<< THE GOOD SHEPHERD. >>
THE DIVINE LOVE.
1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (JOHN X. r-16.)
Our Lord is the Divine Shepherd of men. The Divine Love leads us; the Divine Wisdom teaches us; and the Divine Power protects us. And this trinity of Divine qualities we see in our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, the one, only God of heaven and earth; one in Person, yet seen in different aspects and manifestations, as Creator, Redeemer and Regenerator; the one Divine Shepherd over the whole human race. In the Old Testament, He is made known as Jehovah. “Jehovah is my Shepherd: I shall not want." And, in the New Testament, Jesus declares, "I am the good Shepherd." Thus in this, and in many other instances, Jesus identifies Himself with Jehovah, the one, only God. "I and the Father are one." "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." The coming of Jesus Christ was a fuller manifestation to men, of the Divine Life, in its three aspects, of Love, Wisdom and Power. Through Jesus Christ, as the Divine Shepherd, men are led into the heavenly sheep-fold, under the watchful care of the Divine Providence.
In an exact sense, sheep represent the principle of charity, or love to the neighbor. In a genrral sense, sheep represent all the good principles of affection, in the human mind. Personally, the Lord's sheep are those who are open to receive the Lord's love and wisdom, and ready to embody these in their lives.
THE SHEEP-FOLD, ETC.
And the sheep-fold represents the Lord's Church, in heaven; and also on earth, so far as the Church on earth is sincere, and obedient to the Lord, Thus, the sheep-fold is the Lord's heavenly kingdom, including all persons who are in a heavenly condition, whether in the natural world or the spiritual world. Individually, our sheep-fold is in our own mind, when heavenly good and truth are there united in our regenerate life. In one sense, the sheep-fold is the celestial Church, in distinction from the spiritual Church, which is represented by a vineyard. The shepherd represents one who leads and teaches. A sincere leader and teacher is moved by a love of interior and spiritual life, and a love of helping others, to develop their spiritual life. The flock are those who are led and taught.
Men are taught by truth, and led by love. But, as men must know truth, before they can love it, or obey it, so truth stands as a door to spiritual life: and the knowledge of spiritual truth is the door, or door-way, through which we enter into spiritual life. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” But a man must first learn the commandments, before he can keep them, And so, a knowledge of truth is the door through which a man is introduced to the life of truth.
The Lord, as the Divine Truth, is the Divine Door of the sheep-fold. To enter into the sheep-fold, through the door, is to know the Lord; to go to Him, by means of His truth; to acknowledge Him, in His Divine character; to believe in Him; to love Him; and to obey Him. Those who approach the Lord, in His Divine Humanity, open themselves to Him, and keep alive, in themselves, the principles of spiritual good and truth, represented by the sheep.
The Oriental sheep-fold was an enclosure, walled with stone, or fenced with reeds, and having a door-way, which could be closed at night, and through which the shepherd came, in the morning, to lead out his sheep. But a thief or a wolf would "climb up some other way."
The porter, or watchman, stationed at the door of the sheep-fold, represents our rational faculty, our thinking ability, which keeps watch over the door of our mind, and tests the character of the things which seek to enter into our affections and thoughts. If we love the Lord's good and true principles of life, and if we are trusting in the Divine Providence, the revealed truths of our Lord's Word are as doors to our minds. And, beside these known and accepted truths, our rational faculty stands, as a porter. Whatever enters into our minds by means of the door of acknowledged truth, is a shepherd; it is something that will lead and teach us in the way to heaven.
SOME OTHER WAY.
But all evil and false influences refuse to stand the test of the Divine Truth: they do not enter by the acknowledged door; but they try to "climb up some other way," to enter into our affections and thoughts in some improper way, as, for instance, through our sensuous passions and prejudices. Every thing that seeks to come to us otherwise than through the revealed truth, i. e., through what we know to be good, true and useful, is, spiritually, a thief and a robber, seeking to injure our souls. And whatever comes to us in "some other way," seeking to influence us through our tendencies to evil, (our pride, our anger, our contempt of others, or any other infernal passion,) we can no more spiritually afford to entertain and heed, than the sheep can afford to welcome thieves, robbers and wolves, into the sheep-fold. And if we would remember this fact, we could save ourselves a great amount of struggle against the insinuating influences of the hells.
Our Lord opens our inward minds, and enters into them, with His heavenly influences, by coming through the door of revealed and acknowledged truth, drawn from the Divine Word, We are, therefore, to expect Divine aid, and the supply of spiritual life, through the truths of the Lord's Word, and not from the many worldly and infernal influences, which seek to climb up some other way, into our minds, and lives. "If they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them. "
THE SHEPHERD AND HIS SHEEP.
In Oriental lands, the relation between the shepherd and the sheep is very intimate. Generally, the shepherd is the owner of the sheep, or one of the family of the owner. Pasturage is scattered, and has to be sought. The sheep often have to go a great distance for water. Wolves and other wild beasts are numerous and fierce. Thus, the sheep are used to depending upon the shepherd.
NAMING THE SHEEP, ETC.
The shepherd names his sheep, as we name our dogs, horses and cattle. And the sheep know their names, and know the voice of their shepherd. They have confidence in their shepherd; and they come at his call, and follow him, anywhere. So, the Lord's sheep have confidence in their Divine Shepherd. And they hear His voice; i. e., they recognizeand obey His truths. "He calleth His own sheep by name." A name is given to designate a certain person. But, originally, persons were given names according to their qualities, or traits of character, as is still done among our North American Indians, and other nations. Names, then, represent qualities, for which the names are given.
CALLING THE SHEEP.
The Lord, as our Shepherd, calls His own sheep by name, when, by means of His truth, He reveals to man certain qualities of spiritual life, which they need to attain and cultivate; and when He reveals to them their own states and qualities of spiritual life. The Lord, in His all-wise Providence, adapts His teaching and His leading to the exact conditions and qualities of each of His followers, at each step in the man's life. Spiritually, He always calls each of His sheep by name ; i. e., in such a way that the Divine leading is always exactly and momentarily adapted to the man's spiritual condition, and to his needed progress.
LEADING OUT AND PUTTING FORTH.
And thus “He leadeth them out," from the understanding and love of good and true principles, to their practical application to daily life. And when the Lord "putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them ;" i, e., He does not drive them, by compulsion, as swine have to be driven, but He leads them, as sheep are led. And He does this by His own example of the good life that He led before men. "Thus, they have the Lord always before them, in His example, as well as in His teaching.
FOLLOWING THE SHEPHERD.
And the sheep follow Him ;" i. e., being in the love of the Lord, and submitting their will to His, they keep His commandments, and abide in His love. They are protected by His Divine Providence. They follow Him in practical life. They know His voice ; i. e., they understand His truths. Those who love to obey the truth are brought into condition to understand the truth. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God."
When you are hungry and thirsty, you know what you want ; and you recognize your food, when you see it. And you take it eagerly. No argument is necessary, to convince you of its character. So, spiritually, those" who hunger and thirst after righteousness ... shall be filled," because they know what they want, and they recognize good and truth, when presented. They are open to heavenly principles, and immediately respond to them. They have an intuitive perception of the good quality of good, and of the truthfulness of truth: and this intuition is, to them, what instinct is to the beast, a guide to its food, and a warning against what is unsuited to its use.
The heart and understanding of the Lord's sheep respond to good and true principles, as their eyes respond to the light, and their ears to sounds. Their love of the Lord, and their trustful following of Him, keep them in the inward recognition of spiritual principles. What they know, they know not by mere argument, nor by their natural senses, but from their hearts, in the " self-evidencing reason of love." The Lord's spiritual sheep know the voice of a truth, because it teaches them to be like the Lord.
On one occasion, when Jesus taught, “the people were astonished at His doctrine; for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." The scribes taught doctrines, upheld by the authority of man, and of tradition. But Jesus taught truth, by its own authority, and in its own spiritual light. And those whose eyes were prepared to see, easily saw the light of truth, in the Gospel of Christ.
The Lord's sheep will not follow a stranger; for, spiritually, a stranger is one who is, estranged from the Lord, and who is not a lover or a follower of the Lord. Abstractly, a stranger is a false principle, which is a stranger to the Divine Truth. Those who love and follow the Lord will not be led away by false persuasions and evil influences. They will shun and reject such influences. Their intuitive repugnance to evil and falsity will warn them of the presence of infernal influences.
It has sometimes been suggested that it was inappropriate to represent the Lord's followers by such a timid, defenceless animal as a sheep; and that it would be more natural to use, as a representative of good men, some more powerful, self-confident beast. But such a suggestion is made in ignorance of the nature of correspondence and symbolism. The proud, powerful, self-confident, fighting beast, feeling able to take care of itself, represents our selfish, unregenerate state of mind, when we do not feel the need of any Saviour. But the helplessness of the sheep, inducing him to seek a leader, fitly represents the regenerate man, who feels his own inability to save himself: and his need of a Divine Leader. And the gentle, docile, affectionate character of the sheep truly represents the changed character of the regenerate man.
The parable was spoken to the multitude, including some of the Pharisees: no wonder? then, that they did not understand it. And Jesus further taught them, He said plainly, “I am the door, of the sheep." As the Divine Truth, He is the door, leading to the Divine Love, which is the shepherd, and to the sheep-fold, which is His Church, and heaven.
THIEVES AND ROBBERS.
“All that ever carne before Me are thieves and robbers ." not literally, as to worldly times and persons. The Lord did not condemn all previous teachers and leaders. Spiritually speaking, all that ever came before the Lord, are all who put themselves before the Lord, in importance ; all who exalt themselves above the revealed truth of the Divine Word ; all who feel able to know truth from their own ability, and without revelation.
Speaking abstractly, all evil and false principles put themselves before the Lord, and exalt themselves above Him. These are, spiritually, thieves, claiming' truth as their own, and stealing It from the Lord. And they are robbers, claiming good as their own, and separating it from the Lord. No man can receive good and truth, as such, unless he receives them from the Lord, and as Divine things. Separated from the Lord, they lose their vitality, as an arm separated from the body.
FAITH IN THE LORD.
Sincere faith in the Divine character of the Lord, Jesus Christ, opens the mind to spiritual light, and enables the man to become spiritually intelligent. Without such faith a man lives in natural light, only, and does not rise to spiritual light. Hence, the acknowledgment of the Lord, Jesus Christ, as the, God of heaven and earth, is, truly, the entrance through the door, into spiritual life. "No man cometh to the Father but by Me ;'" i. e., no one can comprehend and approach the Divine Love, except by means of the Divine Truth which make" known the Divine character and personality. Through the Lord, men “enter in" to interior, spiritual life, and “go out” into practical natural life, led, taught, and protected, by the Divine Shepherd, and finding heavenly pasture, in the daily duties of active life. They “enter in" to the interior understanding of the Divine character, and "go out" into application of heavenly principles to practical deeds of daily conduct.
GIVING UP LIFE.
Jesus, as a good Shepherd, gave His life for the sheep, in the assumption and glorification of His Humanity : in the death of all that was born of Mary, and the conjunction of the Divine Human with the Divine, itself. In this, we have an example of our need to die, as to evil, that we may live, spiritually. False and evil principles, "thieves and robbers," come to men, to deprive them of all good and truth; but the Lord came, to give men more good and truth, and to save them from evil and falsity.
In the letter of the parable, there is a comparison between the Lord, as the good Shepherd, and the leaders of the Jews, as evil shepherds, or hirelings. "He shall feed His flock, like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom : and shall gently lead those that are with young." But a hireling is one who works for the hire, and not for the good that he can do. A good man, though he is properly paid for his work, loves to be useful. The pay is not the end in view, in his life, but only a means of doing good. So, a spiritual-minded man eats food, and properly enjoys it; but he does not live to eat, but, rather, eats that he may 'live, and be useful. A hireling is one who loves self and the world, and who works for selfish and worldly ends. With him, worldly gain comes first; but, with the good man, gain is the, servant, not the master.
The hireling does not own the sheep; i. e., he has no good principles adopted as his own principles of life, and embodied in his life. He cares nothing- for the safety of the sheep. Such a hireling is one who has some knowledge of principles, but no real interest in them. And so, when evils arise, in himself he does not resist these evils, but allows them, like wolves, to seize and to scatter whatever beginnings of good and true principles the Lord has taught him.
The wolf is the love of false principles, which seizes the good, and scatters the truths, from the worldly mind. Thus, the wolf is in the sinner's own heart: and when temptations arise, and evils and falses assail the mind, if the man is a hireling, who does not inwardly care for the spiritual sheep of good principles, he will not give up his selfish life, in defence of the spiritual sheep; but he will abandon the contest, and allow evil and false principles to rush in, and to destroy, whatever inclinations to good and truth the Lord had implanted in his mind.
KNOWING, AND BEING KNOWN.
The Lord knows His sheep, as His: they love Him, and abide in Him; and He gives them eternal life. But there were others, who boasted of their intimacy with the Lord: and yet, when the judgment carne, the Lord said to them, "I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." And the Lord says, I "am known of Mine ;" i. e., ,those who love the Lord, and follow Him in life, know Him as their Lord and Saviour. They require no argument, and no dogma of human authority.
They are like the Samaritans, who went out to see Jesus, at the call of the woman, but who afterwards said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard Him, ourselves, and know that this is, indeed, the Christ, the Saviour of the world."
Worldly men argue about Christ, and dispute about His credentials; but spiritual men see and know Him, love Him, understand Him, and follow Him into the beatitudes of spiritual life. Truth appeals to the spirit of man. External miracles compel the wonder of the senses. But miracles do not convince a man of spiritual truth. In the open soul, there is an ability to know truth, as truth, which far transcends any appeal to the senses. To the spiritual man, there is nothing more evident than truth, itself: it needs no endorsement from the outside.
The great need of men is simplicity of spirit, a condition of humble, loving, docile heart, following the Lord in the path of life, without self-will, without feverish excitement, without selfish ambition, without craving for .adventure : satisfied with the daily performance of uses, under the care of the Good Shepherd. As the Divine Father acknowledged the Humanity, and as the Humanity reciprocally acknowledged the Divine Father, "by becoming one with Him through glorification of the Humanity ; so the Lord, as the good Shepherd, acknowledges His sheep; and, in their measure' and degree, His sheep acknowledge Him, and become one with Him, in the regeneration.
THE OTHER FOLD.
In one sense, the Lord's sheep-fold are those who are in the Church; and His other sheep, not of this fold, are the Gentiles, not yet gathered into the Church, but yet to be instructed and led. In a more exact sense, the two folds are the kingdoms of the Lord, the celestial and the spiritual, which yet form one grand heaven. The spiritual heaven was formed by the Lord, at His coming in the flesh, when a judgment cleared the intermediate world of spirits, and a spiritual heaven was formed of many who had long been waiting in the world of spirits. And thus the Lord came to gather those who were not of the celestial sheep-fold, but who could then be formed into a spiritual heaven, under the one Shepherd, in whose sight the whole heaven is one grand sheep-fold. "
TAKING UP LIFE.
Jesus laid down His life, that He might take it, again. So, In the regeneration, we lay down our natural, selfish, worldly life, that we may take up a new, spiritual, heavenly life. "Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake, shall find
It. And, Indeed, how often it is the case, that we draw nearer to our Lord, and trust in Him more implicitly, in times of trial and sorrow, than in hours of apparent prosperity. We can almost feel His great, yet tender, arm, lifting us over the hardest places in the path. Often, with us, as with the sheep in Palestine, the greenest pasture lies upon the southern ridges of the steep and rocky hills. Strength, courage, and endurance are needed, to reach them. But the Divine Shepherd leads us according to our strength, and gives us all the strength that we will exert ourselves to use.
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887