“My people has been lost sheep.”
~ Jer 50:6
When God the Holy Spirit takes a soul in hand, just as the fingers of a man’s hand wrote a sentence of condemnation upon the wall of the palace of the king of Babylon, so does the blessed Spirit write the word “lost” upon the conscience of every vessel of mercy; and when he has written this word with power on their consciences, they carry it about with them branded as it were in letters of fire, in such a manner that the impression is never to be erased, until it is blotted out by the atoning blood of the Mediator.
And thus in the teachings of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of God’s family, “lost, lost, lost” is written on their heart; “lost, lost, lost” is the cry of their lips; “lost, lost, lost” is the deep feeling of their soul. And none was ever found who had not the feeling lost, written more or less deeply upon his heart. None was ever gathered into the arms of the heavenly Shepherd; sought out upon the mountains and the hills, laid upon his shoulders, and brought home with rejoicing; none was ever brought into a spiritual acquaintance with Jesus, so as to enjoy communion with him, who had not sighed and groaned and cried under a sense of his lost state, as a guilty sinner before God.
Now when the soul has been taught by the Holy Spirit, to feel as well as to see and know itself to be without strength to deliver itself from the wrath to come, and is in consequence sunk down into despondency and dismay, then is the time when the Holy Spirit usually gives it some discovery of the mercy of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We find this sweetly set forth in that remarkable chapter, Ezekiel 16. The vessel of mercy is there delineated under the figure of a new-born babe, abandoned by its mother, and “cast out in the open field, to the loathing of its person in the day that it was born.” As unpitied, as abandoned, as polluted, as helpless, as perishing, as wretched an outcast is the quickened soul. But it is not left to perish. “When I passed by you,” says the loving Redeemer, “and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you” (the sign of espousal, Ruth 3:9), “and covered your nakedness—yes, I swore unto you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine.”