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on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in wine and oil; and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him, and staid till the next day with him, and hired the master of the house to supply his wants, and promised to repay him for all future necessary expenses, at his return. So differently did these three men conduct, under the same circumstances, towards the same object of charity. This naturally leads us to inquire,
II. To what it was owing, that these three men treated their unfortunate fellow man so differently. They were all at liberty, and under no external compulsion, or restraint. They might have all, if they pleased, passed by the poor creature, and left him to die of his wounds; or the Priest and Levite might have acted the part of the Samaritan. Each of them had a fair opportunity of doing a noble and benevolent deed. Here then let us inquire,
1. Why the Priest and Levite conducted as they did, in neglecting to relieve the object of distress, which they both saw. It is evident, that it could not be owing to ignorance ; for they both knew the man to be in a miserable and forlorn condition. Though the Priest did not go to him, and examine
. his case narrowly, yet he was convinced that he stood in need of compassion and relief; and that was the very reason of his keeping himself at a distance from him. The Levite was still better acquainted with his case; for he went and looked on his wounds and saw his danger and distress. They both knew that he must inevitably perish, unless somebody should speedily pity and relieve him. Their negligence, therefore, could not arise from ignorance. Nor was it owing to any national prejudice. The Jews at that day had no dealings with the Samaritans, whom they viewed as heathens and idolaters. Had the wounded man been a Samaritan, it might be supposed that they neglected him, because he belonged to a nation with whom they meant to hold no friendly intercourse. But he was a Jew, a kinsman according to the flesh, who had a peculiar claim to their sympathy and attention. This they both could discover, with a glance of the eye; and consequently they did not forsake him in his distress on account of any personal or national prejudice. Nor was their negligence to be ascribed to a mere want of love to that miserable object. It was undoubtedly the case, that they had no love or compassion towards him. They neither loved, nor hated him; but their mere want of love or hatred could not be the faulty cause, nor indeed any cause at all for their passing by him. The mere want of love, or pity, or compassion, or any other affection, can never be criminal. Nothing has no qualities, and the mere want of any thing is
nothing; and therefore the mere want of pity, or compassion, towards an object of distress, cannot be in the least degree sinful. Had the Priest and Levite neglected their suffering countryman from no other cause than a mere want of benevolence towards him, their conduct would appear very different from what our Saviour intended to represent. Their treatment of him must have arisen from some positively sinful cause. And what could this be but selfishness? They were in the positive exercise of selfishness, when they saw, and neglected to relieve, a wounded, helpless man. They preferred their own ease and interest, to his life and happiness. They supposed it would be some hinderance and disadvantage to their objects of pursuit, to stop on their journey, and bind up his wounds, and supply his wants; and therefore they deliberately and voluntarily chose to let him die, rather than spend a little time, a little pains, and a little property, to save his life. Such selfish voluntary exercises excluded all tender, benevolent, compassionate feelings from their hearts. And it is apparent that total selfishness would operate in this manner, and harden their hearts, as adamant, towards that poor, miserable object. Total selfishness always excludes all benevolence, and makes a person altogether indifferent to the happiness and misery of all beings in the universe but himself. Total selfishness, therefore, and nothing else, can account for the conduct of the Priest and Levite, towards the man whom they left to welter and die in his blood. Their entire selfishness made them as regardless of his life and death, as the thieves were, who wounded him and left him half dead. They robbed and wounded him from no other motive than their own supposed private, personal, selfish good; and the Priest and Levite acted from precisely the same selfish motives. Nor would they have acted any otherwise, had there been ten, or ten thousand men in the same suffering condition. They only acted out that total selfishness which is natural to all mankind, and which is opposed to God and to all good. Let us now inquire,
2. Why the Samaritan treated the same object of distress so differently from the Priest and Levite. Had he been governed by the same selfish spirit that they possessed, we can see no reason why he should not have followed their steps, and left the poor man to die, without regarding his case, or affording him any relief. This constrains us to conclude that he possessed a
pure, diffusive benevolence, which spontaneously moved him to acts of pity and compassion. For,
1. A benevolent spirit would dispose him to stop, when he saw the miserable object in the path. The Priest, it appears by the account, would not so much as stop, to examine the affeci
ing case of a wounded, bleeding man, but pursued his own course and his own interest, without the least sympathy or compassion. Though he knew that the divine law, which it was his proper office to teach and practice, required him to relieve a neighbor's dumb beast in distress, yet he would not put himself out, nor give himself the least trouble, to relieve a human being, whose sufferings imperiously called for his commiseration and assistance. But though the Samaritan was on a long journey, and engaged in some important business, yet he was willing to postpone his journey and his business till another day, for the sake of healing the wounds and preserving the life of a stranger. He loved others as himself, and sought not his own things, but the things of others; which was an expression of pure benevolence and true self denial. He placed his own happiness in the happiness of others, which is the essence of holy, in distinction from selfish love.
2. A benevolent spirit would naturally dispose him to exercise pity and tenderness towards such a proper object of pity and compassion. The Levite stopped, and went to the man lying in his anguish; and yet, with a heart more obdurate and unfeeling than that of the Priest, left him to perish without help and without hope. But the Samaritan felt very differently on the occasion, for he had compassion on him in his forlorn condition. True benevolence always disposes those who possess it, to enter into the feelings of their fellow men under all circumstances, to rejoice with them that rejoice, to mourn with them that mourn, to weep with them that weep, and to suffer with them that suffer. Our Saviour shed tear for tear, and heaved sigh for sigh, with the mourners at the grave of Lazarus. God himself is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He hears the young ravens when they cry, and pities the pains and distresses of every living creature. And all who are merciful as their Father in heaven is merciful, feel compassion towards every wretched and helpless object which their eyes behold. They always have a heart to pity, though they may not have skill, nor power, nor property to relieve. Such tender
, compassionate feelings had the Samaritan even towards a Jew, one of his national enemies. He entered into his painful feelings, and heartily commiserated his unhappy fate. He loved this neighbor as himself, and felt as he would wish that another should feel towards him in the same wretched situation. This was an effect which could flow from no other source, than pure, disinterested, universal benevolence, but would spontaneously flow from such a virtuous principle.
3. Å benevolent heart would naturally dispose him to afford
relief to the object of his compassion. It is the nature of goodness to do good, and of compassion to relieve the distressed. God is good; and therefore he does good, not only to the good, but also to the evil and unthankful. Goodness, in Christ, prompted him to go about doing good, healing the sick, easing the pained, relieving the distressed and raising the dead. Goodness in Job made him guide the blind, support the larne, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and cause the widow's heart to sing for joy. The same benevolent spirit moved the good Samaritan to all his acts of kindness to the distressed Jew. It moved him to bind up his wounds, and pour oil and wine into them, though he was no surgeon, and never practiced the healing art. It moved him to take him up and set him on his own beast. It moved him to convey him to the best place of entertainment, and commit him to the care of one to whom it properly belonged to provide for the wants of strangers and travellers. And it moved him to another and greater act of self denial; that is, to part with his money, which commonly lies so near the hearts of men. In a word, his benevolent heart prompted him to do every thing that was necessary to be done, to relieve the pains, to remove the despair, to supply the wants, to promote the happiness, and to preserve the life, of a poor, suffering fellow mortal. When he left this feeble, wounded man at the inn, he did not know how long he would need the care and attention of the family where he was; and therefore he engaged to remunerate them for all their future necessary labor, trouble and expense; which displayed his integrity as well as benevolence.
4. A benevolent heart would naturally dispose him to treat the poor man in all respects as he did, without any prospect of reward. And it clearly appears from the statement of the case, that he acted upon purely disinterested motives, without the least prospect of any compensation. The man was a stranger, whom he had never seen before, and never expected to see again; for he supposed he might be gone before he returned from his journey. So that he had no ground to expect that the man whom he relieved would ever so much as thank him for his kindness, or publish his benevolence. For aught that appears, the inn-keeper did not know the poor man's benefactor, so that it could not be expected that he would spread the fame of his humanity. Neither the Priest, nor the Levite saw him pity and relieve the wounded man, so that it cannot be supposed that he acted with a view to cast reproach upon them for their selfish, mean, inhuman conduct. It clearly appears from the case stated, that the good Samaritan freely sacrificed his time, his trouble and his property, to the life and happiness of the poor Jew. This
was acting without regard to his own interest, and directly in opposition to it. In this instance, he loved his neighbor better than himself, and valued his neighbor's interest more than his
His benevolence was not only disinterested, but unlimited by any thing except his neighbor's wants; for he promised to do more than he had done, if his neighbor's good required it. Now, if we lay all these things together, can we account for the Samaritan's conduct upon any other ground than pure, holy benevolence? I know the best actions may be ascribed to selfish, unworthy motives, but it is impossible to discover any such motives in the conduct of the Samaritan.
1. If mere selfishness will account for the base and criminal conduct of the Priest and Levite towards the poor man that fell among thieves, then it will account for all the sin that ever was committed. All sin is of the same nature, and essentially consists in selfishness. Sin is a transgression of the law of love; and nothing but selfishness is a transgression of that law. God commands all men to love him supremely, and one another as themselves. When any man loves himself more than God, and his own good more than the good of any of his fellow creatures, he is totally selfish ; and his selfishness is a transgression of the divine law. All sinfulness may be traced to selfishness as its source. Men never act from any worse than selfish motives. The Priest and Levite were only selfish, in disregarding the life and happiness of one of their miserable fellow men. They had no direct hatred or enmity towards him, and only loved and sought their own private, personal, selfish interest supremely and solely. The thieves, who robbed him and wounded him and left him half dead, acted from no worse motives than the Priest and Levite. They only sought their own private, personal interest, at the expense of the life, the happiness and the interest of the poor man. Pharaoh only sought his own private, selfish interest, while he enslaved the Israelites, and when he refused to release them, at God's command, from their cruel bondage. Adam only sought his own glory in opposition to the glory of God, when he partook of the forbidden fruit. Lucifer only sought his own supremacy in opposition to the supremacy of God, when he raised a rebellion in heaven. If we search all sacred and profane history, we shall not find a single sinner in the universe, who ever acted from a more criminal motive, than his own private, personal, selfish interest. Judas acted from no worse motive than selfishness, in betraying Christ.
Haman acted from no worse