Thomas Hancock.

The pulpit and the press, and other sermons, most of which were preached at S. Nicholas Cole Abbey online

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following the steps of the Holy apostles a Father
Damien has done in our age with little or no money,
but with such as he had, with the name of Jesus Christ
of Nazareth, spiritual and secular wonders such as the
Pope, the cardinals and the bishops of all churches
cannot do with their funds of silver and gold.



10



JESUS CHRIST THE SUPREME RITUALIST

"And He taught saying unto them, Is it not written, My
house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer ?
But ye have made it a den of thieves." ST. MARK xi. 17.

*" I ^HE event which the Holy Gospel records held
JL so great a place in the earliest conceptions of the
life and work of Jesus that all the four Gospels contain
a notice of it. It was evidently the belief of the first
Christians that the act was twice repeated by the Lord.
It has never ceased, from their day to ours, to exercise
a powerful effect upon the Christian imagination and
conscience. It was the first and the only direct and
active interference of Jesus in the public life both of the
Church and of the State. We cannot fail to see that
He here at least allowed the multitude to proclaim Him
in the streets as the King of Israel, with no regard to
Caesar's authority ; and that He here, without consul-
tation of the leaders of the people or care for the
established authority of the priesthood, asserted a right
to act with authority, though He was not of Levi's tribe,
in the Temple of God. Like David, Solomon, Josiah,
Hezekiah, the regal constructors and reformers of the
Temple and the public worship of whom the excited
people were thinking as His predecessors Jesus, of the
tribe of Judah, showed Himself to be more priestly than

the priests.

130



JESUS CHRIST SUPREME RITUALIST 131

This amazing interference of Jesus in the Temple
struck at two superstitions, as fashionable among us
moderns as among those ancient Jews, one social, the
other religious. It contained the eternal political
declaration of the King and Reformer of the world
against that age's and this age's notions of the invio-
lability of all that is called property. It contained the
eternal religious sermon of the High Priest of every
conscience against that age's and this age's superstitious
delusion that God, as He is a Spirit, can have no care
for what is material, outward, symbolical, secular, or
ritual in the conduct and manner of His common social
worship.

I.

Twice in the course of to-day's l Gospel our attention
is forced toward the first of these two points. The
Gospel opens with a startling preliminary hint how
Jesus regards, and how He deals with, the " sacredness
of property." Wherever and whenever He comes in
power as the world's King and Reformer, there will be
a questioning and a crisis of "property." Every great
political and social shaking of the people is nothing less,
if the Gospel be true, than an advent of Jesus as the
Christ to the holy city of that people. He sent forth
two of His disciples to take for His use an ass and a foal,
the property of some unknown owners. The disciples
were to loose the beasts, and lead them to Him. giving
no further reason for their strange interference with other
men's possessions, than the blunt message " The Lord
hath need of them." It is useless to debate whether the
owners of the two beasts were already disciples of
Jesus. The Gospel is the product of the Church ; it

1 First Sunday in Advent.



132 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

only knows Jesus, as the Church confesses Him, as
absolutely " the Lord " the Lord who is Owner of all,
the Lord whose Word reaches every conscience and
enlightens every reason. We know that there is that
in us which tell us that nothing we possess is our own.
We should know this, sooner or later, even if there were
no Gospel. The Gospel tells us whose these things we
call ours, or call property, actually are. " Thou, the
owner ? Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required
of thee, and then whose shall those things be ? " You
think your outward possessions are yours. Why even
your inmost possession, your own soul, is not yours.
You have no fixed tenure of it. It was not the
outward word of the two apostles to the owners' ears,
but the inward word of Jesus Christ to each conscience,
which awoke in each this deepest and most abiding
conception of the meaning of property " It is the
Lord's." This Word of" the Lord " made them willing,
as the fullest and probably the earliest account of the
second Gospel says, to "let them go."

The owners were plain, ordinary men, whose property
in animals was used in their daily business, whatever
it was ; it had no pretence to be religious property ; yet
they were willing to part with them for the use of " the
Lord."

II.

Our Saviour's second interference with the rights of
"property" at His Advent to Jerusalem was altogether
different. " And Jesus went into the Temple of God,
and cast out all them that sold and bought in the
Temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers,
and the seats of them that sold doves," "and" (as St.
Mark adds) " would not suffer that any man should
carry any vessel through the Temple." In the first



JESUS CHRIST SUPREME RITUALIST 133

case, the two beasts were probably returned to their
owner ; but, in the second case, there is a destruction
and confiscation of property, by the coming of the
Lord, without any compensation. Here, in a wonderful
manner, the only Revealer of God, and the Sender of
the Spirit, strikes a double blow at the age's false
conceptions of worship, hitting on one side its actual
worship, the " covetousness which is idolatry " and which
despises all that is not material ; hitting on the other
side its superstition of pseudo-spiritualism or anti-
ritualism, which despises all that is material. How
came all this heap of material property in the Temple of
God the tables of the money-changers, the stalls of
the traders in animals? Everything which Jesus at
His Advent overturned, and everybody whose property
He pitilessly damaged, was there under the pretence
of the necessities of the ritual of God's house. " Our
property," the traders might have said, " is no secular
and worldly matter, like the ass and the foal your
disciples have taken from their owners. There is a
sacred character about all our property. Everything
that we are selling here in the Court of the Nations
the animals, the oil, the wine, the meal, the salt, the
incense, and others things, all are wanted by pious
souls, who have travelled up to the Holy City from
all parts of the earth ; they demand them, and we
supply them, in order that they may conscientiously
keep the Feast in the Temple of the Lord according
to the Law of the Lord. The money-changers are here,
in order that the religious pilgrims from foreign lands
may get their Greek and Roman and other coins,
stamped often with vile, idolatrous emblems, hateful
to the one real God, changed into the sacred ' shekel '
which can alone be offered to the Lord in His house."
What could be more reasonable, on the surface of it,



134 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

than such an explanation of the presence and business
of the sellers, buyers, and money-lenders in the outer
court of the Lord's house? Neither the scrupulously
religious Pharisees nor the critical Sadducees seem to
have had the least objection to it But when Jesus
looked at it He condemned it as a desecration of God's
house by idolatry, as a singular desecration of the
Court of the Nations. The Son of God saw in it the
worshipping and serving of property or Mammon,
which is the supreme denial of "the Lord" as the Father
of all men and the Owner of all things. " And He
taught, saying, Is it not written, My house shall be
called of all nations the house of prayer ? But ye have
made it a den of thieves." He saw the inward and
spiritual contents of all this traffic to be " covetousness,
which is idolatry," and which is to be testified against
as idolatry wherever and in whatever degree His
kingdom comes to a people. The religious heads of
the Jewish people were of course familiar with the
passages from the prophets which Jesus cited ; they had
doubtless often preached upon them, and had probably
explained that they did not condemn this sale and
purchase in the Court of the Nations of the ritual
necessities of God's public worship.

The official representatives of religion, both the
teachers and the clergy, " the scribes and chief priests "
(as St. Mark and St. Luke record), when they " heard it,"
took the side of the traders and usurers against Jesus,
" and sought how they might destroy Him."

III.

The men in power, both scribes and priests, were
doubtless strict enough supporters of that side of the
outward matter of worship which contributed to their



JESUS CHRIST SUPREME RITUALIST 135

own dignity and their own property. This was the
secret bond of union between the vulgar trader and the
intellectual scribe, between the half-heathenish money-
lender and the orthodox priest. This inclined the
religious trafficker not to be hard upon the material
traffickers. The scribes and priests 'could pardon those
ritual offences which the Son of God so wrathfully
condemned the buying and selling in the Temple, the
carrying of burdens through the Temple. " God," they
would say, quoting Bible texts, " looks upon the heart.
We need not think that He can take offence at these
mere outward things." But, as the Lord has already
told them, they used a quite different speech about the
outward things related to worship, where their own
honour or their own profits were concerned. They paid,
and they insisted upon the payment of tithe of mint,
and anise, and cummin. It was the first article of the
Pharisee's brag in the Temple, " I pay tithes of all that I
possess." It was no scandal to him to see the Temple
swarming with traffickers and usurers. So have we seen
in later history, that the most bigoted anti-sacerdotalists
of all times and places, when they have found themselves
in a sacred office, have demanded the most rigid pay-
ment of their tithes or other ecclesiastical dues. The
Nonconformist and Separatist preachers who were
intruded upon the English parishes under the Long
Parliament, and under Cromwell's Empire, declared on
Sundays that they were not priests, but clamoured on
Mondays to the magistrates to imprison the Quakers
for refusing to pay them the tithe allotted by the
unrepealed law to the priests. The expulsion of the
national episcopate and priesthood brought in a rampant
and greedy Nonconformist and Separatist " clericalism,"
such as the nation had never before seen or known, and
which goes far to explain the severity of its Act of
Uniformity.



136 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

But that which Jesus asserted at His Advent in
Jerusalem, by His wrathful cleansing of the house of
God the real sacredness and importance of the outward
and secular side of God's common and national worship,
its symbol and ritual, as a common and universal
property had for the Pharisee or Puritan no meaning.
These Jewish Puritans, who sought to destroy the Son
of Man, like the Puritans and Manichaeans of all ages,
had lost all conception that the Temple was held in
trust for all the peoples not " the people " or Jewish
Church, but " the peoples " or all nations though it was
the main part of the inherited tradition of their race, and
though its symbol and ritual were to serve as the
alphabet for the spiritual education of the nations in
the Kingdom of Christ, in the world to come.

When our English Pharisees in the seventeenth
century filled St. Paul's Cathedral with shops and stalls,
and perverted the fund, which Archbishop Laud had
collected from all England for its restoration, to the
enrichment of the great Nonconformist aldermen and
councilmen, they had no conception that they were
guilty of sacrilege. " God," said they truly, " dwelleth
not in temples made with hands." " Therefore," asked
they, " is it not better that all this waste land, stone,
timber, and money should be employed in adding to
the comfort of ' His saints,' who have laboured for His
cause, than be perverted to the encouragement of
idolatry and superstition ? "

The outward sanctification of the Temple is to the
whole of the earth's space what the outward sanctifica-
tion of the seventh day is to the whole of the world's
time. Every poor shopman who puts up his shutters
with glad relief on Saturday, every poor woman who
puts on her best dress on Sunday, has to thank the
Lord, the Son of Man, for the liberation and the delight.



JESUS CHRIST SUPREME RITUALIST 137

The Lord's ritual act has the deeper meaning for us
because it was our place in the old Jewish Temple, the
Court of the Nations, the most prophetic part of the
building, which was the scene of it, and because His
great ritual act was a judgment beforehand against that
false worship which is the peculiar temptation of the
modern nations " covetousness, which is idolatry."
The argument of the puritanical old man in the Jew
and the Christian against the ritual judgment of the
Son in His Father's house is put so often in the Son's
own words, " God is a Spirit, and they that worship
Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth,"
that we are easily blinded to the falsehood and wrong
which the old man deduces from His words. " God
is a Spirit : therefore we will dwell in our ceiled
houses, and let the house of God go bare. God is a
Spirit : therefore we will break down all the carved
work of God's house, and decorate our own houses with
it. God is a Spirit : therefore we will heap up all the
treasures of art and the products of man's genius and
skill into our palaces and clubs and villas. God does
not dwell in a house ; He is independent of all our
earthly and human splendours : He can be in need of
nothing. Let us therefore take to ourselves all that
we can."

It is this inveterate Manichaeism, this parody of
spirituality, this self-seeking Puritanism of the old man
in all ages and peoples, which the Lord judged and
condemned as thievery and sacrilege at His Advent
into the Temple. The act was an application to the
future common worship of the nations, of the same
principle which He had asserted at the opening of His
ministry, when He said : " Consider the lilies of the
field," and " Not one sparrow is forgotten before God,"
and " The very hairs of your head are all numbered."



138 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

That the unseen Father of men, the ultimately Real
One, cannot be careless about the minute and the
scrupulous and the superficially insignificant in His
material kingdom, was a part of the theology of the
Son's first public preaching. The same principle which
He there asserted to be true of the individual flower,
bird, and man here in His last great public act he
extends to that which is minute, scrupulous, and
seemingly insignificant in the material house of God.
The Temple, the church of wood or stone, is so sacred
in the Son of Man's plan, because it is the standing
witness that men are more than individuals, more also
than citizens of nations. The Father's house was
given, and it still maintains, so singular a distinction, to
keep men in mind that their spiritual education as
children and brethren calls for a public, uniting, or
common worship. What sermon preached within St.
Paul's Cathedral can be compared to that sermon which
generation after generation its great dome goes on
preaching to all London, and to those who daily flock
to London from all parts of the earth? If the supreme
work of a man is to save his own selfish soul, then it
matters little whether the house of God be defiled
or clean. Indeed, there is then no great need of any
outward house of God at all, since His house is not to
be called the house of the individual soul, but " the house
of all the peoples." But no man does save his own
soul so long as he is careless about all souls, or is
content that any other soul should be lost. If the
Church be our house, two things follow first, that we
are but a sect, whatever great titles we put upon our-
selves ; next, that we may do as we like to it and with
it. The material house of God differs from all other
houses in this, that it belongs, and every act and detail
in it should be made to belong, as really to those who



JESUS CHRIST SUPREME RITUALIST 139

are absent from it, as to those who are present in it.
Therefore its central act must ever be, and all its
details must concentrate around that which is common,
Catholic, or universal-human in worship, around that
which is as much the concern of all the peoples outside
the temple as of the people within the " full perfect,
and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the
sins of the whole world."



THE SIGHT OF GOD THE SOURCE OF
ENDURANCE UNDER WRONG'

"This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God
endure grief, suffering wrongfully." i PETER ii. 19.

WE read in the Holy Gospel for Easter Day how
St. Peter and St. John went into the empty
tomb of Jesus, and how first the one, and then the
other "saw and believed." More and more of the
endless contents of that sight and that belief were
opened to them, as the text shows, in their later
experience, by the Spirit that quickeneth. It is no
doubt on account of this early Easter companionship,
and the new sight and new belief which they then and
there shared, that the Church has coupled them
together as Epistoler and Gospeller to-day, and will
couple them again next Sunday. They saw and
believed, as they both say to-day, what Jesus had
meant when He called Himself the Good Shepherd.
They saw that He had left the grave, as He had gone
into it, for man's sake. They saw all men also in a
new character ; whether " going astray " or whether
" in the fold," whether owning Christ as their Shepherd,
or ignorant of their relation to Him, since they were
men, they were Christ's sheep. "For ye," says St.
Peter to the Church, " were as sheep going astray : but

1 Second Sunday after Easter, 1890.
140



THE SIGHT OF GOD 141

are now (as sheep) returned to the Shepherd and Bishop
of your souls." And St. John records the Shepherd's
words to the " little flock " of apostles which He had
gathered in His fold : " Other sheep I have, which are
not of this fold: them also must I bring." His disciples
were the first-fruits and the pledges of His ownership
and pastorate of all mankind.

St. Peter tell us, in these first words of the Epistle,
three amazing things which he and his fellow-apostle
saw and believed, after they had descended in doubt
and dread into the tomb of Jesus, and come out of it in
hope and faith. They did not, indeed, understand all
they saw at the time they saw it, as I have already said.
It may take the whole of our life to make us understand
but a part of the things which we learnt in our childhood.
" I have had much experience," said a French statesman
upon his death-bed, " and it has taught me in the end
that nothing is altogether true except the catechism."

The first sight was a man " suffering wrongfully " :
the second was a man enduring the grief forced upon
him by this suffering " for conscience towards God " :
the third, and not the least wonderful, was faith as well
as sight. They " saw and believed " the Almighty God
thanking a feeble man for what he endured and suffered.

I.

I need not say how full the world is of wrongful
suffering. There has never been an age in which the
conscience has been so keenly aroused as it is in our
age to the hideous universality of suffering and to the
perception of wrong as the cause of suffering. If we
could catechise every man who is in grief, we should
find that in most cases he would indicate some wrong
done perhaps by himself, but probably done by others



142 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

as the origin of it. It is the testimony of all men that
these two things are inseparable ; that they are related
as cause and effect ; that wherever one is, there the
other must be. The inventors of Social Utopias
represent suffering, or the defect of sufficient comfort,
as the source of evil : the prophets and apostles of God
declare that sin, or the want of conscience towards God,
is the source of suffering. Even Christ, " who did no
sin," says St. Peter, in this Epistle, " His own self bare
our sins." The Utopist predicts that universal comfort-
ableness would produce universal justice and goodness,
or at least he hopes that it would produce a goodness
almost universal ; the apostle proclaims that universal
righteousness "the Kingdom of God and its righteous-
ness " is the first thing which a man has to seek,
whether its next results be comfort or suffering.

Meanwhile, neither goodness, justice, nor freedom
from suffering are yet universal. The apostle, coming
back to the world from the empty tomb of the risen
Shepherd and Saviour, sees the world as it is. The
grief is already here, the suffering is in the world, and is
likely for a long time to be, and likely in millions of
cases to be undeserved and wrongful. St. Peter saw
cruel tyrants seize upon their fellow-men, buy and sell
them, revile them, scourge them, crucify them, kill
them. The question then becomes an instantly practical
one, such as we cannot meet v/ith a new philosophical
or a new social theory, to be realised perhaps in some
distant year when we and our suffering neighbours are
dead.

St. Peter, as we see from the eighteenth verse, was
speaking here to those who were in the very lowest and
most degraded social condition in the Roman Empire
to servants, probably to slaves. Their masters and
owners might have said their suffering was legal ; the



THE SIGHT OF GOD 143

apostle, having sight of a higher law, says it was
wrongful. It was his business, as a pastor of souls, to
give them what they needed, something for the actual
moment, and not some promise of a dim and distant
future. " It is a law of organic nature that no fruitful
change of environment or condition can be rapidly
produced." I

The first thing the apostle does is to raise their
estimation of themselves, and to inspire them with the
thought of their social solidarity. He tells them that
they are chosen of God, that they are kings, that they
are priests : not as mere individuals, but as members
one of another. " Ye are a chosen generation, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." All his
descriptions of them to themselves are social.

I was talking lately with a good old man, who after
seventy years of honest fight, and the death of all his
children, had been forced to choose between starvation
and the workhouse for himself and his aged wife. There
she died ; he had come to hei funeral, and was trudging
his desolate way back to the house which is no home.
Would it have been any help to such a man " enduring
grief, suffering wrongfully " to read him a chapter of
Mr. Bellamy's " Looking Backward " ? Ought I to have
given him the Manifesto of the Communist Party?
Should I have told him that a volume of Essays by the
Fabian Society would meet his condition better than
the Gospel of St. John ? In the presence of such a grief
since Christ our Shepherd tenderly cares for every
individual sheep, and not merely for the multitudinous
general flock a wholesome Christian scepticism arises
in us. We begin to ask whether a Thomas a Kempis is
not at least as profound and wide a social healer as a
Karl Marx. The suffering world needs both those who
1 Dr- Lombroso in Nouvclle Revue for March i, 1890.



144 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

do not forget the one in their care for the many, and
those who do not forget the whole in their care for the
part. We see and believe that whatever is said or
planned for the social good of all by agnostics and
atheists, who tell the sheep that they have no Shepherd,
must have been taught them, for all men's sake, by One
whom they know not, "whose the sheep are." But
direct and immediate helpers of the suffering and
wronged one, except where they follow in the crucified
and risen Shepherd's footsteps, they are not. Those
whom social science cannot help, since life is so short
and science is so slow, Christ the " Shepherd and
Bishop of souls," can help ; He helps them at once.
Those whom social science cannot help, because it
demands understanding, while they are silly as "sheep,"
He can help, because, " He is made unto them Wisdom."

II.

What then is the risen Shepherd's counsel, which the
apostle brings out of His empty grave for the help of
every man who is suffering wrongfully ? " Endure
grief." " Bear up under " (uTro^epe'pa ; Vulg. sustinef)


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Online LibraryThomas HancockThe pulpit and the press, and other sermons, most of which were preached at S. Nicholas Cole Abbey → online text (page 10 of 22)