Jesus in His Garden
James Smith, 1865
"My Beloved is gone down into His garden, to the beds of spices; to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies." Song of Solomon 6:2
Solomon's Song reveals the Lord Jesus Christ as the Beloved, and sets forth his love to his people, and his communion with them. To the truly spiritual mind, who has a knowledge of Eastern customs and manners, it is one of the most precious books in all the Scriptures; and we find that just in proportion to our spirituality — do we enter into and enjoy this inspired portion of Gods Word. From the power that has attended it, the sweetness found in it, and the effect produced on the affections by it — some of us have concluded that, if any book contains full and satisfactory internal evidence of divine inspiration — it is this. But the carnal man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. And the carnal-minded believer has but little sympathy with the contents of this most blessed and precious portion of God's most holy Word.
The Church had lost the presence of her Beloved, and she could find no substitute for Him; her restlessness awakens attention, and excites the inquiry, "What is your beloved more than another beloved?" She endeavors to describe Him — but fails; therefore she exclaims, "He is the chief among ten thousand! Yes, he is altogether lovely!" And adds, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem."
This brings out the inquiry, "Where has your
beloved gone, most beautiful of women? Which way did your beloved turn —
that we may look for him with you?" Our text is her reply: "My beloved is
gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens,
and to gather lilies."
Observe the Savior's TITLE, "My Beloved." Every believer loves Jesus, and loves him supremely. He is the Beloved, not a beloved. He stands above all others, and is loved above all others. Every believer loves Jesus sincerely, loves Him with the heart — with the whole heart. Every believer loves Him supremely — above and beyond all others. His language is, "Whom have I in heaven but You; and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You!"
Believers love Jesus — because of his loveliness. When the Spirit reveals Him to them, He appears divinely sweet and glorious. All the glorious perfections of God, and all the amiable excellencies of man, are seen in Him; and the language of Watts is expressive of the view the soul has of Him —
"All over glorious is my Lord,
Must be beloved and yet adored.
His worth if all the nations knew;
Sure the whole earth would love Him too!"
Believers love Jesus — because He is worthy. Whatever can commend Him to the understanding, or endear Him to the affections — is found in Jesus. Many sigh and suffer from setting their affections upon an unworthy object — not so the believer. Jesus is worthy of our highest, holiest, and warmest love!
Believers love Jesus — because He is related to us. He is at once our Father, Brother, Friend, and Bridegroom. What would be monstrous in a natural sense — is right, lovely, prudent, and glorious, in a spiritual sense. We are espoused to Him, our affections are set upon Him, we long to see Him, and hope to spend an eternity with Him! What an eternity will that be! An eternity of love, holiness, happiness, and indescribable splendor!
"We love Him — because He first loved us." But for this, we would never have loved Him. Because He first loved us — He taught us our need of himself, revealed himself to us, shed abroad his love in our hearts — and thus won our affections for himself. Oh, to love Jesus more! To love Him right heartily, and to love Him without one moment's intermission!
"None among the sons of men,
None among the heavenly train,
Can with Jesus Christ compare;
None so sweet, and none so fair!"
: "He is gone down
into his garden." His paradise is above — but He has a garden
below. This garden is his church — the whole body of his elect, who believe
in his adorable name. These are separated from the world — by an act
of sovereign grace, and the exercise of omnipotent power. They are
enclosed — by his promises, providence, and presence.
For He is a wall of fire round around them, and the glory in the midst of
them. They are cultivated by his ministers, Word, and Spirit — that
they may blossom for his delight, and bring forth fruit for his glory.
Notice the Savior's RESORT
They are beautiful in his eyes. Nothing so beautiful. Hence He exclaims, "You are beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah; as lovely as Jerusalem. Turn away your eyes from me — for they have overcome me. You have ravished my heart — my sister, my spouse!" What language for Jesus to use toward such worms as we are. It is this that stumbles the carnal — for they cannot understand it. But it fills the bride of Christ with admiration and grateful love. Here are the heights, the depths, the lengths, and the breadths of the love of Christ, which passes knowledge.
As separated for Him, enclosed and cultivated by Him — they are not only beautiful — but fruitful; they bring forth fruit to his Father's glory, and to His own satisfaction and delight.
The church is the Lord's garden — a garden . . .
purchased with his precious blood,
planted by his skillful hand, and
valued by Him more than all the world!
This is the treasure He found hid in the field of this world, which He hid, went and sold all that He had, and purchased the field. Now He claims the world as his own; but his church is "his peculiar treasure."
He comes down into his garden, which is at present low in a low place. His coming down into his garden — indicates her condition and His condescension. He visits his poor, despised, and persecuted people. He visits them not merely from pity — but love. He is always with them — but in a special manner when they appear as a garden.
"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I." "He is gone down to the beds of spices." To meet with the little companies of believers, which He compares to spice-beds. Every Christian is a spice-plant, and these spice-plants grow in beds. The world sees not their beauty — for it is spiritually discerned. The world smells not their fragrance — for it is spiritually inhaled.
These plants are rare — none has them but Jesus; nowhere can they be found but in his church. They are fragrant — and their perfume is drawn forth by Jesus, as the Sun of Righteousness, and wafted upward by the Spirit's influence, as the south wind. To Jesus, there is fragrance in the persons, graces, services, and sacrifices of his people; especially in their prayers and praises.
"The prayers and praises of the saints,
Like precious odors sweet,
Ascend and spread a rich perfume
Around the mercy-seat.
When God inclines the heart to pray,
He has an ear to hear;
To Him there's music in a groan,
And beauty in a tear."
Mark the Savior's OBJECT."To feed in the gardens." To feed, delight, and find satisfaction in his people. Never did mother delight herself in her first-born child — as Jesus delights himself in his people. Never did gardener delight himself in his rare, costly, and excellent plants — as Jesus does in his people. Hence He speaks of them and calls them, "The excellent of the earth — in whom is all my delight." And He speaks to them and says, "You shall be called, Hephzibah — my delight is in her."
But He comes not only to refresh, satisfy, and delight himself — but to feed them. This He does with his Word, his ordinances, the operations of his Holy Spirit, and the manifestation of himself. Oh, how it refreshes, revives, satisfies, and delights the soul — when Jesus walks in his garden, among the beds of spices; or, without the figure, when He manifests himself unto us as He does not unto the world.
He not only comes to feed — but "to gather lilies." Another figure to represent his saints. Every saint is a lily — not a nettle, or a thorn, or a poisonous weed. Oh, no; but a beautiful, fragrant, useful, ornamental lily. They may be lilies among thorns sometimes, that is, when in the world; but they are arranged and beautiful when in the church. Jesus plants, waters, watches, enjoys, and preserves his lilies — and in his own time comes to gather them. He will allow no one to gather his lilies, but himself.
He has the keys of death and hades. He opens — and no man shuts. He shuts — and no man opens. He comes and severs soul from body, removes his lily plant out of the reach of frosts, nipping winds, and the crude hands of man. He places it in his bosom, presents it to his Father — and preserves it in blossom and beauty before his throne forever! How gently He gathers them oftentimes. How wisely He removes them, before the storm descends. How carefully He takes them to his Father's house. Of many it may be said, as it was written of one —
"Dismissed to glory — with a kiss of love,
He bade the lagging moments swifter roll;
Death was to him as harmless as a dove,
While floods of glory overwhelmed his soul.
Not plucked but gathered by the hand of love,
As tender fruit or fragrant lilies are;
Transplanted to the paradise above,
To blossom in eternal glory there!"
Sometimes Jesus comes into his garden specially to plant — this is what his church needs now. Oh, Savior, come and plant Your garden with many fruit-bearing trees, who shall bring forth the fruits of righteousness, to the praise and glory of God! Come and plant in Your spice-beds, many rows of young spice-plants — take them from our congregations, from our Sunday schools, from our families, and from our neighborhoods, and let the whole earth be perfumed with their fragrance!
Sometimes Jesus comes to prune and water. Oh! how much pruning we need, and how sharp the pruning knife He finds it necessary to employ! How often we need watering by his hand — how dry our soil, and how withered our appearance! Oh, Savior! You have said of your garden, "I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it!" O Lord, water my soul. Water the souls of your people abundantly, that they may revive as the grain, grow as the vine, and spread forth their roots and branched as the cedars. May we, from sweet experience and inward evidence of its truth, often sing —
"Each moment watered by Your care,
And fenced with power divine;
Fruit to eternal life shall bear,
The feeblest plant of Thine."
Sometimes Jesus comes to gather and take his people home to his Father. He has said, "I will come and receive you to myself — that where I am, there you may be also." Though spoken of his second advent, it is true of his removing us by death. He comes for us, He wisely gathers us, He safely transports us to a milder and healthier climate.
O my soul, Jesus is daily coming down into his garden to gather his lilies; He will soon come and gather you — are you ready? Oh, to be full of fragrance, that the sick-room may be filled with the fragrance! Jesus! Savior! kindly preserve and supply me now, and gently gather me with your own loving hand at last, to the praise of your glory!
"My best Beloved keeps his throne,
On hills of light in worlds unknown;
But He descends and shows his face,
In the young gardens of his grace.
"In vineyards planted by his hand,
Where fruitful trees in order stand,
He feeds among the spicy beds,
Where lilies show their spotless heads.
"Oh, may my spirit daily rise,
On wings of faith above the skies,
Until death shall make my last remove,
To dwell forever with my love."