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his arms, carrieth them in his bosom, and gently leadeth those that are with young." Christians, how often have you experienced the truth of these declarations! When you were bowed down with a sense of your guilt, and went on your course sorrowful and sighing, who was it that bound up your broken heart, that gave you comfort and joy? Who but the Shepherd of Israel saying unto you," Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you?" When you first entered upon the Christian course, advancing with trembling steps, fearing that you might be overcome by the power of temptation, feeling yourself to be feeble and helpless as the lamb; who was it that supported your tottering steps, that fanned the "smoking flax” into a flame, that had compassion on your weakness? Who but the Lord our Shepherd? In those gloomy seasons when you have had fearful apprehensions of futurity, have lost the cheering light of God's countenance, and questioned the sincerity of your love to him; who was it that in this desolate condition restored joy and gladness to your soul? It was your divine Shepherd who shed upon you the beams of his love, and whispered to your troubled heart: "Fear not, thou of little faith; I am thy God." In periods of outward sorrow, of sickness, of poverty, of contempt, what is it that has supported you; what but the communications of heavenly grace, the consolations of the blessed Spirit, a tender feeling of the love of God towards you? "Truly then, God is good to Israel: he healeth all his sicknesses, he redeemeth his life from destruction;" "he strengtheneth him upon the bed of languishing, he maketh all his bed in sickness;"" He healeth him when broken in heart, and bindeth up his wounds."
4. Finally it is part of the pastoral office to defend the flock from dangers. And where is the protector to be compared with the Lord? Review your lives, believers, and you will immediately behold a thousand instances in which he has interposed in your behalf, and rescued you from the most imminent perils. But were your faculties so enlarged as to contemplate the whole plan of his providence towards you, what a crowd of deliverances would you behold! in each moment of your life you would see some instance of his defending goodness. At this period you would see him so arranging events in his providence, that a violent temptation might be checked just at the moment your piety was wavering: at that, presenting to you some circumstance that would tend to rekindle your virtue. Here, you would contemplate him encompassing you as with a shield, to enable you to resist an assault of Satan; there, warding off from you some calamity which you were not able to endure. Every where you would behold him so managing all your concerns, that nothing should befall you which would not work together for your greatest good. O, who is a defender like to our God? Who has equal power with him, or equal love to impel that power to action?
Do you wish to see an illustrious example of his willingness to defend you in every situation? View for a moment that miracle of goodness which astonished heaven and earth. The ungrateful flock of the Lord, rejecting his guidance, rebelling against his authority, wandering from his paths, was ready to become the prey of Satan, and the subjects of eternal sorrow; but in this situation, when none else could defend them, they found a defender in their injured Shepherd; he procured a deliverer in the
Son of his love; and although they had advanced so near to the abyss that they could not be saved, unless Jesus threw himself into it, he, urged by his campassion, hesitated not to perform this divine act of mercy. After viewing this deliverance, shall we fear that God will not interpose for our defence, when we are threatened by danger? Oh no! con- fident of his guardian care, we will securely sing, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?"
Should we not naturally suppose, my brethren, that all mankind would imitate the example of David, and seek, in the kindness and protection of the Most Merciful, a support in their afflictions, a refuge in their distresses? But, alas! we need only look around us to behold thousands of the feeble and unhappy children of men, who are still "as sheep going astray;" who still refuse to "return to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls." (1 Pet. ii. 25.) Poor sinners! since you will not attach yourselves to his flock," you shall want;" want all the consolations of his grace, all the joys of his Spirit, all the splendours of his heaven. Since you choose to trace the downward road to hell, rather than permit him to "lead you in the paths of righteousness," you shall not have him as a supporter when you "walk through the valley of the shadow of death." In that awful moment, whilst the darkness of the tomb gathers round you, the remembrance of your past wanderings from God and from happiness, shall -fill you with agony; and, in anticipating the future, you can have no hope of "dwelling in the house," the heavenly temple "of the Lord for ever." And where will you find consolation, when, after your
final groan, your soul shall fall, naked and defenceless, red with unexpiated guilt, and destitute of the heavenly Shepherd's protection, before the tribunal of the thrice holy God. Oh! in time avoid this fearful doom. Let the happiness which David experiences from the care and tenderness of the Shepherd of Israel, induce you to leave the paths of sin, and submit yourselves to him; he affectionately calls you; he assures you that he is willing to receive you, to guard you, to fill your hearts with joy. Resist no longer his tender invitations.
Flock of God! ever be contented with your lot in life; remember that your Shepherd, who tenderly loves you, orders all things and all events so as to promote your greatest good. To murmur at any of his dispensations, is criminally to rebel against him, and presumptuously to doubt of his power or affection. Since you "are the sheep of his pasture," submit implicitly to his tender guidance.
Live in constant dependence upon him. We, his feeble flock, weak, liable to err, incapable of defending ourselves, can nowhere find safety but in his protection. Like David, build your hopes of support in life and death, for time and eternity, not on yourselves, but on God; on his love, his faithfulness, the endearing relations he sustains towards
Confide in your Shepherd. In all your afflictions, recollect that his presence is with you, that his cloud covers you, that his pillar of fire goes before you, that his rod and his staff can comfort you. With the psalmist conclude, that, as he bears this tender office, and has hitherto protected and guarded you, so he will continue his loving-kindness towards you, and cause his "goodness and mercy to
follow you all the days of your life." Those fears and apprehensions for the future, which you sometimes feel, show but little faith, but little reliance upon the pastoral care of the Lord. Why then are ye cast down, O our souls, and why are ye disquieted within us? Trust in God." Trust in him, Christians; he will safely conduct you through this vale of tears, render you triumphant in death, and then receive you to that better world where your Shepherd "shall feed you and shall lead you unto living fountains of waters;" where he "shall wipe away all tears from your eyes.”
ABRAHAM OFFERING UP ISAAC.
GENESIS xxii. 1, 2.
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: And he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of
My brethren, the event related in the text is no less affecting and instructive, than astonishing. 1 am not surprised that the worshippers of Moloch