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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 trem bling 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 him: 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 afflic tions 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 sealed, 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 x. 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 fix on some common place in divinity, which might easily have
been introduced, and to treat it in a systematical form. God, that the attention with which such discourses have generally been heard, and the good effects with which they have often been attended, have encouraged me to pursue this method myself, and to recommend it to others; though some may reckon it a part of a solid and rational taste, to think very meanly of it.
With these views I have entered on the subject, in the following method. Having proved, that the words refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, The great Shepherd of the sheep*, I have,
I. Enumerated the cases of various sorts of persons, whom we may suppose to be represented by the lambs of the flock, or by those that are with young, they being those that require peculiar tenderness.
And here I have mentioned, those who are of a tender age, or of a short standing in religion; those, whose spirits are naturally feeble; and those, whose circumstances are peculiarly calamitons, on account of any heavy affliction, either of body or of mind, whether arising from providential dispensations, or from the hidings of God's face, or from the assault of spiritual enemies. So that christians in such circumstances as these, will, I hope, consider themselves, as peculiarly interested in the comfortable things, which are now farther to be laid before you. And may the blessed Spirit apply the consolation to each of their souls!
II. I have also considered the Redeemer's tenderness to such, as expressed by gathering them with his arm, laying them in his bosom, and gently leading them.
And here I observed, that these gracious and affectionate words might be intended to express, his readiness to receive, to protect, and to comfort them; and his care to moderate their exercises and burdens in proportion to their strength. These are very important particulars, and most evidently suited to the necessities and desires of the feeble christian. I hope therefore you will attend with pleasure, while I now proceed,
III. To shew, what abundant reason there is to believe, that the great Shepherd will deal in this tender manner; that he will thus gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Heb. xiii. 20.
As the lamb sometimes fears the shepherd, and is ready to flee from him, when he comes towards it with the kindest designs: So it is also evident from experience, that the comfort of the christian is often much impaired, for want of that confidence in the care and tenderness of a Redeemer, which is so reasonable, as well as so delightful, that one would wonder it should after all be so very deficient, even in the minds of those, who are no strangers to his word, and who have themselves tasted of his grace. Permit me therefore at present to argue it,—from the general character under which he appears,from the representations both of the prophets and apostles,- -from his own declarations as recorded by the evangelists,—and from the experience of those, who have committed themselves to him. 1. We may argue this grace and tenderness of Christ" from the general character under which he appears, as the Redeemer and Saviour of his people."
Is not this a character full of gentleness and goodness? Is it not instead of ten thousand arguments to prove, that if he pitied us in that low estate, in which he at first found us, His mercy towards us will endure for ever*? View our blessed Redeemer in the abasement of his abode among men: View him in the agonies, in which he finished the long scene of his sorrows and sufferings; and then say, What but love brought him from heaven, and kept him on earth? What but love stretched him on the cross, and laid him in the grave? And can any expression of tenderness be too great to be expected, after such amazing effects of it have already been experienced? Surely, as he himself argues, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends+: But, as the apostle justly observes, His love is commended towards us, it is set off by this important circumstance, In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for ust: And how cheerfully may we depend upon it, that If when we were enemies, we were reconciled by his death, we shall now by his life obtain complete salvation||; and his living care will accomplish, what his dying love has begun? All the blessed consequences I have already mentioned, and a long train of others, follow from this happy principle. He has graciously assumed the character and title of a Shepherd; and surely that name implies all the particulars, which we have now been representing to you. His word, you know, sets a mark of infamy upon those shepherds, that Ilave not strengthened the || Rom. v. 10.
Psal. cxxxvi. 23. † John xv. 13.
Rom. v. S.