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contempt and disdain ; all his native
prejudices and absurd traditions would have risen up in arms against so offensive a doctrine; nor would all the eloquence in the world, not even the divine eloquence of the Son of God himself, have been able to subdue the deep-rooted prepossessions of the obstinate Jew.
Jesus therefore, well knowing the impossibility of convincing the lawyer by any thing he could say, determined to make the man convince himself, and correct his own error. With this view he relates to him the parable of the Jewish traveller, who fell among robbers, was stripped and wounded, and left half dead upon the spot; and, though passed by with unfeeling indifference and neglect by his own countrymen, was at length relieved and restored to health by a compassionate Samaritan. He then asks the lawyer, who was neighbour to this distressed traveller? It was impossible for the lawyer not to answer, as he did (not foreseeing the consequence) He that Vol. I.
showed mercy to him; that is, the Samaritan. Here then he at once cut up his own absurd opinion by the roots. For if the Samaritans, whom of all others the Jews most hated, were, in the true and substantial sense of the word, their neighbours, they were bound by their own law, by their own traditions, and by this man's own confession, to love and to assist them as such. The conclusion was therefore, Go and do thou likewise.
This then affords a striking proof of the efficacy of parable in correcting strong prejudices and erroneous opinions. But there is another thing still more difficult to be subdued, and that is, inveterate wickedness and hardened guilt. But this too was made to give way and humble itself in the dust by the force of parable; I mean that of Nathan.
There seems . reason to believe that King David, after he had committed the .complicated crime of adultery and murder, had by some means or other contrived to lull his conscience to sleep, and
to suppress the risings of any painful reflection in his mind: This
almost incredible, yet so the fact seems to have been ; and it shows in the strongest light the extreme deceitfulness of sin, its astonishing power over the mind of man, and the inveterate depravity of the human heart. When we see a man who had
perpetrated such atrocious deeds, totally insensible of his guilt, and not discovering the slightest resemblance to his own case in the affecting and awakening story which the prophet related, it affords a striking and a melancholy proof what human nature is when left to itself, even in the best of men: even in those who, like King David, are, in the general tenour of their life, actuated by right principles, and even animated (as he evidently was) with the warmest sentiments of piety and devotion. And it demonstrates in the clearest manner the absolute necessity of that help from above in the discharge of our duty, which the Christian 'revelation holds out to us, and which men of the
world are so apt to despise and deride as a weak delusion and fanatical imagination; I mean the divine influences of the Holy Spirit: without which there is not a single individual here present, however highly he may think of the natural rectitude and invincible integrity of his own mind, who may not in an evil hour, when he least thinks of it, be betrayed by some powerful and unexpected temptation into as much guilt, and become as blind to his own situation, as was that unhappy prince of whom we are now speaking.
It was indispensably necessary to rouse the sinner out of this dreadful lethargy; but how was this to be done? Had Nathan plainly and directly charged him with all the enormity of his guilt, the probability is, that either in the first transport of his resentment, he would have driven the prophet from his presence, or that he would have attempted to palliate, to soften, to explain away his crime; would have pleaded the strength of his passion or the violence of the temptation, and perhaps
claimed some indulgence for his rank and situation in life. But all these pleas were at once silenced, and his retreat completely cut off, by making him the judge of his own case, and forcing his condemnation out of his own mouth. For after he had denounced death on the rich man for taking away the ewe lamb of the poor one,
he could with no decency pretend that he who had destroyed the life of one fellowcreature, and the innocence of another, was deserving of a milder sentence.
There was nothing then left for him but to confess at once, as he did, “ that he had sinned against the Lord;” and his penitence we know was as severe and exemplary as his crime had been atrocious.
It is much to be lamented that these indirect methods should be found necessary in order to show men to themselves, and acquaint them with their real characters, especially when it is their own interest not to be mistaken in so important à con
But the wise and the virtuous in every age have condescended to make use