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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Philanthropy

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(φιλανθρωπία a term compounded of φίλος , lovinq, and ἄνθρωπος, man), signifies the love of mankind. It differs from benevolence only in thisthat benevolence extends to every being that has life and sense, and is of course susceptible of pain and pleasure; whereas philanthropy cannot comprehend more than the human race. It differs from friendship, as this affection subsists only between a few individuals, while philanthropy comprehends the whole human species. It is a calm sentiment, which perhaps hardly ever rises to the warmth of affection, and certainly not to the heat of passion.

Christian philanthropy is universally admitted to be superior to that of any other ethical or religious system; and if we inquire what are the causes of this superior prominence given to active benevolence in the Christian scheme of ethics, we shall find, as in other instances. that the peculiar character of the ethical fruit depends on the root of religion by which the plant is nourished, and the theological soil in which it was planted. For surely it requires very little thought to perceive that the root of all that surpassing love of the human brotherhood lies in the well-known opening words of the most catholic of prayers "Our Father, which art in heaven;" the aspect also of sin as a contumacy, and a rebellion, and a guilt, drawing down a curse, necessarily leads to a more aggressive philanthropy, with the view of achieving deliverance from that curse; but, above all, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the terrible consequences necessarily involved in the idea of an eternal banishment from the sunshine of the divine presence, has created an ainount of social benevolence and missionary zeal which under any less potent stimulus would have been impossible. The miseries of the more neglected and outcast part of humanity present an entirely different aspect to the calm Epicurean and to the zealous Christian. To the Christian the soul of the meanest savage and of the most degraded criminal is still an immortal soul. Christian ethics requires us to love our enemies without betraying our rights, and this will become more and more practicable in the degree that international recognition becomes more common, and a large Christian philanthropy more diffused.

In the history of education philanthropy has acquired a special meaning. The influence exercised by Rousseau was not less great on education than on politics, and was as visible in the pedagogues of Germany and Switzerland as in the men of the French Revolution. It is to the brilliant and one-sided advocacy, by the author of Emnile, of a return to nature in social life and in the training of the young, that Basedow owed his novel and enthusiastic educationalism, which he put to the practical test in the institution which was opened under his auspices at Dessau in 1774, and which was called Philanthropina. Other establishments of the same kind were founded in different parts of Germany, but the only one which still survives is Salzmann's Institute at Schiepfenthal, near Gotha, opened in 1784. These philanthropina are of interest to us because they sought the religious and moral training of the young on an entirely original plan. Until the davs of these Philanthropists the Church had had the sole educational care of the rising generation, but these came forward to assume this responsibility, and to treat the child in a peculiar and altogether novel manner. The religious fervor was to be developed like love for any given study, and, instead of influencing the heart. religion became an intellectual acquisition. As philanthropism agreed no less with the absolutism of Russia than with the liberty of Switzerland, so, in the general private devotional exercises, nothing should be done which would not be approved of by every worshipper of God, whether he were a Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, or a deist. In the temple of the Father of all, crowds of dissenting fellow-citizens will worship as brethren, and afterwards they will, with the same fraternal disposition, go, one to hear the holy mass, the other to pray with real brethren, 'Our Father,' the third to pray with real brethren, 'Father of us.' While the former education had viewed the minds of children as vessels into which a certain amount of knowledge and faith was to be infused, whether it was easy or difficult, philanthropism viewed these vessels as. the chief thilg, and the amount of knowledge as only secondary. In other words, knowledge was regarded merely as a means of training the human mind; and the aim was the natural development of all man's powers and faculties" (Kahnis, Hist. of Germ. Prot. page 47). See the Quart. Rev. Jan. 1875, art. 6; Blackie, Hist. of Europ. Morals, pages 236, 263; Wuttke, Christian Ethics (see Index in volume 7).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Philanthropy'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/philanthropy.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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