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absorbed in the eternal spirit, the impersonal self-existent Brahma."
Buddhism does not demand of all devotees the ascetic life, but its eminent saints adopt this life, and poverty is regarded as the indispensable condition of the highest sanctity. The sacred order founded by Gautama was an order of mendicants. Three garments of cotton cloth, made from cast-off rags, are the monk's whole wardrobe, and the only additional possessions allowed him are a girdle for the loins, an almsbowl, a razor, a needle, and a water-strainer. “The usual mode of obtaining food," says Mr. Rhys Davids, “is for the monk to take his begging-bowl, in shape nearly like a souptureen without its cover, and holding it in his hands, to beg straight from house to house, He is to say nothing, but simply stand outside the hut, the doors and windows of which in India are usually large and open. If anything is put into his bowl he utters a pious wish on behalf of the giver and passes on; if nothing is given he passes on in silence, and thus begs straight on without going to the houses of the rich or luxurious rather than to those of the poor and thristy.”
Such an ascetic rule could hardly be regarded as a precept, binding upon all, but must rather be held as a “counsel of perfection," applicable to the elect only. For some must dig, else none can beg; and the superior sanctity of the mendicant must be won through the worldliness of his neighbors.
The monastic rule has had wide vogue, however, in Christian communities, and great numbers of saintly men have adopted the rule of poverty. Many of the early Christian fathers use very strong language in denouncing the possession of wealth as essentially irreligious. “The rich are robbers," says Chrysostom; "a kind of equality must be effected by making gifts out of their abundance.” “Opulence is always the product of theft,” says Jerome, “committed, if not by the actual possessor, by his ancestors.” “Let him who has been
i Encyclopædia Britannica, article "Brahmanism."
deceived and conquered by his wealth," cries Cyprian," neither retain nor love it. Property is to be fled as an enemy, to be avoided as a robber, to be feared as a sword.” Sentiments of a very different nature are often expressed, it is true, by these teachers; but the trend of their doctrine is, neverthe. less, ascetic; and the germs of the later monasticism are in the words of the early fathers. The corner-stone of monachism is the sanctity of poverty. It is not too much to say that for ages the ideal of saintliness involved the renunciation of wealth. Nor is this notion confined to the monastic ages or the monastic communities. There are many good Protestants, even in these days, who feel that there is an essential incompatibility between the possession of wealth and the attainment of a high degree of spirituality.
Doubtless the ascetic doctrine respecting wealth seems to find support in certain texts of the New Testament: “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God.” “Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” That word of Paul's, also, so grievously misquoted and even mistranslated, in which he is supposed to have said that money is the root of all evil, has doubtless contributed to the formation of this notion. All these texts, and especially the words of Jesus, must be interpreted in the light of Jesus' method, in which, as Professor Caird has expressed it, “complementary but contrasted elements of truths are set side by side, each of them being stated so positively as to lead to a verbal contradiction with the others." It will not be difficult for the student to find other words of Jesus, relating to the possession and use of the good things of this world, in which the subject is placed in a different light. The fact that several rich men are mentioned as intimate friends of Jesus must also be taken into consideration. The ascetic doctrine with regard to wealth cannot, I think, be clearly drawn from the New Testament. Nevertheless this doctrine has greatly influenced the thought of the Christian church. The life of the church it has not greatly influenced; for the love of gain has generally been a stronger motive than godliness; but the minds of devout men have been troubled by the feeling that riches are essentially evil, and that some taint attaches to wealth, no matter how moderately it may be sought.
This feeling has been strengthened also by the abuses of wealth. How grave these abuses have always been I need not try to tell; it is the most threadbare of truisms. There is no kind of power that may not be abused; and wealth, which is the sum and concentration of material power, has always been subject to terrible abuses. The love of money, in Paul's words, has been “a root of all kinds of evil.” Allowance must indeed be made for the hyperbole even in this statement; for there is a great deal of indolence and thriftlessness and prodigality which do not grow from this root; some kinds of evil would be materially lessened if the passion of accumulation were stronger in the hearts of those who are addicted to them. But the truth remains that the evils which grow from this root are multifarious and enormous. The desire of wealth is the parent of pride and extortion and cruelty and oppression; it is the minister of treason and corruption and bribery in the commonwealth; it is the purveyor of lust and debauchery; it is the instigator of countless crimes. Augustine once declared that “all the strife in the world, wars, rebellion, offences, murder, injustice, arise concerning what we individually possess." It is an extravagant saying, but our daily experience almost justifies it.
It is in the abuses of wealth, doubtless, that devout men have found the chief reason for their scepticism concerning it and their renunciation of it. It is often difficult for ardent and strenuous souls to distinguish between uses and abuses. Many good things have been cast aside because of their perversion. Still, the ascetics are sometimes right. What is the truth in this case? Do the anchorites rightly interpret the will of God? Is their manner of life the perfect life? Would God be better pleased with men if they had no possessions beyond the supply of the actual needs of the hour? A little elementary thinking upon these questions may be helpful to some minds.
It may be well to resolve this abstraction, wealth, into its concrete elements. What is the wealth of America today? It consists in the development of the earth's resources. The wealth of this land is in its fertile fields and their fruits, in its mines and quarries and their products. The wealth of the nation has come out of the earth. The processes of agriculture and mining are the foundation of it all. The wealth of this continent is vastly greater to-day than it was two centuries and a half ago, and why? Because the resources of the continent have been developed. The soil has been cleared and subdued and cultivated, until its power to bring forth food for the sustenance of life has been indefinitely increased; a wise selection has been made of grains and fruits and herbs and roots most serviceable to man, and these have been improved by cultivation until their abundance and perfection have banished all fears of famine; animals, also, under the same skilful breeding have been rendered far more useful to mankind; from the heart of the earth minerals and metals have been drawn forth and chiseled and smelted and refined and shaped for human uses; above all, the forces of Nature have been caught and harnessed and compelled to serve in a thousand ways the convenience and comfort of man. A large part of the wealth of the land consists in contrivances for the utilization of natural forces.
The earth's riches are simply the development of the earth's resources. is plain that these material resources of the earth readily submit themselves to this process of development under the hand of man. Is it not equally plain that these processes of development have followed, for the most part, natural laws,—that these grains and fruits and roots and living creatures have simply been aided by men in fulfilling the law of their own life? There have been cases of perversion under the hand of man; but, as a general rule, that improvement of the earth's powers and products in which the wealth of the world consists, has been wrought by closely following the lines of development indicated in the nature of the things themselves; by helping each to become what it was meant to be.
Now we are told by a high authority that, “ for science, God is simply the stream of tendency by which all things fulfil the law of their being." For faith God is more than this, but it is worth something to know that for science he is as much as this. So much, we are told, is scientifically verifiable. Such a stream of tendency there is; and the scientific man as well as the religious man has a right, Mr. Arnold says, to call it God. If this be true, then those who are working for the improvement of natural products, and for the development of the earth's resources, and for the utilization of natural forces are workers together with God. In the production of wealth men are constantly co-operating with the Creator. It is clear,
, therefore, not only that there can be nothing inherently wrong in the production of wealth, but that it may be, and indeed ought to be, essentially a religious service.
By another consideration this judgment will be fortified. All religious beliefs assume that the perfection of man is part of the divine purpose. In him, also, there is a stream of tendency, by which, if he will but yield to it and follow it, the law of his being will be fulfilled; and this is God working in him to will and to work for his good pleasure. For the attainment of the perfection to which man is called wealth is the indispensable condition.
It is evident that when man lives in utter penury, from hand to mouth, having no surplus beyond the day's need, his powers can reach no large development. In such conditions