Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT THERE IS A SPIRITUAL LOVELINESS IN THE SOUL THAT EARNESTLY SEEKS CHRIST. (Cf. ver. 1," O thou fairest among women.") It is not merely that Christ sees this loveliness, we know he does; but others see it likewise. It is not the beloved who speaks here, but the daughters of Jerusalem. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11, where are set forth some of those graces of character and conduct which are found in the seeking soul.) And that humility, tenderness of conscience, zeal, devoutness, holy desire, and gentleness of spirit which accompany such seeking of Christ - how beautiful these things are! And, like all real beauty, there is no self-consciousness in it, but rather such soul mourns that it is so little like what Christ would have it be.
II. IT WILL WIN SYMPATHY AND HELP, WHICH ONCE IT DID NOT POSSESS. At the beginning of this song it is plain that the maiden who speaks did not have the sympathy but rather the contempt,, of the daughters of Jerusalem (cf. Song of Solomon 1:5, 8). But now all that is altered. They are won to her love. Great love to Christ will blessedly infect those about us. We can hardly live with such without coming under the power of its sweet and sacred contagion. Cf. Jethro, "We will go with you, for we see that the Lord hath blessed you." See, at the Crucifixion, how Joseph of Arimathaea, Nicodemus, the centurion, and others ceased from their cold neutrality or open opposition, and showed that they felt the power of Christ's love.
III. IT WILL BECOME THE WISE INSTRUCTOR OF OTHERS. This inquiry of ver. 1 had its fulfilment when Christ lay in the tomb. Those who sought him mourned, but found him not. Cf. Christ's words concerning his absence, "Ye shall have sorrow, but your sorrow shall be. turned into joy. Also Mark 2:20. And the reply of ver. 2 had part fulfilment at that same period. Cf. "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Yes, the Beloved had gone down into his garden (ver. 2). But we may also understand by the garden his Church (cf. on Song of Solomon 4:6). Arid thus the soul we are contemplating instructs others. She tells them:
1. Where Christ is to be found. In his garden, the place he has chosen, separated, cultivated, beautified, and whither he loves to resort. And:
2. What he delights in there. The spices - the fragrant graces of regenerated souls, the frankincense of their worship and prayers. The fruits on which he feeds - the holy lives, the manifestation of his people's faith and love. The lilies - the pure, meek, and lowly souls that spring and grow there.
3. What he does there. He feeds" there. "He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. As his meat and drink" when here on earth was "to do the will of" the Father, now his sustenance is those fruits of the Spirit which abound in his true Church. And he "gathers lilies." "He shall gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom" (Isaiah 40.). Whenever a pure and holy soul, like those of children and of saints, is transplanted from the earthly garden to the heavenly, that is the gathering of the lilies. "O death, where is thy sting?" Thus doth the soul that loves Christ instruct others.
IV. GAINS THE OBJECT OF ITS SEARCH. (Ver. 3.) "I am my Beloved's... mine." It is the declaration of holy rapture in the consciousness of Christ's love. They that seek him shall find him. There may be, there are, seasons when we fear we have lost him, but they shall surely be succeeded by such blessed seasons when the soul shall sing in her joy, "My Beloved is mine," etc. (ver. 3). - S.C.
I. HERE IS SUGGESTED A DILIGENT SEARCH FOR JESUS.
1. Spiritual life and joy in one attract others. Genuine piety acts like a magnetic charm. A well kept garden, stocked with fragrant flowers, has strong attractions for a thousand men, and the fragrant graces of true piety have a like fascination. If "a thing of beauty is a joy forever," the life of a true Christian, being of all things the most beautiful, is an abiding joy. There is nothing so capable of manifesting beauty as character. If all Christians were as gracious and loving as they might be, what a benign effect would this have on the ungodly! This is Christ's method for propagating his gospel. "I am glorified in them." By which he meant to say, "All the charm of my character and all the fruit of my redemption shall be seen in the lives of my disciples." This will win the world's attention.
2. Christian Churches are the objects of the world's respect. This is not true of every community that styles itself a Church. But every true Church commands the respect and homage of mankind. And as a Church is simply an assemblage of individuals, a genuine Christian has a similar influence over men. The bride of Christ is here addressed as "the fairest among women." Purity and magnanimity of character command universal respect. Prejudiced men may malign and slander consistent Christians; they may envy their high attainments; yet in their heart of hearts they do them homage. They crave a good man's benediction.
3. Active search is needful if we would find Christ. It is quite true that Jesus seeks the sinner. He came to "seek the lost." This first desire to have the friendship of the Beloved has been awakened in the heart by the good Spirit of Christ. Nevertheless, there is a part we must perform, or we shall not gain success. We must strive to enter into the kingdom, or the portals will not open. The salvation of the soul is not to be attained by indolent passivity. There must be search, exertion, intense effort. We must break away from old companions. We must forego former indulgences. We must gain knowledge of Christ. We must search the Scriptures. We must be much in prayer. We must watch the stratagems of the tempter. We must seek if we would find.
4. To find Christ it is best to have an experienced guide. "That we may seek him with thee." The man who has found Christ, and knows well all the favourite haunts of Christ, is the best guide for others. No qualification in a guide is so good as personal experience. Nothing can take its place. No titles, no diplomas, no amount of intellectual learning, will take the place of experience. The pilot who has navigated a hundred ships through the rocky straits, though he may not be able to read a word in any language, is the best guide to bring us safely into port. It is a foolish act to refuse the practical counsels of faithful Christians. A learned man once accounted for his eminent acquisitions by the fact that he had never hesitated to ask questions respecting the unknown. To find Christ is eternal life, therefore let us use every wise measure in order to gain so great a boon.
II. VALUABLE COUNSEL. "My beloved is gone down into his garden."
1. Here is confident assurance upon the matter. On the part of a real Christian there is no doubt where Christ can be found. His knowledge is clear, for it is well founded. As surely as men know in what part of the heavens the sun will rise or will set, so the friend of Jesus knows where he can be found. So he speaks in no doubtful tones. There is no peradventure. "My Beloved is gone down into his garden." There he had always found the Saviour, when devoutly he had sought him. For "his delights are with the children of men." And his gracious promise to 'his Church has never been broken, "Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them."
2. In the society of living and fruitful saints Jesus will be found. He has gone "to the beds of spices." However imperfect and insipid our graces seem to ourselves, Jesus finds in them a sweet savour. The organ through which Jesus discovers these and enjoys their fragrance and sweetness, is far more highly developed in him than in us. To his sensitive nature there is a fine aroma in our lowliness and patience, in our love and praise, which we had not suspected. Nor do the sweetest songs of angels attract him so much as the first lispings of a penitent's prayer. The nearer we get to Jesus the richer joy do we attain. There is a rare delicacy in the gladness, easier felt than described. So in our fresh passionate love, and in our simple zeal, and in our childlike trust, Jesus finds profoundest satisfaction. In the midst of such virgin souls he delights to dwell. These hold him, and will not let him go. What spice beds are to every lover of innocent pleasure, the piety of true saints is to Jesus. Near such he may at any time be found. If any man longs to find the Saviour, he will find him in the vicinity of genuine believers. He is gone to the "beds of spices," perchance to some bedside, where deep-rooted love is blossoming and bearing fruit.
3. Purity of Inert wins Christ's presence. He is gone "to gather lilies." Using Oriental language to convey heavenly truth, he is described as a Shepherd who feeds his flock "among the lilies," In the former chapter we read, "His lips are like lilies." To express his fondness for purity, he portrays his bride as "a lily among thorns," In the use of all such language he utters his strong affection for that which is pure in moral character. If he stoops in his pity to save a polluted sinner, he at the same time makes it clear that he loathes and abhors sin. His companions shall be spiritual virgins. Until a man is newborn he cannot see the kingdom of heaven, much less can he see the King. Purity of life may not yet be reached, but if in the central heart the purpose and firm resolve be for purity, then Jesus will soon be found. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
III. FAITHFUL TESTIMONY. "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."
1. Religion is essentially a matter of the heart. This title of endearment, "My Beloved," implies that he has won the affections of the heart. True piety is not simply a matter of conviction. It is not merely a doctrine or a creed. It is not a set of forms and ceremonies. It is an affair of the heart. It moves and holds the whole man. Feeling, desire, choice, strong affection, enter into the warp and woof of true religion. I may be very incompetent to set forth Christ's claims to the homage of mankind. But one thing I know - Jesus is supreme in my heart. None is so worthy of the central shrine as he. I have given myself to him, as the only possible return for his love.
2. This testimony is the outcome of vigorous faith. The bride of Christ had used this language before, but now she reverses the order. The order of events is not always the order of our experience. There are times when the Christian loses the assurance that he is loved by Christ. The sunshine of the Master's smile is hidden. Yet even then the language of faith is, "Come what may, I give myself afresh to him. Whether he count me worthy of a place in his regards or not, he is worthy of a place in mine. I am his. Therefore faith says (though I do not realize it now), 'My Beloved is mine.'"
3. This renewed testimony is required by new circumstance. The daughters of Jerusalem were inquiring where this Friend of sinners might be found. The bride of Christ undertakes to guide into his presence. Then she wishes to make it plain upon what terms Jesus will reveal himself to seekers. So she means to say, "I gave my whole self to him. I opened to him my heart, and made him Monarch there. Do you likewise, and you shall find the Saviour too." Jesus Christ craves the human heart. "Lovest thou me?" is his inquiry still. Even the city harlot, sick of sin, and opening her heart to Jesus, found in him sympathy and pardon and a new life. "She loved much, therefore her sins are forgiven her." - D.
I. CHRIST IS NOT REALLY KNOWN BY THOSE WHO STUDY HIM AT A DISTANCE. How is it that the Lord Jesus is so utterly misunderstood by many able and distinguished. men? that some such class him with impostors or with fanatics? that others are evidently at a loss to explain the hold he has over the heart of humanity? How many distressing representations of the Saviour's character, sayings, and ministry are to be met with in the writings of even learned and thoughtful men! The explanation is to be found in a law which governs all our knowledge of persons as distinct from our knowledge of phenomena. These latter we may study from without, as cool spectators. But no great man is to be comprehended if studied in such a spirit; far less any man of remarkable moral character and influence. He who will not sympathize with such a person must be content to be ignorant of him; for he is only to be known upon a nearer view, a closer acquaintance, and by means of a profound and tender association with him of feeling and of confidence.
II. CHRIST IS, HOWEVER, KNOWN BY THOSE WHO LOVE HIM, AND ABE UPON TERMS OF INTIMATE FRIENDSHIP WITH HIM. The peasant woman who is, in this Song of Songs, pictured as the beloved of the king, cherished for her husband the warmest affection; he was everything to her - ever in her memory when absent, and ever in her heart. Hence she knew him better than others; and those who wished to know of his character and his movements did well to inquire of her. In this simple fact we discern the operation of an interesting and valuable moral principle. To whom shall we go for an appreciative estimate of the character and the work of Immanuel? We shall go in vain to those among the learned and the critical who care not for Christ -save as for an object of speculative, psychological, or historical inquiry. We shall fare better if we appeal to the lowly and the unlearned, if only they are persons who feel their personal indebtedness to Christ, who have "tasted that the Lord is gracious," who have learned by their own personal experience what he can do for those who put their trust in him. It is those who, like Mary, can exclaim, "My Master;" who, like Thomas, can address him as "My Lord and my God;" who, like Peter, can appeal to him, saying, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee;" - it is such that can tell of the mystery of the Saviour's love, and the gracious wisdom of the Savior's ways.
APPLICATION. These considerations are a rebuke to those who despise the experience and undervalue the testimony of lowly and unlettered disciples of Jesus Christ. And they point out to all who desire intimate knowledge of Christ, that the true method for them to adopt to that end is to yield to him their heart's warmest affection and unreserved, ungrudging confidence. By the way of love we may come to enjoy clear knowledge, and to give effectual witness. - T.
Song of Solomon 6:4-10 and ch. Song of Solomon 7:1-9Song of Solomon 4:1-5. And. in the extravagance of his flattery, his mention of her terribleness, his telling of his many queens and concubines, his huge harem, all of whom he says he will set aside for her - all this is like what he would say. Now, it all might be, as it generally has been, taken allegorically, as we have taken it in Song of Solomon 4:1-5, and as setting forth Christ's estimate of his Church. But here the representations are yet more extravagant and even gross, so that we prefer to take them as telling of that which is evil rather than good; as the language, not of Christ, but of the world, his foe, in attempting to win from him those who are his. Let it, then, teach us concerning this friendship of the world -
I. FLATTERY IS EVER ONE OF ITS FORMS. It is compelled to adopt this in order to hide away the fatal issue of its friendship. Like as the vampire is said to fan its victim with its wings, soothing and stupefying it so that it may the more surely destroy it, thus the world soothes and sends asleep by its flatteries the soul it would destroy.
II. THIS FLATTERY HAS MARKED CHARACTERISTICS.
1. It is extravagant. Of what is here said in the verses selected concerning her of whom they speak. How monstrous are the representations as addressed to any maiden! And are not the conceits the world engenders in men's souls of this order?
2. It is always fearful of losing its prey. (Ver. 4, "Terrible as an army;" also ver. 10.) These expressions seem to indicate consciousness that the soul was as yet anything but fully won.
3. Has no originality. It says the same things over and over again. See about her "hair," her "teeth," her "cheeks" (vers. 5, 6, 7; cf. Song of Solomon 4:1-5). And still every poor fool that the world successfully flatters is plied with the same worn-out arguments, and, alas! yields to them.
4. Sensuous and sensual. (Cf. ver. 8 and Song of Solomon 7:1-9.) The baser instincts are the world's happy hunting grounds. It knows that it can get a response there when there is none elsewhere.
5. Ruthless and cruel. (Ver. 9.) The flatterer professes, but let all such professions be doubted vehemently - that he would sacrifice all the rest for her whom he would now win. For her, the "dove," whom he, the hawk, would devour, the three score queens and the four score concubines and the virgins without number (ver. 8) should all be set aside and lose favour. Anything, no matter how unjust, so Solomon may please his sensual phantasy. They who are ruthless in winning will be ruthless when they have won (cf. poor Anne Boleyn). Oh, the all-devouring world! Its "words are smoother than butter," but "the poison of asps is under its lips."
III. TRUE LOVE WILL REJECT IT. Such love is the Ithuriel-like spear which detects at once what it is. So this maiden, type of the redeemed soul, will have none of it (cf. Song of Solomon 7:10). And here is suggested - what, indeed, is the theme of the whole song - the invincible strength of the true love of Christ in the soul. Let us have that, and no flatteries or blandishments of the world, nor its fierce frowns either, shall seduce us from him whose we are and whose we hope ever to be. Such love will he "terrible," must be so, to all who would come against it. Christ's love to us is so infinite that, therefore, nothing less than these many dread words of his about the everlasting fire can serve to tell of his wrath against that and those who would destroy us for whom he died. And if we love him as we should, we shall give no quarter to sin; it will be to us "the abominable thing which I hate," even as to him. Oh, may this love dwell in us richly and forevermore! - S.C.
I. THIS LANGUAGE PLAINLY CONVEYS THE IDEA OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. "Thou art beautiful, my love, as Tirzah; comely as Jerusalem." Tirzah was a city on the mountains of Samaria, that had a wide renown for beauty. The name meant "a delightful place." God has given to the human soul a faculty that discerns and appreciates what is beautiful. We detect what is beautiful in material nature, viz. symmetry of form and harmony of colour. We discern also what is beautiful in human character and in human conduct. All beauty springs from God, the Fount. He is perfect Beauty, as much as perfect Righteousness. The constituent elements of spiritual beauty are humility, holiness, and love. These, wisely blended, form a comely character. It is always unsafe, because an inducement to pride, to praise the bodily beauty of a maiden within her hearing. But one of the elements in spiritual beauty is lowliness; hence public praise is an advantage rather than a peril. For commendation is a spur to fresh effort, and whatever quickens our exertion in the culture of humility and holiness is a boon to be prized. Nor is this spiritual beauty evanescent. It is a permanent acquisition. It will develop and mature towards perfection, as the ages roll on. The sun will be quenched in darkness, the stars will disappear or else assume new forms; but the ransomed saints will be rising in excellence, and adding to their spiritual adornments, world without end. This high estate of beauty may not as yet be in esse, but it is in posse. It is not yet an actual possession. But it is in course of development, from the bud to the open flower. It is clearly seen in its perfectness by the prescient eye of our Immanuel.
II. THIS LANGUAGE BETOKENS THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH. "My dove, my undefiled, is one." In all God's works we find unity amid diversity. Throughout all material forces we discover system. Part is subordinated to part. Everything is linked to everything else. All forces work together for the well being of the whole. There is organic unity. The universe shows the presence of one Mastermind. God loves order. Confusion, conflict, anarchy, are an abomination to him. Yet variety is not displeasing to him. Very clearly Jesus has not ordained a system of rigid uniformity in his Church. That would not add to her beauty nor to her usefulness. But the heart of Jesus is set upon unity. In his great prayer to his Father, prior to his crucifixion, he pleaded, "That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee." In opinions and beliefs it is next to impossible for the Church to be one. For God has created such diversities of taste and temper in men's minds, that for the time present truth presents itself under many aspects. Likely enough, this will continue until the human mind can more easily grasp the system of truth as a whole. Yet, while opinions and beliefs may vary, Christians can be one in feeling, one in love, one in loyalty to their King, one in aggressive service. This unity of life and love, amid diversities of belief and methods of service, will add to the Church's beauty and the Church's success. All the imagery which God has employed in Scripture to set forth his Church conveys this idea of unity. Is the Church a vine, springing out of Christ the Root? Then the manifold branches and twigs imply a united whole. Is a human body employed as an illustration? Then all the members and organs working in harmony imply unity. So, in our text, the bride is the representative of all saints, in all lands and in all ages. A dominant note of Christ's Church is unity. "There are many members, yet are they one body."
III. THE LANGUAGE DENOTES FAME. "The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the women praised her." High and noble qualities of character are sure to command fame. Fame is a doubtful good. Counterfeit excellence, like tinselled brass, sometimes gains currency, and imposes on credulous people. Successful wickedness will, now and then, obtain a transient fame. Nevertheless, real and permanent honour belongs only to substantial goodness. Sooner or later the true Church will secure high renown. "God is in the midst of her." "The highest himself shall establish her." Her spiritual beauty and her beneficent influence shall win for her immortal praise. Beyond all human institutions, the Church will be found the bond of human society, the bulwark of freedom, the inspirer of intellectual life, the guardian of the nation's welfare. Fame is of secondary importance, yet fame must not be despised. For fame is power. Fame is large opportunity for doing good. Fame, as the result of generous and heroic service, is inevitable. Yet the Church will not keep her fame for herself. She will lay it at the feet of her Lord, to whom all belongs. For the present the Church may inherit the world's scorn rather than the world's fame; but when her hidden light and power shall break forth, "the Gentiles shall come to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising." Resplendent fame is her sure reversion, "for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
IV. HERE IS FURTHER THE IDEA OF HOPE CREATING. "Who is this that looketh forth as the morning?" Morning is the dawn of hope to the benighted and the shipwrecked. Such are the evils that infest human society, that many thoughtful men have become pessimists. "Is life worth living?" many ask. If, after all the struggles and toils and endurances of this life, there is only extinction, or if the future is a dark enigma, then may not suicide be true wisdom? Hope, the backbone of all energy, is destroyed. The great questions are - Is there any desirable future for the human race on the earth? Is there a certain prospect of a better life for righteous souls after death? Now, there is no oracle, outside the Church, that can respond to these queries. The Church is the apostle of hope, the champion of humanity. The Church is a pledge of a better future for mankind. The Church proclaims a universal brotherhood. The Church is the foster mother of all the useful arts; the foster mother of progress, learning, social order, and peace. She changes deserts into gardens, and prisons into palaces. Where dark despair awhile reigned, she comes like the light of morning, and opens a new day.
V. HERE IS THE IDEA OF USEFULNESS. "Fair as the moon, clear as the sun." As the luminaries of night and of day perform an office of unspeakable usefulness to mankind, so does the true Church. In some respects the Church most resembles the moon, Her light is borrowed, and hence is enfeebled. She passes oft through manifold phases. The world often obstructs her light. It is only now and then that her light is full-orbed and at its best. This shall not always be. Her light shall be soft and gentle, like the light of the moon; yet for clearness and brilliance she shall be like the sun. Who can measure the potent usefulness of light? How destitute of beauty and of life would our earth be without light! If tomorrow the sun should not rise, what consternation would prevail in every home of man] The wheels of commerce would stand still. Agriculture would be suspended. Food would speedily be exhausted. All artificial light would soon come to an end, and, before many months had sped, all animal and vegetable life would expire. Equally useful, yea, more beneficent still, is the Church in the moral world. Apart from the truth embodied in the Church, what would mankind know of God, or his relationship to men, or his purposes of redemption, or his provision for a higher home? Or what would men know of themselves, their spiritual capacities, their Divine origin, their possible developments, or the resources of Divine help open to them? If you could blot out from existence the Church of Christ, this world would speedily sink into darkness and ruin. Within a single generation of men it would be a chaos, a pandemonium. Usefulness is predicated.
VI. A FURTHER IDEA IS DEVELOPMENT. "Who is this that looketh forth as the morning?" The morning is a promise and a pledge of perfect day. Light and warmth advance by regular stages until noon is reached. It is a picture of certain progress - advancement along an appointed way. Such is the destined life of the Church. At her birth she was feeble. Political arrogance at Jerusalem thought to crush out her life. But she steadily grew, passed safely through the stages of infancy and childhood, until now she appears a full-grown, ruddy maiden. Development is evidently God's order. He places trees at zero, and from the lowest point gives them opportunity to reach the highest. At the present hour the Church's development is an impressive fact. She grows in intelligence, in vigour, in power, in influence, in usefulness, day by day. At no period in her history was the Church of Christ so highly developed as she is today. Her progress is assured.
VII. HERE IS ALSO THE IDEA OF CONQUEST AS THE RESULT OF CONFLICT. "Terrible as an army with banners." The metaphor imports a majesty of active power that moves onward with confident step to overthrow its foes. "Terrible as a bannered host." The Church on earth is a Church militant. Many regiments of believers make up one army. This consecrated host of God's elect is commissioned to fight against error, ignorance, superstition, vice, and all immorality. Until the day of complete triumph dawns, she must station her sentinels, discipline her recruits, boldly contend with sin, and lead men captives to the feet of Christ. In proportion to her internal holiness and unity and zeal she will be "terrible" to ungodly men. The main secret of her terribleness is the fact that Jehovah dwells in her midst. As the Canaanites of old feared the host of Israel because the rumour of their power had spread on every side, and the mystic presence of Jehovah was with them, so is it still. The more that evil men discern the tokens of God's presence in the Church, the more they tremble. On the banner of the Church, men see the pattern of the cross. This inspires courage in the army, but terror among opponents. And the old battlecry of the Crusaders is still the battlecry of the Church, "By this we conquer!" - D.
I. THE REALITY AND NATURE OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. It is not merely imaginary, like that
"Light that never was on sea or land, II. THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. The Church does not claim to be in possession of such a quality in its own right, to take credit for it as for something due to its own innate power and goodness. On the contrary, it acknowledges that all moral excellence is due to Divine presence and operation. The beauty which adorns the Lord's spiritual house is the Lord's own workmanship, the expression of the Lord's own wisdom and love. It is derived, and it is reflected - the mirrored image of the purity and benignity which are essentially and forever his own. It is sustained and developed and perfected by the same grace by which it was originally imparted. The language of the Church's prayer is accordingly, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," and the language of the Church's grateful praise, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory." III. THE IMPRESSIVENESS AND ATTRACTIVENESS OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. There are, indeed, unspiritual natures for whom it has no interest and no charm. But it is dear to Christ, who delights in it as the reflection of his own excellence. The King desires and greatly delights in the beauty of his spiritual spouse, the Church; to him she is beautiful and comely, fair as the moon, and clear as the sun. And all who share the mind of Christ take pleasure in that which delights him. The purity and unity, the Christ-like compassion and self-sacrifice of God's people, have exercised an attractive power over natures spiritual, awakened, and sensitive. By his living Church the Lord has drawn multitudes unto himself. And thus the beauty of the Church, reflecting the beauty of Christ, is the means of winning souls to the fellowship of immortal love. - T.
II. THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. The Church does not claim to be in possession of such a quality in its own right, to take credit for it as for something due to its own innate power and goodness. On the contrary, it acknowledges that all moral excellence is due to Divine presence and operation. The beauty which adorns the Lord's spiritual house is the Lord's own workmanship, the expression of the Lord's own wisdom and love. It is derived, and it is reflected - the mirrored image of the purity and benignity which are essentially and forever his own. It is sustained and developed and perfected by the same grace by which it was originally imparted. The language of the Church's prayer is accordingly, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us," and the language of the Church's grateful praise, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory."
III. THE IMPRESSIVENESS AND ATTRACTIVENESS OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY. There are, indeed, unspiritual natures for whom it has no interest and no charm. But it is dear to Christ, who delights in it as the reflection of his own excellence. The King desires and greatly delights in the beauty of his spiritual spouse, the Church; to him she is beautiful and comely, fair as the moon, and clear as the sun. And all who share the mind of Christ take pleasure in that which delights him. The purity and unity, the Christ-like compassion and self-sacrifice of God's people, have exercised an attractive power over natures spiritual, awakened, and sensitive. By his living Church the Lord has drawn multitudes unto himself. And thus the beauty of the Church, reflecting the beauty of Christ, is the means of winning souls to the fellowship of immortal love. - T.
I. THE SPIRITUAL CHURCH IS TERRIBLE AS THE DEPOSITARY OF THE MYSTERIOUS, AND SUPERNATURAL GRACE OF GOD. It is the scene of the "real presence" of him who ever fulfils his own assurance, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
II. AS POSSESSING IN HOLINESS OF CHARACTER A SUBLIMITY WHICH APPEALS TO THE CHASTENED AND APPRECIATIVE IMAGINATION. Moving with spotless garments amidst the world's defilement and contamination, the true Church presents to the enlightened vision a spectacle of true sublimity, and commands our reverence as that which on earth is most truly sublime.
III. AS REBUKING AND FORBIDDING ALL THAT IS MORALLY EVIL. To penitents the attitude of the Church of Christ is, as was the Master's, benignant and compassionate; but to hardened sinners and to contemptible hypocrites there is a sternness and severity in its demeanour which may well make its presence terrible.
IV. AS POSSESSED OF MILITANT PROWESS AND POWERS. "Terrible as an army with banners." The Church has to confront the hosts of ignorance, of error, and of sin; its attitude and its equipment must, therefore, partake of the nature of a warlike force. As an army, the Church of Christ acknowledges the leadership of the Divine Captain of our salvation; is supplied with weapons, not carnal, but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds; is distinguished by a duly martial spirit, shrinking from no conflict to which it is called, by steady discipline and by just order. Well, then, may it be likened to an embattled host, with banners floating on the breeze, and the voice of the Commander ringing through the ranks. The spectacle is grand and awe-inspiring - an earnest of victory, an omen of empire. - T.
Song of Solomon 3:6, etc.), came into the neighbourhood of her town, Engedi. There the ladies of the court saw her, and were greatly struck with her beauty (ver. 10). Bewildered, she would have fled (vers. 12, 13), but thought the royal chariots were those of the nobles of her country (ver. 12). The ladies of the court beg her to return (ver. 13), and when she asks what they want of her (ver. 13), they request, and she consents, that she will dance before them, as the maidens of her country were wont to do. Thus Solomon sees her, and is enraptured with her, and begins to praise her in his gross way from her feet upwards (Song of Solomon 7:2-9; Muller, in loc.) as he had seen her in dancing. And he seems to have brought her to Jerusalem and to his palace there, where she relates all this. Such appears to be the history on which this song is founded. It is likely, natural, and enables us, whilst still regarding it allegorically, to avoid assigning to Christ language and conduct which far more befit such a one as Solomon was. From the narrative as above given we may learn that -
I. NO PLACES ARE FREE FROM SPIRITUAL PERIL. This maiden is represented as at home and occupied in her usual and proper employ, when suddenly all happened as is here told. And what places are there in which the world, and Satan, do not seek the soul's harm? At home, in our lawful calling, in the Church, everywhere.
II. THOSE WHOM THE WORLD HAS ENSNARED ARE USED TO ENSNARE OTHERS. The women of Solomon's court are represented as actively engaged in trying to secure this maiden for him. It is a true picture of how worldly souls try to make others as themselves.
III. MISTAKES HAVE OFTEN AS HURTFUL CONSEQUENCES AS SINS.
"Evil is wrought IV. THE PERIL OF PARLEYING WITH SPIRITUAL FOES, Had she who is told of here fled away as she intended, none of her after trial would hate followed. To hold converse with a spiritual enemy is next to giving up the keys of the fortress. See how prompt our Lord was in repelling the suggestions of the tempter. V. THOUGH WE FALL WE SHALL NOT BE UTTERLY CAST DOWN. The tempter in this history was baffled after all. She whom he tried so much kept her faith and love. The soul that loves Christ may wander and fall, but shall assuredly be brought back. "He restoreth my soul." Faithful love will soon reassert its power. - S.C.
IV. THE PERIL OF PARLEYING WITH SPIRITUAL FOES, Had she who is told of here fled away as she intended, none of her after trial would hate followed. To hold converse with a spiritual enemy is next to giving up the keys of the fortress. See how prompt our Lord was in repelling the suggestions of the tempter.
V. THOUGH WE FALL WE SHALL NOT BE UTTERLY CAST DOWN. The tempter in this history was baffled after all. She whom he tried so much kept her faith and love. The soul that loves Christ may wander and fall, but shall assuredly be brought back. "He restoreth my soul." Faithful love will soon reassert its power. - S.C.
I. THE SOUL'S FIRST STATE OF HUMILIATION.
II. THE INTERVENTION OF THE DIVINE FRIEND UPON THE SOUL'S BEHALF.
1. The several steps of this interposition may be connected with the facts of this simple and beautiful narrative. Christ visits the soul, bringing himself before the attention of the object of his merciful regard. He loves the soul, and makes his affection known by words and by deeds. He appropriates the soul as his own chosen possession. He thus elevates the soul by bidding it share his own nature and life.
2. The manner of the Saviour's approach in many instances corresponds with the king's revelation of his love to the Shulamite maiden. It may be sudden and impressive, and yet at the same time unspeakably welcome and appreciated.
III. THE DIGNITY TO WHICH THE OBJECT OF DIVINE CONSIDERATION IS ELEVATED. The change of condition experienced by the maiden from Northern Palestine, when she became the consort of Solomon, may serve to set forth the elevation of the soul that Christ has, in the friendship of his Divine heart, made partaker of his spiritual life. Such a condition involves:
1. Fellowship with the King himself.
2. Congenial society.
3. Dignified occupations.
4. Honour from all associates.
5. Imperishable glories.
APPLICATION. The soul that rejoices most gratefully in the immunities and honours of the spiritual life and calling will do well to recollect the state of error, sin, and hopelessness from which the human race was delivered by the compassion and power of the Divine Redeemer. The Divine communion to which Christians are admitted is a privilege which was forfeited by sin, and which has been recovered and restored through the clemency and loving kindness of him who is love, and whose love is nowhere so conspicuous as in the salvation of his people. There are many cases in which there is danger lest this obligation should be overlooked. It is well that the polished stone in the temple of God should look back to "the hole of the pit whence it was digged." - T.