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LETTER I (circa 1120)

To the Canons Regular of Horricourt11    The title of this letter follows a MS. at Corbey. It does not appear who these regular canons were.

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 manner.

Your letter, in which you have addressed to us an exhortation so salutary and profitable, brings us convincing 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 2practise 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 us is the Lord (1 Corinthians iv. 4.). As to the brothers concerning whose safety we recognize that your charity has been solicitous, that we should return them to you unharmed; know that by the advice and persuasion of many illustrious persons, and chiefly of that very distinguished man William, Bishop of Châlons,22    This was William of Champeaux, a friend of S. Bernard, who died in 1121. 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 3be 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.

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