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Chapter XII.—Further Answers to the Plea, How Am I to Live?

In vain do we flatter ourselves as to the necessities of human maintenance, if—after faith sealed238238    i.e., in baptism.—we say, “I have no means to live?”239239    See above, chaps. v. and viii. [One is reminded here of the famous pleasantry of Dr. Johnson; see Boswell.] For here I will now answer more fully that abrupt proposition. It is advanced too late. For after the similitude of that most prudent builder,240240    See Luke xiv. 28–30. who first computes the costs of the work, together with his own means, lest, when he has begun, he afterwards blush to find himself spent, deliberation should have been made before. But even now you have the Lord’s sayings, as examples taking away from you all excuse.  For what is it you say? “I shall be in need.” But the Lord calls the needy “happy.”241241    Luke vi. 20. “I shall have no food.” But “think not,” says He, “about food;”242242    Matt. vi. 25, 31, etc.; Luke xii. 22–24. and as an example of clothing we have the lilies.243243    Matt. vi. 28; Luke xii. 28. “My work was my subsistence.” Nay, but “all things are to be sold, and divided to the needy.”244244    Matt. xix. 21; Luke xviii. 22. “But provision must be made for children and posterity.” “None, putting his hand on the plough, and looking back, is fit” for work.245245    Luke ix. 62, where the words are, “is fit for the kingdom of God.” “But I was under contract.” “None can serve two lords.”246246    Matt. vi. 24; Luke xvi. 13. If you wish to be the Lord’s disciple, it is necessary you “take your cross, and follow the Lord:”247247    Matt. xvi. 24; Mark viii. 34; Luke ix. 23; xiv. 27. your cross; that is, your own straits and tortures, or your body only, which is after the manner of a cross. Parents, wives, children, will have to be left behind, for God’s sake.248248    Luke xiv. 26; Mark x. 29, 30; Matt. xix. 27–30. Compare these texts with Tertullian’s words, and see the testimony he thus gives to the deity of Christ. Do you hesitate about arts, and trades, and about professions likewise, for the sake of children and parents? Even there was it demonstrated to us, that both “dear pledges,”249249    i.e., any dear relations. and handicrafts, and trades, are to be quite left behind for the Lord’s sake; while James and John, called by the Lord, do leave quite behind both father and ship;250250    Matt. iv. 21, 22; Mark i. 19, 20; Luke v. 10, 11. while Matthew is roused up from the toll-booth;251251    Matt. ix. 9; Mark ii. 14; Luke v. 29. while even burying a father was too tardy a business for faith.252252    Luke ix. 59, 60. None of them whom the Lord chose to Him said, “I have no means to live.” Faith fears not famine. It knows, likewise, that hunger is no less to be contemned by it for God’s sake, than every kind of death. It has learnt not to respect life; how much more food? [You ask] “How many have fulfilled these conditions?” But what with men is difficult, with God is easy.253253    Matt. xix. 26; Luke i. 37; xviii. 27. Let us, however, comfort ourselves about the gentleness and clemency of God in such wise, as not to indulge our “necessities” up to the point of affinities with idolatry, but to avoid even from afar every breath of it, as of a pestilence. [And this] not merely in the cases forementioned, but in the universal series of human superstition; whether appropriated to its gods, or to the defunct, or to kings, as pertaining to the selfsame unclean spirits, sometimes through sacrifices and priesthoods, sometimes through spectacles and the like, sometimes through holy-days.


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