Song of Solomon 1

Song of Solomon 1  •  1.5 hr. read  •  grade level: 6
MERE is nothing which the men of this world dread more than solitude and reflection. They would rather be overpressed with engagements than have leisure for thought. The conscience, ill at ease, will at such times lift up its voice; but its warning voice must be hushed by that convenient word duty, and its honest speech is soon and willingly forgotten. Sins-many sins-are there, and the thought of God as the judge of sin is dreadful. The condition of the soul is such that it cannot bear the light, therefore darkness is loved. The activities of this present life are sought and welcomed, that the crushing weight of reflection may be escaped. The pleasures of the world, too, in due time and place, serve a similar purpose.
Thus every care is taken that solitude may be avoided, and that there may be no opportunity for calm and serious reflection. The solemn and eternal realities of the soul have no portion of thought or time allowed them; the higher, nobler, and better part of man is totally neglected, and left uncared for, and unprovided for, notwithstanding its deep, pressing and eternal need. " For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36, 3736For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36‑37).)
Such, alas! is man-man without the knowledge of God-without the knowledge of his condition as a sinner, and without the knowledge of Jesus as the Savior of sinners.
But turn for a while, O my soul, from the contemplation of a scene so heart-rending; though strong, yet tender, are the links that would draw thee there, and lead thee to wean loved ones from it, and win them for Christ. Cherish a spirit of meditation in the sweet solitudes of the soul's separation from the world, where the scene is radiant with the presence of the Savior, and joyous with " The Song of Songs." The wider the separation from the world, the deeper the communion, the richer the blessing. In heart and spirit having no sympathy with it; and, really, though in it yet far away from its bustle and all its unhallowed scenes. A mighty chasm now separates believers from this present evil world: " They are not of the world," says Christ, " even as I am not of the world," The position of Christ in resurrection is the definition of ours as seen in Him. The calm, reflective quiet of the soul in communion with the Person of the exalted Lord, is what characterizes its sweetest moments while here on earth. These may be found in the chamber of sickness, the rural scene, or in the very seat and center of this world's activities. All depends on the state of the heart. To be one and yet not alone, how blessed!
Verse 1. "The song of songs, which is Solomon's." But why call this precious little book, "The Song of Solomon "? Just because it is Solomon's, or rather, Christ's, who will in due time be King in Jerusalem, in true Solomon glory. On the same principle He is called " King of kings, and Lord of lords." Pre-eminence in all things is His. There are many sweet songs in scripture. Moses, Miriam and her maidens, Deborah, and David, all sang sweetly of the Lord's goodness. It is said of Solomon himself that " his songs were a thousand and five"; but this one he styles " The Song of Songs." It far surpassed them all. It is the deep melody of hearts filled with holy love, and finding their supreme delight in its full and free expression. " We love him because he first loved us." Oh! to be able at all times to sing the song of the Savior's love, with the heart and with the understanding also.
" May each, may all, that master-key of &lip-Its reference to Christ-through grace attain, And, holding firm the torch of scripture-light, Comparing book with book, and text with text, Enter the precincts, otherwise obscure,
Of meditation on ' The Song of Songs.' "
Verse 2. 'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth." What unsuspecting, pure, and impassioned affection breathes in this remarkable address. It is like the artless, yet ardent, kindling of affection between the nearest kindred when they meet after a long absence. So engrossed is the heart with its object, that forms, ceremonies, and all surrounding circumstances are entirely lost sight of. The happy consciousness of the place which she has in His heart carries her away. How few there are in this world that one could so unformally and affectionately address: and yet this is the language of a saved sinner to the holy Savior. Dost thou, O my soul, understand this? No doubts, no fears are in the heart that can thus address the divine Bridegroom-the glorified Jesus in heaven. Many nowa-days think it presumption to have full, perfect unmisgiving confidence in His grace and love, and if they dare venture to trust Him, it is with many doubts and fears; and that, too, after He has written His love to lost sinners in characters of blood, and engraven it as on the face of the rock forever. What must such think of the boldness of the bride? That she has forgotten herself, her place? Ah! no. The secret is this: the conscience, having been cleared of all sin by the one sacrifice of the nice lowly Jesus, the heart is now free and happy in the presence of the risen and glorified Christ. And this is all that any guilty sinner needs to make him feel at home and happy in the chamber of the King, namely, the blood of Christ for the conscience, and the Person of Christ for the heart. Every blessing will be found folded up in these two. Every Christian has both. Lord, help them to believe it!
In this blessed little book, mark well, my soul, there is no mention of sin, pardon, or justification. Why is this? These questions had been previously settled, and now the heart is enjoying full and perfect liberty in the Lord's presence. All such questions, in every case, are settled when the sinner is first brought to the feet of Jesus-settled on the solid ground of the Savior's finished work-never, no never again to be raised, so far as God and faith are concerned. Satan, and the unbelief of our own hearts, may seek to disturb the eternally settled question; but all such thoughts should be treated as coming from such sources. " I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." (Eccl. iii. 14.) Hence, the heart that knows these things is free, happy, and at home in the immediate presence of the Lord, and that, too, in the highest sense. " Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth."
Here, the heart is breathing after, not the sense of forgiveness but, a more direct demonstration of His love. She is occupied with Himself. Not so much with any of His qualities, or with any particular kindness she has received from Him, as with Himself personally. Having Him she has all His qualities and all His kindness; as she says, " Let HIM kiss me." She has no idea of explaining of whom she thus speaks. There is a condensed as well as an expansive energy in love. It reminds us of the loving and bereaved heart of Mary when she said, " Sir, if thou have borne HIM hence, tell me where thou hast laid HIM." He was first and last in her mind, no one else was in her heart from whom to distinguish Him, and there was none with whom she could compare Him. She knew of no one else to be thought of, or cared for. Nothing could satisfy her heart but the Person of her Lord, dead or alive. Wondrous affection! Oh, that He had such a place in this poor heart of mine! "A little while," and He shall have it all, and forever. Oh! hasten the happy day, my Lord, thou well-beloved of the church, Thy bride.
In holy scripture we find a kiss is the token of reconciliation, the pledge of peace, and the expression of affection. It is said of David and Jonathan, that they " kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded." (1 Sam. 20:4141And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. (1 Samuel 20:41).) Sweet illustration of the true David, ever exceeding all our love. " Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." And Joseph, too, "kissed all his brethren and wept upon them, and after that his brethren talked with him." (Gen. 45:1515Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him. (Genesis 45:15).) And, again, the father kissed the prodigal while he was yet in his rags. And would such demonstrations of love be too much to ask, or expect, after he was cleansed from all his defilement, and clothed in the best robe? Assuredly not! Is it too much then for the bride in the Canticles-for the believer in Jesus-to desire such an expression of the Lord's love? Certain we are that she desired it, not because she had any doubt of its being there, but because she delighted in its manifestation. Love can only be satisfied with love.
"For thy love is better than wine." The love of Jesus is now preferred to all the joys of earth. Wine is the symbol of the natural delights of men -the joys and the luxuries of earth. But what are all these now, in their most charming form, to the soul that is delighting in the love of Jesus? They have lost their charm for the eye and the heart, and now they would be a weariness and a burden heavy to be borne. Jesus Himself is the soul's delight. " Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Peter 1:88Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8).)
The vine tree has its roots in the earth. The Nazarite, while under his vow, was to taste nothing that was made of the vine-tree, from the kernels even to the husk. (See Num. 6) He was to be entirely separate from the pleasures of the world unto the Lord. Every believer is a Nazarite, according to the blessed Lord's own vow. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matt. 26:2929But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (Matthew 26:29).) Being associated with Him, we are under His vow; and ought to be true Nazarites unto God. But this can only be by finding all our joy, delight, and satisfaction in the love of Jesus. He is now patiently waiting far away from the joys of earth, until the bright millennial morning, when He shall again come forth, in His true Melchisedec character, to refresh the victorious armies of Israel, the children of Abraham, with the bread and wine of the kingdom. (Gen. 14) We, too, should patiently wait till then, for we shall come forth with Him in heavenly glory. The full period of the vow shall then be accomplished. The King in Jerusalem shall again be united to His earthly people, and all nations shall be made glad and rejoice in their joy and gladness. And then shall the daughter of Zion know the meaning of those words long ago uttered at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, " But thou has kept the good wine until now."
" Thy love we own, Lord Jesus;
And wait to see Thy glory,
To know as known, and fully own
Thy perfect grace before Thee:
We plead Thy parting promise,
Come, Savior, to release us,
Then endless praise our lips shall raise,
For love like Thine, Lord Jesus."
Verse 3. "Because of the savor of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment Poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee." Now she gives us some idea of His name, "Thy name is as ointment poured forth." To her heart it is most fragrant. All His names, titles, attributes, and relationships are most sweet to her taste. His name is Himself. It is expressive of His nature, excellences, and graces. She is at a loss to utter the riches of His goodness, therefore she says, " Thy name is as ointment poured forth." The savor of His ointment is not confined to herself; those associated with her share in its profusion. The attendant virgins are attracted and refreshed by the sweet odors of His name. Happy thought! It is not an ointment sealed up, but " poured forth." Oh! what fellowship there is in the love of Jesus! Here pause a little, O my soul, and meditate on the fullness of the name of Jesus: " For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." What a center, what a source it is! Around it the church of God is now gathered as its only center, by the quickening power and indwelling of the Holy Ghost. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." But ere long, the heavens and the earth shall be united by its power and glory. The earthly Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with all the surrounding nations; the heavenly Jerusalem, and the innumerable company of angels, a general assembly; and the church of the first-born ones which are written in heaven, shall all be attracted to and united by that one dear uniting name. The Father hath purposed this wondrous glory for His Son, and it shall surely come to pass, " That in the dispensation of the fullness of times [the millennium] he might gather together in one [under one head] all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him." (Eph. 1:1111In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Ephesians 1:11).) Then shall the fragrance of His name be wafted on every breeze, and all kindreds and tongues shall unite in that note of praise, "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth." (Psa. 8)
And when the thousand years of millennial blessing and glory shall have run their course, the heavens and the earth fled away, and the final judgment past, that name shall have lost none of its fragrance, power, and glory. It will then unite in sweetest love, in holiest bonds, the many circles, the countless myriads of the new heavens and the new earth. The joy of every heart, the melody of every tongue, shall find their spring, power, motive, and object in Him. Every mountain of myrrh, and every hill of frankincense, shall owe their sweetness to His presence. And still His name shall be as ointment poured forth; yes, "poured forth," and " poured forth " forever: all His garments smelling of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, in the ivory palaces. And as age after age rolls on, the rich and varied graces of His love shall still be " poured forth " in infinite profusion, causing all hands and hearts and lips to drop with sweet-smelling myrrh, and filling every scene throughout the vast realms of the blest with the eternal fragrance of His name.
" Jesus! the lost one's refuge! Sound it forth,
Ye heralds of salvation, through the earth,
Glory to God good will to sinful men,
And peace to a convulsed and wretched world,
These are its mingled perfumes! holy oil
Men cannot buy, and may not counterfeit,
But flowing o'er our mystic Aaron's head,
'Twill reach His lowest skirts; and bless His saints.
A savor unto life. Therefore they love,
Therefore in love increase eternally."
Verse 4. "Draw me, we will run after thee." The more we know of Christ, the more shall we desire to know of Him. The nearer we are to Him, the more shall we desire to be drawn nearer still. As Paul says, " That I may know him," yet none on earth knew Him so well. And, again, " That I may win Christ," yet never was saint more sure of his prize than Paul. He could say in truth, though a prisoner in Rome, and in want, " For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." What rich experience-what quiet confidence-. what boundless joy, shines in his letter to the Philippians!
There is such an infinity of blessing for us in Christ, that the more we apprehend it, the less we have apprehended it. The more we taste of the reality and fullness of His love, we shall be able the more truly to say, It passeth knowledge. There are breadths and lengths, and depths and heights, which we can never comprehend. And there is such joy in His presence, that even while we are enjoying it, the heart so yearns for greater nearness, that it feels, comparatively, as at a distance.
Were I to read the heart of the loving bride through these words, " Draw me, we will run after thee," I should say, her desire to be near the Person of the Lord is so great that, near and dear though she be, there is something like felt distance experienced. Hence the deep breathings of her heart, "Draw me"-oh! draw me nearercloser-my Lord, to Thee! There is growth in grace-compared with verse 2-a growing apprehension of Himself. There is a greater desire for closer communion. It is similar to what we find in many of the Psalms. "O GOD, Thou art my God, early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.... my soul followeth hard after thee; thy right hand upholdeth me." (Psa. 63) The most blessed communion with the Lord is perfectly consistent with the most earnest longings for greater nearness to Himself. Speakest thou thus, my soul, of thyself? Knowest thou this in thine own experience? Examine all thy words and ways as before the Lord, and pass judgment upon them. The Holy Spirit tells us that He tried His words, as in a furnace, " seven times." How often, alas, we both speak and write, without even trying them once.
There is a beautiful connection between the Lord's drawing, and our running. "We will run," but carefully note the last two words-"after thee." There is more, much more, in these words than can here be noted. They are all-important. "After thee," not after our own notions, or even after the best of men on earth, but " after thee." As it is said in that beautiful sixteenth Psalm, " I have set the Lord always before me." Not at times, merely, but " always." Oh! what a path ours on earth would be were this the case! How separated would it be from everything that is not Christ. And surely, in all fairness, when we pray, "draw me," we should be ready to add, like the spouse and her companions, "we will run after thee."
But mark another deeply precious thought, suggested by the subject of our meditation. The One who draws, goes before. Thus the Lord goes before His people in the wilderness, and sees the danger and meets it, before they come to it. Many, many are the dangers we are, by Him, delivered from, that we know nothing about. "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him." A snare may be laid for us by the enemy, in the way that we said we would go, but our divine Leader, seeing the snare, turns into another path, leads' in another direction, and the snare which might have proved fatal is escaped. And yet, I may feel so disappointed, and so discontented, because something hindered me reaching my previously appointed place. Blessed Lord! may we ever, and only, " run after thee."
Draw me! I will run after Thee, will seek
To hear obediently what Thou wilt speak:
And step by step the blessed path would trace
Of my beloved-full of truth and grace."
" The King hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in thee; we will remember thy love more than wine; the upright love thee." Now we have the result, the happy fruit, of the drawing and the running. The prayer expressed conscious weakness, and dependence, combined with holy diligence. They have run well and reached the goal; and now they are crowned with joy and gladness. But, never forget, my soul, it is grace that draws, and grace that runs, and grace that crowns, and that all flows from the shoreless ocean of the Savior's love. " We will remember thy love more than wine." Now she uses the word " remember," she knew His love before. But she is enjoying it with increased interest. Like air she is surrounded with it, she is in it. " The King hath brought me, into his chamber"
But why should Christ be here called " The King"? It is prophetic of His relationship with Israel after their restoration. As to His right or title, He is always that. Is He ever called the King of the church? Not in scripture. He is a King and worthy of all homage. But in scripture He is spoken of as Head of His body, the church, and as King of the Jews. And as such, observe, He came at first in lowly grace, and presented Himself to the daughter of Zion, but, alas, he refused Him. He was despised and rejected, crucified and slain, but God raised Him up, and gave Him glory, thereby making good, in resurrection, His rights and titles, not only as King of the Jews, but also as Head of His body, the church, and center of all coming glory. (Compare Zech. 9, John 12, Acts 2, Eph. 1, Phil. 2) With the same breath the Jews cried, " Hosanna; Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord," and, "Away with him, away with him! crucify him!" Such, alas, is the brief duration of human popularity! At last they filled up the measure of their sins. Their relationship with God was broken. The Messiah was cut off-the testimony of the Holy Ghost was despised-and, for the time, all was gone, as to the kingdom.
Nevertheless, the word of the Lord shall stand fast forever. Man's unbelief and sin never make the faithfulness of God of none effect. In the redemption accomplished by Christ, a foundation was laid for the future restoration of Israel, in grace, according to the changeless purpose of God; and
for placing the children in the full possession and enjoyment of all the blessings promised to the fathers. " Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." (Rom. 15:88Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: (Romans 15:8).) Nothing can be plainer than the predictions of God's word as the future reign of the Lord Jesus, in connection with the throne of David, and the whole house of Israel. Of course, His reign and His glory will not be confined to the restored tribes and the land of Israel; but Jerusalem and the cities of Judah will form the earthly center of His millennial kingdom; just as the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, will be the heavenly center of the many connecting circles of His heavenly glory. (Heb. 12:22-2422But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22‑24).)
But as our meditations are of " the King," we will dwell a little on the prophecies which reveal and unfold Him to us in this character. " For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to stablish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isa. 9:6, 76For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6‑7).) This ancient prediction, which the zeal of the Lord of hosts will in due time perform, was, in substance, repeated to Mary by the angel. " Thou shalt bring forth a Son and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1) Prophecies on this subject, yet unfulfilled, are almost innumerable.
But was not Jehovah, of old, King in Jerusalem? Oh, yes; most true I From the time of Israel's deliverance out of Egypt, until the days of Samuel, Jehovah was their king. Then they desired a king like the nations around them, and rejected the Lord as their king. But this, like everything else, with Israel under the law, ended in complete failure. From the banks of the Red Sea to the cross on Calvary, or to the stoning of Stephen, we have a history of failure; and that, not only in one position or relationship, but in all. If we look at Israel as under law-as a vine brought out of Egypt and planted in the land-as the married wife, and as God's witness on the earth, we find that there was not only constant failure, but they became incorrigible in their sins. Hence, at last, God's righteous judgments came upon them. Their beloved Jerusalem was encompassed with armies, their temple and city razed to the ground, and those that escaped the edge of the sword, were driven by the sore displeasure of God to the four winds of heaven.
From that day to this, Israel's condition has been "forsaken and desolate." But it will not be always so. It is most needful to mark, at such a point as this, the difference between God's ways in government with His people, and His ways in grace. The Jews, in the righteous government of God, because of their sins and impenitence, have been and still are, under His chastening hand; but the grace and love of His heart towards them remain unchangeably the same. Mark the terms of the covenant, "And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not forever." (1 Kings 11:3939And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever. (1 Kings 11:39).) This is a principle of immense importance, not only with Israel and the church, but with the individual Christian. The same great principle is referred to by the apostle when he is handling the subject of Israel's rejection and restoration. " Because of unbelief they were broken off.... But as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Rom. 11)
The present condition and future restoration of the Jews are touchingly described by the prophet Hosea, " For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. Afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days." Precious thought! They will yet " seek the Lord their God, and David their king." And what is the book of Canticles? Is it not the assurance, and the re-assurance to the remnant, of the unchanging affection of the King? Here, the God-fearing remnant in the latter days can read His love-the unwearied, unupbraiding, patient love of " The Lord their God, and David their king." In the past, all failed under law. In the future, all will be re-established under grace. In the past, they were on the ground of the conditional part of the covenant. In the future, they will be on the ground of the unconditional grace of God. The value of the sacrifice of their once-rejected Messiah, and the fullness of the love of God, will be the measure of their blessing. But who can measure that which is immeasurable? Such will be the love of the King to His Jewish bride.
The book of Ruth illustrates, in the most simple and touching way possible, the past, present, and future condition of Israel.
No fruit remained of the married life of Naomi. " Call me not Naomi," she says, which, signifies my delight, but " call me Mara," bitterness, " for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." Her husband Elimelech (which signifies, my God is king), and her two sons, died in the land of Moab. Naomi was now a widow, desolate, fruitless, and naturally without resources. " Call me Mara.... I went out full, and the Lord bath brought me home again empty." Striking type of the Jewish nation, who having lost God as its king and husband, is now as a widow, and desolate. But a feeble remnant, in the person of the meek and lowly Ruth, clings to Naomi, and virtually takes shelter under the wings of the God of Israel. " Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." The fields which she first entered as a gleaner, became her own. But the nearest kinsman-redeemer refuses to redeem the inheritance, if Ruth must lie taken as his wife with it. And this is done in the presence of ten witnesses. These ten men of the city may represent the ten commandments, which were given before Christ came; but " fruit unto God," observe, is the result of our union with " him who is raised from the dead." (See Rom. 7:1-41Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7:1‑4).)
Boaz-which signifies in him is strength-now espouses, with all his heart, the cause of the feeble remnant of Elimelech's house. He is a type of the risen Christ, who was " declared to be the Son of God with power.... by the resurrection from the dead." (Rom. 1 I, 4.) What makes this picture so perfectly beautiful, is the circumstance, that Ruth had no direct claim on Boaz. He was not the nearest of kin; so it was all grace. Israel, as well as the Gentiles, must now come into the inheritance on the ground of pure grace. "And Ruth bare a son... and Naomi took the child and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it," and the women said, " There is a son born to Naomi." Touching scene! Lovely grace! The widow's heart is made to sing as in the days of her youth. The desolate one is become, as it were, a mother of children. The bereaved bosom is again filled with a living heir. All is joy. Here, we have prefigured in the most lovely way, the full restoration of Israel to honor, glory, and dignity in the land. The true Boaz will, ere long, take up the cause of the God-fearing remnant, and reestablish Israel in the land, upon a new footing altogether. This is the joyous theme of numberless scriptures.
Take a sample. " And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land be termed any more desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah (that is, my delight is in thee), and thy land Beulah (that is, married), for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married." (Isa. 62) And again, " Therefore, behold I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.... and I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord." (Hos. 2) Oh! wondrous, matchless grace! The grace of God in Christ Jesus to the chief of sinners! Love is the spring. Grace flows. The lost one is found. Love is ever the same. The Lord loves Israel-He loves the church-He loves the individual believer. Every soul that is drawn to Him He loves with a perfect love. The deeper love and joy are His. " The king hath brought me into his chambers."
Verse 5, 6. " I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept." The bride has spoken of the King's embrace, His love, His name, and His chambers. Now, stirred up by something that has occurred, she calls to mind, and freely confesses, what she is in herself; at the same time, as happily affirming what she is in His sight-needed truth at all times, if we would preserve a well-balanced mind. The more thoroughly we know the worthlessness of the flesh, the more shall we appreciate the worthiness of Christ, and the better shall we understand the work of the Holy Spirit. When the total depravity of human nature is not a settled reality in the soul, there will ever be confusion in our experience, as to the vain pretensions of the flesh, and the divine operations of the Spirit.
There is nothing good whatever in our carnal nature. The most advanced in the divine life has said, " In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." How sweeping! " No good thing." But can it not be improved by diligence in prayer and watchfulness? No, never: it is wholly incurable. Long, long ago, this was affirmed by the God of truth. (See Gen. 6) " And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.... And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me." Now, what is the end, or the result of all flesh? Why, that it is " evil," " only evil," and " evil continually"; that is, plainly, evil without any good, and evil without any cessation; and this is said of all flesh, observe, not of some merely. So that all are included. True, in some we may find nature polished, cultivated, and refined; in others, rough, rude and rugged, but carnal nature in both. We may not be able to bend a bar of iron, yet it may be so beaten out as to become quite flexible, but it is the same iron still. Its appearance has changed, but its nature is the same.
Well, admitting all that to be true as to our sad nature, why call it " needed truth and necessary to a well-balanced mind?" Because it enables us to distinguish between flesh and Spirit, and to know from which the thought, suggestion, or inclination may come. Seeing they are both in us, and the one unmixed evil, and the other unmixed good, this is all-important. Endless confusion, trouble, perplexity, and in some cases, deep melancholy, are the unhappy results of ignorance on this point. I mean the subject of the two natures. Nothing that is good can spring from our carnal nature. Suppose I meet a person who is in deep concern about his soul; and earnestly longing to know Christ and salvation. I know for certain the Holy Spirit is at work in that soul. Such desires after Christ and salvation are good, and could never spring from a nature that hates both God and Christ, and loves this world better than heaven. The soul may indeed be in great distress, and full of doubts and fears as to the issue, and even refusing to be comforted. But, in God's mind it is saved already. And when it believes the truth it will rejoice. The good work was begun in the soul of the prodigal when first he said within himself, " I will arise and go to my Father." The Spirit of God will fully satisfy every desire which He creates. Christ Himself is the perfect answer to every desire of the heart.
We learn from holy scripture three points of daily, practical importance: namely, that the flesh opposes the Spirit, Satan opposes Christ, and the world opposes the Father. (Gal. 5; Genesis
John 2) These are our three grand enemies, hence the importance of knowing on whose side we are standing. For example: in the place of perplexing myself as to where the world begins and ends, in what is called worldliness, I have simply to ask, " Is it of the Father?" In hundreds of instances it would be impossible to say where worldliness begins and ends, by looking at the thing itself. But you may soon ascertain " if it be of the Father." And when we see that it is not of the Father the question is settled. It must be of the world. There is no middle, or neutral ground in scripture. The same rule applies to the others. Whatsoever is not of the Spirit is of the flesh, and whatsoever is not of Christ is of Satan.
But though, in our meditations on the words of the bride, we have run into these practical details, we by no means think that such thoughts were in her mind, Jewish experience being more of an outward, temporal, and typical character.
The blackness of which she speaks is external. It is a darkness of complexion-she is sunburnt; the warning word of the prophet has come to pass: " There shall be burning instead of beauty." (Isa. 3:2424And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. (Isaiah 3:24).) And because of this, she feels keenly the curious gaze of the daughters of Jerusalem. " Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me." The time was when the daughter of Zion was beautiful and glorious, a praise in the earth. " Thy renown," says the prophet, " went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God." (Ezek. 16) But because of her ingratitude and unfaithfulness she had been reduced to the sad condition of a poor sunburnt slave. The prophet Jeremiah also in his " Lamentations " over the downfall of Jerusalem, describes in the most touching manner, not only what she once was, but what, through affliction and sorrow, she had become. " Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire. Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets; their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick." Well might he exclaim, in the bitterness of his soul, " How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!" If such, oh my soul, be the awfully evil, bitter, and sorrowful fruits of sin in this world, where " mercy rejoiceth against judgment," what must they be in the world of woe, where hope perisheth and where despair seizes upon the guilty soul? Canst thou look back to the cross and see thy sins, all thy sins judged there, and put away forever God and faith alone know the power of that cross-and glory in its eternal efficacy. Then, judge all evil in thy heart and ways fully now, knowing that Christ was judged for it there. That which was imputed to Christ shall never be imputed to thee. "Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity and in whose spirit there is no guile." (Psa. 32)
When I see that the sin which I mourn over was borne by Jesus, and that He put it away forever by the sacrifice of Himself, all guile departs. I have no desire to hide, extenuate, or excuse my sin. It was put away on the cross, and is now pardoned on that ground. In the presence of such love and goodness, fear is cast out. I am free and unreserved; and I can only praise the Lord for His boundless grace to 'me.
The term " black " is generally used in scripture as expressive of affliction, sorrow, and persecution. " My skin," as Job says, " is black upon me, and my bones are burnt with the heat." (Chap. xxx. 3o.) It is emphatically so with disobedient Israel. But here, the confession is sweetly coupled with faith in Christ, and so becomes, morally, the truthful expression of all believers. " I am black, but comely." Black as sin in myself-whiter than snow in Christ.
This will be the language of the God-fearing remnant in the latter day, who shall have passed through the depths of Jacob's trouble; for sorely scorched indeed shall they be, by the burning heat of " the great tribulation." Not only shall they suffer persecution under Antichrist, the great oppressor, but even their own brethren after the flesh shall be turned against them. " Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed." (Isa. 66:55Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. (Isaiah 66:5).)
This, we believe, is what the now joyous bride refers to. " My mother's children were angry with me: they made me the keeper of the vineyards." Like another Ruth, the vineyards which she was compelled to toil in, became her own. And happy now in the love of her great Deliverer and rich Lord, she could freely 'speak of what she had passed through, and what she still was in her own eyes, " Black as the tents of Kedar-comely as the curtains of Solomon."
The sons of Ishmael, it is said, use the rough, shaggy skins of their black goats for the outward covering of their tents. And, to the traveler's eye they have an intensely black appearance in the desert, beneath the rays of a bright sun. And, most surely, were man in his best estate, placed under the beams of the brighter Sun of Righteousness, blacker far than the wild Arab's tent would he be. Even of a burning lamp, as one has said, when placed in the rays of the sun, nothing can be seen but the black wick. But, oh! thrice happy thought, if the sense of our uncomeliness should still trouble us, it no longer troubles the blessed Lord. He has removed it all and forever from His own eyes. And faith's eye sees with Him The judgment of God, and the judgment of faith, are ever the same. Thy sins which were many are forgiven. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
The expression, " curtains of Solomon," may have reference to the beautiful veil of king Solomon's temple: the type, we know, of the holy humanity of Jesus. All believers shall yet be conformed to the new perfect Man in heaven, the Head of the new creation. " As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor. 15:4949And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:49).) The " daughters of Jerusalem," here introduced, are evidently distinct from the bride, though-intimately connected with her, as may be seen from the important place they occupy in this beautiful scene. If the Bride be the representative of the beloved city, Jerusalem -the earthly capital of the great King, the daughters of Jerusalem may represent the cities of Judah. Hence we can understand their presence and place on so many occasions, yet never reaching the position of the bride in the estimation of the King.
According to the word of the Lord, Jerusalem must ever have the pre-eminence. " For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever, and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." (2 Chron. 7:1616For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. (2 Chronicles 7:16).)
Verse 7. " Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon; for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" A blessed change has now taken place in the occupation of the bride. The Bridegroom fills her eye and her heart. Self is dropped! What a mercy! It is neither black self, nor comely self, now. It is always unhappy in result to be occupied with self. Innumerable perplexities and sorrows flow from the eye looking within, in place of looking out from self and up to Christ.
There are three things, O my soul, in this beautiful verse, which well deserve thy serious meditation.
I. The earnest affection of the heart. She does not say, observe, " O thou whom my soul " ought to love, or even desires to love, but " O thou whom my soul loveth." There is a bright flame of love in her heart to the Person of her Lord and Savior. She loves Himself. " Tell me, O Thou." This is nearness, " Me," " Thou,"-" Thou," " Me." Happy condition for a soul! What, my soul, knowest thou of this?
The word appreciation seems more fitly to express the little I know of this blessed matter, than the idea of the sensation; of an earnest, ardent affection. What is there in existence, I inquire, that I care more for than my Savior-that I would prefer to Him? What is this? Is it love? Who else-what else-is loved more?
But, oh! the day draws near, when these eyes shall see the King in His glory. Then shall this cold, dull heart be ravished with His beauty, and burn forever with a pure flame of perfect love for Him alone.
" Soon shall my eyes behold Thee,
With rapture face to face;
One half hath not been told me
Of all Thy power and grace
Thy beauty, Lord, and glory,
The wonders of Thy love,
Shall be the endless story
Of all Thy saints above."
II. She desires refreshment and nourishment -directly from Himself. " Tell me.... where thou feedest thy flock?" She goes not to the shepherds of Israel, who cared more for the fleece than the flock; but to the chief Shepherd Himself. She had been brought to Him as King, now she appeals to Him as Shepherd. Like David of old, He is the Shepherd-King; and oh! how graciously, lovingly, and tenderly, will He yet gather the now scattered sheep of Israel. Nothing can exceed the grace and beauty of the following verses. " For thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them on the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country; I will feed them in good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be; there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God." (Ezek. 36)
III. Her heart longs after the noonday rest of His highly favored flock. " Tell me.... where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon." Personal communion, divine nourishment, and quiet rest, are the rich blessings her soul now earnestly breathes after. Wearied with the fruitless search for rest and refreshment apart from God, she longs after the green pastures and the still waters of His love and grace. Those who have wandered on the dark mountains, uncheered by the light of God's countenance, know their dreadful barrenness. But when restoration is full and happy, the tender blade is sweeter than ever. The bride, having tasted the blessedness of communion with the Lord, now desires that it may be increased and uninterrupted.
The thought of being suspected by others of insincerity greatly troubles her. " For why," she adds, " should I be as one that is veiled [margin] by the flocks of thy companions?" Who the "companions" are, it may be difficult to say, unless they be under-shepherds, who could not understand or meet her case like the Princely Shepherd Himself. He knew her heart. She could confide in His. The term " veiled " seems to convey the idea of being suspected. (Genesis 38:1515When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. (Genesis 38:15).) This is very cutting to an honest, upright mind, but not uncommon. Many who profess to be the shepherds of God's sheep, can but little understand the path of one who is walking with the Lord outside of all the prescribed rules of men-who desires to please the Lord, if he should offend all else beside. There is such a thing as an energy of love that rises above all mere human arrangements, and holds communion immediately, not mediately, with the Lord. An energy that could not tarry for the routine of human forms. Such a one is most likely to be misunderstood and misrepresented by those who move in the more beaten track. Like Hannah the mother of Samuel, who prayed with an inward, spiritual energy, which Eli, the priest of God, did not understand. But the Lord knows the motive of the heart, and the spring of the energy.
Just as the loved one was suffering in her soul from the mean suspicions of others, the Beloved appears for her comfort. This is the first time we hear the Bridegroom's voice. But oh! what grace flows out to her! What words drop from His lips! " O thou fairest among women," is the first utterance of His heart. Enough, surely, to sweeten the most bitter soul.
She might be troubled about her appearance, and about the unworthy thoughts of others; but such an assurance of His love and esteem is well fitted to remove all her troubles, and to fill her heart with boundless joy. In place of looking upon her as she is in herself, " black as the tents of Kedar," He assures her, that not only does He esteem her fair and comely, but the fairest of the fair.
Verse 8. "If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents." The Bridegroom's answer is readily and distinctly given, but nothing more. No approbation is expressed as to the questions. And most important. questions, surely, they are. Why is this? Is the Beloved not delighted in hearing such questions asked by His loved one? He does not say so, important though they be. He is delighted with herself, and assures her of His delight in the strongest terms. " O thou fairest among women." His love is unchangeably the same. Happy thought! Nothing in her ways-nothing said of her by others-can ever alter the affections of His heart for His bride, although, alas, there are many things said and done by her that He cannot approve of. The believer, personally, is perfect in Christ, and in His sight. He is " justified from all things " but practically he is full of failure.
In the present instance, His address to herself, and His answer to her questions, breathes a different spirit. Why is this? again I ask. My soul would know the Master's mind. Oh for one bright gleam of the Holy Spirit's light on the sacred page. Then should I know, not the letter of scripture merely, but the thoughts and feelings of the mind from whence it flows. Learn, then, O my soul, that approval is never expressed in scripture, save when consistent with truth and holiness. Oh! how often we pray for what we have! How often we ask for light and direction as to our path, when the light of a cloudless sky shines on the way in which we should go. Naturally, the sheep is the most wandering creature in the field.
Is there not something in that little word " if " which seems to imply that He expected she would have known the pathway of His flock? As if the Lord had said-Surely thou knowest. My mind on all these questions, as the Shepherd of Israel, lies plainly before thee. Why not read, my love, and understand? He cannot upbraid, yet His love is faithful. As He said to Philip, " Have I been so long time with you, and yet Nast thou not known me, Philip?" How gently He leads! How kindly, even the rebukes of His love!
Christian fellowship, as taught in the word, is often very little thought of by young converts. They follow, generally speaking, where it will be most convenient or most agreeable to themselves, without any exercise of conscience, as to whether they are following in the footsteps of the flock. They may be right, or they may be wrong, as to their path, but they have never prayerfully examined the word of God to ascertain His mind on the subject. Had the church continued undivided, as it was at Pentecost, there would have been no need for such exercise and examination; but seeing the professing church is now broken up into so many sections, it becomes every child of God to search the scriptures, that they may know and do His holy will.
It is sorrowful to find, however, that many of the Lord's dear ones count this subject unimportant, non-essential. This thought, let me affectionately say to all such, never came from the Bible. It is most dishonoring to God and injurious to the soul. The trials through which we find the bride passing in the different parts of this book seem entirely owing to her neglect of the instructions here given. We feel assured, that next in importance to the soul's salvation, is church communion. If the Christian be careless about this matter and not exercised as to the Lord's mind he will be sure to follow his own will. And then what must the consequences be? God is robbed of His glory; His word is set aside; the Master is not followed; the Spirit is grieved and the soul loses its freshness. Under such circumstances, " first love " soon declines, and peace and joy give place to doubts and fears.
Comparatively few, we believe, long retain in divine freshness their first love. The lively sense of the Lord's " great love " to us, and how He has met all our necessities, is soon but feebly remembered! This is falling from our first love. And why is this? In place of going on to know the Lord more fully, and seeking only to please Him, we choose our own way, follow our own will, and thereby grieve the Holy Spirit: hence, darkness creeps over the mind, the light is, as it were, shut out, and we become feeble and uncertain about everything.
The Lord speaks of two kinds of rest in Matt. 11, which it may be well to notice here. "Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is the immediate gift of His love through faith in Himself. All who believe, without exception, have this rest. All our weary and fruitless efforts after salvation are brought to a close when we come to Jesus, and the heavy burden of sin under which we groaned is forever removed. But the Lord further says, " Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls." Rest of conscience He gives through the forgiveness of our sins, when first we believe in Him. Rest of heart we find in obedience and subjection to His will. " Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.... and ye shall find rest " -rest and peace in every circumstance, however trying. This text explains why so many get into trouble of soul soon after the joys of conversion; and why, when difficulties appear, though they may know the forgiveness of sins, they are uneasy and restless. Subjection to Christ in the details of life, both socially and ecclesiastically, and learning of Him, are lost sight of. To be under the same yoke with Christ is to walk side by side and step by step with Him. "Take my yoke upon you." This would indeed be walking closely with the Lord, and thus would we surely " find rest " for all our weakness would fall on Him. When two are yoked together, the strong one can help the weak one along; and surely, the most feeble Christian when under the same yoke with Jesus the mighty One, need fear no difficulties. Nothing can be a difficulty to Him. All needless fears would vanish from His presence, and our chariot wheels would move lightly through the deepest sand of the desert.
But it will be said by some, that all this is clear enough as to individual walk and holiness, but our ecclesiastical path and position are not so plainly revealed. Nothing would be more unseemly than for young Christians to be sitting in judgment on the different denominations of professing Christians. But all may, and it is incumbent on all, both old and young, to inquire into the Lord's mind on this important matter. We have both individual and corporate responsibilities; and the word of the Lord tells us as plainly of the one as of the other.
Nothing, surely, could be plainer on the subject of church fellowship than Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20): " Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Here we have plainly laid down the true foundation of all Christian communion-Christ the center, and believers gathered to Him by the Holy Spirit. It is not said, observe, Where two or three meet, or where two or three gather, but where two or three are gathered. Thus referring to a gathering power, and not to the mere choice or exercise of the human will. The Holy Spirit, we all know, is the power that gathers to the name of Jesus. (John 14; 16) Christ is God's center-His Spirit the power of gathering to that center-His children, those that " are gathered." This is the church of God. And this is what we are to search for, not in word or in spirit merely, but in an embodied form.
" I will pray the Father," said the blessed Lord, as He was about to leave His disciples, " and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (john xiv. 16, 17.) He was with them then; after Pentecost He would be in them. This was the new thing. Here we have the gathering, forming and sustaining power of the church of God. All believers are gathered to Christ as their only center, formed into one body, and sustained in living unity by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
Observe, especially, three things with regard to the Holy Spirit's presence in the church:-1st " That he may abide with you forever." Not for a limited time, as the Savior Himself had been, but forever. 2ndly, He dwelleth with you. As an assembly, He shall be "with you." 3rdly, And shall be in you; indwelling each believer personally. These precious truths were afterward plainly taught by the apostle in the epistles. " Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you." (1 Cor. 6:1919What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19).) " In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22).) Oh! wondrous, precious, blessed truth! The Spirit " in you," " with you," " forever." Oh! how richly dowried is the bride of the Lamb!
We will now look for a moment at a practical illustration of Matt. 18:2020For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20), " Then the same day at evening: being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.... And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." (John 20) Here we have a true and lovely picture of the assembly of God. Christ in the midst-the center-and the disciples gathered to the risen Jesus. Peace, worship, service, and the spirit of sonship characterize them.
An assembly gathered on this divine ground will not only acknowledge Christ in their midst, but the Holy Ghost as the sovereign Ruler, and source of edification and comfort. Such will wait on the Lord, that they may be guided by His Spirit, to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 12; 14.)
With both precept and example so plainly before me, need I yet come to the Lord and ask Him where He feeds His flock? What more can He say than He has said? I may be quite unable to tell the difference between one section of the professing church and another, but I need be at no loss to ascertain if either be according to the word of God so plainly revealed. Rather, then, let me ask Him to keep me from every bye-path-from following my own will; and that He would lead me by His Holy Spirit in the way of truth. But, O my soul! never forget that He has pledged Himself to be where disciples are gathered to His name. There they feed, and there they rest. His presence is enough to fill the soul to overflowing " In thy presence is fullness of joy." The most attractive ministry-the most fascinating observances-the most loved association's, are not Christ. They may, or they may not, have His sanction. What I desire, what I need, is to be where faith can say for certain, Christ Himself is there.
"Fairer than all the earth-born race,
Perfect in comeliness thou art;
Replenished are Thy lips with grace,
And full of love Thy tender heart;
God ever blest I we bow the knee,
And own all fullness dwells in Thee."
" Feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents." Having learned the true ground and character of christian communion from the word, we are responsible to guide the young amongst us into these paths-the footsteps of the flock of God. Divine nourishment, suited both to old and young, will be found there. The lamb soon learns to follow in the footsteps of its mother, and feed on the same pasture. The Princely Shepherd of Israel cares for the lambs of His flock. " He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom; and shall gently lead those that are with young." (Isa. 40:1111He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)) The feeblest of the flock were cared for when he led forth His people Israel out of Egypt, and through the deep. " Not an hoof was left behind " And food was found for all, around their tents in the morning, as they journeyed through the waste, howling wilderness.
The good Lord would have it to be so now, in the assemblies of His saints. And where the Holy Ghost is free and unhindered in His operations, He will surely provide milk for the babes, and strong meat for those who are of full age. The church is spoken of as the " habitation," tent, or tabernacle of God. (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22).) To this tent in the wilderness, where God Himself vouchsafes to dwell, we would earnestly and affectionately pray that all the lambs of Jesus may be gathered. Oh! that the presence of Jesus may have attractions for their hearts supreme to all others. Hear Him say, O my soul, " there am I in the midst of them." Oh! then, be where Jesus is! Who else, what else, could make up for His absence? What would the finest assembly on earth be without Him? Yea, what would heavers itself be without His presence? A blank! What is the wilderness with His presence? The paradise of God. Anywhere, everywhere, His presence is the place of blessing, of joy, of happiness. Oh! may God gather the many precious lambs of Jesus in these last days to the true fold of the Shepherd and Bishop of souls.
-Tis the treasure I've found in His love
That has made me a pilgrim below,
And 'tis there when I reach Him above,
As I'm known all His fullness know."
Verse 9, 10. "I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold." Now, He speaks of herself entirely. The subject of the questions is dropped, His address is direct and personal. And oh! how full and free are the expressions of His admiring love. " I have compared thee, O my love.... thy cheeks are comely... thy neck with chains."
How often the human mind invests with attractions the object of its admiration, and then loves and worships its own image. Not so the divine mind there, all is real. The Lord invests the bride of His heart with His own attractions, and then admires her. He loved her, adored be His name, before there was anything about her to admire. This is divine. " God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Having adorned her with His own excellencies, there is now nothing to offend His eye, or grieve His heart. " Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." " Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." She has the same life and position as her risen, living Lord. Oh! what dignity, glory, and blessedness!
In the greatness of His love He " gave himself for us." And now, as the crucified and risen Jesus, we are fellow heirs with Him. " Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." (John 14:2727Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27).) The world gives a part and keeps a part, but Christ gives all. "The glory, which thou gavest me, I have given them." (John 17:2222And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (John 17:22).) In admiring His bride, though she is still in the wilderness, He is consistent with Himself, for she is perfect in His own perfectness. Rebekah was enriched and adorned with the jewels of Isaac, long before she reached his mother's tent.
" In Haran thus
The kindred of Rebekah wondering saw
The newly-given splendor; bracelets rich
Circled her arms; and pendant on her face
The weighty proof of Isaac's bounty shone,
In value questionless. And could she doubt,
Could any doubt, who saw her decked with these,
His covenanted love and bounteous heart,
Of whom they were the sparkling messengers?"
And of the bride of Jehovah it is said, " I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thy head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver.... And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I put upon thee, saith the Lord God." (Ezek. 16)
Verse Ir. "We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver." A chain of gold, we know, is the token of promotion, high favor, and dignity, as in the case of Joseph and Daniel. But what meaneth these wonderful words of the King? He has been admiring His bride—her " rows of jewels "-her " chains of gold," and now He is moved to do yet more for her: " We will make thee borders of gold and studs of silver."
Some have thought that the mystery of the Holy Trinity may be referred to in the plural " We." In the words of creation it was said, " Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness." And in the work of redemption, we know, the opportunity came for the manifestation of the different Persons of the Godhead. " If a man love me," says Jesus, " he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." And of the Spirit He says, " Ye know him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you." (John 14)
But what are we to understand by " borders of gold with studs of silver?" May it not be a crown that is spoken of? A crown of gold bespangled with silver? Ezekiel seems to say it is. " And I put a jewel on thy forehead and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown on thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver." What then? Shall the restored, royal tribe of Judah yet wear this beautiful crown in the land of Israel-in the holy city Jerusalem? Wondrous grace! Love divine! And will it be the united gift of the adorable Trinity?
Can Judah fail to remember, or can I ever forget that Thy royal brow, O King of Salem, was once, in those very scenes, wreathed with a crown of thorns? No earthly jewels lustered that crown. But the rich ruby drops from Thy holy veins were its jewels of imperishable value. Awake! awake, oh my soul! meditate on the grace and love of Jesus. What wilt thou think, how wilt thou feel, when that once pierced hand places on thy head a garland of unfading glory? Shall thine eye be caught with the crown, or be dazzled with the glory? Oh no! the first glimpse of that " countenance transcendant " shall fix thine eye, and ravish thy heart forever!
There is always something in the manner of the Lord's love most grateful to the heart. He says to herself what is in His mind. This meets the first desire of love-personal communion. Well does Jesus know how to fill the heart with deepest joy. But will it always be so? Yes, yes, O my soul! His love shall endure forever. He changeth not. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. In the past, the present, and the future, He is the same. But oh! how the heart delights in being so immediately, so individually, so distinctly addressed by Himself. Amongst the myriads of the redeemed, not one is overlooked, or neglected by Him. "He loved me, and gave himself for me," will be the thrilling note in the song of all. His love, in its eternal sweetness and fullness, fills all hearts to overflowing, and turns all hearts into harps of sweetest melody, to sound forever His un-beginning, never-ending love.
" Love that no tongue can teach,
Love that no thought can reach;
No love like His,
God is its blessed source,
Death ne'er can stop its course,
Nothing can stay its force;
Matchless it is."
There is divine wisdom, and instruction for the soul, in the selection of His first comparison. " I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots." The mystic bride of the true Solomon is here reminded of Egypt, out of which He redeemed her with an outstretched arm; and of " Pharaoh," from whose iron grasp He rescued her. Most suggestive references to the children of Israel, and morally, to us. The truth of God is a circle. The love that delivered us out of Egypt, that brings us into Canaan, with all its mercies by the way, is a perfect unbroken circle of grace and truth. And, moreover, every part of that circle shall be held in everlasting remembrance. The grace that meets us in the world, conducts us to the heart of God, its native fountain. " But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:1313But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13).)
The chariot-horse, with its gorgeous trappings, may he the symbol of strength, symmetry, swiftness, royalty and willingness in service. No sooner has the charioteer taken his seat, than his steeds are in readiness to move off. They become impatient of delay, the raising of the foot, the movement of every muscle, plainly tell him, that if he be ready, they are quite ready. And then, how subject, notwithstanding their power, to the slightest touch of the guiding rein. Seest thou, O my soul, in this ready, willing service a fair representation of thine own? Is it so? Or, alas! what? No swiftness, no symmetry, no consistency, no subjection to the guiding hand. What! Is it so? Examine all thy ways beneath the glance of the Master's eye. Is there one thing on earth that thou wouldst dread more than to be turned out of His service? Remember, O remember! that though as a son thou shalt be in thy Father's house forever, as a sinner saved by grace, thou art saved forever; still, as a servant, if thou art idling thy time, or spoiling thy work, it may be taken from thee and given to another. O most patient Master, keep thy servant ever girded, obedient and ready for service; and caring only to meet Thy mind.
Verse 12. "While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." There is an infinite difference between the attractions of nature and the grace of the Spirit. Hast thou well considered this, my soul? Honey, the sweetness of nature, was forbidden to be used in the
sacrifices. A little of it, from the end of a rod, may enlighten the eyes, and refresh the heart of the warrior in the day of battle, but it can never refresh the heart of the Lord of hosts. Its amiable qualities are truly valuable for the family, the social circle, and the world at large, but totally unfit for God's altar or the King's table. Both the sweetness and the sourness of nature are alike rejected by the Holy One of Israel. " So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:88So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8).)
We must have a new nature, even the life of the risen Jesus in the soul, before we can do anything to please God, or bring an acceptable offering to Him. " Ye must be born again." `! The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." (Gal. 5:22, 2322But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22‑23).) The divine life, bearing fruit by the Holy Spirit, is the most fragrant and refreshing of all fruits to the Savior of sinners. The "spikenard," to Him, has "an odor of a sweet smell," and its virtue endureth forever. (Phil. 4) The alabaster box of spikenard, that once filled with richest odors the presence chamber of Bethany, has not yet lost its fragrance to Jesus. " She hath done what she could," was the immediate, unmeasured commendation of His love. And " Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of as a memorial of her."
" Love is the truest providence,
Since beyond time her gold is good,
Stamped for man's mean ' three hundred pence,'
With Christ's ' She hath done what she could.' "
It is a mistake to suppose that we have nothing to present to the King while He sitteth at His table. True, of His own we give Him; but it is all the sweeter to both on that account. What is sweeter than grace? The Israelite was to bring a basketful of his first ripe fruits and present it to the Lord his God. (Dent. 26.) True worship is communion, fellowship. If the Bridegroom has His " good ointments," the-bride has her "spikenard"; yet it is all grace. The table is His-the ointment and spikenard, too, are His. " Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over." (Psa. 23)
The heart never rises to the point of worship until it runs over. Then it has nothing to ask for. True worship is the overflowing of the heart. And oh, how sweet, how precious, how blessed it is! When the Holy Spirit ministers of the fullness of Jesus to our souls, how soon the heart runs over! And this overflowing 61 the heart, with the fullness of Christ, is true, heavenly worship. Hence the important difference between a prayer, and a worship meeting. We should come to the former with empty vessels, and so cry to the Lord, as if we would storm the heavens, rather than go away without our answer. But to the latter, we should come thoroughly self-judged, well prepared to feast on the King's dainties-the spoils of His victory-the fruits of redemption. Thus shall we find our every need met, and our every desire satisfied. And have we nothing to ask for at the table? Nothing unless the King has forgotten something you need-except it be for a larger heart. To be in the presence chamber of the Lord-the holiest of all-and to be feasting on the rich provisions of His table; what can we be but satisfied; what can we do but praise, admire, adore, love, and worship the Lord our God and Father?
The bride has now reached the highest place of blessedness. She is peacefully enjoying the presence of the King, while He is reclining at His table.
The activities of service have given place to the repose of worship. The burning sun, the persecution, the poverty, the sorrow, are all forgotten in the fullness of that joy which His presence gives. And now, the box is broken, the spikenard flows, the fragrance fills the house, the head and the feet of Jesus are anointed, and His heart is ravished with the advances of her love.
Verse 13. "A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me: he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts." If the chariot-horse suggests the thought of willing service, and the "spikenard " be the symbol of divine worship, may not the "bundle of myrrh " be the emblem of a daily and hourly testimony for Christ? And what more natural, as a consequence of deep and solid communion with the Lord? Is not the heart strengthened for testimony in such happy seasons? Uninteresting and powerless will all our services become, if personal communion be neglected. How was it that David displayed such courage in the valley of Elah? Was it the rashness of youthful inexperience? O no, not at all! His faith, through communion in secret, had been raised to the very thoughts of God Himself about his people. Hence his valor in the open field. " Blessed be the Lord my strength," he could sing, " which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight." (Psa. 144:11<<A Psalm of David.>> Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: (Psalm 144:1).),
We are taught the same truth by our blessed Lord in John 7:3737In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. (John 7:37), " In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." In vain shall we seek to become the means of refreshing and blessing to others, unless we drink, and drink daily and deeply, at the fountain-head for ourselves. Every fresh testimony for Christ should be the result of fresh communion with Him. Oh I how needful for the servants of the Lord to remember this. _Forget it not, O my soul, but like Moses in the land of Midian, sit down by the well -the well of living waters. "And he sat down by a well." (Ex. 2) Thus close to the well, he was in a position to be helpful to the seven daughters of the priest of Midian and to his flock. This scene may speak of Christ opening the fountain of redeeming love to His bride, buts surely it is a most instructive lesson for an evangelist! Oh! to be thus, in heart near to the well of life-heaven's water springs, and so become the channel of these living waters to others.
" Whom have we, Lord, but Thee,
Soul thirst to satisfy?
Exhaustless spring! the waters free
All other streams are dry."
The heart of the spouse, like the woman at the well of Sychar, is overflowing. She must spread abroad the glory of her Savior's name. More precious to her heart than a bundle of this costly spice to the merchant is her well-beloved. "A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me." Blessed appreciation of Christ! Happy fruit of nearness, in communion to Him! And mark, too, my soul, the affection which He creates in the heart. She can say in truth, " my well-beloved." Oh! happy, privileged spouse! I wonder not at thy holy and good resolution, " He shall lie all night betwixt my breasts." There, nearest to her heart, she places her sweet-smelling myrrh-her disinfecting spice. And now, wherever she goes the odor of her precious treasure is spread abroad.
A bundle, or little bag, of myrrh, carried in the bosom, scents the garments, and diffuses its fragrance all around, whether at home or abroad, at work or resting, in the sanctuary or the social circle, silently but surely, the fragrance of the perfume, like the air fills the scene. And even after the person has left, the sweet odor remains, as a testimony to the value of that which lay nearest her heart. Oh! exquisite emblem! Is this thy faithfulness to Jesus, O my soul? Does He lie embalmed in thy heart, and does the sweet savor of His name go with thee, whithersoever thou goest, and remain when thou art gone? Soul-searching truth! "Occupy till I come," were the farewell words of the rejected Jesus to His disciples; and over the memorials of His dying love, He has written in wondrous grace, "This do in remembrance of me." He has not asked us to do some great thing for Him, or to lay on His altar some costly sacrifice! No; but simply to he occupied with Himself as earth's rejected Christ, during His absence, and to give Him a place in our hearts. " Remember me," was His last request-think of Me-refer everything in your hearts to Me. Have we done so? Have I done so? Do I now do so? Has the affianced bride of the Lamb thus placed Him in her bosom and carried Him there during the long, long dark night of His absence? Alas, alas, the requests of thy love have been forgotten! Rivals have been admitted and entertained; and sorrowful it is to find thee outside, in thine unwearied love, knocking at the door, until, in the mystic language of the Song of Songs, thy head is filled wall dew, and thy locks with the drops of the night. " But the night is far spent, the day is at hand." Yes, the happy day draws near, when, through thy patient grace, the affections of thy heavenly and earthly people shall perfectly answer to thine own.
" Thine eye, in that bright cloudless day,
Shall, with supreme delight,
Thy fair and glorious bride survey,
Unblemished in thy sight."
Verse 14. "My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire from the vineyards of Er-gedi." The bundle of myrrh is hidden from the eye in the breast, but the cluster of camphire is an object for the eye, and carried openly in the hand. Myrrh is the living juice of the tree, which flows in drops through broken partS of the bark, something like blood from the veins, or tears from the eye.
" As myrrh new bleeding from the tree,
Such is a dying Christ to me."
The flowers of the camphire tree grow in dense clusters and are beautiful as well as fragrant. " That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith," is the prayer of the apostle. And we are to be "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." (2 Cor. 4:1010Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10).)
How widely different the line of thought suggested by a tree in full blossom, and one, wounded and bruised, and the life-juice Lowing from its veins! The one is the symbol of death, the other the power of life. The tender bud finding its way through the hard bark of winter is always a striking and interesting illustration of resurrection; the blossoms and the fruit are the manifestations of the power of life and of the rich blessings to man. The little seed that is cast into the ground, and upon which the clods are heaped, may seem for a time hopelessly lost; but the reviving spring comes round, and through the energy of life, every surrounding circumstance is mastered; the tender blade appears, and in due time waves its golden grain in triumph over them all.
How sweetly all this, and more than this, was shadowed forth in Aaron's rod that budded, through the intervention of God in grace. (Num. 17) In one night the dry rod of Aaron-a piece of dead wood-budded, bloomed, and bore fruit. Precious type of the risen Jesus, fruitful now in resurrection! Here in types and shadows, we are taught that we need the risen Jesus, as our great High Priest to take us through the wilderness and into the land of Canaan. Grace reigns in priesthood and saves the people. Nothing short of the priestly ministry of Jesus can meet our need. He who died to make us clean, now lives to keep us clean. (John 13:1-171Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; 3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. 6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. 12So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. 15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. (John 13:1‑17).) He is both our sacrifice and our priest. The blood of atonement, and the water of purification, both flowed from the wounded side of Jesus.
How lovely to the eye as well as fragrant to the heart is our risen, exalted, and glorified Lord! His Person-His ministry-His relationships are infinitely precious and ever the same. " My beloved is white and ruddy; the chiefest among ten thousand... yea, he. is altogether lovely." (Chap. v.) " For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:99For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9).) The fullness of grace and glory dwell in Him. " If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." (Col. 3 i, 2.) Oh! what clusters of attractions are there, had we only eyes to see them, and hearts to value them!
The vineyards of En-gedi, we are told, were celebrated for their rich fruits and costly spices. That which is beautiful to the eye, sweet to the taste, and fragrant to the senses, was to be found there in abundance. And famous, too, are these scenes, as having furnished a hiding place for David and his men when persecuted by Saul. (1 Sam. 24:1-41And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi. 2Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats. 3And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. 4And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily. (1 Samuel 24:1‑4).) The fruitful valleys below, and the strongholds in the mountains around, provided shelter, nourishment, and refreshment, for God's anointed king and those who had cast in their lot with him.
Yet oh! how faintly do all the good things of earth shadow forth the unsearchable riches of Christ. All abundance comes from Him. There is nothing rich that He has not enriched-nothing sweet that He has not sweetened-nothing full that He has not filled, and yet all that we know now of His fullness, is but as a drop to the ocean. Every good thing cometh down from above; and all speak of Him. The really good thing that is found in the creature, reminds thee, O my soul, of Him in whom all perfection centers, as the Man Christ Jesus—God with us. As thou walkest in the field, or in the garden, in the valley or on the mountain, or in thy usual round of daily duty, every second thought may be of the " well-beloved " absent One. The bleeding myrrh and the blooming camphire may well recall to thy mind the cross and the glory, and lead thee to think of Him " who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." (Rom. 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25).)
No tree ever bore such fruit for God and man as the cross of Calvary. There, sin was put away according to the claims of the glory of God; and there, too, the enemy was vanquished and his whole power completely destroyed. The cross is the foundation of our pardon, peace, reconciliation, acceptance, and every blessing, both in time and in eternity. It is the procuring cause of all. There, God has been revealed in perfect love, and perfect righteousness; as hating sin, yet loving the sinner. Love triumphed in the cross; yet holiness and justice, truth and righteousness, were displayed and glorified. On this solid foundation, the chief of sinners is fully and freely forgiven, the same moment he believes in Christ; and his pardon is as perfect as the work of the cross. Sin, and sins, were " put away " on the cross-by the blood of Jesus; and on that ground, the sin of our nature, and the many sins of the life, are all forgiven through faith in that precious blood.
Faith can say, in holy triumph, " He was delivered for our offenses." And where are they? Abolished-gone-and gone forever. " He made an end of sin." He who died for our sins, has been " raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father," and that is the eternal settlement of the question of sin. " He was raised again for our justification." The risen Jesus is God's own witness that the believer is justified. This is faith's sure, unfailing, ground. All is peace. " It is finished." Christ is risen.
And now for the consequences of faith-the many and fragrant clusters of richest blessing to the soul. " Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.... And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Rom. 5:1-21Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1‑2).)
Verse 15. "Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves' eyes." What is it, some will ask, that can make one defiled and deformed by sin, thus " fair " to the eye of Jesus? Where, when, how, can it be found? This is all that is needed to fill to overflowing the soul's cup of happiness! What would all the riches, honors, and glories of this world be, compared with hearing such words from such lips! " Behold, thou art fair, my love." Most truly, this is the soul's ineffable blessedness! The gospel of the grace of God, my friend, gives the answer to thy question. Know then, that when a soul is drawn to Jesus, it is received by Him, and placed in the light of God's presence, in the full value of His finished work, and in the matchless beauty of His adorable Person.
This is grace-the grace of God in the gospel of His Son to every one that believeth. " All that believe are justified." And all that believe are " accepted in the beloved," through the accomplished work of the cross. (Eph. 1; 2) His precious blood cleanseth from all sin. (i John i.) Then oh, how " fair "! " Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." (Psa. 90:1717And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. (Psalm 90:17).) What perfection of beauty this must be! " The beauty of the Lord our God." How fair for the courts above! The beauty of angels will be perfect after their own order, but the sinner saved by grace shall shine in the beauty of the Lord forever.
All this I think I can believe, sonic may reply, but oh, can such a place-can such blessing ever be mine? " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is heaven's answer to every anxious inquirer-is heaven's declaration of perfect grace to all. Believe in Jesus, trust in Him, defiled and deformed as thou art, and sooner far than thy thoughts can turn from one subject to another, thou art altogether " fair " in His sight. " Only believe." The work is finished " long, long ago." Oh! beware of that " deadly doing." The gospel seems too simple to admit of explanation. It is a report to be believed-an invitation to be accepted -a voice of love beseeching thee to be reconciled to God-a proclamation of pardon and peace by Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:36; 13:38, 3936The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) (Acts 10:36)
38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38‑39)
.) Not, observe, the promise of pardon and peace, but the preaching of pardon and peace. This makes a wonderful difference. And observe, further, that it is neither by law nor promise that the soul is thus richly blessed; but by Jesus Christ. The moment thou hast faith in Him, thy forgiveness, justification, and reconciliation, are proclaimed by the truth of God.
Take one example, as an illustration, of the ways of God, in grace, with sinners. In the third chapter of Zechariah we see Joshua standing before the Lord. He is a type of God's dealings, in grace, with Jerusalem in the latter day. This chapter is the history, I believe, of how the bride of the King is so " fair " in His sight. This is important as to our present question. It is also the history of every sinner saved by grace. Joshua is clothed in filthy garments. Satan is there to resist him He always seeks to hinder the blessing of souls. But the Lord shelters the defenseless one. He casts out none that come to Him. He rebukes and silences the adversary; and speaks and acts for Joshua. This He always does. Be of good courage. The filthy garments are taken away; his sins are all forgiven. There is not a rag left for Satan to lay hold on. Thus cleansed from all his defilements, " He is clothed with a change of raiment." The robe of God is put upon him. And now, how " fair "! But this is not all. A fair miter is set upon his head. Surely, "The beauty of the Lord our God " is now upon him He is what God, in " the exceeding riches of his grace," has made him. " Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen." Both the kingly and the priestly crown are ours-ours in His right. This is their glory! Highest in dignity, belonging to royalty. Nearest in worship, belonging to priesthood. And oh! how sweet the thought, the work is all of God from first to last, and so can never fail. "The Lord hath chosen Jerusalem.... Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee.... I will clothe thee with change of raiment;... And, I said, Let them set a fair miter on his head." It is all of God-by Christ Jesus through the work of the cross. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Grace reigns-God is glorified-faith triumphs-Satan is confounded, and the sinner eternally saved.
This know also, my dear friend, that if thy desire after Christ, and after the enjoyment of His favor be true and sincere, there must already be grace in thy heart. The desire must come from Him. Where there is nothing more than mere nature, there can be no longing desire for the blessed Lord and His favor. Faith, salvation and desire go together, although the timid believer will often hesitate to say, " He is all my salvation and all my desire." The clearest evidence of divine life in the soul, is when the heart is occupied with Him, the link of connection is formed, and can never be broken; faith alone can enter into its blessedness. Oh! rest, abide in Him.
Being associated with the risen Jesus, we are one with Him in resurrection. (Eph. 2) This gives 1,s our wondrous place in His sight. All who are brought into this new-this resurrection-state, are fair even as Christ is fair. Only that in all things He has the pre-eminence; as it is written, " Thou art fairer than the children of men." Hence we find the same terms of endearment and admiration applied to both. And the same things said of both; the bride being the reflection of the Bridegroom.
If the garments of the bride are scented with myrrh, it is said of the Bridegroom, "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." What a blessed theme this great truth opens up for meditation! Oneness with Christ, as risen and glorified! How little the world in all its relationships and associations would seem, did we look at them from this point of view!
What is here said of Israel, or of the remnant, prophetically, ("Behold, thou art fair, my love,") is true now, in a deeper sense, of the church of God, the bride of the Lamb. At the same time, the great principle of the song is common to both. The Lord's love is perfect. He loves Israel; He loves the church; and in due time He will create those affections in the hearts of both, which will perfectly answer to His own. Hence, the moral value and application of this book to the Christian is of great importance. It is the fellowship of hearts. Still, it is always well to keep in view the difference between what will be the place of the Jew in the latter day, and what the place of the Christian now is.
Although the marriage of the Lamb has not yet come, the relationship between Christ and the church is already formed. As the apostle says, " I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:22For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2).) Blessed truth! The espoused of the Savior, the Son of the Father! But knowest thou, O my soul, the affections belonging to this near and dear relationship? In place of a painful uncertainty, which often agitates the minds of those who are only looking forward to relationship, hast thou the calm, peaceful affection and joy, which naturally flow from a settled union? If so, the desire of thy heart will be great for thy Lord's return. Affection is the true ground of the cry, " Come, Lord Jesus."
The Bridegroom further adds in His present address " Thou has doves' eyes." Our associations with the dove in scripture, are of the most instructive kind. From the eighth chapter of Genesis down to New Testament times, it occupies an interesting place in the word. On our first acquaintance with the dove, we find it in connection with the ark of God and the olive tree. Precious types of the salvation and the peace of God! She plucked, and held fast, the olive leaf, when the judgments of God covered the earth. And while the waters were unabated, it could find no rest for the sole of its foot,until it returned to the ark. The world under judgment was no place for it. Again, we find, the dove alone, of all the feathered tribe, was offered in sacrifice under the law, and thereby typified the Lord Himself. The same type serves for both Christ and His spouse. Wondrous unity! " For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ." (1 Cor. 12:1212For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12).) Mark, the apostle is speaking of that which is a figure of the church, but in place of concluding, "so also is the church," he adds, "so also is Christ." He sees the church in Him. They are one body.
The Holy Spirit is also typified by the dove. "And John bare record saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him." It is also said, that when the dove is absent from its mate, it sits solitary and mourns. " I did mourn like a dove." And, " We mourn sore like doves." (Isa. 38 i4; lix. II.) Simplicity, purity, harmlessness, faithfulness, seem to be represented by the dove. When the eye of the Christian is single, chaste, and constantly fixed on Christ, then it may be said, "Thou hast doves' eyes."
Verses 16, 17. "Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our bed is green. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir." There is great beauty in this rejoinder. The bride speaks not of herself, she hears the expressions of His admiring love, but says nothing about herself. Not even that she is unworthy of such love. However deep her emotions, self is passed over. This is true humility We may speak of bad self, and unworthy self, and the heart be full of pride. True humility speaks not of self at all, either good or bad. But this is a hard lesson to learn. Christ is our only perfect example. The blessed Lord humbled Himself. He took the lowest place. The first Adam exalted himself, and he was abased. The last Adam humbled Himself, and God highly exalted Him. Follow Jesus, then, O my soul. Wait thou only upon God;:trust in Him " For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:1414I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:14).) This is a principle of wide application; it reaches to all the details of life, and is of immense practical importance. Learn its working perfectly in the two Adams. See it daily exemplified in the two natures. Poor human nature is ever ready to listen to the line of the tempter, " Ye shall be as gods." But the divine nature is content with the place wherein God has set it, until He says, " Come up higher."
But what of the old nature in the Christian? The scriptures say plainly, that it came to its end on the cross. " Ye are dead," is plain enough. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lust." And again, " I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Colossians Gal. 2) Were we to walk in the light and power of this great foundation truth, humility would characterize us. The flesh, in its vanity and assumption, would be mortified; and the meek and lowly spirit of Jesus would be manifested,
" The bird that soars on highest wing,
Builds on the ground her lowly nest,
And she that doth most sweetly sing,
Sings in the shade when all things rest.
In lark and nightingale we see
What honor hath humility.

When Mary chose the better part,
She meekly sat at Jesu's feet.
And Lydia's gently opened heart
Was made for God's own temple meet.
Fairest and best adorned is she,
Whose clothing is humility.

The saint that wears heaven's brightest crown
In humble adoration bends;
The weight of glory bows him down,
Then most, when most, his soul ascends.
Nearest the throne must ever be,
The footstool of humility."
When Christ is a complete covering to the eye, contentment fills the heart. We can afford to take the lowest place. Everything needed to make us happy is found in Him. He is not only fair to the eye, but pleasant to the heart. Many are fair that are not pleasant, and many are pleasant that are not fair, but Christ is both. " Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant." Oh! what combinations, what perfections, what harmonies are found in Jesus! Here, and here alone, the heart can find rest-quiet, perfect rest. Hence the bride most significantly adds, "Also our bed is green." The green pastures, and the still waters of Jehovah's plenteous grace have long been familiar to our minds, as the expressive symbols of the _ repose and refreshment of the sheep of Christ, under His shepherd care. " The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters." " Pastures of tender grass.... waters of quietness," are the daily fare of those whose feet are found " by the footsteps of the flock." But the shepherd never pitches his tent inside the walls of the city. There is no tender budding grass -no waters of quietness there. Outside the dingy walls, in the rural scenes, He rests His flock. " The city," doubtless, in this book, is typical of the world, the country, of heavenly places. Only shame and sorrow befall the bride when she is beguiled into the city. The Bridegroom is never found there, His favorite retreats are the vineyards, the gardens, the mountains of myrrh, the hills of frankincense, and the valleys where the lilies bloom.
But there is one word in these closing sentences which indicates full, conscious, happy fellowship with the " well-beloved." I mean that little word " our," " our bed is green," " our house," " our rafters." It is like the precious little " us," "we," and " with," in the Epistle to the Ephesians. Oh! happy union-blessed unity, " our, us, we, with." Eternal oneness with Christ! One in life, one in righteousness, one in acceptance, one in peace, one in rest, one in joy, one in heavenly, eternal glory!
Joyless indeed would be the fairest scenes of earth, and joyless, too, would be the house of many mansions, without the presence of the blessed Lord -the divine Bridegroom of the heart. But the sure word of promise is, "And so shall we ever be with the Lord." And again, "that where I am, there ye may be also." Enough! O Lord! It is enough! With Thee and like Thee! Consider this, my soul! Here is perfect rest for thee-calm repose. With Thee, and like Thee, O Lord, forever, in the Paradise of God-in the house of many mansions, fill up the full measure of our eternal happiness, dignity, and glory.
" With Him I love, in spotless white,
In glory I shall shine;
His blissful presence my delight,
His love and glory mine.

All taint of sin shall be removed,
All evil done away;
And I shall dwell with God's beloved
Through God's eternal day."