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In compliance with requests repeatedly made, we herewith...

From the June 1896 issue of The Christian Science Journal

In compliance with requests repeatedly made, we herewith publish a discourse delivered by the then pastor of the Mother Church in Copley Hall, the last Sunday but one of meeting there, the subject being "Heaven," and the text Matt. 3:1, 2, and 4:17: "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" Matt. 3: 1, 2. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. 4:17. We give a stenographic account of it as it has been furnished by a young lady Scientist who has kindly preserved it and handed it to us.

"What is heaven; where is heaven? These have been the questions of the ages. They are the great questions of to-day. Men have ever been searching for God because they believed that where God is heaven is. Hence throughout all ages men have been seeking the kingdom of heaven. The ancients sought it. It is a mistake to suppose that the heathen nations, either past or present, have not sought heaven. The ancients had their conception of it. It was their Elysium, but it was simply an enlargement upon the material pleasures of the senses. All along the ages men have been endeavoring to build up a Heaven which should but emphasize the supposed pleasures and enjoyments of material conditions. The aborigines of this country had their conception of Heaven in a happy hunting ground, where bear and deer and all kinds of game were in abundance, and the Great Spirit furnished them all this game. This was their conception of heaven. And may we not earnestly and sincerely and truthfully inquire this morning what has been the Christian conception of heaven, what sort of a heaven has been most generally preached? Has it been a heaven on earth, a sinless heaven, the possibility of which exists now and here, or has it been a heaven of the future to be attained only by dying, a far away, distant, inconceivable place? And when we come to look into the true scriptural interpretation of heaven as delineated by John the Baptist, and Jesus, in the words which we have chosen this morning, it becomes a matter of amazement that so many expounders and interpreters of the Bible should yet all over this land and all over Christendom be preaching a far away heaven of golden streets and pearly gates and great white thrones and harps, and all these material conditions and accompaniments. It is strange that these beautiful symbols of a sinless spiritual state or condition of thought and mind and purpose, should have been so distorted that only material gold and material pearls can be wrought out of them. Some of the attempted descriptions of heaven from this standpoint are grotesque enough. We have all perhaps read them, and not long ago. Some of the sermons and dissertations most widely circulated undertake to describe this heaven of golden streets and pearly gates. These symbols, these expressions, are intended only to typify purity and freedom from dross, the dross of sense, hence pure gold is descriptive of the spiritual state, and pearls typify purity from sin. These, I say, have been inverted from their true symbolical and allegorical meaning, and have been literalized as far as thought and expression could literalize them.

"Now what does John say about heaven? Where does he say it is? Where did he say it was nineteen hundred years ago? He said it was at hand, not afar off; and Jesus reiterated that statement when he 'began to preach' and said, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is not afar off, distant and inconceivable, but at hand; now and here is the kingdom of God,' and he repeated this sentiment over and over again throughout all his preaching, and emphasized it by expressly declaring that the kingdom of God, to wit, the kingdom of heaven, is within you, not afar off. If the kingdom of heaven is at hand where is it? It is here. It is a present existing fact. It is a present possible experience, and it is true that heaven is everywhere, 'if we but lift our eyes and see'; if we but brush away these mists of human blindness, these dark clouds of materialism. If we but rend the veil we may look within on the golden streets and see the pearly gates typifying purity or spiritual existence now and here. What a strange conception that men must die in order to live; that people must pass through death in order to find the road to heaven, harmony! How can an instantaneous change like that wipe away the sin of years, the false conception of ages, the false teachings and false doctrines which have been instilled into human thought. This is the work of time, and as our text-book says, if it be not accomplished before the change called death, it must and will be accomplished after that change. These sinful, false conceptions must be overcome and destroyed, and just in the degree in which they are being destroyed are we coming into the Kingdom which is at hand. Always at hand, now and here. It is pushed off into the far future only by false human conceptions. The word heaven simply means that which is upheaved, or heaved up; that is its literal signification; hence it means the higher or highest condition of existence or attainment along spiritual lines.

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