« PreviousContinue »
doned to profligate courses.
Here then we have two classes who came to hear Christ. Let us go on—“And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Here we have Pharisees and Scribes; who were they? Here then are all the parties. Now let us look at the objection which these Scribes and Pharisees made.
Recollect, that the leading principle of the Scribes and Pharisees was, that they claimed it as their characteristic, never to have forsaken the path of God's commandments; and they were indignant at Christ, who preached to those who made no such high pretensions. Now what was our Saviour's object? Any one with half an eye can see, that his purpose was to argue with them on their own principles, to use what is called the argumentum ad hominem, to defeat them with their own weapons, and thus to show, that on their own principles he was right in appealing to publicans and sinners. For this purpose he uses three parables; the first begins a long way off from the subject, so that they should not exactly see the bearing at once. The second comes nearer, but yet not quite near enough to let them ascertain that his allusion bore hard on them. Having gone thus far, the third gives them a most tremendous application to themselves.
The first parable, I said, was a long way off“And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 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.” The second comes a little nearer—“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 neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” The third is close upon them, but is too long to quote. It is the parable of the prodigal son, in which they could easily read themselves in the character of the elder brother. Here it is, as appended to one of these parables, that the text comes in—" I say unto you, That likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” And then the plain, simple meaning is obvious, as if he had said, any one
you, if you lost one sheep out of one hundred, would go and search after it, and
would be glad if you
found it, and would actually rejoice more than of your ninety-nine, which staid behind. Now you consider yourselves in the fold; you are the ninety-nine who go not astray; these publicans and sinners are those who have gone astray, and I go after them, just as you would after a lost sheep.
What I wish you to observe here, my friends, is, that the just persons spoken of are the Scribes and Pharisees, and that the argument is used for them. Were they persons who needed no repentance? Truly, in their own estimation, and it was on this ground thatour Saviour justified his attention to publicans and sinners. But what sort of just persons who needed no repentance the Scribes and Pharisees were, you may judge by two or three specimens.
1. Take something John the Baptist said—“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our Father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the tree, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
2. Take something our Lord said—“But wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye
shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for
devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer :
shall receive the greater damnation. Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith : these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides; which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Do you think that these are persons who need no repentance ? and yet they are persons who are spoken of.
The argument of our Saviour then is this. You complain of me, that I preach to publicans and sin
You hold them in contempt and abhorrence. You call yourselves the people of the Lord. You pride yourselves on your adherence to God's law. Well, let me tell you, that on your own principles I ought to look after these poor lost ones whom you despise. And I moreover give you to understand, that there is more joy among the angels of God when one of these repent than there is over the whole lot of you who look upon yourselves as good enough already. Can any one ask a more obvious interpretation And nothing is necessary to make it out but to look at the chapter.
Now, my brethren, there are some exceedingly valuable practical remarks to be drawn from the circumstances of the text. I might profitably enlarge on the inquiry, What kind of repentance gives joy to the angels of heaven? I might take up the deeply interesting inquiry, How is it that the angels of God are interested in this business? I have no time for this. I will shortly do it, God
willing. But now I only ask to press these solemn inquiries.
1. Is there any individual here who thinks he needs no repentance, and on what grounds ?
2. If there are none but who think they have need of repentance, why do you not repent?
1. Suppose, my brethren, that I were to concede the point, that there was a class of persons in this world who needed no repentance-a class so pure, that they required none of that moral change which I find insisted on in Scripture as essential to salvation; permit me to ask you, with a view to your personal examination of the subject, is there any one of you here who candidly think yourself as belonging to this class ? Is there one of you, my brethren, willing to take this high ground? Is there one of you, that with the omniscient eye of God upon your heart, can take up the language of conscious innocence, and declare that you have never offended God, in thought, in word, or in action? There are but three grounds, my friends, on which any one of
you can claim exemption from the deep and solemn necessity of repentance. 1. You have already repented of your sins, and have obtained pardon and peace through the blood of the everlasting covenant, and are living as those should live who have their thoughts, their hearts and their conversation, in hea
I grant to you, that in your case there is no need of that first, and vivid and deep-toned repentance, which once led you to sue for pardon. But have even you no need of repentance? Are there no short comings ? Are there no failures in duty ? Does your first love continue in all its warmth ? Does the