The Fatal Power of Inattention
George H. Morrison
There is a well-known picture by Gustave Doré,1 which portrays this parable of the rich man and the beggar. We are shown the rich man in the midst of Oriental luxury, and at the foot of the marble steps the diseased Lazarus. So far the picture is worthy of the genius, for it is vivid and full of rich imagination; but Dor‚ has introduced one other feature which shows that he has misread the Savior's story. Over the beggar an Eastern slave is bending with a scourge of twigs in his uplifted hand. He has been bidden drive Lazarus away, for his misery is as a death's-head at the feast. And Dor‚ is wrong in introducing that, for our Lord does not hint that Dives was disturbed-he was not consciously and deliberately cruel; he was only totally and hopelessly indifferent. What wrought the ruin of that pleasure-lover was not inhumanity so much as inattention. It was the fatal power of inattention that drove his barque on to the reef of woe. And on that fatal power of inattention, so strikingly and signally portrayed here, I want to speak a word or two tonight.
I do so under a sense that it is needed because that heedless spirit is so common. The attitude of innumerable people toward the great questions of the religious life is just the inattentive attitude of the rich man to Lazarus at his gate. There was a time when unbelief was militant, and when men were in arms against the cause of Christ; a time when Voltaire2 could write "Scratch out the Infamous," and the Infamous was the Redeemer of the world. But you find few militant atheists today-they are like voices crying in the wilderness; what you do find is something far more deadly, it is that height of insult which we call inattention. It is better sometimes to hate than to ignore, for there is at least something positive in hatred. There is hope in the foeman worthy of the steel that some day he may prove a worthy friend. But the man who takes his ease a ...
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