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Nathaniel Bernard

Nathaniel Bernard, A. M.—This excellent minister was educated in Emanuel college, Cambridge, afterwards lecturer at St. Sepulchre's, London, and a great sufferer for nonconformity. Having preached at St. Antholin's church, May 3,1629, he used this expression in his prayer before sermon:—" Oh Lord, open the eyes of the queen's majesty, that she may see Jesus Christ, whom she bath pierced with her infidelity, superstition, and idolatry;" for which he was summoned by Bishop Laud to appear before the high commission at Lambeth. After long attendance, and having made his humble submission, he was dismissed. His dismission, however, was considered as an act of great favour, and of great mildness in the high commission.*

In the month of May, 1632, Mr. Bernard, having preached a sermon in St. Mary's church, Cambridge, spoko in favour of maintaining purity in the worship and ordinances of God, and against the introduction of Arminianism and the popish ceremonies into the church of Christ. The activity of Laud soon brought a prosecution against him in the high commission court. Upon Mr. Bernard's appearance, ne was constrained to deliver a copy of his sermon to his lordship; who excepted against the following passages :—u God's ordinances for his public worship arc the glory of any nation. By God's ordinances here, I understand chiefly the word, sacraments, and prayer; which, if blended and adulterated with any superstitious innovations

• Prjrane'i Cant. Doome, p. 362,863.—Ruihworth't Collet, vol. 11. p. 38.

of men, cease to be God's ordinances, and he owns them no longer. It is not the single having of God's ordinances of public worship, but having them in their purity, that dignifies a nation. God's ordinances in their purity are a sure shield to a nation from public ruin and desolation. For the proof of this, I challenge all records, both human and divine, to produce one instance wherein God punished any part of his church, with any national ruin and destruction, before they had departed from, or corrupted, his ordinances. The gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, is the means by which God manifesteth his omnipotent and irresistible power in the conversion and salvation of all those, who, from eternity, were ordained thereunto by God's absolute and immutable decree. This seems to confute their error, who think meanly and basely of the ordinances of God.' These men turn their glory into shame. Is there not a generation of profane men among us, who are afraid and ashamed to preach twice on a Lord's day; to preach plainly, powerfully, and spiritually to the souls and consciences of their people, lest they should be accounted puritans ?"

But the principal exception was the conclusion of his sermon, and as follows: " It is impossible, 1 say, that any should be saved living and dying without repentance, in the doctrine and idolatrous worship of the church of Rome, as the late Tridentine council hath decreed. My reason is, that he who thinks of going to heaven in any other way than by faith in Christ only, shall never come there. Furthermore, if God's ordinances of public worship, in their divine purity, be the glory of a nation; then it follows, that they who go about to deprive a nation of them, either wholly, or of their purity, go about to make the nation base and inglorious, and are the enemies and traitors of that nation. Hereby we may learn how to account of those among ourselves, (if any such there be,) who endeavour to quench the light and abate the glory of our Israel, by bringing their Pelagian errors into the doctrine of our church established by law, and the superstitions of the church of Rome into our worship of God: as, high altars, crucifixes, bowing to them, and worshipping them; whereby they very shamefully symbolize with the church of Rome, to the irreparable shipwreck of many souls. How can we think that such men are not the enemies of this church and nation ? I say, they are enemies; therefore, let us take up arms against them. But what arms ? The prayers of vol.. ii. 2d

the church are the amis of the church. Let us then pray these men either to conversion, if it be the will of God, or to destruction. And let us use that prayer against them, which David used against Ahithophel, with which I will conclude: O Lord, turn the council of all these Ahithophels into folly, who go about to lay the honour of this church and nation in the dust, by depriving us of the purity of thy ordinances of public worship, which are the glory of this our nation."*

For these expressions in his sermon, Mr. Bernard was most cruelly censured in the high commission. He was suspended, excommunicated, fined one thousand pounds, condemned in costs of suit, and committed to New Prison; where, for six months, he was most barbarously used, and almost starved for want, of which he complained in sundry letters and petitions which he sent to the bishop; but the good roan could obtain no relief, unless he would defile his conscience by a public recantations Whether this severe and heavy sentence was disproportionate to his crime, the impartial reader will easily determine.

The degrading recantation enjoined upon Mr. Bernard, discovers so much the intolerant spirit of Bishop Laud and his brethren in commission, that it will be proper, though at some length, to be inserted. It was, therefore, as follows: " Whereas in a sermon made by me, in this place, the 6th " of May last, upon this text, The glory is departed from u Israel, because the ark of God was taken. 1 Sam. iv. 21. " I had this passage: 4 The gospel, which is the power of u God unto salvation, is the means by which God manifest* u eth his omnipotent and irresistible power in the conversion " and salvation of all those who, from eternity, were u ordained thereunto by God's absolute and immutable "decree.' And I do here publicly acknowledge, that " hereby, contrary to his majesty's command in his declara" tion lately published with the articles of religion, I did " go beyond the general meaning of that place of scripture, " and of the said articles; and drew the same to maintain " the one side of some of those ill-raised differences, which " his majesty's said declaration mentioneth. And this I " did rather out of a desire to thrust something into my said u sermon, in affirmation of one side of the said differences, "than was any way occasioned by the text I preached u from. For which I here publicly profess my hearty

" sorrow, and do humbly crave pardon of Almighty God,

" of his majesty, and of this congregation.

And whereas in the said sermon, I had this passage: u If God's ordinances of public worship, in their purity, be " the glory of a nation; then it follows, that they who go " about to deprive a nation of them, either wholly or of their " purity, go about to make the nation base and inglorious, " and are the enemies and traitors of that nation. Hereby " we may learn how to account of those among ourselves, (if " 'any such there be,) who endeavour to quench the light and f abate the glory of our Israel, by bringing their Pelagian " errors into the doctrine of our church, and the superstU " tious ceremonies of the church of Rome into our worship " of God: as, high altars, crucifixes, bowing to them, and " worshipping them; whereby they very shamefully symbo" lize with the church of Rome, to the irreparable ship" wreck of many souls.' I do now, upon better information, " find that many erroneous and dangerous assertions and " consequences, unfit to be here expressed, may be collected " and inferred from the said words. I do, therefore, hereby " publicly recant all the said words, as they were used or " may be. inferred, to be very rashly and inconsiderately " uttered, and to be very undutiful to his majesty. I do " humbly refer and submit myself to his majesty's clemency "and gracious acceptance, for the interpretation of my " meaning; and I am heartily sorry, and do humbly crave " pardon, that words and applications, so scandalous and " dangerous to the present state of the church of England, " proceeded from me.

" And whereas, in the same sermon, I had this passage: " 4 By God's ordinances here, I understand the word, sacra" ments and prayer, in that purity in which the Lord Christ " left them, not blinded and adulterated with any supersti" tious inventions of men; for then they cease to be God's *4 ordinances, and he owns them no longer.' I desire that " this passage may be taken and understood as I spake and " meant it, and not otherwise. Not that I hold all human u inventions added to God's ordinances, to be superstitious; " for I account that tenet not only false, but palpably " absurd and foolish; but to exclude all those human in" ventions, which may hinder the preservation of the 4* doctrine and discipline of this church of England, in that "purity and integrity wherein, through God's gracious " goodness, by his majesty's laws ecclesiastical, we do enjoy " them. And whereas, by some other passages in my said " sermon, I was, as I understand, conceived by some, not "only to cast aspersions upon the present state of ouf " church, and some principal members and parts thereof, " thereby to bring it and them into scandal and dislike; but " even, under some ambiguous words, to move to take up " arms for redress, although by recalling and restraining " the same in terms afterwards, and saying thus: 4 Let us " pray these men either to conversion, if it be the will of " God, or to destruction, calling them crafty Ahithophels.' " 1 do here acknowledge and profess I had no such intensions. Neither do I know any cause why myself or any u other, should so bitterly inveigh against any in our " church. I am, therefore, heartily sorry that I gave cause " to any of the hearers to conceive so; and humbly crave " pardon for it."*

Mr. Bernard was required to make this vile and degrading recantation publicly before the congregation where he had delivered the sermon; but he absolutely refused. He could not sacrifice the testimony of a good conscience, deny the most glaring matters of fact, and reject the .counsel of God against himself. Though in his numerous letters and petitions to Bishop Laud, he professed his sincere sorrow and repentance for any oversights and unbecoming expressions in his sermon, he could obtain no relief. He must either recant according to the above contemptible form, and thus degrade himself below the brutes, or be ruined. He was therefore detained in New Prison; where, after languishing a long time, he died.t When the Lord maketh inquisition for blood, the blood of this righteous and faithful servant of Christ will assuredly be found; but lamentable will be the case of that man in whose skirts it shall be found.

There was another minister of the same name, who lived at the same time, and was afterwards a considerable sufferer in the civil wars. This person was exceedingly zealous in the royal cause, and author of a sermon entitled " A Looking-glass for Rebellion, preached before the Parliament at Oxford," 1644.

• Prynne's Canterburies Doome, p. 865—S67.—Rushworlh's Collection*,. Ml. ii. p. 140—148. t Prynne's Cast. Doome, p. 361.—Fuller's Hist, of Comb. p. 167.