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´╗┐Title: Union And Communion - or Thoughts on the Song of Solomon
Author: Taylor, James Hudson, 1832-1905
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Union and Communion

OR

THOUGHTS ON THE

SONG OF SOLOMON


BY J. HUDSON TAYLOR, M.R.C.S.

FOREWORD BY REV. J. STUART HOLDEN, M.A.

_THIRD EDITION_

          MORGAN & SCOTT, 12 PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS,
          LONDON, E.C.

          CHINA INLAND MISSION, NEWINGTON GREEN,
          LONDON, N.

          PHILADELPHIA, TORONTO, MELBOURNE, SHANGHAI



FOREWORD


THIS little book, whose design is to lead the devout Bible-student into
the Green Pastures of the Good Shepherd, thence to the Banqueting House
of the King, and thence to the service of the Vineyard, is one of the
abiding legacies of Mr. Hudson Taylor to the Church. In the power of an
evident unction from the Holy One, he has been enabled herein to unfold
in simplest language the deep truth of the believer's personal union
with The Lord, which under symbol and imagery is the subject of The Song
of Songs. And in so doing he has ministered an unfailing guidance to one
of the most commonly neglected and misunderstood of the Sacred
Scriptures. For how many have said in bewilderment at the richness of
language and profusion of figure which both conceal and reveal its
meaning, "How can I understand except some man should guide me?" It is
safe to say that these pages cannot fail to help and bless all such.

To those who knew him, Mr. Hudson Taylor's life was in the nature of
emphasis upon the value of this small volume. For what he here expounds
he also exemplified. If his words indicate the possibility and
blessedness of union with Christ, his whole life declared it in actual
experience. He lived as one who was "married to Another, even to Him Who
is raised from the dead"; and as the outcome of that union he brought
forth "fruit unto God." What he was has given a meaning and confirmation
to what he has here said, which cannot be exaggerated. It is inevitable
that there are those who will read and reject as mystical and
unpractical, that which is so directly concerned with the intimacies of
fellowship with the unseen Lord. I would, however, venture to remind
such that the writer of these pages founded the China Inland Mission! He
translated his vision of the Beloved into life-long strenuous service,
and so kept it undimmed through all the years of a life which has had
hardly a parallel in these our days.

This is really the commendation of the following short chapters. They
proclaim an Evangel which has been distilled from experience, and form
at least a track through this fenced portion of God's Word, which will
lead many an one who treads it into the joys of Emmanuel's land.

                                              J. STUART HOLDEN.

        ST. PAUL'S,
  PORTMAN SQUARE, LONDON, W.
      _June 1, 1914._



CONTENTS


                                              PAGE

  INTRODUCTORY                                  1

  THE TITLE                                     7


  SECTION I
  THE UNSATISFIED LIFE AND ITS REMEDY           8


  SECTION II
  COMMUNION BROKEN--RESTORATION                27


  SECTION III
  THE JOY OF UNBROKEN COMMUNION                37


  SECTION IV
  COMMUNION AGAIN BROKEN--RESTORATION          47


  SECTION V
  FRUITS OF RECOGNIZED UNION                   58


  SECTION VI
  UNRESTRAINED COMMUNION                       70


  APPENDIX                                     83



THE SONG OF SOLOMON

INTRODUCTORY


THE great purpose towards which all the dispensational dealings of GOD
are tending, is revealed to us in the fifteenth chapter of the First
Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: "That GOD may be all in all." With
this agrees the teaching of our LORD in John xvii. 3: "And this is (the
object of) life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true GOD,
and JESUS CHRIST, whom Thou hast sent." This being so, shall we not act
wisely by keeping this object ever in view in our daily life and study
of GOD'S holy Word?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable, and
hence no part is, or can be, neglected without loss. Few portions of the
Word will help the devout student more in the pursuit of this
all-important "knowledge of GOD" than the too-much neglected "Song of
Solomon." Like other portions of the Word of GOD, this book has its
difficulties. But so have all the works of GOD. Is not the fact that
they surpass our unaided powers of comprehension and research a
"sign-manual" of divinity? Can feeble man expect to grasp divine power,
or to understand and interpret the works or the providences of the
All-wise? And if not, is it surprising that His Word also needs
superhuman wisdom for its interpretation? Thanks be to GOD, the
illumination of the HOLY GHOST is promised to all who seek for it: what
more can we desire?

Read without the key, this book is specially unintelligible, but that
key is easily found in the express teachings of the New Testament. The
Incarnate Word is the true key to the written Word; but even before the
incarnation, the devout student of the Old Testament would find much
help to the understanding of the sacred mysteries of this book in the
prophetic writings; for there Israel was taught that her MAKER was her
HUSBAND. John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, recognized the
Bridegroom in the person of CHRIST, and said, "He that hath the bride is
the Bridegroom: but the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and
heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom's voice: this
my joy therefore is fulfilled." Paul, in the fifth chapter of the
Epistle to the Ephesians, goes still further, and teaches that the union
of CHRIST with His Church, and her subjection to Him, underlies the very
relationship of marriage, and affords the pattern for every godly union.

In Solomon, the bridegroom king, as well as author of this poem, we
have a type of our LORD, the true Prince of peace, in His coming reign.
Then will be found not merely His bride, the Church, but also a willing
people, His subjects, over whom He shall reign gloriously. Then distant
potentates will bring their wealth, and will behold the glory of the
enthroned KING, proving Him with hard questions, as once came the Queen
of Sheba to King Solomon; and blessed will they be to whom this
privilege is accorded. A brief glance will suffice them for a lifetime;
but what shall be the royal dignity and blessedness of the risen and
exalted bride! For ever with her LORD, for ever like her LORD, for ever
conscious that His desire is toward her, she will share alike His heart
and His throne. Can a study of the book which helps us to understand
these mysteries of grace and love be other than most profitable?

It is interesting to notice the contrast between this book and that
preceding it. The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches emphatically that "Vanity
of vanities, all is vanity": and is thus the necessary introduction to
the Song of Solomon, which shows how true blessing and satisfaction are
to be possessed. In like manner our SAVIOUR'S teaching in the fourth of
John points out in a word the powerlessness of earthly things to give
lasting satisfaction, in striking contrast with the flow of blessing
that results from the presence of the HOLY GHOST (whose work it is, not
to reveal Himself but CHRIST as the Bridegroom of the soul); "Whosoever
drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the
water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I
shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing
up"--overflowing, on and on--"unto everlasting life."

We shall find it helpful to consider the book in six sections:--.

            I. THE UNSATISFIED LIFE AND ITS REMEDY.
                                             Chap. i. 2-ii. 7.

           II. COMMUNION BROKEN. RESTORATION.
                                             Chap. ii. 8-iii. 5.

          III. UNBROKEN COMMUNION.
                                             Chap. iii. 6-v. 1.

           IV. COMMUNION AGAIN BROKEN. RESTORATION.
                                             Chap. v. 2-vi. 10.

            V. FRUITS OF RECOGNIZED UNION.
                                             Chap. vi. 11-viii. 4.

           VI. UNRESTRAINED COMMUNION.
                                             Chap. viii. 5-14.

In each of these sections we shall find the speakers to be--the bride,
the Bridegroom, and the daughters of Jerusalem; it is not usually
difficult to ascertain the speaker, though in some of the verses
different conclusions have been arrived at. The bride speaks of the
Bridegroom as "her Beloved"; the Bridegroom speaks of her as "His love,"
while the address of the daughters of Jerusalem is more varied. In the
first four sections they style her "the fairest among women," but in the
fifth she is spoken of as "the Shulamite," or the King's bride, and also
as the "Prince's daughter."

The student of this book will find great help in suitable
Bible-marking. A horizontal line marking off the address of each
speaker, with a double line to divide the sections, would be useful, as
also perpendicular lines in the margin to indicate the speaker. We have
ourselves ruled a single line to connect the verses which contain the
utterances of the bride; a double line to indicate those of the
Bridegroom, and a waved line to indicate the addresses of the daughters
of Jerusalem.

It will be observed that the bride is the chief speaker in Sections I.,
II., and is much occupied with herself; but in Section III., where the
communion is unbroken, she has little to say, and appears as the hearer;
the daughters of Jerusalem give a long address, and the Bridegroom His
longest. In that section for the first time He calls her His bride, and
allures her to fellowship in service. In Section IV. the bride again is
the chief speaker, but after her restoration the Bridegroom speaks at
length, and "upbraideth not." In Section V., as we noticed, the bride is
no longer called "the fairest among women," but claims herself to be,
and is recognized as, the royal bride. In Section VI. the Bridegroom
claims her from her very birth, and not merely from her espousals, as
GOD in Ezekiel xvi. claimed Israel.

          In the secret of His presence
            How my soul delights to hide!
          Oh, how precious are the lessons
            Which I learn at JESUS' side:
          Earthly cares can never vex me,
            Neither trials lay me low;
          For when Satan comes to vex me,
            To the secret place I go!



THE SONG OF SOLOMON

THE TITLE

"_The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's._"


WELL may this book be called _the_ Song of Songs! There is no song like
it. Read aright, it brings a gladness to the heart which is as far
beyond the joy of earthly things as heaven is higher than the earth. It
has been well said that this is a song which grace alone can teach, and
experience alone can learn. Our SAVIOUR, speaking of the union of the
branch with the vine, adds, "These things have I spoken unto you, that
My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John xv.
11). And the beloved disciple, writing of Him who "was from the
beginning," who "was with the FATHER, and was manifested unto us," in
order that we might share the fellowship which He enjoyed, also says,
"These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." Union with
CHRIST, and abiding in CHRIST, what do they not secure? Peace, perfect
peace; rest, constant rest; answers to all our prayers; victory over all
our foes; pure, holy living; ever-increasing fruitfulness. All, all of
these are the glad outcome of abiding in CHRIST. To deepen this union,
to make more constant this abiding, is the practical use of this
precious Book.



SECTION I

THE UNSATISFIED LIFE AND ITS REMEDY

Cant. i. 2-ii. 7


THERE is no difficulty in recognizing the bride as the speaker in verses
2-7. The words are not those of one dead in trespasses and sins, to whom
the LORD is as a root out of a dry ground--without form and comeliness.
The speaker has had her eyes opened to behold His beauty, and longs for
a fuller enjoyment of His love.

          Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth:
          For Thy love[1] is better than wine.


It is well that it should be so; it marks a distinct stage in the
development of the life of grace in the soul. And this recorded
experience gives, as it were, a Divine warrant for the desire for
sensible manifestations of His presence--sensible communications of His
love. It was not always so with her. Once she was contented in His
absence--other society and other occupations sufficed her; but now it
can never be so again. The world can never be to her what it once was;
the betrothed bride has learnt to love her LORD, and no other society
than His can satisfy her. His visits may be occasional and may be brief;
but they are precious times of enjoyment. Their memory is cherished in
the intervals, and their repetition longed for. There is no real
satisfaction in His absence, and yet, alas! He is not always with her:
He comes and goes. Now her joy in Him is a heaven below; but again she
is longing, and longing in vain, for His presence. Like the
ever-changing tide, her experience is an ebbing and flowing one; it may
even be that unrest is the rule, satisfaction the exception. Is there no
help for this? must it always continue so? Has He, can He have created
these unquenchable longings only to tantalize them? Strange indeed it
would be if this were the case. Yet are there not many of the LORD'S
people whose habitual experience corresponds with hers? They know not
the rest, the joy of abiding in CHRIST; and they know not how to attain
to it, nor why it is not theirs. Are there not many who look back to the
delightful times of their first espousals, who, so far from finding
richer inheritance in CHRIST than they then had, are even conscious that
they have lost their first love, and might express their experience in
the sad lament:--

          Where is the blessedness I knew
          When first I saw the Lord?

Others, again, who may not have lost their first love, may yet be
feeling that the occasional interruptions to communion are becoming more
and more unbearable, as the world becomes less and He becomes more. His
absence is an ever-increasing distress. "'Oh that I knew where I might
find Him!' 'Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth: for Thy love
is better than wine.' Would that His love were strong and constant like
mine, and that He never withdrew the light of His countenance!"

Poor mistaken one! There is a love far stronger than thine waiting,
longing for satisfaction. The Bridegroom is waiting for thee all the
time; the conditions that debar His approach are all of thine own
making. Take the right place before Him, and He will be most ready, most
glad, to "Satisfy thy deepest longings, to meet, supply thine every
need." What should we think of a betrothed one whose conceit and
self-will prevented not only the consummation of her own joy, but of his
who had given her his heart? Though never at rest in his absence, she
cannot trust him fully; and she does not care to give up her own name,
her own rights and possessions, her own will to him who has become
necessary for her happiness. She would fain claim him fully, without
giving up herself fully to him; but it can never be: while she retains
her own name, she can never claim his. She may not promise to love and
honour if she will not also promise to obey: and till her love reaches
that point of surrender she must remain an unsatisfied lover--she
cannot, as a satisfied bride, find rest in the home of her husband.
While she retains her own will, and the control of her own possessions,
she must be content to live on her own resources; she cannot claim his.

Could there be a sadder proof of the extent and reality of the Fall than
the deep-seated distrust of our loving LORD and MASTER which makes us
hesitate to give ourselves entirely up to Him, which fears that He might
require something beyond our powers, or call for something that we
should find it hard to give or to do? The real secret of an unsatisfied
life lies too often in an unsurrendered will. And yet how foolish, as
well as how wrong, this is! Do we fancy that we are wiser than He? or
that our love for ourselves is more tender and strong than His? or that
we know ourselves better than He does? How our distrust must grieve and
wound afresh the tender heart of Him who was for us the Man of Sorrows!
What would be the feelings of an earthly bridegroom if he discovered
that his bride-elect was dreading to marry him, lest, when he had the
power, he should render her life insupportable? Yet how many of the
LORD'S redeemed ones treat Him just so! No wonder they are neither happy
nor satisfied!

       *       *       *       *       *

But true love cannot be stationary; it must either decline or grow.
Despite all the unworthy fears of our poor hearts, Divine love is
destined to conquer. The bride exclaims:--

          Thine ointments have a goodly fragrance;
          Thy name is as ointment poured forth;
          Therefore do the virgins love Thee.

There was no such ointment as that with which the High Priest was
anointed: our Bridegroom is a Priest as well as a King. The trembling
bride cannot wholly dismiss her fears; but the unrest and the longing
become unbearable, and she determines to surrender all, and come what
may to follow fully. She will yield her very self to Him, heart and
hand, influence and possessions. Nothing can be so insupportable as His
absence! If He lead to another Moriah, or even to a Calvary, she will
follow Him.

          Draw me: we will run after Thee!

But ah! what follows? A wondrously glad surprise. No Moriah, no Calvary;
on the contrary, a KING! When the heart submits, then JESUS reigns. And
when JESUS reigns, there _is_ rest.

And where does He lead His bride?

          The King hath brought me into His chambers.

Not first to the banqueting house--that will come in due season; but
first to be alone with Himself.

How perfect! Could we be satisfied to meet a beloved one only in public?
No; we want to take such an one aside--to have him all to ourselves. So
with our MASTER: He takes His now fully consecrated bride aside, to
taste and enjoy the sacred intimacies of His wondrous love. The
Bridegroom of His Church longs for communion with His people more than
they long for fellowship with Him, and often has to cry:--

          Let Me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice;
          For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Are we not all too apt to seek Him rather because of our need than for
His joy and pleasure? This should not be. We do not admire selfish
children who only think of what they can get from their parents, and are
unmindful of the pleasure that they may give or the service that they
may render. But are not we in danger of forgetting that pleasing GOD
means giving Him pleasure? Some of us look back to the time when the
words "To please GOD" meant no more than not to sin against Him, not to
grieve Him; but would the love of earthly parents be satisfied with the
mere absence of disobedience? Or a bridegroom, if his bride only sought
him for the supply of her own need?

A word about the morning watch may not be out of place here. There is no
time so profitably spent as the early hour given to JESUS only. Do we
give sufficient attention to this hour? If possible, it should be
redeemed; nothing can make up for it. We must take time to be holy! One
other thought. When we bring our questions to GOD, do we not sometimes
either go on to offer some other petition, or leave the closet without
waiting for replies? Does not this seem to show little expectation of an
answer, and little desire for one? Should we like to be treated so?
Quiet waiting before GOD would save from many a mistake and from many a
sorrow.

We have found the bride making a glad discovery of a KING--her KING--and
not a cross, as she expected; this is the first-fruit of her
consecration.

          We will be glad and rejoice in Thee,
          We will make mention of Thy love more than of wine:
          Rightly do they love Thee.

Another discovery not less important awaits her. She has seen the face
of the KING, and as the rising sun reveals that which was hidden in the
darkness, so His light has revealed her blackness to her. "Ah," she
cries, "I am black";--"But comely," interjects the Bridegroom, with
inimitable grace and tenderness. "Nay, 'black as the tents of Kedar,'"
she continues. "Yet to Me," He responds, "thou art 'comely as the
curtains of Solomon!'" Nothing humbles the soul like sacred and intimate
communion with the LORD; yet there is a sweet joy in feeling that _He_
knows _all_, and, notwithstanding, loves us still. Things once called
"little negligences" are seen with new eyes in "the secret of His
presence." There we see the mistake, the sin, of not keeping our own
vineyard. This the bride confesses:--

          Look not upon me, because I am swarthy,
          Because the sun hath scorched me.
          My mother's sons were incensed against me,
          They made me keeper of the vineyards;
          But mine own vineyard have I not kept.

Our attention is here drawn to a danger which is pre-eminently one of
this day: the intense activity of our times may lead to zeal in service,
_to the neglect of personal communion_; but such neglect will not only
lessen the value of the service, but tend to incapacitate us for the
highest service. If we are watchful over the souls of others, and
neglect our own--if we are seeking to remove motes from our brother's
eye, unmindful of the beam in our own, we shall often be disappointed
with our powerlessness to help our brethren, while our MASTER will not
be less disappointed in us. Let us never forget that what we are is more
important than what we do; and that all fruit borne when not abiding in
CHRIST must be fruit of the flesh, and not of the SPIRIT. The sin of
neglected communion may be forgiven, and yet the effect remain
permanently; as wounds when healed often leave a scar behind.

       *       *       *       *       *

We now come to a very sweet evidence of the reality of the heart-union
of the bride with her LORD. She is one with the GOOD SHEPHERD: her heart
at once goes instinctively forth to the feeding of the flock; but she
would tread in the footsteps of Him whom her soul loveth, and would
neither labour alone, nor in other companionship than His own:--

          Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth,
          Where Thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou makest it to
                  rest at noon:
          For why should I be as one that is veiled
          Beside the flocks of Thy companions?

She will not mistake the society of His servants for that of their
MASTER.

          If thou know not, O thou fairest among women,
          Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,
          And feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.

These are the words of the daughters of Jerusalem, and give a correct
reply to her questionings. Let her show her love to her LORD by feeding
His sheep, by caring for His lambs (see John xxi. 15-17), and she need
not fear to miss His presence. While sharing with other under-shepherds
in caring for His flock she will find the CHIEF SHEPHERD at her side,
and enjoy the tokens of His approval. It will be service _with_ JESUS as
well as _for_ JESUS.

But far sweeter than the reply of the daughters of Jerusalem is the
voice of the Bridegroom, who now speaks Himself. It is the living fruit
of her heart-oneness with Him that makes His love break forth in the
joyful utterances of verses 9-11. For it is not only true that our love
for our LORD will show itself in feeding His sheep, but that He who when
on earth said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me," has His own heart-love
stirred, and not infrequently specially reveals Himself to those who are
ministering for Him.

The commendation of the bride in verse 9 is one of striking
appropriateness and beauty:--

          I have compared thee, O My love,
          To a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots.

It will be remembered that horses originally came out of Egypt, and
that the pure breed still found in Arabia was during Solomon's reign
brought by his merchants for all the kings of the East. Those selected
for Pharaoh's own chariot would not only be of the purest blood and
perfect in proportion and symmetry, but also perfect in training, docile
and obedient; they would know no will but that of the charioteer, and
the only object of their existence would be to carry the king
whithersoever he would go. So should it be with the Church of CHRIST;
one body with many members, indwelt and guided by one SPIRIT; holding
the HEAD, and knowing no will but His; her rapid and harmonious movement
should cause His kingdom to progress throughout the world.

Many years ago a beloved friend, returning from the East by the overland
route, made the journey from Suez to Cairo in the cumbrous diligence
then in use. The passengers on landing took their places, about a dozen
wild young horses were harnessed with ropes to the vehicle, the driver
took his seat and cracked his whip, and the horses dashed off, some to
the right, some to the left, and others forward, causing the coach to
start with a bound, and as suddenly to stop, with the effect of first
throwing those sitting in the front seat into the laps of those sitting
behind, and then of reversing the operation. With the aid of sufficient
Arabs running on each side to keep these wild animals progressing in the
right direction the passengers were jerked and jolted, bruised and
shaken, until, on reaching their destination, they were too wearied and
sore to take the rest they so much needed.

Is not the Church of GOD to-day more like these untrained steeds than a
company of horses in Pharaoh's chariot? And while self-will and disunion
are apparent in the Church, can we wonder that the world still lieth in
the wicked one, and that the great heathen nations are barely touched?

Changing His simile, the Bridegroom continues:--

          Thy cheeks are comely with plaits of hair,
          Thy neck with strings of jewels.
          We will make thee plaits of gold
          With studs of silver.

The bride is not only beautiful and useful to her LORD, she is also
adorned, and it is His delight to add to her adornments. Nor are His
gifts perishable flowers, or trinkets destitute of intrinsic value: the
finest of the gold, the purest of the silver, and the most precious and
lasting of the jewels are the gifts of the Royal Bridegroom to His
spouse; and these, plaited amongst her own hair, increase His pleasure
who has bestowed them.

       *       *       *       *       *

In verses 12-14 the bride responds:--

          While the King sat at His table
          My spikenard sent forth its fragrance.

It is in His presence and through His grace that whatever of fragrance
or beauty may be found in us comes forth. Of Him as its source, through
Him as its instrument, and to Him as its end, is all that is gracious
and divine. But _HE HIMSELF_ is better far than all that His grace works
in us.

          My Beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh,
          That lieth betwixt my breasts.
          My Beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna-flowers
          In the vineyards of En-gedi.

Well is it when our eyes are filled with His beauty and our hearts are
occupied with Him. In the measure in which this is true of us we shall
recognize the correlative truth that His great heart is occupied with
us. Note the response of the Bridegroom:--

          Behold, thou art fair, My love; behold, thou art fair;
          Thine eyes are as dove's.

How can the Bridegroom truthfully use such words of one who recognizes
herself as

          Black as the tents of Kedar?

And still more strong are the Bridegroom's words in chap. iv. 7:--

          Thou art all fair, My love;
          And there is no spot in thee.

We shall find the solution of this difficulty in 2 Cor. iii. Moses in
contemplation of the Divine glory became so transformed that the
Israelites were not able to look on the glory of his countenance. "We
all, with unveiled face [beholding and] reflecting as a mirror the glory
of the LORD, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory
[_i.e._ the brightness caught from His glory transforms us to glory],
even as from the _Lord_ the SPIRIT." Every mirror has two surfaces; the
one is dull and unreflecting, and is all spots; but when the reflecting
surface is turned fully towards us we see no spot, we see our own image.
So while the bride is delighting in the beauty of the Bridegroom He
beholds His own image in her; there is no spot in that: it is all fair.
May we ever present this reflection to His gaze, and to the world in
which we live for the very purpose of reflecting Him.

Note again His words:--

          Thine eyes are as dove's,

or

          Thou hast dove's eyes.

The hawk is a beautiful bird, and has beautiful eyes, quick and
penetrating; but the Bridegroom desires not hawk's eyes in His bride.
The tender eyes of the innocent dove are those which He admires. It was
as a dove that the HOLY SPIRIT came upon Him at His baptism, and the
dove-like character is that which He seeks for in each of His people.

The reason why David was not permitted to build the Temple was a very
significant one. His life was far from perfect; and his mistakes and
sins have been faithfully recorded by the HOLY SPIRIT. They brought upon
him GOD'S chastenings, yet it was not any of these that disqualified him
from building the Temple, but rather his warlike spirit; and this though
many of his battles, if not all, were for the establishment of GOD'S
Kingdom and the fulfilment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Solomon, the Prince of Peace, alone could build the Temple. If we would
be soul-winners and build up the Church, which is His Temple, let us
note this: not by discussion nor by argument, but by lifting up CHRIST
shall we draw men unto Him.

       *       *       *       *       *

We now come to the reply of the bride. He has called her fair; wisely
and well does she reply:--

          Behold Thou art fair, my Beloved, yea, pleasant:
          Also our couch is green.
          The beams of our house are cedars,
          And our rafters are firs.
          I am (but) a rose of Sharon,
          A lily of the valleys.

The last words are often quoted as though they were the utterance of
the Bridegroom, but we believe erroneously. The bride says in effect,
Thou callest me fair and pleasant, the fairness and pleasantness are
Thine; I am but a wild flower, a lowly, scentless rose of Sharon (_i.e._
the autumn crocus), or a lily of the valley.

To this the Bridegroom responds: "Be it so; but if a wild flower, yet

          As a lily among thorns,
          So is My love among the daughters.

Again the bride replies:--

          As the apple-tree (the citron) 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.

The citron is a beautiful evergreen, affording delightful shade as well
as refreshing fruit. A humble wild flower herself, she recognizes her
Bridegroom as a noble tree, alike ornamental and fruitful. Shade from
the burning sun, refreshment and rest she finds in Him. What a contrast
her present position and feelings to those with which this section
commenced! He knew full well the cause of all her fears; her distrust
sprang from her ignorance of Himself, so He took her aside, and in the
sweet intimacies of mutual love her fears and distrust have vanished,
like the mists of the morning before the rising sun.

But now that she has learned to know Him, she has a further experience
of His love. He is not ashamed to acknowledge her publicly.

          He brought me to the banqueting house,
          And His banner over me was love.

The house of wine is now as appropriate as the King's chambers were.
Fearlessly and without shame she can sit at His side, His acknowledged
spouse, the bride of His choice. Overwhelmed with His love she
exclaims:--

          Stay ye me with raisins, comfort me with apples:
          For I am sick of love.
          His left hand is under my head,
          And His right hand doth embrace me.

Now she finds the blessedness of being possessed. No longer her own,
heart-rest is alike her right and her enjoyment; and so the Bridegroom
would have it.

          I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
          By the roes, and by the hinds of the field,
          That ye stir not up nor awake My love,
          Until she[2] please.

It is never by His will that our rest in Him is disturbed.

          You may always be abiding,
            If you will, at JESUS' side;
          In the secret of His presence
            You may every moment hide.

There is no change in His love; He is the same yesterday, to-day, and
for ever. To us He promises, "I will never leave thee, never fail thee,
nor forsake thee"; and His earnest exhortation and command is, "Abide in
Me, and I in you."

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Loves = endearments, caresses.

[2] The pronoun here and in chapter iii. 5, and viii. 4, should not be
"he" as A.V., nor "it" as R.V., but "she."



SECTION II

COMMUNION BROKEN--RESTORATION

Cant. ii. 8-iii. 5

          _"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed
          to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift
          away from them."_--Heb. ii. 1 (R.V.).


AT the close of the first section we left the bride satisfied and at
rest in the arms of her Beloved, who had charged the daughters of
Jerusalem not to stir up nor awaken His love until she please. We might
well suppose that a union so complete, a satisfaction so full, would
never be interrupted by failure on the part of the happy bride. But,
alas, the experience of most of us shows how easily communion with
CHRIST may be broken, and how needful are the exhortations of our LORD
to those who are indeed branches of the true Vine, and cleansed by the
Word which He has spoken, to abide in Him. The failure is never on His
side. "Lo, I am with you alway." But, alas, the bride often forgets the
exhortation addressed to her in Ps. xlv.:--

          Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear;
          Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house;
          So shall the KING greatly desire thy beauty:
          For He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him.

In this section the bride has drifted back from her position of
blessing into a state of worldliness. Perhaps the very restfulness of
her new-found joy made her feel too secure: perhaps she thought that, so
far as she was concerned, there was no need for the exhortation, "Little
children, keep yourselves from idols." Or she may have thought that the
love of the world was so thoroughly taken away that she might safely go
back, and, by a little compromise on her part, she might win her friends
to follow her LORD too. Perhaps she scarcely thought at all: glad that
she was saved and free, she forgot that the current--the course of this
world--was against her; and insensibly glided, drifted back to that
position out of which she was called, unaware all the time of
backsliding. It is not necessary, when the current is against us, to
turn the boat's head down the stream in order to drift: or for a runner
in a race to turn back in order to miss the prize.

Ah, how often the enemy succeeds, by one device or another, in tempting
the believer away from that position of entire consecration to CHRIST in
which alone the fulness of His power and of His love can be experienced.
We say the fulness of His power and of His love; for he may not have
ceased to love his LORD. In the passage before us the bride still loves
Him truly, though not wholly; there is still a power in His Word which
is not unfelt, though she no longer renders instant obedience. She
little realizes how she is wronging her LORD, and how real is the wall
of separation between them. To her, worldliness seems as but a little
thing: she has not realized the solemn truth of many passages in the
Word of GOD that speak in no measured terms of the folly, the danger,
the sin of friendship with the world.

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any
man love the world, the love of the FATHER is not in him."

"Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity
with GOD? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh
himself an enemy of GOD."

"Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have
righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath CHRIST with Belial? or what portion hath a
believer with an unbeliever? . . . Wherefore:--

          Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith
               the LORD,
          And touch no unclean thing;
          And I will receive you,
          And will be to you a FATHER,
          And ye shall be to Me sons and daughters, saith the
               LORD ALMIGHTY.

We have to take our choice: we cannot enjoy both the world and CHRIST.

The bride had not learned this: she would fain enjoy both, with no
thought of their incompatibility. She observes with joy the approach of
the Bridegroom.

          The voice of my Beloved: Behold He cometh
          Leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.
          My Beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart;
          Behold He standeth behind our wall,
          He looketh in at the windows,
          He glanceth through the lattice.

The heart of the bride leaps on hearing the voice of her Beloved, as He
comes in search of her. He has crossed the hills; He draws near to her;
He stands behind the wall; He even looks in at the windows; with tender
and touching words He woos her to come forth to Him. He utters no
reproach, and His loving entreaties sink deep in her memory.

          My Beloved spake, and said unto me,
          Rise up, My love, My fair one, and come away.
          For, lo, the winter is past,
          The rain is over and gone;
          The flowers appear on the earth;
          The time of the singing of birds is come,
          And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
          The fig-tree ripeneth her green figs,
          And the vines are in blossom,
          They give forth their fragrance.
          Arise, My love, My fair one, and come away.

All nature is responsive to the return of the summer, wilt thou, My
bride, be irresponsive to My love?

          Arise, My love, My fair one, and come away.

Can such pleading be in vain? Alas, it can, it was!

In yet more touching words the Bridegroom continues:--

          O My dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the
               covert of the steep place,
          Let Me see thy countenance, let Me hear thy voice:
          For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Wonderful thought! that God should desire fellowship with us; and that
He whose love once made Him the Man of Sorrows may now be made the Man
of Joys by the loving devotion of human hearts.

But strong as is His love, and His desire for His bride, He can come no
further. Where she now is He can never come. But surely she will go
forth to Him. Has He not a claim upon her? She feels and enjoys His
love, will she let His desire count for nothing? For, let us notice, it
is not here the bride longing in vain for her LORD, but the Bridegroom
who is seeking for her. Alas that He should seek in vain!

          Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the
               vineyards;
          For our vineyards are in blossom,

He continues. The enemies may be small, but the mischief done great. A
little spray of blossom, so tiny as to be scarcely perceived, is easily
spoiled, but thereby the fruitfulness of a whole branch may be for ever
destroyed. And how numerous the little foxes are! Little compromises
with the world; disobedience to the still small voice in little things;
little indulgences of the flesh to the neglect of duty; little strokes
of policy; doing evil in little things that good may come; and the
beauty and the fruitfulness of the vine are sacrificed!

We have a sad illustration of the deceitfulness of sin in the response
of the bride. Instead of bounding forth to meet Him, she first comforts
her own heart by the remembrance of His faithfulness, and of her union
with Him:--

          My Beloved is mine, and I am His:
          He feedeth _His flock_ among the lilies.

My position is one of security, I have no need to be concerned about
it. He is mine, and I am His; and nought can alter that relationship. I
can find Him now at any time, He feedeth His flock among the lilies.
While the sun of prosperity shines upon me I may safely enjoy myself
here without Him. Should trial and darkness come He will be sure not to
fail me.

          Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away,
          Turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a gazelle or a
               young hart
          Upon the mountains of Bether.

Careless of His desire, she thus lightly dismisses Him, with the
thought: A little later I may enjoy His love; and the grieved Bridegroom
departs!

Poor foolish bride! she will soon find that the things that once
satisfied her can satisfy no longer; and that it is easier to turn a
deaf ear to His tender call than to recall or find her absent LORD.

The day became cool, and the shadows did flee away; but He returned not.
Then in the solemn night she discovered her mistake: It was dark, and
she was alone. Retiring to rest she still hoped for His return--the
lesson that worldliness is an absolute bar to full communion still
unlearned.

          By night on my bed I sought Him whom my soul loveth:
          I sought Him, but I found Him not!

She waits and wearies: His absence becomes insupportable:--

          _I said_, I will rise now, and go about the city,
          In the streets and in the broad ways,
          I will seek Him whom my soul loveth:
          I sought Him, but I found Him not!

How different her position from what it might have been! Instead of
seeking Him alone, desolate and in the dark, she might have gone forth
with Him in the sunshine, leaning upon His arm. She might have exchanged
the partial view of her Beloved through the lattice, when she could no
longer say "Nothing between," for the joy of His embrace, and His public
confession of her as His chosen bride!

          The watchmen that go about the city found me:
          _To whom I said_, Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?
          It was but a little that I passed from them,
          When I found Him whom my soul loveth.

She had already obeyed His command, "Arise, and come away." Fearless of
reproach, she was seeking Him in the dark; and when she began to confess
her LORD, she soon found Him and was restored to His favour:--

          I held Him, and would not let Him go,
          Until I had brought Him into my mother's house,
          And into the chamber of her that conceived me.

Jerusalem above is the mother of us all. There it is that communion is
enjoyed, not in worldly ways or self-willed indulgence.

Communion fully restored, the section closes, as did the first, with the
loving charge of the Bridegroom that none should disturb His bride:--

          I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
          By the roes, and by the hinds of the field,
          (By all that is loving and beautiful and constant),
          That ye stir not up, nor awake My love,
          Until she[3] please.

May we all, while living down here, in the world, but not of it, find
our home in the heavenly places to which we have been raised, and in
which we are seated together with CHRIST. Sent into the world to witness
for our MASTER, may we ever be strangers there, ready to confess Him the
true object of our soul's devotion.

          How amiable are Thy tabernacles,
          O LORD of hosts!
          My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of
               the LORD;
          My heart and my flesh cry out unto the living GOD.
          Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house:
          They will be still praising Thee. . . .
          A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.
          I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my GOD
          Than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
          For the LORD GOD is a Sun and Shield:
          The LORD will give grace and glory:
          No good thing will He withhold from them that walk
               uprightly.
          O LORD of hosts,
          Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee!

FOOTNOTE:

[3] See note on p. 26.



SECTION III

THE JOY OF UNBROKEN COMMUNION

Cant. iii. 6-v. 1

          O JESU, KING most wonderful,
            Thou CONQUEROR renown'd,
          Thou sweetness most ineffable,
            In whom all joys are found!
          Thee, JESU, may our voices bless;
          Thee may we love alone;
          And ever in our lives express
          The image of Thine own.


WE have been mainly occupied in Sections I. and II. with the words and
the experiences of the bride; in marked contrast to this, in this
section our attention is first called to the Bridegroom, and then it is
from Himself that we hear of the bride, as the object of His love, and
the delight of His heart. The daughters of Jerusalem are the first
speakers.

          Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness
               like pillars of smoke,
          Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
          With all powders of the merchant?

They themselves give the reply:--

          King Solomon made himself a car of state
          Of the wood of Lebanon.
          He made the pillars thereof of silver,
          The bottom thereof of gold, the seat of it of purple,
          The midst thereof being paved with love (love-gifts),
          From the daughters of Jerusalem.
          Behold, it is the litter of Solomon;
          Threescore mighty men are about it,
          Of the mighty men of Israel,
          They all handle the sword, _and_ are expert in war:
          Every man hath his sword upon his thigh,
          Because of fear in the night.

In these verses the bride is not mentioned; she is eclipsed in the
grandeur and the state of her royal Bridegroom; nevertheless, she is
both enjoying and sharing it. The very air is perfumed by the smoke of
the incense that ascends pillar-like to the clouds; and all that
safeguards the position of the Bridegroom Himself, and shows forth His
dignity, safeguards also the accompanying bride, the sharer of His
glory. The car of state in which they sit is built of fragrant cedar
from Lebanon, and the finest of the gold and silver have been lavished
in its construction. The fragrant wood typifies the beauty of sanctified
humanity, while the gold reminds us of the divine glory of our LORD, and
the silver of the purity and preciousness of His redeemed and peerless
Church. The imperial purple with which it is lined tells us of the
Gentiles--the daughter of Tyre has been there with her gift; while the
love-gifts of the daughters of Jerusalem accord with the prophecy, "Even
the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour."

These are the things that attract the attention of the daughters of
Jerusalem, but the bride is occupied with the King Himself, and she
exclaims:--

          Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King
               Solomon,
          With the crown wherewith His mother hath crowned
               Him in the day of His espousals,
          And in the day of the gladness of His heart.

The crowned KING is everything to her, and she would have Him to be so
to the daughters of Zion likewise. She dwells with delight on the
gladness of His heart in the day of His espousals, for now she is not
occupied with Him for her _own_ sake, but rejoices in His joy in finding
in her _His_ satisfaction. Do we sufficiently cultivate this unselfish
desire to be all for JESUS, and to do all for His pleasure? Or are we
conscious that we principally go to Him for our own sakes, or at best
for the sake of our fellow-creatures? How much of prayer there is that
begins and ends with the creature, forgetful of the privilege of giving
joy to the Creator! Yet it is only when He sees in our unselfish love
and devotion to Him the reflection of His own that His heart can feel
full satisfaction, and pour itself forth in precious utterances of love
such as those which we find in the following words:--

          Behold, thou art fair, My love; behold, thou art fair;
          Thine eyes are _as_ dove's behind thy veil;
          Thy hair is as a flock of goats,
          That lie along the side of Mount Gilead;
          Thy teeth are like a flock _of ewes_ that are _newly_
               shorn,
          Which are come up from the washing.
          Which are all of them in pairs,
          And none is bereaved among them.
          Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
          And thy speech is comely, etc. (See verses 3-5.)

We have already found the explanation of the fairness of the bride in
her reflecting like a mirror the beauty of the Bridegroom. Well may He
with satisfaction describe her beauty while she is thus occupied with
Himself! The lips that speak only of Him are like a thread of scarlet;
the mouth or speech which has no word of self, or for self, is comely in
His sight.

How sweet His words of appreciation and commendation were to the bride
we can well imagine; but her joy was too deep for expression; she was
silent in her love. She would not _now_ think of sending Him away until
the day be cool and the shadows flee away.

Still less does the Bridegroom think of finding His joy apart from His
bride. He says:--

          Until the day be cool, and the shadows flee away,
          I will get Me to the mountain of myrrh,
          And to the hill of frankincense.

Separation never comes from His side. He is always ready for communion
with a prepared heart, and in this happy communion the bride becomes
ever fairer, and more like to her LORD. She is being progressively
changed into His image, from one degree of glory to another, through the
wondrous working of the HOLY SPIRIT, until the Bridegroom can declare:--

          Thou art all fair, My love;
          And there is no spot on thee.

And now she is _fit for service_, and to it the Bridegroom woos her;
she will not now misrepresent Him:--

          Come with Me from Lebanon, _My_ bride,
          With Me from Lebanon;
          Look from the top of Amana,
          From the top of Senir and Hermon,
          From the lions' dens,
          From the mountains of the leopards.

"Come with Me." It is always so. If our SAVIOUR says, "Go ye therefore
and disciple all nations," He precedes it by, "All power is given unto
Me," and follows it by, "Lo, I am with you always." Or if, as here, He
calls His bride to come, it is still "with Me," and it is _in connection
with this loving invitation_ that for the first time He changes the word
"My love," for the still more endearing one, "My bride."

What are lions' dens when the Lion of the tribe of Judah is with us; or
mountains of leopards, when He is at our side! "I will fear no evil, for
Thou art with me." On the other hand, it is while thus facing dangers,
and toiling with Him in service, that He says:--

          Thou hast ravished My heart, My sister, _My_ bride;
          Thou hast ravished My heart with one look from thine eyes,
          With one chain of thy neck.

Is it not wonderful how the heart of our Beloved can be thus ravished
with the love of one who is prepared to accept His invitation, and go
forth with Him seeking to rescue the perishing! The marginal reading of
the Revised Version is very significant: "Thou hast ravished My heart,"
or "Thou hast given me courage." If the Bridegroom's heart may be
encouraged by the fidelity and loving companionship of his bride, it is
not surprising that we may cheer and encourage one another in our mutual
service. St. Paul had a steep mountain of difficulty to climb when he
was being led as a captive to Rome, not knowing the things that awaited
him there; but when the brethren met him at the Appii Forum he thanked
God and took courage. May we ever thus strengthen one another's hands in
God!

But to resume. The Bridegroom cheers the toilsome ascents, and the steep
pathways of danger, with sweet communications of His love:--

          How fair is thy love, My sister, _My_ bride!
          How much better is thy love than wine!
          And the smell of thine ointments than all manner of spices!
          Thy lips, O _My_ bride, drop as the honeycomb:
          Honey and milk are under thy tongue;
          And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
          A garden shut up is My sister, _My_ bride;
          A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
          Thy shoots are a paradise of pomegranates, with precious
               fruits;
          Henna with spikenard plants,
          Spikenard and saffron,
          Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense;
          Myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.
          _Thou art_ a fountain of gardens,
          A well of living waters,
          And flowing streams from Lebanon.

Engaged with the Bridegroom in seeking to rescue the perishing, the
utterances of her lips are to Him as honey and the honeycomb; and figure
is piled upon figure to express His satisfaction and joy. She is a
garden full of precious fruits and delightful perfumes, but a garden
enclosed; the fruit she bears may bring blessing to many, but the garden
is for Himself alone; she is a fountain, but a spring shut up, a
fountain sealed. And yet again she is a fountain of gardens, a well of
living waters and flowing streams from Lebanon: she carries fertility
and imparts refreshment wherever she goes; and yet it is all of Him and
for Him.

The bride now speaks for the second time in this section. As her first
utterance was of Him, so now her second is for Him; self is found in
neither.

          Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south;
          Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.
          Let my Beloved come into His garden,
          And eat His precious fruits.

She is ready for any experience: the north wind and the south may blow
upon her garden, if only the spices thereof may flow out to regale her
LORD by their fragrance. He has called her His garden, a paradise of
pomegranates and precious fruits; let Him come into it and eat His
precious fruits.

To this the Bridegroom replies:--

          I am come into My garden, My sister, _My_ bride:
          I have gathered My myrrh with My spice;
          I have eaten My honeycomb with My honey;
          I have drunk My wine with My milk.

Now, when she calls, He answers at once. When she is only for her LORD,
He assures her that He finds all His satisfaction in her.

The section closes by the bride's invitation to His friends and hers, as
well as to Himself:--

          Eat, O friends;
          Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O Beloved.

The consecration of all to our MASTER, far from lessening our power to
impart, increases both our power and our joy in ministration. The five
loaves and two fishes of the disciples, first given up to and blessed by
the LORD, were abundant supply for the needy multitudes, and grew, in
the act of distribution, into a store of which twelve hampers full of
fragments remained when all were fully satisfied.

We have, then, in this beautiful section, as we have seen, a picture of
unbroken communion and its delightful issues. May our lives correspond!
First, one with the KING, then speaking of the KING; the joy of
communion leading to fellowship in service, to a being all for JESUS,
ready for any experience that will fit for further service, surrendering
all to Him, and willing to minister all for Him. There is no room for
love of the world here, for union with CHRIST has filled the heart;
there is nothing for the gratification of the world, for all has been
sealed and is kept for the MASTER'S use.

          JESUS, my life is Thine!
          And evermore shall be
              Hidden in Thee.
          For nothing can untwine
          Thy life from mine.



SECTION IV

COMMUNION AGAIN BROKEN--RESTORATION

Cant. v. 2-vi. 10


THE fourth section commences with an address of the bride to the
daughters of Jerusalem, in which she narrates her recent sad experience,
and entreats their help in her trouble. The presence and comfort of her
Bridegroom are again lost to her; not this time by relapse into
worldliness, but by slothful self-indulgence.

We are not told of the steps that led to her failure; of how self again
found place in her heart. Perhaps spiritual pride in the achievements
which grace enabled her to accomplish was the cause; or, not improbably,
a cherished satisfaction in the _blessing_ she had received, instead of
in the BLESSER Himself, may have led to the separation. She seems to
have been largely unconscious of her declension; self-occupied and
self-contented, she scarcely noticed His absence; she was resting,
resting alone,--never asking where He had gone, or how He was employed.
And more than this, the door of her chamber was not only closed, but
barred; an evidence that His return was neither eagerly desired nor
expected.

Yet her heart was not far from Him: there was a music in His voice that
awakened echoes in her soul such as no other voice could have stirred.
She was still "a garden shut up, a fountain sealed," so far as the world
was concerned. The snare this time was the more dangerous and insidious
because it was quite unsuspected. Let us look at her narrative:--

          I was asleep, but my heart waked:
          It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh saying,
          Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled:
          For My head is filled with dew,
          My locks with the drops of the night.

How often the position of the Bridegroom is that of a knocking Suitor
outside, as in His epistle to the Laodicean[4] Church: "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 will sup with him, and he with Me." It is sad
that He should be outside a closed door--that He should need to knock;
but still more sad that He should knock, and knock in vain at the door
of any heart which has become His own. In this case it is not the
_position_ of the bride that is wrong; if it were, His word as before
would be, "Arise, and come away"; whereas now His word is, "Open to Me,
My sister, My love." It was her _condition_ of self-satisfaction and
love of ease that closed the door.

Very touching are His words: "Open to Me, My sister" (He is the
first-born among many brethren), "My love" (the object of My heart's
devotion), "My dove" (one who has been endued with many of the gifts and
graces of the HOLY SPIRIT), "My undefiled" (washed, renewed, and
cleansed for Me); and He urges her to open by reference to His own
condition:--

          My head is filled with dew,
          My locks with the drops of the night.

Why is it that His head is filled with the dew? Because His heart is a
shepherd-heart. There are those whom the FATHER has given to Him who are
wandering on the dark mountains of sin: many, oh, how many, have never
heard the SHEPHERD'S voice; many, too, who were once in the fold have
wandered away--far away from its safe shelter. The heart that never can
forget, the love that never can fail, _must_ seek the wandering sheep
until the lost one has been found: "My FATHER worketh hitherto, and I
work." And will she, who so recently was at His side, who joyfully
braved the dens of lions and the mountains of leopards, will she leave
Him to seek alone the wandering and the lost?

          Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefiled:
          For My head is filled with dew,
          My locks with the drops of the night.

We do not know a more touching entreaty in the Word of GOD, and sad
indeed is the reply of the bride:--

          I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?
          I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?

How sadly possible it is to take delight in conferences and
conventions, to feast on all the good things that are brought before us,
and yet to be unprepared to go out from them to self-denying efforts to
rescue the perishing; to delight in the rest of faith while forgetful to
fight the good fight of faith; to dwell upon the cleansing and the
purity effected by faith, but to have little thought for the poor souls
struggling in the mire of sin. If we can put off our coat when He would
have us keep it on; if we can wash our feet while He is wandering alone
upon the mountains, is there not sad want of fellowship with our LORD?

Meeting with no response from the tardy bride, her

          Beloved put in His hand by the hole of the door,
          And "her" heart was moved for Him.

But, alas, the door was not only latched, but barred; and His effort to
secure an entrance was in vain.

          I rose up to open to my Beloved;
          And my hands dropped with myrrh,
          And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
          Upon the handles of the bolt.
          I opened to my Beloved;
          But my Beloved had withdrawn Himself, and was gone.
          My soul had failed me when He spake.

When, all too late, the bride did arise, she seems to have been more
concerned to anoint herself with the liquid myrrh than to speedily
welcome her waiting LORD; more occupied with her own graces than with
His desire. No words of welcome were uttered, though her heart failed
within her; and the grieved One had withdrawn Himself before she was
ready to receive Him. Again (as in the third chapter) she had to go
forth alone to seek her LORD; and this time her experiences were much
more painful than on the former occasion.

          I sought Him, but I could not find Him;
          I called Him, but He gave me no answer.
          The watchmen that go about the city found me,
          They smote me, they wounded me;
          The keepers of the walls took away my mantle from me.

Her first relapse had been one of inexperience; if a second relapse had
been brought about by inadvertence she should at least have been ready
and prompt when summoned to obey. It is not a little thing to fall into
the habit of being tardy in obedience, even in the case of a believer:
in the case of the unbeliever the final issue of disobedience is
inexpressibly awful:--

          Turn you at My reproof:
          Behold, I will pour out My SPIRIT unto you,
          I will make known My words unto you.
          Because I have called, and ye refused;
          I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; . . .
          I also will laugh in the day of your calamity. . . .
          Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer;
          They shall seek Me diligently, but they shall not find Me.

The backsliding of the bride, though painful, was not final; for it was
followed by true repentance. She went forth into the darkness and sought
Him; she called, but He responded not, and the watchmen finding her,
both smote and wounded her. They appear to have appreciated the gravity
of her declension more correctly than she had done. Believers may be
blinded to their own inconsistencies; others, however, note them; and
the higher the position with regard to our LORD the more surely will any
failure be visited with reproach.

Wounded, dishonoured, unsuccessful in her search, and almost in despair,
the bride turns to the daughters of Jerusalem; and recounting the story
of her sorrows, adjures _them_ to tell her Beloved that she is not
unfaithful or unmindful of Him.

          I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my
               Beloved,
          That ye tell Him, that I am sick of love.

The reply of the daughters of Jerusalem shows very clearly that the
sorrow-stricken bride, wandering in the dark, is not recognized as the
bride of the KING, though her personal beauty does not escape notice.

          What is thy Beloved more than another beloved,
          O thou fairest among women?
          What is thy Beloved more than another beloved,
          That thou dost so adjure us?

This question, implying that her Beloved was no more than any other,
stirs her soul to its deepest depths; and, forgetting herself, she pours
out from the fulness of her heart a soul-ravishing description of the
glory and beauty of her LORD.

          My Beloved is white and ruddy,
          The chiefest among ten thousand.

(see verses 10-16, concluding with)

          His mouth is most sweet: yea, He is altogether lovely.
          This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend,
          O daughters of Jerusalem.

It is interesting to compare the bride's description of the Bridegroom
with the descriptions of "the Ancient of Days" in Dan. vii. 9, 10, and
of our risen LORD in Rev. i. 13-16. The differences are very
characteristic.

In Dan. vii. we see the Ancient of Days seated on the throne of
judgment; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like
the pure wool; His throne and His wheels were as burning fire, and a
fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. The Son of Man was
brought near before Him, and received from Him dominion, and glory, and
an everlasting kingdom that shall not be destroyed. In Rev. i. we see
the Son of Man Himself clothed with a garment down to the foot, and His
head and His hair were white as wool, white as snow; but the bride sees
her Bridegroom in all the vigour of youth, with locks "bushy, and black
as a raven." The eyes of the risen SAVIOUR are described as "a flame of
fire," but His bride sees them "like doves beside the water brooks." In
Revelation "His voice is as the voice of many waters . . . and out of His
mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword." To the bride, His lips are as
lilies, dropping liquid myrrh, and His mouth most sweet. The countenance
of the risen SAVIOUR was "as the sun shineth in his strength," and the
effect of the vision on John--"when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as one
dead"--was not unlike the effect of the vision given to Saul as he
neared Damascus. But to His bride "His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent
as the cedars." The LION of the tribe of Judah is to His own bride the
KING of love; and, with full heart and beaming face, she so recounts His
beauties that the daughters of Jerusalem are seized with strong desire
to seek Him with her, that they also may behold His beauty.

          Whither is thy Beloved gone,
          O thou fairest among women?
          Whither hath thy Beloved turned Him,
          That we may seek Him with thee?

The bride replies:--

          My Beloved is gone down to His garden, to the beds of spices,
          To feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
          I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine:
          He feedeth His flock among the lilies.

Forlorn and desolate as she might appear she still knows herself as the
object of His affections, and claims Him as her own. This expression, "I
am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine," is similar to that found in
the second chapter, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His"; and yet with
noteworthy difference. Then her first thought of CHRIST was of her claim
upon Him: His claim upon her was secondary. Now she thinks first of His
claim; and only afterwards mentions her own. We see a still further
development of grace in chap. vii. 10, where the bride, losing sight of
her claim altogether, says:--

          I am my Beloved's,
          And His desire is toward me.

No sooner has she uttered these words and acknowledged herself as His
rightful possession--a claim which she had practically repudiated when
she kept Him barred out--than her Bridegroom Himself appears; and with
no upbraiding word, but in tenderest love, tells her how beautiful she
is in His eyes, and speaks her praise to the daughters of Jerusalem.

To her He says:--

          Thou art beautiful, O My love, as Tirzah,
              [the beautiful city of Samaria,]
          Comely as Jerusalem,
              [the glorious city of the great KING,]
          Terrible [or rather brilliant] as an army with banners.
          Turn away thine eyes from Me,
          For they have overcome Me. (See vv. 4-7.)

Then, turning to the daughters of Jerusalem, He exclaims:--

          There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines,
          And maidens without number.
          My dove, My perfect one, is but one;
          She is the only one of her mother;
          She is the choice one of her that bare her.
          The daughters saw her, and called her blessed;
          Yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her,
               saying,
          Who is she that looketh forth as the morning,
          Fair as the moon,
          Clear as the sun,
          Brilliant as an army with banners?

Thus the section closes with communion fully restored; the bride
reinstated and openly acknowledged by the Bridegroom as His own peerless
companion and friend. The painful experience through which the bride has
passed has been fraught with lasting good, and we have no further
indication of interrupted communion, but in the remaining sections find
only joy and fruitfulness.

FOOTNOTE:

[4] The Church of Popular Opinion, as pointed out by the Rev. Charles
Fox in an address at Keswick, as the Church of Philadelphia is the
Church of Brotherly Love.



SECTION V

FRUITS OF RECOGNIZED UNION

Cant. vi. 11-viii. 4


IN the second and fourth sections of this book we found the communion of
the bride broken; in the former by backsliding into worldliness, and in
the latter through slothful ease and self-satisfaction. The present
section, like the third, is one of unbroken communion. It is opened by
the words of the bride:--

          I went down into the garden of nuts,
          To see the green plants of the valley,
          To see whether the vine budded,
          _And_ the pomegranates were in flower.
          Or ever I was aware, my soul set me
          _Among_ the chariots of my willing people.

As in the commencement of Section III., the bride, in unbroken
communion with her LORD, was present though unmentioned until she made
her presence evident by her address to the daughters of Zion; so in this
section the presence of the KING is unnoted until He Himself addresses
His bride. But she is one with her LORD as she engages in His service!
His promise, "Lo, I am with you alway," is ever fulfilled to her; and He
has no more to woo her to arise and come away; to tell her that His
"head is filled with dew," His "locks with the drops of the night"; or
to urge her if she love Him to feed His sheep and care for His lambs.
Herself His garden, she does not forget to tend it, nor keep the
vineyards of others while her own is neglected. _With_ Him as well as
_for_ Him, she goes to the garden of nuts. So thorough is the union
between them that many commentators have felt difficulty in deciding
whether the bride or the Bridegroom was the speaker, and really it is a
point of little moment; for, as we have said, both were there, and of
one mind; yet we believe we are right in attributing these words to the
bride, as she is the one addressed by the daughters of Jerusalem, and
the one who speaks to them in reply.

The bride and Bridegroom appear to have been discovered by their willing
people while thus engaged in the happy fellowship of fruitful service,
and the bride, or ever she was aware, found herself seated among the
chariots of her people--_her_ people as well as _His_.

The daughters of Jerusalem would fain call her back:--

          Return, return, O Shulammite;
          Return, return, that we may look upon thee.

There is no question now as to who she is, nor why her Beloved is more
than another beloved; He is recognized as King Solomon, and to her is
given the same name, only in its feminine form (Shulammite).

Some have seen in these words, "Return, return," an indication of the
rapture of the Church; and explain some parts of the subsequent context,
which appear inconsistent with this view, as resumptive rather than
progressive. Interesting as is this thought, and well as it would
explain the absence of _reference_ to the KING in the preceding verses,
we are not inclined to accept it; but look on the whole song as
progressive, and its last words as being equivalent to the closing words
of the Book of Revelation, "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come,
LORD JESUS." We do not therefore look upon the departure of the bride
from her garden as being other than temporary.

The bride replies to the daughters of Jerusalem:--

          Why will ye look upon the Shulammite?

or, as in the Authorized Version,

          What will ye see in the Shulamite?

In the presence of the KING, she cannot conceive why any attention
should be paid to her. As Moses, coming down from the mount, was
unconscious that his face shone with a divine glory, so was it here with
the bride. But we may learn this very important lesson, that many who do
not see the beauty of the LORD, will not fail to admire His reflected
beauty in His bride. The eager look of the daughters of Jerusalem
surprised the bride, and she says, You might be looking "upon the dance
of Mahanaim"--the dance of two companies of Israel's fairest
daughters--instead of upon one who has no claim for attention, save that
she is the chosen, though unworthy, bride of the glorious KING.

The daughters of Jerusalem have no difficulty in replying to her
question, and recognizing her as of royal birth--"O Prince's
daughter"--as well as of queenly dignity, they describe in true and
Oriental language the tenfold beauties of her person; from her feet to
her head they see only beauty and perfection. What a contrast to her
state by nature! Once "from the sole of the foot even unto the head" was
"but wounds, and bruises, and festering sores"; now her feet are "shod
with the preparation of the Gospel of peace," and the very hair of the
head proclaims her a Nazarite indeed; "the KING" Himself "is held
captive in the tresses thereof."

But One, more to her than the daughters of Jerusalem, responded to her
unaffected question, "What will ye see in the Shulamite?" The Bridegroom
Himself replies to it:--

          How fair and how pleasant art thou,
          O love, for delights!

He sees in her the beauties and the fruitfulness of the tall and
upright palm, of the graceful and clinging vine, of the fragrant and
evergreen citron. Grace has made her like the palm-tree, the emblem
alike of uprightness and of fruitfulness. The fruit of the date-palm is
more valued than bread by the Oriental traveller, so great is its
sustaining power; and the fruit-bearing powers of the tree do not pass
away; as age increases the fruit becomes more perfect as well as more
abundant.

          The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree:
          He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
          They that are planted in the house of the LORD
          Shall flourish in the courts of our GOD.
          They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
          They shall be full of sap and green.

But why are the righteous made so upright and flourishing?

          To show that the LORD is upright;
          He is my ROCK, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

One with our LORD, it is ours to _show forth_ His graces and virtues, to
reflect His beauty, to be His faithful witnesses.

The palm is also the emblem of victory; it raises its beautiful crown
towards the heavens, fearless of the heat of the sultry sun, or of the
burning hot wind from the desert. From its beauty it was one of the
ornaments of Solomon's, as it is to be of Ezekiel's temple. When our
SAVIOUR was received at Jerusalem as the KING of Israel the people took
branches of palm-trees and went forth to meet Him; and in the glorious
day of His espousals, "a great multitude, which no man" can "number, of
all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues," shall stand "before
the throne and before the LAMB, clothed with white robes"; and with
palms of victory in their hands shall ascribe their "salvation to our
GOD which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the LAMB."

But if she resembles the palm she also resembles the vine. Much she
needs the culture of the Husbandman, and well does she repay it. Abiding
in CHRIST, the true source of fruitfulness, she brings forth clusters of
grapes, luscious and refreshing, as well as sustaining, like the fruit
of the palm--luscious and refreshing to Himself, the owner of the
vineyard, as well as to the weary, thirsty world in which He has placed
it.

The vine has its own suggestive lessons: it needs and seeks support;
the sharp knife of the pruner often cuts away unsparingly its tender
garlands, and mars its appearance, while increasing its fruitfulness. It
has been beautifully written:--

          The living Vine, CHRIST chose it for Himself:--
          GOD gave to man for use and sustenance
          Corn, wine, and oil, and each of these is good:
          And CHRIST is Bread of life and Light of life.
          But yet, He did not choose the summer corn,
          That shoots up straight and free in one quick growth.
          And has its day, is done, and springs no more;
          Nor yet the olive, all whose boughs are spread
          In the soft air, and never lose a leaf,
          Flowering and fruitful in perpetual peace;
          But only this, for Him and His is one,--
          That everlasting, ever-quickening Vine,
          That gives the heat and passion of the world,
          Through its own life-blood, still renewed and shed.
               .     .     .     .     .      .
          The Vine from every living limb bleeds wine;
          Is it the poorer for that spirit shed?
          The drunkard and the wanton drink thereof;
          Are they the richer for that gift's excess?
          _Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;_
          _Not by the wine drunk, but the wine poured forth;_
          _For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice;_
          _And whoso suffers most, hath most to give._

Yet one figure more is used by the Bridegroom: "The smell of thy breath
[is] like apples," or rather citrons. In the first section the bride
exclaims:--

          As the citron-tree among the trees of the wood,
          So is my Beloved among the sons.
          I delighted and sat down under His shadow,
          And His fruit was sweet to my taste.

Here we find the outcome of that communion. The citrons on which she had
fed perfumed her breath, and imparted to her their delicious odour. The
Bridegroom concludes his description:--

          Thy mouth [is] like the best wine,
          That goeth down smoothly--
                        For my Beloved--

interjects the bride,

          Causing the lips of those that are asleep to move.

How wondrous the grace that has made the bride of CHRIST to be all this
to her Beloved! Upright as the palm, victorious, and evermore fruitful
as she grows heavenward; gentle and tender as the Vine, self-forgetful
and self-sacrificing, not merely bearing fruit in spite of adversity,
but bearing her richest fruits through it;--feasting on her Beloved, as
she rests beneath His shade, and thereby partaking of His
fragrance;--what has grace not done for her! And what must be her joy in
finding, ever more fully, the satisfaction of the glorious Bridegroom in
the lowly wild flower He has made His bride, and beautified with His own
graces and virtues!

          I am my Beloved's,
          And His desire is toward me,

she gladly exclaims. Now it is none of self or for self, but all of Thee
and for Thee. And if such be the sweet fruits of going down to the
garden of nuts, and caring for His garden with Him, she will need no
constraining to continue in this blessed service.

          Come, my Beloved, let us go forth into the field;
          Let us lodge in the villages.

She is not ashamed of her lowly origin, for she fears no shame: perfect
love has cast out fear. The royal state of the King, with its pomp and
grandeur, may be enjoyed by-and-by: now, more sweet with Him at her side
to make the garden fruitful; to give to Him all manner of precious
fruits, new and old, which she has laid up in store for Him; and best of
all to satisfy Him with her own love. Not only is she contented with
this fellowship of service, but she could fain wish that there were no
honours and duties to claim His attention, and for the moment to lessen
the joy of His presence.

          Oh that Thou wert as my brother,
          That sucked the breasts of my mother!
          _When_ I should find Thee without, I would kiss Thee;
          Yea, and none would despise me.

Would that she could care for Him, and claim His whole attention, as a
sister might care for a brother. She is deeply conscious that He has
richly endowed her, and that she is as nothing compared with Him; but
instead of proudly dwelling upon what she has done through Him, she
would fain that it were possible for her to be the giver and Him the
receiver. Far removed is this from the grudging thought, that must so
grate upon the heart of our LORD, "I do not think that GOD requires this
of me"; or, "Must I give up that, if I am to be a Christian?" True
devotion will rather ask to be allowed to give, and will count as loss
all which may not be given up for the LORD'S sake--"I count all things
but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of CHRIST JESUS my LORD."

This longing desire to be more to Him does not, however, blind her to
the consciousness that she needs His guidance, and that He is her true,
her only Instructor.

          I would lead Thee, _and_ bring Thee into my mother's
               house,
          That Thou mightest instruct me;
          I would cause Thee to drink of spiced wine,
          Of the juice of my pomegranate.

I would give Thee my best, and yet would myself seek all my rest and
satisfaction in Thee.

          His left hand _should_ be under my head,
          And His right hand should embrace me.

And thus the section closes. There is nothing sweeter to the Bridegroom
or to the bride than this hallowed and unhindered communion; and again
He adjures the daughters of Jerusalem, in slightly different form:--

          Why should ye stir up, or why awake My love,
          Until she[5] please?

Hallowed communion indeed! May we ever enjoy it; and abiding in CHRIST,
we shall sing, in the familiar words of the well-known hymn--

          Both Thine arms are clasped around me,
            And my head is on Thy breast;
          And my weary soul hath found Thee
            Such a perfect, perfect rest!
                Blessed JESUS,
            Now I know that I am blest.


FOOTNOTE:

[5] See note on p. 26.



SECTION VI

UNRESTRAINED COMMUNION

Cant. viii. 5-14


WE have now reached the closing section of this book, which, as we have
seen, is a poem describing the life of a believer on earth. Beginning in
Section I. (Cant. i. 2-ii. 7) with the unsatisfied longings of an
espoused one--longings which could only be met by her unreserved
surrender to the Bridegroom of her soul--we find that when the surrender
was made, instead of the cross she had so much feared she found a King,
the KING of LOVE, who both satisfied her deepest longings, and found His
own satisfaction in her.

The second section (Cant. ii. 8-iii. 5) showed failure on her part; she
was lured back again into the world, and soon found that her Beloved
could not follow her there; then with full purpose of heart going forth
to seek Him, and confessing His name, her search was successful, and her
communion was restored.

The third section (Cant. iii. 6-v. 1.) told of unbroken communion.
Abiding in Christ, she was the sharer of His security and His glory. She
draws the attention, however, of the daughters of Jerusalem from these
outward things to her KING Himself. And, while she is thus occupied with
Him, and would have others so occupied, she finds that her royal
Bridegroom is delighting in her, and inviting her to fellowship of
service, fearless of dens of lions and mountains of leopards.

The fourth section (Cant. v. 2-vi. 10), however, shows again failure;
not as before through worldliness, but rather through spiritual pride
and sloth. Restoration now was much more difficult; but again when she
went forth diligently to seek her LORD, and so confessed Him as to lead
others to long to find Him with her, He revealed Himself and the
communion was restored, to be interrupted no more.

The fifth section (Cant. vi. 11-viii. 4), as we have seen, describes not
only the mutual satisfaction and delight of the bride and Bridegroom in
each other, but the recognition of her position and her beauty by the
daughters of Jerusalem.

And now in the sixth section (Cant. viii. 5-14) we come to the closing
scene of the book. In it the bride is seen leaning upon her Beloved,
asking Him to bind her yet more firmly to Himself, and occupying herself
in His vineyard, until He calls her away from earthly service. To this
last section we shall now give our attention more particularly.

It opens, as did the third, by an inquiry or exclamation of the
daughters of Jerusalem. There they asked, "Who is this that cometh out
of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, etc.?" but then their attention
was claimed by the pomp and state of the KING, not by His person, nor by
that of His bride. Here they are attracted by the happy position of the
bride in relation to her Beloved, and not by their surroundings.

          Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness,
          Leaning upon her Beloved?

It is through the bride that attention is drawn to the Bridegroom;
their union and communion are now open and manifest. For the last time
the wilderness is mentioned; but sweetly solaced by the presence of the
Bridegroom, it is _no wilderness to the bride_. In all the trustfulness
of confiding love she is seen leaning upon her Beloved. He is her
strength, her joy, her pride, and her prize; while she is His peculiar
treasure, the object of His tenderest care. All His resources of wisdom
and might are hers; though journeying she is at rest, though in the
wilderness she is satisfied, while leaning upon her Beloved.

Wonderful, however, as are the revelations of grace and love to the
heart taught by the HOLY SPIRIT through the relationship of bride and
Bridegroom, the CHRIST of GOD is more than Bridegroom to His people. He
who when on earth was able to say, "Before Abraham was, I am," here
claims His bride from her very birth, and not alone from her espousals.
Before she knew Him, He knew her; and of this He reminds her in the
words:--

          I raised thee up under the citron-tree;
          There thy mother brought thee forth.

He takes delight in her beauty, but that is not so much the cause as the
effect of His love; for He took her up when she had no comeliness. The
love that has made her what she is, and now takes delight in her, is not
a fickle love, nor need she fear its change.

Gladly does the bride recognize this truth, that she is indeed His own,
and she exclaims:

          Set me as a seal upon Thine heart, as a seal upon
               Thine arm;
          For love is strong as death;
          Jealousy (ardent love) is cruel (retentive) as the
               grave;
          The flashes thereof are flashes of fire,
          A very flame of the LORD.

The High Priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his heart, each
name being engraved as a seal in the costly and imperishable stone
chosen by GOD, each seal or stone being set in the purest gold; he
likewise bore the same names upon his shoulders, indicating that both
the love and the strength of the High Priest were pledged on behalf of
the tribes of Israel. The bride would be thus upborne by Him who is
alike her Prophet, Priest, and King, for love is strong as death; and
jealousy, or ardent love, retentive as the grave. Not that she doubts
the constancy of her Beloved, but that she has learned, alas! the
inconstancy of her own heart; and she would be bound to the heart and
arm of her Beloved as with chains and settings of gold, ever the emblem
of divinity. Thus the Psalmist prayed, "Bind the sacrifice with cords,
_even_ unto the horns of the altar."

It is comparatively easy to lay the sacrifice on the altar that
sanctifies the gift, but it requires divine compulsion--the cords of
love--to retain it there. So here the bride would be set and fixed on
the heart and on the arm of Him who is henceforth to be her all in all,
that she may evermore trust only in that love, be sustained only by that
power.

Do we not all need to learn a lesson from this? and to pray to be kept
from turning to Egypt for help, from trusting in horses and chariots,
from putting confidence in princes, or in the son of man, rather than in
the living GOD? How the Kings of Israel, who had won great triumphs by
faith, sometimes turned aside to heathen nations in their later years!
The LORD keep His people from this snare.

The bride continues: "The flashes of love are flashes of fire, a very
flame of the LORD." It is worthy of note that this is the only
occurrence of this word "LORD" in this book. But how could it be omitted
here? For love is of GOD, and GOD is love.

To her request the Bridegroom replies with reassuring words:--

          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 love which grace has begotten in the heart of the bride is itself
divine and persistent; many waters cannot quench it, nor the floods
drown it. Suffering and pain, bereavement and loss may test its
constancy, but they will not quench it. Its source is not human or
natural; like the life, it is hidden with CHRIST in GOD. What "shall
separate us from the love of CHRIST? shall tribulation, or distress, or
persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in
all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creation [R.V. margin], shall be able
to separate us from the love of GOD, which is in CHRIST JESUS our LORD."
Our love to GOD is secured by GOD'S love to us. To the soul really
rescued by grace, no bribe to forsake GOD'S love will be finally
successful. "If a man would give all the substance of his house for
love, it would utterly be contemned."

Freed from anxiety on her own account, the happy bride next asks
guidance, and fellowship in service with her LORD, on behalf of those
who have not yet reached her favoured position.

          We have a little sister,
          And she hath no breasts:
          What shall we do for our sister
          In the day when she shall be spoken for?

How beautifully her conscious union with the Bridegroom appears in her
expressions. "_We_ have a little sister," not _I_ have, etc.; "what
shall _we_ do for our sister," etc.? She has now no private
relationships nor interests; in all things she is one with Him. And we
see a further development of grace in the very question. Towards the
close of the last section she recognized the Bridegroom as her
Instructor. She will not now make her own plans about her little sister,
and ask His acquiescence in them; she will rather learn what his
thoughts are, and have fellowship with Him in His plans.

How much anxiety and care the children of GOD would be spared if they
learned to act in this way! Is it not too common to make the best plans
that we can, and to carry them out as best we may, feeling all the while
a great burden of responsibility, and earnestly asking the LORD to help
_us_? Whereas if we always let _Him_ be our Instructor in service, and
left the responsibility with _Him_, our strength would not be exhausted
with worry and anxiety, but would all be at His disposal, and accomplish
His ends.

In the little sister, as yet immature, may we not see the elect of GOD,
given to CHRIST in GOD'S purpose, but not yet brought into saving
relation to Him? And perhaps also those babes in CHRIST who as yet need
feeding with milk and not with meat, but who, with such care, will in
due time become experienced believers, fitted for the service of the
LORD? Then they will be spoken for, and called into that department of
service for which He has prepared them.

The Bridegroom replies:--

          If she be a wall,
          We will build upon her battlements of silver;
          And if she be a door,
          We will inclose her with boards of cedar.

In this reply the Bridegroom sweetly recognizes His oneness with His
bride, in the same way as she has shown her conscious oneness with Him.
As she says, "What shall _we_ do for our sister?" so He replies, "_We_
will build . . . _we_ will inclose," etc. He will not carry out His
purposes of grace irrespective of His bride, but will work with and
through her. What can be done for this sister, however, will depend upon
what she becomes. If she be a wall, built upon the true foundation,
strong and stable, she shall be adorned and beautified with battlements
of silver; but if unstable and easily moved to and fro like a door, such
treatment will be as impossible as unsuitable; she will need to be
inclosed with boards of cedar, hedged in with restraints, for her own
protection.

The bride rejoicingly responds, "I am a wall"; she knows the foundation
on which she is built, there is no "if" in her case; she is conscious of
having found favour in the eyes of her Beloved. Naphtali's blessing is
hers: she is "satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the
LORD."

But what is taught by the connection of this happy consciousness with
the lines which follow?

          Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon;
          He let out the vineyard unto keepers;
          Every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a
               thousand _pieces_ of silver.
          My vineyard, which is mine, is before me:
          Thou, O Solomon, shalt have the thousand,
          And those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.

The connection is, we believe, one of great importance, teaching us
that what she _was_ (by grace) was more important than what she _did_;
and that she did not work in order to earn favour, but being assured of
favour, gave her love free scope to show itself in service. The bride
knew her relationship to her LORD, and His love to her; and in her
determination that He should have the thousand pieces of silver, her
concern was that her vineyard should not produce less for her Solomon
than His vineyard at Baal-hamon; her vineyard was herself, and she
desired for her LORD much fruit. She would see, too, that the keepers of
the vineyard, those who were her companions in its culture, and who
ministered in word and doctrine, were well rewarded; she would not
muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; a full tithe, nay a double
tithe, was to be the portion of those who kept the fruit and laboured
with her in the vineyard.

       *       *       *       *       *

How long this happy service continues, and how soon it is to be
terminated, we cannot tell; He who calls His servants to dwell in the
gardens, and cultivate them for Him--as Adam of old was placed in the
paradise of GOD--alone knows the limit of this service. Sooner or later
the rest will come, the burden and heat of the last day will have been
borne, the last conflict will be over, and the voice of the Bridegroom
will be heard addressing His loved one:--

          Thou that dwellest in the gardens,
          The companions hearken to thy voice:
          Cause Me to hear it.

Thy service among the companions is finished; thou hast fought the good
fight, thou hast kept the faith, thou hast finished thy course;
henceforth there is laid up for thee the crown of righteousness, and the
Bridegroom Himself shall be thine exceeding great reward!

Well may the bride let Him hear her voice, and, springing forth in heart
to meet Him, cry:--

          Make haste, my Beloved,
          And be Thou like to a roe or to a young hart
          Upon the mountains of spices!

She no longer asks Him, as in the second section:--

          Turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young
               hart
          Upon the mountains of Bether [separation].

She has never again wished Him to turn away from her, for there are no
mountains of Bether to those who are abiding in CHRIST; now there are
mountains of spices. He who inhabits the praises of Israel, which rise,
like the incense of spices, from His people's hearts, is invited by His
bride to make haste, to come quickly, and be like a roe or young hart
upon the mountains of spices.

Very sweet is the presence of our LORD, as by His SPIRIT He dwells among
His people, while they serve Him below; but here there are many thorns
in every path, which call for watchful care; and it is meet that now we
should suffer with our LORD, in order that we may hereafter be glorified
together. The day, however, is soon coming in which He will bring us up
out of the earthly gardens and associations to the palace of the great
KING. There His people "shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the LAMB, which
is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto
living fountains of waters; and GOD shall wipe away all tears from their
eyes."

          The SPIRIT and the bride say, Come! . . .
          Surely I come quickly.
          Amen; even so, come, LORD JESUS!



APPENDIX

THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM


THE question is frequently asked, Who are represented by the daughters
of Jerusalem?

They are clearly not the bride, yet they are not far removed from her.
They know where the Bridegroom makes His flock to rest at noon; they are
charged by the Bridegroom not to stir up nor awaken His love when she
rests, abiding in Him; they draw attention to the Bridegroom as with
dignity and pomp He comes up from the wilderness; their love-gifts adorn
His chariot of state; they are appealed to by the bride for help in
finding her Beloved, and, stirred by her impassioned description of His
beauty, they desire to seek Him with her; they describe very fully the
beauty of the bride, but, on the other hand, we never find them occupied
with the _person_ of the Bridegroom; _He_ is not all in all to them;
they mind outward and earthly things.

Do they not represent those who, if not actually saved, are very near
it; or, if saved, are only half-saved? who are for the present more
concerned about the things of this world than the things of GOD? To
advance their own interests, to secure their own comfort, concerns them
more than to be in all things pleasing to the LORD. They _may_ form part
of that great company spoken of in Rev. vii. 9-17, who come out of the
great tribulation, but they will not form part of the 144,000, "the
first-fruits unto GOD and to the LAMB" (Rev. xiv. 1-5). They have
forgotten the warning of our LORD in Luke xxi. 34-36; and hence they are
not "accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to
pass, and to stand before the SON of Man." They have not, with Paul,
counted "all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of
CHRIST JESUS the Lord," and hence they do _not_ "attain unto" _that_
resurrection from among the dead, which Paul felt he might miss, but
aimed to attain unto.

We wish to place on record our solemn conviction that not all who are
Christians, or think themselves to be such, will attain to that
resurrection of which St. Paul speaks in Phil. iii. 11, or will thus
meet the LORD in the air. Unto those who by lives of consecration
manifest that they are not of the world, but are looking for Him, "He
will appear without sin unto salvation."


          _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh._

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note: Text uses both Shulamite and Shulammite.





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