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cept which the apostle giveth unto the pastors of the church, that they would προσέχειν τω σοιμνίω, , “ take special heed to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers.." And the apostle again reckoneth vigilancy' or care over the flock', amongst the principal characters of a bishop: and he professeth of himself, that there did daily lie upon him μέριμνα σασών των εκκλησιών, « the care of all the churches "." And this consideration affordeth us another note out of the words, namely, That Christ, in the ministry of his gospel, and dispensation of his Spirit, is full of care and tenderness towards his church. This Christ maketh one main point of opposition between himself and hirelings, that these care not for the flock *,' but suffer the wolf to come and to scatter them while they flee away ; whereas he keepeth them, that none may be lost, and prayeth unto the Father y to keep them through his own name. The Lord committed the church unto Christ as their head; gave them into his hands, not as an ordinary gift, wherein he did relinquish his own interest in them, or care of them (for he careth 2 for them still) but as a blessed depositum ;' intrusted them with him, as the choicest of his jewels", as the most precious casket amongst all the treasures of the creation, that he should polish, preserve, present them faultless, and “ without spot, before the presence of his glory at the last day b." And for this purpose he gave him a commandment of the greatest care and tenderness that ever the world knew,--that he should • lay down his life for his sheep, and should lose nothing do of all that was given him, but should raise it up at the last day. So that now, want of care, or compassion of Christ towards his church, would be an argument of unfaithfulness; if he had not been a 'merciful high-priesto,' neither could he have been faithful to him that appointed him: for he was appointed to be merciful,--and was, by the Spirit of God, filled with most tender affections, and qualified with a heart fuller of compassion, than the sea is of waters, that he might commiserate the distresses of his people, and take care of their salvation.
Notably doth this care of Christ show itself: First, In the
Acts 2. 28. + 1 Tim. iii. 2. u 2 Cor. xi. 28. * John x. 12, 13. y John xvii. 11, 12. 2 1 Peter v.7. Mal. iii. 17. b Jude v. 24. Eph. v. 26.27. • John X. 18. d John vi. 39. . Heb. ll. 17. iii. 2.
apportioning and measuring forth to every one his due demensum,' and in the midst of those infinite occasions and exigences of his several members, in providing such particular passages of his Word, as may be thereunto most exactly suitable; for this showeth, that his care reacheth unto particular
It is the duty of a faithful bishop, opfotopleīv, to make such a differences between 'men, and so 'to divide or distribute the Word aright,' as that every one may have the portion which is due unto him. Some are but lambs in Christ's flock, young, tender, weak", easily offended or affrighted; others, sheep grown up to more strength and maturity: some in his garner are but cummin seed; others, fitches ,--and some, harder corn: some can but bear a little rod, others a greater staff or fail, and some the pressure of a cart wheel: that which doth but cleanse some, would batter and break others into pieces: some are great with young", in the pangs of a loaden conscience, in the travail under some sore affliction, or in the throws of a bitter repentance, as it were in fits of breeding, or new forming of Christ in their soul: and these he leadeth with a gentle hand : others are, as it were, 'new-born,' past their pains, but yet very tender, weak, and fearful; and these he gathers with his arm, and carries in his bosom; shows them that his care doth not only reach unto the least of his kingdom, but that his compassions are most enlarged to those that are too weak to help themselves; but he hath breasts of consolation, to satisfy and delight with abundance, the smallest infant of his kingdom. Some are broken-hearted,' and those he bindeth TM : some are captives,' to those he proclaimeth liberty: some are'mourners' in Sion, and for them he hath beauty, and oil of joy, and garments of praise: some are • bruised reeds,' whom every curse or commination is able to crush : and some are smoking flax,' whom every temptation is able to discourage: and yet even these doth he so carefully tend and furnish with such proportionable supplies of his Spirit of Grace, as makes that seed and sparkle of holiness, which he began in them, get up above all their own fears, or their enemy's machinations, and grow from a judge
f2 Tim. ii. 15. xxviii. 27, 28.
& Jude v. 22, 23. h John xx. 15, 16. i Isai. k Isai. xl. 11. | Isai. Ixvi. 11. m Isai. lxi, 1, 2, 3.
ment' of truth’and sincerity, as it is called by the prophet"; unto a ‘judgement of victory' and perfection, as it is termed by the evangelisto. In one word, some are strong, and others are weak; the strong he feedeth, the weak he cureth; the strong he confirmeth, the weak he restoreth ; he hath trials for the strong to exercise their graces, and he hath cordials for the weak to strengthen theirs. According unto the several estates, and unto the secret demands of each member's condition, so doth the care of Christ severally show itself towards the same in his Word: there is provision for any want, medicine for any disease, comforts for any distress, promises for any faith, answers to any doubt, directions in any difficulty, weapons against any temptation, preservatives against any sin, restoratives against any lapse; garments to cover my nakedness, meat to satisfy my hunger, physic to cure my diseases, armour to protect my person, a treasure to provide for my posterity. If I am rich, I have there the wisdom of God to instruct me ; and if I am poor, I have there the obligations of God to enrich me. If I am honourable, I have there the sight of my sins to make me vile, and rules of moderation, to make me humble : if I am low of degree, I have there the communion and consanguinity of Christ, the participation of the divine nature, the adoption of God the Father, to make me noble. If I am learned, I have there a law of charity to order it unto edification ; and if I am unlearned, I have there a spirit which searcheth the deep things of God, which can give wisdom unto the simple, which can reveal secrets unto babes, which can command light to shine out of darkness, which can give the light of the knowledge of the glory, fulness, and love of God in the face of Jesus Christ; which can make me, though ignorant of all other things, to learn Christ in whom there is more wisdom, more various and admirable curiosity, more filling and plentiful satisfaction, more proportion to the boundless desires of a soul once rectified, more fruit and salvation (which should be the end of every Christian man's learning) than in all other knowledge, which either past or present ages can afford. In one word, every where, and in all things, I am there “ taught how to want, and how to abound, and
how to do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” A Christian can be set in no estate, wherein the abundant care of Christ over him is not, in the gospel, wonderfully magnified. And commonly, in the greatest straits, he showeth the greatest care, as waters run strongest in the narrowest passages: when we walk in darkness and have no light,when we seek water, and there is none, and our tongue faileth for thirst, then is his fittest time to help us, and then is our fittest time to stay upon him. Israel were delivered by miracles of mercy from their Egyptian bondage, and in the wilderness conducted by a miraculous presence, and fed with angels' food. Isaac was pon the altar, and then in the mount was the Lord seen, and his mercy stepped between the knife and the sacrifice. Jacob in great fear of his brother Esau, and then comforted by prevailing with an angel which was stronger than Esau. Peter P in sorest distress for denying Christ, and he the first man to whom Christ sent news of his resurrection. Paul in the ship visited by an angel. Peter in prison delivered by an angel. The distressed women at Christ's sepulchre comforted by an angel. Such as the extremities of the saints are, such is Christ's care for their deliverances.
And care is thus farther commended, that it proceedeth solely from the grace and compassion of Christ: there is uo affection naturally in us to desire it, there is no virtue in us to deserve it. When we were in our blood”, well pleased with our own pollution, he doubled his goodness, and used a kind of violence and importunity of mercy to make us live. When we did not seek after him,--when we did not so much as ask whether he were fit to be sought, when we were aliens from his covenant, and strangers to his name, he even then multiplied his invitation unto us ; " I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a people, that were not called by my name When we were weak ', full of impotency; when we were sinners, full of antipathy; when we were enemies, full of obstinacy and rebellion; when we cared not for him, but turned our backs and stopped our ears, and suffered him to throw away in vain so many sermons, so many sacraments, so many mercies, so many afflictions upon us; when
Mark xvi. 7. Vocatur ex nomine, ne desperaret ex negatione. Gregor. Mag. 9 Ezek. svi. 6. rlsai. lxv. I. • Rom. v. 6, 8. 10.
we cared not for ourselves, no man repented, or said, What have I done? even then did he magnify his compassion towards us; he cared for us, when we neglected ourselves, despised him; he bestowed his mercy not only upon the unthankful, but upon the injurious.
But then a little compassion is enough for those that had deserved none, for those that had provoked scorn and displeasure against themselves: but herein is the care and tenderness of Christ abundantly magnified, that it hath in it all the ingredients of a most sovereign mercy, that nothing more could have been done, than he hath done for us. First, For the foundation and original of all mercy, there is in him an overflowing of love, without stint or measure, --- a turning of heart“,-a rolling and sounding of bowels”,-a love which surpasseth all knowledge, which is as much beyond the thoughts or comprehensions', as it is above the merits of men.
Secondly, There is a study and inquisitiveness how to do good, debating within himself, a consulting and projecting how to show mercy, an arguing, as it were, of his grace with man's sin, and his own severity: “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah ? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.” True it is, thou hast been unto me as the rulers of Sodom, and as the people of Gomorrah b: but I shall be unto thee, as I have been unto them.. Am I not God, and not man ? shall I change my covenant, because thou hast multiplied thy backslidings ? - The Lord useth such humane expressions of his proceedings with men, as if their sins had put him to a stand, and brought him to difficulties in showing mercy. " I said, How shall I put thee amongst the children, and give thee a pleasant land ?”' &c. Thy case is very desperate, and thou hast stopped up the courses of my mercy towards thyself: how then shall I make good my resolutions of compassion towards those that reject and nullify it to themselves ? Surely, there is no way but one, to overrule the hearts of obstinate sinners, that they may not
t Isai. v. 4. u Hosca xi. 8. * Jer. xxxi. 20. Iv. 9. Jer. xxix. 11. • Hosea xi. 8. + Isai. i. 10.
y Ephes. iii. 19.
e Jer. iii. 19.