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LIFE OF JOHN BRINCKERINCK
TO this wrestler in the cause of God there succeeded John Brinckerinck, a native of Zutphen, and formerly a loved disciple of Master Gerard. When the latter came and preached in divers places Brinckerinck often went with him and was his comrade upon the way, just as Luke accompanied Paul.
By this means he heard from Gerard many excellent things and learned of him, becoming a devout imitator of his deeds and a credible witness of his sanctity; for he came in and went forth with him, recited the Hours, and was careful in ministering to him in other pious acts of service. After Gerard’s happy death, he lived humbly and devoutly under obedience to the reverend Father Florentius, being most zealous in striving to follow those good principles which he had imbibed with a thirsty heart from the preaching of Master Gerard. But by God’s ordinance he was promoted to the Priesthood, and remained in the Community with the Brothers, labouring much in the establishment of the first House which Florentius founded until at last when John Gronde had died he was placed in charge of the Sisterhood. Being a man of power and a zealous lover of Chastity, 177he ruled the House that was committed to him with all strictness, not sparing himself toil, but often wearying himself beyond his strength in his efforts to gain souls. Sometimes he preached the Word of God in the Church, sternly reproving sin, and commending virtue in most excellent wise, as was seemly.
(2) Twice did I hear him preach upon our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, effectually enough and at some length. His first text was “God spared not His own Son,” the second he took from, the Psalm, “What shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath bestowed upon me”!
The Devout heard him gladly, but some worldly men murmured against him because he took occasion to denounce their vices; yet he was not made fearful by reason of such men, for he loved to speak truth and to strive for justice, choosing rather to obey God and to be of profit to the good rather than to consent to evil men. Once, therefore, on the Feast of the Circumcision he preached very eloquently and persuasively upon the Name of Jesus, exalting that sweet and blessed Name above all names that are in Heaven and Earth.
(3) At length his discourse proceeded to denounce certain worldly and foolish men on the ground that some, alas! named that Holy and Inviolable Name with too little reverence and often even in jest, and he cried, saying, “There are some who hearing this Sweet and Blessed Name Jesus, say jestingly and in mockery, “Aye, Jesus is the God of the Beguines.” “Oh! wretched men and fools, what do ye say? Who then is your God? Are ye worshippers of the devil that ye call Jesus the God of the Béguines? To you this is a 178great stumbling-block; but to them their great honour and their chief joy is this Holy Name of Jesus, Which they call upon continually and reverence deeply; and before all and above all the names of Saints they love and adore Jesus the Son of God, Whom ye mock and despise because these Brethren and Beguines rejoice to call upon His Name, devoutly praise It, saluting one another therein. Woe unto you! for that ye have the devil’s name upon your lips more often than that of Jesus because He seemeth to you to be too humble and despised!” In so saying he made them that loved Jesus to rejoice, and confounded them that mocked Him as they deserved.
(4) But when the number of the handmaids of God began to be increased, John, putting his trust in the help of the Most High, built a larger house for them to dwell in, that he might save more souls of them who fled to Christ from the turmoil of the world. At length by great labour he built a large convent for Devout women outside the city towards the north, in which he received certain Sisters from Gerard’s house, and caused them to be imbued with holy learning, and to be invested in the habit of Regulars under perpetual vows. These Sisters, and also those who remained in the city, he ruled strictly for the remaining twenty-six years of his life, the Lord helping him, but some he sent to other places to found new communities. In the beginning he found only sixteen Sisters living in the community, but at his death he left 150—for God multiplied their numbers in his days.
(5) The words which he spoke to a familiar friend bear witness that he thought humbly and fearfully of himself, though he wrought so good 179a work. While they were on the way together and were speaking of the future life, he said, “See, Brother, if the Angel of the Lord came to me now and said, ‘Bow thy neck, John, and suffer thy head to be cut off and thou shalt be in purgatory,’ I would gladly submit that I might be assured of Salvation and thus be enabled to die in a state of Grace.” At another time he said in his preaching: “How great and exalted is the priestly office, whose dignity scarce any mortal man can worthily support! If I could put off the garb of my priesthood as readily as I put it on I would straightway unfrock myself here. Let those who make a boast of their Holy Orders and pride themselves thereupon, not considering the obligations which they incur, give heed to these things and learn to think humbly of themselves, and to abase their hearts in the fear of God; for every man will be safer before God in the time to come in proportion as he is now the humbler in himself.”
(6) This servant of God underwent many labours in his lifetime, and suffered scorn and reproach from the envious, but by patience he overcame them all, and giving the Glory to God he faithfully finished the good work he had begun. The more humbly he thought of himself the more pleasing was he to God and the more souls did he draw with him to the life of chastity, and so when he had laboured long enough and had produced much fruit in the vineyard of the Lord, which God’s Right Hand had planted, the day grew on to eventide when he should receive the reward of his labours and cease from all earthly work, according to the Word of the Lord Who said, “Call the labourers and give them their hire”; for lo! he fell sick, being seized by a great 180and violent fever, and thinking that he was about to depart he sent word to the Prior of Windesheim that he was grievously sick and that the end of his days was at hand. And when the Prior came he explained his earnest wishes, committing the care of the Sisters to him as unto a faithful steward, that he might provide for them in the matter of a suitable Rector, lest their new-born zeal for obedience might perish through neglect or disuse.
(7) So the Festival of our Lord’s Annunciation dawned and passed, and on the next day, i.e., March 26th, John, that faithful servant of Christ, panting for a heavenly country, gave up his soul to the God Whom from his youth he had striven to serve with the whole strength of his body. He died in the year of the Lord 1419, when that reverend Lord Frederick de Blanckenheim ruled over the diocese of Utrecht, a noble bishop and a pious and renowned patron of all devout persons. He was buried in the convent of the Sisters of the Order of Regulars at Diepenheim in the middle of the choir before the High Altar which he had himself built and consecrated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin and St. Agnes.
I gratefully receive what thou sayest; happy is Deventer that she hath been adorned by such priests; but I pray thee pursue the way which thou hast now begun, and hide not from me those things which I have not yet heard.
The Elder Brother
The fervency of thy petition doth compel me to narrate certain other things which are unknown to 181thee. Yet how can a mind that is weighed down of its own evil tell anything in worthy wise about the virtues of men made perfect? But since for love’s sake I have begun this task hear also what followeth. I will tell my story briefly, lest a lengthy discourse cause the reader weariness- Seek not any adornment of style in my words, but rather edification of character drawn from the lowly conversation of these Devout Brethren.
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