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“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.”
The parable of the good Samaritan, who was so kind to his enemy the Jew, when he found him wounded and half dead, is in itself so interesting and so easy to be understood, that it is to be hoped that it is well known to every grown person and child among us. And perhaps there is no more sure and infallible sign of a true Christian, than, according to the injunction which our LORD adds to this parable, to be doing likewise, to keep this parable, and do good, not to friends only, but also to enemies; to put oneself to inconvenience, to be giving up time, spending money, and taking trouble, in order to do so. To be doing this is far better than any learning, it is the highest and best wisdom that any one can attain unto; for in fact, it is indeed nothing short of this, it is being like unto JESUS CHRIST, it is being like unto God Himself.
And I suppose that no considerate person who has given his thoughts to this parable, has failed to observe that the conduct of the good Samaritan in this history, is precisely the same as that of our blessed Saviour to us, Who, when we were enemies to Him by evil deeds, and had no one else to help us, " had com
passion” on us; it is, in fact, an exact description of His own conduct when manifested in the flesh.
Now this was very much observed by good men of old: they used to suppose that when God spoke, there were very great and Divine significations contained in His words ; so that besides the plain and simple meaning which all could understand, there were also deep and heavenly truths respecting Christ and His Church laid
up in them. And there is much reason for supposing that the Apostles themselves led the early Christians to believe this. Now this parable is a remarkable instance of this kind; for wise and good Bishops and Saints of God, living in different parts of the world, and in different ages, speaking different languages, and some very unlike each other in their ways of writing and thinking, yet very many agree together in supposing that this parable, besides its plain meaning, does also contain within it an account of the dealings of Jesus Christ with mankind. Some of them indeed think that, in particular parts of it, it rather means one thing, and some that it rather means another. And probably they may be all in some degree right, and that it does contain many meanings in those places; but all agree in this, that it does contain the history of our Saviour and mankind.
It is in this sort of way they would explain it: they suppose that Jerusalem, that holy city upon the mountains, was no other than that place from which Adam and mankind had fallen,—the Paradise and the favour of God, and the light of his countenance; and that the man who was going from thence to Jericho, was no other than lost mankind, who were going down to that city which is below, to Jericho, that city which lay under the curse of God, situated down in the valleys, descending from that Paradise into this world of woe,--this world of darkness and unceasing change. And the thieves into whose hands he fell, were no other than those evil spirits of darkness who stripped man of God's favour and protection, and wounded his soul so deeply, that he lay unable to help himself or to rise, and, as Scripture always describes, half dead, dead in trespasses and sins, which we are by nature; cast out of the favour of God; half dead, being dead in the spirit, the better half. While mankind lay in this pitiable state, on the very edge of eternal death, there came by a Priest, and then a Levite, and both of them, when they saw, passed by unconcerned on the other side, and afforded him no assistance; and this has been thought to allude to the Law first and then to the Prophets, or to the moral and the ceremonial Law, or the Patriarchal and Levitical dispensations ; neither of which could afford any help to lost mankind. But after they had passed by, “a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him he had compassion on him.” Here our blessed Saviour takes to Himself that very name which the Jews applied to Him in hatred and scorn ; for as they hated nothing so much as a Samaritan, so in their anger they called Him a Samaritan. He therefore takes to Himself this evil name, and shows them that even as a Samaritan and outcast, as they considered Him, He was come near to them, having compassion on them, and seeing their helpless and lost condition. For indeed He had come near to us, in putting on our human nature, and looked upon us with human eyes of brotherly compassion and sympathy, being, as He likens Himself in His other parables, “as a man going a journey.” “He came where he was, and when He saw him He had compassion on him, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” For has He not indeed bound up our wounds, the wounds that our souls had received nigh unto death, from these evil spirits who have robbed us of Paradise, and left us half dead? And what is this oil but His gracious SPIRIT ? and what is this wine but His Gospel and His Sacraments, which He has poured into our wounds ? For we know that throughout the whole of Scripture, the oil is put as an emblem or type of the Holy SPIRIT; and wine, of the Blood of CHRIST, or of the Gospel. The Gospel is spoken of as that good wine which the heavenly Bridegroom has kept to the last. And thus has He healed our wounds by His best gifts,—the oil of His Spirit, and the wine of His atoning Blood; and all the other medicines which HE, the great and good Physician, has to bestow.
1 Among these may be mentioned St. Irenæus, Origen, Ambrose, Augustin, Athanasius, Basil, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Gregory, Bede, and others, down to the late Bishop Jolly.
It then proceeds: “ And he put him on his own beast." He Himself “ bore our infirmities, and carried our sorrows;" HE Himself took upon Him our human nature, that which is most earthly and low in us, in order to carry us home with Him; HE it is that has laid the lost sheep on His own shoulders, and carried it home rejoicing to His Father's fold. • And he took him to an inn and took care of him.” And what is this inn but His own Church, in which He has placed the wounded man, His enemy, and takes care of him ? For the oil and wine would have profited him but little, if still left to himself unattended by the road-side. “And on the morrow when he departed;"—for our Lord had, after He had established His Church, to return to Heaven,-at his departure," he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee.” And who is this host with whom our LORD has left the wounded man, but His own ministry, whom He has appointed to preside in His Church? And the two pence which He has put in his hands for the wants of the poor man, are, it is said, the two Testaments, the Old and New, which are stamped with the image and bear the inscription of our heavenly and eternal King, Who has paid for us the price of His own Blood; or, as others would say, the two Sacraments which He has left in His Church. But He has not left us altogether ; He is that great Keeper whose eye neither slumbers nor sleeps : and a Samaritan signifies a keeper; for He will come again and claim His wounded friend, and will reward His host who has taken care of him; as he says in other places, · Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cor th, shall find so doing.” Blessed indeed will that servant be ! And his recompence He describes by those gracious words which He says He shall speak unto his faithful minister : “ Well done thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many, enter thou into the joy of thy LORD.”
Now, by this account of this parable,--and I think we cannot fail to see that something of this kind is the true account of it, and of some mysterious history which it contains, -we may perceive, that when our LORD, by a simple and plain story, was teaching us how we are to act towards each other, the law and rule which He gave us was none other than that by which HE
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had Himself acted towards us. It is nothing else but a narrative of what He has done. And to the whole of what has been said we may add, I think, our Lord's words on another occasion, when He washed His disciples' feet at the last supper : After He had taken His garments and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” And to which our Lord added, "if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” The same may be added to this parable of the good Samaritan : “I have give you an example that ye may do as I have done to you ;” and “ if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
Now there is nothing in Holy Scripture on which so great a stress is laid as works of mercy: it is this which is to be brought forward on the Day of Judgment, as that, upon which, more than any thing else, our eternal condition depends. And the reason perhaps is this, that nothing so answers on our part to that which Jesus Christ has done for us : it is the new and great law which proves more than any thing else whether we are sincere Christians; as our LORD Himself said, “a new commandment I give
love one another; as I have loved you that ye also love one another.” For the whole work of our redemption was on the part of our LORD a work of this lowly charity and compassion, like that of the good Samaritan,--a work which brought our blessed Saviour down from heaven, to lift us up from our forlorn condition, and carry us home with Him. In this chiefly of all His perfections are we called upon to imitate and follow Him. He was infinitely pure and just, infinitely temperate and courageous, as a most perfect pattern, and infinitely wise ; but in none of these things are we so much called upon to follow Him in the Gospels as in His mercy; and it is remarkable, that where in one Gospel we read, “be ye perfect, as your FATHER which is in Heaven is perfect,” in the similar passage
in another Gospel we read, “be ye merciful, even as your FATHER which is in Heaven is merciful;" as if the highest perfection in which we could resemble the Almighty was in mercy. We are not commanded to be wise as He is, or to have such perfect courage aş