“What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?”
It is generally admitted that in this song of songs the pen of inspiration is employed to set forth the glory of Christ and the beauty of his church, under the figure of the beloved and the spouse, the bridegroom and the bride, and the spiritual communications of Christ and the church, their mutual love and heavenly intercourse, which are exemplified, portrayed and illustrated by the strongest, and yet most endearing figures which nature can afford. The frequent use which has been made in various parts of both the Old and New Testaments of the same figure to set forth the union and relationship of Christ and the church, by Isaiah, David, Jeremiah, and nearly all the prophets, by John the Baptist and the apostle John, by Paul, and even by our Saviour himself, are amply sufficient to satisfy all candid inquirers after the truth that Christ and the church are intended in our text by the beloved and the fairest among women. God himself declares that he has espoused the church to himself in righteousness, in faithfulness and in indissoluble union, and by his prophets assures her that her Maker is her husband, the Lord of hosts is his name, and her Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called. Throughout this song of songs the relationship, the love, the high appreciation of each other, is strikingly set forth; but in our text the daughters of Jerusalem demand of the spouse wherein her beloved is more than another beloved.
The first important point we will notice is the acknowledged beauty of the spouse, surpassing all other women in her loveliness, and commanding the admiration of all the daughters of Jerusalem: “O thou fairest among women.” We are led to inquire after her incomparable beauty, saying with the amazed daughters, “Return, return, O Shulamite: return, return, that we may look upon thee.” (Song 6:13) And in our investigation let us hear from her own lips what she can say for herself: “I am black,” she says. A color not much admired for beauty; until very recently at least it has been regarded as the very opposite of beauty, and so indeed the spouse herself regards her own color as loathsome, revolting and degrading, and in humble confession she acknowledges that she is as black as the filthy tents of Kedar, because the sun had looked upon her. But this humiliating complexion is only applicable to her as a polluted sinner, as she stands in her earthly relation to an earthly Adam, as a servant of sin, a slave to vice, a guilty, wretched, helpless convict, condemned by the law of God and under sentence of death. In all her nature vile, and as long as her connection with the earth shall endure she is environed by the tents of Kedar, and has to feel the deep mortification of a black and unsightly complexion. It cannot then be that in her carnal and earthly nature she excels in beauty. But the secret is told when her God informs her that she is comely through the comeliness which he has put upon her.
“Deified and loathsome as we are,
He makes us white, and calls us fair,
Adorns us with a heavenly dress -
His robe of perfect righteousness.”
And then she can say not only that she is in her depraved nature black as the tents of Kedar, but in her Saviour’s righteousness as white and comely as the spotless curtains of Solomon. Now she can greatly rejoice in the Lord, and her soul can be joyful in the God of her salvation, who has clothed her with the garments of salvation, and covered her with the robe of righteousness. Washed and cleansed in the fountain of her Saviour’s blood, purified as gold, refined as silver, beautified and adorned with jewels, her garments are of wrougth gold, and she is all glorious within, as she is brought unto the King in raiment of fine needlework, clothed with the sun, and elevated above the moon, and wearing on her head a crown of twelve stars. Well may she now, glorying only in her Beloved, challenge comparison, as she “booketh forth as the morning,” just emerging from the blackness of night, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” O thou fairest among women! “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency.” This description of the spouse, we presume, has special reference to her in her gospel organization, and as presented in her primitive faith and order. The daughters of Jerusalem, under the Sinai covenant, like Leah, were tender eyed, who “could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished.” (II Cor. 3:13) But she is, like Rachel, well favored and beautified, having blessed eyes which can see what kings and prophets have desired to see, but were not able. In the vision which John saw, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, descended from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; to her is well awarded the superlative degree of beauty, as the very fairest among women. Compared with three-score queens and four-score concubines she stands preeminent as the only one of her mother, the chief one of her that bare her, and compared with the richly attired mistress of abominations, who, with her harlot brood of daughters, has intoxicated all the kings and governments of the earth with her fascinating trappings and wanton allurements, how supremely excellent does she appear in her heavenly charms. Compare the two, and although the world has given a verdict in favor of her who sat upon a scarlet covered beast, and reigned over the kings of the earth, and in whose skirts was found the blood of slaughtered millions, how revolting does that devouring vulture appear when contrasted with the harmless dove of our Redeemer; the one a ravenous wolf forever howling for blood, drenching the earth with human gore, whose house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death, the other in angel form of loveliness, breathing only peace on earth and good will toward men; the hideous ugliness of the one is in all respects the opposite of the transcendent loveliness of the other. Not only is the spouse more lovely than the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, but beyond all comparison more beautiful than any of her harlot daughters. Although, as we have admitted, the world may admire antichrist in all her diversified departments above the church of the living God, it is because the world has drunk deeply of the golden cup of her abominations, therefore in their intoxication they love sin and hate holiness. They love all the characteristics of that harlot family, Arminianism, will-worship, hatred, variance, wrath, strifes, seditions, heresies, murders, adultery, thefts, witchcraft, priestcraft, etc., and have no ability to appreciate the glory of the kingdom of Christ. They cannot discover why or wherein the church of God, as organized by our Lord Jesus Christ, is more fair than those who wear the alluring attire of harlots, but this is because none but such as are born again can see the kingdom of God. To the unregenerated, the women (churches as they profess to be) which reject the gospel of peace, the doctrine and ordinances of God our Saviour, and hold the doctrines of men and the doctrines of devils, who teach for doctrines the commandments of men, with imposing show of Sabbath schools, mission societies, worldly pomp and vain glory, have greater attractions. Neither the Jewish church nor any other religious organization can compare with the church of God in her gospel establishment. She is pronounced the perfection of beauty, and out of her God himself hath shined. For “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” He is a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of her. This constitutes her supreme glory; she never pretended to have any other beauty or superior comeliness.
“Her beauty this, her heavenly dress,
Jesus the Lord, her righteousness.”
Identified with Christ, her Head and Husband, she is a partaker of him, of his divine nature, and she is made the righteousness of God himself in him. She is not only adorned with superlative beauty, but she is in all respects prepared for her Husband. His law is written in her heart, his love is shed abroad in her spirit, his Spirit and his mind are imparted to her, and his image is enstamped on her, and thus she is made the very fairest among women.
But what is her beloved, and wherein or in what particulars does he excel other beloveds? All other religious bodies have their beloveds, to whom they manifest their partiality. The daughters of Jerusalem, under the Levitical priesthood, as wedded to Moses, or the law, had to recognize a husband who was stern and inexorable in his demands, lavish in his curses, and never known to bestow any blessings; always condemning and exposing all their faults, demanding everything, but supplying nothing, and utterly unable to either justify or to give life, with neither ability nor disposition to give them a kid with which to make merry, sternly ruling with an iron rod, demanding perfect, unremitting and perpetual obedience to his every precept, and for the slightest breach or delinquency consigning the convicted to wrath, condemnation and death.
The Beloved of the gospel church is the very opposite in all these particulars. He supplies all, and demands nothing as a condition or consideration. He is merciful to her unrighteousness, and her sins and iniquities he will remember no more. He not only can and has given her eternal life, and pledged his veracity that she shall never perish, but he is himself her righteousness, her sanctification and her redemption. He never curses, but always blesses her. He has made a feast of fat things for her to feast upon, with wines on the lees well refined. He has brought her to the banqueting-house, and his banner over her is love.
But the disparity between her Beloved and the beloved of the daughters of the uncircumcised is still greater. Although all false religionists, or legalists, or what claim to be wedded to the law, in modern parlance are called Arminians, yet Moses, or the law, spurns them, admits no affinity. They cannot approach him without being stoned to death or thrust through with darts. All the diversified daughters or departments of antichrist claim that the Lord Jesus Christ is their beloved, but in works they deny him, and not only in their works, but in their doctrine, order and ordinances, and in their persecution of his people. Like the carnal Israelites, who professed to be looking and waiting for and desiring the coming of the promised Messiah, when the Son of God made his advent it was soon discovered that he was not the Christ they desired. So with all the daughters of the uncircumcised in the present day, they have painted in their vain imaginations that kind of a messiah which would suit their unregenerated hearts, but their imaginations paint such a being as the murderous Jews were looking for, and they have no knowledge, conception or love for such a Christ as God has by his Spirit revealed in the hearts of his children, and such as the inspired Scriptures testify our Redeemer to be. Some, and perhaps the greater portion of them, describe such an imaginary saviour as has attempted to do more than he can accomplish, who desires greatly to save everybody, has died to redeem everybody alike, has done all that he can to procure the salvation of everybody, but would succeed in saving very few if unaided in the work by the plans, inventions, contributions and activity of men. They portray one who can only go where they carry him, and do only what they do for him. Or, to use their own words, he works by instrumentalities, means, etc., in saving sinners. Thus they attribute to their imaginary Christ the same and no more than the Pagans attributed to their stocks and stones, and they imagine that the Saviour is pleased, and even delighted with them for their zeal in teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, and that he is highly honored by the improvements that they have made on his doctrine and ordinances; and, whereas his kingdom was not of this world, they have fixed up what they imagine his kingdom ought to be, and have made it altogether a worldly concern. His kingdom no man without being born again could see, but they have assigned to him a kingdom which is visible to the unregenerate. His kingdom, his religion, his doctrine, were so offensive that he was hated, his religion opposed, and his doctrine controverted and blasphemed by all unrenewed men; they suppose that they have made such improvements that the world admires, loves, and is ready to indorse and defend his kingdom, embrace and commend his religion, support and preach his doctrine, not as set forth in the holy Scriptures, but as improved by their wisdom and adapted to the taste and disposition of unconverted men. The spouse of Christ can confidently claim that her Beloved is a real, full, complete sovereign and almighty Saviour, while all other beloveds are only imaginary. Their rock is not as our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges, for they do not claim for their rock the attributes which belong to our Beloved. They do not pretend to believe their beloved is the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace; that he has all power in heaven and earth; that he doeth his pleasure in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; that he is of one mind, and none can turn him. In all these, and in every divine attribute and eternal excellence, the Beloved of the spouse is more than any other beloved. It is the delightful employment of the spouse to extol and praise her Beloved, and to testify that he is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. She loves to tell how far he excels all others, for he is altogether lovely and the chief among ten thousand. Being filled with his love, she is sick of all other objects, sick of self, sick of the vanities of the world, sick of wandering from him, and can only be cured by the light of his countenance. She says she is sick of love. When one is sick of love, or lovesick, nothing short of the presence and enjoyment of the object of that love can possibly relieve him, and it is certainly so with the church; when mourning the absence of her Beloved there is not another being or object in heaven or earth that will satisfy her. Palaces would be gloomy prisons to her in his absence, but in his presence there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand pleasures forevermore.
April 1, 1863.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 334 - 341