Tag Archives: charity

19 February: Charity and Ostentation

Dr Graham BeardsCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Out of six churches in Birmingham, three bear the names of the donors [including St Philip’s, above, now the Cathedral] … The gifts, which the benefactor himself believes are charitable, and expects the world to believe the same, if scrutinized, will be found to originate from various causes–counterfeits are apt to be offered in currency for sterling. Perhaps ostentation has brought forth more acts of beneficence than charity herself; but, like an unkind parent, she disowns her offspring, and charges them upon charity.

Ostentation is the root of charity; why else are we told, in capitals, by a large stone in the front of a building–“This hospital was erected by William Bilby, in the sixty-third year of his age, 1709.” Or, “That John Moore, yeoman, of Worley Wigorn, built this school, in 1730.”–Nay, pride even tempts us to strut in a second-hand robe of charity, left by another; or why do we read–“These alms-houses were erected by Lench’s trust, in 1764. W. WALSINGHAM, BAILIFF.” Another utters the word charity, and we rejoice in the echo. If we miss the substance, we grasp at the shadow.

Sometimes we assign our property for religious uses, late in the evening of life, when enjoyment is over, and almost possession. Thus we bequeath to piety, what we can keep no longer. We convey our name to posterity at the expence of our successor, and scaffold our way towards heaven up the walls of a steeple. Will charity chalk up one additional score in our favour, because we grant a small portion of our land to found a church, which enables us to augment the remainder treble its value, by granting building leases? a man seldom makes a bargain for heaven, and forgets himself. Charity and self-interest, like the apple and the rind, are closely connected, and, like them, we cannot separate one without trespassing on the other.

In contributions of the lesser kind … [we do not] fear our left hand knowing what our right hand doth, our only fear is, lest the world should not know it.

This superb edifice (Saint Philip’s Church, now Birmingham Cathedral) was begun by act of Parliament, in 1711, under a commission consisting of twenty of the neighbouring gentry, appointed by the bishop of the (Lichfield) diocese, under his episcopal seal.

From An History of Birmingham (1783) by William Hutton.

William Hutton seems to have cast a very cold eye over the benefactors of his home town! But perhaps we can learn from the 18th Century about doing good without the trumpets blaring in the market place. The benefactor, Hutton says, believes he is being charitable, when he’s actually showing off. This Lent, how am I kidding myself?

St Philip’s will always have a special place in our family for it was there that my cousin Margaret was ordained deacon and priest. Pray for her and all ministers in this time of uncertainty. Lench’s Trust is still providing housing for elderly people in Birmingham.

MMB

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8 January: The Embankment at Night, Before the War.

A stormy London skyline today from Greenwich.

D H Lawrence meant before the Great War, 1914-18. When he is not trying to be over intellectual and convey abstract ideas in poetry, when he is being human, as here, he is a better poet. We can surely all sympathise with his mixed emotions, as Christina and I discussed a while back. The Embankment would be described as a dyke or levee elsewhere; busy roads and broad footpaths run along it, under trees. Let’s not forget those people it is hard to help this Christmas.

By the river
In the black wet night as the furtive rain slinks down,
Dropping and starting from sleep
Alone on a seat
A woman crouches.
 I must go back to her. I want to give her
Some money. Her hand slips out of the breast of  her gown
Asleep. My fingers creep
Carefully over the sweet
Thumb-mound, into the palm’s deep pouches.
 So, the gift! God, how she starts!
And looks at me, and looks in the palm of her hand!
And again at me!
I turn and run
Down the Embankment, run for my life.
 But why?—why? Because of my heart’s
Beating like sobs, I come to myself, and stand
In the street spilled over splendidly
With wet, flat lights. What I’ve done
I know not, my soul is in strife.
 The touch was on the quick. I want to forget.

” (from “New Poems” by D. H. (David Herbert) Lawrence 1885-1930)

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, PLaces, poetry, winter