Sermon Preached in St. Bridget’s Church, Bagot Street, on Sunday Evening, December 3rd, 1893

[In the realm of Art Christ says that] no Art is possible, no labour is likely to be loveable and lead to Art, in which men cannot express themselves whole and sole.  That the Red Indian who makes his bark canoe from first to last, the wild South Sea Islander who carves his proa-head, the Arab camel driver who plaits the tassels and broiders his camel saddle with coarse shells, has a far better chance of having his whole sentient being called out to an expression of his sense of beauty, and a desire to give God, whom he dimly feels after, the glory of it, than are the tens of thousands of capable mechanics who are crowded in our unloveable city workshops and sleep in our unlovely city slums. (p. 9)

And if the true test of civilisation is, as Emerson says, “not the census nor the size of cities, nor the crops, but the kind of men the country turns out;” our England, for all its board schools and its free libraries, is not turning out to-day such men as knew Giotto and went with joy to the Church of S. Marco, or Santa Maria Novella to carry home the last great picture that the painter of their city had wrought. (p. 9)

And why? because Joy in labour is dead!

Instead of thinking first of the work, its aim, its object, its use, its service to man, its possibility of glory to God the Inspirer, the craftsman in the factory and the ordinary successful painter at his easel, putting the last touch to the hunting boots of the red-coat squire or to the ringlet of the little overdressed Countess’s child, has now no other interest than the wages to be paid for his work. (p. 9)

What Carlyle called the “cash nexus,” what had better been called the “cash insulator,” has come in.  And the joy of service to their fellows and their God by the work of their hands has failed, helped not a little thereto in the mechanic and factory-hand’s life by the fact that he never sees the fruit of his hands’ labour himself, and whilst he spends his life in making one bolt, or screw, or rachet or spindle, the great engine he laboured for and the cloth he helped to make, pass from him and have nothing of his own whole soul’s full desire stamped upon them. (p. 9)

It is not that the mass of the people are ill-fed, as Ruskin has told us, that makes them discontented to-day.  It is that joy in their labour has ceased under the sun, and that work instead of being worth doing well with a great motive of service to God and their fellows is now done only for the money it can get; and verily we have our reward, the sin of industrial and art-producing England is finding us out. (p. 9)

But in the great living times of the Painters this was not so.  The man who made Giotto his sculptor’s tool, or paint-brush, made it from first to last.  And as for the doing good work merely for good pay, the idea was abhorrent to the artist-mind, that felt in giving, not in getting, lay at once its inspiration, and its very power of expressing praise to the Highest and Holiest.  Carpaccio knew that an artist should paint as a bird sings, because he must.  And if you gaze upon the face of Matthew Levi in the church of St. Gorgio del Schiavoni at Venice, when, leaving his money-changer’s table, he steps down to meet his Lord, you will know how deeply Carpaccio felt that it is not till a man has done with the money bags that happiness can be.  Levi’s face is all aglow with the new joy as he turns from filthy lucre to the Lord and Master of all poor men. (p. 9)

Giotto as he toiled at his great tower in Florence, though he knew that he should receive but twenty-five gold pieces at each quarter day, had no thought of other gold for his service than the sunlight flashing far and wide above the red brown city, from his splendid tower, as long as his tower should flush with dawn or redden with the eve. (p. 9)

Not what he could get but what he could give his fellows; not glory for himself and household, but for Padua and Florence and for God, did the chief architect and painter of his day, seek for and work for.  “He that is chief among you let him be as he that doth serve.  I am among you as he that serveth.  For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (p. 9)

This was the voice of Christ that sounded in Giotto’s ears and the ears of all who truly followed Him.  It is the voice of Jesus that cries to the Painter, the Potter and the Sculptor, the Architect of our day: to the guardians of our great cities: to the shepherds in our lonely villages, the carpenter in his village workshop, the mechanic in the factory or forge. (p. 9)

And not till it is heard aright, will captive Art break its golden chains, its silken mesh of luxury and selfishness; assert its freedom in Church, in Chapel, in Public Meeting-place, in Street, in Gallery, in Home, and in Dress, and be once more, instead of Mammon’s slave, the Servant of God and of the people, the Gate and Door for Christ and Truth and Glory. (p. 9)

(Liverpool Pulpit, 3 (January 1894), pp. 3-9)