CHARI T Y
Poverty was not a social state, but a spiritual; and consequently the poor generally were not the pavperes Christi, but those who, like the monks, had taken vows of poveity. From these premisses followed later the doctrine that gifts to the Church were not gifts to the poor, as once they had been, but to the religious bodies. The Church was not the Church of the poor, but of the poor in spirit. But the immediate effect was the belief for a time, apparently almost universal, that the salvation of society would come from the monastic orders. By their aid, backed by the general opinion, the secular clergy were brought back to celibacy and the monasteries newly disciplined. But charity could not thus regain its touch of life and be a means of raising the standard of social duty. Next, one amongst many stirred by a kindred inspiration, St Francis turned back to actual life and gave a new reality to religious idealism. For him the poor were once again the pauptrts Christi. To follow Christ was to adopt the life of “ evangelical poverty,” and this was to live among the poor the life of a poor man. The follower was to work with his hands (as the poor clergy of the early Church had done and the clergy of the early English To understand mediaeval charity it is necessary to return Church were exhorted to do); he was to receive no to St Augustine. According to him, the motive of man money j he was to earn the actual necessaries of life, though ,, . in his legitimate effort to assert himself in life what he could not earn he might beg. To ask for this revision of was love or desire (amor or cupido). “ All was a right, so long as he was bringing a better life into the theory impulses were only evolutions of this typical the world. All in excess of this he gave to the poor. of charity, characteristic” (Harnack, History of Dogma He would possess no property, buildings, or endowments, (trans.), v. iii.); and this was so alike in the spiritual and nor was his order to do so. The fulness of his life was the sensuous life. Happiness thus depended on desire; in the complete realization of it now, without the cares of and desire in turn depended on the regulation of the will; property and without any fear of the future. Having a but the will was regulated only by grace. God was the definite aim and mission, he was ready to accept the ^want spiritualis substantia; and freedom was the identity of that might come upon him, and his life was a discipline the will with the omnipotent unchanging nature.. This to enable him to suffer it if it came. To him humility highest Being was “ holiness working on the will in the was the soul making itself fit to love ; and poverty was form of omnipotent love.” This love was grace grace humility expanded from a mood to a life, a life not guarded imparting itself in love.” Love (caritas charity) is by seclusion, but spent amongst those who were actually identified with justice; and the will, the goodwill, is love. poor. The object of life was to console the poor—those The identity of the will with the will of God was attained outside all monasteries and institutions—the poor as they by communion with Him. The after-life consummated by lived and worked. The movement was practically a lay sight this communion, which was here reached only by movement, and its force consisted in its simplicity and faith. Such a method of thought was entirely intro- directness. Book learning was disparaged : life was to be spective, and it turned the mind “wholly to hope, the teacher. The brothers thus became observant and asceticism, and the contemplation of God in worship. practical, and afterwards indeed learned, and their learning “Where St Augustine indulges in the exposition of had the same characteristics. Their power lay in their practical piety he has no theory at all of Christ s w ork. practical sagacity, in their treatment of life, outside the To charity on that side he added nothing. In the 11th cloister and the hospital, at first hand. They knew the century there was a revival of piety, which had amongst people because they settled amongst them, living just as its objects the restoration of discipline in the monasteries they did. This was their method of charity. The inspiration that drew St Francis to this method was and a monastic training for the secular clergy. To this Augustinian thought led the way. Christianity was the contemplation of the life of Christ. But it was more asceticism and the city of God ” (Harnack vi. 6). A new than this. The Christ was to him, as to St Bernard, an religious feeling took possession of the general mind, a ideal, whose nature passed into that of the contemplating regard and adoration of the actual, the historic Christ. and adoring beholder, so that, as he said, having lost Of this St Bernard was the expositor. “ Beside the sacra- its individuality, of itself the creature could no longer act. mental Christ the image of the historical took its place,— He had no impulse but the Christ impulse. He was majesty in humility, innocence in penal suffering, life in changed. His identity was merged in that of Christ. death.” The spiritual and the sensuous were intermingled. And with this came the conception of a gracious and finely Dogmatic formulae fell into the background. The picture ordered charity, moving like the natural world in a conof the historic Christ led to the realization of the Christ stant harmonious development towards a definite end. _ The according to the spirit (kata pneuma^. Thus St Bernaid mysticism was intense, but it was practical because it was carried forward Augustinian thought; and the historic intense. In that lay the strength of the movement of the Christ became the “ sinless man, approved by suffering, true Franciscans, and in those orders that, whether called to whom the divine grace, by which He lives, has lent such heretical or not, followed them—Lollards and others. power that His image takes shape in other men and incites Religion thus became a personal and original possession. It became individual. It was inspired by a social enthem to corresponding humility and love. Humility and poverty represented the conditions under deavour, and for the world at large it made of charity a . . which alone this spirit could be realized; and the poverty new thing. St Thomas Aquinas took up St Bernard’s position. Remust be spiritual, and therefore self-imposed (“ wilful,” as it was afterwards called). This led to practical results. nunciation of property, voluntary poverty, was in his view
penitential system, in which about the 7th century the redemption of sin by the “ sacrifice ” of property, payments of money fines, &c. was introduced. (Cf. for instance Cone. ElbertiLabbeus, i 969 (a d 305), with Cone. Berghamstedense, Wilkins, Cone. p. 60 (A d ’696), and the Benitential (p. 115) and Canons (A.D. 960), p. 236.) The same sin committed by an overseer (prcepositns paqanus) was compensated by a fine of 100 solidi ; in the case of a colonus by a fine of 50. So amongst the ways of penitence were entered in the above-mentioned Canons, to erect a church, and it means allowed, add to it land ... to repair the public roads . . . “to distribute,” to help poor widows, orphans, and strangers, redeem slaves, fast, &c.—a combination of “good deeds” which suggests a line of thought such as ultimately found expression in the definition of charities in the Charities Act of Queen Elizabeth. The confessor, too, was “ spiritualis medicus,” and much that from the point of view of counsel would now be the work of charity would in his hands be dealt with in that capacity. For lesser sins (cf. Bede (673-735), Sbm. 34, quoted by Ratzmger) the penalty was prayer, fasting, and alms ; for the greater sins— murder, adultery, and idolatry—to give up all. Thus while haltconverted barbarians may have been kept in moral subjection by material penances, the Church was enriched by their gifts ; and these tended to support the monastic and institutional methods which were in favour, and to which, on the revival of religious earnestness in the 11th century, the world looked for the reform of social life.