"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
goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?"Matt.
Are we to understand by this parable that the one sheep
which had gone astray bears the same proportion to the ninety and nine
that our sinful, fallen race bears to the unfallen hosts of God's
creationone in a hundred? I know not; but when we read of the
"innumerable company of angels;" of Daniel's vision of the Ancient of
days, to whom "thousand thousands ministered, and ten thousand times ten
thousand stood before him;" of John's description of the ''many angels
round about the throne," "and the number of them was ten thousand times
ten thousand, and thousands of thousands," we are led to an enlarged
view of God's great family, and a lowly estimate of our own place among
the mighty hosts of those blessed beings who have never gone astray like
guilty man. But this would be only vain speculation, did it not lead us to
think of the wondrous truth, which is no matter of speculation but of
reality that for man, the poor, wandering, lost sheep of this great fold,
the Shepherd left the ninety and nine, and "went out into the mountains,"
and sought until He found the lost one. For man, the good Shepherd gave
His life; and the place of the rescued one, among the happy ones above, is
such that the Shepherd "rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety
and nine which went not astray."
"There shall be no night there."Rev. xxii, 5.
How precious are these words to the ear of the
mourning, suffering, or tempted Christian! He is often so surrounded by
night in his pilgrimage here, that he fears he shall never reach the
bright city. He sits in darkness, and has no light; he is full of tossings
to and fro till the morning; he knows, by bitter experience, that "night
is the time to weep;" but, in the land to which he is going, "the Lamb is
the light thereof," and "there shall be no night there." There shall be no
night of darkness and coldness, no night of danger and fear, no night of
weeping, for all tears shall be wiped away by God himself. There shall be
no night of ignorancehow often here do we grope in the dark! no
night of separation and error, when men mistake friends for
foes; no night of slumber, when the lamps ought to be trimmed and
the loins girt, and the servants ought to be waiting for their Lord. There
shall be no night of repose there, because none will be neededthey
are strong to love Him and serve Him there
"And with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle His throne rejoicing."
Grant, Lord, that we may so walk in the light here,
that we may dwell in Thy light hereafter for ever!
"If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die : but if ye
through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall
live."Rom. viii. 13.
The same apostle who proclaims so emphatically the
great doctrine, that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the
law," (Rom. iii. 28,) brings forward as strongly the doctrine that,
"whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." There is no opposition
between the two; they are the different sides of one great truth, namely,
the necessity of a change of heart, the need of that work of the Spirit,
on the soul of man, which shall make him holy, before he can become an
inhabitant of a holy heaven. The analogy is a simple and beautiful one
taken from what we know by every day's experience that
what we sow, that we reap; and he would be looked upon as a
fool who expected a contrary result. But there are many such fools in the
spiritual field! there are many who see no connexion between the seed and
the harvest of the soul; and so common is the tendency to this fatal
error, that we have all need to pray, "Lord, in this great concern, suffer
not me to be thus deceived!"
"Father of mercies! we have need
Of Thy preparing grace:
Let the same hand that gives the seed,
Provide a fruitful place !"
"Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath
given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a
sweet-smelling savour." Eph. v. 2.
How wonderful is it to think that " Christ hath loved
us!" What are we that the Holy One should regard us with any
feelings but those of displeasure! Truly may He say to us, "Ye have not
chosen me, but I have chosen you;" for our hearts were far estranged from
Him by nature and by wicked works, and unless He had gone forth upon the
mountains to seek His lost and perishing sheep, we could never have found
ourselves in His fold. " He hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us;"
and can we doubt His love with such a proof as this to convince us of it ?
Can we suppose that He will forsake those for whom He hath "given
Himself?" Christian, do not look at your own un-worthiness, but look at
His work for jou, when unbelief tempts you to ask, " Can He love
such a one as me?" And when you feel most the power of His love, and are
most wrapped in the glorious thought of the sacrifice He has offered for
you, listen to His own voice saying unto you, "A new commandment I give
unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye
also love one another."
"Jesus, who on His glorious throne,
Rules heaven, and earth, and sea,
Is pleased to claim me for His own,
And give Himself to me.
"His person fixes all my love,
His blood removes my fear,
And while He pleads for me above,
His arm preserves me here."
"And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her,
and said unto her, Weep not."Luke vii. 13.
O Divine tenderness! how truly do these words reveal
the heart of Jesus! He was even then about to change her grief into joy,
her mourning into gladness, by the life-giving word that was to make her
son rise from his bier; but He would not wait for that; before the work of
restoring to life, He sent forth the word of sympathy and comfort, so that
she was doubly blest; and we cannot doubt that there was that in His voice
and in His eye which spoke to her heart even more than the words, and told
her, and told all the people also, that "He had compassion on her."
It is this sense of His sympathy that comes to His people now, in their
hour of need, with such irresistible tenderness. He does not raise our
dead ! they are carried out, and carried away, and the widow sees her only
son no more in this world; but if she is Christ's, she is not alone, He
still has compassion, human in its gentleness, and divine in its
power; and when He says to her, "Weep not," He speaks as "One having
authority." There are tears that are wept out of a sense of His love!
"Oh, sweetest words that Jesus could have sought,
To soothe the mourning widow's heart, 'Weep not!'
They fall with comfort on my ear,
When life is dark and trouble near."
"The, Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear his
voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation."Heb. iii. 7, S.
"My sheep hear my voice."John x. 27.
To-day, every clay, we may hear His voice, if we harden
not our hearts; we may hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and if we are
His sheep, no voice will be so welcome to us. He speaks to us in His holy
Word by His Spirit, and in this very passage we have one of the strongest
proofs that it is He who speaks, for it is not said, "the psalmist David
saith," but "the Holy Ghost saith." If our Saviour were now on
earth, how would men crowd to hear Him ! yet how few listen to the voice
by which He still speaks to us from heaven! Oh, may I be preserved from
the hardening of heart here spoken of! May I have a tender, lowly heart,
ready to listen to every whisper of that blessed voice, whether it comes
in the teachings of His Word or of His providences; may I learn to watch
for it, because it is a still, small voice, and the voices of the
world are loud and bewildering. O Lord! " the companions hearken to Thy
voicecause me to hear it! "
"I was a wandering sheep,
I would not be controll'd;
But now I love my Shepherd's voice,
I love, I love the fold!
I was a wayward child,
I once preferred to roam;
But now I love my Father's voice,
I love, I love His home!"
"He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath
broken down the middle wall of partition between us."Eph. ii. 14.
It is scarcely possible for us now to understand how
difficult it was for the Jews to receive the Gentiles as fellow-heirs with
them of the promises of the gospel. The Apostle Paul speaks of it as the
"mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God."
(Eph. iii. 9.) And it required the teaching of a miraculous vision to
convince the Apostle Peter of the great truth, that God had "also to the
Gentiles granted repentance unto life." St Paul repeatedly reminds his
converts of their former state"remember, that ye being in time
past Gentiles," &c, (Eph. ii. 11,)" You that were sometime alienated and
enemies in your mind," (Col. i. 21,)and this he does to stir them up to
lively gratitude, deep humility, and earnest watchfulness, lessons which
not they only, but we also who are their successors, would do well to
learn from the consideration of God's dealings with Jews and Gentiles. We
see how His ancient people have been cast off, that we might be brought
nigh through the blood of Christ; and though long centuries have passed,
and the Church has ceased to wonder at this "mystery " as a new thing, the
lesson taught by it remains as important for us as for the first Gentile
converts, " because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by
faith. Be not highminded, but fear." (Rom. xi. 20.)
"Silent let Jew and Gentile stand,
Without one vaunting word,
And, humbled low, confess their guilt
Before heaven's righteous Lord."
"I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord
sustained me."Ps. iii. 5.
These morning and evening thoughts breathe the very
spirit of holy peacea peace like the hallowed calm of this world's
infancy, when " the evening and the morning were the first day," and "God
saw that it was good." This earth can no longer thus reflect the smile of
its Creator; it is no longer "very good;" sin has marred its moral
beauty. But there is in the hearts of God's own children a new creation
wrought by His own Spirit,
and when He beholds them as " accepted in the Beloved,"
they may well lie down in peace and sleep, and awake sustained by the Lord
in safety. Let us strive to cherish a truly confiding belief in our
heavenly Father's care; this only will set us free from anxious cares and
fears of our own, and restore to us the peaceful sleep of happy childhood.
It is not to the comforts of home and the protection of friends, it is not
to bodily ease, nor even freedom from anxiety, it is to God alone
that I owe peaceful nights and tranquil wakings "Thou, Lord, only
makest me dwell in safety."
"New every morning is the love,
Our waking and uprising prove,
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought."
"He doeth according to His will in the army of
heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth : and none can stay His
hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?"Dan. iv. 35.
Oh, that my mind may be filled with lowly reverence
while considering this great subject, God's infinite power! We live
surrounded by it, yet how little do we think of it! how much are we struck
by some display of power in men, while the thought of Him from whom alone
all power comes scarcely passes our minds. "He doeth according to His
will;" and here lies our highest comfort, that His will is holy,
and just, and good, and though evil may indeed appear for a while to
triumph, it cannot long reign, for the Highest Will is the Holiest! In the
army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth He reigns; not as a
blind destiny or fate, but as the living, personal Lord our God; and, in
order that we may the more plainly recognise His power as a personal
attribute, "He hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He
hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds."
"Jehovah doth reign,
Almighty His will,
And angels and men
His plan must fulfil.
In vain they endeavour
Against Him to rise,
His kingdom stands ever
As firm as the skies."
"God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind
the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar."Ps. cxviii.
The hundred and eighteenth psalm gives us a beautiful
idea of the worship of the true Israelite in ancient days. We seem to see
the train of worshippers, headed by their prophet-king, approaching the
temple-gates with songs of praise; entering, and rejoicing in the "day
which the Lord hath made;" receiving the blessing of the priests; ("we
have blessed you out of the house of the Lord;" ) and then, with
hearts enlightened by God to perceive the meaning of His ordinance, we see
them offering the appointed sacrifice, which they call on the priest to
"bind unto the horns of the altar" a sacrifice of atonement; after which
the glad song of praise bursts forth from these hearts rejoicing in a
sense of forgiveness"Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou
art my God, I will exalt thee. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he
is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." If such was the Israelite's joy
in his merely typical sacrifice, what ought ours to be, now that
the types are fulfilled by the great reality of the One perfect Sacrifice
? Let us look, and wonder, and adore, as we behold Christ offering Himself
to God for us; and let us, by a living faith, behold in Him que only
and sufficient Atonement.