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In this king is our confidence and comfort. He arms us against sin and death, the devils and hell; and against all sinister success of things, as well of body as mind. As we are flesh and blood, and therefore subject to all kinds of adversity, it follows that the case should so stand with him ; otherwise he would not be like unto us in all things. Wherefore, that he might be made conformable, and like unto us, he had experience in all things, even as we have, sin only excepted; that he might be our true brother, and exhibit himself openly unto us.
The epistle to the Hebrews doth set this forth in a lively manner, chap. ii. “ Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people : for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." The profit, use, and fruit of the Lord's passion and resurrection, St. Paul hath summed up in a very brief manner; when he saith, Rom. iv. “ Christ was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
John X. From the 11th to the 16th verses, inclusive.
11 I am the good shepherd : the good shepherd giveth his life
for the sheep. 12 But he that is a 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 scat
tereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is a 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.
This text is full of consolation; which in a precious parable setteth forth Christ our Lord, and teacheth what manner of person he is, what his works are, and what affection he has toward man. Nevertheless, it cannot be distinctly understood, by comparing together light and darkness, day and night ; that is, a good and evil shepherd, as the Lord doth in this place. Ye have oftentimes heard that God hath instituted and ordained two sorts of preaching in the world : One is, when the word of God is preached, which saith, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery ; thou shalt not steal,” &c. Ex. XX. It also threatens that he who doth not keep these precepts, shall die. But that preaching doth justify no man.
Although a man be thereby compelled to show himself godly outwardly, before men, yet notwithstanding, he is offended at the law in his heart, and had much rather there were no law. The other ministry of the word, is the gospel; which shows where is to be
received that which the law requireth. It neither urgeth nor threateneth ; but allureth men gently. It showeth them what they must receive and take, whereby they may become righteous : Behold, here is Jesus Christ ! he directeth them. These disagree one with another, as much as to receive and give, to exact and reward.
This difference should be well understood and explained. To hardened and untractable men, who feel not the gospel, the law is to be preached ; and they are to be urged till they begin to feel molified and humbled, and acknowledge their disease; then is the time to begin to preach the gospel. These two sorts of preaching were instituted and ordained by the Almighty : besides these there are others which were not ordained of God, but are traditions invented by men; ordained by the pope and his prelates, wherewith they have perverted the gospel. These are not worthy to be called shepherds or hirelings; but they are those whom Christ calleth thieves, robbers, and wolves.
If we would guide men in the right way, it must be done by the word of God: if it be not done, we surely labour in vain. Christ treateth here of the second ministry of the word, and describeth of what sort it is : he maketh himself the chief, yea, the only shepherd : for he whom he doth not feed, remains unfed. Ye have heard that our Lord Jesus Christ, after his passion and death, was raised from the dead, and entered into immortality : not that he might sit idle in heaven, and rejoice with himself, but that he might receive a kingdom, and execute the functions of a governour and king; of which all the prophets, yea, and the whole scripture, treats at large.
We must continually acknowledge him to be our governour and ruler ; neither must we think that he is idle in hcaven, but that he doth from above govern
and direct all things; who hath an especial care of his kingdom, which is the christian faith; therefore it must
needs be that his kingdom will flourish among us here on earth. Of this kingdom, we have elsewhere said, that it is so ordained, that we increase every day and become purer; and that it is not governed by any force or power, but by preaching alone; that is, by the gospel. This gospel cometh not from man, but it was brought by Jesus Christ himself ; and afterwards put into the hearts of the apostles and their successors, that they might comprehend it, and speak and publish it.
Hereby is his kingdom governed, wherein he so reigneth, that all the power thereof consisteth in the word of God. Now whosoever shall hear and believe this, pertaineth to this kingdom. Moreover, this word is made so effectual, that it bringeth an abundance of all the good things which are necessary to man. For it is the power of God which is able to save every one that believeth ; as Paul saith to the Romans; if thou believe that Christ died for thee, to deliver thee from evil, and cleave unto the word, it is certain that no creature is able to overthrow thee. For as none are able to overthrow the word, neither shall any be able to hurt thee if thou trust in it. By the word thou shalt overcome sin, death, satan, and hell ; and to that thou must flee, for in it thou shalt find peace, joy, and eternal life ; and be made partaker of all the good things that are promised in the word.
Wherefore the government of this kingdom is marvellous. The word is published and preached through the whole world; but the power thereof is secret; it must be felt and tasted in the heart. We' therefore of the ministry are able to perform nothing more, than to become the instruments through which our Lord Christ openly preacheth the word; for be suffereth the word to be published abroad, that every
one may hear it. But faith maketh us to feel it inwardly, in the heart; yea, it is the secret work of Christ, when one knoweth what is his duty, and is willing to do according to his divine will and pleasure.
That these things may be better understood, we will now treat of our text, wherein Christ saith, “I am the good shepherd ?” What is a good shepherd A good shepherd, saith Christ, giveth his life for his sheep: and I leave my life for my, sheep. Here the Lord declareth what his kingdom is, by the parable of the sheep. The sheep is of that nature, that it quickly knoweth the voice of its shepherd ; neither followeth it the voice of another ; but always cleaveth to its own, and seeketh help of him, not being able to help itself. The sheep cannot feed itself, nor preserve itself from the wolves; but is altogether dependant upon the shepherd.
Christ therefore bringeth the quality and nature of the sheep as a parable ; and transformeth himself into a shepherd: whereby he showeth what his kingdom is : which consisteth in feeding his sheep; that is, miserable, needy, and wretched men, that have no help or counsel but in him alone. That we may declare this more plainly, we will quote a passage from Ezekiel : chap. xxxiv. “Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? why therefore do ye feed yourselves? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool ; ye kill them that are fed; but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost ; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd; and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill : yea,