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ON THE LAST DAY

 

THE most solemn day amongst all the days of our life is the day on which we dieit is the last daythe holygreat day of transformationHave you reallyseri-ously thought over this mightycertainlast hour here on earthThere was a mana strict believeras he was calleda warrior of the Wordwhich was for him a lawa zealous servant of a zealous GodDeath stood now by his bedDeath with the austereheavenly countenance

The hour has comeyou must follow me,” said Deathand with his icecold finger he touched his feetand they turned cold as iceDeath touched his foreheadthen his heartand with that it burstand the soul followed the Angel of DeathBut in the few seconds beforebetween the consecration from foot to forehead and heartall that life had brought and created went like greatheavy waves of the sea over the dying man

In that way one sees with a single glance down into the giddy depthsand comprehends in a flash of thought the immeasurable waythus one sees with a single glanceas a single wholethe countless myriads of starsand discerns spheres and worlds in the vastness of spaceIn such a moment the terrified sinner trembles and has nothing to lean uponit is as if he sank down into an emptiness without endBut the pious one leans his head on God and gives himself uplike a child toThey will be done.”

But this dying man had not the childlike mindhe felt he was a manhe did not tremble like the sinner he knew he was a true beliverHe had kept to the forms of religion in all their strictnessmillions he knew must go the broad way to destructionwith sword and with fire he could have destroyed their bodies hereas their souls were already destroyed and always would behis way was now towards Heavenwhere Mercy opened the gate for himthe promised mercy

And the soul went with the Angel of Deathbut yet once he looked back to the couch where the earthly form lay in its white shrouda strange image of itsI”——and they flewand they went——it seemed as in a vast hall and yet as in a woodNature was pruneddrawn outtied up and set in rowsmade artificial like the old French gardensand here there was a masquerade

That is human life,”said the Angel of DeathAll the figures were seen more or less maskedit was not altogether the noblest or mightiest who went dressed in velvet and goldit was not quite the lowest and most insignificant who went in the cloak of povertyIt was a wonderful masqueradeand it was in particular quite strange to see how all of them concealed something carefully from each other under their clothingbut the one tugged at the other in order that this might be revealedand then one saw the head of some animal sticking outwith one it was a grinning apewith another an ugly goata clammy snakeor a flabby fish

It was the animal which we all carry aboutthe animal which has grown fast in oneand it hopped and sprang and tried to come to lightand every one held his clothes tight about itbut the others tore them aside and shouted,“Looklookthere he isThere she is!” and the one laid bare the other's shame

And what was the animal in me?”asked the wanderin souland the Angel of Death pointed to a haughty figure in front of themaround whose head appeared a many coloured glorybut beside the man's heart the feet of the animal were concealedthe peacock's feetthe glory was only the manycoloured tail of the bird

And as they wandered ongreat birds screamed horridly from the branches of the treeswith distinct human voices they shrieked,“The wanderer with Deathrememberest thou me?”These were all the evil thoughts and desires of his lifetime which shouted to him,“Rememberest thou me?”

And the soul trembled for a momentfor it knew the voices of the wicked thoughts and desireswhich came forward as witnesses

In our fleshin our wicked nature lives nothing good!”said the soul,“but with me the thoughts did not become deedsthe world has not seen the evil fruit!” and he hastened the moreto get quickly away from the horrid shrieksbut the great black birds hovered round him in circlesand shrieked and shrieked as if they meant to be heard over all the worldand he sprang like the hunted deerand at every step he struck his feet on sharp flint stonesand they cut his feet and hurt him sorely.“How come these sharp stones hereThey lie like withered leaves over all the earth!”

That is every incautious word you let fallwhich wounded your neighbour's heart far deeper than the stones now wound your feet!”

I did not think of that,”said the soul

Judge notthat ye be not judged!”sounded through the air

We have all sinned,”said the souland raised itself again.“I have kept the law and the gospelI have done what I couldI am not like the others!”

And they stood by the gate of Heavenand the Angel that was the keeper of the gate asked,“Who art thouTell me they faithand show it to me in they works.”

I have strictly fulfilled all the commandmentsI have humbled myself before the eyes of the worldI have hated and persecuted wicked things and wicked menthose who go the broad way to everlasting destructionand I would do it yetwith fire and with swordif I had the power

You are then one of Mohammed's followers?”said the Angel

I——never!”

Who takes the sword shall perish with the swordsays the SonHis faith you have notYou are perhaps one of the sons of Israelwho say with Moses,‘An eye for an eyeand a tooth for a tooth'a son of Israelwhose zealous God is only the God of your people!”

I am a Christian!”

I discern it not in your faith and your worksThe teaching of Christ is reconciliationloveand mercy!”

Mercy!”sounded again through endless spaceand the gate of Heaven openedand the soul floated towards the glory thus revealedBut the light which streamed out was so dazzlingso penetratingthat the soul drew back as before a drawn swoedand the music sounded so soft and touchingthat no mortal tongue can declare itand the soul trembled and bowed down lower and ever lowerbut the heavenly clearness forced its way into itand then it felt and understood what it had never thus felt beforethe burden of its prideits hardnessand its sinAll became so clear within it.“Whatever good I have done in the worldI did because I could not do otherwisebut the evil——that was of myself!”

And the soulfeeling itself blinded with the clear heavenly lightsank powerlessas it seemed to itdeep down and rolled up in itselfweighed downunripe for the kingdom of Heavenand at the thought of me austererighteous Godit dared not stammerMercy!”

And then Mercy appearedthe unexpected MercyGod's Heaven was in all the infinite spaceGod's love streamed through it in inexhaustible fullness

Holyhappylovingand eternal be thouO human soul,”was heard ringing and singing

And allall of uson the last day of our livesshalllike the soul hereshrink back before the brightness and glory of the Kingdom of Heavenbow ourselves deeplyhumbly sinking downand yetborne by His love and His mercybe held uphovering in new pathspurifiednoblerand bettercoming nearer and nearer to the glory of the lightandstrengthened by Himbe enabled to enter into the everlasting brightness

 


 

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