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. the good shepherd : the good shepherd layeth • down his life for the sheep.'
2. We might run a like parallel between the character of sheep, and that of believers. Sheep are remarked as harmless, clean, simple, useful creatures : sociable, but too apt to wander; defenceless, and therefore often injured. All these particulars apply beautifully to the flock of Christ, whether under the Old Testament or the New. They are, in their degree, · holy, harmless, and undefiled.' They naturally associate together, yet are too apt to ' wander from the fold of God;' they are the most useful members of society, yet often abused and persecuted ; as it is written, “ For
, thy sake are we killed all the day long: we * are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'
3. We observe more particularly the manner in which Christ executes his pastoral office: he feeds them, and causes them to rest at noon.--He feeds them : this seems to include or to imply all the various offices which Christ exccutes as our Redeemer. He is a king, and feeding implies (as already noted) the exercise of his regal government.--He is a prophet, and feeds them with knowledge and
understanding.'-He is a priest, and strange and incongruous as it may seem, he feeds them with his own “flesh and blood', which he hath given for their redemption-for this good shepherd hath laid down his life for his sheep.
He causes them to rest at noon ;' that is, in the hottest seasons of persecution, in the
6 Come my
severest times of tribulation, the Lord Jesus
and hide yourselves for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast'. When the church is persecuted in the book of Revelation, a retreat is prepared for her in the “wil
derness,' and so the Lord preserves 'a seed to serve him in despite of the rage of all his enemies. But when it is necessary for the honour of his cause, that they should come forward and boldly witness for his name, even to the death, then his chariots of celestial fire await to bear them to glory and an immortal
4. We may observe the language and argument of the spouse-0 thou whom my soul • loveth,' why dost thou withhold thy presence, "and treat me as a stranger, unknown and unbeloved by thee ?--As a harlot, apostate from thy love? or as a widow deserted and for6 saken?' Note, (1.) The Lord's own people are subject to the withdrawments of his
presence, and to mental distress, not only the same as others, but peculiar to themselves. (2.) That our love to Christ, as it is a principle implanted by his grace, may be pleaded as an argument for farther mercies: Forsake
6 not thou the work of thine own hands.' (3.) True believers are subject to be mistaken for hypocrites and mere professors. They
may appear so much alike, either by the declension of the one, or the imitation of the other, that no eye but that which searches hearts may be able certainly to distinguish them.
5. In the answer returned by the virgins, we may learn how we are to discover the pastures of the good shepherd; or in other words, the paths of truth and holiness; for to both these may the direction be applied : 'Go s forth by the footsteps of the flock.'
(1.) This method is recommended in our enquiries after truth; 'Stand ye in the way 6 and ask for the old paths, that ye may walk o therein.' The misfortune has been, that, in this case, many have begun their researches at too late a period. Instead of enquiring the sentiments of those venerable men, the prophets and apostles, they have contented themselves with the opinions of the doctors of the second and third century, or later, when the church was already corrupted with error and with heresy ; and when the writers often became so heated and perplexed with controversy, that they not only contradicted one another, but themselves; and it is in many cases impossible to get a clear and determinate opinion from them.
(2.) In seeking for examples to regulate our conduct we should apply to the same authorities. Christ himself is the first and best exam, ple in all cases, where his example will apply: and after him his apostles and first ministers,
the Christian fathers, the illustrious martyrs
(3.) As we are to follow good examples, so
• Feed thy kids among the tents of these shepherds.'
shepherd,' to associate with his companions ;
destroyed. In morals this is universally ad-
corrupt good manners :' and no less true is it, that to associate with men of loose and sceptical principles is the way to grow first indifferent, and then adverse to the truth.
But the subject leads us naturally to add a remark on the importance of attending a gospel ministry, where we possibly can, in preference to erroneous, or merely moral teachers. It is very true that morality is inseparable from the gospel, but it is equally true, that it is not the gospel itself. They should be distinguished, though not divided. We have no reason to expect Christ's
presence, but where his gospel is.
Chap. I. Ver. 9-11.
Have I compared thee, my consort:
Thy neck with (ornamental] chains.
With studs of silver.
HERE I think the spouse, attended by the
I virgins, goes into the garden of the palace, and there meets with her beloved, who compares her to the horses, or perhaps some favourite mare, in her father's chariot. This appears a very coarse compliment to a mere English reader, arising from the difference of our manners : but the horse is an animal of very high estimation in the east. The Arabians are extravagantly fond of their horses', and caress them as if they were their children, of which Mr. HARMER gives an extraordinary instance ? The horses of Egypt are so remarkable for stateliness and beauty as to be sent as presents of great value to the Sublime Porte}, and it appears from sacred history, that they were in no less esteem formerly among the kings of
This folly is not peculiar to the east. Julius Cæsar placed a marble effigy of his horse in the temple. Nero dressed his horse as a senator. Caligula would have made his horse consul; he invited his horse to supper, and himself waited on him. 2 On Sol. Song, p. 174.
Maillet in ib.