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11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own 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 do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

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11. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. From the extraordinary affection which he bears towards the sheep, he shows how truly he acts towards them as a shepherd; for he is so anxious about their salvation, that he does not even spare his own life. Hence it follows, that they who reject the guardianship of so kind and amiable a shepherd are exceedingly ungrateful, and deserve a hundred deaths, and are exposed to every kind of harm. The remark of Augustine is exceedingly just, that this passage informs us what we ought to desire, what we ought to avoid, and what we ought to endure, in the government of the Church. Nothing is more desirable than that the Church should be governed by good and diligent shepherds Christ declares that he is the good shepherd, who keeps his Church safe and sound, first, by himself, and, next, by his agents. Whenever there is good order, and fit men hold the government, then Christ shows that he is actually the shepherd But there are many wolves and thieves who, wearing the garb of shepherds, wickedly scatter the Church. Whatever name such persons may assume, Christ threatens that we must avoid them.

12. But the hireling. By hirelings we are to understand those who retain the pure doctrine, and who proclaim the truth, as Paul says, to serve a purpose rather than from pure zeal. Though such persons do not serve Christ faithfully, yet we ought to hear them; for Christ wished that the Pharisees should be heard, because they sat in Moses seat, (Matthew 23:2;) and, in like manner, we ought to give such honor to the Gospel, as not to shrink from its ministers, though they be not good men. And as even the slightest offenses render the Gospel distasteful to us, that we may not be hindered by such false delicacy, let us always remember what I have formerly suggested, that if the Spirit of Christ does not operate so powerfully in ministers, as to make it plainly evident that he is their shepherd, we suffer the punishment of our sins, and yet our obedience is proved.

And he who is not the shepherd. Though Christ claims for himself alone the name of a shepherd, yet he indirectly states that, in some respects, he holds it in common with the agents by whom he acts. For we know that there have been many, since the time of Christ, who did not hesitate to shed their blood for the salvation of the Church; and even the prophets, before his coming, did not spare their own life. But in his own person he holds out a perfect example, so as to lay down a rule for his ministers. For how base and shameful is our indolence, if our life is more dear to us than the salvation of the Church, which Christ preferred to his own life!

What is here said about laying down life for the sheep, may be viewed as an undoubted and principal mark of paternal affection. Christ intended, first, to demonstrate what a remarkable proof he gave of his love toward us, and, next, to excite all his ministers to imitate his example. Yet we must attend to the difference between them and him. He laid down his life as the price of satisfaction, shed his blood to cleanse our souls, offered his body as a propitiatory sacrifice, to reconcile the Father to us. Nothing of all this can exist in the ministers of the Gospel, all of whom need to be cleansed, and receive atonement and reconciliation to God by that single sacrifice. But Christ does not argue here about the efficacy or benefit of his death, so as to compare himself to others, but to prove with what zeal and affection 288288     “De quel zele et affection.” he is moved towards us, and, next, to invite others to follow his example. In short, as it belongs exclusively to Christ to procure life for us by his death, and to fulfill all that is contained in the Gospel, so it is the universal duty of all pastors or shepherds, to defend the doctrine which they proclaim, even at the expense of their life, and to seal the doctrine of the Gospel with their blood, and to show that it is not in vain that they teach that Christ has procured salvation for themselves and for others.

But here a question may be put. Ought we to reckon that man a hireling, who, for any reason whatever, shrinks from encountering the wolves? This was anciently debated as a practical question, when tyrants raged cruelly against the Church. Tertullian, and others of the same class, were, in my opinion, too rigid on this point. I prefer greatly the moderation of Augustine, who allows pastors to flee on the condition that, by their flight, they contribute more to the public safety than they would do by betraying the flock committed to their charge. And he shows that this is done, when the Church is not deprived of well-qualified ministers, and when the life of the pastor in particular is so eagerly sought, that his absence mitigates the rage of enemies. But it the flock — as well as the pastor — be in danger, 289289     “Que s’il y a danger aussi bien pour les brebis que pour la personne du pasteur.” and if there be reason to believe that the pastor flees, not so much from a desire to promote the public advantage as from a dread of dying, Augustine contends that this is not at all lawful, because the example of his flight will do more injury than his life can do good in future. The reader may consult the Epistle to Bishop Honoratus, (Ep. 108) On this ground it was lawful for Cyprian to flee, who was so far from shuddering at death, that he nobly refused to accept the offer of saving his life by a treacherous denial of his Master. Only it must be held that a pastor ought to prefer his flock, or even a single sheep, to his own life.

Whose own the sheep are not. Christ appears here to make all shepherds besides himself to be, without exception, hirelings; for, since he alone is shepherd, none of us have a right to say that the sheep which he feeds are his own But let us remember that they who are guided by the Spirit of God reckon that to be their own which belongs to their Head; and that not in order to claim power for themselves, but to keep faithfully what has been committed to their charge. For he who is truly united to Christ will never cease to take an interest in that which He valued so highly. This is what he afterwards says:

13. The hireling fleeth. The reason is, because he careth not for the sheep, which means, that his heart is not moved by the scattering of the flock, because he thinks that it does not at all belong to him. For he who looks to the hire, and not to the flock, though he may deceive others, when the Church is in a state of tranquillity, yet when he comes into the contest, will give proof of his treachery.

14. And I know my sheep, and am known by mine. In the former clause, he again holds out his love towards us; for knowledge proceeds from love, and is accompanied by care. But it means also that he utterly disregards all who do not obey the Gospel, as he repeats in the second clause, and confirms what he had formerly said, that — on the other hand — he is known by the sheep

15. As the Father knoweth me. It is unnecessary, and is not even expedient, that we should enter into those thorny questions, How is it that the Father knows his Wisdom? For Christ simply declares that, so far as he is the bond of our union with God, he is placed between Him and us; as if he had said, that it is no more possible for him to forget us, than that he should be rejected or disregarded by the Father. At the same time, he demands the duty which we mutually owe to him, because, as he employs all the power which he has received from the Father for our protection, so he wishes that we should be obedient and devoted to him, as he is wholly devoted to his Father, and refers everything to him.

16. And I have other sheep. Though some refer this indiscriminately to all, both Jews and Gentiles, who were not yet disciples of Christ, yet I have no doubt that he had in his eye the calling of the Gentiles. For he gives the appellation fold to the assemblage of the ancient people, by which they were separated from the other nations of the world, and united into one body as the heritage of God. The Jews had been adopted by God in such a manner, that he surrounded them with certain enclosures, which consisted of rites and ceremonies, that they might not be confounded with unbelievers, though the door of the fold was the gracious covenant of eternal life confirmed in Christ. For this reason he calls those sheep which had not the same mark, but belonged to a different class, other sheep In short, the meaning is, that the pastoral office of Christ is not confined within the limits of Judea, but is far more extensive.

Augustine’s observation on this passage is undoubtedly true, that, as there are many wolves within the Church, so there are many sheep without But this is not applicable, in every respect, to the present passage, which relates to the outward aspect of the Church, because the Gentiles, who had been strangers for a time, were afterwards invited into the kingdom of God, along with the Jews. Yet I acknowledge that Augustine’s statement applies in this respect, that Christ gives the name of sheep to unbelievers, who in themselves were the farthest possible from being entitled to be called sheep And not only does he point out, by this term, what they will be, but rather refers this to the secret election of God, because we are already God’s sheep, before we are aware that He is our shepherd. In like manner, it is elsewhere said that we were enemies, when he loved us, (Romans 5:10;) and for this reason Paul also says that we were known by God, before we knew him, (Galatians 4:9.)

Them also I must bring. He means that the election of God will be secure, so that nothing of all that he wishes to be saved shall perish. 290290     “Rien de tout ce qu’il veut estre sauve.” For the secret purpose of God, by which men were ordained to life, is at length manifested in his own time by the calling, — the effectual calling, when he regenerates by his Spirit, to be his sons, those who formerly were begotten of flesh and blood.

But it may be asked, How were the Gentiles brought to be associated with the Jews? For the Jews were not under the necessity of rejecting the covenant which God made with their fathers, in order to become Christ’s disciples; and the Gentiles, on the other hand, were not under the necessity of submitting to the yoke of the Law, that, being ingrafted in Christ, they might be associated with the Jews. Here we must attend to the distinction between the substance of the covenant and the outward appendages. For the Gentiles could not assent to the faith of Christ in any other way than by embracing that everlasting covenant on which the salvation of the world was founded. In this manner were fulfilled the predictions,

Strangers shall speak the language of Canaan,
(Isaiah 19:18.)


Ten men of the Gentiles shall take hold of the cloak of one Jew, and say,
We will go with you,
(Zechariah 8:23.)


Many nations shall come, and say,
Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
(Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:2.)

Abraham was also called

a father of many nations, (Genesis 17:5; Romans 4:17,) because they shall come from the East and from the West, who shall sit down with him in the kingdom of God,
(Matthew 8:11.)

As to ceremonies, they are the middle wall of partition, which, Paul informs us, hath been thrown down, (Ephesians 2:14.) Thus, we have been associated with the Jews in the unity of the faith, as to the substance; and the ceremonies were abolished, that there might be nothing to prevent the Jews from stretching out their hand to us.

And there shall be one fold 291291     So it runs in the French version, “Et il y aura une bergerie et un Pasteur.” But in the Latin original, our Author, either through choice or inadvertency, has altered the translation, by substituting grex (flock) for ovile, (fold.) “Et fiet unus grex;” — “and there shall be one flock.” — Ed. and one shepherd That is, that all the children of God may be gathered and united 292292     “Assemblez et unis.” into one body; as we acknowledge that there is one holy universal Church, 293293     “Une saincte Eglise universelle.” and there must be one body with one head.

There is one God, says Paul, one faith, one baptism.
Therefore we ought to be one, as we are called into one hope,
(Ephesians 4:4, 5.)

Now though this flock appears to be divided into different folds, yet they are kept within enclosures which are common to all believers who are scattered throughout the whole world; because the same word is preached to all, they use the same sacraments, they have the same order of prayer, and every thing that belongs to the profession of faith.

And they shall hear my voice. We must observe the way in which the flock of God is gathered. It is, when all have one shepherd, and when his voice alone 294294     “Sa voix seule.” is heard These words mean that, when the Church submits to Christ alone, and obeys his commands, and hears his voice and his doctrine, 295295     “Sa voix et sa doctrine.” then only is it in a state of good order. If Papists can show us that there is any thing of this sort among them, let them enjoy the title of The Church, of which they vaunt so much. But if Christ is silent there, if his majesty is trodden under foot, if his sacred ordinances are held up to scorn, what else is their unity but a diabolical conspiracy, which is worse and far more to be abhorred than any dispersion? Let us therefore remember that we ought always to begin with the Head. Hence also the Prophets, when they describe the restoration of the Church, always join David the king with God; as if they said, that there is no Church where Christ does not reign, and that there is no kingdom of God, but where the honor of shepherd is granted to Christ.