IT should not therefore surprise us to find that amongst bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and Roman Catholics of all sorts, there were many, very many, who believed and taught the blessed Gospel, but who at the same time had not light to see how ill it accorded with their services and ceremonies. Many of the Carthusian monks were at this time numbered amongst the |Brethren,| and so in face were most of the preaching friars in England and elsewhere.
The |Brethren| themselves were great preachers, for there had always been amongst them missionary preachers, called |apostles,| simply meaning thereby, persons sent. These apostles went out two and two, generally an older and a younger man. They were accustomed to go in the guise of travelling merchants or peddlers. They took with them packs of small articles for sale, knives, pins, beads, &c. They took in exchange eggs or cheese, or small articles of clothing, for they were forbidden to take money. And when they reached the house of a |Brother,| they were lodged and fed gladly, for all the |Brethren| were taught that God was pleased if His messengers were lovingly welcomed in His name. Many of these preachers were students of medicine, and therefore their journeys from land to land were what we should call a |medical mission.| But the object was the soul. And faithfully, bravely, and diligently did they give themselves up to this great and blessed work.
It was a day to be remembered by many, now |present with the Lord,| when the |Friends of God,| as they were commonly called, were lodged for awhile -- perhaps in some stately castle -- or perhaps in some cowherd's cottage -- wherever there was an open door, they were to be found preaching and teachings Jesus Christ.
Let us admit that of much they were ignorant, and there were ancient errors still clinging to them, but let us thank the Lord for this exceeding great army, sent forth by Him, with their lives in their hands, to spend and be spent in His blessed service.
It was the custom amongst those who could not travel about, but who had been taught of the Lord, and who cared for souls, to send letters addressed to the different meetings of brethren in distant places. Thus was the teaching spread abroad, by means of the travelling apostles, who were told privately to which meetings the letters were to be taken. It would have been dangerous to write any address, so they were merely directed to |Christian Brethren| in general.
The apostles preached wherever they could, generally in the open air. They had also prayer meetings and Bible readings in private houses. We find that amongst all the |Brethren,| in whatever country they might be, they were regular in the habit of daily family prayers, and of giving thanks before their meals.
They went from time to time with their neighbours to the services in the churches, but though this was not against their conscience, it was against their inclination. In those days, when the magnificent cathedrals of Europe were rising in all their glory from amongst the dark and narrow streets, the |Brethren | turned sadly away, and said, |The Lord dwelleth not in temples made with hands, for we are the living temple in whom God the Spirit dwells.| They built for themselves simple and modest houses of prayer, and refuges for the poor adjoining. There they sang no masses, and made no attempts to please the eye or charm the ear. |For Christ,| they said, |has promised, that where two or three are gathered together in His name, there is He;| and where He is, there is the solemn sense of His presence, and there is comfort, and strength, and joy.
They ate together the Lord's Supper, taking each one both the bread and the wine. They said that the Supper was a remembrance of Him who became the Bread of Life for His own, whose body was broken on the cross. And it should remind us also, said they, that we are all one body in Him, and that we should be ready to lay down our lives for the brethren, loving one another as He has loved us.
As to confession, they said God alone can forgive sins, and needs no man by whom to transmit His forgiveness to another. He gives it Himself to the soul who comes to Him.
And as to penance, Christ gave none, they said, to the sinful woman who was brought to Him. He said only to her, |Go, and sin no more.| And therefore they told not the sinners to whom they preached to do penance and to torment their bodies, for God needed none of these things, and if He saw that suffering would be for their good, He would send it them Himself. We may now go back to Dr. John Tauler and to the |Friend of God| who came to him.