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The History And Life Of The Reverend Doctor John Tauler by Catherine Winkworth


How this holy Doctor came to his end, and afterward appeared to his dear friend the layman, and showed him the cause of his painful departure from this world, to wit that it had been his purgatory, after which he attained great joy and eternal blessedness, which were given him by God as the reward of his good and faithful teaching.

NOW you must know that the Master made progress in the divine life, and received such wisdom, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that he preached both to clergy and laity, and came to be held in such esteem and honour throughout the land, and also in that city, that whenever the people had any weighty matter to transact, he was called in to settle it with his wisdom, whether it concerned spiritual or temporal affairs, and whatever he counselled them was right in their eyes, and they hearkened unto him gladly. And after that the Master had led this faithful life full eight years, God would not leave His servant longer in this earthly misery, and saw fit to take him to Himself without purgatory. Wherefore He sent His judgments upon him, and visited him with sickness, so that the Master kept his bed for more than twenty weeks, and his sufferings were very sore, and his pains grievous. Then he perceived, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that he was about to depart from this world (God was minded to reward him for his work); wherefore he sent for the man, his dear friend, and begged him to come to him, for he expected not to be much longer in this world. And the man hearkened and came to the Master, who received him after a most friendly sort; and the man was glad that he found him yet alive, and said, |Dear Master, how fares it with you?| The Master said, |I believe that the time is very near when God purposes to take me from this world, for which cause, dear son, it is a great consolation to me that thou art present at my end. I pray thee take these books which are lying there: thou wilt find written therein all thy discourse with me aforetime, and also my answers, and thou wilt find somewhat concerning my life, and the dealings of God with me His poor unworthy servant. Dear son, if thou think fit, and if God give thee grace, make a little book of it.| Then said the man, |Dear Master, I have written down five of these sermons, and if it please you, I will write them out also, and will make a little book about you.| Quoth the Master, |Dear son, I lay upon thee my most solemn admonition, that thou write nothing about me, and that thou do not mention my name; for thou must know that of a truth the life, and words, and works which God has wrought through me a poor, unworthy, sinful man are not mine, but belong to God Almighty, now and for evermore; therefore, dear son, if thou wilt write it down for the profit of our fellow-Christians, write it so that neither my name nor thine be named, but thou mayst say the Master and the man. Moreover, thou shalt not suffer the book to be read or seen by any one in this town, lest he should mark that it was I, but take it home with thee to thy own country, and let it not come out during my life.|

And for a space of eleven days the Master held much discourse with the man. After that, the time came that the Master should die. Then he said, |Dear son, I pray thee, in God's name, to give thy consent to it, if God should permit my spirit to come back to thee, and tell thee how it fared with me.| The man answered, |Dear Master, if God will have it so, I am also willing.| But it came to pass that at the last the Master had a most horrible and frightful death-struggle, insomuch that all the brethren in the convent, and also other people, were greatly terrified and distressed thereat, and were sore amazed at the dreadful anguish that they saw in his death.

Now when he was dead, all who were in the convent and the city were filled with sorrow. But when they perceived who was the man that had been so long his bosom-friend in secret, they came and desired to show him honour, and besought him to be their guest. But when he was aware of their intent, he fled that same hour out of the city, and travelled home again. And as he was on the way, the third day after the Master's death, at nightfall he was passing through a little village with his servant, and seeing a nobleman go past along the road, he said to him, |My friend, is there any inn in this village?| The nobleman answered, |No.| Then said the man, |Then show us the kindness, dear friend, in God's name, to let us lodge in thy house for to-night, and take for it what thou wilt.| Then he said, |If you will put up with such things as we have, I will willingly lodge you, and give you the best in my power.| So he took him home with him. When it was night he laid the man upon a feather-bed, and showed the servant into the barn to lie upon the straw. Now in the night the man awoke and heard a voice close by; yet he saw no one. Then a shudder ran through him, and he made the sign of the Cross. Then the, voice said, |Fear not, dear son, it is I, the Master.| Then said the man, |Dear Master, is it you? Then I beseech you, with my whole heart, to tell me, if God will, how it standeth with you, and how it came to pass that you had such a dreadful end; for your brethren in the convent were much astonied at you, and it is to be feared that your frightful end will be a great stumbling-block to your own brethren in the convent.| Then said the Master's voice, |Dear son, that will I tell thee. Thou must know that our Lord God saw fit to appoint me such a hard death in order that the holy angels might straightway receive my soul to themselves; and for the same cause thou shalt also have such a like hard death. It was needful that I should suffer this as a purgatory; but know likewise, my dear son, that the evil spirits tormented me greatly, and assailed me with such cunning and instancy, that I was in constant fear lest my courage should fail me. But, however hard my death was, it was as nothing compared to the joy which the Almighty, Eternal, and Merciful God hath given me in return. Know, dear son, that the same hour in which my soul left my body, the blessed angels received it, and conducted me to Paradise, and said to me, Here shalt thou tarry five days, and shalt know no anxiety or fear lest the evil spirits should harm thee any more, neither shalt thou labour any more, only thou shalt be deprived for these five days of the blissful company of the blessed in eternity. And then we will come again with joy, and bring thee to the unspeakable joys, and reward thee for thy good and faithful teaching and useful counsels;' all which I have received by thy excellent instruction, for the which I can never thank God and thee enough.|

Then said the man: |Dear Master, I beseech you from the bottom of my heart that when you come into the presence of God, you pray Him for me.| But whatever the man said after this, or whatever questions he put, no one answered him again. Then he would fain have slept, and turned from one side to the other; but it availed him nothing: he got no more rest that night, and could hardly wait till it was light. And at daybreak he rose up, and wrote that same hour word to the Prior and brethren of all things that the spirit had said to him, and returned to his own house, and came also to a good and blessed end.

That we may all follow the pattern of our Lord Jesus Christ, insomuch that after this miserable life and this transitory world we may come to eternal and never-ending joys, -- to God and His chosen and beloved friends, may He help us, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen!

Here endeth the History of the Life of the enlightened Doctor John Tauler.

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