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way, and has spread open before us the field of the whole world—now that the Gospel may be preached in a territory of our own, through all its length and breadth as freely as in Britain, what shall we say for ourselves if the opportunity is not embraced, or if we are found unequal to the occasion, and our manifest duty.
Oh, may the God of all grace revive His work in our hearts, revive it in our churches, fill us with the Holy Ghost, inspire us with a new spirit of prayer, kindle our zeal into a pure and ardent flame, and thus give us an earnest of a new and more abundant blessing to the world—“God be merciful unto us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known in the earth, thy saving health among all nations !"
THE ANNUAL SERMON
PREACHED ON BEHALF OF THE
BAPTIST MISSIONARY SOCIETY,
AT SURREY CHAPEL.
By Rev. ALEXANDER MACLAREN, B.A., OF MANCHESTER.
“ Other sheep 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.”—John X. 16. THERE were many strange and bitter lessons in this discourse for the false shepherds, the Pharisees, to whom it was first spoken. But there was not one which would jar more upon their minds, and as they fancied, on their sacredest convictions than this, that God's flock was wider than God's fold. Our Lord distinctly recognises Judaism with its middle wall of partition as a divine institution, and then as distinctly carries his gaze beyond it. To his hearers “this fold” their own national polity, held all the flock. Without were dogs- a doleful land, where “ the wild beasts of the desert met with the wild beasts of the islands," And now this new teacher, not content with declaring them hirelings, and himself the only truc Shepherd of Israel, breaks down the hedges and speaks of himself as the Shepherd of men. No wonder that they said, “He hath a devil and is mad."
During His earthly life, our Lord, as we know, confined his own personal ministry for the most part, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Not exclusively so, for He made at least one journey into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, teaching and healing; a Syrophænician woman held his feet, and received her request, and one of his miracles, of feeding the multitude was wrought for hungry Gentiles. But while his work was in Israel, it was for mankind; and while “ this fold,” generally speaking, circumscribed his toils, it did not confine His love nor His thoughts. More than once world-wide declarations and promises broke from His lips, eren before the final universal commission, "preach the Gospel to every creature.” “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” “I am the light of the world.” These and other similar sayings show the lofty consciousness that He has received the heathen for His inheritance, and the utter. most parts of the earth for His possession. Parallel with them in substance are the words before us, which, for our present purpose, we may regard as containing lessons from our Lord himself of how He looked and would have us look on the heathen world, on His work and ours, and on the certain issues of both.
I. We have here Christ teaching us how to think of the heathen world. Observe that the words are not a declaration that all mankind are his sheep. The previous verses have distinctly defined a class of men as possessing the name, and the succeeding ones reiterate the definition, and with equal distinctness exclude another class. “Ye believe not, because ye are not my sheep as I said unto you.” His sheep are they who know Him, and are known of Him. Between Him and them there is a communion of love, a union of life, and a consequent reciprocal knowledge, which transcends the closest intimacies of earth, and finds its only analogue in that deep and mysterious oneness which subsists between the Father, who alone knoweth the Son, and the only begotten Son, who being ever in the bosom of the Father, alone knoweth Him and revealeth Him to us.
« I know my sheep and am known of mine, as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father. They hear my voice and follow me, and I give unto them eternal life." Such are the characteristics of that relation between Christ and men by which they become His sheep. It is such souls as these whom our Lord beholds in the wasteful wilderness. He is speaking not of a relation which all men bear to Him by virtue of their creation, but of one which they bear to him who believe in His name.
Now this interpretation of the words does by no means contradict, but rather presupposes and rests upon the truth that all mankind come within the love of the Divine heart, that He died for all, that all are the subjects of His mediatorial kingdom, re. cipients of the offered mercy of God in Christ, and committed to the stewardship of the missionary Church. Resting upon these truths, the words of our text advance a step further and contemplate those who “ shall hereafter believe on me.” Whether they be few or many is not the matter in hand. Whether at any future time they shall include all the dwellers upon carth is not the matter in hand. That every soul of man is included in the adaptation and intention and offer of the Gospel is not the matter in hand. But this is the matter in hand, that Jesus Christ in that moment of lofty elevation when he looked onwards to giving his life for the sheep, looked outwards also, far afield, and saw in every nation and people souls that He knew were His, and would one day know Him, and be led by Him in green pastures and beside still waters.
Bat where or what were they when He spoke? He does not mean that already they had heard His voice and were following His steps, and knew His love, and had received eternal life at His hand. This He cannot mean, for the plain reason that He goes on to speak of His “bringing" them and of their “hearing," as a work yet to be done. It can only be, then, that He speaks of them thus in the fulness of that divine knowledge which calls things that are not as though they were. It is then a prophetic word which He speaks here.
We have only to think of the condition of the civilized heathendom of Christ's own day in order to feel the force of our text in its primary application. While the work of salvation was being prepared for the world in the life and death of our Lord, the world was being prepared for the tidings of salvation. Everywhere men were losing their faith in their idols, and longing for some deliverer. Some had become weary of the hollowness of philosophical speculation, and like Pilate, were asking " What is Truth ?” whilst unlike him they waited for an answer, and will believe it when it comes from the lips of the Incarnate wisdom.' Such were the Magi who were led by their starry science to His cradle, and went back to the depths of the Eastern lands with a better light than had guided them thither. Such were not a few of the early Christian converts, who had long been seeking hopelessly for goodiy pearls, and had so been learning to know the worth of the One when it was offered to them. There were men who had been long sickening with despair amidst the rottenness of decaying mythologies and corrupting morals, and longing for some breath from heaven to blow health to themselves and to the world, and had so been learning to welcome the rushing mighty wind when it came in power. There were simple souls without as well as within the chosen people waiting for the consolation, though they knew not whence it was to come. There were many who had already learned to believe that salvation is of the Jews, though they had still to learn that salvation is in Jesus. Such were that Æthiopian statesman who was poring over Isaiah when Philip joined him, the Roman centurion at Cæsarea whose prayers and alms came up with acceptance before God, these Greeks of the West who came to His cross as the Eastern sages to His cradle, and were in Christ's eyes the advanced guard and first scattered harbingers of the flocks who should fly for refuge to Him lifted on the cross, like doves to their windows. The whole world showed that the fulness of time had come; and the history of the early years of the Church reveals in how many souls the process of preparation had been silently going on. It was like the flush of early spring, when all the buds that have been maturing and swelling in the cold, burst, and the tender flowers that have been reaching upwards to the surface in all the hard winter laugh out in beauty, and a green rain covers all the hedges at the first flash of the April sun.
Nor only these were in our Lord's thoughts when he sees His sheep in heathen lands. There were many who had no such previous preparation, but were plunged in all the darkness, nor knew that it was dark. Not only those wearied of idolatry, and dissatisfied with creeds outworn, but the barbarous people of Illyricum, the profligates of Corinth, hard rude men like the jailor at Philippi, and many more were before His penetrating eye. He who sees beneath the surface, and beyond the present, beholds His sheep where men can only see wolves. He sees an Apostle in the blaspheming Paul, a teacher for all generations in the African Augustine, while yet a sensualist and a Manichee, a reformer in the eager monk Luther, a poet-evangelist in the tinker Bunyan. He sees the future saint in the present sinner, the angel's wings budding on many a shoulder where the world's burdens lie heavy, and the new name written on many a forehead that as yet bears but the mark of the beast, and the number of his name.
And the sheep whom He sees while He speaks are not only the men of that generation. These mighty words are world-wide and world-lasting. The whole of the ages are in His mind. All nations are gathered before His prophetic vision, even as they shall one day be gathered before His judgment throne, and in all the countless mass His hand touches and His love clasps those who to the very end of time shall come to His call with loving faith, shall follow His steps with glad obedience.
Thus does Christ look out upon the world that lay beyond the fold. I cannot stay to do more than refer in passing to the spirit which the words of our text breathe. There is the lofty consciousness that He is the leader and guide, the friend and helper of all, that he stands solitary in His power to bless. There is the full confidence that the earth is His to its uttermost border. There is the clear vision of the sorrowful condition of these heathen people, without a shepherd and without a fold, wandering on every high mountain and dying in every thirsty land where there is no water. There is the tenderest pity and yearning love for them in their extremity. There is
the clear assurance that they will come and be blessed in Him. I pass by all the other thoughts which naturally found themselves on these words in order to urge the one which is most appropriate to our present engagement. Let us, dear brethren, take Christ ås our pattern in our contemplations of the heathen world.
He has set us the example of an outgoing look directed far beyond the limits of existing churches, far beyond the point of present achievement. We are but too apt to circumscribe our operative thoughts, and our warm sympathies within the circle of our sight, or of our own personal associations. Our selfishness and our indolence affect the objects of our contemplations quite as much as they do the character of our work. They vitiate both, by making ourselves the great object of both, and by weakening the force of both in a ratio that increases rapidly with the increasing distance from that favourite centre. It is but a subtler form of the same disease which keeps our thoughts penned within the bounds of any fold, or limited by the progress already achieved. For us the whole world is the possession of our Lord, who has died to redeem us. Ву us the whole ought to be contemplated with that same spirit of prophetic confidence which filled Him when He said, “ Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” To press onwards, forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to those which are before, is the only fitting attitude for Christian men, either in regard to the gradual purifying of their own characters, or in regard to the gradual winning of the world for Christ. We ought to make all the past successes stepping-stones to nobler things. The true use of the present is to reach up from it to a loftier future. The distance beckons, well for us if it do not beckon us in vain. We have yet to learn the first lesson of our Master's Spirit, as expressed in these words, if we have not become familiar with the pitying contemplation of the wastes beyond the fold, and fixed deep in our minds the faith that the sweep of its inclosures will have to be widened with growing years till it fills the world. The cry echoes to us from of old, "Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left.” We take the first step to respond to the summons, when we make the regions beyond” one of the standing subjects of our devout thoughts, and take heed of supposing that the Church as we know it, has the same measurement which the man with the golden rod has ineasured for the eternal courts of Jerusalem, that shall be the joy of the whole earth. The very genius of the Gospel is aspiring. It is content with nothing short of universality for the sweep, and eternity for the duration, and absolute completeness for the measure of its bestowments on man. We should be like men on a voyage of discovery, whose task is felt to be incomplete until headland after headland that fades in the dim distance has been rounded and surveyed, and the flag of our country planted upon it. After each has been passed another arises from the water, onwards we must go. There is no pause for our thoughts, none for our sympathy, none for our work till our keels have visited, and the “ shout of our King” has been heard, on every shore that fills “ the breadth of Thy land, O Immanuel !” The limits of the visible community of Christ's Church to-day are far within the borders to which it shall one day come. It is for us, taught by His words, to understand that we are yet as it were but encamped by Jericho, and at the beginning of the campaign. Ai and Bethhoron, and many a fight more are before us yet. The camp of the invaders, when they lay around the city of palm trees, with the mountains in front and the Jordan behind, was not more unlike the settled order of the nation when it filled