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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ song-of-solomon-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Song of Solomon 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Song of Solomon 1:1 : The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s. ‘The Song of Songs,’ שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים (shir hashshirim). שִׁיר (shir), a song or poem, as opposed to prose: but distinguished from מִזְמור (mizmor), a song with musical accompaniment, a psalm. EWALD, ZOCKLER in LANGE. According to some, a series. KLEUK. AUGUSTI. שירה in its original acceptation, a string or chain; Arab poets speaking of stringing their verses as pearls. GOOD. ‘Song of Songs,’ a Hebrew reduplication denoting excellency. An instance of the Hebrew superlative, like Ezekiel 16:7; Daniel 9:24; the finest or most beautiful of songs, the comparison however probably not with other poetry of Solomon. NOYES. Not, as GESENIUS, a song consisting of many songs. Nor, as KIMCHI and others, a song out of many Songs of Solomon. The High Song (das Hohelied). LUTHER. The excellent song. GENEVA BIBLE. Indicates emphatically the most excellent of its kind. EWALD. The noblest and sweetest song. SANCTIUS. The most excellent song, and made up many songs; or, comprehending all the songs, not only of Solomon but of the Prophets: the sum, kernel, and marrow of all sacred songs. COCCEIUS, MERCER. The most beautiful song. DE WETTE. A song consisting of many songs, or excelling other songs; indicating also the unity of its contents. DE-LITZSCH. So called either from the excellence of the composition or the subject. LOWTH. Most excellent song of all in the sacred books; in elegance of structure, fulness of mystery, and sublimity of meaning. CARPZOV. Most important, excellent and precious of songs; reference to the subject of it; to prophets and apostles, a reservoir of the treasures of Divine love existing between the Creator and His saved and sanctified creatures; the title claimed not by Solomon, but by the Holy Spirit. WEISS. Other songs celebrate the King’s victory and the deliverance wrought for His Church; this His marriage with her and His love to the Bride. THEODORET. Ten songs have been sung; but this excels them all. TARGUM. The song which is above all songs. RASHI. All the Scriptures are holy; the Song of songs, the Holy of holies. AKIBA. All the songs of Scripture are the Holy place; the Song of songs, the most holy. R. JOSHUA.
‘Which is Solomon’s’ (אֲשָׁר לִשְׁלֹמֹה asher li-Shelomoh). The relative probably not, as GESENIUS thinks, added here on account of the article in הַשִּׁירַים as if—‘the songs which are Solomon’s. The antecedent either שִׁיר or הַשִׁירִים; most likely שִׁיר, הַשִׁירִים being added as a Hebrew form of the superlative. EWALD, HITZIG, BLEEK. So the SEPTUAGINT, ὅ ἑστι, ‘which is.’ לִשְׁלֹמֹה to or of Solomon.’ שְׁלֹמֹה (Shelomo) from שָׁלם (shalom) peace, with the termination הֹ or וֹ, identical with וֹן, and forming the concrete from the abstract. Meaning alluded to in 1 Chronicles 22:2. GESENIUS. DAVIDSON fancifully suggests הֹ as the representative of הוּא ‘he’; as if, ‘He is the peace’ like Micah 5:5 and Ephesians 2:14. The ALEX. SEPTUAGINT has—to, for, or of Solomon (τῷ Σ.). The VULGATE: Solomon’s. As referring to Solomon or ascribed to him. VATABLUS. Both by and concerning Solomon, i.e., Christ. COCCEIUS. Solomon as a type of Christ, both the author and the subject. AINSWORTH. Words so contrived as to mean either. PATRICK. Concerning Solomon, that is, the Messiah. MIDRASH. לְ not used here merely to indicate the authorship: = ‘devoted or delivered to;’ as Psalms 7:2; Jeremiah 15:2; 1 Chronicles 29:2. WEISS. Of Solomon as the author. MERCER, &c. As the author inspired by the Holy Ghost. CARPZOV. Belonging to Solomon, and so placed among the sacred books. ABEN EZRA. Solomon as the author: Amplifies what David his father had begun in the 45th and 68th Psalms: the Bridegroom in the song called Solomon, either from the dignity of the name (Peaceful), or as suiting the circumstances, or because Solomon was a type of Christ, which was probably known to Solomon himself. SANCTIUS. According to EWALD, the title ascribes the poem to Solomon, but was given at a later period, probably after the exile. DELITZSCH: Indicates unity of authorship. ZÖCKLER: Which is by Solomon. His title of ‘King,’ assumed in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, here laid aside in contemplating the celestial person of whom he speaks. PATRICK. Also, lest Solomon should be thought the King here intended, the book being a ‘Song of Loves.’ GILL. Concerning Solomon: hence not a book of King Solomon’s, but of some other inspired author. HARMER. Concerning Solomon—the true Solomon, the Lord Jesus Christ; no reference being made to King Solomon in any part of the book. HAWKER. Solomon the inspired author, yet not speaking in his own person. FRY.
THE SONG OF SOLOMON
Title of the Book
CHAPTER 1.Song of Solomon 1:1; Song of Solomon 1:1
“The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.”
It is well, with Dr. Chalmers, to begin the study of this sacred book with the prayer: “My God, spiritualize my affections; give me intense love to Christ.”
Two parts in the Title of the book as here given:—
1. Its name and character—“the Song of Songs.”
2. Its ascription—“which is Solomon’s.” The First part of the Title,
“The Song of Songs,”
I. The NATURE of the Book. A Song. Hence—
1. Pleasant and joyous. Song the language of joy. Indicates joy in those who sing, and aims at awakening joy in those who hear. This one of the ‘songs in the night’ given by our Maker and Saviour (Job 35:10). The Holy Spirit the author of joy, and therefore the author of songs. This book all the more attractive from its being a song. Both old and young love songs, and are attracted by them. The subject of this book of a pleasing nature, and fit to be treated in a song. Marriage a joyful event, celebrated with festivity and music. The subject of this song a Divine and heavenly union. The song a spiritual Epithalamium, or Nuptial Ode. A song of the bride-chamber (Matthew 9:15). A Gospel song, and one for Gospel times; the whole subject being the love of Jesus Christ to sinners and the salvation He brings to them. Gospel grace puts a new song in the mouth (Psalms 40:3; Psalms 98:1). The Gospel began with songs and ends with them. This book one of the ‘spiritual songs,’ in which believers are to ‘speak one to another’ (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). A large part of the Bible taken up with songs. The Word of God intended to be attractive. The Lord’s ransomed ones to ‘return and come to Zion with songs’ (Isaiah 35:10).
2. Profitable. A song, like poetry in general, fitted to stir and move the affections. Songs found to have the most powerful influence on the minds and morals of a people. “Give me the making of the songs and ballads of a nation, and I will leave the laws to others.” By the Jews the poetical parts of Scripture were especially esteemed, and often learned by heart.
II. Its EXCELLENCE. A ‘Song of songs A Hebrew expression denoting excellence as king of kings, heaven of heavens, &c. This not only excels all human, but all Divine songs. The Jews called other Scripture songs ‘holy,’ but this the ‘holy of holies.” The book worthy of this title on account of—
1. Its Character at a Composition. The most “beautiful example of Hebrew poetry in its highest style of metaphor and arrangement.” More especially, however, on account of—
2. Its Subject. The bridal relation between the Son of God and His saved people. Christ’s excellence and beauty, and His love to the Church as His bride. The Church’s excellence and beauty as a reflection of His, and her happiness and honour in consequence of her bridal relation to Him. This song has the Holy Ghost for its author; the union and communion between Christ and believers for its matter; and the glory of God and the comfort of His people for its end. Here are prophecy, history, and the spiritual life, divinely woven into one symbolical robe of matchless beauty. The song a many-sided mirror reflecting the Lord’s dealings with His Church, viewed both collectively and individually, as well in the Old Testament as in the New. Reveals mysteries of Divine love into which the angels desire to look. This book, next to the Gospels, the fullest of Christ, and therefore the sweetest to the Christian who is enlightened enough to understand it. A fountain at which prophets and apostles and the Lord Jesus Himself refreshed their spirits. Next to David’s Psalms, the favourite book of the Bible with the Fathers of the Church. Its foundation laid in the Psalms; especially in that gem of Psalms, the forty-fifth. David sung the Bridegroom’s future appearing, His conflicts, his sorrows, and his triumphs: Solomon sung His alliance and fellowship with His blood-bought bride. The song a labyrinth of exquisite flowers transplanted from heaven to earth. Wafts a perfumed breath of celestial spring from paradise to this world. The song “a maze of sweets, and a lovely obscurity.” A heaven-given riddle in connection with the marriage of the Lamb, the true Samson; and only to be ploughed with His own heifer. Requires ‘the mind that hath,’ not earthly but, heavenly ‘wisdom.’ A mine of precious diamonds, demanding patient and prayerful labour and the Spirit’s light to explore it and discover them.
The Second part of the Title—
“Which is Solomon’s,”
Ambiguous. Probably indicates—
I. The AUTHOR of the Book. The literal Solomon, King of Israel and wisest of men. Best proof of wisdom, to celebrate the love of God is Christ, and to stir up ourselves and others to love Him in return. Gradation in Solomon’s writings: the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, or the Song. In proverbs, Solomon sings of moral virtues and their benefits; in Ecclesiastes, of the vanity of earthly things; in Canticles, of Divine love and fellowship. Canticles a striking contrast to Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes, a mournful complaint of the disappointment found in the creature; Canticles a joyous song of the infinite satisfaction found in the Creator. Ecclesiastes points to earthly pleasure, and says: ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again’; Canticles points to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and says: ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall never thirst.’—Solomon, with his hands full of state affairs, yet found time for spiritual meditation and the celebration of Divine love. Worldly business, and diligence in it, no hindrance to love to Christ, and due concern for the spiritual interests of ourselves and others.
II. The SUBJECT of the Book. The spiritual Solomon, the true Prince of Peace and King of Israel,—Solomon’s great antitype. The true Solomon and his love to the Church the great subject of the Song. Solomon exhibited in the Bible as one of the types of the Messiah. Is so—
1. In his Names: ‘Jedidiah,’ Beloved of the Lord: ‘Solomon.’ the Peaceful.
2. In his Wisdom.
3. In his Riches and Magnificence.
4. In the wide extent of his Dominions.
5. In the peaceful character of his Reign.
6. In the prosperous and happy condition of his Kingdom.
7. In the erection of the Temple of God at Jerusalem.
Christ prefigured by Aaron as a priest; by Moses as a prophet; by David and Solomon as a King,—by the one in his conquests and by the other in his peaceful enjoyment of them. Solomon not called here, as in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, the King of Israel. His personality here lost sight of in his typical character. The type overshadowed by the antitype. Christ, in one aspect or another, the central figure in all the Books of Scripture. “Search the Scriptures; for they testify of Me.” This said even of Old Testament Scripture. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (John 5:39; Revelation 19:10; Luke 24:27). The Scriptures all testify of Jesus. The Song testifies of Him as the King and Bridegroom of His Church, stooping to win and wed poor fallen humanity for His Bride. By the Jews, the Song understood of their Divine King to be manifested in the Messiah, and the Israelitish nation as the Bride whom He was pleased to espouse to Himself.
III. The DESIGN of the Book. For the true Solomon.
1. For his Glory. The glory of Christ, and of God in Him, the end of all Scripture as of all creation (Colossians 1:16). Especially true of this portion of it, so full of Himself, of His excellencies, His joys, and His love.
2. For hit Use. All Old Testament intended for his use as the perfect man (Psalms 1:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:15-16). Probably this portion of it especially, which speaks most about him. Reason to believe that the Psalms of David and the Song of Solomon formed the principal devotional books of our Lord (Davidson). As a child, Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature. In both respects, doubtless, through ordinary means. The sincere milk of the Word his daily food. What was designed for the Head, designed also for the members. What was used by the man Christ Jesus as His spiritual aliment and refreshment, to be used also by ourselves for ours. The Rabbinical rule that this Book was only to be read by those who had reached their thirtieth year, a mere human invention,—like others, rejected by Christ and to be rejected by us. 2 Timothy 3:15-16, and Romans 15:4 clean against any such limitation. This Book, like the rest of Scripture, to be read with seriousness and expounded with discretion; but no argument against reading and preaching from it in the fact that evil men may abuse it. Ignorant men wrest also other Scriptures to their own destruction. “To the pure all things are pure.” The holiest and most spiritually-minded have naturally delighted most in this Book, in which they find most of their Beloved and their Friend. Witness Bernard of Clairvoix, Samuel Rutherford, and Robert McCheyne. In Scotland’s best times, the song of Solomon the chosen field of meditation at Sacramental seasons.
Two things needful for the profitable reading of this remarkable book:—
(1) A Christian experience. The song a mirror of the believer’s heart. Only taught by a Divine anointing, and only learned by a spiritual experience” (Bernard). Only to be properly understood by our becoming part of the Bride whose experience it portrays.
(2) A loving heart. Like the forty-fifth Psalm, which it greatly resembles, the Song of Solomon a ‘Song of loves’ (Psalms 45:0 title). The mystery of the song a mystery of love. Words of earthly love employed to elevate the soul to a heavenly one. A ‘song of loves’ requires a loving heart to understand, realize, and appreciate it. “Love’s language a foreign tongue to one who does not love.” Hence the song of Solomon pre-eminently a test for the state of the heart.
The Meeting of the Betrothed
CHAPTER Song of Solomon 1:2, TO CHAPTER Song of Solomon 2:7
SCENE FIRST. Place: The Palace of Jerusalem. Speakers: Shulamite, or the Bride; and the Daughters of Jerusalem, or the Ladies of Solomon’s Court.—CHAP. Song of Solomon 1:2-8.
Addressing the King in his Absence
Bride’s Longing after the Beloved.
Song of Solomon 1:2-4
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.
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.
Spiritually, the believer’s longing for the sensible presence of Christ and the manifestation of His love. Probably the cry of the Ancient Church for the coming of the Lord’s Anointed. According to the Jews, Israel’s longing for the Divine reconciliation after the sin of the Golden Calf.
Bride’s First Desire.
“Let him kiss me with the kisses (or, with kisses) of his mouth” (Song of Solomon 1:2). Shulamite speaks in soliloquy. Speaks of her Beloved as absent. Observe—
I. The PERSON intended. “Let him;” namely, the Beloved. No name mentioned. The language abrupt but natural, as spoken under strong emotion. Expressive of reverence. So the disciples of Pythagoras Spoke of their master,—“He said.” More especially, of impassioned affection. The Bride’s thoughts full of her Beloved, as though there were but one object she cared for (Psalms 73:25). Christ to the believer the One Pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46). The language of a soul wearying of all but Christ. Bride speaks of her Beloved as if all must know whom she meant. So Mary to the supposed gardener: “If thou have borne Him hence” (John 20:15).
Christ continually promised to the fathers through the prophets (Acts 26:6; 1 Peter 1:11). The hope and expectation of Old Testament saints (Genesis 49:18; Isaiah 26:8; Matthew 13:17; John 8:56; Acts 26:7). Exemplified in Simeon, Anna, and others (Luke 2:25-26; Luke 2:36-38; Luke 3:15). Christ promised and expected as the Bridegroom of the Church (Hosea 2:19; Hosea 3:3; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 62:5; John 3:29).
II. The THING desired. Let him “kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” Personal and sensible manifestation of Christ and His love to the soul. The love itself not doubted: the expression, proof, and enjoyment of it desired. Christ’s kiss is Christ Himself sensibly giving Himself in tenderest affection to the soul, and assuring it of His cordial love. The subject of the Song not the coming to the Saviour, but communion with Him: not the coming of the soul to Christ, but the coming of Christ to the soul. The language of the soul in the Song not that of the Publican: ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’; but that of the Psalmist: ‘My soul cleaveth to the dust: quicken thou me according to Thy word’ (Psalms 119:25). The language of the text expressive of—
1. Strong desire and eager longing. ‘Let him.’ (or, O that he would) ‘kiss me.’ Such longings a natural part of a healthy Christian experience. Feeble health little accustomed to fervent longing. A Christ loved will be a Christ longed for. Absence illbrooked by ardent affection. Love yearns for the fellowship and enjoyed love of its object.
2. Intimate acquaintance. Familiar acquaintance with Christ begets not contempt, but reverence and love.
3. Consciousness of union with and interest in the Beloved. Kisses not for strangers, still less for enemies. Expected only by a friend, and most of all by a Bride or wife.
4. Mutual affection. Kisses desired only from one who loves us and whom we ourselves love. An aggravation of Judas’s sin that he betrayed his Master with a kiss. A true kiss the ‘kiss of charity’ or love (1 Peter 5:14).
5. Absence and delay. Sensible tokens of Divine love not always vouchsafed to believers. Christ’s kisses not things of every day. At times wisely withheld. ‘A time for embracing, and a time to refrain from embracing.’ Patience required in respect to spiritual joys. The time coming when delay and withdrawal will be no more.
6. Desire for manifested reconciliation. So Israel longed after the Lord after the sin of the golden calf (Exodus 33:1-4; Exodus 33:7-11); and in the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:2). A kiss the token of reconciliation given by David to his son Absalom, and by the forgiving father to the prodigal and penitent son (2 Samuel 14:33; Luke 15:20).
The desire expressed by each believing soul for itself: ‘Let him kiss me.’ The living soul desires personal enjoyment of Christ’s love and the personal application of it. Christ’s kisses for His Church universal, and for each true member of it in particular. Each believing soul the Church in miniature. The features, experience, and glory of the Church those of each individual member.
The thing desired—
(1) ‘Kisses.’ Implies coldness of faith and affection. To receive even a kind word from Christ an unspeakable favour and happiness. Christ able and willing to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Grants not only the adoption of a son, but the espousals of a bride (Theodoret). The Bride appears to desire not only one kiss but many. Even one not to be purchased with a thousand worlds. How rich the believer in receiving many! Even one a thing never to be forgotten. One of Christ’s kisses carries heaven in its bosom. Kisses of different kinds and for different occasions: the kiss of favour, of friendship, of affection, of reconciliation, of relationship, of nuptial contract, and of marriage. The marriage-covenant between Christ and His people permits and grants the renewal of its seals and pledges.
(2) ‘Kisses of his mouth.’ These reserved more especially for his personal appearing. ‘Let him kiss me, not by the mouth of the prophets, but with his own mouth’ (Rabbins). The desire a prophetical intimation of His coming in the flesh. Realized when men wondered at “the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:18-22). “Be of good comfort, thy sins are forgiven thee;” “Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace”—some of these kisses. Such also every Gospel promise and gracious consolation uttered and applied by Jesus to the penitent believing soul. ‘The lip of promise meeting the lip of prayer.’ Christ’s office to “Preach glad tidings to the meek; to bind up the broken hearted; to comfort them that mourn; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19). His mouth most sweet (chap. Song of Solomon 5:16). ‘His mouth,’ as marking the tenderest affection. Amazing condescension that the King of glory can stoop from His throne to kiss a beggar taken from the dunghill. Ample compensation for the loss of idols in the kisses of the King’s mouth. The soul that gives up all for Him, sooner or later filled and overpowered with His love. The ‘kisses of his mouth’ not only the communications of His love but of His spirit. According to the Jews, a man’s loving kiss is accompanied with an infusion of his spirit. So Jesus, after saying: Peace be unto you,—breathed on His disciples, and said: Receive ye the Holy Ghost (John 20:21-22). Christ’s kisses given in the reading and hearing of His word; in secret and social prayer; and in the ordinance of the Supper. The consolations of His Word personally applied by Himself to the heart through His Spirit. The kisses to be given by His own mouth. All Gospel duty summed up in our kissing the Son; all Gospel comfort summed up in the Son kissing us. Christ’s kisses in the Gospel intended to heal the wounds of the Law. The kisses of His mouth in the highest sense still kept in reserve. Jerusalem above the place where the Lord mainly comforts His people (Isaiah 66:13). There they see His face. His hand wipes away their tears. He Himself feeds them and leads them to living fountains of waters. Hence His second appearing the desire of believers in the New Testament, as His first appearing was that of those in the Old (Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20; 2 Peter 3:12). The last promise of Christ in the Bible: Surely I come quickly. The last prayer of His Church: Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
Reason of Bride’s First Desire.
“For thy love (Heb. loves) is better than wine.”—Song of Solomon 1:1.
With the next breath Shulamite turns to her Beloved and addresses himself, though still absent and invisible. A believer’s communion with Christ on earth rather that with an invisible friend. Want of bodily sight no hindrance to spiritual fellowship. Christ, though invisible to the eye of flesh, yet visible to the eye of faith. Common, under strong feeling, to address a friend though distant and unseen. The living and loving soul not satisfied with speaking of Christ, but must speak to Him. ‘He’ to be exchanged for ‘Thou.’ The reason for the soul desiring the kisses of Christ’s mouth is the excellence and sweetness of His love and the manifestations of it. An object desired in proportion to the sense of its worth. Observe in regard to the—
Excellence of Christ’s Love.
1. The LOVE itself. ‘Thy love,’ or as margin, ‘thy loves’—not only the love itself, but the manifestations of it. Christ’s love always one and the same; the expressions and manifestations of it many and various. His love well represented in the plural form, from its riches, abundance, and extent. Paul’s prayer that believers might be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit, so as to comprehend with all saints what is its length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know it though really passing all knowledge (Ephesians 3:16-19. Observe—
1. The character of Christ’s love. Like the love of the Father it is—
(1) Everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).
(2) Unchanging (John 13:1).
(3) Spontaneous and free (Ezekiel 16:5-6; Ezekiel 16:8; 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19).
(4) Sovereign and distinguishing (John 6:70; John 13:18; John 15:16).
(5) Costly and self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 1:5).
(6) Enriching in its effects (Ephesians 5:26-27; Revelation 1:5-6).
2. The manifestations of it. These both in word and deed. Made in—
(1) His engaging for us in the everlasting covenant (Psalms 40:7; Ephesians 5:25).
(2) The revelation of His love in the first promise in Eden (Genesis 3:15).
(3) The successive communications of it through the prophets.
(4) His gracious dealings with His people in the Old Testament.
(5) The personal manifestations of Himself to the patriarchs and Old Testament saints.
(6) His INCARNATION.
(7). His acts, words, and teachings when on earth.
(8). His sufferings and death.
(9). The bestowment of His Spirit on and after Pentecost.
(10) His promises to His Church made before and after His ascension into heaven.
(11) The ordinances which He instituted, especially that of the Supper.
(12) The ingathering of His Redeemed by the preaching of the Word.
(13) The personal communications of His love to the souls of His people.
(14) His gracious providential dealings with His Church, both as a whole and in its individual members.
II. The EXCELLENCE of the love. ‘Thy love is better than wine.’ Wine put for what is most grateful to the taste, refreshing to the body, and exhilarating to the spirits. Wine among the chief luxuries of life. The ‘banquet of wine’ (Esther 5:6) put for the most joyous of feasts. Yet Christ’s love ‘better than wine.’
(1) From the nature of love itself. Love and the expression of it among the sweetest of human enjoyments. Hence the ‘comfort of love’ (Philippians 2:1).
(2) From the person whose love it is. A sinful and imperfect creature’s love often the sweetest of earthly enjoyments. What the love of Him who is the ‘Chief among ten thousand,’ ‘fairer than the children of men,’ ‘altogether lovely, the sum, source, and centre of all loveliness and excellence! Christ’s love better than wine, as—
1. More sweet, gladdening, and refreshing. (Psalms 4:7-8). ‘Sweet is the King’s wine, but sweeter is his love’ (Delitzsch). The sense of Christ’s love the true cordial of the soul.
2. More satisfying. The old wine, after which none desires new. Takes from creature enjoyments much of their attraction. The world crucified to us by the cross of Christ,—the highest expression of this love.
3. More beneficial. Exhilarates the soul; and through that, influential on the whole man. Purifies while it gladdens. No danger of excess or of hurtful consequences. Wine a mocker. At last bites like a serpent and stings like an adder (Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:32). Christ’s love leaves no sting behind it. Betrays none into sin. Exhilarates without inebriating.
4. More lasting in its effects. Wine perishable, and soon ceases even to exhilarate and refresh. Christ’s love eternal and unchanging in its effects as well as in itself. That only strictly true of Christ’s love which is said of wine: ‘Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more’ (Proverbs 31:6).
The excellence of Christ’s love not to be described (Psalms 36:7-10). To be tasted in order to be known (Psalms 34:8; 1 Peter 2:3). Able to fill the soul with joy in the absence of all earthly comforts, and the loss of all earthly possessions (Habakkuk 3:17-18). The Holy Spirit’s office to reveal it and shed it abroad in the heart (Romans 5:5). Hence the exhortation: ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Joy in the experience of Christ’s love the characteristic of the New Testament dispensation. Symbolized in His first miracle. The water of the Old Testament economy turned into the wine of the New. The consecration of wine as the symbol of His shed blood, and so of His dying love, among the last acts of the Saviour’s love. Hence the Lord’s Supper made the sweetest and most reviving of all Divine ordinances. Christ’s love the joy of the Redeemed in heaven. The new wine of the kingdom. The song of the Beloved Disciple’s old age, seventy years after tasting of it as he lay on Jesus’s breast. The ever new song of the saints around the throne (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9-12).
The Bride Justifies her Desire.
‘Because of the savour of thy good ointments (thy name is as ointment poured forth), therefore do the virgins love thee’—Song of Solomon 1:3.
Her desire justified on two grounds:
(1) The excellence and sweetness in the Beloved himself;
(2) The fact that on that account virgins loved him.
FIRST GROUND: ‘Because of the savour of thy good ointments,—thy name it as ointment poured forth;’ or, ‘ointment poured forth is thy name.’ The first clause the formal reason for the virgins’ love to the King; the second, a parenthetical amplification and explanation of the former, his name being itself those good ointments (Ecclesiastes 7:1). ‘The savour of thy good ointments’ or perfumes, suggests—
The Excellence and Sweetness of Christ
I. Christ has ‘ointments’ or perfumes. The king’s ointments sweetly scented oils sprinkled on the garments, poured on the head, or carried about the person. Christ’s ointments the graces of the soul and life, shed on Him and produced in Him by the Holy Spirit. The existence of such ointments indicated in His official name, ‘Christ,’ or ‘the Christ.’ This the Greek rendering of the Hebrew term Messiah; both meaning ‘the Anointed One.’ Christ, as God’s appointed Saviour, anointed with the Holy Ghost, and that without measure (John 3:34 : Acts 4:8; Luke 4:18). This anointing that which fitted Him for His office (Isaiah 61:1-3). Anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Hebrews 1:9). All His mediatorial garments thus made to ‘smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia,’ by which He was made glad (Psalms 45:8). His human nature thus made full of all excellence and sweetness. Christ fully endowed with all the virtues that can either adorn the character, or that can render a man lovely and attractive in himself, and a benefactor and blessing to his fellow men (Isaiah 11:2-5). All the excellences and charms that can either beautify or exalt humanity found in Him in their combination and perfection. Graces and virtues apparently contradictory and exclusive of each other, found beautifully harmonized in His character. Symbolized by the ‘holy anointing oil,’ composed of various ingredients (Exodus 30:23-25; Exodus 30:34-35). Loftiest wisdom combined in Jesus with child like simplicity; awe-inspiring dignity with meekest humility; inflexible justice with tenderest compassion; spotless holiness with sweetest affability; abhorrence of sin with pity and love to the sinner. The Gospels an exhibition of the ‘good ointments’ of Christ. His life, as written by the four Evangelists, the best commentary on this verse.
II. Christ’s ointments are ‘good.’ They are so—
1. In themselves. The graces and virtues of His character, of the purest and choicest kind, and existing in Him in the highest degree. All Divine, as the product of the Holy Ghost which filled Him. God well pleased for His righteousness’ sake (Isaiah 42:21). The testimony twice repeated from heaven: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17; Luke 9:35). The goodness or excellence of Christ’s ‘ointments’ discovered—
(1) In His spirit and disposition. ‘Meek and lowly in heart.’ Gentle and compassionate, not breaking the bruised reed nor quenching the smoking flax. ‘Holy, harmless, undesled, and separate from sinners.’
(2) In His words. Gracious words proceeded out of His mouth. ‘Never man spake like this man.’ The Gospels a repertory of such golden sayings as never before had fallen from human lips.
(3) In His actions. ‘He went about doing good.’ Even in His outward actions, acknowledged to have been the greatest benefactor the earth had ever seen before or has ever beheld since. His earthly ministry one continued display of self-denying beneficence to the poor, the suffering, and the distressed.
(4) In His sufferings and death. In these, peculiarly distressing as they were, a picture displayed of the most perfect patience and submission. His dying breath a prayer on behalf of His persecutors and murderers, while His only complaint was that poured forth to His Father in the words of the Psalmist: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Psalms 22:1; Matthew 27:46).
2. In their effects. Ointments or perfumes valued for their refreshing fragrance. Hence poured on the head of guests at table. The graces and virtues of Christ’s character all such as rendered Him a Benefactor and Saviour to mankind. Fitted by the Holy Spirit’s anointing to preach glad tidings to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, &c. (Isaiah 61:1-2.) The poorest, lowest, and guiltiest attracted to Him by His gracious and loving spirit, as well as by His heavenly and healing words (Luke 15:1). Even little children drawn to Him by the savour of His ‘good ointments.’ In the graces and virtues of His character, as well as the sacrificial surrender of His life, Christ a sweet-smelling savour to God. His words quickening, reviving, comforting and gladdening as well to sinners as to saints.
In the view of Shulamite, the King’s name, including in it the report of his graces and excellencies (1 Kings 10:1; 1 Kings 10:6-9), constituted in itself a rich perfume. ‘Thy name is as ointment poured forth;’ or, ‘ointment poured forth is Thy name’ (Ecclesiastes 7:1). Sweetly true in regard to Solomon’s Antitype. Observe, in reference to the
Name of Christ—
I. The NAME itself. The name of a person often put simply for the person himself. All that is in Jesus, and that is known of Him, renders Him ‘as ointment poured forth.’ The chief among ten thousand. Precious to them that believe. In Him is all that sinners need and that is suited to their case and condition. His character and worth that which renders Him to believers the object of their warmest affection and their most entire confidence. The name or names by which He is known indicative of what He is in Himself, and what He is and becomes to us. His names all significant and suggestive of His character and work. Their meaning such as to commend Him to sinners, and to endear Him to saints. Each name an exhibition of Him in some special aspect of loveliness and preciousness. Examples:—
1. EMMANUEL. His name in prophecy (Isaiah 7:14). Its meaning, ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). Full of sweetness. God for our salvation become one of us—a partaker of flesh and blood—in order to be our Redeemer. God manifest in the flesh. The Eternal Word made flesh and dwelling among us. The name a reviving revelation of boundless love, pity, and condescension on the part of our Maker. The Beloved of the Church one who is both God and Man. ‘The man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts’ (Zechariah 13:7). One with the Father, and yet one with us. The bright reflection of the Divine glory, and yet bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Possessed of all the attributes of the God head, and all the sympathies of humanity. Sustains the glory of Deity, and is touched with the feeling of all our infirmities. The Creator and Upholder of the universe, and yet tempted in all points like as we are (Hebrews 1:2-3; Hebrews 4:15). Hence
(1) His infinite power as a Saviour. Able to save to the uttermost. Mighty to save. Able to raise both the dead soul and the dead body to life.
(2) The infinite efficacy belonging to His sacrificial undertaking. His suffering and death that of ‘God manifest in the flesh.’ God purchased the Church with His own blood—a sufficient price for the ransom of countless worlds (Acts 20:28). The blood of Jesus Christ, because the blood of God’s Son, able to cleanse from all sin (1 John 1:7).
2. JESUS. Given, at the direction of as angel, as the equivalent of ‘Emmanuel’ (Matthew 1:21-23). A name full of exquisite sweetness. Denotes—‘Jehovah the Saviour;’ or, ‘the Lord will save.’ God Himself becomes our Salvation. ‘Jesus,’ a Divine Saviour; hence equivalent to ‘Emmanuel.’ A Saviour needed by man, and a great one Such found in Jesus. Hence His name. Saves, as was necessary, both from sin and sin’s consequences; not only from its guilt and punishment, but from its power, pollution, and presence; saves from a blinded understanding, a depraved will, and a corrupt heart. Saves from sin and Satan, from death and hell, and from the power and influence of a present evil world Saves at once, and saves for ever. Saves now by the invisible operation of His Spirit; saves hereafter by His visible and glorious appearing (Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:28). Able to save even the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). To save the lost the object of His coming into the world (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).
3. CHRIST, or THE CHRIST. His official name. Both a name and a title. Like the Hebrew term ‘Messiah,’ denotes ‘the Anointed.’ A name also full of sweetness. Marks Him out as anointed by the Holy Ghost as the Prophet, Priest, and King of His Church. Anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows (Psalms 45:7). Anointed by the Spirit to preach glad tidings to the meek, &c (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus the Christ, as filled with the Holy Spirit, and so fitted for man’s salvation.
His ‘name’ may include
(1) His Titles: as; Son of God, Son of Man, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Lamb of God, Prince of Life, Lord of Glory, Plant of Renown, the Word, the Word of God, our Hope, our Peace, our Life.
(2) His Offices: as; Prophet, Priest, King, Mediator, Redeemer, Captain, Physician, Teacher, Witness-bearer, SAVIOUR.
(3) His Relations: as; Husband, Brother, Father, Friend, Shepherd, Surety, Master.
(4) His Attributes: as; Merciful, Faithful, True, Almighty, Everlasting, Unchanging, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.
(5) His Character: as; meek, lowly, loving, holy, just, wise, and good.
No name mentioned in the text. The name deep in the heart. No name like His in a believer’s ear. Remembered when every other name is forgotten. The name which is above every name. Known truly to none but Himself and those to whom He reveals it. Wherever known, accompanied with love and trust (Psalms 91:14; Psalms 9:10).
II. The COMPARISON. ‘As ointment poured forth.’
1. As ‘ointment’ or perfume. Indicates its sweet and reviving nature. To a believer the very mention of Jesus accompanied with joy and comfort. Every name of Jesus fragrant to the spiritual senses. The name of a loved one sweet because calling up the person himself. The name of Jesus makes the sad heart it enters leap with joy. Is honey to the mouth, music to the ear, and comfort to the soul. Everything insipid to a believer that carries not the savour of that name in it. “All spiritual food dry, if not pervaded with this oil; and tasteless, if not seasoned with this salt.” What is written has no relish to a believer, if he reads not there the name of Jesus. Conversation has no pleasure if the name of Jesus is excluded. Nature with all its loveliness only pleases when associated with the name of Jesus. His name suggestive of all that is most beautiful, lovely, and excellent. “Contains in it all the excellence scattered throughout creation.” The best, sweetest, purest, noblest things associated with it. Embraces whatever is noblest in truth, honour, faith, love, meekness, humility, self-denial, generosity. All tenderness, sweetness, benevolence, centred in the name of Jesus. Gentleness, moral courage, disinterested love, identified with it. In His name, more sweetness, beauty, love, than ever human heart conceived To a renewed and spiritual mind, the most joyous and exhilarating name on earth. “Touches all the chords of gratitude, enthusiasm, and devotion.” Under the Holy Spirit’s revelation, fills every avenue of the soul with joy, wonder, and adoration. A day coming, when it will fill heaven and earth with its sweetness and fragrance.
2. As ‘ointment poured forth.’ Indicates—
(1) Abundance, as well of the ointment itself as of its fragrance. The perfume abundantly diffused. An infinite fulness in Jesus, and an infinite sweetness in His name. ‘It hath pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.’ ‘God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.’ His glory that of the only begotten of the Father, ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14; John 3:34; Colossians 1:19). Christ a full Saviour for empty sinners. A fountain ever full and ever flowing. His riches without a bottom. A mine never exhausted.
Enough for each, enough for all,
Enough for evermore.
(2) Impartation. A perfume poured forth yields up all its fragrance for enjoyment. Enclosed and sealed up in the vessel, it affords little sweetness. Mary broke her alabaster box, or its seal, and the whole house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Christ’s name not only ointment but ointment ‘poured forth,’ for the benefit and enjoyment of others. Christ to be manifested—
Externally. Christ and His name was a perfume in heaven while shut up ‘in the bosom of the Father.’ A perfume to God and angels before man was created. Shut up as to men till the day of the fall. The first promise of a Saviour made in Eden broke the seal (Genesis 3:15). The seal more and more removed, and the fragrance made more and more to flow forth, as time rolled on. The promised Saviour more and more plainly and fully revealed through the prophets, till He Himself appeared. The ointment then poured forth—
(1) By Christ Himself: (a) in His life; (b) in His preaching; (c) in His miracles; (d) in His death. The seal of the casket containing the perfume that was to fill heaven and earth with its fragrance fully broken on Calvary when Jesus said: ‘It is finished,’ bowed His head, and died; (e) in His effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
(2) By the Apostles and the Church after Pentecost. Till then the ‘name’ shut up among the Jews: after that, to be carried by the Apostles to all nations. The ointment streaming forth more or less over the world during the last eighteen centuries The calling and commission of the Church at large, as well as of Apostles, ministers, and missionaries, to make manifest the savour of his knowledge in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14). ‘Ye are My witnesses.’ Every believer, by his lips and his life, to be a bearer of the fragrance of Christ’s name in the neighbourhood where he dwells.
Internally. This ointment to be poured forth in the soul in order to the perception of its sweetness. Mere external diffusion not sufficient. A spiritual fragrance to be spiritually perceived. A spiritual power of perception needed; or, what is equivalent, an inward spiritual revelation of Christ by the Holy Ghost. ‘It pleased God to reveal His Son in me.’ ‘Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.’ ‘Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes.’ God ‘hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:16; Matthew 16:17; Matthew 11:25). Without the inward diffusion of the fragrance by the Holy Ghost (John 16:14-15), Christ ‘a root out of dry ground, without form or comeliness’ (Isaiah 53:2). A man’s greatest blessedness in having this precious ointment poured forth in his heart (Romans 5:5). The perfume of Christ’s name to be poured forth externally by the church, through the lips and lives of its members to the world at large; internally by the Holy Ghost to the individual soul. The Word and Sacraments the instituted means through which the Spirit pours forth the ointment, both externally and internally. Sinners saved and believers refreshed, revived, and sanctified only as Christ’s name is thus revealed and the ointment poured forth. The Scriptures, a preached Gospel, the Bread and Wine in the Supper,—these the casket containing the perfume; the Holy Ghost the agent who breaks the seal and pours forth the fragrance.
Important questions for each: Have I known this precious name? Is the name of Jesus to me ‘as ointment poured forth?’ If so, what am I doing to diffuse its fragrance for the benefit of others? If not, why so? Have I given proper attention to that name? Have I seriously thought of Christ? ‘The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick:’ have I realized my spiritual sickness? Have I seriously considered and really known what it is to be a sinner, and so realized my need of a Saviour? If not, how can I expect the name of Jesus to be sweet and precious to me? Lord, let me not rest till I have done so. Give me now, by Thy Holy Spirit, to realize my need of Christ, and to see His preciousness.
The Effect of Solomon’s Excellencies.
“Therefore do the virgins love thee.”
The report of the king’s excellencies and attractions had reached Shulamite, as it had done the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1) The effect of these excellencies was that the virgins loved him; among the rest Shulamite herself. So the excellencies of Christ render Him, as they may well do, the object of love to all sincere and rightly disposed persons who came to hear of them. In reference to—
Love to Christ,
the text suggests—
I. The PERSONS who love Him. The ‘virgins’ representatives of—
1. Believers, or renewed persons in general. Virgin-souls—those whose hearts are given entirely to God and Jesus Christ. Those who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (Revelation 14:4). Believers to be presented to Christ as a chaste virgin (2 Corinthians 11:3). The true members of the Jewish Church so called (Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:21). Believe ‘virgins’—
(1) From their pure and undivided affection to Christ;
(2) From their chaste and faithful adherence to Him and His cause;
(3) From their true and Scriptural views of Him and His religion;
(4) From the purity of their worship and general conversation;
(5) From their meekness, modesty, and tenderness of conscience;
(6) From their moral beauty and comeliness of spirit. Observe—
(1) Christ only loved by virgin-souls, whose hearts are detached from the world. Men cannot serve God and mammon, or love Christ and the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father and of Christ is not in him. A divided heart cannot love Christ. Those only His true lovers who are willing to leave all and follow Him. Hence—
(2) Only renewed and regenerate persons love Christ. The carnal mind enmity against God, and so against Christ. The heart renewed and circumcised in order to love God and His Son (Deuteronomy 30:6). The stony heart taken away and a heart of flesh given instead (Ezekiel 36:26).
(3) All renewed souls love Christ. Christ the magnet that attracts renewed hearts. A natural affinity between Christ and renewed souls. Such able both to see and appreciate His excellence, both in Himself and in relation to sinners. The language of renewed and enlightened souls: ‘The love of Christ constraineth us’ (2 Corinthians 5:14).
(4) The glory and honour of Jesus, that He is loved only by pure and sincere souls, and by all such.
2. Young converts, more particularly. First love of believers often warmest. The kindness of Israel’s youth tenderly remembered by the Lord (Jeremiah 2:2). The believer’s young love often damped by the power of corruption within, and the influence of the world without. The main charge which the Lord Jesus brought against the Church of Ephesus, that it had left its ‘first love’ (Revelation 2:4).
3. Men in general,—especially, men of single and sincere hearts. Christ the suitable object of human love, both as a perfect man and as a loving Saviour. Men of honest and sincere hearts the most likely to love Christ. Hence the attachment of a Nathanael and a Cornelius, of a Nicodemus and a Joseph of Arimathæa. Men who are ‘Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile,’ readily drawn to Christ. Christ the ‘Desire of all nations,’ fitted to be such, and actually to become such. Men only prevented from loving Christ by the blindness of their minds and the depravity of their hearts. Love to Christ the test of a man’s character. Men worthy to be ‘accursed’ who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 16:22).
4. Angels, who have never sinned. Christ the object of angelic love. His sufferings on earth and His glory in heaven lovingly contemplated by angels (1 Peter 1:11-12). Angels rejoiced to minister to Him, and still minister to His members for His sake. The first to announce His birth, and the companions of the redeemed in celebrating His praise.
II. The LOVE itself. Christ the object first of a sinner’s faith, then of his love. True faith in Christ, a ‘faith which worketh by love.’ Men’s love desired by Christ: ‘My son, give Me thine heart.’ The love of the woman of Sychar refreshes Him more than meat and drink. Nothing without men’s love satisfied Christ. ‘If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned’ (chap. Song of Solomon 8:7). Christ infinitely worthy of men’s love—
(1) For what He is in Himself;
(2) For what He has done for them. Observe—
1. The character of a believer’s love to Christ. It is—
(1) Natural and reasonable.
(2) Ardent and sincere.
(3) Paramount and supreme.
(4) Undivided and admitting no rival.
(5) Active and practical.
(7) Pure and holy.
(8) Permanent and abiding.
(9) Unconquerable and unquenchable.
(10) Divine in its origin.
2. The evidence of this love. Shews itself—
(1) In obedience to His will.
(2) In devotedness to His service.
(3) In love to His fellowship.
(4) In imitation of His spirit and conduct.
(5) In affection to His people, His cause, and all that belongs to Him.
Bride’s Second Desire.
‘Draw me, we will run after thee.’—Song of Solomon 1:4.
Shulamite’s first desire for the bridegroom’s kisses; her second desire for the bridegroom himself. Spiritual desire grows and enlarges itself. Christ better than even His kisses. The text contains—I. A Request: II. A Resolution.
I. The REQUEST. ‘Draw me.’ Christ the magnet of renewed souls. The desire of all such to be drawn to Him. The request the result—
(1) Of acquaintance with Him;
(2) Of love to Him;
(3) Of desire to enjoy and follow Him. Implies—
(1) Perception of Him, as the One Pearl of great price; the Treasure hid in the Field; the chief among ten thousand; the Altogether Lovely.
(2) Desire after Him. Renewed and saved souls not content to be at a distance from Christ, or to sit still in such a condition. Their desire to be near Him, lean on His bosom, rest in His arms, sit at His feet, hear His voice, look on His pierced hands and side.
(3) Conscious inability. The soul unable of itself to come to Christ, run after Him, or follow Him. The renewed soul conscious of that inability. Hence the prayer: ‘Quicken us, and we will call upon Thy name.’ ‘My soul cleaveth to the dust; quicken me according to Thy word.’ ‘Turn me and I shall be turned.’ The soul conscious of Divine help in following hard after God (Psalms 63:8; Psalms 119:32). Grace, leaches us both Christ’s worth and our own weakness. Christ the Author as well as the Object of our faith. The soul kept from Christ, and from following after Him, by a three-fold hindrance—
(1) The flesh;
(2) The world;
(3) The Devil. Christ first draws souls to Him, and then after Him. Observe in regard to—
The Saviour’s Drawing.
1. The MEANING AND IMPORT of it. A threefold drawing of the soul by Christ—
(1) In conversion to Him;
(2) In following after Him;
(3) In communion with Him. The last here especially intended. The desire in Song of Solomon 1:2, followed by that in Song of Solomon 1:4 as a means towards it. To enjoy Christ’s kisses we have to be drawn to Christ Himself. Christ draws—
(1) Our attention, keeping it fixed on Himself;
(2) Our desire and longing, as in the case of the woman of Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28);
(3) Our affection;
(4) Our resolution;
(5) Our self-surrender;
(6) Our confidence and faith. Implies not only faith, but perseverance in it (1 Peter 1:5).
2. The MEANS by which He draws. Christ draws by showing—
(1) His own love, loveliness, and preciousness;
(2) Our entire and absolute need of Him. The Holy Ghost the effectual agent employed. The instrumental means, the Word, however communicated, which reveals Him in what He is in Himself, and what He is to us and has done for us (John 12:32). Christ draws—
(1) By the Doctrines He teaches;
(2) By the Promises He makes;
(3) By the Providences He employs (Hosea 2:14; Hosea 11:4; Romans 2:4).
3. The MOTIVE AND GROUND of the drawing. His own free love. He draws with loving-kindness because He has loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). The bands with which He draws, “the bands of love” (Hosea 11:4). His love to and choice of us before ours to Him (John 15:16; 1 John 4:19).
The personality of the request to be noticed. ‘Draw me.’ Salvation and true religion,—the possession and enjoyment of Christ,—a personal thing. The believer’s first desire is to be drawn himself. ‘Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that Thou bearest to Thy people; visit me with Thy salvation’ (Psalms 106:4). We can only be the means of drawing others to Christ when we have been drawn ourselves.
II. The RESOLUTION. ‘We will run after thee.’ The words may indicate;—
(1) The object of the request;
(2) The argument used to enforce it: nothing sweeter to Christ, than a soul ardently following Him;
(3) A purpose formed;
(4) A hope entertained. Viewed as referring to the speaker, a purpose or resolution; as referring to others, a hope and expectation. Notice—
1. The Action. ‘Run after thee.’ Implies eagerness, earnestness, and haste; rapidity, perseverance, and strength (Isaiah 40:31; Daniel 8:6). Opposed to former deadness and sluggishness, whether absolute or comparative. Believers, when it in well with them, not content with mere walking after Christ. Good to walk, better to run. The Psalmist’s resolution (Psalms 119:32). The promise of the Father to Christ in regard to the nations (Isaiah 55:5). Not only walking but running promised as the result of waiting upon the Lord (Isaiah 40:31). Running, rather than mere walking, pleasing to Christ. Luke warmness his great dislike (Revelation 3:15). Christ worthy not only of being followed, but run after—followed and sought with the energy of the whole soul. A blind world run after the creature; enlightened believers run after Christ. Christ first run to, then run after. Run to as a Saviour; run after as a Friend and Beloved. We run to Him as sinners; after Him as saints. The believer’s duty and privilege not to run before, but after Christ; not to make a way for himself but to tread in His steps (John 10:4-5; John 10:27). The running ours; the power to run, Christ’s. Effectual grace consistent with personal diligence, and a strong encouragement to it (Philippians 2:12-13; Psalms 110:3). The request to be drawn not made from indolence but from helplessness. Believers to be not slothful in business—least of all in the business of religion—but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11). Progress always to be made towards Christ and in the Divine life. The Christian life a running (1 Corinthians 9:24-25; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-2; Philippians 3:13-14). The believer’s let made like find’s feet. The Word of God made plain, that those that read may run (Habakkuk 2:2). Christ to be run after—
(1) As our Chief Joy and Highest Good. Christ the Desire of all nations, and worthy to be the Desire of all hearts. All in Him that is lovely and desirable; and all lovely and desirable that is in Him. Christ the Fountain of living waters. All else broken cisterns. The language of the soul running alter Christ, ‘Whom have in heaven but Thee? and there is none on the earth that I desire besides Thee.’ ‘There be many that say: who will shew us any good: Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us’ (Psalms 73:25; Psalms 4:6).
“Thou. O Christ art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find.”
(2) As our Pattern and Example. He hath left us an example that we should follow His steps. ‘I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you’ (John 13:14-15; 1 Peter 2:21). The same mind to be in us that was in Him. The believer to be as He was in the world (Philippians 2:5; 1 John 4:17; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3). To run his race, looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:3).
(3). Our Leader and Commander. Christ given for this purpose (Isaiah 55:4). The Captain of our salvation. Believers to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. The picture of Christ and His saints on the day of His appearing to have its special verification now,—Christ as King and General on His white horse, followed by the armies of His people also on white horses (Revelation 19:12-14). Fulfilled in the calling of the Apostles (Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:27-28; John 1:43). And of every believer (Matthew 16:24). ‘The sacramental host of God’s elect.’
2. The persons. ‘We will run after Thee.’ The singular changed for the plural. Draw me: we will run. We,—I and others with me. Me, the individual believer; we, he and others influenced by him. Or; me, the single believer; we, the Church of which he forms a part. Both individuality and plurality in the Bride. The Bride both an individual and a community. The Church one and many. The drawing of one member followed by the running of others; so the Primitive Church at and after Pentecost. The drawing of the woman of Sychar followed by the running of many of the inhabitants (John 4:0). The language of a lively believer that of Moses to his father-in-law: ‘We are journeying to the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you; come thou with us and we will do thee good’ (Numbers 10:29). The believer not content to enjoy or follow Christ alone. Andrew finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. Philip, after finding the Saviour himself, does the same with Nathaniel (John 1:40-45). None drawn to follow Christ alone. One drawn by means of another. The believer’s duty and privilege to be instrumental in drawing others to Christ; and his great joy to see others running after Him along with himself. The lively Christian a missionary everywhere. The love and life of one believer the means of quickening and stirring up others. On the other hand, one dead Christian often the means of deadening others. One lively member of a Church a blessing to the whole.
Bride’s Recorded Experience.
‘The King hath brought me into His chambers.’
Shulamite recalls and records her experience of the King’s kindness and her own happiness. Good to remember and thankfully to record the manifestations of Christ’s favour. The Lord’s will concerning His people. He hath made His works to be remembered. The believer’s duty,—Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits. A gain to ourselves as well as to others, to remember and ‘mention the loving kindness of the Lord’ (Isaiah 63:7). The favour in the text recorded apparently as an answer to the prayer: ‘Draw me.’ Answers to prayer to be especially remembered and mentioned for the Lord’s honour, and for the encouragement of others as well as ourselves. Earnest longings and entreaties for spiritual blessings never disregarded. ‘The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, and will not tarry’ (Habakkuk 2:3).—Observe, in regard to the favour in the text,—introduction into
The King’s Chambers.
I. THE CHAMBERS themselves. The King’s chambers his more private apartments. Admission only for favoured persons, those nearest and dearest to the King. The especial privilege of the King’s Betrothed. Shulamite rejoices in being admitted to this high honour. Christ not only makes believers His Bride, but admits them to the privileges of such a relation. Admission into Christ’s chambers implies—more than ordinary manifestations of Himself; personal nearness; intimate fellowship; sensible enjoyment; confidential communication. The fulfilment of the promise: ‘I will manifest myself to him’ (John 14:21). The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant (Psalms 25:14). The privilege of believers to enter into the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19), and to sit with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Special nearness to Christ and sense of His love at times realized by the believer. Such realisations not confined to time or place; but more usually enjoyed in secret prayer and public ordinances, more especially in the Lord’s Supper. Such experiences the believer’s high festival days, and foretastes of heaven. Ordinarily for but a short time together. At present, the believer’s place in general only the antechamber. Permanent abiding in the King’s chambers reserved for a higher and better state. Meantime, the happy privilege of believers to be at times admitted into the King’s chambers. No place on earth so honourable and so blessed. No place so humble and unattractive to the eye of sense but grace can convert it into the King’s chambers. Jacob’s experience on the stony plain at Bethel not confined to local habitation: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not: This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’ (Genesis 28:16-17). Such Divine manifestations enjoyed in the humblest dwelling, and even in the chamber of sickness. The field, the wood, the highway, the open sea, capable of being made the King’s chambers. John’s blessed experience in the lonely rocky isle of Patmos. Samuel Rutherford in exile dated his letters from ‘the King’s palace at Aberdeen.’ John Bunyan wrote his “Pilgrim’s Progress” in Bedford Jail. The moors and mosses, caves and mountain sides, often made to His persecuted followers the King’s chambers. Admission into these chambers the special privilege of New Testament times. Moses spoke to the Church at the door of the tabernacle; the Apostles speak from the Holy of Holies. Those now waiting at Wisdom’s gates admitted into Wisdom’s chambers. The three great blessings enjoyed in those chambers,—Comfort, Enlightenment, and Security (Psalms 25:13-14; Psalms 27:4-6; Isaiah 26:20-21). The King’s chambers on earth so blessed, what the chambers in heaven!
II. ADMISSION into the chamber. ‘The King hath brought me’ (Heb., ‘made me come’). Admission into them both the King’s favour and the King’s doing. An enhancement of the happiness. Believers conscious of their own unworthiness and inability to enter the chambers of Divine communion, and of the Saviour’s grace in introducing them. The King brings them—
(1) By procuring access through His own merits (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 10:19).
(2) By giving the desire to enter them—‘Why was I made to hear thy voice,’ &c. (Ephesians 4:18).
(3) By encouraging them with His gracious invitations and promises.
(4) By imparting faith and inward light (Psalms 43:3).
(5) By subduing and keeping down corruption,—like Abraham fraying away the fowls from the sacrifice (Genesis 15:11). Obstacles and hindrances to be overcome in order to our entrance into the King’s chambers. Some outside of us: Divine justice that, forbids it to transgressors; Satan who resists it; the world with its influences against it. Others within us: conscious guilt; spiritual blindness; carnality; unbelief; sloth; natural disinclination. These to be overcome and removed by the Saviour’s grace.—‘The King hath brought me.’ Marks the forth-putting of especial grace and power. Christ brings sinners into the enjoyment of Divine favour and fellowship as a King. The title indicative of His power and right. To introduce sinners into the enjoyment of the blessings He has purchased, one of His kingly acts. As King, He has the keys of His own chambers as well as those of death and hell. The impression of Christ’s kingliness left on the heart of the believer admitted into His fellowship. A few hours’ converse with Jesus in a humble dwelling left John and Andrew with the conviction they had been with Messiah the King (John 1:41). Communion with Christ gives lofty thoughts of Him. Only ‘He’ before; now, ‘the King.’ Christ all the more kingly in a believer’s eyes the nearer he gets to Him. So Isaiah: ‘Mine eyes have seen the King’ (Isaiah 6:5). Divine familiarity the opposite of bleeding contempt. Reverence, humility, and obedience, the result of admission into the King’s chambers. The experience in those chambers: ‘I am a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5). Believers go forth from them more devoted to the service of the King: ‘Here am I, send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Divine power and sovereignty manifest in everything connected with salvation. Christ a King, both in His own right as God, and by Divine appointment as Mediator (Psalms 2:6). Saves not only as a Priest and a Prophet, but also as a King. Believers, when it is best with them, love most to acknowledge Christ’s supremacy and right over all they are and have and do. Christ not only a King, but the King,—chief of all who ever bore the title; the only one with absolute right to it; ‘the blessed and only Potentate, King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ (1 Timothy 6:15).—Observe the personality of the experience: ‘Hath brought me.’ Each believer to be able to say this for himself. The language—
(1) Of joy and thankfulness. What was matter of prayer, now made matter of praise.
(2) Of wonder and surprise. Shulamite dwells on the King’s condescension. Like Mephibosheth when admitted to the King’s table,—‘such a dead dog as I.’ ‘Hath brought me,’—me so black and unworthy of such an honour and happiness! Amazing condescension and love on the part of the King to admit worms and rebels into His chambers. Every believer a beggar raised by the King from the dunghill, to be made His Bride and the partner of His throne. The believer never to lose sight of what he was, and still is, in himself.
(3) Of consciousness and certainty. Shulamite certain the King has bestowed on her this privilege. Enjoyment of Christ’s presence and fellowship a matter about which there should be no mistake or doubt. Christ’s object to make it certain; Satan’s, to tempt the believer to question its reality and think it a delusion.
Bride’s Joy in the King.
We will be glad and rejoice in Thee.’
Language expressive of Shulamite’s happy experience of the King’s chambers, and her high esteem of the King himself. Implies both anticipation and resolution. Observe on the words thus viewed, in regard to the
Believer’s Joy in Christ.
I. The JOY itself. Intense joy. The language emphatic: ‘We will be glad and rejoice.’ Two words employed for emphasis. Not mere joy, but exultation. Not a mere rejoicing, but a shouting for joy. An inward joy outwardly expressed. A believer’s joy in Christ a joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). Believers at times in heaviness through manifold temptations; but their experience anything but a gloomy one. The ransomed of the Lord enabled to return to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads (Isaiah 35:10). Have joy here, and the hope of more hereafter. ‘They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ Cheerfulness and joy disposing to praise, both the privilege and duty of believers. Sadness in the presence of an Oriental monarch an offence to the sovereign and a peril to the subject (Nehemiah 2:1-2). God graciously meets those that rejoice while they remember Him in His ways (Isaiah 66:5).
II. The OBJECT of the joy. Christ himself. We will be glad and rejoice in Thee. Not in the creature and its attractions; not in the world and its pleasures; not in self and its doings or feelings. Christ and God in him the object of truest and highest joy. The duty and privilege of believers, both in the Old and New Testament, to rejoice in the Lord (Psalms 33:1; Philippians 3:1). Enough in God to fill a universe of intelligent creatures, and enough in Christ to fill a world of believing sinners, with joy unspeakable. Christ opens up sources of joy outside of Himself; but the deep and living fountain is in Himself. The Psalmist’s words especially true of Christ: ‘All my springs are in Thee’ (Psalms 87:7). In Him are both ‘the upper and the nether springs,’—the joy of the Church triumphant in heaven, and of the Church militant on earth. All the attractions and charms in the creature concentrated and summed up in Him, the Creator and Saviour. In Him all love and loveliness, all sweetness and excellence, in their perfection and without alloy. Believers able to rejoice in Christ not only as their Redeemer and Saviour, but as their Beloved and Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15). To a renewed soul, everything in Jesus such as to afford matter of joy,—His person, names, titles, offices, relations, work: His birth, life, sufferings, death resurrection, ascension, second coming; His miracles, discourses, doctrines, promises, precepts, warnings; His word, worship, day, table, people, cause; His salvation, grace, kingdom, fellowship, love; His blood that washes them, His righteousness that clothes them, His spirit that anoints and sanctifies them, and His ordinances that comfort and strengthen them. In His present salvation they rejoice; still more in that which is to be revealed at His coming. In His salvation they rejoice; still more in Himself. Good to have and enjoy the King’s gifts; still better to have and enjoy the King himself. Thy gifts precious; but ‘We will be glad and rejoice in Thee.’ Joy in an unseen Christ unspeakable; what then in a seen one?
The text the language of resolution. ‘We will be glad.’ The duty of believers to rejoice in Christ, and to resolve by Divine grace to do so. Especially on any fresh enjoyment of His presence and love. Holy resolution the fruit of Divine grace, and to be freely made in dependance on it. Need of resolution. Much to oppose such rejoicing: remembered sin; inward corruption; buffetings of Satan; outward trials. These not to hinder rejoicing in the Lord. ‘Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, &c., yet will I rejoice in the Lord,’ &c. (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Joy in Christ often greatest when joy from the creature is least (Hosea 2:14;’ 2 Corinthians 1:5).
The language of faith and hope. The same ground of rejoicing in the future as in the past. Christ a well that never runs dry. The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. ‘Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us’ (2 Corinthians 1:10). ‘Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice’ (Psalms 63:7).
Observe the party who shall rejoice. ‘We will be glad and rejoice in Thee.’ Another change from the singular to the plural. ‘The King hath brought me, &c.; we will be glad, &c. The Bride herself, and others along with her. The believer speaks for himself and his fellow-believers. The joy of one to become the joy of many. The part of believers to rejoice with them that rejoice. The body of Christ one with many members. ‘If one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it’ (1 Corinthians 12:26). One believer rejoicing in the presence and love of Jesus, the means of influencing others to seek and obtain the same happiness. Man a social being. Inclined to act in numbers. One constantly influenced by another. Sympathy a powerful principle in man’s nature. Its operation in revivals of religion. Employed by the Spirit in the great advancement of Christ’s Kingdom (Zechariah 8:20-23; Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:1-2).
Bride’s Gratitude to the King.
‘We will remember Thy love more than wine.’
Shulamite resolves not only to rejoice in the King himself, but to cherish a grateful remembrance of his love. “We will remember (or record) thy love (or loves—loving words and actions) more than wine.” Probably a double resolution—to remember inwardly for herself, and to record outwardly for others; both to the praise of her loving Bridegroom. One of the duties and delights of believers, the
Remembrance of Christ’s Love.
Observe in regard to it—
I. The LOVE remembered. Heb. ‘Loves,’—for the greatness of it, or the variety of its kinds, and the multiplicity of its manifestations. Christ’s love to His people that of a Saviour to the lost, a Redeemer to the captive, a Shepherd to his sheep, a Husband to his wife, a Brother to his brethren, a Father to his children, a Friend to his intimate acquaintances. Its various manifestations—
1. Offering Himself for our redemption in the everlasting covenant (Psalms 40:7).
2. Revealing himself to the Old Testament Church in types and symbols, prophecies and promises.
3. Assuming our nature in the fulness of time.
4. His teachings and labours of love during His life on earth.
5. His sufferings and death as the atonement for our sins.
6. His return to heaven to carry forward the work of our salvation.
7. His subsequent bestowment of the Holy Spirit with all needful grace and blessing.
8. His gathering in lost sinners to Himself through His Word and Spirit.
9. His speaking peace and comfort to the awakened and troubled conscience.
10. His restoring the believer from his falls and backslidings.
11. His gladdening the soul with His manifested presence and love.
12. His gracious promises to come again and receive His people to Himself for ever.
Christ’s love infinitely worthy to be remembered and celebrated through time and eternity; on account of—
1. Its greatness. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). Christ’s love greater than this; as—
(1) He did more than lay down His life for us;
(2) He did it not for friends, but enemies. Jonathan’s love to David, ‘wonderful, passing the love of women’ (2 Samuel 1:26). Jonathan’s love only a faint picture of Christ’s.
2. Its costliness. ‘Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it’ (Ephesians 5:25). The love of Ahasuerus to Esther his queen extended to the gift of half his kingdom (Esther 5:3). Christ’s love to His people extended not only to the gift of His whole kingdom, but of Himself (Matthew 20:28).
3. Its fruits. Deliverance from sin, death, and hell, with perfection in holiness and the enjoyment of Himself in glory everlasting. ‘That He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water, by the word; that He might present it unto Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5:26).
II. The REMEMBRANCE of it. The remembrance of Christ’s love on the part of believers:
(1) A Duty;
(2) A Delight;
(3) A Necessity. Proceeds—
(1) From a sense of duty;
(2) From the impression of its sweetness. Christ’s love remembered when all else is forgotten. Its remembrance brings—
(1) Glory to Christ;
(2) Benefit to our neighbour;
(3) Comfort and quickening to ourselves. Its remembrance our sweetest cordial in the time of trouble (Psalms 42:6). Assures us afresh of our interest in Christ, and casts out slavish fear. Revives our love to Him, and stimulates to do and suffer for His sake. His love not remembered and recorded as a thing past and gone for ever; but one of unchanging continuance and ever fresh manifestation. An everlasting love. Helps to remembering it are—
1. Daily reading, of the Word, with meditation and prayer; especially such portions of it as bear expressly upon Christ and His love. For example: the Gospels and Canticles; Isaiah 53:0; Psalms 22:0 &c.
2. Careful observance of the Sabbath, with suitable meditation on His death and resurrection, which it was designed to commemorate.
3. Frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper, designed for the express purpose of keeping Himself and His dying love in remembrance.
4. Fellowship with living and loving believers. ‘As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man the face of his friend.’ ‘Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.’ ‘Provoke one another to love and good works.’
III. The DEGREE of Remembrance. ‘More than wine.’ The love better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2), and therefore more remembered. Wine mentioned as a natural means of gladness and refreshing (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15). Associated with festivity—‘banquet of wine.’ Here put for all earth’s choicest pleasures and sensuous enjoyments. To Shulamite, her bridegroom’s love more worthy to be remembered than everything besides. ‘Sweet is the King’s wine, but sweeter his love.’ All Christ’s gifts sweet, and all His benefits to be remembered; but sweeter and more to be remembered than all is His love. Its sweetness sufficient to obliterate the remembrance of all other joy. Christ’s love the absorbing subject as the believer approaches the confines of eternity. Earth’s lawful enjoyments perhaps not forgotten in heaven; but the love of Christ the chosen and overshadowing subject of ever-new songs (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12-13; Revelation 14:3).
The text the language of resolution. ‘We will remember,’ &c. Such resolution needed. The flesh adverse to such remembrance. Satan’s object to efface or weaken it. The tendency of earthly things to prevent or deaden it. David’s language in reference to Jerusalem applicable to Christ’s love: “If I forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning: if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not thee above my chiefest joy (Psalms 137:5-6).
Bride Commends her Beloved and Justifies her Love.
‘The upright love thee.’
May be either read—‘Upright people love thee;’ or, ‘Rightly do people love thee.’ Mentioned by Shulamite as an enhancement of her Beloved’s excellence, and a justification of her own love. Similar to Song of Solomon 1:3. Indicates the character both of Christ himself and
I. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO LOVE CHRIST. ‘The upright;’—sincere, true, just, pure in heart and life. Such as Simeon of Jerusalem; Joseph the carpenter; Joseph of Arimathæa; Nathaniel, ‘an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile.’ Christ Himself, ‘that Just One;’ God’s ‘righteous servant;’ ‘Jesus Christ the Righteous,’ who loves righteousness and hates iniquity; ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.’ Naturally loved by persons of a similar character, and only by such. A holy Christ capable of being loved only by holy persons, or such at least as, conscious of their sins, desire to be holy. Like naturally loves and draws to like. Hence Christ only loved by converted and renewed persons. Love to God’s Christ a holy and spiritual thing. A plant not spontaneously growing among the noxious weeds of Nature’s garden, but produced by the Holy Ghost in a renewed heart. Found only in those who have passed from death to life; who were afar off, but have been made high by the blood of Christ; who were lost, but are found; who as believing and pardoned sinners ‘have tasted that the Lord is gracious’ (1 Peter 2:3; 1 John 4:19). The forgiven woman that had been a sinner, loved Jesus, who had forgiven her sins, which were many, and for which she now lovingly weeps at His feet. The proud, self-righteous, merely outwardly religious Pharisee, incapable of such love. ‘He to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little’ (Luke 7:47). A sinner may love Christ, but not a Pharisee (Luke 15:1-2). Upright persons love Christ, because by His blood shed for them, and His spirit given to them, He has made them upright. When He forgives a sinner He makes him upright. The heart purified by faith. All upright who love Christ in sincerity. Others only pretenders. True love to Christ sufficient to prove a man upright. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ On the other hand, a man’s love to Christ proved by his uprightness. ‘If ye love me keep my commandments. If a man love Me, he will keep My words’ (John 14:15; John 14:23). Hence those worthy to be ‘accursed ‘who do not love Christ. They are not upright, and they refuse Him who would make them so.
II. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST HIMSELF. The text a commendation of the Beloved. He must be excellent and upright who is loved by upright persons. A man’s character indicated by the character of his friends. A high commendation of the character of Christ—
(1) That He is loved by all the honest and best in creation—by all holy angels and holy men;
(2) That He is loved only by the holy and upright
III. THE CHARACTER OF LOVE TO CHRIST. It is—
(1) A holy thing; only upright persons possess it;
(2) A right and reasonable thing. Upright persons only love uprightly—on just grounds and considerations. Just grounds for loving Christ—
(1) In what He is;
(2) In what He has done. Christ infinitely worthy of angelic, still more of human, love. Is infinitely excellent in Himself; has been infinitely kind to us. As God, possessed of all the infinite amiableness of the Divine perfections; and, as our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, has an infinite right to our love. That right enhanced by the fact that, as God-man for our sakes, He has become also our Redeemer. Robbery committed when Christ is not loved; idolatry, when others are loved in His place. ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha,’—accursed [when] the Lord cometh (1 Corinthians 16:22).
The text a test of character. Do I love Christ? If not, then I am not upright. I do not love uprightness; for Christ is uprightness itself. I rob Him of what He has the most perfect right to, and of what He sets the highest value on—my love. Hence my need both of mercy and grace; of mercy to pardon, and of grace to renew me. Lord, grant both.
Song of Solomon 1:6. 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 keeper of the vineyards; but my own vineyard have I not kept. ‘Look not upon me’ אַל תִּרְאֻנִי al tiruni. Look not at me. ZOCKLER. Gaze not on me. WILLIAMS. With surprise and doubt, as if wondering at her presumption. NOYES. In admiration of her beauty. HITZIG. With scorn or disdain. WITHINGTON, GINSBURG. With too much scrutiny. TAYLOR. With indignation. DURHAM. With delight at my affliction, as Obadiah 1:12. AINSWORTH. With an evil eye. MERCER. DO not survey me in my vile dress, but consider how I have it. DEL RIO. Allegorically; TARGUM: Spoken by the Congregation of Israel to the nations: Do not despise me because I am more sorrowful than you, having done according to your deeds in worshipping your false gods, and having brought upon myself the Divine displeasure. FOLIOT: Do not look so much at my sufferings, as at the reason why I endure them, and the fruit which I shall receive from them. WEISS: Addressed by Israel to the nations wondering at their boldness after the sin of the golden calf, or astonished that they could commit so great a sin.
‘Because the sun hath looked upon me.’ שֶׁשְׁזָפַתְנִי sheshzaphathni; from שָׁזַר shazaph; to burn or scorch; to blacken; hence also to look upon, as Job 20:9; Job 28:1. From שָׁדַר by the change of ד into ז. VULGATE: Hath discoloured me. AQUILA: Hath blackened me. WICKLIFF: Has scorched me. COVERDALE: Has shined on me. LUTHER: Has so burned me. DIODATI: Has touched me with his rays. MARTIN: Has looked on me. VATABLUS: Has fixed his rays on me. TIGURINE VERSION: Striking me with his beams. PARKHURST: Has looked down on me, or has shined on me. WILLIAMS: Has beamed upon me. FRY: Properly, looked with penetrating rigour. WEISS: Has glanced or gazed on me. BURROUGHS and GINSBURG: Has browned me. THRUPP: Fiercely scanned me. ZÖCKLER: Scorched me. MERCER: The blackness not natural but accidental. RASHI: Not natural, and therefore may be removed. A. CLARKE observes that the brown complexion of the Egyptians is attributed to the influence of the sun or climate. But probably no Egyptian in the text. Allegorically; TARGUM: Israel made black by the worship of the sun. FAUSSET: Scorched with God’s anger, executed on her through the world-powers, because of her unfaithfulness before Messiah’s coming. GREGORY, &C.: The sun of righteousness blackens the soul by the sufferings endured on his account, or by showing it its own blackness in his presence. PHILO CARPATHIUS: DO not despise me for my sins; since Christ the sun of righteousness has shone upon me. AINSWORTH, GILL, &C.: The Church blackened by the sun of persecution. ROSENMÜLLER: By miseries and calamities.
‘My mother’s children were angry with me.’ נִחֲרוּ־בי (nikharu bhi); from חָרָה to burn, or Piel of נָחַר EWALD. SEPTUAGINT, VULGATE, &c.: Fought against me. COVERDALE: Had evil will. LUTHER, DIODATI, MARTIN: Were angry with me. So EWALD, DELITZSCH, and GESENIUS. Acted severely against me. A. CLARKE. Were severe with me. PERCY, GOOD, BOOTHROYD. Despised me; literally snorted at me: expresses the ill-treatment she received from her relations in exposing her to servile employments, which caused her dark complexion. Hence the Bride of low extraction compared with her royal Bridegroom. FRY. ‘My mother’s children’ synonymous with brothers: her father probably no longer living at the time of this transaction. ZOCKLER. The children those of her mother by a former husband. HOUBIGANT, UMBREIT, EWALD, &c. Her countrymen. HARMER. Allegorically; TARGUM: False prophets and teachers, the cause of God’s anger against Israel. RASHI: The children of Egypt, among whom I was brought up, and who came up from Egypt with me; and the the offspring of my mother in the wilderness. KEIL: Israel experienced, in consequence of their sin, the anger of the nations, and lost their beauty and glory. WEISS: The Egyptians were incensed against Israel on account of Noah’s curse on Ham, and his blessing on Shem, and so treated them cruelly. COCCEIUS, &c.: Persecuting Jews. MUNSTER, &C.: False prophets and kings. SANCTIUS: The Gentiles. MERCER: Nominal members of the Church. DUTCH ANNOTATORS: False brethren. PISCATOR: Affections of carnal corrupt nature. MENOCHIUS: All enemies, external or internal.
‘They made me Keeper of the vineyards.’ הַכְּרָמִים hak-keramim, plural of כֶּרֶם kerem, a vineyard; from the unused root כָרַם = كَرَمَ, to be of a noble disposition; hence noble, fruitful; כֶרֶם, land planted with noble plants (Judges 15:5; Job 24:18). GESENIUS. A vineyard, possession, estate. EWALD. The noblest, most valued possession. ZÖCKLER. Ground cultivated like a garden; used generally of vineyards, gardens, and plantations. SIMON. ‘Made me keeper,’ &c.; made her a drudge in their service, to her own personal injury; keeping vineyards, a servile work. PERCY, COBBIN. BOSSUET, on the supposition of the bride being an Egyptian princess, observes: ‘The princess, by one of those family intrigues common at Eastern Courts, had perhaps been banished to some southern part of Egypt, where she had been employed on secular labour, till by a counter intrigue and revolution equally common, she was recalled from her banishment.’ Allegorically; TARGUM: Taught me to worship their idols and to walk in their statutes. MERCER: Forced me to observe rites not prescribed by God. DU VEIL: Made me a zealous observer of their human traditious SANCTIUS: Forced me to follow sinful pleasures and practices. COCCEIUS: Excommunicating me from their synagogues. AINSWORTH: To fall in with their corrupt worship and vain traditions. SCOTT: Drawn by original sin to evil things against my will. THEODORET, however, takes another view of the words, applying them to the Apostles: They gave me (the Gentile Church) the divine ordinances to keep. ORIGIN views them as spoken by the Apostles and others, who anxious about the salvation of men, suffered outwardly themselves. LYRA applies them to the drudgery of Israel in Egypt. DEL RIO thinks the vineyards were in the first instance the synagogue, then the Churches of the Gentiles. So COCCEIUS also views the vineyards as including the congregations of the faithful. FROMONDI sees the pastoral office indicated: Dispersed me among the Gentiles, and caused me to be made pastors and keepers of the Gentile Churches. DAVIDSON: The Christian Church charged with the care both of Jew and Gentile vineyards, in consequence of the Jews’ rejection of God and His laws; or made the depository of the oracles of God with which they are to be fed. HAHN: The brothers, or Hamitic Heathendom, having withdrawn from the service of God and given themselves to the service of Satan, and so made their vineyard or the vineyard of God to become a vineyard of Satan, alienated the weaker sister from the service of God, and drew her into that of Satan, causing her to keep the vineyard, like themselves, in his service.
‘But mine own vineyard have I not kept.’ פַרְמִי שֶׁלִּי carmi shelli, ‘my vineyard which belongs to me.’ MERCER: which was committed to me. ZÖCKLER: שֶׁלִּי (shelli), not only gives special emphasis to the suffix ‘my,’ but distinguishes her vineyard as quite distinct and of another kind from what she had been forced to keep, viz., herself, with all she has and is. GESENIUS, EWALD, &c., apply it in like manner to her beauty. SANCTIUS: That with which she was bought at her dowry, according to usual practice (Hosea 3:2); the same mentioned in chap. Song of Solomon 8:12. Allegorically; TARGUM: The Lord who is my God I have not served. The vineyard, according to THEODORET, the traditions received before accepting Christianity; or, her own soul. SANCTIUS: The more noble part of our nature. BERNARD, &c.: The Jewish people (Isaiah 5:1); or, the primitive Church composed of Jews, to whom Christ and the Apostles were first sent. MENOCHIUS: The charge of all the world’s vineyards, and especially that of the synagogue, was committed to me. DEL RIO: I forsook the vineyard, at first committed to me on account of the conduct of the Jewish husbandmen in killing the heir (Matthew 22:0) JUNIUS: I departed from my duty. PISCATOR: Did not adhere steadily to the worship of God. AINSWORTH: The charge not kept either from her own infirmity and negligence, or from the tyranny of others, or from both: persecutions and afflictions often the effect of chastening for sin. PATRICK: I was like one set to keep the vineyard of others, and could not look after his own: picture of the Gentiles seduced by false teachers into idol worship. GILL: Her own vineyard, either the Church or her own soul: not kept, either from fear or infirmity, or both. SCOTT: The treatment she received proved a temptation to neglect her duty and the care of her own soul, and so conduced to mar her loveliness. HAWKER: Neglected her own soul while engaged in the service of others. ROSENMULLER: Her own country’s religion and institutions forsaken. De WETTE: The Jewish vineyard neglected by the Jewish shepherds (Ezekiel 34:7-9; Zechariah 11:8). THRUPP: The religions culture of all Israel. HAHN. The vineyard committed to her in the service of Satan she has not kept; having awoke to the painful feeling of her unrest, and learned to long after the better home with Israel’s King.
TO THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM, OR LADIES OF SOLOMON’S COURT
Gives an Account of herself in justification of her presence in the King’s Chambers.
Song of Solomon 1:5-6
I am black,
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 keeper of the vineyards;
But mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Shulamite, in the Allegory, originally a rustic damsel, employed by her brothers in watching the vineyards. Though thus tanned and discoloured by the sun, yet not uncomely in herself, and therefore not to be despised by the ladies of the court. The words indicate the believer’s twofold character, and the reason of it.
The Christian Paradox.
“I am black, but comely.”
Shulamite, black or tawny in complexion from the reason given; but comely in feature and proportion. Swarthy, as the coarse tents of Kedar or Arabia, made of dark coloured goats’ or camels’ hair, and farther blackened by exposure to the sun and rain (Isaiah 21:13; Isaiah 21:17; Isaiah 42:11; Ezekiel 27:21; Psalms 120:5-6). Comely, as the beautiful embroidered hangings of Solomon’s palace (Ecclesiastes 2:4-8; Esther 1:5-6).
I. DARK side of the Paradox.—‘I am black.’ The believer black—
1. With sin. In common with others, the believer blackened—
(1) With original sin;
(2) With actual transgression. The character of sin to make men black. Sin black in itself, and blackens those who carry it in their nature and commit it in their life. Black, as contrary to the nature and will of God, who is Light. The least sin in a believer like a dark spot on the sun’s disk. Sin pervading our whole nature renders us moral Ethiopians. Man, originally created ‘upright,’ made black by the Fall (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Romans 5:12-19). Black with sin, both original and actual, now the character of the human race (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Proverbs 20:9; Psalms 14:1-3; Romans 3:9-19; Romans 3:23; James 2:10; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8). The experience and confession of David (Psalms 51:5). The teaching of Christ (John 3:5-7). Observe—
(1) The believer black through inbred corruption and daily transgressions, even while in Christ and enjoying His love. A law in his members warring against the law of his mind (Romans 7:23). Peter’s fall immediately after the feast. The believer carries his blackness into the King’s chambers. Good to remember and confess it in the midst of his spiritual enjoyments. ‘Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged’ (Isaiah 51:1).
(2) The believer not only black, but conscious of it. The great distinction between him and others. Others as black as he; but he alone sees and feels his blackness.
(3) The believer not afraid to acknowledge that he is black. His safety and comfort not in his not being black, or less black than others; but in his being comely in Christ, and washed in His blood. His sense of blackness, therefore, no hindrance to his rejoicing in Christ, but rather a help to it. Confession of blackness part of our rejoicing in Christ’s comeliness. The blacker we are in our own eyes, the more precious is Christ (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
(4) The confession, ‘I am black,’ often the turning point in a soul’s history. Paul’s experience at Damascus (Acts 9:1-18; Romans 7:9). That of Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6:5-8). Never comely till we realize we are ‘black.’
(5) Our whole nature black. I,—not a part of me; the whole natural man; the ‘me’ and ‘I’ of the Apostle. ‘In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. I am carnal, and sold under sin’ (Romans 7:14; Romans 7:17).
(6) Believers always black with sin while in this world. Times when the believer may be without suffering; no time when he is without sin.
2. With suffering. Suffering and grief blacken us as well as sin (Jeremiah 8:21; Lamentations 4:8; Psalms 119:83). Like others, the believer, while in this world, black with suffering as well as with sin. Sin draws suffering with it as its dark shadow. Believers no exception to this law. That believers have suffering, no more to be concealed than that they have sin. The difference between them and other men, not that they have less suffering, but that they have more comfort and better hope. The testimony of Scripture and the experience of believers, that ‘many are the afflictions of the righteous,’ and that ‘through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.’ Believers, though having the first-fruits of the Spirit, yet groan within themselves (Romans 8:23). Groan, being burdened (2 Corinthians 5:2). Believers not only not exempt from grief and suffering in this life, but have naturally a large share of it. Their sufferings partly such as are common to men; partly, peculiar to themselves as believers. Various causes of their suffering.
(1) The love of their Father, who chastens them for their profit, to make them partakers of His own holiness (Hebrews 12:6-11).
(2) The hatred of the world, which persecutes the members as it did the Head (John 15:18-21; John 17:14; 2 Timothy 3:12).
(3) The temptations of Satan, acting both directly on the mind himself, and indirectly through the agency of others (2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 5:9; Revelation 2:10).
(4) Indwelling sin, or the body of sin and death which we carry with us, occasioning a constant warfare within, and often extorting the cry, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (Romans 7:23-24; Galatians 5:17; James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11).
(5) The sins and sufferings of others, as well of their own brethren as of the unconverted; these often awakening the cry of the prophet: ‘O that my head were waters,’ &c. (Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 8:21; 1 Corinthians 12:26; 2 Corinthians 11:29; Romans 12:15).
(6) Faithful and self-denying efforts for the spiritual and eternal benefit of others; thus filling up in their flesh that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for His body’s sake, the Church (Colossians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Believers, having the Spirit of Christ, suffer in seeking to save others, and grieve to see so many remain unsaved.
II. BRIGHT side of the Paradox. ‘But comely.’ The Bride, notwithstanding external blackness, ‘all glorious within’ (Psalms 45:14). Shulamite’s comeliness rather that of the soul, which lighted up and gave a charming expression to her swarthy features. Believers’ comeliness that ‘in the hidden man of the heart,’ and diffusing a spiritual beauty over the life Believers comely—
1. Through imputed righteousness. Comely through the comeliness of their Head and Saviour put upon them (Ezekiel 16:14). Believers made the Righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Made accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Christ made righteousness to those who are in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30). The language of faith: ‘In the Lord have I righteousness’ (Isaiah 45:24). The name by which the promised Saviour was to be called: The Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). The guests at the King’s marriage-supper accepted not in their own garments, but in those provided for and given to them by the King Himself (Matthew 22:11-12). Paul’s desire to be found not in his own righteousness which was by the law, but that which was ‘through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Philippians 3:9). Believers, like Jacob, blessed in the garments of their Elder Brother (Genesis 27:15; Genesis 27:27). Men made sinners by one man’s disobedience; made righteous by the obedience of another (Romans 5:19).
2. Through imparted holiness. Believers saved and made comely as well by impartation as by imputation; made personally holy by the one, as they are made legally righteous by the other. Made righteous in our Representative, we are made holy in our own persons. Christ made to us ‘sanctification,’ as well as ‘righteousness’ (1 Corinthians 1:30). Faith says: ‘In the Lord I have righteousness and strength,’—the latter for personal holiness, as the former for acceptance with God (Isaiah 45:24). Believers clothed with ‘the beauty of holiness,’ as well as with the ‘robe of righteousness.’ Made to put on Christ in His spirit and character, as well as in His Surety righteousness. Renewed in the image of God, and conformed to the likeness of His Son. Made one with Christ, they possess His Spirit, and live because He lives in them (Galatians 2:20). Sanctified as well as justified in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Christ our Life, as well as our Peace and Hope. ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His’ (Romans 8:9). Believers chosen and blessed by the Father in Christ, in order to be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4). Predestinated by Him to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Redeemed by Christ to be sanctified and cleansed, and so presented to Himself a glorious Church, holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). Believers accepted in Christ without any holiness; but accepted in order to their being made holy.
III. The COMBINATION of the two. The believer, like Shulamite, at once black and comely. The paradox: Black and yet comely. Comely while yet black. The explanation: Believers black in themselves, comely in Christ; black by nature, comely by grace; black in the flesh or old man in them; comely in the spirit or new man. Believers carry in them two natures at once,—the flesh and the spirit, the old man and the new. Like Rebekah, with two nations in her womb. The elder, or old carnal nature, to serve the younger, or the new and spiritual one. In the believer, with his twofold nature of flesh and spirit lusting and warring against each other, is seen ‘the company of two armies.’ Hence both inward conflict and outward incongruities. The believer both a saint and a sinner. Has in him the roots of all sin, and the principles of all holiness. Hence the believer’s frequent doubts and disquietude about his spiritual condition. The question natural to the inexperienced Christian: If I am a child of God, why am I thus? A part of spiritual wisdom to know that we can be, and that, if believers, we actually are, both black and comely at the same time. Not less black in ourselves because comely in Christ; and not less comely in Christ because black in ourselves. Believers often black outwardly in respect to condition and circumstances, when comely inwardly in respect to character and affections. Black like their Master, in the eyes of the world; comely in the eyes of God. Black in suffering; comely in the patience and meekness with which they endure it.—Observe—
1. Believers to be as conscious of their comeliness in Christ, as of their blackness in themselves. Our duty to know ourselves, that Christ is in us; and that while black in ourselves, we are comely in Him. Hence both the believer’s humility and joy.
2. Our duty and privilege to confess both our blackness and our comeliness. Grace not to be denied while blackness is acknowledged. To see and confess ourselves at once black and comely—black in ourselves and comely in Christ—the mark of a believer. Pride forbids both.
3. Our comeliness to attract and convince the world, more than our blackness might offend and deter them. The excellence of Christ and His Gospel seen in the comeliness of believers, notwithstanding their blackness. Believers to seek that others may think highly of Christ on their account, and rejoice in Him along with them. The world and weak professors apt to stumble at the blackness in believers, as seen in their sufferings, and especially in their sins. More power in their comeliness to attract, than in their blackness to repel. Believers more to be envied for their comeliness than despised for their blackness.
4. Much in the believer and the spiritual life mysterious and incomprehensible to the world. Apparent contradictions: black, yet comely; ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich.’ Strange in the eyes of natural reason that the children of God should be black at all; still more, that they should be comely at the same time. Yet natural—
(1) That the Bride of the Man of Sorrows should be also for a short time a sufferer, and that the Wife of the Persecuted One should herself be persecuted;
(2) That the blackness of her own fallen nature should not be all at once removed, but allowed for wise and important purposes in part to remain till the Bridegroom comes and takes her to Himself. The blackness daily passing away; the comeliness ever increasing. The blackness carried only till death; the comeliness perfected in the New Jerusalem.
5. The glory of the work of Christ and of the grace of God, that those who are ‘black’ are thereby rendered ‘comely.’ Our blackness in respect to suffering assumed by the Surety, that we might have His comeliness put upon us. That comeliness imparted in regeneration and conversion. ‘Even when we were dead in sins, hath He quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ ‘Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God: and such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God’ (Ephesians 2:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; read also Titus 3:3-7).
Notice the PARTY ADDRESSED
‘O ye daughters of Jerusalem.’
These, in the Allegory probably the ladies of Solomon’s court, now present with Shulamite in the King’s chambers. Now addressed by the rustic Stranger who has just been introduced among them. The probable representatives—
(1) Of the professing Church;
(2) Of persons only partially or carnally acquainted with Christ. Charged not to disturb the Beloved One’s rest (chap. Song of Solomon 2:7). Connected in some way with the marriage of the King and Shulamite (chap. Song of Solomon 3:10). Supposed to have some knowledge of the Bridegroom, though not possessing Him as their own (chap. Song of Solomon 5:8). Made desirous to learn more about Him, and to seek Him with the Bride (chap. Song of Solomon 6:1). Becomes interested in the Bride, and admires her beauty (chap. Song of Solomon 6:13). The women of Jerusalem who followed Jesus to Calvary, called by this name; with a probable reference to the term in the text, and indicating the connection of the Song with the Gospel history, and the identity of the Bridegroom with Christ. Observe, in reference to—
The Visible Church.
1. Possible to be near Christ and yet not to belong to Him; to have a knowledge of the Saviour, but not a saving one; to have a place in Christ’s House, and yet not to be Christ’s Bride.
2. The duty of believers to have regard to the spiritual welfare of the unconverted in the visible Church, and to seek their salvation.
3. Believers to be careful to remove all stumbling-blocks out of the way of the Church’s unsaved members, especially such as are in themselves.
4. Young believers to regard the members of the visible Church with charity, and to treat them with deference and respect.
5. Believers to be able and willing, humbly and for edification, to declare, especially to the members of the Church, their spiritual standing and condition in Christ.
APPEAL AND EXPLANATION
“Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked (or glanced) upon me (to scorch me); my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards: but mine own vineyard have I not kept” (Song of Solomon 1:6).
Shulamite begs the ladies of the court not to gaze upon her with such prying eyes nor yet to regard her with disdain, or be offended on account of her swarthy complexion; a dusky hue being a mark of inferior condition among Eastern females. She intimates the cause of her blackness—exposure to the sun whilst fulfilling a rural task imposed on her by hostile relatives under whose control she had been,—unmarried females in the East being under the guardianship of older male relations; and whilst watching the vineyards during the summer while the fruit was ripening,—a work which could easily be done by a young female, though both menial in itself and injurious to her complexion. This last circumstance perhaps figurately alluded to in the concluding clause of the verse: ‘Mine own vineyard’—my own interest, or what concerned my own person, namely, my complexion—‘I have not kept,’ or attended to. Or perhaps emphasizing the circumstance that it was in attending to the vineyards of others,—and not to her own,—and therefore unwillingly and by constraint,—that her otherwise fair countenance had become thus discoloured. Observe—
1. The condition of believers on earth, whether as one of sin or suffering, no just cause of offence to others; their sin being the result of a corrupt nature inherited from their first parents, and their suffering being partly the necessary consequence of that sin, and partly from the hostility of their unrenewed brethren (Romans 5:12; Romans 5:19; Romans 7:15; Romans 7:19; John 15:18; John 15:20; John 16:2; 1 Peter 1:6).
2. Men of the world and unrenewed Church members apt to look more on believers’ blemishes than on their beauty.
3. Believers, like Christ Himself, often, through men’s sin, a stumbling-stone and rock of offence to others; partly from their unavoidable imperfections, and partly from their constrained sufferings. Chosen out of the world, and therefore made an offence to it. Sharers of Christ’s cross, and, therefore, of its offence (Galatians 4:11; Hebrews 13:12-13).
4. The duty and desire of believers to remove as far as possible all occasions of stumbling from the way of others; and to guard them against stumbling at what must necessarily exist. Paul’s exhortation to believers: ‘Give none offence, neither to the Jew, nor to the Gentile, nor to the Church of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 14:13). His own resolution: ‘If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend’ (1 Corinthians 8:13). His anxiety in respect to his sufferings: ‘I desire that ye faint not at my tribulation for you.’ ‘That no man should be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto (Ephesians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:3).
5. Connection with Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, sure to blacken us; as—
(1) Discovering to us our own corruption;
(2) Exposing us to persecution and tribulation from the world (John 16:2; John 16:33).
6. Our “mother’s children,” whether naturally or ecclesiastically, not always the children of our heavenly Father, or the Bride of His Son (Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 4:22-31; John 7:5).
7. No uncommon thing for believers to experience the anger and persecution of their ‘mother’s children’ (Isaiah 66:5; Matthew 10:21; Matthew 10:35-36).
8. A sinning and suffering condition in this world, a necessity laid upon believers in common with others in consequence of the Fall. All men, believers included, children of wrath by nature, as well as children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2-3) The creature made subject to vanity not willingly (Romans 8:20).
9. The duty of each to be careful in looking to the interests of his own soul. Each man’s soul his own vineyard given him by his Creator to keep (Proverbs 4:23). Loss of spiritual beauty the result of negligence and unwatchfulness (Proverbs 24:30-34). Ministers, while keeping the vineyard of others, to be especially careful to keep their own (1 Corinthians 9:27).
10. The part of a believer to look to the interests of others as well as, and to a certain extent, beyond his own. ‘I seek not mine profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved.’ ‘Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth’ (or welfare). ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others: let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, (1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Philippians 2:4-5). True ministers the servants of others for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5). Self-forgetting love one mark of the Bride of Jesus Christ.
Bride’s Third Request of her Beloved.
Shulamite again addresses herself to the King, though still out of sight.
Song of Solomon 1:7
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.
The third petition which Shulamite has already addressed to her absent Bridegroom. A believer’s life a life of prayer. A living soul must pray. He has wants, and feels them. Has longings, and one to tell them to. An earnest, loving Christian has many petitions, and has boldness in presenting them. The King’s golden sceptre held out with—‘What is thy petition, and what is thy request? and it shall be done unto thee’ (Esther 5:2-3)
Shulamite still longs for the Beloved’s presence and fellowship. The chambers of the King not sufficient without the King himself. The Bride anxious to know where her Bridegroom is, in order to be with him. Addresses him as if he were present. Ardent love communes with its object though absent and unseen. The interview between a longing soul and a loving Saviour maintained through a thin veil. Bodily bsence no hindrance to communion with Christ. The loving soul must unbosom its feelings to the Beloved, whether present or absent. Good to turn from even professing Christians to Christ Himself. The daughters of Jerusalem unable to take the place of Jerusalem’s King. Ordinances good, and Christian fellowship good; but neither of them anything without Christ himself.
The ground of Shulamite’s longing given in the title with which she addresses her absent Beloved:
‘O thou whom my soul loveth.’
Love unable to rest without the presence of its object. The language expressive both of the sincerity and the ardour of her affection. The believer’s love to Christ a love of the ‘soul,’—deep down in the heart, and engaging all its affections. Christ to be loved with all and above all (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:20). Jesus locked in the believer’s heart as its most precious treasure. Infinitely worthy of such affection—
(1) From His own loveliness;
(2) From His love. In regard to believers, Christ’s love that of a Bridegroom, who has—
(1) Loved them;
(2) Given His own life for them;
(3) Wooed and won them;
(4) Lavished the expressions of His love upon them (Ephesians 5:24-30). The believer’s love to Christ therefore that of a Bride. Christ in His loveliness and love, more than sufficient to attract and engage all our affection, if we possessed a thousand hearts instead of one. The believer’s
Love to Christ.
(1) Divine in its origin; produced by the Holy Spirit in a renewed heart.
(2) Unquenchable in its character: survives all trials, sufferings, and discouragements.
(3) Discoverable in its effects: leading to—(i.) Obedience; (ii.) Self dedication; (iii.) Desire of fellowship; (iv.) Love and esteem for all that is His. True and hearty love to Jesus the distinguishing mark of a genuine Christian. The contrast of this in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Believers conscious, or ought to be, that they love Christ. Shulamite’s language that of unquestioning certainly. So Peter, even after his fall: ‘Yea, Lord; Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee’ (John 21:0). The Church’s language in the lips of the prophet: ‘The desire of our soul is to Thy name and to the remembrance of Thee’ (Isaiah 26:8). True of all believers: ‘Whom, having not seen, ye love’ (1 Peter 1:8). Observe—
1. Our comfort in darkness and desertion, to know that we love Jesus.
2. Consciousness and confession of blackness, in perfect harmony with love to Christ. Peter’s thrice repeated declaration of love to his Master consistent with his thrice repeated, but afterwards deeply repented of, denial of Him. Love greatest’ where most is forgiven.
3. Love to Christ a plea for the enjoyment of His presence. Acknowledged by Christ Himself: ‘He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him’ (John 14:21).
In regard to the request in the text, observe—
I. The PETITION itself. ‘Tell me where thou feedest,’ &c. A desire for information. Implies ignorance. Believers while in this world, ignorant of many things pertaining to Christ’s ways and their own comfort. ‘Now we know in part.’ Our happiness to be able to go to Christ for light and instruction. Christ made ‘wisdom’ to us, as well as righteousness and sanctification. Believers not only weak, and needing to be drawn, but erring, and needing to be directed. Wells of refreshment in the Word not seen till Jesus reveals them. Christ found in the Word and ordinances only as He is pleased to discover Himself. Himself our best Guide and Teacher.
Shulamite desires to know where her Beloved ‘feeds and rests his flocks at noon.’ Scripture often represents
Christ as a Shepherd.
(1) Jehovah’s Shepherd; chosen by the Father to feed and save his people. ‘My shepherd’ (Zechariah 13:7). ‘I will set up one shepherd over them’ (Ezekiel 34:23).
(2) The Good Shepherd: good especially in ‘giving his life for the sheep’ (John 10:11).
(3) The Great Shepherd: being the Almighty, ‘and able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him’ (Hebrews 13:20).
(4) The Chief Shepherd: in distinction from all other shepherds, who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, are employed under Him in promoting the welfare of the sheep (1 Peter 5:4).
(5) The One Shepherd: the sheep being only His, and no under shepherd being to be compared with him (Ezekiel 34:23; Ecclesiastes 12:11).
As a Shepherd Christ has—
(1) Given Him by the Father (John 10:29; John 17:2; John 17:6);
(2) Redeemed by His own blood;
(3) Sought and found by Himself while straying in the wilderness;
(4) Called by His grace;
(6) Quickened by His Spirit;
(6) Kept and preserved by His power;
(7) Cared for and tended by His love. Hitherto, as compared with the world, a ‘little flock’ (Luke 12:32). Always a ‘beautiful flock’ (Jeremiah 13:20). Frequently a ‘flock of slaughter’ (Zechariah 11:4; Zechariah 11:7; Psalms 44:22; Romans 8:36). Known from their—
(1) Hearing His voice and obeying His call;
(2) Following Him through bad and good report even to the end;
(3) Avoiding and refusing to follow a stranger. Enjoy the privilege of being—
(1) Led by Christ as their Shepherd;
(2) Guarded by Him from all real evil and from every hurtful foe;
(3) Helped, supported, and even carried by Him; (Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 46:4; Isaiah 63:9; Luke 15:5;
(4) Fed, sustained, and comforted by Him till they reach their home in heaven (Psalms 23:1-6).
Two actions here ascribed to Christ as the Shepherd:—
1. He feeds His flock. Believers require spiritual food. Living souls must be fed. Such feel their need of nourishment. Hunger and thirst for it. Desire what may inwardly satisfy them and enable them to grow in knowledge, faith, love, and every grace. Must be fed by Christ Himself. Willing to go anywhere where He feeds His flock, however plain the place, and poor the people, and painful the effort to reach them. Christ feeds them—
(1) With His Word, which is made ‘the joy and rejoicing of their heart;’
(2) With His ordinances, in which he makes them to lie down as ‘in green pastures;’
(3) With Himself, the Hidden Manna and Bread of Life, whose ‘flesh is meat indeed, and His blood drink indeed.’
2. He makes them to rest at noon. Noon the tune of oppressive heat,—‘the burden and heat of the day.’ Expressive of the time of—
(3) Persecution (Matthew 13:5-6; Matthew 13:20-21; 1 Peter 4:12). Believers often in such circumstances (1 Peter 1:6; 2 Timothy 3:12; John 16:33). Therefore require rest and comfort, as well as food. Christ therefore rests His flock as well as feeds it. Able to make them ‘rejoice in tribulation.’ Speaks comfortably (or ‘to their heart’) in the wilderness (Hosea 2:14). Gives them rest and comfort—
(1) By the promises of His Word;
(2) By the doctrines of His grace;
(3) By the ordinances of His house;
(4) By the dealings of His Providence;
(5) By the consolations of His Spirit;
(6) By the fellowship of His people;
(7) By the manifestation of Himself. Christ the Rest of His people as well as their Food. ‘The shadow of a great rock in a weary land’ (Isaiah 32:2). Exemplified in the case of Churches in Acts 9:31. Typified in the rest given at times to Israel (Judges 5:31; 1 Kings 4:24-25). The Bride’s desire to be rested as well as fed by Christ along with his flock. Believers desire to be rested—
(1) By Christ Himself. The world seek rest and comfort in the creature. Believers choose rather to suffer with Christ than to reign with the world.
(2) Among His people. ‘Where Thou makest Thy flock to rest.’ Christ found where His flock is, and where He is feeding and resting them (Matthew 18:20).
Shulamite, while desiring to be rested by the shepherd along with His flock, probably speaks in the character of a shepherdess, wishing to feed her kids where her Beloved is feeding his sheep. Even the under-shepherds need to be fed and rested by Christ Himself. The labourer for Christ to keep near to Christ even in his labour. Best to feed our kids where Christ is feeding His flock. Whether toiling or resting, the believer’s place is to be near the Master.
II. The REASON for the Petition. ‘For, why should I be as one that turneth aside (or, is veiled, either as a mourner or an immodest woman) by the flocks of thy companions.’ Observe—
1. Unlike the Bride of Christ to be living without His presence and society. Natural to believers to have the presence of Christ and to be happy in it. Not to Christ’s honour that His bride should go mourning without Him, or turning aside to others for comfort.
2. The Bride of Christ in danger of turning aside, if without Christ’s presence. Believers justly afraid of turning aside from Christ to the flocks of His under shepherds, or even of wandering from those flocks themselves. Most happy in being by those flocks, but not to substitute them for Christ Himself. Not to be satisfied with being by Christ’s flocks, or being fed by His companions instead of Christ Himself. Safer to find no rest than to find it by turning aside.
3. The fear of turning aside, or of bringing reproach on His name, a powerful plea in pleading with Christ for His presence. Right to plead as well as pray.
4. Believers liable to be mistaken for hypocrites and mere professors Christ Himself thus mistaken. ‘We esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted’ (Isaiah 53:4).
5. Believers often unable to understand the reason of the Lord’s dealings with them. Rebekah’s question not uncommon with believers: ‘Why am I thus?’ (Genesis 25:22). Three Why’s: Why have I darkness and trouble while others have light and comfort? Why am I without quickening means of grace while others enjoy them? Why have I not the enjoyment of the Lord’s presence which others have?
Answer to Shulamite’s Request.
The request, though addressed to the absent Bridegroom, apparently ensuered by the Daughters of Jerusalem or Ladies of the Court who were present (Song of Solomon 1:8).
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.
Shulamite receives a speedy answer to her request, though perhaps not a very direct one; nor yet from the Beloved himself, to whom it was addressed, but from his friends and the inmates of his house. Observe—
(1) The earnest enquirer after Christ not long in receiving direction. ‘Ye shall seek Me and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).
(2) Various ways by which Christ may direct the enquiring soul. The Head of the Church at no loss for instruments.
(3) Enquirers often directed by the ministers of the Word, or by those already acquainted more or less with the Saviour.
(4) Those having any knowledge of Christ to do their best in guiding others to Him.
(5) The great end of the Christian ministry and of the Christian Church, to direct men to Christ. All Christians to be able to give such direction. From the language of the answer in the text, observe—
I. The ADDRESS. ‘O thou fairest among women.’ A superior beauty belonging to believers. That beauty a moral and spiritual one, the beauty of holiness. ‘The King’s daughter all glorious within’ (Psalms 45:11; Psalms 45:13; Psalms 110:3). Observe—
1. Believers to commend themselves to others by their spiritual beauty. Something in a spiritually-minded, loving, and consistent believer that attracts the notice and admiration of others.
2. Believers are, as they OUGHT to be, more excellent and lovely than their neighbours (Proverbs 12:26). Possessed of a Divine nature. Born of God. Made new creatures in Christ. Created in Him unto good works. The Spirit of Christ, and so the fruits of the Spirit, in them (Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:22). Not to be satisfied to be like others (Matthew 5:46-48).
3. Believers not merely to be, but to be seen to be, more lovely and excellent than other men (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12). Ought to appear in the eyes of men as the Bride of Christ. Their calling to reflect His beauty, and be His witnesses and representatives in the world. Men to see in believers what Christ was and is. Christ Himself infinitely lovely, His Spouse, possessing His Spirit, expected to be lovely also. His comeliness put upon them (Ezekiel 16:10; Ezekiel 16:14).
4. Individuals never more lovely than when earnestly seeking Christ.
5. Others often stirred up by the earnestness of one soul seeking the Saviour.
II. The SUPPOSITION. ‘If thou know not.’ Observe—
1. Believers expected to know where Christ is to be found. Ought to know. Not according to their character to be ignorant.
2. Knowledge sometimes possessed when not exercised. Apparently the case here.
3. Young believers often deficient in spiritual knowledge (John 14:8-9).
4. Patience to be exercised in dealing with inquirers and young believers. Christ Himself a High Priest who has compassion on the ignorant. Believers to resemble Him.
III. THE DIRECTION. Twofold—
1. ‘Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock.’ Three ideas in this part of the direction.
(1) ‘Go thy way.’ To find Christ, we must use means, and use them earnestly. The direction opposed to indolence and sitting still.
(2) ‘Go thy way forth.’ To find Christ, we must not only go our way, but go forth. ‘Let us go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach’ (Hebrews 13:13). Forth from—(i.) Ourselves: no longer trusting in anything we are or do; (ii.) The world: its pleasures and practices, its favour and fellowship. (iii.) Sin: so as no longer to love it or willingly to commit it.
(3) ‘By the footsteps of the flock.’ Observe in regard to the—
Footsteps of the Flock.
(i.) Christ’s flock has footsteps in common. One spirit in them; one faith and one baptism. The ‘common faith,’ the ‘faith of God’s elect;’ ‘like precious faith with us’ (Ephesians 4:4-5; Titus 1:4; 2 Peter 1:1). (ii.) The footsteps and daily life of believers to be such as conduct to Christ. (iii.) To find Christ, we need to be in the footsteps of the flock, not in the wanderings of the world. These footsteps are—(a) Obedience: ‘why call ye Me Lord, and do not the things which I say.’
(4) Faith: ‘whose faith follow;’ ‘the steps of the faith of our father Abraham’ (Hebrews 13:7; Romans 4:12). (c) Self-denial; ‘If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself.’ (d) Meekness and humility: ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and holy in heart’ (Matthew 11:28). (e) Love: ‘walk in love;’ ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another (Ephesians 5:2; John 13:35). The footsteps of the flock exhibited in the Word of God for our guidance. The cloud of witnesses. The faith and obedience of Abel, Abraham, &c., recorded as footprints to guide those who should come after. Hence, also, the value of faithful Christian biography, (iv) Inquirers to be the careful followers of Christ’s faithful people. ‘Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ ‘Be followers together of me, and mark them that walk so as ye have us for an example.) ‘Followers of me even as I also follow Christ’ (Hebrews 6:11-12; Hebrews 13:7; Philippians 3:17). Believers to ‘enquire for the old paths, and walk therein’ (Jeremiah 6:16). To go back to the inspired words of prophets and apostles. ‘To the law and to the testimony;’ not to the decrees of Councils, or the dicta of Doctors, or the lives of so-called Saints. The Church early corrupted with heresy in doctrine, and error in practice. Even early Christian writers often heated with controversy. Not only contradicted one another, but often contradicted themselves. In many cases, impossible to obtain a clear and definite opinion from them. Their writings often mutilated and interpolated. Their views often manifestly and avowedly incorrect. The example even of the holiest of men to be only followed in so far as it accords with the written Word (v.) Inquirers to be content with old and ordinary directions as to finding Christ. No new or extraordinary direction given to the Bride in her difficulty. (vi.) Directions not the less useful because not immediately bringing us to the object of our search. ‘Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?’ ‘Go to Damascus, and it shall be told thee what thou must do’ (Acts 9:6).
2. ‘Feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.’ Shulamite addressed as a shepherdess. Believers made partakers of the calling and work of their Master. Christ the chief Shepherd; they, in their various spheres, and according to their various gifts, under-shepherds. ‘Feed my lambs; feed my sheep,’—the evidence of their love to the Great Shepherd (John 21:15-16). Shulamite, as a female, had her kids to feed. If unable to feed the sheep, we may be able to attend to the lambs. The gifts of some qualify them to minister to the adult and the mature Christian; those of others to the young and the weak. Two particulars in this part of the directions.
(1) ‘Feed thy kids.’ Observe—(i) Believers and inquirers have their kids to feed: (a) Their spiritual desires and longings to be satisfied; (b) Their new man, or young spiritual renewed nature, to be nourished and strengthened; (e) The souls of others, in one way or other committed to their charge, to be cared for and looked after. A Christian parent has his children’s souls as well as their bodies to feed and care for. A Sabbath-school teacher has his class; a minister has his flock, including both old and young. A District Visitor has the families of his or her district. Elders, deacons, and other Church office-bearers, have their respective charges. Each believer has the souls in his immediate neighbourhood, in the circle of his relations, within the sphere of his influence, or under his employment. The language only of a Cain,—‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The injunction laid on believers in general,—‘On some have compassion, making a difference; others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire’ (Jude 1:22-23). The resolution of David to be that of every saved soul: ‘Then (when thou hast restored to me the joy of thy salvation) will I teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners shall he converted unto Thee’ (Psalms 51:12-13). Every believer, in his measure, charged with the care of his fellow-believers. Their duty to comfort, edify, and exhort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13). (ii.) Believers and inquirers to be diligent in feeding their kids. Christ most likely to be found by us when diligently attending to the charge committed to us. To be found in active duty as well as in private devotion.
(2) ‘Beside the shepherds’ tents.’
The Shepherds’ Tents,
representative of Christian assemblies gathered together in Christ’s name, or rather of the places where they are so gathered. A body of people, and the place of their ordinary meeting, naturally associated in thought. Hence the term ‘Church’ originally applied only to the former, also used to designate the latter. Churches and congregations of believers placed by Christ, the chief Shepherd, under the charge and care of under-shepherds. These ordinarily in the New Testament designated Elders or Presbyters, Bishops or Overseers, and Pastors or Shepherds. These titles acknowledged to have been originally applied promiscuously to the same persons (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Shepherds or Pastors Christ’s gifts to His Church after His ascension into heaven (Ephesians 4:10-12; Jeremiah 3:15). The Shepherds’ tents the places where the Shepherds are found ministering to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-2). Observe—(i) Christ found beside the shepherds’ tents’ (Matthew 18:19-20). Himself always engaged in tending His sheep. Not far off when we are beside the ‘Shepherds’ tents.’ Inquiring and believing souls directed to the place where Christ is feeding His flock through His under-shepherds. (ii.) True Pastors and Gospel ordinances to be highly valued and diligently made use of (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12). None allowed to be above ordinances in the Church militant. (iii.) Believers to feed their charge and attend to their own souls, where Christ, His people, and His under-shepherds are. ‘They who separate themselves,’ given as a mark of those who have not the Spirit (Jude 1:19). ‘Forsaking the assembling of themselves together’ not the manner of Christ’s flock (Hebrews 10:25). Isolation from Christ’s ordinances not the way to find Christ. (iv.) The kids also to be fed beside the shepherds’ tents. Safest and best to accustom children to attend the ordinances of Christ’s house. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go.’ Christ’s will concerning children: ‘Suffer the children to come unto Me;’ but Christ is where two or three are gathered together in His name. The shepherds in their ministrations to have a portion for the young as well as the old. The children an important portion of the flock, and to be carefully attended to. ‘How is it that your sheep look better than other people’s?’ was asked of a farmer. ‘I look well to the lambs,’ was the reply, (v.) The importance, necessity, and permanence of the pastoral office indicated. Pastors and teachers, &c., given ‘for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man—unto the measure of the statue of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:11-13). The charge difficult, and sometimes painful and hazardous; but honourable, often pleasant, and when faithfully executed, blessedly rewarded (1 Peter 5:1-4) People without a faithful pastor like sheep without a shepherd. As such, the object of Christ’s special compassion, and should be that of His people (Matthew 9:36-38).
Song of Solomon 1:9 : I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots. ‘To a company of horses’ (לְסֻסָתִי lesusathi) סוּסָה (susah), fem., from סוּס (sus), a horse, may be either ‘a mare,’ or, as a collective noun, ‘a stud or company of horses.’ In the latter case, the final yod paragogic, as in Samuel Song of Solomon 1:1; Isaiah 1:21. GESENIUS inclines to the former view, thinking the comparison of a single loved one to a body of horse not so congruous. The latter favoured by ROSENMÜLLER, DE WETTE, NOYES, and others. The versions divided. SEPTUAGINT: My mare. VULGATE: My cavalry. LUTHER: My spirited team. WICKLIFF: My riding. DIODATI (Italian) and DUTCH. The mares. GENEVA: The troops of horses. MARTIN (French): The most beautiful pair of horses that I have. MONTANUS: My mare. COCCEIUS: My cavalry. Yod redundant. MERCER, VETABLUS. Not superfluous; ‘My,’ because, chosen for his own. DEL RIO: ‘My mare,’ i.e., my most beautiful mare. BOSSUET: My well trained steed. PERCY: One of the steeds; Yod paragogic. GOOD, BOOTHROYD. ‘My horse;’ a favourite mare of the King; a particularly fine and splendidly caparisoned specimen of those good mares which Solomon had for his chariots (1 Kings 10:26). ZÖCKLER. On the other hand, ROSENMULLER thinks there is no case of a beautiful woman praised by comparison to a mare. ‘My horse,’ a collective noun for all his cavalry (1 Kings 10:26) WEISS. My stud. GINSBURG. My horses. HODGSON. The team of horses. HAHN. PHILO has: ‘As a swift horse that wins the prize. An Arab’s mare his most valuable possession, and dearer to him than his fortune. GREENFIELD. Theocritus compares the comeliness of Helen to a Thessalian mare in a chariot; mares used in preference to horses both for riding and in chariots in the East, as being swifter and more able to endure hardship, and go longer without food. A. CLARKE.
‘In Pharaoh’s chariots.’ Pharaoh a name common to the Egyptian Kings; denoting in Coptic, and according to Josephus, ‘the King.’ GESENIUS inclined rather to derive the title, in its Hebrew form at least, from פָרַע (phara’), ‘to lead in battle;’ hence, פֶרַע (phera), ‘prince,’ with the formative חֹ (oh). “ ‘In the Pharaonic, or Egyptian chariots of Pharaoh;’ more exactly, such a stud as was used on state occasions in Solomon’s Pharaonic chariots; those costly teams which Solomon had imported from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28-29.)” ‘In Pharaoh’s magnificent team.’ DELITZSCH, EWALD. Horses of Egypt remarkable for their beauty and stateliness, and eagerly sought for the Kings of Syria. HARMER. Egyptian horses as the very best; and Egyptian horses in Pharaoh’s chariots as the very best of all. CLAY. Pharaoh, Solomon’s father-in-law, supplied him with most of his chariots. FROMONDI. A reference needlessly supposed by many to the chariots of Pharaoh at the Red Sea. So the TARGUM and the RABBINS, as well as the Roman Catholic and other Christian interpreters. BERNARD and FOLIOT: ‘The Lord’s cavalry or angelic host who overthrew Pharaoh’s chariots in the Red Sea.’ SANCTIUS: ‘Such as are described in the Psalm concerning the triumph over Pharaoh.’ DEL RIO: ‘With the chariots of Pharaoh, i.e., when they were drowned.’ HAILGRIN: ‘In [crushing] the chariots of Ph’. HENRY: ‘My company of horses that triumphed over Pharaoh’s chariots’ (Habakkuk 3:15). M. STUART and FAUSSET: ‘In the chariots of Pharaoh’ at the Red Sea; such being to Israel incomparable for swiftness and splendour.
The points of comparison: Swiftness and spirit: flies to her bridegroom like a horse which is spurred in the course. THEODORET. Drawing equally and elegantly together. SANCTIUS. Power to overcome enemies. DEL RIO, FROMONDI. Grace and beauty. Du VEIL. Beauty and speed. MERCER, PISCATOR. Stateliness, strength, and courage. DURHAM. Comeliness. ASSEMBLY’S ANNOTATIONS. Stateliness and beauty. POOLE. Affection. PERCY. Beauty, courage, stateliness, and other excellencies. DAVIDSON. Extends to the sumptuous trappings and ornaments. GOOD. Splendid decoration: these horses led forth on days of State, perhaps in some late procession of a royal marriage. Fay. Glittering ornaments of the head and neck. WEISS. The proud bearing of the horse (Job 39:19). EWALD. Their harmony and usefulness. TRACT SOCIETY’S COMM. Her youthful freshness and unaffected behaviour. DELITZSCH. Ardour and beauty. FAUSSET. The formidable character of Pharaoh’s horses at the Red Sea. THRUPP, WORDSWORTH. Their swiftness and splendour. M. STUART. The resemblance founded as much on the Bride’s dress and ornaments as on her beauty. NOYES. Orientals spare no expense in ornamenting their horses with the most costly trappings, while the ladies decorate themselves in a similar manner. WILLIAMS.
The Royal Bridegroom’s Greeting
SECOND SCENE. Place: The open grounds adjacent to the Palace. Speakers: The King and Shulamite; the daughters of Jerusalem or ladies of the Court, at a distance.
Song of Solomon 1:9-11
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.
Shulamite, having gone forth according to the direction of the ladies of the court, the King meets her with his loving greeting. Observe:—
(1) The earnest seeker of Christ and Hit fellowship, certain sooner or later to find Him. Historically exemplified in the case of the Wise Men of the East, who came to Jerusalem seeking the infant King; and of those devout and praying men and women who were found at the birth of Jesus waiting for the consolation of Israel. Possibly, according to the view of the Jews, a retrospective reference to the Lord’s gracious appearance and promise to Moses and Israel when mourning after the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 33:10-14; Exodus 34:4-10).
(2) Christ’s own time for the manifestation of Himself to the seeking soul the best. That time, as apparently here, often sooner than expected.
(3) The joy in finding, such as abundantly to compensate for all the grief in seeking. Such indicated by the character of the bridegroom’s greeting. Observe in regard to it:—
I. The APPELLATION. ‘O my love.’ Hebrew, ‘My companion.’ Given here for the comfort and joy of the seeker. Observe:
(1) Earnest pursuit after Christ rewarded by sweet assurance of His love to us and our interest in him.
(2) Christ’s spouse manifested by her earnestness in following after and resolution not to rest without Him.
(3) Sweet assurance of Christ’s love often follows deep sense of our own unworthiness. ‘I am black’—soon followed by—‘O my Love.’
(4) When blackest in our own eyes, often fairest in Christ’s. The Appellation exhibits believers as—
The Bride of Christ.
1. The high distinction of believers that they are Christ’s Bride. Eve, in relation to Adam, a type of the great body of believers, and of each believer in particular, in relation to Christ the second Adam. This relation between the Saviour and the Saved, the Church and her Head, recognised and taught throughout the Word. Christ, or God in Christ, everywhere in the Bible the Bridegroom and Husband of believing souls. (See Introduction.) This relation the foundation of the Song. Typified in that of ancient Israel as God’s covenant people.
2. This relation acknowledged and rejoiced in by Christ Himself. Believers acknowledged and delighted in by Christ as His Father’s gift, as Eve by Adam when God brought her to him and gave her to him to be his wife (Genesis 2:22; Genesis 3:12; John 17:6). Repenting and believing sinners acknowledged by Jesus when on earth as his Bride (Luke 5:29-35). That relation the ground of His redemption work (Ephesians 5:25-27).
3. The great happiness of believers that they are Christ’s Bride. A blessedness beyond conception involved in so intimate, tender, and enduring a relation to the King of Kings and Lord of Glory, in whom is summed up all created and uncreated loveliness and excellence, and who is Love itself. The joy attending the realization of such a relationship justly described as ‘unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:8). No light thing in David’s eye to be son-in-law to a poor earthly king like Saul. Archangels fail to tell the blessedness of being Bride to the King of Glory, the Prince of the kings of the earth.
4. An enhancement of this blessedness to receive the testimony of the relationship from Christ Himself. This testimony often spiritually and sweetly conveyed to earnestly seeking believers even on earth. A personal testimony from His own lips, given face to face, awaiting every child of God hereafter. The blessed hope of believers.
5. Believers reminded of the duty and responsibility connected with such a relationship. Cæsar’s wife to be above suspicion. What, then, the Bride of Christ? The proper character of such a Bride to be without spot. Christ’s honour in her keeping. His joy in her purity and undivided love. Natural for believers to tremble at the first rising of sin, as a dove at the sight of a hawk’s feather. Sin in a believer a double crucifixion of Christ. The most painful wounds those which a man receives in the house of his friends. Believers, as Christ’s Bride, justly expected—
(1) Carefully to avoid every sin;
(2) Jealously to watch against every rival in their affection;
(3) Constantly to beware of any coolness or distance between them and Christ;
(4) Faithfully to seek to obey His commands, promote His interests, and advance His glory.
II. The COMPARISON. ‘I have compared thee,’ &c. Notice—
1. The party making it. The Bridegroom himself. Observe:—
(1) The main thing to have the good opinion of Christ. Of comparatively small importance what men think of us. Christ best acquainted with us. Best knows what is real worth and true beauty. Can be surety for His own assertion.
(2) Christ observant of his people’s graces and the exercise of them. The comparison in the text the result of His close observation of the Bride’s spirit and conduct.
(3) Nothing more pleasing in Christ’s eyes than a soul earnestly and lovingly seeking Him and His fellowship as its chief joy. This the case even when He gives no intimation of it, OF appears to take no notice. His own time for giving such intimation the best.
(4) What excellence Christ ascribes to His people is what He Himself has given. Not only makes the comparison, but provides it. His comparison not merely one of word, but of previous act. He makes His bride what He loves, then compares and commends her.
2. The comparison itself. ‘To a company of horses (or, to my mare) in Pharaoh’s chariots.’ The best and most, beautiful horses those from Egypt; and naturally the best of all those employed in drawing the royal chariot. Such horses obtained by Solomon from Egypt (1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:26; 1 Kings 10:28-29). The comparison in the text either to a single mare, to a team drawing together, or to the whole stud in the royal stables. The comparison of a beautiful woman to a Thessalian mare found in an ancient Greek poet. Horses celebrated in Oriental poetry for their beauty. Arabs passionately attached to their mares. The points of comparison:
(1) Beauty. So—‘his goodly horse’ (Zechariah 10:3).
(2) Liveliness and ardour. See the description of the horse in Job 39:19-25.
(3) Courage and endurance. Hence especially employed in ancient warfare. ‘His goodly horse in the battle’ (Zechariah 10:3). See again the description in Job.
(4) Obedience and subjection. Horses naturally wild and wilful. Brought into subjection and broken in by man’s effort and skill. ‘Tamer of steeds,’ a Homeric epithet for a hero. The horse, when broken in and trained, obedient to the slightest intimation of the rider or driver’s will.
(5) In the case of a team,—harmony and united action. Draw with one mind, will, step.
(6) Discipline and order. Horses employed in drawing chariots, not only broken in, but well trained, so as to run in the traces with the greatest regularity and order.
(7) As horses in Pharaoh’s chariots,—excellence in their kind, the best training, the most costly and beautiful ornaments, and employment in the King’s service. The
Proper Character of Believers,
especially when it is well with them.
(1) Beautiful in holiness, and comely with the Divine comeliness put upon them (Psalms 110:3; Ezekiel 12:14).
(2) Lively and ardent, instead of being slothful and lukewarm.
(3) Strong and courageous in fighting the good faith, and enduring to the end.
(4) Obedient to their Divine Master, and subject in all things to His will.
(5) A unity in plurality; one and yet many; many in number, yet with one spirit; many individual believers, yet but one Bride and one Body.
(6) United in action; striving together for the faith of the Gospel; engaging with one heart in the service of Christ and the advancement of His kingdom (1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:4; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:2).
(7) Subdued and well disciplined under the Holy Ghost; no longer, as at first, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; made willing in the day of Christ’s power; walking orderly, and subject to one another according to the rule of the Gospel (Psalms 110:3; Colossians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 14:40).
(8) The most excellent of their species, not naturally or by their own merit, but by God’s grace; the excellent of the earth; God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Psalms 16:3; Ephesians 2:10).
(9) Arrayed in the garments of salvation, clothed with humility, and adorned with a meek and quiet spirit.
(10) Employed by the King of Zion in His service as His fellow workers; drawing in the chariot of the Gospel, and commissioned to carry it to the ends of the earth,—Christ Himself going forth in it, conquering and to conquer. Hence in regard to believers—(i.) Their honour and blessedness; (ii.) Their duty and responsibility; (iii) Their indebtedness to Divine grace. Formerly Satan’s willing slaves, and his depraved instruments in furthering his cruel and abominable purposes. Now the willing and happy subjects of Jesus employed in his honourable holy, and blessed service in promoting the salvation and happiness of a world.
III. The COMMENDATION. ‘Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels,’ &c. Cheeks mentioned as now uncovered. Perhaps in allusion to the comparison already made in Song of Solomon 1:10. Ornaments of gold, silver, and jewellery about the face and neck, greatly esteemed in Oriental countries, So Arabs adorned both their horses and camels, as well as their own persons (Judges 8:26). Such ornaments thought to set off and add to female beauty. Observe—
1. Believers highly beautiful and commendable in the eyes of Christ. Often like Himself, without form or comeliness in the eyes of the world, but beautiful and comely in His.
2. Wonderful change in a believer’s character. Cheeks comely with grace and love, instead of a whore’s forehead and a brow of brass. Their neck no longer stiff with an iron sinew, and burdened with the yoke of Satan; but adorned with the golden chains of heavenly wisdom (Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 25:12; Matthew 11:29-30; Galatians 5:1).
3. The spiritual beauty of believers not natural to them, or properly their own, but imparted to them and put upon them by Divine grace. The ‘rows of jewels’ and ‘chains of gold’ something put upon the Bride. Believers made comely with the ‘comeliness put upon them’ (Ezekiel 16:14). Their ornament Christ Himself, whom they put on as well for wisdom and sanctification as for justification or righteousness (Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30). ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ ‘Not I, but the grace of God which was with me’ (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:10). All the graces of a believer the fruits of the Spirit who has been given to him (Galatians 5:22). ‘Who maketh them to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7).
4. The duty of believers to aim at being as they are here represented. The graces of the Spirit given them in Christ, to be put on and worn by them as their own. Their duty to be putting on Christ from day to day, ‘as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.’ As the elect of God, holy and beloved, believers to put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, &c. (Colossians 3:12).
5. Believers’ spiritual beauty the Bridegroom’s joy. The language of the text that of admiration, satisfaction, and delight. ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him.’ His joy fulfilled in His faithful, obedient, and loving people. The name He gives to His Church—Hephzibah, or, ‘My delight is in Her.’ His believing people a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty in His hand. ‘Hearken, O daughter and consider, &c.; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty’ (Psalms 45:10-11)
6. The graces of Christ’s people to be open and conspicuous to the world. The Bride’s cheeks and neck here commended. Men to be able to see the believer’s good works, that they may glorify God who makes him what he is. To take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus. The Church to be able to magnify the grace of God in us. The world to know and believe from what they see in believers that God has sent His Son. Believers to be living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men (2 Corinthians 3:2).
IV. The PROMISE. ‘We will make thee borders (circlets or diadems), of gold,’ &c. The speaker changed from the singular to the plural. Still, however, the king. Speaks in the plural either in the style of majesty, or as having others associated with him in the fulfilment of the promise. Christ, in His purpose of adorning His Church with the beauties of holiness and the insignia of royalty, has associated with Him the Holy Spirit given Him by the Father for that object. The Spirit the great agent both in the believer’s sanctification and glorification. A similar style to that in the text used in connection with the creation of man (Genesis 1:26). The same Divine Trinity engaged both in the first and second creation—in creating man at first, and in renewing him when fallen (Isaiah 6:8; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). Observe, in relation to the promise—
1. The purpose of Christ to perfect believers both in holiness and glory. The will of God their sanctification and perfection. The object for which Christ gave Himself for the Church, that it should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:24-26). Believers chosen in Christ by the Father before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blame before Him in love. Blessed by Him for this object with all spiritual blessings, as the result of that election (Ephesians 1:3-4). Predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Believers to be adorned in a way worthy of the Bride of the Son of God. Changed from glory unto glory. Their path like that of the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
2. Adequate agency employed for the accomplishment of such a purpose. ‘We will make thee,’ &c. The Triune Jehovah the Almighty Agent. Believers God’s workmanship. The branch of His planting, and the work of His hands, that He may be glorified (Isaiah 60:21; Ephesians 2:10). Their sanctification and salvation the work of their Divine Creator. That Agent able to make them perfect in every good word and work. Able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. To sanctify wholly, throughout body, and soul, and spirit. Nothing too hard for the Lord. Able to subdue all things to Himself. Believers saved and glorified according to the working of His mighty power put forth in raising the Lord Jesus from the dead. More not to be desired; less unable to suffice.
3. The destiny of the Church and of each individual believer unspeakably glorious. ‘Borders (headbands or diadems) of gold, with studs (points or spanglets) of silver.’ Believers to be made a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty in the hand of the Lord (Isaiah 62:3). To be made as glorious as the Bride of the King of glory ought to be;—as glorious as a loving and Almighty Husband can make them. To be made entirely like Christ, and to share His glory. To sit with Him on His throne; and as kings and priests, to reign with Him for ever and ever. Their glorious destiny yet to be revealed. It doth not yet appear what we shall be (1 John 3:2). Certain, however, in its accomplishment, as being—
(1) The object of a Divine purpose;
(2) The subject of a Divine promise;
(3) The work of a Divine Agent.
4. The Church’s experience and character a progressive one. True in relation both to the Church as a whole and to each individual member. The glory of the former Legal Dispensation eclipsed by the superior glory of the new Dispensation of the Gospel. The latter, the Dispensation of the Spirit; the former, that of the letter. The former characterized by a spirit of bondage and fear; the latter by a spirit of liberty and adoption,—of ‘love, power, and a sound mind.’ Under the Gospel all classes to receive largely of the Spirit, and as the result of it to prophesy (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-29). Some better thing reserved for the Church in the Dispensation of the Gospel. The light of the moon to be as the light of the sun. The millennial age that shall follow still more glorious. The light of the sun as the light of seven days (Isaiah 30:26). Believer’s glory an ever-advancing one. Fair as the moon; clear as the sun; terrible as an army with banners (Song of Solomon 6:10).
5. The promise of growth in grace and of future glory given for the consolation of earnest believers.
6. Grace exercised and improved, followed and rewarded with grace increased (Matthew 13:12; Luke 19:26).
BRIDE’S REPLY TO THE KING’S GREETING
Shulamite expresses her Delight in her Beloved.
Song of Solomon 1:12-14
While the King sitteth at his table,
My spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.
A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me;
He shall lie all night (or, which remains) betwixt my breasts.
My Beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphor
In the vineyards of Engedi.
The King’s commendation and assurance of love reciprocated by the Bride. The language of the 12th verse—‘while the King sitteth,’ &c., either the declaration of a fact, expressive of her delight in the King, and the joy his presence afforded her; or a resolution as to what she would do for his honour. Regarded as the latter, it corresponds with the King’s last words. Solomon promises ornaments of gold and silver. Shulamite can only bring her spikenard; which, however, shall not be wanting in order to do him honour and express her love. Historically and literally realized in the life of Jesus, when the woman that was a sinner brought her alabaster box of ointment to anoint His feet in the Pharisee’s house; and when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, performed a similar service with her costly spikenard in the house of Simon the leper (Luke 7:37-38; John 12:3; Matthew 26:6-7).
In regard to the RESOLUTION, notice—
I. The OCCASION to which it refers. ‘While the King sitteth at his table’ (or, ‘in his circle [of guests]’). Observe, in reference to—
The King at His Table.
1. The person referred to. ‘The King.’ So Shulamite speaks of her Beloved, and the believer of his Lord. Christ a King. Imports his dignity as God and his office as Redeemer. Christ a King both by Divine right and Divine appointment. A King in virtue of his Divine nature as Son of God; and in virtue of His mediatorial undertaking as Son of Man. In His twofold nature as God-man, and in His mediatorial character as Redeemer, Christ is God’s King; King of Zion; King of Saints; Head over all things to His Church. Sits at the Father’s right hand upon His Father’s throne, ‘angels and authorities and powers being made subject, to Him.’ The King and Lord of glory. Rules and reigns over both the Church and the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords,—‘Prince of the Kings of the earth.’ In a lower, literal, and subordinate, though important sense, the ‘King of the Jews,’ heir to the throne of his father David. The language of the text emphatic. Christ not only a King, but ‘the King.’ The Church’s own and only King. ‘The great and only Potentate.’ In Christ, ‘love brings the majesty of the Creator down to the misery of the creature.’ Observe—The Church recognizes and acknowledges Christ as King, and as the King. Even in the closest and most endearing fellowship, His dignity and the reverence due to him as King not forgotten. True enjoyment of His fellowship accompanied with an impression on the heart as to His royal character and dignity. Such fellowship thus distinguished from what is spurious, imaginary, fanatical. Nearness to Christ fitted to exalt our views of Him and increase our reverence towards Him. The seraphim in His presence veil their faces and their feet with their wings. The Prophet, beholding His glory in the temple, exclaims: Woe is me; for I am undone, &c.; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 6:1-5; John 12:45). John, the beloved disciple, in like circumstances ‘fell at His feet as dead’ (Revelation 1:17). Nathanael’s adoring testimony at the beginning of the Gospel history—‘Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.’ Thomas’s, at its close,—‘My Lord and My God.’ The sentiment of the Church well expressed in Ambrose’s celebrated hymn,—‘Thou art the King of glory, O Christ’ The title in the text indicative of—
(1) The condescension of Christ in admitting sinful men to his fellowship. Subjects seldom admitted to the table of their sovereign. Mephibosheth amazed at David’s condescension in giving ‘a dead dog’ like him a place at his table. Christ not only admits to His intimate fellowship His own creatures, but creatures who have debased and polluted themselves with sin, and have been in active and open rebellion against Him.
(2) The honour and blessedness of believers. Each believer not only admitted into the King’s presence, but admitted there as the King’s Bride and Beloved. Compared with this, the highest earthly honour and position as worthless as the fallen leaf of autumn. This privilege the believer’s guarantee of all he needs for time and eternity.
(3) The believer’s duty and responsibility. If Christ be our King, we are to confess, follow, obey, serve, honour, and trust in Him as such. The believer to aim at shewing himself at, all times and in all places, both by word and deed, the faithful subject of Christ his King.
2. The King’s place. ‘Sitteth at his table.’ Observe—
(1) Christ has a table. Has a table in heaven. A celestial banquet prepared by Him for all the saved. Abraham seen afar off by the rich man in hell, sitting at that table with Lazarus reclining on His bosom. Hereafter follows the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, when His ‘Bride hath made herself ready’ (Revelation 19:9). Has also a table on earth. This that referred to in the text. The earthly rather than the heavenly experience of believers described in the Song. So the New Testament speaks of the Lord’s, i.e., Christ’s table, and ‘the Lord’s Supper’ (1 Corinthians 10:21; 1 Corinthians 11:20). One of the many connecting links between the Song of Solomon and the New Testament. The King’s ‘Table’ on earth the ordinances of the Gospel, and especially their central part—
The Lord’s Supper.
This ordinance expressed in the Scripture as a Table, not an altar. The Lord’s Supper a Feast, after and upon a sacrifice offered up more than eighteen centuries ago, not the sacrifice itself. The Table in the Lord’s Supper the King’s Table. The King (i.) appointed it; (ii.) provides it; (iii.) presides at it. The Table not man’s but the Lord’s; hence for all who love and belong to the Lord, and only such. Hence, also, His Table to be only what He Himself directs and prescribes. Man’s grievous sin in converting His Table into what Christ could no longer recognize as such. The Table appointed by the King for the refreshment, comfort, and strengthening of His Church in the wilderness. The provisions the King’s own; while the outward, visible, and symbolical materials are, according to His appointment, provided by the Church. The provisions nothing less than Himself. Christ as crucified for us, fed upon by faith in the Supper, as exhibited under the symbols of bread and wine. His flesh, or Himself as the incarnate and crucified Redeemer, the true meat; and His blood as shed for the remission of our sins, the true drink of the soul. Christ the bread of life, to be constantly, as well as in the Supper, fed upon by faith. He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you (John 6:35-58; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). Christ spiritually fed on by believers, as the Lamb Slain, as the typical lamb was carnally eaten by Israel in the Feast of the Passover. The King’s Table thus richly furnished. Man eats more than angels’ food. The Table on earth preparatory to the Table in heaven, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
(2) Christ sits at His Table. The King’s Table not only appointed and provided, but presided at by the King. When the disciples prepared the last Passover and first Lord’s Supper, Jesus ‘sat down with the twelve.’ Jesus sits at His own Table (Matthew 18:20). Is there for His own sake, delighting in the fellowship of His loving and believing people. ‘I will come in to him and sup with him.’ More especially, however, for their sake. Affords them quiet fellowship and intimate communion with Himself. Hence, the preciousness of the Lord’s Table to believers. He is there Himself, not as changed into, or necessarily connected with, the bread and wine; but as revealing Himself graciously and spiritually to the souls of His people. Is there, not only as the provisions, but as the presiding Head; not merely as their crucified Redeemer, but as their living and loving Bridegroom. The King’s Table precious, but more precious the presence of the King Himself. Feeding on Him, as exhibited in the bread and wine, believers have life; realizing his living and loving presence, they have life more abundantly Believers at the Lord’s Table not only feed on Christ, but have fellowship with Christ. He speaks peace and comfort to their heart. They speak their petitions and desires into His ear. The King sits at His Table—(i.) To see that the guests want nothing; (ii.) To give them a loving welcome; (iii.) To gladden them with His presence and smile; (iv.) To receive their petitions; (v.) To bless the provision to their souls.
3. The time the King is at His Table. ‘While the King sitteth,’ &c. The King not always sitting at His Table. Only now and then, and that for but a limited period. That period often short. Christ at His Table in the upper room at Jerusalem at most for two or three hours. Seasons of special communion in general neither very frequent nor long continued. When the risen Saviour manifested Himself as such to the two disciples at Emmaus, he immediately ‘vanished out of their sight.’ Such the conditions under which the Lord’s Table is spread on earth. Too often the causes of abridged communion in ourselves. Hence
(1) earnest prayer to be made, that while the Table is spread the King Himself may be present at it, and present all the time that it is so.
(2) Special care to be taken that there be nothing in us or by us to cause the time of His presence to be abridged.
(3) Diligent improvement to be made of His presence while it continues. The King’s golden sceptre being held out, believers to be ready with their petitions (Esther 5:2-3).
II. The RESOLUTION itself. ‘My spikenard sendeth (or hath sent) forth the smell thereof.’ Spikenard, a fragrant liquid produced from a lowly shrub of that name. Wont to be poured on the head of guests at table (Luke 7:46; Mark 14:3). This, and other perfumes, often carried about by Oriental ladies on their person. Shulamite had her’s in order to shew her devotion to her beloved—to do him honour, and to minister to his pleasure and refreshment. Her spikenard to give forth its fragrance only while the King reclined at his table or in the circle of his friends, when she should lovingly pour it on his head or even on his feet. Perhaps her language figuratively expressive of the effect the King’s presence had on her affections, in calling them into lively and ardent exercise. Her own love the sweetest spikenard to the King. Observe in regard to
The Believer’s Spikenard.
1. The believer has spikenard. A spiritual as well as a material spikenard. The soul or spirit capable of being pleased and regaled as well as the senses. Spiritual spikenard, that in an individual or in the Church at large, which is most pleasing and delightful to God, to Christ, and to holy souls. Such the fruits and graces of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, &c. (Galatians 5:22). Holy and spiritual affections exhibited in corresponding actions God’s delight (Psalms 37:23). The Philippians’ gifts to Paul, ‘an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God’ (Philippians 4:18). Believers’ prayers as incense (Psalms 141:2). These graces and virtues present more or less in every regenerate soul. The spikenard for the Lord’s table more especially—
(1) Faith in Jesus, as the Lamb slain;
(2) love to Jesus, kindled by the display of His dying love to us;
(3) Joy in Him as our God and Saviour, our husband and friend;
(4) Repentance and godly sorrow for the sins that caused Him to suffer;
(5) Self-dedication—‘O Lord, I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds’ (Psalms 116:16).
(6) Holy resolution, to live by His grace a life of obedience and devotedness to His service. These graces and their lively exercise agreeable to Christ as most fragrant perfume. Costly and precious as the work of the Spirit and the result of the Saviour’s own suffering and death. Symbolized in the frankincense and myrrh presented by the wise men to the new-born King, as well as in the spikenard poured on His head and feet by the hands of those whom He had saved.
2. The believer’s desire that his spikenard give forth its fragrance. Not sufficient that the spikenard is present. Of little use while still only kept close in the vessel. When Mary broke the box, the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. The graces of the Spirit to be not only in our souls, but in lively exercise. Hence the need of the prayer: ‘Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; and blow upon my garden (the garden of Christ in my soul), that the spices thereof may flow out’ (chap. Song of Solomon 4:16).
(3) His desire in order that Christ may receive both honour and delight. The object of the women who poured their spikenard on His head and feet. The desire of the loving believer that all he is and has, feels and does, be for the honour and gratification of his Saviour. The very spikenard all the King’s own, and ours only by his kind and kingly favour; therefore to be for the King’s own enjoyment. We have given Him the vinegar and gall to drink for our sakes; meet, therefore, we should give Him the fragrant spikenard of His own grace. Not only the spikenard itself His; but the emission of its fragrance due to His own presence. His manifested gracious presence like the gentle breeze that passes over the beds of spices, and causes them to exhale their sweets. Raises a cloud of sweet incense from the believer’s renewed heart. Sitting with Christ, we obtain something of Christ in our spirit and walk. The bride breathes no fragrance but what she imbibes from her beloved. The clay vessel scented by the perfume that fills it. Christ the sun that dissolves the spikenard and extracts its odour. His presence at the table, that which brought forth the fragrance of the women’s ointment. The believer’s graces at the King’s table do not so much impart sweetness to the King, as His presence there imparts sweetness to those graces. Hence, in relation to the Lord’s Table, the duty of believers—
(1) To have lofty views of Christ as ‘the King’;
(2) To think much of the King’s condescension and love, and of their high privilege in being permitted to occupy a place at His table;
(3) To pray earnestly that He may be pleased to be graciously present and to manifest Himself there to their souls;
(4) To see that there is nothing in themselves to hinder this;
(5) To be concerned that there be the Spirit’s graces to please and entertain Him;
(6) To seek that those graces be in full and lively exercise.
Song of Solomon 1:11-12, the Bride’s commendation of her beloved, and her declaration of her love. ‘A bundle (or bag) of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall lie all night’ (or, ‘which remaineth’) &c. Observe how the Bride speaks of the King, ‘my well-beloved.’ So believers of Christ Jesus, the beloved of every believing soul. ‘Whom having not seen ye love.’ Christ’s gifts precious to the believers; but more precious Himself. Love the first and the last thing required by Christ of His people. The object of His greatest desire, and that for which He gave Himself. When well with the believer, no question with himself as to his love to Christ. ‘Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.’ Ardent love its own certificate.—Christ commended in the text under a two-fold comparison:—
I. A ‘Bundle of Myrrh.’ Myrrh a fragrant gum exuding from a tree growing in Eastern countries, employed for imparting fragrance to the person, and often for that purpose carried by Eastern females in the bosom (chap. Song of Solomon 3:6; Esther 2:12; Psalms 45:8). One of the chief spices in the East, and used in the composition of the Holy Anointing Oil (Exodus 30:23; Exodus 30:34). Christ a
Bundle of Myrrh.
1. In Himself. Includes in Himself all sweetness and fragrance. In Him a combination of all charms and excellencies. The totality of all graces and virtues resident in His person. Himself the concentration of all loveliness and sweetness. In Him a fragrance that fills heaven with delight. His person, names, titles, attributes, words and works, such as ought to diffuse joy in every sinner’s heart, and actually do so wherever they are known. Not half the sweetness that is in Jesus enjoyed even by those best acquainted with Him on earth. Yet in that which is enjoyed, a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
2. To the Believer. ‘Unto me.’ The language—
(1) Of knowledge and apprehension. The believer’s happiness to be made to apprehend the excellence and sweetness that is in Jesus. Christ revealed to him and in him by the Father. His eyes opened and anointed by the Spirit to ‘see that Just One.’ Made by faith to behold the King in His beauty. Enabled to testify from experience—‘Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into Thy lips.’ ‘We beheld His glory.’ Whatever He is to others, to them He is a bundle of myrrh. To them that believe, He is precious.
(2) Of choice and appropriation. Christ chosen and appropriated by the believer as his ‘bundle of myrrh’—his joy and treasure. Others choose the finite and fading creature for their ‘bundle of myrrh,’ which perishes in the using. Believers, with Mary, choose Christ. First chosen by Him, they next choose Him. Their choice and appropriation of Him vindicated in the words of the Bride—‘He shall lie all night (or simply’—which remains) betwixt my breasts.’ The reference rather to the bundle of myrrh than to the beloved himself, though indicating the bride’s feelings and purpose regarding him. Like the bag of myrrh that remained constantly in the bosom, he should have the most intimate place in the affections of her heart. The believer’s earnest desire and resolution to have Christ ever near him and ever with him—to enjoy His uninterrupted communion, to satisfy the longings of his soul with His presence and love, and never to part with Him. His desire expressed in the hymn:
“Abide with me from morn till eve;
For without Thee I cannot live.”
Christ appropriated not as a dress to be put on and off again, but as a perfume to be carried in the bosom day and night. The present world a night to believers (Romans 13:12). His personal coming brings the day. Himself the Bright and Morning Star. His spiritual manifested presence gives songs in the night. His presence and smile our bundle of myrrh. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace (John 16:33). Christians to be Christ-bearers. Not merely to wear His name but Himself. Not to carry a crucifix, or picture of Him on our person, but His living presence in our heart. That presence the secret of the believer’s fragrance. The bag of myrrh in the bosom perfumed the whole person. The Spirit and life sweet and savoury, only as far as we have Christ in us and with us.
II. A ‘cluster of camphor.’ Camphor, or more properly cypress, or henna, an Oriental plant whose fragrant flowers grow in clusters. The spikes or sprigs of it carried about by Eastern females for the fragrance. Engedi, with its vineyards, near the western shores of the Dead Sea, and famous for its aromatic herbs, the place where the best cypresses grew. Christ not only to believers as fragrant cypress, but a cluster of it; not merely a cluster of cypress, but of the best and most fragrant cypress to be found,—cypress in the vineyards of Engedi. In Christ a concentration of all graces and virtues, all sweetness and excellence. Abraham’s faith, Moses’ meekness, Job’s patience, David’s devotion, Solomon’s wisdom, Paul’s zeal, and John’s love, all united in Jesus in fullest perfection and concentrated strength. Christ in the world and in the Church like a cluster of cypress in the vineyard of Engedi. Whatever of excellence or sweetness found there, infinitely short of what is in Him. Nature lovely; Christ infinitively lovelier. Some men and women, especially believing ones, charming and attractive both in their spirit and their person. Christ incomparably fairer and more attractive than the children of men. Divine ordinances sweet and refreshing; Christ infinitely more so; and ordinances only sweet as Christ Himself is in them
Bride and Bridegroom’s Mutual Commendations.
I. THE KING’S COMMENDATION OF SHULAMITE
(Song of Solomon 1:15-17)
Behold, thou art fair, my love;
Behold, thou art fair;
Thou hast dove’s eyes (Song of Solomon 1:15).
The language earnest and emphatic. ‘Behold:’ expressive of admiration. Repeated with the declaration—‘thou art fair,’—as indicative of strong emotion and deep conviction, as well as of the desire to assure the bride of its truth, and the difficulty of doing so. The assurance all the more necessary from Shulamite’s own sense of her blackness, and the depreciation of her by the ladies of the Court on that account. Observe—
(1) Believers’ eyes more readily fixed on their own corruption than on Christ’s grace in them.
(2) Love delights in expressing high esteem for and admiration of its object.
(3) Believers never fairer in Christ’s eyes than when blackest in their own, and meekly enduring the contempt of others.
(4) Believers not only beautiful in the eyes of others (Song of Solomon 1:8), but very specially in the eyes of Christ Himself. Christ looks not at the blemishes, but the beauties of His people. The beauties His, the blemishes their own. ‘He seeth no iniquity in Jacob.’ Christ the best judge of beauty. To be beautiful in His eyes is to be beautiful indeed, and blessed as well as beautiful. Beautiful in His eyes, it matters little what we are in the eyes of others. ‘Let them curse, but bless thou.’ Christ looks not only at what believers are now, but at what they shall be hereafter. Views past, present, and future at one glance. Christ takes delight in His people’s beauty (Psalms 45:10-11). Rejoices over them as the Bridegroom over the Bride (Isaiah 62:5). The double assertion: ‘Thou art fair,’ probably intended to express the greatness as well as the reality of Shulamite’s beauty. A two-fold beauty in believers: beauty of the inward spirit and of the outward life; beauty in doing and in suffering; beauty in imputed righteousness and imparted grace. The repeated assertion of Shulamite’s beauty, accompanied with the King’s assurance of His love to her, and her relation to Him: ‘My love.’ Sweet and comforting, as well as strengthening and sanctifying to believers, to be assured of Christ’s love, and of their relation to Him as His bride.
A special feature in Shulamite’s beauty noted: ‘Thou hast doves’ eyes,’ or ‘Thine eyes are doves.’ The eyes of Syrian doves distinguished for their softness, tenderness, and lustrous beauty. The eye especially the seat of beauty. The eyes of Syrian females particularly beautiful. The eye the expression of the soul. More especially the expression of inward affection. Hence the power of the eye in captivating the heart (chap. Song of Solomon 4:9; Song of Solomon 6:5). Observe—
(1) Christ notices not only the beauty of believers in general, but their single graces in particular; more especially He notices their love which has Himself for its object.
(2) The eyes of believers those of doves, or doves themselves. The dove distinguished for (i) gentleness and meekness; (ii.) affection and fidelity to its mate; (iii.) purity and cleanliness; (iv.) timidity and retiring disposition. Its character indicated in its eyes. The eyes of believers not those of the tiger, or the fox, or the hawk; but of the dove. The contrast of the believer’s eyes indicated in Matthew 20:15; 2 Peter 2:14; Psalms 131:1. Believers learn of Jesus to be meek and lowly in heart. The ‘gentleness of Christ’ to be a distinguishing feature in their character. ‘Gentleness’ is love holding intercourse with those around us. Implies tenderness of feeling; readiness of sympathy; considerateness of others. ‘Gentleness’ is ‘love in its depth and in its delicacy.’ Believers chosen in Christ to be holy and without blame before God in love (Ephesians 1:4). Not to be drawn away from Christ by any suffering or persecution. Pass the time of their sojourning here in fear. Work out their salvation with fear and trembling (1 Peter 1:17; Philippians 2:12).
2. SHULAMITE TO THE KING
(Song of Solomon 1:16)
Behold thou art fair, my beloved; Yea, pleasant.
The Bride returns her Beloved’s commendation. Every good word from Christ to be turned to His own praise. What the believer is made, he is made ‘to the praise of the glory of His grace.’ The title also reciprocated: ‘My Beloved’. The believer made conscious both of His love to Christ and his relation to Him. Bride’s commendation also commences with a note of exclamation: ‘Behold.’ Implies the reality and greatness of the King’s beauty. His beauty a thing to be contemplated and dwelt upon. The ascription of beauty to the Bride returned as belonging rather to Himself. The believer’s beauty only a reflection of Christ’s. Shulamite commends her beloved as—
I. FAIR. Observe—
1. Jesus supremely beautiful in the eyes of believers. Their eyes anointed with Divine eye-salve to see His beauty. Able to testify with John we beheld His glory. Their blessedness, to behold even now, by the eye of faith, ‘the King in His beauty.’ Christ formerly to them as to others, a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness: now the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.
2 Jesus in Himself transcendently beautiful. Observe, in reference to the
Beauty of Christ—
1. Its greatness. His beauty such as no angel’s hand could pourtray, or tongue describe. The exclamation of the prophet: ‘How great is His beauty!’ (Zechariah 9:17.) Of the Psalmist: ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips’ (Psalms 45:0).
(2) His beauty a glory such as becomes the Son of God: ‘We beheld His glory; the glory as of the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14). All beauty summed up and centered in Jesus. Whatever is beautiful in the creature, found in Him in an infinitely greater degree. All creature beauty only a ray or emanation from His own. Christ the fountain and ocean of beauty; all beauty in the creature, whether angel, man, or nature, only a stream from that fountain, or a drop from that ocean His an essential beauty; theirs a derived one. All beautiful things in nature only made to reflect something of His beauty, and to lead up to it.
2. Its character. His beauty mainly a moral and spiritual one: ‘Full of grace and truth.’ His countenance, doubtless, indicative of that spiritual beauty. Not the less beautiful because, for our sakes, marred more than any man’s, and soiled with blood and tears His beauty in His soul, but manifesting itself in His words, looks, and actions. Seen both in what He is in Himself, and in what He is to others, especially to poor sinners of mankind. His soul free from all sin, and full of all grace. All its powers and faculties in complete order and perfect harmony. His beauty seen not only in the separate graces of His character, but in their combination, proportion, and symmetry. Displayed in His love and lovingness—His self-forgetting, and self-denying benevolence, sympathy, and compassion; in His gentleness and tenderness, His meekness and humility; in His kindness and condescension to the poor, the ignorant, and the despised; in His wisdom and intelligence, combined with forbearance and child-like simplicity; in His patience in suffering and submission to His Father’s will; in his fearlessness in regard to Himself with the tenderest care and consideration for others; in His manliness combined with meekness; in His firmness of principle with flexibility of manners; in His purity combined with pity; in His hatred of sin with love to the sinner; in His ardent affection for His friends with the most generous forgiveness of his enemies; in His supreme love to God combined with untiring self-sacrificing love to man.
II. PLEASANT. Shulamite adds—‘Yea, pleasant’ or comely. ‘Yea,’ indicating the difficulty she finds in expressing her appreciation of the King’s excellence, and the delight she found in Him. Not only ‘fair,’ but ‘pleasant’ besides. The most beautiful not always the most pleasant. Christ not only beautiful but pleasant. Observe in regard to the
Pleasantness of Christ:
In Him the greatest moral excellence combined with the greatest pleasantness. Pleasantness a special quality, and superadded to excellence. Indicates what a person is in relation to others. That which renders a man amiable, agreeable, and enjoyable to those around him. The quality in an individual that affords pleasure and delight in his presence and society. Has special reference to one’s spirit and temper, manners and deportment,—a person’s looks, and the tone of hit voice, as well as his words and actions. Implies a combination of graces as well as virtues; of charms, as well as excellencies; of agreeable as well as solid qualities, fitting their possessor for imparting pleasure as well as profit to those in contact with him. Such pleasantness in Jesus. Jesus fair in Himself; pleasant to others. Such that not only angels but men—not only the godly but sinners—may find pleasure in Him. The evidence of His pleasantness seen in His disciples who so fondly adhered to Him and so closely followed Him; in John the fisherman, who was wont to pillow his head on His bosom; in the multitudes that everywhere thronged about Him; in the publicans and sinners that drew near to hear Him; in the children that followed Him with their parents, and sang His praise in the temple-courts; in the infants that He took up in His arms, putting His hands on their head and blessing them. David’s testimony in regard to Jonathan that of every believer in regard to Jesus: ‘Very pleasant hast thou been unto me.’ Jesus ‘very pleasant’ to believers now while conversed with through a veil. What when they see Him face to face?
SHULAMITE REJOICES IN THE KING’S FELLOWSHIP AND THE PLACE OF ITS ENJOYMENT
Song of Solomon 1:16-17
Also our bed is green;
The beams of our house are cedar,
And our rafters of fir.
The scene now the grounds of the palace. Shulamite has found the King at the shepherd’s tents. Intensely happy in each other’s society and love, they sit down and repose on a green and flowery bank—the resting-place at noon (Song of Solomon 1:7). The cedars spread their shady branches over them like the beams of a palace, while the fragant fir trees form a gallery for their walk. Shulamite notices these things, and in her delighted enjoyment of the King’s fellowship, and her fine appreciation of the objects of nature, expresses her gratification in these agreeable surroundings. Brought up in the country, she is everywhere exhibited in the Song as an enthusiastic admirer of natural beauty. In this way as well as others, a meet companion for him who ‘spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall’ (1 Kings 4:33). Enjoyment of a dear one’s fellowship gives of itself a charm to the place which is the scene of it. The place where a believer has enjoyed sweet and hallowed communion with his Saviour, especially in the season of his first love, rendered beautiful in his eyes, and endeared to his heart. All the more so when this has been in the midst of natural scenery. With the joy of a soul’s deliverance from bondage and possession of a newly found Saviour, all surrounding nature seems to be in harmony. By a law of our mental constitution, the joy transfuses itself over all surrounding objects. The mountains and hills break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12). Christ’s graciously manifested person sheds a beauty and sweetness over every thing around us. Himself fair and pleasant, the very place becomes such where He is found and enjoyed. Where He treads, lilies and roses bloom. Hence the sweetness of Divine ordinances. Christ’s fellowship usually most enjoyed in connection with the ordinances of His own institution. Gospel ordinances the shepherds’ tents where the Chief Shepherd is found, and where He makes His flock to rest at noon. The promise,—‘I will commune with them from off the mercy seat.’ Hence, the very place of these ordinances, beautiful and delightful to a loving believer. ‘How amiable are Thy tabernacles;’ ‘Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.’ ‘A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.’ Hence his longing desire after them. ‘My soul longeth, yea even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord.;’ ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His temple’ (Psalms 84:0; Psalms 96:0; Psalms 63:0; Psalms 27:0). This sweetness and charm connected with the sanctuary something very different from mere outward attraction; though it may be desirable that even that should not be altogether wanting. Nothing lost when that which meets the bodily eye is somewhat in harmony with the spiritual beauty of the sanctuary, which only the eye of the living soul can perceive and the renewed heart delight in.
Shulamite commends both the beauty of the grassy couch on which they reposed, and the agreeableness of the shade afforded by the trees which spread their branches over their heads like the beams of sylvan chambers. ‘Our bed (or couch) is green (or flourishing); the beams of our house (Heb. “houses”) are of cedar (or cedars are the beams of our chambers); and our rafters (or galleries) are of fir’ (or fir trees are our rafters or galleries). Suggesting, in regard to
1. Community of interest and participation on the part of Christ and His people. ‘Our bed;’ ‘our house;’ as pertaining both to the bride and bridegroom. So Divine ordinances the joint property of Christ and His people. The temple at Jerusalem spoken of as both God’s house and that of the people: ‘Our beautiful house;’ ‘Your house is left unto you desolate.’ The sacrifices participated in both by God and the offerer. Called ‘the bread of their God,’ ‘the food of the offering made by fire unto the Lord’ (Leviticus 3:11; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8, &c.). Christian ordinances intended both for the enjoyment of Christ and His people. ‘If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him and he with me’ (Revelation 3:21).
2. Repose as well at comfort to the soul. Christ found in the ordinances of his house as ‘the rest and the refreshing’ wherewith ‘the weary’ are to be made to rest, and ‘as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land’ (Isaiah 28:12; Isaiah 32:2). ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life: For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me.’ ‘There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high, (Psalms 46:4; Psalms 27:4-5).
3. Freshness and life. ‘Our bed is green’ or flourishing. The ordinances of the Christian Church, wherever two or three are gathered together in the Master’s name, as fresh and lively, as full of blessing and as precious to believers note as when after Pentecost the disciples ‘continued steadfast in the Apostles’ fellowship and doctrine, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers’ (Acts 2:42). These ordinances as sweet and refreshing to the believer at the close of his earthly pilgrimage as at the beginning of it. The promised presence of Christ and the operation of His Spirit, that which keeps the couch green and flourishing. ‘There is a river, &c.’
4. Strength and permanence. ‘The beams of our house are cedars.’ Strength as well as beauty in God’s sanctuary (Psalms 96:6). Christ’s promised presence gives permanence, as well as life and freshness, to ordinances. The Lord’s Supper, the central ordinance of Christian worship, to continue till He come again. These ordinances have continued throughout eighteen centuries in almost all parts of the known world, and are, to a great extent, the same even in form at this day as when originally instituted and observed by the earliest converts. One precious fruit of the Reformation, the restoration of these ordinances to their primitive simplicity, after having been overlaid and disfigured both in the Eastern and Western Churches with rites and ceremonies of mere human invention. What is Divine in ordinances permanent as the cedars; what is merely human, perishable, and to be put away.
5. Fragrance and beauty. ‘Our rafters (or galleries) of fir’ (or, are firs or cypresses). The fir or cypress distinguished for its beauty as well as its fragrance. ‘Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree.’ Promised in connection with the sanctuary in Gospel times. ‘The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree and the pine tree and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary’ (Isaiah 60:13; Isaiah 55:13). Beauty, as well as strength, in God a sanctuary (Psalms 96:6). The fragrance and beauty of Divine ordinances not in the fumes of incense, or in external decoration, whether of place or persons; but in the truths of the Gospel exhibited, the presence of Christ enjoyed, and the power of the Spirit experienced in them.