Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 15:10 - 15:10

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 15:10 - 15:10

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Luk_15:10. I say unto you, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

HOWEVER paradoxical the observation may appear, man is really an enemy to his own happiness. He loves sin, which is the source of all misery: and hates repentance, which is the only remedy for that misery. He cannot persuade himself that that which he professes to seek after, is to be found in penitence and self-denial. But, had we no other proof of the blessedness which attaches to true repentance, it were sufficient to know, upon the authority of Jesus Christ himself, that the very angels in heaven rejoice over any sinner in whom this good work is begun.

We will take occasion from our text to shew you,

I.       What is that repentance which causes joy in heaven—

It is not every kind or degree of repentance that produces this effect: none but that which is effectual to the sinner’s salvation, will excite these benevolent emotions in the breasts of angels. It consists in,

1.       Sorrow for sin—

[This is absolutely necessary. If sin be not our burthen and grief, we have not the smallest spark of true repentance. There is a great difference indeed between the sorrow of the world, and that which is caused by a sense of sin. But in this there must be an agreement, that sin must lie as a heavy burthen upon the soul; and under a sense of it we must experience brokenness of heart and contrition: for it is “the broken and contrite heart, and that only, which God will not despise.”]

2.       Hatred of sin—

[Many will be sorry that they have brought themselves to shame and trouble, when they have no aversion to the sins which they have committed. Many also will hate sin in others, when they do not hate it in themselves. When David, for instance, was totally unhumbled for his own enormous wickedness, he was so indignant against the man who was supposed to have taken the poor man’s lamb, that he would have had him put to death for his offence. And Jehu was extremely zealous against the idolatry of Ahab, while yet he was very indulgent to his own crimes. But if we are truly penitent, we shall hate our own sins more than any; and shall be disposed to seek their utter destruction, even though they be dear as a right hand, or a right eye. It will teach us to say with David, “I hate every false way.”]

3.       A lothing of oneself on account of sin—

[Sin is a disorder that defiles and debases the whole soul. That is no exaggerated description of the prophet, who says of us, that “from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in us, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.” Now we may conceive in a measure, what lothing we should feel if we saw a person full of sores and ulcers: and such is the disgust which a view of our own souls should create within us. This is repeatedly mentioned as the experience of the Lord’s people, even after that God is pacified towards them [Note: Eze_20:43; Eze_16:63.]: and every one who really knows himself, will exclaim with Job, “Behold, I am vile, I repent, and abhor myself in dust and ashes [Note: Job_40:4; Job_42:6.].”]

4.       A fleeing to Christ from the guilt and power of sin—

[As long as we retain a hope of healing our own souls, we have not that “repentance which is unto life:” we evidently have low thoughts of sin, both of its guilt and power. We must be brought to an utter despair of washing away our sin by our tears, or of breaking its force by our resolutions. We must see that there is no hope for us but in the atoning blood of Christ, and in his all-sufficient grace: and we must rely simply on him, saying, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isa_45:24.].”]

The importance of this to man is obvious: but it is not so clear,

II.      Why the angels take so deep an interest in it—

Whether the spirits of departed men have any knowledge of what passes in this world, may well be doubted: but it is certain that the angels are intimately connected with mankind, and take a lively interest in the things relating to them. They view the return of a penitent with peculiar delight;

1.       Because it tends so greatly to the benefit of man—

[The angels cannot but be apprised of the misery into which the once happy, but now apostate, spirits are fallen: and they know that a participation of that misery is reserved for impenitent sinners. Whether they feel any pity towards a sinner in the midst of his rebellion, we cannot say: but we apprehend, that they rather look upon him with holy indignation, and stand ready to execute any judgment that God may see fit to inflict upon him [Note: Act_12:23.]. But their benevolent hearts rejoice, if they see any one fleeing from the impending judgments, and setting his face in good earnest towards the heavenly kingdom. They congratulate him in their minds, and exult in the thought of having him to all eternity a partner of their joys.]

2.       Because it opens fresh scope for the exercise of their own love—

[It is essential to benevolence to delight in opportunities of exerting itself for the benefit of the objects beloved. Now, as soon as ever a sinner repents and becomes an “heir of salvation, angels are sent forth to minister unto him.” “They encamp round about him” for the purpose. If they behold him turning out of the path of duty, as Balaam; or lingering in a place of danger, as Lot; or in any respect likely to “dash his foot against a stone;” they will lend him their friendly aid in such a way as shall tend most to his eternal welfare. How they act upon us, we are not told: but of their agency there can be no doubt. It is highly probable that they are busily employed in counteracting the devices of those wicked spirits, who are ever seeking to destroy us. In a dying hour, we are sure they encompass the bed of a true penitent, and watch for the dismission of his spirit from its house of clay, in order that they may bear it in triumph to the realms of bliss. Nor are their labours of love then terminated: for in the day of judgment they will gather together the saints wheresoever they were scattered, in order to present them before the throne of their Judge, and expedite the final completion of their happiness. These offices being so congenial with their own feelings, they rejoice in every thing that affords them an opportunity to perform them.]

3.       Because it brings the highest glory to God—

[The contemplation of the Divine glory is doubtless the highest source of their felicity. Now in the return of a penitent sinner they behold all the persons of the Godhead shining forth in the brightest splendour. They behold all the wisdom and power and grace of the Father glorified, whenever his eternal counsels respecting the salvation of a soul are accomplished. They behold the infinite virtue of the Son’s atonement, whenever the iniquities of a repenting prodigal are blotted out. They behold the wonderful “love of the Holy Spirit, and the invincible efficacy of his operations, when a creature, once bearing the impress of Satan himself, is transformed into the image of his God. When they had first a clear prospect of these things at the incarnation of our Lord, they sang, “Glory to God in the highest;” and every fresh manifestation of this mercy has filled them with additional and increasing joy.]


1.       To the impenitent—

[Think what painful reflections your state suggests to those benevolent spirits; ‘There are those infatuated people, laden with sins; on the brink of eternity; followed with overtures of mercy; assured that if they die in their present state they must perish for ever; and yet continuing impenitent! What a miracle of mercy it is that God does not instantly cut them down, and assign them the portion they deserve!’ Think too how the evil angels are exulting over you; ‘There they are; we have them fast in our chains; we shall soon have them as partners of our misery; then how shall we triumph over our God! Yes; the Father’s counsels with respect to them will all be frustrated; the blood of Christ will have been shed in vain; the Spirit’s operations will have been successfully resisted: though we shall be in hell ourselves, we will enjoy our triumphs even there; for we shall have robbed man of his happiness, and God of his glory.’ O brethren, consider whether ye are willing to afford such a triumph to your bitterest enemy: and beg of Jesus, who is “exalted to give repentance and remission of sins,” that he will bestow these blessings upon you.]

2.       To the penitent—

[Let others deride or condemn your change, we will congratulate you upon it [Note: Psa_126:3.]. The angels would feel no joy at your acquiring a large estate: No; “if a beggar were elevated from a dunghill to a throne,” they would not account it worth one single thought. But if the poorest or vilest person in the universe repent, it fills them with unfeigned joy. They have not so much joy in the very presence of God, but it is capable of being augmented by such a sight as this. Nor is it a day of Pentecost alone that attracts their attention. Even a solitary instance of conversion is sufficient to exhilarate their souls. Go on then, my brethren, sowing in tears; and you shall ere long, in conjunction with the holy angels, reap a harvest of eternal joy.]