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I proceed now to lhew the righteousness of those precepts which enjoin mercy;
the other branch of our duty to our neighour.
I suppose I need not take pains to explain the virtue itself, for men know well enough what ic is. Happy would it be for them if they did practise it as much as they understand it. Only this I would observe; that it is not a negative virtue, consisting merely in abstaining from acts of cruelty: A man cannot be said to be merciful, merely because he doth not procure the sufferings of, his fellow creatures
, of delight in them. This is only to be 'not cruel
. " Tó. denominate quisiçe , viz. to be affected with the fufferings of other people, tho they proceed not from him, but from others, or from caufes in which he is not concerned ; and to be ready to comfort and help them according to his power. Mercy comprehends in it pity and compaffion. It makes a man feel the sor. rows of his neighbours, and mingle his. tears with theirs. Nor doth it rest in sympathy and condolence, but exerts icself in offices of love and kindness. It inclįnes a person not only to mourn with his afflicted brother, but to do his utmost to deliver him out of those afflictions which he labours under. If his brother be fick, or in pain, it inclines him to think of proper remedies, and to procure them for him if he be not able to procure them for himself. If he is poor and needy, it disposes him to supply his wants, and to provide for him those things which are necessary for the body. If he is distracted with difficulties in his worldly affairs, it inclines him to administer suitable counsel, and to use his utmost skill and industry to extricate him out of those difficulties. And if he is disquieted in his mind with fears and doubts relating to his spiritual state and condition, it disposes him to administer to his dejected brother all the consolation that lies in his power, by suggesting to him such thoughts, and directing him to the use of such means, as are proper to dissipate his fears, and dispel his doubts. And, to finish my description of mercy; it extends to our enemies, and displays itself most eminently in a mild and gentle carriage towards those who have treated us ill, in the putting up of affronts, and forgiving of injuries.
more is re
Now to demonstrate the righteousness of the practice of mercy, we need do no more than consider these three things.
1. That there is a natural fitness and decency in it.
2. That it is what we ourselves desire to receive from others when we stand in need of it.
3. That we all partake of it in fo liberal a manner from the hand of God.
1. There is a natural fitness and des cency in it. Sufferings and afflictions naturally call for pity and compassion. To behold a person in distress, whether of body or mind, and yet to take no notice of his sufferings, nor use any endeavours to deliver him out of them, is extremely unnatural :: it is to stifle those affections which the author of our beings hath wisely planted in us for the best ends and purposes. . God himself hath implanted in our natures the affection of piecy, on purpose that we might be stirred up thereby to perform acts of mercy to our fellow creatures. He who is full of mercy himself, delights to see his reafonable creatures imitating him in that attribute which he most glories in. But he knows that men would not be disposed to acts of mercy towards their
fellow creatures, if they did not previously feel some uneasiness within themfelves upon account of their sufferings: and therefore hath fo framed the mind of man, as that it cannot avoid receiving some uneasy and painful impressions, upon the fight or hearing of any disaster that hath befaln any of its own species.
This principle of sympathy and compaflion, which is thus implanted in hu-. man nature by the author of it, is commonly called humanity, as if it were something that is natural to mankind, and whereby they are distinguished from the inferior
, part of the creation, in which this principle cannot be discerned. And it is obferyable, that they who are destitute of it, or who labour to stifle and suppress it, are said to be inhumane; as if to cease to be compassionate was to cease to be a man. If therefore the want of pity be contrary to nature; then the exercise of it, and of those acts of mercy which fow from it, is agreeable to nature, or there is a natural fitness and decency in it. It is to indulge chose palfions which were given us to be indulg’d, and to suffer ourselves to be affected with those things which ought to affect us. What can be a more moving fcene than
to see a person groaning under the pangs of some disease, or the anguish of some wound, 'dejected with invincible poverty, and without help abandoned to want and pain? Who can behold such a spectacle as this, and shut up
his bowels of compassion? Is it not natural, upon the sight of such an object, or even upon the mere hearing of it, to be melted with pity, and administer suitable relief? Or if a man suffers great inconveniences for want of skill to manage any difficult and intricate affairs in which he is concerned; is it not fit that they who have superior skill and judgment should communicate seasonable counsel to their distressed neighbour, and employ their wit to deliver him out of his distress ? Lastly, if a man be, wounded in spirit, and either thro' the reflection upon his own sins, or the temptations of Satan, or both together, be driven to despair of God's mercy, and to look
upon himself as a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction ; is it not 'natural to behold him with the strongest emotions of pity and concern, and by all the soft and tender things that we can suggest, endeayour to bring him out of fo truly wretched and lamentable a condition?