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Song of Solomon 1:1
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
The Song of Solomon
The Song of Songs is Solomon’s, as composed by the wisest of men, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and Solomon’s also as composed concerning the true Solomon the Prince of Peace, of whom the son of David was an eminent type. It belongs to the earthly Solomon, as the skilful work of his hands; to the heavenly Solomon, as the utterance of his heart to the Church, and of the heart of the Church towards him. (A. Moody Stuart.)
Song of Solomon 1:2
Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth: for Thy love is better than wine.
Communion with Christ
1. Such as have the least taste of Christ’s love, are impatient and restless in their desires after the nearest fellowship and communion with Him. The Church here desires Christ’s manifestation in the flesh, that she might enjoy him in a Gospel-dispensation, and have sweeter discoveries of His favour: so in like manner the Church of the New Testament, who did enjoy all the privileges of the Gospel; yet she goes higher in her affections, and desires Christ’s last coming, that so she might enjoy Him in that heavenly and everlasting communion, which the saints shall enjoy hereafter.
2. Christ hath given more sweet and comfortable pledges of love and reconciliation to His people under the Gospel, than He did under the Law (Luke 10:24; Hebrews 12:18-20; Hebrews 12:22; Ephesians 4:8).
3. The doctrine of the Gospel is very sweet and desirable (Heb 6:5; 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 2:17).
4. Those strong desires and earnest longings of the faithful after Christ, flow from a principle of love (2 Corinthians 5:15; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:4). Christ is the ocean of spiritual love, from whence we derive, and into which we return our love: so that our love proceeds from Christ’s love; His love is as a loadstone, attractive, drawing our affections to Him; our love is as the reflecting back to Him again the beams of His own love.
5. The love of God in Christ is an infinite and a manifold love.
(1) His electing love (Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 1:11).
(2) His redeeming love, whereby He hath brought His from the bondage of sin into glorious liberty and freedom (Galatians 4:4; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6).
(3) God’s love of calling; the outward is a bare propounding of the Gospel; but the inward call is a spiritual enlightening, “to know the hope of His calling” (Ephesians 1:17). And that whereby the soul is made able to apprehend Him, of whom it is apprehended (Philippians 3:12).
(4) God’s justifying love, whereby He doth free and discharge His people from sin and death, and accounts them righteous in Christ.
(5) His adopting love, whereby He accepts the faithful, unto the dignity of sons (John 1:12; Romans 8:17).
(6) His sanctifying love, whereby He doth free believers from the filthiness of sin, and restore in them again the image of God, which consisteth of righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).
(7) His glorifying love, whereby He lifts up His people unto that state of life and glory, and gives them an immortal inheritance, where all comfort, peace, and joy shall abound, and where they shall have the communion of the chiefest good, the love of God shining forth immediately upon their hearts. (John Robotham.)
Thy love is better than wine.
Better than wine
I. Christ’s love is better than wine because of what it is not.
1. It may be taken without question. Many delightsome things, manor of the pleasures of this world, are very questionable enjoyments. Christians had better keep away from everything about which their consciences are not perfectly clear; but all our consciences are clear concerning the Lord Jesus, and our heart’s love to Him; so that, in this respect, His love is better than wine.
2. It is to be had without money. Many a man has beggared himself, and squandered his estate, through his love of worldly pleasure, and especially through his fondness for wine; but the love of Christ is to be had without money. The love of Christ is unpurchased; and I may add that it is unpurchasable. Christ’s love is the freest thing in the world,--free as the sunbeam, free as the mountain torrent, free as the air.
3. It is to be enjoyed without cloying. If ever there was a man on earth who had Christ’s love in him to the full, it was holy Samuel Rutherford; yet you can see in his letters how he laboured for suitable expressions while trying to set forth his hungering and thirsting after the love of Christ. He says he floated upon Christ’s love like a ship upon a river, and then he quaintly asks that his vessel may founder, and go to the bottom, till that blessed stream shall flow right over the masthead of his ship. He wanted to be baptized into the love of Christ, to be flung into the ocean of his Saviour’s love; and this is what the true Christian ever longs for.
4. It is without lees. There is nothing in the Lord Jesus Christ that we could wish to have taken away from Him; there is nothing in His love that is impure, nothing that is unsatisfactory. Our precious Lord is comparable to the most fine gold; there is no alloy in Him,; nay, there is nothing that can be compared with Him, for “He is altogether lovely,” all perfections melted into one perfection, and all beauties combined into one inconceivable beauty.
5. It will never, as wine will, turn sour. He is the same loving Saviour now as ever He was, and such He always will be, and He will bring us to the rest which remaineth for the people of God.
6. It produces no ill effects. Many are the mighty men who have fallen down slain by wine. But who was ever slain by the love of Christ? Who was ever made wretched by this love?
II. Christ’s love is better than wine because of what it is. Let me remind you of some of the uses of wine in the East.
1. Often, it was employed as a medicine, for it had certain healing properties. The good Samaritan, when he found the wounded man, poured into his wounds “oil and wine.” But the love of Christ is better than wine; it may not heal the wounds of the flesh, but it does heal the wounds of the spirit.
2. Wine, again, was often associated by men with the giving of strength. Now, whatever strength wine may give or may not give, certainly the love of Jesus gives strength mightier than the mightiest earthly force, for when the love of Jesus Christ is shed abroad in a man’s heart, he can bear a heavy burden of sorrow.
3. Wine was also frequently used as the symbol of joy; and certainly, in this respect, Christ’s love is better than wine. Whatever joy there may be in the world (and it would be folly to deny that there is some sort of joy which even the basest of men know), yet the love of Christ is far superior to it.
4. It is better than wine, once more, for the sacred exhilaration which it gives. The love of Christ is the grandest stimulant of the renewed nature that can be known. It enables the fainting man to revive from his swooning; it causes the feeble man to leap up from his bed of languishing; and it makes the weary man strong again.
III. The marginal reading of our text is in the plural: “Thy loves are better than wine,” and this teaches us that Christ’s love may be spoken of in the plural, because it manifests itself in so many ways.
1. Think of Christ’s covenant love, the love He had to us before the world was.
2. Think next of Christ’s forbearing love.
3. Aye! but the sweetness to us was when we realized Christ’s personal love, when at last we were brought to the foot of His cross, humbly confessing our sins.
4. When you first felt Christ’s forgiving love, I will not insult you by asking whether it was not better than wine. That was a love that was inconceivably precious; at the very recollection, our heart leaps within us, and our soul doth magnify the Lord.
5. Since that glad hour, we have been the subjects of Christ’s accepting love, for we have been “accepted in the Beloved.”
6. We have also had Christ’s guiding love, and providing love, and instructing love: His love in all manner of ways has come to us, and benefited and enriched us.
7. And we have had sanctifying love; we have been helped to fight this sin and that, and to overcome them by the blood of the Lamb.
8. The Lord has also given us sustaining love under very sharp troubles. Some of us could tell many a story about the sweet upholding love of Christ,--in poverty, or in bodily pain, or in deep depression of spirits, or under cruel slander, or reproach. His left hand has been under our head while His right hand has embraced us.
9. Then let us reflect with shame upon Christ’s enduring love to us. Why, even since we have been converted, we have grieved Him times without number! Yet He uses the most kind and endearing terms towards us to show that His love will never die away. Glory be to His holy name for this! Is not His love better than wine?
10. There is one word I must not leave out, and that is, Christ’s chastening love. I know that many of you who belong to Him have often smarted under His chastening hand, but Christ never smote you in anger yet. Whenever He has laid the cross on your back, it has been because He loved you so much that He could not keep it off.
11. There are other forms of Christ’s love yet to be manifested to you. Do you not sometimes tremble at the thought of dying? Oh, you shall have--and you ought to think of it now,--you shall have special revelations of Christ’s love in your dying moments. Then shall you say, like the governor of the marriage feast at Cana, “Thou hast kept the good wine until now.
12. And then--but perhaps I had better be silent upon such a theme,--when the veil is drawn, and the spirit has left the body, what will be the bliss of Christ’s love to the spirits gathered with Him in glory?
13. Then think of the love of the day of our resurrection, for Christ loves. Our bodies as well as our souls; and, arrayed in glory, these mortal bodies shall rise from the tomb. With a life coeval with the life of God, and an immortality divinely given, we shall outlast the sun; and when the moon grows pale, and wanes for ever, and this old earth and all that is therein shall be burned up, yet still shall we be for ever with Him. Truly, His love is better than wine, it is the very essence of Heaven, it is better than anything that we can conceive.
IV. Christ’s love in the singular.--Look at the text as it stands: “Thy love is better than wine.”
1. Think first, of the love of Christ in the cluster. That is where the wine is first. We talk of the grapes of Eshcol; but these are not worthy to be mentioned in comparison with the love of Jesus Christ as it is seen, in old eternity, in the purpose of God, in the covenant of grace, and afterwards, in the promises of the Word, and in the various revelations of Christ in the types and symbols of the ceremonial law. There I see the love of Christ in the cluster.
2. Next, look at the love of Christ in the basket, for the grapes must be gathered, and cast into the basket, before the wine can be made. Oh, the love of Jesus Christ in the manger of Bethlehem, the love of Jesus in the workshop of Nazareth, the love of Jesus in His holy ministry, the love of Jesus in the temptation in the wilderness, the love of Jesus in His miracles, the love of Jesus in His communion with His disciples, the love of Jesus in bearing shame and reproach for our sakes, the love of Jesus in bring so poor that He had not where to lay His head, the love of Jesus in enduring such contradiction of sinners against Himself!
3. But oh! if your hearts have any tenderness towards Him, think of the love of Christ in the wine-press. What a crushing was that under the foot of the treader of grapes when Christ sweat as it were great drops of blood, and how terribly did the great press come down again and again when He gave His back to the smiters, and Sis cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not His face from shame and spitting! But oh! how the red wine flowed from the wine-press, what fountains there were of this precious sweetness, when Jesus was nailed to the cross, suffering in body, depressed in spirit, and forsaken of His God! “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” These are the sounds that issue from the wine-press, and how terrible and yet how sweet they are!
4. Now I want you to think of the love of Christ in the flagon, where His precious love is stored up for His people;--the love of His promises, given to you; the love of His providence, for He rules for you; the love of His intercession, for He pleads for you; the love of His representation, for He stands at the right hand of the Father as the Representative of His people; the love of His union with His people, for you are one with Him, He is the Head, and you are the members of His Body; the love of all that He is, and all that He was, and all that He ever shall be, for in every capacity and under all circumstances He loves you, and will love you without end.
5. And then not only think of, but enjoy the love of Christ in the cup, by which I mean His love to you. For this we have the declaration of inspiration; nay, we have more even than that to confirm it beyond all question, for we have His own death upon the cross. He signed this document with His own blood, in order that no believer might ever doubt its authenticity. “Herein is love.” “Behold what manner of love” there is in the cross! What wondrous love is there! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ’s love is better than wine
I. For its antiquity. Good old wine is accounted the best (Luke 5:39). Now no wine is comparable to this of Christ’s love, for its antiquity; for it is a love which commences from everlasting; it does not bear date with time, but was before time was.
II. For its purity. It is wine on the lees well refined, free from all dregs of deceit, hypocrisy, and dissimulation; it is a love unfeigned, a pure river of water of life.
III. For its freeness and cheapness.
IV. For the plenty of it. In the marriage at Cana of Galilee, there was want of wine; but there is no want thereof in this feast of love: this is a river, nay, an ocean of love, which flows forth in plentiful streams to poor sinners.
V. In the effects of it.
1. Wine will revive and cheer a man that is of a heavy heart (Proverbs 31:6).
2. Wine may remove a worldly heaviness, or a sorrow on the account of worldly things, the things of time; but not a spiritual heaviness, or a sorrow on the account of the things of another world, the things of eternity; but the manifestation of Christ’s love to the soul, can remove this sorrow and heaviness, and fill it with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, and give him that ease, and comfort, and satisfaction of mind, he is wishing for.
3. If a man drinks never such large draughts of the wine of Christ’s love, it will never hurt him; when other wine, with excessive drinking of it, not only wastes the estates, but consumes the bodies, and destroys the health of men; but of this a man may drink freely and plentifully, without doing himself any hurt; nay, it will be of considerable advantage to him, and therefore says Christ (Song of Solomon 5:1). (John Gill, D. D.)
Song of Solomon 1:3
Because of the savour of Thy good ointments, Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love Thee.
The preciousness of Christ
In Christ are contained all those attractive beauties--those excellencies, which are adapted to win souls to Himself, and to God in Him. The rose and the lily, every flower of the garden, and every tree of the forest, are brought together at once, to illustrate to us the rich and varied excellence of Him who is “altogether lovely.” The rays of the sun are sometimes collected together by a burning-glass, and made to rest on a certain point, and there to burn with great fervour. Oh! the rays of the Sun of Righteousness seem to be gathered together here.
I. The Anointing of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost,--“Because of the savour of Thy good ointment.” Now, this anointing of Christ implies two things, His call and qualification,--His call to, and qualification for, all the offices entrusted to Him by His Father. Christ, being set forth to us, as anointed by the Holy Ghost to all His offices, invites and claims all our confidence that we should come to God, through Him, and repose unlimited trust in Him as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
II. Because of this anointing, “His name is as ointment poured forth” because of His covenant offices, His name is sweet and fragrant to the perception of all those who believe in His name. The name of the Lord implies everything whereby God is made known to us, even all the attributes of God. Before Christ became incarnate, the ointment, as it were, was shut up in a box, it was not poured forth; the only begotten Son was in the bosom of the Father, so that there was not that full development of the gracious purposes of God to sinners which afterwards took place in His incarnation. Even after His incarnation, and during the days of His flesh in this world, the fragrance of His name was little perceived, the ointment was not fully discovered, some little perfume rejoiced the hearts of the few disciples who had grace to wait upon Him. It was when Christ was lifted up on the cross, when the vial which held the precious ointment was broken, that the dying thief was quickened to newness of life by the fragrance of it, and acknowledged his anointed King in his expiring agonies. But there was a still further manifestation after the resurrection, and the outpouring of the Spirit. That was the day indeed when the name of Jesus was as ointment poured forth. The apostles are now filled with its sweetness, and ravished with its fragrance, and now, their own souls being possessed with the unspeakable preciousness of the Lord Jesus as the Saviour of sinners, they show forth that knowledge to others, they proclaim the name of Jesus.
III. “therefore do the virgins love thee.” Virgin souls are attracted to Christ by the fragrance of Christ’s sweet name, so that they love Christ. Now what is signified by the expression, virgins? You have the same word in Psalms 45:14, where the Church as a bride is brought to the bridegroom. Individual believers are called by that name of virgins which indicates purity, holiness, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And how shall their hearts be purified? You have it in Acts 15:1-41. that God purifies their hearts by faith; they believed in the Son of God, and their hearts were purified; their hearts, which before were like “a sepulchre full of dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness,” are cleansed. Now, where the heart is purified by faith in Christ, that heart will embrace Christ and love Him. (H. Verschoyle, M. A.)
As ointment poured forth
1. First, it may be taken to intimate the greater discoveries of the riches of His grace which have been made to us under the Gospel. Adam had a savour of the ointment in the promise made to him of “the seed of the woman”; Abraham had, as it were, drops of the precious unguent granted to him when, rejoicing in the day of Christ, he saw it and was glad. But now, in these Gospel times, the box containing the ointment is broken. As bees to a garden of spices, all nations flow to this Divine compound of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
2. Again, the expression seems to intimate that a right apprehension of Christ in His work, character, and offices, will conduce to religious cheerfulness and joy. The use of ointments in the East, on account of their cooling and refreshing properties, often furnishes the sacred writers with an expressive image for all that is bright, and beautiful, and happy. To know Christ, then--what He is, what He says, what He has done for us, what He is doing now; to know Him as our Shepherd to guide, our Staff to uphold, our Rock to flee to, “from storms a Shelter, and from heat a Shade”;--to know Christ in all these beneficent and happy relations, should make the heart glad, and the hands strong, and the tread firm.
3. Another reflection arising out of this passage is the obligation which lies upon us to make Christ known to others. “The savour of Thy name is as ointment; “but then not ointment as it is pent up, hoarded, not suffered to escape from its case of alabaster, but ointment as it is “poured forth,” diffused far and wide, reviving all who come near to it with the odour of its perfumes, and having life and healing on its wings. (D. Moore, M. A.)
Song of Solomon 1:4
Draw me, we will run after Thee.
I. Man needs to be divinely drawn to God.
1. He is far away from God in heart, life, and purpose.
2. Has no inclination to return.
3. Is every moment wandering farther.
4. His understanding needs to be enlightened, his affections to be won, his will changed, and his whole life and being drawn God-ward.
II. God is ever seeking to draw men to himself.
1. By loving words.
2. By merciful deeds.
3. By gracious revelations of Himself and of His purposes, as in Christ His Son.
4. By the influences of His Holy Spirit.
III. Man’s proper attitude in relation to the divine drawings. Here is--
1. A sense of need.
2. Candid acknowledgment of it.
3. Earnest prayer--“Draw me.”
4. A spirit of obedience--“and we will run after Thee.”
5. Eager desire to come to God with all possible diligence--“we will run after Thee.” (Thomas Haynes.)
I. A humble admission.
1. Of ourselves we cannot come to God. Need to be drawn (John 6:44). Disposition to procrastinate (Acts 24:25).
2. What holds us back?
(1) Natural bias of will.
(2) Strength of temptation.
(3) Spell of the world.
3. Yet, over against this reluctance to come, see God’s gracious promise (John 12:32; Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:4).
II. An earnest request. Appeal to God to “draw” the soul.
1. Christ draws by silence--woman of Canaan.
2. By a look--Peter.
3. By a word--Mary of Magdalen at sepulchre.
4. By afflictions--the two sisters at Bethany.
III. An eager promise. If drawn, “we will run after Thee.” What does this promise imply?
1. We will lead a new life. Instead of after sin, now “alter Thee.”
2. We will lead an active life--“run.”
3. We will lead a useful life. Not “I,” but “we,” will run, etc.
Drawn myself, I will induce others to run with me in the way of Thy commandments. Conclusion: Two drawing powers are plying us. Satan is draw ing. Christ is drawing. How different the two drawings! Satan’s downward. Christ’s upward. Which of the two prevails in your case? (Preacher’s Assistant.)
The Church’s prayer for nearer communion and fellowship with Christ
1. Let us note, first, what it is the Church desires--what every pious soul must desire who would make a prayer to Christ at all: “Draw me, allure me, bring my soul under the power of a holy and Divine captivity. It is a prayer of the believer that he may feel all the oppositions of the unregenerate nature giving way; that, by the spell of some holy fascination resting upon him, he may feel his will drawn into absolute and entire concurrence with the Divine will. “Draw me,” says the Church, “with lovingkindness, and compassions, and mercies. Allure me to Thee by Thy Word--its promises drawing me after them, like the sweet strains of distant music; or by Thy Spirit, His holy and gentle compulsions leading me onwards, by an influence the methods of which I know not, save that thereby I am brought nearer to Christ, by having Christ brought nearer to me. Many are the things I have need to be drawn from. Draw me from the bondage of sin, which holds me; from the allurements of the world, which entangle me; from the infirmities of a fleshly nature, which still cleave to me. Draw me from my enemies, which are too many for me; from my temptations, which are too strong for me; from my fears of being forsaken, and overmastered, and finally falling away.”
2. “And we will run after Thee.” “Run;” being so drawn we could not be content with a slower pace, and the speed of the running is proportioned to the intensity of the drawing. “I made haste,” said the psalmist, “and delayed not to keep Thy commandments. Hence the expression may be taken to denote the alacrity with which, after an experimental acquaintance with Christ and the power of His grace, we shall persevere in our Christian course. None run so fast as those whom Christ draws. Thus the believer “follows on to know the Lord”; he becomes more vehemently and intensely earnest the nearer he gets to the heart of Christ. Led and lured as by some secret magnaetism--by “a sweet omnipotence, and an omnipotent sweetness,” as one of old describes it--he feels as if he could follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. “Draw me, and we will run after Thee.” The change of person should not be passed over, for it illustrates the germinating property of Divine influences. One convert makes many. He who runs well does much to quicken others’ speed. Grace is communicative, it cannot but speak. “Come, see a Man that told me all that ever I did.”
3. But mark, next, the grounds on which the Church presumes to hope for these near manifestations of Christ’s love to her. “The King hath brought me into His chambers “-that is, He has recognized the lawfulness of my espousals; He has initiated for me this covenant relation of protection, and peace, and mercy. It is on the authority of the King Himself that we and the whole Church “have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” We may take the words “bringing into the chambers” in two senses; that is, either as implying an admission to the ordinances of religion, or a more privileged insight into the truth of its doctrines. Either interpretation would fall in with the national custom which is supposed to be the source of the allusion--that of a bride being conducted to her lord’s home, both to inspect all his household treasures, and to have her future part and possession in them formally made over and acknowledged. Thus, assuming ordinances to be the chief point of the reference, how truly may we, as Christians, say, “The King hath brought me into His chambers.” Or adopting the other supposition, that by “chambers” here are meant the tuner recesses of God s truth--the deep things of the Sprat, hidden mysteries, kept secret from the foundation of the world, and which even “angels have desired to look into”--this privilege is ours also. Ours, the more we love Christ and the nearer we keep to Him. A knowledge of the things of the kingdom is reserved for the children of the kingdom. As the bridegroom would lead his affianced bride from chamber to chamber, to show his wealth, to display his treasures, to unlock his cabinet of choicest gifts, so does Christ, by His Spirit, delight to lead His people into all truth, to conduct them from knowledge to knowledge, and from promise to promise, and from glory to glory. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The believer’s prayer
I. The earnest petition. “Draw me.”
1. This is a petition which the very best of us need continually to offer. We have these three enemies ever plotting, ever drawing us--drawing us from salvation towards destruction--the world, the flesh, and the devil. We need, therefore, the magnet of God’s love to overcome these adverse “drawings,” and to guide us at last to a happy and holy heaven.
2. To whom is your petition addressed? The three Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity are employed in drawing you from earth to heaven.
(1) God the Father draws you (John 6:44).
(2) God the Son draws you (John 12:32).
(3) God the Holy Ghost draws you.
He takes of the things of Jesus, and shows them to you, making you willing converts in the day of Christ’s power.
3. But in the passage before us, the prayer, I conceive, is rather addressed to God the Son.
(1) We pray Christ to draw us from those things which will do us harm. From self, that we may not trust in our own strength.
(2) We pray Christ to draw us to those things which will do us good. We pray Him to draw us “to a throne of grace “--to His Word--to His people--to His house--and to His table. And oh, the blessed end of this “drawing”! Deborah the prophetess “drew” Sisera, with his chariots and his multitude, to Mount Tabor; but she “drew” them thither, only to give them into the hands of Barak for their destruction. But, the Lord Jesus Christ is drawing you, not to Mount Tabor, but to Mount Zion, and He is drawing you thither, not for your destruction, but for your salvation; that you may stand there with all the redeemed for the endless ages of eternity. O blessed drawing!
4. But the Lord Jesus uses means.
(1) He draws you by His Spirit; for without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing.
(2) He draws you by dark providences, and makes you say with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.”
(3) He draws you by the sunshine of prosperity (Jeremiah 31:3).
(4) He draws you by the remonstrances of conscience, as He drew the woman of Samaria at Jacob s well.
(5) He also draws you by the preaching of His Gospel, opening your hearts, as He opened the heart of Lydia, and bringing the Word home to your souls, as He did to the Thessalonians, “in power, and in demonstration of the Spirit, and in much assurance.”
II. The decided promise. “We will run after Thee.”
1. This is not the voice of nature, but of grace. Nature, unconverted nature, says, “I will run from Thee.” “I will hide myself, as did Adam, in the trees of the garden.” I will forsake the fountain of living waters, and I will hew me out other cisterns. I will say to the Lord, “Depart from me; for I desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” But grace, grace in your heart, says, “Lord, when wilt Thou come unto me? Lord, I will run after Thee. I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” It is the large-hearted obedience of one who feels that all he has belongs to Christ; who confesses that he is not his own, but that he has been bought with a price.
2. You are not content to “run” alone. You wish your fellow-men to enjoy what you are looking for; and, therefore, you promise your Divine Lord, that if He will only draw you by His grace and free Spirit, you will bring others with you. “Draw me, and we will run after Thee.” (C. Clayton, M. A.)
We have to investigate what is taught us herein of the Church and her Lord. He is to draw her; she is to hasten after His steps. This is the statement in its simplest form; but it will lead us across deep mysteries, and doctrines which have ministered food for much controversy.
I. The text brings us across the great mystery of God’s predestination. The cry of man to God is, “Draw me, and I will follow Thee.” In the New Testament we have our Blessed Lord declaring, “No man cometh unto Me, except the Father draw him.” It is asserted that God must call, before there can be any access of the creature to Him. St. Paul has accurately traced the order of Divine providence in this respect; “those whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” The act by which the Almighty draws, or calls, His people, is a consequent of His predestination. Now, wherever predestination is spoken of, it is a predestination which concerns not our final salvation or condemnation, but simply our call to the knowledge of Christ Jesus. “Whom He did foreknow,” says St. Paul, “He did predestinate--to what? why--“to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” And again in the Epistle to the Ephesians we read, “God predestinated us unto the adoption of the children, by Jesus Christ.” These are the only two places in which the apostle speaks of predestination; and it is, you observe, a predestination to the knowledge of the Gospel, to incorporation into the Christian Church, to which he alludes. He to whom the future is as the present, fixed by His high decree that some kingdoms should immediately be instructed in the truth as it is in Jesus; that others should only after the lapse of years be enlightened; that others should not be summoned to enter the fold until the thunder-clouds of the last tempest should be seen gathering in the sky. The whole history of the propagation of the Gospel, in short, the relation of the fulfilment by man’s agency of the determinate counsel of God, which in the morning of creation, whilst the first dew was yet upon the hills, traced out across them the path of evangelists and teachers, and decreed who should be called and who passed by, while yet all the generations of human kind were in the loins of Adam. And this is the predestination of the Bible; and it has, you see, nothing whatever to do with the salvation of individuals. A predestination to eternal ruin would be hopelessly irreconcileable to the Divine attributes of justice and mercy; but there is nothing so hard in accepting the doctrine of a predestination to the knowledge of Christ and His Gospel here upon the earth. We would not have you then recoil from the doctrine of God’s predestination, as from something too hard for flesh and blood. It is the alone doctrine which will explain why one is taken and another left; one people adopted into the Church, and another passed by. I cannot tell what moves the Eternal King in His dispensation of the Word of Life; but I am prepared to believe that He has a reason for all He does, and believing this, I take the doctrine of His absolute predestination as a most marvellous proof of His infinite nature. Who but God could thus comprehend in His counsels thousands of years, and myriads of living things? Even now there are millions of our race to whom the name of Christ is an unknown thing. But not according to man’s eagerness, but His own ancient counsel, does the Lord reveal Himself to those that sit in darkness: their day and their hour was predestined long since. But this predestination touches not their free-will to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and therefore do I hear but a tribute to His greatness and omniscience in the cry that floats upward from the dim waters to Him who arranges the times and seasons for every islet that sleeps upon the wave, “Draw me, we will run after Thee.”
II. Let us now consider the words as the utterance of the bride after her union with christ. Let us examine in what way they may be used by us, who have already been grafted into the family of Christ. Now with respect to ourselves, the Divine acts of predestination, justification, and sanctification, are past and gone. We are of those who were predestined to be early adopted into God’s household. So far, then, He has drawn us to Him, and we have hastened after Him; we have believed in Christ, we have taken up the sign of the Cross to be our banner; we have, in a word, accepted the Gospel, and are members of the Church, the mystical bride of the Lamb. Is there, then, no further application of the language of the text? no further drawing by the Lord God? Indeed the entire life of man is a period during which there is perpetually being exerted upon the soul a gentle violence, alluring, tempting it to follow the footsteps of Christ. The life of every man is, we believe, arranged by God in such a manner as will best conduce to his salvation. The details of our existence are so planned as to lead us unto heaven. Do you ask why any of us fall short of the promised reward? Oh! is it not because, though God draws, we hasten not after Him? We thwart God’s purposes; we resist His impulses; we counteract His designs. If we would surrender ourselves into His hands unreservedly, He would bring us safe to the eternal city. And there is yet a further truth involved in the text. It implies, that the course of the servant of God is one of constant progress and active advance. Christ is ever, as it were, moving onward; He leads us from one height of moral excellence to another. There is no rest in store for us on this side the grave. We dare not look for ease; we dare not fancy that the time shall ever come on earth when our discipline for eternity shall be over, or the lessons of our schoolhouse be learnt. He that looketh back is not fit for the kingdom of God. Whatever ye are, ye may be better; whatever ye have done, ye may do more. (Bp. Woodford.)
The soul’s delight in God
When the fields are clothed with fruithfulness, and the flowers bloom in beauty, we know that the rains and the dews have descended, and the sun has sent forth his rays of light and heat; so, when in the soul of man the fruits of holiness abound, when aspirations of faith and prayer bind him to the throne of the Eternal, it is because there has been unveiled to that soul, as existing in the heart of God, a gentleness which makes us great; the gracious and omnipotent love, which sought us when we were lost, welcomes us when we return, and leads us into the King’s own banqueting-house, where, in His presence, we make merry and are glad. Of the salvation of the Church, and of every man in it, Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
I. The attractions of the Divine love by which we are brought nigh to God. “Draw me, and we will run after Thee.” It is the language of devout aspiration, the expression of the soul’s desire for closer, holier fellowship with its Saviour King; and, by the very fact that it takes the form of prayer, we are reminded of the inborn helplessness of the soul either to enter upon or to continue in the life whereunto we are called. The best of men are open to powerful temptations; the strongest are often weary and dispirited; and if any of us are to be kept safe unto the heavenly kingdom, we must indeed pray, “Draw me, draw me unto Thyself.” And if the prayer be sincerely offered, it will assuredly be answered. God will draw you as with the cords of a man and the bands of love. By the power of His Spirit, He will illuminate your mind, and whisper to your hearts the mysteries of His love. By sweet and gentle persuasives will He win for Himself your deepest trust. The image of Christ will be so imprinted on your memory, that no succeeding waves of worldly thought or sensuous impression shall be able to erase it. The joy of living unto Him shall be so true and keen, that all lower choice shall be as poison to your soul. Duty and pleasure, inclination and delight, sacrifice and reward, shall be transmuted into one; and, unseen by others, the Son of Man shall be ever at your side to counsel, to direct, to sustain you.
II. The exalted privileges to which that love introduces us. “The King hath brought me into His chambers,” beyond the outer courts and entrance halls of His palace, and the rooms in which His servants abide, into the inner and more secluded apartments reserved for His own use; where He receives no casual visitors, but those only who possess His full confidence, who are entrusted with the most responsible tasks of his government, and are honoured with marks of His special regard. We are the Lord’s free men; not servants merely, but friends, who have the continued right of access to His presence, receive direct communications of His will, and are entrusted with tasks of highest moment. We arc brought into the King’s chambers, and can there tell out to Him the sorrows of our heart, and seek His help in every form of need. The plea of the penitent and aspiring suppliant, the adoration of the reverent worshipper, and the song of the victor arc alike welcome to His ear. It is the King’s chamber into which we have been introduced, and there we have perfect freedom. (James Stuart.)
The King hath brought me into His chambers.
The Kingship of Christ
Clear as a knell of pure silver, rang out the words of the strange man of Pethor, amid the goodly tents and tabernacles of Israel (Numbers 24:17). With the most captivating frenzy, Israel’s greatest bard gave grand, dramatic exhibitions of the coming Saviour--as the enthroned King (Psalms 2:1-12.); as the conquering King (Psalms 45:1-17.); as the righteous King (Psalms 72:1-20.); as the Priest King, made after the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 111:1-10.). The weeping Jeremiah wiped away his tears, as visions of a new hope broke upon him (Jeremiah 23:5-6). Gathering up the choice music of the centuries, Zechariah bursts forth into the loftiest of refrains (Zechariah 9:9). To the Virgin, the angel came ringing joy-bells, because of the Kingship of her expected Child (Luke 1:33). The Magians--those star-guided strangers--thought only of the sovereignty of the world’s Redeemer (Matthew 2:2). As soon as the guileless eyes of Nathaniel rested upon Jesus Christ, he exclaimed: “Thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Coronation Day being passed and the newly crowned potentate having entered into glory, how the subsequent disclosures that Jesus made of Himself, in the visions of Parinos, were radiant with His own royal light: We read that He is “the Prince of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5); “the King of saints” (Revelation 15:3); “the King of kings (Revelation 17:14)!
I. The elements of the Divine Kingship.
1. Christ’s Personality. A king is a man of high birth--noble ancestry--pure, good blood. Royalty is the blossom on the Tree of Humanity--the ripened fruit of the race. The Kingship of Christ calls attention, first of all, to His lofty personality--that is, to the exclusiveness of His ancestral line: the nobility of His immediate parentage, and the dignity and grandeur of His own inborn substance.
2. Christ’s Authority over His people. This is the second idea involved in His Kingship. “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour!” O, this is the new and startling lesson the Gospel brings to every man to learn: “Christ a Prince first--then a Saviour!” Submission of will, before redemption from sin! Make a whole-hearted self-surrender to Jesus, as your Lord and Master. Then will your sins be for given and you will be a child of God. But what is meant by a surrender of self to Jesus Christ? I reply, we must make Him the King of Life; the King of Truth; and the King of Money.
3. Christ’s protection of His people. This is the third element involved in His Kingship. When things seem dark for the Church, for the ultimate success of the Gospel and the triumph of Christianity, bear in mind that this glorious work is in the hands of an infinite Potentate. Glorious King! He will conquer all our enemies. He will protect His people.
II. Behold, in view of the facts stated, the high spiritual teaching of my text. Just read the second verse of this wonderful Song of Redeeming Love. There we find the awakened soul praying for reconciliation. In the third verse we find a burst of praise to the Saviour. Then comes the text, with its prayer of humility and submission: “Draw me; we will run after Thee.” We are only saved when we “run” after Jesus Christ. It is His own sovereign command; “Follow thou Me!” In the next clause, behold this saved soul’s protection--absolute safety, as to every foe: “The King hath brought me into His chambers,” i.e. into the inner, private compartment of the palace, from which the world is excluded and where no enemy can enter. This is the sacred place of the Most High, where all dwellers abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalms 91:1). This is the pavilion, where, in the time of trouble, Jesus Christ hides His people--the secret of His tabernacle, giving safety to all (Psalms 27:5); “The strong tower into which the righteous run and are safe’ (Proverbs 18:10). But this part of my text is rich beyond all we have yet seen. Truly we see Protection standing before us in all the calm dignity and infinite power of Divine sovereignty. But you know that the “chambers” of an Eastern monarch were those secluded and gorgeously furnished apartments of his palace, into which no male friend ever entered; nor yet a concubine--only the King’s most cherished wife. In these “chambers,” therefore, behold the dwelling-place of Love. That is, Christ is King of Love! Who would not exclaim: We will be glad and rejoice in Thee, seeing that Christ’s work is love- first, last and evermore! Behold this truth and go forth, from this hour, to make your religion a grand chorus-song--a sweet harp of a thousand chords--an immortal flower, ever beautiful, ever fragrant--a life spent in willing, joyful service!
III. The Kingship of Christ must be cherished in sacred memory. “We will remember Thy love more than wine; the upright love Thee.” “Wine,” here, means the world’s most desirable things: gold; learning; pleasure; power; fame; ease; human affection. But what are all these, as compared with Him who is the King of all wills, all hearts, all knowledge, all possessions, of righteousness, and of love--the Christ of God who has saved us with His own precious blood! (A. H. Moment, D. D.)
We will be glad and rejoice in Thee.--
Rejoicing and remembering
It is a very blessed habit of saints who have grown in grace to enter into actual conversation with the, Well-beloved.. Our text is not so much speaking of Him as speaking to Him: “We will be glad and rejoice in Thee, we will remember Thy love more than wine.”
I. We have here a double resolve: “We will be glad and rejoice in Thee, we will remember Thy love more than wine.”--
1. It is, first, a necessary resolve, for it is not according to human nature to rejoice in Christ, it is not according to the tendency of our poor fallen state to remember His love. There must be an act of the will with regard to this resolve; let us will it now.
2. It is also a right and proper resolve. Should we not be glad and rejoice in Christ? Why should the children of the bride-chamber fast while the Bridegroom is with them? With such a Husband as we have in Christ should not the spouse rejoice in Him?
3. Do you not think also that this resolution, if we carry it out, will be very helpful to ourselves? There is no way of getting right out of the Stygian bog of the Slough of Despond like rejoicing in the Lord.
4. Certainly, it will also be for the good of others. If you Can get right out of your sorrow, and can actually rejoice in the Lord, and if you Can so remember Him as to be glad and rejoice in Him, you will allure many to the fair ways of Christ, which else will be evil spoken of if you go mourning all your days.
5. We cannot carry out that resolve without the help of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us breathe it unto the Lord in prayer; and, as we tell Him what we mean to de, let us each one add, “Draw me, O Lord; then I will run after Thee. Help me to come to Thee; manifest Thyself to me, and then I will be glad and rejoice in Thee.”
II. The resolve of the text is a suitable resolve for this occasion: “We will be glad and rejoice in Thee, we will remember Thy love more than wine.”
1. We are most of us coming to the communion table, to eat of the bread and to drink of the cup in remembrance of our Master’s dying love. Surely, now is the hour, if ever in our lives, to be glad and rejoice in Him, and to remember Him, for the object of this supper is to commemorate His dying love. It is idle, and worse than idle, to come to Christ’s table if you do not remember Him; what good can it do you?
2. Recollect, next, that in coming to this communion table, we also commemorate the results of Christ’s death. One result of our Lord’s death is that He gives food to His people; His body broken has become bread for our souls, yea, it is meat indeed. His blood, which was shed for many for the remission of sins, has become drink indeed. So, dear friends, if we come to this table in a right spirit, we must rejoice in our Lord, and we must remember His love.
3. I think also that there is this further reason why we should rejoice in our Lord, and remember His love, because at this table the commemoration is made by our Lord to be a feast. What! will ye come to the King’s table with sorrowful countenances? Will ye come sadly to see what He has brought you?
4. Let us also recollect that, when we come to the table of our Lord, we commemorate a very happy union.
5. It does not become us to gather at this communion table with a heavy heart when we recollect that it is not only a commemoration, but an anticipation. We are to do this “till He come.” Let us leap up at the remembrance of this gladsome hope.
III. I must dwell for a brief space upon what I meant to make my third point concerning this double resolve,--let us carry it out. “We will remember Thy love. Dear Saviour, what we have to remember is Thy love,--Thy love in old eternity, or ever the earth was, Thy prescient love. We remember the love of Thine espousals when Thou didst espouse Thy people unto Thyself, and didst resolve that, whatever might be the lot of Thine elect, Thou wouldst share it with them. “We will remember Thy love,”--that love which, having once begun, has never wavered, never diminished, never stopped. We remember the love which Jesus bore in His heart right up into the glory at the right hand of the Father; that love which is still as great as when He hung on Calvary to redeem us unto Himself. Next, let each one of us say to Christ, “I will remember Thy love to me.” Still, even that is not all. The text does not merely speak about Christ’s love, and Christ’s love to me, but it talks about Christ Himself. “We will be glad and rejoice in Thee,”--not only in His love, but in Himself, Do try, dear friends, to let your thoughts dwell upon Christ, His complex person, God and man, and all the wonders which lie wrapped up in Immanuel, God with us. Thy work, Lord, is fair; but the hand that wrought the work is fairer still. Come, then, beloved, and let us be glad and rejoice in Him, and let us remember His love more than wine. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
We will remember Thy love more than wine.--
A refreshing canticle
The Hebrew word for “love” here is in the plural: “We will remember Thy loves.” Think not, however, that the love of Jesus is divided, but know that it hath different channels of manifestation. All the affections that Christ hath, He bestows upon His Church; and these are so varied that they may well be called “loves” rather than “love.” We will remember, O Jesus, that love of Thine which was displayed in the council chamber of eternity, when Thou didst, on our behalf, interpose as the Daysman and Mediator; when Thou didst strike hands with Thy Father, and become our Surety, and take us as Thy betrothed! We will remember that love which moved Thee to undertake a work so burdensome to accomplish, an enterprise which none but Thyself ever could have achieved. We will remember the love which suggested the sacrifice of Thyself; the love which, until the fulness of time, mused over that sacrifice, and longed for the hour of which, in the volume of the Book it was written of Thee, “Lo, I come.” We will remember Thy love, O Jesus, as it was manifested to us in Thy holy life, from the manger of Bethlehem to the garden of Gethsemane! We will track Thee from the cradle to the grave, for every word and every deed of Thine was love. And especially, O Jesus, will we remember Thy love to us upon the cross! Nor is this all the love we have to remember. Though we ought to recollect what we have heard, and what we have been taught, I think the spouse means more than this. “We will remember Thy loves,--not only what we have been told, but what we have felt. Let each one of you speak for yourselves; or, rather, do you think of this for yourselves, and let me speak of it for you.
I. Here, then, we have a resolution positively expressed: “We will remember Thy love.” Why does the spouse speak so positively? Because she is inspired; she is not like Simon Peter when he said, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” She is speaking the truth for she will not forget the love of her Lord. Why is that? For one very good reason, because she cannot. The virtue was not in her own constancy, but in the tenacity of his affection, wherefore she could not help remembering it. What is there, in the love of Christ, that will compel us to remember it? The things that we recollect best are of certain kinds. Some that we remember best have been sublime things. When we have stood, for the first time, where we could see a lofty mountain, whose snowy summit pierced the thick ebon clouds, we have said, “We shall never forget this sight.” The Sublimity of what we have seen often causes us to remember it. So is it with the love of Christ. How it towers to heaven! And mark how brightness succeeds brightness, how flash follows after flash of love unspeakable and full of glory! There is no pause, no interval of darkness or blackness, no chasm of forgetfulness. Its sublimity compels us to remember its manifestation. Again, we are pretty sure to recollect unusual things. Many people do not notice the stars much, but who forgets the comet? So it is with the love of Christ. It is such an extraordinary thing, such a marvellous thing, that the like was never known. That constellation of the Cross is the most marvellous that is to be seen in the spiritual sky; the eye, once spellbound by its charms, must retain its undying admiration, because it is the greatest wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles which the universe ever saw. Sometimes, too, things which are not important in themselves are fixed on the memory because of certain circumstances which happen in association with them. If something particular in politics should happen on our birthday, or our wedding day, or on some other notable occasion, we should say, “Oh, yes! I recollect that; it happened the day I was married, or the day So-and-So was buried.” Now, we can never forget the love of Christ, because the circumstances were so peculiar when, for the first time, we knew anything at all about it. We were plunged in sin and ruin; we were adrift on the great sea of sin, we had no hope, we were ready to sink, and no shore was near; but Jesus came and saved us. I think I might give you twenty reasons why it would be impossible for the children of God to forget the love of Christ to them; but above and beyond every other reason is this one, Christ will not let His people forget His love. If, at any time, He finds them forgetful, He will come to them, and refresh their memories. If all the love they have ever enjoyed should be forgotten by them, He will give them some fresh manifestations of love.
II. Now let us look at the comparative resolution: “We will remember Thy love more than wine.” Why is “wine” mentioned here? I take it to be used here as a figure. The fruit of the vine represents the chiefest of earthly luxuries. “I will remember Thy love more than the choicest or most exhilarating comforts which this world can give me.” The fact is, the impression which the love of Christ makes on the true believer is far greater and deeper than the impression which is made by anything earthly. Mere mortal joys write their record on the sand, and their memory is soon effaced; but Christ’s love is like an inscription cut deeply into marble, the remembrance of it is deeply engraven in our hearts. Earthly comforts, too, like wine, leave but a mingled impression. In the cup of joy there is a dash of sorrow. There is nothing we have here below which is not somewhat tainted with grief. But in Christ’s love there is nothing for you ever to regret; when you have enjoyed it to the full, you cannot say that there has been any bitterness in it. True, there is the remembrance of your sin, but that is so sweetly covered by your Lord’s forgiveness and graciousness, that His love is indeed better than wine. It has had all the good effects of wine, and none of its ill results. Equally true is it that the remembrance of earth’s comforts, of which wine is the type, must be but transient. If the sinner could live many days, and have much wealth, would he remember it when he entered the unseen world? Ah I he might remember it, but it would be with awful sighs and sobs. But we can say, of the love of Christ, that it is better than wine, for we shall rejoice to remember it in eternity.
III. The practical effects of remembering Christ’s love.
1. If we remember the love of Christ to us, the first practical effect will be that we shall love Him.
2. Another practical effect of remembering Christ’s love will be, love to the brethren. Christ has many very unseemly children; yet if we can but see that they are Christ s, if they have only a little likeness to Him, we love them directly for His sake, and are willing to do what we can for them out of love to Him.
3. The next effect will be, holy practice. When we remember the love of Christ to us, we shall hall sin.
4. Another effect of remembering the love of Christ will be, repose of heart in time of trouble. A constant remembrance of Christ’s love to us will make us always cheerful, dutiful, holy. Dear Lord, grant us this boon; for if Thou wilt enable us to remember Thy love more than wine, Thou wilt give us all good things in one. Let Thy good Spirit but keep us up to this good resolution, and we shall be both holy and happy, honouring Thee and rejoicing in Thee.
IV. A few practical suggestions as to preserving a deeper and more sincere remembrance of Christ’s love than you have hitherto done.
1. One of the first things I would recommend to you is, frequent meditation. See if you cannot more often get a quarter of an hour all alone, that you may sit down, and turn over and over again the love of Christ to you. Our old proverb says, “Prayer and provender hinder no man’s journey”; and I believe that prayer and meditation hinder no man’s work. Do try to get a little time to think about your soul.
2. Take care that you are not content with what you knew of Christ’s love yesterday. You want to know a little more about it to-day, and you ought to know still more about it to-morrow. If you learn a little more about Christ every day, you will not be likely to forget what you already know of Him.
3. Then, again, as another way of keeping in your heart what you do know,--take care, when you have a sense of Christ’s love, that you let it go down deeply. If there were a nail so placed that it would slacken its hold a little every day for six days, if I had the opportunity of driving it in the first day, I would try to drive it in right up to the head, and to clinch it. So, if you have not much time for fellowship and communion with Christ, if you have only a short season for meditation, try to drive the nail well home. Do not be content with merely thinking about Christ, seek to see Him before your eyes as manifestly crucified. Realize your fellowship with Him as He rises from the tomb, for this will help very much to keep you right.
4. When any of you meet together, it is always a good thing to make Christ the theme of your conversation. Whenever you have the opportunity, tell out the marvellous story of His great love to you; so will your own memory be refreshed, and others, listening to your testimony, will also get a large, and, it may be, an everlasting blessing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Remembrance of the love of Christ
I. Inquire into the nature of the Saviour’s special love.
1. This love is everlasting; that is to say, it did not commence in time, but existed from eternity; and it will not terminate while eternity endures: like its Divine source, it has neither “beginning of days nor end of years.”
2. The love of Christ is most generous; since it was undeserved, unsolicited, and disinterested.
3. This is an efficient and powerful love. If conscience condemn us, His peace speaking blood can assure us, and enable us to shout with the apostle, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” If our corruptions rage and struggle, His Spirit can subdue them, and render us more than conquerors over them. If the curses of the broken covenant hang over us, and hell gape to receive us, yet sheltered in His wounds, no curse can smite us, no flames kindle around us. If we be called to pass through the gloomy vale of death, this Sun of Righteousness can enlighten it, and cause us even there to “lift up our heads, knowing that our redemption draweth nigh.” If we go into a strange and unknown world, He can there fill our souls with joys far above all our thoughts or desires. Then, and not till then, shall we be able to see the power of that love, which strained and vanquished our obstinate hearts.
4. To crown all these properties, this love was painful and suffering.
II. It is the duty of believers to remember the love of Christ.
1. All those circumstances which tend to produce permanent and firm impressions upon the memory, are to be found in this love.
(1) We carefully observe and faithfully remember those things that are wonderful and beyond the ordinary course of nature. “Common events pass through the mind as common persons through the streets, without attracting particular notice;” whilst those events that are rare and astonishing, fasten upon the mind, and leave a durable impression. Now where can a greater complication of wonders be discerned, than in the love of your Redeemer?
(2) We easily retain and frequently meditate on all those things which excite our love. Do we love any object? Memory constantly presents it to us; in our more retired moments, and even amidst the bustle of the world, the object of our attachment is the theme of our meditation. Now, what is more calculated to excite our love than the love of Christ?
(3) We easily remember those things that are beneficial to us, and necessary for us. And what is there so beneficial, so necessary, as the love of Christ?
2. We are bound to remember the love of Christ, because the remembrance and sense of this love is the fountain whence all holy actions and good desires proceed. It is this love which animates the Christian to obedience; it is this love which, in the strong language of the apostle, “constraineth him” to labour for his Master.
III. Our remembrance must be accompanied with gratitude in the heart. This duty is not painful; this duty is the source of the highest joy; dost thou fly from pleasure, my soul! Then let thy transports and thy rapture testify that thou feelest the value of a Saviour’s love.
1. If this remembrance be thus accompanied by gratitude in the heart, it will manifest itself by the praises of the lips; it will shine in our discourse.
2. To these emotions of the heart, to these words of the mouth, must be added the actions of the life, if we would manifest a true remembrance of the love of the Saviour. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
The memory of Christ’s love
This is a night for remembering Christ’s love. The communion table spread before us, the sacred feast to which we are about to come, is meant to recall to our minds our Saviour’s words, “This do in remembrance of Me . . . This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
I. First, I would remind you of the preparations for this holy memory. Here they are.
1. The first word is, “Draw me. Lord, I would fain come at Thee; but, like Mephibosheth: I am lame in both my feet. I would fain fly to Thee; but my wings are broken; if, indeed, I ever had any. I cannot come to Thee. I lie inert, and dead, and powerless.” So the first preparation is, “Draw me.” It is a sweet, gracious, efficacious exercise of Divine power that I need and entreat . . . I pray this for myself, and I trust that you will pray with me, Come, Sacred Spirit, and draw us nearer to Christ; enliven our hopes; incline our hearts; arouse our desires and then help us to yield our whole being to Thy gracious influences!”
2. Notice, next, that this verse says, “Draw me, we will run after Thee.” I like the change in the pronouns, as though I should pray to-night, “Lord, draw me, I am the most weighted, the heaviest of all Thy children in this congregation; but draw me, we will run after Thee if Thou dost draw the most burdened one towards Thyself, all the rest will come to Thee at a rapid rate.” Oh, that we might every one attain the running pace to-night! Oh, that we might speed along towards our Lord with that strong, impetuous desire which will not let us rest till we are close to Him: “Draw me, we will run after Thee.”
3. Now, in the further preparation, if you read the verse through, you Will find that an answer comes to the prayer directly it is uttered: “The King hath brought me into His chambers.” I know, and some of you know, unhappily, what it is to feel very cold and lifeless; but I also know, and some of you know, what it is to become full of life, full of love, full of joy, full of heavenly rapture, in a Single moment.
4. There is only one more preparation for remembering Christ, and that is to feel gladness and joy in Him: “ We will be glad and rejoice in Thee.” Come, take those ashes from thy head, thou that art sighing by reason of affliction! Come unbind that sackcloth, and throw it aside, thou that hast lost fellowship with God, and art consequently in the dark! Christ is yours if you believe in Him. He has given Himself to you, and He loves you. Rejoice in that blessed fact.
II. I Would like to speak about the Divine subject of this Holy memory: “‘We will remember Thy love.
1. First, we will remember the fact of Christ’s love What it is for God to love, God only knows. We faintly guess, by the love that burns in our bosom towards the objects of our affection, what the love of God must be. The love of God must be a mighty passion. I use the word because I know no better; I am conscious that it is not the right one, for human language is too feeble to describe Divine love.
2. But we will remember, also, the character of Christ’s love. What a love it was! He loved us before the foundation of the world. With the telescope of His prescience, He foresaw our existence, and He loved us when we had no being. It was unmerited love, which had no reason in us for it to light upon. He loved us because He would love us. It was the sovereignty of His love that made Him love those whom He chose to love. He loved them freely, without anything in them, or that would ever be done by them, to deserve His love. But He loved fully as well as freely; He loved intensely, divinely, immeasurably.
3. We will also remember the deeds of Christ’s love.
4. I would like you, to-night, to remember the proofs of Christ’s love. You were far off, but He sought you, and brought you back. You were deaf, but He called you, and opened your ear to His loving call.
III. The Divine product of this holy memory: “The upright love Thee.”
1. So it seems, then, that if we remember Christ, we shall have a respect for His people. His people are the upright; and she, who speaks in the, sacred Canticle, here looks round upon them, and says, “The upright love Thee.” “That commends Thee to me; for if they who are of a chaste spirit love Thee, much more should I.”
2. In remembering Christ’s love as the upright do, we shall grow upright. I believe that God blesses trouble to our sanctification, and that He can bless joy to the same end; but I am sure of this, that the greatest instrument of sanctification is the love of Jesus. If you will remember Christ’s love, you will be lifted up from your crookedness, and made straight, and put among the upright, who love the Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon)
Love of Jesus
The spouse has been singing the praise of her Beloved. The Church has been chanting to the honour of the Church’s Head. There is nothing gives the spouse so much delight as to be able to set forth the glory of her Husband and her King. She cannot find words sweet enough to express her admiration of Him. She loves Him better than all else, and her love is better than a banquet of wine. She is happy in the song, but just while she is at her happiest, there seems to float across her sky clouds, dark and heavy clouds. She remembers, for a moment at all events, that all do not love Him as she does. “Oh,” she seems to say, “I love Thee, yet all do not share in my affection.” But the cloud does not tarry long; it is gone when she remembers that the upright love Him, that all whose love is worth having love Him, so she cheers her heart again with this glad thought that there are some who hold Him at His true worth, some who count Him fairest of the fair, and dearest of the dear. Then is it that she speaks, not always in the first person, but sometimes in the third, for she loves to get them to join the strain and all rejoice to sing the self-same song. All ye who love Jesus, have you not all felt the same? I learn from this text, first, that Jesus well deserves His people’s highest love. Take the revised version of the text, “Rightly do they love Thee.” He well deserves His people’s love, first, because of His great affection for His people. “We love Him because He first loved us.” This is the charm of Christ’s love, that it is ever the same, that it never changes, that it stands the strain of our unfaithfulness and lack of love, and He has proved it over and over again. Did He not leave His glorious throne to tabernacle with men? Did not He live? Did not He die? Did not He rise again, all for your sake and for mine? Lord Jesus, rightly do we love Thee I Lord, we love Thee, because Thou art so lovely and so lovable. “Thy very name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love Thee.” The purer we are the more we shall love all that is pure. I love to think of this, that the Lord Jesus delights to have His people happy in His love, to see them trusting Him and familiar with Him. Who can chide us for loving our dearest friends? Lastly, there is that other version in the margin of the Authorized Version which tells us that they love Thee uprightly. I understand from this that those who love Jesus must love Him in the best possible style and greatest possible degree, love with utmost love. You love Christ, you are conscious of that; but that love of yours must count best. You must love uprightly. Now, I want you to search your hearts to see if you love Him as He deserves. Do you long for fresh tokens of His affection? Your love is not of the right sort unless you are constantly pressing forward to closer proximity to the Master. Here is another test. Have you great joy in His sacred Person? We will be glad and rejoice in Thee. I do believe that true love to Jesus means much joy to every one of us. My heart does leap at the sound of His name. There is something wrong in the heart if it does not thus respond to His affection. I would that you were happy Christians. The clouds that darken the sky are gilded with this love. I pray you revel in His love. It is better than wine. Be as those who feast. (T. Spurgeon.)
Song of Solomon 1:5-6
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.
The church’s blackness
I. The church of God and Christians, whilst they are here, are in an imperfect state. There is a mixture of some light and darkness together, and so it will be till we come to heaven, both for sin and sorrow, for sins and defects in soul. The causes why God will have it so are:
1. In regard of outward infirmities, that we might be made conformable to His Son (Romans 8:17), and so reign with Him, being first made suitable to the body.
2. In respect of outward and inward infirmities, both because God’s glory is seen in our infirmities (2 Corinthians 12:7), His grace being sufficient to uphold us, and also in regard our weakness commends His strength, and our folly His wisdom.
3. Because He would draw us out of the earth, and have us hasten to accomplish the marriage and come away, therefore He sends us so many crosses, and so little rest in the flesh.
4. Because God would have us humble, patient and pitiful people, neither of which would be unless our state were imperfect; we would never know ourselves, our brethren and God, unless it were so, that on both sides we saw the prints of our imperfections.
II. Though our estate be here imperfect, yet we must not be discouraged.
1. We have a great and mighty deliverer. He loves His children in the midst of all their deformities.
2. He is able to help them in all estates; His grace is still sufficient, He hath present help. What needs the child be dismayed for pain when the Father can remove it at His pleasure?
3. The saints of God in all ages have gone through imperfections; they have been sick, poor, doubtful, passionate, as well as we. God hath brought them to heaven, to happiness, through all storms.
4. Uprightness may stand with imperfection, some gold may be amongst earth; as the Church shows here, beauty and deformity may stand together, some light, some darkness. Now God bids the upright hope, rejoice, says he is blessed (Psalms 23:6).
5. Because the effects of discouragement are too bad, as fretting (Psalms 42:11); yea, this doth not only keep Out praises, but causes neglect of all ordinances, drives from God, makes one fierce, envious, uncomfortable, impotent, etc.
III. There is a glory and excellence in the saints of God in the midst of all their deformities and debasements. Indeed their glory is like Solomon’s curtains, not obvious to every eye; like Kedar’s tents, or a heap of wheat in the chaff, and outwardly base, but inwardly excellent.
1. Needs it must be so, for being converted, they obtain a new name (Revelation 2:17); yea, they, have this peculiar favour granted, as 1 John 3:1, to be called the “sons of God.”
2. They have a new nature, being made partakers of the image of God, and so of the Divine nature; as it is (2 Peter 1:4).
3. They have a new estate; Christ Jesus makes them free, as John 8:35, and He makes them also rich, supplying all their wants with the riches of His glory (Psalms 4:3).
4. They have a new kindred and guide. God is their Father, they are members of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), they are “led by the Spirit of God.” God dwelleth in them, and the Spirit of glory rests upon them even in affliction (1 Peter 4:14), and filleth them with glorious faith and precious graces.
(1) This first discovers a wonderful blindness in us, who can see no such matter in the saints of God.
(2) This is comfort to saints now and hereafter. Now they be glorious, but yet they are but in the way going to glory (Proverbs 4:18). If thus in their pilgrimage, what at home in their country? If thus, imperfect, what in perfection? If thus, in corruption, what when this corruption shall put on incorruption? And if thus, in mortality, what when mortality shall be swallowed up of life?
IV. We must not still be poring into the deformities of God’s Church and people, like flies on galled places, or dogs upon garbage and raw flesh. For--
1. This is a practice which utterly crosseth God in His commandments, who chargeth us “not to despise the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10).
2. This is quite against justice; for Christians have beauty as well as blackness, graces as well as corruptions.
3. This neither cometh from any good, nor worketh good. It ariseth from pride, ignorance, etc., and showeth that a man neither knows his own estate, nor God s proceedings with His people, who brings them to honour through baseness, and confounds the glory of the world with base things.
V. Then God’s children pay for it, when they do not their own work, not keeping their own standing. It is with them as soldiers and scholars, when they keep not their own places, and learn not their own lessons: they are met with on every side.
1. Because no man speeds well out of his own place, but Christians worst of all; as Proverbs 27:8, a thousand inconveniences befall to oneself, to his charge, when absent. God will be upon him, and leave him to himself, till he hath wound himself into woeful brakes.
2. Men will be upon his back, as Paul on Peter’s, or else grow strange till he be humbled; but bad men they will curse him, all the hypocrites in the town will be at his heels.
3. The devil will be upon them, and having drawn them out of the way, will either still mislead them, or else cut their throats and steal all, or hold them, if possible he may, from returning unto God; as in the prodigal son.
4. Their own consciences will be upon them, and it is with them as with a child that plays truant, his heart throbs, he hath no peace: so a Christian, whether he prosper or not prospers, he hath no peace, he eats not, he sleeps not in peace. (R. Sibbes.)
The Church’s confession of infirmity
By the “daughters of Jerusalem,” Jewish expositors understand the Gentiles, Jerusalem being the spiritual metropolis and mother of us all. And, in substance, most Christian expositors agree with them--that is, they suppose the persons addressed to be some who are not yet openly joined to Christ; who are halting and undecided; seeing much of power and grace in Christ, but discouraged and driven back, either by the remaining infirmities of His followers, or by the persecutions to which they see them to be exposed. Hence the Church proceeds to vindicate herself against any suspicions arising out of these adverse appearances. “True, in one sense I am ‘black’; judged of externally, and seen only as man seeth, I am as dark and swarthy as the skins with which the wild Arab roofs his tent. But, in another sense, I am ‘comely’; my ‘clothing is of wrought gold,’ my raiment ‘is of finest needlework’; my soul, embroidered and enriched with the graces of the Eternal Spirit, makes me beautiful as the hangings in king’s palaces, gorgeous ‘as the curtains of Solomon.’” “Black, but comely.” The words may be taken, and by the Jews are taken, as anticipative of the glory of the Church in the latter days. In her present state she may be considered as dark as the Ethiop’s skin. Her heresies, her divisions, her heart-burnings, the spots in her feasts of charity, the scandals among men professing godliness, make the saying to be true of her which Jeremiah witnesses, that her “visage is blacker than a coal.” But how does Ezekiel speak of what her glory shall be (Ezekiel 16:9-14)? Again, the expression, “I am black,” may be taken to refer to the many sins of the believer. In the eyes of no one is he so black as he is in his own. He is covered over with blemishes, and spots, and soils. There are stains upon his duties, stains upon his repentances, stains upon his prayers. But look we again. We have seen the picture but from one side. On looking at it from the other, this stained and darkened thing is beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, “terrible as an army with banners.” Thus, while the believer is both “black and comely,” he is neither all the one, nor all the other. There is a strife for mastery always going on between the elements of his inner life--the grace reigning, but the sin not expelled--the flesh disputing inch by inch the claims of the Spirit, and iniquity forcing its presence into the shrine of his holiest things. Still, comely he is, and that through Christ’s comeliness. The world sees only the “tents of Kedar,” but cannot discern the “curtains of Solomon.” (D. Moore, M. A.)
Song of Solomon 1:6
Look not upon me, because I am black.
Self-humbling and self-searching
I. The fairest Christians are the most shamefaced with regard to themselves. The person who says, “Look not upon me, because I am black,” is described by some one else in the eighth verse as the “fairest among women.” Others, who thought her the fairest of the fair, spoke no less than the truth when they affirmed it; but in her own esteem she felt herself to be so little fair, and so much uncomely, that she besought them not even to look upon her. Why is it that the best Christians depreciate themselves the most? Is it not because they are most accustomed to look within? They keep their books in a better condition than those unsafe tradesmen, the counterpart of mere professors, who think themselves “rich and increased in goods,” when they are on the very verge of bankruptcy. In his anxiety to be pure from evil, the godly man will be eager to notice and quick to detect the least particle of defilement; and for this reason he discovers more of his blackness than any other man is likely to see. He is no blacker, but he looks more narrowly, and therefore he sees more distinctly the spots on his own character. The genuine Christian also tries himself by a higher standard. He knows the law to be spiritual, and therefore he judges many things to be sinful which others wink at; and he counts some things to be important duties which others regard as trifles. The genuine Christian sets up no lower standard than perfection. He does not judge himself by others, but by the exact measure of the Divine requirements, by the law of God, and especially by the example of his Lord and Master; and when he thus sets the brightness of the Saviour’s character side by side with his own, then it is that he cries out, Look not upon me, for I am black. Another reason why the fairest Christians are generally those that think themselves the blackest, is that they have more light. When the light of God comes into the soul, and we see what purity really is, what holiness really is, then it is the contrast strikes us. Though we might have thought we were somewhat clean before, when we see God in His light we see light, and we abhor ourselves in dust and ashes. Our defects so appal our own heart, that we marvel they do not exhaust His patience. The better Christian a man is, the more abashed he always feels; because to him sin is so exceedingly hateful, that what sin he sees in himself he loathes himself for far more than others do. A very little sin, as the world calls it, is a very great sin to a truly awakened Christian. Now, I think our text seems to say just this: there were some that admired, the Church. They said she was fair. She seemed to say, “Don t say it; you don t know what I am, or you would not praise me. Every Christian, in pro portion as he lives near to God, will feel this self-abasement, this lowliness of heart; and if others talk of admiring or of imitating him, he will say, “Look not upon me, for I am black.” And as he thus, in deep humility, begs that he be not exalted, he will often, desire others that they would not despise him.” It will come into his mind, Such and such a man of God is a Christian indeed; as he sees my weakness, he will contemn me. Such-and such a disciple of Christ is strong; he will never be able to bear with my weakness. Such and such a Christian woman does, indeed, adorn the doctrine of God her Saviour; but as for me, alas! I am not what I ought to be, nor what I would be. Children of God, do not look upon me with scorn. I will not say that you have motes in your own eyes. I have a beam in mine. Look not upon me too severely. Judge me not harshly. If you do look at me, look to Christ for me, and pray that I may be helped; “for I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me.”
II. The most diligent Christian will be the man most afraid of the evils connected with his work. “Evils connected with his work!” says one. “Does work for God have evils contingent upon it?” Yes; but for every evil connected with the work of God, there are ten evils connected with idleness. I speak now only to the workers. I have known some whom the sun has looked upon in this respect; their zeal has grown cold through non-success. You went out, first of all, as a Christian, full of fire and life. You intended to push the Church before you, and drag the world after you. But you have been mixed up with Christians for some years of a very cool sort. Use the thermometer to-night. Has not the spiritual temperature gone down in your own soul? Perhaps you have not seen, many conversions under your ministry? or in the class which you conduct you have not seen many children brought to Jesus? Do you feel you are getting cool? Then wrap your face in your mantle to-night, and say “Look not upon me, for in losing my zeal I am black, for the sun hath looked upon me.” Perhaps it has affected you in another way, for the sun does not bring freckles out on all faces in the same place. Perhaps it is your temper that is grown sour? Sometimes this evil of sun-burning will come in the shape of joy taken away from the heart by weariness. I do not think any of us are weary of God’s work. If so, we never were called to it. But we may get weary in it. The toil is more irksome when the spirits are less buoyant. Well, I would advise you to confess this before God, and ask for a medicine to heal you. You had need get your joy back, but first you must acknowledge that you have lost it. Say, “I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me.”
III. The most watchful Christian is conscious of the danger of self-neglect. “They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Solemnly, let me speak again to my brethren who are seeking to glorify Christ by their lives. I met some time ago with a sermon by that famous divine, Mr. Henry Melvill, which consists all through of one solitary thought, and one only image well worked out. He supposes a man to be a guide in Switzerland. It is his duty to conduct travellers in that country through the sublime passes, and to point out to them the glories of the scenery, and the beauties of the lakes, and streams, and glaciers, and hills. This man, as he continues In his office, almost inevitably gets to repeat his descriptions as a matter of course; and everybody knows how a guide at last comes to “talk book,” and just iterate words which do not awaken any corresponding feeling in his own mind. Yet when he began, perhaps it was a sincere love of the sublime and the beautiful that led him to take up the avocation of a guide; and at first it really was to him a luxury to impart to others what he had felt amidst the glories of nature; but as, year after year, to hundreds of different parties, he had to repeat much the same descriptions, call attention to the same sublimities, and indicate the same beauties, it is almost impossible but that he should get to be at last a mere machine. Through the hardening tendency of custom, and the debasing influence of gain, his aptest descriptions and most exquisite eulogies come to be of no greater account than the mere language of a hireling. Every worker for Christ is deeply concerned in the application of this parable; because the peril of self-complacency increases in precisely the same ratio as the zeal of proselytizing. When counselling others, you think yourself wise. When warning others, you feel yourself safe. When judging others, you suppose yourself above suspicion. You began the work with a flush of ardour; it may be with a fever of enthusiasm; a sacred instinct prompted, a glowing passion moved you. How will you continue it? Here is the danger--the fearful danger--lest you do it mechanically, fall into a monotony, continue in the same train, and use holy words to others with no corresponding feeling in your own soul.
IV. The most conscientious Christian will be the first to inquire for the antidote, and to use the cure. What is the cure? The cure is found in the verse next to my text. See, then, you workers, if you want to keep up your freshness, and not to get blackened by the sun under which you labour, go to your Lord again--go and talk to--Him. Address Him again by that dear name, “Thou whom my soul loveth.” Ask to have your first love rekindled; strive after the love of your espousals. Oh, to be always full of love to Him! You will never get any hurt by working for Him then; your work will do you good. The sweat of labour will even make your face the fairer. The more you do for souls, the purer, and the holier, and the more Christlike will you he, if you do it with Him. Keep up the habit of sitting at His feet, like Mary, as well as serving Him with Martha. You can keep the two together; they will balance each other, and you shall not be barren or unfruitful, neither shall you fall into the blackness which the sun is apt to breed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
My mother’s children were angry with me.
The Church’s enemies
1. The greatest enemies of the Church are such as are the nearest in relation unto her. Where there is the greatest sympathy, when divided, turns to the greatest antipathy. Hereof David complaineth (Psalms 69:9). Such was the enmity of Cain towards Abel, of Esau towards Jacob, of Absalom towards David.
2. The greatest pretenders to religion and holiness, prove many times the greatest enemies to the same (Philippians 3:5-6). Paul had a zeal, but not according to knowledge; and therefore none more forward to persecute the saints than Paul; none more greater enemies to Christ than the Scribes and Pharisees; none more opposite to the apostles than the devout Jew, one that was zealous for legal observances.
3. Those that are nearest in relation to the saints, and those that pretend most holiness, if such prove false brethren, they afflict and hurt the saints most of all.
(1) Such are most apt to seduce them, and draw them from the truth (Acts 20:30). Josephus, in his “Book of Antiquities,” reporteth that when Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans, the Jews received more damage by their several divisions within their city than from the Romans without, who were their besiegers: so a false brother doth more endanger the welfare of the saints than an open enemy.
(2) Such as are false brethren do not only seduce the saints but grievously afflict them; they know how to strike where it will most smart; they know the conscience to be the most tender place, and therefore aim to oppress that most. Julian the Apostate did the saints more hurt than any persecutor beside: so none was more fit to betray Christ than Judas.
(3) False brethren persecute with the greatest heat and indiguation. Of this the Church complaineth here: “My mother’s sons were angry with me,” they were incensed with indignation, and with burning heat and choler; with wrath and envy they were set against her. (John Robotham.)
They made me keeper of the vineyards; but my own vineyard have I not kept.--
The vineyard-keeper at fault
If you consider the bride in the nuptial song to be the Jewish nation, then the text is a confession, that while witnessing for God against other nations--idolatrous nations--the children of Abraham had not considered their own ways. If you take the bride to be the Church of Christ, then the text is a confession that while she has attended to her mission in the world, she has forgotten her duty to herself. If the bride be the individual subject of Messiah’s kingdom, then the text is an acknowledgment that benevolent work has supplanted personal spiritual cultivation. The heart of a Christian is redeemed by the Saviour for God, and redeemed unto God; and that heart is taken possession of by the Holy Ghost that it may bring forth fruit unto God. Now, the keeping of that heart by God Himself is essential to prosperity and well-being; but there is a something also which God requires us to do, and that something is to co-operate with His ministrations and with His care of us. The husbandman breaks up the clods of the field; he casts in the seed; he treats the soil as the soil demands; but when he has done his best and his utmost, Providence has to do very much. Unless rain fall and the sun shine, unless the Source of life give life, and sustain life, the husbandman will be a sower, but he will never be a reaper. Just so is it with the heart of a Christian. There are certain things which God does for us, and then God saith to us, “Now work out your own salvation With fear and trembling.” You see, therefore, the point to which I want your attention.
I. What is this complaint? “Mine own vineyard have I not kept.” The spiritual nature of a godly man is here supposed to be likened to a vineyard; and it is like to a vineyard in several respects. In the first place it is a soil in which things are planted and sown; in which things spring up and wither; in which things grow and are cut down; in which things bear fruit and are barren; in which things live and die. In the next place it is a sphere affording full scope for exertion, vigilance and skill. In the third place judicious labour secures profit and reward. And in the last place neglect makes evil fertile, and brings miserable barrenness of good. In a self-neglected spirit you will find such things as these--first there is culpable and mischievous ignorance; also, undigested information; words about things, without the ideas of things; or the ideas of things not connected or classified. You will also find injurious prejudices, false judgments, vain imaginations, irregular emotions, an evil conscience, corrupt motives supposed to be right motives, restlessness, self-deception, falsity of profession, and a constant going back from good and from true positions which the individual has gained. Such an one will,not be like the man who said, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” He will have no idea of self-crucifixion, or of self-mortification. You will not discover in such an one power in prayer. You will not observe in such a case judicious and successful work. You may find such an one busy; but-you will not witness in this case judicious and successful labour. Neither will you find profit from Divine ordinances--rest of soul or peace of mind. The witness of the Spirit with such a man will not be distinct and clear; nor will you behold in this case the choicest fruits of righteousness. “Mine own vineyard have I not kept.”
II. The cause and the occasion of the evil complained of. You know the distinction between the cause and the occasion. It is possible to keep others’ vineyards, and, at the same time, to take care of our own. The two things are compatible. We are quite sure they may be done together, because God requires us to do them both. The cause of self-neglect, therefore, is not in the vineyard-keeping for others; it must be in the character of the individual concerned. But where in the individual concerned? It may be in false views of a state of salvation, and of our personal obligations. Many persons who are exceedingly particular about doctrine, and who tithe their mint, and anise, and cummin, as respects doctrinal statements, are often horridly careless with reference to practice: and yet if there be not religious practice in those who embrace religious truths, tell me in what is the advantage of holding true doctrine? The cause of neglecting our own vineyards is to be found also in excess of zeal for the welfare of others. It is to be found in false amiability and accessibility to others. It is to be found in a strong taste for the excitement of caring for others; and in the vanity which prefers the position of keeper of the vineyard to the quiet condition of attending to one’s own vineyard. These few remarks will show the cause--now for the occasion. “They made me.” “They.” A great deal of religious and benevolent work is done evidently as unto man, and not as unto God. You ask me for proof of this--I give it you instantly. The proof is here. If the leader or associate of some benevolent religious workers offend them, they will throw the work up directly. What does this prove? It proves that they have been Working for man, and not for God. If men work simply for gratitude, if they are kind to each other simply expecting thankfulness, they will be invariably disappointed. And it is not the prospect of thankfulness from others that should ever bind you to doing good to men. Never look even for gratitude, but do good to another for the sake of the blessed God. And then it matters very little what the man you serve may be, how he may change, either towards you or towards others, you will be able to cleave to him, not for his own sake, but for his God’s sake. We neglect our own vineyards because others call us away, and we obey. We become engrossed. We become too ardent, We are keeping the vineyards of others, just, perhaps, that it may be said that we are keeping their vineyards, and that we may have the praise of the fruit of the vineyard, or that we may please those who are connected with the vineyard. The occasion of self-neglect may be suggested in these words: “They made me keeper of the vineyards. (S. Martin, M. A.)
The unkept vineyard; or, personal work neglected
We are all pretty ready at complaining, especially of other people. Not much good comes of picking holes in other men’s characters; and yet many spend hours in that unprofitable occupation. It will be well for us, at this time, to let our complaint, like that of the text, deal with ourselves.
I. First, then, let me begin with the Christian man who has forgotten his high and heavenly calling. In the day when you and I were born again, we were born for God. In the day when we were quickened by the Holy Ghost into newness of life, that life was bound to be a consecrated one. This you will not deny. Christian, you admit that you have a high, holy and heavenly calling! Now let us look back. We have not spent our life idly: we have been forced to be keepers of the vineyards. Even in Paradise man was bidden to dress the garden. There is something to be done by each man, and specially by each Christian man. Ask yourself, “Am I an earnest labourer together with God, or am I, after all, only a laborious trifler, an industrious doer of nothing, working hard to accomplish no purpose of the sort for which I ought to work, since I ought to live unto my Lord alone?” to a very large degree we have not been true to our professions; our highest work has been neglected, we have not kept our own vineyards. In looking back, how little time has been spent by us in communion with God! How little a part of our thoughts has been occupied with meditation, contemplation, adoration, and other acts of devotion! How little have we surveyed the beauties of Christ, His person, His work, His sufferings, His glory! Think of our neglect of our God, and see whether it is not true that we have treated Him very ill. We have been in the shop, we have been on the exchange, we have been at the markets, we have been in the fields, we have been in the public libraries, we have been in the lecture-room, we have been in the forum of debate; but our own closets and studies, our walk with God, and our fellowship with Jesus, we have far too much neglected. Moreover, the vineyard of holy service for God we have too much left to go to ruin. I would ask you--How about the work your God has called you to do? Men are dying; are you saving them? Might not many a man among you say to himself, “I have been a tailor,” or “I have been a shopkeeper,” or “I have been a mechanic,” or “I have been a merchant,” or “I have been a physician, and I have attended to these callings; but mine own vineyard, which was my Master’s, which I was bound to look to first of all, I have not kept”? Well, now, what is the remedy for this? It is that you follow up the next verse to my text. Get to your Lord, and in Him you will find recovery from your neglects. Ask Him where He feeds His flock, and go with Him. They have warm hearts who commune with Christ. They are prompt in duty who enjoy His fellowship. Hasten to your Lord, and you will soon begin to keep your vineyard; for in the Song you will see a happy change effected. The spouse began to keep her vineyard directly, and to do it in the best fashion. Within a very short time you find her saying, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines.” See, she is hunting out her sins and her follies. Farther on you find her with her Lord in the vineyard, crying, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.!” She is evidently keeping her garden, and asking for heavenly influences to make the spices and flowers yield their perfume. She went down to see whether the vines flourished, and the pomegranates budded. Anon, with her Beloved, she rises early to go to the vineyard, and watch the growth of the plants. Farther on you find her talking about all manner of fruits that she has ]aid up for her Beloved. Thus you see that to walk with Christ is the way to keep your vineyard, and serve your Lord.
II. Now I turn to the man who in any place has taken other work and neglected his own. He can use the words of the text--“They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” There is a vineyard that a great many neglect, and that is their own heart. It is well to have talent; it is well to have influence; but it is better to be right within yourself. What is your character, and do you seek to cultivate it? Do you ever use the hoe upon those weeds which arc so plentiful in us all? Do you water those tiny plants of goodness which have begun to grow? Do you watch them to keep away the little foxes which would destroy them? Now think of another vineyard. Are not some people neglecting their families? Next to our hearts, our households arc the vineyards which we are most bound to cultivate. It is shocking to find men and women speaking fluently about religion, and yet their houses are a disgrace to Christianity. Besides that, every man who knows the Lord should feel that his vineyard lies also around about his own house. If God has saved your children, then try to do something for your neighbours, for your workpeople, for those with whom you associate in daily labour. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The bride was most unhappy and ashamed because her personal beauty had been sorely marred by the heat of the sun. The fairest among women had become swarthy as a sunburnt slave. Spiritually it is so full often with a chosen soul. The Lord’s grace has made her fair to look upon, even as the lily; but she has been so busy about earthly things that the sun of worldliness has injured her beauty. The bride with holy shamefacedness exclaims, “Look not upon me, for I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me.” This is one index of a gracious soul--that whereas the ungodly rush to and fro, and know not where to look for consolation, the believing heart naturally flies to its well-beloved Saviour, knowing that in Him is its only rest. It would appear from the preceding verse that the bride was also in trouble about a certain charge which had been given to her, which burdened her, and in the discharge of which she had become negligent of herself. “Mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Under this sense of double unworthiness and failure, feeling her omissions and her commissions to be weighing her down, she turned round to her Beloved and asked instruction at His hands. This was well. Had she not loved her Lord she would have shunned Him when her comeliness was faded, but the instincts of her affectionate heart suggested to her that He would not discard her because of her imperfections. She was, moreover, wise thus to appeal to her Lord against herself. Never let sin part you from Jesus. Under a sense of sin do not fly from Him; that were foolishness. Sin may drive you from Sinai; it ought to draw you to Calvary.
I. Here is a question asked. Every word of the inquiry is worthy of our careful meditation. You will observe, first, concerning it, that it is asked in love. She calls Him to whom she speaks by the endearing title, “O Thou whom my soul loveth.” Whatever she may feel herself to be, she knows that she loves Him. The life of her existence is bound up with Him: if there be any force and power and vitality in her, it is but as fuel to the great flame of her love, which burns alone for Him. Mark well that it is not “O Thou whom my soul believes in.” That would be true, but she has passed further. It is not “O Thou whom my soul honours.” That is true too, but she has passed beyond that stage. Nor is it merely “O Thou whom my soul trusts and obeys.” She is doing that, but she has reached something warmer, more tender, more full of fire and enthusiasm, and it is “O Thou whom my soul loveth.” The question therefore becomes instructive to us, because it is addressed to Christ under a most endearing title; and I ask every worker here to take care that he always does his work in a spirit of love, and always regards the Lord Jesus not as a taskmaster, not as one who has given us work to do from which we would fain escape, but as our dear Lord, whom to serve is bliss, and for whom to die is gain. “O Thou whom my soul loveth,” is the right name by which a worker for Jesus should address his Lord. Now note that the question, as it is asked in love, is also asked of Him. “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest.” She asked Him to tell her, as if she feared that none but Himself would give her the correct answer; others might be mistaken, but He could not be. She asked of Him because she was quite sure that He would give her the kindest answer. Perhaps she felt that nobody else could tell her as He could, for others speak to the ear, but He speaks to the heart: others speak with lower degrees of influence, we hear their speech but are not moved thereby; but Jesus speaks, and the Spirit goes with every word He utters, and therefore we hear to profit when He converses with us. Now, observe what the question is. She wishes to know how Jesus does His work, and where He does it. The question seems to be just this: “Lord, tell me what are the truths with which Thou dost feed Thy people’s souls; tell me what are the doctrines which make the strong ones weak and the sad ones glad: tell me what is that precious meat which Thou art wont to give to hungry and fainting spirits, to revive them and keep them alive; for if Thou tell me, then I will give my flock the same food: tell me where the pasture is wherein Thou dost feed Thy sheep, and straightway I will lead mine to the selfsame happy fields. Then tell me how Thou makest Thy people to rest. What are those promises which Thou dost apply to the consolation of their spirit, so that their cares and doubts and fears and agitations all subside? Thou hast sweet meadows where Thou makest Thy beloved flock to lie calmly down and slumber, tell me where those meadows are that I may go and fetch the flock committed to my charge, the mourners whom I ought to comfort, the distressed ones whom I am bound to relieve, the desponding whom I have endeavoured to encourage; tell me, Lord, where Thou makest Thy flock to lie down, for then, under Thy help, I will go and make my flock to lie down too. It is for myself, but yet far more for others, that I ask the question, ‘Tell me where Thou feedest, where Thou makest them to rest at noon.’“ We would know the groves of promise and the cool streams of peace, that we may lead others into rest. If we can follow Jesus we can guide others, and so both we and they will find comfort and peace. That is the meaning of the request before us.
II. Here is an argument used. The bride says, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?” If she should lead her flock into distant meadows, far away from -the place where Jesus is feeding His flock, it would not be well. She speaks of it as a thing most abhorrent to her mind, and well might it be. For, first, would it not look very unseemly that the bride should be associating with others than the Bridegroom? They have each a flock: there is He with His great flock, and here is she with her little one. Shall they seek pastures far off from one another? Will there not be talk about this? Will not onlookers say, “This is not seemly: there must be some lack of love here, or else these two would not be so divided”? Stress may be put, if you like, upon that little word “I.” Why should I, Thy blood-bought spouse; I, betrothed unto Thee, or ever the earth was, I, whom Thou hast loved,--why should I turn after others and forget Thee? Our hearts may grow unchaste to Christ even while they are zealous in Christian work. I dread very much the tendency to do Christ’s work in a cold, mechanical spirit; but above even that I tremble lest I should be able to have warmth for Christ’s work and yet should be cold towards the Lord Himself. Beware of that I Love your work, but love your Master better; love your flock, but love the great Shepherd better Still, and ever keep close to Him, for it will be a token of unfaithfulness if you do not. And mark again, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?” We may read this as meaning, “Why should I be so unhappy as to have to work for Thee, and yet be out of communion with Thee?” It is a very unhappy thing to lose fellowship with Jesus and yet to have to go on with religious exercises. If the wheels are taken off your chariot it is no great matter if nobody wants to ride, but how if you are called upon to drive on? When a man s foot is lamed he may not so much regret it if he can sit still, but if he be bound to run a race he is greatly to be pitied. It made the spouse doubly unhappy even to suppose that she, with her flock to feed and herself needing feeding too, should have to turn aside by the flocks of others and miss the presence of her Lord. Above all, should we not try to live as a church, and individually, also, in abiding fellowship with Jesus; for if we turn aside from Him we shall rob the truth of its aroma, yea, of its essential fragrance. If we lose fellowship with Jesus we shall have the standard, but where will be the standard-bearer? We may retain the candlestick, but where shall be the light? We shall be shorn of our strength, of our joy, our comfort, our all, if we miss fellowship with Him. God grant, therefore, that we may never be as those who turn aside.
III. We have here an answer given by the Bridegroom to His beloved. She asked Him where He fed, where He made His flock to rest, and He answered her. Observe carefully that this answer is given in tenderness to her infirmity; not ignoring her ignorance, but dealing very gently with it. “If thou know not”--a hint that she ought to have known, but such a hint as kind lovers give when they would fain forbear to chide. The Lord forgives our ignorance, and condescends to instruct it. Note next that the answer is given in great love. He says, “O thou fairest among women.” That is a blessed cordial for her distress. She said, “I am black”; but He says, “O thou fairest among women. I would rather trust Christ’s eyes than mine. If my eyes tell me I am black I will weep, but if He assures me I am fair I will believe Him and rejoice. As the artist, looking on the block of marble, sees in the stone the statue which he means to fetch out of it with matchless skill, so the Lord Jesus sees the perfect image of Himself in us, from which He means to chip away the imperfections and the sins until it stands out in all its splendour” But still it is gracious condescension which makes Him say, “Thou art fairest among women,” to one who mourned her own sunburnt countenance. The answer contains much sacred wisdom. The bride is directed where to go that she may find her Beloved and lead her flock to Him. “Go thy way forth by the footprints of the flock.” If thou wilt find Jesus, thou wilt find Him in the way the holy prophets went, in the way of the patriarchs and the way of the apostles. And if thou dost desire to find thy flock, and to make them lie down, very well, go thou and feed them as other shepherds have done--Christ’s own shepherds whom He has sent in other days to feed His chosen. Make the Lord Jesus your model and example; and by treading where the footprints of the flock are to be seen, you will both save yourself and them that hear you; you shall find Jesus, and they shall find Jesus too. Then the spouse added, “Feed thy kids beside the shepherds tents, Now, who are these shepherds? Let me take you to the twelve principal shepherds who came after the great Shepherd of all. You want to bless your children, to save their souls, and have fellowship with Christ in the doing of it; then teach them the truths which the apostles taught. And what were they? Take Paul as an example. “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” That is feeding the kids beside the shepherds’ tents, when you teach our children Christ, much of Christ, all of Christ, and nothing else but Christ. Mind you stick to that blessed subject. And when you are teaching them Christ, teach them all about His life, His doeth, His resurrection; teach them His Godhead and His manhood. Preach regeneration. Let it be seen how thorough the change is, that we may glorify God’s work. Preach the final perseverance of the saints. Teach that the Herd is not changeable--casting away His people, loving them to-day and hating them to-morrow. Preach in fact, the doctrines of grace as you find them in the Book. Feed them beside the shepherds tents. Aye, and feed the kids there--the little children. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
It is the Church addressing her Lord; it is the condescending Saviour giving in reply the instruction required.
I. The Church addresses her Lord.
1. A conscious love to her best friend.
(1) The Church loves Him for His personal excellence.
(2) The Church loves Him for His condescending gifts.
(3) The Church loves Him for His precious promises.
2. A dread of swerving from her loyalty to Him. “Why should I be as one that turneth aside, etc. Christ has many rivals: and that, not only in hearts which “the god of this world hath blinded, but even in those of His faithful followers. The spiritual Christian is aware that there are such rivals. He knows how ensnaring they are--how feeble and treacherous his own heart is.
3. An anxious petition for His pastoral care. “Tell me where Thou feedest,” etc. A true believer needs food for his soul; something to nourish and strengthen him in the exercise of that spiritual life. And it is to Christ that He looks for it--“Tell me where Thou feedest,” that I may “go in and out, and find pasture.” He needs rest to his soul--peace from the war in his members--victory over the world, whether it allure or terrify him. And because Jesus has invited “all them that labour and are heavy laden,” he “comes”; “Tell me where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.”
II. The condescending Saviour replies.
1. A gentle reproof: “If thou know not.” They who know so much of Christ, as the petition implies, already possess the means of knowing more. But they are apt to forget their past experience of His care, and of the way in which they sought and found it, and impatiently desire some new and unusual means to be employed for their consolation. Then He will gently reprove--“How I knowest thou not? if I be not a Saviour to others, yet doubtless I am to thee I”
2. An expression of endearment: “O thou fairest among women!” Has He, then, forgotten that we are “conceived in sin “ and “shapen in iniquity”
V. He sees, moreover, the graces of the Spirit which He Himself bestows upon His children; imperfect, indeed, but genuine--variable, but progressive--resisted by the flesh, but gradually victorious over it.
3. A significant reference. Certain questions had been asked: the Saviour will not give a direct answer, but refers the questioner to those who could satisfy the inquiry. “Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,” etc.
(1) Christ will have His people to be helpers of each other’s faith, hope, and love.
(2) Christ puts especial honour upon His own ordinance, the preaching of the Gospel; and upon His ministers in that excellent work. He is Himself “the Chief Shepherd”; yet the tents of His under-shepherds must also be frequented. (J. Jowett, M. A.)
The Church’s love to her loving Lord
I. We commence with thy title: “O Thou whom my soul loveth.” It is well to be able to call the Lord Jesus Christ by this name without an “if,” or a “but.” Learn to get that positive knowledge of your love to Jesus, and be not satisfied till you can talk about your interest in Him as a reality, which you have made infallibly sure by having received the witness of the Holy Spirit, and His seal upon your soul by faith, that you are born of God, and belong to Christ. Speaking, then, of this title which rings the great bell of love to Jesus, let us notice first the cause, and secondly the effect of that love.
1. If we can look into the face of Him who once sweat great drops of blood, and call Him, “O Thou whom my soul loveth,” it is interesting to consider what is the cause of our love. And here our reply is very quick. The efficient cause of our love is the Holy Spirit of God why do we love Jesus? We have the best of answers--because He first loved us. Moreover, we have another is present dealings towards them. What has He not done for us this very day? He has made us glad; our spirits have leaped for very joy, for He hath turned again the captivity of our soul. Nor is this all. We love the Saviour because of the excellency of His person. We are not blind to excellence anywhere, but still we can see no excellence like His.
2. I shall now for a short time speak on the effects of this love, as we have dwelt on the cause of it. When a man has true love to Christ, it is sure to lead him to dedication. There is a natural desire to give something to the person whom we love, and true love to Jesus compels us to give ourselves to Him. When the pupils of Socrates had nearly all of them given him a present, there was one of the best scholars who was extremely poor, and he said to Socrates, “I have none of these things which the others have presented to thee; but, O Socrates, I give thee myself”; whereupon Socrates said it was the best present he had had that day. “My son, give Me thy heart”--this is what Jesus asks for. True love next shows itself in obedience. If I love Jesus, I shall do as He bids me. He is my Husband, my Lord--I call Him “Master.” “If ye love Me,” saith He, “keep My commandments.” True love, again, is always considerate and afraid lest it should give offence. It walks very daintily. If I love Jesus, I shall watch my eye, my heart, my tongue, my hand, being so fearful lest I should wake my beloved, or make Him stir until He please; and I shall be sure not to take in those bad guests, those ill-favoured guests of pride and sloth, and love of the world. Again, true love to Christ will make us very jealous of His honour. As Queen Eleanor went down upon her knees to suck the poison from her husband’s wound, so we shall put our lips to the wound of Christ when He has been stabbed with the dagger of calumny, or inconsistency, being willing sooner to take the poison ourselves, and to be ourselves diseased and despised than that His name, His cross, should suffer ill. Oh, what matters it what becomes of us, if the King reigneth? If we love Christ, again, we shall be desiring to promote His cause, and we shall be desiring to promote it ourselves. We shall wish to see the strength of the mighty turned at the gate, that King Jesus may return triumphant; we shall not wish to sit still while our brethren go to war, but we shall want to take our portion in the fray, that like soldiers that love their monarch, we may prove by our wounds and by our sufferings that our love is real. The apostle says, “Let us not love in word only but in deed and in truth.” Actions speaks louder than words, and we shall always be anxious to tell our love in deeds as well as by our lips. And once again, if we love Jesus we shall be willing to suffer for Him. Darkness is light about us if we can serve Him there.
II. The second point of consideration is the desire of the Church after Christ Jesus our Lord: having called Him by His title, she now expresses her longing to be with Him. “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest.” The desire of a renewed soul is to find out Christ and to be with Him. Stale meats left over from yesterday are very well when there is nothing else, but who does not like hot food fresh from the fire? And past communion with Christ is very well. “I remember Thee from the land of the Hermonites and the hill Mizar;” but these are only stale meats, and a loving soul wants fresh food every day from the table of Christ, and you that have once had the kisses of His mouth, though you remember the past kisses with delight, yet want daily fresh tokens of His love. A true loving soul, then, wants present communion with Christ; so the question is, “Tell me where Thou feedest? Where dost Thou get Thy comfort from, O Jesu? I will go there. Where do Thy thoughts go? To Thy cross? Dost Thou look back to that? Then I will go there. Where Thou feedest, there will I feed. Or does this mean actively, instead of being in the passive or the neuter? Where dost Thou feed Thy flock? In Thy house? I will go there, if I may find Thee there. In private prayer? Then I will not be slack in that In the Word? Tell me where Thou feedest, for wherever Thou standest as the Shepherd, there will I be, for I want Thee. I cannot be satisfied to be apart from Thee. My soul hungers and thirsts to be with Thee. She puts it again, “Where dost Thou make Thy flock to rest at noon,” for there is only rest in one place, where Thou causest Thy flock to rest at noon. She wants to get away to hold quiet communion with her Lord, for He is the brook where the weary may lave their wearied limbs; He is that sheltered nook, that shadow of the great rock in the weary land where His people may lie down and be at peace.
III. The argument used by the church. She says, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?” Thou hast plenty of companions--why should I be turned aside? Why should I not be one? Let us talk it over. Why should I lose my Lord’s presence? But the devil tells me I am a great sinner. Ah I but it is all washed away, and gone for ever. That cannot separate me, for it does not exist. My sin is buried. The devil tells me I am unworthy, and that is a reason. But I always was unworthy, and yet it was no reason why He should not love me at first, and therefore cannot be a reason why I should not have fellowship with Him now. Why should I be left out? Why should I be turned aside? I am equally bought with a price. I cost Him, in order to save me, as much as the noblest of the saints; He bought them with blood; He could not buy me with less. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The love of the Redeemer and the redeemed
I. The relation which Christ sustains to us as the shepherd of our souls.
II. The warm affection which Christ’s relation to us inspires. “Thou whom my soul loveth.”
III. The special manifestation of his favour for which our affection pleads. “Tell me where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.” It is a perfectly legitimate thing to desire a close, personal intimacy with our Saviour. There is no virtue in spiritual timidity. We ought not to be contented with a dwarfed and maimed Christianity, with an imperfect righteousness or a disturbed peace. In everything we should seek to attain the highest and do the best. And if Christ be a Saviour at all, we ought to desire His best and choicest blessings. If He welcomes us in our sin and sorrow, He will not spurn our endeavours to be always near Him. If, however, we are to reach this height, we must take the course indicated in our text. We rise by earnest and fervent prayer. “Tell me where Thou feedest.” To receive we must ask; to find we must seek; to have the door opened to us we must knock. The receiving of this blessing must be made a direct and specific aim.
IV. The satisfaction and delight such a manifestation of our Lord’s favour will bring. ,”Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?’ I need scarcely remind you how in actual life other lords than Christ claim to rule over us. (J. Stuart.)
Love to Jesus
I. First, then, the loving title of our text is to be considered as expressing rhetoric of the lip. The text calleth Christ, “Thou whom my soul loveth.” Let us take this title and dissect it a little. One of the first things which will strike us when we come to look upon it, is the reality, of the love which is here expressed. Reality, I say; understanding the term “real,” not in contradistinction to that which is lying and fictitious, but in contrast to that which is shadowy and indistinct. Suppose an infant taken away from its mother, and you should seek to foster in it a love to the parent by constantly picturing before it the idea of a mother,--and attempting to give it the thought of a mother’s relation to the child. Indeed, I think you would have a difficult task to fix in that child the true and real love which it ought to bear towards her who bore it. But give that child a mother; let it hang upon that mother’s real breast; let it derive its nourishment from her very heart: let it see that mother; feel that mother; put its little arms about that mother’s real neck and you have no hard task to make it love its mother. So is it with the Christian. We want Christ--not an abstract, doctrinal, pictured Christ--but a real Christ. It is not the idea of disinterestedness; it is not the idea of devotion; it is not the idea of self-consecration that will ever make the Church mighty: it must be that idea incarnate, consolidated, personified in the actual existence of a realized Christ in the camp of the Lord’s host. I do pray for you, and pray you for me, that we may each one of us have a love which realizes Christ, and which can address Him as “Thou whom my soul loveth.” But, again, look at the text and you will perceive another thing very clearly. The Church, in the expression which she uses concerning Christ, speaks not only with a realization of His presence, but with a firm assurance of her own love. Many of you, who do really love Christ, can seldom get further than to say, “O Thou whom my soul desires to love! O Thou whom I hope I love I” But this sentence saith not so at all. This title hath not the shadow of a doubt or a fear upon it: “O Thou whom my soul loveth!” Is it not a happy thing for a child of God when he knows that he loves Christ? when he can speak of it as a matter of consciousness?--a thing out of which he is not to be argued by all the reasonings of Satan?--a thing concerning which he can put his hand upon his heart, and appeal to Jesus and say, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee”? Now, notice something else equally worthy of our attention. The church, the spouse, in thus speaking of her Lord, thus directs our thoughts not merely to her confidence of love, but the unity of her affections with regard to Christ. She hath not two lovers, she hath but one. She doth not say, “O ye on whom my heart is set!” but “O Thou!” She hath but one after whom her heart is panting. She has gathered her affections into one bundle, she hath made them but one affection, and then she hath cast that bundle of myrrh and spices upon the breast of Christ. He is to her the “Altogether Lovely,” the gathering up of all the loves which once strayed abroad. She has put before the sun of her heart, a burning-glass, which has brought all her love to a focus, and it is all concentrated with all its heat and vehemence upon Christ Jesus Himself. Come, do we love Christ after this fashion? Do we love Him so that we can say, “Compared with our love to Jesus, all other loves are but as nothing”? If you will look at the title before us, you will have to learn not only its reality, its assurance, its unity; but you will have to notice its constancy, “O Thou whom my soul loveth.” Not, “did love yesterday;” or, “may begin to love to-morrow;” but, “Thou whom my soul loveth,”--“Thou whom I have loved ever since I knew Thee, and to love whom has become as necessary to me as my vital breath or my native air.” The true Christian is one who loves Christ for evermore. In our text you will clearly perceive a vehemence of affection. The spouse saith of Christ, “O Thou whom my soul loveth.” She means not that she loves Him a little, that she loves Him with an ordinary passion, but that she loves Him in all the deep sense of that word. Oh! you should see Love when she hath her heart full of her Saviour’s presence, when she cometh out of her chamber! Indeed, she is like a giant refreshed with new wine. I have seen her dash down difficulties, tread upon hot irons of affliction and her feet have not been scorched; I have seen her lift up her spear against ten thousand, and she has slain them at one time. I have known her give up all she had, even to the stripping of herself, for Christ; and yet she seemed to grow richer, and to be decked with ornaments as she unarrayed herself, that she might cast her all upon her Lord, and give up all to Him. Do you know this love, Christian brethren and sisters?
II. Now let me come to the logic of the heart, which lies at the bottom of the text. My heart, why shouldest thou love Christ? With what argument wilt thou justify thyself? Our hearts give for their reason why they love Him, first, this: We love Him for His infinite loveliness. When you see Christ you look up, but you do more, you feel drawn up; you do not admire so much as love; you do not adore so much as embrace; His character enchants, subdues, o’erwhelms, and with the irresistible impulse of its own sacred attraction--it draws your spirit right up to Him. But still, love hath another argument why she loveth Christ, namely, Christ’s love to her. One more reason does love give us yet more powerful still. Love feels that she must give herself to Christ, because of Christ’s suffering for her. This is love’s logic. I may well stand here and defend the believer’s love to his Lord. I wish I had more to defend than I have. I dare stand here and defend the utmost extravagancies of speech, and the wildest fanaticisms of action, when they have been done for love to Christ. I say again, I only wish I had more to defend in these degenerate times. Has a man given up all for Christ? I will prove him wise if he has given up for such an one as Christ is. Has a man died for Christ? I write over his epitaph that he surely was no fool who had but the wisdom to give up his heart for one who had His heart pierced for him.
III. Rhetoric is good, logic is better, but a positive demonstration is the best. Let the world see that this is not a mere label to you--a label for something that does not exist, but that Christ really is to you “Him whom your soul loves.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
First of all, we find in the words of the text the cry of the living, longing soul, “Tell me, O Thou whom I love, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.” The soul that here speaks is the soul of the child of God speaking to Jesus. It is a test by which to try the true spiritual life of a soul. The heart can always speak to Jesus in words of love, for we are not God’s true children, we are not true disciples of Jesus, unless each of us can speak to Him in words like these, “O Thou whom my soul loveth.” It is not, remember, the warm excited feelings of affection of which God’s Word here speaks, but of the deliberate choice, of the deliberate surrender of the will. But, again, the text is also the cry of a hungering soul, “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.” It is, you see, the soul hungering from a sense of weakness, conscious of the need of heavenly food. So we may hear one saying, “I see others around me strong in the life and power of His might, though I suffer naught but defeat.” It is the cry of a soul which has been stumbling on in weakness, fighting and backsliding, yet longing to get more near to Jesus, to cleave to Him, to follow after Him, yet deeply conscious of its utter helplessness and weakness and need of spiritual food. God Himself hath given us the answer. He feeds us with the Word of Life--gives us strength with which to fight on through the struggle after Jesus. Is this the spiritual food with which our souls are strengthened and refreshed from day to day Again, God feeds us in the blessed sacrament of His body and blood. But, again, the soul asks, “Where makest Thou Thy flock to rest at noon?” The phrase “at noon” carries us to another suggestion of our text. It may have been in the scorching sun of prosperity that we suffered our great trial--none so sharp as that, none under which one who had been really seeking God found it more difficult to follow Jesus, none under which he had more need to cry, “Tell me, O Thou whom I love, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon.” But, blessed be God, there are those on whom the sun of prosperity has shined in all its brightness, yet have never been moved from rest in their Holy Saviour. We long to know and enjoy that rest for ourselves. And where is our hope? Not in any thing of man, but in God’s Word. The Lord hath said, “Believe,” and I take Him at His word and rest in that word. He tells me of One who loved me and gave Himself for me, and then I ask my soul, “Do I feel peace? Do I sufficiently care about this matter? Do I sufficiently love my Saviour.?” There is no sweeter resting-place for weary souls than in God’s own soul. But, once more, God gives us rest in His Church. Is this not the meaning of what we call the “Day of Rest” our Lord’s Day, the day given by our Lord to be a resting-place unto our souls in the midst of a weary world? Surely, above all things that we desire in this busy, toiling age, is that we may find rest. Yet one other question arises in our hearts as we speak to Him whom our soul loveth. Christ has two flocks--a travelling flock and a gathered flock. He tells us where the travelling flock finds rest--in the pastures of His Word, in the quiet of His Church, above all in His own heart of love. But that gathered flock--where does that rest? We shall know when we, like it, are gathered. God’s Word tells us but little of that heavenly rest, but enough surely to spur us on to seek it earnestly each for ourselves. “There remaineth a rest for the people of God.” Oh! let us then press on more earnestly after Jesus lest any of us fail to enter into the rest. But now let us turn to the answer to our text--“If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way. Go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherd tents. Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?” is the question of the anxious soul. Let it be our question this morning, each one for himself, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside?” God calls me to read His Word, why should I reject the Heavenly knowledge? God calls me to rest on His Church, why should I turn my back upon that rest and seize after the things of the world? God calls me to His Holy Sacrament, “Why should I be as one that turneth aside from the flocks?” Yes, why indeed? Can we do without Christ? Can we risk disobedience to His Holy Word? Are we strong enough without His strength? Can we be satisfied without He shall feed us? (Archbishop Maclagan.)
Song of Solomon 1:8
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock.
Christ’s answer unto His spouse
I. His supposition.
1. The faithful servants and saints of Christ walk in much blindness and ignorance.
2. Christ takes not advantage from the sins or from the ignorance of His people to upbraid them, but doth rather help them against their infirmities (Hebrews 2:17-18).
II. His compellation.
1. Christ doth win the affections of His saints by sweet insinuations.
(1) To assume them of His goodwill, love, delight, and acceptation.
(2) To cause them to take notice of His grace and love.
2. The Church is exceeding fair and beautiful in Christ’s eyes (Ephesians 5:25-27).
(1) This beauty is not natural, nor do we receive it from nature (Ezekiel 16:3-6).
(2) It is supernatural (Ezekiel 16:7-10; Ezekiel 16:13; Ephesians 4:24).
3. The saints are most fair in Christ’s eyes, when they are most deformed in their own (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
III. His directions to her.
1. Where she should go.
(1) Out of former evils of blackness and ignorance unto purity and saving knowledge.
(2) From one degree of grace to another.
(3) From all kind of superstition and idolatry to pure worship and sanctity.
2. Where she should feed.
(1) He doth tend and take care for young Christians.
(2) Those that are strong should strengthen and feed those that are Weak.
(3) Young and tender Christians must be fed with wholesome food. (John Robotham.)
Song of Solomon 1:9-11
I have compared thee, O My love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.
Christ’s commendation of His Church
I. The sweet epithet Ghrist giveth unto his Church. “O My love.”
1. The greatest outgoings of love and friendship from Christ, are toward His Church. His love to His people is--
(1) Infinite and immeasurable, beyond all imagination or comparison (John 15:9).
(2) Gracious (Hosea 14:3).
(3) Liberal and bountiful (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:25).
(4) Eternal (Jeremiah 31:3).
II. The comparison by which He sets her forth.
1. “I have compared thee.” Christ esteems His servants and people, not as they are in themselves, but as they are in Himself.
2. “A company of horses” etc. Now by this comparison Christ setteth forth the glory and renown of His Church in respect of her victories and achievements; for He having directed His Church to follow the footsteps of the Flock, and to feed above the tents of false Shepherds, no question now but these false Shepherds, who before were called Christ’s companions, will persecute and afflict her: now for the comforting and supporting of her, Christ tells her, she shall be strong, and victorious, she shall be like the horses of Egypt, ready for the battle.
3. Christ having set forth the Church’s strength and valour, now continueth His speech, showing also, how His Church is decked with His ordinances and graces (Song of Solomon 1:10).
4. Then He declareth what should be her future happiness; viz. a further increase of her graces, and some addition of rich ornaments (Song of Solomon 1:11). (John Robotham.)
Song of Solomon 1:10
Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
The bride adorned with jewels
I. The graces of the Holy Spirit are that adorning of the Church which is visible to all spiritual discernment. Faith itself is a very choice jewel, but we are to have rows of jewels--faith in exercise; faith, as a principle, honouring Christ; as a hand, laying hold of Christ; as an eye, beholding His beauty; as a warrior, conquering all that opposes Christ--faith victorious over the world--the grace of faith. The next jewel the apostle mentions is hope. We must take care we do not get it exchanged for a pebble, or some portion of mud, as formalists, and hypocrites, and profane persons do, hoping that they will be saved, hoping that God will forgive them, and that they will get to heaven and the like. Pass on to mark another brilliant jewel--love. Not only the love of God shed abroad in the heart, though that is very blessed, but love as a grace of the Holy Spirit. Then we go on to another jewel, a very lovely one, though frequently out of sight--humility. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble;” He giveth it first, and giveth grace to supply it. Another jewel in close connection with humility is meekness. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” He was meek and lowly of heart, and enjoins His disciples to imitate Him, that they may find rest to their souls. Another very brilliant jewel is zeal. I do not want the meekness and humility of the Christian to dwindle down into Laodicean carelessness--that would tarnish his jewels; but I want the zeal of the Lord of Hosts, which is said to have eaten up my glorious Master, to eat me up also. I want, as He was, to be clothed with zeal, as with a cloak. I will mention another jewel, making seven on this side of the face. It is a quiet jewel, but a very important one. I mean patience. “In patience possess ye your souls.” “Let patience have her perfect work.” I might lengthen this row of jewels, but I leave you to do it in your retirement, for I want to turn to the other cheek, and notice those jewels which are visible to the world. And when I have exhibited both cheeks to you, you may follow the advice of our Lord, “If thine enemy smite thee on the one cheek, turn to him the other also. If they smite you on the cheek I have been naming, they will not hurt one of the jewels. Now let us look at the other. The first jewel I mention is decision. A very important one, for you must know that if you are like the Israelites, halting between two opinions, the world will laugh at you; if they find you one hour very devout in the house of God, or perhaps reading the Bible or some good book, or even holding conversation scripturally and profitably on spiritual things, and another at some silly amusement, some careless kill-time pursuit of the world, they will say your religion is all hypocrisy, and I should not wonder if they are very near the mark. Oh, for more decision! Then there is another jewel that the world will look at and admire--integrity. Oh, the disgracefulness of everything like duplicity among those who profess to belong to Christ! Oh, the dignity of a Christian being blessed with that integrity which says what it means, and means what it says--that will not, cannot, say and unsay, but is ever in the same mind as to the things which relate to God’s glory, and to his own perseverance in the divine life! Mark, another prominent jewel before the world is self-denial, just the contrast of selfishness. Again, another of these visible jewels is fortitude, which bears up the soul with a holy confidence, and shows a firm front to every enemy, and causes the soul to put on the armour of God, and make its stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Circumspection must be reckoned among the jewels that are visible to the world. Hence it is written, “See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” And again, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without.” But there are two more I must just mention. Devotion. The spirit of devotion is invisible to the world, but its manifestation will be seen. Just the contrast of that levity, and carelessness, and trifling that characterize so many professors. Then there is one jewel more I must name--joy “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” This, of course, will include gratitude, which, also, is a grace; but I put them together, and just remark that we are exhorted to “rejoice in the Lord always.”
II. The bride’s neck and its ornaments. The first question that arises is, What are we to understand by the neck of the Church? The neck is the part that unites the body and the head. Then it must be the covenant of grace that is the neck; the living union between Christ and His Church. It is the strength, the support, and the medium of communication. Now let us come to the ornaments. You are to recollect they are in the plural--chains. “Thy neck with chains of gold.” The golden chain of doctrines. Observe, they are not detached links or rings, but they are closely linked together, and we cannot part with one link without breaking the chain. What shall I say about the chain of promises? If I take a short summary of it I would just say, that they are distinct, that they are not to be separated, and, as we before said, they are linked together. And hence we read that all the promises of God in Him (Christ) are yea, and in Him amen. Are they not well riveted? One more chain I must mention--the chain of privileges. The privilege of separation and distinction from the world--the privilege of high education, the Spirit of the Lord being the preceptor--the privilege of adoption, being at home at the Father’s house--the privilege of feasting on a feast of fat things, provided and prepared by the Master of the feast, who is the Bridegroom--the privilege of attendants, servants such as you cannot find on earth. Moreover, the privilege of advocacy within the veil. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Here are chains of gold, beloved, chains to hang about the neck. I tell you of these, as of the jewels, that Jesus has put them on, and they are invaluable; though I know the carnal mind will prefer the tinsel, the toys, the gilded ornaments, the empty, light, worthless things, that look a little gaudy in external religion, rather than these gold chains. (J. Irons.)
Chains of gold
By those chains of gold, with which the Church’s neck is beautified and adorned, may be meant,
1. The laws and ordinances of God; which the ministers of the Gospel, and members of Churches, should be careful to observe (Proverbs 1:9). Or,
2. Those diversities of gifts which are bestowed on the ministers of Christ, by which they are made “able ministers of the New Testament”; and so become useful to many, and appear comely and beautiful, both in the eyes of Christ, and of such souls to whom they minister. Or,
3. The various graces of the Spirit, with which, not only ministers, but all believers are adorned; for sins and vices are so chained and linked together, that where there is one, there is all; so the graces of the Spirit are like chains of gold, which are so closely linked together, that they cannot be separated, but where there is one grace there is every grace, which very much beautify and adorn the believer. This chain consists of ten links:
(8) A saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
(9) Longsuffering and forbearance.
(10) Sincerity. Or,
4. Those blessings of grace which are laid up in an everlasting covenant, come through the blood of Christ, and are communicated to all His people, may be meant by these chains; they go inseparably together; where a person is blessed with one, he is blessed with all: for though our interest in them may be gradually discovered to us, yet are we blessed at once, “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Not one of these links can be broken; this golden chain of grace and salvation is described (Romans 8:30). (John Gill, D. D.)
Song of Solomon 1:12
While the King sitteth at His table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
The Church’s testimony to Christ
These words are the Church’s testimony from experience of the blessed effects which Christ’s presence in His ordinances hath upon pious souls which wait upon Him under them.
1. The title The Church gives Christ, “The King”: as showing thereby the sense she had of His dignity and dominion, and also of her subjection to Him, and dependence upon Him.
2. What she says of Him from her own experience, as a witness to His condescension and grace, the King sitteth at his table: which may refer to all the ordinances of the Gospel, in which, as at a feast, He meets and entertains His people, supping with them, and they with Him, as His own expression is (Revelation 3:20).
3. The happy fruit or effect of Christ’s sitting at His table upon the believer who is admitted to sit with Him. “My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.” Grace is compared to spikenard for its preciousness and value; and the sending forth of its smell denotes that grace as discovering itself in a lively, fresh and vigorous manner. It is as ointment poured forth, most pleasing to Christ, and to all that love Him, too; they rejoicing in the honour paid Him by themselves and others through a lively exercise of grace.
4. The connection of this effect with its cause, or the presence of Christ, and the dependence of this upon it.
I. Grace in the friends of Christ is highly valuable and precious.
1. Grace in Scripture most usually denotes these two things, namely, God’s goodwill to us, and His good work in us.
(1) His goodwill to us lost sinners in and through His Son, and this as revealed and tendered to us in the Gospel (Titus 2:11; Ephesians 2:8).
(2) God s good work in us, in all His people, which is the fruit or effect of that goodwill which He had in His heart concerning them (Ephesians 4:7; John 1:16).
2. From whence its worth and excellency may he collected.
(1) Grace in the friends of Christ may be said to be valuable and precious, as having so much of heaven in it.
(a) It comes from heaven;
(b) It marks out for it;
(c) It leads to it;
(d) It will issue in it.
(2) The necessity of grace is a further evidence of its value. Without grace we cannot please God upon earth, nor be admitted to the enjoyment of Him in heaven. It is grace that crowns all outward mercies, and speaks and makes them mercies indeed; and nothing but this can sweeten afflictions, and make our heaviest crosses light.
(3) The excellency of grace may be argued from the happy distinction it makes in them, from fallen angels, from the rest of mankind, and from their former selves.
(4) The value of grace may be gathered from the price that went to purchase it, which was no less than the blood of Christ.
(5) It is precious in regard of its Author, the Spirit of God: hence He is called “the Sprat of Grace.” Under this character He is promised where a saving change is designed (Zechariah 12:10). And it is wrought by His agency wherever it is wrought. The instrument He ordinarily makes use of is the Word; but all the influence it hath, and the saving impression it makes, is from Him.
(6) It is precious in its nature. No two things can more widely differ than the old and the new; the corruption propagated with the common nature by the first birth, and the grace infused in regeneration.
(7) The excellency of grace is proved by its effects: particularly as it ennobles, enriches, secures and comforts. Application:
1. Is grace so valuable? How blind are they that see not its worth I What enemies to their souls are they who labour not after it I
2. How much hath God done for them on whom He hath bestowed His grace, so excellent in itself, and leading to glory 1
3. How greatly are the partakers of grace obliged to Christ, by whose blood it is purchased, and for whose sake it is bestowed! 4-How glad should they be of all the opportunities to meet Him, by His presence and influence, to have grace drawn into act!
5. How thankful should they be who can say with the Church, “While the King sat at His table, my spikenard sent forth the smell thereof I”
6. How willing should they he whose grace hath been drawn forth by the presence of Christ here, to behold Him in His glory, and dwell with Him for ever. (D. Wilcox.)
A Sacrament sermon
In acts of special communion with Christ, grace cannot lie hid, hut will breathe out with great fragrancy; or, at the table of the Lord our graces should be specially and in a most lively manner exercised.
1. There is a reverence common to all worship, for “God will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto Him” (Leviticus 10:3).
2. There is a special delight and affection which should accompany every act of communion with God (Psalms 73:28; Isaiah 56:7).
3. Besides, in all acts of communion with God there is an interchange of donatives and duties. Where we expect to receive much grace, there it must be much exercised and acted (Mark 4:24).
4. Christ may more sensibly manifest Himself in one duty than another, for He is not tied to means, or to time and season; and it is His presence that maketh an ordinance comfortable, and doth revive the exercise of grace.
5. One duty must not be set against another. They are all instituted by God, and accompanied with His blessing, and are means of our communion with Him, yet they all have their special use and tendency, and one is to be preferred in this respect, another in that, as the ends are for which they are appointed; as in the Word we come to Christ as our teacher, in prayer as our advocate, in baptism as our head and lord, into whose mystical body we are planted; in the Lord’s Supper as the master of the feast, or our royal entertainer.
6. Though the Lord’s Supper he a special means, yet it is the spirit of grace which doth stir up faith, hope and love in us.
(1) The duty is a means accommodated and fitted to this end, or God would never have instituted it.
(2) The Spirit is the author both of grace and the exercise of grace; He first infuseth and then quickeneth and stirreth up grace in us by this means: “ It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).
(3) You must stir up your own hearts (Isaiah 64:7; 2 Timothy 1:6).
7. Allowing all this, yet it is a truth that at the Lord’s table graces should be exercised in a special lively manner, which will appear if we consider--
I. What a sacrament hath beyond other duties. It is the most mysterious instrument of our sanctification and preservation in a state of grace, and therefore requireth a special exercise of grace.
1. In a Sacrament there is a more sensible assurance. In other duties we see God’s goodness, or readiness to do us good, in this His solicitous and anxious care for our good (Hebrews 6:17-18).
2. A closer application. A general invitation is not so much as an express injunction. We have the universal proposal in the Word, the particular application in the Sacraments (Acts 2:38).
3. A solemn investiture, or taking possession by certain instituted rites. As we are put in possession by certain formalities of law, as of a house by the delivery of a key, or of afield by the delivery of a turf, so we take possession of Christ and all His benefits, “This is my body.”
4. A visible representation of the mysteries of godliness; and so it doth excite us to the more serious consideration of them when they are transmitted to the soul not by the ears only, but by the eyes (Galatians 3:1).
5. An express means of union and communion with Christ. We draw nigh to God in prayer, and God draweth nigh to us in the Word; but here is not only an approximation, but a communion (1 Corinthians 10:16).
6. It is God’s feast, where we come to eat and drink at His table as those that are in friendship with Him.
7. This is the sum of all other duties and privileges, the abridgment of Christian religion, the land of promise in a map (Luke 22:20).
II. What is the special use and intent of this duty? It was instituted for the remembrance of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24-25), and (verse 26) it is an annunciating or showing forth the Lord’s death till He come.
1. The occasion and necessity of it, why Christ should he given for us, our guilt, and misery, which could only be expiated by the blood of the Son of God; so that one great work of the Sacrament is the representation of the evil of sin; for we are to remember the Son of God, “Who was made sin for us that knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and who was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).
2. The cause of it; the great love of God, or His mercy to poor sinners (John 3:16).
3. The act of redemption itself; His “obedience to the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7); or His “making His soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). Therefore He is represented as “crucified before your eyes” (Galatians 3:1).
4. The consequent benefits which thence result to us. You come not to receive the mercy of an, hour but here is pardon of sin given us without any infringing the honour of God’s justice (Romans 3:25-26); the favour of God (2 Corinthians 5:19); the spirit of grace (Titus 3:5-6; Galatians 3:14; and 1 Corinthians 10:4, compared with John 4:14; John 7:37). So also eternal life, or hopes of glory (Titus 3:7; Romans 5:1-2, and 1 John 4:9). And indeed this whole duty is a figure of the eternal banquet.
III. What graces are to be exercised, which is, as it were, the pouring out of our box of precious spikenard on Christ’s head or feet?
1. With respect to the necessity of our redemption, a humble sense of the odiousness of sin, represented to us in the bruises and sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ when He came to be a sacrifice for sin, that we may loath it, condemn it, resolve no more to have to do with it (Romans 8:3).
2. The love of God in Christ, which was the cause, must beget a fervent love to Him again, that we may love Him who hath loved us at so dear a rate (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
3. The act of redemption, or the death of Christ, must breed in us a lively faith in Christ, that we may accept Him as our Redeemer and Saviour upon His own terms, and trust ourselves into His hands, and devote ourselves to His service, crying out, as Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), welcoming Him into our souls with the dearest embraces of thankfulness and hearty affection.
4. With respect to the consequent benefits, there must he
(1) Earnest desire after communion with God in Christ, that you may be partakers both of His renewing and reconciling grace, and that you may get more sensible proof of His love to your souls;
(2) Joy in the sense of the greatness, suitableness and firmness of the mercy represented, offered and applied to you (Song of Solomon 1:4);
(3) Hope, which is a desirous expectation of the promised glory, looking and longing for it with more earnestness and confidence. This ante-past in the house of our pilgrimage is sweet, but what will be our communion with Him in heaven!
5. That love which is here commemorated must be imitated, and leave a suitable impression upon you. If Christ gave HIS life for those who are sometimes called His enemies, sometimes His people, such an impartial charity must you have to all men; to brethren and neighbours (1 John 4:11), and to enemies (Ephesians 4:32). (T. Manton, D. D.)
Song of Solomon 1:13
A bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me.
A bundle of myrrh
I. Christ Jesus is unutterably precious to believers. Observe first, that nothing gives the believer so much joy as fellowship with Christ. In our esteem, the joys of earth are little better than husks for swine compared with Jesus the heavenly manna. I would rather have one mouthful of Christ’s love, and a sip of His fellowship, than a whole world full of carnal delights. What is the chaff to the wheat? What is the sparkling paste to the true diamond? What is a dream to the glorious reality? What is time’s mirth in its best trim compared to our Lord Jesus in His most despised estate? We may plainly see that Christ is very precious to the believer, because to him there is nothing good without Christ. Oh, what a howling wilderness is this world without my Lord! If once He groweth angry, and doth, though it be for a moment, hide Himself from me, withered are the flowers of my garden; my pleasant fruits decay; the birds suspend their songs, and black night lowers over all my hopes. On the other hand, when all earthly comforts have failed you, have you not found quite enough in your Lord? Do you remember when you were poor? Oh! how near Christ was to you, and how rich He made you! You were despised and rejected of men, and no man gave you a good word! Ah! sweet was His fellowship then, and how delightful to hear Him say, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God!” As afflictions abound, even so do consolations abound by Christ Jesus. Nor should I be straining the truth if I say that the Christian would sooner give up anything than forsake his Master. If it came to this, that you must deny Christ, or give up the dearest thing you have, would you deliberate? I think we could go further, dear friends, and say, not only could we give up everything, but I think, when love is fervent, and the flesh is kept under, we could suffer anything with Christ. I met, in one of Samuel Rutherford’s letters, an extraordinary expression, where he speaks of the coals of Divine wrath all falling upon the head of Christ, so that not one might fall upon His people. “And yet,” saith he, “if one of those coals should drop from His head upon urine and did utterly consume me, yet if I felt it was a part of the coals that fell on Him, and I was bearing it for His sake, and in communion with Him, I would choose it for my heaven.” One thing I know proveth, beloved, that you esteem Christ to be very precious, namely, that you want others to know Him too. The more your love grows, beloved, the more insatiable will be your desire that others should love Him, till it will come to this that you will be, like Paul, “in labours more abundant,” spending and being spent that you may bring the rest of Christ’s elect body into union with their glorious head.
II. The soul clingeth to Christ, and she hath good reason for so doing, for her own words are, “A bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me.”
1. Jesus Christ is like myrrh.
(1) Myrrh may be well the type of Christ for its preciousness. It was an exceedingly expensive drug. We know that Jacob sent some of it down into Egypt as being one of the choice products of the land. It is always spoken of in Scripture as being a rich, rare and costly substance. But no myrrh could ever compare with Him, for Jesus Christ is so precious, that it heaven and earth were put together they could not buy another Saviour.
(2) Myrrh, again, was pleasant. It was a pleasant thing to be in a chamber perfumed with myrrh. Through the nostrils myrrh conveys delight to the human mind; but Christ gives delight to His people, not through one channel, but through every avenue.
(3) Moreover, myrrh is perfuming. It is used to give a sweet smell to other things. And surely, beloved, Jesus Christ is very perfuming to His people. Does not He perfume their prayers, so that the Lord smelleth a sweet savour? Doth He not perfume their songs, so that they become like vials full of odour sweet?
(4) Myrrh has preserving qualities. It was used to prevent corruption. What is there which can preserve the soul but Christ Jesus? What is the myrrh which keeps our works, which in themselves are dead, and corrupt, and rotten--what, I say, keeps them from becoming a foul stench in the nostrils of God, but that Christ is in them?
(5) Myrrh, again, was used as a disinfectant. And there doubtless is some power in myrrh to preserve from infectious disease. Well, brethren, certain I am it is so with Christ. You have to go into the world, which is like ,a great lazar-house; but if you carry Christ with you, you will never catch the world s disease.
(6) But myrrh was believed by the ancient physicians to do more than this--it was a cure--it did not merely prevent, but it healed. Certain it is that your Christ is the best medicine for the soul. His name is Jehovah Rophi--“I am the Lord that healeth them.”
(7) Myrrh was used in the East as a beautifier. The belief of Oriental women was, that it removed wrinkles and stains from the face, and they used it constantly for the perfecting of their charms. I do not know how that may be, but I know that nothing makes the believer so beautiful as being with Christ. He is beautiful in the eyes of God, of holy angels, and of his fellow-men.
(8) Myrrh might well be used as an emblem of our Lord from its connection with sacrifice. It was one of the precious drugs used in making the holy oil with which the priests were anointed and the frankincense which burned perpetually before God. It is this, the sacrificial character of Christ, which is at the root and bottom of all that Christ is most precious to His people. O Lamb of God our sacrifice, we must remember Thee.
2. Christ is called a bundle of myrrh, or, as some translate it, a bag of myrrh, or a box of myrrh. There were three sorts of myrrh; there was the myrrh in sprigs, which being burnt made a sweet smell; then there was myrrh, a dried spice; and then, thirdly, there was myrrh a flowing oil. We do not know to which there is reference here. But why is it said “a bundle of myrrh”?
(1) First, for the plenty of it. He is not a drop of it, He is a casketful. He is not a sprig or flower of it, but a whole bundleful. There is enough in Christ for my necessities.
(2) A bundle again, for variety; for there is in Christ not only the one thing needful, but “ye are complete in Him; there is everything needful.
(3) He is a bundle of myrrh again, for preservation--not loose myrrh to be dropped on the floor or trodden on, but myrrh tied up, as though God bound up all virtues and excellences in His Son: not myrrh spilt on the ground, but myrrh in a box--myrrh kept in a casket. Such is Christ. “Able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God through Him,” is He still unto this hour.
(4) A bundle of myrrh again, to show how diligently we should take care of it. We must treasure up His words, prize His ordinances, obey His precepts, tie Him up and keep Him ever with us as a precious bundle of myrrh.
(5) And yet again, a bundle of myrrh for speciality, as if He were not common myrrh for everybody. No, no, no; there is distinguishing, discriminating grace--a bundle tied up for His people and labelled with their names from before the foundation of the world. Oh! blessed people whom the Lord hath admitted into His secrets! Oh! choice and happy people who are thus made to say, “A bottle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me.”
III. With a sense of Christ’s preciousness is combined a consciousness of possession. It is “my Well-beloved.” My dear hearer, is Christ your well-beloved? A Saviour--that is well; but my Saviour--that is the best of the best. What is the use of bread if it is not mine? I may die of hunger. Of what value is gold, if it be not mine? I may yet die in a workhouse. I want this preciousness to be mine. “My Well-beloved.” Have you ever laid hold on Christ by the hand of faith? But that is not the only word. “A bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me.” He is not so to many. Ah! my Lord is a root out of a dry ground to multitudes. They would sooner go to a play or a dance than they would have any fellowship with Him. They can see the beauties upon the cheeks of this Jezebel world, but they cannot see the perfections of my Lord and Master. Well! well! well! Let them say what they will, and let them think as they please, every creature hath its own joy, but “a bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me”--unto me--unto me, and if there is not another who finds Him so, yet “a bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved unto me.”
IV. A sense of possession and a sense of enjoyment will always lead the Christian to desire constant fellowship. The Church does not say, “I will put this bundle of myrrh on my shoulders”--Christ is no burden to a Christian. She does not say, “I will put this bundle of myrrh on my back”--the Church does not want to have Christ concealed from her face. She desires to have Him where she can see Him, and near to her heart.
1. It is an expression of desire--her desire that she may have the consciousness of Christ’s love continually. Do not you feel the same desire?
2. But then, it is not only her desire, but it is also her confidence. She seems to say, “He will be with me thus.” You may have a suspension of visible fellowship with Christ, but Christ never will go away from His people really. He may close His eyes and hide HIS face from you, but His heart never can depart from you.
3. This is also a resolve. She desires, she believes, and she resolves it. Lord, Thou shalt be with me, Thou shalt be with me always. I appeal to you, brethren, will you not make this resolve in God’s strength this morning to cling close to Christ? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Song of Solomon 1:14
My Beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi.
A beautiful symbol
Terraced on the side of the mountains were the vineyards of En-gedi. Oh, they were sweet places! From a shelving of the mountain four hundred feet high waters came down in beautiful baptism on the faces of the leaves; the grapes intoxicate with their own wine; pomegranates with juices bursting from the rind; all fruits, and flowers, and aromatic woods--among the sweetest of these the camphire plant of the text. Its flowers are in clusters like our lilac--graceful, fragrant, symbolical of Jesus.
I. I will first show you that this camphire plant of the text was a symbol of Christ, because of its fragrance. If I had a branch of it, and should wave it in your midst, it would fill all the house with the redolence. The camphor, as we have it, is offensive to some; but the camphire plant of the text had a fragrance gracious to all. The name of Caesar means power; the name of Herod means cruelty; the name of Alexander means conquest; the name of Demosthenes means eloquence; the name of Milton means poetry; the name of Benjamin West means painting; the name of Phidias means sculpture; the name of Beethoven means music; the name of Howard means reform; but the name of Christ means love! It is the sweetest name that ever melted from lip to heart. Oh, rich and rare, exquisite and everlasting perfume! Set it in every poor man’s window; plant it on every grave; put its leaves under every dying hearth; wreath its blossoms for every garland; wave its branches in every home; and when I am about to die, and my hand lies cold and stiff and white upon the pillow, let no superstitious priest come with mumbling fooleries to put a crucifix of wood or stone in my hand, but rather some plain and humble soul--let him come and put in my dying grasp this living branch, with “clusters of camphire from the vineyards of En-gedi.”
II. This camphire plant of the text was a symbol of Christ in the fact that it gives colouring. From the Mediterranean to the Ganges, the people of the East gathered it, dried the leaves, pulverized them, and then used them as a dye for beautifying garments or their own persons. It was that fact that gave the camphire plant of the text its commercial value in the time of King Solomon; a type of my Lord Jesus, who beautifies and adorns, and colours everything He touches. I have no faith in that man’s conversion whose religion does not colour his entire life. It was intended so to do. If a man has the grace of God in his heart, it ought to show itself in the life. There ought to be this “cluster of camphire” in the ledger, in the roll of government securities, in the medical prescription, in the law-book. I tell you, unless your religion goes with you everywhere, it goes nowhere. That religion was intended to colour all the heart and the life. But, mark you, it was a bright colour. For the most part, it was an orange dye made of this camphire plant, one of the most brilliant of all colours; and so the religion of Jesus Christ casts no blackness or gloom upon the soul. It brightens up life, it brightens up everything.
III. The camphire plant of the text was a symbol of Jesus Christ because it is a mighty restorative. You know that there is nothing that starts respiration so soon in one who has fainted as camphor, as we have it. Put upon a sponge or handkerchief, the effects are almost immediate. Well, this camphire plant of the text, though somewhat different from that which we have, was a pungent aromatic, and in that respect it becomes a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the mightiest of all restoratives. I have carried this camphire plant into the sick-room, after the doctors had held their consultation and said there was no hope and nothing more could be done, and the soul brightened up under the spiritual restorative. There is no fever, no marasmus, no neuralgia, no consumption, no disease of the body, that the grace of God will not help. I wish that over every bed of pain and through every hospital of distress we might swing this “ cluster of camphire from the vineyards of En-gedi.” Christ’s hand is the softest pillow, Christ’s pardon is the strongest stimulus, Christ’s comfort is the mightiest anodyne, Christ’s salvation is the grandest restorative. This grace is also a restorative for the backslider. For great sin, great pardon. For deep wounds, omnipotent surgery. For deaf ears, a Divine aurist. For blind eyes, a heavenly oculist. For the dead in sin, the upheaval of a great resurrection. But why should I particularize that class in this audience when we all need this restorative, for we have all wandered and gone away! (T. De Witt Talmage.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Song of Solomon 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30