Page images

the Jews by Moses. It was therefore in all ages the duty of rational creatures; and every man, when he either consulted his own huma: nity, or attended to the voice of God, must always have found, that the miseries of mankind were a constant call, to him to exercise pity and compassion ; that he would not be regardless of the complaints and sorrows of others, without forgetting that he was himself a man, obliged to imitate the Father of mercies and God of all comforts.

But, how plain soever the duty was in general, the Jews, whom God, for wise reasons, had see parated fron the rest of mankind, proud of their privileges, and looking upon themselves as having no relation to the rest of the world, confined the exercise of this virtue within too narrow bounds, to the people of their own nation or religion; vainly imagining that the duty of loving their neighbours as themselves, as inculcated in the law and the prophets, only obliged them to relieve their own 'countrymen, children of the same Abraliam, and that all other were as aliens and foreigners, and therefore entitled to no


The blessed Jesus, therefore, who came to unite all mankind in the bonds of mutual love


and affection, took all opportunities of correcting this mistake, of enlarging the narrow bounds which they had set to their humanity, and of assuring them, that both Jew and Gentile were bound to consider every man as their neighbour, . and the whole world as their country; that a

person in distress, of whatever religion, descent, or profession, was an object of mercy; and that he, who most effectually shewed that mercy, most properly fulfilled his own duty and the will of God; and therefore lays down the general and extensive rule contained in the words of the text, as comprehending the sum and substance of the law and the prophets; that is, of the whole Jewish 'moral dispensation :-"Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye $ even so to them:" that is, ever be ready to afford to others all needful aid and relief, which they, on the account of equity, humanity, and charity, desire of us; which we ourselves in like cases should reasonably expect from others.

· And, indeed, this is not only the language of the Gospel, of the law and the prophets, but it is the language of nature herself, independent of any divine or human institution.

· That there is in every man a fellow-feeling of the miseries of others, which will of itself call


[ocr errors]

forth the tenderest sentiments of our nature, and make us vigorously exert ourselves in their relief, is a truth testified both by nature and experience. We need only look into our hearts, to see the natural force of this principle of mercy. Nor indeed need we look much farther, I am afraid, to see how this natural force is abated; what pains we take to stifle its emotions, what narrow and confined bounds we set to it: how we suffer prejudices and resentments to mix in every part of our moral conduct, and in the exercise of the most godlike of all virtues, confine ourselves to the partial considerations, whether the miserable man who wants my assistance is of the same party with me, of the same vicinity, or country, or of the same religious persuasion with myself: circumstances surely too trifling and inconsiderable to be regarded, whenever misery and distress call upon me, and I find myself in a capacity to relieve them: for, whether I consider my own station and condition, the relation I stand in to my fellow-creatures, or the example of the common Father of us all; it appears plainly to be the fixed rule of duty to proportion my mercy and charity to the general wants of mankind, to exclude no man from my care and compassion, but there to bestow the largest share of it, where the objects are


most meritorious, and where there is the strongest and most affecting distress and misery.

· Reason tells us, that every degree of misery is an object of mercy; that for this very purpose this divine principle was implanted in us, that the miserable might always have an advocate in our own breast, which, from an inward feeling of the distresses of others, and that painful uneasiness naturally arising from it, might effectually dispose us to reach forth our hands to relieve their afflictions, as the readiest means of giving ease and comfort to ourselves: for there is something even in the human constitution, which spontaneously inelts at the sight of human misfortune, which is moved with even the tale of fictitious woe, and therefore is still more strongly disposed to weep with them that really weep, and mourn with them that really mourn.

And to this natural feeling we may add the sense of our own condition, as another motive to universal mercy and compassion. We are born liable to the same wants and necessities, exposed in turns to the same distresses and calamities: in the complicated changes and chances of a fluctuating world, there is no kind of misery which we see and pity in others, but what may


one time be the lot and portion of ourselves. This reflection, therefore, should awake the hearts of us all to å generous syrnpathy with one another, as being all united by the common ties of humanity, all heirs to the same weakness and infirinity, and, upon this account, obliged to be tenderly affected with the sufferings of others; from the frequent experience we ourselves have had what suffering is; and from the sense of our being still liable to greater. Add to this, the exercise of mercy and compassion in relieving the miseries of our fellow-creatures, is by this means really laying up so much against a day of calamity; it is treasuring up a store of goodness, which is to be paid us back, when we want it ourselves. And however unlikely that may be at present, yet when we consider the 'frailty of all human enjoyments, the many examples daily before our eyes of considerable fortunes in a moment sunk into dust, when it was as little expected as we can now expect it; it will become us not to build too great à dependence upon our present prosperity, but to behave in such a manner, that in a reverse of fortune we may be conscious of deserving the same generosity and compassion we had shewn to others.

[ocr errors]

Nor is this all. There is still a farther motive to a general mercy and compassion, from the rea VOL. III.


« EelmineJätka »