In the year 1814, the late Mr. & Mrs. Foster (who were lost in the Rothsay Castle steamer, August 1831) were acquainted with three sisters, living in London, two of whom were very gracious retiring women, and the third was just as gay and volatile in proportion. They were all elderly, which made the gaity of the third the less becoming, and also inclined her the more easily to take offence at my remarks made about it. She hated the piety of her sisters, and opposed it in many petty and spiteful instances, though they indeavoured to accommodate themselves to her, and to make the difference between them as little disagreeable as possible.
One night, towards the close of the year 1814, she had been at the assembly very late, and the next morning, at breakfast, was so remarkably different from her usual manner, that her sisters feared that she was either very unwell, or had met with some misfortune which affected her deeply. Instead of her incessant chatter about every person she had met, and everything she had seen, and all that had been said and done, she sat silent, sullen, and absorbed. The gloom upon her brow was a mixture of temper and distress, and .seemed to indicate a fixed and dogged resolution, formed upon
circumstances disagreeable to herself, as if she were resolved to pursue her own will, though it should lead her into most unnecessary trouble, rather than follow the course she knew to be right, but which would reduce her to submit her own will to the power and control of another. As she ate nothing, her sisters inquired if she were ill. “No”. “What was the matter?” “Nothing”. They were afraid something had distressed her. She in reply, “had no idea of people prying into matters that did not concern them.”
The whole of the morning was passed alone in her own room, and at dinner the same scene recurred as in the morning. She ate
scarcely anything, and did not speak, but to answer unwillingly what she was asked, and with an appearance of depression, obstinacy, and melancholy that spread its influence very painfully over the cheerfulness of her companions. She retired to rest late, and with the air of one who expects neither relief nor refreshment from sleep.
The next morning, she again scarcely touched breakfast, and seemed in the same oppressed and uncomfortable state as on the preceding day. “Anna, you are not well. Is it your head that pains you?” “I am well, and nothing pains me” “Then you have something on your mind, and why will you not tell us? Do we not love you? Have we not the same earthly interests with you, and can we seek any good but yours in our anxious wish to share your sorrows?” “Oh, you have superstitions enough of your own, without mine being added. I shall not tell you what ails me, so you have no occasion to excite your curiosity. I dare say you would be delighted to know, for you would think it some spiritual triumph or other. But I laugh at those things. I am not quite old enough yet to
be the victim of dreams and visions”. “Anna, we don’t believe in dreams and visions.” She answered sharply, “No; nor do I mean
you should!” The sisters looked at each other, and relapsed into silence.
This second day passed like the first. Anna was gloomy and
moody, and her sisters, both from pity and anxiety, were unhappy for her sake.
The third morning she again entered on the day as one who loathes the light – who has no object in being – and to whom the lapse of time and prospects of the future bring neither peace nor hope. As her sisters looked at her, one of them suddenly said, “Anna, what was your dream?” She started, and laughed wildly. “Ha! what was it indeed? You would give the world to know, but I shall not tell you! I thought you did not believe in dreams?” “No more we do. In general you know, they are certainly the result of a disordered stomach – confused images and fancies, whilst reason is dormant-and the memory of them soon passes away. But no doubt there are dreams which are not sent in vain, any more than afflictions, or any other warning. There is a verse in the Bible which mentions God as speaking to man in a dream, ‘in the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon man.’ ” She laughed again, and said, “You have verses in the Bible for everything that suits you; but I do not choose to be warned in such a way. I have no doubt I shall get it out of my head in a day or two.” “Anna, we do beseech you to tell us. If you really have had a dream from heaven, you surely would not wish to forget it; and if not, we will help you to laugh it off.” She answered, half sulkily, “Well, I suppose, if you must know it, you must. It was very extraordinary, no doubt. I should have thought it the effects of the ball, but that I never saw, anywhere. anything in the least resembling it. And you must not suppose that you understand what I am about to relate, for you never saw, and can never imagine anything like it. I thought that I was walking in the wide street of a city. Many people were walking there besides myself, but there was something in their air that immediately struck me. They seemed thoughtful and cheerful, neither occupied with business nor with gaity, but having about them such dignity of repose, such high and settled purpose, such peace, and such purity, as never were stamped upon mortal brow. The light of the city was also strange. It was not the sun, for there was nothing to dazzle. It was not the moon, for all was clear as day. It seemed an atmosphere of light – calm, lovely, and changeless. As I looked at the buildings, they seemed all palaces, but not like the palaces of earth. The pavement that I walked on, and the houses that I saw. were all alike of gold, bright and shining, and clear as glass. The large and glittering windows seemed like divided rainbows, and were made to give and transmit light – only the light of gladness. It was indeed a place to which Hope might lead-where Charity might dwell. I could not help crying out, as I walked along, ‘Surely these are the habitations of righteousness and truth.’ All was beauty, bright and perfect. I could not tell what was lacking to make me wish for an
eternity in such a scene, and yet its very purity oppressed me. I saw nothing congenial, though looks of kindness met me in every face of that happy throng. I felt nothing responsive. I returned in silence their friendly greetings, and walked on, oppressed and sad. I saw that they all went one way, and I followed, wondering at the reason;
and at length I saw them all cross over to a building, much finer and larger than the rest. I saw them ascend its massive steps, and enter beneath its ample porch. I felt no desire to go with them, but so far as the foot of the steps I approached from curiosity. I saw persons enter who were dressed in every varied colour, and in all the costumes of all nations, but they disappeared within the porch, and then I saw them cross the hall. It was not marble; it was not gold; but light pure light, consolidated into form. It was the moon, without her coldness; it was the sun, without his dazzling ray. And within was a staircase, mounting upwards, all of light, and I saw it touched by the feet and the white, spotless garments of those who ascended. It was indeed exceptionally beautiful, but it made me shudder, and turn away. As I turned, I saw one upon the lower step, looking at me with an interest so intense, and a manner so anxious, that I stopped to hear what he had to say. He asked me, in a voice like liquid music, ‘Why do you turn away? Is there peace elsewhere? Is there pleasure in the works of darkness?’ I stood in silence. He pressed me to enter, but I neither answered nor moved. Suddenly he disappeared, and another took his place, with the same look and with the same manner. I got weary and angry, and said, ‘I will not enter. I do not like your livery, and I am oppressed with your whiteness.’ He sighed, and was gone. Many passed by me, and looked at me with mingled pity and kindness. One young bright messenger, stationed on the steps, came up to me, and entreated me to enter, with a voice and manner I could not resist. ‘Do not turn,’ he said. ‘Where can you go? Do not linger, for why should you weary yourself for nothing? Enter here, and taste of happiness. Do not all go in? Are any rejected? Do not all tribes and all colours press into that hall? Are they not washed, and clothed, and comforted?’ He gave me his hand, and I entered the hall along with him. I know not how, but I mounted the bright stairs by the side of my happy guide. Oh, what a sight burst upon me, when I reached the top! But mortal words cannot describe, nor mortal fancy in any way conceive. Where are the living sapphires – where are the glittering stars – that are like the bright audience in which I stood? Where are the forms of ether, or the looks of love, that breathed in the innumerable company that moved around me? I sunk down, overpowered and wretched. I crept into a corner, and tried to hide myself, for I saw that I had nothing in unison with the blessed residents of such a place. I saw the tall forms, all fair and brilliant. Their songs and looks of gratitude formed the countenances and differences of each. At length I saw One taller than the rest, and every way more fair, more dazzling, more awful, surpassing far what yet surpasses thought;
and to Him each eye was turned, and in His face each face was brightened. The song was in His honour, and all seemed to drink
from Him their life and joy. As I gazed, in speechless and trembling amazement, one who saw me left the company, and came to where I stood. ‘Why,’ he asked me, ‘are you so silent? Come quickly, and join the song.’ I felt sudden anger in my heart, and I answered with sharpness, ‘I will not join in your song, for I do not know the tune.’ What could it be that put such tempers into my heart? At length, the Lord of that glorious company – of those glittering forms of life, and light, and beauty – of those songs of harmony, and those shouts of triumph and of joy – He saw me, and came up to speak. My every pulse was thrilled with awe. I felt my blood curdle, and the flesh upon me tremble and yet my heart grew harder, and my voice was bold. He spoke, and deep-toned music seemed to issue from His lips. ‘Why do you sit so still, and all around you are glad? I have triumphed! Come, join the song, for now my people reign!’ Love ineffable, unutterable, seemed to beam upon me, as though it could have melted a heart of stone. I felt it, but melted not. I gazed one instant, and said, ‘I will not join the song, for I do not know the tune.’ Creation would have fled at the change of His countenance. His glance was lightning; and, in a voice louder than ten thousand thunders. He said to me then, ‘Why are you here?’ The floor beneath me opened, the earth quaked, and I sank into flames and torments; and with the fright I awoke.”
There was a momentary silence, for the sisters were shocked and distressed at the dream, and neither of them thought it the effects of a natural cause. “Anna,” they said, “we cannot wish to help you forget such a dream as this. We surely believe it is from God, and it may be greatly blessed to you, if you will permit it to be so. Your description of the holy city may be an impression from much the same description in the Revelation. The city ‘has no need of sun, nor the moon, for the temple of God is there, and the Lamb is the light thereof.’ All who enter must put off their own garments, namely, their unrighteousness, and must be clothed with the imputed righteousness of Christ. ‘And their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord.’ Those who walk in the heavenly temple are they who have come through great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’; and they cease not praising God day and night, and they sing a new song, even a song which none know but those who are redeemed. It is the ‘song of Moses and the Lamb.’ Wisdom waits daily at the steps, to call the sons of men into that temple, and ministers are appointed to watch for souls. Oh, Anna, you know something of the way! Hearken to this fearful warning!” Anna’s brow darkened, and she
answered, “I do not want you to preach to me. I shall do as I please.”
She continued in this melancholy state to the end of the week, and was found in her room, a corpse! None knew the cause of her death. She died without disease, and without spiritual change.
The Sower 1886/7