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Joux x, 9. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall
go in and out, and find pasture. By many figurative representations docs our Savior display his own character, and the duties and privileges of his people. The custom which prevailed in those eastern countries which were the scene of his labors, of conveying instruction in figures, was well suited to the gradual and cautious manner, in which, it was the design of the Cliristiau economy that the Messiah should be revealed. To those who were prepared to receive the truth, this method of teaching was most forcible and striking. The meaning intended to be conveyed, might readiIs be apprehended by all humble inquirers after the will of God. To such it was given to know mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. And none were liable to be deceived, but the proud, and such as were wise in their own conceit. In accordance with this practice, therefore, and the better to accomplish the purposes of his mission, our Savior communicated a great proportion of his instructions, both to his disciples and others in parables, and on some occasions, as the historian informs us, without a parable be spake nothing.
In the context, this Divine Teacher exhibits himself as the door of the sheep; as the medium of entrance, into the visible church, and into possession of the blessings of salvation. While he discourages, in the most decided manner, all expectation of being saved in any other way, he affords the strongest ground of confidence, oven his own word, that all such as come in by the door shall not only partake of the blessings of his eternal kingdom, but shall enjoy the privileges and consolations, which belong to its subjects in the present world. “I am the door: by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.”
In illustrating this gracious promise, it is proposed to consider
I. The terms on which the blessings included in it, are offered, and
II. The blessings themselves.
"By me," says Christ, “if any man enter in, he shall be saved." This language corresponds with the title which he assumes. Having VOL. XV.
called himself a door, it was necessary to represent the connexion between himself and the faith and salvation of believers, by the terms entering in by the door. This act is rendered necessary to salvation. They only who shall come in by the door, who shall make Christ the medium of their entrance, can hope to reap the benefit of the promise. All who attempt to climb into the enclosures of his empire, in any other way, are proved, by that attempt, to be thieves and robbers, and of course, to have no title to its blessings. The same sentiment is inculcated by Christ when he declares himself to be the way, and asserts that no man conieth to the Father but by him. Christ is indeed the only way of approach to the Father. Through him alone can sinners find access, either to his throne of grace, or to his love. The whole world lieth in wickedness; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Hence it is impossible for a holy sovereign to regard them in any other light, than as rebels and enemies. They have violated his law. His righteous authority has been contemned; and the whole human race have become guilty before God. Now Christ is the appointed door of entrance to a reconciliation. In him, God is reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses. He was wounded for their transgressions, he was bruised for their iniquities, the chastisement of their peace was upon him, and by his stripes they may be healed. All these representations receive ample support from the lively oracles, by which we are also taught, how inportant a part is taken by Christ in the salvation of his people, and on what terms they are to derive advantage from his mediation. From the Scriptures it is manifest, that to all who are saved by him, he is wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. He is indeed, the only foundation. For, says the apostle, other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. He begins, carries on, and perfects the work of grace in the heart. The believer lives, because Christ lives in him. He is a branch of the living vine, a member of the glorious head. Severed from him he is withered and lifeless. But how, it may be proper to inquire, is that connexion with Christ, from which proceeds all this benefit, produced? This is the principal point to be illustrated under this head of discourse. We answer, that this connexion is produced by faith. In this consists the entrance into the door. The nature of this connecting principle by which believers become entitled to the inheritance of Christ's people, may be ascertained from the various forms under wbich it is represented by the inspired writers. Coming to Christ, receiving him, building on him, and several others, are terms indiscriminately used on this subject, by the great Teacher himself, and his disciples. Still, they are all involved in the act of believing. This is the term there. fore, most frequently used by all the writers of the sacred volume. The language of Christ is full and explicit. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And again, “Ile that believeth on him is not condemned-He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son sball not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” This was also the sentiment of the apostles. In this way were the Phillippian jailer and othors instructed. Repentance towards God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, was the burden of their preaching, and the substance of their epistles. In the latter, Christ is declared to be the end of the law for righteousness unto every one that believeth; and those who are in him are pronounced free from condemnation. Being justified by faith, says the apostle Paul, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And to the Ephesians, "By grace are ye saved through faith." On the truth of this doctrine, the same apostle expresses his readiness to hazard the salvation of his soul. His language is, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Faith in the Savior is, therefore, the term on which an interest in his salvation is to be sought and obtained. Discarding every other ground of justification before God, the sinner must rest upon the atonement of Christ. He must come to the Father in his name, making mention only of his righteousness. By such a faith, the testimony which God has given of his Son is credited, and a proper estimation is placed upon his character and righteousness. By faith then, let us seek the salvation of the Gospel. Through this door let us enter, and let us not vainly imagine that it will be equally safe and scriptural, to endeavor to cliinb up some other way.
II. We are now to contemplate the blessings, which the promise in the text connects with believing in Christ.
The first is salvation. “By me," says the author of the promise, | , ! "if any man enter in, he shall be saved." This will be the infallible
result of that union to Christ which is effected by faith. He that believeth shall be saved." Though the word salvation is used in the Scriptures, with frequent reference to the final deliverance and tri. umpli of believers in the world to come, it is not necessarily confined to these blessings. The promises of God equally secure his people from every thing, even here, that shall be injurious to them. No good thing, says the promise, will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to the called according to his purpose. They shall be saved from all those enemies that are permitted to assault them in their earthly pilgrimage. Especially shall they be delivered from the bondage of their corrupt affections, and of the adversary of souls. Sin shall no
inore have dominion over them; and although the adversary may ! anxiously desire to have them that he may sist them as wheat, yet he
will not be suffered to prevail. The temptations with which he annoys them may be effectual to disturb tbeir peace, and for a season to turn them aside from the path of duty. The remaining depravity in their hearts, is but too well suited to strengthen these enticements, and vere it not for the divine aid vouchsafed in every difficulty, they vould be drawn away into final a postasy. But out of all these troubles the Lord will deliver them, because they have trusted in him. He will, in like manner, be their defence against every spiritual enemy. Though a troop should rise up against them, they will eventually
overcome. Through their own weakness and imperfection, they may stumble and even fall; but they shall not be utterly cast down; the Lord upholdeth them with his hand.
But believers will also be saved in a still higher sense, they will experience an everlasting salvation. In the present world, their deliverance from sin is but partial. The body of sin and death still presses them down. Notwithstanding the highest degrees of purification attained, they groan being burthened. The sorrows too of this imperfect state, are but partially removed. The continuance of sin both entails and requires the continuance of sorrow. The supports of religion may console, and in this way sustain, the afflicted spirit; yet they do not remove the affliction. To the rewards of a future state it is reserved to wipe away all tears from the eyes of the redecmed.
There believers in Christ shall be saved from all sin and sorrow. When they bid farewell to the scenes of mortality, they will experience a complete and final emancipation from every unholy affection of heart, and from all that is included in the curse of the law. The song of triumph may be heard from their lips even here. While they pass down into the valley of the shadow of death, how often do we hear them exclaim, “0 death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” But whatever circumstances may attend their departure from this world, (for the gloom of despondency may, perhaps, in some instances, shiut out the light and joy of hope even to the last.) their passage into the next will place thein at an infinite remove from every atlliction, and introduce them into the high felicity of heaven. "I give unto them," says the Divine Shepherd, "eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Nor is mere deliverance from evil, all that belongs to the salvation of the Gospel. The positive good, the glory that will be revealed in the subject of this salvation, must also come into the account. An "eter. nal weight of glory” belongs to their inheritance. "When he who is the believer's life, shall appear, then,” says an apostle, "shall we also appear with him in glory.” And, says another, “it doth -not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” But after the ligliest flights of imagination, aided tvo by the language of inspiration, when we attempt to contemplate the felicity of heaven, and especially to search the full measure of eternal glory, we see through a glass darkly. In heaven alone believers will see face to face. There they will behold the glory of God; will be ravished with his beauty: and, while they gaze upon his untold perfections, they will be changed into the same image, from glory to glory. "Blessed indeed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
There is still another part to the inventory of blessings connected with the promise in the text; “He shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
The first part of the promise respects principally a deliverance from evil, or at most, these enjoyments that belong to a future state. This embraces more especially the happy state of believers in the present world. Their inheritance is not merely negative, nor in reversion, Eternity alone can present their rewards in a proper light. Still,
even bere, they are privileged above the common lot of mortals. They go in and out and find pasture. By this figurative language we are to understand a participation of the ordinances of the Gospel. These are the medium through which flow into the bosoms of the people of God, the richest consolations. They are the channels through which proceed both their strength and their comfort, their joys and their improvement. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." God may indeed afford to his people the blessings immediately flowing from religion, without the intervention of ordinances. Still, these are the ordinary means of divine communications. These are his plenteous pastures, through a careful attendance upon which, his people become fat and fourishing. "He maketh me," says the Psalmist, to lie down in green pastures: ke leadeth me beside the still waters." In these fresh and exuberant pastures, the people of God find repose, provision, and refreshinent. To the wcary and burthened soul, the rest of the Gospel is sweet. And what can be more needful for such as are burthened with a sense of their sins, and almost exhausted with cares and conflicts? In these pastures weary pilgrims will find repose. They may not slumber, and slacken their exertions in the divine life. To watch and pray are duties which our Savior bimself has connected together. But though they may not find rest from their conflicts with their spiritual enemies, they may find rest in them. "I sat down" says the Spouse, “under bis shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” In these pastures too, humble believers will find provision. Are they hungry and thirsty? here they may feed upon the bread and water of life. Tbrough these channels are conveyed those provisions, which are necessary to support and invigorate the soul. Such a believing attendance upon divine ordinances as discovers Christ in them, and as feeds upon him, mast strengthen the holy desires and purposes of the new man, and contribute rapidly to adyance the people of God to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. Here they will find their worldly attachments dissolved, their feeble resolutions strengthened. Their bungering and thirsting after righteousness, will be succeeded by ample supplies of spiritual nourishinent. No longer feeble and sickly, for lack of that sustenance which is suited to their spiritual nature, they will go from strength to strength, until they experience the full blessedness of that gracious promise of Christ to those who hunger after righteousness, that they shall be filled.
In these pastures also, believers find refreshment. They are not only supported, but comforted; not merely strengthened, but exhilarated. "In whom,” says an apostle, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
The last thing we shall notice in the inheritance promised in the text, to those who believe in Christ, is the freedom and liberty wirl which the pastures of divine grace are enjoyed. “They shall go in and out and find pasture.” They shall have free access to all the means of improvement and happiness. No standing afar off; no line efs demarkations, like that which surrounded the mountain of Sinai, and forbad the too near approach of the children of Israel, they shall be permitted to come near, even to the inner chambers of the divine