FRIENDS OF GOD: A group of German mystics
of the fourteenth century. The expression "Friend
of God" is taken from the Bible
in the valley of the Rhine, Switzerland, Bavaria, and Franconia.
Rulman Merawin, the chief author of the Friends of God, was born in Strasburg in 1307. and died in
the cloister of the "Grfner Worth" Rulmaa (on an island in the Ill near Strasburg)Merswin. July 18, 1382. He was, as his father
had been before him, a well-to-do banker in his native city. When he was forty years old, he and his second wife renounced the world and ten years later were granted an indulgence by Pope Clement VI. In 1367 he obtained from the Benedictines the cloister of the "Griiner Worth," which four years later he gave to the Knights of St. John, retiring thither himself. He named the commander of the order as the head of the monastery, but obliged him to render a report of his administration yearly to Merawin and two others. Merawin remained the real ruler of the monastery until his death. In his lifetime he was never suspected of being a writer, but after his death many books were found written by his pen: the " Story of my Conversion"; the "Book of the Nine Rocks "; the " Little Banner Book "; the " Book of the Three Conversions and of a Holy and Learned Pastor who was the Pupil of Master Eckhart "; a selection from the " Spiritual Marriage " of Ruysbroeck; and the " Seven Works of Mercy " (these works have all been printed except the last one). All these tracts are compilations, with Merawin's own thoughts scattered here and there. The original matter is plainly the work of an ignorant, unskilful layman; its chief content is complaints of the corrupt manners of the Christian communities of the time. In the story of his conversion Merswin relates how he made the acquaintance of the "Great Friend of God from the Highlands" in 1351, who, although unknown to the rest of the world, became his secret friend. At his request he wrote the story of his own conversion and in return received a like treatise from the Great Friend. These two books were to be kept quite secret from all but themselves.
The Knights of St. John told how the Great Friend entrusted to Merswin a large quantity of
writings, which Merewin kept conThe Great cealed for thirty years, but four yearsFriend. before his death showed them to the brothers of the order, first carefully erasing all the proper names. There are about fifteen separate works attributed to the Great Friend, besides a large collection of letters said to have been written by him to the monks in the "Griiner Worth." From all this material it is gathered that the Great Friend after a sudden con version in the midst of worldly pleasures retired into solitude and formed the central point of a secret brotherhood by whom be was reverenced almost like a god. His influence extended to all classes, even to Jews and heathens, and he had correspondents in Hungary and in Italy. In 1365 he retired to a mountain in the territory of the duke of Austria, but Merawin alone knew the exact spot. Regarding the retreat of the Great Friend the Knights of St. John questioned Merswin in vain, even on his death-bed, when, however, he informed
Bibliography: On the Friends of God consult: K. Schmidt, Johannes Tauler von Straasburg, pp 181 sqq. Hamburg, 1841; idem, Die Gottes/reunde ien 14. Jahrhundsrt, Jena, 1864; Rdhrich, in ZHT, x. 1 (1840), 118 sqq.; W. Wackernagel, Hleinere schriften, ii. 148 sqq., Leipsic, 1873; idem, Altdeutsche Predigten and Gebete, pp. 381 sqq., 583 sqq., BBssI,-1876; M. Rieger, Die Goueqraunda im deuh achen Mindalter, Heidelberg, 1879; KL, v. 893900. For the works and life of Merswin consult the editions of the "Book of the Nine Rocks" by K. Schmidt, Leipsic. 1859; by B. Waslkes, Leeuwarden, 1882; by Strauss, in Zeitachrif W deutsche Philologie, xxxiv (1902), 235 sqq.; and further, J. G. V. Engelhardt, Richard von 3t. Vidor and Johannes Ruysbroek, pp. 346 sqq., Erla~ 1838; K. Schmidt, in ZHT, ix (1839), 61 sqq.; idem, in Revas d'Alsaw, vii (1856), 145 sqq., 193 sqq.; A. Jundt, Hist. du panth4iame populaire au moyen dpe, pp. 211 sqq., Paris, 1876; R. A. Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics, i. 224, 321, 336, 8th ed., London, n.d. The extensive literature upon the question of the "Great Friend of God" is indicated is Hauck-Herzog. RE, xvii. 203.
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