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THE GOSPEL OF THE FRIENDS OF GOD
“To me to live is Christ” — and yet the days
Are days of toiling men;
We rise at morn, and tread the beaten ways,
And lay us down again.
How is it that this base, unsightly life,
Can yet be Christ alone?
Our common need, and weariness and strife,
While common days wear on?
Then saw I how before a Master wise
A shapeless stone was set;
He said, “Therein a form of beauty lies,
Though none behold it yet.
“When all beside it shall be hewn away,
That glorious shape shall stand,
In beauty of the everlasting day,
Of the unsullied land.”
Thus is it with the homely life around,
There hidden Christ abides,
Still by the single eye for ever found,
That seeketh none besides.
When hewn and shaped till Self no more is found,
Self, ended at Thy Cross;
The precious freed from all the vile around,
No gain, but blessed loss;
Then Christ alone remains — the former things
For ever passed away;
And unto Him the heart in gladness sings,
All through the weary day. — Henry Suso
THIS little story, related in the words of the original, gives a vivid picture of the mission work of an Evangelist amongst the Friends of God. We must not suppose that no more of the Gospel was preached to the lost, than is here related, for in reading through the history and the writings of Henry Suso, we find that the Blood of Christ was the one only hope which he held out to the lost, as the means of forgiveness, perfect and eternal.
It is true that like many in more enlightened days, he did not see that “the worshipper, once purged, has no more conscience of sins.” He speaks of the constant and repeated washing which needs to be applied to one sin after another, but though he did not see that being once washed, no spot of guilt can ever again be found upon the soul that has believed in Jesus, he directed none to any other fountain for sin and for uncleanness, than that precious Blood alone.
“The holy Blood, once flowing down for sin,” he said, “is that which renders pure and clean every soul who turns to Christ, the Blood shed in unspeakable love, for the comfort and salvation of every sinner who comes to Him. As a little child is bathed and cleansed in a warm bath of water, so is the soul washed from every spot and stain, and made pure and free from guilt by the power of the precious Blood.”
We can therefore be assured that during the long talk in the refectory, the damsel was led to that blessed fountain, and that it was not merely an act of her own will, when she yielded herself up to God.
We can trace too in this story, the golden thread which ran through all the teaching of the Friends of God. It was not, in the first place, the thought of the danger and guilt of the unsaved soul, which lay as a weight on the heart of Henry Suso. But it was the thought that the Lord was despised, and wronged, by those whose hearts were given to aught that was less than God.
It was the thought that the love of Christ was rejected, and that it was His sheep who was straying upon the dark mountains, and that to find the sheep would bring joy and gladness to Christ and to His angels.
Yet all this while had Henry Suso never dared to think that purgatory, and saint worship, and the mass, were but human inventions, and though in the history of his inner life we find that these things can scarcely be said to have a place, he went through the forms and services of Rome, “in obedience to the Church,” and warned no man against them.
Yet we never find that he taught any man that the cleansing by the precious Blood must come to them through priest or sacraments. He told them to go to Him who died for them, and to none other, for peace and life.
“A man,” he preached, “was once broken down beneath the intolerable burden of his sins. And he had prayed, often and much, but his prayers helped him not. And as he sat in his cell in darkness and sorrow, the Lord spake to him and said, ‘look up and see Me, Jesus who was crucified, and thy burden will fall from thy back.’ And so it was, for his sorrow and his darkness fled away in that swift moment of time. For this darkness and sorrow come from this, that men do not know what is the God with whom they have to do.
“Behold! God is a fountain inexhaustible of mercy and of goodness — so that never was there a mother who would stretch out her hand so quickly to draw forth her own child from the fire, as God stretcheth forth His hand to the sinner who repenteth, were it possible that that man had committed every day a thousand times, all the sins of all men put together.
“O beloved Lord! why art Thou so altogether lovely to many a heart amongst us? Why is it that many an one is now rejoicing in Thee? Is it because of their sinless lives? Nay, truly is it not. But it is because they know how great and grievous is their sin, because they know how unworthy they are of Thee, and yet that Thou, O blessed Lord, hast freely given Thyself to them.
“O Lord, in this is Thy greatness and Thy sweetness, that Thou needest and desirest no righteousness of ours. Thou forgivest as freely the debt of one hundred marks, as the debt of one small penny, and one thousand deadly sins as readily as one. Never, Lord, can me thank Thee as we would. For according to Thy holy Word, it is better for us to be forgiven and saved, than if we had never sinned, for we could not then have loved Thee as we love Thee now.”
“It is to God Himself,” he said further, “that we must go. Not by images, or forms of prayer, taught or read, or dictated. It is only with the innermost heart, with the spirit in us, that we can speak to Him who is a Spirit. Spirit to spirit, heart to heart, as the Lord has said of those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. For God understandeth the speech of the heart, and the desire of the soul. The presence of Mary at His feet told more to Him than the complaining prayers of Martha.
“It is not through images that we can reach up to Him, who is far above and beyond all images and forms. When the living presence of Jesus was taken away from His own, it was not that they were to have Him less, but in a lovelier, in a diviner way — He left them as to His bodily presence — as to the supernatural communion of the soul to Him, He left them not. For when He rose up to heaven before their eyes, He took up there with Him, all their hearts, and all their minds, and all their love.
“So is it with us. He is gone up to heaven, into the bosom of the Father, into the Father’s heart of love, and we ascend up there with Him, with all our hearts, and all our love, and rest where He resteth, in the Father’s heart.
“There is there no separation, but one life, one existence, as He is one with the Father. And thus it is that being one with Him we can be as clear, bright mirrors that reflect His glory.
“Thus did S. Paul say, ‘Our conversation is in heaven,’ for it is where God is, brought nigh to Him in Christ our Lord. Not that we are to suppose that there is no difference between the nature of Christ, and the nature of men. He has humanity in common with us, but He has a humanity which distinguishes Him from other men, He is truly a man, but He is a man of a higher order. He is in Himself, God and man. Of Him alone can it be said, that His human nature is absolutely pure, having neither sin, nor the consequences of sin. Therefore it is He alone who could be the redeemer of fallen guilty men.”
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