Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and give their bodies to be burned, it profiteth nothing." The inheritance of the kingdom prepared for the blessed from the foundation of the world, is given to those who give meat to the hungry, drink to the thirsty; who receive strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and go unto those who are in prison. This blessedness is not proffered to those who perform this duty by proxy. It is not promised to the church, but to individuals who perform these offices for even the humblest of the human family.

Papal Rome did not cease to inculcate charity, and extol it as the highest of Christian virtues; but this she did, not that she cared for the poor, but because she was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."* Like Judas, whose apparent zeal for the poor exceeded that of the other disciples, his zeal to fill his bag having increased with the avarice which the bearing of that bag had engendered, the papacy preached charity with in

* John xii. 6.

WHERE THE CARCASS, THERE THE BIRDS OF PREY. 83

creasing earnestness when avarice had become the motive. The experience of the Romish church proved that where there is a bag of money to be held, or large sums to be administered, a Judas will creep into the office. It was a fatal error of that church to expose her officers to such manifold temptations. Having assumed the charge of such vast wealth and the administration of such immense power, virtue in priests and bishops and popes became nearly impossible. Religious houses and charitable institutions became the scenes of frightful abuse and perversion. No wickedness of this world has much exceeded that which these abuses have exhibited.

The history of the world proves that such power and such wealth cannot safely be confided to human agencies. Even if the virtues of those whose purity of life has commanded unlimited confidence, being strengthened from above, hold out, their positions will be coveted, and eventually seized by those whom no scru

[ocr errors][merged small]

ples restrain. The true theory is, to reduce temptation to the lowest practicable point, in social, political, and religious life: enough will still remain to tax all the energies of human virtue and endurance.

When Rome had assumed the government of all Christendom, and had put forth every device which cunning and wickedness could contrive to increase her power and to extract money from her votaries, she preached charity unceasingly, as the great feature and characteristic of the Christian religion. Charity was proclaimed as the highest of graces and the most pressing of duties. Whilst the main object was to become the administrators of charity, and to absorb the alms of the faithful, it happily fell out, that all the givers did not select the church as the medium of their bounty, and that many actually practised that charity which was chiefly enforced from interested motives. St. Paul says that some, even in his day, “preached Christ of envy and strife.”—“ What then ?--whether in pre

[ocr errors]

tence or in truth, Christ is preached.* So charity was inculcated during a long series of ages, from interested motives, and continues so to be enforced. Yet we have much reason to rejoice over this teaching. During the long night of the dark ages, the duties of almsgiving and liberality to the church for the sake of the poor being urged with all the zeal of self-interest, was thus kept before the minds and in the hearts of men, in a period when almost every other semblance of Christianity disappeared.

When the annals of Charity shall be fully written, it will be found that this dark period furnishes, under the influence of Romish teachings, many as bright and beautiful examples of lives devoted to charity as any the world has ever beheld. The invention of works of supererogation contributed, no doubt, to form such characters, and to stimulate that perseverance in good works which should have sprung from a clear comprehension of the true

* Phil. i. 16, 18.

plan of salvation. The corruptions and abuses of the Romish church assumed in this period a form in which the priesthood, in all its grades, must naturally become ambitious, corrupt, and tyrannical; the mass of the people ignorant, superstitious, and enslaved. Α. few, from peculiar temperament or accidental advantages, might stand forth in the exercise of Christian graces of the highest degree, but not unfrequently mingled with forbidding austerities and stoical virtues more pagan than Christian. The dark

ages added many saints to the Roman calendar, and the church, which could not make these men available for selfish ends while they lived, canonized them and used them efficiently after they left this world. It was this interested devotion to the subject of charity which constituted the salt by which, humanly speaking, Christianity was preserved from utter suspension during this lapse of ages. This was at least the spark which kept it alive in the Romish communion, which, by the worship of saints and images, had made a

« AnteriorContinuar »