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drew nigh to our Saviour ; but upon what Errand? Why, that we are here told was to hear him. They had heard much of him, and of the great things that he spake and did, and now they had a great Mind and Desire to hear him themselves; either out of Curiosity, as some think; it being usual to flock after new and much cry'd up Teachers; or out of Design, as others imagine, to ensnare and entrap him, to seek to get some Advantage upon him, and to find what occafion they could against him; as some hear, not to learn, but to carp. Others again, and I think with greater probability, conceive that they drew nigh to hear him with better Ends, namely, to learn their Duty from him, and how to direct and amend their Lives. They had seen what Change had been made in Matthew their Fellow-Publican, how he had left his Publican's Stall to follow Christ, and become one of his Disciples : They had heard likewise of Zacchews another Publican, how he had restor'd fourfold, and for that reason Christ came to his House, and brought Salvation with him. The Noise of these and many other Matters brought them to Jefus to know the Truth, and to reap the Fruit of his Doctrine. To this end St. Matthew, whom our Saviour had lately callid from the Receipt of Custom to be one of his Followers, made a Feast for him; to which he also invited many of the Publicans and Sinners, that by hearing his Discourse, they might receive the fame Benefit, and become his Disciples. Accordingly our Savioar came and fat down to Meat in his House, and many Publicans and Sinners came and sat down with him and his Disciples ; which when the Pharisees faw, they began to take exception, asking the Disciples, Why eateth your Malter' with Publicans and Sinners? This Account St. Matthew gives of this Matter, Mat. 9. 10, 11,
St. Luke here to the same effect tells us, that upon the Publicans and Sinners drawing near unto Christ to hear his Discourfe, the Pharisees and Scribes murmur'd, saying, This Man receiveth Sinners, and eateth with them. The thing they here murmur'd at, was our Saviour's Freedom of Conversation with such bad Men. The Publicans being the Tribute-gatherers for the Roman Emperors, were generally Heathens and great Oppressors, with whom it was forbidden by the Jewish Law to eat or converse. The Pharisees therefore and Scribes, who were supercilious Despisers of other Men, took great Offence at our Saviour's eating and conversing with them; telling his Disciples, that it was no way be.
coming so holy a Person, as their Master pretended to be, to converfe so freely and familiarly with the worst of Men ; if he were the true Messias, as they thought, he would decline such evil Company, and keep at a greater distance from Sinners. They expected other things from the Mefsias, viz. that he should maintain the Dignity of his Perfon and Office by a stately Retirement, sequestring himself from common View, that the World might repair to him as a Divine Oracle, and never approach him without the greatest Reverence and Adoration. So that when they saw him fo freely walk abroad, and to be so familiar with those who were none of the best, instead of receiving him as a Saviour, they rejected him as an Impostor; ftiling him a Glutton, a Winebibber, a Friend of Publicans and Sinners, a Companion and Favourer of loose and vile Perfons,
Now to remove this Offence, our Saviour lets them know, that the end of his conversing with these Men, was not to encourage or harden them in their evil ways, but to reclaim them from them, and at once to convince and convert them from the Error of their ways : He was so far from approving the Exactions of the Publicáns, that he exacted Repentance and Reformation from them, and convers’d with Sinners, not to countenance, but to reprehend and reform their Vice and Wickedness. By which means some of the Publicans, from being Exacters of Tribute, became the Teachers of Righteousness, and many of the Sinners were turn’d from Darkness to Light, and from the Power of Satan unto God : which was so far from being in consistent with the Holiness of the Melliah, that 'twas indeed the main end of his Coming. He told them in St. Matthew's Gospel, that the Whole have no need of the Phyfician, but they that are fick; and that he vouchsafed his Com. pany, not where it might be most desir'd, but where it was most needed, for he came not to call the Righteous, but Sinners to Repentance : meaning, that his main Business was with those humble and modest Offenders, that were sensible of their Faults, and willing to amend them; these being more likely to be reduc'd to a better Course of Life, than such as are conceited of their own Holiness, and scorn others, as unworthy of their Society and Conversation, Moreover, he bids them go and learn the neaning of that Saying of God Almighty, I will have Mercy, and not Saçrifice : wherein he prefers the Acts of Mercy and Charity to Mens Souls, before all the ritual Observances of the
Law, Law, and much more before all the nice Formalities of Conversation. For this end it was, that he fo freely ate and drank with Publicans and Sinners, and tho he went up and down to and with all forts of Men, yet it was still do ing good, and healing all kinds of Maladies both of Body and Soul : fo that the Pharisees might as well blame the Phyficians of the Body for visiting Hospitals and fick Patients, as the Physician of the Soul for applying himself to such as labour'd under more spiritual and dangerous Distempers.
Again, he tells them, that he came to seek and to save all that were loft, that he was sent first to the loft Sheep of the House of Israel, to bring them home to the great Shepherd and Bishop of their Souls, and after that to reduce all that were gone astray both of Jews and Gentiles, to gather them all into one Flock, and to bring them into one Fold: which things could not be done, without making himself known to and conversing with them; for that alone could give him the Opportunity of teaching and instructing Mankind, of instilling his Doctrine into them, and preaching to then the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. This our Saviour here in St. Luke explains and exemplifies to us in two or three Parables, viz. thofe of the loft Sheep, the Loft Groat, and the loft Son; in all which he insinuates his tender Love and Care of loft Man, and Willingness to fave and reduce the greatest Sinners. The first of these
Parables is in the third and following Verses of this Gospel : And he spake this Parable unto them, Saying, 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 loft, until he find it. Where Sinners are fitly resembled to loft Sheep ; (1.) Because no Creature is fo apt to wander as the Sheep, which is so heedless as not to keep right, unless it be still under the Shepherd's Eye; and this shews how easily we are mif led, how often we fall by Temptation, and seldom continué long in the right way. Again, (2.) No Creature is more helpless and liable to danger than à ftraying Sheep, it hath many Enemies, and no Guard against them; the Dog, the Wolf, the Fox are all ready to devour and make ittheir Prey. This represents the forlorn Condition of loft Man, who when out of the care of the good Shepherd, is intangled with the World, ensnar'd by Satan, oppress'd by wicked Mon, and is utterly unable to escape or defend
himself against his Ghostly Enemies. Once more, a wandring Sheep of all Creatures is the most unlikely of it felf ever to return; for being once bewilderd, it will stray for ever, unless the Shepherd find and restore it : So is it with loft Man, who being out of the way would return no more, except he be reduc'd by the Shepherd, which is by hearing his voice and following him.
Now who is there (faith the Parable) who having loft a Sheep, doth not bestir himself and go after it, till he find it?' How much more then are erring and straying Sinners to be fought after, who would wander for ever in the Ways of Destruction, if not restor'd and directed into the Paths of Life? But to go on with the Parable, when the Owner of the lost Sheep had found it, 'tis faid in the next words, He layeth it on his Shoulders rejoicing ; he feeleth not the Burden, which is much the lighter by removing the Heaviness and Trouble he had in the Loss of it: and when he cometh home, be calleth together his Friends and Neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found the Sheep that was loft. He makes merry with them, and doubles his Joys from the Fears he had of losing it, and the Pains he took in finding it. Likewise, I say unto you (faith our Saviour) Foy mall be in Heaven over one Sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just Persons, which need no Repentance : meaning, that God who is represented here by the owner of the loft Sheep, and the holy Angels and glorify'd Spirits above, which are meant by his Friends and Neighbours, conceive no small Joy at the Return of a penitent Sinner. As for the Angels, they being the Guardians of God's Children, and ministring Spirits to the Heirs of Salvation, may be well enough suppos'd to be affected with the Welfare and Happiness of each. For we find this heavenly Host singing at our Saviour's coming into the World for the Redemption of Mankind; and ever since desire to contemplate and admire this great Mystery. And every Occasion of this kind may minister to their Gladness, and give a new Acceflion to their Joy.
But when God is said to rejoice at the Repentance of a Sinner, it must be understood as spoken after the manner of Men : for God is void of all Passions and Perturbations, and above the Transports of Joy and Sorrow. So that when God is said to be angry, to be griev'd, or to be provok'd by Sinners, 'tis meant only of the Effects
of those Passions that he will deal with them, as if he were affected with them as we are in such Cases, though the Passions themselves are not compatible to the Divine Nature : In like manner, when God' is said to rejoice at the Repentance of a Sinner, 'tis meant only of its being very agreeable and acceptable to hini.
But why is the Joy greater for the finding of one loft Sheep, or the Return of one penitent Sinner, than of all the ninety and nine, that never went astray and needed no Repentance? Why, this is here parabolically express'd, to fignify, not that there is more Joy in Heaven for one that was once bad, than for many that had been always good ; but 'tis fpoken only to enhance the Joy upon the present (ccasion : for as the rescuing of one Child from the Pit of Destruction, affects nrore for the present than the Safety of all the rest, and as the finding of one thing, fuppos'd to be loft, rejoices more than the Poffeffion of all the other ; so the Return of one loft Person, occafions more present Satisfaction, than many others, though the same should happen to them in the like Circumstance.
This is the first Parable by which our Saviour fought to convince the Pharisees of the Reafonableness of his conversing with the Publicans and Sinners, in order to their Repentance and Salvation : for if there be Joy in Heaven at the Conversion of a Sinner, there should be no Murmuring on Earth, at the Means us'd to reclaim theni.
The fecond Parable to the like purpose is in the 8th, and following Verses: IVhat Woman having ten Pieces of Silver, if me lose one Piece, doth not light a Candle, and sweep the House, and seek diligently till Me find it? Where the loft Sinner is compar’d to a lost Piece of Silver, which being a thing of Value, ftamp'd and made current by the Regal Authority, was fearch'd after with great Diligence; the Candle was lighted to look into every Corner, the House was swept that it might not lie hid or buried in the Dust, and all Means were us’d by a narrow and diligent Search, till The found it. In like manner, the Souls of Men being esteem'd precious, and stanıp'd with the Image of God, are to be carefully look'd after, and not fúffer'd to be lost or calt away by Negligence or inadvertency ; but being of more Value than the whole World, ought to be preserva by the utmost Care and Vigilance, and no Means to be neg. lected for their Happiness and Salvation.