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Sermon On Alms

Who these saints are, and why he felt a special concern for them, has now been sufficiently explained. It remains for us to inquire why he mentions the Galatians. For why did he not say merely: “Now concerning the collections for the saints, do as follows: on the first day of the week let everyone of you put apart with himself, laying up …”, instead of adding, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye also”? Why does he mention, not one or two or three cities, but an entire people? That his hearers might be filled with greater zeal, and that the praise of others might give an impetus for greater emulation on their part.

Then he explains how they shall fulfill his commands: “On the first day of the week,” he says, “let everyone of you put apart with himself, laying up what it shall well please him; that when I come, the collections be not then to be made.” (1 Cor. 16:2). The first day of the week he called the Lord’s Day. And why did he appoint this day for the offering? Why did he not say on the second day of the week or the third day, or on the sabbath itself? Most certainly not by chance, nor without good reason; but because he wished, by the very fitness of this day, to inspire greater zeal in the almsgivers. For in any transaction it is of no small importance to select the auspicious moment.

And why, you will say, is this day particularly favorable for persuading men to give alms? Because on this day they cease from all labor; because by this rest the mind is restored to greater cheerfulness; and, most significant of all, because on that day we enjoy countless blessings. For on that day the bonds of death were loosed, cursing was rendered powerless, sin overcome, the gates of hell were shattered, the devil conquered, the long war ended, men were reconciled with God, and our race restored to its pristine, nay, rather, to a far great nobility: and on this day the sun beholds that wondrous sight—man made immortal. Wishing to recall to our minds all these things and others of like nature, Paul publicly appointed that day, taking the day itself as an advocate, as who should say to everyone: Reflect, O Man, how many blessings and of what nature you have received today; from how many and how great evils you have been snatched; what sort of creature you were before and into what you have since been transformed.

Then, too, if we remember our birthdays, and many men who were once slaves celebrate with great ceremony the days on which they received their freedom, so that some prepare feasts, and others still more generous distribute gifts; how much more fitting is it for us to celebrate this day, which it would not be wrong to call the birthday of the whole human race? For we had been lost, and we are found; dead, and we live again; enemies, and we are reconciled. Wherefore it is meet to celebrate it with spiritual honor; not with feasts, not with wine-bibbing, not with drunkenness, not with dancing, but by bringing our poorer brethren to a plenteous store of riches.

I say these things not that you may applaud them merely, but also that you may do them. For you must not think that they were said to the Corinthians alone. Rather are they for the ears of each one of us and of all men as yet unborn. Then let us do even as Paul commanded: on the Lord’s Day let each one of us lay aside the Lord’s money at home. Let this be an immutable law and custom, and we shall have no need then of admonition or counsel. For no sermon or admonition is of so much avail as a deep-rooted custom. If we make it a rule to lay aside something every Lord’s Day for the relief of the poor, not even if a thousand wants assail us will we transgress this law.

After he had said, “On the first day of the week,” he added, “Everyone of you”. I am speaking, he says, not only to the rich, but to the poor also; not only to freemen, but also to slaves; not only to men, but also to women. Let no one be exempt from this service or free from this impost; but let everyone make an offering. And let not poverty stand in the way of this offering. For however poor you may be, you are not poorer than that widow who poured out all her substance. (Luke 21:2–4). However poor you may be, you are not poorer than the Sidonian woman who, although she had only a handful of meal, was not thereby deterred from receiving the prophet; but though she saw her children around her and hunger pressing upon them and had nothing laid aside, nevertheless received the prophet joyfully (3 Kings 17).

But why did he say, “Put apart with himself, laying up …”? (1 Cor. 16:2). Because, if it should chance that a certain man’s offering were small, he would be ashamed and blush to show it. Therefore Paul said, Keep it and guard it, and when, by reason of a great number of offerings, what was small shall have become great, then you shall bring it forth into the open.

And he did not say, making a collection (colligens) but, laying up treasure (thesaurizans), that you may know that you are not losing but gaining, for this expenditure is transformed into a treasure—a treasure, I say, beyond all other treasure. For earthly treasure is the object of scheming and is apt to depreciate, and often works the destruction of those who have acquired it. But not so the heavenly treasure. For it cannot be diminished or assailed by cunning, and it is a means of safety to those who possess and receive it. It is not consumed by time; it is not destroyed by envy; but, absolutely inaccessible to these insidious foes, it confers a thousand blessings on those who gather it.








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