By A. B. Simpson
This is the picture of the bride's returning to her early home on the arm of her beloved. Soon it merges into the sweeter picture of the two at the old home, and recognizing the scenes associated with tender memories of their first meeting. They come to the old apple tree under which they first exchanged their vows of love, and in tender, passionate devotion, she clings closer to his side and cries, "Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm, for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as Sheol; as a vehement flame of the Almighty it burneth. Many waters cannot quench it. If a man should give all his treasures he cannot buy it." Then a little later she is represented as making intercession for her little sister who has not yet grown to maturity, and who seems to be, indeed, unnaturally dwarfed and undeveloped, full aged, but still in form a child; and her Lord answers her, "If she be a wall we will build upon her a palace of silver, but if she be a door we will enclose her with boards of cedar." That is to say, if she be a virtuous woman, closed as a wall of adamant against all the approaches of evil, we will honor and reward her; but if she be open to all comers, and loose and lax in her purity and separation as an open door, we will place around her the restraints that will perforce protect her, if need be by the severest discipline. This was followed by an intercession for her brothers that Solomon will give them as their inheritance his vineyard at Baalhamon. All this is accompanied with a high-spirited protest of her own lofty virtue and devotion to her bridegroom as the grounds of his delight in her. The whole scene closes by a request from him that she will sing to him once more as in the days of old, and she responds by the sweet refrain that closes the Song of Solomon; a refrain that carries with it enough of the notes of the old song of their early love to be recognized, but enough also that is new to raise it to a higher key and a sweeter chord. The old song was, "Turn, my beloved, and be like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of separation," but the new one is, "Make haste, my beloved, and be like a roe or a young hart on the mountains of love." This beautiful closing scene of the old drama is a picture of the two stages in the Christian's journey. The first we might call going home, and the second getting home.
Going Home. The apostle expresses the meaning of this in the two words, "looking for" and "hastening to" the coming of our Lord. It is one thing to be passively drifting toward the coming of the Lord, and it is another to be going out to meet Him. This denotes an ardent expectation and an active cooperation in bringing about His advent.
We may press forward to His coming first by desiring it and looking for it. It was when the people were in expectation that Jesus came of old. There is a strange power in love to draw the loved one, and when the heart of the church is really yearning for Jesus, He will speedily come.
Be praying for it. This is one of the things that God has promised always to meet. Believing prayer for the Lord's return will surely not be in vain, and will mightily hasten the wheels of His chariot. The Holy Spirit has Himself inspired such a prayer. It is the last breath of inspiration in these sacred pages, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly," even as it is the last note of the Song of Solomon, "Make haste, my beloved." Prayer shall be made for Him continually it is said. He comes to the heart when invited, and He shall come to His own when the unanimous cry of His Bride goes up to His waiting heart.
We can go out to Him by preparing for His coming, by getting ready ourselves, by putting on the wedding robe, and keeping our vessels filled with the heavenly oil. Beloved, are we ready? Surely if the bride were dressed for the wedding, the Bridegroom would not expose her to ridicule by leaving her to wait in suspense. We believe that the moment the church of God is prepared for the coming of the Savior He will come.
By preparing the world for His coming. This gospel of the kingdom "must first be preached unto all nations, and then shall the end come," and they who truly long for His advent will be the most alive in sending forth the gospel in all lands.
By anticipating already in some measure the millennial life. Even here and now we may receive the foretaste of the coming kingdom. Our bodies may know a thrill of the life of the resurrection even here, and this is the meaning of divine healing. Our spirits may know a little of the rapture of His love and the marriage joy of that glad day. "We that have the first fruits of the Spirit, do groan within ourselves for the full redemption of the body." Christ is coming very near today in the life of His people. There are many sober Christians who can honestly testify in these last times to a communion with the Lord which almost reaches within the veil, and brings the light that is inaccessible and full of glory; and certainly the wonderful manifestation of Christ's life in the bodies of His people in the last quarter of a century is a stupendous foreshadowing of the coming glory, and the resurrection itself will only be a fuller manifestation of that which already has thrilled the mortal flesh of many of God's beloved ones. In this respect, therefore, we can go forth to meet the Lord and feel already the glad foretaste of His millennial presence. It is through a wilderness that she goes up to meet her Lord and surely as His coming draws nearer it will become dark and lonely, and the clouds of the great tribulation will begin to gather, and the violence of the latter days will give premonition of the coming crisis. But the wilderness will only press her closer to his side as she leans upon her beloved with an intimacy which well describes the deep spiritual life which is one of the characteristics of this day on the part of the few who are looking for the Lord's return. Above all others they are separated unto Him, and, having let go their hold of earthly hopes and confidences, they are compelled to lean their whole weight on Him alone. Beloved, do we know aught of this separation unto Him? Do we know aught of this expectation of Him? Sometimes on the battlefield, when pressed by the foe, the general has been known to get upon his knees to listen for the tramp of coming reinforcements; and once it is said that, at a very great crisis in one of the decisive battles of the world, one who had thus been listening sprang to his feet and shouted, "They are coming! They are coming! I hear the tramp of their feet miles away!" And the shout went along the line, "They are coming! They are coming! Reinforcements are coming!" and a cheer went up, and the flag was lifted high and the lost ground recovered, and the brave men held their own with new enthusiasm, for they knew that the armies of help and deliverance were at hand. Are we listening for the tread of the coming feet, and do we sometimes almost hear the tramp of the armies of the sky as the procession already begins to move earthward in the advent train of the Son of Man?
But this picture tells us still more of the getting home. The first incident in the homecoming is the recollection of the old apple tree which had been the scene of their earlier meetings. It tells of the memories and associations that will form part of the future life and will add such exquisite sweetness to the felicities of the millennial life. It suggests to us the memories that will come back to us from the eternal shore; nay more, the actual revisiting of the scenes of earth that have been associated with our tenderest spiritual experiences. An apple tree is not much in itself, but just such things are the pivots on which turn all that is sweetest in memory and affection in many of our lives. David speaks of his recollection of God's love in one of the Psalms in such words as these, "I will remember thee from the land of Jordan, from the hill Mizar," or the little hill. It was this little hill which, perhaps, had no earthly name that he associated in his mind with his tenderest recollections. It was the spot where God in some way met him, delivered him, comforted him. There are spots on earth for each of us that will be eternally dear, and that some day we shall visit with our precious Lord, and, remembering all the way He has led since our covenant was recorded there, we shall doubtless weep for love and gratitude as we thank Him for His faithfulness. Beloved, we are coming back again over this green earth and the path we are treading now. Let us leave no footprints which we would not care to retrace in company with our Lord.
The next deep record in the story of the home coming is the love which it is to perfect. Then, indeed, shall He set us as a seal upon His heart and upon His arm, to be separated no more forever, and to be used, even as the monarch uses his signet ring, for the highest and noblest ministries and with the very authority and majesty of the Lord Himself. And then we shall love with a love as strong as death and as vehement as the love of God Himself; for this is just what love means, the flame of the Almighty, the very love of God Himself, for when we reach His presence we shall love Him even as we are loved.
Next we have a picture of service and unselfish consideration for others. Immediately the bride begins to think of those who are dear to her, and to remember them to her lord in loving intercession. First she prays for her little sister. Who is meant by this little sister that hath no breasts, or, in other words, who with the years of a woman is still in form a child? Of course it is a type of some class of persons who shall be on earth at the time of the Lord's coming, and who shall be related to the real bride of the Lamb by a bond of sisterhood, but yet shall be different from her in perfection and spiritual maturity, and one who shall be of doubtful purity in the judgment of the Lord, for it must be remembered it was He who asked the question whether she be a wall or a door; that is, a separated one or a loose and lax woman open to every evil influence. What is more natural than to suppose that she represents that portion of the church of Christ which shall not be prepared for the Lord's coming, and which through the fault of its members willingly remains unsanctified. It is obvious to every careful reader of the Scriptures that there will be two classes of Christians at the time of the Lord's coming, the sanctified ones and the worldly and unholy followers of the Lord; His children, but His immature children who have never pressed forward to the fullness of their high calling and the true meaning of their Sonship. It is of these that the apostle says, "when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one should teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat; for every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe; but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age." We see in the parables of the pounds and the talents two classes of servants who shall come before the judgment seat of Christ, one the faithful whose works shall be rewarded as the ruler of the millennial kingdom, the other the faithless ones who have kept what they have had committed to them, but have made no use of it for Him. We see the same solemn truth also in the parable of the ten virgins, where the foolish ones are virgins, but unprepared for the Lord's coming. We see also in the First Epistle of John the distinction of two classes, one who shall be ashamed before Him at His coming. In the book of Revelation we find the first fruits unto God and the Lamb who are without spot before the throne of God, and their solemn warning to be ready for His coming and keep their garments lest they walk naked and we see their shame. We are told in the Epistle to the Hebrews that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." This little sister must, therefore, represent that element which in the day of His coming will be found unready to take the place of the bride, but for whom the bride lovingly intercedes, perhaps in the first rapture and translation of the saints, while many are still left on the earth that are dear to the translated ones. It is for this that she prays, and the Master answers that if her little sister will separate herself from the world and sin, and be a wall of virtue and purity, she shall have a palace of silver. This is not surely the same as a palace of gold. It is, perhaps, an inferior reward, but certainly a glorious one. But if she be a door, that is unholy or even unseparated from the world, she shall be fenced with boards of cedar, and thus shall be held back by the rigid restraints of God's chastening hand from her own evil inclinations; referring, no doubt, to the tribulations of these last days through which the remnant of God's people upon the earth will be at length separated from the world and prepared for some part indeed in the millennial kingdom.
We find her next interceding for her brothers; these same brothers who had harshly treated her before, but for whom she now asks from Solomon the least of one of his vineyards, and his royal and generous consideration. The application of this to the Jews as God's earthly people seems very clear. They, too, shall have a part in the coming age. The vineyard which God's right hand had planted shall be theirs again. The Queen of nations, Israel, shall return to her own land and possess once more her old estates throughout the millennial years.
The general idea, however, conveyed by this picture is that of unselfishness and loving regard for the good of others. It surely implies that in the age to come, God's glorified church will be engaged in high and holy ministries. We believe that our best work for God is yet to come, and all we do in this day of toil and trial is to prepare for the higher occupations of that glorious time when in cooperation with Him we shall rule the nations, and shall see the earth under His administration, and ourselves rise to the beauty of more than paradise restored. Surely this is the meaning of such expressions as, "Be thou ruler over ten cities," or again, "Who then is a faithful servant and wise steward, whom His Lord when He cometh shall find so doing? Verily I say unto you, He shall make him ruler over all that He hath", and again, "I appoint unto you a kingdom as my Father has appointed unto me, and ye shall sit on thrones judging the ten tribes of Israel."
The last song of the bride is a note of the heavenly anthem. It reminds us that the spirit of that happy age will be the spirit of praise, and that our songs will be for Him. We are going to a home where we shall spend eternity in the celebration of our Redeemer's praise. The songs of heaven are but repetitions of the earth's songs with an added refrain. There are two songs in the book of Canticles, the earth song and the home song of the bride. The first song has for its refrain a minor chord, and the sad thought of the mountains of Bether, or separation; but the last song is about the mountain of Besamim, or the mountain of spices, that is love. Oh, what a difference there will be! All the songs of earth have a touch of sorrow. It is said that the song of every bird that warbles in the air is on a minor key. All earth is tainted with the sadness of the Fall, but there is a day coming when the key will be changed and the everlasting song will be without a chorus of sorrow.
There shall be no more crying, There shall be no more pain, There shall be no more dying, There shall be no more stain. Savior, our watch we are keeping, Longing for thee to come; Then shall be ended our night of weeping, Then shall we reach our home.