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[Yes, the regard is mutual. You might possibly love one in whom there was not a reciprocal attachment. But it is not so in this case. He calls you “The dearly beloved of his soul." As surely therefore as you can say, “ This is my Beloved,” you may add, with confidence, “ This is my Friend." Yes; Jesus himself says, “I call you not servants, but friends." Nor can you imagine any act of friendship which he will not most gladly execute for you. “ Abraham was the friend of God.” See, then, what God wrought for him! and know, that that, yea, and infinitely more, will the Lord Jesus Christ work for you in the time of your necessity. On every occasion will he come to you, to counsel you by his wisdom, to uphold you by his power, and to enrich you with his benefits. We are told, “ There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother:" verily, there is no brother in the universe, that will be so entirely at your command as he. Only apply to him, and spread your wants before him, and you shall never go empty away. On the contrary, “ He will do exceeding abundantly for you, above all that you can ask or think."] Now then let me ask of you, my Brethren,
1. “ What think ye of Christ ?”
[This was a question which Christ himself put to his Disciples: and I now put it to you. You know what is said, “ To them that believe, he is precious,” even preciousness itself. Is he viewed in this light by you? This will determine whether ye be true Believers, or not: for in every Believer, and in him exclusively, this grace is found. Verily, if you are really his, you will say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee” ---Your sublimest joy on earth must be to say, “ My beloved is mine, and I am hisa."] 2. How are you endeavouring to requite his love ?
[If you love Christ, it must be not in word only, but in deed and in truth. Are you then living in the enjoyment of his presence? --- Are you consecrating yourselves unreservedly to his service? --- Above all, Are you seeking to grow up into his image, so that he may be as well satisfied with contemplating your relation to him, as you are in viewing his to you ? See how, in the chapter before my text, Christ views his bridee: see how he views her with admiration, as it were, from head to footf; and what a blessed testimony he bears respecting her 8. Let it be your ambition so to walk before him, that he may testify the same of you; and that the union which has thus been commenced between you on earth, may be consummated in heaven for evermore.]
c Jer. xii. 7. d Cant. ii. 16. and vi. 3. e Cant. iv. 1. i Cant. iv. 2–6. 6 Cant. iv. 7. VOL. VII.
DCCCLIV. THE CHRISTIAN'S RELIANCE ON Christ. Cant. viii. 5. Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness,
leaning on her Beloved? THERE is an intimate and mysterious union between Christ and his Church. It is often compared, in Scripture, to a marriage union: and in the book before us, the Song of Solomon, there is a figurative representation of the intercourse which subsists between Christ and his Church under this relation. A third description of persons, called “ the daughters of Jerusalem," are occasionally introduced, to diversify the dialogue, and to enliven it by bearing their part in it. The words of the text seem to be uttered by them. The Church had, in the four preceding verses, expressed her desire after more familiar and abiding fellowship with her divine Husband : and the bystanders, admiring and felicitating her state, exclaim “ Who is this?” &c.
I will endeavour briefly, I. To throw light upon the words thus addressed to
There does not, indeed, appear any considerable · difficulty in them; especially if we bear in mind the passage of the Israelites through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. This world may fitly be represented as “ a wilderness”—
[That through which the Israelites passed is called “a waste howling wilderness a ; " " a land of deserts and of pits, a land of drought and of the shadow of death b;" a land " wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions; and drought, where there was no waterc." And such, indeed, is this vain world to the weary pilgrim. It affords nothing for the comfort and refreshment of a heavy-laden soul; but furnishes obstructions without number, snares at every step, and enemies filled with the most envenomed hostility --
Through this the Christian is passing, in his way to heaven
nts and such, inde for the obstruc
a Deut. xxxii. 10.
b Jer. i. 6.
c Deut. viii. 15.
[He has, of necessity, his duties to perform, like other men. But “ though in the world, he is not of the world a.” He regards not this world as his rest; but merely as a country through which he must go, towards " that better country which he is seeking after.” He accounts himself a “ pilgrim and a stranger upon earth e;" and advances on his journey with all practicable expedition, “ not setting his affections on any thing by the wayf,” but looking forward to the termination of his labours in a better world ---]
In all his way, “he leans upon his beloved” Saviour for support,
[He feels his insufficiency for the work he has to perform: but he knows in whom he has believed, that he is able to sustain him, and to keep that which he has committed to him." No sick or enfeebled traveller places a more entire dependence on one who has undertaken to bear him onward, than the Christian does on Christ, who has engaged to perform this office, saying, “Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver youh.” He would account it a most heinous offence if for a moment he should " trust to an arm of fleshi;” and with a holy indignation at the thought of placing any confidence in the creature, he says, “ Ashur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy k.” In a word, the whole habit of the Christian's mind, throughout this dreary wilderness, is that which the holy Psalmist addressed to his Lord and Saviour: “ Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not:" “ hold thou me up, and I shall be safe?."]
But my object is, to mark the spirit of my text, and, II. To point out more particularly the force of the
interrogationI should say, that, in its strictest sense, it appears to express admiration : but we may very properly consider it as the language, 1. Of inquiry
[" Who is this?” Is there, amongst ourselves, any one answering to this character? Am I this happy person? Do I so live in this world, that the by-standers notice the peculiarity of my walk, and my entire devotion to the Lord and Saviour
of pl gave us the workele
d John xvii. 6.
i Col. ii. 2.
e Heb. xi. 13.
Jesus Christ? Do I, instead of loving the world, account it a dreary wilderness? Do I renounce, as in my baptismal vows I undertook to do, all the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh ? and " am I daily dying unto the world,” to its cares, its pleasures, its maxims, its habits, its company altogether? Am I “crucified unto the world, and is the world crucified unto me by the cross of Christ," so that I value it no more than a man does who is in the very article of death m? And, in my passage through this wilderness, am I leaning constantly on my beloved Saviour, saying, " In the Lord have I righteousness and strength"?". This is, indeed, the character of the true Christian; and we are commanded to “ examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith, and to prove our own selveso.” I would entreat you, therefore, to make this a subject of most serious inquiry; and to ask yourselves, Am I the person characterized in the words of our text?] 2. Of admiration
[This I suppose to be the more immediate feeling expressed in my text. And truly a person so circumstanced as the Bride here was, is one of the greatest wonders upon earth. Conceive yourselves to be that person ;—that such an earthly and sensual creature, as every one of you must know yourselves to be, should .so renounce the world !—that such a polluted creature should enjoy such intimacy with the Lord of Glory! that such a weak creature should persevere, in despite of so many obstacles both within and without! May not such an one well say, “I am a wonder unto many p?” Must he not, above all, be a wonder to himself? “ Who am I that I should be so honoured; whilst the world at large are left to walk after the imaginations of their own evil hearts, and to “ live as without God in the world !"] 3. Of congratulation
[No man in the universe is so to be congratulated, as he who dies to the world, and seeks all his happiness in Christ. Think with yourselves from what imminent danger he has escaped. “The whole world is lying in wickedness?," and will be condemned at last"; but “ he has been taken out of the worlds,” and been delivered from it, even as Lot from Sodom. Is not he a fit object for congratulation? But consider, further, to what a glorious place he is hastening; even to heaven itself, where he shall speedily possess "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away t." Behold, too, to what a blessed company he is joined ! “ He is come to an innumerable company of angels; and to the general assembly and Church
m Gal. vi. 14. n Isai. xlv. 24. 0 2 Cor. xiii. 5. P Ps. lxxi. 7. 91 John v. 19. 1 1 Cor. xi. 32. s John xv. 19. 11 Pet. i. 1.
of the first-born, which are written in heaven; and to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of the just made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant; and to all these, as his everlasting companions." Think, also, how near he is to all this felicity, every day and hour bearing him towards it, as fast as the wings of time can carry him. And, above all, what an all-sufficient support he has in his way thither, even his beloved Lord, “who is able to keep him from falling, and to present him faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy u.” Tell me, Who is happy in comparison of him? Who is to be congratulated, if he be not?]
Is there here a weak believer, who doubts whether such an one as he can ever attain this blessedness?
(Let him trust in Christ, and not be afraid : for none ever perished, who trusted in Him. As for a man's own weakness and insufficiency, that can be no bar to his attainment of this felicity; since the Lord Jesus Christ is “ able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him";" and he has expressly told us, that “ he will carry the lambs in his bosom, and gently lead them that are with youngy." Only take care that he be for you; and then you may hurl defiance at all that are against you.]
But is there any backslider that is turning back to the world?
[O, think what you are doing; and what tremendous evils you are bringing upon your soul! What has this vain world ever done for you, that it should influence you by its attractions? -- - And what has Christ not done for you, whilst you sought him, and relied upon him? Hear his complaint against you: “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel ; a land of darkness? Wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto theez?” The world has been a wilderness to you, at all times: but has Christ been so ? Has he been so at any moment, when you sought your happiness in him? Hear, and tremble at the warning given you by an inspired Apostle: "If, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome (a case that too frequently occurs), the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto thema.” And is there one in such an unhappy state as this?
u Jude ver. 24. z Jer, ii. 31.