WHO ARE THE LAMBS WHICH OUR BLESSED LORD IS SAID TO GATHER AND TO CARRY IN HIS BOSOM?
The word “lamb” frequently signifies the young. The ancient teachers of the Jewish law invited no 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 Sanhedrim, “that man teaches so as to be understood by a child,” he would have thought himself insulted by such a description. But not so our Master; He always had children among His auditory; they are often mentioned. We shall never forget the voice of the blessed Saviour, the Lord of angels, as He cries, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Dear children, I would have you completely saved to-day, for your tender age is no hindrance to you, being forgiven and justified. If you have trusted the great Saviour, 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, “Suffer the little ones to come unto 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 alone upon what He suffered for sinners upon the cross of Calvary, and you need not be afraid. There is the same Christ for you as for the grey heads. The promises are as much yours as your fathers’, and the comforts of the Holy Spirit shall flow as sweetly into the little vessels of your hearts as into the hearts of those who have known the Saviour these fifty years. Hear ye the words of the Good Shepherd, “I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.”
But, again, by lambs we may quite as properly understand young converts, those who begin to have religious impressions, those who but of late have repented of sin and been driven from 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 be assailed by sophistry 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.
Do not cut down the trees because in spring they have no fruit upon them. Be thankful that they make a show of buds, which may come to fruit by-and-by. My dear friends, if there be any of you 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 be 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 gathereth the lambs in His arm, and carrieth them in His bosom.”
Furthermore, we feel sure that we shall 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 forlorn. If they make music at all, they dwell evermore upon the bass, and keep not their harps long from the willows. 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, need fear no fall;” 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, alas! for them, their days of mirth are few; like the elder brother in the parable, their father hath never given them a kid, that they may make merry with their friends.
Now, such persons make but poor company, and yet every Christian ought to seek their society, 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. Ah! “He shall gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom.”
Once more, the lambs are those who know but little of the things of God. This class 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 vexed with them ; but reflect that our Master said to Philip, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?” He was a much better teacher than we shall 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 right enough, but they do not know how to put their meaning in order. Oftentimes you will find our friends confounding 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 become very readily the victims of designing men, who lead them into error; but they 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 large-hearted Son of God declareth that to them He will act as a shepherd, and will gather them in His arms.
If Thomas will not learn by any other means, He will condescend to his childish foibles, and let him put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into the wounded side; for, as a nurse is tender with her children, and as a good schoolmaster will teach his child the same thing twenty times if he has not learnt it at the nineteenth lesson, so will Jesus do; adding line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, that we may be nurtured and nourished in the faith once delivered to the saints.
To whichever class any of you may belong, let my text be sweet to your taste, and may the Holy Spirit cheer you by it.
How DOES JESUS SHOW THIS SPECIAL CARE FOR THE WEAK ONES?
By gathering them. So when a man is spiritually born unto God, he is frequently so desponding, his faith is so weak, and he is altogether so ready to die, that he needs the tender mercy from on high to visit him. There may be one here who has been converted to God during the last week, but no kind Christian knows of it; nobody has spoken to him, to gather him up; but, lonely one, be not dismayed, Jesus will come to you: He will be a present help in this your hour of trouble. Now that you are like lit candle, which is easily blown out, He will shield you from the breath of evil.
When the flock 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 pasturage is scant, and the flocks are numerous, and in long journeys the lambs drop one by one for weariness, and then the shepherd carries them. They cannot keep up the pace; the spiritual warfare is too severe for them. They love their Lord; they would if they could be amongst the foremost; but, through the cares of this world, through weakness of mind, through a lack of spiritual vigour, they become lame and are ready to perish; such faint hearts are the peculiar care of their tender Lord.
At other times, the lambs do worse than this. They are of a skittish nature, and feeling the natural vigour of new-born life, they are not content to keep within bounds, as the older sheep do, but they betake themselves to wandering, so that at the close of the day the lambs cost the shepherd much trouble. “Where are those lambs?” he says. “Where are they? The sheep are right enough, but where are the lambs?” What will the good man do? Leave them, and say, “They have worn out my patience”? No; but he will gather them. So are there many immature Christians, whose minds are hung loosely, and are unstable as water. What a trouble some of you are to those who love you! When you do rise to a little faith, you sink into unbelief before the next day. You shift your opinions as often as the moon changes, and are of one mind never longer than a week. You leave the good old paths to seek other pastures. Sometimes you are with the so-called Brethren; the next day the church of England; next, the Dissenters; 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 should do so. But will the Good Shepherd be angry with you, and cast you off? Not at all, for Jesus gathers the lambs, and when He puts His great loving arm over 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 His Blessed Person.
The text says, after He gathers them, He carries them in His bosom, 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 bosom treasure away from Jesus? You weak ones, how secure you are in Him, though so exposed to danger in yourselves. The bosom, why that is the tenderest place, where we should put only a poor creature that had a broken bone, and could not bear to be roughly touched. The bosom, that is the easiest place. It makes one wish to be always a lamb, if one could always ride in that chariot. Delightful is the weakness which casts us upon such gracious strength. “He carrieth the lambs in His bosom.” Why, that is the most honourable place. We would not put into our bosom that which we despised. We should not think of carrying there anything which was not choice and dear and exceedingly precious. So, thou weak one, though thou thinkest thyself to be less than nothing, and art nothing in thyself, yet thou shalt have all the security which the heart of Deity can give thee, all the comfort that the love of Christ can pour upon thee, all the honour and dignity which nearness, and fellowship, and dearness of love can bestow upon a poor mortal. Rejoice, ye lambs, that ye have such a Shepherd to carry you near His heart!
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. He has declared that whosoever believeth in Him shall never perish, but have everlasting life. That promise is not to the strong only, but to the weak also. He has said, “None shall pluck them out of my hand.” Now, He does not say, “None shall pluck the great ones, but may pluck the little ones.” No, “None shall pluck them” that is, any one of them. If you are in Jesus Christ, rest assured that His love will not desert you.
Excerpts from the sermon titled “Jesus and the lambs” (Isaiah 40:11) by CH Spurgeon dated 9 February 1868. You are encouraged to read the whole text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/jesus-and-the-lambs/#flipbook/