The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 50

CHAPTER L

THE PILGRIM BEHOLDS THE CHRISTIANS ACCORDING TO THEIR ESTATES

I have till now narrated but the incidents common to all true Christians; but when I saw that among them also, as among the worldly ones, there were divers callings, I became desirous to witness how they administered their offices. Here, again, I found a most noble order in everything, delightful to behold. I will not fully describe all this; briefly only will I mention some things.

(What Marriage is among Christians.)

2. Their marriage, I saw, was not widely apart from virginity, for with them there is much moderation both in their desires and in their cares. Instead of those steely fetters, I saw here golden clasps; instead of endeavours to separate, I saw joyful union both of bodies and of hearts. Then if any hardship yet clung to this estate, it was made good by the multiplication of the subjects of God's kingdom that resulted from it.

(What Magistrates the True Christians have among them.)

3. Now he to whom it befell to sit above the others and be called magistrate behaved thus to the subjects that were entrusted to him as is the manner of parents to their children, that is, kindly and carefully; and it was delightful to witness this. I saw, also, that many of these magistrates folded their hands and praised God. Then, again, he who was under the rule of another strove to bear himself in such a fashion that he was a subject not only in word but also in deed. He honoured God in this that he showed great respect and attention, both in words and in deeds and thoughts, to him whom He had placed over him, whatever his character might be.

(The Learned Men among the Christians.)

4. When I had proceeded farther among them, I found no few learned men, who, contrary to the customs of the world, surpassed the others in humility as greatly as they did in learning, and they were sheer gentleness and kindness. It befell that I spoke to one of them, from whom it was thought no earthly learning was concealed; yet he bore himself as a most simple man, sighing deeply over his stupidity and ignorance. The knowledge of languages they held in slight value, if the knowledge of wisdom was not added to it. For languages, they said, give not wisdom, but have that purpose only that by means of them we can converse with many and divers inhabitants of the terrestrial globe, be they alive or dead. Therefore not he, they said, who can speak many languages, but he who can speak of useful things, is learned. Now they called useful things all God's works, and they said that arts are of some use for the purpose of understanding Him; but they also say that the true fountain of knowledge is the Holy Writ, and the Holy Ghost our teacher, and that the purpose of all true knowledge is Christ, He who was crucified. Therefore, as I saw, all these learned men tended with all their learning to Christ, as to the centre; and everything, they say, that was an obstacle to their approaching Christ they reject, even if it was most learned. I saw also that they read divers human books, according to their pursuits; but the choicest only they read carefully, and they always consider human statements as human only. They write books themselves also, but not to spread their fame among the people, but rather because they hope to impart something useful to their fellow-men, to aid the common welfare, to frustrate the wicked.

(The Priests and Theologians of the True Christians.)

5. Of priests and preachers I saw a certain number among them, according to the wants of the Church; all were in simple attire, and their ways were gentle and kind. They spent their time more with God than with men, in prayer, reading, and reflection. What time they have besides they employ in teaching others, either generally in the assemblies or separately in private. Their hearers assured me, and I felt it also myself, that no one could listen to their preaching without inward emotion of the heart and the conscience, for the power of divine eloquence came from their lips. I saw also rejoicing and tears among the listeners, when the preachers spoke of the mercy of God, and of the ingratitude of the world; so truthfully, livingly, and fervently did they preach. They would have held it a disgrace to teach others anything wherein they had not already set them an example; therefore one can learn from them, even when they are silent. I approached one of these preachers, wishing to speak to him. He was a man with venerable grey hair, and on his countenance somewhat of the divine incontinently appeared. When he spoke to me, his speech was full of a kindly severity, and it was in every way clear that he was God's ambassador; for he was in no way tainted by the smell of the world. When, as is our custom, I wished to address him according to his rank,[1] he permitted it not, calling such things worldly fooling; it was a sufficient title and honour for him, he said, if I addressed him as "servant of God," or, if I wished it, as "my father." When he gave me his blessing I felt, I know not what sweetness and joy that arose within my heart, and then I truly understood that true theology is a more powerful and more penetrative thing than we generally imagine. And I blushed, remembering the haughtiness, pride, avarice, the mutual quarrels, the envy, hatred, drunkenness, and carnality of some of our priests; the words and deeds of such men, verily, are so wide apart that they seem to speak as in jest only of the virtues of Christian life. On the other hand, these preachers, that I may speak the truth, pleased me, being men of fervent mind and continent body, men who were lovers of celestial things, but heeded not earthly ones. They were careful of their flock, forgetful of themselves, moderate in wine, though their minds were intoxicated by the spirit of holiness, modest of speech, though plentiful in good deeds; and each one among them strove to be first in work, last in good deeds; in all their deeds, words, and thoughts, they cared but for their spiritual progress.

  1. I.e., as preacher or priest.