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connections of human life-husband and wife -parent and child-brother, and sister, and friend. All are beloved in God, when they are beloved for his sake; when all human affections are regulated by our regard to him.
"I am his." I am the object of his love. That God should be the object of a creature's love is most just and reasonable; but why should God delight himself in creatures? How wonderful that expression of the Lord, in the prophet' I will rejoice over her with singing!'
Is it enquired, How God and his elect come to have this propriety in each other? I reply, (1.) By mutual choice. I have loved thee,' saith the Lord, with an everlasting love, and • therefore with loving kindness have I drawn 'thee.' We love him, because he first loved ' us.'-(2.) By converting grace.‘I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.' They that are with the Lamb are called, and chosen, and faithful.'-(3.) By covenant engagement. 'One shall say I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.'(4.) By union of Spirit. Our first father said of his fair companion, She is bone of my bone, ' and flesh of my flesh:' but the relation of Christ and the church, as it is spiritual, is more intimate: He that is joined to the Lord is one 'spirit.'
He feedeth among the lilies:' that is, he feedeth in the best pastures; for in such lilies
appear to have grown spontaneously, like the wild flowers of our meadows. This expression was probably proverbial, and might be of similar import with a common proverb of our own. When we say familiarly, such an one is in clover, we mean that he is enjoying himself like cattle in rich pastures; in this view it would' imply that the beloved, comparing him to the antelope or the young hart, (as in the following verse) was wont to enjoy himself in the company of the bride, like the deer feeding among the lilies.
But as the expression is equivocal, and may be taken either actively or passively, it will signify either he feeds himself, or he feeds his flock: we may therefore, with R. SOL, JARCHI, understand it as synonimous with the expression of the Psalmist, He leadeth me into green pastures.'-Either sense will admit a useful application.
If the bridegroom be compared to the antelope, feeding among the lilies,' it will refer to the pleasure and delight the Lord takes in the company of his church. The same sentiment is more clearly expressed in other passages of this song-O how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!'
If the bridegroom be considered in his pastoral character, then it applies to the Lord's. gracious care and attention to his people. If this latter sense be preferred, perhaps the whole verse may bear this explanation: The Lord is my shepherd, and I am one of the
sheep of his pasture; I shall not want, for he 'will supply, not only the necessary supports; but even the comforts and luxuries, as it were, ' of the divine life.'
In the preceding scene the bridegroom has been supposed absent; at the nearest he was standing behind the wall, or shewing himself through the lattices. The spouse now desires his speedy return-with the swiftness of the antelope, or young hart', upon the craggy mountains'; and she implores his stay with her until the returning dawn3.
In improving this verse we may observe,
1. That the church, in her present state, is subject to the vicissitudes of day and night; i. e. alternate seasons of light and darkness,
'Thou wert swift, O Morar, as the roe on the desert.' Song of Selma, in Ossian's Poems.
Craggy mountains. Mountains of Bether,' say our translators and others, taking Bether for a proper name, but what place this was can only be conjectured. Most critics, therefore, prefer taking the word according to its radical idea, for mountains of division,' as in the margin of our Bibles; or rather divided, decussated, cleft, and craggy mountains. So the LXX. opy иoλwμαтwv, mountains of cavities. Buxtorf says, In montibus sectionis, i. e. fectis, disparatis.
The sense of this verse appears to be obscured by the poetical position of the words. Reduced to simple prose, the text would read, Return, my beloved, like an antelope or a young hart upon the craggy mountains; and remain with me until the day breathe, and the shades flee away.' Unless we chuse to give an unusual import to the particles wy, and render it Ere that the day breathe,' &c. i. e. return, my beloved, before the morning. The radical idea of Ty, which is perpetuity, might justify this; (so ere and ever are connected and confounded in our language) but I confess I want ex'amples.
prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow; and as it is with Christ's mystical body, so is it also with the individual members of which it is composed. The frames of the believer are various and changeable; often suddenly so: at one time joy, delight, and triumph in the Lord; at another, coldness, dejection, and distress now the brightness of an unclouded day; anon the darkness of a moonless night.
2. In such seasons of darkness and affliction the absence of the Redeemer is sensibly felt, and his return to be ardently desired. If this night be applied to the Jewish state, under that dispensation the pious believers longed earnestly for the dawn of the gospel day, when the Sun of righteousness was to arise and chase the darkness and the gloom of that shadowy dispensation. If we apply it to the present state, and look forward to the future life, as an everlasting day of intelligence and joy, we know how indispensable the presence of our divine Shepherd is to carry us comfortably, or even safely, through this valley of the shadow of death.
3. The return of this divine Saviour is the only rational way in which we can look for returning light and joy.
The night may be illuminated by ten thou sand torches, but still darkness reigns around; or it may be softened by the pale moon-beams and the twinkling stars, yet is it still night; nei, ther of these can chase the shadows of the night, and bring the dawn,
The beautiful imagery here employed merits farther observation: until the day breathe', and the shadows flee.' The dawn of day in countries bordering the sea is constantly accompanied by fresh breezes from the water, which, in the east, particularly, are considered as equally salubrious and delightful; and to these the prophet has been thought to allude when he says, the Sun of righteous'ness will arise with healing under his wings"." Thus indeed he arose, and at his rising the prophetic Spirit, that heavenly wind,' also awoke, and gave health and healing, both literally and spiritually, to the nations among whom he arose.
What was the state of the world when Christ came?' Darkness covered the earth, ' and gross darkness the people;' but when he arose, he came, as it were, on the wings of the morning, and the shadows fled away. doctrine dispelled the clouds of ignorance, which had been raised by Jewish priests and Gentile philosophers; and his example exhibited a bright and shining light,' which has already illuminated more than half the world,
Until the day break'-(mw) according to the He'brew text,' says Dr. Gill, until the day breathe."Until the day blow fresh,' says Bp. Percy; who adds, In those hot countries the dawn of the day is attended with a fine refreshing breeze, much more grateful and desirable than the return of light itself.'
2 See the Christian's Elegant Repository, p. 33.