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that kingdom for which we daily pray, it is not for us to enquire. The question for our consideration is simply this : are we at present of the true flock of Christ? Be it then our study to hear his voice speaking to us by his word and doctrine; to keep close to the true fold, the true visible Church, and that most pure and reformed part of it to which it is our inestimable privilege to belong : above all, be it our daily study and endeavour to follow our good Shepherd ; to be assimilated to him by his word and spirit ; to transfuse the mild benignant graces which so transcendantly shone in his every word and action, into our lives and practice: and above all, as the best proof that we keep his commandments, let us cultivate that love to one another which should ever characterize those of the same flock, Christians of the same name and profession: and which, flowing from a truly religious spirit, and divested of all selfish and worldly ends, would lead us (if we were called upon) to lay down our life for our friend.
Thus shall we contribute, by divine grace, in our individual degree and capacity, to increase the flock of Christ, and to hasten the glorious time when “there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”
CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGES
OF CHRIST'S FLOCK.
John X., 27, 28.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they fol
low me : And I give unto them eternal life : and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
In the former part of this chapter, our Lord had set forth himself as “ the door” into the sheep-fold, and as “the good Shepherd,” of his flock; contrasting the watchful anxiety of the true shepherd “that careth for the sheep,” with the fears and negligence of the mercenary hireling “whose the sheep are not,” and who therefore, in a season of danger, leaves them to themselves, mindful alone of his own safety.
In the words of the text are set forth the character and privileges of Christ's flock. By attentively surveying the former, you will be able fully to ascertain your interest in the latter. You will perceive whether or not you are his people and the sheep of his pasture in such a sense, as to entitle you to the promise of eternal life.
I. First, then, I shall direct your attention to the character of Christ's sheep. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The faith and obedience of the Christian towards his Lord and master are of that absolute and implicit character denoted by the metaphorical allusion in the text to the natural habits of the most docile and patient of the irrational creation. The doctrines of Christianity are such as to claim the free and entire assent of the mind and understanding. Its precepts are such as to demand the entire surrender of the will and affections. In other words, the Christian character is made up of implicit faith in the heart, of uncompromising obedience in the life. Such is the character of Christ's sheep. He supposes the character to be already formed. “ My sheep hear my voice." By faith they have received Him into their hearts as their Lord and Saviour. By confession of the mouth they
declare their assent to his doctrines, saying, Lord to whom shall we go, Thou hast the words of eternal life. What are the fruits of this new character and relation ?—the righteousness of Christ becomes theirs. They are “new creatures." - They walk in love." - The life of Jesus is manifest in them.” Throughout their whole lives they practically anticipate that eter. nal life which Christ bestows upon his faithful disciples. But to be more particular
1. They hear his voice. They render a practical obedience to his word, the calls of his grace, the intimations of his will. They receive his divine instructions with all docility and thankfulness. They know Christ. They can distinguish his voice, his doctrine, from that of the hireling. They are competent judges of true and false doctrine. They possess the unfettered privilege of judging for themselves, of proving all things, and of holding fast that which is good. They can distinguish between the “ sincere milk of the word,” and the adul. terations of human wisdom. The declaration of the apostle holds in all ages_“I speak unto wise men, judge ye what I say.” Neither do they so hear the voice of Christ, as to receive the Gospel only or even principally as a rule of faith, but as a guide to practice : not as containing a number of abstract propositions or doctrines ; but vital, penetrating, operative facts. “ The end of the commandment is Love.” “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” “ T'here are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that through them we might become partakers of the divine nature." And above all, our Saviour's own words, “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” These are the ultimate effects of Christianity; and, therefore, to attend mainly to these, is to hear the voice of Christ.
2. And I know them. “And” (as it follows in another verse) “I am known of mine." To hear the voice of Christ, and not to know who it is who speaks, or upon what authority he lays his commands upon us, is to follow-perhaps a pretended (though self-called infallible) guide. The Christian calls no man master upon earth. Even his appointed, delegated guides, he follows no farther than as they follow Christ. He is not in bondage in such cases in which they depart from true doctrine. He is not the servant of men. They have no dominion over his faith. Happily when Christ speaks, he speaks to be understood. His words require not the filtrations of human wisdom nor of human policy.