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PREFA C E.
THE notes which have grown into the following pages were begun amid the pious exercises and duties connected with the pastoral charge of a retired congregation, and without any idea of making a volume for the press. They have gradually taken their present form. The Analysis now stands, with no material alteration, as it was written some years ago; and subsequent research has brought to light no reason for changing the views then adopted concerning the general meaning of this portion of Scripture. To those who consider the misapprehension that has prevailed in reference to the Song, the Introduction may not seem unnecessarily long, inasmuch as an answer to objections, an argument in defence of the allegorical meaning, and a statement of the principles of interpretation, are required before proceeding to the exposition. The Summary and Analysis give the writer's idea of the meaning of the Song. In the exposition, the aim has been to unfold the truth, in the way supposed the most desirable to a soul animated with fervent love for the Lord Jesus, and craving the hidden manna which the Holy Spirit has lodged in this precious portion of the Scriptures. The heart hungering and thirsting for righteousness, does not rest satisfied with the stalk and husks, but is anxious for the luscious kernel, of these fruits of eternal life. As here viewed, the Song is a continuous and coherent whole, illustrating some of the most exalted and delightful exercises of the believing heart. According to our exposition, there will not be found in the book a single passage to which the most fastidious taste can take the least exception. A correct interpretation of the book is its only proper vindication. Those who engage in the work of Scripture exposition, become best aware of the difficulties of the undertaking; and while the writer is sensible of the difficulty attending a Commentary on the Song, and submits this volume with diffidence to those who love the adorable Redeemer, he shall be happy if any thing has been done, in however humble a degree, for enabling them to value this book, and draw herefrom truth for nourishing a more vigorous affection for their Beloved and their Friend.
THE effect of sin has been to destroy in the human heart the love of God, and substitute for it the love of unworthy things. The object of redemption is the restoration of man from his condition of enmity against God, and from all the consequences of sin, to the possession and enjoyment of perfect love to God. Hence, as hatred of God is the spirit of sin, love is represented as the essential grace, as the fulfilling of the law. The growth of the soul in holiness must be estimated, not by deep excitement, whether of ecstasy or of overwhelming sorrow, not by burning zeal or untiring activity, not by acquaintance with all mysteries and all knowledge, not by giving our goods to feed the poor and our body to be burned; but by the love which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Long before the time of the apostle Paul, Plato had celebrated the excellence of this affection, though exercised in an inferior sphere. “It is proper to exhort every man to behave in all things piously towards the gods, that we may escape from the ills and obtain the good to which Love is our guide and commander; who confers on us the greatest benefits for the present, and for the future gives us the strongest hopes that if we pay the debt of piety to heaven, he will restore us to our original nature, and make us happy by healing our ills. Love appears to be himself the most beautiful and best; and to be the cause of such like beautiful things in other beings. He it is who produces
Peace amongst men, upon the sea a calm;
It is he who divests us of all feelings of alienation, and fills.us with those of friendship; gracious to the good; looked up to by the wise; admired by the inhabitants of heaven; the parent of refinement, of tenderness, of elegance, and of grace; in labour, in fear, in wishes and in discourse, the pilot, the encourager, the assistant and best protector; of gods and men, taken altogether, the ornament; a leader the most beautiful and best, in whose train it is the duty of every one to follow, bearing a part in that sweet song which he sings himself when soothing the mind of every one among divinities and men.”* To this love, exercised towards God first, then towards man, by the healing power of grace, are we restored in sanctification. Perfect sanctification carries with it perfect love. The death of Christ, the agency of the Holy Spirit, all the means of grace, all the dealings of Providence with the saints, converge on this one point, the forming anew in man of this lost love. As the sanctification of the soul is through the truth, we might therefore suppose, that in giving us the Scriptures, God would give full elucidations of this very important principle or affection. This he has been careful to do. He has shown love to be not only important but essential, 1 Cor. xiii. 1–3; has given a full and excellent definition of it as the root of our best and holy feelings, 1 Cor. xiii. 4–7; has shown its perpetuity, its superiority to knowledge, faith, and hope, and its inseparable connection with the happiness and existence of the soul of man, 1 Cor. xiii. 8–13; he has embodied it for our benefit in the living example of Jesus Christ; has shown that God, to whose image we must be restored, is love, 1 John iv. 8; has given the blood of his Son for removing the difficulty in the way of establishing in us this principle; and has sent his Spirit for forming it within us by a new creation, and for opening channels in the heart, through which its influence may reach and control all our other powers. All this has been necessary, because divine love is so perfectly opposite to our natural disposition. Its presence makes us new creatures, gives us new workings of the affections, and prompts to new language from the lips. Now, it is not unreasonable to suppose that he who has given us such means for cherishing this heavenly affection would go farther, and add a description of the actual operations of a heart in which this love is
* Banquet, Stallbaum's ed., p. 156.
“Love is the leading passion of the soul; all the rest conform themselves to it, desire and hope and fear, joy and sorrow.”—Leighton.
“The entire economy of salvation is constructed on the principle of restoring to the world the lost spirit of love.”—IIarris.