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The First and Greatest Commandment
Song of Solomon 8:3
I. See how every power of the mind is embraced by, and concerned in, this love: how the head and the heart, knowledge and feeling, the understanding and the will, are all swallowed up by it. And yet, the very text tells us which is of more value in the Lord's sight. Just as the Seraphim, that are on fire with love, hold a more exalted estate than the Cherubim, that are perfect in knowledge so here 'His left hand should be under my head, and His right hand should embrace me'. Every power of yours, of knowledge as well as of love, must be His; but oh, how infinitely of more value in His eyes the love than the knowledge!
II. Notice this. He thus shields the head, He thus protects the whole form of His Bride. How was His head shielded: how was His most blessed form embraced? It was no gentle hand which supported His head in those the last horn's of His earthly life: the long sharp thorns were driven into that; and thus, out of the infinity of His goodness, He returns good for evil. The embrace He received was that of the Cross itself, the bitter and hard bed of His last sufferings: the rough handling of the four soldiers that nailed Him thereto: the piercing of the nails themselves: that was the embrace given. What is that which He gives? Think of that right hand first, how it was prefigured in the ancient days, in the generations of old. This was the hand that had healed the poor leper with those words of love 'I will: be thou clean' that had held up Peter from sinking when his faith failed in the great wind and the surging waves that had written in the sand, before the gracious sentence, 'Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more' which had anointed the eyes of the blind man so that he received his sight which had been stretched forth, as it were, towards the penitent thief, giving effect to those words of inestimable joy, 'Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise'; which will, at the latter day be held out to the righteous with, 'Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'.
III. But then, remember this. That right hand did not become glorious in power that right hand did not dash the enemy in pieces till it had been nailed to the Cross. That which befell the Captain must befall the soldiers also.
J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 321.
Coming Up From the Wilderness
Song of Solomon 8:5
I. Who is it that asks the question? The very form of it tells us. 'Who is this' not that goeth, but 'that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved?' Then they who put it are delivered from the wilderness themselves. They may well ask with joy as they see another and another and another guided safely through it ' Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness?'
Nevertheless, as the very words show us, it is a struggle to get out of the wilderness. 'Who is she that cometh up?' A perpetual ascent: a constant striving upward: if 'the hill of Sion is a fair place and the joy of the whole earth,' it is a lofty place too, and not to be attained without a lifelong effort.
II. She is coming up from the wilderness, but she is not alone. He, Who in the days of His Flesh tabernacled in the same wilderness, knew all its wearisomeness, conquered all its dangers, He will not leave her comfortless in it He will come unto her, and having come He will walk with her. But more, far more, than that. It is not Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness with her Beloved but leaning on her Beloved. No fear of tiring Him, for He is the Everlasting God no fear of want of sympathy in Him, for He is True Man. She is now to lean on that arm which for her was stretched out on the Cross; she is now to be drawn near to that heart which for her was pierced with the spear. 'So they two went on together:' in what nearness and dearness of love, in what intimacy of conversation she receiving all, He giving all: she rejoicing to have nothing that does not come from Him He unwilling to have anything which He is not ready to bestow on her.
III. See if it is so with you. The wilderness you are passing so you know and feel: but the question is, whether leaning on Him? This also you know, that on nothing else can you lean: those broken reeds not only give way but pierce the hand that would trust them. But this is the feeling that you may, that you ought to have: that any additional discomfort, any especial trial, only give you the right to throw more of your burden on Him. That arm on which you are leaning has raised so many sinners from spiritual death: has been thrown round so many penitents to hold up their goings in His ways that their footsteps slipped not: has wiped so many tears from so many eyes. And there it is for you to rest on: there it is to shield you, to guard you; finally, to crown you.
J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 334.
References. VIII. 5. R. A. Suckling, Sermons Plain and Parochial, p. 235. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 877.
Song of Solomon 8:6
'He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.' How often does that word seal occur in the whole Bible? What does it mean? All things have significance. The value is often wholly in the meaning. The thing itself may be small enough, so small as to be almost beneath notice, if the question be one of magnitude and appraisement. We must look at the Biblical seals just as they come and go; we must as commentators have much licence in the matter of accommodation. Some of the meanings are obvious; some are implicit, they have almost to be dug out as if men were searching for silver and for hidden silver.
I. In choosing this as our text we are not making vivid a process which is often allowable in pulpit exposition a peculiar or distinctive word; we are engaged upon the unfolding and expansion of a long golden chain. This is a text of links, this is a polysyllable of love, this the endless word, because pointing to the endless life. Would you hear a little of the drip, drip of the music of the sealing? Why, I could begin anywhere, but we might begin in Job: 'He commandeth the sun and sealeth up the stars,' as if they were quite little morsels of jewels, and He gathered them into one slender batch and tied some jewelled seal to them, and said, These are my jewels, to be gathered up on a given day. Or Isaiah: 'Seal the law among my ' and then comes a New Testament word. The New Testament in Isaiah? Why, certainly. The New Testament is in Genesis. What is that completing word in Isaiah? Read the text again, and we will conjecture, now that you have given us the key, that the word is in the New Testament and in the very first part of the New Testament: 'Seal the law among My disciples'. We are familiar with the word; when we first read it we did not know the meaning of it, but we read on through Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Daniel, and right away through into Matthew, and there the word disciples occurred, and then it often occurred, and then we thought we had always known the word so ungrateful is man.
II. Wonderful wearing of a seal is this in the Song of Solomon 8:6 'Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm.' The whole idea of the gospel bondage sweet, sweet slavery! is in that symbolism.
1. Where must the seal first be? 'Upon thine heart.' Begin at the heart if you would begin wisely; begin metaphysically, begin a long way from the visible, the concrete, and what is called the practical poorest, meanest of the little heaps of dust that gather around the feet of our pilgrimage! Begin far away. We must have Christ in the heart, a great secret, a solemn yet joyful silence. Christ and the heart must have tender communion; they have festive times that are not marked on the calendar; they muse together, they ask questions of one another, then come more nearly near; in the soul there is a mystic wedding without which any other wedding is blasphemy, an oath broken at the altar.
2. Then set thy seal upon mine arm or thine arm: there is a time for protest, confession, public profession of the Eternal Name; there is a ministry of symbolism, there is a way of walking that means that the pilgrim has a sanctuary in view; there is a mysterious influence upon the attitude, the figure, the dress, the whole tone and speech of the life. What is it? We often call it the profession of the name of Christ. Some of us would perhaps under certain circumstances turn our clothing so that we could conceal the seal from everybody; and there is a way to be equally detested, and that is an opening and showing the seal as if making an investment and testimonial and credential of it. There is another way, the way of true modesty, gentle but invincible love that is not ashamed of Jesus or ashamed of the Christian seal.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 127.
Set Me As a Seal Upon Thine Heart (Tuesday in Holy Week)
Song of Solomon 8:6
I. Set Me as a Seal Upon Thine Heart, as a Seal Upon Thine Arm. If the Bride had followed the order of time, she would have reversed the two petitions; but thinking of those two greatest and most blessed sacraments, prefigured in the Blood and Water that flowed from the Side of her Lord, and. which must be the source and origin of every action, she puts the seal on the heart first. A cruel engraving, indeed, though exercised on a lifeless body; and yet, such virtue then went forth from that wound, opened by the spear, that the soldier who inflicted it became himself a good soldier and martyr of Jesus Christ.
A seal bears the resemblance of that to which it belongs, and our resemblance there is, indeed, in these wounds. We know what we were when He came to seek and to save us. We know how,' from the sole of the foot even unto the head, there was no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores'. Himself, therefore, took our infirmities and bare our sickness: Himself impressed our likeness on His hands and on His side, binding us then by the nearest and dearest of ties, graving us as He Himself says, on the palms of His hands.
II. 'For Love is Strong as Death.' His love, indeed, was stronger than the most fearful death; than a lingering, shameful death; than a forsaken lonely death; than a death from which the Eternal Father hid His face; than a death brought to pass by the treachery of one disciple, and accompanied by the cowardice of all. Such love as His met such a death as His. But apply that same saying to us can there be a bitterer satire on what we do, and on what we do not do? Our love strong as death! It is well if it be strong enough to triumph over the next temptation that assaults us. Our love strong as death! Why, sometimes it hardly seems to exist at all. We feel too powerless and helpless and listless to care about anything, to wish for anything, to long for anything and can we love?
III. Jealousy is Cruel as the Grave. And how? Jealousy not of but for, the beloved thing or person. Not that we should not be loved by Him so well as others are, but that He should not be loved by others lest He should not be loved according to His deserts.
IV. The Coals Thereof are Coals of Fire. This was the fire wherewith our Paschal Lamb was offered: this it was not the nails, not the scourge, not the Cross which sacrificed Him for the sins of the world. This was, indeed, the returning of the good for evil which has heaped coals of fire on our heads.
V. And yet here is our Comfort. On that heart, on that arm, you are set as seals. You cannot be forgotten you cannot be overlooked. If He died for you, no fear that He should not remember you. If He suffered for you, no fear that He will not suffer with you. And then I might tell you to remember how a seal is made and of what: the work of a cunning artificer: little by little: bit by bit: here a grain of stone, there a grain of stone: every mite adding to the true figure every sculpture indelible. Cut out, too, with sharp instruments with different sharp instruments, but when once cut out in a gem, never to be effaced. You may destroy the jewel, but, keeping that undestroyed, the seal impressed there must remain there.
J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 345.
References. VIII. 6. W. J. Knox-Little, Labour and Sorrow, p. 313. T. T. Carter, Lent Lectures, 1860-1866, p. 136. J. Vaughan, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 166. J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 127. VIII. 6, 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 364. VIII. 7. Ibid. vol. xlii. No. 2466. VIII. 11. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 356. VIII. 11-14. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2480. VIII. 12. Ibid. vol. xlviii. No. 2785. VIII. 13. F. W. Atkin, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 183. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1716. VIII. 13, 14. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Song of Songs, p. 378. VIII. 14. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2360.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 8". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany