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My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and
upon every high hill: yea, my Alock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them." 6 Feed them with that word“ which giveth understanding unto the simple.” Lead them into “green pastures, and bring them forth beside the waters of comfort.”7
Described in the language of poetry, to feed the flock of Christ appears to be a task full of gratification and interest. When we descend into real life, the face of the picture is changed. It is to instruct the ignorant, to direct the rude, to reclaim the wayward, to guide those who are unaccustomed to the yoke. It is to overcome the allurements of ease, and undertake laborious duty : it is to leave the abodes of comfort, and to visit the dwellings of poverty : it is to become acquainted with vice, and pain, and indigence, and sickness, and sorrow. What can impel to this ? And what maintain it, as a regular course of action ? Our Lord here suggests the motive, the only motive.
Simon, lovest thou me? Feed my lambs. Simon, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep. Is it an irksome duty ? Does it bring more reproach than credit? More toil than gratitude ? Yet it is the will of him whom thou lovest, that his flock should be watched and provided for ; reclaimed when wandering, and enlarged when failing. And he whose love constrains thee, even he“ pleased not himself :" he set the example of that self-denial to which he invites his disciples : when, because “ all were dead, he died for all ;” and now expects
6 Ezek. xxxiv, 6. 7 Ps. xxiii. 2.
those who live,” who are raised to spiritual life through the atonement which he made, to “ live no longer unto themselves, but unto him who died for them.”
This is the thought which animates the Christian, and repays his labour and self-denial. He to whom he owes himself :-owes all he is, and all he hopes to be : he approves, nay, requires this return of love. It is acceptable service to him, when the purposes of his coming are furthered and promoted : when the young are fed with the “ sincere milk of the word,” and nurtured in the fear of the Lord : when the spiritual need of all is supplied, according to their circumstances ; when the careless are warned, the weak-hearted raised, the ignorant instructed, the faithful encouraged and consoled.
Let all then apply to themselves the inquiry which the Lord applied to Simon. Lovest thou the Redeemer?
All are not called to show their love as the apostles did, or as those are required to do who have succeeded to their ministry. But all are bound to examine their own hearts, according to the same principle; and to see that the habits of their life would justify them in answering with the apostle, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.
CHRIST DELIVERS A PROPHECY CONCERNING
SIMON'S DEATH AND JOHN'S PROTRACTED
JOHN xxi. 18-25.
In the farewell address to his apostle Simon, which we were lately reading, the Lord had given him a duty to discharge. He had required him to supply his flock with spiritual provision. Simon, lovest thou me? Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. To the performance of a laborious duty, men are commonly excited by the promise or prospect of reward. The reward which Christ holds out to Peter, is that he shall die a martyr's death.
18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest : but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19, This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.' And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
The apostle was not dismayed at the prospect. He ventured all upon his confidence in his Master's
1 The writers of ecclesiastical history relate that Peter sufsered death by crucifixion under the reign of Nero.
power and faithfulness. He obeyed the command, Follow me.
He followed the example which he had seen, and the precepts which he had heard. He followed Christ, in zeal towards God and affection towards man. And, at last, he made good his original promise, and followed him “to prison and to death,” even as the Lord had showed him. 2 Thus he set his seal to his own testimony, that he knew what he was trusting, and what he was encouraging them to pursue, when he “made known unto them the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”3
And as he was not slow in obeying the command, so neither will the promise fail : “Verily I say unto
which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.",
20. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following ; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
21. Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22. Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die : yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die ; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
24. This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things : and we know that his testimony is true. 25. And there are also many other things which Jesus
2 2 Pet. i. 14. 3 Ibid. 16. 4 Matt. xix. 28.
did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
Here, as on other occasions, our Lord represses all needless and unprofitable inquiries. When “ one said unto him, Lord, are there few that shall be saved ? he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate. Again, when“ the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be?” he turns aside the question, and replies, “ Take heed that no man deceive you.' “Watch ; for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come."6
No doubt, however, his words here seemed to intimate that the life of John should be prolonged to a distant period ; to that period, which they who were “first called Christians” expected to be the end of the present dispensation. And it was so ordered. The disciple whom Jesus loved did tarry upon earth, till that first coming of the Lord, which fulfilled his prophetic declarations; i. e. till his kingdom was established “ with power,
"7 till the vineyard was taken from “ those wicked husbandmen" who had made no return to their lord, and was “given to others.” He was one who lived to verify the assurance, that “this generation should not pass, till all be fulfilled.”9
Yet how prone are men to put an interpretation on the words of Scripture, which goes beyond their
5 Luke xiii. 23.
6 Matt. xxiv. 3, and 42.