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such, go safely. In like manner, when the Lord's people enter into trials, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature, the Lord maketh himself known to them by his name Jehovah SHAMMAH, “ the Lord is there,” Ezek. xlviii. 35. He is there to guide them safely through every difficulty; for he will carry the lambs in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young, Isa. xl. 11. and none of his sheep shall ever be lost, either in the mire of sin, or among the rocks of despair.
The shepherd, ever attentive to his charge, sees when the wolf comes, and defends his flock from his attacks. So the Shepherd of Israel, with his all-penetrating eye, seeth every movement which Satan and a wicked world make against his people, and either defendeth them from their assaults altogether, or ordereth it so, that they shall not be finally overcome by them ; therefore the flock need not fear, however feeble they be in themselves, for none is able to pluck them out of his hand, John X. 28, 29. .
Are any of the sheep ever caught among thorns ? then will the tender-hearted shep
herd hasten to their assistance, cut the retarding twigs, and set the innocent captives at liberty. In like manner, when any of the Lord's flock are entangled with the cares of this world, ensnared with the riches and pleasures thereof; then will their compassionate shepherd cut these pernicious twigs ; nay, often, in love to their souls, blast those riches, and mar those pleasures, which held back his people's affections from himself, so that they may set them on things above, renew their strength, go on their Christian journey, and feed on the green pastures of spiritual things, as before.
• While I am thus in serious meditation, I begin to be disturbed by a clamorous noise, which seems to come from the farther side of the hill; methinks it is like the barking of dogs. Ah! now I perceive I am right; yonder they are with open mouth pursuing a number of the fleecy tribe.--Oh! what will become of these innocent sheep, they will certainly soon be destroyed, for those cruel dogs are almost close at their heels : fie upon them! will none call them off? Yes, to my great joy I hear a voice threatening them, and calling them
back: It is the voice of the shepherd : I discover him standing on the top of the hill; I now perceive those sheep have been straying in forbidden paths, which has occasioned the shepherd to use his dogs for bringing them back.
The wicked in scripture are called dogs, Psal. xxii. 16. Isa. lvi. 10, 11. Matt. vii. 6. Rev. xxii. 15. These the great Shepherd often useth in chastising his flock when they go astray, and in turning them back from forbidden paths ; as we see in the case of the rebellious Israelites, when they assayed to go up into the land of Canaan, contrary to the command of the Lord and his servant Moses ; the Amalekites and Canaanites came down, fought against them, and turned them back, Num. xiv. 40---45. Also, when the flock of Israel in the land of Canaan went astray after idol gods, feeding on high places and under every green tree, contrary to the will of the great Shepherd, he sent against them Nebuchadnezzar with the Chaldeans, who like dogs did hunt them so severely, that they were driven away out of their own land for the space of seventy years : And this woeful hunting had
such a blessed effect upon them, that they were never known to stray in such paths afterwards. The wicked in no age of the church could ever run one step against the flock of God, till they were either ordered or permitted by the great Shepherd; which indeed he hath often done for the best of purposes, but hath always stayed such dogs, and called them off in his own due time; so that they have never yet devoured, nor shall ever be able to devour, any of his flock, though they may harass and terrify them much. When such dogs run with the open mouth of persecution against the people of the Lord, whether as individuals, or as a body, it is either for turning them back from forbidden paths, preventing them from going astray, recovering them from lukewarmness, trying their stedfastness in the faith, their zeal for the cause of Christ, keeping them humble, weaning their affections from the things of this life, or for some good end or other. A wise shepherd will not send his dogs upon the sheep wantonly; much less will the good Shepherd of Israel, who laid down his life for his sheep, John X. 15. suffer the wicked to persecute his people without having the best of reasons for so do. wrath of God ready to fall on his guilty head, flieth to the man Christ Jesus, who is “ as a “ hiding place from the wind, and a covert “ from the tempest,” Isa. xxxii. 2. the only refuge.
Ungrateful man, through an unfeeling heart and wanton cruelty, may give up the innocent bird to the will of its enemy; but will the compassionate Jesus ever give up to vengeance the soul who hath fled to him for refuge ? No: for he hath said, “Him that “ cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out,". John vi. 37.; and, “ whosoever believeth on “ him shall not be ashamed,” Rom. ix. 33.; and, “ Can a woman forget her sucking child, " that she should not have compassion on “ the son of her womb; yea, they may for“ get, yet will I not forget thee,” Isa. xlix.
Christ, in effect, saith to such a soul, what David once said to Abiathar, when he fled to him from the sword of his enemy, “ With “ me thou shalt be in safe-guard,” i Sam. xxii. 23.