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The Journey through the Wilderness.

Thus much do we know of the journey of this redeemed soul from self-occupation and self-discipline, whilst Christ listened for her voice in vain, to the knowledge of the peace and joy that is in Him. And we know something also of her earthly path, told us in a spiritual song, which she calls “How fair is the Bridegroom, and how the bride followeth Him.”

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“Behold, My bride, how fair My mouth, Mine eyes;

My heart is glowing fire, My hand is grace;

And see how swift My foot, and follow Me.

For thou with Me shalt scorned and martyred be,

Betrayed by envy, tempted in the wilds,

And seized by hate, and bound by calumny,

And they shall bind thine eyes lest thou shouldst see,

By hiding Mine eternal truth from thee.

And they shall scourge thee with the worlds despite,

And shrive thee with the ban of doom and dread,

For penance thy dishonoured head shall smite,

By mockery thou to Herod shalt be led,

By misery left forlorn—

And scourged by want, and by temptation crowned,

And spit upon by scorn.

The loathing of thy sin thy cross shall be;

Thy crucifixion, crossing of thy will;

The nails, obedience that shall fasten thee;

And love shall wound, and steadfastness shall slay,

Yet thou shalt love Me still.

The spear shall pierce thine heart, and Mine shall be

The life that lives and moves henceforth in thee.

Then as a conqueror loosened from the cross,

Laid in the grave of nothingness and loss,

Thou shalt awaken, and be borne above

Upon the breath of Mine almighty love.”

Thus the revelation of the love of God, which was to the soul the opening of heaven, the entrance into the Father’s house where was the feast of joy, the music, and the dancing, was to lead to a walk of faithfulness here below, which would bring upon the witness of God persecution and shame and reproach.

Was it, therefore, that when the Lord had spoken to the Pharisees of the love which welcomes the publican and the sinner, of the joy and gladness into which the returning son was brought, He spoke to the disciples the solemn warning lest the riches, not only 61 temporal, but spiritual, entrusted to them as stewards should be wasted by them? Is it not true that the revelation to the soul of that which is in the Father’s house, the joy and the love, and the unspeakable riches of Christ, needs nothing less than Divine grace and power to keep us from misusing the treasure entrusted to us, and making it an occasion for feeding and exalting the fleshly mind?

Therefore Paul needed the thorn in the flesh, not to fit him for entering the third heaven, but after he had been there; so that the riches bestowed on him were not made an occasion for self-glorification, but he became a good steward of the manifold grace of God.

It is to be carefully remarked in the writings of Matilda, that she does not speak of this entrance into the gladness of heaven as an attainment. On the contrary, as we have seen, she speaks of the result of her repentance, of her conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil, as being but weariness and thirst.

It is only when Christ comes into the parable that the heavenly experience begins.

“For,” she says, “before the time when 62 Jesus Christ opened heaven with the key of His cross, there was no man so holy that he could, or that he might, ascend up into the Eternal heavens—not with labour or with the soaring of the imagination, not with longing or the stretching forth of imploring arms, not with the utmost yearning of his love. For Adam had fastened the bolt so firmly, that no man could open it. Shouldst Thou, then, O Eternal Father, keep fast the door of heaven with the bolt of Thy justice, so that sinners must remain without, I turn me to Jesus, Thy beloved Son, who holds in His hands the key of Thine almighty power.

“That key was forged in the land of the Jews, (and truly the Jews now would lock Thy people out of heaven and keep them in bondage), but when by Jesus the key was turned, the outcast sinner could enter into Thy love. But it is also the love of the Father who speaketh, and saith, ‘My soul endureth not that any sinner should be turned away who cometh to Me; therefore do I follow after many a soul for long, long years, till I lay hold upon him, and hold him fast.’”

By the Jews who would lock the people of God out of heaven Matilda, it need not be 63 said, had in her mind the Jews of Christendom, the professing Church being constantly called by her Jerusalem, and the formalist priests “those who follow the law of the Jews.”

But the name of Jerusalem was also employed by her as a name of honour, applied to the true Church of God, the true Bride of Christ.

For within the outward profession of Christianity, Matilda recognised the living Body of Christ. It is true that the two should have been one and the same, as the soul and the visible body are one person. But it was no longer so, and Matilda therefore saw the professing Church, Christendom, divided into two parts, the living and the dead, the true and the false, the children of God and the children of this world. To her the true and living Church was yet glorious and undivided, for it was united in one by the Spirit of God. Whether amongst professing Catholics or amongst the “Friends of God” who stood apart from Rome these living stones were found, there was yet but the one building, the dwelling-place of God.

If Matilda had no thoughts respecting the “Reunion of Christendom,” she had a firm belief in the Unity of the Church of God. It 64 could not be reunited, for it was the Body of Christ. The prayer of the Lord “that they all may be one,” had been heard. “I know,” He said, “that Thou hearest Me always.”

Through the ages when Christendom had been divided into countless sects, the true Members of Christ, whether they knew it or not, had been, and must be, one. It needed but to believe it, and to own it. But in order to recognise it as true, it was necessary that the eyes should be opened to see that the same profession of faith, or all varying professions of Christian faith, included the two classes, the living and the dead; the living, united together as the living members of the body; the dead, but separate particles of mouldering dust.

A “Reunion of Christendom,” which would have as its object to form into one mass the living and the dead, can be but a denial of the great truth that “there is one Body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.”

Matilda, in a parable, describes the true Church of God as a beautiful maiden standing upon a mighty stone, which was as a mountain of spices, and the name of which was Christ, 65 her feet adorned with a jasper stone, which is Christian faith; and in her hand a cup, of which she drank alone “in unspeakable blessedness,” for the angels in heaven might not drink of it—it was “the Blood of the Eternal Son.”

Matilda knew, and rejoiced to know, that she was one with all the saints of all the ages, and she tells us her experience of it also.

As Mary, she said, she knew how the sword had pierced through her own soul also, because so many who seem “religious” are lukewarm and undecided for Christ.

As John, “I know what it is to rest in the unspeakable love upon the bosom of Jesus Christ.”

And as Paul, “Yes, Paul, I was caught up with thee, and I saw so marvellous a place, that thenceforth I could but long ever to be there. And I drank of the wine of which the heavenly Father is the cup-bearer, and Christ is the cup, and the Holy Ghost the pure, clear wine, and love is the plenishing. And love invited me and welcomed me to drink thereof, so that now I am well content to drink gall and vinegar here below.”

And further, “Stephen, I kneel beside thee before the Jews who hated thee, amongst the 66 sharp stones, which fall upon me, great ones and small ones, all my days. Those who seem to be good people stone me in the back, and run away, for they would not have me know it was they who did it. God, however, saw it.”

“Mary Magdalene, I live with thee in the wilderness, for all is sorrow to me except my God.”

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