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most endeared affection, and complained of the inconvenience he had sustained through her unwatchfulness, she still gave but little heed to his voice. In hot countries, “ the night dews” are not only strong, but often very injurious to those who are exposed to them: yet even this consideration did not operate to produce in her that activity which the occasion required.
Instead of rising at his call, she urged vain and foolish excuses to justify her neglect; and in fact told him, that his visit at that time was unacceptable. These excuses were only a cloak for her own sloth and self-indulgence: had her graces been in lively exercise, the obstacles she complained of would have vanished in an instant. This conduct gives a striking picture of what too generally obtains amongst ourselves : it shews, 1. Our slothful habits
[There is in the very best of men “the flesh yet lusting against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit striving against the flesh, so that they cannot do the things they would a.” Even St. Paul complained, that, whilst with his mind he served the law of God, with his flesh he was still in some measure subjected to the law of sin, not indeed as a willing servant, but as a captive, who in vain sought a perfect deliverance from that detested enemy". True indeed, where due vigilance is kept up, “ the old man" cannot gain any permanent advantage: but even when " the spirit is willing, the flesh is too often weak;" and all in some degree find, that “when they would do good, evil is present with them.” It is indeed greatly to be lamented, that “the Wise Virgins” should ever so resemble the Foolish Virgins, as to “slumber and sleep” like them: but so, alas ! it is: and when, by reason of our failures, we are ready to complain, “ Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!" we need the rebuke which was given to that petition, “ Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, and put on thy strength, O Zion!"] 2. Our insensibility to the kindness of our beloved
[How inexpressibly tender are his addresses to us! See the invitations, the entreaties, the expostulations that pervade every part of the sacred volume; and say whether they be not sufficient to melt the most obdurate heart? “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with med."
a Gal. v. 17. b Rom. vii. 14, 18, 22, 23.
c Isai. li. 9, 17. and lii. 1. a Rev. iii. 20. e Jer. ii. 31. f Jer. iii. 12, 14.
Yet how long does he stand and knock in vain! His pleadings too, how kind, how gracious, how forcible they are ! * Have I been a wilderness to Israel? Wherefore say my people, we will come no more unto theee?” “ Turn ye unto me; for I have redeemed you: I am even married unto you":" “ Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die, O House of Israel ?” But all his expostulations have been to no purpose with respect to the generality; and even on the best they are far from operating to the extent they ought. St. Paul could say, “ The love of Christ constraineth us," or carries us away like a mighty torrent: but how many are the seasons when his attractions are not so felt by us, and when, instead of regarding him as "the chiefest among ten thousand,” we see scarcely any “beauty or comeliness in him for which he is to be desired!") 3. Our vain excuses with which we cloke our sins
[Something arising out of our present circumstances we are ready to plead in extenuation at least, if not in excuse, for our sloth. But, if we would deal faithfully with ourselves, we should see that all our pleas are a mere cloak for self-indulgence: we are called to “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts,” but we do not like self-denial : to“ mortify our earthly members” is a work in which we cannot bear to engage: the "cutting off a right hand, and plucking out a right eye” is so painful to us, that we cannot be prevailed upon to put forth the resolution it requires. We promise ourselves a convenient season,” which in too many instances never comes at all. Like those in the parable, we find some reason for declining the invitations sent us, and return for answer, “I
pray thee have me excused" -]
A due consideration of her fault will prepare our minds for, II. The reproof she met with—
At last, beginning to see her error, she rose to open to her beloved : and with such ardour of affection did she open to him, that “ myrrh dropped, as it were, from her hands upon the handle of the lock.” But behold, he was gone; and though she sought him, she could not find him; and though she called after him, he gave her no answer. The watchmen too reproved her with great severity, as questioning even the sincerity of one who could so treat the beloved of her soul. And such reproof must we all expect, if we give
way to sloth instead of watching unto prayer. We must expect, 1. That he will depart from us
[Verily he is “a God who hideth himself,” a holy and a jealous God, that will make us to “eat of the fruit of our own ways, and to be filled with our own devices.” He has warned us not to “grieve his Holy Spirit,” lest he depart from us. I “will go and return to my place,” says he, “ till they acknowledge their offence." And oh! how painful are the seasons when he withdraws from us, and leaves our souls in darkness ! Even he himself, when for our sins he was deserted of his God, how bitterly did he cry; " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" O that we may never provoke him to put that cup into our hands! How distressing will it be to be reduced to any measure of that experience which Christ endured for us; “O my God, why art thou so far from helping me, and from the voice of my roaring? I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silenth!” See David in this predicamenti
and “ let us be instructed, lest we provoke him to depart from us also.")
2. That the word and ordinances shall be unproductive of any solid comfort to us—
[The "Watchmen" are the ministers, whose office is not only to instruct and comfort, but also to warn and “rebuke with all authority." True it is, they may be too hasty and severe in their reproofs; and may by such indiscreet zeal make the heart of the righteous sad, when they should rather bind up the broken heart, and heal the wounded spirit. But it is possible also, that they may be too lenient, and “speak peace to persons when there is no peace.” But where there is no fault in their ministrations, God may make their word as a sword, to enter into the very bones of those who hear it, and to cut them to the heart. Even the promises, when held forth in all their fulness and all their freeness, may afford comfort to the soul of one who is under the hidings of God's face; but may add tenfold poignancy to all his griefs. How unhappy was the state of David, when even the thought of God himself was a source of sorrow and despondency, rather than of joy and peace ! “He remembered God, and was troubled; and his soul refused comfort.” In like manner, all the wonders of redeeming love may be made a source of the deepest anguish to our souls, by the apprehension that we have no part or lot in them. If then we would not bring these heavy judgments on our souls, let us " seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.”] & Hos. v. 15. h Matt. xxii. 1, 2. i Ps. xlii. 3. and lxxvii. 6—9.
1. Those who yet enjoy the light of God's countenance
(Happy, happy are ye, in the possession of this rich mercy: Surely such a state is a foretaste of heaven itself. But do not presume upon it. Do not say, “ My mountain stands strong; I shall never be moved;" lest ye cause God to “ hide his face from you, and ye be troubled.” “Be not high-minded ; but fear." Keep upon your watch-tower : “let your loins be girt, and your lamps trimmed;" and watch every moment for the coming of your Lord. “ Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing."]
2. Those who are under the hidings of their Redeemer's face
[If others are not to presume, so neither are you to despond. your sorrow endure for a night, there is joy awaiting you in the morning." This do: imitate the Bride in the passage before us.
She desired the prayers and intercessions of the saints, and entreated them, in their seasons of communion with their Lord, to plead her cause: “I charge
you shall see him, tell him that I am sick of love." She felt no grief like the absence of her beloved; and could find comfort in nothing but the restoration of his love. Thus let your hearts be fixed on him ; even on him only: and suffer nothing to weaken your regards to him. Never entertain hard thoughts of him. Take shame to yourselves, till ye even lothe yourselves in dust and ashes : but relax neither your love to him, nor your confidence in him. Say with yourselves,
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Then will he in due season return to your souls, so that “ your light shall rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon-day.” Only be content to " go on your way weeping, bearing the precious seed of penitence and faith ; and you shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you."]
DCCCLII. TRANSCENDENT EXCELLENCIES OF CHRIST. Cant. v. 9. What is thy beloved more than another beloved, 0
thou fairest among women ? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us ?
THOUGH zeal in every earthly pursuit is approved and commended, it is almost universally banished from the concerns of religion. The most temperate exertions are deemed excessive, and a moderate degree
of solicitude is called enthusiasm. Even they who profess godliness are too often found ready to damp the ardour, which persons, more active than themselves, may at any time express. Thus the Bride was checked in her inquiries after her beloved. The “ daughters of Jerusalem,” who keep up the dialogue with the Bride and Bridegroom, seem to be either formal professors of religion, or to have made a very small progress in the divine life. And they, when the Bride, under great trouble and anxiety, requested their intercession, reflected on her as manifesting an intemperate and needless zeal. But we will answer their questions, by shewing, I. The excellencies of our Beloved
Who the Beloved of the Church is, we need not declare; since it is too manifest to admit a doubt. There is not a member of that body who does not regard Jesus with supreme affection. Nor is there any apology needed for such a choice. His excellencies are exceeding great.
[In him are concentrated all the glories of the Godheada. Being the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, he must of necessity possess all the Divine perfections b. To search out these perfections is beyond the ability of any finite beingo; but to love and adore him on account of them is the duty and privilege of all his people. The excellencies of his human nature may be more easily declared. There his glory is veiled, so that we may
behold and contemplate it without being blinded by its overwhelming splendour. He was not only holy, but holiness itself, without spot or blemish. His most inveterate enemies, Satan himself not excepted, could not find a flaw in him", and God himself has borne testimony, that in him was no sine. As Mediator, he united both the Godhead and the Manhood in his own person, and executed an office which he alone was able to sustain. In that character we behold him reconciling God to man, and man to God', yea, glorifying all the perfections of the Deity in the salvation of sinners 8. Well may we, in this view of him, exclaim, “How great is his goodness, how great is his beautyh!")
But the text requires us to speak of him in a comparative viewa Col. ii. 9.
b Heb. i. 3. c Job xi. 7. d John viïi. 46. John xiv. 30. el John iii. 5. f 2 Cor. v. 19. & Rom. iii. 25, 26.
b Zech. ix. 17.