Standing At Heaven’s Gate
As the congregation of the White Temple came near to the city, the great gate of pearl, which was directly before them, swung open, and St. Peter came out and looked at the approaching company, and then took his seat in a large chair at the right-hand side of the gate, while the angel with the sword of flame stood on the left side of the gate, and the other two angels, one with the church register, and the other with the Bible from the pulpit of White Temple, took their stand one on either side of the gate.
The superintendent of the Sabbath school with the people gathered close about him, had by this time come up, and stood before Peter. With some hesitation, he finally said (this man had been a lawyer): “Please, your honor, is this the place of Judgment?” “No,” said Peter, “this is neither the time nor place of the general Judgment.”
Superintendent: “Into what place does this open gateway lead?”
Peter: “It leads into Paradise.”
Superintendent: “Are you the gate-keeper?”
Peter: “No, I do not keep the gate. The gate does not need any keeper except the Word of God.”
Superintendent: “Well, what must we people do?”
Peter: “Who is all this multitude you have here?”
Superintendent: “This is the congregation of White Temple Church, located in the city of _____.”
Peter: “How does it happen that you all come here together?”
Superintendent: “We were giving an entertainment at our church, and all the membership were present except the children and a few old people of peculiar notions, who think it wrong to give church festivals, and a cyclone struck the church and killed us, as they call it down there. You understand, it broke up our bodies and turned our spirits out of them, and these angels guided us up to this place, and I hope it is the right place for church members, for we are tired. Besides, we have most of us been business men, and we want to get settled down and get at something.”
Peter: “Yes, this is the resting place of redeemed souls, walk in and make yourselves at home.”
Superintendent: “Well, is there no ceremony or examination of any kind?”
Peter: “No; the time of the judgment is not yet. You are all church members, and, of course are acquainted with the Scriptures. You can judge yourselves, and go in and make yourselves at home.”
Superintendent: “I beg your pardon, sir, but we are new comers here, and we do not exactly understand the situation. Can’t we get some one to attend to the matter for us?”
At this a great clamor arose among the people, and cries of “no,” “no,” were heard in every quarter. “Let us all judge ourselves. What better could we ask?” cried many voices at once. “Go on in or get out of the way, and let us in,” shouted a number of voices. “I am perishing for water and a smoke,” said several at once.
The superintendent saw that the people were displeased with his hesitation, and he said: “Very well, friends, very well; it is all so different from what I thought it would be, that you must excuse me for any blunders I make.” And then turning to Peter, who was now intently reading a book which he held in his hand, and addressing him, the superintendent said: “Could you not suggest to us some Scripture by which we may best judge ourselves?”
“Oh, most any text in the Bible,” said Peter. “Take, for instance, the inscription over the gate; that will answer your purpose fully.”
At this every eye in all the throng was lifted to the arch above the gate, and all read, in great letters of fire: “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
For several moments the people stood and gazed in silence without a movement or a word. Then a whispered discussion arose among them as to whether or not the inscription over the gate was a quotation from the Scriptures.
Peter looked up from the pages of his book, and said: “Well, what is the difficulty?”
“I fear the standard is too high,” said one. “Well,” said Peter, “we have the same standard here that you have down in the world from which you came. I suppose that is fully understood by you all.”
“No,” answered a gruff old business man, a millionaire, who had made vast sums of money by dealing in tobacco. “No, I did not so understand it. If memory serves me right, our pastor did not believe in this holiness. Indeed, preached against it.”
“Where is Dr. Star?” said many voices at once. “Yes, get him. He can fix matters,” said one and all.
There was no small stir looking for the pastor. “I know where he is,” said a young woman, “I saw him hide among the rocks on the hillside.” “Show him to us,” said a half dozen strong men, who followed the young woman to the Doctor’s hiding place. “Here, what does this mean? We are having trouble up at the gate,” said one of the men, in a severe tone. It was a banker who had been one of Dr. Star’s greatest admirers.
The Doctor rose up pale and haggard, and crept out of his hiding place, and with a man holding to each arm, he was marched up before Peter, more like a criminal than like a great city pastor.
“Here is the man from whom we learned what we know about the Bible and the future,” said one of them to Peter.
Peter: “You were the pastor of these people, were you?”
Dr. Star: “I was, sir.”
Peter: “What did you preach to the people?”
Dr. Star: “The inspired Scriptures.”
Peter: “Well, I am not your judge, but your people seemed troubled with the inscription over the gate, and from what I can learn, there seems to have been a mistake made somehow in their instructions.”
“I want permission to speak a word here,” said the old railroad king. “This man, Star, came to us claiming to be a messenger called and sent by the King of this country. We paid him a large salary, and spent thousands of money on our beautiful Temple. But we were taught by this man, our pastor, that we could not be holy, and it is his duty to see that we are cleared of all blame in the matter.”
Peter reached out his hand, and taking the Bible from the angel, said: “What Bible is this?” “That is the Bible that lay on our pulpit in the White Temple,” said one.
Peter: “Did you read this book, pastor?”
Dr. Star: “I did.”
Peter: “Did you believe it to be an inspired book, and to contain the truths by which men are to be saved?”
Dr. Star: “I did.”
Opening the book, Peter placed his fingers under these words, and read them aloud: “Be ye holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” “Did you ever see those words?” said Peter, looking at the pastor.
Dr. Star: “Yes, I read them many times.”
Peter: “And yet you told the people that they could not be holy.”
Dr. Star tried to speak, but his voice was drowned with a great clamor of voices, saying, “Yes, Peter, that is exactly what he did.”
Again Peter opened the book, and read: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” Peter looked up after a moment’s pause, and said: “What did you make out of that, pastor?”
There was the stillness of death. Dr. Star’s lips seemed to be sealed.
“He told us,” said a society woman, “that that meant we would be saved when we came to die, and it might have turned out all right but you see we all died so suddenly.”
“His teachings were false there,” said Peter. “Listen to this,” and he turned again and read: “The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.”
“Is that in the book out of which Star preached to us?” said the banker. Peter turned the book so that all the people could see the page.
“Star,” said the Sabbath school superintendent, “you are a perjured liar.” “Let me at him,” said a burly fellow who had giggled and flirted in the White Temple choir, and before any one could interfere, he struck the miserable Doctor a blow that felled him to the ground. A fearful scene followed. Some interfered to try to protect their old pastor, and others heaped bitter curses upon his head. Finally order was restored, and Peter again opened the book.
Dr. Star was gotten to his feet, and was supported by a man on either side of him. Looking up at Peter he said, “Please do not read any more from that book.” “Read on,” said a multitude, “we want to know what it contains.”
Peter read: “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.”
“Hold there, Peter,” said a merchant, “let me speak a word. Friends, we should be deeply ashamed for what has just occurred here; let’s give our pastor a fair chance to clear himself of all blame, if he can do so.” Then turning to Dr. Star, he said: “Doctor Star, you well remember when you preached your set of sermons against sanctification — we all remember the time — it was just after the great revival on those lines in our city. Now, I wish to ask you this question: When you preached those sermons were you aware that our Bible contained the Scriptures which Peter has just read?”
Dr. Star remained silent.
“You well remember the sermons,” said the merchant; “they came just before that series of sermons you preached to us, in which you explained away all the fire out of hell. You remember how happy we all were over those sermons. Don’t you remember that both the president of the brewing company and the president of the jockey club joined our church just after you preached Holiness and Hell out of the Bible? You have not forgotten it. It resulted in a great ingathering to our church. You took in many of the most wealthy and fashionable people in the city into our church just after those sermons, and we increased your salary two thousand dollars. Now, tell me plainly, when preaching those sermons did you know this Scripture, which Peter has just read, was in the Bible?”
“I knew it was there,” said the pastor, “but if I had preached it to you, you would not have accepted it, and no doubt would have turned me out to suffer for bread.”
“No doubt you will suffer for water hereafter,” said a spiteful little woman, whose eyes sparkled with hate.
Again Peter opened the book. “Read on,” said a voice from the throng.
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”
“That will do,” roared a voice from the throng. “It is a waste of time to read more. We all know full well that this hireling preached just the opposite of this to us all those years. Chain the deceiver and hand him over to us.”
While this investigation was going forward, a company of the less serious and more worldly of the congregation of White Temple had gathered about the gate, and one of the young women, peeping in, said: “What a beautiful place that would be for a lawn festival.” “Could a fellow get a box of cigarettes in there?” called out a young man to a passing angel.
“Oh, don’t I wish I could pull some of the feathers out of that angel’s wing for my summer hat!” said a society leader.
“I am certain the fruit on yonder tree could be made into hard cider,” said a red-faced individual, who looked about with hungry eyes.
“But don’t I wish I could get hold on a few of those yellow paving stones from yonder street,” said a young financier.
It would fairly make one’s blood run cold to hear them talk. They had brought with them the same depraved nature and appetites that had dominated them in the world below. Had they gotten into Paradise they would have blighted and ruined the place in less than twenty-four hours. It was perfectly plain now, that men must be made heavenly minded before they can enter heaven.
Meanwhile a chain had been brought from a hole in the side of the hill, and a number of men, frantic with anger, were closing about Dr. Star, whose face had taken on more the look of a demon than that of a man. They seized their old pastor, and with many a kick, cuff, and bitter oath, they bound him with a great heavy chain, which seemed glowing red with heat, from which he was never to be released.
Just as the men who had bound Dr. Star completed their task and dragged him to his feet, the great gate of Paradise closed, and the angel with the sword of flame, attended by more than a legion of others, gathered about the company and drove them from the gate toward the foot of a great mountain that could scarcely be outlined in the distance.
For the first time the entire congregation seemed to realize the fearfulness of the situation. Many of them made frantic efforts to escape, but they were caught and chained together like slaves. Proud women, who had sneered at Holiness, and had mocked at the idea of future punishment, now hung down their heads in speechless horror and shame.
After conducting the people for some distance, the angel handed them over bound to a legion of devils, who came out of the mouth of a great pit that opened at the foot of the mountain. When they finally reached the mouth of the pit, they made a stand, and begged for time for parley and explanation. “We were always taught by our pastor,” said one of the people, “that there was no hell, and it seems now that he should bear the blame and we should go free.”
“Bring a Bible here,” demanded Satan, and it was brought, and turned out to be the same book that had lain on the pulpit at the White Temple Church. “Is this the book from which your pastor preached?” demanded Satan, and the people assented that it was.
“But can we not have some other book opened here? I fear that book,” said the wife of a millionaire.
“No,” answered Satan, “this is the Book out of which you must be acquitted or condemned.” Satan then turned to the following passages and read aloud: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” He turned again and read: “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Again he turned and read: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” He read still further: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.”
By this time the fury of the multitude had become something awful. There was yet one man in the throng who was self-possessed and calm. He had for years been a distinguished criminal lawyer, and of later years, judge on the bench. He had been elected to office by the whiskey element of the district over which he presided. “You need not read more,” said the Judge. “Now that it is too late to remedy our sad condition, we shall simply have to face it with as much fortitude as possible. We have pampered and flattered this miserable ecclesiastic for years, and he has deceived us; but we are without excuse. We all see now, as never before, that the Bible is a plainly written book, and easily understood. When Dr. Star first commenced to preach against holiness, and to please us with his sermons against the doctrine of hell-fire, so plainly taught by Christ, we should at once have recognized him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, seeking our dollars instead of our souls, and should have dismissed him from our pulpit. But, deluded wretches that we were, we loved deception more than we loved the truth.”
As the Judge proceeded with these remarks, Dr. Star was crouching close to the ground, and trying to cover his feet with the skirts of his coat, which he could not do, but with his efforts only succeeded in attracting the attention of the people to the fact that both of his feet were cloven, horns shot up from his head, and a great tail, like a serpent, dropped down behind him.
The Doctor uttered a shriek of horror as he beheld himself taking on the image of his diabolical master. Meanwhile the Judge continued his remarks: “The only shadow of a hope of any sort of gratification that I can see left us, is that of haunting and torturing this foul deceiver throughout eternity. It shall be my business to add all I can to his woe and shame.”
With this the entire congregation of White Temple Church, with imprecations on their lips, rushed upon their old pastor, and he turned and fled into the mouth of the pit, followed by the people, and in a moment they were all lost to view. As the last one entered the cavern a mighty iron door, with the word ETERNITY written across it, slammed shut with such a thunder clap of deafening sound, that I leaped to my feet, thoroughly aroused from the dream-like reverie that had been passing through my mind. But as I dismissed the train of thought, I could but reflect on the vast number of pastors and churches of our times, who seem to be utterly blind and indifferent to the great Bible doctrines of Holiness and Hell.