Another title is here given to the Church. It proclaims her royal descent, and her relationship to the King of kings. By nature she is the offspring of lowest degradation--the child of wrath--the heir of never-ending woe. But through abundant grace--through the overflowing plenitude of divine love, she is born again. A new nature is infused. She is translated from the powers of darkness into the family of God; and is taught in filial truth to cry, 'Abba, Father'.
What wondrous love! It surpasses the power of human thought. It exceeds the highest terms of praise. But let the truth be not ignored, because it is so wondrous. That we may duly regard it, and deduce from it comfort and strength, it is repeatedly enforced.
In this new creation the Eternal Spirit is the glorious agent. No lesser power could suffice--no mightier power could heaven supply. The same agency is employed which raised the lifeless Jesus from the tomb. The new creation is accomplished by the working of that arm of omnipotence, which set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, "far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named; not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."
Believers thus born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides for ever, are regarded as even now sitting together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. They live as heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. They may at all times realize their high exaltation. They have heard the cry, "Come out from the world and be separate." They have received the assurance, "I will receive you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
As such the Church is invested with heavenly beauty. The objects which are pre-eminent for loveliness are selected to exhibit her charms. The passage before us is replete with allegorical similitudes. They give rich feast to contemplation. They invite the mind to indulge in thoughts of the exquisite beauty of the human form.
It would be long exercise to deduce minute instruction, and to reap the abundant harvest which every part might easily present. Let it here suffice, generally to say, that the Church is portrayed as lovely with all loveliness--as beauteous in all beauty--as graceful in all graces--as charming in each charm--as attractive in every attraction--as arrayed with apparel befitting her royal state--as worthy of her Father's house--as exciting by perfect formation the Bridegroom's admiring love.
"The king is held captive in your queenly tresses." He admires, and stands enchained in contemplation of His beloved. Let this passage fill us with grateful joy. We should indeed be thankful for such transporting revelations. Let us be ever studious of the sacred page. Its gracious design is to win us to more constant gaze on Jesus. Blessed effects always follow. As we behold, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. As the rays of the sun ripen earth's fruits, so warmth from His contemplation will cause our graces to expand. Let us live, looking unto Jesus, until we shall see Him face to face.
7:6-9. "Oh, how delightful you are, my beloved; how pleasant for utter delight! You are tall and slim like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters of dates. I said, 'I will climb up into the palm tree and take hold of its branches.' Now may your breasts be like grape clusters, and the scent of your breath like apples. May your kisses be as exciting as the best wine, smooth and sweet, flowing gently over lips and teeth."
In general terms the Church's loveliness is again set forth. High gratitude is due, that faith is thus strengthened, and encouragement to repose on Christ's love is quickened. Doubts and fears can retain no place before the bright beams of these assurances. Let us treasure them up in our hearts, and draw refreshment from their repeated exhibitions. Firm will he stand--joyful will he march onward, who cherishes the blessed thought, "I am dear to the heart of Jesus"--and whose happy mind can revel in the truth, "Oh, how delightful you are, my beloved; how pleasant for utter delight!"
From this general assurance Christ in His super-abounding grace proceeds to specify particular features of beauty and distinction. We are bid to go forth and mark the objects, which in the gardens and the orchards and the plantations, most captivate our eyes. The beauty here seen is specified as depicting the Church's grace. Behold the stately palm-tree. Its waving boughs are laden with abundant dates. Enter the vineyard. The vine presents its wide-spreading branches. They are enriched with clusters of luscious fruit. Approach, also, the orchard. What objects can be more enchanting to the sight, than apples of various form and hue and fragrance! As we behold--as we admire, we are taught in them the wondrous lesson–thus precious is the Church in the Redeemer's sight.
But let us not forget the truth, that all this beauty is derived from His love, and is the work of His adorning hand. In themselves, Christ's people are all deformity and loathsomeness. By nature they have no loveliness or grace. But vile appearance has disappeared--beauty in exchange has been most largely given. Their native look was the result of sin--that hideous monster, which defaced creation's fair form, and turned man's heart into the abode of vileness and filth.
But where are the believer's sins? Far as the east is from the west Christ has removed them. Deep in the ocean of His redeeming merits He has buried them. Behind God's back they are forever cast. Christ's blood has been sprinkled over them, and they are whiter than the whitest snow. Omniscience may search--but it must search in vain. No more can they be brought to sight. No spot--no wrinkle--no defect--no blemish--no fault--no shortcoming can be discovered. "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If the absence of everything ungraceful constitutes grace, how lovely is the Church in Christ's esteem!
But there is not only the absence of everything which can displease--there is the presence of all that can enrapture. Not only is the 'old man' destroyed--the 'new man' is raised up, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Likeness to the Elder Brother is inwrought. Is Christ lovely? So, also, is the Church. The righteousness of Christ is spread around her, as the garment of salvation, and the robe fit for heaven's court. With rapturous gratitude we hear the assurance, "Oh, how delightful you are, my beloved; how pleasant for utter delight!"
7:10. "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is towards me."
Faith sings aloud on the highest pinnacles of joy, when it sets forth Christ's love. It is delight thus to trace the various claims which He presents to the possession of His Church. May we approach the view with eyes uplifted for enlightening grace; and may every discovery give strength and peace!
What can He not do, or bear, who in undoubting confidence can say, "I am my Beloved's." Is the creature the property of the Creator? Does the Maker claim His work as His undisputed possession? Thus Christ, as the eternal Creator, has right to every faculty and power of our minds and bodies. Of His own sovereign will He called us from nothing into present being--from the dust of the earth He gave us living bodies, and into these bodies, by His Spirit, He breathed the breath of life. No right have we to regard ourselves in any sense as our own property. At every moment the enquiry should be, "Lord, what will You have me to do?"
It is sad robbery to use in others' service the bodies, the minds, the powers, which are Christ's. Happy the soul that says, 'I am Christ's by creation'. It is happier to add, 'I am His by redemption'. We had sold ourselves into an enemy's hand. Another Lord had obtained dominion over us. Fetters enchained our every faculty. We lived as slaves in a tyrant's foul cell. But Christ appears omnipotent to rescue. In vain the powers of darkness strain their utmost. He hurls the potentate of evil from his wrongful throne. He shatters to atoms his tyrannic scepter. He tramples beneath all-conquering feet his vaunted legion. He says to each of His own beloved children, 'Come forth to holy liberty'. Happy the soul which thus feels, "I am my Beloved's. He has delivered me from the tyrant's yoke." Shame--shame on those, who would return to do service to that tyrant from whom they have been so marvelously rescued.
But believers, moreover, by their evil ways were deeply in God's debt. They had robbed Him whom they were bound to serve. They had defrauded Him of all due allegiance. Justice demanded, that they should pay to the uttermost their every debt. Christ appears. He asks, 'What is the demand'. The answer is most clear. The transgressor is doomed to everlasting death; but substitutionary endurance and payment is allowed. Christ replies, "Behold Me. My Deity gives infinitude to My every act. On the Cross I make complete satisfaction." Justice requires no more. Happy the soul that feels, I am my Beloved's. He has bought me by an all-sufficient and infinite price. Shall the redeemed by Christ's blood return to renewed robbery of God. Forbid it every grateful heart. Forbid it every pious resolve. Forbid it every holy feeling.
The believer realizes, also, that he is Christ's by his own voluntary surrender. He has listened in the pages of the Word to His inviting calls. He has heard His loving voice. He has been made willing in the day of Christ's power. Heavenly love has melted the obduracy of the rocky heart. It has turned the enmity into abounding love. It has prompted the cry, 'Now to be Yours, and only Yours, I come, dear Lord, I come'. Happy the soul which thus can realize, 'I am my Beloved's by my own free choice, by my willing surrender'.
Let not the vows thus pledged to the Lord ever wax weak! Can it be, that Christ will be indifferent to the property thus given Him by His Father's love, and won by His own efforts! Who will not desire to hold possession of His own? Thus faith advances to the transporting thought, "His desire is towards me." This desire cannot be frustrated. It secures possession for time and for eternity.
7:11-13. "Come, my beloved, let us go out into the fields and spend the night in the villages. Let us get up early and go out to the vineyards. Let us see whether the vines have budded, whether the blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates are in flower. And there I will give you my love. There the mandrakes give forth their fragrance, and the rarest fruits are at our doors, the new as well as old, for I have stored them up for you, my beloved."
Rural scenes excite pure joys. It is sweet in spiritual frame to traverse the meadows and the groves. Objects on all sides present similitudes of Christ. To cultivate this taste is to make walks on earth assimilate to walks in heaven.
An invitation here meets us to go forth into the country. There is some doubt from whose lips this call proceeds. Is Christ the speaker, or the Church? We cannot go far astray, if we join together both voices. Thus mutual communion will be obtained. In Scripture, reciprocal expressions are frequently interwoven.
The first word here gives proof. "Come" is a tender call from JESUS to His people. He would not have them stand apart. He desires them to clasp Him to their very heart. "Come unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Blessed is it to reply, 'I come, dear Lord, I come'.
Frequently, also, is this call uttered from the BELIEVER'S heart. The absence of his Beloved is a miserable existence. He follows Him with invitations to come in and occupy each portion of his heart, and never more to leave him for a moment. And longing for the heavenly home, and for the eternal joys, he cries, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."
The believer desires His Lord's presence in all places--not only in the haunts of crowded cities, but in the comparative loneliness of fields and villages. Without Him every place is an empty wilderness. With Him every place is as Eden's fair garden.
There is toil for the believer in the crowded streets--there is work, also, for him in the quiet villages--there is work at home--there is work abroad--but that work may prosper, Jesus must grant His presence. "If Your presence does not go with me, take me not up hence."
There must be no delay in thus seeking mutual work. "Let us get up early and go out to the vineyards." Christ shines as an example. A great while before day He went forth to commune with His God.
But to what place should these early visits be especially directed? To the spots where fruits of righteousness abound. Christ's desire is to mark the progress which believers make in the work of holiness. He sows good seed. His delight is to see how this good seed responds in abundant crops. Oh! let Him never find us as fruitless gardens, or as barren trees. May the sad doom be far from us, "Cut it down, why cumbers it the ground."
There is a sweet promise here to the fruitful vineyard. "There will I give you My love." There will I make all My goodness pass before you. There will I reveal your name inscribed upon My heart. There will I enliven you with fresh discoveries, and renewed assurances. Abundant promises are given of rich supplies. There is much fragrance in the flowers--there is a rich meal in the abundant fruits. The produce of preceding days is stored for time of need, and fresh blooms give promise that fruitfulness shall continue.
Thus we have the Scripture's invitation, "Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink--even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk--it's all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!" In this Word are fruits new and old in store for all who joy in their relish.