HOW fond our Master was of the sweet title, the “Son of man!” If He had chosen, He might always have spoken of Himself as the Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Prince of Peace. He hath a thousand gorgeous titles, resplendent as the throne of heaven; but He careth not to use them; to express His humility and let us see the lowliness of Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, He calls not himself the Son of God, but He speaks of Himself evermore as the Son of man who came down from heaven. Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Savior; let us never court great titles nor proud degrees. What are they, after all, but beggarly distinctions whereby one worm is known from another? He that hath the most of them is a worm still, and is in nature no greater than his fellows. If Jesus called Himself the Son of man, when He had far greater names, let us learn to humble ourselves unto men of low estate, knowing that he that humbleth himself shall in due time be exalted.
Methinks, however, there is a sweeter thought than this in the name, Son of man. It seems to me that Christ loved manhood so much, that He always desired to honor it; and since it is a high honor, and indeed the greatest dignity of manhood, that Jesus Christ was the Son of man, He is wont to display this name, that He may, as it were, put rich stars upon the breast of manhood, and put a crown upon its head. Son of man — whenever He said that word He seemed to put a halo round the head of Adam’s children. Yet there is perhaps a more lovely thought still. Jesus Christ called Himself the Son of man, because He loved to be a man. It was a great stoop for Him to come from heaven and to be incarnate. It was a mighty stoop of condescension when He left the harps of angels and the songs of cherubims to mingle with the vulgar herd of His own creatures. But condescension though it was, He loved it. You will remember that when He became incarnate He did not become so in the dark. When He bringeth forth the only begotten into the world, He saith, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” It was told in heaven; it was not done as a dark secret which Jesus Christ would do in the night that none might know it; but all the angels of God were brought to witness the advent of a Savior a span long, sleeping upon a Virgin’s breast, and lying in a manger. And ever afterwards, and even now, he never blushed to confess that He was man; never looked back upon His incarnation with the slightest regret; but always regarded it with a joyous recollection, thinking Himself thrice happy that He had ever become the Son of man. All hail, thou blessed Jesus! we know how much Thou lovest our race; we can well understand the greatness of Thy mercy towards Thy chosen ones, inasmuch as Thou art evermore using the sweet name which acknowledges that they are bone of Thy bone and flesh of Thy flesh, and Thou art one of them, a brother and a near kinsman.
I will tell you the people whom Christ will save — they are those who are lost to themselves. Just imagine a ship at sea passing through a storm: the ship leaks, and the captain tells the passengers he fears they are lost. If they are far away from the shore, and have sprung a leak, they pump with all their might as long as they have any strength remaining; they seek to keep down the devouring element, they still think that they are not quite lost while they have power to use the pumps. At last they see the ship cannot be saved; they give it up for lost, and leap into the boats. The boats are floating for many a day, full of men who have but little food to eat. “They are lost,” we say, “lost out at sea.” But they do not think so; they still cherish a hope that perhaps some stray ship may pass that way and pick them up. There is a ship on the horizon; they strain their eyes to look at her; they lift each other up; they wave a flag; they rend their garments to make something which shall attract attention; but she passes away; black night comes, and they are forgotten. At length the very last mouthful of food has been consumed; strength fails them, and they lay down their oars in the boat, and lay themselves down to die. You can imagine then how well they understand the awful meaning of the term — “lost.” As long as they had any strength left they felt they were not lost; as long as they could see a sail they felt there was yet hope; while there was yet a moldy biscuit left, or a drop of water, they did not give up all for lost. Now the biscuit is gone, and the water is gone; now strength has departed, and the oar lies still: they lie down to die by each other’s side, mere skeletons; things that should have been dead days ago, if they had died when all enjoyment of life had ceased. Now they know, I say, what it is to be lost, and across the shoreless waters they seem to hear their death-knell pealing forth that awful word, Lost! lost! lost!
Now, in a spiritual sense, these are the people Christ came to save. Sinner, thou too art condemned. Our father Adam steered the ship awry and she split upon a rock, and she is filling even to her bulwarks now; and pump as philosophy may, it can never keep the waters of her depravity so low as to prevent the ship from sinking. Seeing that human nature is of itself lost, it hath taken to the boat. She is a fair boat, called the boat of Good Endeavor, and in her you are striving to row with all your might, to reach the shore; but your strength fails you. You say, “Oh, I cannot keep God’s law. The more I strive to keep it, the more I find it to be impossible for me to do so. I climb; but the higher I climb the higher is the top above me.
When I was in the plains, I thought the mountain was but a moderate hill; but now I seem to have ascended half-way up its steeps, — there it is, higher than the clouds, and I cannot discern the summit.” However, you gather up your strength, you try again, you row once more, and at last, unable to do anything, you lay down your oars, feeling that if you are saved, it cannot be by your own works. Still you have a little hope left.
There are a few small pieces of moldy biscuit remaining. You have heard that by attention to certain ceremonies you may be saved, and you munch your dry biscuit; but at last that fails you, and you find that neither baptism, nor the Lord’s supper, nor any other outward rites, can make you clean, for the leprosy lies deep within. That done, you still look out. You are in hopes that there may be a sail coming, and while floating upon that deep of despair, you think you detect in the distance some new dogma, some fresh doctrine that may comfort you. It passes, however, like the wild phantom ship — it is gone, and you are left at last, with the burning sky of God’s vengeance above you, with the deep waters of a bottomless hell beneath you, fire in your heart and emptiness in that ship which once was so full of hope, you lie down despairing, and you cry, — “ Lord save me, or I perish!”
Is that your condition, my friend, or has that ever been your condition? If so, Christ came into the world to seek and to save you; and you He will save, and no one else. He will save only those who can claim this for their title, — “Lost;” who have understood in their own souls what it is to be lost, as to all self-trust, all self-reliance, and all self-hope.
I can look back to the time when I knew myself to be lost. I thought that God meant to destroy me. I imagined that because I felt myself to be lost, I was the special victim of Almighty vengeance; for I said unto the Lord, “Hast Thou set me as the target of all Thine arrows? Am I a sea or a whale, that Thou hast set a mark upon me? Hast thou sewed up mine iniquities in a bag, and sealed my transgressions with a seal? Wilt Thou never be gracious? Hast Thou made me to be the center of all sorrow, the chosen one of heaven to be cursed forever?” Ah! fool that I was! I little knew then, that those who have the curse in themselves are the men whom God will bless — that we have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in Him who died for us and rose again.
Can you say that you are lost? Was there a time when you traveled with the caravan through this wild wilderness world? Have you left the caravan with your companions, and you are left in the midst of a sea of sand — a hopeless arid waste? And do you look around you, and see no helper; and do you cast your eyes around and see no trust? Is the death-bird wheeling in the sky, screaming with delight because he hopes soon to feed upon your flesh and bones? Is the water bottle dry, and doth the bread fail you? Have you consumed the last of your dry dates, and drunk the last of that brackish water from the bottle; and are you now without hope, without trust in yourself; ready to lie down in despair? Hark thee! The Lord thy God loveth thee; Jesus Christ has bought thee with His blood; thou art, thou shalt be His. He has been seeking thee all this time, and He has found thee at last, in the vast howling wilderness, and now He will take thee upon His shoulders and carry thee to His house rejoicing, and the angels shall be glad over thy salvation. Now, such people must and shall be saved; and this is the description of those whom Jesus Christ came to save. Whom He came to save He will save; you, ye lost ones — lost to all hope and self confidence, shall be saved. Though death and hell should stand in the way, Christ will perform His vow, and accomplish His design.
But for the most part Christ finds His people in His own house; but He finds them often in the worst of tempers, in the most hardened conditions; and He softens their hearts, awakens their consciences, subdues their pride and takes them to Himself; but never would they come to Him unless He came to them. Sheep go astray, but they do not come back again of themselves. Ask the shepherd whether his sheep come back, and he will tell you, “No, sir, they will wander, but they never return.” When you find a sheep that ever came back of itself, then you may hope to find a sinner who will come to Christ of himself. No; it must be sovereign grace that must seek the sinner and bring him home.
And when Christ seeks him HeSAVES him. Having caught him at last, like the ram of old, in the thorns of conviction, He does not take a knife and slay him as the sinner expects, but He takes him by the hand of mercy and begins to comfort and to save. The Christ who seeks you today, and who has sought you many a day by His providence, will save you. He will first find you when you are emptied of self, and then He will save you. When you are stripped He will bring forth the best robe and put it on you. When you are dying He will breathe life in your nostrils. When you feel yourselves condemned He will come and blot out your iniquities like a cloud, and your transgressions like a thick cloud. Fear not, ye hopeless and helpless souls, Christ seeks you today, and seeking, He will save you — save you here, save you living, save you dying, save you in time, save you in eternity, and give you, even you, the lost ones, a portion among them that are sanctified.