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He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his intention toward me was love.

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The Love of the Church to Christ.

3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.   4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.   5 Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.   6 His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.   7 I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.

Here, I. The spouse commends her beloved and prefers him before all others: As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, which perhaps does not grow so high, nor spread so wide, as some other trees, yet is useful and serviceable to man, yielding pleasant and profitable fruit, while the other trees are of little use, no, not the cedars themselves, till they are cut down, so is my beloved among the sons, so far does he excel them all,—all the sons of God, the angels (that honour was put upon him which was never designed for them, Heb. i. 4),—all the sons of men; he is fairer than them all, fairer than the choicest of them, Ps. xlv. 2. Name what creature you will, and you will find Christ has the pre-eminence above them all. The world is a barren tree to a soul; Christ is a fruitful one.

II. She remembers the abundant comfort she has had in communion with him: She sat down by him with great delight, as shepherds sometimes repose themselves, sometimes converse with one another, under a tree. A double advantage she found in sitting down so near the Lord Jesus:—1. A refreshing shade: I sat down under his shadow, to be sheltered by him from the scorching heat of the sun, to be cooled, and so to take some rest. Christ is to believers as the shadow of a great tree, nay, of a great rock in a weary land, Isa. xxxii. 2; xxv. 4. When a poor soul is parched with convictions of sin and the terrors of the law, as David (Ps. xxxii. 4), when fatigued with the troubles of this world, as Elijah when he sat down under a juniper tree (1 Kings xix. 4), they find that in Christ, in his name, his graces, his comforts, and his undertaking for poor sinners, which revives them and keeps them from fainting; those that are weary and heavily laden may find rest in Christ. It is not enough to pass by this shadow, but we must sit down under it (here will I dwell, for I have desired it); and we shall find it not like Jonah's gourd, that soon withered, and left him in a heat, both inward and outward, but like the tree of life, the leaves whereof were not only for shelter, but for the healing of the nations. We must sit down under this shadow with delight, must put an entire confidence in the protection of it (as Judges ix. 15), and take an entire complacency in the refreshment of it. But that is not all: 2. Here is pleasing nourishing food. This tree drops its fruits to those that sit down under its shadow, and they are welcome to them, and will find them sweet unto their taste, whatever they are to others. Believers have tasted that the Lord Jesus is gracious (1 Pet. ii. 3); his fruits are all the precious privileges of the new covenant, purchased by his blood and communicated by his Spirit. Promises are sweet to a believer, yea, and precepts too. I delight in the law of God after the inward man. Pardons are sweet, and peace of conscience is sweet, assurances of God's love, joys of the Holy Ghost, the hopes of eternal life, and the present earnests and foretastes of it are sweet, all sweet to those that have their spiritual senses exercised. If our mouths be put out of taste for the pleasure of sin, divine consolations will be sweet to our taste, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

III. She owns herself obliged to Jesus Christ for all the benefit and comfort she had in communion with him (v. 4): "I sat down under the apple-tree, glad to be there, but he admitted me, nay, he pressed me, to a more intimate communion with him: Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, why standest thou without? He brought me to the house of wine, the place where he entertains his special friends, from lower to higher measures and degrees of comfort, from the fruit of the apple tree to the more generous fruit of the vine." To him that values the divine joys he has more shall be given. One of the rabbin by the banqueting-house understands the tabernacle of the congregation, where the interpretation of the law was given; surely we may apply it to Christian assemblies, where the gospel is preached and gospel-ordinances are administered, particularly the Lord's supper, that banquet of wine, especially to the inside of those ordinances, communion with God in them. Observe, 1. How she was introduced: "He brought me, wrought in me an inclination to draw nigh to God, helped me over my discouragements, took me by the hand, guided and led me, and gave me an access with boldness to God as a Father," Eph. ii. 18. We should never have come into the banqueting-house, never have been acquainted with spiritual pleasures, if Christ had not brought us, by opening for us a new and living way and opening in us a new and living fountain. 2. How she was entertained: His banner over me was love; he brought me in with a banner displayed over my head, not as one he triumphed over, but as one he triumphed in, and whom he always caused to triumph with him and in him, 2 Cor. ii. 14. The gospel is compared to a banner or ensign (Isa. xi. 12), and that which is represented in the banner, written in it in letters of gold, letters of blood, is love, love; and this is the entertainment in the banqueting-house. Christ is the captain of our salvation, and he enlists all his soldiers under the banner of love; in that they centre; to that they must continually have an eye, and be animated by it. The love of Christ must constrain them to fight manfully. When a city was taken the conqueror set up his standard in it. "He has conquered me with his love, overcome me with kindness, and that is the banner over me." This she speaks of as what she had formerly had experience of, and she remembers it with delight. Eaten bread must not be forgotten, but remembered with thankfulness to that God who has fed us with manna in this wilderness.

IV. She professes her strong affection and most passionate love to Jesus Christ (v. 5): I am sick of love, overcome, overpowered, by it. David explains this when he says (Ps. cxix. 20), My soul breaks for the longing that it has unto thy judgments, and (v. 81), My soul faints for thy salvation, languishing with care to make it sure and fear of coming short of it. The spouse was now absent perhaps from her beloved, waiting for his return, and cannot bear the grief of distance and delay. Oh how much better it is with the soul when it is sick of love to Christ than when it is surfeited with the love of this world! She cries out for cordials: "Oh stay me with flagons, or ointments, or flowers, any thing that is reviving; comfort me with apples, with the fruits of that apple-tree, Christ (v. 3), with the merit and meditation of Christ and the sense of his love to my soul." Note, Those that are sick of love to Christ shall not want spiritual supports, while they are yet waiting for spiritual comforts.

V. She experiences the power and tenderness of divine grace, relieving her in her present faintings, v. 6. Though he seemed to have withdrawn, yet he was even then a very present help, 1. To sustain the love-sick soul, and to keep it from fainting away: "His left hand is under my head, to bear it up, nay, as a pillow to lay it easy." David experienced God's hand upholding him then when his soul was following hard after God (Ps. lxiii. 8), and Job in a state of desertion yet found that God put strength into him, Job xxiii. 6. All his saints are in his hand, which tenderly holds their aching heads. 2. To encourage the love-sick soul to continue waiting till he returns: "For, in the mean time, his right hand embraces me, and thereby gives me an unquestionable assurance of his love." Believers owe all their strength and comfort to the supporting left hand and embracing right hand of the Lord Jesus.

VI. Finding her beloved thus nigh unto her she is in great care that her communion with him be not interrupted (v. 7): I charge you, O you daughters of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the mother of us all, charges all her daughters, the church charges all her members, the believing soul charges all its powers and faculties, the spouse charges herself and all about her, not to stir up, or awake, her love until he please, now that he is asleep in her arms, as she was borne up in his, v. 6. She gives them this charge by the roes and the hinds of the field, that is, by every thing that is amiable in their eyes, and dear to them, as the loving hind and the pleasant roe. "My love is to me dearer than those can be to you, and will be disturbed, like them, with a very little noise." Note, 1. Those that experience the sweetness of communion with Christ, and the sensible manifestations of his love, cannot but desire the continuance of these blessed views, these blessed visits. Pester would make tabernacles upon the holy mount, Matt. xvii. 4. 2. Yet Christ will, when he pleases, withdraw those extraordinary communications of himself, for he is a free-agent, and the Spirit, as the wind, blows where and when it listeth, and in his pleasure it becomes us to acquiesce. But, 3. Our care must be that we do nothing to provoke him to withdraw and to hide his face, that we carefully watch over our own hearts and suppress every thought that may grieve his good Spirit. Let those that have comfort be afraid of sinning it away.