Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/664

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le Rouge Cloitre, in the Forest of Soignies, became very celebrated. In these retreats of contemplatives, kept wholesome by hard manual labour, the Scriptures were copied and read; the text of the Vulgate was corrected; a treasure of devout wisdom was silently gathered up, whose most precious jewel is the book written by Thomas ä Kempis, though it did not bear his name. Within thirty years Windeshem had given rise to thirty-eight convents, of which eight were sisterhoods and the rest communities for men of a strict yet not unreasonable observance. To the Austin Canons established by Florentius we may trace a main current in the Catholic Reformation; the Austin Hermits ended in Staupitz and Luther.

Education was the daily work of many among the Brethren. Their school at Hertogenbosch is said to have numbered twelve hundred pupils. In Deventer they taught in the grammar-school, and "here in the mother-house I learned to write," says Thomas Bemerken, who came thither from Kempen as a lad of twelve. Florentius gave him books, paid his school fees, was a father to him. Unlike Groot, who had taken his degree at Paris, Thomas attended no University. He was taught singing; he practised the beautiful hand-in which he copied out the whole Bible; he travelled on business for the monastery, but was away only three years altogether; at Mount St Agnes he spent just upon seventy years. The key-note of his life was tranquillity; he perhaps called his book not, as we do, the Imitation of Christ, but the Ecclesiastical Music. A reformer in the deepest sense, he accepted Church and hierarchy as they existed, and never dreamed of resisting them. Everything that the sixteenth century called into question is to be found in his writings. He availed himself of an indulgence granted by Boniface IX; he held the Lateran teaching on the Eucharist; he speaks without a shadow of misgiving of the veneration of Saints, of masses for the dead, lay Communion in one kind, auricular confession and penance. To him the system under which he lived was divine, though men were frail and the world had fallen upon evil days. Those, therefore, who seek in The Imitation vestiges of Eckhart's pantheism, or pro-phesyings of Luther's justification by faith alone, fail to apprehend its spirit, nor have they mounted to its origin. For Ruysbroek is emphatic in asserting free-will, the necessity of works as fruits of virtue, the Grace which makes its recipient holy. Such is the very kernel of Thomas a. Kempis, in whom no enthusiast for antinomian freedom would find an argument. And in a temper as active, though retiring, as dutiful though creative, the movement went on which had begun at Deventer. Thomas records in a series of biographical sketches how his companions lived and wrought. When we arrive at Cusanus, we feel that there could have been no worthier preparation for measures of amendment in the Church at large than this quiet process of self-discipline.

As a pupil of Deventer, Nicholas Krebs had been brought up in