"My sheep hear my voice, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." (John 10: 27,28)
What a word in season to every poor,, contrite-hearted sinner now before Jehovah in this house of the Lord! The sovereignty of God is here set forth, and also his purposes of mercy and love to his own peculiar people, chosen in Christ before all worlds, set apart and saved by covenant decree and purpose. The passage I am about to preach on is positive and plain, it admits of (to use a common term)no quibbling, but sets forth distinctly and unmistakably the eternal purpose of Jehovah, that He has a people peculiarly His own, and that no sin, no temptation, no cunning deceitful devil shall ever pluck out of His saving and guardian hand, the people of His choice and everlasting love!
Now the first point in the text is this, "My Sheep!" Here's a text, in only two words, for innumerable sermons: "My Sheep." How many of you, my hearers, are there who come under the telling pronoun, "My?" How many sheep of the eternal Shepherd are now assembled in this house of the Lord? Now the passage immediately before that one from which I am now speaking, has these words (observe them), "But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you." That is why they did not, why they could not believe! This settles the point, and upsets the abominable heresy so popular in England, of man's free-will. As a Churchman, I denounce such a heresy from the pulpit. "No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him." Well then, my hearers, before I pass on, it is a settled truth, that there is not a Saviour for all the world. It is well to speak distinctly; it saves a great deal of trouble and wordiness in the pulpit. And having declared that, and preaching upon the safe ground of the truth, hear what the Saviour says of His own chosen and favored people: "My sheep hear my voice." I do not suppose that all who are now hearing me will or can receive all I say. But how many are there now assembled here that are (and I take no higher ground in proof of this)really intensely in earnest to be taught to know, "their election of God?" Are you deeply exercised upon this point? Can you say with a tried pastor, formerly in England's Church:
"Tis a point I long to know,
Oft' it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no,
Am I his, or am I not?"
The desire to have that point settled was proof that he was one for whom the great Shepherd died. It is not high doctrine that tests this. We cannot go too high in the doctrines! No man would go higher than I would, but it is not high doctrines that either feed the soul or that test the Christianity of the Heart! We must take our stand upon high doctrines, but we must go much deeper than these, they must be practically understood in the experience of them; and it is a sweet test of our own individual and personal election if we are exercised upon the subject, and by the teaching of the Spirit long to ascertain our interest in the salvation of God.
But now, whilst I would emphatically call upon you to consider that pronoun, "My," "My Sheep," take a glance, passingly,, as I speak on, of the character of the animal to which the people of Jehovah are here compared. The sheep, perhaps, is the stupidest of all animals; it strays out of the fold, it never turns back till the shepherd brings it back, or sends his sheep-dog after it. You can all understand that. So each sheep of Jehovah must have a call, an effectual call, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine," (Isa. 43:1).
Now, take some instances in the Bible. Take the case of that stray sheep that had strayed up into the sycamore tree. He was anxious to see Jesus. He sought to see Jesus, who he was, and could not for the press, because he was little of stature," he was a dwarf; and, as we say in common English, "he could not see over other people's shoulders;" so, "he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him; for He was to pass that," tree, in our English version it is, "for he was to pass that way;" that word, "way," is added in, but it was, "that sycamore tree," that tree which was to contain a sinful, ignorant, uncalled sinner, but one of, "My sheep." The Saviour had his eye on him. And what must have been the feelings of that favored man, when Jesus advanced to the foot of that tree, he looked up, (now mark these words), "And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house," (Lk. 19:5). What must have been the amazement, the feelings of that sinful man when Christ so addressed him? But, "Where," as Solomon says, "the word of a king is, there is power." Zaccheus had no power to resist that call, the appointed time was come! it was an effectual call! and so the Spirit adds: "And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully," (Lk. 19:6). "Joyfully," And here, my hearers, and specially you before me who are tried and exercised, mark the offence of the Cross: "And when they saw, they all murmured saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner," (Lk. 19:7). I pause over those words of the murmuring crowd, of those who so reviled the Son of God. "He is gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." Is He your guest, my hearers? the guest of every one of you? Is he an indwelling Christ in your broken heart? He went into the publican's house, and is charged with being the guest of an improper character. We know the publican had been a bad man, a dishonest man, an extortioner, but mark what grace does in a man's heart: the instant the Saviour entered his house, his besetting sin flashed across him and Zaccheus stood, and said unto the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor," (oh, yes! he then knew what his sin had been), "and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore fourfold." There is the confession of, and a feeling sense of his sin. That is where the Spirit brings a convinced sinner. Zaccheus would never have said so up in the tree. The time was not then come. "Thy people willing in the day of thy power." Now observe, "And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham," (or, in other word's), one of the elect; "for the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Here then was one of Christ's sheep.
Take another case, as to another of His sheep, (I wish I had got Kent's hymn by heart on it)and the journey of the Saviour through Samaria," "And He must needs go through Samaria." Why? To call another stray sheep there, one of his own, a woman existing in open sin and debauchery, and yet one for whom Christ shed his precious sin-atoning blood. O! those words at Jacobs well! She came to draw water: and without entering now fully into the history, we know how ignorant she was, how sinful she was, but O! How He searched her, how He amazed her, how He convinced her of her special sin, and when she said to Him, "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things," (John 4:25), how her heart must have started when he said to her, "I that speak unto thee Am He!"
Now, in these two, Zaccheus and the woman of Samaria, vile and sinful as they both were, we see two of His sheep, "My Sheep," and both heard His voice.
Again, the sheep is a flocking animal. And is it not true that it is a comfort to the called people of God to associate and have communion together? Oh! how blessed it is to company with those who fear the Lord! I declare I hardly understand how to speak to any other people. But when we associate with those who can sympathize with us in a feeling sense of sin, of depravity of heart, and who have a heart desire to know their own interest in the Saviour's blood, how blessed it is. And this is one characteristic of the sheep of the Saviour, flocking together. They flock and associate, but they are a flock apart and separate from all others! "My sheep!"
Well, my hearers, I might go through several other similes of the sheep, as referring to the people of God, but here is one, and a touching one too, (I think it is the very passage on which I spoke here a month ago), "All we, like sheep, have gone astray." The sinfulness, the going astray of the sheep! That humbles us: we can't throw stones at others; we are ashamed of ourselves because of our iniquities. "All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," (how true it is), "and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all," of All the sheep. Then, again, to take that very same context in the 53rd of Isaiah, of the Shepherd Himself, it is said, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted;" and so are his people. I am an oppressed man, and I am an afflicted man. So was Hezekiah; and he cries out, "Lord, I am oppressed! undertake for me." "By these things men live; and in all these is the life of my spirit." "He Christ, was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth." His people are an oppressed people, a persecuted people. If there is no persecution, my hearers, there is no test that you have got the grace of God in your heart. Your Christianity must cost you something. People say of us, that we are so peculiar, so singular, so different from all others. Of course we are. The Church is called by the apostle Paul, "A peculiar people:" "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," (Titus 2:14). And yet, though we are, "Zealous," how we fail continually of good works! But blessed be God, works don't save. Good works cannot save, and bad works cannot damn. "By GRACE are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." Christ was oppressed, and Christ was afflicted, and so are his people. Look at those three words, those stirring words of the apostle to the Hebrew Church, "Being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy." Destitution, my brother, is the mark of a sheep; torment, affliction, is the sign of a sheep. "Before I was afflicted," said one of Christ's sheep, the Psalmist, "I went astray," "wrong:" but now (affliction, sanctified by the Spirit's power, has opened my heart to see), "but now have I kept Thy word." "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes." That is the school-room! trial, affliction, trouble of soul!
"We need as much the cross we bear,
As air we breathe, as light we see:
It draws us to Thy side in prayer,
It binds us to our strength in thee."
Oh, blessed be God for the heaviest trial, and the heaviest cross, if it only brings us to Him who died upon the cross! Look at our Shepherd, you that are his sheep, look at him in his anguish. "Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe, and saith unto them, Behold the man." Our English has it, "Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man." But it appears much more forcible to read it so, as Christ speaking of himself in the third person. "Behold the man!" Behold him in his sufferings: look at him! Is it not He alone and only who can reveal himself in and to our hearts? who can tell amid that rabble crowd, all of whom joined in the hue and cry, "Crucify him! crucify him!" Who can tell what those three vast words, "Behold the man! may have effected then? There might have been some assembled there among that crowd some of his own sheep, knowing nothing of it at the time. But the prayer of Christ can never be in vain, and who can tell the vast effect of those words, which in his hour of anguish, as he hung upon the Cross, he poured forth to his Father, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" Ah! my hearers, we cannot tell where the sheep are. I may have some hearing me here in a rage against me for what I preach; but that very anger, (if you are so)may be the means in Jehovah's hands, to humble you before you get out of the church, and to send you home, though you came here whole-hearted, to send you home a broken-hearted man; to cause you to say, with a tried saint of old,
"Oh! make this heart rejoice or ache,
Decide this doubt for me;
And if it be not broken, break,
And heal it if it be!"
If you really say that, you are a sheep. But my hearers, you and I have pierced the Son of God again and again. As Mr. Hart says,
"The Jews with thorns his temple crowned,
And lashed him when his hands were bound.
"The soldier pierced his side, 'tis true,
But we have pierced him through and through."
We cannot throw stones at the Jews. We read in the Acts of the Apostles, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge (or foreappointment)of God ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
Now then, what do they do? They "HEAR MY VOICE." The ear is circumcised to receive the gospel. "Our gospel came not to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." Do we know anything of hearing the voice? When Christ stood before his accusers in his hour of suffering, he said, "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." God never calls in vain. When He calls, the sinner must come. "Who hath saved us and called us," (calling following salvation). Observe how these two words stand: who hath SAVED US AND CALLED US!" "Where the word of a king is, is power." Nothing can hasten it; nothing can put it off. When God calls the sinner must come.
"There is a period known to God,
When all his sheep, redeemed by blood,
Shall leave the hateful ways of sin,
Turn to the fold, and enter in."
They hear the voice: "My sheep hear my voice." It is irresistible. There are several here around me who, I trust, can thank God for having been called, for having been taught to see what in a state of unregeneracy we can have no idea of. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know, because they are spiritually discerned." "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness." Them that perish. I shall speak to you afterwards about the perishing. There may be some here who consider me a fool, for what I preach. Paul said, "We are fools for Christ's sake." But unto us that are saved, the preaching of the Cross is the power of God. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world," not setting up a crucifix, or carrying a cross, but the cross upon which Jehovah the Son expired to save his sheep.
"My sheep hear my voice." Look at the case of Samuel: "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Remember the woman of Samaria (to whom I referred just now), "I that speak unto thee am he:" she dropped under that, "Come," says the astonished sinner (repentance being now commanded into her soul), "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?" And you remember how he searched her how he probed her. "Go, call thy husband and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." Look how he lays the axe to the root of the tree; see how he brings out the secret; (truly the Psalmist says, "Thou art about my bed and about my path, and spiest out all my ways);" and yet he saved her, and revealed himself to her! Oh! the love of Israel's gentle Shepherd! what a blessed Saviour!
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them." "I know them:" oh, yes; the Lord knows all about them. He knows where they are; He knows their names; He knows their trials; He feels for them under every cross; He knows their abode; He knows their sorrows; His eye is upon them. "Thou art my hiding place: thou shalt perserve me from trouble: thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye;" or, as it is in the Hebrew, "Mine eye shall be upon you to guide you." How sweet it is to know, and yet how humbling is the fact, I say, how sweet it is to know and to feel that he knows all about us: humbling, indeed, because of our sins, infirmities, backslidings, slippings, falls; but sweet and comforting, because in all our trials, persecutions, temptations, sorrows, and sufferings, he knows all about us, and fights the battle for us. Christ knows his sheep! No mother ever sat half so tenderly by the cradle of her sick, sucking child, as Christ stands by his poor ones, and specially so in their hours of trouble and sorrow! "Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me:" but hear His reply (the sheep may say what Zion said)but hear his reply. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb; yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee," (Isa. 49:15). Oh, yes! he knows them; he knows all their circumstances, all, everything about them; and what is the pathway in which he knows his own sheep pass and repass continually? We have it here in God's word: the apostle could speak feelingly and experimentally:
A suffering Saviour! an agonized Christ! and all this for his Church, his sheep, his people! "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me." Let us now consider these words: "they follow me." Do you follow Him? Do we know what it is to suffer shame for His name?
David said, "My soul followeth hard after thee. Thy right hand upholdeth me." O! it is continually that, "hard following," after him, and nothing supports us in that following but that right-hand holding. The Shepherd must guide, uphold, sustain his poor feeble sheep in their following him. And what is the path of a child of God, in which the broken-hearted sinner has go go? This is a great point of the subject. The special point I am now preaching on is that, "THEY FOLLOW ME." And he said to all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me," (Lk. 9:23). We must suffer for Christ. His way a path of trial, distress, persecution, and suffering! "A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." When one of old said to Christ, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest," his touching, searching reply was, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head," (Lk. 9:58).
"The crowded Inn, like sinners' hearts,
(O! ignorance extreme)!
For other guests of various corts
Had room; but none for Him."
See how He was treated, how He was despised! No room for Christ in the Inn! A stable would do for him; a manger with its truss of straw was good enough for the incarnate God-man! Born into the world, and yet God over all, blessed for evermore!
But here's the point, Do you follow him? Do you know what it is to suffer shame for his name, to bear the Cross? Do you know what it is to be exercised about your evidences, about your own personal interest in his precious blood? That you cannot take it up as a thing of course.
"O! could I say, the Lord is mine!
'Tis all my soul desires."
Do we know what conflict is, the warfare between flesh and spirit. All Christ's sheep must know, and do know this. O! what a real thing it is to feel our own sin, depravity, and vileness; for
Every ransacked corner shows
Some unsuspected sin!"
And hence, we are forced to cry out with David, "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." O! the depth, the mystery of iniquity in man, and hence the need the sheep have of the Shepherd's care and keeping! But he does watch over, he does keep the fold; and the poor, weak, exercised sinner, who has heard his voice, and who desires to follow him, and would never leave him, is forced to flee to him for help, protection, guidance, to be upheld, and to be kept from sin and evil, night and day.
"Other refuge have I none:
Hangs my helpless soul on thee,
Leave, ah! leave me not alone!
Still support and comfort me."
"The road is rough, and foes assail,
But I shall over all prevail;
For Jesus, my almighty Friend,
Is with me always to the end."
Now, in that solemn word which we have heard read in the desk, (and which I think touched the heart of him who read it, he seemed to feel it, and I felt it), "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved," (it will be) "we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Now, there is the end of all our following. We are following on, and it is blessed to know that, through all the trials and distresses of the Christian's journey here, the end is peace, and it ends in heaven. You will never get peace here. Therefore can we say,
"Jesus, I my cross hav taken,
All to leave and follow thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shalt be."
"Life, with trials, hard may press me,
Heaven will give me sweeter rest."
Cowper, and perhaps no man knew more practically what it was to follow painfully the Saviour than he did, he says
"The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree;
And seem by thy sweet bounty made
For those who follow thee."
"By thy sweet bounty." Mark those words. May I ask you each assembled here, are you following him? As I have attempted to sketch out the pathway, do you think that you are yourselves in it? "I know them, and they follow me." O! in this following of Christ, it so blessed to be kept near, very near to him. When Peter followed afar off, he fell into sin. I know well enough that Peter could not have been at that time any nearer that he was! There was a purpose in it all. It was to teach him a lesson, and may it teach us a lesson, also.
"'Tis but to teach him ev'ry day,
From self to Jesus turn away;
His very falls, they make him wise,
And teach him where his victory lies."
O! that, "afar off," following. O! how he had before boasted; but he said it all in love, and yet, mark the utter helplessness, when left to himself, of this poor sheep. "I do not know the man,' and O! that question, "Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Peter then denied again; and immediately the cock crew," (John 18:26,27). "Then began he to curse and to swear, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly," (Matt. 26:74,75). O! that heart-penetrating, soul-piercing sound of the crowing of the cock! and the Lord turning and looking upon Peter! "And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter: and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly," (Lk. 22:61'62). O! that bitter weeping! O! the agony, the torn state of poor Peter's heart then: but he was to be brought back, poor runaway sheep as he was, he was to be restored, received, and pardoned. "Lord what is man?" Keep, guide, guard, hold up. "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually," (Ps. 119:117).
It is said of the sheep, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me, and the end is peace, but it is, "through," much tribulation,' under many a heavy cross, trial, temptation, distress of soul! This distinguishes the narrow, but sage and sure pathway. "And every one in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them," (1 Sam. 22:2). That word, "discontented," may be rendered, "bitter of soul!" O! my hearers, each sensible sinner, each sheep of Christ, made sensible by grace, and who desires really to follow him, is forced to cry out as David did: "Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies," (Ps. 27:11). Or, (as it may be rendered), "because of those that observe me!" The enemy has always a keen eye on a child of God!" They watch and would entangle him as they of old watched and would have entangled the Saviour! They tried to catch him in his words! They tried to ensnare the Shepherd, and they would now ensnare the sheep. The goats are left alone, it is only round the one sheepfold that snares and temptations are set; and O! as Hart says:
"And seldom do we see the snare
Before we feel the smart."
Well, now my hearers, I have preached to you about the sheep, "My sheep," that they, "hear my voice," and, "they follow me." The next point is, the Gift, "I give unto them Eternal Life." O! what a gift is that! But we must understand something of it on earth before we enter on it in eternity. In John 17:3, we read these vast words: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Do you know him, know him savingly? Have you communion with him? Do you know what it is to pour out your soul to him? Am I not speaking to several around me here, who can sympathize with me in this feeling, that he is the only friend to whom we can unbosom all our cares and sorrows, and certainly the only one to whom we can confess all our sins? You could not confess the treacherous depravity of your vile heart to your dearest friend on earth. But we can do so to the Saviour! O! that confessing sin! This is the very test of pardon. But the point is this: 'I give unto them eternal life;' and what is this. It is the knowledge of Christ, here; it is the being for ever with him in life everlasting, everlasting happiness in God's eternal kingdom. Do you remember that striking word in Jeremiah 17:5? "Thus saith the Lord, Cursed the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." Now that must apply to the Christian, for no heart can be said to depart from the Lord but the heart that has been with him. So, it is only an experimental curse, not an eternal curse. No man can be said to, "depart from the Lord," but the man who has been with him: the world cannot, in this sense depart from him. Mark this distinction! Now the Church is one with him. And O! how great and how painful are our heart departures! How we run to, how we fall on creature help and creature aid, often rather than simply going to the Lord! and that brings a practical curse but not an everlasting one. O! there is an experimental cure on everything that interferes with our entire, our sole, our simple dependence on the Lord! "Thus saith the Lord, Cursed the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." "Whose heart departeth." But observe! not a final departing! O! how we suffer under such heart departing! It entails its own deserved curse! O! to be kept near, close, wholly dependant upon him, to lean there simply, only on him, our life-giver, our life-sustainer! "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved?" (Solomon's Song 8:5).
"When foiled by temptation, she goes
And makes the atonement her plea.
There pardon eternally flows,
And love wipes her sorrows away.
And when with her pardon she's blest,
Communion with Jesus she gains;
No longer a sinner distrest,
For on her BELOVED she leans."
That leaning! is the position of the Church. We cannot stand in our own strength. We must be supported, upheld, kept. The Church, like the feeble Vine, must be, and, blessed be God, is, supported. You and I must be supported. For one instant, contemplate with me, "eternal life." "I give unto them eternal life." Think what it is to die! Think what it is to go into eternity, and that all of us, you and I, must be there for ever, and for ever, and for ever. "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." Where shall you and I stand? Have we got any evidential test of being so entirely a sheep of HIS, that we may feel raised to the hope that we shall not be condemned with the non-elect? But, "eternal life," is a gift, "I give unto them eternal life." Paul says to Titus, "In hope of eternal life." Hope! You may not be strong in faith, but are you raised to a hope? Oh! my brother, everything is a mercy. To think that now we are out of hell? that is a mercy. But have we got a hope for heaven? Are we one of the sheep for whom the Shepherd died?
"I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish." "NEVER PERISH," my hearers; and yet, how continually do you and I say, as the Psalmist said, "I shall one day perish be the hand of Saul." O! those fears, those sinkings of soul, those tremblings of heart! But look at the word! O! if it be applied with power, now! If it is applied to your hearts by grace, you can then go home with it impressed upon your soul, you, "shall never perish!" Will it not be a mercy to be with God in eternity? "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." "(And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand)." In our Bible, the word, "man," is added in, (it is not so in the Greek)." "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any," any enemy, Satan cannot, your own sins cannot, your own corruptions cannot, "pluck them out of my hand." Nothing can pluch a chosen sheep out of the Shepherd's hand. They are HIS; they are kept by HIM. They were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. "Who is a God like unto thee," (hear these words, my hearers), "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?" (Micah 7:18). Here mark the distinguishing word, "the REMNANT," not all the world. He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy."
"Mercy, good Lord mercy I ask!
This is the total sum.
For mercy, Lord, is all my suit;
Oh! let thy mercy come."
"He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19).
Well, then, nothing can pluck a chosen sinner out of the eternal Shepherd's hand. They are saved, simply because He has saved them, and set them apart for His own eternal presence, if I may so speak, in His own eternal kingdom.
Now, my hearers, in finishing the service of this house of the Lord, while I never attempt to apply my preaching, but as we used to sing (some of you), at St. Augustine"s,
"We have listened to the preacher,
Truth by him has now been shewn;
But we want a greater teacher,
From the everlasting throne.
Is the work of God alone."
And now, amidst the solemn stillness of this house, may we practically understand whether we have any evidential test of being a sheep of the eternal Shepherd? We must be taught in God's School, in order to understand this. And, before I leave the pulpit, suffer me to put before you this vast verse of Erskine. You and I must be humbled before we can have any solid, real test of being a sheep.
"Before He suffer pride that swells,
He'll drag thee through the mire
Of sins, temptations, little hells,
Thy husband saves by fire."
"And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is MY PEOPLE; and they shall say, The Lord is my God." (Zech. 13:9). Look how the sheep echo, "I will say, It is my people; and (when grace brings that word home to the hearts of the people for who Christ died)they shall say, "The Jehovah, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is my God!" Do you know anything about it?
Now, my hearers, I suppose there is to be a collection. I cannot say a word about that. I cannot come down to pounds, shillings, and pence. I have been praching before you that one and only subject with which the pulpit ought to teem, THE BLOOD WHICH CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN! Give what you will; give what you choose; but have you been given to God? Have you been set apart for God? Look at the vast crowds of your own London, of this astonishing City! Look at the thousands; and yet, amidst all these numbers, amidst the crowds of England, and I may add, amidst this large assembly here, there stands the solemn searcher in God's holy word! "Fear not, little flock! for it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom," (Lk. 12:32). I do not apologize for overstepping the usual time, there is a time for all things. If I followed my own feelings, I could go on for another hour. I will read this vast text, O! that it may be applied with power thro' every day's experience, and that you may trace here, thro' your effectual calling, your election of God! "My seep hear my voice, and they follow me." There is one thing here that occurs to me, and when a thing is put into me, I must declare it and preach it. I have said that the sheep is a flocking animal, that they are together in a flock; but look at Mr. Hart's deep experience, I know it well:
"Companions, if we find,
Alas! how soon they are gone!
For 'tis decreed that most must pass
The DARKEST paths ALONE!"
"Who is among you, that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." Philpot has a sermon on those words, and he heads it, and it is a masterly heading, "The Child of Heaven Walking in Darkness, and the Child of Hell Walking in Light." Oh! yes; professors are always under the full blaze of light: they know nothing of trial, darkness, sin; but the poor child of God is continually in trial, does not know which way to turn or take, often. But then, what says the word? In the Hebrew it is, "He shall trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God;" or, as the Psalmist says, "Resting upon the Lord;" or, as it is in the Hebrew, "Roll yourself upon him." As you throw yourselves, when tired out, on a sofa or bed, so roll yourselves upon God, "casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." How easy it is to preach it; how easy it is to sit and hear it; but"O! to feel cuts deep beyond expression."
Christianity is a feeling thing. We must feel it to understand it.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." When we were singing that hymn, "Crown him Lord of all," I thought of the passage heading it, "That in all he might have the pre-eminence." Christ must be pre-eminent in the pulpit; Christ must be pre-eminent in the pew; Christ must be pre-eminent in the heart, according to the vast statement of the apostle, "Christ is all and in all." Yes, he is, "all," and everything to his people; and observe, he is, "in all," his people. "He is gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner." Is he in you? "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one!" Oh! what a subject, not half preached out! But hear Jehovah's own words: "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," (imperishable), "neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." God bless his own Word through Jesus Christ. Amen! Amen!