« PreviousContinue »
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 green 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, he 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. üi. 4.
How pleasant it is 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 among 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
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
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 clothing, 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 garment that the thunderings and lightnings of Mount Sinai cannot pierce through. Adam the first made all his posterity naked; but the second man from heaven hath completely restored the covering
The shepherd not only clothes himself with the fleece, but also in due time slays the animal itself, and feeds upon its carcase. But,
to the wonder of angels, and the astonishment of men, our Shepherd laid down his life for his sheep, and that most willingly, of himself, for no man took it from him ; that all his true flock might feed upon him, for “ his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is " drink indeed." John vi. 55.
The life of a shepherd is highly delightful during the spring and summer months ; he rejoices, in his labour through the cheerful day, and in the night, like Jacob, dreams concerning his flock. If those seasons were always to last, such a life might almost be deemed free from that curse of toil which was inflicted on man for his disobedience : but this will not be the case; these must end, and the dreary winter approach with her stern short day, and long bleak night, turning the earth as it were into iron, and covering these green pastures and every neighbouring hill deep over with snow. Then will the shepherd's life be changed from a life of pleasure to a life of toil. In the morning from his cot, shivering he will ascend the hill, scarcely knowing where. to find his sheep;