Spiritual Meaning of
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THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatsoever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you. Which now of these three, think you, was neighbour to him that fell among the thieves?
Jesus Christ, in this parable, describes the offices and exercises of charity in a two-fold sense; first, as they regard the body; and, secondly, as they regard the mind. The first of these offices and exercises is described in the letter, or history, of this parable, and the second in the spirit, or spiritual sense, contained in that letter, or history. Thus he speaks at once for the use of men and of angels; of men, by recommending works of charity done to the body, and of angels and angelic men, by recommending at the same time works of charity done to the immortal soul, or spirit. According to this latter kind, or description, of charity, by a certain man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, are to be understood all those of the church, represented by Jerusalem, who are desirous of acquiring the knowledges of the eternal truth, for the purpose of acquiring purity of life, and thus an acquaintance with the Eternal Truth itself; for Jericho was a city representative of those knowledges, being on the other side of Jordan from the land of Canaan, and thus figurative of what is introductory to the land of Canaan, or to Heaven, which was represented by that land, consequently, figurative of all the heavenly knowledges of truth and good, because these are the only introductory principles to the true Canaan.
According to the spiritual interpretation of this parable, by thieves are to be understood spiritual thieves, or such as endeavour to deprive man of his spiritual property, that is to say, of the heavenly truths which he has admitted into his understanding, and of the heavenly good which he has received into his will. By falling among these thieves, therefore, is to be understood, that they who are in the pursuit of heavenly knowledges are exposed to the danger of being deprived of those knowledges by those of the perverse church, who are in those knowledges, but not in a life according to them. They are, therefore, said to be stripped of their clothing, because clothing has relation to the truths which a man has imbibed in his understanding. And they are said also to be wounded, because spiritual wounding has relation to the evils and false principles of life with which man is infested when he is deprived of the knowledges of the Eternal Truth. And, lastly, they are said to be left half dead, because to be half dead denotes the almost total extinction of spiritual life, in consequence of such evil and false persuasions.
It is said, that by chance there came down a certain Priest that way, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on, and passed by on the other side. By the Priest and the Levite, here spoken of, are to be understood those of the perverted Church who ought to have been principled in heavenly love and charity, but were not so. By the Priest are represented those who ought to have been principled in heavenly love, that is to say, in love to the Lord, because this is the principal love which prevails in heaven, and was represented under the old law by the office of Priests. But by the Levite were represented those who ought to have been principled in the life of charity, because the tribe of Levi was representative of that principle, having its name from Levi, which signifies adhesion, and is thus figurative of the life of charity. By their passing by, therefore, on the other side, is to be understood that they had neither heavenly love nor charity, and, thus, that they were in no disposition either to heal the spiritual wounds, or cover the spiritual nakedness of him who fell among thieves.
But it is written, that a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day when he departed, he took out two pence and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatsoever you spend more, when I come again I will repay you.
The Samaritans were regarded by the Jews as Gentiles, and, therefore, they represented all those who arc in simple natural good, but as yet uninstructed in the doctrines of faith, or truth, that is to say, in the doctrines of the Church, and yet have a desire to be instructed. It is, therefore, said, as he journeyed, because journeying, according to the spiritual idea, denotes instruction in truth, which is to conduct to the good of heavenly life. Every man, therefore, is considered as a pilgrim, or journeyer, here on earth, so long as he is under the leading of truth, but as soon as ever he attains, by that leading, to a state of heavenly good, which is the good of love and charity, he is then said to be at rest, or to be arrived at the end of his journey.
By the expression, he came where he was, is denoted, that he came into the same state with the man who had fallen among thieves; in other words, that he made the man's case his own, regarding him as a brother, and, therefore, it is added, that when he saw him, he had compassion on him; by which is signified, that he regarded the man with brotherly love and tenderness, and this in consequence of placing himself in the man's situation, and thinking that he ought to do to others as he would have others do to him.
All the expressions which immediately follow represent the acts and offices of charity, especially as applied in the instruction of the ignorant, and in rescuing them from the mischiefs of ignorance and of evil. The words, therefore, he went to him, denote willing descent and application to spiritual distress, with a view to its relief: by binding up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, is represented instruction in heavenly good and heavenly truth, and the consequent removal of evil and of error; for by wounds, as was shown above, are to be understood the effects of evil and error in injuring the spiritual constitution of man; and by oil and wine are signified and represented heavenly good and heavenly truth, both of which are necessary for the cure of spiritual wounds: by setting him on his own beast is signified, that he exalted the man to a state of intellectual thought, such thought being considered as a beast of burden, for the purposes of bearing, supporting, and carrying the higher or interior principles of spiritual life, which are those of heavenly love and charity. It is accordingly written in the Prophet, I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth (Isaiah 58:14); where riding on the high places of the earth manifestly denotes a state of elevated understanding, which, by virtue of its connection with the Supreme Good, is enabled to raise itself above all the things of this world, however high and eminent they may appear. By bringing him to an inn, and taking care of him, is further denoted an additional exercise of charity, in providing for the man's spiritual accommodation, comfort, and refreshment. For by an inn is manifestly signified, according to its spiritual idea, a state of such spiritual accommodation, comfort, and refreshment, corresponding with that which is administered to the body in its journeying, by the convenience of a natural inn.
By the next day is to be understood a new state, when the man was to be left apparently to himself, to profit by the instructions, and the comforts which he had already received, and, therefore, it is said, that in this case the Samaritan departed from him. For such is the state with man, during the progress of his regeneration, that he first receives instruction, support, and comfort from another, to the intent that he may make them his own, by forming his life accordingly. On this occasion, therefore, he is apparently left to himself, to make the most of the blessings he has received, since without such appearance those blessings could not be appropriated to him. Nevertheless, that he is not really left to himself, but only apparently, is evident from what is further said in the parable, that the Samaritan, when he departed, took out twopence, gave them to the host, and said to him, take care of him, and whatsoever you spend more, when I come again I will repay you, for by taking out twopence, and giving to the host, and saying to him, take care of him, is denoted a continuation of the offices of charity, but in a new state; by taking out two pence is denoted the communication of truth, for all money, whether talents, pounds, or pence, is figurative of the eternal truth, since, as money is serviceable in procuring the necessaries of natural life, truth and its knowledges are serviceable in procuring the necessaries of spiritual life: and by giving to the host, and saying take care of him, is denoted the communication of good, for host, in this case, is not to be understood as a person, and thus as a distinct being from the Samaritan, but as principle, and as a principle also similar to that represented by the Samaritan, but in a new state, or the state in which the man was apparently left to himself. Lastly, by saying, whatsoever you spend more, when I come again I will repay you, is to be understood, that all truth applied to the purposes of a good life, by the rejection of evil, is finally converted into good, which is here signified by the repayment. For such is the case, so long as man is under the leading of truth, that, during that leading, good seems to be absent; but when this leading is accomplished by the removal of man's natural evils, through combat against them, then presently heavenly good is made manifest, and is the glad repayment, or recompense, for the truth, which has now completed its office by conducting man to the proper end of all truth, which is conjunction with the Almighty in the eternal good of love, of charity, and their operation.
From the letter, or history, of this parable, we are instructed in the duty of regarding every man as a brother, and, accordingly, of relieving all his bodily wants to the utmost of our power, uninfluenced by any partial consideration of situation and of circumstance, respecting either his religion or the country to which he belongs. And, from the spiritual sense of this parable, we are further taught the important duty of spiritual charity, which consists in relieving the spiritual wants and necessities of others, by instructing them in the truth, and especially by conducting them to an eternal good. We are taught, further, from the example of the Priest and Levite, to take heed to ourselves, lest at any time we pervert the principles of religion in which we have been educated, by not cherishing those principles of heavenly love and charity which are the great ends of all religion, and without which no forms, ceremonies, or professions of religion whatever can possibly confer any benefit or blessing on man. Lastly, we are instructed by this parable, that true charity is incessant in its operation, and employs all possible instruments to accomplish its own purposes, regarding only the eternal end which it ever has in view, and which is simply this, to endeavour on all occasions, and under all circumstances, to make men wise, good, and happy.