First Degree. — Jesus, The Shepherd of our Souls.

Psalm 23:1.The Lord [lit. "Jehovah"] is my shepherd: I shall not want."

I have already ventured a few remarks as to the contrast between the opening verse of this Psalm and the first verse of the preceding. I need not therefore, nor do I desire, to say more on this most sacred subject, only praying, that you and I, dear Christian reader, may learn to ponder more at the foot of His cross, from whence that cry went up to God, on the bearing and meaning of it, in order that our hearts may learn more truly to enter, and to feed upon, the blissful assurance in the opening verse of our Psalm. No true feeding of heart, without true and honest exercise of conscience! The Lord grant us all more balance between knowledge, and conscience, and heart!

Dear fellow pilgrim through a barren land, where there is no water! Have we not often, amidst the conflicts and trials of our way through an enemy's country, felt constrained, through grace, to chime in with that broad, full-sounding key-note of joyful, yet calmest confidence, with which the Holy Ghost intones this Psalm through the harp of David:*

{* Which, by its wondrous strains, chased away even the evil spirit from Saul.}

"The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want."

Yes, beloved, He Himself, our ever-loving Saviour, in His own fullness and all-sufficiency, it is, Whom we find at the head of the pasture of our precious Psalm. Jehovah-Jesus, Who "calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out," Who maketh them to go in and out, and find pasture, is necessarily at the entrance of the pasture, as He is at the head of the flock.

Jehovah-Jesus, the Lord of glory, and the brightness of it, Who, from the light and height of that glory, came down into this sin-benighted world, to seek and save the lost, and to make them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, and to bring many sons unto glory.

Jehovah-Jesus, Who made Himself of no reputation, and divested Himself of His glorious garment, to assume the humble garb and form of a servant — the lowest of all, Who owned nothing in this world, not even the manger, where He was laid, nor the grave, where He was buried, nothing — except "His Cross," because it was yours and mine, reader, by right and merit.

Jehovah-Jesus, the Heir of all things, by whom God made the worlds, but Who sold all His treasures — real treasures — and made Himself poor — the poorest of all — to make many rich by His poverty — oh! how many and oh! how rich

Jehovah-Jesus, the poorest in the midst of the abundance of Canaan, yet Whose first miracle manifested the fulness that was in Him; when He filled the empty water-pots of Cana with wine, keeping the good wine until the end, when He will say "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved!"

Jehovah-Jesus, Whose disciples filled twelve baskets with the fragments of five barley-loaves, after He had fed five thousand men with those five loaves and two fishes, but Who added: "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life, which the son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed."

Jehovah-Jesus, Who, though He had come for the lost sheep of Israel, yet has made the very crumbs for the dog under the table, richer and more satisfying than the bread on the table for the children.

Jehovah-Jesus, Who, at the close of His earthly career, asked His disciples, "When I sent you without purse and scrip and shoes, lacked ye anything?" and they had but one reply "Nothing."

Jehovah-Jesus, Who, at the outset, of a life of unremitting service, rejoiced at Cana with those that did rejoice, and at the end of His course, in perfect human sympathy, stooped to weep with the weeping, at the grave of Lazarus before He arose in His divine power and authority, to send forth the word of Divine command "Lazarus, come forth!"

Jehovah-Jesus, Who, when nailed to the Cross, spoke to His sorrowing mother, "Mother, behold thy Son," and to His sad disciple, "Son, behold thy mother."

Jehovah-Jesus, Who made the hearts of His solitary ones of Emmaus to burn within them, and broke the bread to them.

Jehovah-Jesus, Who appeared in the midst of His flock, scattered at His death, but gathered at the news of His resurrection, eating and drinking with them, and saying, "Why are ye troubled? Handle me!"

Jehovah-Jesus, Who led the mute tribes of the deep (whose mouth He had made His purse) to the empty nets of His disciples, showing unto them at the same time, that their meat was ready on the shore, before they had caught the fish at His bidding.

Jehovah-Jesus, Who spoke to his own those parting words, "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth," and, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," and was carried up to heaven, whilst blessing His little flock with uplifted hands.

Jehovah-Jesus, Whose works of power and blessing were so many, that the disciple whom He loved, could but conclude his Gospel with that simple and vast statement, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written, every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."

Christian reader, I have endeavoured, oh how faintly and imperfectly, to realize, in my little measure, something of the meaning of those opening words of our Psalm:

"The Lord, (Jehovah Jesus,) is my shepherd."
Could we admit, after these words, the shadow of a thought of want? Perish the doubt, that would dare to tread upon the heels of that glorious truth, "The Lord is my Shepherd." The following words, "I shall not want," are, for the logic of faith, only the natural and necessary conclusion of the first part of the sentence. They are twin-truths, so to speak, inseparable. Just as we would say on a fine spring morning, "The sun is risen, consequently there will be plenty of light and warmth." Once this statement repeated in the assurance of faith, "The Lord Jehovah Jesus is my Shepherd," you cannot help adding, "I shall not want." A natural man's way of thinking and feeling is just the opposite. He first feels his wants, and then bethinks himself of one to supply it. Faith thinks first of the One Who supplies every want, and then says, "I shall not want at all;"
* and if we, through grace, have learnt, in this time of many books and much knowledge, and yet of broken cisterns and confusion everywhere, to resort, with hungry hearts and thirsty souls, to Him Who said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink,"** and, "I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me, shall never hunger"; we shall re-echo, with all our heart, that glorious strain of praise and confidence:

"The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want."

{*In the case of the Prodigal, when turned, and consequently going to return, but before he had felt the "Father's kiss," we find something of both: "How many hired servants of my Father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger." What comes next? "I will arise and go to my Father."

**The reader will remember the circumstances under which our blessed Lord spoke, or rather pronounced, ("cried,") that touching appeal. It was at the very moment of the feast, when people around Him were busy in pouring out great quantities of water that does not quench thirst. I am afraid we attend more to the "meat" than to the "drink," and therefore we do not grow much with all our eating. There are not only the "green pastures," but also the "still waters." But we are not to come to them, but to Him and drink. }

But, Christian reader, let us on the other hand beware of the whisper of the proud and independent heart, that would say, "I shall not want," without the preceding, "The Lord is my shepherd." Such was the thought and language that characterized wretched and lukewarm Laodicea. She said, "I am in need of nothing," but disconnected with Christ. Laodicea's language was, and is still, "I am rich; I am increased with goods; I have need of nothing." And what was, and is still the Lord's reply? "Thou knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee, to buy of me gold, tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." May God, in His infinite grace, keep your heart, beloved Christian reader, and mine, from that horrible spirit of pride and self-sufficiency, which formed the core of the lukewarm heart of Laodicea, "I am in need of nothing," apart from Christ. Blessed be His love, which does not cease daily and hourly to remind us practically of the truth of His word, "Without me ye can do nothing," and on the other hand, of the truth of the word of His Spirit through His apostle, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me."

Jesus Christ cannot be more than He is, nor will He ever be less. He cannot deny Himself: "Jesus Christ yesterday, Jesus Christ today, and Jesus Christ for ever.*"

{*Here (Hebrews 13) we have Jehovah-Jesus, the unchanging One.}

When on earth, at the close of His unremitting service of love, He asked His disciples: "When I sent you without purse and scrip and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they replied: "Nothing." And since He has died for us upon the Cross, and is risen and has ascended to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God, has the apparent distance of heaven and glory, where He is seated now at the right hand of God, lessened His perfect human sympathy, or has it weakened His divine power? No, from heaven, that same voice of our heavenly Shepherd assures us through the inspired pen of the apostle: —

"I will never* leave thee, nor forsake thee."

{*"Never," means, not a single moment. God always means what He says.}

So that we may boldly say: —

"The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what will man do unto me?"

Is not this promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," our blessed Lord's answer from heaven to that expression of calm confidence of His flock on earth, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want." If His sheep, through grace, know His voice, surely He, inHis love, knows theirs.

But, dear Christian reader, of what kind of want does our verse speak? Of outward wants, such as food, raiment etc.? As to them, our gracious Shepherd refers us to our "Father which is in Heaven," and "seeth in secret," and knoweth that we need those things. "But," He continues, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and these things shall be added." Yes, beloved fellow-pilgrim and fellow-heir of glory, the Father, Who spared not His only-begotten Son, when we were His enemies, but delivered Him up for us all, (how lightly do we often read verses like this, and how little have we penetrated into the mines of divine love and wealth contained in them,) "shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Blessed be His name, He has never failed to supply in due time, and in His own way, every real need of His children.*

{*In due time the Lamb, fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, appeared in this scene of sorrow, sin, and death, as "God manifest in the flesh." In due time, when we were without strength, "Christ died for us." In due time, "on the third day," God raised Him from the dead. In due time, "when the time had come that He should be received up to Heaven," Christ was received up into glory. In due time, "when the day of Pentecost was fully come," the Holy Ghost was sent from heaven. And in due time, He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry." Christian reader! Will not He, Who had provided from all eternity, and gave in due time His Son, the bread of life, and His Spirit, the living water, for our greatest need, also supply our little wants in due time? We cannot, we shall not want.}

But we must not confound need with want. Our wants, like those of little children, are very many, and, like theirs, often very foolish too. We cannot praise enough the loving wisdom of our Father, Who always supplies our need, but not our wants, unless it be to show us sometimes the bitter results of having our own ways and desires. Would that our needs were also our wants. But just here it is, that our selfish and superficial hearts constantly betray themselves. There is no danger of our outward or temporal needs not being our wants too. They are quickly perceived, and keenly felt, and even anticipated, often in a way very little to the honour of that "manner of love which the Father hath bestowed upon us," and which we are so graciously invited to "behold." (1 John 3:1.) But, Christian reader, how is it with our sense of our greatest, that is, of our inward spiritual need? However real on our part, the feeling and acknowledgment of that need may be, rest assured, the reality and greatness of it surmount immeasurably the feeble estimate we have of it. But, just as our Father and God, Who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, supplies the temporal wants of His children, according to His own Divine wisdom and love; so does His blessed Son, once the Lamb slain for our sins, as the "shepherd and bishop of our souls," provide for all our spiritual needs, *not as we feel them (though even this only through the grace of God) in our feeble measure (through our sad neglect of that grace} but as He sees them, and according to His own perfect estimate of them.

{*I need hardly add, that I do not in the remotest sense mean to imply, that the Father has nothing to do with the spiritual need and growth of His children. (Comp. Ephesians 3:14, 21.) I only refer here to the different relationships of the Child to the Father and of the Sheep to the Shepherd. (Comp. Hebrews 12:2 and 5.)}
Thou failest not — above wants, cares, and sighing,
A Father's love Divine, all need supplying,
Us guideth still upon our homeward road;
That faileth not.

Thou failest not — 'bove havoc, wand'ring, straying,
A Shepherd's eye, once closed in death, surveying,
Restores and comforts still with staff and rod;
That faileth not.

Blessed and calm assurance of confidence in His everlasting love, as expressed in those few words, "I, shall not want." "The Lord is my Shepherd." To listen to the faintest whisper of unbelief, would be nothing less than to doubt either His love, or His power, or His faithfulness. His love? What love can vie with His, Who is love, and has proved His love, as none other could. When about to depart from this world unto the Father, "having loved his own, He loved them unto the end," i.e., with perfect love. But more, "He loveth us, and hath washed us from our sins in his own blood." His power? Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth." Or His faithfulness? He concludes with the assurance, "And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." If we are unfaithful, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself." (2 Tim. 2:13).

He was "Faithful amidst unfaithfulness," when here on earth in the days of His humiliation; and now He is faithful above our unfaithfulness, as our exalted Lord and Christ at the right hand of God: faithful as Saviour — faithful as Shepherd and Bishop of our souls — faithful as our High Priest before God, and Advocate with the Father — faithful as Head of the Church. He cannot deny Himself, blessed be His name for ever! — Can I add a word to set forth His love, His power, and faithfulness? What mortal's pen, unless inspired by the Spirit of God, can describe or define, what is, in itself, Divine and above all human conception or description, — "passing knowledge?" Let us proceed to contemplate the threefold aspect, in which Scripture presents our blessed Shepherd to the hearts and consciences of His flock. Jesus Christ is—
1. "The good Shepherd," as to His love;
2. "The great Shepherd," as to His power;
3. "The chief Shepherd," as to His authority over, and faithfulness to His flock and His under-pastors.*

{*I need hardly say that each of these three blessed titles is founded on the virtue of the precious  "blood of the everlasting covenant," shed on Calvary. I only intend to speak here on the threefold aspect of our blessed Lord's activity, in His character as Shepherd.}

1. — Jehovah-Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

What is the characteristic feature that distinguishes "The good Shepherd" from all other shepherds? He Himself, Who heads this Psalm, has told us: "I am the good shepherd;* the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" Since the days of Abel, there have been many faithful shepherds, who, like Moses and David, tended their flocks with the care of a kind shepherd. They were, humanly speaking, "good shepherds." But "a good shepherd," or "some good shepherd," is not "The Good Shepherd;" or "The Shepherd — the good One."

{*Literally in the original: "The Shepherd, the good one."}

The word "the" implies, that there is only one, who can be said to be worthy of that title, and who stands consequently at the head of his flock. Can this title be accorded to Moses, who was faithful as servant over God's House, and pleaded with God for the flock, saying, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; — and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written?" The same Moses said, not long after, "Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? And wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swearest unto their fathers? I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me." Or can that attribute be accorded to that excellent shepherd, David? He protected his father's sheep, intrusted to his care, at the risk of his own life. He thus proved himself, through the grace and help of God, to be indeed the very best of all good shepherds amongst men. But could David, for all that, ever be called, "The good Shepherd?" No, David has not given, nor could he "give" his life. "Staking," and "giving" one's life, are two widely different things, though, on the first aspect, they may appear to the natural eye almost equally meritorious, or even identical. But "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." There was only one, — Jesus Christ, perfect Man and perfect God — Who had power to lay down His life, and power to take it again, because He was the Son of God, Who had "life in Himself," whilst our lives — as being created — are not our own. And He only could give His life, as perfect Man — because His life had not, like ours, been forfeited by sin. Therefore Jesus alone, and none other, can be called "The good Shepherd."

{*The Shepherd David, after he had become a King, took the poor man's lamb and his life too, having him slain by the sword of the children of Ammon.}

There is another characteristic attribute of our "good Shepherd." He knows His sheep and is known of them. Jesus repeats (John 10:14): "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." They know His voice, and follow the Good Shepherd, Who, when here below, was always to be found at the head of His flock. Neither the combined craftiness of the Pharisees and Sadducees, — as another has observed — nor all the power of the Herods and Pilates, could prevent one single sheep of Israel's fold from hearing the voice of the true and good Shepherd. The porter (His heavenly Father) opened,* and the sheep heard His voice, and He led them out. "And when he putteth forth His own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." How simple and precious all this is! The sheep "hear his voice," and they "know his voice:" and "to know" the voice of a good and faithful leader, and to "follow him," is, for a true sheep, the same.

{*"No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him." This is as true now of every sheep from among the Gentiles, as it was, when Jesus was on earth, true of his sheep from the Jewish fold.}

In the Gospels, especially those of Matthew and John, we find "the good Shepherd," from first to last, going before His little flock. So it was from the outset of His blessed career, when the first sheep were made to hear His voice, and followed Him (John 1), until the end, when the sword was to awake, and the Shepherd to be smitten, and the sheep to be scattered. Up to the last moment, we find Jehovah-Jesus at the head of His flock, protecting or preserving His sheep, which He had fed in His pasture. "Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he. If ye, therefore, seek me, let these go their way; that the saying might be fulfilled which he spake: of them which thou hast given me, I have lost none."

Let us just glance at the two Gospels mentioned above, where we find in an especial way the virtues of Christ, as the "Shepherd," shining out.

What was it that moved Jesus, when He (John 6:5) "lifted up his eyes and saw a great company come unto him?" Was it gratification with His success, that swelled the heart of that "good Shepherd," Who had come to seek after the lost sheep of the House of Israel? No; it was their need, that made His heart to yearn over them; first, their outward need, and that, He satisfied with five loaves and two fishes. But, then, what was this outward want, compared with the spiritual need of those five thousand precious souls! Alas! they themselves had very little sense of it, if any at all. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed."

Those hosts thronging around the Shepherd of Israel, and following Him so eagerly, even across the water, were not of that class, of whom He, in His first pastoral address, had said: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." They rejected that true bread from heaven, (which, not Moses, but the Father giveth,) held out to them in the latter part of the chapter referred to — that rich portion of Divine pasture, where hosts of famishing and perishing prodigals, who really hungered and thirsted after righteousness, have since found, and find still, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven, Who gave His flesh for the life of the world,

Precious Bread of Life! And blessed God, Who hast provided for Thy flock that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. Bread, which, whilst filling the hungry with the delight of spiritual and heavenly satisfaction, at the same time increases, whilst satisfying, the divinely-created hunger of Thy feeding flock. Blessed hunger! Still more blessed Bread that feeds it! and thrice blessed Saviour, Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Whom the Father gave, and Who gavest Thyself for us in death, to eat Thy flesh, and to drink Thy blood, that Thy death might be life to us! Eternal praise be to Thy precious name!

Again (in Matthew 9:36): "When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted (or were tired and lay down), and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." What was it that moved, at the sight, the innermost heart of our good and tender Shepherd? Here it was not the momentary outward want, but the spiritual need of those starving sheep of Israel.

Then saith he to his disciples: The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."

Is it possible, Christian reader, that you and I ever should want under the care of such a Shepherd, Who acted thus from the first to the last in unremitting love to His flock? Impossible!

But, unbelief would, perhaps, whisper: What, in these last days, where perils of every kind surround us, infidelity spreading on the one hand, and Romish superstition and idolatry on the other — a time, when the sheep, and, still more, the tender unsuspecting and inexperienced lambs of Christ's flock are exposed to the winds of "divers and strange doctrines," whereby men are lying in wait to deceive! — blasphemous heresies against the blessed Person of the Son of God and His glorious work, increasing at a fearful rate, and taught or spread by men, who were considered to be watchmen in Israel, pastors and overseers of the flock of God; and the very leaders leading astray the people of God! Whom can you trust? Who shall advise you? Who supply you with sound pasture, when the food is so leavened and adulterated by the beguiling subtlety of that old serpent, corrupting the minds of many from the simplicity that is in Christ? Whither to turn for advice, instruction, comfort — in short, for true food for the soul, when the religious firmament presents the sad aspect of the falling of one bright star after the other? To whom can you go?

The answer is again, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of Eternal Life." The newborn babe in Christ, the youngest lamb of His flock, is perfectly safe under His care, and under the guidance of His Spirit, that unction from the Holy One, that blessed Spirit of Truth. Let us not forget, that it is to babes that the Apostle writes, "Ye have received an unction from the Holy One."* And this Holy One, He that is true, He that is holy, from Whom I have received that Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, Who leadeth me into His word, which is truth, reveals Him Who is the truth, and there is no lie of the truth. He Himself, Jehovah. Jesus, is my Shepherd, I shall not want. This is, and has been at all times, and under all circumstances, the reply of every simple-hearted sheep and lamb of Christ's pasture. For Jehovah-Jesus is not only the good Shepherd, He is also,

{*The following instance may serve as an illustration of this blessed truth: — A poor Roman Catholic woman, utterly ignorant even of the A B C, was converted, and found peace with God. As soon as the Roman priest heard of it, he went to see her. He spoke more than an hour to her, bringing all his reasoning and persuasive powers into play, to regain her for the Church of Rome. The poor woman listened patiently to all he said, never interrupting him by a single word. At last, after he had finished, she replied: "Sir, you know I am no scholar, and can neither read nor write. But one thing I know, Sir, I know in Whom I have believed, and I have the unction from the Holy One, and all you have told me is a lie."}

2. — Jehovah-Jesus, the Great Shepherd.

Christ is "that great shepherd," Whom the God of Peace has brought again from the dead, through the blood of the everlasting covenant. "The God of peace," and "that great shepherd," blessed close, so full of comfort and assurance, of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the last chapter, where we find the sheep of God's flock exposed to all the corruptive evils and cruel violence of the arch-deceiver, by "divers and strange doctrines," whilst bearing Christ's reproach without the camp. It is in the same chapter that we meet with those three encouraging assurances: —
"I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
"The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What will man do unto me?"
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever."

And as if that were not enough, the Spirit of God winds it all up with reminding them, and us, of "the God of peace," and "that great shepherd."

Let us return for a moment to John 6.

The same merciful Shepherd Whom we beheld there, feeding those five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, appears in that chapter, in the following night (the night of His absence from this world), to His disciples, as they were tossed by the storm. At that moment He appeared unto them as the "great shepherd," suited to their difficulties and dangers, walking over the waters of death, which threatened to swallow them up. It was His well known voice which, amidst the tumult and uproar of the elements, fell so soothingly on their ears and calmed their fears with these re-assuring words, "Be not afraid, it is I." Again it was Jesus, Whom the God of Peace had brought again from the dead, Who, with His comforting words, made the hearts of His two desponding disciples on their way to Emmaus, "burn within them," when walking with them, He made His promise good, "Where two or three are gathered together in (or unto) my name, there am I in the midst of them." And was it not the same "great shepherd," Whose well-known voice greeted the ear of His mourning handmaid with, "Mary," and intrusted that true-hearted one, to whom His yoke was easy indeed, and His burden light,* with the first message of the glorious news, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and unto your Father; and to my God, and your God." Again, it was Jesus, the Great Shepherd, risen from the dead, Who appeared the same day (of His resurrection), when the doors were shut, where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, and stood in the midst, and said unto them, pointing at His wounds, as the fountain of all their blessings, "Peace be with you," and "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." And to Thomas, "Be not faithless but believing." And was it not again the voice of the Great Shepherd, that repeated to the disciple of His bosom, when he was an exile in the Isle of Patmos for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, those calming and re-assuring words, first heard in the midst of the foreboding winds and waves of Gennesaret, "Fear not!" adding, "I am the first and the last, I am he that liveth** and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell (i.e., Hades) and of death." Beloved fellow Christian, have not you and I experienced the tender care of that good and great Shepherd, unto Whom "All power is given in heaven and on earth?" These were His parting words, His farewell to the "little flock," remaining in this world, whither He had sent them as "sheep among wolves." And mark, dear reader, what follows close upon that encouraging assurance that "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth?" The Lord adds, "Go ye therefore and teach (or disciple) all nations." Yea, "He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah."

{*"Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." Sweet words to the ear of that good and great Shepherd.

**More correctly: I am the Living One."}

Ah! dear companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, this "earth removed," these "mountains carried into the midst of the sea," in the second verse of Ps. 46* are very different things from the sunny, peaceful, and verdant pasture in the second verse of our Psalm; just as the troubled and roaring waters of the former, appear the very opposite of "the still waters," beside which Christ leads us. Yet the same blessed Shepherd Who fills, in our Psalm, the heart of His sheep so entirely with the sense of what He is in Himself, that (without adding the conclusive "therefore," as in the second verse of Ps. 46), it simply adds, "I shall not want," even before there is any mention of the "green pasture" and the "still waters" that follow** the same Jehovah-Jesus it is, Who (as the Great Shepherd) in Ps. 46 fills the sheep of His pasture, counted, for His sake, as "sheep for the slaughter," so thoroughly with the sense of His "present help in trouble," that — even before we come (in v. 4) to "the river, the streams whereof (blessed contrast to the roaring, troubled sea in v. 4) "make glad the city of God" — the tried one says in calm confidence, "Therefore will not we fear."

{*Comp. Revelation 8.

**The words "I shall not want," are the result of looking at the Shepherd That precedes, not at the pasture that follows.}

And do not we, Christian reader, stand in great need of having our eyes, in the power of an ungrieved Spirit, more steadily fixed on Christ, and of more heart-feeding on Him, Whose loving-kindness is better than life, and satisfies our souls with marrow and fatness? The voice of that Good and Great Shepherd, that once was heard, with its soothing and peaceful sound, above the roaring waters of Gennesaret, still makes itself heard above the waves, and amidst the storms of these present "perilous times." Surely, it does so to every sincere conscience and upright heart, even of the weakest of His disciples, tossed to and fro, as they may appear, amidst the shipwreck of all religious establishments and systems. "He preserveth the simple;" only, do not embark without His bidding! and,though your vessel be but a tiny craft or fishing-smack, like those on the lake of Gennesaret, provided only you sail under His orders (be it labouring in His work, or in any private affair), you may surely count upon hearing, above, aye, and in the very midst of the rising waves*, that same calm, sweet voice of our Good and Great Shepherd say to you, "Be not afraid, it is I." His first word to Joshua, before crossing the floods of Jordan was, "Have not I commanded thee?" Then comes, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest." Dear Christian reader! it is not on board of some religious "Great Eastern" or "Leviathan," that those comforting words are likely to be heard. For those who have embarked in such great vessels, with large companies, do not seem much to want such an encouragement. They are inclined to think, if they do not say so, that they are prepared to brave the winds,and to ride on the proud waves, though the Lord, in His mercy, from time to time reminds men (as in the case of that far-famed big ship, when on her first voyage), that "He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof [of the deep]. They mount up to heaven, they go down again to the depths, their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still."

{*And they will not fail to rise, whenever you embark at His command; for all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution.}

How often has our gracious Lord, Who humbleth faithfully, taught, and teaches still, as to many a religious leviathan-undertaking of our days, the salutary lesson, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."

But thou, faithful, and therefore, perhaps, solitary, Christian mariner, in thy little craft, thrown about by the mountain-waves of Satan and mens' opposition, as if thou wert their play-ball — remember, that those very billows, by holding thee up, in thy little boat, on their foaming crests, only bear witness, that faith rides on the highest wave; and, even when they seem to have engulfed thee and thy puny ship, in the "valley of the shadow of death," they must lift thee up again, and hold thee up to the drooping heart and dim eye of unbelief, as an evidence, that, even there, He was with thee; and when thou seemedst to be at their cruel mercy, the tender mercies of thy Almighty God and Father, and of that Great Shepherd, surrounded thee, Who once spoke, "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid." "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." And above, and through, all the tumult around thee, the voice of Jesus that once made the winds and waves of Gennesaret cease, and calmed the hearts of His troubled ones, will greet thine ear, also, with its soothing note: "Be not afraid, it is I." Embark with Him, and He will disembark thee on the shore of safety. "Then they willingly received him into the ship, and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went." (John 6:21.)

Another instance of the presence, watchfulness, and never ceasing care of our Great Shepherd over His apparently deserted flock, occurs in the closing chapter of John's Gospel. His disciples had betaken themselves to their nets again, at the same place where the Lord had called them to be "fishers of men." There we behold Him, not walking on the waters, as in chapter 6, appeasing the winds, and waves, and hearts, and safely leading His own to land; but standing on the shore, and from thence directing the mute tribes of the deep to their net. And not only so, but He shows them — "What on the shore He has in store" — even before they cast their net at His command, after they had toiled in vain without him.

But I refrain from enlarging here on that precious close of that grand, and truly divine Gospel. We shall return to it, in verse 3 of our Psalm, "He restoreth my soul, etc."

But, dear fellow Christian, in order to enjoy this assurance and comfort that flow from the consciousness of having Christ's approval for any work, or service, you may enter upon, it is indispensable, that you should have embarked, not only with Him, but under His pilotage, i.e., practically owning Him, in His place of supreme authority over His flock, as —

3. — The Chief Shepherd.

If we look around us at the disconsolate state of the flock of God in our days; the deplorable havoc, which Satan has made amongst that flock; if we look at the divisions, the legion of sects, the worldliness coming in among Christians like a flood, the general yielding to human authority in divine things, the sad backslidings, the errors in doctrine, the fearful speed with which the current of professing religion is hastening towards the final great apostasy; we shall find, as the chief cause, that which lies at the root of it all: the losing sight of and practically disowning Christ's authority as the Chief Shepherd of the flock, and Head of the church of God. We must confine ourselves here to considering Him in His character as the Chief Shepherd of the flock of God.

Happy, to realize in our hearts His love and tender care as "the Good Shepherd," and to rely by faith on His power as "the Great Shepherd." But all this would be without abiding practical blessing for heart and conscience, unless our souls have learnt to own Him, and to bow before Him, in His supreme authority as "the Chief Shepherd" of His flock. He is not only "altogether lovely," but also "the chiefest among ten thousand." Let us always remember it! In Roman Catholic countries, we find numerous "convents of the Good Shepherd." Rome does not grudge that concession (though even this only in an outward way). There is something so attractive, even to the unregenerate religious heart, in the thought of such a Shepherd's love. But I have scarcely heard of any religious society or "convent of the Great Shepherd," certainly never of a "convent of the Chief Shepherd." And yet, was it not Peter, the chief among the apostles of the circumcision (whom Rome has chosen for its "foundation stone," instead of His glorious Master), who, not only equally with his fellow-apostle of the Gentiles, points to Christ as the foundation stone, but by whom the Holy Spirit speaks of Christ as the "Chief Shepherd," when exhorting the elders to feed the flock of God. It was the same chief of the apostles of the circumcision, to whom "the Chief Shepherd" committed the oversight of His flock,with those touching and solemn words, "Feed my lambs" [not thy lambs], and "shepherd my [not thy] sheep," and "feed my [not thy] sheep."* To me it appears to be exceedingly beautiful and truly divine, in the closing chapter of that grand Gospel, which opens in chapter 1 with the setting forth of the divers glories of Christ, to behold Him departing from the scene, so to speak, as "the Chief Shepherd" restoring a stray sheep with all the tender care of the Good and Great Shepherd for the minutest details of the welfare of His flock.

{*Is it not a solemn sign of the practical defection of the great professing body, from the allegiance due to Christ as the Chief Shepherd, to hear so many real Christians, who call themselves, and no doubt are, servants of Christ, say "My Flock," "My People," "My Congregation;" most of them, I grant, by way of mere habit. But does not that very habit betray the character of the religious system which they serve?}

In John 10, we have the Good Shepherd; in John 20, the Good and the Great Shepherd; and in the closing chapter, the Good Shepherd (in His providing love,) the Great Shepherd (in His power), and the Chief Shepherd (in His authority). And how those parting words of His gracious Master sank down into the ears and heart of His restored disciple, who there and then was appointed by the Chief Shepherd to be one of His under-shepherds, we find blessedly told out in the fifth chapter of his first Epistle.

"The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am (not "an apostle," but) also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords (lord-bishops) over your heritage; but being ensamples to the flock, and when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." These words show, how deeply engraven on the Apostle's heart and conscience, was that scene, and were those words, spoken to him by the gracious Great Shepherd. on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias; and how truly and deeply, with all the authority his Master had given to him among the flock of God, his soul bowed down before, and owned the authority of Him, Who alone can be The Chief Shepherd of His own sheep and lambs, bought by His own most precious blood.

Alas! that this supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ should have been, and should be still, so continually ignored and set aside, practically, (where it is not done wilfully,) even by some of His servants, whom the Holy Ghost has fitted to be pastors! This practical denial of the authority of Christ lies, I repeat, at the root of the present sorrowful state of His flock. This condition is far more solemn, and the degradation far deeper than it was in Israel, at the time when the Good Shepherd was in their midst, seeking the lost sheep of Israel, and moved with compassion, when He saw them scattered as sheep having no shepherd. For the measure of our spiritual privileges and blessings, of which those sheep of Christ knew nothing, makes the present state of the fleck of God all the more solemn.

There never was a time, when there have been on earth so many children of God as in our days, praised be His grace! Huge tidal-waves of Gospel-blessings, carrying numbers of rejoicing pardoned sinners to the shore of safety, have everywhere increased the flock of God. The harvest has been plenteous, indeed, and true-hearted and devoted labourers there have been, not a few, thank God! But when we turn to the present condition of the flock of God, alas! what a different sight do we behold! It is the same as it was in the earthly days of our Heavenly Shepherd, when His loving eye "saw the multitudes, and he was moved with compassion on them." They are "scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." They "wander through all mountains, and upon every high hill, scattered upon all the face of the earth," and very few true-hearted pastors there are, who, with disinterested devotedness "search and seek after them." Numbers, there are, of gifted and active evangelists, and highly endowed, and enlightened teachers and lecturers. But how thinly scattered amongst the flock of God, are true pastors! Floods of light — precious truths about Christ — poured upon the sheep and lambs of Christ's pasture, but, alas! little, how very little, of Christ Jesus Himself, and therefore how very little real food for their souls! They are starving, and they cry for bread, and you give them — not a stone — but light instead. Light develops, but food produces growth. "Desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby," writes the Holy Spirit by the pen of that faithful pastor, to whom the Chief Shepherd said "Feed my sheep" — "Feed my lambs." Mere "development," without true nourishment and growth, is a dangerous thing — canvas without ballast. — Hence those sad capsizings in private and public testimony, of so many who seemed to be chosen vessels. Going and trading with truth,* before it has been bought (not only learnt) at some cost, and before the heart has fed upon, and the conscience been exercised under the power of it, leads but too often to sad bankruptcy! "Buy the truth, and sell it not!" But where truth has not been bought, but embezzled, so to speak, or borrowed, the end will be the selling it for some temporal advantage, or, it may be, the sacrificing it on the altar of the great modern grinning idol, "Light," falsely so called (rationalism and infidelity), or of that smiling idol, "Love," "Philanthropy," so called, or "Brotherly love," falsely so called.** Hence, further, the backslidings amongst the flock of God, especially in places, where there has been much blessing in the Gospel, but connected with much excitement.

{*This is very different from "going and trading with the talents the Master has entrusted His servants with." A solemn responsibility indeed!

**On the Continent it is, "Light is God," instead of, "God is Light," and in England, "Love is God," instead of, "God is Love." Bad as the former is, as disowning Divine Truth and its authority, the latter is still worse, as being indifferent to it, whilst owning it outwardly; it is Latitudinarianism, which will terminate in Apostasy. May the Lord enable us to walk with a large heart in the narrow path.}

What is the cause of this lamentable state of the sheep and lambs of Christ? Is it because the ascended and glorified Head of the Church, Who gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," has seen fit in these last days, to send numbers of evangelists into this perishing world, whilst pastors and teachers appear less necessary to Him., and therefore are given only in comparatively small numbers? Is it because the salvation of sinners is just now His paramount object, and not so much the nourishing, comforting, strengthening, and establishing the saved ones? Who that knows the Lord Jesus Christ, and something of His love, which passeth knowledge, could for a moment entertain such a thought? The same gracious Master, Who called Simon Peter (and his fellow disciples), at the outset, to the work of the gospel, saying, "Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men," addresses to the same disciple, at the same place, before He left this world and went again to the Father, those parting words, "Feed my lambs," and "Shepherd my sheep," and, "Feed my sheep" (See the Greek). The same glorified Jesus of Nazareth, Who called Saul on his way to Damascus, to send him to the Gentiles, "to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God," gave to that chosen vessel of His grace towards the Gentiles, also the gift and heart of a pastor and faithful steward over that portion of His flock especially. We need not turn to Paul's epistles, every one of which bears testimony to the true shepherd-heart of that great apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and, teacher in the Church of God. It suffices, to refer to his parting words, addressed to the elders and pastors of the Church of Ephesus. They breathe such a spirit of a shepherd after the Lord's own heart, that I cannot refrain from repeating them here, familiar as they may be to the reader: —

"Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."

"And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, and to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears "

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."

"I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know. that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."

"And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship."

I add not a word of comment upon that pastoral address, with its conscience-stirring, and heart-thrilling words, spoken on that shore. Across the distance of eighteen centuries, and notwithstanding all the ecclesiastical storms, and divers winds of doctrines, that have raged and blown since then, those words are conveyed, in never fading freshness and power, to the hearts and consciences of God's flock, and its pastors and teachers, by the same Spirit, Who gave them to the apostle, and has recorded them for us.

And is this a time, fellow Christian, when such words, and such pastors, are less needed than when they were first spoken. Has the cry: "Great is Diana of the Ephesians," ceased or abated in the world, since the days of Ephesus? Or are the warning words of the apostle with regard to the "grievous wolves not sparing the flock," and the "perverse teachers, drawing away disciples after them," less applicable in the nineteenth century, than they were during the first? One glance at the present state of the Church, suffices to show, that at no epoch of her sad history, has there been a greater need than there is at present, of heeding those solemn prophetic warnings of the apostle. There is no doubt, for any enlightened Christian,that these are the last days, to which Paul refers in his Second Epistle to Timothy. With all our abundance of gospel-light and scripture-truth, never has there been a greater need of true-hearted, wise, and loving pastors, than now-a-days. On all sides, we hear the cry of famine, in the midst of an abundance of light and knowledge, and of mountains of books and periodicals. What a remarkable, and truly heart-sickening condition for that flock to be in, for whom Christ died!

How then are we to account for the lack of true pastors amongst the vastly increased flock of God? I think the above quoted passage from the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5), furnishes us with a simple and full answer. But, all-important as the consideration of this question may be, we must confine ourselves here to one or two hints, as it has only an indirect bearing on our subject, and might lead us astray from the evergreen pastures of our Psalm, to the sterile regions of polemics. We therefore content ourselves with referring the Christian reader to that passage for prayerful consideration. Suffice it here to add, that we find there three essential qualities of a true shepherd (or pastor), mentioned by the apostle, whom "the Chief shepherd" had commissioned to "shepherd" and "feed" his flock, and who, on his part, enjoins the under-shepherds to "feed the flock of God," and to "shepherd" it (i.e., to take the oversight or it). These three essential qualities, each of which our apostle expresses in that impressive way so peculiar to him, first negatively, then positively, are the following: —
1. They are to take the oversight of the flock of God, "not by constraint, but willingly," i.e, they are to serve the chief Shepherd and His flock, not in the spirit of a mere official duty, but heartily, as serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. They are to serve, "not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind," and —
3. Not in a ruling and domineering spirit, as if they were lords over their own heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

There are, accordingly, three conditions of the heart, that would render a Christian unfit for the place of a shepherd or pastor (or "elder") of the flock of God.
1. Lukewarmness (by constraint, not willingly).
2. Covetousness (for filthy lucre, not of a ready mind).
3. Pride (an overbearing and ruling spirit).*

{*How far these three ungodly conditions of soul, unfitting for all true pastorship, are applicable to, or resulting from, the conditions of the three great existing bodies of professing Christianity, we must leave to the contemplation of the reader.}

And now, dear Christian reader, before passing on to the meditation of the second verse of our Psalm, let us once more chime in, from the bottom of our hearts, with that glorious strain. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Though confusion and corruption are increasing all around us, Jesus Christ, in His own all-sufficiency, is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. He is "Lord God, above all, blessed for ever." Above our failures, there is still His grace, which is to those who feel and own before Him their own and their people's sins, (His sighing and crying ones), as sufficient as ever. Above our weakness, there is still His power, His strength, "made perfect in weakness," if realized before Him. Above our manifold needs and wants, there is still His love, all-providing, that love of Christ, from which nothing shall be able to separate us.

"The Lord, Jehovah [Jesus] is my shepherd: I shall not want."