Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/48

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38
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

maintained. A parallel genesis is shown us by ancient historic peoples. Among the Greeks "the remains of the sacrifice are the priests' fees," and "all that served the gods were maintained by the sacrifices and other holy offerings." Nor was it otherwise with the Hebrews. In Leviticus ii. 10 we read, "And that which is left of the meat-offering shall be Aaron's and his sons' " (the appointed priests); and other passages entitle the priest to the skin of the offering, and to the whole of the baked and fried offering. Neither does the history of early Christianity fail to exhibit the like development. "In the first ages of the Church, those deposita pietatis which are mentioned by Tertullian were all voluntary oblations." Afterward "a more fixed maintenance was necessary for the clergy; but still oblations were made by the people. . . . These oblations [defined as 'whatever religious Christians offered to God and the Church '], which were at first voluntary, became afterward, by continual payment, due by custom." In mediæval times a further stage in the transition is shown us: "Besides what was necessary for the communion of priests and laymen, and that which was intended for eulogies, it was at first the usage to offer all sorts of presents, which at a later date were taken to the bishop's house and ceased to be brought to the church." And then by continuation and enlargement of such donations, growing into bequests, nominally to God and practically to the Church, there grew up ecclesiastical revenues.

 

Doubtless sundry readers have made on the foregoing statements the running criticism that they represent all presents as made by inferiors to propitiate superiors; and that they ignore the presents having no such purpose, which are made by superiors to inferiors. These, though they do not enter into what can be called ceremonial government, must be noticed. The contrast between the two kinds of presents, in meaning, is well recognized where present-making is much elaborated, as in China. "At or after the customary visits between superiors and inferiors, an interchange of presents takes place: but those from the former are bestowed as donations, while the latter are received as offerings; these being the Chinese terms for such presents as pass between the emperor and foreign princes."

Naturally it happens that as the power of the political head develops, until at length, with little or no check, he assumes universal ownership, there results a state in which he finds it needful to give back to his dependents and subjects part of that which he has monopolized. And having been originally subordinated by giving, these are now, to a certain extent, further subordinated by receiving. People of whom it can be said, as of the Kukis, that "all the property they possess is by simple sufferance of the rajah," or people who, like the Dahomans, are owned in body and estate by their king, are obviously so conditioned that property having flowed in excess to the political centre must flow down again from lack of other use; and hence in Dahomey, though no