Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
1. Joy and sorrow are the two chief elements of life. They often meet in the one event; what is sorrowful to one is joyful to the other. They are often very near each other in this life of uncertainty and change. An hour beyond the present time may transfer us from one to the other. Often the morning is bright, but the evening dull and cloudy and vice versa.
2. Joy and sorrow modify each other, and life requires both to make it complete. Continual sorrow would make men sad and sour; and perpetual joy would make men too light in character, and disqualify them as the comforters of the afflicted; but by their co-operation they make men more fit in this world to work and sympathise. The sweet makes the bitter tolerable; and the bitter imparts a kind of tonic quality to the sweet. Confining ourselves to the latter clause, we shall view calamities —
I. THROUGH SOME OF THEIR CAUSES.
1. A willing ignorance of law. Many fevers, explosions, shipwrecks, etc., arise from ignorance of the laws of things; and there is no excuse for our ignorance of most of them.
2. Presumption. Repeated transgression of law, because it has often happened hitherto without any calamity, often costs men dearly.
3. Mercenary selfishness and ambition. From a love of money sanitary improvements are neglected; and in our mines means of safety are neglected because there is a little expense in the introduction of them.
4. Careless indifference. We by custom become used to things, and act carelessly; where others, unused to the same things, are timid and careful, and often save themselves.
II. THROUGH SOME OF THEIR HARROWING DISTRESSES AND RESULTS. Calamities, by reason of their frequent occurrence, lose their impression upon us. Like the loss of life in times of war, they become things of little power because of their frequent occurrence. However we view and feel them, it is clear that the results from them are grave and glaring.
1. They reduce our estimate of human life. We value our own life above all things, and the simplest duty of religion is, to do to others as we would that others should do unto us. We too often reverse this, and by blindness and selfishness make human life the meanest of all things.
2. They harden men religiously. People are amazed that they do not change the heart and life of men. But can the widow melt into tenderness of religious emotions when she broods over her great loss and hard lot, and all the while attributes it to the carelessness of others? Can the orphan be made more religious when he thinks of the way his nearest friend in life has been taken away? If they attribute their calamities to God. do they present Him in that amiable character as to attract the heart in love to Him?
3. They diminish the goodness and enjoyment of life.
4. They increase the burden of society. Who are to provide for the widows and the fatherless?
5. But the distress of such calamities to the immediate individuals themselves is beyond language to describe.
III. ON CHRISTIAN GROUND AND IN CHRISTIAN LIGHT. Christianity —
1. Brings out the purest and the noblest sympathies of the soul to meet and comfort distress. All done to the distressed under its influence is done by love, hence it is both pleasurable and lasting. It leads the afflicted to an ever-living Father, to the sympathy and love of a Saviour, and the comfort of His Spirit; it brings them into fellowship with all the good; and gives a hope of a heaven of happiness after the sorrows of life will end.
2. Teaches men to make earthly things subordinate to the want and support of persons in their woes and sorrows.
3. Makes it a part of Christian life to assist the needy and ameliorate the woes of men. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" is its first and last teaching.
4. Is catholic and impartial in its aid and comfort to distress and misery. It asks no questions as to nationality, rank, sect, and creed; it views all as human creatures in want and distress.
5. Lessens the misery of humanity. It does this to the mind of men by its spiritual provisions, and to their bodies and outward wants by making all material things subordinate to human want and woe.
6. Unites men so closely to each other as to make them responsible for the good and comfort of one another.
IV. THROUGH THEIR LESSONS TO US. Calamities as these teach us —
1. To be more submissive and satisfied with the ordinary ills and misfortunes of life.
2. The necessity of studying the laws of human life more, and understanding them better.
3. That we are so nearly related to one another that the life and interest of all are very much in the hands of each other.
4. That great calamities all result from the repeated neglect of small things.
5. To do all we can to comfort and help those in distress.
Parallel VersesKJV: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.