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Chapter 5 Verse 16b
part.—This is my beloved, and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
church having given a large description of Christ, in the preceding verses, to the satisfaction of the inquiring daughters of Jerusalem; closes the account of him with a comfortable appropriation of him to her own soul, and a holy boasting of him before others; which she does, by considering him under those two characters:
I.As her beloved.
II.As her friend.
I.She points him out to the daughters of Jerusalem, and distinguishes him from all other beloveds; and boasts of him in the views of her interest in him, under the character of her beloved: which shows, 1. That her love and affection to him were strong and ardent, such as many waters could not quench nor any thing separate from; though she was forsaken by him, and had suffered much from the watchmen and keepers of the wall for the sake of him; she had sought him with a great deal of care and diligence to little purpose; she had called aloud, and with great importunity herself, and had made use of the interest of others with him, and yet could not prevail upon him to show himself; she could neither see him, nor hear him, nor get any tidings of him; yet notwithstanding all this, he is her beloved still. 2. It bespeaks the strength of her faith in him; for notwithstanding the sense of sins and infirmities, which she now had, the desertions, temptations, sufferings, etc., which she was attended with, yet she could say, “This is my beloved:” this is the trial of faith, and herein lies the glory and excellency of it, when a soul can believe in the dark, or as Abraham did, believe “in hope against hope;” herein the church acted in some conformity to Christ, her head; who, when upon the cross, in the agonies of death, deserted by his friends, and forsaken by his God, yet nevertheless could say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” 3. This shows that Christ only was her beloved; that she had singled him out from all others; and that he was in her esteem preferable to all others: there is none among all the angels in heaven nor any among all the sons of men on earth, neither is there any creature enjoyment whatever, comparable to him; and it is as if she should say, Let others take their beloveds to themselves, the idols of their own hearts, their carnal lusts and sensual pleasures whom they have chose; for my part, I ingenuously confess that this excellent person, whom I have just now described unto you, is only “my beloved;” him I have chose, and I desire no other; and now I leave you to judge whether there is any comparison between him and others743743Suus rex reginae placet, Plautus in Sticho, act. 1. sc. 2. 5:76. . But having met with his character already in this song, I shall not any longer insist on it now; but proceed,
II.To consider the other character which she gives of him “this is my friend”744744y[r hzw kai autov wlesion mou, Sept. & ipse est amicus meus, Vulg. Lat. version; & iste socius meus, Montanus, Mercerus; & is est meus consors, Tigurine version, . There is a mutual friendship between Christ and believers; he calls them his friends, in 5:1 of this chapter, as the church calls him in this; and it is worthy of observation, that the very same characters of beloved and friend, which Christ gives to his church there, are given to him by his own church here; it being usual for therein this song to take up each other’s words, and return them. This character of a friend, undoubtedly suits well with Christ; in opening of which, I shall endeavor, First, To give some instances and proofs of Christ’s friendship to his people. Secondly, To show the transcendent excellency of this friend. And, Thirdly, Consider in what manner the church here delivers herself.
First, it will be proper to give some instances of Christ’s friendship to his church and people; from whence it will manifestly appear, that he justly deserves such a character. And, 1. His engaging as a surety for them, is a manifest indication of it; when our cause was desperate he engaged in it; when justice was ready to give the blow our transgressions deserved, he interposed and averted it, and took it upon himself; when he knew that we should run through all our stock, and become bankrupts, he became our bondsman, and engaged to pay the whole debt; when he saw that we should fall into the depths of sin and misery, he undertook to bring us out of them, cleanse us from all sin, clothe us with his righteousness, and safely conduct us to glory; and must not all this be esteemed a proof of Christ’s friendship to us? 2. His dying for us is another: this is the greatest act of friendship among men, for one mart to die for another; “Greater love hath no man than this,” says Christ (John 15:13), “that a man lay down his life for his friends;” but Christ has given a greater instance of friendship than this, in that he has laid down his life for his enemies; for “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son;” O matchless love! Unparalleled friendship! 3. He has paid all our debts: our sins are called so in scripture, and a large score of them we have run; we owe “ten thousand talents” and have not one farthing to pay; and to prison we must have gone, “where we should have lain until we had paid the uttermost farthing,” had not Christ engaged to do it; which he has actually done, by making satisfaction to law and justice; on the account of which, God the Father has cancelled the bond, crossed the debt-book, and discharged both sinner and surety; it was an act of friendship now to be bound for us, but still a greater to pay the whole debt. 4. He has purchased our persons, and procured all things needful for us; we are “not our own,” but “are bought with a price;” which price is not “corruptible things, as silver and gold,” but the “precious blood” of Christ Jesus, which he has shed for the ransom of us: for a king to give a large sum of money for the ransom of any of his subjects out of Algiers, or any other place of slavery, is an instance of his beneficence, humanity, and friendship to them; but was he to give himself a ransom for them, it would be an unheard-of one, but Christ has done this for his people, and thereby redeemed them from the slavery of the law, sin, Satan, and the world and not only this, but has washed them from their sins “in his own blood,” stripped them of their “filthy garments,” and clothed them with “change of raiment;” nay, has procured an inheritance for them, of which he now gives them the pledge and earnest, and ere long will put them into the full possession of it: and now, to do all this for persons who are entirely undeserving of it, is an instance of friendship indeed! 5. Not only so, but he is also gone to glory, to take possession of it in our name, room and stead; that so we may not be under any fear of losing it, nor of being by any means deprived of it; and in so doing, acts the part of a loving brother, a trusty co-heir, and faithful friend; as well as he is gone thither also to prepare a place for us, that it may be ready for us, when we, by his Spirit and grace, are made ready for that. 6. His acting the part of an intercessor and advocate for us with the Father, is another instance of his friendship; “he appears in the presence of God for us,” presents our services and petitions to him; pleads for every blessing we stand in need of, for converting, pardoning, adopting, sanctifying, and glorifying grace, and answers all Satan’s charges and accusations; and in so doing, shows himself friendly to us. 7. He supplies all our wants: he has all grace treasured up in his person for this purpose, and he does not withhold it from his people; but, at proper times, cheerfully and freely distributes it, according as their wants and necessities require; and this he does, not merely for their importunities sake, but because they are his friends; when disconsolate, he comforts them; when tempted, he succors them; when distressed, he relieves them; when hungry, he feeds them; when sick and wounded, he heals them, and discharges all the good offices of a friend unto them. 8. He shows his friendship to us, and maintains it by the kind and comfortable visits which he makes to us; for though he may absent himself for some time, yet he will not leave us comfortless, but will come and see us, and visit us with his salvation; which is such an astonishing piece of friendship, that we have reason to say as the Psalmist (Ps. 8:4), “What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?” 9. Whenever he pays those visits, it is with such an air of freedom and familiarity, as renders them exceeding delightful, and justly entitles him to this character; it was his free, courteous, and affable deportment to men in the days of, by his flesh, which occasioned the Pharisee’s way of reproach, to call him “a friend of publicans and sinners:” and so free and familiar are his converses with his people in a spiritual war; he talks with them, as one friend may with another; he walks with them, nay, he sits down at table with them, sups with them, and they with him. 10. He shows himself to be a friend unto them, and that he looks upon them to be his friends, by disclosing the secrets of his grace unto them; hence says he to his disciples, John 15:15. “I call you nor servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you:” he lay in his Father’s bosom, and so was privy to all his secret thoughts, counsels, purposes and decrees, and makes a discovery of them to us, so far as is needful to advance our good and his glory; for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant,” (Ps. 25:14).
And lastly, his friendship appears in the good and wholesome counsel which he gives unto us; which being taken, is always useful, and infallibly succeeds, being given with the utmost wisdom and the greatest faithfulness; of which see an instance in Revelation 3:18. Nay, his reproofs for sin, as well as his advice in distress, are exceeding friendly, and ought to be taken so; for, as the wise man says (Prov. 27:5, 6), “Open rebuke is better than secret love; faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Thus much may suffice for some instances and proofs of Christ’s friendship to his church and people. I come now,
Secondly, To show the transcendent excellency of this friend; “this is my friend:” he is a nonsuch; there is none like him, nor to be compared with him; for, 1. He is a “friend that sticketh closer than a brother:” which may be expressive of that near union there is between Christ and believers; they are as if but one soul actuated them; and indeed but one spirit does, which is in Christ without measure, and in believers in measure; for “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit:” Christ stands in a nearer relation than that of a brother to his church; he is her head and husband, her bosom-friend; she is “flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone;” though all these relations fall short of fully expressing the nearness, strictness, and indissolubleness of this union. Or else, this character may intend that sympathy and affection which Christ bears to his people, in all their afflictions, sorrows, sufferings, temptations, desertions, sins and infirmities; as well as signify his close adherence to our cause; who having once undertook it, never left it till he had completed what he had engaged to do; all which shows the transcendent excellency of this friend, 2. He is a constant friend, one that “loves at all times;” he was a friend to us, when we were enemies to him; and merely by his love and acts of friendship to us, he overcame us, slew the enmity of our natures, and of enemies made us friends; and continues to be a friend to us in all the adversities and afflictions of life: when men are in prosperity, they have usually many friends; but when the day of adversity comes upon them, they soon forsake them: but Christ does not treat his people so; he is a friend to them in adversity, as well as in prosperity; he knows their souls then, when no body else will; he owns them for his own, and treats them as his friends, and so he will continue to do, even until death; and at that time wilt not fail to show himself friendly to them, no more than he will at the day of judgment, when he will publicly own them, before angels and men, to be his friends; set “the crown of righteousness” upon their heads, and give them an admittance into his Father’s kingdom and glory. 3. He is a faithful friend; we may safely tell him all the secrets of our hearts, he will not betray us; we may trust him with our all, he will never fail us; and though the prophet says (Micah 7:5). “Trust not in a friend, and put not confidence in a guide;” yet we may safely trust in this our friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be our almighty God, and our trusty and faithful friend and “guide, even unto death.” 4. He is a rich friend; such an one is often useful and needful: a man may have a friend that has a heart to help him, but not in a capacity; but Christ, as he is heartily willing to help us, so he has an ability to do it; he is possessed of “unsearchable riches,” and these he distributes among his friends; for it is from those “riches in glory,” which are in Christ’s hands, that all the wants of his people are supplied. 5. He is an everlasting friend: a man may have a friend, but this friend may die, and then all his dependence on him is gone; but Christ ever lives, and ever lives to be a friend unto his people; death parts the best friends, and puts them into an incapacity of serving each other; but there is no fear or danger of this in Christ, over whom death shall no more have the dominion. 6. He is an unchangeable friend; he is always the same, “yesterday, to-day, and for ever:” sometimes little things “separate chief friends,” but nothing can separate Christ and believers; his mind never changes, his affections never cool, nor are the communications of friendship ever cut off; his ears are not open to every idle story, nor is he tempted to break off friendship with his people, by their unkindnesses and ingratitude unto him. But,
Thirdly, A little to consider the manner in which the church delivers herself in these words; which appears to be, 1. In the strength of faith: she could comfortably appropriate Christ to herself, under each of the characters here mentioned; and though she had not the sensible manifestations of Christ’s love to her, which she was desirous of, and had not those visible instances of his friendship she had formerly experienced, yet she did not doubt but that he was both her beloved and her friend. 2. She seems to speak in an exulting and rejoicing manner; her soul was filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as an effect of her faith in an unseen Jesus; and indeed she had all the reason in the world to rejoice in the views of her interest in such a beloved, and in such a friend, whom she had before described. 3. She seems also to speak in a kind of boasting manner, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend:” and indeed believers may do so, for though they may not glory in themselves, nor in any thing done by them, yet they may in Christ, and in what he has done for them: and so the Psalmist David did, (Ps. 34:2), who says, “My soul shall make her boast of the Lord:” and thus the church did here before the daughters of Jerusalem, and what effect this whole discourse of hers had upon them, may be seen in the following words.
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