"And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:9,10)
The Lord Jesus still travels "in the greatness of His strength." (Isa. 63:1) He is still able to save unto the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.
How do we know the greatness of His strength? Only as we are enabled to apprehend the great mystery of incarnate love, and to realize our need of redeeming mercy; only as we are tremblingly led, by reason of the abundance of our own personal guilt and unworthiness, to apprehend that His sacrifice for sin has been accepted of the eternal Father.
We have here a very striking instance of this fact: that when Divine grace really humbles a person and makes such an one subject to the will of God in Christ Jesus, there must be realized the opposition of those who are wholehearted, who have no need for the particular mercy and grace that Jesus has appeared in the end of the world to make known. As long as Zaccheus was a mere curious observer in the sycamore tree we do not hear any particular murmuring against him. He was an unworthy character, but there was no manifest opposition then of the kind that he received after he was made willing and obedient to the humble, lowly, despised Nazarene.
The same spirit exists today. If the Lord Jesus brings you to His feet, humbles you, makes you self-loathing and self-condemning, there will be a voice of opposition from the self-conceited, pharisaic world, that loves still to clothe itself in the white, long, flowing robes of self-pleasing sanctity, that its own deformity may be hidden; while it vents out its condemnation against those whom it feels to be very great sinners. You will feel something of this if you have really confessed your particular sin before the living, Holy One of Israel. The world's voice is still heard thus: "Well, look at the past character of such; look at what they often manifested themselves to be; we have no faith in their religion, or that their mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus has any sincerity in it." Thus the world manifests its condemnation against that grace which the Lord Jesus Christ is pleased to bestow sovereignly and freely.
But He who separates a man from his sins, and from himself, He who is able to draw him even from the top of a sycamore tree down to His feet, is well able to vindicate His own honor in His connection with such a sinner. He is able to protect and throw His arms of love and mercy around that poor sinner, and to bring him forth a vessel fit for the Finer, one who shall glory in his own Deliverer. And He will never put back from Himself that sinner whom He has sovereignly taken to Himself, because the finger of scorn and calumny is pointed at him. The whole world may turn and say derisively, "Sinner;" but if Jesus has said, "Forgiven sinner," "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee," He will never put him away. Because, you see, the cause of blessing is absolutely and peculiarly in Himself. How glad some of us are with this precious gospel note:--
"Rebellious thou hast been,
And art rebellious still;
But since in love I took thee in,
My promise I'll fulfil." (Gadsby, 1032)
There is the standing-ground for a poor unworthy sinner who, like Zaccheus, has brought upon himself, by his own actions, the stigma of guilt. "He is gone," they said, "to be guest with a man that is a sinner." This is, in their estimation, a mark against the Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, my dear friends, we would today be enabled, by the Holy Spirit's gracious aid, to glory in this reflection that is cast upon the Lord Jesus associating Himself with an out-of-the-way sinner; and that He can associate Himself with lepers, and yet not partake of their leprosy; that He can be a companion of those who may have been robbers and spoilers, for the purpose of lifting them out of their sins, saving them from themselves and from their evil inclinations, and making them shine with His own glory reflected in them. And if we are enabled to glory a little thus in Him who is Israel's Deliverer, we shall bless Him indeed that He has said, and left it on record to remain in this world until His second coming: "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost."
Let me draw your attention to these four particular points in this very interesting narrative:--
I. First--How salvation came to Zaccheus.
II. In the second place--Upon what ground, or for what reason, did Jesus manifest or bring salvation to him?
III. In the third place--What did the bringing of salvation to Zaccheus do for him?
IV. And then--The Lord's own description of its completeness; that when salvation is brought to a man it is never to be taken from him. He who seeks and saves that which was lost will never be defeated in His purposes.
I. HOW DID SALVATION COME TO ZACCHEUS? I answer: First, Unsought for. We have no evidence, as far as I can see, if we simply take the narrative as we find it, without human embellishment or imagination, that when Zaccheus climbed the sycamore tree to see what sort of person the Lord Jesus was, he had any thought of seeking Him in a spiritual manner. If he had been inclined to put in his petition as a humble man, I do not think he would have run on in front and climbed to that elevation; I think we should have found him more in the attitude of the poor woman who came along behind Jesus and sought to touch His clothes and be made whole. A grain of grace in the heart has humility in connection with it, and certainly does not prompt a man to run on and get in front of the Lord Jesus to look down upon Him and see what sort of person He was. And therefore we conclude it was a mere curious wish or desire he wanted gratified at that time, and he puts himself, according to his human wisdom, into the most prominent position to get a view of Him.
But, to his utter astonishment, that position is singled out by the Lord Jesus. What for? To bring him down, make him acquainted with Himself as his Deliverer, his Saviour, his Redeemer, his Lord and his King. Now, that was a blessing unsought for.
And, my dear friends, all the blessings of grace come in the same way. Now here I must be careful. The Lord Jesus has said in the gospel that those who seek, find; unto those that ask, it shall be given; and to them that knock, it shall be opened; and therefore the way of seeking, enquiring, hungering and thirsting, is the way we desire to see poor sinners brought into. Nevertheless, I must emphasize the fact that, in regard to the reception of free grace and its eternal benefits in a poor sinner's soul, these things are realized to come unsought for. How do I explain the apparent contradiction? You cannot measure the gift of grace by your own seekings or efforts to obtain it. If you are brought as a humble enquirer at the footstool of divine mercy, you will know that just as high as the heaven is above the earth, so are the thoughts of God in blessing to your poor little contracted thoughts or desires towards Himself. You must not attempt, in seeking the Lord, to make your seeking or your desiring the standard by which you are to decide of Jehovah's dealings in grace to you.
Beware of the spirit, working like leaven, "O, now you have sought the Lord at the throne of grace He will hear you; now you have pleaded that promise, and in that ardent way you have done, of course you will get a blessing." There may be a great deal of human pride creep in there. You may be entangled there like the Jews were, pretty quickly, seeking it not according to faith, or after faith, but, as it were, by the deeds of the law. What, can we turn the gospel ordinances, then, into legal things? Yes, left to ourselves, and think that by using these things we can climb, as it were, up to the throne of the Almighty and thus obtain. No; everything we receive has to come right down from heaven to us. The Lord Jesus must bring it into our abject, helpless and hopeless condition; because we shall have to come in here, every one of us, if we are saved eternally: "That which was lost." There is no exception.
While we, then, would encourage our fellow-sinners to seek God after His due order as they are enabled, to bring His promise of free grace and put Him in mind of the words of invitation and direction, yet I must say to you that, when the blessing comes, you will say: "My little seekings and desirings are not worthy to be mentioned; surely, if He had not looked upon me independently, absolutely according to His own free love, I ne'er had known Him; for in everything that I have done there has been sin. If I have felt a little faith now and again, a little holy desire, lifting me above myself, making me say sometimes to the Lord, 'Lord, I hope I can now say that I seek Thee for Thine own sake and for what I apprehend of Thy grace and mercy, that Thine own Name should be glorified in my salvation;' yet I soon find something or other of the flesh vaunting itself, so that I have to fall down again on my face before Him."
So that, although we would desire to be found in obedience to God's will, we must learn in measure the great truth: "I am sought of them that asked not for Me; I am found of them that sought Me not." (Isa. 65:1) It will ever be so. How many of us can say this morning, honestly:
"Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to save my soul from danger,
Interposed His precious blood?"
If you can say that you will find it no great difficulty to proceed:--
"O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee." (Gadsby, 199)
2. But further, Zaccheus had salvation brought to him as an unmerited thing. He was a very unworthy person, one of a race of men that were rightly, to a great extent, scorned in Israel; he was a Jew, but a publican, a tax-gatherer, and "the chief among the publicans." And the expression here, that he was a rich publican, with what he afterwards has to say of himself when looking at the Lord Jesus as a humbled man, would lead us to the conclusion that he used his abilities and opportunities to a considerable extent for his own personal gains; very covertly, perhaps, nevertheless most likely to a very great extent.
And now he receives salvation into his house, and unmerited. The Lord Jesus had passed through Jericho. The place near which this occurred was an accursed place. Joshua had said, upon its destruction, "Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho." (Joshua 6:26) And it came to pass one poor presumptive sinner in after times did try, and the prophecy was distinctly fulfilled, and God's anger rested manifestly upon the man who did build it. (See 1 Kings 16:34) So the region was a desolate one, not a likely place to produce jewels that God would look upon and own; and this man in his own character, too, was very unworthy.
And although we are not publicans, although we would not desire to be found oppressing our fellow-creatures or exacting upon them, although we would be found in the house of God, where He has pronounced His blessing and said, "I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread," (Ps. 132:15) yet, if we receive anything we must receive it unmeritedly. There is nothing in us to give our God delight. There is nothing in us that He can glory in--only what He bestows upon us freely, graciously, sovereignly and absolutely. Grace can never be bought, as one has said, for it proceeds from the Lamb, and the Lamb must have the praise of it.
"'Tis not for good deeds, good tempers, nor frames;
From grace it proceeds, and all is the Lamb's."
And the more we receive of the benefits of salvation, the more clearly we are enabled to apprehend the Lord as the Author of salvation and the Author and Finisher of our faith, (Heb. 12:2) the more willing shall we be that it should be so: that the riches be His, the poverty be ours; that the mercy be His, the misery be ours.
He received salvation, then, gratuitously, without merit, without works. We do not find the Lord said a word to him about bettering his condition. Only just this: "Zaccheus, make haste, and come down." He means this: "Now come to Me, poor sinner, just as you are. I have set My love upon you; brought you, by the determination of My own will, under the bonds of My covenant, and I am going to impart to you all that is necessary for you." That is the meaning of it. Unmerited mercy!
Now, poor seeking sinner, looking at thy wounds, realizing the corruptions of thy guilt and thy dark, wicked tendencies to depart from the living God, may He enable thee to put in thy little claim upon that ground. The Lord never blessed a sinner yet because of anything He saw in that sinner more than all the fallen sons of Adam are said to possess. We are all gone out of the way; altogether, in His eyes, become unclean; for "the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God;" (Ps. 14:2) to see if there was any exception; and the sweeping declaration was: "They are all gone aside; they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Ps. 14:3)
3. But now I want you to notice that salvation comes to this man also distinctly and particularly. Zaccheus is singled out from the rest of the crowd; there was a large concourse of people there, and there is one man called by his name. "Zaccheus," says Jesus. What a wonderful sound it must have been in the man's ears! The first thing that would naturally occur to him would be, "How does He know my name? Who has told Him who I am? Who has informed Him about me?"
When God calls His people by grace, what a wonderful thing it seems to them. "I have called thee," he said of His Israel, by thy name; thou art Mine." (Isa. 43:1) How many of my dear friends can go back--may the Lord lead you back this morning--to something distinct in your experience, where your case has been so minutely described, perhaps in the ministry of the Word, or by some intercourse you have had with some Christian friend; whatever simple means the Lord has been pleased to use, your case has been so delineated in its particulars that you have been simply astonished; you have been singled out thereby and brought before the living God as if you were the only needy sinner on this earth.
We must contend for particular things, distinct things. God calls every one of His children. There seems to be a latent idea in the world at the present time, which is gaining ground, I fear, as though sinners could call one another, exercise a sort of second-hand influence and transmit their piety and holiness to one another. Although that is not taught so literally as I am describing it, yet there seems to be the leaven of it realized in much of the religion people pride themselves in today. Where the Lord Jesus works He works distinctly; He puts His finger-mark Himself upon every one of His sheep; He calls them by name; He draws them to His feet. And there is no getting away from it when He does. If He says "Zaccheus," Zaccheus must be drawn instantly to Him.
4. Hence we go on to the next point and say, that when salvation comes to Zaccheus by Him who is the Author of it, it comes effectually. "Zaccheus," says the Lord Jesus, "make haste." and he made haste. "Come down," and he came down. "I must abide at thy house," and he received Him joyfully.
Mark how the majesty and power of Christ and His Word makes room for itself. How quickly it is done when He means to do it. The devil may rear his fortifications around a man's heart; he may steel him against the usual impressions of religious teaching; he may draw him away to various dark corners and think to have him; but when once the Lord passes in His majesty that way and says, "Thou art Mine," there is no holding back. Zaccheus must come out and follow the humble Nazarene, whatever murmuring is heard, whatever objections may be raised against it; he cannot help himself.
This, we believe, still goes on, although not perhaps so distinctly today as in some generations. The Lord says: "I bought this heart with My blood; it is Mine." He puts His hand there and the door is opened wide. Some of you in my hearing, I believe, know what it is to hear that voice. You would like to hear it oftener, but when you do it always has the same effect--you want everything cleared out of the way for this royal person, and everything to be still when the Lord Jesus appears.
It is effectually brought. And because the Lord has brought it Himself into the man's house, not all the murmurings of a self-righteous world can ever undo it. "He has gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." He did it because He would do it, and therefore He will never turn away from the object of His favor.
I expect that Zaccheus thought that the entertainment of his own house was poor enough. What a great contrast in feeling to that manifested by Simon the Pharisee! He evidently thought his house very, very honorable, and that he was bestowing a fair measure of honor and esteem on the Lord Jesus by asking Him there; but not so Zaccheus. You may depend upon it that he thought his entertainment poor enough, and his little house mean, too mean for the Saviour. But then, you see, Jesus would go there.
Well, friends, it won't hurt you to tell the Lord Jesus from time to time how mean your heart is for Him to take up His abode in. It will do you good to humble yourself under His mighty hand. It may be very uncomfortable and very painful; you may say, "Can ever God dwell here? Can the King of glory condescend to pay a visit to a vile sinner like I am?" Nevertheless, however mean and contemptible He makes you appear in your own eyes, if He has looked upon you it is sovereignly and graciously, and He will continue to look upon you, for "he hates to put away."
II. Now I want to turn for a moment or two to our second point, namely, UPON WHAT GROUND OR FOR WHAT REASON did the Lord Jesus bring salvation to Zaccheus? There is an explanation given by our Lord to these murmuring people. "Forsomuch," He says, "as he also is a son of Abraham."
Now, that is an explanation that you will not be satisfied with unless the grace of God is in operation in your soul. This is a part of the secret of those that fear God. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant;" (Ps. 25:14) and apart from the showing of His covenant, apart from His giving you sight to glory in His free grace and mercy, you won't be satisfied with His explanation. We hope there are some of us feel at times we are.
"Forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham." What are we to understand by the words? Merely that the man is a Jew would not be a fit explanation. There were hundreds of Jews around the Lord Jesus, who could trace their genealogy from Abraham, and gloried in it and held it up before the Saviour's face when He would humble them by His teaching, saying, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?" (John 8:33) That is not the explanation of the Saviour's words, that the blessing came simply because he could trace his genealogy perfectly from the family whom God has blessed. It did not tell against the poor woman of Canaan in the presence of the Lord Jesus, because she was a Gentile, to whom He said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 15:24) Why did it not tell against her? Because it has deep spiritual meaning; because the lost sheep of the house of Israel meant the spiritual seed, irrespective of nationality. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free: but Christ is all, and in all." (Col. 3:11) There is the explanation of the Saviour's words. So it does not mean merely a natural son of Abraham.
1. We have here brought before us the doctrine of eternal Election. That is the root of it. Where did God find Abraham? What condition was he in when God came to him and said, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee?" (Gen. 12:1) If you read the second verse of the last chapter of the Book of Joshua you will soon find the answer. Abraham was a poor ignorant idolater, bowing down to gods of human creation, in density of darkness; and God came down to him and showed him His glory, spoke to him with Divine authority, and separated him from his idolatry. "Son of Abraham" means a man singled out by omnipotent grace, by absolute and eternal election. And there is no salvation apart from it. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy;" (Rom. 9:16) that is, absolutely, freely.
I must leave our remarks this morning. May the Lord add His blessing. Amen.
I could wish indeed, my dear friends, that the last verse of this chapter were strictly true of us this evening. There we read: "All the people were very attentive to hear Him." Now, what will make people attentive to hear the Lord Jesus? Spiritual need: to be brought into the position to appreciate that which is folly to the Greek and a stumbling-block to the Jew. What a merciful thing it is for a sinner to be directed to Him who alone can speak liberty to the captive and the opening of the prison to them that are bound! (Isa. 61:1) May the Lord give us this attentiveness, which is ever the accompaniment of personal realization of our need of Him who is made of God unto His people wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30) We trust this is our motive in speaking His truth, in seeking to expound the details of the gospel, that Jesus' own voice may be heard, that the witness of His own Spirit may be realized, the mark of which celestial seal can never be erased; for what God doeth He doeth for evermore.
I have already called your attention to the first part of our subject, namely, How salvation reached this man. It was brought by Him who possessed it, who came to manifest it and to give it from His own royal hand. The salvation of the Church could not be entrusted to any less than God's own Eternal Son. It was such a stupendous work. O what there was involved in it! What tremendous issues hung upon the accomplishment of the work of eternal redemption! Think of millions of precious souls to be gathered out of the fallen race of man: lifted up from their dark condition by nature; delivered from the power and thralldom of sin; unyoked from the dominion of the devil, and led along safely through fire and through water, and to be brought eventually home to eternal glory. What a mighty work! What a stupendous scheme of the eternal mind! And this work was placed in the hands of the Eternal Son of God, and He accomplished it. And if we are made to realize the need of such a salvation, I am sure we shall be finding our way to His sacred feet from time to time for Him to witness that He hath given us a part and lot in this wonderful reality.
We said that this salvation reached the house of Zaccheus unsought for. Here I put in a word by way of caution, lest I should be in the least degree misunderstood. I want to see earnest seeking for God; let not any of my hearers who listened to me this morning think I have the least idea, in seeking to magnify the riches of God's free grace and power, and the sovereignty and absoluteness of His mercy, that I would in the least degree discourage any soul from using all possible means to gain the ear of the Almighty. Yea, in the chapter preceding this from which I have read my text we find our Lord teaching thus: "That men ought always to pray, and not to faint." The Lord does not mean we shall not grow weary in prayer; or that we shall never be discouraged in the exercise of prayer. As I said to a dear friend in private during this day, "It is the man who prays most that realizes his inability to pray; it is the man who is most intense and most importunate in knocking at the door of mercy who feels it is in the hands of 'Him that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;'" (Rev. 3:7) for, as I have said before in your hearing, there is such an important distinction to be made between that which is of man's wisdom and that which is of God's determination and purpose. While the means are ours by Divine grace, while the knocking is on our side, the opening of the door must be from inside; only God Himself can give us entrance. Now, it is the man who is most persevering and most importunate, because of the necessity of his case which presses upon him, that realizes more and more his inability to pray. Don't think you will grow legal if you bring requests very frequently to God's throne. The more you are rightly concerned about these things, and the more the concernment of these things affects your daily life and conversation and separates you from the world and yourself, the more the path will be an exercised one in reference to prayer. God means that the graces of faith, hope and love should be brought into activity from time to time; and so--
"Sometimes He's pleased His face to hide,"
as one of the poets wisely said,
"To make me pray, or stain my pride." (Gadsby, 410)
We may be discouraged or in a fainting condition, but the fainting that our Saviour means is a giving up of this exercise, I take it. "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
I speak these words lest by my seeking to exalt the absoluteness of free grace I should in any way put the least stumbling-block in the way of those who are knocking at mercy's door, and because the Lord hath said: "Ask, and it shall be given you."
But it will come to you, when you get it, with the Royal stamp upon it. Every spiritual blessing has the King's own mark upon it. And when you see His mark upon it you will lose sight of all your little prayers, and you will confess, "Lord, the blessing is far above and beyond all, and therefore I am among those who have received, not because I have asked so well or so importunately, but because Thou are determined to give notwithstanding my frailty."
Then we noticed also a little of its being given to an unworthy man, one who had not bettered his condition in the least before the Lord looked at him and looked right into his heart. There is such a latent idea prevalent today that you must bring yourself to some degree into a salvable condition, raise yourself into some degree of receptiveness, before you receive the blessing from on high. But we do not find this in Zaccheus's case in the least. The simple evidence of the Scripture is that he, simply out of curiosity, went out that day to see what manner of man the Saviour was, little thinking, we believe that he was to there discover God, the eternal Jehovah, speaking to him through the lowly person of the Nazarene that was despised and rejected of men. No, Christ must come to us; the Saviour must descend to our lowly position; and every spark of light, every moment of gracious desire, every feeling of hunger and thirst, must arise from this one thing--Jesus Christ Himself coming right down from the throne of glory to bestow salvation upon us. For we can never give Him too much glory; He will have it all presently, when the redeemed Church of God get home and throw off all their legal shackles and bondage; then they will be able to give Him every note of praise, and there will not be a discordant note in it. And when I think of it sometimes I say to myself, Seek to lift Him as high as you can now. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain;" (Rev. 5:12) say it as heartily as you can now; have it as unmixed as you possibly can:
"If I lisp a song of praise,
Each note shall echo, Grace, free grace!"
And then we were speaking a little to you also about the cause of this blessing upon this man. He is "a son of Abraham." We were led to note there was nothing meritorious in this; because the man happened to be a Jew, that would not cause the Lord Jesus to single him out, and bestow upon him this great favor of coming right to his dwelling and being a Friend to him. No; it must be because he is a son of him who received blessing from God sovereignly and graciously. Abraham received the blessing when he was uncircumcised, a poor idolater, bowing down to gods of his own making; and God said: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." (Gen. 12:1) Out he went, obeying that voice because of the Divine authority that went with it; he could not resist it.
2. But then there is another reason why the Saviour calls this man a son of Abraham. Because he is savingly united to Christ. If you read carefully the Apostle's teaching in the epistle to the Galatians, you will note that brought out very clearly, that the man who is a descendant of Abraham--that is, spiritually so--is the man who is united vitally to the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham was not only directed to a land that God would show him, he was not only carried along by the providence of God through his earthly journey, but the Lord Jesus, speaking of him in the days of His flesh here on earth, said: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56) He apprehended God's great remedy for sin. May we not conclude, without any exaggeration, that on the Mount Moriah the great reality of substitution was opened to Abraham--that is, more fully revealed to him--when he saw the ram caught in a thicket by his horns? We conclude there was a great and clear revelation made to Abraham of the Lord Jesus and His great substitutionary sacrifice; dying, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. (1 Pet. 3:18) The Lord Jesus saith: "He saw my day;" he apprehended this glorious mystery of Divine love manifested through the atonement; "he saw it, and was glad." He found a resting-place for his faith in it, and joy amidst his suffering there, and thus apprehended that "city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." (Heb. 11:10) Though he had opportunity to have returned, yet "he desired a better country, that is, an heavenly." (Heb. 11:16) If we are sons of Abraham we shall be savingly and vitally united to Christ. Summing the matter up, the Apostle puts it thus: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:29)
Now, how can we be Christ's? Not by climbing up to heaven; not by human efforts to bring Christ down from heaven. No; if we are Christ's, if we can lay claim to Him as our Saviour and our Redeemer, it must be because He apprehends us; because He, as the Good Shepherd of Israel, comes where we are, in our darkness, misery and helplessness, and lifts us up from our degradation. This is what He did for Zaccheus. He brought him to Himself; He had the acknowledgment from Zaccheus that He was his Lord, his rightful Owner, his Kin, his All. And then He says: "He is a son of Abraham."
Now, my friends, what is our position? Have we vitally apprehended Jesus as being God's love and wisdom to us? I am sure that is a very difficult and solemn question to some of you. You reply: "If that point could be settled tonight in this house of prayer, I believe then I should have all my heart desires. I think I should really be reconciled to the burdens I have to carry day by day; I believe I should be able to rejoice in tribulation, that the power of Christ might rest upon me." If that is a description of how you are feeling, depend upon it you are on the way to it. The Holy Spirit alone could make Christ desirable to you. He alone could lift you up from trusting in the creature. He alone could show you the excellency, worth, majesty and brightness of God's own dear Son. For "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord"--to be subject to Him, to own Him a personal King--"but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. 12:3) Seek on. Plead His precious blood; make mention of His righteousness, and of that only, at His throne of grace; and He will tell you, "I did it for you; I have apprehended you that you might find no rest or solid satisfaction but in Myself." "If ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:29)
3. But there was another reason, we believe, why our Lord calls him a "son of Abraham." And it was because of this the blessing came. He was a man in whose heart had been created that vital reality of faith, to discern, in the humiliation of Christ as Man here below, the glory of the God-head shining. When the Lord looked up into that tree and said, "Zaccheus," it was not a mere human voice that spoke to him. I believe that Zaccheus immediately felt much the same as Nathanael, when coming towards the Lord Jesus. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." (John 1:47) That was not the voice of a fellow-man speaking; that would not have carried power with it; it was the voice of God the voice of irresistible grace. "Whence knowest Thou me?" Is the immediate response. What a wonderful thing! And so, when Zaccheus in the tree saw that eye looking upon him and heard that voice mentioning his own name, there came with it faith. It is the word of Christ produces faith, brethren; it is the applied promise of God brings faith; and as faith is created by the application of Divine promise, the seed of God communicated to the poor dead sinner in that applied promise, so that promise applied again and again calls faith into operation more and more as the believer lives on.
Now here was this vital reality; it apprehended Jehovah, the King of Israel, in that lowly Man; and therefore he came down out of the tree and "received Him joyfully." That is how Christ is always received by those who feel their insignificance, unworthiness and sinnership. If He speak but one word; if He give but one touch of His love, it brings joy; the joy that we feel is beyond all the poor little noises of man below. What are all human things, pretty as they may be in themselves, to one realization of joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have received the atonement? We are then inclined to say with the poet:
"Joy is a fruit that will not grow
In nature's barren soil;
All we can boast, till Christ we know,
Is vanity and toil." (Gadsby, 933)
"A son of Abraham." (1) The elect of God; singled out like Abraham was, from the rest of mankind, who, instead of admiring the manifestation of grace to Zaccheus all joined in a general chorus of murmuring and dissatisfaction; while poor Zaccheus goes with the Lord Jesus, a willing captive, feeling indeed of all men most honored that He should have ever looked upon him. (2) And then he apprehends Christ, because Christ has apprehended him. (3) And now by faith he discerns His beauty and all-sufficiency, and calls Him "Lord." That is why I speak so positively, because Zaccheus, in the presence of Jesus, says "Lord." Souls do not disguise things, or exaggerate when they are made recipients of grace at the hands of Christ. Nothing else can make us honest. And when the Lord calls us there and enables us to see a ray of His glory, then we speak to Him a pure language.
III. But now I call your attention to the EFFECTS PRODUCED IN ZACCHEUS when salvation was brought to him by the Author and Finisher of it.
The first thing we read is that he came down from the position in which he had placed himself. He was in an elevated position, when the Lord Jesus passed by and looked up at him; and he was elevated because he had placed himself there. That is not the right way to receive blessings from Christ. That will have to be undone; we shall have to come down, I believe, as Zaccheus did. "Well, what do you believe he did?" I think, without any undue stretch of imagination or exaggeration, we might rightly conclude that, as a Jewish host, he would show all honor to his Guest. What was the host's business, then, when he received his guest? First of all, to remove his sandals from his feet and apply water for their refreshing. The Lord had been traveling; and I believe that if you had been there you would have seen Zaccheus at once down at the Master's feet, feeling of all men the most honored to be enabled to show his love to his Guest in that way. What a different position to being in the top boughs of the sycamore tree! Ah! There is a lot of sycamore tree religion in the world yet. I fear there are thousands of people who place themselves in elevated positions to look upon Christ and upon His people; and they look down upon them, and they do not get a right view then--they have a distorted view. I believe I was once in this position, and used to wonder what my friends meant when they talked about the Lord Jesus and vital experience of the gospel. I looked at it curiously, and my poor little human wisdom and reason used to have a good deal to say about it; and called some of it into question, of course, like people do when under various forms of pride and self-satisfaction. You may bolster yourself up even with correct views of the doctrines of grace and truth, but you will have to come right down from all that if the Lord Jesus is to be your Guest, if He is to eat and sup with you, and you with Him. You will never do it in the sycamore tree. I believe John Bunyan had great wisdom in representing the young pilgrim approaching the house Beautiful. He saw before him a stately palace; it was the King's residence; it meant the Church of the living God on earth. It was a palatial thing to that young pilgrim--something above and beyond him; and the nearer he got to it the smaller he felt himself to be. That is real religion. Unless you are brought to this, to take the lowest place in God's household, I must call in question your religion. I do not say you can do so every day; but there will be such discipline from time to time exercised concerning you, such chastening, stripping, and emptying-out of self and pride, that you will say, "If I am among the living in Jerusalem, surely I am the tiniest of the tiny, the unworthiest of the unworthy; and content shall I be to be the meanest, if the Lord Jesus will but graciously and sovereignly admit me into His family." That is the way to receive Christ. I am afraid there is not much of it now-a-days. This is very different to using extravagant language in prayers and calling yourself a miserable sinner, the vilest of the vile, and a great deal of that affectation. Is it reality with us? Can we say at times that we are the chief of sinners, the least of saints? I believe grace will bring that out honestly. I do not wonder at the poet saying--
"I love to meet among them now,
Before Thy gracious feet to bow,
Though vilest of them all." (Gadsby, 938)
Grace, then, undoes Zaccheus's work of elevation and brings him down to the feet of his Lord and Master, Jesus, the willing subject of grace.
But further, it emboldened Zaccheus to withstand all the murmuring and persecutions that are brought against him. I am thinking that, if it were right to come to such a conclusion, I would be glad to have known a little more of Zaccheus's future career; but the Lord knows best how much to give us in His Holy Word. You may depend upon it, it brought great persecution upon him to call that humble Nazarene "Lord," and to give Him entertainment in his house. This was only the keynote of their action: "He is gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." What was the position of our Lord and Saviour at this particular time? What was He on His way to? He was on His way to most bitter persecution and cruelty and scorn, the malignancy of men and a most shameful, humiliating and violent death, the accursed death of the cross. Depend upon it, it needed grace for Zaccheus to cut his connection with his colleagues and immediate friends, to be singled-out, peculiar man; but grace can overcome nature, even the unwillingness and self-love of a proud man. "Then, say some of you, "if it can overcome that it must be a mighty reality, for unwillingness to bear the cross seems rooted in my nature." "Oh, how I do shirk that part of religious profession," says another. "Yea, I am sometimes almost afraid I am not right, because of the tendency to hide things from my fellow-men, lest it should bring upon me more of the bitterness of their opposition." Grace can overcome it; and it will overcome it too when He draws near to you. You must remember that; do not dissociate what God has joined together. What made Zaccheus strong and bold? Willing to lay himself out for the dear Master, receive Him into his house and, as I said, offer Him the best hospitality? The nearness of Jesus to him. And it must be the nearness of Jesus to us to embolden us; only when He is near to us in the power of His Spirit and grace can we truly say:
"All hail reproach, and welcome shame!
If Thou remember me."
But this is not all salvation brought into manifestation in the recipient of it. Zaccheus gives signs of sound repentance. He had been a man who had evidently abused his position. There was scarcely such a thing, I suppose, in Judea as an honest publican; the very name carried with it the idea of fraud, deceit, oppression and violence. And Zaccheus was chief among them, and had grown rich at his office and profession; and I do not believe he was ever generous until he stood before the Lord Jesus Christ that day--until the grace of God entered into his heart and took the heart of stone away and gave him a heart of flesh, and then he was generous and repentant. I believe when he stood there he felt that holiness surrounded him; that righteousness lit up his heart and manifested to him his innate darkness and wicked tendency; and when he said, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor," I believe he felt the omniscient gaze of that mighty Saviour searching out the inmost recesses of his soul. It was not a mere profession to hide himself under. Nothing of the kind. "Lord, I give half my goods to the poor." O, what a change! Grace turns lions into lambs, tyrants into humble persons. Bless God, it will never lose its power. All that comes from Him leads to Him.
Not only so, but "if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." If you will search carefully into the law of Moses you find such was demanded. If any man robbed his neighbor of a sheep, he was to give fourfold in return for it. And when the Lord Jesus' love melts a soul into submission to the will of God, depend upon it the law of God will not be shirked. I do not mean that you will try to keep the law to justify your soul; but you will be able to apprehend in some measure what the apostle means when he writes to the Romans: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind." (Rom. 7:22,23)
Where there is great faith there will ever be great repentance. This marks the difference between a poor, dry, notional religion and that which ever exalts a precious Christ upon the throne of the heart's affections. If you love Jesus you will mourn over Him sometimes, you will hate the sins that crucified Him and nailed Him to the cross. And if you are made right with God you will want to be right with your fellow-men; a man who loves mercy will want to do justly; God is a God of equity, and the reception of grace does not lower the standard of Divine righteousness and rectitude, but produces desires to be right with God and right with man. Here is sound repentance. Here is a new creature in Christ Jesus. "Lord, behold, Thou lookest on me right to my heart's core--I give half my goods to the poor." That is gratitude to Christ.
Zaccheus, under the influence of faith in God's Christ, has sympathy with poor people. Here is where the Lord's companions are mostly found.
"'Poor and afflicted,' Lord, are Thine,
Among the great unfit to shine;
But, though the world may think it strange,
They would not with the world exchange." (Gadsby's, 992)
And because they were dear to his Deliverer and he apprehended it, he shows his gratitude to his Deliverer by being generous and kind to them. It is, you see, the return of love; God's love apprehending the sinner, that the sinner may be able to say, in some measure: "We love Him because He first loved us."
Here we leave the subject. May the Lord add His blessing. Amen.
We have been considering a few particular points in connection with this wonderful act of grace on the part of the Lord Jesus to this poor, unworthy man. We have said a little about the way that salvation was brought to his house; we have drawn your attention to the reason our Lord gives here that salvation came to that house--because he was a "son of Abraham;" we have also noticed what salvation did when it came to his house; what a reformation it wrought in the man's character, how that it turned him right about from his former course of procedure; how it brought him down from a place of mere curious looking to a place of humble inquiry at the Lord Jesus' gracious feet.
IV. Now we have to consider, as we are enabled, that the Lord's words convey the fact that this salvation that came to Zaccheus's house was AN ETERNAL THING, a manifestation of the eternal love of the Eternal Father in His Son Jesus Christ. "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
I was thinking today what a blessed word the gospel word "Come" is, even as it says "Come down." You remember I was saying a little to you about the Lord Jesus' path now leading to the terrible darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary, those humiliating scenes in connection with His sacrificial death. He was on the way to it; and Zaccheus comes down to the Lord Jesus Christ's feet, to live to be numbered among those sheep that were scattered in that dark day of Divine visitation, when Divine anger was poured out upon the suffering Surety.
What a favor it is that when the Lord calls His people into the path of humiliation He calls them where He is Himself! "Come down." It is not merely "Go down." Wherever the Lord leads His people He will be with them; whatever their trials be, He will sanctify them, by making His presence known. He is revealed as "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;" (Isa. 53:3) and He always understands the particular sorrows of His trusting children, and is well able to administer to them seasonable consolation. Still the blessed word exists in the gospel, "Come." And when the Saviour says "Come," it is not in vain. He means it to be appreciated by His people; and they gladly come with their burdens and difficulties to Him, that they may prove Him to be their Burden-bearer.
Now let us confine our attention more particularly this evening to what these words suggest to us: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
What a terrible thing it is to be lost! Supposing that you were in a country you had never visited before, that you were unacquainted with the habits of the people, and you should lose your bearings there, and darkness should come upon you and you knew not which way to take--you would feel it a very, very serious position. My dear friends, what a dreadful thing it is to be lost amid the ruin of sin and the confusions of terrible unbelief and enmity against God! We might well ask: What does this suggest to us, when we say we are lost sinners? How are we lost?
First of all I would answer thus. We have sold ourselves into the slavery of the tyrant evil spirit, the devil; we are led captive by him at his will. This poor man was: he was in the service and drudgery of Satan. What a terrible thing that from the moment the poison infected our first parents they sold themselves for nought, and that there is the evil disposition in us and we go astray from God as soon as we come into this world; (Ps. 58:3) and I believe the poet's description is true of every one of us, that we wander "as far from God as sheep can run." We bear the image of the devil. If you do not know the power of his temptations; if you do not know something of the craft and subtlety of his insinuations; if you do not know how that your corruptions exactly fall in with his baits in some degree, then I must tell you honestly you have never been delivered from his craft and power; for as sure as you are delivered from the dominion of Satan you must feel his fury. If the fish is dead it floats with the stream; but put a living fish in the stream, it will immediately struggle against the stream. I have witnessed that sometimes, and stood and reflected very deeply; and as the fierce current has driven the fish back, what tremendous struggles it has made to gain an inch or two of headway. I have thought what a picture it is of the Lord's living, struggling people. Perhaps one of the most terrible evidences of being under the dominion and sway of the devil is to think very lightly of temptation; in fact, many manifest their terrible position today by trying to persuade themselves there is no personal devil; that there is no such being; that what we feel is simply influences from our own character and disposition, and so forth. If you know there is a Saviour for the lost, you will know there is a devil to oppose you; if you know something of the victories of the Captain of the host of God's elect, who has led the armies of God to successful issues; if your trust is placed in Him; if you have ever heard His voice bidding you arise from the dead, that He might give you life, you will know that there is a devil, and that his darts are hurled to sink you in the gloom of all that is dismal in this world and in the world to come. He cannot let you alone if you are an emancipated soul; he cannot allow you to rejoice in Christ Jesus without interfering with you; he cannot let you delight in this blessed Word of God without trying to drive you from it. O the fury of his ire against those who are delivered from this terrible condition of alienation from God! And we have to feel, if we are under Divine leading and direction, we all had our part in this--we sold ourselves for nought: loved the service, and were content to go at Satan's bidding.
That is one way how we are lost. Then, have not we all gone our own way? One divine has said: "Many commit sin and blame Satan." I am afraid there is a very great deal of pungent truth there. Some people are very apt to excuse themselves by speaking of Satan's temptations, and ascribing their wanderings to them. My friends, if God has done something for us, if He has made us honest and upright, we shall have not only to acknowledge we have lost ourselves by being beguiled by the devil, but we have wandered every one to his own way; we have loved to wander in the mountains of unbelief and rebellion and distance from God, and we have to smite upon our breast--not merely to say to the eternal Jehovah: "The devil has done this for me, and the devil has done the other thing for me"--but to say with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:13) Do not you know what it is, poor tried believer, sometimes to feel the enmity and the wickedness of your heart to such a degree that you are ready to say, "I seem like one tempting Satan to tempt me?" I believe that is not an unknown experience to some of you. O the dreadful enmity there is in the human breast! Why, we are by nature like the man we read of in the gospel, who dwelt among the tombs, the abodes of death, and they could not separate him from them. If they bound him with chains he broke the chains; and always, we read, night and day he was wandering in the mountains, and in the tombs, cutting himself there in the abode of death. What an apt picture! What a vivid description of man's state by nature! You can never bind him. You may make moral laws, try to keep him down by various human directions; but no, he will break it all. There is only one Voice can tame him.
We have wandered every one to his own way. Ah! And those who fall into the arms of death unrepentant, not separated from sin and self, those who have to feel the weight of God's curse upon them to all eternity, will not be there merely blaming the devil, but they will have to acknowledge, I believe, they are there by their own sin and their own mad rebellion against a holy God. That is how we are lost: by wandering on to the dark mountains of unbelief, every one to his own way.
And then we are lost in that we cleave by nature to and love those things that must be our ruin. The love of sin--what a dreadful thing it is! For the child of God has to confess before the Majesty of the skies that hankering desire and lingering upon those things he knows to be contrary to the will of God, contrary to the peace of the soul, contrary to the honor and glory of God. God's people know what it is to blush sometimes at the inward tendencies of their spirits. A lost condition--a fearful subject to contemplate, we can never paint it in too dark colors.
Then we might ask: What have we lost? We have lost the image of God. What a blessed condition man was in when his Maker placed him in the garden of Eden! He could draw near to his Maker without fear; he could hail His approach. There was nothing between him and his Creator: he was innocent, being made in the image of God, capable of doing what God required of him. The moment he turned aside from the commandment of the Most High and bowed his neck to another than the Lord, then he was filled with fear. What must have been the feelings of the fallen man and woman in the garden of Eden when God came to search out their iniquity and set the secrecy of their sin in the light of His countenance! "Adam, where art thou?" He could never hide from that. Has God ever said that to you: "Where art thou?" If the Lord comes in the light of the Spirit to set before us the secrecy of our sin, the depth and nature of our transgression, words can never describe the sinkings and faintings of the human breast.
We have lost the image of God--righteousness, truth, love and uprightness. We have also lost the will and the power to fall in with and obey God's ways of righteousness, His directions and commandments.
Then we have lost all claim upon God's favor; we have broken the covenant, failed to come up to the terms of the covenant of works, and therefore are in a shameful, bankrupt condition, having no claim upon God. And I am sure that is soon made known to a convinced sinner, a sinner that the Holy Spirit has made self-abhorrent. If you have a claim at the throne of grace, it is because God has given you some encouragement in His holy salvation; and "apart from an interest in the Lord Jesus," you say, "I have no claim at all; all I can say is, I have destroyed myself by my own sins, and unless God in His infinite mercy and grace condescends to lift me up I must sink to rise no more; for I have nothing to say in self-defense why He should not send me where my iniquities have deserved I should go." To be a lost sinner is a terrible thing.
Now, says the Lord Jesus, "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." We shall never rightly view this subject until we have faith to apprehend what the "Son of man" means. What does it mean? It means that none less than God Himself, infinite in power, in wisdom, took upon Himself, in the Person of His Son, to redeem us from our iniquity. Not all the good men and all their resolves and their prayers put together could touch this matter. God manifested in the flesh, to suffer, bleed and die to work out salvation, to honor the law and to bring in everlasting righteousness. Now until we have faith to apprehend in some measure that mystery, we do not discern what it is to be lost. There is nothing like a display of divine love to make a man a sinner. This is according to the Word of God: "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born." (Zech. 12:10) And in the light of love revealed in the sacrifice of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, down we go and become in our own eyes the vilest of the vile, the most unworthy of all. You might easily sing the language you have uttered tonight in human song, but it is another thing to enter into the spirit of it:
I am afraid many people say that without in any degree realizing what it means. To become the uttermost sinner, the chiefest of sinners, is indeed a terrible process to proud human nature.
"The Son of man is come"--the Son of God, manifested in the flesh--what to do? "To seek and to save that which was lost." And when He set out to seek the lost sheep, Zaccheus among them, He had not to seek for them like a human shepherd, and walk many miles fruitlessly. Jesus entered and passed through Jericho because He was on the way to that man. He took no steps in vain, but knew where His lost sheep were. He never fainted in the search for them; it could not be a fruitless search; nothing could balk Him, intimidate Him, hinder Him. He came for that purpose--to seek out His poor sheep from all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. (Ezek. 34:12) He that scattered Israel also would gather Israel. (Jer. 31:10) What a mercy that is! If you are one of His sheep you cannot escape the notice of Him who clothed Himself in humanity that He might suffer your griefs and bear your burdens, and bring you out from those dark places into which you have been driven by sin and unbelief. And because He seeks them out He saves them, and saves them eternally.
Now we must notice for a minute or two, in connection with this, in what peculiar places the Lord sometimes finds His sheep. Zaccheus was in a very, very poor place; chief among the publicans, rich, living for his own ends, living to gratify himself merely among his fellow creatures. God's poor sheep are found in out-of-the-way, perilous places; and at times there seems but a step between them and death. Perhaps some of you have been dragged back from such perilous places--God has shown you they were--you almost shudder to think where you have been. The Eastern shepherd, as you know, had to go down the steepest crags and precipices sometimes, where poor sheep had fallen and become entangled. And the Lord Jesus Christ went right to death so that His sheep might live. "I lay down My life for the sheep." (John 10:15) Poor David was in a very strange place when he got among the Philistines; but he was one of God's sheep. He did not seem much like sitting on the throne of Israel when he patched up a false peace with the Philistines and gives up all for lost, saying: "There is nothing better for me than to fall into their ranks; I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." (See 1 Sam. 27:1) But the Lord disentangled him, went after him, brought him back with weeping and supplication to His feet. When poor Manasseh made the streets of Jerusalem to run with blood, it did not look much like being brought into the fold of the Lord God of Israel, did it? When he was among the thorns and briars, and in miserable captivity, there the Lord brought him to a sense of his sinnership, made his own self hateful to him, and he besought the Lord his God there afar off, and not in vain. Poor Jonah was in a strange place when he went to the bottom of the sea, when the waves were wrapped about his head; his soul fainted within him and all seemed lost: "All Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me." (Jonah 2:3) God shut him up in a very narrow prison. What for? To save him; to make him shout, "Salvation is of the Lord." (Jonah 2:9) And thousands since that day have been rescued from perilous places, because "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Ah! And when this Divine Shepherd finds His sheep sometimes they are in such a fearful plight by their own wanderings, they have so defiled themselves, that I am ready to say none but the Shepherd could tell they were sheep; everyone else would put them outside the fold. I believe that sort of Divine teaching makes a man feel sometimes: "It is no use for me to go to So-and-so for him to tell me whether I am a Christian; no use for me to try to get evidences from this and the other reasoning; only the Lord Jesus can tell me whether I am a sheep or not." He cannot make a mistake, because He is the Wisdom of God. Let us be careful, friends, how we sit in the judgment seat; let us look into our own hearts at times, and we shall be ready to say: "Well, if there is a person on earth it would be salutary for me to judge it would be myself. O for grace to judge of myself aright!" We are all apt to get a little entangled at times in our own spirit. I can tell you this: personally, when I get a little entangled in an uncharitable spirit and get somewhat censorious in my judgment, it is not long before I am so entangled that I have to bow my head in bitterness before God and judge myself, and call myself of all creatures on earth the unworthiest and the vilest. As I have said many times, God will have us honest; it will not do for His children to prevaricate. God will give them a pure language, and when they say "Vilest of them all," they shall mean it.
Do not let us forget this: when the Lord Jesus called Zaccheus down out of the tree, to make known to him the glorious fact that the Son of man was come to seek and to save that which was lost, that He entered into his house to abide there. "Come down," He said; "this day I must abide at thy house." And when Jesus takes up His abode in the house of a sinner--or, to put it in the Saviour's words, when Jesus descends to make a dwelling-place in the heart of a sinner, it is that He shall be King there. If He is my Priest to atone for my sin, He shall be my King to reign and rule over me. What God hath joined together let not man put asunder. He is Priest and King in one glorious Person; and the whole conduct of Zaccheus was changed; the whole manner of his household undoubtedly was changed, from being a place of dishonesty it became a place of righteousness, because Jesus was there. He will have His own way; He is the Majesty of heaven, and will rule His people with the scepter of His love, and there will be from time to time a bowing down under His discipline. Is He our King? Does He abide in our hearts? Thus Paul prayed for the Ephesians: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith," etc. (Eph. 3:17) He will not have His throne divided; He will not allow a usurper. How we have to confess before Him sometimes the truth of the poet:--
"In one bosom, false as hell,
We'd have the ark and Dagon dwell." (Gadsby, 885)
But the rebuking voice will be heard within: Jesus will reign, and reign alone, in the heart. But how much we need the swaying of His scepter! How we have to go again and again to plead with Him upon the ground of this testimony of the apostle John: "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8) We have need to go to Him all the journey through, and ask Him to kindly speak down and subjugate those tyrant lusts that war in opposition against Him we desire to love and serve.
Then I would like to say, too, in looking at this narrative, that when the visitation of the Lord Jesus in the work of righteousness in conveying to us the knowledge of God's love in His Son separates us from the world and brings the scorn of the world upon us and the misapprehension of those who know nothing of it, so that they attribute to us false motives in our religion, the best thing is to imitate Zaccheus. What did he do? He did not try to answer the Pharisees at all; he simply turned to the Lord Jesus and told Him. That is the best thing to do when the scorn of the world is upon us. Friends, we do not know how to answer the world in human wisdom; we cannot fight our own battles; we shall only bring ourselves into further difficulty and perplexity. Zaccheus turned to the Lord Jesus and, in the simplicity of his heart, put the case into His hands. He who has done something for us can protect us, whatever the world may have against us.
Then I would say, in conclusion, that where a sinner is enabled in the face of opposition to confess Christ, to profess before men what He has done, the Lord will always give him some sweet confirmation of what He has done. Yes; the way of confession is a way God has always honored. We shall never bring those special times of approbation upon ourselves by hiding the light; oh no. Zaccheus stood up, and in the simplicity of his heart told the Lord what had taken place within him, and professes that this work of righteousness had altogether changed his character and aims in this world; and then the Lord Jesus mercifully spake this confirmatory word: "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
May the Lord give us gracious boldness to confess His Name who has done great things for us. O that we may cleave to Him, that we may bring our hard cases to Him and realize that He is still full of mercy and grace. Amen.