« PreviousContinue »
under your fort, if you to the heavenly Canaan.
1st, The moon of this world, Rev. xii. 1. If it be got into your head and heart, it will be sure to turn you out of the way; for "the friendship of this world is enmity with God: If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
2dly, Carnal policy and wisdom; for the wisdom of this world is but folly to God. Paul," whenever it pleased God to reveal his Son in him, immediately he consults not with flesh and blood." It is said of Babylon, that her wisdom and understanding perverted her; especially it perverts us in the things of Christ, and is like to ruin the interests of Christ in the land at this day.
3dly, Self-righteousness, let that be kept under your feet; for this ruined the poor Jews, and brought on a sentence of excommunication upon them, by which they were cast out of the church of God: "They went about to establish their own righteousness, and would not submit unto the righteousness of God;" and so Christ himself became a stumbling-stone, and a rock of offence.
4thly, Keep the lust and corruption of the heart under your feet. This will keep you in continual work; for "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Paul had much ado with a body of sin and death, Rom. vii. We must "crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof." If we live after the flesh, we shall die ; but if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live."
5thly, Keep at a distance from the infection of bad company. Say, with Jacob, "O my soul come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour be not thou united; for evil communications corrupt good manners."
The last advice I give is, to follow the example of the spouse here in the text, to come up from the wilderness, leaning on the beloved, living a life of faith on the Son of God. this leads to the second branch of the doctrine.
THE BELIEVER'S JOURNEY FROM THE WILDERNESS OF
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?-CANT. VIII. 5.
THE doctrine insisted upon from these words at another occasion was, That it is the commendable practice of a soul truly espoused to Christ, to come up from the wilderness of this world, towards the land of rest and glory above, staying and resting themselves upon him as their Beloved.
Here I endeavoured,
I. To give the character of a soul truly espoused to Christ, drawn from the context.
II. I spake of this world, under the notion of a wilder
III. Showed what is imported in the spouse's coming up from the wilderness.
These particulars, I say, were discoursed, and this first branch of the doctrine applied in several uses; the reasons of this branch of the doctrine being adduced in the application, by way of motive to persuade sinners to turn their back on the wilderness, and to come up towards the promised Canaan above.
IV. I proceed now to the second branch of the text and doctrine, which was the fourth thing in the method: namely, to speak a little of the spouse's posture in coming up from the wilderness; she comes leaning on her beloved. It is the life of faith upon the Son of God that is here intended. And this expression of faith implies these particulars following:
1. The spouse's weakness and inability in herself to grapple with the difficulties of her way through the wilderness; that she could never surmount them by the strength of natural, or yet of any created grace in her. Man in his natural state is wholly without strength; so disabled by the fall, that he has no power for any thing that is spiritually good: yea, believers themselves, though they have received a new stock
*The substance of some discourses upon the same text, preached at Stirling.
of supernatural grace, yet this inherent grace of theirs is such a feeble creature, and the opposition it meets with from corruption within, and temptation and affliction without, is so strong, that it could never bear the believer through his wilderness work and warfare, without continual supplies of strength from the glorious Head, in whom dwells all fulness of grace and truth, of merit and spirit. Hence Paul, though he had received a very large measure of grace from Christ, yet declares that he was not sufficient of himself to think as of himself, but his sufficiency and ability was of the Lord. So, whenever a believer begins to think that his mountain stands strong through the strength of any grace he has received, presently the Lord withdraws the influence, and suffers him to find his weakness and inability, that he may not trust in himself, but in him who is "the strength of Israel." And therefore,
2. The expression of leaning on her beloved, implies that however weak and insufficient she was in herself, yet there was almighty strength in her Husband and Head, on whom she leaned. Christ is the "strength of the poor and needy in their distress; he is the glory of their strength, the power of God, the man of his right hand, whom he hath made strong for" the designs of his glory in our salvation. "I have laid help," says the Lord, "upon one who is mighty." The arm of JEHOVAH is through him reached forth to help, and strengthen, and uphold the believer in his wilderness difficulties; and therefore he goes in this his might, saying, with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ strengthening me."
3. This leaning on her beloved implies a blessed knowledge or acquaintance with the Lord Jesus. She had got a saving discovery of him by the word and Spirit of the Lord, which induced her to lean upon him; for we do not use to lean upon an utter stranger, of whom we have no knowledge. The foundation of faith is laid in knowledge, not simply in a headknowledge attained by external revelation, for there are many learned unbelievers; but in a heart-knowledge. "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ," is made to "shine into the heart;" and this is the very beginning of wisdom; hence Paul describes his first conversion by it, Gal. i: "It pleased God to reveal his Son in me." And the promise of faith, that radical grace, is expressed by knowledge: "I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They shall know, and follow on to know" him, till they arrive at a mid-day vision and fruition of him in glory.
4. The expression implies, not only knowledge, but intima. ey and familiarity: for we use to lean upon them with whom
we are intimately acquainted. "Truly," says the apostle John, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." The whole book of the Song is designed to describe this fellowship between Christ and the believing soul: they who know it in an experimental way, will be ready to "His left hand was under head, and say, with the spouse, his right hand did embrace me: he brought me to his banThere is queting house, and his banner over me was love.” more real pleasure and satisfaction in one moment of fellowship with the Lord, than in all the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season: hence David, Psal. lxxxiv. 10: "One day in thy courts is better than a thousand: I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."
5. This leaning posture implies Christ's nearness to the spouse; for we cannot well lean upon a person that is at a distance. True, indeed, Christ was at a great distance from the spouse as to his corporeal presence, for he was not yet come in the flesh; and now, under the New Testament dispensation, he is gone within the veil, and the heavens are to "contain him until the time of the restitution of all things." But yet faith has a way of bringing Christ near, and of taking him up in the word of promise, and so leaning on him by virtue of his word. And therefore, "say not in thine heart, Who shall bring Christ down from above? for the word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach." Sirs, though Christ be ascended as to his human nature far above all heavens, yet he is as much present to faith, as though his body were still upon earth; "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world:" and, accordingly, faith eyeing him in the word of faith, leans on him, as one that is not afar off, but near at hand.
6. It implies a trusting, resting, or recumbency of her soul upon him, under all her weights and burdens, which she rolls over on Christ: Psal. lv. 22: "Cast thy burden the upon Lord, and he shall sustain thee." Matth. xi. 28:"Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest unto your souls.” Psal. xxxvii. 7: "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." As the feeble wife leans on her husband, or the weak child on its parent, with confidence that he will support him; so the believing soul leans or rests on Christ, with a persuasion of support and throughbearing; that according to his promise, he will strengthen, help, and uphold to the end," with the right-hand of his righteousness."
7. It implies, that there is something in Christ that the
hand or arm of faith stays and leans upon, as we come up from the wilderness. Sometimes faith stays itself on the person of Christ, as he is "Emmanuel, God with us;" sometimes upon his love, which passeth knowledge, Psal. xxxvi. 7; "How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wing." Sometimes it stays itself upon his name; for "they that know his name will put their trust in him :" sometimes on his mission, as the "sent of God, the great Apostle of our profession;" it takes him up as God's legate, his ambassadorextraordinary, sent to seek and to save that which was lost. It leans upon his general office as Mediator, for peace and reconciliation with God; upon his prophetical office, for instruction and illumination in the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom; upon his priestly office, for reconciliation and acceptance; upon his regal or kingly office, for sanctification and deliverance from the power of sin and Satan. It leans upon his fulness for a supply of all wants, believing that that fulness of grace that is in him is to be communicated; for "he received gifts for men, even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among us.” It sometimes leans upon the relations that Christ is come under to his people in the word, as a friend, a counsellor, a physician, a leader and commander. You see here, that the spouse comes up from the wilderness leaning on him in the relation of a bridegroom and husband. But of these things I may discourse more fully in the application.
I should next give the reasons of this branch of the doctrine, why it is that the believer comes up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved; but, as I did in the former branch, I shall improve them as motives to enforce the exhortation which I have in view from this branch of the doc. trine.
And the Exhortation is, to follow the commendable practice of the spouse, in coming up from the wilderness of this world, towards the land of glory, leaning on him as your beloved: or, which is the same thing, in other words, Study, while you are travellers on the earth, to live by faith on the Son of God. This was the practice of Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, Gal. ii. 20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." This was the practice of that cloud of witnesses who have travelled to glory before us, Heb. xi. 13: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them,