We find that when Christ was on the earth there was a class of people who gathered round Him and were continually finding fault with everything He said and did. We read that on this occasion a lawyer came asking Him what he could do to inherit eternal life. Our Lord told him to keep the commandments -- to love the Lord with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself. The lawyer then wanted to know who was his neighbor. In this narrative Christ told him who his neighbor was, and what it was to love him.
It seems to me that we have been a long while in finding out who is our neighbor. I think in the parable of the good Samaritan Christ has taught us very clearly that any man or woman who is in need of our love and our help -- whether temporal or spiritual -- is our neighbor. If we can render them any service we are to do it in the name of our Master.
Here we have brought before us two men, each of whom passed by one who was in great need -- one who had fallen among the thieves, who had been stripped, wounded, and left there to die. The first that came down that road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a priest. As he went along the highway he heard a cry of distress, and he looked to see who was the unfortunate man. He could see that the poor sufferer was a Jew; it may be that he had seen him in the temple on the Sabbath day. But then he was not in his own parish now. His work was in the temple, and it was over for the present. He was a professional man, and he had gone through all that was required of him.
He was in a great hurry to get down to Jericho. It may be they were going to open a new synagogue there, and he was to dedicate it. A very important business, and of course he could not stop to help this poor, wounded, fallen man. So he passed on. It may be, as he went along, he reasoned with himself somewhat in this way: "I wonder why God ever permitted sin to enter the world at all. It is very strange that man should be in this fallen state." Or his thoughts may have taken another turn, and he said to himself that when he got down to Jericho he would form a committee to look after these unfortunate brethren. He would give something toward the expenses. Or he would try and get a policeman to go and look after those thieves who had stripped him.
He did not think that all the while this poor wounded man was dying. Most likely he was now crying for water, and it might be that there was a brook running by, within a few rods of the spot where he lay. Yet this priest never stopped to give him a drink. All his religion was in his head: it had never reached his heart. The one thought in his mind was duty, duty; and when he had got through that which he considered his duty, he fancied his work was done. God wants heart service; if we do not give Him that, we can render to Him no service at all.
We read that a Levite next came along the highway where this wounded man was lying in his helplessness. As he passed along he also heard the man's cry of distress. He turned aside for a moment to look at the poor fellow, and he could see that he was a son of Abraham -- a brother Jew. But he also must hasten on to Jericho. Possibly he had to help in the ceremony of opening the new synagogue. Perhaps there was going to be a convention down there, on "How to reach the masses," and he was going to help discuss the point. I have noticed that many men now-a-days will go to a conference and talk for hours on that subject, but they will not themselves lift a hand to reach the masses.
The Levite's thoughts probably took another turn, and he said to himself: "I will see if I can't get a bill through the Legislature to prevent those thieves from robbing and wounding people." There are some now who think they can legislate men back to God -- that they can prevent sin by legislation. Like the priest, this Levite never stopped to give the poor fellow a drop of water to quench his thirst; he never attempted to bind up his wounds or to help him in any way. He passed along the highway, doubtless, saying to himself, "I pity that poor fellow." There is a good deal of that kind of pity now-a-days; but it comes only from the lips, not from the heart.
The next one to come along that road was a Samaritan. Now it was notorious that in those days a Jew would not speak to a Samaritan; the very presence of the latter was pollution to an orthodox Jew. No Jew ever entered the habitation of the hated Samaritan; he would not eat at his table or drink from his well. Neither would he allow a Samaritan to come under his roof. No religious Jew would even buy from a Samaritan, or sell to him. You know a Jew must have a very poor opinion of a man if he will not do business with him, when there is a prospect of making something out of him.
Not only was this the case, but the Jews considered that the Samaritans had no souls; that when they died they would be annihilated. Their graves would be so deep that not even the sound of Gabriel's trump would wake them on the resurrection morning. He was the only man under heaven who could not become a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and become a member of the Jewish family. Repentance was denied him in this life and the life to come. He might profess the Jewish religion; they would have nothing to do with him. That was the way in which they looked upon these men; yet Christ used the despised Samaritan to teach these bitter Jews the lesson of love to their neighbor.
The Samaritan came that way. It says in the narrative that the priest came down that way "by chance;" but we are not told that the Samaritan came by chance. He represents our Lord and Master. We are told that he came to where the poor wounded man was; he got off the beast on which he was riding and stooped right down there by the side of the sick man. He looked at him and saw that he was a Jew. If he had been like the Jews themselves, he would most likely have said, "Serve you right. I only wish the thieves had killed you outright. I would not lift a finger to help you, you poor wretched Samaritan." But no! not a word of condemnation or blame did he utter.
Let us learn a lesson from this. Do you think these drunkards need anyone to condemn them? There is no one in the wide world who can condemn them as they condemn themselves. What they need is sympathy -- tenderness, gentleness and kindness. This Samaritan did not pull a manuscript out of his pocket, and begin to read a long sermon to the wounded man. Some people seem to think that all the world needs is a lot of sermons. Why, the people of this land have been almost preached to death. What we want is to preach more sermons with our hands and feet -- to carry the Gospel to the people by acts of kindness.
Neither did he read this poor Jew a long lecture, endeavoring to prove that science was better than religion. He did not give him a long address on geology; what could that do for him? What the poor man needed was sympathy and help. So the first thing the good Samaritan did was to pour oil into his wounds. How many wounded men there are in our midst who have need of the oil of pity and sympathy. A good many Christians seem always to carry about with them a bottle of vinegar, which they bring out on all occasions.
The Samaritan might have said to the man: "Why did you not stay at Jerusalem? What business had you to come down this road, any way, giving all this trouble?" So people will sometimes say to a young man who has come to the city and got into trouble: "Why did you ever leave your home and come to this wicked city?" They begin to scold and upbraid. You are never going to reach men and do them good in that way; or by putting yourself on a high platform; you have to come down to them and enter into their sorrows and troubles. See how this Samaritan "came to where he was," and instead of lecturing him, poured the healing oil into his wounds.
You observe there are twelve things mentioned in the narrative that the Samaritan did. We can dismiss in a word all that the priest and the Levite did -- they did nothing.
(1.) He "came to where he was."
(2.) He "saw him;" he did not, like the priest, pass by on the other side.
(3.) He "had compassion on him." If we would be successful winners of souls we, too, must be moved with compassion for the lost and the perishing. We must sympathize with men in their sorrows and troubles, if we would hope to gain their affections and to do them good.
(4.) He "went to him." The Levite went toward him, but we are told that he, as well as the priest, "passed by on the other side."
(5.) He "bound up his wounds." Perhaps he had to tear up his own garments in order to bind them up.
(6.) He poured in oil and gave some wine to the fainting man.
(7.) He "set him on his own beast." Do you not think that this poor Jew must have looked with gratitude and tenderness on the Samaritan, as he was placed on the beast, while his deliverer walked by his side? All the prejudice in his heart must have disappeared long before they got to the end of their journey.
(8.) He "brought him to an inn."
(9.) He "took care of him." I was greatly touched at hearing of a Christian worker in one of the districts in London where we were, who met with a drinking man at the meeting. He saw that the man was in drink, so he took him home and stayed all night with him; then, when he got sober the next morning, he talked with him. Many are willing enough to talk with drunkards when they are sober, but how few there are who will go and hunt them up when they are in their fallen condition, and stay with them till they can be reasoned with about their salvation.
(10.) When he departed on the morrow, the good Samaritan asked the host to care for him.
(11.) He gave him some money to pay the bill.
(12.) He said: "Whatever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee."
There is nothing I think in all the teachings of Christ that brings out the whole Gospel better than this parable. It is a perfect picture of Christ coming down to this world to seek and save the lost.
(1.) He came to this world of sin and sorrow where we were, laying by His glory for the time, that He might assume our human nature, and put Himself on a level with those He came to save.
(2.) He mingled with the poor and needy so that He might see their condition.
(3.) He was "moved with compassion" for the multitudes; how often this is recorded in the Gospels. We are told, on more than one occasion, that He wept as He thought of all the woe and distress that sin had brought upon the human family.
(4.) Wherever Jesus Christ heard of a case of sorrow or need He went at once. No cry of distress ever reached His ears in vain.
(5.) On one occasion He read from the prophets concerning Himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . . . because the Lord hath . . . . sent me to bind up the broken-hearted." He Himself was wounded, that the wounds which sin had made in us might be bound up and healed.
(6.) He not only comforted the sorrowing, but gave the promise of the Holy Spirit, Who was to bring comfort and strength to His redeemed people.
(7.) As the good Samaritan set the wounded man on his own beast, so the Savior gives us the unfailing promise of His word on which we may rest during our pilgrim journey. He Himself has promised to be with us in spirit by the way.
(8.) He brings us to the place of rest -- rest in His love, in His willingness to save, in His power to keep. At the last He will bring us to the home of everlasting rest.
(9.) When He was on the earth He took a personal interest in all that concerned His disciples, and
(10.) When He had gone up on high He sent another Comforter who should abide with the Church.
(11.) He has furnished the Church with all that is needful for her support and growth in grace.
(12.) He will come again and reward His servants for all their faithful service.
Do you want to know how you can reach the masses? Go to their homes and enter into sympathy with them; tell them you have come to do them good, and let them see that you have a heart to feel for them. When they find out that you really love them, all those things that are in their hearts against God and against Christianity will be swept out of the way. Atheists may tell them that you only want to get their money, and that you do not really care for their happiness. We have to contradict that lie by our lives, and send it back to the pit where it came from.
We are not going to do it unless we go personally to them and prove that we really love them. There are hundreds and thousands of families that could easily be reached if we had thousands of Christians going to them and entering into sympathy with their sorrows. That is what they want. This poor world is groaning and sighing for sympathy -- human sympathy. I am quite sure it was that in Christ's life which touched the hearts of the common people. He made Himself one with them. He who was rich for our sakes became poor. He was born in the manger so that He might put himself on a level with the lowest of the low.
I think that in this matter He teaches His disciples a lesson. He wants us to convince the world that He is their friend. They do not believe it. If once the world were to grasp this thought, that Jesus Christ is the Friend of the sinner, they would soon flock to Him. I am sure that ninety-nine in every hundred of those out of Christ think that, instead of loving them, God hates them. How are they to find out their mistake? They do not attend our churches; and if they did there are many places where they would not hear it. Do you think that if those poor harlots walking the streets of our cities really believed that Jesus Christ loved them and wanted to be their friend -- that if He were here in person He would not condemn them, but would take sides with them, and try to lift them up -- they would go on in their sins? Do you think the poor drunkard who reels along the street really believes that Christ is his friend and loves him? The Scripture plainly teaches that though Christ hates sin He loves the sinner. This story of the good Samaritan is given to teach us this lesson. Let us publish abroad the good news that Christ loves sinners, and came into the world that He might save them.
There was a man who lived in one of our large cities. He died quite suddenly, and it was not long before his wife followed him to the grave. They left two boys, and there was a wealthy citizen who took the more promising of the boys and adopted him. The other boy was placed in the orphan asylum. He had never been away from his father and mother during their lives, and he had not been separated from his brother before. Every night he would go to sleep crying for his brother. One night they could not find him. Next morning he was found under the steps of the house of the wealthy banker who had adopted his little brother. When they asked him why he had left a good comfortable bed at the orphan home and stayed out there all night in the cold, he said he wanted to get near Charlie. He knew that if he rang the bell and they found him at the door they would send him hack, and it was a comfort to him to be near Charlie, even if he had to pass the night out there. His young heart was craving for sympathy, and he knew that Charlie loved him as no one else in the world did. If we can only convince these poor lost ones that some one loves them, then their hearts will be moved.
During the war a little boy, Frankie Bragg, was placed in one of the hospitals. He said it was so hard to be there away from all those who loved him. The nurse who was attending him, bent down and kissed him, and said she loved him. "Do you love me?" he said; "kiss me again; that was like my sister's kiss?" The nurse kissed him again, and he said with a smile: "It is not hard for me to die now, when I know that some one loves me." If we had more of this sympathy for the lost and the sorrowing, the world would soon feel our influence.
Shall we not learn a lesson from the good Samaritan? Let us hear the voice of the Master saying: "Go thou and do likewise." We can all do something. If we cannot reach the older people, let us try and win the young. It is a blessed privilege to be used of God to bring one little lamb into the kingdom. If we are only the means of saving one child our life will not be a failure; we shall hear the Master's "Well done, good and faithful servant."
A lady started a hospital for sick crippled children in Edinburgh two years ago. I was asking her if she had been blessed in the work. I shall not forget how her face lit up. She was in one of our recent meetings in London, and her face was beaming. She was telling of some very interesting cases of conversion among the children. What a privilege it is to lead these afflicted ones into the kingdom of God.
A little boy was brought to Edinburgh from Fife. There was no room in the children's hospital, and he was taken to the general hospital. He was only six years old; his father was dead; his mother was sick, so that she could not take care of him, and he had to be brought to the hospital in Edinburgh. My friend, Rev. George Wilson, went in one day and sat at the bedside of the little sufferer. He was telling him that the doctor was coming on Thursday to take off his little leg. You parents can imagine, if one of your children, six years old, away from home, and in a hospital, were told that the doctor was coming on a certain day to take his leg off, how he would suffer at the thought. The little fellow, of course, was in great trouble about it. The minister wanted to know about his mother; she was sick and his father was dead. The minister wished to comfort him, and he said: "The nurse is such a good woman; she will help you." "Yes," said the boy, "and perhaps Jesus will be with me." Do you have any doubt of it? Next Friday the man of God went to the hospital, but he found the cot was empty. The poor boy was gone; the Savior had come and taken him to His bosom.
In our great cities are there not hundreds and thousands who are in some need of human sympathy? That will speak to their hearts a good deal louder than eloquent sermons. Many will not be moved by eloquent sermons, who would yield to tenderness and gentleness and sympathy.
Said the great Dr. Chalmers: "The little that I have seen in the world, and know of the history of mankind, teaches me to look upon their errors in sorrow, not in anger. When I take the one poor heart that has sinned and suffered, and represent to myself the struggles and temptations it has passed through; the brief pulsation of joy; the tears of regret; the feebleness of purpose; the scorn of the world that has little charity; the desolation of the soul's sanctuary and threatening voices within; health gone -- happiness gone -- I would fain leave the erring soul of my fellowman with Him from whose hands it came."
Some of you may say: "How am I to get into sympathy with those who are in sorrow?" That is a very important question. Many people go to work for God, but they seem to do it in such a professional way. I will tell you how you can be brought into sympathy. I have found this rule to be of great help to me. Put yourself in the place of the sorrowing and afflicted ones, with whom you want to sympathize. If you do that you will soon gain their affections and be able to help them.
God taught me a lesson a few years ago that I shall never forget. I was Superintendent of a Sunday-school in Chicago with over 1,500 scholars. In the months of July and August many deaths took place among the children, and as most of the ministers were out of the city I had to attend a great many funerals. Sometimes I had to be at four or five in one day. I was so accustomed to it that I got to do it almost mechanically. I could see the mother take her last look at the child, and see the coffin lid closed without being moved by it.
One day when I came home my wife told me that one of the Sunday-school children had been drowned, and the mother wanted to see me. I took my little daughter with me and we went to the house. I found the father in one corner of the room drunk. The mother told me that she took in washing in order to get a living for herself and her children, as her husband drank up all his wages. Little Adelaide used to go to the river and gather the floating wood for the fire. That day she had gone as usual; she saw a piece of wood out a little way from the bank; in stretching out to reach it she slipped, and fell into the water and was drowned. The mother told me her sad story; how she had no money to buy the shroud and the coffin, and she wanted me to help her. I took out my note-book and put down her name and address, and took the measure of the coffin, in order to send it to the undertakers.
The poor mother was much distressed, but it did not seem to move me. I told her I would be at the funeral, and then I left. As my little girl walked by my side she said to me: "Papa, suppose we were very poor, and mamma had to wash for a living, and I had to go to the river to get sticks to make a fire; if I were to fall into the water and get drowned would you feel bad?" "Feel bad! Why, my child, I do not know what I should do. You are my only daughter, and if you were taken from me I think it would break my heart." And I took her to my bosom and kissed her. "Then did you feel bad for that mother?" How that question cut me to the heart.
I went back to the house, and took out my Bible and read to the mother the fourteenth chapter of John. Then I prayed with her and endeavored to comfort her. When the day for the funeral arrived I attended it. I had not been to the cemetery for a good many years; I had thought my time was too precious, as it was some miles away. I found the father was still drunk. I had got a lot in the strangers' field for little Adelaide. As we were laying the coffin in the grave another funeral procession came up, and the corpse was going to be laid near by. Adelaide's mother said, as we were covering up the coffin: "Mr. Moody, it is very hard to lay her away among strangers. I have been moving about a good deal, and have lived among strangers, and I have never had a burying-lot. It is very hard to place my firstborn among strangers." I said to myself that it would be pretty hard to have to bury my child in the strangers' field. I had got into full sympathy with the poor mother by this time.
Next Sabbath I told the children in the Sunday-school what had taken place. I suggested that we should buy a Sunday-school lot, and when any of the children attending the school died, they would not be laid in the strangers' field, but would be put in our own lot. Before we could get the title made out, a mother came and wanted to know if her little girl who had just died could be buried in the lot. I told her I would give permission. I went to the funeral, and as we were lowering the little coffin I asked what was the name. She said it was Emma. That was the name of my own little girl, and I could not help but weep as I thought of how I would feel if it were my own Emma. Do you tell me I could not sympathize with that bereaved mother? Very soon afterward, another mother came and wished to have her dead child buried in our lot. She told me his name was Willie. At that time that was the name of my only boy, and I thought how it would be with me if it were my Willie who was dead. So the first children buried there bore the names of my two children. I tried to put myself in the places of these sorrowing mothers, and then it was easy for me to sympathize with them in their grief, and point them to Him who "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
About the first thing I did when I returned to Chicago nine years ago, was to drive up to and see our children's lot. I thought it would last a good many years, but it was about full, for many of my old Sabbath-school scholars had gone while I had been away, and their bodies were resting in this lot till the great day. I understood, however, that the children of the Sabbath-school were about to purchase another and a larger lot which would suffice for many years under ordinary circumstances. Many little ones are laid there, waiting for the resurrection, and I would like to be buried beside them, it would be so sweet to be in their company when we rise and meet our Lord.
Dear friends, if you would get into full sympathy with others put yourself in their places. May God fill our hearts with the spirit of the good Samaritan, so that we may be filled with tenderness and love and compassion.
I want to give you a motto that has been a great help to me. It was a Quaker's motto:
"I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, if there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being let me do it now; let me not defer nor neglect it, for I will not pass this way again."