Christmas Evening 1769

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Luke 19:10
Luke19 toseek
Attentive observers of divine providence, may often remark, that very great events often arise from small and unthought-of of occasions.  It is often verified in spirituals.  What an important moment, when a soul is first converted to God.  What a change then takes place, yet how suddenly and as it were accidentally is it brought about, as in the case of Onesimus, and others.  We have here an occasion which has been often made successful – curiosity.  Zacchaeus did not press through the multitude to Jesus; he only wanted to see him from the top of a tree as he passed by.  But behold Jesus, whom he thought a stranger, looked up and called him by his name – divine power accompanied the word, grace reached his heart, and that day salvation came to his house.  O that it may be so with some present.
Our Lord was often reproached by the blind Pharisees, for the mercy he showed to the unworthy, and probably upon this occasion, as the Publicans or tax gatherers of whom Zacchaeus was a chief, were the objects of their scorn and hatred.  It was perhaps to prevent or answer their usual objections that he intimates in the words I have read, how agreeable his conduct to Zacchaeus was to his own character and the great design of his coming into the world, which was not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance – to seek and to save that which was lost.
The return of this day is by long custom been observed as a commemoration of the coming of Christ in the flesh.  But how is it observed by many – alas as a time of riot and folly, for the indulgence of those sins and follies, those works of the devil, which Christ was manifested to destroy.  A little lip service and outward attendance at church and the rest of the day and many following days, which instead of holidays might rather be called sinning days, spent in dissipation. So I fear it is with many here and perhaps you are waiting to close this very evening as you might do, if you thought or was sure, that Christ came into the world to procure you a liberty of sinning without control.  The Lord give you a better understanding of my text before you go from hence.

Two things:
1. The state of mankind, which moved the pity of Jesus to come that he might seek and save them, is expressed fully and briefly by that which was lost – which may be considered either as a thing is lost, when the rightful proprietor is deprived of it, or as a person is said to be lost, when he is in a miserable, hopeless, state, so as to be beyond all ordinary means of assistance and recovery.  Thus sinners are lost to God and lost in themselves.
  1.1 A sinner may be described as lost to God.  He made us and he made us for himself, for his own service, for his own glory, to know, love and honour him.  But as it was said of the Prodigal, this my son was lost, so God has lost the reverence, obedience and dependence due to him from his creatures.  Speaking after the manner of men he expresses concern and as it were disappointment upon this account (Isaiah 1:2 [1] and 5:4 [2]).  In him we live and move and have our being.  He gives us life and breath and all things, rain and fruitful seasons – a boundless capacity and an immortal duration.  But what are the returns?  How totally are we all lost to him by nature, and how totally are some of you lost to him still.  May he give you to know it.
    1.1.1 Instead of reverence, contempt and blasphemy.  See how it is with angels and glorified spirits (Isaiah 6).  But how is it on earth?  Ah, how is the holy arm of God profaned, his worship neglected, etc.
    1.1.2 Instead of dependence upon him, Self reigns in every heart.  We trust in our own strength and live to our own ends (Daniel 5:23 [3]).
      Instead of obedience, the sinner has broken the bonds of God and cast off his yolk behind him.  Which of his holy commandments is not transgressed wilfully, habitually, openly, without control and without remorse – as if it was, as indeed it is, a very principle of our vile nature to set our maker at defiance.  Consider each of you what part you have in these charges.
  1.2 But if man is lost to God, is he not lost in himself also?  Yes, he that sinneth against God wrongeth his own soul.  The utmost meaning of the word lost in a worldly sense, falls far short of its meaning here.  O think what you have lost and how [you] are lost, if Christ has not saved you and repaired your breaches.
    1.2.1 You have lost the image of God – all spiritual knowledge of righteousness and true holiness.  This loss perhaps does not affect you – the loss of health or money would trouble you more, but it will not be always thus.  If you do not lay it to heart sooner you will at least in that solemn hour when you render up your soul to God.
    1.2.2 You have lost his favour and communion.  Do you pity a blind man?  You have lost the eyes of your soul.  Would you pity a man banished from all that comfort and do him good?  While you remain in your natural state, you are in the case of Cain, driven from the presence of the Lord.  Ah, poor, blind, banished, wanderers, where can you go for good?  If he that has made you will have no mercy upon you, if he that formed you, will show you no favour?  But still more:
    1.2.3 You are lost under his curse – you are not only excluded from his presence, but exposed to his wrath.  You hear not from him now, only in his ordinances, and providences, but ere long you must see him face to face.  He will reprove you and set your sins in order before your eyes.  Think of that dreadful sentence – 2 Thessalonians 1:9. [4]  Thus we are utterly lost except Christ seeks and saves us.
2. He came to seek and to save – to restore man to God and to restore life and peace and happiness to man.
  2.1 This magnifies his grace.  He did not come to save those who, sensible of their misery, were imploring his compassion, but he must seek them as well as save them.
  2.2 It magnifies his power.  Had not this ruin been under hand, we must have been lost for ever.  For none less than Almighty could save us.  Nor could he save by speaking; it was necessary he should come, that is:
    2.2.1 take our nature upon him
    2.2.2 take our sin upon him and stand in our place, for obedience and atonement.  He came for these purposes and he effectually fulfilled them.  Thus he saves by price and redemption.
  Farther, he saves by power – this is the seeking spoke of.  They are insensible of his love and their own misery – in seeking he employs his providence, word, ordinances and Spirit.  May I not hope that he his[has] come thus here to seek and to save some of you tonight?  When he saves he saves completely, he removes the curse, restores access and power with God, renews the divine image upon the soul, and thus reclaims the rebel, and teaches him to reverence, love and serve the God of his life.
The Lord is now seeking.  O may you be willing to be found of him, or else you are lost for ever.  And let those whom he has redeemed out of the hand of the enemy, praise and magnify his name and renew their engagements in his strength to serve him and walk before him in holy obedience all their days.

1. Isaiah 1:2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
2. Isaiah 5:4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
3. Daniel 5:23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:
4. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

Cowper & Newton Museum

Marylynn Rouse, 03/12/2018