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herd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, these are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
There is not, perhaps, any where to be found a greater instance of the force of prejudice than in these perverse Jews, who censured Christ as a lunatic and a demoniac for one of the gravest and most excellent speeches that was ever delivered. Let us review it with all due attention and regard.
Let us consider Christ as the good Shepherd, and humbly commit our souls to him, as ever we desire they should be safe and happy. We have known his kind regards to the flock in exposing and laying down his life for them. And he hath not laid it down in vain. Delightful thought! Our compassionate Shepherd, even when the sword of the Lord was awakened to smite him, has not so fallen as to rise no more; but as in this great and good work he voluntarily laid down, so he has also re-assumed his life; and still bears on his heart the same concern for his flock, and uses his renewed life and exalted dignity for their security and happiness.
Let us humbly acknowledge him as acknowledged by the Father: let us courageously and gratefully own him, and be ready to lay down our lives also for him. We are those other sheep, of whom he spake, who were not originally of the fold, but by his grace are now brought in to the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls. Let us pray that the boundaries of his fold may be still more extended, and the whole number of his elect accomplished; that all the flock may at length appear together, and may be conducted by him to the regions of that immortal life which he determines to give it.
In the mean time let us maintain all proper regards to him, and especially the most cheerful confidence in his care; repeating with evangelical views, and so with a peculiar sublimity of sense, those words of David as our own, (Psalm xxiii. 1-4.) "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want: he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters: he restoreth my soul: he leadeth me
in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake: yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
JOHN X. 22-42.
AND it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, My Father which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Therefore they sought again to take him; but he escaped out of their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized: and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed him there.
It is worthy of remark, that we here see our Lord Jesus at a festival, appointed only by human authority, in commemoration of a national deliverance. He came from Galilee to observe it in the temple, though it was winter; and brought with him, as at all times, a heart glowing with the most ardent and amiable zeal, for the honour of God, and the salvation of men, even of those who were studying to insnare and destroy him.
What prudence, mingled with spirit and sweetness, runs through his answers to them! What inestimable blessings does he propose, to invite them to enter into his fold! May we never forget those gracious words! May we ever be entitled to all the comfort of them! I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. Lord, may we be found in the number of those secure and happy souls, even of those who know thee, and who obey thy voice, and follow thee, whithersoever thou leadest them by thine example, thy Providence, and thy Spirit! Then may we look on our eternal life and happiness, as inviolably secure. Safely indeed may we trust it in his hands, who could say, in so sublime, and so glorious a sense, I and the Father are one. The enemies of our salvation must triumph then over Omnipotence itself, before they can wrest the sheep of Christ out of his hands; nor will his fidelity to God, or his love to them, suffer them to be seduced by fraud, any more than destroyed by violence.
Blessed situation of thy little flock! O thou faithful, thou compassionate, thou Almighty Shepherd, gather thou our souls with theirs; and never suffer us to forget of how great importance it is, that we still continue near thee, that we look up to thee for our defence and safety, and confide not in our own power and wisdom, but in thine !
Who could have imagined, that any heart could have been so base as to have intended evil, or any hands so cruel, as to have armed themselves with instruments of death, against such a person, while speaking such words as these? Yet behold, these Jews do it; and that even in so sacred a place, as the temple itself; as the genuine offspring of those, who slew
the prophet and priest of the Lord, even at his altar. (Compare Matt. xxiii. 31, 35. and Luke xi. 48, 51.) but his wise and gentle reply disarmed them for a few months; and the Divine care and power in an extraordinary manner provided for his escape, and once more rescued him from their murderous hands.
Happy the inhabitants of the country about Jordan, to which he retired! especially happy, in that they knew the day of their visitation! The testimony of John the Baptist is now recollected to excellent purposes, though he himself was mouldering in his tomb: nor is there any thing, which a faithful Minister will more earnestly desire, than that even while dead, he may yet speak, for the honour of Christ, and the salvation of souls.
JOHN XI. 1-16.
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee: and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazareth sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if
sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe: nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
How happy was this family of Lazarus in which Christ was so frequent a guest! how happy Lazarus and his sisters, who were so peculiarly beloved by him! Yet sickness and death invaded that family; and this excellent man, as it should seem, in flourishing circumstances (ver. 19), and perhaps too in early youth, was snatched away, on a sudden, by what appeared a very untimely stroke. The friends of Christ must be sick, and die, as well as others; and no man knoweth either love, or hatred, by all that is before them under the sun : (Eccles. ix. 1.) Let us therefore judge nothing before the time; (1 Cor. iv. 5.) This sickness and death of Lazarus was for the glory of God: and may all our personal and domestic sufferings be so! To this, O Lord, may our life be consecrated, and to this may our death be subservient! We shall not then feel our dying pangs in half their bitterness, when our hearts are inflamed with a zeal for thy glory, and when we see that even those pangs are promoting it.
Our Lord delayed his coming to this dear friend in his extremity; and perhaps it occasioned, not only many an anxious, but many a suspicious thought, both to Lazarus and his sisters; yet the intent of this delay was both gracious and important. Let us not limit our Divine Master as to the time or manner of his appearance for us: let us not censure him if it be for a while put off. It is to exercise our faith and patience, and to make the mercy more signal and more welcome.
At length a resolution is formed to go into Judea; though but a little while ago the Jews had assaulted him, even in a sacred place, with burning malice in their hearts, and the instruments of death in their hands. But when Providence called, none of these things could move our blessed Redeemer, neither counted he his life dear unto him, that he might finish his course with joy. (Acts xx. 24.) May we shew the like intrepidity of our soul in his service! walking in the day, that we may not stumble, and taking all proper opportunities of performing the duties of life while the season of it lasts; and then, when the night of death comes, it will close our eyes in