I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
Song of Solomon 2:4
In estimating the blessedness of any creature, you must never forget that there is a certain faculty of enjoyment which is itself the gift of God. And have we not here at once the real secret of the certainty of the superior delights of the people of God—in that to them alone, or at least to them in a far higher degree than to other men, is given that capacity of enjoyment, that appreciation of the sweet and beautiful and holy, which is radiant in everything.
I. Among the choice things of the prepared banquet, the chief is rest. It is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ which has the exclusive prerogative to give a man rest. And every one who goes into that sanctuary of the soul's rest, is a man who, just before, has been fighting his way to it through tremendous toils and conquests.
II. If there can be anything on this side of heaven worthy to be mentioned with that rest—the feeling of a forgiven soul—it is intimacy with God Himself; the nearness, and consequently the acquaintance with God's mind, into which the Christian is at once, though it be progressive, yet at once admitted; as soon as he obeys the drawings of the spirit, and comes near to God.
III. It is the actual presence of Christ which becomes dear to an advancing Christian. He has had His grace, but He wants Him. Therefore, more and more as a believer lives, you will find him meditating on the Person and the Being of Christ.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 101.
References: Song of Solomon 2:4.—J. J. West, Penny Pulpit, No. 3218; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 85.
Song of Solomon 2:5I. Looking at an apple from a morphological point of view, we find that it is an arrested branch. Instead of going on to develop more wood and foliage, a branch terminates in an apple; and in this apple the sap and substance that would have prolonged the branch are concentrated, and hence its enlarged size and capability of expansion. We behold in it, as in a glass, a very striking natural example of the law of self-sacrifice; that law which pervades all nature, and upon which the welfare and stability of nature depend. It is in this self-sacrifice of the plant that all its beauty comes out and culminates.
II. The little globe of the apple is a microcosm, representing within its miniature sphere the changes and processes which go on in the great world. Life and death, growth and decay, fight their battle on its humble stage. While it hangs upon its stem, it is in some kind of magnetic correspondence with all the powers of nature; it shares the life of the earth and the sky. It is an embodiment of the air and the sunshine, and the dew. But its special charm consists not in its' scientific teaching or in its material utilities. Who would care to study an apple or any other natural object, were it not for its religious side? Nothing can be simpler and lowlier than such an object lesson. It is nigh unto us, in our very mouths, familiar to every child, but its simplicity is the mystery of the unsearchable God, the depth of the clear but unfathomable heaven. Autumn is the season of revealing; and the fruit is ripened when the foliage that hid the orchard is stripped off, and all its secrets are opened to the glances of the sun. But no autumn of revelation comes to this tree of knowledge, and we pluck its fruit from the bough in the midst of mysteries that conceal even while they reveal it—that baffle even while they instruct us. But these mysteries are favourable to faith and to a simple, childlike trust, leaving what it cannot understand, with a wise contentment, in the infinity of God.
H. Macmillan, Two Worlds are Ours, p. 213.
References: Song of Solomon 2:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1463. Song of Solomon 2:8.—Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 80. Song of Solomon 2:8-17.—R. M. McCheyne, Memoir and Remains, p. 437. Song of Solomon 2:9.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 168. Song of Solomon 2:10.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 116. Song of Solomon 2:10-12.—J. M. Neale, Sermon on the Song of Songs, p. 92; J. H. Newman, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 190. Song of Solomon 2:10-13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 436.
Song of Solomon 2:11-12There are two characteristics of spring that strike us, I do not say as wrong, but as more belonging to human than Divine character. The first of these is its changeableness, the second its extravagance.
I. Even in climates better than our own we know the changeableness of spring, but in our spring scarcely a single day is true to its beginning. But when we look closer, such change belongs naturally to the first rush of life, not only in spring but in all things. (1) It paints our own youth only too faithfully. Our outer life flits from interest to interest, from friend to friend, from love to love, as the winds of purpose, interest, and impulse blow. As to our inner life of feeling and thought, it is never at rest for a single moment. To cherish this changeableness is wrong. But as long as it belongs to youth we have no right to be too hard on it. Our business is to accept what is natural in it, and to guide its eager life into noble ways. (2) We may learn another bit of wisdom from the changeableness of spring. It is caused by the last struggle of winter against the warm gusts of life. It images the struggle in a heart which has come out of the far country of sin, near to God its Father. The life of God and the glowing of His love have begun to move within, to clothe the barren soil with the flowers and the blossoms that promise fruit. But the old deathfulness still lingers; habits of evil, not yet overcome of good, raise themselves again, and conquer for a time; the storms of trial that resistance to sin causes are so violent as to exhaust for a season all spiritual strength, and we seem to die. Take comfort from the spring. Life is stronger than death, goodness than sin, noble joy than base sorrow. Day by day the attacks of evil will lessen, day by day they will be easier overcome, and a summer of righteousness will be yours at last.
II. The extravagance of the spring. Much more than is apparently needful is produced. There is the greatest prodigality, even waste; of a hundred flower-shoots not half come to perfection; of a cloud of blossoms many altogether fail. The analogy to this in our youth is in itself sad enough. But when we ask ourselves in what the changeableness and prodigality of spring ends, the analogy ceases to be true, and the rebuke and warning of nature is given to our youth. God's end for spring is the fulness of summer and the harvest of autumn. There is no other end also than that for youth; richness of nature in oneself and a plenteous harvest for the world.
S. A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 337.
I. Life, love, joy—what are these in their tale to the spirit, as spring sends them flowing into our hearts? They are a revelation of the Being of God. (1) Its first attribute is infinite life. In this world of decay and death, where sorrow and apathy and dulness play so large a part in us, it is unspeakable comfort to know that there is above us and in our God an eager, unwearied, universal life. (2) This life is love—love in God, the same as goodness. That there is such a thing as creation; that life and joy come out of death and pain; that the wonder of the spring is born out of the travail of the winter, is proof enough to those who feel how impossible creation is to evil, that it is goodness—goodness that streams forth as love; love that is life in all things, that is the spirit of the universe. (3) If life and love be one in the being of God, that being must also be joy—infinite, self-exultant, varying through every phase of quiet and of rapture. Words would fail to paint one moment of its triumphant fulness: joy is the glory of God.
II. We take the same thoughts, and bring them to touch on our own life. Spring is the image of our youth, and the lesson we should learn from it is, that our youth should be life and love and joy, and that these are its natural companions.
S. A. Brooke, The Fight of Faith, p. 324.
References: Song of Solomon 2:11, Song of Solomon 2:12.—W. P. Balfern, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 237. Song of Solomon 2:11-13.—W. Sanday, Expositor, vol. iii, p. 240; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, 2nd series, p. 97. Song of Solomon 2:11-14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 205. Song of Solomon 2:12.—J. N. Norton, The King's Ferry Boat, p. 8; Sermons for Boys and Girls, 2nd series, p. 230; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 115. Song of Solomon 2:14.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ii., p. 518.
Song of Solomon 2:15To despise little things is to show oneself utterly ignorant of the philosophy of life. The phrase "little sins," common though it be, is highly unscriptural, highly immoral. In the Bible you will frequently find such sins as lying, slander, and selfishness classed with sins like drunkenness, theft or murder. The former are represented as equally effective with the latter in excluding from the kingdom of God.
I. It is curious to notice that the very characteristics which commonly earn for a sin the name of little, are often just the characteristics which in reality enhance its sinfulness, and render it pre-eminently worthy of being called great. For example, an ingenious prevarication would be usually considered far less sinful than a downright awkward falsehood. But the kernel of truth which it contains makes it more sinful, not less. It shows its perpetrator to be a cultivated liar. Judged, too, by its effects, it may often be discovered to be a lie of surpassing magnitude.
II. The sins of which we are speaking not only cause a vast amount of suffering, but they have the most fatal effect upon character. A great sin, severely punished and bitterly repented of, is not all likely to be repeated. The sins which seem to be little, just for that very reason, and also because they are generally unpunished, are likely to be first of all ignored by a man, and then repeated, till at last their total effect may be to render his character hopelessly and irretrievably bad. A number of very little sins will make a very great sinner.
III. Our so-called little sins have the most fatal moral effect upon the characters of others. They are just the sins which others will be likely to imitate. The average man is more likely to be infected by such a sin as scandal than he is to be infected by such a sin as theft. Therefore these little sins do the most widespread moral mischief in society.
IV. If we desire to form for ourselves a perfect character, a studied avoidance of little sins is of the first importance. Our habits depend upon the way in which we comport ourselves; not in great and startling emergencies, but rather under the simple, common circumstances of our common daily life. Everything we do or say leaves us somewhat different from our former selves, and is productive of good or evil to numbers of our fellow-men. Every action we perform, every word we utter, every thought we think, has wide-spreading, far-reaching effects—effects that will eternally endure. Stand in awe and sin not.
A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, and Other Sermons, p. 86.
I. Consider the text as addressed to the individual. (1) The evils, the capture of which is here urged, are such as the following:—Ostentation, concealment, the easily offended and unforgiving spirit, fear of man and men-pleasing, anxiety, and all such plausible errors in doctrine and specious deviations from truth as affect principle and conduct. (2) The good which may be marred is of this kind:—The subjects of Christ's kingdom are born from above; we may expect in them heavenly-mindedness. They are born of God, and we may look to them for godliness. The fruit, in this case, is the fruit of righteousness, sown in place of them that make peace. (3) This good may thus be marred:—The pursuit of religious information may be checked. The judgment may be perverted or corrupted. The conscience may be blunted or defiled. The energy of holy principle may be impaired. The lustre of reputation may be dimmed. (4) Such mischief ought to be prevented or cured. Take the foxes. Make impending evil captive, and, if possible, destroy it.
II. Contemplate the text as addressed to the churches of Christ. Take the foxes: govern the tongue, cleanse the hands, purify the heart. Have light in your countenance and salt in yourselves, that you may live together and act together with joy and with profit.
S. Martin, Rain upon the Mown Grass, p. 43.
It is only man's littleness which discovers no importance in trifles. Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle. The most deplorable failures in Christian consistency and uprightness may, generally, be traced back to a very small departure from duty. Little sins are as wrong as larger ones, and in the end come to the same thing. They are, in fact, the foxes that spoil the vines.
What are some of these little sins which mar our happiness or hinder our usefulness?
I. At the head of the list may be placed a sour and crabbed temper.
II. Another little sin to be watched against, is the giving way to ease and self-indulgence.
III. Dishonesty in our ordinary dealings may be named as another example of little sins.
IV. Another little sin is jealousy. It is a weakness which few would confess that they have yielded to, and yet multitudes are made miserable by its evil influence.
In religious character there is nothing unimportant, and the smallest inlets of sin should be carefully closed. Earnest prayer and dilligent effort should be employed, that the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts may be more thorough and pervading.
J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 348.
References: Song of Solomon 2:15.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 151; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, p. 21; Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 63; T. T. Shore, The Life of the World to come, p. 215; T. Champness, Little Foxes, p. 7; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 106.
Song of Solomon 2:16These few deep words express the bond or hold of love between Christ and His Elect, whether they be saints or penitents, and they fasten it by a twofold strength. "My beloved is mine; and not this alone, but "I am His." They teach us:
I. That He is ours in the very sense in which we speak of our father or our child, our life or our own soul. And how has He become ours? Not by deserving or earning, by finding or seeking; not by climbing up to Him, or taking Him for ours; but because He gave Himself to us. He gave Himself to us as the bridegroom gives Himself to the bride. In this mystery of love is summed up all that is inviolable, binding and eternal. He will never draw back from it, or release Himself, or annul His vows, or cast us away. The pledge of His love is everlasting, as His love itself.
II. And next: these words mean that, in giving Himself to be ours, He took us to be His own. It is a full contract, binding both, though made and accomplished by Himself alone. We are bought, purchased, redeemed; we are pledged, vowed, and betrothed; but, better than all these, He has made us to be His by the free, willing and glad consent of our own heart. This is why we may call Him "My Beloved."
III. These words are full of all manner of consolation. (1) They interpret to us the whole discipline of sorrow. It is most certain that, if it were not necessary for our very salvation, He would never send affliction. (2) In this we see further the true pledge of our perseverance unto the end. Our whole salvation is begun, continued, and ended in His love. He that kept us from perishing when we were willing to perish, will surely keep us from perishing now that we are trembling to be saved. (3) In this there is our true and only stay in death. If we were saints, if we loved Him with all our soul and with all our strength, the most blessed day in life would be the last. To go and be with Him whom our soul loveth; to be for ever with Him, gazing upon His face of love, ourselves sinless, and living by love alone—this is heaven.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 411.
I. Think first of the person here designated "My Beloved." Christ is the object of the believer's love. He is altogether lovely (1) when we consider His Person. We behold in Him all the beauty of the Godhead and of humanity. (2) When we consider His suitableness. He is suitable to us as the image of the invisible God. Man needs this: man was made thus. He was himself made in God's image, after His likeness—and he lost it; but now he has in Christ the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. He is suitable to our state as ignorant—being made of God unto us "wisdom;" as guilty—being made of God unto us "righteousness;" as polluted—being made of God unto us "sanctification;" and as altogether undone—being made of God unto us "redemption."
II. Now of this Beloved, the Church says and the believer says, "He is mine, and I am His." This is the language (1) of direct faith; (2) of adherence to Christ; (3) of strong affection.
III. There are times when this affection is brought into more lively exercise, and the soul says, "My Beloved is mine and I am His." (1) There is the time of conversion—of the first embracing of Christ. (2) There are times of special approach, of peculiar fellowship, when Christ draws near the soul, and the soul under His approach draws near. (3) There is the time of recovery out of backsliding, out of carelessness, out of forgetfulness of God. (4) There is the hour of death; (5) the hour of temptation, which is twofold—temptation of want, and temptation of fulness. (6) The time of sacramental communion when He who gave Himself for you gives Himself to you.
J. Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 159.
The going-out of every man's mind is after property. The keenest man of business and the devoutest Christian share this principle alike; both desire property. There is no rest in anything till it is property. This universal desire is the return of the mind to the original design of its creation. Man was made to be a proprietor. Sin broke the title-deeds; all property rose in rebellion against its proprietor, and death cancelled every tenure. From that time, man has nothing to do with any creature, but as with a loan. The heart that holds, and the treasure that is holden, are only upon a lease. Woe to the man who calls anything his own. He will wake up tomorrow and find it gone, Christ is the property—the only property a man has, or ever can have, in any world. God never revokes that. And Christ carries with Him the universe, and carries with Him all that is of real value in this life. "My Beloved is mine, and I am His."
I. The communication of Christ to the Church is always called a gift. "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given."
II. It is not only by a common deed of gift that Christ is made over to a believer, it has been made a matter of most solemn contract.
III. There is a property to which neither gift nor compact can reach. It is the property which a man holds in himself. Christ is actually in you,—the very being, and framework, and constitution in every believer. There is no unity in any part of a man in himself more real than that which Christ holds with every member of His Church.
IV. "I am His." Possession depends upon the possessor. What were the best property if the possessor cannot keep it? There are two ways in which possession may be obtained. By an act on the part of the possessor, and by an act on the part of the possessed. On the part of the possessor, by purchase and conquest, and on the part of the possessed by surrender. It is by these three processes, united, that any soul becomes Christ's property.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 215.
References: Song of Solomon 2:16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 374, and vol. xx., No. 1190; J. Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 172. Song of Solomon 2:16, Song of Solomon 2:17.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 171; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 118.
Song of Solomon 2:17Whatever the first use and intent of this phrase, it describes a waiting and a joy to come; a waiting under darkness and shadow, and a joy to come with the light. And so the words answer well the purpose of suggesting the truth, that there are many things in life and destiny that are to be awaited.
I. We wait for rest. If the question were raised, Is man made for toil or for rest?—the answer would be a mixed and qualified one. He is appointed to toil, he is destined to rest; one is his condition, the other is his end. Unceasing toil is the largest feature of human life. As the sun journeys about the earth, it summons the greater part of those it shines on to hard and heavy toil, till its setting dismisses them to brief rest. And this rest is chiefly found in sleep, the nightly death to life, as though rest were no part of man's conscious life. We die, in a sense, to this daily life of toil, to get rest, and thus go off into a world of freedom that is revealed to us by fragments of chance-remembered dreams. Now, surely, it is an intimation that the other death ushers us into a world of absolute freedom and repose; for freedom and repose are correlatives. Rest is something to be awaited in God's own time. To unduly seize it is ruin; it breaks the mould in which our life is cast. To patiently wait for it makes toil endurable, and assures us that our external lives are not a mockery of the hopes wrought into us. Some morning this shadow will flee away. In the Church of St. Nazaro in Florence is an epitaph upon the tomb of a soldier, as fit for the whole toiling race as for his own restless life, "Johannes Divultino, who never rested, rests—hush!" We say of our dead, "They rest from their labours."
II. We wait for the renewal of lost powers. St. Paul speaks of the redemption of the body as something that is waited for. He means no narrow doctrine of a physical resurrection, but a renewal of existence—a restoration of lost powers.
III. We wait for the full perfecting of character. We are keyed, not to attainment, but to the hope of it by struggle towards it. And it is the struggle, and not the attainment, that measures character and foreshadows destiny.
IV. We wait the renewal of sundered love. Love may suffer an eclipse, but it is not sent wailing into eternal shadows. It is as sure as God Himself that human love shall again claim its own.
V. We wait for the mystery to be taken off from life. Mystery may remain, but it will be harmonious mystery. The accusing doubt, the seeming contradiction, the painful uncertainty, will pass away, and we shall see "face to face," and know even as we have been known.
VI. We wait for full restoration to the presence of God.
T. T. Munger, The Freedom of Faith, p. 379.
At its longest, the night can only run its appointed hours. The aggregate of the trouble that is to be in this world was a preordained, fixed quantity. The older we grow the easier it ought to be to say, "Till the day break."
I. There are four things which seem to me to make the night of this present state. (1) Indistinctness. We see a very little way, and what we do see is so imperfect, and we make such sad mistakes. (2) Oppressiveness. Who has not felt the weight of night? Have we not all had consciousness of power which we could not put forth—an awe, an enervating sense of the unknown, all about us? (3) Loneliness makes a great part of the feeling of night. (4) The want of God's felt presence. This world is simply what it is because Christ has not His proper place in it. All things else, be they what they may, become dark in consequence of that one eclipse.
II. But there are signs, glowing signs, that the cheer of the morning is coming. Only two unfulfilled prophecies stand between us and the second Advent. (1) The evangelisation of the whole world; but already the Gospel is a witness to the whole world. (2) The restoration of the Jews; but it is just possible that that restoration may follow, not precede, His coming. But if not, their return might occupy such a small space of time, that literally a nation might be born in a day.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 258.
References: Song of Solomon 2:17.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, 1st series, p. 53. Song of Solomon 3:1.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 19; J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 127.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.