This Homily describes and bewails the calamity of the soul, that by reason of sin the Lord does not dwell in it; and concerning John the Baptist, that none among those born of women is greater than he.
1. As once God was wroth with the Jews, and gave Jerusalem openly over to its enemies, and they which hated them were lords over them, and there was no longer any feast there, or any offering; so, being wroth with the soul, He gave it over to its enemies, both to devils and to passions; and so, when these had seduced it, they ruined it utterly, and no longer was there any feast there, or any incense or offering sent up by it to God, its tokens being filled in the streets, dreadful beasts and serpent spirits of wickedness making their domicile within it; and as a house, if it has not the master resident in it, gets clothed with darkness and shame and abuse, and filled with dirt and filth, so the soul which has not its Master with His angels making merry in it, gets filled with the darkness of sin, and the shame of passions, and all manner of disgrace.
2. Alas for the street, if no one walks in it, nor hears in it the voice of man, because it becomes the habitation of wild beasts. Alas for the soul when the Lord takes not His way in it, and drives not out of it with His voice the spiritual wild beasts of wickedness. Alas for the house when the master does not live in it. Alas for the land when it has not the husbandman to till it. Alas for the ship when it has not the steersman, because it is carried along by the waves and surges of the sea and is lost. Alas for the soul when it has not Christ, the true steersman, in it, because finding itself in the sea of the bitterness of darkness, and tossed by the surge of passions, and storm-beaten by the winds of evil spirits, it ends by gaining perdition. Alas for the soul, when it has not Christ to till it carefully, that it may be able to bring forth good fruits of the Spirit; because left desolate, and filled with thorns and thistles, its fruit in the end is the burning of fire. Alas for the soul when it has not Christ, its Master, living in it; because, left desolate, and being filled with the noisome odour of passions, it finds itself the habitation of iniquity.
3. As the husbandman, when he goes to till the ground, must take the proper tools and clothing for tilling, so Christ, the King, the heavenly and true husbandman, in coming to humanity, which had been laid desolate by sin, put on the body, and carried the cross for His tool, and so tilled the desolate soul, and took out of it the thorns and thistles of evil spirits, and plucked up the tares of sin, and burned up with fire every weed of its sins; and thus tilling it with the wood of the cross He planted in it that fairest paradise of the Spirit, bearing every fruit that is sweet and desirable for God as its owner.
4. And as in Egypt, during the three days’ darkness, the son saw not his father, nor brother, brother, nor true friend his friend, because the darkness hid them, so when Adam transgressed the commandment and fell from his former glory, and came under the power of the spirit of the world, and the veil of darkness fell upon his soul, from his time and until the last Adam, the Lord, they saw not the true Father in heaven, or the good, kind mother, the grace of the Spirit, or the sweet and desired Brother, the Lord, or the friends and kindred, the holy angels, with whom He rejoiced, making merry and keeping festival. And it was not only until the last Adam, but even to this day those upon whom the Sun of righteousness, Christ, has not arisen, and in whom the eyes of the soul have not been opened and enlightened by the true light, are still under the same darkness of sin, wrought upon by the same influence of pleasures, subject to the same punishment, not yet having eyes to behold the Father.
5. This is a thing which every one ought to know, that there are eyes deeper within than these eyes, and a hearing deeper within than this hearing. As these eyes sensibly behold and recognise the face of a friend or beloved one, so the eyes of the worthy and faithful soul, being spiritually enlightened with the light of God, behold and recognise the true Friend, the sweetest and greatly longed for Bridegroom, the Lord, while the soul is shone upon by the adorable Spirit; and thus beholding with the mind the desirable and only inexpressible beauty, it is smitten with passionate love of God, and is directed into all virtues of the Spirit, and thus possesses an unbounded, unfailing love for the Lord it longs for. What therpfore is more blessed than that everlasting voice of John, when he shows the Lord before our eyes, saying, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
6. Truly among them that are born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist. He is the fulfilment of all the prophets. All the prophets prophesied of the Lord, showing His coming afar off: John prophesied of the Saviour and showed Him before all eyes, crying aloud and saying, Behold the Lamb of God! What a sweet and beautiful voice of him who shews then and there Him whom he heralded! Greater than John is none of them that are born of women. But he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he—the apostles, born of God from above, who received the firstfruits of the Comforter Spirit—for they were allowed to be His fellow-judges and partners of His throne; they have been made redeemers of men. You find them dividing the sea of evil powers, leading believing souls through. You find them husbandmen, tilling the vine of the soul. You find them bridesmen, marrying souls to Christ: I have espoused you, it says, to one Husband. You find them giving life to men. In short, you find them in sundry parts and in divers manners serving the Spirit. This is the little one who is greater than John the Baptist.
7. As the husbandman governs a yoke of oxen and tills the ground, so the Lord Jesus, the fair true Husbandman, yoked the apostles two and two and sent them forth, tilling with them the ground of those who hear and truly believe. Only this is worth saying, that the kingdom of God and the preaching of the apostles is not in the word of hearing only, like one who knows a set of words and rehearses them to others, but the kingdom is in power and effectual working of the Spirit. This was the sad case of the children of the Israelites; always studying the scriptures, and in fact making the Lord the theme of their study, and yet not receiving the truth itself, they parted with that inheritance to others. So those who rehearse to others words of the Spirit, while they do not themselves possess the word in power, part with the inheritance to others. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost for ever. Amen.