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scientific fact that the actual material usable for physical bodies has been used over and over again-so that each atom would have several owners. The mere solitary fact of the existence of cannibalism is to my mind a sufficient reductio ad absurdum of the theory that the particular set of atoms I shall happen to own at death (changed every seven years, they say) will be mine in the next life—and all the other insuperable difficulties (such as people born with bodily defects) are swept away at once if we accept St. Paul's “spiritual body," and his simile of the grain of corn.
I find that as life slips away (I am over fifty now), and the life on the other side of the great river becomes more and more the reality, of which this is only a shadow, that the petty distinctions of the many creeds of Christendom tend to slip away as well—leaving only the great truths which all Christians believe alike. More and more, as I read of the Christian religion, as Christ preached it, I stand amazed at the forms men have given to it, and the fictitious barriers they have built up between themselves and their brethren. I believe that when you and I come to lie down for the last time, if only we can keep firm hold of the great truths Christ taught us—our own utter worthlessness and His infinite worth, and that He has brought us back to our one Father, and made us His brethren, and so brethren to one another—we shall have all we need to guide us through the shadows.2
1 From letter written September 25, 1885.
2 From letter to a friend (no date).
GENERAL CHARLES GEORGE GORDON.
AM of a much more material mind than you are.
I think much more of the risen flesh as material. I think I am right, for else, why is so much said of the inheritance of the earth (by earth, I think universe)? This is why I have even a carnal desire for departure from this world. I am in a hut, I want to go to a palace; now a palace is only a superior style of a hut, but it is of the same nature—namely, a dwelling-place. I cannot, with my mind, desire a state of existence altogether different from this; I mean different in the way of our being shadowy spirits. Everything seems to me to point to a material spiritual body; we are miracles in our formation, and it can scarcely be that we were so created only for this earth.1
I have had many enjoyable things after the world's estimation, but there is nothing in any way to be compared to the study of God's Word. How wonderfully it fits in with the various events of life!
It is a delightful thing to be a fatalist, not as that word is generally employed, but to accept that, when things happen and not before, God has for some wise reason so ordained them; all things, not only the great things, but all the circumstances of life that is what to me is meant by the words, " ye are dead." We have nothing further to do, when the scroll of events is unrolled, than to accept them as being for the best;
i From letter to his sister, November 1883.
but before it is unrolled it is a different matter, for you would not say, “I sat still and let things happen.” With this belief all I can say is, that amidst troubles and worries no one can have peace until he thus stays upon his God—that gives a superhuman strength.
You are aware I look on death as being life. The end of our term on earth is much to be desired, for at the best it is a groaning life. I do earnestly desire that I were ripe. ... I believe we have no more pain in leaving the world than we had in entering it, yet, to the eye, the body seems in pain ; how odd also it is that for years we know nothing, though we live and give plenty of trouble. I do not believe we die—we sleep; and the opening of our eyes in the next world will not be in a world which is a new scene to us, for I believe in our pre-existence, and that we are only put into the flesh to teach us how bitter a thing it is to be separate from God, and to know Him more than we otherwise could have done. I for my part feel caged on this earth, for the Bible has such very comforting promises, which all fit in so beautifully, that one longs to realise the future. 1
And joyous with the joyous youth of yore;
1 From letter to his sister (date unknown).
To cleanse the dimness from our weary eyes,
But if it prove a mirage after all !
WILLIAM MORRIS (1834–1896) DE EATH have we hated, knowing not what it meant;
Life have we loved, through green leaf and
through sere, Though still the less we knew of its intent: The Earth and Heaven through countless year on year, Slow changing, were to us but curtains fair, Hung round about a little room, where play Weeping and laughter of man's empty day.”
PHILLIPS BROOKS (1835–1893) DI
1 66 Proem.”