The true share, in the heavenly kingdom throughout, is not what you have to keep, but what you have to give away. The thing that is mine is the thing I have with the power to give it. The thing I have no power to give a share in, is nowise mine; the thing I cannot share with everyone, cannot be essentially my own. The cry of the thousand splendors which Dante tells us he saw gliding toward them in the planet Mercury, was Lo, here comes one who will increase our loves! All the light is ours. God is all ours. Even that in God which we cannot understand is ours. If there were anything in God that was not ours, then God would not be one God. I do not say we must, or can ever know all in God; not throughout eternity shall we ever comprehend God, but he is our father—he must know us, and that in himself which we cannot know, with the same thought, for he is one. We and that which we do not or cannot know, come together in this thought. And this helps us to see how, claiming all things, we have yet shares. For the infinitude of God can only begin and only go on to be revealed, through his infinitely differing creatures—all capable of wondering at, admiring, and loving each other, and so bound all in one in him, each to the others revealing him. For every human being is like a facet cut in the great diamond to which I may dare liken the father of him who likens his kingdom to a pearl. Every man, woman, and child is a revealer of God.
by Jess Lederman
The Inheritance is the thirty-sixth and last of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons, written more than two decades after the first volume was published. This being my last commentary of the year, I thought I'd take the liberty of looking at the entire sermon (which spans Dec 24th through the 31st) to briefly reflect on how all of the Scotsman's key themes can be found in its pages.
"Unless you change and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus told us, and MacDonald meditated on the childlike nature ("the child sees, believes, obeys--and knows he must be perfect as his father in heaven") in the first Unspoken Sermon, and it sounds loudly throughout The Inheritance. December 29th's entry begins "Children fear heaven, because of the dismal notions the unchildlike give them of it." The child's natural pleasure in the things of God is a marked contrast with the stultification of "everlasting prayer meetings." We must regain the childlike nature to receive our inheritance in the light.
God as the Consuming Fire--one of MacDonald's most powerful and persistent themes--is the subject of the second Unspoken Sermon, and reminds us that His love and His wrath work together for our good. So, on December 30th, we'll read that if a soul never loved Truth, "[w]hat they may not have to pass through, what purifying fires, before they can even behold her!"
MacDonald believed that salvation did not merely mean avoiding heaven and going to hell; it meant nothing less than achieving oneness with God, and this is reflected in December 30th's opening sentence, "Heaven will be continuous touch with God." To achieve this oneness, the self must die; and yet, when it does, a beautiful paradox is revealed: our true, God-given selves can then shine forth. This idea is developed in today's entry ("the infinitude of God can only begin and only go on to be revealed through his infinitely differing creatures") and tomorrow's.
MacDonald's understanding of the atonement, which is best set forth in the epic Unspoken Sermon, Justice, can also be glimpsed in The Inheritance. He did not see the atonement as an act completed on the Cross, but rather the ongoing work of Christ in us. Thus, in December 31st's entry, MacDonald writes, "What [heaven will] be like, one thing is certain, that there will be endless, infinite atonement, ever-growing love." Amen, and amen!