Being gospel papers by F. W. Grant.
The Lost Piece of Silver.
The second parable of this chapter, brief as it is, is undoubtedly the most difficult of the three, and that not merely because of its brevity. The thought of the woman, and that of the house, seem to introduce elements which if intelligible from a Christian are all the less so from a Jewish stand-point. Yet we may not omit them as of no importance. Scripture is nowhere less than perfect, and to impute what is our own ignorance to defect in it is irreverent folly. Let us see, then, what light may be gained by patient examination of the parable in dependence upon Him who alone can teach effectually.
It is certain that in all the three the joy of recovery is set before us, — the joy, blessed to hear of, in the presence of the angels — divine joy in the fullest sense. In the first parable, it is that of the Shepherd — of Christ Himself; in the last, it is the Father's joy who receives, — yet not only receives, for the son is yet "a long way off" when He sees and has compassion, and runs, and falls upon his neck, and kisses him. The second parable must give us, then, one would say, the joy of the Spirit, and thus the whole heart of God be manifested to us.
The central figure here — that of a woman — at first sight may present a difficulty. A woman might well be a picture of the Church of God, — of the saints of God, — and such we have elsewhere in the Word. But then these thoughts are after all not so far asunder. The Spirit of God works through the Word; the Word is carried by the saints; thus indirectly He may be represented in what is directly their picture. And how else, indeed, one may ask, could He be more fitly? While most graciously thus redeemed sinners are not only themselves joyed over, but taken in to share the joy of heaven also over the salvation of others.
Thus the "woman" seems intelligible, and the figure of wisdom in the book of Proverbs may remind us that after all it is not altogether foreign to the Old Testament Scriptures. Here, as we might expect in the gospels, the object of her search is more helpless, more absolutely dependent upon the love that goes out after it; and this does not in the least affect the suitability of the story here. Rather is it all in divine harmony.
So is it in keeping that we hear now of a lamp lighted for the search, — the figure, of course, of the Word of God as lighted amid the darkness of the world. Yet the Spirit of God must light it up if it is to manifest where the lost soul is, — often in corners dark and secret enough, and sadly covered with dust and smut of sin, so that you would not recognize it at all as having the value that it has for God. A lost piece of silver speaks of this value; a lost soul may easily overbalance the whole world gained. The atonement-money in Israel was paid in silver; and atonement it is that exhibits the true value of a soul gained for God — regained, for He all through is the owner of it. "Behold, all souls are Mine," He says. Ah, what diligent search would we not make if we thought of the stamp of the royal mint upon the lowest and most degraded among men, and saw the value of souls with God in the price paid for them — saw the sheen of silver glitter
in the lamplight out of the dust of some neglected corner!
We must sweep the house! But the dust will fly, and this sweeping is not a pleasant occupation. To make a stir about sin is unpleasant enough, no doubt, but the broom turns, if it be a little roughly sometimes, the king's money out of its hiding-place.
The house must be swept. It is the place of natural ties and relationships — those links by which God would bring us together and make us objects of interest to one another. It is within this circle that we shall find most profit in sweeping — most readily come across the precious coins for God's treasury. Many are ready to do street-sweeping, and testify abroad for Christ, who have no heart for it in the familiar circles in which after all are the nearest and most recompensing fields of labor. The witness of the home, of the place of business, of the familiar and accustomed life, is the most fruitful — the God-ordained first place at least of labor, which if we occupy, we may be promoted, but not else. Ah, if we would sweep the house! — nothing so marks the work of the Holy Ghost as this, in which the good work will be measured, however, not by the amount of dust that is raised, but by the pieces of silver that we find. For if he that winneth souls is wise," he that is wise, too, shall win them. This close and homely work God blesses: the house is cleansed by it; but more, that which has been lost is found. Oh, be sure, this woman at her housework may read us a true gospel-lesson, and every woman at her housework may thus have the joy of the evangelist, and the labor of love that fails not; for love's labor is never lost.
What characterizes the day is so much official evangelism, with so little simple natural testimony according to the apostolic order — "I believed, and therefore have I spoken:" the necessary outflow of full hearts, of those that have been in Christ's company, and cannot forbear to say to those around what it costs no education, no special gift, to say, — "Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?" A great and effectual preacher was that poor Samaritan woman! What had made her so? What she says herself, the company of Christ. Christ had been speaking to her. It is this that looses the tongue and gives it eloquence indeed.
Is it not striking that when the Lord would give us here the share which His people can have in the joy of heaven, that He gives us, not a crier in the market-place, but this quiet and unseen toiler in the house. "It is only an illustration," some will say. Well, it is an illustration out of which the thoughtful and the humble will get help and courage, and thank Him for it. Let the crier cry too in the market-place, and thank God for that! But if it were a choice between the two (which it is not), better would it be to have the necessary testimony of faith — "I believed, and therefore I have spoken," — in every private Christian than the more public testimony even. Could we have this aright, how would the Old Testament scripture be fulfilled, "The Lord gave the Word: great was the company of those that published it" as the words imply, the "women that published it." (Ps. 68:11.) This woman-preaching would indeed be effectual work.
The joy is here as in the other parables: "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."
And the joy of the Holy Ghost, will He not make it felt in the hearts of His people? "Friends" He must have with whom to share it. It is diffusive, multiplying itself as it travels from heart to heart, as a fire increases with fresh fuel. Such shall be the joy of eternity, — the joy of one the joy of all, the pervasive joy of love, than which there is nothing sweeter, nothing purer, nothing higher. It is indeed the joy of God Himself, for "God is love."