We will take the world as it is, with its present evils. What amount of alleviation can philanthropy bring, supposing there could be such a thing without the example and atmosphere of the Gospel? In the first place, what could it do for poverty? It would be dismayed by the number of the poor and appalled by the variety and exigency of their needs. All manner of intractable questions would rise up, for the solving of which its philosophy could furnish it with no simple principles. Men would have their own work to do, and their own business to attend to. It is
not conceivable that mere philanthropy should make the administration of alms and the ministering to the poor a separate profession; and self-devotion upon any large scale is not to be thought of except as a corollary of the doctrine of the Cross. Thus, while the alms to be distributed would necessarily be limited, and the claims almost illimitable, there would be no means of proportioning relief. Unseen poverty is for the most part a worthier thing than the poverty which is seen: but who would with patient kindness and instinctive delicacy track shamefaced poverty to its obscure retirements? The loudest beggars would get most, the modest least. The highest virtue aimed at in the distribution of alms, and it is truly a high one, would be justice. Thus it would come to pass that those who by sin or folly had brought poverty upon themselves would obtain no relief at all: and so charity would cease to have any power to raise men above their past lives, or elevate them in the scale of moral worth. Eccentricity is a common accompaniment of misery; and that which is eccentric would hardly recommend itself to philanthropy, even if it did not seem to be a proof of insincerity. Christian charity can only sustain its equanimity by fixing its eyes upon a higher object than the misery which it relieves. What is not done for God in this matter is done but uncertainly as well as scantily, and soon wearies of the unlovely and exacting poor. It is only the similitude of Jesus which beautifies poverty. Works of mercy are not attractive to hearts untouched by love. Moreover, no slight amount of the beneficence of Christian charity resides in its irregularity. Coming from the impulses of love, it has an ebb and flow which make it like the seeming unevenness and inequalities of outward providence; and this, which reason would account as a defect, turns out in practice a more real blessing than the formal equality and periodical punctuality of a merely conscientious and justice-loving benevolence. Philanthropy must have a sphere, a round, a beat. It must of necessity have in it somewhat of the political economist, and somewhat of the policeman. It must never allow individual sympathies to draw off its attention to the public welfare. Its genius must be legislative, rather than impulsive. Sudden misfortunes, a bad harvest, a commercial crisis, a sickly winter - these things would sadly interfere with the calculations of philanthropy. If the amount of self-sacrifice is so small, when we have the example of our Lord, and the doctrine that alms redeem souls, and the actual obligation under pain of sin to set aside a portion of our incomes for the poor, what would it be if all these motives were withdrawn?

Let us consider bodily pain, and the agency of philanthropy in alleviating it. An immense amount of the world's misery consists in bodily pain. There are few things more hard to bear. It is one of our unrealities that we write and speak lightly of it. We think it grand to do so. We think to show our manliness. But the truth is, there are few men who could not bear a breaking heart better than an aching limb. There are many points of view from which bodily pain is less easy to bear than mental anguish. It is less intelligible. It appeals less to our reason. If the consolations exceed the extremities of bodily agony; but in the majority of cases they are less intolerable; and in all cases most intolerable when they have succeeded in deranging the
bodily health and so adding that suffering to their own. Moreover, the excesses of mental anguish, while they visit chiefly the rarer and more sensitive minds, are always of brief duration: whereas it is fearful to think of the heights to which bodily torture can rise, and of the time extreme torment can last without producing either insensibility or death. But what can philanthropy do for bodily pain? Every one whose lot it is to lead a life of pain knows too well how little medical science avails to alleviate this particular kind of human suffering. It may do much in the way of prevention. Who knows? For the pain we might have had, but have not had, is an unknown region. Let us give medical science the benefit of our ignorance. But, as to the pains which we have actually suffered, how often have they refused to abate one tittle of their severity at the bidding of science! When they have done so, how slowly have they yielded to the power of remedies, and how often have the remedies themselves brought new pains along with them! The pains which the human frame has to bear from various ailments are terrible in their number, their variety, and the horror which attaches to many of them: over this empire, which Original Sin has created, how feeble and how limited is the jurisdiction of medical science! Yet what could philanthropy do for bodily pain, except surround it with medical appliances and with physical comforts? Let us not underrate the consolation of the large-minded wisdom, the benevolent common sense, and the peculiar priestly kindness of an intelligent physician. It is very great. Neither let us pretend to make light of the alleviations of an airy room, of a soft bed, of well-prepared food, of a low voice and a noiseless step, and of those attentions which are beforehand with our irritability by divining our wants at the right moment. Nevertheless, when the daily pressure of bodily pain goes on for weeks and months, when all life which is not illness is but a vacillating convalescence, what adequate or abiding consolation can we find, except in supernatural things, in the motives of the faith, in union with Jesus, in that secret experimental knowledge of God which makes us at times find chastisement so sweet?

It is the characteristic of mental suffering to be for the most part beyond the reach of philanthropy. Every heart knows its own bitterness. That part of a mental sorrow, which can be expressed, is generally the part which rankles least. The suffering of it depends mainly on feelings which belong to individual character, feelings which can hardly be stated, and which, if stated, could not be appreciated, even if they were not altogether misunderstood. Who has not often wondered at the almost invariable irritation produced in unhappy persons by set and formal soothing? There is a pity in the tone of voice which wounds rather than heals. The very composure of features aggravates us by making us feel more vividly the reality of our grief. We have long since exhausted for ourselves all the available topics of consolation. Not in gradual procession, but all at once like a lightning's flash, all the motives and wisdoms, which occupy my unsuffering friend an hour to enumerate, were laid hold of, fathomed, and dismissed by my heart, which suffering had awakened to a speed and power of sensitiveness quite incredible. Job is not the only person who has been more provoked by his comforters than by his miseries. Even the daily wear and tear of our hearts in common life cannot be reached by outward consolation, unless that consolation comes from above and is divine. Philanthropy, with the best intentions, can never get inside the heart. There are sufferings there too deep for any thing but religion either to reach or to appreciate; and such sufferings are neither exceptional nor uncommon. There are few men who have not more than one of them. If we take away the great sorrow upon Calvary, how dark and how unbearable a mystery does all sorrow become! Kindness is sweet, even to the sorrowing, because of its intentions: it is not valuable because of its efficacy, except when it is the graceful minister of the Precious Blood.

I reckon failure to be the most universal unhappiness on earth. Almost everybody and every thing are failures - failures in their own estimation, even if they are not so in the estimation of others. Those optimists who always think themselves successful are few in number, and they for the most part fail in this at least, namely, that they cannot persuade the rest of the world of their success. Philanthropy can plainly do nothing here, even if it were inclined to try. But philanthropy is a branch of moral philosophy, and would turn away in disdain from an unhappiness which it could prove to be unreasonable, even while it acknowledged it to be universal. It is simply true that few men are successful; and of those few it is rare to find any who are satisfied with their own success. The multitude of men live with a vexatious sense that the promise of their lives remains unfulfilled. Either outward circumstances have been against them, or they have been misappreciated, or they have got out of their grooves unknowingly, or they have been the victims of injustice. What must all life be but a feverish disappointment, if there be no eternity in view? The religious man is the only successful man. [Emphasis in bold added.] Nothing fails with him. Every shaft reaches the mark, if the mark be God. He has wasted no energies. Every hope has been fulfilled beyond his expectations. Every effort has been even disproportionately rewarded. Every means has turned out marvelously to be an end, because it had God in it, Who is our single end. In piety, every battle is a victory, simply because it is a battle. The completest defeats have somewhat of triumph in them; for it is a positive triumph to have stood up and fought for God at all. In short, no life is a failure which is lived for God; and all lives are failures which are lived for any other end. If it is part of any man's disposition to be peculiarly and morbidly sensitive to failure, he must regard it as an additional motive to be religious. Piety is the only invariable, satisfactory, genuine success.

If philanthropy turns out to be so unhelpful a thing in the difficulties of life, will it be more helpful at the bed of death? Death is the failure of nature. There is no help then, except in the supernatural. Philanthropy cannot help us to die ourselves; nor can it take away our sorrow for the deaths of others. Without religion death is a problem and a terror. It is only by the light of faith that we see it to be a punishment commuted by Divine love into a crown and a reward. The sense of guilt, the uneasiness in darkness, the shrinking from the unknown, the shapeless shadows of an unexplored world, the new panic of the soul, the sensible momentary falling off into an abyss, the inevitable helplessness, the frightening transition from a state of change to one of endless fixedness - how is philanthropy to meet such difficulties as these? Truly, in the atmosphere of death all lights go out except the lamp of faith.


--------------CHRIST THE KING