Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?I. THE BELIEVER'S SPIRITUAL STATE. "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness?" From this desolate wilderness, the Church, and by consequence every believer, is represented as departing. The deliverance is not complete, the departure is not entire, while the follower of Christ is in the present state of being.
II. THE ATTITUDE OF A BELIEVER'S SOUL.
1. Dependence on Christ. By faith, believers lean upon the person of their glorious Redeemer for acceptance with God; upon His power for help; upon His love for joy; upon His faithfulness for hope.
2. Delighted affection.
3. Entire devotedness.
(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
I. THE REPRESENTATION HERE GIVEN OF THE WORLD; it is called a wilderness. By the world, I mean the things of the world, regarded as sources of happiness and satisfaction. It is totally insufficient for the supply of true and lasting happiness.
II. THE CONDUCT OF EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN WITH RESPECT TO THE WORLD.
1. The true Christian no longer seeks his chief happiness from worldly things.
2. The real Christian uses great moderation, in his enjoyment even of lawful things. He does not venture to the edge of forbidden ground, but keeps at a cautious distance. He allows himself no gratification which is of a doubtful character. And even when he has reduced his cares and his pleasures to a much smaller compass than his worldly neighbours would think needful, he still sets a guard over his heart, lest it should be betrayed into too great an attachment to the things which remain.
3. The real Christian longs for his final translation to a better world.
III. THE SECRET SOURCE AND SPRING OF THE CHRISTIAN'S CONDUCT.
1. He is influenced to do this by the Love of Christ.
2. He is encouraged by the promises of Christ.
3. He is strengthened by the grace of Christ.
(J. Jowett, M. A.)
I. I SHALL PREMISE SOME THINGS FOR RIGHT UNDERSTANDING THE DOCTRINE. Sin turned this world into an enemy's country in respect of heaven, and so into a wilderness. This her going away up from the wilderness with her espoused Husband, is a going away in heart and affections; it is the soul's motion heavenwards in this life, the last step of which is made at death. Christ's bride at her waygoing, and ongoing with Him thus, is a mystery, a strange sight in the world.
II. I SHALL SHOW IN WHAT RESPECTS BELIEVERS ARE A MYSTERY, A STRANGE SIGHT IN THE WORLD; the power of godliness appearing in their walk at this rate, so that it is said of them, "Who is this?" There is something very amiable about them, as we are told of the primitive Christians (Acts 2:46, 47), that "they continuing daily with one accord in the temple," etc. They are like foreigners in a country, apt to become a gazing-stock, a wonder, about which the natives cannot satisfy themselves.
III. I SHALL GIVE THE REASONS OF THE POINT, THAT TRUE BELIEVERS ARE A MYSTERY, A STRANGE SIGHT IN THE WORLD.
1. Because they are so unlike the world, they are like speckled birds among the rest (1 Peter 4:4).
2. Because they are so unlike themselves in former times.
3. Because they are very rare in the world; they are but here and there one for a marvel (Jeremiah 3:14).USE
I. Of information.
1. Serious souls need not think it strange, if they become a wonder to many (Psalm 71:7).
2. The world is no idle spectator of those who have given themselves to Christ, and profess to follow Him.
3. Those who shall still walk after the course of the world, continue sons of earth, not making away heavenward in the tenor of their life and conversation, are not espoused to Christ; though they have given Him the hand, they have not given Him the heart.USE
II. Of exhortation. O Christians, communicants, walk so as the world may bear witness, that ye are going up out of the wilderness, leaning on your Beloved; that your faces and hearts are heavenward; that ye have set off from them, and are no more theirs. And further, if ye be clothed with humility and with humanity, meek, ruling your own spirit, doing good to all, even to those that wrong you; and are patient under trouble, and living by faith.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. I SHALL TAKE NOTICE OF SOME THINGS SUPPOSED IN THIS DOCTRINE.
1. As soon as a soul is espoused to Christ, it is loosed from the world.
2. The soul espoused to Christ, being loosed from the world, is set in motion heavenwards, away from the world (Psalm 84:5-7).
3. The believer's journeying heavenwards is attended with many difficulties. It is an up-going, and that through a wilderness.
4. The believer's passage to heaven is also a work of time. It is not a leaping out of the wilderness into Canaan, but a going up out of it by degrees. It cost Israel long forty years in the wilderness.
5. Christ is with the believer in the journey. It is a weary land they have to go through, but they are not alone in it (Song of Solomon 4:8).
6. The end of this journey is a most comfortable one (John 14:2).
II. I SHALL UNFOLD THE BELIEVER'S LIFE, AS A GOING UP FROM THE WILDERNESS OF THIS WORLD, TYPIFIED BY THE ISRAELITES GOING UP FROM THE WILDERNESS TO CANAAN.
1. I shall show you how believers are brought unto the wilderness. The world is not a wilderness to them and in their esteem, till they be brought out of the Egyptian bondage of their natural state. Then, and not till then, they enter into their wilderness-state.
2. I shall show how the believer is set into the wilderness. When once converting grace has made a fair separation betwixt the sinner and the world, presently he enters into a wilderness-state.(1) He cares not for the world as he was wont (Galatians 6:14).(2) The world cares not for him as before (Galatians 6:14).(3) Then it becomes, by God's appointment, the place of trial for him, as the wilderness was to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:2).(4) It is no more his home or his rest; but the place of his pilgrimage, the place he must travel through in his way home to his eternal rest (Hebrews 11:13).
3. I shall show how the believer is going up from the wilderness.(1) By the course of nature, which is swift as a post, a ship, and as an eagle's flight.(2) In the habitual bent of his heart and affections. Believers' hearts are turned off the world, and set on things above.(3) In progressive sanctification (Proverbs 4:18).(4) In obtaining victory over the world (1 John 5:4).
4. The hardships and inconveniencies of the wilderness-road, which the believer must lay his account with, while he goes up from the wilderness. It is a difficult way through the wilderness. The road the travellers must go will try their patience, their strength, etc.
5. I now come to show the advantages and conveniencies of the wilderness-road. The people of God, while in the wilderness-world, have as much allowed them from heaven as may balance the hardships of the wilderness.(1) The pillar of cloud to go before them in the wilderness.(2) They have provision allowed them from heaven in the waste wilderness. The King's country affords them provision for their journey.(3) Sometimes they are allowed a song in the weary land, for their comfort and recreation by the way (Psalm 119:54).(4) The Lord is their banner in the wilderness, and so they may be sure of victory, they shall be conquerors in the war (Exodus 17:15).(5) There is healing in the wilderness for them, for the wounds got there.(6) We must not forget the tabernacle in the wilderness, which was the comfort of the godly Israelites there. The tabernacle of Gospel-ordinances is the great comfort of the travellers towards Zion.USE
I. Of information.
1. The people of God need not be surprised, that they meet with many hardships and trials in the world, and that it is a strange world to them. While they are in it, they are in a wilderness. How, then, can they expect other than a wilderness-life?
2. They have good reason to bear all the hardships of their wilderness-lot patiently, and with Christian fortitude and cheerfulness. And that(1) Because they will not last, they will be over ere long; they are going up from the wilderness.(2) Because the heavenly Canaan which the wilderness-read leads to, will make amends for all.(3) Their lot is a wise mixture, take it at the worst.
3. They are not Israelites indeed, nor espoused to Christ, who are "not going up from this world as a wilderness, in heart and affection, in life and conversation.USE
II. Of caution. While ye are in the wilderness, beware of wilderness sins and snares.
1. Unbelief (Psalm 68:22).
2. Murmuring (1 Corinthians 10:10).
3. Lusting (1 Corinthians 10:6).
4. Looking back to Egypt (Numbers 14:4).
5. Fawning and flattering enemies (Numbers 25:17, 18).
6. The mixed multitude (Exodus 12:38).USE
III. Of exhortation.
1. Ye who profess to be espoused to Christ, evidence the reality of it by your going up from the wilderness-world with Him in heart and affection, in the progress of sanctification, and contempt of the world, holding off from the ways of it.
2. Strangers to Christ, be espoused to Him, that ye may go up with Him from this wilderness-world, to His Father's house in the heavenly Canaan; believe that Christ is offered in an everlasting marriage-covenant to you. Embrace ye and accept, and so close with Him as your Head and Husband, for time and eternity.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. THE CHARACTER OF A SOUL TRULY ESPOUSED TO CHRIST. He is one that is aye breathing to more and more nearness to the Lord, and a more intimate fellowship and acquaintance with Him. The soul espoused to Christ is one who is bending his course heavenwards, and has his back turned upon this world as a howling wilderness. He is one whose life in this world is a life of faith and dependence on Christ.
II. THE PLACE OF THE PRESENT RESIDENCE OF THE SPOUSE OF CHRIST; it is a wilderness, a very unheartsome lodging.
III. THE COURSE THAT THE SPOUSE IS TAKING, OR THE EARTH TOWARD WHICH SHE IS BENDING WHILE IN THE WILDERNESS; she is not going down, but coming up from the wilderness. And this, I conceive, may imply these things following.
1. That believers, or those who have really taken Christ by the hand, have, turned their back on the ways of sin, which lead down to the chambers of death.
2. That believers are pilgrims on the earth, and that this world is not their home.
3. A dissatisfaction with, and a disesteem of, this world, and all things in it; and therefore she has her back turned upon it, and her face toward a better earth.
4. That though she could find no rest nor quiet hereaway, yet she expected a quiet rest on the other side, or beyond the wilderness.
5. This coming up from the wilderness implies motion, and progress in her motion heavenwards.
6. This phrase of coming up from the wilderness implies, that religion is an up-the-hill work and way; for the, spouse's way here is represented under the notion of an ascent.
IV. THE SPOUSE'S POSTURE; she comes up leaning on her Beloved. It is the life of faith upon the Son of God that is here intended. And this expression of faith implies these particulars following.
1. The spouse's weakness and inability in herself to grapple with the difficulties of her way through the Wilderness; that she could never surmount them by the strength of natural, or yet of any created grace in her.
2. That however weak and insufficient she was in herself, yet there was almighty strength in her Husband and Head, on whom she leaned.
3. A blessed knowledge or acquaintance with the Lord Jesus.
4. The expression implies not only knowledge, but intimacy and familiarity; for we use to lean upon them with whom we are intimately acquainted.
5. This leaning posture implies Christ's nearness to the spouse; for we cannot well lean upon a person that is at a distance.
7. It implies, that there is something in Christ that the hand or arm of faith stays and leans upon, as we come up from the wilderness. Sometimes faith stays itself on the person of Christ, as He is "Emmanuel, God with us"; sometimes upon His love, which passeth knowledge (Psalm 36:7). Sometimes it stays itself upon His name; for "they that know His name will put their trust in Him": sometimes on His mission, as the Sent of God, "the great Apostle of our profession"; it takes Him up as God's legate, His ambassador-extraordinary, sent to seek and to save that which was lost. It leans upon His general office as Mediator, for peace and reconciliation with God; upon His prophetical office, for instruction and illumination in the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom; upon His priestly office, for reconciliation and acceptance; upon His regal or kingly office, for sanctification and deliverance from the power of sin and Satan.
Leaning upon her Beloved
I. We notice THE HEAVENLY PILGRIM AND HER DEAR COMPANION. "Who is that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" Every soul that journeys towards heaven has Christ for its associate. Jesus suffers no pilgrim to the New Jerusalem to travel unattended. He is with us in sympathy. He has trodden every step of the way before us; whatever our temptations, He has been so tempted; whatever our afflictions, He has been so afflicted. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points like as we are. Nor is Jesus near us in sympathy alone, He is with us to render practical assistance. When we least perceive Him, He is often closest to us. When the howling tempest drowns His voice, and the darkness of the night hides His person, still He is there, and we need not be afraid. Courage, then,ye wayfarers who traverse the vale of tears; you come up from the wilderness in dear company, for One like unto the Son of God is at your side. Note the title that is given to the Companion of the spouse. "Her Beloved." Indeed, He of whom the Song here speaks is beloved above all others. He was the Beloved of His Father or ever the earth was; He was declared to be the Lord's Beloved, in the waters of Jordan, and at other times, when out of the excellent glory, there came the voice, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Beloved of His Father now, our Jesus sits for ever glorious at God's right hand. Jesus is the Beloved of every angel, and of all the bright seraphic spirits that crowd around the throne of His august majesty, casting their crowns before His feet, and lifting up their ceaseless hymns. He is the Beloved of every being of pure heart and holy mind.
II. We have said that the pilgrim has a dear Companion, but that much of the blessedness of the text lies in HER POSTURE TOWARDS HIM. "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved?" Her posture, then, is that of "leaning." His relation to her is that of a Divine supporter. What does this leaning mean? Why, first of all, there can be no leaning on another unless we believe in that other's presence and nearness. A man does not lean on a staff which is not in his hand, nor on a friend of whose presence he is not aware. Christ Jesus is with thee; though thou hearest not His voice, and seest not His face, He is with thee. Try to grasp that truth, and to realize it clearly, for thou wilt never lean until thou dost. Leaning also implies nearness. We cannot lean on that which is far off and unapproachable. Now, it is a delightful help to us in believing repose if we cannot understand that Christ is not only with us, but to an intense degree near us. A sacred unity exists between thee and Him, so that thou dost drink of His cup, and art baptized with His baptism, and in all thy sorrows and thine afflictions He Himself doth take His share. These two things being attended unto, leaning now becomes easy. To lean implies the throwing of one's weight from oneself on to another, and this is the Christian s life. The leaning place of a Christian is, first of all, Christ's person. We depend upon the Lord Jesus as God and as man. As God, He must be able to perform every promise, and to achieve every covenant engagement. We lean upon that Divinity which bears up the pillows of the universe. Our dependence is upon the Almighty God, incarnate in human form, by whom all things were created, and by whom all things consist. We lean also upon Christ as man; we depend upon His generous human sympathies. Of a woman born, He is partaker of our flesh; He enters into our sicknesses and infirmities with a pitiful compassion, which He could not have felt if He had not been the Son of man. We depend upon the love of His humanity as well as upon the potency of His deity. We lean upon our Beloved as God and man. We lean upon Christ Himself in all His offices. We lean upon Him as Priest; we expect our offerings, and our praises, and our prayers to be received, because they are presented through Him. Our leaning for acceptance is on Him. We lean upon Him as our Prophet. We do not profess to know or to be able to discover truth of ourselves, but we sit at His feet, and what He teaches that we receive as certainty. We lean upon Him as our King. He shall fight our battles for us, and manage all the affairs of our heavenly citizenship. We have no hope of victory but in the strength of Him who is the Son of David and the King of kings. We lean upon Christ in all His attributes. Sometimes it is His wisdom — in our dilemmas He directs us; at other times it is His faithfulness — in our strong temptations He abides the same. At one time His power gleams out like a golden pillar, and we rest on it, and at another moment his tenderness becomes conspicuous, and we lean on that. There is not a trait of His character, there is not a mark of His person, whether human or divine, but what we feel it safe to lean upon, because He is as a whole Christ, perfection's own self, lovely and excellent beyond all description. We lean our entire weight upon HIM, not on His arm; not on any part of His person, but upon Himself do we depend.
III. HER REASONS FOR THUS LEANING. She leaned on her Beloved because she was weak. Strength will not lean, conscious strength scorns dependence. My soul, dost thou know anything of thy weakness? It is a sorrowful lesson to learn; but oh! it is a blessed and profitable lesson, which not only must be learned, but which it were well for thee to pray to learn more and more, for there is no leaning upon Christ except in proportion as you feel you must. She leaned, again, on her Beloved, because the way was long. She had been going through the wilderness. It was a long journey, and she began to flag, and therefore she leaned; and the way is long with us, we have been converted to God now some of us these twenty years, others these forty, and there are some who have known the Lord more than sixty years, and this is a long time in which to be tempted and tried, for sin is mighty and flesh is weak. She leaned, again, because the road was perilous. Did you notice, she came up from the wilderness? The wilderness is not at all a safe place for a pilgrim. Here it is that the lion prowls, and the howl of the wolf is heard, but she leaned on her Beloved, and she was safe. If the sheep fears the wolf, he had better keep close to the shepherd, for then the shepherd's rod and staff will drive the wolf away. There is no safety for us except in close communion with Christ. Again, she leaned on the Beloved because her route was ascending. Did you notice it? "Coming up." The Christian's way is up — never content with past attainments, but up; not satisfied with graces to which he has reached, but up. If we are to go up, we must lean. Christ is higher than we are; if we lean, we shall rise the more readily to His elevation. He comes down to us that we, leaning upon Him, may go up to Him. He is made of God unto you sanctification as well as redemption. Again the spouse leaned on her Beloved because her walk was daily separating her more and more from the whole host of her other companions. The Church is in the wilderness, but this traveller was coming up from the wilderness. She was getting away from the band marching through the desert, getting more and more alone. It is so, and you will find it so; the nearer you get to Christ, the more lonely you must necessarily be in certain respects. The spouse leaned upon her Beloved because she felt sure that He was strong enough to bear her weight. He upon whom she leaned was no other than God over all blessed for ever, who cannot fail, nor be discouraged. She leaned yet again, because He was her Beloved. She would have felt it unwise to lean if He were not mighty; she would have been afraid to lean if He had not been dear to her. So it is, the more you love the more you trust, and the more you trust the more you love.
IV. THE PERSON AND THE PEDIGREE of her who leaned upon her Beloved. The text says, "Who is this?" What made them inquire, "Who is this?" It was because they were so astonished to see her looking so happy and so little wearied. Nothing amazes worldlings more than genuine Christian joy. Who, then, is this that leans on her Beloved? Her name was once called "outcast," whom no man seeketh after, but according to this old book her name is now Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in her. The name of the soul that trusts in God, and finds peace in so doing, was by nature a name of shame and sin. We were afar off from God even as others; and if any soul is brought to trust in Christ, it is not from any natural goodness in it, or any innate propensity towards such trusting; it is because grace has wrought a wondrous transformation, and God the Holy Ghost has made those who were not a people to be called the people of God. Good news this for any of you who feel your guilt this morning.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Set me as a seal upon Thine heart, as a seal upon Thine arm.
I. THE PRAYER, you will notice, is twofold, although it is so really and essentially one — "Set me as a seal upon Thine heart, as a seal upon Thine arm." Oh! Lord, let me know that my name is engraven on Thy heart; not only let it be there, but let me know it. Write my name not only in Thy heart, but may it be as a signet on The heart that I may see it.
II. The spouse argues with her Lord thus. It is my advantage that Thou shouldst thus writs my name upon Thine hand and heart, for I know this concerning Thy love, that it is strong; that it is firm; that it has a wondrous intensity; and that it has a sure and unquenchable eternity. With these FOUR PLEAS she backeth up her suit.
1. She pleadeth that He would show her His love, because of the strength of it. "For love is strong as death." Death is but weakness itself when compared with the love of Christ. What a sweet reason why I should have a share in it! What a blessed argument for me to use before the throne of God! Lord, if Thy love be so strong, and my heart be so hard, and myself so powerless to break it, oh! let me know Thy love, that it may overcome me, that it may enchain me with its sure but soft fetters, and that I may be Thy willing captive evermore.
2. Let us now turn to the second plea — "Jealousy is cruel as the grave." The idea is just this, that the love of Christ in the form of jealousy is as hard and as sternly relentless as is the grave and hell. Now hell never looses one of its bond-slaves. Once let the iron gate be shut upon the soul and there is no escape. Well, but such is the love of Christ. If just now we had to speak of its strength, we have now to speak of its tenacity, its hardness, its attachment to those whom it has chosen. You may sooner unlock Hades and let loose the spirits that are in prison there than ye could ever snatch one from the right hand of Christ. Ye may sooner rob death of its prey than Jesus of His purchased ones.
3. If the love of Christ is strong as death; if it be such that it can never be moved from its object, yet the question arises, may not the love itself die out? Even should it abide the same in its purpose, yet may not its intensity be diminished? "No," says the Shulamite, "it is an attribute of Christ's love that 'the coals thereof are coals of fire which hath a most vehement flame.'" More forcible is the language of the original — "The coals thereof are the coals of God," — a Hebrew idiom to express the most glowing of all flames — "the coals of God!" as though it were no earthly flame, but something far superior to the most vehement affection among men. It is not like fire merely, but like coals of fire, always having that within itself which supports it. Why did Christ love the spouse? What lit the fire at first? He kindled it Himself. There was no reason whatever why Christ should love any of us, except the love of His own bowels. And what is the fuel that feeds the fire? Your works and mine? No, brethren, no, no, a thousand times no; all the fuel comes from the same place; it is all from His bowels. Well, then, may we understand that it never shall grow less, but always be as a vehement flame.
4. We shall now turn to the last argument of this choice prayer, which is equally precious. It is the unquenchable eternity of this love. There is that in its very essence which defies any opposite quality to extinguish it. The argument seems to me to run thus — "Yes, but if Christ's love do not die out of itself — if it has such intensity that it never would of itself fail, yet may not you and I put it out?" No, says the text, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
I. We will begin at the highest manifestation of love, and commune together upon it. So let me say, first, that THE LOVE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS ALTOGETHER UNPURCHASABLE. This fact will be clear to us if we give it a moment's careful thought. It must be quite impossible to purchase the love of Christ, because it is inconceivable that He ever could be mercenary. The pure stream of His love leaps like the crystal rill, and there is no sediment that can be found in it; it is altogether unmixed love to us. Besides, there is another point that renders this idea of purchasing Christ's love as impossible as the first thought shows it to be incredible; for all things are already Christ's. Therefore, what can be given to Him wherewith His love could be purchased? Let us also note that, if Christ's love could be won by us by some thing we could bring to Him or do for Him, it would suppose that there was something of ours that was of equal merit and of equal value with His love, or, at any rate, something which He was willing to accept as bearing some proportion to His love. But, indeed, there is nothing of the sort. But what a blessing it is that we have the love of Christ, though we could not purchase it! The Son of God hath loved us; He has bestowed upon us what He never would have sold us; and He has given to us freely, "without money and without price." The greatest wonder to me is that this unpurchasable love, this unending love is mine; and you can always say, each one of you, if you have been regenerated, "This love is mine; the Lord Jesus Christ loves me with a love I never could have purchased." Peradventure, some one is saying just now, "I wish I could say that." Do you really wish it? Then, let the text serve to guide you as to the way by which you may yet know Christ's love to you. Do not try to purchase it, abandon that idea at once. "But surely, surely we may do something. We will give up this vice, we will renounce that bad habit, we will be strict in our religiousness, we will be attentive to all moral duties." So you should; but when you have done all that, do you think you have done enough to win His love? Is the servant who has only done what he ought to have done entitled to the love of his master's heart because of that? Thou shalt not win Christ's love so; if thou hast His love shed abroad in thy heart, thou hast infinitely more than thou hast ever earned.
II. IN OUR CASE, NOTHING CAN EVER SERVE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR LOVE. If Christ has loved us, or if we are desirous of realizing that He has done so, the one thing needful and essential is that we have true love to Him. God's demand of each one who professes to be His child is, "My son, give me thine heart." Love He must have; this is His lawful demand. His people delight to render it; if thou dost not, then thou art none of His.
III. THE SAINTS' LOVE IS NOT PURCHASED BY CHRIST'S GIFTS. The love of saints to their Lord is not given to Christ because of His gifts to them. We love our Lord, and we love Him all the more because of the many gifts He bestows upon us; but His gifts do not win our love. Oh, it is "Jesus Christ Himself who wins the love of our hearts!" If He had not given us Himself, we should never have given to Him ourselves. All else that may be supposed to be of the substance of His house would not have won His people s hearts, until at last they learnt this truth, and the Spirit of God made them feel the force of it, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me. "My beloved is mine, and I am His," is now one of the sweetest stanzas in love's canticle. The spouse does not say "His crown is mine, His throne is mine, His breastplate is mine, His crook is mine"; she delights in everything that Christ has as a King, and a Priest, and a Shepherd; but, above all else, that which wins and charms her heart is this, "He Himself is mine, and I am His." But I meant mainly to say, under this head, that there are some of Christ's gifts that do not win our hearts, that is to say, our hearts do not depend upon them. And they are, first, His temporal gifts. I am very thankful, and I trust that all God's people are also, for health and strength. I have lost these sometimes, but I did not love my Lord any the less then; neither do I love Christ this day because I am free from pain. If I were not free from pain, I would still love Him. I meant also to say that we do not love Christ because of His temporary indulgence of us in spiritual things. You know our Saviour very frequently favours us with manifestations of His presence. We are overjoyed when He comes very near to us, and permits us to put our fingers into the prints of the nails. He takes all the clouds out of our sky, and gives us the bright shining of the sun; or He opens the lattices, and shows us Himself in a way only second to that in which we shall see Him when we behold Him face to face. And oh, how we love Him then! But, thank God, when He draws the lattice back again, and hides His face, we do not leave off loving Him because of that. Our love to our Lord does not depend upon the weather. Even if we should be called to pass through terrible trials and adversities, and should have to walk a long time in clouds and darkness, yet still would we love Him and rejoice in Him.
IV. THE LOVE OF SAINTS CANNOT BE BOUGHT OFF FROM CHRIST AT ANY PRICE. The saints sell Christ? No, they are too much like their Master to do that. You recollect how Satan took their Master to the top of a high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said, "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." Wicked thief! It was not his to give yet he tempted Christ in that way, but Jesus answered, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." If any of Christ's followers are tempted in the same fashion, let them give the same reply. All the substance of the devil's house could not win the love of that man who has set his affection on Jesus.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
My vineyard, which is Mine, is before Me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.
I. Let us look at the first sentence: "My vineyard, which is Mine, is before Me." We have no difficulty in understanding that this vineyard is Christ's Church. The Master here, then, claims a special property in His Church. Twice does He mention that claim: "My vineyard, which is Mine," as if He meant to assert His rights, and to maintain them against all comers; being ready to defend them in Heaven's High Court of Chancery, or before all the hosts of His enemies who might seek to snatch His inheritance from Him. "Whatever is not Mine," saith the Divine Lover, "My Church is. She is so mine that, if I gave up Lebanon, if I should renounce Bashan, and give up all the rest of My possessions, I must retain Zion, My vineyard, My best-beloved." First, He claims the Church as His own by His Father's gift. You know that the Church is the property of all the three Persons of the holy and blessed Trinity. She is the Father's property by election; she is the Son's property by donation, passing from the hand of the Father to that of the Mediator; and, then, the Church is the Spirit's by His indwelling and inhabitation; so that all three of the Divine Persons have a right to the Church for some special office which they exercise towards her. So Christ claims His Church as His Father's gift, a love-token, a reward, a sign of the Father's favour and regard towards Him. Next, Christ's Church is His by purchase. More than this, the Church is Christ's by one other He, which, perhaps, makes it dearer still to Him. She is His bride, His spouse. But we must pass on to notice that, in the first sentence of our text, we are not only told about Christ's special right to His Church, but also about His special care and observation of her: "My vineyard, which is Mine, is before Me." The Church is "before" Christ in the sense that He so loves her that He never has her out of His presence. The vineyard is so dear to the Husbandman that He never leaves it. His Church may be willing to endure His absence for a while, but He loves her so much that He cannot bear to be away from her. He will always pour upon her the beams of His love, and ever fix upon her the affection of His whole heart. The expression, "My vineyard, which is Mine, is before Me," may also mean that Jesus is always caring for it, as well as always loving it. There is also, in this expression, not only the sense of love and care, but also of knowledge: "My vineyard, which is Mine, is before Me. Christ knows every vine in the vineyard, and He knows all the fruit that is on each vine, and how much there was last year, and how much there will be in years to come.
II. Now, regard this first sentence of our text as THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHURCH ITSELF. According to the eleventh verse, "Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver." So, dear brethren, every one of us whom the Lord has brought to Himself has a part of His vineyard to keep for Him. We leave the work of saving our souls in higher Hands than our own; but after our souls are saved, then we have a charge to keep, and that charge is, to publish the name and fame of Jesus to the utmost of our power, to seek to bring others under the sound of the Gospel, and to tell them what they must do to be saved.
III. I will now turn to the second part of our text, which is THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHURCH TO HER GREAT PROPRIETOR AND LORD: "Thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand" — "must have a thousand." Whatever others have, our Lord must have Solomon's portion; "and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred." So, then, in the first place, the fruit of the vineyard belongs to Christ; but, in the second place, both Christ and His Church agree to reward the keepers of the vineyard, and to let them have their two hundred. First, then, all the fruit of the vineyard belongs to Christ, and He must have it. Dwell on that word must, and let each one of you feel the blessed necessity. The ministry must still be powerful, the prayer-meetings must continue to be full of faith and fervour, the members must keep on striving together in love for the extension of Christ's kingdom, His kingdom must come, and His will must be done on earth as it is heaven. We will not put in an "if" or a "perhaps"; it must be so and we will not be satisfied unless it Is. "Thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand." Now I will conclude with a few remarks upon the last words of the text: "and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred," which means that the keepers of the vineyard are to receive a reward. Christ's ministers are to receive the love, and regard, and esteem of His people for His sake. Our Master is a blessed Paymaster, for He pays us while we are doing His work, in the work itself; He pays us when the work is done, and then lie says that He has only begun to pay us; for, when the whole of our work here is over, we shall enter into His joy, and receive the fulness of our reward.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause Me to hear it
I. We notice, first of all, AN APPOINTED RESIDENCE. The Bridegroom. speaking of His bride, says, "Thou that dwellest in the gardens." This title is given to believers here on earth, first, by way of distinction — distinction from the Lord Himself. He whom we love dwelleth in the ivory palaces, wherein they make Him glad: He has gone up into His Father's throne, and has left these gardens down below. He Himself is an inhabitant of the palaces, for there He best accomplishes the eternal purposes of love; but His Church is the inhabitress of the gardens, for there she best fulfils the decrees of the Most High. Here she must abide a while until all the will of the Lord shall be accomplished in her and by her, and then she also shall be taken up, and shall dwell with her Lord above. The title is given by way of distinction, and marks the difference between her condition and that of her Lord. Next, it is given by way of enjoyment. She dwells in the gardens, which are places of delight. Your portion is with the Lord's saints, yea, with Himself; and what can be a better portion? Is it not as the garden of the Lord? You dwell where the great Husbandman spends His care upon you and takes a pleasure in you. You dwell where the infinite skill and tenderness and wisdom of God manifest themselves in the training of the plants which His own right hand has planted; you dwell in the Church of God, which is laid out in due order, and hedged about and guarded by heavenly power; and you are, therefore, most fitly said to dwell in the gardens. Be thankful: it is a place of enjoyment for you: awake and sing, for the lines have fallen unto you in pleasant places. The title is also used by way of employment as well as enjoyment. If we had not our daily tasks to fulfil, rest would corrode into rust, and recreation would soon gender corruption. You and I are set in the garden of the Church because there is work for us to do which will be beneficial to others and to ourselves also. Some have to take the broad axe and hew down mighty trees of error; others of a feebler sort can with a child's hand train the tendril of a climbing plant, or drop into its place a tiny seed. One may plant and another may water: one may sow and another gather fruit. One may cut up weeds and another prune vines. God hath work in His Church for us all to do, and He has left us here that we may do it. "O thou that dwellest in the gardens!" The title sets forth employment constant and engrossing. It means also eminence. It speaks with emphasis to those who dwell where sweet spiritual fruits are plentiful, where odours and perfumes load the air, where the land floweth with milk and honey. If any of you happen to dwell where Christ is set forth evidently crucified among you, and where your hearts do leap for very joy because the King Himself comes near to feast His saints and make them glad in His presence, then it is to you that my text hath a voice and a call: "Thou that dwellest in the gardens, in the choicest places of all Immanuel's land, let Me hear thy voice." Yet one more word. The title here employed is not only for eminence but for permanence. "O thou that dwellest in the gardens." If you are only permitted to enjoy sound gospel teaching now and again, and then are forced to cry, "It may be another twelve months before I shall be again fed on royal dainties." Then you are in a trying case, and you need to cry to God for help: but blessed are those who dwell in the good land, and daily fill their homers with heavenly manna. "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee." No spot on earth is so dear to the Christian as that whereon he meets his Lord. Beloved, if you dwell in the gardens you have a double privilege, not only being found in a fat and fertile place, but in living there continually. You might well forego a thousand comforts for the sake of this one delight, for under the Gospel your soul is made to drink of wines on the lees well refined.
II. Secondly, let us note the RECORDED CONVERSE: "Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice." She was in the gardens, but she was not quiet there, and why should she be? God gives us tongues on purpose that they should be used. Now, observe that evidently the spouse held with her companions frequent intercourse, — "The companions hearken to thy voice." There should be among those who are children of the common Father a mutual love, and they should show this by frequent commerce in their precious things, making a sacred barter with one another. Such converse ought to be as usual as the talk of children of one family. And next, it should be willing and influential; for if you notice, it is put here: "Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice." They do not merely hear it, and say to themselves, "I wish she would be quiet," but they hearken, they lend an ear, they listen gladly. The converse of the bride in the gardens was constant, and it was greatly esteemed by those who enjoyed it. I gather from the text, rather by implication than otherwise, that the converse was commendable; for the Bridegroom does not say to the spouse, "Thou that dwellest in the gardens, thy companions hear too much of thy voice." No; He evidently mentions the fact with approval, because He draws an argument from it why He also should hear that selfsame voice. Brothers, I leave it to yourselves to judge whether your communications with one another are always such as they should be. Are they always worthy of you? Brethren, make your. conversation, such that it may be commended by Christ Himself. These communications were, no doubt, very beneficial. As iron sharpeneth iron, so does a man's countenance his friend. In fact, our communications with one another ought to be preparatory to higher communications still. The converse of saints on earth should be a rehearsal of their everlasting communion in heaven.
III. Now comes the pith of the text: INVITED FELLOWSHIP — "The companions hear thy voice: cause Me to hear it:" Now, I note concerning this invitation, first of all, that it is very loving and condescending to us that the Lord should wish to hear our voice. Is it not marvellous that He, the infinitely blessed, should want to hear our voices when all that He hath heard from us has been begging, sighing, and a few poor broken hymns? It is condescending and gracious, and yet how natural it is! How like to Christ! Love ever seeks the company of that which it loves. We may truly add, that this invitation to fellowship is a blessed and profitable request. We shall find it so if we carry it out, especially those of us who are called by God to use our voices for Him among the crowds of our companions. We shall never fitly handle the word of God without prayer. When we pray we are taught how to speak the words to others. Salvation and supplication are a blessed pair. Put the two together, so that, when you speak to others about salvation, you do it after having baptized your own soul into supplication "The companions hear thy voice; cause Me to hear it; before thou speakest with them speak to Me; whilst thou art still speaking with them still speak with Me; and when thy speaking to men is done, return unto thy rest and again speak with Me." This invitation is a many-sided one; for when the Bridegroom says, "Cause Me to hear it," He means that she should talk to Him in all sorts of ways. Frequently we should be heard in praise. Oh, let the Lord hear your voice! Get up early to be alone with Him. So let it be with all your complaints and petitions; let them be for Jesus only. Speak with Jesus Christ, in little broken accents, by way of frequent ejaculation. The best of Christian fellowship may be carried on in single syllables. When in the middle of business you can whisper, "My Lord and my God!" You can dart a glance upward, heave a sigh, or let fail a tear, and so will Jesus hear your voice!
IV. I find according to the Hebrew that the text has in it a REQUESTED TESTIMONY. According to learned interpreters the Hebrew runs thus: "Cause to hear Me." Now, that may mean what I have said, "Cause Me to hear"; but it may also mean, "Cause them to hear Me." Now hearken; you that are in Christ's garden: make those who dwell in that garden with you to hear from you much about Him. In the Church every one has a right to talk about the Head of the Church. In the garden, at any rate, if not in the wild wilderness, let the Rose of Sharon be sweetly spoken of. Let His name be as ointment poured forth in all the Church of God. Again, you, according to the text, are one that can make people hear, so that "the companions hearken to thy voice;" then make them to hear of Jesus. If you do not speak about Christ to strangers, do speak to your companions. They will hearken to you; therefore let them hearken to the word of the Lord. Oh, cause Christ to be heard. Hammer on that anvil always: if you make no music but that of the harmonious blacksmith it will suffice. Ring it out with sturdy blows — "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus crucified." Hammer away at that. "Now you are on the right string, man," said the Duke of Argyle, when the preacher came to speak upon the Lord Jesus. It needed no duke to certify that. Harp on that string. Make Jesus to be as commonly known as now He is commonly unknown. So may God bless you as long as you dwell in these gardens, till the day break and the shadows flee away.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Make haste, my Beloved, and be Thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.
I. Notice, first, WHAT THE CHURCH HERE CALLS HER LORD. Observe, the spouse first calls her Lord, "Beloved," and secondly, "My Beloved." Christ is our "Beloved." This is a word of affection; and our Lord Jesus Christ is the object of affection to us. Brethren, true religion has many sides to it; true religion is practical, it is also contemplative; but it is not true religion at all if it is not full of love and affection. Jesus must reign in your heart, or else, though you may give Him what place you like in your head, you have not truly received Him. To Jesus, beyond all others, is applicable this title of the -Beloved, for they who know Him love Him. "My Beloved." If nobody else loves Him, I do. This is a distinguishing affection; and I love Him because He belongs to me; He is mine, He has given Himself to me; and I have chosen Him because He first chose me; He is "my Beloved." I am not ashamed to put Him in front of all others; and when men say, "What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?' I can tell them that "My Beloved" is more than all the earthly beloveds put together.
II. Now I will lead you on to the second division of my subject. I have shown you what the Church calls her Lord; now, in the second place, I will tell you WHENCE SHE CALLS HIM. "Make haste, my Beloved, and be Thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices." What does that mean? She cries to Him to come from the place where He now is, which she calls the "mountains of spices." What are these spices? Are they not Christ's infinite merits, which perfume heaven and earth The foul corruption of our sins is not perceptible, because of the mountains of spices. Behold this wondrous sanitary power of Divine grace; these mountains of spices more than nullify the foulness of our sins. Christ's merit is perpetually before the eye of His Father, so that no longer does He perceive our sins. What shall I say next of these mountains of spices? Are they not our Lord's perpetual and prevailing prayers? He intercedes for His people before the throne of God. Now, this is where Jesus is now; not here, in this foul, polluted world, but up yonder. He rests in the mountains of spices; and the prayer of His Church continually is, "Come, my Beloved! Make haste, my Beloved! Be Thou like to a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of spices."
III. We have noticed what the Church calls her Lord, and whence she calls Him; now, thirdly, note HOW SHE CALLS HIM. She says, "Make haste, my Beloved, make haste." Why is it that all the Church of God, and each individual Christian in particular, should be found anxious for the speedy coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? I think, surely, that this is the result of true love, If we love our Lord, we shall long for His appearing; be you sure of that, it is the natural result of ardent affection. But, notwithstanding this, beloved, we sometimes need certain incentives to stir up our souls to cry for our Lord's return. One reason that ought to make the believer long for Christ's coming is that it will end this conflict. Our lot is cast in a wretched time, when many things are said and done that grieve and vex God's Holy Spirit, and all who are in sympathy with Him. "Come, Lord! Make haste, my Beloved! Come to the rescue of Thy weak and feeble servants; come, come, come, we beseech Thee!" Put yourself into this great fight for the faith; and if you have to bear the brunt of the battle, you will soon be as eager as I am that Jesus should make haste, and come to your relief. You also will cry, "Make haste, my Beloved," when you think what wonders He will work at His coming. What will Christ do at His coming? He will raise the dead. Mine eyes shall see Him in that day. "I know that my Redeemer liveth," etc. And when He comes, beloved, remember that then shall be the time of the glory of His people: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in "the kingdom of their Father." Slander will be rolled away in the day when Christ cometh. The wicked shall awake to everlasting contempt, but the righteous to an everlasting, justification. Still, there is another reason why we say, "Make haste, my Beloved. It is this. We desire to share in Christ's glory; but our chief desire is that our Lord may be glorified. To every loyal soldier of King Jesus, this is the best thought in connection with His Second Advent, that when He comes, it will be to be admired in His saints, and to be glorified in all them that believe. Then shall there be universal acclamations to Him, and His enemies shall hide their heads in shame and dismay.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).