"Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.
I. COME AND SEE WHAT CHRIST IS. There are many persons who are indifferent to the Saviour only because they do not know him - because he is to them nothing but a name.
1. Study the record of his earthly ministry, and you will find that his character and life possess a peerless interest. Few have really read and studied the four Gospels without feeling themselves brought into contact with a Being altogether unrivalled in human history for qualities of the spiritual nature, for profundity of moral teaching, for self-sacrificing benevolence. And many have, by such study, been brought under a spell for which no ordinary principles could account, and have felt, not only that no personage in human history can rank with Christ, but that none cart even be compared with him.
2. Ponder the character, the claims, the acknowledged work, of Christ, and you will be convinced of his Divine nature and authority. Men who judge of him by hearsay, or by their own preconceptions, may think of Jesus as of an ordinary man; but this is not the case with those who "come and see," who allow him to make his own impression upon their minds. Such are found exclaiming, with the officers, "Never man spake like this Man!" with the disciples, "What manner of Man is this!" with Peter, "Thou art the Christ!" with this very Nathanael, to whom the words of the text were addressed, "Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel!" with the centurion at the Crucifixion, "Truly this was a righteous Man, this was the Son of God!"
II. COME AND SEE WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE.
1. This test - a very reasonable one - may be applied in individual cases. What did Christ effect for Saul of Tarsus? Did he not change him from a zealous and narrow formalist into a man whose name has become the synonym for spirituality of religion, for breadth and catholicity of doctrine, for grandeur of plan and of hope with regard to this ransomed humanity? Did he not find Augustine a wilful and pleasure-seeking young man, who almost broke a pious mother's heart? and did he not transform him into a penitent, a saint, a mighty theologian, a holy power in the realm of human thought? What did Christ do for Luther? He visited him when he was depressed and hopeless because of the conscience of sin, spoke to him the word of peace, called and strengthened him to become the Reformer of half Christendom, the founder of an epoch of light and liberty for mankind. Such instances, to be found in the annals of the illustrious and influential among men, might be multiplied. But it is not only over the great and famous that the Divine Jesus has exercised his power. Among the poorest, the meanest, the feeblest, nay, the vilest, he has proved himself to be the Friend of sinners and the Brother of man. There is no circle of society in any Christian land where evidences of this kind do not abound. You need not go far to see what the Lord Christ can do; this you may learn at your own doors, and every day.
2. But the educated and well informed have within their reach a wider range of proof. The history of Christendom is written in a vast, an open book - a book which the intelligent, and those capable of taking a wide survey of human affairs, are at liberty to read. Secular historians have traced the influence of Christianity upon society, upon the code of morals, upon slavery, upon war, upon the position of woman in society, upon the education of the young, upon the treatment of the poor, the sick, the afflicted. No doubt, exaggeration has often distinguished the treatment of these matters by Christian advocates. Yet, in all fairness and candour, it must be admitted that a contrast between unchristian and Christian society yields results immensely in favour of our religion. Christ has been the chief Benefactor of the human race, has done more than any beside to ameliorate and to improve the conditions and to brighten the prospects of mankind.
III. COME AND SEE WHAT CHRIST WILL DO FOR YOU. This is not a matter of speculation, but of practical moment and interest. It is well to form a just estimate of the character, the mission, the work, of the Son of God. But it is better to take the benefit which he offers to every believing hearer of his gospel.
1. See whether he can give you peace of conscience, by securing to you the pardon of sin, and acceptance with the God against whom you have sinned. This he professes to do; this multitudes will assure you he has done for them. If this is with you an urgent need, will it not be reasonable to put Christ to that test of experience to which he invites you?
2. See whether he can supply you with the highest law and the most sacred motive for the moral life. All human standards are imperfect, and no human principle is sufficient to ensure obedience. What no other can offer, the Saviour claims to impart, and it is reasonable to test his ability and his willingness to fulfil his promises.
3. See whether his fellowship and friendship can uphold and cheer you amidst the sorrows, temptations, and uncertainties of this earthly life. He says, "My grace is sufficient for you." Verify the assertion in your own experience. If he cannot supply this want, certain it is that none else can do so.
4. See whether the Lord Christ can vanquish death for you, and give you the assurance of a blessed immortality. Apart from him, the future is very dark; try his power to illumine that darkness with rays of heavenly light.
1. Defenders and promulgators of Christianity will do well to address to their fellow men the invitation Philip addressed to Nathanael. If they cannot always answer men's cavils and objections, and satisfy men's intellectual difficulties, they can bring men face to face with Christ himself, and leave the interview to produce its own effects. Let men be encouraged to come, to see, and to judge for themselves.
2. The undecided hearers of the gospel may well accept the challenge here given. Why should they shrink from it? It is an opportunity which should not be neglected, an invitation which should not he refused. - T.
He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold.1 Corinthians 13). Among men love is power. And a greater than St. Paul taught the same lesson and confirmed it by His own Divine experience. The Good Shepherd proved and illustrated His own good shepherdhood by sympathy and love. It was by no flash of splendour or miracle of external power that He proved His Divine leadership over the hearts of men; but by coming to walk with them, to toil and hunger, and suffer with them. He entered into mortal life by the same lowly door of human birth; He passed through it by the same path of toil and daily care; He made His exit from it through the same portal of suffering and death. In life and death He walked with the sheep. Therefore He could say, "I am the Good Shepherd, not merely because I am commissioned and sent of My Father, not merely because I wield the power of omnipotence," but "I am the Good Shepherd," He said, because "I know My sheep and am known of Mine."
(Bp. S. S. Harris.)
I. THE INDIVIDUAL CARE AND GUIDANCE OF OUR LORD for every soul that trusts Him. In modern stock raising in Western lands there is nothing of that personal knowledge and attachment which bound together an Oriental shepherd and his flock.
1. It is an infirmity of Christian people to suppose that they are lost in the crowd, that God deals with them in the gross as a general might deal with his army, with rare notice of individuals least of all of privates. Yet in nothing do we wrong Him more. "The hairs of our head are all numbered."
2. Christ showed nothing clearer than His attention to every personal want within His reach. We have reason as Paul had to appropriate His atoning work as though it were our monopoly (Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 2:9). Indeed He promises a friendship so intimate that it becomes a system of cipher messages between them and their Lord (Revelation 2:17).
3. We talk about how to convert "the masses," when we had better think of single souls.
II. THE SINGULAR COMMUNITY OF SYMPATHY BETWEEN CHRIST AND CHRISTIANS (ver. 4, 14, R.V.). It is compared for closeness and depth to that which subsists between the Father and the Son.
1. In Christ's case we might charge His knowledge on His omniscience, but we cannot so account for ours. Take Christ upon His more human side and you have the explanation. Who has not felt the mystic thrill of sympathy and repulsion when we discover the congenial or uncongenial to ourselves in another character. So Christ felt the unlikeness to Himself of hatred, falseness; but He was drawn with unerring affinity towards the faintest uprisings of human penitence and trust.
2. "My sheep know Me"; not merely something about me. Not by the mere investigation of the shepherd's clothing or crook, to see if both are genuine, as men puzzle themselves over churches, creeds, ordinances. But as one friend recognizes another by a glance if he can be seen; by his voice if out of sight. The test of truth is the character within us. We know God by resembling Him. These Jews could not be satisfied with our Lord's credentials, but certain Samaritans felt the Divine life (chap. John 4:42).
III. GOD'S EXCLUSIVE WAY OF MERCY. Thebes had a hundred gates, but salvation only one (ver. 9). An engine off the track is not more a failure than a man off the track of God's conditions. All entrance to spiritual hope and safety is through Christ. He will endure no rival. Mingle anything with Him as our hope and the mixture fails.
IV. THE ADVANTAGES TO WHICH CHRIST OPENS THE DOOR (ver. 9).
1. Safety. It reminds us of some fugitive running for his life to the city of refuge.
2. Liberty. A Christian is no jailbird, so closely guarded that he finds himself a prisoner. No slave on a plantation, but a child in the family. He knows the truth, and that makes him free to go where and do what he pleases if he only pleases right.
V. THE GRAND PURPOSE OF CHRIST'S ADVENT (ver. 10). Nothing is so precious as life. It was forfeited by sin; but Christ restored it at the expense of His own (ver. 11). And it is to be had now. The young are eager to "see" and "enjoy life." And they are right if they will not look for it in the wrong way. In Christ is the way to gain it, not in the low average of worldly attainment, but "more abundantly" in all that makes life worth living.
VI. THE METHOD OF CHRIST'S RULE. "Leadeth" — "goeth before." An Eastern shepherd does not drive his flock; and Christ goes before, never behind, saying not "Go," but "Come."
(C. S. Pomeroy, D. D.)I. THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THE SIMILE.
1. To Israelites. From the beginning they had been shepherds; hence all along God had been calling Himself their Shepherd.
2. To Christians. The gathered force of all that psalmists sang and prophets spoke has come down to the "little flock."
II. THE ANALOGIES SUGGESTED BY THE SIMILE.
1. The shepherd is the rightful owner of the fold, and treats his fleck in an honest way. He enters by the door, is recognized as the master, and has no semblance of the thief, etc.
2. The shepherd is the true pastor of the sheep. He admits responsibility for the care he has assumed. A hireling would flee, a robber steal and kill, but the good shepherd has thoughtful and affectionate care for the whole flock.
3. Between the pastor and the flock there is the relation of individual acquaintance.
III. THE APPLICATION OF THE SIMILE.
1. Christ as a Saviour sustains an individual relationship to every soul He saves, Each needs the atonement and the work of the Spirit precisely as each needs the entire sunshine and atmosphere in order to see and breathe.
2. Christ as a leader is acquainted with every Christian personally. He knows if he is absent from the communion table, and looks at him when he imagines himself out of sight as to love or duty.
3. Christ as a model expects each believer to be wholly conformed to His likeness. It is not to be supposed that one Christian is to exhibit gentleness and another force, etc.
4. Christ as a master is specially direct in laying His commands on every individual He chooses. He knows the one He wants and calls him by name — Samuel, Zacchaeus, Mary, Simon, Saul.
5. Christ as a comforter deals with each believer as His personal friend (Isaiah 43:1-2).
6. Christ as a judge will close His last account with each individually and alone (Matthew 25).
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
S. S. Times.A place of —
(S. S. Times.)
S. S. Times., S. S. Times.Not to enter by the door is a characteristic of Oriental thieves, from the Nile to the Ganges. When a tent is to be attacked, the common method is to approach it under cover of the darkness, cut a hole large enough to crawl through, and then silently to enter and as silently to retire with the booty. Bolder robbers will occasionally dig through the walls of a house in the same way. The experience of a British officer in India affords a curious illustration of the skill of Oriental thieves. During the officer's absence in the evening, a man crept quietly up to the tent without attracting the attention of the sentry on guard, cut an opening in the rear of the tent, and began to collect his booty. While he was engaged in this process, the officer returned. The Hindoo instantly fixed himself, silent as a statue, close to the tent wall, with arm drawn up and hand slightly extended. The officer came in, and proceeded in the half-darkness to prepare for rest. Noticing the extended hand of the thief, and mistaking it for a pin of some sort, he hung his helmet and his coat upon it. The thief stood silently holding the helmet and the coat until the officer was asleep, when he retired as he came, taking the helmet and the coat with the rest of his booty. Next morning the hole in the tent and the missing "pin" told the whole story.
(S. S. Times.)
Climbeth up some other way. —
1. Even thieves and robbers seek a place within the fold.
2. The basest motives may impel to a place in the fold.
3. Any way but God's way suits base men.
4. Some climb up rather than walk in; they prefer works to faith.
(S. S. Times.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(D. L. Moody.)Obadiah 1:5). The one and the other appropriate what is not theirs, but the thief by fraud and in secret (Matthew 24:43; John 12:6; cf. Exodus 22:2; Jeremiah 2:26), the robber by violence and openly (2 Corinthians 11:26; cf. Hosea 9:1; Jeremiah 7:11). The one steals, the other plunders, as his name in the Greek (as our own from raub, "booty), sufficiently declares. The latter should be substituted for the former in Matthew 21:13; Matthew 26:55; Luke 10:30; Luke 23:39-43.
Sheep to be fed, not sheared: — Dr. Johnson declined a rectory in youth with "I cannot in conscience shear the sheep which I am unable to feed."
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