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16 The words, occurring in the parable of the talents (St. Matthew xxv. and St. Luke xix.), “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury,” are sometimes adduced in defence of interest-taking. But Christ is not here speaking in His own character. This is the advice of one who is described as a “hard” and an “austere" man.
16 References to the quotations in this paragraph are, in order, as follows: Aug. in Matt. xix. 21, N. T. Lect. lxxxvi. 3 (Benedictine ed.); in Ps. xxxvii. 3, 5; Basil in Ps. xiv. (xv.), 5 (Hom. ii.); Chrys. in Matt. Hom. v. 9; Hom. lvi. 9; Basil in Ps. xiv. (xv.), 3.
“The Fathers are unanimous,” says Gibbon in a note to his forty-fourth chapter, mentioning Cyprian, Lactantius, Basil, Chrysostom, Gregory Nyssa, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and “ a host of councils and canonists." He might have extended the list. The literary form which the discussion takes in ancient writers is most frequently an appeal to those who lend, to lend to the Lord. This turn is taken in affecting language by many of the Fathers. I cannot forbear quoting at somewhat greater length from these mentioned in the address.
“Let us not then traffic in other men's calamities, nor make a trade of our benevolence.... For to this intent thou hast wealth, to relieve poverty, not to make a gain from poverty ; but thou with a show of relieving makest the calamity greater, and sellest benevolence for money.
“Sell it, I forbid thee not, but for a heavenly kingdom. Receive not a small price for so good a deed : thy monthly one per cent. (tonos érat obtigios), but the immortal life. Why art thou beggarly and poor and mean, selling
thy great things for a little, for goods that perish, when it should be for an everlasting kingdom? Why dost thou leave God, and get human gains ? Why dost thou pass by that Wealthy One, and trouble him that hath not? and, leaving the sure exchanger, make thy bargain with the unthankful? He longs to pay, but this pays grudgingly. He repays with praises and auspicious words, this with insults and revilings. He here and there; this hardly here.
“Tell me not this, that he is pleased to receive, and is thankful for the loan. It is because he is compelled to be thankful for thy cruelty. It seems to me as though, shouldest thou deliver him from perils, thou wouldest exact of him a payment for the deliverance. What sayest thou ? * Not so'? Delivering him from the greater evil, thou wouldest be unwilling to exact money, and for the lesser dost thou display such inhumanity!
"When I have received interest, I give to the poor,'one tells me. Speak reverently, O man ; God desires not such sacrifices. Deal not subtly with the law. Better not give to a poor man, than give from that source. For the money that hath been collected by honest labours, thou often makest to become unlawful because of that wicked increase; as if one should compel a fair womb to give birth to scorpions.
“And never doth the money-dealer enjoy his possessions, nor find pleasure in them ; but when the interest is brought, he doth not rejoice that he hath received gain, but is grieved that the interest hath not yet come up to the principal. And before this evil off-spring is brought forth complete, he compels it also to bring forth, making the interest principal, and forcing it to bring forth its untimely
and abortive brood of vipers. For of this nature are the gains of usury; more than those wild creatures do they devour and tear the souls of the wretched. . . . Let us deaden these lawless travailings; let us dry up this place of pernicious teeming, and let us pursue the great and true gains alone." (Chrysostom, Sermon on Matt. xvi. 28.)
“This usury is the harbinger of hell; there is one of heaven; one coming of covetousness, the other of self-denial; one of cruelty, the other of humanity. . . . What dost thou desire ?' saith one ; that I should give another for his use that money which I have got together, and which is useful to me, and demand no recompense ?' No; I say not that. I earnestly desire that thou shouldest have a recompense, not however a mean and small one, but far greater; for in return for gold, I would that thou shouldest receive heaven for usury. Why shut thyself up in poverty, crawling about the earth, and demanding little for great ? This is the part of one who knows not how to be rich. For when God in return for a little money is promising thee the good things of heaven, and thou sayest, ‘Give me not heaven, but give me instead perishing gold,' this is the part of one who desires to continue in poverty." (Chrysostom, Sermon on Matt. xxii., 23.)
“Consider what the usurer does. Undoubtedly he desires to give a less sum and to receive a larger ; do thou this also ; give thou a little, receive much. And perhaps thou wouldest say, “To whom then shall I give ?' The self-same Lord, who bade thee not lend upon usury, comes forward as the Person to whom thou shouldest lend upon usury. 'He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth to the Lord.' Then, though you have no bond from the poor man to compel repayment, yet you have a security. Assuredly, if Christ be God, of which there is no doubt, He hath Himself said, “I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat.' And when they said to Him, “When saw we Thee hungry?' that He might show Himself to be surety for the poor, that He answers for all His members, that He is the Head, they the members, and that when the members receive, the Head also receiveth, He says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these that belong to Me, ye have done it unto Me.'" (Augustine on Psalm xxxvii.)
“Let no one think that he is the receiver whose hand he sees. He indeed received it Who bade thee give. Nor will He restore only what He receiveth. He is pleased to borrow upon interest. Give the rein now to thine avarice, imagine thyself an usurer. Give to God, and press God for payment. Nay, rather, give to God, and thou wilt be pressed to receive payment." (Augustine on Matt. xix. 21.)
“For it is in truth the last pitch of inhumanity that one man, in need of the bare necessities of life, should be compelled to borrow, and another, not satisfied with the return of the principal, should seek to make profit for himself out of the calamities of the poor. The Lord gave His own injunction quite plainly in the words, 'From him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.' But what of the money-lender ? He sees before him a man under stress of necessity bent to the ground in supplication. He sees him hesitating at no acts, no words, of humiliation. He sees him suffering undeserved misfortune, but he is merciless. He does not reckon that he is a fellow-creature. He does not give in to his entreaties. He stands stiff and
sour. He is moved by no prayers ; his resolution is broken by no tears. He persists in refusal, invoking curses on his own head if he has any money about him, and swearing that he is himself on the lookout for a friend to furnish him a loan. Then the suppliant mentions interest, and utters the word 'security. All is changed. The frown is relaxed. With a genial smile, he recalls old family connection. Now it is ‘my friend.' 'I will see,' says he, 'if I have any money by me. Ah! yes ; there is that sum which an acquaintance has left on deposit in my hands for profit. He named very heavy interest. However, I shall certainly deduct something, and give you better terms.' With pretences of this kind, and talk like this, he fawns on the wretched victim, and induces him to swallow the bait. Then he binds him with written security, adds loss of liberty to the trouble of pressing poverty, and is off.
“'He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth to the Lord.' Do you not desire the Master of the universe to be security for your repayment? If any wealthy man in the town promises you repayment on behalf of another, do you admit his suretyship? But you do not accept God, Who more than repays on behalf of the poor. Give the money lying useless, without weighting it with increase, and both shall be benefited. To you will accrue the security of its safe. keeping. The recipient will have the advantage of its use. And if it is increase you seek, be satisfied with that which is given by the Lord. He will pay the interest for the poor." (Basil on Psalm xiv. Cf. Hom. vii., De Avaratia, and Ep. ad Amphilochius, xiv.)
17 Bishop's Jewell's sermon is an exposition of I. Thess. iv. 6. The other extract is from the farewell sermon preached by the Rev. David Jones in the Church of St.