The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 48



While I had previously seen in the world much unquietude and toil, trouble and care, horror and fear among all estates, I now found much quiet and much goodwill among those who were subject to God; for they dreaded not God, knowing well how kindly His heart inclined to them. Neither did they find within themselves anything over which they could grieve. Of all good things (as has already been shown) they had no want; neither felt they any discomfort from the things that surrounded them, for they heeded them not.

(The True Christians heed not the Derision of the World.)

2. Now it is true that the evil world granted them but little rest, and, indeed, did everything it could to spite and mock them; it grinned at them, bit its thumb at them, pelted them, spat at them, tripped them up, and whatever worse things can be imagined. Of this I saw many examples, and I understood that it befell, according to the orders of God the Highest, that those who wish to be good here must wear cap and bells; for the ways of the world bring it with them that what is wisdom before God is to the world sheer folly. I saw, therefore, that many to whom God had granted His noblest gifts had to endure the contempt and derision of the others, often even of those who were nearest to them. Thus, I say, did it befall; but I saw also that the godly heeded this not, that they, indeed, gloried therein that the worldly stopped up their noses before them as before a stench, averted their eyes from them as from something loathsome, scorned them as fools, put them to death as malefactors. For they said that their watchword, by which it was known that they belonged to Christ, was "not to please the world." They said also that he who knows not how to suffer wrongs gain hath not yet fully the spirit of Christ; thus spake they of these things, and fortified each other. They also said that the world showed no indulgence likewise to those who belonged to it; indeed, it insulted, deceived, robbed, tormented them; if, then, it wished to do the same with the godly, it was well. "If," said they, "we cannot avoid this torment, we will endure it there, where, for the accidental injuries inflicted by the worldly, we are recompensed by the bountiful, generous kindness of God. Therefore do we consider their derision, injury, and ill-will as our gain."

(To the True Christian everything[1] is indifferent.)

3. Nay, this also did I understand, that these true Christians would not even hear of the distinctions between what the world calls happiness or unhappiness, riches or poverty, honour or dishonour; for everything, they said, that proceeds from the hand of God is good, happy, and salutary. Nothing, therefore, grieves them; they are never irresolute or reluctant. To command or to obey, to teach others or to be taught by them, to have plenty or to suffer want, is one and the same thing to the true Christian; he proceeds on his way with a calm countenance, striving only to please God. They say that the world is not so heavy that it may not be endured, nor so valuable that its loss need be regretted. Therefore neither the desire for anything nor the loss of anything causes the true Christian suffering. If someone smites him on the right cheek, he cheerfully turns to him the other one also. And if one disputes with him about his cloak, he lets him have his coat also. He leaves everything to God, his witness and judge, and feels assured that all these things will, in the course of time, be revised, amended, and at last justly decided.

(What the True Christian sees outwardly.)

4. Neither does one of God's own allow himself to be disturbed in the peace of his mind by the nations of the world. Many things, indeed, displease him; but he does not, therefore, grieve or sorrow within his mind. Let that go backward that will not go straightly forward; that fall that cannot stand; that perish that cannot or will not endure. Why should a Christian grieve for this whose conscience is righteous, and who has in his heart the love of God? If men will not conform to our customs, let us then conform to theirs; at least, as far as our conscience permits it. The world, it is true, is going from bad to worse, but by our fretting shall we improve it?

(The True Christian heedeth not the Tumult of the World.)

5. The mighty of the world rage and dispute about crowns and sceptres; thence arise devastations of lands and countries; but this also the enlightened Christian heeds not greatly within his mind. He thinks that it is of little or no import who rules the world; for the world, even should Satan himself hold its sceptre, cannot destroy the Church. On the other hand, if a crowned angel ruled it, it would yet remain the world, and those who desire to be truly godly would yet have to suffer. It therefore appears indifferent to them who sits on the throne of the world; indeed, if one of the godly sits on it (and experience has proved this), many flatterers and hypocrites mix with the band of the godly, and through this admixture the piety of the others also cools; and, on the other hand, in time of open persecution only the godly serve God, and with full ardour. It must also be considered that in such circumstances[2] many conceal themselves under the covering of the common welfare, piety, honesty, privileges; but could we look through them thoroughly, it would be found that they seek kingdoms, privileges, glory, not for Christ, but for themselves. Therefore the true Christian lets all such matters befall, as they can and will. To him who is alone in the dwelling of his heart, God and His grace are sufficient.

(The Godly One also heeds not the Sufferings that befall the Church.)

6. Neither do the temptations that surround the Church trouble an enlightened soul. The godly know that triumph will at last be theirs. They know also that they cannot obtain it without a victory, nor obtain a victory without fighting, nor a fight without foes and hard conflict with them. They therefore bravely endure what may befall them or others; for they are certain that victory is God's, who will guide all things whither He designs them; be it even that rocks, mountains, a sea or abyss be in the way, yet must they at last disappear. They know also that all this raging of God's foes against Him can but increase the glory of His name. For if some matter begun for God's glory had met with no resistance, it might be thought that it had been begun by men and carried out by the force of man. Now, on the contrary, the more furious is the resistance of the world and all its devils, the clearer does the power of God appear.

(The Sorrows of the Godly can easily be driven away in a Twofold Fashion.)

7. Nay, even if such accidents befell them (and I saw examples of this) that gave them dole within their minds, yet they endured not long with them, and soon vanished, as a little cloud before the sun. For they have a twofold remedy; one is the thought of a happy future, which is of greater value than the troubles of the world, and which awaits them. That which befalls here is but temporary; it appears and again vanishes, is lost, disappears; therefore is it unbeseeming to crave any of these worldly things much, or to grieve much at their loss, for such things are but as the clatter of a moment. The other remedy of the godly is that they have ever a guest in their homes, and if they converse but a little with Him, they are able to drive away every grief, even the greatest. This guest is God, their comforter, to whom they cling with their whole hearts, and to whom they narrate familiarly and openly all that grieves them. They have indeed this brave confidence, that in all their concerns they hasten to appeal to God. Every one of their transgressions, offences, deficiencies, weaknesses, sorrows, strivings, they pour into His fatherly lap, and they entrust themselves to Him in everything. And as the Lord God can but love this filial, kind confidence in Himself, He cannot but grant the godly His consolation, as well as His help that they may bear their suffering. Thus the more their sufferings are renewed and multiplied, the more is God's peace renewed and multiplied within them, and that surpasses all earthly wit.

  1. I.e., all external things.
  2. I.e., under the rule of a godly prince.