« ÎnapoiContinuă »
own profit, and neglect the edification of the people.
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool; ye kill them that are fed; but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened; neither have ye healed that which was sick; neither have ye bound up that which was broken; neither have ye brought again that which was driven away; neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. (Ezek. xxxiv. 2—6.)
In the sequel of this paragraph, the
Lord declares that he will require his flock
at the hand of these unworthy shepherds, and will deprive them of the office which they have thus abused. And to the same purpose is the following passage of Zechariah-The Lord commands the prophet, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For lo! I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off; neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that which is broken, nor feed that which standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear the claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm-his pastoral authority-and upon his right eye-his beloved gain;—his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened. (Zech. xi. 15 -17.)
These passages illustrate our Lord's meaning, where he discriminates between the good shepherd and the sordid hireling, who loveth his reward, but careth not for the sheep. And, agreeably to this, it is to be
remarked, that St. Peter, in the words of my text, opposes to the motive of filthy
lucre, of gains thus unhallowed, the alacrity
of a ready mind, a leading and predominant purpose of heart, disposing the worthy minister faithfully and diligently to discharge the sacred duties of his office, to the general edification of the church, and the spiritual improvement of its individual members; and prompting him to use the temporal reward of his ministry, not for the purpose of self-aggrandisement or self-gratification, but as the means of doing good in the station in which he is placed-of adorning the doctrine of God-our Saviour in all things.
And for the promoting of this worthy and most important design, St. Peter's exhortation, in the last place, has respect to the outward deportment of ministers in the society of their Christian brethren-Neither as being lords over God's heritage, for, as domineering over your respective allotmentsbut being ensamples to the flock.
That we may be duly guarded against a common perversion of the apostle's meaning in this passage, be it first of all remarked, that the sacred writer is not withholding from the ministry that spiritual authority which, according to their respective order, is requisite for the due discharge of their of
fice. How can the parochial pastor feed the flock, if he has not a right to claim the attention of his congregation; if he has not authority to lead, to instruct, to direct them? How can the bishop superintend the flock of a larger district, together with its local pastors, if the flock be not committed to his charge? St. Peter cannot, therefore, be supposed to disallow the exercise of that authority which is essential to the due government of the church, and which he has strictly enjoined in this very paragraphfeed the flock, taking the oversight thereof: -nor, indeed, is the apostolical prohibition directed against any lawful authority whatsoever, but against the affectation of a certain unedifying superiority, or absolute mastership, which is utterly inconsistent with the ministerial character. Accordingly, we find that the affectation of dominion here prohibited, is not contrasted with an equality of rank, but with an equality of moral obligation. Being lords over God's heritage, is opposed to being examples to the flock. Christian ministers are not to imitate certain arbitrary lords, who regard themselves as exempt, by prerogative, from
the obligation of those laws which they prescribe to others.
This subject may be illustrated by the example of certain ministers in the Jewish church, concerning whom Jesus spake to the multitude, AND TO HIS DISCIPLES, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. Thus far, their pastoral authority being lawful in itself, is recognised and confirmed. Still, however, they were not edifying pastors; they did not conduct themselves as good examples to the flock: wherefore their practice is thus reproved and disallowed:But do not ye after their works: for they say and do not; for they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. Whilst they taught the precepts of the law, they themselves dispensed with the observance of moral duties; because they did not place themselves upon an equal footing with the people, as in this respect they ought to have done; but af fected to be lords over God's heritage.