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PREFACE

From the writings of the “Friends of God” of old time, most of the hymns that follow have been taken. Those of Mechthild of Hellfde, known also as Mechthild of Magdeburg, may be found in her book, “Das fliessende Licht der Gottheit,” translated from Low German into High German in the year 1344, and discovered in High German in the convent library of Einsiedeln in the year 1861. Mechthild, supposed with much reason to be the Matilda of Dante, belongs to the evangelical witnesses of the middle ages, known to us through Tauler, Suso, and others of those called the “Friends of God.” How distinct was their witness to the truth of the Gospel may be easily seen by comparing their writings with those of the true servants of God who remained under vi the influence of Roman Catholicism only. A comparison of Thomas à Kempis with Tauler will serve as an instance of this contrast. In the case of the latter, the present possession and enjoyment of eternal life, and of the riches of Christ; in the case of the former, an earnest and true desire to attain to that possession. In the latter, forgiveness, peace, and joy, the starting-point; in the former, the goal, to be reached by strenuous effort. The joy of Heaven, Christ in glory, known and rejoiced in whilst here below, may be said to mark the Friends of God of old. And in our days is there not the same celestial mark set upon those who, having learnt the blessed truth that we have died with Christ, now rejoice in the fulness of life, in Him, and in His own, and find themselves already in the possession of the deepest joy of Heaven, having known the love of Christ which passeth knowledge? It is this link which connects true saints of old with those of our days, for of all alike it is said, “We have come unto Mount Zion, to the City vii of God,” even whilst walking on the earth, despised and persecuted. Whilst we look onward and forward to the day of the return of Christ, to the final deliverance from all that now hinders and clouds our enjoyment of Him, have we not already that which makes the desert to be to us as the garden of the Lord? It was for this, God the Spirit came down to us in His grace and love, and whilst He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, we know what are the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, and in the earnest of them we rejoice. May the many voices who join in praise for this everlasting and present joy bring comfort and cheer to the hearts of the pilgrims who are passing on to the full realisation of all that is given us in Christ!”

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