Sermon 2889. Christ Receiving Sinners
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 1904.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON A LORD'S-DAY EVENING, DURING THE WINTER OF 1861-2.
"And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, behold, manypublicans and sinners came and sat down with Himand His disciples." Matthew 9:10.
How strangely different was our Lord Jesus Christ from the philosophers of Greece! They were reserved in their demeanor-eclectic,or studiously choice in their tastes and jealous of contact with their fellow creatures. Retiring from the busy haunts ofmen to encircle themselves with an atmosphere created by their own breath, they wanted none in their society but those whowere fit companions for men so exalted in wisdom. Their disciples looked up to them with profound and insincere reverence-andthey, themselves, in their various halls and classrooms, talked as men might who were teaching little children. And theirpupils were completely subject to their dictation, but they always kept "the common people" at a distance, for they concernednot themselves to instruct the many, but only to teach the few who were ambitious to become wise like themselves!
Our blessed Lord and Master was no philosopher of this sort, shut up with His few disciples by themselves. He had His chosentwelve, but He and they mingled freely with the populace. He was a man among men and not a philosopher among those shut outfrom men. True, He taught greater wisdom than all the sages knew-and better philosophy than all the wise men of Greece understood-butHe was still familiar with the people, tender-hearted, mild and of a gentle spirit. We have an instance of this here, wherewe read of Jesus doing what Solon or Socrates would never have done, for He sat down to take a meal with the common peoplearound Him, eating with publicans and sinners!
How different, moreover, we may add, was Christ from the great Prophets of the olden time! With the utmost stretch of imagination,you cannot conceive of Moses sitting down to eat with sinners. He was a king in Jeshurun-an awful majesty surrounded the Prophetof Horeb who was mighty in word and deed. Wherever he went, he appeared as the man whom his high office had exalted abovehis fellows. His whole character, like his face on that memorable occasion when he had been in the mountain with God, shoneso brilliantly that ordinary men could scarcely gaze upon him unless he covered his face with a veil. More than once he washidden in complete seclusion with God. True, he was accessible enough in the due exercise of his office to all who had complaintsor charges to be decided at the bar where he presided as judge-but who would presume to think of being a companion to themighty Moses? Even his brother, Aaron, and his sister, Miriam, seem to have had a great gulf fixed between them and theirtruly regal brother-they could not approach him without becoming deference, nor could he comes down to be on a social levelwith them.
Think also of Elijah, the very pattern and model of a Prophet of the Most High God. How high he towered above the men of hisage! The fire which Elijah called from Heaven upon the Carmel sacrifice and upon the captains of fifties and their fifties,seemed to be a fitting type of his own character. One can admire him as a Prophet and follow him as a leader, but who couldthink of having him as a companion and friend? Stern, unflinching, faithful, he has little or no pity for the sinner. Theonly thing that an erring man could say to Elijah would be what Ahab said to him, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" His sternnessin rebuking sin, his bold, thundering denunciation of idolatry made men tremble before him-and we can hardly imagine thatpublicans and sinners would have been anxious to sit down to eat with him.
But, my Brothers and Sisters, the Christ whose Gospel we preach is no unapproachable philosopher! The Glory of His Personreflects even a brighter luster than the dignity of His office. He appeared among men not as one who had been lifted up fromthe ranks to obtain a position for Himself, but as one who bowed Himself down from the Heaven of heavens that He might bringblessings to the sons of men-yet the ignorant and the illiterate may find in Him their best Friend. He is no stern Law-Giver,like Moses, who, wrapping around himself the robe of his own integrity, looks upon the transgressor simply with the eye ofjustice! Neither is He merely the pitiless denouncer of iniquity and crime, or the bold enunciator of penalty and punishment.Christ is the gentle Lover of our souls! He is the Good Shepherd coming forth, not so much to slay the wolf as to save thesheep! As a nurse tenderly watches over the child committed to her charge, so does Jesus watch over the souls of men and,like as a father pities his children, so does He pity sinful men. He does not stand upon a lofty height and bid sinners ascendto Him, but, coming down from the mountain and mingling in social communion with them, He draws them to Himself by the magneticforce of His Almighty Love. "Jesus, the sinners' Friend"-that is His true title, for that is what He really is! O Jesus, maywe personally know You as our Friend just now! We are sinners, be You our Friend.
Before I come directly to the subject, I want to paint three pictures in order to show you, by the force of contrast, theway in which Christ, the Physician of Souls, really cures and heals. There have been various schemes for cleansing societyfrom the pollution that comes through sin. Even men who were sinners have been conscious that iniquity so saps and underminesthe foundations of society that it must, if possible, be uprooted and destroyed. Behold the many schemes which men have devisedfor this purpose! Listen to the voices which have charmed men's ears and awed their hearts, but have not been able to changefor the better their condition!
First came Severity, and he said, "There is a plague broken out among the people! Clear out the tainted ones. There are thefatal spots upon their brows, the venom of the dread disease has worked its way to their skin-there is no doubt about theirbeing infected-therefore, slay them-let them be destroyed! Take them away, executioner, it is better that they should be putto death than that the whole nation should perish. Cut off the few sickly sheep lest the whole flock should be affected."But the Savior came and He said, "No, no, not so. Why will you destroy them? If you do so, the disease will be spread allthe more, for their blood shall be spattered on the men who slay them and shall infect their executioners. And they, in theirturn, will come back and infect the man who condemned the plague-stricken to be slain! And here, in the very Hall of Judgment,the signs of the dread disease shall be seen even upon the judge's brow! Why deal you thus hardly with your brethren? Youare all diseased-there is a plague upon every one of you! If you thus begin to uproot some of the tares, you may not onlyuproot the wheat, but you may uproot the whole field which, after all, might bring forth something which would be better thanabsolute sterility. No, spare them, spare them! Let them not die! Give them into My hands."
His request was, of course, granted, and He went to those whom He had rescued and He said, "Your forfeited lives are spared.It is well known that according to the laws of your fellow men, you deserve to die, but I have undertaken that and, withoutthe violation of law-and so you shall escape" Then He touched them, healed their running sore, and said to all who stood near,"Now these men shall spread life through your ranks, for I have restored them from their sickness. And now, instead of beingto you wellsprings of everything that is abominable and filthy, they shall become fountains of everything that is lovely,pure and of good repute." Glory be unto You, O Jesus! Glory be unto You, for You have done far more than Severity could everhave accomplished!
Next came one called Stern Moralityand he said, "Let us not kill them. Let not the laws be like those of Draco, written inblood, but let us build a leper house with high walls and let us thrust them in there and shut them out from all contact withtheir kind. In this way they shall live, but shall do no injury to their fellows. And the self-righteous Pharisee said, "Letmy house be far away from the infected spot lest the wind should blow from them to me. Let them be shut away from their fellows,as persons under a curse-let not others speak to them, or go near them." The Pharisees were practicing that method in Christ'sday. They had tabooed the publicans and sinners, saying to them, "We will not touch you with so much as one of our fingers."They drew their garments around them and gave the moral lepers plenty of room in the streets and if, by any chance, they didcome into contact with them, or were obliged to have any dealings with them in the marketplace, they were careful to washbefore they ate lest they should be defiled. So society decided that a leper house should be built and that the infected sinnersshould be put in there to rot and die by themselves.
But Jesus said, "Not so, not so. If you mean to shut up all the infected, every one of you must also be shut up, for you areall suffering from the same disease in a greater or less degree! Why shut up these few when all are affected? You do not well-ifyou build the walls of the leper house as high as Heaven, the festering disease within will still find an outlet and taintyour sons and your daughters, notwithstanding all that you do-and that place will be the hotbed of everything that is fouland noxious-and will tend to your own destruction despite all your efforts to be removed from it." You know how, even to thisday, a certain class of sinner is considered by some good, reputable people as being unworthy even to be spoken of, or noticed-andsome are foolish enough to try to forget that they are actually in existence! But our Divine Master went to the gate of theleper house and knocked. And when it was opened, He said to those within, "You may come forth." Society outside objected,so He said, "Well then, if they may not come out, I will go in with them." And to those inside, He said, "Shut the door andkeep out the over-righteous. I am come to eat bread and to dwell with you, the infected and sinful ones." He put out bothHis hands and touched them and healed their diseases- and the blood again leaped in their veins and their flesh came againto them like the flesh of a little child!
Then He opened the gate, again, and, strange to say, society outside was infected this time! And He said to them who had oncebeen lepers in the leper house, "Go you forth and heal them." And they went forth to carry healing to those who formerly thoughtthemselves to be well! And thus He made the very curse itself to be a channel through which to spread the blessing! Blessedare You, O Jesus! You have done for sinners what the sternest laws and the strictest customs of society could never have done!
But there have been others of a gentler spirit-Philanthropists-who have been sensible of the claims of humanity upon them.They have said, "Let us look at the case of these rebellious sinners in the most favorable light possible. Let us considerthem as hopeful. Let us use remedies that will be the means of healing them, but let us keep them in quarantine for many aday before we let them out. Let us fumigate them and put their clothes out until every trace of infection has gone from them.And if, after a long probation, they are proved to be really healed and cleansed, then let them go forth to freedom." ButJesus said, No, not so. Why would you keep them thus shut up by themselves? If one of them should become better, contact withhis fellows would make him sick again. Will you deny them your help and your sympathy and shut them away by themselves? Yourquarantine arrangements will breed further disease and all your fumigations will be in vain, for, while you are seeking tocure, you will be generating the very disease you seek to destroy! The only effective remedy is for Me to go in with themwhere they are."
So He presented Himself before them. They were covered with running sores and they themselves were most obnoxious-yet He touchedthem-no, more, He embraced them! They were filthy, but He took them in His own hands and washed them. They were ragged, butHe, Himself, took off their rags, clothed them in the spotless robe of His own righteousness and gave them the kiss of Hislove upon their sin-stained cheeks. "Oh," they said, "this is healing, indeed! We were never healed before. People told usto get well and said that, then, they would do something for us. They told us to cleanse ourselves and said that, then, theywould receive us. But You, O blessed Savior, did take us just as we were-all black, defiled and loathsome-and You have madeus clean!" Glory be unto You, O Jesus, for You have done ten thousand times more for poor lost souls than Philanthropy evereven suggested! Your wisdom has availed where our prudence has defeated its own ends! Our sympathy has been marred by ourvanity! Our counsels have been rendered valueless by our conceit! We have repelled the confidence of sinners while You havewon their hearts, for You have sat down to eat with them and Your disciples have shared the feast.
I have thus tried to paint three pictures. I do not know whether I have held the brush steadily enough, or have had sufficientlygood colors to paint them true to life. I only want to show you that while we are condemning the outcasts, Jesus Christ comesforth and saves them! While we are trying to keep sinners away from us, He goes to them and heals them! And while we are hopingthe best concerning them and thinking of the means by which they can be gradually renovated, He goes to them and restoresthem! Christ takes into His arms some whom we would not touch with a pair of tongs! He receives into His very heart some whosenames we would hardly venture to mention! He lifts up the beggar from the dunghill! He raises the despairing from the Sloughof Despond! He takes the vilest of the vile, transforms them, by His Grace, and makes them meet to be partakers of the inheritanceof the saints in light!
I. After so long an introduction, I must compress the rest of my discourse as much as I can. And, first, I am going to ILLUSTRATETHE WAY IN WHICH CHRIST RECEIVES SINNERS.
There was a man, a tax-gatherer-who had an evil reputation everywhere-no one was more obnoxious than he was to the proud,moral, orthodox Pharisees. One day he heard that Jesus of Nazareth, the great Prophet and Miracle-Worker, was about to passthrough his native place-the accursed city of Jericho. And having a great curiosity and nothing but a curiosity to see thismighty Savior-thinking, doubtless, no better of Him than that He was a strange enthusiast-he climbed up a tree in the hopethat, concealed amid its leaves, he might look down, unobserved, upon the famous Stranger. If a Pharisee had been walkingthat way, he would have avoided even the shadow of that tree, lest sin should be hidden by its shade and he should therebybe defiled. But Christ, whose instincts of mercy always make Him sharp-sighted where there is an objective for His compassion,came right underneath that tree and, looking up, cried aloud, "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abideat your house." No wonder that the Pharisees and the people in general murmured because Christ went to be a guest with a manwho was "a sinner" in a very special sense! They were surprised that a man in such ill repute should have the honor of entertainingthe Lord Jesus Christ.
But our Lord entered the house of Zacchaeus and His Truth entered the heart of Zacchaeus. And there, on the spot, that "sinner"became a saint-practically proving the reality of his conversion by saying to Jesus, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods Igive to the poor. And if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." And Jesus said tohim, "This day is salvation come to this house." O my Savior, You have done right well! Suppose the Lord had passed by Zacchaeuswithout taking any notice of him? He would have remained as great a sinner as ever! Suppose He had upbraided him? Possibly,then, the tax-gatherer would have replied in language not at all complimentary! But that kind word, that sweet look of pity,that gracious token of forgiveness broke the hard heart of the rich oppressor and he gladly entertained his Savior and becameHis disciple.
This is the way in which Jesus Christ deals with sinners. Have we a sinner in this house-the house where Christ has, for manya day, worked miracles of mercy? Sinner, He will not despise you and we are rejoiced to see you in the place where Christis preached! His eyes are on you now-where you are, I cannot tell, but He can-and it may be that this very hour He will sayto you, "Sinner, make haste and come down, for tonight I must abide at your house." Who can tell? It may be with you as ithas been with many a score in this house-you may go home to forsake the drunkard's cup, to leave the Sabbath-breaker's haunts,to forsake the abodes of blasphemy and to say, once and for all, "Christ has called me! I am His and He I desire to serve."This is how Jesus deals with sinners, even with sinners who are only moved by curiosity to see Him as Zacchaeus was.
On another occasion Christ was by the seaside and he passed a certain toll-house where a tax-gatherer was "sitting at thereceipt of custom." His name was Levi-at least that was his name when he was at home-but now that he had become one of thehated publicans, he had taken the name of Matthew, just as many a young man, when he runs away from home and enlists in thearmy or navy, takes a name which does not belong to him. Little did he think that when Jesus was passing by, He would takeany notice of him! But He did, for He said to him, "Follow Me." That was all He said, but there was a volume of meaning inthose two words! And the glance of His eyes and the majesty with which He pronounced His Divine command produced instant andmost willing obedience, for "he arose and followed Him." And Matthew the publican became Matthew the Apostle and Matthew theEvangelist!
Now, if Christ needed an Apostle, why did He not select one of the Pharisees? If He needed an Evangelist, why did He not chooseone of the scribes? The reason is that a publican and a sinner was more adapted to His purpose. Perhaps the Lord is, at thismoment, looking for a valiant preacher of the Truth of God-and it may be that you, my Friend, away there among the crowd,are the man whom He has chosen for this high and noble enterprise. Christ found John Bunyan playing "tip-cat" on Elstow Greenand He found Richard Weaver down in the mines, blaspheming the name of God! Who knows whether He may not find you for thishigh purpose, to bless you and to make you a blessing? There may be some here who will make Hell's old pillars shake, thoughthey are, today, the sworn friends of sin and Satan! But He who has permitted them to go so far into sin may issue His Divinemandate concerning each one of them-
"Almighty Grace, arrest that man"- and he shall be renewed in heart, changed in life and made to be "a new creature in ChristJesus."
Certain it is that many of the most useful and honored servants of the Lord Jesus Christ have been taken from that very classwith whom Jesus and His disciples ate bread. There was a certain person needed, on one occasion, to be-if I may use the term-lady-in-waitingto the King of kings. Queens might have been well content to part with their crowns
in exchange for such an honor as that, yet "a woman in the city, who was a sinner," was chosen to render this lowly serviceto the Lord Jesus Christ! And she "stood at His feet behind Him, weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipethem with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment." Simon, the Pharisee, found faultwith Christ for allowing her to do this, but Jesus said it was her great love which had moved her to do what the Phariseehad neglected to do for his Guest. And to the woman, Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go inpeace." Am I addressing any woman who might truly take the term, "sinner," to herself? My Sister, this is how Christ receivedthis woman who was a sinner. He accepted the homage of her love-love such as only she could render, love that could only comefrom a woman who had borne such a character as she had borne and who, therefore, was filled with such intense gratitude toher Lord and Savior. This is how Christ receives sinners-oh, that He might thus receive you just now!
Here is another case in which Christ received a sinner. I have reminded you how He visited the house of a sinner, how He chosea sinner to be one of His Apostles and how He was anointed by a woman who was a sinner. Now He was about to die and someonewas needed to go with Him from earth to Heaven. When He returned Home, it was not meet that He should go back alone. The greatConqueror must not re-enter Heaven without some token of His victories here below. O mighty Hero, You may not pass the gatesof Your paternal metropolis without taking some captive with You! Who shall accompany the Savior into His Glory? Shall itbe some martyr, who, in fiery chariot, shall mount to Heaven with his Redeemer? Shall it be some devout disciple and deacon,like Stephen, who, amid a shower of stones, shall see Heaven opened unto him and enter it side by side with his Lord? No.But there is a thief dying on a cross hard by the suffering Son of God, for Jesus was numbered with the transgressors anddied in the company of sinners even as He had lived among them. The thief prayed, "Lord, remember me when You come into YourKingdom." And Jesus answered, "Today shall you be with Me in Paradise" and, probably the first soul to enter Heaven afterthe return of the King was the soul of this poor penitent thief!
I will only mention one more case of Christ receiving a sinner. After He had gone back to Heaven, He needed a man who shouldbe His Apostle to the Gentiles. Peter, the Jew, was far too bigoted even when his nature was overruled by Divine Grace-therewas still so much of the Jewish exclusiveness in him that he was not fit to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. The Master, therefore,resolved that, for once, He would call out of Heaven with an audible voice and that, as a pattern for all who should afterwardsbelieve on Him, He would have some one special soul. Who should that one be? You might send an officer through Greece andRome and he might find scores whom he would recommend for the post, but the least likely individual in the whole world wasselected by Christ, Himself! There he is, "breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," for hehates Christ and His followers as well. When Stephen was stoned, he gloated over the dying martyr. He is constantly castingthe Christians, both men and women, into prison. And he is now on his way to Damascus, being exceedingly angry against thesaints, that he may persecute all whom he can find there who are followers of Christ!
The sequel of the story is given in Paul's own words to Agrippa, "At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from Heaven,above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to theearth, I heard a voice speaking unto me and saying, in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" The furthersequel is given in Paul's words to the church at Ephesus, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this Gracegiven, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
This is my Master's way of dealing with sinners, even with him who called himself the chief sinner! Proud professors, is thisthe way you deal with them? Professing Christians whose hearts have grown callous, is this the way you act towards poor sinfulsouls? And O poor lost soul, is this the way that you thought Christ would deal with you? He will do with you as He did withthem! He is as ready to save, today, as He was in the days gone by! He has as great a love for sinners now as He had whenHe went through the towns and villages of Galilee, teaching and healing the people, or when He poured out His soul unto deaththat He might redeem the lost by purchasing them with His blood!
II. I now turn to my second point and ask-HOW IS IT THAT CHRIST IS SO WILLING TO COME DOWN TO
POOR SINNERS AND SAVE THEM?
Do not imagine that it is because He is insensible to their guilt. Sinner, Jesus Christ knows far better than you do whatan evil and bitter thing sin is. It is as hateful and loathsome to Him as anything can possibly be. It is not, therefore,
because He is insensible to their guilt that He seeks the society of lost souls. Why, then, does He desire to be in theircompany?
It is because He has such deep affection for sinners. There is a little child crying upstairs. Some people in the house wishthat noise could be stopped, for they say they cannot endure it, but the mother says, "It is my child who is weeping up there,"and she hurries up to comfort and soothe her baby. So, when we hear the sinner blaspheme, we are angry with him, but Christweeps over him and comes forth to save him. "He is My child," He says-
"Joint heir with Me, He yet shall be In Glory everlasting."
There is all the difference between what a wife will do for her sick husband and what a stranger might do for him. Imaginethe husband suffering from some loathsome disease. The nurse says, "No, for no money in the world will I stay any longer.Besides, the disease is infectious and I might take it to my dear ones at home." But if it were as infectious as the plague,itself, and as noxious as the great pit into which the unconfined dead were cast, that wife would still remain with her lovedone-if necessary, to sicken, suffer and die-for she says, "He is my husband." And here is a sinner so full of filth that eventhe most sympathetic stand aside and will not come near him-but the Lord Jesus sees, in that abject sinner, a fit objectivefor His pity and Saving Grace. "He is one with Me," He says, "by eternal covenant and union, and I will stay with him tillI have healed him. I will watch by him till I have saved him from all his filthiness and all his sin."
Besides, poor Sinner, there is another reason why the Lord Jesus Christ is so deeply interested in you. He sees in you thepurchase of His precious blood. "I bought him," He says, "with My heart's blood. Do you think that I will lose him after that?""But, Lord, he blasphemes You!" "Yes, but I have bought Him with My blood." "But, Lord, he has made a covenant with deathand an agreement with Hell." "Yes," says Christ, "I know he has, but I will disannul that covenant and cancel that agreement,for I have bought him and I will have him as My own." Jesus never forgets the price He paid for the redemption of even onesoul! I think I hear Him say, my Brothers and Sisters, "By My agony and bloody sweat, by My Cross and passion, by My deathand burial, I will have him as My own, for I cannot have suffered all these things in vain."
Moreover, Christ views the sinner, not as he is in himself, but as he is in the purpose ofRedemption. "His whole head is sick,"says Christ, "but I can cure him. His whole heart is faint, but I can restore him and I will do it. His feet have gone astray,his mouth is an open sepulcher, his eyes are windows of lust, his hands are stained with blood, but I will amend all thatand make him a new creature fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light." Jesus looks, you see, not somuch to what the sinner is in himself, as to what He can make him. He sees in every sinner the possibility of making a glorifiedsaint who shall dwell with Him forever and ever. If He chose you, poor Sinner, before all worlds were made, and bought youwith His blood, He sees you not as you now are, but as you shall be when He has perfected you! Oh, what a wonder it will bewhen that poor drunk over there shall sing in Heaven as one of the spirits of just men made perfect! And when yonder harlotshall have a golden harp in her hand and sound forth the praises of Him who has saved her and washed her from her sins inHis own blood! He who has said it, will do it! He who is "mighty to save," will redeem by power those whom He has securedby purchase! And, penitent Sinner, Jesus already hears you hymning His praise and He sees you as you will be-without spot,or wrinkle, or any such thing-washed in His blood, renewed by His Spirit, brought safely Home and glorified with Him forever!No wonder, then, that Christ is willing to come to poor sinners and to dwell with them! He can see what you and I cannot see-whatthey shall be when He has fulfilled His purposes of mercy and Grace concerning them!
Sinner, you are so ashamed of your sin that you dare not approach a minister, but you can approach Christ. There is no pridein Him and no cautious reserve such as we might rightly exercise in dealing with you. Though you cannot tell even your ownfather all about yourself, you can tell Jesus. You cannot tell all the story of your sin and your repentance to the wife ofyour bosom, but you can tell Jesus. There is no music that He loves so much as the voice of a sinner confessing his sin! Thereare no pearls that He prizes so highly as those pearly tears which repentance forms in the eyes of the soul that tremblesat His Word! Do not imagine that He is hard to please, for He loves sinners! Do not fancy that it is difficult to obtain accessto Him. Like the father in the parable, He can see a sinner when he is a great way off and He will run to meet you and giveyou a hearty reception and a loving welcome. You will be happy in being saved, but He will be
more happy in saving you! You will rejoice in being pardoned, but He will rejoice more in pardoning you! I cannot put thisblessed Truth of God about Christ's compassion for sinners in such words as I would do if I could.
If you do not admit that you are a sinner, I have no Gospel to preach to you. But if you stand self-condemned, I have a messageof mercy to deliver to you. To the self-convicted, to the law-condemned, the prisoners that plead guilty, those who are readyto confess that they are undeserving, ill-deserving, Hell-deserving sinners, I have to say that Christ is an approachableSavior! No, more than that, He is waiting to be gracious! He stands with arms outstretched, longing to clasp poor sinnersto His heart. Why do you wait?
III. Now I close my discourse by endeavoring to teach you THE PRACTICAL LESSON WHICH OUGHT TO
FOLLOW from the fact that Christ receives sinners and eats with them.
Let me just utter a word of warning here. When we speak of Christ receiving sinners, everybody says, "Well, I am a sinner."It is a curious proof that people do not know what a sinner is, or they would not be so ready to admit that they are in thatclass. If I were to say to almost any man I met, "You are a criminal," in almost every case he would reply, "No, Sir, I amnot." But what is the difference between being a criminal and being a sinner except that the sinner is the worse of the two?A criminal is a person who offends against the laws of men. "A sinner" is a theological term, signifying one who offends againstthe Laws of God! People say, "To be criminals-oh, that is horrible! But to be sinners-well, we are all sinners." And theydo not appear to think anything of that terrible brush. Ah, but, unless the Grace of God shall change you, the day will comewhen you will think it would have been better to have been a frog, a toad, a viper, or any other creature rather than to havebeen a sinner, for, next to the word, "devil," there is no word which has so much that is dreadful in it as that word, "sinner.""A sinner" means one who cares nothing for God-one who breaks God's Laws, despises God's mercy and who will, if he continuesas he is, have to endure God's wrath as a punishment for his sin!
Yet these are the persons whom Jesus Christ is willing to receive! You cannot, therefore, any of you, say, if you perish,that you perish because He would not receive you. "Oh, but," you say, "He would never receive such a sinner as I am." Howdo you know that? Have you ever tried Him? There is not, even in Hell itself, a sinner who will ever dare to say that he cameto Jesus, yet Jesus refused to receive him. There is not a lost soul in the Pit who can look up to God and truthfully sayto Him, "Great God, I asked for mercy through the precious blood of Jesus, but You said, 'I will not grant it to you.'" No,that can never be! Neither on earth, nor in Hell, shall there ever be one soul that trusted in Christ and then perished!
You say that Christ will not save you, so I ask again-Did you ever try Him? Did you ever give Him a fair trial? Did you ever,on your knees, conscious of your lost condition, say to Him, "Jesus, save me, or I die"? You are spiritually blind-did youever say to Him, "Son of David, have mercy on me"? Did you cry to Him, again and again, and did He turn His back on you andleave you in darkness? Leper, you are loathsome in His sight by reason of your sin, but did you ever say to Him, "Lord, ifYou will, You can make me clean"? No, you know you never did, though you have often resolved that you would!. Under an earnestsermon you have said, "I will seek the Lord"-but when you got outside the House of Prayer, some idle companion met you andyou soon forgot all about your good resolution.
But let me say to you now-Despite all the years in which you have heard the Gospel in vain, if the Holy Spirit shall moveyou even now to confess your sin to Jesus and to say to Him, "Son of David, have mercy on me. I put my soul's affairs intoYour hands from this moment"-Sinner, He will save you! Or, if He will not, then I will perish with you and the whole Churchof God will also perish with you, for this is all our hope-that Jesus died to save the lost! And if one soul, believinglygazing upon His wounds, can perish, then all must perish and the Pit must engulf the whole blood-bought family of God. Butthat can never be!
There is an old tradition which I will repeat as a rebuke to the self-righteous, and a comfort to the sinner. Dean Trench,quoting from a Persian moralist, tells one of his old fables about Jesus. Of course it is only a fable, but it contains thevery spirit of the Truth of God about which I have been preaching. When Christ, according to this fable, was travelling througha certain region, He stayed at the cave of a hermit. It so happened that there was living in the neighboring town a youngman whose vices were so great that, according to common report, the devil, himself, did not dare to associate with him lesthe should become worse than he was before. This young man, hearing that the Savior, who could pardon sin, was in the hermit'scave, went to Him. Falling down on his knees, he made confession of his guilt and acknowl-
edged that he was utterly unworthy of mercy. But he entreated Christ, in the love of His gracious heart, to forgive him forthe past and make him a new man for the future.
The monk who lived in the cave said to the young man, "Get out! You are not worthy to be in such a holy spot as this!" And,turning to the Savior, he said, "Lord, in the other world appoint me a place as far away as possible from this wretch." TheSavior answered, "Your prayer is heard-you are self-righteous so I appoint you your place in Hell-this man is penitent andseeks mercy at My hands-I appoint him his place in Heaven. Thus both of you shall have your heart's desire." There is thevery essence of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith in that old fable. You who trust in your own good works go and perish!Come, you who confess your evil deeds-hate them, flee from them, trust in Jesus and you are saved! But they who go about toestablish their own righteousness shall perish everlastingly!
Oh, that my Master would draw some of you to Him at this moment! What do you say? Will you go with this Man who receives sinners?He bids you come to Him-will you come? You cannot plead that you are too vile, for He takes the very off-scouring of men-thedevil's outcasts-He will not cast them out if they will but come to Him! However despairing of yourself you may be, you mustnot say of Him, "He will reject me." Trust Him to receive you and trust Him now!
O Spirit of the living God, prove the Divinity of Christ's Gospel this very hour by turning lions into lambs and ravens intodoves-and let the chief of sinners prove Your power to save! Amen.