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Three Friends Of God by Frances Bevan


|I am not.| Oh words unwelcome,

To the lies of men:

|I am not.| Oh words that lead us

Back to God again!

Speech of him who knows the pathway

To that refuge sweet,

Where is covert from the tempest,

Shadow from the heat.

Speech of Heaven, from wise men hidden,

Unto children taught;

Few the words of that great lesson,

Only |I am not.|

Heart of man, another language

Is thy native speech,

Spoken by a thousand races,

All alike in each.

|I am,| -- rich, or wise, or holy --

|Thus, and thus am I;|

For |I am,| men live and labour,

For |I am,| they die.

For |I am| men dare and suffer,

Count all loss as gain,

Toil and weariness and bondage,

Sin and grief and pain.

In the blessed Gospel read we

How a rich man bade

Christ the Lord and His disciples

To a feast he made.

Well it was to feed the prophet!

Thus the rich man thought,

But amidst his wealth and bounty,

Lacked he, |I am not.|

Then there came a sinful woman,

Eyes with weeping dim --

|I am not,| her heart was saying --

She had looked on Him.

He beheld her broken-hearted,

Ruined and undone,

Yet enthroned above the angels

Brighter than the sun.

All the while in dust before Him

Did her heart adore,

|I am not, but Thou art only,

Thou art evermore.|

For His heart to hers had spoken,

To His wandering lamb,

In the speech of Love Eternal

He had said |I AM.|

Now she thirsts no more for ever,

All she would is given,

None on earth hath she beside Him,

None beside in heaven.

Oh, how fair that heavenly portion,

That eternal lot;

Christ, and Christ alone, for ever --

Ever, |I am not.| -- Henry Suso

IT was soon after this, that Father Henry went forth to evangelize amongst the convents in which young girls were brought up, with a view to their becoming nuns. But these convents, which were left open to intercourse with the world, were very frequently places of worldly amusement, and the girls lived a gay life, in which they were encouraged by the nuns.

|And many,| said Father Henry, |wore religious dresses with very worldly hearts underneath them.|

|In one of these cloisters,| he continues, |was a fair young maiden of noble family, who was ensnared in the net of Satan, and for several years had wasted her heart and her time upon gay and costly amusements, and was so dazzled thereby, that she always fled from the servant of the Eternal Wisdom as if she had been a wild deer, because she was afraid that he would tell her to give up her ways of pleasure.

|But she had a sister, who entreated the servant to do all that he could to bring her from her evil ways to the Eternal God. This seemed to him an impossible request, and he said: Methinks the Heaven would sooner come down to the earth, than that she should cease from her ways, unless it be by death.'

|But her sister besought him fervently and said, that she had faith to believe if he would ask this thing of God, it would be granted him.

|Now as she always fled from him, when he went to the convent, he found out that on a certain day which was S. Margaret's day, she and the other young sisters were to go out into a field to pull their flax. He therefore followed them without being observed, and went round the field, so that he might suddenly turn upon her unexpectedly.

|And when she saw that he was comings up to her, she insolently turned her back upon him, with a wrathful countenance, and called out loudly, Sir monk, what right have you to force yourself upon me? Go about your business, I strongly advise you, for there is nothing to be had from me. I can tell you, before I would confess to you, I would have my head cut off. And before I would follow your preaching, and give up my pleasures, I would be buried alive.'

|Then did the companion who was standing nearest to her reprove her, and sought to stop her mouth, saying, He only speaks to you for your good.'

|But she tossed her head and said, I say what I mean, I am not going to put on anything, I wish him to know what I think.'

|And the servant was grieved at her bold speech and unseemly behaviour, and he was silent, for he could not speak. And the other sisters, who heard the outcry she made, were grieved also, and rebuked her.

|And the servant turned aside, and left her, but he looked up to God and sighed. And he would have given up his attempt, were it not that an inward persuasion from God wrought in his heart, and he thought, He who would do aught for the Lord, or even for the world, should not give in so soon.' This was in the afternoon.

|Afterwards, when the evening came, after supper the sisters went all together into the court, to pill the flax that they had gathered, and the young damsel went with them. And as she had to pass the door of the refectory, where the servant sat, he besought one of her playmates to bring her in by some cunning device, and then to leave her suddenly. And with some difficulty she did so.

|And as the damsel sat down upon the window seat, he came to her and said, Dear maiden, thou art set apart for God. How long wilt thou give thy fair self, and thy loving heart, to the devil who would destroy thee? The Lord has made thee fair and noble, and given thee many a gracious gift. And it is a sorrowful thing that one who has the face of an angel, should bestow her heart upon any other than the One who is the Highest and the Holiest. Who has a right to pluck the rose, but He to whom the rose belongeth?

|Nay, beloved maiden, open those clear young eyes, and behold Him who is the Eternal Love, the Love that will be for ever and for ever. And for those who drink the sweet poison of the enemy, forgetting the death that follows, for them in time and in eternity, is misery alone. I promise thee and assure thee, that God will take thee now for His beloved, and will be faithful and true to thee, here on earth, and for ever in Heaven.'

|It was the hour of grace. For the words he spake sank deeply into her heart, and she was melted as he spoke them. And as he ceased to speak, she lifted up her eyes, and sighing deeply, she spake, and said to him:

|My father, I give myself up to God and to you. And I bid farewell to my wild and wilful life, and with your help and counsel, I yield myself to the blessed Lord, to be His for ever, and to serve Him all my days.'

|Then said he, This is a joyful hour! Praise be to the loving Lord, who gladly welcomes all who turn and come to Him!' And further did he speak to her of God, and she spake freely with him.

|And the playmates she had left, gathered together outside the door, for they were displeased at the long converse that she had with him, and they feared that she would forsake their gay company. Therefore they called to her, and told her to put an end to this talk.

|Then she rose up, and went out to them, and spake to them thus, Dear friends, may God bless you! And now farewell. For I can no more be in the company wherein my time is thrown away upon idle things, for I would belong to God, and I would give up all besides.'

|And from that time, she did as she had told them, for she avoided all company that would draw her away from God. And though they did all they could to draw her back to her old life, it was of no avail, and she was true to the Lord all her days, and lived to His glory.

|And it was after these things, that the servant set out on a journey that he might visit his young daughter, and encourage her in the ways of the Lord, and comfort her if so be he should find her in any trouble. And as he was ill at the time, he was wearied by his long journey on foot, through miry places, and up the steep mountain paths.

|And ever and anon, he would lift his eyes to the living God, and would say, Merciful Lord, remember Thy weary footsteps, when Thou walkedst on this earth for the salvation of men, and strengthen me Thy child.'

|And his comrade upon whom he leant, encouraged him and said, God will of a surety grant to you of His grace and goodness, that many a soul shall be strengthened by you.

|And as he went further, and found at last he could walk no more, for he was spent with weariness, his comrade spake again and said, Dear father, God will surely look upon your great weariness, and send you a little horse to ride on, till you reach the place where your friends are living.'

|Then said the servant, Now do I believe, that if we both ask the Lord to do as thou hast said, He will grant our petition.'

|And thereupon the servant looked around him, and at the right hand there came out of a wood a gentle little horse saddled and harnessed, and it came all alone, no man being near it.

|Then did the comrade shout for joy, and say, See, dear father, see, the Lord will not forsake you!'

|He answered, Look, dear son, all round and round this wide held, to see if there is any man to whom the horse belongs.'

|And the comrade sought far and near, and saw nothing moving but the little horse, which trotted towards them. And he said, Father, truly God has sent it for you. Get upon it and ride.'

|And he answered, Behold, my comrade, if the horse stands still, as soon as it comes up to us, I will take it as a sign from God, that He has sent it for our need.'

|Then the little horse trotted up gently, and stood still before them. And he said to it, Welcome, in the name of the Lord!' And his comrade helped him up on the horse, and he rode thereon till he was well rested. And as they came nigh to a village, he got off the horse, and tied up the bridle, and let the horse go, and it returned by the way it came. Whose it was, and whence it came, he never could learn from that day to this.

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