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" Who is he?” Let every one inquire, “ Lord, is it I?” And whoever he may be, let us all regard him as an object of the deepest commiseration.—The Lord awaken all such ere it be too late!]
DCCCLV. THE CHURCH'S DESIRE OF CHRIST'S LOVE. Cant. viii. 6, 7. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon
thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave : the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
THE more any person enjoys of Christ, the more ardent will be his desires after him, and the more enlarged his petitions for richer communications from him. The Church, as represented in the song before us, has already been brought into the closest fellowship with her Beloved; yet this, so far from satisfying her, serves only for an occasion of soliciting from him yet further favours, and urging her request with more powerful pleas: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, and upon thine arm; &c.” That in this we may be stirred up to follow her example, let us notice, I. Her request
To fix the import of this, we must determine the precise sense in which the Bride uses the word,“ seal.” In the general acceptation of that term in Scripture, we understand that which is affixed to deeds or covenants of any kind, in order to ratify and confirm them. Such was that with which Jeremiah's purchase of a field was confirmeda; and in reference to such was circumcision appointed to Abraham, as the seal of God's covenant with him, and of the righteousness which he, by faith in that covenant, already possessed"; whilst, on the other hand, God's foreknowledge and fore-ordination of his elect is a seal on his part, attesting that that covenant stands on a sure and immoveable foundation. In a similar sense, the Holy Spirit's work in sanctifying the elect is a seal,
a Jer. xxxii, 10, 11, 14. Rom. iv. 11. • 2 Tim. ii. 19.
whereby he seals them unto the day of redemption, and assures to them their enjoyment of their purchased inheritanced. But we apprehend that the use of the term in this place is different; and that it refers to signets which were not uncommonly worn upon the hand or arm, as memorials of persons who were greatly beloved. Such we find mentioned by the Prophet Jeremiah; “ As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence," utterly unmindful of all my former regards. In this view the Church's request is, that her Beloved would make her the object of his most endeared affections, and of his continual care. Now,
This is a proper request from every child of man
[All without exception are invited to come to Christ", and to participate freely his richest blessings. Unworthiness on our part is no bar to our acceptance with him ; since all, however elevated and ennobled afterwards, are, previously to their union with him, in the lowest state of guilth and degradation'. He, and all his benefits, are to be apprehended simply by faith. Whosoever comes to him by faith is united to him, as a branch to the vine', and may expect to receive out of his fulness all that has been treasured up in him for our use and benefitm. We may ask for the entire affections of his soul, and the unlimited exercise of his power, as if there were no other creature in the universe to share his regards. Less than this we ought not to ask. Less than this would not avail for our eternal happiness. We must have all the love of his heart, and all the power of his arm, if we would be brought through all our difficulties and trials to the everlasting enjoyment of him in his kingdom. Whatever the most beloved Bride may hope for from him to whom she is betrothed, that, and infinitely more, may we expect from our heavenly Bridegroom --
And it shall be fulfilled to all who offer it in spirit and in truth
[Christ has solemnly pledged himself to this extent by an everlasting covenant" --- And he has fulfilled it to millions of the human race, who were once as guilty, as polluted, and
d Eph. i. 13. and iv. 30. © Jer. xxii. 24. John vi. 37. & Isai. lv, 1.
h Rom. iii. 19. i Ezek. xvi. 3—12. k John i. 12.
1 John xv.1--5. m John xy. 7. n Jer. xxxii. 40, 41.
as helplesafter that ho capo
as helpless as we --- Hence he chides the Church for her doubts, after that he had graven her on the palms of his hands° -- Who can tell the efficacy of fervent and believing prayer ? Our God and Saviour could as soon deny himself, as he could withstand it. Instead of rejecting our petitions on account of their being too large, he will approve of them the more, and answer them the sooner, on account of their comprehensiveness and extent: he has said, “ Open your mouth wide, and I will fill itp :" “ Ye may ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you?.']
We shall, however, be more certain of success, if we can follow her in, II. Her pleas
Two things in particular she urged on the consideration of her Beloved, in order to prevail on him to grant her request; the one was, that she could not endure the thought of having a less interest in him than her relation to him required, yea, that her “ jealousy would burn like coals of fire that had a most vehement flame;" and the other was, that her love to him was supreme and unalterable ; that it was “ stronger than death;" that “no waters could quench it, no floods drown it;” and that, if the richest monarch in the universe would “ give all the substance of his house" to engage it for himself, “it would be utterly contemned.”
Now in these pleas we see,
1. What distress is occasioned by a doubt of Christ's love to us
(To have it a doubtful point whether we be children of God and heirs of heaven, or children of the wicked one and heirs of hell, is a source of unutterable anguish to every man who knows not what " a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God"." How bitterly did Job bewail his condition, whilst he apprehended God to be his enemy! “ The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against mes." David likewise in many of his Psalms pours out similar complaints --- Careless and ungodly o Isai. xlix. 14–16. P Ps. lxxxi. 10. 9 John xiv. 13, 14.
Heb. x. 31. s Job vi. 4. + Ps. xlii. 143. and lxxvii. 1-4, 7-9. and lxxxviii. 147. and cii. 1-6, 9–11.
, like a flamulter its desta Jealousy crest in Christened
men can rest satisfied without any inquiries : but an awakened man cannot be so indifferent about his interest in Christ : to him suspense is death: he feels “a jealousy cruel as the grave,” (which will never suffer its destined victim to escape,) and devouring, like a flame, which consumes all within its reach.]
2. What consolation arises from a consciousness of our love to him
[Though there is no merit in our love to Christ, it greatly emboldens us in our addresses to him, and gives us a just ground to hope, that he will in due time manifest his love to us, and shed it abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. He has expressly said, “I love them that love me ";" and has assured us, that, “ if we love him, his Father will love us, and come and make his abode with us?." The very circumstance of our love to him is of itself, independent of all other evidences, a proof that he does actually love us: for our love to him is the effect of his love to us; “ We love him, because he first loved us y;" yea, “He loved us with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness hath he drawn us.” If then we have within ourselves an evidence, that our love to him is supreme, and that nothing which the world could either offer to us, or inflict upon us, would induce us to surrender our hope in him, we may rest assured, not only that he is ours, but that he will be ours even to the end. We may even make this an argument with him in prayer, as David did, “I am thine: save mea !” and as the Church of old did, “Now, O Lord, thou art our father: we are the clay, and thou our potter: and we all are the work of thy hand: Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people b.” Bearing us, as he does, on his shoulders, and on his breast, in his official capacity as our High Priest within the veil, we may be sure that he will never leave us nor forsake us," nor ever suffer any thing to “separate us from his loveo.] LEARN from hence,
1. What should be the frame of your minds towards the Lord Jesus Christ
[Our hearts should be supremely set on him, and we should “count all things but loss for the knowledge of him.” So ardent should our love to him be, that no floods of affliction or
2 Jer. xxxiii. 3.
u Prov. viii. 17. * John xiv. 21, 23.
d Heb. xiii. 5.
persecution should ever be able to drown it, nor all that the world can give stand for a moment in competition with it --Examine yourselves, Brethren, and see whether it be really so? Can ye, in answer to the question put by our Lord to Peter, make the reply that Peter did, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee?"---] 2. What we should daily look for at his hands
[Your security and happiness depend altogether upon his unchanging love. Were he to withdraw from underneath you his everlasting arms, you would instantly fall and perish. Entreat him then to “ carry you in his bosom," and to “bear you still as upon eagles' wings.” Plead with him in earnest prayer; and let him not go until he bestow his blessing upon you. “You are not straitened in him: be not straitened in your own bowels :" and let all the fellowship which you enjoy with him here, be regarded by you as a pledge and earnest of still closer fellowship with him in the regions of eternal light and blessedness.)