chapter  1
Pages 20

In St Botolph's Aldersgate in 1601, the scribe drew upon a verse from Proverbs to begin the new volume of vestry minutes: 'He that hath mercy upon the Poore, rendeth unto the Lord. And the Lord will recompence him that w[hi]ch hee hath given.'! A list of benefactors to the poor followed the verse, with their names and details about their donations. The churchwardens in St Botolph's used Scripture to sanction the idea of charity and celebrated the exemplary donations of parishioners to encourage the act of giving. Before the Reformation, parishioners understood that salvation came through good works, including charity, and the intercession of priests, saints and Christians who prayed for the souls of the dead. Without denying the selfless motives for giving, the selfish components, from securing salvation to perpetuating the family name, helped to spur late medieval women and men to charitable acts. After the Reformation, even with purgatory abolished and Catholic acts of mercy or good works discredited, charity remained an important act of faith, beneficial to the individual, useful to society, and pleasing to God. Religion, before and after the Reformation, shaped parishioners' views of poverty and poor relief. Protestant ideas, however, were only part of the powerful influences on London's inhabitants; the spectacular growth of the city and the growth in poverty, whether real or perceived, also shaped responses to the problem of the poor.