Here is, I. The enquiry which the daughters of Jerusalem made concerning Christ, Song 6:1. They still continue their high thoughts of the church, and call her, as before, the fairest among women; for true sanctity is true beauty. And now they raise their thoughts higher concerning Christ: Whither has thy beloved gone, that we may seek him with thee? This would be but an indecent, unacceptable, compliment, if the song were not to be understood spiritually; for love is jealous of a rival, would monopolize the beloved, and cares not that others should join in seeking him; but those that truly love Christ are desirous that others should love him too, and be joined to him; nay, the greatest instance of duty and respect that the church’s children can show to their mother is to join with her in seeking Christ. The daughters of Jerusalem, who had asked (Song 5:9), What is thy beloved more than another beloved? wondering that the spouse should be so passionately in love with him, are now of another mind, and are themselves in love with him; for, 1. The spouse had described him, and shown them his excellencies and perfections; and therefore, though they have not seen him, yet, believing, they love him. Those that undervalue Christ do so because they do not know him; when God, by his word and Spirit, discovers him to the soul, with that ray of light the fire of love to him will be kindled. 2. The spouse had expressed her own love to him, her rest in that love, and triumphed in it: This is my beloved; and that flame in her breast scattered sparks into theirs. As sinful lusts, when they break out, defile many, so the pious zeal of some may provoke many, 2 Cor. 9:2. 3. The spouse had bespoken their help in seeking her beloved (Song 5:8); but now they beg hers, for they perceive that now the cloud she had been under began to scatter, and the sky to clear up, and, while she was describing her beloved to them, she herself retrieved her comfort in him. Drooping Christians would find benefit themselves by talking of Christ, as well as do good to others. Now here, (1.) They enquire concerning him, “Wither has thy beloved gone? which may must we steer our course in pursuit of him?” Note, Those that are made acquainted with the excellencies of Christ, and the comfort of an interest in him, cannot but be inquisitive after him and desirous to know where they may meet with him. (2.) They offer their service to the spouse to accompany her in quest of him: We will seek him with thee. Those that would find Christ must seek him, seek him early, seek him diligently; and it is best seeking Christ in concert, to join with those that are seeking him. We must seek for communion with Christ in communion with saints. We know whither our beloved has gone; he has gone to heaven, to his Father, and our Father. He took care to send us notice of it, that we might know how to direct to him, John 20:17. We must by faith see him there, and by prayer seek him there, with boldness enter into the holiest, and herein must join with the generation of those that seek him (Ps. 24:6), even with all that in every place call upon him, 1 Cor. 1:2. We must pray with and for others.
II. The answer which the spouse gave to this enquiry, Song 6:2, 3. Now she complains not any more, as she had done (Song 5:6), “He is gone, he is gone,” that she knew not where to find him, or doubted she had lost him for ever; no,
1. Now she knows very well where he is (Song 6:2): “My beloved is not to be found in the streets of the city, and the crowd and noise that are there; there I have in vain looked for him” (as his parents sought him among their kindred and acquaintance, and found him not); “but he has gone down to his garden, a place of privacy and retirement.” The more we withdraw from the hurry of the world the more likely we are to have acquaintance with Christ, who took his disciples into a garden, there to be witnesses of the agonies of his love. Christ’s church is a garden enclosed, and separated from the open common of the world; it is his garden, which he has planted as he did the garden of Eden, which he takes care of, and delights in. Though he had gone up to the paradise above, yet he comes down to his garden on earth; it lies low, but he condescends to visit it, and wonderful condescension it is. Will God in very deed dwell with man upon the earth? Those that would find Christ may expect to meet with him in his garden the church, for there he records his name (Exod. 20:24); they must attend upon him in the ordinances which he has instituted, the word, sacraments, and prayer, wherein he will be with us always, even to the end of the world. The spouse here refers to what Christ had said (Song 5:1), I have come into my garden. It is as if she had said, “What a fool was I to fret and fatigue myself in seeking him where he was not, when he himself had told me where he was!” Words of direction and comfort are often out of the way when we have occasion to use them, till the blessed Spirit brings them to our remembrance, and then we wonder how we overlooked them. Christ has told us that he would come into his garden; thither therefore we must go to seek him. The beds, and smaller gardens, in this greater, are the particular churches, the synagogues of God in the land (Ps. 84:8); the spices and lilies are particular believers, the planting of the Lord, and pleasant in his eyes. When Christ comes down to his church it is, (1.) To feed among the gardens, to feed his flock, which he feeds not, as other shepherds, in the open fields, but in his garden, so well are they provided for, Ps. 23:2. He comes to feed his friends, and entertain them; there you may not only find him, but find his table richly furnished, and a hearty welcome to it. He comes to feed himself, that is, to please himself with the products of his own grace in his people; for the Lord takes pleasure in those that fear him. He has many gardens, many particular churches of different sizes and shapes; but, while they are his, he feeds in them all, manifests himself among them, and is well pleased with them. (2.) To gather lilies, wherewith he is pleased to entertain and adorn himself. He picks the lilies one by one, and gathers them to himself; and there will be a general harvest of them at the great day, when he will send forth his angels, to gather all his lilies, that he may be for ever glorified and admired in them.
2. She is very confident of her own interest in him (Song 6:3): “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine; the relation is mutual, and the knot is tied, which cannot be loosed; for he feeds among the lilies, and my communion with him is a certain token of my interest in him.” She had said this before (Song 2:16); but, (1.) Here she repeats it as that which she resolved to abide by, and which she took an unspeakable pleasure and satisfaction in; she liked her choice too well to change. Our communion with God is very much maintained and kept up by the frequent renewing of our covenant with him and rejoicing in it. (2.) She had occasion to repeat it, for she had acted unkindly to her beloved, and, for her so doing, he had justly withdrawn himself from her, and therefore there was occasion to take fresh hold of the covenant, which continues firm between Christ and believes, notwithstanding their failings and his frowns, Ps. 89:30-35. “I have been careless and wanting in my duty, and yet I am my beloved’s;” for every transgression in the covenant does not throw us out of covenant. “He has justly hidden his face from me and denied me his comforts, and yet my beloved is mine;” for rebukes and chastenings are not only consistent with, but they flow from covenant-love. (3.) When we have not a full assurance of Christ’s love we must live by a faithful adherence to him. “Though I have not the sensible consolation I used to have, yet I will cleave to this, Christ is mine and I am his.” (4.) Though she had said the same before, yet now she inverts the order, and asserts her interest in her first: I am my beloved’s, entirely devoted and dedicated to him; and then her interest in him and in his grace: “My beloved is mine, and I am happy, truly happy in him.” If our own hearts can but witness for us that we are his, there is no room left to question his being ours; for the covenant never breaks on his side. (5.) It is now her comfort, as it was then, that he feeds among the lilies, that he takes delight in his people and converses freely with them, as we do with those with whom we feed; and therefore, though at present he be withdrawn, “I shall meet with him again. I shall yet praise him who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
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