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TREATISE

ON

HAPPINESS.

PART V.

CHAPTER VII.

ON COMPASSION AND CRUELTY.

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Mercy in the Deity is that principle of beneficence, that flame of love, which has continued to burn ever since the first intelligent being was created. It shines forth in the heavens, and it glows on the earth. It decks the valley with its beauties; it colours every flower; it dresses the sky with splendid robes; it stretches the rainbow from one horizon to the other; it illumines the rural cot and the rivulet; it brings forth the feathered songsters from the groves — hymning continually their praises to the Governor of all things. And when its cheerful rays are hid by some black cloud, or when the darkness of midnight gathers around, still it gleams forth in some pharos on the lovely ocean, by which the mariner may direct his course, over the troubled waters of life, to the haven of repose.

VOL. II.

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Mercy, or compassion in man, is only as a reflected sunbeam. The wretch who lies in some dark hovel may be, in some small degree, illuminated by the rays of the sun, which, striking on the passenger, are reflected to him. And thus it is the Divinity which first imparts compassion; and it is only a ray from the great fountain which one man reflects on another.

Compassion, among human beings, is a feeling of kindness and tenderness, which not only prevents a person from inflicting pain, but occasions sorrow when pain has been produced. It arises in actions, in words, and in thoughts; it operates with feelings, character, and property. It acts upon the great principle of doing unto others as we would be done by; and it makes us sorry, when we perceive others enduring what we would not willingly suffer. It is occasioned, in the first place, by reasoning, by forming comparisons and drawing inferences; but it arises afterwards as a principle or habit. When it operates in the way of prevention, it may be termed mercy; and when it arises in the way of relief, it may be called pity. Thus, a merciful man will give his horse or his ox no more labour than it can easily perform. A compassionate man will be affected with the condition of one that is laden too heavily, and he will endeavour to lessen its burden.

Compassion arises in actions, by affording assistance in bodily danger; in words, by soothing the agitated mind; in thoughts, by purposing good by avoiding every harsh or illiberal construction of conduct or language. Mercy, kindness, bene

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