« PředchozíPokračovat »
And by chance there came down a certain priest ! -Merciful God! that a teacher of thy religion should ever want humanity or that a man, whose head might be thought full of the one, should have a heart void of the other ! This however was the case before us ;-and though in theory one would scarce suspect that the least pretence to religion, and an open disregard to so main a part of it, could ever meet together in one person--yet, in fact, it is no fictitious character.
Look into the world.-How often do you behold a sordid wretch, whose strait heart is open to no man's affliction, taking shelter behind an appearance of piety, and putting on the garb of religion, which none but the merciful and compassionate have a title to wear! Take notice, with what sanctity lie goes to the end of his days, in the same selfish track in which he at first set out-turning neither to the right hand nor to the left-but plods on ;-pores all his life-long upon the ground, as if afraid to look up, lest, peradventure, he should see aught which might turn him one moment out of that straight line where interest is carrying ;-or if, by chance, he stumbles upon a hapless object of distress, which threatens such a disaster to him,- like the man here represented, devoutly passing by on the other side, as if unwilling to trust himself to the impressions of nature, or hazard the inconveniences which pity might lead him into upon the occasion.
There is but one stroke wanting in this picture of an unmerciful man, to render the character utterly odious ; and that our Saviour gives in the following instance he relates upon it. And likewise, says he,
“ a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked at him.” It was not a transient oversight, the hasty or ill-advised neglect of an unconsidering humour, with which the best disposed are sometimes overtaken, and led on beyond the point where otherwise they would have wished to stop.-No !-on the contrary, it had all the aggravation of a deliberate act of insensibility proceeding from a hard heart. When he was at the place, he came and looked at him,ếconsidered his misfortunes, gave time for reason and nature to have awoke,-saw the immi. nent danger he was ing—and the pressing necessity of immediate help, which so violent a case called aloud for; and after all,—turned aside, and unmercifully left him to all the distresses of his condition.
In all unmerciful actions, the worst of men pay this compliment at least to humanity, as to endeavo our to wear as much of the appearance of it as the case will well let them ; so that, in the hardest acts a man shall be guilty of, he has some motives, true or false, always ready to offer, either to satisfy himself or the world, and, God knows, too often to im. pose both upon the one and the other. And there. fore it would be no hard matter here to give a probable guess at what passed in the Levite's mind in the present case, and shew, was it necessary, by what kind of casuistry he settled the matter with his conscience as he passed by, and guarded all the passages to his heart against the inroads which pity might attempt to make upon the occasion.-But it is painful to dwell long upon this disagreeable part of the story ; I therefore hasten to the concluding incident of it, which is so amiable, that one cannot easily be too copious in reflections upon it.-And
behold, says our Saviour, a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him he had compassion on him,—and went to him, -bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, set him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him-I suppose, it will be scarce necessary here to remind you, that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans :-an old religious grudge,-the worst of all grudges,—had wrought such a dislike between both people, that they held themselves mutually discharged not only from all offices of friendship and kindness, but even from the most common acts of courtesy and good manners. This operated so strongly in our Saviour's time, that the woman of Samaria seemed astonished that he, being a Jew, should ask water of her, who was a Samaritan ;-so that with such a prepossession, however distressful the case of the unfortunate man was, and how reasonably soever he might plead for pity from another man, there was little aid or consolation to be looked for from so unpromising a quarter. Alas! after I have been twice passed by, ne. glected by men of my own nation and religion, bound by so many ties to assist me, left here
friendless and unpitied both by a Priest and a Le( vite, men whose profession and superior advan
tages of knowledge could not leave them in the dark in what manner they should discharge this "debt which my condition claims-after this,
what hopes ? what expectations from a passenger, not only a stranger-but a Samaritan, released from all obligations to me, and by a national dislike, inflamed by mutual ill offices, now made my enemy, and more likely to rejoice at the evils which have fallen upon me, than to stretch forth € a hand to save me from them !!
'Tis no unnatural soliloquy to imagine ; but the actions of generous and compassionate tempers baffle all little reasonings about them.True charity, in the apostle's description, as it is kind, and is not easily provoked, so it manifested this character here ;--for we find, when he came where he was, and beheld his distress, all the unfriendly passions, which at another time might have rose within him, now utterly forsook him and fled: when he saw his misfortunes,-he forgot his enmity towards the mandropped all the prejudices which education had planted against him ; and in the room of them, all that was good and compassionate was suffered to speak in his behalf.
In benevolent natures the impulse to pity is so sudden, that like instruments of musick which obey the touch the objects which are fitted to excite such impressions work so instantaneous an effect, that you
would think the will was scarce concerned, and that the mind was altogether passive in the sympatby which her own goodness has excited. The truth is,--the soul is generally in such cases so busily taken up, and wholly engrossed by the object of pity, that she does not attend to her own operations, or take leisure to examine the principles upon which she acts. So that the Samaritan, though the moment he saw him he had compassion on him, yet, sudden as the emotion is represented, you are not to imagiae that it was mechanical, but that there was a settled principle of humanity and goodness which operated within him, and influenced not only the first impulse of kindness, but the con
tinuation of it throughout the rest of so engaging a behaviour. And because it is a pleasure to look into a good mind, and trace out, as far as one is able, what passes within it on such occasions, I shall beg leave for a moment to state an account of what was likely to pass in his, and in what manner so distressful a case would necessarily work upon such a disposition.
As he approached the place where the unfortunate man lay, the instant he beheld him, no doubt some such train of reflections as these would rise in his mind :-Good God! what a spectacle of « misery do I behold ! -a man stripped of his * raiment,-wounded-lying languishing before " me upon the ground, just ready to expire-with« out the comfort of a friend to support him in his u last agonies, or the prospect of a hand to close his
eyes when his pains are over! But perhaps my
concern should lessen when I reflect on the rela. « tions in which we stand to each other, that he « is a Jew, and I a Samaritan.. But are we not « still both men ? partakers of the same nature, " and subject to the same evils ?-Let me change « conditions with him for a moment and consider, « had his lot befallen me as I journeyed in the way,
what measure I should have expected at his hand. 6-Should I wish, when he beheld me wounded " and half-dead, that he should shut up his bowels " of compassion from me, and double the weight of my
miseries by passing by and leaving them un“ pitied ?-But I am a stranger to the man ;
-be it so,—but I am no stranger to his condition ;-mis“ fortunes are of no particular tribe or nation, but « belong to us all, and have a general claim upon