Chapter VII

CHAPTER VII.
HYMNS FROM OLD CLOISTERS.

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.

Have you learned to bless the name of Jesus from the depth of a loving heart? Then, at times, you have been sweetly touched or strangely warmed, while trying to realize communion with all that is holy in the past, as you caught the music of a hymn coming, now but faintly, and now in swelling fervent tones from successive generations of the faithful. Listen! Do you know the gracious heartfelt verses?

Jesus, the only thought of Thee,

With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far it is to see,

And on Thy beauty feast.

No sound, no harmony so gay,

Can art, or music frame:
No thought can reach, no words can say,

The sweets of Thy bless'd name.

Jesus, our hope, when we repent,

Sweet source of all our grace;
Sole comfort in our banishment;

0! what when face to face!

Jesus! that name inspires my mind

With springs of life and light,
More than I ask in Thee I find.

And lavish in delight.

Nor art or eloquence of man

Can tell the joys of love;
Only the saints can understand,

Inly the saints cat
What they in Ji

esus prove.

Thee, then I'll seek, retired apart

From world and business free;
When these shall knock, I'll shut my heart,

And keep it all for Thee.

Before the morning light I'll come,

With Magdalen to find,
In sighs and tears, my Jesus' tomb,

And there refresh my mind.

My tears upon His grave shall flow,

My sighs the garden fill;
Then at His feet myself I'll throw,

And there I'll seek His will.

Jesus, in Thy bless'd steps I'll tread,

And walk in all Thy ways;
I'll never cease to weep and plead,

Till I'm restored to grace.

0 King of love, Thy blessed fire,

Does such sweet flames excite,
That first it raises the desire,

Then fills it with delight.

Thy lovely presence shines so clear

Thro' every sense and way,
That souls which once have seen Thee near,

See all things else decay.

Come then, dear Lord, possess my heart,

Chase thence the shades of night;
Bid all but perfect love depart,

Before Thy shining light.

Thy name I then will ever sing,

And with Thy saints rejoice;
My heart shall own Thee as its king,

Midst never-ending joys.

From, whence did this song arise? Who first sang it? Let us seek its birthplace in a many-storied land. In one of the eastern departments of France, not far from the source of the Seine, and on the banks of tlie tranquil Saone, we should be far away from commercial bustle and mechanical strife, in a region where a simple arid quiet husbandry is

content, without the aid of science; where the multiplied subdivisions of the fruitful soil, wild and neglected tracts, and a population of unaspiring cultivators would scarcely seem to witness of an illustrious past. Nevertheless, we should find ourselves surrounded by monuments of former splendour. There are ancient tokens of lordly pride and martial power, footprints of bright intellect, hallowed learning, religious mystery, saintly thought, and heavenly devotion. There are remnants of old cities, and castles, and abbeys, with garden grounds, and vine-covered slopes, and verdant hills; indeed, enough in nature, and still enough of art to show that old Burgundy was "a land of corn and wine," in appearance, and resources, and fruitfulness, verily the " golden land." There, in a forest valley, within a recess adorned with interwoven flowers, and overshadowed by primitive oaks and beeches, somewhat more than seven centuries ago, heaven first heard the music of our hymn to "the sweet memory of Jesus." It arose from the sanctified heart and lips of Bernard, deservedly honoured as St. Bernard, the " mellifluous doctor." He was a monk; but, though a monk, he was never what one prejudiced biographer supposed that, as a monk, he must necessarily be, "a turbulent and hot-headed fanatic." No; Bernard was a saintly man. He was not "above his Master." It was enough for him that "the disciple be as his Master"; and there had been those who said of his Master, "He hath a devil and is mad." But who could sing of Jesus as Bernard did, unless he was ruled by "the love of Christ"? The monastery in Bernard's day was the only home for such high-toned piety as his. He had scarcely passed into mature manhood when he was elected as the leader of twelve recluses, who, with himself, were devoted to the work of founding a new religious community in the desert. Their chief design was to save themselves and the souls of the people among whom they exercised their itinerant ministry; but they were also bent upon toiling until "the land that was desolate was become like the Garden of Eden." They were among the first "model farmers " of Europe. And though they may not be classed with the " genial fraternities " whose names still mark the most distinguished vineyards of modern times, they share the honour of those labourers who first broke the soil of our western wastes, and taught it to unfold its resources so as to meet the advancing claims of modern civilization. Bernard found a spot within a pathless forest, haunted by robbers, and dreaded as the "valley of wormwood"; and there he and his companions began their task with cheerful courage, and worked, now in a devotional silence, and now, with chant and psalmody, literally speaking to themselves and answering one another, "in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs," till "the valley of wormwood" became Clairvaux, "the bright valley"; and the fruitful little church in the desert might rejoice in the fulfilment of the promise, "I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope ; and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." It was amidst the toils and songs, the prayers and chants of that valley that the character of Bernard attained its maturity of Christian manliness. There his character seemed to perfect its balance, and to show how unearthliness and tender humanity, the contemplative and the practical, the severe and the gentle, the strict and the free, the frugal and the generous, the truthful, the wise, and the loving, could all harmonize in blessing the existing generation, and in shedding balmy lessons on the minds and hearts of following ages. How much Bernard owed to his mother! and how often when his name occurs do we think of Hannah and the child of her many prayers. Hannah's inspired joy as a mother gave holy song to the "church throughout all the world " ; and the prayers of the Lady Aletta for her boy who first saw the light in A.d. 1091. under the — / / , vine slopes of Cote d'Or, had their full answer in the *

jubilant piety and songful life of her converted Bernard. She prayed that he might be a monk ; believing that such a life was best for his soul; and what she prayed for, her well-trained child was brought to enjoy. Like Hannah, she had "lent him to the Lord," and like Hannah's son he found the joy of his life in the "Beauty of Holiness." His mother's death-chamber was to him the birthplace of a new life. Aletta wished to depart with the chant of a litany on her ears. She lived to catch the touching appeal, "By thy cross and passion," and her last words were the response, "Good Lord deliver us!" She was gone to her rest; her works of piety and charity follow her; but her boy was left to record the hour of her departure as the turning point of his own life. He had lost his mother, but Jesus her Saviour was now his own; and with the hallowed memory of Aletta's final hour still touching his soul, he breathed his hymn of appeal to Christ—

When my dying hour must be,
Be not absent then from me;
In that dreadful hour, I pray,
Jesus, come without delay,

See and set me free!
When Thou biddest me depart,
Whom I cleave to with my heart,
Lover of my soul be near,
With Thy saving cross appear,

Show Thyself to me!

The character of Bernard was a faithful mirror of his times. The crusade against the " infidel," and the rescue of his own countrymen's souls from sin, both engaged his burning zeal and effective eloquence and prayers. He advocated a high spiritual standard of Romanism. He entered the controversial lists against sceptical Churchmen and fashionable heresies; but whatever he did, he did it "to the Lord," and did it with all his heart. It is most pleasant, however, to commune with him as the expositor of evangelical truth, and the tender, ardent, and spiritual hymnologist of the universal Church. We love him for his warm and spirited, but reverent, testimony for Christ, especially in his atoning work ; but how all our powers and feelings harmonize in choral service, when his theme of Christian controversy glows and kindles into song! Where is the Christian heart that is not ready to sing with him ?—

Fix, oh, fix each crimson wound,
And those nail-printa so profound,
In my heart engrave them fully,
That I may grow like Thee wholly,

Jesus, Saviour, sweet!
Pitying God, to Thee I cry,
Guilty at Thy feet I lie;
Oh! be merciful to me,
Nor bid me. unworthy, flee

From Thy sacred feet!

Prostrate, see Thy cross I grasp,
And Thy pierced feet I clasp;
Gracious Jesus, spurn me not;
On me, with compassion fraught,

Let Thy glances fall.
From Thy cross of agony,
My beloved, look on me;
Turn me wholly unto Thee;
"Be thou whole," say openly;

"I forgive thee all."

Of all the men of his time, he seems to have had the deepest insight into St. Paul's spirit and views; and he richly exemplified the connexion between right views of the cross and genuine zeal for the Church and the salvation of the world. His recorded views of the atonement show that he kept his acute intellect attuned to his subdued will and high-toned affections, while they afford us an insight into the secret of his deep feeling and power as a leader in psalms, and hymns, and chants in praise of Christ. "We cannot fathom the mystery of the Divine will," says he; "yet we can feel the effect of the (atoning) work, we can be sensible of the benefit. Why did He accomplish that by His blood which He might have accomplished by a word? Ask Himself? It is vouchsafed to me to know that the fact is so, but not the wherefore. . . . It was not the death of Christ in itself, but the will of Him who freely offered Himself, that was acceptable to God; and because this precious death, procuring the downfall of sin, could only be brought about by sin, so God had no pleasure in the sin, but used it for good. God did not only require the death of His Son, but accepted it when offered. He did not thirst for man's blood, but for man's salvation. . Three things here meet together—the humility of self-renunciation; the manifestation of love, even to the death of the cross; the mystery of redemption, whereby He overcame death. The two former facts are nothing without the third. The examples of humility and love are something great, but have no firm foundation without the redemption." Some of Bernard's first converts were his own father, and brothers, and personal friends. Like Andrew, '' he first found his own, and brought them to Jesus." He closed his father's eyes in peace and hope,

and then he saw his best-beloved brother, Gerard, take his flight into eternal life. What a touching memorial he has bequeathed to us of the last scene! It is like a plaintive parting hymn, having all poetic beauty and pathos in the form of prose. "Who could ever have loved me as he did? He was a brother by blood, but far more by religion God grant, Gerard, I may not have

lost thee, but that thou hast preceded me; for of a surety thou hast joined those whom, in thy last night below, thou didst invite to praise God, when suddenly, to the great surprise of all, thou, with a serene countenance and a cheerful voice, didst commence chanting, 'Praise ye the Lord from the heaven; praise Him, all ye angels!' At that moment, 0 my brother, the day dawned on thee, though it was night to us; the night to thee was all brightness. . . . Just as I reached his side, I heard him utter aloud those words of Christ, 'Father, into Thine hands I commend my spirit!' Then repeating the verse over again, and resting on the word 'Father!' 'Father!' he turned to me, and, smiling, said, 'Oh, how gracious of God to be the Father of men, and what an honour for men to be His children :' And then, very distinctly, 'If children, then heirs.' And so he died; and so dying, he well nigh changed my grief into rejoicing, so completely did the sight of his happiness overpower the recollection of my own misery. ... 0 Lord, Thou hast but called for Thine own. Thou hast but taken what belonged to Thee! And now my tears put an end to my words, I pray thee teach me to put an end to my tears!" By and by Bernard's own call was come. He had lived as a witness for the truth. He had taught his neighbours to be industrious, and holy, and happy. He had preached Christ as the life and soul of the " Song of songs." He had helped to brighten and enrich the aspect of his native land. He had gathered many a family of spiritual children, had led his own household to the Saviour, and now, having spent his little remaining strength in the work of a "peace-maker," he found his reward, and passed into the "kingdom of heaven." He departed exhorting his weeping friends to "abound more and more in every good work," and murmuring, as his last sentence on earth, "I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with

t

Christ, which is far better!" Happy Bernard! His
Eedeemer had given the full response to his hymn—

Let me true communion know
With Thee in Thy sacred woe,
Counting all beside but dross,
Dying with Thee on Thy cross;—

'Neath it will I die!
Thanks to Thee, with every breath,
. Jesus, for Thy bitter death;
Grant Thy guilty one this prayer,
When my dying hour is near,

Gracious God, be nigh!

Old Burgundy was verily the "golden land;" for it found a cloistered home for a second Bernard—a monk (Ce. likewise, and contemporary with the saint; one who, from **

the fulness of his gifted and consecrated soul, gave birth to that "thing of beauty," the hymn now so widely known as " Jerusalem the Golden." Two such hymnists, in th$ same province, in the same time, and of the same name, and saints both, may well be confounded, as they have sometimes been, by people who are more equal to the joy of singing their hymns than to the pains of exploring the old cloisters in which they wrote them. Bernard of Morlaix never found a place in the saints' calendar; but his glorious verses have now secured a home for him in the. best hearts of Christendom. Of English parentage, and' a child of old Brittany, he found his way into the cloisters of the celebrated Cluny, and spent his devoted life in praying and singing of judgment and of heaven, under the fatherly direction of Peter the venerable abbot, himself a master of spiritual song, and then at the summit of his reputation. Bernard's home was supreme in monastic fame. Surrounded by a host of brethren, worshipping in the grandest old church in France, and daily joining in the most full and impressive ritual of his times, there would seem to be no way open for unpleasant intrusion on his contemplative life. But, alas! no cloisters, however richly furnished, or however strictly guarded, are at all times inviolable retreats from the gathering woes and sorrows of a sinful world. Bernard felt the heaving outside. He saw the darkness thickening on society, he heard the voices of woe foretelling dissolution, change,

and judgment. To him the judge was at the door, and he tried to keep himself in the posture of readiness by singing hymns of admonition. How plaintive is his voice, yet how it thrills!—

The world is old and sinful,

Its passing hour is near;
Keep watch, be hushed, and sober,

The Judge's knock to hear.
The Judge in mercy coming,

The Judge enthroned in might,
All evil things to banish,

All good to crown with light.
That Monarch just and gentle

The dead from thrall shall free.
Let trembling seize the guilty,

For God and man is He!
Rise, Christian, rise to meet Him,

Let wrong give way to right,
Let tears of godly sorrow

Melt into songs of light—
The light that has no setting,

Too new for moon or sun.
So crystal-like and golden,

So like its Maker, one.
And when the Son shall render

The kingdom up once more,
And God the Father's glory

Shall brighten evermore,
[ Then light, as yet unfolded,

Shall open on the blest,
All mysteries revealing

Of holy, endless rest.

The note struck in the last stanza opened a transition movement, and Bernard's soul caught an insight into the clear jasper light and balmy atmosphere of his own " sweet happy region." What a happy proof of the harmonizing power of heavenliness is shown in the fact that the hymn of this heavenly-minded monk has found its •} ivvi^i ( way into the hearts of all classes of Christians, and into t!io choirs and public services of all Christian Churches. The sweet accordance of this hymn with the spirit of the New Jerusalem, and with the ^mind of its Divine Lord, is shown, too, in the response which it has from 'the most hallowed depths of the consecrated heart, and in its sacred charm over the spirit of those of whom Jesus said, '' Who

soever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." The hymn has sometimes brought heaven still nearer, even when the departing spirit has felt itself on the threshold of its home. So it was with the dear little sufferer mentioned by Dr. Neale in his notes on Bernard. Almost unequalled agony attended the upward passage of the child, but the youthful sufferer was hushed by the music of this hymn, and would lie without a murmur while they repeated it—

Jerusalem, the golden,

Where milk and honey flow,

Both heart and voice sink fainting

Beneath thy crystal glow.

I know not, oh, I know not
What joys of home are there,
What bright unfolding glory,
What bliss beyond compare!

They stand, those courts of Zion,
All glad with holy song,
And radiant with the angels,
And all the martyr throng;

The Prince abides within them,
Amid serenest light,
And all the blest ones' pastures
In glorious sheen are dight.

There is the throne of David,
And there, all free from care,
Are conquerors in triumph;
And feast and song are there.

And they who with their Captain

Have overcome in fight,

For ever and for ever

Are robed with Him in white!

0 sacred, peaceful harp-notes!
O never-ending hymn!
0 hallow'd, sweet refreshment,
And peace of seraphim!

0 ceaseless, ardent thirsting,
With ever full content!
O real matchless vision
Of God omnipotent!

There are the many mansions
For many a saintly heir,
And various compensations
For divers claimants there;

As 'midst the starry clusters
That deck our lower sky
One star excels another,
So will it he on high!

Jerusalem, the glorious,
The pride of the elect,
Dear vision of the future,
That longing hearts expect.

By faith I now behold thee,
Thy walls I here discern;
My thoughts are kindling for thee,
And strive, and pant, and yearn!

Jerusalem, in oneness.
That dost our lowness see,
Thou, thou art all my boasting;
All shame belongs to me!

Jerusalem, triumphant,
On that safe, happy shore,
I hope, I long, I sing thee,
And love thee more and more!

I do not plead my merit,
I seek not such a plea;
My merit is perdition
Abiding upon me;

And yet I venture, trusting,
And hoping on my way,
For those rewards immortal
To labour night and day.

My Father, best and dearest,
Who made and saved His child,
Bore with me in my weakness,
And washed me when defiled.

When in His strength contending,
For joy my spirits leap;
When quailing in the conflict,
I weep, or fain would weep.

And grace, sweet heavenly unction,
Shall all its virtue prove,
And David's royal fountain
Shall every stain remove.

0 Sion, mine, the golden,
More lovely far than gold;
With bands of laurell'd bright ones
For ever there enrolled!

O sweet and happy region,
Wilt thou ever bless my eyes?

0 sweet and happy region,
Wilt thou ever be my prize?

1 have the inward earnest,
The hope to cheer and bless,
Shall I ever gain the laud itself?
Tell me, O tell me, yes!

Rejoice, O dust and ashes!
The Lord shall be thine own!
And thou art His for ever!
His now, and His alone!

For many generations such winged thoughts as these about the new Jerusalem continued, at times, to rise acceptably to heaven from the monastic cells of Europe. The song of the Monk of Cluny is so akin to the strain of another monk, a Dutch brother of "The Common Life," that to sing the one is to be carried in imagination to the cloisters where the other first came gushing from the soul of its devout author. About the middle of the fifteenth century, in one of the retreats of his order, an eminently pious recluse, as he used to walk with his brethren in the cloisters or in the garden, would sometimes stop and say, "Dear brethren, I must go; there is some one waiting for me in my cell." That " some one" was the object of his supreme affection, the chosen companion of his soul, his Redeemer and Lord. Those who heard him knew with whom he wished to commune, and have told us that what he said to the Lord, and what the Lord said to him at such times, is left for our instruction in his tract on the inward discourse of Christ to the faithful soul. This tract forms the first part of that book which "came forward as an answer to the sighing of Christian Europe for light from heaven, and which contained so many rivulets of truth silently stealing away unto light from that interdicted fountain," the Bible, that its wide-spread " diffusion over Christendom, anticipated in 1453 the diffusion of the Bible itself in 1853." In that "one remarkable book," as Dean

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Milman says, "was gathered and concentrated all that was elevating, passionate, profoundly pious, in all the older mystics. Gerson, Kysbroek, Tauler, all who addressed the heart in later times, were summed up and brought into one circle of light and heat, in this single small volume. That this book supplied some imperious want in the Christianity of mankind, that it supplied it with fulness and felicity, which left nothing, at this period of Christianity, to be desired, its boundless popularity is the one unanswerable testimony. . . . The size of the book, the manner, the style, the arrangement, as well as its profound sympathy with all the religious feelings, wants, and passions; its vivid and natural expressions, to monastic Christianity what the Hebrew psalms are to our common religion, to our common Christianity; its contagious piety; —all conspired to its universal dissemination. Its manner, its short quivering sentences, which went at once to the heart, and laid hold of and clung tenaciously to the memory with the compression and completeness of proverbs; its axioms, each of which suggested endless thought; its imagery, scriptural and simple, were alike original, unique. . . . No book has been so often reprinted, no book has been so often translated, or into so many languages, as 'The Imitation of Christ."' Who does not bless the memory of its author; who does not enjoy the sentences of the man who wrote as the Saviour was speaking to his heart? who does not love the name of Thomas a Kempis? He who instructed the world on the "Imitation of Christ," could sing too of the heaven where he hoped to see his beloved Master. He was a hymnist, and the joys above formed his chosen theme. Let those who would, like him, find Christ after waiting for them in their cell, be, like him, ever ready for devotion, and breathing more and more deeply his heavenly spirit from day to day, they will find a daily joy in singing with him—

High the angel choirs are raising

Heart and voice in harmony;
The Creator King still praising,

Whom in beauty there they see.

Sweetest strains, from soft harps stealing;
Trumpets, notes of triumph pealing;
Radiant wings and white stoles gleaming,
Up the steps of glory streaming;

When the heavenly bells are ringing,
Holy, holy, holy, singing

To the mighty Trinity;
Holy, holy, holy! crying;
For all earthly care and sighing

In that city cease to be!

Every voice is there harmonious,
Praising God in hymns symphonious;
Love each heart with light enfolding,
As they stand in peace beholding

There the Triune Deity!
Whom adore the seraphim,
Aye with love eternal burning;
Venerate the cherubim.

To their want of honour turning;
Whilst angelic thrones adoring
Gaze upon His majesty.

Oh, how beautiful that region,
And how fair that heavenly region,

Where thus men and angels blend;
Glorious will that oity be,
Full of deep tranquillity,

Light and peace from end to end!
All the happy dwellers there

Shine in robes of purity,

Keep the law of charity,

Bound in fervent unity; Labour finds them not, nor care.

Ignorance can ne'er perplex,

Nothing tempt them, nothing vex;

Joy and health their fadeless blessing,

Always all things good possessing.