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THE LIFE OF FLORENTIUS
FOLLOWING the order laid down, I do now think good to write certain things concerning the life and character of Florentius, that Reverend Father of pious memory, Priest of the Church of Deventer, and once a disciple of that Master Gerard of whom I have told above. This order in my history is fitting, that having first shown the fertility of the good tree in Gerard, the founder of our Devotion, I should next exhibit the sweetness of the fair flower thereof in the godly Florentius, his disciple, for he was eminent as a follower of the same Devotion and a most fervent promoter of it.
His humble and obedient character was indeed an herb of healing for the drooping soul, and his saintly virtues are an instruction to young and old alike.
(2) I beseech thee, good brother, that thou interpret not the artlessness of my words to the injury of this illustrious priest, for he was himself a lover of humility and artlessness; but do thou 82read and mark the good things that I shall tell of him with the eyes of pious deference. Do as doth the provident bee drawing sweet honey from fair flowers in some green meadow, and (for the edification of thy condition and order) sow the seeds of those virtues which adorned our beloved Father Florentius, and plant his example in the garden of thy soul, to bear as it were flowers of roses, and sweet-scented lilies therein. So shalt thou go forward continually in virtue, and thine heart shall glow yet more fervently in the furnace of the love of Christ. He was a mirror of virtue notable indeed, and to all that desire to serve God, one that doth help them to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Since I had intimate knowledge of him, and did oft stand by and minister to him, I am so much the more competent to speak truly concerning his life.
(3) I pray thee complete to the honour of God that work which thou didst undertake at my desire and that of others; for it will be a joy to them that come after to hear how bright were the stars which did shine forth in our land. And thou, too, mayest be a partaker in their merits, if in brotherly love thou art willing to impart to others that knowledge which thou hast freely received.
The Elder Brother.
(4) The task which I approach is toilsome and one that is too heavy for my knowledge and my feeble powers. I would choose rather to be silent and read the words of others, than to cast a shadow upon the bright fame of that illustrious man by telling thereof in my homely and barbarous speech. 83But since thou dost not inquire into niceties of style but rather moral worth in the subject, therefore in despite of mine unskill in words thou must not despise my pearls though the shells wherein they are found be worthless.
I confess that I am not so skilful as to be able to set forth the life of so great a father; yet I do offer in the temple of God goat skins to cover the roof of the tabernacle, for I have no precious stones wherewith to adorn the vestment of the priest. Also it would seem to me a hard-hearted and ungrateful thing if I should keep silence as to the virtues of a father so beloved though I am unworthy to tell of them, for in his life he was a benefactor to me and to many others: he first launched me for the service of God, and in the fulness of time steered me to the haven of the monastery. Wherefore in gratitude and for a sweet remembrance of him I in turn do gladly repay his bounty, now he is gone, by the finishing of this poor work. Let it be as some excuse for the task that I have taken on me, that I deeply love this reverend Father, and hope that his memory may always and everywhere flourish among devout men: And may the Lord Jesus who despised not the poor widow’s two mites, reward me, his poor servant, in the time to come, for that with a good intention I do put this labour of my hands into His treasury, leaving higher themes to men more learned. Knowing mine own littleness I submit to the correction of my betters, and I ask that every devout mind may help me with prayer, and that if any shall draw any edification from reading these writings, he may praise God for all His gifts and be grateful even for the least.84
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