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THE STRAYED SHEEP.
At that instant a sheep leaped over the hedge, just where my companion and I stood, as if pursued by some enemy. The poor animal seemed much distressed and affrighted.—He looked at us, but appeared disappointed. As he stood still, I called to him; but he knew not my voice. —At length a man appeared at the fence over which the sheep had broken; and calling in a particular tone which the poor animal understood, he turned and looked upon him. The shepherd then came over the hedge, and advancing gently towards him, still continuing his call as he approached him; the sheep came to meet him, and seemed rejoiced at his presence; and they went away both of them together.
'Ah !' I cried, ' I think I could spiritualize this occurrence.—' Do so then,' replied my friend, 'for such should be the custom of Zion's pilgrims to extract improvement from every thing which they see or hear.—' I would suppose,' I said, 'this poor strayed sheep to be the emblem of the wandering sinner; and the man pursuing it as a friend, which the silly animal fancied an enemy, to personate the man Christ Jesus. And under those images, if I mistake not, several very sweet doctrines of the Gospel may be discovered. As for example: that the Lord Jesus had a fold before the foundation of the world is evident; for in the close of his ministry, he thanks the father for them which he had given him, and of which 'he had lost none.' This fold, by the entrance of the prowling wolf into Paradise, wandered, and was scattered abroad into the wide wilderness of the world. For so the Lord speaks of them: 'My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill; yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth*.' "But. though wandering and scattered, they were the Lord's sheep still. That little foolish wanderer we just now saw, was never altered in his nature, though wayward and perverse in his track. Though he left the sheepfold, yet he was still the sheep, and not the goat. In like manner Christ's spiritual sheep did not lose their relation to him, when they left his fold. This character of Jesus's sheep should never be forgotten by us, for it is plain, that Jesus himself never loseth sight of it. In the moment he speaks of them as wandering and scattered—as diseased and weak—he calls them still my * Ezek. xxxiv.
sheep. And hence, in the recovery of every one of them, the same idea is carefully preserved; '1 will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick*.' And what can be more refreshing and encouraging to a poor sinner, than the consideration that, if of the fold of Jesus originally given by the father, however scattered over the face of the earth, however pent up in the den of beasts by the accursed enemy of souls; still he is the sheep of Jesus, concerning whom the promise is made and passed, 'My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my handf.' The eye of the good Shepherd is ever over them. He beholds them as His sheep, while they appear among wolves; and when the hour is come, according to his blessed promise, like that poor animal we just now beheld, they shall hear his voice and follow Him, though they flee the voice of strangers. How expressive to this purpose are the words of God by the prophet; 'Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep and seek them out; as a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that * Ezek. xsxiv. 16. f John x- 28
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 frequently 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,' sahh Jesus,' shall never perish.' That's enough!—' Fear not, then, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdomt.' 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 me$'!'
When I had finished my remark*,
• Ezek. ssxiv. 11,12. f 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