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" In his writings great natural powers shine forth resplendently, an 
intellect more than that of the subtle Abelard, an eloquence that was 
irresistible, an imagination like a poet, and a simplicity that wins the 
admiration of all. Priests will find it a most valuable book for spiritual 
reading and sermons. The printing and binding of the work are 
superb." Catholic World (New York). 

" No writer of the Middle Ages is so fruitful of moral inspiration as 
b. Bernard, no character is more beautiful, and no man in any age 
whatever so faithfully represented all that was best in the impulses of 
his time, or exercised so powerful an influence upon it. ... There is 
no man whose letters cover so many subjects of abiding interest, or 
whose influence was so widely spread." Athen<zum. 

"... The letters are of great historic interest, and many of them 
most touching. The simple earnestness of the man, and his utter 
freedom from ambition, strike us on almost every page." Notes and 

" English readers of every class and creed owe a debt of gratitude to 
Dr. Eales for the great and useful work which he has undertaken. It 
is strange that now for the first time has such a task been even, as far 
as we are aware, approached. . . . We have indeed much to be grateful 
for to the first English translator of S. Bernard s works." The Month. 

:? tftftsFER RI " 
IH/mett.. / "***> 





Vicar of Stalisfield 



Abbot President of the English Benedictine 







Printers to the Holy Apostolic See 



THIS selection of S. Bernard s letters has been made 
in the hope that it may find its way into the hands of 
many to whom the volumes of the greater collection 
are unknown, or are for one reason or another in 
accessible. The letters of great and good men give 
us information about them which can be derived from 
no other source. " As the eyes are to the other 
bodily senses," says the editor of S. Augustine s 
correspondence, "so are the letters of illustrious men 
in numberless ways more wonderful than all their 
other works. In them, as in the mirror of the human 
eyes, appear the personal qualities, passions, virtues, 
and vices of the individual. Just as no one can better 
show himself to the life than in his letters, so nowhere 
can he be better known " than in them. This is 
true of the letters of every saint, as well as of every 
man of affairs ; and the peculiar value and charm 
of such collections of letters is almost universally 

S. Bernard s unique position in the Church in his 
day, and the widespread authority he possessed, no 
less than his acknowledged place among the spiritual 
writers of all ages, tend to make his correspondence 
peculiarly interesting, as revealing in a more intimate 
way than any of his more formal writings, the char- 


acteristic qualifications and virtues, which won for 
him the great position he held so long during the 
middle ages. His learning and judgment no doubt 
fully appear in his tracts, treatises, and sermons ; but 
in the private letters that were intended only for the 
eye of the recipient, the reader can get a deeper insight 
into the man and the saint, and learn more fully, 
because more naturally, his real qualities. In them 
appear his prudence and zeal, his love of truth and 
piety, the warmth of his human affections and his 
natural eloquence with more genuine truth than, 
say, in his commentary on The Canticle of 
Canticles, his Mystical Vine, or his Treatise against 

" It sometimes happens," says the editor above 
quoted, " that in writing about themselves, the saints 
immoderately exaggerate their bad qualities ; or 
disparage their good more than is just. When 
another, however, writes about them, he is unable 
properly to penetrate the interior qualities of their 
soul ; or if he can, is unable properly to express his 
knowledge for the benefit of others. But in 
their letters writers display themselves spontane 
ously, and paint themselves in their natural colours." 
Nature, locality, occasion, and persons are produced 
before the mind of the reader even when the writer had 
no conscious design of doing so, and this in so clear a 
manner " that any careful reader may, in these letters 
of our author, look into his face and soul as if he were 
close at hand." 

For the benefit of those readers of this little volume 
who may not have access to any full account of S. 
Bernard s career, it may be useful to give here a brief 


outline of his life. The Saint was born in the year 
1091 in the village of Fontaine, in the province of 
Burgundy. He received a good education in his 
youth, and from the first displayed the best Christian 
dispositions. At the age of three-and-twenty he 
determined to dedicate his life to God in the cloister, 
and made choice of Citeaux, a monastery then under 
the fervent direction of S. Stephen Harding and which 
S. Robert had founded only a few years previously 
from Molesmes. Bernard took with him to Citeaux 
thirty companions, and from this refuge he was sent 
two years later, in 1115, to be Abbot of Clairvaux, the 
first offshoot of the future great religious congregation 
of Cistercians which had its centre at Citeaux. 

The former solitude of Clairvaux soon became 
peopled under S. Bernard with men who were at 
tracted by the Saint s great personality and some 700 
novices are said to have sat at his feet to learn the 
science of the saints. He himself lived to see one of 
his disciples upon the throne of S. Peter, six more be 
come cardinals, and over thirty bishops in various sees 
of the Christian world. He acquired, in a truly mar 
vellous way, the general esteem and confidence of 
bishops, nobles, and peoples. For a considerable 
period there was no ecclesiastical matter of any im 
portance, no difference to be composed, and no 
religious enterprise upon which he was not consulted. 
It was with his assistance, or it may be said by the 
authority of his name, that Innocent II. was recognised 
in the Church as Pontiff, and that Victor voluntarily 
abdicated the position of anti-pope. From 1131 to 
1138 S. Bernard was constantly at work healing the 
schism. At the Council of Sens in 1140 he confounded 


Abelard by his learning and secured his condemnation. 
In 1148 he preached the Crusade, the partial failure 
of which he subsequently attributed to the sins of the 

During all this time he lived as a true monk in the 
face of the world, and so many wonders and miracles 
were worked by him, or through his instrumentality, 
that he became commonly known as the Thaumaturgus 
of the West. During his lifetime he founded 160 
monasteries in various parts of the western world, and 
he died at the age of sixty-three on 2oth August 1153. 

A word may now be allowed about S. Bernard s 
literary style, of which we have evidence in the hvo 
volumes of his " Letters," translated and published by 
Dr. Eales, a selection from which is made in this 
small volume. He writes always in a lively and 
pleasant way : his thoughts are exalted and are 
expressed in a manner, full of unction ; whilst tender, 
he is by no means wanting in strength, and at times 
he is vehement in defence of the truth or when it is 
necessary to carry conviction to the mind of him 
with whom he is corresponding. His diction is 
saturated, so to speak, with Holy Scripture ; and he 
constantly makes use of texts taken from the Bible, 
and still more frequently of Biblical expressions inter 
woven into his own language. His favourites among 
the Fathers are S. Ambrose and S. Augustine, and he 
follows their teachings and opinions as conclusive 
arguments for the truth. 

S. Bernard in the midst of all his labours found 
time for writing a great t many letters. Four hundred 
and eighty-two of these, some of considerable length, 
have been preserved, and are to be found printed in 


the great collections of the Saint s works. From 
these, as given to English readers in the faithful and 
easy translation made by the late Dr. Eales, sixty-six 
are selected as samples in the present volume. Where 
all is so excellent and so really fascinating the task of 
selection was not difficult, and mainly consisted in the 
unwelcome process of exclusion. The reason why 
one should be taken and another left was not always 
obvious, and beyond choosing all the letters which in 
any way had something to do with England, and one 
or two characteristic specimens, such as No. II. : "To 
the monk Adam," or No. LX. on "the Heresies of 
Peter Abelard," with the preceding note, practically no 
principle has guided the choice. In the notes it has 
been thought best, when reference is made to other 
letters not contained in this volume, to retain the 
numbers given to the letters in the original volumes. 
It may, in conclusion, be hoped that some at least 
may be tempted by these sample letters of a man who 
had to play so great a part in the first half of the 
twelfth century, to desire to become further acquainted 
with him in the larger collections of his writings. 



All Saints* Day, 1903. 










VI. To THE SAME ... 34 











XVII. To THE SAME ... 66 




















BERNARD .... .. 131 














FREY l68 


is UNKNOWN l6 9 











LV. To THE SAME -231 














S. IV 




LETTER I (circa 1120) 

Their praises inspire him with more fear than satisfaction. 
They ought not to put any obstacle in the way of the religious 
profession of certain regular canons of S. Augustine, whom 
he has received at Clairvaux. 

To the Superior of the holy body of clerics and 
servants of God who are in the place which is called 
Horricourt, and to their disciples : the little flock of 
the brothers of Clairvaux, and their very humble 
servant, Brother Bernard, wish health, and power to 
walk in the Spirit, and to see all things in a spiritual 

Your letter, in which you have addressed to us an 
exhortation so salutary and profitable, brings us con 
vincing proof of your knowledge and charity, which 
we admire, and for which we thank you. But that 
which you have so kindly prefixed by way of praise 
of me is, I fear, not founded on experience, although 
you have thus given me an excellent occasion to 

1 The title of this letter follows a MS. at Corbey. It does not appear 
who these regular canons were. 



practise humility if I know how to profit by it. Yet 
it has excited great fear in me, who know myself to 
be far below what you imagine. For which of us 
who takes heed to his ways can listen without either 
great fear or great danger, to praises of himself so 
great and so undeserved ? It is not safe for any one 
to commit himself to his own judgment or even to 
the judgment of another ; for He who judgeth MS is the 
Lord (i Corinthians iv. 4). As to the brothers con 
cerning whose safety we recognize that your charity 
has been solicitous, that we should return them to 
you unharmed ; know that by the advice and per 
suasion of many illustrious persons, and chiefly of that 
very distinguished man William, Bishop of Chalons, 1 
they have taken refuge with us, and have begged us 
with earnest supplication to receive them, which we 
have done. Though they have quitted the rule of S. 
Augustine for that of S. Benedict in order to embrace 
a stricter life, yet they do not depart from the rule 
of Him, who is the one Master in heaven and in 
earth ; nor do they make void that first faith which 
they promised among you, and which, indeed, they 
promised, first of all, in baptism. They being such, 
therefore, and having been so received, we are far 
from thinking that your sense of right will be injured 
by our having received them, or that you ought to 
take it ill if we retain them ; yet if they desist from 
their resolution during the year of probation which 
the Rule requires, and desire to return to you, be 
assured that we shall not detain them against their 
will. In any case, most holy brethren, you would 

1 This was William of Champeaux, a friend of S. Bernard, who died 
in ii2i. 


be wrong to resist, by an ill-considered and useless 
anathema, the spirit of liberty which is in them ; 
unless, perchance (which may God avert !), you 
study more to promote your own interests than 
those of Jesus Christ. 

LETTER II (A.D. 1126) 


i. If you remain yet in that spirit of charity 
which I either knew or believed to be with you 
formerly, you would certainly feel the condemnation 
with which charity must regard the scandal which 
you have given to the weak. For charity would not 
offend charity, nor scorn when it feels itself offended. 
For it cannot deny itself, nor be divided against 
itself. Its function is rather to draw together things 
divided ; and it is far from dividing those that are 
joined. Now, if that remained in you, as I have 
said, it would not keep silent, it would not rest 
unconcerned, nor pretend indifference, but it would 
without doubt whisper, with groans and uneasiness at 
the bottom of your pious heart, that saying, Who is 
offended, and I burn not (2 Cor. xi. 29). If, then, 
it is kind, it loves peace, and rejoices in unity ; it 
produces them, cements them, strengthens them, 
and wherever it reigns it makes the bond of peace. 
As, then, you are in opposition to that true 

1 The MS. in the Royal Library is inscribed : De Discretione Obedientia . 
Of Discernment in Obedience. This Letter was written after the death ol 
Abbot Arnold, which took place in Belgium in the year 1126. 


mother of peace and concord, on what ground, I 
ask you, do you presume that your sacrifice, what 
ever it may be, will be accepted by God, when 
without it even martyrdom profiteth nothing (i Cor. 
xiii. 3) ? Or, on what ground do you trust that you 
are not the enemy of charity when breaking unity, 
rending the bond of peace, you lacerate her bowels, 
treating with such cruelty their dear pledges, which 
you neither have borne nor do bear ? You must 
lay down, then, the offering, whatever it may be, 
which you are preparing to lay on the altar, and 
hasten to go and reconcile yourself not with one of 
your brethren only, but with the entire body. The 
whole body of the fraternity, grievously wounded by 
your withdrawal, as by the stroke of a sword, utters 
its complaints against you and the few with you, 
saying : The sons of my mother have fought against me 
(Cant. i. 5). And rightly ; for who is not with her, 
is against her. Can you think that a mother, as 
tender as charity, can hear without emotion the 
complaint, so just, of a community which is to her 
as a daughter ? Therefore, joining her tears with 
ours, she says, / have nourished and brought up children, 
and they have rebelled against me (Isa. i. 2). Charity is 
God Himself. Christ is our peace, who hath made both 
one (Eph. ii. 14). Unity is the mystery even of the 
Holy Trinity. What place, then, in the kingdom of 
Christ and of God has he who is an enemy of 
charity, peace, and unity ? 

2. My abbot, perhaps you will say, has obliged 
me to follow him ought I then to have been dis 
obedient ? But you cannot have forgotten the 
conclusion to which we came one day after a long 


discussion together upon that scandalous project 
which even then you were meditating. If you had 
remained in that conclusion, now it might have been 
not unfitly said of you, Blessed is the man who hath not 
walked in the counsel of the ungodly (Ps. i. i). But let 
it be so. Sons ought, no doubt, to obey a father ; 
scholars a teacher. An abbot may lead his monks 
where he shall please, and teach them what he thinks 
proper ; but this is only as long as he lives. Now 
that he is dead, whom you were bound to hear as a 
teacher and to follow as a guide, why are you still 
delaying to make amends for the grave scandal that 
you have occasioned ? What hinders you now to 
give ear, I do not say to me when I recall you, but 
to our God, when He mercifully does so by the 
mouth of Jeremiah, Shall they fall and not arise? 
Shall he turn away and not return ? (Jer. viii. 4.) Or 
has your abbot, when dying, forbidden you ever to 
rise again after your fall, or ever to speak of your 
return ? Is it necessary for you to obey him even 
when dead to obey him against charity and at the 
peril of your soul ? You would allow, I suppose, 
that the bond between an abbot and his monks is by 
no means so strong or tenacious as that of married 
persons, whom God Himself and not man has bound 
with an inviolable sacrament as the Saviour says : 
What God hath joined together let no man put asunder 
(S. Matt. xix. 6). But the Apostle asserts that when 
the husband is dead the wife is freed from the law 
of her husband (Rom. vii. 2), and do you consider 
yourself bound by the law of your dead abbot, and 
this against a law which is more binding still, that of 
charity ? 


3. These things I say, yet I do not think that you 
ought to have yielded to him in this even when living, 
or that thus to have yielded ought to be called obedi 
ence. For it is of that kind of obedience that it is 
said in general : The Lord shall lead forth with the 
workers of iniquity those who deviate in their obedience 
(Ps. cxxv. 5, VULG.). And that no one may con 
tend that obedience to an abbot, even in things evil, 
is free from that penalty, there are words elsewhere 
still more precise : The son shall not bear the iniquity of 
the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the 
son (Ezek. xviii. 20). From these, then, it appears 
clearly that those who command things evil are not 
to be obeyed, especially when in yielding to wrong 
commands, in which you appear to obey man, you 
show yourself plainly disobedient to God, who has 
forbidden everything that is evil. For it is altogether 
unreasonable to profess yourself obedient when you 
know that you are violating obedience due to the 
superior on account of the inferior, that is, to the 
Divine on account of the human. What then ! 
God forbids what man orders ; and shall I be deaf 
to the voice of God and listen to that of man ? 
The Apostles did not understand the matter thus 
when they said, We must obey God rather than men 
(Acts v. 29). Does not the Lord in the Gospel 
blame the Pharisees : Ye transgress the commandment 
of God on account of your traditions (S. Matt. xv. 3). 
And by Isaiah : In vain they worship Me, he says, 
teaching the commands and doctrines of men (Is. xxix. 
13). And also to our first father. 1 Because thou 

1 Protoplastus, the first formed. Tertullian, Exhort, ad Castit., cap. 2 
and Adv.Jud., c. 13, calls Adam and Eve Protoplasti. [E.] 


hast obeyed thy wife rather than Me, the earth shall be 
rebellious to thy work (Gen. iii. 17). Therefore to 
do evil, whosoever it be that bids, is shown not to 
be obedience, but disobedience. 

4. To make this principle clear, we must note 
that some actions are wholly good, others wholly 
evil : and in these no obedience is to be rendered to 
men. For the former are not to be omitted by us, 
even if they are prohibited [by men] : nor the latter 
done, even though they are commanded. But, 
besides these, there are actions between the two, and 
which may be good or evil according to circum 
stances of place, time, manner, or person, and in 
these obedience has its place, as it was in the matter 
of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which 
was in the midst of Paradise. When these are in 
question, it is not right to prefer our own judgment 
to that of our superiors, so as to take no heed of 
what they order or forbid. Let us see whether it 
be not such a case that I have condemned in you, 
and whether you ought not to be condemned. For 
clearness, I will subjoin examples of the distinction 
which I have just made. Faith, hope, charity, and 
others of that class are wholly good ; it cannot be 
wrong to command, or to practice them, nor right 
to forbid them, or to neglect the practice of them. 
Theft, sacrilege, adultery, and all other such vices 
are wholly evil ; it can never be right to practice or 
to order them, nor wrong to forbid or avoid them. 
The law is not made for things of this kind, for the 
prohibition of no person has the power to render 
null the commandments given, nor the command of 
any to render lawful the things prohibited. There 


are, finally, things of a middle kind which are not 
in themselves good or evil ; they may be indif 
ferently either prescribed or forbidden, and in these 
things an inferior never sins in obeying. Such are, 
for example, fasting, watching, reading, and such 
like. But some things which are of this middle 
kind often pass the bounds of indifferency, and 
become the one or the other. Thus, marriage is 
neither prescribed nor forbidden, but when it is 
made may not be dissolved. That, therefore, which 
before the nuptials was a thing of the middle kind 
obtains the force of a thing wholly good in regard 
to the married pair. Also, it is a thing indifferent 
for a man in secular life to possess or not to possess 
property of his own ; but to a monk, who is not 
allowed to possess anything, it is wholly evil. 

5. Do you see now, brother, to which branch of 
my division your action belongs ? If it is to be put 
among things wholly good it is praiseworthy : if 
among those wholly evil it is greatly to be blamed : 
but if it is to be placed among those of the middle 
kind you may, perhaps, find in your obedience an 
excuse for your first departure, but your delay in 
returning is not at all excusable, since that was not 
from obedience. For when your abbot was dead, 
if he had previously ordered anything which was 
not fitting, the former discussion has shown you 
that you were no longer bound to obey him. And 
although the matter is now sufficiently clear by 
itself, yet because of some who seek for occasion to 
object when reason does not support them, I will 
put the matter clearly again, so that every shade of 
doubt may disappear, and I will show you that your 


obedience and your leaving your monastery, were 
neither wholly good nor partly good, but plainly 
wholly evil. Concerning him who is dead, I am 
silent ; he has now God alone for his judge, and to 
his own Lord he either stands or falls ; that God 
may not say with righteous anger, " Men have taken 
away from me even the right to judge." However, 
for the instruction of the living I discuss, not even 
what he has done, but what he has ordered ; 
whether, that is to say, his order ought to have 
been obligatory, inasmuch as a widespreading scandal 
has followed upon it. And I say this first ; that if 
there are any who followed him when he wrongly 
left his cloister, but who followed in simplicity, and 
without suspecting any evil, supposing that he had 
license to go forth from the Bishop of Langres and 
the Abbot of Citeaux (for to each of these was he 
responsible) ; and it is not incredible that some of 
those who were of his company may so have 
believed ; this, my censure, does not touch them, 
provided that when they knew the truth, they 
returned without delay. 

6. Therefore my discourse is against those only, or 
rather for those, who knowingly and purposely put 
their hands into the fire ; who being conscious of his 
presumption, yet followed him who presumed, with 
out caring for the prohibition of the Apostle, and his 
precept, to withdraw from every brother who walks 
disorderly (2 Thess. iii. 6). Despising also the voice 
of the Lord himself, He who gathereth not with me 
scattereth (S. Matt. xii. 30). To you, brethren, be 
longs clearly and specially that reproach spoken by 
Jeremiah, which I recall with grief : This is a nation that 


obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God (Jer. vii. 28). 
For clearly that is the Voice of God pointing out His 
enemy from the work that he does, and, as it were, 
showing him with a stretched finger to ward off simple 
souls from his ungodly example : He who is not with 
Me, He says, scatters; ought you to have followed a 
disperser ? And when God invites you to unite with 
Him, ought you rather to follow a man who wishes 
to disperse you ? He scorned his superiors, he ex 
posed his inferiors to danger, he deeply troubled his 
brethren, and yet ye seeing a thief joined yourself 
with him ! I had determined to be silent concerning 
him who is dead, but I am obliged, I confess, to 
proceed still a little further, since I cannot blame 
your obedience, if his command is not shown to 
be altogether improper. Since the orders and the 
actions of the man were similar to each other, it 
seems impossible to praise or to blame the one with 
out the other. Now it is very clear that orders of 
that kind ought not to have been obeyed, since they 
were contrary to the law of God. For who can 
suppose that the institutions of our Fathers are not 
to be preferred to those of lesser persons, or that the 
general rules of the Order must not prevail over the 
commands of private persons ? For we have this in 
the Rule of S. Benedict. 1 

7. I should be able, indeed, to bring forward the 
Abbot of Citeaux as a witness, who, as being superior 
to your abbot as a father to a son, as a master to a 
disciple, and, in a word, as an abbot to a monk com 
mitted to his charge, rightly complains that you have 
held him in contempt because of the other. I might 

Reg. Cap. 71. 


speak also of the Bishop, whose consent was not 
waited for, a contempt which was inexcusable, since 
the Lord says of such and to such : He who despises 
you despises Me (S. Luke x. 16). But as to both these 
might be opposed and preferred the authority of the 
Roman Pontiff as more weighty ; by whose license it 
is said that you have taken care to secure yourselves 
(the question of that license shall be discussed in its 
proper place), [see below, No. 9], I rather bring 
forward such an one as you dare not set yourself 
against. Most surely He is the Supreme Pontiff, 
who by His own blood entered in once and alone 
into the Holy Place to obtain eternal redemption 
(Heb. ix. 12), and denounces with a terrible voice, in 
the Gospel, that none should dare to give scandal to 
even the least of His little ones (S. Matt, xviii. 6). I 
should say nothing if the evil had not proceeded 
farther. An easy forgiveness would follow a fault 
which has no grave consequences. But at present 
there is no doubt that you have preferred the 
commands of a man to that of God, and have thus 
scandalized very many. What man of any sense 
would say that such an audacious act was good, or 
could become good, by the direction of any man, 
whatever his dignity ? And if it is not good, nor 
can become good, without doubt it is wholly evil. 
Whence it follows that since your withdrawal was to 
the scandal of many, and by this contrary to the law 
of God, since it is neither wholly good nor even of a 
middle kind, it is, therefore, wholly and altogether 
evil ; because that which is wholly is always such, 
and that of a middle kind can become so. 

8. How then can either the permission of your 


abbot avail to make that permissible which is (as we 
have already shown beyond question) wholly evil, 
since (as we have said above) things of this kind, that 
is things purely evil, can never be rightly ordered 
nor permissibly done ? Do you see how futile is 
the excuse you draw from obedience to a man when 
you are convicted of a transgression against God ? 
I hardly suppose that you would resort to that reply 
of the Lord respecting the scandal given to the 
Pharisees, Let them alone, they be blind leaders of the 
blind (S. Matt. xv. 14), and that as He attached no 
value to their objections, so you attach no value to 
ours ; for you know that there is no comparison in 
this respect between Him and you. But if you 
make comparison of persons, you find that on one 
side it is the proud Pharisees who are scandalized, on 
the other the poor of Jesus Christ ; and as to the 
cause of the scandal, in the one case it is presump 
tion, in the other truth. Again, as I have shown 
above, you have not only preferred a human to a 
Divine command, but that of a private person to a 
public rule, and this alone would suffice for proof ; 
but the custom and Rule, not only of our Order, but 
of all monasteries, seems to cry out against your un 
exampled innovation and unparalleled presumption. 

9. You had then just reason to fear, and were 
rightly distrustful of the goodness of your cause 
when, in order to still the pangs of your consciences, 
you tried to have recourse to the Holy See. O, vain 
remedy ! which is nothing else than to seek girdles, 
like our first parents, for your ulcerated consciences, 
that is, to hide the ill instead of curing it. We have 
asked and obtained (they say) the permission of the 


Pope. Would that you had asked not his permission, 
but his advice ; that is to say, not that he would 
permit you to do it, but whether it was a thing per 
mitted to you to do ! Why, then, did you solicit his 
permission ? Was it to render lawful that which was 
not so ? Then you wished to do what was not 
lawful ; but what was not lawful was evil. The in 
tention, therefore, was evil, which tended towards 
evil. Perhaps you would say that the wrong thing 
which you demanded permission to do ceased to be 
such if it was done by virtue of a permission. But 
that has been already excluded above by an irrefrag 
able reason. For when God said, Do not despise one 
of these little ones who believe in Me, He did not add 
also, Unless with permission ; nor when He said, Take 
care not to give scandal to one of these little ones (S. Matt, 
xviii. 6-1 o), did He limit it by adding, Without 
licence. It is then certain that except when the 
necessary interests of the truth require, it is not per 
mitted to any one to give any scandal, neither to 
order it, nor to consent to it. Yet you think that 
permission is to be obtained to do so. But to what 
purpose ? Was it that you might sin with more 
liberty and fewer scruples, and, therefore, with just 
so much the more danger ? Wonderful precaution, 
marvellous prudence ! They had already devised evil 
in their heart, but they were cautious not to carry 
it out in action except with permission. They con 
ceived in sorrow, but they did not bring forth iniquity 
until the Pope had afforded his consent to that un 
righteous birth. With what advantage ? or, at least, 
with what lessening of the evil ? Is it likely that 
either an evil will cease to be or even be rendered 


less because the Pope has consented to it ? But who 
will deny it to be a bad thing to give consent to evil ? 
Which, notwithstanding, I do not in any way believe 
that the Pope would have done, unless he had been 
either deceived by falsehood or overcome by im 
portunity. In fact, unless it had been so, would he 
weakly have given you permission to sow scandal, to 
raise up schisms, to distress friends, to trouble the 
peace of brethren, to throw into confusion their 
unity, and, above all, to despise your own Bishop ? 
And under what necessity he should have acted thus 
I have no need to say, since the issue of the matter 
sufficiently shows. For I see with grief that you 
have gone forth, but I do not see that you have 
profited in doing so. 

10. Thus, in your opinion, to give assent to so 
great and weighty evils is to show obedience, to 
render assistance, to behave with moderation and 
gentleness. Do you, then, endeavour to whitewash 
the most detestable vices under the name of virtues ? 
Or do you think that you can injure virtues without 
doing injury to the Lord of virtues ? You hide the 
vainest presumption, the most shameful levity, the 
cruellest division under the names of obedience, 
moderation, gentleness, and you soil those sacred 
names with the vices hidden under them. May 
I never emulate this obedience : such moderation 
can never be pleasing to me, or rather seems to 
resemble molestation ; may gentleness of this kind 
ever be far from me. Such obedience is worse 
than any revolt : such moderation passes all bounds. 
Shall I say that it goes beyond them or does not 
come up to them ? Perhaps it would be more 


adequate to say that it is altogether without measure 
or bound. Of what kind is that gentleness which 
irritates the ears of all the hearers ? And yet I beg 
you to show some sign of it now on my behalf. 
Since you are so patient that you do not contend 
with anybody, even with one who tries to drag 
you away to forbidden ground, permit me, too, 
I beg of you, to treat with you now somewhat 
more unrestrainedly. Otherwise I have merited 
much evil from you if you think that you must 
resent from me alone what you are accustomed 
to resent from no one else. 

ii. Well, then, I call your own conscience to 
witness. Was it willingly or unwillingly that you 
went forth ? If willingly, then it was not from 
obedience. If unwillingly, you seem to have had 
some suspicion of the order which you carried out 
with reluctance. But when there is suspicion, there 
consideration is necessary. But you, either to dis 
play your patience or to exercise it, obeyed without 
discussion, and suffered yourself to be taken away, 
not only without your own volition, but even against 
your conscience. O, patience worthy of all im 
patience ! I cannot, I confess, help being angry 
with this most questionable patience. You saw 
that he was a scatterer and yet you followed 
him ; you heard him directing what was scanda 
lous and yet you obeyed him ! True patience 
consists in doing or in suffering what is dis 
pleasing to us, not what is forbidden to us. A 
strange thing ! You listened to that man softly 
murmuring, but not to God openly protesting in 
such words as these, like a clap of thunder from 


heaven, Woe to him through whom scandal cometJi (S. 
Matt, xviii. 7). And to be the better heard, not 
only does the Lord Himself cry aloud, but His 
Blood cries with a terrible voice to make even the 
deaf hear. Its pouring forth is its cry. Since it 
was poured forth for the children of God who were 
scattered abroad that it might gather them together 
into one, it justly murmurs against the scatterers. 
He whose constant duty it is to collect souls to 
gether hates without doubt those who scatter them. 
Loud is His voice and piercing which calls bodies 
from their graves and souls from Hades. That 
trumpet blast calls together heaven and earth and 
the things that are with them, giving them peace. 
Its sound has gone out unto the whole world, and 
yet it has not been able to burst through your deaf 
ness ! What a voice of power and magnificence 
when the words are spoken : Let the Lord arise and 
let His enemies be scattered (Ps. Ixviii. 2). And again : 
Disperse them by Thy power, O Lord, my protector, and 
put them doivn (Ps. lix. 12). It is the blood of Christ, 
brother Adam, which raises its voice as a sounding 
trumpet on behalf of pious assemblies against wicked 
scatterers ; it has been poured forth to bring to 
gether those who were dispersed, and it threatens 
to disperse those who scatter. If you do not hear 
His voice, then listen to that which rolls from His 
side. For how could He not hear His own blood 
who heard the blood of Abel ? 

12. But what is this to me? you say. It con 
cerns one whom it was not right for me to contra 
dict. The disciple is not above his master ; and it 
was to be taught, not to teach, that I attached myself 


to him. As a hearer, it became me to follow, not 
to go before, my preceptor. O, simple one, the 
Paulus of these times ! If only he had shown him 
self another Antony, 1 so that you had no occasion to 
discuss the least word that fell from his lips, but only 
to obey it without hesitation ! What exemplary 
obedience ! The least word, an iota, which drops 
from the lips of his superiors finds him obedient ! 
He does not examine what is enjoined, he is content 
because it is enjoined ! 2 And this is obedience with 
out delay. If this is a right view of duty, then with 
out cause do we read in the Church : Prove all things, 
hold fast that which is good (i Thess. v. 21). If this 
is a right view, let us blot out of the book of the 
Gospel Be ye wise as serpents, for the words following 
would suffice, and harmless as doves (S. Matt. x. 16). 
I do not say that inferiors are to make themselves 
judges of the orders of those set over them, in which 
it may be taken for granted that nothing is ordered 
contrary to the Divine laws, but I assert that pru 
dence also is necessary to notice if anything does so 
contradict, and freedom firmly to pronounce against 
these. But you reply, I have nothing to do with 
examining what he orders ; it is his duty to do that 
before ordering. Tell me, I pray you, if a sword 
were put into your hand and he bade you turn it 

1 Antony, who was called by S. Athanasius " the founder of asceticism," 
and " a model for monks," is called " Abbas," though he was more pro 
perly a hermit, and always refused to take oversight of a monastery. He 
was born at Coma, in Upper Egypt, about A.D. 250. The Paulus here 
mentioned was a disciple of Antony. He was remarkable for his childlike 
docility, on account of which he was surnamed Simplex, and notwithstand 
ing a certain dulness of intellect seems to have shown sometimes remark 
able discernment of character. [E.] 

* This clause is wanting in some MSS. 



against his throat, would you obey ? Or if he 
ordered you to fling yourself headlong into the fire, 
or into the water, would you do it ? If you did not 
even hinder him from such acts as these to the best 
of your ability, would not you be held guilty of the 
crime of homicide ? Come, then, see that you have 
done nothing but co-operate in his crime under the 
pretext of obedience. Do you not know that it has 
been said by a certain person (for you would not, 
perhaps, give credence to me) that it would be 
better to be sunk in the depths of the sea than to 
give scandals (S. Matt, xviii. 6). Why has He said this 
unless that He wished to signify that in comparison 
to the terrible punishments that are reserved for the 
scandalous, temporal death would seem scarcely a 
punishment but an advantage ? Why, then, did 
you help him to make a scandal ? For you did 
so in following and obeying him. Would it not 
have been better, according to the declaration of 
the Truth I have quoted, to hang a millstone from 
his neck and so to plunge him in the depth of the 
sea ? What then ? You that were so obedient a 
disciple, who could not bear that he, your father 
and master, should be separated from you for a 
single instant, for a foot breadth (as it is said), you 
have not hesitated to fall into the ditch behind him 
with your eyes wide open, like another Balaam ? 
Did you think that you were labouring for his 
happiness when you showed toward him an obe 
dience more hurtful for him than death ? Truly, 
now, I experience how true is that saying : A man s 
foes shall be they of his own household (Micah vii. 6). 
If you see and feel this, do you not groan if you 


perceive what you have done ? And if you do 
perceive, do you not tremble ? For, indeed, your 
obedience (it is not my judgment, but that of the 
Truth Himself) has been worse for him than death. 

13. If you are now convinced of this, I do not 
know how you can help trembling and hastening to 
repair your fault. Otherwise what conscience of 
wrong will you carry hence to that terrible tribunal 
where the Judge will not need witness, where the 
Truth will scan even purposes, and penetrate in 
search of faults to the hidden places of the heart, 
where, in short, that Divine look will try the most 
secret recesses of minds, and at the sudden shining 
of that Sun of justice all the windings of human 
souls will be spread open and give to the light 
whatever, whether good or evil, they were hiding ? 
Then, brother Adam, those who commit a sin, and 
those who consent to it will be punished with equal 
chastisement. Then thieves and the associates of 
thieves will listen to a similar sentence ; the seducers 
and the seduced will undergo an equal judgment. 
Cease, then, to say again, What is it to me ? Let 
him see to it. Can you touch pitch and say I am 
not defiled ? Can you hide fire in your bosom and 
not be burned ? Can you have your portion with 
adulterers without resembling them in some respect ? 
Isaiah did not think so, for he reproached himself 
not only because he was himself unclean, but also 
because he was the companion of the unclean : 
Because, he says, I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell 
in the midst of a people oj unclean lips (Isaiah vi. 5). For 
he blames himself not because he dwelt among 
sinners, but because he has not condemned their 


sins. For, so he says : Woe is me because I have been 
silent (Isaiah vi. 5, VULG.). But when did he consent 
to the doing of evil, that he blames himself not to 
have condemned it in others ? And did not David 
also feel that he was defiled by the contact of sin 
when he said : With men that work iniquity, and I will 
not communicate with their chosen friends (Ps. cxl. 4, 
VULG.). Or when he made this prayer : Cleanse me 
O Lord from my secret sins, and spare Thy servaut from 
the offences of others (Ps. xix. 12-13, VULG.). Where 
fore he strove to avoid the society of sinners in order 
not to share in their faults. For he says farther : 
/ have not sat in the council of vanity, and I will not enter 
into the company of those who do unjustly (Ps. xxv. 45, 
VULG.). And then he adds : I have hated the congrega 
tion of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked (ibid.). 
Finally, hear the counsel of the wise man : My son, 
if sinners entice thee, consent thou not (Prov. i. 10). 

14. Have you, then, against these and innumerable 
other and similar testimonies of the truth, thought 
that you ought to obey anybody? O, odious per 
versity ! The virtue of obedience which always wars 
on behalf of truth, is arrayed against truth. Happy 
the disobedience of brother Henry, who soon re 
penting of his error and retracing his steps, has the 
happiness of not persisting longer in such an obedi 
ence. The fruits of disobedience are sweeter and to 
be preferred [to this] ; and now he tastes them with 
a good conscience in the peaceable and constant 
practice of the duties of his profession in the midst 
of his brethren, and in the bosom of the Order to 
which he has devoted himself ; while some of his 
former companions are breaking the hearts of their 


ancient brethren by the scandals they are making ! 
Whose disobedience of slackness and omission, if the 
choice were given me, I would even prefer, with his 
sense of penitence, than the punctilious obedience of 
such as these, with scandal. For I consider that 
he does better for the keeping unity in the bond of 
peace who obeys charity, though disobedient to his 
abbot, than those who so defer to a single man as to 
prefer one to the whole body. I might boldly add 
even this, that it is preferable to risk disobedience to 
one person than to endanger the vows of our own 
profession and all the other advantages of religion. 

15. Since, not to speak of other obligations, there 
are two principal ones to be observed by all dwellers 
in a monastery, obedience to the abbot and stability 
or constancy. But one of these ought not to be 
fulfilled to the prejudice of the other, so that you 
should thus show yourself constant in your place 
as not to be above being subject to the superior, and 
so obey the superior as not to lose constancy. Thus 
if you would disapprove of a monk, however constant 
in his cloister, who was too proud to obey the orders 
of his superior, can you wonder that we blame an 
obedience which served you as the cause or occasion 
for deserting your place, especially when in making 
a religious profession constancy is vowed in such a 
way as not to be at all subordinated to the will of the 
abbot under whom a monk may be placed. 

1 6. But perhaps you may turn what I say against 
me, asking what I have done with the constancy 
which ought to have kept me at Citeaux, whereas 
I now dwell elsewhere. To which I reply, I am, 
indeed, a Cistercian monk professed in that place, 


and was sent forth by my abbot to where I now 
dwell, but sent forth in peace without scandal, with 
out disorder, according to our usages and constitu 
tions. As long, therefore, as I persevere in the same 
peace and concord in which I was sent forth, as long 
as I stand fast in unity, I do not prefer my private 
interests to those of the community. I remain 
peaceful and obedient in the place where I have 
been posted. I say that my conscience is at peace, 
because I observe faithfully the stability I have pro 
mised. How do I compromise my vow of stability 
when I do not break the bond of concord, nor desert 
the firm ground of peace ? If obedience keeps my 
body far distant from Citeaux, the offering of the 
same devotions and a manner of life in every way 
similar hold my spirit always present there. But 
the day on which I shall begin to live, according 
to other laws (which may God avert), to practise 
other customs, to perform different observances, to 
introduce novelties and customs from without, I shall 
be a transgressor of my vows, and I shall no longer 
think that I am observing the constancy that I pro 
mised. I say, then, that an abbot ought to be 
obeyed in all things, but saving the oath of the 
Order. But you having made profession, according to 
the Rule of S. Benedict, where you promised obedi 
ence, you promised also constancy. And if you have, 
indeed, obeyed, but have not been constant by offend 
ing in one point, you are made an offender in all, 
and if in all, then in obedience itself. 

17. Do you see, then, the proper scope of your 
obedience ? How can it excuse your want of con 
stancy, which is not even of weight to justify itself ? 


Every one knows that a person makes his profession 
solemnly and regularly in the presence of the abbot. 
That profession is made, therefore, in his presence 
only, not at his discretion also. The abbot is em 
ployed as the witness, and not the arbiter of the 
profession ; the helper of its fulfilment, not an 
assistant to the breach of it ; to punish and not to 
authorise bad faith. What, then ? Do I place in 
the hand of the abbot the vows that I have taken, 
without exception ratified by my mouth and signed 
by my hand in presence of God and His Saints? 
Do I not hear out of the Rule (Rule of S. Benedict, 
C. 58) that if I ever do otherwise I shall be con 
demned by God, whom I have mocked ? If my 
abbot or even an angel from heaven should order 
me to do something contrary to my vow, I would 
boldly refuse an obedience of this kind, which would 
make me a transgressor of my own oath and make 
me swear falsely by the name of my God, for I know, 
according to the truth of Scripture, that out of 
my own mouth I must either be condemned or 
justified (S. Luke xix. 22), and because The mouth 
which lies slays the soul (Wisd. i. 1 1), and that we chant 
with truth before God, Thou wilt destroy all those who 
speak falsehood (Ps. v. 6), and because every one shall 
bear his own burden (Gal. vi. 5), and every one shall give 
account of himself to God (Rom. xiv. 12). If it were 
otherwise with me, with what front could I dare to 
lie in the presence of God and His angels, when 
singing that verse from the Psalm : / will render unto 
Thee my vows, which my lips have uttered (Ps. Ivi. 

3 14)- 

In fact, the abbot himself ought to consider the 


advice which the Rule gives, addressing itself to him 
in particular, " that he should maintain the present 
Rule in all respects," and also, which is universally 
directed, and no exception made, " that all should 
follow the Rule as guide and mistress, nor is it to be 
rashly deviated from by any " (Rule of S. Bened. 
capp. Ixiv. 3). Thus I have determined to follow 
him as master always and everywhere, but on the 
condition never to deviate from the authority of the 
Rule, which, as he himself is witness, I have sworn 
and determined to keep. 

1 8. Let me, briefly, treat another objection which 
may possibly be made to me, and I will bring to a 
close an epistle which is already too long. It seems 
that I may be reproached with acting otherwise than 
I speak. For I may be asked, if I condemn those 
who have deserted their monastery, not only with 
the consent of their abbot, but at his command, on 
what principle do I receive and retain those who 
from other monasteries, who, breaking their vow of 
constancy and contemning the authority of their 
superiors, come to our Order ? To which my reply 
will be brief, but dangerous ; for I fear that what 
I shall say will displease certain persons. But I fear 
still more lest by concealing the truth I should sing 
untruly in the Church those words of the Psalmist : 
/ have not hid my righteousness within my heart : my talk 
hath been of Thy truth and of Thy salvation (Ps. xl. 12). I 
receive them, then, for this reason, because I do not 
consider that they are wrong to quit the monastery, 
in which they were able, indeed, to make vows to 
God, but by no means to perform them, to enter 
into another house where they may better serve 


God, Who is everywhere, and who repair the wrong 
done by the breach of their vow of constancy by the 
perfect performance of all other duties of the religious 
life. If this displeasse any one, and he murmurs 
against a man thus seeking his own salvation, the 
Author of salvation Himself shall reply for him : Is 
thine eye evil because he is good? (S. Matt. xx. 15). 
Whosoever thou art who enviest the salvation of 
another, care rather for thine own. Dost thou not 
know that by the envy of the devil death entered into the 
world? (Wisd. ii. 24). Take heed, therefore, to thy 
self. For if there is envy there is death ; surely, thou 
canst not both be envious and live. Why seek a 
quarrel with thy brother, since he seeks only the best 
means of fulfilling the vows which he has made ? If 
the man seeks in what place or in what manner he 
may best discharge what he has promised to God, 
what wrong has he done to you ? Perhaps, if you 
held him your debtor for a sum of money, however 
small, you would oblige him to compass sea and dry 
land until he rendered you the whole debt, even to 
the last farthing. What, then, has your God deserved 
from you that you are not willing for Him, too, to 
receive what is due ? But in envying one you render 
two hostile ; since you are trying both to defraud the 
lord of the service due from his servant, and to 
deprive the servant of the favour of his lord. 
Wherefore do you not imitate him, and yourself 
discharge what is due from you ? Do you think 
that your debt, too, will not be required of you ? 
Or do you not rather fear to irritate God against you 
the more by wickedly saying in your heart, He will 
not require it ? 


19. What, you say to me, do you then condemn 
all who do not do likewise ? No ; but hear what I do 
think about them, and do not make futile accusations. 
Why do you wish to make me odious to many 
thousands of holy men, who, under the same profes 
sion as I, though not living in the same manner, 
either live holily or have died blessed deaths ? I do 
not fail to remember that God has left to Himself 
seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee 
before Baal (i Kings xix. 18). Listen to me, then, 
man envious and calumnious. I have said that I 
think men coming to us from other monasteries 
ought to be received. Have I blamed those who do 
not come ? The one class I excuse, but I do not 
accuse the other. It is only the envious whom I 
cannot excuse, nor, indeed, am I willing to do so. 
These being excepted, I think that if any others wish 
to pass to a stricter Rule, but fear to do so because 
of scandal, or are hindered by some bodily weakness, 
do not sin, provided that they study to live a holy, 
pious, and regulated life in the place where they 
are. For if by the custom of their monastery relaxa 
tions of the Rule have been introduced, either that 
very charity, in which they hesitate to remove to a 
better on account of causing scandal, may, perhaps, 
be an excuse for this ; according to that saying 
Charity covers a multitude of sins (i Peter iv. 8), or the 
humility in which one conscious of his infirmity 
regards himself as imperfect, for it is said God gives 
grace unto the humble (S. James iv. 6). 

20. Many things I have written, dear brother, and, 
perhaps, it was not needful to use so many words, for 
an intelligence such as yours, quick in understanding 


what is said, and a will well-disposed to follow good 
counsel. But although I have written specially to 
you, yet so many words need not have been written 
on your account, but for those for whom they may 
be needful. But I warn you, as my own former and 
intimate friend, in few words and with all confidence, 
not to keep longer in suspense, at the great peril of 
your own soul, the souls of those who are desiring 
and awaiting your return. You hold now in your 
hands (if I do not mistake) both your own eternal 
life and death, and theirs who are with you ; for I 
judge that whatever you decide or do they will do 
also. Otherwise, announce to them the grave judg 
ment which has been rightly passed with respect to 
them by all the Abbots of our Order. Those who 
return shall live, those who resist shall die. 

LETTER III (A.D 1131) 

Bernard having been consulted by Bruno as to whether he ought 
to accept the See of Cologne, so replies as to hold him in 
suspense, and render him in awe of the burden of so great 
a charge. He advises him to seek counsel of God in 

i. You seek counsel from me, most illustrious 
Bruno, as to whether you ought to accept the 
Episcopate, to which it is desired to advance you. 
What mortal can presume to decide this for you ? 

1 Bruno, son of Englebert, Count of AUena, was consecrated, in 1132. 


If God calls you, who can dare to dissuade you, but 
if He does not call you, who may counsel you to 
draw near ? Whether the calling is of God or not 
who can know, except the Spirit, who searcheth even 
the deep things of God, or one to whom God Himself 
has revealed it ? That which renders advice still 
more doubtful is the humble, but still terrible, con 
fession in your letter, in which you accuse your own 
past life gravely, but, as I fully believe, in sincerity 
and truth. And it is undeniable that such a life is 
unworthy of a function so holy and exalted. On the 
other hand, you are very right to fear (and I fear the 
same with you) if, because of the unworthiness you 
feel, you fail to make profitable use of the talent of 
knowledge committed to you, unless you could, 
perhaps, find another way, less abundant, perhaps, 
but also less perilous, of making increase from it. I 
tremble, I confess it, for I ought to say to you as to 
myself what I feel : I tremble, I say, at the thought 
of the state whence, and that whither, you are called, 
especially since no period of penitence has intervened 
to prepare you for the perilous transition from the 
one to the other. And, indeed, the right order 
requires that you should study to care for your own 
conscience before charging yourself with the care of 
those of others. That is the first step of piety, of 
which it is written, To pity thine own soul is pleasing 
unto the Lord (Ecclus. xxx. 23). It is from this first 
step that a well-ordered charity proceeds by a straight 
path to the love of one s neighbour, for the precept 
is to love him as ourselves. But if you are about to 
love the souls that would be confided to you as you 
have loved your own hitherto, I would prefer not to 


be confided rather than be so loved. But if you 
shall have first learned to love yourself then you will 
know, perhaps, how you should love me. 

2. But what if God should quicken His grace and 
multiply His mercy upon you, and His clemency is 
able more quickly to replace the soul in a state of 
grace than daily penitence ? Blessed, indeed, is he 
unto whom the Lord will not impute sin (Ps. xxxii. 2), for 
who shall bring accusation against the elect of God ? 
If God justifies, who is he that condemns ? This short 
road to salvation that holy thief attained, who in one 
and the same day both confessed his iniquities and 
entered into glory. He was content to pass by the 
cross as by a short bridge from the religion of death 1 
unto the land of the living, and from this foul mire 
into the paradise of joy (S. Luke xxiii. 43). This 
sudden remedy of piety that sinful woman happily 
obtained, in whose soul grace of a sudden began to 
abound, where offences had so abounded. Without 
much labour of penitence her sins were pardoned, 
because she loved much (S. Luke vii. 37-50), and in 
a short time she merited to receive that amplitude of 
charity which, as it is written, covers the multitude of 
sins (i S. Peter iv. 8). This double benefit and 
most rapid goodness also that paralytic in the Gospel 
experienced, being cured first in the soul, then in the 

3. But it is one thing to obtain the speedy forgive 
ness of sins, and another to be borne in a brief space 
from the sins themselves to the badges (fillets) of high 
dignities in the Church. Yet I see that Matthew 
from the receipt of custom was raised to the supreme 

1 Unlikcness. 


honour of the Apostolate. But this again troubles 
me, because he did not hear with the other Apostles 
the charge, Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel 
to every creature (S. Mark xvi. 15), until after he had 
done penitence, accompanying the Lord whitherso 
ever He went, bearing long privation and remaining 
with Him in His temptations. I am not greatly 
reassured, though S. Ambrose was taken from the 
judge s tribunal to the priesthood, because he had 
from a boy led a pure and clean life, though in the 
world, and then he endeavoured to avoid the Episco 
pate even by flight and by hiding himself and many 
other means. Again, if Saul also was suddenly 
changed into Paul, a vessel of election, the Doctor 
of the Gentiles, and this be adduced as an example, 
it entirely destroys the similarity of the two cases to 
observe that he, therefore, obtained mercy because, 
as he himself says, he sinned ignorantly in unbelief. 
Besides, if such incidents, done for good and useful 
purposes, can be cited, it should be, not as examples, 
but as marvels, and it can be truly said of them, 
This is the change of the right hand of the Highest (Ps. 
Ixxvii. 10). 

4. In the meantime let these provisional replies to 
your queries suffice. If I do not express a decisive 
opinion, it is because I do not myself feel assured. 
This must needs be the case, for the gift of prophecy 
and of wisdom only could resolve your doubt. For 
who could draw clear water out of a muddy pool ? 
Yet there is one thing that I can do for a friend with 
out danger, and with the assurance of a good result ; 
that is to offer to God my petition that He will assist 
you in this matter. Leaving, therefore, to Him the 


secret things of His Providence, of which we are 
ignorant, I will beg Him, with humble prayer and 
earnest supplication, that He will work in you and 
with respect to you that which shall be for His glory, 
and at the same time for your good. And you have 
also the Lord Norbert, 1 whom you may conveniently 
consult in person on all such subjects. For that good 
man is more fitted than I to explain the mysterious 
acts of Providence, as he is nearer to God by his 



He commends himself to their prayers. 

To the very dear Lord and Reverend father Guigues, 
Prior of the Grande Chartreuse, and to the holy 
brethren who are with him, Brother Bernard of 
Clairvaux offers his humble service. 

In the first place, when lately I approached your 
parts, I was prevented by unfavourable circumstances 
from coming to see you and to make your acquaint 
ance ; and although my excuse may perhaps be 
satisfactory to you, I am not able, I confess, to 
pardon myself for missing the opportunity. It is a 
vexation to me that my occupations brought it about, 
not that I should neglect to come to see you, but that 
I was unable to do so. This I frequently have to 

1 The founder of the Praemonstratensian Order. See respecting him 
Letter Ivi. 


endure, and therefore my anger is frequently ex 
cited. Would that I were worthy to receive the 
sympathy of all my kind friends. Otherwise I shall 
be doubly unhappy if my disappointment does not 
excite your pity. But I give you an opportunity, my 
brethren, of exercising brotherly compassion towards 
me, not that I merit it. Pity me not because I am 
worthy, but because I am poor and needy. Justice 
inquires into the merit of the suppliant, but mercy 
only looks to his unhappiness. True mercy does not 
judge, but feels ; does not discuss the occasion which 
presents itself, but seizes it. When affection calls us, 
reason is silent. When Samuel wept over Saul it was 
by a feeling of pity, and not of approval (i Samuel 
xv. 13). David shed tears over his parricidal son, 
and although they were profitless, yet they were 
pious. Therefore do ye pity me (because I need it, 
not because I merit it), ye who have obtained from 
God the grace to serve Him without fear, far from 
the tumults of the world from which ye are freed. 
Happy those whom He has hidden in His tabernacle 
in the day of evil men ; they shall trust in the shadow 
of His wings until the iniquity be overpast As for 
me, poor, unhappy, and miserable, labour is my 
portion. I seem to be as a little unfledged bird 
almost constantly out of the shelter of its nest, ex 
posed to wind and tempest. I am troubled, and I 
stagger like a drunken man, and my whole conscience 
is gnawed with care. Pity me, then ; for although 
I do not merit pity I need it, as I have said. 


LETTER V (circa A.D. 1127) 

He excuses himelf that he has not come when summoned f and 
replies respecting some of his writings which are asked for. 

To the venerable lord PETER, Cardinal Deacon of 
the Roman Church, Brother BERNARD wishes health 
and entire devotedness. 

That I have not come to you as you commanded 
has been caused not by my sloth, but by a graver 
reason. It is that, if you will permit me to say so 
with all the respect which is due to you, and all 
good men, I have taken a resolution not again to go 
out of my monastery, unless for precise causes ; and 
I see at present nothing of that kind which would 
permit me to carry out your wish, and gratify my 
own by coming to you. But you, what are you 
doing with respect to that promise of coming here 
which your former letter contained ? We are await 
ing it still. What the writings were, which you had 
before ordered to be prepared for you [otherwise, 
for us] and now ask for, I am absolutely ignorant, 
and, therefore, I have done nothing. For I do 
not remember to have written any book on morals 
which I should think worthy of the attention of your 

Some of the brethren have drawn up in their own 
way certain fragments of my instructions as they have 
heard them. Of whom one is conveniently near to 
you, viz.,Gebuin, Precentor and Archdeacon of Troyes. 



You can easily, if you wish, obtain of him the notes 
drawn up by him. Yet if your occupation would 
leave you the time, and you should think fit to pay 
to your humble sons the visit which you promised, 
and which they have been expecting, I would do all 
in my power to give you satisfaction, if I have in my 
writings anything which could please you, or if I 
were able to compose any work which should seem 
worthy of you ; for I greatly esteem your high re 
putation. I respect that care and zeal about holy 
things which I have heard of in you, and I should 
regard myself as very happy if these unpolished 
writings, which are a part of my duty, should be in 
any respect agreeable to you. 

LETTER VI (circa A.D. 1127) 

He protests against the reputation for holiness which is attributed 
to him, and promises to communicate the treatises which he 
has written. 

i. Even if I should give myself to you entirely 
that would be too little a thing still in my eyes, to 
have recompensed towards you even the half of the 
kindly feeling which you express towards my 
humility. I congratulate myself, indeed, on the 
honour which you have done me ; but my joy, I 
confess, is tempered by the thought that it is not 
anything I have accomplished, but only an opinion 
of my merit which has brought me this favour. I 


should be greatly ashamed to permit myself in vain 
complacency when I feel assured that what is loved 
or respected in me is not, indeed, what I am, but 
what I am thought to be ; for when I am thus loved 
it is not then I that am loved, but something in me, 
I know not what, and which is not me, is loved in 
my stead. I say that I know not, but, to speak more 
truly, I know very well that it is nothing. For what 
ever is thought to exist, and does not, is nothing. 
The love and he who feels it is real enough, but the 
object of the love does not exist. That such should 
be capable of inspiring love is wonderful, but still 
more it is regrettable. It is from that we are able to 
feel whence and whither we go, what we have lost, 
what we find. By remaining united to Him, who is 
the real Being, and who is always happy, we also 
shall attain a continued and happy existence. By 
remaining united to Him, I said ; that is, not only 
by knowledge, but by love. For certain of the sons 
of Adam when they had known God, glorified Him not as 
God, nor were thankful, but became vain in their imagina 
tions (Rom. i. 21). Rightly, then, were their foolish 
hearts darkened, because since they recognised the 
truth and despised it, they were justly punished for 
their fault by losing the power to recognise it. Alas ! 
in thus adhering to the truth by the mind, but with 
the heart departing from it, and loving vanity in its 
place, man became himself a vain thing. And what 
is more vain than to love vanity, and what is more 
repugnant to justice than to despise the truth ? 
What is more just than that the power to recognise 
the truth should be withdrawn from those who have 
despised it, and that those who did not glorify the 


truth when they recognised it should lose the power 
of boasting of the knowledge ? Thus the love of 
vanity is the contempt of truth, and the contempt of 
truth the cause of our blindness. And because they 
did not /ike, he says, to retain God in their knowledge. He 
gave them over unto a reprobate mind (Rom. i. 28). 

2. From this blindness, then, it follows that we 
frequently love and approve that which is not for 
that which is ; since while we are in this body we 
are wandering from Him who is the Fulness of 
Existence. And what is man, O God, except that 
Thou hast taken knowledge of Him ? If the know 
ledge of God is the cause that man is anything, the 
want of this makes him nothing. But He who calls 
those things which are not as though they were, 
pitying those reduced in a manner to nothing, and 
not yet able to contemplate in its reality, and to 
embrace by love that hidden manna, concerning 
which the Apostle says : Your life is hidden with Christ 
in God (Cor. iii. 3). But in the meantime He has 
given us to taste it by faith and to seek for by strong 
desire. By these two we are brought for the second 
time from not being, to begin to be that His (new) 
creature, which one day shall pass into a perfect man, 
into the measure of the stature of the fulness of 
Christ. That, without doubt, shall take place, when 
righteousness shall be turned into judgment, that is, 
faith into knowledge, the righteousness which is of 
faith into the righteousness of full knowledge, and 
also the hope of this state of exile shall be changed 
into the fulness of love. For if faith and love begin 
during the exile, knowledge and love render perfect 
those in the Presence of God. For as faith leads to 


full knowledge, so hope leads to perfect love, and, as 
it is said, If ye will not believe ye shall not understand 
(Is. vii. 9, ace. to Ixx.), so it may equally be said 
with fitness, if you have not hoped, you will not 
perfectly love. Knowledge then is the fruit of faith, 
perfect charity of hope. In the meantime the just 
lives by faith (Hab. ii. 4), but he is not happy except 
by knowledge ; and he aspires towards God as the 
hart desires the water-brooks ; but the blessed drinks 
with joy from the fountain of the Saviour, that is, he 
delights in the fulness of love. 

3. Thus understanding and love, that is, the 
knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, perhaps, 
as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it 
embraces and comprehends with all saints the 
length and breadth, the height and depth, that is 
the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom 
of God. And what are all these but Christ ? He 
is eternity, because " this is life eternal to know Thee 
the true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent " 
(S. John xvii. 3). He is Love, because He is God, 
and God is Love (i S. John iv. 16). He is both the 
Goodness of God and the Wisdom of God (i Cor. 
i. 24), but when shall these things be ? When shall 
we see Him as He is ? For the expectation of the 
creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. 
For the creature was subjected unto vanity, not ivillingly 
(Rom. viii. 19, 20). It is that vanity diffused through 
all which makes us desire to be praised even when 
we are blameable, and not to be willing to praise 
those whom we know to be worthy of it. But this 
too is vain, that we, in our ignorance, frequently 
praise what is not, and are silent about what is. 


What shall we say to this, but that the children of men 
are vain, the children of men are deceitful upon the weights, 
so that they deceive each other by vanity (Ps. Ixi. 9 ; Ixx.). 
We praise falsely, and are foolishly pleased, so that 
they are vain who are praised, and they false who 
praise. Some flatter and are deceptive, others praise 
what they think deserving, and are deceived ; others 
pride themselves in the commendations which are 
addressed to them, and are vain. The only wise 
man is he who says with the Apostle : I forbear, lest 
any man should think of me above that which he seeth me 
to be or that he heareth of me (2 Cor. xii. 6). 

4. For the present I have noted down these things 
too hastily (because of this in not so finished a way), 
rather than dictated them for you, perhaps also at 
greater length than I should, but to the best of my 
poor ability. But that my letter may finish at the 
point whence it began, I beg you not to be too 
credulous of uncertain rumour about me, which, as 
you know well, is accustomed to be wrong both in 
giving praise and in attaching blame. Be so kind, 
if you please, as to weigh your praises, and examine 
with care how far your friendship for me and your 
favour are well-founded, thus they will be the more 
acceptable from my friend as they are fitted to my 
humble merit. Thus when praise shall have pro 
ceeded from grave judgment, and not from the error 
of the vulgar, if it is more moderate it will be at the 
same time more easy to bear. I assure you that 
what attaches me (humble person as I am), to you 
is the zeal, industry, and sincerity with which you 
employ yourself, as they say, in the accomplishment 
of your charge in holy things. May it be always 


thus with you that this may be said of you always 
with truth. I send you the book which you desire to 
have in order to copy ; as for the other treatises of 
mine which you wish that I should send, they are but 
few, and contain nothing which I should think worthy 
of your attention, yet because I should prefer that 
my want of intelligence should be blamed rather 
than my goodwill, and I would rather endanger my 
inexperience than my obedience in your sight, be so 
good as to let me know by the present messenger 
which of my treatises you wish that I should send 
you, so that I may ask for them again from those 
persons to whom they have been lent, and send them 
wherever you shall direct. That you may know 
what you wish for, I may say that I have written a 
little book on Humility, four Homilies on the Praises 
of the Virgin Mother (for the little book has this title), 
upon that passage of S. Luke where it is said the 
Angel Gabriel was sent (S. Luke i. 26). Also an 
Apology dedicated to a certain friend of mine, in 
which I have treated of some of our observances, 
that is to say, those of Citeaux, and those of Cluny. 
I have also written a few Letters to various persons, 
and finally, there are some of my discourses which 
the brethren who heard them have reproduced in 
their own words and keep them in their hands. 
Would that any of the simple productions of my 
humble powers might be of any service to you, but 
I do not dare to expect it. 


LETTER VII (towards the end of A.D. 1127) 

He excuses himself very skilfully for not having obeyed the 
summons to take part in settling certain affairs. 

1. My heart was, indeed, prepared to obey ; not 
so my body. It was burned up by the heats of an 
acute and violent fever, and exhausted by sweats, so 
that it was too weak to carry out the impulse of the 
spirit. I wished, then, to go, but my good will was 
hindered by the obstacle which I have mentioned. 
Whether this was truly so, let my friends themselves 
judge, who, disregarding every excuse that I can 
make, avail themselves of the bonds of obedience 
to my superiors to draw me out of my cloister into 
cities. I beg them to remark that this reason is not 
a pretext of my own invention, but a cause of much 
suffering to me ; that they may thus learn that no 
project can prevail against the will of God. If I 
should reply to them, I have put off my coal, how shall 
I put it on ? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile 
them ? (Cant. v. 3), they would at once be indignant. 
But now let them either object to or acquiesce in 
the ruling of Providence, for it is that which has 
brought about, that even if I wish to go forth, I am 
not in health to do so. 

2. But the cause is great, they say, the necessity 
weighty. They must, then, have recourse to some 
one suitable to settle great matters. If they think 
me such an one, I not only think, but know, that 


I am not. Futhermore, whether the matters are 
great or small, to which they so earnestly invite me, 
they are not my concern. Now, I inquire, Are the 
matters easy or difficult which you are so anxious 
to lay upon your friend, to the troubling of his 
peace ? If easy, they can be settled without me ; 
if difficult, they cannot be dealt with by me, unless, 
perhaps, I am so estimated as to be thought capable 
of doing what no one else can do, and for whom 
great and impossible affairs are to be reserved. But 
if it be so, O Lord my God, how are Thy designs 
so frustrated in me only ? Why hast Thou put 
under a bushel the lamp, which could shine upon 
a candlestick ; or, to speak more plainly, why hast 
Thou made me a monk and hidden me in Thy 
sanctuary during the day of evil, if I were a man 
necessary to the world, without whom bishops are 
not able to transact their business ? But this, again, 
is a service that my friends have done me, that now 
I seem to speak with discomposure to a man whom 
I am accustomed to think of with serenity, and with 
the utmost pleasure. But you know (I say it to you, 
my father) that so far from feeling angry, I am pre 
pared to keep your commands. But it will be a 
mark of your indulgence to spare me whenever you 
find it possible to do so. 


LETTER VIII (circa A.D. 1130) 


He praises Gilbert, who practised poverty in the station 
of Bishop. 

The report of your conduct has spread far and 
wide, and has given to those whom it has reached 
an odour of great sweetness. The love of riches 
is extinct ; what sweetness results ! charity reigns ; 
what a delight to all ! All recognise you for a 
truly wise man, who has trodden under foot the 
great enemy with true wisdom ; and this is most 
worthy of your name and of your priesthood. It 
was fitting that your special philosophy should shine 
forth by such a proof, and that you should crown 
all your distinguished learning by such a completion. 
That is the true and unquestionable wisdom which 
contemns filthy lucre and judges it a thing unworthy 
[that philosophy should] dwell under the same roof 
as the service of idols. That the Magister Gilbert 
should become a bishop was not a great thing ; but 
that a Bishop of London should embrace a life of 
poverty, that is, indeed, grand. For the greatness 
of the dignity could not add glory to your name ; 
but the humility of poverty has highly exalted it. 
To bear poverty with an equal mind, that is the 
virtue of patience ; to seek it of one s own accord 
is the height of wisdom. He is praised and regarded 
as admirable who does not go out of his way after 


money ; and shall he who renounces it have no 
higher praise ? Unless that clear reason sees nothing 
to be wondered at in the fact that a wise man acts 
wisely ; and he is wise who having acquired all the 
science of the learned of this world, and having 
great enjoyment in acquiring them, has studied all 
the Scriptures so as to make their meaning new 
again. What then ? You have dispersed, you 
have given to the poor, but money. But what is 
money to that righteousness which you have gained 
for it ? His righteousness, it is said, endureth for ever 
(Ps. cxii. 9). Is it so with money ? Then it is a 
desirable and honourable exchange to give that 
which passes away for that which endures. May 
it be granted to you always so to purchase, O, 
admirable and praiseworthy Magister ! It remains 
that your noble beginning should attain an ending 
worthy of it ; and the tail of the victim be joined 
to the head. I have gladly received your benedic 
tion, which the perfectness of your virtue renders 
the more precious to me. The bearer of this letter, 
though exceedingly respectable for his own sake, I 
desire to commend for my sake also, to your Great 
ness. He is exceedingly dear to me for his good 
ness and piety. 


LETTER IX (circa A.D. 1135) 


He warns him that he must attribute his election to the grace 
of God, and strive thenceforth faithfully to co-operate 
with it. 

I am glad to believe that your election, which I 
have heard was effected with so complete an assent 
both of the clergy and people, was from God. I 
congratulate you on His grace, and I do not speak 
of your merits, since we ought not to render to you 
excessive praise, but to recognise that, not because of 
works of righteousness which you have done, but 
according to His mercy He has done this for you. 
If you (which may God forbid !) should think other 
wise, your exaltation will be to your ruin. But if you 
acknowledge it to be of grace, see that you receive it 
not in vain. Make your actions and your desires 
good, and your ministry holy ; and if sanctity of life 
has not preceded, let it at least follow your elevation. 
Then I shall acknowledge that you have been pre 
vented with the blessings of grace, and shall hope 
that after these you will receive still better graces. 
1 shall be in joy and gladness that a good and 
faithful servant has been set over the family of the 
Lord, and you shall come to be as a son powerful 
and happy, meet to be set over all the good things of 
the Father. Otherwise, if it delights you to be in 
higher place rather in holier mind, I shall expect to 


see, not your reward, but your destruction. I hope, 
and pray God, that it may not be thus with you ; 
and am prepared, if there is need, to render my aid, 
as far as in me lies, to assist you in whatever you 
think proper and expedient. 

LETTER X (in the Same Year) 

He exhorts him to adorn the dignity which he had obtained 
without preceding merits^ by a holy life. 

i. Charity gives me boldness, my very dear friend, 
to speak to you with great confidence. The episcopal 
seat which you have lately obtained requires a man 
of many merits ; and I see with grief none of these 
in you, or at least not sufficient, to have preceded 
your elevation. For your mode of life and your 
past occupations seem in nowise to have been be 
fitting the episcopal office. What then ? Would 
you say, Is not God able of this stone to raise up a 
son of Abraham ? Is not God able to bring about 
that the good works which ought to have gone before 
my episcopate may follow it ? Certainly He is, and 
I desire nothing better than this, if it should be so. 
I know not why, but that sudden change wrought by 
the right hand of the Highest will please me more 
than if the merits of your former life pleaded for 
you. Then I could say, This is the Lord s doing; it is 
marvellous in our eyes (Ps. cxviii. 23). So Paul, from 
a persecutor, became the Doctor of the Gentiles ; so 


Matthew was called from the toll-booth, so Ambrose 
was taken from the palace, the one to the Episco 
pate, the other to the Apostolate. So I have known 
many others who have been usefully raised to the 
Episcopate, from the habits and pursuits of secular 
life. How many times it has been the case that 
where sin abounded, grace also did much more 
abound ? 

2. So then, my dear friend, encouraged by these 
examples and others like them, gird up your loins, 
and make your actions and pursuits henceforth good ; 
let your latest actions make the old forgotten, and 
the correction of your mature life blot out the 
demerits of your youth. Take care to imitate Paul 
in honouring your ministry. You will render it 
honourable by gravity of manners, by wise plans, by 
honourable actions. It is these which most ennoble 
and adorn the Episcopal office. Do nothing without 
taking counsel, yet not of all, nor of the first comer, 
but of good men. Have good men in your confi 
dence, in your service, dwelling in your house, who 
may be at once the guardians and the witnesses of 
your honourable life. For in this you will approve 
yourself a good man if you have the testimony of 
the good. I commend to your piety my poor brethren 
who are in your diocese, especially those of Bonne- 
mont, in the Alps, and of Hautecombe. By your 
bounty towards these I shall see what degree of 
affection you have for me. 


LETTER XI (circa A.D. 1120) 

He consoles this abbot for the departure of the Monk Drogo and 
his transfer to another monastery , and exhorts him to patience. 

i. How much I sympathize with your trouble only 
He knows who bore the griefs of all in His own 
body. How willingly would I advise you if I knew 
what to say, or help you if I were able, as efficaciously 
as I would wish that He who knows and can do all 
things should advise and assist me in all my necessi 
ties. If brother Drogo had consulted me about 
leaving your house I should by no means have 
agreed with him ; and now that he has left, if he 
were to apply to enter into mine I should not receive 
him. All that I was able to do in those circum 
stances I have done for you, and have written, as you 
know, to the abbot who has received him. After 
this, reverend father, what is there more that I am 
able to do on your behalf ? And as regards yourself, 
your Holiness knows well with me that men are 
accustomed to be perfected not only in hope, but also 
to glory in tribulation. The Scripture consoles them, 
saying : The furnace proveth the potters vessels, and 
temptation the righteous man (Ecclus. xxvii. 6, VULG.) ; 
The Lord is nigh unto them thai are of a contrite heart 
(Ps. xxxiv. 1 8) ; and We must through much tribulation 
enter into the kingdom of God (Acts xiv. 2 I ; and All 
who will live godly in Christ suffer persecution (2 Tim. iii. 
1 2). Yet none the less ought we to sympathize with 
our friends whom we see placed in care and grief ; 
because we do not know what will be the issue of 


such, and fear lest it may be for ill ; since whilst, 
indeed, to saints and the elect tribulation workcth 
patience, patience experience, experience hope, and hope 
maketh not ashamed (Rom. v. 35), to the con- 
demnable and reprobate, on the contrary, tribulation 
causes discouragement, and discouragement confusion, 
and confusion despair, which destroys them. 

2. In order, then, that this dreadful tempest may 
not submerge you, nor the frightful abyss swallow 
you up, and the unfathomable pit shut her mouth 
upon you, employ all the efforts of your prudence 
not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with 
good. You will overcome if you fix solidly your 
hope in God, and wait patiently the issue of the 
affair. If that monk shall return to a sense of his 
duty, whether for fear of you, or because of his own 
painful condition, well and good ; but if not, it is 
good for you to humble yourself under the mighty 
hand of God, nor to wish uselessly to resist His 
supreme ordering ; because if it is of God it cannot 
be undone. You should rather endeavour to repress 
the sparkles of your indignation, however just, by a 
reflection which a certain saint is said in a similar 
case to have uttered. For when some of his monks 
were mixing demands with bitter reproaches because 
he did not require back again a fugitive who had fled 
to another monastery in defiance of his authority, 
" By no means," he said, " wheresoever he may be, if 
he is a good man, he is mine." 

3. I should be wrong to counsel you thus, if I did 
not oblige myself to act thus. For when one of my 
brethren, not only a professed religious, but also 
nearly akin to me, 1 was received and retained at 
Cluny against my will, I was afflicted, indeed, but 


endured it in silence, praying both for them that they 
might be willing to return the fugitive, and for him, 
that he might be willing of his own accord to return ; 
but if not, leaving the charge of my vengeance to 
Him who shall render judgment to the patient and 
contend in equity for the meek of the earth. Please 
to warn brother Hugo, of Lausanne, with your own 
mouth, and as from me, not to believe every spirit, 
and not to be induced rashly to desert the certain for 
the uncertain. Let him remember that perseverance 
alone is always attacked by the devil, because it is the 
only virtue which has the assurance of being crowned. 
It will be safer for him simply to persevere in the 
vocation wherein he is called than to renounce it 
under the pretext of a life more perfect, at the risk of 
not being found equal to that which he had the 
presumption to attempt. 

LETTER XII (A.D. 1127) 

The monks of Citeaux take the liberty to address grave reproaches 
to King Louis for his hostility to and injuries inflicted upon 
the Bishop of Paris, and declare that they will bring the 
cause before the Pope if the King does not desist. 

To LOUIS, the glorious King of France, STEPHEN, 
Abbot of Citeaux, and the whole assembly of the 
abbots and brethren of Citeaux, wish health, pros 
perity, and peace in Christ Jesus. 

1 This was Robert, to whom Letter I. was addressed. 

2 Louis VI., "the Fat." 



1. The King of heaven and earth has given you 
a kingdom on earth, and will bestow upon you one 
in heaven if you study to govern with justice and 
wisdom that which you have received. This is what 
we wish for you, and pray for on your behalf, that 
you may reign here faithfully, and there in happiness. 
But why do you of late put so many obstacles in the 
way of our prayers for you, which, if you recollect, 
you formerly with such humility requested ? With 
what confidence can we now presume to lift up our 
hands for you to the Spouse of the Church, while 
you so inconsiderately, and without the slightest cause 
(as we think), afflict the Church ? Grave indeed is 
the complaint she lays against you before her Spouse 
and Lord, that she finds you an opposer whom she 
accepted as a protector. Have you reflected whom 
you are thus attacking ? Not really the Bishop of 
Paris, 1 but the Lord of Paradise, a terrible God who 
cuts off the spirit of Princes (Ps. Ixx. 12), and who has 
said to Bishops, He who despiseth you despiseth me 
(S. Luke x. 1 6). 

2. That is what we have to say to you. Perhaps 
we have to say it with boldness, but at the same time 
in love ; and for your sake we pray you heartily, 
in the name of the friendship with which you have 

1 Stephen, who was Bishop of Paris from 1124 to 1144. The cause of 
these persecutions was the withdrawal of Stephen from the Court, and the 
liberty of the Church which he demanded. Henry, Archbishop of Sens, 
had a similar difficulty, and for causes not unlike (Letter 49). The mind 
of the King was not induced to yield by this Letter, and the death of his 
son Philip, who was already associated with him as King, passed for a 
punishment from heaven for his obstinacy. It is astonishing that after his 
death the nobles and bishops should have had thoughts of hindering the 
succession of Louis the Younger (Ordericus, Book xiii. p. 895 sqq.). 


honoured us, and of the brotherhood with which you 
deigned to associate yourself, but which you have 
now so grievously wounded, quickly to desist from 
so great a wrong ; otherwise, if you do not deign to 
listen to us, nor take any account of us whom you 
called brethren, who are your friends, and who pray 
daily for you and your children and realm, we are 
forced to say to you that, humble as we are, there is 
nothing which we are not prepared to do within the 
limits of our weakness for the Church of God, and 
for her minister, the venerable Bishop of Paris, our 
father and our friend. He implores the help of poor 
religious against you, and begs us by the right of 
brotherhood l to write in his favour to the Lord 
Pope. But we judge that we ought first to com 
mence by this letter to your royal Excellence, 
especially as the same Bishop pledges himself by 
the hand of all our Congregation to give every 
satisfaction provided that his goods, which have been 
unjustly taken away from him, be restored, which it 
seems to us justice itself requires ; in the meantime, 
we put off the sending of his petition. And if God 
inspires you to lend an ear to our prayers, to follow 
our counsels, and to restore peace with your Bishop, 
or rather with God which we earnestly desire, we are 
prepared to come to you wherever you shall pleased 
to fix for the sake of arranging this affair ; but if it 
be otherwise, we shall be obliged to listen to the 
voice of our friend, and to render obedience to the 
priest of God. Farewell. 

1 All those who in a Society had the right of suffrage were regarded as 
brothers. So the monks of Chaise-Dieu call Louis Le Jeune by ihe name 
of brother (Duchesne, Vol. iv. Letter 308). 


LETTER XIII (A.D. 1127) 


He explains to the Pontiff the cause why the Bishop of Paris 
was unjustly oppressed by King Louis. The interdict of 
the bishops of France had put pressure upon him, and he 
had promised to make restitution, when the absolution of 
Honorius rendered him contumacious, and prevented his 
fulfilling his promise. 

It is superfluous to recall to you, very holy Father, 
the cause and order of a very afflicting history, and 
to linger over what you have already heard from 
the pious Bishop of Paris, and which must have 
profoundly affected your paternal heart. Yet my 
testimony also ought not to be wanting to my 
brother and co-bishop ; what I have seen and heard 
respecting this matter, this I have undertaken to 
make you acquainted with in few \vords. When 
the before-mentioned Bishop had brought forward 
his complaint, which he did with great moderation, 
in our provincial assembly, where had gathered with 
our venerable metropolitan the Archbishop of Sens, 
all the bishops of the province, and certain religious 
also whom we had summoned, we determined to 
represent to the King, with all becoming humility, 
his unjust proceeding, and to beg that he would 
restore to the Bishop unjustly maltreated what had 
been taken from him ; but we obtained no satisfac 
tion from him. Understanding, at length, that in 


order to defend the Church we had decided to have 
recourse to the weapons of the Church, he was afraid, 
and promised the restitution demanded. But almost 
in the same hour arrived your letter, ordering that 
the interdict over the royal domains should be raised, 
thus, unfortunately, strengthening the King in his evil 
doings, so that he did not perform at all what he 
had promised. Nevertheless, as he had given a fresh 
promise that he would do what we required, we 
presented ourselves on the day appointed. We 
laboured for peace, and it did not come ; but in 
stead of it worse confusion. Thus the effect of your 
letter has been that the goods unjustly seized are 
more unjustly retained, and those which remain are 
seized day by day, and that so much more securely, 
as he is assured of entire impunity in retaining them. 
The just (as we consider) interdict of the Bishop has 
been raised by your order, and as the fear of dis 
pleasing you has made us suspend that which we 
proposed to send forth by our own authority, and by 
which we hoped to obtain peace, we are made in the 
meantime the derision of our neighbours. How long 
is this to be ? Let the compassion of your piety 
be exercised in our behalf. 


LETTER XIV (circa A.D. 1129) 


A certain canon named Philip, on his way to Jerusalem, hap 
pening to turn aside to Clairvaux, wished to remain there 
as a monk. He solicits the consent of Alexander, his 
bishop, to this, and begs him to sanction arrangements 
with the creditors of Philip. He finishes by exhorting 
Alexander not to trust too much in the glory of the world. 

To the very honourable lord, ALEXANDER, by the 
Grace of God, Bishop of Lincoln, BERNARD, Abbot 
of Clairvaux, wishes honour more in Christ than in 
the world. 

i. Your Philip, wishing to go to Jerusalem, has 
found his journey shortened, and has quickly reached 
the end that he desired. He has crossed speedily 
this great and wide sea, and after a prosperous 
voyage has now reached the desired shore, and 
anchored at length in the harbour of salvation. 
His feet stand already in the Courts of Jerusalem, 
and Him whom he had heard of in Ephrata he has 
found in the broad woods, and willingly worships in 
the place where his feet have stayed. He has entered 
into the Holy City, and has obtained an heritage with 
those of whom it is rightly said : Now ye are no longer 
strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints 
and of the household of God (Ephesians ii. 19). He 
goes in and out with the saints, and is become as 
one of them, praising God and saying as they : Our 

1 This Alexander was Bishop of Lincoln in England from 1123 to 1147* 


conversation is in heaven (Philip, iii. 20). He is be 
come, therefore, not a curious spectator only, but a 
devoted inhabitant and an enrolled citizen of Jeru 
salem ; but not the Jerusalem of this world with 
which is joined Mount Sinai, in Arabia, which is 
in bondage with her children, but of her who is 
above, who is free, and the mother of us all (Gal. 
iv. 25-26). 

2. And this, if you are willing to perceive it, is 
Clairvaux. This is Jerusalem, and is associated by 
a certain intuition of the spirit, by the entire devotion 
of the heart, and by conformity of daily life, with 
her which is in heaven. This shall be, as he pro 
mises himself, his rest for ever. He has chosen her 
for his habitation, because with her is, although not 
yet the realisation, at least the expectation, of true 
peace of which it is said : The peace of God which passes 
all understanding (Philip, iv. 17). But this is true 
happiness ; although he has received it from above, 
he desires to embrace it with your good permission, 
or rather -he trusts that he has done this according 
to your wish, knowing that you are not ignorant of 
that sentence of the wise man, that a wise son is the 
glory of his father. 1 He makes request, therefore, 
of your Paternity, and we also make request with 
him and for him, to be so kind as to allow the 
payments which he has assigned to his creditors 2 
from his prebend to remain unaltered, so that he 

1 Prov. x. i. Bernard always quotes this passage thus. In the 
VULGATE it is, Filius sapiens latificat patrem. 

2 Letter 18 from the Abbot Philip to Alexander the Third is on a very 
similar subject, and begs that the property of the Archdeacon of Orleans, 
who had become a monk, should be given up to his creditors (Biblioth. 
Cisterc. Vol. i. p. 246). 


may not be found (which God forbid) a defaulter 
and breaker of his covenant, and so that the offering 
of a contrite heart, which he makes daily, may not 
be rejected by God, inasmuch as any brother has 
a claim against him. And lastly, he entreats that 
the house which he has built for his mother upon 
Church land, with the ground which he has assigned 
there, may be preserved to his mother during her 
life. Thus much with regard to Philip. 

3. I have thought well to add these few words for 
yourself, of my own accord, or rather at the inspira 
tion of God, and venture to exhort you in all charity, 
not to look to the glory of the world which passeth 
away, and to lose that which abides eternally ; not 
to love your riches more than yourself, nor for your 
self, lest you lose yourself and them also. Do not, 
while present prosperity smiles upon you, forget its 
certain end, lest adversity without end succeed it. 
Let not the joy of this present life hide from you 
the sorrow which it brings about, and brings about 
while it hides. Do not think death far off, so that 
it come upon you unprepared, and while in expecta 
tion of long life it suddenly leaves you when ill-pre 
pared, as it is written : When they say Peace and safety, 
then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon 
a woman with child, and they shall not escape (i Thess. 
v. 3). Farewell. 


LETTER XV (circa A.D. 1129) 

He praises the fatherly gentleness of Alvisus towards Godwin. 
He excuses himself, and asks pardon for having admitted 

To ALVISUS, Abbot of Anchin. 1 

i. May God render to you the same mercy which 
you have shown towards your holy son Godwin. 
I know that at the news of his death you showed 
yourself unmindful of old complaints, and remem 
bering only your friendship for him, behaved with 
kindness, not resentment, and putting aside the 
character of judge, showed yourself a father in 
circumstances that required it. Therefore, you 
strove to render to him all the duties of charity 
and piety which a father ought to render to a 
son. What better, what more praiseworthy, what 
more worthy of yourself could you have done ? 
But who believed this ? Truly no one knows what 
is in man, except the spirit of man which is in him 
(i Cor. ii. n). Where is now that austerity, that 
severity, that indignation which tongue, eyes, and 
countenance were accustomed to display and terribly 
to pour upon him ? Scarcely is the death of your 
son named to you than your fatherly bosom is 
moved. Suddenly all these sentiments which were 
adopted for a purpose, and therefore only for a 
time, disappeared, and those which were truly yours, 

1 A monastery of the Benedictine Order on the river Scarpe two miles 
from Douai. It dates from 1029, and was at first named S. Saviour. 


but were concealed charity, piety, benignity ap 
peared. Therefore, in your pious mind, mercy and 
truth have met together, and because mercy has 
certainly prevailed over judgment, righteousness and 
peace have kissed each other (Ps. Ixxxv. 10). For as 
far as I seem to be able to form an idea, I think I 
see what passed in your mind then, when truth, 
fired with zeal for justice, prepared to avenge the 
injury which it seemed to you had been done. The 
sentiment of mercy which, after the example of 
Joseph, prudently dissimulated at first, yet not en 
during longer to be concealed, and in this also like 
to Joseph (Gen. xlv. i), burst forth from the hidden 
fount of piety, and making common cause with 
truth, repressed agitation, calmed wrath, made peace 
with justice. 

2. Then from the pure and peaceful fountain of 
your heart poured forth like limpid streams such 
thoughts as these : What need have I to be angry ? 
Would it not be better to pity him, and not to for 
get what is written, / will have mercy and not sacrifice 
(Hos. vi. 6), and to fulfil what is ordered, Study to 
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 
iv. 3), so as to be able to count on what is promised, 
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (S. 
Matt. v. 7) ? After all, was not that man my son ? 
And who can rage against his son ? unless, per 
haps, he was only then my son when he was with 
me, and not also when he deserted me. In with 
drawing from me in body for a time, has he with 
drawn equally from my heart, or can even death 
take him away from me ? Must the necessity of 
the body and of place so hamper the freedom of 


souls which love each other ? I am quite sure that 
neither distance of places, nor the absence, or even 
the death, of our bodies would be able to disjoin 
those whom one spirit animates, one affection binds 
together. Finally, if the souls of the righteous are in 
the hand of God (Wisd. iii. i), we, both those who are 
already at rest, having laid down the burden of the 
flesh, and those who, being still in the flesh, do not 
war according to the flesh, beyond a doubt are still 
together. Mine he was when living, mine he will 
be dead, and I shall recognize him as mine in the 
common fatherland. If there is any who is able to 
tear him from the Hands of God, then he may be 
able to separate him from me also. 

3. Thus your affection, father, has enabled you to 
make excuses for your son. But what has it said 
of me, or what satisfaction from me will be worthy 
of you, which you could impose for the great injury 
inflicted upon you, because when your son left you 
he was received by me ? What can I say ? If I 
should plead I have not received him (would I were 
able to say so without sin) it would be a falsehood. 
If I should plead I received him, indeed, but with 
good reason, I should seem to wish to excuse myself, 
The safer way will be to answer, I did wrong. But 
how far did I do wrong ? I do not say it by way of 
defence, but by whom would he not be received ? 
Who, I say, would repel that good man from his 
door when he knocked, or expel him when once 
received ? But who knows if God did not wish to 
supply our need out of your abundance, so that He 
directed to us one of the many holy men who were 
then in great number in your house, for our con- 


solation, indeed, but none the less for a glory to 
you ? " For a wise son is the glory of his father " 
(Prov. x. i). Moreover, I did not make any solicita 
tion to him beforehand. I did not gain him over by 
promises to desert you or to come to us. Quite on 
the contrary, God is my witness. I did not consent 
to receive him until he begged me to do so, until he 
knocked at my door and entreated to have it opened, 
until I had tried to send him back to you, but as he 
would not agree to that I at length yielded to his 
importunity. But if it is a fault that I received him, 
a monk, a stranger, alone, and received him in the 
way I did, it will not be unworthy of you to pardon 
such a fault, which was committed once only, for it 
is not lawful for you to deny forgiveness even to 
those who sin against you seventy times seven. 

4. But yet I wish that you should know that I do 
not treat this matter lightly or negligently, and, on 
the contrary, that I cannot pardon myself for ever 
having offended your Reverence in any manner. 
I call God to witness that often I have in mind (since 
I was not able to do it in body) thrown myself at 
your feet as a suppliant, and I often see myself before 
you making apology on my knees. Would that the 
Holy Spirit who perhaps inspired me with these 
feelings make you also feel with what tears and 
regrets worthy of pity I humble myself at this 
moment before your knees as if you were present. 
How many times with bare shoulders, and bearing 
the rods in my hands, prepared, as it were, to strike 
at your bidding ; I seek your pardon, and trembling 
wait for your forgiveness ! I earnestly desire, my 
father, to learn from you, if it is not too painful for 


you to write to me, that you receive my excuses, 
so that if they are sufficient I may be consoled by 
your indulgence, but if, on the contrary, I must be 
more humiliated (as it is just) that I may endeavour, 
whatever else I can do, to give you fuller satisfaction. 



Bernard declares to him how little lie loves praise; that the yoke 
of Christ is light; that he declines the name of father, and 
is content with that of brother. 

I. In the first place, do not wonder if titles of 
honour affright me, when I feel myself so unworthy 
of the honours themselves ; and if it is fitting that 
you should give them to me, it is not expedient for 
me to accept them. For if you think that you ought 
to observe that saying, In honour preferring one another 
(Rom. xii. 10), and: Submit yourselves one to another in 
the fear of God (Eph. v. 21), yet the terms one another, 
one to another, are not used at random, and concern 
me as well as you. Again, if you think that the 
declaration of the Rule is to be observed, " Let the 
younger honour their elders," * I remember what the 
Truth has ruled : The last shall be first, and the first 
last (S. Matt. xx. 16), and, He that is the greater among 
you, let him be as the younger (S. Luke xxii. 26), and 
The greater thou art, the more humble thyself (Ecclus. 
iii. 1 8), and Not because we have dominion over your faith, 

1 Rule of S. Benedict cap. 63. 


but are helpers of your joy (2 Cor. i. 24), and, Have they 
made thee the master? Be then among them as one of 
them (Ecclus. xxxii. i), and Be ye not called Rabbi ; and 
Call no man your father upon the earth (S. Matt, xxiii. 
8, 9). As much, then, as I am carried away by your 
compliments, so much am I restrained by the weight 
of these texts. Wherefore I rightly, I do not say 
sing, but mourn ; While I suffer Thy terrors I am dis 
tracted (Ps. Ixxxviii. 15), and Thou hast lifted me up and 
cast me down (Ps. cii. 10). But I should, perhaps, 
represent more truly what I feel if I say that he 
who exalts me really humiliates me ; and he who 
humiliates me, exalts. You, therefore, rather depress 
me in heaping me with terms of honour, and exalt 
me by humbling. But that you may not humble 
so as to crush me, these and similar testimonies of 
the Truth console me, which wonderfully raise up 
those whom they make humble, instruct while they 
humiliate. Thus this same Hand that casts me down 
raises me up again and makes me sing with joy. // 
was good for me, O Lord, that I was afflicted, that I might 
learn Thy statutes; the law of Thy mouth is good unto me, 
above thousands of gold and silver (Ps. cxix. 71, 72). 
This marvel the word of God, living and efficacious, 
produces. This, that Word by which all things are 
done, gently and powerfully brings to pass ; this, in 
short, is the work of the easy yoke and light burden 
of Christ (S. Matt. xi. 30). 

2. We cannot but wonder how light is the burden 
of Truth. Is not that truly light which does not 
burden, but relieves him who bears it ? What lighter 
than that weight, which not only does not burden, 
but even bears every one upon whom it is laid to 


bear ? This weight was able to render fruitful the 
Virgin s womb, but not to burden it. 1 This weight 
sustained the very arms of the aged Simeon, in which 
He was received. This caught up Paul, though with 
weighty and corruptible body, into the third heaven. 
I seek in all things to find if possible something like 
to this weight which bears them who bear it, and I 
find nothing but the wings of birds which in any 
degree resembles it, for these in a certain singular 
manner render the body of birds at once more 
weighty and more easily moved. Wonderful work 
of nature ! that at the same time increases the 
material and lightens the burden, and while the 
mass is greater the burden is in the same degree 
less. Thus plainly in the wings is expressed the 
likeness of the burden of Christ, because they them 
selves bear that by which they are borne. What 
shall I say of a chariot ? This, too, increases the 
load of the horse by which it is drawn, but at the 
same time renders capable of being drawn a load 
which without it could not be moved. Load is 
added to load, yet the whole is lighter. See also 
how the Chariot of the Gospel comes to the weighty 
load of the Law, and helps to carry it on to per 
fection, while decreasing the difficulty. His word, 
it is said, runneth very swiftly (Ps. cxlvii. 15). His 
word, before known only in Judea, and not able, 
because of its weightiness, to extend beyond, which 
burdened and weighed down the hands of Moses 
himself, when lightened by Grace, and placed upon 
the wheels of the Gospel, ran swiftly over the whole 

1 Gravidare ; grav are. [E.] 


earth, and reached in its rapid flight the confines of 
the world. 

3. Do you, therefore, my very dear friend, cease 
from overwhelming me rather than raising with 
undeserved honours ; otherwise you range yourself, 
though with a friendly intention, in the company of 
my enemies. These are they of whom I am in the 
habit of thus complaining to God alone in my 
prayers. Those who praised me were sworn against 
me (Ps. cii. 8, VULG.). To this, my complaint, I 
hear God soon replying, and bearing witness to the 
truth of my words : Truly they which bless thee lead thee 
into error (Is. ix. 16, cited from memory). Then I 
reply, Let them be soon brought to shame who say unto 
me, There, There! (Ps. Ixx. 3). But I ought to 
explain in what manner I understand these words, 
that it may not be thought I launch maledictions or 
imprecations against any of my adversaries. I pray, 
then, that whosoever think of me above that which 
they see in me or hear respecting me may be turned 
back, that is, return from the excessive praises which 
they have given me without knowing me. In what 
way ? When they shall know better him whom they 
praise without measure, and consequently shall blush 
for their error, and for the ill service that they have 
rendered to their friend. And in this way it is that 
I say, Turn back ! and blush ! to both kinds of my 
enemies ; those who wish me evil and commend me 
in order to flatter, and those who innocently, and 
even kindly, but yet to my injury, praise me to 
excess. I would wish to appear to them so vile and 
abject that they would be ashamed to have praised 
such a person, and should cease to bestow praises 


so indiscreetly. Therefore, against panegyrists of 
each kind I am accustomed to strengthen myself 
with those two verses : against the hostile with the 
former, Let them be turned back and soon brought to 
shame who wish me evil, but against the well-meaning, 
Let them be turned backward and made to blush who say 
over me, There, There ! 

4. But as (to return to you) I ought, according to 
the example of the Apostle, to rejoice with you only, 
and not to have dominion over your piety, and 
according to the word of God we have one Father 
only who is in heaven, and all we are brethren, I 
find myself obliged to repel from me with a shield of 
truth the lofty name of Lord and Father with which 
you have intended, I know well, to honour me, not to 
burden ; and in place of these I think it fitter that 
you should name me brother and fellow-servant, both 
because we have the same heritage, and because we 
are in the same condition, lest perchance if I should 
usurp to myself a title which belongs to God, I shall 
hear from Him : If I be a Father : where is my honour, 
and I be a Lord where is my fear? (Mai. i. 6). It is 
very true, however, that if I do not wish to attribute 
to myself over you the authority of a father, I have 
all the feelings of one, nor is the love with which I 
embrace you less, I think, than that of a father or of 
a son. Sufficient, then, on the subject of the titles 
which you give me. 

5. I wish to reply now to the rest of your letter. 
You complain that I do not come to see you. I 
could complain equally of you for the same reason, 
unless, indeed (which you yourself do not deny), the 
will of God must be preferred to our feelings and 



our needs. If it were otherwise, if it were not the 
work of Christ that was in question, would I suffer 
to be so far away from me a companion so dear 
and necessary to me, so obedient in labour, so 
persevering in studies, so useful in conference, so 
prompt in recollection ? Blessed are we if we still 
remain thus until the end always and in everything, 
seeking not our own interests, but those of Jesus 


He instructs Rainald, who was too anxious and distrustful, 
respecting the duty of superior which had been conferred 
upon him ; and warns him that he must bestow help and 
solace upon his brethren rather than require it from them. 

To his very dear son RAINALD, Abbot of Foigny, 
BERNARD, that God may give him the spirit of 

i. You complain, my very dear son, of your many 
tribulations, and by your pious complaints you excite 
me also to complain, for I am not able to feel that 
you are sorrowing without sharing your sorrow, nor 
can I be otherwise than troubled and anxious when 
I hear of your troubles and anxieties. But since I 
foresaw these very difficulties which you say have 
happened to you, and predicted them to you, if you 
remember it seems to me that you ought to be 
better prepared to endure them, and to spare me 
vexation when you can, For am I not sufficiently 


tried, and more than sufficiently, to lose you, not 
to see you, nor to enjoy your society, which was 
so pleasant to me ; so that I have almost regretted 
that I should have sent you away from me. And 
although charity obliged me to send you, yet not 
being able to see you where you have been sent, I 
mourn you as if lost to me. When, then, besides 
this, you who ought to be the staff of my support, 
belabour me as it were with the rod of your faint 
heartedness, you heap sorrow upon sorrow, and 
torment upon torment ; and if it is a mark of your 
filial affection towards me that you do not hide any 
of your difficulties from me, yet it is hard to add 
fresh trouble to one already burdened. Why is it 
needful to occupy with fresh anxieties one already 
more than anxious enough, and to torture with 
sharper pains the bosom of a father, already 
wounded by the absence of his son ? I have shared 
with you my weight of cares, as a son, as an intimate 
friend, as a trusty assistant ; but how do you help to 
bear your father s burden, if, instead of relieving me, 
you burden me still more ? You, indeed, are loaded, 
but I am not lightened of my load. 

2. For this burden is that of sick and weak souls. 
Those who are in health do not need to be carried, 
and are not, therefore, a burden. Whomsoever, 
then, of your brethren you shall find sad, mean- 
spirited, discontented, remember well that it is of 
these and for their sakes, you are father and abbot. 
In consoling, in exhorting, in reproving, you do 
your duty, you bear your burden ; and those whom 
you bear in order to cure, you will cure by bearing. 
But if any one is in such spiritual health that he 


rather helps you than is helped by you, recognize 
that to him you are not father and abbot, but equal 
and friend. Do not complain if you find more trials 
than consolations from those among whom you are. 
You were sent to sustain and console others, because 
you are spiritually stronger and better able to bear 
than they, and because with the grace of God you 
are able to aid and sustain all without needing 
yourself to be aided and sustained by any. Finally, 
if the burden is great, so also is the reward ; but, on 
the other hand, the more assistance you receive, the 
more your own reward is diminished. Choose, 
therefore ; if you prefer those who are for you a 
burden, your merit will be the greater ; but if, on 
the contrary, you prefer those who console you, 
you have no merit at all. The former are the 
source whence it arises for you ; the second as the 
abyss in which it is swallowed up ; for it is not 
doubtful that those who are partakers of the labour, 
will be also sharers of the reward. Knowing, then, 
that you were sent to help, not to be helped, bear in 
mind that you are the vicar of Him who came not 
to be ministered unto, but to minister. I could have 
wished to write at greater length, in order to comfort 
you, but that it was not necessary ; for what need is 
there of filling a dead leaf with superfluous words, 
while the living voice is speaking ? I think that when 
you have seen our prior, these words will be sufficient 
for you, and your spirit will revive at his presence, 
so that you will not require the consolation of written 
words, in the delight and help which his discourse 
will give you. Do not doubt that I have communi 
cated to him, as far as was possible, my inmost 


mind, which you begged in your letters might be 
sent to you. For you know well that he and I are 
of one mind and one will. 



He had desired Rainald to refrain from querulous complaints ; 
now he directs Rainald to keep him informed of all his 

I had hoped, my dear friend, to find a remedy for 
my care about you, if I were not informed by you of 
your little vexations. And I remember that I said to 
you, amongst other things, in my last letter, " if it is 
a mark of your filial affection towards me that you 
do not hide any of your difficulties from me, yet it is 
hard to add trouble to one already burdened." But 
the remedy which I thought would lighten my cares 
has increased them, and I feel more burdened than 
before. For then I, indeed, felt vexation and fear, 
but only on account of the troubles named by you, 
but now I fear that some evil, I know not what, is 
happening to you, and like your favourite Ovid 

" When have I not made the perils which I feared 
Greater than they really were ?" l 

I fear all things because I am uncertain of all things, 
and feel often real sorrow for imaginary evils. The 
mind which affection dominates is hardly master of 
itself. It fears what it knows not ; it grieves when 

1 Heroid. Ep. I. v. n. 


there is no need ; it is troubled more than it wished, 
and even when it does not wish ; unable to rule its 
sensibility, it pities or sympathizes against its will. 
And because you see, my son, that neither my timid 
industry nor your pious prudence in this respect are 
of service to me, do not, I pray you, conceal from 
me henceforth anything that concerns you, that you 
may not increase my uneasiness by seeking to spare 
me. The little books of mine which you have, please 
return to me when you can. 

LETTER XIX (A.D. 1127) 

He praises Sugcr, ivho had unexpectedly renounced the pride and 
luxury of the world to give himself to the modest habits of 
the religious life. He blames severely the clerk who devotes 
himself rather to the service of princes than that of God. 

i. A piece of good news has reached our district ; 
it cannot fail to do great good to whomsoever it shall 
have come. For who that fear God, hearing what 
great things He has done for your soul, do not 
rejoice and wonder at the great and sudden change 
wrought by the Right Hand of the Most High. 
Everywhere your courage is praised in the Lord 
the gentle hear of it and are glad, and even those 
who do not know you, 1 but have only heard of you, 
what you were and what you are now, wonder and 

1 Otherwise vidcrunt, have seen. 


glorify God in you. But what adds still more to 
their admiration and joy is that you have been able 
to make your brethren partake of the counsel of 
salvation poured upon you from above, and so to 
fulfil what we read, Let him that hearcth say, Come 
(Rev. xxii. 17), and that What I tell you in darkness that 
speak ye in light, and what ye hear in the ear that preach 
ye upon the house tops (S. Matt. x. 27). So a soldier 
intrepid in war, or rather a general full of bravery 
and devotedness, when he sees almost all his soldiers 
turned to flight and falling everywhere under the 
hostile blades, although he may see that he would be 
able to escape alone, yet he prefers to die with those, 
without whom he would think it shame to live. He 
holds firm on the field of battle and combats bravely ; 
he ranges, sword in hand, along the ranks, through 
the bloody blades which seek him ; he terrifies his 
adversaries and reanimates his followers with all his 
powers of voice and gesture. Wherever the enemy 
press on more boldly and there is danger of his 
friends giving ground, there he is present ; the 
enemy who strikes he opposes, the friend who sinks 
exhausted he succours ; and he is the more prepared 
to die for each one, that he despairs to save them all. 
But while he makes heroic efforts to hinder and to 
stop the pursuers who press upon his followers, he 
raises as best he can those who are fallen and re 
calls those who have taken flight. Nor is it rare 
that his splendid valour procures a safety as wel 
come as unhoped for, throws into confusion the 
hostile ranks, forces them to fly from those whom 
they were pursuing, and overcomes those who bore 
themselves almost as victors, so that they who a 


little before were struggling for life are now rejoicing 
in victory. 

2. But why do I compare an event so profoundly 
religious to things secular, as if examples were want 
ing to us from religion itself ? Was not Moses quite 
certain of what God had promised him, that if, indeed, 
the people over whom he ruled should have perished, 
he himself should not only not perish with them, 
but should be besides the chief of a great nation ? 
Nevertheless, with what affection, with what zeal, 
with what bowels of piety did he strive to save his 
people from the wrath of God ? And, finally, inter 
posing himself on behalf of the offenders, he cries : 
If Thou wilt forgive their sin ; and if not, blot me, I 
pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written (Exod. 
xxxii. 32). What a devoted advocate ! who, because 
he does not seek his own interests, easily obtains 
everything which he seeks. What a benign chief, 
who, binding together his people with bonds of 
charity as the head is united with the members, 
will either save them with himself or else encounter 
the same danger as they ! Jeremiah, also bound * 
inseparably to his people, but by the bond of com 
passion, not by sympathy for their revolt, quitted 
voluntarily his native soil and his own liberty 2 to 
embrace in preference the common lot of exile and 
slavery. He was free to remain in his own country 
had he chosen, while others must remove, but he 
preferred to be carried away captive with his people, 
to whom he knew that he could render service even 
in captivity. Paul, animated beyond doubt by the 
same spirit, desired that he might be anathema even 

1 Vinctus, other wise junctus. * Otherwise voluntatem. 


from Christ Himself for his brethren (Romans ix. 3). 
He experienced in his own heart how true is that 
saying, Love is as strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the 
grave (Cant. viii. 6). Do you see of whose great 
examples you have shown yourself an imitator ? But 
I add one more whom I had almost passed over, that 
of the holy king David, who, perceiving and lament 
ing the slaughter of his people, wished to devote 
himself for them, and desired that the Divine venge 
ance should be transferred to himself and to his 
father s house (2 Sam. xxiv. 17). 

3. But who made you aspire to this degree of per 
fection ? I confess that though I earnestly desired to 
hear such things of you, I never hoped to see it come 
to pass. Who would have believed that you would 
reach, so to speak, by one sudden bound, the practice 
of the highest virtues, and approach the most exalted 
merit ? Thus we learn not to measure by the 
narrow proportions of our faith and hope the infinite 
pity of God, which does what It will and works upon 
whom It will, lightening the burden which It imposes 
upon us, and hastening the work of our salvation. 
What then ? the zeal of good people blamed your 
errors at least, if not those of your brethren : it was 
against your excesses more than theirs that they 
were moved with indignation ; and if your brothers 
in religion groaned in secret, it was less against your 
entire community than against you ; it was only 
against you that they brought their accusation. You 
corrected your faults, and their criticisms had no 
longer an object ; your conversion at once stilled the 
tumult of accusation. The one and only thing with 
which we were scandalized was the luxury, the pride, 


the pomp, which followed you everywhere. 1 At 
length you laid down your pride, you put off your 
splendid dress, and the universal indignation ceased 
at once. Thus you had at the same time satisfied 
those who complained of you, and even merited our 
praises. For what in human doings is deserving of 
praise, if this is not considered most worthy of 
admiration and approval ? It is true that a change 
so sudden and so complete is not the work of man, 
but of God. If in heaven the conversion of one 
sinner arouses great joy, what gladness will the 
conversion of an entire community cause, and of such 
a community as yours ? 

4. That spot so noble by its antiquity and the 
royal favour, was made to serve the convenience of 
worldly business, and to be a meeting-place for the 
royal troops. They used to render to Caesar the 
things which were Caesar s promptly and fully ; but 
not with equal fidelity did they render the things of 
God to God. I speak what I have heard, not what I 
have seen : the very cloister itself of your monastery 
was frequently, they say, crowded with soldiers, 
occupied with the transaction of business, resounding 
with noise and quarrels, and sometimes even acces 
sible even to women. How, in the midst of all that, 
could place be found for thoughts of heaven, for the 
service of God, for the interests of the spiritual life ? 
But now there is leisure for God s service, for prac 
tising self-restraint and obedience, for attention to 
sacred reading. Consider that silence and constant 

1 It is, perhaps, of this man that Bernard speaks in his Apology c. 10: 
" I have seen, I do not exaggerate, an abbot going forth escorted by 60 
horses and more . . . etc." 


quiet from all stir of secular things disposes the soul 
to meditation on things above. And the laborious 
exercise of the religious life and the rigour of ab 
stinence are lightened by the sweetness of psalms 
and hymns. Penitence for the past renders lighter 
the austerity of the new manner of life. He who in 
the present gathers the fruits of a good conscience, 
feels in himself a desire for future good works, which 
shall not be frustrated, and a well-founded hope. 
The fear of the judgment to come gives way to the 
pious exercise of brotherly charity, for love casteth out 
fear (i S. John iv. 18). The variety of holy services 
drives far away weariness and sourness of temper, 
and I repeat these things to the praise and glory of 
God, who is the Author of all ; yet not without 
praise to yourself as being His co-worker in all 
things. He was able, indeed, to do them without 
you, but He has preferred to have you for the sharer 
of His works, that He might have you for the sharer 
of His glory also. The Saviour once reproached 
certain persons because they made the house of prayer 
a den of thieves (S. Matt. xxi. 13). He will doubtless 
then have in commendation the man who has ac 
complished the task of freeing His holy place from 
the dogs, of rescuing His pearl from the swine ; by 
whose ardour and zeal the workshop of Vulcan is 
restored to holy studies, or rather the house of God 
is restored to Him from being a synagogue of Satan 
to be that which it was before. 

5. If I recall the remembrance of past evils it is 
not in order to cast confusion or reproach on any one, 
but from the comparison with the old state of things 
to make the beauty of the new appear more sharply 


and strikingly ; because there is nothing which makes 
the present good shine forth more clearly than a 
comparison with the evils which preceded it. As we 
recognize similar things from similar, so things which 
are unlike either please or displease more when com 
pared with their opposites. Place that which is black 
beside that which is white, and the juxtaposition of 
the two colours makes each appear more marked. 
So, if beautiful things are put beside ugly, the former 
are rendered more beautiful, the ugliness of the latter 
is more apparent. That there may be no occasion 
of offence or confusion, I am content to repeat with 
the Apostle : Such, indeed, ye were, but ye are washed, 
ye are sanctified (i Cor. vi. n). Now, the house of 
God ceases to open to people of the world, there is 
no access to sacred precincts for the curious ; no 
gossip about trifling things with the idle ; the chatter 
of boys and girls is no longer heard. The holy place 
is open and accessible only to the children of Christ, 
of whom it is said : Behold I and the children whom the 
Lord hath given me (Isaiah viii. 18). It is reserved for 
the praises of God and the performance of sacred 
vows with due care and reverence. How gladly do 
the martyrs, of whom so great a number ennoble 
that place, listen to the loud songs of these children, 
to whom they in turn reply no less with a voice of 
charity : Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, praise the 
name of the Lord (Ps. cxiii. i), and again, Sing praises 
to our God, sing praises, sing praises to our King, sing 
praises (Ps. xlvii. 6). 

6. When your breasts are beaten with penitent 
hands, and your pavements worn with your knees, 
your altars heaped with vows and devout prayers, 


your cheeks furrowed with tears ; when groans and 
sighs resound on all sides and the sacred roofs echo 
with spiritual songs instead of worldly pleadings, 
there is nothing which the citizens of heaven more 
love to look upon, nothing is more agreeable to the 
eyes of the Heavenly King. For is not this what is 
said : The sacrifice of praise shall honour me (Ps. 1. 23) ? 
O, if any one had his eyes opened, as were those 
of the prophet s servant at his prayer ! He would 
doubtless see (2 Kings vi. 17) The princes go before, 
joined with the minstrels in the midst of the players on 
timbrels (Ps. Ixvii. 26, VULG.). We should see, I say, 
with what care and ardour they assist at the chants, 
and at the prayers how they unite themselves with 
those who meditate, they watch over those who 
repose, they preside over those who order and care 
for all. The powers of heaven fully recognise their 
fellow-citizens ; they earnestly rejoice, comfort, in 
struct, protect, and provide for all those who take 
the heritage of salvation, at all times. How happy I 
esteem myself while I am still in this world to hear 
of these things, although I am absent and do not see 
them ! But your felicity, my brethren, to whom it 
is given to bear part in them, far surpasses mine, 
and blessed above all is he whom the Author of all 
good has deigned to make the chief worker of so 
good a work ; it is you, my dear friend, whom with 
justice I congratulate for this, that you have brought 
about all which I so greatly admire. 

7. You are wearied, perhaps, with my praises, but 
you ought not to be so ; they are far different from 
the flatteries of those who call evil good and good evil 
(Isaiah v. 20), and so please a person to lead him into 


error. Sweet but perilous is the praise when the wicked 
is praised in the desire of his heart, and the unjust is blessed 
(Ps. ix. 3, VULG.). The warmth of my praises comes 
from charity, and does not once pass, as I believe, 
the limits of truth. He is safely praised, who is 
praised in the Lord, that is, in the truth. I have not 
called evil good, but have pointed out as evil what 
was evil. But if I boldly raise my voice against that 
which is evil, ought I to be silent in presence of 
good, and not give my testimony to it ? That would 
be to show myself an envious critic, not a corrector ; 
and to prefer to mangle rather than to mend, if I am 
silent as to good and raise my voice only about evil. 
The just reproves in mercy, the wicked flatters in 
impiety ; the one that he may cure, the other in 
order to hide that which needs to be cured. Do not 
be afraid that those among us who in the fear of the 
Lord praise you will pour upon your head that oint 
ment of the sinner with which they were wont to 
anoint you. I praise you because you are doing 
right. But I do not flatter you ; I only accomplish 
in your case, by the gift of God, those words of the 
Psalmist : Those who fear Thee shall see me and shall 
rejoice, because I have hoped in Thy word (Ps. cxix. 74) ; 
and again : Many shall show forth his wisdom (Ecclus. 
xxxix. 10). It is, then, your wisdom which more 
praised than blamed the former folly. 

8. I would that you should take pleasure in the 
praises of such as fear just as much to flatter vice as 
to depreciate virtue. That is the true praise, which, 
as it is wont to extol nothing but what is good, so it 
knows not how to caress what is evil. All other is 
pretended praise, but really blame, which Scripture 


refers to : The sons of men are vain ; they are deceitful 
upon the weights, so that they deceive even more than vanity 
(Ps. Ixii. 10). Such are altogether to be avoided 
according to the counsel of the wise man : My son, if 
sinners entice thee consent thou not (Prov. i. 10), since 
their milk and their oil, though they be sweet, are 
poisonous and deadly. Their words, he says (that is, 
those of flatterers), are softer than oil, and yet are they 
very swords (Ps. Iv. 21). The righteous has oil, too, 
but of mercy, of sanctification, of spiritual joy. He 
has wine, which he pours into the wounds of the 
haughty soul. But for the soul of him that mourns, 
and for him of contrite heart, he has the oil of 
mercy, with which he is wont to soften its sorrow. 
Where he corrects, he pours in wine ; when he 
soothes, oil ; but wine without bitterness, and oil with 
out guile. Thus, not every praise is flattery, nor 
every blame mixed with rancour. Blessed is he who 
can say : Let the righteous smite me in mercy, and reprove 
me : but let not the oil of the sinner break my head (Ps. 
cxli. 5), which when you have put far from you, you 
have shown yourself worthy of the oil and wine of 
the saints. 

9. Let the children of Babylon seek for themselves 
pleasant mothers, but pitiless, who will feed them 
with poisoned milk, and soothe them with caresses 
which will make them fit for everlasting flames ; but 
those of the Church, fed at the breasts of her wisdom, 
having tasted the sweetness of a better milk, already 
begin to grow up in it unto salvation, and being 
fully satiated with it they cry : Thy fulness is better than 
wine, Thy fragrance than the sweetest ointments (Cant, 
i. i, 2). This to their mother. But, then, having 


tasted and known how sweet the Lord is, how truly 
the best of fathers, they say to Him : How great is 
Thy goodness, O Lord, which Thou hast laid tip for them 
that fear Thee (Ps. xxxi. 19). Now my whole desire 
is accomplished. Formerly when I saw with regret 
with what avidity you sucked in 1 from the lips of 
flatterers their mortal poison, the seed of sin, I used, 
with grief, to desire better things for you, saying : 
Who shall give thee to me, my brother, who sucked the 
breasts of my mother (Cant. viii. i) ? Far from thee 
henceforth be those men \vith caresses and dishonest 
praises, who bless you before your face and expose 
you at the same time to the reproach and derision 
of all men, whose applause in your presence is the 
world s by-word, or rather makes you a by-word to 
the world. If they murmur even now, say to them : 
If I yet pleased you, I should not be the servant of Christ 
(Gal. i. 10). Those whom we please in evil things 
we cannot please in good things, unless they are 
themselves changed, and begin to hate what we were, 
and so at length to love what we are. 

10. In our time two new and detestable abuses 
have arisen in the Church, of which one (permit me 
to say it) was no stranger to you when you lived in 
forgetfulness of the duties of your profession ; but 
this, thanks to God, has been amended to His glory, 
to your everlasting gain, to our joy and an example 
to all. God is able to bring about that we may soon 
be consoled for the second of these evils, the odious 
novelty of which I do not dare to speak of in public, 
and yet am afraid to pass over in silence. My grief 
urges my tongue to speak, but fear restrains the 

1 Sugere. Bernard is playing upon the name of his correspondent Suger. 


words ; fear only lest I may offend some one if I 
speak openly of what troubles me, since truth some 
times makes enemies. But for enmity of this kind 
thus incurred I hear the truth consoling me. // is 
needful, he says, that offences should come. And I do 
not think that those words which follow, Woe to that 
man by whom the offence cometh (S. Matt, xviii. 7) con 
cern me. For when vices are attacked and a scandal 
results thence, it is not he who makes the accusation 
who is to answer for the scandal, but he who renders 
it necessary. In short, I am neither more cautious 
in word nor circumspect in action than he who says, 
" It is better that a scandal should arise than that the 
truth be compromised " (S. Greg. Magn. Horn. 7 in 
Ezech. near the beginning, and S. Aug. de Lib. Arbitr. 
et de Praedest. sanctor.). Although I know not what 
advantage it would be were I to hold my tongue 
about that which all the world proclaims with a loud 
voice, nor can I alone pretend to overlook the pest 
whose ill odour is in all nostrils, and not dare to 
guard my own nose from its ill effect. 

ii. For whose heart is not indignant, and whose 
tongue does not murmur either openly or secretly 
to see a deacon equally serving God and Mammon, 1 
against the precept of the Gospel heaping up ecclesi 
astical dignities, so that he seems not to be inferior 
to Bishops, yet so mixed up in military offices that 
he is preferred even to Dukes. What monster is 
this, that being a clerk, and wishing at the same 
time to appear a soldier, is neither ? It is equally 
an abuse that a deacon should serve at the table 

1 This deacon was Stephen de Garlande, seneschal or officer of the table 
to the King of France. 



of the King, and that the server of the King should 
minister at the altar during the holy mysteries. Is 
it not a wonder, or rather a scandal, to see the same 
person clothed in armour march at the head of 
armed soldiery, and vested in alb and stole read the 
Gospel in the midst of the Church ; at one time 
give the signal for battle with the trumpet, and at 
another convey the orders of the Bishop to the 
people ? Unless, perhaps, that man (which would 
be scandalous) is ashamed of the Gospel of which 
S. Paul, that Vessel of election, was so proud ? 
Perhaps he is ashamed to appear a cleric, and 
thinks it more honourable to be supposed a soldier, 
preferring the Court to the Church, the table of the 
King to the Altar of Christ, and the cup of demons 
to the chalice of Christ. This seems the more pro 
bable, because he is prouder (they say) to be called 
by the name of that one post which he has obtained 
at the palace than by any of those titles of ecclesi 
astical dignities which, in defiance of the canons, he 
has heaped upon himself, and instead of delighting 
to be called Archdeacon, Dean, or Provost to his 
various Churches, he prefers to be styled Dapifcr 
to H.M. the King. O, unheard of and hateful per 
versity ! thus to prefer the title of servant of a man 
to that of the servant of God, and to consider the 
position of an official of an earthly king one of 
higher dignity than that of an heavenly ! He who 
prefers military warfare to the work of the ministry 
places the world before the Church, is convicted 
of preferring human things to Divine, earthly to 
heavenly. Is it then more honourable to be called 
the King s Dapifer than Dean or Archdeacon ? It 


may be to a layman, not to a cleric ; to a soldier, 
not to a deacon. 

12. It is a strange but blind ambition to delight 
more in the lowest things than in the highest, and 
that the man whose lines had fallen to him in 
pleasant places should recreate himself upon a dung 
hill with eager desire, and count his precious lands 
as nothing worth. This man mingles the two orders 
and cunningly abuses each. Military pomps delight 
him, but not the risks and labours of warfare ; the 
revenues of religion, but not its duties. Who does 
not see how great is the disgrace, as much to the 
State as to the Church ? for just as it is no 
part of clerical duty to bear arms at the pay 
of the King, so it is no part of the royal duties 
to administer lay affairs by means of clerics. 1 
What king has ever put at the head of his army 
an unwarlike clerk instead of some brave soldier ? 
What clerk, again, has ever thought it otherwise 
than unworthy of him to be bound to obey any 
lay person whatsoever ? The very sign which 
he bears upon his head 2 is rather the mark of 
royalty than of servitude ; on the other hand, the 
throne finds a better support in the force of arms 
than in chanting of Psalms. Still, if the abasement 
of the one contributes to the greatness of the other, 
as is sometimes the case ; if, for example, the humi 
liation of the King raised higher the dignity of the 

1 Bernard here blames equally clerics who bear arms for the King s pay 
and kings who impose military service upon clerks. Each is wrong : the 
one because he loses sight of the dignity of his status, the others because 
they confide without choice or discrimination functions of the Court or of 
the Army upon clerks instead of giving them to laymen, as they ought. 

2 The tonsure, or clerical crown. 


priest, or the abasement of the clerk added some 
thing to the royal honour ; as it happens, for in 
stance, if a woman of noble rank marries a man 
of the people, she indeed loses in grade by him, 
but he gains by her ; if, then, I say, either the King 
had advantage from the clerk, or the clerk from the 
King, it would be an evil only in part, and perhaps 
ought to be borne with ; but, on the contrary, since 
there is no gain to either from the humiliation of 
the other, but there is loss to each ; since neither 
does it become a cleric, as has been said, to be or 
to be called the server of the King ; nor is it for the 
King s advantage to put the reins of government into 
any but strong and brave hands. Truly then it is 
strange that either power endures such a man as 
this ; that the Church does not repulse the deacon- 
soldier, or the State the prince-ecclesiastic. 

13. I had wished to inculcate these principles by 
still stronger and more detailed arguments, and 
perhaps ought to do so, did not the necessary 
limits of a letter oblige me to defer this for the 
present ; and because, most of all, I fear to offend 
you, I have spared a man for whom, it is said, you 
had formerly a great regard. I would not that 
you should have a friend at the expense of the 
truth. But you have still a friendship for him ; 
show yourself a true friend, and exert yourself to 
make him, too, a friend of the Truth. Then at 
length there will be a true friendship between you, 
if it is bound together by a common love of truth. 
And if he will not yield to you in this, hold fast 
what you have ; join the tail to the head of the 
sacrifice. You have received by the grace of God 


a robe of many colours ; take pains to make it reach 
even to the feet, for what will it profit you to have 
put your hand to the work if (which, God forbid) 
you do not attain finally to presevere ? I end my 
letter by warning you to make a good ending of 
your good work. 

LETTER XX (circa A.D. 1130) 

Bernard consoles him under a great injustice which he had 
suffered, and recommends him to temper his vengeance with 

God who knows the hearts of all men, and is the 
inspirer of all good dispositions, knows with what 
sympathy I condole with you in this your adversity, 
of which I have heard. But, again, when I consider 
rather the person who has caused you this trial than 
Him who permits it, just as much as I feel with you 
in the present misfortune, so much I hope soon to 
rejoice with you in the prosperity which must speedily 
come. But only do not let yourself be at all crushed 
by discouragement ; think with me how, by the 
example of holy Job, 1 you ought to receive with the 
same cheerfulness troubles from the hand of the Lord 
as you do blessings. Indeed, you ought, after the 
example of holy David, 2 not so much to be angry 
with those people who have caused you such great 
sufferings, although they are your own servants, as to 

1 Job ii. 10. 2 2 Sam. xvi. 10. 


know that you ought to humble yourself under the 
mighty hand of God, who doubtless has sent them to 
bring about this misfortune to you. But since it 
appears that their correction devolves upon you, as 
they are serfs of the Church committed to your 
government, it is proper that these unfaithful serfs 
should be punished for their very wicked presumption, 
and that the loss of the monastery should be recom 
pensed in some degree out of their goods. But that 
you may not seem rather to be avenging your own 
injury in this than punishing their fault, I beg you 
and also advise you not to think so much of what 
they deserve as what is fitting for you to do, so that 
mercy may be exalted above strict justice, and that 
in your moderation God may be glorified. For the 
rest, I beg you to press upon that your son, who is 
dear to me as well for your sake as in a great degree 
for his own, with your own lips, as with my spirit, 
not to show in his accusations a bitterness and a 
violence such as prove that he forgets that precept of 
our Lord Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right 
cheek turn to him the other also (S. Matt. v. 39). 

LETTER XXI (circa A.D. 1128) 

Bernard dissuades him from resigning his charge, and under 
taking a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 

i. As regards the matters about which you were 
so good as to consult so humble a person as myself, 
I had at first determined not to reply. Not because 


I had any doubt what to say, but because it seemed 
to me unnecessary or even presumptuous to give 
counsel to a man of sense and wisdom. But con 
sidering that it usually happens that the greater 
number of persons of sense or I might say 
that all such trust the judgment of another 
person rather than their own in doubtful cases, 
and that those who have a clear judgment in 
the affairs of others, however obscure, frequently 
hesitate and are undecided about their own, I 
depart from my first resolution, not, I hope, with 
out reason, and without prejudice to any wiser 
opinion explain to you simply how the matter 
appears to me. You have signified to me, if I do 
not mistake, by the pious Abbot Ursus of S. Denis, 
that you have it in contemplation to desert your 
country and the monastery over which, by the 
Providence of God, you are head, to undertake 
a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to occupy yourself 
henceforth only with God and the salvation of 
your own soul. Perhaps, if you aspire unto 
perfection, it may be expedient for you to leave 
your country, when God says, Go forth from thy 
country and from thy kindred (Gen. xii. i). But I 
do not see at all on what ground you ought to 
risk, by your departure, the safety of the souls 
entrusted to you. For is it pleasant to enjoy 
liberty after having laid down your burden ? 
But charity does not seek her own interests. 
Perhaps the wish for quiet and rest attracts 
you ? But it is obtained at the price of the 
peace of others. Freely will I do without the 
enjoyment of any desire, even a spiritual one, 


which cannot be obtained except at the price of 
a scandal. For where there is scandal, there, 
without doubt, is loss of charity : and where 
there is loss of charity, surely no spiritual advan 
tage can be hoped for. Finally, if it is permitted 
to any one to prefer his own quiet to the 
common good, who is there that can say with 
truth : For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain 
(Phil. i. 21)? And where will that principle be 
which the Apostle declares : No one lives to himself, 
and no one dies to himself (Rom. xiv. 7) ; and, Not 
seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many (i Cor. 
x. 33) ; and, That he who lives should not any longer 
live unto himself, but unto Him who died for all (2 Cor. 
v. 15)? 

2. But you will say: Whence comes my great 
desire, if it is not from God ? With your per 
mission I will say what I think. Stolen waters 
are sweet (Prov. ix. 17); and for whosoever knows 
the devices of the devil, it is not doubtful that 
the angel of darkness is able to change himself 
into an angel of light, and to pour upon the 
thirsting soul those waters of which the sweet 
ness is more bitter than wormwood. In truth, 
what other can be the suggester of scandals, the 
author of dissension, the troubler of unity and 
peace, except the devil, the adversary of truth, the 
envier of charity, the ancient foe of the human race, 
and the enemy of the Cross of Christ ? If death 
entered into the world through his envy, even so 
now he is jealous of whatever good he sees you 
doing ; and since he is a liar from the beginning, 
he falsely promises now better things which he 


does not see. For when did the Truth oppose 
that most faithful saying, Art thou bound unto a wife ? 
seek not to be loosed (i Cor. vii. 27). Or when did 
charity urge to scandal, who at the scandals of 
all shows herself burning with regret ? He, then, 
the most wicked one, opposed to charity by 
envy, and to truth by falsehood, mixing falsehood 
and gall with the true honey, promises doubtful 
things as certain, and gives out that true things 
are false, not that he may give you what you 
vainly hope for, but that he may take away what 
you are profitably holding now. He prowls 
around and seeks how he may take away from 
the flock the care of the pastor, to make a prey 
of it when there is none to defend it from his 
attacks ; and, besides this, to bring down upon 
the pastor that terrible rebuke, Woe to him by 
whom scandal cometh (S. Matt, xviii. 7). But I have 
full confidence in the wisdom given to you by 
God, that by no cunning devices of the wicked one 
you will be seduced or made to renounce certain 
good, and for the hope of uncertain advantage to 
incur certain evil. 


LETTER XXII (circa A.D. 1129) 

Bernard consoles him under the persecution of which he 
is the object. The most pious endeavours do not always have 
the desired success. What line of conduct ought to be followed 
towards his inferiors by a prelate who is desirous of stricter 

i. I have learned with much pain by your letter 
the persecution that you are enduring for the sake 
of righteousness, and although the consolation given 
you by Christ in the promise of His kingdom may 
suffice amply for you, none the less is it my duty 
to render you both all the consolation that is in 
my power, and sound and faithful advice as far 
as I am able. For who can see without anxiety 
Peter stretching his arms in the midst of the billows? 
or hear without grief the dove of Christ not sing 
ing, but groaning as if she said, How shall we sing 
the Lord s song in a strange land? (Ps. cxxxvii. 4). 
Who, I say, can without tears look upon the tears 
of Christ Himself, who from the bottom of the 
abyss lifts now His eyes unto the hills to see 
from whence cometh His help ? But we to whom 
in your humility you say that you are looking, 
are not mountains of help, but are ourselves strug 
gling with laborious endeavours in this vale of tears 
against the snares of a resisting enemy, and the 
violence of worldly malice, and with you we cry 
out, Our help is from the Lord, who made Heaven and 
earth (Ps. cxxi. 2). 


2. All those, indeed, who wish to live piously 
in Christ suffer persecution (2 Tim. iii. 12). The 
intention to live piously is never wanting to them, 
but it is not always possible to carry it perfectly 
out, for just as it is the mark of the wicked con 
stantly to struggle against the pious designs of the 
good ; so it is not a reproach to the piety [of the 
latter], even although they are frequently unable 
to perfect their just and holy desires, because they 
are few against many opposers. Thus Aaron yielded 
against his will to the impious clamours of the 
riotous people (Exod. xxxii.). So Samuel unwill 
ingly anointed Saul, constrained by the too eager 
desires of the same people for a king (i Sam. x.). 
So David, when he wished to build a Temple, yet 
because of the numerous wars which that valorous 
man had constantly to sustain against enemies who 
molested him, he was forbidden to do what he piously 
proposed (2 Sam. vii.). Similarly, venerable father, 
I counsel you, without prejudice to the better advice 
of wiser persons, so to soften, for the present only, 
the rigour of your purpose of reform, and that of 
those who share it with you, that you may not be 
unmindful of the salvation of the weaker brethren. 
Those, indeed, over whom you have consented to 
preside in that Order of Cluny ought to be invited 
to a stricter life, but they ought not to be obliged 
to embrace it against their will. I believe that those 
who do desire to live more strictly ought to be per 
suaded either to bear with the weaker out of charity 
as far as they can without sin, or permitted to pre 
serve the customs which they desire in the monastery 
itself, if that may be done without scandal to either 


party ; or at least that they should be set free from 
the Order to associate themselves where it may 
seem good with other brothers who live according 
to their proposal. 

LETTER XXIII (circa A.D. 1130) 

Bernard sends back to him to be severely reprimanded a fugitive 
monk. He persuades William, who was meditating a change 
of state or retiring into private life, to persevere. 

To his friend, Brother BERNARD, of Clairvaux, all 
that a friend can wish for a friend. 

i. You have given me this formula of salutation 
when you wrote, " to his friend all that a friend can 
wish." * Receive what is thine own, and perceive 
that the assumption of it is a proof that we are of 
one mind, for my heart is not distant from him with 
whom I have language in common. I must now 
reply briefly to your letter, because of the time : for 
when it arrived the festival of the Nativity of our 
Lady 2 had dawned ; and being obliged to devote 
myself entirely to its solemnities, I had no leisure 
to think of anything else. Your messenger also was 
anxious to be gone ; scarcely would he stay even 

1 Suus Hit quod suits. 

* It was by the example of the Cistercians, as, I think, all of whose 
monasteries were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, that she began to be 
called Our Lady. Hence, Peter Cellensis says of Bernard: "He was a 
most devoted child of Our Lady, to whom he dedicated not one church 
only, but the churches of the whole Cistercian Order" (B. vi. Ep. 23). 


until to-morrow morning that I might write to you 
these few words after all the Offices of the festival. 
I send back to you a fugitive brother after having 
subjected him to severe reprimand suited to his hard 
heart. It seemed to me that there was nothing better 
to do than to send him back to the place whence he 
had fled, since I ought not, according to our rules, 
to detain any monk in the house without the consent 
of his abbot. You ought to reprove him very severely 
also, and press him to make humble satisfaction and 
then comfort him a little by a letter from yourself 
addressed to his abbot on his behalf. 

2. Concerning my state of health, I am not able 
to reply very precisely to your inquiry except that 
I continue, as in the past, to be weak and ailing, 
neither much better nor much worse. If I have not 
sent the person whom I had thought of sending, it is 
only because I feel much more the scandal to many 
souls than the danger of one body. Not to pass 
over any of the matters of which you speak to me, 
I come to yourself. You wrote that you wished to 
know what I desired you to do (as if I were aware 
of all that concerned you). But this plan, if I should 
say what I think, is one that neither I could counsel 
nor you carry out. I wish, indeed, for you what, as 
I have long known, you wish for yourself. But 
putting on one side, as is right, both your will and 
mine, I think more of what God wills for you, and, 
to my mind, it is both safer for me to advise you to 
that, and much more advantageous for you to do it. 
My advice is, then, that you continue to hold your 
present charge, to remain where you are, and study 
to profit those over whom you are set, nor flee from 


the cares of office while you are able to be of use, 
because woe to you if you are over the flock and 
do not profit them ; but deeper woe still if, because 
you fear the cares of office, you abandon the oppor 
tunity of usefulness. 

LETTER XXIV (circa A.D. 1126) 

Bernard blames him for his resignation of his pastoral charge, 
although made from the love of a calm and pious life. 
None the /ess, he instructs him how, after becoming a 
private person, he ought to live in community. 

To Brother OGER, the Canon, Brother BERNARD, 
monk but sinner, wishes that he may walk worthily 
of God even to the end, and embraces him with the 
fullest affection. 

i. If I seem to have been too slow in replying 
to your letter, ascribe it to my not having had an 

1 Some blame and some ridicule such a title as this, as being a vicious 
pleonasm, since these two words differ only in the language from which 
each is borrowed, and mean exactly the same thing ; as if canons were 
something different from regulars, or as if there were some canons who 
were regulars and others who were not. But it may be seen in John Bapt. 
Signy Lib. de Ord. Canon, \\. ii., and Navarre, Com. I. de Regul. ad c. 12, 
Cui portio Detis, q. i, where he shows that every pleonasm is not neces 
sarily a battology. For in legal documents certain expressions or clauses 
are often repeated to give them more force. It is the same in Hebrew 
(Ps. Ixxxvii. 5, P s . Ixviii. 12 VULG. and Ixx.). 

Oger was the first Dean of the Regular Canons of S. Nicholas des Pres, 
near Tournay. Picard states this upon the authority of Denis Viller, Canon 
and Chancellor of Tournay. 


opportunity to send to you. For what you now read 
was written long since, but, as I have said, though 
written without delay, was delayed for want of a 
bearer. I have read in your letter that you have laid 
down with regret the burden of your pastoral charge, 
permission having been obtained with great difficulty, 
or rather, extorted by your importunity, from your 
Bishop ; and only on the condition that you should 
remain under his authority, though fixing yourself 
elsewhere. But this not being satisfactory to you, 
you appealed to the Archbishop, and, obtaining the 
relaxation of this condition, you have returned to 
your former house and put yourself under your 
original abbot. Now you ask to be advised by me 
as to how you ought to live henceforth. An able 
teacher, indeed, and incomparable master am I ! 
And when I shall have begun to teach what I do 
not know myself, it will soon be discovered that 
I know nothing. You act, in consulting me, as a 
sheep who seeks wool from a goat, a mill expecting 
water from an oven, a wise man expecting sound 
counsel from a fool. Besides this, you heap upon 
me, from one end of your letter to the other, com 
plimentary speeches, and attribute to me excellences 
of which I am not conscious ; and as I ascribe them 
to your kind feelings, so I forgive them to your 
ignorance. For you look upon the countenance, 
but God upon the heart ; and if I examine myself 
with attention under His awful gaze, I find that I 
know myself much better than you know me, since 
I am much less far from myself than you are. 
Therefore I give greater credence to that which I see 
in myself than to what you suppose, without seeing, 


to be in me. Nevertheless, if you may have heard 
from me anything that is profitable to you, give 
thanks to God, in whose hand I am and all my 

2. You explain to me also for what reason you 
have not followed my advice, not only not to allow 
yourself to be discouraged or overcome by despon 
dency, but to bear patiently the burden laid upon you, 
which once undertaken you were not at liberty to 
lay down ; and I accept your explanations. I am 
well aware, indeed, of the infertility of my wisdom, 
and I always hold myself in suspicion for rashness 
and inexperience, so that I ought not to take it ill, 
nor do I, when the course which I approve is not 
taken ; and I wish, on the contrary, that action 
should be taken on better advice than mine. As 
often as my opinion is chosen and followed I feel 
myself weighed down, I confess it, with responsibility, 
and await with inquietude, never with confidence, 
the issue of the matter. Yet it is for you to see 
if you have acted wisely in not following my advice 
about this thing ; 1 it must be decided also by those 

1 Bernard had counselled him not to resign his abbacy, and this advice 
he had not followed. Hence is suggested the serious question : Is it lawful 
to lay down the pastoral charge, to withdraw one s self from cares and 
business, for the purpose of serving God in peace and quiet, and caring for 
one s own soul ? The examples of so many holy men whom we know to 
have done this add to the difficulty of the question. Many might be cited 
among prelates of lower rank, not a few Bishops, Cardinals, and even some 
Popes. Bruno III., Count of Altena, and afterwards Bishop of Cologne, 
quitted his see, in 1119, and retired to the Cistercian monastery of Alden- 
berg. Eskilus, Archbishop of Lunden, in Denmark, came to live at 
Clairvaux as a simple monk ; Peter Damian, who, from a Benedictine 
monk, became Cardinal and Bishop of Ostia, after he had rendered signal 
service to the Church for a number of years, with wonderful constancy, in 


wiser persons than I, on whose authority you have 
relied, whether you have done according to reason. 
They will tell you, I say, whether it is lawful for 
a Christian man to lay down the burden of obedience 
before his death, when Christ was made obedient 
to the Father even unto death. You will reply, 
" I have acted by license, asked and received from 
the Bishop." True, you have, indeed, asked for 
license, but in a manner you ought not to have 

the high office to which he had been raised, returned into his cell from love 
of solitude and quiet, and passed the rest of his days in profound peace, in 
the midst of his brethren ; but was blamed by the Pope because he, a useful 
and able man, postponed public usefulness to his private safety. One 
remarkable fact is recorded of him, that the Pope imposed upon him a 
penance of a hundred years for quitting his Bishopric : he was to recite 
Ps. 1. [15.] and give himself the discipline every day for a hundred years ; 
and this he completed entirely in the space of one year. This I remember 
to have read somewhere ( Works, Vol. i. ep. 10, new ed., Vol. iii. opusc. 20). 
To Pope Alexander and Cardinal Hildebrand, who became Pope later 
under the name of Gregory VII., he tries to justify his quitting his see, 
and opposes numerous examples of conduct similar to his, to the blame of 
the Pope and the cardinals. 

But it is necessary to hold to what the law prescribes rather than to the 
examples of other persons. The Angelical Doctor says : " Every pastor 
is obliged by his function to labour for the salvation of others, and it is not 
permitted to him to cease to do so, not even to have leisure for peaceful 
meditation upon spiritual things. For the Apostle regards the obligation 
to occupy himself with the salvation of others who depend upon him as 
being of such importance that it must not be postponed even to heavenly 
meditation : / know not what to choose, he says, for I am in a strait 
betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far 
better ; nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you (Phil. i. 
22-23). It may be added that the Episcopate being a state more perfect 
than that of the monk, it follows that just as it is not permitted to quit the 
second to re-enter the world, s<> it is not allowable to renounce the first in 
order to embrace the second, considering that the latter is less perfect than 
the former. That would precisely be to look back after having put one s 
hand to the plough, and to show one s self unfit for the kingdom of God " 
(S. Luke ix. 62). 



done, and, therefore, have rather extorted than asked 
it. But an extorted or compelled license should 
rather be called violence. What, therefore, the 
Bishop did unwillingly, when overcome by your 
importunity, was not to release you from your obli 
gations, but violently to break them. 

3. You may indeed be congratulated, since you 
are thus exonerated ; but I fear lest you have, as 
much as lieth in you, taken from the glory 1 of God, 
whose will you, beyond doubt, resist in casting your 
self down from the post to which He had advanced 
you. Perhaps you excuse yourself by pleading the 
necessity of religious poverty ; but it is necessity that 
brings the crown, in rendering achievements difficult 
and almost impossible ; for all things are possible to 
him who has faith. But answer to me what is most 
true, that you have consulted your own quiet, rather 
than the advantage of others. Nor is this strange. 
I confess that I, too, am pleased that quiet should 
delight you, if only it does not delight you too much. 
For that, even although a great thing, which pleases 
us to such a degree that we wish to bring it about, 
even although by wrong means, pleases us too much ; 
and because it cannot be brought about by right 
means, it ceases to be good. For if you offer rightly, 
but do not divide rightly, you have sinned (Gen. iv. 7, Ixx.). 
Either, therefore, you ought not to have accepted 
the cure of the Lord s flock, or, having accepted it, 
ought not to have relinquished it, according to those 
words : Art thou bound unto a wife ? seek not to be loosed 
(i Cor. vii. 27). 

4. But to what end do I strive in these arguments ? 

1 Exoneratus ; exhonoratus. 


To persuade you to take your charge again ? You 
cannot, since it is no longer vacant. Or to drive you 
to despair by fixing upon you the blame of a fault 
which you are no longer able to repair ? By no 
means ; I wish only that you should not neglect the 
fault you have committed, as if it were nothing or 
nothing much, but that you should rather repent 
of it with fear and trembling, as it is written : Happy 
is the man that feareth alway (Prov. xxviii. 14). But 
the fear which I wish to inspire is not that which 
falls into the nets of desperation, but \vhich brings 
to us the hope of blessedness. There is, indeed, 
a fear, useless, gloomy, and cruel, which does not 
seek pardon, and, therefore, does not obtain it. 
There is also a fear, pious, humble, and fruitful, 
which easily obtains mercy for a sinner, however 
great be his offence. Such a fear produces, nourishes, 
and preserves not only humility, but also sweetness, 
patience, and forbearance. Whom does not so 
blameless an offspring delight ? But of the other 
fear the miserable progeny is obstinacy, excessive 
sorrow, rancour, horror, contempt, and desperation. 
I have wished to recall you to the remembrance of 
your fault, but only in order to awaken in you, not 
the fear which produces desperation, but that which 
produces hope ; being afraid lest you should not have 
any fear at all, or should have too little. 

5. There is something, however, which I fear still 
more for you, namely, that which is written of certain 
sinners, that they rejoice in having done evil and delight 
in wicked actions (Prov. ii. 14) ; that you should be 
deceived, and not only think that what you have 
done is not wrong, but also (which, God forbid) 


glory in your heart, thinking that you have done 
something great, and which is usually done by few, 
in renouncing voluntarily the power to command 
others, and, despising rule, have preferred to be sub 
jected again to a ruler. That would be a false 
humility, causing real pride in the heart of him that 
should think such thoughts. For what can be more 
proud than to ascribe to spontaneous and, as it were, 
free choice that which the force of necessity or faint 
hearted weakness obliges us to do ? But if you have 
not been forced by necessity or exhausted by labour, 
but have done it willingly, there is nothing more 
proud than this ; for you have put your own will 
before that of God, you have chosen to taste the 
sweetness of repose rather than serve diligently in 
the work to which He has set you. If, then, you 
have not only despised God, but glory in utterly 
contemning Him, your glorying is not good. Be 
ware of boastfulness and self-satisfaction ; more use 
ful for you were it to be always in care, always 
humbly trembling, not, as I have said, with the fear 
that provokes wrath, but with that which softens it. 

6. If that horrible fear ever knocks at the door 
of your soul to terrify it, and to suggest that your 
service to God cannot be accepted, and that your 
penitence is unfruitful because that in which God has 
been offended by you cannot be amended ; do not 
receive it even for a moment, but reply with con 
fidence : I have done wrong indeed, but it is done 
and cannot be undone. Who knows if God has 
foreseen that good should come to me out of it, and 
that He who is good has willed to do me good even 
from my evil ? Let Him then punish the evil which 


I have done, but let the good which He had pro 
vided for remain. The goodness of God knew how 
to use our ill-governed wills and actions to the beauty 
of the order which He established, and often, in His 
goodness, even to our benefit. O indulgent bounty 
of Divine love towards the sons of Adam ! which 
does not cease to load us with benefits, not only 
where no merit was found, but often even where 
entire demerit was seen. But let us return to you. 
According to the two kinds of fear which are dis 
tinguished above, I wish you to fear, and yet not to 
fear ; to presume, and yet not to presume. To feel 
that you may repent, not to feel that you may have 
confidence ; and again, to have confidence that you 
may not distrust, and not to be confident that you 
may not grow inactive. 

7. You perceive, brother, how much confidence 
I have in you, since I permit myself to blame you so 
sharply, to judge and disapprove so freely what you 
have done, when perhaps you have had better reasons 
for doing it than have hitherto been made known to 
me. For you have not perhaps wished to state those 
reasons in your letters, by which your action might 
well be excused, either through your humility or 
through want of space. Leaving, then, undecided 
for the present my opinion about any part of the 
matter with which I may not be fully acquainted, 
one thing that you have done I unreservedly praise, 
namely, that when you had laid down the yoke of 
ruling, yet without a yoke you were not willing to 
continue, but took up again a discipline to which 
you were attached, without being ashamed to become 
a simple disciple when you had borne the title of 


master. For you were able, when freed from your 
pastoral charge, to remain under your own authority, 
since in becoming abbot you were released from the 
obedience owed to your former abbot. 1 But you did 
not wish to be under no authority but your own, 
and as you had declined to rule over others, so you 
shrunk from rule over yourself ; and inasmuch as 
you thought yourself not fit to be the master of 
others, so also you did not trust yourself to be your 
own master, and in your distrust of yourself, even 
for your own guidance, would not be your own dis 
ciple. And rightly. For he who makes himself his 
own master, subjects himself to a fool as master. 
I know not what others may think of this ; as for 
me, I have had experience of what I say, that it is 
far more easy and safe to govern many others than 
my own single self. It was, therefore, a proof of 
prudent humility and of humble prudence that, by 
no means believing that you were sufficient for your 
own salvation, you proposed to live henceforth by the 
judgment of another person. 

8. I praise you also that you did not seek out 
another master nor another place, but returned to 
the cloister whence you had gone forth, and to the 
master under whom you had made progress in good. 
It was very right that the house which had nurtured 
you, but had sent you forth through brotherly 
charity, should receive you when freed from your 
charge, rather than that another house should have 
in its place the joy of possessing you. As, however, 
you have not obtained the sanction of the Bishop for 

1 Because a monk, when he became an abbot, was freed from the control 
of his own abbot. 


what you have done, do not be negligent in seeking 
it, but either yourself, or through some third person, 
be prompt to give him satisfaction as far as is in 
your power. After this, study to lead a simple life 
among your brethren, devoted to God, submissive 
to your superior, respectful towards the older monks, 
and obliging towards the younger. Be profitable in 
word, humble in heart, pleasing to the Angels, 
courteous to all. But beware of thinking that you 
have a right to be honoured more than others be 
cause you were once placed in a position of dignity, 
but show yourself as one among the rest, only more 
humble than all. For it is not becoming that you 
should be honoured on account of a post, the labour 
of which you have shunned. 

9. Another danger also may arise from this of 
which I wish to forewarn you and strengthen you 
against it. For as we are very changeable, and it 
frequently happens that what we wished for yesterday 
to-day we refuse, and what we shrink from to-day 
to-morrow we desire, so it may happen sometime 
by the temptation of the devil that, from the remem 
brance of the honour you have resigned, a selfish 
desire may knock at the door of your heart, and you 
may begin weakly to covet what you bravely resigned. 
The recollection of things which before were bitter 
to you will then be sweet ; the dignity of the posi 
tion, the care of the house, and the administration 
of its property, the respectful obedience of domestics, 
the freedom of your own actions, the power over 
others ; it may be as much a source of regret to 
you that you have given up these things, as it was 
before of weariness to bear them. If you yield even 


for an hour (which may God forbid) to this most 
injurious temptation you will suffer great loss to your 
spiritual life. 

10. This is the whole of the wisdom of that most 
accomplished and eloqueut Doctor, by whom you 
have wished to be taught from such a distance. This 
is the eulogy, desired and waited for, which you have 
been so eager to hear. This is the sum of all my 
wisdom. Do not look for any other great thing 
from me ; you have heard all. What can you re 
quire more ? The fountain is drained, and would 
you seek water from the dry sand ? I have sent 
you, according to the example of that widow in the 
Gospel, 1 out of my poverty all that I had. Why art 
thou ashamed, and why does thy countenance fall ? 
You have obliged me. You have asked for a dis 
course ; a discourse you have. A discourse, I say, 
long enough, indeed, but saying nothing ; full of 
words, empty of meaning. Such is the discourse 
which ought to be received by you with charity, as 
you have requested it, but which only seems to reveal 
my lack of knowledge. Perhaps it would not be 
impossible for me to find excuses for it. Thus I 
might say that I have dictated it while labouring 
under a tertian fever, as also while occupied with 
the cares of my office, while yet it is written, Write 
at leisure of wisdom (founded on Ecclus. xxxviii. 25). 
I should rightly put these reasons forward if I had 
adventured upon some great and laborious work. 
But now, in such a brief treatise that my engage 
ments afford me no excuse, I can allege nothing, 

1 S. Luke xxi. 2-4. 


as I have often said already, but the insufficiency 
of my knowledge. 

ii. But I console myself in my mortification by 
considering that if I had not done as you requested, 
if I had not sent what you hoped for, you would not 
have been quite sure of my goodwill to-day. I hope 
that my good intention will content you when you 
see that the power to do more was wanting to me. 
And although my Letter be without utility to you, 
it will profit me in promoting humility. Even a fool 
when he holdelh his peace is counted wise (Prov. xvii. 28), 
for that he holds his peace is counted to him as the 
reserve of humility, not as want of sense. If, then, 
I had still kept silence, I should have had the benefit 
of a similar judgment, and have been called wise 
without being so. But now some will ridicule me 
as a man of little wisdom, some laugh at me as 
ignorant, and others indignantly accuse me of pre 
sumption. Do not think that all this serves little 
to the profit of religion, since humility, which 
humiliation teaches us to practise, is the foundation 
of the entire spiritual fabric. Thus humiliation is 
the way to humility, as patience to peace, as reading 
is to knowledge. If you long for the virtue of 
humility, you must not flee from the way of humi 
liation. For if you do not allow yourself to be 
humiliated, you cannot attain to humility. It is a 
benefit to me, therefore, that my ignorance should 
be made known, and that I should be rightly put 
to confusion by those who are instructed, since I 
have often been undeservedly praised by those who 
could not form a correct opinion. The fear of the 
Apostle makes me fear when he says, / forbear, lest 


any man should think of me above that which he seeth me 
to be, or that he heareth of me (2 Cor. xii. 6). How 
finely he has said / spare [restrain] you. The arro 
gant, the proud, the desirous of vainglory, the 
boaster of his own deeds, who either takes merit 
to himself for what he has done, or even claims 
what he has not done, he does not restrain him 
self. He alone who is truly humble, he restrains 
his own soul, who is even afraid to let the ex 
cellency that is in him be known, that he may not 
be thought to be what he is not. 

12. Great in truth is the danger, that any one 
should speak of us above what we feel our desert 
to be. Who shall give me to be as deservedly 
humiliated among men for well-founded reasons as 
I have been undeservedly praised for ill-founded 
ones ? I should, then, be able to take to myself 
the word of the Prophet : After having been exalted 
I have been cast down and filled with confusion (Ps. 
Ixxxviii. 15, VULG.), and this, / will play and will be yet 
more vile (2 Sam. vi. 21, 22). Yes, I will play this 
foolish game that I may be ridiculed. It is a good 
folly, at which Michal is angry and God is pleased. 
A good folly which affords a ridiculous spectacle, 
indeed, to men, but to angels an admirable one. 
Yes, I repeat ; an excellent folly, by which we are 
exposed to disgrace from the rich and disdain from 
the proud. For, in truth, what do we appear to 
people of the world to do except indulge in folly, 
since what they seek with eagerness in this world 
we, on the contrary, shun, and what they avoid we 
eagerly seek ? Upon the eyes of all we produce the 
effect of jugglers and tumblers, who stand or walk 


on their hands, contrary to human nature, with their 
heads downwards and feet in the air. But our 
foolish game has nothing boyish in it, nothing of the 
spectacle at the theatre, which represents low actions, 
and with effeminate and corrupt gestures and bend- 
ings provoke the passions, but it is cheerful, honour 
able, grave, decent, and capable of delighting even 
the celestial beings who gaze upon it. This it was 
he was engaged in, who said, We are made a spectacle 
to Angels and to men (i Cor. iv. 9). May it be ours 
also in this meantime, that we may be ridiculed, 
confounded, humiliated, until He shall come who 
puts down the powerful and exalts the humble, to 
fill us with joy and glory, and to raise us up for ever 
and ever. 

LETTER XXV. (circa A.D. 1127) 

Bernard, being hindered by many occupations, has not yet 
been able to find time to satisfy his wishes, and is obliged 
even to write to him very briefly. He forbids a certain 
one of his treatises to be made public unless it were read 
over and corrected. 

i. I pass over now my want of experience, my 
humble profession, or rather my profession of 
humility, nor do I shelter myself behind (I do not 
say my lowness, but, at least) my mediocrity of 
position or name, since whatever I should allege of 
that kind you would declare to be rather a pretext 


for delay than a reasonable excuse. It seems to 
me that you interpret my shyness and modesty at 
your will, now as indiscretion, now as false humility, 
and now as real pride. Of these reasons, therefore, 
since they would appear doubtful to you, I say 
nothing. Only I wish that your friendship should 
be fully convinced of one thing, that since the 
departure of your messenger (not the one who 
carries this letter, but the other) left me I have 
not had a single instant of leisure to do what you 
asked, so busy are my days and so short my nights. 
Even now your latest letter has found me so en 
grossed that it would take me too long to write to 
you the mere occupations, which would be my 
excuse with you. I have scarcely been able even 
to read your letter through, except during my dinner, 
for at that hour it was delivered to me, and scarcely 
have I been able to write back to you these few 
words hastily and, as it were, furtively. You will 
see that you must not complain of the brevity of my 

2. To speak the truth, my dear Oger, I am forced 
to be angry with all these cares, and that on your 
account, although in them, as my conscience bears 
witness, I desire to serve only charity, by the require 
ments of which, as I am debtor both to the wise and 
to the unwise, I have been made unable as yet to 
satisfy your wishes. What, then ? Does Charity 
deny to you what you ask in the name of Charity ? 
You have requested and begged, you have knocked 
at the door, and Charity has rendered your requests 
unavailing. Why are you angry with me ? It is 
Charity whom you must be angry with, if you will 


and dare to be so, since it is she who is the cause 
that you have not obtained what you expected to 
have by her means. Already she is displeased at 
my long discourse, and is angry with you who have 
imposed it. Not that the ardour with which you do 
this is displeasing to her, since it is she which has 
inspired you with it, but she wishes that your zeal 
should be ruled according to knowledge, and that 
you should be careful not to hinder greater things 
for the sake of lesser. You see how unwillingly I 
am torn away from writing to you at greater length, 
since the pleasure of conversing with you, and the 
wish to satisfy you, make me troublesome to my 
mistress, Charity, who has long since been bidding 
me to make an end, and I am not yet silent. How 
wide is the matter for reply in your letter, if it were 
permissible to do as you would wish, and as I, too, 
should, perhaps, be well enough pleased to do ! 
But she who requires otherwise of me is mistress, 
or rather is the Master. For God is charily (i S. 
John iv. 1 6), and it is very evident that such is her 
authority, that I ought to obey her rather than either 
myself or you. And since it is incumbent on Charity 
to obey God rather than men, I unwillingly, and with 
grief, put off for a time the doing what you ask, not 
refuse altogether to do it, and I fear in endeavouring 
humbly to respond to your desires to appear to wish, 
under the pretext of a pretended humility, which is 
only pure pride, to revolt here below, I, who am 
only a miserable worm of the earth, against the 
strength of that power which, as you truly declare, 
rules even the Angels in heaven. 

3. As for the little treatise which you ask for, I 


had asked for it back again from the person to whom 
I had lent it, even before your messenger came to 
me, but I have not yet received it ; but I will take 
care that at all events when you come here, if you 
are ever coming, you shall find it here, see and read 
it, but not transcribe it. For that other treatise 
which you mention that you have transcribed I had 
sent to you to be read, indeed, but not to be copied ; 
and I do not know to what good purpose or for 
whose good you can have done it. In sending it to 
you I did not intend that the Abbot of S. Thierry 
should have it, 1 and I had not bidden you to send it; 
but I am not displeased that you have done so. For 
why should I be afraid that my little book should 
pass under his eyes, under whose gaze I would 
willingly spread my whole soul if I were able ? But, 
alas ! why does the mention of so good a man 
present itself at such a time of hurried discourse, 
when it is not permitted to me to linger, as would 
be fitting, and converse with you about that excellent 
man, when I ought already to have come to the end 
of my letter ? I entreat you to make an opportunity 
of going to see him, and do not give out my book to 
be read or copied until you shall have gone over the 
whole of it with him ; read it then together and 
correct what in it needs correction, that every word 
in it may have the support of two witnesses. After 
that, I commit to the judgment of each of you 

1 He is here, without doubt, speaking of the Apology to the Abbot 
William. Oger was at Clairvaux while Bernard was writing it, as appears 
from the last words of that work. But as he left before the final touches 
were put to it, Bernard afterwards sent it to him for perusal; and he, 
without direction, communicated it to Abbot William, to whom it was 
inscribed, and to whom Bernard intended to send it. 


whether it be expedient that it should be shown 
publicly, or only to a few persons, or to some 
particular person only, or not at all to any one. 
And I make you judge equally if that little preface l 
which you have fitted to the same out of fragments 
from other letters of mine should stand as it is, or 
whether another fitter one should be composed. 

4. But I had almost forgotten that you complained 
at the beginning of your letter that I had accused 
you of falsehood. I do not clearly recollect whether 
I ever said that ; but if I said anything like it (for 
I should prefer to think that I had forgotten rather 
than that your messenger had falsely reported) do 
not doubt that it was spoken in joke, and not 
seriously. Can I have even thought that you had 
used levity and were capable of trifling with your 
word ? Far from me be such a suspicion of you, 
who have from your youth been happy in bearing 
the yoke of truth, and when I find in you a gravity 
of character beyond your years. Nor am I so simple 
as to see a falsehood in a word artlessly spoken with 
out duplicity of heart ; nor so indifferent as to have 
forgotten either the project which you have long 
since formed or the obstacle which hinders its 

1 This little preface is the Letter addressed to the same William, and 
counted the 85th among the Letters of S. Bernard ; it is placed at the 
head of the Apology. 


LETTER XXVI. (circa A.D. 1127) 

He excuses the brevity of his letter on the ground that Lent 
is a time of silence; and also that on account of his pro 
fession and his ignorance he does not dare to assume the 
function of teaching. 

i. You will, perhaps, be angry, or, to speak more 
gently, will wonder that in place of a longer letter 
which you had hoped for from me you receive this 
brief note. But remember what says the wise man, 
that there is a time for all things under the heaven ; 
both a time to speak and a time to keep silence 
(Eccles. iii. 17). But when shall silence have its 
time, if our chatter shall occupy even these sacred 
days of Lent ? Correspondence is more absorbing 
than conversation, inasmuch as it is more laborious ; 
since when in each other s presence we may say 
with little labour what we will, but when absent we 
require diligently to dictate in turn the words which 
we mutually seek, or which are sought from us. 
But while being absent from you I meditate, dictate 
or write down what you are in time to read, where, 
I pray you, is the silence and quiet of my retreat ? * 

1 In this Letter the Saint expresses in forcible words how little he felt 
himself inclined to write to his friends Letters without necessity or useful 
ness, and to take time and leisure for doing so which belonged to more 
important and sacred employments. Also, he felt that the labour of 
literary composition interfered with the silence to which monks were 
bound, as also with inward quiet and peace. Bernard speaks of the 
function and calling of a monk like himself. For the monk, as such, is 
not called to preach and to teach, but to devote himself in solitude to God 


But all these things, you say, you can do in silence ; 
yet, if you think, you will not answer thus. For 
what a tumult there is in the mind of those who 
dictate, what a crowd of sentiments, variety of ex 
pressions, diversity of senses jostle ; how frequently 
one rejects that word which presents itself and seeks 
another which still escapes ; what close attention 
one gives to the consecutiveness of the line of thought 
and the elegance of the expression ! How it can be 
made most plain to the intellect, how it can be made 
most useful to the conscience, what, in short, shall 
be put before and what after for a particular reader, 
and many other things do those who are careful in 
their style, attend to most closely. And will you say 
that in this I shall have quiet ; will you call this 
silence, even though the tongue be still ? 

2. Besides, it is not only the time, but also my 
profession and my insufficiency which prevent my 
undertaking what you desire, or being able to fulfil 
it. For it is not the profession of a monk, which I 
seem to be, or of a sinner, which I am, to teach, but 
to mourn for sin. An unlearned person (as I truly 
confess myself to be) never acts more unlearnedly 
than when he presumes to teach what he knows not. 

and to his own salvation, through meditation and the practice of virtues. 
Wherefore he says, in ep. 42 : " Labour and retirement and voluntary 
poverty, these are the signs of the monk ; these render excellent the 
monastic life." But if there should be anywhere lurking slothful monks 
who are so imprudent and rash as to abuse the authority of the Saint to 
the excuse of their own indolence, let such hear him accusing them in plain 
words: "I may seem, perhaps, to say too much in disparagement of 
learning, as if I wished to blame the learned and prohibit the study of 
literature. By no means. I do not overlook how greatly her learned sons 
have profited and do profit the Church, whether in combating her enemies 
or in instructing the simple," &c. (Sermon 36 on the Canticles). 



Therefore, to teach is the business neither of the un 
learned in his rashness, nor of the monk in his bold 
ness, nor of the penitent in his distress. It is for 
this reason I have fled from the world and abide in 
solitude, and propose to myself with the prophet, to 
take heed to my ways that I offend not with my tongue 
(Ps. xxxix. 2) since, according to the same prophet, 
A man full of words shall not prosper upon the earth 
(Ps. cxl. n), and to another Scripture, Death and life 
are in the power of the tongue (Prov. xviii. 21). But 
silence, says Isaiah, is the work of righteousness (Is. 
xxxii. 17), and Jeremiah teaches us to wait in silence 
for the salvation of the Lord (Lam. iii. 26). Thus to 
this pursuit and desire of righteousness, since 
righteousness is the mother, the nurse, and the 
guardian of all virtues, I would not seem entirely 
to deny what you have asked, and I invite and en 
treat you and all those who, like you, desire to make 
progress in virtue, if not by the teaching of my words, 
at least by the example of my silence, to learn from 
me to be silent, you who press me in your words to 
teach what I do not know. 

3. But what am I doing ? It will be wonderful 
if you do not smile, seeing with what a flood of 
words I condemn those who are too full of words, 
and while I desire to commend silence to you, I 
plead against silence by my loquacity. Our dear 
Guerric, 1 concerning whose penitence and whose 
manner of life you wished to be assured, as far as I 
can judge from his actions, is walking worthy of the 
grace of God, and bringing forth works worthy of 

1 This Guerric was made Abbot of Igny in 1138. He is mentioned 
again in the following Letter, 


penitence. The little book which you ask of me I 
have not beside me just now. A certain friend of 
ours, with the same desire to read it as you, has kept 
it a long time, but not to frustrate altogether the 
desire of your piety, 1 I send you another which I 
have just completed on the Glories of the Virgin 
Mother, which, as I have no other copy of it, I beg 
that you will return to me as soon as possible, or 
bring it with you if you will be coming here soon. 

LETTER XXVII (circa A.D. 1127) 

A sincere love has no need of lengthy letters, or of many words. 
Bernard has been in a state of health almost despaired of, 
but is now recovering. 

i. I have sent you a short letter in reply to a 
short one from you. You have given me an example 
of brevity, and I willingly follow it. And truly what 
need have true and lasting friendships, as you truly 
say, of exchanging empty and fugitive words ? How 
ever great be the variety of quotations and verses, 
and the multiplicity of the phrases by which you 
have endeavoured to display or to prove your friend 
ship for me, 1 feel more certain of your affection 
than I do that you have succeeded in expressing it, 
and you will not be wrong if you think the same in 
respect to me. When your letter came into my 
hands you were present in my heart, and I am 

1 Or benignity. 


quite convinced that it will be the same for me 
when you receive my letter, and that when you read 
it I shall not be absent. It is a labour for each of 
us to scribble to the other, and for our messengers 
a fatigue to carry our letters from the one to the 
other, but the heart feels neither labour nor fatigue in 
loving. Let those things cease, then, which without 
labour cannot be carried on, and let us practise only 
that which, the more earnestly it is done, seems to 
cost the less labour. Let our minds, I say, rest from 
dictating, our lips from conversing, our fingers from 
writing, our messengers from running to and fro. 1 
But let not our hearts rest from meditating day and 
night on the law of the Lord, which is the law of 
love. The more we cease to be occupied in doing 
this the less quiet shall we enjoy, and the more 
engrossed we are in it, so much the more calm and 
repose we shall feel from it. Let us love and be 
loved, striving to benefit ourselves in the other, and 
the other in ourselves. For those whom we love, on 
those do we rely, as those who love us rely in turn 
on us. Thus to love in God is to love charity, and 
therefore it is to labour for charity, to strive to be 
loved for the sake of God. 

2. But what am I doing ? I promised brevity, 
and I am sliding into prolixity. If you desire news 
of Brother Guerric, or rather since you do so, he so 
runs not as uncertainly, so fights not as one that 
beateth the air. But since he knows that salvation 
depends not on him who fights, nor on him who 

1 This kind of correspondence is a hindrance to devotion and the spirit 
of prayer, as he says in the Letter placed at the head of his Apology 
addressed to Abbot William, and also in Letter 89. 


runs, but on God, who shows mercy, he begs that 
he may have the help of your prayers for him, so 
that He who has already granted to him both to fight 
and to run, may grant also to overcome and to attain. 
Salute for me with my heart and by your mouth 
your abbot, who is most dear to me, not only on 
your account, but also because of his high character. 
It will be most agreeable to me to see him at the 
time and place which you have promised. I do not 
wish to leave you ignorant that the hand of God has 
for a little while been laid heavily upon me. It 
seemed that I had been stricken to the fall, that the 
axe had been laid to the root of the barren tree of 
my body, and I feared that I might be instantly cut 
down ; but lo ! by your prayers and those of my 
other friends, the good Lord has spared me this 
time also, yet in the hope that I shall bear good 
fruits in the future. 

LETTER XXVIII (circa A.D. 1130) 

Bernard urges the abbots zealously to perform the duty for which 
they had met. He recommends to them a great desire of 
spiritual progress, and begs them not to be delayed in their 
work if lukewarm and lax persons should perhaps murmur. 

To the Reverend Abbots met in the name of the 
Lord in Chapter at Soissons, brother BERNARD, 

1 This was one of the first general Chapters held by the Black Monks 
(as they are called) in the province of Rheims. It seems that its cause 
and occasion was the Apology addressed by Bernard to Abbot William, 


Abbot of Clairvaux, the servant of their Holiness, 
health and prayer that they may see, establish, and 
observe the things which are right. 

1. I greatly regret that my occupations prevent 
me from being present at your meeting at least, 
in body. For neither distance nor a crowd of cares 
are able to banish my spirit, which prays for you, 
feels with you, and rests among you. No, I repeat, 
I cannot be wanting in the assembly of the saints, 
nor can distance of place nor absence of body 
altogether separate me from the congregation and 
the counsels of the righteous, in which, not the 
traditions of men are obstinately upheld or super- 
stitiously observed ; but diligent and humble inquiry 
is made what is the good and acceptable and perfect 
will of God (Rom. xii. 2). All my desires carry me 
where you are ; I am with you by devotion, by 
friendship, by similarity of sentiment, and partaking 
of your zeal. 

2. That those who now applaud you may not 
hereafter ridicule you as having assembled to no 
purpose (which God forbid !), strive, I beseech you, 
to make your conduct holy and your resolutions 
good, for too good they cannot be. Grant that you 

who was the prime mover in calling together this assembly, after the 
example of the Cluniacs and Cistercians, that they might re-establish the 
observance of the Rule which was being let slip. It was held without 
doubt at S. Medard under the Abbot Geoffrey, to whom Letter 66 was 
addressed. He was Bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne when Peter the Vener 
able spoke of him thus (B. ii. Ep. 43): "It is he who first spread the 
divine Order of Cluny through the whole of France, who was its author 
and propagator ; and, far more, it was he who expelled the old dragon 
from his resting-places in so many monasteries, and who roused monks 
from their torpor." Innocent II. determined that these general Chapters 
should be held every year in future. 


may be too just or even too wise, yet it is plain that 
you cannot be good beyond measure. And indeed 
I read: Do not carry justice to excess (Eccles. vii. 17, 
VULG.). I read : Be not wiser than is befitting (Rom. 
xii. 3, VULG.). But is it ever said : Do not carry 
goodness to excess ? or, Take care not to be too 
good ? No one can be more good than it behoves 
him to be. Paul was a good man, and yet he was 
not at all content with his state ; he reached forward 
gladly to the things that were before, forgetting those 
that were behind (Phil. iii. 13), and striving to become 
continually better than himself. It is only God who 
does not desire to become better than He is, because 
that is not possible. 

3. Let those depart both from me and from you 
who say : We do not desire to be better than our 
fathers ; declaring themselves to be the sons of luke 
warm and lax persons, whose memory is in execra 
tion, since they have eaten sour grapes, and their 
children s teeth are set on edge. Or if they pretend 
that their fathers were holy men, whose memory 
is blessed, let them imitate their sanctity, and not 
defend, as laws instituted by them, the indulgences 
and dispensations which they have merely endured. 
Although holy Elias says, / am not better than my fathers 
(i Kings xix. 4), yet he has not said that he did not 
wish to be. Jacob saw upon the ladder Angels 
ascending and descending (Gen. xxviii. 12) ; but was 
any one of them either sitting, or standing still ? It 
was not for angels to stand still on the uncertain 
rounds of a frail ladder ; nor can anything remain 
fixed in the same condition during the uncertain 
period of this mortal life. Here have we no con- 


tinuing city ; nor do we yet possess, but always seek 
for, that which is to came. Of necessity you either 
ascend or descend, and if you try to stand still you 
cannot but fall. It may be held as certain that the 
man is not good at all who does not wish to be 
better ; and where you begin not to care to make 
advance in goodness there also you leave off being 

4. Let those depart both from me and from you 
who call good evil and evil good. If they call the 
pursuit of righteousness evil, what good thing will be 
good in their eyes ? The Lord once spoke a single 
word, and the Pharisees were scandalized (S. Matt. 
xv. 12). But now these new Pharisees are scanda 
lized not even at a word, but at silence. You plainly 
see then that they seek only the occasion to attack 
you. But leave them alone ; they be blind leaders 
of the blind. Take thought for the salvation of the 
little ones, not of the murmurs of the evil-disposed. 
Why do you so much fear to give scandal to those 
who are not to be cured unless you become sick 
with them ? It is not even desirable to wait to see 
whether your resolutions are pleasing to all of you 
in all respects, otherwise you will determine upon 
little or no good. You ought to consult not the 
views, but the needs of all ; and faithfully to draw 
them towards God, even although they be unwilling, 
rather than abandon them to the desires of their 
heart. I commend myself to your holy prayers. 


LETTER XXIX (A.D. 1132) 

He asks the King s favour to the monks sent by him to 
construct a monastery. 

To the illustrious HENRY, King of England, BER 
NARD, Abbot of Clairvaux, that he may faithfully 
serve and humbly obey the King of Heaven in his 
earthly kingdom. 

There is in your land a property 1 belonging 
to your Lord and mine, for which He preferred 
to die rather than it should be lost. This I have 
formed a plan for recovering, and am sending a 
party of my brave followers to seek, recover, and 
hold it with strong hand, if this does not displease 

1 The history of the Abbey of Wells, in England, explains to us what 
is meant by these words of Bernard. "The Abbot of Clairvaux, Bernard, 
had sent detachments of his army of invasion to take possession of the 
most distant regions ; they won brilliant triumphs over the ancient enemy 
of salvation, bearing from him his prey and restoring it to its true Sovereign. 
God had inspired him with the thought of sending some hopeful slips from 
his noble vine of Clairvaux into the English land that he might have fruit 
among that nation, as in the rest of the world. The very letter is yet 
extant which he wrote for these Religious to the King, in which he said 
that there was a property of the Lord in that land of the King, and that 
he had sent brave men out of his army to seek it, seize it, and bring it 
back to its owner. He persuades the King to render assistance to his 
messengers, and not to fail to fulfil in this his duty to his suzerain ; which 
was done. The Religious from Clairvaux were received with honour by 
the King and by the realm, and they laid new foundations in the province 
of York, founding the Abbey of Rievaulx. And this was the first planting 
of the Cistercian Order in the province of York." (Afonast. Anglican, 
Vol. i. p. 733-) Further mention of Henry I. is made in the notes to 
Letter 138. 


you. And these scouts whom you see before you 
I have sent beforehand on this business to investi 
gate wisely the state l of things, and bring me faith 
ful word again. Be so kind as to assist them as 
messengers of your Lord, and in their persons fulfil 
your feudal 2 duty to Him. I pray Him to render 
you, in return, happy and illustrious, to His honour, 
and to the salvation of your soul, to the safety and 
peace of your country, and to continue to you happi 
ness and contentment to the end of your days. 

LETTER XXX (circa A.D. 1132) 

Bernard salutes him very respectfully. 

To the very illustrious Lord HENRY, by the Grace 
of God Bishop of Winchester, BERNARD, Abbot of 
Clairvaux, health in our Lord. 

1 Esse. The word is a common one with Bernard to signify the state 
of a man or a business. See Letters 118, 304. 

2 Since kings and princes are, as it were, vassals to God. 

3 He was nephew, by his mother, of Henry I., King of England, brother 
of King Stephen, and son of Stephen, Count of Blois. " His mother, 
Adela," says William of Newburgh, "not wishing to appear to have borne 
children only for the world, had him tonsured." In 1126, The History of 
(he Abbey of Glastonbury counts him among the number of the abbots of 
that monastery, and says, "he was a man extremely versed in letters, and 
of remarkable regularity of character. By his excellent administration the 
Abbey of Glastonbury profited so much that his name will be held in ever 
lasting memory there" (Monast. Anglican. Vol. ii. p. 18). Henry was 
elevated later on to the see of Winchester, and Bernard complains of him 
in writing to Pope Eugenius. "What shall I say of his Lordship of 
Winchester? The works which he does show sufficiently what he is," 


It is with great joy that I have learned from the 
report of many persons that so humble a person 
as myself has found favour with your Highness. I 
am not worthy of it, but I am not ungrateful for it. 
I return you, therefore, thanks for your goodness ; a 
very unworthy return, but all that I am able to make. 
I do not fear but that you will receive the humble 
return that I make, since you have been so kind as 
to forestall me by your affection and the honour 
that you have done to me ; but I defer writing more 
until I shall know by some token from your hand, 

Harpsfield reports that he extorted castles from nobles whom he had invited 
to a feast, and Roger that he had consecrated the intruder William to the 
See of York (Annal. under year 1140). The latter calls him legate of the 
Roman See. Brito and Henriquez must, therefore, be wrong in counting 
him among the Cistercians, and the latter in particular, in speaking of him 
as a man of eminent sanctity, taking occasion from the testimony of Wion 
(Ligno vita), who calls him a man gifted with prophecy, because when on 
his death-bed, in receiving the visit of his nephew, Henry, he predicted 
to him that he would be punished by God on account of the death of 
S. Thomas of Canterbury, whom he had himself consecrated ; as if that 
saying may not have been inspired by fear rather than prophecy, as 
Manrique rightly says in his Annals. Peter the Venerable wrote many 
letters to him, which are still extant, among others Letters 24 and 25 in 
Book iv., in which he requests that he may return to Cluny to die and be 
buried there. Being invited to do so at the request of Louis, the King of 
France, and of the chief nobles of Burgundy, and also at the letters of 
Pope Hadrian IV., he sent on his treasures to Peter the Venerable, and, 
leaving England without the permission of the King, arrived at Cluny in 
1155. He discharged from his own means the debts of the abbey, which 
were then enormous ; he expended for the support of the monks who lived 
at Cluny, more than four hundred in number, 7,000 marks of silver, which 
are equal to 40,000 livres. He gave forty chalices for celebrating mass, 
and a silk pannus (which may have been an altar vestment, or more pro 
bably a hanging [E.]) of great price ; he buried with his own hands Peter 
the Venerable, who died January ist, 1157. Having returned at length 
to his see, he died, to the great grief of the Religious of Cluny, on August 
the 9th, 1171. 


if you think fit to send one, how you receive these 
few words. You may easily confide your reply, in 
writing, or by word of mouth if it shall so please 
you, to Abbot Oger, who is charged to convey to 
you this note. I beg your Excellency also to be so 
good as to honour that Religious with your esteem and 
confidence, inasmuch as he is a man commendable 
for his honour, knowledge, and piety. 

LETTER XXXI (A.D. 1132) 


i. You write to me from beyond the sea to ask of 
me advice which I should have preferred that you 

1 Letter 318 clearly shows what monastery these had left, namely, the 
Benedictine Abbey of S. Mary, at York, and this the Monasticon Anglica- 
num confirms. 

The Abbey of S. Mary, at York, was founded in 1088 by Count Alan, 
son of Guy, Count of Brittany, in the Church of S. Olave, near York, to 
which King William Rufus afterwards gave the name of S. Mary. Hither 
were brought from the monastery of Whitby the Abbot Stephen and 
Benedictine monks, under whom monastic discipline was observed ; but 
about the year 1132, under Geoffrey, the third abbot, it began to be 
relaxed. It was at that time that the Cistercian order was everywhere 
renowned, and was introduced into England in the year 1128 (its first 
establishment being at Waverley, in Surrey). Induced by a pious emula 
tion, twelve monks of S. Mary, who were not able to obtain from their 
abbot permission to transfer themselves to this Cistercian Order, begged 
the support of Thurstan, Archbishop of York, to put their project into 
execution. With his support they left their monastery on October 4th, 
1132, notwithstanding the opposition of their abbot, to the number of 
twelve priests and one levite (deacon). Of these one was the Prior Richard, 


had sought from some other. I am held between 
two difficulties, for if I do not reply to you, you may 
take my silence for a sign of contempt ; but if I do 
reply I cannot avoid danger, since whatever I reply 
I must of necessity either give scandal to some one 
or give to some other a security which they ought 
not to have, or at all events more than they ought to 
have. That your brethren have departed from you 
was not with the knowledge nor by the advice or 
persuasion of me or of my brethren. But I incline 
to believe that it was of God, since their purpose 
could not be shaken by all your efforts ; and that 
the brethren themselves thought this also who so 
earnestly sought my advice about themselves ; their 
conscience troubling them, as I suppose, because 
they quitted you. Otherwise, if their conscience, 

another Richard the sacristan, and others named in the Histoiy before 
mentioned, taking nothing from the monastery but their habit. Troubled 
by their desertion, Abbot Geoffrey complained to the king, to the bishops 
and abbots of the neighbourhood, as well as to S. Bernard himself, of the 
injury done by this to the rights of all religious houses, without distinction. 
Archbishop Thurstan wrote a letter of apology to William, Archbishop of 
Canterbury, and at the same time Bernard himself wrote to Thurstan and 
to the thirteen Religious to congratulate them, and another to Abbot 
Geoffrey to justify their action (Letters 94 to 96 and 313). In the mean 
time these monks were shut up in the Episcopal house of Thurstan ; and 
as they refused, notwithstanding the censures of their abbot, to return to 
their former monastery, Thurstan gave them in the neighbourhood of 
Ripon a spot of ground previously uncultivated, covered with thorn bushes, 
and situated among rocks and mountains which surrounded it on all sides, 
that they might build themselves a house there. Their Prior Richard was 
given to them for abbot by Thurstan, who gave him the Benediction on 
Christmas Day. Having passed a whole winter in incredible austerity of 
life, they gave themselves and their dwelling-place, which they had called 
Fountains, to S. Bernard. He sent to them a Religious, named Geoffrey, 
of Amayo, from whose hands they received the Cistercian Rule with 
incredible willingness and piety {Life of S. Bernard, B. iv. c. 2). 


like that of the Apostle, did not reproach them, their 
peace would not have been disturbed (Rom. xiv. 22). 
But what can I do [that I may be hurtful to no one 
neither by my silence nor by my reply to the ques 
tions asked me ? Thus, perhaps, I may relieve my 
self of the difficulty if I shall send those who question 
me to a person more learned, and whose authority 
is more reverend and sacred than mine. Pope S. 
Gregory says in his book on the Pastoral Rule, 
" Whosoever has proposed to himself a greater good 
does an unlawful thing in subordinating it to a lesser 
good." And he proves this by a citation from the 
Gospel, saying, No one putting his hand to the plough and 
looking back is fit for the kingdom of God (S. Luke ix. 62); 
and he proceeds : " He who renounces a more per 
fect state which he has embraced, to follow another 
which is less so, is precisely the man who looks 
back" (Part iii. c. 28). The same Pope in his third 
Homily on Ezekiel, adds : "There are people who 
taste virtue, set themselves to practise it, and while 
doing so contemplate undertaking actions still better ; 
but afterwards drawing back, abandon those better 
things which they had proposed to themselves. 
They do not, it is true, leave off the good practices 
they had begun, but they fail to realize those better 
ones which they had meditated. To human judg 
ment these seem to stand fast in the good work, 
but to the eyes of Almighty God they have fallen, 
and failed in what they contemplated." 

2. Here is a mirror. In it let your Religious 
consider, not the features of their faces, but the 
fact of their turning back. Here let them deter 
mine and distinguish their motives, their thoughts, 


accusing or excusing them with that sentence which 
the spiritual man passes who judges all things, and 
is himself judged by no one. I, indeed, cannot 
rashly determine whether the state which they have 
left or that which they have embraced was the 
greater or less, the higher or lower, the severer 
or the more lax. Let them judge according to the 
rule of S. Gregory. But to you, Reverend Father, 
I declare, with as much positive assurance as plain 
truth, that it is not at all desirable that you should 
set yourself to quench the Spirit. Hinder not htm, it 
is said, who is able to do good, but if thou canst, do good 
also thyself (Prov. iii. 27, VULG.). It more befits you to 
be proud of the good works of your sons, since a 
wise son is the glory of his father (Prov. x. i). For 
the rest, let no one make it a cause of complaint 
against me that I have not hidden in my heart the 
righteousness of God, unless, perhaps, I have spoken 
less of it than I ought, for the sake of avoiding 


Bernard praises his charity and beneficence towards the 

To the very dear father and Reverend Lord 
THURSTAN, by the Grace of God Archbishop of 
York, BERNARD, Abbot of Clairvaux, wishes the 
fullest health. 

The general good report of men, as I have ex- 


perienced, has said nothing in your favour which the 
splendour of your good works does not justify. 
Your actions, in fact, show that your high reputa 
tion, which fame had previously spread everywhere, 
was neither false nor ill-founded, but manifest and 
certain. Especially of late how brilliantly has your 
zeal for righteousness and your sacerdotal energy 
shone forth in the defence of the poor Religious 
who had no other helper. 1 Once, indeed, the whole 
assembly of the saints used to venerate your works 
of mercy and alms deeds ; but in doing so it nar 
rated always what is common to you with very 
many, since whosoever possesses the goods of this 
world is bound to share them with the poor. But 
this is your episcopal task, this the noble proof of 
your paternal affection, this your truly divine fer 
vour, the zeal which no doubt has inspired and 
aroused in you who makes His angels spirits and 
His ministers a flaming fire. This, I say, belongs 
entirely to you. It is the ornament of your dignity, 
the badge of your office, the adornment of your 
crown. It is one thing to fill the belly of the hungry, 
and quite another thing to have a zeal for holy 
poverty. The one serves nature, the other grace. 
Thou shall visit thy kind, He says, and thou shall not 
sin (Job v. 24, VULG.). Therefore he who nourishes 
the flesh of another sins not in so doing, but he who 
honours the sanctity of another does good to his own 
soul ; therefore he says again, Keep your alms in 
your own hand until you shall find a righteous man to 

1 What Thurstan did for the protection of these monks, who had taken 
refuge with him in the desire to embrace a more austere life, may be seen 
in a Letter from him which we have taken from the Monasticon Angli- 
canuin and placed after those of S Bernard. 


whom to give it. For what advantage ? Because 
He who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous 
man shall receive a righteous man s reward (S. Matt. 
x. 41). Let us, then, discharge the debt that nature 
requires of us, that we may avoid sin ; but let us be 
co-workers with grace, that we may merit to become 
sharers of it. It is this that I so admire in you, as 
I acknowledge that it was given to you from above. 
O, Father, truly reverend and to be regarded with 
the sincerest affection ; the praise for what you have 
laid out of your temporal means to the relief of 
our necessities, will be blended with the praises of 
God for ever. 



He praises them for the renewal of holy discipline. 

How marvellous are those things which I have 
heard and learned, and which the two Geoffries 

1 He had been Prior of the monastery of S. Mary, at York, which he 
quitted, followed by twelve other Religious, as we have seen above. He 
died at Rome, as may be seen in Mon. Anglic, p. 744. He had for suc 
cessor another Richard, formerly sacristan of the same monastery of S. 
Mary, who died at Clairvaux (ibid., p. 745). He is mentioned in the 
32Oth letter of S. Bernard. 

2 The monastery of Fountains, in the Diocese of York, passed over to 
the Cistercian Rule in 1132. It is astonishing to read of the fervour of 
these monks in Monust. Anglican. Vol. i. p. 733 and onwards. Com 
pare also Letters 313 and 320 for what relates to the death of Abbot 
Richard, the second of that name and Order. 



have announced to me, that you have become newly 
fervent with the fire from on high, that from weak 
ness you have become strong, that you have flourished 
again with new sanctity. 

This is the finger of God secretly working, softly 
renewing, healthfully changing not, indeed, bad men 
into good, but making good men better. Who will 
grant unto me to cross over to you and see this 
great sight ? For that progress in holiness is not 
less wonderful or less delightful than that conversion. 
It is much more easy, in fact, to find many men 
of the world converted to good than one Religious 
who is good becoming better than he is. The rarest 
bird in the world is the monk who ascends ever 
so little from the point which he has once reached 
in the religious life. Thus the spectacle which you 
present, dearest brethren, is the more rare and salu 
tary, not only to men who desire greatly to be the 
helper of your sanctity, but it rightly rejoices the 
whole Church of God as well ; since the rarer it is 
the more glorious it is also. For prudence made 
it a duty to you to pass beyond that mediocrity so 
dangerously near to defect, and to escape from that 
lukewarmness which provokes God to reject you ; 
it was even a duty of conscience for you to do so, 
since you know that it is not safe for men who have 
embraced the holy Rule to halt before having 
attained the goal to which it leads. I am exceed 
ingly grieved that I am obliged by the pressing 
obligations of the day and the haste of the messen 
ger to express the fulness of my affection with a pen 
so brief, and to comprise the breadth of my kindness 


for you within the narrow limits of this billet. But 
if anything is wanting, brother Geoffrey l will supply 
it by word of mouth. 

LETTER XXXIV (circa *.D. 1130) 


The reputation of Bernard for sanctity induces Hildebert to 
write to him and ask for his friendship. 

i. Few, I believe, are ignorant that balsam is 
known by its scent, and the tree by its fruit. So, 
dearly beloved brother, there has reached even to 
me the report of you how you are steadfast in 
holiness, and sound in doctrine. For though I am 

1 This Geoffrey, "a holy and religious man," who founded or reformed 
numerous monasteries, had been sent by Bernard to Fountains to train 
them according to the Rule of the Cistercian Order (Monast. Anglican. 
Vol. i. p. 741). Concerning the same Geoffrey see The Life of S. Bernard, 
B. iv. c. 2. 

2 In not a few MSS. this Letter, with the answer following, is placed 
after Letter 127, and in some even after Letter 252. Hildebert, the 
author of this Letter, ruled the Church of Mans (1098-1125), whence, on 
the death of Gilbert, he was translated to the Metropolitan See of Tours. 
This is clear, first from Ordericus Vitalis, Bk. x., sub ann., 1098, and next 
from the Acts of the Bishops of Mans, published in the third volume of 
Atialecta, where Guido, his successor in the See of Mans, is said to have 
been consecrated, after long strife, in 1126. Hildebert only ruled in 
Tours six years and as many months. So say the Acts just mentioned. 
With them agrees a dissertation by Duchesne, and John Maan s History 
of the Metropolitan See of Tours, and so also Ordericus Vitalis on the 
year 1125 (p. 882), where he assigns to Hildebert an Archiepiscopate of 
about seven years. Hildebert, then, did not reach the year 1136, as 


far separated from you by distance of place, yet the 
report has come even to me. What pleasant nights 
you spend with your Rachel ; how abundant an 
offspring is born to you of Leah ; how you show 
yourself wholly a follower of virtue, and an enemy 
of the flesh. Whoever speaks to me of you has 
this one tale to tell. Such is the perfume of your 
name, like that of balm, poured out ; such are 
already the rewards of your merit. These are the 
ears that you are gathering from your field before 
the last great harvest. For in this life some reward 
of virtue is to be found in the notable and undying 
tribute paid to it. This it wins unaided, and keeps 
unaided. Its renown is not diminished by envy, nor 
increased by the favour of men. As the esteem of 
good men cannot be taken away by false accusations, 
so it cannot be won by the attentions of flattery. 
It rests with the individual himself either to advance 
that esteem by fruitfulness in virtue, or to detract 
from it by deficiency. The whole Church, I am 
quite sure, hopes that your renown will be for ever 
sustained, since it is believed to be founded upon a 
strong rock. 

2. As for me, having heard this report of you 
everywhere, with desire I have desired to be received 
into the inmost shrine of your friendship, and to be 

Gallia Christiana says, but died in 1132, in which year John Maan places 
his death. Horst, in the note to this Letter, refers to another Letter 
of Hildebert (the 24th), which he thinks was also written to Bernard. 
But this Letter, which in all the editions appears without the name of the 
person to whom it was addressed, is entitled in two MSS. "To H., Abbot 
of Cluny," which we have followed. From this Letter we understand 
that Hildebert had it in mind to retire to Cluny, if the Supreme Pontiff 
would allow him. Peter of Blois praises his Letters. (Ep. 101.) 


held in remembrance in your prayers when stealing 
yourself from converse with mortals you speak on 
behalf of mortals to the King of Angels. Now, this 
my desire was much increased by Gebuin, Arch 
deacon of Troyes, a man eminent as well for his 
piety as for his learning. I should have thought 
it my duty to commend him to you, if I were not 
sure that those whom you deem worthy of your 
favour need no further commendation. I wish, 
however, that you should know that it was through 
his information I learnt that you are in the Church, 
one who art fit to be a teacher of virtue, both by 
precept and example. But not to burden you with 
too long a letter, I bring my writing to an end, 
though end the above petition I will not until I 
have the happiness to obtain what I have asked. I 
beg you to tell me by a letter in reply how you are 
disposed with regard to it. 

LETTER XXXV (circa A.D. 1130) 


He repays his praises with praises. 

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart 
bringeth forth good things. Your letter so redounded 
to your honour, as well as to mine, that I gladly 
welcomed it, Most Reverend Sir, as giving me an 
occasion of addressing to you the praises of which 


you are so well worthy, and as affording me just 
satisfaction that you have done me so much honour 
as that your Highness should deign to stoop to me, 
and to show so much esteem for my humble person. 
Indeed, for one in high place not to be studious of 
high things, but to condescend to those of low estate, 
is a thing than which there is nothing more pleasing 
to God or more rare among men. Who is the wise 
man, except he who listens to the counsel of Wisdom, 
which says : The greater thou art, the more humble thyself 
(Ecclus. iii. 1 8) before all. This humility you have 
shown towards me, the greater towards the less, an 
elder to a younger. I, too, could extol your proved 
wisdom in due praises, perhaps more just than those 
of which your wisdom deemed me worthy. It is of 
great importance in order to gain assured knowledge 
of things, to rely on exact acquaintance with facts, 
rather than on the uncertain testimony of public 
rumour ; and then what we have proved for certain 
we may proclaim without hesitation. What you 
were pleased to write to me about myself, it is for 
you to ascertain. I find an undoubted proof of your 
own merit in your letter, though it be so full of my 
praises. For though another, perhaps, might be 
pleased with the marks of learning therein, with its 
sweet and graceful language, its clear style, its easy 
and commendable art, I place before all this the 
wonderful humility, whereby your Greatness has 
cared to approach one so humble as I, to overwhelm 
me with praises, and to seek for my friendship. As 
for what refers to me in your letter I read it not as 
describing what I am, but what I would wish to be, 
and what I am ashamed of not being. Yet whatever 


I am, I am yours ; and if, by the grace of God, I 
ever become anything better, be sure, Most Reverend 
and dear Father, that I shall still remain yours. 

LETTER XXXVI (circa A.D. 1131) 


He exhorts him to recognise Innocent, now an exile in 
France, owing to the schism of Peter Leonis, as the rightful 

To the great prelate, most exalted in renown, 
HILDEBERT, by the grace of God Archbishop of 
Tours, BERNARD, called Abbot of Clairvaux, sends 
greeting, and prays that he may walk in the Spirit, 
and spiritually discern all things. 

i. To address you in the words of the prophet, 
Consolation is hid from their eyes, because death divideth 
between brethren (Hosea xiii. 14, VULG.). For it seems 
as if according to the language of Isaiah they have 
made a covenant with death, and are at agreement 
with hell (Is. xxviii. 15). For behold, Innocent, that 
anointed l of the Lord, is set for the fall and rising 
again of many (cf. S. Luke ii. 34). Those who are 
of God, gladly join themselves to him ; but he who 
is of the opposite part, is either of Antichrist, or 
Antichrist himself. The abomination is seen standing 
in the holy place ; and that he may seize it, like a 
flame he is burning the sanctuary of God. He 

1 Christus. 


persecutes Innocent, and in him all innocence. 
Innocent, in sooth, flees from the face of Leo, as 
saith the prophet : The lion hath roared ; who will not 
/ear (Amos iii. 8). He flees according to the bidding 
of the Lord, which says, When they persecute you in one 
city flee ye into another (S. Matt. x. 23). He flees, 
and thereby proves himself an apostolic man, by 
ennobling himself with the apostle s example. For 
Paul blushed not to be let down in a basket over 
a wall (Acts ix. 25), and so to escape the hands of 
those who were seeking his life. He escaped not 
to spare his life, but to give place unto wrath ; not 
to avoid death, but to attain life. Rightly does the 
Church yield his place to Innocent, whom she sees 
walking in the same steps. 

2. However, Innocent s flight is not without fruit. 
He suffers, no doubt, but is honoured in the midst 
of his sufferings. Driven from the city, he is 
welcomed by the world. From the ends of the 
earth, men meet the fugitive with sustenance ; al 
though the rage of that Shimei, Gerard of Angouleme, 
has not yet entirely ceased to curse David. Whether 
it pleases or does not please that sinner who sees 
it with discontent, he cannot prevent Innocent being 
honoured in the presence of kings, and bearing a 
crown of glory. Have not all princes acknowledged 
that he is in truth the elect of God ? The Kings 
of France, England, and Spain, and finally the King 
of the Romans, receive Innocent as Pope, and recog 
nise him alone as bishop of their souls (2 Sam. xvii.). 
Only Ahitophel is now unaware that his counsels 
have been exposed and brought to nought. In vain 
the wretch labours to devise evil counsel against the 


people of God, and to plot against the saints who 
stoutly adhere to their saintly Pontiff, scorning to 
bow the knee to Baal. By no guile shall he avail 
to procure for his parricide the kingdom over Israel 
and the holy city, which is the church of the living God, 
the pillar and ground of the truth. A threefold cord is 
not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes iv. 12). The three 
fold cord of the choice of the better sort, the assent 
of the majority, and, what is more effective yet in 
these matters, the witness of a pure life, commend 
Innocent to all, and establish him as chief Pontiff. 

3. And so, very Reverend Father, we await your 
vote, late though it be, as rain upon a fleece of 
wool. We do not disapprove of a certain slowness, 
for it savours of gravity, and banishes all sign of 
levity. For Mary did not at once answer the angel s 
salutation, but first considered in her mind what manner 
of salutation this should be (S. Luke i. 29); and Timothy 
was commanded to lay hands suddenly on no man 
(i Tim. v. 22). Yet I, who am known to the Prelate 
I am addressing, venture to say " nought in excess ; " 
I, his acquaintance and friend, say, Let not a man 
think more highly of himself than he ought to think (Rom. 
xii. 3). It is a shame, I must confess, that the old 
serpent, letting silly women alone, has, with a new 
boldness, even assayed the valour of your heart, and 
dared to shake to its base so mighty a pillar of the 
Church. I trust, however, that though shaken it is 
not tottering to its fall. For the friend of the bride 
groom standeth and rejoiceth at the bridegrooms voice 
(S. John iii. 29); the voice of joy and health, the 
voice of unity and peace. 


LETTER XXXVII (circa A.D. 1131) 

He asks his assistance in maintaining the Pontificate of 
Innocent against the schism of Peter Leonis. 

i. We look for scent in flowers and for savour 
in fruits ; and so, most dearly beloved brother, 
attracted by the scent of your name which is as 
perfume poured forth, I long to know you also in 
the fruit of your work. For it is not I alone, 
but even God Himself, who has need of no man, 
yet who, at this crisis, needs your co-operation, 
if you do not act falsely towards us. It is a glorious 
thing to be able to be a fellow-worker with God ; 
but perilous to be able and not to be so. Moreover, 
you have favour with God and man ; you have 
knowledge, a spirit of freedom, a speech both lively 
and effectual, seasoned with salt ; and it is not 
right that with all these great gifts you should 
fail the bride of Christ in such danger, for you are 
the friend of the Bridegroom. A friend is best 
tried in times of need. What then ? Can you con 
tinue at rest while your Mother the Church is 
grievously distressed ? Rest has had its proper 
time, and holy peace has till now freely and duly 

1 Geoffrey of Loretto, a most renowned doctor, afterwards Arch 
bishop of Bordeaux. He took his name from Loretto, a place in the 
Diocese of Tours, close to Poitou. It was once famous for a Priory, 
subject to Marmoutiers. This is why Gerard of Angouleme is spoken 
of to Geoffrey in this Letter as " the wild beast near you." Another de 
rivation is " L oratoire," a monastery of the Cistercians in the Diocese of 


done its own work. It is now the time for action, 
because they have destroyed the law. That beast 
of the Apocalypse (Apoc. xiii. 5-7), to whom is 
given a mouth speaking blasphemies, and to make 
war with the saints, is sitting on the throne of Peter, 
like a lion ready for his prey. Another l beast also 
stands hissing at your side, like a whelp lurking in 
secret places. The fiercer here and the craftier 
there are met together in one against the Lord 
and his annointed. Let us, then, make haste to burst 
their bonds and cast away their cords from us. 

2. I, for my part, together with other servants 
of God who are set on fire with the Divine flame, 
have laboured, with the help of God, to unite the 
nations and kings in one, in order to break down 
the conspiracy of evil men, and to destroy every 
high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge 
of God. Nor have I laboured in vain. The Kings 
of Germany, France, England, Scotland, Spain, 
and Jerusalem, with all the clergy and people, side 
with and adhere to the Lord Innocent, like sons 
to a father, like the members to their head, being 
anxious to preserve the unity of the spirit in the 
bond of peace. And the Church is right in acknow 
ledging him, whose reputation is discovered to be 
the more honourable and whose election is found to 
be the more sound and regular, having the advantage 
as well by the merit as well as by the number of 
the electors. And now, brother, why do you hold 
back ? How long will the serpent by your side lull 
your careless energies to repose ? I know that you 
are a son of peace, and can by no reason be led 

1 (ierard of Angoulcmc. 


to desert unity. But, of course, that alone is not 
enough, unless you study both to maintain it and 
to make war with all your might upon the disturbers 
thereof. And do not fear the loss of peace, for you 
shall be rewarded by no small increase of glory if 
your efforts succeed in quieting, or even silencing, 
that wild beast near you ; and if the goodness of 
God, through your means, rescue from the mouth 
of the lion so great a prize for the Church as William, 
Count of Poitiers. 

LETTER XXXVIII (circa A.D. 1135) 

He excuses his long absence, from which he suffers more than 
they ; and briefly reminds them of their duty. 

To his dearly-loved brethren the Monks of Clair- 
vaux, the converts, 1 and the novices, their brother 

1 " Converts " (conversi) was the name formerly given to adults who 
had been converted to the religious life, and who were distinguished by 
this name from those who were offered as children. The lay brethren are 
here meant ; cf. ep. 141 n. I. They were present at the election of an 
abbot (ep. 36 n. 2), just as once the laity were joined with the clergy in the 
election of a bishop. Here they are named before the novices, but in 
Sermon 22 (de Diversis n. 2) they come after them ; they were not ad 
mitted into the choir. Bernard, moreover, distinguishes them from the 
monks. For at that time they were not among the Cistercians reckoned 
among the monks, as is proved by the Exordium Cisterc. (c. 15), 
although they made some profession. Hence Innocent II., in some deed 
of privilege or in ep. 352, here says: "Let no one presume without your 
leave to receive or to retain any one of your converts who have made their 
profession, but are not monks, be he archbishop, bishop, or abbot." In 
the Council of Rheims, held under F.ugenius III., the converts are 


BERNARD sends greeting, bidding them rejoice in the 
Lord always. 

1. Judge by yourselves what I am suffering. If 
my absence is painful to you, let no one doubt that 
it is far more painful to me. The loss is not equal, 
the burden is not the same, for you are deprived of 
but one individual, while I am bereft of all of you. 
It cannot but be that I am weighed down by as 
many anxieties as you are in number ; I grieve for 
the absence of each one of you, and fear the dangers 
which may attack you. This double grief will not 
leave me until I am restored to my children. I 
doubt not that you feel the same for me ; but then I 
am but one. You have but a single ground for sad 
ness ; I have many, for I am sad on account of you 
all. Nor is it my only trouble that I am forced to 
live for a time apart from you, when without you I 
should regard even to reign as miserable slavery, but 
there is added to this that I am forced to live among 
things which altogether disturb the tranquillity of my 
soul, and perhaps are little in harmony with the end 
of the monastic life. 

2. And since you know these things, you must not 
be angry at my long absence, which is not according 
to my will, but is due to the necessities of the 
Church ; rather pity me. I hope that it will not be 
a long absence now ; do you pray that it may not be 
unfruitful. Let any losses which may in the mean 
time happen to befall you be regarded as gains, for 

called " the professed " (Can. 7), and although they may have returned to 
the world, yet they are declared incapable of matrimony, like the monks, 
from whom, nevertheless, they are distinguished. For the early days of 
Clairvaux cf. notes to ep. 31. 


the cause is God s. And since He is gracious and 
all-powerful, He will easily make any losses good, 
and even add greater riches. Therefore, let us be of 
good courage, since we have God with us, in whom 
I am present with you, though we may seem to be 
separated by a long distance. Let no one among 
you who shows himself attentive to his duties, 
humble, reverent, devoted to reading, watchful unto 
prayer, anxious for brotherly love, think that I am 
absent from him. For can I be anything but present 
with him in spirit when we are of one heart and one 
mind ? But if, which God forbid, there be among 
you any whisperer, or any that is double-tongued, a 
murmurer, or rebellious, or impatient of discipline, 
or restless or truant, and who is not ashamed to eat 
the bread of idleness, from such I should be far 
absent in soul even though present in body, just 
because he would have already set himself far from 
God by a distance of character and not of space. 

3. In the meanwhile, brethren, until I come, serve 
the Lord in fear, that in Him being delivered from 
the hand of your enemies you may serve Him without 
fear. Serve Him in hope, for He is faithful that 
promised ; serve Him by good works, for He is 
bountiful to reward. To say nothing else, He rightly 
claims this life of ours as His own, because He laid 
down His own to obtain it. Let none, therefore, live 
to himself, but to Him who died for him. For 
whom can I more justly live than for Him whose 
death was my life ? for whom with more profit to 
myself than for Him who promises eternal life ? for 
whom under a greater necessity than for Him who 
threatens me with everlasting flames ? But I serve 


Him willingly, because love gives liberty. To this I 
exhort my children. Serve Him in that love which 
casteth out fear, which feels no labours, seeks for no 
reward, thinks of no merit, and yet is more urgent 
than all. No terror is so powerful, no rewards so 
inviting, no righteousness so exacting. May it join 
me to you never to be divided, may it also bring me 
before you, especially at your hours of prayer, my 
brethren, dearly beloved and greatly longed for. 


He expresses his regret at his very long absence from his beloved 
Clairvaux, and his desire to return to his dear sons. He 
tells them of the consolations that he feels nevertheless in 
his great labours for the Church. 

i. My soul is sorrowful until I return, and it 
refuses to be comforted till it see you. For what is 
my consolation in the hour of evil, and in the place 
of my pilgrimage ? Are not you in the Lord ? 
Wherever I go, the sweet memory of you never 
leaves me ; but the sweeter the memory the more 
I feel the absence. Ah, me ! that the time of my 
sojourning here is not only prolonged, but its burden 
increased, and truly, as the Prophet says, they who for 
a time separate me from you have added to the pain of my 
wounds (Ps. Ixix. 26). Life is an exile, and one that 
is dreary enough, for while we are in the body we 
are absent from the Lord. To this is added the 


special grief which almost makes me impatient, that 
I am forced to live without you. It is a protracted 
sickness, a wearisome waiting, to be so long subject 
to the vanity which possesses everything here, to be 
imprisoned within the horrid dungeon of a noisome 
body, to be still bound with the chains of death, and 
the ropes of sin, and all this time to be away from 
Christ. But against all these things one solace was 
given me from above, instead of His glorious coun 
tenance which has not yet been revealed, and that is 
the sight of the holy temple of God, which is you. 
From this temple it used to seem to me an easy pas 
sage to that glorious temple, after which the Prophet 
sighed when he said : One thing have I desired of the 
Lord, which I will require, even that I may dwell in the 
house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the 
fair beauty of the Lord and to visit His temple (Ps. xxvi. 4). 
2. What shall I say ? how often has that solace 
been taken from me ? Lo, this is now the third 
time, if I mistake not, that my children have been 
taken from me. The babes have been too early 
weaned, and I am not allowed to bring up those 
whom I begot through the Gospel. In short, I am 
forced to abandon my own children and look after 
those of others, and I hardly know which is the more 
distressing, to be taken from the former, or to have 
to do with the latter. O, good Jesu ! is my whole 
life thus to waste away in grief, and my years in 
mourning ? It is good for me, O Lord, rather to die 
than to live, only let it be amongst my brethren, 
those of my own household, those who are dearest 
to my heart. That, as all know, is sweeter and safer, 
and more natural. Nay, it would be a loving act to 


grant to me that I might be refreshed before I go 
away, and be no more seen. If it please my Lord 
that the eyes of a father, who is not worthy to be 
called a father, should be closed by the hands of his 
sons, that they may witness his last moments, soothe 
his end, and raise his spirit by their loving prayers to 
the blissful fellowship, if you think him worthy to 
have his body buried with the bodies of those who 
are blessed because poor, if I have found favour in 
Thy sight, this I most earnestly ask that I may obtain 
by the prayers and merits of these my brethren. 
Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done. Not 
for my own sake do I wish for either life or death. 

3. But it is only right, that as you have heard of 
my grief, you should also know what consolation I 
have. The first solace for all the trouble and mis 
fortune that I undergo is the thought that the cause 
I strive for is that of Him to whom all things live. 
Whether I will or no, I must live for Him who 
bought my life at the price of His own, and who is 
able, as a merciful and righteous Judge, to recom 
pense us in that day whatever we may suffer for 
Him. But if I have served as His soldier against 
my will, it will be only that a dispensation has been 
entrusted unto me, and I shall be an unprofitable 
servant ; but if I serve willingly I shall have glory. 
In this consideration, then, I breathe again for a 
little. My second consolation is that often, without 
any merit of mine, grace from above has crowned 
me in my labours, and that grace in me was not in 
vain, as I have many times found, and as you have 
seen to some extent. But how necessary just now 
the presence of my feebleness is to the Church of 



God, I would say for your consolation were it not 
that it would sound like boasting. But as it is, it is 
better that you should learn it from others. 

4. Moved by the pressing request of the Emperor, 
by the Apostolic command, as well as by the prayers 
of the Church and the princes, whether with my will 
or against my will, weak and ill, and, to say truth, 
carrying about with me the pallid image of the King 
of terrors, I am borne away into Apulia. Pray for 
the things which make for the Church s peace and 
our salvation, that I may again see you, live with you, 
and die with you, and so live that ye may obtain. 
In my weakness and time of distress, with tears and 
groanings, I have dictated these words, as our dear 
brother Baldwin l can testify, who has taken them 
down from my mouth, and who has been called by 
the Church to another office and elevated to a new 
dignity. Pray, too, for him, as my one comfort now, 
and in whom my spirit is greatly refreshed. Pray, 
too, for our lord the Pope, who regards me and all 
of you equally with the tenderest affection. Pray, 
too, for my lord the Chancellor, who is to me as a 
mother ; and for those who are with him my lord 
Luke, my lord Chrysogonus, and Master Ivo 2 who 

1 Baldwin, first Cardinal of the Cistercian Order, was created by 
Innocent, A.D. 1130, at a Council held at Claremont. He was afterwards 
made Archbishop of Pisa ; cf. Life of S. Bernard (lib. ii. n. 49) : " In Pisa 
was Baldwin born, the glory of his native land, and a burning light to the 
Church." So great a man did not think it beneath him to act as Bernard s 
secretary, and his praises are sung in ep. 245, cf. ep. 201. 

2 All these were Cardinals. Luke, of the title of SS. John and Paul, 
was created A.D. 1132 ; Chrysogonus, of the title of S. Maria de Porticu, 
A.D. 1134; Ivo, a regular Canon of S. Victor of Paris, A.D. 1130, of the 
title of S. Laurence in Damascus ; to him ep. 193 was written. 


show themselves as brothers. They who are with 
me Brother Bruno and Brother Gerard 1 salute 
you and ask for your prayers. 



This Thomas had taken the vows of the Cistercian Order at 
Clairvanx. As he showed hesitation, Bernard urges his 
tardy spirit to fulfil them. But the following letter will 
prove that it was a warning to deaf ears, where it relates 
the unhappy end of Thomas. In this letter Bernard 
sketches with a master s hand the whole scheme of salva 

BERNARD to his beloved son THOMAS, as being his 

i. What is the good of words? An ardent spirit 
and a strong desire cannot express themselves simply 
by the tongue. We want your sympathy and your 
bodily presence to speak to us ; for if you come you 
will know us better, and we shall better appreciate 
each other. We have long been held in a mutual 
bond as debtors one to another ; for I owe you faith 
ful care and you owe me submissive obedience. Let 
our actions and not our pens, if you please, prove 
each of us. I wish you would apply to yourself 
henceforth and carry out towards me those words of 
the Only Begotten : The works which the Father hath 

1 Bruno is called (ep. 209) the father of many disciples in Sicily. Gerard 
seems to be Bernard s brother. For Bruno see also ep. 165 n. 4. 


given Me to finish, the same works bear witness of Me (S. 
John v. 36). For, indeed, only thus does the spirit 
of the Only Son bear witness with our spirit that we 
also are the sons of God, when, quickening us from 
dead works, He causes us to bring forth the works of 
life. A good or bad tree is distinguished, not by its 
leaves or flowers, but by its fruit. So By their fruits, 
He saith, ye shall know them (S. Matt. vii. 16). Works, 
then, and not words, make the difference between 
sons of God and sons of unbelief. By works, accord 
ingly, do you display your sincere desire and make 
proof of mine. 

2. I long for your presence ; my heart has long 
wished for you, and expected the fulfilment of your 
promises. Why am I so pressing ? Certainly not 
from any personal or earthly feeling. I desire either 
to be profited by you or to be of service to you. 
Noble birth, bodily strength and beauty, the glow of 
youth, estates, palaces, and sumptuous furniture, ex 
ternal badges of dignity, and, I may also add, the 
world s wisdom all these are of the world, and the 
world loves its own. But for how long will 
they endure ? For ever ? Assuredly not ; for the 
world itself will not last for ever ; but these will 
not last even for long. In fact, the world will 
not be able long to keep these gifts for you, nor will 
you dwell long in the world to enjoy them, for the 
days of man are short. The world passes away with 
its lusts, but it dismisses you before it quite passes 
away itself. How can you take unlimited pleasure 
in a love that soon must end ? But I ever love you, 
not your possessions ; let them go whence they were 
derived. I only require of you one thing : that you 


would be mindful of your promise, and not deny us 
any longer the satisfaction of your presence among 
us, who love you sincerely, and will love you for 
ever. In fact, if we love purely in our life, we shall 
also not be divided in death. For those gifts which 
I wish for in your case, or rather for you, belong 
not to the body or to time only ; and so they fail not 
with the body, nor pass away with time ; nay, when 
the body is laid aside they delight still more, and last 
when time is gone. They have nothing in common 
with the gifts above-mentioned, or such as they with 
which, I imagine, not the Father, but the world has 
endowed you. For which of these does not vanish 
before death, or at last fall a victim to it ? 

3. But, indeed, that is the best part, which shall 
not be taken away for ever. What is that ? Eye 
hath not seen it, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into 
the heart of man (i Cor. ii. 9). He who is a man and 
walks simply according to man s nature only, he who, 
to speak more plainly, is still content with flesh and 
blood, is wholly ignorant what that is, because flesh 
and blood will not reveal the things which God alone 
reveals through His Spirit. So the natural man is in 
no way admitted to the secret ; in fact, he receiveth 
not the things of the Spirit of God (i Cor. ii. 14). 
Blessed are they who hear His words. / have called 
you friends , for all things that I have heard of My Father 
I have made known to you (S. John xv. 15). O, wicked 
world, which wilt not bless thy friends except thou 
make them enemies of God, and consequently un 
worthy of the council of the blessed. For clearly he 
who is willing to be thy friend makes himself the 
enemy of God. And if the servant knoweth not what 


his Lord doeth, how much less the enemy ? More 
over, the friend of the Bridegroom standeth, and re- 
joiceth with joy because of the Bridegroom s voice ; 
whence also it says, My soul failed when [my beloved] 
spake (Cant. v. 6). And so the friend of the world is 
shut out from the council of the friends of God, who 
have received not the spirit of this world but the 
spirit which is of God, that they may know the things 
which are given to them of God. / thank Thee, O 
Father, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise 
and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, 
Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight (S. Matt. xi. 
25, 26), not because they of themselves deserved it. 
For all have sinned, and come short of Thy glory, 
that Thou mayest freely send the Spirit of Thy Son, 
crying in the hearts of the sons of adoption : Abba, 
Father. For those who are led by this Spirit, they 
are sons, and cannot be kept from their Father s 
council. Indeed, they have the Spirit dwelling 
within them, who searches even the deep .things of 
God. In short, of what can they be ignorant whom 
grace teaches everything ? 

4. Woe unto you, ye sons of this world, because 
of your wisdom, which is foolishness ! Ye know not 
the spirit of salvation, nor have share in the counsel, 
which the Father alone discloses alone to the Son, 
and to him to whom the Son will reveal Him. For who 
hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been 
His counsellor? (Rom. xi. 34). Not, indeed, on one ; 
but only a few, only those who can truly say : The 
only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, 
He hath declared Him. Woe to the world for its 
clamour ! That same Only Begotten, like as the 


Angel of a great revelation, proclaims among the 
people : He who hath ears to hear let him hear. And 
since he finds not ears worthy to receive His words, 
and to whom He may commit the secret of the 
Father, he weaves parables for the crowd, that hear 
ing they might not hear, and seeing they might not 
understand. But for His friends how different ! With 
them He speaks apart : To you it is given to know the 
mysteries of the kingdom of God (S. Luke viii. 8 10) ; to 
whom also He says: Fear not, little flock, for it is your 
Father s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (S. Luke 
xii. 32). Who are these ? These are they whom He 
foreknew and foreordained to be conformed to the image 
of His Son, that He might be the first born among many 
brethren. The Lord knows who are His. Here is 
His great secret and the counsel which He has made 
known unto men. But He judges no others worthy of 
a share in so great mystery, except those whom He 
has foreknown and foreordained as His own. For 
those whom He foreordained, them also He called. 
Who, except he be called, may approach God s 
counsel ? Those whom He called, them also He 
justified. Over them a Sun arises, though not that 
sun which may daily be seen arising over good and 
bad alike, but He of whom the Prophet speaks when 
addressing himself to those alone who have been 
called to the counsel, he says: Unto you that fear My 
name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise (Malachi iv. 2). 1 

1 So all texts, except a few, in which the reading is : " Indeed, that 
Sun is promised to those who have been called," &c. In the first edition, 
and many subsequent ones : " For the Sun which arises is not that which 
is daily to be seen rising over good and bad, but one promised by the 
prophetic warning to such as fear God, to those only who have been 
called," &c. 


So while the sons of unbelief remain in darkness, the 
child of light leaves the power of darkness and comes 
into this new light, if once he can with faith say to 
God : / ant a companion of all them that fear Thee (Ps. 
cxix. 63). Do you see how faith precedes, in order 
that justification may follow ? Perchance, then, we 
are called through fear, and justified by love. Finally, 
the just shall live by faith (Rom. i. 17), that/a/ //*, doubt 
less, which works by love (Gal. v. 6). 

5. So at his call let the sinner hear what he has to 
fear ; and thus coming to the Sun of Righteousness, 
let him, now enlightened, see what he must love. 
For what is that saying: The merciful goodness of the 
Lord endureth from everlasting to everlasting upon them 
that fear Him (Ps. ciii. 17). From everlasting, because 
of predestination, to everlasting, because of glorifi 
cation. The one process is without beginning, the 
other knows no ending. Indeed, those whom He 
predestines from everlasting, He glorifies to ever 
lasting, with an interval, at least, in the case of adults, 
of calling and justification between. So at the rising 
of the Sun of Righteousness, the mystery, hidden 
from eternity, concerning souls that have been pre 
destinated and are to be glorified, begins in some 
degree to emerge from the depths of eternity, as each 
soul, called by fear and justified by love, becomes 
assured that it, too, is of the number of the blessed, 
knowing well that whom He justified, them also He glori 
fied (Rom. viii. 30). What then ? The soul hears 
that it is called when it is stricken with fear. It feels 
also that it is justified when it is surrounded with 
love. Can it do otherwise than be confident that it 
will be glorified ? There is a beginning ; there is 


continuation. Can it despair only of the consum 
mation ? Indeed, if the fear of the Lord, in which 
our calling is said to consist, is the beginning of 
wisdom, surely the love of God that love, I mean, 
which springs from faith, and is the source of our 
justification is progress in wisdom. And so what 
but the consummation of wisdom is that glorifica 
tion which we hope for at the last from the vision of 
God that will make us like Him ? And so one deep 
calleth another because of the noise of the water-pipes (Ps. 
xlii. 9), when, with terrible judgments, that un 
measured Eternity and Eternal Immensity, whose 
wisdom cannot be told, leads the corrupt and in 
scrutable heart of man by Its own power and good 
ness forth into Its own marvellous light. 

6. For instance, let us suppose a man in the world, 
held fast as yet in the love of this world and of his 
flesh ; and, inasmuch as he bears the image of the 
earthly man, occupied with earthly things, without 
a thought of things heavenly, can any one fail to see 
that this man is surrounded with horrible darkness, 
unless he also is sitting in the same fatal gloom ? 
For no sign of his salvation has yet shone upon him ; 
no inner inspiration bears its witness in his heart as 
to whether an eternal predestination destines him to 
good. But, then, suppose the heavenly compassion 
vouchsafes sometime to have regard to him, and to 
shed upon him a spirit of compunction to make him 
bemoan himself and learn wisdom, change his life, 
subdue his flesh, love his neighbour, cry to God, and 
resolve hereafter to live to God and not to the world ; 
and suppose that thenceforward, by the gracious visi 
tation of heavenly light and the sudden change ac- 


complished by the Right Hand of the Most High, he 
sees clearly that he is no longer a child of wrath, but 
of grace, for he is now experiencing the fatherly 
love and divine goodness towards him a love which 
hitherto had been concealed from him so completely 
as not only to leave him in ignorance whether he 
deserved love or hate, but also as to make his own 
life indicate hatred rather than love, for darkness was 
still on the face of the deep would it not seem to 
you that such an one is lifted directly out of the pro- 
foundest and darkest deep of horrible ignorance into 
the pleasant and serene deep of eternal brightness ? 

7. And then at length God, as it were, divides the 
light from the darkness, when a sinner, enlightened 
by the first rays of the Sun of Righteousness, casts 
off the works of darkness and puts on the armour of 
light. His own conscience and the sins of his former 
life alike doom him as a true child of Hell to eternal 
fires ; but under the looks with which the Dayspring 
from on high deigns to visit him, he breathes again, 
and even begins to hope beyond hope that he shall 
enjoy the glory of the sons of God. For rejoicing at 
the near prospect with unveiled face, he sees it in the 
new light, and says : Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy 
countenance upon us ; Thou hast put gladness in my heart 
(Ps. iv. 7) ; Lord, what is man that Thou hast such respect 
unto him, or the son of man that Thou so regardcst him ? 
(Ps. cxliv. 3). Now, O good Father, vile worm and 
worthy of eternal hatred as he is, he yet trusts that 
he is loved, because he feels that he loves ; nay, be 
cause he has a foretaste of Thy love he does not 
blush to make return of love. Now in Thy bright 
ness it becomes clear, Oh ! Light that no man can 


approach unto, what good things Thou hast in store 
for so poor a thing as man, even though he be evil ! 
He loves not undeservedly, because he was loved 
without his deserving it ; and his love is for ever 
lasting, because he knows that he has been loved 
from everlasting. He brings to light for the comfort 
of the sorrowful the great design which from eternity 
had lain in the bosom of eternity, namely, that God 
wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he 
should be converted and live. As a witness of this 
secret, Oh ! man, thou hast the justifying Spirit bear 
ing witness herein with thy spirit that thou thyself 
also art the son of God. Acknowledge the counsel 
of God in thy justification ; confess it and say, Thy 
testimonies are my delight and my counsellors (Ps. cxix. 
24). For thy present justification is the revelation 
of the Divine counsel, and a preparation for future 
glory. Or rather, perhaps, predestination itself is 
the preparation for it, and justification is more the 
gradual drawing near unto it. Indeed, it is said, 
Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (S. Matt, 
iii. 2). And hear also of predestination that it is the 
preparation : Come, inherit, He says, the kingdom pre 
pared for you from the foundation of the world (S. Matt, 
xxv. 34). 

8. Let none, therefore, doubt that he is loved who 
already loves. The love of God freely follows our 
love which it preceded. For how can He grow 
weary of returning their love to those whom He 
loved even while they yet loved Him not? He loved 
them, I say ; yes, He loved. For as a pledge of 
His love thou hast the Spirit ; thou has also Jesus, 
the faithful witness, and Him crucified. Oh ! double 


proof, and that most sure, of God s love towards 
us. Christ dies, and deserves to be loved by us. 
The Spirit works, and makes Him to be loved. The 
One shows the reason why He is loved : the Other 
how He is to be loved. The One commends His 
own great love to us ; the Other makes it ours. In 
the One we see the object of love ; from the Other 
we draw the power to love. With the One, therefore, 
is the cause ; with the Other the gift of charity. What 
shame to watch, with thankless eyes, the Son of God 
dying and yet this may easily happen, if the Spirit 
be not with us. But now, since The love of God is 
shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given 
unto us (Rom. v. 5), having been loved we love ; and 
as we love, we deserve to be loved yet more. For if, 
says the Apostle, while we were yet enemies, we have been 
reconciled to God through the death of His Son ; much more, 
being reconciled, shall we be saved through His life (Rom. 
viii. 32). For He that spared not His own Son, but de 
livered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also 
freely give us all things ? 

9. Since, then, the token of our salvation is two 
fold, namely, a twofold outpouring, of the Blood and 
of the Spirit, neither can profit without the other. 
For the Spirit is not given except to such as believe 
in the Crucified ; and faith avails not unless it works 
by love. But love is the gift of the Spirit. If the 
second Adam (I speak of Christ) not only became a 
living soul, but also a quickening spirit, dying as 
being the one, and raising the dead as being the 
other, how can that which dies in Him profit me, 
apart from that which quickens ? Indeed, He Him 
self says : // is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth 


nothing (S. John vi. 63). Now, what does " quick- 
eneth " mean except " justifieth " ? For as sin is the 
death of the soul (The soul that sinneth it shall die, 
Ezek. xviii. 4), without doubt righteousness is its 
life ; for The just shall live by faith (Rom. i. 17). Who, 
then, is righteous, except he who returns to God, 
who loves him, His meed of love ? And this never 
happens unless the Spirit by faith reveal to the man 
the eternal purpose of God concerning his future 
salvation. Such a revelation is simply the infusion 
of spiritual grace, by which, with the mortification of 
the deeds of the flesh, man is made ready for the 
kingdom which flesh and blood cannot inherit. And 
he receives by one and the same Spirit both the 
reason for thinking that he is loved and the power 
of returning love, lest the love of God for us should 
be left without return. 

10. This, then, is that holy and secret counsel 
which the Son has received from the Father by the 
Holy Spirit. This by the same Spirit He imparts 
to His own whom He knows, in their justification, 
and by the imparting He justifies. Thus in his 
justification each of the faithful receives the power to 
begin to know himself even as he is known : when, 
for instance, there is given to him some foretaste of 
his own future happiness, as he sees how it lay hid 
from eternity in God, who foreordains it, but will 
appear more fully in God, who is effecting it. But 
concerning the knowledge that he has now, for his 
part, attained, let a man glory at present in the hope, 
not in the secure possession of it. How must we 
pity those who possess as yet no token of their own 
calling to this glad assembly of the righteous. Lord, 


who hath believed our report? (Is. liii. i). Oh! that 
they would be wise and understand. But except 
they believe they shall not understand. 

1 1. But you, too, ye unhappy and heedless lovers 
of the world, have your purpose far from that of the 
just. Scale sticks close to scale, and there is no air 
hole between you. You, too, oh ! sons of impiety, 
have your purpose communicated one to another, but 
openly against the Lord and against His Christ (Ps. ii. 2). 
For if, as the Scripture says, The fear of God, that is 
piety (Job xxviii. 28),* of course any one who loves the 
world more than God is convicted of impiety and 
idolatry, of worshipping and serving the creature 
rather than the Creator. But if, as has been said, 
the holy and impious have each their purpose kept 
for themselves, doubtless there is a great gulf fixed 
between the two. For as the just keeps himself aloof 

from the purpose and council of evil men (cf. Ps. i. 6), so 
the impious never rise in the judgment, nor sinners 
in the purpose 2 for the just. For there is a purpose 
for the just, a gracious rain which God hath set apart 
for His heritage. There is a purpose really secret, 
descending like rain into a fleece of wool a sealed 
fount whereof no stranger may partake a Sun of 
Righteousness rising only for such as fear God. 

12. Moreover, the prophet, noting that the rest 
remain in their own dryness and darkness, being 
ignorant of the rain and of the light of the just, 
mocks and brands their unfruitful gloom and con- 

1 The Ixx. has I5oi) Oeofftpeia tcrrl <ro<t>la. The VULGATE reads " Ecce 
timor Domini ipsa est sapientia," with which the A. V. coincides, " Behold 
the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." Does Bernard quote from memory? 

2 This must be the reading, not "congregation" [concilia], as in Ps. i., 
for the sense demands "purpose" \consilio\, and the MSS. so read. 


fused perversity. This is a nation, he says, that obeyeth 
not the voice of the Lord their God (Jer. vii. 28). You 
are not ready, oh ! miserable men, to say with David, 
/ will hearken what the Lord God will say with regard to 
me (Ps. Ixxxv. 8), for being exhausted abroad upon 
[the quest of] vanity and false folly, you seek not for 
the deepest and best hearing of the truth. Oh / ye 
sons of men, how long will ye blaspheme mine honour, and 
have such pleasure in vanity and seek after leasing (Ps. 
iv. 2). You are deaf to the voice of truth, and you 
know not the purpose of Him who thinks thoughts 
of peace, who also speaks peace to His people, and 
to His saints, and to such as are converted in heart. 
Now, he says, ye are clean through the word ivhich I have 
spoken to you (S. John xv. 3). Therefore, they who 
hear not this word are unclean. 

13. But do you, dearly beloved, if you are making 
ready your inward ear for this Voice of God that is 
sweeter than honey and the honey-comb, flee from 
outward cares, that with your inmost heart clear and 
free you also may say with Samuel, Speak, Lord, for 
thy servant heareth (i Sam. iii. 9). This Voice sounds 
not in the market-place, and is not heard in public. 
It is a secret purpose, and seeks to be heard in secret. 
It will of a surety give you joy and gladness in hear 
ing it, if you listen with attentive ear. Once it ordered 
Abraham (Gen. xii. i) to get him out of his country 
and from his kindred, that he might see and possess 
the land of the living. Jacob (Gen. xxxii. 10) left his 
brother and his home, and passed over Jordan with 
his staff, and was received in Rachel s embrace (Gen. 
xxix. n). Joseph was lord in Egypt (Gen. xxxvii. 
and xli.), having been torn by a fraudful purchase 


from his father and his home. Thus the Church is 
bidden, in order that the King may have pleasure in 
her beauty, to forget her own people and her father s 
house (Ps. xlv. u, 12). The boy Jesus was sought 
by His parents among their kinsfolk and acquaintance, 
and was not found (S. Luke ii. 44, 45). Do you 
also flee from your brethren, if you wish to find the 
way of salvation. Flee, I say, from the midst of 
Babylon, flee from before the sword of the north- 
wind. A bare sustenance I am ready to offer for the 
help of every one that flees. You call me your abbot ; 
I refuse not the title for obedience sake obedience, 
I say, not that I demand it, but that I render it in 
service to others, even as The Son of Man came not to 
be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a 
ransom for many (S. Matt. xx. 28). But if you deem 
me worthy, receive as your fellow-disciple him whom 
you choose for your master. For we both have one 
Master, Christ. And so let Him be the end of this 
Letter, who is The end of the law for righteousness to 
even 1 one that believeth (Rom. x. 4). 



He urges him to leave his studies and enter religion, and sets 
before him the miserable end of Thomas of Beverley. 

To his dearly beloved son, THOMAS, Brother 
BERNARD, called Abbot of Clairvaux, that he may 
walk in the fear of the Lord. 


i. You do well in acknowledging the debt of 
your promise, and in not denying your guilt in de 
ferring its performance. But I beg you not to think 
simply of what you promised, but to whom you 
promised it. For I do not claim for myself any part 
of that promise which you made, in my presence, 
indeed, but not to me. Do not fear that I am going 
to reprove you on account of that deceptive delay : 
for I was summoned as the witness, not as the lord 
of your vow. 1 I saw it and rejoiced ; and my prayer 
is that my joy may be full which it will not be until 
your promise is fulfilled. You have fixed a time 
which you ought not to have transgressed. You 
have transgressed it. What is that to me ? To your 
own lord you shall stand or fall. I have determined, 
because the danger is so imminent, to deal with you 
neither by reproofs nor threats, but only by advice 
and that only so far as you take it kindly. If you 
shall hear me, well. If not, I judge no man ; there 
is One who seeketh and judgeth ; for He who judgeth 
us t s the Lord (i Cor. iv. 4). And I think for this 
cause you ought to fear and grieve the more, inasmuch 
as you have not lied unto men, but unto God. And 
though, as you wish, I spare your shame before men, 
is that shamelessness to go unpunished before God ? 
For what reason, pray, is there in feeling shame 
before the judgment of man and not fearing the face 
of God ? For the face of the Lord is against them that 
do evil (Ps. xxxiv. 16). Do you, then, fear reproaches 

1 Bernard regards as a vow that kind of promise by which a man had 
determined in his presence to enter the religious state. See Letter 395, 
and Sermons on Canticles, 63, n. 6, in which he mourns the lapse and fall 
of novices. 



more than torments ; and do you, who tremble at the 
tongue of flesh, despise the sword which devours the 
flesh ? Are these the fine moral principles with which, 
as you write, you are being stored in the acquisition 
of knowledge, the ardour and love for which so heats 
and excites you that you do not fear to slight your 
sacred vow ? 

2. But, I pray you, what proof of virtue is it, what 
instance of self-control, what advance in knowledge, 
or artistic skill, to tremble with fear where no fear is 
needful, and to lay aside even the fear of the Lord. 
How much more wholesome the knowledge of Jesus 
and Him crucified a knowledge, of course, not easy 
to acquire except for Him who is crucified to the world. 
You are mistaken, my son, quite mistaken, if you 
think that you can learn in the school of the teachers 
of this world that knowledge which only the disciples 
of Christ, that is, such as despise the world, attain ; 
and that by the gift of God. This knowledge is 
taught, not by the reading of books, but by grace ; 
not by the letter, but by the spirit ; not by learning, 
but by the practice of the commandments of God : 
Sow, says the Prophet, to yourselves in righteousness, 
reap the hope of life, kindle for yourselves the light of 
knowledge (cf. Hos. x. 12). You see that the light of 
knowledge cannot be duly attained, except the seed of 
righteousness [first] enter the soul, so that from it may 
grow the grain of life, and not the mere husk of vain 
glory. What then ? You have not yet sown to 
yourself in righteousness, and therefore you have not 
yet reaped the sheaves of hope ; and do you pretend 
that you are acquiring the true knowledge ? Per 
chance for the true there is being substituted that which 


puffeth up. You err foolishly, Spending thy money for 
that which is not bread, and thy labour for that which 
satisfieth not (Is. Iv. 2). I entreat you, return to the 
former wish of your heart, and realize that this year 
of delay which you have allowed to yourself has been 
a wrong to God ; is not a year pleasing to the Lord, 
but a seedplot of discord, an incentive to wrath, a 
food of apostasy, such as must quench the Spirit, shut 
off grace, and produce that lukewarmness which is 
wont to provoke God to spue men out of His mouth 
(cf. Rev. iii. 16). 

3. Alas ! I think that, as you are called by the same 
name, so you walk in the same spirit as that other 
Thomas, once, I mean, Provost of Beverley. For 
after devoting himself, like you, to our Order and 
House with all his heart, he began to beg for delay, 
and then by degrees to grow cold, until he openly 
ended by being a Secular, an apostate, and, twofold 
more, a child of hell, and was cut off prematurely by 
a sudden and terrible death (S. Matt, xxiii. 15) a 
fate which, if it may be, let the pitiful and clement 
Lord avert. The letter l which I wrote to him in vain 
still survives. I simply freed my own mind, by 
warning him, so far as I could, how it must soon end. 
How happy would he have been if he had taken my 
advice ! He cloked his sin. I am clean from his 
blood. But that is not enough for me. For though 
in so acting I am quite at ease on my own account, 
yet that charity which seeketh not her own (i Cor. xiii. 
5) urges me to mourn for him who died not in safety, 
because he lived so carelessly. Oh ! the great depth 
of the judgments of God ! Oh ! my God, terrible in 

1 No. 107. 


Thy counsels over the sons of men ! He bestowed 
the Spirit, whom he was soon again to withdraw, so 
that a man sinned a sin beyond measure, and grace 
found entrance that sin might abound ; though this 
was the fault, not of the Giver, but of him who added 
the transgression. For it was the act of the man s 
own freewill (whereby, using badly his freedom, he 
had the power to grieve the free Spirit) to despise the 
grace instead of bringing to good effect the inspira 
tion of God, so as to be able to say : His grace which 
ivas bestowed on me was not in vain (i Cor. xv. 10). 

4. If you are wise, you will let his folly profit you 
as a warning ; you will wash your hands in the 
blood of the sinner, and take care to release your 
self at once from the snare of perdition, and me 
from horrible fear on your account. For, I confess, 
I feel your erring steps as the rending of my heart, 
because you have become very dear to me, and I 
feel a father s affection for you. Therefore, at every 
remembrance of you that sword of fear pierces 
through my heart the more sharply, as I consider 
that you have too little fear and uneasiness. I know 
where I have read of such : For when they shall say 
peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, 
as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not 
escape (i Thess.v. 3). Yea, I foresee that many fear 
ful consequences threaten you if you still delay to 
be wise. For I have had much experience ; and 
Oh ! that you would share and profit by it. So be 
lieve one who has had experience ; believe one who 
loves you. For if you know for the one reason 
that I am not deceived, for the other you know also 
that I am not capable of deceiving you. 




He pronounces the youths noble because they purpose to lead the 
religious life, and exhorts them to perseverance. 

To his beloved sons, GEOFFREY and his com 
panions, BERNARD, called Abbot of Clairvaux, wishes 
the spirit of counsel and strength. 

i. The news of your conversion that has got 
abroad is edifying many, nay, is making glad the 
whole Church of God, so that The heavens rejoice and 
the earth is glad (Ps. xcvi. n), and every tongue 
glorifies God. The earth shook and the heavens dropped 
at the presence of the God of Sinai (cf. Ps. Ixviii. 8, 9), 
raining on those days more abundantly than usual 
a gracious rain which God keeps for His inheritance 
(Ps. Ixvii. 9, 10, VULG.). Never more will the cross 
of Christ appear void of effect in you, as in many 
sons of disobedience, who, delaying from day to day 
to turn to God, are seized by sudden death, and go 
down straightway to hell. We see flourish again 
under our eyes the wood whereon the Lord of Glory 
hung, who died not for His own nation only, But also 
that He should gather together in one the children of God 
that were scattered abroad (S. John xi. 52). He, yes, 
He Himself draws you, who loves you as His own 
flesh, as the most precious fruit of His cross, as the 
most worthy recompense of the blood he shed. If, 
then, the Angels Rejoice over one sinner that repenteth (S. 
Luke xv. 10), how great must be their joy over so 


many, and those, too, sinners. The more illustrious 
they seemed for rank, for learning, for birth, for 
youth, the wider was their influence as examples of 
perdition. I had read, Not many nob/e, not many wise, 
not many mighty hath God chosen (i Cor. i. 26, 27). 
But to-day, through a miracle of Divine power, a 
multitude of such is converted. They hold present 
glory cheap, they spurn the charm of youth, they 
take no account of high birth, they regard the wis 
dom of the world as foolishness, they rest not in 
flesh and blood, they renounce the love of parents 
and friends, they reckon favours and honours and 
dignities as dung that they may gain Christ. I should 
praise you if I knew that this, your lot, were your 
own doing. But it is the finger of God, clearly a 
change due to the right hand of the Most High (cf. 
Ps. Ixxvii. 10, VULG., Ixxvi. n). Your conversion is 
a good gift and a perfect gift, without doubt descend 
ing from the Father of lights (S. James i. 17). And 
so to Him we rightly bring every voice of praise who 
only doeth marvellous things, who hath caused that 
plenteous redemption that is in Him to be no longer 
without effect in you. 

2. What, then, dearly beloved, remains for you to 
do, except to make sure that your praiseworthy pur 
pose attain the end it deserves ? Strive, therefore, 
for perseverance, the only virtue that receives the 
crown. Let there not be found among you Yea and 
Nay (2 Cor. i. 18, sq.), that ye may be the sons of 
your Father which is in Heaven, with whom, you 
know, there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning 
(S. James i. 17). You also, brethren, are changed 
into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the 


Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. iii. 18). Take heed with all 
watchfulness not to be yourselves found light, incon 
stant, or wavering. For it is written, A double-minded 
man is unstable in all his ways (S. James i. 8), and again, 
Woe be ... to the sinner that goeth two ways (Ecclus. 
ii. 12). And for myself, dearly beloved, I congratu 
late you, and myself not less, for, as I hear, I have 
been reckoned worthy of being chosen to have a part 
in this, your good purpose. I both give you my 
counsel and promise my help. If I am thought 
necessary, or, rather, if I be deemed worthy, I do 
not decline the task, and so far as in me lies will not 
fail you. With eager devotion I submit my shoulders 
to this burden, 1 old though they be, since it is laid 
on me from heaven. With a glad heart and open 
arms, as they say, I welcome the fellow-citizens of 
the saints and servants of God. How gladly, accord 
ing to the prophet s command, do I assist with my 
bread those that flee from the face of the sword, and 
bring water to the thirsty (cf. Is. xxi. 14). The rest I 
have left to the lips of my, or rather your, Geoffrey. 
Whatsoever he shall say to you in my stead, that, 
doubt not, is my counsel. 

1 Hence it is clear that Bernard was already approaching old age when 
he wrote this Letter. 




There is no reason to mourn a son as lost who is a religious, 
still less to fear for his delicacy of constitution. 

1. If God makes your son His son also, what do 
you lose or what does he himself lose ? Being rich 
he becomes richer ; being already high born, of still 
nobler lineage ; being illustrious, he gains greater 
renown ; and what is more than all once a sinner 
he is now a saint. He must be prepared for the 
Kingdom that has been prepared for him from 
the beginning of the world ; and for this end, the 
short time that he has to live he must spend with us ; 
until he has scraped off the filth of the worldly life, 
and wiped away the earthly dust, and at last is fit 
for the heavenly mansion. If you love your son, 
of course you will rejoice, because he goes to His 
Father and to such a Father as He. Yea, he goes to 
God. But you lose him not : nay, rather through 
him you gain many sons. For all of us who are in 
or of Clairvaux, acknowledge him as a brother and 
you as parents. 

2. But perchance you fear the effect of a severe 
life upon his body, which you know to be frail and 
delicate. But of such fear it is said, " There were they 
brought in great fear where no fear was" (Ps. xiv. 9). 
Reassure yourselves, and be comforted. I will be to 
him a father, and he shall be to me a son, until the 
Father of mercies and the God of all consolation (cf. Rom. 


xv. 5) receive him from my hands. So do not 
mourn ; do not weep. For your Geoffrey is hasten 
ing to joy and not to grief. I will be to him father, 
mother, brother, and sister. I will make the crooked 
straight for him and the rough way smooth (cf. S. Luke 
iii. 5). I will so order and arrange everything for 
him that his soul shall profit and his body not suffer 
loss. Moreover, he shall serve the Lord in joy and 
gladness, and shall sing in the ways of the Lord that great 
is the glory of the Lord (Ps. cxxxviii. 5). 



He replies to the question why the Church has decreed a festival to 
the Maccabees alone of all the righteous under the ancient law. 

i. Fulk, Abbot of Epernay, had already written 
to ask me the same question as your charity has 
addressed to your humble servant by Brother Hescelin. 
I have put off replying to him, being desirous to 
find, if possible, some statement in the Fathers 
about this which was asked, which I might send to 
him, rather than to reply by some new opinion of 
my own. But as I do not come upon one, in the 
meantime I reply to each of you with my thoughts 
upon the matter, on condition that if you discover 
anything better and more probable in your reading, 
conversation, or by your meditations, you will not 

1 Such is the title in almost all the MSS. But in one at Citcaux the 
Letter is inscribed To Bruno of Cologne, as is believed, on the martyrdom 
of the Maccabees. In an old edition // is thought to have been written to 
Hugo of S. Victor. 


omit to share it with me in turn. You ask, then, 
why it seemed good to the Fathers to decree that an 
annual commemoration, with veneration equal to our 
martyrs, should be solemnly made in the Church, by 
a certain peculiar privilege, to the Maccabees alone 
out of all the ancient saints ? If I should say that 
having made proof of the same courage as those, 
they were worthy now of the same honours, that 
would, perhaps, answer the question why they were 
included, but not why they alone were ; while it is 
quite evident that there were others amongst the 
ancients who suffered with equal zeal for righteous 
ness, but yet have not attained to be reverenced with 
equal solemnities. If I reply that the latter have 
not received the same honours as our martyrs be 
cause, although their valour deserved it, the time 
when they lived deprived them of it, why was not 
the same consideration applied also to the Maccabees, 
if, indeed, they, too, on account of the era when they 
lived, did not at once enter into the light of Heaven, 
but descended into the darkness of Hades ? For 
the Firstbegotten from the dead, He who opened 
to believers the kingdom of Heaven, the Lamb of 
the tribe of Judah, who opens and no more shuts, at 
Whose entrance with complete authority it was sung 
by the heavenly powers : Lift up your heads, O ye 
gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, and the King 
of Glory shall come in (Ps. xxiv. 7), He had not yet 
appeared. If on that account it appears unsuitable 
to commemorate with joy the passing away of those 
which was not a passage of glory and of joy, why 
was there an exception made for the Maccabees ? Or 
if they obtained favour on account of the courage 


which they displayed, why was not the same favour 
extended to those others ? Or ought it to be said, 
in order to explain this difference, that if the martyrs 
of the ancient law, as well as those of the new law, 
have suffered for the same cause of religion, yet they 
did not suffer in the same condition with those who 
have attained to the glory of martyrdom ? It is agreed 
that all the martyrs, whether of the Old or the New 
Testament, equally suffered for the sake of religion ; 
but there is a distinction, because the one class 
suffered because they held it, the other because they 
censured those who held it not ; the one because 
they would not desert it, the other because they 
declared that those would perish who deserted it, 
and to sum up in a word, that in which the two 
differ, perseverance in the faith has done in our 
martyrs that which zeal for the faith has done in 
those of the ancient law. The Maccabees are alone 
among the ancient martyrs, because they possessed 
not only the same cause as the new martyrdom, but 
also, as I have said, the form of it ; and rightly, 
therefore, they have attained the same glory and 
fame as the new martyrs of the Church. For like 
our martyrs, they were urged to pour libations to 
false gods, to renounce the law of their fathers, and 
even to transgress the commandments of God, and 
like them they resisted and died. 

2. Not so did Isaiah or Zecharias, or even that 
great prophet, John the Baptist, die ; of whom the 
first is said to have been sawn asunder, the second 
slain between the temple and the altar (S. Matt, xxiii. 
25), and the third beheaded in prison. If you ask 
by whom ? It was by the wicked and irreligious. 


For what cause ? For justice and religion. In 
what manner ? For confessing and openly upholding 
these. They openly upheld the truth before those 
who hated it, and thus drew upon themselves the 
hatred which caused their death. That which the 
unrighteous and wicked persecuted was not so much 
religion in itself as those who brought it before 
them, nor was their object to attack the righteousness 
of others, but to remain undisturbed in their own 
unrighteousness. It is one thing to seize upon the 
good things of another, and another to defend one s 
own goods ; to persecute the truth, and not to be 
willing to follow it one s self ; to grudge at believers, 
and to be angry at their reproofs ; to stop the mouth 
of those who confess their faith, and not to be able 
to bear patiently the taunts of those who contradict. 
Thus Herod sent and seized John. Wherefore ! 
Because he preached Christ, or because he was a 
good and just man ? On the contrary, he reverenced 
him the more on this account, and having heard him, 
did many tilings. But it was because John reproached 
Herod because of Herodias, his brother Philip s wife; on 
that account he was bound and beheaded ; no doubt 
he suffered for the truth, but because he urged its 
interests with zeal, not because he was urged to deny 
it. This is why the suffering of so great a martyr 
is observed with less solemnity than those even of 
far less famous men. 

3. It is certain that if the Maccabees had suffered 
in such a matter, and for such a reason as S. John, 
there would not have been any mention of them at 
all. But a confession of the truth, not unlike that of 
the Christian martyrs, made them like those ; and 


rightly, therefore, a similar veneration follows. Let 
it not be objected that they did not, like our martyrs, 
suffer for Christ expressly by name ; because it does 
not affect his status as a martyr whether a person 
suffers under the Law, on behalf of the observ 
ances of the Law, or under grace for the com 
mandments of the Gospel. For it is recognized that 
each of these equally suffers for the truth, and, there 
fore, for Christ, who said : / am the Truth (S. John 
xiv. 6). Therefore the Maccabees are more deserv 
ing of the honours that have been conferred upon 
them for the kind of their martyrdom than for the 
valour displayed in it, since w r e do not see that the 
Church has decreed such honour to the righteous 
of a former time, although they have displayed 
equal courage on behalf of righteousness, for the 
time in which they lived. I suppose that it was 
thought unfit to appoint a day of festival for a death, 
however laudable, before the Death of Christ, especi 
ally since before that saving Passion those who died, 
instead of entering into joy and glory endured the 
darkness of the prison-house. The Church then, as 
I said above, considered that an exception should be 
made in favour of the Maccabees, since the nature of 
their martyrdom conferred upon them what the time 
of their suffering denied to others. 

4. Nor them only, but those also who preceded 
in their death, the Death of Him who was the Life 
manifest in the flesh, either dying during His life, as 
Simeon and John the Baptist, or for Him, as the 
Innocents, we venerate with solemn rites, although 
they, too, descended into Hades ; but for another 
reason. Thus, in the case of the Innocents, it would 


be unjust to deprive innocence dying on behalf of 
righteousness of fame even in the present. John 
also, knowing that from his day the kingdom of 
heaven suffered violence, therefore proclaimed, Do 
penitence, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (S. Matt, 
iii. 2, VULG.) ; and, seeing that the Life would im 
mediately follow him, endured death with joy. He, 
before his death, was careful to inquire from the 
Lord Himself respecting this, and had the happiness 
to be informed of it. For when he sent his disciples 
to ask of Jesus Art Thou He that should come, or are we 
to look for another ? he received for answer, after the 
enumeration of very many miracles, And blessed is he 
who shall not be offended in me (S. Matt. xi. 3-6). In 
which answer the Lord intimated that He was about 
to die, and by such a death as might be to the Jews 
a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness. At 
this word the friend of the Bridegroom went onward 
rejoicing and with a willing mind, because he could 
not doubt that the Bridegroom also would speedily 
come. Therefore he who so joyfully could die 
merited also to be held in joyful remembrance. And 
that old man, too, as full of virtues as of days, who 
when death was already so near said, holding in his 
arms Him who was the Life, Now lettest Thou Thy 
servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salva 
tion (S. Luke ii. 29, 30), as if he had said, / go down 
without fear into Hades, because I feel that my re 
demption is so nigh ; he, too, who died with such 
fearless joy and such joyful security rightly deserves 
to be commemorated with joy in the Church. 

5. But on what principle shall a death be accounted 
joyful which is not accompanied by the joys of 


heaven ? or from whence should a dying person 
derive joy who was sure that he was going down 
into the darkness of the prison-house, and yet did not 
bear with him any certitude, how soon the consola 
tion of a deliverer thence should come to him ? 
Thus it was that when one of the saints heard Set thy 
house in order, for tliou shaft die, and not live, he turned 
himself to the wall and wept bitterly, and so asked 
and obtained some deferring of hateful death. Thus 
also he lamented miserably, saying, I shall go to the 
gates of the grave ; I am deprived of the half of my 
days (Is. xxxviii. 10) ; and a little after added, / shall 
not see the Lord in the land of the living : I shall behold 
man no more with the inhabitants of the world (Is. 
xxxviii. n). Hence also another says: Who shall 
grant me that Thou wouldest protect me in the grave, that 
Thou wouldest keep me secret until Thy wrath be passed; 
that Thou wouldest appoint me a set time and remember 
me? (Job xiv. 13). Israel also said to his sons, Ye 
will bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave 
(Gen. xlii. 38). What appearance is there in these 
deaths, of solemn joy, of rejoicing and festival ? 

6. But our martyrs desire to be unclothed and be 
with Christ, knowing well that where the Body is 
there without delay will the eagles be gathered 
together. There will the righteous rejoice in the 
sight of God, and be in joy and felicity. There, 
there, O most blessed Jesus, shall every saint who is 
delivered from this wicked world be rilled speedily 
with the joy of Thy countenance. There in the 
habitations of the just resounds for ever one song of 
joy and salvation : Our soul is delivered as a bird out 
of the net of the fowler : the net is broken and we are 


delivered (Ps. cxxiv. 7). How could those sing this 
song of gladness who in Hades sat in darkness and 
the shadow of death, while as yet there was no 
Redeemer for them, no Saviour ; while the Sun 
rising from on high, Christ the first fruits of them 
that slept, had not yet visited us ? Rightly, then, 
does the Church, who has learnt to rejoice with them 
that rejoice and to weep with them that weep, dis 
tinguish, because of the time at which they lived, 
between those whom she judges equal in valour : and 
does not think the descent into Hades proper to be 
followed with equal honour as is the passage into life. 
7. Therefore, though the motive makes martyrdom, 
yet the time and the nature of it determine the differ 
ence between martyrdoms. Thus the time in which 
they lived separates the Maccabees from the martyrs 
of the new law and joins them with those of the old ; 
but the nature of their martyrdom associates them 
with the new and divides them from the old. From 
these causes come the differences of observance with 
which they are kept in memory in the Church. But 
that which is common to the whole company of the 
Saints before God is what the holy prophet declares : 
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints 
(Ps. cxvi. 15). And why he calls it precious he 
explains to us : When He has given sleep to His Moved, 
behold, children, the heritage of the Lord ; His reward, the 
fruit of the womb (Ps. cxxvii. 3). Nor must we think 
that martyrs alone are beloved, since we remember 
that it was said of Lazarus, Our friend Lazarus sleeps 
(S.John xi. 11), and elsewhere, Blessed arc the dead who 
die in the Lord (Apoc. xiv. 13). Not those alone who 
die for the Lord, like the martyrs, but without doubt 


those also who die in the Lord as confessors are 
blessed. There are two things, as it seems to me, 
which make death precious, the life which precedes 
it and the cause for which it is endured ; but more 
the cause than the life. But when both the cause 
and the life concur that is the most precious of all. 

LETTER XLV (circa A.D. 1120) 


He gravely warns Fulk, a Canon Regular, whom an uncle had 
by persuasions and promises drawn back to the world, to 
obey God and be faithful to Him rather than to his uncle. 

To the honourable young man Fulk, Brother 
Bernard, a sinner, wishes such joy in youth as in 
old age he will not regret. 

i. I do not wonder at your surprise ; I should 
wonder if you were not suprised that I should write 
to you, a countryman to a citizen, a monk to a 
scholastic, 1 there being no apparent or pressing 
reason for so doing. But if you recall what is 
written / am debtor both to the wise and to the unwise 
(Rom. i. 14), and that Chanty seeketh not her own 
(i Cor. xiii. 5) perhaps you will understand that 
what it orders is not mere presumption. For it is 
Charity which compels me to reprove you ; to con 
dole with you, though you do not grieve ; to pity 

1 Either a canon holding a prebend of theology or simply a student 
here probably the former. But see n. 7. [E.] 



you, though you do not think yourself pitiable. 
Nor shall it be unserviceable to you to hear patiently 
why you are compassionated. In feeling your pain 
you may get rid of its cause, and knowing your 
misery begin to cease to be miserable. O, Charity, 
good mother who both nourishest the weak, em- 
ployest the vigorous, and blamest the restless, using 
various expedients with various people, as loving all 
her sons ! She blames with gentleness, and with 
simplicity praises. It is she who is the mother of 
men and angels, and makes the peace not only of 
earth but of heaven. It is she who, rendering God 
favourable to man, has reconciled man to God ; she, 
my Fulk, makes those brethren, with whom you once 
shared pleasant bread, to dwell in one manner of life 
in a house (Ps. Ixviii. 6). Such and so honourable a 
parent complains of being injured, of being wounded 
by you. 

2. But in what have I injured, you reply, or 
wounded her ? In this, without doubt, that you 
whom she had taken in her maternal bosom and 
nourished with her milk, have untimely withdrawn 
yourself, and having known the sweetness of the 
milk which can train you up for salvation, have re 
jected and disdained it so quickly and carelessly. O, 
most foolish boy ! boy more in understanding than 
in age ! who has fascinated you to depart so quickly 
from a course so well begun ? My uncle, you will 
say. So Adam once threw the blame of sin upon his 
wife, and his wife upon the serpent, to excuse them 
selves ; yet each received the well-deserved sentence of 
their own fault. I am unwilling to accuse the dean ; I 
am unwilling that you should excuse yourself by this 


means, for you are inexcusable. His fault does not 
excuse yours. But what did he do ? Did he use 
violence ? Did he take you by force ? Nay, he 
begged, not insisted ; attracted you by flatteries, not 
dragged you by violence. Who forced you to yield 
to his flatteries ? He had not yet given up what was 
his own. What wonder that he should reclaim you, 
who wast his ! If he demands a lamb from the flock, 
a calf from the herd, and no one disputes his right, 
who can wonder that having lost you, who are of 
more value in his sight than many lambs or calves, 
he should reclaim you ? Probably he does not aim 
at that degree of perfection of which it is said, If any 
one has taken away thy goods, seek them not again (S. 
Luke vi. 30). But you, who had already rejected the 
world, what had you to do with following a man of 
the world ? The timid sheep flies when the wolf 
approaches ; the gentle dove when she sees the 
hawk ; the mouse, though hungry, dares not leave 
his hole when the cat is prowling around ; and yet 
you, when thon sawest a thief thou consentcdst with him 
(Ps. 1. 1 8). For what else than a thief shall I call 
him who has not hesitated to steal that most precious 
pearl of Christ, your soul ? 

3. I should wish, if it were possible, to pass over 
his fault, lest the truth should obtain for me only 
hatred and no result. But I am not able, I confess, 
to pass a man untouched, who up to this very day is 
found to have resisted the Holy Spirit with all his 
power. For he who does not hinder evil when he 
can, even although the evil purpose may be frustrated, 
is not clear of that purpose. Assuredly he tried to 
damp my fervour when it was new, but, thanks to 


God, he did not succeed. Another nephew of his, 
Guarike, your kinsman, he much opposed, but what 
harm did he do ? On the contrary, he was of service. 
For the old man at length unwillingly desisted from 
persecution, and as the youth, his nephew, remained 
unsubdued, he was the more meritorious for his temp 
tation. But, alas ! how was he able to overcome you, 
who was not able to overcome him ? Was he stronger 
or more prudent than you ? Assuredly those who 
knew both before preferred Fulk to Guarike. But 
the event of the combat showed that men s judgment 
had erred. 

4. But what shall I say concerning the malice of 
an uncle who withdraws his own nephews from the 
Christian warfare to drag them with himself to perdi 
tion ? Is it thus he is accustomed to benefit his 
friends ? Those whom Christ calls to abide with Him 
for ever this uncle calls back to burn with him for 
evermore. I wonder if Christ is not reproving him 
when he says, Hoiu often would I have gathered thy 
nephews as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings 
and thott wouldest not ? Behold thy house is left unto thee 
desolate (S. Matt, xxiii. 37). Christ says, Suffer the 
little children to come unto Me, for of such is the 
kingdom of heaven (S. Matt. xix. 14). This uncle 
says, Suffer my nephews to burn with me. Christ 
says, They are Mine ; they ought to serve Me. But 
their uncle says, They ought to perish with me. 
Christ says, They are mine, I have redeemed them. 
But I, says the uncle, have brought them up. You, 
indeed, says Christ, have fed them, but with My 
bread, not thine ; while I have redeemed them not 
with thy blood, but Mine own. Thus the uncle, 


according to the flesh, struggles against the Father 
of spirits for his nephews, whom he disinherits of 
heavenly possessions while he desires to load them 
with earthly. Yet Christ, not considering it robbery 
to draw to Himself those whom He has made and 
redeemed with His own blood, has done when they 
came to Him, what He had before promised, Him 
who conieth unto me, I will in no wise cast out (S. John vi. 
37). He opened gladly to Fulk, the first who knocked, 
and made him glad also. What more ? he put off 
the old man and put on the new, and showed forth 
in his character and life the canonical function which 
had existed in name alone. The report of it flies 
abroad, to Christ, a sweet savour ; and the novelty 
of the thing diffused on all sides brought it to the 
ears of his uncle. 

5. What then did the carnal guardian, who lost the 
carnal solace of the flesh which he had brought up 
and loved after a carnal fashion? Although to others 
the event was a savour of life unto life (2 Cor. ii. 16), 
not so to him. Wherefore ? Because the carnal man 
recciveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are 
foolishness unto him (i Cor. ii. 14). For if he had the 
spirit of Christ he would not so greatly lament on 
account of the flesh that which he rejoiced over on 
account of the spirit. But because he relishes earthly 
things, not those which are above, he is sad and 
troubled, and reflects thus within himself : What do 
I hear ? Woe is me ! from what hope have I fallen ! 
Ought he to do anything without my advice and 
permission ? What right, what law, what justice, 
what reason is it, that him, whom I have nourished 
up from infancy, another person should have the 


good of when grown up ? Now that my head is 
white, alas ! I shall spend the remainder of my life in 
grief, because the staff of my old age has deserted 
me. Woe is me ! if this night my soul is required of 
me, whose shall those things be which I have pre 
pared ? My storehouses are full, disgorging this one 
into that, my sheep fruitful, abounding in their goings 
forth ; my oxen fat, and for whom shall these 
remain ? My lands, my meadows, my houses, my 
vases of gold and of silver, for whom have they been 
amassed ? Certain of the richer and more profitable 
honours of my Church I had acquired for myself ; 
the rest, although I could not have them, I hoped 
that Fulk should. What then shall I do ? Because 
of him shall I lose so much ? For whatever I 
possess, without him, I reckon as lost. Rather than 
that I will both retain them, and recall him if I can. 
What is done cannot be undone ; what is heard can 
not be concealed. Fulk is a Canon Regular, and if 
he returns to the world will be remarked and dis 
graced. But it is better to hear that about him than 
to live without him. Let integrity yield to conveni 
ence, shame to necessity. I prefer not to spare the 
ingenuousness of a youth, rather than to undergo 
miserable melancholy. 

6. Adopting then this counsel of the flesh, forgetful 
of reason and law, as it were a lion prepared for prey, 
and as a lioness robbed of her whelp, raging and 
roaring, not respecting holy things, he burst into the 
dwelling of the saints, in which Christ had hidden his 
young soldier from the strife of tongues, who was one 
day to be adjoined to the company of Angels. He 
demands that his nephew be restored to him ; he 


loudly complains that by him he had been wrongly 
deserted ; while Christ resists, saying, Unhappy man, 
what are you doing ? Why do you rob ? Why per 
secute Me ? Is it not enough that you have taken 
away your own soul from Me, and the souls of many 
others by your example, but you must tear him also 
from My hand with impious daring ? Do you not 
fear the coming judgment, or do you despise My 
terrors ? Upon whom do you wage war ? Upon 
the terrible One, who takes away the spirit of 
princes (Ps. Ixxvi. 12). Madman, return to thyself. 
Remember thy last end and sin not, call to mind 
with salutary fear what you are. And thou, O youth, 
He says, if thou dost assent and agree to his wishes 
thou shalt die the death. 1 Remember that Lot s wife 
was, indeed, delivered from Sodom because she be 
lieved God, but was transformed in the way because 
she looked back (Gen. xix. 26). Learn in the Gospel 
that he who has once put his hand to the plough to 
him it is not permitted to look back (Luke ix. 62). 
Your uncle, who has already lost his own soul, seeks 
yours. The words of his mouth are iniquity and 
guile. Do not learn, my son, to do evil (Ps. xxxvi. 
4). Do not turn aside to vanities and falsehoods 
(Ps. xl. 4). Behold in the way in which you walk 
he hides snares he has stretched nets. His dis 
courses are smooth as butter, and yet they are sharp 
spears (Ps. Iv. 21). See, my son, that you are not 

1 Bernard usually shows himself very doubtful of the salvation of those 
who, having been called by God to the religious state, had not yielded to 
their vocation, and much more of those who, having entered it, though not 
made profession, had returned to the world. See Letters 107 and 108. 
But Fulk had actually made profession. 


taken with lying lips and a deceitful tongue. Let 
divine fear transfix your flesh, that the desire of the 
flesh may not deceive you. It flatters, but under its 
tongue is suffering and sorrow ; it weeps, but be 
trays ; it betrays to catch the poor when it has 
attracted him (Ps. x. 9). Beware, I say, My son, 
that you do not confer with flesh and blood (Gal. i. 
16), for My sword shall devour flesh (Deut. xxxii. 42). 
Despise entreaties and promises. He promises great 
things, but I greater ; he offers more, but I most of 
all. Will you throw away heavenly things for 
earthly, eternal for temporal ? Otherwise it behoves 
you to dissolve the vows which your lips have pro 
nounced. He is rightly required to dissolve who was 
not forced to vow, for, although I did not repulse 
you when you knocked, I did not oblige you to 
enter. You cannot, therefore, put aside what you 
promised of your own accord. Behold each of you 
I warn, and to each give salutary counsel. Do not 
you, He says to the uncle, draw back a regular to 
the world, for in so doing you make him to aposta 
tize. Do not you, a regular, follow the secular life, 
for in so doing you persecute Me. If you seduce a 
soul for which I died you make yourself an enemy of 
My cross. He who does not gather with Me scatters 
(S. Matt. xii. 30). How much more he who scatters 
what has been gathered ? And you, if you consent 
to him you dissent from Me, for he who is not with Me 
is against Me (ibid.}. How much more is he who was 
with Me against Me if he deserts ? You, if you lead 
astray a boy who has come to Me, shall be adjudged 
a seducer and profaner, but you, if you destroy what 
you had built, shall make yourself a deceiver. Both 


of you must stand at My tribunal and by Me be 
judged the one for his prevarication, the other for 
the leading astray ; and if the one shall die in his 
iniquity his blood shall be required at the hand of 
his seducer (Ezek. iii. 18). These and similar warn 
ings Thou, O Christ, didst invisibly thunder to each, 
I appeal to their conscience as witness. Thou didst 
knock at the doors of the mind of each with kindly 
terrors. Who would not fear them and recover 
wisdom in fearing, unless it were one like the deaf 
adder, that stoppeth her ear and refuseth to hear the voice 
of the charmer, charm he never so wisely (Ps. Iviii. 4, 5), 
who either does not hear, or pretends that he hears 
not ? 

7. But how far do I draw out this letter, already 
too long, before speaking of a thing that is worthy 
only of silence ? In what circuitous paths do I 
approach the truth, fearing to draw the veil from 
shame ! I say with shame. That what is known to 
many I cannot conceal if I would. But why with 
shame ? Why should I be ashamed to write what it 
did not shame them to do ? If they are ashamed to 
hear what they shamelessly did, let them not be 
ashamed to amend what they were reluctant to hear. 
Alas ! neither fear nor reason could keep back the 
one from seduction, nor shame or his profession the 
other from prevarication. What more ? A deceitful 
tongue fits hasty words ; it conceiveth sorrow, and 
brings forth iniquity. Your Church received its 
scholar, whom it had better have been without. So 
formerly Lyons recovered, without credit, by the zeal 
and pertinacity of its dean, its canon whom it had 
well lost, the nephew of the same dean. Just as the 


one snatched Fulk from S. Augustine, so the other 
Othbert from S. Benedict. How much more beauti 
ful that a religious youth should draw to himself a 
worldly old man, and so each should be victorious, 
than that the worldly should draw back to himself 
the religious, in which each is vanquished ! Oh, 
unhappy old man! Oh, cruel uncle ! who, already 
decrepit and soon about to die, before dying have 
slain the soul of your nephew, whom you have 
deprived of the inheritance of Christ in order that 
you might have an heir of your sins. But he who is 
evil to himself, to whom is he good ? He preferred 
to have a successor in his riches rather than an inter 
cessor for his iniquities. 

8. But what have I to do with Deans, who are 
our instructors, and have acquired authority in the 
Churches. They hold the key of knowledge, and 
take the highest seats in the synagogues. They judge 
their subjects at their will, they recall fugitives, and 
when they are recalled scatter them again as they 
choose. What have I to do with that ? I confess 
that because of you, my Fulk, I have exceeded some 
what the degree proper to my humility in speaking 
of these, since I wished to be indulgent to your 
fault, and make your shame little in comparison. I 
pass over these that they may not have ground to 
rail, not at the blame, but at him who blames, for 
they would rather find fault with my presumption 
than occupy themselves with their own correction. 
At all events it is not a prince of the Church that I 
have undertaken to reprimand, but a young student, 
gentle and obedient. Unless, perhaps, you show 
yourself to be a child in sense, not in malice, and 


object to my boldness, saying, What has he to do 
with me ? What do the faults which I commit 
matter to him ? Am I a monk ? And to this I 
confess I have nothing to answer, except that I 
counted, in addressing myself to you, on the sweet 
ness of character with which you are endowed by 
nature, and that I was actuated by the love of God, 
to which I appealed in the first words of my letter. 
It was in zeal for Him that, pitying your error and 
your unhappiness, I was moved to interfere beyond 
my custom in order to save you, although you were 
not mine. 1 Your serious fall and miserable case has 
moved me thus to presume. For whom of your 
contemporaries have you seen me reprimand ? To 
whom have I ever addressed even the briefest letter ? 
Not that I regarded them as saints, nor had nothing 
to blame in them. 

9. W T hy, then, you will say, do you blame me 
especially, when in others you see what you might, 
perhaps, more justly find fault with ? To which I 
reply : Because of the excessiveness of your error, 
of the enormity of your fault, for although many 
others live loosely, without rule and discipline, yet 
they have not yet professed obedience to these. 
They are sinners indeed, but not apostates. But 
you, however honourably and quietly you may live, 
although you may conduct yourself chastely, soberly, 
and religiously, yet your piety is not acceptable to 
God, because it is rendered valueless by the viola 
tion of your vow. Therefore, beloved, do not com 
pare yourself with your contemporaries, from whom 
the profession which you have made separates you, 

1 i.e., not owing me obedience as a monk. 


nor flatter yourself so much because of your self- 
restraint in comparison with men of the world, since 
the Lord says to you, / would thou wert hot or cold 
(Apoc. iii. 15, 1 6). Here is plainly shown that you 
please God less, being lukewarm, than if you were even 
such as those are, entirely cold towards Him. For 
them God waits patiently until their cold shall pass 
into heat, but you He sees with displeasure to have 
fallen away to lukewarmness, after having been fer 
vent in warmth. And because I have found thee 
lukewarm, He says, / will vomit thee from My mouth 
(ibid.), and deservedly, because you have returned to 
your vomit and rejected His grace ! 

10. Alas! how have you so soon grown weary 
of the Saviour, of whom it is written, Honey and milk 
are under His tongue (Cantic. iv. n). I wonder that 
nourishment so sweet should be distasteful to you, 
if you have tasted how sweet the Lord is. Or 
perhaps you have not yet tasted and do not know 
how sweet is Christ, so that you do not desire what 
you have not tried ; or if you have, then your taste 
is surely depraved. He is the Wisdom of God who 
says : He who cats of Me shall always hunger, and he 
who drinks of Me shall never cease to desire to drink again 
(Ecclus. xxiv. 29). But how can he hunger or thirst 
for Christ who is full of the husks of wine ? You 
cannot drink of the cup of Christ and of the cup of demons 
(i Cor. x. 21). The cup of demons is pride, detrac 
tion, envy, debauch, and drunkenness, with which 
when your mind and body are saturated, Christ will 
find in you no place. Do not wonder at what I say. 
In the house of your uncle you are not able to drink 
deep of the fulness of the house of God. Why, you 


say ? Because it is a house of [carnal] delights. 
Now, as fire and water cannot be together, so the 
delights of the spirit and those of the flesh are in 
compatible. Christ will not deign to pour His wine, 
which is more sweet than honey and the honeycomb, 
into the soul of him whom He finds among his cups 
breathing forth the fumes of wine. Where there is 
delicate variety of food, where the richness and splen 
dour of the service of the table delights equally the 
eyes and the stomach, the food of heaven is wanting 
to the soul. Rejoice, O, young man, in thy youth ! 
but then, when temporal joy departs in time to come, 
everlasting sorrow will possess thee ! May God pre 
serve you, His child, from this. May He rather 
destroy the deceiving and perfidious lips of those 
who give you such advice, who say to you every 
day, Good, good ! and who seek your soul ! They 
are those with whom you are dwelling, and who 
corrupt the good manners of a young man by their 
evil communications (colhquia : otherwise counsels, 

1 1 . But now how long before you will come out 
from their midst ? What do you in the town who 
had chosen the cloister, or what have you to do with 
the world which you had renounced ? The lines 
have fallen to you in pleasant places, and do you 
sigh after earthly riches ? If you wish to have both 
together, it will be said to you soon, Remember, my son, 
that you have received your good things when you were in 
life (S. Luke xvi. 25). You have received, He said, 
not you have seized ; so that you may not shelter 
yourself under the vain excuse, that you are content 
with what is your own, and do not seize what 


belongs to another. And, after all, what are those 
goods which you call yours ? The benefices of the 
Church ? Certainly ; you do well in rising to keep 
vigil, in going to Mass, in assisting at the day and 
night offices, so you do not take the prabend of the 
Church without return. It is just that he who serves 
the Altar should live from the Altar. It is granted 
therefore to you that if you serve well at the Altar 
you should live from it, but not that you should live 
in luxury and splendour at its expense, that you 
should take its revenues to provide yourself with 
gilded reins, ornamented saddles, silver spurs, furs of 
all kinds, and purple ornaments to cover your hands 
and adorn your neck. Whatsoever you take from 
the Altar, in short, beyond necessary food and simple 
dress, is not yours, and it is rapine and even sacrilege. 
The Wise man prayed for necessary sustenance, not 
for things superfluous (Prov. xxx. 8). The Apostle 
says, having food and clothing (i Tim. vi. 8), not food 
and magnificent dress. And a certain other saint 
says, if the Lord shall give me bread to eat and raiment to 
cover me (Gen. xxviii. 20). Take notice, to cover me. 
So then let us too be content with raiment to cover 
us, not with luxurious and costly clothing which is 
worn to please women, and wakes the wearers like 
them. But you say : Those with whom I associate 
do this ; if I do not do as others, I shall be remarked 
for singularity. Wherefore I say, go forth from the 
midst of them ; that you may not either live with 
singularity in the eyes of the town or perish by the 
example of others. 

12. What do you do in the town at all, O effemi 
nate soldier ? Your fellow soldiers whom you have 


deserted by flight are righting and overcoming ; they 
knock and they enter in, they seize heaven and reign 
while you scour the streets and squares, sitting upon 
your ambling courser, and clad in purple and fine 
linen. These are the ornaments of peace, not the 
weapons of war. Or do you say, Peace, and there is 
no peace (Ezekiel xiii. 10). The purple tunic does not 
put to flight lust, and pride, and avarice, nor does it 
protect against other fiery darts of the enemy. 
Lastly, it does not ward off from you the fever 
which you more fear, nor secure you from death. 
Where are your warlike weapons, the shield of faith, 
the helmet of salvation, the breast-plate of patience ? 
Why do you tremble ? there are more with us than 
with our enemies. Take your arms, recover your 
strength while yet the combat lasts ; Angels are 
spectators and helpers, the Lord himself is your aid 
and your support, who will teach your hands to war 
and your fingers to fight (Psalm cxliv. i). Let us come 
to the help of our brothers, lest if they fight without 
us they vanquish without us, and without us enter 
into heaven ; lest, last of all, when the door has been 
shut it be replied from within to us knocking too late, 
Verily I say unto you, I know you not (S. Matthew xxv. 
12). Make yourself known then and seen before 
hand, lest you be unknown for glory and known 
only for punishment. If Christ recognizes you in the 
strife, He will recognize you in heaven, and as He 
has promised, will manifest Himself to you (S. John 
xiv. 21). If only you by repenting and returning 
will show yourself such as to be able to say with 
confidence Then shall I know even as also I am known 
(i Corinthians xiii. 12). In the meantime I have by 


these admonitions knocked sufficiently at the heart of a 
young man modest and docile ; and nothing remains 
for me now than to knock by my prayers also, for 
him, at the door of the Divine Mercy, that the Lord 
may finish my work if my remonstrances have found 
his heart ever so little softened, so that I may 
speedily rejoice over him with great joy. 

LETTER XLVI (circa A.D. 1125) 


He discourses muck and piously of the law of true and sincere 
chanty, of its signs, its degrees, its effects, and of its 
perfection which is reserved for Heaven (jPatria). 

Brother Bernard, of Clairvaux, wishes health 
eternal to the most reverend among fathers, and to 
the dearest among friends, Guigues, Prior of the 
Grande Chartreuse, and to the holy Monks who are 
with him. 

i. I have received the letter of your Holiness as 
joyfully as I had long and eagerly desired it. I have 
read it, and the letters which I pronounced with my 
mouth, I felt, as it were, sparks of fire in my heart, 
which warmed my heart within me ; as coming from 
that fire which the Lord has sent upon the earth 
(S. Luke xii. 49). How great a fire must glow in 
those meditations from which such sparks fly forth ! 
This, your inspired and inspiring salutation, was to 
me, I confess, not as if coming from man, but like 


words descending surely from Him who sent the 
salutation to Jacob. It is not for me, in fact, a 
simple salutation given in passing, according to the 
custom and usage of men, but it is plainly from the 
very bowels of charity, as I feel, that this benediction, 
so sweet and so unhoped for, has come forth. I pray 
God to bless you, who have had the goodness to 
prevent me with benedictions of such sweetness, that 
confidence is granted to me, your humble servant, to 
reply, since you have first written ; for though I had 
meditated writing, I had hitherto not presumed to do 
so. For I feared to trouble, by my eager scribbling, 
the holy quiet which you have in the Lord, and the 
religious silence which isolates you from the world. 
I feared, also, to interrupt, even for a moment, those 
mysterious whispers from God, and to pour my 
words into ears always occupied with the secret 
praises of heaven. I feared to become as one who 
would trouble even Moses on the mountain, Elias in 
the desert, or Samuel watching in the temple, if I 
had tried to turn away ever so little, minds occupied 
with divine communion. Samuel cries out : Speak, 
Lord, for Thy servant hcareth (i Sam. iii. 10). And 
should I presume to make myself heard ? I feared, 
I say, lest presenting myself out of season before 
you, as it were to David engaged in flight, or abiding 
in solitude, you might not wish to listen, and might 
say, " Excuse me, I cannot hear thee now ; I prefer 
rather to give ear to words sweeter than thine." / 
will hear what the Lord God will say unto me ; for He 
shall speak peace unto His people, and to His saints, and 
to those who are converted at heart (Ps. Ixxxiv. 9, VULG.). 
Or, at least, this : Depart from me, ye evil-disposed, and 



/ will study the commandments of my God (Ps. cxix. 115). 
For could I be so rash as to dare to arouse the 
much-loved spouse sweetly resting in the arms of her 
bridegroom as long as she will ? Should I not hear 
from her on the instant : Do not be troublesome to 
me ; / am for My Beloved, and My Beloved is for Me ; 
He feedeth among the lilies (Cant. ii. 16). 

2. But what I do not dare to do, charity dares, 
and with all confidence knocks at the door of a 
friend, thinking that she ought by no means to suffer 
repulse, who knows herself to be the mother of 
friendships ; nor does she fear to interrupt for an 
instant your rest, though so pleasant, to speak to you 
of her own task. She, when she will, causes you to 
withdraw from being alone with God ; she, also, when 
she willed, made you attentive to me ; so that you 
did not regard it as unworthy of you, not merely to 
benignantly endure my speaking, but more, to urge 
me to break the silence. I esteem the kindness, I 
admire the worthiness, I praise and venerate the pure 
rejoicing with which you glory in the Lord, for the 
advances in virtue which, as you suppose, I have 
made. I am proud of so great a testimony, and 
esteem myself happy in a friendship so grateful to 
me as that of the servants of God towards me. 
This is now my glory, this is my joy and the re 
joicing of my heart, that not in vain I have lifted 
up mine eyes unto the mountains whence there has 
now come to me help of no small value. These 
mountains have already distilled sweetness for me ; 
and I continue to hope that they will do so until our 
valleys shall abound with fruit. That day shall be 
always for me a day of festival and perpetual 


memorial, in which I had the honour to see and to 
receive that worthy man, by whom it has come about 
that I should be received into your hearts. And, 
indeed, you had received me even before, if I may 
judge by your letter ; but now with a more close 
and intimate friendship, since, as I find, he brought 
back to you too favourable reports concerning me 
which, doubtless, he believed, though without suffi 
cient cause. For, as a faithful and pious man, God 
forbid that he should speak otherwise than he believed. 
And truly I experience in myself what the Saviour 
says : He who receives a righteous man in the name of a 
righteous man shall receive a righteous mans reward 
(S. Matt. x. 41). I have said, the reward of a 
righteous man, because I am regarded as righteous, 
only through receiving one who is righteous. If he 
has reported of me something more than that, he has 
spoken not so much according to the truth of the 
case as according to the simplicity and goodness of 
his heart. You have heard, you have believed, you 
have rejoiced, and have written, thereby giving me 
no little joy, not only because I have been honoured 
with a degree of praise and a high place in the esti 
mation of your Holiness, but also because all the 
sincerity of your souls has made itself known to me 
in no small measure. In few words, you have shown 
to me with what spirit you are animated. 

3. I rejoice, therefore, and congratulate you on 
your sincerity and goodness as I congratulate myself 
on the edification which you have afforded to me. 
That is, indeed, true and sincere charity, and must be 
considered to proceed from a heart altogether pure 
and a good conscience and faith unfeigned, with 


which we love our neighbour as ourself. For he 
who loves only the good that himself has done, or, at 
least, loves it more than that of others, does not love 
good for its own sake, but on account of himself, and 
he who is such cannot do as the prophet says : Give 
thanks unto the Lord, because He is good (Ps. cxviii. i). 
He gives thanks, indeed, perhaps, because the Lord 
is good to him, not because He is good in Himself. 
Wherefore let him understand that this reproach from 
the same prophet is directed against him : They will 
praise thee when thou doest well unto thy own soul (Ps. 
xlix. 1 8). One man praises the Lord because He is 
mighty ; another because He is good unto him ; and, 
again, another simply because He is good. The first 
is a slave, and fears for himself ; the second mer 
cenary, and desires somewhat for himself ; but the 
third is a son, and gives praise to his Father. There 
fore both he who fears and he who desires are each 
working for his own advantage ; charity which is in 
him alone who is a son, seeketh not her own. Where 
fore I think that it was of charity that was spoken, 
The law of the Lord is pure, converting the soul (Ps. xix. 7), 
because it is that atone which can turn away the mind 
from the love of itself and of the world and direct it 
towards God. Neither fear nor selfish love converts 
the soul. They change sometimes the outward ap 
pearance or the actions, but never affect the heart. 
No doubt even the slave does sometimes the work of 
God, but because he does it not of his own free will 
he remains still in his hardness. The mercenary 
person does it also, but not out of kindness, only as 
drawn by his own particular advantage. Where 
there is distinction of persons, there are personal 


interests, and where there are personal interests there 
is a limit of willingness, and there, without doubt, a 
rusting meanness. Let the very fear by which he is 
constrained be a law to the slave, let the greedy 
desire, with which the mercenary is bound, be a law 
to him, since it is by it that he is drawn away and 
enticed. But of these neither is without fault or is 
able to convert the soul. But charity does convert 
souls when it fills them with disinterested zeal. 

4. Now, I should say that this charity is faultless 
in him who has become accustomed to retain nothing 
for himself out of that which is his own. He who 
keeps nothing for himself gives to God quite certainly 
all that he has, and that which belongs to God cannot 
be unclean. Thus that pure law of the Lord is no 
other than charity, which seeks not what is advan 
tageous to herself, but that which profits others. But 
law is said to be of the Lord, either because He 
Himself lives by it or because no one possesses it 
except by His gift. Nor let it seem absurd what I 
have said, that even God lives by law, since I declared 
that this law was no other than charity. For what 
but charity preserves in the supreme and blessed 
Trinity, that lofty and unspeakable unity which it has? 
It is law, then, and charity the law of the Lord, which 
maintains in a wonderful manner the Trinity in Unity 
and binds It in the bond of peace. Yet let no one 
think that I here take charity for a quality or a certain 
accident in God, or otherwise to say that in God 
(which God forbid) there is something which is not 
God ; but I say that it is the very substance of God. 
I say nothing new or unheard of, for S. John says 
God is love (i S. John iv. 16). 


It is then right to say that charity is God, and at 
the same time the gift of God. Therefore Charity 
gives charity, the substantial l gives the accidental. 
Where the word signifies the Giver it is a name of 
the substance, and where the thing given, it is a name 
of the accident. This is the eternal law, Creator and 
Ruler of the Universe. Since all things have been 
made through it in weight and measure and number, 
and nothing is left without law, not even He who is 
the Law of all things, yet He is Himself none other 
than the law which rules Him, a law uncreated as 

5. But the slave and the mercenary have a law, 
not from God, but which they have made for them 
selves the one by not loving God, the other by loving 
something else more than Him. They have, I say, a 
law which is their own and not of the Lord, to which, 
nevertheless, their own is subjected ; nor are they 
able to withdraw themselves from the unchangeable 
order of the divine law, though each should make a 
law for himself. I would say, then, that a person 
makes a law for himself when he prefers his own will 
to the common and eternal law, perversely wishing 
to imitate his Creator ; so that as He is a law unto 
Himself, and is under no authority but His Own, so 
the man also will be his own master, will make his 
own will a law to himself. Alas ! what a heavy and 
insupportable yoke upon all the sons of Adam, which 
weighs upon and bows down our necks, so that our 
life is drawn near to the grave. Unhappy man that 
I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this 
death ? (Rom. vii. 24) with which I am so weighed 

Mabillon reads substantiva, but another reading is sttbstantia. [E.] 


down that unless the Lord had helped me, my soul 
would almost have dwelt in the grave (Ps. xciv. 17). 
With this load was he burdened who groaned, saying: 
Why hast Thou set me as a mark against Thee, so that I 
ant a burden to myself? (Job vii. 20). Where he says, 
I am made a burden to myself, he showed that he was a 
law unto himself, and the law no other than he him 
self had made it. But when, speaking to God, he 
commenced by saying, Thou hast set me as a mark 
against Thee, he showed that he had not escaped from 
the Divine law. For this is the property of that 
eternal and just law of God, that he who would not 
be ruled with gentleness by God, should be ruled as 
a punishment by his own self ; and that all those 
who have willingly thrown off the gentle yoke and 
light burden of charity should bear unwillingly the 
insupportable burden of their own will. 

6. Thus the everlasting law does in a wonderful 
manner, to him who is a fugitive from its power, 
both make him an adversary and retain him as a 
subject ; for while, on the one hand, he has not 
escaped from the law of justice, by which he is dealt 
with according to his merits, on the other he does 
not remain with God in His light, or peace, or glory. 
He is subjected to power, and excluded from happi 
ness. O Lord, my God, why dost Thou not take away 
my sin, and pardon my transgression? (Job vii. 21). 
So that throwing down the heavy weight of my own 
will, I may breathe easily under the light burden of 
charity ; that I may not be overborne any longer by 
servile fear, nor allured by selfish cupidity, but may 
be impelled by Thy spirit, the spirit of liberty, which 
is that of Thy children. Who is it who witnesses to 


my spirit that I, too, am one of Thy children, since 
Thy law is mine, and as Thou art, so am I also, in 
this world ? For it is quite certain that those who 
do this which the Apostle says owe no one anything except 
to love one another (Rom. xiii. 8) are themselves as 
God is in this world, nor are they slaves or merce 
naries, but sons. Therefore neither are sons without 
law, unless, perhaps, some one should think the con 
trary because of this which is written, the law is not 
made for a righteous man (i Tim. i. 9). But it ought 
to be remembered that the law promulgated in fear 
by a spirit of slavery is one thing, and that given 
sweetly and gently by the spirit of liberty is another. 
Those who are sons are not obliged to submit to the 
first, but they are always under the rule of the second. 
Do you wish to hear why it is said that law is not 
made for the righteous ? You have not received, he 
says, the spirit of slavery again in fear. Or why, never 
theless, they are always under the rule of the law of 
charity ? But ye have received the spirit of the adoption of 
sons (Rom. viii. 15). Listen, now, in what manner 
the righteous man confesses that at the same time he 
is and is not under the law. / became, he says, to 
those which were under the law as being under the law, 
although I myself was not under the law : but to those who 
were without law, I was as being without law, since I was 
not without the laiv of God but in the law of Christ ( I Cor. 
ix. 20, 21). Whence it is not accurately said the 
righteous have no law, or the righteous are without 
law, but that the law was not made for the righteous ; 
that is, it is not, as it were, imposed upon unwilling 
subjects, but given freely to willing hearts by Him to 
whose sweet inspiration it is due. Wherefore the 


Lord also beautifully says, Take My yoke upon you 
(S. Matt. xi. 29). As if He would say, I do not 
impose it upon you against your will, take it if you 
are willing ; otherwise you will find not rest, but 
labour, for your souls. 

7. The law of charity, then, is good and sweet, it 
is not only light and sweet to bear, but it renders 
bearable and light the laws even of slaves and mer 
cenaries. But it does not destroy these, but brings 
about their fulfilment, as the Lord says, I am not 
come to destroy the law, but to fulfil (S. Matt. v. 17). 
The one it moderates, the other it reduces to order, 
and each it lightens. Charity will never be without 
fear, but that fear is good ; it will never be without 
any thought of interest, but that a restrained and 
moderated one. Charity, therefore, perfects the law 
of the slave when it inspires a generous devotion, and 
that of the mercenary when it gives a better direction 
to interested wishes. So, then, devotion mixed with 
fear does not annul those last, but purifies them, only 
it takes away the fear of punishment which servile 
fear is never exempt from ; and this fear is clean and 
filial, enduring for ever (Ps. xix. 9). For that which is 
written, perfect love takes away fear (i S. John iv. 18), 
is to be understood of the fear of punishment, which 
is never wanting, as we have said, to slavish fear. It 
is, in fact, a common mode of speech which consists 
in putting the cause for the effect. As for cupidity, 
it is then rightly directed by the charity which is 
joined with it, since ceasing altogether to desire 
things which are evil, it begins to prefer those which 
are better, nor does it desire good things except in 
order to reach those which are better ; which when, 


by the grace of God, it has fully obtained, the body 
and all the good things which belong to the body 
will be loved only for the sake of the soul, the soul 
for the sake of God, and God alone for Himself. 

8. However, as we are in fleshly bodies, and are 
born of the desire of the flesh, it is of necessity that 
our desire, or affection, should begin from the flesh ; 
but if it is rightly directed, advancing step by step 
under the guidance of grace, it will at length be per 
fected by the Spirit, because that is not first which is 
spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that 
which is spiritual; and it is needful that we should first 
bear the image of the earthly and afterwards that of the 
heavenly (i Cor. xv. 46, 49). First, then, a man loves 
his own self for self s sake, since he is flesh, and he 
cannot have any taste except for things in relation 
with him ; but when he sees that he is not able to 
subsist by himself, that God is, as it were, necessary 
to him, he begins to inquire and to love God by 
faith. Thus he loves God in the second place, but 
because of his own interest, and not for the sake of 
God Himself. But when, on account of his own 
necessity, he has begun to worship Him and to 
approach Him by meditation, by reading, by prayer, 
by obedience, he comes little by little to know God 
with a certain familiarity, and in consequence to find 
Him sweet and kind ; and thus having tasted how 
sweet the Lord is, he passes to the third stage, and 
thus loves God no longer on account of his own 
interest, but for the sake of God Himself. Once 
arrived there, he remains stationary, and I know not 
if in this life man is truly able to rise to the fourth 
degree, which is, no longer to love himself except for 


the sake of God. Those who have made trial of this 
(if there be any) may assert it to be attainable ; to 
me, I confess, it appears impossible. It will be so 
without doubt when the good and faithful servant 
shall have been brought into the joy of his Lord, and 
inebriated with the fulness of the house of God. 
For being, as it were, exhilarate, he shall in a 
wonderful way be forgetful of himself, he shall lose 
the consciousness of what he is, and being absorbed 
altogether in God, shall attach himself unto Him with 
all his powers, shall thenceforth be one spirit with 

9. I consider that the prophet referred to this when 
he said : / will enter into the powers of the Lord : O, Lord, 
I will make mention of Thy righteousness only (Ps. Ixxi. 1 6). 
He knew well that when he entered into the spiritual 
powers of God he would be freed from all the in 
firmities of the flesh, and would have no longer to 
think of them, but would be occupied only with the 
perfections of God. Then, for certain, each of the 
members of Christ would be able to say of himself, 
what Paul said of their Head : If we have known Christ 
according to the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no 
more (2 Cor. v. 16). There no one knows himself 
according to the flesh, becauseyfcsA and blood will not in 
herit the kingdom of God (i Cor. xv. 50). Not that the 
substance of flesh will not be there, but that every 
fleshly necessity will be away ; the love of the flesh is to 
be absorbed into the love of the spirit, and the weak 
human passions which exist at present will be 
absorbed into powers divine. Then the net of charity, 
which is now drawn through a great and vast sea, and 
does not cease to bring together from every kind of 


fish, at length drawn to the shore, shall retain only 
the good, rejecting the bad. And while in this life 
charity fills with all kinds of fishes the vast spaces of 
its net, suiting itself to all according to the time, 
making, in a sense, its own, and partaking of the good 
and evil fortunes of all, it is accustomed not only to 
rejoice with them that rejoice, but to weep with them 
that weep. But when it shall have reached the shore 
[of eternity], casting away as evil fish all that it bore 
with grief before, it will retain those only which are 
sources of pleasure and gladness. Then Paul will no 
longer be weak with the weak, or be scandalized with 
those who are scandalized, since scandal and weak 
ness will be far away. We ought not to think that he 
will still let fall tears over those who have not re 
pented here below ; and as it is certain that there 
will no longer be sinners, so there will be no one to 
repent. Far be it from us to think that he will 
mourn and deplore those whose portion is everlasting 
fire with the devil and his angels, when in that City 
of God which the streams of that river make glad 
(Ps. xlvi. 4), the gates of which the Lord loves more 
than all the dwellings of Jacob (Ps. Ixxxvii. 2), because 
in those dwellings, although the joy of victory is 
sometimes tasted, yet the combat always continues, 
and sometimes the struggle is for life ; but in that 
dear country there is no place for adversity or sorrow, 
as in that Psalm we sing : The abiding place of all those 
who rejoice is in Thee (Ps. Ixxxvii. 7, VULG.), and again : 
Everlasting joy shall be unto them (Is. Ixi. 7). How, 
then, shall any remembrance be of mercy, where the 
justice of God shall be alone remembered ? There 
can be no feeling of compassion called into exercise 


where there shall be no place for misery, or occasion 
for pity. 

10. I am impelled to prolong this already lengthy 
discourse, dearly beloved and much longed-for 
brethren, by the very strong desire I have of convers 
ing with you ; but there are three things which show 
me that I ought to come to an end. First, that I fear 
to be burdensome to you ; that I am ashamed to 
show myself so loquacious ; third, that I am pressed 
with domestic cares. In conclusion, I beg you to 
have compassion for me, and if you have rejoiced for 
the good things you have heard of me, sympathize 
with me also, I pray, in my too real temptations and 
cares. He who related these things to you has, no 
doubt, seen some few little things, and has valued 
these little things as great, while your indulgence has 
easily believed what it willingly heard. I felicitate 
you, indeed, on that charity which believes all things (i 
Cor. xiii. 7). But I am confounded by the truth 
which knows all things. I beg you to believe me in 
what I say of myself rather than another who has 
only seen me from without. No man knoweth the things 
that are in a man save the spirit of man which is in him 
(i Cor. ii. n). I assure you that I do not speak of 
myself by conjecture, but out of full knowledge, and 
that I am not such as I am believed and said to be. 
I fell assured of this, and confess it frankly ; that so 
I may obtain your special prayers, and thus may 
become such as your letter sets forth, than which 
there is nothing I desire more. 




Bernard, after having made a striking commendation of reli 
gious poverty, reproaches in him an affection too great for 
worldly things, to the detriment of the poor and of his own 
soul, so that he preferred to yield them up only to death, 
rather than for the love of Christ. 

i. Although you are unknown to me by face, and 
although distant from me in body, yet you are my 
friend, and this friendship between us makes you to 
be present and familiar to me. It is not flesh and 
blood, but the Spirit of God which has prepared for 
you, though without your knowledge, this friendship, 
which has united your brother William and me with 
a lasting bond of spiritual affection, which includes 
you, too, through him, if you think it worth accept 
ance. And if you are wise you will not despise the 
friendship of those whom the Truth declares blessed, 
and calls kings of heaven ; which blessedness we 
would not envy to you, nor if communicated to you 
would it be diminished to us, nor would our boun 
daries be at all narrowed if you should reign over 
them too. For what cause can there be for envy 
where the multitude of those who share a blessing 
takes nothing from the greatness of the share which 

1 Such of the title of the Letter in two Vatican MSS. and in certain 
others. In those of Citeaux it is inscribed Letter of exhortation to a friend. 
But at the end of Letter 106 I conjecture the reference to be to Ivo, who 
signs it with William. 


each enjoys ? I wish you to be the friend of the 
poor, but especially their imitator. The one is the 
grade of beginner, the other of the perfect, for the 
friendship of the poor makes us the friend of kings, 
but the love of poverty makes us kings ourselves. 
The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of the poor, 
and one of the marks of royal power is to do good 
to friends according to our will. Make to yourselves 
friends, it is said, of the mammon of unrighteousness, that 
when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habita 
tions (S. Luke xvi. 9). You see what a high dignity 
sacred poverty is, so that not only does it not seek 
protection for itself, but extends it to those who 
need. What a power is this, to approach by one s 
self to the Throne of God without the intervention 
of any, whether angels or men, with simple confid 
ence in the Divine favour, thus reaching the summit 
of existence, the height of all glory ! 

2. But would that you, without pretence, would 
consider how you hinder your own attainment of 
these advantages. Alas ! that a vapour which ap 
pears but for a moment should block up the entrance 
to eternal glory, hide from you the clearness of the 
unbounded and everlasting light, prevent you from 
recognizing the true nature of things, and deprive 
you of the highest degree of glory ! How long will 
you prefer to such glory the grass of the field, which 
to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven ? I 
mean carnal and worldly glory. For all fiesh is 
grass, and its glory as the flower of the field (Is. xl. 6). 
If you are wise, if you have a heart to feel and eyes 
to see, cease to pursue those things which it is misery 
to attain. Happy is he who does not toil at all after 


those things, which when possessed are a burden, 
when loved a defilement, and when lost a torment. 
Will it not be better to have the honour to renounce 
them than the vexation to lose them ? Or will it be 
more prudent to yield them up for the love of Christ 
than to have them taken away by death ? death, 
which is a robber lying in wait for you, into whose 
hands you cannot help falling, with all that belongs 
to you. When he shall do so you cannot foresee, 
because he will come as a thief in the night. You 
brought nothing into this world, and it is certain you can 
carry nothing out (i Tim. vi. 7). You shall sleep your 
sleep, and find nothing in your hands. But these 
things you know well, and it would be superfluous 
laboriously to teach them to you. Rather I will 
pray God that you may have the grace to fulfil 
in practice what it has been given you already to 


He exhorts him to flee from the world, advising him to prefer the 
cause and the interests of his soul to those of parents. 


I often grieve my heart about you whenever 
the most pleasant remembrance of you comes back 

1 S. Bernard usually designates thus Doctors and Professors of Belles 
Lettres. See Letters 77, 106, and others. It is thus that in the Spiri- 
legium iii. pp. 137, 140, Thomas d Etampes is called sometimes Magister, 
sometimes Doctor. In a MS. at the Vatican we read, "To Magister 


to me, seeing how you consume in vain occupations 
the flower of your youth, the sharpness of your in 
tellect, the store of your learning and skill, and also, 
what is more excellent in a Christian than all of 
these gifts, the pure and innocent character which 
distinguishes you ; since you use so great endow 
ments to serve not Christ their giver, but things 
transitory. What if (which God forbid !) a sudden 
death should seize and shatter at a stroke all those 
gifts of yours, as it were with the rush of a burning 
and raging wind, just like the winds whirl about and 
dry grass or as the leaves of herbs quickly fall. 
What, then, will you carry with you of all your 
labour which you have wrought upon the earth ? 
What return will you render unto the Lord for all 
the benefits that He hath done unto you ? What 
gain will you bring unto your creditor for those 
many talents committed to you ? If He shall find 
your hand empty, who, though a liberal bestower 
of His gifts, exacts a strict account of their use ! 
" For he that shall come will come and will not 
tarry, and will require that which is His own with 
usury." For He claims all as His own, which seems 
to ennoble you in your land, with favours full at 
once of dignity and of danger. Noble parentage, 
sound health, elegance of person, quick apprehension, 
useful knowledge, uprightness of life, are glorious 
things, indeed, but they are His from whom they 
are. If you use them for yourself " there is One 
who seeketh and judgeth." 

2. But be it so; suppose that you may for a 
while call these things yours, and boast in the praise 
they bring you, and be called of men Rabbi and 



make for yourself a great name, though only upon 
the earth ; what shall be left to you after death of 
all these things ? Scarcely a remembrance alone 
and that, too, only upon earth. For it is written, 
They have slept their sleep, and all the men whose hands 
were mighty have found nothing (Ps. Ixxvi. 5). If this 
be the end of all your labours allow me to say so 
what have you more than a beast of burden ? 
Indeed, it will be said even of your palfrey when 
he is dead that he was good. Look to it, then, how 
you must answer it before that terrible judgment 
throne if you have received your soul in vain, and 
such a soul ! if you are found to have done nothing 
more with your immortal and reasonable soul than 
some beast with his. For the soul of a brute lives 
no longer than the body which it animates, and at 
one and the same moment it both ceases to give life 
and to live. Of what will you deem yourself worthy, 
who, being made in the image of your Creator, do 
not guard the dignity of so great a majesty ? And 
being a man, 1 but not understanding your honour, 
art compared unto the foolish beasts and made like 
unto them, seeing that forsooth, you labour at nothing 
of a spiritual or eternal nature, but, like the spirit of 
a beast which as soon as it is loosed from the body 
is dissolved with the body, have been content to 
think of nothing but material and temporal goods, 
turning a deaf ear to the Gospel precept : Labour not 
for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which en- 
dureth unto everlasting life (S. John vi. 27). But you 
know well that it is written that only he ascends into 

1 Some add "in honour" from Ps. xlviii., but it is wanting in the 
MSS., and certainly is redundant here. 


the hill of the Lord who hath not Lift up his mind 
unto vanity (Ps. xxiv. 3). 1 And not even he except 
he hath clean hands and a pure heart. I leave you 
to decide if you dare to claim this of your deeds and 
thoughts at the present. But if you are not able to 
do so, judge what is the reward of iniquity, if mere 
unfruitfulness is enough for damnation. And, indeed, 
the thorn or thistle will not be safe when the axe 
shall be seen laid to the root of the fruit tree, nor 
will He spare the thorn which stings, who threatens 
even the barren plant. Woe, then ; aye ! double 
woe to him of whom it shall be said, / looked that 
he should bring forth grapes, and he hath brought forth 
wild grapes (Is. v. 4). 

3. But I know how freely and fully you can 
nourish these thoughts, though I be silent, but yet I 
know that, constrained by love of your mother, you 
are not as yet able to abandon what you have long 
known how to despise. What answer shall I make to 
you in this matter ? That you should leave your 
mother ? That seems inhuman. That you should 
remain with her ? But what a misery for her to be a 
cause of ruin to her son ! That you should fight at 
once for the world and for Christ ? But no man can 
serve two masters. Your mother s wish being con 
trary to your salvation is equally so to her own. 
Choose, therefore, of these two alternatives which you 
will ; either, that is, to secure the wish of one or the 
salvation of both. But if you love her much, have 
the courage to leave her for her sake, lest if you leave 
Christ to remain with her she also perish on your 
account. Else you have ill-served her who bare you 

1 Hath not received it in rain, Vui.o. 


if she perish on your account. For how doth she 
escape destruction who hath ruined him whom she 
bare ? And I have spoken this in order in some way 
to stoop to assist your somewhat worldly affection. 
Moreover, it is a faithful saying and worthy of all 
acceptation, although it is impious to despise a mother, 
yet to despise her for Christ s sake is most pious. 
For He who said, Honour thy father and mother (S. 
Matt. xv. 4), Himself also said, He who loveth father or 
mother more than Me is not worthy of Me (S. Matt. x. 37). 



He urges upon him the proposal of the religious life, 
recalling the thought of death. 

BERNARD, Abbot of Clairvaux, to his dear 
ROMANUS, as to his friend. 


How good you are to me in renewing by a 
letter the sweet recollection of yourself and in excus 
ing my tiresome delay. It is not possible that any 
forgetfulness of your affection could ever invade 
the hearts of those who love you ; but, I confess, I 
thought you had almost forgotten yourself until I 
saw your letter. So now no more delays ; fulfil 
quickly the promise that you have written ; and if 
your pen truly expresses your purpose, let your acts 
correspond to it. Why do you delay to give birth to 


that spirit of salvation which you have so long con 
ceived ? Nothing is more certain to mortals than 
death, nothing more uncertain than the hour of death, 
since it is to come upon us as a thief in the night. 
Woe unto them who are still with child [of that good 
intention] in that day ! If it shall anticipate and pre 
vent this birth of salvation, alas ! it will pierce through 
the house and destroy the holy seed : For when they 
shall say Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall 
come upon them as travail upon a woman ivith child, and 
they shall not escape (i Thess. v. 3). I wish you not to 
flee from death, but only to fear it. For the just, 
though he avoids it not, because he knows that it 
is inevitable, yet does not fear it. Moreover, he 
awaits it as a rest (Wisdom iv. 7) and receives it in 
perfect security ; for as it is the exit from the present 
life, so it is the entrance into a better. Death is good 
if by it thou die to sin, that thou mayest live unto 
righteousness. It is necessary that this death should 
go before, in order that the other which follows after 
may be safe. In this life, so long as it lasts, prepare 
for yourself that life which lasts for ever. While you 
live in the flesh, die unto the world, that after the 
death of the flesh you may begin to live unto God. 
For what if death rend asunder the coarse envelope * 
of your body so long as from that moment it clothes 
you with a garment of joy ? O, how blessed are the 
dead ivhich die in the Lord (Apoc. xiv. 13), for they hear 
from the Spirit, that " they may rest from their 
labours." And not only so, but also from new life 
comes pleasure, and from eternity safety. Happy, 
therefore, is the death of the just because of its rest ; 

1 Saccus, 


better because of its new life, best because of its 
safety (Ps. xxxiv. 21). On the other hand, worst of 
all is the death of sinners. And hear why worse. It 
is bad, indeed, through loss of the world ; it is worse 
through separation from the flesh ; worst of all 
through double pain of worm and fire. Up, then, 
hasten ; go forth out of the world, and renounce it 
entirely ; let your soul die the death of the righteous, 
that your last end also may be like His : Oh, how dear 
in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps. cxvi. 
13). Flee, I pray you, lest you stand in the way of 
sinners. How canst thou live where thou durst not 
die? 1 



He grieves at his having abandoned his purpose to enter the 
religious life and returned to the world. He exhorts hint 
to be wise again. 

i. I am grieved for you, my son Geoffrey, I am 
grieved for you. And not without reason. For who 
would not grieve that the flower of your youth, which, 
amid the joy of angels, you offered unimpaired to 
God for the odour of a sweet stncll (P\\\\. iv. 18), should 
now be trampled under the feet of devils, stained 

1 A familiar figure of speech with Bernard. See Letter 107, 13 ; 124, 
2, &c. 

- Some have "Luxeuil." This word Ordericus also generally uses to 
designate Lisieux, in Neustria, so that there is no uniform distinction of 
names between Lisieux and Luxeuil, in the County of Burgundy, found 
among writers of this period. 


by the filthiness of vice and the uncleanness of the 
world ? How can you, who once wast called by 
God, follow the devil who calls you back ? How is 
it that you, whom Christ began to draw after Him 
self, have suddenly withdrawn your foot from the 
very threshold of glory ? In you I now have proof 
of the truth of the Lord s word, when He said : A 
man s foes shall be they of his own household (S. Matt. 
x. 36). Your friends and kinsfolk have approached 
and stood against you. They have called you back 
into the jaws of the lion, and have placed you once 
more in the gates of death. They have placed you 
in dark places, like the dead of this world ; and now 
it is a matter for little surprise that you are descend 
ing into the belly of hell, which is hasting to swallow 
you up, and to give you over as a prey to be de 
voured by those who roar in their hunger. 

2. Return, I pray you ; return before the deep 
swallow thee up and the pit shut her mouth upon thee 
(Ps. Ixix. 1 6); before you sink whence you shall 
never more rise ; before you be bound hand and foot 
and cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and 
gnashing of teeth (S. Matt. xxii. 13); before you be 
thrust down to the place of darkness and covered 
with the gloom of death. Perhaps you blush to 
return, because you gave way for an hour. Blush, 
indeed, for your flight, but do not blush to return to 
the battle after your flight, and to fight again. The 
fight is not over yet. Not yet have the opposing 
lines drawn off from each other. Victory is still in 
your power. If you will, we are unwilling to con 
quer without you, and we do not grudge to you 
your share of glory. I will even gladly come to 


meet you and gladly welcome you with open arms, 
saying : // is meet that we should make merry and be 
glad; for this thy brother was dead and is alive again ; 
he was lost and is found (S. Luke xv. 32). 



He praises her for having despised the glory of the world : and, 
setting forth the praises, privileges, and rewards of Religious 
Virgins, exhorts her to persevere. 

BERNARD, Abbot of Clairvaux, to the Virgin 
SOPHIA, that she may keep the title of virginity and 
attain its reward. 

i . Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain ; but a woman 
thatfeareth the Lord, she shall be praised (Prov. xxxi. 31). 
I rejoice with you, my daughter, in the glory of your 
virtue, whereby, as I hear, you have been enabled to 
reject the deceitful glory of the world. That, indeed, 
deserves rejection and disdain. But whereas many 
who in other respects are wise, are in their estimation 
of worldly glory become foolish, you deserve to be 
praised for not being deceived. It is as the flower of 
the grass (James i. 10) a vapour that appeareth for a 
little time (S. James iv. 14). And every degree of that 
glory is without doubt more full of care than joy. 
At one time you have claims to advance, at another, 
yourself to defend ; you envy others, or are suspicious 
of them ; you are continually aiming to acquire what 
you do not possess, and the passion for acquiring is 


not satisfied even by success ; and as long as this is 
the case, what rest is there in your glory ? But if 
any there be, its enjoyment quickly passes, never to 
return ; while care remains, never to leave. Be 
sides, see how many fail to attain that enjoyment, 
and yet how few despise it. Why so ? Just because 
though many of necessity endure it [/ .<?., the depriva 
tion of pleasure], yet but few make of doing so a 
virtue. Few, I say, very few, and particularly of the 
nobly-born. Indeed, not many noble are called; but God 
hath chosen the base things of the world (i Cor. i. 26-28). 
You are, then, blessed and privileged among women 
of your rank in that, while others strive in rivalry 
for worldly glory, you by your contempt of this glory 
are raised to a greater height of glory, and are ele 
vated by glory of a higher kind. Certainly you are 
the more renowned and illustrious for having made 
yourself voluntarily humble than for your birth in 
a high rank. For the one is your own achievement 
by the grace of God, the other is the doing of your 
ancestors. And that which is your own is the more 
precious, as it is the most rare. For if among men 
virtue is rare a " rare bird on the earth " how 
much rarer is it in the case of a weak woman of high 
birth ? Who can find a virtuous woman ? (Prov. xxxi. i o). 
Much more " a virtuous woman " of high birth as 
well. Although God is not by any means an accepter 
of persons, yet, I know not how, virtue is more pleasing 
in those of noble birth. Perhaps that may be because 
it is more conspicuous. For if a man is of mean 
birth and is devoid of glory, it is not easily clear 
whether he lacks virtue because he does not wish for 
it or because he cannot attain it. I honour virtue 


won under stress of necessity. But I honour more 
the virtue which a free choice adopts than that which 
necessity imposes. 

2. Let other women, then, who have not any other 
hope, contend for the cheap, fleeting, and paltry glory 
of things that vanish and deceive. Do you cling to 
the hope that confounds not. Do you keep yourself, 
I say, for that far more exceeding weight of glory, which 
our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh 
(2 Cor. iv. 17) for you on high. And if the daughters 
of Belial reproach you, those who walk with stretched 
forth necks mincing as they go (Isaiah iii. 16), decked out 
and adorned like the Temple, answer them : My king 
dom is not of this world (S. John xviii. 36) ; answer 
them : My time is not yet come, but your time is always 
ready (S. John vii. 6) ; answer them : My glory is hid with 
Christ in God (Col. iii. 3) ; When Christ, who is my life, 
shall appear, then shall I also appear with Him in glory 
(Col. iii. 4). And yet if one needs must glory, you 
also may glory freely and fearlessly, only in the Lord. 
I omit the crown which the Lord hath prepared for 
you for ever. I say nothing of the promises which 
await you hereafter, that as a happy bride you are to 
be admitted to behold with open face the glory of 
your Bridegroom ; that He will present you to Himself 
a glorious bride, not having spot or wrinkle or any such 
thing (Eph. v. 27) ; that He will receive you in an 
everlasting embrace, will place His left hand under your 
head and His right hand shall embrace you (Cant. ii. 6). 
I pass over the appointed place, which being set 
apart by the prerogative of virginity, you shall without 
doubt gain among sons and daughters in the king 
dom. I say nothing of that new song which you, a 


virgin among virgins, shall likewise sing in tones of 
unrivalled sweetness, rejoicing therein and making 
glad the city of God, singing and running and follow 
ing the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. In fact, eye hath 
not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart 
of man the things which He hath prepared ( I Cor. ii. 9) 
for you, and for which it behoves you to be pre 

3. All this I omit, that is laid up for you hereafter. 
I speak only of the present, of those things which 
you already have, of the first fruits of the Spirit (Rom. 
viii. 23), the gifts of the Bridegroom, the earnest 
money of the espousals, the blessings of goodness (Ps. 
xxi. 3), wherewith he hath prevented you, whom you 
may expect to follow after you, and complete what 
still is lacking. Let Him, yea let Him, come forth 
to be beheld in His great beauty, so adorned as to 
be admired of the very angels, and if the daughters 
of Babylon, whose glory is in their shame (Phil. iii. 19), 
have aught like Him, let them bring it forth, Though 
they be clothed in purple and fine linen (S. Luke xvi. 19). 
Yet their souls are in rags ; they have sparkling neck 
laces, but tarnished minds. You, on the other hand, 
though ragged without, are all glorious within (Ps. xlv. 
14), though to Divine and not human gaze. Within 
you have that which delights you, for He is within 
whom it delights ; for certainly you do not doubt 
that you have Christ dwelling in your heart by faith 
(Eph. iii. 17). In truth, The King s daughter is all 
glorious within (Ps. xlv. 14). Rejoice greatly, O daughter 
of Zion : shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, because the 
King hath desired thy beauty ; if than art clothed with 
confession and honour (Ps. civ. i, VULG.), and deckest 


thyself with light as it were with a garment For con 
fession and worship arc before Him (Ps. xcvi. 6, VuLG.). 
Before whom ? Him who is fairer than the sons of 
men (Ps. xlv. 3), even Him whom the angels desire 
to look upon. 

4. You hear, then, to whom you are pleasing. 
Love that which enables you to please, love " con 
fession," if you desire " honour." " Confession " is 
the handmaid of " honour," the handmaid of " wor 
ship." Both are for you. "Thou art clothed with 
confession and honour," and "Confession and worship 
are before Him." In truth, where confession is, there 
is worship, and there is honour. If there are sins, 
they are washed away in confession ; if there are 
good works, they are commended by confession. 
When you confess your faults, it is a sacrifice to God 
of a troubled spirit ; when you confess the benefits 
of God, you offer to God the sacrifice of praise. 
Confession is a fair ornament of the soul, which 
both cleanses a sinner and makes the righteous 
more thoroughly cleansed. Without confession the 
righteous is deemed ungrateful, and the sinner ac 
counted dead. Confession perisheth from the dead as 
from one that is not (Ecclus. xvii. 28). Confession, 
therefore, is the life of the sinner, the glory of the 
righteous. It is necessary to the sinner, it is equally 
proper to the righteous. For it becometh well the just 
to be thankful (Ps. xxxiii. i). Silk and purple and 
rouge and paint have beauty, but impart it not. 
Every such thing that you apply to the body exhibits 
its own loveliness, but leaves it not behind. It takes 
the beauty with it, when the thing itself is taken away. 
For the beauty that is put on with a garment and is 


put off with the garment, belongs without doubt to 
the garment, and not to the wearer of it. 

5. Do not you, therefore, emulate those evil dis 
posed persons who, as mendicants, seek an extraneous 
beauty when they have lost their own. They only 
betray how destitute they are of any proper and 
native beauty, when at such great labour and cost 
they study to furnish themselves outside with the 
many and various graces of the fashion of the world 
which passeth away, just that they may appear grace 
ful in the eyes of fools. Deem it a thing unworthy 
of you to borrow your attractiveness from the furs 
of animals and the toils of worms ; let your own 
suffice you. For that is the true and proper beauty 
of anything, which it has in itself without the aid 
of any substance besides. Oh ! how lovely the flush 
with which the jewel of inborn modesty colours a 
virgin s cheeks ! Can the earrings of queens be com 
pared to this ? And self-discipline confers a mark of 
equal beauty. How self-discipline calms the whole 
aspect of a maiden s bearing, her whole temper of 
mind. It bows the neck, smooths the proud brows, 
composes the countenance, restrains the eyes, re 
presses laughter, checks the tongue, tempers the 
appetite, assuages wrath, and guides the deportment. 
With such pearls of modesty should your robe be 
decked. When virginity is girt with divers colours 
such as these, is there any glory to which it is not 
rightly preferred ? The Angelic ? An angel has 
virginity, indeed, but not flesh ; and in that respect 
his happiness exceeds his virtue. Surely that adorn 
ment is best and most desirable which even an angel 
might envy. 


6. There remains still one more remark to be 
made about the adornment of the Christian virgin. 
The more peculiarly your own it is, the more secure 
it remains to you. You see women of the world 
burdened, rather than adorned, with gold, silver, 
precious stones ; in short, with all the raiment of a 
palace. You see how they draw long trains behind 
them, and those of the most costly materials, and 
raise thick clouds of dust into the air. Let not such 
things disturb you. They must lay them aside when 
they come to die ; but the holiness which is your 
possession will not forsake you. The things which 
they wear are really not their own. When they die 
they can take nothing with them, nor will this their 
glory go down with them. The world, whose such 
things are, will keep them and dismiss the wearers 
naked ; and will beguile with them others equally 
vain. But that adornment of yours is not of such 
sort. As I said, you may be quite sure that it will 
not leave you, because it is your own. You cannot 
be deprived of it by the violence, nor defrauded of it 
by the deceit of any man. Against such possessions 
the cunning of the thief and the cruelty of the tyrant 
avail nothing. It is not eaten of moths, nor corrupted 
by age, nor spent by use. It lives on even in death. 
Indeed, it belongs to the soul and not to the body ; 
and for this reason it leaves the body together with 
the soul, and does not perish with the body. And 
even those who kill the body have absolutely nothing 
that they can do to the soul. 




Under a religious habit she had continued to have a spirit given 
up to the world, and Bernard praises her for coming to a 
sense of her duty ; he exhorts her not to neglect the grace 
given to her. 

i. It is the source of great joy to me to hear that 
you are willing to strive after that true and perfect 
joy, which belongs not to earth but to heaven ; that 
is, not to this vale of tears, but to that city of God 
which the rivers of the flood thereof make glad (Ps. xlvi. 
4). And in very truth that is the true and only joy 
which is won, not from the creature, but from the 
Creator ; which, if once you possess it, no man shall 
take from you. For, compared with it, all joy from 
other sources is sorrow, all pleasure is pain, all sweet 
ness is bitter, all beauty is mean, everything else, in 
fine, whatever may have power to please, is irksome. 
Indeed, you are my witness in this matter. Ask 
yourself, for you will believe yourself more readily. 
Does not the Holy Spirit proclaim this very truth in 
your heart ? Have you not been persuaded of the 
truth hereof by Him long before I spoke ? For how 
would you, being a woman, or rather a young girl 
so fair and ingenuous, have thus overcome the weak 
ness of your sex and years ; how could you thus 
hold cheap your extreme beauty and noble birth, 
unless all such things as are subject to the bodily 
senses were already vile in your eyes, in comparison 
with those which inwardly strengthen you to over- 


come the earthly, and charm you to prefer things 
heavenly ? 

2. And this is right. Poor and transient and 
earthly are the things which you despise, but the 
things you wish for are grand, heavenly, and ever 
lasting. I will say still more, and still speak the 
truth. You leave the darkness to approach the light ; 
you come forth from the depth of the sea and gain 
the harbour ; you breathe again in happy freedom 
after a wretched slavery ; in a word, you pass from 
death to life ; though up till now, living according to 
your own will and not God s, to your own law and 
not that of God, while living you were dead living 
to the world, but dead to God ; or rather, to speak 
more truly, living neither to the world nor to God. 
For when you wished while wearing the habit and 
name of religion to live like one in the world, you 
alone had rejected God from you by your own wish. 
But when you could not effect your foolish wish, 
then it was not you that rejected the world, but the 
world you. And so, rejecting God and rejected by 
the world, you had fallen between two stools, 1 as 
they say. You were not living unto God, because 
you would not, nor to the world, because you could 
not : you were anxious for one, unwelcome to the 
other, and yet dead to both. So it must happen to 
those who promise and do not perform, who make 
one show to the world, and in their hearts desire 
something else. But now, by the mercy of God, 

1 Compare in this place Imitation of Christ, Bk. i. c. 25. "A religious 
person who has become slothful and lukewarm has trouble upon trouble, 
and suffers anguish on every side, because he lacks consolation from 
within, and is debarred from seeking it without." Read also Sermons 3 
and 5 upon the Ascension. 


you are beginning to live again, not to sin, but to 
righteousness, not to the world, but to Christ, know 
ing that to live to the world is death, and even to die 
in Christ is life. Blessed are the dead which die in the 
Lord (Rev. xiv. 13). 

3. So from this time I shall not mention again 
your unfulfilled vow, nor your disregard of your 
profession. From henceforth your purity of body 
will not be impaired by a corrupt mind, nor your 
name of virgin disgraced by disorderly conduct ; 
from henceforth the name you bear will not be a 
deception, nor the veil you wear meaningless. For 
why hitherto have you been addressed as " nun " * 
and " holy virgin " when, professing holiness, you 
did not live holily ? Why did you let the veil on 
your head give a false impression of the reverence 
due to you, while your eye launched burning and 
passionate glances ? Your head was clothed, indeed, 
with a veil, but it was lifted up with pride, and 
though you were under the symbol of modesty, 
your speech sounded far from modest. Your im 
moderate laughter, unreserved demeanour, and showy 
dress would have accorded better with the wimple 2 

1 This expression is borrowed from the Rule of S. Benedict, in which it 
is said that the younger shall call their elders nonna (in monasteries for 
men noitnits), Chap. Ixiii. 

2 Wimple. So all the MS. codices that I have seen, viz., at the Royal 
Library, Colbert Library, Sorbonne, Royal College of Navarre, S. Victor 
of Paris MS., MS. of Compiegne, and others at other libraries, which have 
"with the wimple" (wimplaUt), though all editions except two (viz., that 
of Paris, 1494, and of Lyons, 1530) have "one puffed up" (uni inflata). 
They ask what "with the wimple" (wimplatae) means. Of course it is a 
word formed from wimple or guimple, owing to the easy change of g to w. 
In French "guimpe" or "guimple" is a woman s head-dress, once 
common with women of noble birth (as we learn from the old pictures of 



than the veil. But behold now, at the bidding of 
Christ, the old things have passed away, and all 
things begin to be made new, since you are changing 
the care of the body for that of the soul, and are 
desirous of a beautiful life more than beautiful 
raiment. You are doing what you ought to do, or 
rather what you ought to have done long ago, for 
long ago you had vowed to do it. But the Spirit, 
who breathes not only where He will but when He 
will, had not then breathed on you, and so, perhaps, 
you are to be excused for what you have done 
hitherto. But if you suffer the ardent zeal wherewith, 
beyond a doubt, your heart is now hot again, and 
the divine flame that burns in your thoughts, to be 
quenched, what remains for you but the certain 
knowledge that you must be destined for that flame 
which cannot be quenched. Nay, let the same Spirit 
rather quench in you all carnal affections, lest haply 
(which God forbid !) the holy desires of your soul, 
so late conceived, should be stifled by them, and you 
yourself be cast into hell fire. 

noble ladies), but the more simple and modest refrained from wearing 
it. So we read in the French poet, contained in Borellus Glossartum 
Gallicum : 

Moult fut humiliant et simple 

Elle cut une voile en lieu de guimple. 

Which may be rendered 

She was a lowly girl and simple, 
And wore a veil in place of wimple. 

Now, however, the word " wimple" is scarcely heard outside the cloisters 
of nuns. 

LETTER LI 1 1 227 




He dissuades her from the rash and imprudent design which 
she had in her mind of retiring into some solitude. 

i. I am told that you are wishing to leave your 
convent, impelled by a longing for a more ascetic 
life, and that after spending all their efforts to dis 
suade and prevent you, seeing that you paid no 
heed to them, your spiritual mother or your sisters, 
determined at length to seek my advice on the matter, 
so that whatever course I approved, that you might 
feel it your duty to adopt. You ought, of course, to 
have chosen some more learned man as an adviser ; 
yet since it is my advice you desire to have, I do not 
conceal from you what I think the better course. 
Ever since I learnt your wish, though I have been 
turning the matter over in my mind, I cannot easily 
venture to decide what temper of mind suggested it. 
For you may in this thing have a zeal towards God, 
so that your purpose may be excusable. But how 
such a wish as yours can be fulfilled consistently 
with prudence I entirely fail to see. " Why so ? " 
you ask. " Is it not wise for me to flee from wealth 
and the throng of cities, and from the good cheer 
and pleasure of life ? Shall I not keep my purity 

1 This convent still exists under the rule of S. Benedict. It had lately 
been, as Bernard testifies, the object of a reform when he wrote. 
[Mabillon s note.] 


more safely in the desert, where I can live in peace 
with just a few, or even alone, and please Him alone 
to whom I have pledged myself ? " By no means. 
If one would live in an evil manner, the desert brings 
abundant opportunity : the wood a protecting shade, 
and solitude silence. The evil that no one sees, no 
one reproves. Where no critic is feared, there the 
tempter gains easier access, there wickedness is more 
readily committed. It is otherwise in a convent. If 
you do anything good no one prevents you, but if 
you would do evil you are hindered by many 
obstacles. If you yield to temptation, it is at once 
known to many, and is reproved and corrected. So, 
on the other hand, when you are seen to do anything 
good, all admire, revere, and copy it. You see, then, 
my daughter, that in a convent a larger renown 
awaits your good deeds, and a more speedy rebuke 
your faults, because there are others there to whom 
you may set an example by good deeds and whom 
you will offend by evil. 

2. But I will take away from you every excuse for 
your error, by that alternative in the parable we read 
in the Gospel. Either you are one of the foolish 
virgins, if, indeed, you are a virgin, or one of the 
wise (S. Matt. xxv. 1-12). If you are one of the 
foolish, the convent is necessary to you ; if of the 
wise, you are necessary to the convent. For if you 
are wise and well-approved, without doubt the reform 
which, though newly introduced into that place, has 
already won universal praise, will be greatly dis 
credited, and, I fear, be weakened by your departure. 
It will not fail to be said that, being good yourself, 
you would not desert a house where the Rule was 


well carried out. 1 If you have been known to be 
foolish, and you go away, we shall say that since 
you are not suffered to live an evil life among good 
companions, you could not endure longer the society 
of holy women, and are seeking a dwelling where 
you may live in your own way. And we shall be 
quite right. For before the reform of the Rule you 
never, I am told, were wont to talk of this plan ; but 
no sooner did observances become stricter, than you, 
too, became suddenly holier, and in hot haste to 
think of the desert. I see, my daughter, I see in 
this, and I would you also saw as I do, the serpent s 
venom, the guile of the crafty one, and the trickery 
of his changing skin. The wolf dwells in the wood. 
If a poor little sheep like you should enter the shades 
of the wood alone you would be simply seeking to 
be his prey. But listen to me, my daughter ; listen 
to my faithful warning. Whether sinner or saint, 
do not separate yourself from the flock, lest the 
enemy seize upon you, and there be none to deliver 
you. Are you a saint ? Strive by your example to 
gain associates in sanctity. A sinner ? Do not add 
sin to sin, but do penance where you are, lest by 
departing, not without danger, as I have shown, to 
yourself, you bring scandal upon your sisters, and 
provoke the tongues of may scoffers against you. 

1 Cf. the French equivalent " Le bon ordre," i.e., the strict Rule of 
Monastic Life. 




He gently and tenderly assures her that he has for her all 
the sentiments of pure and religious affection, 

To his beloved daughter in Christ, ERMENGARDE, 
once the most noble Countess, now the humble hand 
maid of Christ, BERNARD, Abbot of Clairvaux, offers 
the pious affection of holy love. 

Would that, as I now open this page before me, 
so I could open my mind to you ! Oh ! that you 
could read in my heart what God has deigned to 
write there with His own finger concerning my 

1 She was the wife of Count Alan, and a great benefactress to Clairvaux. 
She built the monks a monastery near the town of Nantes (see Ernald, 
Life of S. Bernard, ii. 34, and according to Mabillon s Chronology, 
1135 A.D.). The name of the monastery is Buzay ; it is presided over by 
the most illustrious Abbot Caumartin, who has communicated to me the 
first charter founding the convent. In this charter Duke Conan, son of 
Alan and Ermengarde, asserts that he and his mother had determined to 
build the Abbey of Buzay, but that, misled by evil counsel of certain 
persons, they had desisted from their undertaking. At length Bernard, 
Abbot of Clairvaux, came into those parts. The House of Buzay was 
dependent upon his abbey. Bernard, seeing the place almost desolate, 
was deeply grieved, " and," says Conan, "rebuked me with the most 
severe reproofs as false and perfidious ; and then ordered the abbot and 
monks who tarried there to abandon the place and return to Clairvaux." 
Conan interposed, and after restoring the property of the monastery which 
he had taken away, took steps for the completion of the building. The 
charter is signed by Bishops Roland, of Vannes ; Alan, of Rennes ; John, 
of St. Malo ; Iterius, of Nantes ; and also by Peter, Abbot of the monas 
tery, and Andrew, a monk. But to return to Ermengarde. Godfrey, 
Abbot of Vendome (Bk. v. Letter 23), urges her to resume her purpose of 
entering the religious life, which she appears to have abandoned. The 
same Godfrey, in the next Letter, speaks of her as of royal blood. 


affection for you ! Then, indeed, you might under 
stand, how no tongue or pen can suffice to express, 
what the spirit of God hath been able to impress on 
my inmost heart ! And even now I am present with 
you in the spirit, though absent in the body. It is 
neither in your power nor mine to be in the presence 
of the other. Yet you have with you the means 
whereby you may not yet know, but at any rate guess 
what I mean. Within your own heart behold mine ; 
and ascribe to me as great affection toward you 
as you know to be in yourself towards me. Yet do 
not think that you have more for me than I for you ; 
nor have a better opinion of your own heart than of 
mine, in respect of affection. Besides, you are too 
humble and modest not to believe that He who has 
brought you so to love me and to follow my counsel 
for your salvation has inspired me also with feelings 
of affectionate concern for you. So you are thinking 
how you may keep me with you ; and I, to confess 
the truth, am nowhere without you or away from 
you. I was anxious to write this short note to you 
about my journey while on the way, hoping to send 
you a longer one when I have more leisure, if God 



He commends her readiness in God s service, and 
expresses his desire to see her. 

I have received the joy of my heart, good news 
from you. I am happy to hear of your happiness ; 


and your ready service, now so well known, makes 
me quite easy in mind. This great happiness comes 
in no way from flesh and blood, for you are living 
in lowliness instead of state, in mean, not high place, 
in poverty instead of wealth. You are deprived of 
the consolation of living in your own country, and 
of the society of your brother and your son. With 
out doubt, then, the willing devotion that hath been 
born in you is the work of the Holy Spirit. You 
have long since conceived by the fear of God the 
design of labouring for your salvation, and have at 
last brought your design to execution, the spirit of 
love casting out fear in your soul. How much more 
gladly would I be present to say this to you, than be 
absent and write ! Believe me, I am annoyed at my 
business, which constantly seems to hinder me from 
the sight of you ; and I hail with joy the chances, 
which I seldom seem to get, of seeing you. Such 
opportunities are rare ; but, I confess, their very rarity 
makes them sweet. For, indeed, it is better to see 
you just sometimes than never at all. I hope to 
come unto you shortly ; and I already offer you a 
foretaste of the joy that shall shortly come in full. 



He commends her love and anxious care. 

1 wonder at your zealous devotion and loving 
affection towards me. I ask, excellent lady, what 
can possibly inspire in you such great interest and 


solicitude for us ? If we had been sons or grand 
sons, if we had been united to you by the most 
distant tie of relationship, your constant kindnesses, 
frequent visits, in a word, the numberless proofs of 
your affection that we experience daily, would seem 
to deserve, not so much our wonder, as our accept 
ance as a matter of obligation. But as, in common 
with the rest of mankind, we recognize in you only a 
great lady, and not a mother, the wonder is not that 
we should wonder at your goodness, but that we can 
wonder sufficiently. For who of our kinsfolk and 
acquaintances takes care of us ? Who ever asks of 
our health ? Who, I ask, is, I will not say anxious, 
but even mindful of us in the world ? We are be 
come, as it were, a broken vessel to friends, relatives, 
and neighbours. You alone cannot forget us. You 
ask of the state and condition of my health, of the 
journey I have just accomplished, of the monks whom 
I have transferred to another place. Of them I may 
briefly reply, that out of a desert land, from a place 
of grim and vast solitude, they have been brought 
into a place where nothing is wanting to them, 
neither possessions, nor buildings, nor friends ; into 
a rich land and a lovely dwelling-place. I left them 
happy and peaceful ; in happiness and peace, too, 
I returned ; except that for a few days I was troubled 
with so severe a return of fever that I was in fear of 
death. But by God s mercy I soon got well again, 
so that now I think I am stronger and better after 
my journey is over than before it began. 



He thanks them for having hitherto remitted customs \pr tolls~\, 
but asks that they will see that their princely liberality is 
not interfered with by the efforts of their servants. 

To the Duke and Duchess of LORRAINE, BERNARD, 
Abbot of Clairvaux, sends greeting, and prays that 
they may so lovingly and purely rejoice in each 
other s affection that the love of Christ alone may be 
supreme in them both. 

Ever since the needs of our Order obliged me to 
send for necessaries into your land I have found 
great favour and kindness in the eyes of your Grace. 
You freely displayed the blessings of your bounty on 
our people when they needed it. You freely re 
mitted to them when travelling their toll, 2 the dues on 
their purchases, and any other legal due of yours. 
For all these things your reward is surely great in 
heaven, if, indeed, we believe that to be true which 
the Lord promises in His Gospel : Inasmuch as ye 
have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye 

1 That is, Simon and Adelaide, not Gertrude, as most write. For the 
account of the conversion of this Duchess by S. Bernard see Lift, 
Bk. i. c. 14. She took the veil of a Religious in the Nunnery of Tart, 
in the environs of Dijon, as is clear from the autograph Letters of her 
son, Duke Matthew, who calls his mother Atheleide. These Letters 
P. F. Chifflet refers to at the end of his four Opuscula, ed. Paris, 1679. 
I do not refer to the pretended Letters of Gertrude to Bernard, and 
Bernard to Gertrude, translated by Bernard Brito, from French into 
Portuguese and thence into Latin. 

2 Passagium, a fixed payment from travellers entering or passing 
through a country; droit de passage or "toll." 


have done it unto me (S. Matt. xxv. 40). But why is 
it that you allow your servants to take away again 
what you bestow ? It seems to me that it is worthy 
of you and for your honour, that when you have 
been pleased to bestow anything for the safety of 
your souls no one should venture to demand it back 
again. If, then (which God forbid), you do not 
repent of your good deed, and your general inten 
tion in respect to us is still the same, be pleased to 
order it to be a firm and unshaken rule ; that hence 
forward our brethren may never fear to be disturbed 
in this matter by any of your servants. But other 
wise we do not refuse to follow our Lord s example, 
who did not disdain to pay the dues. We also are 
ready willingly to render to Caesar the things that are 
Ccesar s (S. Matt. xvii. 26), custom to whom custom, and 
tribute to whom tribute is due (Rom. xiii. 7), especially 
because, according to the Apostle, we ought not to 
seek our gift so much as your gain (Phil. iv. 17). 


He thanks her for kindnesses shown, and deters her from 
an unjust war. 

I thank God for your pious goodwill which I know 
that you have towards Him and His servants. For 
whenever the tiniest little spark of heavenly love is 
kindled in a worldly heart ennobled with earthly 
honours, that, without doubt, is God s gift, not man s 


virtue. For our part we are very glad to avail our 
selves of the kind offers made to us of your bounty 
in your letter. But having heard of the sudden and 
serious stress of business, which, of course, must be 
delaying you at this time, we think it meet to await 
your opportunity as it shall please you. For, as far 
as in me lies, I would not be a burden to any one, 
particularly in things pertaining to God, where we 
ought to seek not so much the profit of the gift as 
advantage abounding to the giver. And so, if you 
please, name a day and place in your answer by this 
messenger, when, by God s help, having brought to 
an end the business which now occupies, you will be 
able to approach these regions, where our brother 
Wido l will meet you, so that if he finds anything 
in your country profitable for our Order you may 
fulfil your promise with greater ease and speed. For 
God loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. ix. 7). Otherwise, 
if perchance the delay please you not, let me know 
this also : for in this matter I am ready, as reason 
allows, to obey your wishes. I salute the Duke, your 
husband, through your mouth, and I venture to urge 
him and you both, if you know that the castle for 
which you are going to war does not belong to your 
rightful domain, for the love of God to let it alone. 
For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world 
and lose his own soul? (S. Matt. xvi. 26). 

1 I think this is Wido [or Guy ?], Abbot of Trois Fontaines, who 
frequently went to Lorraine. Cf. 63, 69. 




He tries to appease her anger against Hugo, and asks her 
assent to a certain marriage. 

The special friendship with which your Grace is 
pleased, as it is supposed, to honour me, a poor 
monk, is so widely known that whenever any one 
thinks your Grace has him in displeasure, he applies 
to me as the best medium for being restored to your 
favour. Hence it is that some time ago, when I was 
at Dijon, Hugo de Bese urged me with many en 
treaties to appease your displeasure, which he had 
deserved, and to obtain, for the love of God, and by 
your kindness towards me, your assent to the marriage 
of his son, which, though it did not meet with your 
approval, he had irrevocably determined to make, 
since it was, as he thinks, an advantage to himself. 
And for this reason he has been besieging my ears, 
not as before, by his own prayers, but by the lips of 
his friends. Now, I do not much care about worldly 
advantages, but since the matter, as he himself says, 
seems to have reached such a narrow pass that he 
cannot prevent the marriage except by perjuring 
himself, I have thought it meet to tell you this, since 
that must be a serious object which should be pre 
ferred to the good faith of a Christian man and your 

1 Matilda, wife of Hugo I., Duke of Burgundy, who was cherishing her 
anger against Hugo de Bese. This place was situate four leagues from 
Dijon, and famous for the Monastery of that name (Bese) of the Bene 
dictine Order. About this Hugo see Perard, pp. 221, 222. 


servant. For he cannot be perjured and yet at the 
same time keep faith with his Prince. 1 Aye, and I 
see not only no gain to you, but also much danger 
arising, if those whom perhaps God has determined 
to join together should be put asunder by you. May 
the Lord grant His grace to you, most noble lady, 
so dear to me in Christ, and to your children. 
Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day 
of salvation. Spend your corn on Christ s poor, that 
in eternity you may receive it with usury. 


i. The following Letter, which is the igoth of 
S. Bernard, was ranked by Horst among the Treatises, 
on account of its length and importance. It was 
written on the occasion of the condemnation of the 
errors of Abaelard by the Council of Sens, in 1140, 
in the presence of a great number of French Bishops, 
and of King Louis the Younger, as has been described 
in the notes to Letter 187. In the Synodical Epistle, 
which is No. 191 of S. Bernard, and in another, 
which is No. 337, the Fathers of the Council an 
nounced to Pope Innocent that they had condemned 
the errors of Abaelard, but had pronounced no 
sentence against him personally out of respect for 
the appeal which he had made to the Holy See ; and 
they add that " the chief heads of his errors are more 
fully detailed in the Letter of the Bishop of Sens." 

1 Legaliiati, i.e., good faith, which consists in performing promises 
once made. 


I think that the Letter of which mention is thus 
made can be no other than that given here, and in 
which we find, in fact, the chief heads of Abaelard s 
errors, with a summary refutation of each. They 
are also the same as those which William, who had 
become a simple monk at Igny, after having been 
Abbot of Saint Thierry, had addressed to Geoffrey, 
Bishop of Chartres, and to Bernard, in a Letter 
which is inserted among those of Bernard. 

2. As regards the different errors imputed to 
Abaelard, there are some which he complained were 
wrongly attributed to him. Others, on the contrary, 
he recognized as his, and corrected them in his 
Apology, in which he represents Bernard as being 
his only opponent, his malignant and hasty denoun 
cer. Two former partizans of Abaelard himself, 
but who had long recoiled from his errors, Geoffrey, 
who afterwards was the Secretary of Bernard, and 
"a certain Abbot of the Black Monks," whose name 
is unknown, attempted to justify Bernard against 
these calumnies. Duchesne had spoken of these two 
writers in his notes to Abaelard, but the Treatises of 
both of them were lately printed in Vol. iv. of the 
" Bibliotheca Cisterciensis," whose learned Editor, 
Bertrand Tissier, remarks that this unknown Abbot 
is some other person than William of Saint Thierry. 

3. Of the heads of errors attributed to Abaelard, 
some are wanting in his printed works, which has 
given occasion to some writers for accusing Bernard, 
as if he had attributed errors to Abaelard without 
foundation, and so had himself been fighting against 
shadows and phantoms. But it is certain that most 
of these errors are to be found even in his printed 


writings, as we shall show each in its place. As for 
those which are no longer discoverable, William of 
Saint Thierry, Geoffrey, and this unknown Abbot, 
who had been once a disciple of Abaelard, and was 
perfectly acquainted with his doctrine, quote word 
for word statements both from his Apology and from 
his Theology, which do not appear in the printed 
editions ; and certainly Abaelard himself, in Book ii. 
of his " Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans," 
p. 554, reserves certain points to be treated in his 
Theology of which there is no mention in the printed 
copies, which close thus : " The rest is wanting," so 
that it appears that the printed copies of the Theology 
have been mutilated. 

4. Those writers have, therefore, done a very ill 
service to Religion, to say nothing of the injury to 
Bernard, who, in order to justify Abaelard, accuse 
Bernard of having been hurried on by the impulse 
of a blind zeal. They ought at least to acknowledge, 
as Abaelard himself did, and also Berengarius, his 
defender, that he had erred in various matters. And, 
indeed, Abaelard himself, in his Apology, acknow 
ledges, though perhaps not quite sincerely, that in 
some respects he was wrong. " It is possible," he 
says, " that I have fallen into some errors which I 
ought to have avoided, but I call God as a witness 
and judge upon my soul that in these points upon 
which I have been accused, I have presumed to say 
nothing through malice or through pride." It may 
well be that he might be able to clear himself of the 
reproach of malice, and even of that of heresy ; but, 
a least, he could not deny that he had fallen into 
various errors a liking for new words and phrases, 



levity, and perhaps even pride and an excessive desire 
for disputation. However this may be, Pope Innocent 
bade the Bishops by a rescript that the man was to 
be imprisoned and his books burned, and Godfrey 
declares that the Pope himself had them thrown into 
the flames at Rome. But Peter Abaelard at length 
returned to better views. He desisted from his 
Appeal by the advice and request of Peter the Vener 
able, Abbot of Cluny, who has described his last days 
in pleasing terms in a Letter which he wrote to 

5. Bernard did not attack Abaelard in his dis 
courses and writings with impunity. Not only was 
Abaelard impatient of his censure, but also Beren- 
garius, his disciple and defender, dared to accuse 
Bernard of having spread certain errors in his books. 
" You have certainly erred," says Berengarius, ad 
dressing Bernard, " in asserting the origin of souls 
from Heaven" (p. 310). And on p. 315: "The 
origin of souls from Heaven is a fabulous thing, and 
this I remember that you taught in these words (Serm. 
in Cantica, No. 17): The Apostle has rightly said, 
our conversation is in heaven. These words which you 
have expounded with great subtilty, savour much 
to the palate of a Christian mind of heresy." But 
enough of this foolish and impudent slanderer. The 
unknown Abbot reports another calumny of Abaelard 
against Bernard at the end of his second book : " It 
is very astonishing to me that for such a long time 
no reply should have been made by so many great 
men whose teaching enlightens the Church, as the 
light of the sun is reflected upon the moon, to our 
Abaelard, who accused the Abbot of saying that God, 


and Man assumed by God, are one Person in the 
Trinity. Whereas Man is a material body composed 
of various limbs and dissoluble, while God is neither 
a material body, nor has any limbs, nor can be dis 
solved. Wherefore, neither ought God to be called 
Man, nor Man to be called God," etc. Thus Abae- 
lard shows himself a Nestorian, while petulantly 
accusing Bernard of error. Rightly does William of 
Saint Thierry reply in his 8th chapter to Abaelard with 
regard to this passage : " Thus we say similarly that 
Christ is the Son of Man in the nature of His 
Humanity, but not from that according to which 
He has union with God, and is One of the Three 
Persons in the Trinity ; because, as God Incarnate 
was made the Son of Man on account of the human 
nature which He assumed, so the man united to the 
Son of God has become the Son of God on account 
of the Divine Nature which has united him to itself." 
6. Besides the heads of errors which Bernard 
refutes in these books, he groups together some 
others in No. 10, contenting himself with exposing 
them ; these have been refuted by other authors, viz., 
by William, and by the unknown Abbot. As to the 
Eucharistic species or the accidents, which, according 
to Abaelard, remain in the air after consecration, 
this was the view of William : " It appears to me, if 
you agree with me," he says, writing to Geoffrey, 
Bishop of Chartres, and to Bernard, " that those 
accidents, i.e., the form of the earlier substance, 
which, I believe, is nothing else than a harmonious 
combination of accidents into one, if they still exist, 
do so in the Body of the Lord, not forming it, but by 
the power and wisdom of God working upon them, 


shaping and modifying it, that it may become capable, 
according to the purpose of the mystery and the 
manner of a Sacrament, of being touched and tasted 
in a form different from that proper to it, which it 
could not do in its own." He says again in his book 
to Rupertus, De Corpore ct Sanguine Domini, c. 3 : " In 
opposition to every conception and mode of reason 
ing in secular philosophy, the substance of bread is 
changed into another substance, and has carried with 
it certain accidents into the Eucharistic mystery, but 
without altering them from what they were, and in 
such a manner that the Body of the Lord is not 
either white or round, though whiteness and round 
ness are associated with it. And it so retains these 
accidents that although they are truly present with 
His Human Body, yet they are not in It, do not 
touch it, or affect it," etc. 

7. It was not only with respect to the Incarnation 
of Our Lord that Abaelard thought, or at least ex 
pressed himself, in an erroneous manner. He was 
equally in error on the subject of the grace of Christ, 
which he reduced simply to the reason granted to 
man by God, to the admonitions of the Holy Scrip 
tures, and to good examples, and thus made it 
common to all men. " We may say, then," he 
taught, " that man, by the reason which he has 
received from God, is able to embrace the grace 
which is offered him ; nor does God do any more 
for a person who is saved before he has embraced 
the offered grace, than for one who is not saved. 
But just as a man who exposes precious jewels for 
sale, in order to excite in those who see them the 
wish to purchase ; thus God makes His grace known 


before all, exhorts us by the Scriptures, and reminds 
us by examples, so that men, in the power of that 
liberty of will which they have, may decide to em 
brace the offer of grace." And a little farther on he 
continues : " That vivification is attributed to grace : 
because Reason, by which man discerns between 
good and evil, and understands that he ought to 
abstain from the one and to do the other, comes 
from God. And therefore it is said that he does this 
under the inspiration of God : because God enables 
him by the gift of Reason which He has bestowed to 
recognize what is sinful." Such were the errors 
William has extracted, among many others, from the 
writings of Abaelard, and without doubt from his 
Theology, which, perhaps because of these and other 
similar passages, was mutilated by his scholars. 
Nor can we refuse to credit the good faith of 
William, who was a learned and pious man : especi 
ally as Abaelard in his Book iv., on the Epistle to 
the Romans, teaches the same hurtful doctrine (p. 
653 and following). We learn from all these expres 
sions of Abaelard that he thought, or at least certainly 
wrote, with the same impiety concerning the grace 
of Christ as he did on the Incarnation, and that 
Bernard was perfectly correct in saying (Letter 192): 
" He speaks of the Trinity like Arius, of grace like 
Pelagius, and of the Person of Christ like Nestorius." 
Proof of the truth of these words of Bernard as con 
cerns the two last charges will be found in reading 
the letter given here ; and as to the third, it will be 
sufficient to show that Bernard has in nowise ex 
aggerated, to read the end of Book iii. of the Theology 
of Abaelard ; there it will be found in his own words, 


" that those who abhor our words respecting the 
faith may be easily convinced when they hear that 
God the Father and God the Son are joined with us 
according to the sense of the words." In what 
manner ? " Let us ask, then," he continues, " if 
they believe in the wisdom of God of which it is 
written : Thou hast made all tilings with wisdom, O Lord, 
and they will reply without hesitation that they do 
so believe. But this is to believe in the Son ; as for 
believing in the Holy Ghost, it is nothing else than 
believing in the goodness of God." These words 
seem clearly to be not only Arian, but even Sabellian, 
although, as I must frankly confess, Abaelard formally 
rejects that error in its logical consequences in 
another passage on p. 1069. But especially in 
matters of faith, it is a matter of importance, not 
only to think rightly, but also to speak and write 
with exactness. Thus it is with reason that William 
of Saint Thierry says in citing the very words of 
Abaelard with respect to the brass and the seal, 
and with respect to power in general and a certain 
power : " As for the Divine Persons, he destroys 
them like Sabellius, and when he speaks of their 
unlikeness and their inequality, he goes straight to 
the feet of Arius in his opinion." I only cite 
these passages to make those persons ashamed who. 
although they detest these errors, yet take up the 
defence of Abaelard against Bernard, and do not 
hesitate to accuse the latter of precipitation and of 
excess of zeal against him. William cle Conches 
expresses himself in almost the same manner as 
Abaelard with respect to the mystery of the Holy 
Trinity, and Abbot William of S. Thierry confutes 


his errors also in his letter to Bernard. Nor is there 
anything worse that can happen to religion than that 
philosophers should attempt to explain the mysteries 
of our faith by the power of Reason alone. 

8. Geoffrey, secretary of S. Bernard, gives an 
account of the whole business of Abaelard in a letter 
to Henry, Cardinal and Bishop of Albano : " I have 
heard also that your Diligence desires to know the 
entire truth respecting the condemnation of Peter Abae 
lard, whose books Pope Innocent II., of pious memory, 
condemned to be burned solemnly at Rome in the 
Church of S. Peter, and declared him by Apostolical 
authority to be a heretic. Some years before a 
certain venerable Cardinal, Legate of the Roman 
Church, by name Conon, once a Canon of the 
Church of S. Nicholas of Artois, had already con 
demned his Theology in the same way to be burned, 
during a council at Soissons in which he presided, 
the said Abaelard having been present and having 
been condemned of heretical pravity. If you desire 
it he will satisfy you by the book of The Life of S. 
Bernard, and by his letters sent to Rome on that 
subject. I have found also at Clairvaux a little book 
of a certain Abbot of Black Monks, in which the 
errors of the same Peter Abaelard are noted, and I 
remember to have seen it on a previous occasion ; 
but for many years, as the keepers of the books 
assert, the first four sheets of this little book, although 
diligently sought for, could not be found. Because 
of this I have had the intention to send some one 
into France to the Abbey of the writer of that little 
book, so as, if I should be able to recover it, to 
have it copied, and send it to you. I believe that 


your curiosity will be completely satisfied in learn 
ing in what respects, how, and wherefore he was 

It is thus that Geoffrey expresses himself. (Notes 
of Duchesne to Abaelard.) I pass over the vision 
related by Henry, Canon of Tours, to the Fathers of 
the Synod of Sens and to Bernard (Spicileg., Vol. xii. 
p. 478 et seqq.). 

9. After I had written what precedes, our brother, 
John Durand, who was then occupied at Rome, sent 
me the Capilula Hceresuw Petri Abaelardi, which were 
placed at the head of the following letter, taken from 
the very faulty MS. in the Vatican, No. 663. These 
were, without doubt, those which Bernard, at the 
end of this letter, states that he had collected, and 
transmitted to the Pontiff. It seems well to place 
them here for the illustration of the letter. 


I. The shocking analogy made between a brazen sea/, and 
between genus and species, and the Holy Trinity. 

"The Wisdom of God being a certain power, as a 
seal of brass is a certain [portion of] brass ; it follows 
clearly that the Wisdom of God has its being from 
His Power, similarly as the brazen is said to be what 
it is from its material : or the species derives what it 
is from its genus, which is, as it were, the material of 
the species, as the animal is of man. For just as, in 
order that there may be a brazen seal, there must be 
brass, and in order that there may be man, there 
must be the genus Animal, but not reciprocally : so 


in order that there may be the Divine Wisdom, 
which is the power of discernment, there must be 
the Divine Power ; but the reciprocal does not 
follow." And a little further on we read : " The 
Beneficence, the name under which the Holy Spirit 
is designated, is not in God Wisdom or Power." 

II. That the Holy Spirit is not of the Substance of the 

"The Son and the Holy Spirit are of the Father, 
the One by the way of generation, the Other by that 
of procession. Generation differs from procession 
in that He who is generated is of the very Substance 
of the Father, whilst the essence of Wisdom itself is, 
as was said, to be a certain Power." And a little 
further on we read : " As for the Holy Spirit, 
although He be of the same Substance with the 
Father and the Son, whence even the Trinity itself 
is called consubstantial (homoousion), yet He is not at 
all of the Substance of the Father or of the Son, 
as He would be if generated of the Father or the 
Son ; but rather He has of them the Procession, 
which is that God, through love, extends Himself to 
another than Himself. For like as any one proceeds 
through love from his own self to another, since, as 
we have said above, no one can be properly said 
to have love towards himself, or to be beneficent 
towards himself, but towards another. But this is 
especially true of God, who having need of nothing, 
cannot be moved by the feeling of beneficence 
towards His own self, to bestow something on 
Himself out of beneficence, but only towards 


III. That God is able to do what He does, or to refrain from 
doing it, only in the manner or at the time in which He 
does so act or refrain, and in no other. 

" By the reasoning by which it is shown that God 
the Father has generated the Son of as great good 
ness as He was able, since otherwise He would have 
yielded to envy ; it is also clear that all which He 
does or makes, He does or makes as excellent as He 
is able to do ; nor does He will to withhold a single 
good that He is capable of bestowing." And a little 
farther on we read : " In everything that God does, 
He so proposes to Himself that which is good, that 
it may be said of Him that He is made willing to do 
that which He does rather by the price (as it were) 
of good, than by the free determination of His own 
Will." Also : " From this it therefore appears, and 
that both by reason and by the Scriptures, that God 
is able to do that only which He does." And a little 
farther : " Who, if He were able to interfere with the 
evil things which are done, would yet only do so at 
the proper time, since He can do nothing out of the 
proper time ; consequently I do not see, in what 
way He would not be consenting to sinful actions. 
For who can be said to consent to evil, except he 
by whom it may be interfered with at the proper 
time?" Also: "The reason which I have given 
above and the answers to objections seem to me to 
make clear that God is able to do what He does, or 
to refrain from doing it, only in the manner or at 
the time, in which He does so act or refrain, and in 
no other." 


IV. That Christ did not assume our flesh in order to free us 
from the yoke of the devil. 

" It should be known that all our Doctors who 
were after the Apostles agree in this, that the devil 
had dominion and power over man, and held him 
in bondage of right." And a little farther on : " It 
seems to me that the devil has never had any right 
over man, but rightly held him in bondage as a 
jailer, God permitting ; nor did the Son of God 
assume our flesh in order to free us from the yoke 
of the devil." And again : " How does the Apostle 
say that we are justified or reconciled to God by the 
death of His Son, when on the contrary, He ought 
to have been more angry still against man, who had 
committed in putting His Son to death, a fault much 
more great than in transgressing His first precept by 
eating one apple ; and would it not have been more 
just ? For if that first sin of Adam was so great, 
that it could not be expiated except by the death of 
Christ ; what is there which can be capable of ex 
piating the Death of Christ itself, and all the great 
cruelties committed upon Him and His Saints ? 
(See Letter V. 21.) Did the death of His innocent 
Son please God so much, that for the sake of it He 
has become reconciled to us, who have caused it by 
our sins, on account of which the innocent Lord was 
slain ? And could He forgive us a fault much less 
great, only on condition that we committed a sin so 
enormous ? Were multiplied sins needful in order 
to the doing of so great a good, as to deliver us from 
our sins and to render us, by the death of the Son 
of God, more righteous than we were before ? " 


Again : " To whom will it not seem cruel and un 
just that one should have required the innocent 
blood, or any price whatever, or that the slaughter 
of the innocent, under any name or title, should be 
pleasing to him ? Still less that God held the death 
of His Son so acceptable that He would, for its sake, 
be reconciled to the world. These and similar con 
siderations raise questions of great importance, not 
only concerning redemption, but also concerning 
our justification by the death of our Lord Jesus 
Christ. But it seems to me that we were neverthe 
less justified by the Blood of Christ, and reconciled 
with God by the special grace shown to us when 
His Son took upon Him our nature, and in it gave 
us an example both by word and deed, until His 
Death. He has united us so closely with Him by 
His love for us, that we are fired by so great benefit 
of Divine grace, and will hesitate at no suffering, 
provided it be for Him. Which benefit indeed we 
do not doubt aroused the ancient Fathers, who 
looked forward to this by faith, to an ardent love 
of God, as well as those of more recent time." And 
below : " I think then that the cause and design of 
the Incarnation was to enlighten the world with the 
wisdom of God, and arouse it to love of Him." 

V. Neither God-and-Man, nor the Man who is Christ, is one 
of the three Persons in the Trinity. 

" When I say that Christ is one of the Three 
Persons in the Trinity I mean this : that the Word, 
who was from eternity one of the Three Persons in 
the Trinity, is so ; and I think that this expression 


is figurative. For if we should regard it as literal, 
since the name of Christ means He who is God-and- 
Man, then the sense would be, that God-and-Man is 
one of the Three Persons of the Trinity. Which is 
entirely false." And a little farther on : " It should 
be stated that although we allow that Christ is one 
of the Three Persons in the Trinity, yet we do not 
allow that the Person who is Christ is one of the 
Three Persons in the Trinity." 

VI. That God does no more for a person who is saved, before 
he has accepted grace offered, than for one who is not saved. 

l< It is frequently asked whether it is true, as is 
said by some persons, that all men need to be saved 
by the mercy of God, and that their need is such 
that no one is able to have the will to do good 
unless by the preventing grace of God, which in 
fluences his heart and inspires in him the will to 
do good, and multiplies it when produced, and 
preserves it after having been multiplied. If it is true 
that man is not able to do anything good by him 
self, and that he is incapable of raising himself up 
in any way whatever by his free will for the recep 
tion of Divine grace, without the help of that grace, 
as is asserted, it does not appear on what ground, 
if he sins, he can be punished. For if he is not able 
to do anything good of himself, and if he is so con 
stituted that he is more inclined to evil than to good, 
is he not free from blame if he sins, and is God who 
has given to him a nature so weak and subvertible 
deserving of praise for having created such a being ? 
Or, on the contrary, does it not rather seem that He 


merits to be reproached ? " And a little farther on : 
" If it were true that man is unable to raise himself 
up without the grace of another, in order to receive 
the Divine grace, there does not seem to be any 
reason wherefore man should be held culpable ; and 
it would seem that if he has not the grace of God the 
blame should be rather reflected upon his Creator. 
But this is not so, but very far otherwise, according 
to the truth of the case, for we must lay down that 
man is able to embrace that grace which is offered 
to him by the reason which has, indeed, been be 
stowed upon him by God ; nor does God do any 
thing more for a person, who is saved before he has 
accepted the grace offered to him, than for another 
who is not saved. In fact, God behaves with regard 
to men in like manner as a merchant who has 
precious stones to sell, who exhibits them in the 
market, and offers them equally to all, so that he 
may excite in those who view them a desire to pur 
chase. He who is prudent, and who knows that he 
has need of them, labours to obtain the means, gains 
money and purchases them ; on the contrary, he 
who is slow and indolent, although he desires to 
have the jewels, and although he may be also more 
robust in body than the other, because he is indo 
lent does not labour, and, therefore, does not pur 
chase them, so that the blame for being without 
them belongs to himself. Similarly, God puts His 
grace before the eyes of all, and advises them in the 
Scriptures and by eminent doctors to avail them 
selves of their freedom of will to embrace this offered 
grace ; certainly he who is prudent and provident 
for his future, acts according to his free will, in 


which he can embrace this grace. But the slothful, 
on the contrary, is entangled with carnal desires, 
and although he desires to attain blessedness, yet 
he is never willing to endure labour in restraining 
himself from evil, hut neglects to do what he ought, 
although he would be able by his free will to embrace 
the grace offered him, and so he finds himself passed 
over by the Almighty." 

VII. That God ought not to hinder evil actions. 

11 In the first place, we must determine what it is 
to consent to evil, and what not to do so. He, then, 
is said to consent to evil who, when he can and 
ought to prevent it, does not do so ; but if he ought 
to prevent it, but has not the power, or if, on the 
contrary, though he has the power, he ought not to 
do so, he is blameless. Much less if he neither has 
the power, nor ought, if he had, to prevent it, is he 
to be blamed. And, therefore, God is far from giving 
consent to evil actions, since He neither ought, nor 
has the power, to interfere with them. He ought 
not, since if an action develops by His goodness in 
a particular manner, than which none can be better, 
in no wise ought He to wish to interfere with it. 
He is, furthermore, not able, because His goodness, 
though it has chosen a minor good, cannot put an 
obstacle to that which is greater." 

VIII. That we have not contracted from Adam guilt, but 

" It should be known that when it is said, Original 
sin is in infants, this is spoken of the penalty, tern- 



poral and eternal, which is incurred by them through 
the fault of their first parent." And a little farther 
on: "Similarly it is said, In whom all have sinned 
(Rom. v. 12), in the sense that when he (our first 
parent) sinned we were all in him in germ. But it 
does not, therefore, follow that all have sinned, since 
they did not then exist ; for whoever does not exist 
does not sin." 

IX. That the Body of the Lord did not fall to the ground. 

" On the subject of this species of Bread and Wine 
which is turned into the Body of Christ it is asked 
whether they continue to exist in the Body of Christ, 
in the substance of bread and wine as they were 
before, or whether they are in the air. It is probable 
that they exist in the air, since the Body of Christ 
had its form and features, as other human bodies. 
As for the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, 
they serve only to cover and conceal the Body of 
Christ in the mouth." And a little farther on : " It 
is asked again concerning this, that it seems to be 
multiple . . . wherefore it is ordered to be preserved 
from one Saturday to the next, as we read was done 
with the shew bread. It seems also to be gnawed by 
mice, and to fall to the ground from the hands of a 
priest or deacon. And, therefore, it is asked, where 
fore God permits such things to happen to His Body ; 
or whether, perhaps, these things do not really happen 
to the Body, but are only so done in appearance, and 
to the species ? To which I reply, that these things 
do not really affect the Body, but that God allows 
them to happen to the species in order to reprove 


the negligence of the ministers. As for His Body, 
He replaces and preserves it as it pleases Him 
to do." 

X. That man is made neither better nor worse by ivorks. 

11 It is frequently asked what it is that is recom 
pensed by the Lord : the work or the intention, or 
both. For authority seems to decide that what God 
rewards eternally are works, for the Apostle says 
God will render to every man according to his works 
(Romans ii. 6). And Athanasius says : They will 
have to give account of their own works. And a 
little farther on he says : And those who have done good 
shall go into life eternal, but those who have done evil into 
eternal fire (S. Matt. xxv. 46, and S. John v. 29). 
But I say that they were eternally recompensed by 
God either for good or for evil ; nor is man made 
either better or worse because of works, at least only 
so far as that while he is doing them his will towards 
either good or evil gathers force. Nor is this con 
trary to the Apostle, or to other authors, because 
when the Apostle says God ivill render to each, etc., he 
puts the effect for the cause, that is to say, the action 
for the will or intention. 

XL That those who crucified Christ ignorantly committed no 
sin ; and that whatsoever is done through ignorance ought 
not to be counted as a fault. 

"There is objected to us the action of the Jews 
who have crucified Christ ; that of the men who in 
persecuting the Martyrs thought that they were doing 


God service ; and finally that of Eve, who did not 
act against her conscience since she was tempted, 
and yet it is certain that she committed sin. To 
which I say that in truth those Jews in their sim 
plicity were not acting at all against their conscience, 
but rather persecuted Christ from zeal for their law ; 
nor did they think that they were acting wickedly, 
and, therefore, they did not sin ; nor were any of 
them eternally condemned on account of this, but 
because of their previous sins, because of which they 
rightly fell into that state of darkness. And among 
them were even some of the elect, for whom Christ 
prayed, saying : Father, forgive them, for they know not 
what they do (S. Luke xxxiii. 34). He did not ask in 
this prayer that this particular sin might be forgiven 
to them, since it was not really a sin, but rather their 
previous sins." 

XII. Of the power of binding and loosing. 

" That which is said in S. Matthew, whatsoever thou 
shall bind on earth, etc. (xvi. 19) is thus to be under 
stood : Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, i.e., in the 
present life, shall be bound also in heaven, i.e., in the 
present Church." And a little farther on: "The 
Gospel seems to contradict us when we say that God 
alone is able to forgive sins, for Christ says to His 
disciples receive ye the Holy Ghost ; whosoever s sins ye 
remit, they are remitted unto them (S. John xx. 22, 23). 
But I say that this was spoken to the Apostles alone, 
not to their successors." And immediately he adds : 
" If, however, any one shall say that this applies also 
to their successors, it will be needful in that case to 



explain this passage also in the same manner in which 
I have explained the preceding." 

XIII. Concerning suggestion, delectation, and consent. 

" It should be known also that suggestion is not a 
sin for him to whom the suggestion is made, nor the 
delectation which follows the suggestion, which de 
lectation is produced in the soul because of our 
weakness, and by the remembrance of the pleasure 
which is bound in the accomplishment of the thing 
which the tempter suggests to our mind. It is only 
consent, which is also called a contempt of God, in 
which sin consists." And a little farther on : "I do 
not say that the will of doing this or that, nor even 
the action itself is sin, but rather, as has been said 
above, that the contempt itself of God in some act of 
the will that constitutes sin." 

XIV. That Omnipotence belongs properly and specially 
to the Father. 

" If we refer power as well to the idea of Being as 
to efficacy of working, we find Omnipotence to attach 
properly and specially to the proprium of the Person 
of the Father : since not only is He Almighty with 
the Two other Persons, but also He alone possesses 
His Being from Himself and not from another. And 
as He exists from Himself, so He is equally Almighty 
by Himself." 


LETTER LX (A.D. 1140) 


To his most loving Father and Lord, INNOCENT, 
Supreme Pontiff, Brother BERNARD, called Abbot of 
Clairvaux, sends humble greeting. 

The dangers and scandals which are coming to 
the surface in the Kingdom of God, especially those 
which touch the faith, ought to be referred to your 
Apostolic authority. For I judge it fitting that there 
most of all, the losses suffered by the faith should 
be repaired, where faith cannot suffer defect. This, 
truly, is the prerogative of your see. For to what 
other person [than Peter] has it ever been said, / 
have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not? 
(S. Luke xxii. 32). Therefore that which follows is 
required from the successor of Peter : And when thou 
art converted strengthen thy brethren. That, indeed, is 
necessary now. The time is come, most loving 
Father, for you to recognize your primacy, to prove 
your zeal, to do honour to your ministry. In this 
plainly you fulfil the office of Peter, whose seat you 
occupy, if by your admonition you strengthen the 
hearts that are wavering in the faith, if by your 
authority you crush the corrupters of the faith. 



Jle explains and refutes the dogmas of Abaelard respecting 
the Trinity. 

i. We have in France an old teacher turned into 
a new theologian, who in his early days amused 
himself with dialectics, and now gives utterance to 
wild imaginations upon the Holy Scriptures. He is 
endeavouring again to quicken false opinions, long 
ago condemned and put to rest, not only his own, 
but those of others ; and is adding fresh ones as 
well. 1 know not what there is in heaven above 
and in the earth beneath which he deigns to confess 
ignorance of : he raises his eyes to Heaven, and 
searches the deep things of God, and then returning 
to us, he brings back unspeakable words which it 
is not lawful for a man to utter, while he is pre 
sumptuously prepared to give a reason for every 
thing, even of those things which are above reason ; 
he presumes against reason and against faith. For 
what is more against reason than by reason to attempt 
to transcend reason ? And what is more against 
faith than to be unwilling to believe what reason 
cannot attain ? For instance, wishing to explain that 
saying of the wise man : He who is hasty to believe is 
light in mind (Ecclus. xix. 4). He says that a hasty 
faith is one that believes before reason ; when 
Solomon says this not of faith towards God, but of 
mutual belief amongst ourselves. For the blessed 
Pope Gregory denies plainly that faith towards God 
has any merit whatever if human reason furnishes 
it with proof. But he praises the Apostles, because 


they followed their Saviour when called but once 
(Horn, in Evang. 26). He knows doubtless that this 
word was spoken as praise : At the hearing of the ear 
he obeyed me (Ps. xviii. 44), that the Apostles were 
directly rebuked because they had been slow in 
believing (S. Mark xvi. 14). Again, Mary is praised 
because she anticipated reason by faith, and Zacharias 
punished because he tempted faith by reason (S. Luke 
i. 20, 45), and Abraham is commended in that 
against hope he believed in hope (Rom. iv. 18). 

2. But on the other hand our theologian says : 
" What is the use of speaking of doctrine unless 
what we wish to teach can be explained so as to 
be intelligible ? " And so he promises understanding 
to his hearers, even on those most sublime and 
sacred truths which are hidden in the very bosom 
of our holy faith ; and he places degrees in the 
Trinity, modes in the Majesty, numbers in the 
Eternity. He has laid down, for example, that God 
the Father is full power, the Son a certain kind of 
power, the Holy Spirit no power. And that the 
Son is related to the Father as force in particular to 
force in general, as species to genus, as a thing 
formed of material, to matter, 1 as man to animal, as 
a brazen seal to brass. Did Arius ever go further ? 
Who can endure this ? Who would not shut his 
ears to such sacrilegious words ? Who does not 
shudder at such novel profanities of words and 
ideas ? He says also that " the Holy Spirit pro 
ceeds indeed from the Father and the Son, but 
not from the substance of the Father or of the 
Son." Whence then ? Perhaps from nothing, like 

1 Materiatum ; tnateria. 


everything created. But the Apostle does not deny 
that they are of God, nor is he afraid to say : Of 
whom are all things (Rom. xi. 36). Shall we say then 
that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the 
Son in no other way than all things do, that is, that 
He exists not essentially but by way of creation, and 
is therefore a creature like all other things. Or will 
this man, who is always seeking after new things, 
who invents what he does not find, affirms those 
things which are not, as though they are, will he 
find for himself some third way, in which he may 
produce Him from the Father and the Son ? But, 
he says, " if He were of the substance of the Father, 
He would surely have been begotten, and so the 
Father would have two Sons." As though every 
thing which is from any substance has always as its 
father that from which it is. For lice and phlegm 
and such things, are they sons of the flesh, and not 
rather of the substance of the flesh ? Or worms 
produced by rotten wood, whence derive they their 
substance but from the wood ? yet are they not sons 
of the wood. Again, moths have their substance 
from the substance of garments, but not their gene 
ration. And there are many instances of this kind. 

3. Since he admits that the Holy Spirit is consub- 
stantial with the Father and the Son, I wonder how an 
acute and learned man (as at least he thinks himself) 
can yet deny that He proceeds in substance from the 
Father and the Son, unless perchance he thinks that the 
two first persons proceed from the substance of the 
third. But this is an impious and unheard of opinion. 
But if neither He proceeds from their substance, nor 
They from His, where, I pray, is the consubstanti- 


ality ? Let him then either confess with the Church 
that the Holy Spirit is of their substance, from whom 
He does not deny that He proceeds, or let him with 
Arius deny His consubstantiality, and openly preach 
His creation. Again he says, if the Son is of the 
substance of the Father, the Holy Spirit is not ; they 
must differ from each other, not only because the 
Holy Spirit is not begotten, as the Son is, but also 
because the Son is of the substance of the Father, 
which the Holy Spirit is not. Of this last distinction 
the Catholic Church has hitherto known nothing. If 
we admit it, where is the Trinity ? where is the 
Unity ? If the Holy Spirit and the Son are really 
separated by this new enumeration of differences, 
and if the Unity is split up, then especially let it be 
made plain that that distinction which he is endea 
vouring to make is a difference of substance. More 
over, if the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the 
substance of the Father and the Son, no Trinity 
remains, but a duality. For no Person is worthy to 
be admitted into the Trinity whose substance is not 
the same as that of the others. Let him, therefore, 
cease to separate the procession of the Holy Spirit 
from the substance of the Father and the Son, lest 
by a double impiety he both take away number from 
the Trinity and attribute it to the Unity, each of 
which the Christian faith abhors. And, lest I seem 
in so great a matter to depend on human reasonings 
only, let him read the letter of Jerome to Avitus, and 
he will plainly see, that amongst the other blasphe 
mies of Origen which he confutes, he also rejects 
this one, that, as he said, the Holy Spirit is not of 
the substance of the Father. The blessed Athanasius 


thus speaks in his book on the Undivided Trinity : 
" When I spoke of God alone I meant not the Person 
only of the Father, because I denied not that the 
Son and the Holy Spirit are of this same Substance 
of the Father." 


In the Trinity it is not possible to admit any disparity : but 
equality in every way to be predicated. 

4. Your holiness sees how in this man s scheme, 
which is not reasoning but raving, 1 the Trinity does 
not hold together and the Unity is rendered doubt 
ful, and that this cannot be without injury to the 
Majesty. For whatever That is which is God, it is 
without doubt That than which nothing greater can 
be conceived. 2 If, then, in this One and Supreme 
Majesty we have found anything that is insufficient 
or imperfect in our consideration of the Persons, or 
if we have found that what is assigned to one is taken 
from another, the whole is surely less than That, than 
which nothing greater can be conceived. For indu 
bitably the greatest which is a whole is greater than 
that which consists of parts. That man thinks 
worthily, as far as man can, of the Divine Majesty 
who thinks of no inequality in It where the whole is 
supremely great ; of no separation where the whole 
is one ; of no chasm where the whole is undivided ; 
in short, of no imperfection or deficiency where the 
whole is a whole. For the Father is a whole, as are 

1 Non disputante, sed dementante. 

2 Anselm greatly approves this idea respecting God in his Monologium 
and his Apologetictis at the commencement. 


the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ; the Son is 
a whole, as are He Himself and the Father and the 
Holy Spirit ; the Holy Spirit is a whole, as are 
He Himself and the Father and the Son. And 
the whole Unity is a whole neither superabound- 
ing in the Three, nor diminished in Each Per 
son. For they do not individually divide between 
Them that real and highest Good which they are, 
since they do not possess It in the way of participa 
tion, but are essentially the very Good. For those 
phrases which we most rightly use, as One from 
Another, or One to Another, are designations of the 
Persons, not division of the Unity. For although in 
this ineffable and incomprehensible essence of the 
Deity we can, by the requirements of the properties 
of the Persons, say One and Another in a sober and 
Catholic sense, yet there is not in the essence One 
and Another, but simple Unity ; nor in the confession 
of the Trinity any derogation to the Unity, nor is the 
true assertion of the Unity any exclusion of the pro- 
pria of the Persons. May that execrable similitude of 
genus and species be accordingly as far from our 
minds as it is from the rule of truth. It is not a 
similitude, but a dissimilitude, as is also that of brass 
and the brazen seal ; for since genus and species are 
to each other as higher and lower, while God is One, 
there can never be any resemblance between equality 
so perfect and disparity so great. And again, with 
regard to his illustration of brass, and the brass which 
is made into a seal, since it is used for the same kind 
of similitude, it is to be similarly condemned. For 
since, as I have said, species is less than and inferior 
to genus, far be it from us to think of such diversity 


between the Father and the Son. Far be it from us 
to agree with him who says that the Son is related to 
the Father as species to genus, as man to animal, as 
a brazen seal to brass, as force to force absolutely. 
For all these several things by the bond of their com 
mon nature are to each other as superiors and infe 
riors, and therefore no comparison is to be drawn 
from these things with That in which there is no ine 
quality, no dissimilarity. You see from what unskil- 
fulness or impiety the use of these similitudes descends. 


The absurd doctrine of Abaelard, who attributes properly and 
specifically the absolute and essential names to one Person, 
is opposed. 

5. Now notice more clearly what he thinks, 
teaches, and writes. He says that Power properly 
and specially belongs to the Father, Wisdom to the 
Son, which, indeed, is false. For the Father both is, 
and is most truly called, Wisdom, and the Son Power, 
and what is common to Both is not the proprium of 
Each singly. There are certainly some other names 
which do not belong to Both, but to One or the 
Other alone, and therefore His own Name is peculiar 
to Each, and not common to the Other. For the 
Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, for 
He is designated by the name of Father, not be 
cause He is the Father with regard to Himself, 
but with regard to His Son, and in like manner 
by the name of Son is expressed not that He is 
Son with regard to Himself, but to the Father. 


It is not so with power and many other attributes 
which are assigned to the Father and the Son in 
common, and not singly to Each taken by Himself. 
But he says, " No ; we find that omnipotence belongs 
especially to the proprium of the Person of the 
Father, because He not only can do all things in 
union with the other two Persons, but also because 
He alone has His existence from Himself, and 
not from Another, and as He has His existence 
from Himself, so has He His power." O, second 
Aristotle ! By parity of reasoning, if such were 
reasoning, would not Wisdom and> Kindness belong 
properly to the Father, since equally the Father has 
His Wisdom and Kindness from Himself, and not 
from another, just as He has His Being and His 
Power ? And if he does not deny this, as he cannot 
reasonably do, what, I ask, will he do with that 
famous partition of his in which, as he has assigned 
Power to the Father and Wisdom to the Son, so he 
has assigned Loving Kindness to the Holy Spirit 
properly and specially ? For one and the same 
thing cannot well be the proprium of two, that is, 
to be the exclusive property of each. Let him 
choose which alternative he will : either let him 
give Wisdom to the Son and take It from the 
Father, or assign It to the Father and deny It to 
the Son ; and again, let him assign Loving Kindness 
to the Spirit without the Father, or to the Father 
without the Spirit ; or let him cease to call attributes 
which are common, propria; and though the Father 
has His Power from Himself, yet let him not dare 
to concede It to Him as being a proprium, lest on his 
own reasoning he be obliged to assign Him Wisdom 


and Loving Kindness which He has in precisely the 
same way, as His propria also. 

6. But let us now wait and see in how theoretic a 
manner our theologian regards the invisible things of 
God. He says, as I have pointed out, that omnipo 
tence properly belongs to the Father, and He makes 
it to consist in the fulness and perfection of Rule and 
discernment. Again, to the Son he assigns Wisdom, 
and that he defines to be not Power simply, but a 
certain kind of Power in God, namely, the Power of 
discernment only. Perhaps he is afraid of doing an 
injury to the Father if he gives as much to the Son 
as to Him, and since he dares not give Him complete 
power, he grants Him half. And this that he lays 
down he illustrates by common examples, asserting 
that the Power of discernment which the Son is, is a 
particular kind of Power, just as a man is a kind of 
animal, and a brazen seal a particular form of brass, 
which means that the power of discernment is to the 
power of Rule and discernment, i.e., the Son is to the 
Father, as a man to an animal, or as a brazen seal to 
brass. For, as he says, " a brazen seal must first be 
brass, and a man to be a man must first be an animal, 
but not conversely. So Divine Wisdom, which is the 
power of discernment, must be first Divine Power, 
but not conversely" (Abaci. Theol. B. ii. p. 1083). 
Do you, then, mean that, like the preceding simili 
tudes, your similitude demands that the Son to be 
the Son must first be the Father, i.e., that He who is 
the Son is the Father, though not conversely ? If 
you say this you are a heretic. If you do not your 
comparison is meaningless. 

7. For why do you fashion for yourself the com- 


parison, and with such beating about the bush, apply 
it to questions long ago settled and ill-fitted for 
debate ? Why do you bring it forward with such 
waste of energy, impress it on us with such a useless 
multiplicity of words, produce it with such a flourish, 
if it does not effect the purpose for which it was 
adduced, viz., that the members be harmonized with 
each other in fitting proportions ? Is not this a 
labour and a toil, to teach us by means of it, the 
relation which exists between the Father and the 
Son ? We hold according to you, that a man being 
given an animal is given, but not conversely, at 
least by the rule of your logic ; for by it it is not 
that when the genus is given we know the species, 
but the species being given we know the genus. 
Since, then, you compare the Father to the genus, 
the Son to the species, does not the condition 
of your comparison postulate, that in like manner, 
when the Son is known you declare the Father to be 
known and not conversely ; that, as he who is a man 
is necessarily an animal, but not conversely, so also, 
He who is the Son is necessarily the Father, but not 
conversely ? But the Catholic faith contradicts you 
on this point, for it plainly denies both, viz., that the 
Father is the Son, and that the Son is the Father. 
For indubitably the Father is one Person, the Son 
another ; although the Father is not of a different 
substance from the Son. For by this distinction the 
godliness of the Faith knows how to distinguish 
cautiously between the propria of the Persons, and 
the undivided unity of the Essence ; and holding a 
middle course, to go along the royal road, turning 
neither to the right by confounding the Persons, nor 


looking to the left by dividing the Substance. But 
if you say that it rightly follows as a necessary truth 
that He who is the Son is also the Father, this helps 
you nothing ; for an identical proposition is neces 
sarily capable of being converted in such a way that 
what was true of the original proposition is true of 
the converse ; and your comparison of genus and 
species, or of brass and the brazen seal does not 
admit of this. For as it does not follow as a necessary 
consequence that the Son is the Father, and the 
Father the Son, so neither can we rightly produce a 
convertible consequence between man and animal, 
and between a brazen seal and brass. For though it 
be true to say, " If he is a man he is an animal," 
still the converse is not true, " If he is an animal he 
is a man." And again, if we have a brazen seal it 
necessarily follows that it is brass ; but if we have 
brass it does not necessarily follow that it is a brazen 
seal. But now let us proceed to his other points. 

8. Lo ! according to him we have omnipotence in 
the Father, a certain power in the Son. Let him tell 
us also what he thinks of the Holy Spirit. That 
loving-kindness, he says, which is denoted by the 
name of the Holy Spirit is not in God power or 
wisdom (Theol. ii. 1085). / saw Satan as lightning 
fall from heaven (S. Luke x. 18). So ought he to fall 
who exercises himself in great matters, and in things 
that are too high for him. You see, Holy Father, 
what ladders, nay what dizzy heights, he has set up 
for his own downfall. All power, half power, no 
power. I shudder at the very words, and I think 
that very horror enough for his confutation. Still, I 
will bring forward a testimony which occurs to my 


troubled mind, so as to remove the injury done to 
the Holy Spirit. We read in Isaiah : The Spirit of 
wisdom, the Spirit of ghostly strength (Is. xi. 2). By 
this his audacity is plainly and sufficiently answered, 
even if it is not crushed. Be it that blasphemy against 
the Father or the Son may be forgiven, will blasphemy 
against the Spirit ? The Angel of the Lord is waiting 
to cut you asunder ; for you have said " The Holy 
Spirit in God is not power or wisdom." So the foot 
of pride stumbles where it intrudes [where it ought 


Abaelard had defined faith as an opinion or estimate: 
Bernard refutes this. 

9. It is no wonder if a man who is careless of 
what he says should, when rushing into the mysteries 
of the Faith, so irreverently assail and tear asunder 
the hidden treasures of godliness, since he has neither 
piety nor faith in his notions about the piety of faith. 
For instance, on the very threshold of his theology (I 
should rather say his stultology) he defines faith as 
private judgment ; as though in these mysteries it is 
to be allowed to each person to think and speak as 
he pleases, or as though the mysteries of our faith 
are to hang in uncertainty amongst shifting and 
varying opinions, when on the contrary they rest on 
the solid and unshakable foundation of truth. Is 
not our hope baseless if our faith is subject to 
change ? Fools then were our martyrs for bearing 
so cruel tortures for an uncertainty, and for entering, 
without hesitation, on an everlasting exile, through a 


bitter death, when there was a doubt as to the re 
compense of their reward. But far be it from us to 
think that in our faith or hope anything, as he sup 
poses, depends on the fluctuating judgment of the 
individual, and that the whole of it does not rest on 
sure and solid truth, having been commended by 
miracles and revelations from above, founded and 
consecrated by the Son of the Virgin, by the Blood 
of the Redeemer, by the glory of the risen Christ. 
These infallible proofs have been given us in super 
abundance. But if not, the Spirit itself, lastly, bears 
witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God. 
How, then, can any one dare to call faith opinion, 
unless it be that he has not yet received that Spirit, 
or unless he either knows not the Gospel or thinks it 
to be a fable ? I know in whom I have believed, and I 
am confident (2 Tim. i. 12), cries the Apostle, and you 
mutter in my ears that faith is only an opinion. Do 
you prate to me that that is ambiguous than which 
there is nothing more certain ? But Augustine says 
otherwise : " Faith is not held by any one in whose 
heart it is, by conjectures or opinions, but it is sure 
knowledge and has the assent of the conscience." 
Far be it from us, then, to suppose that the Christian 
faith has as its boundaries those opinions of the 
Academicians, whose boast it is that they doubt of 
everything, and know nothing. But I for my part 
walk securely, according to the saying of the teacher 
of the Gentiles, and I know that I shall not be con 
founded. I am satisfied, I confess, with his definition 
of faith, even though this man stealthily accuses it. 
Faith, he says, is the substance of things hoped for, the 
evidence of things not seen (Heb.xi. i). The substance, 


he says, of things hoped for, not a phantasy of empty 
conjectures. You hear, that it is a substance ; and 
therefore it is not allowed you in our faith, to suppose 
or oppose at your pleasure, nor to wander hither and 
thither amongst empty opinions, through devious 
errors. Under the name of substance something 
certain and fixed is put before you. You are en 
closed in known bounds, shut in within fixed limits. 
For faith is not an opinion, but a certitude. 

10. But now notice other points. I pass over his 
saying that the spirit of the fear of the Lord was not 
in the Lord ; that there will be no holy fear of the 
Lord in the world to come ; that after the consecra 
tion of the bread and of the cup, the former acci 
dents which remain are suspended in the air ; that 
the suggestions of devils come to us, as their sagacious 
wickedness knows how, by the contact of stones 
and herbs ; and that they are able to discern in 
such natural objects strength suited to excite various 
passions ; that the Holy Spirit is the anima inundi ; 
that the world, as Plato says, is so much a more 
excellent animal, as it has a better soul in the Holy 
Spirit. Here while he exhausts his strength to make 
Plato a Christian, he proves himself a heathen. All 
these things and his other numerous silly stories of 
the same kind I pass by, I come to graver matters. 
To answer them all would require volumes. 1 speak 
only of those on which 1 cannot keep silence. 



He accuses Abaelard for preferring his own opinions and even 
fancies to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, especially 
where he declares that Christ did not become incarnate in 
order to save man from the power of the devil, 

ii. I find in a book of his sentences, and also in 
an exposition of his of the Epistle to the Romans, 
that this rash inquirer into the Divine Majesty attacks 
the mystery of our Redemption. He admits in the 
very beginning of his disputation that there has never 
been but one conclusion in our ecclesiastical doctors 
on this point, and this he states only to spurn it, and 
boasts that he has a better ; not fearing, against the 
precept of the Wise Man, To cross the ancient boundaries 
which our fathers have marked out (Prov. xxii. 28). It 
is needful to know, he says, that all our doctors since 
the Apostles agree in this, that the devil had power 
and dominion over man, and that he rightly pos 
sessed it, because man, by an act of the free will 
which he had, voluntarily consented to the devil. 
For they say that if any one conquers another, the 
conquered rightly becomes the slave of his con 
queror. Therefore, he says, as the doctors teach, 
the Son of God became incarnate under this neces 
sity, that since man could not otherwise be freed, 
he might, by the death of an innocent man, be set 
free from the yoke of the devil. But as it seems to 
us, he says, neither had the devil ever any power 
over man, except by the permission of God, as a 
jailer might, nor was it to free man that the Son 
of God assumed flesh. Which am I to think the 


more intolerable in these words, the blasphemy or 
the arrogance ? Which is the more to be con 
demned, his rashness or his impiety ? Would not 
the mouth of him who speaks such things be more 
justly beaten with rods than confuted with reasons ? 
Does not he whose hand is against every man, rightly 
provoke every man s hand to be raised against him ? 
All, he says, says so, but so do not I. What, then, 
do you say ? What better statement have you ? 
What more subtle reason have you discovered ? 
W T hat more secret revelation do you boast of which 
has passed by the Saints and escaped from the wise ? 
He, I suppose, will give us secret waters and hidden 

12. Tell us, nevertheless, that truth which has 
shown itself to you and to none else. Is it that 
it was not to free man that the Son of God became 
man ? No one, you excepted, thinks this ; you stand 
alone. For not from a wise man, nor prophet, nor 
apostle, nor even from the Lord Himself have you 
received this. The teacher of the Gentiles received 
from the Lord what he has handed down to us (i Cor. 
xi. 23). The Teacher of all confesses that His 
doctrine is not His own, for / do no/, He says, speak 
of Myself (S. John vii. 16 and xiv. 10), while you 
give us of your own, and what you have received 
from no one. He ivho speakelh a lie spcaketh of his 
oivn (ibid. viii. 44). Keep for yourself what is your 
own. I listen to Prophets and Apostles, I obey the 
Gospel, but not the Gospel according to Peter. Do 
you found for us a new Gospel ? The Church does 
not receive a fifth Evangelist. What other Gospel 
do the Law, the Prophets, apostles, and apostolic 


men preach to us than that which you alone deny, 
viz., that God became man to free man ? And if an 
angel from heaven should preach to us any other 
Gospel, let him be anathema. 

13. But you do not accept the Doctors since the 
Apostles, because you perceive yourself to be a man 
above all teachers. For example, you do not blush 
to say that all are against you, when they all agree 
together. To no purpose, therefore, should I place 
before you the faith and doctrine of those teachers 
whom you have just proscribed. I will take you to 
the Prophets. Under the type of Jerusalem the 
prophet speaks, or rather the Lord in the prophet 
speads to His chosen people : / will save you and 
deliver you , fear not (Wisd. iii. 16). You ask, from 
what power ? For you do not admit that the devil 
has or ever has had power over man. Neither, I 
confess, do I. It is not, however, that he has it not 
because you and I wish it not. If you do not con 
fess it, you know it not ; they whom the Lord has 
redeemed out of the hand of the enemy, they know it 
and confess it. And you would by no means deny 
it, if you were not under the hand of the enemy. 
You cannot give thanks with the redeemed, because 
you have not been redeemed. For if you had been 
redeemed you would recognize your Redeemer, and 
would not deny your redemption. Nor does the 
man, who knows not himself to be a captive, seek 
to be redeemed. Those who knew it called unto 
the Lord, and the Lord heard them, and redeemed 
them from the hand of the enemy. And that you 
may understand who this enemy is, He says : Those 
whom He redeemed from the hand of the enemy He 


gathered out of all lands (Ps. cvii. 2, 3). But first, 
indeed, recognize Him Who gathered them, of Whom 
Caiaphas in the Gospel prophesied, saying that Jesus 
should die for the people, and the Evangelist pro 
ceeds thus : And not for that nation onfy, but that He 
might gather together into one all the children of God 
which were scattered abroad (S. John xi. 51, 52). 
Whither had they been scattered ? Into all lands. 
Therefore those whom He redeemed He gathered 
together from all lands. He first redeemed, then 
gathered them. For they were not only scattered, 
but also taken captive. He redeemed and gathered 
them ; but redeemed them from the hand of the 
enemy. He does not say of the enemies, but of 
the enemy. The enemy was one, the lands many. 
Indeed, he gathered them not from one land, but 
from the lands, from the east and from the west, 
from the north and from the south. What Lord 
was there so powerful, who governed not one land 
but all lands ? No other, I suppose, than He who 
by another prophet is said to drink up a river, that 
is, the human race, and not to wonder ; and to trust 
that he can also draw up into his mouth Jordan, 
i.e., the elect (Job xl. 18). Blessed are they who so 
flow in that they can flow out, who so enter that 
they can go out. 

14. But now perhaps you do not believe the 
Prophets, thus speaking with one accord of the 
power of the devil over man. Come with me then 
to the Apostles. You said, did you not ? that you 
do not agree with those who have come since the 
Apostles ; may you agree then with the Apostles ; 
and perhaps that may happen to you which one of 


them describes, speaking of certain persons : If God, 
peradventurc, will give them repentance to the acknowledg 
ing of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out 
of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at 
his will (2 Tim. ii. 25, 26). It is Paul who thus asserts 
that men are taken captive by the devil at his will. 
Do you hear ? " at his will ; " and do you deny his 
power ? But if you do not believe Paul, come now 
to the Lord Himself, if perchance you may listen to 
Him and be put to silence. By Him the devil is 
called the prince of this world (S. John xiv. 30), and 
the strong man armed (S. Luke xi. 21), and the pos 
sessor of goods (S. Matt. xii. 29), and yet you say that 
he has no power over men. Perhaps you think the 
house in this place is not to be understood of the 
world, nor the goods of men. But if the world is 
the house of the devil and men his goods, how can 
it be said he has no power over men ? Moreover, 
the Lord said to those who took Him : This is your 
hour and the power of darkness (S. Luke xxii. 53). 
That power did not escape him who said : Who hath 
delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath trans 
lated us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. i. 1 3). 
The Lord then neither denied the power of the devil 
even over Him, nor that of Pilate, who was a member 
of the devil. He said : Thou couldst have no power 
against me at all except it were given thee from above 
(S. John xix. n). But if that power given from 
above so violently raged against the green tree, how 
is it that it did not dare to touch the dry ? Nor I 
suppose will he say, that it was an unjust power 
which was given from above. Let him, therefore, 
learn that not only had the devil power over man, 



but also a just power, and in consequence let him 
see this, that the Son of God came in the flesh to 
set man free. But though we say that the power of 
the devil was a just one we do not say that his will 
was. Whence it is not the devil who usurped the 
power, who is just, nor man who deservedly was sub 
jected to it ; but the Lord is just, who permitted the 
subjection. For any one is called just and unjust, 
not from his power but from his will. This power 
of the devil over man though not rightly acquired, 
but wickedly usurped, was yet justly permitted. And 
in this way man was justly taken captive, viz., that 
the justice was neither in the devil, nor in man, but 
in God. 


/// the work of the Redemption of man, not only the mercy, 
but also the justice, of God is displayed. 

15. Man therefore was lawfully delivered up, but 
mercifully set free. Yet mercy was shown in such 
a way that a kind of justice was not lacking even in 
his liberation, since, as was most fitting for man s 
recovery, it was part of the mercy of the liberator 
to employ justice rather than power against man s 
enemy. For what could man, the slave of sin, fast 
bound by the devil, do of himself to recover that 
righteousness which he had formerly lost ? There 
fore he who lacked righteousness had another s im 
puted to him, and in this way : The prince of this 
world came and found nothing in the Saviour, and 
because he notwithstanding laid hands on the Inno- 


cent he lost most justly those whom he held captive ; 
since He who owed nothing to death, lawfully freed 
him who was subject to it, both from the debt of 
death, and the dominion of the devil, by accepting 
the injustice of death ; for with what justice could 
that be exacted from man a second time ? It was man 
who owed the debt, it was man who paid it. For if 
one, says S. Paul, died for all, then were all dead (2 
Cor. v. 14), so that, as One bore the sins of all, the 
satisfaction of One is imputed to all. It is not that 
one forfeited, 1 another satisfied ; the Head and body 
is one, viz., Christ. The Head, therefore, satisfied for 
the members, Christ for His children, since, according 
to the Gospel of Paul, by which Peter s 2 falsehood is 
refuted, He who died for us, quickened us together with 
Himself, forgiving us all our trespasses, blotting out the 
handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and took 
it out of the way, nailing it to His cross, having spoiled 
principalities and powers (Col. ii. 13, 14). 

16. May I be found amongst those spoils of which 
the opposing powers were deprived, and be handed 
over into the possession of my Lord. If Laban pursue 
me and reproach me for having left him by stealth, 

1 Forefecit, i.e., offended or transgressed. FWisfactltrtt or forefactum 
denoted the crime or offence : and the former word is also used to signify 
the penalty of a crime. Forisfactus is the criminal himself. Servus foris- 
faftus is a free man who has been reduced to slavery as a punishment for 
crime (Legibus A the Is tan. Reg. c. 3). From this word is the French for- 
faire, forfait ; and the English forfeit, forfeiture. 

It will be seen that the word is a legal term adopted into the language 
of theology. The earliest instance of its use is apparently in the Glossa 
of Isidore. 

See Du Cange s Glossary s.v. Forisfacerc. Forcellini s ed. of Facciolati 
does not give the word. [E.] 

2 i.e., Abaelard. 


he shall be told that I came to him by stealth, and 
therefore so left him. The secret power of sin sub 
jected me, the hidden plan of righteousness freed 
me from him ; or I will reply, that if I was sold for 
nothing shall I not be freely redeemed ? If Asshur 
has reproached me without cause, he has no right to 
demand the cause of my escape. But if he says, 
"Your father sold you into captivity," I will reply, 
" But my Brother redeemed me." Why should not 
righteousness come to me from another when guilt 
came upon me from another ? One made me a 
sinner, the other justifies me from sin ; the one by 
generation, the other by His blood. Shall there be 
sin in the seed of the sinner and not righteousness in 
the blood of Christ ? But he will say, " Let righteous 
ness be whose it may, it is none of yours." Be it so. 
But let guilt also be whose it may, it is none of mine. 
Shall the righteousness of the righteous be upon him, and 
the wickedness of the wicked not be upon him ? It is not 
fitting for the son to bear the iniquity of the father, 
and yet to have no share in the righteousness of his 
brother. But now by man came death, by Man also 
came life. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ 
shall all be made alive (i Cor. xv. 21, 22). I attain to 
one and to the other in the same way : to the one by 
the flesh, to the other by faith. And if from the one 
I was infected with concupiscence from my birth, by 
Christ spiritual grace was infused into me. What 
more does this hired advocate bring against me ? 
If he urges generation, I oppose regeneration ; and 
add that the former is but carnal, while the latter is 
spiritual. Nor does equity suffer that they fight as 
equals, but the higher nature is the more efficacious 


cause, and therefore the spirit must necessarily over 
come the flesh. In other words, the second birth is 
so much the more beneficial as the first was baneful. 
The offence, indeed, came to me, but so did grace ; 
and not as the offence so also is the free gift ; for the 
judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift 
is of many offences unto justification (Rom. v. 16). From 
the first man flowed down the offence, from the 
highest heaven came down the free gift : both from 
our father, one from our first father, the other from 
the Supreme Father. My earthly birth destroys me, 
and does not my heavenly much more save me ? 
And I am not afraid of being rejected by the Father 
of lights when I have been rescued in this way from 
the power of darkness, and justified through His 
grace by the blood of His Son: It is God that justi- 
fieth, who is he that condemneth ? He who had mercy 
on the sinner will not condemn the righteous; I mean 
that I am righteous, but it is in His righteousness, for 
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one 
that believeth (Rom. x. 4). In short, He was made our 
righteousness by God the Father (i Cor. i. 30). Is not 
that righteousness mine which was made for me ? If 
my guilt was inherited, why should not my righteous 
ness be accorded to me ? And, truly, what is given 
me is safer than what was born in me. For this, 
indeed, has whereof to glory, but not before God ; 
but that, since it is effectual to my salvation, has 
nothing whereof to glory save in the Lord. For if I 
be righteous, says Job, yet will I not lift up my head 
(Job x. 15), lest I receive the answer : What hast thou 
that thou didst not receive ? now if thou didst receive it, 
why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? 
(i Cor. iv. 7). 



He severely reproves Abaelard for scrutinizing rashly and im 
piously, and extenuating the power of, the secret things of 

17. This is the righteousness of man in the blood 
of the Redeemer : which this son of perdition, by his 
scoffs and insinuations, is attempting to render vain ; 
so much so, that he thinks and argues that the whole 
fact that the Lord of Glory emptied Himself, that He 
was made lower than the angels, that He was born of 
a woman, that He lived in the world, that He made 
trial of our infirmities, that He suffered indignities, 
that at last He returned to His own place by the way 
of the Cross, that all this is to be reduced to one 
reason alone, viz., that it was done merely that He 
might give man by His life and teaching a rule of life, 
and by His suffering and death might set before him 
a goal of charity. Did He, then, teach righteousness 
and not bestow it ? Did He show charity and not 
infuse it, and did He so return to His heaven ? Is 
this, then, the whole of the great mystery of godliness, 
which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, 
seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in 
the world, received up into glory (i Tim. iii. 16). O, 
incomparable doctor ! he lays bare to himself the 
deep things of God, he makes them clear and easy 
to every one, and by his false teaching he so renders 
plain and evident the most lofty sacrament of grace, 
the mystery hidden from the ages, that any uncircum- 
cised and unclean person can lightly penetrate to the 


heart of it : as though the wisdom of God knew not 
how to guard or neglected to guard against what Itself 
forbade, but had Itself given what is holy to the dogs 
and cast its pearls before swine. But it is not so. 
For though it was manifested in the flesh, yet it was 
justified in the Spirit : so that spiritual things are 
bestowed upon spiritual men, and the natural man 
does not perceive the things which are of the Spirit 
of God. Nor does our faith consist in wisdom of 
words but in the power of God. And, therefore, the 
Saviour says : / thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven 
and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the 
wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes 
(S. Matt. xi. 25). And the Apostle says : If our Gospel 
be hid, it is hid to them that are lost (2 Cor. iv. 3). 

18. But see this man scoffing at the things which 
are of the Spirit of God, because they seem to him 
folly, and insulting the Apostle who speaks the hidden 
wisdom of God in a mystery, inveighing against the 
Gospel and even blaspheming the Lord. How much 
more prudent would he be if he would deign to be 
lieve what he has no power to comprehend, and 
would not dare to despise or tread under foot this 
sacred and holy mystery ! It is a long task to reply 
to all the follies and calumnies which he charges 
against the Divine counsel. Yet I take a few, from 
which the rest may be estimated. " Since," he says, 
" Christ set free the elect only, how were they more 
than now, whether in this world or the next, under 
the power of the devil?" I answer: It was just 
because they were under the power of the devil, by 
whom, says the Apostle, they were taken captive at his 
will (2 Tim. ii. 26), that there was need of a liberator 



in order that the purpose of God concerning them 
might be fulfilled. But it behoved Him to set them 
free in this world, that He might have them as free- 
born sons in the next. Then he rejoins : " Well, did 
the devil also torture the poor man who was in the 
bosom of Abraham as he did the rich man who was 
condemned, or had he power over Abraham himself 
and the rest of the elect ? " No, but he would have had 
if they had not been set free by their faith in a future 
Deliverer, as of Abraham it is written : Abraham be 
lieved God, and it ivas counted unto him for righteousness 
(Gen. xv. 6). Again : Abraham rejoiced to see My day, 
and he saw it and was glad (. John viii. 56). There 
fore even then the Blood of Christ was bedewing 
Lazarus, that he might not feel the flames, because he 
had believed on Him who should suffer. So are we 
to think of all the saints of that time, that they were 
born just as ourselves under the power of darkness, 
because of original sin, but rescued before they died, 
and that by nothing else but the blood of Christ. For 
it is written : The multitudes that went before and that 
followed, cried saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, 
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord 
(S. Matt. xxi. 9). Therefore blessing was given to 
Christ coming in the flesh, both before He came and 
afterwards, by multitudes of those who had been 
blessed by Him, although those who went before did 
not obtain a full blessing, this, of course, having been 
kept as the prerogative of the time of grace. 



Wherefore Christ undertook a method of setting us free so pain 
ful and laborious, when a word from Jfim, or an act of 
His will, would alone have sufficed. 

19. Then he labours to teach and persuade us that 
the devil could not and ought not to have claimed for 
himself any right over man, except by the permission 
of God, and that, without doing any injustice to the 
devil, God could have called back His deserter, if He 
wished to show him mercy, and have rescued him by 
a word only, as though any one denies this ; then 
after much more he proceeds : " And so what neces 
sity, or what reason, or what need was there, when 
the Divine compassion by a simple command could 
have freed man from sin, for the Son of God to take 
flesh for our redemption, to suffer so many and such 
great privations, scorn, scourgings, and spittings on, 
in short, the pain and ignominy of the cross itself, 
and that with evil doers ? " I reply : The necessity 
was ours, the hard necessity of those sitting in dark 
ness and the shadow of death. The need, equally 
ours, and God s, and the Holy Angels ! Ours, that 
He might remove the yoke of our captivity ; His own, 
that He might fulfil the purpose of His will ; the 
Angels , that their number might be filled up. Further, 
the reason of this deed was the good pleasure of the 
Doer. Who denies that there were ready for the 
Almighty other and yet other ways to redeem us, to 
justify us, to set us free ? But this takes nothing from 
the efficacy of the one which He chose out of many. 
And, perhaps, the greatest excellence of the way chosen 


is that in a land of forgetfulness, of slowness of spirit, 
and of constant offending, we are more forcibly and 
more vividly warned by so many and such great suffer 
ings of our Restorer. Beyond that no man knows, 
nor can know to the full, what treasures of grace, 
what harmony with wisdom, what increase of glory, 
what advantages for salvation the inscrutable depth of 
this holy mystery contains within itself, that mystery 
which the Prophet when considering trembled at, but 
did not penetrate (Habak. iii. 2 in LXX.), and which the 
forerunner of the Lord thought himself unworthy to 
unloose (S. John i. 27). 

20. But though it is not allowed us to scrutinize the 
mystery of the Divine Will, yet we may feel the effect 
of its work and perceive the fruit of its usefulness. 
And what we may know we may not keep to ourselves, 
for to conceal their word is to give glory to kings, 
but God is glorified by our investigating His sayings. 
[Prov. xxv. 2. But the sense of the text is the reverse 
of this.] Faithful is the saying and worthy of all ac 
ceptation, that while we were yet sinners we were recon 
ciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. v. 10). 
" Where there is reconciliation there is also remission 
of sins. For if, as the Scripture says, our sins separate 
between us and God" (Is. lix. 2), there is no reconcilia 
tion while sin remains. In what, then, is remission 
of sins ? This cup, He says, is tJie new testament in My 
Blood which shall be shed for you for the remission of sins 
(S. Matt. xxvi. 28). Therefore where there is recon 
ciliation there is remission of sins. And what is that 
but justification ? Whether, therefore, we call it 
reconciliation, or remission of sins, or justification, 
or, again, redemption, or liberation from the chains 


of the devil, by whom we were taken captive at his 
will, at all events by the death of the Only Begotten, 
we obtain that we have been justified freely by His 
blood, in whom, as S. Paul says again, we have redemp 
tion through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according 
to the riches of His grace (Eph. i. 7). You say, Why by 
His blood when He could have wrought it by His 
Word? Ask Himself. It is only allowed me to know 
that it is so, not why it is so. Shall the thing formed 
say to Him that formed it, " Why hast Thou made me 
thus ? " 

21. But these things seem to him foolishness, he 
cannot restrain his laughter ; listen to his jeering. 
" Why does the Apostle say," he asks, " that we are 
justified, or reconciled to God by the death of His 
Son, when He ought to have been the more angry 
with man, as he sinned more deeply in crucifying His 
Son, than in transgressing His first command by tast 
ing of the apple ? " As if the iniquity of the malignant 
were not able to displease, and the godliness of the 
sufferer to please God, and that in one and the same 
act. " But," he replies, " if that sin of Adam was 
so heinous that it could not be expiated but by the 
death of Christ, what expiation shall suffice for that 
homicide which was perpetrated upon Christ ? " I 
answer in two words, That very Blood which they 
shed, and the prayer of Him whom they slew. He 
asks again : "Did the death of His innocent Son so 
please God the Father that by it He was reconciled to 
us, who had committed such a sin in Adam, that be 
cause of it our innocent Lord was slain ? Would He 
not have been able to forgive us much more easily if 
so heinous a sin had not been committed ? " It was 


not His death alone that pleased the Father, but His 
voluntary surrender to death ; and by that death de 
stroying death, working salvation, restoring innocence, 
triumphing over principalities and powers, spoiling 
hell, enriching heaven, making peace between things 
in heaven and things on earth, and renewing all things. 
And since this so precious death to be voluntarily 
submitted to against sin could not take place except 
through sin, He did not indeed delight in, but He 
made good use of, the malice of the wrong-doers, and 
found the means to condemn death and sin by the 
death of His Son, and the sin [of those who con 
demned Him]. And the greater their iniquity, the 
more holy His will, and the more powerful to salva 
tion ; because, by the interposition of so great a power, 
that ancient sin, however great, would necessarily give 
way to that committed against Christ, as the less to the 
greater. Nor is this victory to be ascribed to the sin 
or to the sinners, but to Him who extracted good from 
their sin, and who bore bravely with the sinners, and 
turned to a godly purpose whatever the cruelty of the 
impious ventured on against Himself. 

22. Thus the Blood which was shed was so power 
ful for pardoning that it blotted out that greatest sin 
of all, by which it came to pass that it was shed; and, 
therefore, left no doubt whatever about the blotting 
out of that ancient and lighter sin. Thus he rejoins : 
" Is there any one to whom it does not seem cruel and 
unjust, that any one should require the blood of an 
innocent man as the price of some thing, or that the 
death of an innocent man should in any way give him 
pleasure, not to say that God should hold so acceptable 
the death of His Son as by it to be reconciled to the 



whole world ? " God the Father did not require the 
Blood of His Son, but, nevertheless, He accepted it 
when offered ; it was not blood He thirsted for, but 
salvation, for salvation was in the blood. He died, in 
short, for our salvation, and not for the mere exhibi 
tion of charity, as this man thinks and writes. For he 
so concludes the numerous calumnies and reproaches, 
which he as impiously as ignorantly belches out against 
God, as to say that " the whole reason why God ap 
peared in the flesh was for our education by His word 
and example," or, as he afterwards says, for our in 
struction; that the whole reason why He suffered and 
died was to exhibit or commend to us charity. 


That Christ came into the world, not only to instruct us, 
but also to free us from sin. 

23. But what profits it that He should instruct us if 
He did not first restore us by His grace ? Or are we 
not in vain instructed if the body of sin is not first 
destroyed in us, that we should no more serve sin ? 
If all the benefit that we derive from Christ consists in 
the exhibition of His virtues, it follows that Adam must 
be said to harm us only by the exhibition of sin. But 
in truth the medicine given was proportioned to the 
disease. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall 
all be made alive (i Cor. xv. 22). As is the one, so is 
the other. If the life which Christ gives is nothing 
else but His instruction, the death which Adam gave 
is in like manner only his instruction ; so that the one 


by his example leads men to sin, the other by His 
example and His Word leads them to a holy life and 
to love Him. But if we rest in the Christian faith, 
and not in the heresy of Pelagius, and confess that by 
generation and not by example was the sin of Adam 
imparted to us, and by sin death, let us also confess 
that it is necessary for righteousness to be restored to 
us by Christ, not by instruction, but by regeneration, 
and by righteousness life (Rom. v. 18). And if this 
be so, how can Peter say that the only purpose and 
cause of the Incarnation was that He might enlighten 
the world by the light of His wisdom and inflame 
it with love of Him ? Where, then, is redemption ? 
There come from Christ, as he deigns to confess, 
merely illumination and enkindling to love. Whence 
come redemption and liberation ? 

24. Grant that the coming of Christ profits only 
those who are able to conform their lives to His, and 
to repay to Him the debt of love, what about babes ? 
What light of wisdom will he give to those who have 
barely seen the light of life ? Whence will they gain 
power to ascend to God who have not even learned 
to love their mothers ? Will the coming of Christ 
profit them nothing ? Is it of no avail to them that 
they have been planted together with Him by baptism 
in the likeness of His death, since through the weak 
ness of their age they are not able to know of, or to 
love, Christ ? Our redemption, he says, consists in 
that supreme love which is inspired in us by the 
passion of Christ. Therefore, infants have no redemp 
tion because they have not that supreme love. Perhaps 
he holds that as they have no power to love, so neither 
have they necessity to perish, that they have no need 


to be regenerated in Christ because they have received 
no damage from their generation from Adam. If 
he thinks this, he thinks foolishness with Pelagius. 
Whichever of these two opinions he holds, his ill-will 
to the sacrament of our salvation is evident ; and in 
attributing the whole of our salvation to devotion, and 
nothing of it to regeneration, it is evident too that, as 
far as he can, he would empty of meaning the dispen 
sation of this deep mystery ; for he places the glory of 
our redemption and the great work of salvation, not 
in the virtue of the Cross, not in the blood paid as its 
price, but in our advances in a holy life. But God 
forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord 
Jesus Christ (Gal. vi. 14), in which are our salvation, 
life, and resurrection. 

25. And, indeed, I see three chief virtues in this 
work of our salvation : the form of humility in which 
God emptied Himself ; the measure of charity which 
He stretched out even to death, and that the death of 
the Cross ; the mystery of redemption, by which He 
bore that death which He underwent. The former 
two of these without the last are as if you were to 
paint on the air. A very great and most necessary 
example of humility, a great example of charity, and 
one worthy of all acceptation, has He set us ; but they 
have no foundation, and, therefore, no stability, if re 
demption be wanting. I wish to follow with all my 
strength the lowly Jesus ; I wish Him, who loved me 
and gave Himself for me, to embrace me with the 
arms of His love, which suffered in my stead; but I 
must also feed on the Paschal Lamb, for unless I eat 
His Flesh and drink His Blood I have no life in me. 
It is one thing to follow Jesus, another to hold Him, 


another to feed on Him. To follow Him is a life-giving 
purpose ; to hold and embrace Him a solemn joy ; 
to feed on Him a blissful life. For His flesh is meat 
indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. The bread of God 
is He who cometh down from Heaven and giveth life to 
the world (S. John vi. 56, 33). What stability is there 
for joy, what constancy of purpose, without life ? 
Surely no more than for a picture without a solid 
basis. Similarly neither the examples of humility nor 
the proofs of charity are anything without the sacrament 
of our redemption. 

26. These results of the labour of the hands of your 
son, my lord and father, you now hold, such as they 
are, against a few heads of this new heresy ; in which 
if you see nothing besides my zeal, yet I have mean 
while satisfied my own conscience. For since there 
was nothing that I could do against the injury to the 
faith, which I deplored, I thought it worth while to 
warn him, whose arms are the power of God, for the 
destruction of contrary imaginations, to destroy every 
high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of 
God, and to bring every thought into captivity to the 
obedience of Christ. There are other points in his 
other writings, not few nor less evil ; but the limits of 
my time and of a letter do not allow me to reply to 
them. Moreover, I do not think it necessary, since 
they are so manifest, that they may be easily refuted 
even by ordinary faith. Still, I have collected some 
and sent them to you. 


LETTER LXI (A.D. 1138) 

He endeavours to defend the election of Geoffrey, Prior of 
Ctairvaux, to the See of Langres ; to which the King 
had appeared adverse. 

i. If the whole world were to conjure me to join it 
in some enterprise against your royal Majesty, I should 
still through fear of God not dare lightly to offend a 
King ordained by Him. Nor am I ignorant who it is 
that has said, Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the 
ordinance of God (Rom. xiii. 2). Nor yet do I forget 
how contrary is lying to the Christian calling and still 
more so to my profession. I say the truth, I lie not ; 
what was done at Langres in the matter of our Prior l 
was contrary to my expectation and my intention and 
that of the Bishops. But there is One who knows 
how to gain the assent of the unwilling, and who 
compels, as He wills, the adverse wills of man to 
subserve His counsel. Why should I not fear for 
him whom I love as my own soul, that danger which 
I have ever feared for myself ? Why should I not 
shrink from the companionship of those who bind 
heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them 
on men s shoulders, but they themselves will not move 
them with one of their fingers ? Still, what has been 
done, has been done ; nothing against you, very much 

1 This refers to Geoffrey, Bernard s kinsman, who after many disagree 
ments had been at length unanimously taken from being third Prior of 
Clairvaux to be Bishop of Langres, A.D. 1138. 


against me. The staff of my weakness has been taken 
from me, the light of mine eyes removed from me, my 
right arm cut off. All these waves and storms have 
gone over me. Wrath has swallowed me up, and on 
no side do I see any way to escape. When I fly from 
burdens, then I have them placed upon me to my 
great discomfort. I feel that it is hard for me to kick 
against the pricks. It would perhaps have been more 
tolerable for a willing horse than for one that is restive 
and obstinate. For if there were any strength in me, 
would it not be easier for me to bear these burdens on 
my own shoulders than on those of others ? 

2. But I yield to Him that disposeth otherwise, to 
contend with whom in wisdom or strength is neither 
prudent nor possible for either me or the King. He 
is, indeed, terrible among the kings of the earth. It is 
a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, 
even for you, O King. How grieved have I been to 
hear things of you so contrary to the fair promise of 
your early days ! How much more bitter will be the 
grief of the Church, after having tasted first of such 
great joys, if, which God forbid, she shall chance to 
be deprived of her pleasant hope of protection under 
the shield of your good disposition, which up to the 
present has been held over her. Alas ! the Virgin, the 
Church of Rheims, has fallen, 1 and there is none to 
lift her up. Langres, too, has fallen, and there is none 
to stretch out the hand to help. May the goodness of 
God divert your heart and mind from adding yet more 
to our grief, and from heaping sorrow upon sorrow. 
Would that I may die before seeing a king of whom 

1 This was after the death of Archbishop Reginald, which happened 
A.n. 1139, on January I3th. 


good things were thought, and still better hoped for, 
endeavouring to go against the counsel of God, stirring 
up against himself the anger of the supreme Judge, 
bedewing the feet of the Father of the fatherless with 
the tears of the afflicted, knocking at heaven s door 
with the cries of the poor, the prayers of the saints, 
and with the just complaints of Christ s beloved Bride, 
the Church of the living God. May all this never 
happen. I hope for better things, and expect things 
more joyful. God will not forget to be gracious, nor 
shut up His loving kindness in displeasure. He will 
not make His Church sad through him, and because 
of him, by whom He has already made her so much 
to rejoice. By His long-suffering He will preserve 
him whom He freely gave us, and if you think any 
thing otherwise, this also He will reveal to you, and 
will teach your heart in wisdom. This is my wish, 
this is my prayer night and day. Think this of me, 
think it of my brethren. The truth shall not be sinned 
against by us, nor the King s honour and the good of 
his kingdom diminished. 

3. We give thanks to your clemency for the kindly 
answer which you deigned to send us. But still we 
are terrified to delay, as we see the land given over to 
plunder and robbery. The land is yours ; and we 
plainly see and mourn the disgrace brought on your 
kingdom by your orders that we should abstain from 
our rights, inasmuch as there is no one to defend them. 
For in what else that has been done can the king s 
majesty be truly said to have been diminished ? The 
election was duly held ; the person elected is faithful, 
which he would not be if he wished to hold your lands 
otherwise than through you. He has not yet stretched 


out his hand to your lands, he has not yet entered your 
city, he has not yet put himself forward in any affair, 
though most earnestly pressed to do so by the united 
voice of clergy and people, by the oppression of the 
afflicted, and by the prayers of all good men. And 
since this is the state of affairs there is, you see, need 
for counsel to be quickly taken, not less for the sake of 
your honour than our necessity. And unless your 
Serenity give answer according to their petition, by 
the messengers who bring this, to your faithful people 
who look to you, the hearts of many religious men 
who are now devoted to you will be turned against 
you (which would not be expedient), and I fear that 
no little loss will accrue to the regalia belonging to the 
Church, which yet are yours. 

LETTER LXII (A.D. 1139) 

On behalf of Falco, Archbishop elect of Lyons. 

I think that I, who have so many times been listened 
to in the affairs of others, shall not be confounded in 
my own. I, my lord, hold the cause of my Archbishop 
to be my own, being a member of him, and knowing 
that there is nothing that affects the head but what 
touches me, which, nevertheless, I would not say if 
the man had taken this honour to himself, and had not 
been called by God, as was Moses. Nor can I think 
that it was the work of any but Him that the votes of 
so many men were so readily given him, that there 


was not even any hesitation, still less opposition. And 
deservedly so. He is distinguished not only for his 
high birth, but also for the nobility of his mind, for 
his knowledge, and his irreproachable life. In short, 
the integrity of his name fears not the tooth even of a 
foe. What, therefore, has been so done for so good a 
man is surely worthy to obtain the favour of the 
Apostolic See, the fulness of honour, which is the 
only thing now lacking, to increase the joy of its 
people that has grown accustomed to its kindness, or, 
I may say, to the liberality which he has fully deserved. 
This is what the whole Church, with most earnest 
supplication, implores ; this is what your son, with 
his usual presumption, entreats of you. 



He expresses the same thought as in the preceding Letter. 

Amidst the numerous evils which nowadays are 
seen in the churches on the occasion of elections the 
Lord hath looked down from heaven upon our Mother 
Church of Lyons, and has without strife given it a 
worthy successor to Peter of pious memory, its Arch 
bishop, in the person of Falco, its Dean. I ask, my 
lord, that he who has been unanimously elected by his 
fellows, promoted for the good of all, and duly con 
secrated, may receive at your hands the fulness of 
honour that belongs to his office. And what makes 


me seek this is not so much consciousness of his 
merits, but of my duty duty laid upon me not only 
by the metropolitan dignity of that Church, but 
because I am placed in this position in order that 
I may bear my testimony to the truth. 

LETTER LXIV (A.D. 1139) 

Bernard recommends to him the interests of certain Religious. 

The Lord Bishop and I have written, as we thought 
we ought to do, to my lord the Pope on your behalf, 
and you have a copy of your letters. It is our deter 
mination to stand by you with all our might, because 
of the good which we hope for from you for the 
Church. It concerns you so to act that we may not 
be disappointed of our hope. For the rest, if I have 
found favour in your sight I pray you think of those 
poor and needy ones at the house of Benissons Dieu. 1 
Whatsoever you do to one of them you will do to me, 
nay, to Christ. For they are both poor, and they live 
amongst the poor. I especially implore you to prevent 
the monks of Savigny from molesting them, for they 
are calumniating them unjustly, as I consider. Or if 
they think that they have justice on their side, judge 
between them. I ask also that my son, Abbot Alberic, 

1 Benissons Dieu was a Cistercian Abbey, an offshoot of Clairvaux, in 
the Diocese of Lyons, and was founded A.D. 1138. Alberic was its first 
Abbot. Not far from it was the monastery of Savigny, of the order of S. 
Benedict, in the same diocese. Its Abbot was Iterius, of whom Bernard 
here complains. 


though well deserving of your favour through his own 
merits, may still be in even greater regard through my 
recommendation. For I love him tenderly, as a 
mother loves her only child, and he that loveth me 
will love him. In fact, I shall find out whether you 
care for me by the way you treat him. For the farther 
he is away from me the more necessary is it that he 
should have consolation from your fatherly care. 

LETTER XLV (circa A.D. 1140) 


Bernard states that the Festival of the Conception was new ; 
that it rested on no legitimate foundation; and that it 
should not have been instituted without consulting the 
Apostolic See, to whose opinion he submits. 

i. It is well known that among all the Churches of 
France that of Lyons is first in importance, whether 
we regard the dignity of its See, its praiseworthy 
regulations, or its honourable zeal for learning. Where 
was there ever the vigour of discipline more flourish 
ing, a more grave and religious life, more consummate 
wisdom, a greater weight of authority, a more impos 
ing antiquity ? Especially in the Offices of the Church, 
that of Lyons has always shown itself opposed to 
attempts at sudden innovation, and it is a proof of her 
fulness of judgment that she has never suffered herself 
to be stained with the mark of rash and hasty levity. 


Wherefore I cannot but wonder that there should have 
been among you at this time some who wished to 
sully this splendid fame of your Church by introduc 
ing a new Festival, a rite which the Church knows 
nothing of, and which reason does not prove, nor 
ancient tradition hand down to us. Have we the pre 
tension to be more learned or more devoted than the 
Fathers ? It is a dangerous presumption to establish 
in such a matter what their prudence left unestablished. 
And the matter in question is of such a nature that it 
could not possibly have escaped the diligence of the 
Fathers if they had not thought that they ought not to 
occupy themselves with it. 

2. The Mother of the Lord, you say, ought greatly 
to be honoured. You say well, but the honour of a 
queen loves justice. The royal Virgin does not need 
false honour, since she is amply supplied with true 
titles to honour and badges of her dignity. Honour 
indeed the purity of her flesh, the sanctity of her life, 
wonder at her motherhood as a virgin, adore her 
Divine offspring. Extol the prodigy by which she 
brought into the world without pain the Son, whom 
she had conceived without concupiscence. Proclaim 
her to be reverenced by the angels, to have been 
desired by the nations, to have been known before 
hand by Patriarchs and Prophets, chosen by God out 
of all women and raised above them all. Magnify 
her as the medium by whom grace was displayed, the 
instrument of salvation, the restorer of the ages ; and 
finally extol her as having been exalted above the 
choirs of angels to the celestial realms. These things 
the Church sings concerning her, and has taught me 
to repeat the same things in her praise, and what I 


have learnt from the Church I both hold securely 
myself and teach to others ; what I have not received 
from the Church I confess I should with great diffi 
culty admit. I have received then from the Church 
that day to be reverenced with the highest veneration, 
when being taken up from this sinful earth, she made 
entry into the heavens ; a festival of most honoured 
joy. With no less clearness have I learned in the 
Church to celebrate the birth of the Virgin, and from 
the Church undoubtedly to hold it to have been holy 
and joyful ; holding most firmly with the Church, 
that she received in the womb that she should come 
into the world holy. And indeed I read concerning 
Jeremiah, that before he came forth from the womb 
\yentre : otherwise de vulva] he was sanctified, and I 
think no otherwise of John the Baptist, who, himself 
in the womb of his mother, felt the presence of his 
Lord in the womb (S. Luke i. 41). It is matter for 
consideration whether the same opinion may not be 
held of holy David, on account of what he said in 
addressing God : In Thee I have been strengthened 
from the womb : Thou art He who took me out of my 
mother s bowels (Ps. Ixxi. 6) ; and again : / was cast 
upon Thee from the womb : Thou art my God from my 
mother s belly (Ps. xxii. 10). And Jeremiah is thus 
addressed : Before I formed tJiee in the belly I knew 
thee ; and before thou earnest out of the womb I sanctified 
thee (Jer. i. 5). How beautifully the Divine oracle has 
distinguished between conception in the womb and 
birth from the womb ! and showed that if the one 
was foreseen only, the other was blessed beforehand 
with the gift of holiness: that no one might think that 
the glory of Jeremiah consisted only in being the 


object of the foreknowledge of God, but also of His 

3. Let us, however, grant this in the case of Jeremiah. 
What shall be said of John the Baptist, of whom an 
angel announced beforehand that he should be filled 
with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother s womb ? 
I cannot suppose that this is to be referred to pre 
destination or to foreknowledge. For the words of 
the angel were without doubt fulfilled in their time, as 
he foretold ; and the man (as cannot be doubted) 
filled with the Holy Ghost at the time and place 
appointed, as he predicted. But most certainly the 
Holy Ghost sanctified the man whom He filled. But 
how far this sanctification availed against original sin, 
whether for him, or for that prophet, or for any other 
who was thus prevented by grace, I would not rashly 
determine. But of these holy persons whom God has 
sanctified, and brought forth from the womb with the 
same sanctification which they have received in the 
womb, I do not hesitate to say that the taint of 
original sin which they contracted in conception, 
could not in any manner take away or fetter by the 
mere act of birth, the benediction already bestowed. 
Would any one dare to say that a child filled with the 
Holy Ghost, would remain notwithstanding a child of 
wrath ; and if he had died in his mother s womb, 
where he had received this fulness of the Spirit, 
would endure the pains of damnation ? That opinion 
is very severe ; I, however, do not dare to decide any 
thing respecting the question by my own judgment. 
However that may be, the Church, which regards and 
declares, not the nativity, but only the death of other 
saints as precious, makes a singular exception for him 


of whom an angel singularly said, and many shall 
rejoice in his birth (S. Luke i. 14, 15), and with rejoicing 
honours his nativity. For why should not the birth 
be holy, and even glad and joyful, of one who leaped 
with joy even in the womb of his mother ? 

4. The gift, therefore, which has certainly been 
conferred upon some, though few, mortals, cannot 
for a moment be supposed to have been denied to 
that so highly favoured Virgin, through whom the 
whole human race came forth into life. Beyond 
doubt the mother of the Lord also was holy before 
birth; nor is holy Church at all in error in accounting 
the day of her nativity holy, and celebrating it each 
year with solemn and thankful joy. I consider that 
the blessing of a fuller sanctification descended upon 
her, so as not only to sanctify her birth, but also to 
keep her life pure from all sin ; which gift is believed 
to have been bestowed upon none other born of 
women. This singular privilege of sanctity, to lead 
her life without any sin, entirely befitted the queen of 
virgins, who should bear the Destroyer of sin and 
death, who should obtain the gift of life and righteous 
ness for all. Therefore, her birth was holy, since the 
abundant sanctity bestowed upon it made it holy even 
from the womb. 

5. What addition can possibly be made to these 
honours ? That her conception, also, they say, which 
preceded her honourable birth, should be honoured, 
since if the one had not first taken place, neither 
would the other, which is honoured. But what if 
some one else, following a similar train of reasoning, 
should assert that the honours of a festival ought to 
be given to each of her parents, then to her grand- 


parents, and then to their parents, and so on ad 
infinitum ? Thus we should have festivals without 
number. Such a frequency of joys befits Heaven, not 
this state of exile. It is the happy lot of those who 
dwell there, not of strangers and pilgrims. But a 
writing is brought forward, given, as they say, by 
revelation from on high, 1 as if any one would not be 
able to bring forward another writing in which the 
Virgin should seem to demand the same honours to 
her parents also, saying, according to the command 
ment of the Lord, Honour thy father and thy mother 
(Exod. xx. 12). I easily persuade myself not to be 
influenced by such writings, which are supported 
neither by reason nor by any certain authority. For 
how does the consequence follow that since the con 
ception has preceded the birth, and the birth is holy, 
the conception should be considered holy also ? 
Did it make the birth holy because it preceded it ? 
Although the one came first that the other might be, 
yet not that it might be holy. From whence came 
that holiness to the conception which was to be 
transmitted to the birth which followed ? Was it 
not rather because the conception preceded without 
holiness that it was needful for the being conceived to 
be sanctified, that a holy birth might then follow ? 
Or shall we say that the birth which was later than 
the conception shared with it its holiness? It might 
be, indeed, that the sanctification which was worked 
in her when conceived passed over to the birth which 
followed ; but it could not be possible that it should 

1 A writing of this kind is attributed to an English abbot named Elsin 
in the works of Anselm, pp. 505, 507 of the new edition. 



have a retrospective effect upon the conception which 
had preceded it. 

6. Whence, then, was the holiness of that concep 
tion ? Shall it be said that Mary was so prevented 
by grace that, being holy before being conceived, she 
was therefore conceived without sin ; or that, being 
holy before being born, she has therefore com 
municated holiness to her birth ? But in order to be 
holy it is necessary to exist, and a person does not 
exist before being conceived. Or perhaps, when her 
parents were united, holiness was mingled with the 
conception itself, so that she was at once conceived 
and sanctified. But this is not tenable in reason. 
For how can there be sanctity without the sanctifying 
Spirit, or the co-operation of the Holy Spirit with sin ? 
Or how could there not be sin where concupiscence 
was not wanting ? Unless, perhaps, some one ( will 
say that she was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and 
not by man, which would be a thing hitherto unheard 
of. I say, then, that the Holy Spirit came upon her, 
not within her, as the Angel declared : The Holy 
Spirit shall come upon thee (S. Luke i. 35). And if it 
is permitted to say what the Church thinks, and the 
Church thinks that which is true, I say that she con 
ceived by the Holy Spirit, but not that she was 
conceived by Him ; that she was at once Mother 
and Virgin, but not that she was born of a virgin. 
Otherwise, where will be the prerogative of the Mother 
of the Lord, to have united in her person the glory 
of maternity and that of virginity, if you give the 
same glory to her mother also ? This is not to 
honour the Virgin, but to detract from her honour. 
If, therefore, before her conception she could not 


possibly be sanctified, since she did not exist, nor 
in the conception itself, because of the sin which 
inhered in it, it remains to be believed that she re 
ceived sanctification when existing in the womb after 
conception, which, by excluding sin, made her birth 
holy, but not her conception. 

7. Wherefore, although it has been given to some, 
though few, of the sons of men to be born with the 
gift of sanctity, yet to none has it been given to be 
conceived with it. So that to One alone should be 
reserved this privilege, to Him who should make all 
holy, and coming into the world, He alone, without 
sin should make an atonement for sinners. The Lord 
Jesus, then, alone was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 
because He alone was holy before He was conceived. 
He being excepted, all the children of Adam are in 
the same case as he who confessed of himself with 
great humility and truth, / was shapen in iniquity, and 
in sin hath my mother conceived me (Ps. li. 6). 

8. And as this is so, what ground can there be for a 
Festival of the Conception of the Virgin ? On what 
principle, I say, is either a conception asserted to be 
holy which is not by the Holy Ghost, not to say that 
it is by sin, or a festival be established which is in 
no wise holy ? Willingly the glorious Virgin will be 
without this honour, by which either a sin seems to 
be honoured or a sanctity supposed which is not a 
fact. And, besides, she will by no means be pleased 
by a presumptuous novelty against the custom of the 
Church, a novelty which is the mother of rashness, 
the sister of superstition, the daughter of levity. For 
if such a festival seemed advisable, the authority of the 
Apostolic See ought first to have been consulted, and 


the simplicity of inexperienced persons ought not to 
have been followed so thoughtlessly and precipitately. 
And, indeed, I had before noted that error in some 
persons ; but I appeared not to take notice of it, 
dealing gently with a devotion which sprang from 
simplicity of heart and love of the Virgin. But now 
that the superstition has taken hold upon wise men, 
and upon a famous and noble Church, of which I am 
specially the son, 1 I know not whether I could longer 
pass it over without gravely offending you all. But 
what I have said is in submission to the judgment of 
whosoever is wiser than myself; and especially I refer 
the whole of it, as of all matters of a similar kind, to 
the authority and decision of the See of Rome, and I 
am prepared to modify my opinion if in anything I 
think otherwise than that See. 

LETTER LXVI (A.D. 1135) 

Having received many letters from him, Bernard replies in a 
friendly manner , and praises the soldiers of the Temple. 

I shall seem ungrateful if I do not reply to the 
many patriarchal letters which you have vouchsafed 
me. But what more can I do than salute him who 
has saluted me ? For you have prevented me with 

1 The Church of Lyons was the Mother Church of Bernard because of 
its "metropolitan rights," as he himself says in Letter 172, since he was 
born at Fontaines, near Dijon, and lived at the monastery of Clairvaux, 
both of which places were in the Diocese of Langres and Province of 


the blessings of goodness, you have graciously set me 
the example of sending letters across the sea, you 
have deprived me of the first share of humility and 
charity. What fitting return can I now make ? In 
truth, you have left me nothing which in my turn I 
can give back ; for even of your worldly treasures you 
have been careful to make me a sharer in giving me 
part of the Cross of the Lord. What then ? Ought I 
to omit what I can do because I cannot do what I 
ought ? I show you my affection at least and my 
goodwill by merely replying and returning your salu 
tation, which is all that I can do at present, separated 
as we are by so great a tract of sea and land. I will 
show, if ever I have the opportunity, that I love not 
in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. Give 
a thought, I pray you, to the soldiers of the Temple, 
and of your great piety take care of these zealous de 
fenders of the Church. If you cherish those who have 
devoted their lives for their brethren s sake you will do 
a thing acceptable to God and well-pleasing to man. 
Concerning the place to which you invite me, my 
brother Andrew will tell you my mind. 


Printed by BAI.LANTYNB, HANSON 6? Co. 
Edinburgh &* London 

BX 4700 .B5A413 1906 


Bernard, of Clairvaux. 

Saint, 1090 or 91-1153. 
Some letters of Saint 

Bernard / 
BBG-2892 (mcsk)