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CHRISTIANITY IN POVERTY AND LOWLINESS, AND ON THE SICK BED.

THE working of Christianity is not less seen in small than in great things. It needs no grand or public theatre in order to display itself. It is the light that, wherever it may be, cannot remain hidden under the bushel. Indeed, what Christianity is, is best seen in this, that it fills with heavenly glory vessels despised or esteemed as nothing in the eyes of men—a glory which far outshines all earthly splendours; that it pours into them the powers of the world to come, beside which all the powers of the earth are nothing. In all ages, that which the apostle Paul so nobly expresses in 1 Cor. i, 27, is evident in the operations of the Gospel. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. And God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty, and base things of the world, and things 147 that are despised hath God chosen; yea, the things that are not, to bring to naught the things that are.”

A large portion of these operations of Christianity remains, indeed, hidden from the eyes of the greater portion of mankind, and cannot, therefore, find a place in the pages of history. So much the more unwise, therefore, is it to judge of the effect of Christianity in any age, by what floats on the surface; and so much the more important is it for the historian to search everywhere in the midst of the darkness for these scattered beams of light, and by the side of a man whom God set on so high a place, and to whom he intrusted so broad and manifold a sphere of activity as Gregory, to introduce one who, in the meanest station of this world, in the neediest and most helpless condition, yet manifested the glory of the Divine life.

We should know nothing of the life of this child of God, if the great bishop (Gregory) had, like the world, suffered himself to be so dazzled by appearances, as not to perceive the treasure in the earthen vessel. We will listen to the bishop himself, as he describes to us the life of this man.

“In the vault through which we enter the church of Clermont, lived a certain Servulus, whom many among you know, as I know him, poor in earthly goods, rich in God, worn out by a long illness; for, from his childhood until the end of his life, he lay paralyzed in all his limbs. Did I say he could not stand? He could not even raise himself so as to 148sit upright on his bed, he was never able to lift his hand to his mouth, nor even to turn from side to side. His mother and his brother were always with him to wait upon him, and what he received in alms he used to distribute to the poor. He could not read; but he had bought himself a Bible, and used to welcome all pious men, and make them read to him from this Bible. And thus, without reading, he was, nevertheless, able to become acquainted with the whole Bible. He sought, amidst his sufferings, constantly to thank God, and to spend day and night in praising him. When he felt the ap-. proach of death, he begged his visitors to stand up with him, and to sing Psalms with him, in expectation of his approaching end. And, dying as he was, he sang with them, when suddenly he ceased, and cried aloud: ‘Hush, hear you not how the praises of God resound in heaven?’ And while he turned the ear of his spirit to catch these praises of God, his holy soul departed from his body.”

Gregory appended to this narrative these words of exhortation to his Church: “Behold the end of him, who bore the sufferings of this life with resignation! But I beseech you, my dearest brethren, think what excuse shall we be able to offer at the day of judgment, who, although we have received goods and hands, are slothful in good works, whilst this poor man, who had not the use of his hands, could, nevertheless, fulfil the commandments of the Lord? Even if the Lord should not lead forth against us the Apostles, who drew hosts of believers 149 into the kingdom by their preaching; the martyrs, who, pouring forth their blood, entered the heavenly country; what shall we say when we see this Servulus, whose limbs were paralyzed by sickness, without paralyzing him in the accomplishment of good works?”

Let us compare with this Servulus—whose life in that maimed and helpless body was not spent in vain, who did more for the glory of his God and the good of his brother men, than others who lived in. the splendour of the world, and in great activity—those noble Romans, of whom the younger Pliny speaks, who, in long and desperate sickness, with the stoic composure of the wise of this world, put an end to their lives with their own hands. We will not condemn the noble spirits to whom the grace of knowing the Gospel was not vouchsafed. But in which of the two do we find the true dignity of man, that true elevation which is founded in humility, and on that very account, can never be cast down or robbed of its crown?

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