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will moderate their trials in proportion to their strength. The three former of these are implied, in gathering them in his arms, and laying them in his bosom; and the last, in his gently leading those that are with young.
1. The text evidently declares "the readiness of the blessed Jesus to receive the weakest soul that applies to him."
He will gather them in his arms: i. e. at least, his arms shall be open to them. For Though the Lord be high, he hath respect unto the lowly*; and he will not despise the humblest creature, that thinks himself most beneath his regards.— Children, though they can do so little for his service, though they hardly know how to breathe out a prayer before him, or what blessings they should ask at his hands; yet they shall be welcome to him. He understands their poor broken language; and he hears it with pleasure.When the soul is but just setting out in religion, and seems, in a spiritual sense, as helpless as a new-born infant; when there is little knowledge, and perhaps a very strong struggle between nature and grace; he will not Despise the day of small thingst. When the christian is ready to say the hardest things against himself, when a sense of former follies, and of present defects, lays him even in the dust at the foot of a Redeemer, this gracious Shepherd will raise the drooping creature: And when he is ready to say, Lord, I am, as I deserve to be, cast out of thy sight; he will gather him among the lambs in his arms, he will open them wide to receive and embrace him.-Trembling souls, hear it to your comfort: In all your weakness, under all your guilt, in the midst of your fears, in the midst of your sorrows, you may come to Jesus with a holy boldness, and assure yourselves, that he Will not cast you out§. That he will in no wise, i. e. by no means, on no consideration whatsoever, do it. But,
2. The phrase farther implies, "that he will provide for their safety."
And therefore it is added, that he will not only gather them in his arms, but carry them in his bosom; which expresses both the tenderness, and the continuance of his care for this purpose. You know, when the poor trembling lamb is lodged, not only in the arms, but in the bosom of the shepherd, while it remains there, it is so secure, that the wild beast, or the robber, must conquer the shepherd, before he can hurt the lamb.
this respect their own bitterness and burden*: But let them remember, it is known also by the compassionate Shepherd of Israel; and shall be graciously remembered, and considered by him.
4. The gracious promise in the text may be considered, as referring to those, whose circumstances are peculiarly distressful, on account of afflictions, whether of body, or of mind."
Who is there among you this day, that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant; and yet walketh in darkness, and hath no light? He is now called to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay himself upon his Godt. What christians are there, whose Days are spent in grief, and perhaps their years in sighing; so that when their disappointments or maladies, their temptations or desertions press hard upon them, they are scarce able to rise under the burden, and to believe that they shall be any longer supported? But on the contrary are ready to cry out, Hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies§? To them does this compassionate Saviour appear, to Lift up the hands that hang down, and to strengthen the feeble knees, to sweeten their sorrows, and silence their fears, to confirm their hopes, and awaken their joys. Let the young and the unexperienced, the timorous, and the afflicted, whose desires are towards him, and their hearts waiting upon him, let them all hear it with pleasure: If they can be safe in the arms of Christ, if they can be easy in his bosom, if they can be cheerful under his gentlest conduct, they may dismiss their anxieties, for to them, and to such as they are, does he particularly speak in these gracious words of the text, assuring them, that he will gather them as the lambs in his arms, that he will carry them in his bosom, and that he will gently lead them, as ewes which are great with young. Which brings me,
II. To consider what may be intimated concerning the Redeemer's tenderness to them, as expressed by these pastoral phrases.
All the expressions do evidently speak a most affectionate care; and they do more particularly intimate,-that he will be ready to receive,-protect,-and comfort them, and that he
Prov. xiv. 10.
+ Isa. 1. 10.
Psal. xxxi. 10.
exposed to the chilness of the morning or evening 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 himt: 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 he 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 §. 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 Stays 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.
Gal. vi. 14.
+ Phil. iii. 3.
1 Cor. x. 13.
Isa. xxvii. 8.
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 may his mercy at length conduct us, in such ways as his wisdom shall chuse! And supported by his arms, and cherished in his bosom, we shall pursue them with pleasure. Amen.
*1 Kings x. 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 Arm, 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