It is always a good thing to think of the sorrow of others. In Longfellow's famous poem "The Bridge," a man whose heart was hot and restless and who thought to end his life, went out on the parapet of the bridge to do so. Hearing the clock in the steeple strike the hour, he began to think of the great number of burdened and sorrowing souls who had passed over that bridge before him, and as he thought of the sorrows of others the burden of his own sorrow fell from him.
But now it has fallen from me,
It is buried in the sea;
And only the sorrow of others
Throws its shadow over me.
Ian Maclaren (Dr. John Watson) author of Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, in his first church in the Highlands, attempting to preach without notes, would sometimes have to stop in the midst of his sermon and say to the congregation, "Friends, that is not very clear. It was clear in my study on Saturday, but now I will begin again."
After a service when his memory had failed him a gaunt old elder came forward and, taking him by the hand, said: "When you are not remembering your sermon, just give out a psalm, and we will be singing that while you are taking a rest; for we all are loving you and praying for you."
With such elders and such parishioners, who would not have become a great preacher and a great master of the deep things of the heart? That first Highland church made Ian Maclaren. Years afterward he said: "I am in the ministry today because of the tenderness and charity of those country folk, those perfect gentlemen and Christians."
Once on a midnight visit to a police station in Edinburgh a young Scottish preacher, afterward famous, Thomas Guthrie, saw the homeless waifs who had come there to seek shelter. On an open space before the stove, where the light shone full on his face, lay a little lad who attracted his special attention. The boy was about eight years old, with a sweet and innocent face: "his pillow a brick, and as he lay calm in sleep, forgetful of his sorrows, he might have served for a picture of injured innocence. He knew neither father nor mother, brothers nor friend. In the wide world his only friends were the police. How he lived they did not know. But there he was at night."
Guthrie said that for days and nights he could not get that boy out of his mind or heart. It was scenes like this which moved him to inaugurate his great work for the guarding and reformation of the outcast children of Edinburgh. Today on beautiful Princes Street you can see the monument of the great preacher, with the "street Arabs" taking refuge under his arm. "I have the satisfaction," said Gudirie, "when I lay my head upon my pillow of always finding one part of it soft, and that is that God has made me an instrument in his hands by saving many a poor creature from a life of misery and crime."
There is an old tradition that once when Moses, keeping the flocks of Jethro in the wilderness, saw a lamb caught in the thicket he left his path and at great peril to himself extricated the lamb and bore it to a place of safety. Then God said, "Moses, thou hast sympathy; I will make thee the minister of my people."
D. L. Moody gives the following experience, which is a good illustration of sympathy.
I want to tell you how I got up a sympathy with a family in Chicago, while I was living there. I attended the funerals of a good many children. I got hardened to it like a doctor, and could go to them without sympathy. One of my little Sunday School scholars was drowned, and word was sent by the mother that she wanted to see me. I went. The husband was a drunkard, and was then in the corner drunk. I had my little girl with me then. She was about four years old. When we got outside she asked:
"Suppose we were poor, Pa, and I had to go down to the river after sticks, and should fall in and get drowned, and you had no money to bury me, would you be sorry, Papa?" And then she looked up into my eyes with an expression I had never before seen, and asked, "Did you feel bad for that mother?" I clasped her to my heart and kissed her, and my sympathy was aroused.
My friends, if you want to get in sympathy with people, in order to help them and do them good, you must consider how you would feel in their place. Let us work for the Master along the lines of sincere compassion for the unfortunate and depraved.—Biblical Illustrator.
I believe it was Pastor Dolman whom I heard tell of how he was sitting at his desk one day when he heard the door creak, and then suddenly there was a sharp cry of pain. Looking up he saw his little daughter who had started to enter the room when her little fingers had caught in the door. He jumped and calling the mother said, "You better come and look after this little girl." The mother came and taking the child said tenderly, "Does it hurt so dreadfully?" "Oh, it hurts," said the child, "but the worst is that Daddy didn't even say, 'Oh!' How we like someone who says, "Oh!" someone who sighs for us, weeps with us, feels with us in our troubles; and you remember what is said of our Lord, "In all their affliction he was afflicted."—H. A. Ironside.
"Don't forget that the warmth of the hand will increase the diameter of the shaft," is one of the "Don'ts" published in a little book for mechanics. If the touch of the human hand can move cold iron or steel, what may we not expect when it touches the hand of another human being?—Record of Christian Work.
There is nothing that wins in personal work like a compassionate love. Colonel Clarke, founder of the Pacific Garden Mission, had the tenderest heart. I would go down in the early days, and five or six hundred men would be there sometimes. The greatest preachers in Chicago would go down, and couldn't hold them five minutes. When Colonel Clarke spoke, those men would sit quietly and drink in the Word. He loved them and they knew it. One night he was weeping, and he said to himself, "The idea of you, a 250-pounder, weeping so." He checked back his tears, and he lost his power. Then he went to God and said, "0 God, give me back my tears," and he gave him back his power.—R. A. Torrey, in Moody Monthly.
It always irritates me when, on asking some good person to help a distressed brother, I am met with the silly inquiry: "Is it a deserving case?" As a rule, it certainly is not. The man who is down and out has been just an average sort of fellow, and has helped considerably to bring his troubles on himself. But am I a deserving case? Is anybody a deserving case? The mother cares for her child, not because it is a supernaturally good child, but because the helpless mite happens to be hers, to love and live for. We have got to love all sorts of tricky and unpleasant people simply because of the eternal mystery and miracle that Jesus loved them enough to die for them.—F. A. Atkins.