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Luke xv. 7.




THE two parables, of which the Gospel for this day is composed, were related by our Lord Jesus Christ for the purpose of affording different illustrations of the same subject; and therefore the same inference is drawn from both of them; namely, that the turning to God of every penitent sinner occasions joy in heaven, in the presence of the angels of God. The mourning penitent who is smiting on his breast, and crying



from the bottom of his heart, God be merciful to me a sinner, is regarded with delight by those blessed spirits who surround the throne of God; for they rejoice at the triumphs of Divine grace over the children of men. Our blessed Saviour

spoke these parables in justification of His own conduct. Publicans and sinners crowded round Him, to hear the gracious words which proceeded from His lips; and He was pleased to receive them, to converse with them, to instruct them; and even to condescend so far as to eat with them. The Pharisees and scribes were indignant that a Person, whom they could not help acknowledging to be a great Prophet, should be so familiar with the common people whom they despised. Our blessed Lord, therefore, thought fit to justify Himself, by showing that in this matter He acted in His proper character of the great Shepherd of the sheep, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, in the same way as any shepherd would act with regard to his flock; or, to vary the illustration, as a poor woman would act, who having only a few pieces of money should lose one of them.

But let us review the Gospel for this day as the Evangelist has recorded it; and then consider more particularly our Saviour's observation in the text. And may the love of the great

92 Luke xviii. 13.

93 Hebrews xiii. 20. 94 1 Peter ii. 25.

Shepherd for the sheep of His pasture, so attract our hearts to Him, that we may love Him above all things, and walk in the footsteps of His flock; and that feeding with delight beside our Shepherd's tent, we may rejoice in His salvation.

The Evangelist records that the parables of the Lord Jesus so interested the people, that then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. The publicans were persons who collected the customs or taxes imposed by the Roman government. They were very odious to the people, because the money which they received was paid to a foreign power, whose yoke was borne very impatiently by the Jewish nation; and because the publicans were frequently in the habit of making extortionate demands, or of requiring more than they had any right to collect. For these reasons the names publicans and extortioners were synonymous. By the term sinners is to be understood other persons of indifferent or bad character. Our blessed Lord was ready at all times to instruct persons of every rank and condition in life who came in His way. His conduct greatly displeased the Pharisees and scribes, the religious teachers of His day. They murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. He not only admits persons of indifferent cha

95 Luke v. 27.

racter into His company; but makes Himself so familiar with them, that He sits down to their table. They were greatly offended that a Prophet should have so little regard for his own character as to act in this manner.

In order to correct the mistaken notions which they entertained respecting His conduct, He spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you having a 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? This was our Saviour's object in associating with the multitude. He acted as the Proprietor of the flock; whose object was to seek and to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We are told at another time, that He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no Shepherd.96 He always sustained this character in His intercourse with the people. He appeared as the Teacher, who instructed them in the good and the right way, that He might lead them to repentance and conversion to God; and this He effected, as in the remarkable instance of Zaccheus the publican. There was no danger of His being defiled by coming in contact with publicans and sinners; as other teachers are liable to be, who therefore ought

96 Matthew ix. 36.

not to be familiar or intimate with persons of abandoned character.

He says of the shepherd who went after his lost sheep: When he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 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. Although this sheep was not of greater value to him than any other in his fold, yet, as it had been lost, he expressed greater joy on its recovery, than he did that all the others had not gone astray. Our Saviour observes, I say unto 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. When the intelligence of the conversion of a lost sinner from the error of his ways is announced among those who surround the throne of glory, it occasions fresh joy, and thanksgiving in the presence of the angels of God. They strike their golden harps to notes of louder praise. They rejoice that a sinner is rescued from destruction, that the power of redeeming love and grace is displayed, that the triumphs of the cross are manifested, that an accession is made to the number of those who are delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son.97

97 Colossians i. 3.

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