Flavel, Fountain of Life, File 28.
( ...continued from File 27)
Sermon 28. Of the manner of Christ's Death, in respect to the 
Solitariness thereof. 
Zechariah 13:7 
Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man [that is] 
my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the 
sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little 
In the former sermons, we have opened the nature and kind of death 
Christ died; even the cursed death of the cross. Wherein, 
nevertheless his innocence was vindicated, by that honourable title 
providentially affixed to his cross. Method now requires that we 
take into consideration the manner in which he endured the cross, 
and that was solitarily, meekly, and instructively. 
    His solitude in suffering is plainly expressed in this 
scripture now before us, it cannot be doubted, but the prophet in 
this place speaks of Christ, if you consider Matth. 26: 31. where 
you shall find these words applied to Christ by his own 
accommodation of them, "Then said Jesus unto them, all ye shall be 
offended because of me this night, for it is written, I will smite 
the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Besides, the title 
here given [God's fellow] is too big for any creature in heaven or 
earth besides Christ. 
    In these words we have four things particularly to consider. 
First, The commission given to the sword by the Lord of hosts. 
Secondly, The person against whom it is commissioned. Thirdly, The 
dismal effect of that stroke. Fourthly and lastly, The gracious 
mitigation of it. 
    First, The commission given to the sword by the Lord of hosts. 
"Awake, O sword, and smite, saith the Lord of hosts." The Lord of 
hosts, at whose beck and command all the creatures are. Who, with a 
word of his mouth, can open all the armouries in the world, and 
command what weapons and instruments of death he pleaseth, calls 
here for the sword; not the rod, gently to chasten; but the sword to 
destroy. The rod breaks no bones, but the sword opens the door to 
death and destruction. The strokes and thrusts of the sword are 
mortal; and he bids it awake. It signifies both "to rouse up," as 
one that awakes out of sleep, and "to rouse or awake with triumph 
and rejoicing." So the same word is rendered, Job 31: 29. Yea, he 
commands it, "to awake and smite." And it is as if the Lord had 
said, Come forth of thy scabbard, O sword of justice, thou hast been 
hid there a long time, and hast, as it were, been asleep in thy 
scabbard, now awake and glitter, thou shalt drink royal blood, such 
as thou never sheddest before. 
    Secondly, The person against whom it is commissioned, "my 
shepherd, and the man that is my fellows." This shepherd can be no 
other than Christ, who is often in scripture stiled "a Shepherd, 
yea, the chief Shepherd, the Prince of pastors." Who redeemed, 
feeds, guides, and preserves the flock of God's elect, 1 Pet. 5: 4. 
John 10: 11. This is he whom he also stiles the man his fellow. Or 
his neighbour, as some render it. And so Christ is, with respect to 
his equality and unity with the Father, both in essence and will. 
His next neighbour. His other self. You have the sense of it in 
Phil. 2: 6. He was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to 
be equal with God. 
    Against Christ his fellow, his next neighbour, the delight of 
his soul, the sword here receives its commission. 
    Thirdly, you have here the dismal consequent of this deadly 
stroke upon the shepherd. And that is the scattering of the sheep. 
By the sheep understand here, that little flock, the disciples, 
which followed this shepherd till he was smitten i.e. apprehended by 
his enemies, and they were scattered, i.e. dispersed; they all 
forsook him and fled. And so Christ was left alone, amidst his 
enemies. Not one durst make a stand for him, or own him in that hour 
of his danger. 
    Fourthly, And lastly, Here is a gracious mitigation of this sad 
dispersion, "I will turn my hand upon the little ones." By little 
ones he means the same that before he called sheep; but the 
expression is designedly varied, to show their feebleness and 
weakness, which appeared in their relapse from Christ. And by 
turning his hand upon them, understand God's gracious reduction, and 
gathering of them again after their sad dispersion, so that they 
shall not be lost, though scattered for the present. For after the 
Lord was risen, he went before them into Galilee, as he promised, 
Matth. 26: 31. And gathered them again by a gracious hand, so that 
not one of them was lost but the son of perdition. 
    The words thus opened, I shall observe suitably to the method I 
have proposed. 
    Doct. That Christ's dearest friends forsook and left him alone, 
    in the time of his greatest distress and danger. 
    This doctrine containing only matter of fact, and that also so 
plainly delivered by the pens of the several faithful Evangelists, I 
need spend no longer time in the proof of it, than to refer you to 
the several testimonies they have given to it. But I shall rather 
choose to fit and prepare it for use, by explaining these four 
    First, Who were the sheep that were scattered from their 
shepherd, and left him alone? 
    Secondly, What evil was there in this their scattering? 
    Thirdly, What were the grounds and causes of it? 
    Fourthly, and lastly, What was the issue and event of it? 
    First, Who were these sheep that were dispersed and scattered 
from their shepherd when he was smitten. It is evident they were 
those precious elect souls that he had gathered to himself, who had 
long followed him, and dearly loved him, and were dearly beloved of 
him. They were persons that had left all and followed him, and, till 
that time, faithfully continued with him in his temptations, Luke 
22: 28. And were all resolved so to do, though they should die with 
him, Matth. 26: 35. These were the persons. 
    Secondly, But were they as good as their word? Did they indeed 
stick faithfully to him? No, they all forsook him and fled. These 
sheep were scattered. This was not indeed a total and final 
apostasy, that is the fall proper to the hypocrite, the temporary 
believer, who, like a comet, expires when that earthly matter is 
spent that maintained the blaze for a time. 
    These were stars fixed in their orb, though clouded and 
overcast for a time. This was but a mist or fog, which overspreads 
the earth in the morning till the sun be risen, and then it clears 
up and proves a fair day. But though it was not a total and final 
apostasy; yet it was a very sinful and sad relapse from Jesus 
Christ, as will appear by considering the following aggravations and 
circumstances of it. For, 
    First, This relapse of theirs was against the very articles of 
agreement, which they had sealed to Christ at their first admission 
into his service; he had told them, in the beginning, what they must 
resolve upon, Luke 14: 26, 27. "If any man come to me, and hate not 
his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and 
sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And 
whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my 
disciple." Accordingly they submitted to these terms, and told him 
they had left all and followed him, Mark 10: 28. Against this 
engagement made to Christ, they now sin. Here was unfaithfulness. 
    Secondly, As it was against the very terms of their admission, 
so it was against the very principles of grace implanted by Christ 
in their hearts. They were holy sanctified persons, in whom dwelt 
the love and fear of God. By these they were strongly inclined to 
adhere to Christ, in the time of his sufferings, as appears by those 
honest resolves they had made in the case. Their grace strongly 
inclined them to their duty, their corruptions swayed them the 
contrary way. Grace bid them stand, corruption bid them fly. Grace 
told them it was their duty to share in the sufferings as well as in 
the glory of Christ. Corruption represented these sufferings as 
intolerable, and bid them shift for themselves whilst they might. So 
that here must needs be a force and violence offered to their light, 
and the loving constraints thereof; which is no small evil. 
    For though I grant it was a sudden, surprising temptation, yet 
it cannot be imagined that this fact was wholly deliberate; nor 
that, for so long time, they were without any debate or seasonings 
about their duty. 
    Thirdly, As it was against their own principles, so it was much 
against the honour of their Lord and Master. By this their sinful 
flight they exposed the Lord Jesus to the contempt and scorn of his 
enemies. This some conceive is imported in that question which the 
High-priest asked him, John 18: 19. "The High priest then asked 
Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine." He asked him of his 
disciples, how many he had, and what was become of them now? And 
what was the reason they forsook their master, and left him to shift 
for himself when danger appeared? But to those questions Christ made 
no reply. He would not accuse them to their enemies, though they had 
deserted him. But, doubtless, it did not a little reflect upon 
Christ, that there was not one of all his friends that durst own 
their relation to him, in a time of danger. 
    Fourthly, As it was against Christ's honour, so it was against 
their own solemn promise made to him before his apprehension, to 
live and die with him. They had passed their word, and given their 
promise that they would not flinch from him, Matth. 26: 35. "Peter 
said to him, though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny 
thee. Likewise also said all the disciples." This made it a 
perfidious relapse. Here they break promise with Christ who never 
did so with them. He might have told then when he met them 
afterwards in Galilee, as the Roman soldier told his general, when 
he refused his petition after the war was ended, I did not serve ye 
so at the battle of Actium. 
    Fifthly, As it was against their solemn promise to Christ, so 
it was against Christ's heart-melting expostulations with them, 
which should have abode in their hearts while they lived. For when 
others that followed him went back, and walked no more with him, 
Jesus said to these very men, that now forsook him at last, Will ye 
also go away? There is an emphasis in [ye] q.d. What, ye that from 
eternity were given to me! Ye whom I have called, loved, and 
honoured above others, for whose sakes I am ready and resolved to 
die. "Will ye also forsake me?" John 6: 67. What ever others do, I 
expect other things from you. 
    Sixthly, As it was against Christ's heart-melting 
expostulations with them, so it was against a late direful example 
presented to them in the fall of Judas. In him, as in a glass, they 
might see how fearful a thing it is to apostatise from Christ. They 
had heard Christ's dreadful threats against him. They were present 
when he called him the son of perdition, John 18: 11. They had heard 
Christ say of him, "Good had it been if he had never been born." An 
expression able to scare the deadest heart. They saw he had left 
Christ the evening before. And that very day, in which they fled, he 
hanged himself. And yet they fly. For all this they forsake Christ. 
    Seventhly, As it was against the dreadful warning given them in 
the fall of Judas, so it was against the law of love, which should 
have knit them closer to Christ, and to one another. 
    If to avoid the present shock of persecution, they had fled, 
yet surely they should have kept together, praying, watching, 
encouraging, and strengthening one another. This had made it a 
lesser evil: but as they all forsook Christ, so they forsook one 
another also; for it is said, John 16: 32 "They shall go every man 
to his own, and leave Christ alone," (i.e. saith Beza) every man to 
his own house, and to his own business. They forsook each other, as 
well as Christ. O what an hour of temptation was this! 
    Eighthly, and lastly, This their departure from Christ, was 
accompanied with some offence at Christ. For so he tells them, 
Matth. 26: 31. "All ye shall be offended because of me this night." 
The word is, "skandalisthesesthe", you shall be scandalised at me, 
or in me. Some think the scandal they took at Christ was this, that 
when they saw he was fallen into his enemies' hands, and could no 
longer defend himself; they then began to question whether he were 
the Christ or no, since he could not defend himself from his 
enemies. Others, more rightly, understand it of their shameful 
flight from Christ, seeing it was not now safe to abide longer with 
him. That seeing he gave himself into their hands, they thought it 
advisable to provide as well as they could for themselves, and 
somewhere or other, to take refuge from the present storm, which had 
overtaken him. This was the nature and quality of the fact. We 
    Thirdly, Into the grounds and reasons of it. Which were three. 
    First, God's suspending wonted influences and aids of grace 
from them. They were not wont to do so. They never did so 
afterwards. They would not have done so now, had there been 
influences of power, zeal, and love from heaven upon them. But how 
then should Christ have borne the heat and burden of the day? How 
should he tread the wine-press alone? How should his sorrows have 
been extreme, unmixed, succourless (as it behaved them to be) if 
they had stuck faithfully to him in his troubles? No, no, it must 
not be; Christ must not have the least relief or comfort from any 
creature; and therefore, that he might be left alone, to grapple 
hand to hand with the wrath of God, and of men; the Lord for a time 
withholds his encouraging, strengthening influences from them; and 
then, like Samson when he had lost his locks, they were weak as 
other men. 
    "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," saith 
the apostle, Eph. 6: 10. If that be with-held, our resolutions and 
purposes melt away before a temptation, as snow before the sun. 
    Secondly, As God permitted it, and with-held usual aid from 
them; so the efficacy of that temptation was great, yea, much 
greater than ordinary. As they were weaker than they were used to 
be, so the temptation was stronger than any they had yet met withal. 
It is called, Luke 22: 53. "Their hour and the power of darkness." A 
sifting, winnowing hour, ver. 46. O it was a black and cloudy day. 
Never had the disciples met with such a whirlwind, such a furious 
storm before. The devil desired but to have the winnowing of them in 
that day, and so would have sifted and winnowed them, that their 
faith had utterly failed, had not Christ secured it by his prayer 
for them. So that it was an extraordinary trial that was upon them. 
    Thirdly and lastly, That which concurred to their shameful 
relapse, as a special cause of it, was the remaining corruptions 
that were in their hearts yet unfortified. Their knowledge was but 
little, and their faith not much. Upon the account of their weakness 
in grace, they were called little ones in the text. And as their 
graces were weak, so their corruptions were strong. Their unbelief, 
and carnal fears grew powerfully upon them. 
    Do not censure them, reader, in thy thoughts, nor despise them 
for this their weakness. Neither say in thy heart, Had I been there 
as they were, I would never have done as they did. They thought as 
little of doing what they did, as you, or any of the saints do; and 
as much did their souls detest and abhor it: but here thou mayest 
see, whither a soul that fears God may be carried, if his 
corruptions be irritated by strong temptation, and God withholds 
usual influences. 
    Fourthly and lastly, Let us view the issue of this sad apostasy 
of theirs. And you shall find it ended far better than it began. 
Though these sheep were scattered for a time, yet the Lord made good 
his promise, in turning his hand upon these little ones, to gather 
them. The morning was over cast, but the evening was clear. 
    Peter repents of his perfidious denial of Christ, and never 
denied him more. All the rest likewise returned to Christ, and never 
forsook him any more. He that was afraid at the voice of a damsel, 
afterwards feared not the frowns of the mighty. And they that durst 
not own Christ now, afterwards confessed him openly before councils, 
and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for his sake, 
Acts 5: 41. They that were now as timorous as hares, and started at 
every sound, afterward became as bold as lions, and feared not any 
danger, but sealed their confession of Christ with their blood. For 
though, at this time, they forsook him, it was not voluntarily, but 
by surprisal. Though they forsook him, they still loved him; though 
they fled from him, there still remained a gracious principle in 
them; the root of the matter was still in them, which recovered them 
    To conclude: Though they forsook Christ, yet Christ never 
forsook them: he loved them still; "Go tell the disciples, and tell 
Peter, that he goes before you into Galilee," Mark 16: 7. q.d. Let 
them not think that I so remember their unkindness, as to own them 
no more: No, I love them still. 
    The use of this is contained in the following inferences. 
    Inf. 1. Did the disciples forsake Christ, though they had such 
strong persuasions and resolutions never to do it? Then we see, That 
self-confidence is a sin too incident to the best of men. They 
little thought their hearts would have proved so base and deceitful, 
as they found them to be when they were tried. "Though all men 
forsake thee (saith Peter) yet will not!" Good man, he resolved 
honestly, but he knew not what a feather he should be in the wind of 
temptation, if God once left him to his own fears. 
    Little reason have the best of saints to depend upon their 
inherent grace, let their stock be as large as it will. The angels 
left to themselves, quickly left their own habitations, Jude 6. Upon 
which, one well observes, That the best of created perfections, are 
of themselves defectible. Every excellency without the prop of 
divine preservation, is but a weight which tends to a fall. The 
angels in their innocence, were but frail, without God's 
sustentation; even grace itself is but a creature, and therefore 
purely dependant. It is not from its being and nature, but from the 
assistance of something without it, that it is kept from 
annihilation. What becomes of the stream, if the fountain supply it 
not? What continuance has the reflection in the glass, if the man 
that looks into it, turn away his face? The constant supplies of the 
Spirit of Jesus Christ, are the food and fuel of all our graces. The 
best men will show themselves but men if God leave them. He who has 
set them up, must also keep them. It is safer to be humble with one 
talent, than proud with ten; yea, better to be an humble worm, than 
a proud angel. Adam had more advantage to maintain his station than 
any of you. For though he were left to the liberty of his own 
mutable and self-determining will; and though he was created 
upright, and had no inherent corruption to endanger him, yet he 
    And shall we be self confident, after such instances of human 
frailty! Alas, Christian! What match art thou for principalities and 
powers, and spiritual wickedness! "Be not high-minded, but fear." 
When you have considered well the example of Noah, Lot, David, and 
Hezekiah, men famous and renowned in their generations, who all fell 
by temptations; yea, and that when one would think they had never 
been better provided to cope with them. Lot fell after, yea, 
presently after the Lord had thrust him out of Sodom, and his eyes 
had seen the direful punishment of sin. Hell, as it were, rained 
upon them out of heaven. Noah, in like manner, immediately after 
God's wonderful, and astonishing preservation of him in the ark; 
when he saw a world of men and women, perishing in the floods for 
their sins. David, after the Lord had settled the kingdom on him, 
which for sin he rent from Saul, and given him rest in his house. 
Hezekiah was but just up from a great sickness, wherein the Lord 
wrought a wonderful salvation for him. Did such men, and at such 
times, when one would think no temptations should have prevailed, 
fall; and that so foully? Then "let him that thinks he standeth, 
take heed lest he fall." O be not high minded, but fear. 
    Inf. 2. Did Christ stand his ground, and go through with his 
suffering-work, when all that had followed him, forsook him? Then a 
resolved adherence to God, and duty, though left alone, without 
company or encouragement, is Christ-like, and truly excellent. You 
shall not want better company than that which has forsaken you in 
the way of God. Elijah complains, 1 Kings 19: 10 "They have forsaken 
thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with 
the sword; and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to 
take it away" And yet all this did not damp or discourage him in 
following the Lord; for still he was very jealous for the Lord God 
of Hosts. 
    Paul complains, 2 Tim 4: 16 "At my first answer no man stood by 
me, all men forsook me: nevertheless the Lord stood with me." And as 
the Lord stood by him, so he stood by his God alone, without any 
aids or support from men. How great an argument of integrity is 
this! He that professes Christ for company, will also leave him for 
company. But to be faithful to God, when forsaken of men; to be a 
Lot, in Sodomy a Noah, in a corrupted generation; oh, how excellent 
is it! It is sweet to travel over this earth to heaven, in the 
company of the saints, that are bound it thither with us, if we can; 
but if we can meet no company, we must not be discouraged to go on. 
It is not unlike, but before you have gone many steps farther, you 
may have cause to say, as one did once, Never less alone, than when 
    Inference 3. Did the disciples thus forsake Christ, and yet 
were all recovered at last? Then, though believers are not 
privileged from backsliding, yet they are secured from final 
apostasy and ruin. The new creature may be sick, it cannot die. 
Saints may fall, but they shall rise again, Micah 7: 8. The highest 
flood, of natural zeal and resolution, may ebb, and be wholly dried 
up; but saving grace is "a well of water, still springing up into 
everlasting life," John 4: 14. God's unchangeable election, the 
frame and constitution of the New Covenant, the meritorious and 
prevalent intercession of Jesus Christ, do give the believer 
abundant security against the danger of a total and final apostasy. 
"My Father, which gave them me, saith Christ, is greater than all: 
and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand," John 10: 
    And again, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this 
seal; the Lord knoweth who are his," 2 Tim. 2: 19. Every person 
committed to Christ by the Father, shall be brought by him to the 
Father, and not one wanting. 
    God has also so framed and ordered the new covenant, that none 
of those souls, who are within the blessed clasp and bond of it can 
possibly be lost. It is settled upon immutable things: and we know 
all things are as their foundations be, Heb. 6: 18, 19. Among the 
many glorious promises contained in the bundle of promises, this is 
one, "I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will 
put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." 
    And as the fear of God in our hearts, pleads in us against sin, 
so our potent intercessor in the heavens pleads for us with the 
Father; and by reason thereof, we cannot finally miscarry, Rom. 8: 
34, 35. Upon these grounds, we may (as the apostle in the place last 
cited does) triumph in that full security which God has given us; 
and say, What "shall separate us from the love of God?" Understand 
it either of God's to us, as Calvin, Beza, and Martyr do; or of our 
love to God, as Ambrose and Augustine do: it is true in both senses, 
and a most comfortable truth. 
    Inference 4. Did the sheep fly, when the shepherd was smitten; 
such men, and so many forsake Christ in the trial? Then learn how 
sad a thing it is for the best of men to be left to their own carnal 
fears in a day of temptation: This was it that made those good men 
shrink away so shamefully from Christ in that trial: "The fear of 
man brings a snare," Prov. 29: 25. In that snare these good souls 
were taken, and for a time held fast. 
    Oh what work will this unruly passion make, if the fear of God 
do not over-rule it! Is it not a shame to a Christian, a man of 
faith to see himself out done by an Heathen? Shall natural 
conscience and courage make them stand and keep their places in 
times of danger; when we shamefully turn our backs upon duty, 
because we see duty and danger together? 
    When the emperor Vespasian had commanded Fluidius Priscus not 
to come to the senate; or, if he did, to speak nothing but what he 
would have him; the senator returned this brave and noble answer, 
"That as he was a senator, it was fit he should be at the senate; 
and if, being there, he were required to give his advice, he would 
speak freely, that which his conscience commanded him." The emperor 
threatening that then he should die; he returned thus, "Did I ever 
tell you that I was immortal? Do you what you will, and I will do 
what I ought. It is in your power to put me to death unjustly, and 
in me to die constantly." O think, what mischief you; fears may do 
yourselves, and the discovery of them to others. O learn to trust 
God with your lives, liberties, and comforts, in the way of your 
duty; and at that time you are afraid trust in him: and do not 
magnify poor dust and ashes, as to be scared, by their threat, from 
your God and your duty. The politic design of Satan herein, is to 
affright you out of your coverts, where you are safe, into the net. 
I will enlarge on this no farther; I have elsewhere laid down 
fourteen rules for the cure of this, in what of mine is public. 
    Inf. 5. Learn hence, How much a man may differ from himself, 
according as the Lord is with him, or withdrawn from him. The 
Christian does not always differ from other men, but sometimes from 
himself also: yea, so great is the difference betwixt himself and 
himself, as if he were not the same man. And where is he that does 
not so experience it? Sometimes bold and courageous, despising 
dangers, bearing down all discouragements in the strength of zeal, 
and love to God: at another time faint, feeble, and discourage at 
every petty thing. Whence is this but from the different 
administrations of the Spirit, who sometimes gives forth more, and 
sometimes less, of his gracious influence. These very men that 
flinched now, when the Spirit was more abundantly shed forth upon 
them, could boldly own Christ before the council, and despised all 
dangers for his sake. 
    A little dog, if his master be by, and encourage him, will 
venture upon a greater beast than himself. Peter stood at the door 
without, when the other disciple, (or one of the other disciples, as 
the Syrian turns it, and Grotius approves it as the best), i.e. one 
of the private disciples that lived at Jerusalem, went in so boldly, 
John 18: 16, 17. We are strong or weak, according to the degrees of 
assisting grace. So that as you cannot take the just measure of a 
Christian by one act, so neither must they judge of themselves, by 
what they sometimes feel in themselves. 
    But when their spirits are low, and their hearts discouraged, 
they should rather say to their souls, "Hope in God, for I shall yet 
praise him:" It is low with me now, but it will be better. 
    Inf. 6. Was the sword drawn against the Shepherd, and he left 
alone to receive the mortal strokes of it? How should all adore both 
the justice and mercy of God so illustriously displayed herein! Here 
is the triumph of divine justice, and the highest triumph that ever 
it had, to single forth the chief Shepherd, the man that is God's 
fellow, and sheathe its sword in his breast for satisfaction. No 
wonder it is drawn and brandished with such a triumph; awake 
rejoicingly, O sword, against my Shepherd, &c. For in this blood 
shed by it, it has more glory than if the blood of all the men and 
women in the world had been shed. 
    And no less is the mercy and goodness of God herein signalised, 
in giving the sword a commission against the Man, his fellow, rather 
than against us. Why had he not rather said, awake, O sword, against 
the men that are mine enemies; shed the blood of them that have 
sinned against me, than smite the Shepherd, and only scatter the 
sheep. Blessed be God, the dreadful sword was not drawn and 
brandished against our souls; that God did not set it to our 
breasts; that he had not made it fat with our flesh, and bathed it 
in our blood; that his fellow vas smitten, that his enemies might be 
spared. O what manner of love was this! Blessed be God therefore for 
Jesus Christ, who received the fatal stroke himself; and has now so 
sheathed that sword in its scabbard, that it shall never be drawn 
any more against any that believe in him. 
    Inf. 7. Were the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was smitten? 
Learn hence, That the best of men know not their own strength till 
they come to the trial. Little did these holy men imagine such a 
cowardly spirit had been in them, till temptation put it to the 
proof. Let this therefore be a caution for ever to the people of 
God. You resolve never to forsake Christ, you do well; but so did 
these, and yet were scattered from him. You can never take a just 
measure of your own strength, till temptation have tried it. It is 
said, Deut. 8: 2. that God led the people so many years in the 
wilderness to prove them; and to know them, (i.e. to make them know) 
what was in their hearts. Little did they think such unbelief, 
murmurings, discontents, and a spirit bent to backslidings, had been 
in them; until their straits in the wilderness gave them the sad 
experience of these things. 
    Inf. 8. Did the dreadful sword of divine justice smite the 
Shepherd, God's own fellow; and at the same time the flock, from 
whom all its outward comforts arose, were scattered from him? Then 
learn, That the holiest of men have no reason either to repine or 
despond, though God should at once strip them of all their outward 
and inward comforts together. He that did this by the man his 
fellow, may much rather do it by the man his friend. Smite my 
Shepherd: there is all comfort gone from the inward man; Scatter the 
sheep; there is all comfort gone from the outward man. What 
refreshments had Christ in this world, but such as came immediately 
from his Father, or those holy ones now scattered from him? In one 
day he loseth both heavenly and earthly comforts. Now, as God dealt 
by Christ, he may, at one time or other, deal with his people. You 
have your comforts from heaven; so had Christ, in a fuller measure 
than ever you had, or can have. He had comforts from his little 
flock; you have your comforts from the society of the saints, the 
ordinances of God, comfortable relations, &c. Yet none of these are 
so firmly settled upon you, but you may be left destitute of them 
all in one day. God did take all comfort from Christ, both outward 
and inward; and are we greater than he? God sometimes takes outward, 
and leaves inward comfort; sometimes he takes inward, and leaves 
outward comfort: but the time may come, when God may strip you of 
    This was the case of Job, a favourite of God, who was blessed 
with outward and inward comforts; yet a time came when God stripped 
him of all, and made him poor to a proverb, as to all outward 
comfort; and the venom of his arrows drank up his spirit, and the 
inward comforts thereof. 
    Should the Lord deal thus wish any of you, how seasonable and 
relieving will the following considerations be? 
    First. Though the Lord deal thus with you, yet this is no new 
thing; he has so dealt with others, yea with Jesus Christ that was 
his fellow. If these things were done in the green tree, in him that 
never deserved it for any sin of his own, how little reason have we 
to complain? Nay, 
    Secondly. Therefore did this befell Jesus Christ before you, 
that the like condition might be sanctified to you, when you shall 
be brought into it. For therefore did Jesus Christ pass through such 
varieties of conditions, on purpose that he might take away the 
curse, and leave a blessing in those conditions, against the time 
that you should come into them. Moreover, 
    Thirdly, Though inward comforts and outward comforts were both 
removed from Christ, in one day, yet he wanted not support in the 
absence of both. How relieving a consideration is this! John 16: 32. 
"Behold, (saith he) the hour comes, yea, is now come that ye shall 
be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and 
yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." With me by way 
of support, when not by way of comfort. Thy God, Christian, can in 
like manner support thee, when all sensible comforts shrink away 
together from thy soul and body in one day. 
    Lastly, It deserves a remark, that this comfortless forsaken 
condition of Christ, immediately preceded the day of his greatest 
glory and comfort. Naturalists observe, the greatest darkness is a 
little before the dawning of the morning. It was so with Christ, it 
may be so with thee. It was but a little while and he had better 
company than theirs that forsook him. Act therefore your faith upon 
this, that the most glorious light usually follows the thickest 
darkness. The louder your groans are now, the louder your triumphs 
hereafter will be. The horror of your present, will but add to the 
lustre of your future state. 

(continued in file 29...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flafn-28.txt