Soeren Kierkegaard, Preparation For A Christian Life

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“Come hither unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

MATTHEW 11,28

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THE INVITATION

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Come hither!“—It is not at all strange if he who is in danger and needs help—speedy, immediate help, perhaps—it is not strange if he cries out: “come hither”! Nor it is strange that a quack cries his wares: “come hither, I cure all maladies”; alas, for in the case of the quack it is only too true that it is the physician who has need of the sick. “Come hither all ye who at extortionate prices can pay for the cure—or at any rate for the medicine; here is physic for everybody—who can pay; come hither!” In all other cases, however, it is generally true that he who can help must be sought; and, when found, may be difficult of access; and, if access is had, his help may have to be implored a long time; and when his help has been implored a long time, he may be moved only with difficulty, that is, he sets a high price on his services; and sometimes, precisely when he refuses payment or generously asks for none, it is only an expression of how infinitely high he values his services. On the other hand, he[2] who sacrificed himself, he sacrifices himself, here too; it is indeed he who seeks those in need of help, is himself the one who goes about and calls, almost imploringly: “come hither!”

He, the only one who can help, and help with what alone is indispensable, and can save from the one truly mortal disease, he does not wait for people to come to him, but comes himself, without having been called; for it is he who calls out to them, it is he who holds out help—and what help! Indeed, that simple sage of antiquity[3] was as infinitely right as the majority who do the opposite are wrong, in setting no great price, whether on himself or his instruction; even if he thus in a certain sense proudly expressed the utter difference in kind between payment and his services. But he was not so solicitous as to beg any one to come to him, notwithstanding—or shall I say because?—he was not altogether sure what his help signified; for the more sure one is that his help is the only one obtainable, the more reason has he, in a human sense, to ask a great price for it; and the less sure one is, the more reason has he to offer freely the possible help he has, in order to do at least something for others. But he who calls himself the Savior, and knows that he is, he calls out solicitously: “come hither unto me!”

“Come hither all ye!“—Strange! For if he who, when it comes to the point, perhaps cannot help a single one—if such a one should boastfully invite everybody, that would not seem so very strange, man’s nature being such as it is. But if a man is absolutely sure of being able to help, and at the same time willing to help, willing to devote his all in doing so, and with all sacrifices, then he generally makes at least one reservation; which is, to make a choice among those he means to help. That is, however willing one may be, still it is not everybody one cares to help; one does not care to sacrifice one’s self to that extent. But he, the only one who can really help, and really help everybody—the only one, therefore, who really can invite everybody—he makes no conditions whatever; but utters the invitation which, from the beginning of the world, seems to have been reserved for him: “Come hither all ye!” Ah, human self-­sacrifice, even when thou art most beautiful and noble, when we admire thee most: this is a sacrifice still greater, which is, to sacrifice every provision for one’s own self, so that in one’s willingness to help there is not even the least partiality. Ah, the love that sets no price on one’s self, that makes one forget altogether that he is the helper, and makes one altogether blind as to who it is one helps, but infinitely careful only that he be a sufferer, whatever else he may be; and thus willing unconditionally to help everybody—different, alas! in this from everybody!

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