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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Song of Solomon 5

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verse 1

Song of Solomon 5:1

I am come into My garden, My sister, My spouse.

The King feasting in His garden

. The voice of the Master Himself calls us to consider his presence: “I am come.” He tells us He is come. What I Could He come without our perceiving it? Is it possible? May we be like those whose eyes were holden so that they knew Him not? Is it possible for us to be like Magdalen, seeking Christ, while He is standing very near us? Yes, and we may even be like the disciples who, when they saw Him walking on the water, were afraid, and thought it was a spirit, and cried out, and had need for Him to say, “It is I, be not afraid,” before they knew who it was! Here is our ignorance, but here is His tenderness. Observe, first, this coming was in answer to prayer. How quickly the spouse was heard! Scarce had the words died away, “Let my Beloved come, before she heard Him say, “I am come! Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Now, observe what an unspeakable blessing this is! If the voice had said, “I have sent My angel,” that would have been a precious boon; but it is not so spoken; the word is, “I am come. If you take each word of this remarkable sentence, you will find a meaning. I am come.” There is the personal presence of Christ, “I am come.” There is the certainty that it is so. It is no illusion, no dream, no supposition. “I am truly come.” This is a solemn as well as a pleasant fact. You who are members of this church, recollect that Jesus is come into the church, that He is now going his rounds among you, and marking your feelings towards Him; He knows to-day who is in fellowship with Him, and who is not; He discerneth between the precious and the vile. “I am come into My garden,” saith He. Note here the possession which Christ claims in the Church. If it were not His garden, He would not come into it. A church that is not Christ’s church shall have none of His presence, and a soul that is not Christ’s has no fellowship with Him. The next word denotes cultivation. “I am come into My garden.” The Church is a cultivated spot; it did not spring up by chance, it was arranged by Himself, it has been tended by Himself, and the fruits belong to Himself. And then there are the two choice words at the close, by which He speaks of His Church herself rather than of her work. As if He would draw the attention of His people to themselves and to Himself, rather than to their work; He says, “My sister, My spouse.” There is one name for the garden, but there are two names for herself. The work is His work, the garden is His garden, but see, He wants communion not so much with the work as with the worker, He speaks to the Church herself. He calls her, “My sister, My spouse.” “Spouse” has something in it of dearness that is not in the first word, for what can be dearer to the husband than the bride? But then there was a time when the spouse was not dear to the Bridegroom, there was a period perhaps when He did not know her, when there was no relationship between them twain; though they are made of one flesh by marriage, yet they were of different families; and for this cause He adds the dear name of “sister,” to show an ancient relationship to her, a closeness and nearness by blood, by birth, as well as by betrothal and wedlock. The two words put together make up a confection of inexpressible sweetness.

Our Lord’s satisfaction in His Church. Observe, first, that Christ is delighted with the offerings of His people. He says, “I have gathered My myrrh with My spice.” We may consider myrrh and spice--sweet perfumes--offered by way of incense to God, as being indicative of the offerings which His people bring to Him. What if I say that prayer is like sweet-smelling myrrh, and that the Beloved has been gathering the myrrh of holy prayer, the bitter myrrh of repenting sighs and cries, in the midst of this church, lo, these many months! No faithful prayer is lost. The groanings of His people are not forgotten, He gathers them as-men gather precious products from a garden which they have tilled with much labour and expense. And then, may not spice represent our praises? for these, as well as prayer, come up as incense before His throne. Praise is pleasant and comely, and most of all so because Jesus accepts it, and says, “Whosoever offereth praise glorifieth Me.” The Saviour’s satisfaction is found, next, in His people’s love--“I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey.” He takes an intense satisfaction in the sweet fruits which He Himself has caused us to produce; notwithstanding every imperfection, He accepts our love, and says, “I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey.” Turning again to our precious text, we observe that our Lord s satisfaction is compared to drinking as well as eating, and that drinking is of a twofold character. “I have drunk My wine.” Does he intend by this His joy which is fulfilled in us when our joy is full? Does He mean that, as men go to feasts to make glad their hearts with wine, so He comes to His people to see their joy, and is filled with exultation? Meaneth He not so? Surely He doth. And the milk, may not that mean the Christian’s common, ordinary life? As milk contains all the constituents of nourishment, may He not mean by this the general life of the Christian? Our Lord takes delight in the graces of our lives. Permit me now to call your attention to those many great little words, which are yet but one--I refer to the word “My.” Observe, that eight or nine times it is repeated. Here is the reason for the solace which the Bridegroom finds in His Church. If He has gotten anything out of us, He must first have put it in us: if He sees of the travail of His soul, it is because the travail came first. Note well, ye lovers of Jesus, that our Lord in this heavenly verse is fed first. “I have eaten,” says He, and then He turns to us and says, “Eat, O friends.” If any of you seek friendship with the Well-beloved, you must commence by preparing Him a feast. Be assured that after yon have so done, your barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail. The way for believers to be fed by Christ is to seek to feed Him; look to His being satisfied, and He will assuredly look to you.

We must now remember, that the text contains an invitation. The Beloved says, “Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” In the invitation we see the character of the invited guests; they are spoken of as “friends.” We were once aliens, we are now brought nigh; we were once enemies, we are made servants, but we have advanced from the grade of service (though servants still) into that of friends, henceforth He calls us not servants, but friends, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth, but all things that He has seen of His Father He has made known unto us. He next calls His people beloved as well as friends. He multiplieth titles, but all His words do not express the full love of His heart. “Beloved.” Oh, to have this word addressed to us by Christ! It is music! Here, then, you have the character of those who are invited to commune with Christ; He calls His friends and His beloved. The provisions presented to them are of two kinds; they are bidden to eat and to drink. You, who are spiritual, know what the food is, and what the drink is, for you eat His flesh and drink His blood. The incarnation of the Son of God, and the death of Jesus the Saviour, these are the two sacred viands whereon faith is sustained. Note that delightful word, “abundantly.” Some dainties satiate, and even nauseate when we have too much of them, but no soul ever had too much of the dear love of Christ, no heart did ever complain that His sweetness cloyed. That can never be. Your eating and your drinking may be without stint. Ye cannot impoverish the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth. When ye are satiated with His love, His table shall still be loaded. Your cups may run over, but His flagons will still be brimmed. ]f you are straitened at all you are not straitened in Him, you are straitened in yourselves. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Sunday-school garden

By the garden, here, Jesus means His Church. But the Sunday-school is one of the most important parts of the Church of Christ.

Why is the Sunday-school like a garden?

1. The Sunday-school is like a garden because of what is done for it.

(1) The first thing done for a garden is to fence it. These fences are made out of the commandments He has given us in the Bible.

(2) When we have fenced our garden, the next thing to do is to weed it. But you may ask, what are the weeds that grow in God’s garden? Pride is one of these weeds. It is a tall, strong weed, with a glaring, disagreeable flower. Anger is another of these weeds; impatience is another; selfishness is another; idleness is another.

(3) The next thing to be done for it is to improve the soil. Some soil is so very poor that nothing will grow in it. When this is the case, the gardener has many ways of curing it. I will only speak of one. He will have the poor soil taken away, and some good, rich soil put in its place. And this is just what Jesus does to His people. He improves the soil of their hearts by changing it and making it new. Everything that Jesus loves will grow in the soil of the new heart.

(4) Now we are ready to sow the seed, and put in the plants we want to have growing there.

(5) Now it must be watered and cared for. Suppose no rain comes down and no dew distils upon it, will the seed sown there ever spring up and grow? And just in this way Jesus waters and cares for His garden His grace is the rain and dew that soften the soil of our hearts. His Holy Spirit is like the sun that shines on and warms them. Jesus has pipes in His garden to carry the water of tits grace wherever it is needed. The Bible that we read and have explained to us is one of these pipes. And then our blessed Saviour watches carefully over His garden all the time to keep anything from hurting the plants, or from hindering- their growth.

2. But then there is another reason why the Sunday school may be compared to a garden, because of what grows in It. In a garden we expect to find beautiful flowers and delicious fruit. And so in the Sunday-school, which is the garden of Christ, many sweet flowers and fruits are found growing. Every good feeling that we cherish in our hearts is a spiritual flower, and every good deed that we perform in our lives is a spiritual fruit, which Jesus loves to see blooming and ripening in His garden.

What does Jesus come into it for?

1. He comes to watch the growth of the plants.

2. He comes to enjoy the beauty of the flowers. No gardener ever took half as much delight in the flowers he is raising as Jesus takes in His. Every Christian child, and every one who is trying to become a Christian, is a flower in the Saviour’s garden, and nobody can tell how much pleasure Jesus takes in watching them. Oh, who would not wish to be one of the flowers of Jesus?

3. He comes to gather the flowers. You know how many dear children die while they are quite young. But what should we think if we could see them now, as they are blooming and flourishing in the Saviour’s garden above? (R. Newton, D. D.)

I have gathered My myrrh with My spice.

Love joying in love

1. It is evident that the Lord Jesus is made happy by us. These poetical sentences must mean that He values the graces and works of His people. He gathers their myrrh and spice because He values them; He eats and drinks the honey and the milk because they are pleasant to Him. It is a wonderful thought that the Lord Jesus Christ has joy of us. We cost Him anguish, even unto death, and now He finds a reward in us. This may seem a small thing to an unloving mind, but it may well ravish the heart which adores the Well-beloved.

2. The Lord Jesus will not and cannot be happy by Himself: He will have us share with Him. Note how the words run--“I have eaten;” “Eat, O friends!” “I have drunk;” “Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved!” His union with His people is so close that His joy is in them, that their joy may be full. He cannot be alone in His joy. He will not be happy anywhere without us. He will not eat without our eating, and He will not drink without our drinking. Does He not say this in other words in the Revelation--“If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me”? The inter-communion is complete: the enjoyment is for both. To make our Lord Jesus happy we must be happy also.

3. If we have already enjoyed happy fellowship with Him, the Lord Jesus calls upon us to be still more happy. Though we may say that we have eaten, He will again say, “Eat, O friends!” He presses you to renew, repeat, and increase your participation with Him. It is true we have drunk out of the chalice of His love; but He again invites us, saying, “Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved!” Must it not mean that, though we know the Lord Jesus, we should try to know more of Him, yea, to know all that can be known of that love which passeth knowledge? Oh for grace to appropriate a whole Christ, and all the love, the grace, the glory that is laid up in Him! Does it not also mean--have greater enjoyment of divine things? Partake of them without stint. Do not restrict yourself as though you could go too far in feeding upon the Lord Jesus. Do not be afraid of being too happy in the Lord, or of being too sure of His salvation, or too much devout emotion. Dread not the excitements which come from fellowship with Christ. Do not believe that the love of Jesus can be too powerfully felt in the soul. Permit the full sweep and current of holy joy in the Lord to carry you away: it will be safe to yield to it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 2

Song of Solomon 5:2

I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh.

Asleep and yet awake-A Riddle

We are glad to perceive in this Song the varied experience of the bride. She was the well-beloved of the heavenly Bridegroom, but she was not without her faults. Let us bless God that in the Book of revealed truth He has not merely given us the ideal standard after which we are to seek, but He has also preserved for us the humbler patterns of those who have striven to reach to the utmost height, and who have climbed a good way towards it, but who, nevertheless, have proved that, though they were the best of men, they were men at the best. Thus our Lord has saved us from despair by making us to know that we may be sincere, and true, and accepted, though we, too, fall short as yet of the holiness which we pant after with our whole hearts.

First, then, here is slumber confessed. The spouse laments her state, and sighs out, “I sleep.” It strikes us at once that her sleep is a state recognized. We are astonished that she should say, “I sleep,” and we conclude that it is not so profound a sleep as it might be; for when a man can say, “I sleep,” he is not altogether steeped in slumber. I would not give you encouragement, if you are asleep at all to continue it; but yet I would say this, that if you mourn, over your sluggishness you are not altogether a sluggard, if you feel uneasy in your dulness you are not altogether given over to spiritual stupidity, if you are anxious to be aroused out of your slumber it is certain that you are not given over to sleep yourself into the sepulchre of insensibility. Cultivate a quick perception, and when you are aware of the slightest defalcation or decline, confess at once to God that you begin to sleep. Further, as this sleep is a matter recognized, so it is a matter complained of The spouse is not pleased with her condition. It is well for saints, when they perceive that they are in the least degree backsliding, that they should mourn before God, and accuse themselves before Him. Act tenderly to others, but severely towards yourselves. So all prudent men will do if God keep them prudent. This sleepiness is not a thing to be indulged in, but to be abhorred. To say the least of it, it is a low state of enjoyment. Sleep is peaceful and quiet, but it cannot enjoy the sweets of the senses, and the delights which the mind can receive thereby. If we fail to enjoy the banquets of our Bridegroom’s love it must be because a deadness is stealing over us, and we are not so thoroughly alive and awake as we were in days gone by; and this is a condition to be deplored as soon as it is perceived. We ought to complain of ourselves if we sleep, because it is a state of danger. While men slept the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. It is bad, then, to have a drowsy minister and drowsy church officers, for these will not watch the fields for God. Sleep is a state of inaction. A man cannot do his daily business while his eyes are closed in slumber. Yet again; this slumber should be not only a matter of complaint as an ill to be dreaded, but it should be regarded as a fault to be ashamed of. Make excuses for others, and let your Lord make excuses for you, but do not frame apologies on your own account. Furthermore, it is an evil to be fought against. When a man is obliged to say, “I sleep,” let him not content himself with sleeping on. Now is the time for much prayer: let him wrestle with this deadly foe till he is fully aroused. Falling into indifference on the road to heaven is something like sleeping on the vast plains of snow, where, if a man give way to the natural inclination to slumber which comes on through the intense cold, he may lie down and never rise again.

We reach the point of the paradox; here is watchfulness claimed by one who confessed to sleep. “My heart waketh,” says the bride, “I sleep, but my heart waketh.” Somewhat of heaven is about the man of God when the earth encompasses him most: “Sin shall not have dominion over you”: God has the throne still, even when Satan rages most. This inward life shows itself usually in the uneasiness of the declining heart. When a believer feels that he is not what he ought to be, nor what he wants to be, he cannot be happy. He cannot rest and be content. He sleeps, but his heart beats, sighs, and palpitates with dire unrest. The inner life shows itself, too, in desire, for the heart is the seat of desire, and it leads the man to say “I am not what I would be. I live at a poor dying rate: Christ’s love is so great to me, and mine to Him so chill. Lord, lift me out of this frozen state. I cannot bear this grave of lethargy. Lord, bring my soul out of prison! Give me more grace; give me to love Jesus better, and to be more like Him. Poor as I am, I long to be enriched by Thy love and mercy; O visit me with Thy salvation!” Such a pleading heart is still awake, though the mind may be dull. The spouse gave another proof of her wakefulness by her discernment. She says, “It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh.” Even when half asleep she knew her Lord’s voice. You may catch a true believer at his worst, but he still knows the Gospel from anything else, and can detect another gospel in a moment. This wakefulness of heart shows itself often in the soul chiding itself. “I sleep,” saith she. She would not have blamed herself as I have tried to describe her doing if she had not been in some measure awake. This blessed living wakefulness within the heart will by and by display itself in action. The heart will wake up all that is within us, and we shall hasten to our Beloved.

Mystery solved. “I sleep, but my heart waketh.” How doth her heart wake? It is because the voice and knock of her Beloved are heard. Every child of God has a wondrous union with Christ. “Because I live,” saith Christ, “Ye shall live also.” Ask you why you are alive in such a body of death and grave of sin as your poor nature is? You live because Christ lives; and you cannot die till He does. This is why you cannot sleep as do others, because He does not so sleep. What a blessing is this vital union with the ever-blessed Head, immortal and unslumbering!

Now for the lesson learned. It is this, be very careful when you possess great joys, for in this instance the spouse had been with the Beloved in choice fellowship, and yet was soon drowsy. High joys may produce slumber; the chosen three upon the mount Tabor were soon overcome with heaviness. Mind what you do when on the mount; be careful to carry a full cup with a steady hand. Next, when you are blaming yourselves for your own work, do not forget the work of the Spirit in you. “I sleep:” smite your heart for that, but do not forget to add if it be true, “My heart waketh.” Bless God for any grace you have, even if it be but little. Lastly, make sure above all things that you have that true faith which knows the voice of Jesus. He saith, “Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Nearer and dearer

Spiritual sickness is very common in the Church of God, and the root of the mischief lies in distance from Jesus, following Christ afar off, and yielding to a drowsy temperament. Away from Jesus, away from joy. Without the sun the flowers pine; without Jesus our hearts faint.

The spouse confesses a very common sin: she cries, “I sleep.” She had no right to be asleep, for her Beloved knew no rest. He was standing without in the cold street, with His head wet with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night, why should she be at ease? He was anxiously seeking her, how was it that she could be so cruel as to yield to slumber! Do you not find, that almost unconsciously to yourselves, a spirit of indifference stems over you? You do not give up private prayer, but, alas! it becomes a mere mechanical operation. Shall such a King be served by lie-a-bed soldiers? Shall His midnight pleadings be repaid by our daylight sleepiness? Shall an agony of bloody sweat be recompensed by heavy eyelids and yawning mouths?

The song before us reminds us of a hopeful sign. “My heart waketh.” What a riddle the believer is! He is asleep, and yet he is awake. His true self, the I, the veritable Ego of the man is asleep; but yet his heart, his truest self, his affections, are awake. It is a hopeful sign when a man can conscientiously say as much as the spouse in this case, but remember it is not much to say. Do not pride yourself upon it. Be ashamed that you should be asleep at all. Do not congratulate yourself that your heart is awake. Be thankful that infinite love affords you grace enough to keep your heart alive, but be ashamed that you have no more when more may be had and should be had.

The third thing is a loving call. Asleep as the spouse was, she knew her Husband’s voice, for this is an abiding mark of God’s people. “My sheep hear My voice. A half-sleeping saint still has spiritual discernment enough to know when Jesus speaks. At first the Beloved One simply knocked. His object was to enter into fellowship with His Church, to reveal Himself to her, to unveil His beauties, to solace her with His presence. Such is the object of our blessed Lord, this morning, in bringing us to this house. Then the Bridegroom tried His voice. If knocking would not do, he would speak in plain and plaintive words, “Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled.” The Lord Jesus Christ has a sweet way of making the word come home to the conscience; I mean, not now, that effectual and irresistible power of which we shall speak by and by, but that lesser force which the heart may resist, but which renders it very guilty for so doing. Now, observe the appeals which the Beloved here makes. He says, “Open to Me,” and His plea is the love the spouse has to Him, or professed to have, the love He has to her, and the relationship which exists between them. Did you notice that powerful argument with which the heavenly Lover closed His cry? He said, “My head is filled with dew, and My locks with the drops of the night.” Ah, sorrowful remembrances, for those drops were not the ordinary dew that fall upon the houseless traveller’s unprotected head, His head was wet with scarlet dew, and His locks with crimson drops of a tenfold night of God’s desertion, when He “sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” My heart, how vile art thou, for thou shuttest out the Crucified. Behold the Man thorn-crowned and scourged, with traces of the spittle of the soldiery, canst thou close the door on Him? Wilt thou despise the “despised and rejected of men”? Writ thou grieve the “Man of sorrows,” and acquainted with grief

Yet the spouse hastened not to open the door, and I am afraid the like delay may be charged upon some of us. Our shame deepens as we pursue our theme, and think how well our own character is photographed here by the wise man; for notice, that after the knocking and the pleading, the spouse made a most ungenerous excuse. She sat like a queen, and knew no sorrow. She had put off her garments and washed her feet as travellers do in the East before they go to rest. Shall I English the excuse she made? It is this: “O Lord, I know that if I am to enter into much fellowship with Thee, I must pray very differently from what I have done of late, but it is too much trouble; I cannot stir myself to energy so great. My time is so taken up with my business, I am so constantly engaged that I could not afford even a quarter of an hour for retirement. I have to cut my prayers so short.” Is this the miserable excuse in part? Shall I tell out more of this dishonourable apology? It is this: I do not want to begin an examination of myself: it may reveal so many unpleasant truths. I sleep, and it is very comfortable to sleep; I do not want to be driven out of my comforts. Perhaps if I were to live nearer to Christ, I should have to give up some of the things which I so much enjoy. I have become conformed to the world of late; I am very fond of having Mr. So-and-so to spend aa hour with me in the evening, and his talk is anything but that which my Master would approve of, but I cannot give him up. I have taken to read religious novels. I could not expect to have the Lord Jesus Christ’s company when I am poring over such trash as that, but still I prefer it to my Bible; I would sooner read a fool’s tale than I would read of Jesus’ love.

Still, as a wonder of wonders, although shamefully and cruelly treated, the beloved Husband did not go away. We are told that He “put in His hand by the hole of the door,” and then the bowels of His spouse were moved for Him. Does not this picture the work of effectual grace, when the truth does not appeal to the ear alone, but comes to the heart, when it is no longer a thing thought on, and discussed and forgotten, but an arrow which has penetrated into the reins, and sticks fast in the loins to our wounding, and ultimately to our spiritual healing? No hand is like Christ’s hand. When He puts his hand to the work it is well done. He “put in His hand”: not His hand on me to smite me, but His hand in me to comfort me; to sanctify me. He put in His hand, and straightway His beloved began to pity Him, and to lament her unkindness.

But now, observe the deserved chastisement which the Bridegroom inflicted. When her Spouse was willing to commune, she was not; and now that she is willing, and even anxious, what happens? “I opened to my Beloved, but,” says the Hebrew, “He had gone, He had gone.” The voice of lamentation the reduplicated cry of one that is in bitter distress. There must have been a sad relief about it to her sinful heart, for she must have felt afraid to look her dear One in the face after such heartless conduct; but sad as it would have been to face Him, it was infinitely sadder to say, “He is gone, He is gone.” Now she begins to use the means of grace in order to find Him. “I sought Him,” said she, “and I found Him not. I went up to the house of God; the sermon was sweet, but it was not sweet to me, for He was not there. I went to the communion table, and the ordinance was a feast of fat things to others, but not were many; she kept them up by day and by night. “I called Him, but He gave me no answer.” She was not a lost soul, do not mistake that. Christ loved her just as much then as before, nay, loved her a great deal more. If there can be any change in Christ’s love, He must have much more approved of her when she was seeking Him in sorrow, than when she was reclining upon the couch and neglecting Him. But He was gone, and all her calling could not bring Him back. What did she then? Why, she went to His ministers, she went to those who were the watch-men of the night, and what said they to her? Did they cheer her? Perhaps they had never passed through her experience; perhaps they were mere hirelings. However it might be, they smote her.

As the poor spouse did not then find Christ, but was repulsed in all ways, she adopted a last expedient. She knew that there were some who had daily fellowship with the King, daughters of Jerusalem who often saw Him, and therefore she sent a message by them, “If ye see my Beloved, tell Him that I am sick of love.” Enlist your brother saints to pray for you. Go with them to their gatherings for prayer. Their company will not satisfy you without Jesus, but their company may help you to find Jesus. Follow the footsteps of the flock, and you may by and by discover the Shepherd. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 3

Song of Solomon 5:3

I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?

Profession, tested by the unusual

It is when we are asked to do unusual things that we find out the scope and the value of our Christian profession. How difficult it is to be equally strong at every point! How hard, how impossible, to have a day-and-night religion: a religion that is in the light and in the darkness the same, as watchful at midnight as at midday; as ready to serve in the snows of winter as amid the flowers of the summer-time! So the Shulamite breaks down. She has been rhapsodizing, calling to her Love that He would return to her; and now that He has come she says: “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?” What a refrain to all the wild rhapsody! When the Shulamite cries that her loving and loved one may return, always add, I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have laid myself down; how can I rise again to undo the door?--Oh that he would come at regular times, in the ordinary course of things, that he would not put my love to these unusual and exceptional tests: for twelve hours in the day I should be ready, but having curtained myself round, and lain down to sleep, how can l rise again? Thus all mere sentiment perishes in the using; it is undergoing a continual process of evaporation. Nothing stands seven days a week and four seasons in the year but reasoned love, intelligent apprehension of great principles, distinct inwrought conviction that without Christ life is impossible, or were it possible it would be vain, painful, and useless. Have we any such excuses, or are these complaints historical noises, unknown to us in their practical realization? Let the question find its way into the very middle of the heart. There is an ingenuity of self-excusing, a department in which genius can find ample scope for all its resources. The ailment that would not keep a man from business will confine him all day when it is the Church that requires his attendance, or Christ that asks him to deliver a testimony or render a sacrifice. Who can escape from that suggestion? Who does not so far take Providence into his own hand as to arrange occasionally that his ailments shall come and go by the clock? Who has not found in the weather an excuse to keep him from spiritual exercises that he never would have found there on the business days of the week? How comes it that men look towards the weather quarter on the day of the Son of Man? Where do we begin to economize? Do we begin in the region of luxury? Where is there a man who can truthfully say that when he begins to economize he begins in the wine-cellar? How often have we risen at midnight to help the poor, the helpless, the lost? Of how many meals have we denied our hunger that we might help a hunger greater than our own? How often have we put ourselves out of the way to do that which is good, benevolent, and helpful? (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verse 8

Song of Solomon 5:8

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my Beloved, that ye tell Him, that I am sick of love.

Heavenly love-sickness

Sick! that is a sad thing; it moves your pity. Sick of love--love-sick! that stirs up other emotions which we shall presently attempt to explain. There is a twofold love-sickness. Of the one kind is that love-sickness which comes upon the Christian when he is transported with the full enjoyment of Jesus, even as the bride, elated by the favour, melted by the tenderness of her Lord, says in the fifth verse of the second chapter of the Song, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” Another kind of love-sickness, widely different from the first, is that in which the soul is sick, not because it has too much of Christ’s love, but because it has not enough present consciousness of it; sick, not of the enjoyment, but of the longing for it; sick, not because of the excess of delight, but because of sorrow for an absent lover.

First, consider our text as the language of a soul longing for the view of Jesus Christ in grace.

1. Do ye ask me concerning the sickness itself: what is it? It is the.sickness of a soul punting after communion with Christ. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for, mark you, when they are not near to Christ, they lose their peace. The nearer to Jesus, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; and the further from Jesus, the nearer to that troubled sea which images the continual unrest of the wicked. The heart when near to Jesus has strong pulsations, for, since Jesus is in that heart, it is full of life, of vigour, and of strength. Peace, liveliness, vigour--all depend upon the constant enjoyment of communion with Christ Jesus. The soul of a Christian never knows what joy means in its true solidity, except when she sits like Mary at Jesus’ feet. What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What the turtle is to her mate, what the husband is to his spouse, what the head is to the body, such is Jesus Christ to us; and therefore, if we have Him not, nay, if we are not conscious of having Him; if we are not one with Him, nay, if we are not consciously one with Him, little marvel if our spirit cries in the words of the Song, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my Beloved, tell Him, that I am sick of love.” Such is the character of this love-sickness. We may say of it, however, that it is a sickness which has a blessing attending it: Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness;” and therefore, supremely blessed are they who thirst after the Righteous One--after Him who in the highest perfection embodies pure, immaculate, spotless righteousness. Blessed is that hunger, for it comes from God. Yet it is a sickness which, despite the blessing, causes much pain. The man who is sick after Jesus will be dissatisfied with everything else; he will find that dainties have lost their sweetness, and music its melody, and light its brightness, and life itself will be darkened with the shadow of death to him, till he finds his Lord, and can rejoice in Him. Ye shall find that this thirsting, this sickness, if it ever gets hold upon you, is attended with great vehemence. As lovers sometimes talk of doing impossibilities for their fair ones, so certainly a spirit that is set on Christ will laugh at impossibility, and say, “It shall be done” It will venture upon the hardest task, go cheerfully to prison and joyfully to death, if it may but find its beloved, and have its love-sickness satisfied with His presence.

2. What maketh a man s soul so sick after Christ? Understand that it is the absence of Christ which makes this sickness in a mind that really understands the preciousness of His presence. The spouse had been very wilful and wayward; she had taken off her garments, had gone to her rest, her sluggish, slothful rest, when her Beloved knocked at the door. Mingled with the sense of absence is a consciousness of wrong-doing. Something in her seemed to say, “How couldst thou drive Him away?” That heavenly Bridegroom who knocked and pleaded hard, how couldst thou keep Him longer there amidst the cold dews of night? O unkind heart I what if thy feet had been made to bleed by thy rising? What if all thy body had been chilled by the cold wind, when thou wast treading the floor? What had it been compared with His love to thee? So, too, mixed with this, was great wretchedness because He was gone. She had been for a little time easy in His absence. That downy bed, that warm coverlet, had given her a peace--a false, cruel, and a wicked peace--but she has risen now, the watchmen have smitten her, her veil is gone, and, without a friend, the princess, deserted in the midst of Jerusalem’s streets, has her soul melted for heaviness, and she pours out her heart within her as she pineth after her Lord. To gather up the causes of this love sickness in a few words, does not the whole matter spring from relationship? She is His spouse; can the spouse be happy without her beloved Lord? It springs from union; she is part of Himself. Can the hand be happy and healthy if the life-floods stream not from the heart and from the head? Fondly realizing her dependence, she feels that she owes all to Him, and gets her all from Him. If, then, the fountain be cut off, if the streams be dried, if the great source of all be taken from her, how can she but be sick? And there is besides this a life and a nature in her which makes her sick. There is a life like the life of Christ, nay, her life is in Christ, it is hid with Christ in God; her nature is a part of the Divine nature; she is a partaker of the Divine nature. Moreover she is in union with Jesus, and this piece, divided, as it were, from the body, wriggles, like a worm cut asunder, and pants to get back to where it came from.

3. What endeavours such love-sick souls will put forth. Those who are sick for Christ will first send their desires to Him. Go, go, sweet doves, with swift and clipping wings, and tell Him, I am sick of love. Then she would send her prayers. She is afraid they will never reach Him, for her bow is slack, and she knoweth not how to draw it with her feeble hands which hang down. So what does she? She has traversed the streets; she has used the means; she has done everything; she has sighed her heart out, and emptied her soul out in prayers. She is all wounds till He heals her; she is all a hungry mouth till He fills her; she is all an empty brook till He replenishes her once again, and so now she goeth to her companions, and she saith, “If ye find my Beloved, tell Him, I am sick of love.” This is using the intercession of the saints. But after all, how much better it would have been for her to tell Him herself. “But,” you say, “she could not find Him.” Nay, but if she had faith she would have known that her prayers could; for our prayers know where Christ is when we do not know, or rather, Christ knows where our prayers are, and when we cannot see Him they reach Him nevertheless.

4. Blessed love-sickness! we have seen its character and its cause, and the endeavours of the soul under it; let us just notice the comforts which belong to such a state as this. Briefly they are these--you shall be filled. It is impossible for Christ to sat you longing after Him without intending to give Himself to you. He makes you long: He will certainly satisfy your longings. Remember, again, that He will give you Himself all the sooner for the bitterness of your longings. The more pained your heart is at His absence the shorter will the absence be. Then, again, when He does come, as come He will, oh, how sweet it will be!

This love-sickness may be seen in a soul longing for a view of Jesus in His glory.

1. And here we will consider the complaint itself for a moment. This ailment is not merely a longing after communion with Christ on earth--that has been enjoyed, and generally this sickness follows that. It is the enjoyment of Esheol’s first-fruits which makes us desire to sit under our own vine and our own fig tree before the throne of God in the blessed land. This sickness is characterized by certain marked symptoms; I will tell you what they are. There is a loving and a longing, a loathing and a languishing. As the needle once magnetized will never be easy until it finds the pole, so the heart once Christianized never will be satisfied until it rests on Christ--rests on Him, too, in the fulness of the beatific vision before the throne.

2. As to its object--what is that? “Tell Him, that I am sick of love;” but what is the sickness for? When you and I want to go to heaven I hope it is the true love-sickness. The soul may be as sick as it will, without rebuke, when it is sick to be with Jesus. You may indulge this, carry it to its utmost extent without either sin or folly. What am I sick with love for? For the pearly gates?--No; but for the pearls that are in His wounds. What am I sick for? For the streets of gold?--No; but for His head, which is as much fine gold. For the melody of the harps and angelic songs?--No ”but for the melodious notes that come from His dear mouth. What am I sick for? For the nectar that angels drink?--No; but for the kisses of His lips. For the manna on which heavenly souls do feed?--No; but for Himself, who is the meat and drink of His saints; Himself, Himself--my soul pines to see Him.

3. Ask ye, yet again, what are the excitements of this sickness. What is it makes the Christian rang to be at home with Jesus? I do believe that all the bitters and all the sweets make a Christian, when he is in a healthy state, sick after Christ: the sweets make his mouth water for more sweets, and the bitters make him pant for the time when the last dregs of bitterness shall be over. Wearying temptations, as well as rapt enjoyments, all set the spirit on the wing after Jesus.

4. Well now, what is the cure of this love-sickness? Is it a sickness for which there is any specific remedy? There are some palliatives, and I will recommend them to you. Such, for example, is a strong faith that realizes the day of the Lord and the presence of Christ, as Moses beheld the promised land and the goodly heritage, when he stood on the top of Pisgah. If you do not get heaven when you want it, you may attain to that which is next door to heaven, and this may bear you up for a little season, if you cannot get to behold Christ face to face, it is a blessed make-shift for the time to see Him in the Scriptures, and to look at Him through the glass of the Word. These are palliatives, but I warn ye, I warn ye of them. I do not mean to keep you from them, use them as much as ever you can, but I warn you from expecting that it will cure that love-sickness. It will give you ease, but it will make you more sick still, for he that lives on Christ gets more hungry after Christ. But there is a cure, there is a cure and you shall have it soon--a black draught, and in it a pearl: a black draught called Death. Ye shall drink it, but ye shall not know it is bitter, for ye shall swallow it up in victory. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verses 9-16

Song of Solomon 5:9-16

What is thy Beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women.

The incomparable Bridegroom and His bride

I want to address some earnest words to the people of God upon certain practical truths that arise out of our text; and the first thing I have to say is this, that the daughters of Jerusalem recognized in the spouse an exceeding beauty, which dazzled and charmed them, so that they could not help calling her the “fairest among women.” This was not her estimate of herself; for she had said, “I am black, but comely.” Nor was it the estimate of her enemies; for they had smitten her, and wounded her. But it was the estimate of fair, candid, and impartial onlookers.

Our character should give weight to our profession of religion. I suppose it is the earnest wish of every Christian to win for Christ some new converts, to bring some fresh province under the dominion of the King of kings. I will tell you how this may be accomplished. Your power to achieve this noble purpose must largely depend upon your own personal consistency. It little availeth what I say if I do the reverse. The world will not care about my testimony with the lip, unless there be also a testimony in my daily life for God, for truth, for holiness, for everything that is honest, lovely, pure, and of good report. If your life be not all of a piece, the world will soon learn how to estimate your testimony, and will count you to be either a fool or a knave, and perhaps both. But it is not enough to be barely consistent; what the world expects in Christians is real holiness as well as consistency. Holiness is something more than virtue. Virtue is like goodness frozen into ice, hard and cold; but holiness is that same goodness when it is thawed into a clear, running, sparkling stream. If you are just barely honest and no more, if you are barely moral, and no more, it is of no service that you should try to speak of Christ; the world will not reckon you as the fairest among women, and it will not inquire anything about your Well-beloved.

We should charge others concerning Christ. “What is thy Beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” The “fairest among women” was asked why she had so spoken: “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my Beloved, that ye tell Him, that I am sick of love.” By this “charge” is meant, I suppose, that the spouse adjured them, and spoke solemnly to them about her Beloved. Christians be troublesome to the world! O house of Israel, be like a burdensome stone to the world I While your conduct should be courteous, and everything that could be desired as between man and man, yet let your testimony for Christ be given without any flinching and without any mincing of the matter. We must speak up for Christ, and so speak up for Him that men will be moved to ask us the question, “What is thy Beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?”

It is important for us to make all who come in contact with us feel that Christ Jesus is first and foremost with us. It is clear that Christ is not first in every nominal Christian’s heart. No, alas! He is not first, and He is not even second, He is very far down in the scale. Look at them,--good honest tradespeople, perhaps, but from the first dawn of Monday morning to the putting up of the shutters on Saturday night, what is the main business of their life? It is only, “What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?” Now, where is Christ in such a case as that? This is not the case with the truly Christ-like man. With him, Christ is first, Christ is last, Christ is midst, Christ is all in all; and when he speaks about anything connected with Christ, his words come with such a solemn earnestness, that men are impressed with what he says, and they turn round to him, and ask, as the daughters of Jerusalem inquired of the spouse, “What is thy Beloved?” etc.

If ever, through the grace of God, we should possess such a character, and bear such a testimony as we have been talking about, so that men shall ask us the question of the text, it will be well for us to be prepared to answer it. See how the spouse does; she does not pause a minute before she gives her reply. She is asked, “What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?” and she has the answer, as we say, at her fingers ends, and why was this? Why, because she had it in her heart. So she says, “My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.” She does not say, “Stop a bit, I must read up on that question; I must get myself well instructed upon it,” but it is such a vital point, and one so dear to her, as it touches the person of her Lord, that she answers at once, “Is my Beloved better than any other beloved? Certainly He is, and here are the reasons.” She puts them together one after another without a pause, so that the daughters of Jerusalem must have been convinced; and I commend her example to you also, my beloved in Christ Jesus. Do study the Word, that your faith may not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The best Beloved

. All have some beloved. By a beloved I mean any person or anything that more than any other occupies the thoughts--entwines about itself the affections and constitutes the mainspring of the person’s actions. The beloved of many is money. Their thoughts can only run on golden rails. But there are others of lighter, gayer dispositions who laugh to scorn the miser’s treasure and cast their offerings at the feet of pleasure. For it they live, in it they revel. The world and the things of the world constitute their beloved, and they woo it with a blind devotion. No, my desire is to show and feel, and make you feel, that Jesus is infinitely more than any other, and that no other beloved can possibly be compared to Him.

Christ surpasses all beloveds.

1. He does so first in beauty. How magnificent is the description that flows from the lips of the spouse, when she is challenged to show the superiority of her Beloved. “My Beloved,” she exclaims, “is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.” Here you have the perfection of loveliness--not merely ruddy, nor only pale, though there may be beauty in both, but white and ruddy, the rose and the lily united, the fairest contrasts meeting in the same person. Oh, is it not so with our Beloved? Your Beloved is white and ruddy now.

2. Our Beloved is more than others in that He reciprocates my love. For every drop of love I have towards Him, there is in His heart an ocean full for me.

3. He is more than any other beloved also, because He is never a cause of sorrow. Can you point me to any other love that never gives a pang or brings a tear? Earthly honey is always mixed with gall, and this world’s fairest rose is ever accompanied with thorns. But Jesus is a beloved who is all joy. His friendship is sweeter than honey, and the rose of Sharon has no thorns.

4. Other beloveds may be loved too well, but Jesus never. Love to Him can never become a snare--love to Him need not and should never have any restraint. Love Him to a passion, and you will not love Him half enough.

5. Our Beloved is more than others in that death robs us not of Him.

6. No other beloved died for me, but Jesus did. Great and wonderful are the sacrifices that have been made through love. Remember our Beloved loved us unto the death, not because we loved Him, but because He would love us. So you will perceive that we here have love beyond that ever shown by friend to friend displayed to enemies.

7. Our Beloved is more than any other beloved in our estimation. Whatever others may think of Him, to me He is the chiefest among ten thousand. (A. G. Brown.)

The Christian’s Beloved

What are the chief objects of man’s love?

1. Money.

What is there men will not do or suffer for the sake of wealth?

2. Fashion.--There is a Baal as well as a Moloch in the Pantheon--a god of splendour as well as a god of fire! And Baal has his sacrifices too. To enter a circle a little above their own, to stand out prominently before the world--what unworthy artifices! what mean flatteries! How low men will stoop to raise themselves a little higher!

3. Science.--Here we feel that we are getting to a loftier elevation, and breathing purer air. Heaven and earth--sea and shore--the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, are full of treasures for the lover of science. And here he revels. Day is as night, and night as day--“the hours uncounted, meals untasted pass;” whilst his whole soul is in communion with his beloved.

4. Literature.--And surely such a study is not without its fascinations. And cultivated minds there are that make an idol of this object--Literature is the beloved of their souls.

Why does Christ deserve a warmer love?

1. Because He can love us in return. Money, Fashion, Science, Literature, are dead things; and the dead have no power to sympathize--their give not “smile for smile, or sigh for sigh.” But Christ is a living one! “He was dead, but is alive again.” There glows a heart in his Bosom that can hear and answeer the yearnings of ours. And seeking sympathy anywhere beside is “seeking the living among the dead.”! Seek it in Christ! He lives and loves!

2. Because He is so exceeding lovely. See Him encompassed with a body like our own--going about doing good. Can you imagine a character more attractive? Is He not “altogether lovely”?

3. He has shown us so much love already.

4. We may depend upon His love for all time to come. The future--untried, unknown! it is this which weighs on us. What evils, trials, sufferings may there not be in store! The only thing to bring us peace is--the assurance that our future is in the hands of all-wise, unwearied, almighty Love l And is not this the assurance that Christ gives to His people? “Lo, I am with you alway.” “My grace is sufficient for you.” “All things work together for good to them that love Me.” Is not this comforting? (F. Tucker, B. A.)

Verse 10

Song of Solomon 5:10

My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Christ’s perfection and precedence

The spouse in this verse styles her Lord, “my Beloved,” from which it is easy for us to gather that it is of the utmost importance that our heart’s affection should be really and truly set upon Christ Jesus, our Lord. We must trust Him, and we must ]ore Him. Christ on the cross saves us when He becomes to us Christ in the heart. If we have reached that stage in our journey heavenwards, it will be well if we go on a step further. Loving our Lord and Saviour in our heart, and being assured of that love in our inmost conscience after earnest heart-searching, it will be well if we have the courage never to hesitate in the avowal of that love. We must not cast our pearls before swine; but, on the other hand, it is so ennobling a passion that we need never blush to own it in any company. If we ever are ashamed of loving Christ, we have good reason to be ashamed of such shameful shame. Loving Jesus, knowing that we love Him, and boldly confessing our love to Him, let us, next, so study His person and His character that we shall be able to give a reason for the love that is in us to any who make the inquiry, “What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?”

First, then, the spouse saith, “my Beloved is white and ruddy, and so she sets forth His charming complexion.

1. Our Lord is, first of all, in Himself white; that is, He has immaculate perfection of character. In His Godhead, Jesus Christ is perfection itself. As to His manhood, the term whiteness well describes Him who was born without natural corruption, or taint of hereditary depravity--“that holy thing,” the Christ of God, who became incarnate, yet without sin. Doth not this word” white describe Him also in His actual life? There was never any sin in Christ. As to Christ’s actions, they are matchless and perfect in every respect; the two great objects of His life were the glory of God and the good of man. There is no spot in Him; He is the Lamb of God without blemish, the perfect Christ, and hence it is that we love Him.

2. But, next, we come to the blood-shedding, the sacrificial character of Christ. This is the chief reason, after all, why Christ’s people love Him, because, in His precious blood, they see the pardon of all their sins, they see the lifting of themselves up into the life of God, they see the open way of access unto the Father, they see the gates of heaven opened to all believers.

Now notice that the spouse saith of her Beloved that He is “the chiefest among ten thousand.” These words set forth His personal precedence. He is the chiefest among ten thousand, and it so happens that this word “chiefest” may mean any one of three or four things.

1. First, take it as it stands “Chiefest,” that is to say, Christ is higher, better, lovelier, more excellent than any who are round about Him. If you shall bring ten thousand angels, He is the chiefest Angel, the Messenger of the covenant. If you shall bring ten thousand friends, He is the chiefest Friend, the “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Christ is the chiefest, the best, the highest of all beings; whatever excellences there may be in others, they are all eclipsed by the surpassing excellences that are found in Him.

2. Christ is the chiefest among ten thousand; that is to say, He is the Head, the Ruler, the Prince, the King, the Lord over all. Let Christ, and Christ alone, wear the crown He bought with His own blood; He alone is King, and let Him ever be so proclaimed-and acknowledged.

3. According to thee Septuagint, the text has another meaning. Our Lord in Scripture is called the chosen One, the elect of God. As the psalmist puts it, speaking by prophecy, “I have exalted One chosen out of the people. Christ is chosen out of ten thousand, as the Mediator to stand between God and men. Whoever else might have been employed by God for this service--and we are not able to think of any other--yet first of all was Christ chosen of God; and to-day we may call Him the chosen One because He is the chosen of His Church.

4. Lastly, according to the margin of our Bible, the text should be thus read, “He is the Standard-bearer among ten thousand.” Now, our Lord Jesus Christ has come into this world, and set up a standard because of the truth, and well does He handle it, firmly doth He grasp it. When on the cross, the battle thickened round Him; all the hosts of hell and all the bands of cruel ones on earth sought to smite Him, and to seize the standard, too, but He bore it still aloft through all the dreadful fray! and this day, though He is now in heaven, yet by His blessed Spirit that standard is still unfurled to the breeze. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 13

Song of Solomon 5:13

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: His lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.

Spices, flowers, lilies, and myrrh

It is of Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, that we perceive the spouse to be speaking, and mentioning in detail at least ten particulars, dwelling with delight upon the beauties of His head and His locks, His eyes and His cheeks, His lips and His hands, and every part of Him; and, beloved friends, I think it shows true love to Christ when we want to speak at length upon everything that concerns Him. True love to Christ seeks to get to Him, to live with Him, to live upon Him, and thus to know Him so intimately that things which were unobserved and passed over at the first, stand out in clear light to the increased joy and delight of the contemplative mind.

Christ looked upon is very lovely. “His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers.”

1. But why do they mention His cheeks?

(1) I suppose, first, because every part of Christ is inexpressibly delightful. Take any portion of His countenance that you may, and it has surpassing beauty about it. Think for a moment what is meant by a sight of “His cheeks.” Though you may not yet see the majesty of His brow as King of kings and Lord of lords,--though you may not perceive the brightness of the lightning flashes of His eyes, which are as a flame of fire,--though you may scarcely be able to imagine at present what will be the glory of His second advent,--yet, if you can but see the cheeks that He gave to the smiters, if you do but know something of Him as the suffering Saviour, you shall find that there is inexpressible delight in Him, and with the spouse you will say, “His cheeks are as a bed of spices.”

(2) But, methinks, the saints see great loveliness in those parts of Christ which have been most despised. Oh! if we could but see Him now, if we could but gaze upon His face as it is in glory, what a subject of meditation it would be to think that even the spittle of cruel mockers did run a-down those blessed cheeks,--that infinite loveliness was insulted with inconceivable contempt,--the holy face of the Incarnate Son of God distained with the accursed spittle of brutal men. “It was I, with my vain and idle talk, with my false and proud speech, that did spit into that dear face.” How sad that He should ever have been made to suffer so! O glorious love, that He should” be willing even to stoop to this terrible depth of ignominy that He might lift us up to dwell with Him on high I

(3) And next, those parts of Christ in which we do not immediately see any special office or use are, nevertheless, peculiarly lovely to the saints. Do you care only for the lips that speak to you? Have you no love for the cheeks that are silent? Do you care for nothing but for the eyes that are watching over you? If there come to you nothing from those cheeks of your Lord, yet shall they not be to you “as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers”? The fact is, we are not to judge concerning Christ in any such fashion as this; on the contrary, if there is any duty which Christ has commanded, but which, instead of seeming to be easy and profitable to us, is hard, and requireth that we should give so much that Judas will cry out, “To what purpose is this waste?” let us never mind him, but break our alabaster boxes, and pour out the sweet perfume upon our dear Master.

(4) But further, the followers of Christ have an intense admiration, an almost infinite love for that part of Christ by which they are able to commune with Him, and perhaps that is one reason why His cheeks are here specially mentioned. The cheek is the place of fellowship where we exchange tokens of love. What a blessing it is that Christ should have had a cheek for the lips of love to approach, and to kiss!

2. The spouse, however, in our text tries to speak of the loveliness of Christ by comparisons. She cannot do it with one emblem, she must have two even concerning His cheeks; they are “as a bed of spices,” “as sweet flowers.”

(1) Notice, in the metaphors used by the spouse, that there is a blending of sweetness and beauty; “as a bed of spices,”--there is sweetness; and then, “as sweet flowers,”--there is beauty. There is sweetness to the nostrils and beauty to the eye, spice for its fragrance and flowers for their loveliness. In Christ, there is something for every spiritual sense, and for every spiritual sense there is a complete satisfaction and delight in Him.

(2) Notice that, when the spouse is speaking even of the cheeks of her Beloved, she brings in the idea of abundance;--spices, aye, “a bed of spices”; flowers,--not one or two, but, according to the Hebrew, “towers of perfume,” which I understand to mean those raised beds which we delight to have in our gardens, where there are many flowers set in order, forming charming banks of beauty. No doubt Solomon had some of those in his garden, for “there is nothing new under the sun”; and those raised beds of dainty flowers are fit emblems of the beauteous cheek of Christ, with its delicate tints of white and red. So in Christ there is infinite abundance.

(3) There is also in Christ infinite variety; there is in Him all you can want of any one thing, and there is more than all you can want of everything.

(4) The spouse’s metaphors seem to me also to suggest use and delight. She speaks of spices, for which there is practical use in surgery and in medicine, for preservation and for perfume; and she also mentions sweet flowers, for which there may not be any particular use, but which are charming for ornament, and for the delectation of taste. So, dear friends, in Christ Jesus there is all that we want, but there is a great deal more. There is something beside and beyond our actual necessities, there are many spiritual luxuries.

Now let us turn to the other part of our text:

“His lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” These words teach us that Christ listened to is very precious. When He is silent, and we only look at Him, He is lovely to our eyes; but when He speaks, we can see “His lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.”

1. Notice, first, that it is well, whenever we hear the voice of Jesus Christ, to try to see the blessed Person who is speaking. Tile spouse does not say in our text, “His words are sweet,” but she speaks of “His lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” Why should we not believe more in a personal Christ, and why should we not always see the connection between the mercy and the hand that gives it, and between the promise and the lips that speak it?

2. Notice the comparison in the text,--lilies; not white lilies, of course, but red lilies, crimson lilies, lilies of such a colour as are frequently to be seen, which would be a suitable emblem of the Beloved’s lips. Christ’s lips are peculiarly delightful to us, for it is with them that He speaks to us, and intercedes with the Father for us. When Heb, leads as the Intercessor on behalf of a poor soul like me, His lips are indeed in God’s sight like lovely lilies. The Father looks at His dear Son’s lips, and He is charmed with them, and blesseth us because of Christ’s intercession. And whenever Christ turns round, and speaks to us, shall we not listen at once, with eyes and ears wide open, as we say, “I like to watch His lips as He is speaking, for His lips are to me as lilies”? I suppose this comparison means that Christ’s lips are very pure, as the lily is the purest of flowers; and that they are very gentle, for we always associate the lily with everything that is tender and soft and kind.

3. But the spouse’s comparison fails, for she said, “His lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.” This lilies do not do, but Christ does. He is more than a lily, or He is a lily of such a sort as never bloomed on earth except once. He was the only lily that ever dropped sweet-smelling myrrh. The spouse says that His lips do that; what means this? Does it not mean that His Word is often full of a very sweet, mysterious, blessed influence? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 16

Song of Solomon 5:16

Yea, He is altogether lovely.

Altogether lovely

When the old Puritan minister had delivered his discourse, and dwelt upon firstly and secondly and thirdly, before he sat down he usually gave a comprehensive summary of all that he had spoken. In these five words, the spouse here gives you her summary. Remember these words, and know their meaning, and you possess the quintessence of the spouse’s portion of the Song of Songs. This verse, has been translated in another way: “He is all desires”; and so indeed Jesus is. He was the desire of the ancients, He is the desire of all nations still. To His own people He is their all in all; they are complete in Him; they are filled out of His fulness. But we will not dispute about translations, for, after all, with such a text, so full of unutterable spiritual sweetness, every man must be his own translator, and into his own soul must the power of the message come, by the enforcement of the Holy Ghost.

We shall consider three points of character which are very noticeable in these words.

1. The first which suggests itself is this: the words are evidently uttered by one who is under the influence of overwhelming emotion. The words are rather a veil to the heart than a glass through which we see its emotions. The sentence labours to express the inexpressible; it pants to utter the unutterable. Lost in adoring wonder, the gracious mind desists from description, and cries with rapture, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” It has often been thus with true saints; they have felt the love of Jesus to be overpowering and inebriating. I believe those are the happiest saints who are most overwhelmed with a sense of the greatness, goodness and preciousness of Christ. Oh! to be carried right away with the Divine manifestation of the chief among ten thousand, so that our souls shall cry out in rapture, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” This is one characteristic of the text: may it be transferred to us.

2. A second is this, and very manifest it is upon the surface of the verse--here is undivided affection. “He is altogether lovely.” Note that these words have a world of meaning in them, but chiefly they tell us this, that Jesus is to the true saint the only lovely one in the world. Our text means, again, that in Jesus loveliness of all kinds is to be found. If there be anything that is worthy of the love of an immortal spirit, it is to be seen in abundance in the Lord Jesus. He is not this flower or that, but He is the Paradise of perfection. He is not a star here or a constellation there, He is the whole heaven of stars, nay, He is the heaven of heavens; He is all that is fair and lovely condensed in one. When the text says, again, that Jesus “is altogether lovely,” it declares that He is lovely in all views of Him. It generally happens that to the noblest building there is an unhappy point of view from which the architecture appears at a disadvantage; the choicest piece of workmanship may not be equally complete in all directions; the best human character is deformed by one flaw, if not with more; but with our Lord all is lovely, regard Him as you will. Under all aspects, and in all offices and in relations, at all times and all seasons, under all circumstances and conditions, anywhere, everywhere, “He is altogether lovely.” I will close this point by saying, every child of God acknowledges that Christ Jesus is lovely altogether to the whole of Himself. He is lovely to my judgment; but many things are so and yet are not lovely to my affections; I know them to be right, and yet they are not pleasant: but Jesus is as lovely to my heart as to my head, as dear as He is good. He is lovely to my hopes; are they not all in Him? Is not this my expectation--to see Him as He is? But He is lovely to my memory too: did He not pluck me out of the net? Lovely to all my powers and all my passions, my faculties and feeling.

3. The third characteristic of the text is ardent devotion. It is the language of one who feels that no service would be too great to render to the Lord. I wish we felt as the apostles and martyrs and holy men of old did, that Jesus Christ ought to be served at the highest and richest rate. We do little, very little: what if I had said we do next to nothing for our dear Lord and Master nowadays? The love of Christ doth not constrain us as it should. Is Christ less lovely, or is His Church less loyal? Would God she estimated Him at His right rate, for then she would return to her former mode of service. Oh, for a flash of the celestial fire! Oh, when shall the Spirit’s energy visit us again! When shall men put down their selfishness and seek only Christ? When shall they leave their strifes about trifles to rally round His Cross? When shall we end the glorification of ourselves, and begin to make Him glorious, even to the world’s end?

Thus I have shown you the characteristics of the text, and now I desire to use it in three ways for practical purposes.

1. The first word is to you, Christians. Here is very sweet instruction. The Lord Jesus “is altogether lovely.” Then if I want to be lovely, I must be like Him, and the model for me as a Christian is Christ. We want to have Christ’s zeal, but we must balance it with His prudence and discretion; we must seek to have Christ’s love to God, and we must feel His love to men, His forgiveness of injury, His gentleness of speech, His incorruptible truthfulness, His meekness and lowliness, His utter unselfishness, His entire consecration to His Father’s business.

2. The second use to which we would put the verse is this, here is a very gentle rebuke to some of you. You do not see the lowliness of Christ, yet “He is altogether lovely.” Now, you who have never heard music in the name of Jesus, you are to be greatly pitied, for your loss is heavy. You who never saw beauty in Jesus, and who never will for ever, you need all our tears. The Lord open those blind eyes of yours, and unstop those deaf ears, and give you the new and spiritual life, and then will you join in saying, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.”

3. The last use of the text is, that of tender attractiveness. “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” Where are you this morning, you who are convinced of sin and want a Saviour, where have you crept to? You need not be afraid to come to Jesus, for “He is altogether lovely.” It does not say He is altogether terrible--that is your misconception of Him; it does not say He is somewhat lovely, and sometimes willing to receive a certain sort of sinner; but “He is altogether lovely,” and therefore He is always ready to welcome to Himself the vilest of the vile. Think of His name. It is Jesus, the Saviour. Is not that lovely? Think of His work. He is come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is His occupation. Is not that lovely? Think of what He has done. He hath redeemed our souls with blood. Is not that lovely? Think of what He is doing. He is pleading before the throne of God for sinners. Think of what He is giving at this moment--He is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins. Is not this lovely? Under every aspect Christ Jesus is attractive to sinners who need Him. Come, then, come and welcome, there is nothing to keep yon away, there is everything to bid you come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The loveliness of Christ

In the spotless purity of His nature.

In His unrivalled perfections.

In His varied offices of prophet, priest, and king.

In His temper and spirit. Love, meekness, tenderness and benignity marked His whole earthly career. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

The best beloved

I am not about to speak of Christ’s loveliness after the flesh, for now after the flesh know we Him no more. It is His moral and spiritual beauty, of which the spouse in the Song most sweetly says, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” The loveliness which the eye dotes on is mere varnish when compared with that which dwells in virtue and holiness; the worm will devour the loveliness of skin and flesh, but a lovely character will endure for ever.

This is rare praise. What if I say it is unique? For no other being could it be said, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” It means, first, that all that is in Him is lovely, perfectly lovely. There is no point in our Lord Jesus that you could improve. To paint the rose were to spoil its ruddy hue. To tint the lily, for He is lily as well as rose, were to mar its whiteness. Each virtue in our Lord is there in a state of absolute perfection: it could not be more fully developed. He is altogether lovely at every separate point, so that the spouse, when she began with His head, descended to His feet, and then lifting her eyes upward again upon a return voyage of delight, she looked into His countenance, and summed up all that she had seen in this one sentence, “He is altogether lovely.” This is rare praise. And He is all that is lovely. In each one of His people you will find something that is lovely, in one there is faith, in another abounding love; in one tenderness, in another courage, but you do not find all good things in any one saint--at least not all of them in full perfection; but you find all virtues in Jesus, and each one of them at its best. In Jesus Christ--this, moreover, is rare praise again--there is nothing that is unlovely. You never need put the finger over the scar in His case, as Apelles did when he painted his hero. Nothing about our Lord needs to be concealed; even His cross, at which his enemies stumble, is to be daily proclaimed, and it will be seen to be one of His choicest beauties.

As this is rare praise, so likewise it is perpetual praise. You may say of Christ whenever you look at Him, “Yea, He is altogether lovely.” He also was so. As God over all, He is blessed for ever, Amen. When in addition to His Godhead, He assumed our mortal clay, was He not inimitably lovely then? He is lovely in all His offices. What an entrancing sight to see the King in His beauty, with His diadem upon His head, as He now sits in yonder world of brightness! How charming to view Him as a Priest, with the Urim and Thummim, wearing the names of His people bejewelled on His breastplate! And what a vision of simple beauty, to see Him as a Prophet teaching His people in touching parables of homely interest, of whom they said, “Never man spake like this.” Man I Let Him be what He may--Lamb or Shepherd, Brother or King, Saviour or Master, Foot-washer or Lord--in every relation He is altogether lovely.

Though this praise is rare praise and perpetual praise, yet also it is totally insufficient praise, Say ye that He is altogether lovely? It is not enough. It is not a thousandth part enough. No tongue of man, no tongue of angel, can ever set forth His unutterable beauties. “Oh,” say you, “but it is a great word, though short; very full of meaning though soon spoken--altogether lovely. I tell you it is a poor word. It is a word of despair. The praise of the text is insufficient praise, I know, because it is praise given by one who had never seen Him in His glory. It is Old Testament praise this, that He is altogether lovely: praise uttered upon report rather than upon actual view of Him. Truly I know not how to bring better, but I shall know one day. Till then I will speak His praise as best I can, though it fall far short of His infinite excellence.

This praise is very suggestive. If Christ be altogether lovely it suggests a question. Suppose I never saw His loveliness. This world appreciates the man who makes money, how ever reckless he may be of the welfare of others while scheming to heap up riches for himself. As for this Jesus, He only gave His life for men, He was only pure and perfect, the mirror of disinterested love. The vain world cannot see in Him a virtue to admire, It is a blind world, a fool world, a world that lieth in the wicked one. Not to discern the beauties of Jesus is an evidence of terrible depravity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Christ the Beloved, and the Friend of His people

. Christ the beloved of his people.

1. They love Him for His own great and glorious perfection. In Him all beauty centres. In Him, whatever qualities excite admiration, or engage esteem, whatever excellence adorns, dignifies, or endears the character, unite without diminution or alloy.

2. They love Him for His suitableness to their necessities. Are they in a lost and perishing condition? Christ is a Saviour and a great one. Are they blind and ignorant? In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Are they tied and bound with the chain of their sins? Christ proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prisons to them that are bound. Are they weak and helpless? Christ will give strength to His people. He is a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in distress. In a word, Christ is a remedy exactly suited to every want.

3. They love Him for the special benefits which He hath conferred upon them.

(1) They have experienced the freeness of His love.

(2) They have experienced the efficacy of His pardoning mercy.

(3) They have experienced the power of His sanctifying grace.

(4) They have experienced the faithfulness of His Word. They have trusted in Him and have been holpen. They have called upon Him and have been delivered.

Christ is the friend of His people.

1. Christ is a Friend, who tenderly loves His people, and is cordially attached to their interests.

2. Christ is an all-powerful Friend. The kingdoms of nature, of providence, of grace, are under His control.

3. Christ is an unchangeable Friend.

4. Christ is a seasonable Friend. The friend who ministers to our support, when other friends forsake us, and when we stand most in need of his support, pre eminently shows himself to be a friend. Such a friend is Christ to His people.

Some marks, by which you may judge whether you love Christ or not.

1. If you love Christ, you love His cause. That His kingdom may come, is your prayer. That His kingdom will come, is your joy.

2. It you love Christ, you love His people. The faithful in Christ Jesus you will account the truly honourable on earth; the excellent, in whom is all your delight.

3. If you love Christ, you love His ordinances.

4. If you love Christ you love to do His will. (E. Cooper, M. A.)

Christ the Friend of His people

. Because of what he undertook and what he has accomplished for them.

1. When their cause was desperate with God, He engaged to remedy it--to answer every charge to which they were liable, and He did it.

2. He purchased their persons, that He might be free to bless them as He saw meet.

(1) Having them as His own, it is His delight to enrich and honour them to the utmost.

(2) Having them as His own, He strips them of their filthy garments--He washes them from their sins.

(3) Having them as His own, He reveals Himself to them. He cures the blindness with which the God of this world had afflicted them.

(4) Having them as His own, He puts His law in their hearts and writes it in their minds. With their whole soul they consent unto it as “holy, just, good.”

3. He has gone before to the place of final rest, there to appear for them, thence to hold communication with them, and thither to take them at last.

The character of His friendship.

1. It is an indissoluble friendship. It is not a friendship which, having viewed its object at first, through the false and delusive medium of an absorbing passion, has been deceived in it, and, on discovery of the deception, cools, fades, falls away, until it ceases altogether, or sinks into indifference, bearing proportion in its extent to the blind ardour that once raged. But it is a friendship based on intelligent, holy, as well as affectionate choice; He that led to it, that formed it, being the Father who so loved us that “He gave His only begotten Son, that we might live by Him.” It never wearies of its object, for it is never disappointed, never deceived. It grows, it increases continually. On Christ’s side it is perfect from the beginning, as existing in His heart; but the manifestations of it to us multiply every day.

2. It is marked by uniform constancy. Christ is a Friend that “loves at all times.”

3. It is distinguished by unswerving faithfulness. (A. Beith.)

This is my Friend

The need of this Friend. This will be evident if you reflect upon the sad state and condition in which all mankind are involved by sin.

Some proofs and instances of Christ’s friendship towards us.

1. His engaging in our cause as our Surety in the everlasting covenant, which is ordered in all things and sure, and entered into between the Persons of the Trinity, is a manifest proof and indication of His friendship towards us.

2. He has not only undertaken to do all this, but He has done what He undertook to do. He has paid the very last farthing for us.

3. He has proved Himself to be our Friend by having wrought out a righteousness for us, a righteousness which ensures us against all the demands both of law and of justice; a righteousness which shall be for ever, a salvation which shall not be abolished.

4. He has proved Himself to be our Friend by His dying in our stead, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.

5. He has proved Himself to be our Friend by His having purchased our persons, and procured all things needful for us. Look at the price which He has paid, His own blood.

6. He has proved Himself to be our Friend by His having risen again in our behalf; by His having ascended to His Father and to our Father, to His God, and our God; by His taking possession of heaven for us.

7. He has proved Himself to be our Friend by interceding for us.

Some of the properties of this friend. Christ is a nonsuch; there is none like Him; none to be compared to Him. He is the chiefest among ten thousand, He is altogether lovely. He is all desires, and the Desire of all nations, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee.”

1. He is a rich Friend. Such an one is often useful and needful. A man may have a friend that has the heart to help him, but who has not got the means; but Christ as He is willing, so also He is able.

2. He is a faithful Friend. You may safely trust Him with your all. He is faithful to the Father, having perfectly fulfilled HIS covenant engagements with Him, in fulfilling the law and suffering the penalty. And He is faithful to Ills people in giving them eternal life.

3. He is a tender-hearted Friend. He sympathizes with His people in all their afflictions, their trials, their difficulties, their disappointments, their sicknesses.

4. He is an unchangeable and unchanging Friend. We may grow cold to Him. He grows not cold towards us. He is ever the same.

5. He is an everlasting Friend. A man may have a friend and he may die, and then all his dependence upon him is gone; but Christ ever lives to be the Friend of His people. Death separates friends, but over Christ it hath no power.

Who that individual is that can claim Christ as his or her friend. And here we observe, that no person in a state of nature can make this claim, since Christ is neither beloved by such, nor are they acquainted with that friendship which dwells in His breast towards all those whom He has redeemed with His most precious blood. And as they are unacquainted with His friendship, they cannot claim Him as their Friend. Neither is it the privilege of every one who is called by grace to claim Christ as his Friend. Although every regenerate person has faith, yet every regenerate person may not have the full assurance of faith. When faith does rise to this full assurance, the possessor thereof can say as Paul did, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.” Such can say with holy Job, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” not the Redeemer, but my Redeemer; “and that He shall stand, etc. Such can say as Thomas did, “My Lord and my God” Such can say as the Church does, “This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend.” (W. D. Long, M. A.)


Our Friend

To have a true friend is a blessing beyond all price. I wish to show that there is a loving Friend for all mankind.

1. Who is our Friend? Men have always been asking, Who is God? In reply, the Lord our God appeared in a human body, called Jesus, and showed that He is the Friend of Man.

2. Our Friend sees all our trouble. O friendless one, tossed about on the sea of life, our Friend sees you, and is at hand to comfort you.

3. Our Friend is always present with us.

4. Our Friend can help us all times.

5. Our Friend is our Mediator, who saves us from the result of our sins.

6. Brothers, love our Friend! And, like Him, love the friendless!

7. Let us also show friendship to all creatures which God has made. (W. Birch.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Song of Solomon 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/song-of-solomon-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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