the Blessed Sacrament we offer to GOD the same oblation CHRIST offers in heaven, that is, the oblation of Himself. Hence each Eucharist reaches in its power as far as His intercession within the veil, that is, it embraces the whole Church living and departed. In it we beseech GOD that "we and all His whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of His Passion." Nor is it only in the Blessed Sacrament this union is seen. Each of the regenerate receives a share of CHRIST'S Priesthood and is called on to intercede. The limits of his intercession are co-extensive with those of CHRIST'S, because it is in CHRIST'S Priesthood that he shares. As therefore, CHRIST, the true High Priest, bears on His Heart before His FATHER the Church in Paradise as well as the Church on earth, so is it at once the duty and the privilege of each true Christian to pray for those who rest in CHRIST. Especially is it his duty to pray for those whom the LORD hath laid as a special burden on his heart.
What avails this prayer, it may be asked, to those who cannot fall from bliss? Into this mystery I can no enter now, though it is one with other mysteries that surround prayer. That the faithful departed are aided by our prayers I fully believe. But if this be put aside, is not prayer for the departed a privilege to us who are here? O how sad is that theology which bids me pray for the one I love until the breath of [29/30] death is breathed, and then tells me that from that moment it is sin to pray any more for him, though my heart refuses to stay its cry to GOD. Blessed be God, we have not so learned CHRIST, but have been taught with our praises to blend our prayers, and so to minister to those who as they are with CHRIST minister to us.
Such, then, is the position of the faithful dead as they dwell in Paradise. Suffer me to ask you most earnestly, if our LORD were to call you now would you take your place among the saved? Are you ready for CHRIST'S call at death? For there is another side to this picture. There are those whose consciousness is their curse as they live tormented in the flame of a guilty heart. Too late convicted of sin, too late they cry for mercy. Theirs an unending abiding with the lost, theirs an eternal exclusion from CHRIST'S Presence, theirs an unceasing restlessness in the blackness of darkness for ever. Theirs a conviction that they suffer the due reward of their deeds, theirs a mind tortured by the memory in the past of sin committed, GOD forgotten, a Saviour rejected, and the Spirit's strivings crushed. Theirs an awaiting in a crushing dread of the coming of the Judge, and then a place in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. I linger not now on this I do but press on you this question—Are you ready for CHRIST'S approach? Tell me not that this is Methodism or Evangelicalism. It is so, because it is the enforcement of the truth they proclaim, though it be not in the proportion of faith. I claim your answer by your allegiance to Him Who says, "Be ye also [30/31] ready." You know what that readiness is, it is to be in real true living union with JESUS. Are you "in the Rock?" Have you knelt at the foot of the Cross and there learned what sin is? Have you cried to God for forgiveness? Have you laid your sins on JESUS by penitent confession? Has He forgiven you your Sins, sprinkling His precious Blood on you by His Spirit, and filling you with His peace? O do not tell me you do not know. Let your heart speak, brethren, it will give you an answer full and true. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things." By the joys of the redeemed in Paradise and their greater joys in heaven—by the terrors of the lost before and after the Day of Doom—by your own yearning for God's forgiveness, O fly to the arms of JESUS and delay not. Here and now yield to CHRIST, here and now begin to seek His mercy. He has redeemed you, He is interceding for you, He will receive you if you yield to Him. Think of that loved one gone home—thy mother mayhap—who pleads for thee oven as I speak—O, I pray you, yield to CHRIST, conquered by the thought of a mother's prayers. Then with her, when life is o'er, you shall kneel in lowly gratitude before JESUS as you share with her the joys of the redeemed.
And to you who do know His blessed peace this is my parting word. Believe in the Communion of Saints. Realise the interest the faithful dead take in you here. Meditate on their powerful intercession. Dare to bear them on your hearts before GOD, especially those you have known and loved here. Above all, forget not him of whom you think to-day. Think of him as ever [31/32] pleading for you before GOD, and ever pray for him the prayer that now we offer—"Remember, O LORD, of Thy mercy this Thy servant. Let Thy perpetual light shine on him, and grant him eternal rest, O Lord."