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THE PARABLE OF THE SAMARITAN.
LUKE X. 36, 37.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour
unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
The parable of the good Samaritan was calculated to ascertain who are the proper objects of our love and kindness : for in the conversation which precedes, it seems to have been agreed between our Lord and the person with whom he conversed (who is called by Saint Luke a lawyer, but which name amongst the Jews rather signified a divine), that the great rules of the law were, to “ love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbour as thyself.” But then a doubt is suddenly started, “ who was that neighbour ?” who was to be accounted a neighbour within the sense and construction of the precept? To this doubt our Saviour applies this excellent parable. And the whole frame and texture of the parable is contrived to set forth this lesson,—that the persons best entitled to our help and kindness are those who stand in the most urgent need of it; that we are to help those who are most helpless ; that our healing, friendly hand is to be held out to all who are cast in our way in circumstances of misery and distress, let their relation to us in other respects be ever so remote, or even ever so adverse; and be the case which
hath brought them under our observation, and within the reach of our assistance, what it will. This is the lesson to be gathered from this beautiful and affecting piece of Scripture; and almost every circumstance introduced into it has a reference and application to that moral. It forms the very point of the narrative. The wounded traveller was a stranger to the man who'relieved him. He was more; he was a national enemy. And the very force of the parable turns upon this circumstance. Do you think it was without design that our blessed Saviour made choice of a Samaritan and a Jew as the persons of his story? It was far otherwise : it was with a settled intention of inculcating this benevolent truth-that no difference, no opposition of political, national, or even religious sentiments, ought to check the offices of humanity, where situations of calamity and misfortune called for them; and no two characters in the world could more perfectly answer our Lord's purpose than those of a Samaritan and a Jew; for every one who knows any thing of the history of those times and those countries, or even who has read the New Testament with care, knows this: that the most bitter and rancorous hostility subsisted between these two descriptions of men; and that it was an hostility founded, not only in a difference of nation, but also in a difference of religion. What is, perhaps, still more apt to inflame dislike and enmity, is a difference of doctrines and opinions upon the same religion. On the part of the Samaritans, you meet with an instance of enmity and dislike, in refusing at one of their villages the common rights of hospitality to our Lord and his followers, because he was going up, it seems, to join in the public worship of the festival to be celebrated at Jerusalem, whereas they thought " Mount Gerizim
was the place where men ought to worship.” Another instance of the complete alienation and studied distance at which the Jews and Samaritans kept each other is seen in our Lord's conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well; for the woman could not forbear expressing her surprise that our Lord, whom she
perceived to be a Jew, asked even for a cup of water at her hand : “ How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria ?" The same thing that had surprised the woman surprised also the disciples : for when they came up to the place, they marvelled, you read, that he talked with the woman; and the cause of surprise in both cases is explained by the Evangelist, who tells us “that the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” In the foul and most undeserved abuse, which some of the Pharisees bestowed upon our Saviour, one of the harshest and bitterest things they could say was, “ Thou art a Samaritan.” This shows the temper of the men and of the times. Such was a Jew, and such was a Samaritan ; yet, in the beautiful parable before us, when a Samaritan found a Jew stripped, wounded, and left half naked, he thought no more of their public hostility, their national quarrel, their religious controversies still less did he reflect that the Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other; that a Jew was not to speak to a Samaritan, nor a Samaritan to a Jew. None
a of these reflections were entertained by him. He yielded at once to the impulse of his compassion, and to the extremity of the case.
Had the Samaritan gone about to seek excuses for passing by the poor traveller, specious excuses were not wanting. The traveller's character was quite unknown to him. He was ignorant what sort of person he was, or how far deserving of his
bounty. He had many at home whom he did know, Samaritans like himself, of the same country and the same faith; and many, no doubt, suffering under every species of distress. The person before him was one of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were all the old and bitter enemies of his country. He had no reason to think that if a Jew had found him in such a situation, he would have thought it his duty to afford him any succour at all: and no reflection is more common and natural than to do to others, not what we would that others should do to us, but what we believe that others would do to us, if our situations were theirs. The accident also, which had thrown the traveller in his way, was an accident in which he had no concern. He had not robbed or beaten him. It was not owing to him, or to any fault of his, that the road was infested with thieves, and that the mischief had happened. These excuses were at hand; but the Samaritan sought none. It cannot be doubted, in truth it never was doubted, but that our Saviour, in describing the conduct and character of the Samaritan, pointed out a conduct which he approved, and a character which he loved. This is evident, not only from the occasion and general instruction of the parable, but from the words with which our Lord concludes it; "Go, and do thou likewise." The story was so framed, that it extorted a commendation from the Jewish lawyer, though the commendation was bestowed upon a person whom he hated,-upon the enemy of his name and religion,— a Samaritan. And the reply our Saviour made was surely the right and true one-Imitate thou the conduct which thou canst not help approving; "Go, and do thou likewise." It is most evident, therefore, that when, under similar circumstances, we act as the
Samaritan acted, we act according to our Saviour's command.
Now besides the general instruction which there may be gathered from the parable, besides the general impression which it can hardly fail of making upon minds capable of receiving any moral or religious impression at all; besides, I say, its main purpose and general use, there are particular circumstances in it, calculated to excite salutary reflections.
First of all, it was by no means a good disposition in the lawyer, which put him upon asking the question, “ Who is my neighbour ?" It was seeking a needless difficulty in a plain duty, which always, I take it, springs from a backwardness and lukewarmth, to say the least, towards the duty itself. When men are hearty and in earnest in any duty, they are not apt to multiply questions about it. The lawyer would not love his neighbour as himself till he knew precisely who was to be reckoned his neighbour. Now had his charity been strong, been real, he could have felt no want of any such information : his own heart would have informed him. As occasions arose, as misery and distress came in his way, as the powerful help and succour was possessed by him, he would have been ready to stretch out his hand, to have given way to his compassion, without nicely deliberating whether the object before him wanting his aid, was, or was not, the neighbour whom he was commanded to love.
Secondly; whatever difficulties and distinctions we are perplexed with in our own cases, we can generally determine, both readily and rightly, in the cases that apply to others. When this beautiful narrative was related to the lawyer, and the question upon it pointed home to his conscience, “ Which now of these three,