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CHAPTER VIII

How, by the advice of the Monks, he began to preach the word of God

(1)

BUT as the devout and learned Master continued in the increase of virtue, and in proportion as Christ grew more sweet to him so much the more did the world become of no account in his sight: and when by the ordinance of God the time of his fruit-bearing was at hand, it was determined by these wise and religious brethren that this burning and shining light should be placed upon a candlestick to give light to them that are of the household of God, in order that by the voice of his preaching, and by the example of his holy conversation he might kindle the hearts of sinners.

It would have been good that a man of such mighty power should be continually at leisure for the things of God and his own soul in the solitude of the Cloister, but they hoped to gain yet greater good and higher glory for God by sending him forth; because a learned man like Gerard who was apt for preaching but less apt for bearing the burden of a Religious order—one moreover who had learned to tread the path of humility by despising all earthly things—would be of profit to more souls by openly preaching the Word of life. By so doing he would bring the greatest gain to 18Christ and lead many with him to the eternal kingdom; and the more fervently he laboured for the salvation of souls in this present world, so much the more glorious would he be in the world to come.

(2) For three years he devoted himself to study and prayer before he began to preach; thus this faithful herald was furnished with spiritual armour, and with the writings of the Scriptures, that he might announce the good tidings of the Word of God in the cities and villages; he had many hearers both clerks and lay folk as well as the Religious Orders: men and women; small and great; learned and unlearned; men of high degree and councillors; rulers, slaves and free; rich and poor; men of the land and strangers. When he sounded upon the trumpet of salvation withholding from the ears of his hearers no note that was necessary thereunto, but openly proclaiming the full purpose of God for all men according to their state, condition, sex and age, the hearts of many were moved to flee from before the face of the anger of God, the coming wrath of the last judgement and the final fires of Hell. He “placed the axe to the root of the tree,” according to the saying of the blessed John the Baptist—“Let all men therefore” (said he) “fear the strict judge, abandon sin, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance—let them be forward to do the will of their Holy Creator and appease Him, by being instant in prayer, almsgiving, and fasts.”

Many who heard his discourse were pricked to the heart, and coming to him yielded themselves to his direction, putting away all the vanity of the world. Some also in their zeal for chastity remained virgin, and some who had taken the vow 19of continency gathered together others with them for the service of God.

(3) But since the righteousness of the good suffereth the envy of evil men, some persons of corrupt mind, lovers of the world and followers of luxurious living, often spoke against Gerard, for they hated the way of truth, and were enemies of every good thing.

These persons secretly defamed the man of God, and sometimes by open railing strove to stir up a tumult against him, and that because he argued with severity against their own vices and crimes: but a yet more wicked thing was done, in that certain priests and prelates and wandering friars thought it unworthy to bear with the teaching of so great a man and with his eagerness for justice to be done upon those that deserted the holy law. They strove therefore to blacken his fame, and to fight down his constancy of purpose, of whom he himself writes in one of his letters. “Many snarling folk are come about me, who rage even as the fire among the thorns, but they do not appear openly.” Wherefore this lover of Christ, this zealot for souls, was neither shaken by the threats of his enemies, nor vexed by the dispraise of them that upbraided him; for he was founded upon a strong rock because he sought not the glory of the world, nor feared to suffer shame for Christ. He was ready indeed for the truth’s sake, and for the Gospel of God, to yield up both body and soul so as to promote, and wheresoever it might be, to extend His glory. And so blessed be God who raised up for us such a preacher and sent him forth to preach; for it was through him that there shone upon us who are in this lower, world, the Light of the Heavenly Life.

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