Third Degree. — Jesus, the Bishop of our Souls.

Psalm 23:3. "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for his name's sake."

How infinitely blessed! And yet how sad and humbling, that, after having tasted the loving-kindness of that Shepherd, Who never suffers us to lack any good thing, and after having enjoyed the green pastures and the still waters of His provision, straying should ever occur, and restoration be needed! Wretched hearts of ours, that require it, and blessed grace, that is ever ready to restore, even such wanderers from his person and pasture. Wonderful is the restoring grace of the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls," no less wonderful than His saving grace as our Saviour. But how humbling!

For the saving grace of God was extended to, and exercised on behalf of a wretched, rebellious creature, a sinner blinded by Satan and sin (though none the less guilty on that account); but Divine restoring grace is exercised, by the blessed Bishop of our souls, towards those who have been washed and bought by His own blood, have been brought to God and made children of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, sealed by the Holy Ghost, and made to know the Shepherd's voice — in whose hearts the love of God has been shed abroad — who have tasted that the Lord is gracious — who have been made to lie down by that tender Shepherd in the "tender herbs" of His pastures, and led by Him "beside the still waters." Is not the strayer from such love and grace far more culpable than the stranger (by nature) to that grace? Is not the sheep that has turned away from such a Shepherd and such a pasture, far more guilty than those who, like natural sheep, had lost their way? Strange as may sound the murmurings of Israel, "Our soul loatheth this light food," when they had been daily fed with "angels' food," and to hear them express their preference for the onions, garlic, and fleshpots of Egypt; yet what about the wanderings and secret hankerings after Egypt, on the part of those who have been fed with the "bread of God," and yet betray, not in so many words, but by their actions and demeanour, the same sentiments

Christian reader! The prince and god of this world is now-a-days more than ever busy, to provide pastures for straying and half-hearted Lots! Alas! that there should be so many in these days of widely-spread scriptural knowledge!

A few words on the characters of Abraham and Lot, may not be out of place here, familiar as the subject may be to most of nay Christian readers.

What formed the striking difference between Lot and Abraham? Lot chose for himself, whilst Abraham left it to God to choose for him.

"And Abraham said unto Lot: Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee" (not before us)? "Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me, etc." (Gen. 13.)

Mark, reader, the following verse: —

"And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar."

Lot's eyes and heart were set on those meadows around Sodom, which were not the green pastures of our Psalm, though they looked like "the garden of the Lord" — that Paradise, from whence man had been expelled. Lot wanted to lay himself down in those green pastures, and he did not know that the ground was volcanic, i.e., ready for judgment. He wanted to pitch his tent beside those waters, that rendered that plain so fertile, But, alas! they were not like the "still waters" — those "waters of rest," beside which our gracious Shepherd leads His flock.

We read in the following verses: —

"Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent towards Sodom."

Mark the solemn "But" in the next verse: — "But the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly."

The battlements of wicked Sodom, arising in the midst of those well-watered plains, were no barrier to Lot. He pitched his tent towards Sodom. The company of the wicked, to be anticipated, did not make him recoil from his choice. The country around Sodom bore a beautiful aspect to the natural taste, and Lot's eyes, being so eagerly fixed on the alluring scene, overlooked the tower of Sodom, which ought to have been to him like a warning finger, or beacon, reared amidst those alluring fields and gardens. The placid waters, that rendered those plains so attractive and fertile, were soon to reflect the fire and brimstone that was to rain from heaven, and turn them into a scene of black and monotonous destruction. The substratum or foundation of those fertile plains was volcanic (I mean, spiritually) and the atmosphere bore the oppressive character of the approaching judgments of God. Abraham saw and felt this; Lot perceived it not. Whilst his worldly eyes were on the green pastures of Sodom, Abraham's heart was "desiring a better country." Whilst Lot pitched his tent towards wicked Sodom,* Abraham's eyes were looking, and he was pitching his tent towards a heavenly city, "whose builder and maker is God." Canaan, the Land of Promise at the time, was for him only a "burial-place." In Egypt, whither famine had driven him, Abraham had learnt a lesson: not to make nor follow his own choice, but to leave it to the Lord — "To choose and to command."

{*A man's feet soon follow his eyes. (Gen. iii, and Prov. 4.)}

It was the same as that which, many centuries after him, was expressed by the inspired pens of two of his most excellent royal descendants, namely:
1. "Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." (Psalm 37:3).
2. Wait on the Lord and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it." (v. 34).
3. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." (v. 4, 5.)
4. "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him." (v. 7).
5. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Prov. 3:6).
6. "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established." (Prov. 16:3).

Let us just look for a moment at the different results of Lot's and Abraham's ways. Already in the next (14) chapter, Lot is made to taste the bitter fruits of his own sad choice. But at the same time, the Lord delivers him, in His mercy, by the hand of his slighted relation. But Lot would not be delivered. He again runs blindfold into the same net, where he day after day "vexed his righteous soul" (for he was a righteous man, after all, in his dealings with neighbours, and keeping his garments unspotted from the flesh of Sodom, though, alas, not unspotted from the world), in being obliged to witness their "filthy conversation," without the power of witnessing or protesting against them, which he had lost by his very dwelling amongst them. His tent had disappeared, soon after it had been pitched "towards Sodom." From the approaches of Sodom to its "gates," there is but one step. We find him seated under the gate of Sodom, the place of the ancient world's honour and traffic. Finally he has to be plucked out from the fire like a brand, and is "saved through fire," whilst his wife is turned into a pillar of salt. Again he makes one of those "towns" his refuge (for "is it not a little one?"), till at last, afraid to stay there any longer, he flees to a cave in the mountain, there to disappear in sinful gloom from the scene, after having become the father of the Ammonites and Moabites, those inveterate and constant enemies of the seed of Abraham, of the people of God.

Let us now turn from this sad picture of a worldly believer's choice, course, and end, to the blessed result of Abraham's walk of faith.

After Lot had lifted up his eyes and chosen for himself, we read in the same chapter: —

"And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him:

"Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. . . . Arise, walk through the land, in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee."

And whilst his unhappy kinsman pitched his tent, towards Sodom, "Abraham removed his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre . . , and built there an altar unto the Lord." There he dwelt under the safe shadow of the wings of the Almighty, in the calmness, peace, and joy of worshipful communion with his God. From thence he went forth, in the strength of that communion and dependence, with his three hundred and eighteen servants, born in his house,* to rescue his kinsman from the united power of those four kings. And after his wondrous meeting with that most blessed, mysterious king and priest, and receiving from him bread and wine, the symbols of strength, joy, and blessing,** and the blessing of "the most High God, possessor of heaven and earth," and after giving unto Melchisedek, as to the greater one, the tithes of all, whilst refusing to accept even so much as a thread or a shoe-latchet from the king of Sodom, "lest he should say that he had made Abraham rich," Abraham hears those words of blessing from the Lord: "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."

{*Yet those 318 servants did not prevent his being a pilgrim and stranger on the earth.

**To be fulfilled under the millennial reign of that blessed King of righteousness and peace, when He will say to His faithful ones: "Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved."}

Again in the peaceful retreat of Mamre, where the Lord made Abraham and his house to lie down in green pastures, and led him beside the still waters, whilst Lot daily vexed his soul in Sodom, we are permitted to witness that unique scene of never fading freshness, recorded by the Holy Ghost, in the epistle to the Hebrews, as a pattern of hospitality. It is a scene, nowhere else to be met with throughout the pages of Holy Writ, except at Bethany, where we find the same wondrous Divine Guest — but under what different circumstances! — not going to judge, but ready to undergo the judgment due to us!

At Mamre it is, that we behold the Lord Himself, (Who was Abraham's shield and his great reward), with two of His mighty angels, seated under the shadow of those trees that covered Abraham's humble abode, partaking of His servant's hospitality, and leaving, before His departure, the royal boon of the promise of a son and heir. Is there any scene of the most luxurious earthly hospitality offered to royalty, gracing by its presence the splendid abode of some great favoured vassal, to be compared to this picture of primitive hospitality, truly divine in its simplicity? But this scene of divine and patriarchal simplicity is followed by one of divine grandeur.

"And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way."

"And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."

And then follows that wondrous scene where the Lord announces judgment to be imminent upon Sodom and Gomorrah. His two companions have withdrawn and gone before with heavenly discretion, for their Master's departing words of familiar favour to Abraham. The latter pleads for the doomed city before One, Who was always willing to listen to the voice of intercession, wherever this could be done without sacrificing what was due to divine holiness, righteousness, and truth, the claims of which He Himself was one day fully to meet upon the Cross. Where is there an intercessor and advocate like Himself, Who so willingly listened and responded to Abraham's intercession? I need not dwell on this sublime scene; for what heart, taught by divine grace, has not feasted upon portions like Abraham's pleading for Sodom, or Moses' intercession for the people on the Mount of Horeb? Comments upon such scenes, where divine majesty and condescending grace combine, so that even angels, though desiring to look into these things, withdraw in heavenly modesty, would appear so much like an intrusion, that one can but follow their example; only praying that reader and writer, like those two exalted servants of God, might learn to be more truly alone with God, in order to inhale more of the pure heavenly atmosphere of such scenes, and to carry with them from the mountain, the intended blessing in power and grace.

A few words as to the closing scene in the next chapter. On the following morning Abraham stood again on the same spot, where he had pleaded so touchingly and earnestly for those cities.

"And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord."

What a change did his eyes behold!

"And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace."

Where were those well watered green pastures that looked like the garden of the Lord, and had attracted the worldly eyes of Lot? An immense black, desolate, charred plain, was all that met Abraham's eyes; and arising from it, the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah, like the "smoke of Babylon the great," that will rise at a future, not very distant period, The proud cities had been turned into ashes; the alluring, green, and blossoms, and fruits of those treacherous pastures and gardens, had become smoke; and the placid waters that made them so fresh, lovely, and fertile, had merged into the still waters of the Dead Sea, which now covers the spot, where once the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life had their sway, and feasted on the gay-looking but hollow "apples of Sodom," the contents of which are "dust and ashes!"

Christian Reader! Beware of the "apples of Sodom,"* those fruits so enticing in appearance, that have been said to grow on the shores of the Dead Sea, on the spot where once Sodom and Gomorrah stood.

{*The real existence of that fruit has been denied by others. It does not lose, for that, its value as a simile.}

There was once a disciple, the youngest and the oldest of the apostles, who knew what it was to lie down in green pastures, and to be led beside the still waters by Jehovah-Jesus; for he was wont to lean on the bosom of that Good Shepherd, to listen, as it were, to the movements of that heart of love, and to drink from His lips the words of grace, and truth, and life. It is through the pen of that disciple that the Spirit addresses to us, dear reader, those words of warning: —

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever."

Dear fellow-Christian! Remember; this world indeed will pass away. The great fire of Sodom and Gomorrah will be followed one day by a still greater and more solemn conflagration. In the Second Epistle of the Apostle Peter, we read: —

"The heavens and earth which are now, by the same word" (by which the old world perished, being overflowed with water) "are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,* in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up."

{*Remember the words to Sardis: "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief." How many cases of sudden "cutting of" of backsliders there have been since the days of Ananias and Sapphira, and the Corinthians. To be thus "summoned home," is a sad way of "going home," for a child of God! }

"Seeing then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"

"Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."

"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."

Beloved Christian reader! Fellow-pilgrim and fellow-heir of glory with Christ! Bear with me, if I have enlarged upon the solemn subject of backsliding more than you may deem compatible with the verse in contemplation. But if one looks at the fearfully rapid strides which worldliness makes amongst the flock of God, and not only amongst the younger portion of that flock, — one can but hide one's face before God in the dust, and weep over our common shame and reproach, which we have brought upon God's testimony! Surely, it behoves us to say, not only like Daniel, "We have sinned," but to add, like Nehemiah, (when he was himself in the place), "I have sinned." Why is the gold become dim and the most fine gold changed? Is it not because we have become rich and increased with goods, instead of buying of Christ Jesus that "gold, tried in the fire," to be bought of Him alone? And how is it that we have become rich and increased with goods? Is it not because we would be rich? And why would we be rich in this world? Because we had "left our first love" — and therefore the "love of money, which is the [a] root of all evil," has come in; and the love for the things of Egypt, its honours, and pleasures, and treasures — the very things which Moses refused, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. How is it that we are not "valiant for the truth upon the earth?" Is it not, because we have lost the secret strength of our Nazariteship in the treacherous friendships of this world? Alas! how many a "man of valour," how many a champion of Christ, has been, or is being, delilalized* in the enervating embrace of the world!

{*"Delilah" means poor, impoverishing, weakening, or, making oppressed.}

But remember, Christian reader, that the same Lord Who reproved His backsliding people of old, and only judged "backsliding Israel," because she had justified herself more than treacherous Judah," invited them again and again, before He judged them, with that touching appeal," Turn, oh backsliding children, saith the Lord, . . . and I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding."

And had not God given unto you, once a sinner of the Gentiles, that true Pastor, in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd? He had fed your soul indeed with knowledge and understanding, by His Spirit, in the blissful pastures of His Word, and refreshed your heart beside the still waters of His provision He had made you to taste His grace and loving-kindness. And yet you had turned aside, worse than the prodigal, who turned his back upon his father, and upon his father's home, before he really knew the love and grace of that father. You have turned your back, not only upon the Father, but upon His blessed Son too, Who had left His Father's house, to tell out His Father's heart to prodigals like you and me, in order to bring us through His cross unto that Father, of Whose person He Himself was, and is, the express image, as He was, and is, the brightness of glory. You have turned away from that Shepherd Who came to seek and save the lost, you among the rest, and to carry you on His shoulders home rejoicing. You have turned His rejoicing into grief. Have you considered Whom you are thus grieving and slighting, in turning your back upon such a Shepherd, and slighting His pasture? Alas, alas, you have forgotten the price with which that Shepherd has bought you, even His own blood.

There was a time when your eye, in the power of an ungrieved Spirit, and with the ardour of first love, was fixed on His blessed person, Who is "altogether lovely," so that you saw no beauty nor comeliness in the things of this world, that you should desire them, and they were unto you like "roots out of a dry ground."

You had been made to hear the voice of that Good Shepherd, Who spoke to you, on the day of salvation: "Thy sins are forgiven! go in peace!" You knew that voice, you loved it and followed it. With the eagerness of the new-born babe, you turned to the sincere milk of His Word. You had learnt to say, "Abba, Father," unto His Father and God, because that blessed God had sent the Spirit of His Son into your heart, and, in the power of that Holy Spirit you held sweet communion with your fellow-Christians. You worshipped God in the beauty of holiness, together with His redeemed people, and at the Table of His dear Son. You remembered Him, Whose love was stronger than death, and Whose body was given for you, and His blood shed for the remission of your sins; and your joy was full, and your cup running over. But, alas! those are bygone days, and the sorrowful words of Lamentations are yours: "The joy of my heart is ceased; my dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from my head." I will not inquire how long you have turned away from that Good Shepherd, and have slighted His and your gracious Father's love, and grieved His Holy Spirit nor how it was you turned from such a pasture to the meadows of Sodom, and, perhaps, more than Lot, to its unrighteousness and fleshly lusts, too, that defile body and mind? "Where art thou" That first question, addressed so solemnly by a pitiful, but holy God to His creature, fallen amidst the abundance of an earthly Paradise — does it not, with double and threefold force and solemnity, apply to a fallen child of God, heavenly in calling, heavenly by birth, heavenly in blessing, heavenly in position and character, and with a heavenly and glorious hope? "Remember, from whence thou art fallen!"

Here I stop — bowing myself first of all under the sense of my own repeated wanderings from my loving Shepherd's heart and pastures, but owning thankfully the grace of Him Who has restored, and does restore, my soul. But if these lines should happen to meet the eye of a backslider, and draw forth a tear of genuine godly sorrow and repentance, I will bless God for it! Do not despair, weeping and repentant one! Christ does not despair of you, hard and thick as the icy crust may have grown, with which the world around, or the flesh within, has encased your poor wretched heart, that was once basking in the sunshine of His love and grace. Do not despair! Sad and grievous indeed, and dishonouring to that blessed Saviour Shepherd's name, has been your defect, your fall, and wandering from such love and grace! No wonder that your happiness is gone, remembering from whence you have fallen. Those seasons of quiet, unclouded, practical peace, the result of a conscience kept sweet and undefiled under the holy eye of a gracious God, are, bygone times, "gone for ever," Satan would whisper. That blessed Divine Comforter within you, Who filled you with joy and peace, has become a stern Reprover, because you have preferred and sought the comforts of the world without, "where our Lord was crucified," and you have made provisions for the flesh. (Hebrews 10.) Or, worse still, perhaps you have, by slighting the rebuking voice of the Exhorter (as you previously had slighted His comforting voice), succeeded in silencing at last that grieved Divine heavenly Guest altogether for the time; and you are floating along with the current of the world, apparently quiet, yea, even happy, as far as this can be said of one, who has, like the sow, returned to the wallowing in the mire — the natural element — and, like the dog, to his own vomit — happy, if you can only succeed in forgetting that you were once happy. Poor, poor wanderer! From the feast of the fatted calf, and from the joy of the Father's house, you have turned back again to the "husks of the swine." It seems as if you had pawned to the world the very "shoes from your feet," if not the "ring from your finger," and taken again to the old filthy rags.

The company of your brethren and the assemblies, you seem to dread, and yet to yearn for them. The enemy, taking advantage of a harsh word or ungracious demeanour towards you, on the part of some stern, though faithful, or of some ungracious brother, whispers to you (for remember, he is always "the accuser of the brethren"), that you have lost their confidence for ever, and that therefore they do not want you in their company, as being only felt to be a dead weight among them and a dishonour to the Lord's name and His testimony.

Most of this, if not all, is, of course, quite true; and the best way to frustrate the intention of the accuser is, to own that it is true. This at once must silence the accuser, who wants you to believe that your brethren judge you, to prevent you from judging yourself, that is, to prevent your restoration. Or he seeks to lead you into despair (for his wiles are manifold), under pretence of self-judgment. Where Satan works in the conscience of a backslider, he never will lead him to the Word of God for true self-judgment, but he will try to use it as a weapon, to frighten and harden a stray one of God's flock into despair. It is a terrible chastisement on the part of God, when Satan is permitted thus to gain ground and power in the conscience, and to turn even the medicine of the Word into poison, by misquoting and misapplying it. The writer of this heard of a case, where a Christian, a preacher of the Gospel, who had been used in blessing, had been living for a long time in a secret course of sin. Satan at last acquired such a power over him (his conscience being constantly practically defiled), that he lost all assurance of salvation. He used to say, that he had been like a pipe, conveying blessings to others, whilst he himself was dry, and never had known them. (A new proof, by the way, how dangerous a thing it is, for one who has no settled peace, to be engaged in service.) he took to reading novels, turning away from the Bible; "for that Book," he said, "only condemns me!" In this state of despair he remained for thirteen years! Then he fell into decline; when, shortly before he died, the Lord restored his soul to light and peace. Thirteen years of misery and despair! Solemn and warning example for every Christian, not to presume upon such a grace nor, on the other hand, to despair of that grace, through listening to the old serpent, who would say, "your iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven," or "your punishment is greater than you can bear."

"He restoreth my soul."

There is the saving grace of our Saviour, and there is the restoring grace of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. And, as no sinner has gone too far for that grace to reach and to save him, so no sheep or lamb of His flock has ever gone too far astray for the restoring grace and love of Him who gave His life for us. When Jesus was on earth, His gracious ear was swift to hear, and to discern the feeblest cry of appeal to His mercy, from a needy one, whilst His tongue was not slow to speak the word of healing. He stopped at the cry of Bartimeus, which His disciples would fain have hushed, to keep the blind beggar away from Him, Who alone could heal him. And do you think, the apparent distance of glory, where He is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty, can prevent His hearing the feeblest bleating of one of the farthest stray-sheep of His flock? No, no, no! Jesus Christ is ever the same: yesterday, Jesus Christ — today, Jesus Christ — and for ever, Jesus Christ! The same in all His fulness the same in His power — the same in His love — the same in His wisdom — the same in His faithfulness — the same in His holiness — the same in His truth — the same in His sympathy — the same in His grace to save and to restore! Blessed be His name!

"He restoreth my soul."

Ah! do not listen to the suggestion of the enemy, who fain would make you believe that you are beyond the reach of the restoring grace of Jesus, the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls," as he would make an awakened sinner believe that he is gone too far for God's saving grace in Jesus the Saviour.

"He restoreth my soul."

This is true and available for every stray one of His flock, just as it is true and available for every sinner, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save "sinners." The blessed "whosoever" holds good as to the restoration of stray sheep, just as much as it does for unsaved sinners.* It holds good, I repeat, for every stray one of His flock, without saying how far he had gone astray. David, the writer of this blessed Psalm, was himself a pattern of such restoration in the Old Testament, as the Apostle Peter was the great pattern of that wondrous restoring grace in the New Testament, and on Christian ground. Has any sheep strayed farther than David or Peter did? Alas! repeat, alas! that straying from such a Shepherd and from such a pasture ever should occur! — A gloom has been cast over the bright aspect of those sunny green pastures in the preceding verse, with the flock of Christ reposing on its tender herbs in peaceful enjoyment. Sad wanderings have come in, and done dishonour to the name of that good and great Shepherd, Who has provided that pasture. But the Shepherd is also the High-Priest — blessed be His name! He intercedes for the stray ones, and the result and effect of that intercession is repentance and confession. The very tear that dims your eye, poor wandering one, and falls upon these leaves, is it not a proof, yea, the fruit of His intercession for you, just as Peter wept, because his thrice denied Lord had prayed for him. I only pray to God that this tear, the first fruit of Christ's intercession, may bring forth fruit meet for repentance, as it did in the case of Peter.

{*"Whosoever" is widely different from "whenever." We should not like to sing: —

"He doth restore my soul, Whene'er I go astray!"

instead of: — "If e'er I go astray."}

How blessed and re-assuring to our souls, to behold Jesus, in the closing chapter of John's Gospel, accomplishing His work of restoring grace in the soul of Peter! Except the case of Judas Iscariot (who was none of his sheep, but the son of perdition), — there could hardly be a case of a fall more dishonouring to the Lord. He had denied his Master thrice, and affirmed his lies with oaths, swearing and cursing. And yet, what perfect restoration do we find in this wonderful chapter, in that apparently desperate case of the most shameful defection, on the part of the chief of the Apostles, whom his Master had intrusted with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven! If we behold in the first chapter of John's Gospel, the Son of God in His divers glories (closing with the glory of the Son of Man), in the last chapter we see Him as the gracious Shepherd, restoring His sheep.* It is that adorable, divine, restoring grace, all human thoughts surpassing, extended on the part of that so sadly and shamefully requited, yet loving Shepherd, towards His stray sheep. Let us consider, in a few words, this true pattern-case of restoration, for the instruction, or, it may be, exercise of our souls.

{*In the first chapter, it is grace for salvation, in the Son of God:
1. "Grace and truth, coming into this world, as personified in His blessed Person;
2. "Grace and truth, as dwelling amongst men; and
3. "Sinners receiving from His fulness "grace upon grace," (mountains of grace, as it were, Romans 5:20). It is all grace in salvation. In the closing chapter, it is grace in restoration."}

Peter had thrice denied the Lord, whilst warming himself before the fire, side by side with his Master's enemies. What was it that made him go out, and the bitter tears of genuine repentance start from his eyes? It was Jesus' intercession for Peter, before he had denied the Lord. The Lord had said to him, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." (Compare 1 John 2.)

"And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him: Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice!"

"And Peter went out and wept bitterly."

Could Peter ever forget that look? No word accompanied it, but Peter felt pricked to the heart by it, just as much as those three thousand at Pentecost by restored Peter's words in the power of the Holy Spirit. That "look" was the last he saw of his liege Lord, disowned in so cowardly a way for we do not find any intimation in Scripture that Peter saw Jesus alive afterwards. But no doubt that look went with Peter wherever he went, not to drive him to the last act of despair,* but to deepen in his soul, (by a thorough self-judgment as to that which had led to his fall,) the work of restoration, manifested in the first tears that responded to that look.

{*It was certainly neither the voice, nor the look of Jesus, that made Judas "go to his own place," when the Lord said to him: "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Those blessed lips of Him, "in whose mouth there was no deceit," when greeted with the deceitful kiss of the darkest treason that ever was or will be, could not, at that moment, refrain from uttering the last testimony of grace and truth to the heart and conscience of Judas, (hardened as they were), and of those around. For though Jesus was then the Lamb, to be led to the slaughter, He was, and is always: "He that is holy, and he that is true," else He would not have been the former.}

Scripture throws a veil over the whereabouts of Peter at the time of the crucifixion, death, and burial of the Lord, and it is not our part to try and lift it, any more than that which conceals those three days of deepest exercise in Paul's soul, when he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink. The Lord told Ananias that Saul "prayed." But that eye, full of Divine love unspeakable, full of grace and truth, that gave unto Peter, before it was closed in death, the look of a thrice-denied and yet loving Saviour-Shepherd's reproach, to "restore his soul," opened in resurrection-life, full of grace and peace upon the repentant disciple on that bright and glorious morning; when the Lord "was seen of Cephas," first of all the apostles. Why was He seen of Peter first of all? Was it not to assure the stray one of his perfect forgiveness by his Lord and Saviour, Who had just been delivered up for his offences, and raised again for his justification? The apostle to whom Jesus had given the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, was no longer to lag behind with lingering steps under the sense of unpardoned guilt (as Peter had done on the same morning, when, on his way to the grave, he had suffered himself to be outrun by his gentle fellow-apostle) but in the assurance of the grace that is in Him, Who is "the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls,"* he was henceforth to take his place again as the chief of the apostles. All was settled between that good and great Shepherd, Whom the God of Peace had brought again from the dead, and His stray sheep, who was yet to be a shepherd of God's flock. All was settled in that quiet interview at an early hour of the resurrection morning. No eye, not even that of the disciple whom the Lord loved, was suffered to witness, no ear to listen to what passed between the Lord and His restored disciple, We only see the effect of it in the closing chapter of John's Gospel, where we no longer find Peter lagging behind but swimming ahead of all to the shore, the first to greet his Master.

{*It is the same Apostle, who calls Him thus, after he had been restored.}

The work of restoring grace had begun and deepened in the soul of Peter, but the outward test of its genuineness, the finishing touch, as it were, had not yet been applied. This we find here.

Thrice Peter had denied his Master; thrice the question is addressed to him: Lovest thou me?" But this was not merely for bringing more closely home to his conscience the sin of his threefold denial, though, no doubt, reminding him of it; for that matter had been settled previously. It was done to put the knife to the quick, in order to make Peter judge the root of the evil, i.e. his self-confidence, which had brought him to fall.

For had not Peter said: "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I?" There was still more than self-confidence, that had made him say: "I will lay down my life for Thy sake; I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison and unto death." It was his pride that made him, at the same time, speak disparagingly of the love of his fellow-disciples, implying, that their defection and desertion of their Master might he quite a possible thing; but his, Peter's, love to his Master, was so much deeper and truer than theirs, that so base a conduct was impossible for him.

Accordingly, the first question Jesus addresses to him is this: "Lovest thou me more than these?" The word used for "Lovest thou" in the original (agapas) in the two first questions of the Lord to Peter, implies love of the highest character, as we find it used of the love of God, (John 3:16) where the Greek word is the same, and so in 1 John 3:4 and throughout the New Testament. That is, the Lord asks Peter, whether he loved Him with the highest, i.e. with perfect love; and, secondly, whether he loved Him more than his fellow-disciples did. To this Peter replies, "Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee, with the love of a friend." The Greek word is here philo, as much as to say: "O Lord, how dare I, after my disgraceful conduct, presume to say, that I love Thee with the highest love! I love Thee with the love of a friend. That is all I may venture to say, after what I have learnt of my treacherous, wretched heart. And as to saying: I love Thee more than these, or, if all should be offended with Thee, I not, how dare I entertain even the thought of it? For if I am to be judged by my conduct, I love Thee less than all my fellow-disciples!" So Peter only replies: "Yea, Lord, I love Thee with the love of a friend."

To Peter's first answer, the Lord replies with: "Feed my lambs." To Peter's second reply, the answer is, "Shepherd my sheep!" The second question of the Lord is put thus: "Lovest thou me with the highest love," — leaving out "more than these?" The third time the Lord's question is "Lovest thou me with the love of a friend?" (adopting Peter's word). To this Peter, grieved, replies: "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee with the love of a friend." As if he had said: "Lord, I hope I have learnt at last, no longer to trust in my own heart, which is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. I had forgotten what is written in Thine own Word, O Lord: that, he that trusteth in his own heart, is a fool. Therefore, instead of looking at the barren fig-tree for fruit, I cast myself on Thine omniscience, Who searchest the reins and the hearts. Thine eye, O Lord, saw my brother Nathanael, in whom there is no guile (would that I were now like him) when he was under the fig-tree. Thou Son of God, before Whose eyes all things are naked and open, I cast myself upon Thy grace, that foreknew and called me as it did Nathanael, that made me love Thee, as it opened my dear brother's heart and upon Thine omniscience, that knows that I love Thee. I, therefore, can say nothing more than: 'Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee.'"

The probe of that skillful Physician, Who never misses the right spot, had been applied. The test had been made, and Peter had stood it. The work of restoration was complete, and so complete was it, that the Lord could honour His restored disciple, not only by committing to him the charge of His flock, but by foretelling him, that through divine grace, he was one day to glorify God by sacrificing his life in the service of his Master, Whom he had thrice denied. What an honour, conferred upon one so deeply fallen, and only just restored! How unlike are our ways to God's ways.

And what, Christian reader, was the effect of this wondrous restoration as to Peter's service? Simply this, that forty days later, at Pentecost, the same apostle, who had denied his Master thrice, could charge his brethren of Israel with those memorable words, "Ye have denied the Holy One."

"What self-blinded hardihood!" natural and religious respectability would here exclaim. Man has a standard of his own, of what he calls "proper" or "becoming," according to which he regulates his actions and dealings with his fellow men. This standard is a "moral standard," and it is, of course, as far as it goes, necessary for this world, and better than none at all. But we must not forget, that what is moral is not always divine, though what is divine is always moral. And just as in the Old Testament we find that everything connected with the Tabernacle and service of God, was to be weighed with the "Shekel of the Sanctuary," i.e., by the divine measure, and not by a gauge of human conventionality; so a Christian, in dealing with his brethren, is to measure and judge everything according to the divine standard or measure, i.e., God's principles, as laid down in His word. Now these principles are those of holiness (implying, of course, truth and righteousness), and grace. Holiness becometh the House of God. This is paramount. But grace becometh the hearts of His saints.

Let us return for an illustration to Peter's case. Following the common notions of human propriety, he must certainly appear "out of place," when he, "standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice," thus taking the place of their spokesman, as it were, and then delivering that wondrous first gospel sermon, by which 3,000 were converted.

Peter was the proper spokesman of his fellow apostles, because he was the mouth-piece of the Spirit of God, just sent down from that glorified Jesus, Whom God had made Lord and Christ.* And why could Peter be the mouth-piece of the Holy Spirit? Because Jesus Whom God had made both Lord and Christ, had restored him. Why could he, in the power of the Holy Ghost, Who is the "Spirit of truth," no less than the "Spirit of love," charge his hearers twice with having "denied the Holy One?" Simply because Christ had restored him. Human propriety would have said: "Why, common sense ought to have taught him better. Peter ought to have been the very last to take such a place amongst his fellow-apostles. And then, the very idea of his charging the people with having denied the Lord in the presence of Pilate! Must he not expect that they would turn round upon him and say, "How can you have the face to charge us with a thing you have done yourself?** You accuse us of having denied Him in the presence of Pilate, whilst you denied Him before a maid-servant. We denied Him through ignorance, as you say yourself, but you denied the One Whom you had owned to be your Lord and Master and Rabbi, and Whom you had followed, and Whose bread you had eaten for more than three years. Are you the one to charge us with such a sin?"

{*The first who went up with Jesus into Paradise, was not that youth, who came running unto Jesus, and knelt before Him, and asked — "Good Master, what shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?" and whom Jesus beholding him, loved, (owning what God had wrought in him in a natural way), when He heard that He had kept the six last commandments from his youth, as one who was "touching the righteousness, which is in the law, blameless." — A converted thief was the first to enter with the Lord of Glory, into Glory and Paradise; a sinner saved through grace, by the blood of the Cross. And the first servant of Christ and member of the Church, whom the Holy Ghost chose for His mouth-piece in preaching the first Gospel, was not the "Disciple whom the Lord loved," but the one who had denied Him thrice. And the great Apostle of the Gentiles, the Lord's chosen vessel for His Church, was not a Nicodemus, who pleaded for Jesus in the midst of the council of His enemies; nor a Joseph of Arimathea, who, together with Nicodemus, fearless of the consequences, took the body of Jesus down from the Cross, and embalmed it with precious ointment, and laid it in his own new family-vault; but Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the Church, making, like a wolf, havoc in the flock of God, and breathing, like a lion, threatenings and slaughter. Mark it, Christian reader, sinner, saved by grace, and daily living upon it, and often restored (do you know how many times?) by the same gracious Shepherd Who restored Peter, and upon Whose grace you are hourly dependent.

**A Christian once said to the writer: "poor Peter! he charged the people with what he had done himself! Poor brother! He knew grace in salvation, but evidently little of restoring grace, at the time."}

Yes, Christian reader! Peter was the one, not his fellow-apostles, who had not denied their Lord and Master. He had learnt through grace, in consequence of his fall, to loathe and judge his wretched self and flesh, perhaps more completely than others. He had thoroughly learnt the horribleness of that grievous sin, and judged the root (pride and self-confidence) that had produced it. And therefore he was the man to speak about it, whilst, at the same time, the grace which says, "Your sins and iniquities will I remember no more," had justified him from all that he had done, and thus enabled him to charge others with the same sin he had committed himself, because he was (O wondrous grace of God!) as perfectly cleared of it, as if he had never done it! That perfect divine grace had restored repentant Peter, and therefore the place he took under the guidance, and the power, and authority of the Holy Spirit, was owned, not only by his fellow-disciples, in whose presence the Lord had restored and invested him with authority, but by the people themselves, none of whom found any fault with what Peter said or did. On the contrary, "many of them that heard the word, believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand."

It might be said, Peter's service at Pentecost was gospel-service. But what about acting in the Church, on the part of one who had fallen and has been restored? Ought he not to "walk very softly" all the rest of his life? The reply is, that if he has been restored by Christ, as Peter was, the Spirit of God will own, and make his action owned, in the Church too. Did not Peter take the same prominent place in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, and had not his sin been that of lying, as was theirs (though not that of lying against the Holy Ghost, as in their case, for then the Holy Ghost had not yet been sent). And yet he charges them with the same sin he had committed in the aggravated way of denying his Lord.

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

His word, through the mouth of Peter, did not return void unto Him, but it did accomplish that which He pleased, and it did prosper in the thing whereto He sent it.

"But," it may be said, "grievous as Peter's sin was, it took place before the Holy Ghost had been sent, and therefore his case was very different from what it would have been after Pentecost." Granted; but this does not alter the principle of which I have spoken. For the same disciple, after Pentecost, relapsed into a sin of a similar kind, though not of equal gravity. From the same fear of men, that had made him deny his Master, he became guilty of dissimulation, and led others, and  even Barnabas amongst them, astray with him into the same sin. He thus compromised the truth of the gospel, and "builded again the things he had destroyed." He had publicly to be rebuked by his fellow-apostle Paul, whose very act and words showed the gravity of the sin. And was not Peter's sin all the graver on account of the place he held? And yet where do we find that Peter was for that reason kept aside from ministry? He evidently submitted to Paul's public rebuke, which was no small thing for a servant of Christ in his position, and the best proof, that he at once judged himself for it; and this was deemed sufficient.

Did the Holy Ghost suspend Peter for a certain time from the place and ministry for which Christ had called and appointed him?

I fear not a few of us are sadly in want of the same lesson, which legal Peter had to learn: "What God has cleansed, that count not thou common." It is a solemn thing to count and to call "improper," what Christ and His Spirit have seen fit to declare "proper" by the clearest and most striking cases in Holy Writ. But such will be the lamentable effect, whenever Christians lower the standard and measure of divine and eternal principles of truth; seeking to adjust them to the scale of human notions of what is called "fit," or "becoming," or "proper." This is not raising, but lowering the standard of truth as to discipline.

Christian reader! Beware of every human measure (often called "propriety," or "good sense," or "common sense,") in divine matters. Such human principles, if acted upon as a guide for church action, are truly mischievous to the flock of God, and throw souls back under the power of the enemy.

Let us remember that the same gracious Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Who restored Peter, enjoins upon us in His Word by His Spirit: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

What is meant by these words? Is it in our power to restore the soul of a stray sheep? Certainly not. This is the work of Him only, Who is the "Bishop of our souls."

"He restoreth my soul."
None but Jesus could save us; none but He can make us to lie down in green pastures; none but He is able to lead us "beside the still waters;" and none but He can restore a soul, when it has strayed.

"He restoreth my soul."
The restoring work of grace in the soul must be, from first to last, the work of our God and Saviour. Let us beware of restoring what the Lord has not restored, and, on the other hand, of refusing to own and to receive what He has restored! The usual result of such, too often, alas! fatal mistakes, is the hardening of the stray one of Christ's flock, and the driving him away farther than ever, only that, even in such cases, the supreme rich grace of our blessed Lord can rise above the sad follies and sins of His disciples, and even of some of His pastors, in restoring the stray one in spite of them, just as that wondrous grace knows how to bless us in spite of ourselves. Only this in no way lessens the solemn responsibility of those who thus destroy souls for whom Christ died.

What then is meant by the divine injunction to restore an erring brother?

Simply, the same that the washing of the feet implies. Does not Christ now, as He did when on earth, only in a far higher sense, wash our feet with the washing of water by the Word? And yet He enjoins upon us to wash one another's feet. For though the whole work of grace, whether in salvation or in restoration, from the first movement of repentance towards God, till the final redemption of the body, is all of our thrice-blessed God and Saviour, yet it has pleased Him to make such as we are, instruments of His grace, not only for saving sinners, but also for restoring backsliding children.

But in order to be thus instruments, vessels meet for the Master's use, everything depends upon the way and measure in which we have practically learnt to realize in our own souls that grace and love divine, to which we owe everything. And alas! how little, how deplorably little, have we practically learnt at the feet of the gracious Saviour, Shepherd, and Bishop of our souls, what that grace really is, upon which we daily have to live and to depend.

This humbling and alarming lack of practical grace, is not so much manifested in the work of evangelization (though even there it betrays itself often), but especially in cases where the restoration of the soul of a stray saint is in question.*

{*A genuine test of a spiritual servant of Christ is this: Is he a peace-maker? and, are stray ones being restored through his instrumentality?}

We have learnt, through grace, to look at an unconverted one, as he is, not as he ought to be, remembering the loving-kindness of our God and Saviour, that has appeared unto us, who were once hateful, and hating one another, even as others. But, brethren do we not look too often at an erring brother, only as he ought to be, forgetting, not what we were, but what we are in ourselves?

I need hardly add, that I am speaking now of personal grace in individual dealing with Christians, (though here as well as in the case of church action, that grace cannot be true grace, if disconnected with truth), and not of church discipline. I would not for a moment appear to advocate, even in the remotest way, laxity in church discipline. "Holiness becometh thine house for ever." It is only the lack of personal grace in our individual dealing with our fellow-Christians, that I mourn over.

An eye, quick to discern something wrong in a fellow-Christian, is no proof of spirituality, but only, too often, of the very opposite. Such a sharp lynx-eye may be an indispensable requisite for a detective, but it is certainly not a commendable quality in a Christian. If I look at my fellow-Christian with a gracious eye, I see first of all in him that which is Christ-like, that which God has wrought in him, and I say: "How much there is in that brother that is like Christ, whilst in myself I find the very opposite."

A gracious and spiritual eye, at the same time, is quick to perceive that which dishonours the Lord in doctrine or practice, and the heart that belongs to that eye, is grieved and humbled to see it, and ready to pray for the one in whom such evil is seen; to gird himself with the towel (I do not mean to say, in the presence of him whose feet are to be washed*), and to stoop low, to get at his feet and wash them, which, of course, cannot be done behind his back; and, if necessary, to deal with the evil itself, and withdraw from it, if it is not judged; to "put away that wicked person from amongst us," where this extreme case of discipline unhappily should be needed.** But with what deep sense of our common shame, with what confession and "eating of the sin offering," with what prayer, and tears, and humiliation, will such an one join in such an extreme act And how will such a gracious heart yearn after the excluded and stray one of the flock of God. How will his gracious eye look after him, and his heart go out in ceaseless prayer before God, in the blessed name of Jesus, the great High Priest, Who ever liveth to make intercession for His people. Does not He behold and know the misery, and the wretchedness of that stray sheep, going away farther and farther from Him, and the green pastures and the still waters of His own loving provision? And does not the Father's eye, that once was looking out for the returning prodigal, follow the poor wandering child in his backsliding course, waiting for the moment when he shall return, not only broken, but melted down under that Father's chastening hand, which is as gentle as it is mighty.

{*Our Blessed Lord's doing so is quite a different thing; for He did it, to set us an example for the washing of the feet, not for the "girding with the towel." Many know how to perform the latter, who know very little of the former.

**How often, alas! is this forgotten, and the "putting away" is made the first thing, instead of being resorted to as the last extreme remedy, as it would be in the case of an amputation.}

And does not that blessed Holy Spirit of God, once sent into the heart of that unhappy "relapsed prodigal," when first he felt the father's kiss, and stammering, responded with "Abba, Father;" — does not this Holy Spirit, though grieved, at the same time make intercession for that stray one with "groanings which cannot be uttered?" whilst in Heaven, Christ Himself, the Saviour, Shepherd, and Bishop of that soul, utters His never-failing voice of intercession, as High Priest, and Advocate with the Father, the effect of which will surely be the tear of repentance, and the words, "Father, I have sinned." The Father looks out for that stray one; the Son intercedes for him, and the Spirit does the same. Christian reader, are you doing the same? Have you ever wandered from such a Father? Have you ever strayed from that Shepherd and from His Pasture? Have you ever grieved that Holy Spirit of adoption? And if so, how far had you wandered? Did it require less divine grace to restore you, than it will for the restoration of this brother or sister, whose "sad course," you say, has so much "shocked" or "pained" you? Depend upon it, whenever you feel anger or bitterness arise within you at the failure of a fellow-Christian, it is a sure proof that you never have really judged the same thing in yourself, which, seen in your brother, excites your anger. And if we, in seeing anything wrong in a fellow-Christian, do not at the same time judge the same thing in ourselves, we are not in a fit condition to wash his feet, and to restore the stray one.

"Ye that are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness."*

{*I need hardly say, that these words do not refer to a wilful course of sin. In such a case, wisdom is needed as much as grace — that wisdom from above, which God giveth, Who giveth liberally and upbraideth not, and Who forgiveth liberally and upbraideth not, ("and your iniquities will I remember no more)."}

How, then, are we to restore one another?

In a twofold way. First, by avoiding everything that would give a handle to "the Accuser," in our manners and words towards the stray one, so as to shut up his heart, and to harden his conscience still more; and secondly, by owning and aiding the work of God's restoring grace in such a soul, as far as it is manifested, without going beyond it, lest we should hinder the work of restoration, instead of aiding and strengthening it. We must not seek to be more gracious than God Himself. Over-strictness and laxity are the two extremes, between which it is all-important to steer, especially in cases of discipline. I am afraid we err most on the former side, i.e., by over-strictness,* It is, alas! not so rare an occurrence, to hear the confession of a stray one, and his desire for restoration to the Lord's Table, spurned with such words as these: "No, he is not yet sufficiently broken down, he has not yet felt deeply enough, and judged the sin." "Then," another adds, "he, or she must be reminded of the sin, till it be judged." Such language, except in cases where the whole demeanour, and the gravest facts, show unmistakably that the repentance is a mere profession, is truly sad! Another case of no rare occurrence, is that of a saint, who has been under discipline, but restored, being constantly kept with a stigma upon his character, or under "censure," as some express it, just as if he were a ticket-of-leave-man, who must be kept for some years under the surveillance of the police. He has to run the gauntlet of continual allusions to the past, and, if at last, in a weak moment, he grows impatient at the constant bickerings; he receives, as a balm for the wounds inflicted on him, words like these: "Your impatience only shows that you have not yet judged yourself; therefore, it is quite right you should be further reminded of it."

{*I do not refer here to cases of association with, or indifference to evil doctrine, which are generally characterized by laxity in discipline.}

I do not know of anything more calculated to counteract the consolidation of the restoring work of our gracious Shepherd, in the soul of a just restored stray one of His flock. This is worse than "healing the wounds of my daughter slightly!" It is tearing them open afresh, and thus destroying, as far as possible, the sheep for whom the Good Shepherd died.

"He restoreth my soul."

But He does more:

"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for his name's sake."

We have just seen how Jesus, in the case of His restored apostle, not only forgave his sin, but made Peter to judge the very root of the bad thing in him, that had caused his fall. There is not only repentance and forgiveness, but also the practical cleansing. God is faithful and just, not only "to forgive our sins," but, it is added, "to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Let us not forget it!

God, the Father's, chastening yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness. He will have us to be "partakers of his holiness." With Him, there is no such thing as running into sin and then jumping back again into His favour. He loves us too well for that, even if His holiness could permit it. And as the Father, so the Son, and the Spirit. The way of Christ in restoring a wandering sheep, we have just seen in Peter's case. And as to the Holy Spirit, every Christian knows that, after a practical departure from the Lord, this blessed Spirit lays His finger on the conscience of the sinner, in His convincing and exercising power; bringing home to him, and making him to realize the gravity of his sin, committed against such a God and Saviour, before he points upwards to the throne of grace.

But again it is He, Jehovah-Jesus, the watchful "Bishop of our souls," that leadeth the restored sheep or lamb of the flock "in the paths of righteousness," as it was He Who led it "beside the still waters." In the preceding verse, it was not the sheep making use of its feet, for there it was not the question of walking, but of feeding. Consequently it was the "lying down in the green pastures," and the being led "beside the still waters." But in this verse, after the stray one that had turned away from "that Shepherd," and "that pasture," and "those still waters of rest," has been restored through His wondrous grace, it becomes a question of walking henceforth "in the paths of righteousness," as the practical result of true restoration. It is the path, and the path belongs to the feet, to walk, not only into it (after having turned aside) but,

"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness."

But, Christian reader, however deeply you may have learnt, through His grace, to feel and judge the dreadfulness of wandering from such a Shepherd; if really restored, you will have learnt another thing, namely: that it is henceforth not only a question of "walking" in the right path, but of His leading our feet in the paths of righteousness. Have you learnt that every moment of independence of Him, and His guidance, is a step out of that narrow path of righteousness, and into the broad and slippery road of sin? Only in the light of His holy presence, it is, that we see light. There alone it is, that we learn to discern true from false, right from wrong, good from evil. And at His feet only, it is, that we shall find His Word to be "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path." But remember, it is not His Word that leadeth us in the paths of righteousness, but it must be Jesus Christ Himself, none but He. Blessed be His gracious name.

"Keep Thy servant, lest he fall!"

Nothing but being kept at His feet, under His eyes, and near His heart full of love and grace, will keep me in the path of righteousness.

But why does He lead us in that happy path, Christian reader? For our good! no doubt. But mark, there is a higher motive, a higher principle, infinitely superior to that of our own welfare. And that motive and object is "for his name's sake." Yes, it is for His own blessed name's sake, that He leadeth us in the paths of righteousness. When Jehovah-Jesus was upon Earth, He had not come in His own name, nor did He speak or act in His own name, but in that of His Father.

"I am come in my father's name, and ye receive me not." "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world." "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me," and "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name."

"Father, glorify thy name," was the prayer that went up from the heart and lips of that obedient One to His Father in Heaven, when at the immediate prospect of the Cross, and of all that the Cross meant, His soul was troubled. But the cry, "Father, save me from this hour," was immediately followed by "Father, glorify thy name." Blessed be His name!

And that God and Father, Whose voice then so promptly responded to that cry with, "I have glorified, and will glorify again," will be sure to take care to glorify the name of Jesus on Earth, as He has glorified His blessed Person in Heaven. Or do you think, He will permit His children to "tack," as it were, that great blessed name of His Son Jesus, to the bundle of their worldliness and unrighteousness in trade and elsewhere, instead of honouring it by walking in the path of righteousness? May His Grace keep us from practically "denying," by walking in the crooked paths of unrighteousness, that great, holy, and blessed name, wherein we have found so great a Salvation.* His sceptre is a "sceptre of righteousness," and He has "loved righteousness" and "hated iniquity." It is for this, that His God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows. There can be no gladness for the unrighteous; for, as there is no peace for the wicked, certainly there is no real joy nor gladness for them.

{*He not only was the Just One, Who "did nothing amiss," but He "loved righteousness and hated iniquity." His righteousness in His walk here on Earth, was not of that dutiful and lukewarm kind, which is so common, but does not stand, when put to the test. (Comp. 2, Thessalonians 2:10.)}

"Shout for joy and be glad, ye righteous." Mark well, where this is said, Christian reader. At the end of Psalm 32, written by the same royal shepherd, after he, a stray sheep, had been restored by Jehovah, the Good Shepherd. That Psalm begins with, —

"Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," And v. 3. —

"When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long."

"For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged," etc. etc.

There is no joy till restoration, and walking in the paths of righteousness. It is after He has restored the soul, Christian reader, that we come to the "over-running cup" and the "anointing of the head with the oil" (of gladness), not before. There may be much joy and gladness in the soul of a converted sinner, after he has found peace with God; but it is not of that deep and lasting character, as is the blessing in peace, and joy, of a restored sheep of God's flock; because the latter comes not merely from the knowledge, by faith, of salvation, founded upon a finished work; but it consists in a deeper practical (though in a far more humbling way acquired) knowledge of the Person of Him, then known to such an one, and experienced not only as the Saviour, but also as Shepherd and. Bishop of our souls. Neither is the joy of a new convert to be compared with the "oil of gladness," in verse 5, poured out on the head of the worshipper. who, after having been restored by his gracious Shepherd, has learnt, under His guidance, to walk in the paths of righteousness, and now with a conscience, not only purged and set at ease, after previous confession, but habitually kept clean in communion with, and dependence upon His God and Saviour, is able to drink in the full streams of blessings into a heart, open for the reception of that higher order of blessing connected with true worship.

Christian reader, remember: First, "the paths of righteousness"; then, "the oil of gladness."

This is divine order.

At the same time, there is a blessed assurance in those words: "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for his name's sake!"

Yes, for His name's sake! Let us, for a moment, turn once more to that prophet, who, in an especial way, as the mouthpiece of God's Spirit, gives expression to our blessed Shepherd and Bishop's tender sympathy with, and gracious purposes as to His earthly flock of Israel.

In Ezekiel 34, when speaking on the pasture of our gracious Shepherd, we have seen His loving interest in their welfare, his judgment upon the false shepherds, and upon all those who had spoilt the pasture, and neglected the flock; and at the same time, His announcement of the millennial abundance in blessing, under Jehovah-Jesus, the good Shepherd. In chapter 36 of the same prophet, we find their restoration, as to walking in the "paths of righteousness," whilst they enjoy the verdant pastures of the kingdom of "righteousness and peace."

They had "profaned" His "holy name" among the heathen.

But the Lord continues (v. 21):

"But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the, heathen whither they went."

"Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen whither ye went," (whither God had scattered them, judging them "according to their way, and according to their doings." — v. 19).

"And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes."

"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own land."

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you."

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."

"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them."

"And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."

"I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and I will increase it, and lay no famine upon you."

"And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen."

"Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations."

And why is the blessed Lord going thus to restore and lead them, through His goodness, to repentance? For their sake?

"Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel."

Why is it, that Jehovah will thus restore His people of old, and reinstate them in the Promised Land, where He will make them to lie down in green pastures, and lead them in the paths of righteousness; and will "increase them with men like a flock, as the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem, in her solemn feasts, when the waste cities shall be filled with flocks of men?" It is, "that the heathen, among whom His name had been profaned by His own people, may know that He is the Lord." (v. 37, 38).

It is "for his name's sake."

He cannot, nor will He, fail to glorify that name, any more than He can deny Himself. Jehovah-Jesus, Who, when here below, did everything in His Father's name, and glorified that name, has a right, in His actions of blessings, to do everything "for His own name's sake." Alas! alas! that that blessed name of Jesus, which is above every other name, and before which every knee shall bow, as every tongue shall own His Lordship, for the glory of the Father, should have so little influence upon our daily walk! How many things do we in our own name, forgetting the Divine injunction of the Apostle: "Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."

If Christians would only apply that question:

"Can I do this or that in the name of Jesus?" — as a constant rule for the regulation of their daily walk, how it would at once settle, or at least simplify, a thousand difficulties, that in these perilous last-days constantly arise, and perplex so many uncertain minds, or, shall we say, "double hearts?" And above all, how far more would that blessed name be glorified by those who bear and profess it!

We have no right to do anything in our own name, for we "are bought with a price," but Jesus Christ has a right to do and grant everything —

"For his name's sake!"


Join all the glorious names,
Of wisdom, love, and power,
That mortals ever knew,
That angels ever bore;
All are too mean to speak His worth,
Too mean to set the Saviour forth.

Great Prophet of my God!
My tongue must bless Thy name,
By Whom the joyful news
Of free salvation came;
The joyful news of sin forgiven,
Of hell subdued, of peace with Heaven.

Thou art my Counsellor,
My Pattern, and my Guide,
And Thou my Shepherd art;
Ah! Keep me near Thy side;
Nor let my feet e'er turn astray,
To wander in the crooked way.

I love the Shepherd's voice:
His watchful eye shall keep
My pilgrim soul among
The thousands of God's sheep;
He feeds His flock, He calls their names,
And gently leads the tender lambs.