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Charity
by [?]

St. Paul SAYS: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And tho’ I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

So it appears that chin-music without charity is not calculated to pay very large dividends in the interesting ultimate; that a man may be full of faith, and pregnant with prophecy, and chock-a-block with knowledge and redolent of religious mystery,–that he may leak sanctification in the musical accents of an angel and still be “nothing”–a pitiful hole in the atmosphere, a chimera circulating in a vacuum and foolishly imagining itself a man.

But what is charity? You people who have prayers and Bible readings before breakfast, while your hearts vibrate between holiness and hash–between Christ and the cook– should know; but it’s dollars to doughnuts you don’t. You probably imagine that when you present your out-of-fashion finery to your poor relations, then wait for a vote of thanks or a resolution of respect; that when you permit a tramp to fill a long-felt want with the cold victuals in your cupboard, which even your pug dog disdains, that the Recording Angel wipes the tears of joy from his eyes with his wing- feathers and gives you a page, while all Heaven gets gay because of your excessive goodness. That’s because your religious education has been sadly neglected. If you would read the Bible–and the ICONOCLAST–with more care you couldn’t make such mistakes. St. Paul says (and, as the country preacher remarked, I fully agree with him):

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

In other words, a man can’t draw on his bank account for the price of a corner lot in the New Jerusalem. He cannot acquire so much as a souphouse ticket in that city not made with hands by dying for the faith in the auto-da-fe. Almsgiving and charity may have no more affinity than the philosophy of Plato and the political conversation of a poll parrot! Had you ever made the acquaintance of that idea? If not, I advise you to exchange visiting cards with it before you forget its address. It is not a “Brannism,” I beg to state! it is part of the Pauline theology–is strictly orthodox. There’s not a single heretical sign warning you to keep off the grass. Almsgiving, and even the martyr’s fiery death, may be animated solely by hope of heavenly reward or terrestrial fame,–by unadulterated selfishness–may be regarded as a good investment. Too many people give to the poor only because it’s “lending to the Lord”–and they expect Standard Oil stock dividends. They drop a plugged nickel in the slot expecting to pull out a priceless crown of gold,–they expect the Lord to present them with a full suit of heavenly raiment in exchange for a cold potato or a pair of frazzled pantaloons. I want no partnership with a man who tries to beat the God of the Jews in a trade.

Some of you wealthy men who, like Dives, fare sumptuously every day, may donate a hundred dollars to relieve the distress of the people of Starr county. I hope you will. If given unostentatiously–and not for advertising purposes or in hope of a heavenly reward–it will constitute an act of charity; but not of the highest, noblest type, for it will cost you no great sacrifice. It is just as well, however, to have a receipt for such a gift to show St. Peter. If it does not enable you to divide Abraham’s bosom with Lazarus the beggar, it may save you from the post-mortem discomforts of Dives.