Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

BY REV DOCTOR JOH TAULER
(From the Epistle for the day)
Admonishing each man to mark what is the office to
which he is called of God, and teaching us to
practise works of love and virtue, and to refrain
from self-will.
I Cor. xii. 6. — "There are diversities of operations, but it is the same
God which worketh all in all."
ST. PAUL tells us in this Epistle that there
are different kinds of works, but that they
are all wrought by the same Spirit to the profit
and well-being of man. For they all proceed from
the same God who works all in all. " But the mani-
festation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit
withal. For to one is given by the spirit the word
of wisdom, to another faith ; " and so Paul goes on
enumerating many gifts ; but repeats that " all these
worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing
to every man severally as He will." And he says
many things for the confirmation of our faith.
In old times the Holy Ghost has wrought very
great and wondrous deeds through his servants for a
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testimony to the faith, having given us great signs
by the raising up such a succession of prophets, and
by the blood of His saints, and thus suffering unto
death. For this kind of testimonies there is no
longer any need. Yet, know that of true, hving,
active faith, there is, alas, as little in some Christian
men as in Heathens or Jews !
ow let us meditate on these words of St. Paul :
" There are diversities of operations, but it is the same
God which worketh all in all." Children, if you
look around you, you see that you have bodies, and
that these bodies have many members and many
senses, and that each member, such as the eye, the
mouth, the nose, the hands, the feet, has its own
special office and work. o one of these takes upon
itself to be another, nor to do anything but what
God has ordained unto it. In like manner, we are
all one body, and members one of another, and Christ
is the head of the body. In this body there is a
great diversity of members ; the one is an eye, the
other an ear, the third a hand or a foot or a mouth.
The eyes of the body of the holy Christian Church
are her teachers. This office is none of yours ; but
let us common Christians look to see what is our
office, to the which our Lord has called and bidden
us, and what is the gift of which our Lord has made
us the vessels. For every art or work, however
unimportant it may seem, is a gift of God, and all
these gifts are bestowed by the Holy Spirit for the
profit and welfare of man.
Let us begin with the lowest. One can spin,
another can make shoes, and some have great aptness
for all sorts of outward arts, so that they can earn a
great deal, while others are altogether without this
TAULER'S SERMOS 369
quickness. These are all gifts proceeding from the
Spirit of God. If I were not a priest, but were living
as a layman, I should take it as a great favour that
I knew how to make shoes, and should try to
make them better than any one else, and would
gladly earn my bread by the labour of my hands.
Children, the foot or the hand must not desire to be
the eye. Each must fulfil the office for which God
has fitted him, however weighty it may be, and what
another could not easily do. Also our sisters shall
each have her own office. Some have sweet voices ;
let them sing in the Churches, for this also comes
from the Spirit of God. St. Augustine says : " God
is a homogeneous, divine, simple substance, and yet
the Author of all variety, and is all in all, one in all,
and all in one." There is no work so small, no art
so mean, but it all comes from God and is a special
gift of His. Thus, let each do that which another
cannot do so well, and for love, returning gift for
gift. Know ye, whoever does not exercise his gift,
nor impart it, nor make use of it for the profit of his
neighbour, lays up a heavy reckoning against the
last day. For, as Christ tells us, a man must give
account of his stewardship, or his office. Each
shall and must restore that which he has received
of God, and is answerable in proportion to his advan-
tages over others, and the measure of the ability
which God has given him.
Whence comes it then, that we have so many com-
plaints, each saying that his occupation is a hind-
rance to him, while notwithstanding his work is of
God, who hindereth no man ? Whence comes this
inward reproof and sense of guilt which torment and
disquiet you ? Dear children, know that it is not
2 A
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your work which gives you this disquiet. o : it
is your want of order in fulfilling your work. If you
performed your work in the right method, with a sole
aim to God, and not to yourselves, your own likes
and dislikes, and neither feared nor loved aught but
God, nor sought your own gain or pleasure, but only
God's glory, in your work, it would be impossible
that it should grieve your conscience. It is a shame
for a spiritual man, if he have not done his work
properly, but so imperfectly that he has to be rebuked
for it. For this is a sure sign that his works are not
done in God, with a view to His glory and the good of
his neighbour. You may know and be known by this,
whether your works are directed to God alone, and
whether you are in peace or not. Our Lord did not
rebuke Martha on account of her works, for they were
holy and good ; He reproved her on account of her
anxiety. A man ought to busy himself in good and
useful occupations of whatever kind they may be,
casting his care upon God, and labour silently and
watchfully, keeping a rein upon himself, and proving
himself, so as to sift what it is that urges and impels
him in his work. Further, he must look within, and
mark whether the Holy Spirit will have him to be
active or quiet ; that he may obey His godly lead-
ings in each instance, and do and have undone by
the influence of the Holy Spirit ; now resting,
now working, but ever fulfilling his due task in
peace.
And wherever you see the aged, the sick, the help-
less, you should run to their assistance, and strive
with each other in fulfilhng works of love — each help-
ing the other to bear his burden. If thou dost not so,
be sure that God will take thy work from thee, and
TAULER'S SERMOS 37^
give it to another who will do it aright, and will leave
thee empty and bare at once of gifts and of merit.
If, when at thy work, thou feel thy spirit stirred
within thee, receive it with solemn joy, and thus
learn to do thy work in God, instead of straightway
fleeing from thy task. Thus should ye learn to
exercise yourselves in virtue ; for ye must be exer-
cised if ye are to come to God. Do not expect that
God will pour \artue into you without your own
effort. You should never trust in virtue that has
not yet been put into practice, nor beheve that the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have entered into a
man, unless the man hath given evidence thereof
in his own labours, outward or inward. Once as a
good man was standing, threshing his com, he fell
into a trance ; and if an angel had not turned aside
the flail, he would have struck himself with it.
ow ye are all craving to be thus set free from your
work, and this comes, for the most part, from sloth ;
each would fain be an eye, and give himself to
contemplation rather than to work.
I know a man who has the closest walk with God
of any I ever saw, and who has been all his life a
husbandman, — for more than forty years, and is so
still. This man once asked the Lord in prayer if he
should give up his occupation and go into the
Church ; and it was answered him. o ; he should
labour, earning his bread by the sweat of his brow,
to the glory of Christ's precious blood, shed for him.
But let each choose some suitable time in the course
of every four-and-twenty hours, in which he can
give his whole mind to earnest meditation, each
after his own fashion. Those nobler men who are
able to turn to God simply without the aid of images
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or forms, shall do so after their fashion, and others
after theirs. Let each set apart a good hour for
such exercises, each taking his own method ; for
we cannot all be eyes ; but to our life's end it is most
needful for us to keep up some strenuous exercises
of piety, of whatever kind God may appoint, with
loving and peaceful hearts, and in obedience to His
will. He who serves God after God's will shall be
rewarded according to his own will ; but he who
prays to God according to his own will shall not be
answered in accordance with his own will, but after
God's will.
Children, it is of this coming out from our own self-
will, that the true, solid peace is begotten and springs
forth, and it is the fruit of long-tried virtue. Unless
thy peace come from this, be sure that it is false ;
for inwardly and outwardly thou must be exercised.
But the peace that comes from within none can take
away. ow some foolish men, who are puffed up
in their own conceit, come and say that ye ought
to do this and that, and want to direct every man's
mind according to their own opinion and their own
notions and practices. And many of them have
lived for forty years in the profession of religion, and
to this day do not know what is their own real state.
They are much bolder than I. I hold the office of an
instructor ; and when people come and consult me, I
inquire how it stands with them, and how they came
into this state. Yet I dare not pass a judgment on
them ; but I lay their case before the Lord, and if
He does not give me what I shall speak, I say to
them : Dear children, seek help yourselves from
God, and He will give it you. But you want to j udge
and set an estimate on every man, trying him by the
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standard of your own usages and conceits. Thus it
is that the worms get in and devour the good saphngs
that were shooting up in God's garden. — Then they
say, " We have no such custom ; this is an inno-
vation, and comes from the new notions," and never
reflect that the hidden ways of God are unknown
to them. Alas ! what strange things do we see
among those who fancy themselves in an excellent
way !
ow St. Paul says, that the Holy Ghost, by His
operations, teaches us the discerning of spirits.
Children, who do you suppose are the men to whom
God gives this power of discerning the spirits ?
Know ye, that the men who have this gift have been
thoroughly exercised in all ways : by their own flesh
and blood, and have gone through the most cruel
and perplexing temptations : and the devil has been
in them, and they in him, and they have been tried
and tested to the very marrow ; these are the men
who can discern the spirits. When they are minded
to do this, they consider a man, and straightway
they discern his spirit, whether it be of God or no,
and what are the nearest roads of access for him,
and what is holding him back from God. Oh ! how
greatly to our hurt do we fall short of the noblest,
highest truth through such trifling, mean things ;
for the sake of which we must suffer loss for ever and
ever, so long as God is eternal. For what we here
miss through our own neglect will never be made
up to us hereafter. But may God help all of us
truly to fulfil the offices and works which His Spirit
has committed to us and taught us to perform, each
doing as he is inwardly monished by the Holy
Ghost ! Amen.
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