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dered none as their neighbours but their own countrymen, the consequence was, that they imagined themselves at liberty to hate all the rest of the world; a liberty which they indulged without reserve, and against none with more bitterness than the contiguous nation of the Samaritans. When, therefore, the lawyer in the Gospel asked our Lord, who was his neighbour? had Christ attempted to prove to him by argument that he was to consider all mankind, even his enemies, even the Samaritans, as his neighbours, the lawyer would have treated his answer with 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 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 appears 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 fellow creature, 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 a concern. But the wise and the virtuous in every age have condescended to make use of this innocent artifice; the necessity of which is founded in the sad corruption of human nature, and in that gross and deplorable blindness to their own sins and follies, which is observable in so large a part of mankind. They engage with warmth and eagerness in worldly pursuits, which employ their attention and excite their passions: so that they have little time, and less inclination, to reflect calmly and seriously on their own conduct, in a moral and religious point of view. But if their thoughts are at any time forced inwards, and they cannot help taking a view of themselves, a deeper source of delusion is still behind. The same actions, which, when committed by others, are immediately discerned to be wrong, are palliated, explained, qualified, and apologized away, when we happen to be guilty of them ourselves. The circumstances in the two cases are discovered to be perfectly different in some essential point; our passions were ungovernable, the temptation irresistible. In short, some how or other, all guilt vanishes away under the management of the dexterous casuist, and the intrusion of self-condemnation is effectually precluded.

Still there remains, it may be said, the admonition of some zealous friend or faithful instructor; but zeal is generally vehement, and often indiscreet. By exciting the resentment and inflaming the anger of those it means to reform, it frequently defeats its own designs. For whoever is offended, instantly forgets his own faults, and dwells wholly upon those of his imprudent monitor. But when the veil of parable conceals for a moment

from the offender that he is himself concerned in it, he may generally be surprised into a condemnation of every one that is guilty of a base, dishonourable action; and when the unexpected application, Thou art the man, comes thundering suddenly upon him, and points out the perfect similarity of the supposed case to his own, the astonished criminal, overwhelmed with confusion, and driven from all his usual subterfuges and evasions, is compelled at length to condemn himself.

It was probably the consideration of these delusions, and the other reasons above assigned, which gave rise to so general and so ancient a custom of conveying moral instruction under the cover of imaginary agents and fictitious events. We find traces of it in the earliest writers; and it was more peculiarly cultivated in the East, the region where religion and science first took their rise. The most ancient parables, perhaps, on record are those we meet with in the Old Testament; that of Jotham, for instance, where the trees desired the bramble to reign over them; that of Nathant; that of the woman of Tekoah, in the reign of David; and that of the thistle and the cedar of Lebanons, by Jehoash, king of Israel. From the East, this species of composition passed into Greece and Italy, and thence into the rest of Europe; and there are two celebrated writers, one in the Greek, the other in the Roman tongue, whose fables every one is acquainted with from their earliest years. These, it must be owned, are elegant, amusing, and, in a certain degree, moral and instructive; but they are not in any degree to be compared with the parables of our blessed Lord, which infinitely excel them, and every other composition of that species, in many essential points.

1. In the first place, the fables of the ancients are many of them of a very trivial nature, or at the best contain nothing inore than maxims of mere worldly wisdom and common prudence, and sometimes, perhaps, a little moral instruction.

But the parables of our blessed Lord relate to subjects of the very highest importance; to the great leading principles of human conduct, to the essential duties of man, to the nature and progress of the Christian religion, to the, moral government of the world, to the

⚫ Judges ix, 14.
+ 2 Sam. xiv.

+ 2 Sam. xii, 1.
2 Kings xiv, 2.

great distinctions between vice and virtue, to the awful scenes of eternity, to the divine influences of the Holy Spirit, to the great work of our redemption, to a resurrection and a future judgment, and the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future state; and all this expressed with a dignity of sentiment and a simplicity of language, perfectly well suited to the grandeur of the subject.

2. In the next place, the fables of the learned heathens, though entertaining and well composed, are in general cold and dry, and calculated more to please the understanding than to touch the heart. Whereas, those of our blessed Lord are most of them in the highest degree affecting and interesting. Such for instance are the parable of the lost sheep, of the prodigal son, of the rich man and Lazarus, of the pharisee and publican, of the unforgiving servant, of the good Samaritan. There is nothing in all heathen antiquity to be compared to these; nothing that speaks so forcibly to our tenderest feelings and affections, and leaves such deep and lasting impressions upon the soul.

3. The Greek and Roman fables are most of them founded on improbable or impossible circumstances, and are supposed conversations between animate or inanimate beings, not endowed with the power of speech; between birds, beasts, reptiles, and trees; a circumstance, which shocks the imagination, and of course weakens the force of the instruction.

Our Saviour's parables, on the contrary, are all of them images and allusions taken from nature, and from occurrences which are most familiar to our observation and experience in common life; and the events related are not only such as might very probably happen, but several of them are supposed to be such as actually did; and this would have the effect of a true historical narrative, which we all know to carry much greater weight and authority with it than the most ingenious fiction. Of the former sort are those of the rich man and Lazarus, of the good Samaritan, and of the prodigal son. There are others, in which our Saviour seems to allude to some historical facts, which happened in those times; as that wherein it is said, that a king went into a far country, there to receive a kingdom.

This probably refers to the history of Archelaus, who, after the death of his father, Herod the Great, went to Rome to receive from Augustus the confirmation of his

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