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Chapter 3 Verse 1

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth;
I sought him, but I found him not.

first wordhence it appears, that the day was not as yet broke, which the church had mentioned in the last verse of the preceding chapter; but that the night was still upon her, even the night of Jewish darkness, when the shadows of the ceremonial law were stretched out upon her; yet having some small knowledge of Christ by types and prophecies, which had raised in her a desire of knowing more of him, as well as filled her with love to him, she sought after him; which at present was not attended with success, it not being his will as yet to appear to her in that manner she was desirous of: though indeed the words may be taken in a more large and comprehensive sense; and may represent the state and condition of the church of Christ, and all true believers, in all ages of the world, at one time or another: and in them may be observed,

I.The church’s case, which was the absence of her beloved.

II.How she behaved herself under it, or what she did in order to remove it; “she sought him.” And, 1st, The person Whom she sought is described; “him whom my soul loveth.” 2dly, The place where she sought him is mentioned; “on my bed.” 3dly, The time when; “by night.” 4thly, The success she had in seeking; “but I found him not.”

I.The church’s case here appears to be, absence of her beloved; which is not only manifest from her seeking of him, though that clearly shews that he was absent from her, but also from the time in which she sought him, which was by night; for as Christ’s presence makes the believers day, so his absence makes it night with them; as well as from the place where .the sought him, and that is, upon her bed; which shews that she was in a sleepy, slothful and secure frame of spirit, which is never attended with a lively sense and feeling of Christ’s gracious presence. Now from this being the church’s case, we may observe, 1. That the change of a believer’s frame is often very sudden; not only their frames are changeable, but they are often changed: it was not long since that the church was in the banqueting-house with Christ, and there had her. fill of love, and was sweetly refreshed with his gracious presence: and though she fell into a relapse of dullness and sleepiness, yet he in love visits her again, and recovers her out of it; insomuch that she became so lively in the exercise of her faith, that she could claim her interest in him, and relation to him, and say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his;” and yet now she is at a loss for him, and knows not where he is; she is grown dull and sleepy, carnal and secure, and he withdraws himself from her; so that a believer can sometimes say, as the Psalmist did (Ps. 30:7), “Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong;” and perhaps immediately, nay, almost at the very same time complain, “thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” 2. That Christ absents himself from his own church and people; he hides his face from the house of Jacob,” from his own flesh and blood, from his love, his bride and spouse; which he does both for her good; and for the advancement of his glory: though Christ’s absence is very uncomfortable and disquieting to his people; they cannot tell how to bear it, especially when they are sensible of it; for sometimes they are not, but are attended with sleepiness, carelessness and security; he is gone from them, and they are not aware of it, and therefore are unconcerned about it, until such time as they are awakened by him; and then they are made sensible that he is withdrawn from them: not but that Christ is always present with his church in some sense, though they have not always the comfortable sense of it upon their souls. 3. That Christ’s absence does not dissolve that covenant-interest and union which his people have in and with him; though there may be a distance as to communion, yet there is a nearness as to union; she was his, and he was hers, now as much as ever, though absent.; from her; neither did it destroy that love and affection which she had in her heart towards him; for still it is “him whom her soul loveth,” though she could not see him nor hear of him.

II.What the church did in this case, comes next to be considered: she sought him; which shews that she was sensible that he was gone from her. Believers are sometimes, like Samson, they wist or know “not that the Lord is departed from” them; but it seems that the church was apprised of it; perhaps she had slept quietly for some time, imagining that her beloved was with her, but finding herself mistaken, seeks for him: and from hence it also appears, that she saw her need of Christ’s presence, had a value for it, and was in hopes of enjoying it again, otherwise she would never have sought for him. Now Christ’s presence, when lost, should be sought after; 1. Timely, or “while he may be found,” as Isaiah says, chapter 55:6 for otherwise, by missing an opportunity, as Thomas did, he may be gone, as he was in chap, 5:6 when the church opened to him. 2. With our whole hearts; not feignedly or hypocritically, as some did, of whom complaint is made in Isaiah 58:2, nor with worldly ends and views; not for loaves, as some of Christ’s followers did. 3. Fervently, and not in a careless and negligent manner; as it may be the church did here, and therefore did not immediately succeed. 4. With care, diligence and constancy, until he is found, as the church did afterwards, in verses 2, 3, 4. 5. In proper places, as well as at proper times; as in the church of Christ, and in the public ordinances of the gospel, as well as privately in the closet, by prayer, meditation and reading; and such seekers as these are most likely to meet with success. But it will be proper to consider move particularly the seeking of Christ here; where may be observed.

1st, The description of the person whom she sought; “him whom her soul loved:” which shews not only the reality and sincerity of her love to Christ, whom she loved “with all her heart and soul, as appears from her retaining an affection for him, even when in the worst of frames, and when he was departed from her; for nothing could separate her from the love of Christ; all the waters of afflictions, temptations, desertions, etc. could not extinguish that flame of love that was kindled in her soul: I say, it not only shews the heartiness and reality of her love to Christ, but also that she sought him from a principle of love, and not with sinister ends and views; she sought him because she loved him, and she loved him “because he first loved her;” and this is an indication that she was not wholly forsaken by him; seeing this grace of love was in her soul, and maintained there by a secret and invisible hand, nay, brought into act and exercise an some measure.

2dly, The place where she sought him is also mentioned, and that is, on her bed: by which we are not to understand the temple, nor the church of Christ, and the public ordinance; thereof; for had she sought there, she had sought aright; besides, these seem to be intended in the following verse, by “the streets and broad places” of the city this bed is distinguished both from that mentioned in chapter 1:16. and also from that in chapter 3:7; in the former of which places it is called our bed,” Christ having a joint property in it; and in the latter it is said to be his bed, Christ being the only maker and principal owner of it: but this bed is said to be hers,” by night on my bed;” which was purely her own, and where she was without the presence of Christ, who was justly displeased with her for being there: moreover a different word is here used than what is in either of those places. Some385385Greg. Nyssen. in Cant. Homil. 6. by it understand the bed of contemplation”; the bed being a proper place, as; the night is a proper time, to have the thoughts composed in meditation (see Ps. 4:4); but it seems rather to intend a bed of affliction, sorrow, and tribulation, which she was cast into, in which she sought the. Lord, as it is usual with persons in such a condition (see Rev. 2:22, Hosea 5:15). Though I should choose to-understand it of a bed of carnal ease and security, upon which she was fallen; and seems to be expressive of the manner in which she sought him, which was in a cold, lazy, lukewarm and formal way, rather than of the place where.

3dly, The time when she sought him, and that is, “by night;” which shews, that it was either a time of great affliction with her; or else, of darkness and desertion; this is manifest enough; as also, that she was very uneasy and restless in her present condition, being brought in some measure to a sense of it; and that she had an exceeding great love for Christ, seeing, that at a time When others were taking their rest, she was seeking for him. In the Hebrew text the word is in the plural number, and may be rendered, by nights;386386twlylb, en nuxin, Sept. per noctes, V.L. Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; in noctibus, Pagninus, Montanus Tigurine version, Marckius, Michaelis. that it is one night after another successively, “I sought him;” but to no purpose; and so it may be expressive of her diligence and constancy in seeking, as well as of her condition when she sought.

4thly, The success she met with is here related, “I found him not;” either, because she did not seek him aright, as James says, chapter 4:3, “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss;” so she sought and found not, because she sought amiss, in a cold and lifeless way and manner; Christ would not be found in such a way of seeking: or else it was the will of Christ to be absent for a time, and not manifest himself upon first seeking; not for want of love to her, nor because he was regardless of her, but to exercise her grace, try her faith and patience, and to make her more earnest and diligent in her search: as also that she might prize him the more when she had him, as well as be more careful to retain him; which had the desired effect upon her, as appears from verse 4.

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