Luke 15:1
The great Teacher himself said that the things which are highly esteemed among men may be abomination in the sight of God; and we may safely assume that the converse of this proposition is true also. Certainly, in this bitter charge brought against our Lord we now perceive the very highest tribute which could be paid him.

I. A BITTER CHARGE AGAINST THE SAVIOUR. It is not easy for us to realize the intensity of the feeling here expressed. The Jews, arguing from the general truth that holiness shrinks from contact with guilt, supposed that the holier any man was, the more scrupulously would he avoid the sinner; and they concluded that the very last thing the holiest man of all would do was to have such fellowship with sinners as to "eat with them." Their patriotic hatred of the publican, and their moral repugnance toward "the sinner," filled them with astonishment as they saw him, who claimed to be the Messiah himself, taking up a positively friendly attitude toward both of these intolerable characters. Their error was, as error usually is, a perversion of the truth. They did not understand that the same Being who has the utmost aversion to sin can have and does have the tenderest yearning of heart toward the sinner; that he who utterly repels the one is mercifully pitying and patiently seeking and magnanimously winning the other. So the men of acknowledged piety and purity in the time of our Lord failed completely to understand him, and they brought against him the charge which might well prove fatal to his claims - that he was having a guilty fellowship with the outcast among men and the abandoned among women.

II. THE HIGHEST TRIBUTE TO THE SAVIOUR. In that attitude and action of his which seemed to his contemporaries to be so unworthy of him we find the very thing which constitutes his glory and his crown. Of course, association with sinners, on the basis of spiritual sympathy with them, is simply shameful; and to break up their association with the intemperate, the licentious, the dishonest, the scornful, is the first duty of those who have been their companions and have shared their wrong-doings, but whose eyes have been opened to see the wickedness of their course. It is for such to say, "Depart from me, ye evil-doers; for I will keel) the commandments of my God." But that is far from exhausting the whole truth of the subject. For Christ has taught us, by his life as well as and as much as by his Word, that to mingle with the sinful in order to succour and save them is the supreme act of goodness. When a man's character has been so well established that he can afford to do so without serious risk either to himself or to his reputation, and when, thus fortified, well armed with purity, he goes amongst the criminal and the vicious and the profane, that he may lilt them up from the miry places in which they are wandering, and place their feet on the rock of righteousness, then does he the very noblest, the divinest thing he can do. It was this very thing which Jesus Christ came to do: "He came to seek and to save that which was lost." It was this principle which he was continually illustrating; and nothing could more truly indicate the moral grandeur of his spirit or the beautiful beneficence of his life than the words by which it was sought to dishonour him: "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." It is this which will constitute the best tribute that can be paid to any of his disciples now. "There is nothing of which any true minister of Jesus Christ, whether professional or not, ought to be so glad and so proud, as to be such that the enemies of the Lord shall say tauntingly, while his friends will say thankfully, 'This man receiveth sinners.'"

III. THE GREATEST POSSIBLE ENCOURAGEMENT TO OURSELVES. There are men who know they are sinners, but care not; there are those who do not know that they are guilty in the sight of God; and there are others who do know and who do care. It is to these last that the Saviour of mankind is especially addressing himself. To them all he is offering Divine mercy; restoration to the favour, the service, and the likeness of God; everlasting life. On their ear there may fall these words, intended for a grave accusation, but constituting to the enlightened soul the most welcome tidings - "This Man receiveth sinners.' - C.







This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
The masses were drawn to Christ's teachings.

I. THE REASONS FOR THIS ADMIRATION.

1. All lack of affectation — no parade of greatness, no false assumption of humility. His manner was what beauty is to the landscape, what the sublime, majestic repose of the ocean is to the ocean's greatness. His manner ever reflected the moral grandeur of His being.

2. The originality of His methods.

3. The grandeur and claims of His doctrines.

4. The authority with which He spoke.

5. The adaptation of style and matter to the people.

6. His profound earnestness.

7. His scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy of the ruling sects.

II. THE EFFORTS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES TO UNDO THIS INFLUENCE. Not because they loved men, but because of caste, of pride, and cold-hearted selfishness.

III. CHRIST'S MANNER OF MEETING THIS OPPOSITION. He takes every opportunity to overcome their prejudice, and enlighten their minds, seeking to impress upon them the superior glories of the new disport. sation.

(W. E. McKay.)

I. THE DESCRIPTION OF SINNERS CHRIST WILL RECEIVE.

1. Sinners of all ages.

2. Sinners of all stations.

3. Sinners of all degrees.

II. INTO WHAT JESUS RECEIVES SINNERS.

1. Into His forgiving grace and favour.

2. Into His family.

3. Into His heaven.

III. THE WAY AND MANNER IN WHICH CHRIST RECEIVES SINNERS.

1. In the way of acknowledgment and confession.

2. In the way of repentance, or turning from sin.

3. In the way of humility and faith.Now as to the manner:

1. Most freely.

2. Most tenderly.

3. Most readily.Application:

1. The subject is one to which every believer's heart responds.

2. The subject is full of encouragement to the inquiring sinner.

3. The subject is limited to the present life. Here only He receives.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

These words were originally spoken as a reproach against our Lord. When we repeat them it is with widely different feelings. They are to us a message of joy — nay, the only true grounds of joy and hope to man.

I. THE PERSONS REFERRED TO. "This man": "sinners."

1. The contrast in its most general aspect. They — "sinners" — evildoers, violators of God's law. He — "holy; separate from sinners."

2. Take the outward life of both. His — faultless, beneficent. Theirs — the reverse.

3. Consider the spirit of His life, and of theirs. Perfect love and confidence in God; perfect love and devotion to the good of man. They, governed by selfishness; destitute of faith; living under influence of impulse, passion, etc.

II. THE RELATION EXPRESSED BETWEEN THESE TWO CLASSES OF PERSONS.

1. What should you expect? A man is known by his companions. Like seeks like.

2. Yet, He receiveth sinners.

(1)To mercy and pardon.

(2)To grace and guidance.

(3)To love and friendship.

3. And all this He does

(1)freely;

(2)readily;

(3)eternally.

III. WHAT IS OUR INTEREST IN THIS SUBJECT?

1. To some, none. But why, and how? Are they not sinners? How, then, can they be saved? Is there another who can thus receive?

2. Do you fear to come? Why? Consider His words of invitation and promise. Consider His acts of welcome and beneficence.

3. Are we received? See that you never abandon His protection.

(W. R. Clark, M. A.)

I. WHO IT IS THAT RECEIVETH SINNERS?

1. "This man." That Christ was "man," may easily be shown from the united and ample testimony of Scripture. Revelation makes no attempt to conceal this fact. It treats it as a matter that is necessary to be known, and as fully and readily to be believed, as His essential and eternal divinity. Godhead without manhood could have effected no atonement for the world's transgression.

2. But "this man" was Divine, He was God "manifested in the flesh," combined all the glory of the Deity with all the weakness of man — all the infirmities of the creature — with acts and attributes splendid and incomprehensible! He was frail as flesh, yet omnipotent as God. Thus was our nature infinitely enriched, though sin had beggared it of all worth.

3. "This man" gave to the universe the most amiable, attractive, and stupendous manifestation of the Deity ever witnessed, a "manifestation" altogether different from any which had been previously afforded. Here was no throne of sapphire, no city of pearl, no retinue of celestials, no blaze of unapproachable brightness, no footpath on the firmament, no chariot rolling "on the wings of the wind," and studded with the stars of the skies. The majestic symbols of the presence and power of the Infinite were kept back, and here was man in weakness, destitution, reproach, suffering, and death. "This man" showed how low the Deity could stoop, how much the Deity could love, how infinitely the Deity could redeem, with what frail and broken things the Deity could rebuild His moral universe.

II. HOW THIS MAN RECEIVETH SINNERS.

1. He "received" them universally; His arms of love are ready to embrace all.

2. "Christ received sinners "without upbraiding them on account of their sins.

3. Observe the delightful and blessed certainty that "sinners" have of being "received" by Him.

III. WHAT DOES CHRIST'S RECEPTION OF SINNERS COMPREHEND? To what are they received? The world receives its votaries, but only to oppress them with its vexations and vanities. Satan receives sinners, but only to slavery and wretchedness. Doth Christ receive them? It is —

1. To a state of reconciliation with Himself; He casts around them His Divine complacency, makes and calls them "His friends."

2. Christ "receives sinners" into a state of holiness. He sanctifies all the powers of the intellect, all the. affections of the heart, and all the actions of the life.

3. Christ "receives" them under the special protection and guidance of His providence. They rest under the pavilion of the Almighty Redeemer, are encircled as with a wall of fire, and fenced round and defended by the angels of glory.

4. Christ "receives" them into the full immunities of His kingdom of grace. In that kingdom "all things are theirs."

5. Christ "receives the sinners" He thus sanctifies and blesses into heaven. This is the last and greatest gift of God in Christ. This will perfect every holy principle and every religious joy.

(E. Horton.)

I. THE WORDS, AS THEY WERE INTENDED, CONTAIN A FALSE AND MALICIOUS CALUMNY. "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." The fact itself was undeniable: but what interpretation did the Pharisees wish to put upon it?

1. They meant to insinuate that the followers of Jesus consisted chiefly of worthless and disreputable characters; and this was false.

2. These murmurers meant to insinuate, further, that Jesus loved the company of sinners for its own sake; and this again was false.

3. Or, perhaps, they meant to insinuate, that those whom He favourably received continued sinners still; and this was as false as the rest.

II. THE SAME WORDS UNDESIGNEDLY EXPRESS A MOST GLORIOUS TRUTH. They truly describe —

1. The persons on whose behalf the Son of Man is interested — "This man receiveth sinners."(1) None but sinners — among the race of Adam, at least — have any concern or part in Jesus Christ.(2) The vilest of sinners are not shut out from partaking in that mercy, which is equally needful to the most virtuous.(3) Once more — sin still dwelleth even in those who have partaken of the mercy of Christ; yet doth He not cast them off. And why? Because He is not displeased to behold sin in His followers? God forbid! No — but because He delights to see them "fighting manfully" against it, and gradually overcoming it through the power of His grace.

2. The regard which He shows toward them — He "receiveth them, and eateth with them."(1) He receives them to His own favour, and to that of His Father.(2) He receives them to spiritual communion with Himself, and with His Father.(3) He receives them, finally, to His visible presence in the kingdom of His Father.

(J. Jowett, M. A.)

I. THE IMPIOUS CALUMNY INTENDED. You all know that the proverb has been accepted in all ages, and clothed in all languages, "A man may be ever known by his associates." Tell me his friendships, and I will tell you his nature, for according to his companionships must be his character. Now these Pharisees would force home this proverb upon the holy Saviour. Could He come forth from that Father's bosom, could He have just stepped into this naughty world out of that world of holy love, and not be the Friend of publicans and sinners? — ay, the very best Friend they ever had, for He came to seek and to save the chief, as He said most feelingly who had not been a publican and a sinner, but a Pharisee and a sinner. This shall be to eternity His praise and glory. But then it is said, or it is thought, by some Pharisees and scribes, that such a reception of the sinner is a patronage of his sin — that such a gospel of free grace has a perilous tendency to release man from moral duty; that if good works do not enter into the ground of the sinner's salvation, no obligation remains for the performance of them by the man — just as these Pharisees implied that receiving sinners was to be a patron of their sin. Refute this error whenever it shows itself, as the Lord refuted the slander of the scribes — by the revealed mind of God. I mean by the pure word of Scripture; on the one hand saying, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according unto His mercy He saved us"; and on the other hand affirming "That faith should work by love."

II. THE PRECIOUS TRUTH ASSERTED. The eater never did bring forth such sweetness as when this testimony was extorted from wicked men. Why this revelation of the Father's will? My brethren, the great foundation of all Divine revelation, from the forfeiture of Paradise downward through all its prophecies, and through all its promises, the great foundation of all revelation lies in this little fact, "God receives sinners." Open your Bible, read through the Scripture; it gives you the character of God. Surely the errand of the beloved Son must be in harmony with that character. Listen! hear the declaration of your Father's mind: "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord." Listen to the exhortations of your Father's love: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let Him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Listen to the proclamation of His own name: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Hear His promise: "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee." Hear His remonstrance: "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within Me, My repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man." Oh! declarations, expostulations, proclamations, promises, remonstrances, surely these must have their sign and seal in Him, of whom it was said, "See Him, and you see the Father"; of whom it could be said, "The voice of those human lips is the very echo of the voice of God."

(J. P. Eyre, M. A.)

I. First let us PROVE THE APPROACHABLENESS OF CHRIST, though it really needs no proof, for it is a fact which lies upon the surface of His life.

1. You may see it conspicuously in His offices. Our Lord Jesus is said to be the Mediator between God and man. Now, observe, that the office of mediator implies at once that he should be approachable. Another of His offices is that of priest. The priest was the true brother of the people, chosen from among themselves, at all times to be approached; living in their midst, in the very centre of the camp, ready to make intercession for the sinful and the sorrowful. So is it with our Lord. You may be separated from all of human kind, justly and righteously, by your iniquities, but you are not separated from that great Friend of sinners who at this very time is willing that publicans and sinners should draw near unto Him. As a third office let me mention that the Lord Jesus is our Saviour; but I see not how He can be a Saviour unless He can be approached by those who need to be saved.

2. Consider a few of His names and titles. Frequently Jesus is called the "Lamb." I do not suppose there is any one here who was ever afraid of a lamb; that little girl yonder, if she saw a lamb, would not be frightened. Every child seems almost instinctively to long to put its hand on the head of a lamb. O that you might come and put your hand on the head of Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Again, you find Him called a Shepherd: no one is afraid of a shepherd. Timid, foolish, and wandering though you may be, there is nothing in the Good Shepherd to drive you away from Him, but everything to entice you to come to Him. Then again, He is called our Brother, and one always feels that he may approach his brother. I have no thought of trouble or distress which I would hesitate to communicate to my brother, because he is so good and kind. Brethren, you can come to the good elder Brother at all hours; and when He blames you for coming, let me know. He is called, too, a Friend; but He would be a very unfriendly friend who could not be approached by those He professed to love. If my friend puts a hedge around himself, and holds himself so very dignified that I may not speak with him, I would rather be without his friendship; but if he be a genuine friend, and I stand at his door knocking, he will say, "Come in, and welcome; what can I do for you?" Such a friend is Jesus Christ. He is to be met with by all needy, seeking hearts.

3. There is room enough for enlargement here, but I have no time to say more, therefore I will give you another plea. Recollect His person. The person of our Lord Jesus Christ proclaims this truth with a trumpet voice. I say His person, because He is man, born of woman, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.

4. If this suffice not, let me here remind you of the language of Christ. He proclaims His approachability in such words as these, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

5. The old proverb truly saith that "actions speak louder than words," and therefore let us review the general ways and manners of the Redeemer. Yon may gather that He is the most approachable of persons from the actions of His life. He was always very busy, and busy about the most important of matters, and yet He never shut the door in the face of any applicant. Not once was He harsh and repulsive. His whole life proves the truth of the prophecy, "The bruised reed He will not break, and the stocking flax He will not quench."

6. But, if you want the crowning argument, look yonder. The man who has lived a life of service, at last dies a felon's death! The cross of Christ should be the centre to which all hearts are drawn, the focus of desire, the pivot of hope, the anchorage of faith. Surely, you need not be afraid to come to Him who went to Calvary for sinners.

II. I now shall proceed, with as great brevity as I can command, TO ILLUSTRATE THIS GREAT TRUTH.

1. I illustrate it by the way which Christ opens up for sinners to Himself The coming to Jesus which saves the soul is a simple reliance on Him.

2. Thitruth is further illustrated by the help which He gives to coming sinners, in order to bring them near to Himself. He it is who first makes them coming sinners.

3. I might further illustrate this to the children of God, by reminding you of the way in which you now commune with your Lord. How easy it is for you to reach His ear and His heart! A prayer, a sigh, a tear, a groan, will admit you into the King's chambers.

4. The approachableness of Christ may also be seen in the fact of His receiving the poor offerings of His people.

5. The ordinances wear upon their forefront the impress of an ever approachable Saviour. Baptism in outward type sets forth our fellowship with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection-what can be nearer than this? The Lord's supper in visible symbol invites us to eat His flesh and drink His blood: this reveals to us most clearly how welcome we are to the most intimate intercourse with Jesus.

III. In the third place, we come TO ENFORCE THIS TRUTH; or, as the old Puritans used to say, improve it.

1. The first enforcement I give is this: let those of us who are working for the Master in soul-winning, try to be be like Christ in this matter, and not be, as some are apt to be, proud, stuck-up, distant, or formal.

2. There is this to be said to you who are unconverted — if Jesus Christ be so approachable, oh I how I wish, how I wish that you would approach Him. There are no bolts upon His doors, no barred iron gates to pass, no big dogs to keep you back. If Christ be so approachable by all needy ones, then needy one, come and welcome. Come just now!

3. The last word is — if Jesus be such a Saviour as we have described Him, let saints and sinners join to praise Him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. JESUS RECEIVING SINNERS.

1. This was and is a great fact — our Lord received, and still receiveth sinners. A philosopher wrote over the door of his academy, "He that is not learned, let him not enter here"; but Jesus speaketh by Wisdom in the Proverbs, and says "Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, let him eat of My bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled" (Proverbs 9:4, 5). He receives sinners as His disciples, companions, friends. "This man receiveth sinners"; not, however, that they may remain sinners, but to pardon their sins, to justify their persons, to cleanse their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

2. I want your attention to another thought — namely, the consistency of this fact. It is a most consistent and proper thing that this man should receive sinners. If you and I reflect awhile we shall remember that the types which were set forth concerning Christ all seem to teach us that He must receive sinners. One of the earliest types of the Saviour was Noah's ark, by which a certain company not only of men but also of the lowest animals were preserved from perishing by water, and were floated out of the old world into the new. Moreover, the Master has been pleased to take to Himself one or two titles which imply that He came to receive sinners. He takes the title of Physician, but as He told these very Pharisees a little while before, "The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick." There is no practice for the physician in a neighbourhood where every man is well.

3. Observe the condescension of this fact. This man, who towers above all other men, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners — this man receiveth sinners.

4. Notice the certainty of this fact.

5. Do observe the unqualified sense in which the sentence is put, "This man receiveth sinners." But how? What sort of sinners? How are they to feel? How are they to come? Not a word is said about their coming, or their preparation, but simply, "This man receiveth sinners." One man came on his bed — indeed, he did not come, but was brought by other people; Jesus received him all the same for that.

II. Now, I wanted to have spoken upon the second head, but I have not had sufficient forethought to store up the time, so we must only say of that just this: that Jesus Christ having once received sinners, enters into the most familiar and endearing intercourse with them that is possible. HE FEASTS WITH THEM — their joys are His joys, their work for God is His work for God. He feasts with them at their table, and they with Him at His table; and He does this wherever the table is spread. It may be in a garret, or in a cellar; in a wilderness, or on a mountain; He still eateth with them. This He does now in the ordinances and means of grace by His Spirit; and this He will do in the fulness of glory, when He takes these sinners up to dwell with Him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Many a true word has been spoken in jest, and many a true word has been spoken in slander. Now the scribes and Pharisees wished to slander Christ; but in so doing they outstripped their intentions, and bestowed upon Him a title of renown,

1. First, then, THE DOCTRINE. The doctrine is, not that Christ receiveth everybody but that He "receiveth sinners." Christ receives not the self-righteous, not the good, not the whole-hearted, not those who dream that they do not need a Saviour, but the broken in spirit, the contrite in heart — those who are ready to confess that they have broken God's laws, and have merited His displeasure. Now, let us remark, that there is a very wise distinction on the part of God, that He hath been pleased thus to choose and call sinners to repentance, and not others. For this reason, none but these ever do come to Him. There has never been such a miracle as a self-righteous man coming to Christ for mercy; none but those who want a Saviour ever did come, and therefore it would be useless for Him to say that He would receive any but those who most assuredly will come. And mark, again, none but those can come; no man can come to Christ until he truly knows himself to be a sinner. The self-righteous man cannot come to Christ; for what is implied in coming to Christ? Repentance, trust in His mercy, and the denial of all confidence in one's self. His very self-righteousness fetters his foot, so that he cannot come; palsies his arm, so that he cannot take hold of Christ; and blinds his eye, so that he cannot see the Saviour. Yet another reason: if these people, who are not sinners, would come to Christ, Christ would get no glory from them. When the physician openeth his door for those who are sick, let me go there full of health; he can win no honour from me, because he cannot exert his skill upon me. The benevolent man may distribute all his wealth to the poor; but let some one go to him who has abundance, and he shall win no esteem from him for feeding the hungry, or for clothing the naked, since the applicant is neither hungry nor naked. A great sinner brings great glory to Christ when he is saved.

II. Now, then, THE ENCOURAGEMENT. If this Man receiveth sinners, poor sin-sick sinner, what a sweet word this is for thee I Sure, then, He will not reject thee. Come, let me encourage thee this night to come to my Master, to receive His great atonement, and to be clothed with all His righteousness. Mark, those whom I address are the bona fide, real, actual sinners, not the complimentary sinners, not those who say they are sinners by way of pacifying, as they suppose, the religionists of the day; but I speak to those who feel their lost, ruined, hopeless condition. Come, because He has said He will receive you. I know your fears; we all felt them once, when we were coming to Christ. Doth not this suffice thee? Then here is another reason. I am sure "this Man receiveth sinners," because He has received many, many before you. See, there is Mercy's door; mark how many have been to it; you can almost hear the knocks upon the door now, like echoes of the past. You may remember how many wayworn travellers have called there for rest, how many famished souls have applied there for bread. Go, knock at Mercy's door, and ask the porter this question, " Was there ever one applied to the door that was refused?" I can assure you of the answer: "No, not one."

III. Now the last point is AN EXHORTATION. If it be true that Christ came only to save sinners, my beloved hearers, labour, strive, agonize, to get a sense in your souls of your own sinnership.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In the New Testament the Lord seems to have selected some of every kind and class to show that He will receive all.

1. He will receive the rich — Joseph of Arimathea.

2. The poor — Lazarus the beggar.

3. The learned — Dionysius the Areopagite.

4. Physicians — Luke.

5. Soldiers — the Roman centurion.

6. Fishermen — the apostles.

7. Extortioners — Zaccheus.

8. Tax-gatherers — Matthew.

9. Thieves — the dying robber.

10. Harlots — the woman who was a sinner.

11. Adulterers — the woman of Samaria.

12. Persecutors and murderers — Paul.

13. Back. sliders — Peter.

14. Persons in trade — Lydia.

15. Statesmen and courtiers — the eunuch of Ethiopia.

16. Families — that at Bethany.

17. Whole multitudes — those on Day of Pentecost.

(Van Doren.)

There are two classes of sins. There are some sins by which man crushes, wounds, malevolently injures his brother man: those sins which speak of a bad, tyrannical, and selfish heart. Christ met those with denunciation. Thorn are other sins by which a man injures himself. There is a life of reckless indulgence; there is a career of yielding to ungovernable propensities, which most surely conducts to wretchedness and ruin, but makes a man an object of compassion rather than of condemnation. The reception which sinners of this class met from Christ was marked by strange and pitying mercy. There was no maudlin sentiment on His lips. He called sin sin, and guilt guilt. But yet there were sins which His lips scourged, and others over which, containing in themselves their own scourge, His heart bled. That which was melancholy, and marred, and miserable in this world, was more congenial to the heart of Christ than that which was proudly happy. It was in the midst of a triumph, and all the pride of a procession, that He paused to weep over ruined Jerusalem. And if we ask the reason why the character of Christ was marked by this melancholy condescension, it is that He was in the midst of a world of ruins, and there was nothing there to gladden, but very much to touch with grief. He was here to restore that which was broken down and crumbling into decay. An enthusiastic antiquarian, standing amidst the fragments of an ancient temple surrounded by dust and moss, broken pillar, and defaced architrave, with magnificent projects in his mind of restoring all this to former majesty, to draw out to light from mere rubbish the ruined glories, and therefore stooping down amongst the dank ivy and the rank nettles; such was Christ amidst the wreck of human nature. He was striving to lift it out of its degradation. He was searching out in revolting places that which had fallen down, that He might build it up again in fair proportions a holy temple to the Lord. Therefore He laboured among the guilty; therefore He was the companion of outcasts; therefore He spoke tenderly and lovingly to those whom society counted undone.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The heathen philosopher Seneca made a practice of dining with his slaves, and when challenged for an innovation so directly in the teeth of all customary proprieties and so offensive to the Roman mind, he defended himself by saying that he dined with some because they were worthy of his esteem, and with others that they might become so. The action and its defence was alike admirable, and read a salutary lesson to the aristocrats of Rome. But it was even a greater shock to the Pharisees, and if possible even more unaccountable, that Jesus should prefer the society of notorious sinners to their own irreproachable manners and decorous conversation. They could not understand why a teacher of holy life, instead of frowning upon the notoriously profligate, should show a preference for their society. Our Lord's explanation is ample and thorough. He devotes, therefore, the three parables recorded in this chapter to this purpose. It is perhaps worth remarking that on one point He felt that no explanation was required. Even the Pharisees did not suspect Him of any sympathy with sin. These critics of His conduct had not failed to remark that in His presence the daring profanity and audacious license of wicked men were tamed. Those who so narrowly criticized our Lord's conduct might have seen its reasonableness had they been able to look at it from another point of view. With equal surprise they might have exclaimed: "Sinners receive this Man and eat with Him." These dissolute and lawless characters could themselves have explained the change. They were attracted to Jesus, because together with unmistakable sanctity, and even somehow appearing as the chief feature of His sanctity, there was an understanding of the sinner's position and a hopefulness about him which threw a hitherto unknown spell over them. Separate from sinners, as they had never before felt any one to be, He seemed to come closer to their heart by far than any other had come. He had a heart open to all their troubles. He saw them through and through, and yet showed no loathing, no scorn, no astonishment, no perplexity, no weariness. Instead of meeting them with upbraiding and showing them all they had lost, He gave them immediate entrance into His own pure, deep, efficient love, and gladdened their hearts with a sense of what they yet had in Him. Therefore men whose seared conscience felt no other touch, who had a ready scoff for every other form of holiness, admitted this new power and yielded to it. The contrast between this new attitude of a holy person towards the sinner and that to which men had commonly been accustomed has been finely described in the following words: "He who thought most seriously of the disease held it to be curable; while those who thought less seriously of it pronounced it incurable. Those who loved their race a little made war to the knife against its enemies and oppressors; lie who loved it so much as to die for it made overtures of peace to them. The half-just judge punished the convicted criminal; the thoroughly just judge offered him forgiveness. Perfect justice here appears to take the very course which would be taken by injustice." It is this, then, that calls for explanation. And it is explained by our Lord in three parables, each of which illustrates the fact that a more active interest in any possession is arroused by the very circumstance that it is lost.

I. The first point, then, suggested by these parables is THAT GOD SUFFERS LOSS IN EVERY SINNER THAT DEPARTS FROM HIM. This was what the Pharisees had wholly left out of account, that God loves men and mourns over every ill that befalls them. And this is what we find it so hard to believe.

II. Secondly, these parables suggest THAT THE VERY FACT OF OUR BEING LOST EXCITES ACTION OF A SPECIALLY TENDER KIND TOWARD US. God does not console Himself for our loss by the fellowship of those who have constantly loved Him. He does not call new creatures into being, and so fill up the blank we have made by straying from Him. He is not a Sovereign who has no personal knowledge of His subjects, nor an employer of labour who can always get a fresh hand to fill an emptied post: He is rather a Shepherd who knows His sheep one by one, a Father who loves His children individually. He would rather restore the most abandoned sinner than blot him from his place to substitute an archangel. Love is personal and settles upon individuals. It is not all the same to God if some other person is saved while you are not. These parables thus bring us face to face with the most significant and fertile of all realities — God's love for us. This love encompasses you whether you will or no. Love cannot remain indifferent or quiescent. Interference of a direct and special kind becomes necessary. The normal relations being disturbed, and man becoming helpless by the disturbance, it falls to God to restore matters. A new set of ideas and dealings are brought into play. So long as things go smoothly and men by nature love God and seek to do His will, there is no anxiety, no meeting of emergencies by unexpected effort, hidden resources, costly sacrifice. But when sin brings into view all that is tragic, and when utter destruction seems to be man's appointed destiny, there is called into exercise the deepest tenderness, the utmost power of the Divine nature. Here where the profoundest feeling of God is concerned, where His connection with His own children is threatened, Divinity is stirred to its utmost. This appears, among other things, in the spontaneity and persistence of the search God institutes for the lost.

III. The third point illustrated by these parables is THE EXCEEDING JOY CONSEQUENT ON THE RESTORATION OF THE SINNER. "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance." The joy is greater, because the effort to bring it about has been greater, and because for a time the result has been in suspense, so that when the end is attained there is a sense of clear gain. The joy of success is proportioned to the difficulty, the doubtfulness of attaining it. All the hazards and sacrifices of the search are repaid by the recovery of the lost. The value of the unfallen soul may intrinsically be greater than the value of the redeemed; but the joy is proportioned, not to the value of the article, but to the amount of anxiety that has been spent upon it.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

"Mr. Whitfield," said Lady Huntingdon, "these ladies have been preferring a very heavy charge against you. They say that in your sermon last night you made use of this expression: "So ready is Christ to receive sinners who come to Him, that He is willing to receive the devil's castaways." Mr. Whitfield pleaded guilty to the charge, and told them of the following circumstance. "A wretched woman came to me this morning, and said: ' Sir, I was passing the door of your chapel, and hearing the voice of some one preaching, I did what I have never been in the habit of doing, I went in I and one of the first things I heard you say was that Jesus would receive willingly the devil's castaways. Sir, I have been in the town for many years, and am so worn out in his service, that I may with truth be called one of the devil's castaways. Do you think that Jesus would receive me? "I," said Mr. Whitfield, "assured her that there was not a doubt of it, if she was willing to go to Him." From the sequel it appeared that this was a case of true conversion, and Lady Huntingdon was assured that the woman left a very charming testimony behind her, that though her sins had been of a crimson hue, the atoning blood of Christ had washed them white as snow.

Rigorous courses hath ordinarily produced sad effects. Thou seest that those drops that fall easily upon the corn ripen and fill the ear, but the stormy showers that fall with violence beat the stalks down fiat upon the earth, which being once laid, are afterwards kept down without hope of recovery through weeds' embracements. Have you never known any that have been sent faulty to the jail who have returned flagitious and vile?

(N. Rogers.)

White paper is made of dunghill rags. God can so work the heart of the vilest wretch with beating and purifying as it shall be fit to write His laws upon.

(N. Rogers.)

Murmuring is a sin betwixt secret backbiting and open railing; a smothered malice which can neither utterly be concealed, nor dare openly be vented. Remedies against this evil: First, keep thy heart from pride, envy, passion, for from hence flows murmuring, malignity, whispering. Seldom do we murmur at those below us, but above us.

(N. Rogers.)

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