Sidor som bilder

every one was a neighbour, who was a man, every one was entitled to the good offices entailed by that relation, who stood in need of them-it was more in unison with the practice of skilful disputants, when they have to do with adversaries prepossessed against a particular conclusion, to lead them if possible to it, in spite of themselves; to place it before them in the shape of a conclusion from premises which they cannot dispute, and yet which force it irresistibly upon them; from which they cannot withhold the inference, if they would. And it was certainly more agreeable to the kindness and condescension of our Saviour's manner, in removing scruples however needless, and in overcoming prejudices however unreasonable, to proceed gently and imperceptibly, in convincing his hearers of their errors; to insinuate, rather than to obtrude, the necessary correction; and to make them conscious of the delusions they had so long laboured under, as well as ashamed of them, before they were even aware of his intention to expose, and of his wish to remove them.

Now, was it expedient that the answer to the proposed question should be couched in the form of an example; it was just as necessary that the instance adduced should be a real, and not a fictitious case in point. It is not enough to say, that an actual matter of fact would have been best adapted for the desired effect; we ought rather to say, that none else would have been adapted to it at all. Nor is it sufficient to reply, that the moral proposed by the example is a real, practical truth, whatever be the nature of the example which supplies it. The propriety of that moral, the force of that practical conclusion, turn upon the reality of the history itself. Admit this reality, and the inference from the history is sound and just; deny it, and the inference falls to the ground.

The opposite conduct of two very different kinds of persons, under circumstances exactly the same, and equally favourable or unfavourable to the exercise of a certain duty, is proposed as alike instructive upon a question of serious practical obligation; and as alike effectual in illustrating the principle and rule of duty, applicable to all such cases; the one by shewing what ought not to be done, the other by shewing what ought to be done, under such circumstances; the one as a case in point to the omission of the duty, the other as a case in point to its observance; the one consequently just as striking and impressive in a negative, as the other in a positive point of view, both to make known the duty and to enforce it. Such a contrast of personal character, and difference of personal conduct, under the circumstances of the case, seem of necessity to require that each should be considered equally real: for if either is fictitious, the other must be so too; and neither, if fictitious, would justify the inference, with a view to the general moral, founded on that part of the story in particular. The example of the priest and Levite would prove nothing by way of warning, dissuasive, or discouragement, any more than that of the Samaritan by way of incitement, persuasive, or encouragement, upon the practical question at issue—if neither of them ever happened. Nor is it probable that a statement of the case so unfavourable to the Jew, and so creditable to the Samaritan, would be made by the speaker on the one side, and implicitly received by the hearer on the other, were it not known or believed by both, to be founded in fact. For it is evident that our Lord affirms, and the person with whom he is conversing assents to, the fact of this supposed behaviour, as alike unquestionable and real, with respect to each of the parties concerned in the transaction.

In the form and manner of the narrative as it stands, without regard to the further question whether it is real or fictitious, we have a remarkable example of the candour and decorum which characterise our Saviour's representations of things and persons. Every one who peruses the description of the conduct of the priest and Levite, feels disposed spontaneously to condemn and reprobate it: and when he reads of the opposite behaviour of the Samaritan, is just as spontaneously impelled to admire and applaud it. But the parable itself is alike dispassionate and impartial, in the relation of each ; alike neutral in point of feeling towards each. It neither passes its censure, however deserved, nor bestows its praise, however just; but content to perform the part of the simple historian, attentive only to truth, and the statement of actual facts, leaves it to the judgment and natural sympathies of the reader, to draw the proper inference from the narrative, according to the merits of the case; and to collect the distinct personal character of the agents from the difference of conduct, which under the same circumstances of situation, the difference of personal principles and motives respectively, induces

them to pursue.

The use we may make of this property of the narrative, is as follows. If the parable contains a

real history, such a mode of relating its particulars is consistent with the hypothesis of its reality ; but if it contains a fiction, the spirit of candour and strict justice which pervades the narration, is not to be reconciled with the nature of its original conception. It is not consistent to relate the details of a certain story, with every attention toʻtenderness, delicacy, decorum, or the like; when the story itself, taken as a whole, rests on a basis which is purely fictitious, yet disingenuous and uncharitable. Why should the inhumanity of a priest or a Levite, in a particular instance, be described without note or comment to stigmatise, much more to aggravate, its insensibility ; if the supposition of that inhumanity is a gratuitous assumption, yet so disparaging to the priest and the Levite generally ?— that is, to the ministers of religion--concerning whom, of all persons, the fact of such a supposition ought, a priori, to be the least conceivable. The mention even of a certain priest and a certain Levite, with nothing more definite to ascertain the individuals in each instance on the supposition that the parable is a narrative of facts-is a further argument of its delicacy and considerateness. But on the contrary supposition, its very indefiniteness makes it the more objectionable; because instead of confining the odium of a certain disgraceful action to its proper authors, who though members of the priesthood, and unworthy members also, were still but two of a much larger body, it reflects the discredit of their particular conduct upon the whole body to which they belong ; it leads to the inference that any priest, or any Levite, was just as capable of acting in the given way, as these two were.

It must be confessed that the circumstances of the parable are all such, as render it highly probable that the whole transaction was real. The scene of the narrative, in the event of which travellers of one sort or another are exclusively concerned, is laid on what is known to have been as great a thoroughfare as any in Judæa—the high road between Jerusalem and Jericho. The road itself, for the greater part of its extent, passed through rocks and defiles, sloping from the high ground on which Jerusalem stood, to the verge of the plain of the Jordan in which Jericho was situated. Hence a very appropriate term, kataBaiverv; “ to go down;" all as used of them, in describing the direction of a journey which set out from the first of these points, to go to the other.

The road in question was liable to be infested by what are called in the original anotai, persons who lived by freebooting—a very different description of men from mere thieves—and properly denoting robbers or banditti: with respect to whom it would be easy to shew, upon the testimony of contemporary history, that they abounded in various parts of Judæa, from the time of Herod the Great to the destruction of Jerusalem; and were both numerous, and strong and hardy, enough to set the civil government at defiance, and to wage war upon the peaceable inhabitants of the country with impunity. To these outlaws and their families, the natural fastnesses and caverns in the mountains, assisted and strengthened by their own labours and precautions, afforded an asylum; and the means both of shelter and self-defence. It was not extraordinary then, for a traveller by the road from Jerusalem to Je

« FöregåendeFortsätt »