The Church Compared to the Moon
William Nicholson, 1862
"She is fair as the Moon." Song of Songs 6:10
Nothing on earth is so precious to the Infinite Mind as his Church. Her beauty, her glory, etc., are exhibited in the sacred oracles, by the most striking figures, among which is that of the text.
The moon is a secondary planet which attends on the earth, to give light by night. Its beauty and splendor have ever been admired; and its communications of light have ever been appreciated. Hence the comparison in the text. The state of the Church is indicated by the text, as all expositors agree.
The Church may be compared to the moon in the following respects:
I. The moon is a beautiful and glorious object, and inspires the beholders of it with admiration.
So the Church of Christ even in this world is a beautiful and glorious object.
The operations of Divine grace have made her fair. She is fair when compared with the wicked — fair in the estimation of angels, who behold her with admiration and rapture, Ephesians 3:10; fair in the estimation of Christ, who thus addresses her, "You are all fair, my love, there is no spot in you." Songs 4:7 "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation. He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels!" Isaiah 61:10
This was not formerly the case; for each member of it was vile and wicked. There was no light, no moral beauty in the soul. But saints are redeemed from spiritual bondage, they are saved from guilt and condemnation — they are regenerated by the Spirit of God — they have now, in some good degree, the fruits of the Spirit felt in their hearts, and exemplified in their conduct. In their associated capacity, believers are united in the bonds of holy love — they strive together for the faith of the Gospel — they are the salt of the earth; the lights of the world. What a beautiful object is the Church of God when its members reflect the glory of him who has created them to "good works"!
II. The moon receives her light from the sun.
So the Church receives all her light and glory from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. The sun gives light, but receives none; the moon both receives light and gives light. So Christ, as God, has light in himself; but as Mediator, he has his light from the Father, to communicate it to his Church, that the Church may give light to the world.
The Church has received from him the light of Divine Revelation — the development and accomplishment of the plan of salvation — all her moral and spiritual beauty — adoption into the family of Heaven, and all those glorious privileges flowing from fellowship with himself — also a title to Heaven, a fitness for it, and the hope that anticipates it. "And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD!" Ezekiel 16:14
III. The moon gives light to the world during the night.
So it is by the Church that God sends forth his light and his truth for the benefit of the nations of the earth that sit in darkness and have no light. And as the moon shall emit its light while time shall last — so the Church of Christ will, instrumentally, diffuse the light of the Gospel, until the kingdoms of this world, etc.
Consider the darkness that exists in the world — of heathenism, of superstition, of Popery, etc. Who has a heart to feel, and a hand to help? None but the Church of God. The "gross darkness" which covers the people, God has determined to disperse — and that by the instrumentality of his Church; by her pastors, her evangelists, her missionaries, and by all the means with which Heaven has blessed her.
All the predictions referring to the latter-day glory, are to be fulfilled by the instrumentality of God's Church. "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel," etc.
IV. The moon, though very fair and bright — yet has its spots. So the Church, though pure and holy, has sometimes her spots of sin. No saint is without blemishes. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." 1 John 1:8. "Pray, therefore, lest you enter into temptation."
V. The moon has its various aspects. Sometimes in the full, sometimes in the wane. Now it shines gloriously — then that glory greatly decreases. Yet still it is the same moon, and is not then destitute of the sunbeams, though it may appear so to our sight.
"The Church," says an old divine, "is like the moon, which sometimes shines wholly, being enlightened with the sunbeams, and sometimes deprived of a great part of its light." Now the Church shines most gloriously — and then is so obscured that she hardly appears at all. The Church has its eclipses, like the moon, and is in darkness for a time.
Sometimes the Church has been eclipsed, or obscured, by persecution, and driven by it into the wilderness. Revelation 12:6. Ecclesiastical history furnishes much information on this subject.
But the Church, like the moon, has always emerged from its obscurity, to shine with its usual splendor, and to diffuse in the world the light of truth and vital religion.
Sometimes afflictions cloud the Church — and temptations — and sin — and other trials; for believers are often "in heaviness through manifold temptations."
Lastly. The moon is not so bright as the sun; for it derives its light from it; but the period will come when God's Church shall be "Clear as the Sun" — yes, more pure and bright.
The Church here, in its best state, is but fair as the moon, which . . .
shines with a borrowed light,
and is subject to changes,
and has its spots.
When it is perfected in the kingdom of glory, it will be as clear as the sun — the Church shall be clothed with the Sun, with Christ the Sun of Righteousness — they shall be as the Sun when he goes forth in his might. Judges 5:31. They shall shine in inexpressible glory; and that which is perfect shall then come, and there shall be no sin, no darkness, no spots! "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted." Isaiah 30:26
1. Seeing that Christ is the only source of light and glory, pray with David, "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD!" Psalm 4:6
2. The most eminent Christians have cause for humility — like the moon, they have their spots. Apply to Christ for healing. Malachi 4:2.
3. Labor to shine as lights of the world, that benighted men may be guided into the way of peace, etc. Matthew 5:16.
4. Be comforted notwithstanding your changes, spots, etc. The enemy may as soon change the laws of the moon, as destroy God's Church.
5. What will be the end of those who would, if possible, pull the moon, the Church, from her orbit, and who despise the Sun, from whom she receives all her brightness and happiness!