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"Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7. I say unto you, That likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8. Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9. And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10. Likewise, I say unto you, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
WE read, in the concluding part of the preceding chapter, that a great multitude went with Christ; and, in the opening of this chapter, we are told that "all the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear him:"-and so it is generally seen, that where the gospel is faithfully preached, thither multitudes of people resort, and among these many of the most ungodly. There are, indeed, exceptions to this rule; for, some intentionally shun opportunities of hearing the truth as it is in Jesus, and some when they hear it, are so offended, as to withdraw beyond its reach. It is also true that some teachers draw crowds by the attraction of novelty, or of extravagance; while some, who are sober and sound, excite but little attention. For the most part, however, where there is a fair and full opportunity of judging, those ministrations are most sought after, which lay the axe most vigorously to the root of the tree, in the unflinching exhibition of the great doctrines and holy precepts of the Gospel. But, how is this to be accounted for, consistently with man's natural depravity, and dislike of what is good? Might it
not be expected, that, the purer the doctrine, the more repulsive it would become to them, and that most of them would be found where there was least of the light to expose, and of the truth to disturb them? The exemplifications of the dislike of the truth already noticed, in connexion with the consideration that the resort of those who know the truth to those who proclaim it is what must be expected, account, to some extent, for what actually happens, but are not sufficient to account for it fully. Let it be remarked, then, in addition, that the undisguised and unadulterated glorious gospel of the grace of God approves itself, in some degree, to the conscience, and is exactly suitable to the wants, of the somewhat impressed, though unpardoned and unrenewed; and also, that, independently on the considera. tion of its truth and of its personal reception, it is, in itself, a system far finer and more touching, and more sublime, and much better calculated to call forth the energies of those who proclaim it, and to interest and agitate the minds of those who hear it, than any of those comparatively dull and vapid human representations, which are, in a great measure, stripped of what is peculiarly evangelical. It is plain, too, that those persons (for so strange and inconsistent a being is man, that there are such) who are at once conscious of wilful and habitual iniquity, and hopeful that they may yet turn to God and be forgiven-it is plain that such persons must feel, that if there be any hope for them at all, it is according to the scheme which shows grace abounding to the chief of sinners. These considerations, taken together, may sufficiently account for the fact of multitudes, not excepting some of the worst of characters, flocking to hear the gospel.
Surely the actual attendance of multitudes on the preaching of the gospel, however great sinners some of them may be, though not enough in itself, is desirable, and in so far well, as it at least brings them within the reach of the means which are adapted, under God, to convert and save them. Yet, this promiscuous resort of multitudes to the preaching of the truth, and this proclamation of mercy to the chief of sinners, have always been offensive to pharasaical and self-righteous formalists. Thus it was on the occasion here described. The publicans, or tax-gatherers, being set over the Jews by the Roman governors, were, of course, very obnoxious on that account; and they appear to have been generally oppressive in their exactions. These
persons, however, as well as others who were known to be irreligious and immoral, now drew near to. Christ, to hear him: and it is to be gathered from what follows, that he now, not only willingly taught them, but condescended to sit down with some of them to meat.
"And the Pharisees and scribes," of whom we have had frequent occasion to speak, "murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, or gives them access into his presence, "and eateth with them." The force of this objection lay in the assumption that his acting in that manner arose from insensibility to the evil of sin, and tended to encourage transgressors in their evil ways; whereas, the very reverse of this was the truth, his conduct being directed by compassion for their perishing souls, and a desire for their conversion. We found scribes and Pharisees making the same objection, when Jesus and his disciples were at the feast in the house of Levi, or Matthew, the publican.* "Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?" To this he made the most satisfactory reply, "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Objectors of the same classes were here angry that sinners of every description were welcomed by Christ, and they spoke of this as a reflection on his character. This was a prejudiced and an erroneous application of the principle that men are known by the company they keep-a principle which can only apply when they voluntarily and habitually associate with persons with whom they are pleased in their present state. It is no proof, surely, that a teacher is himself ignorant, that he teaches the ignorant, or, that a physician is himself sick, that he visits and prescribes for the sick: as little ground was there for objecting to our Lord in this case. Nay, what his enemies wished to turn against him, was one of the finest and most engaging traits of his character. Besides, granting that many of those whom Jesus received for this benevolent purpose were as bad as could easily be supposed, what were those objectors themselves? were these Pharisees and scribes so very good people as to be entitled thus to interfere? Let the character drawn of them, on various occasions, by the faithful and true Witness, and habitually exemplified by them, answer the question:-that character was a compound of selfishness, pride, and hypocrisy; and so in general, when narrowly examined, will be * Luke v. 30. See Lecture on.
found to be the character of those who murmur at the gospel invitation being addressed freely to sinners of every degree. They trust, vainly trust, in themselves, that they are righteous, and therefore it is that they despise others, and would restrain the grace of God.
This objection being made, our Lord proceeds to answer it very fully in the three parables contained in this interesting chapter, which were admirably calculated to rebuke the uncharitable and censorious Pharisees, and to encourage the poor and self-convicted sinners who heard him at the time, and which are equally calculated to serve the same important purposes at the present moment. The first parable is that of the lost sheep.
The literal sense of this parable, is, like that of many others, too plain to require any illustration, being a very natural description of the way in which a shepherd, or an owner of a flock, would feel and act in the circumstances supposed. The full complement of the "hundred sheep," is here put spiritually, for all the elect of God. If we embrace the whole that Scripture teaches on this subject, we must believe that all these are in a certain sense Christ's sheep, even before they are brought into his fold—that is, before they are actually converted and saved: for, being chosen of the Father from eternity, they are given by him to the Son, to be redeemed by his blood, as well as to be actually called by his grace. Though of infinite value, and, of course, of sufficient value for the whole human race, his atonement was yet in a peculiar sense—that is, expressly, intentionally, and efficaciously-for his sheep, of whatever nation or character they may be; that is, for those who, being divinely chosen, are given to him, as already said, to be saved from wrath, and brought home to God, and who, as the result shows, do therefore believe and obey the gospel. Hence it is that we are taught, in Scripture language, both that Christ "died for all," and also that " he gave his life for the sheep" -for those who, in the same chapter* are described, partly, as not yet of his fold, and partly, as hearing his voice and following him, but all as given to him by his Father, and certainly to obtain eternal life. "I lay down my life for the sheep," says he. "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." If it be inquired why, seeing the atonement is of sufficient * John x. 11, &c.
value for all, all are not saved; Christ himself replies, "Ye will not come to me that ye may have life." Many voluntarily, sinfully, and obstinately, refuse to come to him, and therefore, the blame of their ruin rests solely with themselves. If it be inquired, again, why those who are saved are saved, and who makes them to differ, he replies, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain;" and Paul also replies, to the same purpose, God "hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began;" and, therefore, the whole glory of their salvation is due to God.
But to proceed: By the lost sheep, our Lord here seems to point to every elect sinner before his conversion, though the metaphor will also apply to the believer as subject to occasional wanderings. This comparison is used in other places of Scripture. Thus, in the last verse of the 119th Psalm-"I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant:" in the 53d chapter of Isaiah-“ All we, like sheep, have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way:" and, in the last verse of the 2d chapter of the First Epistle of Peter-"For ye were as sheep going astray: but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop," or overseer, "of your souls." There is, also, another parable very similar to this, which may be considered as illustrative of it. It is in the 18th chapter of Matthew, from the 10th verse, and is as follows: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones: for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, He rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
Now, is not a lost sheep an apt emblem of the sinner in his natural state? Sinners, going on in sin, are lost to God, who derives not from them the revenue of glory which is his due. They are lost to the Church, which is not bene