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So when the feeble and fearful christian hears the lions of hell, as it were, roaring around him, and sees them just ready to devour him, he may fly to this sanctuary, and defy them all; for Everlasting arms shall be underneath him*, and shall compass him round for his defence and safety. I give unto my sheep eternal life, says Christ, in the most resolute and determinate manner, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my handt. “ Reviving words !” may the believing soul say; “ for they assure me, that if I am in that hand, to which I have been so frequently and so solemnly committing my eternal all, nothing can destroy me, that is not able to oppose, and even to conquer Christ,--that almighty Saviour, whom, when he was on earth in feeble mortal clay, all the hosts of hell, with their united malice and rage, assaulted in vain, and were subdued and triumphed over by that very death, which they so eagerly laboured to accomplish; for on the cross He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly I.
It may properly be added here, that as the lamb cannot be destroyed, so neither can it be seduced, when in the shepherd's arms. The foolish creature while at a distance from him, may wander it knows not whither, and lose itself in some barren and pathless wilderness, where it cannot subsist, and from whence it cannot return. And thus far the humble believer will own the parallel too just,—will own that he has again and again Gone astray like a lost sheeps: “ Yet Lord,” may he add, “I adore thy faithful care in reducing me to thy fold again, and am encouraged this day to hope, thou wilt not suffer me to perish by my wanderings. Thine eye and thy hand, are my security, against the prevalency of inward corruptions, as well as outward temptations; and I trust, that neither the one the other, Shall be able finally to separate me from thy lovell, or to deprive me of the blessings connected with it.” 3. The promise in the text farther implies, “ that Christ will
consult the comfort of his people," as well as their safety.
He will carry the lambs in his bosom ; carry them, when they are so weak, as not to be able to walk, like the rest of the flock. Or rather, here may be a beautiful allusion to a circumstance, which must often occur in the place where Isaiah wrote; where it might perhaps be usual, when a new fallen lamb was
Col. ji, 15.
• Deut. xxxiii. 27.
+ John x. 28.
exposed to the chilness of the morning or eveuing air, in a manner which might have been dangerous to its health or its life, that the shepherd, when he saw it lying in this weak and helpless condition, should take it up into his bosom, and fold about it part of his long garment, which most people wore in those eastern countries; and there the little helpless creature would lie, not only safe, but warm and easy, till it was revived and strengthened. So pleasantly, and delightfully, is the poor trembling soul lodged in the bosom of Christ. It is made to rejoice in his love, as well as his power, and to own him as The chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely*. You know, the christian is described, as Rejoicing in Christ Jesust, and as Glorying in hims: The weary mariner does not rejoice so much when the danger and fatigues of his voyage are over, and he sees himself safe at home, and meets the kindest of his long absent friends there; as the burdened soul rejoices, when by faith he is led to a Redeemer, and received with the assurances of his love and grace. Nor would be exchange that soft and compassionate bosom, for the choicest and sweetest breasts of wordly consolation, of which the sinner may suck, but can never be satisfied from them.
4. The promise in the text must farther intimate, that Christ
will accommodate the “ trials of the weak christian to his strength,” and will lay no more upon him, than he shall be able to bear,
Therefore it is said, he will gently lead those that are with young: As the shepherd is careful, in such a circumstance, not to over-drive the cattle, lest both young and old be destroyed ş. God, says the apostle is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tried above what ye are able; but will with the trial make a way for your escape, that ye may be able to bear it||. In this instance, is the tenderness of Christ remarkable, and his wisdom too. As a father would not crush his child by a heavy burden, but lets him bear what is proportionable to his years and strength; till at last, by insensible degrees, he grows capable of carrying with ease and pleasure, what would before have overwhelmed him. Thus does Christ deal with the feeble christian. He calls him out to easier duties, to less formidable combats, to lighter afflictions first : He Slays his rough wind in the day of the east wind; and thus trains him up to pass, with fortitude and cheerfulness,
* Cant, v. 10, 16.
Gen. xxxu. 13.
+ Phil. ii. 3.
Gal. vi, 14.
through those more trying scenes, which he would before have trembled to behold in a distant prospect.
All these comfortable and important particulars seem naturally contained in the words of the text. You easily apprehend, that many of them, as applied to the great Shepherd of souls, might have been confirmed by reasonings and scriptures, which I have here omitted : But I was cautious not too far to ancipitate what is to be offered under the third general, where I am to shew, how much " reason there is to expect, that the blessed Jesus will exercise this gentle and affectionate care, towards the feeble of the flock.” The subject is too copious, to be discussed, or entered upon, in these few remaining moments. Let me, therefore, at present conclude with reminding you, that all is already proved by the authority of the text; and I hope, the truth of it has been sealed, by the experience of many that hear me this day. May it be sealed, by the experience of all! and all will then say, as surely as some of us can, that when we have heard the most that can be said of the grace of a Redeemer, and when the boldest or the softest figures are used to illustrate it The half has not been told us* How much more shall we say it, when we come to the fold above? To which
his mercy at length conduct us, in such ways as his wisdom shall chuse! And supported by his arms, and cherished in his bosuna, we shall pursue them with pleasure. Amen.
* 1 Kings 2. 7.
POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST
Proofs of Christ's Tenderness, and the Improvement we
should make of it.
Isa. xl. 11.--He shall feed his Flock like a Shepherd; he shall gather the
Lambs with his Arin, and carry them in his Bosom, and shall gently lead
those that are with young. It should certainly be our care, when we are handling such figurative scriptures as these, that we do not offer violence to them, and force them, by a multitude of fanciful accommodations, to speak what it was by no means pertinent to the design of the sacred writer to have said. Yet on the other hand, it appears to me but a grateful return to the divine condescension in using such language, to dwell attentively on the images, with which God is sometimes pleased to clothe his addresses to us; that we may use them to such purposes, as seem to have been intended by them. Especially is such a care as this reasonable, when the figure is not expressed in a single word, but diversified and adorned with such a variety of expression and imagery, as we find in the text. In such a case, it is fit, that the beauties of every part should be traced: And there is this evident advantage in it, that it may not only make way for the easier entrance of important truths into the mind; but may give room to present the most familiar and accustomed thoughts, in such a diversity of dress, at different times, as may make them more pleasing to the mind, than they might probably be, if repeated in the plainest language, so often as the importance of them requires they should be insisted upon.
Perhaps it is for this reason, among others, that such a variety of metaphorical and allegorical language is used, both in the Old and New Testament, in describing the offices and characters of the great Redeemer. And for this reason also it is, that when such passages have occurred, as the subject of our public meditations, I have thought it more proper to dwell pretty largely on the various clauses of the text, than immediately to fix on some common place in divinity, which might easily have been introduced, and to treat it in a systematical form. I bless God, that the attention with which such discourses have generally been heard, and the good effects with which they have often been attended, have encouraged me to pursue this method myself, and to recommend it to others; though some may reckon it a part of a solid and rational taste, to think very meanly of it.
With these views I have entered on the subject, in the following method. Having proved, that the words refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, The great Shepherd of the sheep*, I have,
1. Enumerated the cases of various sorts of persons, whom we may suppose to be represented by the lambs of the flock, or by those that are with young, they being those that require peculiar tenderness.
And here I have mentioned, those who are of a tender age, or of a short standing in religion ;-those, whose spirits are naturally feeble ; and those, whose circumstances are peculiar y calamitons, on account of any heavy affliction, either of body or of mind, whether arising from providential dispensations, or from the hidings of God's face, or from the assault of spiritual enemies. So that christians in such circumstances as these, will, I hope, consider themselves, as peculiarly interested in the comfortable things, which are now farther to be laid before you. And may the blessed Spirit apply the consolation to each of their souls!
II. I have also considered the Redeemer's tenderness to such, as expressed by gathering them with his arm, laying them in his bosom, and gently leading them.
And here I observed, that these gracious and affectionate words might be intended to express,
-his readiness to receive,-to protect,-and to comfort them; and his care to moderate their exercises and burdens in proportion to their strength. These are very important particulars, and most evi. dently suited to the necessities and desires of the feeble christian. I hope therefore you will attend with pleasure, while I now proceed,
III. To shew, what abundant reason there is to believe, that the great Shepherd will deal in this tender manner; that he will thus gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with Young.
Heb. xiii. 20.