*Pastor’s Note: I want to depart a bit from my normal practice of posting short sermons by these great men of God for one that is rather long. Because of the fact that it IS long, I am going to break it up into parts. I truly hope you can enjoy AND be inspired by the preaching/teaching of some of these great men as much as I do. God Bless for your patience. – Pastor Roland
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was an English Particular Baptist preacher. Spurgeon remains highly influential among Christians of various denominations, among whom he is known as the “Prince of Preachers.” He was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the Church in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith understanding, and opposing the liberal and pragmatic theological tendencies in the Church of his day.
The Sheep and Their Shepherd
Delivered At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27
II. Now, let us commune together awhile upon the marks of the sheep. When there are so many flocks of sheep, it is necessary to mark them. Our Savior marks us. It has been very properly observed, that there are two marks on Christ’s sheep. One is on their ear, the other is on their foot. These are two marks of Christ’s sheep not to be found on any other; but they are to be found on all his own–the mark on the ear: “My sheep hear my voice.”–the mark on the foot: “I know them, and they follow me.”
Think of this mark on their ear. “My sheep hear my voice.” They hear spiritually. A great many people in Christ’s day heard his voice who did not hear it in the way and with the perception that is here intended. They would not hear; that is to say, they would not hearken or give heed, neither would they obey his call or come unto him that they might have life. These were not always the worst sort of people: there were some of the best that would not hear Christ, of whom he said, according to the original, as translated by some, “Ye search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” They would get as far as curiosity or criticism might allure them; but they would not go any farther: they would not believe in Jesus. Now, the spiritual ear listens to God. The opening of it is the work of the Holy Spirit, and this is a mark of Christ’s chosen blood-bought people, that they hear not only the hollow sound, but the hidden sense; not the bare letter, but the spiritual lesson; and that too not merely with the outward organ, but with the inward heart. The chief point is that they hear his voice. Oh, if all that heard my voice heard Christ’s voice, how would I wander down every street in this city to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ; but, alas! the voice of the minister is utterly ineffectual to save a soul, unless the voice of Christ reach the conscience and rouse its dormant powers. “My sheep hear my voice;” the voice of Jesus, his counsel, his command, clothed with the authority of his own sacred sovereign utterance. When the gospel comes to you as Christ’s gospel, with demonstration of the Spirit, the invitation is addressed to you by him. You can look upon it in no other light; so you must accept and receive it. When his princely power comes with it–being mighty to save, he puts saving power into the word–then you hear Christ’s voice as a fiat that must be obeyed, as a summons that must be attended to, as a call to which there must be a quick response. O beloved, do not ever rest satisfied with hearing the voice of the preacher. We are only Christ’s speaking-trumpets: there is nothing in us: it is only his speaking through us that can do any good. O children of God, some of you do not always listen to Christ’s voice in the preaching. While we comment on the word, you make your comments on us. Our style, or our tone, or even our gesture, is enough to absorb–I might rather say, to distract–your thoughts. “Why look ye so earnestly on us?” I beseech you, give less heed to the livery of the servant, and give more care to the message of the Master. Listen warily, if you please; but judge wisely, if you can. See how much pure grain, and how much of Christ, there is in the sermon. Use your sieve; put away all the chaff; take only the good wheat; hear Christ’s voice. Well were it if we could obscure ourselves that we might manifest him. I could wish so to preach that you could not see even my little finger; might I but so preach that you could get a full view of Jesus only. O that you could hear his voice drowning ours! This is the mark, the peculiar mark of those who are Christ’s peculiar people: they hear his voice. Sometimes, truly it sounds in the ministry; sometimes it thrills forth from that book of books, which is often grossly neglected; sometimes it comes in the night watches. His voice may speak to us in the street. Silent as to vocal utterance, but like familiar tones that sometimes greet us in our dreams, the voice of Christ is distinctly audible to the soul. It will come to you in sweet or in bitter providences; yea, there is such a thing as hearing Christ’s voice in the rustling of every leaf upon the tree, in the moaning of every wind, in the rippling of every wave. And there be those that have learned to lean on Christ’s bosom, till they have looked for all the world as though they were a shell that lay in the ocean of Christ’s love, listening for ever to the sonorous cadence of that deep, unfathomed, all-mysterious main. The billows of his love never cease to swell. The billowy anthem still peals on with solemn grandeur in the ear of the Christian. O may we hear Christ’s voice each one of us for ourselves! I find that language fails me, and metaphors are weak to describe its potent spell.
One point is worth noticing, however. I think our Lord meant here that his sheep, when they hear his voice, know it so well that they can tell it at once from the voice of strangers. The true child of God knows the gospel from the law. It is not by learning catechisms, reading theological books, or listening to endless controversies, that he finds this out. There is an instinct of his regenerate nature far more trustworthy than any lessons he has been taught. The voice of Jesus! Why there is no music like it. If you have once heard it, you cannot mistake it for another, or another for it. Some are babes in grace: others are of full age, and by reason of use, have their senses exercised; but one sense is quickly brought out–the sense of hearing. It is so easy to tell the joy-bells of the gospel from the death-knell of the law; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. “Do, or die,” says Moses. “Believe, and live,” says Christ: you must know which is which. Yes; and I think they are equally shrewd and quick to discriminate between the flesh and the Spirit. Let some of the very feeblest of God’s people sit down under a fluent ministry, with all the beauties of rhetoric, and let the minister preach up the dignity of human nature, and the sufficiency of man’s reason to find out the way of righteousness, and you will hear them say: “It is very clever; but there is no food for me in it.” Bring, however, the best and most instructed, and most learned Christian man, and set him down under a ministry that is very faulty as to the gift of utterance, and incorrect even in grammar; but if it is full of Jesus Christ, I know what he will say: “Ah! never mind the man, and never mind the platter on which he brought the meat; it was food to my soul that I fed upon with a hearty relish; it was marrow and fatness, for I could hear Christ’s voice in it.” I am not going to follow out these tests; but certain it is, that the sheep know Christ’s voice, and can easily distinguish it. I saw hundreds of lambs the other day together, and there were also their mothers; and I am sure if I had had the task of allotting the proper lamb to each, or to any of them, it would have kept me till now to have done it. But somehow the lambs knew the mothers, and the mothers knew the lambs; and they were all happy enough in each other’s company.
Next time we will take up with Part Five