Charles Simeon Commentary - Song of Solomon 3:1 - 3:4

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Song of Solomon 3:1 - 3:4


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DISCOURSE: 850

PERSEVERANCE CROWNED WITH SUCCESS

Son_3:1-4. By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, but I found him not. 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. 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, but I found him whom my soul loveth: 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.

ONE peculiar excellence of the Song of Solomon is, that it delineates with admirable beauty and precision the workings of the believer’s soul under all the varieties of Christian experience. In the first conversion of the soul, God communicates his blessings unsolicited, unsought; so that it may be justly said, “He is found of them that sought him not [Note: Isa_65:1.]:” but in our subsequent walk with God, we may sometimes find occasion to complain, “I sought him, but I found him not.” Thus it was with the Bride in the passage before us: and her conduct under these circumstances is instructive, as the issue of it is encouraging to the Church of God in all ages. In our remarks on the Bride’s experience, we shall notice,

1.       Her persevering exertions—

When it is said, “By night on my bed I sought him,” we are not to take the words in a literal, but figurative sense, as expressing the cold and listless way in which the Bride had sought her Beloved: and it is no wonder that, when sought in such a way, he did not vouchsafe to manifest himself unto her. Disappointed in her hopes, “she rose, and went about the city, seeking him in the streets and broad ways,” accounting no time unseasonable, no labour too great, for the attainment of an object so dear to her as a sight of her Beloved. Still however her labour was in vain: “she sought him, but found him not.” And thus the Lord Jesus Christ still frequently for a season suspends the manifestations of his love, and leaves in darkness the soul that seeks him. This he does,

1.       To correct our lukewarmness—

[Lukewarmness in his people is most offensive to him [Note: Rev_3:16.]; and, when indulged, “grieves his Spirit,” and provokes him to hide his face from us. He has told us in the Prophets, that we must not expect to “find him, unless we seek him with our whole hearts [Note: Jer_29:12-13.].” How solemn is that warning which he has given in his Gospel; “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able [Note: Luk_13:24.].” What wonder is it therefore if he punish our sloth by a long suspension of his visits, and make us to eat of the bitter fruit of our own ways? By such a dispensation he plainly says to us, “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken me, when I led thee by the way? Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God [Note: Jer_2:17; Jer_2:19.].”]

2.       To stimulate our desires after him—

[Our souls ought to “pant after him, as the hart after the water-brooks;” yea, they should “break for the very fervent desire which we have towards him [Note: Psa_119:20.].” But if a listless and inoperative wish would suffice, we should never exert ourselves as we ought. Had the Bride succeeded by seeking her Beloved on her bed, she would never have risen to seek him in the streets of the city: and, if we could attain in a way of self-indulgence the rewards of self-denying exertion, we should be too ready to say to our souls, “Soul, take thine ease.” But our Lord has told us, that his favour is not to be sought in such a way as that: he has said, that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence; and that the violent must take it by force:” and he withholds from us the manifestations of his love, on purpose that he may quicken us in our pursuit of him, and stimulate us to put forth into activity the devoutest energies of our souls [Note: Hos_5:15.].]

3.       To endear his presence to us—

[To the temporary loss which the Bride had sustained must be ascribed the zeal with which she afterwards held fast her Beloved: and we well know how the Courts of the Lord were endeared to David by his long banishment from them, under the persecutions of Saul, and during the rebellion of Absalom. And, no doubt, in proportion as we are led into deep waters, will be our gratitude for deliverance from them [Note: Psa_40:1-3.]: in proportion as we have passed through the afflictive scenes of David, — — — will be the zeal and ardour with which we shall henceforth make boast of our great Deliverer: “Who is so great a God as our God [Note: Psa_77:1-4; Psa_77:13.]?” When we feel that we have “had much forgiven us, we shall love much.”]

The Bride however used not her exertions in vain; as we see by,

II.      The successful issue of them—

[In her search after her Beloved, she inquired of the watchmen, whether they had seen him, or could give her any intelligence respecting him. And, soon after she had parted with them, she found him. By “the watchmen,” we understand the ministers of God, who “watch for souls,” whose special commission is, to “strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees, and to say to the fearful heart, Fear not; your God will come and save you [Note: Isa_35:3-4.].” And it should seem that it was in following her directions she attained her end. But, however this might be, we see clearly from her example, that persevering endeavours shall be crowned with success.]

This is expressly promised by God himself—

[Exceeding strong is that declaration of our blessed Lord; “Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened [Note: Mat_7:7-8.].” It is not said indeed that the answer shall be given, as it was to Daniel, in the very act of prayer: but it is secured from the first moment that we ask in faith; and it shall be given in the best manner, and at the fittest time; according as the Prophet Hosea has said; “Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and the former rain, unto the earth [Note: Hos_6:3.].” “The vision is for an appointed time: and if we wait for it, it shall come, and not tarry an instant beyond the time” fixed in the counsels of unerring wisdom [Note: Hab_2:3 and Heb_10:37.].]

It is also confirmed by actual experience—

[The poor Canaanitess who was so urgent in her supplications to Christ to come and heal her daughter, met with a denial; and such a denial as seemed to preclude any hope of ultimate success; “He answered her not a word.” The Disciples then interceded for her, and requested, that she might be dismissed with a favourable answer, if it was only to prevent her from wearying them with her entreaties: yet they also were refused, and in such a manner as effectually to silence them: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Still however she would not give up all hope, but with deeper prostration than before renewed her petition: but the answer she received was more discouraging than before, in that it blamed her presumption in hoping to participate in any respect the blessings which were designed only for God’s peculiar people: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it unto dogs.” Who would believe, that, after all this, she should persevere in her request, and succeed at last? Yet so she did [Note: Mat_15:22-28.]: and such shall be the success of every child of man that “continues instant in prayer.” To this effect our Lord assures us, in a parable which was spoken for the express purpose of encouraging persons “to pray and not faint.” A poor widow, we are told, obtained redress from an unjust judge through mere dint of her importunity: and from thence we are taught to draw this inference; “And shall not God avenge his own elect who cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily [Note: Luk_18:1-8.].” Here then we are warranted in affirming that the Bride’s success shall be realized in us, if only, like her, we rise to the occasion, and press through every impediment to the enjoyment of our God. God “never did, nor ever will, say to any, Seek ye my face in vain.”]

But that we may profit more fully by the example of the Bride, let us notice,

III.     The use she made of her success—

Having found her Beloved, she held him and would not let him go, till she had brought him into her mother’s house, where she hoped her communion with him would be more intimate, and free from interruption. And thus should we also,

1.       Exert ourselves to retain the Saviour with us—

[There is a holy violence which we are permitted to use, like that of Jacob, who “wrestled all night with the Angel, and said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me [Note: Gen_32:24-28.].” But how often, for want of this, is our enjoyment of the Saviour short and transient, “like the early dew, or the morning cloud that passeth away!” We should “stir ourselves up to lay hold on him;” and, if he would leave us, we must constrain him, as the disciples at Emmaus did, to take up his abode with us [Note: Luk_24:28-29.]. We should dread nothing so much as the loss of his presence: and knowing what a holy and a jealous God he is, we should strive with all imaginable care to hold him fast, and avoid every thing which may “grieve his Spirit,” and provoke him to depart from us.]

2.       Seek to enjoy the most intimate communion with him—

[The Church, “which is the Mother of us all [Note: Gal_4:26.],” may be considered as the place to which the Bride strove to bring her Beloved. And we also, both in the closet and the Church, should seek such manifestations of his love, as cannot be enjoyed in the noise and bustle of the world. In all the ordinances of his grace, and at his holy table especially, we should labour to ensure his presence; since without him they are only “as wells without water,” which “fill with shame and confusion” the thirsty soul [Note: Jer_14:3.]. Nor be satisfied with any small communications of his grace and peace: seek the largest possible measure of them, even to “be filled with all the fulness of God.” In a word, so “dwell in him, and let him dwell in you;” and so be “one with him, and let him be one with you;” that you may even now, in communion with him, have an earnest of the blessedness of heaven, even of that joy, all “fulness of which is at his right hand for evermore.”]

From her example, let us learn,

1.       To fix our hearts supremely on the Lord Jesus Christ—

[Four times does the Bride designate him by this character, “Him whom my soul loveth.” Let him be familiarized to us also under the same endearing name. O let him be in our estimation “fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely;” so that, if he interrogate us as he did Peter, Lovest thou me? we may be able to make the same appeal to him as Peter did, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”]

2.       Not to indulge sloth in our pursuit of him—

[“The idle soul shall suffer hunger; but the diligent soul shall be made fat.” What darkness have many brought upon their souls by their unwatchfulness! Peter was warned by our Lord to “watch and pray, that he might not enter into temptation.” But Peter slept; and, though repeatedly awaked and reproved, gave way to sloth again, the instant he was left to himself. What advantage Satan took of him, we all know, and what were the bitter fruits of his supineness. Let us “be sober and vigilant.” Let us not pray “upon our bed,” as regardless whether we are heard or not, but let us “stir up ourselves to lay hold on Christ;” and then “cleave unto him with full purpose of heart.” If we would succeed in our pursuit of heavenly joys, we must not only pray, but “watch unto prayer with all perseverance.”]

3.       Not to yield to despondency, because we find him not so present with us as we could wish—

[We are very apt to be impatient under the hidings of his face, and to conclude, that he has utterly forsaken us. This was the fault of the Church in the days of old: but God expostulated with her, and reproved her [Note: Isa_40:28-31.] — — — and assured her, that she was so indelibly engraven on the palms of his hands, that he could not possibly forget her [Note: Isa_49:14-16.]: he might indeed “forsake her for a moment, but with everlasting kindness would he have mercy upon her [Note: Isa_54:7-8.].” If then similar fears arise in your breast, say as David did, after he had unhappily given way to them, “This is mine infirmity [Note: Psa_77:7-10.].” Be assured, that God, who is faithful to his promises, “will never leave you nor forsake you [Note: Heb_13:5-6.]:” that “if you seek him, he will be found of you [Note: 2Ch_15:2.]:” and that “in due season you shall reap, if you faint not [Note: Gal_6:9.].”]