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the highways and hedges, would be enabled to believe in the Son of God, and become thereby partakers of
those blessings, which the unbelieving Jews rejected and despised.
Jesus being surrounded by vast multitudes of People, adviseth those who are willing to be his disciples, to eramine beforehand their resolution in Case of Persecutions. The Pharisees murmur at CHRIST for receiving Sinners: He delivers the Parable of the lost Sheep, and Piece of Silver ; of the Prodigal Son,
and of the unjust Steward. CHRIST reproveth the Hupocrisy of the Pharisees, who were covetous, and derided him ; and delivers the Parable of the rich Man, and Lazarus the Beggar.
AFTER our blessed Saviour had departed from the Pharissee's house, great multitudes of people thronged about him, to hear his doctrine, and to behold his wondrous works: but the people in general, mistook the nature of his kingdom; for it was the general expectation that he was going to establish the Messiah's throne in Jerusalem, and from thence to conquer all the nations in the world, and render them tributary to his power.
As our Lord well knew that the people followed him with such expectations, he took the first opportunity to undeceive them, and to declare in the plainest terms, that his kingdom was not of this world, and, of consequence, those who followed him for temporal advantage, would be sure to find themselves mistaken; for, on the contrary, his disciples must expect to be persecuted from city to city, and hated of all men for his name's sake. And he further observed, that it was necessary for all who would be his true followers, to prefer his service to the riches, grandeur, and pleasures of the world, and to manifest by their conduct, that they had a greater value for him, than for the dearest objects of their affections: If any man come to me, said he, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
And to shew the folly of expecting to partake of the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom, while they preferred their worldly attachments to our great Redeemer, he compared the case of such persons to that of an unthinking builder, and of a rash and forward warrior: the former was obliged to leave his structure unfinished, because he had foolishly begun the building before he had computed the cost; and the latter reduced to the disgrace, either of being shamefully defeated, or meanly suing for peace, because he had rashly declared war §: he had compared his own strength with that of the enemy: So likewise, added our great Redeemer, whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The same of the miracles which JEsus daily wrought, and the divine discourses which he delivered, being spread in the most obscure and unpolite parts of the country, several persons of infamous lives, and abandoned characters, came amongst the crowds which pressed to hear him. These persons, conscious of their own unworthiness, approached our great Redeemer with the highest reverence, and heard him with the most respectful and steady attention. This opportunity was readily embraced by the great Saviour of sinners, who, far from upbraiding them with their former wickedness, or spurning them from him with contempt, kindly condescended to instruct them in those things which concerned their everlasting peace, and not only taught them in the fields, but went with them to their houses, and kindly condescended to teach them the nature of his kingdom, and lead them in the way of eternal life and happiness. This condescending goodness in our great Redeemer, was highly offensive to the proud, self-conceited, self-righteous Pharisees; they wanted to be accepted on the footing of their own worthiness, and could not bear the thoughts of the infinite mercy of God, manifested to the greatest of sinners; and, therefore, with hearts full of envious pride, they advanced it as a ground of reproach against our great Redeemer, that this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. Their pride could not bear the thought, that these persons whom they so much despised, should be looked upon by our Saviour with more kindness than themselves; and they thought his condescension unworthy the character of a prophet. They had no other views of divine acceptance, than such as had an immediate reference to the law; and the infinite mercy of God to sinners, manifested in the gospel of his Son, was . what they could not understand; our great Redeemer
therefore, to convince them of their ignorance, to check their abominable pride and self-sufficiency, to display the extensive and abundant mercy of God to sinful man, and to vindicate his own conduct, in conversing with the meanest and most contemptible persons, proposed three parables for their consideration.
The first of these parables was that of the lost sheep, which the Divine Instructor delivered in the following words: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, rejoice with me ; for I have found my sheep which was lost:” Thus, by the natural turn of the human mind, which is restless and uneasy under the mortification of losing part of its property, and fixes with such eager attention on that which it has lost, that it overlooks those valuable objects which it has in possession, our great Redeemer describes the regard which God has to his people while they wander from him in a lost, perishing con
dition; and by the joy which expands the human heart, when that which had long been given up for lost, is recovered; our Lord displays the kind reception which the worst of sinners will find, when they are made sensible of their evil ways, and are enabled to believe in the Son of God for life and salvation. And in this elegant, well-chosen parable, he further describes the joy of the heavenly inhabitants, when any of the sheep of Christ, who have long wandered from his fold, are convinced of their desperate condition, humbled under a sense of their unworthiness and wickedness, and are enabled to return: I say unto you, said he, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, that need no repentance. - - • There is no person on earth So just and holy, and whose conduct hath been so regular, and uniformly correct, as to need no repentance; but the proud
Pharisees, to whom our Lord directed these parables,
would fain have been esteemed by the world as such persons; and these are particularly referred to in this representation, which was intended to display the
amazing and infinite extent of divine forgiveness. A
second parable which our great Redeemer published with the same view, was that of the lost piece of silver: “Either,’ said the divine instructor, ‘what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and search diligently till she find it and when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and neighbours together, saying, rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I have lost: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.’
This parable is founded on the same principles, and published with the same design as the former, only the case and circumstances are varied; and our great Redeemer condescends in various forms and methods