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The inspired Evangelist, John, describes Jesus, in metaphorical language, as the door of his sheep, and the only door of admittance to his divine inclosure, the church; and from the church to glory. It is the only door of hope. When our progenitor, Adam, forfeited his favour with God, by the violation of the ancient covenant of works, as the penalty of transgression, the door of hope, on the ground of his personal obedience as the federal head and representative of his posterity, became for ever shut and barred against him, and was effectually guarded by the sword of justice which forbad approach. The covenant under the old economy which pointed to Christ, has also passed away, under the influence of the blessed Sun of Righteousness, who has arisen on the earth “ with healing underneath his wings;" and all signs and symbols, types and shadows, and metaphorical representations are fulfilled in him. We now behold the door, not so much through a glass darkly as did the patriarchal church, whose doors were contradistinguished from the rebels by the signs of blood sprinkled on the lintels thereof; but we have in Jesus, not the sign, but the thing signified; we see in him salvation, and in the lines of blood exhibited on Calvary's summit, we scan the rapturous
words of “ peace through the blood of the cross." How infinitely surpassing every other door is Jesus; not only so as regards himself, the blessed subject, but especially as regards the blessedness arising from it. The heaven which would have been the reward consequent on the perfect and sinless obedience of Adam, would have been the bliss of angels, a place of rest, of full happiness and uninterrupted bliss. It would have been a paradise wherein the praises of God would have resounded for creating and sustaining love: but, how infinitely does the heaven to which the once lost and perishing, but now bloodredeemed Israel, in the fulness of the appointed period, shall arrive, surpass this song of praise--for
“ Never did angels taste ahove,
Redeeming grace and dying love." Saints are one with Christ, and all their bliss will concentrate in their perpetual song " of Moses and the Lamb.”
The sheep of Christ thus greatly renowned and highly distinguished in privileges, were heirs of electing love from all eternity. They are elected in Christ, and predestinated in him, to the adoption of children, which in due time becomes manifest and openly revealed by the implantation of a new nature, denominated a change of heart; when they evince that “ they who were sometimes darkness, are now light in the Lord.” This change, or renewal, is peculiar to the sheep alone. They are not, as some affirm, changed from goats to sheep; nor, are they the subjects of the wondrous metamorphosis of corruption to holiness, to the exclusion of the former. Sheep they ever were. They were beheld by God the Father as such, in the person of his Son, who stipulated for their ransom in the eternal councils, and paid the full price thereof in the time-state of their being. Their true character is exemplified, not when the old principle, the leaven of sin is new-modelled (which is not only at enmity with God, but enmity itself in the very abstract with God, and all his purposes, ways, ordinances, and appointments; and at eternal enmity with the whole election of grace, and therefore incapable of reformation;) but when the Holy Ghost begets a perfect and entire new principle of light and life, called the new-born man, which is complete in all its parts, and is divinely implanted, constantly watered, nurtured, and matured under his special superintending care, providence, and grace, until at length conducted home. God, in his trinity of persons, begins this gracious work, and carries it on to completion, independent of the creature's influence, and in spite of Satan's devices, and corruption; and makes its recipient a willing subject, possessing faith and hope, and the happy enjoyments resulting from them; and at maturity, exchanges a life of faith and warfare for endless fruition and glory.
Now, ye beloved of Jesus, mark how infinite and boundless is Jehovah's condescension. Jesus has a fold in Achor's vale, into which he gathers his sheep and his lambs as a tender Shepherd. There he delights to feed them, and with them he loves to dwell. He has said that he is the door, and that all others who have come before him are “ thieves and robbers ;” and such they are, for it is impossible to regard any other name, or to follow any other way, without evident injury to ourselves, and robbing him of his glory. Jesus is indeed their door, their fold, and their pasture; for he is their paschal lamb, and in him are all the springs of Zion, which so richly flow to refresh the weary guests. Has he not blessedly said, “ My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me." Oh, how sovereign and constraining is his voice! The soul that rests on Jesus alone for salvation, and is ardently seeking her sole happiness from this uncorrupted fountain, knows full well the music of his pipe, and the blissfully constraining melody which influences him to follow, wherever he may lead. When Jesus speaks to the soul, and faith beholds the object speaking, and hears the flowing accents of his tongue, the impulse is overpowering.
Jesus is known to the sinner as a door of mercy, at which he is often compelled by urgent necessity to knock in cases of great excitement and extremity. He is the door of grace, or gate of Zion, through which the poor and needy, the trembling and halting, and humble penitent gains admittance into the visible church, there to enjoy all the privileges and blessings of adopted children. The high towering hopes of Aesh, and the vain expectations he entertains of realizing mercy from a God of inflexible justice, are each slain by the invincible sword of the Spirit, and the captive is led through deeps of affliction, from the fiery mountain of the law, to the door of hope, through which he enters. His title to the enjoyment of the fellowship of saints, and the peculiar privileges and blessings connected with their state, now become conspicuous by his calling. Various, indeed, are the stages from a world of vanity to this precious door of mercy; but, the waymarks and evidences, more or less, appear in quickening into newness of life; conviction on account
of sin, and repentance at the foot of the cross; crying for pardon through Jesus' blood, and faith in him as the only refuge for a guilty, law-condenined, conscience-condemned, and altogether vile transgressor. As the recipient of this newness of life experiences much affliction before he enters this narrow porch of life, so in passing through he will suffer great pain and much anguish, which not unfrequently extorts from him the sorrowful cry, « Woe am I, for I am undone ! - What must I do to be saved ?" This experierice is as needful as it is distressing. Of necessity there must be the death of carnal hopes, which can never enter a door so narrow as that 'appointed in the gospel. It is in this way legal hope is slain; and by this measure, and in this peculiar way, Jehovah, by the Holy Ghost, conducts his sheep, that their “comeliness may become corruption,” and that they may see in Jesus superior bliss.
( To be concluded in our next).
For the Spiritual Magazine.)
THOUGHTS ON ISAIAH LXV. 10. * And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to la
down in, for my people that have sought me." The prophet in the commencement of this chapter evidently has a reference to the call of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jewish church : this we learn from an unerring expositor in the 10th chapter of the epistle to the Romans : yet even in that apostate church there is a remnant to be saved': compare the verse preceding our text with Rom. xi. And thus, in the present day, although iniquity abounds, infidelity stalks through our land with an unblushing front, and there is a wide departure among those who profess Christ from the faith once delivered to the saints; yet Jehovah has, even now, his seven thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal, nor kissed his image: to such our text is addressed, not only ia the Jewish church, but to the true Israel of God in all ages.
" And Sharon shall be a fold."- A fold is an enclosure, a place of separation, where the flocks are shut in from the open field. So God's people are enclosed in the covenant of grace, brought together, sanctified, and separated from the world.
A fold gives us also an idea of security. In it the flocks are pre- . served, especially during the night, when the wolf is abroad; so in the visible church, the believer seems most securely sheltered from his spiritual foes; it forms as it were, a barrier, enclosing him, and keeping them at a distance.
The Bocks here mentioned are sheep, as such distinguished from all unclean animals. Sheep are in their nature helpless, exposed to the attacks of their enemies without the means of defence; they are also very
liable to stray, and upable of themselves to find their way back to the fold. And will it not be acknowledged, that these are the characteristics of the believer in Christ ?
The sheep being thus incapable of their own preservation or defence, need the continual care of a shepherd. The sheep of Christ are under the ever-watchful eye of him who is the good Shepherdthey are his property; he has purchased them, having paid down an amazing price for them, nothing less than his heart's blood. And if the value of a thing must be estimated by the price it has cost, what can be so dear to the Shepherd as these his sheep? How great must be that love which could move him to lay down his life for them? And this love too, is unchanging-He will rest in his love," Zeph. ji. 17. Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end," John xiji. 1. And this is true, not only of the fat and fourishing, but of the weak and tender lambs of the fold.
A Hock of sheep is marked with the name of its owner, that they may be known to Olhers. Our great Shepherd sets bis mark on his sheep, not only as they are known to himself in his eternal, unconditional, and unalterable choice of them, but as this choice is made manifest : and the mark by which our good Shepherd distinguishes his sheep is the sign of the cross, “ If any man will come after me, let him deny bimself, and take up the cross and follow me,” Matt. xvi. 24. There is an awful thought connected with this idea ; some are thus apparently marked who give evidence that they belong not to the great Shepherd; they are not in reality what they appear to be, but wolves in sheep's clothing. May you and I, dear reader, be led to heart-searching, and the earnest solemn enquiry, “ Lord, is it I? Lord, is it I?"
A shepherd feeds his flock. “He maketh them to lie down in green pastures," &c. Psalm xxiii. It is in Sharon, a place of the greatest fruitfulness, that the fold of these focks is situated; and, even when the
green herbage is blasted by drought, or buried beneath the snows of winter, our kind Shepherd never lets them want. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger," John vi. 35.
The principle Shepherd performs all this chiefly by means of under shepherds, whom he qualifies for, and calls to the work ; “ Pastors, who shall feed his people with knowledge and understanding,” Jer. i. 15. Some he employs in bringing into the fold those who are yet in the field, or by the way-side; some in confirming and establishing those who are visibly his; some in supporting and encouraging the weaklings of the flock;, some in reclaiming and bringing back those who are wandered from the fold: and though all these duties are the work of a good evangelist, some of Jehovah's own under shepherds are more eminent for one part of the work, and others for another.
It is needful that the flocks should sometimes be shorn of their superfluous wool, which would otherwise encumber them, besides harbouring the fly, and producing disease. The sheep of Christ, generally speaking, have not a great share of this world's good; and, when it is possessed, it too frequently proves a snare, tending to weigh down the soul to the earth, and retard its progress; perhaps, the dear objects of our natural affection may be idolized, and the good Shepherd
sees it needful to remove them : or, it may be that God's people are resting on their privileges, as being enclosed in the fold, instead of looking to their great Shepherd alone. If such be the case, a shearing time must come, in some shape or other. We learn from the history of the church, in past ages, that she has been “shorn to the quick” by persecution ; and although we have not, in our days, had experience of this. (for religion now " walks in her silver slippers”) we know not how long our privileges may be preserved to us ; there appears a heavy cloud hanging around our horizon.
There are, among those who profess to be shepherds, some who
feed themselves, and not the flock;” Ezek. xxxiv. 8. hirelings, who, however negligent they are of the sheep at other seasons, are sure to be with them at the time of shearing; from such may the good Shepherd preserve his sheep, indeed, the true sheep of Christ know not their voice, and will not follow them.
The shepherd sometimes employs a dog to fetch back the wanderer. Our good Shepherd finds it necessary to let loose the terrors of the law, and the accusations of a guilty conscience upon unwary backslider: and although their fierce barkings are very terrifying, yet when the poor wanderer is restored to the fold, he is free to confess that it was a necessary procedure, and a proof of the tender care of his kind Shepherd.
“A fold.”—This little word, a, is expressive of the unity of Christ's flock. There are many sheep, and many folds, yet all shall be ultimately brought into one fold, under one Shepherd. The church is now divided into a variety of opinions; but when its members are favoured to recline on the ever-verdant mountains of the new Jerusalem, and their eyes are opened to see and understand all the conduct of their good Shepherd towards them, how will they stand astonished at the dimness of their mental vision while passing through the wilderness.
“ The valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in.”'. The herds are the same characters, under another figure, as are represented by the flocks; they are the property and under the care of the same divine Leader. The term, “herds,” conveys an idea of numbers in company; and is an apt representation of a christian church, a congregation of faithful men, who, having “gladly received the word of the Lord, are baptized, and added to the church, and continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Acts ii. 41, 42.
“ The valley."- A valley conveys an idea of fertility; it is in the valley that the choicest pastures, and most refreshing streams are found. A valley gives us also an idea of humility. Our Lord, when on earth dwelt in the valley, and for the most part keeps his herds there. It is the safest place: were they continually on the mount, and left to themselves, they would be gamboling about, and perhaps fall over some precipice, and break their necks. The valley, dear reader, the valley is the place for the believer. But the valley here