” And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness ; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations,” Luke xvi, 9.
Apart from faithful, beneficent acts, neither God, angels, nor happy spirits will receive us into everlasting habitations. The reasons are obvious. ” God is love;” angels love ; happy spirits love. This love is ever active, wherever found, particularly where misery abounds. We live in a world of misery ; because this is a wicked world. Yanity spurs us to talk of the dignity of man; but, alas ! where is it? Is it in the swarming hordes of Hottentots? If not, so far as our nature is concerned, the same may be fairly affirmed of Americans or Britons. Where is the dignity of thousands of sunburnt animals, or tenderly-decorated ones, with appetites ungoverned and minds unprincipled, ever prompted to deeds of selfishness and tyranny, brutality and filthiness — strangers to every art but that of slaughter, to honor, but selfish daring? See the balmy southern states of united America, slumbering in the arms of the goddess of liberty, filled with the luxuries of the earth, and crowned with the dews and smiles of heaven; yet, at the same time, see them, both saint and sinner, feasting and fattening on the sweat, and dust, and bloody toil of the souls and bodies of their three million slaves, driving them to market as so many stupid mules, handcuffing the male parent, and selling under the hammer, to the highest bidder, the bosom-rent and tearful mother, from the husband and weeping children; while the master, and driver, and auctioneer pray to the Lamb and chant halleluiah ! Gracious heavens ! if these things are found in the very bosom of Christendom, what may we expect of the world, or the native dignity of man? Then, as there are sins and miseries in our world, which must ever remain till the end of time, unless relieved by the Gospel of Christ, which breathes the spirit of benevolence or ‘ ‘good will to men,” the sufferings of our sin-stricken world extort the cry and tear from Jew, Greek, bond and free, Roman and barbarian, for beneficence.
God, by his prophet, cries to every follower of Jesus, ‘ ‘Strip ye; make ye bare; tremble; be troubled; lament for the pleasant fields they have been, by sin, turned into mildew and blasting ; and, instead of native dignity, the human heart is ” deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” weltering in blood, and moaning in distress. It is, therefore, rational, and ever must be so, to exercise benevolence. In truth, there is no evangelical religion where there is no beneficence.
Rev. Andrew Carroll, “Sermon VII, Proper Use of the Mammon of Unrighteousness, “
“The Ohio conference offering; or, Sermons and sketches of sermons, on familiar and practical subjects, from the living and the dead. In two parts”
Even in decrying the racism of slavery, one may express racism.
There may be some naivete in this project. That I would have been able to turn to any word representing any ailments, professions, or nationalities, and readily find some benevolent words from Christian pastors across time. The word “Hottentot”, which today may be viewed as an offensive way to refer to the Khoikhoi people, is one such word. There were many cases where it came with an adjective of “filthy” or “hordes”. Some cases it was a metaphor, along with the people of Greenland, for less cultured nationalities that evangelists wanted to reach. Let me allow a few words here about my convictions.
- Across multiple geographic zones of the planet, there was a default state of barbarity and inhumanity. In the reading I’m doing for the project, missionaries to multiple regions, even European-Americans on the frontier of 19th century Georgia, make observations of this sort.
- I do believe that the Gospel, with its effects of reducing pride and fear, and inculcating a spirit of forgiveness, as it takes hold in a society, will lead to an improvement in social conditions. I believe history may show that this is the case.
- Christians are explicitly commanded to share the Gospel to the world. Evangelization is a good spiritually, and sociologically.
- Evangelization, in historical practice, too often came with the sword and disease, and sought to impose the culture of the invaders at the expense of a true, free Gospel of Jesus.
- Any case of Christians acting barbarously, can simply be said to be violating the Second Greatest Commandment. It doesn’t make you want to be neighbors to these people, but if anything it shows a sad proof of the need for Jesus.
Furthermore, I’m not sure I agree with the wording of the theological argument that the author makes here. Consider these two statements:
A. “In truth, there is no evangelical religion where there is no beneficence.”
B. “Apart from faithful, beneficent acts, neither God, angels, nor happy spirits will receive us into everlasting habitations.”
Proposition A I believe to be true. A measure of truth, of evangelical religion, is that fruit, social justice, or in the words of our old Methodist friends, beneficence, will come forth. But I don’t think that I agree with Proposition B, because it does not leave any room for a Romans 7 confession of “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Instead I would say that a realization of how much we all fail at beneficence points us to the need for a saviour.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us repent and mourn for racism and explotation. Please help us to see how even our best intentioned calls to repentance can in themselves have problematic language that could be difficult to read years later. Please let the fruit of the gospel take root in every land, and put an end to barbarity and selfishness. Please help us to see how beneficence and the gospel are fruits of each other, and not items to compete in our pulpits and pocketbooks in some kind of zero-sum game. Come, Lord Jesus. AMEN.