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Discipline and Other Sermons, 13 - THE GOOD SAMARITAN

By Charles Kingsley


      LUKE x. 33, 34.

      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, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

      No words, perhaps, ever spoken on earth, have had more effect than those of this parable. They are words of power and of spirit; living words, which have gone forth into the hearts and lives of men, and borne fruit in them of a hundred different kinds. Truly their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words to the ends of the world, for a proof that Christ, who spake them, said truly, when he said, 'The flesh profiteth nothing; it is the spirit which maketh alive. The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.'

      What was the power and the spirit of this parable? What gave it its strength in the hearts of men? This--that it told them that they were to help their fellow-men, simply because they were their fellow- men. Not because they were of the same race, the same religion, the same sect or party; but simply because they were men. In a word, it commanded men to be humane; to exercise humanity; which signifies, kindness to human beings, simply because they are human beings. One can understand our Lord preaching that: it was part and parcel of his doctrine. He called himself the Son of Man. He showed what he meant by calling himself so, by the widest and most tender humanity.

      But his was quite a new doctrine, and a new practice likewise. The Jews had no notion of humanity. All but themselves were common and unclean. They might not even eat with a man who was a Gentile. All mankind, save themselves, they thought, were accursed and doomed to hell. They lived, as St. Paul told them, hateful to, and hated by, all mankind. There was no humanity in them.

      The Greek, again, despised all nations but his own as barbarians. He would mix with them, eat with them, work for them; but he only looked on the rest of mankind as stupid savages, out of whom he was to make money, by the basest and meanest arts. There was no humanity in him.

      The Romans, again, were a thoroughly inhuman people. Their calling, they held, was to conquer all the nations of the earth, to plunder them, to enslave them. They were the great slaveholding, man- stealing people. Mercy was a virtue which they had utterly forgotten. Their public shows and games were mere butcheries of blood and torture. To see them fight to death in their theatres, pairs after pairs, sometimes thousands in one day, was the usual and regular amusement. And in that great city of Rome, which held something more than a million human beings, there was not, as far as I am aware, one single hospital, or other charitable institution of any kind. There was, in a word, no humanity in them.

      But the Gospel changed all that miraculously and suddenly, both in Jew, in Greek, and in Roman. When men became Christians at St. Paul's preaching, all the old barriers of race were broken down between them. They said no more, 'I am a Roman,' 'I a Greek,' 'I a Jew,' but 'I am a Christian man; and, because I am a Christian, Roman and Greek and Jew are alike my brothers.'

      There was seen such a sight as (so far as we know) was never seen before on earth--the high-born white lady worshipping by the side of her own negro slave; the proud and selfish Roman, who never had helped a human being in his life, sending his alms to the churches of Syria, or of some other country far away; the clever and educated Greek learning from the Jew, whom he called a barbarian; and the Jew, who had hated all mankind, and been hated by them in return, preaching to all mankind the good news that they were brothers, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man.

      Instead of a kingdom of division, the Church was a kingdom of union. Charity, and generosity, and mutual help took the place of selfishness, and distrust, and oppression. While men had been heathens, their pattern had been that of the priest who saw the wounded man lying, and looked on him and passed by. Their pattern now was that of the good Samaritan, who helped and saved the wounded stranger, simply because he was a man.

      In one word, the new thing which the Gospel brought into the world was--humanity. The thing which the Gospel keeps in the world still, is humanity. It brought other things, and blessed things, but this it brought. And why? Because through the Church was poured on men the spirit of God. And what is that, save humanity?--the spirit of the compassionate, all generous Son of Man?--the spirit of charity and love?

      What were the woes of humanity to the heathen? If a man fell in the race of life, so much the worse for him. So much the better for them, for there was one more competitor out of the way. One of the greatest Roman poets, indeed, talks of the pleasure which men have in seeing others in trouble, just as, when the storm is tossing up the sea, it is sweet to sit on the shore, and watch the ships labouring in the waves. Not, he says, that one takes actual pleasure in seeing a man in trouble, but in the thought that one is not in the trouble oneself. A rather lame excuse, I think, for a rather inhuman sentiment.

      Yes, the heathen could feel pleasure in being safe while others were afflicted. And, indeed, our own fallen nature, if we give way to it, will tempt us to the same sin. But how did men begin to look not only on the afflictions, but on the interest, on the feelings, on the consciences of their neighbours, when they began to be led by the spirit of Christ? Let St. Paul speak for himself, not in one text only, but in a hundred--'Though I be free from all, I have made myself a servant to all--a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, strong to the strong, weak to the weak; all things to all men, if by any means I might save some. Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. For the love of Christ constraineth us. For he died for all, that those who live should henceforth not live to themselves, but to him.'

      And what did he mean by living to Christ?--'Living in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often; in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; beside that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the Church. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?'--Oh, who does not see in such words as these the picture of a new ideal, a new life for man; even a life of utter sympathy with his fellow-men, utter love and self-sacrifice--in one word, utter humanity; as far above that old heathen poet's selfish notion, as man is above the ape, or heaven above the earth!

      This is the spirit of God, even the Holy Ghost; the spirit of Christ, which also is the spirit of humanity; because it is the spirit of Christ, who is both God and man, both human and divine. This is the spirit of love, by which God created mankind and all the worlds, that he might have something which was not himself whereon to spend his boundless love. This is the spirit of love, by which he spared not his only-begotten Son, but freely gave him for the sins of all mankind. This is the spirit of love, by which he is leading mankind through strange paths, and by ways which their fathers knew not, toward that eternal city of God which all truly human hearts are seeking, blindly often and confusedly, and sometimes by utterly mistaken paths: but seeking her still, if by any means they may enter into her, and be at peace. This is that spirit of love, by which, having sent forth all souls out of his everlasting bosom, he will draw them home again in the fulness of time, as many as have eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord, into his bosom once more, that they may rest in peace, and God be all in all.

      Take comfort from these words, my friends; for there is deep comfort to be found in them, if you will look at them aright. When you hear that the spirit of God is in you, unless you are reprobates; and that if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his--do not be afraid, as if that spirit were something quite unlike anything which you feel, or even think of: as if it was something which must show itself in strange visions or peculiar experiences, which very few persons have, and which tempt them to set themselves apart from their fellow-men, and thank God that they are not as other men are. Remember that the spirit of God is the spirit of Christ, and that the spirit of Christ is the spirit by which the good Samaritan helped the poor wounded man, simply because he was a man. Remember that the spirit of God, so far from making you unlike a man, comes to make you more perfect men; so far from parting you from your fellow-men, comes to knit you more to your fellow-men, by making you understand them, feel for them, make allowances for them, long to help them, however different in habits or in opinions they may be from you; that it is, in one word, the spirit of humanity, which comes down from heaven into your hearts to make you humane, as it descended on Christ, that he might be the most humane of all human beings--the very Son of Man, who knew, understood, loved, suffered for, and redeemed all mankind, because in him all humanity was gathered into one.

      That spirit is not far from any of you. Surely he is in all your hearts already, if you be worthy of the name of men. He is in you, unless you be inhuman, and that, I trust, none of you are. From him come every humane thought and feeling you ever had. All kindliness, pity, mercy, generosity; all sense or justice and honour toward your fellow-men; all indignation when you hear of their being wronged, tortured, enslaved; all desire to help the fallen, to right the oppressed;--whence do these come? From the world? Most surely not. From the flesh? St. Paul says not. From the Devil? No one, I trust, will say that, save his own children, the Pharisees, if there be any of them left, which we will hope there are not. No! all these come from the gracious spirit of humanity--the spirit of Christ and of God. Pray to him, that he may take possession of all your thoughts, feelings, and desires, and purge you from every taint of selfishness. Give up your hearts to him; and grieve not, by any selfishness, passion, or hardness of your own, his gracious instructions: but let him teach you, and guide you, and purge you, and sanctify you, till you come to the stature of a perfect man, to the fulness of the measure of Christ, who could perfectly hate the sin, and yet perfectly love the sinner; who could see in every man, even in his enemies and murderers, a friend and a brother.

      And you who are afflicted, remember, that if the spirit of humanity be the spirit of Christ, the spirit of Christ is also the spirit of humanity. What do I mean? This: that if that good Samaritan had Christ's spirit, was like Christ, then Christ has the same spirit, and is like that good Samaritan, utterly humane, for mere humanity's sake.

      Yes, thou who art weary and heavy laden--thou who fanciest, at moments, that the Lord's arm is shortened, that it cannot save, and art ready to cry, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?--take comfort, and look upon Christ. Thou wilt never be sure of the love of God, unless thou rememberest that it is the same as the love of Christ; and, by looking at Christ, learnest to know thy Father and his Father, whose likeness and image he is, and see that the spirit which proceeds alike from both of them is the spirit of humanity and love, which cannot help going forth to seek and to save thee, simply because thou art lost. Look, I say, at Christ; and be sure that what he bade the good Samaritan do to the wounded traveller, that same will he do to thee, because he is the Son of Man, human and humane.

      Art thou robbed, wounded, deserted, left to die, worsted in the battle of life, and fallen in its rugged road, with no counsel, no strength, no hope, no purpose left? Then remember, that there is one walking to and fro in this world, unseen, but ever present, whose form is as the form of the Son of Man.

      To him is given all power to execute judgment in heaven and earth, because he is the Son of Man. He is beholding the nations and fashioning all their hearts. Even as I speak now, he is pouring contempt on princes, and making the counsels of the people of no effect. Even now he is frustrating the tokens of the liars, and making diviners mad. He is smiting asunder mighty nations, and filling the lands with dead bodies. Even now he is coming, as he came of old from Bozra, treading down the people in his anger, and making them dumb in his fury; and their blood is sprinkled on his garments, and he hath stained all his raiment. For the day of vengeance is in his heart, and the year of his redeemed is come. He who ariseth terribly to shake the nations, has he time, has he will, to turn aside to attend to such as thee?

      He has time, and he has will. No human being so mean, no human sorrow too petty, but what he has the time and the will, as well as the power, to have mercy on it, because he is the Son of Man. Therefore he will turn aside even to thee, whoever thou art, who art weary and heavy laden, and canst find no rest for thy soul, at the very moment, and in the very manner, which is best for thee. When thou hast suffered long enough, he will stablish, strengthen, settle thee. He will bind up thy wounds, and pour in the oil and the wine of his spirit--the Holy Ghost, the Comforter; and will carry thee to his own inn, whereof it is written, He shall hide thee secretly in his own presence from the provoking of men; he shall keep thee in his tabernacle from the strife of tongues. He will give his servants charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways; and when he comes again, he will repay them, and fetch thee away, to give thee rest in that eternal bosom of the Father, from which thou, like all human souls, camest forth at first, and to which thou shalt at last return, with all human souls who have in them that spirit of humanity, which is the spirit of God, and of Christ, and of eternal life.

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