Text 1 Peter 2.25
Nam eratis velut oves erantes; sed nunc convertistis vos as Pastorerem & Curatoreimn animarum vestrarum.
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Which words present to us, First, the Christians, to whom the Apostle wrote this Epistle, and consequently our selves under the term of sheep. Secondly, Saviour Christ, who is the Pastor and Shepheard, as he affirms of himself, John the tenth chapter, I am the true shepheard.
That which concerns us, doth set out a double state: First, That we were as sheep going astray: Secondly, As sheep converted the one is our estate wherein we were before our conversion. The other our estate after conversion. The one is a state of misery endlesse, the other of felicity without end.
In the treaty whereof, three things are offered. First, the term of sheep, applyed to ourselves, secondly, shepheard, with the application of it to Christ, thirdly, our error and conversion.
First, for the term of sheep, there is no name so often borrowed to expresse the state of mankinde, whereof, besides the application which the Apostle makes of it here, we have a plain exposition, in Ezekiel the thirty fourth & hæc omnes homines sunt. Of these terms that are found in the Scripture applyed to Christian men, there are two especially: the first of Plants, Thereby Christ chuseth the Vine: The second of Living Creatures, sheep. They are both, Psalm the eightieth, Thou hast brought a Vine out of Egypt; and for the other, Thou that leadest Jospeh like a sheep. And so in the new Testament, the state of the Church compared to a sheep-fold, John the tenth chapter; and John the fifteenth chapter to a Vine. The congruities between the Church and these terms are many, but that which is specially here to be observed, is the need of having a Shepheard. The Vine is weakest of all other other Plants, and must be raised up against the house aside, or else it will not prosper, Ezekiel the fifteenth chapter: so for the Sheep, they are weak and of small strength, For their widsome, there is no creature so easily mis-led and carried astray; for they of themselves delight to goe astray: and so they are not of any reach or wisdome: Secondly, for power, they are unable to resist, but are a pray to every wilde beast. To these we add a third point, that is, no Creature hath so many enemies. So it is with the Church, As they are Sheep, they have Theeves and Robbers, John the tenth chapter: As they are like the Vine, there is the wild Boar out of the forest, Psalm the eightieth. Whatsoever is weak of it self, and hath many enemies, hath need of help from another: So that if there be a thief and wolf quem fugêre, there must be some body ad quem confugere debent. If the Wolfe doe disgregare and rapere, there must be one that will congregare oves. If to be scattered be a misery, the remedie [644/645] against that is, to be in the unity of a flock, and the way to be delivered from being a pray, is to be under the defence of a Shepheard: the one is the wisdom, the other is the strength of this poor creature. Then to erre from the Fold and the Shepheard, is the only evil that can befall them; so the Prophet noteth, Ezekiel the thirty fourth chapter, they stragled on every Hill, and Matthew the ninth chapter, our Saviour describes the misery of the people, to shew them, that they were as sheep without a Shepheard. If to erre be a misery, then our felicity stands, either in staying in the fold, or, if we be gone astray, to return to the Shepheard, that is, to Christ who promiseth life, and aboundance of life, to him that converteth unto him, (the tenth chapter of John and the tenth verse).
Secondly, For the term of Shepheard and Bishop, it is applyed to Christ by Congregation, being a flock. Every Governor is a Shepheard, not only in regard of the state of the Church, but in respect of the Common-wealth: For it is first applyed to Joseph, who was a politick Magistrate, Genesis the fourty ninth chapter; so to Joshuah, when Moses prayeth for a civil Governor to be set over the People, Numbers the twenty seventh; so Psalm the seventy seventh, Thou leadest thy people like sheep, by the hand of Moses and Aaron: Psalm the seventy eighth, He took me from the sheepfold to feed Israel: And in the first book of Kings the twentieth second chapter, Ahab being slain the People of Israel are amazed, as sheep wandring on the waters without a Shepheard: So Is. 44, Tuos cire pater meus est. This was the opinion of the Heathen, and therefore such temporal governors are called poimeuoi lawu [shepherd of the people] and not only so, but as it followeth, they are Pastores animarum: For seeing men are reasonable Creatures, God forbid but a magistrate should have a greater regard of men, than rural Shepheards of Sheep, that are pecora campi, Hebrews the fifth chapter, the mount of God, from whence came the Law: But here is Gods own hill from whence came the Gospel. As the term Shepheard, so is Pastor, Ezekiel the thirty fourth chapter and the eighteenth verse, to tread on the good pastures, and drink of the deep waters. These are applyed to the state Civil, as Psalm the twenty third and the second verse, the Lord is my Shepheard, he maketh me to rest on green pastures, and leadeth me to the still waters. But as these terms are applyed to the Common-wealth; so also the Church is a flock, and the Shepheard is Christ. All that came before him were but theeves, as he saith, I am the true Shepheard, and therefore it is more excellently applyed to him than to any other. For no Shepheard can say of his Sheep, he made them, but we are the Sheep of his Church, Psalm the hundred and tenth. No shepheard bought his Sheep with his blood; but Christ hath purchased his Church with his blood, Acts the twentieth chapter. No shepheard feedeth his flock with himself, as Christ doth feed us with the preaching of his word, being in his divine nature Verbum, and with his flesh, in his humane nature. But the Apostle contenteth not [645/646] not himself to call him Shepheard, but Bishop. There was in the Church Pastores & Doctores, Ephesians the fourth chapter and the eleventh verse, and the first epistle to the Corinthians the twelfth chapter. They fed men by teaching, and so made them more able in the inward man; but there were other Pastors by oversight called Bishops: both titles have their ground in John the twenty first chapter and the sixteenth verse, where Christ saith to Peter, Boskontej (feed my sheep), the one word signifies to feed, the other to governe: So there are pastores (overseers) and (goatminder). The diverstities of their gifts, makes the difference of titles. Many have the gift of feeding, by teaching, that have not the gift of oversight and Government. St Paul gave Titus power to order, Titus the first chapter; to Timothy to receive accusations, the first epistle to Timothy the fifth chapter; to put to silence, to correct, to visit, Acts the fifteenth chapter, every one hath not such power, neither is it fit they should have.
Out of which words, for our moral instruction, seeing it hath please Christ, to the office of Pastors to add Bishops, he left us examples, as the first epistle to Peter the second chapter, to teach us that have or that must have a regard of others, must be free from sleep: Therefore it is said of such Heb.13 Vigilant pro animabus vestris; unlike those of whom, Isaiah the fifty sixth chapter, their shepheard lye asleep, and delight in sleeping, Nehemiah the second chapter and the first verse, neither must they be negligent, Some have a care, but it is to feed themselves with the milk and cloath themselves with the fleece Ezekiel the thirty fourth chapter. They are Episcopi uberum & vellerum, but is of the souls that they must be careful. That is the end of their Government: as also of civil magistrates, and Masters of the families. And that Governor that hath not this end, is not a pastor but an oppressor he aimeth at a wrong mark.
Thirdly, For the erring and turning again, he saith Ye went astray and so hazarded your souls. We know it is one thing to be lost, and another to erre, Luke the fifteenth chapter. The groat was lost, the Sheep was not lost, but strayed away of itself, and that is a voluntary thing, but this is not to be applyed to matter of opinion, but to error of life, as Proverbs the fourteenth chapter, Nonne oves errant, quia operant iniquitatem that straying is set forth in the riotous young man, Luke the fifteenth chapter, who, by mispending his goods on Harlots, was brought to misery. They that stray are such as commit sinne with greedinesse, Ephesians the fourth chapter, that is, not by the negligence of such as are set over us, but by our own corruption. As we goe astray by errors of life; so by errors of opinion, as James the second chapter, That wait upon lying vanities, and forsake their own mercy, by errors of life and opinion; They forsake their fathers house, as John saith, the first epistle of John the second chapter, Those things I write, ne peccetis. So we preach ne erretis. We say as the Angel did to Sarai her maid Agar, Remember whence thou commest and whither thou goest, Genesis the sixteenth chapter. [646/647] Therefore the disciples when others went astray, said to Christ, John the sixth chapter, Whether should we goe away? that is, we say not to forsake the fellowship of the Church, nor to withdraw themselves, for in such my soul hath no delight, Hebrews the tenth chapter. But Peter confesseth here, you have sinned and gone astray: what then? If we say we have no sinne, we are not only proud, but lyars, the first epistle of John and the first chapter. The Prophet saith, All we like sheep have gone astray and turned every one to his own way, Isaiah the fifty third chapter. The direction of the Law is, Not to sinne, But the comfort of the Gospel is, that albeit we have sinned, yet we are turned, as the Apostle saith here, Ye were as sheep going astray, but now ye are turned. So in the first epistle the Corinthians the sixt[h] chapter, ye were sinners, of all sorts, hæc eratis but now you are justified and sanctified. So then if men erre, the next point is, to confesse it, not to continue in sinne. If a man persevere in sin, he is out of his right way; but if he will goe no further in it, he will redire ad cor, as Luke the fifteenth chapter, we must return to ourselves; that is it, whereunto the Apostle exhorts them, Acts the thirteenth chapter and the nineteenth verse, Repent and turne as Joel exhorts, Return to the Lord with your whole hearts, Joel the second chapter. Of which repentance we must conceive as of a tree that must bring forth fruit as Acts the twenty sixt[h] chapter, to bring forth works worthy of repentance.
The works worthy of repentance are first, to judge ourselves, the first epistle to the Corinthians the eleveneth chapter, then to punish and take revenge of ourselves, the second epistle to the Corinthians the seventh chapter and the eleventh verse. Secondly, these are turned ad punctorem, which give over an evil course of life, but after they turn to another, that is worse; that is not repentance. As a man having been an Idolater, to become a sacrilegious person, that is worse, Romans the second chapter, such a one is not turned to the Bishops of our souls. So when a civill man becomes worldly or a prophane person proveth a Schismatick. The last point is, That when a man is turned, God doth not only speak peace to him, but he will speak to his Saints that they return not again to folly, Psalm the eighty fifth and the ninth verse. When we are turned to Christ, he will say, Luke the twenty fourth, Mane nobiscum, that was said to Christ after his resurrection. So at the feast of Easter we come to the Pastor and Bishop of our souls, and confesse we were turned: therefore being now risen again, we must tarry with him, we must not turn again to folly: We must consider how it was with us, when we have trampled his pasture under our feet, and troubled the waters, yea, we wandred on the mountains, and upon every hill, Ezekielthe thirty fourth chapter. We must consider if it were better with us before, as Hosea the second chapter: And being turned, we must make this conclusion, Ephesians the fift[h] chapter, Ye were darknesse, but now are light, therefore walk as children of the light. So we were as sheep going astray, but now being turned to Christ, the Shepheard and Bishop [647/648] of our souls we must continue under the protection of our Pastors and when the chief Shepheard commeth, we shall receive the crown of life, which he hath purchased, the first epistle of Peter the fifth chapter, an incorruptible crown of glory.