Text. — “By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.” – Song of Solomon iii, 1-4
The Song of Solomon is called the Song of Songs, and is generally regarded as a dialogue between Christ and his’ church, of which he is the Head, or Bridegroom, and she is his body, or bride. The strongest expressions are used by him to set forth his love and affection for her, and equally ardent are the words spoken in reply, to show her love for her Lord and Husband. “I’ will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness: as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.” Then follows the reply of her Beloved, “Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem. My dove, my undefiled, is but one; she is the only one of her mother; she is the choice one of her that bare her.”
There are many organizations that claim to be the church of Christ, but unless they are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corners stone, they have no right to make the claim, nor can it be allowed. The church, which was set up at Jerusalem, is the only pattern, and unless conformed to this pattern, all pretended churches or religious organizations, whatever may be their pretensions, are spurious. The Lord does not say to them, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the Rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” What precious words! How cheering to the poor, disconsolate child of God, who would hide his face, and is bowed down under a sense of sin and unworthiness. Let me see thy countenance, however sad. Thy sorrow shall be turned into joy, and thy grief into songs of praise. Let me then hear thy voice and see thy countenance. When she hears his voice utter these gracious words, she breaks forth, “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem; as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.” Black as she is, and as she feels herself to be, she possesses a comeliness given unto her by her beloved Lord and Husband, and in him she is comely; for he has become the God of her salvation.
Dear brethren, when you have been permitted to see him thus, has he not appeared to you as the chiefest among ten thousands, and the altogether lovely? And you have joined in songs of praise unto his holy name. Let the inhabitants of the Rock sing, and those only who inhabit this Rock can join in their song. Of all others it is said, “Their rock is not as our Rock.” Our Rock is the God of salvation. Their rock fails them in the time of their need, and is unable to help them in the hour of their extremity. It cannot save them. Of our Rock it is said, “His work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he.” He only can say, I will work, and who shall hinder? He says of his people, “They shall return and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their head, and sighing and sorrow flee away.” He speaks as the God of omnipotence, who speaks and it is done, who commands and it stands fast.
He saves the poor, and the needy are delivered by him. When in the horrible pit, and deep sunk in the miry clay, where there is no standing, and there is none to. help, and they find no way of escape, they cry unto him, and. he hears them, and flies to their relief. Jonah cried unto him out of the belly of hell, and like him, all who have been thus delivered can and do say, “Salvation is of the Lord.” All his children are made to learn that “None but Jesus, none but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good.” They are made to cry unto him, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy upon me.” He hears, and delivers them, and their soul is filled with joy, and they fondly hope their fears and sorrows are removed forever. But soon they are taught that a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, remains, and amazement and fear take possession of their heart. The bride, in the text, speaks their experience. “By night, on my bed.” All is darkness around. The bed which seemed so pleasant, affords her no rest. Her Lord is gone, and she is left alone, and disconsolate. She seeks him, but finds him not. Sleep forsakes her, and she is in great trouble. Anxieties and fears prey upon her. What shall she do?
How often, dear brethren and sisters, have we, upon such a bed, sought him whom our soul loveth. We sought him, but, like the bride, we found him not, and our souls were in great trouble. We could not rest. Sleep fled from our eyes. At last, like the bride, we resolved to rise. We looked eagerly around, but no heavenly vision met our eyes. We listened intently, but his gracious voice saluted not our ears. We could wait no longer. Says the bride, and she speaks the language of every child of God, “I will rise now, and go about the city, in the streets, and in the broadways.” Surely some one can tell me where my Beloved is gone. I will seek him whom my soul loveth. But alas! how grievous her disappointment. She seeks, but finds him not. Even in the by-lanes, as well as the broad ways; but she finds him not. How often have we, like the bride, made unavailing search. We hoped to find him soon, but, like Job, were made to cry, “O that I knew where I might find him.” Then the adversary assails us, and tauntingly asks, “Where is now thy God? He has forsaken, and cast you off forever.” We listen to his base suggestions, and our cry of grief and lamentation is heard in the streets. The watchmen that go about the city find us, and demand the cause of our grief. Our reply is, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth ?“ But they can give us no information — can afford no comfort.
No, dear brethren, you must look beyond and above the watchmen. Much as they may pity you, they know there is One only who can deliver you. You turn from them, and all seems darkness, and you are ready to despair; but relief is now near at hand. Said the bride, “It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth.” O what joy! How his presence cheers, how his gracious words comfort the poor soul. Now you can say, “I have found him whom my soul loveth. My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” You hold him in your embrace, and will not let him go until you bring him into your mother’s house; into the church, into the Jerusalem which is above, which is the mother of every heaven-born soul.
Now your desire is to dwell forever in Mount Zion, and amongst the children of God. You wish to speak of his goodness to you in delivering you, and to declare unto them that fear God what he has done for your soul. You had been in great distress, but now you are filled with joy, and you greatly desire to speak the praises of your glorious Bridegroom. You have no desire to wander any longer in the streets, but to abide in the chamber of her that conceived you, to share your mutual joys. Now you wish to dwell forever amongst the sons and daughters of Zion. You look upon them as the ‘blessed of the Lord, and as the excellent of the earth, and your language is, O that I could be like them; that I could talk as they do. But you hardly dare attempt to speak of what you hope the Lord has done for you. Could you but speak as the watchmen do; it seems to you they have no troubles. But in this you are mistaken; God’s ministers have troubles, and they meet with great trials. They know all about your situation. Could my dear brother Beebe speak words of comfort and consolation to the afflicted and poor people of God, if he had no experimental knowledge of their trials, sorrows and afflictions? Could he feed the sheep of Christ, if he did not know the cause of their distress, and could he cheer the dear little lambs of the Redeemer’s flock? O no, my dear brethren. He could not speak comfortably unto Jerusalem, unless he had been made to know her afflictions and tribulations, and to partake of them. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Zion, who shall not hold their peace.” They shall speak comfortably unto Jerusalem, and shall comfort the people of God. They shall feed the church of God; they shall set forth the name of him whose right arm is an arm of strength, and who is mighty to save. He it is who hears the needy when they cry. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He hears the groaning of the prisoner, and loosens those who are appointed unto death. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer. The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.
I want the presence of my Lord continually, is the language of the bride. He alone can comfort me; he alone can cheer me in the hour of darkness and distress, and chase all my fears away. None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. It is not until he speaks that comfort is imparted. The watchmen find the poor, distressed soul, but they cannot afford the relief so anxiously desired. They can only point you unto Jesus, and your cry is still, O that I could find him; then would I come even unto his seat. I am overwhelmed with sorrow, O Lord; hear me, and shine in my poor heart. You may ask the watchmen, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? but they have no power to help you. You must go beyond them, must go a little beyond them. Our dear brethren in the ministry can only. point you to the Lamb of God, as the only source of relief. Pass by them then, only but a little, and you have found him. O what joy! O what rapture! In the midst of my distress he found me. In the last distressing hour his arm brought deliverance. He cuts you off from all other hope, from all creature dependence, and his own arm shall bring you salvation.
Thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help, is the language of your blessed Lord. How your heart bounds within you as you hear his voice. There is none so lovely in your eyes as Jesus. He is unto you the chief est among thousands, and the one altogether lovely to your soul. His voice is the voice of your Beloved. Behold he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills. His voice reaches your enraptured ears; how sweet the sound.
How sweet the voice of Jesus sounds To the believer’s ear. How sweet his accents! He speaks, and says, Rise up, my beloved, and come away. Come away from these low grounds of sorrow; no longer lie in despair. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, from Amana, from Shenei, and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards. Now I have found him, I must bring him again to my mother’s house. Now I can say, His mouth is most sweet; yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this my Friend, O ye daughters of Jerusalem; I would not let him go until I brought him to my mother’s house. lie is King of kings and Lord of lords. She is the queen, standing at his right hand, in gold of Ophir. Now the language of the bride is, Rejoice with me, for I have found him whom my soul loveth. He has made known unto me the joys of his salvation; he led me in paths which I had not known. He has made darkness light, and crooked paths straight. Her heart aches with joy. Her desire now is to declare his name to the saints who are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all her delight. He will (says she) shew me the path of life, for in his presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Dear brethren and sisters, I have tried to tell you a little about the love of my dear Lord towards his children, his bride, and in doing so have told you some of my own experience; how the Lord found me in my great distress, how he led me, and brought me even to his banqueting house, where I told my brethren what the Lord had done for me. For indeed I was in great distress; my load of sin bowed me down. I fell down, and there was no one to help me; I felt myself justly condemned. But the Lord was merciful unto me, and delivered my poor soul. I was made to look to him, and to him alone, for salvation. I cried with my voice, and the Lord heard me, and came to my relief. He came, leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills. It is thus the Lord saves his people; not for their goodness or merit, but a1one of his abundant mercy. He takes away their filthy dress, and clothes them with his own robes of righteousness.
“How much these glorious robes exceed
What earthly princes wear;
These ornaments how bright they shine,
How white their garments are.”
He adorns his bride; she is clothed in fine linen, fine and white, even in garments of salvation. Paul did not desire his righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Jesus Christ; even the righteousness which is by faith. This the dear Lord will give you. God leads and guards his people; he will never leave you nor forsake you. He will hear the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their prayer. When he putteth forth his own sheep he goes before them, and they shall go in and out, and shall find pasture. He feeds his flock; they shall never perish. His language is, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” He will bring you off conquerors, and more than conquerors. O the contrast between this time state, and the immortality and eternal life we are seeking. One is earth, the other heaven. Here are trials and afflictions; there is life and fullness of joy. Here are sins and sorrows and temptations; there is eternal life, and crowns of righteousness, and joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.
Dear brethren, do not fear; he will clothe you with the robe of his righteousness. Yea, he has done it, even as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels, and he will clothe you with immortality; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. “For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, being burdened.” But when Jesus shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. That will do. Nothing else will satisfy that longing desire to be free from sin, free from corruption. But even this shall be given you. This mortal body is of the earth, and it is earthy; but it shall be changed into the likeness of his glorious body. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. You will leave earth and sin behind, and heaven will be your eternal home. As heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, you will hear his blessed voice, saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest.
God bless you all, and keep you, for Jesus’s sake. Amen.
Elder Thomas P. Dudley
Sermon Preached – June 6, 1879
Signs of the Times
Volume 127, No. 10