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to that God who disdains not to style himself the Father of the fatherless.
The peculiar excellencies of this species of charity were fully illustrated, on a former occasion of this kind, from that prayer of the Psalmist in behalf of the Jewish nation, (Psal. cxliv. 12.) "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace*." Then it was shown, That a permanent provision for the Christian education of destitute children, is a charity which tends to prevent misery; and must therefore be preferable to that which only alleviates present distress, or procures it a short and uncertain relief. This is charity to the souls of our fellow-creatures, and the noblest imitation of Him who came from heaven to earth, to seek and to save that which was lost. Besides, it is a charity which, of all others, is in least danger of being misapplied or defeated. This renders the prospect of doing good by it in the highest degree probable. And then its influence is of the largest extent; for while it serves to advance the glory of God, and the interests of pure and undefiled religion in the world, it promotes at the same time, in the most effectual manner, the spiritual improvement and happiness of individuals, and even the temporal prosperity of the nation to which we belong.
To such powerful recommendations any addition would be superfluous. And they who, influenced by these motives, contribute according to their ability for the support of an institution so pious and salutary, may be assured, that what they give is, in the most proper sense
* Dr. Erskine's Sermon, preached before the Managers of the Orphan Hospital, at Edinburgh, May 18, 1774.
of Solomon's words, "lent to the Lord, and that which they give will he pay them again."
Upon the whole, then, let it be our first care to have our own hearts filled with love to God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father in Christ; for unless this be the source of our charity to others, our beneficence may be profitable to them, but cannot avail ourselves. And if once this principle be deeply rooted in our hearts, then it will become easy and delightful to us, to communicate good to our fellow-men, in obedience to the command of God, and in imitation of his example. Let us always bear in mind "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." Let us consider the uncertainty of all earthly things, and this will dispose us to employ them with greater cheerfulness for the relief and comfort of our needy brethren, before they be taken from us, or we by death be divorced from them. Above all, let us beg of God the influences of his Spirit, which alone can vanquish that selfishness which is the great opposer of charity, and incline our hearts to all those acts of compassion and kindness which adorn our Christian profession, and by their beauty and usefulness engage others to glorify our heavenly Father. Amen.
Preached on a Communion Sabbath.
JOHN X. 11.
I am the Good SHEPHERD: the Good SHEPHERD giveth his life for the Sheep.
THOUGH Christ is in every view precious to them that believe, yet some of the characters which he sustains, presents him to us in a milder light than others, and render him comparatively more lovely and estimable. And amidst the variety of titles given him in Scripture, there is perhaps none more expressive of condescension and grace, than that which he is pleased to assume in my text.
As many of the Jews were shepherds by occupation, language of this description would be obvious to them all. And they who were enlightened by the Spirit of God, would not only perceive the propriety, but likewise relish all the sweetness of this endearing designation.
To us, indeed, an allusion to the pastoral life can hardly appear with equal beauty and strength. Many circumstances of resemblance would strike those who were acquainted with rural affairs, which must necessarily be supposed to escape our observation. But though we cannot trace them all with a critical exactness, yet by the light which the Scriptures afford us, I hope I shall be able to bring as many proofs of our Lord's care and tenderness, as may suffice to illustrate the propriety
of the allusion, and show with what justice this title of the Good Shepherd is claimed by our Redeemer.
I BEGIN With that to which our Lord himself appeals in the text. "I," says he, "am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
It was a signal proof that David gave of his care and tenderness, when he ventured his life for the sake of his sheep, and encountered a bear and a lion in their defence. But though the attempt was hazardous, it was not altogether desperate; he had hope of success, and actually prevailed. Besides, the charge committed to him was his father's property, part of which would one day fall to his own share: so that his personal interest was connected with the preservation of it; for if the flock decreased, his part of the inheritance would have been diminished in proportion.
But our blessed Lord had no inducement of this nature. His interest was in no shape connected with our welfare; his glory and happiness were independent of us. He could neither be enriched by our homage, nor impoverished by the want of it. Besides, we had forfeited all title to his protection, and, by the most wicked and unprovoked rebellion, had rendered ourselves the objects of his just displeasure. Yet such was his free and unmerited goodness, that he not only hazarded his life in our behalf, but voluntarily resigned it, that we might live through him. "All we like sheep had gone astray," says the evangelical prophet, "we had turned every one to his own way." But "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities;" or, in the language of the New Testament, "He who knew no sin" became a sin-offering for us; the just One suffered for the unjust, "that he might bring us to God." Had our case been merely unfortunate, like that of a VOL. II.
weak and harmless lamb seized by a lion, whom it could neither resist nor avoid, pity might have inclined a generous heart to attempt something for our deliverance. But our misery was the effect, not of weakness, but of voluntary wickedness. We chose it in its cause. We sinned, though we were forewarned that death would be the issue. We were not caught by surprise, but deliberately surrendered, or rather sold, ourselves to the adversary. Yet in this situation, when we had nothing to invite, far less to deserve, his regard and affection, did the blessed Jesus fly to our relief; and descending from the throne, put on the form of a servant, that in our place he might suffer and die on this earth which he had made.
Besides, the fatal deeds which forfeited our happiness were sins 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 insolence; in a word, all the circumstances were united which could aggravate our guilt, and inflame 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 circumstances, when this Friend of sinners, but the enemy of sin, came upon the wings of love to save us. "Deliver them," said he, "from going