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yet I will not cast off my hope, but will flee unto thee, that thou mayst succour me; for thou only art the true shepherd; wherefore I will not despair, nor be discouraged, although I come void of works.
We must be diligent, that we may become wise and know Christ. In his kingdom only the weak and diseased are conversant; it being, as it were, a mere hospital, in which only the sick and feeble lie, of whom a care must be taken. But few men have this knowledge, for it is not easily attained ; it is even sometimes wanting in them who have the gospel and spirit. Some men look into the scripture, which setteth forth the kingdom of Christ, affirming it to be precious ; nevertheless they pay but little attention to the signification of the words therein contained, neither do they perceive that true wisdom is hidden therein, which far excelleth our wisdom.
Christian wisdom does not consist in seeking the company of those that are accounted wise and skilful, and to make mention, and talk of them; but to be occupied among the unwise, and those that lack understanding, that they may forsake sin and foolishness, and embrace righteousness, and sound understanding. Therefore it appeareth that christian wisdom doth not consist in lofty looks, and seeing ourselves in things high and wise, as in a glass, but that we look to those things which are below, and mark that which is humble. He that knoweth these things, let him give thanks to God; for by this knowledge he is able to prepare and apply himself to every thing that shall take place in the world. But ye shall find many, yea, even among those that preach the gospel, who are not thus far enlightened.
Heretofore we have been taught that none must come to Christ, till he be altogether clean ; thou must therefore forsake this opinion, that thou mayst attain to true understanding, and know Christ aright;
as the true and good shepherd. He compareth the good shepherd with the evil, or hireling, in the following passage :“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.”
It is true, indeed, that Christ is the only shepherd : the name of Christ belongs to him alone; yet he communicates the same to us, that we may be called christians. In the same manner, although he be the only shepherd, yet he imparteth the same name to those that be of the ministry. Matthew likewise forbiddeth our calling any man father on earth ; for one is our Father, which is in heaven. (Chap. xxiii.) Notwithstanding, Paul calleth himself the father of the Corinthians, when he saith ; “ In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Cor. iv.) Therefore it seemeth as though God alone would have the name of father; and at the same time granteth the same name to men, that they also may be fathers; howbeit; not of themselves, but by Christ: even as we are called christians; not that we have any thing of ourselves, but that all things are given us through Christ.
Christ saith, moreover, “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,” &c. This surely is a hard saying; that they which preach the gospel, and strengthen and heal the sheep, should at last suffer them to be caught and torn in pieces : while they themselves flee away, when the sheep have the most need of help. As long as the wolves do not appear, they do their duty carefully and diligently; but as soon as the wolf appears, they immediately leave the sheep. If they
have fed them well and made them fat, strong and whole, they are the better liked by the wolves.
But what is the hidden meaning of this parable ? The meaning of Christ is this ; in my. kingdom, (which consisteth in nothing else, but strengthening the weak, healing the sick, and encouraging the faint hearted,) the holy cross shall not be wanting. When it is preached that Christ only, whose silly sheep we are, hath the care of us, strengtheneth, healeth, and helpeth us, that our own strength and works are of no importance, the world cannot abide it: so that it is a natural consequence for the gospel to bring the cross with it; inseparably accompanying it; and he that will unfeignedly profess it before the world, must expect to bear persecution. This being the case, it is not difficult to perceive the difference between the true shepherds and the hirelings.
The hireling preacheth the gospel as long as he is reported among men to be learned, godly, and holy. But when he is reproved, or called a heretick and wicked man, or requested to make a recantation, he either recanteth or leaveth the flock without a shepherd : their case then becomes worse than it was before. What doth it avail the sheep, even if they were well fed before ? If they were true shepherds, they would lose their lives rather than leave the sheep to the jaws of the wolves; and would be ready to offer their neck to the axe for the sake of the gospel.
They therefore are not good shepherds, who preach the gospel that they may thereby obtain honour and riches; without doubt these are hirelings, who seek their own glory even in sound doctrine, and in the word of God. Wherefore they abide no longer than they receive honour, praise, and benefit thereby. As soon as the wolf cometh, they go back, deny the word, and flee away ; leaving the sheep, earnestly seeking for pasture and their shep
herd, that he may keep them from injury: but the good shepherd never leaveth his sheep in time of dapger, but always remains with them to strengthen and defend them.
These things may happen to us in some future time; we may be beset in the same manner. Then the preachers will shut their mouths and provide for their safety by fleeing away; the sheep shall be dispersed; one will be carried this way, and another
God grant that some of them may stand yaliantly in defence of the gospel, and spend their blood, if the case so require, in delivering their sheep! Thus Christ hath described the hirelings in their true colours ; who thus saith ; “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." He speaketh here of the peculiar duty that belongs to himself: I know my sheep, saith he, and they likewise know me. Christ knoweth us to be his sheep, and we know him to be our shepherd.
He knoweth us to be weak and diseased ; but even those that are he doth not cast off, but taketh care of them, and healeth them; though they be so diseased that all the world think they are not his sheep; and indeed this is the knowledge of the world. But Christ doth not know them after this manner; neither doth he greatly regard what manner of sheep they are, but considereth whether they belong to his fold. Those therefore are true shepherds, who, following Christ, know their sheep, and protect them from danger.
My Father knoweth me, saith Christ, but the world knoweth me not. Therefore, when the hour shall come that I shall die an ignominious death upon the cross, all with one voice will cry out, was this the Son of God ? he must needs be a condemned man, and given up to satan both soul and body. But my Father will say after this sort; this is my well beloved Son, the King and Saviour of man
kind. If I were in the midst of hell, or in the jaws of satan, I should come out again, for the Father will not forsake me.
Likewise I know my sheep, and they know me: they are certain that I am a good shepherd; therefore they come to me for suc
They cleave to me, knowing that they are subject to manifold infirmities and diseases ; and knowing that I would have such resort to me.
“ 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.” Some, in explaining this passage, say, before the latter days, the whole world shall become christians; this is a falsehood forged by satan, that he might darken sound doctrine ; that we might not rightly understand it. Beware therefore of this delusion. . As soon as the gospel was published, it was preached to the Jews; and they were the sheepfold. But he saith that he hath other sheep also, which are not of this fold, which he must gather together; whereby he showeth that the gospel must be preached to the Gentiles, that they also may believe in Christ; that of the Jews and Gentiles may be made one church. This was performed by the apostles, who preached the gospel to the Gentiles, and brought them to the true faith.
Thus there is one body, one church, one faith, one hope, one love, and one baptism; which continueth at this day, and shall continue to the end of the world. Therefore do not believe that all men shall have faith in Christ; for the cross must always be borne by us ; the greater part being of the class that persecute christians. The gospel must be continually preached, that always some may be brought to christianity. Thus we close, having given a compendious exposition of the text.