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and are walking in his ordinances and commandments, need not that kind and degree of repentance, which they do who are yet wandering in the broad way: and every new instance of one brought to repentance excites fresh joy in heaven; because the good Shepherd "rejoices that he has found "his sheep that was lost;" and calls on all his friends to rejoice with him.
There are public successes which make whole nations resound with joyful acclamations: yet we are not taught by the sacred oracles to think that the angels of God generally unite in rejoicings of this kind. But, had we been previously informed that one event, and but one, frequently occurs on earth, which fills all heaven with joy and praise, our curiosity would have been excited, our imagination would have been earnestly employed, our expectations would have been raised; and probably we should have felt some disappointment, as well as surprise, when we found it was merely that some poor criminal, perhaps scandalous for his crimes, perhaps neglected because of his low condition or mean abilities, in a cottage, an almshouse, or a prison, was weeping for sin, crying for mercy, and almost overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, and dread of merited condemnation! Yet "there is joy in the presence of the angels of "God, over one sinner that repenteth."
Without entering into a minute interpretation of the parable, we may, from the text, remark three particulars.
I. The event here referred to; "I have found my sheep which was lost:"
II. The instruction contained in the represen
tation given, that Christ himself rejoices in this event: "Rejoice with me:"
III. The instruction to be derived from the exhortation given to all his friends to rejoice with him.
I. The event, "I have found my sheep which "was lost."
This leads our reflection back to the consideration of all that has been previously done, in order to the finding of the lost sheep; and to the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge;" even his love to sinners, considered as strangers to repentance, and living in allowed and heinous disobedience.
We were as sheep going astray, but we have "returned:" (or have been brought back or converted,)" to the Shepherd and Bishop of our "souls." "I have gone astray," says the Psalm"ist, like a sheep that is lost." Indeed this is the constant emblem in scripture of our condition, as estranged from God, and seeking happiness from the world. Other views of our state and character shew our criminality, as apostates and rebels, and enemies to God; and are suited to humble us before him but this especially illustrates our misery and danger. What more helpless and exposed than a lost sheep? It can neither flee from its enemies, nor resist them. It is surrounded with dangers of which it has no dread, and against which it can take no precaution: and, unless again brought under the tender faithful care of the shepherd, it must at length, in one way or other, be destroyed. In such a world of temptation as this is, if we
believe what the scripture teaches, that," our ad"versary the devil, like a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour;" and that, as "transformed into an angel of light," he uses, with immense success, a vast variety of artifices to deceive men to their destruction; we shall readily' perceive that we are exposed like lost sheep to numberless dangers, of which very few are at all aware, and from which none, left to themselves, could possibly escape.
Such is every man's condition, while living impenitent, having forsaken God, and continuing to walk" according to the course of this world."
When we consider our criminality, we may conceive of the Almighty as looking upon us with just and holy abhorrence: but the emblem of lost sheep gives us the idea of his unspeakable condescension and commiseration.
Let us then consider the love of the great and good Shepherd to us poor lost sheep. He who, in human nature, could with propriety use the words by which JEHOVAH distinguished himself when he appeared to Moses, and say, "Before Abraham 66 was, I AM :" He who spake to his disciples exactly as JEHOVAH had done to Moses, "Certainly "I will be with thee;" "Lo, I am with you "always, even to the end of the world:" He who could promise to give his disciples "a mouth and "wisdom which no enemy could gainsay or re"sist:" He whom "all angels worship," came into the world, was made "in the likeness of 66 men, "" became flesh," and tabernacled among us. But what brought him down from the realms of light? Love! not to our character or conduct,
but love to us as lost sinners! He pitied our wretchedness, while he abhorred our crimes! He anticipated even our desires, and our consciousness of misery and danger! " It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ "Jesus came into the world to save sinners ;"even the chief of sinners." "Ye know the 66 grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that, though "he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, "that ye, through his poverty, might be made "rich."
When he thus assumed "the form of a servant," from compassion to the lost and wretched, he did not appear in a state of outward splendour, but in the deepest poverty; and, while he refused to act as a judge, and shunned those who would have made him a king; yet, as the tender Shepherd seeking his lost sheep, he performed, and so dignified, the office of a preacher, by making that his peculiar constant employment.
With weary, toilsome steps, he traversed the whole land of Israel; (a stranger to those accommodations with which the most of us are indulged;) and made it the business of his life to seek out and save the lost. He pitied the ignorant and neglected, "because they were as sheep not having a shepherd;" and allowed himself no space for rest or refreshment, (often reserving only the hours of night for secret devotion,) that he might lose no opportunity of bringing lost sheep to the fold of God. This was "his meat," his pleasure, and his joy: and here, especially, he hath left his ministers "an example that they "should follow his steps." This was the business
of his life: still more this was the end of his and death. "All we, like sheep," (says the prophet, above seven hundred years before the Saviour's birth,) "All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own
way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity "of us all." "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is "dumb, so he opened not his mouth." In like manner another prophet, in the name of God says, Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, against "the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of "Hosts; smite the Shepherd." And thus Christ, taking these prophecies as belonging to him, says, "I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd 'layeth down his life for the sheep."—View then, the incarnate Word and Son of God, Immanuel, agonizing in the garden, and expiring on the cross; not for sinners as already repenting, but to make way for their repentance and salvation! Oh, the depth of his condescension and compassion! the riches of his liberality! the greatness of his self-denying love! Words fail, and even imagination is lost on such a subject.—But can we suppose that he stooped so low, and laboured and suffered so much, for sinners, while impenitently rebellious; and then that he will, after all, reject any of those who in consequence are brought humbly to seek his salvation? Consider him as stooping, and bleeding, and dying, for the vilest of rebels and enemies: and then conceive him, if you can, sternly rejecting the humble requests of the poor supplicant who with tears and confusion,