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The Mission of the Son of Man
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 11, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”—Luke 19:10.
HOW FOND OUR MASTER WAS of the sweet title, the “Son of Man!” If he had chosen, he might always have spoken of himself as the Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful, the Counseller, the Prince of Peace. He hath a thousand gorgeous titles, resplendent as the throne of heaven, but he careth not to use them: to express his humility and let us see the lowliness of him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. He calls not himself the Son of God, but he speaks of himself evermore as the Son of Man who came down from heaven. Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Saviour; let us never court great titles, nor proud degrees. What are they, after all, but beggarly distinctions whereby one worm is known from another? He that hath the most of them is a worm still, and is in nature no greater than his fellows. If Jesus called himself the Son of Man, when he had far greater names, let us learn to humble ourselves unto men of low estate, knowing that he that humbleth himself shall in due time be exalted. Methinks, however, there is a sweeter thought than this in that name, Son of Man. It seems to me that Christ loved manhood so much, that he always desired to honor it; and since it is a high honor, and indeed the greatest dignity of manhood, that Jesus Christ was the Son of Man, he is wont to display this name, that he may as it were put rich stars upon the breast of manhood, and put a crown upon its head. Son of Man—whenever he said that word he seemed to put a halo round the head of Adam’s children. Yet there is perhaps a more lovely thought still. Jesus Christ called himself the Son of Man, because he loved to be a man. It was a great stoop for him to come from heaven and to be incarnate. It was a mighty stoop of condescension when he left the harps of angels and the songs of cherubims to mingle with the vulgar herd of his own creatures. But condescension though it was, he loved it. You will remember that when he became incarnate he did not become so in the dark. When he bringeth forth the only begotten into the world, he saith, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” It was told in heaven; it was not done as a dark secret which Jesus Christ would do in the night that none might know it; but all the angels of God were brought to witness the advent of a Saviour a span long, sleeping upon a Virgin’s breast, and lying in a manger. And ever afterwards, and even now, he never blushed to confess that he was man; never looked back upon his incarnation with the slightest regret; but always regarded it with a joyous recollection, thinking himself thrice happy that he had ever become the Son of Man. All hail, thou blessed Jesus! we know how much thou lovest our race; we can well understand the greatness of thy mercy towards thy chosen ones, inasmuch as thou art evermore using the sweet name which acknowledges that they are bone of thy bone and flesh of thy flesh, and thou art one of them, a brother and a near kinsman.
Our text announces as a declaration of our Saviour, that he, the Son of Man, is come to seek and to save that which was lost. In addressing you this morning, I shall simply divide my discourse thus:—First, I shall lay it down as a selfevident truth, that whatever was the intention of Christ in his coming into the world that intention most certainly shall never be frustrated. We shall then in the second place, look into the intention of Christ, as announced in the text, viz., “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Then, in concluding, we shall derive a word of comfort, and perhaps one of warning, from the intention of our Saviour in coming into the world “to seek and to save that which was lost.”
I. You are aware that there has been a very great discussion amongst all Christians about the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is one class of men who believe in what is called general redemption, affirming it to be an undoubted truth that Jesus Christ hath shed his blood for every man, and that the intention of Christ in his death was the salvation of men considered as a whole; they have, however, to overlook the fact that in this case Christ’s intention would be frustrated in a measure. There are others of us who hold what is called the doctrine of particular redemption. We conceive that the blood of Christ was of an infinite value, but that the intention of the death of Christ never was the salvation of all men; for if Christ had designed the salvation of all men, we hold that all men would have been saved. We believe that the intention of Christ’s death is just equal to its effects, and therefore I start this morning by announcing what I regard to be a self-evident truth, that whatever was the intention of Jesus Christ in coming into the world, that intention most certainly shall be fulfilled.
But I shall make use of a few arguments to strengthen this doctrine, although I believe that on the very first announcement it commends itself to every thinking mind.
In the first place, it seems to be inconsistent with the very idea of God that he should ever intend anything which should not be accomplished. When I look at man I see him to be a creature so distracted with folly and so devoid of power, that I do not wonder that he often begins to build and is not able to finish, I do not marvel that full often he stops short because he hath not counted the cost: I wonder not, when I think how much there is that is above man’s control, that he should sometimes propose but that God should dispose far differently from his proposition. I see man to be the insect of a day, a mere ephemera upon the bay-leaf of existence; and when I see him as a mere drop in the great sea of creation, I do not wonder that when he is ambitious he sometimes fashions in himself great designs which he is unable to accomplish because the wheels of providence and destiny will often run quite contrary to all the frolic of his will. But when I think of God whose name is, “I am that I am,” the self-existent one, in whom we live and move and have our being, who is from everlasting to everlasting, the Almighty God; when I think of him as filling immensity, having all power and strength, knowing all things, having a fullness of wisdom, I cannot associate with such an idea of God the supposition of his ever failing in any of his intentions. It would seem to me that a God who could intend a thing and fail in his intention would be no God, but be a thing like ourselves perhaps superior in strength, but certainly not entitled to worship. I cannot anyhow think of God of a true and real God like Jehovah, except as a being who wills and it is accomplished, who speaks and it is done, who commands and it stands fast, for ever, settled in heaven. I cannot therefore imagine, since Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that in his atonement and redemption, his real intention and desire can in any way be frustrated. If I were a Socinian and believed Jesus Christ to be a mere man, I could of course imagine, that the result of his redemption would be uncertain; but believing that Jesus Christ was very God of very God, equal and co-eternal with the Father, I dare not, lest I should be guilty of presumption and blasphemy, associate with that name of Jehovah Jesus any suspicion that the design of his death shall remain unaccomplished.
But again, we have before us the fact, that hitherto, all the works of God have accomplished their purpose. Whenever God has uttered, by the lips of his servants, a prophecy, it has surely come to pass. The instruments of accomplishing that purpose have often been the most factious and rebellious of men: they had no intention whatever of serving God; they have run contrary to his laws; but you will observe that when they have dashed wildly along, his bit has been still in their mouth and his bridle in their jaws. A great monarch has acted like leviathan in the sea; he hath moved himself wherever he pleased; he hath seemed mighty among the sons of men; all the rest of mankind were as minnows, while he was a huge leviathan: but we discover that God has been overruling his thought, that he has been in his council chamber, that the wildest speculations of his ambition have, after all, been but the fulfilling of Jehovah’s stern decrees. Look ye abroad through all the nations of the earth, and tell me, is there one prophecy of God that hath failed? May he not still say, “Not one of them hath lost her mate?” Every word of God hath certainly been accomplished. The kings of the earth stood up and took counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed saying, Let us break his bands asunder and cast his cords from us. But he that sitteth in the heavens did laugh at them; the Lord did have them in derision. Still he worked his own sovereign will; let them do as they pleased, God was over them all, reigning and ruling evermore. If, then, God’s purpose in providence certainly never has been frustrated, am I to imagine that God’s purpose in the glorious sacrifice of Jesus Christ shall be null and void? If there be any of you who have arrived at such a contortion of intellect as to conceive that a less work being accomplished, a greater one shall fail, I must leave you to yourselves, with you I could not argue, I should think you incapable of an argument. Surely, if God the Master, the Judge, the King, hath in all things done according to his own pleasure in this lower world, in the mere creation and preservation of men, it is not to be dreamed of for a moment, that when he stoops himself from the highest heaven, to give his own heart’s blood for our redemption, he shall in that be foiled. No though earth and hell be against him, every purpose of Jesus on the cross shall be consummated, and as the price was “finished,” so shall the purchase be; as the means were fully provided, so shall the end be accomplished to its utmost jot and tittle.
But again, I invite you to stand at the foot of the cross, and take a view of Jesus Christ, and then I will put it to you whether you can imagine that Jesus Christ could in any measure have died in vain. Come, believer, place thyself in the garden of Gethsemane, hide thyself among those dark olives, and listen to yonder man who is in agony. Dost hear those groans? They are the groans of an incarnate God. Dost hear those sighs? They are the sighs of the Son of Man. God over all, blessed for ever. Hearest thou those strong cries, and dost thou see those tears? They are the crying and the tears of him who is equal with his Father, but who condescended to be a man. Rise, for he has risen, Judas has betrayed him and taken him away. Look on that ground. Seest thou those gouts of gore? It is the bloody sweat of the man Christ Jesus. I conjure thee, answer this question. Standing in the garden of Gethsemane, with those blood gouts staining the white frost of that cold midnight, canst thou believe that one of those clots of blood shall fall to the ground and not effect its purposed I challenge thee, O Christian, whatever thy doctrinal opinions, to say me “Yes” to such a question as that. Canst thou imagine that a sweat of blood from the veins of incarnate Deity shall ever fall to the ground and fail? Why, beloved, the word of God which cometh forth out of his mouth shall not return unto him void, but it shall accomplish that which he pleases; how much more shall the Great WORD of God, which came forth from the loin; of Deity, accomplish the purpose whereunto God hath sent him, and prosper in the thing for which it pleased God to ordain him!
But now come with me to the hall of judgment. See there your Master placed in mock state in the midst of a ribald band of soldiery. Do you see how they spit on those blessed cheeks, how they pluck his hair, how they buffet him? Do you see the crown of thorns with its ruby drops of gore? Hark! Can you hear the cry of the multitude, as they say, “Crucify him, crucify him?” And will you now stand there and look at this man whom Pilate has just brought forth, still bleeding from the lash of the scourge, covered with shame, and spitting and mockery, and as this “Ecce Homo” is presented to you, will you believe that this, the incarnate Son of God, shall be made such a spectacle to men, to angels, and to devils, and yet fail of his design? Can you imagine that one lash of that whip shall have a fruitless aim? Shall Jesus Christ suffer this shame and spitting, and yet endure what were far worse—a disappointment in the fulfillment of his intentions? No, God forbid! By Gethsemane and Gabbatha, we are pledged to the strong belief that what Christ designed by his death, must certainly be accomplished.
Then again, see him hanging on his cross. The nails have pierced his hands and feet, and there in the broiling sun he hangs,—he hangs to die. The mockery has not ceased; still they put out the tongue and wag the head at him; still they taunt him with “If thou be the Son of God come down from the cross.” And now his bodily pains increase, while his soul’s anguish is terrible even unto death. Christian canst thou believe that the blood of Christ was shed in vain? Canst thou look at one of those precious drops as it trickles from his head or his hands or his feet, and canst thou imagine that it shall fall to the ground and perish there? Trust the waters may fail from the sea, the sun may grow dim with age, but I never can imagine that the value, the merit, the power of the blood of Jesus ever shall die out, or that its purpose shall be unaccomplished. It seems to me as clear as noonday, that the design of the Saviour’s death must certainly be fulfilled, be it what it may.
I might use a hundred other arguments. I might show that every attribute of Christ declares that his purpose must be accomplished. He certainly has love enough to accomplish his design of saving the lost, for he has a love that is bottomless and fathomless, even as the abyss itself. He certainly has no objection to the accomplishment of his own design, for “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live.” And certainly the Lord cannot fail for want of power, for where we have omnipotence there can be no deficiency of strength. Nor again, can the design be unaccomplished because it was unwise, for God’s designs cannot be unwise, simply because they are of God—that is to say—they are of infinite wisdom. I cannot see anything in the character of Christ, nor anything the wide world over, that can for one moment make me imagine that Christ should die, and yet it should be said afterwards, “This man died for a purpose which he never lived to see accomplished: the object of his death was only partially fulfilled; he saw of the travail of his soul, but he was not satisfied, for he did not redeem all whom he intended to redeem.”
Now, some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say it so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself, they say, to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty. I admit there is; but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might well admire in the theory of universal redemption but let me just tell you what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on his cross intended to save every man, then he intended to save those who were damned before he died; because if the doctrine be true, that he died for all men, he died for some that were in hell before he came into this world, for doubtless there were myriads there that had been cast away. Once again, if it were Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has he been disappointed! for we have his own evidence that there is a lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit must be cast some of the very persons, who according to that theory, were bought with his blood. That seems to me a thousand times more frightful than any of those horrors, which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men in hell seems a supposition too horrible for me to imagine: that he was the substitute for the sons of men, and that God having first punished the substitute punished men again, seems to me to conflict with any idea of justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of men, and that afterwards those very men should be punished for the sins which Christ had already atoned for, seems to me, to be the most marvellous monstrosity that ever could have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, ay, to the god of the Thugs, or the most diabolical heathen demons. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise. If Christ has suffered in man’s stead, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and save us from all unrighteousness.
II. I have thus started the first thought that the intention of Christ’s death cannot be frustrated. And now methinks every one will anxiously listen, and every ear will be attentive, and the question will arise from every heart, “WHAT THING WAS THE INTENTION OF THE Saviour’S DEATH? AND IS IT POSSIBLE: THAT I CAN HAVE A PORTION IN IT?” For whom, then, did the Saviour die—and is there the slightest probability that I have some lot or portion in that great atonement which he has offered? Beloved, my text is the answer to the question—“The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Now, our text tells us of two things—first, the subjects of the Saviour’s atonement, the lost; and, secondly, the objects of it, he came to seek and save.
I must now endeavor to pick out the objects of the Saviour’s atonement. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Some of you may turn your heads away at once, and conclude that hitherto you have given no evidence that you have any portion in the death of Christ. You are very good sort of people; you never did much that was wrong—perhaps a little now and then; but nothing particular ever troubles your conscience. You have a notion that you shall certainly enter into the kingdom of heaven, for you are no worse than your neighbors, and if you are not saved, God help other people! for if you do not go to heaven, who will? You are trusting in your own good works, and believing you are righteous. Now let us decide your case at once. Since you are ashamed to put yourselves among those who are lost, I have no Christ to preach to you till you are ready to come and confess that you are lost; for Christ himself tells us, that he came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;” and inasmuch as you belong to the righteous, and trust in yourselves that you are good and excellent you may turn upon your heel and go, for in the blood of Christ there is no portion for men who live and die trusting in their own self-righteousness.
But I may dismiss another part of you. Some of you are saying, “Well, sir, I know I am guilty, but still I am persuaded that by attention to the law of God in future, I shall certainly be able to take away the demerit of my guilt. I intend henceforward to reform, and I believe that by a consistent course of attention to religious ordinances, and by carefully regarding that which is right and wrong between God and man, and man and man, I shall, without doubt, make an atonement for the sins of the past.” Ah, my friend, hitherto thou givest me no hope that thou had any portion in the death of Christ. Christ came not to die for men who can save themselves without him. If thou thinkest thou canst save thyself remember the door of mercy is shut in thy face. Christ came to bring robes from heaven, but not for you who can spin for yourselves. He came to bring bread for the hungry, but he will give none of it to you who can sow and reap, and make bread for yourselves. Christ helps the helpless, but they who can help themselves and have sufficient of their own strength and merit to carry them to heaven, may fight their way there alone, if they can—they shall have no help from him. Whom then did Christ die to save? It is said, he came to save “that which was lost.”
Now, you must bear with me while I run over the different ways in which a man may be lost; and then I will conclude by noticing the term as it is used in the proper sense, when we may affirm that Christ died for such. We know that all men are lost in Adam; as soon as we are born into this world, we are lost, when the tiny bark of the infant is launched upon the river of life it is lost; unless Sovereign grace shall stretch forth its hand and save it in infancy, and carry it to heaven or save it afterwards, when it shall have grown up—that infant is lost. “Behold,” saith David, “I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity; in sin did my mother conceive me.” “In Adam all die.” The fall of Adam was the fall of the human race; then, you and I, and all of us fell down.
Again, we are all lost by practice. No sooner does the child become capable of knowing right and wrong, than you discover that he chooses the evil and abhors the good. Early passions soon break out, like weeds immediately after the shower of rain; speedily the hidden depravity of the heart makes itself manifest and we grow up to sin and so we become lost by practice. But mark, a man may be lost in Adam, and lost by practice, and yet not be saved by Christ; but Christ is able to save you; though you be twice lost, his salvation is able to redeem you from death.
Then there be some who go further still. The deadly tree of sin grows taller and taller some become lost to the church. After having been trained up religiously in our Midst, they turn aside; they give up all outward regard to the worship of God, the ministry of the gospel is neglected, the house of prayer is forsaken, and the church tolls its bell and says of such an one, “He is lost to the church.” Some go further still; they are lost to society. I have seen many who are dead while they live. We have in the midst of us the harlot and the drunkard, who, like the leper in the camp of Israel, have to be put away, lest the contagion should spread; and those who seek after right are obliged to turn away from them, lest the evil should spread in the midst of the flock. Now there are many who are lost to society whom Jesus Christ came to save, and whom he will save. But a man may be lost to society and may be lost everlastingly; it is no proof that Christ will save him, because he is thus lost, while at the same time it is no proof that he will not save him, for Christ came to save even men who are lost like this. Again, the man may go further, and be lost to the family. We have known those who have become so vile, that even after society has shut them out, a parent has been obliged to shut then out too. That must be a hell of sin indeed which can make a father say to his son, “My son, you shall not want bread while I have any, but I must forbid you my house, for your brothers and sisters cannot endure your society; I feel you would destroy their souls if I should allow you to associate with them.” Now, a man may be lost thus to his own family, and yet sovereign grace will save him. But, mark, a man may be lost to his family and yet not be saved; yea, that may be the increase of his condemnation, that he sinned against a mother’s prayers and against a father’s exhortations.
Now I will tell you the people whom Christ will save—they are those who are lost to themselves. Just imagine a ship at sea passing through a storm: the ship leaks, and the captain tells the passengers he fears they are lost. If they are far away from the shore, and have sprung a leak, they pump with all their might as long as they have any strength remaining; they seek to keep down the devouring element; they still think that they are not quite lost while they have power to use the pumps. At last they see the ship cannot be saved; they give it up for lost, and leap into the boats. The boats are beating for many a-day, full of men who have but little food to eat. “They are lost,” we say, “lost out at sea.” But they do not think so; they still cherish a hope that perhaps some stray ship may pass that way and pick them up. There is a ship in the horizon; they strain their eyes to look at her; they lift each other up; they wave a flag; they rend their garments to make something which shall attract attention; but she passes away; black night comes, and they are forgotten. At length the very last mouthful of food has been consumed; strength fails them, and they lay down their oars in the boat, and lay themselves down to die. You can imagine then how well they understand the awful meaning of the term—“lost.” As long as they had any strength left they felt they were not lost; as long as they could see a sail they felt there was yet hope; while there was yet a mouldy biscuit left, or a drop of water, they did not give up all for lost. Now the biscuit is gone, and the water is gone; now strength has departed, and the oar lies still: they lie down to die by each other’s side, mere skeletons; things that should have been dead days ago, if they had died when all enjoyment of life had ceased. Now they know, I say, what it is to be lost, and across the shoreless waters they seem to hear their deathknell pealing forth that awful word, Lost! lost! lost! Now, in a spiritual sense, these are the people Christ came to save. Sinner, thou too art condemned. Our Father Adam steered the ship awry and she split upon a rock, and she is filling even to her bulwarks now; and pump as philosophy may, it can never keep the waters of her depravity so low as to prevent the ship from sinking. Seeing that human nature is of itself lost, it hath taken to the boat. She is a fair boat, called the boat of Good Endeavour, and in her you are striving to row with all your might, to reach the shore; but your strength fails you. You say, “Oh, I cannot keep God’s law. The more I strive to keep it, the more I find it to be impossible for me to do so. I climb; but the higher I climb, the higher is the top above me. When I was in the plains, I thought the mountain was but a moderate hill but now I seem to have ascended half-way up its steps,—there it is, higher than the clouds, and I cannot discern the summit.” However, you gather up your strength, you try again, you row once more, and at last unable to do anything, you lay down your oars, feeling that if you are saved, it cannot be by your own works. Still you have a little hope left. There are a few small pieces of mouldy biscuit remaining. You have heard that by attention to certain ceremonies you may be saved, and you munch your dry biscuit; but at last that fails you, and you find that neither baptism, nor the Lord’s supper, nor any other outward rites, can make you clean, for the leprosy lies deep within. That done, you still look out. You are in hopes that there may be a sail coming, and while floating upon that deep of despair, you think you detect in the distance some new dogma, some fresh doctrine that may comfort you. It passes, however, like the wild phantom ship—it is gone, and there you are left at last, with the burning sky of God’s vengeance above you, with the deep waters of a bottomless hell beneath you, fire in your heart and emptiness in that ship which once was so full of hope, you lie down despairing, and you cry—“Lord save me, or I perish!” Is that your condition this morning, my friend, or has that ever been your condition? If so, Christ came into the world to seek and to save you; and you he will save, and no one else. He will save only those who can claim this for their title,—“Lost;” who have understood in their own souls what it is to be lost, as to all self-trust, all self-reliance, and all self-hope. I can look back to the time when I knew myself to be lost. I thought that God meant to destroy me. I imagined that because I felt myself to be lost, I was the special victim of Almighty vengeance; for I said unto the Lord. “Hast thou set me as the target of all thine arrows? Am I a seal or a whale, that thou hast set a mark upon me? Hast thou sewed up mine iniquities in a bag, and sealed my transgressions with a seal. Wilt thou never be gracious? Hast thou made me to be the center of all sorrow, the chosen one of heaven to be cursed for ever?” Ah! fool that I was! I little knew then, that those who have the curse in themselves are the men whom God will bless—that we have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in him who died for us and rose again. Come, I will put the question once again—can you say that you are lost? Was there a time when you traveled with the caravan through this wild wilderness world? Have you left the caravan with your companions, and are you left in the midst of a sea of sand—a hopeless, arid waste? And do you look around you, and see no helper; and do you cast your eyes around and see no trust? Is the deathbird wheeling in the sky, screaming with delight because he hopes soon to feed upon your flesh and bones? Is the water-bottle dry, and doth the bread fail you? Have you consumed the last of your dry dates, and drunk the last of that brackish water from the bottle. and are you now without hope, without trust in yourself; ready to lie down in despair? Hark thee! The Lord thy God loveth thee; Jesus Christ has bought thee with his blood; thou art, thou shalt be his. He has been seeking thee all this time, and he has found thee at last, in the vast howling wilderness and now he will take thee upon his shoulders, and carry thee to his house rejoicing, and the angels shall be glad over thy salvation. Now, such people must and shall be saved. and this is the description of those whom Jesus Christ came to save. Whom he came to save he will save; you, ye lost ones—lost to all hope and self confidence, shall be saved. Though death and hell should stand in the way, Christ will perform his vow, and accomplish his design.
I shall be very brief in concluding my discourse; but we have now to notice THE OBJECTS OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST—he came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” I am so glad that these two words are both there, for if they were not, what hope would there be for any of us? The Arminian says Christ came to save those that seek him. Beloved, there is a sense in which that is true; but it is a lie. Christ did come to save those that seek him, but no one ever sought the Lord Jesus Christ, unless the Lord Jesus first sought him. Christ does not leave it to ourselves to seek him, or else it would be left indeed, for so vile is human nature that although heaven be offered, and though hell thunder in our ears, yet there never was and there never will be any man who, unconstrained by sovereign grace, will run in the way of salvation, and so escape from hell and flee to heaven. It is all in vain for me to preach to you, and all in vain for the most earnest exhortations to be addressed to any of you, unless the Holy Spirit shall be pleased to back them up; for man is so infatuated, his disease is one which causes such a madness of the brain, that he refuses the remedy, and puts away from him the healing draught which alone can give him life from the dead. “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” Let man alone, and with the cross of Christ before him and all hell behind him, he will shut his eyes and prefer to be damned rather than enter into eternal life by the blood of Christ the Lord. Hence Christ came first to seek men, and then to save them. Ah! what a task that is of seeking men! There are some of you to-day on the tops of the mountains of pride, and others of you in the deep glens of despair. Methinks I see the Saviour coming forth to seek you; he finds you to-day in the green pastures of the sanctuary, he comes near to you, and by these hands of mine he seeks to lay hold of you, but no sooner do you discern his approach then you run far away into the wild desert of sin. Perhaps this evening you will be spending the remnant of the Sabbath in profaning God’s day. One of you at least I know who will be in the public house as soon as the evening sermon is over, and most probably will go home very late. If Christ intends to save you, he will go to you there; and while you are in that wild waste of sin, he will send some providence after you, and save you there. Away you fly then to the marshes of reformation, and you say, “The shepherd cannot overtake me. I shall be beyond his reach now, I have left off my drunkenness, I have given up my cursing.” But he will come to you there, and wade for you ankle deep in your own self-righteousness. And then you will run away again and jump into the deep pit of despair, and there you will say to yourself, “He can never find me here.” But I see him coming with that crook of his: he enters the pit, takes you by the feet, and casts you round his neck, and carries you home rejoicing, saying, “I have found him at last! Wherever he wandered, I sought him, and now I have found him.” It is strange what queer places Christ finds some of his people in! I knew one of Christ’s sheep who was found out by his Master while committing robbery. I knew another who was found out by Christ, while he was spiting his old mother by reading the Sunday newspaper and making fun of her. Many have been found by Jesus Christ, even in the midst of sin and vanity. I knew a preacher of the Gospel who was converted in a theater. He was listening to a play, an old-fashioned piece, that ended with a sailor’s drinking a glass of gin before he was hung, and he said, “Here’s to the prosperity to the British Nation, and the salvation of my immortal soul.”, and down went the curtain; and down went my friend too, for he ran home with all his might. Those words, “The salvation of my immortal soul;” had struck him to the quick; and he sought the Lord Jesus in his chamber. Many a-day he sought him, and at last he found him to his joy and confidence.
But for the most part Christ finds his people in his own house; but he finds them often in the worst of tempers, in the most hardened conditions; and he softens their hearts, awakens their consciences, subdues their pride, and takes them to himself; but never would they come to him unless he came to them. Sheep go astray, but they do not come back again of themselves. Ask the shepherd whether his sheep come back, and he will tell you, “No, sir; they will wander, but they never return.” When you find a sheep that ever came back of himself, then you may hope to find a sinner that will come to Christ of himself. No; it must be sovereign grace that must seek the sinner and bring him home.
And when Christ seeks him he SAVES him. Having caught him at last, like the ram of old, in the thorns of conviction, he does not take a knife and slay him as the sinner expects, but he takes him by the hand of mercy, and begins to comfort and to save. Oh, ye lost sinners, the Christ who seeks you to-day in the ministry, and who has sought you many a-day by his providence, will save you. He will first find you when you are emptied of self, and then he will save you. When you are stripped he will bring forth the best robe and put it on you. When you are dying he will breathe life into your nostrils. When you feel yourselves condemned he will come and blot out your iniquities like a cloud, and your transgressions like a thick cloud. Fear not, ye hopeless and helpless souls, Christ seeks you to-day, and seeking, he will save you—save you here, save you living, save you dying, save you in time, save you in eternity, and give you, even you, the lost ones, a portion among them that are sanctified. May the Lord now bless these words to your consolation!
III. I shall not stop to say more, as I intended to have done, lest I should weary you. Let me only remind you, that the time is coming when that word “lost” will have a more frightful meaning to you, than it has to-day. In a few more months, some of you, my hearers, will hear the great bell of eternity tolling forth that awful word—lost, lost, lost! The great sepulchres of hell will toll out your doom—lost, lost, lost! and through the shades of eternal misery this shall for ever assail your ear, that you are lost for ever. But if that bell is ringing in your ear to-day, that you are lost oh, be of good cheer, it is a good thing to be so lost, it is a happy thing to be lost to self, and lost to pride, and lost to carnal hope. Christ will save you. Believe that. Look to him as he hangs upon his cross. One look shall give you comfort. Turn your weeping eyes to him as he bleeds there in misery. He can, he will save you. Believe on him, for he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. He that believeth not must be damned, but whosoever among the lost ones will now cast himself on Christ Jesus, shall find everlasting life through his death and righteousness. May the Lord now gather in his lost sheep, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.
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