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Light In The Dark Places by Augustus Neander


BONIFACE had especially directed his attention to youth, and had thus scattered seed which continued to bear fruit after his death. He was by these means enabled to leave men behind him, who, trained and moulded by him, carried out his labours in various spheres in his own spirit. Among these scholars of his, the abbot Gregory was especially distinguished. The way in which Boniface first became connected with him, shows, in a remarkable manner, what power he exercised over youthful minds.

When Boniface left his first sphere of action in Friesland and proceeded to Hesse, he arrived at a convent of nuns situated on the banks of the Moselle, in the neighbourhood of Treves, where the abbess Addula received him very hospitably. At table something was to be read, according to custom, from the Holy Scriptures. For this purpose the abbess selected her grandson Gregory, a youth of fifteen, just returned from school. After Boniface had given him his blessing, he read aloud a passage from the Latin Bible. Boniface thought that he perceived a lively mind in the boy, and said to him when he had ceased to read, |You read well, my son, if you understand what you read.| The boy, who did not catch Boniface's meaning, replied, |that he knew perfectly what he had been reading.| |Well,| answered Boniface, |tell me, then, how you understand it?| The boy began to read the passage through again. Boniface then said, |No, my son, that is not what I mean; I know well that you can read, but I want you to translate what you have read into your native language.| The boy acknowledged that he could not. |Shall I tell you, then, what it means?| said Boniface. And when the boy begged him to do this, Boniface told him to read the whole passage through again distinctly, and then he translated it into German, and preached on it to the whole company. |And,| as Lindger, the scholar of abbot Gregory, and the narrator of this incident, says, |it was manifest from what source those words flowed; for they penetrated with such rapidity and force into the mind of Gregory, that, on this one exhortation of a hitherto unknown teacher, he forgot his country and his kindred, and going at once to his grandmother, told her that he would go with Boniface, and learn from him to understand the Holy Scriptures.| The abbess sought to restrain him, telling him that he did not know the man, nor whither be was going. |But many waters could not quench this love,| Cant. viii. Gregory kept to his purpose, and said to his grandmother, |If thou wilt not give me a horse, to ride with him, I will go with him on foot.|

Then the grandmother perceived that something higher was stirring the heart of the youth; she gave him a horse and servant, and suffered him to go away with Boniface. Lindger observes on this: |It seems to me that the same Spirit then stirred in this youth, as enkindled the Apostles, when, on a word from the Lord, they left their nets and their father, and followed the Redeemer. This was effected by the Great Teacher -- the One Spirit of God, who worketh all things in all men, dividing to every man severally as He will.|

Gregory henceforth followed Boniface everywhere, amidst all dangers and difficulties, as his most faithful disciple. Subsequently he travelled with him to Rome, and brought thence Bibles, which he used in the instruction of youth. He accompanied him on his last journey to Friesland, and, as abbot of a monastery in Utrecht, he was most active after the death of his master, in the diffusion of Christianity and Christian civilisation. He occupied himself especially in training missionaries and teachers for the Church. Youths from France, England, Friesland, Saxony, Swabia, and Bavaria, bound together by the bond of holy love, were there formed into a training-school for the kingdom of God; and messengers of the Gospel went forth from hence in all directions amongst the heathen and the recently-converted nations. Early in the morning he sat in his cell, and waited, with fatherly solicitude, for each one of his scholars to come to him, that he might communicate to each some portion of the Word of God suited to the wants and dispositions of each. He frequently, in his sermons, pressed it home on the hearts of his scholars, that the new man can have - no space to grow, if we do not daily more and more die to the old man; and, in this sense, he used often to quote the words of the prophet Jeremiah: |I set thee to root out and to pull down, and to destroy and to throw down, and to build and to plant,| (Jer. i, 10,) and therewith he would often, as an encouragement in the conflict, connect the promise, |Eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what the Lord hath prepared for them that love Him.|

In his seventieth year, three years before his death, Gregory injured his left side. Still he remained cheerful, went about with his scholars, or allowed himself to be carried about by them, continued to expound the Holy Scriptures and to preach to them, and to give them compositions to study. In the last year of his life his lameness had so increased, that -- as of old the Apostle John, when he was grayheaded -- he was obliged to suffer himself to be carried whithersoever he would go. At length he was confined to his bed, when he caused the Holy Scriptures to be read to him, or psalms to be sung. He retained his full consciousness to the last day. His scholars had assembled round his bed, and were comforting one another with the oft-repeated words -- |He will not die today;| but he gathered his remaining strength together, and said: |To-day ye must give me leave to depart.| He then caused himself to be carried by his scholars to the altar in the church, prayed there, received the Holy Supper, and casting a longing look towards the altar, departed above, where he longed to be.

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