TWO years passed by. Two years of sadness and sorrow for Dr. Tauler. He had sore temptations and assaults of the Devil, and his friends forsook and despised him, and he ceased to preach and to labour; and he fell into great poverty, so that he was obliged to pledge a part of his books.
Moreover he fell into great weakness of body, and continual sorrow of heart. He had lost all in which he once trusted, and all that had made him to be somewhat, and he had at last come to this, that he owned with bitter tears, |I am wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.|
One night, it was at the time known to Dr. Tauler as the |Feast of S. Paul's Conversion,| he was as it were struck down by the assaults of Satan and the despair of his own heart, and he was thereby so overcome with weakness of body, that when the time came for morning service, he could not go to the chapel, but remained in his cell, and cast himself simply and humbly upon the Lord, without help or consolation in himself, or in any other creature.
And as he lay weak and exhausted after his sleepless night, he thought of Jesus.
He remembered the bitter sufferings of the Lord because of His great love that He had for us.
And he considered his own life, how poor his life had been -- for he compared it with the love of God. Whereupon he was overcome with bitter sorrow for all his sins and his wasted time, and he exclaimed with his tongue and heart, |O merciful God, have mercy upon me, a poor sinner, for Thy boundless mercy's sake, for I am not worthy that the earth should bear me!|
And as he lay there, thus weak and stricken down with sorrow, but fully awake, he heard as it were a voice speaking to him and saying, |Trust in God, and be at peace, and know that when He was on earth as a man, He made the sick, whom He healed in body, sound also in soul.|
Straightway when these words were spoken to him, he lost his senses and reason, and knew not how or where he was. But when he came to himself again, he was filled as it were with a new strength and might in all his being, and those things which aforetime were dark to him were now clear to him.
Then thought he to himself, |How is it that this has come to me? I cannot come to the bottom of this matter. I will send for my friend, and tell him all that has happened.|
So he sent for the man, and when he was come, the Master told him all that had befallen him. Then the man said, |It rejoices me from the bottom of my heart to hear all that you have told me.
|Dear sir, you must know that you have now, for the first time, received the true and mighty gift of God's grace.
|And I tell you of a truth, that now, for the first time, your soul has been touched by the Most High.
|And know that the letter which has slain you, also maketh you alive again, for it has now reached your heart in the power of the Holy Ghost. Your teaching will now come from the Holy Ghost, which before came from the flesh.
|For you have now received the light of the Holy Spirit by the grace of God, and the Scriptures which you already know will now be made clear to you, for you will have an insight that you never had before.|
To many who read this, it may seem that Nicholas spoke with undue confidence. For we are so accustomed in these days to speak of salvation, and of conversion, in the clear and definite language of the Bible, that we should have no doubt enquired more fully what truth it was, that the doctor had believed. Had he a clear knowledge of the atoning work of Christ?
But conversion, the blessed work of God, is none the less conversion, in the case of those who are too ignorant to describe it. And yet those who have themselves known it in their own experience, will be able to see where this great miracle has been truly wrought, however imperfectly described. The Master had believed in Jesus, and in Jesus only, as the Healer of his sick soul, and like the blind man in the Gospel of John, who knew even less of the Person of the Lord than did the Master, he could say, |One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see.| Nicholas knew that further light would follow, and it is often wiser to leave it to God to work, than to say much ourselves.
And it is a glorious proof of the reality of the great work of conversion, when we see that it is not merely an assent to a statement of truth, but a Divine act, beyond the understanding of him upon whom it is wrought, and in all cases a revelation to the soul, of Jesus, as the only Saviour.
|For, as you know,| continued Nicholas, |the Scripture sounds in many places as if it contradicted itself, but now that you have, by the grace of God, the illumination of the Holy Spirit you will perceive that all Scripture has the same intent. You will now understand that it does not contradict itself.
|And you will also be able rightly to follow the ensample of the Lord Jesus. You ought now to begin to preach again, and to show to others the right path to eternal life. And know that now, one of your sermons will be more profitable than a hundred aforetime, and the people will receive more fruit therefrom.
|But it will be most especially needful that you keep yourself humble, for you know well that he who carries a great treasure exposed to view, must ever be on his guard against thieves.
|I tell you truly, the Devil is in great terror when he perceives that God has bestowed on any man the noble and precious treasure of His grace, and the devils will set all their arts and wisdom to work, to rob you of this costly gift. Wherefore look wisely to your goings.
|Now, dear sir, it is no longer needful for me to speak to you as a teacher, as I have done hitherto, for you have now the right and true Teacher, whose instrument I have been. To Him give ear, and obey Him in all things.
|And now, in all godly love, I desire to receive instruction from you, and I would fain, if God will, sojourn here a good while and hear you preach. If God give you to do so, methinks it were well that you should now begin to preach again.|
Then the Master said, |Dear son, I would fain therefore get back some of my books, for I have pledged as many good books as come to thirty florins.|
The man answered, |Look! I will give you that sum, for God's sake, and if you have any of it left over, give it back to God, for all that we have is His, whether temporal or spiritual.|
So the Master redeemed his books, and gave notice that he would preach again three days after.
The people wondered much thereat, because it was so long since he had preached, and a great crowd gathered together to hear him.
And when the Master came and saw that there was such a multitude, he went up into a high pulpit, that they might hear him all the better. Then he held his hood before his eyes, and said --
|O merciful, eternal God, if it be Thy will, give me so to speak that it may be to the praise and glory of Thy Name, and the good of this people.|
As he said these words, his eyes overflowed with tears of tenderness, so that he could not speak a word for weeping, and this lasted so long that the people grew angry. At last a man spoke out of the crowd, and said, |Sir, how long are we to stand here? It is getting late; if you do not mean to preach, let us go home.|
But the Master remained in earnest prayer, and said again to God, |O my Lord, and my God, if it be Thy Divine will, take this weeping from my eyes, and give me to deliver this sermon to Thy praise and glory. But if Thou dost not do it, I take it as a sign that Thou judgest I have not yet been enough put to shame. Now fulfil, dear Lord, Thy Divine will as to me Thy poor creature, to Thy praise, and my necessities.| This all availed nothing; he wept yet more and more.
Then he saw that God would have it so, and said with weeping eyes, |Dear children, I am sorry from my heart that I have kept you here so long, for I cannot speak a word to-day for weeping; pray God for me, that He may help me, and then I will make amends to you, if God give me grace, another time, as soon as ever I am able.|
So the people departed, and this tale was spread abroad, and resounded through the whole city, so that he became everywhere a laughing-stock, despised by all.
And the people said, |Now we see that he has become a downright fool!|
And his own brethren strictly forbade him to preach any more, because he did the convent great injury thereby, and disgraced the order with the senseless practices that he had taken up, and which had disordered his brain.
Then the Master sent for the man, and told him all that had happened. The man said, |Dear Master, be of good cheer, and be not dismayed at these things. The Bridegroom is wont to behave so, to all His best and dearest friends, and it is a certain sign that God is your good Friend, for without a doubt, He has seen some speck of pride concealed within you, that you have not perceived, nor found out in the secret places of your heart. And therefore it is that you have been put to shame. It may be that some great gifts of God are to be given you, by means of this disgrace, for patience is needful to us that we may be perfect and entire. Therefore we must learn to suffer. Be of good cheer then, and be joyful and humble. Neither should you think this a strange thing, for I have seen many such instances in other people. Do not, I beseech you, despise this cross which God has sent you, but count it a great blessing and favour from God.|
We can ourselves see in this true story, the blessed Hand of God, holding back the Master awhile from preaching, in order that he might the better learn his message. For the Master as yet knew more of the great change that was wrought in him, than of Him who wrought it, nor could he have preached the Gospel clearly, whilst his own feelings, rather than Christ Himself, were uppermost in his mind. It is often thus with the soul at first, and the Lord has patience, and leads us on from the knowledge of the sin-offering, to the knowledge of the burnt-offering -- from our first sight of Christ as the Saviour, to the blessed knowledge of Himself.
And the man further counselled the Master, that he should wait in silence for five days, and that he should then ask the Prior of the convent to permit him to read a lecture to the brethren.
And he did so, and he then read to the monks such a lecture as they had never heard in their lives before, so grand and deep and godly was his doctrine. Then they gave him permission to preach a sermon.
And after one of the monks had preached in the church where the Master was wont to preach, he gave notice to the people, and said, |I am ordered to announce that to-morrow the Master intends to preach in this place; but if it should befall him as it did lately, I will not be answerable for it. So much I can say with truth, that in our school he has read us a lecture containing such great and profound instruction, with high and divine wisdom, as we have not heard for a long time. But what he will do this time I know not; God only knoweth.|
The next day after, the Master came to this church (which was the church of a convent of ladies), and began to preach, and of his sermon you shall hear anon.