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The Jewish nation, in the early period of their history, though distinguished by the divine favour, and enlightened by revelation, were still in a rude and uncultivated state, as far as regarded civil society. Even in the days of David, they had scarcely advanced farther than the state of shepherds and husbandmen. Arts, manufactures and commerce, began to flourish in a later period. Their flocks and herds constituted their riches. Milk and honey were the terms which conveyed to them the idea of plenty and fertility. To tend the flocks and herds was the honourable employment of princes and nobles; and the greatest king, the sublimest writer, and the the best man which this or perhaps any other nation ever saw, was taken from the sheepfolds and from following the ewes "great "with young." From this circumstance it undoubtedly arises that the sacred writings abound so much with images borrowed from the pastoral life. For in whatever stage of society a nation commences it's literary career, the future style of writing will always retain a resemblance to the original model. The manners and customs may change, the taste may improve, but the national authours
will, from habit and imitation, still employ similar images and expressions to those which were invented by the first composers. Hence we find our Lord and his apostles, (who lived in a very different state of society from that in which the psalmist composed that admirable pastoral the 23d psalm, and Isaiah uttered his sublime predictions concerning the great Shepherd of the flock) illustrating moral and spiritual ideas by the very same sensible images.
The beginning of that chapter which I have now read, contains a beautiful allegorical description of the relation subsisting between Jesus and his followers. The weak, helpless, blind, and wandering state of man by nature, and even while the work of sanctification is incomplete, is well represented under the notion of sheep without a shepherd. And the restoration, nourishment, guidance, protection and comfort which we derive from Christ are equally well expressed by that care which a shepherd exercises with regard to the sheep of his pasture. I mean not to deform this beautiful allegory, by pushing the comparison too far, but, as it is a favourite image with the sacred writers, as the ideas it
suggests to the mind are tender, affecting and comfortable, as, consequently, it will eluci date the scripture language, and impress upon our hearts a deep sense of the ties and rela tions by which we are bound to our Redeemer. I cannot, but deem it deserving of your atten tion:
I. To consider the character of Christ as a shepherd, and illustrate the language of scripture on that subject.
II. To inquire who are those other sheep, whom Jesus says in the text he must bring in?
III. To consider the happy effects which would result from bringing in those other sheep; "there would be one fold, and one shepherd."
1. The situation and character of sheep represent, in a striking and lively manner, the situation and character of mankind. Like sheep in a pasture we are placed in this world, in the midst of every thing which can contribute to our happiness, by a beneficent Creator, whose property we are, whose pasture we eat, on whose bounty we live, to whose will and pleasure we are wholly subservient. As sheep annually repay their keeper's care and attention by the fruit of their substance, and by
sparing a part of their own covering for their owner's clothing and defence, so we, who are the people of God's flock, should, in token of those obligations which we are under, dedicate to him ourselves, our talents, and our substance. As sheep are led to the slaughter, and doomed to bleed for their owner's convenience or lux
ury, so we, like sheep, are laid in the grave, and become the prey of worms which riot over us in the tomb. No animal is more timid and helpless, or has more enemies than the sheep. So we are altogether weak and dependent, exposed continually to evils which we can neither foresee nor prevent; beset with enemies who wait for our halting; temptations, like raving wolves, watch to make us their prey; our adversary the Devil, like a roaring lion, continually goeth about seeking to devour us. Our inward passions and desires, worse than wild beasts, would tear us in pieces, did not the great shepherd of the flock help and preserve us. No animal is so stupid or so much disposed to wander from the flock as the sheep. So we all, like lost sheep, blinded by temptation and stupified by sin, had gone astray; we had departed every one into his own way; we had wandered from
the rich pasture which God had provided for us, in quest of forbidden pleasures, as sheep scattered on the mountains, without a shepherd; and in a deplorable situation like this were we, when he who made us had mercy upon us, and sent the great shepherd and bishop of souls, to seek and save that which was lost.
But though all mankind are represented in scripture under the image of sheep, yet the genuine disciples of Christ are more frequently and with greater propriety spoken of as his flock, because they are a chosen people selected from the herd of mankind, and collected into his church, which is his fold; because they are distinguished by him above others; he knoweth them and calleth them by nameothers, who are not of his fold, he knoweth and acknowledgeth not-in short, because they hear and know his voice and follow him -they are, like the lamb of God, meek, harmless, patient and resigned.
But wherein consists that pastoral care which Christ exercises over his flock? First of all, he is the shepherd of his people because he feeds them with spiritual and divine food. Thus says the Psalmist, "the Lord is my shep