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rity and faithfulness, with so much kindness and affection. He well knew that his disciples would be placed in the situations they were about to occupy as sheep among wolves ; as a flock having no earthly shepherd to guard and defend them ; and therefore he says for their encouragement, “ Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Thus it was our blessed Lord spake to his disciples when he was upon earth, and it is in a similar manner that he now addresses his followers from heaven.
I. We remark the disciples of Christ are compared to a flock of sheep.
The property of the ancients consisted for the most part in the number of their cattle, especially in their flocks of sheep. Thus Abraham's servant, in giving an account to Bethuel of his master's property, said to him, “ The Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great : and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and men servants, and maid servants, and camels and asses." And the wealth of Job is represented by his being possessed of seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household.” And the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. His people are the purchase of a Saviour's blood, and the called of his grace. He is the great Shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep. He both knows his sheep, and is known of them; and they constitute that flock of the Lord which he hath purchased with his own blood. There was a time when they wandered on the dark mountains of error and sin, calling good evil, and evil good, but he graciously sought them out, and delivered them out of all places where they had been scattered in the cloudy and dark day; in that they are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, they did not return of their own accord, but by the special interposition of his providence, and the drawings of his grace, by the word of God instrumentally. They were alarmed by its threatenings, they were supported by its promises, they were encouraged by the examples it furnished of the return and acceptance of wanderers like themselves, and by the Spirit of God efficiently. For it is his exclusive province to enlighten the understanding, and inform the judgment, and renew the will, and thus make his people willing in the day of his power. Like sheep, moreover, they are meek, and inoffensive, and harmless ; they imbibe the Spirit of the Shepherd, which is a Spirit of peace and love ; imitative of Him, “who when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. In their collective capacity, as a flock, they do not bite and devour one another, like wolves among sheep ; but feed and lie down together in green pastures, as the property of the same master, the partakers of the same privileges, and the expectants of the same immortal happiness. It highly becomes every reader to ask himself, Am I one of the flock of Christ ? and we must judge of our interest in God's covenant love, by the evidence we possess of our being the called of his grace.
It was so especially in the timeof our Lord, and in every subsequent period the majority of mankind have been found on the part of the world. Hence the admonition of the Saviour, “Enter ye in at the strait gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it; nor need this circumstance excite our surprise. For some of the doctrines of the gospel are mysterious, and can be received only by faith, and implicit reliance in the veracity of him who has revealed them; its precepts likewise are spiritual and extensive. Its professors are taken principally from the humble ranks of life. Its present privileges are of a spiritual nature, and not adapted to awaken the attention of the man of this world. Its promised rewards too are distant, and will consist in the enjoyment of the divine favour, and the possession of eternal life, and we are expressly assured that only he who endureth to the end will be saved. On this part of the subject, two observations are well worthy of régard, the one is, that while the number of the righteous is for the present comparatively small, we ought to be aware of contracting their number by our own narrow prejudices. For some good men are concealed from the notice of their fellow christians, by the diversity of their opinions, while they yet maintain the distinguishing truths of the gospel; others by the poverty of their circumstances, some by the timidity of their dispositions, and others by the obscurity of their station, and we fear not a few by the imperfections of their character. There was a time when Elijah thought himself left alone, and that his own life was in imminent danger; but what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. The other remark is that the smallness of their number ought not to make us unwilling to join their ranks. If you would be religious, you must dare to be singular. Like the patriarch Noah; like Lot in Sodom; like Moses the friend of God, and always taking part with God when the Israelites sinned against him; like Caleb and Joshua, bringing a faithful report of the promised Canaan, when the other ten spies discouraged the people by the unwarrantable testimony they bore to the number and formidable power of their enemies; like Daniel and his three companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; like the Saviour and his twelve apostles. You should consider, not only who are against you, but who are for you. On your part are Abraham and all the patriarchs, Isaiah and all the prophets, Paul and all the apostles, Stephen and all the martyrs, yea, all the saints on earth, and all the redeemed in heaven. You have on your side all the angels that stand before the throne above, the divine Saviour, the ever blessed Spirit, and the everlasting God. Besides, the kingdom of Christ is evidently on the increase. The Jews shall be brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles, and at the last day the saved will appear a multitude, that no man can number ; such as will completely justify the predictions ofscripture which speak of the nations of the saved, and of the Redeemer's sprinkling many nations.
It is not the fear of God which is forbidden ; but the fear of man that bringeth a snare. Not the fear of sin, but the fear of suffering. Not a filial, but a slavish fear, like that of David when he said, “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.” They sometimes fear lest their temporal wants should not be supplied; yet they have to do with one who feeds the fowls of the air, who clothes the earth with grass and adorns the grass with flowers, who hears the young ravens ; the God who has all means at his command, and all creatures at his disposal, and who sees the end from the beginning. At other times they fear they should not hold out to the end, but make shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience ; and that having begun in the spirit they should end in the flesh. They are at times anxious lest they should bring a reproach upon their profession, and cause the good ways of the Lord to be evil spoken of. They are not ignorant of Satan's devices, and sometimes fear lest he should gain advantage over them. And never do their fears rise higher than when they witness some professors, who seemed to be pillars, depart from Zion's ways, and either embrace pernicious errors, or fall into many foolish and hurtfullusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. There are seasons also, when they entertain painful apprehensions concerning their children, in respect to the supply of their temporal wants, or in regard to their final salvation. They are jealous over them with a godly jealousy ; and it at present appears to them as though the bliss of heaven would not satisfy them, unless it were partaken of with these objects of their intense affection.