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POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
The Tenderness of Christ to the Lambs of his Flock.
Isa. xl. 11.--He shall feed his Flock like a Shepherd; he shall gather the
Lambs with his Arms, and carry them in his Bosom, and shall gently
lead those that are with Young. It is well known, that there are three most illustrious offices, under which our Redeemer is often spoken of in scripture; those of the Prophet, the Priest, and the King of his Church. And there are several other characters, either coincident with those, or subservient to them, which are frequently mentioned and are worthy of our regard ; amongst which that of a Shepherd is peculiarly remarkable, as often occurring in the word of God, and affording abundant matter, both for the instruction, and the consolation of his people.
I shall not now enumerate all the passages, in which our Lord is described under this character, both in the Old Testament, and the New. It may be sufficient here to remind you, that he was plainly foretold by Ezekiel, as that one Shepherd, whom God would set over his people to feed them, even his servant David, i. e. the Messiah, David's Son; he, says the prophet, Shull feed them, and he shall be their Shepherd*. And Christ accordingly speaks of himself, as The good Shepherdt; and is spoken of by one and another of the apostles, as The great Shepherd of the Sheeps, and The chief Shepherds. So that on the whole, if the words of the text had a more immediate reference to the Father, they might with great propriety be applied to Christ, by whom the Father exercises his pastoral care of his people.
The chapter is opened with very reviving words; Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God : And to assure them that these consolations addressed to them were indeed glad tidings of great joy, and worthy to be introduced in a very pompous manner, mention is made of a very remarkable herald sent before, whose Voice was to cry in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desart a highway for our Gou*; i. e. let every obstruction immediately be removed : A scripture so expressly applied to John the buptist, as the forerunner of Christt, that it may be sufficient to fix the sense of the context, with those who have any regard to the authority of the New Testament, in explaining the Old.
* Ezek. xxxiv, 23.
+ John X 11.
Heb. xiii. 20.
$ 1 Pet. v.4.
To confirm the faith of Israel in this important message, a solemn proclamation is made, ver. 6. The voice (that is, the voice of God, speaking to me in this vision,) said unto me, Cry; that is, raise thy voice as loud as possible : And I said, what shall 1 cry? The following words are evidently the answer, which God returns to this question of the prophet; q. d. • Proclaim this awful and seasonable truth, All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field, which is yet more frail and short-lived than the
itself : The grass withereth, and the power fadeth ; but the word of our God shall stand for ever. q. d. Were it only the promise of a man, you might indeed doubt of its accomplishment; were it only the word of the mightiest princes on earth, it might give you but a trembling and precarious hope : Man is a dying creature, and all the most cheerful hopes, which are built on him, may quickly perish; But the word of our God, even that word, as it is explained by the apostle Peter, which by the gospel is preached unto you, shall stand for everf, as the firm basis of your hope and confidence, and shall be certainly accomplished in the final redemption and salvation of his people.”
The heavenly voice still continues to speak to the prophet, who was honoured with this happy message, and charges him to deliver it with the greatest cheerfulness and zeal. "O thou that bringest good tidings to Zion,” (for so I think the words should be rendered as they are by some, and particularly in the margin of your bibles,) get thee up into the high mountain, some place of eminence, from whence thou mayest be universally heard : Oh thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up; and be not afraid, Jest the event should not answer the promise, but Say unto the cities of Judah, behold your Godş. For The Lord God will come with a strong hand ; i. e. the kingdom of the Messiah shall be erected with a glorious display of the divine power; and his arm shall rule for him, as in former instances of most formidable opposition, His own right-hand, and his holy arm
Ver. 3. John i. 23.
+ Compare ver. 3, with Mat. iii. 3. Mark i. 3. Luke již. 4. 1 Pet. i. 25.
have gotten him the victory*: His kingdom shall be administered with the exactest equity and wisdom; for His reward is with him, to render to every man according to his doings ; and his work is before himt; i.e. he has the completest view of it, and keeps his eye always fixed upon it.”
Yet, as it is added in the words of the text, the authority of a prince, and the dignity of a God, shall be attempered by the gentleness of a most compassionate Shepherd : 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.
You have already heard of that strong hand with which Jesus our Lord is come, and of that victorious energy, with which his arm shall rule for him. His name has been proclaimed amongst you, as The Lord of hosts, the Lord strong and mighty, able to save unto the uttermosti. Let us now consider him in this amiable character, in which our text describes him ; for this renders those views of his almighty power delightful, which our guilt would otherwise render dreadful to us.
Christians, I would hope it is your desire, whenever you attend on the institutions of the gospel, to see Jesus. I may now say to you, in the words of Pilate, on a very different occasion, Behold the mans! He appears not indeed in his royal robes, or in his priestly vestments ; but he wears the habit of condescension and love ; and is not the less amiable, though he may not seem equally majestic, while he bears the pastoral rod instead of the royal sceptre, and feeds his flock like a shepherd, gathering up the feeble lambs in his arms, and bearing them in his bosom, and gently leading those that are with young.
You will naturally observe that the text declares Christ's general care of all his people, and bespeaks his peculiar gracious regard to those, whose circumstances require a peculiar tenderness. 1. We may observe “ his general care of all his people."
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: They may each of them therefore say with David, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want : He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sakell. The church is his fold; and ordinances are his pastures; and
Psal. xcviii. 1. + Ver. 10. I See the foregoing sermons, especially the second. John xix. 5. || Psal. xxiii. 1-3. VOL. II.
his sheep shall be nourished by them, till they grow up to that blessed world, where, in a much nobler sense than here, all The children of God that were scattered abroad shall be gathered together in one*, and shall appear as one sheepfold under the great Shepherd and Bishop of soulst. We have abundant reason to admire his condescension and love, in the view of these things, and to congratulate the happiness of his people, as under such pastoral care. But I will not enlarge on this general view, or on these reflections upon it, that I may leave myself room to insist on what I chiefly proposed in the choice of these words; that is, 2.“ Christ's peculiar concern for those, whose circumstances
require a peculiar tenderness.”
This is expressed in those words; He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young, i. e. he will consider their weakness and infirmity, and conduct them as they are able to bear it: Which is also implied in that nearly parallel text, in which we are told, He shall seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was sicki.
This is the general import of the words ; but for the fuller explication and improvement of them, give me leave,
1. To enumerate the cases and circumstances of some christians, who may properly be considered, as the lambs of the Aock, or as those that are with young.
II. To consider what may be intimated concerning the Re. deemer's tenderness to them, as it is expressed by his gathering them in his arms, and carrying them in his bosom, and gently leading them.
III. I will endeavour to shew, what abundant reason there is to depend upon it, that the great Shepherd will deal in a very tender manner with such. And then,
IV. I will direct to the proper improvement of the whole.
May he who hath said, Comfort ye my people, enable me to do it in the most effectual manner ! May he Give me the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to them that are wearys, and To appoint to the weeping and trembling soul
Ezek. xxxiv. 15, 16,
* John xi, 52. † Compare Johu x. 16. with 1 Pet. ii. 25. Ś Isa, l. 4,
beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness* !
1. I am to mention the case of some christians, who may properly be considered, as represented by the lambs of the flock, or by sheep that are with young.
Now in the general, you know, these expressions may signify all who are young and tender. You know, a young lamb is a very feeble creature, and when deserted by its dam, if not assisted by the shepherd, is in great danger of perishing, and of breathing out its innocent life, almost as soon as it has received it: And as Jacob observest, the Sheep that are with young, or that have lately yeaned, are not capable of such fatigues as the other cattle ; but if over-driven so much as me day, their tenderness is such, that they would die. And therefore when our Lord was spoken of under the character of a shepherd, it was very just, as well as very elegant, to use such figures as these, to represent all those of his people who stood in need of peculiar compassion and care. Now you may easily apprehend, those are to be considered as included here, who are of a tender age, or but of little standing in religion, or whose spirits are naturally feeble, or whose circumstances are distressful and calamitous, on account of any peculiar affliction, either of body, or of mind. 1. It is evident, that “ they who are of a tender age,” may
with peculiar propriety be called the lambs of the flock.
They resemble lambs, in respect of their youth ; and in some degree likewise, on account of that innocence and simplicity, for which our Lord singled them out, to recommend them to the imitation of all his followers, and even of his apostles, assuring them that they must Become like little children, if they would hope to enter into the kingdom of heavent. You, children, will therefore endeavour to mind what I say this day; for I am to speak to you ; to speak to you about the kindness and care of Christ towards you. I assure you, I speak of it with pleasure: And surely you should hear it with pleasure ; and your little hearts should even leap for joy, to think that a minister should be sent to address himself to you, as the lambs of Christ's flock. Oh that every one of you may indeed be so! You will hear, what a kind
Isa. Ixi. 3.
Mat. xviii, 3.
f Gen. xxxiii. 13.