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Solomon's Song, viii. 6, 7.
Set me As a seal upon thine heart, ai a seal upon thine arm ' for love is strong as death , lealousy is cruel as the grave: The coals thereof are coals of fire, which liath a most vehement flame. Manv waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. If a man would give all the substance of lib house for lovf, it would utterly be contemned.
'JL HIS sacred book, out of which my text is taken, has been generally esteemed by wise and holy men in all ages, one of the most spiritual and experimental parts of the Holy Scriptures. It is true, loan unenlightened mind, it appears much in the same light that its glorious author, Christ Jesus, did to the blinded Jews, while he sojourned among them; for although he is in very deed, the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, yet they esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. The prophecy of Isaiah was awfully fulfilled in them: He appeared as a root springing up out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness, and they saw no beauty in him, that they should desire him. The reason of this was, as the Apostle observes, the veil was upon their hearts, and till this veil is taken away, the beauty and excellency of spiritual and heavenly things, will always be hid from us. But the same Apostle assures us, that when we return to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away, and then we shall not only understand, but greatly profit by this part of the holy book of God.
It is said the ancient Israelites compared the three books of Solomon, to the three courts of the temple. That of the Proverbs they compared to the outer court, where the proselyted Gentiles worshipped the God of Israel: The book of Ecclesiastes to the holy place, where the Israelites themselves -worshipped; and this divine song they compared to the holiest of all, which was considered as a type of heaven, into which none but the High-priest himself was suffered to enter, and he only once a-year on the great day of atonement. So deep a veneration had they for this book, that they advised their young people not to read it, till they were thirty years of age, lest they should make a wrong use of it.
It is written in the form of a dialogue, the speakers Christ and his church, under the idea or the bridegroom, and his bride; or Christ and a true believer are represented speaking one to the other, with the utmost familiarity and affection. From what is spoken by Christ we learn, with what tender pity and compassion, with what holy and sacred pleasure he views all bis followers here upon earth. How he delights in their spiritual prosperity, how he rejoiceth over them, to do them all the good they are capable of receiving:, and how ready he always is to appear for; them in all their trials. From what is spoken by the church we learn, what solid peace, what substantial happiness and holy pleasure, those highlv favoured souls enjoy, who are brought into the favour of God, and continue to live in the enjoyment of communion with him.
In the words of the text, the church, or the true believer, is considered as speaking to Christ; and therefore, that we may receive the instruction and comfort from these words, which our gracious Lord intended we should, it will be necessary to .consider them in the following order:
First, The believer is represented, as devoutly praying* for the enjoyment of closer communion with God; "Set pie as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm."
Secondly, We have here described the unconquerable nature pf divine love, considered as communicated to the believing soul: '* Love js strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame: Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." .
Thirdly, We have the inestimable value of divine love set forth: "If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned."
I. The believer is considered as devoutly praying for the enjoyment of closer communion with God.
It is well known that this is a very great and high privilege, and it is impossible that any one should enjoy, or even understand its nature, till he is brought into the favour and family of God. Here the real Christian stands distinguished from all mankind. He is brought nigh to God, by the blood of his well-beloved Son, into a state of favour and friendship with him; yea, he is spiritually united to, and lives in the enjoyment of communion with him. §o the beloved Disciple speaks, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." To be blest with a clear manifestation of the love of God, and M experience that divine evidence of it, the peace of God in our conscience; to walk in the light of God's countenance; to be daily quickened and comforted by his blessed Spirit; is what the Gospel calls us to the enjoyment of, and what the real believer in Christ experiences.
It is true, too many have to lament that they enjoy this, only in a low degree, that they live at too great a distance from God^ and are too frequently found in the wilderness, and in a dry and barren land, where no water is. This may be accounted for, in a great varietv of ways: But the word of God gives no countenance to any thing of the kind, but calls us to live in the presence, arid to drink deep into the Spirit of God; and all those who are desirous of this, 'will devoutly pray with the church* " Set me as a seal upon, thine heart." As if the Christian should thus address the God of love, "O my God, 1 live at too great a distance from thee! I am too often found in a barren and thirsty land. O press me closer to thine heart. Let me experience greater nearness to thee, my blessed God and Saviour. O let me be favoured with clearer, and more enlarged views of thy love, in Christ Jesus: Let me have brighter and stronger evidences of thy favour: Let thy peace be in my heart as a river, and let the light of thy countenance shine, 'without interruption. O let me drink deeper into thy Holy Spirit, arid let my whole soul be renewed in righteousness and holiness thereby. Powerfully draw me to thyself; quicken, comfort, strengthen, and establish my soul: Let ifle receive out of thy fullness, and grace for grace: Let me be strengthened by the might of thy Spirit in my inward man, day by day; and let the intercourse be continually open between God and my soul: Let me be constantly admitted into thy presence cbarrtber, and let me have free atcesstothy throne." All this, yea and much more, is urtdoubtedly implied in that expression, " Set me as a seal upon thy heart." And it will always be acknowledged, by all those who expierience any degree of spiritual light, that to enjoy the presence of God, to walk in the light of his countenance, to -have free access to his throne, and to receive divine communications from the Fountain of all goodness^ of all wisdom ami happiness, is a privilege which can only be enjoyed by those who are divinely alive, and are made spiritually one with our blessed Redeemer.
But in these words there is a manifest allusion to that sacred and ancient custom of the Jewish High-priest solemnly entering into the Holiest of alI, upon the great day of atonemfent. By the express order of God, being clothed 'with all the holy garments, over these he had the breastplate of judgment, girt upon his breast; in this there were twelve precious stones, regularly placed in three rows, and in them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraven. This being done, he took the blood of atonement and a bunch of hysop in his hand, and entering into the most holy place, which was considered as a type of heaven, he stood before the mercy-seat, where the glory of God was manifested, and he sprinkled the blood upon the mercy seat, and towards the mercy-seat, and made intercession for the thousands of Israel, who at the same time were all solemnly engaged in prayer without. In doing this, he bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his" breast, as hath been observed. In this sacred transaction, lie may be considered as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, who when he had made Reconciliation for the transgressors, by the shedding of his precious blood, entered into the immediate presencffof God, even into heaven itself, "*ot with the blood of bulls, or of calves," (as the Apostle observes, but with his own blood, where be ever liveth to make intercession for all his children here below.
Here then, the believer is represented, as devoutly praying to be interested in the intercession of our great and glorified High-priest; as if he should say, " Lord, remember me, now thou art in thy kingdom. Set me as a seal upon thine heart, bear my worthless name upon thy 'breast, O my gracious Saviour, while thou appearest in the presence of God, to plead for thy disciples."
The intercession of Christ, at the right-hand of God, is considered in the Scriptures as a great and invaluable privilege, and it certainly is so. We esteem it a peculiar -favour, to be interested in the prayers of truly pious or holy men, whom we have.reason to believe have access to the throne of grace, because we are teld by an Apostle, that "the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much:" And perhaps we may esteem it a still greater blessing to be interested in the prayers of deeply pious ministers, as we may be allowed to suppose, these are more frequently found before the throne in prayer, and that they walk more closely with God: But it is stilli an infinitely greater mercy, to be interested in the intercession of the holy Jesus, in whom the Father of mercies, the God of our salvation, is always well pleased. And that we may knpw how highly we are favoured in this
respect, the apostle reasons with the believing Romans in the following manner: "If, when we were enemies, we 'were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, how much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." It is easy to observe the force of the Apostle's reasoning: It runs thus,—If when we were enemies, living in a state°ofsin and rebellion against God, yet such was his mercy and love towards us, that we were reconciled unto him, and he mercifully pardoned all our many and great offences; how much more may we now hope, that Jiving in a state of favour and friendship with God, he being our reconciled Father and Friend, that we shall be completely and everlastingly saved, by the life, or intercession of Jesus, our Redeemer, his well beloved Son. Again, in the same Epistle, he writes thus, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth? Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that i» risen again, who is even at the right-hand of God who also maketh intercession for us." Here the Apostle considers the believer, as being freely and fully justified through faith in the Redeemer, and interested in all that be hath done and suffered; and now that he is ascended up on high, having led captivity captive, or as the Apostle speaks "having spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them by the blood of his cross,'' he is now pleading the merit of his precious blood, in behalf of all his followers upon earth, and receiving gifts, all the benefits of his passion for those who believe in his name; so that the Christian hath abundant reason to rejoice in hope that every blessing of the new covenant shall be communicated to him. Again, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle writes upon the same subject thus, "He is able, therefore, to save all them to the uttermost, who come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." And the Apostle John comforts the children of God, by setting forth the same privilege thus, "These things I write unto you, that ye sin not; but if any man hath siiwred, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Cn.irist the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins."
From all these Scriptures we learn, that to be interested in the intercession of Jesus Christ must be an unspeakable blessing, and that this is the privilege of every true believer, that Christ, in his intercession at the right hand of God, is considered as having finished transgression, and joade an