Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bernard, Richard
BERNARD, RICHARD (1567?–1641), puritan divine, is described in a portrait (before his 'Threefold Treatise on the Sabbath,' 1641) as then aged 74. This gives us 1566-7 as the date of his birth. An incidental phrase in one of his Latin 'Epistles Dedicatory' designates Nottinghamshire as his native soil. This seems decisive; but he must have been in some way related to Lincolnshire. Most of his earlier patrons addressed in his dedications and epistles belonged to that county. He was fortunate enough as a boy to fall under the notice of two daughters of Sir Christopher Wray, lord chief-justice of England. One of these was the wife successively of Godfrey Foljambe, Sir William Bowes of Walton, near Chesterfield, and of John, the good Lord Darcy of Aston. The other married Sir George Saint Paul (spelled oddly Saintpoll) of Lincolnshire, and afterwards the Earl of Warwick, and as Countess of Warwick appears in many of Bernard's and contemporary dedicatory epistles. These two joined in sending Richard to the university, and he is never weary of acknowledging their kindnesses to him. A Richard Bernard appears in the registers of Christ's College, Cambridge, as proceeding B.A. 1567-8. He has been taken for the father of our Richard Bernard. This is improbable; but the later Richard was also at Christ's College, where he probably proceeded B.A. 1594-5, and certainly passed M.A. in 1598.
He is found parson at Epworth in 1598. He dated thence his 'Terence.' He was presented to the vicarage of Worksop, in Nottinghamshire, by Richard Whalley, and he received institution on 19 June 1601 (Hunter's Collections, p. 37). He sent out several of his books from Worksop, as the dates 1605 to 1612-13 show. One of the most distinctive is the following: 'Christian-Advertisements and Counsels of Peace. Also Disuasions from the Separatists schisme, commonly called Brownisme, which is set apart from such truths as they take from us and other Reformed Churches, and is nakedly discovred, that so the falsitie thereof may better be discerned, and so iustly condemned and wisely avoided. Published for the benefit of the humble and godlie louer of the truthe. By Richard Bernard, preacher of God's Word. Reade (my friend) considerately; expound charitably; and judge, I pray thee, without partialitie; doe as thou wouldest bee done vnto. At London, imprinted by Felix Kyngston. 1608.'
Bernard was brought into union and communion with the separatists, but treacherously and basely as they alleged, conscientiously as he himself affirmed, withdrew from them. Thereupon commenced his invectives and their replies. His 'Christian Advertisements' was followed by his 'Plaine Evidences the Church of England is Apostolicall, the Separation Schismaticall. Directed against Mr. Ainsworth, the Separatist, and Mr. Smith, the Se-Baptist; both of them severally opposing the book called the Separatist's Schisme. By Richard Bernard, preacher of the Word of God at Worksop. For truth and peace to any indifferent iudgment, 1610.' It gives the real state of the case as between Bernard and his former friends and associates. Many of them had been his regular hearers; while equally with them he was a puritan in doctrine, and in practice a nonconformist in well-nigh everything they objected to, 'carrying to an extreme length the puritan scruples, going to the very verge of separation, and joining himself even to those of his puritan brethren who thought themselves qualified to go through the work of exorcism' (Hunter). Not only so, but he was silenced by the archbishop. On the whole, it must be conceded that Bernard sought, according to John Robinson, 'rather to oppress the person of his adversary with false and proud reproaches, than to convince (i.e. confute) his tenets by sound arguments' (People's Plea for the Exercise of Prophecy, 1618, p. vi).
A singular incident in which Bernard played a prominent part also belongs to his Worksop incumbency, viz. the exorcising of a (cataleptic) 'possessed person,' John Fox, of Nottingham. A contemporary tractate gives full details.
Notwithstanding his conflicts with many adversaries, Bernard wrote at Worksop one of his finest books, 'The Faithful Shepherd' (1607). He ceded Worksop in 1612-13 (Holland, History of Worksop, p. 127). But there was unpleasantness in the matter. John Smyth records that, besides a difficulty as to subscription, Bernard had shown 'vehement desire to the patronage of Sowerby,' and extreme indignation when defeated of it, and ' further earnest desire to have been vicar of Gainsborough ' (p. 5).
In 1613 he was presented to Batcombe in Somersetshire. Thither he was summoned by the devout Dr. Bisse (or Bis). Bisse had been himself pastor from the dawn of the Reformation, and had purchased the advowson of his living, to present once only, for 200l. On presenting Bernard to it, he said : 'I do this day lay aside nature, respect of profit, flesh and blood, in thus bestowing as I do my living, only in hope of profiting and edifying my people's souls,' after which he did not live above three weeks. This, his last act, he called his packing-penny 'between God and himself (Brook, ii. 460, and see note in Dr. Grosart's memoir of Bernard before his i Ruth,' p. ix, 1865).
Whatever the circumstances were under which he ceded Worksop, he ever recalled his ministry there gratefully. He refers to it in the epistle dedicatory of his 'Faithful Shepherd' as 'wholly in a manner transposed and made anew, and very much inlarged, both with precepts and examples, to further young divines in the studie of divinitie,' 1621.
As minister of Batcombe he also faithfully fulfilled his trust. He still held fast to his objections to the 'ceremonies;' but he was indulged by his diocesan. It could be shown from his books that in three characteristics he was far ahead of his generation. In his epistle dedicatory to his remarkable book, 'The Isle of Man,' his pleading for 'an unbegun work' of caring for the prisoners anticipates the mission of John Howard. Again, the second portion of the 'Seven Golden Candlesticks,' which is entitled 'The Great Mysterie of God's Mercie yet to Come,' is one sustained argument and appeal on behalf of the Jews. Further, in our day all the churches have organisations towards systematic benevolence, which Bernard recommended in his 'Ready Way to Good Works, or a Treatise of Charitie, wherein, besides many other things, is shewed how we may be always ready and prepared, both in affection and action, to give cheerfully to the poor and to pious uses, never heretofore published' (1635).
At Batcombe he wrote a large number of books on various themes, which may be found tabulated at length in the bibliographical authorities. He translated 'Terence' (1598, 1604, 1617), and printed it in Latin and English; he wrote 'A Guide to Grand Jurymen with respect to Witches,' of which the second book is 'a treatise touching witches good and bad,' 1627. His 'Bible Battels, or the Sacred Art Military,' appeared in 1629. He bitingly attacked the high-church claims of the prelates in his 'Twelve Arguments proving that the Ceremonies imposed upon the Ministers of the Church of England by the Prelates are unlawful; and therefore that the ministers of the Gospel, for the bare and sole omission of them, for conscience sake, are most unjustly charged with disloyalty to his Majesty.' He showed some poetic imaginativeness in his 'Ruth's Recompence' (1628), a commentary on the book of Ruth, and dimly preluded the 'Pilgrim's Progress' in 'Isle of Man or Proceedings in Manshire' (1627). 'The Fabvlous Foundation of the Popedome' (1619), and 'Looke beyond Luther' (1623), are also among his works. Bernard had in later years several assistants, including Robert Balsom and Richard Alleine. He died at the end of March 1641. The epistle dedicatory to his 'Threefold Treatise on the Sabbath 'bears date' London, 20 March 1641.' The posthumous 'Thesaurus Biblicus' (1644, folio) contains in its epistle a character of Bernard by Conant.
[Dr. Grosart's Memoir prefixed to Nichol's reprint of 'Ruth's Recompence' in his Puritan Commentaries, 1865; Hunter's Chorus Vatum, in MS. Addit., 24, 487, pp. 280-2; Brook's Puritans, ii. 459; Watt's Bibliotheca Brit.; Ussher's Works; Ludlow's Memoirs, i. 104.]