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Title: An Address to the Sisters of St. Peter's Home, Brompton
Author: Goulburn, Edward Meyrick
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1864 Rivingtons edition by David Price, email

                        [Picture: Pamphlet cover]

                                AN ADDRESS
                     THE SISTERS OF ST. PETER’S HOME,

                       FOUNDED FOR THE RECEPTION OF

                               DELIVERED ON
                              JUNE 30, 1864.

                      EDWARD MEYRICK GOULBURN, D.D.
                        PREBENDARY OF ST. PAUL’S,

                                * * * * *

                       RIVINGTONS, WATERLOO PLACE:
                         AND HIGH STREET, OXFORD.

                                * * * * *

                            ST. JOHN’S SQUARE.

                                * * * * *

                     THE VISITOR OF ST. PETER’S HOME,
                               THESE PAGES
                          BY HIS KIND PERMISSION


AMONG the many signs of the vitality of the English Church, which every
dutiful son of hers will hail with joy, are the various organizations of
the Work of Women which have recently sprung up amongst us, the
Institution of Deaconesses, the employment of Parochial Mission Women,
and the foundation of Sisterhoods.  It is a mistake surely to look coldly
upon such movements, because they assume (what to our generation is) a
somewhat novel form.  There ought to be in every living Church a plastic
power, which adapts its machinery to the wants of the age, and to the
ever-varying shapes which Society is taking; and we rejoice to find in
our own Church evidences of this power.  Enthusiasms many and fervent are
rising up in her, and driving her members to these new agencies, which
should not be regarded with suspicion because they are new, but rather
tried fairly, and guided discreetly, and watched vigilantly.

Watching and guidance they will doubtless all of them want; and most of
all, Communities of women banded together under a Superior for devotion
and for acts of mercy.  The very first step of joining such a community
may easily be taken in violation of the principle (if not of the letter)
of the Fifth Commandment.  It may be an act of will-worship deliberately
committed by one who slights God’s Ordinance of the Family, and prefers
ties and sympathies of her own creation to those with which it has
pleased Him in His Providence to surround her.  But supposing the
community composed exclusively of those who have a moral right to join it
(of those who have no ties, or none which they cannot perfectly satisfy
while living in the comparative seclusion of a Sisterhood), the perils to
which their life exposes them are not few, and all the more dangerous
because they are subtle.  First; there is a constant tendency to erect a
false standard of spirituality in the mind, and to imagine a higher
degree of perfection to attach to the life of a Sister than to that of an
equally devoted Christian woman living in the world.  This tendency
culminates in the Roman phraseology “Religious,” as applied to the
members of Monastic Orders, a phraseology which I for one earnestly
deprecate, and greatly regret to see adopted by some of my clerical
Brethren in speaking of these Communities.  “Words,” says Bacon, “are
like the Tartar’s arrows; they shoot backwards;” and if we allow
ourselves to call the members of our Sisterhoods “Religious,” or to speak
of them as being “in Religion,” we shall soon come to regard their
vocation as more spiritual than that of the Christian wife and mother,—a
notion most unspiritual and unscriptural in the mind of the writer of
this Address.  Possibly the life of a Sister may present fewer
difficulties to the attainment of a high standard of sanctity than life
(under its ordinary conditions) in Society; but even if this be granted,
which must we rate higher, the faith and zeal which _evades_
difficulties, or the faith and zeal which _meets and triumphs over_ them?
I believe it might be shown that many of the most eminent doctors of the
Church, previously to the Reformation, have decided that life in the
World may be altogether as spiritual, and exemplify a standard of
holiness at least as high, as life in a Convent.  Then, again, it must be
remembered that the relations which the members of a religious Community
contract are artificial.  These Communities are a kind of hotbed for
rearing devotional feeling and piety of a high caste.  It is not at all
necessary to deny that very beautiful forms of piety are often reared
there, as very beautiful flowers are under glass.  But we may reasonably
expect the beauty of form to be somewhat compensated by want of vigour.
And of course this is especially likely to be the case with Communities
of Women.  Without denying to the piety of Women very great and peculiar
excellences, beyond those which characterize the religious feelings of
men,—while fully appreciating all the sympathy and power of heroic
endurance manifested by Christian Women, and fully recognizing the
general truth, that Religion thrives far better in the soil of a
susceptible heart than in that of a powerful understanding,—we must yet
grant that the female type of piety has a weak side,—the side, namely, of
a morbid sentimentalism.  Now this side may be expected to exhibit itself
in high relief in our Sisterhoods, where the sentiments of devout Women
constitute the religious atmosphere of the place.  And as the tone of the
disciple insensibly reacts upon the tone of the teacher, and what the
first is eager to receive the second is usually prompt to supply, it is
likely enough that the spiritual pastors and guides of such communities
will (with perfectly pure intention and without dreaming of evil) pander
to a style of religion very much out of keeping (to say the least of it)
with the sobriety of Holy Scripture, and with the staid and dignified
tone of the Book of Common Prayer.  Those who have read the Spiritual
Letters of St. Francis de Sales, and have observed the difference of tone
between the generality of them which are addressed to women, and the few
in which his correspondents are men, will immediately recognize what I
mean.  Souls should be dealt with on the same principles, whatever souls
they be; the same fervour, the same unction, should be manifested in the
guidance of either sex; but in the direction of his female disciples,
this saintly man displays now and then a tincture of sentimentalism which
can hardly be called healthy.  Madame de Chantal and the others craved
for something of that sort, and he, as their director, with the utmost
artlessness, supplied it.  There may be the truest unction in religion
without unctuousness.  Our Litany is an instance of this.

The great receipt for keeping the tone of piety sound and healthy
doubtless lies in one word, WORK,—work in the cause of our suffering
fellow-men.  And it seems to me to be a proof of the reality of the
danger which I have just been pointing out, that in some of these
Communities the Sisters have begun to affect a life of entire seclusion
from works of mercy, under pretence of a higher devotion.  Does not this
show that there is something in the moral atmosphere of these
communities, to which the healthy, practical, sobering tendencies of work
are uncongenial?  I have spoken strongly in the Address on the great
danger and mischief likely to accrue from making the purely contemplative
or devotional life the ideal of high sanctity; and indeed I have desired
to make the whole Address a protest against this false theory by assuming
(what I know to be the case) that the Sisters of St. Peter’s Home are all
busied in works of mercy, and giving them plain, practical counsels, such
as would be equally applicable to all the work which has to be done by
Christians in active life.  These counsels are so commonplace that those
who care to read them will probably ask for the reasons which justify me
in publishing them.

My only reason is, that the Founder of the Home pressed their
publication, under the idea that it might be of some use in making the
Institution known.  As he is one of those munificent Benefactors of the
Church, occasionally found among the wealthy Laity of this great City, to
whom the Clergy at all events are bound to hold out the right hand of
fellowship, I did not feel at liberty to decline his request when it was
pressed upon me.  In the vigilant superintendence of our Diocesan (who
kindly permits me to inscribe these pages to him) we have every guarantee
that reasonable people can desire for St. Peter’s Home being conducted on
the soundest principles, for its members being kept in faithful
allegiance to the Church of their Baptism, warned against and secured
from those dangers to which the experience of the Church teaches that
Religious Communities are exposed, and made a great blessing to those who
are sheltered and tended in their quiet retreat, and to the poor and sick
people in their neighbourhood.



I READ in your Primary Constitution and Statutes that “the whole work
carried on in this place is dedicated to St. Peter, who, more than any
other Apostle, ministered to the sick.”  I suppose that there is in these
words a reference to that passage of the Acts of the Apostles, in which
we are told that the people of Jerusalem “brought forth the sick into the
streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow
of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.”  It is in every way a
remarkable passage.  Though the notice of these cures wrought by the
Apostle’s shadow is so incidental, it is full of instruction.  A shadow
is an influence cast by a man’s body, and may usefully remind us of the
influence cast by his mind.  As all bodies must cast a shadow in the
sunlight, so every rational soul must, by the law of our nature, exert an
influence in its walk through life on every other rational soul with
which it comes in contact.  However narrow and however humble be the
circle in which we move, our character, habits, tone, certainly tell in
it; each action, each word, nay, each gesture and glance, is an item in
the sum total of our moral weight.—Then again, as we cast our shadow on
the pavement unconsciously, without deliberate intention, so the moral
influence, of which I am speaking, is exercised when we least think of
it.  Words thrown out when we are off our guard, ways of acting which
have become more or less instinctive, are all full charged with this
moral influence, and have in fact a much more powerful (though a more
subtle) efficacy than the things we say and do of set purpose.—Then
again, the shadow is always a correct outline of the body of which it is
a shadow.  And the moral influence which we exert without being conscious
of it is always exactly true to our character, which cannot be said of
our voluntary influence.  A man may preach, and exhort, and throw himself
into Christian enterprises, and thus gain a reputation for piety, and yet
be a self-seeker, actuated by ambition, or a desire to stand well with
others.  Many will say to Our Lord at the last day, “Lord, Lord, have we
not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in
Thy name done many wonderful works?” to whom He will have to profess, “I
never knew you.”  In this case the deliberate and voluntary influence
exerted by the man misrepresents him; we gather one impression from his
efforts, and another from his real character.  But the influence which he
exerts unconsciously never deceives us.  Live side by side with him for a
month; watch him when he is not on parade before society, but with his
family, with his children, with his servants; listen to his casual
remarks; observe his character as it transpires at all the thousand pores
of daily life; and the impression will be in the main true; it will
correspond to what he really is.

It would be a very curious, and I doubt not a very alarming spectacle, if
we could all of us see how very much we have done in the course of our
lives by unconscious influence.  But this is what history and biography
never reveal.  They tell us of enterprises taken in hand, battles fought,
good causes advocated and won, in short, of every stir and movement made
in the world.  But of that subtle reciprocal leavening of human
characters by one another of which we are speaking, because it is so
noiselessly effected, they take no account.  Yet secret and silent as it
is, this involuntary influence is infinitely more powerful than the
voluntary.  Just so some of the most powerful agents in Nature are the
quietest—do not thunder upon the ear or flash upon the eye.  Gravitation
is a tremendous force, operating all around us, and binding the planets
to the Sun.  Yet Gravitation is perfectly noiseless. {14}

You would consider, I suppose, that the ends of an Institution like this
were fully answered, and then only _fully_ answered, if the shadow of St.
Peter’s Home were, in the high sense of the word, a _healing_ shadow—if
the moral and spiritual influence exercised by the Sisters upon the
patients were such that souls were won by it to Our Lord.  And I can
quite conceive that this might be so under the proper conditions.  True;
the period for which each patient may reside in the Home is but short.
But then three or four weeks’ association with devoted servants of
Christ, whose devotion transpires naturally and is not obtrusively put
forward, may, under His Grace, work a great change, and leave an
impression which will never be erased.  Even the shadow of Peter passing
by is sometimes effectual to a spiritual cure.  If the fire of God’s
Grace is burning bright and clear upon the altar of our hearts, it will
throw out sparks in our passage through life.  And it is in the nature of
sparks to kindle, when they light on combustible material.  Every soul
with which we come in contact is sympathetic, and accessible at all times
through its sensibilities.  And its sympathies and sensibilities become
greater oftentimes in the hour of weakness and necessary withdrawal from
the world.  Persons come to your Home to convalesce.  They are not in
bodily pain; for their cure is supposed to be already effected in the
Hospital.  Their hearts are in some measure predisposed to gratitude by a
sense of God’s goodness in restoring them, and of your kindness in
receiving them under your roof.  Hence you have a very fair field for the
exertion of Christian influence.  And I can well conceive that many might
derive a lasting benefit from association with you; and that looking back
upon their past lives in advanced age they might say: “The first
impressions I had of the reality of things unseen, and of the powers of
the world to come, was given me at St. Peter’s Home, not so much by any
definite teaching I carried away, as by the whole conduct and way of life
of the Sisters.  In tending me, they made me feel that their ways and
aims were not of this world; and I still retain the impression which that
sight of living goodness made upon me.”

It will be so, my Sisters in Christ, if while you diligently tend these
patients in pursuance of the vocation which you have undertaken, you at
the same time diligently cultivate the interior life of piety in your own
hearts.  And in order to that diligent cultivation, I shall prescribe to
you to-day three spiritual exercises, comprehending, as I believe, the
sum and substance of Personal Religion.  I believe that the diligent
practice of all three will enable any one, by God’s good blessing, to
cast a healing shadow, to throw all around him a decided influence for
good; and that even one of them devoutly observed, and wrought into the
texture of the mind, will be the means of great advance.  But though I
speak of them in these terms, and promise these effects from them, you
must not suppose that I am going to give other than the plainest and most
commonplace advice.  I have no specific for the conduct of a spiritual
life but such as has been given you over and over again; and if I had,
you would rightly regard it with suspicion.  For the way of Christ’s
Saints, blessed be His Name, is a well-trodden way; and the advice for
His Church, when she would seek Him, is, “Go thy way forth by the
footsteps of the flock.”

                                * * * * *

I.  The first practice we recommend for securing a holy influence upon
others is the Practice of God’s Presence,—that the mind should be
momentarily collected in hours of business, as well as in hours of
devotion—the oftener the better—and placed with a holy ejaculation, or a
devout aspiration, or an expression of confidence or love, under His Eye.
I should not know how better to define this exercise than by calling it a
momentary glance at Christ, away even from those occupations which are
the task-work He has set us.  A momentary glance.  Do not think it
necessary always mentally to repeat some set ejaculation; that might be a
distraction, and create absence of mind, when all your faculties are
needed for what you are engaged in; but look away to Him for the instant,
and then back again, nothing doubting but that He can interpret for you
the need of your heart.

The importance of this practice in the cultivation of the spiritual life
can really be hardly exaggerated.  To begin with the beginning.  We read
that the first effect of the Fall upon the mind of our first parents was
to make them shun God, and hide themselves from the Divine Presence among
the trees of the garden.  Now Grace is corrective of the mischief done by
the Fall; and its operations are the very reverse of those of our corrupt
nature.  As sin therefore drives man to screen himself by diversions, or
by business, from God’s Presence, so it is one of the first instincts of
Grace to seek God’s Face.  We may do so now with the utmost confidence
through the Blood of Our Lord, knowing that Justice itself has nothing to
allege against us when we come before God with that plea; and the oftener
we do so amidst the occupations, hurry, and cares of daily life, the
holier and the happier shall we be.—Next; this is the only real method of
fulfilling the great New Testament Prayer-precept; “Pray without
ceasing.”  We must not fritter away the meaning of those sacred words, by
representing them to our minds as a rhetorical form of saying, “_Pray
very often_.”  To pray is to seek God’s Face—is it not?  Then if a state
of mind could be more or less realized, in which the soul is always
conscious of being under God’s Eye, would not that be prayer without
ceasing?  And this state is not to be attained except by constant
momentary reminiscences of God’s neighbourhood, and fervent breathings of
the heart towards Him.  When attained, it does not really interfere with
occupations, though it might seem that in any mental work it would be a
distraction to turn the mind away.  For the state is a consciousness of
God’s Presence.  Now consciousness of the human presence is quite
compatible with vigorous exercise of the mind.  I am thinking at present
of the subject on which I am speaking to you, and how I am to prosecute
it; yet not for a moment do I lose the consciousness that your eye is
upon me.  Again; say that I am walking to a certain place, and that in
doing so, I am engaged in earnest conversation with a friend.  We are
both thinking of our arguments, and how we shall meet what is advanced by
one another; but all the while, the consciousness is present to us that
we are making the right turns, and really advancing to the place for
which we are bound.  But I should wrong the sense of the Divine Presence,
if I said only that it need be no interference with our occupations; I
should rather say that it is the greatest furtherance to them.  For every
work needs energy to be done well; and what secret of energy is
comparable to the refreshment of spirit which may be derived from the
thought that we are under God’s Eye, working for Him, and with the
encouragement of His smile?  The thought is as like a breath of sweet air
sweeping across a wayside dusty heather.—Once again; Faith is the great
principle of the renewal of our character.  Without Faith there is no
elevation of mind, no spiritual buoyancy, no hope, no possibility of
advance or improvement.  Now when we recommend the constant reminiscence
of God, we recommend virtually a constant exercise of Faith.  “Faith is
the evidence of things not seen.”  The Presence of God is of course a
“thing not seen.”  And of all things not seen it is the nearest to us,
and that in which we have the most vital interest.  Habitually to assure
our hearts of this “thing not seen” is to live by Faith.  And to live by
Faith is to overcome the world and self; it is the life for which Christ
redeemed, and for which the Holy Ghost regenerated us.

Most true it is that those who honestly attempt this exercise of Faith
find it difficult.  What attainment worth making, either in things
natural or spiritual, was ever easy?  Every thing is granted, not
instantaneously, but in course of time, to prayer and striving.  “Try
again” is the simple expedient, which must be resorted to after a hundred
failures.  No wonder that in a world of sense and numberless distractions
the Presence of God should be a hard lesson to learn.  But when learned,
it is a great secret of holy influence; for it transpires, though we say
nothing to that effect, through the calmness and brightness of our minds,
that we are much with God.  And a portion of this lesson may be mastered

                                * * * * *

II.  The second practice recommended for the cultivation of the interior
life is that of submission to the Will of God.  This submission we may
and must learn to yield in the little trials and crosses of daily life.
The real reason why, when great trials come, Christians are so little
prepared to meet them—why even persons religious in the main are all
abroad, and know not which way to turn, when they are visited with
bereavement or bodily suffering—is, that they have never, if I may so
say, acclimatized themselves to the loving endurance of God’s Will amidst
the numerous little thwartings and contradictions of daily life.  People
_will_ go on thinking (or acting as if they thought) that nothing short
of a calamity is a sufficiently dignified occasion for the display of
religious principle; and thus they do not avail themselves of the
annoyances of daily life, as a field for the cultivation of patience and
surrender of the will.  And thus numerous precious opportunities of
growth in grace run to waste.

My Sisters in Christ, cultivate this habit of surrendering your will in
trifling matters to God.  You must know by experience that the discipline
of an Institution like this is by no means a security against the little
crosses and contradictions of daily life.  A task falls to your lot which
is not that which you like best, or think yourself most fit for.  Or, a
patient is discontented and hard to please, peevish in the course of
convalescence, and apparently unmindful of the kindness you are showing
her.  Or, there is some collision of tempers between Sisters of very
different characters.  Or, there is some cause of anxiety connected with
your absent family, which weighs heavily upon your mind, and tempts you
to collapse into a mechanical performance of your duties.  Now these and
the like circumstances may all be accepted devoutly as the little
cross—the cross exactly fitted to your stature and strength—which your
Divine Master bids you take up and carry after Him.  Pray and try to
embrace it as His choice for you.  Say in your heart, when the stress of
the trial is painfully felt, “This is the Will of God in Christ Jesus
concerning me;” and give God thanks for it, as for all the incidents of
your lot.  Not the Will of God simply, but the Will of God _in Christ
Jesus_ concerning me; a Will therefore of infinite Love and Grace,
reaching me as it does through the avenue of my Saviour’s Mediation.
Practise this with prayer continually; and the gradual result will be a
growing suavity and equableness of spirit, which cannot be disturbed even
by great reverses.  And there is no part of the Christian Example which
tells more upon others than this suavity and equableness.  A mind which
(though all its susceptibilities are alive) cannot be thrown into
disorder or robbed of its serenity by troubles, makes itself felt by all
who come within the range of its influence as a heavenly mind.  It is St.
Peter’s shadow falling on a fever patient.

                                * * * * *

III.  The third and last practice recommended to you is that of a single
intention, directing all you do, however secular and commonplace, to the
Service of Christ in His members.  In a place like this you have great
advantages for this exercise.  In ordinary life the pursuits of men and
women (with the exception of the Pastoral Charge) can only be connected
_remotely_ with the great end of Our Lord’s Service.  It is His will, no
doubt, that the present system of Society should work on till the Second
Advent; and its continuance involves all the various duties which flow
out of various positions.  I am well aware that the humblest of these
duties may have the right intention imported into it, and become through
that intention an acceptable service; but still it is an advantage to
have a duty which stands in very near relation to the great end.  Now
your duties here are of this character.  You tend the infirm, or you
instruct the ignorant, or you visit the poor.  Now it is very easy to see
in each sick person, in each ignorant person, in each poor person, a
member of Christ.  He Himself has constituted the hungry, the thirsty,
the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, His representatives, and
has assured us that what is done to them, He will count as done to
Himself.  So that these patients, these pupils, these destitute people,
are in fact a Sacrament, having Christ hidden underneath them.  They
indicate to us where He is, and in what quarter we may do Him direct
Service.  Now this should be to you, not a great comfort only, but a
great help in the Divine Life.  The intention to serve Him in His members
may be so readily formed, no doubt whatever resting on the fact that He
may be really served in this shape.  Then, too, this thought will stand
you in good stead, when your kindness is not reciprocated; when you are
met by indifference and coldness, or thrown out of heart by ignorance and
perversity.  It was not to them you offered your service, but to Him in
them.  And you may be sure that, whatever their mind may be, He is not
unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which love ye have
showed for His Name’s sake.  You may have failed in your object of giving
relief, or communicating instruction, or soothing a sufferer; but there
can be no failure in the Service rendered to Him, if your intention to
render it has been sincere.  Remember in this matter of intention that
there is no duty so trifling, no service so humble, which may not be done
to the Lord.  And in doing the commonest things, pray and strive to
exclude as much as may be the operation of lower motives.  Let the
thought be simply, “For Thee, dear Lord.”  When the habit has been
acquired of doing trifles thus, it will communicate a grace to our
actions, and a brightness and alacrity to our spirits in performing them,
which cannot fail of being felt by those under whose eyes we act.  Men
and women are very quick at reading one another’s real motives.
Worldliness of heart and secularity of aim is sure to transpire to those
around us, however much we may array ourselves in the livery of religion.
Love of power, or love of pre-eminence, or mortified vanity,—if we are
under the dominion of these sentiments, we cannot easily disguise them
from others, however effectually we may close our own eyes to their
presence within.  And similarly, when the simple motive to serve and
please Christ reigns in any heart, men speedily discover it, and
recognize it as something above nature.  And the discovery of this
supernatural aim impresses them much more forcibly for good than a
thousand efforts made of set purpose to reclaim and convert them.

                                * * * * *

We have spoken of the Service rendered to Christ in His members.
Fervently do I trust that in all English Sisterhoods this Service will
ever hold a foremost place.  We tremble for these Institutions as sure
rapidly to deteriorate, whenever the notion insinuates itself that there
is any life higher than that of active beneficence fed from the springs
of devotion.  My Sisters in Christ, if such a thought ever creeps into
your heart, let me pray you instantly to reject it, as totally contrary
to the Word of God and to the Mind of Christ, however specious in
appearance.  It is indeed wonderful how, to any person who has the Holy
Scriptures in his hand, the notion of a life of exclusive contemplation
and devotional exercise can ever approve itself.  The instances usually
quoted in favour of such a life, St. John the Baptist and Elijah the
Prophet, are singularly out of point.  For while it is of course true
that these men did not live the ordinary domestic life of their times,
that for the great purpose of their miraculous vocation they withdrew
from home and family ties, it is notoriously untrue that they came into
no contact with their fellow-men.  They were national reformers; and
national reformers cannot do their work without coming into rude
collision with the sins, and prejudices, and errors of their day; when
they were taken from the earth, it was with all the soil and dust of
Earth’s conflict upon them.  Thus these eminent characters lend not a
particle of support to the idea that a life of entire isolation from our
fellow-creatures is legitimate or after the Scriptural model.  Nor does
the idea gain any real countenance from the example of St. John the
Apostle.  True it is that he was not conspicuous for activity, like his
great colleagues, St. Peter and St. Paul; that his character had in it
probably a larger share of reflection than of will; but, whether we look
at the fact of his having composed under Inspiration the profoundest part
of the Canon of the New Testament, and having presided over the Seven
Churches of Asia, or at the traditions of his bringing the robber
chieftain, who had been one of his flock, to repentance, and of his
Sermons in old age reducing themselves to the one precept, “Little
children, love one another,” it is clear that, however contemplative the
bent of his mind, he did a work of vast importance for his fellow-men.
Indeed he is the great human model of the grace of Charity.  And I may
remind you that the inspired description of this grace (the highest of
all the Evangelical Virtues) sets it forth almost exclusively in its
aspect _towards man_.  Charity is the sweetest flower which grows in the
garden of the soul.  And in what spots does this flower flourish?  St.
Paul’s panegyric of Charity plainly shows that its place is in the world,
where are oppositions, collisions, provocations, suspicions; “Charity
_suffereth long_, and is kind; doth not behave itself unseemly, _seeketh
not her own_, _is not easily provoked_, thinketh no evil; _beareth all
things_, believeth all things, hopeth all things, _endureth all things_.”

But the most conclusive of all arguments against a life exclusively
contemplative in a world of sin and sorrow is the pattern of Our Blessed
Lord Himself.  One would have thought that at least His Example might
have saved His followers from this miserable delusion.  If His contact
with Society was the closest; if He went about doing good; if His active
works of mercy did not cease even at the moment of His apprehension; if
the Cross itself could not silence His tongue from words of consolation,
nor make Him unmindful of the sorrows of others; how shall any one
profess to follow Him, who on principle ignores the claim which the sins
and sufferings of men have upon Him; how shall any one presume to think
that he has found a higher walk of the spiritual life than that in which
Our Lord Himself walked?  My Sisters in Christ, it is because this
yearning after a complete withdrawal from the active works of mercy, this
false ideal of a life holier than Christ’s life, has unhappily shown
itself in some of the English Sisterhoods, that being here by the
invitation of your Superior, I speak thus strongly and plainly on the
subject.  Be well assured that any life, the plan of which is out of
conformity with the Word of God and the Example of Christ, will be
attended with the worst results upon the character of her who adopts or
seeks to adopt it.  The mind recoils (and that not at all in virtue of
its sinfulness) from mere contemplation.  It was made by God for action,
and for the reciprocation of sympathy; and mischief is sure to ensue from
any attempt to alter the laws of its constitution.  Without healthy
exercise in Acts of Mercy it must grow morbid, narrow, superstitious,
fanatical.  I know that your rule in this Institution is to devote
yourselves to works of Benevolence; still it cannot be out of place to
warn you against dangers, which beset similar Communities with your own;
and I find a trace of your Founder’s jealousy of your diversion from
these works in the ninth of your Primary Statutes: “No Sister shall be
required to spend more time in her private devotions than her own
conscience shall lead her to desire; nor shall she spend any time for
this purpose to the hindrance (in the opinion of the Superior) of the
active work of mercy to which she shall be dedicated.”  Those who framed
this wise rule must have been aware of the morbid tendency in Communities
like these to withdraw from the field of Active Benevolence, under the
plea of more entire dedication to God.

Presuming therefore that your work in this place, like all active work,
will be beset by many of the distractions and hindrances of ordinary
life, I have given rules for the cultivation of spirituality amidst
common engagements, which under God’s Blessing may serve to keep the
heart true to the Lord, while there is much work upon the hands.  In
conclusion I will recapitulate these rules;

   Practise the Presence of God.
   Practise submission to His Will in little Crosses.
   Practise the doing all things for Christ.

Thus the Patients, whom you shelter and tend, shall feel a calming,
sanctifying influence from their temporary association with you; and
shall look back with grateful reminiscences to the period when, before
their return to the heat and dust and turmoil of Life, and to the glare
of Life’s temptations, they were gathered in under the quiet shadow of
St. Peter’s Home.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *


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{14}  This illustration, as well as all the thoughts of the paragraph
containing it, is borrowed from the noble Sermon of Dr. Bushnell on
“Unconscious Influence.”  I give his words _in extenso_; for I believe
few grander passages can be found anywhere: “But you must not conclude
that influences of this kind are insignificant because they are unnoticed
and noiseless.  How is it in the natural world?  Behind the mere show,
the outward noise, and stir of the world, nature always conceals her hand
of control, and the laws by which she rules.  Who ever saw with the eye,
for example, or heard with the ear, the exertions of that tremendous
astronomic force, which every moment holds the compact of the physical
universe together?  The lightning is, in fact, but a mere fire-fly spark
in comparison; but because it glares on the clouds, and thunders so
terribly in the air, and rives the tree or rock where it falls, many will
be ready to think that it is a vastly more potent agent than gravity.

“The Bible calls the good man’s life a light, and it is the nature of
light to flow out spontaneously in all directions, and fill the world
unconsciously with its beams.  So the Christian shines, it would say, not
so much because he will, as because he is a luminous object—not that the
active influence of Christians is made of no account in the figure, but
only that this symbol of light has its propriety in the fact, that their
unconscious influence is the chief influence, and has the precedence in
its power over the world—and yet, there are many who will be ready to
think that light is a very tame and feeble instrument, because it is
noiseless.  An earthquake, for example, is to them a much more vigorous
and effective agency.  Hear how it comes thundering through the solid
foundations of nature!  It rocks a whole continent.  The noblest works of
man, cities, monuments, and temples, are in a moment levelled to the
ground, or swallowed down the opening gulfs of fire.  Little do they
think that the light of every morning, the soft, genial, and silent
light, is an agent many times more powerful.  But let the light of the
morning cease and return no more, let the hour of morning come, and bring
with it no dawn; the outcries of a horror-stricken world fill the air,
and make, as it were, the darkness audible.  The beasts go wild and
frantic at the loss of the sun.  The vegetable growths turn pale and die.
A chill creeps on, and frosty winds begin to howl across the freezing
earth.  Colder, and yet colder is the night.  The vital blood at length,
of all creatures stops congealed.  Down goes the frost toward the earth’s
centre.  The heart of the sea is frozen; nay, the earthquakes are
themselves frozen in under their fiery caverns.  The very globe itself,
too, and all the fellow-planets that have lost their sun, are to become
mere balls of ice, swinging silent in the darkness.  Such is the light,
which revisits us in the silence of the morning.  It makes no shock or
scar.  It would not wake an infant in his cradle, and yet it perpetually
new creates the world, rescuing it each morning as a prey from night and
chaos.  So the Christian is a light, even ‘the light of the world;’ and
we must not think that because he shines insensibly or silently, as a
mere luminous object, he is therefore powerless.  The greatest powers are
ever those which lie back of the little stirs and commotions of nature;
and I verily believe that the insensible influences of good men are as
much more potent than what I have called their voluntary or active, as
the great silent powers of nature are of greater consequence than her
little disturbances and ‘tumults.’”

I have been told that Dr. Bushnell’s Theology is unsound on the
fundamental doctrine of the Trinity.  I have not seen any thing to prove
this charge in “The New Life” (the only volume I have ever seen of his);
but, while I cannot borrow his thoughts without an acknowledgment, I am
bound to mention the allegation as a caution to those who fall in with
his works.  “The New Life” is full of noble sentiments, most eloquently
enforced; and there is great danger now-a-days lest sentiments of this
sort should be accepted as compounding for want of definite dogma—the
only foundation of all true Religion.  A Religion of sentiment only, not
holding of a Creed, would resemble a body of flesh and blood, without a
substructure of solid bones.

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