Lord, gather us into thy fold, and lead us by thy hand. Amen.
John 10, 1-10. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in. he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
The Lord himself is the shepherd of his church; but as the visible means of grace can not be immediately administered by the glorified Savior, he chooses out of the fold some to be shepherds for the others.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints. for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4. It is of this matter that he speaks in our text. “He that entereth by the door into the sheepfold is the shepherd of the sheep.” Herein we learn these two lessons: 1) Only such as are themselves true members of the church can properly be pastors. A minister of the gospel who does not himself live in God, cannot care properly for the souls. They only who come to the Father through Jesus, and live, all the time, of his love; who daily receive forgiveness; who daily appear before the throne of grace, and go out again to their work in the world with new strength; to whom Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; — they only can be true shepherds, and can properly feed and care for his sheep. 2) Every true minister of the gospel must have been appointed to the work by the Lord, and not have forced himself into the sacred office. He must not only have entered the church by the right door; but he must also have entered the office of the ministry by the right door. The formal, orderly call in and through the church is necessary, because God is the God of good order, and every member of the congregation has his appointed work; and this formal call is also highly necessary as a help and comfort in the temptations and difficulties of the work. But here we are especially concerned with the inner call, without which the other, after all, is of but little value to him. How shall we know this call? The answer is not difficult, but the self-examination is. If you can say with Peter, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee,” if you have an imperative desire that you might serve the Lord in the office of the ministry; and if the circumstances of your life also point in the same direction, you may conclude that the Lord says to you: “Feed my sheep.” Then, if you follow the call, you have entered in by the door; and the sheep will follow you, and know your voice. — The Lord himself is the door to the sheepfold. He is the door for all, because it is only by reason of his merit and blood that we can enter the kingdom of grace; and he is the door for the shepherds, because it is only by his love that we are properly accredited and equipped for the office. — The Pharisees and all worldly-minded preachers and hypocritical exhorters are declared by the Lord to be thieves and robbers. He thereby strongly urges upon us the duty of a careful self examination. They are thieves and robbers in so far as they gather unto themselves, and labor for worldly honor and filthy lucre; while the true servants of Christ regard it as their highest glory to lead the souls to him. Blessed is every man who goes in and out through Jesus! They shall have life, and have it abundantly. They shall themselves enjoy his abundant grace and his more than victorious love; and his life shall, therefore, reign in them; and they shall fill the hungry souls with the good things of his house.
Lord, give us shepherds who feed thy sheep on the good pastures; and bless them, and preserve thy fold. Let us also be thine, and let us be members of thy church until our last hour, and in thee have life. Amen.
Lord of the church, we humbly pray
For those who guide us in thy way,
And speak thy holy word:
With love divine their hearts inspire,
And touch their lips with hallowed fire,
And needful grace afford.