Luke 15:8

Of these three parables, illustrative of the grace of Christ shown to lost human souls, the first brings into view -

I. THE GREAT FOOLISHNESS OF THE WANDERING SOUL. It goes from God as a foolish sheep strays from the fold. So doing, it leaves security for peril. In the fold is safety; in the wilderness are many and serious dangers. At home with God the soul is perfectly safe from harm; its life, its liberty, its happiness, is secure; but, apart and astray from God, all these arc not only gravely imperilled, they are already forfeited. It also leaves plenty for want. In the fold is good pasture; in the wilderness is scarcity of food and water. With God is rich provision for the spirit's need, not only satisfying its wants, but ministering to its best and purest tastes; at a moral distance from him the spirit pines and withers. To go from God is an act of uttermost folly.


1. It is on the point of perishing. Without the interposition of the seeking Shepherd, it would inevitably perish.

2. It is reduced to such utter helplessness that it has to be carried home, "laid upon his shoulders."

(1) Under the dominion of sin the soul draws nearer and nearer to spiritual destruction; and

(2) it is often found to be reduced to so low a state that it can put forth no effort of its own, and can only be carried in the strong arms of love.

III. THE LOVE OF THE DIVINE SHEPHERD. The strong and keen interest taken by the human shepherd in a lost sheep is indicative of the tender interest which the Father of our spirits takes in a lost human soul. The former is more occupied in his thought and care with the one that is lost than he is, for the time, with the others that are safe; the latter is really and deeply concerned for the restoration of his lost child. And as the shepherd's sorrow leads him to go forth and search, so does the Father's tender care lead him to seek for his absent son. Christ's love for us is not general, it is particular; it reaches every one of us. He cares much that each one of the souls for whom he suffered should enjoy his true heritage, and when that is being lost he desires and he "seeks" to restore it.

IV. HIS PERSISTENCY IN SEEKING. "Until he find it." The shepherd, in pursuit of the lost sheep, is not detained by difficulty or danger; nor does he allow distance to stop his search; he goes on seeking until he finds. With such gracious persistency does the Saviour follow the wandering soul; year after year, period after period in his life, through several spiritual stages, the good Shepherd pursues the erring soul with patient love, until he finds it.

V. HIS JOY IN FINDING IT. The shepherd's joy in finding and in recovering, shown by calling his friends and neighbours together, saying, "Rejoice with me," etc., is pictorial of the Saviour's joy when a soul is redeemed from sin and enters into the life which is eternal. He rejoices not only, not chiefly, because therein does he "see of the travail of his soul," but because he knows well from what depth of evil that soul has been rescued, and to what height of blessedness it has been restored; he knows also how great is the influence, through all ages, which one loyal and loving human spirit will exert on other souls. - C.

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver.
1. And that in regard of matter. No metal except gold (which indeed is most solid and perfectly concocted with sufficient heat, so that it never corrupteth by rust) is to be compared with it. So man is the excellentest of all God's creatures except angels, and but a little inferior unto them (Psalm 8:5).

2. In regard of lustre. For albeit silver in the ore be base and unsightly to look on, yet coming out of the mint purified and fined, it is beautiful. Thus, though man, while he was in the lump of clay, was without beauty; yet being formed, God put upon him great glory and majesty (Psalm 8.), so that in beauty and fairness he excelled all other visible creatures, as by those relics yet remaining, and to be found in sinful men, we may gather. As the complexion of David (1 Samuel 16:12). The beauty of Absalom, in whom there was not a blemish from top to toe (2 Samuel 14.). The stature of Saul (1 Samuel 10.)

3. In regard of stamp. Money hath some impress and image on it, as the Jewish shekel, which on the one side had Aaron's rod, and on the other side the pot of manna. So the Romans had Caesar's image upon their coin, whereby they acknowledged subjection; and the coin which Jacob paid unto the Shechemites was stamped with a lamb (Genesis 33:19). Thus had man the image of his Maker, which God stamped on him as a mark of his possession.

4. Money hath its stamp and form from regal authority; it must be refined and made (for it makes not itself) by the prince's royalty. Thus man was the work of God's bands (Psalm 100.), and His alone (Job 10:8).

5. Silver hath a good sound above other metals. And hence it was that trumpets of silver were commanded by the Lord to be made (Numbers 10:1, 2) for shrillness and clearness. Thus man above other creatures had a tongue given him to praise his Maker with, which is therefore called the glory of man (Genesis 49:6; Psalm 16:9).

6. Silver commands all things, and answers all things, as speaketh Solomon (Ecclesiastes 10:19). There is nothing (whether holy or profane) but are at the beck and command of it. Such a commanding power had man by his creation over all creatures (Psalm 8:6). "Thou hast made him to have dominion in the works of Thy hands"; such authority God gave him (Genesis 1:28), willing him to "rule over the fishes of the sea, over the fowls of heaven, and over every beast that moveth upon the earth." Silver is not all of a like worth; there are different pieces and of different value. The Jews had their gerah, and half shekel, and shekel (Exodus 30:13), with divers other corns of silver. So all were not of a like degree in the creation, though all excellent and good; for God observed order from the beginning. Amongst the angels some are superior, and some inferior; there are degrees amongst them (Colossians 1:16).

(N. Rogers.)


1. It was a coin. That is to say, it was not simply a piece of a precious metal, but that metal moulded and minted into money, bearing on it the king's image and superscription, and witnessing to his authority wherever it circulated.

2. But the corn was lost, and this suggests that in sinful man the image of his Maker has gone out of sight, and the great purpose of his being has been frustrated. His intellect does not like to retain God in its knowledge; his heart has estranged its love from God; and his life is devoted to another lord than his Creator. He is lost.

3. Yet he is not absolutely worthless. The coin, though lost, has still a value. If it can be recovered, it will be worth as much as ever.

4. But yet, again, this coin was lost in the house. The woman did not let it fall as she was crossing the wild and trackless moor, neither did she drop it into the unfathomed depths of ocean. Had she done so, she would never have thought of seeking for it; she would have given it up as irrecoverable. Now, this points to the fact that the soul of the sinner is recoverable. It is capable of being restored to its original dignity and honour. It has in it still potentialities as great and glorious as those which ever belonged to it.

II. This brings me to the consideration of THE SEARCH, WHEREIN WE HAVE ALSO SOME THINGS SUGGESTED WHICH ARE PECULIAR TO THIS PARABLE. Eastern houses, unlike our own, are constructed in such a way as to keep out the light and heat of the sun as much as possible. They have few windows, and even the few which they have are shaded with such lattice-work as tends to exclude rather than admit the sunbeam. Hence the rooms are generally dark; and so, even if the coin were lost at noonday, the light of a candle would be required to seek for it. Nor was there, in Eastern dwellings, the same scrupulous cleanliness that we love to see in so many homes around us. The floors were often covered with rushes, which, being changed only at rare intervals, collected a vast amount of dust and filth, among which a piece of money might be most readily lost. Hence the lighting of a candle and the sweeping of the house were the most natural things to be done in such a case. But whom does this woman represent? and what, spiritually, are we to understand by the lighting of a candle and the sweeping of the house? The woman, in my judgment, symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and I look upon the means which she employed in her search for the lost coin as denoting the efforts made by the Holy Spirit for the recovery of a lost soul. Now let us see what these were. She lighted a candle, and swept the house, and searched diligently. The light most evidently represents the truth; but what are we to make of the sweeping? Some would take it to illustrate the purifying work of the Holy Ghost in the heart. But that view cannot be maintained, since the purifying of the soul is not a work in order to, but rather subsequent upon, its recovery. I take it rather, therefore, to represent that disturbance of settled opinions and practices — that turning of the soul, as it were, upside down — which is frequently seen as a forerunner of conversion; that confusion and disorder occasioned by some providential dealing with the man, such as personal illness, or business difficulties, or family bereavement, or the like, and which frequently issues in the coming of the soul to God; for here also chaos often precedes the new creation. Truth introduced into the heart, and providential disturbances and unsettlements in order to its introduction — these are the things symbolized by the lighting of the candle and the sweeping of the house. The truth which the Holy Spirit employs for the purpose of conversion is the Word of God, all of which has been given to men by His own inspiration; and the especial portion of that Word which He uses for His saving work is the wondrous story of the Cross.

III. We come now, in the third place, to look at THE JOY OVER THE RECOVERED COIN; and here, as before, we shall restrict ourselves to that which is peculiar to this parable. In the story of the lost sheep, while the social character of the joy is certainly referred to, the speciality in the gladness of the shepherd over its finding lay in the fact, to which prominence is given in the appended note of interpretation, that it was greater than over the ninety and nine which had never strayed. Here, however, the peculiarity is in the sociality of the joy. God's joy, if I may dare to use the words, needs society to make it complete; and the fact that there are those beside Him to whom He can make known the story of each recovered soul, redoubles His own gladness, and diffuses among them His own Divine delight. Nor let it be supposed that this is a mere fanciful idea, for which there is no foundation in Scripture apart from the teaching of this parable. What says Paul? "God hath created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). Now, these words mean, if they mean anything at all, that through means of the Church, God designed to show to principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom. In the manifestation of this wisdom God has His highest work, and, in its appreciation by spiritual intelligences, through the Church of Christ, He has His greatest joy.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Type of a soul ignorant of its death, utterly unconcerned with the thought of sin. Yet a coin, having image and superscription. It may be covered with dust, it may be half defaced or hidden under heaps of rubbish; but it has not returned, and cannot return, into the uncoined state. Meet emblem of man's soul in its lowest estate. "I am God's coin," said one of old; "from His treasure-house I have wandered." And it is because we are God's, that He seeks.

I. GOD'S LOVE LIGHTS A LAMP OF REVELATION IN THE WORLD. Though you may care little about your lost soul, God cares for it much. He has lit His candle — the candle of Divine revelation, and He is throwing its illumination upon you. Hinder not, thwart not, His search for your soul. Love herself might light the candle, and yet the lost coin not be found under the long accumulation of dirt — of easily-besetting sins and long-indulged habits. So the parable goes on to speak of a sweeping.

II. THE LOVE OF GOD SWEEPS THE HOUSE, WHICH IS THE MAN. Is not this the real meaning of that sickness, that bereavement, that disappointment which seemed to you so casual, or so wanton, or so cruel? It was the love of God still.

III. THE SEEKING IS UNTO FINDING. Love will not stay till she finds. Help her. Kick not against the goad.

IV. TREAT THE TEXT AS A PRECEPT. Light a candle, sweep the house, and seek diligently till you find.

(Dean Vaughan.)


1. It is a symbol of the human soul.(1) The soul seems to be of little value, if considered in its imperfections, in its inability to perform supernatural acts, and even more so, if compared to the holy angels, who are purer than gold, brighter than diamonds.(2) Nevertheless, the groat, as a coin, has its value. So is the human soul of great value, because it is created according to the image and likeness of God, redeemed by His precious blood, sealed by the Holy Spirit. Thus it is raised to a supernatural state, and enabled to merit the glory and bliss of heaven.

2. How the groat, the human soul, is lost.(1) By the deceitfulness of the devil, who, driven by envy and hatred, endeavours to deprive the Divine Master of His coin, the coin of its splendour. He buries the soul in the mire of sin.(2) Through the fault of man. Whilst he is unmindful of being God's own property, undervalues the worth of his soul, keeps company with thieves, his soul is lost.

3. The consequences are most deplorable.(1) The lost soul is covered with the filth of sin, from which it can never cleanse itself by its own power.(2) The value of the soul diminishes. The merits of the past are lost, the power of ignorance and concupiscence increases.(3) The coinage disappears. Sin deforms the Divine image and likeness; at its entrance grace leaves the soul; and man falls under the curse and displeasure of God.


1. This "woman" is the Church.

2. The "candle" is Christ, the light of the world.

3. The "friends and neighbours" are the angels and saints.

(W. Reischl.)

I. AS THE SILVER WAS PRECIOUS TO THE WOMAN, SO ARE OUR SOULS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR. We estimate a person's value for a thing by the price he gives, the sacrifice he makes, to obtain or recover it. How dear, then, was man to God, who loved him when fallen; yea. who so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.

II. AS THE PIECE OF MONEY WAS LOST TO THE WOMAN, SO IS EVERY ONE WHO CONTINUES IN SIN LOST TO GOD. He is alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him.


IV. AS THE WOMAN CALLS HER FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS TO REJOICE WITH HER, FOR THE LOST PIECE FOUND; SO IS THERE JOY IN HEAVEN, IN THE PRESENCE OF THE ANGELS OF GOD, OVER ONE REPENTING SINNER. For this joy, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame. Thus He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied. And His joy is shared by the angels that surround His throne.

1. Let this parable, then, rebuke self-righteousness; let it teach humility.

2. Again — let this parable suggest the most powerful motive to instant repentance. For what motive is there, like Christ's enduring and seeking love?

(E. Blencowe, M. A.)

This parable pictures God as the Redeemer of man in three different modes or attitudes — shall I say of feeling?

I. The first division of the picture represents GOD AS CONTEMPLATING AS A LOSS TO HIMSELF THE STATE OF SIN INTO WHICH MAN HAS FALLEN. No one but God could have ventured thus to represent God. God mourns the fall of man as a lost treasure, as something in which He delighted, and of which sin has robbed Him. God has a property of the heart in man's welfare.

II. In the second part of the picture, God is REPRESENTED AS MAKING AN EFFORT FOR THE RECOVERY OF MAN FROM THE SIN AND MISERY INTO WHICH HE HAS FALLEN. The fact of atonement is here; the quickening work of the Holy Ghost is here, and the manifold ministry to man is here; by all which God is seeking to bring men to Himself and save them from sin; and the more one seeks to look at this, the more one feels how true it is that the inflexible righteousness of God, that the infinite love of God, is full of a determination not to let His human treasure go without an effort to recover it.


(A. Hannay.)


1. It may seem like a little thing to you — this sixpence; but what is great to a child is not small to the father; and that is not little to God that is great to any man. He who knows all about the homes, and the hearts that beat in London in such homes, knows that sometimes the difference between sixpence and no sixpence may mean all the difference between food and no food, shelter and no shelter for the night, ease from pain, or no ease from pain. Oh, what magic that prosaic thing, the piece of silver, can work! Look at our Nonconformist father. Lawrence. See him seated under a hedgerow on the morning of the great Puritan exodus in 1662; see him looking as if fit to die, for he thinks about his hungry and homeless little ones. What is it that suddenly makes the eye flash, and the face quiver, and the foot spring? Only the sight of a lost piece of silver. He had just found a sixpence in the ditch before him, and it fairly seemed to him as if it had come down into that ditch from the very Throne of thrones that very moment.

2. The central person in this story is a woman — not some stately Cleopatra, not some gay Herodias, not some grand lady with face beautiful as a dream, and step graceful as a wave, who, having possessed ten gems of rarest water, or ten pearls of great price, has lost one of them; but only a poor village woman, who, having saved up for the rent, or a rainy day, ten pieces of silver, has lost one. She searches; finds; calls her neighbours together to rejoice with her. The event was not enough to electrify a cabinet but it was enough to lighten her heart, and to send a sensation all through her little world.


1. Look at the coin, and then think of the value of the soul. Souls look through those waiting, gazing eyes around me, souls look out from those listening ears, souls thrill along those nerves. Souls! Why will ye cleave to the dust? Awake, know yourselves, and try to think about your own unimaginable value.

2. Look at the coin lost, and think of the soul lost in the house of this world. Some years ago the men working on the Thames Embankment — laying its foundations — found a lost piece of silver, stamped with the image of a Roman Emperor. Perhaps that piece of silver had been lost 1,800 years. My spirit flashes back to that spot, and to that moment, and I see the scene just how it all happened. I see a man coming down from the green solitudes of Camberwell, where the Roman station is, coming down to the edge of the river. I see him cross from what we now call the Surrey side, to what we now call the city side. I see him, as he step"" out of the boat, take his purse out to pay the ferryman, and I see the piece of silver slip from his fingers through the water, and there it stuck in the black slime of the river. It was for ages lost to the purpose for which it was made. It might as well not have been silver. Now I say there are souls lost like that coin.

3. Look at the coin lost, but not knowing that it is lost, and think of the soul lost in this house and not knowing that it is lost. The frivolist. The sensualist. The formalist. These no more know they are lost than does the coin when it has rippled along the floor and slipped into a chink in the darkness! But it is a fact all the same. Once, certain explorers on an Arctic expedition were working their way through the still, gray air in the eternal silence, when they suddenly came upon an antique, spectral-looking ship locked in blocks of ice. They boarded it, and one man took his lantern and ran down the campanion-ladder into the state-cabin. He held it up. He found all the ship's company there. There sat the captain, with his hand upon the log-book; and there sat the mate, and there sat the doctor, and there sat the others. "Captain!" There was no stir. He cried again, "Captain!" But there was only the silence that creeps and shudders. "Captain!" He held his light up again and flashed it around — and what did that light reveal? Dead hands! dead lips! dead eyes! — dead men! The cold that had been strong enough to steel them through, and to freeze the life of their blood, had been strong enough to arrest the touch of Decay's hastening fingers, and to keep fixed in the form and attitude of life Death itself, and to keep it thus — so it was said — for nearly half a century. Oh I man do but think of what it is of which I am speaking. Dead souls! Lost souls!

4. Look at the search which this woman is making in the house, and think of the Holy Spirit's part in searching for the lost soul. There was once heard in the Isle of Wight a little girl say to her mother, when sweeping the cottage floor, "Mother, mother, pull the blind down, the sunshine makes the room so dusty." And so it is that the light in the house of the Interpreter may seem to make the room dusty, but it seems to create what it only reveals: it makes us think that we are worse than we are when we are only wiser than we were; it make us see ourselves, see our Saviour, and then, " there is joy in the presence of the angels of God."

(C. Standford, D. D.)

I. First, the parable treats of man, the object of Divine mercy, as LOST.

1. Notice, first, the treasure was lost in the dust. The woman had lost her piece of silver, and in order to find it she had to sweep for it, which proves that it had fallen into a dusty place, fallen to the earth, where it might be hidden and concealed amid rubbish and dirt. Every man of Adam born is as a piece of silver lost, fallen, dishonoured, and some are buried amid foulness and dust. Thou art lost by nature, and thou must be found by grace, whoever thou mayst be.

2. In this parable that which was lost was altogether ignorant of its being lost. The silver coin was not a living thing, and therefore had no consciousness of its being lost or sought after. The piece of money lost was quite as content to be on the floor or in the dust, as it was to be in the purse of its owner amongst its like. It knew nothing about its being lost, and could not know. And it is just so with the sinner who is spiritually dead in sin, he is unconscious of his state, nor can we make him understand the danger and terror of his condition. The insensibility of the piece of money fairly pictures the utter indifference of souls unquickened by Divine grace.

3. The silver piece was lost but not forgotten. The woman knew that she had ten pieces of silver originally; she counted them over carefully, for they were all bet little store, and she found only nine, but she well remembered that one more was hers and ought to be in her hand. This is our hope for the Lord's lost ones, they are lost but not forgotten, the heart of the Saviour remembers them, and prays for them.

4. Next, the piece of silver was lost but still claimed. Observe that the woman called the money, "my piece which was lost." When she lost its possession she did not lose her right to it; it did not become somebody else's when it slipped out of her hand and fell upon the floor. Those for whom Christ hath died, whom He hath peculiarly redeemed, are not Satan's even when they are dead in sin. They may come under the devil's usurped dominion, but the monster shall be chased from his throne.

5. Further, observe that the lost piece of money was not only remembered and claimed, but it was also valued. In these three parables the value of the lost article steadily rises. This is not very clear at first sight, because it may be said that a sheep is of more value than a piece of money; but notice that the shepherd only lost one sheep out of a hundred, but the woman lost one piece out of ten, and the father one son out of two. To the Lord of love a lost soul is very precious: it is not because of its intrinsic value, but it has a relative value which God sets at a high rate.

6. The piece of money was lost, but it was not lost hopelessly. The woman had hopes of recovering it, and therefore she did not despair, but set to work at once. I congratulate the Christian Church too, that her piece of money has not fallen where she cannot find it. I rejoice that the fallen around us are not past hope; yea, though they dwell in the worst dens of London, though they be thieves and harlots, they are not beyond the reach of mercy. Up, O Church of God, while possibilities of mercy remain!

7. One other point is worthy of notice. The piece of silver was lost, but it was lost in the house, and the woman knew it to be so. What thankfulness there ought to be in your minds that you are not lost as heathens, nor lost amid Romish or Mohammedan superstition, but lost where the gospel is faithfully and plainly preached to you; where you are lovingly told, that whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus is not condemned. Lost, but lost where the Church's business is to look after you, where it is the Spirit's work to seek and to find you. This is the condition of the lost soul, depicted as a lest piece of silver.

II. Secondly, we shall notice the soul under another condition, we shall view it as SOUGHT. By whom was the piece of silver sought?

1. It was sought by its owner personally.

2. This seeking became a matter of chief concern with the woman.

3. Now note, that the woman having thus set her heart to find her money, she used the most fit and proper means to accomplish her end. First, she lit a candle. So doth the Holy Spirit in the Church. But she was not content with her candle, she fetched her broom, she swept the house. If she could not find the silver as things were in the house, she brought the broom to bear upon the accumulated dust. Oh, how a Christian Church, when it is moved by the Holy Spirit, cleanses herself and purges all her work!

4. Carefully note that this seeking after the lost piece of silver with fitting instruments the broom and the candle, was attended with no small stir. She swept the house — there was dust for her eyes; if any neighbours were in the house there was dust for them. You cannot sweep a house without causing some confusion and temporary discomfort. It is to be remarked, also, that in the seeking of this piece of silver the coin was sought in a most engrossing manner.

5. This woman sought continuously — "till she found it."

III. The piece of silver FOUND. Found!

1. In the first place, this was the woman's ultimatum, and nothing short of it. She never stopped until the coin was found. So it is the Holy Spirit's design, not that the sinner should be brought into a hopeful state, but that he should be actually saved: and this is the Church's great concern, not that people be made hearers, not that they be made orthodox professors, but that they be really changed and renewed, regenerated and born again.

2. The woman herself found the piece of money. It did not turn up by accident, nor did some neighbour step in and find it. The Spirit of God himself finds sinners, and the Church of God herself, as a rule, is the instrument of their recovery.

3. Now notice when she had found it what she did — she rejoiced. The greater her trouble in searching, the higher her joy in finding. What joy there is in the Church of God when sinners are converted!

4. Next, she calls her friends and neighbours to share her joy. I am afraid we do not treat our friends and neighbours with quite enough respect, or remember to invite them to our joys. Who are they? I think the angels are here meant; not only the angels in heaven, but those who are watching here below. The angels are wherever the saints are, beholding our orders and rejoicing in our joy. The joy is a present joy; it is a joy in the house, in the Church in her own sphere; it is the joy of her neighbours who are round about her here below. All other joy seems swallowed up in this: as every other occupation was suspended to find the lost silver, so every other joy is hushed when the precious thing is found.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. WHAT BEFELL THIS WOMAN. She had ten pieces of silver, and of these she lost one — only one. That lost piece is man's soul. We were not always, not once, not at first, what we are now.

II. WHAT THIS WOMAN DID TO FIND THE MONEY. She did everything proper in the circumstances. She could not have done more. Assuming that the woman symbolizes the Spirit of God, the candle shining in her hand is the Bible, God's revealed Word, which He takes and carries into the recesses of the sinner's soul, revealing its foulness and danger and misery, and making him feel his need of a Saviour. As to the sweeping, which disturbs the house and reveals a foulness that, so long as it lay unstirred, was perhaps never suspected: that may indicate the convictions, the alarms, the dread discoveries, the searchings and agitations of heart, which not unfrequently accompany conversion. It is not till the glassy pool is stirred that the mud at the bottom rises to light; it is when storms sweep the sea that what it hides in its depths is thrown up on the shore; it is when brooms sweep walls and floor that the sunbeams, struggling through a cloud of dust, reveal the foulness of the house; and it is agitations and perturbations of the heart which reveal its corruption, and are preludes to the purity and peace that sooner or later follow on conversion.

III. THE WOMAN'S JOY AT FINDING THE PIECE OF SILVER. There is a peculiar pleasure felt in recovering what we have lost; or in having anything placed beyond the reach of danger which we are afraid of losing. No boat making the harbour over a glassy sea, its snowy canvas filled by the gentle breeze, and shining on the blue waters like a sea bird's wing, is watched with such interest, or, as with sail flapping on the mast, it grates on the shingle, is welcomed with such joy, as one which, leaving the wreck on the thundering reef, comes through the roaring tempest, boldly breasts the billows, and bringing off the half-drowned, half-dead survivors, shoots within the harbour amid flowing tears and cheers that, bursting from the happy crowd, rise above the rage and din of elements.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The candle is a moveable light, carried by the woman from place to place. Wherever a lost piece of money is to be sought, there the candle must be carried that the searching may be thorough. This carrying of the candle, first into one place and then into another, is the Church's part in seeking for lost souls. While the whole truth for man's salvation is presented in Holy Scripture, and any man who would inquire as to the way of life may there find the light he needs to guide him aright, men do not readily search the Scriptures for themselves, that their own souls may be saved. In recognition of this neglect, illustrated in one way under the image of the wandering sheep, in another under the image of the lost piece of money, the necessity for the active work of seeking is acknowledged by the Church, as it is here taught by the Saviour.


You will have noticed that whereas in the other two parables of "the sheep," and "the prodigal," it is "a man" who is represented as rejoicing over the returning one — here it is "a woman." This may, indeed, be only to show that every kind of affection combines in the joy over the penitent — the man's strength and the woman's tenderness. But there may be more. At least, almost all the ancient divines have seen another sense in it. They consider that under the female appellation is meant here, as in many other places, the Church; and that the thought intended to be conveyed is of the Church having sustained the loss, and the Church, as a Church, seeking diligently for the lost one. And yet not altogether the Church, as something distinct and independent in itself — but the Church as that in which the Holy Ghost dwells — the Holy Ghost acting through the means of grace which constitute a Church. So, in the three parables, they would see the Trinity all combined in the same feeling of love and happiness — the Son designated by the Shepherd; the Holy Spirit in the Church, by the woman; and the Father, by the parent of the prodigal. A great thought and a true one, even though the steps by which we here arrive at it may appear to some fanciful. Certain it is, that every soul which is in a condition to perish, is lost, not only to God, but to the Church. And well were it if the Church always so regarded it. And well if every member of the Church so felt it a personal loss to himself that any one single soul should die, that he could not help but stir up himself, and stir up others, to seek that soul till it was found. Would that the Holy Ghost were going forth in the one great Catholic Church, uniting in this feeling and in this resolve — that she would give herself no rest so long as there was one precious soul committed to her care which was lying undiscovered and unredeemed. For mark, brethren, the woman — different in this from the shepherd and the prodigal's father — seeks a thing which her own folly and her own carelessness had lost. First, she "lights a candle" — the well-known emblem in the Bible of three things — first, the Spirit of God in a man's soul; secondly, the Word of God; thirdly, the consistent lives of ministers and other servants of God. And these three together make the great detective force, and so ultimately the great restorative power which God uses in this world. O that every Church had lighted their candle! O that our candles were burning better! O that the Holy Ghost — prayed for and honoured, cherished and magnified in His own office — were here to be a great Illuminator in the midst of us! O that every baptized person were shining as he ought to be, in his daily walk, in good works, and kind acts, and witnesses of God's truth in this world! O think you, brethren, how then would the dark places of our land begin to grow bright again! How would the whole house shine! How would the poor lost ones be found! So, with the lighted candle, the woman went to "sweep the house." It is a great commotion and disturbance to "sweep"; but then it leads to cleanliness and order. So God's sweepings are severe things! But then it is only to brush away what had no right to be there. It is only to disclose precious things out of the rubbish. And there are precious things in our souls so covered with dust that they need sweeping. Afflictions will come, and scatter to the winds the incrusted sediment that has been so long thickening upon a man's mind. And for the time, while the sweeping is going on, the confusion and the obscurity will seem only the greater. But you will not presently complain — you will not regret the turmoil — when the costly thing, that was almost hidden, sparkles again in the hand of its great Proprietor. Sweep our house, Lord, for we need it — not with the bosom of destruction, though we deserve it — but sweep away, Lord, as thou knowest best, every "refuge of lies" where our soul lies buried! All the parables agree in the one, blessed, crowning thought — "till she find it." It is not a light achievement. It was not a day's work — it was not a week's work — or a year's work — the recovery of that soul of yours. Many an enterprise was begun and laid down again, and never ended by men, in that very interval which elapsed between the time when God — your faithful, untiring God — began to deal with your soul, and the time when He made you go to Him.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Sometimes, in visions of a mournful fancy, I seem to see this Mother-Church of ours sitting within her ancient and noble house, sitting as a woman exceeding fair, but very cold and still; and so she sitteth with her hands folded before her, as though she said to herself, "I shall be a lady for ever; f shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children." And year by year, century after century, the dust falls and gathers, and falls in the silence around her, and all things are covered as with a shroud, and the precious coins are lost to sight and buried deep beneath. And then I seem to see her arousing herself at last from her long waking dream, and looking about with dismay for her lost treasures — bestirring herself to find them, sweeping the dust away here and there, bringing to light with busy toil many a shining effigy of the great King. And then I seem to hear indignant voices of those who clamour and storm against her for disturbing quiet things, and making unnecessary agitation, and raising an unpleasant dust; all the rich people, and the comfortable people, and the people that are well at ease, and all that have no care for souls — all are angry with her, and cry out to her, "Why can you not sit still as you did before, and if the dust falls, let it fall, and if the coins of the King be lost, let them be lost? only trouble us not, only do not vex our souls with all this stir and dust." Once again I seem to see her that sometime sat as a queen and was not moved; I seem to see her disconcerted and perplexed, anxious to recover the lost, yet anxious not to give offence; I see her hesitate and quail, and lay aside her search with sorrow, and sit down again, but not at ease; I see the dust begin to fall and settle again, and fall and gather around her thicker and thicker, until every shining coin be lost beneath the growing litter of neglect. Last of all, I see a day arise, black with wind and rain, against that ancient house wherein the woman sits; I see the tempest of God's anger loosed upon it, I see the lightning of His indignation launched against it; I see her crushed and buried beneath the wreck, among the silver pieces which she lost and did not find.

(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

The touches about lighting the candle (or better, lamp, or light), sweeping the house, and seeking diligently, and calling the friends and neighbours together, are not without some pertinent modern Oriental illustrations. Most of the native houses are without glass windows, and are very dark when shut up. Often the windows are small, and sometimes kept shut, as a rule depending on the door for light. They are dark places. The floor, too, is often earth, or perhaps mortar, and very dirty. Where animals dwell with the family, as is very common, the dirt is such as is best left to the imagination. In such cases the particulars mentioned in verse eight are by no means superfluous. So, too, the calling of the friends and neighbours together. One of the difficulties in picking up the Arabic language among the common people is the paucity of subjects of conversation. Little is to be heard except bargaining among the men, and accounts of the most ordinary household operations among the women — except in the case of some rather public scolds, whose voices, without a particle of exaggeration, sounds to the Occidental like the falling and rattling of boards. The occasion of losing and finding a piece of money would be a piece of great good fortune to the gossips, as the writer has actually witnessed. It would be an incident for a nine days' talk. And such terrible busybodies as they are I Every one knows, at least, all his or her neighbours' business, and more besides, to an extent not readily defined. The woman who loses and finds a piece of money would not be long in calling her friends and neighbours together; nor would they be slow to come even uninvited. The babel of telling the story and commenting and congratulating is not to be imagined in our land. The talk could be heard a long distance.

(Professor Isaac H. Hall.)

In the three parables recorded in this chapter there is so evidently a progress and ascent of thought, they mount so naturally to a climax in their revelation of the redeeming love of God, that if at any point we fail to make that progress out, if we encounter anything in them which wears the aspect of an anti-climax, we are checked, disappointed, perplexed. And yet in the second of these parables there is at one point an apparent retrocession, where all else implies a forward and upward movement of thought. Every one can see how immense an interval there is between the one sheep lost out of a hundred, and the one son out of two, and that the younger — and in the Bible commonly the dearer — of the two. But where is the connecting link? How should the lost piece of money be dearer to the careful housewife than the lost sheep to the faithful shepherd, who knows and cares for every one of his flock and calleth them each by his name? One out of ten marks a great advance upon one out of a hundred indeed; but would it not be less to lose even ten silver coins than a single sheep — less in value, less in love? The answer to that question, the solution of the difficulty, is to be found in an Eastern custom, the application of which to the parable before us all commentators on it have, so far as I know, overlooked. The women of Bethlehem, and of other parts of the Holy Land, still wear a row of coins sewn upon their heart-dress, and pendant over their brows. And the number of the coins is very commonly ten, as I, in common with other travellers, have ascertained by counting. The custom reaches back far beyond the Christian era. In all probability, therefore, it was not simply a piece of silver which was lost out of her purse by the woman of our parable, but one of the ten precious coins which formed her most cherished ornament; and this would be a loss even more vividly felt than that of the shepherd when one out of his flock of a hundred went astray. So that immense as is the advance from both the care of the shepherd for his sheep, and of the pride of the woman in the burnished coins which gleamed upon her forehead, to the yearning and pitiful love of the father for his prodigal and self-banished son, we can nevertheless find a link between the first and last terms of the climax, and trace an advance even between the grief of the shepherd over his stray sheep, and that of the woman over her lost coin. A piece of money in her purse might easily be stolen or spent; but a coin from the head-dress could not be so much as touched by any stranger, nor even taken from its wearer by her husband unless she cut it off of her own accord and placed it in his hands. It was safe, sacred, dear. It was a strictly personal possession, and might very well be an heirloom — like the "silvers" of the Swiss women — hallowed by many fond and gracious memories.

(A. G. Weld.)

If, as has been alleged, the ten pieces of silver form the bride's necklace, and constitute a marriage token, like our wedding ring, the work of the whole is marred by the destruction of its unity. And thus we can gauge more accurately God's loss by man's sin. The oneness of the creative plan is broken. From those beings whom God made for the harmonious unfolding of His purposes, for the manifestation of His glory, and for the beautifying of His universe, one order has broken loose and impaired the symmetry and perfect working of the whole.

(J. W. Burn.)

Whatever ornamental or symbolical uses this coin might serve, it was the Roman denarius, and had, therefore, a money value. Stamped with the monarch's image and superscription, it was a means of purchase, and was capable of self-multiplication in the way of usury. So, made in the Divine likeness, man is the current coin of the Lord's universe. He is so constituted in mind and body as to be of use to God in executing His sovereign purposes, and in multiplying himself in sought and rescued souls. No agency for these ends is comparable to man, and men failing in this high vocation are lost. And how many are thus lost? lost as utterly to usefulness as though they themselves, as well as their talent, were wrapped in a napkin and buried in the earth! And amongst them are many who are painfully anxious about their precious souls, but are lost because they act as though there were no precious souls but their own. For the solemn admonition of the Saviour holds good here: "Whosoever will seek to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it."

(J. W. Burn.)

What a meaning this parable has for those who are lost in a Christian home, school, sanctuary, and who, while neither blasphemers, nor infidels, nor libertines, and while maintaining a nominal connection with God and His cause, are lost! Lost to duty, with all around them conducive to consecration; lost to the love of God, while daily loaded with Divine benefits!

(J. W. Burn.)

He is Christ's fan and Christ's fire. He thoroughly purges His floor and throws a lurid light on the sinner's state. He sweeps away the cobwebs of error by His powerful convictions, and pours the truth of sin and righteousness and judgment into the mind. He overturns the temple of formalism by the might of His power and lays bare the hollowness of those who worship God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. The dust of self-deception flies as His sharp appeals to the conscience leave the self-deluded without excuse. Some dire affliction clears the soul of its worldliness, and the lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God are confronted with their doom. He strips the sham of all his dissimulation by the manifestation of the stern realities of God and of eternity, and demonstrates the futility of the profession of religion without the possession of its power. Often His work has to be repeated. Encumbrances removed are replaced and removed again. Hunted from one corner the sinner takes refuge in another, and is still pursued. Nor does the Spirit cease to strive with man until resistance becomes hopeless obduracy, and until the final quenching of His light leaves the sinner in outer darkness.

(J. W. Burn.)

And as mere habit and neglect hide souls from themselves, and from the just sympathy and care of their fellows, God's Spirit sends its great disturbing agencies into the society, the nation, the age, or into the narrower bounds of the family. The besom does not really make the new dust; but it only brings the old and long-gathering deposit more, for a time, into the air and upon the lungs. The messengers of the gospel are, for the time, regarded as "turning the world upside down." Or God's providences in calamities, and wars, and social revolutions, show men the magnitude of past hereditary errors. The besom of judgment goes shaking society out of its torpor and equanimity. It was so in Luther's day, and in Calvin's. It was so in the Puritans of our ancestral Britain, and in their colonists who crossed to this country. God, by them, broke up many a pile of quiet litter; and brushed aside many a film of long-settled green mould, picturesque in its verdure, or venerable in its grey, hoar antiquity, which had gathered upon the national conscience. But a Bunyan, and a Milton, and a Baxter, and an Owen, and a Howe were precious medals brought out by the besoming; and constitutional freedom and national morality, and English literature, and Christian piety were greatly enriched by the agitation. It was so in the revolution that made us a nation. It was so in the agitations that went over Europe in the train of our first revolution. It was so in our last great struggle. It has been so in modern missions. Would you put that shaking and bosoming peremptorily and effectually down? We hear, behind the turmoil and the thick streaming clouds of dust, as God's great besoms sweep along, the words of an august cry: "I will overturn, and overturn, and overturn until He, whose right it is to reign, shall come."

(W. R. Williams.)

God is as incapable of being indifferent towards His lost mankind, as is a mother towards her lost child. Lost mankind are not only His lost, but His lost children. His piece of money is money indeed, for originally it came out of the mine of His eternal nature. Heathen poets, Christian apostles, and modern philosophy are agreed that mankind "are His offspring." And does not the Source of all hearts feel? And is He not concerned for His lost? In the Divinity of indifference I cannot believe. And yet I am strongly inclined to think that, to many, one great offence of the gospel is, that it is too gracious, too tender, too womanly. They can conceive God to have Almighty power, infinite wisdom and justice, but they cannot give Him credit for infinite affection. They know that a woman will light a candle and go into every hole and corner, stooping and searching, until she find that which she has missed; but they have no idea that this can be a true parable of God's concern for His lost children. They are not surprised to find a heart in my Lady Franklin: they are not surprised at any measures that she may set on foot to recover the lost one. They are not surprised that the British and American Governments should be concerned to seek, and if possible, to save Sir John and his crew. No one said, they are not worth the expense and labour of seeking, because they are few. Not far from a million pounds were sacrificed in this search. Besides money, good brothers were not found backward to expose their own lives to danger, in the distant hope of finding and relieving their missing brothers. Have the English Government and people so great a concern to recover their lost, and has God none? Better say that a drop contains more than the ocean, that a candle gives more light than the sun, that there are higher virtues in a stream than in its source, and that the creature has more heart than God. Otherwise confess, that the gospel is infinitely worthy of the heart of God; and never more imagine the great Father to find rest under the loss of His human family, in the consolation: "They are nothing compared with My universe, they will never be missed.

(J. Pulsford.)

In the parable of the lost coin the first thing that strikes us is, that something considered of value had been lost. The lighting of the candle, the sweeping of the house, the diligent search, everything else being laid aside to attend to this matter, all showed that the thing lost was regarded as quite important. So when the soul of man becomes lost through sin, the most valuable object in the world is lost. Whether we reflect upon the soul's vast power of endless progress; its wonderful capacity of investigating the universe, from the lowest depths of earth to the highest star; its ability to hold converse and communion with the great God Himself, and there to find its highest delight; its rapidity of thought by which it can move through the universe in the twinkling of an eye; or the great interest that has been manifested in it by all heaven — we must see its amazing value. The exceeding value of man's soul is seen in what Jesus has done for it. Men often put forth great efforts for very insignificant objects. But when we see the Saviour leave His bright throne in the heavens, and become a homeless wanderer upon the earth, that He might save lost souls, we are able to form some estimate of the soul's value. Oh, yes; in Calvary we see how much is lost when the soul is lost! This is the precious thing that was lost. What a loss I The loss of reputation, of wealth, of health, of property, of life — all are nothing to such a loss as this. And such is man's position out of Christ.

(J. R. Boyd.)

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