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WRITTEN IN THE YEAR. I767.
On Christian Friendship, as it subsists between Christ and Believers, and between Believers themselves.
Cant. v. 16. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.
FRIENDSHIP affords the highest and most sweet enjoyment that is to be had in this life, or that rational creatures are capable of. Yea, it is in some sense the only source of real enjoyment and happiness; so that to be perfectly without this, in every kind and degree of it, is to be wholly destitute of all true enjoyment and comfort. This gives pleasure and sweetness to all other enjoyments, and without this they all fade, and become insipid and worthless; yea, every thing will be rather a burden, and worse than nothing: whereas, this will give a degree of enjoyment and pleasure, when stripped of every other good; so that he who is in circumstances to exercise and enjoy friendship is in a degree happy, let his situation and condition otherwise be what it may: and it is impossible he should be perfectly miserable, so long as he is within reach of this sweet, this heaven-born cordial.
It is probable that the most voluptuous sensualist that lives would in a great measure lose his high relish for the pleasures he is so eagerly pursuing, and all his sweets would be turned into bitterness, if he should feel himself perfectly, and in every sense, friendless: for none can be found, however sunk and sordid their minds have become by vice, who have no sort of taste for friendship; though it may be, on the whole, a very corrupt taste. To be sure, if any such may be found, they seem to be sunk, in this respect, below the brutal creation; for it is observed that among them there is an appearance of love 48of society, and at lead a resemblance of love and friendship.
However lost to all true friendship mankind in general are, yet a desire of the esteem and love of others is found in every breast, and is as essential to man as a desire of happiness; and therefore cannot be rooted out, but by destroying his natural powers, by which he will cease to be man.
Hence it is that no inconsiderable part of the future misery of the wicked will consist in feeling themselves perfectly friendless, and the objects of the hatred and contempt of all intelligent existence in the universe, while they find themselves in every respect in the most wretched, deplorable circumstances, and have a most keen aversion to being hated and contemned, and a strong desire of the love and esteem of others.
As real or disinterested benevolence is essential to true friendship, we have reason to think there are but few instances of it in this degenerate, selfish world; and where it does take place in any degree, it is in a very low and imperfect one; so that what many in all ages have been convinced of and asserted from long experience, may be relied upon as a certain truth, that this is a friendless world. However, there is a sort of friendship, which is at bottom a merely selfish thing, being founded only in self-love, or which is the result of what may be called instinct, or natural affection; which is very common, and in many instances rises very high, and answers many valuable purposes to mankind in this present state, it being many ways of great service to mankind, as it prevents many evils that would otherwise take place, and promotes the good of society, and often gives a degree of pleasure and enjoyment. But, so far as true virtue or holiness takes place, a foundation is laid for a different kind of friendship, which is immensely higher, more noble and excellent, and consists in exercises and enjoyments which surpass those of all other friendships, more than the exercises and enjoyments of improved 49 reason excel those of a brute, or the brightness of the meridian sun, that of the meanest glow-worm.
And God has, in his adorable wisdom and goodness, contrived and provided that this friendship should be exercised and enjoyed in the highest perfection, being raised to the greatest possible heights, attended with the best and most advantageous circumstances.
The scripture leads us to conceive of the Deity as enjoying infinitely the most exalted and glorious friendship and society in himself, for which there is a foundation in the incomprehensible manner of his subsistence in the three persons of the adorable Trinity. Here eternal love and friendship takes place and flourishes to an infinite degree, in an infinitely the most perfect and glorious society, the ELOHIM, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And the society and friendship for which men are formed by holiness, without which they cannot be perfectly happy, may be considered as an imitation and image of this, by which they are made in the likeness of God, and partake with him in the same kind of happiness, which he enjoys to an infinite degree. And, in order that men might partake with him in the exercise and enjoyment of love and friendship to the highest degree and the greatest advantage, God has not only laid a plan to promote and effect the highest and most perfect love and friendship towards each other in the most exalted and happy society forever; but has so contrived, that they shall be brought into the nearest and most intimate union and friendly intercourse with himself, by which they shall in some sense, yea, to a great degree, be united to the Eternal and most Glorious, divine Society, and partake of the same river of enjoyment and pleasure, which proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb, in a peculiar and eminent sense.
To effect this in the best manner and to the greatest advantage, the invisible God, who eternally dwelt in the high and holy place, infinitely beyond the comprehension and reach of a creature, must come down, and make himself viable, that he might be the head, the life and 50soul of a visible and most glorious society. This has been done in the incarnation of the Son of God, by which the greatest purposes of God’s moral kingdom are answered in the highest possible degree, and all happy intelligences, especially the redeemed from among men, are brought into a near union with God, and are under special advantages to receive communications from him, and enjoy his love and friendship in a manner and degree which could not have been in any other way. This is the mutual love and friendship spoken of in the text, which takes place between the incarnate Son of God, the divine Redeemer of lost men, and his church or spouse, or every one of the redeemed.
He is in a peculiar and distinguished sense the friend of the redeemed; and he is the beloved of their soul in a sense and degree in which no other person is, or can be: and hence there is a mutual love and friendship between them, which is beyond comparison the most intimate, intense, sweet and exalted of any thing of the kind between any other friends and lovers, unspeakably surpassing all other friendships in nature and degree, attended with the highest, most noble, transporting, foul-ravishing enjoyment and delight, that can possibly exist, or be conceived of.
This union of hearts, this mutual love and friendship between Christ the Redeemer and Saviour, and believers in him, or the redeemed, is represented in scripture by the inclination and affection between the two sexes of which mankind consist, under the influence of which they mutually seek and come into a peculiar union and intimacy with each other, in which they may enjoy each other, and be happy in the exercise of mutual love and friendship. It is represented by the sweet love and affection between the bridegroom and his bride, and the mutual love and friendship, and solemn engagements, by which the husband and his spouse are united, and become one, and are happy in each other. And this similitude is, beyond doubt, most wisely and properly chosen, by which to represent this spiritual union 51and friendship, as it is in many respects the most lively, striking emblem and image of it that can be found in all nature; and is especially calculated to give men the best and most clear idea of it, and to give and keep up in their minds a conviction and sense of the reality, nature and happiness of such a union, love and friendship.
This seems to be the design of this song from which the words of the text are taken. It is indeed a Love-song, in which the highest, most noble, pure and honourable love and friendship between Christ and his people is represented and celebrated under the similitude of two lovers whose hearts are united in the strongest, the most pure and sweetest love of esteem, benevolence and complacency, in the exercise of which they desire and seek the enjoyment of each other in the nearest union and greatest intimacy, in the near relation of husband and spouse. This is therefore called The Song of Songs, i.e. the most excellent song, especially the best and most excellent of all the songs of Solomon, which we are told were a thousand and five, as the theme, the subject and matter of it, is by far the most important, entertaining, excellent and sublime; in order to which Solomon was divinely inspired.
As the virtuous, pious and pure love between a man and his spouse is in many respects the most lively and instructive image of the union and love between Christ and his church, God, in his wisdom and goodness, saw fit to give such a representation of it in a divine song, as what was greatly needed, and would be exceeding useful to his church and people. And though the carnal and inattentive, or those who are strangers to this divine love and friendship, may call it all foolishness, and in their boasted wisdom despise and ridicule it, or improve it only to carnal, low and obscene purposes; yet the children of true wisdom will justify the wisdom of God herein, and adore his goodness, while they find themselves instructed, quickened and edified hereby. And every true, chaste virgin who is espoused to Christ 52 as the best friend and spiritual husband, will attend to it, and meditate upon it, with a peculiar relish, and sweet and holy delight, which unspeakably surpasses every thing the unholy soul can enjoy, or even imagine. The words of the text are the conclusion of the answer to a question put to the spouse, viz. What is thy beloved, more than another beloved? She readily answers, by giving a particular description of his charming beauties and superlative excellence, by which he is distinguished from all others, the chief among ten thousands; and then sums up all in one word, by saying, He is altogether lovely. He has the highest beauty, excellence and perfection, and has nothing else. Having thus given his character, she says, with reference to the question. This is my beloved, and this is my friend. This is the person, this is the character, with which I am so deeply in love; I am not ashamed to own him to be the beloved of my soul. And this is my best friend, whole heart is set on me, and he loves me as much as I can desire.
The mutual love and friendship between Christ and the believer, you will observe, is expressed here. The true Christian has set his love on Christ; he is his beloved; he has given his heart to him, as to one who is the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely. And Christ loves him most tenderly, in the character of a true, faithful and all-sufficient friend and patron, and so returns love for love.
The words do then lead us to attend to Christ, as he is here pointed out, in the character of the beloved friend of his people, the redeemed from among men.
It may be said in general, that Christ, the glorious head and husband of his church, has every thing in him that can possibly come into the character of the best friend, and that to an inconceivable and infinite degree; and there is nothing belongs to him but what serves to complete and perfect this character; yea, he is at an infinite distance from every thing else. And his relation to his people, and all his conduct towards them, are such, and such are all the circumstances of this friendship, 53as to conspire to make it the most sweet, ravishing, noble and exalted that in the nature of things can be; and render him in the highest possible degree a desirable, worthy and excellent friend.
But, for the better illustration of this point, the following particulars may be attended to.
1. He is the most able friend, even an omnipotent and all-sufficient one. He can do whatever he pleases. He has a sufficiency of power and wisdom in all possible cases, and is perfectly able to do for his friends, who love and trust in him, whatever they need, or can possibly want to have done. All other friends are deficient in this respect: though they may have some sufficiency and ability to do some things for us, yet it is but infinitely little they can do, compared with what we want to have done. We are infinitely needy; and must be eternally most miserable and wretched, unless we have some friend to help us, who is fully able to go through with the work, and do all we want to have done, even in the most extreme, and, without such a friend, a desperate case. Now Christ is such a friend. he is understanding and wise, perfectly to know what our case is, and what we want, and what is the wisest and best way to afford relief, and supply all our wants; and he has full power to do whatever his wisdom dictates. And in this respect he is distinguished from all other persons in the universe; none but he was able to befriend us in the case in which we are. This will more fully appear, before we have done.
2. He has the heart of a friend in all respects, and to the most perfect degree; or, he is willing and fully engaged to do all he can do for his people; all they can possibly want to have done in any case, and at any time. All other friends fail here. Though they are able to do but little for their friends comparatively, yet they nave not goodness enough to do all they can, in all cases, and at all times. They have not the heart of a friend to perf9Ction; so are not friendly to the utmost of their power at all times, but may be very unfriendly in some 54instances; therefore cannot be relied upon without caution, and danger of being disappointed. But Christ has the heart of a friend to infinite perfection, so that he can be relied upon in all cases, without any limits or danger. His benevolence to his people is without any bounds, and sufficient to surmount the greatest difficulties in the way of their good, and prompt him to do things infinitely great for them, and bestow on them the best and the greatest good, however unworthy and ill-deserving they are, and however criminal and vile their conduct has been towards him, in the most aggravated and horrid abuse of his goodness.
3. He is a friend on whom we are dependent, and to whom we are indebted and beholden in the highest possible degree. This gives great advantage to love and friendship, where the friends and lovers are not equal, but one superior to the other, and the other’s benefactor and saviour to such a degree as to lay his friend tinder the greatest obligations to love and gratitude, And the greater this dependence is, and the more one friend has received from, and is indebted to another, in this way, the more sweet and happy is the love and friendship between them. It is indeed contrary to pride, and an heart that is not formed for true friendship, to be thus united to such a superior as a friend, and to be thus dependent upon, and wholly indebted and beholden to him for every thing; but it is not so, but directly the contrary, with the truly humble sinner: that friend will be most agreeable to such an one on whom he is most dependent, and to whom he is in the highest degree obliged; and we cannot form an idea of any other two friends so happy as these, when this is the case to the highest possible degree, or conceive of any friendship so great, advantageous and sweet as this. It seems indeed to belong to the nature of true creature friendship, even to desire and delight in this circumstance, viz. to be greatly indebted and beholden to the friend we esteem and love: the greater obligations we are under to him the better pleased we are, and the more 55 sweet is the love and friendship. This seems to be owing to two things especially; one is, that hereby we have a clear and striking evidence of our friend’s love to us; which must give sweetness and enjoyment in proportion to our love to him. The other is, that hereby we are led to feel and exercise a love of gratitude, which is peculiarly sweet, in proportion to the love of esteem, benevolence and complacency we have for our friend. In this view, the more we are obliged, the better; and the greater satisfaction and sweetness we have in the friendship. And on the other hand, the more the other has done for the obliged friend, and the greater benefactor he has been to him, the higher enjoyment and happiness he has, in proportion to his benevolence and love to him.
Hence it is, that where persons have undertaken to represent the highest and most affecting instances of true love and friendship, and the greatest degree of enjoyment and happiness in such friendship, and exhibit this to the best advantage in a feigned story or romance, they have formed a history of some one of a high and excellent character, and of a generous, benevolent spirit, setting his heart on one in a mean, low and miserable state and circumstances, to be his spouse. She is, for instance, taken captive by her enemies, and reduced to the greatest poverty and distress, and her life eminently exposed. He, in order to redeem and deliver her, and procure her for his bride and spouse, goes through a long series of self-denial and sufferings; is at great expense, and does great exploits, and exposes his life to an eminent degree, without which she must have perished in the hands of her cruel foes. And thus he delivers her, by risking all that is dear to him in her behalf, and, in a sense, giving his own life for her; so that she entirely owes her life, and all she has, to him, and is under the greatest imaginable obligations to him. In this way he procures her for his spouse. and brings her into the nearest union to. himself, and a foundation is laid for the greatest happiness in each 56 other, in the enjoyment of the most sweet love and friendship; every way to an unspeakably greater degree than could have been in different circumstances, or in any other way, in which she would not have been so much dependent upon, and so greatly obliged to him.
This is but a faint shadow of the case before us, with respect to Christ, the friend and bridegroom of his church and people. They are fallen into an infinitely calamitous and evil Rate; a state of complete, total and eternal destruction; into the hands of the devil, their great and potent enemy, and under the displeasure and curse of the God that made them: being infinitely guilty and ill deserving, the prisoners of justice, bound over to suffer his eternal wrath; not being able or disposed to help and deliver themselves in the least degree. The Son of God was the only person in the universe that was able to redeem and save them; and he was not under the lead obligation to do it. But he voluntarily offered himself, and undertook this most difficult, costly and mighty work; and that from pure love and benevolence to these lost and infinitely miserable creatures, and a desire to procure and present to himself a glorious church, a bride, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but perfectly beautiful and holy, and without blemish, being brought into the nearest and everlasting union and friendship with himself.
In order to this, he gave himself for them. Though he was a person of infinite dignity, riches and worth, he became poor, and humbled himself so as to become a servant, and subjected himself to the greatest ignominy and sufferings, even unto death. He voluntarily put himself into the place and circumstances of his spouse, and when her whole interest lay at stake, and she was in a state of complete destruction, he took the whole of her destruction and sufferings on himself, and went through with the matter: he drank the whole of the bitter cup, that she might escape; he gave his life for her ransom, and spilt his own blood in the most trying circumstances, that he might completely redeem 57her from the jaws of the most dreadful and eternal destruction, and deliver her from the hand and power of all her enemies. He has survived the dreadful scene, having completed the greatest and most difficult work that ever was, or ever will or can be undertaken, and yet lives to espouse the cause of his people; and will not stop till he has completed the matter, and sanctified and cleansed every one of them with the washing of water by the word, and brought them into the most near, and an everlasting union and friendship with himself, in the most perfect enjoyment of his love, riches, honours and happiness forever and ever.
Thus the redeemed have a Friend, not only in himself most excellent and worthy, and full of the greatest benevolence and goodness, but one on whom they are in the highest degree dependent, and to whom they are indebted and obliged in the highest imaginable or even possible degree, in a manner which is most pleasing to them, and serves to render him unspeakably more excellent and worthy in their eyes, and give a sweetness to their love and friendship, which could not be known, in any other circumstances.
No other creatures in the universe have such a friend as this. The angels have no such friend. When some of them fell into sin and wo, they had no friend to redeem them. And the redeemed from among men have had infinitely more done for them, and they are infinitely more dependent on the Son of God for all good and happiness, and indebted and obliged to him, than the angels are. They are the bride, the Lamb’s wife, who are by him redeemed out of great tribulation, from a state of infinite wo, in which they lay perfectly helpless; that he might enjoy them forever in a peculiar union and friendship, which exceeds every thing of this kind in all possible degrees. These circumstances lay a foundation for a sweetness and enjoyment immensely higher than could take place in any other way. In a sense and acknowledgment of what Christ has done for them, and their peculiar dependence upon, and obligations 58to him, the redeemed will exercise a kind of humble, sweet and beautiful love towards their Friend and Redeemer, which is peculiar to them, and never could have had an existence in any other way but this; and which will be the eternal source of a most sweet and high enjoyment, which no stranger, none but the beloved bride, not even the angels, can intermeddle with or taste. In the exercise of this peculiarly sweet love and friendship towards their infinitely dear and glorious Friend and Redeemer, they will eternally sing a new song, which none but the redeemed, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, can possibly sing or learn, to all eternity; no, not even the highest and bed angel in heaven; saying, “Worthy is the Lamb to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, and hast made us kings and priests unto God.” Well then may they now begin to say, with a heart-felt sweetness, and joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.”
4. Jesus Christ is a friend who has exercised the highest degrees of love, and has given the greatest possible testimonies of it.
In order to true friendship there must be mutual love. This is essential to the character of our friend, that he loves us; and he acts in this character, and maintains friendship, by exercising love, and giving proper tokens and manifestations of it, on all occasions. Solomon observes, that “A friend loveth at all times.” And he is the greatest friend, whose love is the strongest, and is exercised and manifested in the most difficult and trying circumstances.
Now Christ has distinguished himself from all others in this respect, and has discovered himself to be infinitely the greatest and best friend. This appears from what was said, under the last particular, of what Christ has done and suffered for his spouse; for in all this he exercised and expressed his love, and that in the most trying circumstances, and to the highest possible degree. 59 One thing that recommends a friend, and adds to his worth and excellence, and makes him dear to his beloved, is, that he is a tried friend; he has persevered in his friendship, and exercised and expressed his love in the most difficult case imaginable i in doing which he has been at the greatest pains and cost, while he had the created temptations to give up his beloved. Jesus Christ is such a tried friend, and that to the greatest possible degree.
“Greater love hath no man,” says this greatest and chief of all friends, “than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” But Christ’s love and friendship has infinitely exceeded this. He has done and suffered more for his people than merely dying for them, a thousand times over. He drank the bitter cup for them, which was infinitely more than merely dying a violent death. He was made a curse for them, and suffered a sense of the wrath of God. This drank up his spirits: the foretaste of it threw him into the most amazing agony: and this made him cry out, in inexpressible and most astonishing anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” What is the most cruel death that ever martyr suffered, to this? The martyrs have been able to rejoice in the midst of all the keenest tortures enemies could inflict. They have sung in the flames, and found it the most happy, joyful hour they ever saw. And so might Christ have done on the cross, had he but their supports, and no more to suffer than they. But what he suffered in his death was something infinitely greater and more terrible. Under this infinite weight he hung on the cross, and at last bowed his head and gave up the ghost. This was dying in a sense and degree in which no other person ever did. To die thus was infinitely more, and greater, and more dreadful, than the death of all the ten thousand martyrs who have fallen a sacrifice to the cruelty of their bloody persecutors. Yea, it was as great a thing and equivalent to the eternal death and destruction which the redeemed deserve, and were exposed to: for he died 60in their stead; he took their death and eternal destruction on himself. On him it fell in its full weight, and he bore and went through it all. He knew what it would cost him to espouse the cause of sinners; yet he voluntarily undertook, put himself in their circumstances (sin only excepted) and went through with it, without flinching in the least degree. Here is an instance of love and friendship, to which there neither is, nor can be, any parallel in the universe. This is the evidence and token of love which Christ has given to his people; which is infinitely the greatest that ever was, or can be.
Besides, the love of Christ to his people will appear yet greater, if we consider their native character and disposition towards him. He loved them, and died for them, when they were not only mean, worthless, unworthy and infinitely guilty, but his enemies, disposed to hate, despise and oppose him, in his whole character and in all his ways; and even in his most astonishing works of love and kindness to them. Herein he has commended his love to us, in that, when we were his great and inexcusable enemies, he died for us. It is a much higher exercise of love, and a greater testimony of it, to love and die for an enemy, a base, odious injurious creature, than it would be to do this for an excellent, benevolent and much esteemed friend.
What higher evidence and testimony could Christ give of his love of benevolence, to those whom he redeems, than this! And what higher act of love and friendship can there be! Surely his love to his people cannot be doubted of. And if he thus loved them when they were, his vile enemies, he will continue to love them now they are reconciled, and have chosen him for their best friend and patron. And this is an exercise and evidence of a strong and wonderful love, that will unspeakably endear him to them, and add an inexpressible sweetness to this friendship forever.
And, as the effect and further, evidence of this love, see gives them his Holy Spirit to change their hearts, deliver them from the dominion of sin, and the slavery 61to Satan, in which they naturally are, and implant lasting principles of holiness and love to him, by which their hearts are purified, and unite themselves to him, with the most perfect bond and union of love and friendship. This is another pledge of his great, everlasting and unchangeable love to them. And the saints in this world, so far as they have the evidence that they are the subjects of such a work of grace, may well rejoice, and with unspeakably sweet delight give praise “unto him that has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood.” What wonderful, sovereign love and grace Is this, which overtakes and falls upon the guilty, sinful wretch, while in his full career to hell, running on in the most daring, mad opposition to Christ, and contempt of him, without the least disposition to hearken to the voice of wisdom, and turn at his reproof! Every true Christian ascribes all this to Christ, and is so affected with his preventing, sovereign love and grace, herein exercised and manifested, as to taste an unspeakable sweetness in it. With what sweet delight does he often say, “If I have the least degree of love to Christ, and a heart to know, submit to and trust in him, this is the effect of his eternal preventing, sovereign love and grace, which alone has made the difference between me and those who run on in their mad course to hell! Not unto me, not unto me, but to thy wonderful, distinguishing love and grace, be all the glory!”
It may be also observed here, that Christ has given, them his Spirit, by which they are sealed to the day or redemption, and as the pledge and earnest of their eternal inheritance, so a pledge and token of his unchangeable, everlasting love to them. He has indeed given himself, and all things, to them; he has made them heirs of the whole universe. He has made and is doing all things for their sakes. He says to his church or redeemed ones, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious 62in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Isa. xliii. 3, 4.) Surely Christ shews the greatest love imaginable to his people, since he gives them all he has to give, and withholds no one good thing from them. Now the more love he has to his people, and the higher and more clear evidence he gives of it, so much the more excellent and valuable friend he is to them; and their happiness in him as a friend will be in proportion to this. How infinitely distinguished, in this respect, is Christ from all other friends! Well may the Christian say, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.
The same Subject continued.
Cant. v. 16. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.
5. JESUS CHRIST, the Christian’s friend, is a person of infinite dignity, worth and excellence. He has all this to the highest possible perfection and extent, so that no imagination can possibly exceed it. This his true dignity, worth and excellence, in himself considered, infinitely heightens his character and worth as a friend, and lays a foundation for the most sweet, exalted and growing happiness in his love and friendship to all eternity. He who has no true worth and excellence cannot be justly valued and delighted in at all, as a friend, and there is no foundation for a happy friendship with such an one. Worth and excellence therefore comes into the essence of the character of a friend: and the more any one has of this, the more is he to be prized as a friend, and the greater happiness is to be enjoyed in his love 63and friendship. A friend gives himself to his beloved; so that the more dignity, worth and excellence he has, the more he gives to the person he admits into union and friendship with him. Therefore the more worth and excellence any person has, the more we naturally, and justly, prize his love and friendship, and the more sweetness and pleasure we have in it. We prize and delight in the love of another in proportion to. our esteem of him, and the sense we have of his true excellence, dignity and worthiness. How much better is it to us to be the objects of the love of some dignified personage, who appears to us to have all the excellence and attracting charms of human nature, and to have him our friend, than to have the love and friendship of one who is in our eyes absolutely worthless and contemptible! I need not therefore, yea, I cannot, say of how much advantage the dignity and excellence of Christ is in this friendship, in this view. The higher the Christian rises in his esteem of Christ, the more he sees of his dignity and excellence, the more pleased and delighted he will necessarily be in being the object of his embraces and love. Surely then he had rather in this view be beloved by Christ than by all the world besides; and nothing can fill his breast with such overflowing delight as to be able to say. This is my beloved, and this is my friend. And this lays a foundation for esteem and complacency, without which there can be no happy friendship; and the higher this rises, the more happiness and enjoyment there is in a friend. Christ in this respect is distinguished from all other persons in the universe, as the best friend, in union and love to whom there may be the highest happiness. We are in ourselves so mean and low, and of such little worth, that we cannot enjoy friendship to the best advantage with those who are our equals. The more dignified and excellent our friend is, and the more distinguished he is from us, and the more above us, in this respect, the more happy shall we necessarily be in his love and friendship. In Christ therefore believers have all that 64can be desired in a friend, in this respect. In him they have an inexhaustible fund for high and growing enjoyment; and, in a sense of his dignity and excellence, their ravished hearts will swell with, extatic delight, while they feel and say, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.”
6. Jesus Christ is the most condescending, familiar friend.
Where there is a great imparity in two friends, the one very high, honourable and worthy, and the other mean and low, it is inconsistent with the most sweet and happy friendship, unless he who is dignified and exalted, and is every way so much superior to the other, knows how, and is disposed, to exercise condescension equal to his true dignity and worth, so as to practise as great familiarity and intimacy with his friend who is so much beneath him, as if he were his equal. But where this is the case, the great superiority of one to the other gives a great advantage to the friendship, and renders it more sweet and happy to the inferior; so that the more worthy and exalted his friend is, the higher enjoyment he has in the friendship. This imparity in station and dignity is commonly in the way of the enjoyment of true friendship among men in this world; because the great and exalted know not how to condescend and stoop to the mean and low, in a manner and degree that is in such a case necessary, but are disposed to keep themselves at a distance.
But Christ is in this respect the most excellent friend; for his condescension and humility are equal to his high exaltation and dignity, and he admits his friends, however mean, unworthy and despicable they are in themselves, to as great familiarity and intimacy, as if he were but their equal; so that his superiority and dignity give great advantage to the friendship, in this respect.
And here it is of importance to observe, that his incarnation, or union to the human nature, by which he is a real man, even Immanuel, God with us, is of infinite 65advantage with respect to this. God is infinitely the best friend; but it is impossible he should communicate himself to creatures, and become their condescending, familiar friend, in any other way, so well, and to so great advantage, as by uniting himself to their nature, so as to become one of them. In this view, as well as on many other accounts, the incarnation of the Son of God is a most wise and gracious contrivance, as it is adapted in the highest possible degree to promote the happiness of creatures, especially of the redeemed, in the love and enjoyment of God. God hereby comes down to creatures in a way and manner suited to their nature and capacity, and discovers and communicates himself to them to the greatest possible advantage; and there is a foundation laid for that condescension to men, and intimate love and friendly familiarity between Christ and his people, which could not have been in any other way. The Most High God is become a man, a most meek, humble, condescending man, able and disposed to take his people into the most intimate union and familiarity; while this man has all the dignity and honour of divinity. Thus the man Christ Jesus will eternally be the medium of a kind and degree of communication of the Deity to creatures, which could be in no other way, and which is every way adapted to raise them up and make them happy: and the redeemed have a most condescending, intimate friend in the person of Christ, who is both God and man, who cannot be equalled by any other person in the universe; and in union and friendship with whom, they have the highest enjoyment and happiness.
The condescension of Christ, as a most tender, intimate and familiar friend, is truly wonderful, and has not, nor ever will have, any parallel in the universe. This he practised in a manner and degree truly astonishing, towards his friends and disciples, when he was on earth. He condescended to their weakness, and adapted himself in his instructions to their low, childish way of conceiving of things, and meekly bore with their stupidity 66and unteachable perverseness. He dwelt with them night and day, and admitted them to embrace and kiss him from time to time. We may look on this as an image and specimen of the condescension and familiarity w4th which he treats his people at all times. Though he is now exalted in the highest heavens, and has taken the throne of the universe, and rules over all, angels and authorities and powers being made subject: unto him; yet this has not lifted him up in any degree, so as to dispose him to keep at a greater distance from his people; but he practises as much condescension towards the meanest of them, and receives them to as great a nearness and familiarity, as ever he did in his state of humiliation. His condescension and goodness in this respect infinitely exceeds that of any other friend, and is equal to his exaltation, greatness and dignity. In this he excels all other friends, as much as he does in honour and dignity.
No other friend is so easy of access as he: his friends are Welcome to him at all times; yea, he is always present with them, so that they may converse with him whenever they please, in the most intimate, familiar manner, without keeping the least distance, and without any reserve. He is all attention to them whenever they turn their thoughts with their hearts towards him, and no thing can divert him from conversing with them, or interrupt the correspondence, but their withdrawing themselves, or turning away from him. He is ready to meet them and attend upon them at what time and place they please; yea, he calls after them, and invites them to look towards him, and speak to him. He says to each one of his friends, “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” Behold, he stands at the door of every one, and knocks, and whoever opens to him, he comes in and sups with them, and they with him.
And here it is worthy of special remark, that their meanness, unworthiness, and past ill treatment of him, is not in the least in the way of this his condescending 67goodness and kindness. He has no disposition to retaliate for their folly and ingratitude, and keep them at a distance for this: he is as condescending and kind to the meanest and most unworthy and guilty, as to any whatsoever. And while he thus condescends, and is good and kind to them in the most liberal manner, he does not upbraid them for their past follies, or because they, are so much beholden to him. He gives most bountifully, and with the greatest liberality, and upbraideth not.
And he is not, nor ever will be, ashamed of any of his people who have united themselves to him as their chosen friend, however mean and despicable in themselves; but he will appear as their friend, at all times, and in the most public manner, and own them to be his friends, and confess their names before his Father, and before his angels. Yea, he is so far from being ashamed of them, that he looks on them as an honour to him. They are unto him “a crown of glory, and a royal diadem,” in the hand of this their condescending friend: they are unto him “for a name and for a praise and for a glory,” as the bride is the ornament and glory of her husband. Such a friend as this has every true Christian, in which he is infinitely distinguished from all other friends; who is most exactly suited to the circumstances of the redeemed from among men, and to raise their happiness in friendship with him to the highest key.—But I have yet many other things to say of this most excellent and blessed Friend.
7. By all his condescension, love and kindness towards sinners, and entering into the nearest and dearest friendship with them, he does not degrade himself in the least, nor lose any degree of his true dignity, worth and excellence; but has greatly honoured himself hereby.
This is a very important and essential article in this friendship; for if this were not true, it would be a very unhappy union, and no good could come of it, either to Christ, or those on whom he sets his love. If this were a dishonourable friendship on Christ’s part, he would by this lose his merit and worthiness in the sight of the 63Father; so could be of no avail to recommend the sinner on whom he sets his love, of which he stands in infinite need, and without which he cannot be happy in the favour of God; which will be more particularly considered under the next head.
The Jews attempted to reproach our Lord, and cast an odium upon him, by saying that he was a friend of publicans and sinners. If he had been so in the sense they meant, it would have been indeed a reproach and disgrace to him. If he had been their friend in a sense which did imply the least degree of love and approbation of their character as sinners, and if he had espoused their cause in this view, and under the least influence of this, he would so far degrade himself, and render himself and his love worthless, odious and despicable in the sight of all holy, worthy beings. This therefore would have wholly spoilt his character as the Almighty Friend and Redeemer of sinners. But Jesus Christ is infinitely far from this. Though he is the friend of sinners, has espoused their cause, and befriended them as no other person ever did or could; yet he has not hereby appeared in the least degree a friend to sin, but the contrary to an infinite degree. lie has befriended sinners, consistent with the most perfect and even infinite hatred of sin, and so of their character as sinners, and so as to manifest his hatred and abhorrence of them to the highest possible degree. In his highest act of love and friendship to sinners, he did in the highest possible degree, and in the most public, convincing, striking manner, justify the Divine Character and law which the sinner had opposed and contemned, and condemn the sinner. The highest angel in heaven cannot conceive to this day, and never will to all eternity, how Christ could have condemned sin more effectually, and set the sinner in a worse and more odious light, and shewed his love of holiness and hatred of sin more fully, than he did when he died on the cross. In this he did in the highest possible degree justify God in threatening and cursing the sinner, and being disposed to punish him forever, while he voluntarily took that punishment on himself, that the sinner might escape.69
In Christ then are united the greatest friend to God and his law, and to the cause and interest of holiness, that ever was known in the universe; and at the same time the greatest friend of the sinner. These two seeming contraries are united in the same person and character, and expressed in the most perfect manner, and to the highest degree, in the same conduct. Therefore, when Christ stooped the lowest, and condescended the most to befriend sinners, he did in the highest degree and most effectual manner espouse the cause of God in opposition to the sinner, and appeared in his greatest excellency, and was most worthy and meritorious, in God’s light. How these two could be united in the same person and the same act, was far above the wisdom of angels; and herein, in a special manner, is Christ the wisdom of God.
Well may the Christian boast and say, “This is my friend;” who is also the greatest friend to the supreme Lawgiver of the universe, and has so become my friend, and stooped to espouse my cause, and take me into the nearest and dearest relation to himself, as at the same time to maintain and express his dignity, worthiness and excellency, and merit infinitely in the sight of the Father.—This leads to another particular.
8. Christ improves all his worth and excellence in the behalf and for the benefit of his people. It is all theirs, and improved to their advantage, in the best manner, and to the highest degree; so that it is in effect all given away to them, being most effectually, and to the best purpose, placed to their account.
Sinners want such a friend; and no other person could befriend them to any purpose, to himself or to them, but one who is infinitely excellent and worthy. They being infinitely hateful, guilty and ill-deserving in themselves, and having nothing by which they can abate their ill-desert, and render themselves a whit the more deserving and acceptable, on its own account, they must be eternally hated and cursed, unless they have something to recommend them which is not in themselves, but in 70some other: and this must be something infinitely valuable and excellent, or it cm in no measure or degree countervail their odiousness and ill-desert so as in the least to recommend them to their offended Lawgiver and Sovereign. And it will not become him to forgive them and show them any favour, unless they have something to recommend them, and repair the dishonour they have done him by violating his law, and despising his character and government. Therefore, unless some one did espouse their cause and undertake for them, who has worthiness and merit enough to restore the honour of God’s broken law, and effectually recommend sinners to their offended Sovereign by interposing his own worthiness in their behalf, they must be the objects of his displeasure and wrath forever, as what is most fit and right.
Now Christ is the only person in the universe who was able effectually to espouse their cause in this respect, and act the part of a friend to them. He has worthiness and merit enough in the eyes of the offended Deity, effectually to procure pardon and favour for the sinner, if properly interposed in his behalf, so that it might be fit to reckon it to his account. And this Christ has done in the most lit and proper manner. He has put: himself in the sinner’s stead, has borne the curse he lay under, and paid the greatest honours to the divine law and character; which is so pleasing and acceptable to the Majesty of Heaven, that he is ready to pardon and. bless any one who is a friend to Christ, and trusts in his merit and worthiness alone to recommend him.
Christ repeatedly spoke of this to his disciples in the most express manner, and told them that their love and union of heart to him did effectually recommend them to the Father, and interest them in his love and favour, to as great a degree as they needed, or could desire. His words are, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father. If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him. 71For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”
We cannot reasonably suppose that Christ means to declare in these words that their love and friendship to him did, on its own account, or because of the excellency and worth of it in itself considered, recommend them to the Father, and procure his love and favour to them, as a testimony of his well-pleasedness with their persons and love, considered as by themselves, and separate from Christ. We cannot understand our Saviour thus in these words; for this would set them in direct contradiction to the whole New Testament, which teaches us that sinners are pardoned, and received to the favour and love of the Father, purely out of respect to Christ, to his righteousness and worthiness, which alone recommends them to him; and not any exercises and works of their own. But his meaning must be, that the Father is so well pleased with him, and loves him so well, considered in the capacity of mediator and a friend of sinners, and his merit and worthiness in this character is so great in his light, that he is ready to be well pleased with and love any sinner who unites himself to him in true love and friendship, and trusts in him in this relation and character. Such love and union to this friend is a sufficient ground and reason of the Father’s loving him; and so the Father loves him, because he loves and is united to his Son, who is infinitely honourable and worthy in his light, and is infinitely near and dear to him: and who has done and suffered so much in the behalf of the sinner, that his merit and worth might be improved for his benefit, in which he has honoured the Father, and in the most excellent way and manner possible, and to the greatest advantage, employed all the interest he has with the Father, to procure his love and favour to the sinner who is thus united to him. The Father loves his Son so well, he is a person of such infinite dignity and worthiness, and has exercised such an high degree of virtue, and has honoured him so much, in what he has done and suffered for sinners, 72improving all his merit with the Father in their behalf; that nothing is wanting but the sinner’s loving him and trusting in him in this character, so uniting himself to him as his true friend, in order to the Father’s loving him. The Father has such love to his Son, and the Son stands in such a relation to sinners, that the sinner who loves the Son is necessarily beloved by the Father, purely from the love he has to his Son, however odious, vile and unworthy he is in himself. And thus the Father loves them, because they love his Son; and can do no otherwise, unless he ceases to love his Son; for the love he has to his Son will necessarily operate so, and induce him to love those who love his Son, and to whom the Son is a friend, and acts as their friend before the Father, presenting his merit, and all he has done and suffered for his honour, desiring that this may be reckoned to them, and that they might have pardon and favour on his account. For the Father to withhold his love and favour from such is really to withhold his love and favour from his Son; and therefore if he love the latter, he will love the former; and there is no other possible supposition in the reason and nature of things.
And this view of the matter (by the way) may lead all the attentive to see what is the true meaning and import of the do6lrine of the imputation of the merit and righteousness of Christ, for the pardon and justification of the sinner, who believes in and cleaves to him in the character of a mediator; and how reasonable it is, and exactly agreeable to the nature of things.
If we have a friend who loves us, and there is a mutual friendship between us and him, who we know has great favour and merit with one whom we have offended, and whose love and favour we want, and who is very dear to him, and greatly beloved by him; we are naturally, and with the greatest reason, ready to trust in such a. friend to procure for us the favour we want. And if the dignity and worthiness of our friend is sufficient, and his merit with the person we have offended is so great as to countervail our offence, and worthy of so 73great a favour as we want, and we know he is engaged to make the best use of his merit and worthiness in the eyes of that person to procure of him this favour, having exerted himself in all possible ways in our behalf, and so as greatly to please and honour him; if we have such a friend, we may be sure of obtaining the favour we want, however unworthy we are, and how much soever we have offended this person, and though he has no disposition to shew us the least favour on our own account; but, considered as we are in ourselves, and unconnected with our friend, is disposed to hate, condemn and destroy us: and in proportion to our love to our friend, and sense of his dignity and worthiness, and of the high virtue and excellence of what he had done in our behalf, shall we have confidence of obtaining the favour we want, and with boldness approach the offended person in his name.
If a subject has incurred the just displeasure of his prince, and greatly wants his pardon and favour; how happy does he count himself, if he has some great personage his friend, who is near the prince, and has great honour and favour with him! especially if he knows this great and honourable personage is ready to improve all the interest and influence he has with the prince, in his behalf, and for this end has been at vail pains and expense to make good the damage the prince had sustained by his crime, and render it honourable for him to grant the pardon, and bestow the favour he wants. In such a case we all know the criminal cannot fail of obtaining the pardon and favour he needs, if his friend at court has dignity, merit and worthiness enough, in the eyes of the prince, to be worthy of such a favour. The prince’s love to this personage will naturally, and necessarily, flow out to the person whose friend he is, and who loves him. And in this case we see the merit and worthiness of this great and excellent personage is imputed, or transferred to the account of the unworthy criminal, to recommend him to that favour, and procure it for him, of which he is most unworthy in himself, 74and which it would have been utterly unfit and indecent for the prince to bellow upon him, had it not been for this his connection with this worthy person.
This is in some degree a parallel to the case before us. Jesus Christ, the Christian’s friend, appears with such dignity and honour in the court of heaven, and has done such astonishingly great and wonderful exploits to secure the honour of the Almighty Sovereign and Lawgiver of Heaven and Earth, and render it consistent with his granting pardon and favour to sinners; and has so pleased and honoured the Father, and is so dear and excellent in his eyes, that he is ready to love and shew favour to any sinner who loves this worthy personage, and is a real and hearty friend to him; whose interest he espouses before the Father, and interposes all his merit in his behalf. This is quite sufficient to recommend the most guilty, ill-deserving wretch on earth to all the favour that Heaven can bellow. He has no need to plead any thing but his relation and union to the Son of God, as his true and hearty friend; he wants nothing else to recommend him to the highest honours and happiness in God’s kingdom forever. The Father of the Universe will love him with a dear and everlasting love, and embrace him as his dear child, the friend of his well-beloved, his dearest Son. And all the angels will love, serve and honour him forever, because he bears the character, and stands in the relation, of a friend to the Son of God, and is one whose interest he has espoused, and whose name he will confess before the Father and before the angels.
Thus the Christian has a friend who is not only most worthy and excellent in his eyes, with whom his heart is pleased and charmed; but this excellence and worthiness is reckoned to his account, and is become his righteousness, by which he is recommended to pardon and favour with God; so that the Supreme Majesty and Lawgiver of Heaven and Earth hereby becomes his eternal friend and father. Therefore the higher sense the Christian has of Christ’s excellency and worthiness, and 75 the more he loves him, the more confidence, assurance and joy will he naturally have in his merit and righteousness, and say, “In the Lord Jesus Christ have I righteousness: In him shall I, with all the seed of Israel, be justified, and in him only will I glory.”
9. Christ is not only a friend who is full of good will and benevolence to his people, but he highly esteems them, and has great and most sweet complacency and delight in them.
This is abundantly represented in this song. Christ often calls his spouse, the church, his fair one: and she is to him the fairest among women. His language to his church, and to every true member of it, is, “O my dove, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair: thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks. Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee. Thou hast ravished my heart, my lifter, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How much better is thy love than wine 1 and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.”
There is something mysterious and wonderful in this; that Christ should thus esteem and delight in those who are in themselves, and in their natural state, so mean, despicable, vile and odious. But this comes to pass by his putting his own beauty and excellence upon them, forming them after his own likeness, and receiving them into the nearest relation to himself, by which they become clothed with his righteousness and worthiness, and partake of his honour and fulness: so that in this near relation, and beautified and adorned with his own beauty and holiness, they are honourable in his eyes, and he takes great complacency and delight in them. And as he is continually purifying and adorning 76them more and more, and will go on to do it until not the least deformity, not so much as spot or wrinkle, remains, and they are become most perfect beauties, so his complacency and delight in them is increasing, and is now greater, in the view of what they shall soon be brought to, even the most consummate beauty and glory, like a king’s daughter, all glorious within, and her clothing of wrought gold: and they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, the most beautiful, glorious bride of the Lamb.
Now this adds an unspeakable value and sweetness to this friendship. In proportion as any one esteems, loves and delights in another, he naturally, and even necessarily, desires to be the object of his esteem and complacency; and consequently this gives him a sweet enjoyment and happiness, so far as he has evidence that it takes place, and in a degree equal to his view and sense of the worthiness and excellency of his friend. How great then must be the happiness of the believer in his friendship with Christ, from this circumstance! He has the highest and growing esteem of his person and character, and is more and more ravished with his superlative beauty and excellence; and nothing can be more desirable and sweet to him than to have the approbation and love of this glorious, excellent personage: and nothing is wanting to complete his happiness, but to know that he is the object of the complacency and sweet delight of his best beloved and most. esteemed friend. The thought of this is most transporting to his soul; and the more he is persuaded and assured of this in this world, the more ineffable sweetness does he taste and enjoy in this friendship. What then will be the happiness of this exalted friendship, when the beloved faint shall be made to shine forth as the sun in the most perfect beauty, and shall behold the dignity, beauty and excellence of his glorious Friend and Redeemer in the meridian brightness and splendour of his glory, and his heart shall glow with the highest and most perfect love of esteem and complacency towards 77 him, while this his infinitely glorious and excellent Friend returns love for love in the most full and ample manner, and embraces him as his dearest and best beloved, giving him the greatest possible assurance that he takes unspeakable delight and satisfaction in him, and will do lo to all eternity! This will raise the redeemed to heights of happiness, and sweet, extatic delight, beyond all conception, in the enjoyment of their exalted, most dear and best beloved friend, while they find themselves embraced by him in the high exercises of sweet love and complacence, being perfectly pleased and ravished with their love, and, in the highest and most exalted sense, “his left hand is under their head, and his right hand doth embrace them.” How will their hearts swell with the thought, and be filled full, and even run over, with ineffable delight and joy, while they think, and with the greatest assurance say, “This is my beloved, and this is my friend!”
And it is worthy of observation here, that their dependence on Christ for all their worthiness, beauty and excellence, as they receive it all from him, by which they become the objects of his esteem and complacency, they being wholly without any thing of this kind, and infinitely to the contrary of it as he finds them; this their dependence on him will greatly add to the sweetness and enjoyment, while they find themselves thus esteemed and beloved by him; for it is unspeakably more desirable and sweet to become the objects of his love and complacency in this way, than in any other.
The spouse who venerates, esteems and loves her husband far above all others, is happy in his embraces, and the tokens of his esteem, complacency and delight in her, in proportion to her sense of his dignity, worthiness and excellence. And if she has received all that which recommends her to him as the object of his peculiar esteem and delight, from him, or some way by his means, this will greatly add to the sweetness of her enjoyment, in a sense of his great condescension and goodness, and her peculiar obligations to him. This is 78a faint emblem of the case before us; for these things take place in the friendship we are considering, to an immensely greater degree, and in a far more exalted manner, than can be in any thing temporal and earthly.
And, by the way, it may be here observed, that the redeemed will have greatly the advantage of an eels in their friendship with Christ in this particular. As Christ has been a greater friend to the redeemed than to angels; has exercised immensely more benevolence and kindness, and done infinitely more for them, and so laid them under infinitely greater obligations to esteem, love and honour him; so he exercises a greater love of esteem, complacency and delight towards them, than the angels are the objects of: and that because, he puts a peculiar and distinguishing beauty and dignity on them, of which the angels do not partake. As the King’s bride, the queen, however mean her state was before she married him, is more honourable, and is much more the object of his esteem and complacency, and he takes much more delight and satisfaction in her, than in any of the most dignified servants and greatest nobles of his court, however great and honourable they are in themselves, and she enjoys a peculiar sweetness in his love, and a much higher pleasure and happiness than any of them can do; so the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is more happy in the embraces and peculiar love of her glorious Friend and Husband, the King of the Universe, and tastes more sweetness in a sense of his distinguished affection to her, than the angels, those noble servants of the King of Heaven, ever will or can do. Christ will eternally exercise and manifest a peculiar complacency and delight in them as their distinguished friend and redeemer: and this will be the source of a peculiar enjoyment and happiness, m which they will be distinguished from all other creatures, in the love and embraces of such a friend as no others ever had, or ever will have.
10. Christ is as much the friend of every individual, and the friendship between him and each one is as 79great, sweet and happy, and every way to as great advantage, as if he was the friend of no other person; yea, much more so.
Herein this friendship differs from, and has the advantage of, all others. If the love and affection of other friends is divided among a great number, and they have one common friend in whose friendship they share, each one has a less share than if he was the only beloved: and if we have one friend whom we esteem and love much above all others, it seems most agreeable at lead to have a peculiar and distinguished share in his affection, and to have him a friend to us in a sense and degree in which he is not to any other; so that a partner or rival in his affections and friendship is rather undesirable than pleasing, and tends to give an alloy to the friendship, rather than a sweetness. This is in a peculiar manner so in love and friendship between the sexes. The bride or spouse is jealous of any rival in the affection of her husband; she is contented with nothing short of having the whole of his love and affection centring in her: she naturally monopolizes it to herself exclusively, and cannot bear to have any one share with her in this friendship; and if this should be the case, it will spoil the friendship for her, and the more she loves him, the more unhappy and miserable she is.
And this, by the way, is a very strong and striking evidence, among many others, that this song, in which the text is found, is not a common love-song; as in this respect it is formed on a plan contrary to the nature of common love and friendship between the sexes, or the bride and her lover, and which is only suited to the case before us. The beloved spouse is in this song represented not as a single person, but as a company or society of persons united in seeking and setting their affections on one person as their common friend and lover. The spouse seeks company in her love to the bridegroom, and endeavours to draw other women to join with her in loving him, and speaks of others being united with her, in this, with approbation and pleasure: “Therefore the 80virgins love thee:—Draw me, we will run after thee:—WE will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine; the upright love thee.” “Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved gone aside? that we may seek him with thee. My beloved is gone down into his garden, &c.—Thou that dwelleth in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice.” This is a very unnatural representation for a woman to make with relation to her beloved friend, with whom she is seeking a union and friendship, in which a companion or rival would be most disagreeable. But it is perfectly agreeable to the case before us; for the spouse of Christ is not a single person, but a company or society united together in the same love and affection, to one common friend, lover and husband: and every individual believer, or friend of Christ, is so far from monopolizing his love, and desiring to be the only object of it, that it is a great addition to the sweetness and happiness of this friendship, that others join with him in the same love, and equally share in the love and friendship of this glorious friend and bridegroom. Each one enjoys as much of Christ’s love, has as full and large a share in his heart, and enjoys him every way as much, as if he had no other lover and friend in the universe: so that, however great the number is on whom Christ sets his heart, this does not in any degree lessen the privilege and enjoyment of any individual; for he, their common friend, has an inexhaustible, infinite fulness, and is just as much, and all that, to each single one, as if he was the only object of his love. Therefore the more love and benevolence the believer has to Christ, and the higher the friendship rises, the more pleased will he be to have him esteemed and beloved by others; and the more happiness and joy will he have that others share with him in the blessings of this friendship, in proportion to his benevolence to them, and delight in their welfare; which will always keep pace with his love to Christ and delight in him as the best and most glorious friend: so 81that every true friend of Christ is effectually formed and prepared to enjoy a peculiar pleasure and happiness in a happy and beautiful society, who are equally devoted to this same friendship, and share equally with him in the sweet love and affection of his dearest and most exalted friend.—This leads to another particular.
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