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THE LIBERALITY OF JESUS.
with that knowledge must come his unparalleled generosity, to dissolve their hearts in a saving, though bitter repentance, were those hearts harder than adamant. Thus we may see how the prayer of the Crucified secured its own fulfilment.
I have commented upon this passage first, because it affords the most obvious and impressive instance of that trait of the character of Christ, upon which I am now remarking.
Between the Jews and the Samaritans, there subsisted a spirit of the fiercest animosity. They agreed in acknowledging the authority of the Mosaic law, but they differed about the spot upon which the public religious ceremonies and services of their faith were to be observed; the Jews insisting that Jerusalem was the place to which the followers of Moses should resort to worship, while the Samaritans were equally zealous for their consecrated Mount Gerizim. This comparatively insignificant difference became a peculiar fountain of bitterness. It is the nature of religious hatred, as all experience testifies, to rage the most furiously between those sects that approach the nearest to each other, without entirely coalescing. It would seem that bigotry grows fiercer as its food is diminished. So at least it was in the case of the Jews and the Samaritans. They looked upon each other with the greatest dislike. It is interesting, therefore, to observe how Jesus is represented as bearing himself in this state of things. Here we have new and natural illustrations of the characteristic elevation of his mind. It was to a woman of Samaria, who, per
THE LIBERALITY OF JESUS
ceiving that he was no common person, asked his opinion concerning the true place for public worship, the ever-vexed point of dispute between her countrymen and the Jews, that he announced the only acceptable worship to be the act and service of the spirit. Once when he was going through Samaria, the Samaritans would not receive him, because it appeared that he was going to Jerusalem, passing by their consecrated mount. His disciples, enraged at the inhospitality of the Samaritans, wished to call down fire from Heaven upon them. .
66 Ye know not,” said Jesus, “what manner of spirit ye are of. The Son of man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.”
This incident needs no comment. On one occasion a Jewish teacher came to Jesus proposing the great question—" what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" In reply Jesus asked, “what is written in the law? how readest thou?" The teacher replied, " thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.” To this Jesus rejoined, “thou hast answered right. This do and thou shalt live.” But the teacher of the law, desirous of justifying himself, and showing that the question he had put to Jesus was not so easily settled, asked in return, “who is my neighbour ?" In answer to this query, we have the parable of the good Samaritan, as it is called,—the story of a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho, and falling among thieves, and left by them half dead. A priest and a Levite pass by him without rendering him any assistance. But a Samaritan coming that way stops and binds up his wounds, and carries him
TOWARDS THE SAMARITANS.
to the nearest inn, and provides for his entire relief. Jesus concluded this parable by asking the teacher of law which of these three was neighbour to him—the man from Jerusalem, the Jew—who had fallen among thieves. The reply of the teacher is, “ he that showed mercy on him.” Thus was he forced to confess that the Samaritan was neighbour to the Jew; and if so, then the relation was reciprocal, and it became the Jewish teacher to regard the Samaritan as his neighbour, the despised, hated Samaritan. How strikingly is the largeness of the mind of Jesus, his superiority to Jewish prejudices, revealed in this passage—in the bare idea of representing Jews and Samaritans as neighbours ! When Jesus asked the Jewish teacher which was neighbour to him who fell among thieves, he replied, “ he that showed mercy on him.” I perceive, or fancy I perceive, here, an incidental illustration of the prejudice of the Jew. He did not care, in answer to the question of Jesus, to say outright “ the Samaritan.” It went against his pride to utter that despised name—to acknowledge one bearing that name, as his neighbour. So he compounds with his pride, and adopts, very naturally, a circumlocution, avoiding the mention of the Samaritan under that title, and replying, “ he that showed mercy on him.” It was obviously the intention of Jesus to make him confess that the Samaritan was his neighbour. The appeal was absolutely irresistible, and although it was but little that he could do, yet he did what he could to save his own pride.
The fact that Jesus was on one occasion stigmatized as a Samaritan, would seem to be a tribute to his liberality; to his freedom from the bigotry with which
NO APPEARANCE OF SYSTEM
his countrymen regarded the inhabitants of Samaria. I want no more expressive evidence of the vitality and comprehensiveness of the philanthropy of Jesus, than the way in which he is described as conducting himself towards those against whom the bitterest prejudices were cherished. That herecognized none of the artificial distinctions which control and contract human affections, I gather most decisively, not from those precepts of his which enjoin universal love, immortal as they are, but from his disregard of those divisions which existed immediately around him. It is easy enough, we know, to love distant and barbarous nations, or to cherish an interest in a remote posterity, and at the same time to foster a thousand narrow feelings towards those who are nearest to us. This is, unhappily, so much the character of the benevolence that we witness in modern times, that it is not until I see, as may be seen clearly, how free the author of Christianity was from the bigotry which infected his nation and his time, that his precepts become to me genuine and authentic manifestations of his spirit. Let it only appear that he regarded those whom his countrymen most vehemently hated and denounced, the Samaritans,-let it be seen that he recognized them as men, as brethren, as objects for human sympathy and respect, then do I see in him the spirit of universal love.
Then do I know by the most indubitable tokens, that his charity knew no artificial bounds; that it was a healthy and vigorous spirit flowing in every natural channel.
We talk about the plan of Christianity—the Christian scheme or system, as if its author had pursued
IN THE PROCEEDING OF JESUS.
the great work in which he was engaged, with a formal and conscious recognition of a previously arranged plan. It is scarcely necessary to say that the Christian records produce no impression of this sort. Nothing can appear more unsystematic and immethodical than the whole proceeding of Jesus. Although general principles are directly deducible from the language which he uttered, and although his language is itself not infrequently general in its form, yet, as I have had occasion more than once to observe, he almost always spoke and acted with direct reference to local and particular circumstances. Even when he expressed himself in universal terms, and appeared to be enunciating abstract principles, there is reason to believe that he was moved to speak by some special instance, to which his language is to be particularly applied. His instructions were pervadingly unpremeditated and occasional. No inference, however, unfavourable to the comprehensiveness of his spirit, is to be drawn from the absence of all traces of system in his ministry. For although this characteristic of the founder of Christianity may at first sight appear to intimate that he taught and laboured without law, order, or purpose, it really results from the
very clearness and vastness of his aim. When, in any department, whether of art, literature, politics, or religion, an individual formally announces a theory, and keeps it industriously in sight, there is always produced the impression of something defined, circumscribed, narrow. Whereas the highest achievements of man—the productions of genius, always appear, at first sight, erratic and lawless. But when closely