God is not wont to say to the seed of Jacob, Seek you me in vain; and yet here we have the spouse for a great while seeking her beloved in vain, but finding him at last, to her unspeakable satisfaction. It was hard to the Old-Testament church to find Christ in the ceremonial law, and the types and figures which then were of good things to come. Long was the consolation of Israel looked for before it came. The watchman of that church gave little assistance to those who enquired after him; but at length Simeon had him in his arms whom his soul loved. It is applicable to the case of particular believers, who often walk in darkness a great while, but at even time it shall be light, and those that seek Christ to the end shall find him at length. Observe,
I. How the spouse sought him in vain upon her bed (Song 3:1); when she was up and looking about her, grace in act and exercise, though her beloved was withdrawn, yet she could see him at a distance (Song 2:8), but now it was otherwise. She still continued her affection to him, still it was he whom her soul loved, that bond of the covenant still continued firm. “Though he slay me, I will trust in him; though he leave me, I will love him. When I have him not in my arms, I have him in my heart.” But she wanted the communion she used to have with him, as David when he thirsted for God, for the living God. She sought him, but, 1. It was by night on her bed; it was late and lazy seeking. Her understanding was clouded; it was by night, in the dark. Her affections were chilled, it was on her bed half asleep. The wise virgins slumbered in the absence of the bridegroom. It was a dark time with the believer; she saw not her signs, and yet she sought them. Those whose souls love Jesus Christ will continue to seek him even in silence and solitude: their reins instruct them to do so, even in the night season. 2. She failed in her endeavour. Sometimes he is found of those that seek him not (Isa. 65:1), but here he is not found of one that sought him, either for punishment of her corruptions, her slothfulness and security (we miss of comfort because we do not seek it aright), or for the exercises of grace, her faith and patience, to try whether she will continue seeking. The woman of Canaan sought Christ, and found him not at first, that she might find him, at length, so much the more to her honour and comfort.
II. How she had sought him in vain abroad, Song 3:2. She had made trial of secret worship, and had gone through the duties of the closet, had remembered him on her bed and meditated on him in the night-watches (Ps. 63:6), but she did not meet with comfort. My sore ran in the night, and then I remembered God and was troubled, Ps. 77:2, 3. And yet she is not driven off by the disappointment from the use of further means; she resolves, “I will rise now; I will not lie here if I cannot find my beloved here, nor be content if he be withdrawn. I will rise now without delay, and seek him immediately, lest he withdraw further from me.” Those that would seek Christ so as to find him must lose no time. “I will rise out of a warm bed, and go out in a cold dark night, in quest of my beloved.” Those that see Christ must not startle at difficulties. “I will rise, and go about the city, the holy city, in the streets, and the broad-ways;” for she knew he was not to be found in any blind by-ways. We must seek in the city, in Jerusalem, which was a type of the gospel-church. The likeliest place to find Christ is in the temple (Luke 2:46), in the streets of the gospel-church, in holy ordinances, where the children of Zion pass and repass at all hours. She had a good purpose when she said, I will arise now, but the good performance was all in all. She arose, and sought him (those that are in pursuit of Christ, the knowledge of him and communion with him, must turn every stone, seek every where), and yet she found him not; she was still unsatisfied, uneasy, as Job, when he looked on all sides, but could not perceive any tokens of the divine favour (Job 23:8, 9), and the Psalmist often, when he complained that God hid his face from him, Ps. 88:14. We may be in the way of our duty and yet may miss the comfort, for the wind bloweth where it listeth. How heavy is the accent on this repeated complaint: I sought him, but I found him not! like that of Mary Magdalen, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him, John 20:13.
III. How she enquired of the watchmen concerning him, Song 3:3. In the night the watchmen go about the city, for the preservation of its peace and safety, to guide and assist the honest and quiet, as well as to be a check upon those that are disorderly; these met her in her walks, and she asked them if they could give her any tidings of her beloved. In the streets and broad-ways of Jerusalem she might meet with enough to divert her from her pursuit and to entertain her, though she could not meet her beloved; but she regards none in comparison with him. Gracious souls press through crowds of other delights and contentments in pursuit of Christ, whom they prefer before their chief joy. Mary Magdalen sees angels in the sepulchre, but that will not do unless she see Jesus. Saw you him whom my soul loveth? Note, We must evince the sincerity of our love to Christ by our solicitous enquiries after him. The children of the bride-chamber will mourn when the bridegroom is taken away (Matt. 9:15), especially for the sin which provoked him to withdraw; and, if we do so, we shall be in care to recover the sense of his favour and diligent and constant in the use of proper means in order thereunto. We must search the scriptures, be much in prayer, keep close to ordinances, and all with this upon our heart, Saw you him whom my soul loveth? Those only who have seen Christ themselves are likely to direct others to a sight of him. When the Greeks came to worship at the feast they applied to Philip, with such an address as this of the spouse to the watchmen, Sir, we would see Jesus, John 12:21.
IV. How she found him at last, Song 3:4. She passed from the watchmen as soon as she perceived they could give her no tidings of her beloved; she would not stay with them, because he was not among them, but went on seeking, for (as Ainsworth observes) the society neither of brethren, nor of the church, nor of ministers, can comfort the afflicted conscience unless Christ himself be apprehended by faith. But soon after she parted from the watchmen she found him whom she sought, and then called him him whom my soul loveth, with as much delight as before with desire. Note, Those that continue seeking Christ shall find him at last, and when perhaps they were almost ready to despair of finding him. See Ps. 42:7, 8; 77:9, 10; Isa. 54:7, 8. Disappointments must not drive us away from gracious pursuits. Hold out, faith and patience; the vision is for an appointed time, and, though the watchman can give us no account of it, at the end it shall itself speak and not lie; and the comfort that comes in after long waiting, in the use of means, will be so much the sweeter at last.
V. How close she kept to him when she had found him. She is now as much in fear of losing him as before she was in care to find him: I held him, held him fast, as the women, when they met with Christ after his resurrection, held him by the feet, and worshipped him, Matt. 28:9. “I would not let him go. Not only, I would never do any thing to provoke him to depart, but I would by faith and prayer prevail with him to stay, and by the exercise of grace preserve inward peace.” Those that know how hard comfort is come by, and how dearly it is bought, will be afraid of forfeiting it and playing it away, and will think nothing too much to do to keep it safe. Non minor est virtus quam quaerere parta tueri—As much is implied in securing our acquisitions as in making them. Those that have laid hold on wisdom must retain her, Prov. 3:18. Those that hold Christ fast in the arms of faith and love shall not let him go; he will abide with them.
VI. How desirous she was to make others acquainted with him: “I brought him to my mother’s house, that all my relations, all who are dear to me, might have the benefit of communion with him.” When Zaccheus found Christ, or rather was found of him, salvation came to his house, Luke 19:9. Wherever we find Christ we must take him home with us to our houses, especially to our hearts. The church is our mother, and we should be concerned for her interests, that she may have Christ present with her and be earnest in prayer for his presence with his people and ministers always. Those that enjoy the tokens of Christ’s favour to their own souls should desire that the church, and all religious assemblies in their public capacity, might likewise enjoy the tokens of his favour.
VII. What care she was in that no disturbance might be given him (Song 3:5); she repeats the charge she had before given (Song 2:7) to the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up or awake her love. When she had brought him into her mother’s house, among her sisters, she gives them a strict charge to keep all quiet and in good order, to be very observant of him, careful to please him, and afraid of offending him. The charge given to the church in the wilderness concerning the angel of the covenant, who was among them, explains this. Exod. 23:21; Beware of him and obey his voice; provoke him not. See that none of you stir out of your places, lest you disturb him, but with quietness work and mind your own business; make no noise; let all clamour and bitterness be put far from you, for that grieves the Holy Spirit of God, Eph. 4:30, 31. Some make this to be Christ’s charge to the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb or disquiet his church, nor trouble the minds of the disciples; for Christ is very tender of the peace of his church, and all the members of it, even the little ones; and those that trouble them shall bear their judgment, Gal. 5:10.