« VorigeDoorgaan »
seen from its beating down such express and repeated commands of God. There is no man living, who has heard or read the gospel, but he believes that all image or creature worship is forbidden, those only excepted who are practising it. Could the Jews give themselves leave to charge such doctrines on the gospel as some Christians pretend to find in it, they neither would desire, nor could have better arguments for rejecting it. Prayer, praise, and adoration of God, are things difficult to none but scholars : they are in themselves plain ; but refined notions, to justify modern corruptions, have made them intricate. The command is clear, God only is to be worshipped : to make room for any other object, worship is to be split into many kinds, and one religiously preserved to God, in controversy at least, that others may be imparted to the creature. To this eagerness of justifying a corrupt practice, we owe the many curious distinctions invented to darken and confound the clearest truths of the gospel.
It is a common practice, though much complained of, to pervert the Scriptures to support the opinions which distinguish different sects; and this, in proportion as each has departed from the genuine doctrines and practices of Christianity. The same disposition exists in private life: there are not so many self-condemned sinners in the world as is generally thought ; for he who continues in sin generally finds out soon some excuse or justification for his vice. A man, judging only by reason and Scripture, would wonder how Scripture was ever made a party to such a defence: but the friends of any
vice guided in their judgments by self-love and interest, such candid interpreters, that no vice need fear being tried by the Scriptures, they being judges. The cause of this has been already observed : it is now considered how we may best secure our
I its beating down such express and repeated comGod. There is no man living, who has heard or read 1, but he believes that all image or creature worship n, those only excepted who are practising it. Could rive themselves leave to charge such doctrines on the some Christians pretend to find in it, they neither re, nor could have better arguments for rejecting it. aise, and adoration of God, are things difficult to cholars: they are in themselves plain; but refined justify modern corruptions, have made them intricommand is clear, God only is to be worshipped : im for any other object, worship is to be split into
and one religiously preserved to God, in controt, that others may be imparted to the creature. erness of justifying a corrupt practice, we owe the 3 distinctions invented to darken and confound the is of the gospel.
selves against this great abuse. The words of the text do no lead directly to this inquiry, or afford much light in it: but b observing how our Lord brought this disputer to do justice t the law of God, and to own even the Samaritan as the Jew neighbor, we shall learn how men are to be dealt with; and how forced to give up the excuses under which they have shel tered their iniquity. As what is farther to be said in this argument must arise from our Lord's. answer to the question put to him in the text, his answer must be placed in its true light. In answer then to the lawyer's question, our Lord puts a case to him for his own judgment: the story briefly related. Some have labored much so to adjust this case, that it might be a proper answer to the lawyer's question, who is my neighbor? that is, whom must I love as myself? So that our Lord ought to have determined the extent and right of neighborhood, and thence deduced the obligations of love and assistance; whereas the case reverses this order : the Priest and the Levite were not neighbors, because they did not assist the wounded man; the Samaritan was, because he showed kindness to him : if then no man is our neighbor till we have either showed or received kindness from him, we cannot from the right of neighborhood infer the obligations of love, but must determine, from the mutual exercise of love, the notion and extent of neighborhood : and no man, if this be the case, can offend against the law of loving bis neighbor : for none being our neighbors except those we love, every man loves his neighbors. But if we view the case fairly and in its true light, this supposed difficulty vanishes. The lawyer asked the question in order to justify himself: he had learned to call no man neighbor who was not of the same stock and religion with himself: he expressly hated Samaritans, and justified his hatred, because they were deserters of the temple at Jerusalem. This great error was not to be wrested from him by battling his prejudices, and arguing on the true sense of the law; for not being unaccustomed to such exer
mmon practice, though much complained of, to criptures to support the opinions which distinguish ; and this, in proportion as each has departed ne doctrines and practices of Christianity. The on exists in private life: there are not so many
sinners in the world as is generally thought ; tinues in sin generally finds out soon some exition for his vice. A man, judging only by reare, would wonder how Scripture was ever made
a defence: but the friends of any vice are udgments by self-love and interest, such candid
no vice need fear being tried by the Scripjudges. The cause of this has been already now considered how we may best secure our
cise, he would have stood resolute against any such convictions; our Saviour therefore puts him a case which shuts out all his prejudices. By placing a Jew in distress, no exception could be taken against the person : a Samaritan in the same state would have found no pity from a Jew, who would have thought it right to be an enemy to the enemy of God. A priest and a Levite pass by and neglect him : these persons stood in all those relations to the distressed, which the lawyer owned to be just bonds of neighborhood, and therefore he could not but condemn their want of bowels to their brother ; but a Samaritan passing by, shows compassion to the poor Jew: here even the lawyer's prejudices carried him to a right judgment; for knowing the hatred between the Jew and the Samaritan, he could not but the more admire his kindness : hence our Saviour urges him to declare which was neighbor to the man in distress; that is, which acted most agreeably to God's law, that we should love our neighbor as ourself: the lawyer answers, he that showed mercy; condemning thereby the Jewish exposition and his own prejudices; for if a Jew was forbidden to assist a Samaritan, the same reason held good why a Samaritan should not assist a Jew. Our Saviour approving his judgment bids him apply it to himself; go thou, and do likewise ; that is, since you commend the Samaritan for acting like a neighbor to the Jew, do
you learn to act so to a Samaritan, which is the force of the word likewise. Thus the case fully determined the question, and showed that no restrictions were to be laid on the law of God. From our Lord's conduct here, we may learn how to apply to the passions and prejudices of men; and how most successfully to make truth occupy the seat of error. a defect of reason that made us thus disagree, and act differently in cases where we have one and the same rule to go by, the distemper would be incurable, as we are not able to enTarge the faculties which are bounded by God and nature. But it is not so; passion and prejudice hinder us from judging
If it were
rightly in cases of morality and natural justice; and we find that men's reason and judgment fail in the very same proportion that vice and passion prevail. Did men judge perversely in all cases alike, nothing less than want of judgment and reason could account for it: but when we see them to have reason in most cases, and to be dark only in a few, we must search out some other cause. Now if we find that a man's reason and virtue forsake him in the same instances, and that where he judges perversely he acts perversely, and remarkably so in them only, we may learn what misguides or rather enslaves the mind, and how the freedom of reason may be restored this beautifully illustrated in the cases of the covetous, voluptuous, and ambitious man self lies at the bottom; it is not so much the vice, as self that is to be defended; and if you can separate these, the vice will soon fall under the common sentence of reason, and be left to be condemned with its fellows. By this honest, this holy art, did our Lord convince the lawyer, who put the question of the text to him, intending to admit no one as his neighbor that was not nearly allied to him, or at least of the same nation. Our Saviour stated a case to him by which his prejudices were silenced: thus he who excluded almost all mankind, owned even the Samaritan to be the Jew's neighbor, and thus confessed the Samaritan's right, in that relation, to expect and receive good offices from the Jew. Thus also did the prophet Nathan force David, in the very height of sin and extravagance, to give sentence on himself and his iniquity. The story of Uriah briefly told. Had the prophet openly taxed David with the murder, he would perhaps have justified himself, and said to the prophet as he had to the captain, the sword devoureth one as well as another; or perhaps the prophet would have been rebuked for his intrusion, and forced to fly from the king's anger. But he complains to the king of a great oppression, which a very rich man had been guilty of towards a very poor one. The
story of the ewe-lamb fully told. Then said the king, as the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die. The king having thus passed sentence, the prophet opened the secret, and said, thou art the man : the parallel fully drawn. The king therefore had no retreat for his justification : he had nothing left him but this plain confession, I have sinned against the Lord. Thus again our Saviour, under the parable of an householder and his vineyard, made the Jews bear witness to God's justice in rejecting their nation from being his people : this parable briefly related. It is not hard to force truth out of men, when you have once got beyond their prejudices, and separated the truth from all personal views and interests ; for reason is clear enough, when unclouded by passion and affection : this made the heathen moralists clothe their instructions in the dress of fable: the reasons of this enlarged on, and illustrated in the case of a passionate man, who never reads the fable of the horse and the man, but he laughs at the horse's folly and his impotent desire of revenge. The consequences of these things are plain. I. The true art of convincing a man of his error is plainly to throw him as much as possible out of the case ; for the less he is himself concerned, the better he judges. You must not fret his prejudices, but decline them; not reproach him with the error you condemn, but place it so that he may see it in its true light. II. In private life, innocence is the only preservative of reason and judgment: guilt causes you to seek subterfuges, and misleads you in your opinion of yourself and your duty. III. If you find yourself involved in the case you are to judge of, instead of seeking new reasons and arguments to form your opinion by, look back and reflect what sense you had of the matter before it was your own; as your judgment will thus be more impartial: or consider, if possible, what is the sense of the sober and virtuous, whom you may more safely trust than yourself, where your passions are