The Love of Christ!
James Smith, 1842
"This man receives sinners!" Luke 15:2
When the Lord Jesus was upon earth, He manifested the
kindness of His heart, and the design of His incarnation — by . . .
visiting the wretched,
relieving the miserable,
and pardoning the guilty.
He used His authority and exerted His power — to do poor sinners good; and made it manifest that He delighted in mercy. Yet His design was mistaken, and His conduct condemned. The Scribes and the Pharisees were greatly displeased; and they brought against Him a charge, which reflects honor on His name, and fills the heart of the sinner with consolation and hope: "This man receives sinners — and eats with them!" Condescending Immanuel! this was but a proof of your love to the vilest of our race, and an intimation of the course you intended to pursue!
"This man receives sinners!" — harlots, adulterers, thieves, and the profane — were received by Him. The openly profligate, and the secret transgressor — alike found a welcome reception, when appealing to His mercy, and applying for His help. He rejected none. He was very gracious at the voice of every cry, and sympathized with distress under every form. The tenderness of His heart appeared in the tears that flowed from His eyes — and by the miracles of mercy performed by His words.
To a Magdalene He said, "Your sins are forgiven — go in peace." To the adulteress in the temple, "Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, Lord." He added, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more." He never sanctioned the sin — nor did He ever condemn the seeking sinner. He pardoned freely — when mercy was sought heartily. No crimes, however aggravated, no sins, however numerous — could shut up the affections of His compassion, or steel His heart against the penitent.
"This man receives sinners!" — sinners of the deepest dye; sinners of the lowest class; sinners of the basest character. The dying robber, the blaspheming Saul of Tarsus, and His own murderers on the day of Pentecost — proved the charge correct.
He is the same now, though exalted high at God's right hand. There is no change in His nature, or alteration in His disposition. He is JESUS still. The tenderest compassion finds a home in His heart, and the vilest transgressor finds a welcome at His throne.
"This man receives sinners!" — with all their sins upon them — as filthy and polluted as they are. He never directs them to attempt the removal of sin by any effort of their own — but invites them to approach Him just as they are; and pledges Himself to cleanse them from all their filthiness, and to make them holy. They need no pure character to recommend them to His notice, nor worthiness to attract His attention. If sensible of their true sinful condition — if alarmed at their danger — if desirous of relief and deliverance, He says, "Come, now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; and though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
"This man receives sinners!" — without the least
reluctance. They . . .
fear His majesty,
dread His holiness,
and doubt His love.
But He proves that all their fears are groundless — and
their doubts but folly. The excellency of His nature, the veracity of His
Word, and the perfection of His sacrifice — assure them of a welcome
reception, when they flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them
in the gospel. He must . . .
deny His name,
falsify His word,
dishonor His sacrifice, and
change His very nature —
before He can refuse to receive the convinced sinner, who applies for mercy and everlasting life. It is His delight to see them come, and His Heaven to bless their souls. To this end, He . . .
framed His gospel,
sent His servants,
erected His throne of grace,
and bestows His Spirit.
Our convictions of sin,
our sense of unworthiness,
our knowledge of danger —
are all intended to lead us to His throne, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
"This man receives sinners!" — most lovingly. He pronounces no harsh sentence, nor utters one solitary curse. He despises none. Though worthless and weak as the bruised reed — though useless and unsavory as the smell of the snuff of the expiring lamp — yet He will never cast out; but He will give power to the faint, and will multiply His pardons. He will heap up mercies to the very heavens — rather than crush a trembling sinner, or drive him from His throne. He will cast their sins into the depth of the sea — lest they should interpose between the soul and His love; and blot them out like a cloud — that they may not oblige Him to condemn.
He may allow the soul to be kept waiting for the
enjoyment of the blessing; but there is mercy and love in this — it is .
to deepen conviction,
to strip of self,
to teach the value of the blessing, and
to show that it is entirely of grace!
Doubt not, poor soul, because you have been waiting long.
You shall know His love, feel His grace, and prove that He receives sinners.
If you follow on to know the Lord, He will come unto you, as the former and
the latter rain upon the earth. He will . . .
disperse your doubts,
remove your fears,
melt your heart, and
make you fruitful in every good word and work.
"This man receives sinners!" — to the glory of God. He intends to glorify all the perfections of His divine nature, in receiving, blessing, and saving your souls.
His grace will be glorified in your unworthiness,
His mercy will be glorified in your misery,
His justice will be glorified in your confessions,
His holiness will be glorified in your defilement,
His wisdom will be glorified in your perplexity, and
His love will be glorified in your complete salvation.
He glorifies His Father, who draws you to His seat, by
fulfilling His glorious design. It is of the Lord that you feel your
sinfulness, pant for salvation, and cry for pardon. No man comes unto Jesus,
nor has any desire to come — except the Father draws him. And will Jesus
refuse those whom the Father has drawn? — can He reject those whom His
Father has taught? Oh no! He will . . .
and save eternally —
every coming soul.
The Father is glorified when the sinner is received, and Jesus is honored when he seeks for acceptance; thus your reception at the throne of grace involves the honor both of the Father and the Son.
Not only so — but every desire after Jesus, every prayer to Jesus, and every discovery of the glory of Jesus — is but the effect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. And would the Savior invite, the Spirit teach, and the Father draw — if it were possible for the coming soul, under any circumstances, to be rejected? Oh no!
"This man receives sinners!" — still! He receives them with joy. As the shepherd rejoices when he finds his lost sheep — so Jesus rejoices when the poor wandering sinner returns. The praying sinner fills Heaven with harmony; and the conduct of Jesus makes angels and saints rejoice. For there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety-and-nine righteous people who need no repentance. As the father of the prodigal rejoiced over his long-lost son, and would not allow his joy to be interrupted by the baseness, misery, or poverty of his child — so Jesus rejoices when His children return! He rejoices over them, to do them good, with His whole heart and with His whole soul. It is the fruit of the travail of His soul, the answer to His earnest prayers, and the fulfillment of the promise made to Him by His Father. Yes, poor, trembling, fearful soul; your coming to Jesus is the result of His death, and a part of the reward promised to His labors.
Your tears glisten in His eyes,
your groans are music in His ears, and
your ardent desires are grateful to His holy soul!
As the bridegroom rejoices over his chosen, beloved, newly-married bride — so does your God rejoice over you.
"This man receives sinners!" — to pardon all their sins. They deserve death — the sentence is recorded in His book. But when they plead for mercy — He blots out the long black list, so that not a figure can be deciphered. If all the rays of the sun were to shine on the page that contained the catalogue of their crimes — nothing could be found against them! When their sins and their iniquities shall be sought for — they shall not be found, for there shall be none. None of their iniquities shall ever be mentioned unto them. Their iniquities are forgiven, their sins are covered.
Blessed Jesus! we rejoice that you are exalted as a Prince and a Savior — to give repentance and the remission of sins; and that God, for your sake, forgives sinners all their trespasses. Sinner! flee to Jesus; He will receive you, and pronounce the sentence, "Your sins are forgiven — go in peace." He justifies from all things, those whom He receives. He not only pardons their sins — but He gives them His righteousness! Pardon delivers them from Hell; His righteousness entitles them to Heaven! It is freely given to every one that believes.
There can be no condemnation, when the righteousness of
Jesus is embraced and applied —
it covers the person as a robe,
it emboldens the petitioner as a plea,
it gives confidence to the Christian as His warrant,
and it makes him the righteousness of God.
Oh wondrous display of . . .
and richest grace!
The righteousness of God imputed to a sinful creature;
the guilty justified before a heart-searching God;
the Hell-deserving entitled to everlasting life!
"This man receives sinners!" —
to sanctify their natures,
to heal all the wounds which sin has made,
and to restore to sound soul-health.
He cleanses — as well as pardons!
He sets us against sin — as well as justifies us from sin.
He never receives souls — that they may live in transgression, violate His laws, and dare His vengeance. He says, "A new heart also I will give you, and a right spirit I will put within you; I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and give you an heart of flesh."
He embitters sin — and endears holiness.
He makes the nature holy — that the conduct may be moral.
They espouse His cause — who redeemed their souls;
they choose His ways — who died as their ransom;
they seek His glory — who sought and obtained their salvation.
They use His fullness — for the supply of their needs; and He uses their persons, talents, and property — for the promotion of His cause. He is their God — and they are His people! He receives them as they are — poor, lost, wretched souls; and they receive Him as He is — a rich, glorious, gracious Savior! He is the object of their faith, hope, and love; and they are the objects of His care, concern, and intercession.
He receives sinners — to supply all their needs,
according to His riches in glory. He has opened His fullness, on purpose to
supply them. He promises temporals, spirituals, eternals! He bids them . . .
ask — and receive;
trust — and not be afraid;
wait — and confidently expect;
and pledges Himself to withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.
Having obtained saving mercy, they . . .
keep good company,
walk in clean paths,
pursue right objects,
act from pure motives, and
live in fellowship with God!
They cannot lack any good thing. He will give freely,
frequently, cheerfully, plentifully! Nor shall they have reason to complain.
He will . . .
subdue their iniquities,
conquer their foes,
direct their steps,
guard their persons, and
afterwards receive them to glory!
Whom He receives now at the throne of grace as sinners — He will receive at last at the throne of glory as saints. He will give unto them eternal life; they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of His hand.
They shall have life, and have it more abundantly — above all they can ask or think. He never forgets whom He forgives — nor forsakes whom He receives. He is a Father unto them — and they are His sons and daughters. He will make His strength perfect in their weakness, and prove His grace to be sufficient for them.
But Jesus will receive none but sinners — only such as are convinced that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
If they have no money — He invites them to come;
if they thirst — He bids them drink;
if they have nothing to pay — He frankly forgives them all.
They cannot be too sick — for His skill to cure.
They cannot be too filthy — for His blood to cleanse.
They cannot be too base — for His grace to receive.
Where sin abounded — grace will much more abound.
Poor soul, you may feel confused, bewildered, stupid, lifeless, guilty, condemned; and, as you conceive, unable to pray. Satan may persuade you there is no hope for you in God, nor help for you in Jesus. Your heart may misgive you, and ten thousand fears alarm you. Hell may appear open to receive you, and Heaven closed against you. But do not be afraid — Jesus receives just such sinners as you are. He has received and saved thousands exactly like you! He says to you, drooping, desponding, and weary as you are, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."
The threatenings of the Word terrify you; but they are not intended for you. They are the portion of the careless, hardened, God-defying sinner. But every gospel invitation, every sweet promise of mercy, and every encouraging parable — is designed to comfort your heart, raise hope in your soul, and lead you to Jesus, the sinner's friend.
There never was an ardent, habitual, influential desire after a saving interest in Jesus, to enjoy the blessings of the gospel, and to be numbered with the Lord's people — found in any man's bosom in a state of nature. It is the effect of the new birth — a proof that you are loved with an everlasting love, and that your name is written in the Lamb's book of life. Such desires must be granted; for God has promised, "I will give unto him that is thirsty, of the fountain of the water of life freely." "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry, and will save them."
My poor drooping and desponding fellow-sinner — look unto Jesus! He is full of grace and truth. Hope in God, for you shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. It is to you He speaks, for your encouragement He promises, and upon you He will bestow all the blessings of His grace. Cast yourself at His feet, venture on His holy word, renounce all other helpers.
His word is true from the beginning,
His faithfulness is like the great mountains,
and His blood cleanses from all sin.
Why do you doubt? Are you a singular character? — He will get singular honor in saving you. Are you persuaded there is no hope, no help, no mercy for you? This persuasion comes not from Him who calls you. His word must be your guide; the testimony of His ministers and people should silence your fears.
None ever sought the Lord in vain; and it is impossible that you should. Seek, and you shall find, and your joy shall be full. Cast yourself upon Jesus — that is faith. Commit your all into His hands — that is gospel-believing; trust only in His work, word, blood, and righteousness — and you cannot be deceived, rejected, or lost. None ever perished at His feet, or were lost seeking mercy at His throne.
Will the Redeemer lose His character for grace,
tenderness, and truth? Shall Satan gain His object, and have occasion
eternally to blaspheme the Savior, for you? No, no! He will . . .
receive you kindly,
pardon you freely,
justify you completely,
and save you eternally!
He will show forth in you . . .
the depth of His mercy,
the height of His grace,
the extent of His merit,
the freeness of His love,
the fullness of His salvation,
and the glory of His name!
He is faithful, though you are fearful; His word must stand, and He will do all His pleasure. But what more can I say? Jesus is all God could make Him to us, and all we could possibly wish Him to be! And it is unscriptural, unkind, and very sinful — to doubt His love and grace. His sorrows in the garden, His death upon the tree, His precious flowing blood, the gift of the Spirit, and the appointing of ministers — all combine to prove that He is rich in mercy unto all who call upon Him.
Careless, thoughtless sinner, is what you have been reading true? And have you never made application to this Savior? There were many sinners in Judea whom Jesus did not receive. He cast out none that came; but many never attempted to come — but perished in their own deceivings. May not this be your case? He receives sinners Now; but the time is limited. It is the day of salvation — the day will soon wear away, the evening will soon set in; and then He will not receive sinners any longer — but drive them from Him, with "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and His angels!"
Death closes the door of mercy upon the sinner forever. An accident, a fever, a fit — often cuts off the sinner suddenly; and oh how awful is His end! Who shall attempt to describe it? What language can set it forth? Trifle not with time — it is daring eternity. Trifle not with mercy — it is daring justice. Because there is wrath, beware, lest He take you away with a stroke; then nothing can deliver you!