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Three Friends Of God by Frances Bevan


WE cannot find out from any history of Dr. Tauler, the exact time of his abode in Cologne. He must have gone there first about 1350, and was probably there for about ten years. During this time he kept up his communications with Nicholas. In the year 1361 we hear of him again at Strasburg. He was now seventy years old, and was near his end.

His aged sister, who was a nun in the convent of S. Claus, not far from Strasburg, took him under her care, and lodged him in her garden-house, that she might nurse him in his last long illness.

A |worm-eaten| friend, who had become |dead to nature,| was grieved and displeased |that nature was thus cherished in him,| by the companionship of his sister.

|And now,| we find it recorded, |when the Master had thus borne fruit for eighteen years,| (since his conversion), |God would no longer leave His servant in this sorrowful world, and He took him to be with Himself, without any purgatory. But He sent him suffering and sickness here below, so that he lay twenty weeks in bed, and had weary days and great pain. And he knew by the grace of the Holy Ghost, that this was his call to leave this world, and to reap the reward of his labours.

|Therefore he sent for the man, his beloved friend, to desire him to come to him, for he knew that the time of his earthly life was very short. And the man obeyed, and came to the Master, who received him right lovingly.

|And the man was glad that he found him still living, and said Dear sir, how fares it with you?'

|Then said the Master, I believe the time is very near when God will take me from this world, therefore, dear son, it is a great comfort to me to have you with me at the last. And I pray you, take the books that are lying there: in them you will find written all the conversations which you have had with me from time to time, and the answers I gave you. And you will find therein something of my life, and of that which God has wrought by me, His poor unworthy servant. Dear son, if it seem good to you, and if God give you grace to do so, write a little book of these things.'

|Then said the man, Dear sir, I have written five of your sermons, and if it seem well to you, I will add them to the little book, and the book shall be written in your name.'

|Then the Master said, Dear son, I adjure you as solemnly as it is possible for me to adjure you, by the love of God, that you do not write anything on my behalf, and that you do not name my name. For you know of a truth, that the life, and the words, and the works which God wrought through me, an unworthy and sinful man, are not mine, but His. They are His now, and they will be His for ever. Therefore, dear son, if you will write something for the profit of our fellow-Christians, write it so that neither your name nor mine be mentioned therein. You can say, The Master,' and The Man.' Also take heed that you do not show the book to any in this city, lest they should perceive that it was of me that you wrote, but take it to your own country, and let no man see it till after my death.'

|And there passed after this eleven days, during which time the Master had much converse with the man.| I grieve to say no record remains of these last conversations. |And then the hour came when the Master should die. And the people of the city who had loved him, mourned for him greatly, and because the man had been so dear to him, and had loved him so faithfully, they would have kept him with them, and honoured him with many honours. But when he saw this, he fled from the city, and went back to his own land.|

Tauler was buried in the convent to which he had formerly belonged, and some sixty years ago, the stone which covered his grave, was placed upright in the Cathedral of Strasburg, that all the citizens might be reminded of him who taught and comforted their forefathers five hundred years before.

And eight years after the death of the Master, a |friend of God | from the Oberland, sent to a Beghard house at Strasburg a little book, in which were written the things here related, and he wrote therewith, |I would gladly have sent you the old book, but as it is written in a foreign tongue, you would not have been able to understand it. I have therefore spent four days and four nights in copying it in your own language.|

It would seem therefore that Nicholas, who had been forbidden to show the book to any one at Strasburg till some time after the Master's death, had written it first in another language, probably to render it of use to some of the friends of God in the distant places where he laboured from time to time.

He seems to have been often in Italy, and was well versed in Italian -- probably also in French. Afterwards the little book was copied, and recopied, and read widely in Germany for centuries that followed.

And the Master's sermons were also copied many times and sent abroad, and many read them, so that 200 years later we find that a Romish doctor, Melchior Cano, thought it needful to warn the faithful against these dangerous writings, which were, he said, those of a heretic. And about the year 1576 the General of the Jesuits published the following edict: |Also certain spiritual books, which are not in accordance with our views, namely, those of Tauler, Ruysbrock, Henry Suso, and others of the sort, are not to be allowed to those of our faith. None of such books shall be anywhere preserved in our colleges, unless by the will of the Provincial Father.|

And further in 1590, Tauler's sermons were placed by Pope Sixtus V in the list of forbidden books, and have also been forbidden in later times to the |faithful| of the Church of Rome.

But Martin Luther said he had found more pure teaching in the writings of Dr. Tauler, than in those of all the schoolmen put together. |If,| he wrote in a letter to his friend Spalatin, |you desire to make acquaintance with sound teaching of the good old sort in the German tongue, get John Tauler's sermons, for neither in Latin, nor in our own language, have I ever seen any teaching more solid, or more in harmony with the Gospel.| And for many a long year in the city of Strasburg, was Tauler remembered by a name he would have been glad to own, |The Doctor who was enlightened by the grace of God,| or sometimes, |The Master of the Holy Scriptures.|

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