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have us for an ensample., (Phil. iii. 17.) And again-These things which
hace both learned, and received, and heard, and scen to be in me, do. (Ch. iv. 9.)
So, also, he commends the Thessalonians, for their laudable attention to this duty: Ye became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost; so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thess. i. 6, 7.)
Thus it is the sacred duty of the whole church, and of its ministers more especially, to follow the pattern of the apostles, even as they were followers of Christ.
St. Peter having, therefore, proposed his own general example to the elders of the church, proceeds to discriminate particular branches of duty, which arise from a faithful imitation of the apostolical pattern: and this precept stands foremost in the solemn charge-Feed the flock of God which is among you.
In the language of the holy Scripture, the church of God is often denominated a flock, in allusion to the unremitted vigilance and care which are requisite for its protection
and due support: so, also, the minister of the church has the name of a shepherd, as illustrative of his correlative duties. And, if we attend to the analogy that really exists between the objects thus compared, the remarkable fitness of these metaphors will appear in many striking points of view.
The sheep of which the flock is composed, being a feeble, inoffensive race, are not qualified, like beasts of prey, to hunt and procure their own food. It is, therefore, the shepherd's business to provide for their daily wants, and lead them to their appropriate pasture. So, the members of the church cannot by contention and debate procure an adequate support in the projecting forests of philosophy, but must be carefully directed to their spiritual food in the word of God.
The natural simplicity of the sheep disposes them to wander from the flock heedlessly, and without apprehension of evil. Thus, they often put themselves in the way of danger: but it is the shepherd's duty to keep a watchful eye over his improvident charge; to tell the number of his flock; to seek and restore that which was lost; to
bind up and heal that which was torn. The analogy of our charge and of our duty, in this particular, is too obvious to require illustration.
Again : whilst the sheep themselves are not the enemies of any living creature, they are exposed to the attacks of various and formidable assailants.' If the insidious thief or the scattering wolf approach the peaceful field, he finds the flock naturally timid and defenceless. Resistance is not in their power: much less are they qualified to pursue and destroy the malignant foe. It is, . therefore, the shepherd's province to keep his eye upon the insidious aggressor, to oppose him with the weapons of his office, and stand firm in the defence of his charge, which, like the church of Christ, is not empowered 'to resist evil with evil.
The sheep also, like the members of the church, are, for greater security, brought together into their common fold; but still it is the office of the shepherd to go
round the borders of the inclosure, to see that all its pales are in good order, to recount the number of his sheep, and protect them froin the intrusion of the nightly foe.
Whilst we thus perceive that the church of Christ is analogous to a flock of sheep, let us not forget that we ourselves have the responsibility of shepherds. And if unremitted care and vigilance are required in every man who is entrusted with the.
pastoral office, how much more in the spiritual pastor, who has the charge of the flock of God?
The character and duties required in our station are described, by our blessed Lord, to this effect. The good shepherd climbeth not over the fence into the sheep-fold-he is no irregular intruder ; when he taketh upon him the pastoral office, he entereth in by the door of the fold: to him the porter openeth; the sheep hear his voice; he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them into their appointed pasture. When he putteth forth bis own sheep, he goeth before them, he sheweth them the path in which they ought to walk, and they follow him; for they know his voice. If the thief come to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; if the scattering wolf howl about the corners of the field; the good shepherd fleeth not at the approach of danger: he doth not abandon
his charge, like the interested hireling: he is ready to lay down his life in defence of the flock: he collects them into the one fold, appointed and provided by the chief shepherd. (John, x.)
Such is the pastoral care which our Lord has expressly, and confidentially, committed to the chosen ministers of his church. ..
When he addresses this church in the following gracious words--- Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom ; he proceeds to impress upon those servants to whose charge his little flock is intrusted, the duty of vigilance and assiduity. Upon this occasion, St. Peter enquires of him-Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us-unto us, thine apostles--or even unto all ? Our Lord replies—Who, then, is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make rulen over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that serv-, ant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. (Luke, xii. 41, &c.)
it appears, that the care of the little flock is pointedly. committed to those ministers whom Christ officially sends