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Look not back, like Lot's wife, neither tarry in Sodom, serving the flesh; but save thyself in the mountains, by seeking the things which are above; and follow the angelic guidance, by the way of humble obedience, by mortifying all the affections of your own self-will for the sake of God.
Fly with holy Elias, from the face of Jezabel, that worst of women ; and go into the secret place of the solitude, by keeping to thy purpose of perpetual continence, till you be carried up to heaven after the whirlwind of this world, in a chariot of fire.
Persevere also, with the blessed Samuel, in the tabernacle of the covenant, before the ark of God; by ministering devoutly and reverently in the religious habit to the Lord, that you may hear the voice of God speaking to thee from on high ; by tasting of the outpourings of heavenly consolations, and at length be most fully consoled in death, by hearing these words of the Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (St. Matth. xxv. 33.) “ Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Apoc. ii. 10); which no one deserves worthily to receive but he that lawfully contends, and who shall persevere in vir. tue, even unto the end.
But that I may support my words by deeds, I will give you an example of perseverance.
CHAP. V.-OF A CERTAIN PRIEST THAT WAS TEMPTED, AND AFTER
WARDS CONSOLED OF GOD.
There was once amongst us a certain priest, Alardus by name, who desired to renounce the world, and to take the habit of a canon-regular; but before he received the habit, the tempter was present with him, re. calling to his memory the former delights of the world, which he had long used prodigally. And he began to be exceedingly sad, for that he had left his relations and friends, and was now, as it were, an exile from his native country, to live a desolate life. As soon as this sadness had sprung up, there succeeded other grievances, and these not few, like loud claps of thunder. For the malignant enemy struck him with the weariness of the place, and the difficulty of the rule, and suggested to him how well he might have lived with his friends in his own parts, and how much good he might have done to them. Now these are the darts of the deceitful serpent, with which he often strives to wound the hearts
of the novices, to make them turn back from their holy purpose. But by the mercy of God, while this priest was standing in the very brunt of the conflict, the light of heavenly consolation shone in upon him, and dissipated all the mist of worldly sorrow.
Wherefore, by the spirit of God, having been re-inflamed and comforted against the wiles of the devil, he began to think within himself, for what he had come, and weighing with good judgment the purpose now aimed at, he raised himself with a manly resolution, saying: See how, by the providence of God, of thy own free-will, and as a suppliant, thou hast entered into this place for the grace of amendment, and now thou hast found for thy necessities, much more than thou hast left behind. For Christ's sake thou hast put behind thee a few friends; but now thou hast received many more spiritual in the stead of carnal brethren, joined to thee by greater charity. All things, according to the use of this monastery, are thine, and are divided to thee in charity. Some labour for thee, some pray for thee, some read, others write for thee; no one here is idle; no one possesseth anything of his own,all things are held in common. Behold thou hast so many services done thee, as there are cloistral offices throughout the whole family. What then have you to complain of? or why do you fear to serve God with a free heart ? Bow thyself without delay to the most sweet yoke of Christ, take up the light burthen of the Lord upon thee, forget thy people, and thy father's house ; and receive for thy little, great; for temporal, eternal things; for the vanities of this world, the most glorious kingdom of God, so that thou mayest be able to say truly, with the apostle Paul : “ As having nothing, and possessing all things.” (2 Cor. vi. 10.)
By these and such like thoughts, and by a daily meditation on the examples of the holy fathers, the mind of this priest was strengthened unto a better purpose, so that after the time of his probation, he put on the regular habit, and after the completion of a year, professed the solemn vows, where ever after, for thirty years, he lived a praiseworthy life in the order, till, in a good old age, he slept in peace.
CHAPTER VI..OF A YOUNG CLERK, WHO, HAVING LEFT HIS STUDIES,
ENTERED INTO A MONASTERY. 1. There was a certain young scholar, fresh in the flowers of early age, who studied letters at Daventry, who was occasionally invited by promises and gifts, by some of his promoted companions and fellow
students, to come to Paris. But by the advice of certain devout persons, he was recalled from this intention, and was shown, that he should not put himself in peril, by the desire of greater learning.
Meanwhile, it happened that two brothers, his companions, of strong constitution and happy wit, transferred themselves from the school of Daventry to Paris : but they had been there but for a very short while, when both died in one day. Moreover, some other students, after much expense and daily labours, when they were about to shine forth in fame and knowledge, were suddenly called out of this life; which coming to the ears of the above-named youth, he was much struck, for they were his fellow-students ; and in a short time bidding farewell to scholastic honours, he enrolled himself as a disciple of Christ among the regulars.
CHAPTER VII.OF A CERTAIN MATRON, WHO DEPLORED HER son's
CONVERSION, BUT AFTERWARDS BEING HERSELF CONVERTED,
GAVE THANKS TO GOD.
There was a certain matron, rich and worldly, who had an only son whom she loved tenderly, for he was adorned with the gifts of youth and knowledge, and comely manners; who, being inspired by the heavenly spirit, chose rather to serve God in humility, than to enjoy and make merchandise of his paternal goods in this world. Wherefore, he withdrew himself from the sight of his friends, and sought a monastery of regulars, to converse with the Lord more in secret, and in greater perfection, by casting aside all this world's hindrances. Which resolution his widowed mother sought diligently, by prayers and lamentations, to make him recall, but all to no purpose.
She went, therefore, away to her own house, cast down with heavy grief, when there fell out in her city an unhappy accident, whereby the son of a certain rich man was struck by another traitorously, so that he died, to their much sorrow. On hearing of this, this matron, casting in her mind the circumstances of the case, and turning to her own heart, being taught by others' peril, she tempered her own grief, and argued with herself, saying: How well it has come to pass, that thou canst not hear this of thine own son, nor fear for him from another? Does he not serve God in his monastery in safety, who might have perished at thy side in the world.
Wherefore, from that day, turning towards the goodness of God, she gave great thanks, nor any more mourned for her son as one lost;
but rejoiced above measure for his conversion, and loved especially the friars regular, whom she oftentimes received into her house. And this she herself told me at her own table.
The Novice. Gladly do I listen to what you say, and I hope it may do much good to me and many others. It is indeed to be deplored that many parents so inordinately love their children, as rather to bring them up for the world, than for God; that they covet rather to puff them up by riches and honours, than to make them strong in virtue and good conversation.
Alas I that they have no thought of how suddenly death separates children from parents, and that no man, how rich or noble soever he may be, can deliver himself, or any of his friends, from the law of death ; and yet we must all appear before the tribunal of strict judg. ment, each to account for how he has spent his life, and receive, according to his several deserts, the irrevocable sentence,- either eternal glory, or everlasting punishment.
CHAPTER VIII.—THAT IT IS BETTER TO OBEY GOD, THAN QUR
THE SENIOR. Thou hast judged well for thy salvation; for he that hath resolved to serve God, ought to obey Him rather than his relations. Hence it is that Truth said to the disciples that followed him: “ He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” (Matth. x. 37.) These, then, are not to be listened to, who would, for the comfort of your friends, persuade you to remain in the world;
but those are above all to be imitated, who, for the love of Christ, choose rather to remove themselves far away from their friends, in order that they may serve God the more freely, adhere to him more devoutly, and pray more fervently for their friends. Whence, if they wish to oppose thee in the way of God, and to throw obstacles to thy entrance into religion, they are to be shunned and forsaken. For the great Lawgiver and Master of all Religious, our Lord Jesus Christ, . hath shown us a form of perfect renunciation, when he says: man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luc. xiv. 26.)
Give ye ear, but not to what the Lord saith ; seek ye first how ye may please your relations and friends ; but while you are diligent in doing this, you bring no pleasure to me thereby : “ Leave then the
- If any
dead to bury their dead, but follow thou me." (Matth. viii. 22.) “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his justice,” (Matth. vi. 33); and ye
shall have treasure in heaven,” (Ibid. vi. 20), if you have renounced all earthly things.
Oh, how foolish and blind are ye, who for a vile and most fleeting pleasure of the flesh, neglect to seek after the eternal joys of heaven; who now tremble to submit to the discipline of a holy rule, and who ponder not on the flame of unquenchable fire that burneth for ever.
Ah, there is a sad difference between the habit of a humble monk and the ghost-like look of devils. Great is the contrast between the devout
song of religious, and the unendurable moans of the damned. Oh, if men would but know the gift of God, and taste how sweet is the Lord, and how sweet it is to serve the Lord of heaven, willingly would they forsake all earthly things, which they cannot enjoy long, and Ay together to the religious state, by which they might ascend in a straight course to heaven.
Whence our merciful Lord exhorteth all that are of feeble heart, not to be terrified at the salutary precepts in the rule ; but rather, with all humility of obedience, to receive the yoke, saying: “ Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.” Iatth. xi. 29.) Which may Jesus, the Son of Mary, vouchsafe to grant, who reigneth God, world without end. Amen!
Feast of St. Bernard, 1842.
“IN TE, DOMINE, SPERAVI.”
Oh! for the dawning of that happy day,