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he dressed his wounds himself, and afterwards placed him, at his own expense, under the care of one who was to see the cure perfected.
The question now was, who was neighbor to this unfortunate man, in the sense of the law, · Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' As the case was stated, there was no room to insist on the near relation the priest and Levite bore to the wounded man ; the nearer their relation, the worse neighbors were they for neglecting him; no room to object against the Samaritan, his want of relation, or his difference in religion; the less and the fewer his private obligations were, the more disinterested was his obedience to the law, and the better neighbor was he. On the whole of this case, our Lord's conclusion is, 'Go, and do thou likewise.'
Taking then this direction of our blessed Saviour, as it stands explained by these circumstances, it will lead us to consider,
I. The nature and extent of charity, or love to our neighbor.
II. The value of the excuses which men frequently make for neglect of this duty. And,
III. The excellency of that particular charity which gives occasion to this day's meeting.
I. Of the nature and extent of charity, or love to our neighbor.
I observed to you before that the principal intention of our blessed Saviour was not to show the necessity of works of mercy, for that under certain limitations was admitted on all sides. Nor was it to recommend one kind of charity in preference to another, but to show the extent of all.
In stating a case, it was necessary to instance in some sort of charitable work; but the conclusion, Go, and do thou likewise,' is not confined to that kind of work only, but is intended to show us who are our neighbors in regard to works of mercy and compassion in every kind. The works of mercy are as various and of
many the wants and infirmities of men, which are the objects of mercy. Were men perfect, there would be nothing in them to pity or compassionate. Every kind, therefore, and every degree of misery is an object of mercy; and whether men are
exposed to calamities by the necessity of their condition, and the overruling providence of God; or whether they bring them on themselves by sin and wickedness, or by folly and indiscretion ; yet still, considered as miserable, they are objects of pity. If this were not so, mercy would not be one of the attributes of the Deity. For he is not moved by a fellowfeeling of our calamities, or any apprehension for himself: for no evil can approach him. Sin and wickedness are attended with guilt as well as misery, and therefore also objects of justice and punishment; and it may, perhaps, be a case attended with difficulties, when we attempt to reconcile the operations of justice and mercy, with respect to the same subject. But if God be a God of mercy, as undoubtedly he is, the conclusion must stand, that misery, viewed by the eye of reason, is an object of compassion; and the consequence must be, that in the reason of things mercy is as extensive as misery; and not to be confined by any particular or partial considerations to misery of one kind, or of one man more than another. If we consider ourselves, therefore, merely as reasonable creatures, no reason can be assigned for excluding any object of misery from our pity and compassion. But if we consider ourselves as men, there is another and perhaps a more sensible inducement to the practice of the works of mercy, and which on examination will be found, as far as our power of doing good goes, of like general influence. And this arises from reflecting that there is no misery we see to which we are not ourselves liable. The case therefore of the miserable is a common case, and in some sense every man's own. If we find ourselves better than others, so as to avoid the calamities which sin and iniquity bring on many; or wiser than others, so as to shun the evils which folly and indiscretion draw down on numbers; this is so far from being a reason why we should despise or neglect their sufferings, that it daily reminds us to ask of ourselves this question, · Who made thee to differ from another ? And if we answer it as we should, it will furnish us with another reason for the exercise of charity, which will extend to all men.
For if all men are the sons of one common father; if all conditions of life are the appointment of one common master;
no nian can be reckoned a stranger to us, who is son of the same father, and servant of the same master; however he may, for reasons unknown to us, be placed in a lower condition of life, and called to serve in a meaner station, endowed with less and fewer abilities.
Carry these considerations with you into the world, and view the wants and necessities of the poor; listen to the cries of widows and orphans, to the moans and complaints of those who suffer under the torments of body or of mind : take into your view the follies and the weaknesses of men, who are perpetually struggling with the inconveniences, which a little prudence might have prevented, but which require a great deal of care and sorrow either to cure or to bear them; and think' a little, what reason, what the sense of your own infirmities, what the regard due to the common Father and Master of all, require at your hands. One duly attentive to these reasons could never fall into the little considerations, whether this miserable man was his countryman or townsman, whether the other was of the same party or opinion with himself; for the great and true reasons on which mercy and charity are founded, exclude all such little respects and relations.
As the case stands thus on the foot of reason, and the natural sentiments of men, so likewise have the precepts of the gospel bound these duties on us in the same extent.
Honor, esteem, and reverence, are due to those who deserve honor, esteem, and reverence; but love is a debt due to all men, and is-a debt never to be fully paid and exhausted. Therefore St. Paul commands that we render' to every man his due,' fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor · is due :' but when he comes to speak of love, he varies his style, and considers us in this respect as debtors to every man: 'owe' no man any thing, but to love one another.' As if he had said, all other debts due to particular persons you must take care to discharge ; but love is due to all; and you must never think of paying or clearing the debt of love to each other; for that is a debt which will be owing as long as you live; it is a perpetual duty, and can never have an end. In the same manner are the precepts of love and mercy enjoined by our blessed Saviour in general terms, not confining them to particular objects, but
leaving them at large, and open, to be applied to all men: • Blessed,' says he, are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Had this been a duty owing to any persons, as they stand particularly related to us, our Lord would not have left this material duty in perfect, by neglecting to specify the proper objects of it; but having directed our love and mercy to no men in particular, we must conclude that all in general are the objects of it.
If we consider these laws as derived from the Author of nature and of the gospel, we shall find that they proceeded from a love as universal as that which they enjoin: the general good of mankind is the end provided for in these laws. The miseries and calamities of life are many, and not to be avoided; and perhaps wise men, though they complain least, feel them most. It is a melancholy thing to reflect how much of this misery is of our own making, and what a great abatement might be made in the sorrows of life, if every man would but lend his hand to make himself and the rest of the world happy. The unkind offices we daily receive from malice, ill-nature, and revenge, from envy, and causeless resentments,
make a much greater figure in the calamities of life than all the evils which the providence of God and the condition of human life bring on
the calamities which cannot be avoided, might be mitigated by the kind offices of our brethren. And therefore to oblige men to charity and mercy is to unite them in a confederacy against the evils and miseries of life; that no sooner shall misfortune seize one, but all shall be alarmed, and help flow in from every quarter; that every hand shall bring assistance, and every tongue bring comfort to the afflicted; and each man's happiness be the common concern, while
every man loves his neighbor as himself. What a blessed state would this be! and how much happiness did the wise Author of nature design for us, when he made the common interest of mankind to be every particular man’s duty! What love to man did the Author of the gospel show, when he required it, as a mark of our being his disciples, that we should love one another!
Having considered now the extent of this great duty of love and mercy towards our brethren, it will be easy, in the second
place, to estimate by this measure what value there is in the excuses which are frequently made for the neglect of this duty.
But to speak without confusion on this subject, it is necessary to distinguish between love as merely a sentiment and habit of the mind, and as coupled with a power and ability to exert itself in external acts of mercy. Considered as a habit and sentiment of the mind, it must be universal without exception; and no pretence whatever can justify malevolence and hatred in any instance. But it may be, and often is the case, that those who have the habit of this virtue are able to exert it in very few instances; they are too poor to give alms, too ignorant to give advice, of too little consideration in the world to aid or protect their neighbors. In all these cases want of ability is something more than an excuse, for an excuse goes to the omission of duty; but there can be no duty or obligation
any man to do what he has no power or ability to perform. But yet let the meanest among us consider that there are duties of love proper to their station ; if they have no money to bestow, yet they have good or ill words to bestow on their neighbors; they are able to assist in vindicating or aspersing their characters; and this is an instance in which their good-will or malevolence may be as effectually shown as if they had great revenues to dispose of; and I am afraid the poorer sort, who are petitioners for charity of another kind, want often to be put in mind of this kind of charity themselves. But to go on.
Where men's fortunes and stations in the world enable them to exert their love and mercy in acts of generosity and benevolence to persons in distress, there is often an unwillingness, and always an excuse to attend it. From what has been said of the duty in general, it is evident that to confine our charity to relations, acquaintance, or men of the same country, is acting inconsistently with the great reasons on which the duty itself is founded, and is therefore a breach of duty which cannot be justified ; and it is indeed that very pretence which our Saviour intended to exclude and condemn in the parable of the good Samaritan. But what shall we say to the personal merit of those who are objects of charity? In the parable the person relieved was a stranger to him who relieved him, and was known to him only by his misery and distress; and there