A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Morning, December 17, 1865, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
This man receives sinners, and eats with them. (Luke 15:2)
1. It is not very wonderful that the Pharisees could not understand the Saviour’s mode of action, not only because self-righteousness and bigotry had blinded their eyes, and callousness of heart to the interest of others had bound them up in the darkness of self-righteousness, but also because the Saviour’s mode of acting was contrary to the general current of the age to which the Pharisee had been accustomed. The age of the old covenant was that of distance. When God appeared even to his servant Moses, it was, “Do not draw near here: take off your shoes from your feet”; and when he revealed himself upon Mount Sinai to his own chosen and separated people, one of the first commands was, “You shall set bounds about the mount, and if so much as a beast touches the mountain it shall be stoned or thrust through with an arrow.” In the sacred worship of the tabernacle and the temple the thought of distance must always have been prominent to the devout mind. The mass of the people did not even enter the outer court. Into the inner court no one except the priests could ever dare to come; while into the innermost place, or the holy of holies, only once a year only one person ever entered. A thick costly veil hung before the manifestation of Jehovah’s presence, and upon the Shekinah no mortal eye ever gazed, except that eye which once a year alone dared to look upon its splendour through the mist of the smoking incense, when the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the mercy seat. The Lord seemed always to be saying to all of his people, with only a few exceptions, “Do not come near here.” It was the age of distance; as if the Lord in those early ages would teach man that sin was so utterly loathsome to him that he must treat men as lepers put outside the camp, and when he came nearest to them still made them feel the distance of the separation between a holy God and the impure sinner. But Jesus Christ came on quite another footing. The word “Go” was now exchanged for “Come,” and distance was made to give place to nearness; partitions were broken down, middle walls of separation became like tottering fences, and we who sometime were afar off were made near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Hence, Incarnate Deity has no wall of fire around it. Christ was surrounded with that divinity which hedges around a king, but it was only as a hedge of thorns to himself, and not as a hedge of briars to keep off the approach of the lowliest of mankind. “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”—that is the joyful proclamation of God as he appears in human flesh. He does now not teach the leper his leprosy by placing him at a distance, but by suffering the penalty of man’s defilement; he does not now teach man that the disease is naturally incurable; he now shows him the heavenly cure, by revealing the fact that God without sullying his purity can come into contact with impurity for its removal, and without receiving contagion from the arch-leper, God can grapple with the devil in the human heart, and lay hold upon his adversary so that he may bind him hand and foot, and cast him away from men, no more to oppress our race. Jesus ushered in the age of nearness, which, as you all know is to be followed by one of greater nearness still, for, whereas God is very near to us spiritually, the day draws near—oh, hasten it, good Lord!—when the angels shall sing, “The tabernacle of God is with men and he dwells among them”; when we shall need no temple in which Deity can be enshrined, for the Lord God and the Lamb shall be the temple of universal manhood, and we shall see him face to face, and days of distance and of mourning shall be ended. I do not wonder then that Pharisees, who had drunk very deep into the separating spirit of the law, should have been perfectly astounded that a person claiming to be the Messiah, and professing to be that Adoni who sits at the right hand of Jehovah until his enemies are made his footstool,—should, as they thought, act so inconsistently with his own professions, and allow constantly a mob of the dross, and scum, and trash of the population to be associated with him. They therefore said, “This man receives sinners,” and worse still, he breaks through all rules of caste, and all degrees of separateness, and makes himself so familiar that he actually eats with them.
2. Now, this truth, which so startled them, has become very familiar to those of us who have been received and have eaten with him; but still the sinner trembling under a sense of sin feels the spirit of the old law like a black cloud hovering over him, and he can hardly venture to believe, much less to understand in all its richness of mercy, that Jesus still receives sinners. He fosters the notion that Jesus will look for some good thing in him, and demand at least some redeeming trait in character, some act of penitence, some holy resolution, something or other which may mitigate guilt, and conciliate regard; but the abstract truth that this man receives sinners as such, and eats with them, needs to be proclaimed again, and again, and again, so that the ears of unbelieving, mistrustful men may at last receive it, and that their hearts may feel its power. May God the Holy Spirit bless our attempt this morning, and his shall be the praise.
3. Now, first of all, Jesus receiving sinners; and secondly, Jesus eating with them.
Jesus Receiving Sinners
4. I. First, then, JESUS RECEIVING SINNERS.
5. This was and is a great fact—our Lord received, and still receives sinners. He permits them to form a part of his congregation, and even to draw near to hear him. A philosopher wrote over the door of his academy, “He who is not learned, let him not enter here”; but Jesus speaks by Wisdom in the Proverbs, and says, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here: as for him who wants understanding, let him eat my bread, and drink the wine which I have mingled.” (Proverbs 9:4,5) He invites the simple to come and learn at his feet. Moral teachers have always been choice in the selection of their followers, and have thought it to be a degradation and a casting of pearls before swine, to throw their useful maxims, their invaluable dogmas as they dreamed them to be, before the common herd, the sinful crowd. But this man receives sinners. Whatever other men may do, this man, this one, this one alone if no other is with him, this one beyond all other teachers, however gentle and compassionate—this man receives sinners. He will speak and propound his mysteries too, even when sinful ears are listening, for he receives sinners as his disciples, as well as his hearers. If they come casually into the throng, his eye glances upon them, and he has a word of gentle rebuke, and wooing love; but if they will come and join the class who cluster constantly around him, they shall be thoroughly welcome, and the deeper and higher truths reserved for disciples shall be revealed to them, and they shall know the mystery of the kingdom. When he has cleansed sinners, he receives them not only as disciples, but as companions. This man permits the guilty, the once profane, the recently debauched, and formerly dissolute, to associate themselves with him, to wear his name, to sit in his house, to be written in the same Book of Life with himself. He makes them here partakers with him in his affliction, and hereafter they shall be partakers with him in his glory. This man receives pardoned sinners into companionship. Indeed, more, he receives them into friendship. The head that leaned upon his bosom was a sinner’s head, and those who sat at the table with him, to whom he said, “Henceforth I do not call you servants, but friends,” were all sinners, as they felt themselves to be. She who bore him, she who ministered to him from her substance, she who washed his feet with tears, she who was first at his empty sepulchre, all these were sinners, and some of them sinners emphatically. Into his heart’s love he receives sinners, takes them from the dunghill and wears them as jewels in his crown, plucks them as brands from the burning, and preserves them as precious monuments of his mercy; and none are so precious in his sight as the sinners for whom he died. When Jesus receives sinners, he does not have some outdoor reception place where he charitably entertains them for awhile, as great men may do for passing beggars, but he opens the big golden gates of his own heart, and he takes the sinner right into himself—yes, he admits the sinner into personal union with himself, and makes the sinner a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. There was never such a reception as this. This fact is still the same: he is still receiving sinners.
6. This fact must not excite your unbelief because of its strangeness. I know the world, sinful as it is, does not receive sinners. When her character is gone, the fallen woman is pointed at in the streets, and no decent society will entertain her; but this man receives prostitutes when their good name and fame has long since become a thing of the past. When the man has played the rogue, and the prison has confined him, among his fellows there are few who will speak with or acknowledge him; but this man receives thieves, for a dying thief went with him into Paradise. Some men who ran well for a season, who suddenly fall from their high estate, are banished and excluded, proscribed and shut out; and I suppose, while society is what it is, this must always be the case: indeed, in Christ’s Church discipline requires that the offender should be put out from us; it is painful, but it must be done; but there is no “must” of this kind pressing with dire necessity upon the tender heart of the Saviour; he can receive without pollution; indeed, even receive into his heart without injury to his purity. “This man receives sinners.” Contrary to the maxims, and customs, and ways of the world, Jesus keeps open house for outcasts; when all other doors are shut this man’s door is open; when every one else has told you to go your way as an unclean thing, not fit to be looked upon, this man still stands crying, “Come to me! Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Blessed fact! May you prove its truthfulness, dear friends, by going to Jesus yourself, even though you are in the worst sense a sinner.
7. “This man receives sinners”; not, however, so that they may remain sinners, but to pardon their sins, to justify their persons, to cleanse their hearts by the Holy Spirit, to preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to lead them on from strength to strength, to enable them to serve him, and to show forth his praise, to have communion with him, and to enjoy his love—“This man receives sinners” at last to reign with him in everlasting glory, when the world and sin shall have passed away. Thus much we have noticed with regard to the fact. Oh blessed Spirit, give poor troubled consciences power to rest in this sweet truth.
8. I want your attention to another thought, namely, the consistency of this fact. It is a most consistent and proper thing that this man should receive sinners. If the Pharisees had not been so foolish by their prejudice, and would have considered the matter a little while, they might have thought so too. Consider his person—who was this man? He claimed to be, and even they themselves must have acknowledged him to have been by descent, the Son of David. It was most natural that the Son of David should receive sinners. It is what David did; you expect to see the Son of David doing what his father did before him. Do you not remember when David went to the stronghold, in the cave of Adullam, that it is written, “Every one who was in distress, and every one who was in debt, and every one who was discontented gathered themselves to him, and he became a captain to them.” The very first band of men who ever served under David were most disreputable characters in the eye of Saul and his government. They had escaped from their country partly impoverished through the tyrannical conduct of Saul, and probably also being knee deep in treason against him, they escaped to put themselves under the leadership of that captain of the band, called David. It seemed only natural that the Son of David should receive just such a company, when he began to establish his spiritual monarchy. The New Jerusalem is founded upon Christ Jesus, who is pure and perfect, but its first stones are hewn out of the quarries of sin. Our Lord Jesus like Solomon builds the temple of the Church, but the materials come from among those Tyrian sinners who are strangers and aliens by birth. The Saviour takes, as his father, David, did before him, discontented bankrupts and distressed traitors so that they may make up his band. If they had thought of that circumstance, they might have seen that it was not quite so strange that the Son of David receives sinners.
9. If you and I reflect awhile, we shall remember that the types which were set forth concerning Christ all seem to teach us that he must receive sinners. One of the earliest types of the Saviour was Noah’s ark, by which a certain company not only of men but also of the lowest animals were preserved from perishing by water, and were floated out of the old world into the new. See, going up the hill on which the ark is built, not only the fleet gazelle, the timid sheep. the patient ox, the noble horse, the generous dog, and the fair creatures that you would wish to spare; but here comes the lion, his jaws all stained with blood; here is the fierce tiger and the wild hyena, the filthy swine and the stupid donkey; creatures of all kinds come here and find shelter. Who complains? I hear no voice lifting up its veto and crying, “There is no room for the swine here; there is no room for the fierce tiger here.” The ark was ordained on purpose to save some of every kind; and just so, our Saviour Jesus receives all kinds of people into himself, and it is no marvel if this man receives sinners. Flee here, you loving and tender doves! Come here, you sweet birds of purest song! But ho, you ravens, eagles, vultures, and birds of evil name, hurry here also, for the ark receives all who come! A very prominent type under the levitical times was the City of Refuge. If a man had slain another, he fled from the pursuer of blood with hot haste and swift foot, and ran at once into the City of Refuge, and the gates were shut and he was preserved. Now, brethren, you would not have thought it to be a strange thing if you had seen a manslayer fleeing to the city, you would have thought it far more unusual if anyone came there but manslayers. “Why,” you say, “this city has been set up and ordained on purpose so that men who have been manslayers might find refuge within its walls, and therefore it is natural to find the red handed man come fleeing here.” Beloved, Jesus Christ is the City of Refuge; who should flee to him except the sinner needing refuge, and whom should he shelter except those requiring sanctuary from the avenger of blood? When you see the guilty hurrying to Jesus, you say, “It is in keeping with the type, and it is no marvel whatever that he receives them.” The scapegoat, again, was a very obvious type of the Messiah. They laid the sins of the people upon the scapegoat’s head, and then it took all their iniquities away into the wilderness. Now, suppose some objecting critic had said, “This goat which is set apart in the worship of God actually bears sins upon its head, and here are sinful people coming to put their sins there.” Who else should come? What was the meaning of the scapegoat, if there was no sin among the people of Israel? Come here today, not you righteous, for you need no scapegoat, but you sinful ones. Here is the sin bearer in type before you, set apart to bear the iniquity of the people, he is about to be driven into the wilderness to take sin away; come here and put your sin upon him, for unless you come the ceremony will have no meaning whatever. Look through any of the types, and with very few exceptions, the thought of sin is prominent, and the doctrine that Christ is to come into the world to save sinners is clearly written upon the forefront of the whole set of types of the Old Testament.
10. Let us notice again that the metaphors which Christ has used to portray himself, many, if not all of them imply that he receives sinners. What is written concerning him? “There shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” In our hymns over and over and over again we delight to sing,
There is a fountain filled with blood.
and yet again,
The fountain of Christ,
Lord help us to sing.
11. Now what is the fountain for except for the cleansing of the filthy? Cleanse the already clean! Absurd! Why do they need it? If they are already pure, why do they need to wash? But the fact that there is provision made for great washing implies great filthiness, and that the fountain is furnished with a purifying element of wondrous power, namely, precious blood, seems to indicate that it was meant for great sin, unheard of sin—sin which to the uttermost has polluted and defiled the body of manhood. The Saviour also describes himself as a feast in many of his parables. A great king makes a supper, and oxen and fatlings are killed. Now for whom is a feast prepared unless for the hungry? In the parables the feast is set not merely for hungry people, but the blind, the halt, and the lame are called, and compelled to enter. The Saviour would not have delighted to portray himself as water except for the sake of thirsty ones, or as food, had there been no famishing souls. “Ho, every one who thirsts,” he says, “come to the waters; and he who has no money, let him come buy wine and milk, without money and without price.” Why is all this for people who have no needs? Sinners are those who have these needs, these hungerings and thirstings; and they are invited to come to Christ as the gospel feast.
12. Moreover, the Master has been pleased to assume for himself one or two titles which imply that he came to receive sinners. He takes the title of physician, but as he told these very Pharisees a little while before, “The healthy have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” There is no practice for the physician in a neighbourhood where every man is well. There must be sickness to involve the necessity for a physician. What is his profession for? What is his skill in medicine if men are safe and sound without it? And why is Christ the Saviour—the pardoner—if there are none to save or forgive? There is no supererogation in the Bible, nothing superfluous—why is Christ a physician, unless there are the sick? He calls himself very frequently the Redeemer, and saints in the olden times delighted to speak of him as their Redeemer; but for whom is a Redeemer required? Who except a slave needs redeeming? Who needs to be purchased into liberty except the man who is in hopeless bondage, and cannot free himself from the chain? A redeemer for men already free—how can it be? He does not release free men, but captives; he loosens real and irksome fetters; he does not snap fictitious chains which imagination binds about fretful, frivolous people, but he breaks iron chains and snatches real yokes from off the necks of the thoroughly bound. There can be no Redeemer in the fulness of the title unless the people are enslaved, and his office must relate to such. I think I may distinctly say that if all the titles of the Saviour do not involve or suppose the existence of sins, the most do, and that either directly or indirectly, they would furnish an argument to me to show that this man came into the world to receive sinners.
13. If more evidence were needed, I would point you to the Saviour’s miracles. Very few of the miracles which the Saviour performed were miracles of judgment; they were almost all miracles of mercy. They were performed upon the sick, symbolic of his spiritual miracles upon the morally sick. They were performed upon people possessed by demons, as if to show at once that even the devilish element which enters into man’s rebellion is not too strong for the Saviour to conquer, or too foul for him to touch. His miracles were sometimes performed on the dead, and those, as you will remember, in different stages of corruption. The young child in Jairus’ chamber was still warm as though she had just fallen asleep: he quickened her. The young man at the gates of Nain was taken out to be buried: already there were signs which made the mother say, “Let us bury our dead out of our sight.” But the Almighty voice quickened him. As for Lazarus, he had been dead four days already, and his sister said, “By this time he stinks,” and as if to betoken that Jesus Christ can deliver not only from incipient sin, but from sin in its foulest stage of corruption and putridity, he spoke to Lazarus and said, “Lazarus, come out.” These miracles must have had some meaning and some teaching. If he so touched men and healed their natural infirmities, would you think, that he whose mission is mainly spiritual, will not heal spiritual infirmities? He might have said, and said truly, “Although I heal you, that is not the grand intent of my mission: my kingdom is not of this world, nor are my healings intended to be of this world either in their grandest development: I descended from heaven to heal sick souls, to raise the spiritually dead, and conquer disease in the realm of spirit, rather than in the physical world.” Today every miracle of the Saviour seems to cry to me, to you, “Diseased souls, look to Jesus Christ, and be saved.”
14. Did you ever observe how many of his parables, also, are to the same effect—how, time after time, as in the three memorable parables of the chapter before us, it is the sinner who he is teaching, and it is God’s love in forgiving sin that he is endeavouring to portray before the eyes which self-righteousness has made, alas! so dim and blind. He is always and immediately telling us about a vainglorious Pharisee, whose prayer is a mass of reeking pride; and of a penitent tax collector, whose humble cry brings justification from on high. He speaks of two debtors, who had nothing to pay, frankly were forgiven; and about the one who loved most, because he had the most forgiven. He speaks of a barren fig tree, spared to be dug around and fertilized, of a wounded man, pitied and helped by a good Samaritan; of loiterers admitted to the vineyard at the eleventh hour; and of poor, and halt, and lame, entertained at a banquet of love.
15. I need not continue longer in this strain, for I think the consistency of the fact is evident to you all. I can well picture before me Jesus Christ receiving sinners, but I cannot imagine him, I cannot, with the utmost stretch of imagination, picture him as rejecting sinners. I cannot read the rest of his life, and then think of him as saying, “Stand back, you unclean.” I cannot suppose him with a crowd before him crying, “Get away, you ungodly; keep a distance from this pure and sacred Being who condescends to look upon you,” and I cannot—I will not try either—I cannot imagine it to be possible that he will reject you, my dear friend, if you go this morning into his presence and humbly seek his face. It would be altogether a departure from his constant mode of action, and there can be no such departure, for he is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Thus, I think, we have shown the consistency of the fact with the person and work of Christ.
16. Observe, the condescension of this fact. This man, who towers above all other men, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners—this man receives sinners. This man, who is none other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces—this man receives sinners. It needs an angel’s tongue to describe this mighty stoop of love. That any of us should be willing to seek after the lost seed of the house of Adam is nothing wonderful, they are of our own race; but that he, the offended God, against whom the transgression had been committed—that he should take upon himself the form of a servant and bear the sin of many, and should then as man be willing to receive the vilest of the vile, and blot out their transgressions and iniquities—this is marvellous. It is only rendered believable at all, by the fact, that God himself declares it, and that abundant witnesses testify to it. I do think that if for the first time any except God had told the angels of this, they could not have conceived it to be true; and I do not wonder that sometimes sinners under a sense of sin cry out, “It is too good to be true.” It would be, indeed, too good, if it were looked at from your side of the question, but viewed as coming from God, the infinite fountain of all bounty and mercy, it is believable, it is joyfully certain. It is the greatest wonder in heaven, or earth, or even in hell. There is no marvel like the truth that “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” that he who lives for ever bowed his head to die for sinners; and having made atonement for sin, now receives the very chief of sinners into his heart’s love, and makes them his companions and his friends. Oh, will you kick against such condescension as this? Will your hearts be like iron when you think of such favour as this revealed to sinful men? Sinners, when God stoops, will you not stoop? When from the highest heaven he seeks you, will you not seek him? When you thus see his love so infinitely revealed, are there no drawings of heart, are there no meltings of penitence towards the bleeding Saviour? Surely cold drops of horror might stand even upon marble, or exude from granite, at the sound of Calvary’s groans; and are there no tears in your eyes, no thoughts of melting, moving penitence, when you feel such mercy and compassion revealed towards you? Jesus condescends to receive sinners, and yet they oppose him. Be astonished, oh heavens! Be ashamed, oh earth!
17. We only touch that point, and now let us notice the certainty of this fact. That “this man receives sinners” is undeniable. Sometimes when the sinner comes, Jesus is standing on the doorstep, and before he begins to knock, he is safe in the Saviour’s arms, and finds himself forgiven before he has time to make a complete confession. At other times men have to knock, but the very first knock opens the door. Some of us who stood knocking four or five years, unbelievingly knocking, but still knocking anxiously, craving mercy and not finding it. Ah, but we did find it after all. It does not say that he will show you that he has received you in the next minute or two, that he will pour peace into your spirit the first moment he receives you, but he will receive you. If he tarries, wait for him; knock, and knock, and knock again, for there never yet was a soul that could say, “I was a sinner: I went to this man and he did not receive me.” You are growing weary, are you, young man; these three or four months that you have been watching and praying have tried your patience? Ah, dear brother, do you not see the cross, and the Saviour hanging on it? If you look at him, your time of suspense will doubtless be over at once. You have made a mistake: darkness has been over your eyes; you have been looking in the wrong place—to your feelings, your penitence, your faith, rather than to him; or, if it is true that he has kept you waiting, still wait on, hope on, hope always. While the lamp holds out to burn, despair must not trample down your soul. Jesus must receive you: he did receive sinners once, and again I ask you to remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. He must receive you: cast yourself on him, and you shall find that he will receive you. There is a great multitude of people here this morning, and yet among us all there is not one who can say, “We sought the Lord and he would not receive us”; but there are many hundreds here, who, although they had a sorry time of it in the time of conviction, can still clap their hands and say, “Truly, truly, the Master does reveal himself to all who cry to him in truth.” Do try him, then, and you shall find it true with you.
18. I shall want you now, dear friends, for a moment to permit me to show the adaptation of this fact to many who are now present. “This man receives sinners,” is an announcement well adapted to many of this congregation. It is so very plain. If it were a sentence which needed much explanation, it might not suit the multitude. There would be some who would think it over and say, “Alas! such a text hardly meets my case; it is a mystery; I cannot get to the bottom of it.” But this is so simple, “This man receives sinners.” You know what it is to be received into a house. You go, you knock, the door opens, you are received. This is all you have to do in the matter of salvation. You go, as you are, to Christ; you knock, you are received. It is a blessed sentence from its plainness.
19. It is very blessed, too, from its personality. I can see my name in it. You will say, “How?” Well, dear friends, I wish you may be able to see yours. “This man receives sinners.” It does not say he receives John, Hannah, Sarah, Mary, and Thomas; it says something much better than that; it says, “This man receives sinners.” Now there may be a mistake about my name being Charles; and if I found it written in God’s Word that he received a person of my name, I should always be excessively anxious about the registration; I should be afraid lest I should not really be the person described; but when it says he “receives sinners,” I am very clear about this meaning me, for I know I am a sinner; the devil himself, liar as he is, dares not say I am not. Indeed, he oftentimes does me very good service, by telling me how very clearly that is my name; and I never thank him for anything but that—that he does sometimes help one to read his title clear, by enabling one to see distinctly that he is a sinner. Well, you are a sinner: then the text means you; “This man receives sinners.” If you were in some country, say in the centre of Africa, wandering around at night, amidst a crowd of huts, wondering where you could find lodging for the night; if you saw a board put up very legibly printed with these words, “This person receives white men,” why you would say to yourself, “That is it.” You would not care though it did not say, “This person receives John Smith or Tom Brown.” It would be quite enough for you, “He receives white men.” You are a white man, and you would say, “He receives me.” Now, this man receives sinners, you are a sinner: then he will receive you. Suppose we reverse it, and there was put up a notice in one of our streets, “At this house they receive black men.” Now, I cannot conceive any black man saying, “They will not receive me because I am so very black. ‘Why,’ he says, ‘It says they will receive me, and the more black I am the more certainly is this invitation meant for me. If I am a jet black man, then I am very black, and they will with the less hesitation receive me.’” I cannot suppose a half caste man saying, “Well, I have a little white in me, therefore I feel sure they will take me.” He might feel proud of it, but then there would come afterwards the thought, “Then I am not so clear that this is meant for me, if I am not all black.” So if there are any of you who are a little self-righteous, and say, “I do not know whether I am such a sinner as some people are,” you may doubt whether you are a sinner, but you who know you are sinners right through to the core, sinners everywhere and every way, there cannot be any doubt about you, your name is as clearly there as possible. There is plainness and there is personality.
20. But there is presentness too. “This man receives sinners.” Sometimes on the doorsteps of workhouses you may see a very sorry sight late at night—a company of men, women, and boys crowding on the doorstep to spend the night there, because they came too late. There must be an hour when the workhouse must be shut, and the refuge for the night closed, and they arrived too late, and they must be kept outside. But you never saw a soul shivering outside Christ’s door on the doorstep of eternal ruin, because it came too late in this life. There was the thief: he had a hard run for it, but he just reached the door in time. Without doubt it is written on the top of my Master’s door, “This man receives—at all times and at all seasons—this man receives sinners.” It will be a dolorous day for you, some of you, if you die as you now are, when this sentence will be blotted out, and you will see written over the door of mercy, “This man received sinners.” Then it will be the hell of your hells that he did receive sinners once, but that you never came; that when it was said “he receives sinners,” you passed by carelessly and proudly, and would not enter; and now mercy is a thing of the past, and you are shut up where hope can never come, in the flames of hell. But as long as life lasts, dear hearers, that inscription stands in all its glorious presentness. “This man receives sinners.”
21. Do observe the unqualified sense in which the sentence is put, “This man receives sinners.” But how? What kind of sinners? How are they to feel? How are they to come? Not a word is said about their coming, or their preparation, but simply “This man receives sinners.” Some sinners came to Christ walking; others came to Christ limping on crutches, having lost a leg: he never turned any away because they came on crutches. One man came on his bed—indeed, he did not come, but was brought by other people; Jesus received him all the same for that. There were some who did not seek the Lord at all, but Christ Jesus came to them, and received them by a blessed victory of grace. He receives sinners, and the only stipulation that is put in at all is, “whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” If you are willing, take. If you have a will to Christ, if God has given you a will towards Christ Jesus—if you have nothing beyond that will, no feelings, no emotions, no works, no experience which could qualify you for him—if you only will—“Whoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” “This man receives sinners.” Sometimes if you want to get a child into an Orphan Asylum, you might just as well keep the child yourself as go through the expense and trouble of working to get the child in: there are so many difficulties to be encountered in accomplishing your goal. If you want to get to Jesus Christ, there is no trouble, no expense. Going to Jesus Christ is coming to an open door of mercy. The city of the New Jerusalem, you remember, had four gates, and we are told none of them are ever shut, “they are not shut at all by day, and there is no night there”; so that come as we may, “This man receives sinners just as they come to him.”
22. II. Now, I wanted to have spoken upon the second point, but I have not had sufficient forethought to store up the time, so we must only say of that just this: that Jesus Christ having once received sinners, enters into the most familiar and endearing communion with them that is possible. HE FEASTS WITH THEM—their joys are his joys, their work for God is his work for God. He feasts with them at their table, and they with him at his table; and he does this wherever the table is spread. It may be in an attic, or in a cellar; in a wilderness, or on a mountain; he still eats with them. This he does now in the ordinances and means of grace by his Spirit; and this he will do in the fulness of glory, when he takes these sinners up to dwell with him. Sinners are not merely permitted the parings of mercy, but the very marrow and fatness of mercy. They are not allowed to sit and dip their feet in the edge of the stream, but they may wade in and find it to be a river to swim in: they shall not in heaven sit in the outer circle, but they shall draw near the throne and reign with Jesus. There is nothing which Christ will not give to sinners. They shall be crowned; they shall have harps of gold; they shall dwell in the many mansions near to God himself. There is no second and lower party as it were: he does not receive sinners and put them at the lower end of the table, beyond the salt shaker. He receives sinners, and eats with them; receives them into the soul and flower of Christian life and Christian privilege among all the favoured saints of the celestial courts.
23. I wish that I had time to plead this matter home with some who are here this morning, and who are not believers in Jesus. Oh, sinner, trust my Master and you shall be saved. May the Spirit of God make you trust him now! I know your sense of unworthiness; I know you feel you are not fit to come, but he says nothing about fitness, and why should you say it? Christ lays down no conditions, and why do you make conditions? “This man receives sinners.” Why, says Bunyan, “I felt myself to be such a sinner once that I could only flee to Christ, and if he had had a drawn sword in his hand, the terrors of hell were so dreadful that I could have borne the terrors of that drawn sword to escape from the wrath of God.” But here, instead of the drawn sword is the warm loving heart. Flee to it, sinner. May God help you to flee now, so that you may be saved. If he should reject you come and tell us. I would not knowingly preach a lying gospel: and if you can prove to me that he does not receive sinners, we will have a Sunday service and preach that the gospel has failed; for we will preach the truth about him, and not speak falsely for God. When you find he rejects a coming sinner, let us hear about it, so that our hopes may no longer be as bright and high as they are now, if we are to be deceived after all. Try the Lord Jesus sinner! Taste and see that the Lord is good. Come to Jesus now! Come as you are! Come now to him! You do not need to wait to go to your houses to bend your knees to pray; one cry, one tear, one look with the believing eye will do it. “Look to me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” While we thus preach, may the Master enter into your hearts by his Spirit, and may you be led to him, and we will praise him together, world without end. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Luke 15]