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Shepherd you have, and how graciously he will lay you in his
2." They who are but of late standing in religion, may also be called the lambs of Christ's flock."
Though perhaps they are more advanced in age, than many others, they are but young in grace, and in christian experience; they are in the lowest form in Christ's school, and perhaps have much of the infirmity and weakness of children. They have also some peculiar difficulties to struggle with from within, and often from without, which may render them more sensible of those infirmities. Such are therefore called Babes in Christ; while christians of greater growth and experience, are called Strong ment.
3. The language of the text may also with peculiar propriety be applied to "those, whose spirits are naturally very feeble and timorous."
The constitutions of different persons are most apparently various; and the infirmities, which attend some, render them the objects of peculiar compassion. To them perhaps The grasshopper is a burdent; and what by others would hardly be felt at all, quite overloads and depresses them. While some of their fellow christians are as bold as the lion, these like the fearful lamb, start and tremble almost at the shaking of a leaf. This excessive tenderness of the mind, which shews itself often on very small occasions, is much more visible where their eternal interests seem to be concerned. The importance of those interests appears so great, that they are even terrified with the view. A sadness of soul, which often seizes them, disposes them to apprehend and suspect the worst concerning themselves. And hence it may so happen, that an incapacity to attend long to the exercises of devotion, arising from a natural weakness of nerves and spirits, shall appear to them as a black mark of a soul spiritually dead, and be thought a sufficient ground for applying to themselves all those awful things, which the hypocrites in Zion have so much reason to be afraid of. Or when they view the difficulties of the christian life, they are ready to sink under the prospect, and to conclude, that they shall lose that little good they have attained, and shall surely and speedily fall by the hands of such formidable enemies. It is very probable, that The hearts of many who hear me, know in
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 hands. "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‡.'
It may properly be added here, that as the lamb cannot be destroyed, so neither can it be seduced, when in the shepherd's 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 sheep§: "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 nor the other, Shall be able finally to separate me from thy love||, 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.
Ile 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
• Deut. xxxiii. 27.
+ John x. 23.
Col. ii. 15.
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.
+ Phil. iii. 3.
1 Cor. x. 13.
Gal. vi. 14.
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 scaled, 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 1. 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