« EdellinenJatka »
similar excellent institutions, are rising up thickly around us. The treatment of sinners—yes, of the most grievous class—is kind and gentle in a noticeable degree.
And at this some are offended. Persons whose own lives are orderly and even, who have never transgressed at any time, in any glaring way, God's commandments who from their youth have been trained in His holy fear, and stood in awe of His judgments-regard with suspicion, to say the least, this tenderness towards the very guilty. If such, they say, be the reward of a profligate course, then are we setting a premium upon wickedness, then have we cleansed our hearts in vain, and washed our hands in innocency.
That such a feeling should sometimes shew itself, is perhaps not to be wondered at. But though a natural, it is not a generous feeling. Nor can we have imbibed the true spirit of our Master's Gospel if we entertain it.
Besides, it is built on a mistake. The elder brother was unjust in his complaint. His own lot, which he disparagingly contrasted with his father's treatment of the prodigal, was really the better and happier lot of the two. For had he not, in remaining at home, many solid advantages, which his brother, by going away, had forfeited ? What was one day's feasting, after years of absence, when compared with a place day by day at his father's table? What was the fatted calf, and the holiday dress, used for that one occasion, that it should outweigh the convenient food and fitting raiment which were always his ? What was there, in that burst of joy that welcomed the wanderer back, that should make
him forget the serene happiness of his own home lifepassed perpetually in his father's presence, guided by his father's counsel, gladdened by his father's smile ?
Surely, then, it was an unjust and an ungenerous remark of the elder brother-Thou never gavest me a kid! He had all, and was full—for he was ever with his father, and all his father had was his !
Let us be careful, brethren, not to err ourselves in this direction. Let us not begrudge when God restores—let not our eye be evil because He is good. Let us not envy the received Prodigal his hour of intense happiness when first he knows himself forgive.. “Shades of the prison house,” out of which he has been rescued, will close upon him again. Not soon, not on this side death, will he forget the past. The wasted goods—the life in the far country, with its debasement and defilement, he will not be able to wipe it out of his mind-while memory holds it will retain the record.
Grudge him not, then, any temporary comfort, any lifting up of his soul into unusual ecstacy. Think not God's way unequal, if such an one be caught for a little moment, as it were, into the third heavens !
Set one thing against another, and you will confess that God is just. You will see that yours—for I speak now to those of whom the elder brother is the type, quiet, orderly, well-living people—is the state most to be desired. You have not the Prodigal's raptures, but then you are spared his recollection—God makes no unusual feast for you, but then He gives you, day by day, your daily bread—God does not say over you—It is meet that we should make merry and be glad: for this my son was dead, and is alive again ; he was lost, and is found—but He says—and is it not far better-Son, thou art ever with Me, and all that I have is thine !
But he willing to justify himself said unto Jesus, And who is my
THE question here put to our Lord gave rise to the great parable which comes before us in this Sunday's Gospel—the parable of the Good Samaritan. The person who asked it was a certain lawyer. And this same man had already, but in a tempting spirit, put a previous question-Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
To this the reply was, How readest thou ? what is written in the law ?
The lawyer thrown back upon himself referred to the book of which he was a professed expounder, answered by repeating those two great commandments, on which by the law life and happiness were made to depend— 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.
Our Lord declared that he had answered right—that he had only to carry out that law, to put into practice the love of God, and the love of his neighbour, and all would be well—this do and thou shalt live.
At this the lawyer was perplexed—he knew in his heart that he had not lived up to his knowledge, that if eternal life depended on his having kept those great commandments in the spirit as in the letter, he must come short of it-and yet he liked not to confess this he wished if he could to justify himself before Jesus—and so he raised a question about the meaning of the word neighbour— Who is my neighbour ?
As if he had said I know the law says Thou shalt love thy neighbour ; I know that I must seek to do him good —but where is he? I can not do good to all men—some have a nearer claim upon me than others—some have no claim at all-how and where am I to draw the line ? — Who is my neighbour ?
The answer to this question must be sought in the parable which I purpose we should now considera parable which those have more need to lay to heart, who like this lawyer are inclined to put limits to their charity, who seek to excuse themselves from offices of kindness by drawing distinctions between who do, and who do not stand in the position of neighbour to them.
At the same time, be sure that this parable has lessons for us all. It is full of incentives to active mercy, and neighbourly dealings with the unfortunate-a parable, moreover, in which many early Church writers have loved to find a deep inward meaning, even a picture of our Redemption by Jesus Christ : His work here typified