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The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.


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10. Beware of despising one of these little ones As pride is the mother of disdain, and as contempt hardens men in giving offense, our Lord, for the purpose of applying an appropriate remedy for curing this disease, forbids his disciples to despise the little ones. And certainly, as we have already hinted, no man who has a proper care for his brethren will ever allow himself, on light grounds, to give them offense This conclusion of our Lord’s discourse has the same tendency as the commencement of it, to remind us that we ought to strive with each other who shall be most submissive and modest; for God embraces with wonderful love the little ones It would be strange indeed that a mortal man should despise, or treat as of no account, those whom God holds in such high esteem. He proves this love from the fact, that angels, who are ministers of their salvation, enjoy intimately the presence of God. Yet I do not think that he intended merely to show what honor God confers on them by appointing angels to be their guardians, but likewise to threaten those who despise them; as if he had said, that it is no light matter to despise those who have angels for their companions and friends, to take vengeance in their behalf. We ought therefore to beware of despising their salvation, which even angels have been commissioned to advance.

The interpretation given to this passage by some commentators, as if God assigned to each believer his own angel, does not rest on solid grounds. For the words of Christ do not mean that a single angel is continually occupied with this or the other person; 508508     “Les mots n’emportent pas qu’un Ange n’ait autre charge que de veiller tousiours sur cestuy-ci ou sur cestuy-la;” — “the words do not bear that one Angel has nothing else to do than to watch continually over this or that man.” and such an idea is inconsistent with the whole doctrine of Scripture, which declares that the angels encamp around (Psalm 34:7) the godly, and that not one angel only, but many, have been commissioned to guard every one of the faithful. Away, then, with the fanciful notion of a good and evil angel, and let us rest satisfied with holding that the care of the whole Church is committed to angels, to assist each member as his necessities shall require. It will perhaps be asked, Do the angels occupy a station inferior to ours, because they have been appointed to be our ministers? I reply, Though by nature they take rank above us, this does not prevent them from rendering service to God 509509     “Cela n’empesche point que Dieu n’use de leur service;” — “that does not hinder God from employing their services.” in dispensing the favor which he freely bestows upon us. For this reason they are called our angels, because their labors are bestowed on us.

Matthew 18:11. For the Son of man cometh Christ now employs his own example in persuading his disciples to honor even weak and despised brethren; for he came down from heaven to save not them only, but even the dead who were lost It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed. And even if the weak labor under imperfections which may expose them to contempt, our pride is not on that account to be excused; for we ought to esteem them not for the value of their virtues, but for the sake of Christ; and he who will not conform himself to Christ’s example is too saucy and proud.

12. What think you? Luke carries the occasion of this parable still farther back, as having arisen from the murmurings of the Pharisees and scribes against our Lord, whom they saw conversing daily with sinners. Christ therefore intended to show that a good teacher ought not to labor less to recover those that are lost, than to preserve those which are in his possession; though according to Matthew the comparison proceeds farther, and teaches us not only that we ought to treat with kindness the disciples of Christ, but that we ought to bear with their imperfections, and endeavor, when they wander, to bring them back to the road. For, though they happen sometimes to wander, yet as they are sheep over which God has appointed his Son to be shepherd, so far are we from having a right to chase or drive them away roughly, that we ought to gather them from their wanderings; for the object of the discourse is to lead us to beware of losing what God wishes to be saved The narrative of Luke presents to us a somewhat different object. It is, that the whole human race belongs to God, and that therefore we ought to gather those that have gone astray, and that we ought to rejoice as much, when they that are lost return to the path of duty, as a man would do who, beyond his expectation, recovered something the loss of which had grieved him.




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