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THE CHURCH’S FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST
Song of Solomon 2:1-3. I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight; and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
FROM the general scope of this whole poem, we can have no hesitation in saying, that the words which we have read are a part of a dialogue between Christ and his Church; the former part containing his testimony respecting her; and the latter, her testimony respecting him. It is a kind of pastoral song, as the images used by both the parties shew; and, though exceeding difficult of interpretation in some parts, it is very intelligible and instructive in others. We must bear in mind, that Christ speaks as the Bridegroom of his Church; and the Church, as his Spouse: whilst the “sons” and “daughters” mentioned in our text, are those children of Adam who yet lie in darkness and the shadow of death, or, at best, have only “the form of godliness, without the power.” As for the “daughters of Jerusalem,” who occasionally bear a part in the dialogue, they are professors of religion, who, though friendly on the whole, are not yet brought into this near relation to Christ, nor made partakers of his saving benefits.
In discoursing on the words before us, we shall consider,
Christ’s testimony respecting his Church—
The commendation bestowed upon her is the highest she could possibly receive: it is, that she, according to the measure of grace given to her, resembles him. In order to point out the resemblance,
He first declares his own character—
[“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Whatever is most excellent in the universe, is brought forward from time to time, to designate and illustrate the character of our Lord. Of the heavenly bodies he is the Sun, “the Sun of Righteousness.” Of inferior creatures, he is the Lion, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Even the plants and flowers yield him honour also: as the rose is exceeded by none in fragrance, and the lily is pre-eminent in beauty, he is a Rose, “the Rose of Sharon,” whose excellence was proverbial [Note: Isaiah 35:2.]: and a Lily, “the Lily of the valleys,” to which Solomon in all his glory was not worthy to be compared [Note: Matthew 6:29.]. Infinitely diversified are his perfections. In whatever point of view we consider him, his person, his offices, his relations, we shall be fully convinced, that to him alone pertain the garments which were “made for glory and beauty [Note: Exodus 28:40.].” In his person are united all the attributes of the Deity, and all the grace of humanity in their highest possible perfection — — — In his offices, nothing is wanting that could contribute to the welfare of his Church and people. As their High-priest, he has made a full and all-sufficient atonement for them: as their Prophet, he instructs them by his word and Spirit; and as their King, he rules over them, and in them; and puts all their enemies under their feet — — — As for his relations, there is no relation that can inspire us with hope and confidence, which he does not bear towards his believing people. He is our Shepherd, our Brother, and our Friend. Whether viewed in his exaltation, as God; or in his humiliation, as Man; or in his mediatorial state, as “Emmanuel, God with us,” he is infinitely great and glorious, “fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely.”]
He then acknowledges her resemblance to him—
[To the glories of his Godhead no creature can bear any true resemblance; so infinitely is he above all: but in his humiliation he was a pattern both of lowliness and purity, to which his believing people are conformed: yea moreover, as he in this respect infinitely excels the highest of his creatures, so does his Church excel all others of “the daughters” of men: she is, like him, “a lily;” like him also, “a lily among thorns;” no others bearing any more comparison with her, than a thorn or brier with the lily. Mark the lowliness of the true Christian: he boweth down his head with a sense of his own unworthiness, and manifold infirmities: yet is he “pure,” at least in purpose and desire, “even as God is pure.” “The very same mind is in him that was in Christ Jesus:” yea, “being joined to the Lord, he is one spirit with him;” “a partaker of his holiness,” “a partaker of his very nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.],” “created anew after his image in righteousness and true holiness.” Compare the Church with others, and they are no better than “thorns” before her; so superior is she to them in all her principles, her purposes, her attainments. The one have no higher aim or end than self: the other disdains to act but from the love of God, and for the glory of his name. The one leave God out even from the most sacred exercises; the other brings him into the most common acts and offices of life [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.]. The one have no life but what they received from nature: the other has Christ himself living in her; yea, “Christ himself is her life [Note: Colossians 3:4.].” True it is, that by nature the Believer was not at all different from others, but grace has made the difference; according to that prophetic declaration; “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall grow up the myrtle-tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign, that shall not be cut off [Note: Isaiah 55:13.].” Thus is that amply verified which was spoken by Solomon, “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour [Note: Proverbs 12:26.].”]
In reply to this commendation, the Church proclaims,
Her testimony respecting him—
This she bears,
From her knowledge of his excellencies—
[Christ is “as the apple tree among the trees of the wood.” Other trees can afford shadow only; whilst to those who take refuge under him, he administers the most refreshing and satisfying food. Under them, the soul that continues to abide, must perish: but the soul that abides in him, shall live for ever. All that it can want or desire is found in him. He is “the tree of life, that bears twelve manner of fruits [Note: Revelation 22:2.];” one for every season, every situation, every circumstance of life. “The very leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations.” The law appeared to offer a salutary retreat: but it could never satisfy the hungry soul, or “make a man perfect as pertaining to the conscience.” But what not all the trees of that forest could do, Christ has done [Note: Romans 8:2.]; and does continually for all who seek repose under the shadow of his wings. And they who have the clearest views of his excellency, “determine to know nothing but him, even him crucified.”]
From her experience of his love—
[The Church here says, in fact, “What my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, and my hands have handled of the word of life, the same declare I unto you,” In fact, no other knowledge than that which has been wrought into our own experience, is of any use; at least, not for the Christian’s own benefit. Hear then the Church’s happy experience; “I sat down under his shadow with great delight; and his fruit was sweet unto my taste.” The Believer has come to Christ weary and heavy-laden with a sense of his sins, and has found rest unto his soul. Like the traveller fainting beneath the intense heat of a vertical sun, he has sought the shade in Christ Jesus, who has approved himself all-sufficient, even like “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land [Note: Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 32:2.].” Of his fruits too does the Believer eat in a rich abundance. O! how sweet is his pardoning love to the soul, when he says, “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace!” Who can describe the blessedness of that peace which proceeds from him; from Him who said, “My peace I give unto you?” Truly it is “a peace that passeth all understanding. As for the joy with which these manifestations are accompanied, it is “unspeakable and glorified.” How can a soul feel any thing but exquisite “delight,” when thus favoured with “the spirit of adoption,” yea, “the witness of the Spirit” also attesting its relation to Christ, “sealing it unto the day of redemption,” and giving it even now “an earnest” and a foretaste “of its heavenly inheritance?” Such are the fruits of which every one shall eat, who sits under the shadow of the Lord Jesus; and “sweet shall they be unto his taste,” even “sweeter than honey or the honey-comb.”]
Having no fear that either of these testimonies shall ever be set aside, we ground upon them a word of exhortation—
Let us contemplate the excellencies of the Lord Jesus—
[There is not any thing in the world which may not serve to illustrate his beauty: for, in fact, all created excellencies are but rays of his glory, and stars winkling with his reflected splendour. We do not think enough of him: we can admire beauty in the creature, but have no eyes to behold it in Him who is the centre and source of all. Did we but duly reflect on him, we should pant after an union with him; and despise every thing else in comparison of him. “All other knowledge would be to us but as dross and dung.” Truly “his name is as ointment poured forth; and therefore do the virgins love him [Note: Song of Solomon 1:3.].” Say, Believer, Is he not “precious” to thy soul [Note: 1 Peter 2:7.]? O that every one amongst us would be persuaded to go into this garden, and compare the fragrance of this “rose,” and the purity of this “lily,” with all that ever his eyes beheld, or his most impassioned sense experienced! O that all might “behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father;” “the brightness of whose glory he is, and the express image of his person [Note: John 1:14.Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:3.]!” The effect of such a sight cannot be conceived by those who never yet beheld it: for we should be constrained by it to cry out, “How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty [Note: Zechariah 9:17.]!” and, whilst beholding his glory, we should be “changed into his image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of our God [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].” Go, beloved, into the holy mount, and converse with him; and you shall come down, like Moses, irradiated with the beams of his glory. Be conversant with this “lily,” and ye shall become “lilies” yourselves.]
Let us receive kindly his overtures—
[We have before shewn, that this is a dialogue between Christ us a Bridegroom, and the Church as his Spouse. Into this relation Christ is desirous to bring us all. We come in his name, to invite you all to unite yourselves with him; we come, that we may “present every soul among you as a chaste virgin to Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2.].” Hear the invitation given, as it were, from his own lips: “I will betroth thee unto me for ever: yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord [Note: Hosea 2:19-20.].” Beloved Brethren, Who is there that has such a title to your affections as He? Who can make you so happy as He? Have not all other sources of comfort proved as “broken cisterns, that can hold no water?” Why then will ye not “come to the fountain of living waters?”
Say not, “I am unworthy of this high honour.” Who is not unworthy? Who could ever have obtained it by any worthiness of his own? Every creature that was ever united to him was first a wretched, helpless outcast, like thyself [Note: Ezekiel 16:4-8.]: and, if thou desire an union with him, be assured that “he will never cast thee out.” Only “come to his banqueting-house, and his banner over thee shall be love [Note: ver. 4.].”]
Let us duly estimate our privileges—
[The happiness of the soul that is united unto Christ, no words can declare, no imagination can conceive. Only hear the terms in which He and his Spouse speak of each other: her he calls, “My Love:” and of him she speaks in that endearing term, “My Beloved.” Think, for a moment, what immense, what inconceivable privileges are implied in these terms, whether as applied by him to us, or by us to him! Whatever he is, he is for you: whatever he has, he possesses for you: whatever he does, he does for you; whatever he enjoys, he enjoys as your Head, your Representative, your Forerunner: “The glory which his Father has given him, He has given you.” You may enjoy earthly sweets, and they will cloy; yea, the most fragrant rose will fade. Not so “the Rose of Sharon:” its fragrance will be undiminished to all eternity. You may sit under the shadow of other trees, and their foliage shall fail; yea, like Jonah’s gourd, they may wither in a night: but not so “the apple-tree that grows in the midst of the Paradise of God:” there is no worm at the root of that: its benign influence shall endure for ever: and its delicious fruits be ever new. Make then these things your own, by “apprehending Christ,” and giving yourselves up to him: for “all things are yours, if ye be Christ’s.” Only “taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is:” and having once “tasted that the Lord is gracious, you will never rest till you can say “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.”]
Let us walk worthy of our high relation—
[If one be brought into union with an earthly monarch, she feels an obligation to conduct herself henceforth in a way suited to her high calling. And shall not we, when united to “the King of kings?” Yes: we must resemble him, and exhibit, according to the measure of the grace conferred upon us, the mind that was in him. Let us especially resemble him in his humility and purity. We are not indeed to “bow down our heads as a bulrush,” as if we were in a pitiable and disconsolate state: but to bow our heads as “the lily,” is our beauty and our excellence. Never does the Christian look so beautiful as when he is “low in his own eyes.” Surely whatever may have been done for us, and in us, we must still to our latest hour “walk humbly with God.” We must also be pure and spotless as the lily; yea, “blameless and harmless as the sons of God.” We must not be contented with low attainments; but must seek to “walk worthy of the Lord himself,” “whose we are, and whom we profess to serve.” Let this be the one object of our ambition: and, as we profess to surpass every flower of the field in fragrance and beauty, let us so live, that we may not fear a comparison with any of the sons of men. Let us not be found vain boasters of privileges that are merely ideal: but, whilst we profess to enjoy so much in and through the Lord Jesus, let it be seen, that, “having this hope, we do indeed purify ourselves, even as he is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 2". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30