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On the Feast of the Holy Martyr, St Laurence

Who, the true Servants of God are, who serve Him in truth, and follow Him, however, and wherever, He may lead them. Of the causes of wandering thoughts and a discontented mind on account of outward things. How a man in the service of God ought to be assured of his entrance into Eternal Life, and not only to presume it. How he should train himself in this life, that he may gain more knowledge and draw ever nearer.

Qui mihi ministrat, me sequatur.

“If any man minister to me, let him follow me.”

These words are full of truth and instruction. They make known to us simply who the true servants of God are, who serve God and follow Him in truth, and how and whither He leads them. God does not lead all His servants by one road, nor in one way, nor at one time; for God is in all things; and that man is not serving God aright, who can only serve Him in his own self-chosen way. If such men do not follow their usual course, they can do nothing properly; and when God would lead them by another way, they turn back, and waste their affections on the things which surround them. They are not the servants of God, for they turn away from God, Whom alone they ought to serve, at all times, in all places, and by all their actions. Because God is in all things, and they do not in all things serve Him solely and entirely, and do not set Him truly and sincerely before them, they fritter away their opportunities, and are discontented with all their works and ways, with all men and with all places.

What is the cause of this distraction and discontent? The first cause is that God has not entered into thy heart, and is not rooted there; and thou hast, instead, thought out for thyself and made thee a God, whom thou desirest to have in thy being, but who does not exist. Therefore, when thy imagination departs, the presence of God fails thee. The second cause is that man devotes himself and clings to things which are apparent to the senses. He who desires to keep himself unspotted, must let all outward visible things pass by, and must force his way on, as through things that he heeds not, while he makes use of nothing that is not absolutely needful for the present time. But, if even then he finds there is anything that he does not need, he must keep away from it, and give neither time nor place to any being that is not in God. He does rightly, who acts as though he said: “I think of, I seek for, and I follow after, God only.” He should greet all those whom he meets, and bless God, going on his own way; for what could be more like hell or the Devil to him, than want of love for Him Whom all creatures long for? Man should press onwards, with all his might, through all obstacles, overcoming them in God. He must not trouble himself too much about anything that detains him, either love or sorrow; and he must not repeat what does not concern him; that God may manifest Himself to him in all things, and that he may remain undisturbed in his own mind. Man can only do this by setting his affections on God alone, and on nothing else.

But if, against thy will, anything which is not solely of God as thou art aware of it, bestir thyself, and turn thy ship round with the rudder of discretion. When the servant of God acts in this way, however much that is distracting may enter into his works and ways, most certainly he will neither be confused nor led astray. Even if he be not conscious of the Presence of God within him, yet God is undoubtedly there; so that, if neither sin nor the creature banish Him, the man will not be disturbed by any works or unexpected events. But if his works and ways rob him of his peace, he will, of a truth, find out for himself, or from others, that the true foundation is wanting, or has been destroyed; his works have not been done aright, and all his actions have not been truly centred in God. But if the man finds that God is not within him, he must feel after Him with all his might, that he may find Him; and he must put away all that might cause him to err, whatever it may be, or however it may be called. He will be, otherwise, like a man who has a dart in his body which he cannot pull out without giving himself pain; and who, if he does not pull it out, will have to suffer still greater pain and distress.

Verily, if anything else is clearer to thee than God alone, or of which He is not the true Source, it must find no place in thee. If thou canst not bear the first suffering, whatever it may be, then greater suffering will follow; and then woe after woe will come, even more than man can conceive. Thy mind must be empty of all else, pure and seeking God only, filled only with Him, and with nothing else, as though thou wert ready to say: “Dear Lord, could I but only show Thee some measure of love in all places, and in the sight of all men, I would set myself to do it in all humility.” But, if man is inclined to choose that which is next to God, let him strive to gain love, choose flight from all distractions, and, diligently and with all his might, turn his thoughts within. Man must serve God in all things, both outwardly and inwardly, and in all his actions, not according to his own will, but according to God’s dear Will. For if a man has not God in his heart, he walks uncertainly and insecurely; as the Holy Scriptures say: “Woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth, he hath none to lift him up.”2525    Eccles. iv. 10. That man is indeed alone who has not God always within him, in his heart and in all his ways. But if he were first of all to take refuge with our Lord, then his castle, that is, his heart and soul, would be well garrisoned and protected, and his enemies would be unable to prevail against him. The man who lays hold on God, and desires Him only, will find that He is all-sufficient. All things will be but the road to God for him; and, content with whatever may come, he will attain to peace with himself and all mankind.

Thus those men, to whom in truth God is present everywhere, will make greater progress, and attain all virtues more quickly than when there is greater equality. For when men stand on the same level, they must keep diligent watch over their own minds, and must examine closely how they respond in all their actions, their love and sorrow. But, when men are unequal, it is not so; them it comes to pass of itself, through man’s depravity and subjection; and, in this response of inequality, man will surely become conscious whether he be really the faithful servant of God. If it should come to pass that the man himself should fail, he would not remain long in that condition; but, laying the blame on his own littleness and worthlessness, he would quickly turn gain in all humility to God, his true Foundation. Should he linger long in his failing, and want to find out how he came to give way, and whether he ought to have done this or that, he would only be held back the longer by unrighteousness. If thou desirest to be safe, turn at once in thy emptiness to God. If thou hast been inconsistent again than in God only? How canst thou better escape death than by the true, real Life, which is God Himself? Where can a man warm himself better than by the fire? So it is in God. Man must bring all that concerns him to God, and leave all with Him. God will provide for him in the best of ways. He must trust all things to God; and, in that trust, he must be ready to accept all things, as for the best, and rest in peace.

But if man will not fully cast himself on God, and trust in Him, but wants to busy himself about everything and is full of care, God often lets him fall into misery and distress, that he may see how far he can get in his own strength. But if he trusts himself to God in all things in full confidence, then most certainly God will provide for him, both outwardly and inwardly, far better than any creature could. For God is full of grace and truth; and whatever we ask of Him, in full confidence, we shall assuredly receive; for just as it is impossible for us to love God too well, so also it is impossible for us to trust Him too much, if otherwise our intentions are right and good. This true peace is found by man in the depths of his own heart, which is the true Dwelling-place of God. When he first turns to God, he must needs be empty, he must have leisure, time and place for Him. There, in the innermost heart of man, this tree will grow up, with all its branches and fruits. For within, emptied of all else, ways and means of coming to God will be revealed to man; and he will also learn to understand God’s dealings with him; the more he yields himself to this knowledge, the more clearly will God’s ways be made known unto him.

When a man finds that in himself, or in other men, this is wanting, he must understand that the way thereto has been destroyed, so that neither time, place nor leisure has been given to God, and that assuredly he has not sought this knowledge from within.

Know, that such men depend all their lives long on the appearance of spirituality in their own actions; while all the time they know not themselves, and never find themselves in God; they let that alone. They make themselves believe that they are resigned, whereas they are showing criminal heedlessness; then other things come to pass which rob God of His rightful place; they fill it with themselves, or else with something belonging to them. It is just as impossible for man to posses God without love, as it is impossible that a man can exist without a soul, whether he be conscious of it or not. Thus a man goes on blindly and fearlessly, trusting to his appearance of spirituality, or to the good works that he does, avoiding self-examination, and imagining that he has taken the right road. When such a man comes to his end, he finds that it is eternal death; for he did not go by that Way which is Christ Himself, who has said: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” He who goeth not by that Way, goeth astray. It is indeed a disgrace, and a great crime, that a man learns and knows about so many other things while he neither knows, nor wishes to know himself.

Dear children, no one ought to allow himself to be in doubt of his own eternal life; he ought to be sure of it, and not only imagine it. That to be sure of it, and not only imagine it. That is, he ought to know whether he has God within him, in his heart; and, on the other hand, whether he really longs for God. If he does not posses this true knowledge, then let him seek it of wise and holy men, that he may know, for certain, and not only imagine how things are with him. All the Saints, as well as the Virgin Mary, and all creatures, could not win for such a man, even with tears of blood, one moment more from God than he had deserved in this present life. Those who were ready went in joyfully to the marriage with the Bridegroom; while to those who were not ready, but who wanted to prepare themselves, He said with an oath: “Amen, I say to you, I know you not.” Where was it that He knew as His own in the Kingdom of Heaven, and who stand in His Presence before His Face; He knew them not amongst those heavenly hosts; for they came too late. However loudly they knocked, yet the Lord opened not the door unto them.

St Augustine says: “Nothing is so certain as death, and nothing is so uncertain as the hour of death.” For, wherever and however it may come, of the time and the hour knoweth no man. Therefore nothing can be more necessary than that we should be ready at all times, and that we should know that we are, and not only hope so. We have been placed in this life, not only to do the works, but also that we may know, so that our works may grow out of knowledge, as fruit grows out of the tree. Therefore our work in this life is to gain more knowledge, and so to come nearer to God. He who has forced his way through, and who, according to the Will of God, can lift up his mind above this world, and who has ordered his life and his secret thoughts aright, will not be confused, distracted or hindered by the things that pertain to this life; but they will only serve to drive him to God. Therefore, if a man’s mind and inward inclinations are steadfastly fixed on God with pure intentions, and his ways are ordered in peace, while he remains undisturbed in all good works, it is a sure sign that he is a righteous man, and that all his works are pure and true. This he seems to desire earnestly at all times; for he is like a corpse buried in the ground, that his soul may be buried in the depths of the Godhead. We have been placed in this world for this reason, and for none other. Whatever we neglect here will be lost to us for all eternity. To him whose superscription is on the penny, will the penny most certainly be given. Therefore every man should often search out his own heart, and seek diligently till he find whose superscription is there; what it is that he most loves and thinks of, whether it is God, or himself, or created beings, either living or dead. That which most fills his mind, his heart and his soul; that to which he most joyfully responds, whether from without or from within, will claim the penny with the superscription, and will receive it without any questioning. The man who searches out these things with real care, will assuredly learn to whom he belongs; it will not only be guess-work. For, if in thy heart thou thinkest of and lovest something which is not truly and only of God, and of which He is not the Source, but thou thyself; whatever it is, and however small, if thou knowingly and intentionally allowest it to remain in thee, God will never truly dwell in thee. Even thou wert to weep as many tears as there are drops in the ocean, it would be of no avail; thou wilt lack His Presence as long as eternity lasts.

O, children! what are poor men about, when, having eyes that see, they allow themselves to be blinded by the creature, and will not guard against their own deceitful nature, which is so secretly absorbed with itself and with other things. Therefore examine your own minds, both outwardly and inwardly; desire God only; give Him free, empty and untroubled hearts, in which ye truly have no place yourselves, that He may work His noble work in you, and that He and none other may find a place there. May God help us to keep ourselves thus empty and free. Amen.

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