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"cometh home, he calleth together his “ friends and neighbours, saying unto them,
Rejoice with me, for I have found my
sheep which was lost,” Luke xv. 4, 5, 6. As the parable itself is highly delightful, the inference which our Lord draweth from it is no less beautiful, and full of comfort to sinners : “I say unto you, that likewise joy s shall be in heaven over one sinner that “penteth, more than over ninety and nine
just persons which need no repentance," ver. 7. When shepherds are so careful of their flocks, which are but dumb animals; and above all, when the great Shepherd, our Lord and Saviour, hath done so infinitely much for his people, his flock; nay, even laid down his own life for them, that they might be gathered from their wanderings, and brought to his fold above, and rejoiceth over the conversion of every sinner: What an awful reproof doth this reach to careless under-shepherds, ministers of the gospel, who are at little or no pains to keep their flocks together in the
green pastures and
way of holiness; neither to seek them back when they go astray, in the way of the ungodly! Nay, on the contrary, often, by their erroneous principles and loose examples, drive them
away, and scatter them in the cloudy and dark day, Ezek. xxxiv. 12. “As I live, saith “ the Lord God, surely because my flock be
flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was
no shepherd, neither did my shepherds " search for
but the shepherds fed “ themselves and fed not
flock : There“ fore, Oye shepherds, hear the word of the " Lord; thus saith the Lord God, behold I
am against the shepherds; and I will re“ quire my flock at their hands, and cause “ them to cease from feeding the flock, nei“ther shall the shepherds feed themselves
any more,” Ezek. xxxiv. 8, 9, 10.
And, on the other hand, what an excellent lesson doth it teach those under-shepherds of care and diligence, not only to keep their flocks together, but to feed them with wholesome doctrine, and use all means in their power to bring them back to the good pastures, when they have gone astray on the mountains of sin and vanity. How ought not I also, who desire to be one of the sheep of Christ's pasture, to be careful in following the footsteps of the flock, feeding beside the shepherds tents, Cant. i. 8. in the
pastures of his ordinances, delighting myself only in those things in which he would have me to take pleasure, being led and guided by him through life, so that when the chief Shepherd shall appear, 1 Pet. v. 4. I may be set among the sheep on his right hand, and received into his everlasting fold.
Now the shepherd is returned with his strayed sheep: Poor creature! it appears to have been in the mire, for it is all defiled; he is washing it at yonder' rill; how compassionate he is !
In like manner, the great Shepherd of Israel washeth every one of his flock, not only from the guilt of sin, in the fountain of his own blood, but also from the filth, the love and power thereof, in the laver of regeneration and sanctification of the Holy Ghost; so that their garments may be clean, and at last they may walk with him in white, Rev. iii. 4,
How pleasant is it to see the fleecy mothers suckling their little lambs! If the God of nature had not endowed them with that maternal care, their tender offspring would soon perish from the field, and the labour of the shepherd be lost. Just so the strong a
mong Christ's flock ought to exercise an affectionate care towards those that are weak, by contributing all in their power to strengthen the feeble, cheer the drooping, and help the young
in grace forward in the paths of religion. If it is not natural only, but absolutely necessary in the fleecy tribe, to suckle their young; it is certainly as much so for the Church to nourish her spiritual seed: If this be incumbent on those who are fathers in piety, strength, and experience ; it is likewise the duty of these who are but as babes in knowledge and grace, to be imitating the lambs which suckle their mothers, by applying to those who have more knowledge and experience than themselves, for assistance and counsel in their Christian course, always “ desiring the sincere milk of the word, that " they may grow thereby,” 1 Pet. ii. 2.
It is delightful to see these little lambs, this pleasant morning, alternately frisking sportively on the hill, and browsing on the tender sproutings of the grass, which are rendered still more soft and sweet by the balmy dew which lay upon them during the night. It is certainly incomparably more so, to see the young among the flock of Christ,
in the morning of youth, rejoicing in holiness, solacing themselves with spiritual food, having the dew of heaven lying all night upon their branches, Job xxix. 19.
Poor innocent lambs! the period is not far distant, when many of you will be led to the slaughter, nor will you repine at your fate. So the great Shepherd of his flock, for his people's sins, was led as a lamb to the slaughter, without the least repining at the will of his heavenly Father; and “as a sheep before “ her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his
mouth," Isa. liii. 7.
The shepherd robs the flock of its fleece in shearing-time, for the purpose of cloathing, not only himself, but also many others. But in this respect our Lord differeth from all other shepherds ; for he, as it were, deprived himself for a time of his declarative glory for the good of his flock : when he, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, left the bosom of the Father, came to this earth, and that in the form of a servant, Phil. ii. 6. and wrought out a complete righteousness, a garment indeed without seam, to clothe his flock with ; nay, even 'such a