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with the temptation to prefer the approbation of men to real usefulness: but we should remember that, however now neglected, the latter will be “ found to praise, and honour, and glory," when the former shall end in shame and everlasting contempt.
5. Lastly, We are taught to beware of forgetting our benefactors, especially such inferiors as have been serviceable to us; who are liable to be neglected in proportion as they need our grateful assistance. Had a rich and prosperous person been thus forgotten, it had been of less consequence; but the case of the poor man was very hard. Perhaps we have some poor benefactor concerning whom we may ask, as Ahasuerus of Mordecai, What hath been done to him for this service and perhaps conscience may answer, Nothing. This hint may have its use.
These lessons we may learn from the plain meaning of this scripture; and, though they do not decide any question about justification, efficacious grace, or the believer's privileges, (which are abundantly declared in other scriptures ;) yet they are of important use in forming the Christian's judgment, and directing his conduct. And I would gladly know by what authority any man, overlooking these plain useful instructions, by the help of a warm imagination, sets himself to find gospel mysteries in this passage? We should not, a priori, have looked for a delineation of doctrinal truth in such a subject ás Solomon is treating of. We can scarcely, by fair interpretation, find one explicit word on the distinguishing doctrines of grace in the whole book; and it would puzzle the most ingenious of these fanciful expositors fairly to accommodate the circumstances of this story to the work of redemption. Two purposes indeed, such as they are, may be answered by such interpretation.
1. Loose professors are encouraged in their vain confidence, by hearing that none of the redeemed are more mindful of their Saviour, or more thankful to him, than themselves : “ No man remem“bered that same poor man.” But this is in diametrical opposition to the whole current of scripture, which declares that “ the love of Christ constrains " them to live to him.” And,
2. Such a mode of interpretation is a powerful engine in the hands of vain-glorious men, by which to catch the attention, and excite the admiration of injudicious multitudes ; who ignorantly admire the sagacity of the man that finds deep mysteries, where their more sober 'pastors perceived nothing but unrelishing practical instruction. Thus they are drawn off from the pure unadulterated “milk of the word,” by which they might "
in grace ; to feed upon that knowledge which puffeth up; instead of love, “ which edifieth :" and of what use this is to St. James's “
pure and undefiled religion," I leave others to determine. What mischiefs have arisen from this source are too evident. Divisions, contentions, mutual contempt and reproach, dreadful scandals, and every thing destructive of vital godliness, and tending to disgrace the very doctrines contended for.
I have heard many sensible and pious persons
lament this sort of explication of scripture, as an evil of the first magnitude : and I am more and more convinced it is so.
At this rate you may prove any doctrine from any text; and you can form no position so absurd or pernicious, but a scriptural proof may plausibly be adduced! Thus the flood-gate is opened for all heresies and enthusiasm ; and every thing is reduced to uncertainty, as if the scripture had no determinate meaning, till one was arbitrarily imposed by the imagination of man; a faculty that is indeed vague and reducible to no rules. Thus different men impose opposite interpretations; and all appears an incoherent confusion of jarring fancies, whilst the bewildered inquirer, despairing of satisfaction, gives over the vain attempt, and sits down perhaps in scepticism and infidelity. The most important doctrines of the gospel seem to lose their beauty and glory, along with their simplicity, in the midst of such useless encumbrance: and the most conclusive arguments lose their effect, and become suspected by the company which they keep: while the sophistical proof is detected, the opposer is emboldened to treat the rest as equally capable of refutation.
Thus, at the same time that the extravagant perversion gains the admiration of our own party, our precious doctrines, and even the blessed Bible itself is exposed to the contempt of discerning persons, who differ from us in religious sentiments. Many with whom I have conversed can join with me in saying that such arguments, and such expositors, have formed our chief prejudice against the very doctrines themselves; and, though, by the grace of God, we have got over this hindrance, yet we remember how it once was with us, and regret the case of thousands who are yet stumbling, and are likely to stumble, at this stumbling stone.
However men may admire the sagacity of these expositors, it certainly shews a very lamentable state of the organs of sight, when a man can see nothing obvious, useful, real, and capable of being pointed out to others for their benefit; but when, blind to these things, he sees every thing through a different medium than others, and in such a manner as can furnish only amusement instead of information. It is very improperly called spiritually explaining the scripture. The spiritual meaning, is the meaning of the Spirit of God; which is generally simple, and obvious to the humble inquirer. Opposite to this is the fanciful meaning, which always appears forced and unnatural to sober minds; diverse and opposite to men of opposite parties and lively imaginations; and only excites admiration by being surprising and unexpected.
We have abundance of plain scriptures from which every doctrine may be proved and elucidated. The types of the Old Testament, and the parables of the New corroborate the proof, and illustrate the explanation. Though even in these sobriety and sound judgment should check the sallies of fancy; that the similitude may rather appear striking in the grand outlines, than strained for the sake of minute resemblance. But, when the grand design of scripture is practical or cautionary ; to slip over the obvious meaning, and impose another, is not interpreting but perverting scripture; not instructing but misleading the people. Could we find the whole gospel in the passage before us, we might ask, Cui bono? They who believed these doctrines before need not this evidence; and others will never be convinced by it.
Thus the parable of the good Samaritan is evidently intended to explain and enforce the great commandment of loving our neighbour as ourselves, by shewing, in a lively example, how every personal and party consideration is to be overlooked; and safety, ease, interest, and indulgence hazarded or-renounced, to rescue a fellow creature, though a stranger or an enemy, in the hour of distress. Christ indeed, having in his life and death perfectly fulfilled this law, and far exceeded all that can possibly be required of any other person, because of his peculiar character, circumstances, and suretyship engagements, hath inexpressibly outdone the good Samaritan. But even this is accommodation; and the practical inference, “ Go and do thou likewise,” demands our peculiar attention. But now, if ingenuity and imagination are employed to bend every circumstance of this parable to the situation of fallen man, and the love of Christ, and this is given as the primary or the only meaning, while the practical instruction is kept back; the reader or hearer may be amused or disgusted, as he favours or dislikes the doctrines of grace; but, whatever edification he may receive, he has not that which our Lord principally intended by the parable.
As I am -unacquainted both with the querist,