Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

BY REV DOCTOR JOH TAULER
(From the Gospel for the day)
This sermon telleth us of four measures that shall be
rendered unto man, and of two grades of a godly
life, and how we ought to love our neighbour.
Luke vi. 36-42.
WE read in the Gospel for this day that our
Lord Jesus Christ said : " Be ye therefore
merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge
not, and ye shall not be judged ; condemn not,
and ye shall not be condemned ; forgive, and
ye shall be forgiven ; give, and it shall be given
unto you : good measure, pressed down, and shaken
together, and running over, shall men give into your
bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete
withal, it shall be measured to you again. And He
spake a parable unto them, Can the bhnd lead the
blind ? shall they not both fall into the ditch ?
The disciple is not above his master : but every one
that is perfect shall be as his master. And why
beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye,
but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye ?
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Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother,
let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when
thou beholdest not the beam that is in thine own
eye ? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out
of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to
pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye."
I will say a few words on the precept : " Be ye
merciful, even as your Father in heaven is merciful."
This noble virtue is, now-a-days, quite a stranger
to the hearts of many, insomuch that it is grievous
to behold. For each is called to exercise this
mercy towards his neighbour, whereinsoever the
latter may have need of it ; not only as regards the
giving of earthly goods, but also the bearing with
his neighbour's faults in all gentleness and mercy.
But no ! each one falls upon his neighbour and
judges him ; and as soon as any mishap befalls a
man, whether deserved or not, straightway, without
waiting to take thought, another comes along and
lends a helping hand to make matters worse, to put
a bad face on them, and suggests the most evil
interpretation that he can imagine ; nay, it is thanks
to God if he do not add a great piece from the stores
of his own wicked imagination. This evil tongue
(from which arise untold sorrows and vexations)
is at work at once before a man has time to reflect
and pass a deliberate judgment. Poor creature !
as thou lovest thy eternal salvation, wait, at all
events, till thou canst calmly reflect, and know what
thou thinkest and sayest. For it is a base and
scandalous thing for a man thus thoughtlessly and
rashly to pass sentence, which may not even be
deserved, upon his neighbours, with his sharp, ruth-
less words, whereby he, spiritually speaking, slays
TAULER'S SERMOS 357
his neighbour in the hearts of others. And who has
commanded thee to pass judgment ? Wherefore
Christ tells us that whosoever judges another shall
be judged by God : " For with what judgment
ye judge, ye shall be judged ; and with the same
measure that ye mete, shall it be measured to you
again." Of this matter no more for the present ;
but let us consider those words of Christ : " For
with the same measure that ye mete, it shall be
measured to you again."
We read in the Gospel of four sorts of measure
that shall be given to a man, — a good measure, one
shaken together, one pressed down, and one running
over. The doctors of divinity teach us that a good
measure is for a man while in this present time,
through the help and grace of God, to be in a state
of salvation and hoUness, whereby he may enter into
eternal life hereafter. The second sort of measure
is for the body of a justified man to be glorified with
his soul at the day of judgment : this is the measure
which is added to. The measure pressed down is,
that a man should have his portion with all the saints
and angels of God in eternal life. The measure
running over is, that a man should have a perfect
fruition of God directly without means.
ow, dear children, we will give you yet another
exposition of these words, and ask : First, what is
the measure whereby we shall be measured ?
Secondly, who is He that measures ? The measure
whereby we shall be measured is the faculty of love
in the soul — the human Will. This is, properly
speaking, the measure whereby all human words
and works and life are measured, for this is
neither added to nor taken from. By so large
358 TAULER'S SERMOS
a measure as thou hast meted withal shall be meted
unto thee again with thine own measure in eternity.
And the meter is thine own enhghtened reason and
conscience. ow let us observe first concerning
the good measure, that it is, when a man freely
and heartily turns to God in his will, and lives
circumspectly according to the commands of God
and the Holy Church ; and moreover lives orderly
in the communion of the holy sacraments, in the
true Christian faith, being truly sorry for his past
sins, and having a thorough and steadfast purpose
to abstain from them henceforward, and to live in
penitence and the fear of God, loving God and his
neighbour. Alas ! there be few now-a-days who
thus do, or even desire to live in the fear of God.
Children, one who thus lives is said to and does lead
a just Christian hfe, and is a true Christian man ;
and this is a good measure which, without doubt,
hath a part in eternal hfe. These are rules which
aU really Christian men must needs observe. There
are some whom God has invited and called to this
" good measure," and of whom He demands no
more than this. And it may very possibly be
appointed and come to pass that such men may walk
so unspotted and godly in this way, that after death
they may enter into eternal life without any pur-
gatory. Yet nevertheless this is the lowest path
by which to approach to our merciful God.
After these, there is a second sort of men whom
God has called to tread a much higher path, that
they may reach a much higher goal, notwithstanding
that some of these should have to pass through
purgatory, inasmuch as they have not lived per-
fectly and faultlessly according to the vocation to
TAULER'S SERMOS 359
which God had called them. These have to suffer
such long and sharp anguish in the fire of purifica-
tion as no human heart can fathom or express. But
when they have reached the term of their purifica-
tion, they rise a thousand degrees higher than the
former class of men. With them it stands thus :
that having set out in a spiritual, blessed, and holy
life, they were overtaken by death ere they had
reached their goal. ow when these men are in
the beginning of their spiritual hfe, they practise
many excellent outward exercises of piety — such as
prayer, weeping, fasting, and the like ; but they
receive from God a heaped-up measure, in that they
have also inward exercises, setting themselves with
all diligence to seek God in the inmost ground of
their souls, for therein is seated the kingdom of God.
Their hfe is very far different from that of the first
class I have described.
ow, children, would a man attain to such a point
that the outward things should not hinder the inward
workings of the soul, that would be indeed above all
a blessed thing ; for two things are better than one.
But if thou find that the outward work hinders the
inward working of the soul, then boldly let it go, and
turn thou with all thy might to that which is inward,
for God esteemeth it far before that which is outward.
ow we priests do on this wise : for during the fast
days in Lent we have many services, but at Easter
and Whitsuntide we shorten our services and say
fewer prayers, for the greatness of the festival. So
likewise do thou when thou art bidden to this high
festival of inward converse ; and fear not to lay
aside outward exercises, if else they would be a snare
and hindrance to thee, except in so far as thou art
36o TAULER'S SERMOS
bound to perform them for the sake of order. For
I tell thee of a truth, that the pure inward work is
a divine and blessed life, in which we shall be led
into all truth, if we can but keep ourselves pure and
separate, and undisturbed by outward anxieties.
So in thy hours of meditation, when thou turnest
thy thoughts within, set before thy mind whatever
thou shalt find most helpful to thee, whether it be
the noble and unspotted hfe of our Lord Jesus
Christ, or His manifold sharp and bitter sufferings,
or His many painful wounds and His precious blood-
shedding, or the eternal and essential Godhead, or
the Holy Trinity, or the Eternal Wisdom, or the
Divine Power, or the gentle and compassionate kind-
ness of God, or the countless benefits that He has
bestowed on thee and all men, and will bestow ever-
more on thee and all those who deserve them and
are found in God's grace at their end.
Therefore, dear children, among all these excellent
things, whichever most stirs you up to true devout-
ness and fervent desire, take, and humbly sink down
into the abyss of God, with great thankfulness, and
wait for God with this preparation. For, by such
exercises, with love, the soul becomes very quick to
feel God's touch, far more so than by any outward
practices of devotion. For the inward work is always
better than the outward ; and from it the outward
works of virtue draw all their power and efficacy.
It is as if thou hadst a noble excellent wine, of such
virtue that a drop of it poured into a cask of water
would be enough to make all the water taste like
wine and turn it into good wine. This would be
a great miracle ; and so it is with the noble, excellent,
inward work of the soul compared to the outward.
TAULER'S SERMOS 361
ow, we find some men whose love is like a very
broad vessel ; that is they can meditate a great deal
upon our Lord, and with great desire and fervour,
but they are hardly two inches deep. That is to say,
they lack humility and a common godlike love toward
all mankind. For, as St. Augustine says, " Salva-
tion does not depend on the length of time that a
person has been converted to God, nor on the number
of good deeds performed, but solely on the greatness
of his love." This we see in the example of the
husbandmen who, with great labour, till the wheat-
fields and precious vineyards, yet partake not them-
selves of these best fruits of the earth, but have only
rye to eat and water to drink. So it is with many
persons, in a spiritual sense, with regard to the out-
ward good works which they do, that other more
noble-minded and devout persons reap the fruit and
benefit thereof.
ext comes the measure that is shaken together ;
and this signifies an overflowing love which draws all
things into itself ; that is to say, all good deeds and
all sorrows, nay every good which is brought to pass
in the world, whether by good or wicked men, does
this overflowing love draw into its own vessel. And
he who possesses this love has a much larger owner-
ship and delight in the good actions of another, who
does those actions but lacks this love, than the doer
himself. Therefore, of all the pious acts, the masses,
vigils, and psalters that are read and sung, the many
great sacrifices that are made for God's sake, — of all
these good things is more meted and allotted to such
loving men than to those who may have done the
good works, but do not stand in this overflowing
love. For I tell thee that God will not accept the
362 TAULER'S SERMOS
works of which He is not the beginning and the end ;
but, as St. Paul tells us, " Though I bestow all my
goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body
to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth
me nothing." Hence this virtue of godly charity
is the greatest of all virtues ; for by love it draws
unto itself all good deeds, customs, and services, in
heaven or on earth, which are the fruits of grace :
what evil a man has remains his own, but what good
he has is the property of love. Even as when we
pour com into a vessel, all the grains do hurry for-
ward and press together as though they desired to
become one, so doth love swallow up all the goodness
of angels and saints in heaven, all suffering and pain,
and all the goodness that is found in any creature
in heaven and on earth, whereof more than can be
told is wasted and thrown away, as far as we are
concerned, but love doth gather it all up into itself,
and will not suffer it to be lost. The godly doctors
of Holy Scripture tell us that in heaven the elect do
ever bear such great love one to another that, if one
soul were to perceive and see that another soul had
a clearer vision and greater fruition of the Deity than
herself, she would rejoice with her sister as though
she herself had won and enjoyed this blessedness.
Therefore, the more while here on earth we approach
and are made like unto this overflowing love, the
more shall we enjoy of its blessedness hereafter in
eternal life ; for he who most entirely rejoices in
good works here on earth in a spirit of love, he alone
shall possess and enjoy love in eternal life hereafter.
But this same spirit of love is what the Evil One
always hates in a man : wherefore he is ever trying
to bring such as have it into a false self -righteousness,
TAULER'S SERMOS 363
and into displeasure with their neighbours' ways
and works, so that the man conceits within himself
that his neighbour's works are not so good as they
ought to be, and so in a moment he falleth away
from this love, and begins to judge his neighbour
and pass sentence on him. And then from the depth
of this judging spirit darts forth a stinging venomous
tongue, that wounds and poisons the soul unto
eternal death. This same arrow of judgment will
smite and slay all the excellent and virtuous works
that thou hadst stored up unto thyself through an
overflowing love, and thus thou wilt find thyself
despoiled and laid waste, and thy peace destroyed
within thee, and then thou wilt be in a miser-
able and dangerous condition. Wherefore, in godly
faithfulness, I counsel thee ever to keep thy tongue
with all diligence, if thou wouldst be, and call thyself,
a friend of God.
Ofttimes too does the Evil One come and seduce
thee into anger with a pious and good man. If thou
utterest this bypassing a judgment on him, in thus
cutting thyself off from the fellowship of his love,
thou art also cut off from participation in the benefits
of the gifts with which God has endowed him, and
the works of his virtue. Of this brotherly fellowship
the Psalmist says : " It is Uke the precious ointment
upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even
Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his
garments." ow the beard has many hairs, and
the precious ointment flows into them all ; but if
one hair be cut off, it receives none of this precious
ointment. In like manner, so long as thou hast a
whole and undivided love towards all men, a share
of the virtues and divine influences bestowed upon
364 TAULER'S SERMOS
all flows out unto thee through this love. But I
tell thee, if thou dost sever any one from this spirit
of universal love, thou wilt not receive the precious
benefits of the outflo wings of love. Wherefore give
diligent and earnest heed to yourselves in this matter
of divine love, and maintain a hearty good-will to-
wards all men, and bear no grudge against any, and
despoil not the sacred temple of God, which has
been sanctified by our highest pontiff, Christ ; and
beware that ye do not call down upon your heads
God's everlasting Interdict. But, alas ! now-a-days,
nature is so perverted in many, both clergy and lay-
men, as touching brotherly faithfulness and love,
that if they see their neighbour fall, they laugh at
him, or stand by and let it go on, and care nought
for it. Take heed to your failings, and look how it
stands with your inward love to God and your neigh-
bour, and keep ever alive within you the fear of God ;
for I tell you that that which you fail to obtain here
through your own neglect, you will lose for ever.
After this life nothing will be added to you or taken
from you, but ye shall receive according to that ye
have deserved, whether it be good or whether it be
evil. I tell you that then, though our Lady and all
the saints should intercede for a man with tears of
blood, it would not help him. Therefore give heed
to yourselves ; for now God is alway at hand, waiting
for us, and ready to give us much more than we are
ready to desire of Him. St Paul says, Love never
faileth, it doeth all things, and endureth all things.
Therefore seeing that the love of God is never stand-
ing idle, so be ye constantly abounding in good
works, enduring all that befalls you cheerfully, for
God's sake. And then shall ye be made partakers of
TAULER'S SERMOS 365
the overflowing measure, which is so full, so rich,
so generous, that it runneth over on all sides.
God touches this brimming vessel with His finger,
and it overflows, and pours itself back again into its
Divine source, from whence it has proceeded. It
flows back into its source without channel or means,
and loses itself altogether ; will, knowledge, love,
perception, are all swallowed up and lost in God, and
become one with Him. ow God loveth Himself in
these men, and worketh in them all their works.
The gush and outflowing of this love cannot be con-
tained within the man's own soul, but he hath a
yearning desire, and saith : " Oh ! my beloved Lord
Jesus Christ, I beseech Thee to have compassion
upon poor sinners, and to forgive them their sins
and misdoings ; and especially upon those who, after
having done good works, have lost the same again
by reason of sin ; and grant them, dear Lord, the
crumbs that fall from the rich table of Thy grace ;
and of Thy goodness turn them from their sins
through the pains of purification, and impart unto
them the overflowings of Thy grace, that through
Thy merits they may be kept unto the end." Thus
do these Elect men carry up all things, themselves
and all creatures, to their true source in God, and
take all things that are done in the holy Christian
Church, and offer them up, from a joyful, humble,
submissive heart, to their eternal, heavenly Father,
for themselves and for all men, bad and good ; for
their love excludes none here in this time of grace,
and they are always in unity with all men. o
love or blessedness that the saints or angels possess
is lost to them, but all is poured into their
measure.
366 TAULER'S SERMOS
Verily, had we none of these godlike men among
us at this present time, we were doubtless in evil
case. Therefore let us all beseech the God of all
mercy, that we may fulfil and receive again this
measure that runneth over. Amen.
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