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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have been written and given away to boys as a school
prize ; his native town would have raised his statue with
acclamations. But God said to him, as God still says
to such men by fever, or bankruptcy, or a scapegrace
son, or burglars, or terror of death, " Thou fool ! " The
rich man had two ends in life. He was not like the
miser who has only one end. His first end was to make
money, to serve mammon, to exploit the labour of his
needy brothers and sisters in building up for himself a
splendid temple of capital. But he had a further end.
When the temple of mammon was built he meant to
take his rest in it " I will say to my soul, Soul, thou
hast much goods laid up for many years ; take thine
ease, eat, drink, and be merry." It was not his sin
against God and mankind that he meant to make a bad
use of wealth when he had it. Idle enjoyment of
wealth created by others, gluttony, drunkenness, and
luxury are sins ; but this man did not live long enough
to sin after this sort ; he was too much occupied with
the sin of covetousness and fortune-making. But sup-
pose this rich fool had said, " What shall I do, because I
have no room where to bestow my profits ? I will pull
down my factories and build greater, and there I will
earn a hundredfold increase of my profits. And I will
say to my soul, Soul, thou hast countless thousands well
laid out and bringing in magnificent interest ; take
thine ease, build hospitals, endow churches, support
charities for the poor and naked brothers and sisters by
whose labour thou has made thyself rich." To him also
God must say, " Thou fool ! " He had sinned all along ;


as St. Basil puts it, " He has been a spoliator by using
God's gifts to all, as if they were his own property."
Or, as St. Bernard says, " God had all along been saying
to him through the groans and murmurings of the
hungry and unemployed, We have earned in cold and
want what thou storest up. What profit to us, whose
labour has created their value, are all thy exchanges,
the extension of thy fields, the things folded up in thy
baggages ? Ours is that which thou consumest ; from
us thou hast cruelly withdrawn that which thou spendest
in vanity. Yet we are the handiwork of God, we are
redeemed with Christ's blood. We, therefore, are your
brothers . . . Everything which adds to your vanities
is drawn from our necessities."

It is as illegal in the kingdom of God to aim at
heaping up capital in order to be a pious philanthropist,
as it is to aim at heaping up capital in order to be a
luxurious epicurean, or a patron of art and culture. It is
not the ulterior end, it is the primary end of such a life,
the perversion of individual life into an anti-Christian
and anti-social calculation how to make a fortune, which
the Saviour of mankind condemns ; because no man
can live this sort of life except by serving mammon,
and to serve mammon is to insult the Father and
wrong the family of God, which is mankind, and to
stifle that which is of God in individual life.


" For as the lightning cometh out of the East, and shineth
even unto the West : so shall also the coming of the Son of Man
be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be
gathered together." ST. MATT. xxiv. 27, 28.

WE have seen this week in our city, and in other
places of our nation, what may be called the
"coming of the lightning out of the East," and its
glaring, terrifying, destructive " Epiphany z unto the
West." In ancient Jerusalem, indeed, the East, the
seat of the sunrise, was the symbol of hope and new
life to man and the world. In the capital of our
Western island, "the East" has become a symbol of
misery and despair. It is the lair of the underpaid
work, and the want of work, whose direct children
crime and destruction are. In "the East" is generating
the anti-social force by which those whom God made to
be men and women are being dehumanised into the
vulture. If we English people, like the people of Jeru-
salem, refuse to be gathered together by the Son of
Man united rich to poor, educated to ignorant, as one
family of equal brothers and sisters in Him our day of
judgment, the end of our world, the consummation of
our age, cannot long be delayed. Unless England
repents, and rises out of her moral and social death, the
Son of Man must appear and let loose " the vultures "

1 " Shineth (phainetai) even unto the West."


by whose dreadful ministry He will destroy the carcase
of a corrupt and putrid civilisation.

The Son of Man, as the Judge of the privileged and
as the Avenger and Knight of the unprivileged, called
His Apostles, and through His Apostolic Church now
calls the conscience and the nations to mark the two
awful social phenomena which are more or less present
in every form of so-called civilisation. It is probable
that he cited a proverb which had long been in circula-
tion, one of which He, as the Eternal Word, was the
original suggester, and which is to be found under some
variation in the daily speech of every people. 1 As in
the physical world, so in the social and spiritual world,
we see " the eagles " (" vultures " is a better rendering of
the original), and we see "the carcase." If the social
" carcase " were not lying in Jerusalem, or in London, or
in Leicester, or in Birmingham, defiling God's pure air
with its vile putrescence, there would be no gathering of
the " vultures."

What, then, is "the carcase"? It is the corrupt and
false society, not solidly built up and compacted upon
the foundation which the Father of all has laid for each
the common and equal brotherhood, the duty of all to
work, and to live by their work : but puffed up on the
treacherous and unreal foundations of privilege, interest,
class, caste, or party, which pervert brethren and sisters
into enemies and competitors. The one legitimate
object and end of society is that which the Head and
Bond of all fellowship in heaven and earth is indicating
to conscience and the nations, by sending His Church
into all the world with the Sacrament of Baptism.
The end and reason of society is the presenting of every
man perfect in Christ Jesus. No human creature can

1 Grotius speaks of Latin adages with similar meaning, and
quotes "What vulture's prey will this corpse be ?"


develop into a vulture, a creature of prey and
destruction, if he receives that which God by the
Sacrament of Baptism is continually declaring to be
the property of the very lowest and grossest on the
earth first, an education and nurture as the dear child
of the Most High ; secondly, the duties and rights of
a free man in the government of the Kingdom of His
Son. The " carcase " is a national society, such as
Jesus saw in elect and privileged Jewry, proud and
vauntful of its commercial development and of its
religious vitality, but really " dead in (social) trespasses
and sins " a body from which the grieved Spirit of
God, the Lord and Life-giver, has departed.

It is the tendency of the old Adam in us, contrary
to the call of our new Adam, Christ Jesus, to look first
at the anti-social " vultures," and only afterwards, or not
at all, at the social " carcase." Whenever the forestar
of the Day of Judgment is in the social heavens, when
the lightning from the East glares upon the vile
corrupted social carcase in the West, we shall hear
urgent cries all around us, as the Son of Man said
we should, " Lo, here is the Christ ! or there ! For there
shall arise false Christs and false prophets " optimist
statisticians and lying political economists, dextrous
statemongers and solicitors-general to Mammon " who
shall show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray,
if possible, even the elect." They will speak to us from
the editorial chairs of the newspapers, from the
platforms of public meetings for the protection of the
interests of Mammon and the few against the demands
of the Father of all. What will be their Gospel, their
new commandment, their counsel of perfection ? We are
hearing it already, " Shoot the vultures ! "

It is a crafty counsel, such as we might expect from
the synagogue of Satan. If we can but shoot or cage



all " the vultures " which get within our range we shall
certainly save the God-offending carcase for a little
time longer. But the Son of Man in this parable does
not lay the stress upon the destructive force of " the
vultures," nor upon their multitudinous "gathering
together " their mobbing but upon the existence of
so horrible a thing as the social corpse, which stinks in
the nostrils of the Father, and which must inevitably
gather together, to devour and pillage it, these ministers
of His vengeance. "The vultures" are the men and
women, the boys and girls, the thieves and prostitutes,
whom by its cruel and selfish use or neglect of them,
while it was still inhabited by the Spirit of Life, the
society perverted out of humanity into vulturehood.

No sane man denies not the wildest revolutionist
who dreams that the heavenly Jerusalem can be built
up in London or New York in five minutes that
thieves, rioters, and looters ought to be caged on the
spot, and severely punished. The Christ of God is not
like the Vice-Christs in the Vatican. He grants no
indulgences to transgressors, poor or rich. Poverty and
hunger, like superabundance of wealth and fulness of
bread, are temptations, and behind each form of
temptation lurks the devil. Jesus is the Forgiver of all
our sins, and our Rescuer from all our temptations, and
for those very reasons He is the Punisher of the very
least sin. Every boy who throws a stone at a club-
window or steals a ring out of a jeweller's shop is urged
by the devil to the deed, and he is told by the Holy
Ghost, the Spirit of the Judge within him, at the moment
he is doing it, that he has no right to do it. 1 But a

1 How far he may justify those who are really maddened by
their hunger, or the hunger of their children, in taking bread, I
do not say : but we are bound sometimes to read in Church what
He said to the Pharisees and Sadducees of His age. (St. Luke
vi- 3, 4-)


coarse thief who steals because he will not work is just
as truly a sinner against the Father and against the
brethren as a man who is devoting all his time and his
gifts to exploiting the hard work of his brothers and
sisters, in order to make a fortune for himself. The
deliberate thief, quite as much as the deliberate fortune-
hunter, or as the pocketter of a gambling-bet, is taking
something which the Father has not made his. The
same Judge and King who says outwardly and
inwardly, by His social laws and by His Spirit, to
the plutocrats, "Woe unto you that are rich, for you
have received your consolation," says, to all fortune-
hunters, " Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the
earth," says also to every poor boy and girl, "Thou
shalt not steal."

It can be no question, therefore, with the Christian,
or with any honest man, whether the rioting and looting
of "the vultures" ought to be condoned and left
unpunished. We need no prophet of the newspapers to
tell us that it is wicked to smash and pillage. The
point of the parable of our approaching Judge is that
the destructively wicked, as the Psalmist puts it, are
the sword of God, and that He suffers one form of
wickedness to rage against another form of wickedness
and become its punishment. But the Lord, in His
instruction of His Church, goes much farther than this.
He tells His apostles, and through them all His clergy
in all ages and nations, that they are to regard the
one form of wickedness as the inevitable product of the
other. It is the doctrine of Christ that the social
producer of evil, that which He calls " the carcase," is
fundamentally more horrible and anti-social than the
evil social product that which he calls " the vultures."
There could be no " vultures," or no " gathering
together" of them to national destruction according


to Him who shall come to be London's Judge, unless
the national society, as in religious and wealthy
Jerusalem, had first of all become a " carcase." If a
Babylonish civilisation produces such a brutalised kind
of creatures as the pillagers and burglars, the procurers
and prostitutes, it is to be expected that the creatures
will act according to their kind. But it is less horrible
that they should act according to their kind than that
there should be a kind so to act.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, this saying of the Lord is
introduced as a direct answer to a question of the
apostles. They wanted to know when the end of the
world, the consummation of the age, was to be, and on
what spot the awful events of which He forewarned
them were to take place. They said unto Him, " Where,
Lord ? " And He said unto them, " Wheresoever the
body is, thither will the vultures be gathered together."
That is to say, wheresoever men are adding territory to
territory, field to field, and house to house, there society
must at last be exposed to the fury of the landless and
the houseless. Wherever men are building up fortune
and reputation in the West upon the work of the under-
paid and the half-starved in the East, there the
lightnings of the Son of Man must come out of the
hovels and garrets of the East, and scare and scorch the
palaces of the West. It always has been so ; it always
must be : if we go on building up a Babylon instead of
a Sion, what else can we expect ?

Let us leave it to that other Minister of God who
" bears not the sword in vain," to deal with the ravaging
of " the vultures." Christ calls upon His clergy and
laity to direct all their thinking and acting to the saving
of society from becoming a putrid " carcase," which
must of necessity gather together " vultures." It is our
function to recall the conscience and the nation to the


forgotten and least fashionable portions of the doctrine
of Jesus, the whole of which are needed for the true end
of society the presenting of every man perfect in Christ
Jesus. We have to confront the wealthy and the
wealth-seeker with those texts in the New Testament
which they must wish could be proved to be false
readings, the texts which are never posted upon the
walls, the texts which are never chosen as the titles of
tracts, the texts which are rarely put at the head of
sermons, unless it is to prove that Jesus does not mean
what He says, the texts which make the heart of
Lazarus leap and the heart of Dives fail : " Woe unto
you that are rich " ; " Blessed be ye poor " ; " Go sell all
that thou hast " riches, power with men, learning, place,
art, or whatever else God has given thee and give it
back to Him in His poor, " and come, take up thy Cross,
and follow Me." Who can do it ? How shall we do it ?
Who can be sure that he is doing it ?


"He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered
the proud in the imagination of their hearts ; He hath put down
the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and
meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things ; and the
rich He hath sent empty away." ST. LUKE i. 51-53.

I THINK that this is a fair statement, in better words
than I can formulate, of the hopes and the objects
of the Guild of St. Matthew. We do not suppose that
we can fulfil them ; whatever strength we have comes
from our faith that God has pledged Himself, by the
birth of His Son into our flesh, to their fulfilment. You
are familiar with the words. They broke forth from her
who was at once the humblest and meekest of woman-
kind and the Lady of our race, when she knew that the
Christ was to be born, and that she was to be His

Every nation has what is called its national hymn, but
the Magnificat is the hymn of all peoples. It is the
hymn of humanity, the hymn of all parishes. In every
local commune of the Western nations, where the
wholesome customs of the Church are kept, this hymn
is said or sung every afternoon. For at least twelve

1 Sermon preached for the Guild of St. Matthew at St. Mary-
the- Virgin, Crown Street, Soho, on the Sunday within the Octave
of St. Matthew's Day, 1886.


hundred years this has'been the practice of the Churches.
The parishes or communes of Christendom those old
local, secular societies which become by baptism the
congregations of the Church are far older societies
than the national Kingdoms and Republics ; so this
local parish hymn, the Magnificat^ much more ancient
in its use than any of the so-called national hymns, such
as " God save the Queen," or " Rufst du mein Vaterland!"
or the " Marseillaise'' It will outlive them all. For
every so-called national hymn has war, competition, the
murderous destruction or crippling of sister nations, as
its actual or implied motive ; while the Magnificat has
as its motive the scattering, disappointment, and
depression by God's Son of those classes in every nation
which make wars, which thrive by them, which stir up
unbrotherly hatred and competition between people and
people those three castes whom Mary calls " the
proud," " the mighty," and " the rich," against whom
the Everlasting Father, as He says by the incarnation
of His Son, has declared war.

When the Church, evening after evening, in all her
parishes, is saying this hymn, she is unconsciously fore-
telling the most ignorant and prejudiced of her priests
and people are foretelling that greatest of all revolu-
tions, which the Blessed Virgin saw to be involved in
the birth and work of Him whom she carried in her
womb. To Mary, at that awful moment of inspiration
in which her lips poured forth this song of humanity,
this Marseillaise of all the nations, was revealed the
stupendous social and political reversal which the birth
of the Son of God as the Son of Man, as the son of a
poor carpenter's wife, was bound sooner or later to
produce in all the world. She stood at that moment
upon the eternal ground where past and present and
future are unknown, where our distinction called "time"


has no place : and therefore she spoke as if the far-off
end of the Father for mankind were near and present,
and already reached. She sings of the social revolution
not as about to come down from heaven, and to occupy
ages in the coming, but as having actually come. The
Magnificat is the inspired summary of the tendency and
direction of the future social history of the humankind.
We are so used to this daily hymn as we are to the
air by which we live that it is not easy for us without
a special act of thought to realise the tremendous
character of its contents, and its awful importance to all
sorts and conditions of men and women in the daily
ordering of their lives. In this afternoon hymn of the
universal Church every parish is declaring, and professes
to be joyfully proclaiming, what is the real end of God
in His government of the nations ; how the Son of God
is now actually using that supreme power which has
been given to Him in heaven and in earth ; to what
issue He that sitteth in the heavens is slowly but most
surely developing all " the imagination of the hearts " of
the Herods and the Pilates, the Pharisees and the
Sadducees, the Caesars and the mobs of every age and
every place. " We see not yet," as the Apostle says,
" all things put under Him." But we know by faith
that " He is showing strength with His arm, that He is
scattering the proud in the imagination of their hearts ;
that He is putting down the mighty from their seat ;
that He is exalting the humble and meek ; that He is
filling the hungry with good things, and that He is
sending the rich empty away."

The sword which went through Mary's bosom, as she
saw the apparent defeat of the Son of God upon the
Cross, must in its degree go through ours also as " we
see not yet all things put under Him." But all these
things the arm of the Lord had already rehearsed in the


Egyptian revolution, with which the history of Mary's
nation began, and wherein and whereby God revealed
the law and the process of the social future. The rudi-
mentary materials of Mary's song are historical and
political ; they are all to be found in outline in the song
of Hannah at the birth of the last great prophet of the
republican period of Israel, and in the national Psalter.
God is the same in all generations. If He looked upon
the children of Israel enslaved and cheated out of the
fruits of their labour in the brickfields of " the proud,"
" the mighty," and " the rich " Egyptians, so He must
have been regarding the homeless, the workless, and the
hungry everywhere in Mary's day ; so must He be
regarding them in our day in London. Although they
think that He has forgotten them, although it often
seems to the lowly and the hungry as if God Himself
were neglecting them, they are everywhere more the
objects of His regard, more important to Him, than all
"the proud," "the mighty," and "the rich." God is
always and everywhere at war against these three
classes as the Church declares with joy every after-
noon in this hymn on behalf of the humble, the
meek, and the hungry.

The poor think that no one is on their side, but if
they have the faith of the carpenter's wife they will
see that their cause is moving " the arm of the Lord."
The object of the counsels of the Most High is
the " scattering " of the clever plots and arrangements
made by the proud statesmen and diplomatists of this
world in the conceit of their hearts ; the hurling down
of dynasties, as St. Luke has it in the Greek, " from
thrones," the confusion of imperialist schemes. The
invisible armies of the incarnate Word of God are
fighting on the side of those who are conquered and
beaten on earth ; the angelic almsgivers of the Father


are giving joys and pleasures to ragged children in
narrow streets, and even a possession of the world
which the idle rich and the fine lady would be glad
to buy with thousands of pounds. A great lord
" owns " a park ; but he complains that he can never
enjoy it, as some poor landscape painter does who
perhaps has only a few pence in his pocket.

In the Magnificat we thank God for giving such
alleviations to the humble, the meek, and the hungry.
But the Song predicts, and it demands, for the millions
of our kind, much more than alleviations. The proud,
the mighty, and the rich in Jewry, Heathendom, or in
Christendom have never yet realised the actual con-
tents of the Magnificat. Have the faithful, the humble,
the hungry ever yet realised them ? No such revolu-
tionary hymn, no such socialist song, has ever been
sung by angry crowds, as that which is so quietly and
unsuspectedly said or sung every afternoon in the
thousands of Christian parishes. What is more
wonderful is that it is said or sung daily by the
proud, the mighty, and the rich themselves to their
own condemnation. If there had not been a tacit
assumption amongst us all that its words are not to
be taken in their plain meaning, that it is the business
of the clergy to spiritualise away its three terrible con-
trasts the moral contrast, the political-social contrast,
and the economical contrast into meaning something
distant and unreal, would not the police, in some lands
at least, have prohibited such words from being publicly
said or sung ? " This carpenter's wife," they would say,
" is exciting the parishes to revolution. Her so-called
hymn is nothing less than a disguised socialist war-
song ; it is setting class against class ; it implies that
the three classes, whom she describes as the proud, the
mighty, and the rich, are opposing themselves to God and


goodness, to the coming of the Father's Kingdom and
the doing of His Will on earth. She does not utter one
word in condemnation of the evident vices of the poor
and the hungry. She speaks of the proud being
scattered, the mighty put down from their seats, and
the rich sent empty away ; she actually rejoices in the
vision of this catastrophe of wholesale confiscation.
She has not a word to say on behalf of the rights of
property and class, or of a fair compensation. The
bishops and clergy, if they would earn their pay and
justify their social position, ought to point out the
dangerous tendencies of these revolutionary stanzas.
It would be a very fortunate thing for respectable
society if some eminent critic could prove that it was

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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 2 of 22)