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of this world, and even but little known to the children of God, who are heirs of it. Yea, they who know themselves partakers of it, yet know not much what it is; only this, that it is above all they know or can imagine. They may see things which make a great shew here; they may hear of more than they see; they may think or imagine more than either they hear or see, or can distinctly conceive of; but still they must think of this glory as beyond it all. Do I see pompous shews, or read or hear of them? yet this I say of them, These are not as my inheritance : Oh! it is far beyond them. Yea, does my mind imagine things far beyond them, golden mountains and marble palaces? Yet those fall short of
my inheritance, for it is such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive Oh! the brightness of that glory when it shall be revealed! How shall they be astonished who shall see it, and not partake of it! How shall they be filled with everlasting joy, who are heirs of it! Were the heart much upon the thoughts of that glory, what thing is there in this perishing world, which could either lift it up or cast it down?
Ver. 2. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking
the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not
for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3. Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being en
samples to the flock: 4. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall re
ceive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
In these words we have, 1. The duty enjoined, Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight of it. 2. The due qualifications of their duty negatively, not by constraint, for filthy lucre, as lording it over God's heritage, but willingly, of a ready mind, and as being ensamples to the flock. 3. The high advantage to be expected, an unfading crown of glory, when the Chief Shepherd shall appear.
e i Cor. ii.9. Vol. II.
1. The duty enjoined, Feed the flock of God: Every step of the way of our salvation hath on it the print of infinite majesty, wisdom and goodness; and this amongst the rest, that men, sinful weak men, are made subservient in that great work of bringing Christ and souls to meet; that by the foolishness of preaching, (or what appears so to carnal wisdom), the chosen of God are called, and come unto Jesus, and are made wise unto salvation; and that the life. which is conveyed to them by the word of life in the hands of poor men, is by the same means preserved and advanced. And this is the standing work of the ministry, and this the thing here bound upon them that are employed in it, to feed the flock of God thut is among them. Jesus Christ descended to purchase a Church, and ascended to provide and furnish it, to send down his Spirit: He ascended and gave gifts, particularly for the work of the ministry; and the great use of them is this, to feed the flock of God.
Not to say any more of this usual resemblance of a flock, importing the weakness and tenderness of the Church, the continual need she stands in of inspection, and guidance, and defence, and the tender care of the Chief Shepherd for these things; the phrase enforces the present duty of subordinate pastors, their care and diligence in feeding of that. flock. The due rule of discipline not excluded, the main part of feeding is by doctrine, leading them into the wholesome and green pastures of saving truths revealed in the gospel, accommodating the way of teaching to their condition and capacity; to be, as much as may be, particularly acquainted with it, and suit diligently and prudently their doctrine to. it; to feed the sheep, those more advanced; to feed the lambs, the younger and weaker; to have special care . of the infirm ; to learn of their Master the great Shepherd, to bind up that which is broken, and strengthen that which is sick.'; those that are broken in spirit, that are exercised with temptations, and gently to lead those that are with youngs, in whom the inward f Ezek. xxxiv. 16.
8 Isa. xl. 11.
work of grace is as in the conception, and they heavy and weak with the weight of it, and the many difficulties and doubtings which are frequent companions and symptoms of that work. Oh! what dexterity and skilfulness, what diligence, and, above all, what affection, and bowels of compassion, are needful for this task! Who is sufficient for these thing's? who would not faint and give over in it, were not our Lord the Chief Shepherd; were not all our sufficiency laid up in his rich fulness, and all our insufficiency covered in his gracious acceptance?
Inf. 1. This is the thing we have to eye and study, to set Him before us, and to apply ourselves in His strength to his work. Not to seek tó pleuse, but to feed; not to delight the ears, but to feed the souls, of his people; to see that the food be according, NOK? solid food, spiritual things, spiritually conceived and uttered, with holy understanding and affection.
And to consider this, wherein lies a very pressing motive, it is the flock of God, not our own, to use as we please, but committed to our custody by him, who loves highly and prizes his flock, and will require an account of us concerning it. It is his bought, his purchased flock, and at so dear a rate, as the Apostle St. Paul uses this same consideration, in the same argument“, The flock of God that he hath bought with his own blood. How reasonable is it that we bestow our strength and life on that flock, which our Lord laid down his life for; that we be most ready to draw out our spirits for them, for whom he let out his blood ? Had I, says that holy man“, some of that blood poured forth on the cross, how carefully would I carry it; and, ought I not to be as careful of those souls that it was shed for! Oh! that price which was paid for souls, which he, who was no foolish merchant, but wisdom itself, gave for them! Were that price more in our eyes, and
d Acts xx. 23. e BERN, Advent, Serm. 3.
C 2 Cor. ii. 16.
more in yours, nothing would so much take either you or us, as the matter of our souls. In this would our desires and endeavours meet, we to use, and you to improve, the means of saving your precious souls.
Inf. 2. This mainly concerns us indeed, who have charge of many, especially finding the right cure of one soul within us so hard : But you are concerned in it each for one : At least remember this is the end of the ministry, that you may be brought unto Christ, that you may be led to the sweet pastures and pleasant streams of the gospel; that you may be spiritually fed, and may grow in that heavenly life, which is here begun in all those in whom it shall hereafter be perfected.
And as we ought in preaching, so you in hearing, to propound this end to yourselves, that you may be spiritually refreshed, and walk in the strength of that divine nourishment. Is this your purpose when you come hither? Inquire of your own hearts, and see what you seek, and what you find, in the public ordinances of God's house. Certainly the most do not so much as think on the due intendment of them, aim at no end, and therefore can attain none; seek nothing, but sit out their hour, asleep or awake, as it may happen, or, possibly, some seek to be delighted for the time, as the Lord tells the Prophet, to hear, as it were, a pleasant song'; if the gifts and strain of the speaker be any thing pleasing. Or, it may be, they want to gain some new notions, to add somewhat to their stock of knowledge, either that they may be enabled for discourse, or, simply, that they may know. Some, it may be, go a little further; they like to be stirred and moved for the time, and to have some touch of good affection kindled in them; but this lasts but for a while, till their other thoughts and affairs get in, and smother and quench it; they are not careful to blow it up and improve it. How inany, when they have been a little affected with the word, go out and fall into other discourses and thoughts, and either take in their affairs secretiy, as it were, under their cloak, and their hearts keep a conference with them; or if they forbear this, yet, as soon as they go out, plunge themselves over head and ears in the world, and lose all which might liave any way advantaged their spiritual condition. It may be, one will say, It was a good sermon; is that to the purpose ? But what think you it hath for your praise or dispraise? Instead of saying, “Oh! how well was that spoken !" you should say, “Oh! how hard is repentance! how sweet a thing is faith! how excellent the love of Jesus Christ !” That were your best and most real commendation of the sermon, with true benefit to yourselves.
| Ezek. xxxiii. 32.
If some of you be careful of repeating, yet rest not on that; if you be able to speak of it afterwards upon occasion, there is somewhat requisite beside and beyond this, to evidence that you are indeed fed by the word, as the Alock of God. As when sheep, you know, or other creatures, are nourished by their pasture, the food they have eaten appears not in the same fashion upon them; not in grass, but in growth of flesh and fleece; thus the word would truly appear to feed you, not by the bare discoursing of the word over again, but by the temper of your spirits and actions ; if in them you really grow more spiritual ; if humility, self-denial, charity and holiness, are increased in you by it. Otherwise, whatsoever literal knowledge you attain, it avails you nothing, though you heard many sermons every day, and attained further light by them, and carried a plausible profession of religion ; yet, unless by the gospel you be transformed into the likness of Christ, and grace be indeed growing in you, you are but, as one says of the cypress trees, fair and tall, but fruitless
Are you not grieved and afraid, or may not many of you be so, who have lived many years under a fruitful ministry, and yet are as earthly and selfish, as unacquainted with God, and his ways, as at the first? Consider this, that as the neglect of souls will
8 Καλοί και ύψηλου και κάρπον έκ έχεσι.