The Theological Critique



The fact that many activities considered usurious were legal, and indeed had been legal in some form in virtually all historical civilizations, caused significant problems for the anti-usury campaigners. It was frequently said that usury had been made legal so that it might be tightly restricted, and that usury law was a way of mollifying human rapacity, which would otherwise lead to predatory lending outside the law. As William Perkins wrote in 1606:

[I]n this our land there is the practise of Vsurie, a sinne that cannot, nor euer shall be rooted out vtterly. For this cause, the States of this kingdome, haue out of their wisdome, prouided a Law for the toleration thereof after a sort, and that vpon speciall cause. For if the Magistrate should haue enacted a Law vtterly to abolish it, it would before this (in likelihood) haue growne to great extremitie. The same was the practise of the Apostles in their times, who yeelded to beare with the vse of Circumcision for a time, when they could not otherwise vtterly cut it off.1


Paradise Lost Predatory Lending Conventional Metaphor Total Depravity Faustian Bargain 
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    See Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” The Marx-Engels Reader, Robert C. Tucker (ed.) (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 26–53.Google Scholar
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    Robert Wilson, Three Ladies of London in Lloyd Kermode (ed.), Three Usury Plays (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009).Google Scholar
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© David Hawkes 2010

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