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human and conditional; with God time is an eternal now. If Christ has any thought derived from God, it is this. He did not stand beside a man racked with pain and exult in his future health. He had a more present cheer for those who wept over their dead than the hope of a future resurrection. It is the significant feature of his thought and teaching that the forces and facts of eternity are drawn within the present; the kingdom of God is at hand here and now; the power of the resurrection is realized now in those who believe. It was the same with suffering ; the divine perfection of his sympathy drew his thought away from its future and linked Him to its present.
2. The question arises : Is this a true or false, a healthy or morbid view of human life? When one reads Pascal, whose whole thought is based on the misery of men, one says, this is morbid, this cannot be the philosophy of life. But the airy sentimentality of the optimists satisfies us as poorly; we feel that Pascal has an acuter insight and the greater weight of facts. The question cannot be answered by determining whether there is more happiness or suffering. Of this it would seem there could be no doubt. It is a good world; God pronounces it such while He is making it. All good has not evaporated with moral evil; it was Pascal's intemperate theology that led him to the opposite conclusion. This great intellect did not draw his data from life nor from his own sufferings; he was a recluse and had small range of social facts, and his acuteness forbade him to reason from himself; he simply reasoned on the basis of a doctrine of original sin that emptied human nature of all its contents, - a miserable, not to say irredeemable, condition indeed! There is, no doubt, suffering vast and keen, but it is small and shallow to the happiness that enspheres life as the air enfolds the earth. In individual cases evil or mischance may turn the balance towards suffering, and sin dims the brightness of the inwrought joy of life for us all. But could we measure the satisfaction that comes from natural affection, from the exercise of bodily and mental functions, from our adaptations to the world and society, from the mysterious sweetness of life itself, we would find our miseries outweighed many-fold. The mere fact that we stay in the world is proof that we really make the unconscious estimate. If this were not so, not only would the race not endure existence, but it could not endure it. When it becomes as a whole miserable rather than happy, it will die by natural consequence as a man dies by disease. Suicide is not oftener an indication of insanity than that the scale has inclined to the wrong side in a personal estimate of happiness and misery. Pessimism has no need to urge its logical plea for a self-destruction of the race; it will destroy itself when it becomes conscious that the pessimist's creed is true.
But none the less is suffering real, and none the less will a sympathizing nature pause upon it rather than look through to the underlying joy, and especially a great pitying nature like Christ will pause upon it and see little else. It is not a matter of more or less, but of appealing anguish. The most imperative appeal made to love is that of suffering ; joy takes care of itself. Jacob had eleven sons about him, but Joseph was not. The shepherd has ninety and nine safe-folded, but “one is away on the mountains cold.” A group of happy children bless a fireside, but the parents watch them with a shaded joy, thinking of the wanderer, dead or living they know not, but lost to them and to goodness. Put yourself in a great city, walk its fine streets, visit its theaters and parks, watch the gay throngs; spend days thus, and then one hour where poverty and vice unite to create wretchedness, — for one hour only see the little children sick and starving, the sewing-women in garrets, the dying on their beds of rags; breathe the air, take in the squalor, the vice, the utter misery; get one glimpse of this life, and the gay multitudes are forgotten in the deeper impression made here. Or spend an evening in a pleasure-party, and then pass to the bedside of a sick child, hear its moans, watch its restless tossings and appealing look for impossible relief, — which of the two pictures stays longest in any feeling heart! It is not a matter of more or less suffering that gives the tone to one's thoughts, but sensitiveness to whatever suffering there may be. Hence Christ paused here in his look at mankind ; nothing diverted his gaze from its suffering. In the weariness of the flesh, He sometimes withdrew from the aching vision into the secrecy of the mountains, and at moments He exulted as He saw the Satan of this misery falling like lightning from
heaven, and the burden of sorrow rolling off from the heart of the world, but for the most his eye rested steadily upon the suffering before Him: a man of sorrows, but not his own sorrows; a man of griefs, but griefs that were his own only as He took them from others into his own heart!
It is not to be thought, however, that this Christly pity embraced only the conscious suffering of men. It is an undiscerning sympathy that reaches only to ills that are felt and confessed. We every day meet men with laughter on their lips, and unclouded brows, who are very nearly the greatest claimants of pity. Pity him who laughs but never thinks. Pity the man or woman who fritters away the days in busy idleness, calling it society, when they might read a book. Pity those who, without evil intent, are making great mistakes, who live as though life had no purpose or end, who gratify a present desire unmindful of future pain. Pity parents who have not learned how to rear and train their children; pity the children so reared as they go forth into life with undermined health and weakened nerves, prematurely wearied of society, lawless in their dispositions, rude and inconsiderate in their manners, stamped with the impress of chance associations and unregulated pleasures. No! it is not pain that is to be pitied so much as mistake, not conscious suffering, but courses that breed future suffering. Who, then, calls for it more than those who have settled to so low and dull a view of life as not to feel the loss of its higher forms, content with squalor and ignorance and low achievement or mere sustenance ? It is now quite common to say, at the suggestion of some very earnest philanthropists, that the poor and degraded do not suffer as they seem ; that they get to be en rapport with their surroundings, and so unmindful of their apparent misery. This may be so, but even if the wind is thus tempered to these shorn lambs of adversity, it is no occasion for withholding pity. Nay, the pity should be all the deeper. The real misery here is, that these poor beings do not look upon their wretched condition with horror and disgust, that they are without that sense and standard of life which would lead them to cry, “This is intolerable; I must escape from it.”. Hence, the discerning Christ-like eye will look through all such low contentedness to the abject spirit behind it, and there expend its pity. Not those who suffer most, but oftener those who suffer least, are the most pitiable. The naked and starving, the widowed and orphaned, and even those about to die may have currents of life flowing quick through them, and life always contains the seeds of joy. Pity rather the man who is content with this world, and is governed by its small prudencies ; pity him who is blind to God's inspiring presence; pity the man who is feeding himself with low pleasures and through beastly appetites. The deepest pity of all, 6 tear-dropping pity,” will rest where it is impossible to awaken moral feeling or the sense of noble things. Then breaks out the divine cry: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace !”