The Savior's Complaint
James Smith, 1860
"O you who dwell in the gardens, your companions have been listening to your voice — now cause me to hear it." Song of Songs 8:13
It is possible to be more taken up with religion than with Christ. It is possible to be so zealous for doctrines or ordinances, or some of the externals of religion — as to leave little time, or energy, or inclination, for secret, close, or intimate communion with Jesus.
Attention to outward forms may at times weaken the power of religion. Of this we should be jealous. Even our fellowship with the saints, may interfere with our fellowship with Christ. Of this the Bridegroom of our souls complains. Let us listen to his complaint, in order to remove the cause of it. "O you who dwell in the gardens, your companions have been listening to your voice — now cause me to hear it."
THE RESIDENCE. "You who dwell in the gardens." Not in a stately mansion — but in a garden cottage. The gardens represent the church. The world is a wilderness, but the church is a garden, being separated from the common wasteland. God's people were separated by his decree, and are led to separate themselves by the gracious work and operation of the Holy Spirit. The gospel calls them out, saying,
"Come out from among them, and be separate" — and the grace of the gospel induces them to attend to the call.
A garden is cultivated, and so is the church. Jesus said, "My Father is the gardener." By the agency of his Spirit, and by means of the ministry, the word, and providence — he cultivates his garden; sowing in it precious seed, and planting it with the choicest trees.
In a garden there is employment, and in the church there is work both for God and man. Some things God alone can do, and he does them by himself; some things man can do, and he is required to do them. In the church there is always work, and work for all; much of it requires skill, experience, and talent. Without these, in pulling up the weeds, we may pull up the choice plants with them.
A garden produces provision, and in the church there is fruit for God and man. Jesus comes into his garden and eats his honeycomb with his honey, and drinks his wine with his milk. The fruits of the Spirit feed many. In the church of God there is plenty with variety, and all is wholesome and good.
A garden is for delight, and God calls his church, his Hephzibah, saying, "My delight is in her." The Lord takes pleasure in his people. In this garden he walks, rejoicing in the work of his hands, and finding pleasure in the fruits of his own grace.
THE INHABITANT. "You who dwell in the gardens." A saved soul who is the object of his tenderest, strongest love.
One who has been brought out of the wilderness. This was its natural home. Hence the Lord says, "I found you in a desert land, in a waste howling wilderness." It was found there, but not left there, but was brought out of it, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.
It is now at home in the church. All believers are its brethren, and the church is its Father's house.
It is at home in the ordinances, services, and work of the house.
It is at home with the Lord's people, and with the Lord himself.
It is one that can speak to edification. Who among the Lord's people cannot, if they try? They may not be able to discuss doctrines, or defend ordinances, or enforce precepts, but they can speak of heart work. They can tell how they were wounded — and how they were healed. They can speak . . .
of convictions and consolations,
of condemnation and pardon,
of the wilderness and its dangers,
of the garden and its joys.
It is one associated with believers. Not one who encamps under the hedge, or visits the walks, but one who dwells in the garden. Here is rest, association, and fellowship. Every believer should be in the church, and feel at home in the church. All Christians should associate together, speak with, and help each other. They should dwell in the gardens.
THE COMPLAINT. "The companions hearken to your voice." More is said to them, than to me. Their company is preferred to mine. You are in public often — but in the closet seldom. Your visits to them are long — but those you pay to me are short.
"The companions." We have . . .
companions in labor, who work with us, and help us,
companions in conflict, who fight with us, and encourage us,
companions in enjoyment, who rejoice with us, and are helpers of our joy. "The companions hearken to your voice." They hear you speak . . .
of your joys and sorrows,
of your doubts and fears,
of your bondage and liberty,
of your conflicts and conquests,
of your desires and hopes.
They hear you tell . . .
of darkness and light,
of peace and war,
of clouds and sunshine,
of trials and triumphs.
To them your mouth is open, and your heart is enlarged. They hear you rejoice in your privileges, and exult in your prospects. They seem to be preferred to me, and their company appears to be preferred to mine.
THE INVITATION OR REQUEST.
"Cause me to hear it." "Let me hear your voice, let me see your countenance, for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is lovely."
Here is jealousy, Jesus is jealous of his people's love. He deserves, and he demands, our supreme love. He is jealous of his people's preferences, he wishes to have much of our company, and he ought to have it.
Here is desire — desire generated by love. He desires to hear our voice in prayer. However broken the language, however hoarse our voice, though we croak like a raven, mourn like a dove, chatter like a crane or a swallow — yet he wishes to hear our voice. He would have us personally inform him of all that pains and all that pleases us, of all that tries and all that troubles us.
He would have us ask of him all that we wish and all that we want. "Ask," he says," and receive, that your joy may be full."
He desires to hear us praise. Praise . . .
the Father for his love,
himself for his precious blood, and
the Holy Spirit for his grace and operations.
He desires to hear our confessions. He would have us confess and be pardoned, retaining no guilt on the conscience, keeping no cause of trouble to ourselves.
He desires us to hold communion with him at all times, in all places, and on all subjects. Everything that interests us, interests him; and whatever affects us, affects him — therefore he says, "The companions hearken to your voice, cause me to hear it. See then, beloved,
YOUR HAPPINESS. You dwell in a garden — a beautiful, cultivated, fruitful spot; not a wild, neglected, barren waste. The church is now God's paradise, and that paradise is our home.
Your fault. You treat the Lord with neglect. You are warm toward others — but cold towards him. You converse much to others — but little to him. You spend much time with others — but your visits to him are few and short.
Your duty and privilege. To communicate with Jesus at all times, and on all subjects. You should carry everything to him, and consult him on every point. Say not it is too trivial. He says, "In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God."
Reader, does the Lord ever hear your voice? Do you live without prayer, without praise, without confession of sin? Have you never from the bottom of your heart cried for mercy, for pardon, and peace with God? If you have not, it is quite time you did. You speak with others, you ask favors it may be of others — why not speak to Jesus, and ask favors of him? He is on the mercy-seat.
He is willing to hear you. He has a heart that can sympathize with you. Yes, blessed Jesus, to you may we apply the language of David, "You Lord are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all who call upon you."
Hear, Sinner, he has plenty of mercy. Mercy for such as you. Mercy at this moment. Lift up, then, your heart and your voice, and cry, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, O Son of David."