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The Samaritan Who Shewed Mercy

Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

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A CERTAIN man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him: and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

"And, by chance, there came down a certain priest that way," says our Lord, telling the story after the manner of men. He knew better than any one that there is nothing left to "chance" in this world; not even the fall of a sparrow; not even a hair of our head. "It will be obvious to the intelligent reader," says Thomas Boston's son in editing his father's priceless Autobiography, "that the radical principle upon which this narration is founded, is that God hath preordained whatsoever comes to pass. This principle the author believed with all his heart, it was often an anchor to his soul, and every minister of the Church of Scotland is bound, by his subscription and ordination vows, to maintain it. This, kept in view, will account for the author's ascribing to an over-ruling Providence many incidents, which some may think might be resolved into natural causes." I do not know what, all, this priest's ordination vows may have been. But I am quite sure that if any one had asked him in the temple yesterday saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He would have answered him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. But the pity with this priest was, that as soon as he got his temple duties over yesterday, he forgot all that about his neighbour till he put on his gown again next Sabbath morning in Jericho. And thus it was that he was on his way down to Jericho that day when, by chance, he came on a half-dead man on the way-side. Being a temple priest, he should have said to himself as he set out on his journey,-

The Lord shall keep thy soul: He shall
Preserve thee from all ill.
Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep for ever will.

And then he should have been making the "bloody pass" safe to himself and to others by singing to himself,-

Shew me thy ways, O Lord:
Thy paths O teach thou me:
And do thou lead me in thy truth,
Therein my teacher be.
For thou art God that dost
To me salvation send,
And I upon thee all the day
Expecting do attend.

But not setting out in that way, and not singing to himself in that way, the priest missed his chance of salvation and of eternal life,-for that day at any rate.

The Levite who followed him would seem, for one thing, to have had somewhat more curiosity than the priest, and to have come all that the nearer that day to eternal life. The priest saw enough at the first glance to suffice and satisfy him: but the Levite stopped and went to the side of the road and looked at the half-murdered man, but that one look was enough for him also, for he also passed by on the other side. If the half-dead man's eyes were not entirely torn out by the thieves, and if he was able to open his eyes for a moment as he heard the coming footsteps, how his heart must have beat hack to life again at the sight of the priest and the Levite. When a beggar at one of our road-sides sees a minister coming along with his black clothes and his white neckcloth, the poor wretch feels sure that he will not be passed by this time without a kind word at any rate. But his disappointment is all the more when the man of God looks the other way and passes by in silence on the other side.

Now, nobody who knew what the Samaritans were would have wondered at one of them setting out on a journey any morning and every morning without a Psalm, and then coming "by chance" on this man and that, all the day, and passing them by without a thought. But however he set out, psalm or no psalm, and however this Samaritan was occupied as he rode down the Jericho-pass, as God would have it, Behold, there is a half-dead Jew lying in the ditch at the roadside. Were ever any of you as full as you could hold of mortal hatred at any enemy of yours? At any enemy of your church or your country? Were you ever in such a diabolical state of mind at any man, or at any race of men, that it would have made you glad to see him lying wounded and half dead? Well, that was the very way that the Jews and the Samaritans felt to one another in our Lord's day. They had nothing short of your mortal hatred at one another. And, had that been a half-dead man of Samaria, it would have been nothing wonderful to see the Samaritan traveller doing all that to his fellow-countryman. But to do it to a Jew,-that is why this Samaritan's name is so celebrated in heaven. What do you think would be the thoughts of the half-dead Jew as he saw his own temple-kinsmen passing by on the other side, and then saw this dog of a Samaritan leaping off his mule? What would he think and say all night as he saw this excommunicated Samaritan lighting the candle to pour oil and wine into his wounds and watching all night at his bedside? That Samaritan mule hobbling down the Jericho-pass with that half-dead burden on its back always reminds me of Samuel Johnson hobbling along to Bolt Court with the half-dead streetwalker on his back and laying her down on old Mrs. Williams's bed to nurse her back to life. The English Dictionary has long been superseded, and it is only one enterprising student of the best English literature here and there who goes back to The Lives of the Poets. But that immortal picture of that midnight street in London, and that immortal picture of that bloody pass of Adummim, will be sister portraits for ever among the arttreasures of the new Jerusalem. And if you love your neighbour as yourself in this city, as this Samaritan and Dr. Johnson did in Jericho and in London, you will yet see those two portraits and the originals of them with your own eyes, in the art-galleries of the heavenly country.

Then said Jesus to the lawyer, Go, and do thou likewise. But he, willing to justify himself, began, lawyer-like, to raise speculative and casuistical questions, instead of immediately setting about to do his duty. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." 'Yes,' said the man of law, 'but who is my neighbour? Distinguish, and clear up to me who, exactly, my neighbour is,' said this subtle casuist. My brethren, all men are your neighbours. Absolutely all men. Absolutely every man. But more immediately every stripped, and wounded, and half-dead, man. And still more, every enemy of yours. Yes, absolutely every man. For, who is so unrobbed, and so unwounded, and so full of life and love, as not to stand in need of your brotherly love, and of every kind of life-giving office at your hands? Who is there on the face of this earth who does not need, and will not welcome, the oil and the wine of your loving kindness poured into his many wounds? No man. No woman. It is not only in the bloody pass of Adummim and on the midnight street of London that your neighbours are to be come on wounded and half-dead: they are to be found everywhere. Many who have their own beasts to ride upon, and who are quite able to pay their own bill to the inn-keeper and your bill also: many such stand in as much need of your love and your services of love as did that half-dead Jew on the road to Jericho. A kind thought, a kind look, a kind word, a kind deed; carry about that oil and that wine with you, and you will not lack wounded and half-dead men and women to bless the day on which they first saw your face and heard your voice.

But some lawyer here, willing to justify himself, will stand up to tempt me, and will demand of me whether I mean to deny all my late sermons on the Romans? And to teach tonight that this Samaritan was justified before God simply because of this good deed of his? I quite admit that both our Lord, and His Apostle, sometimes teach economically, and paradoxically, and one-sidedly even, on occasion. All the same,-go you and do you as this good Samaritan did. And if death and judgment overtake you walking beside your mule on the way to the inn at Jericho: or if your Lord summons you to give in your account when you are up smoothing the pillow of a half-dead enemy of yours; I would far rather take your chance of eternal life than if death and judgment overtook you still debating, however Calvinistically, about your evangelical duty. Yes: Go at once tonight and do likewise.

Spurgeon says somewhere that wherever his text is, and whatever his text is, he will find his way, somehow, to Jesus Christ before he leaves his text. Now it is not to go far from this text to go to Him who is The Good Samaritan indeed. It has been said of Goethe that, like this priest and this Levite, he kept well out of sight of stripped, and wounded, and half-dead, men. I hope it is not true of that great intellectual man. At any rate it is not true of Jesus Christ. For He comes and He goes up and down all the bloody passes of human life, actually looking for wounded and half-dead men, and for none else. Till He may well bear the name of The one and only entirely Good and True Samaritan. They are here to whom He has said it and done it. "When I passed by thee, and saw thee wounded and half dead, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was a time of love. Then washed I thee with water, and I anointed thee with oil." And we ourselves are the proof of it. That we are here tonight, in the land of the living and in the place of hope, is the sufficient proof of it. We are as it were in the inn of Jericho tonight. But tomorrow He will come back and will repay whatever they are tonight spending here upon us. And as soon as we are able to be removed He will come and take us home with Him, for a greater and a better and a bigger-hearted than the best Samaritan is here. He will take us to that land with Him where no man falls among thieves and where they rob not nor wound nor leave a man half-dead. Go, said His Father to Him, and love Thy neighbour and Thine enemy as Thyself. And instead of wishing to justify Himself; instead of saying, But who is My neighbour-you know what He said, and what He did, and to whom He said it and did it. And we who were in the bloody pass, and were stripped, and wounded, and half-dead, we are the proof of it, and will for ever be the proof and the praise of it.

And now, my brethren, is it not a cause of the profoundest praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God that peace has come, and that there is not a man on the face of the whole earth that we any more wish to see wounded and half-dead? And must it not be a sweet thing to our King to think about on his bed, and to all his Royal House, that he has no enemy now to his throne and sceptre and crown in all the wide world. And that is so, because He, The Good Samaritan, is our peace, Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us: having abolished in His flesh the enmity; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace. And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby. For through Him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father; through Jesus Christ, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'The Samaritan Who Shewed Mercy'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wbc/​t/the-samaritan-who-shewed-mercy.html. 1901.
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