Brother Beebe: Will you do me the favor to give your views on John x. 9, particularly on the latter clause of the verse?
Malam, Texas, May 13, 1860.
Reply: The text on which we are requested to write, reads thus: “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 the beginning of this chapter we have a parable which the Lord spake to the Pharisees, but they understood not what things they were which he spake to them. And what we have now under consideration appears to have been spoken in confirmation, and perhaps in explanation of the parable. In the preceding parable, we think our Lord was speaking of the Jewish fold, where his people were held under the legal covenant, and shut up, or held under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father. Christ, as the good Shepherd, came to redeem them that were under the law, and to gather them with his arm, and to carry them in his bosom, according to Isaiah xl. 10. In their redemption it was needful that the Redeemer should come into the fold where they were, that is, that he should come under the law where they were shut up. The right of redemption was legally and exclusively in him. He had a right of property in the sheep; a prior, or previous claim. They were his property before they went astray; and it was his right therefore, and his alone, to redeem them. None who had ever come before him, to attempt the redemption of the sheep had any such right, and therefore their claims were never honored by the justice of God, which stood as sentinel, or porter at the door. “All,” said Jesus, “that ever came before me, are thieves and robbers.” If a flock of sheep belonging to A., should stray from his premises on to the premises of B., and there commit such trespass as to warrant B. to hold them, for the damages done by them, and C. should come and offer to pay the charges of B. and take the sheep away, would not C. prove himself a dishonest man? Would not B. demand of C. to prove property as well as pay charges, before he would allow him to take the sheep away? None who have ever volunteered in the business of saving sinners, either before or since the coming of Christ, had any right of property in the sheep, and therefore they are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them, nor did the porter open to them; but all their efforts were illegal; they had not entered by the door, but had climbed up some other way; therefore, instead of delivering the sheep from the curse and dominion of the law, they had made it their business only to kill, and to destroy.
But when Jesus, the good Shepherd, whose own the sheep were, came, his title to them, and his right to redeem them, was fully recognized by the porter, or by that eternal justice which kept the door. Christ did not come to liberate the sheep illegally, though they were his own, by throwing down the fence, or by climbing up some other way; for he came not to destroy the law nor the prophets, but to fulfill: Heaven and earth shall pass away, he said, but not one jot or title shall pass from the law until all is fulfilled. Thus he entered into the fold lawfully, paid the utmost farthing of the demands of law and justice; opened the prison door to them that were bound; proclaimed liberty to captives; showed in what way the lawful captive could be delivered; called his own sheep by name, for he came to redeem none but his own, and that not to make them his, but because they were his. Well did he know their names: for he had a registry of them in his eternal book of life, and led them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he did not say to them, Now, as I have redeemed you from under the law, and ye are no more under it, you can go anywhere you please; follow your own inclinations, and walk in the light of your own eyes; but when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them; and he does not go and leave them, but they follow him, for he has the power of attraction for them in his voice, for they know his voice, but a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers. Truly, Blessed are they who know the joyful sound, they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.
Where does he lead them? To the gospel fold. They trace his footsteps and follow the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth. He leads them in green pastures, by the still waters; for he is the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, and he shall feed them and lead them to fountains of living water. That is, having redeemed his people from the law, and delivered them from the old covenant, brought them experimentally out of the house of bondage, and out of the prison-house, he leads them to the gospel fold; to his church as set up under the new dispensation, where the pasture is rich and abundant, and where the waters of life flow clear as crystal from the throne of God and the Lamb, and where they shall feed and lie down, and where they shall have food and rest.
The Gospel Church, as organized on New Testament principles, under the reigning government of Christ, is what we understand to be the fold, of which Jesus himself is the only door for the sheep. Neither Abraham, nor Moses, nor circumcision, nor infant or adult sprinkling, nor will, nor works of men or angels, can afford an entrance to this fold of gospel fellowship and gospel privileges. Jesus says, most emphatically, “I am the door.” Not a door, as though there were others; for there is but the one entrance into the church of the living God. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, and except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the gospel fold. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father but by him. There is salvation in none other. No other name under heaven is given whereby we must be saved. And as he is the only door of salvation, or into the church, he says, “By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” How positive are his words. There is nothing in them made to rest upon contingencies, nothing uncertain.
He shall be saved. How cheering, truly, to the saints. They can rest upon the positive declaration of him who is himself the Truth. But, says the trembling saint, Have I truly entered by him as the door? Some indeed get into the church, or into religious profession, and are regarded as fellow citizens with the saints, and are treated as such, who have not entered by the door, but have climbed up some other way, but it is not said of such, They shall be saved, but it is said, They are thieves and robbers, who have come only to steal, to kill and to destroy. And we are also assured that every plant that the heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up.
All who enter this fold without grace, shall be cast out without favor. How awfully important, then, that we know how we have entered. If it has not been by Christ, the door, it matters not how else we have managed to impose upon the saints. If by fasting and praying, by using means, or complying with terms; if by giving all our goods to feed the poor, or to fatten the missionaries; if by works of righteousness which we have done, or by the faith or works of pious parents, the prayers of revivalists, the pardon of popes, the confirmation of mitred bishops, or by anything but Christ, as the door, our characters are indelibly written, not sheep of Christ, but thieves and robbers. But to the fearful, trembling saint, let us inquire, Have you come into the church of God as a thief and a robber? Was your design to steal, to kill, and to destroy? Did you come in by any other way than Christ, the door? Or, in other words, were you not cut completely off from every other hope but Christ alone? Were you not slain to every other hope for acceptance with God, and made to see, and feel, and to acknowledge that all your dependence was in Jesus Christ, and him crucified and risen from the dead? If so, then are ye the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. All such shall be saved; the mouth of God our Savior hath spoken it.
“Rest, doubting saint, assured of this,
For God hath pledge his holiness.”
“And shall go in and out, and find pasture.” On this last clause our brother desires us more particularly to dwell. He shall go in and out of what? The Door. This is the use of a door. Doors to our houses are thus used; at them we go in and out. So when we contemplate the figure of a sheep-fold and pasturage ground. The careful shepherd provides for his flock to go into the fold for safety and comfort by night, and in the wintry and stormy seasons, where there are provisions for the comfort and security of the sheep.
But it would not promote the health, comfort or well being of the flock to be always housed up in the fold; but there are times when the skies are clear, the weather pleasant, the fields green, and the pasturage inviting, when the sheep desire to go out into the green pastures, where they may feed and lie down. It is natural for the sheep to require this. True, they can live on dry fodder, if kept in the fold continually, but they desire the change; they love to roam through the fields, drink of the still waters, lie down in the lovely and peaceful shade, when they know the good Shepherd’s watchful eye is upon them, and that he is both able and determined to protect them from all harm. But every well disciplined sheep knows that if he is suffered to go out into the green pasture, he must go there through Jesus, as the door. What sheep or lamb has ever enjoyed this privilege only through Jesus?
But it is not for the good of the flock to remain at all times and seasons in the fields which spread along the banks of the river of still waters. Here is where he causeth his sheep to rest at noon. But the chilling night comes on, the howling tempest rends the skies, the rain, and hail, and snow comes down, and they now require shelter; but where can they find it but in the fold, where they must pass under the rod to attain it? Still they are as dependent on Christ, as the door, for ingress, as they were for egress; as it is only through him they receive all their spiritual enjoyments, comforts and safety, both in the pasture and in the fold.
Brother Harris being a farmer, and in a sheep growing State, is doubtless familiar with the various figures used. A sheep-fold is a building used as a shelter and protection for sheep, but it is not to imprison them, only while their comfort and safety requires they shall be kept there, and when they go into it, it is not to make them sheep, but because they are sheep. And when they go out by the door, it is into the pasture which is provided for them. So the sheep of Jesus, who have entered by him, and all those other sheep which he has, which were not of the old Jewish fold, but which he has redeemed from the Gentiles; them also he must bring, and they shall hear his voice, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd. And as the one flock of the good Shepherd, they shall by him go in and out, and find pasture.
This figure may also teach us that there are set times to favor Zion, when the saints are favored, through Christ, with peculiar enlargement of joy, peace and love, and when they can go forth and feed their kids, beside the fold, or shepherd’s tents, and other times when their joys are restricted and they are directed to enter into the rock, or turn to their stronghold, until it shall be again announced to them, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone; the flowers appear in the earth, the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.
September 1, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 393 - 398