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to himm?” If he submitted to “stripes, that you might be healed,” will not you welcome them, if by any means “ he may be glorified "?" Surely, if you reflect aright on this subject, you will regard the sacrifice even of life itself as a small matter, or rather as a ground for self-congratulation', and for thankfulness to God, who has conferred upon you that high honour for Jesus's sakeP.] 2. As an incentive to every duty
What shall “ constrain you?," if this do not? or what other motive can you wish for, than that which this stupendous mystery affords? Will you hesitate to forego any thing for Him who gave up all the glory of heaven for you? or to endure any thing for Him, who endured the penalties of God's broken law, and “ became a curse for you?" Methinks, the more arduous the duty is, the more eager you will be to perform it; and the more self-denying your labours be, the more will you account yourselves honoured in being called to sustain them. Nothing will be any obstacle to you, if only his will may be done by you, and his glory be advanced.]
3. As a pattern of every grace
[In all that Jesus did, he intended " to set you an example, that you should follow his steps.” Mark his steps, then, from the cradle to the grave. Mark him, especially under those peculiar circumstances referred to in my text. See how he held fast his integrity, amidst the fiercest opposition. Do ye the same: nor let all that either men or devils can effect, ever divert you from “ well-doing ;" or cause you to violate, in the slightest degree, the dictates of your “ conscience before God." Mark what returns he made to his persecutors: never, for a moment, did he render evil for evil ; or cease to seek, to the uttermost, the welfare of his very murderers, praying to his “ Father to forgive them.” Let this be your invariable line of conduct also; “ blessing them who curse you, and praying for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you s." There is no grace which you may not see exercised by him, during his last hours, in the highest possible perfection. Set him then before you, under all those circumstances; and endeavour to “walk in all things as he walked :" so will you have an evidence that you are his, and that your hope in him is well founded; seeing that “ you have the same mind that was in him," and " purify yourselves even as he was puret."]
m 1 Pet. iv. 12, 13.
n 1 Pet. iv. 14.
Phil. ii. 17, 18. r Acts xx. 24.
MMCCCXCIX. THE NATURE OF TRUE CONVERSION STATED. 1 Pet. ii. 25. Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now
returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. NOTHING so reconciles the Christian to sufferings, or so quickens him to exertions, as a recollection of the mercies he has experienced at the Lord's hands. The Apostle is speaking here to servants, who were likely to meet with cruel and oppressive usage from their masters on account of their holy profession. To encourage them to a meek submission to their trials, he reminds them of the example which the Lord Jesus Christ had set them, when, for the redemption of their souls, he had endured all the agonies of crucifixion; and of the exceedingly rich mercy which they had experienced, in having been brought to the knowledge of Christ, and to the enjoyment of his salvation. “ They were healed :" they were healed “ through the stripes inflicted on their Divine Master;" who was now “ the Shepherd and Overseer," as he had been the Redeemer and Saviour, of their souls. Enjoying then such benefits through the superabounding grace of Christ, they ought willingly and cheerfully to endure for him whatever, in his providence, he might permit to be inflicted on them.
This appears to be the scope of the passage before us : in discoursing upon which, I shall have occasion to consider, I. Our state by nature
All of us in our unconverted state have been “ as sheep going astray.” The Prophet Isaiah, whose words the Apostle cites, declares this to have been the condition of all without exception : “ All we like sheep have gone astraya.” In respect of folly, we have resembled the silly sheep; which wanders it
a Isai. liii. 6.
knows not whither, and exposes itself to dangers, from which, by continuing in the fold, it might have been exempt. In respect of criminality, our conduct justly subjects us to blame, from which the senseless animal is free: for our departure from God has been,
1. Wilful, without any just occasion
[The mind of every unregenerate man is alienated from God: he hates his law: he is averse to his yoke: “he says to God, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways." All indeed do not choose the same path ; but, as the prophet says, they “ go every one to his own way:" one in a way of open profaneness; another in a way of self-righteous formality: but in this all are agreed, that they listen not to the voice of the good Shepherd, nor walk in the footsteps of his flock - -
And now, I would ask, What reason have they for this? • Has God been a wilderness to them? a land of darkness? Wherefore have they said, We are lords: we will come no more unto theeb?" The true reason of our departure from him has been, that we have “not liked to retain him in our knowledge" on the contrary, the notices which we have had of his power and grace “ we have imprisoned in unrighteousness a:" and actually “knowing that they who did such things were worthy of death, we have both done them, and had pleasure in those who did them,” choosing them as our friends and daily companions®.]
2. Habitual, without one serious effort to return to him,
[The sheep in its wandering state betrays to all its disquietude; and if it knew which way to go, it would gladly return to the fold that it has left. But the unconverted man goes farther and farther from his God, without so much as a desire to return: or if a desire occasionally arise in his mind, it is so weak and so transient, as to produce no permanent effect. If a sense of guilt and danger obtrude itself upon him, he strives to silence the conviction, and to divert the thought from his mind. If urged to return to the fold of Christ, he replies, “ No: I have loved strangers : and after them will I go?." This is their way, from the first moment that they begin to act: and in this they persist, till the good Shepherd, of his own grace and mercy, searches them out, and brings them back to his fold.]
v Jer. ii. 31. c Rom. i. 28. d Rom. i. 18. e Rom. i. 32. f Jer. ii. 25.
6 Jer. xxii. 21.
Then takes place the change which is described in my text, and which leads me to set before you, II. Our state by grace
“We return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls :" we return to the Lord Jesus Christ, 1. As our Owner
[By grace we are taught, what in an unconverted state we little consider, that the Lord Jesus Christ is “ that good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheeph." This thought, coming with power to the soul, has a constraining influence : it fills us with wonder and admiration at the love of Christ; and at the same time with grief, on account of our having forsaken such a Shepherd. Now we are perfectly amazed at our own ingratitude: and no terms are sufficiently strong whereby to express our self-lothing and self-abhorrence. Aware now that we have been bought with a price," even with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, we are convinced that “ we are not our own," but his; and consequently, that we are bound to “ glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.” Under this conviction we return to him, and give ourselves up to him as “his purchased possession."] 2. As our Provider —
(When once Divine grace has begun to operate effectually on our hearts, we see how we have been all our days feeding on the husks of swine, whilst we deserted the pastures in which it was our privilege to feed. But no longer can we be satisfied with such things --- Now we affect that better food, which the Lord Jesus Christ has provided for us; and desire to be led into those“ pastures, where he maketh his flock to lie down at noon." Now we begin to understand what is meant by “ eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood;" and we find “ his flesh to be meat indeed, and his blood to be drink indeed;" and the promises, which we once despised, are "sweeter to us than honey or the honey-comb."] 3. As our Protector
[Now we tremble at the thought of the dangers to which we have been exposed: nor can we rest without imploring the protection of our good Shepherd, to deliver us from that roaring lion that seeketh to devour us. No longer can we venture ourselves at a distance from him : we feel that we are unable in ourselves to cope with the feeblest enemy: and we “ cast all our care on Him who careth for us."]
h. John x. 15.
4. As our Governor
[To hear the voice of our good Shepherd is now our delight. Wherever he calls, we follow. If we are erring in any thing, a word from him reclaims us. Wherever he calls, we go: whatever he forbids, we shun: whatever he commands, we do. The temptations which once allured us, have now in a great measure lost their power ;—the terrors that alarmed us, their influence. What wilt thou have me to do? is now our one inquiry: and, having ascertained that, we are satisfied ; nor can all the powers of earth and hell divert us from our purpose to obey his will.]
Such is the change which takes place in conversion. We say not that it is perfected in the first moment; nor that it is ever so perfect, but that it admits of increase. In respect of parts, a babe is perfect as a man; though every part admits of growth. So it is in the new man. All these things are found in him, though imperfect as to their degree. Contemplate then this change, 1. For the satisfying of your own minds
We cannot conceive of any figure better calculated to illustrate the conversion of a soul, than this. The state of a wandering sheep is known to all : the poor rustic that attends the sheep has as perfect an idea of its wants and dangers, as the most enlightened philosopher can have ; and can apprehend as well the comparative felicity of those who are within the fold, watched over, and provided for, by a tender and faithful shepherd. Nor is there any difficulty in transferring these ideas to the state of a soul before, and after, its conversion. Consider then whether you are conscious of having experienced such a change? I will admit indeed that there are some who are sanctified, as it were, from the womb, and whose transition from a natural to a spiritual state is not so distinctly marked. But these are very few : and in them the image of a sheep obedient to its shepherd's voice, is as just, as in any other person whatever. The great mass of mankind have been far off from God; and they, when converted, are brought nigh unto him, as their owner, their provider, their protector, their governor, under all which characters they look unto him, and devote themselves to him, and expect every thing from him. I pray you, brethren, see whether it be thus with you: for, if you are Christians indeed, “ you were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."]