1 Peter 5:1

The work of the pastoral office is to be fulfilled also by the private members of the Church, according to their respective gifts and opportunities. So there are practical lessons here for them, as well as for the minister, it is to them the words are addressed, "Exhort one another daily," and "Bishoping, lest any man fail of the grace of God."

I. THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH AND THEIR WORK. Church system is in itself worth nothing; its sole value consists in that it is a means of promoting the life of the Church and its mission to the world. But some system every Church must have; and it becomes us, in our reverence for inspired example, and our sense of the importance of the ends for which the Church exists, to endeavor to discover and adopt that system most in harmony with the Divine mind, as seen in the principles embodied in apostolic times. In the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles we find that the believers in any one place were called a "Church" - "what thou seest write in a book, and send unto the seven Churches which are in Asia." These Churches were so many separate societies, each governing itself according to Divine instruction, without acknowledging the authority of sister Churches. Even the appeal of the Church at Antioch to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem was made of their own accord, not of necessity; and they received in response, not a command, but a recommendation only. The apostles endeavored to bind these Churches together in Christian affection; witness the greetings in different Epistles from members of one fellowship to those of others. The only unity of early Christians was that of spiritual life and love; of external unity there is no trace. Now, in these Churches we find mention of two permanent officers - bishops and deacons. Timothy receives instruction as to the ordination of two classes of Church servants, called respectively bishops and deacons. Who, then, are the "elders" of whom we read? They were the same persons as the bishops. Paul, in writing to Titus, says, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest... ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless... for a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God;" or in the passage before us. "The elders which are among you I exhort... feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof" (literally, Greek ἐπισκοποῦντες, bishoping). The two terms (as also, we believe, the term "angel," in Revelation 2.) are designations of the same office, and used interchangeably; we never find them together. Each Church apparently had its own bishop, or elder, and deacons. When you have taken from the list of the public servants of the early Church such names as those of "apostles," "prophets," "workers of miracles," none of whom were intended to be permanent, I think you will find but these two left besides the evangelists. The work of the elders.

1. To feed the flock of God. Just the words you would expect from Peter. They take us back to that early morning when his Master thrice bade him feed his sheep and lambs. To feed the flock is essentially the minister's task. The Word of truth is the great sanctifying agency in the hands of the Divine Spirit, and it is the minister's business so to present this that sanctification shall be the result. There never was greater need of plain practical Scripture teaching than now, when the pressure of business leaves, I fear, too little leisure for Scripture study. It should not be so, but so it is.

2. To take the oversight of the flock. "Let the eiders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor." God's Word shows that he regards the elders as the superintendents of the Churches committed to them, as the presidents of all the work of those Churches, and as having heavy responsibilities for their well-being. Of the Christian minister it is said, he shall "warn the unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak."

3. To be examples to the flock. A minister's personal spiritual life is the first essential in his work; he has to watch his character, lest it should be a shadow darkening his teaching. Many of you have your own smaller portions of the flock to feed and care for. Christian workers, remember that the shepherds of Christ's fold must, like the great Shepherd, always go first. If you want to work for Christ successfully, the best part of that work will be done in your closet, ministering Christ to yourself. The work can never be better than the worker; the power of a lesson depends on the teacher seen behind it.


1. It is to be wrought from personal fellowship with Christ. Peter here says that he was an elder, because he had seen Christ suffer, and was a partaker of his glory. How we shall teach and preach when we look at the sufferings of Jesus, and at his glorified face! We must live with our unseen Lord, and then work for his flock will be no more a constraint, but a joy.

2. In subordination to Christ. "Neither as being lords over God's heritage? It is "God's heritage;" it is the "flock of God;" and there is a "chief Shepherd." Christ has set shepherds over his people, but they are shepherds under him. The flock are never fed, or guided, or upheld, or restored by human ministry, but he does it. If the under-shepherds are not what they ought to be, Jesus remains, and the flock is his.

3. It is to be wrought with hope in Christ. "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shah receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." Whatever happiness awaits Christ's faithful servants in another world, whatever forms the unfading crown may take, this at least will not be wanting - the presence there of those who have been redeemed through their instrumentality. Christian worker, when the chief Shepherd shall appear, and you with him, the first wondering glance at the autumnal fields you sowed will be your overwhelming recompense.

III. THE BEARING OF THE CALL TO THIS WORK ON THE CHURCH. Christ has called some of the elders in his Church to feed and oversee his flock, What of that to the Church?

1. It reminds us of the dependence of the people on the ministry. "The perfecting of the saints, and the edifying of the body of Christ," are declared to be, in a very important sense, dependent on the ministry; then it must be a perilous thing to depreciate that ministry, to cast one's self off from it willingly. "Feed the flock of God," he says to the elders; then let the flock of God see that they are willing to be fed.

2. And this calls for the recognition by the people of the proper work of the ministry. It would be a great thing if the elders were able to lead in all the paths of life - in things political, things social, things literary, things scientific, things philanthropic; but spiritual work is essentially theirs, and if these lower things are attended to, the great thing will suffer; and, though the sheep may follow, they will be unfed.

3. The furtherance by the people of the work of the ministry. The Church can greatly help their minister to help them; they can let him know the help they need; they can speak freely of their spiritual difficulties; they can ask for prayer and sympathy, when other aid is unavailing; and in this way can give a joy as great as that they seek. - C.N.

The elders which are among you I exhort.
1. In that he, an elder, exhorts them, elders, note that ministers are fittest to teach ministers and to judge of their actions. When we dislike anything in a minister, it were wisdom to ask the judgment of some godly minister before we censure.

2. In that he requireth nothing at their hands but what he himself did, note that the most forcible way of teaching, whether private or public, is, first, to do that in our own persons which we require of others. He is an ill captain that bids his soldiers go fight, himself in the meantime tarrying behind.

3. In that he beseecheth, note his modesty and humility.

(John Rogers.)

The apostle Peter, after various exhortations to strengthen the brethren, turns at the close of his Epistle to his fellow ministers, and gives them his parting counsel. St. Peter calls the Church "the flock of God." It is not man's flock, but God's, which He hath purchased with His own blood. Our Saviour spoke of the Church as His flock — My sheep, My lambs — and Himself as the Good Shepherd. Each believer will have his own history. There will be peculiarities in it, not found in any other — in what way he wandered; where Jesus found him — in the house of God, on the bed of sickness, at the grave of some one dear to him as his own soul. When thus brought home to the fold, he becomes one of those sheep to whom Jesus gives eternal life. He feels that he is not his own, that he has been bought with a price and can no longer live to his own will, but to the will of Him that loved him. But though thus made one of the flock of Christ, the believer has not yet reached heaven; he must be fed, cared for, guided on his way there, and it is for this end, as well as to add to this flock, that the office of the ministry was instituted. Jesus so loves the souls of men, for whom He died, that He commits them only to those who love Him, and will feed His flock. Having thus considered the office of the ministry, let us consider the spirit in which it is to be exercised — not of constraint, but willingly, of a ready mind, neither as lording it over your charge. There may be a constraint in taking upon us this office and ministry, but it is such a constraint as St. Paul had when he said, "Necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! The love of Christ constraineth me." We may shrink from it from a sense of our utter insufficiency for such a work. Isaiah said, "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips." There may be a shrinking from the work from these causes, and at the same time a willing and ready mind. The constraint St. Peter speaks of is where there is no heart for the work, where there are secular motives of base gain or ambition. Where there is this constraint, a penurious, stinted service will be rendered. Christ praises the angel of the Church of Ephesus for labour unto weariness. This is what Christ praises in His servants. Neither as being lords over God's heritage, the Church. Our Saviour had warned His apostles against the spirit of ambition which was found in the world. "You know," He said to them, "that the great ones of this world exercise lordship over men, but it shall not be so among you." And last of all in the qualifications of the Christian minister, we are to be examples to the flock in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity. Having thus considered the office of the ministry, and the spirit in which it is to be exercised, let us now notice the reward of the faithful minister. "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away." The service of Christ in the ministry of the gospel is not without its reward. It has its reward, not only in prospect, after it is finished, but by the way, in the life which now is. Our work brings us in contact with Divine truth, which grows upon us in interest and delight, so that we are overmastered by its power and glory. This truth raises the soul above itself on the wings of faith and hope, and makes us heavenly minded, which is life and peace. There is a satisfaction growing out of the nature of our work, so that the labour itself is its own exceeding great reward. Our work, again, brings us into a loving sympathy with the Man of Sorrows. The gospel we preach began first to be preached by the Lord Himself. And as He was grieved at the unbelief and hardness of heart of those who heard Him, as He wept over Jerusalem, so does every faithful minister of Christ mourn over those who obey not the gospel and neglect its great salvation.

(J. Packard, D. D.)

It is quite plain that St. Peter is here addressing distinctively not elders in age, but eiders by office. Age might enter then, more than now, into the question of fitness; nevertheless, what made a presbyter was not age, but ordination. And when we see gathered together a goodly band of youthful ministers, we do well to say to them, Remember, you have an office given you which reckons not by years, but by graces; you have to walk the aisles of your church, to tread the streets of your parish, as men (in one sense) prematurely old — as men of that truest dignity, which consists not in wealth, not in rank, not even in age, but in bearing Christ's commission. St. Peter counts this so honourable an office that he will claim even for himself none higher. Another apostle, his friend and chosen brother, describes himself in like manner in two of his writings, only as "the elder" (2 John 1). They well knew, both of them, the higher compulsion of sympathy, above anything that mere power or official dignity can exercise.

1. I will say a word upon the dedication. The Christian clergyman is a dedicated man. Do you heartily believe that your motive in asking ordination is honest, truthful, pure? Is it the choice of your heart? Do you mean to give your life to it? You must not be satisfied with that sort of average ambiguous twilight state which the world considers good enough for a lay Christian.

2. Thus the dedication passes on into the commission. You dedicate yourselves to Christ, and He gives you His commission. It would be absolutely intolerable to one who knows himself to have to feel, when he robes himself in his vestry for the exercise of one of his clerical functions, that he is volunteering his counsels for that time to a body of rational spiritual beings who have just as good a right to teach him. Bearing this well in mind, still we say, Without Christ's commission we could not speak: with it a dying man may be bold to speak to dying men.

3. Next to the sanctity, the twofold sanctity, of the office, let me strongly urge upon you its Divine humanity. The secret of all influence is, Be human. One word of genuine kindness, of hearty compassionate sympathy, will be worth ten thousand expositions of your claim to reverence: it will open hearts otherwise barred against you, and, letting you in, will let in Christ after you. And as in your intercourse, so also in your preaching. Let it indeed assert strongly the direct revelation and inspiration of your gospel. But in the application of this Divine gospel, speak as a man to men; speak as one who knows its necessity to himself, as one who knows the nature, the life, the heart, to which he has to offer it, and has learned, not from hooks but from men, what is that heart sickness too, and eager inward thirst, to which Christ his Lord came to minister, and has of His infinite mercy set him to minister in His absence, in His presence!

4. Need I say, then, in the fourth place, that the Christian ministry is a work? It is no pastime. It is no outside perfunctory propriety. It is a work. Be able to say, I am an elder of Christ's Church, and therefore my time, my strength, nay life, is the Church's, is Christ's.

5. Who shall deny then this other avowal — that the ministry is a difficulty? Do you suppose, ye who pass by, that a clergyman's ordination sets him above the most trying snares of world, flesh, or devil?

6. Then let me record, for your encouragement, this one other characteristic — the ministry an honour, a privilege, and a blessing. There is a special coronet for the faithful presbyter, over and above that which he shall share with the lowliest of the redeemed. In this life if is his, if he be earnest in his work, to enjoy a gratitude scarcely given to another — the gratitude of lives remodelled, the gratitude of souls saved.

(Dean Vaughan.)


1. An elder.

(1)In age.

(2)In knowledge.

(3)In experience.

(4)In position.

2. A witness. Of Christ's —(1) Suffering;(2) Atonement;




3. A partaker — of the glory which shall be revealed. "Come ye blessed of My Father," etc.

II. A HUMBLE-MINDED SAINT. This was not one of St. Peter's early characteristics. But he had learnt by experience to form a true opinion of his real position in the sight of God, and of the many infirmities which pertain to fallen humanity. This chastened spirit is particularly manifested —

1. By the position assumed. "Fellow elder." There is no assumption of extra wisdom or superior knowledge.

2. By the method of his teaching. Not "I command, decree," "enforce"; simply "I exhort." He would suggest, remind, urge on. What a heavenly spirit!

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

A witness of the sufferings of Christ
I. A WITNESS OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST. So far as possible, let us be witnesses with Peter.

1. An eyewitness of those sufferings. In this we cannot participate, nor need we desire to do so.

2. A faith witness of those sufferings.

(1)He had personally believed on Jesus at the first.

(2)He had further believed through after communion with Him.

3. A testifying witness of those sufferings.

(1)He bore witness to their bitterness when borne by Jesus.

(2)He bore witness to their importance as an atonement.

(3)He bore witness to their completeness as a satisfaction.

(4)He bore witness to their effect in perfect salvation.

4. A partaking witness of those sufferings.

(1)In defence of truth he suffered from opposers.

(2)In winning others he suffered in the anguish of his heart.

(3)In serving his Lord he suffered exile, persecution, death. What he witnessed in all these ways became a motive and a stimulus for his whole life.

II. A PARTAKER OF THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED. It is important to partake in all that we preach, or else we preach without vividness and assurance.

1. Peter had enjoyed a literal foretaste of the glory on the holy mount. We, too, have our earnests of eternal joy.

2. Peter had not yet seen the glory which shall be revealed, and yet he had partaken of it in a spiritual sense: our participation must also be spiritual. Peter had been a spiritual partaker in the following ways:

(1)By faith in the certainty of the glory.

(2)By anticipation of the joy of the glory.

(3)By sympathy with our Lord, who has entered into glory.

3. Peter had felt the result of faith in that glory.

(1)In the comfort which it yielded him.

(2)In the heavenliness which it wrought in him.

(3)In the courage with which it endowed him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Partaker of the glory that shall be revealed
'Tis a very sad thing when preachers are like printers, who compose and print off many things, which they neither understand, nor love, nor experience; all they aim at is money for printing, which is their trade. It is also sad when ministers are like gentlemen ushers, who bring ladies to their pews, but go not in themselves — bring others to heaven, and themselves stay without.

(Ralph Venning.)

Feed the flock of God
I. THEIR DUTY. Feeding, leading, controlling, protecting.


1. Negatively.

(1)Not constrainedly.

(2)Not covetously.

(3)Not ambitiously.

2. Positively.




1. "The crown" — symbol of dignity.

2. "Of glory" — not tinselled or tarnished, but unalloyed.

3. "That fadeth not away" — imperishable.


1. Mutual subjection.

2. Perfect humility.

V. THEIR HELP. "Grace" — the favour of God, the greatest and mightiest inspiration of souls.

(U. R. Thomas.)

I. THE DUTY ENJOINED. Every step of the way of our salvation hath on it the print of infinite majesty, wisdom, and goodness; and this amongst the rest, that sinful, weak men are made subservient in that great work of bringing Christ and souls to meet, and that the life which is conveyed to them by the word of life in the hands of poor men, is by the same means preserved and advanced. Oh, what dexterity and diligence, and, above all, what affection are needful for this task! Who would not faint in it, were not our Lord the Chief Shepherd, were not all our sufficiency laid up in His rich fulness, and all our insufficiency covered in His gracious acceptance?

II. THE DISCHARGE OF THIS HIGH TASK we have here duly qualified. The apostle expresses the upright way of it both negatively and positively.

1. There be three evils he would remove from this work — constrainedness, covetousness, and ambition — as opposed to willingness, a ready mind, and exemplary temper and behaviour.(1) We are cautioned against constrainedness, against being driven to the work by necessity, indigence, and want of other means of subsistence, as it is with too many, making a trade of it to live by; yea, making it the refuge and forlorn resource of their insufficiency for other callings. This willingness should not arise from any thing but pure affection to the work.(2) Not for filthy gain, but purely from the inward bent of the mind. As it should not be a compulsive motion from without, so it should not be an artificial motion by weights hung on within, avarice and love of gain. The former were a wheel, driven or drawn, going by force; the latter little better, as a clock made to go by art, by weights hung to it. But there should be a natural motion, like that of the heavens in their course.(3) The third evil is ambition, and that is either in the affecting of undue authority, or the tyrannical exercise of due authority, or to seek those dignities that suit not with this charge.

2. "But being ensamples": such a pattern as they may stamp and print their spirits and carriage by, and be followers of you as you are of Christ. And without this, there is little or no fruitful teaching.

III. THE HIGH ADVANTAGE. "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear," etc. Thou shalt lose nothing by all this restraint from base gain, and vain glory, and worldly power. Let them all go for "a crown" — that weighs them all down, that shall abide forever. Oh, how far more excellent: — "a crown of glory," pure, unmixed glory, without any pride or sinful vanity, or any danger of it — and a crown "that fadeth not," of such a flower as withers not. May they not well trample on base gain and vain applause, who have this crown to look to? They that will be content with those things let them be so; they have their reward, and it is done and gone, when faithful followers are to receive theirs.

(Abp. Leighton.)

I thought that I was passing by a sheepfold, where the shepherds seemed extremely busy. But they were occupied entirely with the gate and the hurdles, and had turned their backs on the sheep. The pasture was bare and brown, little better in some places than a sandy waste; the water was muddy, and full of dead leaves. The sheep were few in number — thin, emaciated, and looked scarcely more than half alive. "What are you doing, friends?" I asked of the shepherds. "Our master told us to feed his sheep," they replied. "We want to attract those sheep out on the mountain side; they are his too." "And what are you doing to attract them?" "Do you not see? We are gilding the gate and the hurdles, in the hope that, when the sun shines on them, those outside sheep will be attracted by curiosity. Then when they come inside we can feed them." "And why do you not feed those that are inside?" "Oh, they are in; they are safe enough! They can pick up food for themselves. We have not time to attend to them as well as attract the outsiders, and the latter business is by far the most important. We have a further attraction also: we play on the shepherd's pipe. The outside sheep often come round to listen." "But, friends, it is for the sheep inside that my concern is awakened. Your Master said, 'Feed My sheep.' Your gilding and music will never feed them." "Oh, no; those are for the sheep outside. We do feed them inside. Look, here is grass, and there are turnip troughs." "Do you call it grass? Parched, poor, uninviting stuff! My good friends, these troughs want cleansing and filling." "Do you think we have any time for that? We must attend to these other things." "Surely not to the neglect of the main thing? To what are you attracting these sheep? To what are you dooming the others? Attraction to starvation is not a very attractive idea." "Then you would have us to spend all our time on the sheep inside, and never gather the others in at all?" "By no means. I would have you to attract the outsiders; but I would have them attracted by fresh food and clear water, not by golden hurdles and shepherds' pipes. Trust me, the true way to attract lost sheep is by letting them see that the found sheep are better off than they are." "That is exactly what we are trying to do. Therefore we gild the hurdles to entice them to come and look into the fold." "And when they come and look in, you show them — what? A bare patch of ground, and a few half-starved sheep. My poor mistaken friends, the day is coming — ay, and fast too — when you will stand alone behind your gilded hurdles; for the fold will be left empty. The sheep will either be starved to death, or will have dragged their emaciated limbs to other fields than yours, where there is yet green grass left, and the fountain of living water is fresh and pure. Will you put down the paint pot and lay aside the reed, and begin at once to clear out the water and refill the troughs? It is not yet quite too late. It soon will be." Does the parable need interpretation? Will the shepherds listen?

(Emily S. Holt.)

Taking the oversight thereof
It is not enough for ministers to preach, yea, sacredly and diligently, but they must besides take a particular oversight of their flock, and looking into the conversation and behaviour, and applying themselves accordingly in admonition, exhortation, comfort. If a minister know any of his people riotous or profane, he must rebuke them; if any out of the way, admonish them; he must hearten them that be in a good course to go on still, and must comfort them that languish under their sins, temptations, and fears; in a word, deal with every one as the cause requireth.

1. This rebukes those ministers that be absent from their people usually or continually. How can these take care of them that come not at them but rarely, except they could indent with the devil, never to trouble their people, or tempt them in their absence.

2. It rebukes those also that living among their people, yet care not thus, but think themselves discharged that they meet them at Church on Sunday, and then preach them a sermon, whereas all the week after they consider not of them.

(John Rogers.)

Not for filthy lucre
You cannot serve two masters — you must serve one or other. If your work is first with you, and your fee second, work is your master, and the Lord of work, who is God. But if your fee is first with you, and your work second, fee is your master, and the lord of fee, who is the devil; and not only the devil, but the lowest of devils — "the least erected fiend that fell." So there you have it in brief terms — work first, you are God's servants; fee first, you are the fiend's. And it makes a difference, now and ever, believe me, whether you serve Him who has on His vesture and thigh written, "King of kings," and whose service is perfect freedom; or him on whose vesture and thigh the name is written, "Slave of slaves," and whose service is perfect slavery.

(John Ruskin.)

The noblest deeds which have been done on earth have not been done for gold. It was not for the sake of gold that our Lord came down and died, and the apostles went out to preach the good news in all lands. The Spartans looked for no reward in money when they fought and died at Thermopylae; and Socrates the wise asked no pay from his countrymen, but lived poor and barefoot all his days, only caring to make men good. And there are heroes in our days also, who do noble deeds, but not for gold. Our discoverers did not go to make themselves rich when they sailed out one after another into the dreary frozen seas; nor did the ladies, who went out to drudge in the hospitals of the East, making themselves poor, that they might be rich in noble works; and young men, too, did they say to themselves, "How much money shall I earn?" when they went to the war, leaving wealth and comfort, and a pleasant home, to face hunger and thirst, and wounds and death, that they might fight for their country and their queen? No, there is a better thing on earth than wealth, a better thing than life itself, and that is, to have done something before you die, for which good men may honour you, and God your Father smile upon your work.

(C. Kingsley.)

Mr. Fletcher, of Madeley, was once offered a living in a small parish in the county of Durham; the duty was light, the stipend £400, and the surrounding country very charming. Mr. F. thanked the donor for his kind offer, but at the same time declined it, saying, "There is too much money for me, and too little labour."

Neither as being lords over God's heritage.
1. Ministers must not exercise civil authority and temporal power over their people, but use a spiritual rule over them, by teaching them, etc., and ruling them by the Word of God.

2. Ministers must not carry themselves proudly and disdainfully.

3. Nor must a minister rule them with violence (Ezekiel 34:18).

(John Rogers.)

wrote to Pope Eugene, "Peter could not give thee what he had not; what he had he gave: the care over the Church, not dominion."

Ensamples to the flock
Of Mr. Henry Townley, who died in 1861, Dr. Henry Allon, his pastor, said in his funeral sermon: "I doubt whether a holier man than Henry Townley has ever lived...I have often, in his presence, felt humbled and awed at his manifest sanctity and consecration. I never remember to have left him without shame and penitence, and prayer that God would forgive my shortcoming, and make me like him."

When the Chief Shepherd shall appear

1. "Shepherd."(1) He has received His Church as a charge from the hand of the Father.(2) He 'has ransomed the sheep with His most precious blood.(3) He lives to gather the wanderers into His fold, by the power of His Spirit and the instrumentality of His Word.

2. "Chief Shepherd."(1) His infinite dignity.(2) His official supremacy.(3) The preeminent qualities He. possesses, for the office with which He has been invested.

(a)The comprehensiveness of His knowledge.

(b)His almighty power.

(c)His exquisite tenderness and sympathy.(4) To Him all the subordinate agents in His kingdom are responsible.


1. This fact is most certain.

2. The circumstances of His second coming will be marked with peculiar splendour.


1. The beautiful imagery employed by the apostle to exhibit this recompense — "a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

2. What are the substantial truths couched under this imagery?

(1)The approbation of his Master.

(2)The visible tokens and pledges of ministerial success.

(3)His own personal exaltation and felicity.Learn:

1. The vast importance of the Christian ministry as an ordinance of God for the present and everlasting welfare of His Church.

2. The true honour which is due, and ought to be presented, to those who have faithfully discharged this office on earth, and especially when their course has terminated.

(G. Clayton.)

I. THE TITLE WHICH IS HERE GIVEN TO CHRIST AS THE CHIEF SHEPHERD. The very name of "shepherd" is full of lustre and beauty, of condescension and grace. And whilst other names describe the different parts of Christ's work, and the various principles of Christ's character, this seems to combine them all. As Prophet, He was to teach His Church, to convey to it the lessons of Divine wisdom; as Priest, He was to make atonement for the sins of His people; as King, He was to rule over them in the gentleness and sanctity of His sway; but as He is the Chief Shepherd, we have the wisdom and goodness which instructs, the grace and mercy which unfolds, the power which rules, the authority which legislates, all in one.

1. He is called the Chief Shepherd. In relation, without doubt, to the inferior and subordinate shepherds. For the universal Church, in all its subdivisions, is His vast sheepfold, and the ministers of religion are the shepherds in subordination to Him. And, according to the manners of the East, and in ancient and early times, there was one — the Chief Shepherd whose own the sheep were. It is in reference to this, that Christ, in the passage before us, is called "the Chief Shepherd."

2. It describes, also, the dignity of His person, and the glory of His perfections. In every respect He is chief — chief among the angels, having a name as much more excellent than they, as His nature is more excellent than theirs. He is first among the priests: Adam was a priest, Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Melchisedec, and Moses were priests; and then come the descendants of Ham in their rank and order; but Christ is Chief Priest. So He is among the prophets; He infinitely transcended Moses. He is so among the kings; "King of kings and Lord of lords," the blessed and only Potentate, whose power and splendour overwhelms them all. And so He is among the shepherds — the Chief Shepherd, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and ending.

3. He is Chief Shepherd also in having set a perfect example of a shepherd's duty in watchfulness, care, and love. What instructions He delivered; with what authority, dignity, and power!

4. And, finally, He is called Chief Shepherd on account of His exaltation and majesty in the heavenly world. He has a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.

II. THE APPEARANCE WHICH HE SHALL HEREAFTER MAKE IN GLORY; and the word "appear" denotes that He is now hidden. The God of this world has blinded the eyes of many, that they neither see nor believe. And as it respects bodily vision, He is hidden also from His own people; for we walk by faith and not by sight.

1. But the passage before us speaks of His appearance; He is to be made manifest. As the heavens were opened at the baptism, and the Holy Ghost descended visibly in the shape and appearance of a dove, so are the heavens hereafter to be opened, and the Chief Shepherd will appear and descend again.

2. And respecting the time of this appearance, it is reserved in the bosom of heaven, as a deep secret — not one of the holy angels is permitted to know — not one of the spirits of the just made perfect, have any more apprehension of the time of the second advent than you or I have.

3. Respecting the purpose of His coming. It is not to teach, to suffer, and to die; this He did once, and will do it no more. He will come, it is said, without a sin offering unto salvation; He will come to accomplish the resurrection of all the dead.

4. And as to the manner of the Advent. I take it that all which was seen and heard at Sinai, the greater revelation of Divine power and justice, when the sign of the Son of Man was seen in heaven, and Jerusalem was overturned, is but a faint type and foreshadow of that which shall then be. Oh, all miracles, all prodigies of Divine power, which have taken place from the beginning of the world to this day, will be as nothing amidst all the miracles which shall then be accomplished. It will be a day of God emphatically, in which it will he seen what God can do.

5. And now let those of us who are in the ministry learn what we are to look for. Contempt there may be from men, but there will be honour of God.

(J. Stratten.)

Ye shall receive a crown of glory

1. I shall consider the duties which this figurative description of the pastoral office implies.(1) It is incumbent on a Christian shepherd to feed the flock. And what is the provision with which he is to feed them? Food for the mind and heart, suited to their condition as rational beings, as fallen sinners, and as immortal creatures, the truth as it is in Jesus.(2) Inspection of the state of the flock is another duty implied in this figure. We should know the circumstances of our people, the sorrows which oppress, the cares which perplex, the sins which beset them, and the difficulties which embarrass them, in order that we may give to each "a portion of meat in due season."(3) Protection of his flock is also the duty of a shepherd. Is not Satan perpetually going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour? Is not the spirit of the world ever watching for an opportunity to devastate the interests of piety in our churches? Are there not heresies ever lurking about the pastures of truth?(4) Affectionate tenderness is generally associated with the character of a shepherd.(5) A faithful minister will enforce all his instructions by his example.

2. The apostle states in a negative form the manner in which the duties of the pastoral office are to be entered upon and discharged.(1) A minister is not to take upon him the oversight of flock under constraint, but with a willing mind.(2) We are forbidden to take the oversight of the flock for the sake of filthy lucre.(3) A Christian minister is not to lord it over God's heritage. He has no dominion over the conscience; his power in the church is ministerial, not legislatorial.

II. I shall consider his SUBORDINATION AND RESPONSIBILITY TO CHRIST. These are implied in the expression, "the Chief Shepherd." It is needless to say that this refers to our Divine Lord. This epithet implies —

1. His superiority to all others. They are mere men of the same nature as their flocks; He in His mysterious and complex person unites the uncreated glories of the Godhead with the milder beauties of the perfect man. They (in a good sense of the term) are hired pastors; He is the great Proprietor of the sheep. They partake of the infirmities of the people; He is holy, harmless, and undefiled. They are encompassed with ignorance, and with the best intentions often err in the direction of the church. Unerring wisdom characterises all His dispensations. They possess affection for their flock, but the warmest bosom that ever glowed with ministerial love is as the frigid zone itself compared with the love of His heart. They are weak, and are often ready to sink under the multiplied cares of office; but though the government is upon His shoulder, He fainteth not, neither is weary. They are mortal, and continue not by reason of death; He is the "blessed and only Potentate, who only hath immortality," and reigns, as Head over all things to His Church, not "by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life."

2. This epithet implies the authority of Christ. He, in this respect, is the Chief Shepherd. It is exclusively His right to rule in the Church, to regulate all its concerns and all its officers.


1. The reward will be bestowed when the Chief Shepherd shall appear.

2. But I must consider of what the reward is to consist. "He shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."(1) The figure implies honourable distinction. The crown was an emblem of honour. The faithful pastor will no doubt be singled out amidst the solemnities of the last day, and occupy a station where every eye will behold him. He will receive a public testimony of approbation from the Chief Shepherd.(2) Perfect felicity is evidently implied in this figurative description of a minister's reward. The crown of victory was worn on days of public rejoicing, and he who wore it was considered the happiest of the festive throng, and the centre of the universal joy. He received the congratulations of the admiring multitude as having reached the summit of human happiness. The apostle, therefore, intended to include the idea of perfect happiness in his beautiful illusion. The holy pastor shall partake, in common with his people, of all those sublime felicities which the Father hath prepared for them that love Him.(3) Eternal duration is ascribed by the apostle to the honour and happiness promised in the text.

(J. A. James.)

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