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heard of a man that was angry with himself because he was no taller ; and of a woman that broke her looking-glass because it would not show her face to be as young and handsome as her next neighbour's
And I know another to whom God hath given health and plenty; but a wife that nature hath made peevish, and her husband's riches had made purse-proud; and must, because she was rich, and for no other virtue, sit in the highest pew in the church ; which being denied her, she engaged her husband into a contention for it, and at last into a law-suit with a dogged neighbour who was as rich as he, and had a wife as peevish and purse-proud as the other: and this law-suit begot higher oppositions, and actionable words, and more vexations and law-suits; for you must remember that both were rich, and must therefore have their will. Well! this wilful purse-proud law-suit lasted during the life of the first husband ; after which his wife vexed and chid, and chid and vexed, till she also chid and vexed herself into her grave; and so the wealth of these poor rich people was curst into a punishment, because they wanted meek and thankful hearts; for those only can make us happy. I know a man that had health and riches; and several houses, all beautiful and ready furnished ; and would often trouble himself and family to be removing from one house to another: and being asked by a friend why he removed so often from one house to another, replied, “It was to find content in some one of them.” But his friend, knowing his temper, told him, if he would find content in any of his houses, he must leave himself behind him; for content will never dwell but in a meek and quiet soul. And this may appear if we read and consider what our Saviour says in St. Matthew's Gospel; for he there says, “Blessed be the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed be the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And blessed be the meek, for they shall possess the earth.” Not that the meek shall not also obtain mercy, and see God, and be comforted, and at last come to the kingdom of heaven; but in the mean time, he, and he only, possesses the earth, as he
of heaven, by being humble and cheerful, and content with what his good. God has allotted him. He has no turbulent, repining, vexatious thoughts that he deserves better; nor is vexed when he sees others possessed of more honour or more riches than his wise God has al
lotted for his share: but he possesses what he has with a meek and contented quietness, such a quietness as makes his very dreams pleas·ing, both to God and himself.
Let not the blessings we receive daily from God make us not to value, or not praise Him, because they be common; let us not forget to praise Him for the innocent mirth and pleasure we have met with since we met together. What would a blind man give to see the pleasant rivers, and meadows, and flowers, and fountains, that we have met with since we met together? I have been told, that if a man that was born blind could obtain to have his sight for but only one hour during his whole life, and should, at the first opening of his eyes, fix his sight upon the sun when it was in full glory, either at the rising or setting of it, he would be so transported and amazed, and would so admire the glory of it, that he would not willingly turn his eyes from that first ravishing object, to behold all the other various beauties this world could present to him. And this, and many other like blessings, we enjoy daily. And for most of them, because they be so common, most men forget to pay their praise, but let not us; because it is a sacrifice so pleasing to Him that made that sun and us, and still protects us, and gives us flowers, and showers, and stomachs, and meat, and content, and leisure to go a-fishing.
My meaning was, and is, to plant that in your mind with which I labour to possess my own soul; that is, a meek and thankful heart. And to that end I have showed you, that riches without them (meekness and thankfulness) do not make any man happy. But let me tell you, that riches with them remove many fears and cares. And therefore my advice is, that you endeavour to be honestly rich or contentedly poor : but be sure that your riches be justly got or you spoil all. For it is well said, “He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping.” Therefore be sure you look to that. And in the next place look to your health: and if you have it, praise God, and value it next to a good conscience; for health is the second blessing that we mortals are capable of; a blessing that money cannot buy ; and therefore value it and be thankful for it. As for money, (which may be said to be the third blessing,) neglect it not: but note, that there is no necessity of being rich ; for I told you, there be as many miseries beyond riches as on this side them: and if you have a competence, enjoy it with a meek, cheerful, thankful heart. I will tell
you, Scholar, I have heard a grave divine say, that God has two dwellings ; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart; which Almighty God grant to me, and to my honest Scholar.
104.-SISTERS OF CHARITY.
SOUTHEY. [IN Mr. Southey's Sir Thomas More,' the following account of the Beguines of Belgium, and the Sisters of Charity, of France, is reprinted from the London Medical Gazette,' Vol. I.]
A few summers ago I passed through Flanders on my way to Germany, and at the hospital at Bruges saw some of the Beguines, and heard the physician, with whom I was intimate, speak in strong terms of their services; he said, “ There are no such nurses. them in the wards attending on the sick, and in the chapel of the hospital on their knees washing the floor. They were obviously a superior class of women, and the contrast was striking between these menial offices and the respectability of their dress and appearance ; but the Beguinage of Ghent is one of their principal establishments, and, spending a Sunday there, I went in the evening to vespers. It was twilight when I entered the chapel. It was dimly lighted by two or three tall tapers before the altar and a few candles at the remotest end of the building in the orchestra, but the body of the chapel was in deep gloom, filled from end to end with several hundred of these nuns seated in rows, in their dark dresses and white cowls, silent and motionless, excepting now and then when one of them started up,
and stretching out her arms in the attitude of the crucifixion, stood in that posture many minutes, then sank and disappeared among the crowd. The gloom of the chapel—the long line of these unearthly-looking figures, like so many corpses propped up in their grave-clothes-the dead silence of the building, once only interrupted by a few voices in the distant orchestra chanting vespers, was one of the most striking sights I ever beheld. To some readers, the occasional attitude of the nuns may seem an absurd expression of fanaticism, but they are any thing but fanatics. Whoever is accustomed to the manners of continental nations, knows that they employ grimace in every thing. I much doubt whether, apart from the internal emotion of piety, the external expression of it is graceful in any one, save only in a little child in his night-shirt, on his knees saying his evening prayer.
The Beguinage, or residence of the Beguines at Ghent, is a little town of itself, adjoining the city, and inclosed from it. The transition from the crowded streets of Ghent to the silence and solitude of the Beguinage is very striking. The houses in which the Beguines reside are contiguous, each having its small garden, and on the door the name, not of the resident, but of the protecting saint of the house, these houses are ranged into streets. There is also the large church, which we visited, and a burial-ground, in which there are no monuments. There are upwards of six hundred of these nuns in the Beguinage of Ghent, and about six thousand in Brabant and Flanders. They receive sick persons into the Beguinage, and not only nurse but support them until they are recovered; they also go out to nurse the sick. They are bound by no vow excepting to be chaste and obedient while they remain in the order; they have the power of quitting it and returning again into the world whenever they please, but this it is said they seldom or never do. They are most of them women unmarried, or widows past the middle of life. In 1244, a synod at Fritzlau decided that no Beguine should be younger than forty years of age. They generally dine together in the refectory; their apartments are barely yet comfortably furnished, and, like all the habitations of Flanders, remarkably clean. About their origin and name little is know by the Beguines themselves, or is to be found in books. For the following particulars I am chiefly indebted to the Histoire des Ordres Monastiques, (tome viii.) Some attribute both their origin and name to St. Begghe, who lived in the seventh century : others to Lambert le Begue, who lived about the end of the twelfth century. This latter saint is said to have founded two communities of them at Liege, one for women, in 1173, the other for men, in 1177. After his death they multiplied fast, and were introduced by St. Louis to Paris, and other French cities. The plan flourished in France, and was adopted under other forms and names. In 1443, Nicholas Rollin, Chancellor to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, founded a hospital at Beaune and brought six Beguines from Malines to attend upon it, and the hospital became so famed for the care of its patients, that the opulent people of the neighbourhood when sick were often removed to it, preferring its attendance to what they received at home. In
one part of the hospital there was a large square court, bordered with galleries leading to apartments suitable to such patients; when they quitted the hospital the donations which they left were added to its funds.
The Sæurs de la Charité of France are another order of religious nurses, but different from the Beguines in being bound by monastic vows. They originated in a charity sermon, perhaps the most useful and extensive in its influence that ever was preached. Vincent de Paul, a celebrated missionary, preaching at Chatillon, in 1617, recommended a poor sick family of the neighbourhood to the care of his congregation. At the conclusion of the sermon a number of persons visited the sick family with bread, wine, meat, and other comforts. This led to the formation of a committee of charitable women, under the direction of Vincent de Paul, who went about relieving the sick poor of the neighbourhood, and met every month to give an account of their proceedings to their superior. Such was the origin of the celebrated order of the Sæurs de la Charité. Wherever this missionary went he attempted to form similar establishments. From the country they spread to cities, and first to Paris, where, in 1629, they were established in the parish of St. Saviour.
About 1625, a female devotee, named Le Gras, joined the order of the Sæurs de la Charité. She was married young to M. Le Gras, one of whose family had founded a hospital at Puy, but becoming a widow in 1625, in the thirty-fourth year of her age, she made a vow of celibacy, and dedicated the rest of her life to the service of the poor.
In her, Vincent de Paul found a great accession. Under his direction she took many journeys, visiting and inspecting the establishments which he had founded. She was commonly accompanied by a few pious ladies. Many women of quality enrolled themselves in the order, but the superiors were assisted by inferior servants. The Hotel Dieu was the first hospital in Paris where they exercised their vocation. This they visited every day, supplying the patients with comforts above what the hospital afforded, and administering, besides, religious consolation. By degrees they spread into all the provinces of France, and at length the Queen of Poland requested Mademoiselle Le Gras, for though a widow that was her title, to send her a supply of Sæurs de la Charité, who were thus established in Varsovia, in 1052. At length, after a long life spent in the service of charity and