In this Song of Songs we see the love of Christ and his
church running towards each other in a full torrent.
The text contains three general parts:
1. A symbol of affection: "My beloved."
2. A term of appropriation: "is mine."
3. A holy resignation: "I am his."
Doctrine: There is a marital
union between Christ and believers. The apostle, having treated at
large of marriage, winds up the whole chapter thus: "This is a great
mystery—but I speak concerning Christ and the church"
(Eph. 5:32). What is closer than union? What sweeter? There is a
twofold union with Christ:
1. A natural union. This all men have, Christ
having taken their nature on him and not that of the angels (Heb. 2:16).
But if there is no more than this natural union, it will give little
comfort. Thousands are damned—though Christ is united to their nature.
2. A sacred union. By this we are mystically
united to Christ. The union with Christ is not personal. If Christ's
essence were transfused into the person of a believer, then it would
follow that all that a believer does should be meritorious.
But the union between Christ and a saint is:
(a) Federal: "My beloved is mine." God the
Father gives the bride; God the Son receives the bride; God the Holy
Spirit ties the knot in marriage—he knits our wills to Christ and
Christ's love to us.
(b) Effectual. Christ unites himself to his
spouse by his graces and influences: "of his fullness have all we
received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16). Christ makes himself one
with the spouse by conveying his image and stamping the impress of
his own holiness upon her!
This union with Christ may well be called mystical.
It is hard to describe the manner of it. It is hard to show how the soul
is united to the body—and how Christ is united to the soul. But though
this union is spiritual—it is real. Things in nature often
work insensibly, yet really (Eccles. 11:5). We do not see the hand move
on the sun-dial, yet it moves. The sun exhales and draws up the vapors
of the earth insensibly yet really. So the union between Christ and the
soul—though it is imperceptible to the eye of reason—is still
real (1 Cor. 6:17).
Before this union with Christ there must be a
separation. The heart must be separated from all other lovers,
as in marriage there is a leaving of father and mother: "Forget your own
people, and your father's house." (Psalm 45:10). So there must be a
leaving of our former sins, a breaking off the old league with hell
before we can be united to Christ. "Ephraim shall say, What have I
to do any more with idols?" (Hos. 14:8), or as it is in the Hebrew,
"with sorrows." Those sins which were looked on before as lovers,
are now sorrows. There must be a divorce, before a union.
The purpose of our marital union with Christ is
1. Co-habitation. This is one purpose of
marriage, to live together: "that Christ may dwell in your
hearts" (Eph. 2:17). It is not enough to pay Christ a few complimentary
visits in his ordinances—hypocrites may do so—but there must be a mutual
associating. We must dwell upon the thoughts of Christ: "he who
abides in God" (I John 3:24). Married people should not live apart.
2. Fruit bearing: "That you may be married to
another; to Him who was raised from the dead—that we should bear
fruit to God." (Rom. 7:4). The spouse bears the fruits of the
Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness (Gal. 5:22).
Barrenness is a shame in Christ's spouse!
This marriage union with Christ is the most noble
and excellent union:
(a) Christ unites himself to many. In other
marriages only one person is taken—but here millions are
taken! Otherwise, poor souls might cry out, "Alas! Christ has married
So-and-so, but what is that to me? I am left out." No, Christ marries
thousands. It is a holy and chaste polygamy. Multitudes of people do
not defile this marriage bed. Any poor sinner who brings a humble,
believing heart may be married to Christ.
(b) There is a closer union in this holy
marriage than there can be in any other. In other marriages, two make
one flesh—but Christ and the believer make one spirit: "But
he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (ICor.
6:17). Now as the soul is more excellent than the body, and admits of
far greater joy, so this spiritual union brings in more astonishing
delights and ravishments than any other marriage relationship is
capable of. The joy that flows from the mystical union is unspeakable
and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).
(c) This union with Christ never ceases. Other
marriages are soon at an end. Death cuts asunder the marriage
knot—but this marital union is eternal. You who are once Christ's
spouse shall never again be a widow: "I will betroth you to me
forever" (Hosea 2:19). To speak properly, our marriage with Christ
begins where other marriages end, at death.
In this life there is only the contract.
The Jews had a time set between their engagement and marriage, sometimes
a year or more. In this life there is only the engagement and contract;
promises are made on both sides, and love passes secretly between Christ
and the soul. He gives some smiles of his face, and the soul sends up
her sighs and drops tears of love. But all this is only a preliminary
work, and something leading up to the marriage. The glorious completing
and solemnizing of the marriage is reserved for heaven. There, in
heaven, is the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) and the bed of
glory perfumed with love where the souls of the elect shall be
perpetually consoling themselves. "Then shall we ever be with the Lord"
(I Thess. 4:17). So death merely begins our marriage with Christ.
Application 1: If
Christ is the head of the mystical body (Eph. 1:22), then this
doctrine beheads the Pope, that man of sin who usurps this
prerogative of being the head of the church, and so would defile
Christ's marriage bed. What blasphemy this is! Two heads are monstrous.
Christ is Head, as he is Husband. There is no vice-husband, no deputy in
his place. The Pope is the beast in Revelation (Rev. 13:11). To make him
head of the church, what would this be but to set the head of a beast
upon the body of a man?
Application 2: If
there is such a marital union, let us test whether we are united to
1. Have we chosen Christ to set our love upon,
and is this choice founded on knowledge?
2. Have we consented to the match? It is not
enough that Christ is willing to have us—but are we willing to have him?
God does not so force salvation upon us that we shall have Christ
whether we want to or not. We must consent to have him. Many approve of
Christ—but do not give their consent. And this consent must be:
(a) Pure and genuine. We consent to have him
for his own worth and excellence: "You are fairer than the sons of men"
(b) A present consent: "now is the acceptable
time" (2 Cor. 6:2). If we put Christ off with delays and excuses,
perhaps he will stop coming. He will leave off wooing. "His spirit shall
no longer strive," and then, poor sinner, what will you do? When God's
wooing ends, your woes begin.
3. Have we taken Christ? Faith is the bond
of the union. Christ is joined to us by his Spirit, and we are
joined to him by faith. Faith ties the marriage knot.
4. Have we given ourselves up to Christ? Thus
the spouse in the text says, "I am his," as if she had said, "All I have
is for the use and service of Christ." Have we made a surrender?
Have we given up our name and will to Christ? When the devil solicits by
a temptation, do we say, "We are not our own, we are Christ's; our
tongues are his, we must not defile them with oaths; our bodies are his
temple, we must not pollute them with sin?" If it is so, it is a sign
that the Holy Spirit has produced this blessed union between Christ and
Application 3: Is
there this mystical union? Then from that we may draw many
1. See the DIGNITY of all true believers. They
are joined in marriage with Christ! There is not only assimilation but
union; they are not only like Christ but one with Christ.
All the saints have this honor. When a king marries a beggar, by virtue
of the union she is ennobled and made of the blood royal. As wicked men
are united to the prince of darkness, and he settles hell upon them as
their inheritance, so the godly are divinely united to Christ, who is
King of kings, and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). By virtue of this sacred
union the saints are dignified above the angels. Christ is the
Lord of the angels—but not their husband.
2. See how HAPPILY all the saints are married.
They are united to Christ, who is the best Husband, "the Chief
among ten thousand" (Song 5:10). Christ is a Husband who cannot be
(a) For tender care. The spouse cannot be as
considerate of her own soul and credit as Christ is considerate of her:
"He cares for you" (I Pet. 5:7). Christ has a debate with himself,
consulting and projecting how to carry on the work of our salvation. He
transacts all our affairs, he attends to our business as his own.
Indeed, he himself is concerned in it. He brings fresh supplies to his
spouse. If she wanders out of the way, he guides her. If she
stumbles, he holds her by the hand. If she falls, he raises
her. If she is dull, he quickens her by his Spirit. If she is
perverse, he draws her with cords of love. If she is sad, he
comforts her with promises.
(b) For ardent affection. No husband loves
like Christ. The Lord says to the people, "I have loved you," and they
say, "In what way have you loved us?" (Mal. 1:2). But we cannot say to
Christ, "In what way have you loved us?" Christ has given real
demonstrations of his love to his spouse. He has sent her his
Word, which is a love-letter, and he has given her his Spirit,
which is a love-token. Christ loves more than any other husband:
Christ puts a richer robe on his bride: "For
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." (Isa.
In this robe, God looks on us as if we had not
sinned! This robe is as truly ours to justify us, as it is Christ's
to bestow on us. This robe not only covers but adorns.
Having on this robe, we are reputed righteous, not only as righteous as
angels—but as righteous as Christ: "that we might be made the
righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor.5:21).
Christ gives his bride not only his golden
garments but his image! He loves her into his own likeness. A
husband may have a dear affection for his wife—but he cannot stamp his
own image on her. If she is deformed, he may give her a veil to hide
it—but he cannot put his beauty on her. But Christ imparts "the beauty
of holiness" to his spouse: "Your fame went out among the nations
because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My
splendor which I had bestowed on you," (Ezek. 16:14). When Christ
marries a soul, he makes it lovely: "You are all beautiful, my
love" (Song 4:7). Christ never thinks he has loved his spouse enough
until he can see his own face in her.
Christ discharges those debts which no other
husband can. Our sins are the worst debts we owe. If all the angels
should contribute money, they could not pay one of these debts—but
Christ frees us from these. He is both a Husband and a Surety. He says
to justice what Paul said concerning Onesimus, "But if he has wronged
you or owes anything, put that on my account." (Philem. 1:18).
Christ has suffered more for his spouse than
ever any husband did for a wife. He suffered poverty and
ignominy. He who crowned the heavens with stars was himself crowned
with thorns. He was called a companion of sinners, so that we might be
made companions of angels. He had no regard of his life; he leaped
into the sea of his Father's wrath to save his spouse from drowning!
Christ's love does not end with his life. He
loves his spouse forever: "I will betroth you to me forever"
(Hos. 2:19). Well may the apostle call it "a love which passes
knowledge" (Eph. 3:19).
3. See how RICH believers are. They have married
into the crown of heaven, and by virtue of the marital union all
Christ's riches go to believers: "communion is founded in union."
Christ communicates his graces (John 1:16). As long as Christ has them,
believers shall not be in need. And he communicates his
privileges—justification, glorification. He settles a kingdom on his
spouse as her inheritance (Heb. 12:28). This is a key to the
apostle's riddle, "as having nothing, and yet possessing all things"
(2 Cor. 6:10). By virtue of the marriage union, the saints have an
interest in all Christ's riches!
4. See how fearful a sin it is, to abuse the saints.
It is an injury done to Christ, for believers are mystically one with
him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). When the
body was wounded, the Head, being in heaven, cried out. In this sense,
men crucify Christ afresh (Heb. 6:6), because what is done to his
members is done to him. If Gideon was avenged upon those who slew his
brethren, will not Christ much more be avenged on those that wrong his
spouse (Judges 8:21)? Will a king tolerate having his treasure rifled,
his crown thrown in the dust, his queen beheaded? Will Christ bear with
the affronts and injuries done to his bride? The saints are the apple of
Christ's eye (Zech. 2:8), and let those who strike at his eye answer for
it. Isa 49:26 "I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine"
5. See the reason why the saints so rejoice in the
Word and sacrament, because here they meet with their Husband,
Christ! The wife desires to be in the presence of her husband. The
ordinances are the chariot in which Christ rides, the lattice
through which he looks forth and shows his smiling face. Here Christ
displays the banner of love (Song 2:4). The Lord's Supper is nothing
other than a pledge and security of that eternal communion which the
saints shall have with Christ in heaven. Then he will take the spouse
into his bosom. If Christ is so sweet in an ordinance, when we have
only short glances and dark glimpses of him by faith, oh
then, how delightful and ravishing will his presence be in heaven
when we see him face to face and are forever in his loving embraces!
This mystical union affords much comfort to believers in several
1. In the case of the disrespect and unkindness of
the world: "in wrath they hate me" (Psalm. 55:3). But though we
live in an unkind world, we have a kind Husband: "As the Father has
loved me, so have I loved you" (John 15:9). What angel can tell how God
the Father loves Christ? Yet the Father's love to Christ is made the
copy and pattern of Christ's love to his spouse! This love of Christ
as far exceeds all created love as the sun outshines the light of a
torch. And is not this a matter of comfort? Though the world hates me,
Christ still loves me.
2. In the case of weakness of grace. The
believer cannot lay hold on Christ, except with a trembling hand.
There is a "spirit of infirmity" on him. But oh, weak Christian, here is
strong consolation: you have a marital union to Christ! You are the
spouse of Christ! Will he will bear with you as the weaker vessel? Will
a husband divorce his wife because she is weak and sickly? No! he will
be the more tender with her. Christ hates divorce—but he will
pity infirmity. When the spouse is faint and ready to be
discouraged, Christ puts his left hand under her head (Song 2:6). This
is the spouse's comfort when she is weak. Her Husband can infuse
strength into her: "My God shall be my strength" (Isa. 49:5).
3. In the case of death. When believers
die—they go to their Husband! Who would not be willing to cross the gulf
of death that they might meet with their Husband, Christ? "I desire to
loosen anchor" (Phil. 1:23), and be with Christ. What though the way is
dirty? We are going to our friend. When a woman is engaged, she longs
for the day of marriage. After the saints' funeral, their marriage
begins. The body is a prison to the soul. Who would
not desire to exchange a prison for a marriage bed? How glad Joseph was
to go out of prison to the king's court! God is wise; he lets us meet
with changes and troubles here, so that he may wean us from the world
and make us long for death. When the soul is divorced from the body,
it is married to Christ.
4. In the case of passing sentence at the day of
judgment. There is a marriage union and, oh Christian, your
Husband shall be your judge! A wife would not fear appearing at the
bar if her husband was sitting as judge. What though the devil should
bring in many indictments against you? Christ will expunge your sins
in his blood. Could he possibly say, "I shall condemn my spouse?"
Oh, what a comfort this is! The Husband is judge! Christ cannot
pass sentence against his spouse without passing it against himself. For
Christ and believers are one.
5. In the case of the saints' suffering. The
church of God is exposed in this life to many injuries—but she has a
Husband in heaven who is mindful of her and will "turn water into wine"
for her. Now it is a time of mourning with the spouse because the
Bridegroom is absent (Matt. 9:15). But shortly she shall put off her
mourning. Christ will wipe the tears of blood off the cheeks of his
spouse: "He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe
away tears from all faces" (Isa. 25:8). Christ will comfort his spouse
for as much time as she has been afflicted. He will solace her with his
love; he will take away the cup of trembling and give her the cup of
consolation. And now she shall forget all her sorrows, being called into
the banqueting house of heaven and having the banner of Christ's love
displayed over her.
Application 5: Let me press several duties upon
those who have this marriage union with Christ:
1. Make use of this relationship in two cases:
(a) When the law brings in its indictments against
you. The law says, "Here there are so many debts to be paid!" and it
demands satisfaction. Acknowledge the debt—but turn it all over to your
Husband, Christ. It is a maxim in law that the suit must not go against
the wife, as long as the husband is living. Tell Satan when he accuses
you, "It is true that the debt is mine—but go to my Husband, Christ! He
will discharge it." If we took this course, we might relieve ourselves
of much trouble. By faith we turn over the debt to our Husband.
Believers are not in a state of widowhood but of marriage. Satan will
never go to Christ—he knows that justice is satisfied and the debt book
cancelled—but he comes to us for the debt so that he may perplex us. We
should send him to Christ and then all lawsuits would cease. This is a
believer's triumph. When he is guilty in himself, he is worthy in
Christ. When he is spotted in himself, he is pure in his Head.
(b) In the case of desertion. Christ may (for
reasons best known to himself) step aside for a time: "my beloved had
withdrawn himself" (Song 5:6). Do not say, therefore, that Christ has
gone for good. It is a fruit of jealousy in a wife, when her husband has
left her a while, to think that he has gone from her for good. Every
time Christ removes himself out of sight, it is wrong for us to say,
"The Lord has forsaken me" (Isa. 49:14). This is jealousy, and it is a
wrong done to the love of Christ and the sweetness of this marriage
relationship. Christ may forsake his spouse in regards to comfort—but
he will not forsake her in regard of union. A husband may be a
thousand miles distant from his wife—but he is still a husband. Christ
may leave his spouse—but the marriage knot still holds.
2. Rejoice in your Husband, Christ. Has Christ
honored you by taking you into the marriage relationship and making you
one with himself? This calls for joy. By virtue of the union, believers
are sharers with Christ in his riches. It was a custom among the Romans,
when the wife was brought home, for her to receive the keys of her
husband's house, intimating that the treasure and custody of the house
was now committed to her. When Christ brings his bride home to those
glorious mansions which he has gone ahead to prepare for her (John
14:2), he will hand over the keys of his treasure to her, and she
shall be as rich as heaven can make her! And shall not the spouse
rejoice and sing aloud upon her bed (Psalm. 149:5)? Christians, let the
times be ever so sad, you may rejoice in your spiritual espousals (Hab.
3:17,18). Let me tell you, it is a sin not to rejoice—you find fault
with your Husband, Christ.
When a wife is always sighing and weeping, what will
others say? "This woman has a bad husband!" Is this the fruit of
Christ's love to you, to reflect dishonor upon him? A melancholy
spouse saddens Christ's heart. I do not deny that Christians should
grieve for sins of daily occurrence—but to be always weeping (as if they
mourned without hope) is dishonorable to the marriage relationship.
"Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing brings credit to
your husband. Christ loves a cheerful bride, and indeed the very purpose
of God's making us sad is to make us rejoice. We sow in tears, so that
we may reap in joy. The excessive sadness and contrition of the godly
will make others afraid to embrace Christ. They will begin to question
whether there is that satisfactory joy in religion which is claimed. Oh,
you saints of God, do not forget consolation; let others see that you do
not regret your choice. It is joy that puts liveliness and activity into
a Christian: "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). The
soul is swiftest in duty when it is carried on the wings of joy.
3. Adorn this marriage relationship, so that
you may be a crown to your husband.
(a) Wear a veil. We read of the spouse's veil
(Song 5:7). This veil is humility.
(b) Put on your jewels. These are the
graces which for their luster are compared to rows of pearl and
chains of gold (Song 1:1O). These precious jewels distinguish Christ's
bride from strangers.
(c) Behave as becomes Christ's spouse:
In chastity. Be chaste in your judgments; do
not defile yourselves with error. Error adulterates the mind (1 Tim.
6:5). It is one of Satan's artifices—first to defile the judgment, then
In sanctity. It is not for Christ's spouse to
behave like harlots. A half-naked breast and a wanton tongue—do not
befit a saint. Christ's bride must shine forth in gospel purity, so that
she may make her husband fall in love with her. A woman was asked what
dowry she brought her husband. She answered that she had no dowry—but
she promised to keep herself chaste. So though we can bring Christ no
dowry, yet he expects us to keep ourselves pure, not spotting the
breasts of our virginity by contagious and scandalous sins.
4. Love your Husband, Christ (Song 2:5). Love
him though he is reproached and persecuted. A wife loves her husband
when in prison. To inflame your love towards Christ, consider:
(a) Nothing else is fit for you to love. If
Christ is your Husband, it is not fit to have other lovers who would
make Christ grow jealous.
(b) He is worthy of your love. He is of
unparalleled beauty: "altogether lovely" (Song 5:16).
(c) How fervent is Christ's love towards you!
He loves you in your worst condition, he loves you in affliction. The
goldsmith loves his gold in the furnace. Just so, Christ loves
you notwithstanding your fears and blemishes. The saints' infirmities
cannot wholly remove Christ's love from them (Jer. 3:1). Oh then,
how the spouse should be endeared in her love to Christ! Perfect love to
Christ, will be the excellence of heaven. Our love will then be like the
sun in its full strength!