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Bible Commentaries
Luke 15

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Verse 1

Verse 2

An Appeal To Sinners

September 14th, 1856




"This man receiveth sinners."- Luke 15:2 .

It was a singular group which had gathered round our Saviour, when these

words were uttered; for we are told by the evangelist-"Then drew near unto

him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him." The publicans-the very

lowest grade, the public oppressors, scorned and hated by the meanest Jew-

these, together with the worst of characters, the scum of the streets and the

very riff-raff of the society of Jerusalem, came around this mighty preacher,

Jesus Christ, in order to listen to his words. On the outside of the throng

there stood a few respectable people, who in those days were called Pharisees

and Scribes-men who were highly esteemed in the synagogues as rulers, and

governors, and teachers. These looked with scorn upon the Preacher; and

watched him with invidious eyes, to find some fault. If they could find none

in him personally, yet they could easily find it in his congregation; his

deportment towards them shocked their false notion of propriety, and when

they observed that he was affable with the very worst of characters, that he

spoke loving words to the most fallen of mankind, they said of him what they

intended for a disgrace, albeit it was highly to his honour: "This man

receiveth sinners." I believe that our Saviour could not have wished to have

had a sentence uttered concerning him, more evidently true or more thoroughly

consistent with his sacred commission. It is the exact portrait of his

character; the hand of a master seems to have limned him to the very life. He

is the man who "receiveth sinners." Many a true word has been spoken in jest,

and many a true word has been spoken in slander. Men have said sometimes in

jest, "There goes a saint;" but it has been true. They have said, "There goes

one of your chosen ones, one of your elect," they meant it as a slander, but

the doctrine they scandalized was to the person who received it a comfort; it

was his glory and his honour. 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. "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

This evening I shall divide my observations to you into three parts. First,

the doctrine, that Christ receiveth sinners, which is a doctrine of holy

writ. Secondly, the encouragement it affords the sinner; and thirdly, the

exhortation naturally springing from it, to the same character.

I. First, then, THE DOCTRINE. The doctrine is, not that Christ receiveth

everybody, but that he "receiveth sinners." By that term we, in common

parlance, understand everybody. It is in the present day quite fashionable

for everybody to lie against what he believes, and to say he is a sinner,

even when he believes himself to be a very respectable, well-to-do man, and

does not conceive that he ever did anything very amiss in his life. It is a

sort of orthodox confession for men to make, when they say that they are

sinners; though they might just as well use one formula as another, or repeat

words in a foreign tongue; for they mean no deep and heartfelt contrition.

They have no true apprehension that they are sinners at all. These Scribes

and Pharisees did virtually assert, that they were not sinners; they marked

out the Publicans and the harlots, and the worthless, and they said, "These

are sinners, we are not." "Very well," said Christ, "I endorse the

distinction you have made. In your own opinion, you are not sinners; well,

you shall stand exempt for the time from being called sinners-I endorse your

distinction. But I beg to inform you, that I came to save those very persons

who, in their own estimation and in yours, are reckoned to be sinners." It is

my belief that the doctrine of the text is this-that 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. These and these alone, Christ came to save; and I

reassert the subject of last Sabbath evening-that Jesus has died for such,

and for none other; that he has shed his blood for those who are ready to

confess their sins, and who do seek mercy through the open veins of his

wounded body, but for none other did he designedly offer up himself upon the


Now, let us remark, beloved, 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. It stands

to reason, that when men do not consider themselves in need of a Saviour,

they never will approach his throne; and surely it is satisfactory enough for

all purposes, that Christ should say he receiveth sinners, seeing that

sinners are the only persons who will ever come to him for mercy, 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. Now, a self-righteous

man cannot repent, and yet be self-righteous. He conceives that he has no

sin; why, then, should he repent? Tell him to come to Christ with humble

penitence, and he exclaims-"Ay! you insult my dignity. Why should I approach

to God? Wherein have I sinned? My knee shall not bend to seek for pardon,

wherein I have not offended; this lip shall not seek forgiveness when I do

not believe myself to have transgressed against God; I shall not ask for

mercy." The self-righteous man cannot come to God; for his coming to God

implies that he ceases to be self-righteous. Nor can a self-righteous man put

his trust in Christ; why should he? Shall I trust in a Christ whom I do not

require? It I be self-righteous, I need no Christ to save me in my own

opinion. How, then, can I come with such a confession as this,

"Nothing in my hands I bring,"

when I have got my hands full. How can I say, "Wash me," when I believe

myself white? How can I say "Heal me," when I think that I never was sick?

How can I cry, "Give me freedom, give me liberty," when I believe I never was

a slave, and "never in bondage to any man?" It is only the man who knows his

slavery by reason of the bondage of sin, and the man who knows himself to be

sick even unto death by reason of the sense of guilt: it is only the man who

feels he cannot save himself, who can with faith rely upon the Saviour. Nor

can the self-righteous man renounce himself, and lay hold of Christ; because

in the renunciation of himself he would at once become the very character

whom Christ says he will receive. He would then put himself in the place of

the sinner, when he cast away his own righteousness. Why, sirs, coming to

Christ implies the taking off the polluted robe of our own righteousness, and

putting on Christ's. How can I do that, if I wittingly wrap my own garment

about me? and if in order to come to Christ I must forsake my own refuge and

all my own hope, how can I do it, if I believe my hope to be good, and my

refuge to be secure; and if I suppose that already I am clothed sufficiently

to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb? Nay, beloved, it is the

sinner, and the sinner only, who can come to Christ; the self-righteous man

cannot do it; it is quite out of his way-he would not do it if he could. 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 be

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. If Jesus

Christ proclaims that he giveth his grace unto all who come for it, surely it

is sufficient, seeing that none will or can come for it, but those whose

pressing necessities prompt them. Ay! sufficient; it is quite sufficient for

his honour. A great sinner brings great glory to Christ when he is saved. A

man who is no sinner, if he could attain to heaven would glorify himself, but

he would not glorify Christ. The man who has no stains may plunge into the

fountain; but he cannot magnify its cleansing power for he hath no stains to

wash away. He that hath no guilt can never magnify the word "forgiveness." It

is the sinner then, and the sinner only, who can glorify Christ; and hence

"this man receiveth sinners," but it is not said that he receiveth any else.

"He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." This is the

doctrine of the text.

But allow us just to amplify that word: "this man receiveth sinners." Now, by

that we understand that he receives sinners to all the benefits which he has

purchased for them. If there be a fountain, he receives sinners to wash them

in it; if there be medicine for the soul, he receives sinners to heal their

diseases; if there be a house for the sick, an hospital, a lazar-house for

the dying, he receives such into that retreat of mercy. All that he hath of

love, all that he hath of mercy, all that he hath of atonement, all that he

hath of sanctification, all that he bath of righteousness-to all these he

receives the sinner. Yea, more; not content with taking him to his house, he

receives him to his heart. He takes the black and filthy sinner, and having

washed him-"There," he says, "thou art my beloved; my desire is towards

thee." And to consummate the whole, at last he receives the saints to heaven.

Saints, I said, but I meant those who were sinners, for none can be saints

truly, but those who once were sinners, and have been washed in the blood of

Christ, and made white through the sacrifice of the lamb.

Observe it then, beloved, that in receiving sinners we mean the whole of

salvation; and this word in my text, "Christ receiveth sinners," graspeth in

the whole of the covenant. He receives them to the joys of paradise, to the

bliss of the beatified, to the songs of the glorified, to an eternity of

happiness for ever. "This man receiveth sinners;" and I dwell with special

emphasis on this point,-he receives none else. He will have none else to be

saved but those who know themselves to be sinners. Full, free salvation is

preached to every sinner in the universe; but I have no salvation to preach

to those who will not acknowledge themselves to be sinners. To them I must

preach the law, telling them that their righteousness is but as filthy rags,

that their goodness shall pass away as the spider's web, and shall be broken

in pieces, even as the egg of the ostrich is broken by the foot of the horse.

"This man receiveth sinners," and receiveth none else.

II. Now, then, THE ENCOURAGEMENT. If this man receiveth sinners, poor sin-

sick sinner, what a sweet word this is for thee! 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. All these are now frankly

and freely invited to come to Jesus Christ, and to be saved by him. Come,

poor sinner, come.

Come, because he has said he will receive you; I know your fears; we all felt

them once, when we were coming to Christ. I know thou sayest in thy heart,

"He will reject me. If I present my prayer, he will not hear me; if I cry

unto him, yet peradventure the heavens will he as brass; I have been so great

a sinner, that he will never take me into his house to dwell with him." Poor

sinner! say not so; he hath published the decree. It is enough between man

and man usually, if we count our fellow creatures honest, to obtain a

promise. Sinner! is this not enough between thyself and the Son of God? He

has said, "Him that cometh I will in nowise cast out." Durst thou not venture

on that promise? Wilt thou not go to sea in a ship as staunch as this; he

hath said it? It has been often and again the only comfort of the saints; on

this they have lived, on this they have died: he hath said it. What! dost

thou think Christ will lie unto thee? Would he tell thee he will receive

thee, and yet not do so? Would he say, "My fatlings are killed, come ye to

the supper," and yet shut the door in your face? No, if be has said he will

cast out none that come to him; rest assured he cannot, he will not cast you

out. Come, then, try his love on this ground, that he has said it.

Come, and fear not, because remember, if thou feelest thyself to be a sinner,

that feeling is God's gift; and therefore thou mayest very safely come to one

who has already done so much to draw thee. A stranger calls at my house, he

asks for alms, and he tells me at first very plainly, that he never saw me

before, that he has no claim upon my generosity, but he throws himself

entirely upon any benevolent feeling that I may chance to have in my breast.

But if I had done anything for him before, he might say, supposing I were a

rich man, "Sir, you have done so much for me, I think you will not give me up

at last; I believe you will not let me starve, after so much love." Poor

sinner! if thou feelest thy need of a Saviour, Christ made thee feel it; if

thou hast a wish to come after Christ, Christ gave thee that wish; if thou

hast any desire after God, God gave thee that desire; if thou canst sigh

after Christ, Christ made thee sigh; if thou canst weep after Christ, Christ

made thee weep. Ay, if thou canst only wish for him with the strong wish of

one that fears he never can find, yet hopes he may-if thou canst but hope for

him, he has given thee that hope. And oh! wilt not thou come to him? Thou

hast some of the king's bounties about thee now; come and plead what he hath

done, there is no suit that can ever fail with God, when ye plead this. Tell

him his past mercies urge you to try him in the future. Down on your knees,

sinner, down on your knees; tell him this-"Lord, I thank thee that I know

myself to be a sinner; thou hast taught me that; I bless thee that I do not

wrap up my sin, that I know it, that I feel it; that it is ever before me.

Lord, wouldst thou make me see my sin, and not let me see my Saviour? What!

wilt thou open the wound, and put in the lancet, and yet not heal me? What,

Lord! hast thou said, 'I kill?' And hast thou not said in the same breath, 'I

make alive.' Hast thou killed me, and wilt thou not make me alive?" Plead

that, poor sinner, and thou wilt find it true, that "this man receiveth


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

way-worn 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."

"No sinner was ever empty sent back,

Who came seeking mercy for Jesus's sake."

And shalt thou be the first? Dost thou think God will forfeit his good name,

by turning thee away? Mercy's gate has been open night and day, ever since

man sinned; dost thou think it will be shut in thy face for the first time?

Nay, man, go and try it; and if thou findest it is, come back and say, "Thou

hast not read the Bible as thou oughtest to have done;" or else say thou hast

found one promise there which has not been fulfilled-for he said, "Him that

cometh I will in nowise cast out." I do not believe there ever was in this

world one who was suffered by God to say that he sought mercy of him

sincerely, and did not find it. Nay more, I believe that such a being never

shall exist, but whosoever cometh unto Christ shall most assuredly find

mercy. What greater encouragement do you want? Do you want a salvation for

those that will not come to be saved? Do you want blood sprinkled on those

that will not come to Christ? You must want it, then; I will not preach it to

you. I find it not in God's Word, and therefore I dare not.

And now, sinner, I have yet another plea to urge with thee why thou shouldst

believe that Christ will receive all sinners who come to him. It is this,

that he calls all such. Now if Christ calls us and bids us come, we may be

sure he will not turn us away when we do come. Once on a time a blind man sat

by the wayside begging. He heard-for he could not see-he heard the trampling

of the many feet that were passing by him. He asked what all this meant: they

said that Jesus of Nazareth passed by. Loudly did he cry, "Jesus, thou son of

David, have mercy on me!" The ear of mercy was apparently deaf, and the

Saviour walked on and heeded not the prayer. The poor man sat still then, but

cried aloud, though he did not move. Yet when the Saviour said, "Come

hither," ah! then he did not delay an instant. They said, "Arise, he calleth

thee;" and, pushing them all aside, he made his way through the crowd, and

offered the prayer, "Lord, let me receive my sight." Well, then, thou who

feelest thyself to be lost and ruined, arise and speak; he calleth for thee.

Convinced sinner, Christ says, "Come;" and that thou mayest be sure he says

it, let us quote that Scripture again, "I came not to call the righteous, but

sinners to repentance." Thou art called, man; then come. If Her Majesty were

riding by, thou mightest scarcely presume to speak to her; but if thy name

were called, and by her own lips, wouldst thou not go to her carriage, and

what she had to say to thee wouldst not thou listen to? Now, the King of

heaven says, "Come." Yes, the same lips that will one day say, "Come, ye

blessed," say this night, "Come, ye poor distressed sinners, come to me, and

I will save you." There is not a distressed soul in this hall, if his

distress be the work of God's Holy Spirit, that shall not find salvation in

the wounds of Christ. Believe then, sinner, believe in Jesus, that he is able

to save even thee unto the very uttermost.

And now just one point more, to commend this encouragement to you. Indeed,

poor souls, I know when ye are under a sense of sin it is very hard to

believe. We sometimes say, "Only believe;" but believing is just the hardest

thing in the world when sin lies heavy on your shoulders. We say, "Sinner,

only trust in Christ." Ah, ye do not know what a great "only" that is. It is

a work so great, that no man can do it unaided by God; for faith is the gift

of God, and he gives it only to his children. But if anything can call faith

into exercise, it is this last thing I shall mention. Sinner, remember that

Christ is willing to receive thee, for he came all the way from heaven to

seek thee and find thee out in thy wanderings, and to save thee and rescue

thee from thy miseries; he hath given proof of his hearty interest in thy

welfare, in that he hath shed his very heart's blood to redeem thy soul from

death and hell. If he had wanted the companionship of saints, he might have

stopped in heaven, for there were many there. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob

were with him there in glory; but he wanted sinners. He had a thirst after

perishing sinners. He wanted to make them trophies of his grace. He wanted

black souls, to wash them white. He wanted dead souls, to make them alive.

His benevolence wanted objects on which to exert itself; and therefore

"Down from the shining seats above,

With joyful haste he fled,

Entered the grave in mortal flesh,

And dwelt among the dead."

Oh, sinner, look there, and see that cross. Mark yonder man upon it!

"See from his head, his hands, his feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?"

Dost thou note that eye? Canst thou see languid pity for thy soul floating in

it? Dost thou mark that side? It is opened that thou mayest hide thy sins

therein. See those drops of crimson blood; every drop is trickling down for

thee. Hearest thou that death-shriek, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" That

shriek in all its deep-toned solemnity is for thee. Yes, for thee, if thou

art a sinner; if thou dost this night say unto God, "Lord, I know I have

offended thee; have mercy upon me for Jesus' sake." If now, taught by the

Spirit, thou art led to abhor thyself in dust and ashes, because thou hast

sinned, verily, before God-I tell thee in his sight, as his servant, thou

shalt be saved; for Jesus would not die for thee and yet let thee perish.

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. One of the most distressing

things in the world is to feel yourself a sinner; but that is no reason why I

should not exhort you to seek it, for while distressing, it is only the

distress of the bitter medicine which will effectually work the cure. Do not

seek to get high ideas of yourself. Seek to get a low opinion of yourself; do

not try to deck yourself with ornaments; let it not be your endeavour to

array yourself in gold and silver; do not seek to be made good in yourself,

but seek to strip yourself; seek to humble yourself. Do not soar high, but

sink low. Do not go up, but go down. Ask God to let thee see that thou art

nothing at all. Ask him to bring thee to this, that thou mayest have nothing

to say but

"I the chief of sinners am;"

and if God hear your prayer, very likely Satan will tell you that you cannot

be saved because you are a sinner. But as Martin Luther said, "Once, when I

was racked with pain and sin, Satan said, 'Luther, thou canst not be saved,

for thou art a sinner. 'Nay,' said Martin Luther, 'I will cut thine head off

with thine own sword. Thou sayest I am a sinner; I thank thee for it. Thou

art a holy Satan,' (he says it in mockery no doubt,) 'when thou sayest I am a

sinner. Well, then, Satan, Christ died for sinners, therefore he died for me.

Ah,' said he, 'if thou canst but prove that to me, Satan, I will thank thee

for it; and so far from groaning, I will begin to sing, for all we want is to

know and feel that we are sinners." Let us feel that; let us know that, and

we may receive this as an undoubted fact of revelation, that we have a right

to come unto Christ, and to believe on him, and receive him as all our

salvation, and all our desire. No doubt Conscience will come and stop you;

but do not try to stop the mouth of Conscience, but tell Conscience you are

much obliged to him for all that he says 'Oh, you have been a desperate

fellow; you sinned when you were young; you have sinned even until now. How

many sermons have been wasted on you! How many Sabbaths you have broken! How

many warnings you have despised! Oh, you are a desperate sinner.' Tell

Conscience that you thank him, for the more you can prove yourself to be a

sinner, not by outward acts, but in your inmost heart, the more you know

yourself to be really guilty, the more reason have you to come to Christ and

say, "Lord, I believe thou hast died for the guilty; I believe thou intendest

to save the worthless. I Cast myself on thee; Lord, save me!" That does not

suit some of you, does it? It is not the kind of doctrine that flatters man

much. No; ye would like to be good people, and help Christ a little, ye like

that theory which some ministers are always proclaiming. "God has done a

great deal for you; you do the rest, and then you will be saved." That is a

very popular kind of doctrine; you do one part, and God will do the other

part; but that is not God's truth, it is only a delirious dream; God says, "I

will do the whole; come and prostrate thyself at my feet; give up thy doings;

let me undertake for thee; afterwards, I will make thee live to my glory.

Only in order that thou mayest be holy, I desire thee to confess that thou

art unholy; in order that thou mayest be sanctified, thou must confess that

thou art as yet unsanctified. Oh, do that my hearers. Fall down before the

Lord; cast yourselves down. Do not stand up with pride; but fall down before

God in humility; tell him you are undone without his sovereign grace; tell

him you have nothing, you are nothing, you never will be anything more than

nothing, but that you know Christ does not want anything of you, for he will

take you just as you are. Do not seek to come to Christ with anything,

besides your sin; do not seek to come to Christ with your prayers for a

recommendation; do not come to him even with professions of your faith; come

to him with your sin, he will give you faith. If you stop away from Christ,

and think that you will have faith apart from him, you have made an error. It

is Christ that saves us; we must come to Christ for all we want.

"Thou, O Christ, art all I want;

All in All in thee I find:

Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,

Heal the sick, and lead the blind."

Jesus will do so and more also; but you must come as blind, you most come as

sick, you must come as lost, or else you cannot and must not come at all.

Come then, to Jesus, I beseech you, whatever may up to this time have kept

you away. Your doubts would keep you away, but say, "Stand back, Unbelief;

Christ says he died for sinners: and I know I am a sinner."

"My faith will on that promise live,

Will on that promise die."

And there is one thing I want to say, before I have done. Do not stop away

from Christ, when you know yourself to be a sinner, because you think you do

not understand every point of theology. Very often I get young converts with

me, and they say, "I do not understand this or that doctrine." Well, I am

very glad, so far as I am able, to explain it to them. But sometimes I get,

not young converts, but young convicts, those who are under Conviction of

sin; and when I am trying to bring them to this, that if they are but sinners

they may believe in Christ, they begin with this knotty point, and that

knotty point-and they seem to imagine that they cannot be saved till they are

thorough theologians. Now, if you expect to understand all theology before

you put your faith in Christ, I can only tell you you never will; for live as

long as ever you may, there will be some depths you cannot explore. There are

certain unquestionable facts which you must hold; but there will always be

some difficulties through which you will not be able to see. The most

favoured saint on earth does not understand everything; but you want to

understand all things before you come to Christ. One man asks me how sin came

into the world, and he will not come unto Christ till he knows that. Why, he

will be lost beyond hope of recovery, if he waits till he knows it; for

nobody will ever know it. I have no reason to believe that it is even

revealed to those who are in heaven. Another wants to know how it is that men

are bidden to come,-and yet we are taught in Scripture that no man can come,-

and he must have that cleared up; just as if the poor man who had a withered

arm, when Christ said, "Stretch out thine arm," had replied, "Lord, I have

got a difficulty in my mind; I want to know how you can tell me to stretch

out my arm when it is withered." Suppose when Christ had said to Lazarus,

"Come forth," Lazarus could have said, "I have a difficulty in my mind; how

can a dead man come forth?" Why, know this, vain man! when Christ says

"Stretch out thine arm," he gives you power to stretch out your arm with the

command, and the difficulty is solved in practice; though I believe it never

will be solved in theory. If men want to have theology mapped out to them, as

they would have a map of England; if they want to have every little village

and every hedgerow in the gospel kingdom mapped out to them, they will not

find it anywhere but in the Bible; and they will find it so mapped out there

that the years of a Methuselah would not suffice to find out every little

thing in it. We must come to Christ and learn, not learn and then come to

Christ. "Ah! but," saith another, "that is not the ground of my misgivings; I

do not perplex myself much about theological points; I have got a worse

anxiety than that: I feel I am too bad to be saved." Well, I believe you are

wrong then; that is all I can say in reply to you; for I will believe Christ

before I will believe you. You say you are too bad to be saved; Christ says,

"Him that cometh he will in no wise cast out." Now, which shall be right?

Christ saith he will receive the very worst; you say he will not. What then?

"Let God be true, and every man a liar." But there is one matter of counsel I

wish you would accept; I desire of God that he may bring you to come and try

the Lord Jesus Christ, and see whether he will turn you away. What concern is

it to me, that I am so often reproached for making my appeals to the worst of

Sinners? It is said that I direct my ministry to drunkards, harlots,

blasphemers, and sinners of the grosser sort. And what if the finger of scorn

he pointed at me, or if I shall be accounted as a fool before the public; do

you think I shall be deterred by their irony? Do you think I shall stand

abashed at their ungenerous ridicule? Oh, no: like David, when he danced

before the ark of the Lord, and Michal, Saul's daughter, jeered at him and

taunted him as a shameless fellow, I shall only reply, if this be vile, I

purpose to be more vile yet. While I see the foot-tracks of my Master before

me, and while I see still more his gracious sanctions following my labours;

while I behold his name magnified, his glory increased, and perishing souls

saved, (as thanks be to God we have witness everyday;) while this gospel

warrants me, while the Spirit of God moves me, and while signs following do

multiply the seals of my commission,-who am I that I should stay myself for

man, or resist the Holy Ghost for any flesh that breatheth? Oh, then, ye

chief of sinners, ye vilest of the vile, ye who are the scum of the city, the

refuse of the earth, the dregs of creation, whom no man seeketh after, ye

whose characters are destroyed, and whose inmost souls are polluted, so black

that no fuller on earth can whiten you, so debased that ye have sunk beyond

the hope of any moralist to reclaim you! come ye-come ye to Christ. Come ye

at his own invitation. Come, and you shall be surely received with a hearty

welcome. My Master said that he received sinners. His enemies said it of him,

"This man receiveth sinners." In deed and in truth we know of a surety that

he does receive sinners, the enemies themselves being witnesses. Come now,

and yield the fullest credit to his word, his invitation, his promise. Do you

object that it was only during a few days' grace in the time of his sojourn

on earth that he received sinners? No, not so; it is confirmed by all

subsequent experience. The apostles of Jesus echoed it after he had ascended

into heaven, in terms as unqualified as he himself expressed it when on

earth. Will ye not believe this: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of

all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of

whom I am chief?" Ye despisers, go away and laugh at this; go away, and scorn

the preached gospel if you will, but one day we shall meet each other, face

to face, before our Maker, and it may, perhaps, go hard then with all those

who have despised Christ, and laughed at his gracious words. Is there an

infidel here who says he shall be well enough off if he shall die the death

of annihilation, and shall not live in a future world? Well, my friend,

suppose all men die like dogs, I shall be as well off as you are, and I think

a little better off, even as to happiness and peace in this world. But if;

(and mark you I do not put it so, because I doubt it)-if it be true that

there is a world to come. I would not like to stand in your place in the next

world. Be it so that there is a judgment-seat; let there be a hell-(l put it

hypothetically, not because I have a doubt about it, but because you tell me

you doubt it; though I do not think you really do)-if there be such a place,

what will ye do then? Why, even now ye shake if a leaf falls in the night; ye

are terrified if the cholera is in the street; ye are alarmed if ye are a

little sick, and ye rush to the physician, and anyone can impose upon you

with his physic, because you are afraid of death. What will you do in the

swellings of Jordan, when death gets hold on you? If a little pain affrights

you now, what will you do when your body shall shake, and your knees shall

knock together before your Maker? What wilt thou do, my hearer, when his

burning eyes shall eat into thy very soul? What wilt thou do, when, amid ten

thousand thunders, he shall say, "Depart, depart?" I cannot tell thee what

thou wilt do; but I will tell thee one thing that thou durst not do; that is,

thou durst not say, that I have not as simply as ever I could tried to preach

the gospel to the very chief of sinners. Hear it again-"He that believeth on

the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved." To believe is to trust in Christ; to

drop into those blessed arms that can catch the heaviest laden sinner that

ever breathed; to fall flat on the promise; to let him do all for you, until

he has quickened you, and enabled you to work out what he has before worked

in you, "your own salvation;" and even this must be "with fear and

trembling." God almighty grant, that some poor soul may he blessed to-night!

You that are on shore, I do not expect to do you any good. If I have a rocket

to send abroad into the sea, it is only the stranded vessel, the shipwrecked

mariner that will rejoice at the rope. You that think yourselves safe, I have

no necessity to preach to you; you are all so perilously good in your own

sight, it is no use trying to make you better; you are all so awfully

righteous, you can go on your way well enough, without warning from me. You

must excuse me, therefore, if I have nothing to say to you except this, "Woe

unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" and allow me to turn myself to

another class of people, the vilest of the vile. I should not care if I

gained the cognomen of the preacher to the basest and the vilest; I should

not blush to be reviled like Rowland Hill, as the preacher to the lowest

orders; for they want the gospel as much as any creatures under heaven; and

if nobody will preach it to them, God helping me, I will endeavour to preach

it to them in words that they can understand. And if genteel people do not

like preaching in that style, they have the option of leaving it. If they

want to hear men preach in intellectual strains, above the capacity of common

sinners, let them go and hear them; I must content myself with following my

Lord, who "made himself of no reputation,"-to go after out-of-the-way

sinners, in an out-of-the-way fashion. I would sooner do violence to pulpit

decorum, and break through pulpit decency, than not break through hard

hearts. I count that sort of preaching to be the right sort, that does reach

the heart somehow or other, and I am not particular how I do it. I confess,

if I could not preach in one way, I would in another; if nobody would come to

hear me in a black coat, they should be attracted by my wearing a red one.

Somehow or other, I would make them hear the gospel if I could; and I would

labour so to preach, that the meanest understanding should be able to get

hold of this one fact: "This man receiveth sinners," God bless you all, for

Christ's sake!

Verses 4-7

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

September 28th, 1884 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"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? And 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. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over nine and nine just persons, which need no repentance" Luke 15:4-7 .

Our Lord Jesus Christ while he was here below was continually in the pursuit of lost souls. He was seeking lost men and women, and it was for this reason that he went down among them, even among those who were most evidently lost, that he might find them. He took pains to put himself where he could come into communication with them, and he exhibited such kindliness toward them that in crowds they drew near to hear him. I dare say it was a queer-looking assembly, a disreputable rabble, which made the Lord Jesus its center. I am not astonished that the Pharisee, when he looked upon the congregation, sneered and said, "He collects around him the pariahs of our community, the wretches who collect taxes for the foreigner of God's free people; the fallen women of the towns and suchlike riffraff make up his audiences; he, instead of repelling them, receives them, welcomes them, looks upon them as a class to whom he has a peculiar relationship. He even eats with them. Did he not go into the house of Zaccheus, and the house of Levi, and partake of the feasts which these low people made for him?" We cannot tell you all the Pharisees thought, it might not be edifying to attempt it; but they thought as badly of the Lord as they possibly could because of the company which surrounded him. And so, he deigns in this parable to defend himself not that he cared much about what they might think, but that they might have no excuse for speaking so bitterly of him. He tells them that he is seeking the lost, and where should he be found but among those whom he is seeking? Should a physician shun the sick? Should a shepherd avoid the lost sheep? Was he not exactly in his right position when there "drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him"?

Our divine Lord defended himself by what is called an argumentum ad hominem, an argument to the men themselves; for he said, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not go after that which is lost, until he find it?" No argument tells more powerfully upon people than one which comes close home to their own daily lives, and the Savior put it so. They were silenced, if they were not convinced. It was a peculiarly strong argument, because in their case it was only a sheep that they would go after, but in his case it was something infinitely more precious than all the flocks of sheep that ever fed on Sharon or Carmel, for it was the souls of human beings which he sought to save. The argument had in it not only the point of peculiar adaptation, but a force at the back of it unusually powerful for driving it home upon every honest mind. It may be opened out in this fashion "If you would each one of you go after a lost sheep, and follow in its track until you found it, how much more may I go after lost souls, and follow them in all their wanderings until I can rescue them?" The going after the sheep is a part of the parable which our Lord meant them to observe: the shepherd pursues a route which he would never think of pursuing if it were only for his own pleasure; his way is not selected for his own ends, but for the sake of the stray sheep. He takes a track up hill and down dale, far into a desert, or into some dark wood, simply because the sheep has gone that way, and he must follow it until he finds it. Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a matter of taste and pleasure, would never have been found among the publicans and sinners, nor among any of our guilty race; if he had consulted his own ease and comfort he would have consorted only with pure and holy angels, and the great Father above. But he was not thinking of himself, his heart was set upon the lost ones, and therefore he went where the lost sheep were "for the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." The more steadily you look at this parable the more clearly you will see that our Lord's answer was complete. We need not this morning regard it exclusively as an answer to Pharisees, but we may look at it as an instruction to ourselves, for it is quite as complete in that direction. May the good Spirit instruct us as we muse upon it.

I. In the first place, I call attention to this observation: THE ONE SUBJECT OF THOUGHT to the man who had lost his sheep. This sets forth to us the one thought of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, when he sees a person lost to holiness and happiness by wandering into sin.

The shepherd, on looking over his little flock of one hundred, can only count ninety-and-nine. He counts them again, and he notices that a certain one has gone, it may be a white-faced sheep with a black mark on its foot. He knows all about it, for "the Lord knoweth them that are his." The shepherd has a photograph of the wanderer in his mind's eye, and now he thinks but little of the ninety and nine who are feeding in the pastures of the wilderness, but his mind is in a ferment about the one lost sheep. This one idea possesses him: "a sheep is lost!" This agitates his mind more and more "a sheep is lost." It masters his every faculty. He cannot eat bread; he cannot return to his home; he cannot rest while one sheep is lost.

To a tender heart a lost sheep is a painful subject of thought. It is a sheep, and therefore utterly defenseless now that it has left its defender. If the wolf should spy it out, or the lion or the bear should come across its track, it would be torn in pieces In an instant. Thus the shepherd asks his heart the question "What will become of my sheep? Perhaps at this very moment a lion may be ready to spring upon it, and, if so, it cannot help itself!" A sheep is not prepared for fight, and even for flight it has not the swiftness of its enemy. That makes its compassionate owner the more sad as he thinks again "A sheep is lost, it is in great danger of a cruel death." A sheep is of all creatures the most senseless. If we have lost a dog, it may find its way home again; possibly a horse might return to its master's stable; but a sheep will wander on and on, in endless mazes lost. It is too foolish a thing to think of returning to the place of safety. A lost sheep is lost indeed in countries where lands lie unenclosed and the plains are boundless. That fact still seems to ring in the man's soul "A sheep is lost, and it will not return, for it is a foolish thing. Where may it not have gone by this time? Weary and worn, it may be fainting; it may be far away from green pastures, and be ready to perish with hunger among the bare rocks or upon the arid sand." A sheep is shiftless; it knows nothing about providing for itself. The camel can scent water from afar, and a vulture can espy its food from an enormous distance, but the sheep can find nothing for itself. Of all wretched creatures a lost sheep is one of the worst. If anybody had stepped up to the shepherd just then and said, "Good sir, what aileth you? You seem in great concern." He would have replied, "And well I may be, for a sheep is lost." "It is only one, sir, and I see you have ninety-and-nine left." "Do you call it nothing to lose one? You are no shepherd yourself, or you would not trifle so. Why, I seem to forget these ninety-and-nine that are all safe, and my mind only remembers that one which is lost."

What is it which makes the Great Shepherd lay so much to his heart the loss of one of his flock? What is it that makes him agitated as he reflects upon that supposition "if he lose one of them"?

I think it is, first, because of his property in it. The parable does not speak so much of a hired shepherd, but of a shepherd proprietor. "What man of you having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them." Jesus, in another place, speaks of the hireling, whose own the sheep are not, and therefore he flees when the wolf comes. It is the shepherd proprietor who lays down his life for the sheep. It is not a sheep alone, and a lost sheep, but it is one of his own lost sheep that this man cares for. This parable is not written about lost humanity in the bulk it may be so used if you please but in its first sense it is written about Christ's own sheep as also is the second parable concerning the woman's own money, and the third, not concerning any prodigal youth, but the father's own son. Jesus has his own sheep, and some of them are lost. Yes, they were all once in the same condition, for "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." The parable refers to the unconverted, whom Jesus has redeemed with his most precious blood, and whom he has undertaken to seek and to save. These are those other sheep whom also he must bring in. "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." The sheep of Christ are his long before they know it his even when they wander; when they are brought into the fold by the effectual working of his grace they become manifestly what they were in covenant from of old. The sheep are Christ's, first, because he chose them from before the foundations of the world "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." His, next, because the Father gave them to him. How he dwells upon that fact in his great prayer in John 17:0 : "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me"; "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." We are the Lord's own flock, furthermore, by his purchase of us. He says: "I lay down my life for the sheep." It is nearly nineteen centuries since he paid the ransom price, and bought us to be his own and we shall be his, for that purchase money was not paid in vain. And so the Savior looks upon his hands, and sees the marks of his purchase; he looks upon his side, and sees the token of the effectual redemption of his own elect to himself by the pouring out of his own heart's blood before the living God. This thought, therefore, presses upon him, "One of my sheep is lost." It is a wonderful supposition that is contained in this parable "if he lose one of them." What! lose one whom he loved before ever the earth was? It may wander for a time, but he will not have it lost forever, that he cannot bear. What! lose one whom his Father gave him to be his own? Lose one whom he has bought with his own life? He will not endure the thought. That word "if he lose one of them" sets his soul on fire. It shall not be. You know how much the Lord has valued each one of his chosen, laying down his life for his redemption. You know how dearly he loves every one of his people. It is no new passion with him, neither can it grow old. He has loved his own and must love them to the end. From eternity that love has endured already, and it must continue throughout the ages, for he changes not. Will he lose one of those so dearly loved? Never; never. He has eternal possession of them by a covenant of salt, wherein the Father has given them to him. This it is that in great measure stirs his soul so that he thinks of nothing but this fact One of My sheep is lost.

Secondly, he has yet another reason for this all-absorbing thought, namely, his great compassion for his lost sheep. The wandering of a soul causes Jesus deep sorrow; he cannot bear the thought of its perishing. Such is the love and tenderness of his heart that he cannot bear that one of his own should be in jeopardy. He can take no rest as long as a soul for whom he shed his blood still abides under the dominion of Satan and under the power of sin; therefore the Great Shepherd neither night nor day forgets his sheep. he must save his flock, and he is constrained until it be accomplished.

He has a deep sympathy with each stray heart. He knows the sorrow that sin brings, the deep pollution and the terrible wounding that comes of transgression, even at the time, and the sore heart and the broken spirit that will come of it before long. So the sympathetic Savior grieves over each lost sheep, for he knows the misery which lies in the fact of being lost. If you have ever been in a house with a mother and father, and daughters and sons, when a little child has been lost, you will never forget the agitation of each member of the household. See the father as he goes to the police station, and calls at every likely house, for he must find his child or break his heart. See the deep oppression and bitter anguish of the mother; she is like one distracted until she has news of her darling. You now begin to understand what Jesus feels for one whom he loves, who is graven on the palms of his hands, whom he looked upon in the glass of his foreknowledge when he was bleeding his life away upon the tree; he has no rest in his spirit until his beloved is found. He has compassion like a God, and that does transcend all the compassion of parents or of brothers the compassion of an infinite heart brimming over with an ocean of love. This one thought moves the pity of the Lord "if he lose one of them."

Moreover, the man in the parable had a third relation to the sheep, which made him possessed with the one thought of its being lost he was a shepherd to it. It was his own sheep, and he had therefore for that very reason become its shepherd, and he says to himself, "If I lose that one of them my shepherd work will be ill-done." What dishonor it would be to a shepherd to lose one of his sheep! Either it must be for want of power to keep it, or want of will, or want of watchfulness; but none of these can appertain to the Chief Shepherd. Our Lord Jesus Christ will never have it said of him that he has lost one of his people, for he glories in having preserved them all. "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." The Devil shall never say that Jesus suffered one whom his Father gave him to perish. His work of love cannot in any degree become a failure. His death in vain! No, not in jot or tittle. I can imagine, if it were possible, that the Son of God should live in vain, but to die in vain! It shall never be. The purpose that he meant to achieve by his passion and death he shall achieve, for he is the Eternal, the Infinite, the Omnipotent, and who shall stay his hand, or baffle his design? He will not have it. "If he lose one of them," says the passage; imagine the consequence. What scorn would come from Satan! What derision would he pour upon the shepherd! How hell would ring with the news, "He hath lost one of them." Suppose it to be the feeblest; then would they cry, "He could keep the strong, who could keep themselves." Suppose it to be the strongest; then would they cry, "He could not even keep one of the mightiest of them, but must let him perish." This is good argument, for Moses pleaded with God, "What will the Egyptians say?" It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones shall perish, neither is it for the glory of Christ that one of his own sheep should be eternally lost.

You see the reason for the Lord's heart being filled with one burning thought; for first, the sheep is his own; next, he is full of compassion; and then again, it is his office to shepherd the flock.

All this while the sheep is not thinking about the shepherd, or caring for him in the least degree. Some of you are not thinking at all about the Lord Jesus. You have no wish nor will to seek after him! What folly! Oh, the pity of it, that the great heart above should be yearning over you today, and should fall to rest because you are in peril, and you, who will be the greater loser, for you will lose your own soul, are sporting with sin, and making yourself merry with destruction. Ah, me! how far you have wandered! How hopeless would your case be if there were not an Almighty Shepherd to think upon you.

II. Now we come to the second point, and observe THE ONE OBJECT OF SEARCH. This sheep lies on the shepherd's heart, and he must at once set out to look for it. He leaves the ninety-and-nine in the wilderness and goes after that which is lost until he find it.

Observe here that it is a definite search. The shepherd goes after the sheep, and after nothing else, and he has the one particular sheep in his mind's eye. I should have imagined, from the way in which I have seen this text handled, that Christ, the shepherd, went down into the wilderness to catch anybody's sheep he could find. Many were running about, and he did not own any one of them more than another, but was content to pick up the one that he could first lay hold upon or rather, that which first came running after him. Not so is the case depicted in the parable. It is his own sheep that he is seeking, and he goes distinctly after that one. It is his sheep which was lost a well-known sheep, well known not only to himself, but even to his friends and neighbours for he speaks to them as if it was perfectly understood which sheep it was that he went to save. Jesus knows all about his redeemed, and he goes definitely after such and such a soul. When I am preaching in the name of the Lord, I delight to think that I am sent to individuals with the message of mercy. I am not going to draw the bow at a venture at all, but when the Divine hands are put on mine to draw the bow, the Lord takes such aim that no arrow misses its mark into the very center of the heart the Word finds its way, for Jesus goes not forth at a peradventure in his dealings with men and women. He subdues the will and conquers the heart, making his people willing in the day of his power. He calls individuals and they come. He says, "Mary," and the response is, "Rabboni." I say, the man in the parable sought out a distinct individual, and rested not until he found it; so does the Lord Jesus in the movements of his love go forth at no uncertainty. He does not grope about to catch whom he may, as if he played at blindman's buff with salvation, but he seeks and saves the one out of his own sheep which he has his eye upon in its wanderings. Jesus knows what he means to do, and he will perform it to the glory of the Father.

Note that this is an all-absorbing search. The shepherd is thinking of nothing but his own lost sheep. The ninety-and-nine are left in safety, but they are left. When we read that he leaves them in the wilderness we are apt to think of some barren place, but that is not intended. It simply means the open pasturage, the steppe, the prairie. He leaves them well provided for, leaves them because he can leave them. For the time being he is carried away with the one thought that he must seek and save the lost one, and therefore he leaves the ninety-and-nine in their pasture. "Shepherd, the way is very rocky!" He does not seem to know what the way is, his heart is with his lost sheep. "Shepherd, it is a heavy climb up yon Mountainside." He does not note his toll; his excitement lends him the feet of the wild goat; he stands securely where at other times his foot would slip. He looks around for his sheep and seems to see neither crag nor chasm. "Shepherd, it is a terrible path by which you must descend into yonder gloomy valley." It is not terrible to him, his only terror is lest his sheep should perish; he is taken up with that one fear, and nothing else. He leaps into danger, and escapes it by the one strong impulse which bears him on. It is grand to think of the Lord Jesus Christ with his heart set immovably upon the rescue of a soul which at this moment is lost to him.

It is an active search too; for observe, the shepherd goes after that which is lost until he finds it and he does this with a personal search. He does not say to one of his underlings, "Here, hasten after that sheep which was lost, and bring it home." No, he follows it himself. And if ever there is a soul brought from sin to grace, it is not by us poor ministers working alone, but it is by the Master himself who goes after his own sheep. It is glorious to think of him still personally tracking sinners, who, though they fly from him with a desperateness of folly, yet are still pursued by him pursued by the Son of God, by the Eternal Lover of human beings pursued by him until he finds them.

For notice the perseverance of the search; "until he find it." The shepherd does not stop until he has done the deed. You and I ought to seek after a soul, how long? Why, until we find it, for such is the model set before us by the Master. The parable says nothing about his not finding it, no hint of failure is given. We dream not that there may be a sheep belonging to Jesus which he will never find. Oh, friends, there are a great many whom you and I would never find, but when Jesus is after his own lost sheep, depend upon it such is his skill, so clearly does he see, and so effectually does he intervene, that he will surely bring them in. A defeated Christ I cannot conceive of. It is a personal search, and a persevering search, and a successful search, until he finds it. Let us praise and bless his name for this.

Observe that when the shepherd does find it, there is a little touch in the parable not often noticed he does not appear to put it back into the fold again. I mean, we do not find it so written, as a fact to be noted. I suppose he did so place it ultimately, but for the time being he keeps it with himself rather than with its fellows. The next scene is the shepherd at home, saying, "Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." It looks as if Jesus did not save a soul so much to the church as to himself, and though the saved are in the flock, the greatest joy of all is that the sheep is with the shepherd. This shows you how thoroughly Christ lays himself out that he may save his people. There is nothing in Christ that does not tend toward the salvation of his redeemed. There are no pullbacks with him, no half-consecrated influences which make him linger. In the pursuit of certain objects we lay out a portion of our faculties, but Jesus lays out all his powers upon the seeking and saving of souls.

The whole Christ seeks after each sinner, and when the Lord finds it, he gives himself to that one soul as if he had but that one soul to bless. How my heart admires the concentration of all the Godhead and humanity of Christ in his search after each sheep of his flock.

III. Now, we must pass on very briefly to notice a third point. We have had one subject of thought and one object of search; now we have ONE BURDEN OF LOVE. When the seeking is ended, then the saving appears "When he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing." Splendid action this! How beautifully the parable sets forth the whole of salvation. Some of the old writers delight to put it thus: in his incarnation he came after the lost sheep, in his life he continued to seek it, in his death he laid it upon his shoulders, in his resurrection he bore it on its way, and in his ascension he brought it home rejoicing. Our Lord's career is a course of soul-winning, a life laid out for his people, and in it you may trace the whole process of salvation.

But now, see, the shepherd finds the sheep, and he lays it on his shoulders. It is an uplifting action, raising the fallen one from the earth whereon he has strayed. It is as though he took the sheep just as it was, without a word of rebuke, without delay or hesitancy, and lifted it out of the slough or the briers into a place of safety. Do you not remember when the Lord lifted you up from the horrible pit? When he sent from above, and delivered you, and became your strength? I shall never forget that day. What a wonderful lift it was for me when the Great Shepherd lifted me into newness of life. The Lord said of Israel, "I bare you on eagles' wings," but it is a dearer emblem still to be born upon the shoulders of the incarnate Lord.

This laying on the shoulders was an appropriating act. He seemed to say, "You are my sheep, and therefore I lay you on my shoulders." He did not make his claim in so many words, but by a rapid action he declared it: for someone does not bear away a sheep to which he has no right: this was not a sheep-stealer, but a shepherd-proprietor. He holds fast the sheep by all four of its legs so that it cannot stir, and then he lays it on his own shoulders, for it is all his own now. He seems to say, "I am a long way from home, and I am in a weary desert; but I have found my sheep, and these hands shall hold it." Here are our Lord's own words, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." Hands of such might as those of Jesus will hold fast the found one. Shoulders of such power as those of Jesus will safely bear the found one home. It is all well with that sheep, for it is positively and experimentally the Good Shepherd's own, just as it always had been his in the eternal purpose of the Father. Do you remember when Jesus said to you, "you are Mine"? Then I know you also appropriated him, and began to sing

So I my best Beloved's am, And he is mine.

More condescending still is another view of this act: it was a deed of service to the sheep. The sheep is uppermost, the weight of the sheep is upon the shepherd. The sheep rides, the shepherd is the burden-bearer. The sheep rests, the shepherd labors. "I am among you as he that serveth," said our Lord long ago. "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." On that cross he bore the burden of our sin, and what is more, the burden of our very selves. Blessed be his name, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all," and he hath laid us on him, too, and he bears us. Remember that choice Scripture: "In his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Soul-melting thought, the Son of God became subservient to the sons of man! The Maker of heaven and earth bowed his shoulders to bear the weight of sinners.

It was a rest-giving act, very likely needful to the sheep which could go no further, and was faint and weary. It was a full rest to the poor creature if it could have understood it, to feel itself upon its shepherd's shoulders, irresistibly carried back to safety. What a rest it is to you and to me to know that we are born along by the eternal power and Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ! "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him, and he shall dwell between his shoulders." The Christ upbears us today. We have no need of strength; our weakness is no impediment, for he bears us. Hath not the Lord said, "I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry and will deliver you"? We shall not even stumble, much less fall to ruin; the shepherd's feet shall traverse all the road in safety. No portion of the way back should cause us fear, for he is able to bear us even to his home above. What a sweet word is that in Deuteronomy: "The Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place." Blessed rest of faith, to give yourself up entirely to those hands and shoulders to keep and carry you even to the end! Let us bless and praise the Lord. The shepherd is consecrated to his burden; he bears nothing on his shoulders but his sheep; and the Lord Jesus seems to bear no burden but that of his people. He lays out his omnipotence to save his chosen, having redeemed them first with price of blood, he redeems them still with all his power. "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels." Oh, the glorious grace of our unfailing Savior, who consecrates himself to our salvation, and concentrates upon that object all that he has and is!

IV. We close by noticing one more matter THE ONE SOURCE OF JOY. This man who had lost his sheep is filled with joy, but his sheep is the sole source of it. His sheep has so taken up all his thought, and so commanded all his faculties, that as he found all his care centered upon it, so he now finds all his Joy flowing from it.

I invite you to notice the first mention of joy we get here: "When he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing...... That is a great load for you, shepherd!" Joyfully he answers, "I am glad to have it on my shoulders." The mother does not say when she has found her lost child, "This is a heavy load." No; she presses it to her bosom. She does not mind how heavy it is; it is a dear burden to her. She is rejoiced to bear it once again. "He layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing." Remember that text: "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame." A great sorrow was on Christ when our load was laid on him, but a greater joy flashed into his mind when he thought that we were thus recovered from our lost estate. He said to himself, "I have taken them up upon My shoulders, and none can hurt them now, neither can they wander to destruction. I am bearing their sin, and they shall never come into condemnation. The penalty of their guilt has been laid on Me that it may never be laid on them. I am an effectual and efficient Substitute for them. I am bearing, that they may never bear, My Father's righteous ire." His love to them made it a JOY to feel every lash of the scourge of justice; his love to them made it a delight that the nails should pierce his hands and feet, and that his heart should be broken with the absence of his Father, God. Even "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani," when the deeps of its woe have been sounded, will be found to have pearls of joy in its caverns. No shout of triumph can equal that cry of grief, because our Lord joyed to bear even the forsaking by his Father for the sin of his chosen whom he had loved from before the foundation of the world. Oh, you cannot understand it except in a very feeble measure! Let us try to find an earthly miniature likeness. A son is taken ill far away from home. He is laid sick with a fever, and a telegram is sent home. His mother says she must go and nurse him; she is wretched until she can set out upon the journey. It is a dreary place where her boy lies, but for the moment it is the dearest spot on earth to her. She joys to leave the comforts of her home to tarry among strangers for the love of her boy. She feels an intense joy in sacrificing herself; she refuses to retire from the bedside, she will not leave her charge; she watches day and night, and only from utter exhaustion does she fall asleep. You could not have kept her in England, she would have been too wretched. It was a great, deep, solemn pleasure for her to be where she could minister to her own beloved. Soul, remember you have given Jesus great joy in his saving you. He was forever with the Father, eternally happy, infinitely glorious as God over all; yet he must come hither out of boundless love, take upon himself our nature, and suffer in our stead to bring us back to holiness and God. "He layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing." That day the shepherd knew but one joy. He had found his sheep, and the very pressure of it upon his shoulders made his heart light, for he knew by that sign that the object of his care was safe beyond all question.

Now he goes home with it, and this joy of his was then so great that it filled his soul to overflowing. The parable speaks nothing as to his joy in getting home again, nor a word concerning the joy of being saluted by his friends and neighbours. No, the joy of having found his sheep eclipsed all other gladness of heart, and dimmed the light of home and friendship. He turns around to friends and neighbours and entreats them to help him to bear the weight of his happiness. He cries, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost." One sinner had repented, and all heaven must make holiday concerning it. Oh, brethren, there is enough joy in the heart of Christ over his saved ones to flood all heaven with delight. The streets of Paradise run knee-deep with the heavenly waters of the Savior's joy. They flow out of the very soul of Christ, and angels and glorified spirits bathe in the mighty stream. Let us do the same. We are friends if we are not neighbours. He calls us today to come and bring our hearts, like empty vessels, that he may fill them with his own joy, that our joy may be full. Those of us who are saved must enter into the joy of our Lord. When I was trying to think over this text I rejoiced with my Lord in the bringing in of each of his sheep, for each one makes a heaven full of joy. But, oh, to see all the redeemed brought in! Jesus would have no joy if he should lose one: it would seem to spoil it all. If the purpose of mercy were frustrated in any one instance it were a dreary defeat of the great Savior. But his purpose shall be carried out in every instance. He "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." He shall not fail nor be discouraged. He shall carry out the will of the Father. He shall have the full reward of his passion. Let us joy and rejoice with him this morning!

But the text tells us there was more joy over that one lost sheep than over the ninety-and-nine that went not astray. Who are these just persons that need no repentance? Well, you should never explain a parable so as to make it run on four legs if it was only meant to go on two. There may not be such persons at all, and yet the parable may be strictly accurate. If all of us had been such persons, and had never needed repentance, we would not have given as much joy to the heart of Christ as one sinner does when he repents. But suppose it to mean you and I who have long ago repented who have, in a certain sense, now no need of repentance, because we are justified men and women we do not give so much JOY to the heart of God, for the time being, as a sinner does when he first returns to God. It is not that it is a good thing to go astray, or a bad thing to be kept from it. You understand how that is: there are seven children in a family, and six of them are all well; but one dear child is taken seriously ill, and is brought near to the gates of death. It has recovered, its life is spared, and do you wonder that for the time being it gives more joy to the household than all the healthy ones? There is more expressed delight about it a great deal than over all those that have not been ill at all. This does not show it is a good thing to be ill. No, nothing of the kind; we are only speaking of the joy which comes of recovery from sickness. Take another case: you have a son who has been long away in a far country, and another son at home. You love them both equally, but when the absent son comes home he is for a season most upon your thoughts. Is it not natural that it should be so? Those at home give us joy constantly from day to day, but when the stream of joy has been dammed back by his absence, it pours down in a flood upon his return. Then we have "high days and holy days" and "bonfire nights."

There are special circumstances about repentance and conversion which produce joy over a restored wanderer. There was a preceding sorrow, and this sets off the joy by contrast. The shepherd was so touched with compassion for the lost sheep that now his sorrow is inevitably turned into joy. He suffered a dreadful suspense, and that is a killing thing; it is like an acid eating into the soul. That suspense which makes one ask, Where is the sheep? Where can it be? is a piercing of the heart. All those weary hours of searching, and seeking, and followIng are painfully wearing to the heart. You feel as if you would almost sooner know that you never would find it than be in that doubtful state of mind. That suspense when it is ended naturally brings with it a sweet liberty of joy. Moreover, you know that the joy over penitents is so unselfish that you who have been kept by the grace of God for many years do not grieve that there should be more joy over a repenting sinner than over you. No, you say to yourself, "There is good cause. I am myself among those who are glad." You remember that good people made great rejoicing over you when you first came to Jesus, and you heartily unite with them in welcoming newcomers. You will not act the elder brother and say, I will not share the joy of my Father. Not a bit of it; enter heartily into the music and dancing, and count it your you wi heaven to see souls saved from hell. I feel a sudden flush and flood of delight when I meet with a poor creature who once lay at hell's dark door, but is now brought to the gate of heaven. Do not you?

The one thing I want to leave with you is how our gracious Lord seems to give himself up to his own redeemed. How entirely and perfectly every thought of his heart, every action of his power, goes toward the needy, guilty, lost soul. He spends his all to bring back his banished. Poor souls who believe in him have his whole strength engaged on their behalf. Blessed be his name! Now let all our hearts go forth in love toward him. We cannot love him as he loved us as to measure but let us do so in like manner. Let us love him with all our hearts and souls. Let us feel as if we saw nothing, knew nothing, loved nothing save Jesus crucified. As we filled all his heart let him fill all our hearts!

Oh, poor sinner here to-day, will you not yield to the Good Shepherd? will you not stand still as he draws near? Will you not submit to his mighty grace? Know that your rescue from sin and death must be of him and of him alone. Breathe a prayer to him "Come, Lord, I wait for Your salvation! Save me, for I trust in You." If you do thus pray, you have the mark upon you of Christ's sheep, for he says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." Come to him, for he comes to you. Look to him, for he looks to you.

Verses 8-10

The Lost Silver Piece

January 15, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"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? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Luke 15:8-10 .

This chapter is full of grace and truth. Its three consecutive parables have been thought to be merely a repetition of the same doctrine under different metaphors, and if that were so, the truth which it teaches is so important that it could not be rehearsed too often in our hearing. Moreover, it is one which we are apt to forget, and it is well to have it again and again impressed upon our minds. The truth here taught is just this that mercy stretches forth her hand to misery, that grace receives men as sinners, that it deals with demerit, unworthiness, and worthlessness; that those who think themselves righteous are not the objects of divine compassion, but the unrighteous, the guilty, and the undeserving, are the proper subjects for the infinite mercy of God; in a word, that salvation is not of merit but of grace. This truth I say is most important, for it encourages penitents to return to their Father; but it is very apt to be forgotten, for even those who are saved by grace too often fall into the spirit of the elder brother, and speak as if, after all, their salvation depended on the works of the law. But, my dear friends, the three parables recorded in this chapter are not repetitions; they all declare the same main truth, but each one reveals a different phase of it. The three parables are three sides of a vast pyramid of gospel doctrine, but there is a distinct inscription upon each. Not only in the similitude, but also in the teaching covered by the similitude, there is variety, progress, enlargement, discrimination. We have only need to read attentively to discover that in this trinity of parables, we have at once unity of essential truth and distinctness of description. Each one of the parables is needful to the other, and when combined they present us with a far more complete exposition of their doctrine than could have been conveyed by any one of them. Note for a moment the first of the three which brings before us a shepherd seeking a lost sheep. To whom does this refer? Who is the shepherd of Israel? Who brings again that which has gone astray? Do we not clearly discern the ever glorious and blessed Chief Shepherd of the sheep, who lays down his life that he may save them? Beyond a question, we see in the first parable the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second parable is most fitly placed where it is. It, I doubt not, represents the work of the Holy Spirit, working, through the church, for the lost but precious souls of men. The church is that woman who sweeps her house to find the lost piece of money, and in her the Spirit works his purposes of love. How the work of the Holy Spirit follows the work of Christ. As here we first see the shepherd seeking the lost sheep, and then read of the woman seeking the lost piece of money, so the great Shepherd redeems, and then the Holy Spirit restores the soul. You will perceive that each parable is thoroughly understood in its minute details when so interpreted. The shepherd seeks a sheep which has willfully gone astray, and so far the element of sin is present; the lost piece of money does not bring up that idea, nor was it needful that it should, since the parable does not deal with the pardon of sin as the first does. The sheep, on the other hand, though stupid is not altogether senseless and dead, but the piece of money is altogether unconscious and powerless, and therefore all the fitter emblem of man as the Holy Ghost begins to deal with him, dead in trespasses and sins. The third parable evidently represents the divine Father in his abundant love receiving the lost child who comes back to him. The third parable would be likely to be misunderstood without the first and the second. We have sometimes heard it said here is the prodigal received as soon as he comes back, no mention being made of a Savior who seeks and saves him. Is it possible to teach all truths in one single parable? Does not the first one speak of the shepherd seeking the lost sheep? Why need repeat what had been said before? It has also been said that the prodigal returned of his own free will, for there is no hint of the operation of a superior power upon his heart, it seems as if he himself spontaneously says, "I will arise, and go unto my Father." The answer is, that the Holy Spirit's work had been clearly described in the second parable, and needed not to be introduced again. If you put the three pictures in a line, they represent the whole compass of salvation, but each one apart sets forth the work in reference to one or other of the divine persons of the blessed Trinity. The shepherd, with much pain and self-sacrifice, seeks the reckless, wandering sheep; the woman diligently searches for the insensible but lost piece of money; the father receives the returning prodigal. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. The three life-sketches are one, and one truth is taught in the whole three, yet each one is distinct from the other, and by itself instructive. May we be taught of God while we try to discover the mind of the Spirit in this parable, which, as we believe, represents the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. The church is evermore represented as a woman, either the chaste bride of Christ, or the shameless courtesan of Babylon; as for good a woman sweeps the house, so for evil a woman takes the leaven and hides it in the meal till all is leavened. Towards Christ a wife and towards men a mother, the church is most fitly set forth as a woman. A woman with a house under her control is the full idea of the text, her husband away and herself in charge of the treasure: just such is the condition of the church since the departure of the Lord Jesus to the Father. To bring each part of the text under inspection we shall notice man in three conditions lost, sought, found . I. First, the parable treats of man, the object of divine mercy, as lost. Notice, first, the treasure was lost in the dust. The woman had lost her piece of silver, and in order to find it she had to sweep for it, which proves that it had fallen into a dusty place, fallen to the earth, where it might be hidden and concealed amid rubbish and dirt. Every man of Adam born is as a piece of silver lost, fallen, dishonored, and some are buried amid foulness and dust. If we should drop many pieces of money they would fall into different positions; one of thorn might fall into actual mire, and be lost there; another might fall upon a carpet, a cloth, or a clean, well-polished floor, and be lest there. If you have lost your money, it is equally lost into whatever place it may have fallen. So all men are alike lost, but they have not all fallen into the like condition of apparent defilement. One man from the surroundings of his childhood and the influences of education, has never indulged in the coarser and more brutalizing vices; he has never keen a blasphemer, perhaps never openly even a Sabbath-breaker, yet he may be lost for all that. Another, on the other hand, has fallen into great excess of riot; he is familiar with wantonness and chambering, and all manner of evil; he is lost, he is lost with an emphasis: but the more decorous sinner is lost also. There may be some here this morning (and we wish always to apply the truth as we go on), who are lost in the very worst of corruption: I would to God that they would take hope and learn from the parable before us, that the church of God and the Spirit of God are seeking after them, and they may be among the found ones yet. Since, on the other hand, there are many here who have not dropped into such unclean places, I would affectionately remind them that they are nevertheless lost, and they need as much to be sought for by the Spirit of God as if they were among the vilest of the vile. To save the moral needs divine grace as certainly as to save the immoral. If you be lost, my dear hearer, it will be small avail to you that you perished respectably, and were accursed in decent company: if you lack but one thing, yet if the deficiency be fatal, it will be but a poor consolation that you had only one lack. If one leak sent the vessel to the bottom; it was no comfort to the crew that their ship only leaked in one place. One disease may kill a man; he may be sound everywhere else, but it will be a sorry comfort to him to know that he might have lived long had but that one organ been sound. If, dear hearer, thou shouldst have no sin whatever save only an evil heart of unbelief, if all thy external life should be lovely and amiable, yet if that one fatal sin be in thee, thou canst draw small consolation from all else that is good about thee. Thou art lost by nature, and thou must be found by grace, whoever thou mayst be. In this parable that which was lost was altogether ignorant of its being lost. The silver coin was not a living thing, and therefore had no consciousness of its being lost or sought after. The piece of money lost was quite as content to be on the floor or in the dust, as it was to be in the purse of its owner amongst its like. It knew nothing about its being lost, and could not know. And it is just so with the sinner who is spiritually dead in sin, he is unconscious of his state, nor can we make him understand the danger and terror of his condition. When he feels that he is lost, there is already some work of grace in him. When the sinner knows that he is lost, he is no longer content with his condition, but begins to cry out for mercy, which is evidence that the finding work has already began. The unconverted sinner will confess that he is lost because he knows the statement to be scriptural, and therefore out of compliment to God's word he admits it to be true; but he has no idea of what is meant by it, else would he either deny it with proud indignation, or he would bestir himself to pray that he might be restored to the place from which he has fallen, and be numbered with Christ's precious property. O my hearers, this it is that makes the Spirit of God so needful in all our preachings, and every other soul-saving exercise, because we have to deal with insensible souls. The man who puts the fire-escape against the window of a burning house, may readily enough rescue those who are aware of their danger, and who rush to the front and help him, or at least are submissive to him in his work of delivering them; but if a man were insane, if he played with the flames, if he were idiotic and thought that some grand illumination were going on, and knew nothing of the danger but was only "glamoured by the glare," then would it be hard work for the rescuer. Even thus it is with sinners. They know not, though they profess to know, that sin is hell, that to be an alien from God is to be condemned already, to live in sin is to be dead while you live. The insensibility of the piece of money fairly pictures the utter indifference of souls unquickened by divine grace. The silver piece was lost but not forgotten . The woman knew that she had ten pieces of silver originally; she counted them over carefully, for they were all her little store, and she found only nine, but she well remembered that one more was hers and ought to be in her hand. This is our hope for the Lord's lost ones, they are lost but not forgotten, the heart of the Savior remembers them, and prays for them. O soul, I trust you are one whom Jesus calls his own, if so he remembers the pangs which he endured in redeeming you, and he recollects the Father's love which was reflected on you from old eternity, when the Father gave you into the hands of his beloved Son. You are not forgotten of the Holy Spirit who seeks you for the Savior. This is the minister's hope, that there is a people whom the Lord remembers and whom he never will forget, though they forget him. Strangers to him, far-off, ignorant, callous, careless, dead, yet the everlasting heart in heaven throbs towards them with love; and the mind of the Spirit, working on earth, is directed to them. These, who were numbered and reckoned up of old are still in the inventory of the divine memory; and though lost they are earnestly remembered still. In some sense this is true of every sinner here. You are lost, but that you are remembered is evident, for I am sent to-day to preach the gospel of Jesus to you. God has thoughts of love concerning you, and bids you turn unto him and live. Have respect, I pray you, to the word of his salvation. Next, the piece of silver was lost but still claimed . Observe that the woman called the money, "my piece which was lost." When she lost its possession she did not lose her right to it; it did not become somebody else's when it slipped out of her hand and fell upon the floor. Those for whom Christ hath died, whom he hath peculiarly redeemed, are not Satan's even when they are dead in sin. They may come under the devil's usurped dominion, but the monster shall be chased from his throne. Christ has received them of old of the Father, and he has bought them with his precious blood, and he will have them; he will chase away the intruder and claim his own. Thus saith the Lord, "Your covenant with death is disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand." Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. Jesus shall have his own, and none shall pluck them from his hold; he will defend his claim against all comers. Further, observe that the lost piece of money was not only remembered and claimed, but it was also valued . In these three parables the value of the lost article steadily rises. This is not very clear at first sight, because it may be said that a sheep is of more value than a piece of money; but notice that the shepherd only lost one sheep out of a hundred, but the woman lost one piece out of ten, and the father one son out of two. Now, it is not the value of the thing in itself which is here set forth, for the soul of a man, as absolutely valued in comparison with the infinite God, is of small esteem; but because of his love it is of great value to him. The one piece of money to the woman was a tenth part of all she had, and it was very valuable in her esteem. To the Lord of love a lost soul is very precious: it is not because of its intrinsic value, but it has a relative value which God sets at a high rate. The Holy Spirit values souls, and therefore the church prizes them too. The church sometimes says to herself, "We have but few conversions, few members; many are called, but few chosen." She counts over her few converts, her few members, and one soul is to her all the more precious because of the few there are who in these times are in the treasury of Christ, stamped with the image of the great Being, and made of the precious genuine silver of God's own grace. O dear friend, you think yourself of small value, you who are conscious that you have sinned, but the church does not think you of small value, and the Holy Spirit does not despise you. He sets a high price upon you, and so do his people. We value your souls, we only wish we knew how to save them; we would spare no expense or pains if we might but be the means of finding you, and bringing you once more into the great Owner's hand. The piece of money was lost, but it was not lost hopelessly. The woman had hopes of recovering it, and therefore she did not despair, but set to work at once. It is a dreadful thing to think of those souls which are lost hopelessly. Their state reminds me of a paragraph I have cut from this week's newspaper: "The fishing smack Veto, of Grimshy, S. Cousins, master, arrived in port from the Dogger Bank on Saturday night. The master reports that on the previous Wednesday, when about two hundred miles from Spurn, he sighted to the leeward what at first appeared to be a small schooner in distress, but on bearing down to her found her to be a full-sized lifeboat, upwards of twenty feet long, and full of water up to her corks. There was no name on the boat, which had evidently belonged to some large ship or steamer. It was painted white both inside and out, with a brown streak round the rim. When alongside, on closer examination, three dead sailors were perceived lying aft, huddled together, and a fourth athwart in the bow, with his head hanging over the rowlocks. They seemed from their dress and general appearance to be foreigners, but the bodies had been frightfully; 'washed about,' and were in a state of decomposition, and had evidently been dead some weeks. The water-logged waif drifted on with its ghastly cargo, and the horrible sight so shocked the crew of the Veto that afterwards they were almost too unnerved to attend to their trawling, and the smack, in consequence, returned to port with a comparatively small catch, and sooner than expected." Do you wonder at the men sickening in the presence of this mystery of the sea? I shudder as I think I see that Charon-like boat floating on and on; mercy need not follow it, she can confer no boon; love need not seek it, no deed of hers can save. My soul sees, as in a vision, souls hopelessly lost, drifting on the waves of eternity, beyond all hope or help. Alas! Alas! Millions of our race are now in that condition. Upon them has passed the second death, and powerless are we all to save them. Towards them even the gospel has no aspect of hope. Our joy is that we have to deal to-day with lost souls who are not yet hopelessly lost. They are dead in sin, but there is a quickening power which can make them live. O mariner of the sea of life, fisher of men upon this stormy sea, those castaways whom you meet with are accessible to your efforts of compassion, they can be rescued from the pitiless deeps; your mission is not a hopeless one. I rejoice over the ungodly man here to-day that he is not in torment, not in hell, he is not among those whose worm dieth not and whose fire is not quenched. I congratulate the Christian church too, that her piece of money has not fallen where she cannot find it. I rejoice that the fallen around us are not past hope; yea, though they dwell in the worst dens of London, though they be thieves and harlots, they are not beyond the reach of mercy. Up, O church of God, while possibilities of mercy remain! Gird up your loins, be soul-winners, and resolve by the grace of God that every hour of hope shall be well employed by you. One other point is worthy of notice. The piece of silver was lost, but it was lost in the house, and the woman knew it to be so. If she had lost it in the streets, the probabilities are she would not have looked for it again, for other hands might have closed over it. If she had lost it in a river, or dropped it in the sea, she might very fairly have concluded that it was gone for ever, but evidently she was sure that she had lost it in the house. Is it not a consolation to know that those here, who are lost, are still in the house? They are still under the means of grace, within the sphere of the church's operations, within the habitation of which she is the mistress, and where the Holy Spirit works. What thankfulness there ought to be in your minds that you are not lost as heathens, nor lost amid Romish or Mohammedan superstition, but lost where the gospel is faithfully and plainly preached to you; where you are lovingly told, that whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus is not condemned. Lost, but lost where the church's business is to look after you, where it is the Spirit's work to seek and to find you. This is the condition of the lost soul, depicted as a lost piece of silver. II. Secondly, we shall notice the soul under another condition, we shall view it as sought. By whom was the piece of silver sought? It was sought by its owner personally. Notice, she who lost the money lit a candle and swept the house, and sought diligently till she found it. So, brethren, I have said that the woman represents the Holy Spirit, or rather the church in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Now, there will never be a soul found till the Holy Spirit seeks after it. He is the great soul finder. The heart will continue in the dark until he comes with his illuminating power. He is the owner, he possesses it, and he alone can effectually seek after it. The God to whom the soul belongs must seek the soul. But he does it by his church, for souls belong to the church too; they are sons and daughters of the chosen mother, they are her citizens and treasures. For this reason the church must personally seek after souls. She cannot delegate her work to anybody. The woman did not pay a servant to sweep the house, but she swept it herself. Her eyes were much better than a servant's eyes, for the servant's eyes would only lock after somebody else's money, and perhaps would not see it; but the mistress would look after her own money, and she would be certain to light upon it if it were anywhere within sight. When the church of God solemnly feels, "It is our work to look after sinners, we must not delegate it even to the minister, or to the City-missionary, or the Biblewoman, but the church as a church must look after the souls of sinners," then I believe souls will be found and saved. When the church recognizes that these lost souls belong to her, she will be likely to find them. It will be a happy day when every church of God is actively at work for the salvation of sinners. It has been the curse of Christendom that she has ventured to delegate her sacred duties to men called priests, or that she has set apart certain persons to be called the religious who are to do works of mercy and charity and of evangelization. We are, every one of us who are Christ's, bound to do our own share; nay, we should deem it a privilege of which we will not be deprived, personally to serve God, personally to sweep the house and search after the lost spiritual treasures. The church herself, in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, must seek lost souls. Note that this seeking became a matter of chief concern with the woman. I do not know what other business she had to do, but I do know that she put it all by to find the piece of money. There was the corn to be ground for the morning meal, perhaps that was done, at any rate, if not so, she left it unprepared. There was a garment to be mended, or water to be drawn, or the fire to be kindled, or the friends and neighbors to be conversed with never mind, the mistress forgets everything else, she has lost her piece of money, and she must find it at once. So with the church of God, her chief concern should be to seek the perishing sons of men. To bring souls to know Jesus, and to be saved in him with a great salvation should be the church's great longing and concern. She has other things to do. She has her own edification to consider, she has other matters to be attended to in their place, but this first, this evermore and always first. The woman evidently said, "The money is lost, I must find that first." The loss of her piece of silver was so serious a matter that if she sat down to her mending, her hands would miss their nimbleness, or if any other household work demanded her attention, it would be an irksome task to her, for she was thinking of that piece of coin. If her friend came and talked with her, she would say to herself, "I wish she were gone, for I want to be looking after my lost money." I wish the church of God had such an engrossing love for poor sinners that she would feel everything to be an impertinence which hindered her from soul-saving. We have every now and then, as a church, a little to do with politics, and a little to do with finance, for we are still in the world, but I love to see in all churches everything kept in the background, compared with soul-saving work. This must be first and foremost. Educate the people yes, certainly; we take an interest in everything which will do good to our fellow citizens, for we are men as well as Christians; but first and foremost our business is to win souls, to bring men to Jesus, to hunt up those who bear heaven's image, though lost and fallen. This is what we must be devoted to, this is the main and chief concern of believers, the very reason for the existence of a church; if she regard it not, she forgets her highest end. Now note, that the woman having thus set her heart to find her money, she used the most fit and proper means to accomplish her end. First, she lit a candle. So doth the Holy Spirit in the church. In Eastern dwellings it would be necessary, if you lost a piece of money and wanted to find it, to light a candle at any time; for in our Savior's day glass was not used, and the windows of houses were only little slits in the side of the wall, and the rooms were very dark. Almost all the Oriental houses are very dark to this day, and if anything be dropped as small as a piece of silver, it must be looked for with a candle even at high noon. Now, the sphere in which the church moves here on earth is a dim twilight of mental ignorance, and moral darkness, and in order to find a lost soul, light must be brought to bear upon it. The Holy Spirit uses the light of the gospel; he convinces men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. The woman lit a candle, and even thus the Holy Spirit lights up some chosen man whom he makes to be a light in the world. He calls to himself whomsoever he wills, and makes him a lamp to shine upon the people. Such a man will have to be consumed in his calling, like a candle he will be burnt up in light-giving. Earnest zeal, and laborious self-sacrifice, will eat him up. So may this church, and every church of God, be continually using up her anointed men and women, who shall be as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, to find out lost souls. But she was not content with her candle, she fetched her broom, she swept the house. If she could not find the silver as things were in the house, she brought the broom to bear upon the accumulated dust. Oh, how a Christian church, when it is moved by the Holy Spirit, cleanses herself and purges all her work! "Perhaps," saith she, "some of our members are inconsistent, and so men are hardened in sin; these offenders must be put away. The tone of religion is low that may be hindering the conversion of souls, it must be raised. Perhaps our statements of truth, and our ways of proclaiming it, are not the most likely to command attention, we must amend them; we must use the best possible methods, we must in fact sweep the whole house." I delight to see an earnest house-sweeping by confession of sin at a prayer meeting, or by a searching discourse, a house-sweeping when every one is earnest to reform himself, and to get nearer to God himself by a revival of his own personal piety. This is one of the means by which the church is enabled to find the hidden ones. Besides this, all the neighborhood round the church (for the house is the sphere in which the church moves), must be ransacked, stirred, turned over, in a word "swept." A church that is really in earnest after souls will endeavor to penetrate the gloom of poverty and stir the heaps of profligacy. She will hunt high and hunt low if by any means she may rescue from destruction the precious thing upon which her heart is set. Carefully note that this seeking after the lost piece of silver with fitting instruments, the broom and the candle, was attended with no small stir. She swept the house there was dust for her eyes; if any neighbors were in the house there was dust for them. You cannot sweep a house without causing some confusion and temporary discomfort. We sometimes hear persons complain of certain Christians for making too much ado about religion. The complaint shows that something is being done, and in all probability some success being achieved. Those people who have no interest in the lost silver are annoyed at the dust; it is getting down their throats, and they cough at it; never mind, good woman, sweep again, and make them grumble more. Another will say, "I do not approve of religious excitement, I am for quiet and orderly modes of procedure." I dare say that this good woman's neighbor, when she came in to make a call, exclaimed in disgust, "Why, mistress, there is not a chair to sit down upon in comfort, and you are so taken up about this lost money that you scarce give me an answer. Why, you are wasting candle at a great rate, and seem quite in a fever." "Well," the good woman would answer, "but I must find my piece of silver, and in order to seek it out I can bear a little dust myself, and so must you if you wish to stop here while I am searching." An earnest church will be sure to experience a degree of excitement when it is soul-hunting, and very cautious, very fastidious, very critical people will find fault. Never mind them, my brethren, sweep on and let them talk on. Never mind making a dust if you find the money. If souls be saved irregularities and singularities are as the small dust of the balance. If men be brought to Jesus, care nothing what cavilers say. Sweep on, sweep on, even though men exclaim, "They that turn the world upside down are come hither also." Though confusion and stir, and even persecution be the present result, yet if the finding of an immortal soul be the ultimate effect, you will be well repaid for it. It is to be remarked, also, that in the seeking of this piece of silver the coin was sought in a most engrossing manner. For a time nothing was thought of but the lost silver. Here is a candle: the good woman does not read by the light of it, nor mend her garments; no, but the candle-light is all spent on that piece of money. All its light is consecrated to the search. Here is a broom: there is other work for the broom to do, but for the present it sweeps for the silver and for nothing else. Here are two bright eyes in the good woman's head: ay, but they look for nothing but the lost money; she does not care what else may be in the house or out of it her money she cares for, and that she must find; and here she is with candle, broom, strength, eyesight, faculties of mind, and limbs of body, all employed in searching for the lost treasure. It is just so when the Holy Ghost works in a church, the preacher, like a candle, yields his light, but it is all with the view of finding out the sinner and letting him see his lost estate. Whether it be the broom of the law or the light of the gospel, all is meant for the sinner. All the Holy Spirit's wisdom is engaged to find the sinner, and all the living church's talent and substance and power are put forth if by any means the sinner may be saved. It is a fair picture, may I see it daily. How earnestly souls are sought for when the Spirit of God is truly in his church! One other thought only. This woman sought for her piece of silver continuously "till she found it." May you and I, as parts of the church of God, look after wandering souls till we find them. We say they discourage us. No doubt that piece of silver did discourage the woman who sought it. We complain that men do not appear inclined to religion. Did the piece of money lend the housewife any help? Was it any assistance to her? She did the seeking, she did it all. And the Holy Ghost through you, my brother, seeks the salvation of the sinner, not expecting the sinner to help him, for the sinner is averse to being found. What, were you repulsed the other day by one whose spiritual good you longed for? Go again! Were your invitations laughed at? Invite again! Did you become the subject of ridicule through your earnest entreaties? Entreat again! Those are not always the least likely to be saved who at first repel our efforts. A harsh reception is sometimes only an intimation that the heart recognizes the power of the truth, though it does not desire at present to yield to it. Persevere, brother, till you find the soul you seek. You who spend so much effort in your Sunday-school class, use still your candle, enlighten the child's mind still, sweep the house till you find what you seek; never give up the child till it is brought to Christ. You, in your senior class, dealing with that young man or young woman, cease not from your private prayers and from your personal admonitions, till that heart belongs to Jesus. You who can preach in the streets, or visit the lodging-houses, or go from door to door with tracts, I charge you all, for you can all do something, never give up the pursuit of sinners until they are safely lodged in Jesus' hands. We must have them saved! With all the intense perseverance of the woman who turned everything upside down, and counted all things but loss that she might but find her treasure, so may we also, the Spirit of God working in us, upset everything of rule and conventionality, and form and difficulty, if we may but by any means save some, and bring out of the dust those who bear the King's image, and are dear to the King's heart. III. Time has fled, alas! too swiftly, and so I must close with the third point, which is the piece of silver FOUND. Found! In the first place, this was the woman's ultimatum, and nothing short of it. She never stopped until the coin was found. So it is the Holy Spirit's design, not that the sinner should be brought into a hopeful state, but that he should be actually saved: and this is the church's great concern, not that people be made hearers, not that they be made orthodox professors, but that they be really changed and renewed, regenerated and born again. The woman herself found the piece of money . It did not turn up by accident, nor did some neighbor step in and find it. The Spirit of God himself finds sinners, and the church of God herself as a rule is the instrument of their recovery. Dear brethren, a few years ago there was a kind of slur cast upon the visible church, by many enthusiastic but mistaken persons, who dreamed that the time was come for doing away with organized effort, for irregular agencies outside of the visible church were to do all the work. Certain remarkable men sprang up whose ferocious censures almost amounted to attacks upon the recognized churches. Their efforts were apart from the regular ministry, and in some cases ostentatiously in opposition to it. It was as much their aim to pull down the existing church as to bring in converts. I ask any man who has fairly watched these efforts, what they have come to? I never condemned them, nor will I; but I do venture to say to-day in the light of their history, that they have not superseded regular church work and never will. The masses were to be aroused, but where are the boasted results? What has become of many of these much-vaunted works? Those who have worked in connection with a church of God have achieved permanent usefulness; those who acted as separatist agencies, though they blazed for awhile before the public eye and filled the corners of the newspapers with spiritual puffery, are now either altogether or almost extinct. Where are the victories which were to be won by these freebooters? Echo answers, Where? We have to fall back on the old disciplined troops. God means to bless the church still, and it is through the church that he will continue to send a benediction upon the sons of men. I am glad to hear of anybody preaching the gospel if Christ is preached I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. I remember the Master's words, "Forbid them not! He that is not against us is for us." Still the mass of conversions will come through the church, and by her regular organized efforts. The woman who lights the candle and sweeps the house, to whom the silver belongs, will herself find it. Now notice when she had found it what she did, she rejoiced. The greater her trouble in searching, the higher her joy in finding. What joy there is in the church of God when sinners are converted! We have our high holidays, we have our mirthful days downstairs in the lecture hall, when we hear of souls turned from the paths of the destroyer and in the vestries behind, your pastors and elders often experience such joy as only heaven can equal, when we have heard the stories of souls emancipated from the slavery of sin, and led into the perfect liberty which Jesus gives. The church rejoices. Next, she calls her friends and neighbors to share her joy. I am afraid we do not treat our friends and neighbors with quite enough respect, or remember to invite them to our joys. Who are they? I think the angels are here meant; not only the angels in heaven, but those who are watching here below. Note well, that when the shepherd took home the sheep, it is written, "There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth;" but it does not mention heaven here, nor speak of the future, but it is written, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God." Now, the church is on earth, and the Holy Spirit is on earth, at work; when there is a soul saved, the angels down below, who keep watch and ward around the faithful, and so are our friends and neighbors, rejoice with us. Know ye not that angels are present in our assemblies? for this reason the apostle tells us that the woman hath her head covered in the assembly. He saith, "Because of the angels, for they love order and decorum." The angels are wherever the saints are, beholding our orders and rejoicing in our joy. When we see conversions we may bid them rejoice too, and they will praise God with us. I do not suppose the rejoicing ends there; for as angels are always ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, they soon convey the tidings to the hosts above, and heaven rejoices over one repenting sinner. The joy is a present joy; it is a joy in the house, in the church in her own sphere; it is the joy of her neighbors who are round about her here below. All other joy seems swallowed up in this: as every other occupation was suspended to find the lost silver, so every other joy is hushed when the precious thing is found. The church of God has a thousand joys the joy of her saints ascending to the skies, the joy of her saints ripening for glory, the joy of such as contend with sin and overcome it, and grow in grace and receive the promise; but the chief Joy in the church, which swallows all others, as Aaron's rod swallowed up the other rods, is the joy over the lost soul which, after much sweeping and searching, is found at last. The practical lesson to the unconverted is just this. Dear friend, see what value is set upon you. You think that nobody cares for you why, heaven and earth care for you! You say, "I am as nothing, a castaway, and I am utterly worthless." No, you are not worthless to the blessed Spirit, nor worthless to the church of God she longs for you. See, again, how false that suspicion of yours is that you will not be welcome if you come to Christ. Welcome! welcome! why, the church is searching for you; the Spirit of God is searching for you. Do not talk of welcome, you will be a great deal more than welcome. Oh, how glad will Christ be, and the Spirit be, and the church be, to receive you! Ah! but you complain that you have done nothing to make you fit for mercy. Talk not so, what had the lost piece of money done? What could it do? It was lost and helpless. They who sought it did all; he who seeks you will do all for you. O poor soul, since Christ now bids thee come, come! If his Spirit draws thee, yield it Since the promise now speaks, "Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," accept the promise. Believe in Jesus. God bless you and save you, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Verse 10

The Sympathy of the Two Worlds

July 4, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"There is joy in the: presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Luke 15:10 .

Man's heart is never big enough to hold either its joys or its sorrows. You never heard of a man whose heart was exactly full of sorrow; for no sooner is it full, than it overflows. The first prompting of the soul is to tell its sorrow to another. The reason is, that our heart is not large enough to hold our grief; and we need to have another heart to receive a portion thereof It is even so with our joy. When the heart is full of joy, it always allows its joy to escape. It is like the fountain in the marketplace; whenever it is full it runs away in streams, and so soon as it ceases to overflow, you may be quite sure that it has ceased to be full. The only full heart is the overflowing heart. You know this, beloved, you have proved it to be true; for when your soul has been full of joy, you have first called together your own kindred and friends, and you have communicated to them the cause of your gladness; and when those vessels have been full even to the brim, you have been like the woman who borrowed empty vessels of her neighbors, for you have asked each of them to become partakers in your joy, and when the hearts of all your neighbors have been full, you have felt as if they were not large enough, and the whole world has been called upon to join in your praise. You bade the fathomless ocean drink in your joy; you spoke to the trees and bade them clap their hands, while the mountains and hills were invoked by you to break forth into singing; the very stars of heaven seemed to look down upon you, and you bade them sing for you, and all the world was full of music through the music that was in your heart. And, after all, what is man but the great musician of the world? The universe is a great organ with mighty pipes. Space, time, eternity, are like the throats of this great organ; and man, a little creature, puts his fingers on the keys, and wakes the universe to thunders of harmony, stirring up the whole creation to mightiest acclamations of praise. Know ye not that man is God's high priest in the universe? All things else are but the sacrifice; but he is the priest, carrying in his heart the fire, and in his hand the wood, and in his mouth the two-edged sword of dedication, with which he offers up all things to God. But I have no doubt, beloved, the thought has sometimes struck us that out praise does not go far enough. We seem as if we dwelt in an isle cut off from the mainland. This world, like a fair planet, swims in a sea of ether unnavigated by mortal ship. We have sometimes thought that surely our praise was confined to the shores of this poor narrow world, that it was impossible for us to pull the ropes which might ring the bells of heaven, that we could by no means whatever reach our hands so high as to sweep the celestial chords of angelic harps. We have said to ourselves there is no connection between earth and heaven. A huge black wall divides us. A strait of unnavigable waters shuts us out. Our prayers cannot reach to heaven, neither can our praises affect the celestials. Let us learn from our text how mistaken we are. We are, after all, however much we seem to be shut out from heaven, and from the great universe, but a province of God's vast united empire, and what is done on earth is known in heaven; what is sung on earth is sung in heaven; and there is a sense in which it is true that the tears of earth are wept again in paradise, and the sorrows of mankind are felt again, even on the throne of the Most High. My text tells us, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth." It seems as if it showed me a bridge by which I might cross over into eternity. It doth, as it were, exhibit to me, certain magnetic wires which convey the intelligence of what is done here to spirits in another world. It teaches me that there is a real and wonderful connection between this lower world, and that which is beyond the skies, where God dwelleth, in the land of the happy. We shall talk about that subject a little this morning. My first head will be the sympathy of the world above with the world below; the second, the judgment of the angels they rejoice over repenting sinners; we shall see what is their ground for so doing. The third, will be a lesson for the saints; if the angels in heaven rejoice over repenting sinners, so should we. I. In the first place, our text teaches us THE SYMPATHY OF THE TWO WORLDS. Imagine not, O son of man, that thou art cut off from heaven: for there is a ladder, the top whereof doth rest at the foot of the throne of the Almighty, the base whereof is fixed in the lowest place of man's misery! Conceive not that there is a great gulph fixed between thee and the Father, across which his mercy cannot come, and over which thy prayers and faith can never leap. Oh, think not, son of man, that thou dwellest in a storm-girt island, cut off from the continent of eternity. I beseech thee, believe that there is a bridge across that chasm, a road along which feet may travel. This world is not separated, for all creation is but one body. And know thou, O son of man, though thou in this world doth but dwell, as it were on the foot, yet from the feet even to the head, there are nerves and veins that do unite the whole, The same great heart which beats in heaven beats on earth. The love of the Eternal Father which cheers the celestial, makes glad the terrestrial too. Rest assured that though the glory of the celestial be one and the glory of the terrestrial be another, yet are they but another in appearance, for after all, they are the same Oh! list thee, son of man, and thou wilt soon learn that thou art no stranger in a strange land a homeless Joseph in the land of Egypt, shut out from his Father, and his children, who still remain in the happy paradise of Canaan. No, thy Father loves thee still. There is a connection between thee and him. Strange that though leagues of distance lie between the finite creature and the infinite Creator, yet there are links that unite us both! When a tear is wept by thee, think not thy Father doth not behold; for, "Like as a father pitieth his children so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Thy sigh is able to move the heart of Jehovah; thy whisper can incline his ear unto thee; thy prayer can stay his hands; thy faith can move his arm. Oh! think not that God sits on high in an eternal slumber, taking no account of thee. "Shall a mother forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Engraven upon the Father's hand thy name remains; and on his heart recorded there thy person stands. He thought of thee before the worlds were made; before the channels of the sea were scooped, or the gigantic mountains lifted their heads in the white clouds, he thought of thee. He thinketh on thee still. "I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro in every place, to show himself strong on the behalf of all them that fear him. Thou art not cut off from him. Thou dost move in him; in him thou dost live and have thy being. "He is a very present help in time of trouble." Remember, again, O heir of immortality, that thou art not only linked to the Godhead, but there is another one in heaven with whom thou hast a strange, yet near connection. In the center of the throne sits one who is thy brother, allied to thee by blood. The Son of God, eternal, equal with his Father, became in the fullness of time the Son of Mary, an infant of a span long. He was, yea is, bone of thy bone and flesh of thy flesh. Think not that thou art cut off from the celestial world, while he is there; for is he not thy head, and hath he not himself declared that thou art a member of his body, of his flesh and of his bones? Oh, man, thou art not separated from heaven whilst Jesus tells thee

"I feel at my heart all thy sighs and thy groans, For thou art most near me, my flesh and my bones, In all thy distresses, thy Head feels the pain, They all are most needful, not one is in vain."

Oh, poor, disconsolate mourner, Christ remembers thee every hour. Thy sighs are his sighs; thy groans are his groans; thy prayers are his prayers:

"He in his measure feels afresh, What every member bears."

Crucified he is when thou art crucified; he dies when thou diest; thou livest in him, and he lives in thee, and because he lives shalt thou live also: thou shalt rise in him, and thou shalt sit together in the heavenly places with him. Oh, never was husband nearer to his wife, and never head nearer to the members, and never soul nearer to the body of this flesh, than Christ is unto thee, and while it is so, think not that heaven and earth are divided. They are but kindred worlds; two ships moored close to one another, and one short plank of death will enable you to step from one into the other: this ship, all black and coaly, having done the coasting trade, the dusty business of to-day, and being full of the blackness of sorrow; and that ship all golden, with its painted pennon flying, and its sail all spread, white as the down of the sea-bird, fair as the angel's wing I tell thee, man, the ship of heaven is moored side by side with the ship of earth, and rock though this ship may, and careen though she will on stormy winds and tempests, yet the invisible and golden ship of heaven sails by her side never sundered, never divided, always ready, in order that when the hour shall come, thou mayest leap from the black, dark ship, and step upon the golden deck of that thrice happy one in which thou shalt sail for ever. But, O man of God, there are other golden links besides this which bind the present to the future, and time unto eternity. And what are time and eternity, after all, to the believer, but like the Siamese twins, never to be separated? This earth is heaven below, the next world is but a heaven above; it is the same house this is the lower room, and that the upper, but the same roof cover both, and the same dew falls upon each. Remember, beloved, that the spirits of the just made perfect are never far from you and me if we are lovers of Jesus. All those who have passed the flood have still communion with us. Do we not sing

"The saints on earth, and all the dead, But one communion make; All join in Christ, the living Head, And of his grace partake."

We have but one Head for the church triumphant and for the church militant;

"One army of the living God, To his command we bow; Part of the host have cross'd the flood, And part are crossing now."

Doth not the apostle tell us that the saints above are a cloud of witnesses? After he had mentioned Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Gideon, and Barak, and Jephthah, did he not say, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight." Lo, we are running in the plains, and the glorified ones are looking down upon us. Thy mother's eyes follow thee, young man; a father's eyes are looking down upon thee, young woman. The eyes of my godly grandmother, long since glorified, I doubt not, rest on me perpetually. No doubt, in heaven they often talk of us. Methinks they sometimes visit this poor earth they never go out of heaven, it is true, for heaven is everywhere to them. This world is to them but just one corner of God's heaven, one shady bower of paradise. The saints of the living God, are, I doubt not, very near unto us, when we think them very far away. At any rate, they still remember us, still look for us; for this is ever upon their hearts the truth that they without us cannot be made perfect. They cannot be a perfect church till all are gathered in, and therefore do they long for our appearing. But, to come to our text a little more minutely. It assures us that the angels have communion with us. Bright spirits, first-born sons of God, do ye think of me? Oh, cherubim, great and mighty; seraphim, burning, winged with lightning, do ye think of us? Gigantic is your stature. Our poet tells us that the wand of an angel might make a mast for some tall admiral; and doubtless he was right when he said so. Those angels of God are creatures mighty and strong, doing his commandments, hearkening to his word and do they take notice of us? Let the Scripture answer, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto those that shall be heirs of salvation?" "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him." "For he shall give his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways; they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Yes, the brightest angels are but the serving men of the saints; they are our lacqueys and our footmen. They wait upon us; they are the troops of our body guard; and we might, if our eyes were opened, see what Elisha saw, horses of fire and chariots of fire round about us; so that we should joyously say, "More are they that are with us than they that are against us." Our text tells us that the angels of God rejoice over repenting sinners. How is that? They are always as happy as they can be; how can they be any happier? The text does not say that they are any happier; but perhaps that they show their happiness more. A man may have a Sabbath every day, as he ought to have if he be a Christian, and yet on the first day of the week he will let his Sabbatism come out plainly; for then the world shall see that he doth rest. "A merry heart hath a continual feast;" but then even the merry heart hath some special days on which it feasteth well. To the glorified every day is a Sabbath, but of some it can be said, "and that Sabbath was an high day." There are days when the angels sing more loudly than usual; they are always harping well God's praise, but sometimes the gathering hosts who have been flitting far through the universe, come home to their center; and round the throne of God, standing in serried ranks, marshalled not for battle but for music, on certain set and appointed days they chant the praises of the Son of God, "who loved us and gave himself for us." And do you ask me when those days occur? I tell you, the birthday of every Christian is a sonnet day in heaven. There are Christmas-days in paradise, where Christ's high mass is kept, and Christ is glorified not because he was born in a manger, but because he is born in a broken heart. There are days good days in heaven; days of sonnet, red letter days, of overflowing adoration. And these are days when the shepherd brings home the lost sheep upon his shoulder, when the church has swept her house and found the lost piece of money; for then are these friends and neighbors called together, and they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory over one sinner that repenteth. I have thus, I hope, shown you that there is a greater connection between earth and heaven than any of us dreamed. And now let none of us think, when we look upward to the blue sky, that we are far from heaven; it is a very little distance from us. When the day comes we shall go post-haste there, even without horses and chariots of fire. Balaam called it a land that is very far off; we know better it is a land that is very near. Even now

"By faith we join our hands With those that went before. And greet the blood-besprinkled bands Upon the eternal shore."

All hail, bright spirits! I see you now. All hail, angels! All hail, ye brethren redeemed! A few more hours, or days, or months, and we shall join your happy throng; till then your joyous fellowship, your sweet compassion shall ever be our comfort and our consolation and having weathered all storms of life, we shall at last anchor with you within the port of everlasting peace. II. But the angels are said to sing whenever a sinner repents. Let us see if there is any JUDGMENT IN THEIR SONG, or whether they make a mistake. Why do angels sing over penitent sinners? In the first place, I think it is because they remember the days of creation. You know, when God made this world, and fixed the beams of the heavens in sockets of light, the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy; as they saw star after star flying abroad like sparks from the great anvil of Omnipotence, they began to sing; and every time they saw a new creature made upon this little earth, they praised afresh. When first they saw light they clapped their hands, and said, "Great is Jehovah; for he said 'Light be!' and light was." And when they saw sun and moon, and stars, again they clapped their hands, and they said, "He hath made great lights; for his mercy endureth for ever. The sun to rule the day; for his mercy endureth for ever. The moon to rule the night; for his mercy endureth for ever." And over everything he made, they chanted evermore that sweet song, "Creator, thou art to be magnified; for thy mercy endureth for ever." Now, when they see a sinner returning, they see the creation over again; for repentance is a new creation. No man ever repents until God makes in him a new heart and a right spirit. I do not know that ever since the day when God made the world, with the exception of new hearts, the angels have seen God make anything else. He may, if he hath so pleased, have made fresh worlds since that time. But perhaps the only instance of new creation they have ever seen since the first day, is the creation of a new heart and a right spirit within the breast of a poor penitent sinner. Therefore do they sing, because creation cometh over again. I doubt not, too, that they sing because they behold God's works afresh shining in excellence. When God first made the world, he said of it, "It is very good" he could not say so now. There are many of you that God could not say that of. He would have to say the very reverse. He would have to say, "No, that is very bad, for the trail of the serpent hath swept away thy beauty, that moral excellence which once dwelt in manhood has passed away;" but when the sweet influences of the Spirit bring men to repentance and faith again, God looks upon man, and he saith, "It is very good." For what his Spirit makes is like himself good, and holy and precious; and God smiles again over his twice-made creation, and saith once more, "It is very good." Then the angels begin again, and praise his name, whose works are always good and full of beauty. But, beloved, the angels sing over sinners that repent, because they know what that poor sinner has escaped. You and I can never imagine all the depths of hell. Shut out from us by a black veil of darkness, we cannot tell the horrors of that dismal dungeon of lost souls. Happily, the wailings of the damned have never startled us, for a thousand tempests were but a maidens whisper, compared with one wail of a damned spirit. It is not possible for us to see the tortures of those souls who dwell eternally within an anguish that knows no alleviation. These eyes would become sightless balls of darkness if they were permitted for an instant to look into that ghastly shrine of torment. Hell is horrible, for we may say of it, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the horrors which God hath prepared for them that hate him. But the angels know better then you or I could guess. They know it; not that they have felt it, but they remember that day when Satan and his angels rebelled against God. They remember the day when the third part of the stars of heaven revolted against their liege Lord; and they have not forgotten how the red right hand of Jehovah Jesus was wrapt in thunder; they do not forget that breach in the battlements of heaven when, down from the greatest heights to the lowest depths, Lucifer and his hosts were hurled. they have never forgotten how, with sound of trumpet, they pursued the flying foe down to the gulphs of black despair; and, as they neared that place where the great serpent is to be bound in chains, they remember how they say, Tophet, which was prepared of old, the pile whereof is fire and much wood, and they recollect how, when they winged back their flight, every tongue was silent, although they might well have shouted the praise of him who conquered Lucifer; but on them all there did sit a solemn awe of one who could smite a cherubim, and cast him in hopeless bonds of everlasting despair. They knew what hell was, for they had looked within its jaws, and seen their own brothers, fast enclosed within them; and, therefore, when they see a sinner saved, they rejoice, because there is one less to be food for the never-dying worm one more soul escaped out of the mouth of the lion. There is yet a better reason. The angels know what the joys of heaven are, and therefore, they rejoice over one sinner that repenteth. We talk about pearly gates and golden streets, and white robes, and harps of gold, and crowns of amaranth, and all that; but if an angel could speak to us of heaven, he would smile and say, "All these fine things are but child's talk, and ye are little children, and ye cannot understand the greatness of eternal bliss, and therefore God has given you a child's horn book, and an alphabet, in which you may learn the first rough letters of what heaven is, but what it is thou dost not know. O mortal, thine eye hath never yet beheld its splendours; thine ear hath never yet been ravished with its melodies; thy heart has never been transported with its peerless joys." Thou mayest talk and think, and guess, and dream, but thou canst never measure the infinite heaven which God has provided for his children: and therefore it is, when they see a soul saved and a sinner repenting, that they clap their hands; for they know that all those blessed mansions are theirs, since all those sweet places of everlasting happiness are the entail of every sinner that repenteth. But I want you just to read the text again, while I dwell upon another thought. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Now, why do they not save their joy till that sinner dies and goes to heaven? Why do they rejoice over him when he repents? My Arminian friend, I think, ought to go to heaven, to set them right upon this matter. According to his theory, it must be very wrong of them, because they rejoice prematurely. According to the Arminian doctrine a man may repent, and yet he may be lost, he may have grace to repent and believe, and yet he may fall from grace and be a castaway. Now, angels, don't be too fast. Perhaps you may have to repent of this one day, if the Arminian doctrine be true, I would advise you to save your song for greater joys. Why, angels, perhaps the men that you are singing over to-day, you will have to mourn over to-morrow. I am quite sure that Arminius never taught his doctrine in heaven. I do not know whether he is there I hope he is, but he is no longer an Arminian; but if he ever taught his doctrine there, he would be put out. The reason why angels rejoice is because they know that when a sinner repents, he is absolutely saved; or else they would rejoice prematurely, and would have good cause for retracting their merriment on some future occasion. But the angels know what Christ meant when he said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand;" and therefore they rejoice over repenting sinners, because they know they are saved. There is yet one more fact I will mention, before I leave this point. It is said that the angels "rejoice over one sinner that repenteth." Now this evening it shall be my happy privilege to give the right hand of fellowship to no less than forty-eight sinners that have repented, and there will be great joy and rejoicing in our churches to-night, because these forty-eight have been immersed on a profession of their faith. But how loving are the angels to men; for they rejoice over one sinner that repenteth. There she is, in that garret where the stars look between the tiles. There is a miserable bed in that room, with but one bit of covering, and she lieth there to die! Poor creature! many a night she has walked the streets in the time of her merriment. but now her joys are over; a foul disease, like a demon is devouring her heart! She is dying fast, and no one careth for her soul! But there, in that chamber, she turns her face to the wall, and she cries, "O thou that savedst Magdalene, save me; Lord I repent; have mercy upon me; I beseech thee." Did the bells ring in the street? Was the trumpet blown? Ah! no. Did men rejoice? Was there a sound of thanksgiving in the midst of the great congregation? No; no one heard it; for she died unseen. But stay! There was one standing at her bedside, who noted well that tear; an angel, who had come down from heaven to watch over this stray sheep, and mark its return. and no sooner was her prayer uttered than he clapped his wings, and there was seen flying up to the pearly gates a spirit like a star. The heavenly guards came crowding to the gate, crying, "What news, O son of fire?" He said, "'Tis done." "And what is done?" they said, "Why, she has repented." "What! she who was once a chief of sinners? has she turned to Christ?" "'Tis even so," said he. And then they told it through the streets, and the bells of heaven rang marriage peals, for Magdalene was saved, and she who had been the chief of sinners was turned unto the living God. It was in another place. A poor neglected little boy in ragged clothing had run about the streets for many a-day. Tutored in crime, he was paving his path to the gallows; but one morning he passed by a humble room, where some men and women were sitting together teaching poor ragged children. He stepped in there a wild Bedouin of the streets; they talked to him, they told him about a soul and about an eternity things he had never heard before; they spoke of Jesus, and of good tidings of great joy to this poor friendless lad. He went another Sabbath. and another; his wild habits hanging about him, for he could not get rid of them; At last it happened that his teacher said to him one day, "Jesus Christ receiveth sinners." That little boy ran, but not home, for it was but a mockery to call it so where a drunken father and a lascivious mother kept a hellish riot together. He ran, and under some dry arch, or in some wild unfrequented corner, he bent his little knees, and there he cried, that poor creature in his rags, "Lord save me, or I perish;" and the little Arab was on his knees the little thief was saved! He said

"Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly;"

And up from that old arch, from that forsaken hovel, there flew a spirit, glad to bear the news to heaven, that another heir of glory was born to God. I might picture many such scenes; but will each of you try to picture your own? You remember the occasion when the Lord met with you. Ah! little did you think what a commotion there was in heaven. If the Queen had ordered out all her soldiers, the angels of heaven would not have stopped to notice them; if all the princes of earth had marched in pageant through the streets, with all their robes, and jewellery, and crowns, and all their regalia, their chariots, and their horsemen if the pomps of ancient monarchies had risen from the tomb if all the might of Babylon and Tyre and Greece had been concentrated into one great parade, yet not an angel would have stopped in his course to smile at those poor tawdry things; but over you the vilest of the vile, the poorest of the poor, the most obscure and unknown over you angelic wings were hovering, and concerning you it was said on earth and sung in heaven, "Hallelujah, for a child is born to God to-day." III. And now I must conclude with this LESSON TO THIS SAINTS. I think beloved, it will not be hard for you to learn. The angels of heaven rejoice over Sinners that repent: saints of God, will not you and I do the same? 1 do not think the church rejoices enough. We all grumble enough and groan enough: but very few of us rejoice enough. When we take a large number into the church it is spoken of as a great mercy; but is the greatness of that mercy appreciated? I will tell you who they are that can most appreciate the conversion of sinners. They are those that are just converted themselves, or those that have been great sinners themselves. Those who have been saved themselves from bondage, when they see others coming who have so lately worn the chains, are so glad that they can well take the tabret, and the harp, and the pipe, and the psaltery, and praise God that there are other prisoners who have been emancipated by grace. But there are others who can do this better still, and they are the parents and relations of those who are saved. You have thanked God many times when you have seen a sinner saved; but, mother did not you thank him most when you saw your son converted? Oh! those holy tears; they are not tears they are God's diamonds the tears of a mother's joy, when her son confesses his faith in Jesus. Oh! that glad countenance of the wife, when she sees her husband, long bestial and drunken at last made into a man and a Christian! Oh, that look of joy which a young Christian gives, when he sees his father converted who had long oppressed and persecuted him. I was preaching this week for a young minister, and being anxious to know his character, I spoke of him with apparent coolness to an estimable lady of his congregation. In a very few moments she began to warm in his favor. She said, "You must not say anything against him, sir; if you do, it is because you do not know him." " Oh," I said, "I knew him long before you did; he is not much, is he?" "Well,' she said, "I must speak well of him, for he has been a blessing to my servants and family." I went out into the street, and saw some men and women standing about; so I said to them, "I must take your minister away" "If you do," they said, "we will follow you all over the world, if you take away a man who has done so much good to our souls."" After collecting the testimony of fifteen or sixteen witnesses, I said, "If the man gets such witnesses as these let him go on; the Lord has opened his mouth, and the devil will never be able to shut it." These are the witnesses we want men who can sing with the angels because their own households are converted to God. I hope it may be so with all of you; and if any of you are yourselves brought to Christ to-day for he is willing to receive you you will go out of this place singing, and the angels will sing with you. There shall be joy in earth, and joy in heaven; on earth peace, and glory to God in the highest. The Lord bless you one and all, for Jesus' sake.

Verse 20

Many Kisses for Returning Sinners; The Prodigal's Return; The Turning Point; He Ran, and "He" Ran

Many Kisses for Returning Sinners, or

Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son

March 29th, 1891 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"And kissed him." Luke 15:20 .

In the Revised Version, if you will kindly look at the margin, you will find that the text there reads, "And kissed him much." This is a very good translation of the Greek, which might bear the meaning, "Kissed him earnestly," or "Kissed him eagerly," or "Kissed him often." I prefer to have it in very plain language, and therefore adopt the marginal reading of the Revised Version, "Kissed him much," as the text of my sermon, the subject of which will be, the overflowing love of God toward the returning sinner.

The first word "and" links us on to all that had gone before. The parable is a very familiar one, yet it is so full of sacred meaning that it always has some fresh lesson for us. Let us, then, consider the preliminaries to this kissing. On the son's side there was something, and on the father's side much more. Before the prodigal son received these kisses of love, he had said in the far country, "I will arise and go to my father." He had, however, done more than that, else his father's kiss would never have been upon his cheek. The resolve had become a deed: "He arose, and came to his father." A bushelful of resolutions is of small value; a single grain of practice is worth the whole. The determination to return home is good; but it is when the wandering boy begins the business of really carrying out the good resolve, that he draws near the blessing. If any of you here present have long been saying, "I will repent; I will turn to God"; leave off resolving, and come to practicing; and may God in His mercy lead you both to repent and to believe in Christ!

Before the kisses of love were given, this young man was on his way to his father; but he would not have reached him unless his father had come the major part of the way. When you give God and inch, He will give you an ell. If you come a little way to Him, when you are "yet a great way off" He will run to meet you. I do not know that the prodigal saw his father, but his father saw him. The eyes of mercy are quicker than the eyes of repentance. Even the eyes of our faith is dim compared with the eye of God's love. He sees a sinner long before a sinner sees Him.

I do not suppose that the prodigal travelled very fast. I should imagine that he came very slowly

"With heavy heart and downcast eye, With many a sob and many a sigh."

He was resolve to come, yet he was half afraid. But we read that his father ran. Slow are the steps of repentance, but swift are the feet of forgiveness. God can run where we scarcely limp, and if we are limping towards Him, He will run towards us. These kisses were given in a hurry; the story is narrated in a way that almost makes us realize that such was the case: there is a sense of haste in the very wording of it. His father "ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" kissed him eagerly. He did not delay a moment; for though he was out of breath, he was not out of love. "He fell on his neck, and kissed him much." There stood his son ready to confess his sin; therefore did his father kiss him all the more. The more willing thou art to own thy sin, the more willing is God to forgive thee. When thou dost make a clean breast of it, God will soon make a clear record of it. He will wipe out the sin that thou dost willingly acknowledge and humbly confess before Him. He that was willing to use his lips for confession, found that his father was willing to use his lips for kissing him.

See the contrast. There is the son, scarcely daring to think of embracing his father, yet his father has scarcely seen him before he has fallen on his neck. The condescension of God towards penitent sinners is very great. He seems to stoop from His throne of glory to fall upon the neck of a repentant sinner. God on the neck of a sinner! What a wonderful picture! Can you conceive it? I do not think you can; but if you cannot imagine it, I hope that you will realize it. When God's arm is about our neck, and His lips are on our cheek, kissing us much, then we understand more than preachers or books can ever tell us of His condescending love.

The father "saw" his son. There is a great deal in that word, "saw." He saw who it was; saw where he had come from; saw the swineherd's dress; saw the filth upon his hands and feet; saw his rags; saw his penitent look; saw what he had been; saw what he was; and saw what he would soon be. "His father saw him." God has a way of seeing men and women that you and I cannot understand. He sees right through us at a glance, as if we were made of glass; He sees all our past, present and future.

"When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him." It was not with icy eyes that the father looked on his returning son. Love leaped into them, and as he beheld him, he "had compassion on him"; that is, he felt for him. There was no anger in his heart toward his son; he had nothing but pity for his poor boy, who had got into such a pitiable condition. It was true that it was all his own fault, but that did not come before his father's mind. It was the state that he was in, his poverty, his degradation, that pale face of his so wan with hunger, that touched his father to the quick. And God has compassion on the woes and miseries of men. They may have brought their troubles on themselves, and they have indeed done so; but nevertheless God has compassion upon them. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not."

We read that the father "ran." The compassion of God is followed by swift movements. He is slow to anger, but He is quick to bless. He does not take any time to consider how He shall show His love to penitent prodigals; that was all done long ago in the eternal covenant. He has no need to prepare for their return to Him; that was done on Calvary. God comes flying in the greatness of His compassion to help every poor penitent soul.

"On cherub and on cherubim, Full royalty He rode; And on the wings of mighty winds Came flying all abroad."

And when He comes, He comes to kiss. Master Trapp says that, if we had read that the father had kicked his prodigal son, we should not have been very much astonished. Well, I should have been very greatly astonished, seeing that the father in the parable was to represent God. But still, his son deserved all the rough treatment that some heartless men might have given; and had the story been that of a selfish human father only, it might have been written that "as he was coming near, his father ran at him, and kicked him." There are such fathers in the world, who seem as if they cannot forgive. If he had kicked him, it would have been no more than he had deserved. But no, what is written in the Book stands true for all time, and for every sinner, "He fell on his neck, and kissed him"; kissed him eagerly, kissed him much.

What does this much kissing mean? It signifies that, when sinners come to God, He gives them a loving reception, and a hearty welcome. If any one of you, while I am speaking, shall come to God, expecting mercy because of the great sacrifice of Christ, this shall be true of you as it has been true of many of us: "He kissed him much."

I. First, this much kissing means MUCH LOVE.

It means much love truly felt; for God never gives an expression of love without feeling it in His infinite heart. God will never give a Judas-kiss, and betray those whom He embraces. There is no hypocrisy with God; He never kisses those for whom He has no love. Oh, how God loves sinner! You who repent, and come to Him, will discover how greatly He loves you. There is no measuring the love He bears towards you. He has loved you before the foundation of the world, and He will love you when time shall be no more. Oh, the immeasurable love of God to sinners who come and cast themselves upon His mercy!

This much kissing also means much love manifested. God's people do not always know the greatness of His love to them. Sometimes, however, it is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Some of us know at times what it is to be almost too happy to live! The love of God has been so overpoweringly experienced by us on some occasions, that we have almost had to ask for a stay of the delight because we could not endure any more. If the glory had not been veiled a little, we should have died of excess of rapture, or happiness. Beloved, God has wondrous ways of opening His people's hearts to the manifestation of His grace. He can pour in, not now and then a drop of His love, but great and mighty streams. Madame Guyon used to speak of the torrents of love that come sweeping through the spirit, bearing all before them. The poor prodigal in the parable had so much love manifested to him, that he might have sung of the torrents of his father's affection. That is the way God receives those whom He saves, giving them not a meagre measure of grace, but manifesting an overflowing love.

This much kissing means, further, much love perceived. When his father kissed him much, the poor prodigal knew, if never before, that his father loved him. He had no doubt about it; he had a clear perception of it. It is very frequently the case that the first moment a sinner believes in Jesus, he gets this "much" love. God reveals it to him, and he perceives it and enjoys it at the very beginning. Think not that God always keeps the best wine to the last; He gives us some of the richest dainties of His table the first moment we sit there. I recollect the joy that I had when first I believed in Jesus; and, even now, in looking back upon it, the memory of it is as fresh as if it were but yesterday. Oh, I could not have believed that a mortal could be so happy after having been so long burdened, and so terribly cast down! I did but look to Jesus on the cross, and the crushing load was immediately gone; and the heart which could only sigh and cry by reason of its burden, began to leap and dance and sing for joy. I had found in Christ all that I wanted, and rested in the love of God at once. So may it be with you also, if you will but return to God through Christ. It shall be said of you as of this prodigal, "The father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him in much love."

II. Secondly, this much kissing meant MUCH FORGIVENESS.

The prodigal had many sins to confess; but before he came to the details of them, his father had forgiven him. I love confession of sin after forgiveness. Some suppose that after we are forgiven we are never to confess; but, oh, beloved, it is then that we confess most truly, because we know the guilt of sin most really! Then do we plaintively sing

"My sins, my sins, my Saviour, How sad on Thee they fall! Seen through Thy gentle patience, I tenfold feel them all, I know they are forgiven, But still their pain to me Is all the grief and anguish They laid, my Lord, on Thee."

To think that Christ should have washed me from my sins in His own blood, makes me feel my sin the more keenly, and confess it the more humbly before God. The picture of this prodigal is marvelously true to the experience of those who return to God. His father kissed him with the kiss of forgiveness; and yet, after that, the young man went on to say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." Do not hesitate, then, to acknowledge your sin to God, even though you know that in Christ it is all put away.

From this point of view, those kisses meant, first, "Your sin is all gone, and will never be mentioned any more. Come to my heart, my son! Thou hast grieved me sore, and angered me; but, as a thick cloud, I have blotted out thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins."

As the father looked upon him, and kissed him much, there probably came another kiss, which seemed to say, "There is no soreness left: I have not only forgiven, but I have forgotten too. It is all gone, clean gone. I will never accuse you of it any more. I will never love you any the less. I will never treat you as though you were still an unworthy and untrustworthy person." Probably at that there came another kiss; for do not forget that his father forgave him "and kissed him much," to show that the sin was all forgiven.

There stood the prodigal, overwhelmed by his father's goodness, yet remembering his past life. As he looked on himself, and thought, "I have these old rags on still, and I have just come from feeding the swine," I can imagine that his father would give him another kiss, as much as to say, "My boy, I do not recollect the past; I am so glad to see you that I do not see any filth on you, or any rags on you either. I am so delighted to have you with me once more that, as I would pick up a diamond out of the mire, and be glad to get the diamond again, so do I pick you up, you are so precious to me." This is the gracious and glorious way in which God treats those who return to Him. As for their sin, He has put it away so that He will not remember it. He forgives like a God. Well may we adore and magnify His matchless mercy as we sing

"In wonder lost, with trembling joy We take the pardon of our God; Pardon for crimes of deepest dye; A pardon bought with Jesus' blood; Who is a pardoning God like Thee? Or who has grace so rich and free?"

"Well," says one, "can such a wonderful change ever take place with me?" By the grace of God it may be experienced by every man who is willing to return to God. I pray God that it may happen now, and that you may get such assurance of it from the Word of God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, and from a sight of the precious blood of Christ shed for your redemption, that you may be able to say, "I understand it now; I see how He kisses all my sin away; and when it rises, He kisses it away again; and when I think of it with shame, He gives me another kiss; and when I blush all over at the remembrance of my evil deeds, he kisses me again and again, to assure me that I am fully and freely forgiven." Thus the many kisses from the prodigal's father combined to make his wayward son feel that his sin was indeed all gone. They revealed much love and much forgiveness.

III. These repeated kisses meant, next, FULL RESTORATION.

The prodigal was going to say to his father, "Make me as one of thy hired servants." In the far country he had resolved to make that request, but his father with a kiss, stopped him. By that kiss, his sonship was owned; by it the father said to the wretched wanderer, "You are my son." He gave him such a kiss as he would only give to his own son. I wonder how many here have ever given such a kiss to anyone. There sits one who knows something of such kisses as the prodigal received. That father's girl went astray, and, after years of sin, she came back worn out, to die at home. He received her, found her penitent, and gladly welcomed her to his house. Ah, my dear friend, you know something about such kisses as these! And you, good woman, whose boy ran away, you can understand something about these kisses, too. He left you, and you did not hear of him for years, and he went on in a very vicious course of life. When you did hear of him, it well-nigh broke your heart, and when he came back, you hardly knew him. Do you recollect how you took him in? You felt that you wished that he was the little boy you used to press to your bosom; but now he was grown up to be a big man and a great sinner, yet you gave him such a kiss, and repeated your welcome so often, that he will never forget it, nor will you forget it either. You can understand that this overwhelming greeting was like the father saying, "My boy, you are my son. Despite all that you have done, you belong to me; however far you have gone in vice and folly, I own you. You are bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." In this parable Christ would have you know, poor sinner, that God will own you, if you come to Him confessing your sin through Jesus Christ. He will gladly receive you; for all things are ready against the day you return.

"Spread for thee the festal board, See with richest dainties stored, To thy Father's bosom pressed, Yet again a child confessed; Never from his house to roam, Come and welcome, sinner, come."

The father received his son with many kisses and so proved that his prayer was answered. Indeed, his father heard his prayer before he offered it. He was going to say, "Father, I have sinned," and to ask for forgiveness; but he got the mercy, and a kiss to seal it, before the prayer was presented. This also shall be true of thee, O sinner, who art returning to thy God, through Jesus Christ! You shall be permitted to pray, and God will answer you. Hear it, poor, despairing sinner, whose prayer has seemed to be shut out from heaven! Come to your Father's bosom now, and He will hear your prayers; and, before many days are over, you shall have the clearest proofs that you are fully restored to the divine favour by answers to your intercessions that shall make you marvel at the Lord's loving-kindness to you.

Further than this, you shall have all your privileges restored, even as this wandering young man was put among the children when he returned. As you see him now in the father's house, where he was received with the many kisses, he wears a son's robe, the family ring is on his finger, and the shoes of the home are on his feet. He eats no longer swine's food, but children's bread. Even thus shall it be with you if you return to God. Though you look so foul and so vile, and really are even more defiled than you look; and though you smell so strongly of the hogs among which you have been living that some people's nostrils would turn up at you, your Father will not notice these marks of your occupation in the far country with all its horrible defilement. See how this father treats his boy. He kisses him, and kisses him again, because he knows his own child, and, recognizing him as his child, and feeling his fatherly heart yearning over him, he gives him kiss after kiss. He kisses him much, to make him know that he has full restoration.

In this repeated kissing we see, then, these three things: much love, much forgiveness, and full restoration.

IV. But these many kisses meant even more than this. They revealed his father's EXCEEDING JOY.

The father's heart is overflowing with gladness, and he cannot restrain his delight. I think he must have shown his joy by a repeated look. I will tell you the way I think the father behaved towards his son who had been dead, but was alive again, who had been lost, but was found. Let me try to describe the scene. The father has kissed the son, and he bids him sit down; then he comes in front of him, and looks at him, and feels so happy that he says, "I must give you another kiss," then he walks away a minute; but he is back again before long, saying to himself, "Oh, I must give him another kiss!" He gives him another, for he is so happy. His heart beats fast; he feels very joyful; the old man would like the music to strike up; he wants to be at the dancing; but meanwhile he satisfies himself by a repeated look at his long-lost child. Oh, I believe that God looks at the sinner, and looks at him again, and keeps on looking at him, all the while delighting in the very sight of him, when he is truly repentant, and comes back to his Father's house.

The repeated kiss meant, also, a repeated blessing, for every time he put his arms round him, and kissed him, he kept saying, "Bless you; oh, bless you, my boy!" He felt that his son had brought a blessing to him by coming back, and he invoked fresh blessings upon his head. Oh sinner! If you did but know how God would welcome you, and how He would look at you, and how He would bless you, surely you would at once repent, and come to His arms and heart, and find yourself happy in His love.

The many kisses meant, also, repeated delight. It is a very wonderful thing that it should be in the power of a sinner to make God glad. He is the happy God, the source and spring of all happiness; what can we add to His blessedness? And yet, speaking after the manner of men, God's highest joy lies in clasping His wilful Ephraims to His breast, when He has heard them bemoaning themselves and has seen them arising and returning to their home. God grant that He may see that sight even now, and have delight because of sinners returning to Himself! Yea, we believe it shall be even so, because of His presence with us, and because of the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. Surely that is the teaching of the prophet's words: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing." Think of the eternal God singing, and remember that it is because a wandering sinner has returned to Him that He sings. He joys in the return of the prodigal, and all heaven shares in His joy.

V. I have not got through my subject yet. As we take a fifth look, we find that these many kisses mean OVERFLOWING COMFORT.

This poor young man, in his hungry, faint, and wretched state, having come a very long way, had not much heart in him. His hunger had taken all energy out of him, and he was so conscious of his guilt that he had hardly the courage to face his father; so his father gives him a kiss, as much as to say, "Come, boy, do not be cast down; I love you."

"Oh, the past, the past, my father!" he might moan, as he thought of his wasted years; but he had no sooner said that than he received another kiss, as if his father said, "Never mind the past; I have forgotten all about that." This is the Lord's way with His saved ones. Their past lies hidden under the blood of atonement. The Lord saith by His servant Jeremiah, "The iniquity if Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve."

But then, perhaps, the young man looked down on his foul garments, and said, "The present, my father, the present, what a dreadful state I am in!" And with another kiss would come the answer, "Never mind the present, my boy. I am content to have thee as thou art. I love thee." This, too, is God's word to those who are "accepted in the Beloved." In spite of all their vileness, they are pure and spotless in Christ, and God says of each one of them, "Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee. Therefore, though in thyself thou art unworthy, through My dear Son thou art welcome to My home."

"Oh, but," the boy might have said, "the future, my father, the future! What would you think if I should ever go astray again?" Then would come another holy kiss, and his father would say, "I will see to the future, my boy; I will make home so bright for you that you will never want to go away again." But God does more than that for us when we return to Him. He not only surrounds us with tokens of His love, but He says concerning us, "They shall be My people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Furthermore, He says to each returning one, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them."

Whatever there was to trouble the son, the father gave him a kiss to set it all right; and, in like manner, our God has a love-token for every time of doubt and dismay which may come to His reconciled sons. Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, "Even though I confess my sin, and seek God's mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble, for through my sin, I have brought myself down to poverty." "There is a kiss for you," says the Lord: "Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure." "But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin," says another. "There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thine diseases." "But I am dreadfully down at the heel," says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, "I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly." All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, His Son.

The father of the prodigal kissed his son much, and thus made him feel happy there and then. Poor souls, when they come to Christ, are in a dreadful plight, and some of them hardly know where they are I have known them talk a lot of nonsense in their despair, and say hard and wicked things of God in their dreadful doubt. The Lord gives no answer to all that, except a kiss, and then another kiss. Nothings puts the penitent so much at rest as the Lord's repeated assurance of His unchanging love. Such a one the Lord has often received, "and kissed him much," that He might fetch him up even from the horrible pit, and set his feet upon a rock, and establish his goings. The Lord grant that many whom I am addressing may understand what I am talking about!

VI. And now for our sixth head, though you will think I am getting to be like the old Puritans with these many heads. But I cannot help it, for these many kisses had many meanings: love, forgiveness, restoration, joy, and comfort were in them, and also STRONG ASSURANCE.

The father kissed his son much to make him quite certain that it was all real. The prodigal, in receiving these many kisses, might say to himself, "All this love must be true, for a little while ago I heard the hogs grunt, and now I hear nothing but the kisses from my dear father's lips." So his father gave him another kiss, for there was no way of convincing him that the first was real like repeating it; and if there lingered any doubt about the second, the father gave him yet a third. If, when the dream of old was doubled, the interpretation was sure, these repeated kisses left no room for doubt. The father renewed the tokens of his love that his son might be fully assured of his reality.

He did it that in the future it might never be questioned. Some of us were brought so low before we were converted, that God gave us an excess of joy when He saved us, that we might never forget it. Sometimes the devil says to me, "You are no child of God." I have long ago given up answering him, for I found that it is a waste of time to argue with such a crafty old liar as he is; he knows too much for me. But if I must answer him, I say, "Why, I remember when I was saved by the Lord! I can never forget even the very spot of ground where first I saw my Saviour; there and then my joy rolled in like some great Atlantic billow, and burst in a mighty foam of bliss, covering all things. I cannot forget it." That is an argument which even the devil cannot answer, for he cannot make me believe that such a thing never happened. The Father kissed me much, and I remember it full well. The Lord gives to some of us a clear deliverance such a bright, sunshiny day at our conversion, that henceforth we cannot question our state before Him, but must believe that we are eternally saved.

The father put the assurance of this poor returning prodigal beyond all doubt. If the first kisses were given privately, when only the father and son were present, it is quite certain that, afterwards, he kissed him before men, where others could see him. He kissed him much in the presence of the household, that they also might not be calling in question that he was his father's child. It was a pity that the elder brother was not there also. You see he was away in the field. He was much more interested in the crops than in the reception of his brother. I have known such a one in modern days. He was a man who did not come out to week-evening services. He was such a man of business that he did not come out on a Thursday night, and the prodigal came home at such a time, and so the elder brother did not see the father receive him. If he lived now, he would probably not come to the church-meetings; he would be to busy. So he would not get to know about the reception of penitent sinners. But the father, when he received that son of his, intended all to know, once for all, that he was indeed his child. Oh, that you might get these many kisses even now! If they are given to you, you will have, for the rest of your life, strong assurance derived from the happiness of your first days.

VII. I have done when I have said that I think that here we have a specimen of the INTIMATE COMMUNION which the Lord often gives to sinners when first they come to Him. "His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him much."

You see, this was before the family fellowship. Before the servants had prepared the meal, before there had been any music or dancing in the family, his father kissed him. He would had cared little for all their songs, and have valued but slightly his reception by the servants, if, first of all, he had not been welcomed to his father's heart. So it is with us; we need first to have fellowship with God before we think much of union with His people. Before I go to join a church, I want my Father's kiss. Before the pastor gives me the right hand of fellowship, I want my heavenly Father's right hand to welcome me. Before I become recognized by God's people here below, I want a private recognition from the great Father above; and that He gives to all who come to Him as the prodigal came to his father. May He give to some of you now!

This kissing, also, was before the table communion. You know the prodigal was afterwards to sit at his father's table, and to eat of the fatted calf; but before that, his father kissed him. He would scarcely have been able to sit easily at the feast without the previous kisses of love. The table communion, to which we are invited, is very sweet. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, in symbol, in the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is, indeed, a blessed thing; but I want to have communion with God by way of the love-kiss before I come there. "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth." This is something private, ravishing, and sweet. God give it to many of you! May you get the many kisses of your Father's mouth before you come into the church, or to the communion table!

These many kisses likewise came before the public rejoicing. The friends and neighbors were invited to share in the feast. But think how shamefaced the son would have been in their presence, if, first of all, he had not found a place in his father's love or had not been quite sure of it. He would almost have been inclined to run away again. But the father had kissed him much, and so he could meet the curious gaze of his old friends with a smiling face, until any unkind remarks they might have thought of making died away, killed by his evident joy in his father. It is a hard thing for a man to confess Christ if he has not had an overwhelming sense of communion with Him. But when we are lifted to the skies in the rapture God gives to us, it becomes easy, not only to face the world, but to win the sympathy of even those who might have opposed themselves. This is why young converts are frequently used to lead others into the light; the Lord's many kisses of forgiveness have so recently been given to them, that their words catch the fragrance of divine love as they pass the lips just touched by the Lord. Alas, that any should ever lose their first love, and forget the many kisses they have received from their heavenly Father!

Lastly, all this was given before the meeting with the elder brother.

If the prodigal son had known what the elder brother thought and said, I should not have wondered at all if he had run off, and never come back at all. He might have come near home, and then, hearing what his brother said, have stolen away again. Yes, but before that could happen, his father had given him the many kisses. Poor sinner! You have come in here, and perhaps you have found the Saviour. It may be that you will go and speak to some Christian man, and he will be afraid to say much to you. I do not wonder that he should doubt you, for you are not, in yourself, as yet a particularly nice sort of person to talk to. But, if you get your Father's many kisses, you will not mind your elder being a little hard upon you. Occasionally I hear of one, who wishes to join church, saying "I came to see the elders, and one of them was rather rough with me. I shall never come again." What a stupid man you must be! Is it not their duty to be a little rough with some of you, lest you should deceive yourselves, and be mistaken about your true state? We desire lovingly to bring you to Christ, and if we are afraid that you really have not yet come back to God, with penitence and faith, should we not tell you so, like honest men? But suppose that you have really come, and your brother is mistaken; go and get a kiss from your Father, and never mind your brother. He may remind you how you have squandered your living, painting the picture even blacker than it ought to be; but your Father's kisses will make you forget your brother's frowns. If you think that in a household of faith you will find everybody amiable, and everyone willing to help you, you will be greatly mistaken. Young Christians are often frightened when they come across some who, from frequent disappointment of their hopes, or from a natural spirit of caution or perhaps from a lack of spiritual life, receive but coldly those upon whom the Father has lavished much love. If that is your case, never mind these cross-grained elder brethren; get another kiss from your Father. Perhaps the reason it is written, "He kissed him much," was because the elder brother when he came near him, would treat him so coldly, and so angrily refuse to join in the feast.

Lord, give to many poor trembling souls the will to come to Thee! Bring many sinners to Thy blessed feet, and while they are yet a great way off, run and meet them; fall on their neck, give them many kisses of love, and fill them to the full with heavenly delight, for Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.

The Prodigal's Return

February 7, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"But when he was yet a great way off; his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Luke 15:20 .

All persons engaged in education will tell you that they find it far more difficult to make the mind unlearn its errors than to make it receive truth. If we could suppose a man totally ignorant of anything, we should have a fairer chance of instructing him quickly and effectually than we should have had if his mind had been previously stored with falsehood. I have no doubt you, each of you, find it harder to unlearn than to learn. To get rid of old prejudices and preconceived notions is a very hard struggle indeed. It has been well said, that those few words, "I am mistaken," are the hardest in all the English language to pronounce, and certainly it takes very much force to compel us to pronounce them: and after having done so, it is even then difficult to wipe away the slime which an old serpentine error has left upon the heart. Better for us not to have known at all than to have known the wrong thing. Now, I am sure that this truth is never more true than when it applies to God. If I had been let alone to form my notion of God, entirely from Holy Scripture, I feel, that with the assistance of his Holy Spirit it would have been far more easy for me to understand what he is, and how he governs the world, than to learn even the truths of his own Word, after the mind had become perverted by the opinions of others. Why, brethren, who is it that gives a fair representation of God? The Arminian slanders God by accusing him (not in his own intention, but really so) of unfaithfulness; for he teaches that God may promise what he never performs; that he may give eternal life, and promise that those who have it shall never perish, and yet they may perish after all. He speaks of God as if he were a mutable being, for he talks of his loving men one day, and hating them the next; of his writing their names in the Book of Life one hour, and then erasing their names in the next. And the influence of such an error as that, is very baneful. Many children of God, who have imbibed these errors in early youth, have had to drag along their poor wearied and broken frames for many a day, whereas they might have walked joyfully to heaven if they had known the truth from the beginning. On the other hand, those who hear the Calvinistic preacher, are very apt to misinterpret God. Although we trust we would never speak of God in any other sense than that in which we find him represented in sacred Scripture, yet are we well aware that many of our hearers, even through our assertions, when most guarded, are apt to get rather a caricature of God, than a true picture of him. They imagine that God is a severe being, angry and fierce, very easily to be moved to wrath, but not so easily to be induced to love; they are apt to think of him as one who sits in supreme and lofty state, either totally indifferent to the wishes of his creatures, or else determined to have his own way with them, as an arbitrary Sovereign, never listening to their desires, or compassionating their woes. O that we could unlearn all these fallacies, and believe God to be what he is! O that we could come to Scripture, and there look into that glass which reflects his sacred image, and then receive him as he is, the all-Wise, the all-Just, and yet the all-Gracious, and all-Loving Jehovah! I shall endeavor this morning, by the help of God's Holy Spirit, to represent the lovely character of Christ; and if I shall be happy enough to have some in my audience who are in the position of the prodigal son in the parable coming to Christ, and yet a great way off from him I shall trust that they will be led by the same Divine Spirit, to believe in the loving kindness of Jehovah, and so may find peace with God now, ere they leave this house of prayer. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." First, I shall notice the position intended in the words, "a great way off ;" secondly, I shall notice the peculiar troubles which agitate the minds of those, who are in this condition; and then, thirdly, I shall endeavor to teach the great loving-kindness of our own adorable God, inasmuch as when we are "a great way off," he runs to us, and embraces us in the arms of his love. I. First, then, what is the POSITION signified by being "a great way off?" I must just notice what is not that position. It is not the position of the man who is careless and entirely regardless of God; for you notice that the prodigal is represented now as having come to himself, and as returning to his father's house. Though it be true that all sinners are a great way off from God, whether they know it or not, yet in this particular instance, the position of the poor prodigal is intended to signify the character of one, who has been aroused by conviction, who has been led to abhor his former life, and who sincerely desires to return to God. I shall not, then, this morning, specially address the blasphemer, and the profane. To him, there may be some incidental warning heard, but I shall not specially address such a character. It is another person for whom this text is intended: the man who has been a blasphemer, if you please, who may have been a drunkard, and a swearer, and what not, but who has now renounced these things, and is steadfastly seeking after Christ, that he may obtain eternal life. That is the man who is here said to be, though coming to the Lord, "a great way off." Once again, there is another person who is not intended by this description, namely, the very great man, the Pharisee who thinks himself extremely righteous, and has never learned to confess his sin. You, sir, in your apprehension, are not a great way off. You are so really in the sight of God; you are as far from him as light from darkness, as the east is from the west; but you are not spoken of here. You are like the prodigal son, only that instead of spending your life righteously, you have run away from your Father, and hidden in the earth the gold which he gave you, and are able to feed upon the husks which swine do eat, whilst by a miserable economy of good works you are hoping to save enough of your fortune to support yourself here and in eternity. Your hope of self-salvation is a fallacy, and you are not addressed in the words of the text. It is the man who knows himself lost, but desires to be saved, who is here declared to be met by God, and received with affectionate embraces. And now we come to the question, Who is the man, and why is he said to be a great way off? For he seems to be very near the kingdom, now that he knows his need and is seeking the Saviour. I reply, in the first place, he is a great way off in his own apprehensions. You are here this morning, and you have an idea that never was man so far from God as you are. You look back upon your past life, and you recollect how you have slighted God, despised his Sabbath, neglected his Book, trampled upon the blood of sprinkling, and rejected all the invitations of his mercy. You turn over the pages of your history, and you remember the sins which you have committed the sins of your youth and your former transgressions, the crimes of your manhood, and the riper sins of your older years; like black waves dashing upon a dark shore, they roll in wave upon wave, upon your poor troubled memory. There comes a little wave of your childish folly, and over that there leaps one of your youthful transgressions, and over the head of this there comes a very Atlantic billow of your manhood's transgressions. At the sight of them you stand astonished and amazed. "O Lord my God, how deep is the gulf which divides me from thyself, and where is the power that can bridge it? I am separated from thee by leagues of sin, whole mountains of my guilt are piled upward between me and thyself. O God, shouldest thou destroy me now, thou wouldest be just; and if thou dost ever bring me to thyself, it must be nothing less than a power as Omnipotent as that which made the world, which can ever do it. O! how far am I from God!" Some of you would be startled this morning, if your neighbors were to give you revelations of their own feelings. If yonder man standing there in the crowd could come into this pulpit, and tell you what he now feels, you might perhaps be horrified at his description of his own heart. How many of you have no notion of the way in which a soul is cut and hacked about, when it is under the convictions of the law! If you should hear the man tell out what he feels, you would say, "Ah! he is a poor deluded enthusiast; men are not so bad as that;" or else you would be apt to think he had committed some nameless crime which be dare not mention. that was preying on his conscience. Nay, sir, he has been as moral and upright as you have been; but should he describe himself as he now discovers himself to be, he would shock you utterly. And yet you are the same, though you feel it not, and would indignantly deny it. When the light of God's grace comes into your heart, it is something like the opening of the windows of an old cellar that has been shut up for many days. Down in that cellar, which has not been opened for many months, are all kinds of loathsome creatures, and a few sickly plants blanched by the darkness. The walls are dark and damp with the trail of reptiles; it is a horrid filthy place, in which no one would willingly enter. You may walk there in the dark very securely, and except now and then for the touch of some slimy creature, you would not believe the place was so bad and filthy. Open those shutters, clean a pane of glass, let a little light in, and now see how a thousand noxious things have made this place their habitation. Sure, twas not the light that made this place so horrible, but it was the light that showed how horrible it was before. So let God's grace just open a window and let the light into a man's soul, and he will stand astonished to see at what a distance he is from God. Yes, sir, to-day you think yourself second to none but the Eternal; you fancy that you can approach his throne with steady step; it is but a little that you have to do to be saved; you imagine that you can accomplish it at any hour, and save yourself upon your dying bed as well as now. Ah! sir, if you could but be touched by Ithuriel's wand, and made to be in appearance what you are in reality, then you would see that you are far enough from God even now, and so far from him that unless the arms of his grace were stretched out to bring you to himself, you must perish in your sin. Now I turn my eye again with hope, and trust I leave not a few in this large assembly who can say, "Sir, I feel I am far from God, and sometimes I fear I am so far from him that he will never have mercy upon me; I dare not lift so much as my eyes towards heaven; I smite on my breast, and say, 'Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner'" Oh! poor heart; here is a comforting passage for thee: "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion on him." But again, there is a second sense in which some now present may feel themselves to be far off from God. Conscience tells every man that if he would be saved he must get rid of his sin. The Antinomian may possibly pretend to believe that men can be saved while they live in sin; but conscience will never allow any man to swallow so egregious a lie as that. I have not one person in this congregation who is not perfectly assured that if he is to be saved he must leave off his drunkenness and his vices. Sure there is not one here so stupefied with the laudanum of hellish indifference as to imagine that he can revel in his lusts, and afterwards wear the white robe of the redeemed in paradise. If ye imagine ye can be partakers of the blood of Christ, and yet drink the cup of Belial; if ye imagine that ye can be members of Satan and members of Christ at the same time, ye have less sense than one would give you credit for. No, you know that right arms must be out off, and right eyes plucked out that the most darling sins must be renounced, if ye would enter into the kingdom of God. And I have a man here who is convinced of the unholiness of his life, and he has striven to reform, not because he thinks reformation would save him, for he knows better than that, but because he knows that this is one of the first-fruits of grace reformation from sin. Well, poor man, he has for many years been an inveterate drunkard, and he struggles now to overcome the passion. He has almost effected it; but he never had such an Herculean labor to attempt before; for now some temptation comes upon him so strongly that it is as much as he can do to stand against it; and perhaps sometimes since his first conviction of sin he has even fallen into it. Or perhaps it is another vice, and you, my brother, have set your face against it; but there are many bonds and fetters that bind us to our vices, and you find that though it was easy enough to spin the warp and woof sin together, it is not so easy to unravel that which you have spun. You can not purge your house of your idols; you do not yet know how to give up all your lustful pleasures. Not yet can you renounce the company of the ungodly. You have cut off one by one your most intimate acquaintances, but it is very hard to do it completely, and you are struggling to accomplish it, and you often fall on your knees and cry, "O, Lord, how far I am from thee! what high steps these are which I have to climb! Oh! how can I be saved? Sure, if I can not purge myself from my old sins, I shall never be able to hold on my way; and even should I get rid of them, I should plunge into them once more." You are crying out, "Oh, how great my distance from God! Lord, bring me near!" Let me present you with one other aspect of our distance from God. You have read your Bibles, and you believe that faith alone can unite the soul to Christ. You feel that unless you can believe in him who died upon the cross for your sins, you can never see the kingdom of God; but you can say this morning, "Sir, I have striven to believe; I have searched the Scriptures, not hours, but days together, to find a promise on which my weary foot might rest; I have been upon my knees many and many a time, earnestly supplicating a Divine blessing; but though I have pleaded, all in vain I have urged my plea, for until now no whisper have I had of grace, no token for good, no sign of mercy. Sir, I have striven to believe, and I have said,

"O could I but believe Then all would easy be; I would, but can not Lord, relieve, My help must come from thee!"

I have used all the power I have, and have desperately striven to cast myself at the Saviour's feet and see my sins washed sway in his blood. I have not been indifferent to the story of the cross; I have read it a hundred times, and even wept over it; but when I strive to put my hand upon the scape-goat's head, and labor to believe that my sins are transferred to him, some demon seems to stop the breath that would breathe itself forth in adoration, and something checks the hand that would lay itself upon the head that died for me. Well, poor soul, thou art indeed far from God. I will repeat the words of the text to thee. May the Holy Spirit repeat them in thine ear! "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." So shall it be with thee if thou hast come thus far, though great may be the distance, thy feet shall not have to travel it, but God, the Eternal One, shall from his throne look down and visit thy poor heart, though now thou tarriest by the way, afraid to approach him. II. Our second point is the PECULIAR TROUBLES which agitate the breasts of those who are in this position. Let us introduce to you the poor ragged prodigal. After a life of ease, he is, by his own vice, plunged into penury and labor. After feeding swine for a time, and being almost starved, he sets about returning to his father's house. It is a long and weary journey. He walks many a mile, until his feet are sore, and at last, from the summit of a mountain, he views his father's house far away in the plain. There are yet many miles between him and his father whom he has neglected. Can you conceive his emotions when, for the first time after so long an absence, he sees the old house at home? He remembers it well in the distance, for though it is long since he trod its floors, he has never ceased to recollect it; and the remembrance of his father's kindness, and of his own prosperity when he was with him, has never yet been erased from his consciousness. You would imagine that for one moment he feels a flash of joy, like some flash of lightning in the midst of the tempest, but anon a black darkness comes over his spirit. In the first place, it is probable he will think, "Oh! suppose I could reach my home, will my father receive me? Will he not shut the door in my face and tell me begone and spend the rest of my life where I have been spending the first of it?" Then another suggestion might arise: "Surely, the demon that led me first astray may lead me back again, before I salute my parent." "Or mayhap," thought he, "I may even die upon the road, and so, before I have received my father's blessing, my soul may stand before its God." I doubt not each of these three thoughts has crossed your mind if you are now in the position of one who is seeking Christ, but mourns to feel himself far away from him. First, you have been afraid lest you should die before Christ has appeared to you. You have been for months seeking the Saviour without finding him, and now the black thought comes, "And what if I should die with all these prayers unanswered? Oh! if he would but hear me ere I departed this world I would be content, though he should keep me waiting in anguish for many years. But what, if before tomorrow morning I should be a corpse? At my bed I kneel to-night and cry for mercy. Oh! if he should not send the pardon before to-morrow morning, and in the night my spirit should stand before his bar! What then?" It is singular that other men think they shall live for ever, but men convinced of sin, who seek a Saviour, are afraid they shall not live another moment. You have known the time, dear Christian brethren, when you dared not shut your eyes for feel you should not open them again on earth; when you dreaded the shadows of the night lest they should darken for ever the light of the sun, and you should dwell in outer darkness throughout eternity. You have mourned as each day has entered, and you have wept as it has departed, because you fancied that your next step might precipitate you into your eternal doom. I have known what it is to tread the earth and fear lest every tuft of grass should but cover a door to hell; trembling, lest every particle, and every atom, and every stone, should be solar league with God against me, as to destroy me. John Bunyan says, that at one time in his experience, he felt that he had rather have been born a dog or a toad than a man; he felt so unutterably wretched on account of sin; and his great point of wretchedness was the fact, that though he had been three years seeking Christ, he might after all die without finding him. And in truth, this is no needless alarm. It may be perhaps too alarming to some who already feel their need of Christ, but the mass of us need perpetually to be startled with the thought of death. How few of you ever indulge that thought! Because ye live and are in health, and eat, and drink, and sleep, ye think ye shall not die. Do ye ever soberly look at your last end? Do ye ever, when ye come to your beds at night, think how one day ye shall undress for the last slumber? And when ye wake in the morning, do ye never think that the trump of the archangel shall startle you to appear before God in the last day of the great assize, wherein an universe shall stand before the Judge? No. "All men think all men mortal but themselves;" and thoughts of death we still push off, until at last we shall find ourselves waking up in torment, where to wake is to wake too late. But thou to whom I specially speak this morning, thou who feelest that thou art a great way off from Christ, thou shalt never die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord; if thou hast really sought him, thou shalt never die until thou hast found him. There was never a soul yet, that sincerely sought the Saviour, who perished before he found him. No; the gates of death shall never shut on thee till the gates of grace have opened for thee; till Christ has washed thy sins away thou shalt never be baptized in Jordan's flood. Thy life is secure, for this is God's constant plan he keeps his own elect alive till the day of his grace, and then he takes them to himself. And inasmuch as thou knowest thy need of a Saviour, thou art one of his, and thou shalt never die until thou hast found him. Your second fear is, "Ah, sir! I am not afraid of dying before I find Christ, I have a worse fear than that; I have had convictions before, and they have often passed away; my greatest fear to-day is, that these will be the same." I have heard of a poor collier, who on one occasion, having been deeply impressed under a sermon, was led to repent of sin and forsake his former life; but he felt so great horror of ever returning to his former conversation, that one day he knelt down and cried thus unto God, "O Lord, let me die on this spot, rather than ever deny the religion which I have espoused, and turn back to my former conversation:" and we are credibly told, that he died on that very spot, and so his prayer was answered. God had rather take him home to heaven than suffer him to bear the brunt of temptation on earth. Now, when men come to Christ, they feel that they had rather suffer anything than lose their convictions. Scores of times have you and I been drawn to Christ under the preaching of the Word. We can look back upon dozens of occasions on which it seemed just the turning point with us. Something said in our hearts, "Now, believe in Christ, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." But we said, "To-morrow, to-morrow ;" and when to-morrow came our convictions were gone. We thought what we said yesterday would be the deed of to-day; but instead of it, the procrastination of yesterday became the hardened wickedness of to-day: we wandered farther from God and forgot him. Now you are crying to him for fear, lest he should give you up again. You have this morning prayed before you came here, and you said, "Father, suffer not my companions to laugh me out of my religion; let not my worldly business so engross my thoughts, as to prevent my due attention to the matters of another world. Oh, let not the trifles of to-day so absorb my thoughts that I may not be preparing myself to meet my God

'Deeply on my thoughtful heart, Eternal things impress,'

and make this a real saving work that shall never die out, nor be taken from me." Is that your earnest prayer? O poor prodigal, it shall be heard, it shall be answered. Thou shalt not have time to go back. To-day thy Father views thee from his throne in heaven; to-day he runs to thee in the message of his gospel; today he falls upon thy neck and weeps for joy; to-day he says to thee, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven ;" to-day, by the preaching of the Word, he bids thee come and reason with him, "for though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool, though the be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow." But the last and the most prominent thought which I suppose the prodigal would have, would be, that when he did get to his father, he would say to him, "Get along with you, I will have nothing more to do with you." "Ah!" thought he to himself, "I recollect the morning, when I rose up before day-break, because I knew I could not stand my mothers tears; I remember how I crept down the back staircase and took all the money with me, how I stole down the yard and ran away into the land where I spent my all. Oh! what will the old gentlemen say of me when I come back? Why, there he is! he is running to me. But he has got a horsewhip with him, to be sure, to whip me away. It is not at all possible that if he comes he will have a kind word for me. The most I can expect is that he will say, 'Well John, you have wasted all your money, you can not expect me to do anything for you again. I won't let you starve; you shall be one of my servants: there, come, I will take you as footman;' and if he will do that I will be obliged to him; nay, that is the very thing I will ask of him; I will say, 'Make me as one of thy hired servants.'" "Oh," said the devil within him, "your father will never speak comfortably to you: you had better run away again. I tell you if he gets near you, you will have such a dressing as you never received in your life. You will die with a broken heart; you will very likely fall dead here; the old man will never bury you; the carrion crows win eat you. There is no hope for you: see how you have treated him. Put yourself in his place: what would you do if you had a son that had run away with half your living, and spent it upon harlots?" And the son thought if he were in his fathers place he should be very harsh and severe; and possibly, he almost turned upon his heel to run away. But he had not time to do that. When he was just thinking about running away, on a sudden his father's arms were about his neck, and he had received the paternal kiss. Nay, before he could get his whole prayer finished, he was arrayed in a white robe, the best in the house; and they had brought him to the table, and the fatted calf was being killed for his repast. And poor soul, it shall be so with you. Thou sayest, "If I go to God, he win never receive me. I am too vile and wretched: others he may have pressed to his heart, but he will not me. If my brother should go, he might be saved; but there are such aggravations in my crime; I have grown so old since; I have done such a deal of mischief; I have so often blasphemed him, so frequently broken his Sabbaths; ah! and I have so often deceived him; I have promised I would repent, and when I got well I have lied to God, and gone back to my old sin. Oh, if he would but let me creep inside the door of heaven! I win not ask to be one of his children; I win only ask that he will let me be where the Syro-Phoenician woman desired to be to be a dog, to eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table. That is all I ask; and oh! if he will but grant it to me, he shall never hear the last of it, for as long as I live I will sing his praise; and when the world doth fade away, and the sun grow dim with age, my gratitude, immortal as my soul, shall never cease to sing his love, who pardoned my grossest sins and washed me in his blood." It shad be so. Come and try. Now, sinners, dry your tears; let hopeless sorrows cease; look to the wounds of Christ, who died; let all your griefs now be removed, there is no further cause for them; your Father loves you; he accepts and receives you to his heart. III. Now, in conclusion, I may notice HOW THESE FEARS WERE MET IN THE PRODIGAL'S CASE, and how they shall be met in ours if we are in the same condition. The text says, "The Father saw him." Yes, and God saw thee just now. That tear which was wiped away so hastily as if thou wast ashamed of it God saw it, and he stored it in his bottle. That prayer which thou didst breathe just a few moments ago, so faintly, and with such little faith God heard it. The other day thou wast in thy chamber, where no ear heard thee; but God was there. Sinner, let this be thy comfort, that God sees thee when thou beginnest to repent. He does not see thee with his usual gaze, with which he looks on all men; but he sees thee with an eye of intense interest. He has been looking on thee in an thy sin, and in all thy sorrow, hoping that thou wouldst repent; and now he sees the first gleam of grace, and he beholds it with joy. Never warder on the lonely castle top saw the first grey light of morning with more joy than that with which God beholds the first desire in thy heart. Never physician rejoiced more when he saw the first heaving of the lungs in one that was supposed to be dead, than God doth rejoice over thee, now that he sees the first token for good. Think not that thou art despised and unknown, and forgotten. He is marking thee from his high throne in glory, and rejoicing in what he sees. He saw thee pray, he heard thee groan; he marked thy tear; he looked upon thee and rejoiced to see that these were the first seeds of grace in thine heart. And then, the text says, "he had compassion on him." He did not merely see him, but he wept within himself to think he should be in such a condition. The old father had a very long range of eye-sight; and though the prodigal could not see him in the distance, he could see the prodigal. And the fathers first thought when he saw him was this "O my poor son, O my poor boy! that ever he should have brought himself into such a state as this!" He looked through his telescope of love, and he saw him, and said, "Ah! he did not go out of my house in such trim as that. Poor creature, his feet are bleeding; he has come a long way, I'll be bound. Look at his face, he doesn't look like the same boy he was when he left me. His eye that was so bright, is now sunken in its socket; his cheeks that once stood out with fatness, have now become hollow with famine. Poor wretch, I can tell all his bones, he is so emaciated." Instead of feeling any anger in his heart, he felt just the contrary; he felt such pity for his poor son. And so the Lord feels for you you that are groaning and moaning on account of sin. He forgets your sins; he only weeps to think you should have brought yourself to be what you are: "Why didst thou rebel against me, and bring thyself into such a state as this?" It was just like that day when Adam sinned. God walked in the garden, and he missed Adam. He did not cry out, "Adam, come here and be judged!" No; with a soft, sorrowful, and plaintive voice, he said, "Adam, where art thou? Oh, my fair Adam, thou whom I made so happy, where art thou now? Oh, Adam! thou didst think to become a God; where art thou now? Thou hast walked with me: dost thou hide thyself from thy friend? Little dost thou know, O Adam, what woes thou hast brought on thyself, and thine offspring. Adam, where art thou?" And Jehovah bowels yearn to-day over you. He is not angry with you; his anger is passed away, and his hands are stretched out still. Inasmuch as he has brought you to feel that you have sinned against him, and to desire reconciliation with him, there is no wrath in his heart. The only sorrow that he feels is sorrow that you should have brought yourself into a state so mournful as that in which you now are found. But he did not stop in mere compassion. Having had compassion, "he ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." This you do not understand yet; but you shall. As sure as God is God, if you this day are seeking him aright through Christ, the day shall come when the kiss of full assurance shall be on your lip, when the arms of sovereign love shall embrace you, and you shall know it to be so. Thou mayest have despised him, but thou shalt know him yet to be thy Father and thy Friend. Thou mayest have scoffed his name: thou shalt one day come to rejoice in it as better than pure gold. Thou mayest have broken his Sabbaths and despised his Word; the day is coming when the Sabbath shall be thy delight, and his Word thy treasure. Yes, marvel not; thou mayest have plunged into the kennel of sin, and made thy clothes black with iniquity; but thou shalt one day stand before his throne white as the angels be; and that tongue that once cursed him shall yet sing his praise. If thou be a real seeker, the hands that have been stained with lust shall one day grasp the harp of gold, and the head that has plotted against the Most High shall yet be girt with gold. Seemeth it not a strange thing that God should do so much for sinners? But strange though it seem, it shall be strangely true. Look at the staggering drunkard in the ale-house. Is there a possibility that one day he shall stand among the fairest sons of light? Possibility! ay, certainty, if he repents and turns from the error of his ways. Hear you yon curser and swearer? See you the man who labels himself as a servant of hell, and is not ashamed to do so? Is it possible that he shall one day share the bliss of the redeemed? Possible! ay, more, it is sure, if he turneth from his evil ways. O sovereign grace, turn men that they may repent! "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

"Lord, do thou the sinner turn, For thy tender mercy's sake."

One word or so, and I have done. If any of you to-day are under conviction of sin, let me solemnly warn you not to frequent places where those convictions are likely too be destroyed. A correspondent of the New York Christian Advocate furnishes the following affecting narrative: "When I was travelling in the state of Massachusetts, twenty-six years ago, after preaching one evening in the town of ___________, a very serious-looking young man arose, and wished to address the assembly. After obtaining leave, he spoke as follows: 'My friends, about one year ago, I set out in company with a young man of my intimate acquaintance, to seek the salvation of my soul. For several weeks we went on together, we laboured together, and often renewed our covenant not to give over seeking till we obtained the religion of Jesus. But, all at once, the young man neglected attending meeting, appeared to turn his back on all the means of grace, and grew so shy of me, that I could scarcely get an opportunity to speak with him. His strange conduct gave me much painful anxiety of mind; but still I felt resolved to obtain the salvation of my soul, or perish, making the publican's plea. After a few days, a friend informed me that my young companion had received an invitation to a ball, and was determined to go. I went immediately to him, and, with tears in my eyes, endeavoured to persuade him to change his purpose, and to go with me on that evening to a prayer-meeting. I pleaded with him in vain. He told me, when we parted, that I must not give him up as lost, for after he had attended that ball, he intended to make a business of seeking religion. The appointed evening came, and he went to the ball, and I went to the prayer-meeting. Soon after the meeting opened, it pleased God, in answer to my prayer, to turn my spiritual captivity, and make my soul rejoice in his justifying love. Soon after the ball opened, my young friend was standing at the head of the ball-room, with the hand of a young lady in his hand, preparing to lead down the dance; and, while the musician was turning his violin,, without one moment's warning, the young man sallied back, and fell dead on the floor. I was immediately sent for, to assist in devising means to convey his remains to his father's house. You will be better able to judge what were the emotions of my heart, when I tell you that that young man was my own brother.'" Trifle not, then, with thy convictions, for eternity shall be too short for thee to utter thy lamentations over such trifling.

The Turning Point

August 23rd, 1874 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"And he arose, and came to his father." Luke 15:20 .

This sentence expresses the true turning point in the prodigal's life story. Many other matters led up to it, and before he came to it there was much in him that was very hopeful; but this was the point itself, and had he never reached it he would have remained a prodigal, but would never have been the prodigal restored, and his life would have been a warning rather than an instruction to us. "He arose, and came to his father." Speaking, as I do, in extreme weakness, I have no words to spare; and while my voice holds out I shall speak straight to the point, and I pray the Lord to make every syllable practical and powerful by his Holy Spirit. I. We shall begin by noticing that HERE WAS ACTION "He arose, and came to his father." He had already been in a state of thoughtfulness; he had come to himself, but now he was to go further, and come to his father. He had considered the past, and weighed it up, and seen the hollowness of all the world's pleasures; he had seen his condition in reference to his father, and his prospects if he remained in the far-off country; he had thought upon what he ought to do, and what would be the probable result of such a course; but now he passed beyond the dreaminess of thought into matter-of-fact acting and doing. How long will it be, dear hearers, before you will do the same? We are glad to have you thoughtful; we hope that a great point is gained when you are led to consider your ways, to ponder your condition, and to look earnestly into the future, for thoughtlessness is the ruin of many a traveler to eternity, and by its means the unwary fall into the deep pit of carnal security and perish therein. But some of you have been among the "thoughtful" quite long enough; it is time you passed into a more practical stage. It is high time that you came to action; it would have been better if you had acted already; for, in the matter of reconciliation to God, first thoughts are best. When a man's life hangs on a thread, and hell is just before him, his path is clear, and a second thought is superfluous. The first impulse to escape from danger and lay hold on Christ is that which you would be wise to follow. Some of you whom I now address have been thinking, and thinking, and thinking, till I fear that you will think yourselves into perdition. May you, by divine grace, be turned from thinking to believing, or else your thoughts will become the undying worm of your torment. The prodigal had also passed beyond mere regret. He was deeply grieved that he had left his father's house, he lamented his lavish expenditure upon wantonness and rebelling, he mourned that the son of such a father should be degraded into a swineherd in a foreign land; but he now proceeded from regret to repentance, and bestirred himself to escape from the condition over which he mourned. What is the use of regret if we continue in sin? By all means pull up the sluices of your grief if the floods will turn the wheel of action, but you may as well reserve your tears, if they mean no more than idle sentimentalism. What avails it for a man to say he repents of his misconduct if he still perseveres in it? We are glad when sinners regret their sin and mourn the condition into which sin has brought them, but if they go no further, their regrets will only prepare them for eternal remorse. Had the prodigal become inactive through despondency, or stolid through sullen grief, he must have perished, far away from his father's home, as it is to be feared many will whose sorrow for sin leads them into a proud unbelief and wilful despair of God's love; but he was wise, for he shook off the drowsiness of his despondency, and, with resolute determination, "arose and came to his father." Oh, when will you sad ones be wise enough to do the same? When will your thinking and your sorrowing give place to practical obedience to the gospel? The prodigal also pressed beyond mere resolving. That is a sweet verse which says, "I will arise," but that is far better which says, "And he arose." Resolves are good, like blossoms, but actions are better, for they are the fruits. We are glad to hear from you the resolution, "I will turn to God," but holy angels in heaven do not rejoice over resolutions, they reserve their music for sinners who actually repent. Many of you like the son in the parable have said, "I go, sir," but you have not gone. You are as ready at forgetting as you are at resolving. Every earnest sermon, every death in your family, every funeral knell for a neighbor, every pricking of conscience, every touch of sickness, sets you a resolving to amend, but your promissory notes are never honored, your repentance ends in words. Your goodness is as the dew, which at early dawn hangs each blade of grass with gems, but leaves the fields all parched and dry when the sun's burning heat is poured upon the pasture. You mock your friends, and trifle with your own souls. You have often in this house said, "Let me reach my chamber and I will fall upon my knees," but on the way home you have forgotten what manner of men you were, and sin has confirmed its tottering throne. Have you not dallied long enough? Have you not lied unto God sufficiently? Should you not now give over resolving and proceed to the solemn business of your souls like men of common sense? You are in a sinking vessel, and the life-boat is near, but your mere resolve to enter it will not prevent your going down with the sinking craft; as sure as you are a living man, you will drown unless you take the actual leap for life. "He arose and came to his father." Now, observe that this action of the prodigal was immediate, and without further parley. He did not go back to the citizen of that country and say, "Will you raise my wages? If not, I must leave." Had he parleyed he had been lost; but he gave his old master no notice, he concerned his indentures by running away. I would that sinners here would break their league with death, and violate their covenant with hell, by escaping for their lives to Jesus, who receives all such runaways. We want neither leave nor licence for quitting the service of sin and Satan, neither is it a subject which demands a month's consideration: in this matter instantaneous action is the surest wisdom. Lot did not stop to consult the king of Sodom as to whether he might quit his dominions, neither did he consult the parish officers as to the propriety of speedily deserting his home; but with the angel's hand pressing them, he and his fled from the city. Nay, one fled not; she looked and lingered, and that lingering cost her her life! That pillar of salt is the eloquent monitor to us to avoid delays when we are bidden to flee for our lives. Sinner, dost thou wish to be a pillar of salt? Wilt thou halt between two opinions, until God's anger shall doom thee to final impenitence? Wilt thou trifle with mercy till justice smite thee? Up, man, and while thy day of grace continues, fly thou into the arms of love. The text implies that the prodigal aroused himself, and put forth all his energies. It is said, "he arose;" the word suggests that he had till then been asleep upon the bed of sloth, or the couch of presumption. If like Samson in Delilah's lap, he had been supine, inactive, and unstrung, but now, startled from his lethargy, he lifts up his eyes, he girds up his loins, he shakes off the spell which had enthralled him, he puts forth every power, he arouses his whole nature, and he spares no exertion until he returns to his father. Men are not saved between sleeping and waking. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Grace does not stupefy us, it but arouses us. Surely, sirs, it is worth while making an awful effort to escape from eternal wrath. It is worth while summoning up every faculty and power and emotion and passion of your being, and saying to yourself, "I cannot be lost; I will not be lost: I am resolved that I will find mercy through Jesus Christ." The worst of it is, O sinners, ye are so sluggish, so indifferent, so ready to let things happen as they may. Sin has bewitched and benumbed you. You sleep as on beds of down and forget that you are in danger of hell fire. You cry, "A little more rest, and a little more slumber, and a little more folding of the arms to sleep," and so you sleep on, though your damnation slumbereth not. Would to God you could be awakened. It is not in the power of my voice to arouse you; but may the Lord Himself alarm you, for never were men more in danger. Let but your breath fail, or your blood pause, and you are lost for ever. Frailer than a cobweb is that life on which your eternal destiny depends. If you were wise you would not give sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids, till you had found your God and been forgiven. Oh, when will you come to a real action? How long will it be ere you believe in Jesus? How long will you snort between the jaws of hell? How long dare you provoke the living God? II. Secondly, HERE WAS A SOUL COMING INTO ACTUAL CONTACT WITH GOD, " He arose and came to his father." It would have been of no avail for him to have arisen if he had not come to his father. This is what the sinner has to do, and what the Spirit enables him to do: namely, to come straight away to his God. But, alas! very commonly, when men begin to be anxious, they go round about and hasten to a friend to tell him about it, or they even resort to a deceitful priest, and seek help from him. They fly to a saint or a virgin, and ask these to be mediators for then, instead of accepting the only Mediator Jesus Christ, and going to God at once by him. They fly to outward forms and ceremonies, or they turn to their Bibles, their prayers, their repentances, or their sermon-hearings; in fact, to anything rather than their God. But the prodigal knew better; he went to his father, and it will be a grand day for you, O sinner, when you do the same. Go straight away to your God in Christ Jesus. "Come here," says the priest. Pass that fellow by. Get away to your Father. Reject an angel from heaven if he would detain you from the Lord. Go personally, directly, and at once to God in Christ Jesus. But surely I must perform some ceremony first? Not so did the prodigal, he arose and went at once to his father. Sinner, you must come to God, and Jesus is the way. Go to him then, tell him you have done wrong, confess your sins to him, and yield yourself to him. Cry, "Father, I have sinned: forgive me, for Jesus' sake." Alas! there are many anxious souls who do not go to others, but they look to themselves. They sit down and cry, "I want to repent; I want to feel my need; I want to be humble." O man, get up! What are you at? Leave yourself and go to your Father. "Oh, but I have so little hope; my faith is very weak, and I am full of fears." What matters your hopes or your fears while you are away from your Father? Your salvation does not lie within yourself, but in the Lord's good will to you. You will never be at peace till, leaving all your doubts and your hopes, you come to your God and rest in his bosom. "Oh, but I want to conquer my propensities to sin, I want to master my strong temptations." I know what it is you want. You want the best robe without your Father's giving it you, and shoes on your feet of your own procuring; you do not like going in a beggar's suit and receiving all from the Lord's loving hand; but this pride of yours must be given up, and you must get away to God, or perish for ever. You must forget yourself, or only remember yourself so as to feel that you are bad throughout, and no more worthy to be called God's son. Give yourself up as a sinking vessel that is not worth pumping, but must be left to go down, and get you into the life-boat of free grace. Think of God your Father of him, I say, and of his dear Son, the one Mediator and Redeemer of the sons of men. There is your hope to fly away from self and to reach your Father. Do I hear you say, "Well, I shall continue in the means of grace, and I hope there to find my God." I tell you, if you do that, and refuse to go to God, the means of grace will be the means of damnation to you. "I must wait at the pool," says one. Then I solemnly warn you that you will lie there and die; for Jesus does not command you to lie there, his bidding is, "Take up thy bed, and walk." "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." You have to go unto your Father, and not to the pool of Bethesda, or any other pool of ordinances or means of grace. "But I mean to pray," says one. What would you pray for? Can you expect the Lord to hear you while you will not hear him? You will pray best with your head in your Father's bosom, but the prayers of an unyielding, disobedient, unbelieving heart are mockeries. Prayers themselves will ruin you if they are made a substitute for Doing at once to God. Suppose the prodigal had sat down at the swine trough and said, "I will pray here," what would it have availed him? or suppose he had wept there, what good would have come of it? Praying and weeping were good enough when he had come to his father, but they could not have been substituted for it. Sinner, your business is with God. Hasten to him at once. You have nothing to do with yourself, or your own doings, or what others can do for you, the turning point of salvation is, "he arose and came to his father." There must be a real, living, earnest, contact of your poor guilty soul with God, a recognition that there is a God, and that God can be spoken to, and an actual speech of your soul to him, through Jesus Christ, for it is only God in Christ Jesus that is accessible at all. Going thus to God, we tell him that we are all wrong, and walls to be set right; we tell him we wish to be reconciled to him, and are ashamed that we should have sinned against him; we then put our trust in his Son, and we are saved. O soul, go to God: it matters not though the prayer you come with may be a very broken prayer, or even if it has mistakes in it, as the prodigal's prayer had when he said, "Make me as one of thy hired servants;" the language of the prayer will not signify so long as you really approach to God. "Him that cometh to me," says Jesus, "I will in no wise cast out;" and Jesus ever liveth to make intercessions for them that come to God through him. Here, then, is the great Protestant doctrine. The Romish doctrine says you must go round by the back door, and half-a-dozen of the Lord's servants must knock for you, and even then you may never be heard; but the grand old Protestant doctrine is, come to God yourself; come with no other mediator than Jesus Christ; come just as you are without merits and good works; trust in Jesus and your sins will be forgiven you. There is my second point: there was action, and that action was contact with God. III. Now, thirdly, IN THAT ACTION THERE WAS AN ENTIRE YIELDING UP OF HIMSELF. In the prodigal's case, his proud independence and self-will were gone. In other days he demanded his portion, and resolved to spend it as he pleased, but now he is willing to be as much under rule as a hired servant, he has had enough of being his own master, and is weary of the distance from God which self-will always creates. He longs to get into a child's true place, namely, that of dependence and loving submission. The great mischief of all was his distance from his father, and he now feels it to be so. His great thought is to remove that distance by humbly returning, for then he feels that all other ills will come to an end. He yields up his cherished freedom, his boasted independence, his liberty to think and do and say whatever he chose, and he longs to come under loving rule and wise guidance. Sinner, are you ready for this? If so, come and welcome; your father longs to press you to his bosom! He gave up all idea of self-justification, for he said, "I have sinned." Before he would have said, "I have a right to do as I like with my own; who is to dictate how I shall spend my own money. If I do sow a few wild oats, every young man does the same. I have been very generous, if nothing else, nobody can call me greedy. I am no hypocrite. Look at your canting Methodists, how they deceive people! There's nothing of that in me, I'll warrant you; I am an outspoken man of the world; and after all, a good deal better in disposition than my elder brother, fine fellow though he pretends to be." But now the prodigal boasts no longer. Not a syllable of self-praise falls from his lips; he mournfully confesses, "I have sinned against heaven and before thee." Sinner, if you would be saved you also must come down from your high places, and acknowledge your iniquity. Confess that you have done wrong, and do not try to extenuate your offense; do not offer apologies and make your case better than it is, but humbly plead guilty and leave your soul in Jesus' hands. Of two things, to sin or to deny the sin, probably to deny the sin is the worse of the two, and shows a blacker heart. Acknowledge your fault, man, and tell your heavenly Father that if it were not for his mercy you would have been in hell, and that as it is you richly deserve to be there even now. Make your case rather blacker than it is if you can, this I say because I know you cannot do any such thing. When a man is in the hospital it cannot be of any service to him to pretend to be better than he is; he will not receive any more medical attention on that account, but rather the other way, for the worse his case the more likely is the physician to give him special notice. Oh, sinner, lay bare before God thy sores, thy putrifying sores of sin, the horrid ulcers of thy deep depravity, and cry, "O Lord, have mercy upon me? "This is the way of wisdom. Have done with pride and self-righteousness, and make thy appeal to the undeserved pity of the Lord, and thou will speed. Observe that the prodigal yielded up himself so thoroughly that he owned his father's love to him to be an aggravation of his guilt: so I take it he means when he says, "Father, I have sinned." It adds an emphasis to the "I have sinned" when it follows after the word "father." "Thou good God, I have broken thy good laws; thou loving, tender, merciful God, I have done wrong wantonly and wickedly against thee. Thou hast been a very loving Father to me, and I have been a most ungenerous and shameless traitor to thee, rebelling without cause. I confess this frankly and humbly, and with many tears. Ah! hadst thou been a tyrant I might have gathered some apology from thy severity, but thou hast been a Father, and this makes it worse that I should sin against thee." It is sweet to hear such a confession as this poured out into the Father's bosom. The penitent also yielded up all his supposed rights and claims upon his father, saying, "I am not worthy to be called thy son." He might have said, "I have sinned, but still I am thy child," and most of us would have thought it a very justifiable argument; but he does not say so, he is too humble for that, he owns, "I am no more worthy to be called thy son." A sinner is really broken down when he acknowledges that if God would have no mercy on him, but cast him away for forever, it would be no more than justice.

"Should saddled vengeance seize my breath, I must pronounce thee just in death; And, if my soul were sent to hell, Thy righteous law approves it well."

That soul is not far from peace which has ceased arguing and submits to the sentence. Oh, sinner, I urge thee, if thou wouldst find speedy rest, go and throw thyself at the foot of the cross where God meets such as thou art, and say, "Lord, here I am; do what thou wilt with me. Never a word of excuse will I offer, nor one single plea by way of extenuation. I am a mass of guilt and misery, but pity me, oh, pity me! No rights or claims have I; I have forfeited the rights of creatureship by becoming a rebel against thee. I am lost and utterly undone before the bar of thy justice. From that justice I flee and hide myself in the wounds of thy Son. According to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions!" Once again, here was such a yielding up of himself to his father that no terms or conditions are mentioned or implied. He begs to be received, but a servant's place is good enough for him; amongst the scullions of the kitchen he is content to take his place, so long as he may be forgiven. He does not ask for a little liberty to sin, or stipulate for a little self-righteousness wherein he may boast; he gives all up. He is willing to be anything or nothing, just as his father pleases, so that he may but be numbered with his household. No weapons of rebellion are in his hands now. No secret opposition to his father's rule lingers in his soul, he is completely subdued, and lies at his father's feet. Our Lord never crushed a soul yet that lay prostrate at his feet, and he never will. He will stoop down and say, "Rise, my child; rise, for I have forgiven thee. Go and sin no more. I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Come and let us return unto the Lord, for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. IV. Notice further, and fourthly, that IN THIS ACT THERE WAS A MEASURE OF FAITH IN HIS FATHER a measure, I say, meaning thereby not much faith, but some. A little faith saves the soul. There was faith in his father's power. He said, "In my father's house there is bread enough and to spare." Sinner, dost thou not believe that God is able to save thee; that through Jesus Christ he is able to supply thy soul's needs. Canst thou not get as far as this, "Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean." The prodigal had also some faith in his father's readiness to pardon; for if he had not so hoped he would never have returned to his father at all: if he had been sure that his father would never smile upon him he would never have returned to him. Sinner, do believe that God is merciful, for so he is. Believe, through Jesus Christ, that he willeth not the death of the sinner, but had rather that he should turn to him and live; for as surely as God this is truth, and do not thou believe a lie concerning thy God. The Lord is not hard or harsh, but he rejoices to pardon great transgressions. The prodigal also believed in his fathers readiness to bless him. He felt sure that his father would go as far as propriety would permit, for he said, "I am not worthy to be called thy son, but make me at least thy servant." In this also he admitted that his father was so good, that even to be his servant would be a great matter. He was contented even to get the lowest place, so long as he might be under the shade of so good a protector. Ah, poor sinner, dost thou not believe that God will have mercy on thee if he can do so consistently with his justice? If thou believest that, I have good news to tell thee. Jesus Christ, his Son, has offered such an atonement, that God can be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth, he has mercy upon the vilest, and justifieth the ungodly, and accepteth the very chief of sinners through his dear Son. Oh, soul, have faith in the atonement. The atonement made by the personal sacrifice of the Son of God must be infinitely precious; believe thou that there is efficacy enough in it for thee. It is thy safety to fly to that atonement and cling to the Cross of Christ, and thou wilt honor God by so doing; is the only way in which thou canst honor him. Thou canst honor him by believing that he can save thee, even thee. The truest faith is that which believes in the mercy of God in the teeth of conscious unworthiness. The penitent in the parable went to his father too unworthy to be called his son, and yet he said, "My father." Faith has a way of seeing the blackness of sin, and yet believing that God can make the soul as white as snow. It is not faith that says, "I am a little sinner, and therefore God can forgive me;" but that is faith which cries, "I am a great sinner, an accursed and condemned sinner, and yet, for all that, God's infinite mercy can forgive me, and the blood of Christ can make me clean." Believe in the teeth of thy feelings, and in spite of thy conscience; believe in God, though everything within thee seems to say, "He cannot save thee; he will not save thee." Believe in God, sinner, over the tops of mountain sins. Do as John Bunyan says he did, for he was so afraid of his sins and of the punishment thereof, that he could not but run into God's arms, and he said, "Though he had held a drawn sword in his hands, I would have run on the very point of it, rather than have kept away from him." So do thou, poor sinner. Believe thy God. Believe in nothing else, but trust thy God, and thou wilt get the blessing. It is wonderful the power of faith over God, it binds his justice and constrains his grace. I do not know how to illustrate it better than by a little story. When I walked down my garden some time ago I found a dog amusing himself among the flowers. I knew that he was not a good gardener, and no dog of mine, so I threw a stick at him and bade him begone. After I had done so, he conquered me, and made me ashamed of having spoken roughly to him, for he picked up my stick, and, wagging his tail right pleasantly, he brought the stick to me, and dropped it at my feet. Do you think I could strike him or drive him away after that? No, I patted him and called him good names. The dog had conquered the man. And if you, poor sinner, dog as you are, can have confidence enough in God to come to him just as you are, it is not in his heart to spurn you. There is an omnipotence in simple faith which will conquer even the divine Being himself. Only do but trust him as he reveals himself in Jesus, and you shall find salvation. V. I have not time or strength to dwell longer here, and so I must notice, fifthly, that THIS ACT OF COMING INTO CONTACT WITH GOD IS PERFORMED BY THE SINNER JUST AS HE IS. I do not know how wretched the prodigal's appearance may have been, but I will be bound to say he had grown none the sweeter by having fed swine, nor do I suppose his garments had been very sumptuously embroidered by gathering husks for then from the trees. Yet, just as he was, he came. Surely he might have spent an hour profitably in cleansing his flesh and his clothes. But no, he said, "I will arise," and no sooner said than done! he did arise, and he came to his father. Every moment that a sinner stops away from God in order to get better he is but adding to his sin, for the radical sin of all is his being away from God and the longer he stays in it the more he sins. The attempt to perform good works apart from God is like the effort of a thief to set his stolen goods in order, his sole duty is to return them at once. The very same pride which leads men away from God may be seen in their self-conceited notion that they can improve themselves while still they refuse to return to him. The essence of their fault is that they are far off from God, and whatever they do, so long as that distance remains, nothing is effectually done. I say the radical of the whole matter is distance from God, and therefore the commencement of setting matters right lies in arising and returning to him from whom they have departed. The prodigal was bound to go home just as he was, for there was nothing that he could do. He was reduced to such extremities that he could not purchase a fresh piece of cloth to mend his garments, nor a farthing's worth of soap with which to cleanse his flesh; and it is a great mercy when a man is so spiritually reduced that he cannot do anything but go to his God as a beggar, when he is so bankrupt that he cannot pay a farthing in the pound, when he is so lost that he cannot even repent or believe apart from God, but feels that he is for ever undone unless the Lord shall interpose. It is our wisdom to go to God for everything. Moreover, there was nothing needed from the prodigal but to return to his father. When a child who has done wrong comes back, the more its face is blurred with tears the better. When a beggar ask for charity, the more his clothes are in rags the better. Are not ram and sores the very livery of beggars? I once gave a man a pair of shoes because he said he was in need of them; but after he had put them on and gone a little way I overtook him in a gateway taking them off in order to go barefooted again. I think they were patent leather, and what should a beggar do in such attire? He was changing them for "old shoes and clouted," those were suitable to his business. A sinner is never so well arrayed for pleading as when he comes in rags. At his worst, the sinner, for making an appeal to mercy, is at his best. And so, sinners, there is no need for you to linger; come just as you are. "But must we not wait for the Holy Spirit? "Ah, beloved, he who is willing to arise and go to his Father has the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who moves us to return to God, and it is spirit of the flesh or of the devil that would bid us wait. How now, sinners? Some of you are sitting in those pews, where are you? I cannot find you out, but my Master can, he has made this sermon on purpose for you. "Well, but I would like to get home and pray." Pray where you are, in the pew. "But I cannot speak out aloud." You may if you like, I won't stop you. "But I should not like." Well, don't, then. God can hear you without a sound, though I wish sometimes we did hear people cry out, "What must I do to be saved? "I would gladly hear the prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner." But if men cannot hear you, the Lord can hear the cries of their hearts. Now, just sit still a minute, and say, "My God I must come to thee. Thou art in Jesus Christ, and in him thou has already come a great way to meet me. My soul wants thee; take me now and make me what I ought to be. Forgive me, and accept me." It is the turning-point of a man's life when that is done, wherever it is, whether in a workshop, or in a saw-pit, in a church, or in a tabernacle; it does not matter where. There is the point the getting to God in Christ, giving all up, and by faith resting in the mercy of God. VI. The last point of all is this THAT ACT WROUGHT THE GREATEST CONCEIVABLE CHANGE IN THE MAN. He was a new man after that. Harlots, winebibbers, you have lost your old companion now! He has gone to his leather, and his Father's company and yours will never agree. A man's return to his God means his leaving the chambers of vice and the tables of riot. You may depend upon it whenever you hear of a professing Christian living in uncleanness, he has not been living anywhere near his God. He may have talked a great deal about it, but God and unchastity never agree; if you have friendship with God you will have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Now, too, the penitent has done with all degrading works to support himself. You will not find him feeding swine any more, or making a swine of himself either by trusting in priests or sacraments. He will not confess to a priest again, or pay a penny to get his mother out of purgatory; he is not such a fool as that any more. He has been to his God on his own account, and he does not want any of these shavelings to go to God for him. He has got away from that bondage. No more pig-feeding; no more superstition for him! "Why," says he, "I have access with boldness to the mercy-seat, and what have I to do with the priests of Rome?" There is a change in him in all ways. Now he has come to his father his pride is broken down. He no longer glories in that which he calls his own; all his glory is in his father's free pardoning love. He never boasts of what he has, for he owns that he has nothing but what his father gives him; and though he is far better off than ever he was in his spendthrift days, yet he is as unassuming as a little child. He is a gentleman-commoner upon the bounty of his God, and lives from day to day by a royal grant from the table of the King of kings. Pride is gone, but content fills its room. He would have been contented to be one of the servants of the house, much more satisfied is he to be a child. He loves his father with a new love; he cannot even mention his name without saying, "And he forgave me, he forgave me freely, he forgave me all, and he said, "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet." From the day of his restoration the prodigal is bound to his Father's home, and reckons it to be one of his greatest blessings that it is written in the covenant of grace, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." This morning I believe that God in his mercy means to call many sinners to himself. I am often very much surprised to find how the Lord guides my word according to the persons before me. Last Sunday there came here a young son of a gentleman, a foreigner, from a distant land, under considerable impressions as to the truth of the Christian religion. His father is a follower of one of the ancient religions of the East, and this young gentleman naturally felt it a great difficulty that he would probably make his father angry if he became a Christian. Judge, then, how closely the message of last Sabbath came home to him, when the text was, "What if thy father answer thee roughly? "He came to tell me that he thanked God for that message, and he hoped to bear up under the trial, should persecution arise. I feel that I am with equal plainness speaking to some of you. I know I am. You are saying, "May I now go to God joist as I am, and through Jesus Christ yield myself up; and will he forgive me? "Dear brother, or dear sister, wherever you may be, try it. That is the best thing to do; try it; and, if the angels do not set the bells in heaven ringing, God has altered from what he was last week, for I know he received poor sinners then, and he will receive them now. The worst thing I dread about you is, lest you should say, "I will think of it." Don't think of it. Do it! Concerning this no more thinking is needed; but to do it. Get away to God. Is it not according to nature that the creature should he at peace with its Creator? Is it not according to your conscience? Is there not something within you which cries, "Go to God in Christ Jesus." In the case of that poor prodigal, the famine said to him, "Go home!" Bread was dear, meat was scarce, he was hungry, and every pang of want said, "Go home! Go home!" When he went to his old friend the citizen, and he asked him for help, his scowling looks said, "Why don't you go home?" There is a time with sinners when even their old companions seem to say, "We do not want you. You are too miserable and melancholy. Why don't you go home?" They sent him to feed swine, and the very hogs grunted, "Go home?" When he picked up those carob husks and tried to eat them, they crackled, "Go home." He looked upon his rags, and they gaped at him, "Go home." His hungry belly and his faintness cried "Go home." Then he thought of his father's face, and how kindly it had looked at him, and it seemed to say, "Come home!" He remembered the bread enough and to spare, and every morsel seemed to say, "Come home! "He pictured the servants sitting down to dinner and feasting to the full, and every one of them seemed be look right away over the wilderness to him and to say, "Come home! Thy father feeds us well. Come home! "Everything said, "Come home! "Only the devil whispered, "Never go back. Fight it out! Better starve than yield! Die game! "But then he had got away from the devil this once, for he had come to himself, and he said, "No; I will arise and go to my father." Oh that you would be equally wise. Sinner, what is the use of being damned for the sake of a little pride. Yield thee, man! Down with thy pride! You will not find it so hard to submit if you remember that dear Father who loved us and gave himself for us in the person of his own dear Son. You will find it sweet to yield to such a friend. And when you get your head in his bosom, and feel his warm kisses on your cheek, you will soon feel that it is sweet to weep for sin sweet to confess your wrong doing, and sweeter still to hear him say, "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thy transgressions." "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." God Almighty grant this may be the case with hundreds of you this morning. He shall have all the glory of it, but my heart shall be very glad, for I feel nothing of the spirit of the elder brother within me, but the greatest conceivable joy at the thought of making merry with you by-and-by, when you come to own my Lord and Master, and we sit together at the sacramental feast, rejoicing in his love. God bless you, for his sake. Amen.

He Ran, and "He" Ran

July 2, 1885 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him." Mark 5:6 . "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Luke 15:20 .

These two texts have a measure of apparent likeness: the man runs to Jesus from afar, and the father runs to the prodigal from afar. They both run; and when two run to meet each other, they soon meet. When a sinner is running to Christ, and the Father is running to the sinner, there shall be a happy meeting before very long, and there shall be joy in heaven and joy on earth, too. I shall begin my discourse by noticing the case of the demoniac, whose story we read: "When he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him." I. Using that narrative as a kind of parable, I would remark, in the first place, that we have here an emblem OF THE SINNER'S PLACE. He is "afar off" from Christ; and when first of all the Spirit of God begins to open his eyes to his own true condition, one of the chief difficulties in his way is the realization of his distance from the Savior. He begins to cry, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!" The poor man feels as if there were a great and dreadful distance between him and the great Mediator; he can only see "Jesus afar off," as the demoniac did. He has not yet come to Christ, nor proved his wondrous power to bless. I daresay there are some in this congregation who feel that they are "afar off" from the Lord Jesus Christ, and "afar off" from the great Father. You are "afar off" as to character. I am not going to bring an accusation against you, for your own heart and conscience accuse you. It is not necessary for me to describe your past life; if you are the person whom Christ has come to bless, then I know that your sin is ever before you. You cannot hide it from yourself, it seems to be painted on your very eye-balls. You have to look at everything through the mist and haze of your past guilt, and consequently everything looks dark and dreary to you. The very mercies which God gives you seem to accuse you of your ingratitude to your Benefactor; and any denials of mercy, any chastisements that you are enduring, seem to you to be but premonitions of a coming doom; for you feel yourself to be by your past life very far off from Christ. He is perfect, and you are full of sin. He is just, and you are unjust. He is meek and lowly, and you confess that you have been proud and wayward. He is beloved of his Father, the beloved Servant of God; but you have derided God's gospel, and you have refused to obey him. You are, indeed, far off from Christ. It seems to you that, if Christ and the penitent thief made a pair, then you also might make a pair with your dying Savior, but not else. You feel yourself to be unworthy to be in the same world with him, much less to be in the same heaven with him. Well, now, when our Lord went to Gadara, as far as I can see, he crossed the sea of Galilee, and endured that storm at night, in order that he might heal one man, and he went back again well content when he had wrought that one miracle. It may be that you are a man of that kind, as far off from any likeness to Christ as that poor lunatic was; and he may have come here at this good hour with the intent to save you. At any rate, his servant will go home as grateful as a man can be, if he be but made the means of saving one such sinner as you are; but, first of all, you must realize that this is your position, "afar off" from Christ as to character. But what, perhaps, may appear to you to be even worse is that you seem to be "afar off" as to any hope of salvation by Christ. It may be that you have long been a hearer of the gospel. When you were younger, it did seem as if the kingdom of God had come nigh unto you; but now, the older you grow, the less susceptible you are of holy influences. You used to weep under sermons; you can more easily sleep under them now. Time was when your rest was broken after some kindly admonition from a Christian friend; but now, perhaps, Christian friends scarcely ever admonish you, because you have a sarcastic way of repelling what they say; and even while you are sitting here, you are moaning to yourself, "Some in this congregation may be converted, but I shall not be. The Lord Jesus Christ may come here, and deliver some poor soul; but assuredly he will not deliver me. I am an offcast and an outcast; not, perhaps, by open sin, but by an inward hardening of my spirit till my soul has become like the northern iron and steel, and nothing can move me. I am far off from any hope that the Savior will ever bless me." Well, now, let me say to you, dear friend, that I am very sorry that it should be so with you; yet am I glad you are here when such a subject as this is being handled, for that Gadarene demoniac did seem to be about as hopeless a man as there was in all the country round about. Apart from Christ, his case was absolutely hopeless. They had, doubtless, used all the arts for the management of lunatics which they understood in those barbarous days, but no chains of iron, nor bands of brass, could hold him; he could not be tamed, or kept in check. And yet, O thou blessed Christ, thou couldst cross the stormy sea at midnight to save this one man! It may be that it is so with you also, dear friends, who are so far away from Christ in the misapprehensions of your want of hope; yet it may be that this very hour is the time when you are to be set free from the power of the devil, and brought to sit at Jesu's feet, clothed, and in your right mind. Some also are "afar off" from Christ as to knowledge of him. They know but little of the Christ of God; they have heard his name, they have some dim notions about him; but as yet they only see him "afar off." In these days, when the gospel is preached at so many street-corners, and when there is a sanctuary in almost every street, it is astonishing what gross ignorance there is about him whom to know is life eternal, by knowledge of whom many are justified, and without knowledge of whom men must perish eternally. O friends, it is terrible to think that there are persons, well instructed in everything else, who know nothing about this salvation which God has provided for the sons of men! You hear them railing against the Bible; and in almost every case the railer has never read the Book. You hear them speak against Christ; and it is almost a proverb that those who speak most against him are ignorant of the common facts of his life. They have not studied his character, nor have they examined his teaching, yet they cast it all aside as if they were infallible, and as if they were qualified to judge and to decide without hearing the case at all. This is a wretched mode of action; yet, if any of you who are here know but little of Christ, for all that I am glad you are here, and I only trust that you may be led to do what this poor ignorant demoniac did; though he must have known very little about Christ, yet he ran to him and worshipped him. A little knowledge, like the star of Bethlehem, may suffice to guide to Christ those who are willing to follow its light. A faint gleaming of what Christ is may burn and glow into a more complete and perfect knowledge of him, and by that knowledge you may be brought into the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free. I will not keep you longer in describing the sad state of the sinner in being thus far from Christ, except to say that it may be possible that you feel far from Christ because you do not feel as if you could get at him. You are so unspiritual that you say to yourself, "If Christ were on earth, I would walk till I dropped, but I would get to him; and if I could speak with him, so that he could hear my words, and could answer me with actual vocal sounds, if I could see him, and he would look at me, I would spend the last penny I am worth, and pass over any length of sea and land if I could but get at him; but somehow I cannot. If it were a matter of touching the hem of his garment with my finger, I would push through the press to do it. If it were a matter of taking him up in my arms, as Simeon took the young child Jesus, I would do it, and do it with joy; but I do not know how to get to him, it seems to be all mist and all cloud to me." I know what you mean, dear friend, for I was in that state once, and then indeed I also "saw Jesus afar off," and for a long while I could not get to realize that he was mine. Well, notwithstanding that feeling which possesses you, I shall speak to you yet further, in the fond hope that you may imitate this poor man, who must have been very much like you, only in a worse plight than yours, and it will be my prayer and desire that you may come running to Christ, as he did, and that you also may worship him. II. Now notice, secondly, THE SINNER'S PRIVILEGE,: "He saw Jesus," though he only saw him "afar off." Those of you who only see Christ in the distance, who do not know much about him, and cannot get at him, do at least know that there is such a Person. You have heard, and it is the best news you ever did hear, that the Son of God came down to live among men, and took our flesh, and became man of the substance of his mother, and that, though he died upon the cross, yet he has risen from the dead, and he still lives. You have heard tell of all that; you have not thought of it as you ought to have done, you have not let it weigh upon your heart, or sought to understand all its holy lessons; but still, you have such a knowledge of him that you have seen him "afar off." More than that, you have heard, and you believe, that Jesus has done great things for men. You do not think much about what he has done; still, it has como to your knowledge that he lived, and loved, and died, that he might save men. You have often heard that, on the cross, he made an expiation for human sin; and let me tell you that this is the choicest news you ever heard, or ever will hear, and the day may come when you will look at this truth as the only star of hope in a night which else must be eternal. I hope you will yet clasp that truth to your heart as the brightest jewel and the rarest treasure you have ever met with. And I believe, further, that some of you have caught the idea that the Lord Jesus Christ is saving other people. You have met with some whom you observe to be very much changed, greatly altered from what they used to be; and, though you sometimes laugh at them, yet deep down in your heart you do not really mock them, but you wish it was yourself. You have, after all, a respect for any one of these wonderful changes, called conversions, when you see them to be real and genuine; and you, perhaps, know some fellows with whom you work, and although you ridicule them, you know that they are better men than they used to be, and you admire the change; and there is a feeling in your inmost heart that, though you cannot make out the mystery, still there is something in it. Yes, you can see Jesus, though still I grieve to say that you do but see him afar off. You have, in your heart, some sort of belief that it may be possible that he will yet save you, and there is some sort of humble desire in your own soul that he will look your way, and cast the devils out of you, and make you to be his happy servant. But, once more, concerning the sinner's privilege, Christ has come to the district where he is. It is a horrible country, full of tombs and full of pollution, and the man has made it moro horrible himself by his wildness and his madness; yet there is the Christ himself treading that same Gadarene shore. He who is "mighty to save" has come into the land of death-shade. He who could cast out devils has come into the devil's own territory, he has come to beard the lion in his den. Herein also is the privilege of men to-day; the Lord Jesus Christ, who made heaven and earth, is still among us, and will be with us to the end of this dispensation. He who could raise the dead, and heal the lepers, and cast out demons, is still here working by his Spirit. Though corporeally he is gone, yet in efficacious power to save he lingers among us still, and his lingering means salvation to all who trust him. Hear it, O sons of men, and as ye hear it, may God bless the message to your souls! III. What did this demoniac do when he saw Jesus afar off? That is the point to which we are coming, and that will teach us THE SINNER'S WISEST COURSE: "He ran and worshipped him." I do not know that he did intelligently, and after the right manner, worship Christ as the disciples worshipped him. Perhaps at first, when he was up a hill, howling and cutting himself with stones, he espied a boat come near the shore, and he saw a single stranger coming up from the boat, much as the natives of Erromanga saw John Williams landing on that cannibal shore, and his horrible instinct moved him to fly down at once to the beach, perhaps to attack the man who dared in open daylight intrude on the wild man's domain. But as he approached nearer and nearer to this mysterious stranger, quite a new feeling came over him. His step grew slower, his fierce eye beamed with a duller fire, the beastlike instinct became calm, the ravening wolf, the roaring lion within him began to tremble, for it perceived its Master; and when he had come near enough to get a fuller view of Christ, who stood there in simple majesty, calm and serene, the very opposite of the poor creature's mad fury, the man fell down at Jesu's feet, and worshipped him. Then the devils within him spoke out, and using the man's voice, said, "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?" But for the moment it was the man, and not the devil, who prevailed; for an instant, what little relics there were of manhood made themselves felt, and the man fell down and worshipped under the influence of the mysterious presence of Christ. What I hope and trust may come of our consideration of this subject is that some big sinner here may have a lucid interval, that some mad sinner here, before the devil can speak again, may have just a little quiet time, so that, though he may have come in here fresh from all manner of evil, yet for the moment he may feel a solemn calm steal over his spirit, a sacred hush that shall make him quiet as he has not been for many a day. I pray that some strange influence strange to him up to this time, may draw him so that he shall run to Christ, and fall at his feet, and worship him. I am not just now saying anything about faith in Christ except that I do not believe any man worships Christ without having some faith in him; but I am just going to take this very low standard, and say that this man, with all his madness, was wise in what he did, and the Spirit of God was leading him in the right direction when, breaking loose, as it were, from the devil's power for a moment or two, he ran to Christ, and worshipped him. And to any poor soul, in like case, I would say, " I beseech thee, for a minute or two, at any rate, worship the Christ of God whom I preach to thee." For consider that, first, Christ is God as well as man, and therefore worthy to be worshipped. This poor demoniac was wiser than the Socinians or Unitarians of our day; he felt that there was more in Christ than in any mere man. Devil-possessed though he was, yet he fell clown and worshipped Christ. And thou, my friend, thou also knowest that Christ is God. Well, then, for a few minutes do thyself the justice to worship him as God over all, blessed for ever. If he shall never save thee, yet is he worthy to be worshipped, for he is so great and so gracious. Therefore, let thy mind be still for a moment, and pay thy homage before his feet, and from thy very heart call him "Lord" and "God." Besides, Christ died to save sinners; and being God, and having died to save sinners, I say to thee, "Worship him." I recollect the time when I was afraid that Jesus would never save me, but I used to feel in my heart that, even if he did not, I must love him for what he had done for poor sinners. It seemed to me, as I read the wondrous story of his life and death, that if he spurned me, I would still lie at his feet, and say, "Thou mayest spurn me, but thou art a blessed Christ for all that, and, if thou dost curse me, yet I can only say to thee that I well deserve it at thy hands. Do what thou wilt with me; but thou didst save the dying thief, and thou didst save her out of whom thou didst cast seven devils, and if thou dost not deign to save me, yet thou art a blessed Christ, and I cannot rail at thee, or find fault with thee, but I lie down at thy feet, and worship thee." Cannot you speak and act like that? Cannot you look up at him through your tears, and, as you see the nail-prints in his hands and feet, and that great gash in his side, which reached his heart, can you not feel that you must lie at his feet, and worship him? Just waive all questions about yourself for a minute, and think only of him; forget even your own sin for the time being, and think of what he deserves, and now, at least, for the next few minutes, bow your soul reverently before the Christ of God, and worship him. I think I may add that you may well worship him, because there is in that poor, flurried soul of yours, worried and confused and devil-ridden though it be, this thought, that Christ alone can save you. You do know that. Where else can you go but unto him? What other door is open to you? What other hand was ever pierced for you? What other side ever bled that it might give cleansing for your sin? Where lives there another person who loves as Christ has loved? Therefore, do realize that he is unique, One altogether by himself; and while you cannot and will not worship others, yet, poor devil-possessed soul that thou art, fall down and worship him. Say to him, "Lord, if my night never ends, yet will I look eastward, for there the sun will rise, if not for me. Lord, if I die of thirst, yet will I linger by the lone well in the desert, for if I ever drink at all, I must drink there. I can but perish if I linger at the cross; and I am resolved to linger there, for if my blood shall stain that blessed tree, then e'en so it must be, for I am resolved and it is my last resource, if I must perish, I will die here." O soul, I am not telling thee to do any great thing now, am I? I am not urging thee to exercise any unreasonable confidence, but I do advise thee to fall down and worship at my Lord's dear feet. Mad though thou art, and thy mad worship so poor and imperfect, yet, nevertheless, he will accept thee, and do great things for thee. For remember, next, that Christ can save thee; Christ can save thee. Thou hast gone to the end of thy tether, but thou hast not gone beyond the reach of his power. Thou hast cut thyself, and howled through many a dreary night, and snapped thy chains, and cursed the men that bound thee. Thou hast driven away friend and helper, and thou art altogether undone; but, all the same, Christ can save thee. What if the devil be in thee? There is no devil in hell, or out of hell, who does not tremble at Christ's presence. Oh, that he would come, and lay his cool hand upon thy fevered brow, and put his own life into thy poor withered heart, and make thee to live! He can save thee; of that I am sure. I cannot speak as my Master can, but yet my Master can make these poor words of mine to bless and comfort thee; and I pray that he may. This is the one thing that I bid thee do, run to him, and worship him. IV. Now, turning to my second text, I must briefly remind you of THE SECRET HOPE FOR SINNERS, that while you are yet a great way off, the Father himself will see you, and will run to you. While you are running to his Son, the Father will run to you, and you and he shall meet in Christ, the only safe meeting-place for God and main Turn your thoughts for a minute or two from that Gadarene demoniac to the prodigal son. He was coming back, you remember, and when he was a great way off, I should not wonder that his heart began to misgive him. "Oh!" he seemed to say, "there is the old house!" He has reached the top of the hill, and he can see it. He recollects those old trees under which he used to play with his brother, and he thinks that he can spy out the very spot where he left his father, and went that reckless journey into the far country. "I wonder what fat, her will say to me," he says; "I do not know how I can ever face him. I have treated him so badly that I must have broken his heart. I fear he is angry with me, yet I do not think I can bear his wrath. I am ready to humble myself, and say, 'Father, I have sinned; 'but, oh! what a wretch I am! He will hardly know me; I do not look like the person I was when I left. What awful times I have been through since last I saw his dear face! I think I must run back again. Bad as it is to perish out in the far country, I do not think I can really face him." He is just turning back when, to his surprise, his father clasps him in his arms, for, "when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." O dear hearts, if I knew there was a poor soul here beginning to seek the Lord, how glad I should be to speak with him; and there are some of my dear brethren here who are always on the look-out for any in whom there is the faintest beginning of a work of grace! But, you see, we cannot see the germs of grace as God can, we cannot spy out returning sinners as he can, for God has far-reaching eyes; and if there is only in any of your hearts half a wish to repent, the Father sees it. If you only know that there is a Christ, and that you would fain worship him, but you have not gone the length of really trusting him, and casting your souls upon him, yet remember that when the prodigal was yet a great way off, his father saw him. When God sees anything, his is a very different sight from yours or mine. We see a thing with our eyes, and then we get a microscope, and look through that, and see it very differently; but God, as it were, always sees everything microscopically and telescopically. He sees the whole of it, sees the very heart and soul of it. God at this moment sees all the sin of the whole of your life, he sees all your brokenness of spirit, all your doubts, all your fears, all the strugglings against sin, and all the strivings of his Spirit. He takes it all in with a single glance, and comprehends and understands it all; and though you are a great way off, the Father sees you, and he sees you with a father's eye, too. How quick a father's eye is when he looks at his boy who is ill! He spies out that hectic flush before the boy believes there is any trace of consumption in his countenance, for a loving father has a physician's eye, and a mother's eye is still more quick to perceive anything wrong. Moreover, God sees with a compassionate eye: "His father saw him, and had compassion" on him; the two things went together. I know a sister in Christ, who did me great good one clay. I had helped a man many times, poor wretch that he was. I never clothed him but he sold the garments in a day or two; I never helped him but he sank into deeper degradation than before; and, at last, after he had been rigged out afresh from top to toe, and a situation found for him, and he was put into a position for getting on in life, he came here again, and, when I saw him, I shrank back from him. I felt indignant with him, but our sister a better Christian than I, lifted up both hands, and began to cry. The man was covered with vermin, and he had evidently been drinking hard; and she lifted up her hands, and she cried, "O poor creature, we have done all we can to save you, and you will go to hell;" and she stood and cried as if he had been her own child. And I believe that is how God feels for poor sinners, for he cannot bear to see them act as they do. If you are coming back to him, that is the compassionate way in which he is looking at you. He spies you out, and, like as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, so does the great Father weep over sinners, grieving that they will be so desperately wicked and foolish as to destroy their own souls. V. Now I must close, for our time has gone. The last point to be noticed is, THE ACTION OF THE SINNER'S FATHER. No sooner did the Father see his son coming back than "he ran." When God runs, it is quick running. "He ran, and fell on his neck;" and when God stoops to fall on a sinner's neck, it is wondrous condescension. This is compassion like a God. "And kissed him." God's kiss is the essence of a million kisses all in one. One kiss from God is the soul of heaven laid to the heart of a burdened sinner. "He ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him," and so the prodigal was received back into his father's family. What I am longing for is that God's blessed Spirit may move some of you to run to Christ, if only in the poor way that I have set forth. Just for a few minutes, quietly worship him; and while you are doing that, may the great Father come in with all his omnipotent love, and put away your sin, and change your nature, and receive you into eternal union with himself to the praise of the glory of his grace! If I were to say ten thousand things, but God did not bless what I had said, all would be in vain; I hope that you do not need more words, but that you will come at once to Christ. Do not perish, I pray you, do not damn your own souls. There is enough misery in this world without incurring the miseries of the world to come. The Lord himself says, "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" In the name of the bleeding Christ, seek his mercy even now; by his bloody sweat and crown of thorns, seek him now. I know no better argument except it be by his death-cry, "It is finished." Come ye to Christ; look to him and live, even now, and to him shall be the praise for ever and ever. Amen.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Luke 15". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/luke-15.html. 2011.
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