THE CHURCH’S LOVE TO CHRIST
Song of Solomon 1:3-4. Thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee. Draw me: we will run after thee.
THIS divine song was admitted into the sacred canon soon after the Babylonish captivity (most probably by Ezra,) and has been admitted both by Jews and Christians from that time as constituting an important part of the inspired volume. It is called the Song of Songs, because of its peculiar excellence, there being no other to be compared with it, as delineating and describing the love which subsists between Christ and his Church. There are indeed similar images used in other parts of holy writ, and particularly in the 15th Psalm; but there is a richness and variety in this, by which it is pre-eminently distinguished. True it is, that the representations contained in it render it unfit for the carnal eye, which would be more likely to be injured by it, through the influence of a polluted imagination, than to derive from it the good which to a spiritually enlightened mind it is calculated to convey. Many of the expressions, which, at the time they were written, were clear and intelligible, are, for want of a more intimate knowledge of the various circumstances which would elucidate them, inexplicable to us: but the general purport of the whole is evident enough: it is a kind of allegory written in the form of a pastoral poem, in which different persons are introduced, and bear a part, relieving, as it were, occasionally, the dialogue betwixt Christ and his Church; the one under the character of a Bridegroom; and the other, of a Bride, espoused to him in this world, and waiting for the consummation of her nuptials in the world to come.
The abruptness with which the poem opens is very remarkable. The spouse, having her mind full of her Beloved, breaks forth without any mention of his name, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” She is ready to think that the minds of all must of necessity be occupied with his excellencies, and must therefore of necessity know to whom she refers. She then commends “his love, as better,” and more exhilarating, “than wine, because of the savour of his good ointments [Note: That seems the more proper place for the stop.];” and assigns this as the reason of her love towards him, and her ardent desire after him.
These are the two points for our consideration at this time:
I. The reason of the Church’s love to Christ—
“His name is as ointment poured forth”—
[A rich ointment poured forth will fill a whole house with its odour [Note: John 12:3.], so that all who are within it shall be refreshed with its fragrance: and such is the delight which the whole Church derives from the mention of the name of her Beloved.
Consider his name, “Emmanuel:” it was a name given him eight hundred years before he came into the world: and the interpretation of that name is given us by the sacred historian, that we may know all the riches of grace and love contained in it. Its import is, “God with us [Note: Matthew 1:23.].” Wonderful name! God, “the mighty God,” with us, worms of the earth; with us, who have been all our days rebels against his Divine Majesty, and who might well have expected to have been made everlasting monuments of his righteous indignation. In some respect indeed he might bear that name, even in the regions of darkness and misery: since he is there by his power inflicting his heavy judgments on all who inhabit those dreary mansions: but he is with us by his love; yea, he is with us in our very nature; “bone of our bone, flesh, of our flesh:” God and man in one person! Stupendous mystery! Can it be so? Is it true, that the God of heaven and earth has so condescended to assume our nature, and to sojourn upon earth, that he might commend himself to us as our Beloved? Say, ye who have any spiritual senses, does not a fragrance go forth at this name Emmanuel, sufficient to fill the whole universe with its odours?
But take another name, the name of “Jesus.” This was given him by the Angel, when he was conceived in the womb; and the giving it was considered as a completion of the prophecy that assigned to him the name Emmanuel [Note: Matthew 1:21-23.]. And a fulfilment of the prophecy it was; for “Jesus” is Jah Hosea, or Divine Saviour. Here, in addition to his Godhead, as united to the manhood, we have the end of his incarnation plainly announced: it was, to save a ruined world: yes, “he came, not to condemn the world, but that through him,” even through his meritorious blood and righteousness, “the world might be saved.” Think of this, ye who have destroyed your own souls, and are trembling for fear of the Divine judgments: your God has become a man, on purpose that he might fulfil the law which you have broken, and endure the curse which you have merited; and by this substitution of himself in your place, might deliver you from death and hell, and make you partakers of his own eternal kingdom and glory. Does not this name refresh and animate your souls? Can you hear it without receiving from it sensations which it is not in the power of language to express?
Consider yet one other name, that name whereby we are particularly instructed to call him, “The Lord our Righteousness [Note: Jeremiah 23:6.].” Here you have the same blessed intimations as in the former names, respecting his Godhead, and the gracious ends of his incarnation; with this additional suggestion, that his righteousness was wrought out for you, yea, that he himself is your Righteousness. A creature’s righteousness would not have sufficed for you: you needed the righteousness of God himself: and God himself has become a man, that in your nature he might work out a righteousness, that should be imputed to you, and put upon you, and constitute your justifying righteousness at the bar of judgment. Tell me, Brethren, can you hear this unmoved? What spiritual perception can you have, if you are not even ravished with delight at the sound of such a name as this? Surely it is the out-pouring of this ointment that makes heaven to be the place it is: yea, to be within the reach of this atmosphere, is heaven.
We forbear to mention any other of his glorious names, lest we distract your attention by the variety [Note: See Isaiah 9:6.]: sufficient have been mentioned to justify the Church’s attachment to this adorable Saviour.]
On account of the fragrance diffused by his name, “the virgins love him”—
[By “the virgins” we understand, all that are “pure in heart,” and have been betrothed to him in righteousness and truth [Note: Hosea 2:19-20.].” Of all such the Apostle says, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:2.].” These all love the Lord Jesus Christ. In the eyes of others, this adorable Being has “no beauty or comeliness for which to be desired [Note: Isaiah 53:2.]:” but in the eyes of the Church “he is truly precious [Note: 1 Peter 2:7.],” “fairer than ten thousand,” and “altogether lovely:” and the one desire of her heart is, to be able to say, “This is my Friend and my Beloved [Note: Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 5:16.].” In comparison of him, all other suitors are utterly despised. The whole universe presents no other object to her view that deserves a thought: the constant state of her soul towards him is, “How great is thy goodness! how great is thy beauty [Note: Zechariah 9:17.]!” “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee [Note: Psalms 73:25.].” Sweet as created excellencies once appeared to her, she has now no eye to see them, no taste to enjoy them. She is altogether occupied with the savour of her Beloved’s name, the perfume of which makes every other odour worthless at least, if not nauseous and offensive. In a word, so entirely does this beloved object fill her soul, that with him a dungeon would be heaven; and without him, heaven itself would be a dungeon or a desert.]
From hence naturally follows,
Her ardent desire after him—
Conscious that his gifts are his own, and that without his gracious assistance she can do nothing, she presents before him,
1. Her supplication—
[Our blessed Lord himself has said, “No man can come unto me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him [Note: John 6:44.].” And this total insufficiency for every thing that is good, the Church confesses in this short but ardent petition, “Draw me!” None but Jesus himself can open for us the box in which this ointment is contained, or give the spiritual perception whereby alone its fragrance can be discovered. How many, in the days of his flesh, were rather incensed against him, than drawn to him, by all the wonders of his love! and how many at this day are like the idols which they worship! “they have eyes, and see not; ears, and hear not; noses, and smell not [Note: Psalms 115:5-8.].” But these have had spiritual senses given unto them; and therefore they pant after communion with their blessed Lord.
Observe, it is not the carnal unregenerate man alone that needs to offer this petition: it is here offered by “the virgins,” “the upright [Note: See the close of ver. 4.],” who already love their Lord; and it is necessary to be offered by all, as long as they continue in the body. There are times and seasons when the most favoured of mankind are comparatively dead and dull: even “the Wise Virgins,” as well as the Foolish ones, for a time “slumbered and slept.” Again and again does every member of the Church need to be awakened, and to have his sluggishness overcome by fresh communications of divine grace, and fresh manifestations of the Saviour’s love. Continually do we need to be “drawn with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love [Note: Hosea 11:4.]:” and therefore we must continually renew the same petition as the Church offers in our text.]
2. Her resolution—
[It is no reluctant service which the Bride will render, when once she feels the attractions of the Bridegroom’s love. No: she will “run after him:” she will run with all her might: she will regard no obstacles without; she will yield to no impediments within: she “will run and not be weary; she will press forward, and not faint [Note: Isaiah 40:29-31.].” The space she has already passed, she will account nothing; “forgetting the things that are behind, she will press forward for that which is before, if by any means she may apprehend that, for which she has been apprehended of God in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:12-14.].”
The change of person also is here remarkable: “Draw me, and we will run after thee.” Not only will the Church summon all the powers of her soul, and unite them all in the service of her Lord, but she will bring all she can along with her. When once she feels the constraining influence of Christ’s love, she will not be content to come alone: she would impress every creature that she beholds, with the same love which she herself feels, and would bring all others into the very same union with him which she herself affects. And herein her love differs from that which is here used to set it forth: the love which is felt towards an earthly object, admits not of participation with others: it would engross all the affections of its beloved object, and not endure a rival: but the Church’s love to Christ is enhanced by the most extended communication of the blessings which she herself enjoys. She would have all the earth to know, and love him. Just as Andrew and Philip, as soon as they found the Messiah, invited Peter and Nathanael to come and participate their joy, so does every member of the Church of Christ: he will, like Abraham, “command his household” to fear and love his Lord, and will use all possible means to extend the kingdom of his Redeemer throughout all the earth.]
From this subject we may learn,
What reason we have to seek the knowledge of Christ—
[Who is there that has such a title to our affections as he? Who is there so excellent in himself, or such a source of blessedness to them that love him? Go through the universe; survey every thing that stands in competition with him; and see what it can do for your souls. Take that highest of earthly bliss, which is here used to shadow forth the blessedness of union with Christ: how often have they been disappointed who have most passionately sought, and fondly hoped that they had attained, the summit of human happiness! And where it has been enjoyed in its utmost perfection, how soon has it been cut short by the hand of death! But nothing can damp, and nothing can terminate, the blessedness of those who are united to Christ. On the contrary, in the midst of the deepest distresses, his love will fill you with the richest consolation. When a fainting fit has come upon the body, a strong and pungent odour will revive it: and so will the fragrance of Jesus’ name refresh the soul, when nothing else under heaven will reach, and resuscitate, its languid powers. O let every one of you seek this union, and never rest till you can say, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his [Note: Song of Solomon 2:16.]!”
Yet let me remind you of a most important distinction that must ever be made between the knowledge of Christ, and “the savour of the knowledge of him [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:14.].” That which resides in the head will be of no avail, as bringing you into union with him: it is that only which diffuses a fragrance through the whole soul, that will terminate in the everlasting enjoyment of him in heaven.]
2. In what way we should testify our regard for him—
[Seek him continually, and with your whole hearts; and whenever you find sluggishness creeping upon you, renew your cry to him, “Draw me, draw me!” Your “hearts are bent to backslide from him,” yea, prone too to alienate from him the affections that should centre in him alone: but strive that you may be able at all times to say with David, “My soul followeth hard after thee:” and if at any time you are enabled to lay hold on your Beloved, let him not go, but “cleave to him with full purpose of heart.”
At the same time see what you can do in your families, in your neighbourhood, and in the world at large, to bring others also to him. Commend him to them: endeavour to bring them into the assemblies, where he manifests his presence: entreat him to extend his attractive influences to them also, even as he has done to you: and labour that, if possible, all the world may behold his beauty, and be comforted with his love.
As for yourselves, look to the final consummation of your love in a better world, when your fruition of him shall be more intimate than it can be in this world, and shall continue without intermission or alloy through all eternity.]