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correct his faults. And it is hence that impatient reformers, and denouncing preachers, and hasty reprovers, and angry parents, and irritable relatives, so often fail, in their several departments, to reclaim the erring
I would, therefore, remind them that they have a new lesson to learn from the compassion of Jesus; and that is, while they permit in themselves the liveliest sensibility to the sins of men, to mingle with it the deepest commiseration for them.
I. And they may learn this lesson—they may find it enforced rather, first, by considering what it is that their feelings and thoughts are exercised about.
It is sin—it is combined guilt and misery-it is the supreme evil. Whence shall we gather comparisons to set it forth? Shall we name sickness ?-Sickness belongs to the body, the corruptible and perishable body. Pain ?-physical pain?— The body is its instrument and end. Loss, disappointment?—They are worldly accidents. Dishonour?- It is, comparatively, a shade upon a name. But a moral offence possesses all these characters, and it attaches them all to the soul. It is sickness, it is pain, it is loss, it is dishonour, in the immortal part. It is guilt; and it is misery added to guilt. It is calamity in itself; and it brings upon itself, in addition, the calamity of God's displeasure, and the abhorrence of all righteous beings, and the soul's own abhorrence. If you have to deal with this evil, deal faithfully, but patiently and tenderly with it. This is no matter for petty provocation, nor for personal strife, nor for selfish irritation.
Speak kindly to your erring brother. God pities him ; Christ has died for him; Providence waits for him; the mercy of heaven yearns towards him; and the spirits of heaven are ready to welcome him back with joy. Let your voice be in unison with all those powers that God is using for his recovery.
Parent! speak gently to your offending child. This trait of parental duty should be deeply pondered. A tone of grave rebuke should, indeed, be sometimes used: perhaps, occasion may require that it should be often used; but the tone of peevish complaint and anger, never. There is a different language; and how much more powerful! “Ah! my child!" might one say, in the manner, if not in language“my child! what injury is all this doing, you!—this passion, this violence, or this vice, what a bitter cup is it preparing for you!” This language, this tone, from the grave wisdom of a father, or the tender anxiety of a mother, might have saved some whom peevishness and provocation have driven farther and deeper into the ways of transgression. But let us put the strongest case.
Your neighbour has done you grievous wrong; and he has the face to tell you so, and to exult in his dishonesty. What man is there whose countenance would not be flushed with momentary indignation, at being so confronted with one that had injured him, and that gloried in the injury! And let us concede thus much to the weakness of nature, or even to the first impulse of virtue. But the next feeling should be unfeigned regret and pity. Yes, the man who stands before you, triumphing in a prosperous fraud and palpable wrong, is the most pitiable of human beings. He has done himself a deeper, a far deeper injury, than he has done to you.
It is the inflicter of wrong, not the sufferer, whom God beholds with mingled displeasure and compassion; and his judgment should be your law. Where amidst the benedictions of the Holy Mount, is there one for this man? But upon the merciful—the peacemakers--the persecuted—they are poured out freely; these are the sacred names upon which the spirit and blessing of Jesus descend.
II. In the next place, it may temper the warmth of our indignation against sin, and soften it into pity; it may well bring us, indeed, to imitate the compassion of Jesus, for us to reflect that whatever others are, and however bad, we, in other circumstances, might have been as they are.
We are all men of like passions, propensities, exposures. elements in us all which might have been perverted through the successive processes of moral deterioration to the worst of crimes. The wretch whom the execration of the thronging crowd pursues to the scaffold or the gibbet, is not worse than any one of that multitude might have become in similar circumstances. He is to be condemned, indeed; but how much he is to be pitied, let his burning passions, his consuming remorse, his pallid cheek, his sinking head, the mingled apathy and agony of his apprehensions-let these tell.
I feel that I am speaking of a case that is fully practical. There is a vindictive feeling in society towards convicted and capital offenders, towards those who are doomed to abide the awful severity of the law, that does not become the frail and the sinful. I do not adopt the unqualified language that it is nothing but the grace of God that saves us from being as bad as the worst of criminals. But it is certain that we owe much to the good providence of God, ordaining for us a lot more favourable to virtue. It is certain that we all had that within us, that might have been pushed to the same excess; and therefore a silent pity and sorrow for the victim should mingle with our detestation of the crime.
The very pirate that dyes the ocean-wave with the blood of his fellow-beings, that meets with his defenceless victim in some lonely sea, where no cry for help can be heard, and plunges bis dagger to the heart which is pleading for life,—which is calling upon him by all the names of kindred, of children and home, to spare-yes, the very pirate is such a man as you or I might have been. Orphanage in childhood ; an unfriended youth; an evil companion; a resort to sinful pleasure ; familiarity with vice; a scorned and blighted name; seared and crushed affections ; desperate fortunes ;—these are steps that might have led any one among us to unfurl upon the high seas the bloody flag of universal defiance; to have waged war with our kind; to have put on the terrific attributes, to have done the dreadful deeds, and to have died the awful death of the ocean robber. How many affecting relationships of humanity plead with us to pity him! That head that is doomed to pay the price of blood, once rested upon a mother's bosom. The hand that did that accursed work, and shall soon be stretched, cold and nerveless, in the felon's grave, was once taken and cherished by a father's hand, and led in the ways of sportive childhood, and innocent pleasure. The dreaded monster of crime has once been the object of sisterly love, and all domestic endearment. Pity him, then. Pity his blighted hope, and his crushed heart. It is a wholesome sensibility: ; it is reasonable; it is meet for frail and sinning creatures like us to cherish; it foregoes no moral discrimination; it feels the crime, but feels it as a weak, tempted, and rescued creature should. It imitates the great Master, and looks with indignation upon the offender, and yet is grieved for him.
III. In the last place, I would set forth the intrinsic worth and greatness of this disposition as a reason for cherishing it. This rauk does the virtue of compassion hold in the character of our Saviour.
How superior is the man of forbearance and gentleness to every other man in the collisions of society! He is the real conqueror ; tlie conqueror of himself: but that is not all; he conquers others. There is no dominion in the social world like this. It is a dominion which makes not slaves, but freemon ; which levies no tribute, but of gratitude; whose only monuments are those of virtuous example.
No man may claim much merit merely for being indignant at the faults and sins of those around him. It is better than indifference, better than no feeling; but it is only the beginning and youth of vir
The youthful, untutored, unsubdued mind, is only angry with sin; and thinks it does well to be angry. But when more reflection comes, and a deeper consciousness of personal deficiencies, and a more entire subjection to the meek and compassionate spirit of Jesus Christ is wrought out in the mind, a new character begins to develope itself. Harsh words, borne upon the breath of a hasty temper, do not ruffle the soul as they once did. Reproof is received with meekness, and in silence. The tongue is not ever ready, as if it were an instrument made to ward off reproach. The peace of the soul does not stand in the opinion of others. Faults are estimated with forbearance. Mature and fixed virtue is too high and strong to think of building itself up, like a doubtful reputation, upon surrounding deficiencies. Sins are more immediately and habitually connected with the sufferings they must occasion; and therefore they more surely awaken pity. The man of advancing piety and virtue, is growing in the conviction, indeed, that the only real, essential, immitigable evil is sin. Ile mourns over it in himself; he mourns over it in others. It is the root of bitterness in the field of life. It is the foe with which he is holding the long and often disheartening conflict. It is the cloud upon the face of nature. That cloud overspreads his neighbour with himself. And he pities from his inmost soul all who walk beneath it.
Patience with the erring and offending is one of the loftiest of all the forms of character. “ Compassion for souls,” though the phrase is often used in a cant and technical manner, ought to be a great and ennobling sentiment. Compassion, indeed, for souls—how should it transcend all other compassion! Look over the world and say, where are its sufferings?. In the diseased body, in the broken limb, in the wounded and bruised organs of sense ? In the desolate dwelling of poverty_in hunger, and cold, and nakedness? Yes, suffering is there; and Providence has put a tongue in every suffering member of the human frame to plead its cause. But enter into the soul-pass through these outworks, and enter the very seat of power, and what things are there -uttering no sound perhaps, breathing no complaint-but what things are there to move compassion ? Wounded and bruised affections, blighted capacities, broken and defeated hopes, desolation, solitariness,
silence, sorrow, anguish, and sin, the cause and consummation of all the deepest miseries of an afflicted life. If the surgeon's knife should cut the very heart, it would hardly inflict a sharper pang than anger, envy, smiting shame, and avenging remorse. Yet happiness is near that heart; happiness, the breath of infinite goodness, the blessed voice of mercy, is all around it; and it is all madly shunned. Eternal happiness is offered to it, and it rejects the offer. It goes on, and on, through life, inwardly burthened, groaning in secret, bleeding, weltering in its passions ; but it will not seek the true relief. Its wounds are without cause ; its sufferings without recompense; its life without true comfort; and its end without hope. Compassion, indeed, for souls ! who may not justly feel it for others' and for his own?
So Jesus looked upon the world—save that he had no compassion to feel for himself; and so much the more touching was his compassion
From the sublime height of his own immaculate purity he looked down upon a sinful, and degraded, and afflicted race. not for me,” he said, “but weep for yourselves and your children.” So Jesus looked upon the world, and pitied it. He taught us, that we might be wise : he was poor that we might be rich; he suffered, that we might be happy; he wept, that we might rejoice; he died—lie died the accursed death of the cross, that we might live-liye for ever.
Weep GOD'S LOVE, THE CHIEF RESTRAINT FROM
SIN AND RESOURCE IN SORROW,
1 Johx iv, 16: “God is love."
It was a saying of Plato, that “the soul is mere darkness till it is illuminated with the knowledge of God.” What Plato said of the soul is true of everything. Everything is dark till the light of God's perfection shines upon it. That “God is love,” is the great central truth that gives brightness to every other truth. Not only the moral system, but nature, and the science of nature, would be dark without that truth. I am persuaded it might be shown, that it is the great, essential principle, which lies at the foundation of all interesting knowledge. It may not be always distinctly observed by the philosopher; but how could he proceed in those investigations that are leading him through all the labyrinths of nature, if it were not for the conviction secretly working within him, that all is right, that all is well? How could he have the heart to pursue his way, as he is penetrating into the mysteries, whether of rolling worlds, or of vegetating atoms, if he felt that the system he was exploring was a system of boundless malevolence! He would stand aghast and powerless at that thought. It would spread a shadow darker than universal eclipse, over the splendour of heaven. It would endow every particle of earth with a principle of malignity, too awful for the hardiest philosophic scrutiny!
The Scriptures assign the same pre-eminence to the doctrine of divine goodness which it holds in nature and philosophy. It is never said, in Scripture, that God is greatness, or power, or knowledge; but, with a comprehensive and affecting emphasis, it is written, that God IS LOVE; not that he is lovely, not that he is good, not that he is benevolent, merely—that would be too abstract for the great, vital, lifegiving truth—but it is written, I repeat, that God is love!
And it is not of this truth as an abstract truth, my friends, that I propose now to speak. I wish to consider chiefly its applications; and especially its applications to two great conditions of human life; to the conditions of temptation and sorrow. Affliction, we know, is sometimes addressed with worldly consolations, and sin is often assailed with denunciation and alarm; yet for both alike, and for all that makes up the mingled conflict, and sorrow, and hope of life, it seems to me that a deep and affectionate trust in the love of God is the only powerful, sustaining, and controlling principle.
Let me say again—an affectionate trust; the faith, in other words, that works by love. It is not a cold, speculative, theological faith, that can prepare us to meet the discipline of life. It is the confidence of