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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Isaiah 40

Verse 1

Comfort Proclaimed

A Sermon

(No. 221)

Delivered on Sabbath Evening, September 21, 1856, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

At Exeter Hall, Strand.

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"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." Isaiah 40:1 .

WHAT A SWEET TITLE: "My people!" What a cheering revelation: "Your God!" How much of meaning is couched in those two words, "My people!" Here is speciality. The whole world is God's; the heaven, even the heaven of heavens are the Lord's and he reigneth among the children of men. But he saith of a certain number, "My people." Of those whom he hath chosen, whom he hath purchased to himself, he saith what he saith not of others. While nations and kindreds are passed by as being simply nations, he says of them "My people." In this word there is the idea of proprietorship to teach us that we are the property of God. In some special manner the "Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." All the nations upon earth are his; he taketh up the isles as a very little thing; the whole world is in his power; yet are his people, his chosen, favoured people, more especially his possesion; for he has done more for them than others; he has bought them with his blood; he has brought them nigh to himself; he has set his great heart upon them; he has loved them with an everlasting love, a love which many waters cannot quench, and which the revolutions of time shall never suffice in the least degree to diminish. "My people!" O my hearers, can you by faith put yourselves in that number who believe that God says of them, "My people?" Can you look up to heaven to-night, and say, "My Lord, and my God: mine by that sweet relationship which entitles me to call thee Father; mine by that hallowed fellowship which I delight to hold with thee when thou art pleased to manifest thyself unto me as thou dost not unto the world?" Canst thou, beloved, put thine hand into thine heart and find there the indentures of thy salvation? Canst thou read thy title writ in precious blood? Canst thou by humble faith lay hold of Jesus's garments, and say, "My Christ?" If thou canst, then God saith of thee, "My people;" for if God be your God, and Christ your Christ, the Lord has a special, peculiar favour to you; you are the object of his choice, and you shall be accepted, at last, in his beloved Son. How careful God is of his people; those of whom he says, "My people;" mark, how anxious he is concerning them, not only for their life, but for their comfort. He does not say, "strengthen ye, strengthen ye my people;" he does not say to the angel, "protect my people;" he does not say to the heavens, "drop down manna to feed my people;" all that and more also his tender regard secures to them; but on this occasion, to show us that he is not only regardful of our interests, but also of our superfluities, he says, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." He would not only have us his living people, his preserved people, but he would have us be his happy people too. He likes his people to be fed, but what is more, he likes to give them "wines on the lees well refined," to make glad their hearts. He will not only give them bread, but he will give them honey too; he will not simply give them milk, but he will give them wine and milk, and all the sweet things which their hearts can desire. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people;" it is the Father's yearning heart, careful even for the little things of his people. "Comfort ye, comfort ye," that one with a tearful eye; "Comfort ye, comfort ye," you child of mine with an aching heart "Comfort ye," that poor bemoaning one; "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God."

Now to night we shall notice the parties to whom the command is addressed; secondly, the reason for it; and thirdly, the means for carrying it out.

I. First, then, TO WHOM IS THIS COMMAND ADDRESSED? You know, beloved, the Holy Spirit is the great Comforter, and he it is who alone can solace the saints if their hearts be really cheered; but he uses instruments to relieve his children in their distress and to lift op their hearts from desperation. To whom, then, is this command addressed? I believe it is addressed to angels and to men.

To angels, first of all, I believe this command is addressed: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." You often talk about the insinuations of the devil; I frequently hear you bemoaning yourselves because you have been attacked by Apollyon, and have had a hard struggle with Beelzebub; you have found it hard to resist his desperate thrusts which he made against you; and you are always talking about him. Allow me to remind you that there is another side of that question, for if evil spirits assault us, doubtless good spirits guard us; and if Satan can cast us down, doubtless it is true God giveth his angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways, and they shall bear us up in their hands lest at any time we dash our feet against a stone. It is my firm belief that angels are often employed by God to throw into the hearts of his people comforting thoughts. There are many sweet thoughts which we have by the way, when we sit down, and when we rise up, which we scarcely dare attribute immediately to the Holy Ghost, but which are still beautiful and calm, lovely, and fair, and consoling; and we attribute them to the ministry of angels. Angels came and ministered unto Jesus, and I doubt not that they minister unto us. Few of us have enough belief in the existence of spirits. I like that saying of Milton's, "Millions of spiritual creatures walk this earth, both when we sleep and when we wake." And if our minds were opened, if our ears were attentive, we might hold fellowship with spirits that flit through the air every moment. Around the death-bed of saints angels hover; by the side of every struggling warrior for Christ the angels stand. In the day of battle we hear in the air the neighing of their steeds. Hark! how softly do they ride to help the elect of God, while in the stern conflict for the right and for the truth, when they would have been cast down, some angel whispers, "Courage brother, courage, I would I could stand by thy side, shoulder to shoulder, and foot to foot, to fight the battle, but I must not; it is left for men. Courage then brother, because angels watch over thee!" It is a good wish of ours, when we say at eventide, "Peace be to thee beloved! good angels guard thee! may they spread their wings o'er thee and stand around thy bed!" But it is more than a wish, it is a reality. Do ye not know It is written "the angel of the Lord encampeth round them that fear him?" "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who are heirs of salvation?" This command then, comes to angels. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." Full oft the bright winged seraph flaps his wing to earth, to comfort some desponding heart. Full oft the cherub, ceasing for a moment his mighty song to go on errands of love, descends, as Gabriel did of old, to cheer the heart of many a struggling man and to stand by the side of those who are in conflict for God and for his truth. Ye angels, ye bright spirits, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people."

But on earth, this is more especially addressed to the Lord's ministers. He calls his ministers angels of the churches, albeit, they should be a great deal more like angels than they are. Ministers are bound to comfort God's people. I am sure, however, they cannot do it, unless they preach the good old doctrines of truth. Except they preach grace and gracious doctrine, I can not see how they are to console the minds of the Lord's family. Were I to adopt a lax theology which teaches that God's children may fall away, that although redeemed they may yet be lost, that they may be effectually called, and yet slide back to perdition I want to know how I could carry out this command? I should say, "Brethren, God has told me to comfort you; that is what I have to preach; you must get what comfort you can out of it, for I really cannot find much." I have often marvelled how the Arminian can comfort himself, wherewith he can light a fire to warm his own heart! What doctrine hath he? He believes he is a child of God to-day, and he is taught to believe he is a child of the devil to-morrow. He is now, he says, in the covenant, but then that covenant is such an uncertain thing that it may at any time be broken down, and he may die beneath its ruins; he knows himself to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, yet he is taught that that will not be sufficient without the concurrence of some good thoughts, good actions, or certainly by some good grace, some faith of his own. He is led to believe that his standing depends upon his own keeping near to God, instead of remembering that his keeping near to God must be by a sweet attraction that proceeds from God himself. Whence then comfort is to be procured I cannot tell. Happy I am I have no such gospel as that to preach. Let me preach the old gospel of Chrysostom, the old gospel of Augustine, the old gospel of Athanasius; and above all the old gospel of Jesus Christ, the originator of it; for there I can find something to comfort the child of God, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." It is our duty to reprove, to exhort, to invite, but it is equally our duty to console. The minister should ask of God the Spirit, that he may be filled with his influence as a comforter; that when he ascends his pulpit on the Sabbath morning, his poor hard working people, who have been toiling, fretting with care and anxiety all the week, may say, "Here comes our minister; he is sure to have his mouth filled with good things; as soon as he opens his lips he will utter some great and glorious promise from God's Word. He has little to say himself, but he will be sure to tell us some good old truths with some fresh unction, and we shall go away refreshed." Oh! ye sons of toil, some of you understand this. With weary feet ye come to God's house; but oh how gladly do ye sing there, and how sweetly does your singing harmonize with your hearts! and when you have heard the Word you go away and say, "Would God it were Sunday all the week! Oh! that I might sit and ever hear the words of God! Oh! that I might sit and ever drink in such comforts, so should I be satisfied as with marrow and fatness!" But sometimes you come up, and there is a flogging for you just when there needs to be consolation; or you get some dry hard metaphysical subject that has not any nourishment for your souls in it, and you go away half starved. You hear some fine discourse with rounded periods, and people say, "Oh! such an oration! never was English so beautifully spoken by Hall or Chalmers. How admirably it was delivered!" But alas! alas! what of the dish, the porcelain, the knife, the plate, the splendid damask cloth, the vase of flowers where is the food? There is none there. You have got the garnishings and you ought to be thankful, and hold your ministers in esteem, even it they withhold from you your necessary bread! But the child of God wont like that; he says "I am weary of such things, away with these garnishings, give it me in plain rough Saxon if you will, but give me the gospel! Cut it up in any fashion you like, but do give me something to feed upon." The language may be rough, and the style homely, but the heir of heaven says, "There was 'comfort ye my people' in it; and that was what I wanted. Its style, humanly speaking, may not have exactly suited my taste, but it has fed my soul, and that will suffice me."

But, my friends, do not support your ministers as an excuse for the discharge of your own duties; many do so. They think when they have subscribed towards the support of the ministry, it is enough; imagining, as our Roman Catholic friends do, that the priest is to do everything, and the people nothing; but that is very wrong. When God said, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," he spake to all his people to comfort one another. And who is there here that knows the Lord and has tasted of his grace who cannot comfort his brethren? There is my strong friend who is on the mount feasting on dying love; he is the subject of rhapsodies and high excitement; his soul is like the chariot of Amminadib; it is on fire with his Master's presence; he is living near to God and drinking in fulness of joy. Oh! my brother, go and tell out a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what sorrow there is upon the earth. When thou art happy, remember there is sure to be some one else sad. When thy cup runneth over, find out an empty cup to catch the drops that overflow. When thy soul is full of joy, go, if thou canst, and find a mourner and let him hear thy song, or sit down by his side and tell him how glad thou art, and mayhap his poor heart may be warmed by thy sweet cheering words. But art thou weak? Art thou sad thyself? Then go to him who is the great Comforter and ask him to relieve thy distresses, and after that go out thyself and comfort others. There are none so good to comfort others as those who once were comfortless. If I were an orphan now, and needed a helper, I would seek one who had been an orphan in his youth, that he might sympathize with me. Were I houseless and poor, I would not go to the man who has rolled in wealth from earliest youth, but I would seek out the man who, like myself, has trodden with bare feet the cold pavement of the street at midnight; I would seek out the man who, penniless and poor, has begged his way from town to town, and then, by God's providence, has worked himself up; for I could believe that such an one would have a heart to sympathize with me. Go, thou poor tried one, go thou weather-beaten soul if thou canst, and call to thy mate, who is just out at sea with thee, and tell him to be of good cheer. Thou who art in the valley of the shadow of death, sing, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;" and mayhap some brother far behind thee will hear the song, and will take heart.

"Lives of great men all remind us,

We can make our lives sublime,

And departing, leave behind us,

Foot-prints on the sands of time.

Foot-prints that, perhaps, another,

Sailing o'er life's solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, may take heart again."

Go, and when thou hast found any good, strive to perpetuate it by communicating it to others. When thy foot is on the rock, show others how to put their feet there. When thou art glad, tell others how thou wast made glad, and the same cordial which cheered thee may cheer them likewise. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people."

Now why do we not enjoy this a little more? I believe one reason is because we are most of us rather too proud to tread in our Master's footsteps. We like not to say with him, "I am not come to be ministered unto, but to minister." "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people" is a sublime admonition, but never surely intended for the meagre sympathy of fashion, for a lady who can ride in her carriage, and send her card up, when she calls to inquire for a friend, who is sick; but were I to press home the duty, and tell her that "my people" includes the poorest of God's flock, the weakest and the meanest, she would think me a rude and vulgar young man, unacquainted with the etiquette of genteel society. Comfort the poor! why should she? "The lower classes expect a great deal too much of the upper, I shall not demean myself by stooping to them." This kind of feeling many professing Christians have; they talk with a fine lisp, they deem it enough to say, "Poor creature, I pity your case, I am sorry for you!" But the heir of heaven reads, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." There is a poor man in the streets who has just come begging a crust at your door, and you can see by what he says, that there is something of God's grace in his heart; then comfort him. There is another up the creaking staircase in that back alley; you never went up there, you might be afraid to go; but if you hear of a child of God there do not shrink back. God's diamonds may be often found amidst heaps of rags and tatters, in the very outskirts of the city, the abodes of haggard poverty; so go after them. Whensoever you hear of a child of God, go and find him out; for this command, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," never ought to be put aside by our pride. Why, you go to your churches and chapels, sometimes, and sit in your pews, without even a thought of speaking to your neighbours. Some men will go to a chapel seven years, and scarcely know the name of the next seat-holder. Is that right? Many will sit at the Lord's table too, and not speak to each other. But that is not the fashion of communion as I understand it: it is not the fashion of the gospel either. When I was but a youth, the smallest boy almost that ever joined a church, I remember I thought that everybody believed what he said, and when I heard the minister say brother, I thought I must be his brother, for I was admitted into the church. I once sat next to a gentleman in a pew, and we received the bread and wine together; he called me "Brother," and as I thought he meant it, I afterwards acted upon it. I had no friend in the town of Cambridge, where I was; and one day when walking out, I saw this same gentleman, and I said to myself, "Well now, he called me brother; I know he is a great deal better off than I am, but I don't care for that; I will go and speak to him." So I went and said "How do you do, brother?" "I have not the pleasure of knowing you," was his reply. I said "I sat next to you at the Lord's table last Sabbath day, sir, and you called me 'brother' when you passed the cup to me, and I was sure you meant it." "There now," said he, "it is worth while seeing some one who believes a little with sincerity in these times; come in with me." And we have been the nearest and dearest bosom friends ever since, just because he saw I took him at his word, that he meant what he said. But now-a days profession has become a pretence and a sham; people sit down at the church together, as though they were brethren, the minister calls you brethren, but he wont speak to you, or own yon as such; his people are his brethren, no doubt, but their it is in such a mysterious sense, that you will have to read some German theologian in order to comprehend it. That person is "your very dear brother," or "your very dear sister," but if you are in distress, go to them and see if they will assist you. I do not believe in such a religion as that. I would have those who profess to be brethren, believe that "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," applies to every member of Christ's church, and that they all ought to carry it out to the utmost of their abilities.

II. Secondly, WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR THIS COMMAND? Why does God say "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people!"

The first reason is because God loves to see his people look happy. The Roman Catholic supposes that God is pleased with a man if he whips himself, walks barefooted for many miles, and torments his body. I am certain if I were to see anyone do that, I should say "Poor soul, give him a pair of shoes; do take that whip from him, I cannot bear to see him so." And as I believe that God is infinitely more benevolent than I am, I cannot suppose that he would take pleasure in seeing blood run down a man's back, or blisters rising on his feet. If a man would please God, he had better make himself as happy as he can. When I am by the sea-side, and the tide is coming in, I see what appears to be a little fringe, looking almost like a mist; and I ask a fisherman what it is. He tells me there is no mist there; and that what I see are all little shrimps dancing in ecstasy, throwing themselves in convulsions and contortions of delight. I think within myself, "Does God make those creatures happy, and did he make me to be miserable? Can it ever be a religious thing to be unhappy?" No; true religion is in harmony with the whole world; it is in harmony with the sun and moon and stars; and the sun shines and the stars twinkle; it is in harmony with all the world; and the world has flowers in it and leaping hills, and carolling birds; it has joys in it; so I believe religion was meant to have joys in it; and I hold it to be an irreligious thing to go moping miserably through God's creation. You cannot help it sometimes, just as sins will overtake you, but happiness is a very virtue. "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God now accepteth thy works," which means not so much eating and drinking, as the living with a joyous countenance, and walking before God, believing in his love, and rejoicing in his grace.

Again, "Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people;" because uncomfortable Christians often dishonour religion. Look at my friend who is come here to-night with such a sorrowful countenance. Yesterday, he had a new servant in his house, and when she went down into the kitchen, she said to her fellow-servant, "Is not our master a pious man?" "Yes, surely." "I thought so because he looks so miserable." Now that is a disgrace to religion. Whenever a Christian man sinks under affliction; when he does not seek grace from God to battle manfully with his sea of troubles; when he does not ask his Father to give him a great weight of consolation whereby he shall be able to endure in the evil day, we may say he does dishonour to the high, and mighty, and noble principles of Christianity, which are fitted to bear a man up in times of the very deepest affliction. It is the boast of the gospel that it lifts men above trouble; it is one of the glories of our Christianity, that it makes us say, "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." But when the Christian gets sad and miserable, run to him, brother; wipe that tear from his eye, tell him to cheer up, or at least if he is sad, not to let the world see it; if he fasts, let him anoint his head, and wash his face, that he appear not unto men to fast. Let his garments be always white, and let his head lack no oil; let him be happy; for so he giveth credit to religion.

Again, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people;" because a Christian in an uncomfortable state cannot work for God much. Break a poor man's heart and let him come on this platform with a grieved and agonizing spirit; and oh! what a want of power there will be in him! He wants all his time for his own sighs and groans, and will have none to spend upon God's people. We have seen broken-hearted ministers who have sadly lamented that when in trouble, they have found themselves unable to declare God's truth as they could wish. It is when the mind is happy, that it can be laborious. Nothing hurts the man whilst he can keep all right with heaven, and feel it so; whilst he can say that God is his own God, he can work night and day, and scarcely feel fatigued. But take away his comforts and his joys, and then one day's labour distracts his nerves and shatters all his mind. Then comfort God's people, because bruised reeds give little music, and the smoking flax makes little fire. "Comfort ye, comfort ye" the saints, for they will work ten times better when their minds have once been made comfortable.

Again; "Comfort ye" God's people, because ye profess to love them. You call that poor aged cripple, loitering home to-night, leaning on her crutch, your sister; do you know that she will go to bed to-night supperless? Only once has she tasted food to-day, and that was dry bread; do you know that? and is she your sister? Let your heart speak: would you allow your sister to eat dry bread once a day, and have nothing else? No; out of love to her as your relation, you would go and comfort her. There is another poor brother who will pass you on the road home, not poor in bodily things, but poor in soul, distressed in spirits. Don't do as that person has just done he has quickened his pace, because he says that old man makes him miserable, and it makes him melancholy to talk with him. No; just go to him and say, "Brother, I hear you are in the valley of Baca; well, it is written, they that pass through the valley of Baca make it a well, the rain also filleth the pools." Join yourself to him, for it is written, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people." "No, sir," you say, "I intend to go to-night with one or two very good people, and we shall enjoy ourselves together, and be very glad to-night." Yes, but if they be glad you cannot comfort them, so go and seek out some broken-hearted one if thou canst, some poor, sad, mourning one, and say, "The Lord hath appeared to thee of old, saying, 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love.' God's mercies have not failed and, therefore, we are not consumed." Go and cheer him. What! are there no families near you where the head has lately been removed by death? Have you no bereaved friends? have you no poor in your streets, no distressed, no desponding ones? If you have not, then yonder Scripture might be rent out of the Bible, for it would be useless; but because I am sure you have such, I bid you, in God Almighty's name, to go and seek out the needy, the distressed, and the poor, and send them portions of meat. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people."

III. In the last place. God never gives his children a duty to do without giving them THE MEANS TO DO IT; he never bids them make bricks without straw, and when he tells us to comfort God's people, we may be certain there are many means whereby they may be comforted. Let me just hint at those things in the everlasting gospel which have a tendency to comfort the saints. What, child of God! Art thou at a loss for a topic to comfort the aching heart? Hark thee, then; go tell of the ancient things of former days; whisper in the mourner's ear electing grace, and redeeming mercy, and dying love. When thou findest a troubled one, tell him of the covenant, in all things ordered well, signed, sealed, and ratified; tell him what the Lord hath done in former days, how he cut Rahab and wounded the dragon; tell him the wondrous story of God's dealings with his people. Tell him that God who divided the Red sea can make a highway for his people through the deep waters of affliction; that he who appeared in the burning bush which was not consumed, will support him in the furnace of tribulation. Tell him of the marvellous things which God has wrought for his chosen people: surely there is enough there to comfort him. Tell him that God watcheth the furnace as the goldsmith the refining pot."

Thy days of trial then,

Are all ordained by heaven;

If he appoint the number 'ten,'

You ne'er shall have eleven."

If that does not suffice, tell him of his present mercies; tell him that he has much left, though much is gone. Tell him there is "now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" tell him that now he is accepted in the beloved; tell him that he is now adopted, and that his standing is safe. Tell him that Jesus is above, wearing the breast-plate, or pleading his cause. Tell him that though earth's pillars shake, God is a refuge for us; tell the mourner that the everlasting God faileth not, neither is weary. Let present facts suffice thee to cheer him.

But if this is not enough, tell him of the future; whisper to him that there is a heaven with pearly gates and golden streets; tell him that

"A few more rolling suns at most,

Will land him on fair Canaan's coast."

and therefore he may well bear his sorrows. Tell him that Christ is coming, and that his sign is in the heavens, his advent is near, he will soon appear to judge the earth with equity, and his people in righteousness. And if that suffice not, tell him all about that God who lived and died. Take him to Calvary; picture to him the bleeding hands, and side, and feet; tell him of the thorn-crowned King of grief; tell him of the mighty Monarch of woe and blood, who wore the scarlet of mockery which was yet the purple of the empire of grief; tell him that he himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree. And if I have not said enough, go to thy Bible, read its pages, bend thy knee and ask for guidance, and then tell him some great and precious promise, that so thou mayest accomplish thy mission, and comfort one of God's people.

I have but a few words to say to some, who I grieve to think want no comfort. They want something else before they can be comforted. Some of my hearers are not God's people; they have never believed in Christ, nor fled to him for refuge. Now I will tell you briefly and plainly the way of salvation. Sinner! know that thou art in God's sight guilty, that God is just and that he will punish thee, for thy sins. Hark thee, then: there is only one way by which thou canst escape, and it is this: Christ must be thy substitute. Either thou must die, or Christ must die for thee. Thy only refuge is faith in Jesus Christ, whereby thou shalt be assured that Christ did really and actually shed his blood for thee. And if you are able to believe that Christ died for you, I know it will cause you to hate sin, to seek for Christ, and to love and serve him world without end. May God bless us all, forgive us our sins, and accept our souls for Jesus's sake!

Verses 6-8

The Withering Work of the Spirit

July 9th, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)

"The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." Isaiah 40:6-8 .

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." 1 Peter 1:23-25 .

The passage in Isaiah which I have just read in your hearing may be used as a very eloquent description of our mortality, and if a sermon should be preached from it upon the frailty of human nature, the brevity of life, and the certainty of death, no one could dispute the appropriateness of the text. Yet I venture to question whether such a discourse would strike the central teaching of the prophet. Something more than the decay of our material flesh is intended here; the carnal mind, the flesh in another sense, was intended by the Holy Ghost when he bade his messenger proclaim those words. It does not seem to me that a mere expression of the mortality of our race was needed in this place by the context; it would hardly keep pace with the sublime revelations which surround it, and would in some measure be a digression from the subject in hand. The notion that we are here simply and alone reminded of our mortality does not square with the New Testament exposition of it in Peter, which I have also placed before you as a text. There is another and more spiritual meaning here beside and beyond that which would be contained in the great and very obvious truth that all of us must die. Look at the chapter in Isaiah with care. What is the subject of it? It is the divine consolation of Zion. Zion had been tossed to and fro with conflicts; she had been smarting under the result of sin. The Lord, to remove her sorrow, bids his prophets announce the coming of the long-expected Deliverer, the end and accomplishment of all her warfare and the pardon of all her iniquity. There is no doubt that this is the theme of the prophecy; and further, there is no sort of question about the next point, that the prophet goes on to foretell the coming of John the Baptist as the harbinger of the Messiah. We have no difficulty in the explanation of the passage, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God;" for the New Testament again and again refers this to the Baptist and his ministry. The object of the coming of the Baptist and the mission of the Messiah, whom he heralded, was the manifestation of divine glory. Observe the fifth verse: "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Well, what next? Was it needful to mention man's mortality in this connection? We think not. But there is much more appropriateness in the succeeding verses, if we see their deeper meaning. Do they not mean this? In order to make room for the display of the divine glory in Christ Jesus and his salvation, there would come a withering of all the glory wherein man boasts himself: the flesh should be seen in its true nature as corrupt and dying, and the grace of God alone should be exalted. This would be seen under the ministry of John the Baptist first, and should be the preparatory work of the Holy Ghost in men's hearts, in all time, in order that the glory of the Lord should be revealed and human pride be for ever confounded. The Spirit blows upon the flesh, and that which seemed vigorous becomes weak, that which was fair to look upon is smitten with decay; the true nature of the flesh is thus discovered, its deceit is laid bare, its power is destroyed, and there is space for the dispensation of the ever-abiding word, and for the rule of the Great Shepherd, whose words are spirit and life. There is a withering wrought by the Spirit which is the preparation for the sowing and implanting by which salvation is wrought. The withering before the sowing was very marvellously fulfilled in the preaching of John the Baptist. Most appropriately he carried on his ministry in the desert, for a spiritual desert was all around him; he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It was not his work to plant, but to hew down. The fleshly religion of the Jews was then in its prime. Phariseeism stalked through the streets in all its pomp; men complacently rested in outward ceremonies only, and spiritual religion was at the lowest conceivable ebb. Here and there might be found a Simeon and an Anna, but for the most part men knew nothing of spiritual religion, but said in their hearts: "We have Abraham to our father," and this is enough. What a stir he made when he called the lordly Pharisees a generation of vipers! How he shook the nation with the declaration, "Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees"! Stern as Elias, his work was to level the mountains, and lay low every lofty imagination. That word, "Repent," was as a scorching wind to the verdure of self-righteousness, a killing blast for the confidence of ceremonialism. His food and his dress called for fasting and mourning. The outward token of his ministry declared the death amid which he preached, as he buried in the waters of Jordan those who came to him. "Ye must die and be buried, even as he who is to come will save by death and burial." This was the meaning of the emblem which he set before the crowd. His typical act was as thorough in its teaching as were his words; and as if that were not enough, he warned them of a yet more searching and trying baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and of the coming of one whose fan was in his hand, thoroughly to purge his floor. The Spirit in John blew as the rough north wind, searching and withering, and made him to be a destroyer of the vain gloryings of a fleshly religion, that the spiritual faith might be established. When our Lord himself actually appeared, he came into a withered land, whose glories had all departed. Old Jesse's stem was bare, and our Lord was the branch which grew out of his root. The scepter had departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet, when Shiloh came. An alien sat on David's throne, and the Roman called the covenant-land his own. The lamp of prophecy burned but dimly, even if it had not utterly gone out. No Isaiah had arisen of late to console them, nor even a Jeremiah to lament their apostacy. The whole economy of Judaism was as a worn-out vesture; it had waxed old, and was ready to vanish away. The priesthood was disarranged. Luke tells us that Annas and Caiaphas were high priests that year two in a year or at once, a strange setting aside of the laws of Moses. All the dispensation which gathered around the visible, or as Paul calls it, the "worldly" sanctuary, was coming to a close; and when our Lord had finished his work, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the sacrifices were abolished, the priesthood of Aaron was set aside, and carnal ordinances were abrogated, for the Spirit revealed spiritual things. When he came who was made a priest, "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life," there was "a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." Such are the facts of history; but I am not about to dilate upon them: I am coming to your own personal histories to the experience of every child of God. In every one of us it must be fufilled that all that is of the flesh in us, seeing it is but as grass, must be withered, and the comeliness thereof must be destroyed. The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of our souls, and cause our beauty to be as a fading flower. He must so convince us of sin, and so reveal ourselves to ourselves, that we shall see that the flesh profiteth nothing; that our fallen nature is corruption itself, and that "they who are in the flesh cannot please God." There must be brought home to us the sentence of death upon our former legal and carnal life, that the incorruptible seed of the word of God, implanted by the Holy Ghost, may be in us, and abide in us for ever. The subject of this morning is the withering work of the Spirit upon the souls of men, and when we have spoken upon it, we shall conclude with a few words upon the implanting work, which always follows where this withering work has been performed. I. Turning then to THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN CAUSING THE GOODLINESS OF THE FLESH TO FADE, let us, first, observe that the work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of man in withering up that which is of the flesh, is very unexpected. You will observe in our text, that even the speaker himself, though doubtless one taught of God, when he was bidden to cry, said, "What shall I cry?" Even he did not know that in order to the comforting of God's people, there must first be experienced a preliminary visitation. Many preachers of God's gospel have forgotten that the law is the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. They have sown on the unbroken fallow ground and forgotten that the plough must break the clods. We have seen too much of trying to sew without the sharp needle of the Spirit's convincing power. Preachers have labored to make Christ precious to those who think themselves rich and increased in goods: and it has been labor in vain. It is our duty to preach Jesus Christ even to self-righteous sinners, but it is certain that Jesus Christ will never be accepted by them while they hold themselves in high esteem. Only the sick will welcome the physician. It is the work of the Spirit of God to convince men of sin, and until they are convinced of sin, they will never be led to seek the righteousuess which is of God by Jesus Christ. I am persuaded, that wherever there is a real work of grace in any soul, it begins with a pulling down: the Holy Ghost does not build on the old foundation. Wood, hay, and stubble will not do for him to build upon. He will come as the fire, and cause a conflagration of all proud nature's Babels. He will break our bow and cut our spear in sunder, and burn our chariot in the fire. When every sandy foundation is gone, then, but not till then, behold he will lay in our souls the great foundation stone, chosen of God, and precious. The awakened sinner, when he asks that God would have mercy upon him, is much astonished to find that, instead of enjoying a speedy peace, his soul is bowed down within him under a sense of divine wrath. Naturally enough he enquires: "Is this the answer to my prayer? I prayed the Lord to deliver me from sin and self, and is this the way in which he deals with me? I said, 'Hear me,' and behold he wounds me with the wounds of a cruel one. I said, 'Clothe me,' and lo! He has torn off from me the few rags which covered me before, and my nakedness stares me in the face. I said, 'Wash me,' and behold he has plunged me in the ditch till mine own clothes do abhor me. Is this the way of grace?" Sinner, be not surprised: it is even so. Perceivest thou not the cause of it? How canst thou be healed while the proud flesh is in thy wound? It must come out. It is the only way to heal thee permanently: it would be folly to film over thy sore, or heal thy flesh, and leave the leprosy within thy bones. The great physician will cut with his sharp knife till the corrupt flesh be removed, for only thus can a sure healing work be wrought in thee. Dost thou not see that it is divinely wise that before thou art clothed thou shouldst be stripped! What, wouldst thou have Christ's lustrous righteousness outside whiter than any fuller can make it, and thine own filthy rags concealed within? Nay, man; they must be put away; not a single thread of thine own must be left upon thee. It cannot be that God should cleanse thee until he has made thee see somewhat of thy defilement; for thou wouldst never value the precious blood which cleanses us from all sin if thou hadst not first of all been made to mourn that thou art altogether an unclean thing. The convincing work of the Spirit, wherever it comes, is unexpected, and even to the child of God in whom this process has still to go on, it is often startling. We begin again to build that which the Spirit of God had destroyed. Having begun in the spirit, we act as if we would be made perfect in the flesh; and then when our mistaken upbuilding has to be levelled with the earth, we are almost as astonished as we were when first the scales fell from our eyes. In some such condition as this was Newton when he wrote:

"I asked the Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every grace, Might more of his salvation know, And seek more earnestly his face.

Twas he who taught me thus to pray, And he, I trust, has answered prayer; But it has been in such a way As almost drove me to despair.

I hop'd that in some favour'd hour, At once he'd answer my request, And by his love's constraining power Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel The hidden evils of my heart. And let the angry powers of hell Assault my soul in ev'ry part."

Ah, marvel not, for thus the Lord is wont to answer his people. The voice which saith, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people," achieves its purpose by first making them hear the cry, "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." 2. Furthermore, this withering is after the usual order of the divine operation. If we consider well the way of God, we shall not be atonished that he beginneth with his people by terrible things in righteousness. Observe the method of creation. I will not venture upon any dogmatic theory of geology, but there seems to be every probability that this world has been fitted up and destroyed, refitted and then destroyed again, many times before the last arranging of it for the habitation of men. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;" then came a long interval, and at length, at the appointed time, during seven days, the Lord prepared the earth for the human race. Consider then the state of matters when the great architect began his work. What was there in the beginning? Originally, nothing. When he commanded the ordering of the earth how was it? "The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." There was no trace of another's plan to interfere with the great architect. "With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding." He received no contribution of column or pillar towards the temple which he intended to build. The earth was, as the Hebrew puts it, Tohu and Bohu, disorder and confusion in a word, chaos. So it is in the new creation. When the Lord new creates us, he borrows nothing from the old man, but makes all things new. He does not repair and add a new wing to the old house of our depraved nature, but he builds a new temple for his own praise. We are spiritually without form and empty, and darkness is upon the face of our heart, and his word comes to us, saying, "Light be," and there is light, and ere long life and every precious thing. To take another instance from the ways of God. When man has fallen, when did the Lord bring him the gospel? The first whisper of the gospel, as you know, was, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed. He shall bruise thy head." That whisper came to man shivering in the presence of his Maker, having nothing more to say by way of excuse; but standing guilty before the Lord. When did the Lord God clothe our parents? Not until first of all he had put the question, "Who told thee that thou wast naked?" Not until the fig-leaves had utterly failed did the Lord bring in the covering skin of the sacrifice, and wrap them in it. If you will pursue the meditation upon the acts of God with men, you will constantly see the same thing. God has given us a wonderful type of salvation in Noah's ark; but Noah was saved in that ark in connection with death; he himself, as it were, immured alive in a tomb, and all the world besides left to destruction. All other hope for Noah was gone, and thee the ark rose upon the waters. Remember the redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt: it occurred when they were in the saddest plight, and their cry went up to heaven by reason of their bondage. When no arm brought salvation, then with a high hand and an outstretched arm the Lord brought forth his people. Everywhere before the salvation there comes the humbling of the creature, the overthrow of human hope. As in the back woods of America before there can be tillage, the planting of cities, the arts of civilization, and the transactions of commerce, the woodman's axe must hack and hew: the stately trees of centuries must fall: the roots must be burned, the odd reign of nature disturbed. The old must go before the new can come. Even thus the Lord takes away the first, that he may establish the second. The first heaven and the first earth must pass away, or there cannot be a new heaven and a new earth. Now, as it has been outwardly, we ought to expect that it would be the same within us and when these witherings and facings occur in our souls, we should only say "It is the Lord, let him do as seemeth him good." 3. I would have you notice, thirdly, that we are taught in our text how universal this process is in its range over the hearts of all those upon whom the Spirit works. The withering is a withering of what? Of part of the flesh and some portion of its tendencies? Nay, observe, "All flesh is grass; and all the goodliness thereof" the very choice and pick of it "is as the flower of the field," and what happens to the grass? Does any of it live? "The grass withereth," all of it. The flower, will not that abide? So fair a thing, has not that an immortality? No, it fades: it utterly falls away. So wherever the Spirit of God breathes on the soul of man, there is a withering of everything that is of the flesh, and it is seen that to be carnally minded is death. Of course, we all know and confess that where there is a work of grace, there must be a destruction of our delight in the pleasures of the flesh. When the Spirit of God breathes on us, that which was sweet becomes bitter; that which was bright becomes dim. A man cannot love sin and yet possess the life of God. If he takes pleasure in fleshly joys wherein he once delighted, he is still what he was: he mince the things of the flesh, and therefore he is after the flesh, and he shall die. The world and the lusts thereof are to the unregenerate as beautiful as the meadows in spring, when they are bedecked with flowers, but to the regenerate soul they are a wilderness, a salt land, and not inhabited. Of those very things wherein we once took delight we say, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity." We cry to be delivered from the poisonous joys of earth, we loathe them, and wonder that we could once riot in them. Beloved hearers, do you know what this kind of withering means? Have you seen the lusts of the flesh, and the pomps and the pleasures thereof all fade away before your eyes? It must be so, or the Spirit of God has not visited your soul. But mark, wherever the Spirit of God comes, he destroys the goodliness and flower of the flesh; that is to say, our righteousness withers as our sinfulness. Before the Spirit comes we think ourselves as good as the best. We say, "All these commandments have I kept from my youth up," and we superciliously ask, "What lack I yet?" Have we not been moral? Nay, have we not even been religious? We confess that we may have committed faults, but we think them very venial, and we venture, in our wicked pride, to imagine that, after all, we are not so vile as the word of God would lead us to think. Ah, my dear hearer, when the Spirit of God blows on the comeliness of thy flesh, its beauty will fade as a leaf, and thou wilt have quite another idea of thyself thou wilt then find no language too severe in which to describe thy past character. Searching deep into thy motives, and investigating that which moved thee to thine actions, thou wilt see so much of evil, that thou wilt cry with the publican, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" Where the Holy Ghost has withered up in us our self-righteousness, he has not half completed his work; there is much more to be destroyed yet, and among the rest, away must go our boasted power of resolution. Most people conceive that they can turn to God whenever they resolve to do so. "I am a man of such strength of mind," says one, "that if I made up my mind to be religious, I should be without difficulty." "Ah," saith another volatile spirit, "I believe that one of these days I can correct the errors of the past, and commence a new life." Ah, dear hearers, the resolutions of the flesh are goodly flowers, but they must all fade. When visited by the Spirit of God, we find that even when the will is present with us, how to perform that which we would we find not; yea, and we discover that our will is averse to all that is good, and that naturally we will not come unto Christ that we may have life. What poor frail things resolutions are when seen in the light of God's Spirit! Still the man will say, "I believe I have, after all, within myself an enlightened conscience and an intelligence that will guide me aright. The light of nature I will use, and I do not doubt that if I wander somewhat I shall find my way back again." Ah, man! thy wisdom, which is the very flower of thy nature, what is it but folly, though thou knowest it not? Unconverted and unrenewed, thou art in God's sight no wiser than the wild ass's colt. I wish thou wert in thine own esteem humbled as a little child at Jesus' feet, and made to cry, "Teach thou me." When the withering wind of the Spirit moves over the carnal mind, it reveals the death of the flesh in all respects, especially in the matter of power towards that which is good. We then learn that word of our Lord: "Without me ye can do nothing." When I was seeking the Lord, I not only believed that I could not pray without divine help, but I felt in my very soul that I could not. Then I could not even feel aright, or mourn as I would, or groan as I would. I longed to long more after Christ; but, alas! I could not even feel that I needed him as I ought to feel it. This heart was then as hard as adamant, as dead as those that rot in their graves. Oh, what would I at times have given for a tear! I wanted to repent, but could not; longed to believe, but could not; I felt bound, hampered, and paralysed. This is a humbling revelation of God's Holy Spirit, but a needful one; for the faith of the flesh is not the faith of God's elect. The faith which justifies the soul is the gift of God and not of ourselves. That repentance which is the work of the flesh will need to be repented of. The flower of the flesh must wither; only the seed of the Spirit will produce fruit unto perfection. The heirs of heaven are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of man, but of God. If the work in us be not the Spirit's working, but our own, it will droop and die when most we require its protection; and its end will be as the grass which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven. 4. You see, then, the universality of this withering work within us, but I beg you also to notice the completeness of it. The grass, what does it do? Droop? nay, wither. The dower of the field: what of that? Does it hang its head a little? No, according to Isaiah it fades; and according to Peter it falleth away. There is no reviving it with showers, it has come to its end. Even thus are the awakened led to see that in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing. What dying and withering work some of God's servants have had in their souls! Look at John Bunyan, as he describes himself in his "Grace Abounding!" For how many months and even years was the Spirit engaged in writing death upon all that was the old Bunyan, in order that he might become by grace a new man fitted to track the pilgrims along their heavenly way. We have not all endured the ordeal so long, but in every child of God there must be a death to sin, to the law, and to self, which must be fully accomplished ere he is perfected in Christ and taken to heaven. Corruption cannot inherit incorruption; it is through the Spirit that we mortify the deeds of the body, and therefore live. But cannot the fleshly mind be improved? By no means; for "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Cannot you improve the old nature? No; "ye must be born again." Can it not be taught heavenly things? No. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." There is nothing to be done with the old nature but to let it be laid in the grave; it must be dead, and buried, and when it is so, then the incorruptible seed that liveth and abideth for ever will develop gloriously, the fruit of the new birth will come to maturity, and grace shall be exalted in glory. The old nature never does improve, it is as earthly, and sensual, and devilish in the saint of eighty years of age as it was when first he came to Christ; it is unimproved and unimprovable; towards God it is enmity itself: every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil, and that continually. The old nature called "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other," neither can there be peace between them. 5. Let us further notice that all this withering work in the soul is very painful. As you read these verses do they not strike you as having a very funereal tone? "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth." This is mournful work, but it must be done. I think those who experience much of it when they first come to Christ have great reason to be thankful. Their course in life will, in all probability, be much brighter and happier, for I have noticed that persons who are converted very easily, and come to Christ with but comparatively little knowledge of their own depravity, have to learn it afterwards, and they remain for a long time babes in Christ, and are perplexed with masters that would not have troubled them if they had experienced a deeper work at first. No, sir; if grace has begun to build in your soul and left any of the old walls of self-trust standing, they will have to come down sooner or later. You may congratulate yourself upon their remaining, but it is a false congratulation, your glorying is not good. I am sure of this, that Christ will never put a new piece upon an old garment, or new wine in old bottles: he knows the rent would be worse in the long run, and the bottles would burst. All that is of nature's spinning must be unravelled. The natural building must come down, lath and plaster, roof and foundation, and we must have a house not made with hands. It was a great mercy for our city of London that the great fire cleared away all the old buildings which were the lair of the plague, a far healthier city was then built; and it is a great mercy for a man when God sweeps right away all his own righteousness and strength, when he makes him feel that he is nothing and can be nothing, and drives him to confess that Christ must be all in all, and that his only strength lies in the eternal might of the ever-blessed Spirit. Sometimes in a house of business an old system has been going on for years, and it has caused much confusion, and allowed much dishonesty. You come in as a new manager, and you adopt an entirely new plan. Now, try if you can, and graft your method on to the old system. How it will worry you! Year after year you say to yourself, "I cannot work it: if I had swept the whole away and started afresh, clear from the beginning, it would not have given me one-tenth of the trouble." God does not intend to graft the system of grace upon corrupt nature, nor to make the new Adam grow out of the old Adam, but he intends to teach us this: "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Salvation is not of the flesh but of the Lord alone; that which is born of the flesh is only flesh at the best; and only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. It must be the Spirit's work altogether, or it is not what God will accept. Observe, brethren, that although this is painful it is inevitable. I have already entrenched upon this, and shown you how necessary it is that all of the old should be taken away; but let me further remark that it is inevitable that the old should go, because it is in itself corruptible. Why does the grass wither? Because it is a withering thing. "Its root is ever in its we, and it must die." How could it spring out of the earth, and be immortal? It is no amaranth: it blooms not in Paradise: it grows in a soil on which the curse has fallen. Every supposed good thing that grows out of your own self, is like yourself, mortal, and it must die. The seeds of corruption are in all the fruits of manhood's tree; let them be as fair to look upon as Eden's clusters, they must decay. Moreover, it would never do, my brother, that there should be something of the flesh in our salvation and something of the Spirit; for if it were so there would be a division of the honor. Hitherto the praises of God; beyond this my own praises. If I were to win heaven partly through what I had done, and partly through what Christ had done, and if the energy which sanctified me was in a measure my own, and in a measure divine, they that divide the work shall divide the reward, and the songs of heaven while they would be partly to Jehovah must also be partly to the creature. But it shall not be. Down, proud flesh! Down! I say. Though thou cleanse and purge thyself as thou mayst, thou art to the core corrupt though thou labor unto weariness, thou buildest wood that will be burned, and stubble that will be turned to ashes. Give up thine own self-confidence, and let the work be, and the merit be where the honor shall be, namely, with God alone. It is inevitable, then, that there should be all this withering. 7. This last word by way of comfort to any that are passing through the process we are describing, and I hope some of you are. It gives me great joy when I hear that you unconverted ones are very miserable, for the miseries which the Holy Spirit works are always the prelude to happiness. It is the Spirit's work to wither. I rejoice in our translation, "Because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it." It is true the passage may be translated, "The wind of the Lord bloweth upon it." One word, as you know, is used in the Hebrew both for "wind" and "Spirit," and the same is true of the Greek; but let us retain the old translation here, for I conceive it to be the real meaning of the text. The Spirit of God it is that withers the flesh. It is not the devil that killed my self-righteousness. I might be afraid if it were: nor was it myself that humbled myself by a voluntary and needless self-degradation, but it was the Spirit of God. Better to be broken in pieces by the Spirit of God, than to be made whole by the flesh! What doth the Lord say? "I kill." But what next? "I make alive." He never makes any alive but those he kills. Blessed be the Holy Ghost when he kills me, when he drives the sword through the very bowels of my own merits and myself-confidence, for then he will make me alive. "I wound, and I heal." He never heals those whom he has not wounded. Then blessed be the hand that wounds; let it go on wounding; let it cut and tear; let it lay bare to me myself at my very worst, that I may be driven to self-despair, and may fall back upon the free mercy of God, and receive it as a poor, guilty, lost, helpless, undone sinner, who casts himself into the arms of sovereign grace, knowing that God must give all, and Christ must be all, and the Spirit must work all, and man must be as clay in the potter's hands, that the Lord may do with him as seemeth trim good. Rejoice, dear brother, how ever low you are brought, for if the Spirit humbles you he means no evil, but he intends infinite good to your soul. II. Now, let us close with a few sentences concerning THE IMPLANTATION. According to Peter, although the flesh withers, and the flower thereof falls away, yet in the children of God there is an unwithering something of another kind. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." "The word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." Now, the gospel is of use to us because it is not of human origin. If it were of the flesh, all it could do for us would not land us beyond the flesh; but the gospel of Jesus Christ is super-human, divine, and spiritual. In its conception it was of God; its great gift, even the Savior, is a divine gift; and all its teachings are full of deity. If you, my hearer, believe a gospel which you have thought out for yourself, or a philosophical gospel which comes from the brain of man, it is of the flesh, and will wither, and you will die, and be lost through trusting in it. The only word that can bless you and be a seed in your soul must be the living and incorruptible word of the eternal Spirit. Now this is the incorruptible word, that "God was made flesh and dwelt among us;" that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." This is the incorruptible word, that "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." Now, brethren, this is the seed; but before it can grow in your soul, it must be planted there by the Spirit. Do you receive it this morning? Then the Holy Spirit implants it in your soul. Do you leap up to it, and say, "I believe it! I grasp it! On the incarnate God I fix my hope; the substitutionary sacrifice, the complete atonement of Christ is all my confidence; I am reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus." Then you possess the living seed within your soul. And what is the result of it? Why, then there comes, according to the text, a new life into us, as the result of the indwelling of the living word, and our being born again by it. A new life it is; it is not the old nature putting out its better parts; not the old Adam refining and purifying itself, and rising to something better. No; have we not said aforetime that the flesh withers and the flower thereof fades? It is an entirely new life. Ye are as much new creatures at your regeneration, as if you had never existed, and had been for the first time created. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." The child of God is beyond and above other men. Other men do not possess the life which he has received. They are but duplex body and soul have they. He is of triple nature he is spirit, soul, and body. A fresh principle, a spark of the divine life has dropped into his soul; he is no longer a natural or carnal man, but he has become a spiritual man, understanding spiritual things and possessing a life far superior to anything that belongs to the rest of mankind. O that God, who has withered in the souls of any of you that which is of the flesh, may speedily grant you the new birth through the Word. Now observe, to close, wherever this new life comes through the word, it is incorruptible, it lives and abides for ever. To get the good seed out of a true believer's heart and to destroy the new nature in him, is a thing attempted by earth and hell, but never yet achieved. Pluck the sun out of the firmament, and you shall not even then be able to pluck grace out of a regenerate heart. It "liveth and abideth for ever," saith the text; it neither can corrupt of itself nor be corrupted. "It sinneth not, because it is born of God." "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." You have a natural life that will die, it is of the flesh. You have a spiritual life of that it is written: "'Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." You have now within you the noblest and truest immortality: you must live as God liveth, in peace and joy, and happiness. But oh, remember, dear hearer, if you have not this you "shall not see life." What then shall you be annihilated? Ah! no, but "the wrath of the Lord is upon you." You shall exist, though you shall not live. Of life you shall know nothing, for that is the gift of God in Christ Jesus; but of an everlasting death, full of torment and anguish, you shall be the wretched heritor "the wrath of God abideth on him." You shall be cast into "the lake of fire, which is the second death." You shall be one of those whose "worm dieth not, and whose fire is not quenched." May God, the ever-blessed Spirit, visit you! If he be now striving with you, O quench not his divine flame! Trifle not with any holy thought you have. If this morning you must confess that you are not born again, be humbled by it. Go and seek mercy of the Lord, entreat him to deal graciously with you and save you. Many who have had nothing but moonlight have prized it, and ere long they have had sunlight. Above all, remember what the quickening seed is, and reverence it when you hear it preached, "for this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." Respect it, and receive it. Remember that the quickening seed is all wrapped up in this sentence: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." The Lord bless you, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Verse 11

Two Sermons: Jesus and the Lambs and The Lambs and Their Shepherd

The Tenderness of Jesus (Jesus and the Lambs) February 9, 1868 by

C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

© Copyright 2002 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.

Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

A copy of this sermon, Preached by Tony Capoccia, is available on Audio Tape Cassette or CD at

“He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” [Isaiah 40:11 ]

In the chapter before us, Jesus our Savior is described as Jehovah God. He is spoken of as being clothed with irresistible power: “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him;” but, as if to soften a glory that is far too bright for the weak eyes of the trembling, the prophet introduces the delightful words of the text: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Here is divinity; not Jehovah the Man of War, but Jehovah the Shepherd of Israel. Here is the fire of deity, but its gentle, warming influence is felt, and the consuming force is veiled. Greatness in league with gentleness, and power linked with affection, now pass before us. A loving kindness and tender mercy are drawn in their golden chariot by the noble steeds of omnipotence and wisdom. Heroes who have been most distinguished for fury in the fight, have often had tender hearts like little children; their swords were deadly to their enemy, but their hands were gentle towards the weak. It is the sign of a noble character that it can be majestic as a lion in the midst of the encounter, and roar like a young lion on the scene of conflict, and yet it has a dove’s eye and a maiden’s heart. Such is our Lord Jesus Christ; he is the conquering Captain of salvation, but he is meek and lowly of heart.

This morning, in considering the text, I have a special eye towards those among us who are weak. My desire is, as a pastor, to administer consolation to those who are distressed in their spirits and weak in their hearts, hoping that while I speak, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, may minister to them.

I. Our first consideration, this morning, will be, to answer the question, WHO ARE THE LAMBS WHICH OUR BLESSED LORD GATHERS AND CARRIES CLOSE TO HIS HEART?

In a certain sense we may affirm that all his people are lambs. In so far as they exhibit the Christian spirit, they are lamb-like. Jesus sends them out like sheep among the wolves. They are a little flock, a honest people. Just as the lamb was clean and acceptable to God, so is every Christian. As the lamb might be presented in sacrifice, so does every believer present his body as a living sacrifice to God. As the lamb was the symbol of innocence, likewise the believer should be holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners; and as the lamb does not fight, and has no offensive weapons, so the believer is not contentious, quarrelsome, or violent. He hates wars and fights and seeks to have peace with all men. When he is fully conformed to his

Master’s will, he will not resist the evil person, but is patient, turning the other cheek when he is struck. He knows that vengeance is God’s prerogative, and therefore is slow to reply angrily to a harsh adversary, remembering that Michael the Archangel only replied to the adversary, “The Lord rebuke you.”

A lamb is so innocent and unsuspicious that it licks the butcher’s hand, and those who seek to destroy it, find it a very easy task. In the same way the saints have been easily killed for centuries: they are like lambs being led to the slaughter; and the accusation of James, in Chapter 5, verse 6, is true, “You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” Those who have a meek and lamb-like spirit are precisely those who become lovers of the gentle Prophet of Nazareth. Jesus is meek and humble in heart, and therefore those who are like him come to him. The power of his gospel, wherever it is exerted, produces men and women of such character. Those who came to Christ, when he was on earth, may have been boisterous in their natural dispositions, but after they had received the Holy Spirit, they were an inoffensive race. They proclaimed the gospel with boldness, and for their Master they were very valiant, but they did not take up arms against Caesar; they were not rebellious; they were not competitors in the race for power; they never shed anyone’s blood, not even to win their freedom; they were examples of suffering and of patience; they were ready to live or to die for the truth, but that truth was love for God and for man. They sought to mortify self, pride, greed, wrath, as works of the old nature, and it was their daily desire to do good to all men and women as they had opportunity.

Jesus will always gather such lambs. The world hates them and scatters them, the world ridicules and despises them, but Jesus makes them his intimate friends. The old world hounded them to death, made them live in the damp quarters of the catacombs of Rome, or perish among the snows of the Alps, but their glorified Lord gathered them by tens of thousands from the prison, the amphitheater, the stake, the bloody scaffold, and in his blessed arms they rest in friendly company, forever as the Lord’s lambs are they glorified with the Lamb of God.

Still this is not the precise meaning of the text.

The word “lamb” frequently signifies the young; and our Lord Jesus Christ graciously receives many young persons into his arms.

The ancient teachers of the Jewish law never invited children to gather around them. I suppose there was not a Rabbi in all Jerusalem who would have desired a child to listen to him, and if it had been said of any one of the Sanhedrin, “that man teaches so as to be understood by a child,” he would have thought himself insulted by such a description. But not so with our Master; he always had children among his audience; they are often mentioned.

In the account of those whom he miraculously fed, we read, “besides women and children.” His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, gathered among the most conspicuous of the jubilant throng, those children who were heard crying, “Hosanna” in the temple. When Jesus took a little child, and set him in the middle of the gathering, he did not have to go far for the living illustration, for the little children were always near “the holy Jesus,” the great God-man. Our Lord Jesus was so open, so gentle, he wore his heart so clearly on his sleeve, that though a man in all things masculine and dignified, the childlike nature was eminently conspicuous in him, and attracted the little ones to itself. We will never forget the voice of the blessed Savior, the Lord of angels, as he cries, “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these [Mark 10:14 ].

Some in our day mistrust youthful godliness, but our Savior ignores such suspicions. Some cautiously whisper, “Let the godly youth be tried awhile before we believe in his faith; let him be tempted: let him bear the frosts of the world, perhaps the blossoms will drop away and disappoint us.” Such was not my Master’s way. Cautious, no doubt he was, prudent beyond all human wisdom, but always full of love and generousness, and therefore we find him receiving children, as he has received us, into his kingdom, into the best place in his kingdom, into his loving arms. Oh! dear children, since you are not too young to die, and to be judged for your idle words and disobedient actions, it is a delightful thing for you that you are not too young to believe in Jesus, nor too young to be saved by his grace. Dear children, I would have you completely saved today, for your tender age is no hindrance to you, being forgiven and justified. If you have trusted the great Savior, I tenderly invite you to declare your faith in the Lord Jesus, and to come forward and be joined to the church of Jesus. If indeed you are converted, we dare not refuse you. I hope the church of Jesus will no more think of refusing you than would our Lord himself. Were Jesus here this morning, he would say, “Let the little children come to me,” and I hope you will be led by the Holy Spirit to come at his call. Only let your youthful hearts be given to Jesus, let your confidence be fixed only on what he suffered for sinners on the cross of Calvary, and you need not be afraid. There is the same Christ for you as for the elderly. The promises are as much yours as your fathers’, and the comforts of the Holy Spirit will flow as sweetly into the little cavities of your hearts as into the hearts of those who have known the Savior for fifty years. Hear the words of the Good Shepherd, “I love them that love me, and they that seek me early will find me” [Proverbs 8:17 , KJV].

But, again, by lambs we may just as well understand young converts,

Young converts are those who begin to have religious impressions, those who have recently repented of sin and have lost all confidence in their own good works. They are not yet established in the faith; they only know, perhaps, one or two great doctrines; they are very far from being able to teach others; they need to sit at the feet of Jesus rather than to serve him in activities requiring talent and knowledge. Their faith is very apt to waver. Poor things, if they are assailed by misleading or fallacious arguments they are soon perplexed, and though they cling to the truth, yet it is a hard struggle for them; they cannot give a reason for the hope that is in them, though they are not deficient in meekness and fear. Our Lord Jesus Christ never discarded a single follower on account of his being juvenile in the faith. Far from it, He has been pleased, in his infinite tenderness, to look especially after these.

A young man came to Jesus who was not yet converted--probably never was, and yet though the good works in him was so immature, that it may have been compared to the morning cloud and the morning dew which pass away so quickly, yet our Savior, looking upon him, loved him; for he delights to see the sign of hope, however slender; for Jesus “will not break a bruised reed, nor will he snuff out a smoldering wick” [Matthew 12:20 ]. Jesus did not rebuff the self-righteous youth. The youth was ignorant of the very first principle of the gospel, namely, justification by faith and not by works, yet, since he desired to do right, and was evidently sincere, our Lord Jesus Christ instructed him on what he must do.

I earnestly pray that Christians would imitate my Master in this. Where you see any hint of

Christ, encourage it. You may observe much that you grieve over, but, I pray that you do not kill the child because its face is dirty. Do not cut down the trees because in spring they have no fruit on them. Be thankful that they make a show of buds, which may produce fruit in time. It is inhumane in the Christian church to be severe to those who are in any measure inclined towards Christ; it is worse cruelty than the monsters in the sea who provide food for their young, but some Christians seem determined to crush all the hopes of the babes in grace. Because they don’t grow all at once to the full stature of men, therefore they say, “Away with them; they are not fit to be received into the church of the Lord Christ.”

My dear friends, if there are any of you who are weak and doubtful, just struggling into life, who have only for the last few days known anything at all concerning the love of Christ, if there is in you any good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, a desire, an earnest longing, or a little faith, my Master will not be unkind to you, for “he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”

Furthermore, I am certain that we will not strain the text if we say that the lambs in the flock are those who are naturally of a weak, timid, trembling disposition.

There are many persons who, if they were kept constantly in the hot-house of Christian encouragement, would still feel themselves frost-bitten, for their minds are naturally heavy and sad. If they make music at all, they always dwell on the bass. When the promise comes with power to their souls, and they enjoy a few bright sunshiny days, they are very happy in their own quiet way, like the man in the valley of humiliation, singing, “He that is down, has no fear of falling;” but they never climb the mountains of joy, or lift up their voice with exultation. They have a humble hope and a gracious reliance, and they are often in practical Christianity among the best in the church; and yet, sadly! for them, their days of joy are few; like the elder brother in the parable, their father has never given them a fattened calf, that they could celebrate with their friends. Now, such persons truly make poor company, and yet every Christian ought to seek their companionship, for there is something to be learned from them; and, moreover, their needs demand our sympathetic attention. Do not think that Jesus seeks out the strong saints to be his companions, to the neglect of the little ones. Oh! no. “He will gather the lambs in his arms and carry them close to his heart.”

In addition, the lambs are those who only know a little of the things of God.

This class of Christians is not so much desponding as ignorant, ignorant after a world of teaching. When we meet with persons who do not understand the doctrines of grace, after we have done our best to instruct them, we must not feel annoyed with them; but reflect that our Master said to Philip, “Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” [John 14:9 ] Jesus was a much better teacher than we will ever be, and therefore, if he was gentle with his dull scholars, we must not be harsh. Some believers, after years of scriptural teaching, get nothing into their heads except a mass of confusion; they are in a fog, poor souls; they mean well, but they do not know how to put their meaning in order. Oftentimes you will find our friends confusing things that differ, mingling justification with sanctification, or the fruits of the Spirit with the foundation of their confidence; this is the result of an uneducated understanding. Such persons are to be pitied, because they easily become the victims of false teachers, who lead them into error; but these lambs are not to be shunned, they are not to be scolded, they are not to be denounced. Proud men may do so, for they are short tempered, but the sympathetic Son of God declares that to them he will act as a shepherd, and will gather them in his arms. If “Doubting Thomas” will not learn by any other means, Jesus will condescend to his childish weaknesses, and let him put his finger where the nails were, and thrust his hand into the wounded side; for, as a mother is tender with her children, and as a good school teacher will teach the child the same thing twenty times if he has not learned it by the nineteenth lesson, so will Jesus do the same thing; adding “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there” [Isaiah 28:10 ], that we may be nurtured and nourished in the “faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” [Jude 1:3 ]

To whichever class any of you may belong, let my text be sweet to your taste, and may the Holy Spirit encourage you by it.

II. But we must now move on. How DOES JESUS SHOW THIS SPECIAL CARE FOR THE WEAK ONES? He does this, according to the text, in two ways.

1. First, by gathering them.

During the season of the year when the little lambs are born, it is interesting to observe the shepherd’s careful watch. When he finds the little one in the cold frost, almost ready to die, how tender he is! Why, the shepherd’s brings the little cold lamb into the warmest spot in the shepherd’s house. Even his wife and children have to give up this treasured warm spot for awhile, for the warm place is completely given up to the little lambs. There they lie in the warmth, till they have strength enough to return to their mothers.

Likewise, when a man is spiritually born to God, he is frequently so desponding, his faith is so weak, and he is sometimes so ready to die, that he needs the tender mercy from on high to visit him. There may be one here this morning who has been converted to Christ during the last week, but no other Christian knows of it; nobody has spoken to him, to rejoice over him and with him. If you are that new little lamb of Christ, lonely one, don’t be discouraged, Jesus will come to you: he will be an ever-present help in this your hour of trouble. Now that you are like a newly lit candle, which is easily blown out, he will shield you from the breath of evil.

When the flock of Christ is on the march, it will happen, unless the shepherd is very watchful, that the lambs will lag behind. Those great Syrian flocks which feed in the plains of Palestine, have to be driven many miles, because the land that is suitable for grazing is scarce, and the flocks are numerous, and on these long journeys the lambs drop one by one because of exhaustion, and then the shepherd carries them.

So it is in the progress of the great Christian church; often persecuted, always more or less ill-treated by the outside world, there are some who wilt, they cannot keep up the pace; the spiritual warfare is too severe for them. They love their Lord; they would if they could be among the foremost; but, through the cares of this world, through weakness of mind, through a lack of spiritual strength, they become lame and are ready to perish; such faint hearts are the special care of their tender Lord.

At other times, the lambs do worse than this. They are of a skittish nature, and feeling the natural vigor of new-born life, they are not content to keep within bounds, as the older sheep do, but they decide to wander, so that at the close of the day the lambs cause the shepherd a lot of trouble. “Where are those lambs?” he says. “Where are they? The sheep are all here, but where are the lambs?” What will the good man do? Leave them behind, and say, “They have worn out my patience”? No; not at all, he will gather them.

In the same way there are many immature Christians, whose minds are unpredictable, and are unstable as water. What a trouble some of you are to those who love you! When you seem to attain a little faith one day, then you sink into unbelief before the next day. You shift your opinions as often as the moon changes, and are in agreement with sound doctrine never longer than a week. You follow everybody who chooses to put up his finger to summon you away. You leave the narrow way to find other pastures. Sometimes you are with the Puritans; the next day the Church of England; next, the Evangelicals; and, perhaps, if the Roman Catholics were to try you, you would be ready to go with them in the hope of finding comfort. It is the nature of the lambs that they act this way. But will the Good Shepherd be angry with you, and cast you aside? Not at all, for Jesus gathers the lambs, and when he puts his great loving arm around them, they cannot wander any more; when his love constrains them, and they come to the full enjoyment of his gospel truth, then they are content to remain near their blessed Savior.

When the text says, “he gathers the lambs,” does it mean that Jesus gathers poor fearful lambs to his precious blood, and washes them and gives them peace? Does it mean that he gathers them to his precious truth, and illuminates their minds, and instructs their understanding? It really means that Jesus gathers the lambs to himself and unites them to his glorious person, making them members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones? Oh, this is a delightful gathering! His word cannot do it alone, his ministers cannot do it, but his arm can; the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, which is like the right arm of the Good Shepherd, gathers together these weakest and most wandering ones, and puts them safe into the blessed pavilion of his heart.

But the text says, after he gathers them, he “carries them close to his heart.” That is, first of all, the safest place, for the wolf cannot get them there. Furious and impertinent as hell always is, yet who can hope to take his heart treasure away from Jesus? You weak ones, how secure you are in him, though you are so exposed to danger.

In his arms, close to his heart, why that is the tenderest place, where we should put a poor creature that had a broken bone, and could not bear to be roughly touched. Close to the heart, that is the safest and most comfortable place. It makes one wish to always be a lamb, if one could always ride in that chariot. Delightful is the weakness, which causes us to be gather up in the Savor’s arms. “He carries them close to his heart.”

Why, that is the most honorable place. We would not put into our arms and carry close to our heart that which was despised. We would not think of carrying anything there which was not choice and dear and extremely precious. So, you, my little weak one, though you think of yourself to be less than nothing, and are nothing in yourself, yet you will have all the security which the heart of Deity can give you, all the comfort that the love of Christ can pour on you, all the honor and dignity which nearness, and fellowship, and the pricelessness of love can bestow on a poor soul. Rejoice, you lambs, that you have such a Shepherd who carries you close to his heart!

To expand upon this, let me observe that our Lord shows his care for the lambs in his teachings, which are very simple, mostly in parables, full of captivating illustrations, but always simple.

The gospel is a poor man’s gospel. You don’t need to be a Plato, or a Socrates, to understand it; the peasant is as easily saved as the philosopher. He that has only a small amount of brains can understand that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and that whoever believes in him is not condemned. If Christ had not cared for the weak ones, he would not have come with so simple a message, for he understands all mysteries, and knows the deep things of God.

Moreover, he is pleased to reveal his teachings gradually.

He did not tell his disciples all the truth at once, because they were not able to bear it, but he led them from one truth to another. He gives them milk before he offers strong meat. Some of you weak ones are very stupid; you want to begin with the hard truths first; you long to comprehend election before you understand that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; but you shouldn’t do that, for our Lord would have you begin with these lessons, “I am a sinner: Christ stood in the sinner’s place: I trust him, I am saved.” After you have learned this first alphabet of the gospel, you will learn the rest. It is a token of the Lord’s love to the weak, that he doesn’t hang our salvation on our understanding of mysteries; he does not rest our ground of confidence on our orthodoxy, or our knowledge of the supreme truths, but if we know the power of his precious blood, whether we understand his electing love or not, we are saved. It is good to learn all that we can, but here is a clear display of Christ’s love, that if we do only trust in him, although we may not know very much, we are still secure.

The Lord’s gentleness to the lambs is also shown in this, that his new teachings are all by degrees too.

He does not teach the young beginner all the depravity of his heart which he will come to experience in later years; he does not allow the young convert to be battered by Satanic insinuations, as he may be when he becomes stronger; nor does he usually allow worldly troubles to fall so heavily on those who are but fledglings in the nest. He always matches the trial to the strength, and the burden to the back. I am quite certain if my Master had allotted me some of my present trials fifteen years ago, I would have been ready to despair, and yet at the present time I am supplied with enough strength to bear them, though I have none to spare. Blessed be the Lord Jesus for his kind consideration of our many weaknesses. He never demands too much of his lambs. Though a certain type of experience may be very useful, yet Jesus does not send it to us, while the weakness of our understanding of the Word causes us to be unable to bear it.

The divine gentleness of our Master has been shown in the solemn curses which he declared to effectually guard the little ones.

Observe how severe they are! “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” [Matthew 18:6 ]. To cause one of the little lambs to sin is to put a stumbling block in their way. How solemn is that warning, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones!” [Matthew 18:10 ]. He must have loved them, or he would not have set such a wall of fire as protection around them. There are many promises in the Word that are there for the purpose of protecting the weak. In our times of distress and weakness we find the Holy Spirit, bringing home to our hearts promises which had never before appeared to be so full of grace.

Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus Christ’s tenderness to his people is further shown in this, that what he requires of them is easy.

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” [Matthew 11:29-30 ]. He does not command the new lambs in Christ. He does not send the weak believers to the forefront of the battle, as David did Uriah, that they may be killed: he gives them no other burden than this that they will trust him and give him all their heart. A very easy yoke!

Moreover, he shows his gentleness in that he accepts the least service that these little ones may offer.

A faint prayer, a sigh, a tear--he will receive all these as much as the most eloquent pleadings of an Elijah. The broken alabaster jar, and the perfume poured out, will be received, though they come from one who has no former character with which to back the gift; and the two pennies given in love will not be disowned. The best work sincerely done out of love to Jesus, in dependence upon him, he accepts most cheerfully, and thus shows to us his real tenderness for the lambs.

He has commanded his ministers to be careful of the little ones.

Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs,” because he wanted all his ministers do this. Those who despise the weaklings will find themselves causing their Master to frown at them, but those who with tender care nurture the little lambs will receive a smile from his face. Jesus, my Lord, speaks to the desponding and timid ones this morning, saying--

“‘Trust me, and do not fear; your life is secure;

My wisdom is perfect, supreme is my power;

In love I correct you, your soul to refine,

To make you, in time, in my likeness to shine.

The foolish, the fearful, the weak are my care,

The helpless, the homeless, I hear their sad prayer:

From all their afflictions my glory will spring,

And the deeper their sorrows, the louder they’ll sing.’”

I have thus shown to you, as well as I am able the tender heart of my Lord towards the lambs.

III. In the third place, let us answer this question, WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS CARE OF CHRIST TOWARDS THE LAMBS OF THE FLOCK?

Why is he so particularly anxious to help them? Surely if he lost a lamb or two, it would be no real loss among so many, and if one of the feeble minds should perish, it would be no great consequence when a multitude that no man can number will he saved. The answer is simple:

The weak are as much redeemed by the blood of Christ as the strong.

When the redemption money was paid by the Jews, it was said, “The rich will give no more, and the poor will give no less because every man’s soul is of equal value before the eternal God. The lowliest and weakest child of God has been as truly bought with the blood of Christ, and cost the Lord as much to purchase him as the most noteworthy of the apostles, or the boldest of disciples. A man will not lose a thing, which cost him his blood. The soul of a beggar, if it were put on the scale, would outweigh ten thousand planets, and when that beggar’s soul has been redeemed by the wounds of Jesus, depend on it, Jesus Christ will not lose it.

In the newborn child of God there are distinctive beauties which are not so apparent in others. It is a matter of taste, I suppose, which is the more beautiful, the lamb or the sheep; but I think the most of us would select the lamb. There is a charm in all young creatures, and so there are traits of character in weak and young believers, which are extremely delightful. You miss in later years the first love displayed when the beginner in Christ began his heavenly pilgrimage. True, there are other and more substantial beauties, but the first blushes and smiles are gone. Haven’t you, when you have grown older, wished that you possessed the same tenderness of conscience which you had at first, and the same simplicity of faith? Haven’t you desired to enjoy that same intense delight in the service of God’s church, which you enjoyed during the first few months after your new birth? You have other graces now; you have virtues more useful in the battle of life, but yet there were beauties then which Jesus Christ admired, and which he would not allow to be soiled.

Jesus has such care for the weak ones, because they will become strong one day.

All great graces were once little graces; all great faith must have once been little faith. It is always first the little sprout, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear. Mountain-moving faith: was once a trembling thing. Kill the lambs! Then where will the sheep be? Slaughter the innocents then where will Bethlehem find her men? Destroy the children! Then where will the warriors come from who march in ranks to the battle. Jesus sees the weak ones not as they are, but as they are to become. He discerns the complete person in the babe of grace.

Moreover, my brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ, because Jesus has made a formal promise to guarantee our security, then he must preserve the weakest as well as the strongest.

God will require at Christ’s hand every one of the elect. Jesus said to the Father, “They were yours; you gave them to me” [John 17:6 ]. He is to present them before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy” [Jude 1:24 ]. Just as Laban required every sheep from Jacob’s hand, or else Jacob must bear the loss forever, so will God require at our Shepherd’s hand every sheep, or he must forever dishonor his promise to keep the lambs eternally secure. But it never will be. He will be true to his word, and say, “I have not lost one of those you gave me” [John 18:9 ].

When an accountant turns over his accounts, he is very pleased if it can be said by the auditors, “We have found them correct to the last penny;” but, suppose he had said, “Well, there are slight errors, for I never worried about the pennies, I considered them insignificant and only worried about the large bills.” What would be thought of him? Who would trust him? It is the character of an honest man that he is correct to the last penny. If Jesus should bring to eternal glory all who are great in grace, and neglect the weakest, it would dishonor his great name. His honor is pledged to preserve the very weakest of the flock.

“Shepherd of the chosen number,

They are safe whom you keep;

Other shepherds faint and slumber,

And forget to watch the sheep;

Watchful Shepherd!

You stay wake while others sleep.”

Jesus has declared that whoever believes in him will never perish, but have eternal life. That promise is not only to the strong, but also to the weak. He has said, “No one can snatch them out of my hand” [John 10:28 ]. Now, he does not say, “No one can snatch the great ones, but may snatch the little ones.” No, “No one can snatch them,” that is, any one of them. They are all saved, and all equally saved, because their safety does not depend on their growth or their strength, but it depends on the strength of his arm and the infallibility of his purpose. The sick and sorrowful inhabitants of Jerusalem are secured by the munitions of divine strength, and the fortress of everlasting love provides as much shelter to the little child in the streets as the strong soldiers within her walls.

We can be quite sure the tender Savior will take care of the lambs because compassion argues that if any should be watched it should be these.

Cast away his people because they are timid, and trembling, and fearful? God forbid! Over here is a mother who has numerous children. My dear mother, may I argue with you? If you must neglect one of your children, will I tell you which it should be? It should be that one which is crippled, and has always been so sickly. Why, I think I see the mother looking at me with anger, “Stop,” she says, “such shameful talk! It is that very crippled one who suffers much sickness that I look after with the most care and concern. If I did neglect one, it would be the big boy, grown up, and able to take care of himself, but that poor little dear! I could not forsake him, I carry him in my heart from morning to evening. If there is one that I am most tender over, it is that very one.” The instincts of our nature tell us that. The beatings of Jesus’ heart are towards the trembling one. When would a man forget or forsake his spouse? Never under any conceivable circumstances, but certainly not when she is sick or sorrowful. Will he sue in the Divorce Court against her because she is afflicted, and full of pains and griefs? Is she to be cast out of doors, because her spirits are broken? Only a villain could dictate such an argument, and rest assured, beloved, such an argument should have no tolerance with our Beloved Jesus.

If you are in Jesus Christ, rest assured that his love will not desert you. It would be a very deplorable thing for every believer in the whole world if it were announced that the weakest believer would perish. If it should be proclaimed by sound of trumpet by some angelic messenger, that the Good Shepherd intended to cast off one of the least of his flock, though it were but one, I don’t know what conclusion you would draw from it, my dear friend, but mine would be this, “Then he will cast me out.” I would immediately feel that all the grounds of my security were gone; that I might be the castaway. Even if it was only one, why shouldn’t it be me? Would not you feel the same, and where would any of us have any room for comfort? After the one announcement, so contrary to the promise, we might expect another, because if weakness, or if ignorance if anything in the lamb-like nature is to destroy one of us, then of course, the next, and the next, and the next, and the next may perish. If a man has many creditors, and he says, “I will not pay this one,” we all think perhaps he will not pay the next, and the next, and the next; and if God does not keep his promise to the very least, then we could expect him not to keep it to the one next above the least, and so on till none are saved. In fact, the whole blood-bought church of the Living God may go into hell if only one single weak Christian goes there, and if the most wandering and backsliding will be cast into hell, then in time everyone would go there. If the ship goes down enough to drown one man on board, she could drown the whole company. There is no safety for the ship’s company unless there is safety for all on board. So, heir of heaven, looking at the consequences that would come from the ruin of the least, believe firmly that the Keeper of Israel will gather you in his arms and carry you close to his heart.

IV. We will conclude with two ways to make PRACTICAL APPLICATION of our lesson this morning.

1. First of all, let us gather the lambs for Christ.

I am persuaded their are many lambs who are not in church fellowship who ought to be, but who, perhaps, will never come unless they receive an encouraging word from some of their Christian friends. The first priority is that they should be gathered to Christ: that he has done for them. The next priority is that they should be gathered into his church. May I therefore ask all of you who owe anything to my Lord, to make some kind of acknowledgment of your debt, by looking after those who need a helping hand. The Lord, speaking of his people says, “I taught Israel to go, taking him by the arms.” You know what that means; you have done that with your children when you taught them to walk, holding them up by the arms. Do the same for your Master’s little ones; teach some of these beginners to go, upholding them by encouragements. Didn’t some one do the same for you once? Don’t you remember a kind friend who cheered and instructed you? Return your obligation to the Christian church by doing the same. I earnestly pray to see, during the next few months, a very large ingathering into our church of saved little lambs. We do not want those who are unconverted to be added to the church: there is a step they must take first they must first give themselves to Christ. But we do want as many as really belong to our Lord and Master to come into the fellowship of the faithful, and to share in the privileges of the church of the Living God.

2. Next, let us learn from the text to carry close to our hearts those who are gathered.

We have gathered many together into the church, but that is not all we need to do; that is only the beginning of what older Christians should count it to be their office to do towards the young. Every young Christian is presented to the Christian church just as Moses was presented to his mother by Pharaoh’s daughter, with this commission, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will pay you.” It is not possible that two pastors, or twenty pastors, could be able to visit and instruct all the members of such a church as this, but the lack must be supplied by you, my brothers and sisters, who have known the Lord for years, and by you, my sisters, who have become mothers in our Jerusalem. May I entreat you, by the love of him who gave himself for you, by all the tenderness of the heart of Christ, if there is any consolations of the Spirit, seek out your fellow members who may be weak in faith and downcast in spirit, and speak comfort to them; tell them that their warfare is over, that their sin is pardoned; point them to the Lord Jesus, unveil his beauties to them, make them, as far as you can, to understand what are the heights and depths, that they may grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I trust that this sermon may minister comfort to mourners; but as for those who do not believe in Christ at all, I can administer to them no comfort, except by reminding them of this one fact, that it is not too late for them to trust in Jesus, and that if they do so, however long they may have delayed, the door is not closed. May they enter before the Master of the house rises up and shuts the door. Amen.

The Lambs and Their Shepherd

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A Sermon

(No. 540)

Delivered on Sunday Morning, November 15th, 1863, by the

Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,

At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

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"He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom." Isaiah 40:11 .

THE PEOPLE OF GOD are most fitly compared to sheep. The excellencies of their moral and spiritual character furnish one side of the picture, for like sheep they are gentle in their lives, and are well accepted, whether living or dying, as a sacrifice unto God; their frailties and weaknesses complete the likeness, for they are prone to wander full of wants, powerless in self-defense, and ill able to escape from their enemies by rapid flight. No creature has less power to take care of itself than the sheep; even the tiny ant with its foresight can provide for the evil day, but this poor creature must be tended by man or else perish. Such are the people of God timid, weak, defenceless, unable to provide for themselves, and compelled to depend for everything upon him whose name is, "That great Shepherd of the sheep."

As the people of God individually are comparable to sheep, so the Church as a whole finds a very fit representative in a flock. A flock is a multitude. Diversities of character, of state, of age, of condition, are always to be found in a flock. Yet, while a multitude, it is but one. One in association: they journey or lie down together, in the same pasture they rest, beside the same still waters they are led. They are one in nature: they are equally sheep, and, however much they may differ, their diversity is not half so great as their agreement. Two believers may greatly differ; but only let me be assured that they are both sheep of the Lord's pasture and I will find ten points of likeness for one of difference. They are one, moreover, in property they are the property of one owner, being bought with one price in one great transaction, when their one great Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. The saints are intimately and truly united; even now they are secretly one in their absent Head, and they shall soon be visibly one in their glorious Lord, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, and all his holy angels with him, and shall place the sheep at his right hand for ever.

In all flocks, unless they be cursed by barrenness, there will be lambs, and these will make up a very important part of the community. In all healthy Churches, those believers who are comparable to lambs, make up the major part; and though in our own we have many strong ones who are fit to lead the way, and not a few competent to bear the bell, yet the majority, I suppose, are the little ones of the flock. Mr. Ready-to-halt, on his crutches, is the commander of quite a regiment, distinguished as Mr. Fearing, Mr. Little-faith, Mr. Feeble-mind, Miss Much-afraid, and the like, who are slender in knowledge, shallow in experience, and weak in faith. It is, therefore, with great delight we find our gracious Lord executing the office of Shepherd in a peculiarly tender manner towards the lambs. Special need has here its own appropriate promise; great weakness is met by great consolation; the best place is found for those in the worst circumstances, and the most loving care bestowed on those most exposed to danger. "He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom."

First, let us describe the lambs; secondly, let us express our fears about them; thirdly, let us rejoice in the tenderness of the great Shepherd over them; and, fourthly, let us hear that great Shepherd's voice.

I. First, LET ME ENDEAVOR TO DESCRIBE THE LAMBS. Our first word concerning them is, that they are truly sheep. They are not sheep in maturity, but they are sheep to a certainty. Leave them to their good Shepherd's care, let them continue to lie down in the green pastures and feed beside the still waters, and they will become as fully developed as yonder ewes of the flock. It is true that not a bone in them is of full size, nor a muscle of its full strength; still who shall dare to exclude them from the fold? The new-born convert is possessed of the true nature and life of faith, even as the life of a babe is the same life as that which is found in perfection in the full-grown man. Every member is there, but it is in miniature; the vital processes are the same, although upon a smaller scale; indeed, the whole man is in the child, and so the whole life of God is in the feeblest believer. If you will mark the signs of a sheep, you shall see them more or less distinctly in every one of the lambs. The sheep of God are harmless, "Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." They can bear, but they cannot revenge. They have neither power nor will to hurt others. They would sooner be cheated a thousand times than wrong their fellow-men. They may sometimes be "wise as serpents" they are commanded so to be but then they blend with this the obedience to the precept, "Be ye harmless as doves." If I see any man injuring his fellows, tearing, rending, fighting, quarrelling if I see him blustering and proud I discern at once that he is no sheep of God; for this is the mark of the Lord's people, that they when reviled revile not again, but have put on as the elect of God, bowels of compassion, kindness, and long-suffering. You will find this holy, non-resistance of evil even more in the lambs than in some of the sheep, for worldly influences frequently wear off this beautiful bloom from older professors. The sheep goes further than the non-inflicting of evil, it bears evil without complaint; they are led to the slaughter and they are silent; they are thrown down by the shearer but they are dumb. There is nothing revolting in the sight of the slaughter of a lamb even by our ordinary butchery, for the gentle creature is so passive and silent, that with scarce a struggle its life oozes forth from it. Long ere the knife is at their throats, the swine awaken all the neighborhood, fitly teaching us how rebellious are the wicked under their trials, and how horribly they are afraid of death; but in the case of the lamb, there is so little to shock or disgust, that the most delicate might have stood in the tabernacle of old, and seen the multitudes of lambs slaughtered without feeling any other emotion than a hallowed awe at the sinfulness of sin, and the value of the atonement by which it is put away. The extraordinary patience of the sheep is seen in God's people when they joyously endure a weight of affliction, and pass through the valley of death with composure. Whether it be to the knife of death or to the shears of his persecutors, the faithful is alike patient, and the lambs of the flock partake of the same endurance.

Sheep, again, are cleanly creatures cleanly in their feeding carrion never tempts them cleanly in their habits. The sow may revel in her wallowing in the mire, but the sheep loves the green pastures, and if it mire itself it is not easy till it has cleaned itself as best it may. So God's people are holy. Be specially mindful of holiness, my beloved friends, for when men begin to despise holiness, they lose one of the most prominent marks of a child of God. Now the lambs may not have all the excellencies of the sheep, but they quite as earnestly pant after holiness. Their daily prayer is

"Teach me to run in thy commands,

'Tis a delightful road;

Nor let my head, nor heart, nor hands,

Offend against my God."

They pant to be perfect in their obedience to God, and sigh and cry when they find by daily experience that the flesh lusteth to evil, and that the tendency of the heart is to go astray. Furthermore, the sheep is guileless. You see the lion creeping through the thicket full of cunning; but sheep have none. "Poor, simple sheep," we say; and God's people are a simple people. Like Nathaniel of old, we may say of them, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile." Those who are crafty and cunning, betray but very little of the spirit of Jesus. Jesus was no dupe for knaves, but at the same time, a fool was safe in his hands; and so with the Christian, he is not to be so foolish as to be the prey of every deceiver, but he is to be so generous that the most foolish shall never be wronged, or have advantage taken of them by him. The lambs bear this character as well as the sheep; they, too know no guile. Again, sheep are tractable. When a man tames a lion so that he may sport with it, he gets the name of lion-tamer; nobody is renowned for taming a sheep, for it has a tractable disposition, and so all the elect of God, when they have been renewed by divine grace, have an obedient and yielding spirit. They are willing to follow their great Protector at his will. "Not my will, but thine be done," is the constant bleat of every sheep and every lamb of the flock, when it is in a right state of heart. The lambs, then, are truly sheep in all the essential points.

Do not forget, dear friends, that the lambs are truly CHRIST'S sheep. They are as dearly bought with his blood; they are as surely objects of his care; they are as manifestly illustrations of his power; they shall as certainly be proofs of his faithfulness, as the strongest of the flock. When you look upon a child of God who has only known his Lord for the last few days, you must not despise him, for he is as dear to the Savior's heart as the most advanced believer. He was as much loved in old eternity as you were, and will be as much loved in the eternity to come as you can be.

Well, but if they be truly sheep, and truly Christ's sheep, why are they lambs, and in what are they distinguished? Some of them are lambs for age, though not all; for there are some young Christians who are full grown, and there are others very aged, who remain to be lambs still. Growth in grace does not coincide with progress in human stature. Many men are seventy years old, and are nevertheless little children in grace; and, on the other hand, there are a few who at twenty are as solid, and profound, and spiritual, as veterans of eighty. It is not a man's age alone, yet for the most part, the young in years are also children in the divine family.

The distinguishing mark lies rather in spiritual deficiencies they are but children in knowledge. Many in the Church do not as yet understand the loftier doctrines of revelation. They know Christ; they know themselves somewhat, but they cannot "comprehend with all saints what are the lengths and breadths." As yet they have not taken a high degree in Christ's school. They sit at his feet with Mary, but they have not come to lean their heads upon his bosom with John. Some doctrines greatly puzzle them. They are the subjects of many doubts and fears, under which they would not suffer if they knew more. They are easily put out by those who oppose themselves against the Word of God because they are not established in what they know. The arguments which prove a doctrine they have not yet handled. They believe, but scarcely know why they believe, and in this respect they are but lambs of the flock.

They are immature also in experience. They know that they have an evil heart, but they have not felt all its evil yet they know not the plague within as they will do when God permits the fountains of the great deep to be broken up. Their heavy trials are yet to come. They have not yet felt the foot of Satan upon their necks in the valley of humiliation, nor trodden the dark places of the Valley of Deathshade. They have not tried and proved this wicked world, they are consequently too trustful of men. They have not yet proved the promises of God and their veracity; they have not as yet passed through the deep waters supported by an Almighty arm; they have not forded the floods of flame, protected by omnipotent love. They are shallow in the inner life, their experience is only up to their ankles; they have not learned to swim in the stream. Their little boats keep near the shore, they have not passed the great and deep sea; they are raw recruits in the army, and have not yet seen the garments rolled in blood.

So are they lambs in tenderness of feeling. They are too susceptible, and therefore feel the unkindness of the world acutely. If anyone speaks evil of them, they fret over it. If their conduct is misconstrued by the wicked, they are greatly troubled. They have sleepless nights as the results of a slander which stronger saints would smile at. They have not as yet acquired that hardness to which the Christian soldier attains by enduring hardness. Young believers cry out where advanced believers would hardly wince. An ounce is more to them than a pound to the strong man. They cannot bear the brunt of the battle or the storm they need seasoning for the strife. They are lambs for tenderness.

Then, again, they are timid and trembling, and dare not courageously proclaim themselves at all times on the Lord's side. To give a reason of the hope that is in them with meekness and fear is a great trial to them. Coming before the Church was a very blessed lesson to them it braced their nerves and exercised their courage. They need a few more such exercises, for they are still very retiring and love most the rear of the army. They can hardly pray in public. If they were asked to say a few words even to five or six children in a Sunday-school class, they would quake for fear. It will be some time before they can be compared to lions for boldness; they have need of more grace, lest they fail to avow their Lord in the hour of persecution. They are poor timid lambs still.

Perhaps, too, they are subject to melancholy, to doubts, and fears, and distresses of mind. They cannot mount up as on the wings of eagles, but their wing is so broken that they lie on the ground and flutter. They are the subjects of very great questioning; they sing that hymn which just expresses the groanings of doubting babes

"'Tis a point I long to know,

Oft it causes anxious thought;

Do I love the Lord, or no?

Am I his, or am I not?"

When any trial assails them, how hardly are they put to it! When a temptation assaults them, they do not yield to it, but it gives them very grievous pain and costs them many struggles. They cannot even think of meeting Apollyon without feeling the blood fly from their cheeks for very fright. I might continue thus to describe the various weaknesses and infirmities of the lambs, but I forbear; suffice it to say that everything which is wanted to make them perfect Christians they already have; but they have it as yet in an immature and undeveloped state. Everything is there; but it is feeble. Their faith is yet a sapling and not a tree; their love is a spark, not a fire; their hope is a fledgling and not a full-grown bird. In all respects they are immature; weak eyes, hands hanging down, feeble knees, and stammering tongue, all shew their need of more grace.

I will give you a picture of some of them, to bring them more before your mind. There is one dear lamb: a boy of thirteen or fourteen. A pious mother has made that child the object of her constant prayers. He comes to a Sabbath-school class; he sits in the Tabernacle it always gives me great joy to see so many lads and children come here, and I frequently notice that many of them are as attentive during the preaching of the Word as any of the elder folks. Well, the Lord blesses the Word to that child while but thirteen or fourteen. You know we have had the happiness of receiving several such into our Church. Now, as you look upon that curly-headed young soldier, you cannot but think of all the trouble which may befall him and temptations that may assail him. Sure I am, there are neither mothers nor fathers in the whole Tabernacle who do not feel the tears welling up into their eyes. We begin to pray, "Lord, keep that lamb; preserve it safely." We think I am afraid there is a little self-conceit about it that a child is more in danger than we are; and our heart is moved to anxious prayer for it. What more melting sight than a child baptized into Jesus upon profession of its faith? May many such lambs be found among us.

Picture another. There are many such here, and thank God, there is a dear mother in connection with this Church, who nurses and nourishes them. I refer to the case of a young woman: father and mother are ungodly. She is out in a situation; she works and honourably toils. The grace of God has entered her heart, and there is something inexpressibly beautiful about her young piety, for she has had to forsake fond associations for Christ's sake. In the work-room they point at her as a religious girl: they give her a name of scorn; she bears it she bears it cheerfully. But when we think of how she has to suffer every day, we may well be anxious. Perhaps there is poverty mingled with her other trials; and poverty has its temptations, and some of these are of the severest character. When we see these young women, and young men too, thus exposed to perilous persecutions and cruel mockings, we number them with the lambs, and our heart is very anxious for them. We are glad to see them brought into the fold, but we rejoice with trembling. These are our jewels; these are the sheaves that we reap in our Master's fields; but when we recollect the temptations to which they are exposed, we look with pity upon these poor tempted ones, and thank our loving Jesus that there is a promise on purpose for them.

I might single out too, as another specimen, yonder aged woman. She has lived for seventy years without God and without Christ, knowing nothing beyond a formal religion; bearing "a name to live," but being truly "dead." And now, at last, in her old age, when the body is tottering and the faculties feeble, she has found Christ, and she has come forward to be baptized. It has been our joy to receive some into Church fellowship who have passed the threescore years and ten allotted to human life, and have gone trembling down into the baptismal pool in obedience to their Lord. Seeing their infirmities, and the fact that much of the intellect is weakened the eyes have become dim so that they cannot read, and the memory has become frail so that sermons do not profit them as they do younger persons we look upon these as lambs, needing as they do so much of the gathering arm, and the nourishing bosom of the great Bishop and Shepherd of souls.

Shall I pause to describe one other? You know her well. She is a member of the Church, but she thinks she ought not to be. In her fit of grief, she even writes to the pastor to tell him that she wishes he would put her out, for she is not a Christian; and yet, in a few days afterwards, she retracts the notes, and begs him to forgive it. She very seldom can read her title clear in fact, she never did but once or twice, and that was on very bright sunshiny days, when her soul was exceedingly glad. She is like Mrs. Much-afraid, in the castle; Giant Despair has shut her up in one of his dark dungeons, and frequently uses the crab-tree cudgel upon her, until she has grown a sorrowful creature indeed. We have a few brethren of the same spirit; they go limping and halting. We number these among the lambs of the flock.

I have given a too lengthy description, but you will not fail from this time very readily to recognize the lambs. You will see that in all Christian Churches they make up a large proportion.

II. Let us come then, in the second place, to EXPRESS OUR FEARS CONCERNING THESE LAMBS OF THE FLOCK.

We are afraid for them, because of the howling wolves there are about. Some of us can bear to be laughed at. We have grown so used to it now, that it has become the atmosphere which we breathe, but we do pity these new beginners. We know the cruel mockings, which if they break not the bones, yet often break the heart, and we are afraid lest they should turn back, lest they should say, "I cannot endure this," and so seek the warm side of the hedge, and forsake their Lord and Master. Yet more, we are afraid of another order of wolves the wolves in sheep's clothing those hypocrites, who by their bad living stumble the poor lambs, and make them think that surely religion must be a deception and a lie; and those other wolves doctrinal wolves full of all manner of error, we have them always prowling round our Churches. There is the Antinomian, too glad to get hold of any young lamb he can seduce with his fawning pretenses to love a free-grace gospel, and the free-will wolf, which drags some away from the truth, and wolves of all sorts, that are continually trying to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. We are afraid for these young ones, knowing how easily they are carried about by every wind of doctrine. We are equally alarmed, too, because of their association with the goats. There is another flock in the world the devil's flock. It is not easy for a Christian man to associate with the world without feeling the influence of it. We are afraid for some of the young ones, when they have to mingle in their work, and in their family associations with the baser sort. The worst form of ill association is ungodly marriage. I do not know anything that gives me more satisfaction than to see our brethren and sisters, who have walked in the faith of God, united in marriage the husband and the wife, both fearing and loving God. It is a delightful spectacle, and bids fair to be the means of building up the Church with a generation which shall fear the Lord. But a very fruitful source of ruin to Church members is that of a young man or a young woman choosing an ungodly partner in life. They never can expect God's blessing upon it. They tell you sometimes they hope to be the means of their friends' conversion. They have no right to hope such a thing; it so seldom occurs. The much more likely thing is, that the ungodly one will drag the other down to his level, than that the godly one shall pull the other up. We are fearful, I say, for the lambs for we mark some of them that were as earnest as they well could be, and apparently as loving to their Lord and Master, but another love came across their path, and where are they now? Perhaps the house of God sees them no longer, and the theater or the ball room is now their delight. When we think of some cases of this kind that have occurred, we do tremble for the lambs, and lift up our hearts in prayer to God for them, that they may be kept, as kept they will be if they be truly the Lord's.

Then we are jealous over the lambs, because of the old lion. We have some of us had to meet him face to face, and I do assure you I had sooner suffer any temptation that the world or the flesh can bring, than to be tempted of the devil, for when Apollyon meets Christian in the valley, it is no child's play. A man needs to be the master of every heavenly weapon to get the victory there. Better to go twenty miles round, over hedge and ditch, than to have one conflict with Satan. There is nothing gained by it. Even should we overcome, we shall be wounded, and to our dying day will bear the scars of the terrible conflict. I can now remember one or two instances in which I have had to stand foot to foot with that arch-fiend, and though my soul has held her own through divine grace, I look back upon those days of trial with sorrow still, for there were blasphemous thoughts injected which I never can forget; they were fiery darts thrown at me, and though the barbed shafts have been drawn out, the wounds are there still. Would God it had been possible to have gone that road without contending with the fiend! We are afraid for you, young lambs, when we think of the lion.

We are even more concerned when we think of the bear. A flattering world hugs tightly. The lion tears, and rends, and rages, but the world when it takes to loving, speaks, oh, so gently! and puts the thing so nicely! it loves the Christian so it says. It is fashionable to be religious; it is a creditable thing to be a professor, and then the world says, "Come to my arms; I love you. Come and be one with me, and be a Christian too! Be not so Puritanical as to thrust me away." We are more afraid of the hugs of the bear than of the teeth of the lion.

When we put all these dangers together, we add to them the fact that lambs are subject to the same diseases which are incident to all sheep. They, too, get the foot-rot of weariness in the ways of God. They begin to be slothful and sluggish in the cause of God. They, too, suffer from coldness of heart, have a tendency to wander, and catch the stiff neck of pride. Dear lambs of the flock! those who have to see after you and are God's under-shepherds, may well offer no apology when they say they tremble for you, and put up earnest prayers on your behalf.

III. In the third place, let us REJOICE IN THE GOOD SHEPHERD. "He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. Who is he of whom such gracious words are spoken? Who is he that careth so tenderly for lambs? Listen! These are the words of Isaiah "Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd." So, then, it is the Lord Jehovah who comes forth to bless his people in this fashion. What condescension is here! The Lord God, the Eternal and Infinite, acts the part of a Shepherd. But let us read on. The words which follow the text may well astound you, when you see how our great God stoops from his loftiness to carry lambs in his bosom. "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? . . ... Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing." And yet this same God, who doth all these things, gathereth lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom. I am sure we are not sufficiently sensible of the infinite love of God in stooping to consider us. Alas I that such condescension should be so unregarded. Reflect, I pray you, that infinite power engages to protect you, that inimitable affection sets itself on you, that wisdom which cannot err watches for your good, and that which never can be turned aside, pledges itself to bless you. Why, that God should provide for such creatures as we are is some condescension; that he should think of them with a Father's heart is marvellous. "What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?" But that he should carry that man, nay, the weakest of such men, the lambs among this flock that he should carry them in his arms! What shall I say to this? I will be silent on a theme which needs a more eloquent tongue than mine. Blessed be the name of such a gracious God. Brethren, rejoice in this tender Shepherd. Be confident, be grateful, be joyful, be thankful, be of good cheer evermore, for he it is that carrieth you.

But why? Why doth he carry lambs in his bosom? First, because he hath a tender heart and any weakness at once melts him. If he sees a lamb he stops as you would do if you are gentle of spirit. If he hears your sigh, your groan, or marks your ignorance or your feebleness, the very tenderness of his mind, even if there were nothing else, would constrain him to look upon you. But more, it is his office to consider the weak. For this it is that he was made a faithful high priest that he might have compassion on the ignorant. For this it is that he became the mediator. He were nothing if he had not this I mean to say that his office would be a mere sinecure, but a nominal thing, if there were no weak and feeble ones for him to care for. Reflect, too, that he was a lamb himself once. What a mysterious fact! If a man could have been a lamb and known a lamb's weakness, how would he sympathize with it? Our Jesus was and is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He knows what strong temptations mean, for he has felt the same. Do you enquire for more reasons why he carries them in his bosom? He purchased them with blood. He sees the marks of his passion upon every one of them, and therefore he prizes them and will not suffer them to perish. They are his property. He is their proprietor. Another man's lamb he might not so carefully carry; but his own lamb, the gift of his Father, the purchase of his blood, the heritage of his reward he must and will care for that.

Moreover, remember, he is responsible for that lamb. At Jacob's hand Laban required all the sheep, and at Jesus' hand every elect one will be required at the last. He is the surety of the covenant, and he is bound by covenant engagements to bring the many sons home to glory, and not to suffer one whom his Father has given him to perish by the way. Nor will he fail in his covenant, my beloved. He will be true to his pledge, and say at the last, "Here am I and the flock committed to my care."

Moreover, they are all a part of his glory. This flock will be as the jewels of his crown. If he lost one of them he would lose a part of his fullness, a part of his reward of his soul's travail, therefore will he never turn away his eye from them, or his hand from doing them good, but he will preserve them to the end.

But what does he say he will do? He says, "He will carry them." How does he do that how does Jesus carry weak saints? Sometimes he carries them by not permitting them to endure much trouble. "He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb;" he takes them up in the arms of providence, and carries them where there is no trouble. At other times, they are carried in his arm by having some tender, loving person, to take care of them. He carries them instrumentally. As Christians and the other women had Mr. Great-heart to kill the giants for them, so many saints are carried in the bosom of Christ Jesus, by the loving care of some godly relative, or friend, or pastor. At other times, such lambs are carried by having an unusual degree of love given them, and, consequently a large amount of joy, so that they bear up and stand fast. Though their knowledge may not be deep, they have great sweetness in what they do know. They may have but little to feed on, but that little is great from its nutritive power, and they have strong digestive powers given them by which they may even suck honey out of a rock, and oil out of a flinty rock. The little becomes much. The barley loaves and few small fishes are sufficient for the thousands of their necessities. Sometimes he carries them by giving them a very simple faith. Their faith may not be very strong, but it is very simple, and after all, I do not know whether I would not almost as soon have a simple faith as a strong faith, if the two could be divided. That simple faith which takes the promise just as it stands, may not comprehend its meaning fully, yet it believes it, and runs away with every trouble straight to Jesus. That is very beautiful in a child. The child has no very great extent of knowledge, and is not strong to defend itself, but what does it say when ill-treated in the street? "I will tell father." And so, simple souls will go and tell their Father. They run to their big brother, the great Savior, and so the simplicity of their faith gives them an unusual degree of confidence, and they are carried in Jesus' bosom.

But to close this point, how does he carry them? He carries them in his bosom not on his back that is how he carries stray sheep he flings them over his shoulders rejoicing, but they do not rejoice mind you. They will not rejoice, for they have wandered; they must be made to feel the weight of the crook, and they must pray, "Make the bones which thou hast broken to rejoice." But "He carries the lambs in his bosom." Here is put forth, brethren, boundless affection. Could he put them in his bosom if he did not love them much? Where does the Father place the Son? He is in the bosom of the Father. Where did Abraham carry Lazarus? In his bosom. Where did Naomi bear her young grandson Obed? He was in her bosom. Where did the man in the parable put his little ewe lamb? In his bosom. Christ is boundless in his affection. Then there is tender nearness. How near to a man is that which is in his bosom! Here you see the Lord Jesus Christ does not put his people at a distance from himself, so that he has to stretch out his hand for them, but he keeps them near; he need not stretch out his hand at all; so near are they that they could not possibly be nearer. Then it is a hallowed familiarity. Lambs when put into the bosom, having no intellect, cannot therefore learn anything; but the lambs of Christ's flock, whenever they ride in Christ's bosom, talk with him; they tell him all their secrets, and he tells them his. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant." Oh, there are some precious love-passages between Christ and his weak ones when they are snugly housed in his bosom. It were almost profanity to talk of the union and communion, the fellowship and converse, the delightful interchange of everything that is sweet and loving between Christ and his chosen ones in his bosom. And then, dear friends, you must not fail to remark that there is perfect safety. The dear ones in his bosom what can hurt them? They must hurt the shepherd first. How can they get the lamb out of the shepherd's arm? Must they not cut off the shepherd's arm before they can hurt the lamb? Must they not smite him through his body before they can kill the creature whom he fondles! How safe are you, O weak believers! You are borne up on eagles' wings; the shot must pierce the parent bird before it can reach you; the devil must destroy your Shepherd before he can slay you. Here is comfort. Oh, what a soft place to ride in! how warm! Oh! how the warmth of the Shepherd's heart cheers his lamb! So the warmth of Jesus, and the delightful comfort of his presence, shall be enjoyed by you the very weakest of you in answer to the supplications we put up for you, and as a result of your faith in Jesus.

I do not know what you think after reading this promise, but I think I should like to be a lamb again. Some of us have outgrown our times of doubts, and fearfulness, and so on. We have to take the work of a shepherd. I love to be a shepherd under my Master; but there is many a time I envy you. I would delight to sit in the pew and hear a sermon instead of preaching sometimes to be fed instead of feeding you. Some of you have grown to be strong men and are engaged in looking after others. You now look back, not with sorrow exactly, but with some regret upon the sweetness of your young days, when you were so little in Israel, but were so daintily fed, so wondrously cared for. You remember what the shepherds did with Mr. Great-heart, and all the company, when they came to the Delectable Mountains. The shepherds said, "Come in, Mr. Ready-to-halt, come in, Mr. Fearing, come in, Mrs. Much-afraid;" but they never said, "Come in, Mr. Great-heart." We look after the feeble, as to you that are strong, we know you will take the comforts to yourselves. Ah! but the strongest sometimes get very weak, and those that do exploits for God, at times feel as if they could creep into a mouse-hole, and hide their heads anywhere among the very feeblest and meanest of the Lord's people, if they could but enjoy the comforts which he is pleased to give them.

IV. And now, to conclude, LET US HEAR THE SHEPHERD'S VOICE.

If you be the lambs, hear the Shepherd's voice which says, "Follow me." You that are weak and feeble, and young in the divine life, keep close to Jesus. Imitate the example of Caleb, of whom we spoke a Sabbath or two ago, and follow the Lord fully. Be obedient to all his commands, and let his faintest wish be your law. Keeping close to Jesus, you shall realize the sweetness of the text. To you that are not lambs, and as yet are not brought openly into his fold, hear his words "Come unto me." That gentle Shepherd who condescends to carry the lambs, may well entice you to himself. Come, guilty souls, and flee away to him who will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax. Take his yoke upon you and learn of him, for he is meek and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls. No tyrannic domineering Lord commands you to crouch as a slave at his feet. The generous Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." By his love and by his pity, by his deep compassion and his infinite love, I beseech you, come to him.

Then, too, those of us who are his sheep, let us hear the Shepherd's voice, saying, "Feed my lambs." If at any time we have offended, and like Peter backslidden, let this be the token of our love this the seal by which we show to him how true is our repentance let us feed the lambs. O matrons and strong men, mothers in Israel and princes in our host, look ye well to your sons and daughters; see ye well to your little ones; train them up for Jesus. Where ye see the divine spark, blow it with your warm breath. Watch ye for the feeble. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably" unto the tender ones. Lay yourselves out, beloved, to do good to these weak ones. Spend and be spent. Bear ye their burdens, "and so fulfill the law of Christ;" and the Lord accept and bless you all, whether sheep or lambs, for his dear sake. Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Isaiah 40". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/isaiah-40.html. 2011.