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backslider in his manhood, and again a chastened, restored believer in his old age—must have been well fitted to act as the amanuensis (so to speak) of the Holy Ghost, in setting forth the mysteries of Jesus' love, and the experiences of a Believer's spiritual life.
The Divine Authority of this Book has been denied by some in past days. Unhappily, the rationalistic views which obtain so largely in our day have prevailed to such a fearful extent, that not a few make no scruple of expressing their dis-esteem of this precious portion of God's Word. And even if they do not declare their positive unbelief in its inspiration, “looking upon it as a mere marriage song,” they plainly shew by the language in which they speak of it, that they hold it in much less value than other portions of Holy Writ.
A sufficient answer to all such disputes is this: (1)That it was always received by the Ancient Jews, “to whom the oracles of God were committed” as an inspired portion of Holy Scripture. “All the Scriptures” says the Mishna “are Holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.” Also their ancient Book of Zohar declares “that Solomon composed it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
(II)—This Song of Songs thus recognised by
the Ancient Jews was in the Canon of Scripture when Our Lord Himself tabernacled on earth. Was He the great Prophet of His Church ? and yet did He suffer this portion of Scripture to pass unnoticed without animadversion, while He denounced in unmeasured terms the traditions of Elders, who by their glosses had made void the Law of God?
Had this Song been what these Modern Teachers would fain have us believe-a “mere Song of love,” striking for its imagery, but uninstructive for “doctrine, or correction in righteousness ;" can we suppose for one moment the Great Teacher Himself would have been silent ? Was He so unmindful of the necessities of His Church, or of the quick-sightedness of its enemies, as to permit a book, uninspired, and yet pretending to inspiration to remain among the “oracles of God," if it had not been in very truth the composition of a "holy man, inspired by the Holy Ghost ?” The silence of Christ and His Apostles on the point is sufficient proof that they recognised this Book as part and parcel of the inspired Word. But the believer in Jesus, who walks by another rule than unaided reason or scholastic criticisms finds an inward testimony—a still small voice, the witness of his own spirit, to the divine inspiration and authority of this Book. He finds here his
own experience more or less described. He knows that what is true of one member of God's family is also true generally of all, and thus, when he takes
this Song of Songs he finds a description (rich in beautiful and poetic imagery, but rich too in truth and real life) of the condition, privilege, and destinies of that Church which, like a Bride
arrayed in fine linen and white,” shall be made ready "for the marriage of the Lamb :" of whom it is prophecied—“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so thy God rejoices over thee!”
May not indeed this circumstance—viz., the deeply experimental nature of this Book account for the dislike of some, and the mistakes of others respecting it ?
The Spirit-taught scholar of Holy Writ is in truth “ wiser than his ancients” in this respect. In this word he beholds, as in a glass, his own spiritual poverty and conflicts and consolations, the rich treasure of his privileges and the spring of his purest and brightest hopes. But what of all this can the mere critic, however versed in “ Hebrew, Greek and Latin" know, unless the Spirit pour light into his soul, and love into his heart?
Of all the Books of Scripture, there is scarcely any portion, if any, which furnishes a truer test
of a Believer's spiritual condition. It is full of Christ, whose excellencies and mercies, and compassionate long-suffering are set forth under the most lively figures, to encourage and sustain the weary disciple in the midst of his manifold infirmities. Certainly no spiritual reader of this portion of God's Word can rise up from his meditations upon it, without feeling that its words are sweet unto the spiritual taste—“yea, sweeter than honey to his mouth.” What can be more encouraging than the picture here presented to us of that Saviour, who
unto the end ;" who, notwithstanding all the infirmities and failings of His beloved ones, is yet unoffended, delighting to win back the “ spoiler of his own peace” and the would-be destroyer of his own happiness, to the full enjoyment of that love which passeth understanding ?
What can be more precious to the weary soul of the tempted and afflicted child of God, than to contemplate the unwearied grace and love of Jesus—“ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever?” Who, notwithstanding all his own faithlessness and inconstancy; wanderings and mistakes ; luke-warmness and backslidings, finds Him always constant in His love-ever mindful of His covenant—always indulgent to weaknessever ready to forgive the waywardness of His Beloved, though feeble Disciples. In these days of hot controversy and religious activity, one fears the hearts of Believers have waxed cold in that kind of love for the person and presence of Jesus which drew forth the tears of Mary, when she said—“they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him :" or the earnest longings of the spouse, in this Song of Songs—“I sought Him, but I could not find Him; I called Him, but He gave me no answer." But in this sweet Song, attachment to the Person of Christ—"ardent love for Him, without danger of excess or disproportion are commended and enforced.” Here the Believer is taught how to preserve his communion with Christ: how to think of the Person of Christ: how to estimate his own perfection (though conscious of many imperfections) in the perfect righteousness of another, Who was without sin, and yet endured its penalties, that His people might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
Reader, if you are a child of God by adoption and grace, I beseech this one thing of you at the very threshhold of my humble endeavour, to shew that this 66 Song of Songs sets forth the love of God in the person and work of Christ Jesus. It is this that you will offer up a brief prayer for yourself, and every other reader