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Great, the Chief Shepherd, will bestow upon His sheep. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Our text, however, does not speak positively upon this point. It only tells us negatively, that they shall not want.
But by speaking in such general terms, it allows us to conclude, that they shall want nothing that the Shepherd can give, and the sheep receive. For the Lord God is a sun and shield ; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. Think, then, my friends, what you have wanted, what you do want, and what you may want hereafter. Collect in your minds every spiritual want, and it shall be supplied. This examination will require some time. The Charte Blanche was once, and only once, put into the hands of a single individual ; and he made such a choice, as fully entitled him to the appellation of the wisest man. Commune with your own hearts by night upon your beds,consider what in the course, the short course, of a changeable life, you may have yet to do and to suffer. When you bave finished your estimate, come by the prayer of faith unto the Lord your Shepherd, and He will supply all your need out of His unsearchable fulness. In the meantime, keeping the beautiful metaphor still before us, we shall mention some of the things which the sheep of Christ's pasture shall not want. They shall not want Protection, Provision, Direction, Correction, nor Consolation.
First, They shall not want Protection.
The sheep is a timid, harmless, defenceless animal. It is, of course, the prey of many rapacious birds and beasts. It has therefore needed and received the care and protection of man in every country, in every age. In eastern countries, it was watched by night, as well as tended by day. Of this, Jacob's expostulation with Laban informs us, In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. And the same fact is stated when the
Saviour was born in Bethlehem,-And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be the sign unto you,ấye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.
Having almost extirpated, in this country, the natural enemies of the sheep, they do not need to be so constantly and closely watched. Upon many occasions, however, they still need the attention and protection of man.
At certain seasons, if they tumble upon their back, they cannot arise without help. Vermin would even sometimes devour them if deprived of the shepherds watchful care. He needs also to watch the portending storm, and have them collected into some place of safety; while afterwards, many may require to be dug from under the wreath of snow. It needs more knowledge than ours to tell all the dangers, accidents, and evils, to which they are liable.
Real Christians are equally weak, timid, and defenceless as the sheep. They are sent forth in this world as sheep in the midst of wolves. They have many watchful, powerful, and insidious enemies, which lie in wait to devour them. The hosts of hell are numerous and furious. The men of the world are persecuting and unrelenting. Their own hearts, in part unsanctified, are ever ready to admit the foe. They would be swallowed up, were not their Redeemer mighty and ready for their help. God is their refuge and their strength. He is their rock, their fortress, and their deliverer. He is their shelter and their strong tower from the enemy. Over them continually is the shadow of His wings, and underneath them are His everlasting arnis. He keeps them as the apple of the eye. The sun shall not smite them by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will preserve them from all evil, and will keep them to His everlasting kingdom. He will give his angels charge over them, to keep them in all their ways. They shall bear them up in their hands, lest they dash their foot against a stone. Rather than endanger their lives, or disturb their peace, He will cause the sea to divide and allow them a passage, while their enemies are overwhelmed in the returning flood. Should they be called to besiege a city, He will make its walls to fall flat at the sound of rams' horns. Should they at any time despair, and think themselves in danger, He will open their eyes, and shew them, that they are surrounded with horses and chariots of fire. Should a mighty army be set in array against them, so that they can perceive no way of escape, He will send an angel, who will cut off, in a single night, an hundred fourscore and five thousand. Should they, for their constancy and fidelity, be cast into a furnace of fire, He will walk with them in the midst of the flames; so that even the smell of fire shall not
pass upon them. Should they be cast into the den of devouring lions, He will change their natures and shut their mouths; so that, instead of tearing them to pieces, they shall fondle them in their bosoms. Should they be cast into a prison, after stripes have been undeservedly and unmercifully laid upon them, He will send an angel to liberate them, or cause all earthquake to release them; and even their hardened jailor shall become obedient unto the faith. Should Satan, the accuser of the brethren, annoy them with his insinuations and suggestions, they shall be enabled to exclaim, Get thee behiud ine, Satan. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? (Rom. viii. 28-39.) In whatever place or condition they can be placed, as individuals or societies, they shall be kept in perfect peace and perfect safety. In every possible condition, they shall be able to echo the response of the prophet's song, (Hab. iii. 17, 18.) As he hath the keys of hell and of death, and openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, they shall not be hurt of the second death. Over them it shall have no power; and when they walk through the valley of the adow of death, He will be with them; His rod and his staff, they shall comfort them. The last enemy that shall be subdued, is death. In the very swellings of Jordan, they shall be enabled triumphantly to sing, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, They shall not want Provision. The sheep, like most of the irrational creation, takes no thought for the morrow. It neither sows, nor reaps, nor gathers into barns. It is not like the ant, which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the sunımer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. It even devours those pastures in summer which should be reserved until winter. It does not consider, that when the hills are heaped with snow, and hardened with frost, it must depend upon the valleys for shelter, and for subsistence. It needs the prudent foresight and guidance of man to keep it to the higher grounds in suinmer, that it may have the lower in store, if need require, in winter. There are pastures that are pernicious. From these it must be restrained. Hay must, after all, be made, and laid up for its winter use.
After all this has been done, sometimes be almost entirely supported, even when grown up, with the food upon which man depends.
The Christian is still more dependent upon his provider, than the sheep upon the shepherd. He depends upon Him buth for the meat that perisheth, and that which endureth
unto everlasting life. He may plough, and sow; but he well knows, that without the blessing of the Lord, he shall never reap. He may trade, or labour; but he is conscious, that unless Jehovah pleases, it shall tend only to penury. His motto, therefore, is, The Lord will provide. In the use of appointed means, he looks to Him for food and raiment; and having these, he is content. His bread, he knows, shall be given him, and his water shall be sure. They are promised in that covenant which is ordered in all things, and sure, and therefore cannot fail. Manna, if he needs it, shall be rained down upon him from heaven ; and feathered fowls as the sand of the sea. The rock shall be smitten, and the waters gush out and follow him, in dry places, like a river. The ravens shall feed him ; and the angels shall minister unto him, before he shall be unattended. The barrel of meal, and the cruise of oil, shall not fail, until rain be sent upon the earth. Having Jesus for his provider, his provision shall be sufficient; and if for his good, abundant. His barns shall be filled with plenty ; and his presses burst, as with new wine. The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; and they ho truly seek the Lord, shall not want any good thing. Nor shall his soul be famished, while his body is fed. He shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. As he shall not experience a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, neither shall he fail to hear the word of the Lord. His eyes shall behold his teachers. The ordinances of grace shall be continued with him. Upon these green pastures, and be. side these still waters, shall he be fed. (Prov. ix. 1-3.) In this mountain bath the Lord of Hosts made unto him a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well-refined. The tender-hearted father hath killed, for the long-lost prodigal, the fatted calf; and hath said, It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again, and was lost, and is found. God hath so loved the world, that He hath given His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. He hath not spared even His own Son; but hath delivered Him up unto the death for us all. Jesus hath given His flesh for the life of the world. For His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. On that memorable night on which He was betrayed, He said to His favoured few, as He hath this day said to you, Take eat, this is my body, or the representation of my body, which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me. And this cup is the New Testament, or the wine in
this cup, represents my blood, which ratifies the New Testament, shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink ye all of it. For except ye eat, by faith, the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you. Eat then, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, 0 beloved. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst Come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Thirdly, They shall not want Direction, The sheep in the deserts of Africa, or plains of Siberia, where it seems to be indigenous, is a bold, fleet creature, able to escape from the greater animals by its swiftness, or to oppose the smaller by its natural means of defence. There it cannot stray, for it has no abiding-place. When it is tamed by man, it becomes slow, dispirited, and defenceless. It becomes then gentle and harmless, and needs to be kept in a flock, and gathered to a fold. It is originally, to a certain extent, gregarious; and, when reclaimed, it retains something of the same nature; but when it leaves the flock, does not know, when out of the reach of their bleatings, how to return. The kind care of the watchful shepherd is, therefore, requisite, when it is lost, to find it out and bring it back. He must, therefore, be familiarly acquainted with the whole of his flock, and must frequently survey and number them, to discover if any are amissing. This vigilance seems to have been more required, and more strictly exercised in eastern countries, and, perhaps, till the present time, in all countries, than ours. What man of you, said the Saviour, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety-and-nine in the wil. derness, and go after that which is lost until he find it. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. Independent of human sympathy, its utility, and absolute necessity has, and ever will, cause it to be sought when it has heedlessly strayed.
Man has not only strayed far from God, and completely lost and destroyed himself by his first fatal transgression ; but after be is brought back by the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, he is sometimes, through forgetfulness, but more frequently through mere wilfulness, apt to turn aside from the path of duty. There are many cross paths that imperceptibly almost diverge from the narrow way; so that he is sometimes led off ere he is aware; and the forbidden fruit of the wide field of this world bangs on ost every tree; so that he is tempted to pluck and