Nearer and Dearer
“I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I c died him, but he gave me no answer. The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.” Solomon’s Song 5:2-8.
THE most healthy state for a Christian is that of unbroken and intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. From such a state of heart he should never decline. “Abide in me, and I in you,” is the loving precept of our ever loving Lord. But, alas! my brethren, as in this world our bodies are subject to many sicknesses, so our souls also, by reason of the body of this death with which we are encompassed, are often sorely afflicted with sin, sickness, and an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the Lord. We are not what we might be, we are not what we should be, we are not what we shall be, we are net what we wish to be. I fear that many of us are not walking in the light of God’s countenance, are not resting with our heads upon the Saviour’s bosom, nor sitting with Mary at the Master’s feet; we dwell in Kedar rather than Zion, and sojourn in Mesech rather than Jerusalem. Spiritual sickness is very common in the church of God, and the root of the mischief lies in distance from Jesus, following Christ afar off, and yielding to a drowsy temperament. Away from Jesus, away from joy. Without the sun the flowers pine; without Jesus our hearts faint. My object, this morning, is to put myself into the hands of the Holy Spirit, that he may now come, and, like a physician, prescribe for you, that if any of you in your hearts have become like the spouse in this part of the Song, you may as fully imitate her in that which is good as in that which is blameworthy. If you do not soon find your Beloved to your soul’s joy, may you at least, like the spouse, declare that you are “sick of love,” and continue to follow his track until you overtake him.
I. Commencing where the text begins, we observe that the spouse confesses A VERY COMMON SIN: she cries, “I sleep.”
She had no right to be asleep, for her Beloved knew no rest. He was standing without in the cold street, with his head wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, why should she be at ease? He was anxiously seeking her, how was it that she could be so cruel as to yield to slumber! It is a most unseasonable thing, my brethren and sisters, for any of us to be indolent and indifferent, for we profess to have gone forth to meet the Bridegroom, and it is shameful for us to sleep because for a little while he tarries. The world is perishing. We are sent into the world instrumentally to be its saviours — how dishonourable, that with such necessities for activity, and with such noble ends to be served by industry, we should fold our arms and delight ourselves in indolence! Nothing can be more inexcusable than for us to sleep, seeing that we are not of the night nor of darkness. If we had been the children of the night, it might seem according to our nature for us to be sluggards; but we have avowed that the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ has shone into our eyes, let us not therefore sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober, for they that sleep, sleep in the night; and since the night is past to us, it is highly indecent and improper that we should still continue to toss upon the bed of sloth. No time for slumber, it seems to me, can be more unseasonable to the Christian than the present one, for the world is reeking with wickedness, and superstitions like the frogs of Egypt are covering the land. Everyone who is but so much as half awake can see the enemy industriously sowing tares among the wheat. Shall the watchmen of Zion continue to slumber on their watchtowers when the foe is undermining the bulwarks? Shall the shepherds sleep when the wolf has broken into the fold? Shall the seamen sleep when the gale is furiously driving the vessel upon the rocks? So far as our own hearts are concerned, we have no private reasons for slumbering, for our daily cares require watchfulness, the temptations which assail us every hour demand of us that we should stand with our loins girt, and our abounding enemies all warn us that our danger is extreme unless we are always fully equipped in our celestial armour. If we must sleep, let it be in a less dangerous position than these hostile lands, through which we march to-day; there will be rest enough on the other side of Jordan, where the drawn sword is exchanged for the well-tuned harp; but to be careless now is to sleep in the midst of a bloody conflict, to dream upon the verge of a precipice, and to sport in the jaws of death. From our beds let the Master’s voice arouse us, for he cries aloud, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
Do you not find, my brethren, that almost unconsciously to yourselves, a spirit of indifference steals over you? You do not give up private prayer, hut alas! it becomes a mere mechanical operation. You do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but still your bodily presence is all that is given, and you derive no refreshment from the unspiritual exercise. Have you not sat at the Lori’s table spiritually asleep? Has not the heavenly watcher detected your soul nodding when the sacred emblems have been spread before you, or even in your mouth? Have you not been content with the bare symbols, which are barrenness, while the spiritual essence, which is marrow and fatness, you have not tasted? I find from the very fact that I am always engaged in the Master’s service from the early morning till far into the night, that I become dull and carnal, being cumbered with much serving, so that I have to question the vitality of my religion because its freshness and vigour flag. It is grievous to go on like a clock which is wound up, not because you rejoice in the work, but because you must. My soul shudders at the thought of routine religion, formal service, dead devotion, mechanical godliness. What a mercy to reach the fresh springs, to feel a daily renewed youth, an anointing with fresh oil! For this I pine and pant. One gets driving on in the dark, as coachmen sometimes do when they are asleep on the box: dangerous work, this! I know that I am safe in Christ, but I could fain suffer anything rather than become habitually of a slumbering heart. Better smart under the long whip of affliction, or feel the stings of conscience, or even the darts of the devil, than lie down in carnal security’s lap to be shorn of one’s locks by the Philistines; yet I fear this has been my case. I do not know how far my confession may be echoed by my brethren to-day, but I am shrewdly suspicious that the more wakeful you are, the more heartily will you acknowledge a terrible tendency in the other direction. Again let me remind you that to sleep now is an evil thing, dangerous to yourselves, a cruel thing to others, an ungrateful act towards Christ, and dishonourable to his cause. Shall such a King be served by lie-a-bed soldiers? Shall his midnight pleadings be repaid by our daylight sleepiness? Shall an agony of bloody sweat be recompensed by heavy eyelids and yawning mouths? Away, for ever away, O ye who are redeemed by the Wellbeloved, with this detestable slumber, of which I fear you must honestly confess yourselves to have been guilty!
II. The song before us reminds us of A HOPEFUL SIGN. “My heart waketh.”
What a riddle the believer is! He is asleep, and yet he is awake. His true self, the I, the veritable Ego of the man is asleep; but yet his heart, his truest self, his affections, are awake. The believer is a standing paradox; he cannot even understand himself. The wakefulness of the heart, does it not mean just this? “I sleep, but I am not content to be asleep”? The true believer is not satisfied to slumber. Time was when, if he could have pacified his conscience, he would have been extremely thankful, however deadly might have been the drug which caused the slumber, but now the man starts, shivers, tosses to and fro in his sleep, is unrested by his rest, dreams horribly, and cries to be awakened. The saved man cannot be happy in a false and rotten peace. The divine life within struggles against the monstrous serpent of sin which tries to twist its folds of sleep around it. No renewed heart can enjoy perfect rest while conscious of being an idler in the vineyard, and a loiterer in the race. Backsliding believer, does your heart wake? If so, you will know it, for it will smite you, it will upbraid you, and demand of you whom thou art, that thou shouldst thus behave thyself? Elect of God, and yet asleep while Jesus is dishonoured! Redeemed by blood, and yet misspending time which belongs to thy Redeemer! Married to Christ, and yet absent from thy Husband, and content without a smile from his dear face! How can it be? Be ashamed and be confounded, and never show thy face any more, for this is ingratitude of the deepest dye.
It is a hopeful sign when a man can conscientiously say as much as the spouse in this case, but remember it is not much to say. Do not pride yourself upon it. Be ashamed that you should be asleep at all. Do not congratulate yourself that your heart is awake. Be thankful that infinite love affords you grace enough to keep your heart alive, but be ashamed that you have no more when more may be had and should be had. Mere longings and moanings are so small a work of grace, that they should alarm rather than console. It will be a foul temptation of Satan if you are led to say, “I am content to sleep so long as my heart does but wake.” Firm resolves of amendment are needful, and something more than resolves. Alas! I have need to add those few words, because the most of our resolutions vanish in thin air. We get as far as this, “I am not quite content to be in such a lukewarm state of mind, and I will therefore by-and-by endeavour to arouse myself, and renounce this downy bed of sloth.” This is not much to say, for it is no more than we ought to do, it is all the less, because we so seldom keep the vow, but like the disturbed sluggard, we turn over to the other side and mutter sullenly, “A little more folding of the hands to sleep.” I fear me that there are thousands of God’s children who are enough awake to know that they are asleep, enough convinced of their wrong to know that they are wrong, and to hope that they will one day be better, but alas! they continue in the same unhallowed condition. May I invite every believer to make a strict examination of his own spiritual state. My brother, you may be sleeping through great worldly prosperity, for nothing tends to slumber more surely than a gentle rocking in the cradle of luxury. On the other hand, you may be sleeping because of overwhelming sorrow, even as the twelve fell asleep when our Lord was in the garden. Some make a downy pillow of their wealth, but others fall asleep in their poverty, like Jacob with a stone for his pillow. To be surrounded with constant worldly occupation, to be oppressed with many cares in business, this is to pass through the enchanted ground; and happy is the man who has grace enough to overcome the influence of his position. Now, if your heart to-day is sufficiently awake to tell you that you are not living as near to God as you were some years ago, that you have not the love to him you once had, that your warmth and zeal for Christ has departed from you, I beseech you hear the voice of Jesus Christ: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” “Repent and do thy first works.” Turn unto your Saviour now, that this very day ere the sun goeth down you may rejoicingly exclaim, “I have found him whom my soul loveth; I will hold him, and will not let him go.”
III. The third thing in the text is A LOVING CALL.
Asleep as the spouse was, she knew her Husband’s voice, for this is an abiding mark of God’s people. “My sheep hear my voice.” A half sleeping saint still has spiritual discernment enough to know when Jesus speaks. At first the Beloved one simply knocked. His object was to enter into fellowship with his church, to reveal himself to her, to unveil his beauties, to solace her with his presence. Such is the object of our blessed Lord, this morning, in bringing us to this house. I hope this sermon will be a knock: I trust my discourse may give many knocks at the door of every backsliding believer here. Jesus cries, “Open to me! Open to me!” Will you not admit your Saviour? Thou lovest him. He gave himself for thee, he pleads for thee: let him in to thy soul, commune with him this morning. When you turn to read his word, every promise is a knock. He saith, “Come and enjoy this promise with me, for it is yea and amen in me.” Every threatening is a knock. Every precept is a knock. In outward providences every boon which we receive through our Mediator’s intercession is a gentle knock from his pierced hand, saying, “Take this mercy, but open to me! It comes to you through me; open to me!” Every affliction is a knock at our door; that wasting sickness, that broken bone, that consumptive daughter, that rebellious child, that burning house, that shipwrecked vessel, and dishonoured bill— all these are Christ’s knockings, saying, “These things are not your joys, these worldly things can afford no rest for the sole of your foot; open to me, open to me! These idols I am breaking, these joys I am removing; open to me, and find in me a solace for all your woes.” Knocking, alas! seems to be of little use to us. We are so stubborn, and so ungenerous towards our heavenly bridegroom, that he, the crucified, the immortal lover of our souls may stand and knock, and knock, and knock again, and the preacher and adversity may be his double hammer, but yet the door of the heart will not yield.
Then the Bridegroom tried his voice. If knocking would not do, he would speak in plain and plaintive words, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled.” The Lord Jesus Christ has a sweet way of making the word come home to the conscience; I mean, not now, that effectual and irresistible power of which we shall speak by-and-by, but that lesser force which the heart may resist, but which renders it very guilty for so doing. Some of you who are the Lord’s people, have heard soft and sweet whispers in your heart, saying, “You are saved; now, my beloved, live in the light of salvation. You are a member of my mystical body, draw near and enjoy fellowship with me, such as a member ought to have with its Head.” Do you not see the Lord Jesus beckoning to you with gentle finger, and saying, “Come with me oftener into the closet of secret prayer; get oftener alone to muse on things divine; acquire the habit of walking with me in your business. Abide in me, and I in you”? Do not these admonitions visit you like angels’ whispers, and have you not too often resisted them? Have you not been thoughtful for them for the moment, and recorded them in your diary, and then forgotten them and lived as frigidly as you had done before, though the Sun of Righteousness was waiting to arise upon you with healing beneath his wings?
Now, beloved, observe the appeals which the Beloved here makes. He says, “Open to me,” and his plea is the love the spouse has to him, or professes to have, the love he has to her, and the relationship which exists between them. “Open to me, my sister.” Next akin to me, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, born of the same mother;” for Jesus is “the seed of the woman,” even as we are. One with us in our humanity, he takes each human heart that believeth to be his mother, and sister and brother. “Open to me, mv sister.” If you are so nearly related to Jesus, why do you act so coldly towards him? If, indeed, he be your closest kinsman, how is it that you live so far remote, and come not to visit him, neither open the doors of your heart to entertain him? “My dove,” my gentle one, my favourite, my innocent.” Oh, if you be indeed his dove, how can you rest away from the dovecote. How can you be satisfied without your mate? One turtle pines without the other, how is it thou dost not pine to have fellowship with the dear Husband of thy soul? “My love,” Jesus calls us what we profess to be. We say we love him; yes, and unless we have been dreadfully deceived, we do love him. It brings the water into my eyes to think of it that I should so often be indifferent to him, and yet I can say it as before him, “Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” Men and brethren, if we love him, let us crave his presence in our souls. How miserable must it be to live as some do day after day, without a real soul-stiring heaven-moving prayer. Are there not some who continue week after week without searching the word, and without rejoicing in the Lord? Oh, wretched life of banishment from bliss! Dear hearer, can you be satisfied to go forth into the world, and to be so occupied with it, that you never have a desire towards heaven? If so, mourn over such backsliding, since it exiles you from your best Beloved’s bosom. The Bridegroom adds another title, “my undefiled.” There is a spiritual chastity which every believer must maintain; our heart belongs to no one but to Christ. All other lovers must be gone; he fills the throne. He has bought us; no other paid a part of the price; he shall have us altogether. He has taken us into personal union with himself; of his mystical body we make up a part; we ought, therefore, to hold ourselves as chaste virgins unto Christ, undefiled with the pollutions of the flesh and the rivalries of earthly loves. To the undefiled Jesus says, “Open to me.” Oh! I am ashamed, this morning, to be preaching from such a text, ashamed of myself most of all, that I should need to have such a text applied to my own soul. Why, beloved, if Christ deigns to enter into such a poor miserable cottage as our nature is, ought we not to entertain the King with the best we have, and feel that the first seat at our table is all too poor and too mean for him? What if in the midst of this dark night our Beloved comes to us who profess to love him, shall he have to knock and speak and plead by every sweet and endearing title, and yet shall we refuse to arise and give him the fellowship he craves? Did you notice that powerful argument with which the heavenly lover closed his cry? He said, “My head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” Ah, sorrowful remembrances, for those drops were not the ordinary dew that fall upon the houseless traveller’s unprotected head, his head was wet with scarlet dew, and his locks with crimson drops of a tenfold night of G-od’s desertion, when he “sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” My heart, how vile art thou, for thou shuttest out the Crucified. Behold the Man thorn-crowned and scourged, with traces of the spittle of the soldiery, canst thou close the door on him? Wilt thou despise the “despised and rejected of men”? Wilt thou grieve the “Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ”? Dost thou forget that he suffered all this for thee, for thee, when thou deservest nothing at his hands? After all this, wilt thou give him no recompense, not even the poor return of admission to thy loving communings? I am afraid some of you believers think it a very small thing to live a day or two without fellowship with God in prayer. Probably you have fallen into such a sleepy state that you can read your Bible without enjoyment, and yet you do not feel it to be any very remarkable thing that it is so. You come to and fro to the Tabernacle and listen to the gospel, and it does not come home to you with the power it once had, and yet you do not feel at all alarmed about it. My Master does not treat your state of mind with the same indifference that you do, for it causes him pain, and though as Mediator his expiatory griefs are finished once for all, yet he has anguish still over your indifference and coldness of heart; these sorrows are the drops that bedew his head, these are the dewdrops that hang about his raven locks. O will ye grieve him, will ye open all his wounds and crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame? Doors of the heart, fly open! Though rusted upon your hinges, open ye at the coming of the sorrowful Lover who was smitten of God and afflicted. Surely the argument of his grief should prevail instanter with every honest heart: he whose head is wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, must not be kept standing in the street, it behoves that he be entertained with our warmest love, it is imperative that he be housed at once.
IV. Yet the spouse hastened not to open the door, and I am afraid the like delay may be charged upon some of us. Our shame deepens as we pursue our theme, and think how well our own character is photographed here by the wise man; for notice, in the fourth place, that after the knocking and the pleading, the spouse made A MOST UNGENEROUS EXCUSE.
She sat like a queen, and knew no sorrow. She had put off her garments and washed her feet as travellers do in the East before they go to rest. She was taking her ease in full security, and therefore she said to her Beloved, “I have put off my tunic, I cannot robe myself again. As for my feet, I have washed them, and to tread the floor to open the door would defile them; therefore, I pray thee have me excused.” A bad excuse was in this case far worse than none, because it was making one sin an apology for another. Why did she put off her coat? The bridegroom had not come; she should have stood with her loins girt about, and her lamp trimmed. Why had she washed her feet? It was right to do so if the emblem had indicated purity, but it indicated carnal case. She had left holy labour for carnal rest. Why did she so? She thus makes her wicked slumber and inaction to be an excuse for barring out her Husband. My dear brethren and sisters, there is a temptation which is very cunning on the part of Satan, and perhaps he will exercise that upon some of you this morning. While I have been preaching, you have said, “Well, that is just like me. The text fully opens up my experience and the devil will then say, “Be satisfied; you see you are just in the same condition as the spouse was, therefore it is all right.” Oh, damnable temptation! what can be more vile than this, that because another has sinned against the Beloved, I am to be content to sin in the same way! Perhaps you will turn this sad course of conduct in the ancient spouse into an excuse for your own negligence. Shall I English the excuse she made? it is this: “O Lord, I know that if I am to enter into much fellowship with thee, I must pray very differently from what I have done of late, but it is too much trouble; I cannot stir myself to energy so great. My time is so taken up with my business, I am so constantly engaged that I could not afford even a quarter of an hour for retirement. I have to cut my prayers so short.” Is this the miserable excuse in part? Shall I go on? Shall I tell out more of this dishonourable apology? It is this: “I do not want to begin an examination of myself: it may reveal so many unpleasant truths. I sleep, and it is very comfortable to sleep; I do not want to be driven out of my comforts. Perhaps if I were to live nearer to Christ, I should have to give up some of the things which I so much enjoy. I have become conformed to the world of late; I am very fond of having Mr. So-and-so to spend an hour with me in the evening, and his talk is anything but that which my Master would approve of, but I cannot give him up. I have taken to read religious novels. I could not expect to have the Lord Jesus Christ’s company when I am poring over such trash as that, but still I prefer it to my Bible; I would sooner read a fool’s tale than I would read of Jesus’ love.” How ashamed I feel this morning, to have to put it into words like these, the sins of some of you, but my words are literal truth. Do not many of you live as if you had a name to live, and were dead? Jesus Christ comes, and knocks this morning, and reminds you that the happiest life is living near to him, that the holiest, purest, sweetest hours you ever had were those in which you threw yourselves upon him, and gave up all beside. He reminds you of your better days, 0 do not I pray you offer him excuses frivolous and vexatious. O despise not your Lord who died for you, in whose name you live, with whom you hope to reign for ever, who is to wrap you about with glory in the day of his appearing. Let it not be said that he is pushed into a corner, and his love despised, while the vile painted-faced world takes up the love of your life. It should not be so; it is baseness itself on our part when it is so.
Still as a wonder of wonders, although shamefully and cruelly treated, the beloved Husband did not go away. We are told that he “put in his hand by the hole of the door,” and then the bowels of his spouse were moved for him. In the Eastern door there is generally a place near the lock into which a man may put his hand, and there is a pin inside which, if removed, unfastens the door. Each one of these locks is different from another, so that no one usually understands how to open the door except the master. So the Master in this case did not actually open the door — you notice the spouse did that, but he pulled out the pin, so that she could see his hand, she could see that the door was not fast closed now he had removed the bar. “My Beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door.” Does not this picture THE WORK OF EFFECTUAL GRACE, when the truth does not appeal to the ear alone, but comes to the Heart, when it is no longer a thing thought on, and discussed and forgotten, but an arrow which has penetrated into the reins, and sticks fast in the loins to our wounding, and ultimately to our spiritual healing? No hand is like Christ’s hand. When he puts his hand to the work it is well done. He “put in his hand:” not his hand on me to smite me, but his hand in me to comfort me, to sanctify me. He put in his hand, and straightway his beloved began to pity him, and to lament her unkindness. She thought as she looked at that hand pierced with the nail mark, “O Jesus, have I no love for thee? Hast thou done all this for me, and have I been a transparent hypocrite after all, and locked thee out when I ought to have admitted thee? I have used no other friend so ill. I should have been ashamed to have thought of such conduct even to a foe. But thou, O thou who hast done more for me than mother, brother, husband, friend, could have done, to thee I have been an ingrate most base and wilful.” Her bowels were moved with repentance; her eyes gushed with tears, and she rose to let him in.
As she arose she first buckled on her garments, and then she searched for the alabaster box of precious ointment, that she might anoint his weary feet and dewy locks; no sooner did she reach the door, than see the love of God to her! Her “hands dropped with myrrh, and her fingers with sweet smelling myrrh.” Here is the Holy Spirit come to help our infirmities. She begins to pray, and the Holy Ghost helps her. She begins already to enjoy the sweetness, not of communion, but of the very desire after communion. For, beloved, when our tears begin to flow because we are far from Christ, those holy drops have myrrh in them. When we begin to pray for grace, there is a blessedness even about our yearnings, and longings, and sighings, and pantings, and pinings; our fingers drop with sweet smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock. An unction from the Holy One descends upon the soul when it is earnestly seeking for its Beloved. But that ought never to satisfy us. Behold another temptation of the devil. He will say to you, “On this very morning you felt some sweetness in hearing about Christ, your hands have evidently dropped with myrrh upon the handles of the lock.” Yes, but still it is not the myrrh that will content the loving heart, it is Christ she wants; and if not only hands, but lips and feet and her whole frame had dropped with myrrh, this would never have contented her until she could get the Lord himself. I pray you, beloved, if the life of Jesus be in you of a truth, rest not satisfied with all the graces and the promises and the doctrines and the gifts of the Spirit of God, but seek alter this most excellent gift, to know Christ, and to be found in him, to say of him, “He loved me, and gave himself for me;” and, yet more, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.” It was that effectually putting in of the hand that moved her. O Lord, grant the like unto us.
VI. But now, in the sixth place, observe THE DESERVED CHASTISEMENT which the Bridegroom inflicted.
When her spouse was willing to commune, she was not; and now that she is willing, and even anxious, what happens? I wish to describe this to you because some of you may have felt it, and others of you who never have, but have preserved your intimacy with Christ up till now, may be warned by it. The newly awakened one went to the door, and opened it to her Beloved, for though he was gone, she did not doubt of her love, nor of his love to her. “I opened to my Beloved, but,” says the Hebrew, “He had gone, he had gone.” The voice of lamentation, the reduplicated cry of one that is in bitter distress. There must have been a sad relief about it to her sinful heart, for she must have felt afraid to look her dear one in the face after such heartless conduct; but sad as it would have been to face him, it was infinitely sadder to say, “He is gone, he is gone.” Now she begins to use the means of grace in order to find him. “I sought him,” said she, “and I found him not. I went up to the house of God; the sermon was sweet, but it was not sweet to me, for he was not there. I went to the communion table, and the ordinance was a feast of fat things to others, but not to me, for he was not there. I sought him, but I could not find him.” Then she betook herself to prayer. She had neglected that before, but now she supplicated in real earnest, “I called him; I said to him, Come, my Beloved, my heart wakes for thee. Jesus, reveal thyself to me as thou dost not to the world.
‘I thirst, I faint, I die to prove
The sweetness of redeeming love,
Thy love, O Christ, to me;’”
her prayers were many; she kept them up by day and by night. “I called him, but he gave me no answer.” She was not a lost soul, do not mistake that. Christ loved her just as much then as before, nay, loved her a great deal more. If there can be any change in Christ’s love, he must have much more approved of her when she was seeking him in sorrow, than when she was reclining upon the couch and neglecting him. But he was gone, and all her calling could not bring him back. What did she then? Why, she went to his ministers, she went to those who were the watchmen of the night, and what said they to her? Did they cheer her? Perhaps they had never passed through her experience; perhaps they were mere hirelings. However it might be, they smote her. Sometimes the truthful preaching of the gospel will smite a child of God when he gets out of his walk with God, and it is right it should be so. But they did more than smite, they “wounded” her until she began to bleed from the wounds given by the very men whom she hoped would have comforted her. “Surely,” she might have said, “you know where the city’s King is, for you are the city’s guards!” but she received no comfort. When a poor soul in this case flies to an unsympathising minister, he will say, “Well, you say you have lost the presence of Christ, you should bestir yourself to find it.” “Yes,” says the spouse, “I rose up and opened to him.” “You should use the means.” “But I have used the means; I sought him, but I found him not.” “You should pray.” “I did pray; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” “Well then,” perhaps they will add, “you should wait patiently for him.” “Oh, but,” she says, “I cannot, I must have him; I am sick of love.” And then perhaps the minister will be sharp, and say, “I fear you are not a child of God.” Now what is that? Why, that is taking away the veil from the mourning seeker; plucking away the ensign of sincerity from the benighted seeker. No woman went into the streets of Jerusalem without her veil, except she was of the baser sort, and the watchmen seemed to say to this woman, “You are of ill name, or you would not be here at this time of night crying out for one you have lost.” Oh, cruel work to pull off her veil and expose her, when she was already wretched enough! Sometimes a sharp sentence from a true minister may set a poor soul in the stocks who ought rather to have been comforted. I hope these hands will never pull away the veil from any of you poor mourning lovers of Christ. Far rather would these lips tell him when I speak with him, that you are sick of love. But it cannot be helped at all times, for when we are dealing with the hypocrite, the tender child of God thinks we mean him; when we are speaking against the formalist, as we must do, the genuine believer writes bitter things against himself. When the fan is in our hand, and we are seeking throughly to purge the floor, it sometimes happens that some of the lighter wheat gets blown a little away with the chaff, and so distress is brought to weak but real children of God. If so, recollect it is not our fault, for we would not grieve you; but it is your fault for having lost your Beloved, for if you had not lost him, you would not have been saying, “Tell me where I shall find him!” but you would have been rejoicing in him, and no watchmen would have smitten you, and no keepers of the walls would have taken away your veil from you, for Jesus would have been your Protector and your Friend.
VII. Now, to close. As the poor spouse did not then find Christ, but was repulsed in all ways, she adopted A LAST EXPEDIENT. She knew that there were some who had daily fellowship with the King, daughters of Jerusalem who often saw him, and therefore she sent a message by them, “If ye see my Beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.”
Enlist your brother saints to pray for you. Go with them to their gatherings for prayer. Their company will not satisfy you without Jesus, but their company may help you to find Jesus. Follow the footsteps of the flock, and you may by-and-by discover the Shepherd. And what a message it is to send to Christ! Do not send it by other people’s lips only, send it by your own. Tell him, “I am sick of love.” This is of all things the most painful, and the most happy thing in all the world. This is a sickness that I should like to die of, but I should like to feel it in rather a different shape from this. There are two lovesicknesses in Solomon’s Song. The one is when the spouse longs for the presence of her Lord, and the second is when she gets that presence, he is so glorious to her, that she is ready to die with excess of joy, and -she exclaims, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” If you cannot get the second, recollect that the first is the clear way to it. Resolve in your heart, my brother and sister, that you never will be happy till you win the face of Christ. Settle it in your soul that there shall be no end to your cries and tears till you can say with all your heart, “My Beloved is near me; I can speak to him; I am in the enjoyment of his love.” If you can be content without it you shall go without it, but if you must have it you shall have it. If your hunger will break through stone walls to reach your Lord, no stone walls shall keep him from you. If you are insatiable after Christ, he will feed you with himself. If you bid good-bye to all the dainties of the world, and all its sweet draughts and its delicacies, and must have Christ, and Christ alone, then no hungering soul shall long be kept without him. He must come to you. There are cords that draw him to you at this hour. His love draws you to him, but your love draws him close to you. Be not afraid, your soul shall be like the chariots of Ammi-nadib; perhaps even this morning, and you shall go on your way rejoicing. The Lord grant it may be so for his love’s sake. Amen.