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Parable of the Lost Sheep.
LUKE XV. 4-6.
“What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost."
This parable, with the two that immediately succeed it, were called forth from the Saviour, by the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees. In the first verse of this chapter we are informed, that
all the publicans and sinners drew near unto Jesus to hear him.' This class of people felt an uncommon interest in his instructions. He was the friend of publicans and singers ; he ate and drank with them ; his doctrine was adapted to their circumstances, and satisfied their wants ; hence one of the evangelists has recorded, that the common people heard him gladly.' Mark xii. 37. The publicans were the collectors of customs, and other taxes, which were exacted of the Jewish nation by the Roman government. Because the Jews generally looked on this exaction as a burden, and a sign of bondage, they had a very bad opinion of these publicans, and associated with their characters every thing that was disagrecable; and it being more than probable that the greater part of them were Gentiles, to whom the Jews had a strong aversion, they regarded thein as sinners unworthy of the divine favor. When the publicans and sin
ners drew near to Jesus to listen to his instructions, as he did not forbid them, “the Scribes and Pharisees murmured saying, this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them;" ver. 2, i. e. he condescends to the utmost familiarity with them. This was one of the principal objections, which they had to bring against Jesus Christ. See Matt. ix. 11. Mark ii. 16. Luke v. 30 and xix. 7. Now it was to answer this objection—to acknowledge the charge which the Pharisees brought against him, and justify his conduct in this particular, as well as to point out the selfrighteousness, and unholy spirit of the Pharisees, that Jesus uttered the three parables recorded in Luke xv.
“What man of you,” saith he, addressing himself to the Pharisees, "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?" The argument with the Pharisees was this: you think a sheep is sufficiently valuable, if it go astray, to be looked after by the owner-yes, he will leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he find it, When he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing. And to share this joy with others, he called together his friends and neighbors, saying rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. Now, Pharisees, if a beast is thus valuable, of how much more value is man? And if you would make all this exertion to regain a stray sheep to your fold, how necessary is it that I should labor to bring mankind to the fold of God? This is the work I came into the world to do. And as the good shepherd would follow the lost sheep, and not hesitate to take it on his shoulders to bring it home, so I must not decline to receive sinners and eat with them. They are the lost sheep whom I came to restore ; and I seek them, and receive them, and condescend to associate with them, that I may win them to myself. And as you rejoice when the lost sheep is found, so I say unto you that joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance. Here Jesus reproved the Pharisees with great severity. In their worldly mindedness, if they lost a thing of small value, they would use the utinost pains to obtain it again; but they were very careless of the interests of their fellow creatures, who they were willing should remain in darkness and sin, and with whom they could hold no connexion.
When Jesus spoke of jus: persons, who needed no repentance, he refered to the Pharisees, not indeed to acknowledge that they were really just and holy, and needed no repentance, but to speak of them according to their views of themselves, and avail himself of those views to justily his conduct. That they thought themselves to be holy, is evident from the parable of the Pharisee and publican, wherein the former thanked God that he was not like other men, Luke xviii. 11. If they thought themselves thus holy, as Jesus came to save sinriers, there was no need, as they in that case must grant. that he should scek them and associate with them, any more than that they should seek a sheep which was not lost. On another och casion Jesus used a different figure, but not less striking. So They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick," which he explains by adding, “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Mark ii. 17. As there was no need that the physician should visit those who are in health, so there was no need that Jesus should visit the righteous ; and if the Pharisees were really righteous, then he had not come to call them to repentance. This was spoken solely in reference to their views of themselves, and not to acknowledge them as possessing true righteousness, in which it is certain they were very deficient. When Jesus said, “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,' more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance," the object was merely to express, how desirable it was that sinners should be converted; and that such a circumstance was greater cause of joy, than though there had actually been ninety and nine just persons who needed not repentance. As the other parables in the chapter, are precisely of the same strain with this, and spoken for the same objects, we may pass to the consideration of them, without a more particular attention here.
1 This passage is not very favorable to the doctrine, that the inhabitants of heaven will derive their principal joys from beholding the miseries of the damned.
“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."
The principle of this parable is precisely the same with that last examined, and the object in stating it was the same, viz. to justify the conduct of Christ in associating with publicans and sinners, and to convince the Pharisees, that if truly they were not in a ost state, there was no need of his seeking them. The solicitude of the woman to find the lost piece of silver, shows the strong interest with which Jesus labored for the salvation of mankind ; and as she did not abandon the search until she had found that which was lost, so we learn that he will not be satisfied till all those for whom he died, shall have been benefited by his mission. As this piece of silver belonged to the woman, so all mankind belong to Christ; the Father loved him, and gave all things into his hands, John iii. 35; and as the silver was valuable in itself, which caused the owner to prize it, so are mankind valuable in the sight of their rightful owner. They are his purchased possession;" and he will finally gather them together in himself. Eph. i. 10, 14. The doctrine of total depravity, by which men have been represented as utterly vile and worthless, is not admissible under this view of the subject. Silver may become tarnished, but the nature of it is