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hearts by faith with thanksgiving, even they live* by him; ' for his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed.'

• He guides them.' First by his example. He has trodden the path of duty and trial before them; and they perceive and follow his footsteps. Again, by his word and Spirit, he teaches them the way in which they should go ; and both inclines and enables them to walk in it.t He guides them, likewise, by his providence; he appoints the bounds of their habitations, the line and calling in which they are to serve him, and orders and adjusts the circumstances of their lives according to his infinite wisdom, so as finally, to accomplish his gracious designs in their favour.

• He guards them.' It is written concerning him, He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.'! If we conceive of a flock of sheep feeding in the midst of wolves, who are restrained from breaking in upon them, not by any visible enclosure, but merely by the power of the shepherd's eye, which keeps them in awe and at a distance, it will give us some idea of the situation of his people. He provides them food in the midst of many and mightyş enemies, who envy them their privileges, but cannot prevent it. If he should withdraw his attention from the flock, for a single minute, they would be worried. But he has promised to keep them night and day, and every moment; therefore their enemies plot and rage in vain. Their visible foes are numerous ; but if we could look into the invisible world and take a view of the subtilty, malice, machinations, and assiduity of the powers of darkness who are incessantly watching for opportunities of annoying them, we should have a most striking conviction, that a flock so defenceless and feeble in themselves, and against which such a combination is formed, can only be kept by the power of God.

He heals them.' A good shepherd will examine the state of his flock. But there is no attention worthy of being compared with his. Not the slightest circumstance in their concerns. escapes his notice. When they are ready to faint, borne down with heavy exercises of mind, wearied with temptations, dry and disconsolate in their spirits, he seasonably revives them. Nor are they in heaviness without a need-be for it. All his dispensations towards them are medicinal, designed to correct, or to restrain, or to cure, the maladies of their souls. And they are adjusted, by his wisdom and tenderness, to what they can bear, and to what their case requires. It is he, likewise, who heals

* John, vi. 57. || Isa. xxvii. 3.

| Isa. XXX. 21.

| Micah, v. 4.

Psalm xxiii. 3.


their bodily sickness, and gives them help in all their temporal troubles. He is represented to us as counting their sighs,* putting their tears into his bottle, recording their sorrows in his book of remembrance; and even, as being himself touched with a feeling of their infirmities,'t as the head feels for the members of the body.

• He restores them. The power and subtilty of their enemies are employed to force or entice them from bis rule ; and too often prevail for a season. The sheep turn aside unto forbidden paths; and whenever they do, they would wander further and further, till they were quite lost again, if he were not their Shepherd. If he permits them to deviate, he has a time to convince them that it was an evil and bitter thing to forsake the Lord their shepherd,'f and to humble them, and to bring them back. Thus they become more sensible of their own weakness, and of their obligations to his gracious care ; for he will not suffer their enemies to triumph over them. He will not lose one of his true flock; not one convinced sinner, who has in deed and in truth, surrendered and intrusted bis all to him. They must, and they sball, smart and mourn for their folly ; but he will, in due season, break their snares, and lead them again into the paths of peace, for his own name's sake.

The flock are not all sheep. There are among them lambs. These are especially mentioned, and for these he expresses a peculiar tenderness. He will gather them with his arm, and carry

• them in his bosom. Though they are weaklings, they shall not be left behind. This is a beautiful and pathetic image. If a poor lamb is weary, and unable to keep up with the flock, it shall be carried. This clause affords encouragement,

To young people. Early serious impressions are often made upon the hearts of children, which we are to cherish by directing their thoughts to the compassion of the good Shepherd, who has said, 'Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.'s This high and boly Oue, who humbles himself to notice the worship of the heavenly host, hears the prayers of worms upon the earth ; and his ear is open to the prayers of a child, no less so, than to the prayer of a king.

2. To young converts. These, at whatever age, are children in the Lord's family, lambs in his flock. They are, as yet, weak unsettled, and unexperienced. Almost every day brings them into a new and untried situation. They often meet with opposition and discouragement, where they have promised themselves help and

* Psalm lvi. 8.

| Heb. iv. 15.

Jer. ii. 19.

0 Mark, x. 14.


countenance. Perhaps their nearest friends are displeased with them. They are liable, likewise, while they are inquiring the way to Zion, to be perplexed by the various opinions and angry contentions prevailing among the different religious persons or parties to whom they may address themselves. They are frequently discouraged by the falls and miscarriages of professors, some of whom, it is possible they may have admired and looked up to, as patterns for their own imitation. Add to these things, what they suffer from new and unexpected discoveries of the evil and deceitfulness of their hearts; the mistakes they commit in judginent and practice, for want of a more solid and extepsive knowledge of the Scriptures; and the advantage the great enemy of their souls derives from these their various difficulties to assault their peace and obstruct their progress. What would become of them in such circumstances, if their faithful Shepherd had not promised to lead and uphold them with the arm of his power?

There is, likewise, particular mention made of those who are with young. These he will gently lead. If we take the word according to our version, it may signify a state of conviction or trouble. Many are the afflictions of the righteous,** by which they are often wearied and heavy laden. But when their spirits are overwhelmed within them, he knoweth their path. Jacob would not permit his cattle that were with young to be over-driven for one day, lest they should die.t Much less will this good Shepherd suffer the burdened among his flock to be hurried and tempted beyond what they are able, or what he will enable them, to bear.

But the word siguifies, those that have young rather than those that are with young. The two sorts of persons in the Lord's flock, who come under this description, feel an especial need of his compassion, tenderness, and patience.

1. He only knows the feelings of the hearts of parents ; what solicitude and anxiety they have for their young ones, the sucklings, if I may so speak, of the flock, which mingle with all their endeavours, to manage rightly the important charge committed to them, and to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.'

2. Ministers, likewise, have painful exercises of mind. The apostle Paul speaks of travailing in birth again till Christ be formed in our hearers.'I When we know of any newly awakened, and beginning to seek their salvation, how solicitous is our care to bring them forward, to comfort them, to warn them against

* Psalm xxxiv, 19.

4 Gen. xxxiii. 13

| Gal. iv, 19.



the devices of their hearts, and of their enemies ! And how piercing our grief and disappointment, if they miscarry! How much is felt in sympathy for the trials of the flock! What wisdom, faithfulness, courage, meekness, and unction from on high, are necessary to the due discharge of what we owe to the locks of which we have the over sight? Who is sufficient for these things ? And when we have done our best, our all, what defects and defilements have we to mourn over ? But this is our great consolation, that he, who knows us, and leads us, considers' our frame, and remembers that we are but dust.'

In this delineation of the character and conduct of the Great Shepherd of the sheep,'* we have an affecting exemplar and pattern, for the imitation of those who act in the honourable office of under-shepherds, and are called by their profession and engagement, to feed his sheep and lambs. Whether there be any ministers in our assembly or not, you will at least permit me to speak a word to my own heart; which may, I hope at the same time,

I impress your minds with a sense of our great need of your prayers. 'Brethren, pray for us,'t and pray to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send forth more faithful labourers into his harvest.'| For it is his work alone. It is not necessary, that a minister of the Gospel should be in the first line of those who are admired for their abilities of literature ; much less that he should be distinguished by such titles, honours, and emoluments, as this world can give. But it is necessary, and of the last importance to his character and usefulness here, and to his acceptance in the great day of the Lord, that he should have a shepherd's eye and a shepherd's heart. He must serve the flock, 'not for filthy lucre, or by constraint,'$ (that constraint which the apostle attributes to the love of Christ, only excepted, but willingly,' and with a view to their edification. And he must, indeed, serve them, not acting as a' lord over God's heritage, but as an example to the flock.' Not preaching himself,'|| perverting his sacred office to the purposes of ambition or vain glory, or the acquisition of wealth ; but preaching Christ Jesus the Lord, and employing all his powers to turn sinners from the error of their ways. He who winneth souls is wise.'T If it be wisdom to propose the noblest end, the faithful minister is wise; the end at which he aims, in subordination to the will and glory of God, is the salvation of souls; and the recovery of one immortal soul to the favour and image of God, is and will at length be found a greater and more important event, than the deliverance of a whole kingdom


* Heb. xii. 20. | 2 Cor. iv. 5.

f 1 Thess. v. 25.

| Prov. xi. 80.

| Matth. ix. 98.

$ 1 Pet. v. 2, 3. * 1 Pet. j. 25. v. 4. † 2 Tim. iv. 8. | Acts, xx. 24. Ezek. xxxiv. 2. 11 Isa. Ivi. 10, 11.


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from slavery or temporal ruin. If it be wisdom to parsue a right end by the fittest means, he is wise ; he knows the Gospel of Christ to be the power of God, the appointed the effectual, the only sufficient mean for accomplishing his great purpose ; therefore, however unfashionable it may be, he is not ashamed of it, he preaches it, and he glories in it. If it be an effect of wisdom, not to be deterred from the prosecution of a great and noble design, by the censure and dislike of weak and incompetent judges, the faithful minister is truly wise. He loves his fellow-creatures, and would willingly please them for their good, but he cannot fear them because he fears and serves the Lord. He looks forward, with desire, to the day of that solenn and general visitation, when the · Shepherd and Bishop of souls shall himself appear. And if he may then stand among those who are pardoned and accepted in the Beloved, and receive the crown of life, which his Lord has promised to them that love bim't-this thought fully reconciles bim to the trials of his situation, and however depreciated, misrepresented, opposed, or ill-treated here, he can say, • None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the mioistry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.'I

There is a counterpart to this character, described in strong and glowing language by the prophets. There are idle shepherds, who feed not the flock, but themselves;who neither attempt to heal the sick, to strengthen the feeble, to bind up that which is broken, nor recover that which has been driven away; shepherds, who cannot understand, greedy lovers of gain--and who, by a change of metaphor, are compared to slumbering watchmen, and dumnb dogs that cannot bark. The New Testament teaches us to expect that such persons, under the name of ministers, will be found likewise in the visible church of Christ; men of corrupt minds, IT destitute of truth, who serve not the Lord Jesus, but their own belly ; men who are of the world, ** and speak of the world ; and therefore the world heareth and favoureth them. But, alas! neither the wretched slave who toils at the galley-oar, nor he that is doomed to labour in a deep mine, where the light of the sun never reaches him, nor the lunatic who howls in a chain, are such emphatical objects of our compassion, as the unhappy man who prostitutes the name and function of a minister of Christ to the gratificatiou of his pride and avarice; and whose object is not the welfare of the flock, but the posses

11 Tion. iv. 5. Rom. xvi. 18. ** 1 John, iv. 5.

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