The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, September, 1922
A Vision of Judgment. — Revised and Brought Up-to-date
A Vision of Judgment.
Revised and Brought Up-to-date.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. The wicked are not so, but are like the ehaff' which the wind driveth away. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish."—Psalms 1: 1, 4, 6.
"He that soweth iniquity shall reap calamity."
—Proverbs XXII: 8.
You are to imagine, courteous and learned reader, reclining at ease in your honoured but mundane chair—you are to imagine the wide expanse of the Elysian Plain outside the castellated walls and battlements of Heaven. It is dawn; the grass of those eternal lawns is gemmed with the multitudinous drops of Paradisal dew—honey-sweet—"lucent weeping out of the day-spring"; in the still, fragrant air rise up the uncounted incense-odours of the Gardens of the Blest. A heavenly lark darts upward, a rocket of song, and the silver sparks of his joy rain rapturously down over the crystal battlements and spreading fields. In the east, which he greets, springs, like an angelic swimmer into the clear skyey lake, the eternal bright disc of the sun, more glorious by far than that which lights our earthly days, radiant, though so old, with a kind of naif and youthful (gladness—for is he not also one of the Sons of God? In quite a different direction altogether, a sullen glow reddens the horizon, shooting up suddenly and as suddenly paling, but never entirely fading away; always that glow, somewhat sinister, is red and ominous. Two figures that since the very early hours have been wandering disconsolately over the plain and have finally come to a tentative halt outside the great Gate of Heaven, regard this direction with an instinctive apprehension, the half-formed anxiety of one who fears, and knows not what he fears, and fearing, stifles the half-born knowledge that would make fear insupportable. They are right—the guilty and the righteous soul alike quails at the grim presentiment—that glow marks the ever-burning' fires of Hell. Over the edge of the heavenly plain, in a different direction still, appear the million circling spheres, wheeling with measured though frightful pace upon their appointed track into the illimitable void and black of chaos, unhesitating, irrevocable. It is an inspiring sight, but it makes one rather giddy.
The figures, distressful shades, that so long had been wandering, feeling that the time was now drawing near when Peter would come down to open the Everlasting Gate, sat down with their backs to each other. They were obviously not very friendly, although the younger had in the night made some futile attempts at conciliatory conversation, and seemed rather ill at ease at this their first sight of eternity. The older had an appearance of assumed jauntiness, a sort, of confident righteousness, which however was not enhanced by the halo which he wore. It was a stray halo; he had stumbled on it in his earlier gropings, and thinking with some confidence (being a Scotch Presbyterian) that he might as well start wearing it immediately, had put it on. But it was a rather small halo page 30 and it had slipped over his left ear, giving him if anything rather a rakish appearance, which accorded but ill with his expression of pious expectation. It was—but could it possibly?—Yes, it was our old friend Mr. Robert McCallum, M.P. The other was much younger and unfeignedly nervous; it was easily seen that he was (or rather had been till shortly) a Student. Both had unfortunately died the night before, and here they were, facing the Unknown, but too easily guessed. The student, to occupy his trembling hands, was picking up stones and throwing them at the rushing planets in their course. Not being a very good shot he generally missed, but now and again a fluke happened, there was a loud crash and a spurt of fire, and dismembered flaming fragments went hurtling and spinning into the blackness. When this happened the Heavenly Children, who were now crowding the battlements to watch the new arrivals, clapped their hands and laughed delightedly, for this was the sort of unaccustomed treat they enjoyed. But the shade of Mr. McCallum was not pleased."Don't do that!" he said crossly, "don't you know it's Sunday? And besides, "he continued irritably, warming as ever to his task," surely you know it is wrong to interfere with the course of unalterable law? Why can't you leave sacred things alone? I don't know what you students are coming to!. Outside the very gates of Heaven!" he muttered. But the student kept on throwing stones wearily, for had he not heard such talk before till his soul revolted within him?—and the Heavenly Children kept on applauding, for they had no conscience, and they were very young.
At last as the sun reached higher, and the fires of Hell paled a little in consequence, Peter strolled down the golden street rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and jingling his massive keys. It was his job to throw open the pearly gates so that the Heavenly Children could flock out on to the smooth grassy plains and sport there through all the wonderful day. As the great door swung open and the laughing children trooped out the elder Shade frowned somewhat; surely there was some mistake, he thought; were the Children of Heaven itself to desecrate the Sabbath? But he strode forward boldly (and the Student stopped his stone-throwing and followed him) and demanded entrance. It was rather an abrupt way to address the Saint, the foundation of the Church; but as it was such a fine morning and there were extraordinarily few shades arrived (mortality on earth having fallen very low that week) he was feeling extremely amiable. "Well," he said, "you can come in for the lime being if you want to, but you'll have to come up for the Preliminary Judgment at mid-day and then you may have to leave again."The Student shivered slightly, hut McCallum, undaunted, walked right in; and the Student thinking he might as well make the hesl of; i bad job, again followed. He was glad he did so, for the first sight that met his eyes was Sir Robt. Stout, clad in shining garments and striking upon a golden harp, come skipping down the street in a perfect ecstasy of disinterested delight."Lo! how perfect are thy dwellings, Lord," he sang, his eyes beaming joy and goodwill, and passed out to tell fairy stories to the children beyond. The Student regained his breath and walked on farther. McCallum he had lost sight of but had no doubt he was somewhere expostu page 31 lating with the authorities on the proper observance of the Sabbath. He wandered on until he met an angel who offered to show him round till mid-day. in case he had to leave afterwards; and from this friendly angel he learned a good deal of interest to him, who had spent his young life amid the cloistered walks and hallowed halls of V.U.C. Many familiar figures he passed in the streets also; Prof. Mac. came floating benevolently through the air arm in arm with James Brook and gave him a good Scots greeting; and James Brook, out of pure habit, moved him on. Later passed a radiant figure, all heavenly smiles, coquettishly absorbed in a charming girl—it was the Rev. B. H. Ward. At sight of these familiar forms, well thought the Student, he had been but a stranger on earth—Heaven was his home! And there, surrounded by a group of the most delicate flower-like ethereal beings was, a long, drooping blushfully aesthetical figure, declaiming in an exquisitely modulated voice on the vanity of Earthly Wishes—P.W.R., by all that was astonishing! And his friendly angel told the Student much more—Edwin J. Boyd Wilson on arrival had learnt with unexampled disgust that there was no Tramping Club attached to the Everlasting City, and agitating impatiently-energetic wings, had immediately formed one; he was then crossing the Heavenly Tararuas for the twenty-seventh time; John Brown spent his days pacing the golden streets in beautiful converse with old Oxford cronies; T. A. Hunter —and here the angel dropped a tear—T. A. Hunter had stayed a week in utter and miserable boredom—hal discovered that every thing was so perfect that there wasn't the least chance of reforming anything—and had indignantly demanded to be sent to Hell. "Was he sent?" asked the Student in some distress, for he had liked the hoary old philosopher, crime-stained as his days were. "Yes," said the angel, "he was—he was.—There are others there, you know," he added. The Student woke with a shock of horror to the fact that he had not seen—but this is no place for painful particulars. "Good heavens!" he cried, "is Prof.—and Prof.—there too? Where is dear old—?" "Alas!" answered the angel sadly, "they were very great sinners what would you? And remember, there are a good many politicians there too." The Student's happiness was turned to alarm. "My God!" he murmured, "I must know my fate!"
Luckily it was just on mid-day, and all the inhabitants of Heaven were making for the Judgment Seat, harping and singing as they went. It seemed to the Student callous, but how was he to know they had all been through the same experience, all been weighed doubtfully in the balance, all plumbed the depths of despair and scaled the heights of joy? Unwitting, he waited trembling. He did not have to wait long. There was a stir, and a great cry, and the Lord swept forward up the alabaster steps to the Great White Tin-one. He seemed rather tired, for he had been gazing on the process of evolution all the morning, a slow process which became rather boring at times, but in his eyes there shone a light which inspired the Student, he knew not how, with the beginnings of a humble confidence. The seraphim finished waving their great wings in adoration, a hush settled over all that wondrous white-robed company, and proceedings began. A silver trumpet sounded, and page 32 the Herald of the Lord, the Archangel Gabriel, called "Robert McCallum!" The shade marched forward to a little open space before the Throne and bowed low. "Robert McCallum," said the Lord, "what sayest thou for thyself?" Then did Robert McCallum take breath within his lungs, and he cried out with a loud voice: "Lord! I am a very holy man! In my life I was a Member of Parliament, a most respectable position; also I kept the Sabbath holy; Lord, I was on the Victoria University College Council, and I did my best to stop Sunday tennis, but Lord, the forces of darkness were too great for me, and I was overcome! Lord, visit now this College with destruction and the students thereof with thy exceeding wrath, for that they do play Sunday tennis, and thy Sabbath is polluted thereby, and thy name held in dishonour and derision. Lord, thus I strove, and thus did I keep myself unspotted from the world!"
And the Lord gazed on him with tired eyes, and Gabriel blew another blast so that Heaven trembled, and summoned the Student forward. And the Lord bent his eyes upon him and said: "My son, speak, what dost thou here? Standest thou unabashed beside Robert McCallum?" And the Student lifted up his voice, and it was a still small voice, and he said: "Lord, I was a poor hard-working student, as students are, and I toiled in the service of V.U.C, loving my professors and those set in authority over me, such as James Brook, and some examinations I passed and others I failed in, and on Sundays I played tennis, entering into thy courts with praise. For this did McCallum call down wrath upon me and thine other students; and also many other politicians bare false witness against us. "And the Lord paused and thought for a moment. And the Lord said: "Robert McCallum, thou wert a Member of Parliament, like unto Parr and Potter, and hadst great leisure and emoluments, and thy path was easy before thee; yet did'st thou call down my wrath upon students such as this, harmless and inoffensive, and curst them exceedingly. Lo! it is written, 'Make no friendship with a man who is given to anger, and with a wrathful man thou shall not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.' Therefore art thou not fit to sit before my Throne nor walk in the golden streets of my City, which is everlasting: but thou Shalt he cast into the bottomless pit where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the worm that dieth not. For not for the McCallums, but for all men made I my Sabbath." Then McCallum lifted up his voice and protested. But the Lord said: "Take courage, for there thou wilt find Potter, who spake evil things concerning students and repented not and who is gone before thee; and many others also wilt thou find who sinned greatly." And it was so. Then the Lord turned him to the student, and said: "My son, thou hast toiled well and faithfully, and thou hast don"well to love thy professors and those set in authority over thee, though some were unworthy of thy love. Put on shining garments, therefore, and a crown of glory, and take a harp betwixt thy hands, and smite upon it and break into song, and enter into the joys of Paradise." And there was a blast of trumpets all pealing together, and a great cry, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken!"And it was so.
R. I. P.