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The Sheep and the Sow; or Reality and Profession

A. J. Pollock

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:27-31).

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

It has been my privilege to address you in this hall for several nights. We have sought to preach the free sovereign grace of God in blessing the repentant sinner apart from any merit that he may think he has. Now the gospel we have preached has aroused some little animosity in the hearts of people.

Last Sunday night, when we told you that

baptism cannot save your soul,

and that sacrament-taking cannot do a sinner any good in the sight of God, a lady in the second seat here threw her hymn-book down, and said, “I never heard anybody speak so insultingly in my life,” and she said to her neighbour, “Come, let us clear out of this.” But her friend wouldn’t go, and she was obliged to listen to a plain talk about empty profession. She wouldn’t look at the preacher, but looked at the pictures on the walls, and pretended to be tremendously indifferent to what was said.

Then, again, someone took one of these hymn-books the other night, and wrote upon it these words: “You must work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It would have been far more courageous if he had come and spoken to us face to face about it, and told us he disagreed with us; and, after all, common politeness should have prompted him to write his anonymous communication upon a piece of paper, and not disfigure the hymn-book. But we are glad when people are aroused like this. It shows that God is working when the devil begins to roar.

There are three kinds of interested people in a gospel meeting—those who get mad, they don’t like the gospel, they hate grace, they have

legal blood in their veins,

and are like the poor, graceless Pharisees, who scorned the grace of the Saviour, because He gave forgiveness to a poor harlot of the city. Then there are those who are sad—the gospel comes with power to them, they feel what it says to be true, they feel troubled about their souls, anxious about the future, and they are sad, with such the tear of contrition often falls down the cheek. Then, there is the third kind, and of these a good many are here tonight, thank God. They are those who have been made eternally glad. The gospel has come, with all its glad, gracious fulness, bringing news of salvation and eternal life. They have tasted of its sweetness, they have believed the gospel, and gladness fills the breast, where once only sadness reigned. Mad, sad, glad, which are you?

Now when this little indication of opposition manifested itself we determined to take for our subject tonight. The “sheep” and the “sow”—with the view of addressing these self-satisfied people.

Who are the sheep? They are those who have heard the voice of the good Shepherd, and follow Him. Every blood-bought believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is one of His sheep, and He says, “I know them and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and

they shall never perish.”

When the Lord Jesus Christ told the proud, empty religionists of His day that He gave His sheep eternal life, and that they should never perish, we read, “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.” Their frigid legality did not like grace. When the Saviour of sinners proclaimed the everlasting blessing of those who accepted His grace, they stooped down, and took up stones to stone the Saviour of sinners. Fancy that! But the human heart is the same today. There are those who do the same thing even now. They won’t take up literal stones, but they oppose the very gospel of God. If we preach “once saved, saved for ever,” they will persecute us, and say we hold dangerous doctrine, and quote a few verses out of their connection to prove that what we say is false. “They shall never perish,” is what the Saviour said, and what we will continue to say by the grace of God. For how long, then, are those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ saved? For ever. We don’t believe in those people, who say they are in Christ today, and out of Him tomorrow; those who are saved today, and lost tomorrow. The Scriptures know nothing of such a gospel as this. When God picks up a sinner to bless, He saves him eternally. We want no hook-and-eye Christians, those that can be hooked on today and hooked off tomorrow. Jesus has become “the Author of eternal salvation.” Here is a grand text for you,

KEPT by the power of God.”

That is it, friend; when God saves, God keeps, and not one of those who are washed in the precious blood of Jesus will ever perish. We once said to a Christian, who believed in the falling-away doctrine (this doctrine is very prevalent in England), “Do you believe that a man can be a Christian for sixty-eight years, and fall away, and die when he is seventy, and be compelled to go to hell for two years’ sins?”

He said, “I do.”

“Well,” we replied, “that is a most disgraceful doctrine to believe—it dishonours God—throws a slight upon the atoning blood—is a libel against the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, whereby the believer is ‘sealed unto to the day of redemption.’”

People say, “According to this doctrine, if I am saved and saved for ever, and cannot be lost, then I can go and do as I like.” Many honest people think that such a doctrine, as that preached today, is a doctrine that will lead to Antinomianism, that is to people doing as they like, sinning with a high hand, throwing aside all restraint whatever. People who talk like that

don’t know what grace means.

Someone has illustrated it something like this. Suppose a man in a village in England is out of work. He has a wife and six little children. He has been hoping and hoping to get work, and in the meantime has run up a tremendous bill at the general grocery store. At last the grocer says to him, “I cannot allow you to have another single article at my store until you have paid what you owe me; the amount is too large to go on any longer. I must protect myself.” The poor fellow goes home and tells the sad news. His wife, with a white face (she has been fasting to give her children food), with the tears running down her cheeks, says, “John, it is a dark outlook for us now,” and the poor man, overcome, strong man as he is, sits down upon a chair, and buries his head in his hands, and weeps for very sorrow. Just at that moment a knock comes at the door. With slow step, and gloomy face, John opens it, and in steps the squire, his landlord. With a cheery voice he says, “John you have been out of work for a very long time, and I hear you have no prospect of getting any. I have just been over to the grocery store, and have settled your bill, and brought you the receipt.” And, so saying, he puts the receipt into John’s hand. John’s tears of sorrow are

turned to joy.

He thanks the squire gratefully, and the cottage is a scene of rejoicing now, the clouds have rolled away.

That is something like you when you first trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. You sang,

“Oh! happy day that fixed my choice

    On Thee my Saviour and my God.

Well may this glowing heart rejoice,

    And tell its raptures all abroad.

Happy day! Happy day!

When Jesus washed my sins away.”

And then you thought your future would be all straight sailing—no more losing your temper, or getting ruffled.

A few minutes roll by, and John, to the astonishment of his wife, begins to groan again, and the wife says, “Whatever is the matter, John?”

“Well,” he replies, “the debt is paid off; but what about the future? The debt is certainly paid, and I am very grateful for that, but we have no bread in the house. The debt of the past is paid, but what about the future? We shall have to start and get into debt again. We have no more prospect of paying now than we had before. Whatever shall we do?”

Just as John ceases speaking another knock comes to the door, and in walks the squire again, who says quickly, “John, I forgot to tell you that, after settling your bill, I told the grocer that you have the privilege of getting all that you want, and everything is to be put to my account. You are not to be charged with anything more until you get work again.” And so saying the squire disappears, before John has time to thank him.

John is filled with delight, and he says, excitedly, “Wife, did you hear what the squire said? We have to get what we want. We won’t get what we want. We might want green peas in the depth of winter, we’ll just get along with what we need, wife, and we won’t trespass upon the squire’s goodness a single farthing more than we can possibly help.” John is in the sense of the grace of the squire. That is something like your case; when God saves

He saves for ever.

The offer of grace reads on this wise, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from ALL SIN.” How many? All sin. How many of your sins were committed when Jesus died? None. They were all future, and therefore you cannot divide them into past sins and future sins. Your life was all spread out before God, when Jesus died, and we can say of Him, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” The Scriptures do not contemplate a believer sinning, though gracious provision is made when he falls into sin, that communion may be restored. But the question of eternal salvation is never raised again. The past is all settled, and nothing more is to be put to your account in the future. Why, David exclaimed, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” The atoning death of Jesus covers the liabilities of the believer’s whole history. Once and for ever his history as a child of Adam has been closed. Such is the atoning efficacy of the blood that for the believer there is no more imputation of sin. The books have been closed once and for ever. We have eternal forgiveness.

But if we are really trusting in Christ, we are not going to sin as we like. Fellow-believers, we can say with grateful hearts, “God has saved us with such a salvation, that it is our joy and privilege to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit, in a way honouring to His holy name.” And, more, if a Christian carelessly sins, God will take him in hand and deal with him. God is jealous about His people. The relationship existing before you were converted, between you, a guilty, hell-bound sinner, and God, the righteous Judge, has been

closed for ever.

It was closed when you came to Christ, and now a new relationship is established between you, the relationship of a child to a father. You know those that are parents here tonight, don’t allow their children to do as they like.

Suppose one day your child and servant have together been guilty of some terrible piece of wickedness, so much so that you have to take instant and stern measures about it. What do you do? Give your servant a month’s notice, and, rather than tolerate her presence another month in the house, pay her her wages, and send her about her business. Do you give your child a month’s notice? No. Why? Because of the relationship existing between you. What do you do then? You take that child upstairs, shut the bedroom door, and do what you could not with the servant. You lay your hands upon that child, and chastise it soundly for its wickedness. That is what God does with us. If a believer goes on in carelessness of walk or sin, what does God do? He takes that child in hand, and chastises him in order that he might not be condemned with the world, even so far as sometimes causing him to fall asleep, to die, and pass away to glory. See 1 Corinthians 11:26-32. He is

fitted for heaven

by the finished work of Christ, but unfitted  for earth by his own wicked ways[1]. Nothing can add to his fitness for glory, for that is based upon the work of Christ, not on his walk and ways down here. The blessed Lord says of His sheep, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

Then He speaks further, about no one plucking them out of His hand, nor out of His Father’s hand. “Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” Their united interest and purpose is to care for and keep the sheep.

It is something like this. You see a little child of five summers walking down the street. On either side a parent has hold of its hand. Presently you see that child tumble down into the mud, and you say, “How careless that father and mother are!” Upon every believer there is

the double grip of divine love.

He is in the Son’s hand and in the Father’s hand. Will They carelessly let that double grip go, and allow the believer to perish? Never! NEVER! NEVER!!! “They shall never perish.” We may fall from grace, as did the Galatian Christians, by putting ourselves under law, but we can never fall from life, we shall never fall away—never, for we are in the powerful hand of the Son, and the powerful hand of the Father, and His word is pledged that His sheep shall never perish. Fellow-believer, has your heart ever drunk in the truth that you are in the hand of the Son, and of the Father, that the double grip of divine love is upon you, that no man is able to pluck you out of Their hand? Blessed truth! When the Saviour spoke thus in the hearing of the Pharisees, we read, “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.” They didn’t believe in this doctrine; it didn’t suit the proud legality that held them in its terrible bondage; the grace of the Son of God was an enigma to them; the heart of God was utterly unknown by them. Christian, do you believe in the very depths of your heart that you are blessed with everlasting life, that life in common with the Father and the Son, blessed with the eternal forgiveness of your sins, and that the double grip of divine assurance is yours?

But what about the sow that the apostle Peter refers to? There is a great deal of difference between a sheep and a sow. You may wash a sow with

the scrubbing-brush of religion,

until it is superficially clean, and put around her neck the blue ribbon of temperance, if you please, but you will leave it a sow still. Religion cannot alter the nature. That is the kind of people we have been running down all through these meetings; they are those mere professors of whom we spoke, sows still, washed sows, but only sows. And such take the exhortations in the Bible, spoken to the sheep, believers, and apply them to themselves in a legal way, and either misery or self-satisfaction is the result.

Such is the sentence written upon the cover of the hymn-book, “You must work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There are one or two points in connection with that sentence to which I would like to call your attention. Let us give you the whole sentence as it stands in Scripture. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” First: it is only addressed to Christians, and

the unbeliever has no right

to the exhortation at all. Mark that. It isn’t meant for him, it is only spoken to those who are already Christians. You will never find throughout the whole of the Scriptures, one line addressed to a sinner, in which he is told to work out his own salvation. They do say, “To him THAT WORKETH NOT, but believeth.” “NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.” “NOT BY WORKS of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” The Scriptures are very plain and explicit on this point.

In the North of England a dear old Christian was working by the side of one who did not believe in the doctrine of free grace, and who sneered at his fellow-workman, and said, “Adam, don’t be too sure of getting to heaven, you must work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Adam smiled back, and quietly retorted, “Why, man, you must be blind. Don’t you see that you must have salvation before you can work it out?” That is exactly it. You must have your salvation before you can work it out. It says, “Work out your OWN salvation.” You don’t work to get salvation, you don’t work to keep it, but you work

because you have got it;

that is to say, if you are saved, you will seek to walk through this world glorifying God every day. As Christians we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Your prayer every morning will be, “Lord, I am about to enter upon another day. I have never before travelled the road which lies just before me. I shall have difficulties to contend with; there are pits, and snares, and traps laid for me by the enemy of my soul. It is an untrodden and unknown road that lies before me. I pray that Thy grace may keep me and guard me, that I may glorify Thee. So keep me till I reach the rest above.” That is working out your salvation, because at long last you will get to the end of your journey, you will reach the glory. Salvation is a God-given thing. But you must have it, before you can work it out.

In Scripture, salvation may be described as in three sections—the salvation of the soul, which you get the moment you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and which you can never lose—salvation of the pathway, that you get day by day, just as you need it, grace for the moment. It is as if I were to put a large ball of worsted into your hands, and say, “Work that out, and make a pair of stockings out of it.” Day by day you work at it, and at last the stockings are finished; you have reached the end of the ball, and your work is done. If the end of the believer’s journey comes before Christ returns, he falls asleep, and

departs to be with Him,

which is far better. But, when the Bridegroom of his soul returns, he gets his body of glory, and then the work of salvation is a complete thing. On the day that Christ comes, He will change this poor frail body into a body like His own. He, who has saved our souls, and preserved us all along the pathway of this life, is going to save our bodies, and then we shall be fully saved. The three sections, so to speak, of salvation will be true, then! Salvation of the soul—of the pathway—of the body. Salvation will then be a completed thing; we shall be saved from our sins, Satan’s power, and sin’s presence, at home with the blessed Lord for ever. But in receiving the salvation of the soul, all else is secured to us, and therefore it is with fear and trembling we seek to work out our salvation on the road to glory. For, remember, if our privilege is to work out our salvation, God’s part is to work in both the willing and the doing of His good pleasure. He gives us the desire and the power, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” He works in, and we work out—that is it. How simple and blessed!

What is a sow? A mere professor. An empty religionist. Religion, so-called—empty-hearted, loud- tongued profession—is manufacturing more infidels today than all the Ingersols on the platforms of infidelity. The most contemptible methods are being resorted to for the raising of money in so-called Christian churches, not only in America, but also in England, which are enough to make a Christian blush with shame. Bazaars, private theatricals, raffles, the most unblushing worldliness are resorted to in order to raise funds.

The prostitution of all that is godly

is making it easy for professors to go on with the world, whilst making a profession of religion. Listen! There are sows feeding on the sacrament—washed sows taking the bread and wine, but they are only sows. Christless professor, if you died with the wine of the sacrament wet upon your lips, you would go straight to hell.

A lady in Florida told me the other day that a man could practice drunkenness, immorality, anything in short he liked, if only he belonged to a church. That white-washes him. But, remember, to whitewash is not to wash white. The sepulchres of the dead were white-washed, and so they are today in a moral sense, but only the blood of Jesus washes white—aye, whiter than snow. The solemn naked truth is, that there is many a washed sow in the pulpit today, with the white tie on, and with Latin and Greek in his head, talking platitudes about morality and ethics, and going straight to hell, and, alas taking his audience with him. That is the plain truth of God.

You may wash the sow, but her nature is unchanged. It would have been better to have done nothing at all, for, as our verse says, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and

the sow that was washed,

to her wallowing in the mire.”

Let me borrow an illustration used by a friend of mine. Suppose we visit a farm one day, and we notice that all is excitement; we see the farmer in his best clothes, and we enquire what is the matter.

“Oh! we are having an agricultural fair in the next town, and I am going to enter some exhibits; come and see them,” says the farmer, and he takes us through the yard, and shows us some beautiful sheep, and a fine sow washed clean, with a blue ribbon around its neck. Presently they start for the show, and as they go along the road the sow sees a ditch full of mud and slush. The sheep is between the sow and the ditch. The sow gives a deep grunt of satisfaction, and rushes headlong into the mud, and in her haste knocks the sheep in too. The sow is at home, she is delighted, pleased beyond measure—just as the mere professor likes

the mud-pool of sin.

But the sheep is in distress. Why? Because it has a different nature from the sow. That is exactly the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever. Are you one of the sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you heard His voice, have you trusted in Him, and do you know that your precious soul is saved? Or are you after all, only the baptized, sacrament-taking, church-going, and loud-mouthed professor? Are you just like the sow, washed clean, but after all, your nature unchanged, and with all your religion, going down the broad road to the everlasting burnings? Take care! Take care! We want you to be real tonight.

Some have thought that during these meetings we have been running down baptism and sacrament-taking, but that is not the case. We have been condemning those unconverted people who do these things to the dishonour of God. Why, perhaps a drunken father and a dissolute mother take their miserable offspring, and ask a clergyman to baptise it in the font. It is simply making

a pantomime of a solemn Christian ordinance.

To be baptized is a solemn thing. It means, if we enter intelligently into it, that we acknowledge our separatedness from this world that crucified Christ, taking sides with Him, and owning Him Lord. Baptism would not be so fashionable, if people understood its deep, real meaning. It is a most radical ordinance, going to the very root of things.

Then what about sacrament-taking? It is the privilege of every true believer, who is not walking in sin, to take the sacrament. Is there a child of God here, who doesn’t remember the Lord in the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine? Is there one here so careless, or so backward, as not to remember the Saviour in partaking of the supper, which speaks of His death for us, and

His deep, undying love?

I trust not. Cold, indeed, must be the heart that fails to remember the One, who remembered us so touchingly at the cross—that is so unresponsive to His last expressed desire.

But it is too solemn an ordinance for the giddy butterflies of fashion, for men with their pockets heavy with ill-gotten gains to engage in. Unconverted men and women, it is too solemn for you to partake of the Lord’s Supper. You have no title to it, or part in it. It is only for Christians—a blessed privilege.

Now, friends, understand us; we don’t run down good works, but we declare to you that we solemnly believe that good works cannot be presented by the sinner to God in order to obtain His favour, because as sinners “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and if you want salvation you must come as a poor, undone sinner upon the ground of free sovereign grace.

Speaking about the sheep, and its eternal security, we will conclude with an illustration. Suppose a man and his wife happened to have been married on Christmas day. They have weathered storms together, they have summered and wintered life together, and have brought up a large family of sons and daughters, and these are married and scattered here and there. The old couple are creeping fast down the hill of life. They reach at length the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage day, their golden wedding. They resolve to have

a large family gathering,

especially as the anniversary of their wedding falls on Christmas day. They send in good time an invitation to their married sons and daughters to come, and bring their families, to celebrate the eventful occasion. The whole family shall be together under the parental roof once more, more than probably for the last time. The sons and daughters are very fond of their father and mother, and make a great effort to come, so that all the members of the family shall be there. The time draws near. It is just a week before the anniversary comes, and the father says to the mother, “Wife, I am glad that John’s ship is coming in,” speaking of their sailor-son, “he is due three days before Christmas, it is grand to think he will just be in time, and the whole thing will be complete.”

Three days before Christmas comes, and no John; the next day, and no John; the very day before Christmas, and no John. Christmas day at last comes, and all the sons, and daughters, and grandchildren have gathered, and they only want John to complete the circle. To the great distress of the old father and mother, Christmas day arrives and no John. They are restless, they cannot sit down at the table, and enjoy the good things. They are constantly going to the door to look for John, and they don’t give up hopes of his coming until twelve o’clock at night. Twelve o’clock comes, Christmas day is over, the golden wedding has been celebrated (they will never have another), and no John.

Now listen! The very fact that the gathering was so large and representative, the fact that all their beloved children had come, and of the time being so joyful, and bright, and auspicious, only rendered their grief deeper that John should have missed it. How did he miss it? His ship was coming up the Irish Channel when a great storm set in, and contrary winds kept her back a week, and John arrived too late for the family gathering.

Now for the application. God is going to have

a great family gathering.

Every blood-bought child of His He is going to have in heaven. From the north, east, south, and west they will come, from the old, hoary-headed father, down to the latest-born babe of God’s great family, all are going to be in glory. Will the loving heart of God our Father be content if one John is missing? Let me tell you, if but one feeble child be missing, there will be an eternal blank in the heart of the blessed God. Can it be so? Let me ask you a further question. Will any storm, or wind, or wave keep back any wayfaring Christian? Nay, friends, it won’t. God’s storms always drive us nearer home.

The other day we were on board a steamer on the west coast of Scotland, and there sprang up a tremendous head-wind. We said to one of the sailors, “Will this wind make us late?”

He replied, “No, sir, a strong head wind only makes the boilers draw all the more, and we get up more steam. We shall be in Glasgow punctually to the tick of the clock.” That is just like the Christian.

The Old Testament believer was like a sailing vessel, depending on the wind and sails,

an outside power,

to drive it along; but in this, the day of the Holy Ghost, the New Testament believer is like a steamer, depending on

an inside power,

the mighty power of the Spirit of God, and contrary winds and storms are only used by God for making a Christian bright and vigorous in his pathway. Many of you may have heard of dear, old Samuel Rutherford. He was something like a good, old steamer, when he said:—

I’ve wrestled on towards heaven

’Gainst wind and tide and storm.

Christian, rest assured, there is nothing which shall come between you and that bright glory of God, and the welcome of the Father’s heart. If you are one of the Lord’s own sheep, you are His for ever. He knows you, and you hear His voice, and you follow Him, and you shall never perish. May God give you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Remember, God works in, you work out. And if there should be a washed sow here tonight, may God give him to acknowledge that he is an empty sham, a miserable formalist, and may he take the low place of confession, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” May God grant it, for His name’s sake. Amen.


[1]     There are at least six weighty reasons why a believer cannot do as he likes, and should not fall into sin. (1) Gratitude. (2) The New Nature which seeks holiness. (3) The indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (4) The ceaseless representation and succour of Him, who is our great high Priest in heaven. (5) God’s governmental dealings with us, as His children. (6) The Lord’s near return. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”