There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth…
To those who are even ordinarily humane, the accounts which are sometimes given of horrible cruelty seem to be barely credible; it is difficult to understand how a heart that is anywise human can hold such fearful feelings as are thus expressed. On the other hand, to those who have been brutalized by the long practice of cruelty, it is often found almost incredible that men and women can be capable of great generosity either of heart or hand. From the lowest depth of cruelty to the noblest height of kindness there is a very large ascent.
I. THE MORAL SCALE. At the very bottom of this scale is:
1. An absolute and even a keen delight in inflicting and in witnessing pain: this is nothing short of fiendish. Then comes, perhaps:
2. A hard indifference; an utter unconcern when suffering is beheld; a perfect readiness that it should be inflicted and endured. Less iniquitous, perhaps, than this is:
3. The steeling of the heart against the appeal which is made by suffering, and which is not altogether unfelt; the presence of some sensibility, but the endeavour, for some reason, to suppress the emotion that is excited.
4. The inward acknowledgment that interposition is due and should be rendered, but the careful and ingenious avoidance of the duty; the passing by on the other side.
5. The compounding of a felt obligation to help by tendering some almost worthless contribution. Then, moving upward, we arrive at:
6. The act of practical kindness to the sorrowful or the needy.
7. The act of generous succour, wherein that which is given is really felt.
8. The summit of self-sacrificing love, on which we "lay down our lives for the brethren," even as our Lord laid down his life for us all.
II. OUR PLACE IN THIS SCALE. The question for us to answer is - Where do we stand? How far from the height? how near to the depth? Must we stand condemned? or may we hope that it is well with us in this most serious feature of human character?
III. THE WAY UPWARD. We shall probably conclude that, although our spirit is far from that of the "generation whose teeth are as swords," etc., it is not as truly and as thoroughly the spirit of Christ, the pitiful, the merciful, the magnanimous One, as we would that it were. And we want to know what we can do to leave all cruelty, all unkindness, and even all inconsiderateness, far below us, and to rise to the exalted altitude of pure and noble beneficence. Our best plan will be to make an earnest endeavour:
1. To realize the essential brotherhood of man as being based upon that great fact of the Fatherhood of God.
2. To dwell upon the great and almost boundless capacities of mankind, on the extent to which we can suffer both in body and in spirit, and the degree of joy and excellency to which we may be raised.
3. To study with devout diligence the life and the language, the spirit and the will, of Jesus Christ.
4. To move freely and frequently, both in actual life and in the paths of literature, amongst the gracious and the generous, the kind-hearted and the noble-minded.
5. To address ourselves seriously to the work of showing kindness in every open way to those whom we can reach. Whom we help we pity, whom we serve we love. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.