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London, British Library, Richard Foxe, The Rule of seynt Benet, London, Richard Pinson, 1516


Here begynneth the Rule of seynt Benet.


a [3] FOr asmoche as euery persone ought to knowe the thyng that he is bounde to kepe or accomplisshe, and ignorance of the thynge that he is bounde to do cannot, nor may not excuse* him, and for so moche also as the reding of the thynge that a persone is bounde to do & execute, except he understande it, is to the executinge therof no thyng vailliable, but only thyng inutile, trauell in vayne, and tyme loste.

// * excuse ] exeuse //

b ¶ we therfore, Richarde, by the permission and suffrance of our lorde god, Bisshope of winchester, reuoluinge in our mynde that certayne deuoute and religiouse women beinge within our Diocese & under our pastorall charge and cure, haue not only professed them to thobseruance of the Rule of the holy confessoure Seinte Benet, but also be bounde to rede, lerne, and understond the same when they be Nouices & before they be professed.

c And also after their profession they shulde nat onely in them selfe kepe, obserue, execute, and practise the sayd rule, but also teche other their sisters the same,

d in so moche that for the same intente they daily rede & cause to be red somme parte of the sayd rule by one of the sayd sisters a monges them selfe, aswell in their Chapiterhowse after the redinge of the Martyrologe, as somme tyme in their Fraitur in tyme of refeccions and collacions,

e al the which redinges is alwayes don in the latin tonge, wherof they haue no knowlege or understondinge, but be utterly ignorant of the same, whereby they do nat only lese their tyme, but also renne into the euident daunger & perill of the perdicion of their soules.

f we the sayd Bisshope, knowing and consideringe the premisses, and rememberyng that we may not without like peryll of our sowle suffer the sayd religious wemen of whose sowles we haue the cure to contynue in their sayde blindenesse and ignorance of the sayd Rule, to the knowlege and obseruance wherof they be professed,

g & specially to thentent that the yonge Nouices may first knowe and understande the sayde Rule before they professe them to it,

h So that none of them shall nowe* after ward [4] probably say that she wyste nat what she professed, as we nowe by experience that somme of them haue sayd in tyme passed.

// * nowe? ] mowe //

i For these causes, and specially at thinstant requeste of our ryght dere and welbeloued doughters in oure lorde Ihesus, Thabbasses of the monasteris of Rumsay, Wharwel, Seynt Maries within the citie of winchester, and the priosesse of wintnay, oure right religious diocesans,

j we haue translated the sayde rule into oure moders tonge: commune, playne, rounde englisshe, easy and redy to be understande by the sayde deuoute religiouse women.

k And by cause we wolde not that there shulde be any lacke amongis them of the bokis of this sayd translation, we haue therfore a boue and besyde certayne bokes therof which we haue yeuen to the sayde monasteris, caused it to be emprinted by our welbeloued Richarde Pynson of London printer.

l The .xxii. day of the Monethe of January, The yere of oure Lorde. M. CCCCC.xvi, And the .viii. yere of the Reigne of our souerayne lorde kynge Henry the .viii., and of our translacion the xvi.





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¶ The rule of seynt Benet.


a [5] ¶ In the name of the Trinite. Here ensueth the prologue of the rule of the blacke monkes & minchins made by the moost religiouse fader, seynt Benet, whiche in the begynninge of the sayde prologue sayth thus.

1 HEre and marke well, my children, the preceptes and commaundementes of oure fader & master, & diligently apply & inclyne the inwarde spirituall eres of youre hertes, and gladly perceyue and admitte the frutefull admonicions of your good & louinge fader.

2 And effectually accomplishe and fullfyll the same so that by the laboure and vertu of obedience ye may retorne and comme agayne to all myghty god, from whome ye were departed & disseuered thurgh Idelnesse, vice, and disobedience.

3 ¶ Unto you all, therfore, my wordes be nowe derected and spoken whatsoeuer ye be, that wyll forsake and renounce youre owne wylles, sensualytes and pleasures, and take uppon you the myghty and noble spyrituall armure of obedience to doo seruice to that noble and verie true kynge, almyghty god Jesu christe.

4 ¶ And first, what so euer goode purpose or werke ye begyn to take uppon you, ye shall before ye begynne it, aske and moste instantly desyre the goode lorde to performe and make perfeyte your sayde purpose or werke,

5 that he, whiche hathe vowchedsafe to accepte us as in the nomber of his chosen children, be not at any season moued, displeased or greued thurgh our euyll offences & misdedes.

6 ¶ For at all seasones we ought, for the great goodnesse that he hath shewed unto us, so to bowe & obey unto him, lesse that he as a displeased fader for our demerites not only disinheryte us as his unkynde chyldren,

7 but also as a ferefull lorde & mayster, prouoked by our euill dedes, condempne us as frowarde and unkynde seruantes to perpetuall paynes by [6] cause we dyde not our diligence to followe him to euerlastinge glorie.

8 ¶ Therfore nowe at the laste, let hir arryse holy scripture exciting us with these wordes, "Tyme is nowe that we arrise from slepe,"

9 & that we open our yes to the clere lyght of allmighyty god, so that we may perceyue & here with attentyue erys what dayly is commaunded us by the worde of god, saynge thus,

10 ¶ "If ye this day haue harde the worde of almyghty god, be ye not harde nor stobborne, nor stoppe not the erys of your herte."

11 And also he saith agayne, "He that hath erys to here, let him here what the holy goost sayth to all cristen people."*

// * cristen people Latin: ecclesiis //

12 But what sayth he, "Comme ye, my children and here me; I shall teche you to drede god.

13 Renne ye and be diligent whiles the lyght of lyfe is a monges you, lesse the derkenes of deth catche you."

14 Also all myghty god, seyng his faythfull people & obedient seruantes & workemen amonges the multytude of his people, not only cryethe after the maner a forsayd, but also he sayth & demaundeth in this wyse,

15 "what man is he that wyll haue euerlastinge lyfe and desyreth to see good dayes?"

16 And if thou heryng these wordes woll answere & say, "I am he," allmyghty god then sayth to the ageyne,

17 "If you wol haue trewe & euerlasting lyfe, withdrawe & kepe thy tonge from all euyll, and suffer no fraude ne dissayte passe thurgh thy lyppes. turne the from all euyll, & doo that is goode. seke out & pursue peas,* & folowe the same.

// * peas ] peax //

18 And when ye do after this maner, sayth allmyghty god, then shall myne yes be open & fixed uppon you, & myne erys allway redy to your prayers & peticions, & before ye shall call uppon me I shall preuent you & shall say, "lowe here I am, redy to youre desyres."

19 ¶ O dere susters (sayth seynt Benet), what thyng may be to us swetter than this voyce of our sauiour in the maner a forsayd, callynge us to him.

a Be holde, susters (sayth seint Benet),

20 Sith almyghty god of his owne kyndnes, pitie, & mere mocion byfore we aske it, sheweth to us the way of lyfe.

21 let us therfore array & exercyse our selue in the fayth, and in the obseruance of good workes, & let us take uppon us the Iorney of allmyghty god, folowinge the lawe & [7] ledinge of his gosple, that we may deserue to see him in his kyngdomme of heuen, whiche hath thus called us to him by his grace.

22 In which kyngdomm, if we intende to haue a restinge place, we must diligently inforse and indeuor our selfe to labor in good workes, without the which the sayd restinge place & kyngdomme can not be attaygned.

23 ¶ But then aske we all myghty god with the prophete, saynge thus, "Good lorde, who shall dwell in thy heuenly kyngdomme and place, or who shall make his restynge place in thy holy mounte of heuen?"

24 After this interrogacion, Dere susters (saythe seynt Benet), let us here our lorde answeringe and shewinge to us the ryght way to his heuenly mansion.

25 ¶ "He (almyghty god saythe) shall dwell in my heuenly howse, that lyueth without spot of synne and dothe ryghytull werkes.

26 He that thinkes truly in his hart, and worketh no desseyte with his tonge."

27 he that hathe doone none euyll to his neyghbor, nor enterprysed none obprobriose, sclaunderose, nor shamefull thinge to the hurte of his neyghbor.

28 He that dispiseth & putteth out of his hart our mortall foo, the cursed finde, and hath utterly brought him to nought, with all his suggestions, temptacions, and entisinges, & hath brokyn & resisted them at the firste monicion of them, and stedfastly holden his inwarde thougtes unto christe,

29 they that drede god & extoll not theym selfe, ne be prowde of their good religiose dedes, but supposinge and thinkinge verely the goodnes which is in them, not to be of them selfe, but of the gyfte of god.

30 doo lawde and magnify god for his graciose operacion in them, saing with the prophete thus, "Not to us good lord, not to us, but to thy holy name gyue thou prayse & glory,"

31 as thapostell Paule, which dyd not impute any parte of his preching & techinge to him selfe, but sayd, "By the grace of god & not of my selfe, I am as I am."

32 & ageyne he saythe, "He that ioyeth or seketh ony laude or glory, let him ioy in god & gyue laude & glory to him."

33 whereof our lord speketh thus in his gospell, "who so hereth these my wordes & doth the same in dede, I shall lyken him to a wyse man that hath bulded his howse uppon a rocke.

34 [8] there cam bytter stormes, both waters & wyndes, & brast into the howse, & yet it fell not downe." why? for it was buelded uppon a stedfaste stone.

35 ¶ Oure lorde, whiche dyd accomplisshe & perfourme all these poyntes and condicions in his owne persone, loketh dayly that we shall make goode and by oure werkes satisfye and conforme us to these his holy monicions.

36 And therfore the dayes of this present lyfe be prolongued unto us and prorogued as a daye of treuce,* for the amendinge of oure shrewde dedes,

// * treuce ] truxe //

37 the apostell saynge thus,."Can thou nat tell, man, that the lonanimite, pacience, and longe sufferance of almyghty god, is to induce and excyte the to repentance, penance, and reformation?"

38 For oure lorde saith of his great mercy and pitie, "I will not the deth of a synner, but I desyre that he be conuerted and amended and lyue."

39 ¶ Nowe, dere susters (saith seint Benet), whan we asked our sauioure of the dwellers and inhabitantes of his holy and heuenly mancion, we harde by and by his precepts howe we myght attaygne to it & to deserue to dwell in it. And if we doo the office of trewe inhabitantis, we shall be inheritours of the kyngdome of heuen.

40 Therefore, dere sisters (sayith seynt Benet), ye muste make redy youre hartes and your bodies to obey the preceptes and commaundementes of our rule by vertu of obedience.

41 And where thurgh the fragilite of nature and the infirmite of our selfe we be insufficient and unhable so to do, we shall beseche all myghty god that his grace may be to us ayde & socoure in that behalfe.

42 And if we woll eschewe the paynes of hell & comme to euerlastinge lyfe,

43 let us then whiles we haue tyme and laysour, and whiles we in this our mortall body lyue, and may fulfyll by the lyght of this present lyfe all these forsayde preceptes,

44 diligently ren and labor, & so good workes do nowe, that they may profyte us in tyme to comme.

45 ¶ Wherfore (sayth seynte Benet), we muste nowe orden a schole of the seruice of almyghty god, that is to say this present rule,

46 in the which ordinance (sayth seynt Benet) we trust to put nothyng that hard is, sharpe, or greuous.

47 Albeit if any maner of thyng for any [9] resonable cause passe by our sayd schole & ordinance for the redressinge of defaultes and for the conseruacion of charity, the whiche thou shalte thynke rigorouse or straiete,

48 thou shaltnot therfore be sodenly afrayde and for fere at a chop* flee and forsake the waye of euerlastinge lyfe, seinge that it cannot be entred but with a harde & a straict begynninge.

// * sic //

49 For in proces of tyme & by continuance of good conuersacion, the way of the commaundmentes of almyghty god is by thexcellent swetnesse of his loue, & with glad hart, easely & ioyfully walkyd.

b And so this schole of saynte Benet is ordeygned to thentent that we,

50 neuer departinge from christis instructions & preceptis, but alwaye perseuringe in his doctrine in monasteris, tyll dethe comme uppon us, thurgh pacience and tribulacions beare so in us parte of his passion that fynally we may deserue to be cytezins of his kyngedom of heuyn.





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¶ Here beginneth the rule of our holy fader seynt Benet.

¶ The first chapiter treateth of .iiii. maner of monkes.


1 IT is manifeste that there be .iiii. diuerse kyndis or sectes of monkes.

2 ¶ The first is of Cenobitis, that is to say of monasteriall persons, seruing god to gedder or in congregacion in monasteris, under oon rule & one abbot or oon priour.

a And of this secte or kynde be mynchins seruinge to gedder in monasteres under oon rule and oon abbesse or oon prioresse.

3 ¶ The seconde maner or secte is of Anachorites & Eremites, that is to say of them which not as sone as they haue takyn religion uppon them, but by longe continuance & proufe in monasteris,

4 haue lerned and had experience thurgh the comforte of other, to fyght ageynste the suggestions & temptacions of the deuyll.

5 And so well they be armed and instructed [10] by the good counsell of other, that they may surely take uppon them and be hable to fyght sole and solitarily thurgh the helpe of all myghty god without the comfort of other, agaynste the temptacions of the flesche & agaynste all oder euyll thoughtes.

6 ¶ The .iii. kynde, maner, or secte is of Sarabites, a secte detestable, whiche lyue not under obedience of any superior, ne under any Rule that is good & approued, nor be tried in monasteres as golde is by the furnace, but be more lyke unto ledde, supple & plyable to all vices,

7 And fayning them selfe to be religiose, under the simulate habite & tonsure of religiose men, be in all their dedes vayne, ydell, and wordly,

8 which by .ii. to geddre or .iii. to gedder or elles by oon a lone, lede their lyues without hed or superior, nor in abbayes or monasteris, but where they luste, folowinge their owne appetites and desyres, and takynge voluptuosite for ther lawe & reule.

9 For what so euer they coniect, or choyse after their owne myndes to be good, that they cal holy; & what is not aggreable to their appetitis, be it neuer so good in dede, they say it is not lawfull.

10 ¶ The .iiii. kynde or secte is of those that be vagabundes,* that ren from prouince to prouince, from Cell to cell, abyding not in oon place passing .iii. or .iiii. dayes,

// * Latin: gyrovagum //

11 euer wanderinge and neuer stable, gyuing them selfe to glotony & other lustes of the flesche, and in all their dedes be worse then the Sarabites.

12 Of whose moste wretched conuersacion better it is not to medle then to speke of them.

13 wherfore (sayth seynt Benet), omittinge and ouerpassinge them, let us thurgh the helpe & succurre of all myghty god entende to set and ordinance and to make a Rule concerninge those monasteriall and religiose persons of whome we spake of firste, that is to say of the Cenobitis.





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¶ The seconde chapiter treateth of what qualites an Abbasse ought to be.


1 [11] AN abbasse that may be hable & worthy to take uppon hir the Rule & gouernance of a monastery or congregacion, must all wey call to her rememberaunce & consydre the name of the dignite that she is called by, and labour effectually that hir dedes be accordinge to hir name and in nothinge contrary to the dignite that she is called to.

2 for she occupieth the place of almyghty god in the monastery in somoche as she is named after hym,

3 thapostle sainige thus, "ye haue receyued the holy goste, by whom ye be made the children of god, in whom we cry all to geder to almyghty god & call him Abba, pater;

a that is to say fader, of the whiche name all abbottes & abbasses take their names: thabbot to be to his couent a fader, & thabbasse a moder.

4 And therfore the abbasse shall nothyng ordeyne, teche, ne commaunde (as god forbede she shulde), contrary to the commaundementes of allmyghty god,

b whos rowme & authorite she hathe & occupieth,

5 but hir commaundementes & doctrines must be in suche wise ordred & uttred, that they may take place and effectually worke in the myndes of hir sisters & disciples, like unto the swetnes and sauour of the ryghtuisnes of all myghty god.

6 ¶ Thabbasse must alway haue in hir mynde that of hir doctrine & of the obedience of hir susters & disciples, & of eyther of them to gedre, that is to saye as well of hir doctrine as of their obedience, there shalbe a strayte examinacion & triall made in the fereful day of the last iugement.

7a ¶ Thabbasse must knowe also that what so euer dammage, incommodite, lacke of frute, or utilite our lorde* findith in his shepe,

// * Latin: ovibus paterfamilias //

c that is to say in the couent,

7b it shalbe layde & imputed to the charge, blame, & defaute of the sheparde,

d that is to say of thabbasse.

8 Albeit she may thereof discharge & acquite hir selfe by this meane & by none other, that is to say if so be that she haue don hir diligence to the trowblouse & obstinante flocke, & that with all hir labour she hath endeuoured hir selfe to the amendement of theyre euyll dedes,

9 than may she well for hir discharge & acquitall at the day of dome say to almyghty god with the prophet, "I haue not hyd ne kepte within my brest thy iustice nor righ- [12] tuisnes. I haue shewed & declared to them thy treweth. I haue declared thy holsome communadementes, and they, despisinge them, haue set my wordes & doctrine at nought."

10 and then in conclusion, euerlastinge deth shalbe their reward and punisshment, worthy and conuenient to suche an obstinate and disobedient flocke,

e not consydering nor regarding their dutie as they ought to haue done.

11 ¶ Therfore when so ever any oon takithe uppon hir the name of an Abbasse, she must Rule and gouerne hir disciples by two maner of doctrines.

12 that is to say, she muste shewe unto them good and holy thynges by hir wordes and doctrine, and more largely by example of hir dedes, so that to them whiche haue capacity of wit to understonde she muste teche and declare the commaundementes of almyghty god in wordes and doctrines, and to other that be dullardes, harde wytted, & more symple of understandinge, she muste more openly and largely shewe and teche the commaundementes of almyghty god by hir owne dedes.

13 For all those thynges which she forbedith hir disciples by hir wordes, she muste by hir owne dedes shewe that they ought not to be don, lesse that she prechinge and techinge other, befounde reprouable in hir selfe.

14 and lesse that god for suche hir synnes and offenses, say unto hir in this wyse, "why doest thou teche my ryghtuisnes, and why takes thou uppon the to utter the wordes of my lawes and testament thorough thy mouth? Thou haste by thy dedes hated my doctrine and caste far from the my wordes and commaundementes."

15 And thou, Abbasse, whiche haste espyed a lyttell mote in the Iye of thy sister, haste not seene a great blocke in thyne owne Iye.

16 ¶ The Abbasse shall nother put nor make any difference by twene person and person in the monastery,

17 nether she shall bere more loue to one then to a nother, Excepte only to suche as she fyndeth better then other in good dedes, in the obseruance of the Religion, in the seruice of god, & in lowly obedience.

18 She that cam of higher or noble linage or of a fre kynrede, shall not be preferrid in order of stonding or unto office by fore a nother of lower byr- [13] the or of a bonde stocke, except there be som other resonable cause then their byrth,

f as excellence in any maner of vertue and lerninge requiringe it.

19a and if any suche cause resonable be, then the abbasse, according to their merites & aptnes may favour, dispose, order, & preferre in standinge or other wyse, as she shall thynke ryght to requier,

g not withstandinge there diuersite and condicion of byrth,

19b or any such other thinge, or elles lat them kepe their place and order.

20a For be she bonde, be she fre,

h be she of noble, or ignoble blode and lynage,

20b all be oon in our lorde Ihesus christe* and under oon lorde dothe bere equall borden of seruyce. For god takith no consyderacion ne regarde to the persone, but to the vertuose workes and merites.

// * christe ] chiste //

21 And maketh only difference by twyxe those persons that he fyndeth more obedient and better than other in good werkes.

22 Therfore the loue & favour of thabbesse muste be indifferent and equall unto all hir susters.* And also oon discipline and correction must she gyue unto them all after their offences, desertes, & demerites.**

// * all hir susters: expansion //

// ** Latin: secundum merita disciplina //

23 in hir doctrine she muste kepe the maner & forme of thapostel where he sayth, "blame them, exhorte them, & rebuke them."

24 that is to say, be it tyme of correction or of prayse & commendation, she must euer medle with terrors, blandishementes, & with sharpnesse, swetnesse she muste shewe the sharpe mynde, and auctorite of a maystresse, and the louing afeccion and tendreness of a moder.*

// * Latin: pium patris //

25 that is to say, she must sharpely blame and rowghly rebuke wylfull, unruly, rude, and comborous persons; and suche as be obedient, meke, pacient, & softe persons, she muste in louinge maner exhorte and desyre them to encrece dayly more and more in their vertuisnes, fro good to better. And suche as be veray negligent, obstinate, & rebelliose, we woll & commaunde that the abbasse not only sharply rebuke them, but also effectually punisshe & correcte them.

26 ¶ Also the abbasse may not disimyll, cloke, ne hyde the faultes or offenses of them that doth a mysse, but as sone as the faultes begynne to sprynge, she shall to the uttermoste of her power [14] plucke them up hard by the rotes, hauyng alway in mynde the ioperdye of Hely the preest and minister of god in Silo,

i whiche for the negligent correction of his children, by the stroke of god fell and brake his necke.

27 And suche persons as be of more honestie, bettre capacite, and understandinge, she shall warne & correcte oons or twyse by wordes of mouth.

28 but suche as be yeuen to vices and be hard harted, prowde, and disobedient, she shall punishe at the firste offence, ether with rodde or with other chastisement of the bodye, after hir discretion, according to that that is written, "a fole canne neuer be amended nor corrected by wordes".

29 And ageyne, "punysche thy sonne with a rodde, and thou shalt delyuer his sowle from euerlastinge dethe."

30 the abbasse must allwey remembre bothe hir owne frayle nature, and also consydre the name of a moder that she is called by,* and ryght well knowe that to whome a gretter charge is committed of him or hir, so moche the more frute is demaunded and required.

// * Latin: meminere quod dicitur //

31 ¶ She muste understande also howe harde and labourose a thynge she hath undertake, that is to say to gouerne sowles, and to be haue hir selfe commodiousely in hir cures, accordynge to the diuersite of maners & condicions of a multitude of persons, for somme she must conquere with fayre wordes, somme with rebukes, somme with good reasons and exhortacons.

32 yea and aftur the behauoure and capacite of euery person, she muste so shape and confourme hir selfe to theym all, and euer oon of them, that not oonly she shalnot suffer any dammage or appeyringe of hir flocke committed unto hir, but she shall so order hir, that she may haue cause greatly to reioyse for thencrease of the numbre & goodnes of hir sayde flocke.

33 ¶ And byfore all thynges she must be well ware that she doo not dissimull or lyttell regard the welth of sowles committed unto hir, settinge more hir mynde upon thynges terrestial and transitory, as workes temperall and wordlye matires,

34 but she must alwaye remembre that she hathe take uppon hir the gouernance of christen sowles, of the whi- [15] che she shall gyffe accomptis.

35a And to thentent that she by the pretense of the pouertie and necessite of the monastery, shall not haue any apparent or probable cause

j to be busy and follicite aboutes worldly goodes, takynge the lesse heede to the spirituell & goostly sowles,

35b let hir remembre that it is wrettyn, "Firste seke ye with all your force & diligence to poursue the kyngdomme of god, and his iustice by ryghtwose seruice," prouided for you by almyghty god, without your great labour and study, and nothynge shall you lacke.

36 And a gayne he sayth, "nothyng is lackynge to them that drede and serue god."

37 ¶ The abbasse muste knowe well also that she that hath takyn upon hir to guyde sowles, must be all wey redy to gyue and make accomptes of theym.

38 And howe so ever greate the numbre of the systers under hir cure be, lette hir knowe for certeyn that at the day of iugement she shall answere for the sowlle of euery oon of them, and for hir owne also.

39 and thus the abbasse euer hauynge by fore hir yes and continually fering the strayte examinacion of the maister sheperd, towchinge his flocke of shepe committed to hir charge, when she is soo ware & ferefull of the accomptis & rekening that she muste make for other, she cannot but diligently & warely remember hir owne self.

40 And whyles thurgh hir good exhortacions & monicions, she ministereth socour and amendiment to other, she cannot be but thereby amendid hir self.





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¶ The .iii. chapiter treateth howe and when the abbasse shall aske counsell of hir susters.


1a AS often as any matiers of greate weyght and substance be to be treated and spoke of in the monastery, the abbasse must call the hole couent

a into the chapterhowse or into somme other place conuenient,

1b and there must she hir selfe declare unto them what the mater is that is to be treated of.

2 & when she hath herde the mynde & councell of euery [16] oon of her susters, she shall then take deliberacion and counfeyll with hir sealfe, and what thinge she iugeth more profitable to be done, that shall she doo.

3 And for this cause we haue commaunded (sayth seynt benet) that all be called to counsayll, For often tymes to the yonge person god geueth reuelacion what thynge is beste to be doone.

4 ¶ And the susters shall soo behaue theym in yeuinge their counsayle with all lowynesse and humilite, that they presume not obstinatly and prowdly to defende their owne opinion, or mayntaigne that thing which after their mynde they thought best,

5 but rather lett it hange, and remaygne in the arbytriment and Iugement of the abbasse, so that what so euer she thynke best to be doen, all they therin doo obey unto hir.

6 ¶ But as it is conuenient for a disciple to obey her mastresse, euyn soo it doth becom the mastresse to dispose all thynge wysely & ryghtuysly.

7 And therfore in euery thinge, as well the abbasse as the couent indifferently, ought to followe their mastresse, that is to say their rule, which is their very mastresse,* neyther ony oon of them, ne the abbasse nor other, shall folysshe, hardy, nor without gret consyderacion or weyghty cause swarue from it, but fermely & fastly holde them there to.

// * Latin: omnes magistram sequantur regulam //

8 ¶ Noon in the monastery shall followe their owne wyll,

9 neyther any shall presume frowardly to stryue with the abbasse eyther within the monastery or without.

10 and if any oon presume so to doo, lett hir be put to reguler discipline & correction accordingly.

11 And yet the abbasse shall in all hir werkes, iugementes & gouernances, haue byfore hir yes the drede of god, and euer regarde the obseruantes & statutes of hir rule, being well assured & in no wyse dobtyng, that of all hir iugementes she shall yeue an accomptes byfore the moste equall iuge, all myghty god.

12 But if there be to be done any maters towchinge a smaller substance concerninge the welthe & profite of the monastery, the abbasse shall then counseyle oonly with the hed offycers and suche seniors*

// * the. . . suche: expansion

b as hath ben of long continuance and experience in the monastery,

13 accordynge as it [17] wreten, "Doo all thinge with councell, and then thou shaltnot afterward repente nor be sory of thy deede."





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¶ The .iiii. chapiter treateth of the instrumentes of good workes


a LIke as all worldely artificers haue materyall instrumentes apte for the accomplysshement of their worldely werkes, in lyke wyse there be instrumentes spirituell for the crafte of religiose lyuinge, by the which religiose persons, bothe in this present lyfe, may honestly & after the pleasure of god be derected, composed & ordred, & also after the same lyfe, they may blessedly reigne with christ in heuen.

1a ¶ The first of these instrumentes is that ye loue your lorde god with all youre hart;

b that is to saye, applyenge all youre thoughtes oonly to him;

1b and with all your mynde;

c that is to say, applyenge all your studies, wittes and dilectacions oonly to him;

1c & with all your myght;

d that is to say, applyenge all your bodies strength and powars oonly to his seruyce.

2 ¶ The seconde is that ye loue your neyghbour as your selfe;

e wherby it apperith that ye shall after god loue your selfe, and then your neyghbor as your selfe.

3 ¶ The .iii. is that ye sle no person;

f that is to say, bodely nor gostly, with hande nor tonge, And specyally thou shalt not slee thyne owne sowle by any deedly synne.

4 ¶ The .iiii. is that ye breke not your chastite;

g that is to saye, that ye doo no maner of aduoutrye, fornicacion, incontinencie nor any other synne or vnclennesse* of the flesche, & in lyke wyse ye shall doo noo spirituall fornicacion, that is to say, ye shall worchip no falce godes nor loue inordinatly youre selfe nor any other erthely creature.

// * vnclennesse ] vuclennesse //

5 ¶ The .v. is that ye doo no thefte;

h that is to say, ye shall not take nor use the goodes of an other frauduletly nor without the owners wyll, lycence or assent, nor that ye religiose sisters take, receyue, or kepe any thynge without the certeyne knowlege & speciall graunt or licence of the abbasse. In lyke wyse ye shal not withdrawe any seruice that ye owe oonly [8] to god and doo it to the deull. and if ye doo, ye doo theft.

6 ¶ The .vi. is that ye coueyt not;

i that is to say. that ye neither coueyt, whysshe, nor desyre any person where with to doo carnally any syn, nor coueyt any mannes goodes fraudulently, nor assent to any suche desyre of the flesche or goodes, nor yet inordinatly desyre auctorite or honor.

7 ¶ The .vii. is that ye shall not bere ne saye any false witnes;

j wherby it is also prohybete makynge of leasynges, or false or wrongfull tales, and brekynge of any promyse or vowe.

8 ¶ The .viii. is ye shall of youre humylite do reuerence to all people;

k wherin is implyed that ye shall thynke & adiuge euery person beter then your selfe.

9 ¶ The .ix. is ye shal not do to another that ye wolde not shulde be doone to your selfe.

10 ¶ The .x. is that ye shal for sake your selfe;

l that is to say your luste, pleasure, wyll, sensualite & concupiscence to thentent ye may in all your thowghtes, wordes, & werkes, folowe christe & serue him.

11 ¶ The .xi. is that ye shall chastise your body;

m that is to say, with resonable abstinence, watche, prayer & discipline.

12 ¶ The .xii. is that ye loue not delicate pleasures;

n that is to say, that ye delyte not in delicate & plesant metes & drinkes, sightes or any other thinges of the worlde, nor any suche delectacions followe nor them loue.

13 ¶ The .xiii. is that ye inwardly loue fastinges,

o abstinence, temperans, and sobernes.

14 ¶ The .xiiii. is that ye refresshe powre people;

p that is to say, ye shall socoure them after your powar with clothinge, logynge, mete, drinke, counsayle, comfort, and visitacion. And all be it that these & the other workes of charyte that followe cannot be actually performed in religiose persons, except in suche a person as hathe thoffice of thosteler or ospitiler, yet euery other religiose person may do it in good wyll, mynde, intent, counsayle, and comforth, yeuinge to them that may do it, and in forberinge sum what of their mete and drynke, to thentent the pore people may the more largely haue parte thereof. They may also refreshe, visite, comfort, bury, & helpe their owne susters.

15 ¶ The .xv. is that ye clothe the naked.

16 [19] ¶ The .xvi. is that ye vysite the seke.

17 ¶ The .xvii. is that ye bury the deed.

18 ¶ The .xviii. is that ye socour them that be in tribulacion & adversite.

19 ¶ The .xix. is that ye comfort them that be full of thought or sorowe.

20 ¶ The .xx. is that ye medle not, nor talke, speke, nor commune in worde, werke, or deed of any wordly maters or busines,

q but them utterly & extremely refuse and renounce so that in all your affections ye be utterly alienate from the worlde.

21 ¶ The .xxi. is that in your lyuinge ye prefer nothynge aboue the loue of christe.

22 ¶ The .xxii. is that ye be neuer thurghly nor longe angry,

r & if it fortune you to be angry, that then ye execute not your yre or anger, nor to do that thyng that your yure* moueth you to.

// * yure ] yre //

23 ¶ The .xxiii. is that ye bere no malyce longe in your mynde,

s thynkynge in tyme to wreke your angre or to auenge you.

24 ¶ The .xxiiii. is that ye thinke not nor kepe any dissayte or fraude in your hart.

25 ¶ The .xxv. is that ye use no simulation nor dissimulacion,* ne yeue no Iudas kysse,

// * dissimulacion ] dssimulacion //

t but when ye make any prare or louedaye,* or elles reconsyle youre selfe with any person, that then ye doo it as well & truly in your harte and deed as in worde and outwarde counttenance.

// * "louedaye" was an occasion for reconciliation.

26 ¶ The .xxvi. is that ye kepe you alwayes within the boundes of charite, & neuer to forsake or be without loue and charite.

27 ¶ The .xxvii. is that ye swere not at all, nor in any maner or wyse, and that for drede of fallynge into periury or into customable sweringe.

28 ¶ The .xxviii. is that when ye speke, ye speke the trwth allway, both with harte and mouthe.

29 ¶ The .xxix. is that for oon euyll torne, ye doo nat a nother.

30 ¶ The .xxx. is that ye doo no wronge, and if any be doon to you, that ye suffre and take it paciently.

31 ¶ The .xxxi. is that ye loue your enemies;

u that is to say, that ye showe humilite to your enemies for goddes sake, both by your prayers and also by releuynge them in their necessities, consyderinge that christe both loued you & by his deth redemid you when ye were his enemies, and indifferently hath prepared for your enemies euerlastinge blisse as he hath doo for you.

32 [20] ¶ The .xxxii. is that ye curse not, nor say euyll of them that curse or say euyll of you, but rather blysse them and say well of them that curse or say euyll of you.

33 ¶ The .xxxiii. is that ye suffer and take inworthe all aduersites, trowbles, and persecutions done to you for iustice, or for your good lyuinge or well doynge.

34 ¶ The .xxxiiii. is that ye be not Prowde,

v neyther in youre mynde nor hart beere not your selfe aboue a nother, nor disspise noon other, nor be not opinatiue.

35 ¶ The .xxxv. is that ye gyue you not moche to drynkynge or wyne,

w nor ale, nor none other drynke.

36 ¶ The .xxxvi. is that ye be not a glotten nor ete moche,

x nor often, hastly nor gladly.

37 ¶ The .xxxvii. is that ye be not slepy and sluggysshe, nor moche yeuen to slepe.

38 ¶ The .xxxviii. is that ye be not slewthfull, heuy,

y or slow to doo your office or duete.

39 ¶ The .xxxix. is that ye be not trowblous, busy, quarelynge, or grutchynge.

40 ¶ The .xl. is that ye be no detractor, bakbyter, ne slaunderer, nor reuylor of any person.

41 ¶ The .xli. is that ye put your full trust & all your hope oonly in god.

42 ¶ The .xlii. is that what so euer goodnes or vertue ye thynke to be in you, that ye repute and knowe well that it commeth oonly of god and not of your selfe,

z ne of your merytes nor deseruynge.

43 ¶ The .xliii. is that what so euer euvll is in you, ye knowe for certeyne that it commeth of your selfe & is done of your selfe, and so take and repute it.

44 ¶ The .xliii. is that ye alwayes drede the day of iugement of god.

45 ¶ The .xlv. is that ye fere the paynes of hell.

46 ¶ The .xlvi. is that ye longe for euerlastynge lyfe with all your mynde & inward desyre.

47 ¶ The .xlvii. is that ye allweyes suspecte deth & haue it dayly in rememberance, as though it were present and continualy byfore your yes.

48 ¶ The .xlviii. is that ye be well ware euery howre what dedes ye doo in this present lyfe;

aa that at no tyme ye fall or offende rechelesly or necligently by dede, worde or thought, but that you euer premeditate [21] and discusse byfore, what ye shall do, say, or intende.

49 ¶ The .xlix. is that ye knowe for certeyne that all myghty god all weyes And continually ouer loketh, seeth,

bb & hereth you, youre werkes, wordes, and thoughtes, in euery place and tyme.

50 ¶ The .l. is that ye by & by put a way all euyl thoughtes as sone as they comme to your mynde, by fixinge your thoughtes & remembrances faste upon christe & his passion, merites & benefites. ¶ The .li.* is that ye disclose your thoughtes & encombrances of your mynde to som holsom and agyed gostly fader.**

// * Foxe divides verse 50 into two sections. //

// ** Latin: seniori spiritali //

51 ¶ The .lii. is that ye kepe and refrayne youre mouthe from all euyll and shewde speche and communicacion.

52 ¶ The .liii. is that ye loue not to use many wordes nor moche speche.

53 ¶ The .liiii. is that ye speke not nor use no wordes that be inutile, vayne, trifelinge, ydle, or prouokynge lawghter.

54 ¶ The .lv. is that ye loue not moche lawghter or lowde or soden lawghter.

55 ¶ The .lvi. is that ye here with mery harte & glad mynde holy doctines, sermons, exhortacions, lectures & scriptures.*

// * Latin: lectiones sanctas //

56 ¶ The .lvii. is that ye gyue youre selfe diligently, often and instantly unto prayer.

57 ¶ The .lviii. is that ye knowlege and confesse dayly in your prayer unto god all your synnes & euyll dedes of tyme passed, with wepinge, teres, or at the leest with morning, sobbynge, and sorowing for the doinge of them,

58 & from thense forth to kepe you fro the same synnes and euyll dedes.

59 ¶ The .lix. is that ye fulfyll not the desyrs and concupiscences of the flesche,

60 and that ye hate your owne wyll.

61 ¶ The .lx. is that ye obey in all thynges the commaundementes of your abassse, all though she (whiche god for bedde ) do other wyse hir selfe, hauing in mynde these wordes of all myghty god, what so euer they commaunde you to doo, doo ye, but doo not as they doo;

cc that is to saye, when they doo amysse.

62 [22] ¶ The .lxi. is that ye haue no wyll nor desyre to be named or called holy byfore ye so be, but that ye first endeavor you to be holy, where thurgh ye may deserue to be called holy.

63 ¶ The .lxii. is that ye fulfyll dayly in youre workes and dedes the commaundement of god.

64 ¶ The .lxiii. is that ye feruently loue the vertue of chastite.

65 ¶ The .lxiiii. is that ye hate no person.

66-67 ¶ The .lxv. is that ye haue no suspeccion, rancor, malice, ne enuy in you.

68 ¶ The .lxvi. is that ye loue no stryfes ne debates, neyther in dedes nor wordes.

69 ¶ The .lxvii. is that ye eschewe pryde and bostynge,

dd and all that may be thoccasion of them.

70 ¶ The .lxviii. is that ye haue in reuerence your seniors & elders.

71 ¶ The .lxix. is that ye loue your yongres in the loue of christe;

ee that is to say, as norisshing them as faders & moders in pitie, in erudicion, by doctrine, In example of holines, by dredinge them when they be out of the waye, and in plentiousnesse of consolacion by confortynge them when they be feble.

72 ¶ The .lxx. is that ye pray for youre enemies;*

// * Latin: In Christi amore pro inimicis orare. //

ff that is to say, for theyr reformacion and saluacion.

73 ¶ The .lxxi. is if any wrothe, debate, or variance be amonges any of you, that then ye be reconciled and returne to unite & peace by fore the sonne goynge downe.

74 ¶ The .lxxii. is that ye neuer dispayre of the mercy of all myghty god.

gg ¶ Loo dere susters (sayth saynt Benet),

75 these be the instrumentes,* rules, doctrines and instruccions of spirituall crafte and occupation;

// * instrumentes ] instrume with nasal bar on e //

76 whiche if they be continually fulfylled by you bothe by day and by nyght, and offred by fore god, and by him recognised in the laste daye of iugement, ye shall be recompensed of all myghty god with the rewarde that he hathe promysed,

77 whyche neuer bodely yie hathe seen, neuer ere hath harde, ne hart of man can thinke, whiche thynges almyghty god hath preparyd and made redy for theym that loue him.

78 The shop, the howse of offyce, & werkynge place* wherein ye shalbe with the sayde Instrumentes diligently [23] worke, execute, doo and brynge a bowte all these rules, doctrines and instructions, is the cloyster of the monastery and the stablenes and stedfastnes of religiose conuersacion in the couent and congregacion.

// * Latin: officina //





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¶ Here followeth the .v. chapiter which treateth of thobedience of Minchins.


1 THe chefe and principall degre of humilite is Obedience without taryeny or delay makynge.

2 This vertue agreeth well and becommeth those virgins and to them doth eaperpteygne,* whiche in their loue preferre no thynge by fore the loue of all mygyty god, or to whome no thynge is soo dere as christe.

// * those . . . eaperpteyne, Latin: his //

3 For eyther of the holy religion whiche they haue professed or for fere of the bytter paynes of Hell, or elles for Ioye of euerlastinge lyfe,

4 as sone as any thynge is them commaunded by their superior to be doon, euin as it were commaunded by god, they cannot nor maye not make nor suffre any delay in the performynge or executynge thereof, but incontinent & forth with doo it, euyn as it were commanded of god.

5 of whiche obedient persons all myghty god saith thus, "as sone as she hard me, she obeyed my commaundement."

6 And ageyne he sayth to them that be techers of his lawes, "who soo euer herith you, hereth me."

7 Therfore all those persons that forsake all that theyers is, renouncinge their owne wylles,

8 and gyuinge uppe anon their busines, leuinge that thynge unperfited and unfinisshed that they had in hande, doo folowe the commaundements of their superior in dedes, by and by and forth with

9 and as in oon instant bothe those two thinges, that is to say the commaundement of the maistress, and the perfite dedes of the disciple, be accomplisshed to gydder swyftly thurgh the drede of god.

10 of suche as hath a zele and inward desyre to goo to euerlasting lyfe, for the which zele and desyre

11 they take uppon theym a narowe passage, whereof (god sayth), "It is a narowe and a strayte waye that [24] leedith unto euerlastinge lyfe."

12 that is to say, not lyuyng after their owne wyll, ne beinge obedient to their owne desyres and unlefull pleasures, but continuinge their lyfe under the Iugement and power of a nother, lyuinge in monasteris, haue a full desyre that an abbasse or prioresse haue the preemynence and rule ouer theym;

13 all suche persons doubtles followe the sentence of all myghty god, wherein he sayth, "I am nat comme to accomplyshe myn owne wyll, but his whiche hath sent me."

14 But this sealfe same obedience shall then be acceptable unto god and plesant unto other, whan that thinge which is commaunded is effectuosly brought to ende, not ferefully, slowly, or fayntly, ne with grutch or denyeng, nor arguinge nor resoning it,

15 for obedience which is shewed unto superiors in religion, is shewed unto god, he sayth him sealfe as it is aboue sayde, "who so herethe you, herethe me."

16 ¶ Moreover the disciple muste be obedient with a good & free wyll, for god loueth him that gyueth a thinge with a cherefull and a mery hart.

17 for if so be that a disciple be obedient with an euyll wyll, though she grutcheth not in wordes, yet if she grutch inwardly in hir hart,

18 notwithstanding it she fulfyll the commaundement that is gyuen unto hir, yet is it not acceptable unto god, whiche beholdeth and consyderyth the stomake, the hert, and mynde of the grudger.

19 And for suche a thinge though she doo it, she purchasyth no grace nor thanke, but rather she rennith in daunger and payne of such grudgers, without she make amendis therfore.





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¶ The .vi. chapiter treateth of silence and sobernesse in wordes.


1 LEt us doo as the prophet sayth, "I haue aduysid and purposed with my sealfe to take hede of my wayes, that I offende not with my toong. I haue put a warde & kepinge uppon my mouthe. I haue holden my peace. I haue meked my sealfe, and I haue ceased and forborne from ty- [25] me to declare that thynge that hath bene goode."

2 ¶ Here in sheweth the prophete that a man muste som tyme cease of good communication to showe the vertu of silence and sobernes in wordes, moche more he ought to cease of euyll communicacion, for fere of punishement for his offenses.

3 ¶ Therfore unto disciples, all though they be perfite, we wyll (sayth seynt Benet) that syldome license be graunted to speke, thoughe it be in goode, holy & edifyenge communication,

a for luffe of the grauite and vertue that is in usage of fewe wordes.

4 For it is written, "in many wordes it is harde to a voyde synne."

5 And also in a nother place it is written, "dethe and lyfe hangeth in the power of the toonge."

6 For it becummeth a mastress to speke and teche, And a disciple to kepe silence and here.

7 therfore if any thynges be to be inquired, let the inquisicion be made of the superior with all mekenes of spirite & body and with goode reuerence.

8 ¶ Scoffis and Idle wordes or excitynge lawghter in all places for euer we forbede and dampne (saith seynt Benet). And we wylnot that a disciple at any season be suffred to open hir mouth to suche lyght speche or communicacion.





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