Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 118, 1898

The Lost Sheep


September 22, 1898

Previously unpublished. +Note

“Then drew near all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” [Luke 15:1, 2.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 1

The attitude of the Pharisees toward the publicans and sinners was of such a character that Christ saw that they needed a rebuke. In the place of accepting the criticism of the hard-hearted Pharisees, He laid the rebuke upon the leaders of the Jewish nation for their neglect of the publicans and sinners. This class needed all the compassion and tenderness that could be given them. “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 neighbors 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.” [Verses 3-7.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 2

Had they been true shepherds, these leaders in Israel would have been faithful in the discharge of their duties required of a shepherd. The lost sheep were bleating from the fold, and did not know how to get back. The special work of the Lord was not for those who thought themselves safe, who praised themselves for their supposed piety, which held them aloof from those who needed their help. Had these men had that goodness and mercy that was revealed in the life of Christ, they would have engaged in this work with the great Shepherd. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 3

This parable Christ spoke to clear the understanding of those before Him; and this lesson was spoken not only for those who heard the words from the living Teacher, but for all who shall read them in the living oracles of God. The lost sheep knows that it is lost. It has departed from the shepherd and the sheep, and it cannot help itself. It represents those who have separated from God, and who are in a mist and cloud of perplexity, in humiliation and strangely tempted. This was the class to whom Christ’s heart of pitying tenderness was drawn out; and pitying love should be exercised by us to help the ones in need. Those who are not manifestly lost are not the ones for whom so much labor is required. It was those whom the self-centered, self-righteous Pharisees would leave to die that Christ came to seek with eager, hungering, thirsting perseverance until the lost was brought back to God. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 4

When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he does not drive it with a whip. He does not scold it for making him so much trouble. In its frightened, distressed condition, he does not even lead it back. He takes the wandering one upon his shoulder, and if it is bruised and wounded, he takes it in his arms, and gathers it close to his bosom, that his own vitality and the warmth of his own heart may give it life and inspire it with courage. In the place of mourning and pitying himself, he returns home with rejoicing, singing, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which I had lost.” “I say unto you,” Christ said, “That likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” [Verses 6, 7.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 5

Let us make the application. In every field, there are souls who have strayed away from God, and who need to be especially searched for. But after a series of two or three weeks’ meeting, a ministers’ meeting is appointed, and the ministers are taken away from the fields of labor where their help is so much needed to labor for souls who are convicted, and at great expense they are transported to some locality to devote weeks of labor to the very men who do not feel their sickness and need of a physician. Thus the fields bereft of their ministerial labor, and robbed of their workers, become indeed like the lost sheep. Had Christ planned and devised this work, money would have been invested in sending men and women workers through those localities where the camp meetings were held, and where there were many lost sheep to be searched for, nigh and afar off. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 6

Let everyone who has labored in word and in doctrine be set to work. Let them not wait for a license, but go to work. Let them use the talents God has given them, and go out into the highways and hedges. Let them watch and pray, and search the Scriptures. They will gain a precious, valuable experience. They have had the light of truth, and they are now to impart that which they have received from the Lord. And as they give to others the knowledge of the grace of God, holding Christ forth as a crucified and risen Saviour, God will be with them. A Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God must give the increase. To every one who knows the truth, we would say, You are accountable for the light you have received. God requires you to impart it. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 7

By the parable of the lost piece of silver, Christ illustrated the same truth. “Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one of them, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise I say unto you, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” [Verses 8-10.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 8

Here is another line of thought. In households there is often great carelessness. The souls of father, mother, children are in need of close, earnest, persevering prayer, and interested labor, lest in their family relations they lose one of God’s entrusted talents. If the soul is unconscious of his sinful state, parents should not rest. Let the life practice be carefully investigated, and see if the lost piece of silver cannot be found. How anxiously the woman who has lost her piece of silver searches for it until she finds it. She lights the candle, and sweeps the house until she finds it. Though it is only one piece, she is persevering; she will not give up. And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost.” “Likewise I say unto you,” Christ says, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” [Verses 9, 10.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 9

The lost piece of silver represents the sinner who, lost in trespasses and sins, has yet no sense of his condition. The unconscious soul is in constant danger, in constant peril, but is as unconcerned as the lost piece of silver. These souls are estranged from God, and they know it not; but they are to be searched for and found. If they are impenitent, every means should be used to reach them. It may be a wife, a husband, a child. Let there be a close and thorough work of soul examination represented by the search for the lost piece of silver. See if there is not some obstruction, some mistake, some error in management. These souls are the Lord’s property, and as the piece of money bears the mark of the ruling power, so they should bear upon their souls the likeness of God, His righteousness and true holiness. Then they will honor the God whose they are. If there is one in the family who is not safe in the fold, special efforts should be made to save that which is lost. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 10

These parables of the lost sheep and the lost pieces of silver set forth a loss of something which with proper search may be recovered, and that with great joy. In all Christ’s parables, He sets forth His work [for] our world. It is to seek the one lost sheep, the one world that has fallen through transgression of the law of God. This lost sheep must be found and brought back to the fold. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 11

If there is to be such diligent search for the lost sheep and the piece of silver; if there is such rejoicing when each is recovered, how much more earnest and untiring should be our efforts to find the souls who have separated themselves from God, and who do not know how to find their way back. Someone must go after them, and encourage and help them to return. We are not merely to say, “Come.” We are to lay right hold of them in tender, pitying love, and in their helpless, hopeless condition, give them our courage, our hope, our strength. It is ours to restore the lost, and in this work call upon others to rejoice with us in that Satan has lost his prey. And well may we sing, if search is not in vain. This parable does not speak of failure, but of success and joy in the recovery. This is the work all heaven is interested in. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 12

The truth thus spoken in parables was enlightening the understanding of the Jews. Christ improved the opportunity of eating with publicans and sinners, that He might let light shine forth upon those with whom He was brought into connection. His every word sowed seeds of truth. If a lost sheep was of sufficient value to be searched for until it was found, how much more the soul straying from God. Publicans and sinners will be welcomed by Christ. When He was upon the earth, even this class could not say, No man careth for my soul. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 13

Christ has given this lesson that it may come down along the line to our time. It is the good shepherd that is here symbolized, not the slothful and selfish keeper of the sheep. The faithful shepherd will still leave the ninety and nine and turn his energies to find the one lost sheep. The world’s Redeemer did not look upon His flock that were safely housed and say, Well, I have the ninety and nine, and I will not be solicitous for the one lost sheep. This is the way with many who are not numbered among the faithful shepherds. But Christ says, I must go after My sheep that is lost. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 14

He makes use of every resource to find that one lost sheep, and he is relieved when he hears its first faint cry. He climbs the steepest heights at the risk of his life. He goes to the edge of the precipice to see if his lost sheep is there. Thus he continues till the cry, much weaker, tells him that his sheep is ready to die, and after painstaking effort, the lost is found. His joy is too great to be borne all by himself. He must tell his neighbors, and with his sheep on his shoulder or in his arms, he begins to sing, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.” [Verse 6.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 15

Do we as a church that claims to believe the truth take this parable as an illustrated truth, and act it out? How many are educating themselves to be self-denying, self-sacrificing, men and women, to labor with their faithful Shepherd? The minister must have interested workers to follow his example and search for souls. Leave the church with solemn, earnest travail of soul, and praying with the Holy Spirit, missionaries may go forth making persevering efforts, refusing to yield or to become discouraged until the Lord’s lost property is recovered. 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 16

“And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; if thou wilt walk in my ways, if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.” [Zechariah 3:6, 7.] How many are turning from the lost ones with disdain. I thank God that the medical missionaries are finding the lost sheep. When one of these is recovered, and the cry goes forth, “Rejoice with me for I have found the sheep which was lost,” angels in heaven catch the glad strain from the weary but rejoicing shepherd, and the Lord Himself joins in the anthem of joy and gladness. [Luke 15:6, 7.] The song will be sung: 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 17

“The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.” [Zephaniah 3:17.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 18

Should not these words inspire the indolent to obtain a living connection with the Source of all power? Will they not be laborers together with God? Hear what God your great Teacher has to say to you: 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 19

“I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee; and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again: even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.” [Verses 18-20.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 20

“I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong: I will feed them with judgment. ... And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.” [Ezekiel 34:15, 16, 31.] 13LtMs, Ms 118, 1898, par. 21