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are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day*'
And if this doctrine be well-founded,' I continued, what a volume of consolation it holds forth to the sheep-fold of Jesus, under their own diseases, weaknesses, and wanderings; and the long wanderings, and wayward obstinacies and rebellions of their unrecovered relations and friends, for which they mourn so fre quently at the mercy-seat. The lion and the bear may have taken the tender lamb from the fold; but our David will in his time, and not ours, and the properest time too, go out after him, and deliver him from his devouring mouth. My sheep,' saith Jesus, shall never perish.' That's enough! Fear not, then, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom†.' And how eternally secure must be every one of the fold, when the final presentation of them before the throne of glory is to be expressed in these words?— Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given met!'
When I had finished
* Ezek. xxxiv. 11, 12.
+ Isa. viii, 18.
† Luke xii. 32.
my friend thanked me. I am much pleased,' he said, 'I assure you, with your ideas on the subject. You have, in my opinion, very sweetly spiritualized the incident of the strayed sheep and you certainly have ample authority from scripture for the several observations you have made. The frequent allusion which is there adapted to the various circumstances of a sheep-fold, is expressly done with this intention, to describe the LORD's gracious dealings with his people.
"There is one view of the subject which hath often struck me, but which, so far as my reading extends, hath not been sufficiently noticed, if at all, by any writer; I mean, where Jesus is following the thousands of his fold, through all their wayward paths, amidst the lion's den, and over the mountains of darkness, his eye is still over them for good, and his arm unremittingly stretched forth, to keep them from everlasting ruin; though they, as yet in their unconscious state, senseless either of his presence or his favour, are making him to serve with their sins, and continue to weary him with their iniquities! There is somewhat in this view, which opens to them a most precious and endearing trait in the character of the LORD JESUS; when once the film which obstructed vision in them
is removed, to see things as they are, and that he hath brought home any of his wanderers to his fold, on his shoulders rejoicing!'
" If you and I, my brother,' he added, had the faculty of discerning objects spiritually, we should discover many in this situation now, who appear, to every eye but his who knows his own under all disguises, as goats, from their behaviour; but yet are the real sheep of Jesus, which, by and by, he will gather out, and say to them as he did to the church of old, 'Come with me, my spouse, from the lions' dens, and from the mountains of the leopards.'
Gracious Power!' he exclaimed, while speaking of thy long-suffering to thy people, oh! let me never forget, for how many years that long-suffering was extended to me?.
And to me!' I cried-A moment of silence followed, when my friend resumed his discourse.
'I cannot help remarking, my friend,' he said, 'how wonderfully the LORD hath brought you on your way; and particularly in the knowledge of divine things. Many there are, who, notwithstanding they are very precious plants, which the LORD's right hand hath planted, do not make great advances. But I may truly say of you, as the Apostle did of the church
of the Thessalonians, your faith groweth ex
"Alas!" I replied, 'I fear I do not grow at all. I cannot perceive in myself any progress.' 'Do not say so,' he answered, for this borders on unthankfulness. In our desires after greater measures of knowledge and grace, let us never overlook the less; nor, while we earnestly beg the LORD to bestow more, unthankfully forget what he hath already given. It is very true, as the Apostle observes, that our highest attainments in the present state, are only as the attainments of children; and that, if any man think he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.'. Nevertheless, an apprehension of the very first principles in grace, nay, the circumstance of being matricu lated in the school of JESUS, is an unspeakable mercy, which a whole life of thankfulness is not sufficient to acknowledge.
Look back, my brother,' he added, from the first traces you can discover of God's manifestations in your mind, to the present period, and compare your situation then with now, and you will at once perceive what rapid advances you have been making in the divine life, under the teachings of GOD the HOLY GHOST. And this is, in fact, the only method whereby to
form a true estimate of ourselves. For when we draw conclusions from the present only, or calculate our growth merely by our desires of being finally saved, or when we erect as a standard, whereby to judge ourselves, the excellency of others more advanced: all these models, being ill-constructed and ill-chosen, must invariably induce mortifying views of ourselves by the comparison. This is not, therefore, the right plan by which we are to ascertain our state. But if we so judge of our progress in grace, as we estimate proficiency in the works of nature, the method will be more accurate. In the vegetable kingdom, for instance, however certain an advance in growth may be, yet the most intense eye can never discern any one plant actually growing. But by the comparative observation of a few days, every one is enabled to discover that a progression has taken place.
'And while I am speaking of this subject of growth in grace, I would desire to add another observation, which is intimately connected with it. The Apostle says, 'grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Now, if I really grow in grace, (as increasing grace humbles more and more the soul,) I shall grow more sensible of my own worthlessness, and Christ's all-sufficiency;