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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nation, you must not go only into our English fields,
but you must go also along Thames' side and into the
docks. The land of England is not so English as it
once was. While we have been boasting of our progress
in empire, commerce, manufacture, politics, tolerance,
culture, and other things some good, some questionable
our native soil, in the process of our history, has been
becoming less and less ours, getting concentrated into
the hands of fewer and fewer landowners. It cannot be
said to be owned by England as a whole : it is not
owned by the parishes as communities. The process
of inclosing, or confiscating, lands once common has
gone on without a protest from either of the rival
political parties which divide the State, and in turn
share its profits amongst their chief agents. Neither
of them has been free from the sin of giving up to Party
what was meant for Mankind. Hence it is that
England is not yet England's own property, and is
not yet used mainly for the production of a harvest
for everybody in the land, as it ought to be ; but it is
largely misused for the production of fortune, pleasure,
social predominance, or political power for the few.



BREAD: THE GIFT OF GOD 115

Our English harvest is not principally sown and
reaped upon English ground, but upon Russian,
Hungarian, American, and other foreign ground. We
undoubtedly owe God thanksgiving to-day for the
strength which He has . given to our foreign brethren
labouring in their fields, and for the fertility with which
He has visited and blessed soils beyond the sea. If
there were no land to supply us with bread except our
own England which is not yet completely ours we
English should be starving, or hurrying into bestial
savagery, instead of giving thanks. All culture begins
and continues through agriculture. Therefore we ought
not to forget in our Harvest Thanksgiving that we are
depending for our daily bread, for our salvation from
famine and from relapse into barbarism, not wholly
upon our own labour in our land, but chiefly upon the
continuity of peace with our foreign brothers. Our
great nation, although it has not lost its old creative
genius in art and science, is now forced to live upon
charity conditioned by commerce. Rich as we still are
in the inventive and discerning spirit, we are beggars
for our daily bread, though we beg with money instead
of words. The Old Testament ideal is certainly not
now realised in our New Testament land : " The Feast
of Harvest, the first fruits of thy labour which thou hast
sown in the field, and the feast of ingathering, which is
in the end of the year, which thou hast gathered in thy
labours out of the field." We have now to buy, at what
price the synods or " rings " of Mammon please, that
which other peoples have sown, and other peoples
gathered, in fields not our own.

It is true that our debt to our foreign brethren has its
good side. In the fact that so much of the daily bread
of England has again to be fetched in ships from Russia
or America, we may see something pentecostal, akin to



116 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

the origin and purpose of the humane-universal fellow-
ship, the Catholic Church. It is the Lord's witness, like
the sign of tongues on Whitsun Day, that Moab and
Israel, Russia and England, are equally His chosen
peoples, under the culture of His common Spirit of life
and unity, dependent upon one another as fellow-
members of that indivisible Humanity of which His Son
is the King and Redeemer.

II.

The bankrupt widow Naomi, an emigrant in the
foreign land of Moab, "heard in the country of Moab
how that the Lord had visited His people" that is, her
own nation and fatherland Israel "in giving them
bread." A poor, desolate, half-ruined widow is the first
actress in this godly drama. For her sake, insignificant
as she looks upon the world's gay stage, there is a
harvest in Israel. For the sake of such as Naomi, the
Lord visits His people in all lands "giving them bread."
Is it not the office of His ordained servants to ask
whether they are getting what He is "giving them"?
A nation's harvest is here called the Lord's visitation :
it is a new coming of the Lord to the whole people. He
comes again, so to speak, with the people's yearly bread
in His hand. Whenever He comes it is as Saviour and
Judge. " The harvest," said the Lord to His apostles,
" is the end of the world " " the consummation of the
age." A secular harvest is a rehearsal, or is a revelation,
of that eternal harvest at which He opens His book and
judges the nations, separating them one from another,
blessing some and cursing others, according as they
have recognised Him, have fed and consoled Him, in
the hungry and thirsty, poor and naked, outcast and
persecuted, who are inseparable from Him. We ought



BREAD: THE GIFT OF GOD 117

to ask ourselves, in the presence of the unseen great
white throne, whether it be in any degree our fault,
politically and socially, if the Lord does not visit His
people in England upon their own soil with bread
enough and to spare? We ought to ask ourselves
whether it be in any degree our fault that so many of
His people uncomforted Naomis, worse that unwedded
Ruths perish in England for lack of bread ? Ought
we not in the earth's culture, as in spiritual culture, to
be " looking for and hastening unto the coming of the
day of God"? If we are obliged to send to other
peoples to buy some of the bread which the Lord has
given them, is it because He has given us too little
land? Or is it because we are not insisting that the
land which He has given us shall be put to the use for
which He gave it, shall be made directly profitable to
poor Naomis and all His people, and less luxuriously
profitable to a very few of them ? I am not enough of
an expert to say how far our English land, if it were all
honestly and piously in use, would support all the
English people ; but having freshly come from sister-
lands Switzerland, Germany Belgium, and France I
have been struck afresh at the contrast between the
exhaustive use which their peoples make of their land,
even of their poorest land, and the unthankful and
niggardly use which we are making of our own noble
land.

The national priest owes it to his Master and his
brethren to say that no English parish can hold an
ideal harvest festival until all English land really
belongs to all England. We have the example of a
noble band of foregoers of our order. From the age of
the Tudors to the outbreak of the Civil War, the
Anglican episcopate and priesthood were never wanting
in men who gave prophetic " testimony before kings "



118 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

against the aristocratic land-robbers and church-robbers,
although our partisan historians have taken little or no
notice of them. I know of no modern sermon more
faithful or revolutionary than the appeal of the brave
priest, Francis Trigge, to James the First, to be a
national king, the champion and tribune of the people,
against the puritanical nobles and gentry who were
turning arable land into great pastures, perverting the
public commons into private parks and gardens, depopu-
lating whole townships, decaying tillage, maintaining
obsequious Nonconformist preachers and services in
their halls in opposition to the priest of the community
in the common parish church. He aptly called his
appeal " The humble petition of two poor sisters, the
Church and Commonwealth, for the Restoring of their
ancient Commons and Liberties, which late Inclosure
with Depopulation hath taken away." A national
harvest festival, after the splendid type of the Old
Testament, must be preceded by the honest nationalisa-
tion of the land, and a parish harvest festival by a more
complete re-commonalisation of the land than Francis
Trigge could demand from Elizabeth or James. Look
at the land around our London where certainty of
daily bread is so sore a need, so hard for all to get ! Is
not the earth " groaning," as the Nations' Apostle said
to the Church of Rome, under the present tyranny of
the fleshly pomp and vanity, the devilish competition
and money-worship, of this wicked world? It is all
but exclusively grass land on the north of London,
separated from London itself by an ominous fringe of
" building land." Caste and Mammon, idle fashion and
busy competition, demand prodigious quantities of food
for their horses ; so the land cannot be spared to grow
corn and fruit for English men, women, and children,
and wholesomely employ them on its culture. Every



BREAD: THE GIFT OF GOD 119

one must own, apart from any socialist or anti-socialist
theories which may be stained by the fallibility and
secularity of the mere Zeitgeist or age-spirit that the
Eternal Spirit, the Lord of Ages, is now showing us in
manifold ways that our land is not yet in the hands
which can turn it to the best use, the most national and
most humane use. We in London are being punished
with a plague of horses. We seem near a realisation of
the satirists' imaginary " State " in which men are
governed by horses. Even if a thousand fine ladies
could bring themselves to be drawn around the Park by
one horse instead of two horses, some land would be
redeemed to find bread for a thousand hungry sisters.
The idle " masher," who is strong enough to go on his
own legs like his poorer fellow-tramp, and whose time is
of no value to the Commonwealth, might walk instead
of dashing to and from his goal in a hansom. In the
midst of the Babylonish noise of the horses and wheels
of London, as well as in the stillness of the depopulated
sheep walk or deer forest, the Word of God in our flesh
is still asking, " Is not a man better than a beast ? " It
is a horror to think of the immense reaches of land
perverted from the humane and pious use of "giving
the Lord's people bread," and restrained to the breeding
of poor beasts and birds, in order that fashion and
idleness may prove their heredity from the "noble"
savage, and have "something to kill."

III.

If there be something pentecostal, carrying back our
thoughts to the beginning of the universal Church, in
the character which our national history and develop-
ment have outwardly given to the modern English
harvest, there is an abiding pentecostal character in



120 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

the harvest festival itself. We celebrate it in the house
of Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life the sus-
tenance of every human spirit, soul, and body. The
every-day social life of the Church during her pentecostal
days is exhibited to us in the Acts of the Apostles as a
sort of continuous harvest festival. Our first fathers
and mothers in the Catholic faith and fellowship,
"breaking bread from house to house, did eat their
meat with gladness, and singleness of heart." They
recognised the grace and lovingkindness of the world's
Saviour in taking and consecrating the most vulgar
need of the world's life to serve as the symbol and
vehicle of the highest and deepest need of the individual
and the race joyful communion with the Eternal
Unity, and with one another in Him. Each ordinary
meal became to them, as it ought to be to the Christian,
a household eucharist, a little harvest festival, a sign
that the God of all was visiting them " in giving them
bread." But the exultant faith of the young Church
could not confine itself within the household. The
Churchman was more than a family man, more than
a citizen. He was the member of a body which had
been called out to bear witness to the filial relation
of every man, woman, and child to the Eternal. The
Church's joyous faith could only outwardly exhibit the
fulness of its contents for humanity in one simple form ;
it could be satisfied with nothing narrower than that
which we now call Socialism. Its socialism was in-
stinctive ; it was prophetic ; it was not scientific. It
saw, by the light of the Holy Spirit, that "our daily
bread " could be nothing meaner than the social gift
of God to His "people" not merely an individual
gift to so many persons as could get it, but His gift
for " distribution " to every person that " had need."
On the day of Pentecost, as the birthday of the Church,



BREAD: THE GIFT OF GOD 121

the Spirit had revealed to the apostles whom Jesus Christ
had chosen, the unity and solidarity of man's whole
kind in Christ. He had shown them that all languages
were holy languages, and that every nation was a
people of God. It is an obligation inherited by the
bishops whom Christ has sent to the nations, by the
priests whom He has sent to the communes, to insist
by word and deed that the Lord's peoples everywhere
shall get in its fulness that which the Lord is "giving
them Bread."



THE APOSTOLIC FUND IS NOT SILVER
AND GOLD BUT THE NAME OF JESUS
CHRIST OF NAZARETH '

" Silver and gold have I none : but such as I have give I thee :
in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."
ACTS iii. 6.

THE episode of the healing of the lame beggar at
the gate of the Temple holds an important
place, historically and doctrinally, in the life of the
Church. It is "the beginning of miracles" in the work
of Christ's body, the Church, like the turning water
into wine in Christ's own work. It is the first of the
recorded "Acts of the Apostles" after the definite
formation and equipment of the Church. It is the
earliest explanation of Pentecost, otherwise than by
preaching, to a man outside the Church. It is the
first preaching of the Gospel to an individual soul and
body. St. Peter's short saying is the first apostolical
orientation of the right position of the new universal-
humane Society, and particularly of the rulers of that
Society, towards silver and gold and bank-notes.

I.

A few words concerning the apostolical saying, and
especially the negative half of it, may be not un-
profitable upon a day when the successor of the

1 Fifth Sunday after Easter, 1889 (Bishop of London's Fund).

122



THE APOSTOLIC FUND 123

apostles in the Church of London is asking all his
congregations to give him alms for the healing of the
thousands of lame souls and bodies at the gate of the
Temple, in the hope that they may enter with the
apostles, and the healed beggar, into the Temple at the
hour of prayer, "walking, and leaping, and praising
God."

The circumstances differ. It is the successor of the
apostle who asks the Church for alms that he may
give them, in the shape of clergy and churches, to the
successors of the lame beggar. It is not the successor
of the lame beggar who to-day asks the apostle for
alms, and gets something better. The London suc-
cessors of the lame beggar in Jerusalem, the poor, as
they make their cries articulate, do not seem to be
asking for apostles, bishops, priests, temples, or services.
Neither do they now openly ask for an alms. He
whom " God hath exalted with His right hand to be
a Prince and a Saviour," has so used the ruling and
liberating power given Him in heaven and on earth,
as to change the old cry for an alms into the new cry
for justice and right from apostles and from all in any
authority. Justice and right can at once be given to
those at the gate of the Temple, so far as apostles
can give it, less completely by giving them more clergy
and more services, than by giving back to them, after
the precedent of the apostles in Jerusalem, the full and
free election of the deacons and priests who are to serve
God and them in the new temples.

Oh that the Bishops of England, whom we honour
and obey as the successors of Christ's apostles, would
say to His now lame and beggared congregations in
their dioceses, " In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise
up and walk ! Be new and strong men in Christ ! Be
yourself the Church as you are fast becoming the



124 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

State. Do not content yourselves with being mere
Church-goers. Make full use of the spirit of counsel
and the spirit of government conferred upon you as
members of the body of Christ."

May it not be because the successors of the apostles
now have " silver and gold " the subsidy and appro-
bation of the rich that they do not now say to the
successors of the lame beggar, "In the name of Jesus
Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk ? " The successors
of the apostles, not only in our Church, but in almost
all the national Churches of Christendom, age after
age, have been allowing Mammon's moneyed and
landed " patrons " so called, because they give, or their
ancestors gave, "silver and gold," to despoil Jesus
Christ of Nazareth's moneyless and landless lame
beggars of their most sacred function and ministry,
their share in the government of His congregation and
in the election of its officers. It is our great hope and
prayer that some day a Bishop of London, following
the example of the holy apostles in Jerusalem, will
go to the much "murmuring" (Acts vi. i) folk of the
parishes in East London, "call the multitude of the
disciples unto him," and say : " Brethren, look ye out
amongst you," not only churchwardens and sidesmen,
and singers, but deacons and priests, " of honest report,
full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may
appoint over this business." For the choice of all the
clergy is given by the Head of the Church to all His
people, but the ordination of the chosen to His apostles.
The first Bishop of London who thus follows St. Peter
will give to the lame beggars " power and healing in the
name of Jesus Christ, of the despicable Nazareth."
Such a miracle cannot be wrought by millions of
Mammon's silver and gold.



THE APOSTOLIC FUND 125



II.

The English national episcopate is certainly now
" fastening " its gaze upon the wretched and pauperised
in England, and saying : " Look on us." The fund for
which your offerings are asked is our diocesan re-
petition, in a modern manner, of St. Peter's solemn
invitation. May we add that the invited in our great
cities, whose case is so desperate, give " heed unto them
expecting to receive something of them " ?

Silver and gold have I none. Neither as yet had the
Church much. But it had enough. An apostolic fund,
or a fund for the bishopric of Jerusalem, had been
already formed, as we learn from the foregoing chapter.
" All that believed were together, and had all things
common, and sold their possessions and goods, and
parted them to all men, as every man had need."
There is no escape from the position that, in the bright
morning glow of the full enlightenment of the Holy
Church by the Holy Ghost, it was the Catholic or
universal faith the first conviction of the Christian
conscience that it was a thing monstrous and un-
seemly for any individual Christian to be rich.

St. Peter says that there was no endowment of the
apostolate. " Silver and gold have I " apostle as I
am, and charged with such wide cares for spirit and
body " none." The sense has never been wanting, in
any age of Christendom, that it is not quite a decent
thing for a bishop, as a successor of the apostles, to be
a rich man. The deepest thinker in the English epis-
copate of the eighteenth century, Bishop Butler, was
once suddenly asked to give help to some needy man or
cause. Calling his steward, he said, " How much ready
money have I in the house ? " "A hundred pounds, my



126 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

lord." " What a shame," exclaimed the prelate, " for a
bishop to have such a heap of money." He looked
upon the wealth of the bishopric as belonging to it, and
not personally to himself; and so convinced were his
kinsfolk of his way of looking at it, that they never
expected, like the kinsfolk of other bishops, to get
any share out of the episcopal property after the
bishop's death.

Pampered wits, overpaid statesmen, idle spendthrifts,
rich satirists, and capitalist journalists, as well as poor
men, take much delight in shooting their arrows at
"rich bishops." Let us grant that it is a monstrous
thing for a successor of the apostles to be a man of
great wealth. But why ? Merely because he is a
bishop ? I can imagine no more ultra-clericalist
argument. Is not every layman in the Church a
successor of the apostles? Is he not by call and
confession Christ's disciple? Did Jesus Christ say to
apostles and clergymen only, and to no other Christians,
" Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth " ?
I should like to see the Gospel in which our journalists
and cheap wits have found the texts, " Ye cannot serve
God and Mammon, if ye be bishops or priests, but if
ye be pious railway-directors or philanthropists or
theatrical stars, ye can."

Every argument from the New Testament, or from
Christian reason or economy, which tells against the
great estate and wealth of a bishop, tells with equal
force against the much greater estate and wealth of
a duke, a banker, a manufacturer, a stock-holder, a
tight-rope dancer, a painter, a popular preacher, or a
prima donna if these rich persons profess to be
Christ's disciples. Nay, if a bishop conscientiously
spends his endowment, as the apostles distributed the
endowment of the Church of Jerusalem, or as Bishop



THE APOSTOLIC FUND 127

Butler spent the property of the See of Durham if he
leaves to his own kindred none of the money belonging
to the Church and the poor he may exhibit a clearer
title to his estates and riches, in my judgment, than
most of those to whom a journalist or dissipated satirist
never grudges the heap of silver and gold which they
spend upon feasting, drinking, revelling, gambling,
horse-racing, or operas.

III.

You see that we have opened an inexhaustible
subject, as indeed we always must do when we follow
one of the pregnant sayings of Christ's apostles, and
try to bring it into line with our own moral and social
life. Two correlative facts what money can do, and
what money cannot do continually present themselves
to us in the personal and public experience of all
men.

i. What silver and gold can do none of us need to be
told. Every circular which the post brings us, every
secretary and treasurer of a benevolent movement, as
well as every pulpit, keeps us informed of the miracles
which remain undone only because the would-be doers
of them have not enough "silver and gold." Yet a
world without money, except as an archaeological
curiosity in its museums, as a late novelist has in-
geniously shown us, is quite conceivable. If silver
and gold could do no good, the apostles would not
have encouraged the propertied Christians of Jerusalem
to sell their lands and possessions, and devote all their
individual goods to social uses. To withhold money,
on the plea that it is not so profitable as grace, is
a turning of the grace of God into lasciviousness.
Give silver or gold, but recollect how little you are



128 COLE ABBEY SERMONS

giving, and how inferior a part of the divine and
humane work it can effect.

2. What silver and gold cannot do we need to be
always afresh reminded. It is a lesson which the
conscience and the Church may have learned again
and again by heart, and yet by the drift and colour
of our lives, or by the occurrence of unforeseen
necessities, may again and again forget. The chief
necessity of the Church, as " this beginning of miracles "
in the Church and the apostle's saying imply, is always
within her reach and at her call because " the name of
Jesus Christ of Nazareth" is always within her reach
and at her call. The first and great need of an apostle
for the healing of the spiritually or secularly lame and
beggared is not " silver and gold," which duchesses and
bankers have, and which he has to cajole or frighten
them into giving. An apostle's first need, and every
bishop's first need, is the bold and immediate use of
that which he already has, but which Dives does not
value at a farthing Jesus Christ's wonder-working name
and Word. " Such as I have give I thee ; in the name
of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk ! " When
the great theologian St. Thomas Aquinas, who had
renounced his aristocratic title and his property to serve
Christ and the poor in the Dominican order, was at
Rome, the Pope showed him the luxurious splendour
and wealth of the pontifical palace. " You see, Thomas,"
he said, " Peter cannot now say, ' Silver and gold have I
none.' " " Neither can he now say," replied the saint,
" In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk ! "
The supreme need of the beggars, lame from their birth,
the millions who are born and bred into disease and
pauperism, in all our populous cities, is not silver and
gold, but apostles a poor Peter and John. The whole
world has lately been observing how one poor Belgian,



THE APOSTOLIC FUND 129


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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 9 of 22)