Chapter 1 children in heaven
|” Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom Of God.”– Matt. 10:1….Viewed from this world, the mortality in our race in the first years of life is a great enigma. It is contrary to the Divine order; it is the defeat of the Divine purpose; it is the blasting of parental hopes; it is offering the cup of the richest blessings to the lips with one hand, and dashing it to the earth with the other. The Divine promise to parent and child is broken. How many a Rachel has mourned for her children and would not be comforted because they were not! How many bereaved hearts have wondered why the Lord should bestow upon them such a priceless gift, only to take it from them; why He should open such deep and rich fountains of new life, only to change them to bitterness. These questionings of the sore and aching heart cannot be answered from the point of view of this life.
But when we regard the subject from the spiritual world, it presents a very different aspect. What seems to us as death is seen to be entrance into life. What appears to us as failure and defeat of the Lord’s purpose is seen to be carrying it out to successful completion. Earth is the seminary of Heaven. The infant and childlike soul is not the bud of an immortal flower broken from its stem and left to wither and die. It is taken up by the living root and transplantedinto the paradise above. It is taken from the wintry sphere of this world and placed in the warm spring of the spiritual world, where every faculty will unfold in order, harmony, and fullness.
The doctrines of the New Church give us clear light, and the most consoling assurance upon this subject, which so intimately touches the parental heart., They place us in a position from which we can see it as it is. They throw light upon its darkness, and not only give us the means of solving its enigmas, but they comfort our bereaved hearts; they heal our wounded affections; they show us that the Lord’s loving-kindness is as fully manifested in taking them from our natural sight as in giving them to us.
They teach us that all who leave this life in infancy and childhood are saved. The children of heathen as well as Christian parents; the multitudes who are exposed and left to die by the superstitions of the crowded populations of the East; the offspring of sin and shame – of the worst as well as the best of parents; all are saved. Here we have a third part of the human race sure of heaven, under whatever conditions they may have been born. Here also we find a rich source of consolation for those who have been naturally bereaved. If the Good Shepherd has taken a lamb from your fold, you are sure that it cannot be lost. You are sure that your highest hopes for your child have been fulfilled. You never did ask and you cannot ask for anything better than it has attained. If you had the wealth of the world, you could not surround it with so much beauty, you could not provide it with such abundant and excellent means of comfort and delight, as it now enjoys. If you had the power of the world, you could not protect it so securely from all harm, from every evil influence, from all spiritual and natural danger. If you had the wisdom of the world at your command, you could not direct the unfolding of its spiritual faculties so perfectly. You could not give it so large, so full, so liberal, so complete a culture as it will now attain. You cannot conceive, much less provide, such large, varied, and complete means of development and culture for every faculty of intellect and affection, as the dear child whom the Lord took from your fold and placed within His own has come into full and permanent possession of.
If this is true of those children whose parents have ample means for their wants and education, and who would grow up in a sphere of intelligence and purity in the circle of home and school, what shall we say of those who would be kept in ignorance; who would be subjected to the contagion of evil influences; whose evil propensities would be stimulated to activity by evil example? The little one, innocent of wrong against the Lord or man, is taken from the midst of influences which could not fail to corrupt its moral nature, and placed in the best conditions for its spiritual health and happiness. How the infinite mercy and wisdom of the, Lord shines out in clear light from what has been regarded as a most mysterious dispensation of His providence or permission!
When little children pass into the other life, they are infants and children still. They gain nothing by the mere transition. The little infant which goes from its mother’s arms to the arms of the angels is the same little child when it reaches them that it as when it left hers. It is just as weak and ignorant, and needs the same care. If you should see it after it is raised up out of the material body, you would know that it was your child, for it has the same features, the same character; it preserves its individuality. It has left nothing behind that properly belonged to it. It loses nothing!
Many of you have seen what we call the death of children. It is one of the most touching scenes in human experience. Did you ever feel so helpless as when you saw the dear child of your affections going from you, slipping as it were from your hold? Bond after bond is severed. The little hand fails to return – the pressure of your own; the lips no longer answer to the mother’s voice. You hold them only, as it were, by the eye, and the light begins to fade and soon is gone from that. The last natural link which bound them to you is broken, and they have gone – fallen into the dark unknown. That is the too vivid and terrible appearance from this life.
If you could see the other side of the event, how different it would appear! You would see nothing of death. Two companies gather around the little one, invisible to each other. How different their feelings and the offices they perform! We are trying to hold it in this world, and every step of its removal is like breaking one of our heart-strings. We minister to it as long as we can reach it through the material body.
The other company stand with gentle hands and warm hearts to lift it out of the grave of the body, and to welcome it to their own home. They see nothing but life. New affections are awakened in their hearts, new joys fill their souls, as they see new opportunities for the exercise of them, a new being to love and care for. Their thoughts and affections must be’ somewhat of the same nature, only fuller, closer, and more ardent, as those with which the parent’s heart greets the newborn child.
If both sides of the event could be seen by both companies at the same time, what a change it would make in the thoughts and feelings of both! The angels could not but look with compassion upon the sorrowing parents. And what comfort they could give them! Oh sorrowing mother, they would say, grieve not so blindly and wildly. The dear child of your heart is not lost, but saved. It is not dead, but more than ever alive. The good and wise and all-merciful Lord, who loves us with infinitely more depth and tenderness than we can love each other, permits this transfer of your child from your home below to our home above, for your good, for our good, and for the good of the child. We will love it with an affection as deep and pure as your own; we will supply its every want. We will keep the precious trust for you and restore it to you when you are ready to receive it. We will more than fulfill your fondest hopes and largest expectations.
As you saw the beauty and glory of heavenly wisdom shining in their faces, and the gentleness and purity of heavenly love embodied in all their actions, you could not fail to be comforted with the assurance that your child would want no good which love and wisdom could supply. As you saw it rising out of the material body, leaving disease and pain behind; as you saw life glowing in the face of your child, and its whole form springing into new activity; as you saw it welcomed by, and welcoming, the angel friends, you could not say, My child is dead. You might feel sad that one so dear to you was removed from your care and natural sight. But your sadness would be tempered with a calm and sweet sense of its happiness. You would see that this change is not death; it is transition; it is the springing up of the real child from the earth; it is the transplanting of an immortal life from the garden below to the paradise above. And if you saw this event in any degree of correctness, you would say, The Lord has more than fulfilled my hope. “The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
In this light one of the most terrible trials of life is seen to be full of the loving-kindness and tender mercy of the Lord. The soul is comforted, sustained, and the healing balm of heavenly consolation is poured into the bleeding heart.
But this source of comfort and hope will be seen to be much larger and more satisfactory as we follow the little children who have passed into the other life to their new homes.
As I said before, all children enter the other world with the same forms, the same natures, and the same attainments, with which they leave this. They need instruction and parental care in that world as much as they would have done if they had remained here. And the Lord does not leave them orphans. He provides a home and instruction for every one.
The spiritual world has so long been regarded as an abstraction, and spiritual beings as formless essences, and consequently without organization, order, or relation to each other, that it is difficult for men to believe that it is a more substantial world than this, and that all its forms are more sharply defined and distinct from each other, and that all the relations of those who dwell there are more specific than they can be in this world. But such is the fact. Heaven is a sphere of growing activities, directed to particular ends. We shall need each other’s help more in heaven than we do here, and we can do more for each other. Our happiness will consist in giving and receiving. Heavenly love and wisdom will flow out into heavenly deeds of a precise and specific form. It is the nature of a heavenly life, that each one desires and is in constant effort to communicate his own love and wisdom to others. The more largely he can do it the happier he is.
We can all see what a large and varied field for the exercise of heavenly affections is opened to the angels in the instruction and care of the little’ children who are constantly passing into the spiritual world. Accordingly, our doctrines teach us that “as soon as infants are raised from the dead, they are carried up into Heaven, and delivered to the care, of angels of the female sex, who in the life of the body loved infants tenderly, and at the same time loved God. Since these angels, when in the world, loved all infants from a sort of maternal tenderness, they receive them as their own; and the infants also, from an affection implanted in them, love them as their own mothers.”
Thus we see. that the tender infants who are taken from the cradle and themother’s arms are not left to perish. They are not crowded into a great orphan asylum and committed to the care of strangers. They go from an earthly to a heavenly home. In most cases they go from a motherly love of a merely natural degree, from a merely animal affection, to a motherly love of a heavenly degree. It is a motherly love purified from all selfish and worldly affections. It is a mother’s tenderness imbued with a heavenly tenderness. It is a mother’s devotion intensified and exalted by heavenly devotion. It is as much more watchful, patient, and self-sacrificing than any natural affection, as heavenly love is purer, deeper, and holier than any earthly affection. But it is not only ardent, gentle, and pure; it is what a mother’s love often is not-it is wise. Wisdom and love go hand and hand in Heaven. The motherly affection of the angels is not weak and foolish. It will not yield to importunity. It is firm as well as gentle. It can guide and restrain as well as lavish tenderness and minister to wants.
Each motherly angel receives as many infants into her home as she desires, and no more. Thus infancy, which is one of the most powerful instruments in the development of our affections, and our spiritual culture, in this world, is not wanting to any home in Heaven whose inmates desire it.
Nor are these tender germs of life, just transplanted. from the earth, distributed by lot, or assigned in an arbitrary way to any who will take them. They are, as it were, drawn to their homes by a spiritual attraction. As there is an inborn and natural relation between mother and child which draws them together, and adapts them to each other, so there is a spiritual relation between the children and the motherly angels into whose home they are introduced. The love of the angelic mother is not merely an indiscriminating and general benevolence; it is specific. There is a cause in her own nature and in the nature of every child which comes to her home, which determines why that one should be selected rather than another. If a hundred infants were placed in one room, and you desired to obtain one or more of them, to take to your own home and adopt as your own, you would see something in one which would attract you, and something in another which would repel you. You would see something to determine your choice, and all would not choose alike.
This power of perceiving the specific qualities of character is vastly increased in the other life, and this faculty enables the angels to select those children whose natures are most congenial, or whose peculiar qualities of character they are the best qualified to unfold and wisely direct. Thus there will be a more intimate, natural, and tender relation between the angels and the little ones committed to their care, than exists between parents and children in this world.
This care and education of children is not a wearisome task assumed by the angels from a sense of duty. It is not attended with care and anxiety and watching and exhausting labor, for there is nothing of that in Heaven. It is a labor of love. It is a means of giving free play to heavenly affections. It is the unfolding of parental affection purified from all its dross and imperfections, and elevated to a spiritual plane of life. The natural affection is intensified and exalted. It is not prim, cold, and bloodless. It is playful, joyous, spontaneous. It bubbles up and runs over in forms ever-varying and perfect.
These angels are not abstract and bloodless beings, created by a fiat of Omnipotence, without human form or human affection. They are your mothers and grandmothers, who, with renewed youth and exalted affections, are performing a service for your children, which it would have given them the greatest pleasure to perform if they had remained in this world. They minister to their wants. They watch their unfolding faculties with the most joyous delight. They enter into all their innocent and playful affections with genuine sympathy, and grow young by the new life they receive from the Lord through them. They come in contact with new life, and are sharers of its blessings. It is a genuine fountain of youth to them.
These little new-comers from the earth are also received into homes. It is impossible to conceive of a home without some definite and distinct habitation that has a permanent relation to our thoughts and affections; that can become rich with associations; that has an individuality, and a sort of personal relation to our real natures.
This idea of distinct and personal relation is one of the prominent doctrines of the New Church concerning the spiritual world. Instead of being merged in vague and indistinct generalities, everything becomes more clearly defined and individualized. All lines
are more sharply drawn. Everything is more distinct to the senses. Unity is not gained by destroying distinctions and merging the individual in the mass. This principle applies both to persons and dwellings.
To float about on a cloud in the regions of space would not be home-like. To join an innumerable multitude in everlasting song would not be home. The very idea of home is opposed to multitudes, to publicity. Home is shelter; it is privacy; it is room for the free play of the most interior personal thoughts and affections.
Little children are received into homes, where they are loved and cherished with the most tender affection. And such homes! There are no such homes on earth. None so quiet, so orderly, so joyous, so full of beauty, so warm and sunny and bright, with light from without and light from within. They are perfectly furnished with every means for comfort, culture, and delight. They are free from all the contagion of evil example. The infant nature unfolds in them like flowers in a rich soil, and in the warm breath of spring. The freest play is given to every heavenly affection. There is the greatest freedom with the most perfect order. They live in an atmosphere of love, and are directed by a wisdom perfectly adapted to their states.
In such homes are our children who have passed into the other life. Free from all disease and pain, from all causes of discomfort and harm, with room for the freest play of all their innocent and child-like affections, happy in the enjoyment of today, they will be led on to the attainment of higher good by a process of continued delight.
It is well with our children whom the Good Shepherd has taken to His own fold in Heaven. They are safe beyond all danger, they are happy beyond all contingencies. They are the rich treasures of the heart, laid up in Heaven; where no moth of earthly lust, no rust of falsity, can corrupt, and no thief of passion or deceit can break through and steal their innocence and joy. They. will continually grow more fully into eternal youth, beauty, and blessedness.