Chapter XLIV The rule of spiritual christians
God’s laws are brief
God indeed desires to have His chilren free but not self-willed: therefore, He surrounds them with certain rules more effectively than anything similar that I could observe in the world. There, indeed, everything, was in disorder: partly because it had no definite order, and partly because men did not observe what order there was. But these who dwell within the partition, possess and observe a most excellent order. For they have rules given them by God Himself, full of justice, that decree that everyone devote to God must profess and know Him as the only God, and must serve Him in spirit and in truth, without devising for himself and carnal additions. He must employ his tongue not in offendingbut in honoring His revered name: he must spend the times and seasons appointed for His service in none but His outward and inward worship; he must be subject to his parents and others appointed over him by God; he must cause no injury to the life of his neighbor; and must preserve his own body in purity; he must respect the property of others, eschew falsehood and deceit, and must restrain his mind within the prescribedbounds and limits.
They are summed up in two words
2 In brief, he must love God above all which can be named and must sincerely desire as great a good for his neighbor as for himself. Which sum of God’s laws, comprised in these two sentences, I have heard very highly praised, and I myself have found and tested them to be worth all the innumberable laws, enactments, and decrees of the world, yea, a thousand times superior to them. s
The true Christian does not require copious laws
3 For he who loves God with all his heart needs no prescriptions as to when, where, and how many times he must serve, worship, and honor Him. For that sincere union with God, and his readiness to obey, are themselves the most acceptable ways of honoring God and lead man to praise God through his very being and to glorify Him through all his deeds. Similarly, he who loves his neighbor as himself needs no elaborate directions as to where, when, and wherein he should have regard for him, wherein he should not injure him, and how to return the debt which is due: love will fully instruct and show him how to conduct himself toward his neighbor. It is the mark of a wicked man to demand everywhere his rights and to guide himself in his conduct towards others strictly in accordance with written rules; for as the finger of God points out to our hearts that which we desire for ourselves, we are in duty bound to deal similarly with our neighbors. But because the world ignore the inner witness of its own conscience and observes only the external regulations, there exists no rightful order in the world, but only suspicions, mistrust, misunderstandings, jealousies, quarrels, envy, hatreds, theft, murders, and what not. But those who are truly devoted to God, observe only what their conscience prompts, and whatever it forbids they do not do; whatever it shows should be done they do, irrespective of gain, favor, or any other thing.
There is unanimity among true Christians
4 Thence follows a certain unanimity or similarity of one Christian with another, for they all are as if cast in the same mold: all think alike, believe alike, and have tastes alike, because all have been taught by the selfsame Spirit. It is remarkable — a thing that I observed with gladness — that men who have never seen or heard of each other and have been separated from one another by the breadth of the world, yet are so much alike as two peas: they speak the same things, see and feel the same as if they were one. Moreover, despite the great diversity of gifts among them, they produce a pleasing symphonic harmony, just as musical instruments do, the strings and pipes of which give out a different quality of tones, the one softer, the other louder. This is the great secret of Christian unity, in fact a proof of the divine unity and the foreshadowing of eternity, where all things will be dominated by one spirit.
5 From this unanimity arises their mutual sympathy, so that they rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. For I have remarked a most iniquitous thing in the world, which saddened me many a time: that whenever anyone fared ill, others were glad of it; whenever he strayed, they laughed at him; whenever he suffered loss, they tried to profit by it. Furthermore, they themselves caused their neighbor’s downfall and loss for their own profit, entertainment, and sport. Among the Christians I found no such thing; for each tried to ward off misfortune and calamity from his neighbor as earnestly an diligently as from himself; and if he could not ward it off, he was genuinely grieved as if it affected him. As a matter of fact, it did affect him, for they are all but one heart and one soul. Just as all compass-needles, when magnetized, point in the same direction, so the hearts of these people, impregnated by the spirit of love, turn all in the same direction: in happiness to joy, in misfortune to grief. Here I have learned that those are but false Christians who attend diligently only to their own affairs and not care for their neighbors'; and adroitly turning away from the hand of God, when it presses on them, they feather only their own nests, leaving others out in the wind and the rain. A far different order have I observed here: when one suffers, the rest do not rejoice; when one is hungry, the rest do not feast; when one is engaged in a fight, the rest do not sleep; but all things are done in common, so that it is a joy to look at it.
And community in all good things
6 Concerning possessions, I observed that although the majority of them are poor, not possessing or caring for much of what the world calls riches, nevertheless almost every one of them owns some. But he does not conceal it, and as happened in the world does not hid it from the rest, but holds it as if in common, ready and williing to aid anyone and to loan it to anyone in need of it. All use their property in such a way that it is as if they sat around a common table and used the provisions with equal right. Seeing this, I felt ashamed to think that with us it often happens contrariwise, some filling and cluttering their houses with furnishings, clothes, food, gold, and silver as much as they can, while at the same time others, who are no less God’s servants, have scarcely enough to eat and to put on. Then I understood, repeat, that it was by no means the will of God, but the usage of this perverse world, that some should go about in finery while others are naked; some belching with over-satiety, while others yawn with hunger; some earning laboriously, others squandering profligately; some spending their time in amusements, others in weeping. For from this follow pride and contempt of others on the part of the former, and envy, jealousy, and other passions on the part of the latter. But no such thing is found among the Chistians: for everything is common to all, even to their very souls.