« AnteriorContinuar »
our happiness were fins committed directly against himself. It was his own law we transgressed, his own royalty we invaded : we fought against him with his own arms, and joined in confederacy with his most inveterate enemies. So that every obstacle that can be imagined lay in the road of mercy; the blackest ingratitude, the most outrageous infolence; in a word, all the circumstances were united which could aggravate our guilt, and infame the wrath of him against whom we sinned ; and conspired to render our punishment not only a righteous, but even a wise and necessary exercise of severity, for vindicating the honour of the Sovereign, and for maintaining the credit and influence of his government. Nay, as the threatening was published before the penalty was incurred, truth as well as justice demanded the execution of it.
Such were our circumftances, when this Friend of finners, but the enemy of fin, came upon the wings of love to save us. “ Deliver them,” said he, “ from going “ down to the pit,” and against me let the fword of justice be unsheathed. Here was
goodness, generous, disinterested goodness, that never had, and that never can have, a parallel. “ Scarcely for a righteous man ss will one die, peradventure for a good man «s some would even dare to die;" but who hath ever heard of one dying for an enemy? Or if such a prodigy could be found among men, yet the generosity even of this person would fall infinitely short of the example in my text. Such a one might be said to resign a life ; but then it is a precarious, dependent life ; a debt payable on demand; a lease revocable at pleasure. A mere creature can give away nothing that is properly his own, because he has nothing but what he received. Whereas our dearest Lord not only died in the room of enemies, but by dying resigned a life that, in the strictest sense, was his property : for so he says in the 18th verse of this chapter, “ I have power to lay down my life, and I “ have power to take it up again.” He had an estate of his own, (so to speak), an original, and therefore an absolute, right to his life. This, as it gave merit and efficacy to his death, so it qualified him to
exhibit that mystery of love, which angels contemplated with increasing wonder, when he assumed our nature, and became our Shepherd, and in that character gave his life for the sheep.
But did the blessed Jesus stop here? Did he merely restore finners to a capacity of happiness, by expiating their guilt, and paving the way for their return to God? Or, to carry forward the allusion, does the good Shepherd satisfy himself with rescuing his sheep from the jaws of the lion, and then leave them to their own conduct, to find the road back to the fold from whence they had strayed ? No--For, in the . 2d place, He also becomes their Guide; and, as it is beautifully expressed in the 23d Pfalm, “ He leads them in the paths of “ righteousness for his name's fake.” How amiable does he appear when introduced by Ezekiel, speaking after this manner : “ Be“ hold I, even I, will both fearch my sheep,
and seek them out: as a fhepherd seeketh << out his flock, fo will I seek out my sheep, “and will deliver them out of all places " where they have been scattered in the
“ dark and cloudy day. I will seek that " which was lost, and bring again that “ which was driven away: I will bind up " that which was broken, and strengthen “ that which was fick.” Of the same mild and gracious import is that tender representation in the prophecy of Ifaiah : “ He “ shall feed his flock like a fhepherd; he “ shall gather the lambs with his arms, and “ carry them in his bosom, and gently lead “ them that are with young.” In allusion to these prophetical descriptions of the Meffiah, our Lord himself hath declared in the New Testament, that “ the Son of man is “ come to seek and to save that which was “ loft.” And having in this chapter afsumed the title of a Shepherd, he says in the 16th verse, “ Other sheep I have, which are “ not of this fold, them also I must bring, $6 and they shall hear my voice.” . And indeed this exercise of his pastoral office is no less necessary than it is kind; for such is the enmity of our hearts, such the perverseness of our natures, that after all he has done without us, to bring us to God, yet if his fpirit did not gork within 'us,
none of us would ever think of returning to him. “. The carnal mind is enmity againft “ God; for it is not subject to the law of « God, neither indeed can be.” Accordingly Paul reminds the converts at Ephesus, that till Christ quickened them, they too were “ dead in trespasses and sins, and children of “ wrath even as others.” Hear the language of our Lord to his disciples of every tribe of men, “ Ye have not chosen me, but I “ have chosen you :” and that assertion of the Apostle which is universally true, “ By “ grace are ye saved through faith, and that “ not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” And does he not merit the designation of a good Shepherd, who not only saves his flock from destruction, and opens to them the door of his sheep-fold, but goes after them into the wilderness, pursues them whilst they are flying from their own happiness, and never gives over his search, till he finds then, and then leads them in safety to ą place of rest, where every thing is provided that their necessities require ?- For this is a 3d proof of his love to his sheep: Having