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LECTURE.

PSALM XXIII.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures : he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restorcth my soul : he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies : thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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The pastoral life, which is one of the most ancient and simple forms of society, and has fur

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nished the groundwork of this psalm, was prevalent and honorable among the eastern nations. Flocks and herds were their chief possessions, and the character of a shepherd not beneath the dignity of their patriarchs and princes. An occupation so innocent and useful, so familiar with their habits, and so friendly to reflection, had a natural influence upon their thoughts and language. It supplied the poet with beautiful images, the moralist with insinuating lessons, and the scripture itself with materials for sacred allegory. Of the last, there cannot be a more apposite example than the psalm which we are now to consider. Under the easy and elegant figure of a shepherd's care over, his flock, it represents the love of God toward his chosen. He is their shepherd, and they are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. The Lord, saith the psalmist, in verse 1, the Lord is my shepherd.

There is no difficulty in ascertaining the person here intended; for the description agrees to no other than our Lord Jesus Christ, who is at once JEHOVAH and the SHEPHERD promised to the fathers. He has ever delighted in this character, which, from the beginning, has supported the faith of his church, and animated her worship. The testimony which Jacob, with his dying breath, left to the Shepherd of Israel, she has perpetuated and improved. Give ear, 0 Shepherd of Israel; thou that leadest Joseph like a flock. Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage which dwell solitarily in the wood. With these petitions concurs the promise, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. It was also predicted, that in discharging his engagement, he should become a sacrifice for the benefit and in the room of his flock. Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. He owned the relation, and confirmed the oracle, when he laid down his life for the sheep. The name and office descended with him into the grave; and that same resurrection from the dead, which declared him to be the Son of God with power, declared him also to be the great Shepherd of the sheep. We know him, at this hour, as the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls; and recognize our fellowship with his servant David, breathing the same sentiment in the same words, the Lord is my shepherd.

Here is obviously a claim of personal interest in the Lord Jesus. For the faith of his people is not a cold assent to abstract propositions. The substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, it appropriates to itself a common good, and applies general promises to particular use. We shall reap little advantage from the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, if he be not to us individually, whatever he is to his people at large. My shepherd, my own shepherd, are words of life as well as of assurance. And when I can utter them believingly, my bosom swells with joy, and all my soul is on my lips. It is thus that the psalmist, mingling with the Redeemer's flock, takes refuge in his protection, exults in his favor, and reposes upon his truth. The choice was wise and happy: for as it terminated

the Creator and not upon the creature, it incurred no danger of disappointment. My shepherd, saith David, is Jehovau. Ancient believers were better instructed than to be ignorant of Messiah's divinity. Their good “confession" was not dishonored by the dream of a created Savior, nor the atheism of a secondary God. They did not perceive the impossibility, so plain to modern refiners, of conciliating essential godhead with covenant-office. On the contrary, they saw, as all true believers now see, that without the former, there could be no place for the latter. He who is not divine, cannot be their shepherd. The force of their reasoning,

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their consolation, their life, depend upon this principle, "My shepherd is JEHOVAH.” Hence the psalmist infers, I shall not want. The argument is short, but firm. It is the argument of a man who knows his God. Less than the all-sufficient can neither fill our capacities, nor accomplish our desire. We should soon exhaust the highest angels, and find them to be, like every other creature, when embraced as our portion, a broken cistern, and a lying vanity. The portion of Jacob is not like them. His attribute is infinity. The father and fountain of all being and blessedness, when he condescends to bind himself to men by covenant relation, and to sanction his promise with his oath, they have obtained the last security for their happiness. As impossible is it for him not to give that which is good, as it is impossible for him to lie. Not every thing, indeed, which would gratify their wishes, often impatient, and ill-directed, but every thing seasonable and proper, every thing conducive to their benefit, every thing which they themselves would ask, were they perfectly free from error, shall they receive at his hand. For the Lord God is a sun and shield : the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. This David believed, and he reasons accordingly: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

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