Chapter Three: The Conference
Then began a long conference First my companions laid out upon the ground a copy, as it were, of my stained and pitiful cloak. Each phase of my past life was divided into sections like the great pages of a loose-leaf file and, bending over them, starting from the end of my life and working back, we began a close study. How impossible it was to feel any false humiliation in this My two guides were so gentle, so matter-of-fact and yet so searching that every sin (or fault) was discussed as though it belonged to one whom I had never seen.
“It does belong to one whom you have never seen,” said my guide, as usual instantly replying to my thought. “These stains are not deliberate sins, but are sins that you did not recognise at the time, for you have long since made acts of contrition within your heart for all the conscious ones. Those who come here with sins unconfessed (or not faced), and who had carried them consciously through life have a very hard task indeed, and much sorrow.”
“But if I did not recognise these things how is it I am held responsible?”
“A child who scrawls over the newly-papered walls of an earth-house is instantly forgiven by a loving parent, for it is recognised that the child was unconscious of committing a fault,” I was told; and then my companion added significantly, “but the mark on the wall remains. . . That is why people on earth should desire humility so ardently. As they grow in humility they are able to bear the sight of their unremembered or unrecognised sins. If, when these are shown to them, they make an act of contrition instantly, and try to make what reparation they can, the mark is then washed away; but if they look the other way or try to make excuses for themselves, the mark becomes yet deeper, for they have added a conscious to an unconscious sin. See, then, the value of humility Oh, if men would strive for more and more humility, accepting humiliations and trials willingly for their sins, how happy would be their entry into Heaven! But often men do not want to see,” he added sadly.
Our conference seemed to take a very long time, but this may not have been so. Time passes so peacefully that it seems not to pass at all, here in this glorious Heaven. In one sense it does pass, since we are able to atone for sins and see it erased from the mystic robe, and in another sense it does not pass, as all past things are present to us. . . At last we smiled at one another, we three, for the surveying of our work was done.
“Now for the action ” I cried eagerly. “May we set to work at once?”
“If you will,” said he who appeared to be a man. “Will you send me to earth now?”
“Send you to earth?” I echoed, astonished. “Surely there is no link between earth and this place?”
“Of course there is Where would our work be if there was not? And how could you restore and repair your robe?”
“Is that how it is to be done?”
“Partly.” They smiled at my puzzlement, and then the man-guide drew nearer and began. “Let me explain In order to make reparation for your sins (and if you are not willing to make good each wrong, how can you be truly sorry? The very instincts of earth are those of ‘making up for it’ when once a fault is seen and contrition felt) each one whom you have wronged must be sought out and some good given in place of the evil. This is true reparation and no sin is erased until this is accomplished. In the sins that are forgiven on earth,” he added quickly, already sensing my train of thought, “angels are sent to make reparation for the wrong in place of the contrite one. Thus a man may be inconsolable if he thinks that one had died whom he has injured, and so he cannot ‘make it good’; but it is never too late while his earth-life lasts If he is truly and perfectly sorry—that is, not to escape punishment, but for the fact of the sin—an angel is at once sent to make good his wrong in Heaven. He seeks out the wronged one, explains the motive, the circumstances and the sorrow of the wrongdoer (if this is practicable) and then conveys to him a special blessing as a recompense.”
“What kind of blessing?”
“An angelic benediction. These are in the form of rays which, pouring out from the angel in response to his will, give a measure of strengthening life-force to the recipient. Many a man, striving hard against some temptation or weakness on earth, has suddenly become conscious of a new power which has enabled him to conquer. . . ”
“What” I interrupted, “is the angelic benediction carried to earth too?”
What a wonderful plan You mean that the angels carry their benediction from the penitent sinner on earth to Heaven, and from Heaven to earth? How marvellous”
“God is very good. We, who are of the lowest orders, even to the highest order of angels, praise Him night and day.”
“Are you of the lowest order?” I asked incredulously. “But how noble you are, how tall, how graceful, how radiant”
“Yet we are indeed of the lowest, though our work is very important, for it concerns man’s first entry into Heaven.”
“It gives us great joy to welcome, comfort and guide the newcomers,” my woman-guide said warmly. “Angels in Heaven are very similar to men on earth in this respect. There are the active ones who do the most important ground-work in the world, as you know, and then from them on a rising scale come the thinkers and leaders and the makers of plans. Then, also, the administrators of the law. Then, of course, there are those who live close to Heaven’s realm, to the source of power, and pray that power down into the hearts of men. It is very like this in Heaven.”
“How good God is, indeed Tell me more of the wonderful plan.”
“Yes, we have wandered away from it a little. But there is so much to tell you and show you of the wonderful world of God Why, you have not even met a single soul yet, which is a very rare occurrence! Usually, a great deal of time is spent in looking-up friends before any teaching can be given at all.”
“Why, do you mean…” I began.
“Let us hurry on with our subject,” said my guide, “or you will be complaining soon that Eternity is passing Now how far had we come?” he mused. “Oh yes, the Angelic Benediction Now, as we have a record of all the debts of reparation you owe on earth, and you have shown your sorrow for them by humbly considering them, I can go at once, in your stead, and give the strengthening ray to all your creditors. Of course, it will take time,” he warned, “for I must wait, in some cases, for a special need to arise, when the help will be of most value. When the recipients come here and learn of your help, how grateful they will be”
“They will indeed,” I agreed. “When do you go?”
“Now. Come, let us say farewell until all your earth-debts are paid” He clasped my shoulder with his right hand and I clasped his, and then he left me with my woman-guide.
“What a burden is rolling off my heart To think that I ever wounded anyone on earth . . . It seems to trivial, so little now. I suppose it is the greatness of this Heaven. . . God be with him, and God bless all to whom I owe a debt of reparation. May God forgive me and them also!”
“Amen,” said the angel. There was a pause, and then she added briskly, “But we must not ‘waste Eternity’ either”
“Do we begin now?”
“Tell me” I begged. She drew a little nearer so that I too could read the record of debts upon the large ‘pages’ on the ground between us.
“First, we must visit the Halls of Wishes,” she explained, “where you will yourself be able to seek out those you have wronged while they were on earth. To each you must offer your services in reparation, and in some cases express your sorrow for the circumstances.”
“Will that not take a long time?” I asked doubtfully.
“Very long” she smiled, “but remember, you have all eternity.”
“But,” I objected again, “I thought only one who had been through the gates could come and go at will in the Halls.”
“Can come and go alone,” she corrected. “Those who are on the ‘Term of Reparation’, as it is called, can come and go at the will of the angel-guide. That is why I am here—you see, you could not do without me”
“I am sorry,” I said humbly. “I did not understand.”
“Of course not Those to whom you owe reparation are not all in the Halls of Wishes. Some are far away on much higher planes. There I will have to travel alone.”
“You know,” I said thoughtfully, “I once thought Heaven was just a place of rest” We laughed together.
“Come” she invited.