« AnteriorContinua »
AVING in the preliminary essays endeavoured to lead the reader into the true nature and design of this book, and the principles on which I conceive it ought to be explained, the object of this commentary is to apply those principles, as a key to open and expound the book.
I have given my reasons for considering this poem as an allegory-a sacred allegory describing the relation and communion between God, in the person of Christ, and his true church, or those individual believers of which the church is composed. It may be proper to enlarge a little on this general idea before we enter on the explanation of the song itself.
I have said that God is the Husband of his church, and have shewn that this idea pervades the scriptures of both testaments. In the Old Testament it is the Lord JEHOVAH who is thus described and represented as rejoicing over his church as a bridegroom rejoiceth over his bride;' this character we have seen the ancient Jews applied to the MESSIAHthe MESSIAH applied it to himself—and the writers of the New Testament frequently represent him under the same character, and the church of God, as the Bride, the LAMB's wife.' Now as JEHOVAH our God is one JEHOVAH;'
and as Christ Jesus is the only head and husband of the church, we have here an argument for his divinity, that he is one with the Father, as well as with the church, and therefore properly and emphatically called 'JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.' Indeed, I consider it as one of the most solid arguments on this topic, that though the sacred writers are always careful to distinguish between God and the highest creatures, and will not suffer an angel or a seraph to compare himself with Deity; yet in speaking of God and Christ, they frequently leave it in doubt which is particularly intended -often use the terms as convertible and synonimous-and never betray the least fear lest, in consequence, too much honour or respect should be paid to the latter. On the On the contrary, our Lord himself teaches us that all men 'should honour the Son as they honour the Father; and that he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father;' a serious hint to those persons who seem to think that the honour of the Father cannot be secured but by the degradation of the Son.
The characters of bridegroom and bride, husband and spouse, imply the following relative ideas:
1. Government and obedience:
He is thy LORD, and worship thou him.' Whatever evasions our fair companions may invent to vindicate their supposed equality with their husbands, they can have no place here. It is past a doubt that Christ is the sole head, and supreme governor of his church- and that he
claims absolute and unconditional submission and obedience. Nor can there be any thing painful in the idea to a believer, when it is considered that the object claiming this respect is perfect in wisdom and goodness, as well as power; and therefore can only employ his authority to the happiness and advantage of his people.
2. These relations imply protection and reliance. The husband is the natural and legal guardian of his spouse; to whom she is in all cases intitled to look for support and defence. The Lord has promised in all circumstances to be the defender of his people; and they are authorized in every situation to look up to him as their protector- a very present help ' in time of trouble.'
3. These relations imply reciprocal affection and attachment. Thus Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might pre'sent it to himself a glorious church, not hav'ing spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but ' that it should be holy and without blemish in 'his sight'.' On the other hand the Lord demands the supreme and entire affection of his church. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God ' with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. The warmest conjugal affection, however it may exceed our love to the Redeemer, is but a faint image of his love to us. 4. They imply the most intimate union
and communion superior to that of every other relation; for it is said, 'A man shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh:' The apostle Paul applies this spiritually. This is
a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.' Jesus the Son of God, left the bosom of his Father in the mansions of eternal glory, and demonstrated his infinite affection by dying for his church upon the cross.
5. Marriage induces a common property between the parties; thus, in a spiritual sense, whatever is ours, whether health or wealth, or life itself, is certainly the Lord's: and so on the other hand, it is our unspeakable privilege, that, whatever belongs to Christ in his mediatorial character, as the head and husband of the church is also our's. Thus runs the inventory of the believer. All things are yours: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come all are your's; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.'
6. These relations imply permanency and fidelity; for the love of this state should not be transient nor changeable; but durable as life itself. Such is the love of Christ; eternal, because he is eternal: such is the love of believers; immortal, because they are immortal. And Who shall separate us from the love of • Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or 'sword? Nay: in all these things we are