SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. BY REV. ASHTON OXENDEN, D.D.

ST. JOHN, x. 11-16.

Jesus said, I am the good shepherd : the good shep herd 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. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knowcth me, even so know I the Father ; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold ; them also I must bring, arid they shall hear my voice ; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

OUR Lord, in the beginning of this chapter, speaks of certain False Guides, such as the Scribes and Pharisees, men who had not entered by the door into the sheepfold/ but had climbed up some other way/ These
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had come, not to save souls, but to ruin them. Like thieves and robbers, their object was to steal, and to kill, and to

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destroy, rather than to spread life and peace around them.

And this leads our Lord to speak of Himself in the verses before us as the true Guide of His people ; I am the good Shepherd/ He does not merely say, I am a Shepherd, among many others; but He declares Himself to be the pattern Shep herd, the true, real, and perfect Shepherd, the good Shepherd.

From the earliest ages God had been pleased to reveal Himself to His people
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under the likeness of a Shepherd. The ancient Church looked forward to the coming of the Saviour, as the Shepherd and Preserver of Israel. The dying Patriarch Jacob spoke of Him to his assembled chil dren in this remarkable manner ; From thence is the Shepherd, the stone of Israel/ Gen. xlix. 24. Behold/ says Isaiah, the Lord God will come .... He shall feed his flock like a shepherd : he shall gather the lambs with his a,rm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isa. xl. 11. The Prophet Ezekiel declares, * Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I, even I, will both search my

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sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, so will I seek out my sheep/ * And I will set up
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one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David (that is, the spiritual David, Jesus the Son of David) ; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. Ezek. xxxiv. 12, 23.

While the Prophets thus hailed the Saviour s coming, they were not ignorant of His gracious purpose to lay down His life for His flock ; and therefore we find Zechariah inspired to write, { Awake, sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts : smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered/ Zech. xiii. 7.

When the fulness of the time was come, and Jesus appeared on earth, He claimed to be the true Shepherd. We must not look upon this title then merely as a beautiful emblem which seemed at the moment to describe His love and care for His people ; but we must regard it as the proper title, which belonged to
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Him alone. He therefore declares twice

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over in this chapter, I am the good Shepherd/

And do we not at once see the suita bleness of this title ? Did He not come to be the Leader, the Provider, the Saviour of His people ? His heart was full of love towards them ; He cared for them, as no Shepherd ever cared for his flock ; He set them an example of perfect holiness ; and did more for them than any other could do.

But it will be best to take His own words, as they stand here before us.

1st. He says, The good Shepherd
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giveth his life for his sheep/ * He was not only willing to give up His time, and His ease, and His heavenly glory for them ; He not only lived for them here on earth, and suffered for them ; but He was willing to die for them. ( Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends ; and yet this is what Christ did. Aye, and even more, He died for the ungodly ; When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us/

But observe, 2ndly, how marked the

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difference in this respect between Him and the False Shepherds. They were mere hirelings, and the sheep were not theirs. They had no real interest in them. They ioved them not. And thus, when danger threatened, they thought only of their own
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safety, and cared not for the sheep.

Such is the character of every False Shepherd. He flees when he ought to stand his ground ; yields up the interest of the flock, when he ought to maintain them; hides himself, when he ought to be seen ; and is silent, when he ought to speak. And all this shows that he has no real concern for the welfare of his sheep, but that he has more regard for his own com fort and safety, than for their salvation. * He that is an hireling, and not the shep herd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep ; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

So much for the treacherous Hireling. How different was it with Jesus the Good Shepherd ! He is no hireling. The sheep are His own. See how He declares this

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in cliap. xvii. He speaks of His beloved people, as those whom His Father gave Him out of the world ; Thine they were, and thou gavest them me. Those that thou gavest me have I kept, and none of them is lost, but the Son of Perdition/ And then He declares it to be the longing desire of his heart to have them with Him in His heavenly Kingdom ; Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am/

Jesus cared for His sheep whilst He was upon earth, loving them, and protecting them from every foe. And He still watches over them ; He shields them in all their dangers, upholds them in their weakness, and strengthens them in their daily con flicts.

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But, Srdly, Jesus here tells us that He and His people are known to one another ; "I know my sheep, and am known of mine/

Christ s people are often misunderstood by the world around them. Their feelings are mistaken; their goodness is overlooked; and they themselves, instead of being

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honoured, often meet with persecution and scorn.

But meanwhile Christ with His allseeing eye marks their course. Their state, their character, their wants, their feelings, are known to Him ; and so too are all their sorrows and joys.

But when our Lord says that He knows
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His sheep, something more is meant than a mere acquaintance with all their circum stances and history. It means that He is deeply interested in their welfare, that their concerns are His, and that everything connected with them is near His heart.

It is like the knowledge which we have of those who are nearest and dearest to us, Or rather, it is something even deeper; for nothing in this world can be compared to it. And therefore our Lord adds, As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; as much as to say, My know ledge of you is as true and as deep as the Father s knowledge of me.

You will observe tha,t Christ s know ledge of HiH sheep is put before their ac quaintance with Him, because He knew and loved them before they knew and loved

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Him. We love him (says the Apostle) because he first loved us/

This is indeed a source of much comfort to every true servant of Christ. He knows his Master, and is known of Him. Christ looks upon His people with an eye of favour, and they look up to Him with an eye of faith.

When Joseph was sold into Egypt, he must have felt very forlorn in that land of strangers, among those who knew him not, and cared not for him. But his comfort was that there was One above who was his God, and who cared for him as a father careth for his child.

Look at Job too in the midst of his affliction. Picture to yourself his misery, when one after another wrongfully accused him, when his friends turned against him,
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and the wife of his bosom was strange to

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him. He was ready to sink beneath his trial. But there was one thought that cheered and comforted him, I know that my Redeemer liveth ; and again, My wit ness is in heaven, and my record is on high/ I may be misunderstood and mis represented, but my Lord knows all.

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Again, when St. Paul was in the dun geon at Philippi, or St. John an exile in the Isle of Patrnos, they were cut off from all who cared for them on earth. They were surrounded by men who accounted their conduct folly, and who ridiculed their
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dearest hopes ; but they felt that their Lord was near, that every danger and every trial they encountered was known to Him, and that He would carry them through.

And so it is now. We may be little thought of by our fellow-men ; we may be passed by and forgotten ; we may meet with scorn where we look for kindness ; but if we are Christ s disciples it matters little. We are known to Him. The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous/ His steps are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way/

4thly. The Saviour speaks, in the last of these verses, of other sheep besides those who were then gathered around Him ; Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold : them also must I bring, and they shall hear rny voice/

Who were these - other sheep ?

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They were the Gentiles ; those who as yet had no place in the flock of Christ, but were counted as outcasts and aliens from the fold. Hitherto salvation had been offered only to * the lost sheep of the house of Israel ; but henceforth the door of mercy was to be thrown open to all who would enter in, to the Gentile as well as the Jew.

It was of them that the Saviour here spoke. They were the other sheep whom He would bring ; and they would hear His voice, and accept the offers of His love. And thus there would be one fold, and into it would be gathered men of all nations, who were willing to accept Him as their Lord.

If you look into the Epistle to the Ephesians, you will f n 1 St. Paul reminding his
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Gentile brethren, in ch. ii., that Christ had fulfilled this His promise, and had received them into His Church. * Remember (he says) that ye being in time past Gentiles, that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise. But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made

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nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of par tition between us, that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross/

But besides referring in these words particularly to the admission of the Gen tiles, our Lord meant also to speak of the general growth of His Church. He now
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saw before Him a little company of be lievershere and there a few who had left all to follow Him. But He knew well that their numbers would soon be multi plied an hundredfold. He pictured to Himself how in years to come whole nations would submit themselves to Him, and would come from the east and from the west, and be added to His Church.

In His boundless love He thought of these. Though they were as yet uncalled, and many of them unborn, they were dear to Him. He had them on His heart and in His eye. He foreknew and foresaw all their history.

Yes, when He said, Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice/

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He thought even of us who are now loving and serving Him. He "thought of His Church and people to the end of time.

And He adds, There shall be one fold and one Shepherd. Alas ! that time has not yet come. Now there are many things which separate Christ s people one from another ; many little divisions, many petty jealousies, between us. One Christian differs from another in his views of God s truth. Those who are bent on serving the same Saviour, and on reaching the same home, do not journey together by the same road. It is sad that it should be so, but so it is. The prayer of Jesus was, that they all might be one ; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may know that thou hast sent me/ And He desires to see this oneness now in His
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earthly family. The want of it grieves Him to the heart.

But, thank God, the day is coming, when all will be harmony and love in His household. There shall be one fold and one Shepherd/ Whether this will ever be the case on earth I know not. Perhaps if

Y

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we had more of God s Spirit in our hearts, and more of His presence among us, we should be drawn more together. If we loved Christ more truly, and lived more closely to Him, we should be more united to one another. If Christ ever reigns on this earth (and many think He will), He will put an end to our dissensions, and rally us all together under His own blessed
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banner. Then will those words be fulfilled, The Lord shall be King over all the earth : in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one/

At all events there will be this oneness in perfection in the kingdom above. There, indeed, there will be one fold and one Shepherd/ That fold will be a fold of safety, a fold of peace, a fold from which there will be no going out. All the scat tered sheep of Christ s true flock will be there, all who have the Shepherd s mark upon them, all who have loved Him and served Him here, all who have heard His voice and followed Him. They will all be gathered together in the one fold / and all will look up to the one Shepherd/ whose companionship they will enjoy for ever.

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