THE Master made no reply for a while, but he was a meek and gentle man, and, as he said, he took in good part the words of Nicholas. And moreover he entreated him, in the name of God, not to return to Switzerland, but to stay with him yet longer.
The man replied, that, in obedience to God, he was willing to remain; but he desired the Master to promise that he would permit him freely to speak to him, as under the seal of confession.
And the Master said, |Dear son, that I willingly promise, if only thou wilt stay here.|
So the man proceeded to say, |Sir, you must know, that though you have taught us many good things in this sermon, the image came into my mind while you were preaching, that it was as if one should take good wine, and mix it with lees, so that it grew muddy.|
The Master said, |Dear son, what dost thou mean by this?|
Then Nicholas explained, and said, |I mean that your vessel is unclean, and much lees are cleaving to it.| And he further explained that the good precepts which the Master had preached did but condemn him, and were therefore to him the letter that killeth. |But the Spirit,| said Nicholas, |giveth life. And know, therefore, that if so be you are willing, that same letter which now killeth, will by the power of the Spirit make you alive again. But in the life which you now have, know that you have no light, but are in the night. You can indeed understand the letter, but have not yet tasted of the sweetness of the Holy Ghost. Withal you are yet a Pharisee.|
Then said the Master, |Dear son, I would have thee to know, that old as I am, I have never been spoken to in such fashion all my life.| And the Master was offended.
Then said Nicholas, |Where is your preaching now? Do you see now what you are when you are brought to the proof? And although you think that I have spoken too hardly to you, it is but too true that you are guilty of all that I have said, and I will prove this to you from your own self.|
But the Master answered shortly, |I ask for no more, for I have ever been an enemy to all Pharisees.|
But the man continued and explained to the Master, that in learning the letter of the Word of God, he had always from his youth up sought himself, and not the glory of God. He told him, moreover, that the reason that the letter condemned and killed him was this -- he had a leaning, not towards God, but towards the creatures of God, and specially towards one creature, whom he loved with his whole heart above measure, and had therefore not a single eye to God. |And therefore,| said Nicholas, |I liken your heart to an unclean vessel. And when the pure unmixed wine of godly doctrine passes through that vessel which is spoiled and covered with lees, it comes to pass that your teaching has no good savour, and brings no grace to the hearts of those who hear you. And whereas I further said that you were still in darkness, and had not the true light, this is also true, and it may be seen hereby, that so few receive the grace of the Holy Spirit through your teaching. And whereas I said that you were a Pharisee, that is also true; but you are not one of the hypocritical Pharisees. You have, notwithstanding, this mark of the Pharisees, that you love and seek yourself in all things, and not the glory of God. Now examine, dear sir, and see if you are not a Pharisee in the eyes of God. For know, dear Master, a man is a Pharisee in God's sight, according to what his heart is bent upon. And truly in the sight of God, there are many Pharisees.|
As the man spoke these words the Master fell on his neck and kissed him, and said, |A likeness has come into my mind. It has happened to me, as it did to the heathen woman at the well. For know, dear son, that thou hast laid bare all my faults before my eyes. Thou hast told me what I had hidden up within me, and specially that there is one creature upon whom my affections are set. But I tell thee of a truth I knew it not myself, nor do I believe that any human being in the world can know of it. Doubt not, dear son, that thou hast if from God.|
And the Master further said to Nicholas, |Be thou, dear son, my spiritual father, and let me be thy poor sinful son.|
But the man would not consent to this, and said be would ride home again, for it was not seemly he should take such a place. And the Master then entreated him to stay and counsel him, and to do all that he deemed right, so that he might amend his life. And the man consented to stay, but he said also, |I tell you, dear sir, of a truth, it is no light matter that God should give a man such great understanding and skill, and mastery in the Scripture, and he should not put it in practice in his life.|