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I speak at length on this point, because so fine a force as human pity ought to be wisely directed. It should be something more than an emotion springing out at the sight of suffering; it should be a matter of insight, of careful measurement, and just adaptation.
But, beyond the unrealized suffering, how much is there that is not so overlaid ! It is not necessary to paint the picture that we see so often, so often indeed that we do not see it. Suffer? Who does not suffer! What body that is not at times racked with pain, what house long escapes sickness, what home that sooner or later is not overshadowed by death. Poverty, business troubles, domestic anxiety, mistake and its bitter fruit, regret for the past, darkened futures, the slow eclipse of bright hopes, the life that has missed its meaning, — let us not make little of these. They may not be the greater part of even any single life, but they are real. Get the verdict as you will; read it in the pages of the masters of human nature whose greatest works are tragedies, listen to it in the songs of the poets, or trace it in the faces of men, or find it in the sad pensiveness that grows with the years, and it will be the same. It is a suffering world, not wise enough to avoid disaster, not strong enough to wrestle with nature, not yet good enough to reap the rewards of virtue, not aspiring enough to attain the joy and peace of faith. It is a fallen world, fallen away from its ideals and inwrought methods, and hence it cannot be other than a suffering world. It is the mystery of humanity ; beast and
bird reach their appointed measure of bliss, but man fails of his. The fact itself bespeaks a remedy; the anomaly asserts a return of the law and reign of joy. Because infinite love pities, it will deliver!
3. It is not a long step from the Christ's pity to that it evokes in those who believe in Him.
There is something beyond a sense of justice and fair dealing, something beyond even good-will and love. The highest relation of man to man is that of compassion. Hardly separable from love in words, it may be in conception; it is love at its best, love quick, love in its highest gradation ; it is the brooding, the yearning feeling, the love that protects while it enfolds. It is not laid upon us as a bare duty, but something to which we are born and trained, the evolution of the highest moral sentiment. Hence all suffer in common ways and in almost equal degree except when sin throws its leaden weight into the balance. Every throb of pain I feel is a divine call to pity your pain. When my child dies I am called to weep by the grave of yours. When poverty with its stings and constraints is your portion, God bids me enter into your condition with pitying heart and hand. Our sorrows are not our own, to be secretly wept over or soon dispelled. God forbid that any of us should pass through suffering and come out of it, not only unchastened, but with no tenderer feeling for the whole suffering humanity! It should be the first question with one who in any way suffers, as it is nearly always the first impulse: To what service of ministering pity am I called ? For the ultimate purpose of God in humanity is to bring it together. No true thinker dissents when the process of history is defined as reconciliation. The main human instrument is that we are considering; it is the finest and most dominant force lodged in our common nature; it brings men up to the point from which they launch into the Universal Love.
The law and the method run very deep. One of the chief problems of the day is : how to reconcile the antagonisms of society. While there have been in previous ages a wider space between classes and far heavier oppression and wrong, never before have there been so intense a consciousness of oppression and wrong and so threatening restlessness under it. Communism and Nihilism and the universal organization of labor and capital into opposing forces, to-day at peace, to-morrow at war, are not happy prognostics. Nor do the thoughtful pass by the segregating tendency going on in all manufacturing regions, with its inevitable alienation, and only kept from revolt by steady prosperity ; they know to what such alienation leads at last; the logic of history and of human nature points to one tragical conclusion. Argument will not close this chasm, force only widens it, prosperity but keeps it as it is for the hour. Other methods must be used to overcome these threatening evils. Social science is doing something, but knowledge does not lead the regenerating forces of society; it may marshal them and point the way, but the leader will be a diviner force, a subtler inspiration. The opposing
classes must be brought closer to one another, first by the exercise of justice and then by the exercise of Christian sympathy. When the rich get near enough to the poor to feel the constraint and perplexity and bitterness of their poverty and so are moved to share its burdens, there will be peace in society; never before! Society itself will at last exact justice, but justice is but the portal of that fair temple in which a united humanity shall serve and love and worship.
Great care must be taken to keep this fine quality from sinking into a mere sentiment. There is indeed,
“ The sluggard Pity's vision-weaving tribe,
Their slothful loves and dainty sympathies.” It is not a gush of feeling, it is not made up of tears or sighs, nor is its exercise to be confined to actual pain, but is to be carried back into the region of causes, and here the wisest compassion will be busiest. A vast amount of pain and sorrow is due to injustice: the extortions of the strong and the rich, the unequal distribution of the burdens of society, the discrimination against woman in the laws and in payment for labor, the tyrannical oppression of poor women in cities, the greed of landlords, the horrors of tenement houses, the narrow margin between wages and living, the legal indorsement of dram-shops, the tragedies of the stock-market, the robberies of monopolies, the facility of divorce, — these are some of the fountains out of which flow steady streams of misery. Hence, a wise com
passion will strive for just laws, and honest administration, and a better order of society. So of sickness : it mostly springs from lack of sanitary knowledge and regulations. It is beautiful, the pity that hovers by sick-beds and flies to pestilencestricken cities, but it is a larger and wiser pity that strives to secure the conditions of health. So of intemperance, without doubt the greatest evil of the day; it is a true pity that lifts up the fallen, but that is finer and truer which goes back into the region of causes, — wise nurture, and restraint of the greed that lives on the evil. So a discerning pity will watch with jealous eye the great, deep wrongs of society, and when the conflicts that they beget come on, as come they must, it will know where to array itself; as Shakespeare, who never discourses more wisely than when he dilates on this theme in two of his dramas, says: —
"I show it most of all when I show justice;
For then I pity those I do not know.” There is indeed an orderly development of human society, not to be unduly hastened, but it is by struggle, and one of its factors is the human will and heart.
It was on the Judean counterparts of such sufferers that the pitying eye of the Christ steadily rested. The well-to-do, “the fat and greasy citizens,” He passed by, giving his pity to the stricken deer of society; they that are whole have no need of a physician. Translate the phrase that describes the class He most sought, “publicans and sinners,” and we have the vast pariah class, that outer fringe of