« PreviousContinue »
[Surely there is no other object of affection in the universe worthy to be compared with him. In whom is there such a marvellous combination of excellencies ? As God, as Man, and as Mediator, he not only unites in himself every perfection proper to the Divine and human nature, but exhibits a character peculiar to himself, a character that is and ever must be the admiration of the whole universe. In whom was there ever found any one excellence in so eminent a degree? There have been men wise, and virtuous and loving, but in him were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge'; and he was not only virtuous, but virtue itself incarnate; and as for his love, its heights and depths can never be explored. Indeed, whatever excellence has at any time beamed forth in the creature, it has been nothing but a ray reflected from this Sun of Righteousness! We may ask yet further, Whose excellencies were ever so beneficial to us ? Others indeed have profited us by their example ; but He, by his obedience, has wrought out a righteousness for us; a righteousness wherein the vilest of sinners, if truly penitent, shall stand perfect and complete in the sight of God. Let the contemptuous inquirer then blush for his ignorance; and acknowledge that our Beloved infinitely transcends every thing that can be put in competition with him.]
According to his excellencies must of necessity be, II. The regard we owe him
If we look to the example of the Bride, who well knew how to appreciate his worth, we shall see how we ought to manifest our affection towards him.
1. We should esteem him above every thing in the world
[The Bride has used every simile that the most fertile imagination could suggest, in order to express her sense of his excellency. David esteemed nothing in heaven or earth in comparison of himo; and St. Paul counted all things but dung for the knowledge of him P. And if we do not see a "beauty and comeliness in him for which he is to be desired" infinitely beyond every thing else, our eyes must be altogether blinded by the god of this world. Let us then despise every thing in comparison of him, and take him as our portion, our ALL IN ALL.]
2. We should be exceeding careful that we do not grieve him
i Col.ii. 3. k Eph. iii. 18, 19. 11 Cor. iv. 7. m Rom. v. 18,19. n Cant. ï. 3, and in ten different particulars, v. 10–16. o Ps. lxxiii. 25.
p Phil. üi. 8.
[In this also the Bride affords us an excellent example. Frequently does she repeat her tender concern lest by any means he should be provoked to depart from her % Such a holy caution also should we continually maintain. He is a holy and jealous God, and will not endure our neglects without manifesting his displeasure". The Bride herself, notwithstanding her care in general, experienced the loss of his presence, when she became remiss S. And thus will he also hide himself from us, if by our unwatchfulness we grieve his Holy Spirit. Let us then “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Let us " look to him as our Guardian Angel, and beware of him, and obey his voice, and carefully abstain from every species of provocation t."]
3. If at any time we have lost a sense of his presence, we should by all possible means immediately exert ourselves to regain it
[With what contrition did the Bride arise! How did her very soul faint within her, when she found he was departed ! With what earnestness did she call after him! How did she instantly inquire after him, applying to those who from their office and character were best fitted to direct her! How did she persist, notwithstanding all the discouragements she met with! And what a solemn charge did she give to her fellow-saints to intercede for heru! Such should be our conduct under the hidings of his face. We should not sit down in despondency, but labour with more abundant diligence to obtain renewed expressions of his love and favour*.]
4. If he vouchsafe to visit us again, we should feel ourselves completely happy in him, and yield up ourselves entirely to his will
[No sooner were the Bride's endeavours crowned with success, than she redoubled her efforts to retain and enjoy him", and earnestly sought to be most intimately, and inseparably united to him?. Thus should we seek to “abide in him, and to have him abiding in usa.” We should “cleave to him with full purpose of heart,” and, in the possession of his love, our souls should find all that they can desireb. Thrice happy they who are thus influenced by their views of Christ ! Their “labour shall never be in vain.” They shall enjoy the greatest, the only real good, the light of his countenance"; and though in a little wrath he may hide his face from them, it shall be only for a moment, and with everlasting kindness will he have mercy on them 4.] It may now be allowed us, not merely to exhort, but
9 Cant. ii. 7. and iii. 5. and viïi. 4. r Isai. xlv. 15. s Cant. v. 3-6. t Exod. xxii. 20, 21, u See each distinct step exemplified : Cant. v. 5—8. x Hos. v. 15. y Cant. ii. 2—4. z Cant. viii. 1, 2, 6. a John xv. 4.
b 2 Cor. vi. 10. c Ps. iv. 6.
to “ CHARGE,” you all
[In the name of Almighty God, we “charge” you all to love the Saviour. If the love which Believers bear to him constrains them to be singular, let it be remembered, that the blame of singularity does not rest on them: as they can “give a reason for the hope that is in them,” so can they also for their love to the Saviour. His transcendent excellencies demand their supreme regard. If they love him with all their heart and soul and mind and strength, it is no more than their bounden duty; yea, their most fervent affections fall infinitely short of his desert. Let all then set their love on Jesus. Let them search out his excellencies, till they are ravished with the sight, and let them “cast their idols to the moles and to the bats.” Nor let any be ashamed to confess him before men. It is a small matter to bear the taunts of an ignorant and ungodly world. One hour's enjoyment of Christ's presence will more than counterbalance an age of man's contempt; and if on earth, how much more in heaven! Dare then to be singular. Shine, Believers, as becomes your relation to the heavenly Bridegroom. Be “ the fairest among women,” as your Beloved is among meno ; and let your union with him be discovered by your conformity to his image.] d Isai. liv. 8.
e Ps. xlv. 2–13.
THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST. Cant. v. 16. He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved ; ang
this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. WITH many it is a matter of surprise, that truly converted Christians should manifest such zeal in prosecuting their own ways, and in commending religion to all around them. The world see no such excellency in Christ as the true believer does; and therefore, whilst they cannot but acknowledge the superiority of the Christian's walk, they ask, in a tone of self-justifying confidence, “ What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge usa ?" But, if they beheld the Saviour in his true character, so far would they be from wondering that his people loved and served him so ardently, that they would rather wonder at the coldness of their hearts towards him, and at the unprofitableness of their lives. To the above question the Church of old replies, in the words I have read to you: from which I shall take occasion to shew, I. The excellency of Christ
a ver. 9.
This is set forth in highly figurative language; agreeably to the tenour of the whole book, which abounds in allegory from beginning to end. The Church marks, under very sublime images, his beauty in every part—" his head, his locks, his eyes, his cheeks, his lips, his hands, his body, his legs, his countenance, his mouth;” and proclaims him, not only “the chiefest among ten thousand,” but “ altogether lovelyb.” We will not attempt to follow the particular description here given; for we could never do justice to it. We will rather content ourselves with a general view of Christ, who is altogether lovely, 1. In his person
[In himself he unites all the perfections of the Godhead, with every grace that can adorn humanity. “ In him there was no spot or blemish ;” insomuch that his bitterest enemies, after the severest possible scrutiny, were forced to confess, “ We find in him no fault at all” --] 2. In his offices
[These were altogether sustained for us, and executed for us; and they are precisely such as our necessities required. Did we need an atonement for our sins? He is our Great High Priest who offers that atonement; yea, and offers himself, too, as the sacrifice which alone was sufficient to expiate our guilt. Did we need to be instructed relative to the way in which alone God would accept a returning sinner? He became our Prophet, to make known to us the mind and will of God, and to reveal to us inwardly, by his Spirit, what he has outwardly proclaimed to us in his word. Did we need to be delivered from all our spiritual enemies? He yet further assumed the Kingly office, that he might rescue us from our bondage, and make us partakers with him of all the glory and felicity of heaven. It is not possible to find in man a want for which provision is not made in him, to the utmost extent of
our necessities; and which he will not supply to all who call upon him ---] 3. In all his intercourse with his people
[O, who can conceive the extent of his condescension and grace? How ready is he, at all times, to “ draw nigh to those who draw nigh to him;" to " manifest himself to them, as he does not unto the world ;" and to impart to them all the consolation and strength which they look for at his hands! “In all the afflictions of his people he is himself afflicted;" and to such a degree is he“ touched with the feeling of their infirmities,” that every trial of theirs is felt by him as his own. “Whosoever toucheth us, toucheth the apple of his eye." In a word, there is no weakness which he will not succour: no want which he will not supply: nor shall there be any bounds to his communications, except what are fixed by our capacity to receive them
With this view of Christ's excellency, it is impossible not to connect, II. The blessedness of those who believe in him—
Between him and his believing people there is the closest union that can be imagined. 1. He stands pre-eminent in their regards
[So says the Church; “ This is my Beloved.” It is the Spouse that speaks; and here she claims him as her Divine Husband. Now, conceive a person excelling all others in every endowment, both of body and mind; conceive of whole nations acknowledging him as the Benefactor of the human race; and conceive of him as not only thus lauded for former benefits conferred, but as at the very time scattering in rich profusion all manner of blessings upon millions of mankind : I say, conceive that you behold such an one surrounded by applauding and adoring multitudes; and then think how happy that woman must be who can say, “ This is my Beloved ;" I have a right in him which no other human being has; all that he is, is mine; and all that he has, is mine. I say, my Brethren, that we cannot conceive of felicity on earth greater than hers. Yet, my Brethren, this is yours, if only you believe in Christ. He is your Beloved ; and you may claim precisely the same interest in him as if there were not another, either in heaven or on earth, to claim it with you. What happiness, then, is there to be compared with yours ; when it is not a mere man, however excellent, but your incarnate God himself, to whom
stand in this near, this glorious relation ?]
2. You also stand high in his regards