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let us now consider how we niay best secure ourselves against this great abuse.
The words of the text do not directly lead to this inquiry, nor will they afford much light in it: but if we look a little forward, and observe by what means our Lord brought this disputer to do justice to the law of God, and to own even the Samaritan to be the Jew's neighbor, which was a point constantly determined otherwise by the Jewish doctors, it will teach us how men are to be dealt with, by what art they may be led into the confession of truth, and forced to give up the excuses and pretences under which they have long sheltered themselves and their iniquity.
Since therefore what is farther to be said in this argument must arise from our Lord's answer to this question put to him in the text, it will be expedient, in the first place, to set our Lord's answer before you in a true light, which has been obscured by unnecessary difficulties raised by interpreters. In answer to the lawyer's question, ' And who is my neighbor ?' our Lord puts a case to him for his own judgment: A certain man, travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves, lost all he had, was stripped naked, was wounded, and left for dead : a priest passed him by in this condition unregarded; a Levite did likewise: but a Samaritan, happening to travel that road, had compassion on him; dressed his wounds, set him on his own beast, and left him in good hands, engaging himself to answer whatever should be expended in the care or cure of him. On this case our Lord asks this question : Which now of these three thinkest thou was neighbor to him that fell among
the thieves; And he said, He that showed
mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go thou, and do likewise.' Great pains have been taken by some so to adjust this case, that it might yield a proper answer to the lawyer's question. He asked, 'Who is my neighbor ? that is, Whom am I obliged to love as myself? So that our Lord ought to have determined the extent and right of neighborhood, and from thence deduced the obligations of love and assistance : whereas the case supposes the love and assistance, and from thence infers the relation of neighborhood. The priest and the Levite were not neighbors, because they did not assist the wounded man: the Samaritan was his
neighbor, because he showed kindness to him. And if this be so, that no man is our neighbor till we have either showed or received kindness from him, we cannot then, from the right of neighborhood, infer the obligations of love, but must determine, from the mutual exercise of love, the notion and extent of neighborhood : and if this be the case, no man can offend against the law of loving his neighbor ; for if none are our neighbors but those whom we love, then every man certainly loves his neighbors.
But if we consider the case fairly, and view it in its true light, this supposed difficulty will vanish. The question was asked by the lawyer out of a desire to justify himself: he had learned to call no man neighbor who was not of the same stock and religion with himself : Samaritans he expressly hated, and justified his hatred, because they were deserters from the true worship, and despisers of the temple which was in Jerusalem. This great error our Lord was to wrest from him, which was not to be done by battling his prejudices, and arguing on the true sense and meaning of the law; the lawyer, not unaccustomed to such exercise, would have held up the dispute, and stood resolute against any such convictions; our Saviour therefore puts him a case, and states it so that his prejudices were all shut out, and eould have no influence in the determination: a Jew therefore is put into the place of distress : “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves.' Here could be no exception taken against the person. Had the Samaritan been placed in the same case, and his calamities painted in the most moving colors, he would have found no pity from the Jew, who would have excepted to his religion, and thought himself very much in the right to have been an enemy to the enemy
of God: but when one of his nation was represented in misery, he saw reason in every thing that was done for his relief. A priest and a Levite are said to pass by and neglect him : these persons stood in all those relations to the distressed, which the lawyer owned to be the just bonds and ties of neighborhood : they were of his kindred, and they met at the same altar' to worship the same God : he could not therefore but condemn their want of bowels to their brother. A Samaritan is represented as passing by, and showing the greatest tenderness and compassion to the poor Jew: this could not but be approved ;
even the prejudice of the lawyer carried him in these circumstances to a right judgment; for knowing how inveterately the Jew hated the Samaritan, he could not but the more admire and approve the Samaritan's kindness to the Jew. On this case our Lord puts him to determine which was neighbor to the man in distress; or, which is the same thing, which of the three acted most agreeably to the law of God, commanding that we should * love our neighbor as ourself:' the lawyer answers, · He that showed mercy :' confessing that the Samaritan had fulfilled the law; which was condemning the Jewish exposition and his own prejudices : for if a Jew was rightly forbidden to show kindness to a Samaritan, because of the difference in religion between them, the same reason made it unlawful for a Samaritan to assist a Jew. Our Saviour approves his judgment, and bids him only apply it to himself, • Go thou, and do likewise ;' that is, since you commend the Samaritan for acting like a neighbor to the Jew, do you learn to act like a neighbor to the Samaritan : for this is the true force of the word likewise.' For a Jew to be kind to a Jew only, is not to do like the good Samaritan, who was kind not to a Samaritan only, but to a Jew also. And thus you see the case led to a full determination of the question proposed, and showed that no restrictions were to be laid on the law of God; that even those whom he accounted as his worst enemies, the very Samaritans, were intitled to the benefit of it, and ought to be treated with the love and kindness which is due to our neighbors.
From our Lord's conduct in this case, we may learn how to apply to the passions and prejudices of mankind, and by what art truth is best and most successfully introduced, where error has been long in possession. Were it a defect in our reason and understanding that made us disagree, and judge and act differently in cases where we have one and the same rule to go by, no human application could reach the distemper; since it
; is not in our power to enlarge the faculties which are bounded by God and nature. But our reason and our understanding are not in fault; they want only to be set free, and to be delivered from the bondage of passion and prejudice, to judge rightly in cases of morality and natural justice. If you look into the world, you will see men as much distinguished by their vices as
by the features of their faces. Few men have many reigning vices at once: covetousness, well planted in the mind, will starve out all other passions; it will suffer hardly any other vice to live by it. The same may be observed of luxury and intemperance, and of lewdness, and of ambition : where
of them florish, they take up the whole man : other vices are admitted only accidentally, and at spare hours, or as they may be subservient to the main inclination. I observe this, because on examination you
will find that men's reason and judgment fail in the very same proportion that vice and passion prevail.
Did men judge perversely in all cases alike, we should not easily assign any other cause but want of judgment and reason; since nothing less would account for the total absence and defect of it: but when we find men to have reason in most cases, and to be dark only in some few; when we see them exercising their minds freely and impartially, generally speaking, but in some few instances obstinately bent to hug and to maintain a lie; it puts us to a necessary inquiry to search out some other cause that may answer this odd appearance, and account for a man's want of reason and judgment in one or two instances, who acts and judges as reasonably as his neighbors in all others. Now, if from the experience of human life you find that a man's reason and his virtue forsake him in the same instances; that he judges perversely in the same cases in which he acts perversely, and remarkably so in them only; this will teach
you what it is that misguides, or rather enslaves the mind, ‘and by what methods the freedom and liberty of reason may
be restored. If the covetous man rightly condemns all vice, and perversely defends his own: if the voluptuous man abhors covetousness, fraud, and deceit, whilst he looks on his own pleasures as innocent and harmless, and can devoutly bless himself that he is no extortioner, that he does not devour the widow's house, and yet thinks himself under no great condemnation for seducing the widow's daughter, which is her richest treasure: if the ambitious man equally and justly condemns both, and yet sees no harm, no reason to be displeased with himself, for all the wild havoc which his ambition makes in the world: if these things, I say, are so, and that they are so daily experience witnesseth, it is evident what bias influences the judgment of
men, when they obstinately maintain and defend the cause of error or of vice.
It is ‘self' that always lies at the bottom: it is not so much the vice, as 'self,' that is to be defended ; and if you can but separate self' from the vice, the vice will soon fall under the common sentence of reason, and be left to be condemned with its fellows.
By this honest, this holy art, our Lord convinced the lawyer who put the question of the text to him. He asked the question, intending that none should be admitted into the number of his neighbors who were not nearly allied to him ; of the same nation at least. Our Saviour states a case to him, and puts
so, that his prejudices were all thrown out and silenced. The consequence was, that he who wanted to exclude almost all mankind from a right to his good offices, in a few minutes owns .even the Samaritan, his most hated enemy, to be the Jew's neighbor; and by owning and accepting the Samaritan's good offices done to the Jew under the relation of a neighbor, he confessed the Samaritan's right, in that relation, to expect and receive the good offices of the Jew.
By the same method the prophet Nathan made David, in the very height of sin and extravagance, give sentence on himself and his iniquity. The wretched king had taken the wife of Uriah to his bed, and had slain the husband by the sword of the children of Ammon. When he received the message of Uriah's death, which ought to have filled him with horror and confusion, he sent this comfort to the captain of the host, which, no doubt, his false heart had first administered to him
• Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another :' and so satisfied he was with his reasoning on this accident of war, as he was willing to esteem it, that he soon sent for the unfortunate brave man's widow, and she became his wife. In this state of security and enjoyment the prophet Nathan comes to him : had he openly taxed him with the murder, perhaps the king had justified himself, and said to the prophet as he did to his captain, · The sword devoureth one as well as another ;' or perhaps the prophet had been rebuked for his saucy intrusion, and been forced to fly the presence of the angry king : but the prophet came with a complaint to the king of a great oppression, which a very rich man