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4thly. Never thrust. yourself into notice. A pushing, forward person cannot have much of the spirit of Christ.
Do what is right, because it is right, and because it is pleasing to God; but do not court the approval of others. This was the sin into which the Pharisees fell; for they “ loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
The meek and lowly follower of Christ will wish to avoid observation as much as possible. If, for instance, he gives money away in charity, he will do it as quietly as he can, according to the Saviour's rule, “ Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” If he prays, he will not wish all the world to know it. If he comes to the house of God, he will go quietly to his place, and there he will pour out his heart before the Lord; for he comes here not to be seen of men, but to offer up his unworthy prayers to the Father of mercies, and to listen to His gospel message of love. Or, if he talks on religious subjects, he will say as little as may be about himself, and much about the love of his Redeemer. If however he does speak about himself, it will not be to show what a good Christian he is, but rather to show how unworthy he is, and to display the riches of God's grace in saving one so undeserving.
Oh that we may become more truly humble! Whatever company we are in, whether among men of the world, or among the people of God, let us be content to take “ the lowest room.” And if God shall be pleased hereafter in His great mercy to exalt us, and to say to us, “Friend, come up higher,” there will be no pride then to mingle with our joy ; but as many of us as have been redeemed by the blood of Christ will then fall down before Him to whom we owe so much—casting our crowns before His throne-never uttering one boastful word of our own worthiness; but for ever saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honour, and glory, and blessing”!
THE LOST SHEEP.
LUKE xv. 3—7. “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 lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance."
(See also Matt. xviii. 12–14.)
HERE is the owner of a flock brought before us. He possesses an hundred sheep; and he is represented as going after one that has strayed. So anxious is he to recover the wanderer, that he leaves the rest in the wilderness-that is, in the pasture where they are feeding—and turns all his thoughts towards the lost one. He spares no pains, and counts no toil too great, to recover it. And when at length, to his great joy, he discovers it, he seizes it, lest it should wander further, lays it on his shoulders, and carries it home in safety. His joy is so great, that he invites his friends and neighbours to share it with him.
Such is this beautiful and simple Parableso beautiful, that every time we read it, it gives us fresh pleasure; and so simple, that the most unlearned has no difficulty in understanding it. But lest we should miss its meaning, Jesus is pleased to give us the key to it in the seventh verse-"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
Such, our Lord Himself tells us, is the truth which the Parable is intended to teach us. By the straying sheep is meant the lost sinner. By the return to the fold is meant the sinner's repentance. By the ninety and nine in the wilderness is meant those who need no repent
ance. And by the rejoicing of the friends and neighbours is meant the joy in heaven when a soul is saved.
But our Lord gives us no help at all in finding out who the Shepherd is, who cares so lovingly, and has done so much, for his sheep. No; He leaves us to guess that, for He knows that we cannot well guess wrongly.
Now we will take the several points as they come.
Ist. The stray sheep. It leaves the safe fold. It turns away from the pasture, where the flock is feeding. It wanders over hill and dale, seeking nourishment. It is exposed to danger; but still it wanders on, getting farther and farther from its home.
Is it not just so with the Sinner-not merely with some great sinner, but with us all ? “ All we, like sheep, have gone astray,” says the Prophet. And our Church echoes the same words, “We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep."
How wonderful it is that, although God is so gracious to us-although He has provided such rich and abundant blessings for us in