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With regard to the second—the ignorance in question was a necessary consequence of the circumstances of the case. The man was naked; for the robbers had stripped him of his clothing: he could not, therefore, be known from his dress, though that at any other time, might have served to distinguish him. He was speechless; for he had been left covered with wounds, and half dead: a state of dereliction at first, necessarily aggravated subsequently by the loss of blood—by continued exposure to the cold—by the increase of exhaustion, with the prolongation of suffering, and the gradual decay of strength. He could not therefore declare who, or what he was, for himself. But if he was neither to be recognised by his dress, nor able to speak for himself; how was the Priest or the Levite to discover that he was a Jew? Unless they were previously acquainted with him personally, (a supposition for which there is not the least reason in the narrative, they could have no means of ascertaining what he was, except from the garb which he wore, or from his own declarations.
How were they then, to know that he might not be a Gentile, a robber, a Samaritan? The placethe neighbourhood—the condition of the man himself—were such as might favour the most sinister interpretation. Or, were there only a confessed un
Tradidit arcano quodcunque volumine Moyses,
Sat, xiv. 300. 6 The fringe or border which every Jew wore, by command of the law, would of course alone serve to discriminate a Jew as such, from one who was not of the same nation.
certainty what he actually was, and just as great a probability that he was one of an hated sect or nation, as not; there would be room enough for suspicion to produce its effect; and matter enough for prejudice to work upon, in their minds-supplied by the case before them.
The conduct of both the parties, accordingly, is such as dispassionately considered, seems to be the behaviour of men actuated by horror and abomination, rather than by insensibility. They make haste to be gone, as if afraid to linger on an accursed spot. They get to as great a distance as possible from the expiring man; as if to approach him too nearly would entail the risk of pollution. The very air in his neighbourhood might be infected. To remain near the body of the sufferer; much more to handle it, for the purpose of administering relief-to lift it up-to bind up its wounds-to pour in oil and wine-might, in their estimation, be a forbidden and a dangerous thing.
The Samaritan, too, would probably have prejudices of a similar kind, to contend against beforehand, as well as these two Jews; for we cannot suppose him a particular exception to what was only the common failing of his age and nation. Ill-will has a tendency to produce ill-will; and bad treatment systematically adopted, on one side, is sure to provoke a spirit of retaliation, on the other. In this warfare of feeling between the Jews and the Samaritans, which of the parties set the first example; which were more to blame; which were the most confirmed and bigoted in the indulgence of such prejudices; it is not necessary to inquire, as both nations partook in them alike: and if ordinarily speaking, the Jew would have no dealings with the Samaritan, the Samaritan on the other hand, would not willingly give even a cup of cold water to the Jew c.
c See John iv. 9: Luke ix. 51–56. The intensity of rancour and hatred, which the Jews at large must be conceived to have felt towards the Samaritans, may be conjectured, when even such a person as the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus, in whose writings so many noble and truly evangelical sentiments of humanity, occur, could write thus of the Samaritans. “ There are two manner of nations which my “ heart abhorreth, and the third is no nation; they that sit
upon the mountain of Samaria, and they that dwell among “ the Philistines, and that foolish people that dwell in Sichem.” Eccles. 1. 25, 26.
The national antipathy between the Jews and the Samari. tans, must be traced back to the time immediately after the return from the captivity—in the successful opposition of the latter to the rebuilding of the temple, in the reign of Cambyses; in their attempts to hinder and frustrate the patriotic enterprises of Nehemiah-Add to this, the establishment of the rival temple on Gerizim, in the reign of Alexander the Great ; the jealousy and bitterness occasioned by this rivalship of religions, subsisting in the reigns of the Ptolemies ; (of which Josephus supplies a luminous instance in the reign of Ptolemy Philometor ; when deputies were appointed to argue the respective claims of the two places of Worship, and of the two forms of religious polity, before the king of Egypt, on the part both of the Jews and of the Samaritans; a discussion which ended in the discomfiture and death of the latter ;) the behaviour of the Samaritans to the Jews in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes : John Hyrcanus, the fourth of the Maccabæan princes' reduction of them, and his destruction of the temple on Gerizim : besides diverse instances of wanton acts of insult and outrage either against the religion or against the nation of the Jews, committed by the Samaritans in aftertimes: of which Josephus has preserved the accounts.
Maimonides, De Ratione Intercalandi, (iii. 8.) mentions, that while the custom of notifying the appearance of the new moons by lighting beacons on the tops of the hills, continued to The Samaritan, too, must have been liable to the same ignorance in the present instance, of the nation of the individual sufferer who stood in need of his good offices, as the Priest and the Levite. He could not know any more than they, whether the assistance which he was about to render him, would be a favour conferred on a friend or on an enemy; on a countrymnan or on an alien. But it is to this very circumstance, that the singularity of the contrast between his behaviour and theirs, is due; and herein consists his peculiar excellence, that placed in the same situation as they, and liable to the influence of the same motives as they, which might have stifled the first impulse of pity as readily in him as in them; he yet acts so differently, and so much better. Humanity with him was stronger than prejudice; and natural sympathy overcame and silenced doubt. He stopped not to reflect who the individual before him was, or to conjecture every thing that he might possibly be: he paused to consider only in what a situation he was; and how he himself might best be enabled to relieve it: a situation, on the one hand, to require prompt and immediate assistance; and an ability on the other, seconded by the disposition, as promptly and readily to afford it.
The moral of such a narrative, as this, considered in respect to the conclusion which it leads to of itself, must therefore be, to shew, by a case in point,
be kept up among the Jews ; the Samaritans would often light such fires at wrong times, on purpose to mislead them, and to make them begin their computation of the neomeniæ too soon. This occurred so frequently, that it compelled the Jews to abandon the practice, and to adopt a different method of making known the appearance of the same natural phenomenon.
the triumph of prejudice over humanity, in one instance, and the triumph of humanity over prejudice, in another, under circumstances exactly the same beforehand, for the victory of humanity over prejudice, or for that of prejudice over humanity. The former of these results is exemplified in the influence of prejudice with the Priest and the Levite; the latter in the power of humanity over the honest and good Samaritan.
If, however, both the Priest and the Levite in acting as they did, must be supposed to have acted upon a sense and persuasion of duty, though a mistaken one; it is but right to conclude that the Samaritan also was actuated by a principle of conviction; though much more rational, and much more correct. It is scarcely probable that prejudice had struck root deeply into an heart, which yielded so readily to the spontaneous impulse of compassion; nor that pity, so pure, so disinterested, was under the guidance of a principle less noble, or less sacred than that of duty. This prompt and considerate benefactor of one poor and helpless fellow-creature, could have cherished no enmity against inankind, or any comprehensive division of mankind, in general. No malicious and vindictive passion could have found an habitual asylum in that breast, which like a temple of charity, was consecrated to the generous affections, and overflowed with the milk of human kindness. Nor would it, perhaps, be presuming too much on consistency of character in the same person, and on the uniformity of influence which is to be expected from the identity of principle, extending itself with equal activity to all the emergencies of private or social duty—disposing to the observance