IT was not easy for the Beghards and Beguines and for the |convent ladies| to see at once that the only work they could present before God is the perfect work of His Son. Nor could they bring themselves easily to believe, that the penances and prayers, and fastings of so many |holy men and women| around them, could count as worthless in the eyes of God.
|How is that, Master Tauler? Have all these good works been done in vain? Tell us what you mean?|
And the Master answered them and said, |Have you not, dear children, seen a painter at his work? and have you not perceived the care with which he draws each line, neither too long, nor too short, nor too broad, but in the exact size and form that he needs to make his thought appear on his picture? And he colours it also with care and thought -- the red here -- the blue there -- and at last his picture tells his mind, and he is satisfied and glad. Is not God far more intent upon bringing out, in each one of His own, the Image that is well pleasing in His eyes? How many a stroke, how many a shade and colour, must the Lord bestow upon His handiwork! And thus He gives to some the stroke of sorrow, and to some He gives bright colouring, and to some sad colouring -- to some He gives to drink of a cup of bitter myrrh -- to each one that which will best conform him to the Image of His delight.
|But there are some who are not content with the myrrh of God, but think that they need to mix up bitter cups for themselves, and they gain for themselves thereby weak brains, and disordered fancies. But they gain no grace, and no reward, for they are building up a tower of their own deeds. Therefore God has to wait till they have done with their own endeavours, and are come to the end of themselves, and then He will work, and His work will never be in vain.
|For God has determined, dear children, that He will reward no work but His own. In Heaven, when He gives the everlasting crowns, it is not your work He will crown, but His own. The work which was yours will count for nought before Him.
|We read in the Holy Gospel that the Lord Jesus went into the temple, and He cast out those that sold and bought therein, and He said to them that sold doves, Take these things hence, make not my Father's house a house of merchandise.' It was as if He said, I have a right to this temple, and I will have it for Mine alone, and none shall rule therein but I.'
|What is this temple, which God will have for His own, and where He alone will rule?
|It is yourselves, dear children, for you are the house of God.
|And who are those whom the Lord scourged with a whip, and drove out of the house of the Lord?
|Mark well, it was not people who were committing great crimes, but the good people who were buying and selling therein. And the Lord is driving them out even now. He will leave not one in His temple who makes merchandise there.
|Ah! dear children, those are the merchants you see all around, who keep themselves from open sins, and set themselves up to be good men and women, who honour God by fasting, and watching and praying, and all sorts of good and holy works. But they do these things, that the Lord may give them something in exchange, and make all go well with them; for it is themselves they seek in all these works and penances. Any one can understand that this is but a trade and a merchandise -- they give one thing to get another, and think they can thus drive a bargain with the Lord, and will find at last there is nothing they can get by all their doings, for whatever they may do, God will never owe them anything for it.
|If there is a good work to be found anywhere, it is God who wrought it and not man.
|No, God can never be the debtor of any man, for none can give Him anything that is not His own already. And as to rewards, He gives them, it is true, but of grace, and not as debt. Did not Christ say, without Me, ye can do nothing'?
|Ah, children, they are hard and foolish people who desire to bargain with God. They have known nothing or little of His truth, therefore the Lord meets such people with a scourge, and drives them out of His house. Light and darkness cannot dwell together. When the Lord, who is the light comes into His temple, He drive the darkness out, and fills His temple with His own glory.
|The merchantmen are all cleared away, when the truth is known, for the truth needs no exchange and barter. God does His works from His own pure love, and he who is joined to the Lord will work from love also, not seeking anything for himself.
|And this work which has God for its object, has also God for its author.
|O children, it is a blessed thing when all the merchantmen are driven out of the temple of the heart, and God alone remaineth and none beside! It is the Lord who worketh by the man whom He has joined to Himself, therefore it is not the man's work, but the Lord's. Do you not remember how Jesus said, The Father, who dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works!' and so it is with the man in whom the Lord abides. To the man therefore, they are no more his own works, than the works of one far away beyond the sea could be his, for it was not he who wrought them but God.|