From Select Sermons
Christ Seeking Sinners
The Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost. Luke 19:10
To me this is one of the sweetest verses in the whole Bible. In this one little short sentence we are told what Christ came into this world for. He came for a purpose, He came to do a work; and in this little verse the whole story is told. He came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
A few years ago the Prince of Wales came to America, and there was great excitement. The papers took it up, and began to discuss it, and a great many were wondering what he came for. Was it to look into the republican form of government? Was it for his health? Was it to see our institutions? or for this, or for that? He came and went, but he never told us what he came for. But when the Prince of heaven came down into this world, He told us what He came for. God sent Him, and He came to do the will of His Father. What was that? ''To seek and to save that which was lost.''
You cannot find any place in Scripture where a man was sent by God to do a work in which he failed. God sent Moses to Egypt to bring three millions of bondmen out of the house of bondage into the Promised Land. Did he fail? It looked, at first, as if he were going to. If we had been in the Court when Pharaoh said to Moses, ''Who is God, that I should obey Him?'' and ordered him out of his presence, we might have thought it
meant failure. But did it? God sent Elijah to stand before Ahab, and it was a bold thing when he told him there should be neither dew nor rain; but didn't he lock up the heavens for three years and six months? Now here is God sending His own beloved Son from His bosom, from the throne, down into this world. Do you think He is going to fail? Thanks be to God, He can save to the uttermost, and there is not a man in the world who may not find it so, if he is willing to be saved.
I find a great blessing to myself in taking up a passage like this, and looking all around it, to see what brought it out. If you look back to the close of the eighteenth chapter, you will find Christ coming near the city of Jericho. Sitting by the wayside was a poor, blind beggar. Perhaps he had been there for years, led out, it may be, by one of his children, or perhaps, as we sometimes see, he had a dog to lead him out. There he had sat for years, and his cry had been, ''Please give a poor blind man some money.'' One day, as he was sitting there, a man came down from Jerusalem, and seeing him, took his seat by his side, and said, ''Bartimaeus, I have good news for you.'' ''What is it?'' said the blind beggar. ''There is a man in Israel who is able to give you sight.'' ''Oh no,'' said the blind beggar, ''there is no chance of my ever receiving sight. I was born blind, and nobody born blind ever got sight. I shall never see in this world. I may in the world to come, but I must go through this world blind.'' ''But,'' said the man, ''let me tell you. I was at Jerusalem the other day, and the great Galilean prophet was there, and I saw a man who was born blind that had received his sight; and I never saw a man with better sight. He does not need to use glasses. He can see quite clearly.'' Then for the first time, hope rose in the poor man's heart, and he asked, ''How was it done?'' ''Why, Jesus spat on the ground and made some clay, and anointed his eyes,'' (that is enough to put a man's sight out, even if he can see!) ''and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam; and while he was doing so he got two good eyes. Yes, it is so.
I talked with him, and I didn't see a man in all Jerusalem who had better sight.'' ''What did he charge?'' said Bartimaeus. ''Nothing. There was no fee or doctor's bill. He got his sight for nothing. You just tell Him what you want; you don't need to have an influential committee to call on Him, or any important deputation. The poor have as much influence with Him as the rich; all are alike.'' ''What is His name?'' asked Bartimaeus. ''Jesus of Nazareth; and if He ever comes this way, don't let Him by without getting your case laid before Him.'' And the blind man said, ''That you may be sure of. He shall never pass this way without my seeking Him.''
A day or two after, he was led out, and took his seat at the usual place, still crying out for money. All at once, he heard the footsteps of a coming multitude, and asked, ''Who is it? Tell me, who is it?'' Some one said it was Jesus of Nazareth that was passing by. The moment he heard that, he said to himself, ''Why, that is the man who gives sight to the blind,'' and he lifted up his cry, ''Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy upon me!'' I don't know who it was perhaps it was Peter who said to him, ''Hush! keep still.'' He thought the Lord was going up to Jerusalem to be crowned king, and he would not like to be disturbed by a poor blind beggar.
Oh, they did not know the Son of God when He was here! He would hush every harp in heaven to hear a sinner pray; no music delights Him so much.
But Bartimaeus lifted up his voice louder, ''Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.'' His prayer reached the ear of the Son of God, as prayer always will, and His footsteps were arrested. He told them to bring the man. ''Bartimaeus,'' they said, ''be of good cheer. Arise, He calleth thee''; and He never called anyone, but He had something good in store for him. Oh, sinner! remember that. They led the blind man to Jesus. The Lord said, ''What shall I do for you?'' ''Lord, that I may receive my sight.''
''You shall have it,'' the Lord said; and straightway his eyes were opened.
I should have liked to have been there, to see that wonderful scene. The first object that met his gaze was the Son of God Himself, and now among the shouting multitude, no one shouts louder than the poor blind man that has got his sight. He glorifies God, and I fancy I can hear him shouting, ''Hosanna to the Son of David.''
Pardon me, if I now draw a little on my imagination. Bartimaeus gets into Jericho, and he says, ''I will go and see my wife, and tell her about it.'' A young convert always wants to talk to his friends about salvation. Away he goes down the street, and he meets a man who passes him, goes on a few yards, and then turns round and says, ''Bartimaeus, is that you?'' ''Yes.'' ''Well, I thought it was, but I could not believe my eyes. How have you got your sight?'' ''Oh, I just met Jesus of Nazareth outside the city, and asked Him to have mercy on me.'' ''Jesus of Nazareth! What, is He in this part of the country?'' ''Yes. He is right here in Jericho. He is now going down to the western gate.'' ''I should like to see Him,'' says the man, and away he runs down the street; but he cannot catch a glimpse of Him, even though he stands on tip-toe, being little of stature, and on account of the great throng around Him. ''Well,'' he says, ''I am not going to be disappointed''; so he runs on, and climbs up into a sycamore tree. ''If I can get on to that branch, hanging right over the highway, He cannot pass without my getting a good look at Him.''
That must have been a very strange sight to see the rich man climbing up a tree like a boy, and hiding among the leaves, where he thought nobody would see him, to get a glimpse of the passing stranger!
There comes the crowd bursting out, and he looks for Jesus. He looks at Peter; ''That's not He.'' He looks at John; ''That's not He.'' At last his eye rests on One fairer than the sons of men; ''That's He!'' and Zaccheus, just peeping out from among
the branches, looks down upon the wonderful God-man in amazement. At last the crowd comes to the tree. It looks as if Christ is going by, but He stops right under the tree, looks up, and says, ''Zaccheus, make haste and come down.''
I can imagine, the first thought in his mind was, ''Who told Him my name? I was never introduced to Him.'' Ah! He knew him. Sinner, Christ knows all about you. He knows your name and your house. You need not try to hide from Him. He knows where you are, and all about you.
Some people do not believe in
I should like them to answer me when was Zaccheus converted? He was certainly in his sins when he went up into the tree; he certainly was converted when he came down. He must have been converted somewhere between the branch and the ground. It didn't take a long while to convert that publican! ''Make haste and come down. I shall never pass this way again. This is my last visit.'' Zaccheus made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. Did you ever hear of anyone receiving Christ in any other way? He received Him joyfully. Christ brings joy with Him. Sin, gloom, and darkness flee away; light, peace and joy burst into the soul. Reader, may you come down from your high place, and receive Christ now.
Some one may ask, ''How do you know that he was converted?'' I think he gave very good evidence. I would like to see as fruitful evidence of conversion nowadays. Let some rich men be converted, and give half their goods to feed the poor, and people will believe pretty quickly that it is genuine work! But there is better evidence even than that. ''If I have taken anything from any man falsely, I restore him fourfold.'' Very good evidence that. You say if people are converted suddenly, they won't hold out. Zaccheus held out long enough to restore fourfold. We should like to have a work that reaches men's pockets.
I can imagine one of his servants going to a neighbor next morning, with a check for $100, and handing it over. ''What is this for?'' Oh, my master defrauded you out of $25 a few years ago, and this is restitution money.'' That would give confidence in Zaccheus' conversion! I wish a few cases like that would happen now, and then people would stop talking against sudden conversions.
The Lord goes to be the publican's guest, and while He is there the Pharisees began to murmur and complain. It would have been a good thing if Pharisees had died off with that generation; but, unfortunately, they have left a good many grandchildren, living down here in this nineteenth century, who are ever complaining. ''This man receiveth sinners.'' But while the Pharisees were complaining, the Lord uttered the words of text: ''I did not come to Zaccheus to make him wretched, to condemn him, to torment him; I came to bless and save him. The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost.''
If there is a man or woman reading this who believes that he or she is lost, I have good news to tell you Christ is come after you.
I was at the Fulton Street prayer meeting one Saturday night a good many years ago, and when the meeting was over, a man came to me, and said, ''I would like to have you go down to the city prison tomorrow, and preach to the prisoners.'' I said I would be very glad to go. There was no chapel in connection with that prison, and I was to preach to them in their cells. I had to stand at a little iron railing and talk down a great, long, narrow passage way to some three or four hundred of them, I suppose, all out of sight. It was pretty difficult work; I never preached to bare walls before. When it was over I thought I would like to see to whom I had been preaching, and how they had received the gospel. I went to the first door, when the inmates could have heard me best, and looked in at a little window,
and there were some men playing cards; I suppose they had been playing all the while. ''How is it with you here?'' I said. ''Well, stranger, we don't want you to get a bad idea of us. False witnesses swore a lie, and that is how we are here.'' ''Oh,'' I said, ''Christ cannot save anybody here; there is nobody lost.'' I went to the next cell. ''Well, friend, how is it with you?'' ''Oh,'' said the prisoner, ''the man that did the deed looked very much like me, so they caught me and I am here.'' He was innocent, too. I passed along to the next cell. ''How is it with you? ''Well, we got into bad company, and the man that did it got clear, and we got taken up, but we never did anything.'' I went along to the next cell. ''How is it with you?'' ''Our trial comes on next week, but they have nothing against us, and we'll get free.'' I went round nearly every cell, but the answer was always the same they have never done anything. Why, I never saw so many innocent men together in life! There was nobody to blame but the magistrates, according to their way of it. These men were wrapping their filthy rags of self-righteousness about them. And that has been the story for six thousand years.
I got discouraged as I went through the prison, on, and on, and on, cell after cell, and every man had an excuse. If he hadn't one, the devil helped him to make one.
I had got almost through the prison, when I came to a cell and found a man with his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands. Two little streams of tears running down his cheeks; they did not come by drops that time.
''What's the trouble?'' I said. He looked up, the picture of remorse and despair. ''Oh, my sins are more than I can bear.'' ''Thank God for that,'' I replied. ''What,'' said he, ''you are the man that has been preaching to us, ain't you?'' ''Yes.'' ''I think you said you were a friend?'' ''I am.'' ''And yet you are glad that my sins are more than I can bear? "I will explain," I said "If your sins are more than you can bear, won't you cast them on One who will bear them for you?'' ''Who's that?'' ''The Lord
Jesus.'' ''He won't bear my sins.'' ''Why not?'' ''I have sinned against Him all my life." ''I don't care if you have; the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses from all sin.'' Then I told him how Christ had come to seek and save that which was lost; to open the prison doors and set the captives free. It was like a cup of refreshment to find a man who believed he was lost, so I stood there, and held up a crucified Savior to him. ''Christ was delivered for our offenses, died for our sins, rose again for our justification.'' For a long time the man could not believe that such a miserable wretch could be saved. He went on to enumerate his sins, and I told him that the blood of Christ could cover them all. After I had talked with him I said, ''Now let us pray.'' He got down on his knees inside the cell, and I knelt outside. I said, ''You pray.'' ''Why,'' he said, ''it would be blasphemy for me to call on God.'' ''You call on God,'' I said. He knelt down, and, like the poor publican, he lifted up his voice and said, ''God be merciful to me, a vile wretch!'' I put my hand through the window, and as I shook hands with him a tear that burned down into my soul fell on my hand. It was a tear of repentance. He believed he was lost. Then I tried to get him to believe that Christ had come to save him. I left him still in darkness. ''I will be at the hotel,'' I said, ''between nine and ten o'clock, and I will pray for you.'' Next morning, I felt so much interested in him that I thought I must see him before I went back to Chicago. No sooner had my eye lighted on his face than I saw that remorse and despair had fled away. His countenance was beaming with celestial light; the tears of joy had come into his eyes, and the tears of despair were gone. The Son of Righteousness had broken out across his path: his soul was leaping within him for joy; he had received Christ, as Zaccheus did, joyfully. ''Tell me about it,'' I said. ''Well, I do not know what time it was, I think it was about midnight. I had been in distress a long time, when all at once my great burden fell off, and now I believe I am the happiest man in New York.'' I think he was the happiest man
I saw from the time I left Chicago till I got back again. His face was lighted up with the light that comes from the celestial hills. I bade him goodbye, and I expect to meet him in another world.
Can you tell me why the Son of Man came down to that prison that night, and, passing cell after cell, went to that one, and set the captive free? It was
BECAUSE THE MAN BELIEVED HE WAS LOST.
O that we would wake up to the thought of what it is to be lost! The world has been rocked to sleep by Satan, who is going up and down and telling people that it doesn't mean anything. I believe in the old-fashioned heaven and hell. Christ came down to save us from a terrible hell, and any man who is cast down to hell from here must go in the full blaze of the gospel, and over the mangled body of the Son of God.
We hear of a man who has lost his health, and we sympathize with him, and we say it is very sad. Our hearts are drawn out in sympathy. Here is another man who has lost his wealth, and we say, ''That is very sad.'' Here is another man who has lost his reputation, his standing among men. ''That is sadder still,'' you say. We know what it is to lose health and wealth and reputation, but what is the loss of all these things compared with the loss of the soul?
I was in an eye-infirmary in Chicago some time before the great fire. A mother brought a beautiful little babe to the doctor a babe only a few months old, and wanted the doctor to look at the child's eyes. He did so, and pronounced it blind blind for life it would never see again. The moment he said that, the mother seized it, pressed it to her bosom, and gave a terrible scream. It pierced my heart, and I could not but weep; the doctor wept; we could not help it. ''Oh, my darling,'' she said, ''are you never to see the mother that gave you birth? Oh, doctor, I cannot stand it. My child, my child!'' It was a sight to
move any heart. But what is the loss of eyesight to the loss of a soul? I had a thousand times rather have these eyes taken out of my head and go to the grave blind, than lose my soul. I have two sons and no one but God knows how I love them; but I would see their eyes dug out of their heads rather than see them grow up to manhood and go down to the grave without Christ and without hope. The loss of a soul! Christ knew what it meant. That is what brought Him from the bosom of the Father; that is what brought Him from the throne; that is what brought Him to Calvary. The Son of God was in earnest. When He died on Calvary it was to save a lost world; it was to save your soul and mine.
O the loss of the soul how terrible it is! If you are still lost I beseech you do not rest until you have found peace in Christ. Fathers and mothers, if you have children out of the Ark, do not rest until they are brought into it. Do not discourage your children from coming to Christ. The Son of man came to save children as much as old grey haired men. He came for all, rich and poor, young and old. Young man, if you are lost may God show it to you, and may you press into the kingdom. The Son of man is come to seek and to save you.
There is a story told of Rowland Hill. He was once preaching in the open air to a vast audience. Lady Anne Erskine was riding by, and she asked who it was that was addressing the vast assembly. She was told that it was the celebrated Rowland Hill. Said she, ''I have heard of him; drive me near the platform, that I may listen to him.'' The eye of Rowland Hill rested on her. He saw that she belonged to the aristocracy, and turning to someone, he inquired who she was. He went on preaching, and all at once he stopped. ''My friends, he said, I have got something here for sale.'' Everybody was startled to think that a minister was going to sell something in his sermon. ''I am going to sell it by auction, and it is worth more than the crown of all Europe, it is the soul of Lady Anne Erskine. Will any one bid
for her soul? Hark! methinks I hear a bid. Who bids? Satan bids. What will you give? I will give riches, honor, and pleasure' yea, I will give the whole world for her soul. Hark! I hear another bid for this soul. Who bids? The Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, what will you give for this soul? I will give peace, and joy, and comfort that the world knows not of; yea, I will give eternal life for her soul.'' Turning to Lady Anne Erskine, he said, ''You have heard the two bidders for your soul which shall have it?'' She ordered the footman to open the door, and pushing her way through the crowd, she said, ''The Lord Jesus shall have my soul, if He will accept it.''
That story may be true, or it may not; but there is one thing I know to be true there are two bidders for your soul now. It is for you to decide which shall have it. Satan offers you what he cannot give; he is a liar, and has been from the foundation of the world. I pity the man who is living on the devil's promises. He lied to Adam, deceived him, stripped him of all he had, and then left him in his lost, ruined condition. And all the men since Adam, living on the devil's lies, the devil's promises, have been disappointed, and will be, down to the end of the chapter. But the Lord Jesus Christ is able to give all He offers, and He offers eternal life to every lost soul. The gift of God is eternal life. Who will have it? Will anyone flash it over the wires, and let it go up to the throne of God, that you want to be saved?
Some time since a man told me he was anxious to be saved, but Christ had never sought for him. I said, ''What are you waiting for?'' ''Why,'' he said, ''I am waiting for Christ to call me. As soon as He calls me, I am coming.'' There maybe others here who have got the same notion. Now I do not believe there is a man in this land that the Spirit of God has not striven with at some period of his life. I do not believe there is a person but Christ has sought after him. Bear in mind, He takes the place of the seeker. Every man who has ever been saved
through these six thousand years was first sought after by God. No sooner did Adam fall, than God sought him. He had gone away frightened, and hid himself among the bushes in the garden, but God took the place of the seeker; and from that day to this God has always had the place of the seeker. No man or woman has ever been saved but that He sought them first.
What do we read in the fifteenth chapter of St. Luke? There is a shepherd bringing home his sheep into the fold. As they pass in, he stands and numbers them. I can see him counting one, two, three, up to ninety-nine. ''But,'' says he, ''I ought to have a hundred. I must have made a mistake''; and he counts them over again. ''There are only ninety-nine here. I must have lost one.'' He does not say, ''I will let him find his own way back.'' No! He takes the place of the seeker. He goes out into the mountain, and hunts until he finds the lost one, and then he lays it on his shoulder and brings it home. Is it the sheep that finds the shepherd? No, it is the shepherd that finds and brings back the sheep. He rejoiced to find it. Undoubtedly the sheep was very glad to get back to the fold, but it was the shepherd who rejoiced, and who called his friends and said, ''Rejoice with me.''
Then there is that woman who lost the piece of money. Someone perhaps had paid her a bill that day, giving her ten pieces of silver. As she retires at night, she takes the money out of her pocket and counts it. ''Why,'' she says, ''I have only got nine pieces. I ought to have ten.'' She counts it over again. ''Only nine pieces! Where have I been since I got that money? I am sure I have not been out of the house.'' She turns her pocket wrong side out, and there she finds a hole in it. Does she wait until the money gets back into her pocket? No. She takes a broom, and lights a candle, and sweeps diligently. She moves the sofa and the table and the chairs, and all the rest of the furniture, and sweeps in every corner until she finds it. And when she has found it, who rejoices? The piece of money? No;
the woman who finds it. In these parables, Christ brings out the great truth that God takes the place of seeker. People talk of finding Christ, but it is Christ who first finds them.
Another young man told me one night that he was too great a sinner to be saved. Why, they are the very men Christ came after. ''This Man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.'' The only charge they could bring against Christ down here was that He was receiving bad men. They are the very kind He is willing to receive. All you have got to do is to prove that you are a sinner, and I will prove that you have got a Saviour. And the greater the sinner, the greater need you have of a Saviour. You say your heart is hard; well, then, of course, you want Christ to soften it. You cannot do it yourself. The harder your heart, the more need you have of Christ; the blacker you are, the more need you have of a Savior. If your sins rise up before you like a dark mountain, bear in mind that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. There is no sin so big, or so black, or so corrupt and vile, but the blood of Christ can cover it. So I preach the old gospel again, ''The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)
It was Adam's fall, his loss, that brought out God's love. God never told Adam, when He put him into Eden, that He loved him. It was his fall, his sin, that brought it out. A friend of mine from Manchester was in Chicago a few years ago, and he was very much interested in the city a great city, with its 300,000 or 400,000 inhabitants, with its great railway centers, its lumber market, its pork market, and its grain market. He said he went back to Manchester and told his friends about Chicago. But he could not get anybody very much interested in it. It was a great many hundreds of miles away, and the people did not seem to care for hearing about it. But one day there came flashing along the wire the sad tidings that it was on fire; and, my friend said, the Manchester people became suddenly interested in Chicago! Every dispatch that came they read. They bought
up the papers, and devoured every particle of news. And at last, when the dispatch came that Chicago was burning up, that 100,000 people were turned out of house and home, then everyone became so interested that they began to weep for us. They came forward and laid down their money some gave hundreds of dollars for the relief of the poor sufferers. It was the calamity of Chicago that brought out the love of Manchester, and of London, and of Liverpool. I was in that terrible fire, and I saw men that were wealthy stripped of all they had. That Sunday night, when they retired, they were the richest men in Chicago. Next morning they were paupers. I did not see a man weep. But when the news came flashing along the wire, ''Liverpool gives ten thousand dollars; Manchester sends five thousand dollars; London is giving money to aid the city''; as the news kept flashing that help was coming, our city was broken hearted. I saw men weep then. The love that was shown us broke our hearts. So the love of God ought to break every heart today. It was love that brought Christ down here to die for us. It was love that made Him leave His place by the Father's throne and come down here to seek and to save that which was lost.
But now for the sake of these men who believe Christ never sought them, perhaps it would be well to say how He seeks. There are a great many ways in which He does so.
One night I found a man in the inquiry-room, and the Lord had been speaking to him by the prayers of a godly sister who died a little while ago. Her prayers were answered. He came into the inquiry-room trembling from head to foot. I talked to him about the plan of salvation, and the tears trickled down his cheeks, and at last he took Christ as his Savior. The Son of Man sought out that young man through the prayers of his sister, and then through her death.
Some of you have godly, praying mothers, who have prayed whole nights for your soul, and who have now gone to heaven. Did not you take their hand and promise that you would meet
them there? That was the Son of God seeking you by your mother's prayers and your mother's death. Some of you have got faithful, godly ministers who weep for you in the pulpit, and plead with you to come to Christ. You have heard heart-searching sermons, and the truth has gone down deep into your heart, and tears have come down your cheeks. That was the Son of God seeking you. Some of you have had godly, praying Sabbath school teachers and superintendents, urging you to come to Christ. Some of you, perhaps, have got young men converted around you, and they have talked with you and pleaded with you to come to Christ. That was the Son of God seeking after your soul. Some of you have had a tract put into your hand with the startling title, ''Eternity: Where will you spend it?'' and the arrow has gone home. That was the Son of God seeking after you. Many of you have been laid on a bed of sickness, when you had time to think and meditate, and in the silent watches of the night, when everybody was asleep, the Spirit of God has come into your chamber, has come to your bedside, and the thought came stealing through your mind that you ought to be a child of God and an heir of heaven. That was the Son of God seeking after your lost soul. Some of you have had little children, and you have laid them in the cemetery. When that little child was dying you promised to love and serve God. Ah, have you kept your promise? That was the Son of God seeking you. He took that little child yonder to draw your affections heavenwards.
O friends, open the door of your heart and let the heavenly Visitor in. Do not turn Him away any longer. Do not say with Felix, ''Go Thy way this time, and when I have a convenient season I will call for Thee.'' Make this a convenient season; make this the hour of your salvation. Receive the gift of God now, open the door of your heart, and say: ''Welcome, thrice welcome into this heart of mine.''
Chapter Twelve || Table of Contents for The Best of D.L. Moody