Son_5:9. 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 charge us?
THOUGH zeal in every earthly pursuit is approved and commended, it is almost universally banished from the concerns of religion. The most temperate exertions are deemed excessive, and a moderate degree of solicitude is called enthusiasm. Even they who profess godliness are too often found ready to damp the ardour, which persons, more active than themselves, may at any time express. Thus the Bride was checked in her inquiries after her beloved. The “daughters of Jerusalem,” who keep up the dialogue with the Bride and Bridegroom, seem to be either formal professors of religion, or to have made a very small progress in the divine life. And they, when the Bride, under great trouble and anxiety, requested their intercession, reflected on her as manifesting an intemperate and needless zeal. But we will answer their questions, by shewing,
The excellencies of our Beloved—
Who the Beloved of the Church is, we need not declare; since it is too manifest to admit a doubt. There is not a member of that body who does not regard Jesus with supreme affection. Nor is there any apology needed for such a choice. His excellencies are exceeding great.
[In him are concentrated all the glories of the Godhead [Note: Col_2:9.]. Being the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, he must of necessity possess all the Divine perfections [Note: Heb_1:3.]. To search out these perfections is beyond the ability of any finite being [Note: Job_11:7.]; but to love and adore him on account of them is the duty and privilege of all his people. The excellencies of his human nature may be more easily declared. There his glory is veiled, so that we may behold and contemplate it without being blinded by its overwhelming splendour. He was not only holy, but holiness itself, without spot or blemish. His most inveterate enemies, Satan himself not excepted, could not find a flaw in him [Note: Joh_8:46. Joh_14:30.], and God himself has borne testimony, that in him was no sin [Note: 1Jn_3:5.]. As Mediator, he united both the Godhead and the Manhood in his own person, and executed an office which he alone was able to sustain. In that character we behold him reconciling God to man, and man to God [Note: 2Co_5:19.], yea, glorifying all the perfections of the Deity in the salvation of sinners [Note: Rom_3:25-26.]. Well may we, in this view of him, exclaim, “How great is his goodness, how great is his beauty [Note: Zec_9:17.]!”]
But the text requires us to speak of him in a comparative view—
[Surely there is no other object of affection in the universe worthy to be compared with him. In whom is there such a marvellous combination of excellencies? As God, as Man, and as Mediator, he not only unites in himself every perfection proper to the Divine and human nature, but exhibits a character peculiar to himself, a character that is and ever must be the admiration of the whole universe. In whom was there ever found any one excellence in so eminent a degree? There have been men wise, and virtuous and loving; but in him were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [Note: Col_2:3.]; and he was not only virtuous, but virtue itself incarnate; and as for his love, its heights and depths can never be explored [Note: Eph_3:18-19.]. Indeed, whatever excellence has at any time beamed forth in the creature, it has been nothing but a ray reflected from this Sun of Righteousness [Note: 1Co_4:7.]. We may ask yet further, Whose excellencies were ever so beneficial to us? Others indeed have profited us by their example; but He, by his obedience, has wrought out a righteousness for us; a righteousness wherein the vilest of sinners, if truly penitent, shall stand perfect and complete in the sight of God [Note: Rom_5:18-19.]. Let the contemptuous inquirer then blush for his ignorance; and acknowledge that our Beloved infinitely transcends every thing that can be put in competition with him.]
According to his excellencies must of necessity be,
The regard we owe him—
If we look to the example of the Bride, who well knew how to appreciate his worth, we shall see how we ought to manifest our affection towards him.
We should esteem him above every thing in the world—
[The Bride has used every simile that the most fertile imagination could suggest, in order to express her sense of his excellency [Note: Son_2:3 and in ten different particulars, 5:10–16.]. David esteemed nothing in heaven or earth in comparison of him [Note: Psa_73:25.]; and St. Paul counted all things but dung for the knowledge of him [Note: Php_3:8.]. And if we do not see a “beauty and comeliness in him for which he is to be desired” infinitely beyond every thing else, our eyes must be altogether blinded by the god of this world. Let us then despise every thing in comparison of him, and take him as our portion, our all in all.]
We should be exceeding careful that we do not grieve him—
[In this also the Bride affords us an excellent example. Frequently does she repeat her tender concern lest by any means he should be provoked to depart from her [Note: Son_2:7; Son_3:5; Son_8:4.]. Such a holy caution also should we continually maintain. He is a holy and jealous God, and will not endure our neglects without manifesting his displeasure [Note: Isa_45:15.]. The Bride herself, notwithstanding her care in general, experienced the loss of his presence, when she became remiss [Note: Son_5:3-6.]. And thus will he also hide himself from us, if by our unwatchfulness we grieve his Holy Spirit. Let us then “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” Let us “look to him as our Guardian Angel, and beware of him, and obey his voice, and carefully abstain from every species of provocation [Note: Exo_23:20-21.].”]
If at any time we have lost a sense of his presence, we should by all possible means immediately exert ourselves to regain it—
[With what contrition did the Bride arise! How did her very soul faint within her, when she found he was departed! With what earnestness did she call after him! How did she instantly inquire after him, applying to those who from their office and character were best fitted to direct her! How did she persist, notwithstanding all the discouragements she met with! And what a solemn charge did she give to her fellow-saints to intercede for her [Note: See each distinct step exemplified: Son_5:5-8.]! Such should be our conduct under the hidings of his face. We should not sit down in despondency, but labour with more abundant diligence to obtain renewed expressions of his love and favour [Note: Hos_5:15.].]
If he vouchsafe to visit us again, we should feel ourselves completely happy in him, and yield up ourselves entirely to his will—
[No sooner were the Bride’s endeavours crowned with success, than she redoubled her efforts to retain and enjoy him [Note: Son_3:2-4.], and earnestly sought to be most intimately, and inseparably united to him [Note: Son_8:1-2; Son_8:6.]. Thus should we seek to “abide in him, and to have him abiding in us [Note: Joh_15:4.].” We should “cleave to him with full purpose of heart,” and, in the possession of his love, our souls should find all that they can desire [Note: 2Co_6:10.]. Thrice happy they who are thus influenced by their views of Christ! Their “labour shall never be in vain.” They shall enjoy the greatest, the only real good, the light of his countenance [Note: Psa_4:6.]; and though in a little wrath he may hide his face from them, it shall be only for a moment, and with everlasting kindness will he have mercy on them [Note: Isa_54:8.].]
It may now be allowed us, not merely to exhort, but to “charge,” you all—
[In the name of Almighty God, we “charge” you all to love the Saviour. If the love which Believers bear to him constrains them to be singular, let it be remembered, that the blame of singularity does not rest on them: as they can “give a reason for the hope that is in them,” so can they also for their love to the Saviour. His transcendent excellencies demand their supreme regard. If they love him with all their heart and soul and mind and strength, it is no more than their bounden duty; yea, their most fervent affections fall infinitely short of his desert. Let all then set their love on Jesus. Let them search out his excellencies, till they are ravished with the sight, and let them “cast their idols to the moles and to the bats.” Nor let any be ashamed to confess him before men. It is a small matter to bear the taunts of an ignorant and ungodly world. One hour’s enjoyment of Christ’s presence will more than counterbalance an age of man’s contempt; and if on earth, how much more in heaven! Dare then to be singular. Shine, Believers, as becomes your relation to the heavenly Bridegroom. Be “the fairest among women,” as your Beloved is among men [Note: Psa_45:2-13.]; and let your union with him be discovered by your conformity to his image.]