The failure of the Second Crusade was a source of great chagrin to Bernard, who had been so active in setting it in motion.
Continuing Arnold of Brescia Versus Saint Bernard,
our selection from General History of the Christian Religion and Church by Johann A. W. Neander published in 1850. The selection is presented in four easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Arnold of Brescia Versus Saint Bernard.
Time: 1130 – 1155
Many who had been awakened to repentance confessed what they had taken from others by robbery or fraud, and hastened, before they went to the holy war, to seek reconciliation with their enemies. The Christian enthusiasm of the German people found utterance in songs in the German tongue; and even now the peculiar adaptation of this language to sacred poetry began to be remarked. Indecent songs could no longer venture to appear abroad.
While some were awakened by Bernard’s preaching from a life of crime to repentance, and by taking part in the holy war strove to obtain the remission of their sins, others again, who though hitherto borne along in the current of ordinary worldly pursuits, yet had not given themselves up to vice, were filled by Bernard’s words with loathing of the worldly life, inflamed with a vehement longing after a higher stage of Christian perfection, after a life of entire consecration to God. They longed rather to enter upon the pilgrimage to the heavenly than to an earthly Jerusalem; they resolved to become monks, and would fain have the man of God himself, whose words had made so deep an impression on their hearts, as their guide in the spiritual life, and commit themselves to his directions, in the monastery of Clairvaux. But here Bernard showed his prudence and knowledge of mankind; he did not allow all to become monks who wished to do so. Many he rejected because he perceived they were not fitted for the quiet of the contemplative life, but needed to be disciplined by the conflicts and cares of a life of action.
As contemporaries themselves acknowledge, these first impressions, in the case of many who went to the crusades, were of no permanent duration, and their old nature broke forth again the more strongly under the manifold temptations to which they were exposed, in proportion to the facility with which, through the confidence they reposed in a plenary indulgence, without really laying to heart the condition upon which it was bestowed, they could flatter themselves with security in their sins.
Gerhoh of Reichersberg, in describing the blessed effects of that awakening which accompanied the preaching of the crusader, yet says: “We doubt not that among so vast a multitude some became in the true sense and in all sincerity soldiers of Christ. Some, however, were led to embark in the enterprise by various other occasions, concerning whom it does not belong to us to judge, but only to Him who alone knows the hearts of those who marched to the contest either in the right or not in the right spirit. Yet this we do confidently affirm, that to this crusade many were called, but few were chosen.” And it was said that many returned from this expedition, not better, but worse than they went. Therefore the monk Cesarius of Heisterbach, who states this, adds: “All depends on bearing the yoke of Christ not _one_ year or _two_ years, but daily, if a man is really intent on doing it in truth, and in that sense in which our Lord requires it to be done, in order to follow him.”
When it turned out, however, that the event did not answer the expectations excited by Bernard’s enthusiastic confidence, but the crusade came to that unfortunate issue which was brought about especially by the treachery of the princes and nobles of the Christian kingdom in Syria, this was a source of great chagrin to Bernard, who had been so active in setting it in motion, and who had inspired such confident hopes by his promises. He appeared now in the light of a bad prophet, and he was reproached by many with having incited men to engage in an enterprise which had cost so much blood to no purpose; but Bernard’s friends alleged, in his defence, that he had not excited such a popular movement single-handed, but as the organ of the Pope, in whose name he acted; and they appealed to the facts by which his preaching of the cross was proved to be a work of God — to the wonders which attended it. Or they ascribed the failure of the undertaking to the bad conduct of the crusaders themselves, to the unchristian mode of life which many of them led, as one of these friends maintained, in a consoling letter to Bernard himself, adding, “God, however, has turned it to good. Numbers who, if they had returned home, would have continued to live a life of crime, disciplined and purified by many sufferings, have passed into the life eternal.”
But Bernard himself could not be staggered in his faith by this event. In writing to Pope Eugene on this subject, he refers to the incomprehensibleness of the divine ways and judgments; to the example of Moses, who, although his work carried on its face incontestable evidence of being a work of God, yet was not permitted himself to conduct the Jews into the Promised Land. As this was owing to the fault of the Jews themselves, so too the crusaders had none to blame but themselves for the failure of the divine work. “But,” says he, “it will be said, perhaps, how do we know that this work came from the Lord? What miracle dost thou work that we should believe thee? To this question I need not give an answer; it is a point on which my modesty asks to be excused from speaking. Do you answer,” says he to the Pope, “for me and for yourself, according to that which you have seen and heard.” So firmly was Bernard convinced that God had sustained his labors by miracles.
Eugene was at length enabled, in the year 1149, after having for a long time excited against himself the indignation of the cardinals by his dependence on the French abbot, with the assistance of Roger, King of the Sicilies, to return to Rome; where, however, he still had to maintain a struggle with the party of Arnold.
The provost Gerhoh finds something to complain of in the fact that the Church of St. Peter wore so warlike an aspect that men beheld the tomb of the apostle surrounded with bastions and the implements of war.
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