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teach thee that which thou canst not learn from men." To Clairvaux, thousands flocked to hear the preaching of Bernard, and to obtain his counsel. The rich left behind them gifts; but these were disbursed in benefactions to the poor. The convent was ever thronged with congregations which had travelled from every part of Europe, to receive the blessing of the first and holiest monk of his day. Bernard, as we shall see, became the chief ecclesiastic of the twelfth century, exerting equal influence on the Church and on nations.
Bernard's active life is a good clue to the spiritual and social state of Christendom in the twelfth century. As a churchman, he is often classed with the Mystics. This is doubtless on account of the prominenre he gave to faith, and the manner in which he contended in his controversy with the celebrated and much-maligned Abelard, for the duty of receiving without questioning the statements of Scripture. He held the papal doctrine of salvation, insisting, in a discussion before Roger, king of Sicily, that the way of salvation existed only in an outward and visible church, and that this church was necessarily linked with an external and visible head. On another occasion, in a dispute with the great spiritualist, Henri, who warned the people against trusting in rites and ceremonies, Bernard upheld the ordinauces of the Church with considerable zeal. And vet Luther could say of him: “He set not against the wrath of God his own monkery, or his angelic life ; but he took of that one thing which was necessary, and so was sayed.” Bernard was compelled to enter public life. The austerities and usefulness of the brotherhood at Clairvaux provoked the bitter opposition of the less pious and more self indulgent members of the monastic orders. Not content with defending himself, Bernard resolved on a reform of the convents, and preached a vigorous crusade.
The insight he thus affords us into the convent life of the twelfth century, is not very flattering to the monks. 'He tells us, “Instead of reading the Scripture, wit and laughter prevailed at table; dish after dish was served with the most delicate of accompaniments; and so skilful were the cooks, that five or six platefuls did not produce satiety." This seems to have been the fashionable mode of mortifying the flesh in those days. Nor were the holy brethren unmindful of other indulgences. In a vein of bitter irony, Bernard wrote, "No sooner do we become monks, than we begin to feel a weakness of stomach, and we certainly do not neglect the Apostle's advice, (respecting wine) only we forget that he limited his permission to a little.” In their dress and retinues, the monks, according to Bernard, excelled the nobles. And though they had no wives, they by no means refrained from gratifying their love of women. In short, convent life, as our hero describes it, was just such a life as a man about town would regard as heaven upon the earth. Bernard laboured successfully in this work of reformation, and had the pleasure of seeing the fruit of his labour in the greater purity and increased usefulness of soine hundreds of convents.
Bernard formed a high ideal of a Pope. “He is," says the monk, “the pattern of piety, the defender of the faith, the refuge of the oppressed, the hope of the unhappy, the dread of tyrants, the father of kings, the supporter of the laws, and the administrator of the ecclesiastical canons." And when he found the Holy Fathers falling below his ideal, he never failed to remind them of it. Thus, for instance, Innocent the 2nd, having refused to fulfil a promise which he had made to a cardinal, this Bernard, the abbot of Clairvaux, addressed his spiritual sovereign in the following strain :-“Who shall execute judgment on yourself? If there were any judge before whom I could cite you, I would not fail to show you what treatment you have deserved at my hands. I know that there is the tribunal of Jesus Christ: but God forbid that I should accuse you before that tribunal, where, on the contrary, I would it were in my power to defend you. It is for this cause that I apply to him who has received a commission to render justice to all men. I appeal from you to yourself." To another pope, Eugenius, once a monk at Clairvaux, Bernard pointedly appealed, “How is it that they who applaud you are purchased with the spoils of churches? You, who are appointed to be the shepherd of souls, go about among them decked with gold, and a variety of pompous apparel; and what do your flock receive? Such conduct I would say, if I dared, is more befitting a shepherd of devils than of sheep." I have nothing to do with the ecclesiastical impropriety of these letters: my sole object in quoting them is to show that Bernard was a fearless honest man, one of those truth speakers who cower not before the great, but ever and everywhere proclaim the will of God, whether men hear or forbear. If such language as I have quoted, proves him to have been a bad churchman, it no less proves that he was a good Christian.
His political influence was great. It will be recollected that he was the author of the Second Crusade. His wonderful success in gathering together such a vast army; the eloquence with which he won over Konrad, the great German potentate, and the 900,000 who quitted Europe on that unfortunate errand of relief to the Christians of Palestine; sufficiently testify to the power Bernard wielded among the nations of Europe. To dwell upon the Crusade would consume too much time: we pass on, therefore, to an illustration or two of the manner in which Bernard ordinarily used this political influence. A quarrel had taken place betweena Count Theobald and a neighbouring Count, the ground of which was the tinwarrantable divorce of Theobald's niece by his brother Count. This led to a war, in which Lewis the VII. of France became the ally of the enemy of Theobald. The result was that the Barony of Champagne—the domain of Theobald—was laid waste by fire and sword. Bernard interposed, and happily effected a peace between the combatants. Soon after Lewis wished to obtain a favour from the Pope, and applied to Bernard to intercede for him. Thinking his request improper, the monk refused, urging in reply to the French king, that it was not permitted to do evil that good might come, and that men must do right and leave the event to God. For revenge, Lewis renewed his war with Theobald. Instead of succumbing, the brave Bernard pierced the royal heart with the keenness of his reproach. “Who indeed but the devil,” he wrote, “ can have prompted you to such deeds of blood and fire ? And be assured that the cries of the poor, the sighs of the captives, and the blood of the slaughtered, will reach the ears of Him who is the Father of the fatherless and the Judge of the widow.” Europe could do with a few Bernards now. There would be work for them in rousing the dormant consciences of men in power, and setting their deeds before them in a true light.
The peasant, as well as the baron, found in Bernard a friend. In the twelfth century the feudal system prevailed. To realize this system, in these days of order and equality, is well nigh impossible. Still, we may, by a little effort of the imagination, gain a general idea of the state of society in those so called good old times. If the details of the picture can only be given by the novelist, we less romantic and matter-of-fact men may yet hope to present a rude outline, which shall at least show that things were not as they are. Picture to yourselves a castle or baronial hall, not built, as the mansions of our existing nobility are, for elegance and comfort, but substantial structures, intended for towers of strength, well fortified and surrounded by the outworks designed to check the approach of the hostile. Within, the lordly baron, at the head of his armed dependents, is ready either for defence or for aggression. Trained to war, it is the pastime of his life; and, as all the protection he enjoys is that which his own prowess supplies, and as his neighbours are in precisely the same position, he is in the condition of a man who only stands at ease after a military fashion, revelling in the batile charge, and essentially belligerent in his character. Near his castle are one, two, or more villages, which are part of his domains, and over which he exercises almost absolute control. The judge and jury, and moreover the executive of law, all cases of dispute have to be tried by him; and he settles all quarrels between himself and his vassals. His own walled fortress contains the prison cells; and his own paid servants carry out the sentence of the law. The baron was born to this; and in a sense as literal as the sense which even a Robinson Crusoe could attach to the words, he might have sung
“I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute." Practically, however much of legal prescription or verbal curtailment of power there was, this was the state of things as between a feudal lord and his vassal. In Bernard's time, Europe witnessed, as the result of this system, great injustice, foul oppression; and the peasantry suffered without having the slightest chance of relief or redress by an appeal to disinterested judges.
Among the barons in the neighbourhood of Clairvaux, was the Count of Champagne, who was the grandson of that modest man, William the Conqueror, and in many respects, as for instance in being careless of the rights of others, somewhat resembled him. A vassal, one Humbert, offended his lordship, and was forthwith, without trial or examination, banished from his native village, his goods being confiscated to the baron. A houseless wanderer, and his wife and children crying for bread, poor Humbert bethought him of the good monk, Bernard ; and