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to claim authority, and exercise it over the people, were thieves and robbers : came for their own benefit, not for the sheep's sake : came to steal, and to kill, and to destroy : to counteract, not to serve the great purposes of divine mercy, which desired that they might have life. These, if they could, would prevent this : they neither enter in themselves, nor suffer others to enter in. To such the true flock will not listen; they have none of the qualities which entitle them to be heard.
But Christ is the poor, both to the shepherds and to the sheep. By him both “ have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” By him if any man enter in, he shall go in and out, and find pasture. He shall have freedom and comfort: freedom of soul, and grace to supply every need. And such is the liberty wherewith Christ makes men free, and such the abundant blessings which they enjoy, whilst they continue within his fold. Whether they are the shepherds, to whom the charge of the flock is intrusted, or whether they are the flock under their earthly shepherd's care, they go in and out, and find pasture: they are in a state of safety, delivered from spiritual want and harm. The Lord, “ the great Shepherd of the sheep,” has them under his charge : they shall not be destitute. " He maketh them to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth them beside the still waters. storeth their soul : he leadeth them in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow them all the days of
their life ; and they shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”3
CHRIST DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS THE GOOD
JOHN X. 11-18.
11. I am the good shepherd : the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth : and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father : and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice ; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to
3 Ps. xxiii. 2, 3, 6.
take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
In his former words, our Lord had described himself as the door of the sheepfold : the door by which the shepherds must find admission to the flock, the entrance by which both shepherds and their flocks must seek access to the Father.
This leads him to another comparison. He is not only the door of the fold, but he is also the guardian of those within the fold: he fulfils the prophetic promise ; he “ feeds his flock like a shepherd.” Others indeed pretended to be shepherds : there was no want of those who took upon themselves to lead and superintend the people. But they were shepherds, as Isaiah had said,
" that could not understand : they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.' They were those of whom God had said, the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves ! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”! He was the good shepherd. And there was a proof of it. He would give his life for the sheep. Not as the hireling, whose own the sheep are not, and who would neither risk any thing for their safety, nor sacrifice any thing for their good : who seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth. Very different was the case of him who purchased the flock with his own blood : and who could
say, down my life for the sheep : I know my sheep, and am known of mine.
1 Is. lvi. 11. ? Ezek. xxxiv, 2.
I lay These two sentences well deserve remark : I know my sheep; and am known of mine.
When we look out into the world in a moral view, it appears a scene of confusion. And it is a comfort to those who have hearkened to the words of God speaking to them in the gospel, that they have this assurance; “the Lord knoweth them that are his.” Perhaps they are little known by men, and still less understood : but whether they are approved and admired, or misrepresented and scorned ; whether they are justly valued, or unjustly despised ; they are at least seen and known according to their true character, by him whom they love and serve. Some may overlook them, for the disciple of Christ does not push himself forward ; some may condemn them, for many think that they are following a shadow; some may think them hypocrites, for much that is undeserved is often laid to their charge; but however this be, their heavenly shepherd sees and distinguishes them, and judges them according to what they are, and not according to what they are not. sheep, he has said.
This proves the aptness of the comparison, which likens him to a shepherd, and his followers to a flock. For a stranger and common observer, looking towards a flock of sheep, would confound one with another, and think it impossible to discern between them ; while their shepherd, from the close attention and diligent care with which he has been long used to mark and study them, can tell them all; and knows them
I know my
by signs which another could neither perceive nor understand.
2. But this is not all that we are told. We are further assured, that as the shepherd knows the sheep, so the sheep their shepherd. I know my sheep, and am known of mine. They do not indeed know him by the hearing of the ear, or by the seeing of the eye. He is far above out of their sight, and his disciples, to whom he was at this time speaking, knew him in a way in which we cannot know him now. But this does not hinder our knowing him in a true and proper sense; that is, our trusting him, loving him, and serving him. The case is like that of a father, who may be in a foreign country ; but who maintains, and educates, and exhorts, and advises a child that remains at home. The child knows that father, though without seeing him. He knows what he is to the father, and what the father is to him, and what he does for him. In the same manner do the sheep of Christ know their shepherd. They “ have not seen, and yet have believed.” As St. Peter says,
Whom, not having seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' He has left his invitation, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden.” They have heard this call, as if addressed to themselves : and they have attended to it, and have come to him by faith and prayer, and have desired to escape from a dangerous world, and to place them
3 1 Peter i. 8.