The Church’s State of Grace.

THE COMELINESS OF THE CHURCH. — V. 1. Behold, thou art fair, My love, so the Bridegroom tells the Church; behold, thou art fair; thou hast dove’s eyes, or, “thy eyes are doves,” gleaming in iridescent beauty, within thy locks, or “behind the veil”; thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear, or repose, from Mount Gilead, the country east of Jordan known for its fine cattle. The point of comparison is to he found in the glossy blackness and luxuriant abundance of Shulamith’s hair as well as in its silky softness and delicacy. V. 2. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing, regular and snow-white; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them, the upper and the lower set of teeth being perfect and exactly corresponding to each other. V. 3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, their crimson forming a beautiful contrast to the dazzling whiteness of her teeth, and thy speech is comely, rather, “thy mouth is lovely,” both in shape and in speech; thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate, whose cut segment offers a soft red mingled with creamy white, within thy locks. V. 4. Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armory, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. The reference here is to graceful and powerful stateliness, enhanced by splendid ornaments. V. 5. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, fawns, twins of a gazelle, which feed among the lilies, of delicate and exquisite beauty. This declaration on the part of the Bridegroom causes Shulamith to respond: v. 6. Until the day break, rather, “until the day cools,” until the approach of evening, and the shadows flee away, rapidly lengthening toward the east, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense, where she could commune with God in undisturbed solitude. And the King answers, in joyful approval: v. 7. Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee.

We have here a fine description of the inner beauty of the Church, as Christ sees it, the purity, holiness, majesty, and glory which is known to Him, because wrought by Him. The Church and all its members should be distinguished by guilelessness, wisdom, faithfulness. Having received the riches of His grace, the believers have the finest apparel and ornaments, and their praise of the mercy of God received by them is lovely, their teaching wholesome and edifying. Moreover, the Church is in possession of eternal youth and offers a majestic appearance, while, at the same time, she is a true mother to all her children, who desire the sincere milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby. With such loveliness ascribed to her, the Church naturally vows to the Lord that she will keep her beauty unsullied, that it will be her steady endeavor to worship Him in spirit and in truth, whereupon He once more assures her that, through the merits of His righteousness transmitted to her, she is without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish in His eyes, Eph. 5, 27, clean through the Word which He has spoken to her, John 15, 3.

THE RAVISHING LOVE OF THE CHURCH. — V. 8. Come with Me from Lebanon, My spouse, His affianced bride, with Me from Lebanon, here representing a mountainous and inhospitable country. Look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, all three peaks being in the Anti-Lebanon range, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards, or panthers, where beasts of prey proved a constant menace to the traveler. V. 9. Thou hast ravished My heart, robbing Him of His heart by the miracle of her beauty, My sister, as the adopted child of His heavenly Father, My spouse; thou hast ravished My heart with one of thine eyes, literally, with one from thy eyes, that is, with a glance of love, with one chain of thy neck, with the sparkle and charm of the necklace as she turned to look at Him. V. 10. How fair is thy love, pleasant and acceptable, My sister, My spouse! How much better is thy love than wine, sweet to the taste and pleasant in every way, and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! V. 11. Thy lips, O My spouse, drop as the honeycomb, distilling sweetness; honey and milk are under thy tongue, in the loveliness of her speech; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon, whose fragrance, the balsamic odor of cedars, was proverbial in Palestine. V. 12. A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse, one locked against intruders, open only to the owner; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, the meaning being that the place where the sparkling water wells from the ground is inaccessible to all but the Bridegroom Himself. V. 13. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits, all her acts being charming and excellent; camphire, or cyprus flowers, with spikenard, from which precious perfume was made, v. 14. spikenard and saffron, from which an agreeably pungent liquid perfume was made; calamus, used for similar purposes, and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, a fine aromatic balsam, with all the chief spices, all of these being important articles of trade, since they were used also for the holy anointing oil, Ex. 30, 23. 31; v. 15. a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, fed by inexhaustible springs, and streams from Lebanon, fed by its perpetual snows, cool and refreshing. The bride, wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement by this fulsome praise in the mouth of the Bridegroom, exclaims, v. 16. Awake, O north wind, cool and refreshing, and come, thou south, warm and moist, but usually not boisterous; blow upon my garden that the spices thereof may flow out, its perfume be wafted in every direction. Let my Beloved come into His garden and eat His pleasant fruits, enjoy the companionship and the charms of His bride.

This section contains both a warning and the highest praise. It is necessary for all believers to deny the world with all its blandishments and to be united with Christ alone, through the strength given in His Word. At the same time Christ openly states that the believers, looking upon Him with the eyes of faith, increase His love toward them. Therefore He praises the loveliness of the Church in extravagant terms, especially since the ointment of the Holy Spirit in the bosom of the Church fills the air with lovely fragrance, while her prayer drops from her lips like the most excellent honey, and her confession of Him is as pleasant as milk and honey. Moreover, the Church, in the midst of the world, is a closed garden, in which rich fruits ripen for the delectation of the heavenly Bridegroom, and where the refreshing waters of the Sacraments flow. The Church, in fact, is in every way full of spiritual power and fruitfulness, filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God, Phil. 1, 11. Having heard the praise of Christ, the Church pleads for His gracious presence in her midst, for it is only when He Himself accepts the worship of His believers that the purpose of the Church can be realized; only then can she fulfill her duty in the right manner.