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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 28


To-day what should Deacon Quirk do but make a solemn call on Mrs. Forceythe, for the purpose of asking—and this with a hint that he wished he had asked before she became a member of the Homer First Congregational Church—whether there were truth in the rumours, now rife about town, that she was a Swedenborgian!

Aunt Winifred broke out laughing, and laughed merrily. The Deacon frowned.

"I used to fancy that I believed in Swedenborg," she said, as soon as she could sober down a little.

The Deacon pricked up his ears, with visions of excommunications and councils reflected on every feature.

"Until I read his books," she finished.

"Oh!" said the Deacon. He waited for more, but she seemed to consider the conversation at an end.

"So then you—if I understand—are not a Swedenborgian, ma'rm?"

"If I were, I certainly should have had no inducement to join myself to your church," she replied, with gentle dignity. "I believe, with all my heart, in the same Bible and the same creed that you believe in, Deacon Quirk."

page 68

"And you live your creed, which all such genial Christians do not find it necessary to do," I thought, as the Deacon in some perplexity took his departure, and she returned with a smile to her sewing.

I suppose the call came about in this way. We had the sewing-circle here last week, and just before the lamps were lighted, and when people had dropped their work to group and talk in the corners, Meta Tripp came up with one or two other girls to Aunt Winifred, and begged "to hear some of those queer things people said she believed about heaven." Auntie is never obtrusive with her views on this or any other matter, but, being thus urged, she answered a few questions that they put to her, to the extreme scandal of one or two old ladies, and the secret delight of the rest.

"Well," said little Mrs. Bland, squeezing and kissing her youngest, who was at that moment vigorously employed in sticking very long darning-needles into his mother's water-fall, "I hope there'll be a great many babies there. I should be perfectly happy if I always could have babies to play with!"

The look that Aunt Winifred shot over at me was worth seeing. She merely replied, however, that she supposed all our "highest aspirations,"—with an indescribable accent to which Mrs. Bland was safely deaf,—if good ones, would be realised; and added, laughing, that Swedenborg said that the babies in heaven—who outnumber the grown people—will be given into the charge of those women especially fond of them.

"Swedenborg is suggestive, even if you can't accept what seem to the uninitiated to be his natural impossibilities," she said, after we had discussed Deacon Quirk awhile. "He says a pretty thing, too, occasionally. Did I ever read you about the houses?" She had not and I wished to hear, so she found the book on Heaven and Hell and read;—

"As often as I have spoken with the angels mouth to mouth, so often I have been with them in their habitations; their habitations are altogether like the habitations on earth which are called houses, but more beautiful; in them are parlours, rooms, and chambers in great numbers; there are also courts, and round about are gardens, shrubberies, and fields. Palaces of heaven have been seen, which were so magnificent that they could not be described; above, they glittered as if they were of pure gold, and below, as if they were of precious stones; one palace was more splendid than another; within, it was the same, the rooms were ornamented with such decorations as neither words nor sciences are sufficient to describe. On the side which looked to the south there were paradises, where all things in like manner glittered, and in some places the leaves were as of silver, and the fruits as of gold; and the flowers on their beds presented by colours as it were rainbows; at the boundaries again were palaces, in which the view terminated."

Aunt Winifred says that our hymns, taken altogether, contain the worst and the best pictures of heaven that we have in any branch of literature.

"It seems to me incredible," she says, "that the Christian Church page 69 should have allowed that beautiful 'Jerusalem' in its hymnology so long, with the ghastly couplet,—

'Where congregations ne'er break up,

And Sabbaths have no end.'

The dullest preachers are sure to give it out, and that when there are the greatest number of restless children wondering when it will be time to go home. It is only within ten years that modern hymn-books have altered it, returning in part to the original.

"I do not think we have chosen the best parts of that hymn for our 'service of song.' You never read the whole of it? You don't know how pretty it is! It is a relief from the customary palms and choirs. One's whole heart is glad of the outlet of its sweet refrain,—

'Would God that I were there!'

before one has half read it. You are quite ready to believe that

'There is no hunger, heat, nor cold,
But pleasure every way.'

Listen to this:—

'Thy houses are of ivory,!
Thy windows crystal clear,
Thy tiles are made of beaten gold;
O God, that I were there!

'We that are here in banishment
Continually do moan.

* * * * *

'Our sweet is mixed with bitter gall,
Our pleasure is but pain,
Our joys scare last the looking on,
Our sorrows still remain.

'But there they live in such delight,
Such pleasure and such play,
As that to them a thousand years
Doth seem as yesterday.'

And this:—

'Thy gardens and thy gallant walks
Continually are green;
There grow such sweet and pleasant flowers
As nowhere else are seen.

'There cinnamon, there sugar grows,
There nard and balm abound,
What tongue can tell, or heart conceive
The joys that there are found?

'Quite through the streets, with silver sound,
The flood of life doth flow,
Upon whose banks, on every side,
The wood of life doth grow.'

I tell you we may learn something from that grand old Catholic singer. He is far nearer to the Bible than the innovators on his MSS. Do you not notice how like his images are to the inspired ones, and yet how pleasant and natural is the effect of the entire page 70 poem? There is nobody like Bonar, though, to sing about heaven. There is one of his, 'We shall meet and rest,'—do you know it?" I shook my head, and knelt down beside her and watched her face,—it was quite unconscious of me, the musing face,—while she repeated dreamily:—

"Where the faded flower shall freshen,—
Freshen nevermore to fade;
Where the shaded sky shall brighten,—
Brighten nevermore to shade;

Where the sun-blaze never scorches;
Where the star-beams cease to chill;
Where no tempest stirs the echoes
Of the wood, or wave, or hill;. . . .

Where no shadow shall bewilder;
Where life's vain parade is o'er;
Where the sleep of sin is broken,
And the dreamer dreams no more;

Where the bond is never severed,—
Partings, claspings, sob and moan,
Midnight waking, twilight weeping,
Heavy noontide,—all are done;

Where the child has found its mother;
Where the mother finds the child;
Where dear families are gathered.
That were scattered on the wild;. . . .

Where the hidden wound is healed;
Where the blighted life reblooms;
Where the smitten heart the freshness
Of its buoyant youth resumes;. . . .

Where we find the joy of loving,
As we never loved before,—
Loving on, unchilled, unhindered,
Loving once, forevermore."