Dear Brother Beebe: – I value the Signs of the Times very highly, as a medium through which to hear from the scattered flock of our Shepherd. I do not know how to do without them: they contain all the preaching I receive that can feed my soul. Although I live near Rockford where there are almost all kinds of religious societies, but as yet I have not met one who can sympathize with me. I feel like one alone, and a stranger. But when I read the Signs of the Times) I find that there are some in the same condition. I read of many brethren and sisters in Illinois, but none near to me. If I do not intrude on your time too much, please give me your views, through the Signs of the Times, on Song 1:7. May the Lord be with and sustain you in all your trials is the prayer of your unworthy sister in the Lord.
REPLY: - The text proposed is, "Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" We have understood the Song of Solomon to portray the Lord Jesus Christ and his church, setting forth, in lively figures, the relationship subsisting between them; the love, union, communion and correspondence of the parties, showing the faithful care and tender and unremitting watchfulness of Christ for his people, and the spiritual exercises of the church, as deriving all her happiness and security from him. While the language of the Song generally is peculiarly appropriate in its application to the church, it also clearly expresses much of the experience of the saints individually. The petitioner in our text is evidently one who loves most devotedly the person to whom she makes her urgent appeal, and that too with an undivided love. "O thou whom my soul lovest." Not one among other dear or cherished objects, all other loves are lost sight of, the only centre of affection and attraction appears, is recognized, confessed, admired .and appealed to. So the church of God finds in Jesus Christ the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one; and can and does distinguish and identify him as the one whom her soul loveth; and the one for whom she has renounced all other loves.
So much is every quickened sinner in love with the Lord Jesus Christ they can only feel happy in his presence. In his presence there is fullness of joy to them, and at his right hand there are pleasures forever more. There can be no reasonable doubt that this language is intended to set forth the love of the church and all her members to him that hath loved them and given himself for them. This love is peculiar, it differs from all other loves. It is spiritual, it came from God, it is constant, for it is immutable, and cannot change its object. It is stronger than death, and lasting as eternity. It is discriminating, transforming, transporting, and well may the apostle exclaim, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God." But let us remember that all on whom God has graciously bestowed it are called on to manifest their love to Christ by doing what he has commanded them. Those who really possess this love will feel its constraining power drawing them to Christ, with the same petition of the spouse in our text. "Tell me." She feels her own deficiency of knowledge, but God has taught her to look for instruction. She goes not through the labyrinths of human speculation to gain the instruction so greatly desired, for she is satisfied that in him whom her soul loveth are hid all the treasures of knowledge, and wisdom, and in him all fullness dwells; and hence her appeal is made directly to him. Those who only profess to love Christ, whose works prove the insincerity of their love, will consult the wise and prudent of this world in regard to the subject of her inquiry, but who but Christ can instruct the quickened subjects of his grace, where he feedeth, or where he maketh his flock to rest at noon. Every christian should know there is safety in no instructions that do not come from him. He says, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, and ye shall find rest to your souls." Well, this is just what the Spouse is enquiring after. Hungry and starving for wholesome food, such food as he alone can minister, she enquires where he feeds his flock. Weary and heavy laden, she desires, above all things, to know where he makes his flock to rest. As it was said to Eve, "And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." So the desire of the bride, the Lamb's wife, shall be to Christ, her husband, and he shall rule over her. The desire of every saint is to Christ, and they will not dishonor him by leaning upon the arm of another. Why should she be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of his companions? There are many flocks which he does not feed, and flocks which do not enter into his rest. But why should those who love the Lord Jesus, and who regard him as the only object of their delight, turn aside to any of the flocks of which Jesus is not the Shepherd? Can any good reason be given for so turning aside? Certainly not. We can not think favorably of the religious profession of those who can be satisfied with any other than the flock of Jesus, unto whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom. This is a matter in which those who truly love Christ are unwilling to be deceived or misled. But while they distrust all other teachers, they know that Him whom their souls love will not misdirect them. "When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them." He does not merely point out the course, but he gives the example, he marks the way with his own foot prints, and says, "Follow me." He goes before them, and his sheep follow him; but a stranger will they not follow; for they know not the voice of strangers." He says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hands." Observe, the enquiry of the Spouse is not, Tell me where I can feed myself - where I can procure food, but, Tell where thou feedest? He is himself both the food and the feeder.
"His dearest flesh he makes my food,
And bids me drink his richest blood."
Except we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no vitality in us. The immortal life which he gives to his sheep must live on him, for himself is their life, and he is the true bread which came down from heaven. This he gives all those whom he feeds. But the enquiry is Where, as well as What, he feeds. The Spouse seems sensible that the place is not by the flocks of his companions, but it must be where he feeds. He responds graciously to her enquiry, "If thou knowest not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents." The footsteps of the flock of Christ is thy way, there is no other course to be laid out. That is thy way, and it is the only way, it is the way of holiness, it is the King's highway, and all other ways are delusive and wrong, and although they may seem right to a man, the end thereof is death. From the days of John the Baptist all who constitute the organized flock or gospel church of Christ have walked in the footsteps of Christ, in the ordinance of baptism, and through that ordinance they have come into christian fellowship, and the legitimate residents of that house, which Christ has desired for an habitation, and where he has assured us he will dwell forever; and where he has promised to abundantly bless the provisions, and fill his poor with bread. There is but the one entrance to this house, or fold. He that climbeth up some other way is a thief, and a robber; he comes only to steal, and to kill, and to devour. Therefore, "Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock" of the Redeemer, and the pathway shall lead thee to the place where Jesus feeds his flock, like a Shepherd, where he gathers the lambs with his arm, and carries them in his bosom. There, too, at noon, when the sun pours forth its brightest refulgence, and its more scorching rays, he maketh his flock to rest. This the Psalmist witnessed in Psalm 23; "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake." "For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Rev. 7:17)
"The footsteps of thy flock I see.
Thy sweetest pasture here they be:
A wondrous feast thy love provides,
And at the feast thyself presides."
Elder Gilbert Beebe