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ST. JOHN x. 11.

“I am the Good Shepherd.”

OF all the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are none more deeply engraven in the mind of the Church, none more dear to her than these. This is one of those divine sayings in which there is so much of truth and love, that we seem able to do little more than to record it and ponder on it, to express it by symbols, and to draw from it a multitude of peaceful and heavenly thoughts. It is full of figures and analogies of loving-kindness. It is almost sacramental in its depth and power. To expound or comment upon it, or further to illustrate its meaning, seems impossible. The Truth has said of Himself, “I am the Good Shepherd.” All love, care, providence, devotion, watchfulness, that is in earth or in heaven, 2 in the ministry of men or of angels, is but a reflection and participation of that which is in Him. Surely nothing but the vision of His Presence in glory can exceed this revelation of Himself.

These words have taken so deep a hold of the hearts of His people, that, from the beginning, they passed into a common title for their exalted Head. It was the symbol under which, in times of persecution, His Presence was shadowed forth. It was sculptured on the walls of sepulchres and catacombs; it was painted in upper chambers and in oratories; it was traced upon their sacred books; it was graven on the vessels of the altar. The image of the Good Shepherd has expressed, as in a parable, all their deepest affections, fondest musings, most docile obedience, most devoted trust. It is a Title in which all other titles meet, in the light of which they blend and lose themselves. Priest, Prophet, King, Saviour, and Guide, are all summed up in this one more than royal, paternal, saving name. It recalls in one word all the mercies and loving-kindness of God to His people of old, when “the Shepherd of Israel” made His own people “to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.”11   Ps. lxxviii. 52. It recites, as it were, all the prophecies and types of the Divine 3care which were then yet to be revealed to His elect: it revives the visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel; “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”22   Isaiah xl. 11. “As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the dark and cloudy day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick.” “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even My servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord 4 will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke.” “And David My servant shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd.” “They shall feed in the ways, and their pasture shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them.”33   Ezek. xxxiv. 12-27; xxxvii. 24; Isaiah xlix. 9, 10.

And, moreover, by this Title He appropriates to Himself the fulfilment of His own most deep and touching parable of the lost sheep. There is no thought or emotion of pity, compassion, gentleness, patience, and love, which is not here expressed. It is the peculiar consolation of the weak, or of them that are out of the way; of the lost and wandering; 5 of the whole flock of God here scattered abroad “in the midst of this naughty world.” And though it be an Office taken on earth, and in the time of our infirmity, it is a Name which He will never lay aside. Even in the heavenly glory it still is among His Titles. He is even there “the chief Shepherd,” “that great Shepherd of the sheep;” and in the state of bliss shall still guide His flock: though more fully to express the unity of His nature with theirs, and His own spotless sacrifice in their behalf, He is called the Lamb. “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters,”44   Rev. vii. 17. where they shall be filled with brightness.

In this, then, we see the character and office of our blessed Master towards His Church, and the relation in which, though now ascended into heaven, He still stands to us. It expresses generally His pastoral relation of care and love for the universal flock of the elect: but especially the greatness of that love and care.

Let us, then, consider awhile the surpassing and peculiar goodness of the One True Shepherd.

And this He has revealed to the world in His voluntary death. There was never any other but He who came down from heaven that He might lay down “His life for the sheep.” He 6is the true David, who said, “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a hear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.”55   1 Sam. xvii. 34, 35. When out of the countless flock of creatures, one, and that the weakest, was caught away from the true fold of God, He came down “to seek and to save that which was lost;” to seek it even unto death, and in death itself; and to follow the lost along “the valley of the shadow of death,” gathering the scattered and outcast of His Father’s flock, and fulfilling His word: “I will surely assemble thee, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold.” By death He destroyed him that had the power of death; and by His resurrection He made a way for the ransomed to pass through. “The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them.”66   Micah ii. 12, 13. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save 7 thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”77   Hosea xiii. 9, 10, 14. “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. 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. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep.”88   St. John x. 11-15. This is the one perpetual token of His great love to all mankind,—a token ever fresh, quickened with life, full of power to persuade and subdue the hearts of His people to Himself. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:”99   St. John xv. 13. and therefore the Death of the Good Shepherd is the subject of all the Church’s testimony. The holy Eucharist is a type of her whole office to “shew forth the Lord’s death till He come.” It is the great mystery of love, the mighty power of conversion, the true 8and very life of our love to Him, the pledge that He loved us before we were; and that He loves us still, even after our fall. “While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us,” that He might gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

Again, His surpassing goodness is shewn in the provision He has made of all things necessary for the salvation of His flock in this state of mortality and sin. There can no soul fail of eternal life, of reaching the rest of the true fold in Heaven, except by his own free will. As the blood-shedding of the Good Shepherd is a full and perfect ransom for all His flock, so has He pledged the perpetual exercise of His unseen pastoral care to give us all that is needed for our salvation.

1. And for this He has provided, first of all, in the external foundation and visible perpetuity of His Church. He has secured it by the commission to baptize all nations, by the universal preaching of His Apostles, by shedding abroad the Holy Ghost, by the revelation of all truth, by the universal tradition of the faith in all the world. For the perpetuity of the Church He has pledged His Divine word, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it;” and in this He has provided 9 for the perpetuity both of truth and grace. For what is the perpetuity of the Church but the perpetuity of the society of them that are “sanctified through the truth?” And how shall this be, unless the means of sanctification, the Faith and the holy Sacraments, are likewise perpetual? The universal promulgation of the truth, and the universal delivery of the holy Sacraments to the Church planted in all lands, is a supernatural fact a miracle sustained by Divine power, wrought once for all, and containing the surest provisions of perpetuity, through the presence of Christ by the Spirit. Therefore, as the Church is indefectible, though particular members of it may fail of life eternal, so it can never lose the truth, though particular branches of it may err. In like manner of the holy Sacraments and mysteries of grace. Our Lord said to His Apostles, and through them to us, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” The commission, authority, succession, and power of the Apostles, is included in that presence, and upheld by it. Howsoever it may be forfeited by any branches of the visible Church, yet it will be always perpetuated with the gift of increase and multiplication, until the day of Christ’s coming. And in that apostolic commission are contained all the acts and sacraments by which the grace of Christ is bestowed upon mankind, from the first engrafting 10 of souls into His body, to the last strengthening food which is given to the passing saint. It is in the tenderness of His pastoral care that He has ordained the priesthood of His Church. He who gave His life for all, “would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”1010   Rom. x. 13, 14. How shall they? It is the voice not more of the Gospel than of the pure reason, that the perpetuity of faith upon earth is bound up with the perpetuity of the apostolic commission; nay, further, that the evangelical ministry is the means to the perfection of the saints. “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints”—and more, the perfection of the true city of God depends, by Divine will, on the organization and unity of the apostolic body which was ordained—“for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” And further 11 still, in the perpetuity of this same ministry is also contained the perpetuity and unity of the faith itself; “that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,”—as all human schools and teachers ever have been and ever shall be—“by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” And lastly, in the same stedfast succession of the Church, both Pastors and Flock, is the virtual perfection of the whole mystical body of Christ: “but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”1111   Ephes. iv. 11-16.

How thankless and disloyal are we, then, to the Good Shepherd, if we use the great and blessed truths of the Unity of His Fold, and the succession of His pastors, as antagonistic and controversial dogmas. What can be more meagre and melancholy than to contend for them as externals and forms, and theories of Church government? Surely, there are no truths more strictly and simply practical than these—none more full of direct benedictions to the 12faithful—more vivid, real, and sustaining. For what is the unity of His fold, but the everliving token of the presence and love of the heavenly Shepherd, gathering in one the world-wide flock under His own pastoral staff? Is it not a living and life-giving sign of His perpetual indwelling? Is it a mere pale which encompasses His true fold? a hollow external form, remote from the life of the Church? Is it not the one Body of the one Spirit—the living organization of the life-giving unity of Christ? What then do controversies and bickerings about the nature of His Church, and divisions for the sake of its unity, prove, but that we have not attained to so much as a perception of the spiritual reality that quickens the one Fold under one Shepherd? It may seem to be empty and lifeless to the wise of this world, but it is full of tenderness for the poor and lost. It is specially for them that He has called His servants to a fellowship in His pastoral care. “Thus saith the Lord my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter”—that is, the elect, despised, neglected, slain—“whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.” “I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock;”1212   Zech. xi. 4, 5, 7. that is, I will 13 send and seek you; I will find you, O wandering sheep—the young, the ignorant, the helpless; “the poor” shall “have the Gospel preached to them.”

If there he one institution of Jesus Christ, in which the love, tenderness, care, and providence of the Good Shepherd be revealed, it is in the commission and perpetual succession of His pastors: for in one word it is this,—that from the time of His going away to the time of His coming again, there shall never be wanting, in the darkest day, a chosen brotherhood, bound by all the vows which can constrain the hearts of men to live a life of pity and compassion, humility and gentleness, toil and love; and that not for themselves, nor for their own kindred, nor for their own blood; but for “the poor of the flock”—for the ignorant, wandering, weary, soiled, outcast, perishing sheep of Christ. If the goodness of the heavenly Pastor be not here, let any one shew where it may be found. If there be any persuasion, any faith, which is full of warmth, life, energy, consolation, love, to all the faithful, but above all to the ignorant, helpless, afflicted, and poor, it is that of the One Holy Catholic Church, as we confess it in our Baptismal creed, the one true Fold of the one Good Shepherd. It is He that still visibly discharges upon earth the manifold functions of His pastoral office, signing His sheep in holy Baptism, guiding them 14into the knowledge of the truth, carrying the weak in His bosom, bringing back again the lost by repentance, binding up the wounded with His words of consolation, feeding all souls that follow Him with the food of eternal life, folding them within the pale of salvation. What the Church does on earth, it does in His power and name; and He, through it, fulfils His own shepherd care. This, then, is the external ministration of His goodness.

2. But once more. His love and care are shewn not only in the external and visible provision which He thus made beforehand for the perpetual wants of His flock, but in the continual and internal providence wherewith He still watches over it. The whole history of His Church from the beginning—the ages of persecution, and “times of refreshing;” the great conflicts of faith with falsehood, and of the saints with the seed of the serpent; the whole career of His Church amid the kingdoms of the earth and changes of the world, are a perpetual revelation of His love and power. He has been gathering in His sheep one by one,—apostles, prophets, martyrs, saints, the pure and the penitent, the scattered and outcast, drawing them into His one visible fold, and gathering them still more closely and intimately to Himself, bringing them within the folds of His pavilion, and into the fellowship of His peculiar visitations. All that 15 the Father hath given Him shall come to Him. “I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep.” “I know them;” “and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.”1313   St. John x. 14, 27-29.

The mystical number of His flock is written in the book of life; and He is ever fulfilling it; ever saying, through all the course of His Church, that which, while on earth, He spake of His elect among the Gentiles; “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold;” some not entered yet, some not born into the world; “them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”1414   St. John x. 16.

Is not this the way He has been dealing with each one of us from the time of our regeneration? Is not our whole life full of the tokens of His pastoral care? See how He has sought us out, and brought us to Himself. Although we were outwardly within His fold, yet for how many years were we in heart and in reality altogether lost, wandering in follies, plunged in deadly pitfalls. With what unwearied search did He follow us through all our blind and crooked paths. We met His eye at every turn, and beheld Him at 16every winding of our evil way. Perhaps there is hardly one of us who does not feel, on looking back, that he is not able to find the ultimate and true cause of his conversion to God in any of the apparent motives which turned him from the sin in which he was persisting. If we had been left to ourselves, why should we not have held on our original course without turning at all—nay, with confidence and settled obstinacy, with perpetual deterioration and darkening of soul? What was it that turned us at one time, when we would not be turned at another? Why then, and no sooner; and if not sooner, then why at all? Why, but that the Good Shepherd had found us at length; that having never left off to seek, He had overtaken us at last. He had been always seeking; but we refused to be found.

And, surely, the same is true even in those that live religiously. Even after we were found, and our hearts turned towards the true fold; who is there that knows the difficulty of repentance,—that is, of returning from error, and from wandering without God in the world,—and does not feel that, if he had been at any time left to himself, he would have sunk down by the way, or been beguiled aside, or even turned back again? What has forced us clean away from habits which, by their perilous allurement and subtil dominion, had a 17hold upon our very heart’s will? What has borne us through the difficulties of humiliation, self-denial, chastisement of the flesh and spirit, through the difficulties and dangers of repentance, but that the Good Shepherd had laid us upon His shoulders, and bare us, all willing and yet unwilling, to our home and shelter? And so in like manner with all His servants. How is it that they have not fainted in the way; nor fallen behind the onward march of the true flock that follows Him; nor lacked pasture, strength, light, refreshment, consolation? How is it that none have ever been “able to pluck them out of His hand?” All the schisms and heresies of proud and evil men; all the baits of the world; all the bribes of this corrupt life; all the seductions of earthly pleasure; all the attractions of ease and sloth; all the powers of darkness, have spent themselves in vain against the hand that covers His elect. He has kept and folded us from ten thousand ills, when we did not know it: in the midst of our security we should have perished every hour, but that He sheltered us “from the terror by night and from the arrow that flieth by day”—from the powers of evil that walk in darkness, from snares of our own evil will. He has kept us even against ourselves, and saved us even from our own undoing. Surely, though He had not taken to Himself this loving and 18blessed Name, our own lives would have taught us to call Him the Good Shepherd.

Let us, then, meditate on this Name of love. Let us read the traces of His hand in all our ways, in all the events, the chances, the changes of this troubled state. It is He that dispenses all. It is He that folds and feeds us, that makes us to go in and out—to be faint, or to find pasture—to lie down by the still waters, or to walk by the way that is parched and desert. He hath said, “I know My sheep;” not their number only, but their needs; their particular state, character, temptations, trials, dangers, and infirmities. I know them what they are, and what they must suffer and do to enter into the everlasting fold. And not only does He know His sheep, but He “calleth His own sheep by name.” By that new name which in baptism He gave to them; a type of the new name which He will one day give—the “name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” In this is expressed the familiar and intimate knowledge He has of our most hidden and secret condition of heart, of our joys, sorrows, losses, desires, fears, and hopes, of all our varying moods of mind, and all that makes up our very selves. He knows all—as we know those nearest and most beloved—and far more deeply and intensely still—by the divine intuition of His eyes, 19 which pierce into our inmost depths. When He says, “I know My sheep by name,” He means, that there is nothing in them which He does not know; there is not one forgotten, not one passed over, as He telleth them morning and evening. His eyes are upon us all. And all the complex mystery of our spiritual being, all our secret motions of will, our daily sorrows, fears, and thoughts, are seen and read with the unerring gaze of our Divine Lord.

Whatsoever, therefore, befal us, let us say: It is He. It is the voice of the Good Shepherd. It is His rod and His staff which smite and comfort me. It is the work of One that loves me above measure, and cares for me with a sleepless providence. “The Lord is my Shepherd, therefore can I lack nothing.” This will convert all things into revelations of His nearness and of His compassion. If it be disappointment, perhaps we were too bold and confident, and there were in our course pitfalls and death. If it be sickness, we were getting to be self-trusting, self-sufficing, unconscious of weakness, averse from humiliations. If it be long anxieties, perhaps we were settling down in this life with too full a rest. If our long anxieties have shaped themselves at length into the realities of sorrow, it was that we needed this for our very life; that nothing less would work in 20us His will, and our salvation; that the keen edge must come, or we must perish. Let us thus learn to taste, and to see that He is with us—that all things which befal us are just such as our truest friend would desire and do for our good. They are His doing—and that is enough. Let our heart’s cry be, “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.”1515   Song of Solomon i. 7. So let us follow Him now “whithersoever He goeth.” Be our path through joy or sorrow—in the darkness or in the light—in the multitude of His flock or in a solitary way, let us follow on to the fold which is pitched upon the everlasting hills, where the true flock shall “pass under the hand of Him that telleth them,” one by one, till all the lost be found, and all His elect come in.

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