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bridegroom, himself as the friend, and the Church as the bride (John iii. 29); in Matt. ix. 15, we find our Lord in the character of the bridegroom ; and in Rev. xxi. 2, the Church is represented as “a bride adorned for her husband.” In truth, it is unnecessary to advance any reasons for taking this book in a spiritual sense ; for, if it had not been so understood from the beginning, it never could have been admitted by the Jewish and Christian Churches into the canon of Scripture, from which, as we know, it has never been excluded. While, with respect to the general design, it only remains for me to add that, the union between Christ and the Church being represented figuratively, the union between Christ and the members of the Church is also intended to be typified.
That there is a close resemblance between the dealings of the Most High with His Church in general, and His conduct towards individuals, is plainly to be seen in other parts of Scripture. For instance, the sacred writers sometimes compare the whole body of believers to a temple built upon the foundation of Christ Jesus (Ephes. ii. 20); and at other times describe individual members as “temples of the Holy Ghost ” (1 Cor. vi. 19); sometimes they speak of the Church as “the bride, the Lamb's wife” (Rev. xxi. 9); while believers are said to be “ espoused” to the Lord (2 Cor. xi. 2). Our religion is thus clearly proved to be an individual or personal concern ; and therefore we must read the Scriptures with a sincere desire to apply to ourselves and our own besetting sins the general admonitions which they contain.
Keeping this important truth in view, let us now examine the passage, which is supposed by commentators to be the account of an occasion when the royal bride was separated from her husband, relating her efforts to recover him, her final success, and her anxious care not to be again deprived of his society. This is an allegory or figurative story; and as such, is considered typical of the struggles and victory of the Church, when in seasons of temptation God may seem to have forsaken it. According to the fair interpretation of Scripture (as I have stated), it is likewise considered to represent the efforts of a believer to be in holy communion with his God, who, either to punish his languor, or to rouse him into action, or to show forth his faith, may seem to be unmindful of him whom He has professed to love, and with whom He has promised to abide. In short, this account, which the spouse of Solomon has given of herselfof her efforts to be again united to her beloved-of the disappointing delays which she experienced-of the final success of her exertions—and of her great and stedfast desire to retain him when at length he was discovered, delineates with great precision the gradual workings of the believer's soul under all the varieties of religious experience. It first describes the cold and listless devotion, which prevails so
much amongst professed disciples. It then shows how and why immediate answer to our prayers is frequently denied. And, lastly, it teaches what effects should be produced upon the suppliant's heart and life by this salutary, but often disheartening delay in supplying his spiritual necessities. I earnestly entreat your attention ! Oh, hearken to a subject which relates to your everlasting peace ! And may God enable me by His sanctifying Spirit to give instruction, as well as comfort, to your souls !
Solomon's bride describes herself as at first seeking her beloved by night upon her bed. She sought him ; but, for our learning, it is added, that she “found him not.” Now, what is this intended to typify or represent ?-what ought we to learn from these words? Is it not a faithful picture of the cold, drowsy, heartless service which is rendered by many, who, when surveying the mercies poured forth from heaven for their benefit, profess, and are willing to persuade themselves, that their souls are · filled with love for the Author and Giver of all their signal blessings, because indeed they sometimes think upon these things; because they seek Him, i.e., seek communion with Him, “by night upon their beds," at those hours only when the world does not interfere,—when temporal pursuits are hushed, as it were, in sleep,—when their powers are wearied with other occupations, and their affections languid ; in fact, only at those "convenient
seasons” when no other business demands their care, and when objects more engrossing have been carefully attended to ? These words may also intimate that it is only in the hours of darkness-in the time of trouble and affliction—that the ungrateful sinner is inclined to seek his Saviour.
How often, alas ! is this the case! Do not our past lives bear convicting evidence that, when the pulse beats strong with health—when we are flushed with joy, and blessed with earthly comforts—when all our doings prosper here, and success appears to anticipate our wishes, we seldom feel the want of, or desire the consolations of religion? But, when the scene of life is somewhat changed,—when fortune frowns,—when friends forsake,—when sorrows overwhelm, and gloomy darkness settles on our homes, how eagerly does the thoughtless sinner turn to ask aid of that tender Being, whom it was his duty to have loved from the earliest hour of reason and recollection ! Surely we cannot wonder that, like Solomon, He is not to be found at once by those who are thus compelled to seek Him, and who seek so coldly. Nor can we murmur because the prayers of such lukewarm worshippers are rejected, though He, to whom they are addressed, delights to be entreated—though His ear “is not heavy that it cannot hear.”
But what more may we learn from these considerations ? How may this subject become practically use
to us? This rejection of our languid petitions,
and our unavailing prayer under such circumstances, should stimulate us to make increased exertion ; should cause us to “shake off dull sloth” in the service of God; should correct our lukewarmness ; should induce us, as it did the royal bride, to rise instantly—to leave off mere idle meditation—to go about the city—to inquire of the watchmen in the streets whether they can lead us to Him whom our souls love, and who, notwithstanding our indifference and languor, continues to love and defend His creatures.
Thus, if from her disappointment we plainly see the utter worthlessness of religion when cold and inactive, we have, from her good example of seeking him abroad and with renewed exertion, an illustration of the maxim, that none shall enter into life eternal except those who strive to gain admission.
But even further instruction may be drawn from this portion of the passage, of which every word seems to bear upon the subject. “I will rise now,” she said, “and go about the city ; in the streets, and in the broad-ways, I will seek him whom my soul loveth.” In imitation of her conduct, the Christian says, “I will make no long tarrying to seek the Lord whilst He may be found. I will turn to Him now, while the day of life lasts. I will not content myself with such feeble efforts as I hitherto have made. 'Tis true, I may have meditated much in private on Him whom my soul loveth: