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Song of Solomon 4:8
Come with Me from Lebanon, My spouse, with Me from Lebanon.
The invitations of Christ
The whole idea is that the Shulamite Virgin who is sought as a bride lives in high, craggy, cavernous regions--amid inhospitable scenes--and close to the mountain haunts of beasts of prey. Such words as Amana, Shenir, Hermon, and Lebanon are used to typify a region of mountain, rock, fastness, forest, and jungle. There the fair Shulamite has her native home, That is one side of the picture. On the other side is the King, who lives in Jerusalem, the royal city, the city of peace, far away from the haunts of leopards; and He goes forth to invite the bride to leave the crag and the den, the forest and the danger, saying, “Come to Jerusalem, to the centre of civilization, to the home of beauty, to the King’s palace, to the splendid and inviolable home,--no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast go up thereon,--come, O My dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, whose lips drop as the honeycomb, and the smell of whose garments is as the smell of Lebanon, come! How is all this sustained by collateral Scripture, and made to apply to the Son of God? Christ calls men away from what may be regarded as the nativities of the present scene. There must be no division, no holding on with both hands: the attitude must not be that of one who has the right foot in the caverns and the left foot in the metropolis: there must be a complete detachment from all that is native and original, and a clear coming away with all trust and love and hope to the new abode. Christ is calling us away from our animalism--the first condition of our birth. He will not have it that the body is the man, that the flesh is the immortal part of humanity. So Christ calls the Church, which is His Bride, the Lamb’s Wife,--He calls her away from stony places, and from low associations, and from connections with lions’ dens and mountain haunts of leopards,--calls humanity away from flesh, and earth, and time, and sense, and prison, into all the upper spaces, where the blue sky is unclouded, and where the infinite liberty never degenerates into licence. What does Christ call us from? Precisely what the Shulamite was called from--from stony places and desert lands and mountain fastnesses--from “desolation desolate.” When does Christ ever call men from knowledge to ignorance? from abundance of spiritual realization to poverty and leanness of soul? When does Jesus Christ ever offer men an inhospitable welcome? The great offers of the Gospel are in such terms as these: Eat and drink abundantly, O beloved! He, every one that thirsteth, Come! We are called not only from desolateness, but from danger. If we have not entered into the spirit-life, the faith-life, that higher life which sees the invisible and realizes the eternal, then we are simply walking through perils without number, and as for seductiveness or subtlety or power of involving us in mischief and in suffering, no language can express the reality of the situation. We are called not only from desolateness and from danger, but from incongruity. What a background was the mountain region to the fair and lovely Shulamite! Surely that fair dove was made for Jerusalem, and not for some region of caverns or mountain haunts of leopards. Save her! This sense of incongruity afflicts men who profess to be under the spell of refined and elevating taste. What shocks do men receive who profess to be refined and large in their culture! A musician feels as if he were staggering under a blow of insult when he hears a false note. Is there no law of incongruity in morals, in spiritual relation? “What doest thou here, Elijah?”--why wanderest thou in these desert places, O thou child of the king, meant to adorn a palace? Why estranged and ragged and humiliated and debased, thou child of fortune? Explain the ghastly incongruity! Christ ever calls men to home, to security, to honour. Herein he is like the man who seeks the Shulamite for his bride: he calls her to the palace, to Jerusalem, to all beauty and comfort and security. Jesus Christ says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” When Jesus Christ prepares a place, who can describe its largeness, its beauty, its completeness? “Where I am, there ye shall be also;” and where He is, heaven is. But, there is on the road a cross? We cannot enter into the city unless we understand the cross, and die upon it. The cross is not an intellectual puzzle; it is a cross on which every man must be himself crucified with the Son of God. After the cross the crown--the pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. After the cross, the city in the midst of whose street, and on either side of the river, is the Tree of Life. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Christ’s invitation to His bride
This world was never designed to be the fixed abode of the children of men, and therefore there was a restraint laid upon our first parents in paradise, as to the forbidden tree, showing that they behoved to look to another world for their happiness. Man was once set fair on the way to the land where glory dwells, but he lost his way, and now poor sinners are found wandering on the mountains of vanity. The first Adam managed ill, and brought us into this condition. But behold, the second Adam came to gather the dispersed of Israel, and to lead them on their way to the better country. Hear His voice in the text, calling His people to leave the weary world and go homeward with Himself.
I. Take notice of some things supposed in this kind call and invitation.
1. It supposeth that Christ’s bride is yet in the world. Though brought out of Egypt, yet not come to Canaan, but still in the wilderness.
2. Though she be there, and perhaps has been there many years since she was united to Christ, yet He has not forgot her, but kindly remembers, her still, whatever she may think otherwise.
3. The world is not a place for Christ’s spouse to rest in, she is in great danger there.
4. Yet sometimes the foolish creature lies down even among the lions’ dens, and being charmed with the deceitful mountains is averse to come away.
5. Our Lord takes notice of and is concerned for the soul’s danger from the deceitful world. And therefore He cries with earnestness to come away.
II. Explain this coming from the world, or show what is implied in it. There is a twofold coming away from the world,
1. There is a natural coming out of it. By the course of nature, we are all on our way out of it.
2. There is a spiritual coming out of it, namely, in heart and affection. This is what Christ is calling you to this day.
(1) Take your last look, the parting look of the world by faith even as Moses did of the profits and pleasures of Egypt.
(2) Turn your backs, then, upon the things of the world. Be mortified to them.
(3) Give up this day with the men of the world, never more to mix with the natives of’ the weary land; who labour for nothing but the entertainment of Lebanon, and who have taken up their home among the lions’ dens.
III. Show the import of coming away with Christ from the world.
1. Our Lord has a better place for your reception, than the world can be in its best dress. This is the new Jerusalem. There His Father’s house stands. And in that house are many mansions. The society of saints, angels, and to be ever with the Lord constitute the felicity of the place.
2. Our Lord can assuredly bring you into this glorious and happy place. But oh! will I obtain admission? Why, come with Me, says Christ, there will be no hindrance if you enter along with Me.
3. That place is His own choice.
4. Christ is in His way thither, out of the world to His Father’s house, the better country. What, is not Christ there already? True, Christ personal is there, but Christ mystical is not there yet.
5. Our Lord is very desirous of your company by the way, yes, and to have you away with Him for altogether.
6. Our Lord displays His glory to you in the Gospel, to win your hearts and get you away with Him.
7. Our Lord offers you, not only better in hope, but better in hand than the world can give you.
8. If you will come away, you shall go as He goes, you shall go together. Go as He goes in point of duty. Esteem all things as He does. Let His choice be your choice. Rejoice in those things in which He rejoices; and be grieved for what grieves His Spirit. Love what He loves, and hate what He hates.
9. He will lead you and support you through the whole of the way. You are now in the fields of the world, and there will be difficult steps in your way to the city; these will not be easily discerned, but come with Him, He will keep you from stumbling on the dark mountains.
10. He will be all to you in all. Leave all the world and “come with Me,” for all, as the espoused bride goes with her husband. Whatever comfort, pleasure and delight you drew out of the muddy streams, you may now draw in a far superior manner from the fountain. Thus it shall be your duty and privilege too, to live as people of another world. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (T. Boston, D. D.)
Song of Solomon 4:10-11
How fair is thy love, My sister, My spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
Christ’s estimate of His people
Christ first praises His people’s love. Dost thou love God, my hearer? Dost thou love Jesus? Hearken, then, to what the Lord Jesus says to thee, by His Holy Spirit, from this Song! Thy love, poor, feeble, and cold though it be, is very precious unto the Lord Jesus, in fact it is so precious, that He Himself cannot tell how precious it is. He does not say how precious, but He says “how fair” Pause here, my soul, to contemplate a moment, and let thy joy wait a while. Jesus Christ has banquets in heaven, such as we have never yet tasted, and yet He does not feed there. He has wines in heaven richer far than all the grapes of Eshcol could produce, but where does he seek His wines? In our hearts. Not all the love of angels, nor all the joys cf. Paradise, are so dear to. Him as the love of His poor people compassed with infirmity. The love of the believer is sweet to Christ.
II. Do not imagine, however, that Christ despises our faith, or our hope, or our patience, or our humility. All these graces are precious to Him, and they are described in the next sentence under the title of ointment, and the working of these graces, their exercise and development, are compared with the smell of ointment. Now both wine and ointment were used in the sacrifice of the Jews; sweet smelling myrrh and spices were used in meat-offerings and drink-offerings before the Lord. “But,” saith Jesus Christ to His Church, “all these offerings of wine, and all that burning of incense, is nothing to Me compared to your graces. Your love is My wine, your virtues are My sweet-smelling ointments.” Yes, believer, when you are on your sick-bed and are suffering with patience; when you go about your humble way to do good by stealth; when you distribute of your alms to the poor; when you lift up your thankful eye to Heaven; when you draw near to God with humble prayer; when you make confession of your sin to Him; all these acts are like the smell of ointment to Him, the smell of a sweet savour, and He is gratified and pleased. O Jesus, this is condescension indeed, to be pleased with such poor things as we have. Oh, this is love; it proves Thy love to us, that Thou canst make so much out of little, and esteem so highly that which is of such little worth!
III. Now we come to the third, “Thy lips, O My spouse, drop as the honeycomb.” Christ’s people are not a dumb people, they were once, but they talk now. I do not believe a Christian can keep the secret that God gives him if he were to try; it would burst his lips open to get out. Now it is but poor, poor matter that any of us can speak. When we are most eloquent in our Master’s praise, how far our praises fall beneath His worth! When we are most earnest in prayer, how powerless is our wrestling compared with the great blessing that we seek to obtain! But Jesus Christ does not find any fault in what the Church speaks. He says, “No, Thy lips, O My spouse, drop as the honeycomb.” You know the honey that drops out of the honeycomb is the best--it is called the life-honey. So the words that drop from the Christian’s lips are the very words of his life, his life-honey, and they ought to be sweet to every one. They are as sweet to the taste of the Lord Jesus as the drops of the honeycomb. And now, Christians, will you not talk much about Jesus? Will you not speak often of Him? Will you not give your tongue more continually to prayer and praise, and speech that ministers to edifying, when you have such a listener as this, such an auditor who stoops from heaven to hear you, and who values every word you speak for Him? “But,” says one, “if I were to try to talk about Jesus Christ, I do not know what I should say.” If you wanted any honey, and nobody would bring it to you, I suppose the best way, if you were in the country, would be to keep some bees, would it not? It would be very well for you Christian people if you kept bees. “Well,” says one, “I suppose our thoughts are to be the bees. We are always to be looking about for good thoughts, and flying on to the flowers where they are to be found; by reading, by meditation, and by prayer, we are to send bees out of the hive.” Certainly, if you do not read your Bibles, you will have no honey, because you have no bees. But when you read your Bibles, and study those precious texts, it is like bees settling on flowers, and sucking the sweetness out of them.
IV. This brings us to the next topic “Honey and milk are under thy tongue.” I find it necessary when I preach to keep a good stock of words under my tongue as well as those that are on it. Very often I have got a simile just ready to come out, and I have thought, “Ah, that is one of your laughable similes, take that back.” I am obliged to change it for something else. If I did that a little oftener perhaps it would be better, but I cannot do it. I have sometimes a whole host of them under my tongue, and I am obliged to keep them back. “Honey and milk are under thy tongue.” That is not the only meaning. The Christian is to have words ready to come out by and by. Yon know the hypocrite has words upon his tongue. We speak about solemn sounds upon a thoughtless tongue; but the Christian has his words first under the tongue. There they lie. They come from his heart; they do not come from the top of his tongue,--they are not superficial surface-work, but they come from under the tongue--down deep,--things that he feels, and matters that he knows. Nor is this the only meaning. The things that are under the tongue are thoughts that have never yet been expressed; they do not get to the top of the tongue, but lie there half formed and are ready to come out; but either because they cannot come out, or we have not time to let them out, there they remain, and never come into actual words. Now Jesus Christ thinks very much even of these; He says, “Honey and milk are under thy tongue”; and Christian meditation and Christian contemplation are to Christ like honey for sweetness and like milk for nourishment.
V. And, then, last of all, “the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.” The odiferous herbs that grew on the side of Lebanon delighted the traveller, and, perhaps, here is an allusion to the peculirly sweet smell of the cedar wood. Now, the garments of a Christian are twofold--the garment of imputed righteousness, and the garment of inwrought sanctification. I think the allusion here is to the second. The garments of a Christian are his every-day actions--the things that he wears upon him wherever he goes. Now these smell very sweet to the Lord Jesus. What should you think if Jesus should meet you at the close of the day, and say to you, “I am pleased with the works of to-day? I know you would reply, “Lord, I have done nothing for Thee.” You would say like those at the last day, “Lord, when saw we Thee hungry and fed Thee? when saw we Thee thirsty and gave Thee drink?” You would begin to deny that you had done any good thing. He would say, “Ah, when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee; when thou wast at thy bedside in prayer I heard thee; I saw thee when the tempter came, and thou saidst, ‘Get thee hence, Satan’; I saw thee give thine alms to one of My poor sick children; I heard thee speak a good word to the little child and teach him the name of Jesus; I heard the groan when swearing polluted thine ears: I heard thy sigh when thou sawest the iniquity of this great city; I saw thee when thine hands were busy; I saw that thou wast not an eye-servant or a man-pleaser, but that in singleness of purpose thou didst serve God in doing thy daily business; I saw thee, when the day was ended, give thyself to God again; I have marked thee mourning over the sins thou hast committed, and I tell thee I am pleased with thee.” “The smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Song of Solomon 4:12
A garden inclosed is My sister, My spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
The Lord’s own view of His Church and people
I. The nearness of kin of the Church to Christ, and Christ to the Church. He calls her in the text, “My sister, My spouse.” As if He could not express His near and dear relationship to her by any one term, He employs the two. “My sister”--that is, one by birth, partaker of the same nature. “My spouse”--that is, one in love, joined by sacred ties of affection that never can be snapped. “My sister” by birth, “My spouse” by choice. “My sister” in communion, “My spouse” in absolute union with Myself. Oh, how near akin is Christ to all His people! But first, do try to realize the person of Christ. Believe that He truly is, and that He truly is here--as much here and as really here as He was at Jerusalem, when He sat at the head of the table, and entertained the twelve at the last supper. Jesus is a real Man, a real Christ--recollect that. Then let this further truth be equally well realized, that He has so taken upon Himself our human nature that He may correctly call His Church His sister. He has become so truly man in His incarnation, that He is not ashamed to call us brethren. He calls us so because we are so. Change of place has made no change of heart in Him. He in His glory is the same Jesus as in His humiliation. No man is so fully a man as Jesus Christ. If you speak of any other man, something or other narrows his manhood. You think of Milton as of a poet and an Englishman, rather than as a man. You think of Cromwell rather as of a warrior, than as a man. The second Adam is, par excellence, man. We may not think of Him as one amongst a vast number who may be distantly akin to us, as all men are akin to one another by descent; but the Lord comes near to each individual. He takes each one of His believing people by the hand, and says, “My brother.” In our text He salutes the whole Church as “My sister.” He says this with tender emphasis. As we have already observed, the first term, “sister,” implies kinship of nature; but the second term, “My spouse,” indicates another kinship, dearer, and, in some respects, nearer; a kinship undertaken of choice, but, once undertaken, is everlasting. This kinship amounts to unity, insomuch that the spouse loses her name, loses her identity, and, to a high degree, is merged in the greater personality to which she is united. Such is our union to Christ, if indeed we be His, that nothing can so well set it forth as marriage union. He loves us so much that He taken us up into Himself by the absorption of love. If you are true believers, if you have been born again, if you are really looking to Christ alone for salvation, He has brought you into a condition of the utmost conceivable nearness with Himself “He has participated in your nature, and He has made you a partaker of His nature, and in so many words He says, I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.”
II. The security of the people of God in consequence of being what they are. “A garden inclosed is My sister, My spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” We are not only like a garden, but a garden “inclosed.” If the garden were not inclosed, the wild boar out of the wood would bark the vines, and uproot the flowers; but infinite mercy has made the Church of God an inclosure, into which no invader may dare to come. “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” Is she a spring? Are her secret thoughts, and loves, and desires like cool streams of water? Then the Bridegroom calls her “a spring shut up.” Otherwise, every beast that passed by might foul her waters, and every stranger might quaff her streams. She is a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, like some choice cool spring in Solomon’s private garden around the house of the forest of Lebanon--a fountain which he reserved for his own drinking, by placing the royal seal upon it, and locking it up by secret means, known only to himself. The legend hath it that there were fountains which none knew of but Solomon, and he had so shut them up that, with his ring he touched a secret spring, a door opened, and living waters leaped out to fill his jewelled cup. No one knew but Solomon the secret charm by which he set flowing the pent-up stream, of which no lip drank but his own. Now, God’s people are as much shut up, and preserved, and kept from danger by the care of Christ, as the springs in Solomon’s garden were reserved expressly for himself. Are you really in Christ? If so, who is to pluck you thence? Are you really trusting Him? How can He fail you? Have you been begotten again into the Divine family? How can that new life be quenched?
III. The most striking idea of the text is that of separation: “A garden inclosed is My sister, My spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” A garden is a plot of ground separated from the common waste for a special purpose: such is the Church. The Church is a separate and distinct thing from the world. Let us, however, take heed that our separateness from the world is of the same kind as our Lord’s. We are not to adopt a peculiar dress, or a singular mode of speech, or shut ourselves out of society. He did not so; but He was a man of the people, mixing with them for their good. He was seen at a wedding-feast, aiding the festivities: He even ate bread in a Pharisee’s house, among cautious enemies. He neither wore phylacteries, nor enlarged the borders of his garments, nor sought a secluded cell, nor exhibited any eccentricity of manner. He was separate from sinners only because He was holy and harmless, and they were not. The Church is to be a garden, walled, taken out of the common, and made a separate and select plot of ground. She is to be a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed, no longer open to the fowl of the air, and the beasts of the field. Saints are to be separate from the rest of men, even as Abraham was when he said to the sons of Seth, “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you.”
IV. The text bears even more forcibly another idea, namely, that of reservation. The Church of God is “a garden inclosed.” What for? Why, that nobody may come into that garden, to eat the fruit thereof, but the Lord Himself. It is “a spring shut up,” that no one may drink of the stream but the Lord Jesus. “But,” cries one, “are we not to seek the good of our fellow-men?” Assuredly we are to do so for Christ’s sake. “Are we not to seek to help on sanitary, educational, and purifying processes, and the like? Yes so far as all can be done for His sake We are to be the Lord’s servants for the blessing of the world, and we may do anything which He would have done. In such a garden as the text speaks of, every plant bears flowers for its owner, every tree yields fruit for him. “All for Jesus,” is to be our motto. No one among us may dare to live unto himself, even in the refined way in which many are doing it, who even try to win souls that they may have the credit of being zealous and successful. We may so far degenerate as even to attempt to glorify Christ that we may have the credit of glorifying Him. It will not do. We must be truly, thoroughly, really living for Jesus: we must be a garden inclosed, reserved, shut up for Him. The wall must wholly inclose the garden, for a gap anywhere will admit an intruder everywhere. If one part of our being be left under the dominion of sin, it will show its power everywhere. The spring must be sealed at the very source, that every drop may be for Jesus throughout the whole of its course. Our first thoughts, desires, and must wishes be His, and then all our words and deeds. We must be “wholly reserved for Christ that died, surrendered to the Crucified.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The garden of the soul
Your soul is, or should be, the Beloved’s vineyard, God’s fruitful field, God’s garden and your own. The history of this garden of gardens falls into four chapters--
I. The common ground. That beautiful garden was once a bit of heath or moorland, over which the beasts ranged. In its natural state it was worthless. About one hundred years ago the finest garden in the world was the palace-garden of Versailles. But when the French king chose the spot it was a marshy moor. It cost twenty-five years of toil and forty millions of money to change it into the royal garden. And every garden was a waste till the busy hand of cultivation clothed it with various beauties. And are not greater wonders wrought in the soul reclaimed front the outfield of the world?
II. The ground cultivated, or the garden.
1. It must first be inclosed. “A garden inclosed is my spouse,” says Solomon. Of every Christian soul we may say, as Satan said of Job, “Thou hast made a hedge about him.”
2. The soil must next be broken up. What hard and rough work is the digging, the trenching, and the uprooting! But as the confusion in our gardens in spring does not discourage us, so we should not be discouraged by those sorrows that belong to the cultivation of the soul.
3. Then without wise sowing all the gardener’s pains would be lost. Fill mind and memory with the delightful truths of the Bible, and let them sink deep, that, seed-like, they may swell, and sprout, and bring forth fruits and flowers of choicest perfume and colour. And you must be ever tending them, for to let your garden alone is to spoil all.
4. The gardener’s utmost art would be in vain without the sunshine, the shower, and the quickening breath of spring. That philosopher, famed for his contentment, was right, who, when asked by a friend to show him the splendid garden of which he was always boasting, led him into a bare, rocky space behind his house. “Where is your garden?” the friend asked. “Look up,” said the philosopher, “heaven is a part of my garden”. Every good gift in the garden really comes from above; for should God command the clouds to rain no rain, the earth would soon be as iron. Heaven shields, broods over, and enriches every fruitful sod. It is a great truth that Paul planteth and Apollos watereth, but God giveth the increase. Turn, then, your whole being fairly towards the sunshine of God’s grace, and pray that the garden of your soul may always be as ready to receive heavenly blessing as is the garden around your dwelling.
III. The garden neglected. A neglected garden is one of the completest pictures of desolation in the world: it is desolation’s throne in the deserted village.
IV. The garden well kept. Solomon gives a picture of what your soul should be, and Isaiah of what it should not be. Everything had been done for the Beloved’s vineyard, and in return He received only wild grapes (Isaiah 5:1-30.). But the garden in the Song was stocked with all rich and beautiful things. It gave pleasure to every sense: its fine forms and colours gladdened the eye, its ripe fruits gratified the palate, its exquisite perfumes gave delight, and its leaves yielded an additional joy by their agreeable shade. A holy soul is compared to such a garden. It is the most beautiful thing in the world, a paradise of heaven on earth. “How can my soul be a fruitful garden of God?” do you ask. The answer is, by good cultivation; and that is the work of God and man. For “we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry” (1 Corinthians 3:9) All your powers should be gladly devoted to this God-like work of keeping your own vineyard. I remember visiting in spring a poor widow residing in a miserable corner of the city. Her soul was a garden of God. On the window-sill she had some flowers in jelly-dishes and spoutless teapots--a touching proof of that love of the country which city life wakens in all but the broken-hearted. I took notice of the flowers. “Yes,” she said, “I take many a bit lesson from them; if I neglect them for a day or two, they hang their bit heads and wither. And my soul does the very same if it is not always watered with the grace of God.” God help you so to cultivate the garden of your soul as that you shall bring much fruit to His praise! (James Wells.)
A secret and yet no secret
(with verse 15):--Observe the contrast which the two verses present to us. There are two works of the Holy Spirit within us. The first is when He puts into us the living waters; the next is when He enables us to pour forth streams of the same living waters in our daily life. The Spirit of God first implants in us the new nature. This is His work--to regenerate us, to put into us the new principle, the life of God in Christ. Then next, He gives us power to send forth that life in gracious emanations of holiness of life, of devoutness of communion with God, of likeness to Christ, of conformity to His image. The streams are as much of the Holy Spirit as the fountain itself. He digs the well, and He afterwards with heavenly rain fills the pools. He first of all makes the stream in the desert to flow from the flinty rock, and afterwards out of His infinite supplies He feeds the stream and bids it follow us all our days. Now, we think the first verse, to a great extent, sets forth the secret and mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in the creation of the new man in the soul. Into this secret no eye of man can look. The inner life in the Christian may well be compared to an inclosed garden--to a spring shut up--to a fountain sealed. But the second verse sets forth the manifest effects of grace, for no sooner is that life given than it begins to show itself. No sooner is the mystery of righteousness in the heart, than, like the mystery of iniquity, it “doth already work.” It cannot lie still; it cannot be idle; it must not rest; but, as God is ever active, so this God-like principle is active too; thus you have a picture of the outer life proceeding from the inner. “A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” The first is what the Christian is before God; the next is what the Christian will become before men. The first is the blessedness which he receives in himself; the next is the blessedness which he diffuses to others.
I. With regard to the first text, you will clearly perceive that in each of the three metaphors you have very plainly the idea of secrecy. There is a garden. A garden is a place where trees have been planted by a skilful hand; where they are nurtured with care, and where fruit is expected by its owner. Such is the Church; such is each renewed soul. But it is a garden inclosed, and so inclosed that one cannot see over its walls--so shut out from the world’s wilderness, that the passer-by must not enter it--so protected from all intrusion that it is a guarded paradise--as secret as was that inner place, the holy of holies, within the tabernacle of old. The Church--and mark, when I say the Church, the same is true of each individual Christian--is set forth next as a spring. “A spring”--the mother of sweet draughts of refreshing water, reaching down into some impenetrable caverns, and bubbling up with perennial supplies from the great deeps. Not a mere cistern, which contains only, but a fresh spring, which through an inward principle within, begets, continues, overflows. But then, it is a spring shut up: just as there were springs in the East, over which an edifice was built, so that none could reach the springs save those who knew the secret entrance. So is the heart of a believer when it is renewed by grace; there is a mysterious life within which no human skill can touch. And then, it is said to be a fountain; but it is a fountain sealed. The outward stones may be discovered, but the door is sealed, so that no man can get into the hidden springs; they are altogether hidden, and hidden too by a royal will and decree of which the seal is the emblem. I say the idea is very much that of secrecy. Now, such is the inner life of the Christian. It is a secret which no other man knoweth, nay, which the very man who is the possessor of it cannot tell to his neighbour. A second thought is written upon the surface of the text. Here you see not only secrecy, but separation. That also runs through the three figures. It is a garden, but it is a garden inclosed--altogether shut out from the surrounding heaths and commons, inclosed with briars and hedged with thorns, which are impassable by the wild beasts. There is a gate through which the Great Husbandman Himself can come; but there is also a gate which shuts out all those who would only rob the keeper of the vineyard of His rightful fruit. There is separation in the spring also. It is not the common spring, of which every passer-by may drink; it is one so kept and preserved distinct from men, that no lip may touch, no eye may even see its secret. It is a something which the stranger intermeddleth not with; it is a life which the world cannot give and cannot take away. All through, you see, there is a separateness, a distinctness. If it be ranged with springs, still it is a spring specially shut up; if it be put with fountains, still it is a fountain bearing a particular mark--a king’s royal seal, so that all can perceive that this is not a general fountain, but a fountain that has a proprietor, and stands specially by itself alone. So is it with the spiritual life. It is a separate thing. I would not give a farthing for that man’s spiritual life who can live altogether with others; if you do not sometimes feel that you must be a garden inclosed, that you must enter into your closet, and shut-to the door; if you do not feel seasons when the society of your dearest friend is an impediment, and when the face of your sweetest relation would but be a cloud between you and Christ, I cannot understand you. Be ye, O ye children of Christ, as chaste virgins kept alone for Christ. In the third place, you have in the text the idea of sacredness. The garden inclosed is walled up that it may be sacred to its owner; the spring shut up is preserved for the use of some special person; and the fountain sealed more eminently still bears the mark of being sacred to some distinguished personage. Now such is the Christian’s heart. It is a spring kept for Christ. Oh, I would that it were always so. Every Christian should feel that he is God’s man--that he has God’s stamp on him--and he should be able to say with Paul, “From henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” But I think there is another idea prominent, and it is that of security--security to the inner life. “A garden inclosed.” “The wild boar out of the wood shall not break in there, neither shall the little foxes spoil the vines.” “A fountain shut up.” The bulls of Bashan shall not mud her streams with their furious feet; neither shall the wild beast of Lebanon come there to drink. “A fountain sealed.” No putrid streams shall foul her springs; her water shall be kept clear and living; her fountains shall never be filled up with stones. Oh, how sure and safe is the inner life of the believer. Satan does not know where it is, for “our life is hid with Christ.” The world cannot touch it; it seeks to overthrow it with troubles and trials and persecutions, but we are covered with the Eternal wings, and are safe from fear of evil. How can earthly trials reach the spirit? As well might a man try to strike a soul with a stone, as to destroy a spirit with afflictions. We are one with Christ, even as Christ is one with the Father; therefore as imperishable through Christ’s life as Christ Himself. Truly may we rejoice in the fact that “because He lives we shall live also.” Once more only. I think in looking at the text you receive the thought of unity. You notice, it is but one garden--“a garden inclosed.” “A garden.” It is but one spring, and that is shut up; it is but one fountain. So the inner life of the Christian is but one. If you could imagine two bodies quickened by the very same mind, what a close connection would that be! But here are hundreds of bodies, hundreds of souls, quickened by the self-same Spirit. Brethren, indeed not only ought we to love one another, but the love of Christ constraineth us, so that we cannot resist the impulse; we do love each other in Christ Jesus.
II. I shall now try to open the second text, which presents a decided contrast, because it deals not so much with the inner life as with the active life which goes abroad into all the deeds of the Christian in the world, and is the natural outgoing of the life within. First, notice that in contradistinction to our first thought of secrecy you have in the text manifestation. “A fountain of gardens.” Everybody can see a fountain which runs streaming through many gardens, making deserts fertile. “A well of living waters.” Whatever the traveller does not see, when he is riding along on a thirsty day, he is sure to see the fountain; if there be one anywhere he is certain to observe that. “And streams from Lebanon.” So that any passer-by in the valley, looking up the side of the mountain, will see by the clusters of trees which skirt the stream where the stream is; or, if it be a smaller brook, just as sometimes in Cumberland and Westmoreland, on a rainy day you see the mountain suddenly marked with streaks of silver all adown its brown sides, where the brooks are rippling, so the Christian becomes like the streams leaping adown Lebanon s steep sides, clearly perceived even from a distance, manifest to the most casual observer. Now, brethren, this is what you and I ought to be. No man ought to court publicity for his virtue, or notoriety for his zeal; but, at the same time, it is a sin to be always seeking to hide that which God has bestowed upon us for the good of others. The inner life is secret--mind that you have this inner mystery; but out of the secret emanates the manifest; the darkness becomes the mother of light; from the dark mines comes the blazing coal. Oh! see to it, that from all that is hidden and secret and mysterious there comes out the plain and the manifest that men may see the holiness, truthfulness and zeal of God in thy life. But clearly enough, again, we have in the second text, in opposition to the separation of the first, diffusiveness. The garden was inclosed before, now it is “a fountain of gardens”; the well was shut up, now it is a well of living waters; before we had the fountain sealed, now we have streams dashing adown the sides of Lebanon. So a Christian is to be separate in his inner life; but in the outer manifestations of that inner life, he is to mingle for good among his fellow-men. We must let the streams flow abroad; we must seek to give to others what Christ has given to us. Briefly we are obliged to speak on each of these points; but notice, thirdly, that in opposition to the sacredness of the first text we have in the second verse an unlimited freeness, especially in that last expression--“streams from Lebanon.” What can be freer than the brook, which leaps along the mountain-side? There the bird wets its wings; there the red deer comes to drink; and even that wild beast of Lebanon, of which we read in the Book of the Kings, comes there, and without let or hindrance slakes its thirst. What can be finer than the rivulet singing with liquid notes adown the glen? It belongs to no one; it is free to all. Whosoever passeth by, be he peer or peasant, may stoop there and refresh himself from the mountain-stream. So be it with you, Christian. Carry about with you-a piety which you do not wish to keep for yourself. A light loses none of its own lustre when others are lit as its flame. We must be hidden springs within, but let us be sweetly flowing rivulets without, giving drink to every, passer-by. And notice that, while we had in the other text the idea of security, in connection with that we have here in this text the idea of approach. The garden was shut up--that was to keep it. There are no walls here, so that all may come to it. The streams were shut up before; here it is an open well. The fountain was sealed in the first verse; here it is a flowing stream, which is to teach us this--that the way God keeps His people in security is not by shutting out their enemies from attacking them, but while laying them open to temptation and attack, He yet sustains them. And last of all, in opposition to the unity of which I spake, we have in our second text great diversity. You have “a fountain,” not of a garden, but “of gardens”; you have a well, but it is a well of living waters; you have not a stream, but streams--streams from Lebanon. So a Christian is to do good in all sorts of ways, and his fruits are to be of many kinds; he is to be like the trees of Paradise, which bear twelve manner of fruits. The Christian is to have all sorts of graces. Oh t if the fountain, the secret fountain, were better seen to, I think there would be more of these outward streams; and if the sealed well were better guarded, we should see more of these rapid streams from Lebanon, which would make glad the people of God, and the world at large. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. It is a sacred inclosure. Inclosed:
1. For protection--against the many foes that would injure it.
2. For enjoyment--Christ has a right to witness its beauties and enjoy its fruits.
II. The means by which it is inclosed.
1. By sovereign electing grace--this sweeps round His Church as a boundary line--grand, comprehensive, invisible.
2. By the ministrations of angels--these are its guardians,, servants, etc.
3. By restraining, grace--this is needed by every plant in this garden and every member in Christ’s Church.
4. By Christian ordinances-baptism, the seal of separation.
5. By Christian doctrine--no man can be a Christian without believing some fundamental doctrines. (J. F. Elder, D. D.)
Song of Solomon 4:13-14
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees Of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.
Of all man’s sources of enjoyment, none display more clearly the bountifulness of God than the fragrant odours of nature. Fragrance seems so wholly superfluous and accidental, that we cannot but infer that it was imparted to the objects which possess it, not for their own sakes, but for our gratification. We regard it as a peculiar blessing, sent to us directly from the hand of our Heavenly Father; and we are the more confirmed in this idea by the fact that the human period is the principal epoch of fragrant plants. Geologists inform us that all the eras of the earth’s history previous to the Upper Miocene were destitute of perfumes. Forests of club-mosses and ferns hid in their sombre bosom no bright-eyed floweret, and shed from their verdant boughs no scented richness on the passing breeze. Palms and cycads, though ushering in the dawn of a brighter floral day, produced no perfume-breathing blossoms. It is only when we come to the periods immediately antecedent to the human that we meet with an odoriferous flora. God placed man in a sweet-scented garden as his home. No sense is more closely connected with the sphere of soul than the sense of smell. Its agency is most subtle and extensive--going down to the very depths of our nature, and back to the earliest dawn of life Memory especially is keenly susceptible to its Influence. The acceptance of man’s offerings by God is usually represented in the anthropomorphism of the Bible, as finding its expression in the sense of smell. When Noah offered the first sacrifice after the flood, “the Lord,” we are told, “smelled a sweet savour.” The drink-offerings and the various burnt-offerings prescribed by Levitical law were regarded as a sweet savour unto the Lord. Christ, the antitype of these institutions, is spoken of as having given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. And the Apostle Paul, employing the same typical language, speaks of himself and the other apostles as “unto God a sweet savour of Christ,” etc. The Psalms and the prophetic writings are full of the most beautiful and expressive metaphors, applied to the most solemn persons and things, borrowed from perfumes; while the whole of the Song of Solomon is like aa oriental garden stocked with delicious flowers, as grateful to the sense of smell as to the sense of sight. In the gorgeous ceremonial worship of the Hebrews, none of the senses were excluded from taking part in the service. The eye was appealed to by the rich vestments and the splendid furniture of the holy place; the ear was exercised by the solemn sound of the trumpet, and the voice of praise and prayer; and the nostril was gratified by the clouds of fragrant smoke that rose from the golden altar of incense and filled all the place. Doubtless the Jews felt, when they saw the soft white clouds of fragrant smoke rising slowly from the altar of incense, as if the voice of the priest were silently but eloquently pleading in that expressive emblem in their behalf. The association of sound was lost in that of smell, and the two senses were blended in one. And this symbolical mode of supplication, as Dr. George Wilson has remarked, had this one advantage over spoken or written prayer, that it appealed to those who were both blind and deaf, a class that are usually shut out from social worship by their affliction. Those who could not hear the prayers of the priest could join in devotional exercises symbolized by incense, through the medium of their sense of smell; and the hallowed impressions shut out by one avenue were admitted to the mind and heart by another. But not in the incense of prayer alone were perfumes employed in the Old Testament economy. The oil with which the altars and the sacred furniture of the tabernacle and temple were anointed--with which priests were consecrated for their holy service, and kings set apart for their lofty dignity--was richly perfumed. One of the sweetest names of Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, because He was anointed with the fragrant oil of consecration for His great work of obedience and atonement. As our King and Great High Priest, He received the outward symbolical chrism, when the wise men of the East laid at His feet their gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense in token of His royal authority, and Mary and Nicodemus anointed Him with precious spikenard and costly spices for His priestly work of sacrifice. His name is as ointment poured forth; and He is a bundle of myrrh to the heart that loves Him. The ingredients of the Hebrew perfumes were principally obtained in traffic from the Phoenicians. A few of them were products of native plants, but the great majority of them came from Arabia, India and the spice islands of the Indian Archipelago. So great was the skill required in the mixing of these ingredients, in order to form their most valued perfumes, that the art was a recognized profession among the Jews; and the rokechim, translated “apothecary” in our version, was not a seller of medicines as with us, but simply a maker of perfumes. Perfumes were at one time extensively employed as remedial agents, particularly in cases of nervous disease. They are still used freely in the sick-room, but more for the purpose of refreshment and overpowering the noxious odours of disease than as medicines. How important they are in the economy of nature we learn from the fact that when the Dutch cut down the spice trees of Ternate, that island was immediately visited with epidemics before unknown; and it has been ascertained that none of the persons employed in the perfume manufactories of London and Paris were attacked by cholera during the last visitation. From the recent experimental researches of Professor Mantegazza, we learn the important fact that the essences of flowers such as lavender, mint, thyme, bergamot, in contact with atmospheric oxygen in sunlight, develop a very large quantity of ozone, the purifying and health-inspiring element in the air. And as a corollary from this fact, he recommends the inhabitants of marshy districts, and of places infected with animal exhalations, to surround their houses with beds of the most odorous flowers, as the powerful oxidizing influence of the ozone may destroy those noxious influences. Many of the most delicious perfumes, however, are dangerous in large quantities. Taken in moderation they act as stimulants, exhilarating the mental functions, and increasing bodily vigour. But in larger and more concentrated doses they act as poisons. If we pursue them as pleasures for their own sake, they will soon pall upon us, however delicious; and if we concentrate them so as to produce a stronger sensation, they become actually repulsive and sickening. God has given them to us to cheer us in the path of duty, not to minister to our love of pleasure and self-indulgence; and in this respect the laws of the unwritten revelation of nature give their sanction to the laws of the written revelation of the Bible, indicating a common source and pointing to a common issue. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Song of Solomon 4:15
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
The Church a garden
Again and again the Church is represented as a garden, all up and down the Word of God, and it is a figure specially suggestive at this season of the year, when the parks and the orchards have put forth their blossom and the air is filled with bird-voices.
1. It is a garden because of the rare plants in it. Sometimes you will find the violet, inconspicuous, but sweet as heaven--Christian souls, with no pretence, but of much usefulness, comparatively unknown on earth, but to be glorious in celestial spheres. In this garden of the Lord I find the Mexican cactus, loveliness within, thorns without, men with great sharpness of behaviour and manner, but within them the peace of God, the love of God, the grace of God. They are hard men to handle, ugly men to touch, very apt to strike back when you strike them, yet within them all loveliness and attraction, while outside so completely unfortunate. But I remember in boyhood that we had in our father’s garden what we called the Giant of Battle--a peculiar rose, very red and very fiery. Suggestive flower, it was called the Giant of Battle. And so in the garden of the Lord we find that kind of flower--the Pauls and Martin Luthers, the Wycliffes, the John Knoxcs--Giants of Battle. What in other men is a spark, in them is a conflagration; when they pray, their prayers take fire. When they suffer, they sweat great drops of blood; when they preach, it is a pentecost; when they fight, it is a Thermopylae; when they die, it is martyrdom--Giants of Battle. But I find also in the Church of God a plant that I shall call the snowdrop. Very beautiful but cold; it is very pure, pure as the snowdrop, beautiful as the snowdrop, and cold as the snowdrop. I would rather have one Giant of Battle than 5000 snowdrops. You have seen in some places, perhaps, a century-plant. You look at it and say, “This flower has been gathering up its beauty for a whole century, and it will not bloom again for another hundred years.” Well, I have to tell you that in this garden of the Church, spoken of in my text, there is a century-plant. It has gathered up its bloom from all the ages of eternity, and nineteen centuries ago it put forth its glory. It is not only a century-plant but a passion-flower--the passion-flower of Christ; a crimson flower, blood at the root, and blood on the leaves, the passion-flower of Jesus, the century-plant of eternity. Come, O winds from the north, and winds from the south, and winds from the east, and winds from the west, and scatter the perfume of this flower through all nations. Thou, the Christ of all the ages, hast garments smelling of myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces.
2. The Church of Christ is appropriately compared to a garden because of its thorough irrigation. There can be no luxuriant garden without plenty of water. I saw a garden in the midst of the desert, amid the Rocky Mountains. I said, How is it possible you have so many flowers, so much rich fruit, in a desert for miles around? I suppose some of you have seen those gardens. Well, they told me they had aqueducts and pipes reaching up to the hills, and the snows melted on the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, and then poured down in water to those aqueducts, and it kept the fields in great luxuriance. And I thought to myself--how like the garden of Christ! All around it the barrenness of sin and the barrenness of the world, but our eyes are unto the hills, from whence cometh our help. There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God, the fountain of gardens and streams from Lebanon. Water to slake the thirst, water to refresh the fainting, water to wash the unclean, water to toss up in fountains under the sun of righteousness, until you can see the rainbow around the throne. I wandered in a royal garden of choicest plants, and I saw the luxuriance of those gardens were helped by the abundant supply of water. I came to it on a day when strangers were not admitted, but, by a strange coincidence, at the moment I got in the king’s chariot passed, and the gardener went up on the hill and turned on the water, and it came flashing down the broad stairs of stone until sunlight and wave in gleesome wrestle tumbled at my feet. And so it is with this garden of Christ. Everything comes from above--pardon from above, peace from above, comfort from above, sanctification from above. Streams from Lebanon--oh! the consolation in this thought. How many have tried all the fountains of this world’s pleasure, but never tasted of the stream from Lebanon! How many have revelled in other gardens, to their soul’s ruin, but never plucked one flower from the garden of our God! I swing open all the gates of the garden and invite you in, whatever your history, whatever your sins, whatever your temptations, whatever your trouble. The invitation comes no more to one than to all: “Whosoever will, let him come.” ( T. De Witt Talmage.)
Song of Solomon 4:16
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.
Grace for communion
The loved one in the text desired the company of her Lord, and felt that an inactive condition was not altogether suitable for His coming. Her prayer is first about her garden, that it may be made ready for her Beloved; and then to the Bridegroom Himself, that He would come into His garden, and eat its pleasant fruits. She pleads for the breath of heaven, and for the Lord of heaven.
I. First she cries for the breath of heaven to break the dead calm which broods over her heart. In this prayer there is an evident sense of inward sleep. She does not mean that the north wind is asleep: it is her poetical way of confessing that she herself needs to be awakened. She has a sense of absentmindedness, too, for she cries, “Come, thou south.” If the south wind would come, the forgetful perfumes would come to themselves, and sweeten all the air. The fault, whatever it is, cannot lie in the winds; it lies in ourselves. Notice that the spouse does not mind what form the Divine visitation takes so long as she feels its power. “Awake, O north wind;” though the blast be cold and cutting, it may be that it will effectually fetch forth the perfume of the soul in the form of repentance and self-humiliation. The rough north wind has done much for some of us in the way of arousing our best graces. Yet it may be that the Lord will send something more tender and cheering; and if so, we would cry, “Come, thou south.” Divine love warming the heart has a wonderful power to develop the best part of a man’s nature. Many of our precious things are brought forth by the sun of holy joy. Either movement of the Spirit will sufficiently bestir our inner life; but the spouse desires both. Although in nature you cannot have the north wind and the south blowing at the same time; yet in grace you can. The prayer is “blow,” and the result is “flow.” Lord, if thou blowest, my heart floweth out to Thee! “Draw me, we will run after Thee.”
II. The second half of the prayer expresses our central desire: we long for the Lord of Heaven to visit us. The bride does not seek that the spices of her garden may become perceptible for her own enjoyment, nor for the delectation of strangers, nor even for the pleasure of the daughters of Jerusalem, but for her Beloved’s sake. He is to come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits. Note well the address of the spouse to her Beloved in the words before us. She calls Him hers--“my Beloved.” When we are sure that He is ours we desire Him to come to us as ours, and to reveal Himself as ours. While He is hers she owns that she is wholly His, and all that she has belongs to Him. In the first clause she says, “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden”; but now she prays, “Let my Beloved come into His garden.” She had spoken just before of her fruits, but now they are His fruits. She was not wrong when she first spoke; but she is more accurate now. We are not our own. We do not bring forth fruit of ourselves. The Lord saith, “From Me is thy fruit found.” The garden is of our Lord’s purchasing, enclosing, planting, and watering; and all its fruit belongs to Him. This is a powerful reason for His visiting us. Should not a man come into his own garden, and eat his own fruits? Oh, that the Holy Spirit may put us into a fit condition to entertain our Lord! The spouse further cries, “Let Him eat His pleasant fruits.” I have often felt myself overcome with the bare idea that anything I have ever done should give my Lord pleasure. Can He perceive any perfume in my spices, or taste any flavour in nay fruits? This is a joy worth worlds. It is one of the highest tokens of His condescension. O Lord Jesus, come into our hearts now! O Holy Spirit, blow upon our hearts at this moment! Let faith, and love, and hope, and joy, and patience, and every grace be now like violets which betray themselves by their perfume, or like roses which load the air with their fragrance! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Church’s prayer
Let us consider the prayer of those who are planted in this garden, and who are represented in the text, as imploring the Holy Spirit to descend upon them.
I. In his convincing and humbling power, as the piercing north wind. As the cold north wind prepares the soil, and fits it for vegetation, so are the sharper operations of the Spirit needful for the believer, when, as too often happens, he is under a decay in grace; when the things that are in him are ready to die. When He thus comes, He uses various means of awakening.
1. His grand instrument is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” “sharper than any two-edged sword,” etc. When a believer grows cold and careless in his walk, God directs to him some text, some threatening, or warning, or promise.
2. He often comes with awakening power in the shape of afflictions.
II. In his comforting and enlivening power, as the gentle south wind. When He has pierced the backsliding heart with sorrow for sin. He binds up the wound; shines upon the heart, like the cheering sun; and breathes, like the mild and gentle south. (E. Blencowe, M. A.)
The graces of the Holy Spirit implored
“The wind bloweth where it listeth.” The Spirit of God is an unshackled agent, acting freely in the first application of grace to the sinner’s soul, and in all its future operations.
1. Pray that your faith in Christ Jesus may be greatly strengthened. If faith be the element of a Divine life, will not that life, in its exercise and development, be more vigorous, according as God shall give us a stronger and a larger measure of faith?
2. Again, a believer will plead with Christ, that the Spirit may give him a more lively hope.
3. And should not a believer say, “Awake, O north wind, and come, thou south”--let my love abound? But is not this love? Doth the love of Christ, producing a corresponding affection within us, constrain us as it ought?
4. And is it not fitting that a child of God should say, Let my humility be deepened? It is the great business of the Gospel to hinder the poor guilty worm of the earth from saying, “I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing.”
5. Should not, moreover, a believer pray, “Come, thou south wind, breathe upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out,” that my joy may be increased? (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
North and south winds
There is a law of classification and contrasts in all life. Things are paired off. They present themselves in sets or classes. We have stars in galaxies, and the rolling worlds arranged into systems. Vegetable and animal life be known by their genus and species. The principle of order characterizes the conditions of man in the complexity of his nature and the diversity of his life. Our main purpose is to trace the Divine plan of working in the developing and perfecting of God’s image in a human soul. In the text we are taught that it is by contrary and conflicting forces that perfection of character is attained.
I. The text is true of natural life. “North and south” are the two extremes of this sphere. Between these two extremes exist all the fluctuating variations of the earth’s condition. The day’s weather depends very largely upon the point from which the wind will blow. We divine the meteorological conditions of the day by the prophecy of the morning. North winds bring cold, hail and snow; south winds are balmy and warm. These facts find their analogue in our higher experiences. What contrasts there are in the conditions of our everyday life! This is true socially. When all things are going smoothly in the home, when health and plenty abound--when children are dutiful and diligent, parents revel in the gentle breezes as they waft down from the southern sky. But, alas! the wind sometimes veers round to the opposite point with a surprising suddenness, and the chilly blasts beat upon us with pitiless fury and pierce our spirits to the quick. How true is the text to business life. Prosperity is verily a congenial south wind. We all aim at and desire success. But the winds of commercial enterprises do not always blow from the south; and for aught we know to the contrary, there may be more perfect developments of character under the latter than by the agency of the former. The two winds are useful and necessary. The south for the comfort and nourishing of young elements and principles in their more incipient stages, and the north wind for giving setness and endurance to these essential qualities.
II. The text is also true of spiritual life. The life of the soul is promoted by principles similar to those which rule in our physical nature. There are opposing elements even in our food. Some are alimentary, building up the body, repairing waste tissue; while others are poisonous, rendering innocuous, or eliminating elements that are deleterious, and that would, if permitted to operate unchecked, kill the body. The value of foods depends upon their adaptation to the peculiar and varying states and requirements of the physical system. In the childhood of our divine life we need the tender and sympathetic. Either through sin or neglect of duty, or strange providences, or the wearing power of temptation and persecution, or the ordinary and inevitable friction of life, we become attenuated in our spiritual proportions and correspondingly feeble. The “north wind” is too strong for us, and so we need the southern breezes to soothe back into strength the weakened energies of the soul. But then spiritual athletes are not braced into might by south winds only. We need to cry, “Awake, O north wind.” Too many of the avowed followers of Him “who was rich yet for our sakes became poor,” “who pleased not Himself,” who “had not where to lay His head,” are resting in the warmth of the southern sphere, thus taking no part in the great activities of the Christian Church. If all were as they are what would be the future of Christianity, aye, and of the world, too? It is a good thing to get out into the refreshing breezes which come even from the northern regions. Many a Christian will have to thank God for pain and trial and losses. As the north and south winds are essential, we do well to keep ourselves in the line of both. True greatness is attained by a combination of opposite qualities. It is the strong man tender, the great man lowly, the rich man humble, the wise man with condescending simplicity we most admire. Do not arraign the Divine government if north winds blow, but keep well in mind the great fact that He is designing and evolving your good in all things so that you may attain the stature of a perfect man; and in the last day you shall be presented perfect, wanting nothing. (M. Brokenshire.)
Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits.
“My garden”-“His garden”
What a difference there is between what the believer was by nature and what the grace of God has made him! Naturally we were like the waste howling wilderness, like the desert which yields no healthy plant or verdure. But now, as many of us as have known the Lord are transformed into gardens; our wilderness is mane like Eden, our desert is changed into the garden of the Lord. In a garden there are flowers and fruits, and in every Christian’s heart you will find the same evidences of culture and care; not in all alike, for even gardens and fields vary in productiveness. Still, there are the fruits and there are the flowers, in a measure; there is a good beginning made wherever the grace of God has undertaken the culture of our nature.
I. Now coming to our text, and thinking of Christians as the Lord’s garden, I want you to observe, first, that there are sweet spices in believers. For instance, there is faith; is there anything out of heaven sweeter than faith--the faith which trusts and clings, which believes and hopes, and declares that, though God shall slay it, yet will it trust in Him? Then comes love; and again I must ask, Is there to be found anywhere a sweeter spice than this--the love which loves God because He first loved as, the love which flows out to all the brotherhood, the love which knows no circle within which it can be bounded, but which loves the whole race of mankind, and seeks to do them good? And there is also hope, which is indeed an excellent grace, a far-seeing grace by which we behold heaven and eternal bliss. You do not need that I should go over all the list of Christian graces, and mention meekness, brotherly kindness, courage, uprightness or the patience which endures so much from the hand of God: but whatsoever grace I might mention, it would not be difficult at once to convince you that there is a sweetness and a perfume about all grace in the esteem of Him who created it, and it delights Him that it should flourish where Once its opposite alone was found growing in the heart of man. These, then, are some of the saints’ sweet spices. Next notice that these sweet spices are delightful to God. He has joy over one sinner that repenteth, though repentance is but an initial grace and when we go on from that to other graces, and take yet higher steps in the Divine life, we may be sure that His joy is in us, and therefore our joy may well be full. These spices of ours are not only delightful to God, but they are healthful to man. A man of faith and love in a Church sweetens all his brethren. Give us but a few such in our midst, and there shall be no broken spiritual unity, there shall be no coldness and spiritual death; but all shall go well where these men of God are among us as a mighty influence for good. And, as to the ungodly around us, the continued existence in the earth of the Church of Christ is the hope of the world. It sometimes happens that these sweet odours within God’s people lie quiet and still. You cannot stir your own graces, you cannot make them move, you cannot cause their fragrance to flow forth. At such times, a Christian is very apt to ask, “Am I indeed planted in God’s garden? Am I really a child of God?” Now, I will say what some of you may think a strong thing; but I do not believe that he is a child of God who never raised that question.
II. What is wanted is that those sweet odours should be diffused. Observe, first, that until our graces are diffused, it is the same as if they were not there. We may not know that we have any faith till there comes a trial, and then our faith starts boldly up. We can hardly know how much we love our Lord till there comes a test of our love, and then we so behave ourselves that we know that we do love Him. Notice next, that it is very painful to a Christian to be in such a condition that his graces are not Stirring. He cannot endure it. We who love the Lord were not born again to waste our time in sinful slumber; our watchword is, “Let us not sleep, as do others.” “Quicken Thou me, O Lord, according to Thy word”--whichever word Thou shalt choose to apply, only do quicken Thy servant, and let not the graces within me be as if they were dead! Remember, however, that the best quickener is always the Holy Spirit; and that blessed Spirit can come as the north wind, convincing us of sin, and tearing away every rag of our self-confidence, or He may come as the soft south wind, all full of love, revealing Christ, and the covenant of grace, and all the blessings treasured for us therein. You see, also, from this text, that when a child of God sees that his graces are not diffused abroad, then is the time that he should take to prayer. Let no one of us ever think of saying, “I do not feel as if I could pray, and therefore I will not pray.” On the contrary, then is the time when you ought to pray more earnestly than ever. Say, “O my Father, I cannot endure this miserable existence! Thou hast made me to be a flower, to shed abroad my perfume, yet I am not doing it. Oh, by some means, stir my flagging spirit, till I shall be full of earnest industry, full of holy anxiety to promote Thy glory, O my Lord and Master!’
III. “Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits.” These words speak of the company of Christ and the acceptance of our fruit by Christ. I want you specially to notice one expression which is used here. While the spouse was, as it were, shut up and frozen, and the spices of the Lord’s garden were not flowing out, she cried to the winds, “Blow upon my garden.” She hardly dared to call it her Lord’s garden; but now, notice the alteration in the phraseology: “Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits.” The wind has blown through the garden, and made the sweet odours to flow forth; now it is no longer “my garden,” but “His garden.” It is wonderful how an increase of grace transfers our properties; while we have but little grace, we cry, “my,” but when we get great grace, we cry, “His.” He planted every flower, and gave to each its fragrance; let Him come into His garden, and see what wonders His grace has wrought. Do you not feel, beloved, that the one thing you want to stir your whole soul is that Christ shall come into it? The best condition a heart can be in, if it has lost fellowship with Christ, is to resolve that it will give God no rest till it gets back to communion with Him, and to give itself no rest till once more it finds the Well-beloved. Next observe that, when the Beloved comes into His garden, the heart’s humble but earnest entreaty is, “Let Him eat His pleasant fruits.” “The greatest joy” of a Christian is to give joy to Christ; I do not know whether heaven itself can overmatch this pearl of giving joy to the heart of Jesus Christ on earth. It can match it, but not overmatch it, for it is a superlative joy to give joy to Him--the Man of sorrows, who was emptied of joy for our sakes, and who now is filled up again with joy as each one shall come and bring his share, and cause to the heart of Christ a new and fresh delight. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Song of Solomon 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30