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116

XXXI

A RECEIVER OF WRECKS

“This man receiveth sinners.”—Luke xv. 2.

THE title which I have given to this meditation may sometimes be seen as one of the headlines on the business announcements of certain men on the Northwest coast of Canada. They advertise themselves as “receivers of wrecks.” The first time I saw the phrase it struck me with peculiar impressiveness, and my mind travelled very quickly to the work of our Lord. For, in a way, that is altogether unique. Jesus of Nazareth was a “receiver of wrecks.” He did not come into the world for the sake of “them that are whole.” He came for the sake of the boats that have been driven out by tempests, and smashed against the rocks and can hardly keep afloat. He came to befriend the derelicts, the mere hulls that have lost compass, and engine, and sails, and are just drifting 117about the envious deep. “This man receiveth wrecks.”

Nobody else wants them. Where is there a friendly coastguardsman in all New York or London except he be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Where is there an open, hospitable harbour except those which Jesus Christ Himself has built? I think of one home which flashes out the invitation, “Refuge for the destitute”! And I love the shining line at the Water Street Mission, “Drunkards. specially invited!” But these are Christ’s harbours, and the men on the lookout belong to His brave crew. But where is there a non-Christian haven for wrecks? Who is there who receives these human derelicts, and receives them to recreate them, and to send them out again, with banners flying, to do saving work on the very waters where they met their ruin?

It seems a long way back to Cotter Morrison, and his forgotten book, “The Service of Man,” and I only recall it because of one sentence in which he confesses the impossibility of converting derelicts into sound seagoing liners: “It is no use disguising the matter, there is no remedy for a bad heart.” 118That is to say, the wreck can never sail again! Jesus Christ never says that of anybody. No boat is ever “too far gone.” What Chesterton says of Browning can be said of our Saviour in an altogether incomparable way: “He was the friend of outcasts whom even outcasts cast out.” He had no impossibles. “Even though he were dead yet shall he live!” Yes, the old wrecks are refashioned, they are new creations in Christ Jesus. This Man receiveth wrecks: they come into His harbour heavy-laden and almost sinking; and they sail out again under the banner of His love, and behold! all things are become new!

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