“Consider the example of your glorious Lord and Master. There was a number of the souls of men committed by the Father into His hands, that He might take care for their salvation.
And after what manner did He execute His office?
How did He lay out Himself for the salvation of those souls?
What great things did He do?
And what great things did He suffer?
How hard was the labor He went through?
And how greatly did He deny Himself?
How did this great Shepherd of the sheep behave Himself when He saw the wolf coming to destroy the sheep?
He did not flee to save His own life, and so leave the sheep to become a prey; but from pity and love to the sheep, interposed Himself between them and their enemy, stood between them and harm, and encountered the wolf, and in the conflict gave His own life to save theirs (John 10:11–15).
We read of Christ’s travailing for souls, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief. When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed…. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied’ (Isaiah 53:10–11).
And how did He travail for this seed of His?
Look into the garden of Gethsemane, and there behold Him lying on the earth, with His body covered over with clotted blood, falling down in lumps to the ground, with His soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and offering up strong crying and tears together with His blood.
And look to the cross, where He endured yet far more extreme agonies, and drank up the bitter cup of God’s wrath, and shed the remainder of His blood, lingeringly drained out through His tortured hands and feet, and extravasated out of His broken heart into His bowels, and there turned into blood and water, through the vehement fermentation occasioned by the weight of grief and extremity of agony of soul, under which He cried out with that loud and lamentable and repeated cry.
Thus He travailed in birth with His seed; thus He labored and suffered for the salvation of those souls that the Father had committed to Him.
This is the example of the great Shepherd.”
–Jonathan Edwards, “The Great Concern Of A Watchman For Souls,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 25. Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 72. This sermon on Hebrews 13:17 (“They watch for your souls, as they that must give account.”) was preached on June 8, 1743, at the ordination of Jonathan Judd.