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Himself a suffering of shame and ignominy, in order that there might be no dark corner of human woe to which his compassion could not penetrate : no isolation of an outcast heart which his sympathy could not reach?
When men have been tried only by those amictions which call forth the sympathy and respect of their fellows, they can scarcely be said to have tasted the bitterness of grief; nor can they (except so far as they partake of the Spirit of Christ) sympathize with those, on whose brows the suffering of shame is resting. How does the world, for instance, treat the struggle of those among its victims who writhe under the reproach of poverty, and strive by many a careful and ingenious device to hide the privations they suffer, or the pangs they feel? Does it not reward such pains with the mockery of ridicule or the scorn of contempt? In like manner also does it deal with the man who has been tempted by ambition or by pleasure, to play false with the trusts of office, and who stands at last convicted of having betrayed his country's honor, or embezzled bis neighbour's gold ; till, (outcast alike of earth and heaven) he seeks by suicidal bands to quench the agony of his torturing remorse and shame! And so is with every sorrow which has the stigma of reproach attached to it; giving poignancy to the blade, poison to the dart that rankles in the wound. Oh! it was not without a meaning, that the man Christ Jesus endured "shame and spitting,” reproach and ignominy: he indeed unjustly, for he did nothing amiss : not that, baving been in all points tried, he might be able to succour us when we receive the due reward of our deeds.
It is surprising how vast an amount of human
misery arises from the endurance of secret, or unacknowledged suffering: of such suffering, as, (if it be not in its nature shameful) carries with it by the tacit opinion of society, a reproach. Multiform are the burdens of this kind, which bring down the proud looks and haughty heart of man. These, when it is possible to conceal them, are studiously hidden from the world; but when the trial is of such a kind, as that it is at once obvious to the community, and yet such as the sufferer cannot make mention of without the utterance of what is felt to be his own reproach ; then, perhaps, suffering is at the highest. Pride will help a man to bear unflinchingly, a burden which none other can discern; but a sorrow to which all are witness, while it cannot be avowed, is indeed a crucifixion : not death alone, but death with torture.
Whether or no it is reasonable that we should be 80 much affected by conditions not of our own choosing, or infirmities which we could not avoid ; certain it is, that, not to guilt alone, in this world, is attached a suffering of shame. That which the general consent of a community has made to be reproacbful, is felt to be so, even by the individual who suffers in consequence of such judgment. Religion, indeed, will reconcile the mind to any condition which God has been pleased to appoint; nay, the religion of Christ has done more than this, for it has enabled believers to take pleasure in their “infirmities." But acquiescence is not choice; nor patient endurance“ pleasure ;” and we shall not therefore be surprised to find even among the eminently pious servants of God, some whose hearts
bave drooped under the burden of a sorrow full of reproach.
The story of Hannah, so briefly but touchingly recorded in scripture, affords one instance, among many others, of this kind of suffering, in a believer of the Old Testament dispensation. It is, no doubt, very difficult for us of the present day, at all to enter into the feelings which made her sorrow so bitter. A childless lot, is indeed, even now, felt to be afflictive by all the right-minded of the community, as being a something kept back from the cup of domestic happiness: but with the Hebrews, it was positive disgrace. Now that the shame is gone, it paratively easy to bear the mere privation ; and that it was the former and not the latter particularity which gave intensity to the grief of the Hebrew women, is evident from the expressions used whenever the subject is spoken of. Thus, Elizabeth, who had never (it would seem) complained, either to God or man, of her trial, confesses in her thanksgiving for its removal, what had been to her, the peculiar burden of her childless state; “thus hath God dealt with me in the days wherein he looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.” The opinion of the community in those times, designated such a condition as one of reproacb, and even those who were made to suffer in consequence, acquiesced in the general sentiment, and shewed that they did so by their uneasiness under the trial.
This feature of human society ;—the power of opinion over the mind, causing it to suffer from circumstances which it has been guiltless of creating; is not peculiar to Jewish or Oriental life. It is seen everywhere, under various modifications, in savage
and civilized nations. Among ourselves, at the present day, there is something analogous to it, in the uneasiness which we not unfrequently see manifested by women who have passed the period of youth and yet remain unmarried. For the last two hundred years at least, the general tone of society in this land, has been to regard celibacy in females, somewhat in the same light as that in which childlessness was regarded by the Hebrews: a state to be dreaded and deprecated, from the tacit reproach annexed to it. Happy, perhaps, it will be if a general reaction do not speedily take place; teaching the young and enthusiastic to covet that as a distinction, from which their sex has hitherto been seen to sbrink as from disgrace: but, as the world is at present constituted, there can be little doubt but that many a timid spirit as well as many a disappointed and ambitious one, suffers, under the tacit reproach of celibacy, pangs from which nothing but a vigour of intellect not often bestowed on woman, or a faith like his who “ took pleasure'' in reproach, could have afforded shelter.
But vigour of intellect alone, will scarce bear up an individual under any circumstances which the general voice of the community has pronounced to be, at the least, undesirable. It will not enable the young to bear with cheerful acquiescence any natural blemish which seems to separate between them and their more favored companions, and to cast a shadow over their own prospects in life. It will not help those who possess nothing of this world's goods beyond scholarship to which they must look for maintenance, and accomplishments which they must put to sale, to bear contentedly, exclusion from circles to which they think themselves qualified to add brilliancy, and places of honor which they feel themselves competent to fill. Those who would attempt by force of reason alone to ward off bumiliations, will find the attempt unsuccessful. The wounds of feeling cannot be healed with specifics deduced from the understanding; and the world has no consolations to offer to those whom it rejects because they bappen to lack somewhat which would else bave rendered them meet candidates for its honors. A beathen still, in charity, as in morals, she abandons those who cannot minister to her polity; and builds no asylums for the sick at heart or the broken in spirit; for the weak, the maimed or the desolate. But the gospel provides a feast for these, the world's outcasts; sends her heralds with the tenderest invitations, and provides wine of consolation ; oxen and fatlings, and robes of honor, for such guests. The word of God has special instruction, and special consolation too, for all whose lot in life involves some privation of this world's good, some blemish, or burden; or humiliating position, of which they would fain be rid if they could. It shews them, in the history of Hannah, how this end may be best attained when there is bope of remedy: and it shews also, (a lesson still more to be remembered) that where prayer more importunate thao Hannah's :--thricerepeated earnest prayer, has failed to remove a bitter portion ; it has brought down from heaven that which was better than acceptance: Angelic strength to bear on calmly, and grace so abundant as to turn that into a glory, which was at first, a thorn.