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THE HEAVENS AND HELLS OF THE
“If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there also.”
and hell are two regions of the universe, widely and forever separated from each other by external barriers, into which human beings are to be distributed hereafter, after death; and, having once entered either, in that they are to remain for
I think these positions to be unfounded. I do not believe that heaven and hell are widely separated in space, but that they are often close to each other, so that persons in hell can converse with those in heaven, and vice versa, as Father Abraham and Dives conversed in the parable. Nor do I believe that we are to wait until we reach another world before we enter heaven or hell. I think we may and do often go into heaven and hell now. Nor do I admit the pure assumption of theology that those who go into heaven or into hell are never to come out again. I believe that the Gospel assumes, by its teachings and blessed invitations, that we can rise out of hell and go up into heaven; and it also assumes, by its solemn warnings, that we may
sink back out of heaven into hell. For what is hell, and what is heaven? Essentially, and in themselves, what are they? Primarily and essentially, they are inward states, conditions of the soul; secondarily, they are the external results of those states. Heaven is love, knowledge, power, combined, - generous love, guided by wise insight, and made effectual by unfaltering energy. Wherever this exists the essence of heaven exists, for this state of soul is the image and reflection of God, in whom love, wisdom, and power are one. Such a soul is in heaven, for it is in continued communion with God. Such a soul makes heaven around it, wherever it is, for it influences other open souls inevitably and necessarily.
And what is hell but the presence of the opposite spirit, — wilful, hard, selfish, stubborn ; wilfulness instead of energy, stupid prejudice instead of insight, hard selfishness instead of generosity. From a mean, cold, cruel soul hell is radiated; the blackness of darkness goes out from it. The brutal man carries an atmosphere of brutality around him, and creates a like state of mind in others.
You enter one house, and you are in an atmosphere of peace. All is harmony and good-will. Father and mother, brothers and sisters, are inter
ested in the same good objects, caring for what is really important; and each, in his own way, is
pursuing some good end. No mean ambition, no poor vanity, no low and mean passions can enter that home. It is a little heaven here below.
You go into another house. The atmosphere is full of fear, hatred, and cruelty. The husband is a brute, the wife and children slaves; or the wife is frivolous and false, and her falsehood poisons the home. Or perhaps one of the children has been misled by bad companions, and he is a source of constant anxiety to the rest.
Every now and then these smouldering hells break out into an eruption of crime, as a sleeping volcano, after long quiet, suddenly vomits forth a destructive fire. We read in the journals, some morning, of a drunken brute kicking his wife to death, or murdering a little child, and a great horror goes out over the community. The hell which was in the man's soul has broken loose, and out of that one black heart, ulcerated with sin, a blackness of darkness has gone forth over the whole community! What a sense of evil has come over us all! In that great horror we see manifested the mysterious pang which belongs to sin. It is not like any other. It is a breaking out of hell.
But wherever hell goes, heaven goes too. They are side by side in the world, — producing bitter evils; sending also blessed consolations. Where sin abounds, grace more abounds.
I have lately been reading some parts of Dr. Livingstone's last journals in Africa. They are filled with the sense of the miseries inflicted on Africa by the slave trade as it is carried on by the Arabs in the East. Every year whole villages are depopulated, thousands cruelly murdered, multitudes of young girls and young men carried off to the Mohammedan slave-markets. Dr. Livingstone's soul was darkened by the perpetual presence of this foul curse, - the wretchedness caused by this terrific evil, the root of which is human greed and human sensuality. As we read the book, we seem to be alternately in hell and in heaven. We are in hell when we see all these cruelties; we are in heaven when we feel the presence of this noble soul, devoting itself to the redemption of Africa. Here is a life fitly lived ! Here is a man who has given himself in pure, disinterested labors to find out the evils and woes of a continent, and to bring the power of the Gospel to bear on it for its rescue. Here is a missionary who shows us again that Christianity is not dead in the world or in the soul of man; but that, in the nineteenth century, as in the first, it can inspire human hearts with an energy of love which reaches the utmost boundaries of self-surrender permitted by the limitations of the human mind. Here is a man who repeats the story of the Apostle Paul: “In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the