THE PILGRIM EXAMINES SOME CLASSES AMONG THE CHRISTIANS
Hitherto I have described the general characteristics of all true Christians; but perceiving among them various vocations, such as also exist in the world, I desired to examine how they conducted themselves in them. I found an excellen order in all their affairs, so that it was a joy to behold it; but I do not propose to describe it in detail. I shall touch briefly only upon a few features.
2 HOW THEIR MARRIAGE IS. Their marriage, I found, differs but little from celibacy; for there is with them a moderation both in their desires and in their attachments. Instead of the steel fetters, I saw here golden clasps; in place of tugging apart, here prevails a joyful union of their bodies and their hearts. But if, in spite of all, some lack of freedom still adheres to this state, it is outweighed by the increase of the kingdom of God which results from it.
3 WHO THEIR RULERS ARE. Those among them who are called to rule as governors, deal with the subjects committed to their care as do parents with their children--with love and care. This was pleasing to observe, and in fact I saw many lifting up their hands in gratitude to God for such rulers. On the other hand, those who are subject to the rule, seek so to live as to be subects not in word but in deed. They live thus for the sake of honoring God thereby, so that whomever He set over them, were he of whatever disposition, him they respect and honor in words, deed, and thoughts.
4 WHO THEIR LEARNED MEN ARE. Walking among them further, I saw not a few learned men who, contrary to the usage of the world, exceed others as much in humility as in learning, and are kindness and affability incarnate. I was privileged to converse with one of them of whom it was rumored that there was nothing of human learning hid from him; but he carried himself as the humblest, and lamented his lack of learning and ignorance. They esteem linguistic studies but little if wisdom is not increased thereby. They say that knowledge of languages does not impart wisdom, but is merely a medium ot communication with one or another group of the inhabitants of the world, whether living or dead. Therefore, he is not learned who can speak many languages, but rather he who can impart useful knowledge in them. They regard as useful knowledge all the works of God, to the understanding of which the liberal arts contribute somewhat , it is true, but of which the true source are the sacred Sciptures, their teacher the Holy Spirit, and the goal of it all is Christ the Crucified. Therefore, all these learned men, I observed, direct all their learning toward Him as the center; and whatever they perceive to be an obstacle to the approaching of Christ, they reject, even though it be the most ingenious. They read many books according to their needs; but they give special attention only to the choicer ones, always rating human eloquence as but human. They write book themselves, but not with the aim of making their names known, but in the hope of communicating to others something useful, and of aiding the common welfare, or defending it before an assault of evil.
5 WHO THEIR PRIESTS AND THEOLOGIANS ARE. I saw among them a certain number of priests and preachers, according to the needs of the Church, all in the simplest habit, dealing with each other as well as with the laity generally with mild and affable manners. They spend the greater part of their time with God rather than with men--in prayers, reading, and meditation.
NOTA BENE: The rest of their time they employ in instructing others either in public assemblies or privately. Their sermons--as their hearers assured me and I experienced it myself--were never heard without an inward stirring of the heart and the conscience, because of the penetrating power of divine eloquence which issues from their lips. When God's mercy or human ingratitude are discussed, I noticed both ecstasy and tears on the faces of the hearers, for the preachers' words are earnest, vital, and fervant. The preachers would regard it as shameful to teach others virtues of which they themselves are not examples, so that in their very silence there is much one can learn from them. I approached one of them wishing to speak with him; he was a person of venerable age and in his countenance shone something divine.
NOTA BENE: When he spoke to me, his words were full of kindly severity, and it was quite apparent in every way that he was God's ambassador; for there was not a whit of worldliness about him. When, according to our custom, I wished to address him by titles, he did not permit it, calling it mere worldly snobbishness and saying that it was a sufficient title and honor to be a servant of God. He bade me call him my father, if I so desired. When he bestowed his blessing upon me, I was conscious of a rapture and an expansive joy in my heart, and became aware that in truth the genuine knowledge of God--the real theology--is more powerful and penetrating than it has generally been regarded. I blushed remembering the haughtiness of some of our priests, their pride, avarice, mutual quarrels, dislikese, and enmities, drunkenness, and in a word carnality. For their words and deeds stand so far apart that they seem to talk about virtues and Christian life only as if in jest. To tell the truth, I was pleased with these men of fervent spirit but disciplined body, lovers of heavenly things but careless of earthly, diligent over their flock but forgetful of themselves, drunk with the Spirit but not with wine, of few words but of abundant needs, each striving to be the first in work but the last in boasting: in a word, intending the spiritual upbuilding of all in their every act, word, and thought.
Chapter 51 ||| Labyrinth index page