That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
~ 1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:7
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
~ John 14:20-23, John 17:11, John 17:3, John 17:21, Colossians 1:13, 1 Thessalonians 1:10
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Philippians 2:1, Philippians 3:10, Hebrews 3:14, 1 John 5:10-11
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
~ 2 Corinthians 13:14
Consequential Affections from Communion with Christ, by John Owen. The following is an except from his work, “Communion with God”, Chapter 4.
The communion having begun between Christ and the soul, it is carried on by consequential affections, affections suiting such a relationship. Christ, having given himself to the soul, loves the soul; and the soul, having given itself to Christ, loves him also. Christ loves his own. He “loves them to the end,” John 13:1; and the saints love Christ. They “love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” Eph. 6:24.
Now the love of Christ, with which he follows his saints, consists in these four things: I. Delight. II. Valuation. III. Pity or compassion. IV. Bounty. The love of the saints to Christ comes under these four things: Delight; Valuation; Chastity; and Duty. Two of these are of the same kind, and two of them are distinct. That is what is required in this relationship in which all things do not stand on equal terms.
I. The first thing on the part of Christ is Delight.
Delight is the flowing of love and joy, the rest and complacence of the mind in a suitable, desirable good that is enjoyed. Christ delights exceedingly in his saints: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so will your God rejoice over you,” Isa. 62:5. Hence, he calls the day of his espousals, the day of the “gladness of his heart,” Cant. 3:11. It is known that usually this is the most unmixed delight that the sons of men are made partakers of in their pilgrimage. The delight of the bridegroom in the day of his espousals is the greatest height that an expression of delight can be carried to. In Christ, this corresponds to the relationship that he takes us into. His heart is glad in us, without sorrow. And every day while we live is his wedding-day. It is said of him, Zeph. 3:17, “The Lord your God in the midst of you” (that is, dwelling among us and taking our nature, John 1:14) “is mighty. He will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will rest in his love. He will joy over you with singing.” This is a full description of delight in all its parts, joy and exultation, rest and complacence. “I rejoiced,” says he, “in the habitable parts of the earth, and my delights were with the sons of men,” Prov. 8:31. The thoughts of communion with the saints were the joy of his heart from eternity.
A compact and agreement existed between his Father and him to have him divide a portion with the strong and save a remnant for his inheritance. His soul rejoiced in thoughts of the pleasure and delight he would take in them, when he would actually bring them into communion with himself. Therefore, in the preceding verse (8:30) it is said he was as “‘amon.” We say, “As one brought up with him,” “alumnus;” the LXX render it “harmodzousa,” and the Latin, with most other translations, “cuncta componens,” or “disponens.” The word, taken actively, signifies one whom another takes into his care to bring up, and has things disposed of for his advantage. This is how Christ took us then into his care, and rejoiced in thoughts of the execution of his trust. Concerning them he says, “Here will I dwell, and here will I make my habitation forever.” He has chosen them for his temple and his dwelling-place, because he delights in them. This makes him take them so close to himself in every relationship. As he is God, they are his temple. As he is a king, they are his subjects; he is the king of saints. As he is a head, they are his body; he is the head of the church. As he is a first-born, he makes them his brethren; “he is not ashamed to call them brethren,” Heb.2:11.
I choose this one instance to prove this: Christ reveals his secrets, his mind, to his saints, and he enables them to reveal the secrets of their hearts to him. This is an evident demonstration of great delight. It was Samson’s carnal delight in Delilah that prevailed with him to reveal to her what was of greatest concern to him. He would not hide his mind from her, even though it cost him his life. It is only a heart friend to whom we will open our heart. Nor is there, possibly, greater evidence of delight in close communion than this: we will reveal our heart to the one we take into society; we will not entertain him with things that are common and vulgarly known. And therefore have I chosen this instance, from among a thousand that might be given, of this delight of Christ in his saints.
He communicates his mind to his saints, and to them only. He communicates the counsel of his love, the thoughts and purposes of his heart for our eternal good. He communicates the ways of his grace, the workings of his Spirit, the rule of his scepter, and the obedience of his gospel. All spiritual revelation is by Christ. He is “the true Light that lights every man that comes into the world,” John 1:9. He is the “Day-spring,” the “Day-star,” and the “Sun”; it is impossible for any light to exist but by him. It is from him that “the secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he shows them his covenant,” Ps. 25:14. As he expresses it at large in John 15:14-15, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you. Henceforth I do not call you servants; for the servant does not know what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” He makes them his friends, and uses them as friends, as heart friends, in whom he is delighted. He makes known his entire mind to them, everything that his Father has committed to him to reveal as Mediator, Acts 20:24. And the apostle declares how this is done, 1 Cor. 2:10, 11, “God has revealed these things to us by his Spirit; for we have received him, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God.” He sends us his Spirit as he promised, to make known his mind to his saints, and to lead them into all truth. And from this the apostle concludes, “We have known the mind of Christ,” verse l6; “for he uses us as friends, and declares it to us,” John 1:18. There is nothing in the heart of Christ that concerns his friends, that he does not reveal to them. All his love, his good-will, the secrets of his covenant, the paths of obedience, and the mystery of faith, is told to them.
And all this is spoken in opposition to unbelievers, with whom he has no communion. These know nothing of the mind of Christ that they ought to know: “The natural man does not receive the things that are of God,” 1 Cor. 2:14. There is a wide difference between understanding the doctrine of the Scripture in the letter of it, and truly knowing the mind of Christ. We have this understanding by special unction from Christ, 1 John 2:27, “We have an unction from the Holy One, and we know all things,” 1 John 2:20.
In this communion, the things that Christ reveals to those in whom he delights are under two headings: 1. Himself 2. His kingdom.
1. Himself. John 14:21, “He that loves me will be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” He is saying, “I will manifest myself in all my graces, desirability, and loveliness; he will know me as I am, and such I will be to him: a Savior, Redeemer, the chief of ten thousand.” He will be acquainted with the true worth and value of the pearl of price. Should others look at him as having neither form nor attractiveness, and being in no way desirable, he will manifest himself and his excellence to those in whom he is delighted. They will see him as altogether lovely. He will veil himself to all the world, but the saints will behold his beauty and his glory with open face. They will be translated into the image of that same glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor. 3:18.
2. His kingdom. They will be acquainted with the government of his Spirit in their hearts. They will also be acquainted with his rule and the administration of authority in his word and among his churches.
(1.) Thus, he manifests his delight in his saints. He communicates his secrets to them. He lets them know his person, his excellence, his grace, his love, his kingdom, his will, the riches of his goodness, and the bowels of his mercy. He does so more and more, while the world will not see or know any such thing.
(2.) He enables his saints to communicate their mind and reveal their souls to him, so that they may walk together as intimate friends. Christ knows the minds of all. He knows what is in man, and does not need any man to testify of him, John 2:25. He searches the hearts and tries the reins of all, Rev. 2:23. But all do not know how to communicate their mind to Christ. It will not comfort a man that Christ knows his mind; for he knows everyone’s mind, whether they want him to or not. But it is consoling that a man can make his heart known to Christ. Hence the prayers of the saints are incense, aromatic. While those of others are like howling, cutting off a dog’s neck, or offering swine’s blood. They are an abomination to the Lord. Now, three things are required to enable a man to communicate his heart to the Lord Jesus:
(1.) Assistance for the work, for we cannot do it ourselves. And the saints have this assistance by the Spirit of Jesus. “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. And he that searches the heart knows the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God,” Rom. 8:26, 27. All attempts to have communion with God without the supplies of the Spirit, without his effectual working in our hearts, are of no value or purpose. This opening of our hearts to the Lord Jesus is what he exceedingly delights in. And from this comes that affectionate call of his to us, to encounter him in this way. Cant. 2:14, “O my dove, who is in the secret places of the stairs, let me see your countenance, let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is attractive.” When the soul for some reason is driven to hide itself, neglected, in the most unlikely place, then he calls for this communication of the soul by prayer to him. In return, he gives the assistance of the Spirit of supplication.
(2.) A way by which to approach God with our desires. He has also provided this for us. John 14:5, 6, “Thomas says to Jesus, Lord, we know not where you go; and how can we know the way? Jesus says to him, I am the way; no man comes to the Father, but by me.” The way we had to go to God at our creation is quite closed by sin. The sword of the law, enflamed by sin, turns every way to block all passages to communion with God (Gen.3:24). Jesus Christ has “consecrated a new and living way” (for the saints) “through the veil, that is to say, his flesh,” Heb. 10:20. He has consecrated and set it apart for believers, and for them alone. Others pretend to go to God with their prayers, but they do not come close to him. How can they possibly come to the end when they do not go in the way? Christ is the only way to the throne of grace; none comes to God but by him. “By him we have an access in one Spirit to the Father,” Eph. 2:18. The saints have these two things, then, to open their hearts at the throne of grace. They have assistance and a way. The assistance of the Spirit (without which they are nothing), and the way of Christ’s mediation (without which God is not to be approached).
(3.) Boldness to go to God. The voice of sinners in themselves, if acquainted with the terror of the Lord, asks, “Who among us will dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us will dwell with everlasting burnings?” Isa. 33:14. And no wonder! Shame and trembling before God are the proper consequences of sin. God will revenge that carnal, atheistic boldness which sinners outside of Christ use towards him. But now we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way that he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh: and having a high priest over the house of God, we may draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith,” Heb. 10:19, 20. The truth is, such is the glory and terror of the Lord, and such is the infinite perfection of his holiness, that upon clearly seeing it, the soul concludes that it cannot serve him itself. There is no advantage in drawing close to him, except to add to the fierceness of our destruction. It is in Christ alone, because of his offering and intercession, that we have any boldness to approach to him.
The Lord Christ has provided these three advantages to the saints, in communicating their minds to him, because he delights in them. And because this is of great importance, I will give an example so that you may see the difference between spiritually revealing our minds to Christ in this acceptable manner, and praying only when convicted of sin, which others practice. The example I will give is from the assistance we have by the Spirit.
1st. The Spirit of Christ reveals our own wants to us, so that we may reveal them to him: “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought,” Rom. 8:26. No teachings inferior to those of the Spirit of God are able to acquaint the soul with its own wants, burdens, and temptations. It is a heavenly discovery to know them. The prayer of someone who has this assistance is more than half made before he begins to pray. His conscience is affected by what he has to do. His mind and spirit contend within him, especially where he finds himself most straitened. He brings his burden on his shoulders, and unloads it on the Lord Christ. He finds where he is dead, dull, cold, unbelieving, and tempted beyond his strength, where the light of God’s countenance is wanting. He does not do this because of some troubling conviction, but because of a holy sense and weariness of sin. And the soul has a sense of all these by the Spirit, an inexpressible sense and experience. Without this, prayer is not prayer. Men’s voices may be heard, but they do not speak from their hearts. The sense of want is the spring of desire. Without this sense, given by the Holy Spirit, there is neither desire nor prayer.
2dly. The expressions and words of such wanting people may come far short of the laboring of their hearts. Therefore, in and after their supplications “the Spirit makes intercession with sighs and groans that cannot be uttered.” Other’s words may go far beyond their hearts. It would be well if their spirits matched their expressions. Someone who has this assistance of the Spirit can provide no clothing broad enough to cover the desires of his heart. And so, in his best and most fervent supplications, he is doubly dissatisfied with them: 1. They are not a righteousness he can rest on; if God marked what was amiss in them, they could not withstand the trial. 2. His heart is not poured out in them; they were not delivered in proportion to the holy desires and labors they expressed, even though in Christ he may be greatly refreshed by them. The more he speaks, the more he finds he has left unspoken.
3dly. The intercession of the saints, thus assisted, is according to the mind of God. That is, the saints are guided by the Spirit to make requests for those things which it is God’s will for them to desire, which he knows are good for them, and which are useful and suited to them in their current condition. There are many ways by which we may know when we make our supplications according to the will of God. I will give an example of one. It is when we ask according to the promise. When our prayers are regulated by the promise, we make them according to the will of God. So David prayed in Ps. 119:49, “Remember the word on which you have caused me to hope.” He prays, and regulates his desire by the word of promise in which he trusted. But men may ask for what is in the promise, and yet not have their prayers regulated by it. They may pray for what is in the promise, but not as it is in the promise. So James says, some “ask and receive not, because they ask amiss, so that they may spend it on their lusts,” chap. 4:3. Although we may request the things that God would have us request, if we do not request them in the way and for the purpose he desires, then we ask amiss.
Two things are required to pray for the things in the promise, as they are in the promise:
(1st.) We must look at them as promised in Christ. That is, the only reason we have to hope for attaining the things we ask for, is the mediation and purchase of Christ in whom all the promises are found. This is what it means to ask the Father in Christ’s name. God is the father, the fountain of what we ask for, and Christ is the procurer.
(2dly.) We must ask for them for the purpose of the promise, not to spend on our lusts. When we ask pardon for sin, while secretly intending in our hearts to continue in sin, we are asking for the choicest mercy of the covenant only to spend it on our lusts. The apostle tells us the purpose of the promise in 2Cor. 7:1, “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” When we ask what is in the promise, as it is in the promise, for this purpose of the promise, then our supplications are according to the will of God.
This is the first conjugal affection that Christ exercises towards believers. He delights in them, which is evident from the example given. In return, to carry on the communion between them, the saints delight in Christ. He is their joy, their crown, their rejoicing, their life, food, health, strength, desire, righteousness, salvation, and blessedness. Without him they have nothing; in him they will find all things. Gal. 6:14, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” From the foundation of the world, he has been the hope, expectation, desire, and delight of all believers. The promise of Christ was all that God needed to give Adam to relieve and comfort him in his inexpressible distress, Gen. 3:15. Eve perhaps thought that the promised seed was her first- born when she said, “I have gotten a man from the LORD” and this was the basis of her joy, Gen. 4:1. Noah was given to Lamech as a type of Christ and means of salvation, for which Lamech cries out, “This same one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground that the LORD cursed,” Gen. 5:29. He was rejoicing in the one who would take away the curse by being made a curse for us. When Abraham was in the height of his glory, returning from the conquest of the kings of the east, God appears to him with a glorious promise. Gen. 15:1, “Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward.” What could his soul desire more than that? Alas! He cries what Reuben later cries upon the loss of Joseph, “The child is not, and where will I go?” Verse 2, “Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless?” “You have promised that in my seed all the earth will be blessed. If I do not have that seed, Ah! What good will all other things do me?” For this reason it is said that he “rejoiced to see the day of Christ; he saw it, and was glad,” John 8:56. The thought of the coming of Christ, which he looked on at the distance of two thousand years, was the joy and delight of his heart. In blessing his sons, Jacob lifted up his spirit when he came to Judah in whom he considered the Shiloh to come, Gen. 49:8, 9. A little afterward, wearied by the forethought and consideration of his posterity’s distress, he turns to the great delight of his soul for relief: “I have waited for your Salvation, O God.” He waited for the one who was to be the salvation of his people. Such examples are endless. Old Simeon sums up the whole of it: Christ is God’s salvation, and Israel’s glory, Luke 2:30, 31. Whatever was called the glory of old, was either Christ himself or a type of him. The glory of man is their delight. Hence, in Haggai 2:7 he is called “The Desire of all nations.” They desire and long after the one whom their soul loves and delights in. The saints’ delight in him is made his eminent description. Mal. 3:1: “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight.” “He whom you seek, in whom you delight,” is the description of Christ. He is their delight and the person they desire.
In the pattern of communion with Jesus Christ described in the Canticles, this delight is insisted on abundantly. The spouse tells us that she sits down under his shadow with great delight, Cant. 2:3. And she manifests that this delight is vigorous and active in several ways. We should labor to find our hearts likewise delighted in him:
1. She took great care to keep his company and society once she obtained it. Cant. 2:7, “I charge you, O you daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, do not stir nor awake my love till he pleases.” Having obtained sweet communion with Christ, as described in the preceding verses, here she expresses her delight in that communion and her desire to continue it. Therefore, following on the former allusion, she speaks as one would to her companion, someone at rest with the one she loved. “I charge you by all that is dear to you, by the things you most delight in, things that are most lovely among the creatures, all the pleasant and desirable things that you can think of, that you do not disturb him.” Her entire aim and desire is that nothing of sin or provocation may happen to cause Christ to depart from her. She wants nothing to remove him from that arrangement in which he seemed to take rest in her: “O do not stir my love until he pleases!” that is, never. Love itself, in the abstract, is represented here by “ha’ahavah,” (OT:160). That word is often used to express a “pathos,” or earnest affection. Once a believer’s soul has obtained sweet and real communion with Christ, it looks around, watching out for any temptation, any way by which sin might approach to disturb his enjoyment of his dear Lord and Savior, his rest and his desire. It charges itself not to omit anything, or do anything, that may interrupt the communion that has been obtained! Temptations commonly enter through delightful diversions from actual communion with Christ. They tend to disturb that rest and contentment which Christ takes in us. Therefore, our strong and active desire is that our companions do not divert us by their proposals or allurements into any frame that Christ cannot delight or rest in. A believer who has Christ in his arms is like someone who has found great spoils, or a pearl of great price. He looks around in every direction, fearing anything that may deprive him of it. Riches make men watchful. Sensing the actual possession of Christ, in whom all the riches and treasure of God are found, will make men look around to ensure keeping him. The line of choicest communion is the line of greatest spiritual desire: carelessness in the pretended enjoyment of Christ, is manifest evidence of a false heart.
2. The spouse manifests her delight in him by her utmost impatience at his absence. She desires still nearer communion with him. Chap. 8:6, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm: for love is as strong as death; jealousy is as cruel as the grave, its coals are coals of fire with a most vehement flame.” The allusion is doubtless from the high priest of the Jews, in his spiritual representation of the church before God. He had a breastplate which he is said to wear on his heart, Ex.28:29. In it, the names of the children of Israel were engraved in the manner of seals or signets. He wore them for a memorial before the Lord. He had the same on his shoulders or arms, Ex. 28:11-12. Both represented the priesthood of Christ who bears the names of all who belong to him before his Father in the “holy of holies,” Heb. 9:24. The seal on the heart is near. It is inward, tender love and care, which makes an impression and an image on the heart of the thing that is so loved. The spouse is saying “Set me as a seal upon your heart. Let me be constantly fixed in your most tender and affectionate love. Let me always have a place in your heart. Let me have an engraving, a mighty impression of love upon your heart that will never be obliterated.” The soul is never satisfied with thoughts of Christ’s love for it. Its language is, “O that it were more, that it were more! That I were as a seal on his heart!” The soul knows on serious thoughts that the love of Christ is inconceivable, and cannot be increased. But it would devise a way to work up itself to understanding it. And therefore she adds here, “Set me as a seal upon your arm.” The heart is the fountain, but it is closed and hidden. The arm is for manifesting and exercising power. Says the spouse, “Let your love be manifested to me in your tender and powerful persuasion of me.” Two things are evident in this request. First, Christ’s continuing mindfulness of the soul: its condition is still in his eye, and engraved on his arm, Isa. 49:15, 16. He exalts his power to preserve it, which is suitable to the love his heart has for it. Second, Christ’s manifestation of his hidden love and care for the soul: it is being made visible on his arm, or becoming evident by its fruit. This is what she wants to be assured of. Without this sense of assurance, no rest can be obtained.
The reason she gives for her earnest supplication, is what principally evinces her delight in him: “Love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave,” or “hard as hell” Cant.8:6; (OT:7186 hard; 7585 sheol). This is the intent of the loftily presented metaphors in this and the following verses: “I am not able to bear the expressions of my love to you, unless I may always have society and fellowship with you. There is no satisfying my love without it. It is like the grave that still says give, give. Death is not satisfied without its prey. If it does not have its whole desire, it has nothing at all. Nor can it be withstood in its appointed season; no ransom will be accepted. That is how my love is. If I do not have you wholly, then I have nothing. Nor can the entire world bribe or divert my love. It can no more be turned aside than death can in its time. Also, I am not able to bear my jealous thoughts: I fear you do not love me, that you have forsaken me, because I know I do not deserve to be loved. These thoughts are hard as hell; they give my soul no rest. If I do not find myself on your heart and arm, then I am like someone who lies down on a bed of coals” (OT:7565 “a live coal”). This argues a holy greediness of delight.
3. She further manifests this delight by her anxiety, concern, and agitation at his loss and withdrawal. We bewail the loss of someone we delight in, but easily bear the absence of someone whose presence does not delight. Her state is revealed in Cant. 3:1-3, “Twisting on my bed, I sought the one whom my soul loves. I sought him, but did not find him. I will rise now, and go about the city. In the streets and the broadways I will seek the one whom my soul loves. I sought him, but did not find him. The watchmen that go about the city found me. I said to them, ‘Have you seen the one my soul loves?’” With the soul, it is night during times of darkness, trouble, or affliction. Whenever Christ is absent, it is night for a believer. Christ is the sun. If his light goes down for them, if his beams are eclipsed, if in his light they see no light, then it is all darkness for them. Whether the coming night of trouble made her discover Christ’s absence, or the absence of Christ made it night for her, is not expressed here. I rather think the latter, because, setting that aside, all things seem to be well with her. The absence of Christ will indeed make it night, dark as darkness itself, even in the midst of all other glowing consolations. But is the spouse content with this dispensation? She is upon her bed, that is, a bed of ease (as this book uses the phrase). But in the absence of Christ, a believer finds no peace, no opportunity for ease and rest. Though he is on his bed, having nothing to disquiet him, he does not rest if Christ, who is his rest, is not there. She “sought him.” Seeking Christ by night on the bed means alone, in immediate inquest, and in the dark. This has two parts: searching our own souls for the cause of his absence; and secondly, searching the promises for his presence.
(1.) The soul longs to have Christ warming, cherishing, and reviving it with love, being close to it, supping with it, always filling its thoughts with himself, dropping myrrh and sweet tastes of love into it. When, on the contrary, other thoughts crowd in and trouble the heart, and Christ is not close when the soul seeks him, it quickly inquires into the cause of all this. It calls itself to account for what it has done, and how it has behaved, to cause Christ to withdraw himself. Here it accomplishes a diligent search. It considers the love, tenderness, and kindness of the Lord Jesus, and what delight he takes in abiding with his saints. And so his departure is not without cause and provocation. “How,” it asks, “have I demeaned myself, that I have lost my Beloved? Where have I been wandering after other lovers?” And when the miscarriage is found out, the soul abounds in revenge and indignation.
(2.) Having driven this to some point, the soul then applies itself to the promises of the covenant in which Christ is most graciously exhibited. It considers one and then ponders another to find a taste of him. It considers diligently whether it can see the delightful countenance and favour of Christ in them or not. But now, as it often happens, the soul may find nothing but the carcass, the bare letter in the promise. If the soul comes to this discovery, as it might come to the empty grave of Christ, it may be said “He is risen, he is not here.” The soul is amazed and does not know what to do. It is like a man who has a jewel of great price with no occasion to use it. He lays it aside in what he supposes is a safe place. In agony and extreme want he may seek his jewel.
If he does not find it in the place he expected, he will be filled with amazement. He does not know what to do. So it is with this pearl of the gospel. After a man has sold all that he has for it, and enjoyed it for a season, to have it missing in a time of need must necessarily perplex him. So it was with the spouse here. “I sought him,” she says, “but I did not find him.” This is a thing that sometimes happens to us in our communion with Christ.
But what does she now do? Does she give up and search no more? No! She says, verse 2, “‘I will arise;’ I will not give over. I must have Christ or die. I will now arise,” (or, ‘let me arise,’) “and go about this business.”
(1.) She resolves to pursue another course than her previous one, a more vigorous inquest: “I will arise and make use of means other than those of private prayer, meditation, self-searching, and inquiring into the promises,” This course carries two things with it,
1st. Resolution, and a zealous, violent throwing off of the frame in which she lost her love. “‘I will arise;’ I will not rest in this frame. I am lost if I do.” So, sometimes God calls his church to arise and shake itself out of the dust. Do not abide in that condition.
2dly. Diligence. “I will now take another course; I will leave no way unattempted, no means untried, by which I may possibly recover communion with my Beloved.”
This is the condition of a soul that does not find the wanted presence of Christ in its private and more retired inquiries. It is dull in prayer, wandering in meditations, rare in thoughts of him. “I will not bear this frame: I will, in his strength, vigorously pursue whatever way God has appointed until this frame is altered and I find my Beloved.”
(2.) Then there is the path she puts herself on as she goes about the city. Not to strain the allegory too far, the city intended here is the city of God, the church. Passing through the broad and narrow streets is the diligent inquiry that the spouse makes in all the paths and ordinances that are given to the church. This is the next thing the soul addresses itself to in the absence of Christ: when it does not find him in any private endeavours, it vigorously applies to the ordinances of public worship. It looks after Christ in prayer, preaching, and administration of the seals. Indeed, the great inquiry believers make in every ordinance is in pursuit of Christ. The more they find of him, the more sweetness and refreshment they have, and no more. Especially when deserted, they are motivated to inquire after him. They listen to every word, every prayer, to find if anything of Christ appears in them: any light, life, or love from him. “Oh, that Christ would meet me at length in this or that sermon, and restore my poor heart to some sight of his love, to some taste of his kindness!” The anxiety of a believer is inexpressible when he does not find Christ’s former presence, whether for grace or consolation. The frame of such a heart is couched in the redoubling of the expression, “I sought him, I sought him” (Cant.3:1). It presents an inconceivable passion, and a suitably industrious desire. Being disappointed at home in her search, the spouse proceeds into the city.
Yet notice this also: “She sought him, but did not find him.” It sometimes happens that nothing will help. “They will seek him, and not find him” (Prov.1:28). They will not come close to him. Those who enjoy anything of the presence of Christ should take heed what they do. If they provoke Christ to depart, if they lose him, it may cost them many a bitter inquiry before they find him again. They may pray and meditate and search the promises in private. They may heed all ordinances in public with earnestness and diligence. It is a sad condition when a soul does all this just to get one glimpse of the face of Jesus Christ, and it is all in vain.
What now follows this set of affairs? Verse 3, “The watchmen found me…” These watchmen of the city of God are the watchmen and officers of the church. It is a sad commentary that the Holy Spirit sometimes takes unkind notice of them in this book. Plainly, in 5:7 they turn persecutors. It was Luther’s saying, “Nunquam periclitatur religio nisi inter reverendissimos.” “Never risk things religious unless you are among the reverent.” Here they have a gentler temper. Seeing the poor disconsolate soul, they seem to take notice of her condition.
It is the duty of faithful watchmen to take notice of poor, troubled, and deserted souls. They are not to keep at a distance, but be willing to assist. Someone who is truly pressed because of Christ’s absence cannot cover her love. She must inquire after him: “Have you seen the one whom my soul loves?” “This is my condition: I have had sweet enjoyment of my blessed Jesus, but he is now withdrawn from me. Can you help me? Can you guide me to my consolation? Are you acquainted with him? When did you see him? How did he seem to you?” All these exertions in his absence are sufficient to reveal the soul’s delight in the presence of Christ. Go one step further, to her rediscovery of him, and this delight will be even more evident. Verses 4, 5, “It was but a little while after I passed them, that I found the one whom my soul loves: I held him and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of the one who conceived me. I charge you, O you daughters of Jerusalem…”
First, she tells us “She found him.” By what ways and means is not expressed. This often happens in our communion with Christ. When private and public means fail, and the soul can do nothing but wait silently and walk humbly, Christ appears, to evidence his grace. Let us not give up when we are in this condition. When all ways are past, and the summer and harvest are gone without relief, when neither bed nor watchmen can assist, let us wait a little, and we will see the Salvation of God. Sometimes Christ honours his immediate and absolute actings with his presence. Though ordinarily he crowns his ordinances, Christ often manifests himself immediately, apart from his ordinances, to those who wait for him in them. Whether he will manifest himself to those who despise those ordinances, I do not know. Though he will meet men unexpectedly in his way, yet he will not meet them at all outside of it. Let us wait as he has appointed. Let him appear as he pleases. How she deals with him when found is neatly declared: “She held him, and would not let him go…” These are all expressions of the greatest joy and delight imaginable.
The sum is this: having at length come once more to enjoy sweet communion with Christ, the soul lays fast hold on him by faith. “Kratein,” (OT:270, NT:2722) “to hold fast,” is an act of faith. It refuses to part with him any more. In vehement love, it tries to keep him in ordinances in its mother’s house, the church of God. And so it uses all means to confirm the mutual love between Christ and her. All the expressions and all the allusions that are used, evidence the utmost capacity of the soul to delight in him. What is it that the saints long for, and that they rejoice in? What is it that completely satisfies them, and that gives sweet contentment to their spirits, in every condition? Whose loss do they fear, and whose absence can they not bear? Is it not their Beloved, and he alone?
They further manifest this by their delight in everything that uniquely belongs to Christ in this world. For his sake, in whom we delight, we also delight in everything that belongs to him. Christ’s great interest in this world lies in his people and his ordinances, his household and their provision. Now the saints exceedingly delight in both of these for his sake. Take an example in both these kinds of delight in one man, namely, David. “In the saints and the excellent” (or noble) “of the earth is all my delight; my delight is in them,” Ps. 16:3. Christ says of his church that she is “Hephzibah,” Isa. 62:4, “My delight is in her.” Here, David says the same, “Hephzibah, “My delight is in them.” As Christ delights in his saints, so do they delight in one another, on his account. “Here,” says David, “is all my delight.” Whatever contentment he took in anyone else, it was nothing in comparison to the delight he took in the people of God. Hence, mention is made of “laying down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn.3:16), or doing so for any common cause in which the interest of the community of the brethren lies. As for the ordinances, consider David again. Psalms 42, 48, and 84 are replete with testimonies of his delight in them.
This is the first consequential act of conjugal affection in this communion between Christ and believers. He delights in them, and they delight in him. He delights in their prosperity; he takes pleasure in it. They delight in his honour and glory, and in his presence with them. For his sake, they delight in his servants (even though they are condemned by the world) as the most excellent and noble in the world. And they delight in his ordinances, which are foolishness to the world, as the wisdom of God.