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THE CHRISTIAN’S RELIANCE ON CHRIST
Song of Solomon 8:5. Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved?
THERE is an intimate and mysterious union between Christ and his Church. It is often compared, in Scripture, to a marriage union: and in the book before us, the Song of Solomon, there is a figurative representation of the intercourse which subsists between Christ and his Church under this relation. A third description of persons, called “the daughters of Jerusalem,” are occasionally introduced, to diversify the dialogue, and to enliven it by bearing their part in it. The words of the text seem to be uttered by them. The Church had, in the four preceding verses, expressed her desire after more familiar and abiding fellowship with her divine Husband: and the bystanders, admiring and felicitating her state, exclaim “Who is this?” &c.
I will endeavour briefly,
To throw light upon the words thus addressed to the Church—
There does not, indeed, appear any considerable difficulty in them; especially if we bear in mind the passage of the Israelites through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. This world may fitly be represented as “a wilderness”—
[That through which the Israelites passed is called “a waste howling wilderness [Note: Deuteronomy 32:10.];” “a land of deserts and of pits, a land of drought and of the shadow of death [Note: Jeremiah 2:6.];” a land “wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions; and drought, where there was no water [Note: Deuteronomy 8:15.].” And such, indeed, is this vain world to the weary pilgrim. It affords nothing for the comfort and refreshment of a heavy-laden soul; but furnishes obstructions without number, snares at every step, and enemies filled with the most envenomed hostility — — —]
Through this the Christian is passing, in his way to heaven—
[He has, of necessity, his duties to perform, like other men. But “though in the world, he is not of the world [Note: John 17:6.].” He regards not this world as his rest; but merely as a country through which he must go, towards “that better country which he is seeking after.” He accounts himself a “pilgrim and a stranger upon earth [Note: Hebrews 11:13.];” and advances on his journey with all practicable expedition, “not setting his affections on any thing by the way [Note: Colossians 3:2.],” but looking forward to the termination of his labours in a better world — — —]
In all his way, “he leans upon his beloved” Saviour for support—
[He feels his insufficiency for the work he has to perform: but “he knows in whom he has believed, that he is able to sustain him, and to keep that which he has committed to him [Note: 2 Timothy 1:12.].” No sick or enfeebled traveller places a more entire dependence on one who has undertaken to bear him onward, than the Christian does on Christ, who has engaged to perform this office, saying, “Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you [Note: Isaiah 46:4.].” He would account it a most heinous offence if for a moment he should “trust to an arm of flesh [Note: Jeremiah 17:5.];” and with a holy indignation at the thought of placing any confidence in the creature, he says, “Ashur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands. Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy [Note: Hosea 14:3.].” In a word, the whole habit of the Christian’s mind, throughout this dreary wilderness, is that which the holy Psalmist addressed to his Lord and Saviour: “Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not:” “hold thou me up, and I shall be safe [Note: Psalms 17:5.].”]
But my object is, to mark the spirit of my text, and,
To point out more particularly the force of the interrogation—
I should say, that, in its strictest sense, it appears to express admiration: but we may very properly consider it as the language,
[“Who is this?” Is there, amongst ourselves, any one answering to this character? Am I this happy person? Do I so live in this world, that the by-standers notice the peculiarity of my walk, and my entire devotion to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Do I, instead of loving the world, account it a dreary wilderness? Do I renounce, as in my baptismal vows I undertook to do, all the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh? and “am I daily dying unto the world,” to its cares, its pleasures, its maxims, its habits, its company altogether? Am I “crucified unto the world, and is the world crucified unto me by the cross of Christ,” so that I value it no more than a man does who is in the very article of death [Note: Galatians 6:14.]? And, in my passage through this wilderness, am I leaning constantly on my beloved Saviour, saying, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.]?” This is, indeed, the character of the true Christian; and we are commanded to “examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith, and to prove our own selves [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.].” I would entreat you, therefore, to make this a subject of most serious inquiry; and to ask yourselves, Am I the person characterized in the words of our text?]
[This I suppose to be the more immediate feeling expressed in my text. And truly a person so circumstanced as the Bride here was, is one of the greatest wonders upon earth. Conceive yourselves to be that person;—that such an earthly and sensual creature, as every one of you must know yourselves to be, should so renounce the world!—that such a polluted creature should enjoy such intimacy with the Lord of Glory! that such a weak creature should persevere, in despite of so many obstacles both within and without! May not such an one well say, “I am a wonder unto many [Note: Psalms 71:7.]?” Must he not, above all, be a wonder to himself? “Who am I that I should be so honoured; whilst the world at large are left to walk after the imaginations of their own evil hearts, and to “live as without God in the world!”]
[No man in the universe is so to be congratulated, as he who dies to the world, and seeks all his happiness in Christ. Think with yourselves from what imminent danger he has escaped. “The whole world is lying in wickedness [Note: 1 John 5:19.],” and will be condemned at last [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:32.]; but “he has been taken out of the world [Note: John 15:19.],” and been delivered from it, even as Lot from Sodom. Is not he a fit object for congratulation? But consider, further, to what a glorious place he is hastening; even to heaven itself, where he shall speedily possess “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away [Note: 1 Peter 1:4.].” Behold, too, to what a blessed company he is joined! “He is come to an innumerable company of angels; and to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of the just made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant; and to all these, as his everlasting companions.” Think, also, how near he is to all this felicity, every day and hour bearing him towards it, as fast as the wings of time can carry him. And, above all, what an all-sufficient support he has in his way thither, even his beloved Lord, “who is able to keep him from falling, and to present him faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude ver. 24.].” Tell me, Who is happy in comparison of him? Who is to be congratulated, if he be not?]
Is there here a weak believer, who doubts whether such an one as he can ever attain this blessedness?
[Let him trust in Christ, and not be afraid: for none ever perished, who trusted in Him. As for a man’s own weakness and insufficiency, that can be no bar to his attainment of this felicity; since the Lord Jesus Christ is “able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him [Note: Hebrews 7:25.];” and he has expressly told us, that “he will carry the lambs in his bosom, and gently lead them that are with young [Note: Isaiah 40:11.].” Only take care that he be for you; and then you may hurl defiance at all that are against you.]
But is there any backslider that is turning back to the world?
[O, think what you are doing; and what tremendous evils you are bringing upon your soul! What has this vain world ever done for you, that it should influence you by its attractions? — — — And what has Christ not done for you, whilst you sought him, and relied upon him! Hear his complaint against you: “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel; a land of darkness! Wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee [Note: Jeremiah 2:31.]?” The world has been a wilderness to you, at all times: but has Christ been so? Has he been so at any moment, when you sought your happiness in him? Hear, and tremble at the warning given you by an inspired Apostle: “If, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome (a case that too frequently occurs), the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them [Note: 2 Peter 2:20-61.2.21.].” And is there one in such an unhappy state as this? “Who is he?” Let every one inquire, “Lord, is it I?” And whoever he may be, let us all regard him as an object of the deepest commiseration.—The Lord awaken all such ere it be too late!]
THE CHURCH’S DESIRE OF CHRIST’S LOVE
Song of Solomon 8:6-22.8.7. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
THE more any person enjoys of Christ, the more ardent will be his desires after him, and the more enlarged his petitions for richer communications from him. The Church, as represented in the song before us, has already been brought into the closest fellowship with her Beloved; yet this, so far from satisfying her, serves only for an occasion of soliciting from him yet further favours, and urging her request with more powerful pleas: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, and upon thine arm; &c.” That in this we may be stirred up to follow her example, let us notice,
To fix the import of this, we must determine the precise sense in which the Bride uses the word, “seal.” In the general acceptation of that term in Scripture, we understand that which is affixed to deeds or covenants of any kind, in order to ratify and confirm them. Such was that with which Jeremiah’s purchase of a field was confirmed [Note: Jeremiah 32:10-24.32.11; Jeremiah 32:14.]; and in reference to such was circumcision appointed to Abraham, as the seal of God’s covenant with him, and of the righteousness which he, by faith in that covenant, already possessed [Note: Romans 4:11.]; whilst, on the other hand, God’s foreknowledge and fore-ordination of his elect is a seal on his part, attesting that that covenant stands on a sure and immoveable foundation [Note: 2 Timothy 2:19.]. In a similar sense, the Holy Spirit’s work in sanctifying the elect is a seal, whereby he seals them unto the day of redemption, and assures to them their enjoyment of their purchased inheritance [Note: Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30.]. But we apprehend that the use of the term in this place is different; and that it refers to signets which were not uncommonly worn upon the hand or arm, as memorials of persons who were greatly beloved. Such we find mentioned by the Prophet Jeremiah; “As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence [Note: Jeremiah 22:24.],” utterly unmindful of all my former regards. In this view the Church’s request is, that her Beloved would make her the object of his most endeared affections, and of his continual care. Now,
This is a proper request from every child of man—
[All without exception are invited to come to Christ [Note: John 6:37.], and tu participate freely his richest blessings [Note: Isaiah 55:1.]. Unworthiness on our part is no bar to our acceptance with him; since all, however elevated and ennobled afterwards, are, previously to their union with him, in the lowest state of guilt [Note: Romans 3:19.] and degradation [Note: Ezekiel 16:3-26.16.12.]. He, and all his benefits, are to be apprehended simply by faith [Note: John 1:12.]. Whosoever comes to him by faith is united to him, as a branch to the vine [Note: John 15:1-43.15.5.], and may expect to receive out of his fulness all that has been treasured up in him for our use and benefit [Note: John 15:7.]. We may ask for the entire affections of his soul, and the unlimited exercise of his power, as if there were no other creature in the universe to share his regards. Less than this we ought not to ask. Less than this would not avail for our eternal happiness. We must have all the love of his heart, and all the power of his arm, if we would be brought through all our difficulties and trials to the everlasting enjoyment of him in his kingdom. Whatever the most beloved Bride may hope for from him to whom she is betrothed, that, and infinitely more, may we expect from our heavenly Bridegroom — — —]
And it shall be fulfilled to all who offer it in spirit and in truth—
[Christ has solemnly pledged himself to this extent by an everlasting covenant [Note: Jeremiah 32:40-24.32.41.]— — — And he has fulfilled it to millions of the human race, who were once as guilty, as polluted, and as helpless as we — — — Hence he chides the Church for her doubts, after that he had graven her on the palms of his hands [Note: Isaiah 49:14-23.49.16.] — — — Who can tell the efficacy of fervent and believing prayer? Our God and Saviour could as soon deny himself, as he could withstand it. Instead of rejecting our petitions on account of their being too large, he will approve of them the more, and answer them the sooner, on account of their comprehensiveness and extent: he has said, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it [Note: Psalms 81:10.]:” “Ye may ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you [Note: John 14:13-43.14.14.].”]
We shall, however, be more certain of success, if we can follow her in,
Two things in particular she urged on the consideration of her Beloved, in order to prevail on him to grant her request; the one was, that she could not endure the thought of having a less interest in him than her relation to him required, yea, that her “jealousy would burn like coals of fire that had a most vehement flame;” and the other was, that her love to him was supreme and unalterable; that it was “stronger than death;” that “no waters could quench it, no floods drown it;” and that, if the richest monarch in the universe would “give all the substance of his house” to engage it for himself, “it would be utterly contemned.”
Now in these pleas we see,
What distress is occasioned by a doubt of Christ’s love to us—
[To have it a doubtful point whether we be children of God and heirs of heaven, or children of the wicked one and heirs of hell, is a source of unutterable anguish to every man who knows not what “a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God [Note: Hebrews 10:31.].” How bitterly did Job bewail his condition, whilst he apprehended God to be his enemy! “The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me [Note: Job 6:4.].” David likewise in many of his Psalms pours out similar complaints [Note: Psalms 42:1-19.42.3; Psalms 77:1-19.77.4; Psalms 77:7-19.77.9; Psalms 88:1-19.88.7; Psalms 102:1-19.102.6; Psalms 102:9-19.102.11.]— — — Careless and ungodly men can rest satisfied without any inquiries: but an awakened man cannot be so indifferent about his interest in Christ: to him suspense is death: he feels “a jealousy cruel as the grave,” (which will never suffer its destined victim to escape,) and devouring, like a flame, which consumes all within its reach.]
What consolation arises from a consciousness of our love to him—
[Though there is no merit in our love to Christ, it greatly emboldens us in our addresses to him, and gives us a just ground to hope, that he will in due time manifest his love to us, and shed it abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. He has expressly said, “I love them that love me [Note: Proverbs 8:17.];” and has assured us, that, “if we love him, his Father will love us, and come and make his abode with us [Note: John 14:21; John 14:23.].” The very circumstance of our love to him is of itself, independent of all other evidences, a proof that he does actually love us: for our love to him is the effect of his love to us; “We love him, because he first loved us [Note: 1Jn 4:10; 1Jn 4:19 and John 15:16.];” yea, “He loved us with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness hath he drawn us [Note: Jeremiah 33:3.].” If then we have within ourselves an evidence, that our love to him is supreme, and that nothing which the world could either offer to us, or inflict upon us, would induce us to surrender our hope in him, we may rest assured, not only that he is ours, but that he will be ours even to the end. We may even make this an argument with him in prayer, as David did, “I am thine: save me [Note: Psalms 119:94.]!” and as the Church of old did, “Now, O Lord, thou art our father: we are the clay, and thou our potter: and we all are the work of thy hand: Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people [Note: Isaiah 64:8-23.64.9.].” Bearing us, as he does, on his shoulders, and on his breast, in his official capacity as our High Priest within the veil [Note: Exodus 28:9-2.28.12; Exodus 28:21; Exodus 28:29-2.28.30.], we may be sure that “he will never leave us nor forsake us [Note: Hebrews 13:5.],” nor ever suffer any thing to “separate us from his love [Note: Romans 8:35-45.8.39.].]
Learn from hence,
What should be the frame of your minds towards the Lord Jesus Christ—
[Our hearts should be supremely set on him, and we should “count all things but loss for the knowledge of him.” So ardent should our love to him be, that no floods of affliction or persecution should ever be able to drown it, nor all that the world can give stand for a moment in competition with it — — — Examine yourselves, Brethren, and see whether it be really so? Can ye, in answer to the question put by our Lord to Peter, make the reply that Peter did, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee?” — — —]
What we should daily look for at his hands—
[Your security and happiness depend altogether upon his unchanging love. Were he to withdraw from underneath you his everlasting arms, you would instantly fall and perish. Entreat him then to “carry you in his bosom,” and to “bear you still as upon eagles’ wings.” Plead with him in earnest prayer; and let him not go until he bestow his blessing upon you. “You are not straitened in him: be not straitened in your own bowels:” and let all the fellowship which you enjoy with him here, be regarded by you as a pledge and earnest of still closer fellowship with him in the regions of eternal light and blessedness.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 8". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany