LESSO S O DEPE DE CE A D SYMPATHY BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, D.D., D.C.L.

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. ST. LUKE x. 37. O former occasions, when I have been allowed to speak here at a Harvest Festival, I have touched on several obvious lessons which the Service suggests : on the lessons of patience and progress and hope ; on the great thought of the^ present as the seedtime of the future, out of which the life to come will grow by a necessary law. To-night I wish to mark two other lessons which seem to me to belong to it the lesson of dependence, and springing out of that, the lesson of sympathy. And I have taken a most familiar passage for my text in the hope that these harvest lessons may perhaps hereafter be called back to our minds by words which will again and again sound in our ears. For so it is that through our gathered experience Holy Scripture does speak to us with ever increasing power. As we ourselves grow older and as things change around us the old becomes ever new. We look upon the record from a different point of sight, and the parts group them selves together in new combinations. We look upon it in a new light, and what perhaps we had not 343

344 VILLAGE SERMO S xxxix noticed before grows radiant with unexpected bright ness. It is so with the parable now before us. I suppose that we can never read it thoughtfully with out finding some fresh power in it to meet new

circumstances ; and at the same time the central truths of the divine narrative always rise sharp and clear before us to crown each special lesson which it supplies. It is with these central truths that we are now concerned, and we cannot mis take them. As we picture the scene we cannot fail to interpret it. Every outward barrier which separates man from man the most ancient, the most powerful, the most sacred are for the time seen to be broken down. If it be but for a moment, in the vision of the wounded traveller tended by the outcast we look on men as being what they truly are, children of a common Father, bound one to another by ties which, however much they may be concealed, cannot be broken, because they answer to a relationship to God. The parable, in other words, speaks to us of a law of limitless sympathy based on the fact of absolute dependence. We owe to our fellow-men all we can give them, be cause we owe all we have to God, our Father and theirs. This being so, you will at once see how the parable gives point to the lessons which I desire to commend to you, and how the lessons bring before us at least one side of the purpose for which we are now met together. We are met to offer our thanksgiving for a completed harvest, and to offer our alms for the relief of the sick and suffering. We are met, that is, to solemnly acknowledge

xxxix VILLAGE SERMO S 345 our dependence upon God, and to show practically our sympathy with men. By this acknowledgment of dependence, by this expression of sympathy, we are lifted out of and above ourselves ; and we can not receive any greater blessing for the strengthening

and cheering of our own lives than that the feelings to which they answer may be purified and deepened within us. Most of you will remember how the context in which the parable stands adds force to these thoughts which I desire to connect with it. It was spoken in answer to one who had right views of faith and duty, and who still had difficulties in carrying them out. The young student of the law who came to Christ had correctly read the divine commandments which it was his duty to explain. He was honestly desirous to do that which might show the reality of his religion. So far I trust that we are like him ; and we are, if I dare judge from myself, like him also in this, that we are too often ready to justify ourselves if we are brought face to face with claims which for one reason or another we are unwilling to satisfy. To us, then, no less than to him the parable of the Good Samaritan is addressed with all its moving power. It tells us that what we believe and know must have a direct influence upon all we think and do. It tells us that God has set no limit to the debt of human love. It tells us not that we can earn life by our works that was what the lawyer vainly wished to do but that we must strive to set forth the life which Christ has freely given us by the faithful endeavour to fulfil the noblest instincts of our nature. It tells us that as men we are all

346 VILLAGE SERMO S xxxix debtors one to another because we are all debtors to God. Or, to apply the teaching more directly to our particular case, it tells us that He sends the rain and the sunshine, the springing blade and the swelling ear, as blessings to be acknowledged and used, as we have opportunity, to claim the divine

privilege of ministering to all who need our help. It enforces, in other words, those lessons of de pendence and sympathy which, as I have said, we are come together to set forth, and which I desire to bring home to my own heart and to yours. The lesson of dependence. What do we mean by a Harvest Thanksgiving? If I interpret the mean ing of the Service rightly, it is, I fancy, commonly very much misunderstood. For it is not designed to be principally a thanksgiving for any special abundance granted to ourselves : it is not designed to be principally a thanksgiving for any exceptional fertility of the season. o doubt, if it has pleased God in His great love to bless us or our country in a signal manner, we are bound to render Him our grateful homage for the blessing. But even if it be otherwise, even if our crops have disappointed us, even if we are called upon to face the prospect of scarcity and trial, the duty and the idea of the Service remain the same. A Harvest Thanksgiving seems to me to be in itself the open confession of our belief in God as ever working around us and in us, silently, secretly, mysteriously, in all which we call ature. It seems to be the voice raised to Him who, though we behold Him not, from day to day fills our hearts with food and gladness. It seems to

xxxix VILLAGE SERMO S 347 be a glimpse opened for a moment upon the heaven which lies about us in our most common work. The thought of the unceasing work of God among us is, my friends, a great and ennobling thought, and it is a thought which ought to be familiar and real to us. We speak of God

Sunday by Sunday as our Creator and Preserver ; we bless Him for our creation and preservation. Yet the words, I fear, are often lightly spoken, and no one of us can ever think of them as he ought to think. Day follows night, spring follows winter, rest follows labour ; we see the earth clothed year after year with fruitful beauty ; we see our children grow up around us in health and vigour. And do we not take all this as a matter of course ? Do we not assume that it must be so, as if things made and pre served themselves. If some startling interruption to the common order happens if a flood desolates the fields, or a man is stricken down suddenly then, it is true, we speak of "a visitation of God." But as long as all goes well do we equally bear in mind the presence of God ? Do we not rather practically look on the world and live from hour to hour as those who fancy that God is not our Preserver, that we do not live and move and have our being in Him, that He " comes " to us at rare intervals, and not that He is always with us ? If it be so, as I believe we shall confess it is, this our Harvest Thanksgiving sets the truth before us, which we are inclined to forget. We meet here to acknowledge one to another, and, if we may be so enabled, to learn better, that it is God Himself who works in those fixed ways which we observe, who

348 VILLAGE SERMO S makes this succession of seasons in which we trust ; that without Him there could be no life, no move ment ; that if He were to withdraw Himself from the world for a moment all would cease to be. Let us be clear on this. ever have men traced out before with the same devotion and success as in our generation the processes of ature, the order of

changes through which each living thing passes, the certain laws, for so we must regard them, by which all living things act and react upon one another ; but never have they declared more plainly that the principle of life itself is beyond all explanation. That principle we see as Christians in the immediate power of God Himself, unseen, yet always present. The thought is, as I said, great and ennobling, and it is a thought also which cannot but bring us all closer one to another. If we strive to see God clothing the grass of the field and guiding the sparrow which falls to the ground, not only will the world on which we look and on which we work wear a grander and more solemn aspect, but, above all, our fellow-men will be brought very near to us as sharers in the one life of Creation, the one life of Redemption. The lesson of dependence on God passes at once, as you will see, into the lesson of sympathy with men the second lesson of the day s Service ; and if our Harvest Thanksgiving has the meaning which I have endeavoured to point out, every one will feel how rightly some act of universal charity is joined with it. Dependence in which we are all equal is coupled with sympathy which we all require. In virtue of our common lot we are called upon to extend to others what sooner or later we shall

xxxix VILLAGE SERMO S 349 ourselves need. There are indeed many ways in which we may show sympathy to our neighbours in simple things by the kind word, the silent look, the cheerful example which gladden intercourse ; but there are other greater troubles which we cannot reach by our single efforts. The strong man is made helpless by a sudden accident ; youth is

threatened by lingering disease. To provide for these accidents, to avert these evils, we must bring our offerings together that we may gain the assist ance of the highest skill to deal with them. And some at least in this parish know with what ability and tenderness and patience the sufferings of the poor are relieved in the great Hospital for which I ask your alms. Many too, I believe, have learnt there lessons of faith and resignation which will follow them through life and beyond it. For my own part, I never visit a hospital without being most deeply moved and humbled. I have seen there, as some of you must have seen, the young and vigorous who have been in an instant maimed for life, old men waiting for possible relief through days of agony, children lying still and helpless for weeks or months ; and yet I have never, so far as I know, heard one word of complaint or impatience. The hospital is indeed a great school of God ; and it is well for us all to strive to learn its lessons. or are these lessons without their own great reward. For do you not think that the Samaritan who stopped even in danger to minister to the wounded traveller was really happier than the priest and the Levite who thought only of their own safety ? For him the first victory of love would bring confidence in

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the sense of fellowship with God through man : for them the confession of selfish fear would people every dark hollow during their dismal journey with

shapes of terror. And so it always is. The irksome duty faced, the costly sacrifice made, leave us stronger and richer. It is indolence and not effort which exhausts. It is niggardliness and not generosity which leaves behind the feeling of poverty. We can always find excuses, it is true, for leaving undone what we ought to do. But though the excuses may satisfy others, they do not satisfy ourselves. Some thing whispers to us in a low but peremptory voice that we have fallen short of what was possible for us, and that we are weaker for the failure. We have not given what we could have afforded to give of time or thought or money, as the case may have been, when God asked it of us through the least of His children, and we know that for this we shall see Him henceforth less clearly, and feel His Presence with less assurance. For there is just one other thought suggested by our subject which I wish to notice, and it is this, that opportunity is the test of character. Opportunity the self-questioning, for example, of a festival like this, of circumstances like these does not make us what we are, but in some measure it shows us what we are grateful, loving, large-hearted, or the reverse. We may be quite sure that countless little acts of cowardice and self-seeking had hardened the priest and Levite against the claim which was at last suddenly made upon their devotion. We may be quite sure that countless tender services of generous love had prepared the Samaritan to imperil himself

VILLAGE SERMO S 351 without hesitation in the hope of saving a stranger and an alien. They had not contemplated or resolved upon desertion so disgraceful : he had not proposed to himself an offering of devotion so

complete. But when the trial came it showed the men as they had grown to be. It showed in the one case the accumulated results of selfishness, and in the other the accumulated results of sacrifice; it showed the real hollowness of that which had hitherto seemed holy in the sight of men ; it showed the divine spirit active in one who had been regarded as a religious outcast ; it showed the fatal difference between a true faith which was divorced from faithful action and instinctive piety which was loyally obeyed. And as it was in old time, so it is now. It must in the end be disastrous for us to cherish a creed which finds no expression in our lives. It must be disastrous to crush down the promptings to. liberal sympathy which rise in our hearts. As Christians let us, my friends, pause from time to time to satisfy ourselves that by God s grace we do work in the spirit and by the help of our faith ; that we do be lieve that we depend upon God in every seed which we plant, in every breath which we draw ; that we do render back to Him as He has blessed us ; that we do endeavour, in all the conflicts of interest and circumstance and character, to see one in the other, brethren, children of one Father. We shall, I fear, be soon forced to acknowledge that many who are without our all-constraining belief in the Gospel are more active than we are in reforming our criminals, in elevating our poor, in raising the aims of national policy. But even so we shall be stirred by their

352 VILLAGE SERMO S example to worthier labours. Wherever we read of an act of devotion, wherever we read of an act of sacrifice, in each lofty word which sets forth the grandeur of the Divine work, in each golden deed which reveals the possible nobility of man, if there be anything true and honest and just, anything

pure and lovely and of good report, which makes our heart beat fuller, quicker, gladlier, we shall hear the clear command of Christ addressed to us. Go, and do thou likewise. Let us only think, when each appeal is made to us, as I appeal to you now, what answer we should wish those to make whom we love best, and then take that as the charge of Christ Himself: Go, and do thou likeivise. Do what the still voice within you bids you do with supreme forgetfulness of self, with absolute trust in God. Go, and do thou likewise. Faith in Christ furnishes thee with a motive of irresistible force ; faith in Christ furnishes thee with an instrument of inexhaustible strength.

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