Second Degree. — His Pastures.

Psalm 23:2. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."

Now, we may safely turn, under the guidance of our gracious Shepherd, to His pastures, Oh! what boundless expanse of evergreen pastures, does He open and spread out before our wondering eyes! What a freshness of "tender herbs," [see margin] glistening in the sunshine of His presence, favour, and blessing. Come hither, ye poor starving sheep and lambs of His flock. Come, ye that hunger, come, ye that are thirsty, and behold the bright, boundless scene of exuberance, that bursts upon our view, as we approach it under His guidance. Not narrow meadows, with shrivelled, half-withered grass, hedged in by human religious creeds, prejudices and ordinances, confined within the narrow pale of a sect; but enter here with that liberty, wherewith Christ, your Good Shepherd, has made you free; and your soul shall be satisfied, as with marrow and fatness, and your mouth shall praise Him with joyful lips, Who is the door, and maketh His sheep to go in and out and find pasture. But there is more. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." Blessed Shepherd! He not only leads the sheep to the pasture, and says: "There is the food! Now go and feed." But He makes us to lie down in the midst of that exuberant expanse of "tender herbs," to rest in the repose of perfect peace. But mark, Christian reader, "He maketh me to lie down." He alone, and none else, can do it. "He," Jehovah-Jesus, must be at the head of this second verse, as He heads the first, and as we shall find Him at the opening of the third. It is He Who does the whole work of feeding, and restoring, and comforting the sheep, as it was He Who did the work of salvation. It is the Shepherd Who sought the sheep, when it was lost, and carries it home on His shoulders, after He has found it.* When the sheep was lost, Jesus loved it, and because it was a lost one, He sought it. After He has found it, He loves it, because it is a found one, and He carries it home on His shoulders. But here, it is neither the going of the Shepherd after the lost one, nor His carrying home the found one, but His making the feeding one "to lie down." His disciples, at His command, could make 5,000 hungry people "to sit down" upon the tender grass, to satisfy their natural hunger from His abundance. But neither they, nor any other servant of Christ, even if he be the most gifted preacher, teacher, or pastor, can make the feeblest lamb of the flock of God "to lie down" in the tender herbs of the green pasture of Jehovah-Jesus. Such a gifted under-pastor of Christ's flock may make the people to "sit down" under his ministry (as is the current expression), just as the Lord's disciples made those 5,000 to sit down upon the grass, but none but Christ can make them to "lie down."

{*Comp. Ephesians 5:25-27, where it is Christ and the Church. Here it is His loving care for each sheep and lamb of His flock individually.}

Let not the reader think I am playing with words. The evil propensity of holding men in admiration, instead of honouring God's labourers "for their works sake" (i.e. for God's sake), is vastly increasing everywhere; although God, in our time, perhaps more than ever before, takes care to remind, by most solemn lessons, His blood-bought people, of His warning word, — "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils." An exciting sermon, or a "stirring lecture," often produces effects very different from the "lying down in green pastures." "One thing is needful," Christian reader, in our days more than ever. A more constant sitting at the feet of Jesus, feeding upon His Word, with open eyes, open ears, and open hearts. Eyes fixed on His beauty and glory, in the power of faith and of an ungrieved Spirit. Ears, swift to hear, and to listen to the voice of that Shepherd, and hearts responding in adoration and thanksgivings. No lying down in His green pastures without such sitting at the feet of Him, by Whom "grace and truth came" into the world, There alone we learn to take in truth, and there alone we learn to digest it, in the deepening sense of His grace. It is His grace that says to you: Ye sheep and lambs of My flock! I want you not only to feed upon My pastures, but to lie down in the midst of them. The only use you have made of your feet, has been to run astray with them. Therefore I not only carry you home on My shoulders, but, as to the pasture, after you have been feeding, I fold your feet under your body, lest you should use them for running hither and thither in My pasture, and thus turn the very abundance of it into snares for your feet; growing weak instead of growing strong. And so I lay you down in the midst of them. Rest now, ruminate, digest, meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, in the peacefully reclining posture of calm repose, in the midst of the verdant exuberance around thee, that thy profiting may appear to all. Blessed feeding! Blessed lying down! And thrice blessed Saviour and Shepherd of our souls, Who alone, and none else, can make us thus to lie down in evergreen pastures.

A few words as to the character of our loving Shepherd's pasture, i.e., the Word of God. It has a twofold power and aspect; one for the conscience, and the other for the heart. It is like the little book which the angel gave to the apostle John; in the mouth sweet as honey, and making the belly bitter. It has a searching, detecting, judging power as to the conscience; a healing and comforting power for the broken heart; and a formative power for the conduct. And as there is no healing, where there is no wound, so there can be no comfort for the heart by the Word, unless connected with true exercise of conscience. Its comforting power cannot be realized in the heart, unless its searching power has been felt in the conscience. Further, the Word of God has a detaching power, as to all that belongs to this world; but an attaching power to the person of Christ Jesus, Who "is altogether lovely" (a word for the heart), and also "the chiefest among ten thousand," (a word for the conscience).

But "whilst the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," (an effect, which, in itself, implies rather the opposite of food and pasture,) it is at the same time "sweeter than honeycomb" to the taste [Hebrew "Palate"] of him, who has been exercised thereby. Let us remember here again, that there is no real feeding of the heart on the pasture of the Word of God, unless there be, at the same time, real exercise of an honest conscience (made true by grace) under the eyes of him with whom we have to do," Christ Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but He is also "he that is holy, he that is true." It is of the utmost importance, constantly to remember this, though well known, yet, alas! so often unheeded truth, especially in these latter times. Do we not hear, across the distance of eighteen hundred years, the solemn note of warning from that faithful watchman, when, from Rome — then the capital of the Gentiles, not yet "The mother of harlots," — but the closing scene of labour of the most faithful witness of Christ and His truth, — he thus prophesied: —

"For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." A time, when there is much enjoyment in the light of truth, but amazingly little exercise of conscience under its power and authority; much laying hold upon truth, without truth laying hold upon people's souls. Great talents, great powers of oratory, and beautiful language, in sermons and writings; but the Cross, and its power, lost sight of, or hidden by the very flowers of human oratory, that professes to set it forth by adorning it! A time of much stir and excitement, often called "Revival," with the saddest, hardening reaction and relapse in its wake; constant appeals to the feelings of the natural heart, "sowings to the flesh," even in the preachings and writings of real and zealous servants of Christ, but little appeal to the conscience, where God begins Hs work by His Spirit and Word. It is well worth noticing, I think, that the apostle referred to above, in that most solemn third chapter, when speaking of the activity of the divine Word (2 Tim. 3:15-17), mentions only those effects of Scripture which refer to the conscience. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Does not Scripture minister sweet comfort, peace, and joy, "sweeter than honeycomb" to the heart of the believing reader? Where is the tried saint of God, who has not experienced it, and blessed God for it, when reading the Psalms, for instance; that portion of Holy Writ, which in an especial way bears this characteristic stamp of the whole Word of God, i.e., its appealing power for heart and conscience? Is it not to this comforting and edifying element of Holy Scripture, that the same apostle refers, when he (Acts 20) commends the flock of God, and especially its pastors, to the Word of His grace, which is able to build us up, and to give us an inheritance amongst them who are sanctified? Most assuredly! Why, then, does the apostle, in enumerating to his beloved son in the Truth the blessed qualities of Scripture, mention almost exclusively those which act upon the conscience? It is because, in those parting words, alike touching and solemn, he forewarned Timothy of a time, then already budding, but now in full bloom; a time of profession, when there would be those who had the form of godliness, but denied the power of it, "having their conscience seared with a hot iron." Christian reader, God has not given us the light of His sun, "from the heat of which nothing is hid," to look at it, and merely to enjoy its brightness, as being a "shining light;" but that we should walk in that light, and discover our path by it. It is the same with the light of His Word. The Psalmist does not say, "Thy word is a lamp for my eyes and a light for my head," (to enjoy it,) but, "it is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (to walk in it).

Honest Christian reader! You will bear with me, for having enlarged so much on the question of conscience and exercise; for you know, that there can be no real feeding of the heart on the Word of God, without true exercise of conscience, under its divine authority and power. I certainly do not want to frighten any sheep or lamb of the flock of God, or to prevent their joyful feeding and peaceful lying down in the "green pastures," but the contrary. But you, lamb of His flock, who, with little knowledge, perhaps, but with an honest conscience, a true heart, and a hungry and thirsty soul, turn to His pastures, — you will find them abundant, evergreen, full of "tender herbs." Who can count the hosts of His flock that have been feeding here, and yet the pastures are exhaustless — ever the same exuberance, the same verdure — and why? Because they are Divine, and because that gracious Shepherd does not suffer His sheep to trample on His pastures, but makes them to lie down in the midst of them, to feed and to digest. The "tender herbs" are both food and pillow. Of what use could the legs of the sheep be in such a place? Our Good Shepherd, in pasturing His sheep, does not make them to run over the pastures, but to "lie down" in them. Going after knowledge is not feeding. There are those who are "ever learning," and "yet never come to the knowledge of the truth." They are always on their legs, but seldom, if ever, "lie down." Unless you yield your restless feet to the bidding of our Good Shepherd, Who wants to fold them gently, and thus to make you lie down in His pastures, you will never learn to rest and feed at His feet, and thus grow before the Lord.

Oh may we learn more truly to sit, like Mary, at His feet, the only place to learn true service; and to lean on His bosom, the only place to learn something of His love, like the disciple "whom Jesus loved."* Alas! how constantly are so many Christians on their legs, when reading the Word, i.e., leaning on their own understanding, their own learning, vain knowledge, and fancied wisdom, religious prejudices, and preconceived notions, early imbibed through wrong teaching and training in the divers religious schools of these days, (which bear in many of their features so fatal a resemblance to the religion of the Pharisees who "possessed the key of knowledge," but only to shut Heaven to themselves, and to others too,) or through the dangerous habit of "spiritualizing" the Word of God. Are not all these our own feet, that refuse to submit to the gentle folding and the quiet "lying down?" How sadly they rob themselves of the food, our gracious Shepherd intended for them, growing lean and barren, with such a fulness close at hand.

{*Where had John got this happy consciousness, which he so calmly and simply expresses, (as if it were quite a natural thing, and could not be otherwise,) but on the Lord's bosom. Happy assurance and simplicity, no where to be acquired but on the Master's bosom, when everything and everybody around seem to be troubled. Comp. John 13:22-25.}

"And what is required," some reader may ask, "to secure this happy disposition of quiet feeding on the pasture of the Word of God?" "The children of this world," who "are in their generation wiser than the children of light," furnish us in this respect with an instructive lesson. They tell you that the first requisite, for deriving benefit and strength from your food, is quietness of body and mind just before, during, and after a meal. Therefore they avoid carefully every interruption or disturbance during that time, The same rule, so strictly observed by hygienists, holds good as to the spiritual feeding of our souls. Or how is it, Christian reader, that the Word of God, in its power and freshness, is so much more felt, when read in the quiet morning season, and before entering upon our daily work? It is, because in the morning our mind is like a blank sheet of paper, open to receive and keep impressions; whilst in the evening it is full of the impressions of the past day; and cross-writing is poor work. It is not in the evening, before retiring to rest, that we want a bath, but in the morning. And above all, has not the Lord a claim upon the "first-fruits" of the day; that is, upon our first thoughts and feelings, when body and mind feel refreshed and invigorated by the mercies of the past night? And yet there is nothing, that the enemy so constantly tries to prevent, as our rendering these first-fruits unto God, and being alone with God at the beginning of the day. One hour thus spent with the Lord, early in the morning, in prayer and reading His Word — what freshness, vigour, and strength does it impart for the whole day, with its manifold and unforeseen temptations! — "Thy morning smiles bless all the day." — How true! If we were but more truly alone with God, in prayerful meditation over His Word, our "fellowship one with another" would be more in the power and comfort of the Holy Ghost, as being the natural result of individual fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; and it would be more distinctly seen by those without, that we have been with Jesus, feeding at His feet in His green pastures. Was ever any man more isolated in this world, than Christ? None understood Him, not even His disciples. But He knew how to be alone with God, and therefore He was never alone, even when all His disciples left Him, for the Father was with Him. At the outset of His career, He was alone with God in the wilderness, before He was tempted in the wilderness by the Devil, and bound the "strong man." He was alone with God, when He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God, before He chose His twelve apostles, and went forth with them from the mountain down into the plain, on His work of unwearied love and unremitting service, in power and grace. He was alone with God in the garden — not of Eden, but of Gethsemane, to take the cup from His Father's hand, when He was to be forsaken of all His disciples, and at last to be forsaken of His God, and to die, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.

Reader, it is only by being much alone with the Father, and with Him, Who is our way to the Father, that we learn to feed upon these pastures, and to lie down in those "tender herbs." "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips," (Psalm 63.) And when and where? "When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches," i.e., in the solitary seasons of the night or daybreak, when everything around is silent, and before the duties and cares of daily life have begun to claim our attention.

But the lying down in green pastures, implies not only the divestment of heart and mind from surrounding influences, whilst feeding upon the Word of God, but also the repose of mind and heart afterwards, to digest the divine food the soul has thus enjoyed in undisturbed peace. As I said already: the same "tender herbs," full of flavour, vigour, and fragrance, which are our food, are to be our pillow, to rest and to digest; and mark, dear reader, such "lying down" and digesting of the food received, may take place in the midst of the performance of daily duties. They need not prevent our meditating on the things we have learned at the feet of Jesus. A sheep of Christ, thus made to lie down by Himself, need not be disturbed from its repose by the duties of daily life, however arduous they may be. On the contrary, such an one will perform them all the more faithfully. The serene light and sunshine, the freshness and peace of that pasture, will be carried into our daily earthly relationships and testify all the more of that peace, His peace, which the world cannot give.

There is one danger, in particular, against which we greatly need to be on our guard — I mean the reading of too many books, to the neglect of the Book. I need hardly add, that I am speaking here of religious books. They may be written by most pious and enlightened servants of Christ, and I would not, by saying so, even for a moment speak disparagingly of such books, lest I should sin against Him Who has given teachers, and against His Holy Spirit Who has imparted the gift of teaching, in writing, as well as orally. All I mean to imply, dear Christian reader, is this, that such books, (however helpful, if used in the right way and measure; and however honoured, as servants of Christ, their authors may be), are human books after all, and not "the Word of God," which, in every tittle of it, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Honour their authors, but do not make them your authority. And let me add, helpful and very blessed as religious books or tracts may be for the flock of God, they may not only be rendered useless, but positively injurious to the spiritual health of their readers, if their perusal leads to the neglect of the Bible. If a Christian has once contracted the habit of spending the greater part of his reading-hours upon religious books; and the smaller portion, or perhaps only a small fraction of it, to the reading of his Bible; the invariable result will be, that the scriptural knowledge gathered from those books, will be stored up in the head, instead of being treasured up in the heart. The "lying down," produced by such a way of feeding, if we can call it so, will be the rest of spiritual idleness, if the authors of those books have done the searching and thinking for the reader. But even where the writer has made the reader really to think, but without making him to search the Scriptures, it will only lead to spiritual pride, the lying down of self-sufficiency and resting on the vain laurels of hollow attainments and knowledge. But if, with prayerful meditation,* we have learnt to ponder the Lord's words in our hearts, like His blessed mother on earth,* and make the reading of His Word our chief food, then such books may, under the Lord's blessing, help most effectually to strengthen and establish their readers in the true and living knowledge of that Word, "the entrance" of which "giveth light and understanding to the simple." It will keep the feeding sheep of the divine pasture from that undigested knowledge, which puffs up, and engenders pride, the worst of all spiritual diseases.

{*Much reading of Scripture with little prayer leads to head-knowledge. Much prayer with little reading of Scripture — to praying by heart (that is head-prayer).

**If the Church at Rome had but followed the example of Mary, by "pondering" the Word of God in the heart, she would not have arrived at the Idol-shrine of St. Mary.}

And what is the power that enables us to digest* the knowledge we may have derived from reading that blessed Word, which is truth? It is grace, beloved fellow Christians, that grace of God, by which we have been saved, and of which we daily need a fresh supply to support us. A deep, real sense of that grace of God in our hearts, is the true digestive power for the truth which we have learnt. Without that grace, learnt at the feet of him, by Whom grace and truth** came into this world to poor sinners, — without that grace, not only known in a purged conscience, but daily learnt and realized in a heart purified by faith, there may be a great amount of knowledge laid up in the head, but it will not be treasured up in the heart, (out of the good treasure of which, a good man bringeth forth that which is good). The knowledge, even of the sublimest truths, not being held in living, practical communion with God, will only serve to puff up, and engender that pride, which is the forerunner of a deep fall, and of a heavy crash; by which the name of the Lord will be only the more dishonoured, the higher the truth that has been professed. It is grace, of which the apostle says, that it "makes the heart steadfast," when he warns the brethren against being carried away with "divers and strange doctrines." And where else, I say again, is that grace to be learnt, but at the feet of Jesus, from Whose fulness we all have received "and grace for grace," (or, as the Greek seems to imply, grace heaped upon grace).

{*According to the law of Moses, all animals were unclean which did not "chew the cud," (i.e. did not ruminate), or "divided not the hoof, (i.e. walked not steadily), (Deut. 14.) Want of proper digestion, and of a steady walk, rendered unclean.

**Not "truth and grace," the order in which Nicodemus wanted to learn, when he at first came to Jesus by night.}

In the midst of the increasing violence and corruption of the world, the harassing cares and affairs of daily life, and the far more keenly felt troubles, connected with the confusion and ruin of the Church — the increasing apostasy everywhere, and the anti-christian winds of strange and divers doctrines — everything hastening the ripening and development of the mystery of iniquity — there is "A hidden source of calm repose," the love divine of our Good Shepherd; and there is, better than the sunny green pastures of Goshen in the midst of benighted and terror-stricken Egypt that blessed, sunny, calm, and evergreen pasture of the divine Word, where Jesus makes us to lie down. So it proved to be for the hungry sheep of Israel, just before Samuel arose, at the time of the general decline and corruption all around, when "Ichabod" was soon to be stamped upon Israel. There was no open vision then, but the Word of God was precious to that "little flock," whom the same Shepherd tended, and fed from his Word. So it proved to be to the inspired writer of our Psalm, when, under the dark reign of Saul, the Lord's anointed was hunted from place to place, like the partridge of the mountains, and when he wrote that precious Psalm, from which I have quoted before, "a Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah": —

"O, God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; etc."

Thus it proved to be, when the Great Shepherd, after the God of Peace had brought Him again from the dead, walked with His two sorrowing disciples of Emmaus, and "expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself," and made their hearts to burn within them. So it was proved to be, when cruel persecution had broken in upon the little flock of God in England, in the times of the Lollards. In those days the Word of God was indeed precious to his sheep, when an English farmer gave a load of hay (about thirty pound according to our money) in exchange for the evergreen Pasture of the Word of God. He "bought the truth" and proved that he was not going to "sell it." There was, at the time, a tender lamb of God's flock, who paid a still higher price for those divine pastures, on which his soul delighted to feed. A boy, whose parents were fanatical Roman Catholics, had obtained a few leaves of the New Testament. He had sewn them up in the straw of his mattress. At night, after retiring to his poor little chamber to rest, and after having locked the door, he opened the mattress, and took out his hidden treasure, and by the poor light of his candle-end, he revelled in the perusal of those few leaves. Was not this precious lamb of the flock of God made to lie down by his Good Shepherd, and to delight in the green pastures of His provision? Was not he led by Him "beside the still waters?" But he was also, "for His sake," accounted a sheep for the slaughter. Not many days after, his infatuated mother discovered through the keyhole, the cause of the change that had come over her boy, and he was dragged by his own parents before the bloody tribunal of a pitiless Inquisition. But when that tender lamb of the flock of Christ was led to the stake — to nature, the valley of the shadow of death — the same Good and Great Shepherd, Who had made him to lie down in the tender herbs of His pastures, was with him, and he "feared no evil."

Christian reader! God's truth was dearly bought in those days, and therefore it was not lightly sold. When, from the scarcity of its copies, the Bible was chained to a pillar in St. Paul's Cathedral, there was a pasture spread around that pillar; and a feeding of hungry sheep and lambs, lying down in those green pastures, took place then and there, of which our surfeited age, alas! affords but few examples. Now, where the whole Bible may be had for a few pence (thanks be to God for this blessing!) what about the "selling of the truth," and what about the "feeding" on, and the "buying" of the truth? Has the responsibility for the widespread blessings of God's truth been lessened, because the appetite has decreased at the same rate with its price?

"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven!"

"He leadeth me beside the still waters."

Just as the food for the body consists not only of meat, but of "meat and drink;" so it is not only the "tender herbs" that make the pasture. The "still waters," (or "waters of rest") form an integral part of it. Jesus Christ is the "Bread of Life." This, of course, is first and paramount; but then His Spirit is the "Water of Life." The bread is the staff of life, to impart strength. The water is the preserving and refreshing element. Spiritually applied, of course. Christ is not only the bread, but also the giver of the living water, that is, of the Spirit. We all, only in an infinitely more blessed sense than Israel did, typically, in the wilderness — "eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink." "We have all been made to drink into one spirit." Christ, through His Spirit, feeds us in the pasture of the Word of God, which is a "written Christ," as another has expressed it. "He will guide you into all truth. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." The Holy Ghost is not only a Teacher and an Exhorter, but He also is "The Comforter." And it is in this sense, chiefly, that our Blessed Lord speaks of the Holy Spirit in John 14, as the One Who was to comfort His disciples during His absence.

Wherever there is true feeding upon the pasture of our gracious Shepherd, under the guidance of His Spirit, the same Blessed Shepherd leads us "beside the still waters," that is, He makes His sheep to realize the comfort of His Spirit of peace and joy, in refreshing power, as the result of true feeding upon His Word.

Sunny and evergreen pasture as that Word is, what would it be without those waters of rest and refreshment, afforded by the Holy Spirit, Whose mind is "life and peace." What is a pasture without water? Every native of the East knows what thirst means, and what water is. In a dry and thirsty land, water to quench the thirst, is as indispensable as is food to still the hunger. Our loving Shepherd, in His unfailing care, has provided both. He Who led His people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, feeding them with bread from heaven and water from the rock, when no green pastures of Goshen, but a barren and thirsty wilderness surrounded them, has provided for us the "waters of rest," amidst pastures richer than those of Goshen.

I have alluded above to the meaning of that expression "still waters," or, literally, "waters of rest." It is not the water in its cleansing virtue, that is spoken of here; for He leadeth us beside the still waters. Nor is it water in the sense of death, nor of life; for they are called "waters of rest" This expression surely does not imply that they are stagnant waters, like those of a pond, but waters clearer than crystal; like that river of water at the close of the pasture of the Word of God. They are "still waters," yet ever running, as emanating from the "fountain of life." But although they are ever in motion, yet their very aspect imparts peace. Thus they are not like those restless, unstable, and troubled waters, to which the wicked are compared, but just the opposite.

The time has not arrived for the Lord's own, (who are now counted as sheep for the slaughter), to be with Him beyond the heat, trouble, and conflict of this world, in that blissful place, where they shall hunger no more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat; where the same gracious Shepherd Who now feeds His flock in the wilderness, shall feed them, as the Lamb, which is in the midst of the Throne, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, God wiping away all tears from their eyes. Here it is His feeding and leading us "beside the waters of rest," in a world of trouble and sorrow, but where His pasture is as abundant and secure as that of Goshen, in the midst of plague-stricken and locust-eaten Egypt,

Now, meadows and prairies may be green and exuberant, and bright and sunny too; but when the sultry atmosphere of a hot summer's day is brooding over them, where is it that the flocks seek shade and water? Is it not at the side of the same brook that waters those fertile meadows and the trees along its banks, and makes them to grow, that the flock finds shade, refreshment, and rest? And, beloved reader, does not the same Spirit, Who has provided the pasture of the Word, inspired and written by Him, minister to, and preserve in our souls the refreshing comfort of that Word? Always, of course, in dependence upon the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd, Whom He is to glorify, and does glorify. Christ, through His Spirit, has provided the food for the hunger, the water for the thirst, shade and rest after the repast.

Thus our loving Shepherd, through His Spirit, makes us not only to lie down in His green pastures, but leads us beside the waters of rest. This blessed Spirit, as mentioned above, not only leads us into all truth, as the Divine Teacher and Exhorter, but His especial character is that of "The Comforter."

"For whatsoever things were written afore-time, were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures" (the "still waters" of the pasture) "might have hope" (the element of refreshment amidst the sultry atmosphere of this world).

Let me add here at once the following verse: — "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus."

And further: — "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 15.)

The Christians at Rome needed, in an especial way, the word of exhortation, to be like-minded. Questions and disputes had arisen amongst them, and thus the waters had become troubled. Now let me remind my Christian reader, of what I said, with regard to the lying down in green pastures, as to the feet of the sheep, and our gracious Shepherd's intention to prevent their making the wrong use of them. Sheep are silly things, and their folly betrays itself, especially in the use they make of their feet, in running astray with them. This is the reason, I think, why we meet here, for the second time in the same verse on the pasture), with an expression, which seems most distinctly to imply the care our gracious Shepherd takes to guard us against our own feet, in leading us beside the still waters. Why beside? Because the operation of the Holy Spirit, in ministering comfort, joy, peace, strength, and refreshment to our souls from the Holy Scripture, is as tender, and therefore easily interrupted, as it is powerful when not impeded.

Just as "dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour," so it is, (though here in another sense), when natural wisdom, will, and the energy of the flesh, put their clumsy hoofs into the still waters of peace and comfort, ministered by the Holy Ghost from the word of God. How many Bible-readings have been, and are still, marred or prevented, by stepping into the waters, instead of being led beside them. I think that an awful responsibility rests upon those who, giving way to the perverseness of their own will and disorderly mind, not only prevent the precious sheep and lambs of Christ's pasture from enjoying these waters of rest and refreshment, which their loving Shepherd had provided for them, but, by ministering questions rather than godly edifying, destroy precious souls for whom Christ died. The apostles, especially Paul, warn against those disturbers, repeatedly and most solemnly. They are the bane of every Christian assembly which is afflicted with them.

Let us now turn for a moment to Ezekiel 34, and we shall find there the same thing. Jehovah-Jesus, the blessed Shepherd at the head of our Psalm, expresses, even before He was on earth, prophetically by His Spirit, in the touching language of this chapter, His loving care for the sheep of His flock. After having pronounced judgment upon the false shepherds, who feed themselves instead of the flock, He continues: —

"Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep, that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places, where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment."

Then the Lord turns to His flock, and addresses them thus: —

"And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he-goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet."

Solemn words these! Not only for false shepherds, but also for those of the flock who trample upon, and thus spoil the pasture, instead of gently and quietly lying down and enjoying it, together with their fellow-Christians; — who trouble and foul with their feet the still waters of comfort and peace, which are derived from feeding upon the "tender herbs" of Scripture; instead of being led beside those waters by that all-wise and gentle Shepherd, Who intends only the welfare of every individual sheep and lamb of His flock.

And just as the Father's House, where Jesus is now preparing a place for us, is large enough to accommodate every one of the innumerable multitude of His children without any crowding ("yet there is room") — and as the inheritance in store for us all, is so immeasurably rich (according to God's unsearchable riches in Christ Jesus), that there need be no envy nor jealousy between the co-heirs, as to the "dividing of the inheritance;" — so is the pasture which. Christ has spread for His flock. It is so immense and inexhaustible (as everything that is Divine), that there need be no pushing nor hasty rushing on the part of any members of His flock, numberless though they may be. So it was with His pasture in the earthly Land of Promise, flowing with milk and honey, where the Lord had led His people of old, There was abundance for all. Under the peaceful and happy sway of Solomon's sceptre, Jehovah had made them to lie down in those green pastures of earthly blessings, where every Israelite dwelt under his vine and his fig-tree. But, alas Jeshurun had waxed fat, and kicked against his Maker. And not only so, but the fat ones of the flock had "thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with their horns, till they had scattered them abroad." It was for this, that the prophet, on the part of Jehovah, pronounced judgment upon them. It was for the same reason that the apostle James pronounced the judgment of God upon the fat ones of the flock in ch. 2 (concerning the "thrusting and pushing"), and in the still more solemn language of ch. 3 (as to the "trampling, and spoiling, and fouling").

And if it was so grave a sin, to spoil that pasture, and to foul the waters God had provided for His flock of old, in earthly blessings; how solemn, I repeat, must be the responsibility of those, who prevent the flock of God from enjoying the spiritual pasture and refreshment, provided for them by their gracious and loving Shepherd, by pushing, and thrusting, and trampling, and turning those "waters of rest" into "waters of Meribah," waters of strife and trouble. It is against such that the apostle Paul warns his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, when speaking of those who "consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, proud, knowing nothing, doting abut questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness." "From such," the apostle continues, "withdraw thyself."

But it is not only against those troublers and spoilers, that we have to be on our guard. Let us not forget, dear fellow Christian, that the same flesh, the same tendency of self will and trusting to our own wisdom and understanding, is in ourselves. If we, when reading God's Word, be it individually or collectively, receive with meekness the ingrafted Word, waiting for the guidance and teaching of His Spirit; the Spirit of God, not being grieved, will bring out God's thoughts from God's Word, which He has written Himself, and to which He alone possesses the key. But if, on the contrary, we approach the pasture of the Word of God with an unhallowed spirit, unbroken will, and leaning on our own understanding, we shall be sure to bring in our own thoughts, which is a very different thing from bringing out God's thoughts. This surely is not the way to the "waters of rest," nor the path beside them, in which the Lord leads, through His Spirit.

And here I must mention one of the most solemn features of our days: the want of reverence for and submission to God's Word, in making it a matter of opinion. If you and I, dear reader, were speaking about some human book, we might differ in our opinion about its contents. You might say: "I have a right to hold my own opinion, and you have a right to do the same. You are to respect my opinion, as I am bound to respect yours." But neither you nor I, nor any other man, nay, not the most pious, gifted, or learned, have any title or right to make the Word of God a matter of opinion. To submit the word of God to our judgment, would be nothing less than to judge God Himself. He has not given us His Word to form opinions about it, but to be under it — under its divine power, and under its divine authority, which is our proper, and only safe place.

What more awful presumption, than to submit that divine code, by which all mankind will be judged, to man's opinion! Ah! dear reader, this is not the gracious Shepherd's leading His sheep "beside the still waters;" but the beguiling power of that old serpent (whose very first word to Eve was a perversion of God's Word), trying to lead astray, and corrupt the sheep and lambs of God's flock from the simplicity that is in Christ, by way of doubting, questioning, and reasoning; and to lead them to the dark and troubled waters of infidelity, which terminate in outer darkness, with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Surely there is nothing we need more than continual earnest prayer, that we, through the grace of God, may be kept more abidingly in an humble, truly dependent posture at the feet of Him Who said. "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls." Then we shall be surely led by Him, through His Spirit, beside the peaceful waters of rest, and that rest of heart and soul will be our constant happy portion, which is, alas, so little known by many who have peace of conscience. We shall, further, in this happy path, learn that which His honoured apostle Peter, after he had been restored," learnt, "to stir up one another's pure minds;" and what His great apostle of the Gentiles, who once was a persecutor of the flock of Christ, "making havoc of the church," and "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," learnt of Him, viz.. "to provoke one another unto love and good works."