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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spurious, or if some very early manuscript of the third
Gospel could be discovered in which the Magnificat is
wanting." Indeed, it is impossible to imagine anything
more contrary to the sort of hymn which would proceed
from the Virgin of Lourdes, or the Virgin of La Salette,
or the Virgin of Marpingen, or the Virgin of Einsiedeln,
or any other of those local Virgins to whose statues
sound Conservatives and Reactionists all over Europe
are now going on pilgrimage. A Pope has declared
that the Blessed Virgin is the great foe of Socialism.
If the Magnificat be her song, it would be far more
reasonable to call her the Mother of it.

It is my object simply to ask you to look into this
familiar hymn for yourselves. It would be impossible
in a short sermon formally to expound its successive
clauses. That which is called the spiritual exposition
of it, its application to the private soul, is quite fit in
its place, and will permanently remain a help and a
light to the conscience for the Magnificat is the hymn
of every creature. But God is now calling His Church
everywhere, as He called Moses, to consider before all


else the low estate of the desolate and oppressed, who
do not now live as hermits, but in thick crowds. If
all generations are to call Mary " Blessed," their ground
for doing so must have some relation to the condition
of their own generation. What has the Magnificat to
say, or what are the parishes saying by it, to the men
who tramp their native land from end to end and can
find no work, to the men and women who in the
richest city in the world can find no bed at night
except on the seats by the riverside ? It was for their
sakes that the Only-Begotten Son of God was born
of the Virgin Mary, and her hymn must have restored
to it that predominantly secular meaning, that national
meaning for each nation, which it certainly had as it
broke forth from the lips of the daughter of Abraham
and David. " The Lord remembering His mercy," said
the patriotic Mary, " hath holpen His servant Israel ;
as He promised to our forefathers Abraham and His
seed for ever." In her Son, in whom is neither Jew
nor Greek, He has made the same promise to all the
peoples. The Social Revolution " the Restoration
of all things" as the apostle calls it which is now
the articulate or the implicit expectation and hope of
" the hungry " in every nation which so many dream
they can bring about by copying the inhuman methods
of " the proud," " the mighty," and " the rich " is pre-
sented to the heart and conscience in this hymn as the
" promise of the Lord." Mary declared that Revolution,
the parishes of Christendom in their daily afternoon
hymn proclaim it, to be the very object for which the
Son of God was made the Son of Man, the Champion
and Rescuer of Humanity, in Mary's womb. Is He
not revealing Himself in the history of the world, daily
more and more clearly, as the real Head of Humanity,
as the only possible Saviour not only of individual


souls, but of peoples? The great idea which runs
throughout this afternoon hymn of all the Christian
communes is the certainty of the restoration of the whole
world after the Father's original plan, and the assurance
that this reform is only possible by the judgment of
Christ upon those whose whole business and object
it is to thwart the plan of God for all His children
upon the proud, the mighty and the rich. It is God's
method as He had showed throughout the history
of Israel, as He showed at last to the whole world in
the mean birth of His Son, and in the election of
His apostolate, to choose and use "the humble and
meek " in spiritual character, those of " low estate " and
in social standing, even the "hungry," as the great
instruments of His providence. "He hath exalted the
humble and meek," He is exalting them ; He will exalt
them. The theories of Society which are thought out
by slaves under the lash of Egypt, by labourers
sweating in the fields and workshops of the modern
nations, and not those elaborated in the prudential
councils of statesmen or by comfortable professors of
plutocratic economy, are those which exhibit the fullest
reflection of the Kingdom of God's Son, and which
God has fore-ordained to prevail and to be realised.
" He hath put down the mighty from their seats," or,
as the Evangelist of the Nations renders it in his Greek,
" He hath deposed the dynasts from thrones." Is not
the Church praying for the prevalence and the realisa-
tion of the social theories of the "hungry" when she
says, " Father, Thy Kingdom come ; Thy Will be done
on earth, as it is in Heaven ; Give us this day our daily
bread?" By "the hungry" whom could the Blessed
Mother have meant except that part of society to
which she and St. Joseph belonged, and to which the
Lord of all was to belong carpenters, and fishermen,


and those who worked daily for their bread ? If you
say she must have meant those who " hunger and thirst
for righteousness," would not this Mother reply, " There
is no ' righteousness ' so long as there is any soul in a
nation without a certainty of daily bread"? Would
she not say, " There is no ' hunger for righteousness '
where it is not the supreme care of the commune and
the state that all may eat and be satisfied " ? The
" good things " with which she foresaw the Father had
pledged Himself by the Incarnation of His Son to fill
the hungry literally the "possessions" or property
("mzt gutern" as Luther has it) must mean, as the
contrast in the text demands, such things as we are
fond of calling temporal and worldly. The gaining of
a great fortune, or a high social position, may be called
temporal or worldly in the unchristian sense ; for such
gains are a man's achievement for himself possibly
with the devil's and the world's help, and by the
oppression or outstripping of his brothers and sisters.
But " daily bread " is not temporal and worldly in this
sense, as the whole of the Old Testament bears witness.
It is the characteristic gift of the Eternal, and so the
Church confesses by the central place which she is
obliged to give it in her chief prayer in the Lord's
prayer. Yes, the Magnificat is a Secularist hymn ; and
its rich spiritual contents can only be fully disclosed in
an age like our own to those who are caring, praying,
and working for its secular fulfilment.


" In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand
for an Ensign of the People. And He shall set up an Ensign for
the Nations and shall assemble the outcasts." ISA. xi. 10, 12.


SOME years ago, before Johann Most was expelled
from Germany, he attempted to persuade the
German Socialists to what he called a " Massenaustritt "
a formal and deliberate exodus of the masses of the
" desolate and oppressed " from the fellowship of the
Church. He dogmatically and pontifically declared,
"Socialism shall not be Christian : all ye who would
enter into the new perfect social order must first of
all abandon Christ." Johann Most, if I err not, was
educated as a Catholic. He knew, therefore, that entry
into the Church is marked by a formal and personal act,
such as the simplest of our kind can understand. He
thought that a schism of the exploited men and women
from the Society of the Son of Man, and their in-
corporation in the new Socialist society, had become
a duty. He concluded that the departure of men out
of the Church ought to be marked by some act as
formal and personal as that by which they had entered
it. Most's conception allowing for the utter unlike-
ness of the Zeitgeist which ruled the seventeenth
century to that by which the nineteenth century is



ruled was akin to that of the early German Ana-
baptists and English Quakers. They also were moved
by their horror at the moral apostasy of the Church,
at its complacent substitution of the precepts of
Mammon for the commandments of -the Father, to call
upon all who hungered and thirsted for righteousness to
" renounce" that Baptism which they had received from
the false and anti-Christian Church, and to enter by a
new baptism with water, as the Anabaptists said ;
without water, as the Quakers said into a wholly new
and more promising Church. I have no inclination to
condemn them. Christ sent them to condemn us, and
to call us to repentance. We see in our own age how
easy it is for straightforward men, when they observe
how the Church and the clergy are penetrated through
and through with worldliness how they reject, per-
secute, exclude from the full proof of their ministry the
" prophets and wise men and scribes " whom " the
Wisdom of God " never ceases to " send unto " them
to hurry to the conclusion that the Catholic Church,
or a National Church, or a Parochial Church, can be
nothing better than one of the provinces of that " whole
world " that " lieth in wickedness." It is easy for a just
man to imagine that the priests, quite as truly as the so-
called "patrons" to whom they owe the exercise of their
ministry, are nothing but creatures of " the world," its
historical products and its present servants. As I do
not feel any call to condemn the Anabaptists and
Quakers, neither do I feel any freedom to rail after
the fashion of a journalist or a mammonist at that
extravagant action of Johann Most. The Apostle of
the Nations has taught us to look first inside the
community of the elect people for the cause of that
which is ungodly, anti-Christian, outside the Church.
" The Name of God," he said to that apostate common-


wealth of which he nevertheless thanked God he was
himself a member " is blasphemed among the nations
through you." If the Church has become apostate and
anti-Christian and who can dare to deny that it has ?
the remedy is not a schismatic Austritt, as Novations,
Donatists, Anabaptists, Quakers, Host's Socialists,
Secularists, and others whom the Eternal Word of
God in successive ages has inspired with a Christian
ideal, have imagined. The remedy, as the Church
of every nation and commune is now confessing by the
keeping of another Lent, is to be found in the re-
pentance and amendment of the Church itself. " The
time is come," as the Apostle Peter said, " that judg-
ment must begin at the house of God."


The Church and clergy of England, and particularly
of London, have just been called, by Christ's providence
as Ruler of the Nations, to witness among ourselves
a spectacle the very contrary to that which Johann
Most attempted to produce in Germany. Week after
week lately, instead of a " Massenaustritt" we have
seen an astonishing " Masseniro/rtfc" The non-church-
going " masses " have taken to churchgoing. We have
seen what journalists of Mammon and Caste call an
"invasion of the Churches" by the poor Socialists. We
have seen nothing else like it in our generation. " This
is the Lord's doing ; and it is marvellous in our eyes." J

1 It is exactly a hundred years ago, in 1787, that King George
the Third issued a proclamation " requiring and commanding all
our loving subjects, of what quality or degree soever, and every
of them, decently and reverently to attend the worship of God
on the Lord's day, on pain of our highest displeasure, and of
being proceeded against, with the utmost rigour that may be, by


For fifty years the National Bishops and the patron-
made clergy the pastors who have been chosen for the
" masses " by Mammon and Caste have been at their
wits' end how to persuade the crowds of the disinherited
and oppressed to become, or own themselves to be,
members incorporate of Christ's Church. They have
spent millions of pounds, they have held thousands
upon thousands of anxious discussions for the solution
of the pressing question " How are we clergy to get
the masses ? " I can only repeat, what I have perhaps
said often enough, that they are beginning at the wrong
end : that it is the will of God that the so-called masses
should " get " the clergy. So far as concerns the
National Bishops, and in a less degree all those clergy
who are appointed by the State, Commonwealth, or
Fatherland, they are indirectly "got" by the masses,
at least by so many amongst them as are freemen,
are citizens, possess votes. By becoming voters they
have become, in their place and degree, factors of the
Government, electors of the Government ; and thus they
indirectly, through their Government, nominate to the
bishoprics. But the parochial clergy, the pastors of the
local communes, do not even possess as legitimate and
as Christian a foundation for their position as that
which can be claimed by the parish Churchwardens.
The parish Churchwardens are the elect of the people,
Church, or congregation : they are the men chosen
for office by " the masses " : they stand on exactly as
secure a ground, in point of popular authority, as
St. Stephen or St. Philip did. They have been placed
where they are, as St. Stephen and St. Philip were,
by " the multitude of the disciples." The rector or
vicar, on the contrary, has not been placed where he
is by "the multitude of the disciples" by "the masses"
as we now talk. He has been placed there by some


individual lord of land, some individual owner of money,
or by some caucus of trustees who want to confine
the Universal Church of all ages and all persons within
the narrow bounds of some party which represents
the prejudices, ignorances, and negligences of one
particular age or class. The assistant clergy who
in really civilised States and parishes are freely elected
by "the masses" in our semi-civilised England are
dismissible wage-servants of the patron-imposed in-
cumbent. Unless they are careful to offend neither
Caste nor Mammon the feudal and the commercial
exploiters of the one common Church they usually
find themselves, when they have arrived at middle-
age, excluded by these two allied Antichrists from
any further exercise of the ministry which they have
received of the Lord. No power but that of " the
multitude of the disciples," nothing but an extension
of the so-called " invasion of the Church by the masses "
from the material to the spiritual or social Church can
restore to Jesus Christ the service and ministry of which
He is now being robbed by Caste and Mammon. The
poor priests of the Lord ought to look to the poor
alone, to the masses of the common people, to "the
multitudes of the disciples," to liberate His Church
" from the patronage and control " not " of the State "
or sacred Fatherland, as the plutocratic Liberationists
say but from the patronage and control of anti-
Christian Caste and Mammon. "The mighty" and
" the rich " of the Magnificat, by getting the officering
of all the local congregations of Christ into the grasp of
landlords and money lords have not only despoiled
every local people of their highest spiritual rights and
obligations, but by substituting " patronage " for free
election they have perverted the very tribune of the
people, the local representative of Jesus Christ the


Redeemer the parish priest into a creature and
a representative of class and " property."

The " masses " know, or are beginning now in the
Father's good providence to know, not merely what it is
to be robbed, but that they have been and are being
robbed. They are beginning to learn that they have
been thrust off the common land : the " commons" of
the local commonwealths have been perverted into
sporting preserves for Caste, or into " eligible building
estates " for Mammon. They are beginning to learn
that the free common schools have been appropriated to
the sole profit of the same two Antichrists. But they
have yet to learn the last and most momentous lesson
of all that Caste " the mighty " and Mammon " the
rich " have successively expropriated " the multitude of
the disciples," or "the masses," or "the common people"
of that which is God's appointed witness to their rights
in the land and the school. Caste and Mammon have
made the Church and its priesthood their own. The
mighty and the rich have carried away Sion itself into
captivity in Babylon. If " the masses " the carpenters,
the fishermen, the rate-collectors, the tent-makers had
retained the common Church and her ministry, which
the Son of Man entrusted to their keeping, in which
His apostles declared them to be rightful freemen or
electors, it would have been impossible for them to be
robbed of the common land or of the common school.
If " the whole multitude of the disciples," the masses,
the common people, will but reassert their claims and
place in the universal Spiritual Society, in the common
Church of all the peoples, then the common land and
the common school must infallibly return to that whole
humanity to which the Lord gave the one and for which
He instituted the other. The Church is His permanent
spiritual and social witness to "all nations" by the


apostolic or episcopal order, to every local parish or
commune by its own freely-elected priest that the
earth hath He given to the children of men, and not
to the caste of Raubritter or Raubadel, robber-nobles
or robber-knights, which in " the times of ignorance"
degraded Christ's freemen into its own slaves or villeins.
The bishops and priests of the common Spiritual Society
are God's witnesses that " every man that cometh into
the world" is the subject of His own inward enlightening
and educating Word, and therefore an inheritor by
divine right of the school.


I am quite aware that some will object, " Do you
then call the organised mob of Socialists who thronged
into St. Paul's Cathedral on Sunday a " multitude of the
disciples " ? I will not stay to indicate in detail the
signs of discontent, murmuring, and quarrelling which
the apostles saw in those " masses " in Jerusalem, whom
they nevertheless included within " the multitude of the
disciples." A "disciple," I need scarcely tell you, is a
learner. A disciple is one who adopts the maxims and
laws of another as the only full and complete expression
of his own belief and his own duties. It is very hard
indeed to conceive of the minority whom the journalists
call "the respectable churchgoers" who regard the
church-going of the Socialists as an invasion of their
own private spiritual and ecclesiastical preserve, who
think that the proper use of St. Paul's Cathedral is to
provide gratuitous concerts and entertaining sermons for
the well-to-do as "disciples" of Jesus Christ. The very
first lesson which Jesus teaches every " disciple " who
enters into His school is the ungodliness and inhumanity
of the attempt to be rich. I need not quote texts. You


know them all. Although you will not find them in the
publications of the Tract Societies which Caste and
Mammon maintain for the " conversion " of the masses,
and although you will never see them exposed upon the
walls of a railway station, you can easily find them in a
New Testament, or you may read them on the banners
of the Socialists.

If some old Athenian philosopher had risen from the
dead, or some Mohammedan, ignorant of the words of
Christ and His apostles, had come into the streets of
London on Sunday and watched the great multitude
surging into St. Paul's Cathedral, they would naturally
have asked, " Whose disciples are all these men ?
What leader do they follow ? From whom do they
derive the axioms and rules which are moving them ? "

Have you, my brethren, looked at the banners of this
" mob " ? Have you observed " whose image and super-
scription " they bear ? It is not Caesar's, not Victoria's,
not Gladstone's, not Schnadhorst's, not Hyndman's.

You see that they carry banners with mottoes upon
them. Who is the author of those texts which express
the social faith of this huge multitude ? From what
teacher have they borrowed the dogmas which they call
upon all the city to read and to respect, to observe and
to obey? On whose authority are these innumerable
crowds of the poor and rough doing this unwonted
thing ? They, or a great many of them, call themselves
" Socialists." Let us read what is on their banners ; let
us discover who is the ultimate dogmatist of this
multitudinous sect.

Christians, as you watch the mighty multitude pass
by, you will soon be shaken out of many of your hasty
d priori conjectures. Do you expect to read upon their
banners wild words of their own invention ? Do you
expect extracts from Babeuf or from Proudhon, or even


from Ferdinand Lassalle or Karl Marx? Are not the
"Socialists" their disciples? Ought not the mottoes
by which they declare before the world their convictions,
their demands, their faith, to be extracted from Das
Kapital or from the Arbeiterprogramm ? Oh, come, all
ye faithful ! Look again and again at these inscriptions.
Recognise, while you have time, what they are : see,
clergy and laity, out of whose mouth the cries of " the
mob " have come. They are the words of your Master.
They are the laws of the Eternal Father. They are the
lessons which He taught us by His Son. They are the
new commandments which you and I were pledged
at our baptism to keep. " Feed My lambs ! " " My
house is a house of prayer, but ye (capitalists and
landlords) have made it a den of thieves ! " " / was
an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat ; naked, and ye
clothed Me not." It is a small matter to what sect
or party this great " multitude " fancies it belongs, or
by what denomination it pleases to call itself. You
can see to whom they have felt obliged to go in order
to find the fullest expression of their faith. "In the
name of our God," said the crowds of the London poor,
as well as the Hebrew psalmist, " we will set up our
banners." We have not seen in our generation any
other such warning, or any other such an acknowledg-
ment, that Jesus Christ the crucified is He whom the
Father has exalted to be the Head of Humanity, to lift
up an ensign for the peoples, to be the one and only
all-sufficient mediator, representative, spokesman, and
avenger of " all that are desolate and oppressed." This
" sign of the Son of Man " is all the more amazing
because it is so unintentional.

What is all the after-dinner talk at the tables of
Caste and Mammon, or all the unmoral and unsocial
wordspinning of Christian Evidence companies, over the


possibility of reconciling Darwinism and " Christianity "
compared with that evidence which the Son of Man
Himself sets before the corrupt and unbelieving Church
in the faith and hope, in the hunger and thirst after
righteousness, of those who do not even know that He
is their teacher and their leader ? Can we doubt that it
is the Son of Man Himself who has come again into
His Church in the persons of this rough multitude of
His disciples ? " The Son of God goes forth to war."
These, whatever they may call themselves, are bearing
His banner ; they " follow in His train." They are
marching " manfully under His banner," as the office for
Holy Baptism puts it, " against sin, the world, and the
devil " against selfishness, Caste-rule, and Mammon-
rule. May each one of them " continue Christ's faithful
soldier and servant unto his life's end." May he freely
subject himself to the rule of Him by whom he sees
the world needs to be ruled.

The undogmatic " socialism " of the desolate and
oppressed, when it speaks freely out of its own heart and
conscience, falls back upon the words with which the
crucified and ascended Head of Humanity has provided
His brothers and sisters. It reminds " Christians " that
they are living in rebellion against Christ. It does not
articulately name itself " Christian Socialism." No : but
it declares inarticulately that the thing which econo-
mists, politicians, scholars in hatred or in love call
" Socialism " is itself " Christian."


" Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be
to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour ; which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign
unto you : Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger." ST. LUKE ii. 10-12.

THE evangelist here shows us the contents of the
first Christmas Day sermon. He calls the Church
to look at the first preacher of the Gospel and the first
hearers of it. It is significant that we owe this story of

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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 3 of 22)