“Everything animate has a mind measurable by its wants. Is there to you no meaning in the singularity that power in full degree to speculate upon the future was given to man alone? By the sign as I see it, God meant to make us know ourselves created for another and a better life, such being in fact the greatest need of our nature. But, alas! into what a habit the nations have fallen! They live for the day, as if the present were the all in all, and go about saying, ‘There is no to-morrow after death; or if there be, since we know nothing about it, be it a care unto itself.’ So when Death calls them, ‘Come,’ they may not enter into enjoyment of the glorious after-life because of their unfitness. That is to say, the ultimate happiness of man was everlasting life in the society of God. Alas, O son of Hur, that I should say it! but as well yon sleeping camel constant in such society as the holiest priests this day serving the highest altars in the most renowned temples. So much men are given to this lower earthly life! So nearly have they forgotten that other which is to come! “See now, I pray you, that which is to be saved to us.
“For my part, speaking with the holiness of truth, I would not give one hour of life as a Soul for a thousand years of life as a man.”
Here the Egyptian seemed to become unconscious of companionship and fall away into abstraction.
“This life has its problems,” he said, “and there are men who spend their days trying to solve them; but what are they to the problems of the hereafter? What is there like knowing God? Not a scroll of the mysteries, but the mysteries themselves would for that hour at least lie before me revealed; even the innermost and most awful- the power which now we shrink from thought of- which rimmed the void with shores, and lighted the darkness, and out of nothing appointed the universe. All places would be opened. I would be filled with divine knowledge; I would see all glories, taste all delights; I would revel in being. And, if at the end of the hour, it should please God to tell me, ‘I take thee into my service forever,’ the furthest limit of desire would be passed; after which the attainable ambitions of this life, and its joys of whatever kind, would not be so much as the tinkling of little bells.”
Balthasar paused as if to recover from very ecstasy of feeling; and to Ben-Hur it seemed the speech had been the delivery of a Soul speaking for itself.
“I pray pardon, son of Hur,” the good man continued, with a bow, the gravity of which was relieved by the tender look that followed it. “I meant to leave the life of a Soul, its conditions, pleasures, superiority, to your own reflection and finding out. The joy of the thought has betrayed me into much speech. I set out to show, though ever so faintly, the reason of my faith. It grieves me that words are so weak. But help yourself to truth. Consider first the excellence of the existence which was reserved for us after death, and give heed to the feelings and impulses the thought is sure to awaken in you- heed them, I say, because they are your own Soul astir, doing what it can to urge you in the right way. Consider next that the after-life has become so obscured as to justify calling it a lost light. If you find it, rejoice, O Son of Hur- rejoice as I do, though in beggary of words. For then, besides the great gift which is to be saved to us, you will have found the need of a Saviour so infinitely greater than the need of a king; and he we are going to meet will not longer hold place in your hope a warrior with a sword or a monarch with a crown.