The Motive And Method Of Christian Charity -- By: H. Francis Perry
BSac 58:232 (Oct 1901) p. 641
The Motive And Method Of Christian Charity
It would not be difficult to prove that pre-Christian times had certain forms of charitable help for the destitute and the unfortunate. The religious motive, however perverted its accompanying worship may have been, manifested itself in almsgiving long before the supreme Christian motive of unselfish love was declared and illustrated by Jesus Christ. The Egyptians, the Hindus, the Persians, the Chinese, the Greeks, and the Romans,—all had some form of charity in connection with their religious systems. The motive was usually far from altruistic, and was largely a desire for personal advantage to be gained through benevolence. It was the same motive which was dominant in the mediaeval church—reward for the giver, rather than blessing for the needy.1
Christian charity in the ancient church received its dynamic from the personal teachings of Him who founded the new brotherhood of man on the new conception of the fatherhood of God, and who thus gave to benevolence a correspondingly new impulse. Divine favor was not to be secured by almsgiving, but was already vouchsafed to man in the love of God, which only waited for repentance of personal sin to enter into the life of the disciple as a regnant force. Men were to do the works of God because they possessed the love of God—a reversal of the ancient
BSac 58:232 (Oct 1901) p. 642
idea of merit. Love to God and to man was the normal condition of renewed life. A guide of unusual intelligence and experience stands ready to conduct us through the mazes of the Roman Empire in its days of decadence, when the Old World was approaching its death-throes, and to show us the church which was unable to arrest the dissolution of the perishing world, “but sat at its death-bed with help and comfort, and lighted up its last hours with such an evening glory as the Old World had never known in the times of its greatest prosperity.” Uhlhorn is the guide in his “Christian Charity in the Ancient Church.” It was into a world without love that Christianity came with its message of love in Christ. The liberalitas of the heathen world was not the caritas of the Christian church. While almsgiving was certainly a custom among the Israelites in the time of Christ, its caritas was largely lost in its ostentatious display. Love in benevolence does not boast at street corners. It expects no reward of men. It thinks of the need of the unfortunate, and forgets itself.
The First Period Of Christian Charity
The Apostolic Age was a period of purest Christian charity, for it lived in personal fellowship with the ascended Christ. It is customary ...
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