From “The Good Shepherd” (1769)

“My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me.” It is very remarkable, there are but two sorts of people mentioned in scripture: it does not say that the Baptists and Independents, nor the Methodists and Presbyterians; no, Jesus Christ divides the whole world into but two classes, sheep and goats…

If you ask me why Christ’s people are called sheep, as God shall enable me, I will give you a short, and I hope it will be to you an answer of peace. Sheep, you know, generally love to be together; we say a flock of sheep, we do not say a herd of sheep; sheep are little creatures, and Christ’s people may be called sheep, because they are little in the eyes of the world, and they are yet less in their own eyes. O, some people think, if the great men were on our side, if we had king, lords, and commons on our side, I mean if they were all true believers, O, if we had all the kings upon the earth on our side! Suppose you had: alas! alas! do you think the church would go on the better?…

God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. Sheep are looked upon to be the most harmless, quiet creatures that God has made: O may God, of his infinite mercy, give us to know that we are his sheep by our having this blessed temper infused into our hearts by the Holy Spirit…

You all know that sheep of all creatures in the world are the most apt to stray and be lost; Christ’s people may justly, in that respect, be compared to sheep; therefore, in the introduction to our morning service, we say, “We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.” Turn out a horse, or a dog, and they will find their way home, but a sheep wanders about; he bleats here and there: dear stranger, show me my way home again. Thus Christ’s sheep are too apt to wander from the fold; having their eye off the great Shepherd, they go into this field and that field, over this hedge and that, and often return home with the loss of their wool…

Christ calls them “my sheep;” they are his by purchase…They are his because they are enabled in a day of God’s power voluntarily to give themselves up to him; Christ says of these sheep, especially, that they hear his voice, and that they follow him… The consequence of hearing his voice, and the proof that we do hear his voice, will be to follow him. Jesus said unto his disciples, “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”

George Whitefield (1714-1770) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, a leader of the first Great Awakening. As a student of Oxford, he was part of John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club, committing himself to serious discipleship. After his ordination he became an itinerant evangelist, and is estimated to have preached 18,000 sermons to as many as 10 million people in thirty years of ministry in Britain and the American colonies. “The Good Shepherd” is a farewell sermon, which he preached in London before his final journey to North America.