A Basket of Fragments
Robert Murray M'Cheyne
"THE MARKS AND BLESSINGS OF CHRIST'S SHEEP"
Joh 10:26 "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father's hand. 30 I and [my] Father are one."
There is nothing more surprising to an attentive reader of the gospel than to notice the little success Christ had in the conversion of sinners. Although he speaks with love such as never man spake with, yet for all that, Christ had to complain, just as we have, "Ye believe not." O brethren! is it to be wondered at, then, that there are so few believers among us, when there were so few converted under Christ? We are always to expect this, then. Observe still further that the more that Christ opened out his mind to them, they seemed to hate him the more. They said, "He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? They were pulling one another away from hearing him. Brethren, it is the same now; the more that ministers have Christ in their sermons — the more faithfully they preach — the more you will say they are mad, and have a devil. Is the servant greater than his master, or the disciple than his Lord? Still farther, observe, when Christ pressed the truth hard upon them, they could not bear it; verse 31, They were not content with disbelieving what he said, but they stoned him; and he asked this question, "Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of these works do you stone me?" Brethren, the same is true still; the nearer we come to your conscience — the nearer we bring the Word home to you, if you are not converted by it, no doubt you hate us. If it is not the savour of life unto life, it will be the savour of death unto death. "Am I become your enemy, because, I tell you the truth?" And yet, brethren, it is sweet to notice that Christ had his sheep for all that. "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me." Although it is a world of adversaries, yet there is a sheepfold.
Let us notice two things today:
1. The marks of Christ's sheep.
2. The blessings of Christ's sheep.
I. The marks of Christ's sheep. 1. "My sheep hear my voice"; and, 2. "They follow me.
1. They know my voice. You know, brethren, this is the characteristic of the sheep of the east, they know the shepherd's voice. There was once a traveller in the east who denied that they knew the voice of the shepherd, and contended that it was the voice they knew; and to prove it, they changed clothes. The person called the sheep, and they moved not; but when the shepherd called them, they instantly followed him. Now, this is just the way with Christ and his sheep. Christ may be disguised, but faith hears his voice. The first time they hear his voice is the time of conversion. You remember Zaccheus, he was up in the sycamore tree, and he might think, "Christ's word will not reach me"; but Christ said to him, "Come down, Zaccheus, for today I must abide at thy house." The voice of the shepherd reached him. This was the first day that Zaccheus heard the shepherd's voice. You remember Lydia, she sat among the Grecian matrons by the river side, and heard Paul preach. Someone opened her heart, and said, "Come away"; it was the voice of the shepherd. "The Lord opened the heart of Lydia to attend unto the things that were spoken." It was the outward voice of Paul, but it was the inward voice of Christ.
Again, all that are Christ's hear his voice in the time of duty. They hear a voice behind them saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the left." They hear the voice of Christ directing them how to go. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters." When the world are in perplexity and know not what to do, the sheep of Christ hear his voice and follow him. And they hear his voice in the time of secret prayer. Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word. And when they open the Bible in secret they hear the voice of the beloved saying, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest"; "My grace is sufficient for you"; — "Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will strengthen thee, yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
There is another hour in which they hear his voice — it is that of affliction. They hear the voice of the shepherd — they hear the voice of the rod, and say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good."
Again, in the hour of death, when the Christless hear nothing but coming wrath, the sheep hear his voice. They hear it when they pass through the valley. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee," etc. "Fear not, I will strengthen thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." "O death, I will be thy plagues, O grave, I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hid from mine eyes."
Ah, brethren, do you hear the voice of Christ? Those of you who are Christless hear the voice of business or of pleasure. You hear the call of the strange woman, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant"; but ye do not hear the voice of Christ, when he says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." You shut your ears, you believe not, because you are not of his sheep. Those of you that are Christ's are as in a solitude, and there is one voice that you hear so shrill and loud; it is the voice of Christ — he says, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." You that hear the voice of Christ, love him, and not another.
2. "They follow me." You know this is the case in eastern countries; the sheep follow the shepherd. There are two ways the sheep follow the shepherd — when they are looking at his person, and when they hear his voice. So it is with those that are Christ's. The wounds in his side, in his hands, and in his feet, are attracting things in a believer's eye. Why do they follow him? They follow him that they may get pardon; they follow him that they may get living water. Just as the sheep follow the shepherd to the well, or down into the valley, or beneath some shady rock, so those that are Christ's follow him. They follow him every day; they follow him in all parts of the world. In whatever they do, they follow Christ. They follow him in bearing his cross; they follow him in reproach. "Reproach hath broken my heart." Christ could say, "I am the song of the drunkard." So the sheep can say the same. They follow him in his love. "Christ loved us and gave himself for us." So Christ's sheep have the same love in their hearts. If you are Christ's, you will have the same love he had. Christ died for his enemies; so you will be willing to do the same if you are Christ's. They follow him in prayerfulness. Christ was a man of prayer. He often went out and continued all night in prayer; he could say, "I give myself to prayer." So it is with all the sheep of Christ — they follow him. As he had communion with the Father, so have they. They follow him in holiness. Christ was separate from sinners, he was of a different nature from them. So will we, if we are his; we will not be of the world, even as he was not of the world. Whom do you follow? Do you follow the world? then ye are not of his sheep. Do you follow Christ? are you following him? then you are one of his sheep, and if you follow him now, you will follow him to all eternity.
II. The blessings of Christ's sheep.
1. "I know them." 2. "I give them eternal life." 3. "They shall never perish."
1. "I know them." The shepherd in the east knows his sheep — he knows them by appearance: "I know my sheep." Christ knew his sheep from all eternity. We spoke of this last Sabbath. Just as he said, "Before Abraham was, I am," so does he know us. Ah, the eternal love of Christ passeth knowledge! To think that there never was a time that he did not know them. But "I know them" in time. The world does not know them; the world thinks that they are wolves in sheep's clothing. They give no credit to your new birth; they say, wait a while, and we will see what it will come to. The church does not know them. You remember Paul, when he came to Jerusalem, the disciples did not believe that he was a disciple. And Ananias said, "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem." So it may be with you. Perhaps they will not let you into their society; but, "I know you." And then he knows your wants: "I know them."
2. "I give unto them eternal life." You know that the shepherd leads the sheep to a living well or to some gushing stream that flows between two rocks. So is it with Christ. Observe, it is said, "I give unto them eternal life." If you are one of Christ's flock you will never want. "I give unto them eternal life." What does this imply. It implies daily pardon. You know when the Queen sends a pardon to any condemned criminal, she is said to give the man his life. If you are Christ's you need daily pardon. If there is any sin separating between you and a loving God, you need it pardoned. It implies spiritual life. The life that Christ gives flows through the heart. If the Holy Spirit were to leave the heart, you would lose spiritual life. Thus David says, "Take not thy Holy Spirit away from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit." Brethren, are you daily drinking of this living water? Does it spring up within you? Ah! remember it is Christ's gift; "I give unto them eternal life."
3. "They shall never perish." You know, brethren, that the shepherd often loses his sheep. Thus Jacob did, he sometimes lost the sheep. And you remember David sometimes lost the sheep. A lion and a bear came once and carried away one of the sheep. But there is one shepherd that never loses any. "These are they which thou has given me, and I have kept them, and none of them is lost," "They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." Those that are Christ's sheep have got many adversaries; there is the devil, like a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour; there is the world, gaping like strong bulls of Bashan; and then there is the old heart striving to get back to its pleasures; but you shall never perish. It is true that you have got many tossings. Oftentimes God's people cry to the Rock, but it hears not. Often they cry, "My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God." But that word will stand, "I know them — they shall never perish." Never did one sheep of Christ's perish yet. Ah, it is true that there are many falls — that there are many backslidings; but they shall never perish. There have many perished out of this place — many that seemed to be his; but Christ's sheep shall never perish. Why can they not perish? There are three reasons: 1. They are in "my hand." 2. They are in "my Father's hand." 3. "I and my Father are one."
1. They are in "my hand" You know what is in his hand is safe. Whose hand is stronger than his? "He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him." "They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand."
2. They are in "my Father's hand." "My Father gave them to me"; he said, "I commit these sheep into thy hand." Christ accepted them, and the Father draws them to him. So that there are two hands upholding the sheep, one below the other, so that if you were to fall out of one hand, you would just fall into the other.
3. "I and my Father are one" — one in essence, one in power, one in purpose, one in love. If one hand was pulling the one way, and the other the other, then we do not know what might be the case; but they are both pulling the same way. Are you Christ's? then you will never perish. But I believe there are some here that will perish. You know I have sometimes said, if there was but one sitting in the middle of the church that should perish, then you might all gather around him, and weep over his awful state; but I believe that there are many sitting in all parts of the church that will yet perish. But if you are in Christ's hand; you are in his Father's hand, and he and his Father are one. Amen.
25th September 1842.
Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-1843), the pastor of St Peter's, Dundee, died in his thirtieth year, and in the seventh of his ministry. His epitaph describes him as a man who "walked with God," and who was "honoured by his Lord to draw many wanderers out of darkness into the path of life".
A Basket of Fragments is a selection of sermons first published five years after M'Cheyne's death. The sermons were put together from the notes taken down by hearers during his ministry "without the least view to publication." One advantage of this is that, as the editor of the first edition wrote, "they bring before us those extemporaneous pleadings with sinner in which few so greatly excelled." The sermons are indeed stamped with eternity; they are the expression of one upon whose heart the weight of perishing sinners pressed; they are the yearnings of one who was "deein" to the folks converted.
Taken from the 1975 edition of A Basket of Fragments, published by Christian Focus Publications, 118 Academy Street, Inverness, Scotland.