« PreviousContinue »
It was no small part of what our Saviour intended to teach his hearers by this example of the good Samaritan, not only in general that we are to love and to do good to all, without exception, as it falls in our way; but particularly that we are not to hate, or dislike, or refuse any kind offices to any one, on account of their different religious sentiments.
With the Jews, who held the Samaritan nation in abhorrence, to call one a Samaritan was the worst name they could give him. And the Samaritans were no less censurable in the vehemence of their prejudices against the Jews. In the foregoing chapter, (ix. 51,) our evangelist relates how the inhabitants of a town in Samaria refused to our Saviour and his company to lodge a night in the place, because they were going to worship God at Jerusalem; which they held to be wrong, and a condemnation of their own way of worship.
The like example has been found among Christians. Persons have refused to admit into their houses, and forgone their own honest and just profit, rather than admit those of a different persuasion in religion to lodge under their roof.
But indeed Christians have been worse than Jews or Samaritans in their ill-treatment of one another in this respect; a matter too well known to need to be entered upon here. And in later times protestants, no less than papists, where they have had the have power, shown the same cruel and tyrannical spirit towards each other, for their conscientious dissent from them about certain points of religion, which ought in all reason rather the more to have recommended them to their love and esteem, than to have brought down such violent hatred and persecution upon them.
Our Saviour's conduct was very different, and founded on these and the like principles, which we should do well always to remember, and take along with us, viz. that no serious person who is in earnest to please God, ever takes up any opinions concerning him, his nature, his will and commands, but such as he is persuaded of at the time, and believes to be acceptable to him; and that such an one would not wilfully and deliberately entertain any sentiments that might offend, or forfeit the favour of so great a majesty--that Being upon whom his dependence is for ever. Should he, therefore, be involved in ever so great errors,
fors, and remain obstinately fixed in them, he is deserving of pity and compassion, and not surely the object of resentment, of execration, and ill-usage; and our endeavour should be in the spirit of meekness to throw light into his mind.
Further than this we have nothing to do with the religious opinions of others; our principal business should be, to take care that we be sincere in our own, and to act conscientiously up to them.
And we should think well of every one, however widely distant in religious sentiments from us; remembering that we differ as much from him as he does from us; that we are not lords of his faith; that he has the same right to judge for himself as we have; and that it is to God alone that we are accountable in such matters, and not to one another.
Our Lord here teaches, that it is not merely our religious opinions that will recommend us to God, but a holy life and practice.
This Samaritan was under some errors in his religion. For this we have the testimony of Christ himself; who said to the Samaritan
woman (John iv. 22.), "Ye worship what ye know not." They did not worship God aright, or as he had commanded. Of this religion was this man.
This, as often is the case, was most probably owing to the misfortune of his birth and education, and the prejudices he had early imbibed, without the means of divesting himself of them. But in the midst of these errors he was of a charitable beneficent temper, not carried away by the example of his countrymen to hate those that differed from him in religion, but disposed and delighting to do good, wherever and to whomsoever it was in his power, and scrupling no cost or labour of his own to serve them. This is the man whom our Saviour holds up for an example to his followers, and enjoins them to imitate it.
It has been too much the way in all times, to look at a man's faith and creed, to know his character whether he was a good man or otherwise.
In the first heathen persecutions of the followers of Christ, it was a capital crime for a man to own his belief in him. And we find in the annals of those times, that no
sooner did a man confess himself a christian, but immediately, without further inquiry, he was adjudged to the torture, or to be thrown to the wild beasts.
The like scene was acted over again under the christian emperors, when they gave their power to christians to persecute one another. Men were fined, were banished, were imprisoned, were put to the most cruel deaths: not for sedition, for any guilt or immorality; but for not having a right faith, i. e. for not believing concerning Christ as their persecutors believed.
Even in our own times, to say that a man was an Arian, a Socinian, let his life otherwise be ever so pure and unblemished, would have been sufficient to make some to conclude him to be a bad man, an enemy to God and to Christ, and to all goodness.
But our Lord instructs us better here, in his high approbation of this Samaritan; that we are to think and to allow, that those who hold different religious opinions from us, even when they are certainly wrong and mistaken in them, may nevertheless be equally good and virtuous, and acceptable to God, as those whose