« ElőzőTovább »
THE CHRIST'S PITY.
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.” – ST. MATTHEW ix. 36.
WE often speak of love as the ultimate passion, but there is a depth even beyond love. For love is largely its own reward, and so may possibly have an element of imperfection, but pity or compassion has not only all the glory and power of love, but it forgets itself and its own returning satisfactions, and goes wholly over into the sufferings of others, and there expends itself, not turning back or within to say to itself, as does love, “How good it is to love!” Hence Balzac, in “ The Alchemist,” in depicting an ideally perfect love, makes the object of it deformed, thus profoundly indicating that love is not at its height and perfection without the element of pity. It may be a factor in the solution of the problem of evil that it calls out the highest measure of the divine love ; a race that does not suffer might not have a full revelation of God's heart. What! Create a race miserable in order to love it! Yes, if also thereby its members shall learn to love one another, and if thus only it may know the love of its Creator. In the same way it is man's consciousness of misery, or self-pity, that reveals to
him his own greatness, - a thought that Pascal turns over and over.
Pity is love and something more: love at its utmost, love with its principle outside of itself and therefore moral, love refined to utter purity by absorption with suffering. A mother loves her child when it is well, but pities it when it is sick, and how much more is the pity than the love! How much nearer does it bring her, rendering the flesh that separates her from it a hated barrier because it prevents absolute oneness, dying out of her own consciousness, and going wholly over into that of the child whose pains she would thus, as it were, draw off into her own body! To die with and for one who is loved — as the poets are fond of showing - is according to the philosophy of human nature. Might not something like it be expected of God, who is absolute love ? And how shall He love in this absolute way except by union with his suffering children? Such is the nature of pity; it is a vicarious thing, which bare love is not, because it creates identity with the sufferer.
The text is one of the peculiarly revealing passages of the Christ's life. Here we behold in Him the blending of the highest forms of both divine and human love: the incarnation of one, the perfection of the other, one in their expression, for love is the reflection of unity. We see Him moving through the villages telling the good news of the kingdom of God at hand, healing all sickness and suffering that came under his pitying eye, and moved with compassion for the multitudes He could
not reach. The people throng about him, as they always will when a true teacher speaks. They open to Him their hungry hearts, their bewildered minds, their despairing hopes for this world and that to come. Or they stand before Him, dull and dead as the forms and doctrines under which they had been smothered, or they bring to Him their nearer sorrows of wearying, life-sapping disease. For this compassionating teacher takes in the whole range of suffering; He sees that man is one; that bodily sickness and spiritual ailment are not far apart; that both in physical disease and moral degradation the common need is life. And it is to restore life to humanity that He has come; not to save souls, not to save bodies, but to save soul and body; He has not come to build up “ a faded paradise” in this world, nor to unlock the gates of a paradise beyond, but to establish an order here so strong and well founded that it shall endure forever.
But as He looks over these suffering multitudes and reflects how little He can do for them, how few He can reach, how slow are the processes by which they are delivered from their sufferings ; as He reflects how soon they will lapse out of the inspirations He has stirred, and turn again to their blind teachers; as his thought goes out to the wide world of suffering of which this is only a faint sign, he is moved with compassion. How can He leave them when He can do so much for them; leave them to bear their sicknesses alone, to wander about in this world that is so full of God's truth and love without any one to show it to them; to be harassed by fears of death and haunting thoughts of the future, and vague, fearful thoughts of God, and by the unrest of conscious evil and all the weariness of unexplained life! And so in a sort of despair it is the only thing He can do — He turns to his disciples and says: “ Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He send forth laborers into his harvest.” It was not a vain request; the next we see is these disciples, themselves the answer of their own prayer, armed with saving and inspiring power, going out into this world of unredeemed suffering. They go on an errand of compassion ; they are to declare the kingdom of heavenly love as at hand, to heal the sick, to cast out devils, to raise the dead,
- all in that large-hearted measure which they had realized in themselves.
In speaking further, we will guide our thoughts by naming several points.
1. Christ's habitual look at men had regard to them as suffering. No other aspect of life seems to have struck Him with equal force or to have so claimed his thought, that He did not feel its sorrow. The foundation of his work is ethical, but the tone is drawn from his sensibilities rather than from his judicial sentiments; the ethical is but the instrument; to get rid of the sorrow is the end.
The painters, and especially that nearly greatest one, Da Vinci, have given us a man burdened with his own sorrows, but when the artist comes who apprehends the true Christ, he will figure a sympathizing Christ; the drawn lines of finest sensibility, a mouth tender and trembling with just uttered
words of compassion, and eyes fathomless with unutterable pity. I do not suppose that Christ was unobservant of, or unresponsive to, the pleasures of men. He did not sit at feasts with sad words upon his lips, but still his thought struck through these gladder phases and saw the lack behind the pleasure, saw that the meat and the wine stood for no full satisfaction, that the laughter was not the echo of a real joy. Nor yet do I mean that Christ's thought did not strike deeper still and find back of all suffering the eternal joy that underlies existence; that He did not know and feel that the keynote of the universe is blessedness. He not only knew this, but He knew it as no other ever knew it. In the last days of his earthly life, when his eyes were lifted somewhat from their long gaze at the world and turned to the heavens, He spoke of little else. This eternal joy had become his own, its secret won by obedience and sacrifice, full and welling over in desire that it might be full in those about Him. But He did not habitually take this larger and deeper view; it was, in some sense, a reserved view. To have had it before Him in all its force would have bred a sort of ecstasy unfitting for his work. Instead He looked at men and life as they are in the present moment. It is a main point in studying the eternal Christ to separate Him from all time-conceptions. In nothing is his divinity more attested than in his sharing the divine conception of what we call time. Like God He inhabits eternity in all his thought and speech. We do not coördinate God with space and time, these are