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divine efficiency, as he came with divine credentials, as he spake as never man spake, that no one would have been able to have resisted the wisdom with which he spake ; one would imagine they would have been so struck with the demonstration of the Spirit, that with one consent they would all own, that he was that prophet that was to be raised up like unto Moses.” But you seldom find our Lord preaching a sermon, but something or other that he said was caviled at; nay, their enmity frequently broke through all good manners; they often, therefore, interrupted him whilst he was preaching, which shows the enmity of their hearts, long before God permitted it to be in their power to shed his innocent blood. If we look no further than this chapter, where he represents himself as a good shepherd, one that laid down his life for his sheep; we see the best return he had, was to be looked upon as possessed or distracted; for we are told that 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? If the master of the house was served so, pray what are the servants to expect ? Others, a little more sober-minded, said, these are not the words of him that hath a devil; the devil never used to preach or act in this way.
Can a devil
eyes of the blind? So he had some friends among this rabble.
This did not discourage our Lord; he goes on in his work; and we shall never, never go on with the work of God, till, like our master, we are willing to go through good and through evil report: and let the devil see we are not so complaisant as to stop one moment for his barking at us as we go along.
We are told, that our Lord was at Jerusalem at the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. The feast of dedication held, I think, seven or eight days, for the commemoration of the restoration of the temple and altar, after its profanation by Antiochus. Now this was certainly a mere human institution, and had no divine image, no divine superscription upon it; and yet I do not find that our blessed Lord and master preached against it; I do not find that he spent his time about this : his heart was too big with superior things; and I believe when we, like him are filled with the Holy Ghost, we shall not entertain our audiences with disputes about rites and ceremonies, but shall treat upon the essentials of the gospel, and then rites and ceremonies will
appear with more indifference. Our Lord does not say, that he would not go up to the feast, for on the contrary, he did go there, not so much to keep the feast, as to have an opportunity to spread the gospel-net, and that should be our method, not to follow disputing; and it is the glory of the Methodists, that we have been in existence forty years, and I
thank God, there has not been one single pamphlet written by any of our preachers about the non-essentials of religion.
Our Lord always made the best of every opportunity; and we are told, “ he walked in the temple in Solomon's porch." One would have thought the scribes and pharisees would have put him in one of their stalls, and have complimented him with desiring him to preach. No, they let him walk in Solomon's porch ; some think he walked by himself, nobody choosing to keep company with him. Methinks, I see him walking and looking at the temple, and foreseeing within himself how soon it would be destroyed; he walked pensive to see the dreadful calamities that would come upon the land, for not knowing the day of its visitation ; and it was to let the world see that he was not afraid to appear in public; he walked, as much as to say, have any of you any thing to say to me? And he put himself in their way, that if they had any thing to ask him, he was ready to resolve them; and show them that though they had treated him so ill, yet he was ready to preach salvation to them.
In the twenty-fourth verse we are told, " Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, how long dost thou make us to doubt ?” They came round about him when they saw him walking in Solomon's porch. Now, say they, we will have him, now we will attack him. And now was fulfilled that passage in the Psalms, “they compassed me about like bees" to sting me, or rather like wasps. Now, say they, we will get him in the middle of us, and see what sort of a man he is; we will see whether we cannot conquer him; they came to him and they say, “ how long dost thou make us to doubt ?" Now this seems a plausible question : how long dost thou make us to doubt ? Pray how long, sir, do you intend to keep us in suspense ? Some think the words will bear this interpretation ; pray, sir, how long do you intend thus to steal away our hearts? They would represent him to be a designing man, like Absalom, to get the people on his side, and then set up himself for the Messiah ; thus carnal minds always interpret good men's actions. But the meaning seems to be this, they were doubting concerning Christ ; doubting christians may think it is God's fault that they doubt, but God knows it is all their own. “ How long dost thou make us to doubt ?" I wish you would speak a little plainer, sir, and not let us have any more of your parables : pray let us know who you are, let us have it from your own mouth; if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly; and I do not doubt but they put on a very sanctified face and looked very demure; if thou be the Christ tell us plainly, intending to catch him; if he does not say he is the Christ, we will say
And I give
he is ashamed of his own cause; if he does tell us plainly that he is the Christ, then we will impeach him to the governor; we will go and tell the governor that this man says he is the Messiah ; now we know of no Messiah but what is to jostle Cæsar out of his throne. The devil always wants to make it believed that God's people (who are the most loyal people in the world,) are rebels to the government under which they live; if thou be the Christ tell us plainly. Our Lord does not let them wait long for an answer ; honesty can soon speak : “I told you and
believed not : the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.” Had our Lord said, I am the Messiah, they would have taken him up; he knew that, and therefore he joined the wisdom of the serpent, with the innocence of the dove : says he, I appeal to my works and doctrine, and if you will not infer from them that I am the Messiah, I have no further argument. “But, (he adds,) ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” He complains twice; for their unbelief was the greatest grief of heart to Christ; then he goes on in the words of our text, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish ; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My sheep hear my voice; you think to puzzle, you think to chagrin me with this kind of conduct, but you are mistaken ; you do not believe on me, because you are not of my sheep. The great Mr. Stodart of New England, (and no place under heaven produces greater divines than New England,) preached once from these words, but ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep ; a very strange text to preach upon to convince a congregation, yet God so blessed it, that two or three hundred souls were awakened by that sermon. God grant such success to attend the labors of all his faithful ministers.
My sheep hear my voice and they follow me. remarkable, there are but two sorts of people mentioned in scripture ; it does not say the Baptists and Independents, nor the Methodists and Presbyterians; no, Jesus Christ divides the whole world into but two classes, sheep and goats. The Lord give us to see this morning to which of these classes we belong.
But it is observable, believers are always compared to something that is good and profitable, and unbelievers are always described by something that is bad, and good for little or nothing
If you ask me why Christ's people are called sheep, as God shall enable me, I will give you a short, and I hope it will be to you an answer of peace. Sheep, you know, generally love
It is very
to be together; we say a flock of sheep; we do not say a herd of sheep; sheep are little creatures, and Christ's people may be called sheep, because they are little in the eyes of the world, and they are yet less in their own eyes. O some people think if the great men were on our side, if we had king, lords, and commons on our side—I mean if they were all true believers -O if we had all the kings upon the earth on our side! Suppose you had? Alas! alas ! do you think the church would go on the better? Why, if it was fashionable to be a Methodist at court—if it was fashionable to be a Methodist abroad, they would go with a Bible or a hymn brok instead of a novel; but religion never thrives under too much sunshine. “ Not many mighty, not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." Dr. Watts says, here and there I see a king, and here and there a great man in heaven, but their number is but small.
Sheep are looked upon to be the most harmless and quiet creatures that God has made. O may God of his infinite mercy, give us to know that we are his sheep, by our having this blessed temper infused into our hearts by the Holy Ghost. Learn of me, saith our blessed Lord ; what to do, to work miracles? No. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. A very good man, now living, said once, if there is any one particular temper I desire more than another, it is the grace of meekness, quietly to bear bad treatment, to forget and forgive; and at the same time that I am sensible I am injured, not to be overcome of evil, but to have grace given me to overcome evil with good. To the honor of Moses it is declared, that he was the meekest man upon earth. Meekness is necessary for people in power; a man that is passionate is dangerous; every governor should have a warm temper, but a man of an unrelenting, unforgiving temper, is no more fit for government than Phæton to drive the chariot of the sun ; sets the world on fire.
You all know, that sheep of all creatures in the world, are the most apt to stray and be lost. Christ's people may justly, in that respect, be compared to sheep; therefore, in the introduction to our morning service, we say, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep." Turn out a horse or a dog, and they will find the way home, but a sheep wanders about; he bleats here and there; as much as to say, dear stranger, show me my home again. Thus Christ's sheep are too apt to wander from the fold; having their eye off the great shepherd, they go into this field, and that field, over this
hedge and that, and often return home with the loss of their wool.
But at the same time, sheep are the most useful creatures in the world ; they manure the land, and thereby prepare it for the seed; they clothe our bodies with wool, and there is not the least part of a sheep but is useful to man. O my brethren, God grant that you and I may, in this respect answer the character of sheep. The world says, because we preach faith we deny good works ; this is the usual objection against the doctrine of imputed righteousness, but it is slander, an imputed slander. It was a maxim in the time of the first reformers, that though the Arminians preached up good works, you must go to the Calvinists for them. Christ's sheep study to be useful, and to clothe all they can: we should labor with our hands, that we may have to give to all those that need.
Believers consider Christ's property in them: he says, my sheep. O blessed be God for that little, dear, great word my. We are his by eternal election: the sheep which thou hast given me, says Christ. They were given by God the Father to Christ Jesus, in the covenant made between the Father and the Son from all eternity. They that are not led to see this, I wish them better heads; though I believe numbers that are against it have better hearts; the Lord help us to bear with one another where there is an honest heart.
He calls them my sheep; they are his by purchase. O sinner, sinner, you have come this morning to hear a poor creature take his last farewell ; but I want you to forget the creature that is preaching; I want to lead you farther than the Tabernacle. Where do you want to lead us? Why, to Mount Calvary, there to see at what expense of blood Christ purchased those whom he calls his own; he redeemed them with his own blood, so that they are not only his by eternal election, but also by actual redemption in time; and they were given to him by the Father, upon condition that he should redeem them by his heart's blood. It was a hard bargain, but Christ was willing to strike the bargain, that you and I might not be damned for ever.
They are his, because they are enabled in a day of God's power voluntarily to give themselves up unto him. Christ says of these sheep especially, that they hear his voice, and that they follow him. Will you be so good as to mind that? Here is an allusion to a shepherd: in some places in scripture the shepherd is represented as going after the sheep; (2 Sam. vii. 8.; Ps. lxxviii. 71.) that is our way in England; but in the eastern nations the shepherds generally went before; they