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of him, but runs up to him with all confidence, and anticipates his perception filled with the assurance of hope. Nay, as soon as it hears his voice, it answers with bleating, follows him directly, and never stops till it comes up to him. And there is by nature the utmost love and affection between them both, as though their heart and feelings were the same: so that, if the sheep could speak and disclose the secret workings of its heart, it would say, that it wanted nothing but its shepherd. And on the other hand, the shepherd has the same regard and concern; only thinking about the way in which he shall again find his sheep that has strayed from him. He hurries and sends forth his servants to search for it, wherever he has any idea it may have wandered : nor does he ever cease to seek for it, until he has found it and brought it back. For he well knows, what a miserable animal a lonely sheep is; the preservation of whose life depends solely upon the help and care of the shepherd; being such an animal, as can do nothing to help itself, but must, if bereft of its shepherd, utterly
perish. Nay it is in every respect a poor fearful creature, and inclined to go astray; and as soon as ever it has wanderred out of the way and mist its shepherd, it is immediately in peril for its life, and can rest no where. And even though it wander near some other flock, and a strange shepherd call it, yet it still goes on its way through thorns and briers, through water and mire, until it meet with some wolf, or be swallowed up by some other destruction, and perish. But still, it has all the while that excellency and natural instinct, that it always has a rooted inclination towards its shepherd, and knows his voice immediately; and whereever it may be when it hears it, it runs directly towards the sound, and will not suffer itself to be drawn or forced away, even if the whole world call and cry after it. And although it have wandered away into by-paths in the desert, and may be thought to be lost, yet it has still that secret hope which the instinct of nature has implanted, that if it can but get to hear the voice of the shepherd, it leaps with joy, and loses every fear. Nor is it the shepherd's intention, when he draws near, to contend with it in anger, or to ill-use it for straying, or to expose it to the wolf to be destroyed; but all his care and concern is, that he may call and allure it to himself as kindly as possible, and might treat it in the most tender manner; namely, by laying it upon his shoulders and bringing it back to the rest of the flock.
This is the picture presented to us under the figure of this little creature and animal: wherein, Christ shews us what the affection of his mind is towards us, what he will do for us, and what we may assure ourselves concerning him. For as it is evident that all this is true in nature, much more is it true in the kingdom of Christ, which is the kingdom of grace, love, and consolation. Wherefore, see that thou ever set before thee the sheep that belongs to the shepherd; then shalt thou experience, in truth, both how much greater and more affectionate regard he has for protecting it, and also, with what anxiety, diligence, and purpose of heart, he is concerned about it, that he might find it and bring it back. Wherefore, he would hereby set forth his free, wonderful, and inexhaustible love, and the unspeakable burnings of his ardent affection towards miserable, sinful, fearful, and trembling consciences; which are, his true lost sheep!
For the man who has lost this shepherd, and cannot hear his voice, is in exactly the same condition as the lost sheep: for he wanders away more and more from him, and gets farther and farther off. And although he may be called by strange doctrines to run over to them, among which he may expect to find his shepherd, yet he is deceived in his expectations and finds him not, but continues to run about into every corner, wandering up and down, and only finding himself farther and farther off. Nor does he ever find any help or consolation antil he hear again the voice of his shepherd sounding in his ears. The truth of this we all learn by daily experience, and each one finds it exemplified in his own heart. For if the Gospel concerning Christ be removed from us, or be not in exercise, then some false teacher, or the head of some sect, or perhaps some fanatic, introduces himself: one perverts the sacrament, another baptism : one teaches this, and another that, concerning a singular sanctity of life: each of whom, entices the poor miserable wandering sheep over to himself, and would make himself
appear to be the true shepherd. But by all the endeavours of such as these, the sheep is only distracted with more complicated errors, until it be driven quite out of the way. With these joins in also the devil, with his cogitations, which he injects into the heart. Ah me! if thou hadst but done so and so, or hadst not done so and so, &c.—By all which, nothing else is effected, but the driving the sheep into a deeper perplexity of error, until it knows not where to stand. —And thus it ever is. When Christ is removed out of sight, and the doctrine concerning him extinguished, whatever else be taught or set forth, whatever other admonition be given, and in whatever way, all things only become the worse, and approach the nearer unto destruction, unless the true shepherd come with his voice, and call and bring back the wandering sheep.
Wherefore it is of the very utmost importance that we learn to know Christ aright; and that we consider him not to be a cruel tyrant or an angry judge who has drawn his sword against us; (as certain preachers have hitherto set him forth to the people, and as the devil himself has ever proposed him to be viewed and considered by the human heart :) but look upon him just as a sheep naturally looks upon its shepherd; not as one by whom it is to be frightened, driven about, and killed; but one, whom as soon as it sees, it is happy, hopes for all help, and no longer remains fearful and solitary, but im nediately hastens and runs up to him with all confidence.
Therefore, if we desire to make a blessed beginning of our confidence, and to confirm ourselves, and be raised up with consolation, then, we must learn and rightly know the voice of our shepherd, that is, of Christ; and disregard the voices of all other shepherds, which will only draw us into errors, and drive us this
way and that.
We must hear and apprehend in our minds, that article only which Christ paints out to our heart so sweetly and consolingly, and in such a way as never could be painted out by any reason; so that our heart may say with all confidence, Jesus Christ my Lord is the only shepherd, and I alas am a poor lost sheep, that has wandered away in the wilderness. Nevertheless, I am distressed with much anxiety of mind on account of my evil life, and I desire with all the longings of my heart to be good, and to have a merciful God, and peace in my conscience! And I am here told, that he has a no less longing after me than I have after him! I am labouring with deep anxiety to get to him, and he is anxious and desires nothing else than to bring me back to himself!'
IF WE could but paint to ourselves his will in this way, and engrave it upon our heart,--that he has such a desire after us, and so sweetly spends himself upon us, it could not be that we should dread or fear him, but must run to him with a gladdened spirit, remain close to him only, and could not endure to hear the doctrine or voice of any other.
For the intrusion of any other doctrine, whether of Moses or of any other, has no other effect, but to drive, agitate, and distress the conscience, that it can enjoy no peace or tranquillity. Therefore, Christ saith Matt. xi. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls," &c. As though he had said, run about and seek wheresoever ye will, hear and learn all that is preached unto you, yet, ye shall find no rest of heart, no peace, but in me only! --We will easily permit good works to be preached, a righteous life to be taught, the Ten Commandments to be set forth, and all other things which serve for the amendment of life, but only as they are set forth to the unhumbled and carnal multitude, and in order to bind and bridle the lasciviousness of our old Adam. But, when preaching to the conscience bound in straits and under tremblings on account of its sins, no other word must be preached but that concerning Christ. For this conscience is that poor, miserable, lost sheep, who can bear and hear of no other master, but the one only shepherd Christ; who neither urges the law, nor does any thing severely, but deals most sweetly and tenderly, laying the miserable sinning lost sheep upon his shoulders, and doing that of his own spontaneous accord, which the sheep ought to have done. As we shall see more fully hereafter.
But in this place, each doctrine, (as we have abundantly observed before,) or, the voices of Moses and of Christ, must be rightly distinguished. For the lost sheep has no business to come near Moses, and therefore, is not to be admitted where he is, though his preaching be never so excellent. For if, confounding these things, we attempt to raise up the troubled conscience in this manner, ‘ Be of good cheer; thou hast not committed murder; thou hast not polluted thyself with adultery, nor designed with deliberation any other outrage. This is indeed a certain consolation, but it will endure but a very little time, nor can it sustain the hostile attacks and power of the devil, nor does it produce or bring in any thing else but a self-confidence, which will render the miserable sheep no service; for it remains, just as it was before, astray and lost; nor can it at all help itself, nor come to its shepherd. But if it be to be raised up by consolation, then we must set before it its true shepherd, who is coming to seek it, to bring it back, and to speak that it may hear his voice. From this there will flow to it a true and effectual consolation, and it will be enabled to answer Moses boldly, and say, • Now I have nothing either for thy comforts or thy terrors; and, if thou wilt, exaggerate my sins as much as thou canst; make me a murderer and a parricide, or the very worst of all men ;' for now, I will neither follow thee, nor hear thy terrors with a fearful mind. This is the sheet anchor (as they say) of my consolation and salvation on which I with all confidence lean ; that I have such a shepherd, who comes to seek me of his own will, and lays me upon his shoulders, and carries me. Concerning this shepherd, if thou wilt, we will dispute ;