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MATT. xviii. 12–14.
“ How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and
one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go into the mountains, and seek
that which is gone astray ? “ And if so be, that he find it, verily I say unto you, he
rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and
nine, which went not astray. “ Even so, it is not the will of your Father, which is in
heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”
In the verse immediately preceding our text, we read, that “the Son of man came to save that which was lost.” And when we consider, that all of us have been lost, for we “all like sheep have gone astray,” but now, through the merits of the Saviour, have been redeemed, surely the subject ought to demand our serious attention.
The parable, which we have chosen for our text, is one of the deepest interest, and like all other parables, is a similitude taken from things natural, in order to instruct us in things spiritual. Our Lord brings before our notice parables in order to rivet the attention, and lead it from things temporal to things eternal.
To a nation originally pastoral, like the Jews, and still to a great extent retaining the pastoral habits of their forefathers, this parable represented a scene of real life. It was such a scene, as we may now imagine among the inhabitants of the fertile tracts near the desert, whose riches consist in their herds and their flocks. The character of these people perhaps suggested the delineation of the shepherd in the para
and the exertions to recover the lost sheep, and the joy on its recovery, are proved by the details of travellers to have been faithful transcripts of prevalent customs; we therefore in this parable perceive an authentic basis for the doctrine founded
The parable which immediately follows it in the Gospel of St. Luke, conveys the same import. 6 What woman,” asks our Saviour, “ 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 neighbours 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.” And the parable following this is that of the prodigal son, who, not content with the fare and the restraint of his father's house, took his journey into a far country ; but when want pressed on him, how soon did he return to his father! and how readily did his father forgive him all that had passed ! Yea, he immediately ordered the best robe to be put on him, and they all began to make merry and be glad ; for he that was dead, became alive; he that was lost, was found.
text. They show how God, who is here represented under the shepherd, will receive that which is lost again into his favour; or, in other words, how ready he is to accept the sinner, who is willing to turn unto him, and to save all, even though they have rebelled. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;" consequently the very lowest amongst us, the most guilty, the most abandoned, need not fear, through the Saviour, to have access to the Almighty.
In the parable before us, we read of the shepherd leaving the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and going after that which was lost. He left them : but let it not be understood that he set more value
the lost sheep, than upon those which he had left behind. These he knew to be safel : therefore, he left them, to rescue from
| This part of the parable may be rendered more intelligible by the eastern custom of folding sheep at night under the guardianship of enormous dogs, and often of watchmen also, on towers, who could discern at a great distance the approach of prædatory beasts or marauders. Those, whom the shepherd left, must be metaphorically considered to have been thus secured.
destruction that, which had gone astray. So God has not less love for those, who have continued stedfast in righteousness, though the conversion of a sinner be represented as occasioning an increased joy in heaven, one of a different nature from that imparted by the perseverance of the just—one arising from another having been added to the kingdom of God. It is such a joy as arises from the realization of any object, on which hope might for the time have been concentrated. Here, then, is the great encouragement for the sinner; the parable proves to us, that God's love and protection extend to all, even to those who walk in his ways, and to those who disobey his laws, if they will turn unto him and live.
We have observed, that Jesus Christ came “to save that which was lost,”—to show sinners the way back to God. Now observe, that the man in the parable had ninety and nine sheep, besides the one that had wandered :the woman had nine pieces of silver, besides the one which was lost. So God had angels in heaven, who