THESE words you will all remember are part of the parable which we know as the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was spoken by our Lord in answer to the question of the man who asked Him "What shall I do in order to inherit eternal life?" And our Lord gave first that short pregnant answer wherein He teaches us that the soul of man cannot mount to heaven except by the beat of the two wings, the Love of God, and the love of his neighbour. We shall not rise to the height of heaven if we have not the Love of God, and we shall not rise to the height of heaven if we have not the love of our neighbour. It must be by the double stroke of the two wings, the Love of God, and the love of our neighbour. No wild religious fanaticism, which makes us careless as to our neighbour's needs, will carry us up to the God Who is Love. No mere philanthropy, or doing kind things, will purify our souls, and make them fit to rise into the Presence of Him before Whom the angels veil their faces. No. The true answer is this compact and short one which we all know. If we want to rise to heaven, it must be by the beat of the two wings, the Love of God, and the love of our neighbour.
But then the man went on to ask a question which we have all felt many times in our own hearts, though we don't always put it into words. He asked this very practical question, "Well, but how far is this to go?" We have all asked that question again and again; all of us who have ever thought of being good at all. How far is this to go? Am I to be all day in church? Am I to spend all day saying my prayers? Am I to read no books but the Bible? Am I to give away everything I have got? How far is all this to go? "Who is my neighbour?" How far am I to go?
Then, in answer, our Lord spoke this parable. "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead." And then the priest and the Levite came by. We may suppose the priest looked that way, and thought perhaps, "Well, this is not a pleasant business! This man has been roughly handled; he has been robbed. If I go and help him, I may be suspected of having done it. It would be hardly prudent. It does not look nice. He has been robbed and half murdered. I am a priest, and have other things to do. There is my priestly work waiting for me. And then, these robbers may not be very far off. They may come down from the mountains while I am helping him and do the same to me!" We don't know what he did think, but we know that he did nothing. He passed on his way and left him. And then the Levite came; how long after we can't tell, but we may suppose he used the same sort of reasoning. "This is not a pleasant piece of work. There is a good deal of risk about it."
If he followed close upon the priest he probably thought, "Well, the priest did not do anything, so why should I?" So he went his way without helping the poor man. And then the Good Samaritan came, but he did not pass by. He had no thought of self, or of all the trouble it would be to stop, but he bound up his wounds, and took him to the inn, and put him into the care of the host, and said he should be coming again, and if he spent more than he left, "I will pay for him." And then the Lord asked, "Which, now, of these three, was neighbour to him who fell among thieves?"
Of course the first lesson our Saviour meant to teach us was the real area of brotherly love; to make us realize the area of brotherly love, in answer to the question, "How far am I to go?" He meant to teach us this, that every one we can help is our neighbour. Any one you can help is your neighbour, and it is no small gain to have learnt that. It teaches us these lessons about it: our neighbour is not confined to race. The Greeks thought it was so. The highest moralists among the Greeks taught that there was no obligation towards the barbarian. If a man was not a Greek there was no need to help him.
But this wide area of brotherly love gives us an insight into the brotherly communion of the whole human race, into the oneness of the human family. And that is no light gain. It is not confined to one nation, or to any religious body, so as to put a distance between the Jew and the Samaritan. Not that. There is not to be any limit of that kind. There is to be no saving of selfish trouble. Any race, any rank, any one who needs our help, at the cost of whatever personal risk or self-sacrifice, is covered by this demand. This, then, is the splendid extent of brotherly love. Our neighbour is any one we can help in the whole round of suffering humanity. This is the area of brotherly love. And for the standard, the height to which it should reach, I would rather point you to another passage in the Gospels. For the degree of love our Lord points to His own example. "As I have loved you." So if we put these two things together we find that our neighbour is any man, or woman, who may need our help, and that it runs through all races, all ranks. There is the object. And for the measure of our love we are pointed to the love wherewith our Saviour loved us, and the measure of that is the measure of all true love, death. Whatever stopped short of that was never true love.
So we get a great insight into our relation one towards another in the answer to this man's question, an estimation of the vast area of brotherly love.
And yet that is not the whole meaning of this parable. Those words, as well as all the other words and acts of our Lord have a deep, underlying, spiritual meaning. What does it mean? He describes this poor man as half dead. I take it that in this very short sentence is expressed a wonderful truth. It is a picture of human nature, as it is in this world. How do we regard humanity? Watch it in this picture the Saviour has sketched for us in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
First, we get this. Human nature is on a journey. Here is this man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He had not reached the end he wanted to reach. He was in a state of motion. He was pressing on. He was advancing to an end not, as yet, attained. He was moving on to attain it. We all know this great truth if only we would lay it deeply to heart. Not here is our real home. We know how very short our time here is. We are only passing through this world, our real home is beyond it. We shall not find what will satisfy us in this world. We are made for finer things than this mediatorial, militant kingdom. We must look beyond this militant kingdom to the kingdom of glory, the land of all freedom, where we shall all be priests and kings before God. It will be a great thing if we can really get hold of this--that we are all moving on to a great end.
O dear people, surely just no\v, at this moment, when we see how the rich are called away just as the poor; that no rank, or wealth, or amount of this world's good can purchase escape from death; that it comes to those in highest places quite as suddenly as it does to the lowest--God has a meaning in it.
If we lay this picture before us, and look at human nature painted, and we in it, we shall see that we are all journeying; we are not at a standstill. And further, our Lord represents this poor man as having been robbed on his journey, and stripped, and wounded, and left, half dead, and it is on that that I wish to arrest your attention. That is the most important thing in his whole condition. He is lying by the roadside; his end is not reached; he is unable to get up and finish his journey unless help comes from without. Unless he can get some one to come and help him he cannot finish his journey.
Now, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there are two words in very common use at the present day, which would teach the exact opposite to the truth taught us here. I mean the words evolution and culture. Evolution, in its wrong sense, mind you. It would teach us that a man has, in him, a power which he must work out and out, until, of itself, humanity reaches perfection, and then that the most perfect will survive and endure; that there is the seed in humanity, and if we will strive and strive, of itself humanity will reach perfection; that perfection is secreted in its own nature. But this is the very opposite of this picture. Here humanity is represented as on its journey to perfection, but it has not the power to attain perfection without help from without.
Just the same is true of that other word, culture. You can teach children by object lessons. Yes, and by the kindergarten system. Yes, to a certain extent; but it is all meant to draw out faculties, as if everything we want was already in them, and this is most misleading, if we look at this system as complete in itself. Culture, by itself, is a mere polishing the intellect, or the manners, or the way of life; but you will not attain perfection by polishing, just as if humanity was a piece of marble, which has the beauty in itself, and only wants the rubbing to bring it out. But human nature has not got perfection in itself, apart from God. It cannot attain to it, unless it has aid from without. So these two words, evolution and culture, give a wrong apprehension of human nature, and quite contrary to the picture drawn in the parable. Do not misunderstand me. I am speaking of the wrong use of these two words. There is a right use of evolution and culture. There is an immense amount of progress yet to be made in training the physical capacities of people. There is a great waste of strength. There is a vast amount of unnecessary ignorance, and a fearful amount of unnecessary vice. There is a tremendous waste of spiritual faculties. There is a vast amount of progress to be made, and this is right evolution. And culture is an immense advantage to man, in its right sense. But is this the whole? How far will it go? Has man got, in himself, the capacity to get to heaven, or does he want help from without? Is there any truth in this system of evolution and culture, or do we recognize the picture of humanity in the words of my text, Half dead? There is a certain amount of power, but he is not able to do anything alone.
Then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, lay this to heart, and ask yourselves, How far am I like the portrait of humanity contained in this picture?
I am here again, by God's grace, to speak to you another Lent. It is a very serious thing to be speaking to you again. I hope we are all on another stage in our journey towards heaven. There is this essential question to be answered. How do you hope to get to the end of your journey? That is it. Every man and woman in this church hopes to get to heaven, and to take all they love there too, wives and children, father and mother, brothers and sisters. You all hope to go there. But I seriously ask you, How do you propose to get there? How do you hope to get there yourselves, and to help those you love to get there? How far does this picture represent your own life, and the lives of your husbands, and children, and father and mother?
This man was lying by the side of the road. He represents humanity, and we in it. What means have you of finishing your journey to heaven? Now, dear people, that question ought not to take long to answer. Especially now, at the end of the nineteenth century, in a Christian country, and to people belonging to the Church of England, that question ought not to take long to answer. I have not anything new to tell you. My answer is very short, and you know it as well as I do, perfectly well. The means you must use for yourself, and your wife, and children, and all you love to get to the end of your journey you will find in your Bible and Prayer Book. Yes, that is the answer I give you to the question, How am I get to the end of my journey, and with those I love? You will find the means in your Bible and Prayer Book. You know what it tells you in the Bible, who the Good Samaritan was. You know. Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven across the way to us, to bind up our wounds. It is in the Bible you find it.
Now comes the question whether you are prepared to say you can finish your journey without the help of Jesus Christ. You know there is no hope of getting to heaven without His help. We all hope to get there; about that we are quite agreed for ourselves, and for those we love; but except through the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ there is no hope of getting there. It is only through Him, and His grace is sufficient for you. And you know how that grace comes to you. In your infancy you were made members of Christ in your baptism, and then, you know, as you grew older the Holy Spirit came to you in Confirmation, and as you went on Christ was given to you in Holy Communion, and He dwelt in you and you in Him. And you know that Easter Sunday is coming, and the Prayer Book says that you arc all to receive the Holy Communion three times in the year, of which Easter shall be one. Therefore, if you want to reach the end of your journey come on Easter Day, and receive the Holy Communion.
And you know how to prepare yourself for it. Christ has not mocked you. You know how to examine yourselves, and you know the means Christ has left you in His Church of Absolution, and how you can obtain it for yourselves, on your own Confession before the priest of God. It is no long answer that I have to give as to the means you must use. It is all very simple if you are really in earnest.
You must realize utterly that on this journey you will not get through without help. In the Bible and the Prayer Book you will find help, if you look honestly, and be true to what you find there.
I will ask you, in conclusion, to ask yourselves, Are you trying to get to heaven without the Bible? Do take care. You will find it hard to believe in God before long. There is no nation in the East, or West, which has kept true to the belief in the One Personal God without the aid of the Bible. Take care you don't let your belief in God slip altogether if you let go the Bible.
If you hold to the Bible what is the whole sum and substance of it? One word, Christ. If you try to hold the Bible without Christ, take care again. "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry."
Or if you say, "I admire the character of Christ, but I don't care for the Church and the Sacraments;" take care. Jesus Christ appointed the Sacraments in His Church. Take care how you go along the road in your own strength. With Christ to help you it is all as simple as can be.
There is the picture in the parable. Do you see your own likeness in it? Do you admit that by evolution and culture you will never reach perfection in heaven, and do you accept these two places in which to find the means of reaching heaven--the Bible and the Prayer Book? If so, happy you will be, and when the Good Samaritan comes again, He will say, "I will make it good."
But when He comes again, where will He find you, and your wife, and your children, and your father and your mother? Will He find you lying by the road side, saying you don't want help, maintaining "I will get on without help?" Of if He came this moment, would He find you undecided, not knowing whether you want help or not; not clear as to whether culture, and evolution, and progress will not answer, and so not sure if you want help or not?
If death comes to you suddenly, as it may, and you don't know whether you want help or not, it will flash upon you all at once the immense distance it is from here to Paradise, and you will find out then, that it is hopeless to try and reach it without help. Ask now for His help, that when the Saviour comes you may not have to settle it, and perhaps even then wish to say, "I don't see why I should want any help. I am trying to educate myself."
Oh no, rather acknowledge the want of help now, as I believe you do. Admit your likeness to be contained in this picture of the wounded man on his journey. Do admit, as I believe you do, that you can never get to heaven by your own strength, and then, when He comes, He will find you in the Inn, that is, the Church of God, the very House of the Living God, which the Saviour has provided for you.
So will He bring you to the home of your soul, for He has provided sufficient grace for you. We may trust Him.
If you had a wonderfully intricate piece of mechanism, and you had let it fall, and had jarred and marred it, you would not, naturally, trust it to any one who might happen to say to you, I can put it straight to you." You might very well doubt his knowledge and refuse to trust him. But if you were sure that the maker of the machine could come, and prove to you, "I made that machine, and I can and will put it straight for you," you would as naturally say, "You are the maker, and you can put it right."
God made us; but we have let humanity fall, and have jarred and marred His work. In His mercy He has come to put humanity right, and the one only way to put it straight is to trust to Jesus Christ, Who made us, and knows what is in us.
Ask yourselves these questions, and try to bring home to your hearts to-night the true answers.
Are you content to see in yourself the likeness to this wounded man on a journey?
Are you content to realize that you cannot reach the desired end without help?
And are you heartily, gratefully, and lovingly accepting and using all the means of grace provided for you in the Church of England, as set forth for you in the Bible and the Prayer Book?