Communion Again Broken --Restoration
Cant. v.2-vi.10.

The fourth section commences with an address of the bride to the daughters of Jerusalem, in which she narrates her recent sad experience, and entreats their help in her trouble. The presence and comfort of her Bridegroom are again lost to her; not this time by relapse into worldliness, but by slothful self-indulgence.

We are not told of the steps that led to her failure; of how self again found place in her heart. Perhaps spiritual pride in the achievements which grace enabled her to accomplish was the cause; or, not improbably, a cherished satisfaction in the blessing she had received, instead of in the Blesser Himself, may have led to the separation. She seems to have been largely unconscious of her declination; self-occupied and self-contented, she scarcely noticed His absence; she was resting, resting alone, -- never asking where He had gone, or how He was employed. And more than this, the door of her chamber was not only closed, but barred; an evidence that His return was neither eagerly desired nor expected.

Yet her heart was not far from Him; there was a music in His voice that awakened echoes in her soul such as no other voice could have stirred. She was still "a garden shut up, a fountain sealed," so far as the world was concerned. The snare this time was the more dangerous and insidious because it was quite unsuspected. Let us look at her narrative: --

I was asleep, but my heart waked:

It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh saying,

Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled:

For My head is filled with dew,

My locks with the drops of the night.

How often the position of the Bridegroom is that of a knocking Suitor outside, as in His epistle to the Laodicean [4] Church: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." It is sad that He should be outside a closed door -- that He should need to knock; but still more sad that He should knock, and knock in vain at the door of any heart which has become His own. In this case it is not the position of the bride that is wrong; if it were, His word as before would be, "Arise, and come away"; whereas now His word is, "Open to Me, My sister, My love." It was her condition of self-satisfaction and love of ease that closed the door.

Very touching are His words: "Open to Me, My sister" (He is the first-born among many brethren), "My love" (the object of My heart's devotion), "My dove" (one who has been endued with many of the gifts and graces of the HOLY SPIRIT), "My undefiled" (washed, renewed, and cleansed for Me); and He urges her to open by reference to His own condition: --

My head is filled with dew,

My locks with the drops of the night.

Why is it that His head is filled with the dew? Because His heart is a shepherd-heart. There are those whom the FATHER has given to Him who are wandering on the dark mountains of sin: many, oh, how many, have never hear the SHEPHERD'S voice; many, too, who were once in the fold have wandered away -- far away from its safe shelter. The heart that never can forget, the love that never can fall, must seek the wandering sheep until the lost one has been found: "My FATHER worketh hitherto, and I work." And will she, who so recently was at His side, who joyfully braved the dens of lions and the mountains of leopards, will she leave Him to seek alone the wandering and the lost?

Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled:

For My head is filled with dew,

My locks with the drops of the night.

We do not know a more touching entreaty in the Word of GOD, and sad indeed is the reply of the bride: --

I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?

I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?

How sadly possible it is to take delight in conferences and conventions, to feast on all the good things that are brought before us, and yet to be unprepared to go out from them to self-denying efforts to rescue the perishing; to delight in the rest of faith while forgetful to fight the good fight of faith; to dwell upon the cleansing and the purity effected by faith, but to have little thought for the poor souls struggling in the mire of sin. If we can put off our coat when He would have us keep it on; if we can wash our feet while He is wandering alone upon the mountains, is there not sad want of fellowship with our LORD?

Meeting with no response from the tardy bride, her

Beloved put in His hand by the hole of the door,

And "her" heart was moved for Him.

But, alas, the door was not only latched, but barred; and His effort to secure an entrance was in vain.

I rose up to open to my Beloved;

And my hands dropped with myrrh,

And my fingers with liquid myrrh,

Upon the handles of the bolt.

I opened to my Beloved;

But my Beloved had withdrawn Himself, and was gone.

My soul had failed me when He spake.

When, all too late, the bride did arise, she seems to have been more concerned to anoint herself with the liquid myrrh than to speedily welcome her waiting LORD; more occupied with her own graces than with His desire. No words of welcome were uttered, though her heart failed within her; and the grieved One had withdrawn Himself before she was ready to receive Him. Again (as in the third chapter) she had to go forth alone to seek her LORD; and this time her experiences were much more painful than on the former occasion.

I sought Him, but I could not find Him;

I called Him, but He gave me no answer.

The watchmen that go about the city found me,

They smote me, they wounded me;

The keepers of the walls took away my mantle from me.

Her first relapse had been one of inexperience; if a second relapse had been brought about by inadvertence she should at least have been ready and prompt when summoned to obey. It is not a little thing to fall into the habit of being tardy in obedience, even in the case of a believer: in the case of the unbeliever the final issue of disobedience is inexpressibly awful: --

Turn you at My reproof:

Behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you,

I will make known My words unto you.

Because I have called, and ye refused;

I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded;. . .

I also will laugh in the day of your calamity. . .

Then shall they call upon Me, but will I not answer;

They shall seek Me diligently, but they shall not find Me.

The backsliding of the bride, though painful, was not final; for it was followed by true repentance. She went forth into the darkness and sought Him; she called, but He responded not, and the watchmen finding her, both smote and wounded her. They appear to have appreciated the gravity of her declination more correctly than she had done. Believers may be blinded to their own inconsistencies; others, however, note them; and the higher the position with regard to our LORD the more surely will any failure be visited with reproach.

Wounded, dishonoured, unsuccessful in her search, and almost in despair, the bride turns to the daughters of Jerusalem; and recounting the story of her sorrows, adjures them to tell her Beloved that she is not unfaithful or unmindful of Him.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my Beloved,

That ye tell Him, that I am sick of love.

The reply of the daughters of Jerusalem shows very clearly that the sorrow-stricken bride, wandering in the dark, is not recognized as the bride of the KING, though her personal beauty does not escape notice.

What is thy Beloved more than another beloved,

O thou fairest among women?

What is thy Beloved more than another beloved,

That thou dost so adjure us?

This question, implying that her Beloved was no more than any other, stirs her soul to its deepest depths; and, forgetting herself, she pours out from the fulness of her heart a soul-ravishing description of the glory and beauty of her LORD.

My Beloved is white and ruddy,

The chiefest among ten thousand.

(see verses 10-16, concluding with)

His mouth is most sweet; yea, He is altogether lovely.

This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend,

O daughters of Jerusalem.

It is interesting to compare the bride's description of the Bridegroom with the descriptions of "the Ancient of Days" in Dan. vii.9, 10, and of our risen LORD in Rev. i.13-16. The differences are very characteristic.

In Dan. vii. we see the Ancient of Days seated on the throne of judgment; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool; His throne and His wheels were as burning fire, and a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. The Son of Man was brought near before Him, and received from Him dominion, and glory, and an everlasting kingdom that shall not be destroyed. In Rev. i. we see the Son of Man Himself clothed with a garment down to the foot, and His head and His hair were white as wool, white as snow; but the bride sees her Bridegroom in all the vigour of youth, with locks "bushy, and black as a raven." The eyes of the risen SAVIOUR are described as "a flame of fire," but His bride sees them "like doves beside the water brooks." In Revelation "His voice is as the voice of many waters. . .and out of His mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword." To the bride, His lips are as lilies, dropping liquid myrrh, and His mouth most sweet. The countenance of the risen SAVIOUR was "as the sun shineth in his strength," and the effect of the vision on John -- "when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as one dead" -- was not unlike the effect of the vision given to Saul as he neared Damascus. But to His bride "His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars." The LION of the tribe of Judah is to His own bride the KING of love; and, with full heart and beaming face, she so recounts His beauties that the daughters of Jerusalem are seized with strong desire to seek Him with her, that they also may behold His beauty.

Whither is thy Beloved gone,

O thou fairest among women?

Whither hath thy Beloved turned Him,

That we may seek Him with thee?

The bride replies: --

My Beloved is gone down to His garden, to the beds of spices,

To feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine:

He feedeth His flock among the lilies.

Forlorn and desolate as she might appear she still knows herself as the object of His affections, and claims Him as her own. This expression, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine," is similar to that found in the second chapter, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His"; and yet with noteworthy difference. Then her first thought of CHRIST was of her claim upon Him: His claim upon her was secondary. Now she thinks first of His claim; and only afterwards mentions her own. We see a still further development of grace in chapter vii.10, where the bride, losing sight of her claim altogether, says: --

I am my Beloved's,

And His desire is toward me.

No sooner has she uttered these words and acknowledged herself as His rightful possession -- a claim which she had practically repudiated when she kept Him barred out -- than her Bridegroom Himself appears; and with no upbraiding word, but in tenderest love, tells her how beautiful she is in His eyes, and speaks her praise to the daughters of Jerusalem.

To her, He says: --

Thou art beautiful, O My love, as Tirzah,

(the beautiful city of Samaria,)

Comely as Jerusalem,

(the glorious city of the great King,)

Terrible (or rather brilliant) as an army with banners.

Turn away thine eyes from Me,

For they have overcome Me. (See vv.4-7).

Then, turning to the daughters of Jerusalem, He exclaims: --

There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines,

And maidens without number.

My dove, My perfect one, is but one;

She is the only one of her mother;

She is the choice one of her that bare her.

The daughters saw her, and called her blessed;

Yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her, saying,

Who is she that looketh forth as the morning,

Fair as the moon,

Clear as the sun,

Brilliant as an army with banners?

Thus the section closes with communion fully restored; the bride reinstated and openly acknowledged by the Bridegroom as His own peerless companion and friend. The painful experience through which the bride has passed has been fraught with lasting good, and we have no further indication of interrupted communion, but in the remaining sections only joy and fruitfulness.


[4] The Church of Popular Opinion, as pointed out by the Rev. Charles Fox in an address at Keswick, as the Church of Philadelphia is the Church of Brotherly Love.

section iii the joy of
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