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the literal sense of the question, that the reply was adapted. And this was so, for the sufficient reason that, if the response to the interrogatory had been merely fitted to the literal sense, it would have been an answer mainly to one man alone and to one question, instead of replying to a hundred questions and to countless generations of men and angels. If, then, we would see what the Lord really intended in His reply to the question, “Who is my neighbour ?" we must discern what the query itself would mean, not to the lawyer who proposed it, but to the angels, if they heard it, and to the Lord whilst thinking according to the intelligence of angels. In other words, we must lift it up into its spiritual sense, since otherwise we shall never attain to the understanding of the answer given to it by the Lord.
The spiritual sense, as we know, always tends to merge the personal in the impersonal, and the concrete into the abstract. Instead, thus, of the personal pronoun “who," it gives us the impersonal “what;" and it substitutes for the personal possessive “my” the possessive of the state of mind giving utterance to the question. Lastly, instead of “neighbour," it reads “the essential principle of neighbourliness," which, of course, is goodness; for to the man whom the truth enlightens nothing appears to be true neighbourliness except true goodness. And if we have that light, we count him not our neighbour merely who lives in the next street to us, or at the next door; but he is our neighbour in whom we recognize the noble form of rectitude and benevolence. To such a one we turn with joy, as to a neighbour indeed; and that equally whether his goodness benefits ourselves or others, and alike whether he lives in the next street or world. Such, then, is the spiritual sense of the inquiry, “Who is my neighbour?" whereby we may understand, "What is my goodness ?" or “What is my state as to goodness of life ?" And since all goodness is of love—being, in fact, love in use, the question means also, “What is my love ?” or “What is the state of the affections, or the will, of all who intrinsically resemble me?" It is, in short, a question of self-examination of most momentous importance, and having most intimate involvement with the lawyer's previous question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So viewed, we shall find in the parable of the Good Samaritan, as its solution, first of all, a description of the questioner's spiritual condition; and, secondly, practical directions for its amelioration and cure.
With regard then, firstly, to the lawyer's mental state, we observe that to the previous question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life ?” the reply was drawn by the Lord out of the lawyer's own mouth, as from one abundantly competent to supply it. For the
lawyer represents a large class of persons, such as are brought up in the church, well versed in the science of the Holy Word, and not needing in the least to be informed what the law of the Lord requires. Hence to their query, “ Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life ?” the fitting response is, “What is written in the law? How readest thou ?" And no better abstract of the law can be given than they can furnish promptly in the words, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God from thy whole heart, and from thy whole soul, and from thy whole strength, and from thy thought, and thy neighbour as thyself.” To this the Lord replies emphatically, “Thou hast answered aright. This do, and thou shalt live.” For their mere knowledge, as such, is complete enough ; but the command, “This do,” implies that the doing is as yet to a large extent unattempted; that they have not been earnestly practising the law, but have contented themselves with learning and knowing it. Willing, however, to justify themselves in the face of this serious accusation and condemnation, they ask, “And who is my neighbour ?"—in other words, “What is the goodness that is to be sought by me in my present condition ?" or, “What love is there in me, or attainable by me, whereby I may inherit eternal life ?” To this inquiry the Lord replies in the parable of the Good Samaritan; a parable at once telling a tale and drawing a picture; giving at once a diagnosis of a certain spiritual malady and a prescription for its cure.
A certain man, we are told, went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. It will clear up the matter very much if we can see who, in the highest sense, is this certain man. This man is, in fact, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself ; not indeed as He is in Himself, but as He is in the Word in its existence in the minds of such as resemble the lawyer. In such minds the Lord, or the Word, is found in the form of knowledge of the Word, technical acquaintance with religion or spiritual law and duty. Such knowledge, as far as it has any real life in them, is the higher and nobler part of them — what we commonly call their better selves. In reality, however, it is not their selves, but the Lord in them; and what is done to it is done unto the Lord. This man, then—the Holy Word-goes down in the lawyer from Jerusalem to Jericho. Το go down will here mean to descend from internals to externals - from the ideal to its realization, from thought and contemplation to fulfilment in the outward life in word and in deed. Jerusalem, in the hill country and central, is the Church and the religious instruction given therein ; and Jericho, near Jordan, and down towards the extremity and threshold of the Holy Land, is the good of truth, or truth put to its use—the doctrine of
the Church put into practice. Easy, indeed, is it to acquire the knowledge imparted by the Church ; but to put it into practice, that is the difficult thing
“In that the task and mighty labour lies." It was in this going down, this putting, or rather not putting into practice, that the Divine Word in the lawyer is said to have fallen among thieves. For what are evil and false spirits from the hells but thieves, depriving the mind of spiritual life, and robbing at once it and the Lord ? These have not only stripped the Traveller, depriving Him of the precious comfort and comely ornament of His own truth, but they have wounded Him, maiming His active powers by their false persuasions and self-excuses, and they have, in fact, left Him half dead ; that He is not wholly dead—altogether and finally killed out of the minds of persons resembling the lawyer, is indeed due solely to the mercy of the Lord.
The Lord's answer to the question, “ And who is my neighbour ?” introduces next upon the scene two characters, a certain priest and a Levite. By the priests, whose office it was to offer the sacrifices and conduct the worship of the Lord, we understand that love to the Lord without which no true worship of Him is possible, and in which it inwardly consists. And by the Levites, whose business it was to wait upon the priests, to do the humbler duties of the temple service, and to attend upon the people who brought their offerings, we understand that inferior love which, rightly subordinate and adjuvant to love of the Lord, is called charity or love of the neighbour. The lawyer, in answering his own question, “ What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” had epitomized the whole law of the Lord as meaning in fact simply these two loves—the priest and the Levite love of the Lord and love of the neighbour. In what sad condition these two essential loves were in the lawyer himself is shown by the account given of them in the parable. The priest-love to the Lord—comes down the same way as the Divine Traveller had come, and although seeing Him, discerning what the case requires, yet coolly and wickedly passes Him by. The Levite--love to the neighbour-being also at the place, or in the same state, comes and looks at the halfdead Wayfarer, and passes Him by in like manner. That is to say, both love to the Lord and love to the neighbour are mere inefficiencies, sheer unrealities, absolute phantasms, in the lawyer's heart; unable to fulfil even the simplest duties of life, or to take any care of the half-murdered Truth in the mind of the lawyer. Like phantoms, unsubstantial ghosts, they glide; unable to put forth one finger of
effectual help, and not showing the least wish to do so. And they not only pass by the wounded Lord, but they pass by on the other side, to do which is to become translated into their opposites. For love to the Lord, or what deems itself such, is in reality, when so treating the Word, mere unmitigated selfishness—the love of self instead of the love of the Lord. And love of the neighbour, or what flatters itself to be such, is in truth, when having no aid to give to the wounded Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, sheer undeniable worldliness—the love of the world instead of the love of the neighbour. Such, then, is the picture of the lawyer's deplorable state of mind from the pencil of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—the picture, too, of the state of any of us, in as far as in these respects we resemble the lawyer.
Reviewing the case, then, the predicament is this : to inherit eternal life we must love the Lord with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourself; and yet we, if like the lawyer, are not doing either the one or the other. Half-eaten up with our selfishness and worldliness, that which is of the Lord in us—the knowledge of heavenly truthwe have allowed to be grievously plundered, abused, half-killed. And what are we to do—what is there we can do to inherit eternal life in such circumstances? We cannot force ourselves to love and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and it is all too evident we do not do it at present. We cannot compel ourselves to love our neighbour as ourselves, and it is questionable whether, outside our little circle of family affection, we care a rush for the real use and welfare of our fellow-creatures, except as far as our own worldly interests are concerned in doing so. There is no more genuine love of the Lord or of the neighbour to come out of us, than of wine from a paving-stone or of milk from a deal board. And how can we give ourselves these loves, from what store equip ourselves with them, by what process obtain them ?
When priest and Levite in us, passing by on the other side, have no help to offer to Him who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, is more marred than any man, and His form than the sons of men, there remains yet one in us who may and can wait upon and tend Him whom we have suffered to be thus maltreated. For there are not two loves, but three, and therefore not two degrees of goodness, but three, which have in them the inheritance of eternal life. Goodness is only another term for use; and all goodness is love of some degree put to its own use, and so fulfilling itself in life. The noblest, highest goodness is the good of love to the Lord, born of the love of being of use to Him for His sake, and not for ours. An inferior, yet right noble and lofty goodness is the good of charity or love to the neighbour, the fruit of the love of being of use to our human brothers and sisters for their advantage rather than for ours. Still lower is a third degree of goodness—the good of truth or of obedience; the goodness which comes of the love of obeying the Lord, not for His sake, nor for that of our fellow-creatures, but for our own best use —for the service thereby rendered to ourselves in securing our eternal salvation. In its lower development, the love of obedience is not really a heavenly affection. Subordinated to the higher loves, it becomes heavenly; but at first it is little more than a wisely refined selfishness and a highly-improved worldliness, reaching therefore only to, and not inside, the threshold of heaven. And yet where the priest and the Levite-love to the Lord and to the neighbour-go by on the other side, this love of obedience for our own eternal use is able, and is the only thing that is able, to take up the Divine Man in us, and minister to Him whom we have suffered to fall so miserably among thieves. For this good of truth, or of obedience, in its first inception and action, is the good Samaritan. Not the good Jew, nor the Israelite indeed—not a goodness of the Church or of heaven; but the good Samaritan, a Gentile goodness, outside the Church and outside heaven, as Samaria at that time, being outside Judæa, was in a strict sense alien from the commonwealth of Israel. This goodness, from the love of obeying the truth of the Word, has compassion on the stripped, wounded, and half-slain Lord in the mind of man; binds up His wounds, correcting the false persuasions that have hurt Him; and sets Him on his (the Samaritan's) own beast—that is to say, does the best for Him that external and self-regarding religiousness knows, from its own inferior standpoint, the way to accomplish. For it is, of course, quite beyond the power of this degree of goodness in its first state to set the wounded Traveller, the injured Word of God, on His own feet, which are of finest brass, being of the purest quality of that goodness; all it can do in its present early and inferior condition is to set the Holy Word on such external understanding of doctrine as can be comprehended and obeyed by a goodness in which as yet abides so much that is of self and the world. What continued instruction, what prolonged discipline of heart and life, is still necessary to give the Holy Word in the lawyer's mind and life a perfect restoration to health and strength, is foreshadowed in the parable, in the bringing of the wounded One to the inn, the taking care of Him there, and the committing Him to the hands of the Host. For an inn, for the rest and recuperation of the body in travelling, signifies a state of instruction and discipline for spiritual rest and refreshment on the pilgrimage