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Compassion and Regard for the Sick

Mors sola fatetur
Quantula sunt hominum corpuscula —— Juv.
Post obitum bene facta manent, aeternaq; virtus
Non metuit Stygiis nec rapiatur aquis.

Among all the innumerable Species of Animals which inhabit the Air, Earth and Water, so exceedingly different in their Production, their Properties, and the Manner of their Existence, and so varied in Form, that even of the same Kind it can scarce be said there are two Individuals in all Respects alike; it is remarkable there are none, within our Observation, distinguish’d from the rest by this Particular, that they are by Nature incapable of DISEASES. The old Poets, how extravagant soever in their Fictions, durst never offend so far against Nature and Probability, as even to feign such a Thing; and though they made Achilles invulnerable from Head to Foot, and clad him beside in impenetrable Armour forg’d by the Immortals, yet they were oblig’d to leave one soft Place in his Heel, how small soever, for Destruction to enter at. But though every Animal that hath Life is liable to Death, Man of all other Creatures has the greatest Number of Diseases to his Share; whether they are the Effects of our Intemperance and Vice, or are given us that we may have a greater Opportunity of exercising towards each other that Virtue which most of all recommends us to the Deity, I mean CHARITY.

The great Author of our Faith, whose Life should be the constant Object of our Imitation, as far as it is not inimitable, always shew’d the greatest Compassion and Regard for the SICK; he disdain’d not to Visit and minister Comfort and Health to the meanest of the People, and he frequently inculcated the same Disposition in his Doctrine and Precepts to his Disciples. For this one Thing (in that beautiful Parable of the Traveller wounded by Thieves) the Samaritan, (who was esteemed no better than an Heretick or an Infidel by the Orthodox of those Times) is prefer’d to the Priest and the Levite; because he did not, like them, pass by regardless of the Distress of his Brother Mortal, but when he came to the Place where the half-dead Traveller lay, he had Compassion on him, and WENT TO HIM, and bound up his Wounds, pouring in Oyl and Wine, and set him on his own Beast, and brought him to an Inn, and TOOK CARE OF HIM. The Rich Man also is represented as being excluded from the Happiness of Heaven, because he fared sumptuously every Day, and had Plenty of all Things, and yet neglected to comfort and assist his poor Neighbour who was helpless and full of Sores, and might perhaps have been revived and restored with small Care, with the Crums that fell from his Table. — I was SICK and ye VISITED me, is one of the Terms of Admission into Bliss, and the contrary a Cause of Exclusion: That is, as our Saviour himself explains it, Ye have visited, or ye have not visited, assisted and comforted those who stood in need of it, even tho’ they were the least or meanest of Mankind. This Branch of Charity seems essential to the true Spirit of Christianity; and it should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our Power reaches. Of the ten Lepers that were cleansed, nine seem to have been much more unworthy than the tenth, yet in respect of their Disease they equally shared the Goodness of God. And when the great Physician sent forth his Disciples, he always gave them a particular Charge, that into whatsoever City they entred, they should heal all the Sick, without distinction.

Now tho’ in these Days we cannot work Miracles, and are not all Physicians; yet in this time of general Distress by Sickness, there are few Persons that have their Health, but what have Opportunity enough of exercising that humane and Christian Virtue, which teaches a tender Regard for the Afflicted. It is thought by some, that in the present Distemper, a greater Number have been heretofore lost for want of suitable Care and Attendance, than thro’ the natural Malignity of the Disease. The Rich have Visitors enough, and Advice enough; but perhaps there may be some poor Families, where not only those few that are well, have their Health endanger’d by the constant Fatigue of Watching Night and Day, but the Sick suffer much for want of Friends to offer their Assistance. The good Samaritan gave Money to the Host where he had lodg’d his Patient, and said, TAKE CARE OF HIM, and what thou spendest more, I will repay thee. If our Circumstances will not afford This, we may at least be helpful in Visiting, Watching, and doing many other kind Things, which the Poor have almost as much in their Power as the Wealthy.

Now if the Considerations of Religion and Humanity have not the Effect they ought to have on the Minds of some, perhaps this Observation, which generally holds true, may have its weight with the Self-interested, That there are no Kindnesses done by one Man to another, which are remembred so long, and so frequently return’d with Gratitude, as those received in Sickness, whether they are only present Comforts, or assist in restoring Health.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 25, 1731