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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";" 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 faints.” 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 Jesust."
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,
r Hos. xi. 4.
s Isai. xl. 29-31.
t Phil. iii. 12–14.
1. 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 u ! "
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." 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
u. Cant. ii. 16.
x 2 Cor. ü. 14.
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. ]
DCCCXLIX. THE CHURCH'S FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. Cant. ii. 1-3. I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the
valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among
the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight; and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
FROM the general scope of this whole poem, we can have no hesitation in saying, that the words which we have read are a part of a dialogue between Christ and his Church; the former part containing his testimony respecting her; and the latter, her testimony respecting him. It is a kind of pastoral song, as the images used by both the parties shew; and, though exceeding difficult of interpretation in some parts, it is very intelligible and instructive in others. We must bear in mind, that Christ speaks as the Bridegroom of his Church; and the Church, as his Spouse: whilst the “ sons” and “ daughters” mentioned in our text, are those children of Adam who yet lie in darkness and the shadow of death, or, at best, have only “the form of godliness, without the power.” As for the
daughters of Jerusalem,” who occasionally bear a part in the dialogue, they are professors of religion, who, though friendly on the whole, are not yet brought into this near relation to Christ, nor made partakers of his saving benefits.
In discoursing on the words before us, we shall consider, I. Christ's testimony respecting his Church
Thecommendation bestowed upon her is the highest she could possibly receive: it is, that she, according to the measure of grace given to her, resembles him. In order to point out the resemblance,
He first declares his own character
[“ I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." Whatever is most excellent in the universe, is brought forward from time to time, to designate and illustrate the character of our Lord. Of the heavenly bodies he is the Sun, “ the Sun of Righteousness." Of inferior creatures, he is the Lion, “ the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Even the plants and flowers yield him honour also: as the rose is exceeded by none in fragrance, and the lily is pre-eminent in beauty, he is a Rose, “ the Rose of Sharon," whose excellence was proverbiala ; and a Lily," the Lily of the valleys,” to which Solomon in all his glory was not worthy to be compared b. Infinitely diversified are his perfections. In whatever point of view we consider him, his person, his offices, his relations, we shall be fully convinced, that to him alone pertain the garments which were “ made for glory and beauty c." In his person are united all the attributes of the Deity, and all the grace of humanity in their highest possible perfection --- In his offices, nothing is wanting that could contribute to the welfare of his Church and people. As their High-priest, he has made a full and all-sufficient atonement for them: as their Prophet, he instructs them by his word and Spirit; and as their King, he rules over them, and in them; and puts all their enemies under their feet
As for his relations, there is no relation that can inspire us with hope and confidence, which he does not bear towards his believing people. He is our Shepherd, our Brother, and our Friend. Whether viewed in his exaltation, as God; or in his humiliation, as Man; or in his mediatorial state, as “Emmanuel, God with us,” he is infinitely great and glorious, “ fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely."] He then acknowledges her resemblance to him—
[To the glories of his Godhead no creature can bear any true resemblance; so infinitely is he above all: but in his humiliation he was a pattern both of lowliness and purity, to which his believing people are conformed: yea moreover, as he in this respect infinitely excels the highest of his creatures, so does his Church excel all others of“ the daughters” of men: she is, like him, " a lily;" like him also, “a lily among thorns ;” no others bearing any more comparison with her, than a thorn or brier with the lily. Mark the lowliness of the true Christian: he boweth down his head with a sense of his own unworthiness, and manifold infirmities: yet is he "pure," at least in purpose and desire, “ even as God is pure.” “ The very same mind is in him that was in Christ Jesus:" yea," being joined to the Lord, he is one spirit with him ;” “a partaker of his holiness, "a partaker of his very nature,"“ created anew after his image a Isai. xxxv. 2.
b Matt. vi. 29. c Exod. xxviii. 40. d 2 Pet. i. 4.
in righteousness and true holiness.” Compare the Church with others, and they are no better than “ thorns" before her; so superior is she to them in all her principles, her purposes, her attainments. The one have no higher aim or end than self: the other disdains to act but from the love of God, and for the glory of his name. The one leave God out even from the most sacred exercises; the other brings him into the most common acts and offices of life. The one have no life but what they received from nature: the other has Christ himself living in
“ Christ himself is her life?.” True it is, that by nature the Believer was not at all different from others, but grace has made the difference; according to that prophetic declaration; “ Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall grow up the myrtle-tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign, that shall not be cut offs.”_Thus is that amply verified which was spoken by Solomon, " The righteous is more excellent than his neighbourh."]
In reply to this commendation, the Church proclaims, II. Her testimony respecting him
This she bears,
[Christ is " as the apple tree among the trees of the wood. " Other trees can afford shadow only; whilst to those who take refuge under him, he administers the most refreshing and satisfying food. Under them, the soul that continues to abide, must perish : but the soul that abides in him, shall live for ever. All that it can want or desire is found in him. He is “the tree of life, that bears twelve manner of fruits';" every season, every situation, every circumstance of life. “ The very leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations.” The law appeared to offer a salutary retreat: but it could never satisfy the hungry soul, or “ make a man perfect as pertaining to the conscience.” But what not all the trees of that forest could do, Christ has donek; and does continually for all who seek repose under the shadow of his wings. And they who have the clearest views of his excellency, "determine to know nothing but him, even him crucified.") 2. From her experience of his love
[The Church here says, in fact, “ What my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, and my hands have handled of the word of life, the same declare I unto you.” In fact, no other
c 1 Cor. x. 31.
f Col. iii. 4.
& Isai. lv. 13. k Rom. viii. 2.