Before the Fall

We all know of the incident when the disciples were grumbling amongst themselves about which of them would be greatest in the kingdom of God, and Jesus took a child and set him in their midst, saying that unless they were converted and became as little children, they would not enter the kingdom at all. It was the same when women brought their children to Jesus to be blessed, and the disciples, playing the officious managers, told the women to go away, no doubt begging them to consider how far the Master had walked and how tired he was. But Jesus rebuked the disciples, telling them to let the little children come to him, for of such was the kingdom of God. Then he embraced the children and blessed them.

Of course, Jesus was urging upon his disciples the virtue that hardly anyone prays for, which is humility, a virtue which seems to shrivel up in us like a spider as soon as we begin to notice it. And yet we play-act at humility, too. Charles Dickens can portray this vice for us with fiery purity, as he did, for example, with the never-young clerk, Uriah Heep. When the boy David Copperfield first meets Uriah and asks him, since he is a lawyer’s clerk, whether he is going to be a great lawyer, too, the clerk rubs his hands and demurs. Oh no, that will never happen, says he:

“I am well aware that I am the umblest person going,” said Uriah Heep, modestly; “let the other be where he may. My mother is likewise a very umble person. We live in a numble abode, Master Copperfield, but have much to be thankful for. My father’s former calling was umble. He was a sexton.”

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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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