The song of songs, which is Solomon's.
Song of Solomon 1
I. Though written very possibly by Solomon with reference to the daughter of Pharaoh, this Song seems evidently to have had a deep symbolical meaning from the very beginning. All things in Scripture are for Christ's sake from the beginning of the world. The forms which, floating by, cast their shadows on the elder world were shades of that greater Figure which was to absorb the attention of mankind and of the Church for ever and ever. Such is the power which underlies the Song of Solomon. The Church has ever in her days of earnestness and special devotion used the Song of Solomon. It has been the thermometer of her condition; when and where her energy and love were strong, then and there the Song of songs became the mode and form of her expression.
II. The Song of Solomon is peculiarly suited to form a manual of devotion for those who, as penitents or saints, are seeking after Jesus, (1) Its images are the images natural to the earnest-minded. (2) Its expressions of penitence, humility, and self-condemnation make it beautifully fitted to the life of those who "mourn after a godly sort," and to become a manual of expression for the returning sinner. (3) The yearnings of love are among the most striking parts of the Song. The language is that of the deepest affection; and no expressions seem so natural a channel through which the stream of love may flow as those we find here. (4) The Song is typical of the acts of our Lord's life. His passion and resurrection are unmistakably shadowed forth in it; so much so, that the natural illustration of the Song would be the scenes of the Gospel.
E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 355.
References: Song of Solomon 1:2.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 92. Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 8; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 5. Song of Solomon 1:3.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 235; A. Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 317.
Song of Solomon 1:4This passage is most appropriate in the mouth of the Church, considered as of Gentile origin, eager to be drawn after Christ; afraid of contempt from the people of Jerusalem, as being of another race, and anxiously inquiring of the Bridegroom where He keepeth His flock—ignorant, up to that moment, of God's manner of dealing with His chosen.
I. The text brings us across the great mystery of God's predestination. The cry of man to God is, "Draw me, and I will follow Thee." In the New Testament we have our blessed Lord declaring, "No man cometh unto Me, except the Father draw him." In some sense or other, predestination is the eternal truth of God. Wherever predestination is spoken of, it is a predestination which concerns, not our final salvation or condemnation, but simply our call to the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Thousands of years ago it was predestined that we should be blessed with the knowledge of Christ, but it was not predestined whether we should be saved thereby. What the Bible teaches is, that God has predestined some to a knowledge of the truth of Christ, and shut it up from others; not that He has predestined some to heaven and some to hell.
II. Consider these words as the utterance of the bride after her union with Christ. (1) The entire life of man is a period during which there is perpetually being exerted upon the soul a gentle violence, alluring, tempting it to follow the footsteps of Christ. The details of our existence are so planned as to lead us unto heaven. If we would surrender ourselves into God's hands unreservedly, He would bring us safe to the eternal city. (2) The text implies that the course of the servant of God is one of constant progress and active advance. Christ is ever, as it were, moving onward; He leads us from one height of moral excellence to another.
Bishop Woodford, Occasional Sermons, vol. i., p. 178.
I. The spiritual life has three states through which all who attain to the love of Christ seem to pass; and these states are so marked that we may take them one by one. (1) I suppose that most can remember a time when we were drawn so strongly to the world that the drawing of Christ's love and spirit was overbalanced by a more powerful attraction. Sin is sweet, and it draws steadily and smoothly, as the shoal water of a whirlpool, with an imperceptible and resistless attraction. One sin will overbear the meek and gentle drawing of Christ. It is not only the greater sin, or the worship of the world, which holds us back against the drawing of Christ, but the soft, pure happiness of home, the easy round of kindly offices, the calm and blameless toil of a literary life, the gentler and more peaceful influences of earthly cheerfulness;—all these, too, with the lights and shades, the anxieties and joys, which fall across an even path, steal away the heart, and wind all its affections about a thousand moorings. (2) Let us take the next state. It may be that by sorrow or chastisement, or by some other of His manifold strokes of love, it has pleased God to break or to relax these bonds, and to dispel the vain show in which they walked. The world draws them less, and the presence of Christ attracts them more. Such persons are in a balanced state, between two attractions, of which, if the one be weaker, it is the nearer and the more sensibly perceived. This condition is at times dreary and overcast, and cannot last long. It must incline one way or the other. (3) And this leads on into the third and last state, in which the balance is so turned against this world, that it can allure no longer; and the hope of God and His kingdom attracts alone. In some special way God is often pleased to break the bonds of this world, and to draw His servants once for all under the abiding attractions of the world to come. Perhaps nothing does this so surely as a realisation of death.
II. Let us suppose that God has, in love, broken your bonds asunder and drawn you unto Himself. How will you answer to this mercy? (1) It would be the plain will of God that you should strive with all your soul and strength to follow whither He is drawing you: that is, to prepare yourselves to dwell with Him for ever. (2) Give your whole heart and strength to perpetuate and perfect what you have learned to the very end of life.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 388.
There is one point on the very face of the text which it is important to notice. We may come to God collectively, but we are drawn to God each one individually. Draw me: we will run after Thee. Notice how this effectual drawing will begin to show itself in those who have been, indeed, the subjects of it.
I. Obedience to an impulse of God will be instant. A "drawing" never takes effect tomorrow. Real religion is always in the present tense. It is Abraham's "Here am I!" It is Isaiah's "Send me!" It is Christ's "Lo, I come!"
II. A person who is under the drawing of God will be sure to begin to make conscience of little things. Things which were to him as nothing he will consider all-important, because they give him the opportunity of pleasing or displeasing God.
III. Another step—a very early step in the road—is a desire for the salvation of somebody else. Be very suspicious about your religion if you are not anxious about anybody's soul.
IV. The man who is really drawn so loves the drawing that he always wants to be drawn more and more. He finds that it is so pleasant. He is always trying to get nearer. Therefore he is a man of much prayer—because he is nearer at such times. He wants oneness, closeness, and identity with Christ.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 8th series, p. 141.
References: Song of Solomon 1:4.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 220; Ibid., Evening by Evening, pp. 1, 23; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 196; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 34; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 19.
Song of Solomon 1:4-6I. Note (1) what it is that the Church desires from Christ—what every pious soul must desire who would make prayer to Christ at all. "Draw me," allure me, bring my soul under the power of a love-captivity. (2) "And we will run after Thee." This seems to denote the alacrity with which, after experimental acquaintance with Christ and the power of His grace, we shall persevere in our Christian course. This speed comes of Christ's drawing, and, as it is in material bodies, the velocity increases as we get nearer to the centre of the attracting influence. (3) Remark next the grounds on which the Church presumes to hope for these glorious manifestations of Christ's love to her. A large suit should be endorsed by a strong plea, nor could we walk so boldly unless there had been first the extending towards us of the golden sceptre. "The King hath brought me into His chambers;" He hath recognised the rightfulness of my espousals; He hath initiated for me this covenant relation of protection and peace and mercy, and therefore by Him, by the King Himself, we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.
II. "I am black, but comely." The words may be taken in reference to the triumphs and sorrows of earth. (1) The first reason assigned for the Church's uncomely visage, for some of her dark spots and blemishes, is persecution. "The sun hath looked upon me." (2) Opposition, disagreement, strifes, and feuds, among her own children. (3) The winter of her own religious spirit, the fear of loss to her personal spiritual devotion on account of over-zeal to discharge faithfully a public trust. "They made me keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept."
D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3512.
Song of Solomon 1:5The whole volume of spiritual truth lies rolled up in these few words. You might expand them into both the Testaments. Penitence and faith—all the heart knows of itself and all it knows of Jesus—nature and grace—condemnation and peace. God's great method with man in His everlasting covenant—it is all here, "Black, but comely." The contrast matches with the experience of every child of God; the contradiction lies in the double being of a renewed man; the solution of the paradox is the gospel of Christ.
I. What is "blackness?" Properly, it is no colour at all. It is that which reflects no tint of all the sun's prismatic rays. It is not one of the hues of the rainbow. It is the absence of colour. It is a simple negative. Remember, this is blackness,—a negative life. The absence of love and energy, and work for Christ is the great crime in God's calendar. Nothing more was wanted to place those who were on the left hand on the day of judgment. You are black, because heaven does not reflect itself in you. It is your colourless life.
II. How can the black be comely? There must be something introduced from without. There must be a new nature. David expressed it all in those few words, "Blessed is the man whose sin is covered." It is the covering which is the comeliness. Jesus lived to make a man's righteousness which He could give to a man. When a man puts it on, it not only hides all that is underneath it, but it decks that man in more than celestial loveliness. He wears a robe, which is woven of all the tissues of the holiness of Jesus—dipped in the dies of heaven—sparkling in all its splendours. This is the wedding garment which gives to our dull souls their festive sweetness.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 9th series, p. 45.
Song of Solomon 1:5, Song of Solomon 1:15; Song of Solomon 5:16I. Look first at the saint's "I am." It is a sad one. "I am black—black as the tents of Kedar." Every saint is conscious of innumerable sins, blemishes, and imperfections. The more spiritually-minded the Christian is, the more conscious is he of his blackness; and the nearer a man lives to God, the more intense is his abhorrence of himself.
II. Listen next to Christ's response: "Behold, thou art fair, My love; behold, thou art fair." This is not the language of exaggeration. Although the Lord loves His Church intensely He does not love it unreasonably; His love does not blind His eyes to His people's defects. And yet He says, "Behold, thou art fair." Though He sees faults and failings in me, He does not see me in my faults and failings, but views me as I am in Himself. When He looks upon us, He sees His own loveliness, and His own righteousness, and so He may well say, "Thou art fair."
III. Lastly, you have the Church's "He is." "Yea, he is altogether lovely." That Christ is altogether lovely is the united testimony of all saints in every age. In Him all the colours of beauty combine—all the harmonies that can be conceived blend in one ravishing strain. There is no one drawback in Him. He is lovely to my mind's judgment; lovely to my heart's affection; lovely to my will's surrender; lovely in my memory's treasure-house. He is all beauty, and beauty all round, and the Church gives this as her united testimony concerning Him.
A. G. Brown, Penny Pulpit, No. 1090.
Reference: Song of Solomon 1:5.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 30.
Song of Solomon 1:6I. What is this complaint? "Mine own vineyard have I not kept." The spiritual nature of a godly man is here supposed to be likened to a vineyard. (1) It is a soil in which things are planted and sown. (2). It is a sphere affording full scope for exertion, vigilance and zeal. (3) Judicious labour secures profit and reward. (4) Neglect makes evil fertile and brings miserable barrenness of good.
II. Look at the cause and the occasion of the evil complained of. (1) The cause of self-neglect is not in the vineyard-keeping for others; it must be in the character of the individual concerned. We are all of us apt to charge our faults and failings upon God's providence, or upon God's arrangements. The cause may be: (a) False views of a state of salvation, and of our personal obligations; (b) Excess of zeal for the welfare of others; (c) False amiability and accessibility to others; (d) A strong taste for the excitement of caring for others, and the vanity which prefers the position of keeper of the vineyard to the quiet condition of attending to one's own vineyard. (2) The occasion—"They made me." A great deal of religious and benevolent work is done evidently as unto man, and not as unto God. We neglect our own vineyards because others call us away, and we obey. We become engrossed. We become too ardent. We are keeping the vineyards of others, just, perhaps, that it may be said that we are keeping their vineyards, and that we may have the praise of the fruit of the vineyard, or that we may please those who are connected with the vineyard. The occasion of self-neglect is suggested in these words:—"They made me keeper of the vineyards."
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 4th series, No. 14.
Not merely made keeper; you may be put into an office, yet fail to do its duties faithfully and well. But the suggestion here plainly is, that the vineyards of others were diligently kept, while by a fatality which might be thought unparalleled, if it were not one of the commonest of things, the vineyard at home was neglected.
I. Probably there are few who have reached middle age, and have incurred the responsibilities of domestic life, who can think of the text without some inward self-reproach. The matter is one of wide concern when we remember that every Sunday-school teacher, every visitor of the sick or the poor, every human being who is called to say a word of warning to an erring creature, or a word of encouragement to a weary one; every father and mother whose example and conversation and entire life, to its least detail, may affect the impressionable nature of their child; is called to keep the vineyard at home, if they would not have it scatter the slight seeds of mighty evil wide and far. We are all of us watched by far more eyes than we think of; and spiritual characteristics in us may reappear in those who have no intention of imitating us, but who insensibly fall into ways which they continually see.
II. The great lesson of the text is, care for your own soul; care for the souls of your children; care for the souls of your friends; care for the souls of all you know and do not know. Every vineyard under the wide skies, where you can pull up a weed or cast one good seed, the smallest—of that vineyard God has made you keeper.
So much the more diligently see that you keep your own; so much the more earnestly, as you would successfully mind the things of others, look to yourself. If we would do anything in this world, we with our little strength, we must begin with what lies to our hand; we must begin with the nearest. When things are right at home, we shall be abler to meddle with good result in things far away.
A. K. H. B., Towards the Sunset, p. 25.
References: Song of Solomon 1:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 990; A. K. H. B., Sunday Magazine, 1881, p. 28; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 3rd series, p. 111. Song of Solomon 1:7.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 40; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 338, and vol. xi., No. 636; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 34. Song of Solomon 1:7, Song of Solomon 1:8.—Ibid., vol. xix., No. 1115; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 247; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 324.
Song of Solomon 1:8I. Keep on familiar ground; do not stray away from the line of footsteps; be near where you can hear the pipe, or the flute, or the trumpet of the camp. Do not detach yourselves from the great company of the church, but wherever you are see that your method of communication is in good working order. This is not the exhortation of fear, it is the precept of sense, it is the dictate of reason, it is the calm, strong, solemn view of history and experience.
II. Loneliness has its perils in the religious life. When the devil gets a man absolutely alone, who will win? Not the man—in the vast proportion of cases. There was only one man that won in single fight, and that man was the Lord from heaven. The poor woman in the song had lost her loved one, and she was told that if she wanted to find him she would find him on accustomed beats and familiar paths. God leaves His footprints on the earth, and if we follow His footprints we shall find Himself.
III. Feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents. Then you will have communion. Christianity institutes a fellowship, a community of interest and spirit and purpose. We are the complement of one another. Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together; beware of the independence which is isolation; seek for communion, for music, for protection, for security, for all that comes of organised life, household delight, and trust; thus the enemy will never find you alone and at a disadvantage, but always surrounded by those who can recall the sweetest memories to your recollection, and enrich your hearts by reminders of the infinite promises of God, and thus a commonwealth shall be the basis of victory.
IV. Let us see that our footprints are all shaping towards home, that the foot is always set in the direction of home. Do not let us deceive and mislead anybody who may put their feet into our footprints under the impression that they are going home, when they are really going to their ruin.
Parker, Fountain, June 19th, 1879.
Song of Solomon 1:9It is thus that love multiplies itself by many images. Love sees the image of its dearest one everywhere, and claims it as its own. Look at the power of fancy, this creative and symbolising power, this power of reading the inner mysticism and ideality of things (1) as a joy, (2) as a danger, (3) as a responsibility.
I. A joy. In finding new symbols we find new pleasures, and in the inspiration of our love we turn all things visible to new and sacred uses. This is the joy of Christ Himself in the 13th chapter of the Gospel by Matthew. The object of His love was the kingdom of heaven, and day by day He compared it with new comparisons, and so gave His Church the treasure of His parables.
II. Not only is this power of fancy a keen and thrilling joy, but it is a positive and an immediate danger. The danger arises from the fact that we may consider our duty done when we have instituted a beautiful comparison. Our religion may perish in sentimental expressions; you may die in words. The danger is, that if we live the parabolical life we may never advance to Gethsemane and Golgotha. We may create a kind of artificial life, and thus miss the great utilities of our being. Not the heart that is swiftest and surest in the creation of symbols is always to be trusted in the hour of pain and distress.
III. A responsibility. We are to be transformed by the beauty that we admire. In comparing Christ with things beautiful, noble, grand, we are writing a heavy indictment against ourselves if we profess to be His followers, and do not rise to the grandeur of the occasion. As he who passes through a garden of roses brings with him part of the fragrance breathed from the beauteous flowers, so we who come forth from the fellowship of Christ are to show somewhat of the radiance of His countenance, and to speak somewhat with the eloquence of His accent.
Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 289.
References: Song of Solomon 1:9.—Parker, Fountain, March 31st, 1881. Song of Solomon 1:9-14.—D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3520. Song of Solomon 1:12.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 49. Song of Solomon 1:13.—Ibid., p. 58; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 558. Song of Solomon 1:16.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 143. Song of Solomon 1:17.—Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 104. Song of Solomon 2:1.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 784; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 122; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 204. Song of Solomon 2:2.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1525. Song of Solomon 2:3.—Ibid., vol. xix., No. 1120; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 238; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 76. Song of Solomon 2:3, Song of Solomon 2:4.—F. Perry, Penny Pulpit, No. 388. Song of Solomon 2:3, Song of Solomon 2:5.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 160.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee: 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes.
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.