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diction to say that we gratefully remember the love of Christ, whilst at the same time, by our iniquities, we crucify him afresh; and endeavour, as far as possible, to frustrate the effects of this love. Purity of life is the gratitude which God demands. Beware then, all those of
you imitate the conduct of the spouse in the text, because you have certain glows of affection when you remember the sufferings of Jesus, and because you talk much of this Redeemer, whilst at the same time your life is marked by no holiness or charity. The time is coming in which you will find, to your eternal confusion, that “not those who cry, Lord, Lord, but those who do his commandments,” are the persons that remember the Saviour's love, and will be admitted to his kingdom.
Happy will it be for us, my brethren, if we all thus attest our remembrance of the Saviour, by the sentiments of the heart, the words of the mouth, and the actions of the life. He will continually afford us new blessings; he will be our light and our salvation on earth, and our support in the hour of death; and when his grace shall have admitted us to a blissful eternity, we will still, but with infinitely warmer gratitude, with infinitely more lively sentiments of joy and love, celebrate our Saviour. And when our bodies, waked from the slumber of the grave, shall be re-united to our happy souls, we will shout, Saviour, we no more can forget thy love ; each moment, as it passes, will recall it to us; the full ocean of blessedness which pours upon our souls, will ever remind us of thy cross; and throughout the ages of eternity, each breath that we draw shall be an aspiration of praise to thee.”
THE LORD OUR SHEPHERD.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh
me to lie down in green pastures : he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul : he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies : thou anointest my head with oil ; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me all the days of my life : and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
In the season of affliction and bereavement, we feel most sensibly the effects of the divine compassion. When we are sinking under the pressure of sorrow; when those earthly objects which had afforded us pleasure are torn from our embraces; when the world presents nothing but a dreary waste, incapable of conferring any enjoyment; then it is that God is nearest to us, and that his comforts are most sensibly felt by us. In a single month of affliction and distress, we experience more of the supporting and consolatory influences of the blessed Spirit, than we do in whole years of prosperity.
And when God, after his benevolent purposes in afflicting us are accomplished, interposes in our favour and rescues us from misery, our hearts glow with much warmer gratitude than if we had always remained in felicity. It is for this reason that the most tender and affecting psalms of David were written, when he had just been delivered from some of those calamities of which his life was full. At such periods, with a heart overflowing with gratitude, he joyfully celebrated the mercies of God, acknowledged him as the only source of true felicity; and, acquiring a firm trust in him from the past experience of his mercy, looked forward with confidence to the future, assured that this God, who had already conferred so many blessings upon him, would never forsake him.
You perceive the truth of these observations in this delightful psalm, which is now to occupy your attention, and which was probably written at that period of his life when the rebellion of his son Absalom obliged the royal psalmist to retire from Jerusalem, and flee to the borders of Lebanon. Dispirited and hopeless, wounded by the ingratitude of his son, forsaken by his friends, and driven to an uncultivated region, he was overwhelmed with sorrow, and trembled lest himself and the small remains of his army should perish with famine; but the event was more happy: his veteran troops, acquainted with his virtues and personally attached to him, flocked to his standard, and the good and opulent citizens afforded him liberal support.
Full of gratitude to that God who had thus unexpectedly led his subjects to espouse his cause and supply his necessities, he exclaims, “ The Lord is
my shepherd.” The sheep, a timid, defenceless animal,
unable to foresee danger, and incapable of resisting an assault, indebted for its preservation to the vigilance of the shepherd, was a fit emblem of David left without support, until the good providence of God interposed in his behalf. And on the other hand, the care of a tender shepherd beautifully shadowed forth the active beneficence of God towards his afflicted servant.
There were several circumstances that would naturally induce David to represent the Lord under this image. It was an image familiar to the Jewish people, who were greatly employed in pastoral occupations; the trembling sheep and the attentive shepherd were immediately before the eyes of David on the mountains of Lebanon, at the time that he wrote this hymn of praise; and he knew the feelings of a shepherd, having himself in his youth watched over the flock, and been so solicitous for its preservation as to expose his own life in its behalf.
After he had considered God in this character, he could not but conclude, “ I shall not want.” With so wise and powerful a protector I know that I shall enjoy every thing necessary for my support or defence. Unlike those earthly shepherds, who, notwithstanding the warmth of their affection for their flock, are often constrained to leave it in want through poverty, through weakness, through the sterility of their fields, or the rigour of the season; unlike these earthly shepherds, he to whom I belong is so rich and powerful, that I shall need nothing. He is the Master and Disposer of the universe and all that it contains, and his infinite love is sustained by infinite power. There is not a want of my heart which he cannot supply, not an inquietude of my spirit which he cannot relieve, not a desire of my soul which he cannot gratify. “ The Lord is my shepherd : I shall not want."
Lebanon, on the borders of which, as we have already said, David now was, is in part rough, craggy, and barren ; and from its top, at certain seasons, cataracts of melted snow descend, which render the water turbid and insalubrious. The psalmist contrasts the provision which the earthly shepherds who dwelt there made for their flocks, with that which his divine Shepherd made for him. 6 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ; he leadeth me beside the still waters.” • Bounteously providing for me, he shelters me from the heat of the noon-day sun, where the pastures are, not like those before my eyes, craggy and barren, but green and fertile; and at night he leadeth me, not to troubled and impetuous torrents, but to pure and quiet waters that gently flow.'
The paths conducting to the top of the mountain were devious and crooked, and in traversing them the sheep were exposed to many dangers, and were frequently bewildered and lost. But the Shepherd of Israel follows David in his wanderings; and causes him to walk in plain and secure paths : “ He restoreth,” or bringeth back my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.” When I wander from him, the only preserver of my felicity, the only source of my safety, he doth not abandon me to misery and destruction; he tenderly seeks me, he snatches me from danger, he plucks me from the edge of the precipice to which I had thoughtlessly strayed, he saves me from the ferocious beasts of the desert that were ready to devour me, and compassionately guides me in those pleasant paths where no dangers need appal me, where no foes can injure me, where pro