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attestations the followers of Christ profess to experience nothing but what the Scriptures do clearly warrant them to expect.
We have not in our view, it should be remembered, the penitent trembling before his judge. Though it is obvious to remark, that sinful mor tals, by nature the children of wrath, must first of all be brought into these circumstances, before any friendship with a holy God can be imagined. Neither are the scenes described in the following parables, supposed to refer to the first application of the believer to the cross of his Saviour, nor perhaps to his first apprehensions of Christ's pity and mercy; but rather to those subsequent manifestations of the divine love, in the person of the Son of God, which the established Christian is taught to expect, from the effusion of the Holy Ghost the Comforter.
The progress of true religious experience is thus stated, by a safe guide, the Apostle Paul, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, wherein we stand and rejoice, in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and
experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." And, after describing the nature of this love, the Apostle concludes, "and not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonementi."
It is in these circumstances-when, to use the expressions of Isaiah, "the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness, and assurance for ever," that the believing soul becomes the manifested subject of those espousals with her heavenly Bridegroom, which are celebrated in these songs of love. To persons brought into this happy state, the language of the Prophet may be addressed, "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." To the favoured believer, so circumstanced, the terms Hephzibah and Beulah apply. And the spouse of Christ receiving" the first fruits of the Spirit" is enabled to exclaim, in the animated language of the same Prophet, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed
i 1 Υπομονή-Δοκιμη-Ελπις-Καταλλαγη.--Rom. v. 1, &c. Isa. xxxii. 17. Isa. lxii. 5.
me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels'."
With this blessed experience we come, individually, to enjoy that happy state of the church described by the prophet Hosea ; "And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi (my husband); and shalt call me no more Baali (my master). And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies; and I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord"."
For let it here be once for all observed, that what is spoken of the church in these Scriptures, is not only true of it in its collective capacity, but applies respectively to every member of which that church is composed. No one indeed will doubt, when a false church is termed an adultress, a very common metaphor in Scripture, whether the spiritual fornication is chargeable or not upon each individual participating in her
Isa. Ixi. 10. m Hos. ii. 16.
n Hos. ii. 19, 20.
idolatries. Neither can it reasonably be questioned, whether the love declared by Christ towards his spouse the Church, belongs severally, as well as conjointly, to all his faithful people.
Why should the love of Christ be considered as nothing more than an affection only true in the general abstract, but applicable in point of fact to no one? "O, taste and see!!" The love of Christ is not lost in generalities, neither is it lessened by division. Like the great luminary of heaven, "The head of his body the Church," in the communications of his grace, shines with the same fulness upon all the objects of his love;— each alike discerns the complete disk of the Sun of Righteousness to be turned towards himself, as though no creature besides participated in his beams. And-to draw another comparison from these material objects-as the heavenly bodies, because of their immense distance, in comparison of the objects which surround us here upon the surface of the earth, seem as if they attended each of us in our course; to go with us when we go, and to take their stations where we rest; so, in reality, from that glorious height, from whence the Omnipotent Saviour beholds the things which are in heaven and in earth, he is always seen as pre
sent to to the believer's soul. He is about his
path, and about his bed.
"As God hath said, I
will dwell in them, and walk in them p."
An objection, indeed, has been urged against this interpretation of the Song of Solomon, which we are endeavouring to establish, drawn from the consideration that we find no plain and express allusion to this book in the New Testament, under the notion of its veiling so great a mystery. But it is sufficient to reply, that the same allegory, as portraying the same truth, evidently appears to have been familiar to the minds of the writers of the New Testament, and to the minds also of the people whom they addressed.
Not more abruptly does John the Baptist, for instance, refer to our Lord, as "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world," as being a character of the Messiah, which all would know and understand, than he does to the same blessed person in the character of the Bridegroom of the Church. "He that hath the Bride is the Bridegroom: but the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly, because of the Bridegroom's voice; this my joy therefore is fulfilled." So again St. Paul,
• Ps. cxxxix. 2. p 2 Cor. vi. 16. 9 John, iii. 29.