Saturday, May 27th, 2023
Eve of Pentacost
Eve of Pentacost
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ song-of-solomon-7.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Song of Solomon 7:1
How beautiful are thy feet in sandals, O prince's daughter! The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman. To the ladies who are looking on the bride appears simply noble and royal. The word naudhib which is used, translated "prince's daughter," means "noble in disposition," and so in birth and rank, as in 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 113:8; so in So 6:12, "the princely people." The description, which is perfectly chaste, is intended to bring before the eye the lithe and beautiful movements of an elegant ,lancer; the bendings of the body, full of activity and grace, are compared to the swinging to and fro of jewelled ornaments made in chains. The cunning workman or artist is one who is master of that which abides beautiful. אָמָּן, like, יָמִין, "whose truthful work can be trusted." The description passes from the thighs or loins to the middle part of the body, because in the mode of dancing prevailing in the East the breast and the body, are raised, and the outlines of the form appear through the clothing, which is of a light texture. We must not expect to find a symbolical meaning for all the details of such a description. The general intention is to set forth the beauty and glory of the bride. The Church of Christ is most delightful in his sight when it is most full of activity and life, and every portion of it is called forth into manifest excellence. "Arise, shine," is the invitation addressed to the whole Church, "shake thyself from the dust," "put on thy beautiful garments," be ready for thy Lord.
Song of Solomon 7:2
Thy navel is like a round goblet, wherein no mingled wine is wanting: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. It must be remembered that ladies are speaking of one who is in the ladies' apartment. There is nettling indelicate in the description, though it is scarcely Western. The "round goblet," or basin, with mixed wine, i.e. wine with water or snow mixed with it, is intended to convey the idea of the shape of the lovely body with its flesh colour appearing through the semitransparent clothing, and moving gracefully like the diluted wine in the glass goblet. The navel is referred to simply as the center of the body, which it is in infants, and nearly so in adults. Perhaps Delitzsch is right in thinking that there may be an attempt to describe the navel itself as like the whirling hollow of water in a basin. In the latter part of the verse the shape of the body is undoubtedly intended. "To the present day winnowed and sifted corn is piled up in great heaps of symmetrical, half-spherical form, which are then frequently stuck over with things that move in the wind, for the purpose of protecting them against birds. The appearance of such heaps of wheat," says Wetstein, "which one may see in long parallel rows on the threshing floors of a village, is very pleasing to a peasant; and the comparison of the song every Arabian will regard as beautiful." According to the Moslem Sunnas, the colour of wheat was that of Adam. The white is a subdued white, denoting both perfect spotlessness and the purity of health. The smooth, round, fair body of the maiden is seen to advantage in the varied movements of the dance.
Song of Solomon 7:3
Thy two breasts are like two fawns that are twins of a roe. So in So Song of Solomon 4:5; but there the addition occurs, "which feed among the lilies." This is omitted here, perhaps, only because lilies are just before spoken of. The description is now in the lips of the ladies; before it was uttered by the king himself.
Song of Solomon 7:4
Thy neck is like the tower of ivory; thine eyes are as the pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim; thy nose is like the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. This is plainly a partial repetition of the king's description. The ivory tower was perhaps a tower well known, covered with ivory tablets, slender in structure, dazzlingly white in appearance, imposing and captivating. No doubt in the lips of the court ladies it is intended that this echo of the royal bridegroom's praises shall be grateful to him. Heshbon is situated some five and a half hours east of the northern points of the Dead Sea, on an extensive, undulating, fruitful, high table-land, with a far-reaching prospect. "The comparison of the eyes to a pool means either their glistening like a water-mirror or their being lovely in appearance, for the Arabian knows no greater pleasure than to look upon clear, gently rippling water: cf. Ovid, 'De Arte Am.,' 2.722—
"Adspicies oculos tremulo fulgore micantes,
Ut sol a liquida saepe refulget aqua"
The nose formed a straight line down from the forehead, conveying the impression of symmetry, and at the same time a dignity and majesty inspiring with awe like the tower of Lebanon. The reference is perhaps to a particular tower, and in the time of Solomon there were many noted specimens of architectural and artistic splendour. "A tower which looks in the direction of Damascus is to be thought of as standing on one of the eastern spurs of Hermon or on the top of Amana (So Amos 4:8), whence the Amana (Barada) takes its rise, whether as a watchtower (2 Samuel 8:6) or only as a look out from which might be enjoyed the paradisaical prospect."
Song of Solomon 7:5
Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held captive in the tresses thereof. Carmel is called the "Nose of the mountain range" (Arf-ef-jebel). It is a promontory. The meaning, no doubt, is the exquisite fitness of the head upon the neck, which is one of the most lovely traits of personal beauty. Some, however, think that the reference is to colour—Carmel being derived from the Persian, and meaning "crimson." This is rejected by Delitzsch, as the Persian would be carmile, not carmel. The transition is natural from the position and shape of the head and neck to the hair. The purple shellfish is found near Carmel (cf. Lucian's πορφύρεος πλόκαμος and Anacreon's πορφυραῖ χαῖται, and similar expressions in Virgil's 'Georgics,' 1.405, and Tibullus, 1.4, 63). The locks of hair are a glistening purple colour, i.e. their black is purple as they catch the lights. Hengstenberg, however, thinks that the reference is to the temples, and not to the hair itself; but the use of the term in classical poets is decisive. The lovely head shaking the locks as the body moves gracefully in the dance fills the king with delight and admiration. He is quite captivated, and the ladies, having finished their description of the bride, look at the bridegroom, and behold him quite lost in the fascination—"held captive in the tresses." Delitzsch quotes a similar expression from Goethe, in the 'West Ostliche Divan,' "There are more than fifty hooks in each lock of thy hair." The idea of taking captive is frequent in Hebrew poetry (cf. Proverbs 6:25; Sirach 9:3, 4). Thus ends the song of the ladies in praise of the bride. We must suppose that the king, who is probably present, then takes up the word, and pours out his heart.
Song of Solomon 7:6-9
(Song of the bridegroom rejoicing over the bride.) How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will climb up into the palm tree, I will take hold of the branches thereof: let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy breath like apples; and thy mouth like the best wine, that goeth down smoothly for my beloved, gliding through the lips of them that are asleep. The abstract "love" is plainly here used for the concrete, "O loved one." It is just possible that the meaning may be—How delightful is the enjoyment of love! but the bodily description which follows suggests that the words are addressed directly to Shulamith. We certainly have in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, an apostolic apostrophe to love, which Delitzsch calls the Apostle Paul's spiritual song of songs. But it would be somewhat irrelevant here. The king is deeply moved as he watches the beautiful figure before him, and delights in the thought that so lovely a creature is his own. The rapture which he pours out may be taken either as a recollection of how he was captivated in the past, or the past may be used for the present, as it frequently is in Hebrew. The meaning is the same in both cases. The palm tree may be selected on account of its elegance, but it is commonly employed in Eastern poetry as the emblem of love. The mystical writers use it to denote the Divine manifestation. The comparison of the breasts to clusters of grapes is quite natural, but no doubt reference is intended to the fruit as luscious and refreshing. Both the palm and the vine in the East are remarkable for the abundance and beauty of their fruits. In the case of the palm—"dark brown or golden-yellow clusters, which crown the summit of the stem and impart a wonderful beauty to the tree, especially when seen in the evening twilight." The palm and the vine are both employed in Scripture in close connection with the Church. "The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree;" "The vine brought out of Egypt" (Ps; Psalms 80:1-19.), and the "vineyard of the beloved" (Isaiah 5:1-30.), and the "true vine," to which the Lord Jesus Christ compares himself, remind us that the illustration was perfectly familiar among the Jews; and we can scarcely doubt that the reference in this case would be understood. The Lord delighteth in those "fruits of righteousness" which come forth from the life and love of his people. They are the true adornment of the Church. The people of God are never so beautiful in the eyes of their Saviour as when they are covered with gifts and graces in their active expression in the world. Then it is that he himself fills his Church with his presence. The ninth verse is somewhat difficult to explain. The words are no doubt still in the lips of the king. There is no change of speaker until 1 Corinthians 13:10, when Shulamith replies to the king's adoring address. Ginsburg says, "Her voice is not merely compared to wine because it is sweet to everybody, but to such wine as would be sweet to a friend, and on that account is more valuable and pleasant." The Authorized Version is supported by some critics as the best, "causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak." Delitzsch adheres to this. The LXX. renders it thus: ἱακανουμὲνος χειλεσί μου καὶ ὀδοῦσιν, "accommodating itself to my lips and teeth." So Symmachus, προστιθέμενος. Jerome, Labiisque et dentibus illius ad ruminandum. Luther strangely renders, "which to my friend goes smoothly down and speaks of the previous year" (pointing יְשֵׁנִים as יְשָׁנִים). Another rendering is, "which comes unawares upon the lips of the sleepers." Some think it refers to the smacking of the lips after wine. "Generous wine is a figure of the love responses of the beloved, sipped in, as it were, with pleasing satisfaction, which hover around the sleepers in delightful dreams, and fill them with hallucinations." Another reading substitutes "the ancient" for "them that are asleep." The general meaning must be wine that is very good and easily taken, or which one who is a good judge of wine will praise. It is possible that there is some slight corruption in the text. The passage is not to be rendered with absolute certainty. Delitzsch and others think that it is an interruption of the bride's, but they have little support for that view. The bride begins to speak at 1 Corinthians 13:10.
Song of Solomon 7:10
I am my beloved's, and his desire is towards me. So in So Song of Solomon 6:3 and Song of Solomon 2:16. It seems possible that a portion of the bride's speech may have dropped out—"My beloved is mine"—or she may wish to adopt the language of Genesis 3:16, and represent herself as a true wife, whose husband is wrapt up in her love. By "desire" is intended the impulse of love, תְּשׁוּקָה, from a root שׁוּק, "to move or impel." The thought seems to be this—As my beloved is full of worshipping affection, and I am wholly his, let his love have free course, and let us retire together away from all the distractions and artificiality of the town life to the simplicity and congenial enjoyments of the country, which are so much more to my taste. The more real and fervent the religious emotions of the soul and the spiritual life of the Church, the more natural and simple will be their expression. We do not require any profuse ceremonies, any extravagant decorations, any complicated and costly religions services, in order to draw forth in the Christian Church the highest realization of the Saviour's fellowship. We want the Christianity we profess to take possession of us, body and soul. And so it will be as Christians learn more of Christ.
Song of Solomon 7:11, Song of Solomon 7:12
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine hath budded and its blossom be open, and the pomegranates be in flower: there will I give thee my love. All true poets will sympathize with the exquisite sentiment of the bride in this passage. The solitude and glory and reality of external nature are dearer to her than the bustle and splendour of the city and of the court. By "the field" is meant the country generally. The village or little town surrounded with vineyards and gardens was the scene of Shulamith's early life, and would always be delightful to her. The word is the plural of an unused form. It is found in the form copher (1 Samuel 6:18), meaning "a district of level country." Delitzsch renders, "let us get up early," rather differently—"in the morning we will start"—but the meaning is the same. The word dodhai, "my love," is "the evidences or expressions of my love" (cf. So Song of Solomon 4:16; Song of Solomon 1:2). No doubt the bride is speaking in the springtime, the Wonnemond of May, when the pulses beat in sympathy with the rising life of nature.
Song of Solomon 7:13
The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and at our doors are all manner of precious fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. The dudhai after the form Lulai, and connected probably with דּוֹד, are the "love flowers," the Mandragora officinalis (Linn.), whitish-green in colour, with yellow apples about the size of nutmegs; they belong to the order of Solanaceae, and both fruits and roots were employed as aphrodisiac, to promote love. We are, of course, reminded of Genesis 30:14, where the LXX. has, μὴλα, μανδραγορῶν, when the son of Leah found mandrakes in vintage time. They produce their effect by their powerful and pleasant fragrance. They are said to be only rarely found in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, but they were abundant in. Galilee, where Shulamith was brought up. The Arabs called them abd-el-sal'm, "servant of love"—postillon d'amour. We are not wrong in using that which is perfectly natural and simple for the cherishing and increasing of devout feeling. The three elements which coexist in true spiritual life are thought, feeling, and action. They support one another. A religion which is all impulse and emotion soon wears itself out, and is apt to end in spiritual vacuity and paralysis; but when thought and activity hold up and strengthen and guide feeling, then it is scarcely possible to endanger the soul. The heart should go out to Christ in a simple but fervent worship, especially in praise. There are no Christians who are more ready to devote themselves to good works than those who delight much in hearty and happy spiritual songs.
Song of Solomon 7:1-5
The chorus of maidens praise the beauty of the bride.
I. THE PRELUDE.
1. The address. They address her as, "O prince's daughter." She is not a king's daughter, like the bride of Psalms 45:1-17, but she is of honourable extraction. Though she lived in the retired district of Lebanon, and had been brought up there in rustic occupations, her family was one of some distinction. So Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was recognized by the angel Gabriel, and was known among men by the testimony of accepted genealogies as "the son of David." The bride always speaks humbly of herself (as in So Psalms 1:5, Psalms 1:6), but the daughters of Jerusalem praise her. Such praise was common at nuptial festivals, the literal translation of Psalms 78:63, "Their maidens were not given in marriage," seems to be, "Their maidens were not praised." The daughters of Jerusalem do not regard the bride with envy; they do not despise her because of her former low estate; they rather bring forward every point that may tend to her praise. We should be like them in this respect. Jealousy is one of the most common of evil tempers; even the Lord's apostles were jealous of one another, and that in the very presence of the Master; again and again they disputed among themselves which should be the greatest (Matthew 18:1; Luke 22:24). We must covet earnestly the blessed grace of charity—charity which "envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, cloth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. We must pray fervently, "From envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness, good Lord, deliver us."
2. The bride's approach. "How beautiful are thy feet with shoes!" The word here rendered "feet" more generally means steps; this has been taken as an argument in favour of "the dance of Mahanaim," mentioned above. It is used also for "feet;" but even if we take it in its more common sense, the words of the chorus may be well understood of the approach of the bride, and perhaps also of the queenly grace of her movements. The opening words remind us of the prophecy of Isaiah, quoted by St. Paul in Romans 10:15, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (Isaiah 52:7). We have learned to see in the bride of the Song of Songs a figure of the Church, which is the bride of Christ. The mission of the Church is to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord commanded" (Matthew 28:19). The heavenly Bridegroom is with the bride while she obeys his precept; for he adds, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the ages." Therefore "the Spirit and the bride say, Come" (Rev 20:1-15 :17). The Church, taught and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, calls men to the knowledge of Christ. Her feet are beautiful as, "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15), she moves ever onward, bringing the light of truth into the regions that were lying in darkness and the shadow of death. Missionary work is a most important part of the duty of the Church; when carried on in faith and love and forgetfulness of self, it is beautiful in the sight of God.
II. PRAISES IN DETAIL
1. Of her clothing. The chorus begins by praising, not simply the feet, but the sandalled feet, of the bride; they admire her sandals. From this we may infer that other terms used here relate rather to the clothing which covered the various parts of the body. It is the royal robes, with their ornaments and embroidery, which are like rows of jewels, or like a round goblet (see the word translated "round" in Isaiah 3:18, where it is rendered, "round tires like the moon"), or like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. Comp. Psalms 45:9, Psalms 45:13, Psalms 45:14, "Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir." "The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee." So the bride, the Lamb's wife, shall be "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Revelation 19:8). "The king's daughter is all glorious within." The Hebrew word, indeed, means "within the palace," in the inner apartment. But we know that the adorning of the Church, when she appears "as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2), is "not that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel, but the hidden man of the heart" (l Peter Psalms 3:3, Psalms 3:4). She will then be all glorious within, in the spiritual sense of the word, a glorious Church, holy and without blemish; and the Christian soul must even now put on that white linen which is the righteousness of saints, with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Indeed, "our righteousnesses are but as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6); but Christ "of God is made unto us Wisdom and Righteousness" (1 Corinthians 1:30); and St. Paul teaches us that "as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). We must "keep ourselves pure" (1 Timothy 5:22); we must take jealous and anxious heed so to live in the faith of Christ and in the communion of the Holy Ghost as to keep that white robe unspotted from the world (James 1:27). And if we have marred and stained it, as, alas! we too often do, by carelessness and sin, we must come to God in humble penitence and confession, asking him to give us grace to wash our robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb; for we believe that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin, and that even they who have fallen into grievous sin may, if they turn to God in sorrow and contrition, be made "whiter than snow" (Psalms 51:7). The king's daughter must be all glorious within; she must put on the wedding garment of righteousness. Let us seek that costly robe to be our own; we may gum it through the. grace of Christ if we earnestly desire it, hungering and thirsting after it.
2. Of herself. Her neck was white as the ivory which King Solomon imported and used largely for purposes of decoration (1 Kings 10:18, 1 Kings 10:22); her eyes in their liquid beauty were like the pools at Heshbon; her brow stately as the tower of Lebanon; her head beautiful as the summit of Carmel; her hair like the deepest shade of Tyrian purple—the king (the chorus continues) is held captive in its tresses. The beauty of the bride is a stately, regal beauty; her neck and her brow are compared to towers, her head to the mountain so famous in the history of Elijah. So in the Book of the Revelation, when the angel had said to St. John, "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife," "he carried me," the evangelist continues, "away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:9, Revelation 21:10). Here, again, the bride, which is the Church, is compared to a city, a city built upon an exceeding high mountain, according to the Saviour's prophecy, "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). St. John dwells in ardent words upon the heavenly beauty of the bride, which is the city of the living God; he tells us of her stately gates, of her vast dimensions, of her jewelled foundations, of her "streets of pure gold as it were transparent glass." The glories of that heavenly city draw the Christian soul mightily with a constraining power, as King Solomon was held captive in the dark tresses of his bride. The Lord "loveth the gates of Zion" (Psalms 87:1); the heavenly Bridegroom loved the Church, and gave himself for it. Christians, taught by him, set their affection on the heavenly city; they love to meditate upon its glories; they count its towers and mark its palaces, the many mansions in our Father's house; confessing that they are pilgrims and strangers here, they seek the continuing city, which is to come. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).
Song of Solomon 7:6-13
Dialogue between the king and the bride.
I. ENTRANCE OF THE KING.
1. His praise of love. Perhaps the last words of the chorus were overheard by the king as he approached the bride. He assents; he is content to be held captive in the tresses of the bride's hair; for love is fair and pleasant above all delightful' things. The bridegroom is not here using the word with which he so often addresses the bride (as in So Song of Solomon 1:9; Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 6:4), which is translated, "O my love," or perhaps better, "O my friend." In this place we have the word ordinarily used for the affection of love; and perhaps it is best to take it in that sense here. Among all delightful things there is nothing so beautiful, so fair to contemplate, so full of interest; there is nothing so pleasant, nothing which gives so much comfort and peace and joy as true and faithful love. The king is happy in the bondage of which the chorus had spoken. Indeed, true love is not bondage in any proper sense of the word. It was God himself who said, "It is not good for man to be alone;" God who said, "I will make him an help meet for him." God gave man affections. When he made man after his own image, he set in his heart a reflection of that love which more than any other of his attributes enters into the very being and essence of Almighty God. That love needs objects on which to exert itself; the love of parent, child, or wife is a preparation, a training for the highest form of love, the blessed love of God. Loneliness, as a rule, is not good; it tends to concentrate a man's thoughts upon himself. He finds no outlet for the affections which God has given him: some of them, and those among the best and highest, are in danger of sinking into atrophy; there is great risk of his becoming a prey to selfishness, and the bondage of selfishness is hard and grinding and joyless. Sensual love is not love in the true sense; it is one of the worst and most unfeeling forms of selfishness; it thinks only of selfish pleasure, and recks nothing of the misery and ruin which it brings upon others; it makes a man the slave of evil passions; it tends to wretchedness. The service of God is perfect freedom; so, in a lesser sense, is the service of any pure and holy affection. True wedded love tends to set a man free from the bonds of selfishness; it gives him scope for the exercise of his best affections, and helps him to rise upwards towards that highest love which alone can give abiding happiness. Love, the bridegroom says, is among all delightful things the fairest and the most pleasant. The bride in the next chapter expresses the same belief, "Love is strong as death." "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned." Wedded love is a parable of the holy love of God. The king in the song is led captive by the love of the bride. The saints of God, like St. Paul, St. James, St. Jude, delight in describing themselves as "the servants of God," "the slaves of God." God so formed our nature for himself that the soul can find an adequate object for its supreme affections only in him. Therefore he bids us love him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength, because our highest powers can find their proper exercise only thus; and it is in the exercise of the highest powers that the highest happiness is found. It is the love of God that sheds glory and joy and blessedness through heaven, his dwelling place, because the blessed angels love him perfectly, and, dwelling in love, do his holy will with a glad, undoubting obedience. And so in various lower degrees it is the love of God which makes religion what it is to his people, very blessed and holy; which makes life worth living; which gives them in the midst of their shortcomings glimpses more or less vivid of that holiest joy which is the blessedness of heaven. Joy in the Lord is one of the fruits of the Spirit; it follows immediately upon the highest grace of love; it issues out of it (Galatians 5:22). And because it issues out of love, it is enjoined upon us as our duty as well as our highest privilege; for "the first of all the commandments is this, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God;" and a corollary of that first commandment is, "Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). Among earthly delights the pure love of wedlock is, as the king says, the fairest and the most pleasant; and of all highest joys that the human soul can attain unto, the supreme, the transcendent joy, comes from the holy love of God.
2. His praise of the bride. He compares her to a palm tree, to a vine. Both are fair to look upon, both have sacred associations. The image of the vine recalls to our thoughts the holy allegory in John 15:1-27. The Saviour is the true Vine; his people are the branches. They must bring forth fruit, for the branch that beareth not fruit is taken away; and in order to bear fruit they must abide in him, in spiritual union with the Lord, who is the Life. The palm tree also occurs in Scripture imagery: "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree" (Psalms 92:12). Several characteristics make the palm tree an apt emblem of the faithful servant of God. There is its tall and graceful appearance, its evergreen foliage, its fruitfulness, and perhaps especially the fact that both fronds and fruit grow at the topmost height of the tree, high above the earth and as near as possible to heaven. An apt illustration by St. Gregory the Great ('Moral.,' on Job 19:1-29 :49) is quoted in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible:' "Well is the life of the righteous likened to a palm, in that the palm below is rough to the touch, and in a manner enveloped in dry bark, but above it is adorned with fruit fair even to the eye; below, it is compressed by the enfoldings of its bark; above, it is spread out in amplitude of beautiful greenness. For so is the life of the elect, despised below, beautiful above. Down below it is, as it were, enfolded in many barks, in that it is straitened by innumerable afflictions; but on high it is expanded into a foliage, as it were, of beautiful greenness by the amplitude of the rewarding."
3. The bride continues the bridegroom's words. "I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof." These words have been regarded by some commentators as spoken by the bride. In the next verse certainly the bride interrupts the bridegroom and finishes his sentence. It may well be that here also she corrects the similitude of the bridegroom and finishes his sentence. It may well be that here also she corrects the similitude of the bridegroom, and applies it to him rather than to herself; the words, "I said," seem perhaps to favour this view, and to suggest a different speaker. The bridegroom is the palm tree rather than the bride; she modestly and humbly transfers the similitude to him. The palm tree resembles the king in its lofty stateliness and beauty. And certainly this view best lends itself to spiritual applications. The palm tree to the Christian represents the cross. We think of St. Peter's words, "His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). We remember the old traditional reading of Psalms 96:10, "The Lord hath reigned from the tree." We recall his own words, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). The Lord reigned from the tree; above him was the title, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." He is the King of the true Israelites, the Israel of God. And the Cross is the throne of his triumph; it displays, as nothing else could do, the Divine glory of holiness and entire self-sacrifice and self-forgetting love, which are the kingly ornaments of the Saviour's lofty dignity. The Saviour's precious death has made the cross a thing most sacred, most awe-inspiring, most dear to Christian souls, most constraining in the power of its Divine attraction. It draws around itself all the elect of God, all who have ears to hear and hearts to feel the blessed love of Christ. All such say in their hearts, "I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof." The first words, "I said," seem, to remind us of many faithless promises, of many broken resolutions. It is easy to say, very hard to persevere in bearing the cross. How often we have promised, at our baptism, at our confirmation, in the Holy Communion, in the hour of private prayer and self-examination—how often we have said, "I will go up"! But the ascent is steep and difficult; the palm tree is high, there are no branches to assist the climber; the fruit is at the very top, high out of our reach; there is need of effort, continued persevering effort—effort sometimes very hard and painful to flesh and blood. But we must lift up our hearts, we must look upward. The Lord was lifted up, and his disciples must follow him; they know the way (John 14:4). We must set him ever before us, and think of his agony and bloody sweat, his cross and Passion, when we are tempted to regard the cross as hard and painful, and to relax our efforts in the religious life. We must go up. God's saints have gone before us.
"They climbed the steep ascent of heaven
Through peril, toil, and pain."
We must do the like; "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom" of God. And if we would persevere in well doing we must go up to the cross of the Lord Jesus; it is only there, in spiritual communion with the crucified Saviour, in his strength which strengthens all who trust in him, through a living and true faith in him, that the Christian can find strength to bear the burden of the cross. It is a heavy burden to flesh and blood, but the Lord makes it light to all who come to him in obedience to his gracious invitation. For he gives to his chosen power to become the sons of God; he strengthens them with all might by his Spirit in the inner man; he bids them east their burden upon him (Psalms 55:22), he bears it with them. But they must go up to the palm tree; they may have many times said they will do so, and perhaps many times have failed. They must go up with sustained effort. The Lord, indeed, draws us, but it is by the attraction of love and the motions of his Spirit, not by forcing our will. We must go up, yielding up our will to him, asking him to give us grace to pray aright that holy prayer, "Not my will, but thine be done." And we must take hold of the boughs thereof, clinging to them with the embrace of loving faith. It is not enough once to go up to the tree; the Lord himself has taught us our need of continual perseverance: "Abide in me, and I in you." We must take hold of him with the earnest prayer of Jacob, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." And we must learn of him who endured the cross for us to take up the cross ourselves, to crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts, so that, like St. Paul, we may be crucified with Christ, and, dying unto the world, may ever live with him. We may well take to ourselves the words which tradition puts into the mouth of St. Andrew when he first saw the cross on which he was to suffer, "Hail, precious cross, that hast been consecrated by the body of my Lord! I come to thee; receive me into thy arms, take me from among men, and present me to my Master, that he who redeemed me on thee may receive me by thee." The cross goeth before the crown. We must go up to the tree, and that with pains and striving, before we can reach the fronds at the summit. They are the prize of victory. The great multitude that no man could number stood before the throne clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. That blessed vision may, indeed, be understood as a vision of the true Feast of Tabernacles in heavens but the palm has ever been regarded as the martyr's prize; we must look upwards to it. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14).
4. The bridegroom continues his praises. He repeats the comparison of the vine, and adds that the breath of the bride is fragrant as the smell of the choicest fruits, and the tones of her voice sweet as the best wine. Here the bride interrupts the king, adding the words, "that goeth down smoothly for my beloved." We mark the loving controversy; each seeks to put the other first. If the king compares the bride to a palm tree, she stops him with the answer that he is to her the stately tree; she win go up to the palm tree, she will take hold of its boughs. If he compares her voice to the flavour of the sweetest wine, she adds, interrupting him, that that wine is for her beloved, to please and refresh him with its sweetness; her joy is, to feel that she is wholly his, to delight in his love, to try always to please him. It is a sweet picture of the happiness of wedded love, when each seeks to please the other, when each puts the other first. Then Christian marriage is indeed a holy estate, a great help in the religious life, representing to the wedded pair the union that is between Christ and his Church, so that having in their own mutual relations a parable of that holy union, they may be drawn continually nearer to Christ, as they learn continually to love one another with a purer and deeper love, and in their daily self-denials for the loved one's sake find how blessed is self-sacrifice for his sake who loved us and gave himself for us.
II. THE BRIDE'S ANSWER.
1. The mutual love that binds them together. She repeats the assertion of So 2:16; Psalms 6:3. As in So Psalms 6:3, she puts first her own gift, the gift of her whole heart, to her beloved. She knows now, with a confident and happy knowledge, that her heart is his. Perhaps at first there had been some coyness, some hesitations, some doubts; now there is none. She has given her heart, and she knows it. She dwells on the happy truth; she rejoices in repeating it. Blessed is the Christian soul that can say the like, "I am my Beloved's," "I am Christ's." Blessed above all others are they who can say in sincerity that they have given him their whole heart; that they desire only him, his presence, his love; that their one highest hope is to please him better, to live nearer and nearer to him, and at length to see him face to face. Such, in the ancient times, was the hope of the Psalmist Asaph. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the Strength of my heart, and my Portion forever" (Psalms 73:25, Psalms 73:26). And the bride is sure of the bridegroom's love: "his desire is towards me." She is as sure that his heart is hers as that hers is his. She applies to him the Divine words of Genesis 3:16. As Eve's desire was to her husband, so now the king's desire was toward his bride. The heavenly Bridegroom loved the Church; his desire is toward his people; their salvation was the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross. He said to his little flock, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). His desire is toward his bride, that she may be washed and cleansed, that he may in his own good time present her to himself a glorious Church, holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).
2. The bride's invitation. The king had invited her to his royal city at the time of their espousals. "Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse" (So Genesis 4:8). She seems here to be inviting the king to visit in her company her old home, the scene of her labours in the vineyards. "Come, my beloved," she says, "let us go forth into the field." So the heavenly Bridegroom calls to himself the souls whom he so dearly loved: "Come unto me, and I will give you rest;" so the Christian, in answer to the Lord's gracious invitation, responds, "Even so come, Lord Jesus." He bids us come to him, and as we come we pray him to come to us, for without him we can do nothing; we cannot come unless he draws us by himself coming to us (John 6:44; John 12:32). We pray him, "Let us go forth into the field, let us get up early to the vineyards;" for we need his presence always; we cannot do the work which he has given us to do; we cannot work in his vineyard as he bids us without his help. Therefore we ask him to be with us always, according to his gracious promise, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the end" (Matthew 28:20); that we may have grace to get up early to the vineyards, not to stand all the day idle, not to wait to the eleventh hour, but to give the best of our life to God, to remember our Creator in the days of our youth, to do with our might whatsoever our hand findeth to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The word here rendered "get up early" is several times figuratively used for "to be earnest or urgent." God calls us to work, to labour for his Name's sake, out not to leave our first love, like the Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:3, Revelation 2:4); to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but all the time to ask him to come and help us, and to remember that it is he who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13); for without that inward work of his within oar souls we can do no acceptable work for him. But work we must, for he bids us; and it is in that work, wrought ever in faith and in dependence upon him, that the Christian soul keeps itself in the love of God (Jude 1:21). So the bride says," There [in the vineyard] will I give thee my loves." It is in working for God that we prove our love for him. "Lovest thou me?" the Saviour said; then "feed my lambs, feed my sheep." "If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Then he will pray for us, sending the gracious Spirit, the Comforter, to strengthen and to help us; then, he promises, he will come himself. "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:15-18). Then the blessed Spirit will help us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit—the fruit which is "love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance"—that like the bride in the song we may have "all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old," and may add, in her words, "which I have laid up for thee, O my Beloved." These fruits are treasures laid up in heaven, and we know that he is able to keep that which we have committed unto him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12).
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
Song of Solomon 7:10-13
"I am my beloved's," etc. The scene is still in "the king's chambers" at Jerusalem. What Solomon has said to her whom he would win is of no avail; her heart is true to her beloved. This emphatic redeclaration of her love for that beloved one is all the response that the king's flatteries have obtained. She speaks as if she were already away from the palace and back at her country home; once more occupied in her usual occupations and enjoying her former happy intercourse with her beloved. But the going forth to her work suggests the idea of going forth in spiritual work, and the language she uses points to the manner in which such work may be successfully done. We may take the section as an allegory concerning Christian missions. It suggests—
I. WHAT PROMPTS THEM. (Song of Solomon 7:10.) The profound and delightful realization of Christ's love towards and within us. Such work, if done only because we are afraid of the judgment day, when we all must give account of our stewardship; or from mere sense of duty; still less when the motive is ecclesiastical ambition; or even when pity for the ignorance and general sad condition of the heathen is the motive;—all such promptings have but partial, some very partial, power. The true motive is that which the rapturous expression of Song of Solomon 7:10 reveals—
II. HOW THEY SHOULD BE CARRIED ON. "Come, my Beloved, let us," etc.
1. The presence of Christ should be invoked. (Song of Solomon 7:11.) "Let us go forth," etc. Then:
2. There should be the going forth. Away from accustomed haunts, away from the place of ordinances and privileges, to where none of these things are enjoyed.
3. With diligence. "Let us rise early" (Song of Solomon 7:12).
4. With watchfulness, not alone in planting, but for growth and progress.
III. THEIR TRUE. NATURE. (Song of Solomon 7:12.) "There will I give thee," etc. They are an acceptable offering of our love to Christ and its true manifestation. A love to Christ that is not expansive, that does not go forth to bless others, is no true love, but something very different (1 Corinthians 15:10).
IV. THEY SHALL BE REWARDED WITH DELIGHTFUL SUCCESS. (Song of Solomon 7:13.) May not the lack of this—though, indeed, it is not entirely absent—be owing to some grave defect in motive or manner?
V. ALL THE GLORY WILL BE RENDERED TO CHRIST. "Which I have laid up for thee." (Song of Solomon 7:13.) Cf. the account of the first missionary meeting and report (Acts 14:27).—S.C.
Song of Solomon 7:10
I am my beloved's.
(Cf. on So Song of Solomon 2:16).—S.C.
HOMILIES BY J.D. DAVIES
Song of Solomon 7:11-13
Earth is a great picture gallery, full of illustrations of heavenly things. This material universe is the projection of God's thoughts; the visible expression of his dispositions; the blossoming of his love. The God of nature is the God of religion; hence the same lessons appear in both. As we have seen in the home of a great artist the handiworks of his genius adorning parlours and halls, corridors and bed chambers—works in all stages of development—so is it in God's world. Pictures of him abound. Every garden is a lesson book for humanity; every well kept garden is a portrait of a saint; every fruitful vineyard is an emblem of Christ's Church. Said the Prophet Isaiah to the godly man, "Thou shalt be as a well watered garden." "My Well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill." The highest fruitfulness is the result of patient culture. Prosperity is threatened by many foes. Human agency must cooperate with Divine power in order "to bring forth fruit unto perfection." Every flower and blossom is an outburst of God's glory. Earth is crammed full of heavenly things.
I. IN ALL HOLY SERVICE THE MOTIVE POWER IS LOVE. "Come, my beloved." Thus Jesus speaks.
1. God's works spring from love. We cannot conceive any other reason why the eternal God should have begun to create, unless that happiness and love might be multiplied. Love would not permit him to keep all good within himself. Love impelled him to produce various orders of sentient life. His joy is increased by witnessing the joys of others.
"Yes, he has gemmed with worlds the abyss,
Filled them with beauty, life, and bliss,
Only the wider to dispense
The gifts of his beneficence.
Oh yes! creation planned above
Was but for mercy's stream a vent,
The outgushings of eternal love—
Ay, this is love's embodiment."
2. This love in us springs from our assurance of Christ's love. The love that is fruitful in service realizes the personal friendship of Christ. If I am tormented with doubts touching my acceptance by Christ, I shall have no energy for service. I have only a limited capacity of power, and if I expend this in solving difficult questions, or in calming my own fears, I shall be unfit for service. If the Master is saying to me, "Son, go work today in my vineyard," and if I reply, "Lord, I know not if I be a son," I shall not accomplish any good. But when 1 know that I am "accepted in the Beloved," there is a mainspring of love within that stirs all the energies of my soul. Then my daily prayer will be, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Then, "the love of Christ constraineth me." "For to me to live is Christ." It would be a painful restraint on my new nature if I did not render him service. Then his "service is perfect freedom."
3. True love hears Immanuel's voice. "Come, my beloved." Love moves into healthful activity every organ. It not only gives activity to the feet; it gives sensitiveness to the ear. The voice of Christ is not addressed to the bodily organ; it is addressed to the soul. It is a spiritual communication; a "still small voice." As in the days of his flesh the multitude did not understand the speech that came from heaven—"I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again;" they thought that it thundered, or that an angel spake; so is it still. The Christian hears a voice that no one else can hear. The passing crowd may hear a faint hum, as the wind passes through the telegraphic wires, but the message conveyed through the wire is understood only by the person trained to receive it. So the voice of heavenly authority and the voice of heavenly friendship is heard only by wakeful, tender love.
4. Love craves to give itself expression. Love is an expansive power. It is a law of its nature to spread; to go out in practical forms. Like the force of steam, it cannot be held in restraint. The hotter steam becomes, the more it expands. The present motive power in commerce, and in swift locomotion, results from the expansive power of steam. So all human philanthropy and all missionary enterprise are the outcome of fervent love. It would be painful to love if no service were permitted. She is girt and sandalled, waiting to scale rugged mountains, waiting to cross tempestuous seas, waiting to traverse perilous deserts, in order to tell the perishing that Jesus can save. Love never wearies. Service is her delight. There is within an irresistible instinct to do good.
II. IN HOLY SERVICE WE HAVE DIVINE COMPANIONSHIP. "Let us go,…let us lodge."
1. This is a real experience. To many persons the presence of Christ is a fiction; it may be a part of their creed, nothing more. They read of it as a promise, but they have never realized it. Yet they may. For on the part of a faithful servant of Christ his presence is a real enjoyment. Every inspiration of benevolent desire is from him. He talks with us by the way. We ask for strength, and he gives it. We lack courage, and he supplies it abundantly. He makes our dumb lips eloquent. As truly as we hold intercourse with an earthly friend—yea, more truly—do we have real and joyous intercourse with Jesus. If he spake the promise, "Lo, I am with you alway," certainly he will fulfil it. Why should he not? Is anything too hard for him to accomplish? Some imagine that the real presence of Christ is to be found only in the sacrament of the Super. This is a delusion. His real presence is ever in the spiritual temple, i.e. in the temple of a Christian's heart. Saith he, "I will never leave thee, will never forsake thee;" so that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my Helper."
2. This companionship with Jesus is a real honour. When, in olden time, the King of England went out in person to war, every peer in the realm counted it an honour to go with him. It was dishonourable to stay at home. Every duke and earl would rather dwell amid hardship and danger on the battlefield, if the king were there, than amid the luxuries of their own castle halls. To be near the person of the king was counted high honour. Yet this honour was as nothing—an empty bubble—compared with companionship with Jesus Christ. To be companion with the King of heaven is real honour and real advantage. It is Christ alone who can teach us what honour is. Honour is inseparable from righteousness, and he is Perfect Righteousness. And Christ is a Worker. He is the good Shepherd, ever going out in search of lost sheep; so, if we wish to have companionship with Jesus, we must be workers too. Service is honourable. It is in service that we shall find Christ nearest us. There is a legend of a pious monk in the Middle Ages, who had a vision of the Saviour. The man was ravished with holy joy. It was a season of hallowed communion with his Lord. At that moment the bell rang, and it was the duty of this monk to distribute food to the poor. There was a struggle in his mind. Should he leave this vision, and break up this sweet fellowship? The bell called him to a sacred duty, and he responded and went. At the end of an hour he returned, and lo! the vision was still there. Then the lips of the Master moved, and he said, "Unless thou hadst fulfilled thy call of duty, I had departed." If Jesus is with us, almighty strength is assured. Unerring wisdom is ours; sweetest sympathy cheers us; certain success is in sight. "I will go in the strength of the Lord God."
III. IN HOLY SERVICE THERE WILL BE SELF-DENIAL. "Let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages; let us get up early to the vineyards." Now, this language does not seem natural or customary in the lips of an earthly king. But it is natural and seemly in the lips of the Prince of heaven. For it is his delight to humble himself, and to become the Servant of all.
1. Discomfort and hardship are foretold. "Let us go into the field." Jesus is very frank and outspoken. Not on any account will he hide from us the hard conditions of his service. Plainly did he tell his first disciples what toils and persecutions they would have to endure. And the Word still abides, "They that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution." Paul was forewarned of the perils that awaited him in every city. But the real friend of Jesus is prepared for self-denial. Apart from self-denial, his service would not be like the service of Jesus. "The disciple is not greater than his Master, nor the servant than his Lord." The Son of God says to us, "Let us go forth into the field." We must leave for a time the fair palaces of our Prince, and lodge in narrow tenements. Yet is there any ground for lamentation? Any roof which covers us, however humble, shall be a palace of delight if only Christ be with us there. The palace does not make the dweller therein a king; but the presence of the King makes the house a palace. Difficulties and self denials will be quietly borne if we are on Christ's errands. Yea, they will be welcome, if love to Jesus prevail "They have put me," said Rutherford, "into a prison; but Immanuel came and made it into a banquet house." Yes, if Jesus come with us into our lowly cottage: forthwith "the doors shall be pearls, and the windows agates," and the fence shall be made of all kinds of precious stones.
2. We shall be willing to continue in this self-denying work. "Let us lodge in the villages." We must not grow weary in this well doing. Many a man will rouse his courage to face some herculean task or to fight in some sharp conflict, who will yet faint under the weariness of a long campaign or fall in patient, endurance. The service to which Jesus calls us is lifelong, and the discomfort may be long continued. Still, we will embrace it with joy. "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." The Christian missionary who goes into a foreign field to sow the heavenly seed, must be prepared for long continued, sacrifice. So should every true servant of the King. For self-denial is not long continued pain. The joy of pleasing Christ, and the blessedness of his company, nullifies the pain and overcomes the discomfort. Soon the self-denial loses its sting. The loss becomes a gain, and every thorn blossoms into a rose. "Out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the bitter comes forth sweetness." The love of Christ changes everything. It makes our hell into heaven.
3. There will even be eagerness for this arduous work. "Let us get up early to the vineyards." To enter upon this hard toil in company with Jesus, we shall be ready to forego comfortable sleep. Soon as morn breaks, soon as the opportunity allows, we shall be ready to leap forth to the task. Our old inclinations are overcome and supplanted with new desires and new endeavours. We are burning with ardour to show Jesus our love. We shall feel ashamed if our zeal does not in some measure resemble the zeal of our Immanuel. He was consumed with holy and intensest ardour to do us good. Said he, "How am I straitened till it be accomplished!" He panted to reach the cross. And now he has commissioned us to take his place and to carry out his work. As his Father had sent him into the world, so has he sent us. His love is to be perpetuated through us. His devotion to humanity must reappear in us. His self-consuming zeal must glow in our breasts. As he could not represent among men the everlasting love of his Father except by incessant toil, humiliating suffering, and a death of public shame, so neither can we adequately represent the saving grace of Christ before men except by enthusiastic zeal and completest consecration. There will be a constant watchfulness forevery opportunity of service. To do Christ's work will be our meat and our drink. A principle of sacred earnestness must possess us. As the hallowed fire on the temple altar was not allowed to expire, so must not the fire of holy zeal ever expire on the altar of our hearts. "We are not our own;" we belong to another; "we are bought with a price;" therefore duty demands that we glorify our Master "with our bodies and with our spirits, which are his."
IV. IN HOLY SERVICE THERE IS GREAT VARIETY OF USEFULNESS, "Let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth."
1. Christ's work is the pattern of ours. The work of Jesus among men was manifold. He opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, straightened paralyzed limbs, fed the hungry, brought the dead back to life, Pardoned men's sins, purified corrupt and vicious lives, led the erring into light. We dwell in the same world in which Christ dwelt. We are encompassed with suffering humanity. We have the same motives for labour. Here there is scope forevery capacity. If you cannot preach to great assemblies, you can speak to a wayfarer for Christ. If you cannot vindicate the truth against the assaults of the scoffer, you can feed a hungry child, or console a sorrowing widow, or visit the bedridden, or pray for the outcasts. The youngest disciple may find something to do for Christ's kingdom in this world of sin and suffering. "As ye have opportunity, do good unto all men;" "Freely ye have received, freely give." In nature each drop of falling rain produces a distinct effect, so in the kingdom of Christ a cup of cold water given to a thirsty Child obtains its reward.
2. Concern for the young is here suggested. "Whether the tender grape appear." Every living Church will have special agencies to gain the young. They have special claims on us. The heart is as yet unoccupied. Character is plastic. Feeling is fresh. There is eager inquiry after the truth. Labour among the young is full of promise. In the young Jesus Christ feels special interest. Every parent should see to it that their children's hearts are opening to Christ. We ought to see conversion to God very early. If faith be the great essential, then very early do children put faith in a Parent or in a friend, and such faith they can as readily place in Jesus the Saviour. Parents have special promises from God to encourage their hope. "I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring." Jesus has special love for the lambs in the flock.
"The flower, when offered in the bud,
Is no vain sacrifice."
3. Pious care for all inquirers is indicated. "Let us see whether the pomegranates bud forth." It is a hopeful sign of grace when one is inquiring after the light. Already them is a stir in that dead soul. The deep sleep of sin is broken. The man is awaking. Possibly, like some inveterate sluggard, he may turn over on the other side, and fall into deeper sleep than before. Such a thing often happens, both in nature and in grace. Now is our opportunity while he is half awake. Now let the alarm bell of the gospel sound in his ear. Such methods as true wisdom and love can devise should be vigorously employed. How precious is the moment! Anon it will have fled. There is much to be done. Impression has to be made, instruction given, feeling aroused, conviction wrought, desire excited, resolution taken. Every inquirer after God should be sought out—should be the object of the Christian's concern.
V. IN HOLY SERVICE THERE IS A PRESENT REWARD. "The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old."
1. The reward is the outcome of natural law. As the fruit is already in embryo in the seed, so is reward already in the service, though as yet undeveloped. As hell is the ripe fruit of sin, so heaven is the ripe fruit of holy service. The faithful steward of ten talents shall have ten talents more entrusted to him: this is his reward. The pleasant fruits of the garden shall be the reward of the faithful husbandman. Such fruits are "old and new." Others preceding us have sown good seed, done noble work in the vineyard. We enter upon the results, and gather in the fruits. Old fruit at times is preferable to new. Apples and nuts mellow with age. So the ripe wisdom of old saints is a spiritual banquet. The promises given to Abraham have a good flavour. The faith that has been of long standing—the faith of Elijah and Paul, e.g.—is a very pleasant fruit, while fresh zeal and fresh courage are equally delightful. "Fruits old and new."
2. God's provision for us is ample. If we go diligently about our Master's work, be sure that he will provide. He had said, "Let us get up early, and go forth into the vineyards;" and lo! when noon came and hunger looked for a meal, here at the gate was a royal provision. So Jesus taught his first disciples, that if they attended to his business he would take the responsibility for their wants. He gave to Peter and his comrades a miraculous draught of fishes; then he said, "Feed my sheep; Go into all the world, and preach the gospel;" "My God shall supply all your need, out of his riches in glory by Jesus Christ."
3. Jesus provides a reward suitable to every taste. "All manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee." When our Immanuel spreads for us a banquet, nothing shall be wanting. Is there a fruit anywhere in God's universe that will meet a want of mine or satisfy a longing? It shall be given me. "He will give thee the desires of thy heart;" "In his garden is all manner of pleasant fruit."
4. Present rewards are the pledge of greater. These fruits are found at our gates." It is as if our Immanuel had said, This is only the beginning of good. There's more to follow." And this is most assuredly true. Present possessions are only pledges and earnests of higher and richer good. The love of Christ in the heart is an entrancing joy, but I shall have a larger experience of it by and by. These attainments of piety and excellence are "treasures of the kingdom," but I shall grow richer yet. My knowledge of God in Christ is a precious possession, but the "half has not been told me." Jesus has many things to reveal to me, but I cannot bear them yet. No! "Eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for them that love him."
VI. IN HOLY SERVICE WE GAIN FULLEST ASSURANCES OF IMMANUEL'S LOVE. "There will I give thee my love presents." Toward the close of his ministry Jesus said to his disciples, "He that keepeth my commandments, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and we will come unto him, and will make our abode with him." This is the love token, or the love present, which our Immanuel gives us, viz. his abiding presence in our hearts—the sunshine of his love. The idler in God's vineyard need never be surprised if he lack the full assurance of his sonship. It had never been promised him. To give this love present to such a one would be a premium upon indolence. Mark that it is in the field of service that Jesus gives his love tokens. It is to earnest and faithful labourers he confers the full assurance of hope. The consensus of observation testifies that in seasons of apathy and slothfulness we lose the assurance of heaven. But when we run with alacrity in the path of service, then heaven opens to us, and we read our title clear. Is it a real joy to us when we lock into the face of an earthly friend and realize his tender sympathy? Must it not be a greater joy to look into the face of Jesus and feel that he is our Brother? Do the minstrels of the woods pour out a fresh tide of song when the genial sun of May shines upon them? And when we come into the warm sunshine of Immanuel's love, and know that he has made with us an everlasting covenant, shall not our hearts be all aglow with joy? For nothing on earth is more sure than this, that if I give my whole self unreservedly to Jesus, he has impelled me to do it, and upon me he confers the wealth of his eternal friendship. "My Beloved is mine, and I am his."—D.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Song of Solomon 7:6
The fairness of love.
The commendations of the bride's beauty, which occur in the early verses of this chapter, lead up to the exclamation—so much in harmony with the whole spirit of the Canticles—concerning the fairness, the pleasantness, the delightsomeness, of true love.
I. THE BEAUTY AND GOOD SERVICE OF LOVE, AS A SENTIMENT IN THE HUMAN HEART AND AS A BOND IN HUMAN SOCIETY. As distinguished from mere carnal passion, that conjugal love which is pictured as subsisting between the king and his spouse is justly in this Song of Songs represented as of the purest and highest excellence. It is true that religion and morality put a restraint upon the natural impulses, and the Bible abounds with warnings against yielding to the temptations which are favoured by human nature and by sinful society. But if the way of virtue be a narrow way, it is not without flowers by its borders, both fair and fragrant. The path of self-government and self-denial is a path which has pleasures of its own. And one aim of this Book of Canticles, one justification for its place in canonical Scripture, appears to be its effective depicting of the pure joys of human affection. Where marriage is the result of personal preference and sincere attachment, and where it is entered upon under the guidance of sober reason and forethought, it may well be expected to yield delights. Toil, anxieties, mutual forbearance and self-sacrifice, the endurance in common of life's cares and sorrows, so far from extinguishing love, may refine and hallow it. And maturity of character and spiritual discipline and strength will prove more than a compensation for the abandonment of the "primrose path" of pleasure, in which the unspiritual find their joys. The family and the home are the scene and the embodiment of wedded love. And they are the very basis of human society, the condition and mean s of true human progress, the earnest of a higher state of Christian civilization in the future.
II. HUMAN LOVE IS THE EMBLEM OF THE DIVINE LOVE WHICH UNITES THE SOUL AND THE SAVIOUR, AND WHICH IS THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL AND HEAVENLY JOYS. The highest purpose of that affinity which binds heart to heart is to elicit emotions, and to lead to relations with which our highest welfare here and hereafter is associated. They who read this Book of Canticles without recognizing the divinely appointed connection in question miss not only a literary charm, but a spiritual truth and law. It is to be feared that in the view of some, human love, such as should exist between husband and wife, appears a profane and common, if not a foolish, thing. But God is not honoured by the disparagement of his own provisions and plans. If he has made love so important a factor in human life, he has done so, we may be sure, with a purpose worthy of himself, his wisdom, and grace. As earthly love is elevated and purified by the Divine discipline of this earthly existence, it comes to symbolize, with ever-growing force, the profound affection which subsists between Christ and his Church. And this significance is recognized in the language of St. Paul and St. John regarding the bride and spouse of the Saviour. With reference to the emotions which are cherished by Christ towards his chosen and beloved people, and by his people towards him to whom they are indebted for all they have and for all they hope for, how appropriate is the exclamation, "How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!" Divine love is the source of Divine joy. It is immortal love which is the earnest of "pleasures forevermore."—T.
Song of Solomon 7:9
The sweetness of speech.
The figurative language here employed by the royal lover to eulogize the voice and the utterances of the bride is to our colder and more measured habits of thought Oriental extravagance. Yet it is in harmony with the highly coloured character of the book as a whole. And human speech does often awaken within the heart emotions not easily expressed in cool and justifiable panegyric. The human voice is of all music the sweetest, and speech is sweeter even than song, uttering as it does, not the studied and artificial sentiment of the musical composer, but the spontaneous and natural emotions of the speaker's heart.
I. CHRISTIAN SPEECH IS SWEET AS TESTIFYING TO THE CHARACTER OF THE SPEAKER.
1. Sincerity is the first condition of all acceptable speech; it is above all things desirable that there should be no discordance between the utterance and the heart. The flatterer at court and in general society speaks only to please; and in the case of those who know his aim and his motives, he fails of the very object he has in view. The Church is bound to speak "words of truth and soberness," as remembering the sacredness of the gift of utterance, and the responsibility attaching to its exercise. To a just mind sincere words are welcome, even though they be less honeyed than the words of the time server and men pleaser.
2. Love prompts to words which are a delight to hear. Whilst the tones of hatred are harsh, and the utterances of coldness are repugnant, kindness, sympathy, affection, give a sweetness to every utterance. Welcome as the words which come from the heart of the beloved, telling of the depth of unchangeable affection, are those Christian declarations in which the Church gives expression to her love for her Saviour and her pity for the world.
II. CHRISTIAN SPEECH IS SWEET WHEN IT TESTIFIES TO THE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF THE LORD. There is no exercise more congenial to Christ's people, more acceptable to Christ himself, than this. The powers of speech cannot be more holily and honourably employed than in uttering forth the high praises of God, in lauding and magnifying the redeeming love of Christ. The hymn which is lisped by the little child, the anthem which rings through the cathedral aisles, the quiet word of witness in which the friend commends the Saviour to him who is dear to his heart,—these are but some of the forms in which language may show forth the greatness, the goodness, the wisdom, of the Eternal. What theme so worthy of the tongue, "the glory of the frame," as this? The voice of praise and thanksgiving is dear to the heart alike of God and man.
III. CHRISTIAN SPEECH IS SWEET WHEN UTTERING TESTIMONY TO THE GOSPEL OF GOD'S LOVE. Men's hearts have to be reached and to be affected by the tidings of Divine mercy and compassion. It is most condescending and gracious on God's part that he deigns to employ human agency in the service of his own Divine beneficence. If men avail themselves of all the resources of human rhetoric in order to obtain earthly ends—power, wealth, and fame—how much more ready should they be to use all the faculties they possess, all the arts and means they can acquire, to bring before their fellow men the tidings of heavenly and immortal love! Well may every preacher and. every teacher of Divine truth put up the prayer—
"Jesus, confirm my heart's desire,
To work, to think, to speak for thee:
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up thy gift in me!"
Song of Solomon 7:10
The desire of the beloved.
The assurance of mutual possession and affection occurs in an earlier part of the poem; but its repetition here is not without significance. Love has not lessened as time has passed; it has rather deepened, as experience has revealed, to each of the married lovers, the faithfulness and kindness, the purity and, devotion, of the other. Hence the bride adds to this later exclamation, "I am my beloved's," the statement which is the expression of experience, "His desire is toward. me." Transferring the language to the relations and sentiments distinctive of the mutual attachment of Christ and his people, we observe here a declaration—
I. OF THE GOOD WILL AND COMPASSIONATE AFFECTION OF CHRIST FOR HIS CHURCH.
1. The Lord takes a deep satisfaction in his people, and regards them with a holy complacency.
2. He desires that they should participate in his character and reflect hid image. Spiritual fellowship with him tends to bring about this result, than which nothing can be more to the mind of the Head of the Church.
3. He desires that they may be qualified witnesses to himself, and agents in promoting his cause and glory upon earth. And this, for his own sake indeed, yet also for the Church's sake, and for the sake of the world for whose salvation he lived and died on earth.
II. OF THE RESPONSE OF THE CHURCH, HER SURRENDER OF HERSELF COMPLETELY TO HER SPOUSE AND LORD. This attitude of heart has been beautifully expressed in these words: "I attach myself to God, I give myself to him; and. he turns to me immediately; his eyes look upon me with favour; his Spirit is attentive to my good; his great heart bows itself and stoops to my nothingness; he unites his heart to mine; he heaps upon it new graces, to attach it more strongly to him. Devote thyself, O my soul, wholly to thy God."
1. Spiritual receptiveness is the just response to Divine desire. If it is the will and pleasure of the Saviour to take possession of the whole nature and life of his people, it is equally their will and pleasure to abandon all other aims in life, and to devote themselves to this, with the view of becoming his only, his altogether, and his forever.
2. Spiritual consecration completes this just response. Human nature is not merely passive; it is energetic. Human life is an opportunity, not only for getting, but for giving. The Church must indeed receive from the Divine Head every qualification which can fit for the discharge of duty, for the rendering of service. But it is hers to prove her gratitude and her fidelity to the trust reposed in her, by devoting herself to those high ends with a view to which she has been chosen, loved, and redeemed.—T.
Song of Solomon 7:11, Song of Solomon 7:12
Man was made, not for solitude, but for society; not for selfishness, but for love. This principle of human nature and life is taken up by religion, and is employed for man's highest, spiritual, immortal interests. The soul which yields itself to Christ delights in his fellowship, and finds therein its true satisfaction. Like the bride who is represented in this poem as saying to her spouse, "Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field," etc; the soul craves the society of the Saviour, and longs for his perpetual companionship.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS COMPANIONSHIP.
1. It is companionship to which Christ invites his people. None could address him thus unless first assured of the Lord's interest, friendliness, and love.
2. It is spiritual companionship. The twelve who were with him in his earthly ministry were admitted to close, delightful, and profitable intimacy. They saw his form and heard his voice. Yet, in our case, though we cannot perceive him as they did, the association is equally real; for he is with his people alway.
3. It is companionship in which he is the superior, and we are the dependent. It is true he says, "Abide in me, and I in you;" but he is the Vine, and we the branches.
II. THE OCCASIONS AND MANIFESTATIONS OF THIS COMPANIONSHIP. Observe under this consideration how Christ's friendship appears superior to every merely human association. We may enjoy his society:
1. In our occupations, whatever be their special nature.
2. In our enjoyments, which are all hallowed by his gracious presence and approval.
3. In our sufferings, when we perhaps most need him, and when his sympathy is peculiarly precious, consolatory, and helpful.
4. In our services; for how can we do his work, except beneath his direction and the encouragement of his smile?
III. THE BENEFITS OF THIS COMPANIONSHIP. When Christ is with us, in the varied scenes and experiences of our earthly life:
1. Our gratitude to him will be livelier.
2. Our love to him will be warmer.
3. Our conformity to his will and character will be more complete.
4. Our inseparability from him will be more assured.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
"His is love beyond a brother's,
Faithful, free, and knows no end."
Song of Solomon 7:13
When the bride invites the king to revisit the home of her childhood and the scenes of their early acquaintance and attachment, among other alluring representations she assures him that there will be found, laid up for his use by her thoughtful affection, all manner of precious fruits, new and old. A suitable emblem this of the gathered and garnered spiritual fruits which in this earthly life Christ's people are expected to prepare for him at his coming, and which it will be their delight to offer to him as the expression of their grateful love. Properly understood, the main purpose of the Christian life is the growing, gathering, and garnering of precious fruits for the approval and service of the Lord.
I. WHAT THESE FRUITS ARE.
1. They are the fruits of spiritual life and experience.
2. They are the "fruits of the Spirit"—the virtues especially Christian, fruits of righteousness, those qualities of character which are the peculiar growth of grace.
3. They are fruits of service; not things enjoyed so much as things achieved.
II. WHY ARE THEY LAID UP FOR CHRIST? Because:
1. They are the fruit of his own garden, the growth which testifies to the care and culture of the Divine Husbandman.
2. They are of a nature to yield a peculiar satisfaction and pleasure to him.
3. They are such as he will use for his own purposes, and for the display of his own glory and praise.—T.