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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

And infinitely more precious treasures of men


EDWARD G. ANDREWS. NEW YORK, _May 10, 1889_.

DEACONESSES IN EUROPE.

CHAPTER I.

THE DIACONATE.

In the ruins of the old cities of Greece and Rome we find buildings that were used for public purposes of all kinds--forums, theaters, amphitheaters, circuses, and temples of worship. Every provision was made for the entertainment of the people, and for their political and intellectual needs. But nowhere do we find the ruins of structures, belonging either to the public or to private individuals, indicating that any attempt was ever made to care for the feeble-minded, the insane, the deaf, the blind, the sick, or the aged; those that in every nation of modern times are the wards of the State and the definite objects of religious ministrations.

The ruins cannot be found because such buildings never existed. No provision was made for those suffering from bodily infirmities, because so far as the State could control circumstances they were not allowed to exist. Children who were defective in any way were put to death. In Sparta this measure was carried out under government supervision. Even Plato in his model republic has all children of wicked men, the misshapen, or the illegitimate put out of existence, that they may not be a burden to the State.[1]

With the coming of Christ new elements were introduced into the civilization of the world; elements of kindliness, of compassion, of sympathy of man toward his fellow-man, that up to this time had not been known. There was a new revelation of the brotherhood of all men in the fatherhood of God: "We are all one in Christ Jesus."

This spirit of compassion and of sympathy has grown with every century in the Christian era, and at no time has it been stronger in the history of the world than it is to-day. Well has one American historian said:

"To a generation which knows but two crimes worthy of death, that against the life of the individual and that against the life of the State; which has expended fabulous sums in the erection of reformatories, asylums, and penitentiaries, houses of correction, houses of refuge, and houses of detention all over the land; which has furnished every State prison with a library, with a hospital, with workshops, and with schools, the brutal scenes on which our ancestors looked with indifference seem scarcely a reality. Yet it is well to recall them, for we cannot but turn from the contemplation of so much misery and so much suffering with a deep sense of thankfulness that our lot has fallen in a pitiful age, when more compassion is felt for a galled horse or a dog run over at a street-crossing than our great-grandfathers felt for a woman beaten for cursing, or a man imprisoned for debt."[2]

The spirit of Christ has penetrated even where his rule is not acknowledged, and the humanitarianism of the present day is simply the leaven of Christian love working among the masses of men.

In the Christian world the effort to realize the brotherhood of all men in Christ is producing large results. Treasures of money, and infinitely more precious treasures of men, are every year devoted to this one object. The cause of Protestant foreign missions is not yet a century old, but the latest available statistics tell us that the following sums are being contributed annually for this great work:[3]


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