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THERE is little either new or original in the following pages. The object has been simply to state facts, and to give the various opinions of those who, from time to time, have turned their attention to the condition of English hospitals, and the formation of Sisterhoods. That there are, on the one hand, great defects in the existing state of our Hospitals, and that, on the other hand, there is an increasing desire amongst Protestants to introduce and revive the voluntary system of charitable services, which was extinguished at the Reformation, owing to the abuses which were found in some of the conventual establishments, cannot be doubted.
The question, why the attempts repeatedly made in England have hitherto failed, will not here be entered into. It is enough to state, that nothing yet attempted has reached the evils complained of in our Hospitals. The end for which these remarks and statements are made, will be fully answered if any one should be induced by their deficiencies to advocate the cause in question more ably, or if any one can devise schemes to
supply what is wanted. Many inaccuracies will doubtless be found as regards the Religious Orders, as they have no annual reports or printed statements; their histories are few and imperfect, and often do not reach down to the present time. A very useful and interesting work might be written, giving an account of the various active Orders which exist, but here it was only possible to give a brief account of those connected with Hospitals. The accounts of the Deaconesses on the Continent may be relied upon, taken, as they are, from the last Annual Reports.
March 15th, 1854.
HOSPITALS AND SISTERHOODS.
WANTS OF ENGLISH HOSPITALS.
OUR English Hospitals form a prominent feature in our county towns, as well as in London. They are usually well situated, and the interior arrangement admits of everything that can conduce to restoration of health. No stranger can walk through them without being struck by the cleanliness and ventilation which is almost universally to be found. We have only to examine the Annual Reports, to see what thousands have availed themselves of these noble institutions, and have been thus restored to their friends in health.
Such is the outward appearance; but the object of these pages is to state the result of an investigation into the spiritual condition of our hospitals: for, in this land of Christian privileges, we should surely not be satisfied with the fact that thousands are healed of their bodily infirmities, without inquiring how far their immortal souls have been tended at the same time.
It does not require a long experience of hospital visiting, to become aware of the extreme importance of such a field for labour; and many are the touching instances which occur, of the need of instruction and the blessing of sympathy.
Many are brought in wholly ignorant of the first
truths of the Gospel; arrested in a life of sin, perhaps, by some fearful accident, and brought, for the first time, within reach of a clergyman.
Others have known Christ once, and then have fallen away, till this sudden change to a sick bed, with nothing to distract their minds, has awakened them to a sense of their present state. The fear of death overwhelms them, and they are thankful and willing to listen to words of instruction and prayer.
"Oh that any one had come to speak seriously to me, during the first days that I was brought in!" said a poor girl who had had a frightful accident; "I was so afraid I might die in my sins." The fear of death, and the repentance it awakened, faded away with returning health, and the poor sinner returned to her evil ways.
"The Chaplain is very kind," said another, "but he has no time to hear all I should so much like to say to him."
"I feel very lonely," said a poor blind girl, who was in the darkened corner of a large ward; "I have been here two months, and I have had no one to speak to. I hear the clergyman reading prayers at the end of the ward, but I suppose he has overlooked me in this corner."
Who that saw it, could forget the kindling eye of a dying sufferer, on hearing the well-known sounds of Christ's promises ?" I could listen all day, if it did not tire you to read. It is lying so long with no one to speak to, which tires me.'
One patient expressed great gratitude for all the kindness and comfort she enjoyed in the hospital. On its being remarked to her how much a nurse had to undergo, how much her patience was tried, and that nothing could enable her to fulfil the post as it ought to be done but doing it from love to Christ, she said, in a low earnest voice, "And that is what is wanting here. There is kindness; but when I thank the nurse, she says, 'It is my duty to do it ;' and I feel it is just that,-duty, and not love. There is no religion here; it is all done as a profession, and what is done in this spirit is hard and
cold. I see what a nurse might do, how she might check unseemly conversation and encourage the good; but there is nothing of the sort here."
Others, who have lived what may be called a respectable life, and have been in the habit of attending their church, are roused to a sense of the deadness and unreality of their faith. "I was saved," said one woman, by a miracle: it is God's doing, that I may serve Him better. I have been used to go to church, to say my prayers in an evening, but I always felt a want, a craving for more, and I might learn that here, if I knew how, if I had any one to help me."
An excellent clergyman, who was for some years chaplain to one of the great London hospitals, writes on the subject as follows:
"The philanthropist has long been accustomed to associate the Hospital with the furtherance of his disinterested endeavours to promote the welfare of his fellowcreatures. The man of science has estimated the opportunities presented by its wards as amongst the most precious means for attaining the knowledge of disease, and for the discovery of its remedies. The public generally have conceded to such an institution a very high and honourable position, as a house of mercy and a refuge for the afflicted in the time of trouble.
"These are great and important benefits; but there is another light in which the Hospital may be viewed, and in which its value has seldom, if ever, been fully appreciated, it is as affording to its afflicted inmates the most invaluable opportunities for religious meditation and improvement.
"In the good providence of God, a season of affliction has often proved instrumental in humbling the human heart, in disclosing the guilt and consequences of sin, and in preparing the mind for the reception of the great truths of religion. It is under such circumstances that the poor come to the Hospital, and to many of them it proves the first little pause in life-the first resting-place for looking back upon the past, and for contemplating