Great Texts of the Bible
Cur Deus Homo
For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.—Luke 19:10.
1. We find in our text Christ’s estimate of the condition of humanity. It is something that is lost. No doubt our spiritual condition may be put in various ways. We are guilty creatures: we are depraved creatures: we are condemned creatures: in all these fashions, and more, it may be possible truly and justly to describe our spiritual state, and express those things about us which make us so greatly in need of a part in Christ’s great salvation. But probably there is no single word which could be employed that would give so complete and comprehensive a description of man as he is by nature, as to say that he is lost. All error from the right way, all distance from our Heavenly Father’s house, all destitution, and danger, and impossibility of return, and imminence of final ruin, are conveyed in that one word, lost! Trace that word’s meaning out into its various shades and ramifications, and you will find that it implies, as no other can, all that we are, all that makes our need of the Saviour—His sacrifice, His Spirit, His intercession.
2. We are lost, as the wayfarer is lost, because we have gone away from our Father’s house, and we are wandering in the wilderness—in a wilderness where there is no supply for our soul’s greatest needs, where we are surrounded by perils, and whence we can of ourselves find no way to return. We are lost, as the great ship is lost, for we have made shipwreck of our best interests, and we drive, without a helm, over the trackless sea of life; and, away from Jesus, we know no haven for which to steer. We are lost like the guilty child that by reckless sin has broken his father’s heart; for, evil by nature, and worse by daily temptation and transgression, we are, left to ourselves, lost to holiness, to happiness, to heaven, to God. We have lost our birthright, lost our Father, lost our home, lost our way, lost our hope, our time, our souls. And what loss there is in our unimproved and unsanctified powers and faculties! How these souls are lost, in the sense that so little is made of what was meant for so much; lost as the untilled field is lost; as the flower which no man sees is lost; as the house built and then left empty is lost; as the ship which rots in harbour is lost. Are not these souls made for God’s glory: ought not every power about them to conduce to that? What glory ought we to have rendered to God; what good to man: what knowledge and happiness to ourselves? And, if a soul’s whole powers and energies are given to the mere supply of wants that end upon a present life and world,—to the mere earning of the daily bread,—is not that soul a noble thing lost, a noble machinery whose power is wasted and flung away? In all these senses and more, the Saviour’s description of us is a sound and just one.
3. But now, as we cannot be worse than lost, so our being lost, so far from shutting us out from the Saviour, forms a kind of strange door of entrance into the whole riches of His salvation,—a kind of strange qualification for the Lord, who declares here that they whom He came into the world to seek and to save were only the “lost.”
My old friend, Dr. Duncan, used to say, “For myself, I cannot always come to Christ direct, but I can always come by sin. Sin is the handle by which I get to Christ. I take a verse in which God has put Christ and sin together. I cannot always put my finger upon Christ, and say, ‘Christ belongs to me.’ But I can put my finger upon sin, and say, ‘Sin belongs to me.’ I take that word, for instance, ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.’ Yes, lost—I’m lost. I put my finger upon that word, and say, ‘I’m the lost one; I’m lost’; and I cry out, ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ ”1 [Note: C. J. Brown, The Word of Life, 236.]
Christ Came to Seek and to Save the Lost
1. Christ came to seek and to save the lost. This was the greatest mission ever recorded, and this the greatest missionary that ever came to the world. Men have gone forth on different missions. Alexander went forth to conquer the world; Cæsar went forth to subdue his enemies; Plato and Socrates went forth in search of knowledge; Columbus went forth to discover the new world; Stanley went forth to explore Africa. Warriors have gone forth to rout armies, and their march has been tracked with blood, misery, and death. Travellers have gone forth to explore distant regions, to see the wonders of nature and view the monuments of art. Philanthropists have gone forth on errands of mercy, but our blessed Saviour went forth from heaven and came into the world to submit to shame, to endure scourgings and to suffer death, for a race of guilty men, that He might be able to save them from their lost condition.
While he stayed in Shansi his thoughts dwelt much on the condition of the very poor, and on some permanent work in their behalf. “The matter which weighs on me most heavily,” he writes, “is the question of what to do for the lost of Chinese society. These people are the very class Jesus would seek out to save, though I am not sure that the publicans and sinners were quite so low in the social scale as the ‘lost’ I speak of. The people I refer to are simply the scum of Chinese society, chiefly opium-smokers and gamblers.… I have sometimes thought I might or ought to give my whole time to do something for these lost.”1 [Note: J. E. Hellier, Life of David Hill, 140.]
2. Christ is a divine-human Saviour. He is one that partakes both of the nature of God and of the nature of man. He comes into the world as the Mediator between God and man, and how fitly qualified He is for this part of His work in redemption. The knowledge which He possesses of the two parties to be reconciled is not merely abstract and theoretical; it is personal and experimental, for He is God. He knows God by experience, for He is God; He knows man by experience, for He is man. As God, He knows what is required and what is to be done to save the lost; as man, He knows how to apply this salvation to the hearts of men. As God, He requires an infinite sacrifice to justify the ungodly; as the God-man, He becomes the Substitute of the sinner and offers up Himself as this perfect sacrifice. Christ, as a Divine Person, possesses all the attributes and perfections of the Godhead. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead.” He is limitless in the extent of His power and wisdom, and in the sweep of His duration. He is without beginning of years or end of days. He is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in all the Divine attributes. But Christ was human as well as Divine. He was a man. In the text He calls Himself the Son of Man. This seems to have been His favourite appellation of Himself. He was Divine, the Son of God, equal with the Father; and at the same time, He was human; and He wanted to impress this truth upon the hearts and lives of the people. So He called Himself the Son of Man.
Malan read some portions of the First Epistle of John—and proceeded to pray. There was something in his foreign accent and silvery voice most winning, as he rose from a few calm little sentences into glowing utterance. In spite of occasional difficulty in finding the precise words he wanted, it was like clear water sparkling in the sun. One expression—which came out in the midst of a strain of holy yet reverential familiarity of talk with Heaven, as if the thin veil could be seen through—I can never forget: “Lord Jesus, everlasting Son of the Father, come near to us as the Son of Man, and lay Thy warm fleshy hand upon us, that we may feel it.”1 [Note: David Brown, Memoir of John Duncan, 143.]
3. He comes to seek the lost.
(1) Christ goes in quest of men.—He had His eye on Zacchæus when he climbed into the sycomore tree. He knew where the objects of His pity were to be found, and directed His course and shaped His plans that He might meet with them. He did not sit in solemn pomp, did not dwell in quiet glory, awaiting the approach of the miserable and guilty. His love was not of the easy nature that merely listens to the cry of woe and want, that stretches out the hand when power is supplicated—but of the nobler kind that goes after the lost and ruined. He was the missionary of salvation, not only its magnificent dispenser.
A story is told of Garibaldi that in one of his arduous campaigns, one evening when he and his troops were preparing to encamp for the night, they came upon a shepherd who told Garibaldi that he had lost a lamb and was going out to search for it. The general gave permission to his followers to go out and search for the lost lamb, but, as darkness fell, they turned in tired for the night’s rest. Not so, however, with the leader himself, for in the early morning, Garibaldi emerged from the mist carrying the lost lamb.
“O Shepherd with the bleeding Feet,
Good Shepherd with the pleading Voice,
What seekest Thou from hill to hill?
Sweet were the valley pastures, sweet
The sound of flocks that bleat their joys,
And eat and drink at will.
Is one worth seeking, when Thou hast of Thine
Ninety and nine?”
“How should I stay My bleeding Feet,
How should I hush My pleading Voice?
I who chose death and clomb a hill,
Accounting gall and wormwood sweet,
That hundredfold might bud My joys
For love’s sake and good will.
I seek My one, for all there bide of Mine
Ninety and nine.”1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti.]
A beautiful scene is that which shows us the Bishop seeking for one of his flock, a little girl who had wandered into the wilderness. Jeannie de Nord was a child of ten years, with a complexion scarcely darker than an ordinary English gipsy. Her father, old de Nord, had left her with an aunt while he went away some distance to hunt. The aunt was neglectful of her little charge, and Jeannie unable to bear this started in search of her father. So little did the aunt care that two days elapsed before the word spread that Jeannie was lost.
No sooner did the Bishop hear of it than, like the true shepherd he was, he started with others in search of the little wanderer. They pushed on over the snow, following the girl’s tracks, for she had taken her snow-shoes with her. She had no food or blanket, and the nights were cold, and starving wolves roamed the forests. And where was Jeannie? She had reached her father’s abandoned camp one night, cold and tired. Groping about, she found his gun, which had been left there, and with the cunning of the wild she discharged the weapon, and from the spark thus obtained started a fire, which kept her warm through the night. All the next day she wandered in vain, searching for her father, and, tired and hungry, crept back to the abandoned camp and fell asleep. When she next opened her eyes, it was to see standing before her the tall figure of the anxious Bishop, and to feel his strong loving arms around her as he lifted her from the ground.
The shepherd had found the lost lamb, but oh, at what a cost! The Bishop’s clothes were soaking from the overflowing streams they had crossed as they wandered about, and he could hardly reach Fort Simpson, so great were the cramps which seized him, and for days he endured great suffering. But what did it matter? Little Jeannie de Nord was safe, and none the worse for her experience.1 [Note: An Apostle of the North: Memoirs of Bishop Bompas, 175.]
(2) That quest is continuous.—The quest is not exhausted by one act, or satisfied with one response. It is not merely that God seeks us in the hour of our proud and vain revolt, when our wilful heart bids Him a proud defiance. He does seek us then, and, by the thousand ingenuities of a love that is deeper than we can ever know, strives to woo us to reciprocal love and cleansing affection. But He goes infinitely farther than that. He is ever seeking us in the deeper reaches of our life, in its innermost and most sacred shrines, that He may find us in our largest capacities and win us absolutely to Himself. Every day of our life, when by some disloyalty of our heart we stray the least bit from Him; when by some unholy thought our mind is stained and made unworthy to be His temple, when by some act of selfishness the old bad life has a momentary supremacy, He quickly follows in pursuit of us to call and bring us home. He lights His light in our conscience and smites us with shame; He reveals His love and melts us into cleansing tears; He reveals His face and compels us by the sweet compulsion of a great attraction.
That was the Shepherd of the flock; He knew
The distant voice of one poor sheep astray;
It had forsaken Him, but He was true,
And listen’d for its bleating night and day.
Lost in a pitfall, yet alive it lay,
To breathe the faint sad call that He would know;
But now the slighted fold was far away,
And no approaching footstep soothed its woe.
Oh! would He now but come and claim His own,
How more than precious His restoring care!
How sweet the pasture of His choice alone,
How bright the dullest path if He were there!
How well the pain of rescue it could bear,
Held in the shelter of His strong embrace!
With Him it would find herbage anywhere,
And springs of endless life in every place.
And so He came and raised it from the clay,
While evil beasts went disappointed by.
He bore it home along the fearful way
In the soft light of His rejoicing eye.
And thou fallen soul, afraid to live or die
In the deep pit that will not set thee free,
Lift up to Him the helpless homeward cry,
For all that tender love is seeking thee.1 [Note: F. W. Faber.]
Many a time it is in strange places that Christ comes upon His own. One tells of her finding in an artless story. Her heart had been touched but not melted, till one day in the garden she saw an apple tree in blossom, and as she stood under it she was flooded with the thought of the love of God. So it became true of her:—
Beneath the apple tree
There I espoused thee,
There I gave thee my hand,
And there thou wast redeemed,
Where thy mother was betrayed.
Another heart, also stirred by desire, resolved at last that she would read her Bible straight through till she found her Saviour. At last she came upon the words, “I am the way,” and there her wanderings ended. She had been found. A saint tells how the Shepherd found her in an Andalusian convent, where the fountain was the only moving sounding thing in the dead noon-day silence, when there was not a breath to stir the lemon tree or pomegranate bush. Of another, it is told that he was found out by his Master while committing robbery. Another was found by Jesus Christ when he was breaking the heart of his old mother by mockeries of religion. A preacher, well known in his day, was found when listening to an old melodrama that ended with a sailor’s drinking a glass of gin before he was hung, and saying for his last words, “Here’s to the prosperity of the British nation and the salvation of my immortal soul.” Down went the curtain, and down went the man, for he ran home with all his might. He had been struck to the quick by the words, “the salvation of my immortal soul,” and in his chamber Christ found him.1 [Note: W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, 33.]
After the lecture in the dissecting-room in the Glasgow University one day a student, usually all vivacity and chatter, was observed by his friend to be very silent. Asked why, he said, “A curious thing happened in the laboratory to-day. Pointing to the body on which we were working, the professor suddenly said, ‘Gentlemen, that was once tenanted by an immortal soul.’ ” The young man had never had a thought like this about the bodies he was dissecting before. So Christ startled the world. He came into its dissecting-rooms and operating theatres, its laboratories of industry, its barracks and camps, where men were holding life cheap and exploiting thousands, for the sake of gain or fame for the few, and He said, “Gentlemen, every man and woman, ay, and little child on earth, is an immortal soul and of infinite value to God the heavenly Father.” … That was Christ’s discovery of the individual to the surprise and astonishment of the world.2 [Note: R. J. Drummond, Faith’s Certainties, 328.]
4. He comes to save the lost. It is interesting to discover that the word “salvation” as first used by Jesus did not have a distinctly religious meaning. He used it of those whom He healed of bodily sickness. “Daughter,” said the Master to the invalid woman who pressed through the throng to touch the hem of His garment, “be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” And it is written in St. Mark’s Gospel, “They laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.” “Made whole” in these verses translates the same Greek word as is sometimes translated “saved.” Saved folks were folks who were made whole, filled full of health, fulfilling their purpose. Up to this day, Zacchæus had been like a sick man, just a fragment of a man, a man who was able to use only a part of himself; just as a sick man is a man who cannot use his eyes, or his limbs, or his head, or whatever part of him is afflicted. When the sick man is made whole he lives through all his being; he no longer uses only a portion of his body; every organ fulfils its functions perfectly. Zacchæus’s conscience was diseased. When Jesus touched him that day, his conscience began to work, and, with the conscience in perfect health, and the love in him claiming those who had need of him, the publican began to live through and through all his manhood. Henceforth no part was diseased, no organ was atrophied; he was a whole man. This then is Jesus’ idea of salvation. It is not a matter of the future, it concerns the present; it is not rescue from a future hell, but rescue from a present self; it is not rescue for a future heaven, it is rescue for a present service. Salvation is living as a son through all one’s being; salvation is living as a soul for other souls.
A priest had occasion once to interview a great doctor about the terrible case of a woman of high social position who had become the slave of drink. The doctor was a man of great force and ability, and of unwearying devotion; but he was what would be called a sceptic and a materialist. The priest asked if the case was hopeless; the great doctor shrugged his shoulders. “Yes,” he said, “pathologically speaking, it is hopeless; there may be periods of recovery, but the course that the case will normally run will be a series of relapses, each more serious and of longer duration than the last.” “Is there no chance of recovery on any line that you could suggest?” said the priest. The two looked at each other, both good men and true. “Well,” said the doctor after a pause, “this is more in your line than mine; the only possible chance lies in the will, and that can only be touched through an emotion. I have seen a religious emotion successful, where everything else failed.” The priest smiled and said, “I suppose that would seem to you a species of delusion? You would not admit that there was any reality behind it?” “Yes,” said the doctor, “a certain reality, no doubt; the emotional processes are at present somewhat obscure from the scientific point of view; it is a forlorn hope.” “Yes,” said the priest, “and it is thus the kind of task for which I and those of my calling feel bound to volunteer.”1 [Note: A. C. Benson, From a College Window, 218.]
(1) He saves by pardon.—It is done, first of all, by the complete pardon of all the sinner’s sins. The very instant that a man trusts Christ with all his heart, the past is blotted out as if it had never existed: all the sins he has ever done in thought, in word, in deed, however crimson in dye, go at once; they are sunk as in the sea, never to be found again. And this is done upon this one solitary condition, that the man believes in Jesus; and even that is not a condition, for He that bade him believe enables him to believe, and gives him the faith which saves his soul.
Men are not, according to the gospel system, pardoned on account of their belief of the pardon, but they are sanctified by a belief of that pardon, and unless the belief of it produces this effect, neither the pardon nor the belief are of any use. The pardon of the Gospel is a spiritual medicine: faith is nothing more than the taking of that medicine; and if the spiritual health or sanctification is not produced, neither the spiritual medicine nor the taking of the medicine are of any avail; they have failed of their object.1 [Note: Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, i. 376.]
(2) He saves by bestowal of a new nature.—From the moment that a man believes in Jesus his nature becomes different from what it was before; he receives a new heart—another influence takes possession of him; another love engrosses him. When a man is absorbed by some master-passion, what a different man he becomes! The passion for wealth will work marvels; we have known idle persons become very diligent, and profuse voluptuaries become even self-denying and mortifying to their flesh, in their ambition to acquire riches. Now, God gives us another passion, the passion of love to God in Christ, and that becomes a master-principle and rules the entire man. He who loved self now loves God and lives for Him.
One part of the good news which Christ told us about God was that God would free us from evil, awake in us a new life, and open before us boundless possibilities of growth; and He showed us in His own life that men could be freed from evil. He lived before us the new life; and He made manifest the spiritual perfection of man. “This, then,” said those who followed Him, and notably St. Paul, “this which God did in His Son Jesus, He will do in all His other sons.” Into this perfect life which was made manifest in Christ, we are all to grow—growing up into Him in all things who is the Head, even Christ.2 [Note: Stopford A. Brooke, Sunshine and Shadow, 105.]
Cur Deus Homo
Alexander (W.), Leading Ideals of the Gospels, 83.
Austin (G. B.), The Beauty of Goodness, 138.
Benson (R. M.), The Final Passover, i. 79.
Boyd (A. K. H.), Counsel and Comfort Spoken from a City Pulpit, 180.
Brandt (J. L.), Soul Saving, 139.
Burrell (D. J.), Christ and Men, 138.
Calthrop (G.), The Lost Sheep Found, 3
Chafer (L. S.), True Evangelism, 13.
Coyle (R. F.), The Church and the Times, 33.
Davidson (R. T.), The Christian Opportunity, 115.
Ellison (H. J.), Sermons and Addresses on Church Temperance Subjects, 36.
Hall (J. V.), The Sinner’s Friend, 21.
Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., v. 106.
Little (W. J. K.), The Hopes and Decisions of the Passion, 1.
M‘Clelland (T. C.), The Mind of Christ, 85, 99.
Macleod (A.), Talking to the Children, 119.
Moody (A.), “Buy the Truth!” 117.
Morgan (G. C.), Christian Principles, 69.
Morris (A. J.), The Open Secret, 142.
Morrison (G. H.), The Footsteps of the Flock, 197.
Neville (W. G.), Sermons, 264.
Nicoll (W. R.), Sunday Evening, 29.
Parker (J.), The City Temple, i. 74.
Pulsford (J.), Loyalty to Christ, ii. 321.
Robertson (A. T.), The Teaching of Jesus, 100.
Thompson (J. R.), Burden Bearing, 121.
Thorne (H.), Notable Sayings of the Great Teacher, 54.
Whitefield (G.), Sermons, 401.
Christian World Pulpit, xxxiii. 36 (E. Johnson); xxxvi. 33 (G. MacDonald); lii. 120 (R. Thomas); lviii. 322 (S. Chisholm); lxvi. 124 (W. J. K. Little); lxviii. 385 (R. Gregory).
Churchman’s Pulpit: Christmas Day, ii. 258 (R. Gregory); Sermons to the Young, xvi. 519 (J. S. Maver).
Conversations with Christ, 203.
Homiletic Review, xlviii. 371 (R. T. Davidson).
Preacher’s Magazine, vi. 125 (A. E. Gregory); xi. 496 (M. G. Pearse).