"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must brings and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one flock, one shepherd".
John x. 16.
THERE is an almost inexhaustible depth and wisdom in these words; and it would be well for us if, instead of our crude theories of a mechanical inspiration, we accustomed ourselves to understand in their full significance—in the spirit which giveth life,—were it but a few of those passages which reveal to us the deep things of God. In this verse, for instance, there lies a truth hidden from men for aeons, but now revealed. That truth is the great Idea of Humanity—of the whole race of mankind as gathered up into one under the Federal Headship of its Lord.
In this meaning the very word Humanity was unknown to the ancient world. In Greek there is nothing corresponding to it; in Latin, Humanitas means kindly nature or "refined culture." The Jew looked on the world as divided into Jews and Gentiles ; of which the Jews were the children of the Most Highest, the Gentiles dogs and sinners. The Greeks looked on the world as divided into Greeks and barbarians; of which the Greeks were the lords of the human race, the barbarians were natural enemies and natural slaves. Jew and Greek and barbarian alike looked on mankind as divided into men and women; of which women were fit only for ignorance and seclusion, as the chattels of man's pleasure and the servants of his caprice. And what was the consequence of these errors ? It was that the ancient world was cursed with a triple curse—the curse of slavery, the curse of corruption, the curse of endless wars. What had Christianity to say to this state of things? She taught emphatically and for the first time that there is no favouritism with God; that God is no respecter of persons; that in God's sight all men are equally guilty, all equally redeemed; that each man is exactly so great as he is in God's sight and no greater; that man is to be honoured simply as man, and not for the honours of his station, or the accidents of his birth; that neither the religious privileges of the Jew, nor the intellectual endowments of the Greeks, made them any dearer to God than any other children of His great family of man. Christianity taught us, in the words of St. Peter, to honour all men ; and, in the words of St. Paul, that in Christ Jesus there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision; neither Jew nor Greek; neither male nor female; neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ all and in all. And these great apostles thus taught, because, in the view of our Lord and Master, mankind were indeed as sheep without a shepherd,— scattered by a thousand wolves, and wandering in the dark and cloudy day,—but He is the Good Shepherd, whose work it was to seek for His lost sheep, and bring them back again into His one flock. In the Jewish temple ran a middle wall of partition, on which were stern inscriptions forbidding any Gentile to set foot within it on pain of death; Jesus came to break down that middle wall; to make God's Temple co-extensive with the universe, and its worshippers with all mankind. The Gospel introduced then into the world a new, a glorious, a beneficent conception : the conception of mankind as one great brotherhood bound together by the law of love ; as one great race ;—united to the universe by natural laws; united to God by the common mysteries of creation and redemption; united to all the dead by the continuity, to all the living by the solidarity of life. And the result of this grand conception is a deadening of that mean and narrow selfishness which is the worst curse of our nature; a widening of the horizon of our hopes and aims; a throwing down of ignorance and prejudice; a more cheerful and hearty devotion to our common work on earth, which is the increase of man's happiness by the free development of his spiritual nature. We learn from it that the Christianity of the pure Gospel is essentially social; that it aims at universal amelioration as well as at individual holiness; that from the common mystery of Death, and the common blessings of salvation, should flow an exuber-ance of kindness, in which the dearest personal interests are recognised as identical with the highest general good. It is thus from God's own word that we learn that love to Him our Father is best shown by love to man our brother; that "No man for himself, every man for all," expresses the very ideal of a Christian society; that " mankind has but one single aim—mankind itself: and that aim but one single instrument—mankind again." But these truths—all truths—are worse than useless if they be left neglected in the lumber-room of the memory. But my words will not be in vain if they lead us, as citizens of England, to meditate humbly on our vast duties as citizens of the City of God. I beg you not to think these truths unpractical. They are deeply religious if they break the sordid dream of our individual selfishness, and I never speak from this place without feeling how much we might do if but God's fire would touch our hearts. If each of us recognised, in our hearts, and in our lives, the brotherhood of man;—the fact that man forms but one flock in different folds under one Shepherd, it would not be long before London would be better; and if London, then England; and if England, then the world. Is it not an aim worth living for ? is it not a task worth effort to hasten the day when we too, God helping us, may be suffered to take a place, however humble, in that great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, in white robes, and palms in their hands;—hungering no more, and thirsting no more, but led to living fountains of waters, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;—singing praise to Him who has redeemed them by His blood to God ?
Ephphatha Sermons, p. 319.