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and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them me, is greater than all: and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." He foresees the trials which are coming upon them; and prays for them effectually, that their faith may not fail. He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increases strength. And when at any time they stumble and fall, he comes seasonably to their relief, lifts up their hands which hang down, and strengthens their feeble knees; and having enlarged their hearts, enables them to run in the way of his commandments. Thus does he conduct them through the slippery paths of life, and continues to be their guardian even until death. Neither does he leave them at the hour of death. For,
5thly. When they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, his rod and his staff comfort and sustain them. He fortifies and cheers their departing spirits; and when the evening shadows gather thick around them, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, is sent to say to them, that death as well as life is theirs. Nay, "the good Shepherd himself, who gave his life for the sheep," will say to them in this awful hour, "Fear not, I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and death:-I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." What a multitude of saints, who now inherit the promises, have in their last moments experienced the effect of these gracious and joyful assurances! In how many instances hath a lively and unexpected view of the promises of God, and of the great redemption, sustained and even
elevated a dying saint, who from the infirmities of the body, or other causes, was, through fear of death, subject to bondage all his life! The sensible presence of the good Shepherd, in these awful moments, will support the most fearful, and the feeblest of the flock. It will enable him that hath no might, to triumph over death, and him that hath the power of death; and, even in the presence of the king of terrors, it will teach him this song of victory, "My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."-"Thanks be unto God, which hath given me the victory, through Jesus Christ my Lord."-"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord." It is true, the saints of God have not all the same degree of sensible comfort at the hour of death. The wisdom of heaven may sometimes permit them to shut their eyes, without perceiving the full extent of the blessedness of them who die in the Lord, or without having received those sensible tokens of their victory over death. But "though weeping may endure for a night," while they are yet struggling to be released from the mortal tabernacle, their spirits shall awake to everlasting joy. For, in the
6th and last place, When the morning of the day that never ends shall dawn, they shall again see the good Shepherd stretching out his arms to receive them into everlasting habitations. "They shall see him as he is:" they shall be satisfied with his likeness." The mansions which he is now preparing for them will then be ready. Each of them shall enter into the blessed abode provided for him. "They shall go no more out for
ever;" and "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Then shall they sing together, with united gratitude and joy, the triumphant and eternal song of praise, saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing: for thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
And now say, my dear brethren, in the review of what you have heard, is not the Lord Jesus a good Shepherd indeed? He redeemed his flock with his blood, and guides them by his Spirit, and feeds them with all the rich fruits of his purchase. He defends them in life, accompanies them through death, and conducts them to those regions of light and love, where they shall dwell in his presence for evermore, eating the fruit of the tree of life, and drinking the water of the river of life, following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
Thrice happy they who are the sheep of his pasture; who, allured by his love, and aided by his grace, have returned to him as the "Shepherd and Bishop of their souls."
Let me then call upon such; for of such, I trust, a goodly number are assembled in this place; let me, I say, call upon them to reflect, with gratitude and joy, upon the proofs they have already received of his care and tenderness. Remember how he found you wandering in the wilderness, exposed to every beast of prey, insensible of your danger, and unable to avoid it. Remember how he opened your eyes to see your misery,
and not only discovered the all-sufficient remedy, but powerfully determined and enabled you to apply it. And let these past experiences endear him to your souls, and strengthen your dependance on him, for whatever else may be necessary to complete your salvation.
This is the natural tendency of the representation I have given you, and this is the improvement of it that best suits the occasion of our present meeting. The good Shepherd is this day to feed his own sheep, in the fattest part of that pasture which his love hath prepared for them. The ordinance now before us, doth not merely exhibit the riches of his grace, but seals and applies them to each believer in particular, that, having this security superadded to the unchangeable promise and oath of God, they may "have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them."
With this view, then, let us approach the table of the Lord, and pray, that this gospel-feast may prove effectual, by his blessing, to confirm our faith, to inflame our love, and to enliven our hope; that, by the nourishment it affords, we may be strengthened to pursue our journey through this wilderness, till, having passed the Jordan of death, and arrived at the heavenly Canaan, faith and hope shall become sight and enjoyment, and love, ever growing with the ages of eternity, shall embrace, with increasing vigour and delight, the good Shepherd, who gave his life for the sheep. Amen.
HEBREWS xiii. 5.
He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.
This comfortable declaration or promise is introduced by the Apostle, to enforce the duty of contentment, to which he had exhorted the Hebrews in the preceding part of the verse. Nothing can be more unbecoming in a child of God, than dissatisfaction with his present condition, or anxiety about his future provision in the world. It is no wonder to see worldy men, whose portion of good things lies wholly upon earth, loading themselves with thick clay, and eagerly grasping every thing which their craving appetites demand. Such persons cannot but be uneasy when they meet with disappointments; because, having nothing desirable in prospect beyond
, the grave, in losing their present enjoyments they lose
, their all. But the Christian, who knows of a treasure in heaven, a treasure incorruptible in its own nature, and which no fraud nor force can take from him, may and ought to look down, with a holy indifference, upon every thing here below, resigning himself entirely to the disposal of his Heavenly Father, who not only knows what is best for him, but hath likewise obliged himself, by covenant and promise, to make all things work together for the eternal advantage of those who love him and confide in his mercy.
It was this argument which Christ used with his disciples, to dissuade them from an anxious solicitude about