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Christ sendeth out at once seventy disciples to work miracles and to preach; admonisheth them to be humble, and wherein to rejoice; thanketh his Father for his grace: magnifieth the happy estate of his church: teacheth the lawyer how to obtain eternal life, and to esteem every one as his neighbor, that needeth his mercy: reprehendeth Martha, and commendeth Mary her sister.
Anno Domini 30.
Luke 10:1-42.10.2. After these things the Lord appointed— The scene of Christ's ministry being from this time forth to lie in Judea, and the country beyond Jordan, it was expedient that his way should be prepared in every city and village of those countries whither he was to come: he therefore sent out seventy of his disciples on this work, mentioning the particular places whichhe intended to visit, and in which they were to preach; whereas the twelve had been allowed to go where they pleased, provided theyconfined their ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. St. Luke is the only evangelist who has given us this account of Christ's sending out the seventy; and it is the less to be wondered at, that he should do it so particularly, if the ancient tradition be true, which is generally believed, that he himself was one of the number. It is remarkable, that our Lord assigns the same reason for the mission of the seventy, which he had assigned for the mission of the twelve disciples. The harvest was plenteous in Judea and Peraea, as well as in Galilee, and the labourers there also were few. See Matthew 9:37-40.9.38.
Luke 10:4. And salute no man by the way.— The instructions given to the seventy on this occasion, were nearly the same with those delivered to the twelve; concerning which, see the notes on Matthew 13:0. Only he ordered the seventy to spend no time in saluting such persons as they met on the road, the time assigned them for going through the cities being but short. The phrase salute no man by the way, implies the greatest dispatch, as is evident from 2 Kings 4:29. For the eastern salutations were exceedingly tedious,consisting of long wishes of happiness to the person saluted, and of very particular inquiries concerning his welfare.
Luke 10:6. If the Son of peace be there,— That is, "If the master of the house be a virtuous well-disposed person, and receive you kindly, your peace shall rest upon it: your blessing, which ye gave at your entrance, shall, by my power, be made effectual to that purpose." See Matthew 10:12.
Luke 10:7. Such things as they give:— As they have.
Luke 10:13-42.10.14. Woe unto thee, Chorazin!— Having mentioned the punishment of those cities which shouldreject his ministers, it naturally introduced the state and punishment of the cities where he himself had preached most frequently, namely, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum; for, notwithstanding he had often resided in those cities, and performed many miracles before the inhabitants of them, they had continued impenitent; wherefore, because he was never to preach to them any more, and because he knew how great their punishment would be—in the overflowing tenderness of his soul, he affectionately lamented their obstinacy, which he foresaw would draw upon them the heavier judgments. This part of his discoursetoo was well calculated to comfort the seventy under the ill usage they might meet with. The preaching of Christ himself had often been unacceptable, and unsuccessful to many of his hearers, and therefore they had the less cause to be surprised, if theirs should prove so likewise. Considering the affectionate temper of our Lord, it is no wonder that he should renew his lamentation over those unhappy places where he had so intimately conversed; and that he should do it in such words as these, so well calculated to alarm and impress all that should hear or read them. Would to God they might now have their due weight with those, who might pass them over too slightly when they occurred before! Matthew 11:20; Matthew 11:30. Would to God that every impenitent creature who reads them might know, that the sentence of his own condemnation is now before his eyes!
Luke 10:17-42.10.18. Lord, even the devils were subject unto us— From the manner in which the seventy speak of this latter exertion of their power, it would appear to have been what they did not expect when they set out; for though Jesus had given them power to heal diseases, Luk 10:9 he had said nothing of their casting out demons. Our Lord's reply may be paraphrased thus, to retain its force and beauty: "He said to them, I know it; for I myself saw Satan the great prince of these demons, falling like lightning from heaven, on his first transgression; and well remember how immediate and dreadful his ruin was: and I foresee, in spirit, that renewed and swift victory, of which this present success of yours is an earnest, which the preaching of the Gospel shall shortly gain over all these rebel powers, who, even in their highest strength and glory, were so incapable of opposing the arm of God." We may observe further, that to be exalted into heaven, signifies to be raised to great powers and privileges, and particularlyto sovereign dominion; to fall from heaven therefore may signify to lose one's dominion and pre-eminence. The devils, by the idolatry of the Gentiles, and the wickedness of the Jews, had been exalted into heaven, and ruled mankind, in opposition to the dominion of God; but by the preaching of the gospel their power was to be destroyed in every country.
Luke 10:19. Behold, I give unto you power, &c.— To tread on serpents is a proverbial expression, which signifies victory over enemies; accordingly, it is added, and over all the power of the enemy. Though these words, in the primary sense, imply, that the apostles should be preserved from these noxious creatures, as one of them literally was, (compare Act 28:5 and Mark 16:18.) yet they seem to have likewise a secondary sense, and to be a prediction that the disciples should obtain a completevictory over the infernal spirits in general; the devil himself being frequently mentioned in scripture, in allusion to the fall, under the appellation of the old serpent. If we consider how great an instrument of idolatry the serpent has been in all ages, it will add some weight to this opinion. There is no need to prove the fact; it is well known what the case was in Egypt, in the eastern countries, in Greece and Rome, and elsewhere. This species of idolatry, however it came there, was found in America, upon the first discovery of that country. Garcilasco del' Viga, who wrote the History of the Incas of Peru, tells what the Spaniards forcing into the recess of one of their temples, found there the image of a great dragon, placed as the deity of the temple, and the object ofreligious worship. Other instances in abundance might be produced, from ancient as well as modern history. When we reflect how extensive this kind of idolatry has been, how it has spread over the whole world, we may judge, perhaps, that the first prophesy has been more literally accomplished than has been generally supposed; and that the old serpent, in his old form with his seed, and the Son of man, the seed of the woman, have been in perfect enmity, and will be, till the time appointed comes for destroying the power of the evil one; when the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, shall be cast into, and confined for ever in the lake of fire and brimstone. See the notes on Genesis 3:0.
Luke 10:20. Because your names are written in heaven.— Not by an absolute decree, but approved and accepted of God, on account of their faith and sincerity. Many are of opinion, that this is an allusion to the enrolment of the citizens' names in a register, by which their right to the privileges of citizenship was acknowledged by the community. It seems most probable, that when the seventy disciples were returned, Jesus was surrounded with a great multitude of people; this may be gathered at least from Luk 10:23 where, after having spoken publicly to the seventy, we are told that he turned unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed, &c. The happiness here praised, was enjoyed in the same sense by the seventy, as by the twelve, and consequently it was as fit that they should be made sensible of its greatness, as that the twelve shouldunderstand it. Besides, this declaration, as well as what was spoken more publicly, was designed to moderate the joy which the seventy had conceived on finding the devils subject to them. These things shew, that what our Lord said privately to his disciples, was said to the seventy, as well as to the twelve. If so, he was now attended by the multitude; which is the more necessary to observe, as it accounts for the behaviour of the lawyer in the subsequent verses.
Luke 10:25-42.10.28. And, behold, a certain lawyer— If the connection with which St. Luke introduces the subsequent transaction implies that it happened immediately after what goes before in the history, it took its rise in the followingmanner: A doctor of the law, who it seems made one of the multitude which attended Jesus when the seventy returned, having listened to what he said to his disciples in private, concerning their enjoyment of a happiness which many prophets and kings had desired in vain to obtain,—(namelythatofseeinghismiracles,andof hearing his sermons,) thought that he would make trial of that great wisdom which he said he possessed, by proposing to him one of the most important questions which it is possible for thehuman mind to examine, namely, what a man must do to inherit eternal life? For, that he asks the question, not from a sincere desire to know his duty, but merely to try our Lords knowledge, is evidentfrom the text. And further, he had probably an insidious design to ensnare him; for the question having been decided by the Jewish doctors, if Christ had answered differently, he might have been accused of heresy. Jesus, alluding to the scribes' profession, made answer, by inquiring of him what the law taught on that point? And perhaps when our Lord says, how readest thou? he alludes to the daily service of the Jews, as appears more probable from the reply which the scribe makes; the words thou shalt love the Lord thy God, &c. being then, and continuing still, to be daily read in the morning service of the synagogues; though it is remarkable, that the last clause, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, is omitted by them. But see on Matthew 22:35-40.22.40.
Luke 10:29. But he, willing to justify himself, &c.— Interpreters are not agreed in the meaning of these words; for it does not appear what occasion he had for any justification of himself: no accusation had been brought against him; nobody had charged him with any neglect or contempt of the law; so far otherwise, that our Lord had commended his wise answer, and promised him life, if he had immaculately obeyed the terms which he himself had proposed, Luke 10:28. Besides, it does not presently appear how any justification of himself could arise out of this question, or any answer that might be given to it. What fault did he mean to excuse, by asking, Who is my neighbour? or how did his virtue or innocence depend upon the answer which should be returned to this inquiry? These difficulties therefore have led interpreters into different sentiments; but without examining their opinions, the following is proposed, as appearing the most true, because the most easy and natural exposition of the passage. This lawyer came to our Lord, and, tempting him, said, What shall I do to inherit eternal life? Our Lord returns him to the law for an answer to his question, saying, What readest thou? He readily answers, That in the law he found, that he was to love the Lord his God with all his heart, &c. and his neighbour as himself. This account our Saviour approves; and adds, that if he had practised the law with immaculate obedience; he was in no danger: This do, and thou shalt live. But in this point, relating to practice, the lawyer well knew how this precept in particular of loving our neighbour had been loaded with exceptions and limitations by the Jewish doctors, and that he had never esteemed any body to be his neighbor, who was not of the same blood, and who did not profess the same religion with himself; for which reasons he hated many, who, according to the letter, were his neighbours, as the Samaritans were, who dwelt very near, but were the aversion of every Jew, being esteemed as the corrupters of the faith and true religion. Since therefore eternal life depended, according to his system, upon his immaculate obedience to the law, as he had heard from our Saviour; he very properly puts the question to our Lord, And who is my neighbour? For had our Lord determined in favour of the Jewish interpretation, and told him that those only were his neighbours who were of the same stock and family, and who worshipped God in the same manner that he did, the lawyer would have thought himself justified in his practice: but when our Saviour had forced him into a confession that even the Samaritan was his neighbour, he stood condemned by his own sentence, and by the example of the Samaritan, which he had approved; and was sent away with this short but full reproof and admonition, Go, and do thou likewise. The words, thus expounded, shew upon what motives men act, and what it is that prejudices their minds in the interpretation of God's law: they are willing to justify themselves, and therefore employ all their force and skill to make the command countenance their practice, and to speak such language only as may be consistent with their inclinations. But a truly religious man endeavours by the aid of almighty grace to bend all his passions and inclinations towards the commands, and to make them intirely submissive to it. And he knows that he can do nothing without Christ, that every thing truly good springs from his grace and Holy Spirit; and to him he ascribes all the gloryof his salvation. He pleads nothing for his justification and acceptance before God but the merit of his Saviour's blood, and shouts Grace, grace, even to the laying of the top-stone. But of all this the lawyer was perfectly ignorant.
Luke 10:30. And Jesus, answering, said, A certain man, &c.— Our Lord, who well knew how to convince and persuade, answered the scribe in such a manner as to make the feelings of his heart overcome the prejudices of his understanding. He convinced him of the mistake that he had imbibed, by a parable; an ancient, agreeable, and inoffensive method of conveying instruction, very fit to be used in teaching persons who were prejudiced against the truth; and certainly nothing could be more amiable in the manner, and more pertinent to the purpose, than the parable which our Lord here delivers. Jericho was seated in a valley; whence we perceive the propriety of the phrase went down from Jerusalem, &c. This circumstance is finely chosen; for so many robberies and murders were committed on this road, which lay through a kind of wilderness, that Jerome tells us it was called הדמים Edmim—The bloody way. As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he uttered this parable, it is not improbable that he was nigh to the place where the scene of it is laid; a circumstance which could not fail of making a strong impression on the audience, and which sets the whole parable in a very beautiful light. The phrase πληγας επιθεντες, which we render wounded him, strongly implies that these robbers [λησταις ] did so with great barbarity, laying on stroke upon stroke, and wound upon wound.
Luke 10:31. And by chance— Κατα συγκυριαν . Dr. Gill says, this word may as well be derived from the word συν and Κυριος the Lord, as from συγκυρειν, to happen; and so we may render the words, by divine Providence. The propriety of the circumstance of thepriest and Levite coming that way, will become more evident, if we consider that a very numerous body of priests and Levites dwelt at this time in Jericho. The word 'Αντιπαρηλθεν, which we render in this and the following verse, passed by on the other side, might with more propriety be rendered simply in both places, passed by.
Luke 10:32. Came, and looked on him,— Came nearer and took a leisurely and attentive survey of the case; which seems to be the import of the words Ελθων και ιδων .
Luke 10:33. But a certain Samaritan,— Though the priest and Levite had passed by their distressed brother, a Samaritan, who happened to come by that way, shewed a different example: seeing a fellow-creature lying on the road, naked and wounded, he went up to him; and though he found it was one of a different nation, who professed a religion opposite to his own, nevertheless, the violent hatred which had been instilled into his mind from his earliest years towards all who professed that religion, with every other objection, was immediately silenced by the feelings of pity, awakened at the sight of the man's distress. His bowels yearned towards the Jew; he hastened with great tenderness to give him assistance. Some writers tell us, that the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans rose so high, that if a Jew and a Samaritan met in a narrow way, they were exceedingly solicitous that they might pass without touching each other, for fear of pollution on either side. This circumstance serves as a beautiful illustration of the humanity of this good Samaritan, who not only touched the Jew, but took so much pains to dress his wounds, and set him on his own beast; supporting him in his arms as he rode, as well as making such kind provision for him in the inn. It seems this humane traveller, according to the custom of those times, carried his provisions along with him, (see the next note,) for he was able, though in the fields, to give the wounded man some wine to recruit his spirits: moreover, he carefully bound up his wounds, soaking the bandages with a mixture of wine and oil, which he poured on them, and which is of a medicinal quality; and then, setting him on his own beast, he walked by him, and supported him. As the Jew was stripped by the robbers, it is probable that the Samaritan used some of his own garments for the binding up of his wounds, which was a further instance of his goodness;—perhaps tearing them to make a more convenient bandage. The reader will find an account of the use which the ancients made of wine and oil for dressing fresh wounds, in Bos's Exercitations, p. 24 and Wolfius on the text.
Luke 10:34. Brought him to an inn,— In ancient times travellers used to carry their provisions along with them, because there were no inns for the entertainment of strangers, but only houses for lodging them; such as the khanes, or karavanseras in the eastern countries are to this day. These, as travellers tell us, consist of a capacious square, on all sides of which are a number of rooms on a ground floor, used occasionally for chambers, warehouses, and stables. Above stairs there is a colonnade, or gallery, on every side of which are the doors of a number of small rooms, wherein the merchants, as well strangers as natives, transact most of their business. In these karavanseras travellers can sometimes purchase straw and provender for their horses, mules, or other beasts, though, generally speaking, they supply them with nothing but rooms to lodge in. The Πανδοχειον, or inn here mentioned, was of this kind; for the Samaritan, while he was there, furnished the wounded Jew with all things necessary out of his own stores, and only committed him to the care of the innkeeper when he went away. We have two instances in scripture of the custom now mentioned. See Judges 19:19. Dr. Shaw, in the Preface to his Travels, p. 14 mentions another sort of inn, called connack: this, he says, denotes the place itself, whether covered or not, where travellers, or caravans halt, to refresh themselves and their beasts. Thus the malon or inn, Genesis 42:27; Gen 43:21 where the sons of Jacob opened their sacks to give their asses provender, was no other than one of these resting-places. In the parable it is the other sort of inn that is mentioned, as is plain from its having an innkeeper, which the connack in the deserts of Arabia has not.
Luke 10:35. And—he took out two pence,— The value of two denarii was about fifteen pence sterling; and from the smallness of the sum, it is reasonable to conclude that this charitable man was but poor: if so, this circumstance greatly enhances his kindness to the Jew. It is a very probable circumstance, that a man travelling without any attendance, and now going out to a considerable distance from home, should not have more to spare, especially as he was to travel through so dangerous a road; and so it would have been very imprudent to charge himself with much more money than he was likely to want in his journey; which would be the less, because travellers, as we have shewn in the preceding note, used in those countries to carry their provision with them. Compare Gen 28:18 and Joshua 9:12-6.9.13. Another circumstance of the Samaritan's kindness is observable, in his becoming answerable for the whole expences incident to the man's unhappy case: Whatsoever thou spendest more, &c. It seems as if he was afraid that the mercenary temper of thehost might have hindered him from furnishing what was necessary, if he had no prospect of being repaid. Indeed all the circumstances of this beautiful parable are formed with the finest skill imaginable, to work the conviction designed; so that had the lawyer been ever so much disposed to reckon none as his neighbours but men of his own religion, it was not in his power to do it on this occasion. And althoughfavours from a Samaritan had always been represented to him as an abomination more detestable even than the eating of swine's flesh, he was obliged to acknowledge, that not the priest or the Levite, but this Samaritan, bydischarging a great office of genuine charity towards the Jew in distress, was truly his neighbour, and deserved his love more than some of his own nation, who sustained the most venerable characters; that the like charity was due from any Israelite to any Samaritan who stood in need of it; and that all men are neighbours to all men, how much soever they may be distinguished from one another in respect of country, or kindred, or language, or religion. Mankind are intimately knit together by their common wants and weaknesses, being so formed that they cannot live without the assistance of each other. And therefore the relation which subsists between them is as extensive as their natures; and the obligations under which they lie to aid one another by mutual good offices are as strong and urgent as every man's own manifold necessities. By this admirable parable, therefore, our Lord has powerfully recommended that universal benevolence which is so familiar in the mouths, but foreign to the hearts, of many hypocritical pretenders to religion and morality. It would appear that the presumption of the Jews in matters of religion exceeded all bounds; for though the Supreme Beingpays very little regard to outward worship, and is much more delighted with the inward homage of a holy and benevolent mind, yet, because they prayed daily in his temple, and offered sacrifices there, and carried about his precepts written on their phylacteries, and had God and the law always in their mouths, they made no doubt that they worshipped God acceptably, notwithstanding they were so enormously wicked, that they would not put themselves to the smallest expence or trouble, though they could have saved life by it; and therefore had no real love to God or their neighbour. This monstrous presumption being utterly subversive of true religion, our Lord thought fit to condemn it, in the severest manner, and to brand it with the blackest, and most lasting note of infamy, in this charming parable. We may just observe, that as Jesus was now in Samaria, he shewed great tenderness, as well as justice, in assigning the benevolent charitable character in the parable, to a native of this country. A fine writer well observes,thatnothingcanbe more judiciously circumstanced than the principal figure in this piece. "Had the calamity befallen a Samaritan, it would have made but feeble impressions of pity, and those, perhaps, immediately effaced by stronger emotions of hate. But when it was a Jew that lay bleeding to death, the representation was sure to interest the hearer in the distress, and awaken a tender concern. Had the relief been administered by aJew, the benevolence would have shone, but in a much fainter light; whereas, when it came from the hands of a Samaritan, whom all the Jews had agreed to abjure, to execrate, and to rank with the very fiends of hell: how bright,—how charmingly and irresistibly bright,—was the lustre of such charity! Let the reader consider the temper expressed in that rancorous reflection,—Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil, John 8:48.—Let him compare that inveterate malevolence, with the benign and compassionate spirit of our amiable traveller: then let him say, whether he ever beheld a finer or a bolder contrast? Whether, upon the whole, he ever saw the ordonnance of descriptive painting more justly designed, or more happily executed? I would beg leave to observe farther, that the virulent animosity of the Jew discovers itself even in the lawyer's reply, He that shewed mercy on him. He will not so much as name the Samaritan, especially in a case where he could not be named without an honourable distinction. So strongly marked, and so exactly preserved, are the manners or distinguishable qualities of each person in the sacred narrations!" It may be proper just to observe, after having given a literal interpretation of this parable, that many writers, ancient and modern, have also given a spiritual interpretation of it; which, it must be acknowledged, is not only extremely ingenious, but very instructive, and certainly can be attended with no ill effects, while the literal meaning is preserved and adhered to: however, in the present commentary, havingingeneralrefrainedfrominterpretations of that kind, I shall only subjoin a brief exposition of the parable in this way, as given us by Dr. Stanhope, whose judgment was certainly as mature, as his piety was indisputable. "This account," say he, "is a most lively representation of the merciful and loving Jesus. He was the good Samaritan indeed, who found poor human nature wounded and bruised, left more than half dead, and stript of all its valuable perfections, by the merciless robber and adversary of souls. His bowels yearned over our distressed condition; and when neither the Levitical law, nor the sacrifices offered by Jewish priests, had administered any comfort or relief, He came, a stranger, from his blessed dwelling, kindly made towards us, bound up our wounds and bruises, poured out his soul unto the death, and applied the sovereign balsam of his own Blood. He took us up, and removed us away into a more saving dispensation, and has made a perfect atonement for our sins, at the expence of many miracles, and mighty condescensions, and infinite hardships and sufferings to himself. His occasions indeed would not allow him to stay with us till all the effects of his goodness were accomplished; but he has committed us into safe hands; he has sent his Holy Spirit to us, even the Comforter, and has not left us orphans: he has given commission for aconstant supply of spiritual sustenance and remedies; which those who distribute faithfully, he willcertainly, when he comes again, repay; and those who receive regularly, thankfully, and perseveringly, he will as certainly heal and nourish unto life eternal. And ought not such a pattern as this to have the weight of ten thousand arguments with us? How can they grudge suitable expressions of love to their brethren in distress, who at all remember what the Son of God did not, in their utmost, their desperate extremity, esteem too much to do for them? Who can have the confidence to think himself excused towards those of a differing judgment, or disobliging behaviour, or most wrongful malice and spite, when they reflect, that herein chiefly God commended his love towards us, that while we were yet sinners,—the most fatally mistaken, the worst and most disingenuous of his creatures here below, the bitterest and most detestable of all enemies,—Christ died for us? For which inestimable benefit and love, all honour and praise, thanksgiving and obedience be unto Him, who left us an example that herein we should follow his steps." See this Epistle's and Gospels, vol. 3: p. 436.
Luke 10:36. Which now of these three, &c.— Great pains have been taken by some, so to adjust this case, as that it might yield a proper answer to the lawyer's question. He asked, Who is my neighbour? That is, "Who am I obliged to love as myself?" So that our Lord, say they, ought to have determined the extent and right of neighbourhood, and thence deduced the obligations of love and assistance: whereas, the case supposes the love and assistance, and thence infers the relation of neighbourhood. The priest and the Levite were not neighbour's, because they did not assist the wounded man: the Samaritan was his neighbour, because he shewed kindness to him. And if this be to, that no man is our neighbour, till we have either shewed or received kindness from him, we cannot then from the right of neighbourhood infer the obligations of love; but must determine, from the mutual exercise of love, the notion and extent of neighbourhood. And if this be the case, no man can offend against the law of loving his neighbour; for if none are ourneighbours but those whom we love, then every man certainly loves his neighbour. But if we consider the case fairly, and view it in its due light, this supposed difficulty will vanish. The question was asked by the lawyer out of a desire to justify himself. He had learned to call no man hisneighbour who was not of the same stock and religion with himself: Samaritans he expressly hated, and justified his hatred because they were dissenters from the true worship, and despisers of the temple at Jerusalem. This great error our Lord was to wrest from him, which was not to be done by combating his prejudices, and arguing upon the true sense and meaning of the law: the lawyer, not unaccustomed to such exercises, would have held up the dispute, and stood resolute against any such convictions. Our Saviour therefore puts him a case; and states it so, that his prejudices were all shut out, and could have no influence in the determination. A Jew therefore is put into the place of distress: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. Here could be no exception taken against the person. Had the Samaritan been placed in the same case, and his calamities painted in the most moving colours, he would have found no pity from the Jews who would have excepted to his religion, and thought himself very much in the right to have been an enemy to the enemy of God: but, when one of his own nation was represented in misery, he saw reason in every thing that was done for his relief. A priest and a Levite are said to pass by and neglect him: these persons stood in all those relations to the distressed, which the lawyer owned to be the just bonds and ties of neighbourhood: they wereof his kindred, and they met at the same altar to worship the same God; he could not therefore but condemn their want of bowels to their brother. A Samaritan is represented as passing by, and shewing the greatest tenderness and compassion to the poor Jew. This could not but be approved: even the prejudice of the lawyer carried himin these circumstances to a right judgment; for knowing how inveterately the Jew hated the Samaritan, he could not but the more admire and approve the Samaritan's kindness to the Jew. Upon this case our Lord puts him to determine which was neighbour to the man in distress; or, which is the same thing, which of the three acted most agreeably to the law of God, commanding that we should love our neighbour as ourself? The lawyer answers, He that shewed mercy; confessing that the Samaritan had fulfilled the law, which was condemning the Jewish exposition, and his own prejudices. For if a Jew was rightly forbidden to shew kindness to a Samaritan, because of the difference in religion between them, the same reason made it unlawful for a Samaritan to assist a Jew. Our Saviour approves his judgment, and bids him only apply it to himself, Go thou, and do likewise; that is, "Since you commend the Samaritan for acting like a neighbour to the Jew, do you learn to act like a neighbour to the Samaritan;" for this is the true force of the word likewise. For a Jew to be kind to a Jew only, is not to do like the good Samaritan, who was kind, not to a Samaritan only, but to a Jew also. And thus, we see, the case led to a full determination of the question proposed, and shewed that no restrictions were to be laid upon the law of God; that even those whom the lawyer accounted as his worst enemies, the very Samaritans, were intitled to the benefit of it, and ought to be treated with the love and kindness which is due to our neighbours.
Luke 10:37. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, &c.— What a lively picture have we in this parable, of the most disinterested and active benevolence!—A benevolence, which excludes no person, not even strangers or enemies, from its tender regards! which disdains no condescension, grudges no cost, in its labours of love! Could any method of conviction have been more forcible, and at the same time more pleasing, than the interrogatory proposed by our Lord, and deduced from the history, Luke 10:36.? or can there be an advice more suitable to the occasion, more important in its nature, or expressed with a more sententious energy, than Go, and do thou likewise. In this case the learner instructs, the delinquent condemns himself; bigotry hears away its prejudice; and pride (when the moral so sweetly, so imperceptibly insinuates), even pride itself lends a willing ear to admonition.
From our Lord's conduct in the case, we learn how to apply to the passions and prejudices of men, and by what art truth is best and most successfully introduced, where error has been long in possession. Were it a defect in our reason and understanding that made us disagree, and judge and act differently in cases where we have one and the same rule to go by, no human application could reach the distemper; since it is not in our power to enlarge the faculties which are bounded by God and nature; though the Spirit of God can do wonderful things in this respect. But our reason and our understanding are not in fault; they want only to be set free, and to be delivered from the bondage of passion and prejudice, to judge rightly in cases of morality andnatural justice. It is Self which influences the judgment of men, when they obstinately maintain and defend the cause of error or of vice: it is Self that always lies at the bottom: it is not so much the vice as Self that is to be defended; and if you can but separate Self from the vice, (which nothing but the grace of God can do,) the vice will soon be condemned and forsaken. By this honest, this holy art, our Lord convinced the lawyer, who put the question to him, Luke 10:25. He asked the question, intending that none should be admitted into the number of his neighbours, who were not nearly allied to him, of the same nation at least. Our Saviour states a case to him, and puts it so, that his prejudices were all thrown out and silenced. The consequence was, that he who wanted to exclude almost all mankind from a right to his good offices, in a few minutes owns even the Samaritan, his most hated enemy, to be the Jew's neighbour; and by owning and accepting the Samaritan's good offices done to the Jew under the relation of a neighbour, he confessed the Samaritan's right, in that relation, to expect and receive the good offices of the Jew. Whence we may draw the following consequences: 1. It is evident, that the true art of convincing of their errors men of obstinate prejudices, but of general discernment, is, to throw them as much as possible out of their case; for the less a man is concerned himself, the better he judges. You are not in such instances to stir and fret his prejudices, but to decline them; not to reproach him with the error that you condemn, but to place the error at a sufficient distance from him, that he may have a true light to view it in. We have a remarkable instance of this in the conduct of the prophet Nathan with David. But, after all, unless the sacred influences of divine grace accompany our efforts, no genuine good will ever arise even from the most refined arts of reasoning. 2. When once you find yourself, on such occasions, labouring to justify your actions, and searching for expositions which may suit your own inclinations, you may consider yourselfexceedingly far gone from the true liberty of the gospel. 3. If you find yourself involved in the case you are to judge of, instead of seeking for new reasons and arguments whereby to form your opinion, you had much better look back, and reflect what sense you had of this matter before the cause was your own; for it is ten to one but that judgment was much more free and impartial than any that you will make now: or consider, if the case admits it, what is the sense of the truly pious part of mankind; you may more safely trust them than yourself, when your passions are concerned. At least, suppose your enemy in the same circumstances with yourself, and doing what you find yourself inclined to, and consider what judgment you should make of him;—and so judge of yourself.
Luke 10:38-42.10.39. Now it came to pass, &c.— Now, &c. As they journied. Our Lord in his way to Jerusalem, whither he was going to celebrate the feast of dedication, spent a night at Bethany, the village of Martha and Mary, two religious women, sisters of Lazarus. See John 11:1. On this occasion Martha expressed her regard for her divine Guest, by the care that she was at in providing the best entertainment in her power for him and his disciples; but Mary, the other sister, sat quietly at his feet, listening to his doctrine. It is well known, that this was the posture in which learners attended on their teachers; (compare chap. Luk 8:35 and Acts 22:3.) and likewise grew into a proverb for humble and diligent attention. See on ch. Luke 2:46.
Luke 10:40. But Martha was cumbered— The word περιεσπατο properly signifies "to be drawn as it were different ways at the same time," and admirably expresses the situation of a mind surrounded by so many objectsof care, that it hardly knows which to attend to first. She had probably servants, to whom she might have committed these affairs; and the humility and moderation of our blessed Redeemer would have taken up with what had been less exactly prepared; especially as she had so valuable and signal an opportunity of improving her mind in divine knowledge. Bid her that she help me, is, "That she lend her helping hand," according to the exact import of συναντιλαβηται, which is also with the utmost propriety used for the assistance which the Spirit of God gives to the infirmities of our frail nature. See Rom. v
Luke 10:41. And troubled— The word τυρβαζη is no where else used in the New Testament. It seems to express the situation ofa person in a tumultuous crowd, where so many are pressing upon him, that he can scarcely stand his ground;—or, of water in great agitation. See Mintert and Stockius on the word.
Luke 10:42. But one thing is needful:— "There is one thing absolutely necessary, and of infinitely greater importance than any of those domestic and secular affairs; even the care to have the soul instructed in the saving knowledge of the way that leads to eternal life, and to secure a title to it. And Mary is wisely attending to this; therefore, instead of reproving her, I must rather declare, that she has chosen what may eminently be called the good part, which shall not be taken away from her,—which I would by no means hinder her from pursuing; but rather invite thee to join with her in attention to it, though the circumstances of the intended meal should not be so exactly adjusted as thy friendship could desire." There is a peculiar spirit and tenderness in our Lord's repetition of Martha's name, Martha! Martha! Nothing can be more frigid than the interpretation given by some of this passage, which certainlycontains a most important truth: Thou art careful and troubled about many dishes, but there is need of one only. The praise bestowed on Mary, as having chosen a better part than Martha, does not imply that the contemplative life is more acceptable in the sight of God than the active, as the Papists would have us believe: for though it should be granted that the comparison is carried on between the employments of Martha and Mary, as they stand in the sight of God, the conclusion will not follow which they pretend to draw from it. The reason is plain; they are not two courses of life, but two particular actions, which are here compared; in which case nobody will deny, that to hear the word of God as occasion offers, provided we do it with a view to profit by it, is more acceptable in the sight of God, than to exercise any art or occupation relative to the present life; for no other reason, however, but that it tends more to the happiness of the person himself, which is the great end that God has proposed in all his laws and ordinances. In the mean time it may be doubted, whether this be the meaningof the comparison; our Lord designed rather to signify, that though he was not displeased with Martha's civility, Mary's listening to his doctrine wasmore acceptable to him, because he had infinitely greater pleasure in instructing, sanctifying, and saving souls, than in any kind of sensual indulgences whatsoever. As he beautifully expressed it on another occasion, His meat and his drink was, to do the will of his heavenly Father.
Inferences on Our Lord's interview with Martha and Mary. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; he that had all things, possessed nothing: our Lord was now in his way; the sun might sooner stand still than he; the more we move according to his will, the more we resemble heaven, and God its Maker. His progress was now to Jerusalem, for some holy feast: he whose devotion neglected not any of those sacred solemnities, will not neglect the due opportunities of his bodily refreshment; he knew where a ready welcome awaited him, and retires to the village of Bethany.
There dwelt the two devout sisters, with their brother, his friend Lazarus: their roof receives him: O happy house, into which the Son of God vouchsafed to set his foot! O blessed women, that had the grace to be the hostesses of the God of Heaven! How might we envy your felicity, did we not see the same favour lying open to us also, if we be not wanting to ourselves. We have two ways of entertaining the Saviour:—in his members, and in himself: in his members, by charity and hospitality: for what we do to one of his little ones, we do to him; in himself, by faith:—If any man open, he will come in, and sup with him.
Martha, it seems, as being the eldest sister, bore the name of the housekeeper; Mary was her assistant in the charge: a blessed pair, sisters not more in nature than in grace, in spirit no less than in flesh. How happy a thing is it, when all the parties in a family are jointly agreed to entertain Christ!
While his bodily repast is preparing, he prepares spiritual food for his hosts: his best cheer was to see them spiritually fed; how then should they whom he has called to the sacred function be instant in season, and out of season, after his blessed example! They are, by his divine ordination, the lights of the world: and we know that no sooner is the candle lighted, than it communicates the light which it has received, never intermitting, till it be wasted to the snuff.
Martha's house is become a school of Divinity. Jesus, as the doctor, sits in the chair: Martha, Mary, and the rest, sit as disciples at his feet. Had these sisters provided our Saviour never such costly delicacies, or waited on his board never so officiously, yet, had they not listened to his instructions, they would never have bidden him welcome, nor would he so well have liked his entertainment. This was truly the way to feast him;—to feed their ears with his heavenly doctrine: O Saviour, let my soul be thus feasted by thee; do thou thus feast thyself by feeding me: this mutual diet shall be thy praise, and my happiness.
Though Martha was for a time an attentive hearer, yet now her care of Christ's entertainment removes her from his audience. Mary sits still: Martha's care is to feast Jesus, Mary's to be feasted of him: good Martha was desirous to express her joy and thankfulness for the presence of so blessed a Guest, by a careful and plenteous entertainment: and who will censure this excess of her solicitude to welcome her Saviour? Doubtless, she herself thought she did well; and, out of that confidence, fears not to complain to Christ of her inactive sister.
I do not see her come to her sister, and whisper in her ear the great need of her aid; but she comes to Jesus, and in a sort of petulant expostulation, addresses him, (Luke 10:40.) Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Why did not she rather make the first application to her sister? Was it that she knew Mary's ears were so tied with those adamantine chains which issued from Christ's mouth, that till his silence and dismission she had no power to stir? Or was it out of honour and respect to Christ, that in his presence she would not presume to call off her sister, without his leave?
We cannot, however, excuse this holy woman from some weaknesses; it was a fault to measure her sister by herself; and, apprehending her own act to be good, to think her sister could not do well, if she acted not alike. It was a fault, that she thought an excessive care for the liberal outward entertainment of Christ, was to be preferred to a diligent attention to his spiritual entertainment of them; and it was a fault, that she presumed, as it were, to question her Saviour, as of a kind of disrespect to her toil:—Lord dost thou not care?
And yet, surely, Martha, it will be allowed, that thou here wantedst not fair pretences for the ground of thy expostulation: Mary, the younger, sits still, while thou art cumbered with much serving: and what work was thine, but the hospitable reception of thy Saviour and his train?—Not for the gratification of thy own, or any carnal friend's luxury, but for the refreshment of Christ himself, to whom thou couldst never be too obsequious:—all this, however, cannot deliver thee from the just blame of this hasty and petulant complaint. How ready is our weakness, upon every discontentment, to quarrel with our best friend; yea, with our good God; and, the more we are touched, to think ourselves the more neglected, and to challenge heaven for our own neglect!
It could not but trouble devout Mary, to hear her sister's impatient remonstrance.—A remonstrance, urged too with so great vehemency, as if such a strangeness had now subsisted between the two sisters, that the one would do nothing for the other without the compulsion of a superior. And yet, we hear not one word of reply from that modest mouth. O holy Mary, I admire thy patient silence; thy sister now blames thee for thy piety; the disciples (afterwards) blame thee for thy bounty and cost: not a word falls from thee in just vindication of thine honour and innocence; but in a humble taciturnity thou leavest thine answer to thy Saviour. What an admirable lesson is thine for us, when complained of for well-doing, to seal up our lips, and wait our vindication from above!
And how sure and ready is our Lord to speak in the case of the modestly-dumb; Martha! Martha! &c. (Luke 10:41.) What needed Mary to speak for herself, when she had such an advocate? Doubtless, Martha had been in a manner divided from herself with the multiplicity of her anxious thoughts: our Lord therefore doubles her name in his appellation; that thus, amid such distraction, he may both find, and fix her heart; doubtless she fully expected that Christ would have sent away her sister with a check, and herself with thanks; but now her hopes fail her; and though she be not directly reproved, yet she hears her sister more approved than herself: Martha! Martha! thou art careful, and troubled about many things.
Our Saviour receives courtesy from her in this diligent and costly entertainment; yet will he not gloss over her error, or sooth her in her weak misprision—A caution to us, that no obligations may so enthral us, as that our tongues should not be free to reprove faults, where we find them.
Alas! how much care do we see every where, but how few Marthas? Her solicitude was for her Saviour's entertainment, ours is for ourselves: one finds perplexities in his estate, from which he desires to extricate himself; another racks his thoughts for the raising of his house, or distracts his imagination about the doubtful condition, as he thinks, of the times, and casts, in his anxious fancy, the possible events of all things,—opposing his hopes to his fears. O why do we so needlessly, so fondly set our hearts upon the rack, and with such avidity endure to bend under those unequal burdens, which more able shoulders have offered to undertake for our ease?
Whether Martha be pitied or taxed for her assiduity, Mary is evidently applauded for her devotion: (Luke 10:42.) One thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen, &c. One thing is necessary, not by way of negation, as if nothing were necessary but this; but comparatively, since nothing else is so necessary. There must be no opposition, but a subordination only, between spiritual and temporal things; the body and soul must be friends, not rivals; nor may we so cultivate the Christian as to neglect the man.
How great is the vanity of those men, who, neglecting that one thing necessary, affect many things superfluous! Nothing is needless with worldly minds, but this only necessary thing, the care of their souls. How justly do they lose that which they care not for, while they take an over-care for that, which is neither their proper pursuit, nor possible to be kept. Mary chose the good part; it was not forced upon her, but taken up by her own option; and we too have still this holy freedom of choice, through the divine operation of him, who hath called us unto the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Happy are we, if we improve this liberty to the best advantage of our souls.
The liability of good adds much to its praise: Martha's part was soon gone; the thanks and use of a little outward hospitality cannot long continue; but Mary's shall not be taken away from her. The act of her hearing was transient: the fruit was permanent; she now hears that, which may abide with her for ever, if faithful unto death.
But what couldst thou hear, O Mary, from those sacred lips, which we hear not still?—That heavenly doctrine, for ever still the same, and equally unchangeable with its author. It is not impossible, that the exercise of the gospel should be taken from us; but, if we be faithful, the benefit and virtue of the gospel will be as inseparable from our souls, as is their being: in the hardest times, they shall take the closest hold upon the persevering believer; and till death, and in death, yea, and after death, shall make him eternally happy.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The harvest was plenteous, but hitherto the labourers had been few. We have therefore seventy disciples ordained to the ministry, invested with miraculous powers, and sent as harbingers to prepare the way of Christ in all the adjacent country whither he was preparing to go. Their number corresponds with the elders of Israel on whom the Spirit of the Lord rested in the wilderness; and they were sent two and two for their mutual comfort and encouragement.
1. They must address themselves in prayer to God for success upon their own labours, and that he would raise up and qualify many more to go forth and preach the gospel. And this must be still the constant subject of our requests to God: the more we look round on the world, and see immortal souls perishing for lack of knowledge, the more zealously should we labour, and the more fervently pray that the Lord would send forth labourers into his harvest.
2. He tells them what they may expect to meet with. Though they were never so harmless and inoffensive, and their discourses breathed nothing but peace and love, they would have enemies to encounter, fierce and savage as wolves: but he who sent them would afford them protection, and minister strength and courage to them in their work. And, if God be with us, we need not fear who are against us.
3. He orders them to make no provision for their journey, but trust in Providence for the supply of their wants: and, as their work required dispatch, they must not lose any time in unnecessary discourse or civilities with any person whom they met. Not that Christ enjoined rudeness and incivility; but there was no time for compliments, when the service was urgent.
4. Wherever they entered into a house, there he orders them to say Peace be to this house, praying that all blessings, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, might rest upon those who dwelt there. And if the son of peace be there, any who wait for the consolation of Israel, and of consequence into whose hearts the Son of God hath put a desire to hear and receive the gospel of peace, then an answer of peace should be given to their prayers, your peace shall rest upon it; but if not, if there be none in the family, whose hearts are open to embrace the truth, it shalt turn to you again, and your prayers for them shall be answered in blessings on your own souls. Note; (1.) They who preach the gospel of peace, cannot but fervently desire, for all those among whom they minister, that God would speak peace by them to the consciences of their hearers. (2.) Some receive, but more reject, our preaching and prayers; yet even to those who perish, our labours and prayers are not in vain; we are still a sweet favour of Christ; and, though they reject the salvation which we bring, Christ will approve and reward our fidelity.
5. In whatever house they were at first received, there they must abide; thankfully and cheerfully making use of the provision set before them, and not doubting but their labours would procure them that welcome which they deserved. They must be content with the meanest fare, and never, affecting nicety, change their lodgings for better accommodations, lest they should incur the suspicion of being fickle or flesh-pleasers. Note; (1.) Christ's ministers have a right to a maintenance. (2.) When the love of souls, not of filthy lucre, draws men to labour in the gospel, they will learn, in whatever state they are, therewith to be content, and put up with the poorest accommodations.
6. He directs them what must be the subject of their preaching. They must say, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you; the kingdom of the Messiah, with all its inestimable blessings and privileges, is now ready to appear; prepare to receive him: and he empowers them to heal the sick, in confirmation of their preaching, as well as in return for the kind civilities which they received. Note; Nothing is ever lost by kindness shewn to Jesus and his servants.
7. In case their ministry is rejected, and they are driven from their work, they are to leave that devoted city, publicly declaring the doom ready to light upon the place, and shaking off the dust of their feet for a testimony against the inhabitants thereof, assuring them of the nearness of the Messiah's kingdom, and the dreadful consequences which must unavoidably ensue from their obstinacy and impenitence. And in the day of judgment it shall be more tolerable for Sodom than for the inhabitants of that city, because they have rejected greater means of grace than were vouchsafed to that abandoned city. Note; (1.) None sink under such aggravated guilt as those who despise and reject the gospel. (2.) The day is near when these despisers will wonder and perish.
8. On this occasion our Lord turns his discourse to the inhabitants of those cities where such multitudes of his miracles had been wrought, and who notwithstanding continued impenitent. Chorazin, Bethsaida, have their fearful doom read. Had the most wicked cities of the Gentiles enjoyed their blessings, and privileges, and calls to repentance, even Tyre and Sidon had long ago been brought into the dust of humiliation. Therefore the judgment of the impenitent heathen, in the day of vengeance, shall be more tolerable than theirs: and the inhabitants of Capernaum, exalted to heaven in privileges, shall sink as low in hell under the wrath of God, provoked by their hardened infidelity. Let the lands and places that enjoy the gospel light, hear, and tremble at these denunciations.
9. He encourages the seventy to go forth. They are his ambassadors: he will reckon the treatment they meet with as shewn to himself. Those who heard and respected them, he would regard, as if they shewed this attention and kindness to his own person; while they who despised their persons, and rejected their ministry, he would consider as insulting him, and putting contempt on God who sent him. Note; Many ill-use, slight, and contemn Christ's ministers, and treat them as mean and despicable; but they will shortly feel, to their cost, that the King of glory will fearfully avenge the insults shewn to his ambassadors.
2nd, Having finished their ministry, we have,
1. The return of the disciples to their Master, transported to find that even the devils were subject unto them, and ascribing the glory to him, in whose name they were enabled to work such stupendous miracles. Note; All our victories over Satan must be ascribed to the grace and power of the great Captain of our salvation, and in him we may and ought to rejoice greatly.
2. He received them very graciously.
(1.) He tells them it was no news to him that the devils were subject unto them. I beheld when I sent you forth to preach the gospel and work miracles, Satan as lightning fall from heaven; his power and kingdom began now to be shaken and totter; and this was the presage of his more irretrievable ruin, when in the Gentile world the gospel should quickly spread, and, rooting up idolatry and spiritual darkness, turn the hearts of sinners from the power of Satan unto God.
(2.) He enlarges their powers, as the reward of their fidelity, and an encouragement to persevere. They shall tread upon serpents and scorpions unhurt; and the old serpents and his venomous associates, whether men or devils, should be bruised under their feet. And nothing shall by any means hurt you. Under almighty protection you may defy every danger. Note; They have nothing to fear, who have Christ for their master, and execute his commission.
(3.) He checks their joy on this singular distinction with which he endued them, and directs them to a nobler cause for it; rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven; else, though they had cast out devils, they might themselves finally perish, and become companions with them. It is not gifts, but graces that evidence our adoption of God, which should afford us most joy.
(4.) Christ expresses his delight and thankfulness for the blessings conferred on these his poor disciples: and to this hour nothing rejoices the hearts of his people so greatly as beholding the progress of his gospel, the fall of Satan, and the conversion of men's souls. He said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, the great Disposer of all things, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes, leaving the proud scribes and doctors of law under the darkness of pretended science, wilfully and obstinately prejudiced against and strangers to the mysteries of grace; while poor illiterate men, of low capacities, and contemptible in the eyes of the worldly-wise, are put in trust with the gospel, and enlightened with the Spirit of truth. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight: such was the pleasure of infinite wisdom, the more to manifest his own glory. All things are delivered to me of my Father, all power and authority, all wisdom and grace to communicate to them that believe. In Jesus are all the treasures thereof laid up, and out of his fulness we must receive. And no man knoweth who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him: the perfections of the divine nature are only fully known by the divine Persons themselves; and we can only be acquainted with them, and their gracious purposes towards fallen man, so far as the Son of God is pleased to reveal them to us: and he does reveal them to every believing soul.
(5.) Turning to his disciples privately, he pronounces them truly blessed, favoured with the sight of the Lord's Christ, and enjoying clear discoveries of that kingdom of grace, which the Messiah was now come to erect in the world. Prophets and kings in former ages desired in vain to see and hear what they, more highly favoured, saw and heard. Note; The distinguishing mercies we enjoy, should exercise our thankfulness, and quicken our diligence to improve them.
3rdly, We have the same question proposed by one of the scribes, as was put by the young ruler, Mar 10:17 not so much with a view to be informed, as with the intention to entangle our Lord in his talk.
1. In answer to his question, Christ turns him over to the law; in which he fancied himself deeply conversant, and bids him say what he read there, as the way of obtaining the eternal life which he sought: and when the scribe replied, that the conditions there prescribed were the perfect love of God and our neighbour, Christ approves the answer, and assures him, Do this, and thou shalt live. Such perfection of obedience without any deviation will entitle those who can plead it, to the reward. But where alas! is this to be found? The more we read the tenor of the covenant of works, the more, if our minds are enlightened, shall we be driven to despair of ourselves, conscious how far we have been from continuing in all the things written in the book of the law to do them. But the lawyer had not read with this view. For,
2. He, willing to justify himself, as if he had kept the whole law, desired to know who was to be reckoned his neighbour; conceiting, probably, that his justice and charity had been so extensive to the whole house of Israel, that he might justly claim the reward of immaculate obedience.
3. Christ, by an apposite case in point, lets him see his ignorance of the divine law, and the defectiveness of his charity; correcting at the same time the corrupt notions of the Jewish teachers, who reckoned themselves not at all obliged to shew the least kindness to those who were out of the pale of their communion. The history here represented is very beautiful and affecting.
[1.] A Jew, as he travelled from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves, with which the road was greatly infested; and these, not satisfied with having plundered and stripped him of his raiment, inhumanly wounded him, and departed, leaving him weltering in his blood, half dead, and ready to expire. This case may fitly represent the state of mankind, by nature way-laid by Satan the great enemy of souls, robbed of the garments of innocence, wounded, and dying in their sins, without power or strength to help themselves.
[2.] In this disastrous condition, in which the poor wounded traveller lay, by chance there came down a certain priest that way, whose office and character should have engaged him to exercise his humanity and compassion towards an object so pitiable, especially to one of his own nation and religion: but his unfeeling heart was steeled against his brother, and, turning to the other side of the road, he pursued his journey unconcerned. A Levite quickly followed, as callous to every humane sensation: he just came and looked on; and, not caring to be at the trouble or expence of providing for a dying man, he kept on his way, and left him to perish there. Hard-hearted monsters! cries every tongue. But alas! such Levites and priests are found in every age, who not only with-hold their hand from relieving the wants of the miserable, but leave the more precious souls of men to perish, unconcerned what becomes of them. Some suppose that these represent the law of Moses, from which no mercy is to be expected: it makes no provision for a man a sinner, nor speaks one word of comfort to the guilty; but leaves the soul under a curse which extends to eternal death.
[3.] A Samaritan, one of that despised nation, travelling that way, saw the miserable object, and compassion instantly melted his heart. Without waiting to know of what country he was, he went to him; and pouring oil and wine into his wounds, he bound them carefully up, perhaps with the very linen garments that he wore, and, gently setting him on his own beast, he carried him to the nearest inn, and saw every accommodation provided for him which the place would afford. And on the morrow, having waited that night to see the poor patient well provided for, he gave the host, on parting, two-pence, about fifteen pence of our money, with a charge to take all possible care of the wounded man; and engaged to defray, on his return, whatever expence might be farther incurred. A noble instance indeed of humanity and generosity! We cannot be at a loss to whom this character of the good Samaritan eminently belongs. Jesus is come down from heaven; he sees sinners lying in their blood, helpless and desperate; his compassions are kindled towards them; he binds up the wounds of the guilty sinner's soul, even of all who will believe; his own blood is the healing balm that he pours into them; he brings them into his church, where they are fed with the provision of his ordinances; he revives them with the cordials of his love, and bears their charges through the inn of this world, supporting them with the riches of his grace; he commends them to the care of his ministers, whose diligence, if they be faithful to the end, he will not fall, at his second coming, to reward.
4. Christ proposes to the lawyer the question, which of these was the neighbour to the wounded traveller? and the case was too clear to admit of hesitation; he could not but answer, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Think not you have kept the law, or even understood the extent of the command, before you feel the same compassionate spirit, the same readiness to relieve even a Samaritan, as he shewed towards this Jew.—An extent of charity to which he had been hitherto an utter stranger; and therefore his self-justification was self-delusion.
4thly, We have,
1. The hospitable entertainment given to our blessed Lord by a good woman who lived at Bethany, named Martha. Though his character was obnoxious, and his retinue numerous and poor, yet she was not ashamed of owning her respect for him, and was happy to furnish him with the best that her house afforded. A gracious heart makes an open hand. We should grudge no expence, when Christ's cause demands our support.
2. Mary, the sister of Martha, sat at Jesus' feet, attentive to his divine instructions; and, as, according to his usual custom, he began to discourse about the glad tidings of his salvation, she listened with eagerness to the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. Note; (1.) Ministers not only in public, but from house to house, should delight to dispense the gospel-word. They are profitable visits, when a gracious discourse seasons the entertainment. (2.) They who would be wise unto salvation, must sit at Jesus' feet.
3. Martha, desirous to shew her respect for her honoured guest, was very busy in providing the entertainment. Her diligence was commendable; but she was too much taken up, cumbered with much serving; she wanted to make the feast splendid, and was so distracted with those worldly engagements, that she could not find leisure to attend the heavenly discourse of the Redeemer. Note; (1.) Family cares, inordinately engaging the mind, are a great snare to our souls. (2.) Christ's servants should not cumber themselves with much serving. They who eat and drink to the glory of God, will not look for delicacies.
4. Displeased that Mary came not to her assistance, Martha brings her complaint to Christ; Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? She seems not only to blame Mary's backwardness to assist her, but almost reflects upon Jesus, that he should suffer her to sit there, when she wanted her help in the family; and therefore suggests that it was but reasonable, that he should bid her go, and assist in providing for the guests. Note; (1.) They who have their own hearts much set upon the world, are ready to find fault with those as negligent, who shew not the same anxiety after it. (2.) Too many, like Martha, are apt to think that the exercises of religion encroach upon the duties of our station; but, usually speaking, the fault is, as here, far on the other side.
5. Christ reproves her inordinate carefulness. Martha, Martha; he speaks with earnestness and pity, thou art careful and troubled about many things; giving herself unnecessary anxiety, when Christ required no such sumptuous entertainment. But one thing is needful, to know Christ and partake of his salvation. Compared with this, every thing besides is unimportant; therefore should this engage our first and chief concern: and we are highly culpable, when other things divert us from attending to the interests of our immortal souls. Note; (1.) Faithful rebukes are the truest marks of genuine love. (2.) They who are full of inordinate care, are sure to involve themselves in many troubles. (3.) Christ's disciples have need deeply to remember this reproof and caution; for Martha's anxiety is a besetting evil.
6. Instead of blaming Mary, as her sister expected, Christ commends her choice, and approves her conduct; She hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Note; (1.) However serious godliness may provoke the censures of the lukewarm, Jesus will commend what they condemn. (2.) They who have chosen Christ as their portion, and his word as their rule, have indeed wisely determined.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 10". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent