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difficulty of the way, and free from all fear of dogs or wolves: that is, of all errors and lies, together with all perils and destructions.
This representation indeed deserves to be called truly sweet and lovely, and consolatory to look upon. And our Lord Jesus Christ does just the same when he delivers us; which he did once, corporally, by his passion and death; and he now continues to do the same in power, spiritually, by the preaching of his word. Whereby he so lays us upon his shoulders, and carries and defends us, that we may live in perfect freedom from all perils of sin and the devil; which, although they may strike terror into us, and shew themselves as if they would devour us, yet can do nothing to injure us; for, our being carried is our salvation; and the same, driving away all fear, sets us free from every danger. Even so the sheep, while he lies upon the shoulders of the shepherd, cares not at all though the dogs bark never so much, or the wolf lurk about in wait. Nay rather, it lays down its head in safety, and sleeps quietly from its very heart. So also we, while we remain immovable and stand fast in this article of faith, ' I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord who was crucified for us, and who died and rose again,' &c. find no reason whatever to fear that we shall perish or be devoured by the devil, though he open his jaws never so wide. For we are not then walking on our own way, nor do we walk on our own feet, but we hang on the neck of our shepherd and lie on his shoulders, where we are entirely safe. And though sin, death, and hell, be never so terrible, they dare not rush upon him. But, were we without him, we should be miserable sheep indeed, and our die would be cast at once. For, even as the sheep cannot take care for itself, nor prevent itself by foresight from wandering out of the way, unless it be guided by the shepherd; and when it has wandered out of the way and is lost, it cannot of itself return to the shepherd, but must be sought out and searched for by the shepherd until he have found it; and then, must be laid thus upon his shoulders and carried home, lest it be frightened and driven away from him by the way, or be caught and devoured by a wolf; — in like manner we also, can neither help ourselves by strength or by wisdom in order to give ourselves peace and tranquillity of conscience, or to effect our escape from the hands of the devil, death, and hell, unless Christ himself speak to us his word afresh, and call us thereby unto himself again. And although we then come unto him, and stand in faith, yet, it is not in our own power to keep ourselves therein, nor can we stand by our own strength, nor in any other way but by his continually holding us, raising us up, and carrying us by the power of his word: for the devil is ever devising and laying snares and destruction for us; and "as a roaring lion goeth about seeking whom he may devour," as the apostle Peter testifies; wherefore, there is no room here for our glorying in the freedom of the will, or boasting of our own strength, for they have no influence at all, either in our beginning or our proceeding, much less in our persevering.— It is Christ our shepherd alone that worketh the whole!
Hence then we may be certain of this: — that, while we lie on the shoulders of Christ, we shall be in perfect safety, from all terror, and all peril; for he will not permit us to be plucked or torn away from off his neck, nor will he himself throw us off; seeing that, he so exults and rejoices, that he has found the sheep which was lost, and has brought it back again to the rest of the flock. And, in a word, there is here nothing of terror, of dismay, or of exaction, but only life and grace; which he communicates to his sheep most lovingly and tenderly.
On the contrary, Moses, not like a shepherd of poor miserable weak sheep, but like a herdsman of strong and great beasts, drives his cattle with a club and a rod by three-day journeys through the desert, until they are worn out with travelling. And it is by such a shepherd as this, that those hardened and proud ones are to be tamed and restrained. And even we also, as we shall be under Moses, (that is, according to the flesh and external tie,) must do whatever the law requires. But, in that we are Christians and are so called, we must not in anyway permit, that any work should be laid upon us or required of us, but we are to give ourselves up to Christ to be carried by him, and to be lifted up on high, not upon horses and chariots, but upon his own shoulders only. Which, as I have said, is wrought by his ordaining the Word to be preached unto us;—that he died for us; that he took away our sins in his own body on the cross; that he has vanquished the devil, death, and sin, and has trampled them under his feet, and made and opened to us a way unto everlasting life, and carries us in it all the time that we live. Wherefore, we are not to look to our life, how righter us or how faithful we are, but are only to take care that we lie quietly upon his shoulders. While we stand in this state of things, we need not trouble ourselves about any sin, death, life, or anxiety, because we have all things abundantly in Christ, who carries us and holds us fast.
Nor is Christ satisfied with all these things, neither with having sought out the sheep so anxiously, nor with having found it and carried it back to the fold with such unspeakable joy; but, when he has brought it back, he appoints certain days in his house for feasting and gladly rejoicing, and calls together his friends and neighbours that they might rejoice with him. And to such a height does he carry this rejoicing, that he declares, that God himself in heaven, together with all the angelic hosts, and all creatures, rejoices over one sinner that repenteth. In which words, he shews and sets forth, what kind of character it is that deserves to be called a " lost sheep," —he that fervently desires to be delivered from his sins; that aims only at coming unto Christ; that alters for the better his external life, which is called, having a miserable and troubled, and so, a contrite and humble heart, and an afflicted conscience; which the devil attacks in every way, and so straitens, that the man well nigh perishes in those straits. And Christ is such a man, who never seeks any sheep but that which is lost and cannot help itself.
And now see, in what way Christ could be set forth with more tenderness, or in what words more efficaciously consoling! What do you imagine he could do more to gladden the mind of a sinner, or to strengthen his confidence in himself more firmly! For we here see the most loving shepherd, representing himself to us miserable sinners, as one that seeks his lost sheep with the most painful anxiety, bringing them back when he has found them with the greatest joy, and exulting in rejoicing so great, that even all the angels and saints, and all creatures rejoice over us with him, and smile upon us more sweetly, more cheeringly, and more brightly than the very sun in his splendor. For it is so, naturally, that when a man is sad, the sun and all things besides, wear a cheerless, dull, and cloudy aspect. On the other hand, when the heart of a man is glad, he has a tenfold alacrity, and all things appear to him clear and bright.
And now, he that firmly believes these things, certainly feels, through Christ, a true consolation and joy; for such an one has a sure persuasion, that he, by cleaving steadily unto Christ, and lying on his shoulders, is a welcome and acceptable guest in the kingdom of heaven, and is received with the utmost joy. But when we are in trouble and anxiety of conscience, we have a far different feeling and sensation; in which state, the heart can think of nothing else than that all the angels are close behind him with drawn swords. And while this fear obstructs the mind, there can be no lively joy conceived concerning either God or the angels: and some cannot look on any creature with a cheerful mind, but fear the sight of the sun, and are terrified at the moving of a leaf. All which arises from their terrifying and gnawing themselves with their own cogitations, from which they would willingly disentangle themselves; and they try every means to get to feel that goodness in themselves which might allow them to be free from all fear.—But if thou hast a desire to conceive in thine heart true consolation and joy, give all diligence to fax and impress well on thy heart this sweet representation of the most lovely shepherd, and to look for it where it is to beiseen, even in Christ, and no where else. In this Man thou wilt find all things, if thou but remain under his protection, and lie still upon his shoulders. But all the joy that can be obtained out of him, is not the true joy of the heart; even if thou call in to thy help all creatures, and enjoy all the pleasures and delights that the world can give!
Glory to God the greatest and the highest.
CONCERNING THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
I am the good Shepherd, §c.
This Gospel contains great consolation; setting forth the Lord Christ in a kind of fertile description ; — what his character is, what his works are, and how he is affected towards men; saying, "I am the good Shepherd." And we cannot more clearly present this to the eyes of our understanding, than by setting forth in a comparison, the difference between light and darkness, day and night; that is, between a good and a bad shepherd; for this is what Christ does here.
You have already repeatedly heard, that God has ordained a twofold preaching to the world. The one, which sets forth the precepts of God — that we are not to have strange gods, not to murder or steal, not to commit adultery; and which threatens death to the transgressors in these things; and which moreover, does not purify any man's heart from these things; for although a man may, by these precepts, be so restrained from these sins as to have an external show of civil righteousness, yet, in his heart, he fosters a hatred of the law, and would that there were no law at all. The other