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And now let us examine the peculiarity of another expression, and see how perfectly the LORD makes Himself one with His Church; so that, as S. Paul expresses it,
we are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones.” Compare what the LORD says here, with what He said to that same S. Paul in the day when He first showed him His glory. It was not " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou My faithful servants still upon earth ?” but “Why persecutest thou Me ?” though He Who was thus persecuted spoke from heaven, where personally He was free from persecution. Observe this, and you will see that there is a typical, as well as a literal meaning to be attached to these remarkable words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me:” that though, as Jerome says, it is free to us to understand that it is CHRIST in
every poor man whom we feed when he is hungry, or give to drink when he is thirsty, yet that we are fully warranted in attaching to them the mystical meaning ascribed to them by Rabanus Maurus, the pupil of our own countryman, Alcuin, and saying that “he who with the bread of the Word, and the drink of Wisdom refreshes the soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness, or admits into the home of our mother the Church him who is wandering in heresy or sin, or who strengthens the weak in faith, such an one is discharging the obligations of true love,” and to such as these the Judge at His coming shall say, “I was an hungered, and I was athirst, and I was naked, and I was a wanderer, and ye ministered unto Me."
And note also, as Origen has noted, that though He has said to those on His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of My FATHER,” He does not say to those on His left hand, “go, ye cursed of My FATHER.” And this is not
without its meaning either; of all blessing, whatever it be, the FATHER is the Author; but each man is the origin of his own curse, when he does things which deserve the curse. And though He says, "the kingdom prepared for you," He does not say, "the everlasting fire prepared for you," because it was not prepared for us. Our LORD tells us Himself, "Fear not, little flock, it is your FATHER's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (S. Luke xii. 32.) That was His pleasure,—that was His intention. He did not, as far as in Him lay, create men to perdition: but sinners yoke themselves to the Devil, and, as they that are saved are made equal with the angels of GOD, so they that perish make themselves equal to the angels of the Devil. It was for these that the fire was prepared.
And why is this? Not because such men have committed sin, as we should speak of sin. Those who are set on the left committed no acts that we should punish for, nor even that we should blame for. They were not guilty of those open crimes which require that we, GOD's ministers now on earth, should shut them out from communion here. They were not, so far as we know, " blasphemers of GOD, or hinderers or slanderers of His Word, or adulterers, or in malice, or envy, or any other grievous crime." "It is simply," says Origen, "I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; ye did not fulfil the work of nourishing the Body of CHRIST which you had grace given you to do. It is written to the believers, 'Ye are the Body of CHRIST.' As, then, the soul, dwelling in the body, though it hungers not in respect of its spiritual substance, yet hungers for the food of the body because it is yoked to the body, so the SAVIOUR suffers whatever His Body the Church suffers, though He Himself be incapable of suffering."
Lastly, let us remember that if these rewards be the
inheritance of him who fulfils his mission in nourishing the Body of Christ, he who refuses or neglects to nourish that part of CHRIST's Body more especially committed to his charge than any other, is more especially condemned by this very parable. I mean, he who neglects to nourish, to clothe, to visit HIMSELF, his own soul and his own body: for he is himself a member of CHRIST; and whatmay
be said of Christ's other members, of this particular one he is most especially put in charge. “I have met,” says Augustine, in his last great work on the Kingdom of God, “I have met with those who thought that they only would burn in eternal torments who neglected to give alms proportioned to their sins ; and for this reason they think that the Judge Himself here mentions nothing else that He shall make inquiry of but the giving or the not giving alms. But whoso gives alms worthily for his sins, first begins with himself; for it were unmeet that he should not do that to himself, which he does to others : who, when he has heard the words of God, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,' hears also, 'Be merciful to thy soul in pleasing God.' He, then, who does not to his own soul this alms of pleasing God, how can he be said to give alms meet for his sins ?”
Let no one suppose that in speaking of the fruits of grace the LORD selects one kind of righteousness as the object of His reward. Origen says truly, though fancifully, “In whatever matters any one does CHRIST's commands, he gives CHRIST meat and drink, for Christ feeds upon the truth and righteousness of His faithful people. So do we weave raiment for CHRIST when cold, when, taking wisdom's web, we inculcate upon others and put upon them bowels of mercy. Also, when we make ready with divers virtues our hearts for receiving Him, or those
who are His, we take HIM, a stranger, into the home of our bosom. Also, when we visit a brother sick, either in faith or in good works, with doctrine, reproof, or comfort, we visit CHRIST Himself. Moreover, all that is here is the prison of CHRIST, and of them that are His. They live in this world as though chained in the prison of natural necessity. When we do a good work to these, we visit them in prison, and CHRIST in them."
This, then, is our trial. When we engaged ourselves to be CHRIST's faithful soldiers and servants, He, in Whose service we engaged ourselves, gave us part of His own work to do, and part of His own means to do it with. He comes to see whether we have done it. Do not be deceived about what that "faith" is, without which "it is impossible to please Him." The trial is a very simple one: the faithful servant is he who has done his work; the unfaithful is he who has neglected it. This is the trial, the only one that our SAVIOUR speaks of. And there are but two parties,-the right and the left; those who have done their work, and those who have not. The sentence is just as plain: "These shall go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
NOTE. In the year 782, Flaccus Albinus Alcuin (a name under its modern spelling of Alwin or Ayling, still common in England), then Master of Archbishop Egbert's school of theology at York, was invited by Charlemagne, who had become painfully aware of the defects of his own early education, to preside over the court school which he had established, and to give instruction, especially in religious matters, to himself and his children. Many young men of promise were permitted to share in these instructions, the most eminent of whom was Rabanus Maurus, a native of Mayence, who had received the rudiments of his education in the Abbey of Fulda.
Having been fully indoctrinated by Alcuin, Rabanus was sent to Fulda, in order to communicate the learning he had acquired; and twelve years afterwards was elected to be its Abbot. Over this
monastery he presided for twenty-five years, and quitted it only on his appointment to the archiepiscopal see of Mayence, his native city.
As Archbishop, he had very soon' an opportunity of defending the doctrines which he had learned in the English school of divinity. Gotteschalcus, a Benedictine of the convent of Arbais, misled by certain obscure, not to say incautious passages in the works of S. Au. gustine, whose writings had for some time been the standard of theology throughout the whole empire, had adopted the theory of absolute and unconditional predestination, and, not content with teaching it in his own particular diocese (Soissons), constituted himself a missionary, and without authority travelled over all Christendom, preaching it wherever he went.
Nothingus, Bishop of Verona, in whose diocese he was pro. selytizing, considered it necessary to put a stop to this, and sent him to Raban, who, as Alcuin was now dead, was held to be his fittest successor as the head of the English school of theology. The Archa bishop first reasoned with Gotteschalcus, then wrote against his doctrines, and finally summoned a council at Quiency, which pronounced his teaching heterodox, and transmitted him to Hincmar, his proper diocesan. With the subsequent treatment which Gotteschalcus received at the hands of Hincmar, who fully agreed with his brother Archbishop in matters of doctrine, but chose imprisonment rather than argument and spiritual authority, as the means of maintaining it, Raban had nothing whatever to do; but the Church is deeply indebted to him for maintaining in the face of a theology, which, from the supposed sanction given to it by S. Augustine, had begun to acquire some degree of popularity, that “the doctrine, that God has from all eternity predestinated man to their salvation or damnation, takes away his liberty, destroys all idea of good and evil, and reduces him to a mere machine.” Rabanus is one of the best and most copious of the ancient commentators. His works, which were probably the fruits of his twenty-five years' Abbacy at Fulda; occupy six folio volumes, having been collected and published at Cologne in the year 1627, by George Colverinus.