Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

tan, at the same time that he passed over two of his own countrymen, a priest and a Levite, in silent condemnation, though these two, from the sanctity of their calling, might be expected to have been more entitled to the honour.

The lawyer, then, it appears, awarded the praise of doing a neighbourly action to one who, in his opinion as a Jew, was his greatest enemy; and not only his enemy, but the enemy of him whom he assisted in distress; or, perhaps, to speak more correctly, we should say, that the Samaritans did not so much display a feeling of enmity towards the Jews, though the Jews did so to the Samaritans. Yet notwithstanding this, did he confess that the Samaritan in the parable had shewn himself to be a neighbour of the Jew, by looking upon the latter as his neighbour, and treating him as such. By acting towards him strictly in accordance with the before mentioned precept contained in the book of Leviticus, he not only exhibited no symptoms of hatred, which might be supposed to have proceeded from the state of enmity which existed between him and the Jew, but, in a certain sense, he loved him as he loved himself; that is to say, he treated him with such kindness as he himself would have wished to receive had he been in a similar state of distress.

It is clear that the word neighbour is of somewhat doubtful signification, and might, consequently, be understood within greater or less limits. By this expression, we commonly understand any one at no very remote distance from us. When,

however, we refer to the passage in the law to which we have already twice referred, we find that the “children of thy people,” and “thy neighbour” are spoken of as of similar import. The children of thy people could mean no less than the whole Israelitish race, who were of the same people and nation, and descendants of the same common ancestor, Abraham. A Jew, therefore, when directed to love his neighbour as himself, if he had interpreted such an injunction aright, and not warped it so as to suit it to his own individual habits or disposition, as was frequently done, could have received the injunction in question in a no less confined sense than as applying to the whole of his countrymen. Whether the lawyer who questioned our Lord would have so interpreted it in defence of his conduct, is certainly not quite so clear. When, however, the command was first given by God, it was given at a time when, for the wisest and best of purposes, which it does not come within the scope of our present subject to consider at length, all intercourse was prohibited by the Almighty between the Jews and the rest of the world. When the descendant of Abraham, therefore, was directed to consider every individual among his countrymen as his neighbour, and to treat him with the same kindness that he himself would wish to receive in time of need, such an injunction could only have been of the most general import; for the whole world which was adapted to the notice of a descendant of Abraham was included in those limits within which the twelve tribes dwelt. But when the exclusive character of the law was superseded by that of the Gospel, which extended its privileges alike to all, those moral ordinances which had previously been applicable to the Jew only, then became alike the possession of the world at large. And in the same manner as the descendant of Abraham had been directed to look upon every individual of his nation at least with compassion and regard, and to treat him as his neighbour, the precepts of Christ required that this divine feeling should be extended even to foreigners and enemies. It was agreeably to such a sentiment that the Samaritan is said to have treated the un. fortunate Jew with kindness in the time of need. It will, of course, be remembered, that though Samaria was locally situated in a portion of that country which was formerly allotted to the ten tribes

; yet long before the time of our Lord, such changes and revolutions had occurred as to people that portion with a race of men who had no connexion whatever with the former inhabitants of Israel. After the recital of the parable, the question already mentioned was naturally directed to him who had interrogated our Lord: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves ?”-that is, which of these three shewed such kindness to the wounded individual as the law directed to be shewn to every man, however distant might be his place of abode. The lawyer was compelled to admit that the priest and the Levite, inhabitants, at least, of the same district,

if not of the same city with the injured man, and, consequently, his nearest neighbours, treated him with that neglect which fellow mortals should in no case experience from each other. “He that shewed mercy on him,” though a foreigner, and ostensibly his greatest enemy, was by far more deserving of the name of neighbour than were those, his own countrymen, who had displayed no disposition to assist him in his distress. The matter, then, being thus clearly decided, the conversation was appropriately closed by the exhortation of our Saviour in the text, “ Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."

Such, brethren, we perceive to have been the result of the conversation between our Divine Lord and him who is denominated a lawyer. This person evidently belonged to the numerous class against whom our Saviour so frequently denounced woe for their hypocrisy, as it appears in the following passage from the eleventh chapter of St. Luke: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. Then answered one of the lawyers and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers ! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” Such was the man, however, who was willing to prove his own perfection to the satisfaction of Jesus Christ; he undoubtedly flattered himself that he had performed the injunctions of the law to such an extent as would have entitled him to the reward of eternal life. The love of God and the love of his neighbour seem to have been admitted by the Jew, as they are now by the Christian, to be “two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets.” And had these commandments admitted of a limited rather than of a sense of the most general and comprehensive character, the interrogator of our Lord would, probably, have succeeded in his attempt. His love to God might, undoubtedly, have been inferred from his love to his neighbour. The love of his neighbour was a commandment of God; and “he that hath my commandments,” saith the Father by the Inspired Word, “and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” Unfortunately, however, for the self-righteous lawyer, he had adduced no proof whatever that he had kept the commandment of God, by shewing a love for his neighbour. He readily quoted the words of the law on this important point, yet could he not prove that he had been influenced by these according to the interpretation which was put upon them by our Saviour. And this interpretation, as we have seen, was the just interpretation, and such only as was in conformity with the spirit of the whole law of which they formed part.

This precept, therefore, is a precept which it behoveth most particularly every disciple of Christ to follow. Such, brethren, were the words such was the exhortation of the Divine Jesus to all those

« ÎnapoiContinuați »