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THOUGHTS FOR THIS DAY.
THE SHEEP AFTER CHRIST CAME
THEIR ADVANCEMENT. It must be plain to every careful reader of the New Testament that the sheep, the members of the flock of God, were greatly advanced ; that is, they received a very great accession of blessing, by the coming of Christ; set forth in pattern in the Gospels, but fully established, consequent on His resurrection and the descent of the Holy Ghost. It is most interesting to trace, in the history of the disciples, the gradual way they are led up to the highest point.
In a paper like this, one can only sketch the line, and note the more important steps to their ultimate promotion. The first great definite step was that they left John and followed Jesus. No doubt they were, as we should say, converted when with John. He had come in the way of righteousness. There was a call to repent; everyone reached by the word of God followed him. They were the sheep at the time, and they were the best at the time, for they represented the godly remnant; and hence our Lord, to fulfil all righteousness, took His place with them, and was baptised by John. Now two of John's disciples followed Jesus. The extent of their advancement does not appear in this step, but surely it was a very great one. They have come to Jesus. They have at least broken away from the system which obtained under John. "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” They had advanced from that order of things, and in following Jesus, though they did not enter into the full reality of the step at the moment, they truly had entered into the kingdom of heaven: and the least there was greater than John the Baptist, simply because in Christ an entirely new order was introduced. It is not now the merę servant; not one trying to attain to anything. Now it is, “ If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
It is a great day in the history of the soul when one breaks away entirely from John the Baptist, and that order of things. I do not say the disciples knew in power the new order they had come to, but they knew at least that the presence of Christ swayed them into concurrence with His ways. It was not possible that they could be with Christ and not feel that they were in a different order of things from that which they had left. To describe the nature and measure of the transition from John to Christ, that is, what Christ confers--can only give us an idea of the advancement which they received. It is plain that Christ Himself is the measure of it; but we have to learn the steps by which we are led along in order to reach at length that“ as he is, so are we in this world.” The Lord could say to His disciples when on earth, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked
ye anything? And they said, Nothing." That flowed from the simple fact of His presence down here. This was an entirely new thing here, that a Man's company could be so full and blessed apart from the comforts of this life, that they not only lacked nothing, but when He was taken from them they were like unfledged birds, powerless and disconsolate.
In Peter's history, or rather in the notices given of him in the Gospels, we learn the definite and gradual way a soul is led on to the new ground—that is, Christianity. One of those who followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. “He first findeth his own brother, Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation a stone.” (John i. 40, 42.) Peter, as we find from Luke V., was drawn to Christ. It is simply and solely the power of God which can lead the heart of man to like what is divine, and perfect in holiness. Peter is first drawn to Christ; he has received light. So far he answers to the blind man. (John ix.) In the case of the blind man we see the exercise that takes place in the soul consequent on receiving light from Christ : light which is to conduct one into an entirely new order of things : things wholly unknown before. Peter has light, and he follows Christ; he does not yet know Him. In Luke V. we are told of a distinct step in advance. The Lord had used Peter's ship in preaching, and Peter had not only cordially devoted his ship to the Lord's service, but when He proposes to
him to launch out into the deep and let down his net for a draught, Peter complies, though it was contrary to his own judgment. The result was that they enclosed a great multitude of fishes. The effect on Peter was so great that he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me ; for I am a sinful