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Human Brutality and Our Common Need of Mercy

Human Brutality and Our Common Need of Mercy

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY LANGDON CHEVES STEWARDSON, L.H.D., LL.D.



*'But the same servant went otU and found one of his fellow servants
which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him
and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.'*
MATTHEW xvin : 28.
BY LANGDON CHEVES STEWARDSON, L.H.D., LL.D.



*'But the same servant went otU and found one of his fellow servants
which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him
and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.'*
MATTHEW xvin : 28.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Sep 16, 2013
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HUMA BRUTALITY AD OUR COMMO EED OF MERCYBY LAGDO CHEVES STEWARDSO, L.H.D., LL.D.*'But the same servant went otU and found one of his fellow servantswhich owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on himand took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.'*MATTHEW xvin : 28.SEVERAL years ago while walking in the streets of Worcester my ears were suddenly saluted by theloud cries of an animal in distress. Turningquickly in the direction of the sounds I saw a large greycat rimning for its life. It was frantic with fright andcrying as it ran; while close behind it, and gaininggroimd at every jump, came a fox terrier. Fortunatelyfor the cat, however, a tree was near at hand and up thetree she sprang, just as the terrier seemed about topoimce upon her back. The dog, balked of his prey,looked up at first wistfully into the tree and whined fora moment or so in imdisguised vexation of spirit. Butspeedily recognizing that the game was up he submittedphilosophically to the inevitable and trotted oflf in searchof other and more promising adventures.The cat, meanwhile, which at first, from her coign of vantage in the tree, had watched the dog suspiciously,began to regain her composure. I crossed the street andgazed up at her. Her fur no longer stood on end; thelook of terror had vanished from her eye. So thoroughlyindeed were her nerves restored to their normal conditionthat it seemed, for a moment, as if she were going to154 COLLEGE SERMOSrespond to my solicitations and descend the tree. But
 
 just then a sound caught her ear. It was the chirp of asparrow among the topmost branches. Instantly thebeast of prey asserted itself. She crouched, she flattenedherself against the tree, and then began to crawl stealth-ily aloft. The pursued had become the pursuer. Thesame cat who, but a few minutes before, had sufferedthe terrors of death from her traditional enemy the dog,was ready now, upon the very first opportimity, to inspirelike terrors in the breast of the sparrow.The sparrow, indeed, escaped her even as she hadescaped the terrier; but the fact which impressed memost in this bit of trivial experience was the failure uponthe part of the cat to realize that she was meditatingthe same sort of treatment of the sparrow against which,when directed towards herself, she had so strenuouslyprotested. Having just escaped death at the teeth othe dog she was quite ready to turn roimd and kill someother animal. Having experienced the pangs of persecu-tion she was none the less disposed, the moment she gotthe chance, to play the role of persecutor herself.And this fact set me to thinking not about cats anddogs and sparrows but about those other animals calledmen and women. Quick as a flash I remembered thatthe self-same man who had just escaped the horrors of adebtor's prison through the mercy of his creditor, wasready and glad, as soon as he himself was free, to take theman who owed him money by the throaf. Thus it wasthat the sermon I am preaching to-night first took shapein my mind. The subsequent years have simply givenit material and plan.He who had pleaded for mercy and obtained it showedhimself incapable of exercising mercy: he who was gladto accept forgiveness was unwilling to bestow it: suchis the particular fact of human experience which I wish
 
OUR COMMO EED OF MERCY 155to study with you to-night. At the first glance, perhaps,it looks as if the conduct of the unmerciful servant weresomething exceptional, or, at the most, somethinglikely to be foimd only among the more degenerate of men or races. But let us see. Suppose we exam-ine the course of what is called historic Christianity.What do we find? In the first place we discoverthat the Christians who had endured persecutionso manfully in the day of their political weakness becameeven more cruel persecutors than ero or Domitian inthe day of their political power. Priests and Bishopswho believed that the good Lord had forgiven them alltheir sins could not forgive the heathen their idolatriesnor fellow churchmen their heresies. Out from thecourt of the King of Kings they came pardoned andshriven and lo! they straightway organized expeditionsto destroy pagan shrines and temples and to massacrethe Albigenses. Having received the freedom of ever-lasting salvation from the hands of their Lord, theyforthwith proceeded to build the dungeons of theInquisition for their fellow-men.In time, as we all know, came the Reformation.Calvinists, Anglicans, Pxuitans arose; men who ad-vocated the right of private judgment; men who claimedthe liberty of worshipping God according to their ownconsciences. And these men, when in the providence of God they had their wish, how did they carry themselvestowards their fellow Reformers? Having obtained theright of private judgment for themselves, were theyready to accord it to others? Having won tolerationfor tiieir own beliefs and practices, were they preparedto tolerate such rituals and doctrines as differed fromtheir own? o, by no means. Cranmer burned JoanBocher and Calvin burned Servetus, while the Puritanswho fled to Massachusetts Bay because of their love of 

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