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gradually, into all the abuses of Roman Papacy. Priestly power and dignity usurped the place of apostolic simplicity and teaching; political sway and ambition were substituted for ministerial labours devoted mainly to the spiritual welfare of men's souls. Those who claimed to be successors of Peter, the fisherman of Galilee, who followed a master who had not where to lay his head, grasped a kingly rule and swayed a spiritual sceptre : those who claimed to be the special delegates of the meek and lowly Jesus, who had neither house nor home, nor bishopric, nor church, who refused all participation in temporal affairs, who would neither punish the guilty woman, nor assume the distribution of an inheritance, nor be judge nor ruler over any one, but who enjoined submission to the civil authorities, claimed and exercised lordship over kings and emperors, and gave themselves out as the source of all power in Christendom.
Herein lies the explanation of the sad declension of Christianity in this unhappy pe
riod. The purity of the early Christian ministry inspired confidence: confidence led many to commit important trusts to them, as the most worthy and the most enlightened: the execution of these trusts gave power and patronage : the exercise of power and patronage proved a source of corruption and ruin. The most dangerous foes of Christianity are wealth and power: the human heart is so little proof against these enemies, that it has always yielded to their influence. Christianity was founded in poverty and worldly weakness; it cannot be reared nor flourish in worldly splendour or in regal rule. He who taught that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, meant what he said that no rich man, in his own strength, can turn from his riches and become his disciple. Riches are so many grapples which hold men to this world; and grapples they are which the men who have forged them cannot break without aid from on high.
Yet Christian ministers absorbed and brought under their administration during the middle ages a large proportion of the wealth of the world. Christ said, “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor;" these ministers of his said, “ Bring in your offerings to us, and we will feed the poor.” Under this stimulus, the offerings of the people poured in upon the priesthood in a profusion which proved how deeply Christian charity had taken hold of the minds of men.
Christian ministers were not long proof under the corrupting tendencies of this fatal error, and Christianity sank into a degradation of more than a thousand years, and into a neglect of charity visible in all subsequent history.
No doubt, Christians as a church, or in their special organizations, are bound to administer wisely and faithfully such charities as are committed to them; but they should regard such trusts as dangerous to the welfare of churches, and they should not encourage individuals in their creation, but endeavour to dif
fuse that light and spirit which enables every individual Christian to become a faithful steward of that which is in his hands, under the great law of charity. Even when individuals have done all in their power to carry out Christian duties, much must still devolve upon some public administration. This will be as much as human weakness can perform with safety and success.
That the papal practice of making the church the grand almoner of all its members is radically wrong, is plain from all past results; it is clearly wrong, because human virtue cannot be proof against the temptations incident to such an administration; it is clearly wrong, because not according to the teachings of Christ, who undertook no such offices. It is very apparent in many of the passages above quoted, that Christ's plan in the exercise of charity, contemplates more the spiritual good of him who exercises charity than of him who is its object. The poor are the objects of many promises and of much providential care and
bounty: they have little to tie them to this world, and therefore are the more readily induced to fix their affections upon things above, and to look to the future world as a final home and place of rest. They are more likely to be
poor in spirit,” to “ mourn,” to be “meek," to “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” to be “merciful,” to be "pure in heart,” to be "peacemakers,” to be “persecuted for righteousness' sake,” to be “ reviled, and to have all manner of evil spoken of them falsely;" and they are, of course, the more likely to enjoy the blessings promised to such. The rich in this world's goods must look upon
poor and the suffering as the special objects of their stewardship: poverty and pain are the fields in which they must labour, and in which their graces must be exercised, and their Christian characters formed. It is not enough to found hospitals, build churches, establish monasteries—to feed, lodge, and clothe the poor ; but to cultivate that “charity, without which, if men bestow all their goods to feed the poor