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Upon the side of yonder green hill stands à sheep-fold: The bleatings of its fleecy inhabitants are highly grateful to my ear ; and no less so do they appear to be to their watchful shepherd, whom, early as it is, I behold, with cheerful alacrity, mounting the hill, directly to the fold. He calls to them in a familiar tone; and they seem to know his voice, for their bleatings grow more clamorous.
Now he opens the fold-door, and they rush out all over the dewy pasture.---There let me a while leave him with his fleecy charge, and take a view of the Church, which is, in Scripture, compared to a sheepfold, John x. 10.; and of her Head, who
hath taken to himself the amiable name and · character of a Shepherd, Psalm xxiii. l.
John x. 14.
The Church, as it were, is set upon a hill, exposed to the view of all her enemies ; but “ the Lord, her shepherd, is a wall of fire “ round about her, and the glory in the “ midst thereof,” Zech. ii. 5. so that no weapon that is formed against her, in the main, ever hath been, or shall be, able to prosper, Isa. liv. 19.
The shepherd of that fold, I was just now noticing, is a watchful shepherd; but in this respect our Lord excelleth all other shepherds, for he not only attendeth to the wants of his people early, but he keepeth'them, night and day, lest any hurt them : nay, watcheth over them every moment, Isaiah xxvii. 8. “ He that keepeth Israel slumber“eth not nor sleepeth," Psalm cxxi. 4. their
groans, cries, and prayers, are sweet bleatings in his ears, and to them he attendeth early in every time of need; for he knoweth their voice, and they know his, John X. 4. 14. whether he speaketh to them in his promises or threatenings.
They that have the Lord for their shepherd, may well, with the sweet Psalmist of Israel, in rapturous strains of melody sing, “ I shall not want, for he maketh me to lie “ down in green pastures, and leadeth me “ by the still waters : my fainting soul he " restoreth again, and leadeth me in the “paths of righteousness for his name's sake; “ and by his rod and staff comforteth me; “ so that though I walk through the dark “ valley of death, I will fear no evil : my “ head he anointeth with oil, and my cup “ runneth over. Surely goodness and mer“cy shall follow me all the days of my life, “ and I will dwell in the house of the Lord “ for ever," Psalm xxiii. 1.---5.
Is there some difficult marsh or cliff through which the sheep must pass then will the shepherd carry over the lambs, and take care that the ewes that are great with
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