« PreviousContinue »
me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out; for I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." To his disciples he says, "All power is given anto me in heaven and in earth.” The very idea of his bringing in those who were then gathered in his fold, and who rejoiced to hear his voice and to follow bim, was a bright sample of what he will do. But the manner in which the other sheep are to be brought in, we learn from the following expression, "And they shall hear my voice.".
We see by this expression that Christ adheres to the analogy between his similitude of shepherd and sheep, and the thing represented by them. A shepherd' calls his sheep; and they learn to follow hin, Jesus calls his people. "Come unto me," says he,"learn of me, and I will give you rest.”.
With an eye on this circumstance, let us further view our subject through the medium of this similitude. When sheep are unacquainted with the voice of their shepherd, can they distinguish it from the voice of a stranger? And if, when the shepherd calls, the sheep attempt to run away, as wild sheep always will, what would a shepherd be likely to do? What would the faithful shepherd, who owns the sheep, be likely to do? To abandon thein, and tell them, because they would not come, it was their own fault.? It was no concern of his whether they were food for wolves, or a prey to the voracious tiger? Shepherds never talk like this. If one sheep out of a hundred was lost, it would be sought with anxiety and avidity; and when found, it would be brought in with joy. And does Jesus exercise less care over his people, than an ancient shepherd did over his flock? The good Shepherd that giveth his life for the sheep exercises a faithfulness, that is not to be exceeded by the faithfulness of those that watched their flocks by night. He careth for the sheep; for they are his ; they are the purchase of his blood.
The common shepherd that undertakes to domesti
tate his wild and timid sheep, is patient to call until they become acquainted with his voice. use the utınost of their power to escape him, he is earnest and vigilant in pursuing. Their mistaken fears, and exertions to elude him, will cost them pain and weariness; but will detract nothing from the zeal of this shepherd to obtain them. The reader will easily perceive, how these remarks apply to Christ and the people whom be came to save. cannot but represent the image in living colors.
In the voice of Christ, the true Shepherd of the sheep, we may notice a few particulars.
1. His voice is the voice of faithfulness. “Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after.” But Christ as a son over his own house, whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. When men are fully persuaded that he who calls them is faithful, it affords a powerful incentive to attend to his voice. The faithfulness of Jesus is maintained by many considerations. He is the Son, and faithful as a
Mankind are his possession, which idea, in men, would excite the principle of faithfulness. It affords an encouragement to men to put their trust in him, tho, possibly, this consideration may add nothing to the faithfulness of our Lord. Faithfulness in an earthly shepherd secures the peace and safety of their flock, and excites perseverance in bringing home the wandering sheep. Faithfulness in the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is calculated to confirm our confidence in him, and give us an assurance that wbat he has promised he will be careful and sure to perform.
2. His voice is the voice of mercy. This we may very nearly iufer from the idea of his faithfulness. By the constancy and faithfulness of Jesus, we learn that he is merciful. The sinner may suppose him an enemy because himself is wicked, but will learn in due time that we have a merciful and faithful high Priest, who can have compassion on the ignorant and
those who are out of the way. It is by a constant voice of mercy that the timid flocks learn to trust and follow their shepherd.
3. The voice of Christ is the voice of love. This is the grand principle by which he draws his people to himself. «The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. He was devoted to their service here, and to crucifixion, in death for their sakes. He is the propitiation for their sing—for the sins of the whole world. “Greater love," says Jesus, "hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” But Jesus laid down his life for his enemies. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Forecarcely for a righte. ous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were et sioners, Christ died for us. Much more then being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life.”
4. The voice of Christ is the voice of truth. This is an essential property. Wherever there is a distrust in the character of a shepherd, his flock cannot feel safe in his care. The same is equally true of man as he stands in relation to his Redeemer. It is through the medium of truth that they are to come to the knowledge of him. And it is worthy of notice in this place, that our Savior expressed a particular concern that his people should know the truth. In
praying for his disciples, he says, "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." Again, on another occasion, we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That policy among men, that hides any gospel truth from the people, or attempts to hide it, under any specious pretext whatever, we have no reason to believe will ever be countenanced by the true Shepherd that gave his life for the sheep. He never scrupled to inform his disciples of the calami
ties or troubles that would befall them, nor did he fear the reproach of the enemy when he prophesied of a declension from the faith. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall was cold.” Experience and facts have long since proved this to be true; but it is what many false pretenders to a heavenly mission, would hardly be willing to own of their followers; much less voluntarily to predict.
The concluding part of our subject predicts a most happy resalt, And there shall be one fold and one shepherd. Hireling shepherds are not always to cheat the flock of the Savior's purchase, and leave them to the ravages of wolves. Their wanderings upon the mountains will cease, and their weariness in the vallies. Kept where God appoints salvation for walls and bulwarks, there will be no thief or robber to climb up another way, to terrify, rob, or spoil the flock. Now, folds are many; but then there shall be one fold. Shepherds are now numerous and much divided in their doctrines and methods of instruction ; but the divisions must be dropped when their offices end and unite, in the office of the "one Shepherd.” Now, perhaps, we behold a little flock that hear the voice of their Shepherd and follow him. Let us not fear. “Other sheep,” says Christ, “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.”
DISSERTATIONS ON FUTURE PUNISHMENT.
The subject of future punishment is made at this day, by many writers in periodical works, a disputable question. We do not wonder that it is considered a matter of interest to mankind, but much lament that any thing should arise in controversies on this subject which is calculated to alienate the feelings of a brother, Our readers will undoubtedly be willing to receive a few dissertations on this subject of future punishment, in which we do not invite controversy ; but calculate to exhibit our views and arguments upoo
it. It is hoped those of our brethren in the common faith of universal salvation, who are opposed to our views, and disposed to pronounce them the relics of popery or paganism, will have patience to bear with us, in our labors; altho they may find us somewhat different from their wishes. We suggest this thought because we are sensible that opposing prejudices are calculated to feed unfavorable passions, and because we are sensible from a consciousness of our own failings, that we are liable to err.
It is worthy of notice in this place that the Scriptures were not written in a systematic form. Many things are barely alluded to, as taken for granted, because few or no people disbelieved them. Other things were often repeated in strong and unambiguous terms. Some things are difficult to understand, because there is in them an allusion to events or circumstances with which we are little, or not at all, acquainted. We are, therefore, to understand the scriptures, not by looking for a system, the component parts of which are arranged in methodical order, but by examining their expressions, allusions, and the circumstances and occasions to which they allude and of which they treat.
On the subject of punishment beyond this life, we think we may take for granted, that it has been the general sentiment of mankind, so far as we can ascertain, from very remote antiquity. The Jews of the present day are said to believe the doctrine ; but think this punishment will be extended to an endless duration, only to a few, who are the most incorrigible sinners. It is generally thought the Jewish religion has received but very little alteration since the destruction of their capital city. The Pharisees of our Savi. or's day who constituted a large and popular sect of that
age and nation, were believers of this doctrine. From the common opinion of future punishment among the Jews and Samaritans of our Savior's day, we know of no other exception than that of Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit. Our