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Till be find it.
ST. LUKE XV. 4.
WHAT MAN OF YOU, HAVING AN HUNDRED SHEEP, IF HE LOSE ONE OF THEM, DOTH NOT LEAVE THE NINETYAND-NINE IN
THE WILDERNESS, AND GO AFTER THAT
WHICH IS LOST UNTIL HE FIND IT?"
T is the Good Shepherd who speaks, Jesus
Christ — some early reminiscence, perhaps of
the hills of Galilee, and the sight He had sometimes seen from the brow of the hill on which Nazareth was built. The shepherd, numbering his sheep at morning and evening time, notices that one is absent. Erring and straying from the paths he led them by, it has lost itself; companying with some wayward kid of the goats it may be, it has come upon the craggy cliff, the mountain precipice, whence it is likely to fall headlong. Allured by the bait of pleasant pastures, yet pastures barred by the shepherd, it has stumbled into the pit. Following some self-chosen path, it has been caught by its horns in some thicket, and, so entangled, is slowly starving to death without remedy. Looking heedlessly abroad and neglecting the shepherd's call, perchance it is nearing some den of the wolves.
The shepherd knoweth his sheep; he calleth them all by their names; and by their ceasing to answer his call he marks their absence.
What, then, does he do? Sit down and petulantly complain how heedless they are ? What trouble they give ? Does he say, “They have gone of their own accord, they must take their chance ?” Does he say, “I am tired of this work, I shall give up my occupation?” No; “ if he lose one, doth he not leave the ninety-and-nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost until he find it?" Regardless of trouble, of risk to himself, of the wounds and bruises he is pretty sure to meet with in crossing the crag and fell, in facing the thicket and the thorns, he goes after it he continues his search, he follows the pursuit, till he find it. There is the mark of the genuine shepherd --" till he find it;" perseverance, love, zest in the pursuit which will not allow him to abandon it till the object is accomplished, till the lost is found.
Perhaps our Saviour had, as a youth, noticed all this from the hill crown of Nazareth. But if men be sheep, if our Saviour be the Good Shepherd, He had felt all this in His own soul, as that soul travailed for the souls of us men. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord Whath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He “cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick," says St. Matthew (viii. 16, 17), “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses."
The sickness of our bodies, the sickness of our souls; suffering, sin-all that was making us to err from God, all that kept us back from Him, all that spoilt human nature and kept it down from likeness to God and from perfection - all this was a care to Him, all this He would face, encounter, remove, because “we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand ;” because He bare a love towards the children of men, and would raise them from their lost estate.
Hence He left the ninety-and-nine in heaven, which went not astray, prepared Himself a body, and in it visited our poor earth, going after that which was lost until He found it. And on earth He sought not the society of the good, the noble, the generous, the saint; but went among the publicans, the harlots, the sinners ; leaving the ninety-and-nine behind and going after that which was lost. What it cost Him we know in part-toil, weariness, scorn, rejection, the crown of thorns, the nails, the lance, death. His work was, His work is, to seek and to save that which is lost.
“ Till he find it.” Has He found it ? Not every one. He has done the great work; amassed the grand power by which all can be done; He has become man, died, risen, ascended; sent down the Holy Ghost; there is none other name than His whereby men must be saved; He has made the salvation of all possible ; He has shown the way in which the lost are found; He is the way, the Truth, the Life, to all.
But “till He find it.” Are all found? Are there no will see.
lost ones still left to be sought out? Lost, perhaps, in penury and destitution ; in sickness and disease; in ignorance and brutishness; in lust, avarice, pride; still erring and straying from Thy ways, O Lord, like lost sheep ? Take a glance, brethren, round your own parish, and you
“Till he find it." All are not yet found. Many and many an one are still wandering in sin, in vice, in misery; but Christ has gone away, and they are not found. Are, then, Christ's words futile? The good shepherd searches " till he find." Has Christ really given up His search for His lost sheep? If so, how is He any longer the Good Shepherd ?
Brethren, His search for the lost is still going on, and. shall do till He find. Removed in body from the earth, present by the Spirit in His Church and in you His members, Christ still pursues, through you, His search for His lost ones. On you, the Body of Christ, on you “members in particular,” is laid, according to the gifts each one of you has, the duty-duty, do I say? nay, the blessed privilege-of working out to its completion, under Christ your living, your present Head, the seeking for and saving His lost sheep scattered throughout the world. The work still goes on through you under Him, and shall do “ till He find.”
I said in my last sermon that it is not incumbent on every one to be a church-helper in a public and official way. Let me say, now, that it is incumbent upon you, as a body, to see that the work of Christ is done, and done effectually, in your own parish. There are sick to be visited, destitute to be relieved, children and young people to be taught the Gospel of Christ, sinners to be
converted, reprobates to be reclaimed, God's praises to be sung in church, missions to be promoted at home and in foreign parts. You must see that this is done; it is your duty to see it done. Let me suppose you are conscious yourself that you cannot do any of these things: have you ever, then, prayed God, who seems thus to dispense with your services, to send forth Himself labourers into His vineyard ? Or, have you stood by, content to criticise the feeble efforts of your neighbours, to glance at the little progress made by your church in its work of leavening the world, to lay heavy burdens upon your ministers, while you touch them not with one of your fingers ?
As a congregation, it is your duty to see that each department of church-work is as efficient as may be. As individuals, it is each one's duty to use that talent, that gift, which he happens to possess, for God's service and the good of the whole body. Without, therefore, saying to any one particular person, it is your individual duty to come and help in the District Visiting Society, in the Sunday School, as a mission collector, or in any other way, I would ask, is there no man here whose heart God has touched that will willingly offer himself for this or similar church-work? The harvest is plenteous, the labourers are few. Who will stand forth to help God in the conversion of the world ? God deigns to ask for help; He would not do it all Himself; He offers to you the blessed privilege of being a "fellow-worker with God."
Remember, all must do something for Christ, something to make His Kingdom come, something to seek and to save that which is lost. You cannot give personal