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your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. This is the great promise of the Christian dispensation. The Apostle says to the Galatians, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. And to the Ephesians, In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory. It is needful then, for us also to receive the Holy Ghost; since without His blessed influences upon our souls, we cannot receive the truth as it in Jesus in the love of it; our knowledge of Divine truth will be a mere barren speculation, which will not promote our present comfort and holiness, nor our eternal salvation.
Let us then pray earnestly that the gift of the Holy Ghost may be vouchsafed to us, that we may know and love the truth as it is in Jesus, and may increase with the increase of God; and that by His sanctifying grace the power of indwelling sin may be broken, that it may not have dominion over us; but that being pardoned, it may also be subdued by Divine grace; and we may enjoy in our souls that peace which the Lord Jesus Christ gives to His believing people.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
John x. 11.
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD; THE GOOD SHEPHERD GIVETH HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP.
IN the Gospel for this day, our Lord Jesus Christ condescends to contrast His own character, as the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, with that of others, who had taken upon themselves to fulfil this office towards the church and people of God. The Jewish scribes and Pharisees had assumed to themselves the office of rulers in the church; but our Saviour intimated that it was an usurped authority which they had acquired. Notwithstanding, as the scribes and the Pharisees sat in Moses' seat, as they were in possession of the place of authority, He directed
that obedience should be paid to their lawful commands; but that their conduct should not be imitated. These directions of our blessed Lord were peculiarly important for the infant church of Christ, when it was about to be established in the world on the ruins of the Jewish ecclesiastical polity. The importance of them was apparent also at the time of our blessed Reformation from Popery; and will always be so, whenever worldly-minded men obtain the ascendancy in conducting the external affairs of the visible church of God on earth. As the parable before us contains our Saviour's description of Himself, and of those who opposed themselves to Him; let us consider
First, His observations respecting them; and Secondly, The account which He gives of Him
And may the Spirit of Christ, the Witness to the truth, bear His testimony to our hearts, that while the character of the Lord Jesus is set before us, we may be led to pray that His pastoral care may be exercised towards us, so that we may rejoice in Him as the sheep of His pasture. Our blessed Lord observes
First, respecting those who had set themselves in opposition to Him, and exercised authority over His people, that their conduct manifested them
94 Matthew xxiii. 2, 3.
to be nothing more than hirelings, whose character He describes. 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. Our Saviour calls them hirelings, because worldly gain was the only object which they had in view by intruding themselves into their office. Their minds were set upon their hire, upon the emolument to be derived from their station, and not upon the work to be performed in it. And therefore, although they had assumed the office, they were unworthy of the name of shepherds. The sheep were not their own; they were not dear to them. They eagerly sought the worldly advantages which might be derived from occupying stations of eminence in the church of God; but they had no real concern for the spiritual and eternal welfare of the flock: they had no love for the souls of those who were committed to their charge, and of whom they had undertaken the superintendence. And therefore, when a wolf made his appearance in the fold, they fled, and left the sheep to take care of themselves. They suffered the wolf to seize and scatter the flock at his pleasure. Satan is ever on the watch as a prowling wolf to ravage the sheep of Christ's pasture. These hirelings
did not withstand him, but suffered him to take their flock as his prey. They acted like the shepherds of Israel, against whom the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy: Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves. Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed; but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill; yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.95 Thus the sheep became an easy prey to every spoiler, to the world, the flesh, and the devil; for these hirelings sought only their own ease and emolument; and not the benefit of the flock; the spiritual welfare of which was not an object near to their hearts. What an awful character is that of the hireling. How dreadful is it to sustain the office of a
95 Ezekiel xxxiv. 2-6.