“This man receiveth sinners." (Luke 15:2)
The ironical taunt of proud and censorious Pharisees formed the glory of Him who came, “not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mt. 9:13). Publicans and outcasts, those covered with a deeper than any bodily leprosy — laid bare their wounds to the Great Physician, and as conscious guilt and timid penitence crept abashed and imploring to His feet, they found nothing but a forgiving and a gracious welcome!
His ways were not as man’s ways! The “watchmen,” in the Canticles, “smote” the disconsolate one seeking her lost Lord; they tore off her veil, mocking with chilling unkindness her anguished tears (Sg. 5:7). Not so “the Chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls” (1 Pet. 5:4). “This man receiveth sinners”!
See Nicodemus, stealing under the shadows of night to elude observation — type of the thousand thousands who in every age have gone trembling in their night of sin and sorrow to this heavenly Friend! Does Jesus punish his timidity by shutting his door against him, spurning him from His presence? "He will not break the bruised reed; he will not quench the smoking flax" (Isa. 42:3).
And He is still the same! He who arrested a persecutor in his blasphemies, and tuned the lips of an expiring felon with faith and love, is at this hour standing, with all the garnered treasures of Redemption in his hand, proclaiming, "him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
Are we from this to think lightly of sin or, by example and conduct, to explain away and overlook its enormity? Not so. Sin, as sin, can never be sufficiently stamped with the brand of approval. But we must seek carefully to distinguish between the offence and the offender. Nothing should be done on our part, by word or deed, to mock the penitential sighings of a guilty spirit, or send the trembling outcast away, with the despairing feeling of no hope. "This man receiveth sinners," and shall not we?
Does he suffer the sundry dregs of human depravity to crouch unbidden at his feet, and to gaze onHhis forgiving countenance with the uplifted eye of hope, and shall we dare to deal out harsh, and severe, and crushing verdicts on an offending (it may be a deeply offending) brother? Shall we pronounce "crimson" and "scarlet” sins and sinners beyond the pale of mercy, when Jesus does not?
Nay, rather, when wretchedness, and depravity, and backsliding cross our path, let it not be with the bitter taunt or the ironical retort that we bid them away. Let us bear, endure, remonstrate, deal tenderly. Jesus did so, Jesus does so! Ah! If we had within us his unconquerable love of souls, his yearning desire for the everlasting happiness of sinners, we should be more frequently in earnest protest and affectionate appeal with those who have hitherto got no other than harsh thoughts and repulsive words.
If this "mind" really were in us, "which was also in him," we should more frequently ask ourselves, "Have I done all I might have done to pluck this brand from the burning! Have I remembered what grace has wrought, what grace can do?”
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19).
Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind!
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