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give beauty to the deformity of vice? Can it shut the door against the messenger of death, and suspend or pervert the just judgment of the Almighty? Men may flatter our follies; they may even applaud our vices: but it will soon be found, that lying lips are but for a moment; while truth is mighty, and will stand fast for ever: human errors will be swept away, like the spider's web; while the truth of God, like the strong mountains, will remain unmoveable.

Lastly; since God is perfectly acquainted with the motives of all our actions, let us learn the necessity of making the service which we offer to him, the business of the heart. His affectionate invitation, from the beginning, has been, "My son, give me thine heart." One ardent petition, one strong ejaculation of praise, one sigh of humble penitence rising from a sincere heart, is more acceptable in the sight of God, than all the ostentatious services which the hypocritical Pharisee can offer to him. Let us, then, worship him in simplicity and godly sincerity; and we shall, ere long, be exalted to those blessed regions, where our pious affections will be no more diverted by the amusements, weakened by the business, nor destroyed by the vices, to which we are continually exposed in this world of vanity and vexation of spirit.

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I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

THESE words of the holy prophet relate, in their primary signification, to the restoration of the children of Israel from the Babylonish captivity. As in many other passages of the sacred Scriptures, God is here represented under the character of a tender Shepherd seeking his flock, that had been attacked by ravenous wild beasts, driven away from the fold, wandering in the deserts, some of them torn and bleeding from the assaults of their cruel foes, and some of them sick and weak from hunger and fatigue. This was a lively representation of the sufferings of the Jews, under the ferocious enemies who had driven them away from their native land, and dispersed them in a sad state of captivity among the heathen nations. The merciful promises contained in the words of the text, were. intended to console them in their distress, and to cheer

them with the happy expectation of release from the thraldom under which they suffered, a joyful return to their own country, and a perfect re-establishment in all their privileges, civil and religious.

At the expiration of seventy years, these gracious declarations of the Almighty, by the mouth of his prophet, were completely verified. But the words have unquestionably a farther reference to the restoration of the Jews, from the dispersed and degraded condition in which we now find them among all the nations of the earth. We derive an irrefragable argument in confirmation of the truth of our holy religion, from the consideration that their present situation is exactly conformable to what had been predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament, and by our Saviour Christ. After all their dispersions and sufferings through a long course of ages, they are still, in a miraculous manner, preserved a distinct people; no doubt, to answer the wise purposes of God's providence, who has declared, that after the fulness of the Gentiles is come in, "He will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and "gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four "corners of the earth; he will bring them from the "east, and gather them from the west: he will say to "the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: "bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the "ends of the earth." Then, in a more particular manner, "he will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away; he will bind up "that which was broken, and strengthen that which "was sick."

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But, although this prophesy of Ezekiel relate, in its primary intention, to the afflicted circumstances of his

brethren, the children of Israel, it has unquestionably a far more extensive signification: it looks forward to the days of the Gospel, and it contemplates the whole human race. It is not necessary to remind you, that in the language of sacred Scripture, the representations which are there made, of the distresses of the Jews under their temporal foes, and of their deliverance from them, are intended to lead our imagination to the afflicted state of mankind, under the oppressions of our spiritual adversaries, and to the happy deliverance which is afforded through the intervention of a Redeemer. In this view, I shall now proceed to consider the passage before us; and surely, nothing can be more expressive of the wretchedness of man, occasioned by sin, and of the tender relief which is offered through the loving-kindness of God in Christ Jesus.

Since the ravages that were made upon human innocence and happiness by the assaults of Satan, that roaring lion who goeth about seeking whom he may devour, the natural condition of mankind may well be represented by that of a flock dispersed by ravenous beasts, and chased through the wilderness: they are driven far away from their true home, the seat and centre of real felicity: with respect to that sustenance which is necessary for the support and comfort of their immortal souls, they are in a very destitute conditionhungry and thirsty, their soul fainteth in them; they are ignorant of the way which leads back again to the place of rest; and, if they be informed of it, sick and faint as they are, their own strength will not suffice; without foreign assistance they cannot return. respect, indeed, the comparison will not hold.

In one

Man is

too often more absurd and ungrateful than the beasts

who perish. The straying lamb is happy to fly back again to the sheltering fold. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but sinful man has no desire to know and reverence his rightful Lord: he will not consider his wretched condition, nor cheerfully embrace the means of safety, even when they are proposed to him.

Are wandering mortals, then, given up to the error of their ways? Has God sworn in his wrath, that they shall not be permitted to return, and enter into his rest? No; as it was he who made us, and not we ourselves; notwithstanding our ingratitude and disobedience, he does not cast us off in utter displeasure; he still entertains a tender compassion for the work of his hands; he graciously invites us to return, to become his people, the sheep of his pasture.

The only-begotten Son, who is designated under the character of the "good Shepherd," has appeared in the wilderness of this world, to seek and to save that which was lost. Hear his merciful intentions, as they are expressed in the words of the text. He waits not for us to return; for, alas, we have by nature neither the inclination nor the ability to go back again to our best friend, our happy home: he came to seek that which was lost. He has removed every obstacle that stood in the way of our restoration to the favour of God, and recovery of the forfeited joys of paradise: the good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. He died for our sins, and he rose again for our justification. He once sought them in person, and he now seeks those who have erred and strayed from the right way, by his messengers who beseech the wanderers, in his stead, to return and be reconciled to God. He

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