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Explanations of the term.— Illustrations of the subject.— Sympathy in connection with the business of the world.— Sympathy with beginners in religion. — Holy sympathy discriminating.— Power of this principle.

IT is especially characteristic of the man who is united with God in love, that he is sympathetic. The term SYMPATHY, which, in its origin, is derived from the Greek language, expresses literally and strictly,
harmony, or union of feeling. There must, therefore, be two or more persons, who are the subjects of this united or common feeling. There must, also, be some common object, in reference to which this united feeling is exercised. Accordingly, the sympathetic man is one who harmonizes in feeling, on the appropriate occasions of sympathy, with the feelings and situation of those around him.

2. The basis of sympathy is
love. Love is the essence, of which sympathy is one of the modifications or forms. It is the nature of pure or holy love, not only to seek the good of others, but, harmonizing with the peculiarities of their situation, to rejoice in their joys, and to grieve in their sorrows. If we truly love others, it will be a necessary result that we shall take an interest in everything which concerns them. Love, taking this form, is sympathy.

3. We will endeavor to give some illustrations of this interesting state of mind. A truly pious person, one in whom the principle of holy love predominates, is a member of a family. It does not make any difference, in relation to the subject under consideration, whether he is a member by the ties of relationship, or a member by mere residence. One of the members of the family is severely afflicted with sickness. The occurrence of this affliction furnishes the occasion on which the principle of holy love, moved by its own law of action, assumes the form of sympathy. The person who is the resident of the family, being such as we have described him to be, cannot witness such an affliction without "weeping with him who weeps." His sympathy, in the existing state of his mind, is a sort of necessity to him. It is possible that it may not present the same aspect with the sympathy of unsanctified nature, which is often agitated by fear, and perverted by selfishness. But, always necessary and certain in its existence, it will be of that tender, judicious, and permanent character, which will be the most useful, besides being the most heavenly.

4. We will suppose, again, not that the persons around us are sick, but that they have been deprived of the means of knowledge, and are exceedingly ignorant. They are excluded from science and literature, even in their simplest forms. The Bible, with its precious consolations, is a sealed book to them. It is impossible that they should experience such deprivations without being afflicted; and it is impossible that holy persons, filled with the love of God and man, should be acquainted with their situation, without sympathy. That is to say, under the impulse of love, they suffer with those afflicted ones at the same time that they desire to relieve their sufferings; the term sympathy, expressing, in this case, the combined feeling of sorrow for their want, and of benevolent desire for its alleviation.

5. The principle of sympathy, as it exists in a holy mind, is not limited in its exercise to occasions furnished by men's physical sufferings, or by their spiritual wants. In things which are not directly of a religious character, but have certain prudential relations and issues, and are thought, by the men of the world, to be important to them, we are at liberty to harmonize in feeling and action, so far as can be done consistently with the claims of religion. This results, in part, from the peculiarities of our position. While a renovated heart, on the one hand, allies us with angels, a weak and dying body, on the other, allies us with the toils and wants of humanity. And we still have a bond of union in many things connected with our position, however different we may be in character. So that there may be occasions on which the most devoted Christian may as truly sympathize with his neighbors in building a bridge or a road, in establishing manufactories, in perfecting useful inventions, or in some other work connected with the ordinary wants of men, as in building a church. It is a mistake to suppose that religion dissociates us from humanity in anything which is lawful.

6. The principle of holy sympathy is very important, considered as constituting a medium of communication and a bond of union between hearts which have experienced the highest degrees of love, and those which are only partly sanctified. In a holy heart, to a considerable extent at least, faith takes the place of desire; and consequently, as a general thing, praise will predominate over supplication. A holy heart is a heart
jubilant; a heart "always rejoicing." But when the holy person comes into the company of those who are in a lower degree of experience, — who have much darkness mingled with their light, and much sorrow mingled with their joy, — the principle of holy sympathy alters his position, and leads him to unite his supplications with theirs. He goes down from "the mount of transfiguration" into the deep and dark valley; and, under the impulse of love, which is now changed into sympathy, he seeks, with wrestling and tears, to deliver his brethren.

7. Holy sympathy, in distinction from mere natural sympathy, is
discriminating. That is to say, it is restricted and modified, so far as it relates to man, by the operation of the still higher form of the same principle, which may be described as sympathy with God. Holy sympathy, in being the offspring of holy love, is not like that weak sympathy generated from the natural heart, which modifies kindness by selfishness, and seeks a momentary relief of the sufferer rather than the ultimate and greatest good. Having its origin in the Divine Nature, it is always, in its operations and results, subjected to the providence and will of God. And, accordingly, it sometimes exists where it does not find itself at liberty to relieve the suffering for which it feels. It is not in the nature of holy sympathy, however intense it may be, to do anything which is wrong. And, accordingly, the person whose heart harmonizes with God, never undertakes to relieve that suffering which God, in his providence, evidently imposes for the good of him who is afflicted. His sympathy with God's ultimate designs regulates the tendencies of his sympathy for the sufferer.

8. And thus regulated, the principle of sympathy, springing as it does from holy love, is one of the most important and effective elements of a holy life. It links the divine with the human, the upright with the fallen, the angel with the man. It has been the moving impulse, the life, of good men in all ages of the world. It detached Moses from the court of Egypt, that it might unite him with the sufferers of the desert; it poured its energies into the heart of Paul, and carried him from nation to nation: in modern times, it has carried devoted missionaries into all parts of the world; it moves the hearts of angels, of whom it is said, "there is joy among the angels in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." It achieved its mightiest triumph when the Saviour of the world, clothing himself in human form, chose to be smitten and die upon the cross rather than separate himself from the interests of fallen humanity.