Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

**

[ocr errors]

the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." Or again, “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. Peter “said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that bath forsaken houses, or brethren, or mother, or sisters or father, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”'f “ Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple."! And this precept was obeyed to the very letter by His first followers, and by the apostolic Church. They sold their houses and lands, and laid the money at the apostles' feet. No man “called any thing that he possessed his own;" “ they had all things common.”S Now, this community of goods was a close imitation of our Lord's example—a prolonging of the fellowship which He had with them and they with Him, after His departure. Poverty, toil, and a common life, were the daily bonds of their society with Him; and they chose to live on as He had left them, still realising His presence, “who though He was rich, for our sakes became poor."

Out of this common life came the fixed endowments of the Church. First, the bishop and his clergy, and the poor of Christ, lived of one stock and revenue, as it were at one table, at which the spiritual father presided in Christ's stead. Afterwards, when the Church had peace, and, in God's good providence, was permitted to make itself fixed homes and certain dwelling-places, the necessity which lay on them by reason of the then “present distress” ceased; the members of the Church were not compelled to give up lands and houses; they had no longer to forsake their homes, to go out from all that they possessed; and the poor of Christ, the widows and orphans, had a full and certain living, “in peaceable habitations, and in quiet resting-places.” That which was a precept of necessity, became a counsel of perfection. It was a fuller and closer imitation of the life of Christ for those who, by the providence of God, were permitted to forsake all for the love of their heavenly Master. And there have been many, in all ages of the Church, who have willingly made themselves poor for Christ's sake, that through their poverty and labor of 'love the elect might be made rich in God's kingdom. Some forsook all that they possessed at once, and gave all their worldly goods at one offering to the service of the Church, or to the poor of Christ, and thenceforward lived by the labor of their hands or by the work of the gospel. Others retained their inheritance and their right to the goods that they possessed, but converted the enjoyment of them into a stewardship. They lived of them; but after taking for their own use just so much as their bare need required, they gave the rest by a perpetual and daily oblation, in alms to the poor.

* St. Matt. xix, 21 ; St. Mark x. 21; St. Luke xii. 33. + St. Matt. xix. 27-29.

St. Luke xiv. 33. 0 Acts iv. 32.

may perhaps be said, that the state of the Church at this day, in its intermixture with the Christian world, with its political and social relations, is such as to make it neither right nor possible for most, if for any, to give up all that they possess, and to throw themselves into a state of poverty and dependence. Perhaps it may be; though the question admits of more discussion than people think; and we may refer to it

poor. It

hereafter. For the present it is enough to say, that, at all events, the other principle, of holding the wealth of this world as a stewardship, as if the title were in God and the inheritance in the poor, is altogether possible, and easy to many, if only they have charity and devotion to adopt it. I do not say that it is possible for all men; far from it: rather that it is, like Holy Orders, a high privilege to which a man is called by God Himself. It is plain that they who have a household and family depending on them must first maintain them with all needful provisions. This is the stewardship of most men, to provide for their own, and is a kind of poverty in itself. But there are those who either have a larger income than they and their families require, or have none at all depending on them. In both these cases it is quite possible so 10 pitch the scale of household and personal expenses, as to leave a portion of their yearly income to be administered as a stewardship. I do not undertake to say what proportion ought to be so devoted. The divine wisdom has prescribed a tenth at least. St. Paul has given us a rule which cannot be gainsayed : “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." And the reason on which he grounds it is very awful, from its severe and simple truth : "for wc brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.” The needs of an immortal being are very real, narrow, and few. If we would but measure our needs by the measure of a deathbed, or the necessities of a holy state, we should look with ainazement and fear on the excessive and artificial habits of our daily life. Things we now look on as necessary would be seen to be wanton indulgences of self; our wants would be for the most part discovered to be fictitious, and our permitted indulgences to be a luxurious and dangerous softness.

a

It would scem, then, that the rules by which any one who has the care of a family committed to him should proceed are these : First, to provide for those depending on him whatsoever is really needed for proper food, rainent, and instruction of life; next, for the maintenance of his relations to others among whom the providence of God has cast his lot. We hear much of the duty of maintaining our position in society; and it is a worldly way of expressing what, beyond all doubt, is a truth, namely, that the circumstances of our birth, and the intellectual and moral condition into which we have been brought, are facts determined by the will of God; and as such demand a reverent observance. The whole political and social state of mankind is the work and ordinance of God; and therefore all the parts of it are the subjects of His disposition, and all parts and members of it have their functions, duties, and responsibilities, which we may not without strong and special reasons neglect or withdraw from. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that we are bound, for the sake of others to whom we are thus related, to bear our part in the burden of society. But nothing that has been said warrants our going beyond the strictest interpretation of what that position absolutely demands. And they that will fairly, and without secret inclinations to a lax judgment, ascertain what their position in life really demands, will find its exactions incredibly small. Again : it is undoubtedly the duty of parents to lay by such a measure of their means of life as a discreet foresight, checked by an honest trust in the providence of God, will prescribe. But this will not warrant hoarding, or carefulness to increase in wealth, or to leave riches to heirs and successors. It warrants no more than such a care for others as prudence, I may say honesty, prescribes for ourselves. Now these

principles may be fairly and safely laid down for the direction of those that desire, in the midst of worldly cares and burdens, to imitate at least the spirit of our Lord's poverty. If, after satisfying these obligations, there remain any yearly income, it may be administered as the patrimony of the poor. And they that possess it may, to an extent and in matters which it is impossible to describe, follow the poverty of Christ by personal self-denials. It has pleased God to ordain the lot of many of His most perfect servants in the midst of the riches, state, and glitter of the world; to charge them with great possessions, vast revenues, large dominions, high offices, and a numerous retinue. Sometimes they have been set on thrones, or detained in courts and councils of state; or they have had great lordships, and the responsibility of a spiritual rule, and their whole life and outward condition has been full of power, and dignity, and worldly encumbrances. And yet in the midst of all, by secret self-denial and selfrenouncement, they have lived a life of personal poverty in the presence of luxury and splendor. I put these as extreme cases; for what was possible in them must be easy to us.

If they whose outward state was the very antagonist and contradiction of our Lord's poverty, could in secret make themselves

poor

like Him, then much more may we all, whose outward state is moderate and easy to control. All that is needed is energy of will and persever

. ance in maintaining the practice of personal self-denial. No one can say how far he may be able to advance in the spirit of poverty till he has tried it. A mind truly bent on following our Lord in this part of His humiliation will discover seasons, and times, and opportunities of exercising it, which it is impossible to set down. If one were to do so, it would lose its grace and dignity, and seem trivial,

« VorigeDoorgaan »