Over the door to the operating theater of one of the Philadelphia hospitals are these words: "Think not the beautiful doings of thy soul shall perish unremembered. They abide with thee forever, and alone the good thou doest nobly, truth and love approve. Each pure and gentle deed of mercy brings an honest recompense, and from it looms that sovereign knowledge of thy duty done, a joy beyond all dignities of earth."
Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." The Moslems have a proverb which is probably a comment on this verse: "Strew thy bread upon the surface of the water and on the dry land, and thou shalt find it in the end of days."
The caliph of Bagdad had a son who was drowned while bathing in the river. He offered a large reward to anyone who should recover the boy's body. After seven days a bather discovered the boy alive in a cavern in a precipitous mountain past which the river flowed. The caliph learned that the boy had been kept from starvation by cakes of bread floating on the water, on which cakes were stamped the name of a Moslem of Bagdad. The caliph summoned the Moslem and asked him what had induced him to throw bread into the water. He replied that he had done so every day for a year in order to test the truth of the proverb. The caliph thereupon rewarded him with five villages in the vicinity of Bagdad.
The legend, which has all the elements of possibility in it, reiterates the truth of the proverb that deeds done unselfishly for others not only do good to the one for whom they are done but return in blessings upon the head of the doer.
Kipling has a powerful poem called "Tomlinson." Tomlinson is summoned from his house in Berkeley Square and conducted by a spirit far down the Milky Way till they come to a gate in the wall, to which Peter holds the key. Peter says to Tomlinson, Stand up and answer loud and high
The good that ye did for the sake of men or ever ye came to die—
The good that ye did for the sake of men in little earth so lone!
When he hears that, the naked soul of Tomlinson grows "white as a rain-washed bone." He mentions a priest who has been his friend on earth and would answer for him if he stood by his side. But Peter tells him that he must answer for himself—that "the race is run by one and one and never by two and two." Then Tomlinson speaks of what he has read in a book—of what some man in Russia thinks—of what his own opinion or guess is. But Peter tells him that it's not what he's read, or heard, or thought, but what he has done—the good deeds he has done. Rejected at the gate of Heaven, Tomlinson is conducted to Hell Mouth Gate, where he is likewise rejected because they are not able to discover after the trial by fire that he has a soul in him at all. The devil sends him to the earth with the prayer that the God he took from the printed book may be with him.