Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
A Latter-Day Appeal
By Thomas Nashe (15671601)
From Christs Tears over Jerusalem
IF Christ were now naked and unvisited, naked and unvisited should He be, for none would come near Him. They would rather forswear Him and defy Him, than come within forty foot of Him. In other lands, they have hospitals, whither their infected are transported, presently after they are strucken. They have one hospital for those that have been in the houses with the infected, and are not yet tainted; another for those that are tainted, and have the sores risen on them, but not broken out. A third, for those that both have the sores, and have them broken out on them. We have no provision but mixing hand over head, the sick with the whole. A halfpenny a month to the poor mans box, we count our utter impoverishing. I have heard travellers of credit avouch, that in London is not given the tenth part of that alms in a week, which in the poorest besieged city of France is given in a day. What, is our religion all avarice and no good works? Because we may not build monasteries, or have masses, dirges, or trentals sung for our souls, are there no deeds of mercy that God hath enjoined us?
Our dogs are fed with the crumbs that fall from our tables. Our Christian brethren are famished for want of the crumbs that fall from our tables. Take it of me, rich men expressly, that it is not your own which you have purchased with your industry: it is part of it the poors, part your Princes, part your preachers. You ought to possess no more than will moderately sustain your house and your family. Christ gave all the victual He had, to those that flocked to hear His sermons. We have no such promise-founded plea at the day of all flesh, as that in Christs name we have done alms-deeds. How would we with our charity sustain so many mendicant orders of religion as we heretofore have, and as now at this very hour beyond sea are, if we cannot keep and cherish the casual poor amongst us? Never was there a simple liberal reliever of the poor, but prospered in most things he went about. The cause that some of you cannot prosper, is, for you put out so little to interest to the poor.
No thanks-worthy exhibitions, or reasonable pensions, will you contribute to maimed soldiers or poor scholars, as other nations do, but suffer other nations with your discontented poor, to arm themselves against you. Not half the priests that have been sent from them into England had hither been sent, or ever fled hence, if the cramp had not held close your purse-strings. The livings of colleges by you are not increased, but diminished: because those that first raised them had a superstitious intent, none of us ever after will have any Christian charitable intent.
In the days of Solomon, gold and silver bare no price. In these our days (which are the days of Satan), nought but they bear any price. God is despised in comparison of them. Demas forsook Christ for the world; in this our deceasing covetous world, Demas hath more followers than Christ. An old usurer that hath neer an heir, rakes up thirty or forty thousand pounds together in a hutch, will not part with a penny, fares miserably, dies suddenly, and leaves those the fruits of his niggardise,1 to them that never thank him.
He that bestoweth anything on a college or hospital, to the worlds end shall have his name remembered in daily thanksgiving to God for him: otherwise he perisheth as the pellitory on the wall, or the weed on the housetop, that groweth only to wither; of all his wealth no good man reaping any benefit, none but cankers, prisons and barred chests live to report he was rich. Those great barred chests he carries on his back to Heavens gates, and none so burdened is permitted to enter.
Our English curmudgeons have treasure innumerable, but do no good with it. All the abbey-lands that were the abstracts from impertinent alms, now scarce afford a meals meat of alms. A penny bestowed on the poor is abridged out of housekeeping. All must be for their children that spend more than all. More prosperous children should they have, were they more open-handed. The plague of God threatens to shorten both them and their children, because they shorten their hands for the poor. To no cause refer I this present mortality but to covetise.