The Christian Conception Of Wealth -- By: Charles C. Merrill

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 056:221 (Jan 1899)
Article: The Christian Conception Of Wealth
Author: Charles C. Merrill


The Christian Conception Of Wealth1

Rev. Charles C. Merrill

First Paper

There are at least two reasons why one can distinguish the “Christian conception” of any human interest from “Christ’s conception” of it. In the first place, as Ian Maclaren has pointed out in one of his books on religion,2 Jesus did not give his truth to his followers in a developed form, but in the germ, as it were; and he intended that these seed thoughts should be gradually disclosed and unfolded as the centuries went on. “Christ’s conception”— a purely historical question in New Testament theology— would give us the germ, while a “Christian conception” would discover the organism so far as it has now developed. In the second place, a “Christian conception” of any human problem would suggest a somewhat fuller use of Jesus’ total view of life, of the fundamental principles of his teaching as a whole; while “Christ’s conception” would more properly be confined to his more specific remarks on the subject under discussion. To get a true understanding of what Jesus would have his followers think about wealth, it is especially important to keep in mind

constantly this larger use of his central principles. “Christian social ethics,” Dr. Smyth truly says, “are to be measured not entirely by the particular social precepts we may find treasured up in the New Testament, but by the whole intention of the Spirit of Christ, as it is to be gathered from Christian history.”3

A full treatment of our subject would thus evidently involve: (1) an investigation of Jesus’ specific and implied teaching concerning wealth; (2) a setting forth of their historical development, that is, of what the Apostolic and post-Apostolic Fathers, the Schoolmen, the Reformers, etc., thought about wealth, and of their interpretation of Christ’s teaching; (3) an effort to make a present-day application of the principles which have emerged. All of this is too great a task for our present opportunity, and we shall therefore omit here any discussion of the historical development, except to refer briefly to New Testament writings other than the Gospels. Such a review would undoubtedly yield material of great interest and would have an important bearing on our whole investigation. But when we reflect how frequent has been the deviation from the real teaching of Jesus during the years since his coming, how contrary to the essential spirit of his life has been much of the conduct enjoined by the church; and when we remember that to-day we are apparently n...

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