There are some minds so constituted, that they appear, intuitively, to fall into the very circumstances of those with whom they have to do ; insomuch that the pain or embarrassment of another will affect them as personal troubles :—the gratifications of others yield them a positive pleasure. Of this sensitive class was Cowper, whose universal tenderness of feeling took into its grasp the very brute creation. And if such characters were numerous among men, we should find the world very different from what we now experience it to be. Sweet and refreshing it is, to meet with individuals so constituted: and where divine grace has given a higher impulse and a nobler aim to their benevolence—when, not merely the temporal, but also the spiritual benefit of their fellow creatures becomes an object of their deep concerns—they are as palm-trees in the desert of our pilgrimage, extending alike to every weary traveller the shadow so welcome.
This habit of placing ourselves in the situation of another, will also be found to prevail wherever a strong individual attachment, subsists. Warm affection will seek the happiness of its object, and that is only to be done by studying the disposition of the person beloved, with a steady self-devotion —a co-partnership in every joy and sorrow—a moulding of our own will and habits to those of the cherished object. Here, again, is sympathy; and to this manifestation of it I can bear witness, and remember how my every taste and inclination were watched, that they might be gratified ; how light was every sacrifice accounted, that a fond father could make to promote the welfare of an afflicted child. The sacredness of the tie, the immensity of the obligation, the total removal of him who conferred it out of the reach of all grateful return, and and the cheering brightness that seems to hang over the remote retrospection of those by-gone years—all tend to melt my spirit into sad, yet soothing emotion, when I behold the flower on which is engraven the record of indulged childhood —of sympathy more perfect than I can ever again look for upon earth.
There is yet another demonstration of this benevolence, which we are warranted to expect among all who bear the name of Christ; and this is expressed by the injunction, " Bear ye one another's burdens." Without possessing the exquisite tenderness of the class first alluded to, without entertaining any especial degree of partiality for the individual, we are imperatively called upon to make both allowances and sacrifices, for the sake of those around us. Good breeding ensures this, among people who are held together by the bonds of civil society ; but something more must interpose to induce its continuance, where intimacy has removed many restraints. It is not to be computed how much of domestic and social happiness is lost, by neglecting to cultivate this branch of Christian duty. It is lovely to see the strong bearing the infirmities of the weak, and descending to trifles, beneath the level of their more powerful minds, in order to avoid too rough a collision with spirits rendered over-sensitive by afflictions, by sickness, or by natural temperament. Nor is forbearance to be confined to the more energetic party : the weak are bound to remember that others, differently constituted, cannot so enter into all the minutiae of their feelings, as to escape every appearance of insensibility to their complaints. Still, if the gospel rule be followed, in prayerful solicitude to possess and to manifest the mind which was in Christ Jesus, many a cup, now of almost unmingled bitterness as respects this world, may be sweetly ameliorated by the hand of forbearing kindness ; while gleams of gladness are rendered brighter, by the smiling participation of those who are taught of God to rejoice with them that do rejoice.
I think the whole bible does not afford us so affecting a lesson as that contained in two words in St. John's gospel—" Jesus ivept" It is not merely the act of his weeping, but the occasion, that presents so exquisite an instance of the sympathy dear to afflicted man. Our Lord was on the point of turning the grief of his friends into unbounded joy, and very few among us, with such anticipation close at hand, wrould be able to find a tear for the mourners—our minds would be too much occupied with their approaching, and most overwhelming delight. But the holy Jesus, touched with a feeling of all our infirmities, looked on the present anguish, and wept with the heart-broken sisters. Oh ! how unlike that cold, unsympathizing spirit, that seeks to force on the writhing sufferer its own superficial view of the passing calamity ; that chides the gushing tear, and preaches a lesson of indifference to a mind stretched on the rack of torture ! Yet this is often done, with the best and kindest intention, through forgetfulness of the great and precious example of Him who could not err! I have experienced this injudicious treatment, when every feeling of my heart was lacerated and torn, by a loss no less bitter—far more sudden and terrible than that of Martha and Mary. I have then been told, that what was past could not be recalled, and therefore I must not allow my mind to dwell upon it. Miserable comfort it was, and utterly hateful to my soul: but I turned to the sacred volume, and in those two words, " Jesus wept? I read the character of one to whom I could bring my sorrows, who would suffer me to weep before him, and forgive the reproachful thought, that said " Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died".
And how beautifully does the bud of my gentle Evening Primrose typify the change that passes on the children of God, when he summons them to burst the fetters of flesh ! It is true that, when the spirit enters into glory, it disappears altogether from our ken, while the glory of the flower is to expand and shine before us. Still the rapidity, the beauty of the transition, occurring too, as it does, at the quiet, solemn hour of closing eve, will force upon the mind a resemblance very sweet to contemplate, and gives, at least to me, the idea of happy spirits silently encompassing my path, while I meditate on the endearing theme. I sometimes gather the buds, and watch their expansion in my hand, delighting almost as a mother does in the unclosing eye of her slumbering babe. The petals of this flower are very beautiful, and wear a character of refreshing coolness, and durability too, when they open to the pleasant breeze of evening but all is frail and transitory, destined to endure no longer than while the sun is absent from our hemisphere. Vanity is written upon all that fixes its root in this perishing earth ; and man, especially, walkelh in a vain shadow, disquieting himself in vain. The best, the dearest, the holiest of our privileges, as regards our fellow-beings, hang but upon a breath; and that perhaps the breath of Satan, or of most evil-minded men, permitted by Him who suffered the inmates of Bethany to drink the bitter cup of bereavement, in tears and anguish of soul: but only that he might, after exercising their faith and submission, prove the omnipotence of his arm to wrest back the prey, and confounded the opposers of his sovereignty, and shame the doubters of his everlasting love. Against his faithful servants, the hand of violence and wrong can do nothing, but pave the way for brighter manifestations of his glory ; he whom Jesus loves may be sick—he whom Jesus loves may be persecuted— but his prospect is sure; and, however foes may triumph for a season, he shall yet be more than conqueror, through Him who has so loved him.