Retirement from Worldly Affairs, Matthew 6:24

Bennet Neale
Catholic; Unknown 1760-08-31, 1763
GTM.000002, American Catholic Sermon Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Georgetown University

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14a post Pentec.

Retirement from Worldly affairs

Matthew 6:24 Nemo potest duobus Dominis servire etc. 1760 1763.

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14th Sunday After Pentecost

Dixit Jesus Discipulis suis: Nemo potest duobus Dominis servire. Christ told his Disciples: No one can serve to Masters. (Mathew 6:24)

The oracle of Truth has declared this verity unto us: & indeed, without having recourse to Faith, reason itself is sufficient to convince us that it is impossible to reconcile the service of two Masters, who are capital enemies to each other, & who have not only different Interests, but interests & Sentiments quite opposite to one another. Because, as St. Paul says, what can be common to Justice & Iniquity, what affinity between Light & Darkness, in a word, what communication between Jesus Christ & Baal (2 Corinthians 6:14-15) ? From hence God’s most faithful Servants unanimously concluded, that they ought to renounce the World, because, being fully determined to serve God, feeling they saw that they could not at the same time serve the World; wherefore they generously sacrificed all the pleasures & grandeur of the world to the Service of almighty God, in a silent & retired life. The same motive, [Dear Christians], ought to engage us to detest the world & its vanities; & this is so necessary for our Sanctification that it shall make up the subject of my ensuing Discourse. The world, in which we live, has 2 pernicious effects; it dissipates our Minds, it corrupts our Manners; it dissipates our minds by the multiplicity of business it engages us in; it corrupts our manners by the frequent occasions of Sin, to which it exposes us. We ought then to take all possible care to fortify ourselves against these 2 disorders: Now, the very best means to effect this is to retire from time to time from the Hurry of affairs, to take & set some time apart to con for the consideration of our Eternal welfare. No excuse whatsoever, no pretext can dispense with the obligation we all

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lie under of doing this, as I shall show in my first Point the sequel of my discourse, having first implored the assistance of the Holy Ghost thro’ the Intercession of the glorious Queen of Angels, saluting her with the St. Gabriel: Hail Mary etc. (Luke 1:28)

Nemo potest duobus Dominis servire. (Matthew 6:24)

As Christians we are obliged to labor sedulously in the most essential affair of a Christian, to wit, that of Eternal Salvation. It is therefore necessary to withdraw ourselves from the Hurry of business from time to time & live, tho’ in the midst of the world, yet so as not to settle our hearts & affections upon the world. Holy David found out a [secret] for this when he said Quis dabit, mihi pennas sicut columbae, & volabo, & requiescam. Who will give me wings like a Dove, & I will fly from the world to repose in you my God (Psalms 55:6) . In effect this Holy King frequently [retired] from Company, & tho’ he was surrounded with all the [Grandeur] of the world, found out a way to live in solitude [by] frequently shutting himself up in his Chamber to take [* gutter] into a serious consideration the main End for which he was created: Ecce elongavi fugiens, & mansi in solitudine. (Psalms 55:7) For in reality it's in that retirement & separation from worldly affairs, that we find true repose, it’s here we [attain] an knowledge of Almighty God, it's here we learn to fear his [Judgment.] In a word it's here in the presence of the Divine Majesty that we examine the past, regulate the present, & secure the future [state] of our Souls, by diving into our obligations, [finding] out our errors & deploring our offenses; all which it [is] impossible to effect amidst the tumult & noise of the world and yet alas! how easily do people excuse themselves from this duty! what vain pretexts don’t they allege to show that impossibility, as they would fain have it, of complying with it? Their temporal affairs, family business, the [trouble] of a noisy house full of Children take it our of their power; however to abolish this error so common in the world, I only ask this question: do you think, that

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their being taken up with what is useless & superfluous will ever excuse their negligence in what is necessary? Or that their application to what is only accidental, will excuse their prove a sufficient pretext for you to abandon the principle? Alas! God has not called us to the Government of Kingdoms & Empires; he has quite other designs upon us, & tho He had charged us with state affairs, tho we were entrusted with the most important post under the Sun, yet this were only a vain an empty an accidental Employ, a trivial affair if compared with our own Salvation; & common sense itself would condemn anyone's behavior, who should prefer the former to the latter. You say that your worldly affairs quite over power you, & hinder you from spending any time in the consideration of your Eternal welfare. And I make answer that, that very excuse you allege, will be your own Condemnation; because there is no temporal affair ever so pressing, which Almighty God does not forbid us to prefer to the care of our Souls. And in reality there is no condition of life ever so distracting, no business ever so pressing, which can’t be reconciled with this main affair, so as to allow sufficient time for all our spiritual exercises, & pious considerations in retirement, by which we may learn to remove all obstacles of our Salvation. And this is an evident Truth: Otherways, as St. Chrysostom remarks very well, God would have wanted either Wisdom, or Goodness: 1 Wisdom, if he had established a state of Life without furnishing it with those Means without which it's absolutely impossible it should be for want of which it is impossible it should be either well regulated or Holy; He would have wanted Goodness, if having provided those sufficient means, He should call to such a State Men whom he should know to be uncapable of applying those means; to say either one or the other is most injurious to the Divine Majesty, because God as the author of all states has provided each one with its proper means; nay the greater the difficulties are, which each state meets with, the greater graces & more abundant succors does his infinite Goodness supply ’em with. In effect, continues St. Chrysostom; it is a wonderful thing to see that

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those very People, who by their state of Life are most exposed to this pretended throng of Impediments, are frequently the most addicted to the Service of Almighty God, & spend the [most] time in holy solitude & Retirement. David was both [King] & Warrior; Did he ever neglect the Service of Almighty God, for his own private affairs? or did he ever neglect his state affairs for the Service of Almighty God? 2 no, no [Dear Christians], he found it very easy [to] reconcile one with the other & found allot proper time for both. In the heighth of the most pressing business, he had time to retire from Company, & pray seven times a Day, Septies [in] die laudem dixi tibi (Psalms 119:164) 3 yet he acquitted himself most faithfully of every duty of a vigilant King, he maintained the rights of his Subjects, he did Justice to his people, he took cognizance of all things, he carried on the wars of his [Nation] with such success that Judea was never happier under another king. After this who can pretend to allege the cares of a family for an excuse in a criminal neglect of their his [Salvation]? But tell me, if you please: those family occupations which you lay so much stretch upon, do they hinder you from finding time to nourish your sinful bodies, to satisfy your treacherous passions, to enjoy worldly Diversions? No business ever so urgent will retain you from an Assembly, a public meeting, or an horse-Race; & yet the least vain & frivolous affair is sufficient to make you neglect going to Church, frequenting the Sacraments, or saying your Prayers. Is it possible that you should find time for every thing else besides that main & important affair, for which alone you came into this world? of your Eternal Salvation Ah! [Dear Christians]: let us acknowledge our Injustice, let us confess the weakness of our arguments, let us & be confounded for our past frivolous excuses & cry crying out with Holy Job: vere scio quod justificetur homo compositus Deo (Job 9:2) . Yes, my God, I know, & am fully convinced that a man so taken up with [affairs] of the world as I have hitherto been, & so backward in that [* gutter] his Salvation, can find no excuse before you. Wherefore I [am] determined to enter now upon a new life & take different measures. If my business is not necessary & will suffer it, I will retrench my cares; if necessary, I will at least

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regulate ‘em so as to find time for both, so as not to neglect my Poor Soul for anything transitory & perishable. I will impose upon myself this law, that I will from time to time retire from the hurry of business to enter into myself in order to settle & regulate the affairs of my Soul; & the more pressing my business shall be, the greater shall I think my obligation will be of doing this in order to draw down your blessings upon me, that I may succeed in my undertakings. But let us advance a step farther & examine into the reasons, why we are so apt to neglect our Eternal Spiritual advancement for worldly business & conversation. Alas! [Dear Christians]: the cause is so palpable, that we don’t stand in need of much study to find it out. It is because we live in the midst of a world so corrupted, that we our selves are already tainted with its pernicious Maxims, by frequenting too much the company of such, who make open profession of being the world's abettors. Whence I infer, that we stand under a strict obligation of cutting off all communication with such, & renouncing the world, unless we have a mind to perish Eternally with them in the world. This is not my own [Illustration], but that of God himself, when he expressly forbid his people to intermix with foreign nations, or have any commerce with Idolators, for fear lest they should be infected by ‘em. And in reality most of our worldly engagements, which hinder us from applying to our main affair, are so far from being necessary that they are for the most part engagements of Passion, engagements of Ambition, of sensuality, of curiosity. For what else can we style those frequent visits, in which our discourse for the most part rolls upon nothing but the defects of our Neighbor? those meetings of pleasure, those public sports & gamings where we only learn what we had better never have known? Don’t deceive yourselves, [Dear Christians], but frankly own the truth: Could not you dispense with all this? could not you at least moderate it? could not you retrench it, so as not to let it be a hindrance to the Service of God? But you live in the world, you’ll say; you must

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therefore live & act like the rest of the world. but, I say, you are a Christian & that you must therefore live & act like a Christian & the law of Christ severely forbids all those entertainments & engagements, which take us off from our duty to God. But the world would be very much surprised, & talk of you, were you to break off, or reform your life. Alas! let it be surprised, let it talk of you as [much] as it pleases; not in spite of all its discourse it could deprive you of that interior consolation you would will then have to see yourself out of all danger & in the right way to Heaven. Would the world come to your assistance to [draw] you out of the bottomless Pit of Hell, were you to plunged therein? why then should you be more solicitous for the world now, than in that supposition case the world would [be] for you? but I say yet more; the world it would [sooner] or later do you Justice, & declare it self edified at your change of Life, were you but to remain steadfast in your Christian & pious Resolutions. But be it as it will, I [stick] to my first proposition, that we ought to renounce the world, if we would serve Jesus Christ, & save our [souls] because we can’t serve two Masters so diametrically opposite. Let us then, [Dear Christians], take a generous resolution & fly from Babylon, Egredimini de Babylone (Isaiah 48:20) . The advice is good; & we are all equally interested in it, because it concerns the welfare of our souls, the securing of which of how great importance it is, no one, that has a soul to be saved, can be ignorant of. Whatever pains we shall be forced to take, whatever violence we must necessarily [use] to make this divorce with the world, we may assure [ourselves] we shall be well paid for it, & recompensed with a rich treasure. The time of the battle will be but short, but [the] victory lasting. The difficulties we shall meet with will have a terms but the Reward will never. End. The time will come, when death must separate us from the world, & leave nothing but our ashes behind. Let us then make

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it our duty to do that now, which we sooner or later we shall be forced to by necessity. Let us, I say, bid adieu to the vanities of the world, break off with all sinful conversation, & have our set times for prayer regulated so as never to omit ‘em, but frequently retireing into solitude, that is, separateing ourselves from Company in order to prepare our selves souls to appear before Almighty God, & receive from his hands that Eternal Recompense, which I wish you all. etc.


1. Saint John Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom (London: 1879), 83-84.

2. Saint John Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom (London: 1879), 95-98, 126.

3. [Author's Marginal Note] Psal. 118