The Wr itings of Bernard Reviewed.
In this chapter I shall take notice of some of those parts of Bernard's writings, which bear no relation to the controversies that have already engaged our attention.
His epistles come first under our consideration; and, among these, the epistle directed to Bruno, elected archbishop of Cologne, will deserve the attention of pastors, and of every person, who aspires to the most important of all functions.
" You* ask of me, illustrious Bruno, whether you ought to acquiesce in the desires of those, who would promote you to the office of a bishop. What mortal can
presume to decide this? Perhaps God calls you; who may dare to dissuade? Perhaps he does not; who may advise you to accept? Whether the calling be of God or not, who can know, except the Spirit, who Searches The Deep Things Of God, or he, to whom the Spirit may reveal it? Your humble, but awful confession in your letter renders it still more difficult to give advice; so grievously, and, as I believe, with truth. do you condemn the course of your past life. For, it cannot be denied, that such a life is unworthy of so sacred an office. But you fear on the other side, and 1 also have the same apprehensions, that it may be wrong not to improve the talent of knowledge committed to you, though your conscience do thus accuse you; only it may be observed that you may faithfully employ that talent in some other method, less extensive indeed, but less hazardous. I own, I am struck with a serious dread: I speak freely to you, as to my own soul, what I really think, when I consider from what, -and to what you are called; especially as no time of repentance will intervene, through which the passage, however, dangerous, might be made. And truly, the right order of things requires, that a man should take care of his own soul, before he undertake the care of the souls of others. But what if God hasten his grace, and multiply his mercy toward you? Blessed indeed is the man, to whom the Lord will not impute sin. For who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? If God justify, who is he that condemns? The thief obtained salvation in this compendious method. One and the same day he confessed his sins, and was introduced into glory. The cross was to him a short passage from a region of death into the land of the living, and from the mire of corruption into the paradise of pleasure. This sudden remedy of godliness the happy sinful woman found, when on a sudden, where sin had abounded, grace began also to abound. Without a long course of penitential labour her many sins were forgiven. It is one thing, however, to obtain a speedy remission; another, from a life of trangression.
to be promoted to a bishopric. I can give no decisive opinion. But there is a duty, which we may perform for a friend without danger, and not without fruit; we may give him the suffrage of our prayers to God on his behalf. Leaving to God the secret of his own counsel, we may earnestly implore him to work in you and concerning you, what is becoming in his sight, and what is for your real good."
Bruno having accepted the archbishopric, Bernard wrote thus to him.* " If all, who are called to the ministry, are of necessity called also to the heavenly kingdom, the archbishop of Cologne is safe indeed. But if Saul and Judas were elected, the one to a crown, the other to the priesthood by God himself; and the scripture, which asserts this, cannot be broken, the archbishop of Cologne has reason to fear. If that sentence also be now as true as ever, namely, that God hath not chosen many noble, mighty and wise, has not the archbishop of Cologne a threefold reason for solicitude? He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, f is the voice of wisdom itself. May I always deal with my friends in the language of salutary fear, not of fallacious adulation! To that he directs me, who says, blessed is the man that feareth alway. % From this he dissuades me, who says, O my people, those, who lead thee, cause thee to err. "§
In so serious a light appeared to Bernard the nature of the pastoral office. Do men in our times seek for eminent ecclesiastical situations with such impressions? or, do secular gains frequently make a predominant part of their views? Perhaps there is not any one point of all practical religion, in which the ancients may more advantageously be compared with the moderns, than in the subject of the pastoral office, with regard to the ideas of its importance, and the qualifications which it requires.
In|| another epistle to Guigo and his brethren, car
thusian monks, he describes the nature of true,charity. " There is one who confesses to the Lord, because jje is mighty; there is another who confesses to him, because he is good to the confessor; and a third, who confesses to him, because he is simply good. The first is a slave, and fears for himself; the second is mercenary, and desires his own interest merely; the third is a son, and behaves dutifully to a father. He, who lives under the predominance of fear, or of desire of his own interest, is selfish; but charity seeketh not her own. When a man prefers his own will to the eternal law of God, he perversely attempts to imitate the Creator, who is a law to himself. Alas! in us such a spirit binds,us downward to death and hell. He, who will not be sweetly ruled by the divine will, is penally governed by himself, and he, who casts off the easy yoke and light burden of love, must suffer the intolerable load of selfwill. My Lord God, may I breathe under the light burden of love, nor be restrained by slavish fear, nor allured by mercenary desire; but may I be led by thy free Spirit, which may witness with my spirit, that I am thy child! Love, indeed, is not without fear and desire; but it sanctifies and regulates them both. But, because we are carnal, our love is carnal at first, which, if it be directed in right order, improving in its steps under the conduct of grace, will be consummated by the spirit. In the first place, a man loves himself on his own account; and, when he finds that he is not sufficient for his own happiness, he begins, by faith, to seek after God as necessary for him. He then loves God in the second degree, but for himself, not for the sake of God. But when, through the urgency of his wants, he has been brought to cultivate acquaintance with God, by degrees God himself begins to be known as he is, and of course to be lovedhaving tasted that the Lord is gracious, he passes to the third degree, to love God for what he is in himself. In this degree he stops, and I do not know, that any man in this life attains a fourth, namely, that a man should love himself only on account of God. Let them assert this, who have fonnd it: to me, I own, it seems impossible. But, it will take place, when the good and faithful servant shall be introduced into the joy of his Lord."
Let this suffice for a small specimen of the metaphysical doctrine of charity, on which there has been so much controversy in different ages. The gradual progress of spirituality in religion seems to be justly described' by Bernard; and the plain dictates of common sense do evidently restrain the nights of his fancy. For, in truth, what is the amount of all the metaphysics, which good-men have written, concerning the disinterested love of God, but this, that it ought to be sincere, not selfish; and does not the common meaning of the word love, teach us this? If I may be said to love a friend for the sake of my own interest, it is, at least, a very improper mode of speech; for, in strict propriety I love not him, but my own interest, or some gain which I conceive attainable through him. On the other hand, to talk of loving God, and relin
3uishing selflove, is unnatural and idle romance. On lis subject then, which has tortured the minds of pious sOuls, it would be wise to stick to common sense, which knows no repugnance between the love of God and selflove, though the latter ought in all cases to be subordinate to the former: and this is the point, which Bernard seems to have understood and maintained. The greatest defect in the letter seems to be that, which was common to the age, namely, the want of a distinct and orderly description of the Faith of the gospel, which alone can work the love, which he describes.
In another epistle,* he comments very justly on the judicial ignorance, which St. Paul describes as the punishment from God on those, who knew God, and yet glorified him not as God.f " But," says he, " God who calleth things that be not, as though they were, in compassion to those, who are reduced, as it
were, to nothing, hath, in the mean time, given us to relish by faith, and to seek by desire, that hidden manna, of which the apostle says, Your life is hid with Christ in God.1* I say in the mean time, because we cannot yet contemplate it according to its nature, nor fully embrace it by love. Hence we begin to be something of that new creature, which will, at length, become a perfect man, and attain the measure of the stature of" the fulness of Christ; and this will take place beyond doubt, when righteousness shall turn again to judgment, and the desire of the traveller shall be changed into the fulness of love. For, if faith and desire initiate us here when absent, understanding and love will consummate us when present. And, as faith leads to full knowledge, so desire leads to perfect love. By these two arms of the soul, understanding and love, it comprehends the length and depth, and breadth, and height; and Christ is all these things." He goes on to expose the folly of seeking the praise of men, .and the inconsistency of this spirit with the humility, which becomes creatures so empty and vain.
Bernard, having been addressed in terms of great respect by Rainald, an abbot, f with his usual humility shows how averse he was to hear himself commended. " Indeed," says he, " by extolling you depress me. But, that I may not sink under the pressure, I am consoled by the testimonies of divine truth: it is good for me, that I have been in trouble, that I may learn thy statutes. Such is the marvellous efficacy of the word of God, that while it humbles, it exalts us. This is indeed the kind and powerful operation of the Word, by whom all things were made; and thus, indeed, Christ's yoke becomes easy, and his burden light. Light, indeed, is his burden. For what can be lighter than a load, which even carries every person, who bears it. A burden which unburdens the soul. In all nature I seek to find some resemblance to this, and I seem to discover a shadow of it in the wings of the
bird, which are borne by the creature, and yet sustain and support its flights through the open firmament of heaven."
To undertake pilgrimages to Jerusalem was the folly of the times. An abbot, John Carnotensis, was seized with this infatuation. Bernard, however rebuked* his zeal, and endeavoured to convince him, that he ought not to abdicate the pastoral care, which had been committed to him. The chief argument, which supported John in this scheme, was drawn from the strength and vehemence of his desires. It is the usual plea of all, who really deserve the imputation of enthusiasm in religion; and it is sufficiently answered by Bernard. " You say, whence should I have so strong a desire, if it be not from God? With your good leave I will speak my sentiments. Stolen waters are sweet: and whoever is not ignorant of Satan's devices, will not hesitate to say, that this poisonous sweetness is infused into your thirsting heart by a minister of Satan, transformed into the appearance of an angel of light."
Bernard de Portis was a young man of the carthusian order, and had been elected a bishop of a church among the Lombards. Our Bernard, however, think- ing him unfit for the situation, wrote to pope Innocent his sentiments; which had so great authority, as to prevent the young man's consecration. " It is, indeed, worthy of your dignity, to place a hidden light in a conspicuous situation. Let it be placed, if you please, on a candlestick, that it may be a burning and shining light, but only in a place, where the violence of the wind may not prevail to extinguish it. Who knows "hot the restless and insolent spirit of the Lombards? What can a young man of a weak body, and accustomed to solitude, do amidst a barbarous, turbulent, and stormy people? His sanctity and their perverseness, his simplicity and their deceitfulness, will not agree together. Let him be reserved, if you please, for a more suitable situation, and for a people, whom
he may so govern as to profit; and let us not lose, by a precipitate preferment, the fruit which may be reaped in due time."*
To Baldwin,t whom he had dismissed from his own monastery, and appointed abbot of the monastery of Reate, he writes with that vehemence of zeal and affection, which characterize his writings. But there is no need to transcribe the epistle. " Doctrine, example, and prayer," he recommends, as the three things which constitute a pastor. The last of the three he particularly recommends, as "that, which gives grace and efficacy to the labours of the preacher, whether these labours be of word or of deed."
Sec how the views of eternity mingle with the charitable affections of Bernard, and how familiar, and at the same time, how animating were his prospects of the last day! " I long for your presence," says he to a friend,J " but when? At least in the city of our God; if in truth we have here no continuing city, but seek one to come. There, there, we shall see, and our heart shall rejoice. In the mean time, I shall be delighted with what I hear of you, hoping and expecting to see you face to face in the day of the Lord, that my joy may be full. In addition to the many good things, which I constantly hear of you, let me beg your earnest prayers for us."
To § Eugenius his disciple, newly advanced to the pontificate, of whom we have already given some account, he writes with an ardour of sincere piety, which might induce one to forget, if any thing could, the vices of the popedom itself, as well as the pitiable superstitions, with which early habits had clouded the honest devotion of Bernard. " I waited," says he, " for some time, if, perhaps, one of my sons might return, and assuage a father's grief, by saying, Joseph thy son liveth, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. No account arriving, I write, indeed, not from inclination, but from necessity, in compliance with the request of friends, to whom I could not deny
• Ep. 155. p. 157. + Ep. 201. p. 139. t Ep. 204. p. 195.
the little services, which the few days I yet may have to live may allow. I envy not your dignity, because what was wanting to me, I trust I have in him, who not only comes after me, but also by me. For, dignified as you are, I have begotten you through the gospel. What then is our hope, our joy, and crown of rejoicing? Are not you—in the presence of God? It remains, that this change being made in your circumstances, the state of the church may be changed also for the better. Claim nothing from her for yourself, except that you ought to lay down your life for her sake, if it be necessary. If Christ has sent you, you will reckon, that you came not to be ministered unto, but to minister. A genuine successor of Paul will say witli him, ' Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy.'* Peter's successor will hear Peter's voice, ' not as lords over God's heritage, but as ensamples to the flock.'f All the church of the saints rejoices in the Lord, expecting from you, what it seemed to have had in none of your predecessors for many ages past. And should not I rejoice? I own I do so, but with trembling. For, though I have laid aside the name of a father, I still have toward you a father's fear, anxiety, affection, and bowels. I consider your elevation, and I dread a fall: I consider the height of dignity, and I startle at the appearance of the abyss, which lieth beneath. You have attained an higher lot, but not a safer; a sublimer station, but not a securer. Remember, you are the successor of him, who said; " silver and gold have I none."J He then explains the particular business, on occasion of which he wrote at this time; and he desires him to act in such a manner, " that men may know that there is a prophet in Israel." " O that I might see before I die the church of God, as in ancient times, when the apostles let down their nets for a draught not of silver and gold, but of souls! How do I wish you to inherit the voice of him, who
* 5 Cor. i. 13. 11 Pet. v. 3. $ Acts, iii. 6.
said, thy money perish with thee! * O voice of thunder, let all who wish ill to Zion be confounded at its sound! Many now say in pleasing expectation, the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Many say in their hearts, the flowers appear in our land. Take courage then, and be strong. But, in all your works, remember that you are a man, and let the fear of him, who restrainetli the spirit of princes, be ever before your eyes. What a number of pontiffs before you have in a short time been removed! By constant meditation, amidst the blandishments of this fading glory, remember your latter end. Those, in whose seat you now sit, you will doubtless follow to the grave."
It cannot be denied, that the zeal, the sincerity, the purity of christian doctrine, in all the essentials at least, the charity, and the blameless manners of a reformer, appeared in Bernard. How happened it then, that numbers of illiterate weavers, as we have seen, detected the spirit of antichrist in the popedom, and avoided its superstitions, while this abbot was imposed on by its false glare of sanctity! I suppose Because he was an abbot. The delusive splendor of fictitious holiness, so intimately connected with antichrist, deceived oneof the most upright of human kind. It was not given him to observe the unreasonableness of expecting the completion of his pious wishes in the church, under the auspices of the see of corruption! If he had lived at large in the world, with no predilection for the court of Rome, and had been favoured with the same divine grace, and even with no higher degree of christian virtue, than that which he then possessed, he might have been the head of the cathari, whom he ignorantly censured! So much do circumstances contribute to the formation of characters in life, and so much reason have many, whose piety is far inferior to that of Bernard, to be thankful, that the lot is fallen to them in pleasant places.
From the epistles let us pass on to other treatises..
" Acts, viii. 20.
The five books concerning Consideration,* addressed to pope Eugenius, first offer themselves to our inspection. As this pontiff* was serious in his religious views, he had desired Bernard to send to him some salutary admonitions. The honest plainness of the abbot was at least equal to the unaffected humility of the pontiff. The first book is taken up with salutary cautions against that hardness of heart, which an immensity of business is is ever apt to produce. Bernard, who knew the toilsome life of a pope, and the snares with which he was daily encompassed, informs Eugenius, that he was seriously afraid, lest, through a despair of managing a prodigious and unmeasurable course of business with a good consience, he should be tempted to harden his heart, and deprive himself of all conscientious sensibility. " Begin not," says he, " to ask what is meant by hardness of heart. If you fear it not, you are already under its power. That is a hard heart, which dreads not itself, because it is destitute of feeling. Why do you ask me what it is? ask Pharaoh. No man was ever saved from this curse, but through that divine compassion, which according to the prophet,f takes away the stone, and gives an heart of flesh." After a graphical description of the properties of a hard heart, he sums up the view with this sentence: It neither fears God, nor regards man. See, to what end these accursed occupations will lead you, if you give yourself wholly to them, leaving nothing of yourself to yourself. He complains of the usual mode of the pontifical life, incessantly taken up with hearing and deciding causes; whence no room is left for prayer, teaching, and instructing the church, and meditation on the scriptures. " The voice of law, indeed, is perpetually sounding in the court, but it is the law of Justinian, not of the Lord." He advises him to pity himself, and not to throw his own soul out of the list of his objects of charity, lest, in serving others perpetually, he neglect his own spiritual condition entirely. He
directs him to suppress and cut short the endless frauds and cavils of law, with which the courts abounded; to decide in a summary manner, on cases evidently plain; to prefer substantial justice to the tedious parade of artificial formalities, and to animadvert with severity on the frauds of advocates and proctors, who made a traffic of iniquity. By this means he would fulfil the duties of his station with uprightness, and redeem time for privacy, contemplation, and prayer.
In all this, I see the honest and pious soul of Bernard struggling against the corruption of the times. But the zeal was ineffectual. If Gregory I. lamented the load of his secular avocations, much more might Eugenius, who lived in an age still more corrupt, and upheld a pontificate still more secularized, and contaminated beyond all bounds by a system of iniquity. Even others less exalted, and less incommoded with the shackles of the world than the pope of Rome, have found, both in civil and ecclesiastical life, the pressure of business too heavy for their minds. If they were conscientious, they were ready to sink under the difficulties; if careless and indifferent they grew hardened in iniquity, and lost all regard to piety and virtue. An inferior clerical station is infinitely more desirable in the eyes of a pastor, who means to serve God; and dignitaries in the church may attend with profit to the lec tures addressed to a pope.
In the beginning of the second book he makes a digression on the ill Success of the expedition to the holy land, which had been undertaken through the exhortations of himself and of pope Eugenius. Here the eloquence of Bernard seems to be at a stand. He owns, however, with reverence, the unsearchable judgments of God; desires to take shame to himself, rather than that the glory of God should be sullied; and pronounces that man happy, who is not offended at an event so disastrous and unexpected. If ^ casuistry of Bernard appear feeble in this subject, and expose him to the derision of the profane, his humility, however, and his piety, appear unexceptionableRecovered, as it were, from the sadness of his reflections on this humiliating occasion, he resumes the discourse on contemplation, presses on the pontiff the duty of examining himself, and, toward the end, lays down rules of holy and charitable conversation, deserving the attention of every pastor.
In * the remaining part of this treatise, as well as in that which follows on the office of bishops, the zealous abbot describes and enforces the episcopal duties with his usual vehemence. He is particularly severe on the ambition of ecclesiastics in his time. He describes them as " heaping up benefices on benefices, and restless till they can attain a bishopric, and then an archbishopric. Nor, says he, does the aspirant stop there; he posts to Rome, and, by supporting expensive friendships and lucrative connexions, he looks upward still to the summit of po\ver."f How much more usefulhy might the spirit of Bernard have been employed in the instruction and regulation of the church, could he have seen, that the idolatrous system, to which his early monastic habits had attached him, admitted no cure; and that a distinct separation, to which men really wise and good are never hasty to advert, was yet, in present circumstances, justifiable and necessary.
The zeal of Bernard appears also very fervent in a small tract concerning conversion, which contained the substance of a sermon preached at Paris before the clergy.J He insists largely and distinctly on the necessity of divine illumination, in order to genuine conversion. He exhorts his audience to selfexamination; and, while he presses them to investigate their own breasts, he points out the salutary effects of a just conviction of sin! " Blessed^ are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Who is poorer
• It may be proper to mention here a remarkable testimony, which Bernard gives to the upright and disinterested conduct of Eugen'ms, in his third book de Consid. Two archbishops of Germany coming to this pope to plead a Cause, offered him large presents, which he refused to recch e, and obliged them to send back.
fP-478. J P. 489 §Matt. v. 3.
in spirit than he, who finds in himelf no rest, no place where to lay his head? This is the divine economy, that he who is displeased with himself may please God; and he who hates his own habitation, a house of pollution and misery, may be invited to a house of glory, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. No wonder, that he finds it hard to believe! Does misery make a man happy? But whoever thou art, in these circumstances, doubt not: not misery, but mercy gives bliss; but then the proper seat of mercy is misery. Thus distress of mind produces humility. Wholesome is that weakness, which needs the hand of the physician, and blessed is that selfdespair, through which God himself will raise and establish the heart. Even here the converted soul shall find the pleasures to which he is called a hundred fold greater than those which he has relinquished, as well as in the world to come, eternal life. Expect not from us a description of their nature. The Spirit alone reveals them: they are to be known only by experience. Not erudition, but unction teaches here; not knowledge, but inward consciousness comprehends them. That the memory of past sins should remain, and the stain of them be taken away, what power can effect this? The word alone, quick and powerful, and sharper than a twoedged sword. " Thy sins are forgiven." Let the pharisee murmur, " Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" He, who speaks thus to me, is God. His favour blots out guilt, so that sin shall remain on the memory, but no longer, as before, discolour it. Remove damnation, fear, confusion, as they are removed by full remission; and our past sins will not only cease to hurt us, but will also work together for good, that we may devoutly thank Him, who has forgiven them." With such energy of evangelical piety does Bernard preach the doctrines of grace and conversion to the clergy; an energy sullied, indeed, and obscured with that mysticism, which the solitude of monks always encouraged, yet substantially sound in its nature, and founded on the fundamental truths of the gospel
Toward the close, he rebukes and exhorts the clergy as such, and bewails that intemperate ambition, which moved, and may I not say, still moves, so many to precipitate themselves into divine functions from secular views. Let a sentence or two on this subject close our review of this sermon, and let those apply the rebuke to themselves, whose practice seems to speak this language, namely, that the ministry is the only office in the world, in which presumption is a virtue, and modesty a vice. " Men run every where into sacred orders, and catch at an office revered by spirits above, without reverence, without consideration; in whom, perhaps, would appear the foulest abominations, if we were, according to Ezekiel's prophecy, to dig into the walls, and contemplate the horrible things which take place in the house of God.."*
The sermons of our author on Solomon's Song, demonstrate that he was well acquainted with vital godliness. In the 36th he shows the various ways by which knowledge puffeth up.f " Some," says he, " wish to know, merely for the sake of knowing: a mean curiosity. Some wish to know, that they themselves may be known: a mean vanity. Some seek for knowledge from lucrative motives: an avaricious baseness. Some desire to know, that they may edify their neighbour: this is charity. Others, that they may be edified, this is wisdom." On the whole, he owns, that the cultivation of knowledge is good for instruction, but that the knowledge of our own weakness is more useful for salvation.
In the 74th sermon on the same divine book,;): Bernard lavs open something of his own experience on the operations of the holy Spirit, and illustrates our Saviour's comparison of them to the wind; "thou knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth."§ After a preamble, full of cautious modest)', and the most unaffected reverence, he says, " I was sensible, that he was present with me; I remember it alter his
. Ezek. viii. p. 498. f P. 1404. 4. P. 1 5'29. § John. iii
visits were over; sometimes I had a presentiment of his entrance, but I never could feel his entrance or his exit. Whence he came, and whither he departed; by what way he entered or left me, I confess that I am even now ignorant: and no wonder, for his footsteps are not known.* You ask then, since all his ways are unsearchable, whence could I know that he was present? His presence was living and powerful: it awakened my slumbering soul: it moved, softened, and wounded my heart which had been hard, stony, and distempered. It watered the dry places, illuminated the dark, opened those which were shut, inflamed the cold, made the crooked straight, and the rough ways plain; so that my soul blessed the Lord, and all that was within me praised his holy name. I had no evidence of the Lord's presence with me by any of the senses; only from the motion of my heart, I understood that he was with me; and, from the expulsion of vices, and the suppression of carnal affections, I perceived the strength of his power: from the discernment and conviction of the very intents of my heart. I admired the depth of his wisdom: from some little improvement of my temper and -"conduct I experienced the goodness of his grace: from the renovation of my inward man, I perceived the comeliness of his beauty; and from the joint contemplation of all these things I trembled at his majestic greatness. But because all these things, on his departure, became torpid and cold, just as if you withdrew fire from a boiling pot, I had a signal of his departure. My soul must be sad, till he return; and my heart is again inflamed with his love, and let that be the evidence of his return. With such experience of the divine word, if I use the language of the spouse, in recalling him, when he. shall absent himself; while I live, her word, "return,"! shall be familiar to me. As often as he leaves me, so often shall he be recalled, that he may restore to mc the joy of his salvation; that is, that he may restore to
• Pi.Uxvi. 10. f Canticles, vi. 13
me himself. Nothing else is pleasing, while he is absent, who alone is pleasure: and I pray that he may not Come empty, but full of grace and truth, as he was wont to do." Then he goes on to explain the well tempered mixture of gravity and delight, of fear and jpy, of which all true converts are the subjects; and he supports his description by that apposite quotation, " Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto him with trembling."*
It appeared not impertinent to the design of a history like this, to lay before the reader the inmost soul of a saint of the twelfth century, confessing and describing the vicissitudes of spiritual consolations and declensions, which, with more or less varieties, in all ages of the church are known to real christians. I know that much caution is necessary in speaking of them; but if we speak according to the divine oracles, as Bernard seems to do, it should be a small thing with us to be judged of man's judgment. The doctrine of regeneration itself, with all the mixed effects of spiritual health and sickness, in a fallen creature, is foolishness to the natural man.f If any man, however, have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his. J It will be the wisdom of mere nominal christians, not to deride, but to seek for the holy Spirit, and while godly souls estimate his presence or his absence, by such marks and effects as Bernard describes, they will not only be free from enthusiasm, but will also make it their constant aim, not to grieve the Spirit of God, by which they are sealed to the day of redemption.
In § the 78th sermon on the canticles, he describes the church as predestinated before all time, that it should be the spouse of Christ, and supports his observation from the words of St. Paul. [| He speaks of the influence of the holy Spirit, and of the conversion of sinners as the effect of this predestination. " Yet Emmanuel," says he, " is the personage, who
• Ps. ii. 11. 11 Cor.ii. 4 Rom. viii. $ P. 1544.
II Eph. i. former part.
was of us, and for us was clothed with our curse, and had the appearance, not the reality of our sin."
In a sermon on the beginning of the 91st psalm, he answers a question, which obviously arises to the mind of a serious person exercised in experimental godliness. Both the question and the answer will deserve to be given in the author's own words. " What is the reason, that though we pray and supplicate incessantly. we cannot attain that abundance of grace, which we desire? Think you that God is become avaricious or indigent, impotent, or inexorable? Far, far from us be the thought: but he knows our frame. We must not therefore, cease from petitioning, because though he gives not to satiety, he gives what is needful for support; though he guards us against excessive heat, he cherishes us, as a mother, with his warmth. As the mother sees the hawk approaching and expands her wings that her young ones may enter and find a safe refuge, so his bosom being prepared, and as it were, dilated for us, the ineffable kindness of our God is extended over us. This is a dispensation adapted to the infirmity of our condition; even grace itself must be moderated, lest we fall into an undue elevation of mind, or a precipitate indiscretion.*
" Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holyghost?" is the serious question, which the church of England asks of all her candidates for the ministry. Let him, who would answer it conscientiously, ask his own heart, what he feels of Bernard's description, which, if not an accurate answer to the question, may. however, furnish the attentive reader with some salutary contemplations. " He who is called to instruct souls, is called of God, and not by his own ambition; and what is this call, but an inward incentive of love, soliciting us to be zealous for the salvation of our brethren? So often as he, who is engaged in preaching the word, shall feel his inward man to be excited wi*
• B.2. C. l5.Florum Bernardi. A small treatise in which are rttrft^ vime of the most beautiful passages of this author.
divine affections, so often let him assure himself that God is there, and thaf: he is invited by him to seek the good of souls. Truly, I love to hear that preacher, who does not move me to applaud his eloquence, but to groan for my sins. Efficacy will be given to your voice, if you appear to be yourself persuaded of that, to which you advise me. That common rebuke will then at least belong not to you; " thou who teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?"*
See how divinely he describes the grace of God in the gospel. " Happy is he alone, to whom the Lord imputeth not sin. To have him propitious to me, against whom alone I have sinned, suffices for all my righteousness. Not to impute my sins, is, as it were, to blot out their existence. If my iniquity is great, thy grace is much greater. When my soul is troubled at the view of her sinfulness, I look at thy mercy, and am refreshed. It lies in common; it is offered to all, and he only who rejects it, is deprived of its benefit. Let him rejoice, who feels himself a wretch deserving of perpetual damnation. For the grace of Jesus still exceeds the quantity or number of all crimes. My punishment, says Cain, is too great for me to expect pardon. Far be the thought. The grace of God is greater than any iniquity whatever. He is really kind and merciful, plenteous in goodness, ready to forgive. His very nature is goodness, his property is to have mercy. Indeed he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and, whom he will, he hardeneth. But mercy he draws from his own nature; condemnation is a work to which we in a measure compel him. He is, therefore, not called the father of vengeance, but the
TATHER OF MERCIES."f
The following thought, concerning temptations, is striking. " In creation, in redemption, and other common benefits, God is common to all; in temptations, the elect have him to themselves. With such special care does he support and deliver, that he may seem,
• In cantic. serm. 58. p. 156. Florum. f From variout serm. flor. 329.
as it were, neglecting all others, to confine his care to the tempted soul."*
We have already given a small specimen of his own experience, in regard to the various operations of the holy Spirit. From different sermons we may now see the practical use, which he makes of the doctrine. " It is a dangerous thing," says he, " to be insensible of the presence, or absence of the holy Spirit. For how shall his presence be sought, whose absence is not known? and how shall he, who returns to console us, be worthily received, if his presence be not felt? May the unction, therefore, be never removed from us, the unctionf which teaches us of all things, that when the holy Spirit comes, he may find us ready. He who walks in the Spirit, never remains in one state. His way is not in himself; but as the Spirit dispenses to him, as he will, now more faintly, now more eagerly, he forgets the things which are behind, and reaches forth to the things which are before. Distrust not, when thou findest weariness and torpor; seek the hand of thy guide, beseeching him to draw thee, till thou be enabled to run the way of God's commandments. And, on the other hand, beware of presumptuous confidence, when thou walkest in the light of divine consolation, lest, when he withdraws his hand, thou be more dejected than it becomes a christian to be."J
The divine life was then, it seems, understood in the twelfth century; that same life, which is felt in all ages by holy men, which has its foundations in the genuine doctrines of grace, which alone produces true virtue upon earth, which is the comfort of real christians, and the ridicule of mere philosopher, whether nominally christians or not, and which will issue in heavenly glory. That after the greatest attainments and the most earnest efforts, a christian should still feel himself infected with sin, has often been matter of great vexation and surprise to the most pious and the most intelligent persons. Great mistakes have
* Flor. 257. t 1 John, ji. 2" \ Id. 4*, &c
been committed on this subject; some have, at length, induced themselves to believe, that indwelling sin has been totally expelled from their breasts; others have given themselves up to unprofitable solicitude and dejection. A great part of the mystery of practical godliness lies, no doubt, in the due conception of the case, and in the practical regulation of the heart, concerning it. Let us hear Bernard on this point; he speaks in unison with the soundest christians in all ages; and, what is more, with St. Paul in Rom. vii. " Let no man say in his heart, these are small evils; I care not for them; it is no great matter, if I remain in these venial sins. This is blasphemy against the Holyghost, and confirmed impenitence. On the other hand, evil cannot altogether be eradicated or extirpated from our hearts, while we are in the world. However great thy proficiency, thou art mistaken, if thou think sin to be dead. Whether thou wilt or not, the Jebusite will dwell within thy borders. He may be subdued, not exterminated. Sin, the disease of the soul, cannot be taken away, till we are freed from the body. By the grace of God it may be repressed, that it shall not Reign in us, but is ejected only at death. In s many things we offend all:* let no. man despise or neglect these evils; nor yet should the christian be too solicitous concerning them; he will forgive us, even with pleasure, provided we confess our guilt. In these evils of daily incursion, negligence is culpable, and so is immoderate fear; for there is no condemnation to those, who are in Christ Jesus,f and who consent not to the motions of concupiscence. That we may be humbled, the Lord suffers concupiscence itself still to live in us; and grievously to afflict us, that we may feel what grace can do for us, and may always have recourse to his aid."J Such were the humble sentiments of this holy personage concerning this subject, and so equally remote was he from the delusive pride of the perfectionist, and the flagitious negligence of the antinomian.
• James, ill. 2.
t Rom. viii. 1. t Flor. 373.
I shall conclude this review of Bernard's works, with a short extract,* which expresses the foundation of his christian hope; and it is that, in which ail real christians, in all ages, will cordially concur with him. " I consider three things, in which all my hope consists, the love of adoption, the truth of the promise, and the power of performance. Let my foolish heart murmur as much as it please, and say " Who art thou, and how great is that glory, or by what merits dost thou expect to obtain it? 1 will confidently answer, I know whom I have believed, and I am certain that he hath adopted me in love; that he is true in promise; that he is powerful to fulfil it; for he can do what he pleaseth. This is the threefold cord, which is not easily broken, which being lei down to us from our heavenly country to earth, I pray that we may firmly hold, and may he himself lift us up, and draw us completely to the glory of God, who is blessed for ever."