From the Pulpit to Perdition

Chapter 4

The Ascension

Dr. Star and the members of his church all perished together, and their once captive spirits, now released from the cages of clay, in one united band, all crowding closely together, and all pressing as near to their pastor as possible, commenced their journey heavenward.

It seemed that their souls were as large as their bodies, and they looked much the same. Any one who had known them in the flesh would have experienced no difficulty in recognizing them in the spirit. There was no convoy of angels immediately with them, but in the distance ahead of them, three angels could be seen who were evidently guiding them. One of these angels carried in his hand the large Bible that had for years laid on the pulpit in White Temple Church, and from whose pages Dr. Star had selected the texts from which he had preached to the people. The second angel carried in his hand the church register in which the names of the members of this church were enrolled, and the third angel carried in his hand a great sword which was, in appearance, like a flame of fire. The pastor and his flock followed the ascending angels, swifter than the flight of any bird. Quick as thought they had passed the treetops and gone beyond the highest mountain peaks, and were ascending into the vast heights of the vaulted skies.

As the flight continued, the moon was left far beneath the ascending spirits, and, by and by, stars were passed on this side and that some so near that the surface of them could be plainly seen.

A look of anxiety and weariness appeared in the face of Dr. Star, and was fast becoming visible among all those who followed him. Finally, Dr. Star beckons to the angels, and, pointing to a great globe that was floating in the ether not far away, he called out: “Let us stop and rest” At once the angels changed their flight, and turning from their course lighted upon the globe. Sitting down on a mountainside, they beckoned the company to rest in a broad valley which nestled at its feet.

The appearance was much like some of the barren plains of our own great West. There was nothing but a vast waste of sand, no trees or grass or shrubs, except a few stinted, thorny bushes, and a sort of hardy weed. For a time the weary travelers lay very quiet and said but very little, but being somewhat refreshed they began to look about themselves, and to remark on the surroundings. “This is good building stone,” said one of the millionaires. “Yes,” said an old miner, “In my opinion there is gold in this region. The indications are favorable. I should like to prospect here.” Meanwhile an old merchant busied himself pulling a handful of the weeds, the stalks of which he broke and twisted, discovering in the weed a fiber, which he declared was so strong and fine that it would make a cloth equal, if not superior, to silk. “If there is plenty of this growth, and it seems to be inexhaustible,” said he, “a great factory could be built here, around which a thriving city would soon spring up.” “It would be no trouble to build a railroad through this valley if we only had the timber and the iron,” said a railroad king, who had been one of the most active men in Dr. Star’s congregation. “I have examined the berries of this silkweed,” said the president of a large brewing company, who was an official member in White Temple Church, “and I am quite sure if submitted to the proper treatment it would make an excellent drink, if we could get fermentation to take place at this altitude.” “There is nothing like trying, papa,” said his beautiful daughter.

“Let’s build a city here,” said a real estate agent, “and improve the place.” “How will we fellows get on without our cigarettes,” said one of the ushers of the White Temple. “Oh, tobacco may be found here, or a substitute for it,” said a stout old merchant.

Dr. Star had been an attentive listener to these remarks, and he said, “On yonder knoll would be an excellent site for a church building, and there is no lack of stone.” “Oh, do let’s settle here and build a city, and have us a beautiful church, so that we can have entertainments. It would be so nice,” chimed in a score of young women at once.

“It all seems so strange to me,” said an elderly woman. “I thought when we died we would go to live with the Lord. I don’t see him here anywhere.” The company engaged in the conversation glanced at each other, and after an awkward pause, one of the sisters said: “Well, we have our dear pastor, he will do.” Dr. Star’s face, which had been somewhat gloomy, lit up at this compliment, and he bowed his thanks to the sister.

“Well, there is no time to waste,” said a nervous young man, “if we are going to do anything let us get at it. I am suffering intensely for a smoke I would give a hundred dollars for a good Havana cigar.”

One of the party who seemed to have been a leader, mounted upon a stone, and said: “Fellow citizens, it will be wise for us to call a convention and set on foot some plans,” but just then his speech was cut short by a loud blast from a trumpet, and the three angels on the mountainside arose beckoning the people to follow, which they did, but not without some murmuring.

The reader will notice that these people had in death only changed their place of abode, but their natures remained the same. The same appetites and passions which governed them while in the flesh remained with them when in the spirit. Mark this well. The death of the body does not change the moral character of the soul. Those who expect death to purify their hearts, purge away their sins, and fit them for the enjoyments of heaven, are doomed to disappointment. Death is simply a doorway through which we pass into the spirit world. It does not affect our moral Character. Death has no power to pardon or purge away sin. It simply destroys physical life; it does not touch the immortal nature.

After myriads of leagues had been left behind, the trumpet sounded again, and, looking upward, they saw what was evidently heaven, and they were rapidly approaching it. The angels alighted on a broad plain that sloped upward to the crest of a majestic hill, on which the Celestial City stood. Dr. Star and his congregation alighted and followed them. As they were drawing near the city, Dr. Star said to one of his prominent official members, I think the superintendent of his Sunday school, “You lead on, and I will drop back and see if all our people are here.”

The Doctor dropped behind, dodged around a little mound, and crept into a rocky cavern in the hillside, and sat down there.