Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
This assurance, coming from the lips of Jesus Himself, exhibits Christianity, both in its spirit and in its grandeur.
I. THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIANITY. The fact which Jesus teaches hero is that gladness and surprise, that joy and gratified affection, with which love welcomes at last its alienated but unsurrendered objects. In one word, my friends, our Saviour, in the passage before us, shows the identity of the great sentiment of love in heaven and upon earth, in the depths of Divine love and in the heart of man. He appeals to those affections which are most profoundly interwoven in our being. He exhibits the spirit and power of the gospel as not above or foreign to the elements of our own consciousness, but intimately allied to it. He based this appeal upon that which can be demonstrated from the most familiar and common experience. But let me say further, under this head, that by the light of this central love and compassion we should interpret the different parts as well as the grand whole of the gospel. All the sayings of Jesus Christ are to be interpreted in harmony with that spirit; we must take the deep essence and substance of the gospel. We are to receive what grows out of that — what most accords with its general sentiment. And I say what most accords with the general sentiment of the gospel, with the deep spirit and substance of the gospel, is this simple doctrine, that God cares for the sinner, for the vilest and most abandoned sinner who is upon earth. In a mother's heart there is a love that cannot be altered and exhausted, and that will claim that abandoned sinner when he comes back. So in the Infinite bosom, and in the bosoms of all heavenly beings, their exists the same love; the spirit that sent Jesus Christ on earth is that spirit; the purpose of Christ's mission is to declare that spirit. That is the peculiarity of the gospel over and above everything else. Precisely where man's faith falls and man's hope falters, is it that the gospel becomes clear and strong.
II. THE GRANDEUR OF CHRISTIANITY. CONSIDER ITS GRANDEUR AS ILLUSTRATED in the announcement of Jesus. The declaration in the text reveals two things — the nature of man and his spiritual relations. It exhibits man as a living soul, and as a member of the great family of souls. It strips away all conventionality from him. Christianity is primal democracy, lifted far above anything that either pro or con bears that name in our day as a party distinction. It is the great doctrine of man higher than his conditions, nobler than any material good. Why? Because he is a living soul; because within him there are deathless powers; because he is allied to God by a nature that no other being on this earth bears, and faculties that no other creature on this footstool possesses. And this is the source of 'its great achievement in modern civilization. Subtile theorists ask what Christianity has done for the progress of man. Christianity has thus sown the seeds of all progress, laid the foundation of all truth in government, and of all righteousness in society. It has been the master-key to all the grand efforts that man has made to be delivered from bondage, from oppression, from social wrong. It is the soul of liberty; it is the oriflamme that leads the hosts of humanity forward from effort to effort, to higher and higher social attainments. This is what Christianity has contributed to civilization and progress; it is the spring of all the, noble efforts of all time. In the next place, it reveals the relations of man to the whole spiritual universe — his relationship to all spiritual beings. Christianity is the complement of scientific truth in the spiritual facts it reveals to us; and nothing is more grand than man's relation to spiritual beings — than the fact that the universe is filled up with blessed intelligences. I do not need to see them, or hear them, to be convinced of this fact; I know by surer sight than the eye, by more certain hearing than the ear, that they exist; I know it by my vital consciousness of a God and of a heaven. And Christianity interprets that fact. It shows man, poor, wretched, vile as he may be, linked with these innumerable relations. And what else does it show? It shows identity of nature in all spiritual things on earth and in heaven. Oh, if you could tear all the Bible in strips, but leave this one saying of Christ, what mighty truth and consolation there would be in it! "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." How much that reveals to us — lets in upon us. Joy in heaven! Then there are beings in heaven capable of joy, just like ourselves — beings in sympathy with us. Joy in heaven! Oh, forlorn and wayward brother! you are despised of men, and scorned, and perhaps feel that you ought to be; you have sinned vilely and grossly; but do you know what you are? There might be joy not only in that earthly home that nestles among the hills where your poor mother is praying for you to-day, but also great joy in heaven. What a revelation of an identity of nature — of a celestial sympathy! Moreover, there is not only sympathy, but there is solicitude there. God is anxious for your return.
(E. H. Chapin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.