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The Other Room

Layman Abbott

*PubllshepsJ Weekly


The Other Room

The Other Room

Lyman Abbott

New York

The Outlook Company


— -•]



284266 i



Copyright, 1903, by
The Outlook Company

Published, March, igoj


A French deist was once ar-
guing against the immortality
of the soul. His Christian
friend heard him through in
silence, then replied : "Prob-
ably you are right ; probably
you are not immortal, but I




The Other Room 9

In Darkness 25

The Light-Bringer 41

The First-Fruits of Them that

Slept SS

God Shall Give It a Body ... 69

How Shall We Think of the Dead ? 79

The Practice of Immortality . . 97

Picture-Teaching 1^9



THE city is full of strangers.
Every house has guests. Tents
are set up on the surrounding hills.
Pilgrims have come from far to
join in the annual celebration of
the national birthday. The gen-
eral atmosphere is one of festivity,
but not of hilarity. With the
sacred memories of the past mingle
sorrowful appreciation of the na-
tional humiliation in the present;

but the national celebration is also
1 1


an occasion for family reunions, and
these give to the Paschal Feast a
domestic flavor like that of our
own Thanksgiving Day.

Into an upper chamber the Mas-
ter has come with his disciples to
share in this national celebration
and to give to the feast a new sig-
nificance. The solemnities of even
that hour have not been sufficient
to expel petty ambitions from the
hearts of the disciples, and they
have quarreled with one another
as to who should take precedence
in the seats at the table. The
Master has waited until the un-
seemly wrangle is over and they
have settled the insignificant ques-



tion for themselves. Then he has
taken the ewer and the basin, and
in washing their feet has performed
for them the service which it did
not occur to any one to offer to
his brother disciple or even to the
Master himself.

Subdued if not saddened by the
rebuke, they have listened appalled
to his declaration that one of them
should betray him, another should
deny him, the rest should forsake
him in his last hours. At last they
begin to believe what he had often
told them, that the machinations of
his enemies would prove apparently
successful, that he would be arrested,
convicted, sentenced to a shameful


death, and the sentence would be
executed. Then, as the coming
events cast their dark shadows be-
fore, he utters those ever-memora-
ble but often misunderstood words:
" Let not your heart be troubled;
ye have faith in God, have faith
also in me. In my Father's house
are many dwelling-places ; if it
were not so, would I have told you
that I am going to prepare a room
for you? "

The universe is God's house.
This world is not the only habitat
for the living. In his house are
many rooms. Death is only push-
ing aside the portiere and passing
from one room to another.


In this figure is found the key
to Christ's instructions, and so to
the Christian faith respecting death
and immortahty.

It is not well to spend much
time in endeavoring to pierce the
impenetrable curtain and see what
lies on the other side. It is best
for us to put the main strength of
our thought, the main stress of our
purpose, on the duties which we
have to perform, the service we
have to render, the Father's will
which we are appointed to fulfil in
the room in which we are now
living. Yet since death is continu-
ally drawing from our side our
companions into the other room, it


is well occasionally to reflect upon it,
that we may at least endeavor to
banish the evil thoughts that tor-
ment us, and teach our hearts also
not to be troubled nor afraid.

No philosophy is adequate to
solve the mystery of life ; none is
large enough to include all its con-
tradicting phenomena. He who
teaches us to speak to our Father
who is in heaven as though he
were at our side, also compares
him to a householder who has
gone into a far country and left
his estate in the charge of his ser-
vants. Both teachings find their
confirmation in Christian experi-
ence. Sometimes God seems to be


an absentee God whom we cannot
reach. Sometimes he seems ** closer
than breathing " and " nearer than
hands and feet." He comes and
goes through the open door, now
seen, now unseen, but never distant.
My father was the head of a school
in Boston years ago. After the
opening exercises he would often
go out of the school-room, leaving
the hundred girls without teacher
or monitor, absolutely free, abso-
lutely unwatched, with neither
promise of reward nor fear of pen-
alty to preserve order, for he would
test the girls and see what kind they
were, that he might make true girls
out of them. So sometimes God


seems to leave us a little while
without the vision of his presence,
with neither penalty nor reward
apparent before us, that he may
both test and see what manner of
children we are, and that he may
make out of us children of God
who follow righteousness and es-
chew evil not because we are
watched, not in hope of reward or
fear of penalty, but because we are
learning to love righteousness and
hate evil. At these times he has
but gone into the other room, un-
seen but not far distant. At other
times he is in the midst of us. He
who says, "Lo, I am with you
alway, even unto the end of the


world," also says, " It is expedient
for you that I go away." Some-
times we talk with him, and our
hearts burn within us while the
strange converse goes on. He ap-
pears to us as we sit at the table
with him, and he blesses and breaks
and gives the bread of communion
to us ; then vanishes. This appear-
ing and disappearing Christ, this
strange entrance which he makes
into our life at unexpected times
and places, should suffice to teach us
that the other room is not far
away, that, seen or unseen, he is
always close at hand.

Where he is are those who are
banished from our sight, but not


from our presence. " To depart,
and to be with Christ, which is far
better," is Paul's definition of dying;
but if Christ is with his Church,
and Paul is with Christ, Paul is
with the Church. If your mother,
your child, your friend is with
Christ, and Christ is with you,
your mother, your child, your friend
is with you. " This day," says
Christ upon the cross to the peni-
tent thief, " thou shalt be with me
in Paradise." Yet Christ, rising
from the dead, appeared to his
disciples upon the earth. If he
was with his disciples, and the
penitent thief was with him, then

neither he nor the penitent thief


was in ** a happy land far, far
away." Paradise is not a distant
country ; it is only the other

All popular errors have in them
some measure of truth. It is the
truth, not the error, that makes
them popular. I am not a Spirit-
ualist. There are many reasons
why I am not. The spiritualistic
mediums have been too often proved
arrant impostors; against fraudulent
pretense by the spirits themselves,
if spirits there are, there is no pro-
tection ; the method of their com-
municating and the subject-matter
of their communications are alike
repellent to common sense and to



refined feeling ; " by their fruits ye
shall know them," and Spiritualism
has no fruit of public service and
little of enduring comfort to show :
for these reasons I am not a Spir-
itualist. But Spiritualism would
never have had the power which it
once possessed and is now losing
had it not borne witness to the
truth which the Church of Christ
has often ignored, and sometimes
denied, that death is not cessation
of life but only transition, and that
the dead are not dead but living,
are not even departed, but living
near at hand, having only stepped
across the threshold into the other



The dream of poets that our
unseen friends are friends still, and
minister to us in services which we
but dimly recognize, in counsels
which strangely guide us, though
we know not whence they come, is
more than a dream. Poets also
see. Their witness to the invisible
realities is not to be discarded.
Their prophesying we are not to
despise ; and with rare exceptions
they have always believed and
taught us to believe:

Far off thou art, but ever nigh ;

I have thee still, and I rejoice ;

I prosper, circled with thy voice ;
I shall not lose thee tho' I die.





EFORE Christ brought life
and immortality to light,death
was the slayer of man's hopes. It
left love alive, but love without
hope is poignant sorrow. It is said
that in the ancient Greek ceme-
teries no inscription of hope is ever
to be found. The inscriptions are
all sacred to the memory of the past;
none of them is radiant with an-
ticipations of the future. It is true
that even to the heathen death did


not end all. They believed in some-
thing after death, but they knew
not what — a vague, shadowy, un-
satisfactory immortality. Homer
makes the dead Achilles say :

I would be
A laborer on earth and serve for hire
Some man of mean estate, who makes

scant cheer,
Rather than reign over all who have

gone down
To death.

For the Hades of the heathen was
a shadowy abode in which there
was neither voice, nor sight, nor
life — only the mere shadow of a
life, and the mere echo of a voice,
and the dim pretense of a vision.


The foundation of this pagan con-
ception of death is the pagan con-
ception of Ufe, which identifies the
spirit with the body, the organist
with the organ on which he plays,
and through which he expresses
himself. When the body decayed,
the spirit seemed to them either to
have ceased to exist or to have lost
all its power of life, to be either non-
existent or but the shadow of a
reality. So they made pathetic en-
deavors to preserve the body from
decay ; embalmed it and sealed it
up in great stone sarcophagi,
strangely imagining that by arrest-
ing the progress of decay they could
preserve the subtle spirit of life.


Or sometimes, as in the case of the
North American Indians, they bur-
ied the implements of warfare with
the warrior, or the horse with the
horseman, comforting themselves
with a childish imagination, which
was less than a belief, that so they
would facilitate the disembodied
spirit in continuing in another
world the pursuits which had occu-
pied him here.

The conception of Hades current
among the Hebrews hardly tran-
scended that of other ancient peo-
ples. Neither in Moses nor in the
prophets is there found any clear
conception of life after death. The
writers of the Old Testament Scrip-


tures either identify the spirit with
the body and so consider that the
death of the body ends all, or con-
ceive of the spirits of the departed
as dwelling in a prison-house, a dark
and gloomy under-world. Thus
Job, protesting against the injustice
of life, laments the untimely death
of man :

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut

down, that it will sprout again,
And that the tender branch thereof will

not cease.
Though the root thereof wax old in the

And the stock thereof die in the

ground ;
Yet through the scent of water it will




And put forth boughs like a plant.
But man dieth, and wasteth away :
Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and

where is he ?
As the waters fail from the sea,
And the river decayeth and drieth

So man lieth down and riseth not :
Till the heavens be no more, they shall

not awake.
Nor be roused out of their sleep.

Thus the Psalmist characterizes
Sheol as the land of forgetfulness :

Wilt thou show wonders to the dead ?
Shall they that are deceased arise and

praise thee ?
Shall thy loving-kindness be declared

in the grave ?
Or thy faithfulness in Destruction ?


Shall thy wonders be known in the dark?
And thy righteousness in the land of

forgetful ness ?

Thus to Hezekiah death is the
end of communion with God and
of hope for humanity :

I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the

Lord in the land of the living :
I shall behold man no more with the

inhabitants of the world.
Mine age is removed, and is carried

away from me as a shepherd's tent :
I have rolled up like a weaver my life ;

he will cut me off from the loom :
From day even to night wilt thou make

an end of me. . . .
For the grave cannot praise thee, death

cannot celebrate thee :
They that go down into the pit cannot

hope for thy truth.



Even Isaiah, the most spiritual
of the prophets, conceives of the
place of the dead as a dwelling-
place of shadows from whom the
strength of life is departed. His
picture of the welcome of the King
of Babylon to the land of death
graphically illustrates the Hebraic
conception prior to the coming of
Christ : ^

How still is the despot become, how

still is the raging !
Jehovah has broken the staff of the

wicked, the rod of the tyrants.
Which smote peoples in passion with

stroke unremitting,
Which trampled the nations in anger,

unchecked was his trampling !

1 Translation of Dr. T. K. Cheyne, slightly altered.


Still and at rest, the whole earth, into
shoutings of triumph break they ;

At thy fate the pine-trees rejoice and
Lebanon's cedars, saying :

No woodman comes up against us since
thou art laid low.

Sheol beneath is startled because of

thee, expecting soon thine arrival;
For thee the shades it arouses, all the

bell-wethers of mankind ;
It makes arise from their thrones all the

kings of the nations.
They all address thee . . ., and say to

thee :
Thou, too, art made strengthless as we

are — to us hast thou been leveled !
Brought down to Sheol is thy pride and

the twang of thy harps ;
Beneath thee corruption is spread, with

worms art thou covered.



How art thou fallen from heaven, O

radiant one, Son of the Dawn !
How art thou struck down to the

ground, to lie a stiff corpse upon

corpses !
And thou, thou didst say in thy heart :

The heavens will I scale.
Above the stars of God will I exalt my

I will sit on the Mount of Assembly in

the recesses of the North,
I will mount above even the hills of the

clouds, I will match the Most High.
Nathless thou art brought down to

Sheol,to the very recesses of the pit.

They who see thee, on thee do they
gaze and thee they consider, saying:

Is this he who startled the earth, who
shook kingdoms,


Who made the world a desert, and broke

down its cities,
Who sent not his prisoners back free,

each one to his house ?
Kings of nations, all of them, repose in

high estate,
But thou among the slain art flung

down, among those who are pierced

with the sword.
Who go down to the very base of the

pit, as a carcass trodden underfoot.

It is said that every type of hu-
man development can be found in
the present century — the stone age,
the iron age, the bronze age ; the
clifF-dwellers, the lake-dwellers ;
slavery, serfdom, feudalism, the
wage system ; fetishism, polytheism,


idolatry, spiritual worship. It is
certain that the old pagan darkness
hangs like a pall over the Christian
burial-places; it is symbolized by
the black crape which we hang
upon our doors ; it is expressed in
the gloomy utterances of many a
funeral discourse ; it is embodied in
some of our most beautiful hymns.
Phoenicians or Egyptians might have
sung :

Through sorrow's night and danger's

Amid the deepening gloom.
We soldiers of an injured King

Are marching to the tomb.

But no followers of Christ who be-
lieve in his resurrection, who be-


lieve in him who brought life and
immortaHty to light, ought ever to
sing so pagan a stanza. Neverthe-
less, they do. Paganism still iden-
tifies the person with the body
which he occupied, still seals the
body up in a coffin or casket, still
follows it to the burial-place, still
thinks of the loved one as lying in
the grave, still goes there to sit and
grieve, tortured by the strange im-
agination that he is where his mol-
dering tenement is mingling with
the dust, still marches with Henry
Kirke White only "to the tomb"
and looks not beyond, still seeks
the living among the dead, still asks
for comfort only from sorrowful


memories, not from radiant hopes,
or still imagines the friend as
wrapped in a long and dreary sleep,
awaiting resurrection on some far-
distant ascension day. This pagan-
ism is not less pagan because it uses
conventional Christian forms in its
mourning, sings Christian hymns
for its dirges, and puts a Christian
cross upon the unchristian tomb-




IF Christ was not the first one in
human history to teach the ab-
solute continuity of life, he was the
first one who ever succeeded in in-
ducing the world to listen to the
message. It is never safe to utter
a sweeping negative, but I doubt
whether the teaching of the con-
tinuity of life can be found either
in pagan or in Jewish literature prior
to the time of Christ. This was
the essential character of his mes-


sage, underlying alike his utter-
ances, his quiet assumptions, and
his silences.

Life is continuous ; there is not
a break ; there is not a sleep and a
future awakening; there is not a
shadow-land from which, by and
by, the spirits will be summoned
to be reunited to the embalmed
corpses ; life goes on without a sin-
gle break : such was the essence of
Christ's message. Like all other
philosophical statements, this sum-
mary must be gathered from his
teaching rather than looked for in
explicit and definite statement; but
it is not ambiguous on that account.
It is expressed by his promises. I


give unto you, he said, eternal life.
He gives it here and now; it is a
present possession. Eternal life the
Pharisees thought was to come in
some final, far-off resurrection.
Christ said. You have eternal life if
you believe in the Son of God. It
is indicated in what he said to
Martha when he came to the
tomb of Lazarus. He said. Thy
brother shall rise again. She said,
I know that he shall rise again in
the resurrection at the last day.
Christ said, No, you are mistaken;
"whosoever liveth and believeth
in me shall never die." For him
who has faith in the Messiah there
is no death ; " I am the resurrection


and the life." The believer takes
that resurrection and lives on with
an unbroken life. The thread in
the weaver's loom is not cut; it
simply disappears from human

The same truth is implicit in his
last words to his disciples: You
think I am going to disappear, to
be as though I were not. Not at
all. I go back to my Father, and
yet in going back to my Father I
do not go away from you. I live,
my Father liveth with me, I live
with him, I live with you, I will
come again and make my abode
with you. My life does not break
off, does not carry me away from


you; I continue to be in your pres-
ence and companionship more than
ever before. It is for my advan-
tage that I should go, for I am
going to my Father; it is for your
advantage that I should go, because I
can serve you better, live more
with you, be closer to you, than
I ever was in the flesh.

This teaching is intimated in
the three resurrections which
Christ wrought. He comes to the
maiden and says, She is not dead;
she is sleeping. He takes her by
the hand and says. Arise ! He puts
back the living soul into the tene-
ment. Yes, the tent had fallen
down, and he calls the tenant back,


reerects the tent, and puts her in
it. He meets the boy borne on
the open bier. The two strange
processions meet — the one a ju-
bilant throng flocking after the
Life-Giver, the other a mourning
throng flocking after the bier —
the procession of life, the proces-
sion of death. He stops them both,
and takes the young man by the
hand and says, I say. Arise ! and
calls back the spirit and puts it in
the frame again, and gives the boy
back to the mother. He comes to
Lazarus. The message is the
same : There is no death ; he is
not dead, he is asleep. And then
when the disciples do not under-


stand, he says, He is dead. But at
his bidding they roll away the
stone, and he calls to Lazarus, as
though to indicate that Lazarus
was not beyond the reach of his
voice, and the spirit comes back
and fills again the body and ani-
mates it. Lazarus is not far off,
Lazarus is not dead, Lazarus is
living and close at hand.

The teaching of Christ symbo-
lized in these three resurrections
wrought by him has been beautifully
expressed by Rossiter W. Raymond
in a poem which has given comfort
to many hearts, and which I hope
through this reprinting here may
give comfort to many more:



Beside the dead I knelt for prayer,
And felt a presence as I prayed.

Lo! it was Jesus standing there.
He smiled: "Be not afraid!"

" Lord, thou hast conquered death, we
know ;

Restore again to life," I said,
" This one who died an hour ago."

He smiled : " She is not dead ! "

" Asleep then, as thyself didst say ;
Yet thou canst lift the lids that
Her prisoned eyes from ours away!"
He smiled: "She doth not sleep!"

" Nay then, tho' haply she do wake,
And look upon some fairer dawn,



Restore her to our hearts that ache!"
He smiled: "She is not gone!"

" Alas ! too well we know our loss,
Nor hope again our joy to touch,
Until the stream of death we cross."
He smiled: "There is no such!"

"Yet our beloved seem so far,

The while we yearn to feel them
Albeit with thee we trust they are."
He smiled: "And I am here!"

" Dear Lord, how shall we know that
Still walk unseen with us and thee,
Nor sleep, nor wander far away?"
He smiled: "Abide in me."

I believe in this teaching of Jesus
Christ because I believe in him.


He was not a philosopher groping
after truth, discovering it by research
and leaving us to follow his method
to the same result ; he was a faith-
ful and true witness. "We speak
that we do know, and testify that
we have seen": this note of per-
sonal assurance runs through all his
teaching. One has but to compare
the consolatory words with which
Socrates closes the " Phasdo," and
the words with which Christ con-
soles his disciples in the last inter-
view before his crucifixion, to see
the difference between a philoso-
pher searching for the truth con-
cerning an unknown world, and
the Divine Man testifying to the


truth within his own knowledge
respecting that unknown world.
I believe that he knew what he
was talking about, that he was not
deceived by his own illusions, that
he was not mistaking his hopes
for assurances, that he was not an
enthusiast who thought that the
phantasmagoria of a day-dream was
an assured reality, that when he
said, "In my Father's house there
are many dwelling-places," he
uttered neither the guess of a sibyl,
the hope of a prophet, nor the con-
clusion of a philosopher ; he ut-
tered the testimony of a witness
to a life of which he had personal
and familiar knowledge.



THE resurrection of Jesus
Christ was not an extraor-
dinary event; it was an extraordinary
evidence of an ordinary event.
Every death is a resurrection.
Death is the separation of the soul
from the body. The organist rises
from his seat and leaves the instru-
ment on which he has been play-
ing. The instrument crumbles
into dust, the organist still lives.


"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes,
dust to dust"; but the spirit to God
who gave it. Death is dust to
dust, ashes to ashes; the resurrec-
tion is the spirit to God who gave
it: the two are simultaneous.

Jesus Christ was not raised from
the dead by a power acting on him
from without. He had in himself

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