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CHAPTER IX

THE MASTER OWNS HIMSELF A SINNER

AFTER this the Master said to Nicholas, “I am in great wonderment about that thou saidst, that I and all teachers could not teach thee as much by the Day of Judgment as thou hast been taught in an hour. Now tell me, for I wish to hear, has the Scripture proceeded from the Holy Ghost?”

Nicholas was astonished at this question — he now saw that the Master was beginning to understand, for the first time, that there is a great power far above all the thoughts and reason of men, and that power is the Holy Ghost.

“Sir,” he said, “it seems impossible to me, that after I had said so much to you, you should talk in such a childish fashion!” And he told the Master that were he to relate to him the wonders that he had seen, that were worked by the Holy Ghost, it would make such a long story that one might write a large book about it. “There was,” he said, “a heathen, who was a very kind-hearted man, and often cried to Him who had made, as he believed, both himself and all the world; and said, ‘O Creator of all creatures, I have been born in this land. Now the Jews have another faith, and the Christians another. O Lord, who are over all, and hast made all creatures, if there be now any faith better than that in which I have been born, or if there be any other better still, show it to me in what wise Thou wilt, so that I may believe it, and I will gladly obey Thee and believe.’ Now behold, dear sir, a letter was sent to that heathen, written by me, a poor sinner, in such sort that he came to the Christian faith, and he wrote me a letter back again, telling what had befallen him. Dear sir, can you instruct me how I should write to a heathen far away in a heathen land, in such fashion that the heathen should be able to read and understand it, and make the letter such that the heathen should come to the Christian faith?”

Then said the Master, “Dear son, these are the works of the Holy Ghost. God is wonderful in all His works and gifts. Dear son, thou hast told me very strange things.”

Then said the man, “Albeit I am unworthy of it, yet so did the Holy Ghost work through me, a poor sinner.”

The man desired by this story to make the Master understand that wherever the truth of God is taught to the soul, it can only be by the power of the Holy Ghost. And that therefore the supernatural power of the Word of God is the proof that it is not the word of man, but that the Holy Ghost is the author of it. And the man also desired that the Master should see that this Word must be taught to the soul by the Spirit, for that the natural mind could neither produce the word, nor teach it, nor understand it.

And Nicholas said further, “Dear sir, I fear that I have said some things to you which have vexed you greatly in your mind. It is because I am a layman, and you are a great doctor of Holy Scripture, and yet I have said so much to you after the manner of a teacher. But that I have meant it well and kindly, and sought your soul’s salvation in it, and simply the glory of God, and nothing else, of that God is my witness.”

Then said the Master, “Dear son, if it will not make thee angry, I will tell thee what vexes me.”

Then said the man, “Yea, dear sir, speak without fear. I promise not to take it amiss.”

The Master said, “It amazes me greatly, and is very hard to receive, that thou being a layman, and I a priest, I am to take instruction from thee. And it also troubles me much that thou callest me a Pharisee.”

Then said the man, “Is there nothing else that you cannot take in?”

The Master answered, “No, I know of nothing else.”

Then said the man, “Shall I also explain to you these two things?”

He answered, “Yes, dear son, I pray thee in all kindness to do so, for God’s sake.”

Then the man reminded the Master of a story which he had often heard, and which he fully believed. It was this — long ago, in ancient times, there was a young maiden, called Katherine, who was barely fourteen years old. But so marvellously did she speak of the things of God, that fifty great masters who heard her learnt by this means the blessed Gospel, and went willingly to martyrdom. “Who wrought this, dear sir?” said the man.

Then said the Master, “The Holy Ghost did this.”

Quoth the man, “Do you not believe that the Holy Ghost has still the same power?”

“Yes,” said the Master, “I believe it fully.”

Then said the man, “Wherefore then do you not believe that the Holy Ghost is speaking to you at this moment through me, a poor sinner and unworthy man, and is minded to speak to you? He spoke the truth through Caiaphas, who was also a sinner; and know, that since you take what I have said to you so much amiss, I will refrain from saying anything to you for the future.”

Then said the Master, “Dear son, do not do that — I hope, if God will, to be the better for thy words.”

The man said, “Ah, dear sir, it vexes you also that I should have called you a Pharisee, and yet I gave you such full proof of it that you could not deny it. But since this is not enough to content you, I must say still more, and prove to you once again that I am right, and that you are what I said. Dear Master, you know very well that our Lord Jesus Christ said Himself, ‘Beware of the Pharisees, for they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders. But they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.’ Now, dear sir, look at yourself. In this sermon of yours you have bound and laid upon us twenty-four articles, and you keep few of them enough yourself.

“Again: our Lord said, ‘Beware of the Pharisees: whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not.’”

Quoth the Master, “Our Blessed Lord spoke these words to the men of His own day.”

The man said, “Nay, but He speaks them still, now and evermore, to all. Dear Master, look at yourself. Whether you touch these burdens, and bear them in your life, is known to God, and also to yourself. But I confess, that as far as I can judge of your present condition, I would rather follow your words than your life. Only look at yourself, and see if you are not a Pharisee in the eyes of God; though not one of those false hypocritical Pharisees whose portion is in hellfire.”

The Master said, “ I know not what to say. This I see plainly, that I am a sinner, and am resolved to better my life, if I die for it. Dear son, I cannot wait longer. I pray thee, simply for God’s sake, to counsel me how I shall set about this work, and show me and teach me how I may attain to the highest perfection that a man may reach on earth.”

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