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Chapter 2 Verse 4
He brought me to the banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love.
church here goes on to give an account of some larger experiences of Christ’s love, which she had met with from him; for she is not only indulged with his shadow, and refreshed with his fruit, as in the former verse, but is also brought into his banqueting-house, where she is entertained by him, of which she gives an account in this: where may be observed,
I.What is meant by the banqueting-house.
II.What by being brought into it.
III.The manner in which she was brought; “his banner over me was love.”
I.I shall inquire what is meant by the “banqueting-house, into which the church was brought; it is in the Hebrew text, a house of wine;263263zyyh tyb domum vini, Pagninus, Montanus, etc. by which may be meant, either the wine-cellar,264264Cellam vinariam, V. L. Tigurine version; eiv ton oinwna Symmachus. the place where wine is kept under ground; or else the place265265Locum convivii, Junius & Tremellius. where wine is poured out, and where it is drank, according to R. Aben Ezra; and so may very well be rendered a banqueting-house. Thus we read of a banquet of wine, which Esther invited king Ahasuerus and Haman to; and wine being much used at feasts, may be put synechdochically, for all the other accommodations thereof; by which we may understand either,
1st, The covenant of grace; this is built for a banqueting house for souls; it is a superstructure of grace and mercy, whose foundation is the person of Christ; it is well stored with all needful provisions for a nobler entertainment; it is “ordered in all things, and sure;” it is full of Christ, his love and grace; it is well stored with spiritual blessings, and precious promises, which will serve as an everlasting banquet for those who are interested in it. Or else,
2dly, The Sacred Scripture, which is a true banqueting house; here is a variety of food, and plenty of it; here is milk for babes, and meat for strong men; which is exceeding pleasant and delicious, sweeter to the taste than the honey or the honey-comb; revives and refreshes those who participate thereof, and is also exceeding wholesome to the souls of men: though there are vast numbers daily feasted here, yet there is no want; it abounds with the bread of gospel-truths, with the wine of gospel-promises, and is full of Christ, the hidden manna, who is also the bread of life; he is the alpha and omega of the Scriptures, the sum and substance of them, on whom faith. lives, and by whom, from time to time, it is sweetly refreshed. Or else,
3dly, The church is this banqueting house. The Targum refers it to the house of the school, where the Israelites learnt; the law at mount Sinai from the mouth of Moses; R. Alshech understands by it Sinai itself, and so it is interpreted in Yalkut; R. Sol. Jarchi thinks the tabernacle of the congregation is intended where the senses and explanations of the law were given: but it may much better be understood of the church of Christ, which is a house built by wisdom, and furnished with all the necessary provisions of grace; here is “a feast of fat things prepared of wines on the lees well refined.” Christ is the master and provider of the feast, and he himself is the chief entertainment; his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; to all which he gives his people an hearty welcome; meets them himself at his well furnished table, and feasts with them; gives them spiritual appetites, and blesses all the provisions of his grace to them: hence those are the blessed persons who have admittance into, and a dwelling-place in this house, for these shall be continually “satisfied with the goodness and fatness thereof;” hence it is that souls are so desirous of being here, and are so well pleased with their habitation, because it is a banqueting-house unto them; and no wonder then is it, that those who are “planted in the house of the Lord, flourish in the courts of our God.”
II.What it is to be “brought into266266la in, Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius. Piscator, Marckius, Michaelis. this banqueting-house;” which may be considered according to the several senses before given. And,
1st, Seeing by the banqueting-house may be meant the covenant of grace, it may be proper to inquire, What it is to be brought into that, and by what means? And now here observe, that water-baptism, and a submission to it under the New-Testament, give a person no right unto, nor interest him in the covenant of grace, even as circumcision did not, nor could under the Old; instances of both might be given of persons, where there is no reason to believe they have any share or lot in this matter: neither does church-fellowship bring a person into it, nor a mere submission to any or all the ordinances of the gospel, for “they are not all Israel which are of Israel:” nor are they all instances of covenant-grace, who are church-members; for there are tares as well as wheat grow in Christ’s field below; and goats as well as sheep are folded in his fold on earth, the church; there are foolish as well as wise virgins, and there are “sinners in Zion,” as well as the “living in Jerusalem” neither are faith and repentance terms and conditions of a man’s entering into this covenant; for they are some of the blessings of grace contained in it; they do not bring a person into it, but are evidences of his being there before; but what brings a person into it, is an act of sovereign and unchangeable grace before all time; all, interested in the everlasting covenant, before the world began, did by electing grace “pass under the rod of him that telleth them;” for when God made a covenant of grace with his Son on the account of these chosen ones, he brought them all into the bond of it, and put all grace and blessings into the hands of his Son for them. Now the Spirit of God in time does in conversion take and apply this covenant grace to those persons, for the quickening, pardoning, justifying and sanctifying them; he shews them the covenant, and their interest in it, and enables them to lay hold upon it; and every time he does do so, he may be said to bring a soul into the covenant, as an effect and fruit of that original, ancient act, made before the world began; which is what the church might experience here, to wit, a fresh manifestation of her covenant-interest; for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant:” Christ led her into his banqueting-house, and there feasted her with his royal dainties; for to bring, is to lead one to an entertainment.267267Ad prandium me adduxit, Plautus.
2dly, If we understand the scripture by the banqueting-house; then to be brought into it, is to have the Understanding opened, so as to behold wondrous things out of it; the heart affected with the glorious truths thereof, so as to taste the sweetness of the “sincere milk of the word;” and distinguish the doctrines of the gospel from those which are not so, and be capable of appropriating the promises of it to the comfort and satisfaction of our souls; and when we are enabled thus to do: we shall find the scripture to be a delightful banqueting-house indeed! Now all this Christ does by his Spirit; who is the Spirit of truth, who guides and leads his people into all truth. But,
3dly, If by the banqueting-house we understand the church of Christ; then to be brought Unto it, is to be made a partaker of all the privileges of it, as those who are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God. Christ first calls men by his grace, then by his ministers invites them to come in, that this house may be filled; and by his Spirit powerfully works upon their souls; sweetly inclining them not only to give up themselves to him, but likewise to one another by. The will of God; he, as an instance of his distinguishing grace, takes one of a city, and two of a family, and brings them to Zion, where he invests them with all the privileges and immunities thereof; here he grants them his gracious presence, sheds abroad his love in their hearts, and often entertains them with a delightful banquet. Now Christ’s thus bringing his church into his banqueting-house, shews, 1. Inability on her part; we cannot bring ourselves into the covenant of grace, nor can we take Views of our interest in it at pleasure; but he who of his own grace placed us there, must shew it us: nor can we of ourselves know the depths and mysteries of the sacred writings; they will remain a sealed book to us, unless the Spirit of Christ open the book, and our understandings to look into it: nor will his church, with all the ordinances of it, be a banqueting-house unto us, unless he himself be present with us. 2. Wonderful grace and condescension on his side; that he, Who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, should take one thus mean into his own apartments, and there entertain her with the best his house could afford. But this will still appear more manifestly, if we consider,
III.The manner in which she was brought; “his banner over me was love.” It was in a very stately and majestic manner, as well as a loving one, that she was brought; and for the illustration of this, it will be proper to consider the use of banners, and how they may be applied here. And,
1st, The use of banners, standards, or ensigns, is to gather and keep persons together: thus Christ himself was lift up on the cross, and is now lift up in the gospel, as an ensign to gather souls unto him; and so his love, being displayed in the preaching of the gospel, has a power and efficacy in it to draw souls after him; for, as a fruit and effect of everlasting love, “with loving kindness” he draws them: and in the same way and manner Christ here drew the church unto himself, and held her fast; and constrained her to keep close to him, and follow hard after him (see 2 Cor. 5:14).
2dly, A banner displayed, or a standard set up, is an indication of war; it is to prepare for it, and to animate to it268268Vexillum proponendum, quod erat insigne quum ad arma concurri oporteret, Caesar. de Bello Gallic1. 2. c. 20. see Jeremiah 51:12, 27. This may serve to inform us, that the church of Christ here on earth is militant, and therefore in chapter 6:4 is represented as formidable and terrible as an army with banners: she has many enemies to engage with, as sin, Satan, and the world, and yet has the greatest encouragement to fight, for she is bannered under the Lord of hosts; Christ is commander in chief; he is given to be a leader and commander of the people, and is every way fit for it; he has courage enough to appear at the head of his armies, and conduct enough to lead them on, and bring them off at pleasure: those that are under him are well provided for; their bread is given them in due season, and their water is sure; they are furnished with the panoplia, or whole armor of God; they may be assured of a crown and kingdom as soon as the battle is over, and even of victory beforehand, for they are more than conquerors through him that hath loved them; likewise the motto, which is written upon the banner, under which they are, is love: and if all this will not encourage them to fight, what will?
3dly, A banner displayed is also a sign of victory; sometimes when a town, city, or castle, is taken, the flag is hung out as an indication of it (see Jer. 1:2). Christ has got the victory over all his and our enemies; he has conquered sin, Satan, and the world; and given his church and people a share in all his conquests; and, as an evidence of it, has set up his banner over them. Or this may principally intend the conquest, which he, by love, had got over her heart; she surrendered herself into the victor’s hands; and now, as an instance of his mighty grace, he introduces her into his own house, under the banner of love, by which she was conquered.
4thly, A banner is for protection and defense; hence Moses built an altar, and called it Jehovah nissi, that is, the Lord is my banner; because the Lord had been on the side of him and the people of Israel, and defended them from the Amalekites. The church was now enjoying sweet communion with Christ in his banqueting-house; and that she might be safe and secure from her enemies, and abide there during his pleasure, without any molestation or disturbance, he sets up his banner over her: thus, “when the enemy comes in like a flood,” to disturb our peace, joy and comfort, “the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against him,” (Isa. 59:19).
5thy, It is to direct soldiers where to stand, when to march, and whom to follow; see Numbers 1:52 and Numbers 2:2 which may teach us, who are enlisted in Christ’s service, not to fly from our colors, but adhere closely to Christ and his gospel, his cause and interest, his church and people, and to follow him, the standard-bearer, wherever he goes; and nothing can more strongly engage us to do so than love”, which is the motto of his banner; this first drew us to him, this animates us in his service? and keeps us close to his person and interest. 6thly, It is to distinguish one band from another (see Num. 2:2). As one band has one motto upon its banner or ensign, by which it is distinguished from another; so the” motto on Christ’s banner is love, by which his band or company is distinguished from all others: it is this which has made them to differ from others; has distinguished them in electing, redeeming, and calling grace; and will keep them a distinct and peculiar people to all eternity: it is not any works which they have done, but Christ’s boundless love and grace alone, that make the difference between them and others. The allusion may be to the names of generals being inscribed on the banners of their armies; so Vespasian’s name was inscribed on the banners throughout his armies.269269Sueton. Vita Vespasian. c. 6.
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