Page images
PDF
EPUB

doomed to perdition, with the terror before their eyes that even they themselves might become, as St. Paul said of himself, perhaps “a castaway.” But beyond all doubt it is a very different thing to wage that awful and relentless war with inward and outward evil, if we can but see, like Constantine's Conquering Legion, far away in the heavens the signals of victory. To look round on our fellow-men, the worst and weakest,or, what is far harder to understand, the basest,—and believe with firm assurance that they are one day to be worthy of all the love and honour we can give them,—this is to enable us to love and labour for them now, and to have patience, as God has patience, with the weight of clay which overlays so heavily their little seed of good. And still more, to look into our own souls, and trust that one day we shall be pure, one day all the vileness there shall be burnt out, one day we shall live in that upper air of noble feelings and high thoughts into which now and then we have just risen in some hour of prayer, to sink again in shameful failure to the dust,—to trust that all this is in store for us, is to lift us up out of the slough of our despond and renew our strength like the eagle's. I suppose there are not many of us who have advanced many steps along that brief way which leads from the cradle to the grave without having sad reason to feel weary and disgusted with themselves and their futile efforts to amend. As the old hymn of Charles Wesley says, they have cried a hundred times, “This only once forgive," and then they have sinned again, till at last the power of feeling anything like acute repentance has passed away, and they have ceased to hope very much that they will ever grow better in this world. There is nothing in all life so sad as this November of the soul; —the scorching suns of summer passion, the April showers of youthful remorse, would be infinitely better than this colourless, dim moral life, so chill, so unhopeful! But even for this, the faith in the Eternal Love of God is the return of spring. Brothers and sisters, if you have felt this deadness fall on you, remember that it has no place, no reason in our creed. We may be cold and dull and unrepenting. We may know even the horrible experience that we have greatly failed, greatly sinned, and yet have no tear of anguish, no heartfelt throb of remorse to give to our shameful past. Yet this is all our misery and deadness of heart,—not God's withdrawal. We cannot help ourselves. But our Father in Heaven, He who desires our righteousness more than we ever desire it, whose “Will is our salvation,”He can help us, He will help us. We have learned our own weakness. Now is the time to learn His Almighty strength. It is not for us to despair of growing, not merely pure but good, not merely good but holy. God has made us for that very thing, and what God intends, that assuredly will, at last, be done. He is not wearied of us; it is we who are weary of our vain and vacillating selves. I cannot use the accustomed phrase, that “He will forgive us if we pray." He is always forgiving. He stands by every hour watching

all our poor struggles, with pity and love ineffable; longing—yes !—I believe we may dare to say it-longing for our return, that He may bless us once more with the consciousness of His love; the sense of re-union with His holiness; the infinite, immeasurable, awful joy of giving ourselves to be His in soul and body on earth, His to do His holy Will in worlds beyond the grave for ever and for ever.

Father! Blessed Father! Take us thus back! From all our wanderings, our coldness, our miserable guilt and rebellion, our baseness and our sin, redeem us, O God! Father, we love Thee-only a little now. But we shall love Thee hereafter, wholly and perfectly. Take our hearts and mould them to Thyself. We give them to Thee. That which Thou desirest for us, even the same do we desire. Fulfil Thy blessed purposes in us. As Thou hast made us to be pure and good, so burn out of our souls all our sinfulness. As Thou hast made us to be strong and holy, so do Thou strengthen us with might by Thy Spirit in the inner man. Shew us all the depth of the evil, the sensuality, the bitterness of heart, the coldness towards Thee in which we have lived, and the glory and beauty and blessing of the life of love to Thee and to our fellows, which it is in our power yet to live. Lift us out of the pit, out of the mire and clay, and set our feet upon a rock, and order all our goings. We are Thine, O Father and Mother of the world ! we are Thine -save us! We know that Thou wilt save!

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

THERE is perhaps no human emotion which may not be described as infectious or epidemic, quite as justly as idiopathic or endemic. We “catch” cheerfulness or depression, courage or terror, love or hatred, cruelty or pity, from a gay or a mournful, a brave or a cowardly, an affectionate or malicious, a brutal or tender-hearted associate, fully as often as such feelings are generated in our own souls by the incidents of our personal experience. In the case of individuals of cold and weak temperaments, it may even be doubted whether they would ever hate, were not the poisoned shafts of an enemy's looks to convey the venom to their veins; nor love, did not the kigs of a lover kindle the unlighted fuel in their hearts. The sight of heroic daring stirs the blood of the poltroon to bravery, and the sound of a single scream of alarm conveys to whole armies the contagion of panic fear. Among the horrors of sieges and revolutions, the worst atrocities are usually committed by men and women hitherto harmless, who suddenly exhibit the tiger passions of assassins and petroleuses ; maddened with the infection of cruelty and slaughter. Sympathy, then, is not, properly speaking, one kind of Emotion, but a spring in human nature whence every Emotion may in turn be drawn, like the manifold liquids from a conjuror's bottle. In the following pages I shall, however, endeavour to trace its development only in the limited sense of that Emotion to which we commonly give the name of Sympathy par excellence ; namely, the sentiment of Pain which we experience on witnessing the Pain of another person, and of Pleasure in his Pleasure, irrespective of any anticipated results, present or future, touching our personal interests. It has been hitherto assumed universally (so far as I am aware) that this precise emotion of Sympathetic Pain and Pleasure has been felt in all ages by mankind; and that, allowance being made for warmer and colder temperaments, and for the intervention of stronger or weaker moral reinforcements, we might take it for granted that every man, woman and child, savage and civilized, has always felt, and will always feel, reflected pain in pain and pleasure in pleasure.* It is the aim of the present paper to urge

* Mr. Bain says (The Emotions and the Will, p. 113) that Compassion has been manifested in every age of the world, and

« PreviousContinue »