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position to communicate joy to others is of a heavenly nature, and justifiable in the sight of God as well as in the sight of man, we shall see fully exemplified in the answer which Jesus returned to the Pharisees and scribes, who exclaimed against him because he received sinners and ate with them. ■ 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 neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 1 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. 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.'7 Never was instruction of a more important nature communicated; rtor was instruction ever given in a way more forcible, or easier to be understood.
In reference to our general subject, it may be useful to notice several particulars in the above reply to the Pharisees and scribes, which evidently favor the claim which we are endeavoring to substantiate. The sheep that went astray was as really the property of the owner after it had gone,-as it was when at home. The owner had the same right to the sheep in one situation as in the other. He must have suffered loss if he had neglected to seek and restore it. If the sheep had not remained the property of its owner after it went astray, when it was found it would not have been his. But he says, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' As it cannot be doubted that Jesus intended to represent a sinner by the sheep that went astray, so it cannot be doubted that he intended to signify the right of redemption and restoration which belonged to him, by the recovery of the lost sheep by its owner. Similar remarks might be made respecting the
» Luke xv. 3—10.
lost piece of silver. Before it was lost, it was the woman's property who lost it. After it was lost, it was her property still. And here it is worthy of due notice, that the same value was in the piece of money when it was in its lost condition, as when it was with the other nine. Neither the nature nor quality of the piece of silver, was changed by iis being lost, nor did its value thereby depreciate. The woman who lost the silver is supposed to know its value; she knew also that she must suffer loss if she did not find it. Let it be kept in mind that Jesus represented a sinner by this silver -piece; and it seems the conviction must follow, that he viewed the sinner to be of real value. But it will be gravely asked, and with some surprise, To whom is the sinner valuable?
An answer to this question, we think, may be easily deduced from the application which Jesus made of these parables. '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.' Now all will allow that whatever constitutes or enhances the joys of heaven, must be valuable, even in the sight of God; and as the sinner may be used for that purpose, God sees a value in him. God, by bringing the sinner to repentance can produce joy in the presence of the angels. But why should the angels rejoice over the penitent sinner? When this question is rightly answered, the interest which divine wisdom, which is full of mercy and good fruits, holds in the wicked, will be understood.
It is very evident that Jesus saw a value in sinners, to which the Pharisees and scribes of his day were entirely blind. In their estimation, sinners were only fit for execration; Jesus saw in them a divine treasure;—morally speaking, in a lost state, besure ; yea, filthy with sin. But he came to seek and to save that which was lost; and he gave himself for sinners, that he might sanctify and cleanse them with the washing of water by the word; that he might present them to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that they should be holy and without blemish.
Our christian doctors, of all denominations, will not only allow that the ransomed church of the Redeemer is in his sight and in the sight of his Father most precious and of infinite value, but they delight to dwell on the theme in their preaching and in their writings, and strive to set it forth with all their powers of description. Yet, just as if they did not know that the whole of this glorious church was composed of redeemed sinners, they are equally eloquent and more vehement in their execrations of sinners than in their commendations of the church of God! Could they see with the eyes of the Saviour, they would discern in every sinner a treasure for the redemption of which the Son of God gave himself. To this precious treasure God has an indisputable right; he claims it as his own. This invaluable treasure is an object of God's love. 'God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.'8 The love of God to sinners is not a blind love. He knows the value of everything he loves, and cannot love anything beyond its value. In every sinner, he sees his own offspring, his own images which he loves with a love infinitely stronger and more lasting than the love of the kindest earthly parent.
Following the parable of the lost piece of silver, recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, which has been noticed, Jesus, in the parable of the prodigal son, makes an admirable use of the parental affections, to represent the divine favor to sinners. In the parable of the lost sheep the divine teacher clearly set forth the interest which God holds in sinners, by the interest which the owner of an hundred sheep held in the one which went astray. Also, as has been noticed, in the parable of the lost piece of silver he represented the same thing. These several representations are directly in favor of the claim we have set up in God's behalf; for if it be allowed that these parables are wisely formed and judiciously applied, it must be allowed that it was the intention of Jesus to set forth the interest which God holds in sinners. But in the parable of the prodigal son, with which the Saviour concluded his reply to those who exclaimed against him because he received sinners and ate with them, he pointed out a deeper interest still which his Father in heaven claims in those who wander from moral rectitude. As we suppose the reader has in recollection the general tenor of this parable, we shall dwell only on the interest which the father had in his son who had spent his living with harlots. This interest is of such a peculiar nature, that it defies the skill of language and the powers of comparison to
• Rom. T. 8.
describe it. Its elevation of character, its tenacity of power, its enduring patience and perseverance its unconquerable firmness, all occupy grounds untraversed by the unhallowed foot of speculation, and undescribed by the powers of eloquence. When the wretched prodigal came to himself, when he found that his means of subsistence were exhausted, when the gnawings of hunger admonished him of his perishing condition; to fill the cup of his wo, he had a full view of his own character : he had sinned against Heaven and before his father, and he felt conscious that he was no longer worthy to be called his son. Sonship, in the anguish of his soul, he relinquished. While he was yet far from home, while yet a great way off, the father saw him, and had compassion on him. What did the father see in this forlorn, emaciated mendicant? He saw his own image; he saw that child whose infancy and childhood he had watched over and guarded with affectionate solicitude; he saw a treasure in him which he was eager to seize. See the father, while this son is yet a great way off, run to meet him, fall on his neck and kiss him. If the father had had no interest in this son, would he have had compassion on him? Which would have suffered the greatest loss, the father or the son, had any circumstance interposed and prevented this happy meeting, and deprived the father of the opportunity of manifesting his compassion and love to his son, and of the privilege of bestowing on him his favor? Let those who are parents answer these queries.
That we may not extend this article to a length which may prove tedious to the reader, we will mention but one particular case more, to represent the value of the wicked in the sight of God. In the character of Saul, the persecutor, we have an example of wickedness, the shades of which are sufficiently dark to answer our present purpose. Opposed to Jesus and an enemy to the gospel, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the saints, he indulged even to madness his opposition to the wisdom of God. Look, reader, at this filthy sinner, when going from Jerusalem, with letters of authority, to take all he could find in Damascus and elsewhere, who were the honest, inoffensive disciples of the Redeemer, to bring them to Jerusalem to be punished! In this man can you see anything valuable? If ever a sinner was an object of the divine despleasure, if ever one deserved to be cut off with the judicial stroke of divine justice, and banished forever from God, is not this the man! But our query regards the subject of the divine possession which God held in this infuriated persecutor. When the Lord Jesus met him in the way, and after he fell to the earth, he said to him, 'Rise and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive the forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.'9 Our Christian doctors can see an immense value in this minister and witness which Jesus made of the persecuting Saul; they would be willing to allow that he was of worth in the cause of God, and that all which was valuable in him was the divine property. But they seem not to understand that to God, to Christ, this man was just as valuable before he was made a minister and a witness, as he was afterwards. Did they see with the eyes with which Jesus saw this persecutor, they would understand this subject correctly, and knowing that it was as easy for God to effect any change in this man which was necessary, as it was in the beginning to say, ' Let there be light,' they would be willing to grant our whole claim, and allow that every sinner is a treasure in the sight of God, which he claims as his own property.
We are not willing to close this article without making some practical improvement of the general subject. But in doing it we need add but a few words. As every father clearly sees and understands that he has an interest in his children, even though they are disobedient, and as he feels that their disobedience cannot annul his rightful claim in them, so let him allow that our heavenly Father has a still deeper interest in every sinner. And with this important truth in our minds, let us always look on the wicked as Jesus looked on the sinful Saul, and consider them worthy of our best
* Acta zzvi. 16—18.