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Digitized by Harry Plantinga, [email protected], 1993.
This text is in the public domain.
(Not published in _The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit_.)
For many years, whether at home or abroad, it was Mr.
Spurgeon's constant custom to observe the ordinance of the Lord's
supper every Sabbath-day, unless illness prevented. This he
believed to be in accordance with apostolic precedent; and it was
his oft-repeated testimony that the more frequently he obeyed his
Lord's command, "This do in remembrance of Me," the more precious
did his Saviour become to him, while the memorial celebration
itself proved increasingly helpful and instructive as the years
rolled by.
Several of the discourses here published were delivered to
thousands of communicants in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, while
others were addressed to the little companies of Christians,--of
different denominations, and of various nationalities,--who
gathered around the communion table in Mr. Spurgeon's sitting-room
at Mentone. The addresses cover a wide range of subjects; but all
of them speak more or less fully of the great atoning sacrifice of
which the broken bread and the filled cup are the simple yet
significant symbols.
Mr. Spurgeon's had intended to publish a selection of his
Communion Addresses; so this volume may be regarded as another of
the precious literary legacies bequeathed by him to his brethren
and sisters in Christ who have yet to tarry a while here below. It
is hoped that these sermonettes will be the means of deepening the
spiritual life of many believers, and that they will suggest
suitable themes for meditation and discourse to those who have the
privilege and responsibility of presiding at the ordinance.
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Mysterious Visits.
"Thou hast visited me in the night."--Psalm xvii. 3.
"Under His Shadow."
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall
abide under the shadow of the Almighty "--Psalm xci. 1.
"The shadow of a great rock in a weary land."--Isa. xxxii. 2.
"As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my
Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with
great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste:"
Solomon's Song ii. 3.
"Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of
Thy wings will I rejoice."--Psalm lxiii. 7.
"And He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow
of His hand hath He hid me, and made me a polished
shaft; in His quiver hath He hid me."--Isa. xlix. 2.
Under the Apple Tree.
"I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His
fruit was sweet to my taste."--Solomon's Song ii. 3.
Over the Mountains.
"My Beloved is mine, and I am His: He feedeth among the
lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away,
turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart
upon the mountains of Bether."--Solomon's Song ii. 16,
Fragrant Spices from the Mountains of Myrrh.
"Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee."--
Solomon's Song iv. 7.
The Well-beloved.
"Yea, He is altogether lovely."--Solomon's Song v. 16.
The Spiced Wine of my Pomegranate.
"I would cause Thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of
my pomegranate."--Solomon's Song viii. 2.
"And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for
grace,"--John i. 16.
The Well-beloved's Vineyard.
"My Well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill."--
Isaiah v. 1.
Redeemed Souls Freed from Fear.
"Fear not: for I have redeemed thee."--Isaiah xliii. 1.
Jesus, the Great Object of Astonishment.
"Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted
and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at
Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and
His form more than the sons of men: so shall He sprinkle
many nations, the kings shall shut their mouths at Him:
for that which had not been told them shall they see;
and that which they had not heard shall they consider."
--Isaiah lii. 13-15.
Bands of Love; or, Union to Christ.
"I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I
was to them as they that take off the yoke on their
jaws, and I laid meat unto them."--Hosea xi. 4.
"I will Give you Rest."
"I will give you rest."--Matthew xi. 28.
The Memorable Hymn.
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount
of Olives."--Matthew xxvi. 30.
Jesus Asleep on a Pillow.
"And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a
pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master,
carest Thou not that we perish? And He arose, and
rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be
still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great
calm."--Mark iv. 38, 39.
Real Contact with Jesus.
"And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive
that virtue is gone out of Me."--Luke viii. 46.
Christ and His Table-companions.
"And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve
apostles with Him."--Luke xxii. 14.
A Word from the Beloved's Own Mouth.
"And ye are clean."--John xiii. 10.
The Believer not an Orphan.
"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."--John
xiv. 18.
Communion with Christ and His People.
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion
of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it
not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being
many are one bread, and one body: for we are all
partakers of that one bread."--1 Cor. x. 16, 17.
The Sin-Bearer.
"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,
that we, being dead to sins, should live unto
righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye
were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto
the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."--1 Peter ii. 24,
Swooning and Reviving at Christ's Feet.
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid
His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am
the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was
dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and
have the keys of hell and of death."--Revelation i. 17,
C.H. Spurgeon's Communion Hymn
"Thou hast visited me in the night."--Psalm xvii. 3.
IT is a theme for wonder that the glorious God should visit sinful
man. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of
man, that Thou visitest him?" A divine visit is a joy to be
treasured whenever we are favoured with it. David speaks of it
with great solemnity. The Psalmist was not content barely to
_speak_ of it; but he wrote it down in plain terms, that it might
be known throughout all generations: "_Thou hast visited me in the
night_." Beloved, if God has ever visited you, you also will
marvel at it, will carry it in your memory, will speak of it to
your friends, and will record it in your diary as one of the
notable events of your life. Above all, you will speak of it to
God Himself, and say with adoring gratitude, "Thou hast visited me
in the night." It should be a solemn part of worship to remember
and make known the condescension of the Lord, and say, both in
lowly prayer and in joyful psalm, "Thou hast visited me."
To you, beloved friends, who gather with me about this
communion table, I will speak of my own experience, nothing
doubting that it is also yours. If our God has ever visited any of
us, personally, by His Spirit, two results have attended the
visit: _it has been sharply searching, and it has been sweetly
When first of all the Lord draws nigh to the heart, the
trembling soul perceives clearly the searching character of His
visit. Remember how Job answered the Lord: "I have heard of Thee
by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee, wherefore
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." We can read of God,
and hear of God, and be little moved; but when we feel His
presence, it is another matter. I thought my house was good enough
for kings; but when the King of kings came to it, I saw that it
was a hovel quite unfit for His abode. I had never known sin to be
so "exceeding sinful" if I had not known God to be so perfectly
holy. I had never understood the depravity of my own nature if I
had not known the holiness of God's nature. When we see Jesus, we
fall at His feet as dead; till then, we are alive with
vainglorious life. If letters of light traced by a mysterious hand
upon the wall caused the joints of Belshazzar's loins to be
loosed, what awe overcomes our spirits when we see the Lord
Himself! In the presence of so much light our spots and wrinkles
are revealed, and we are utterly ashamed. We are like Daniel, who
said, "I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there
remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me
into corruption." It is when the Lord visits us that we see our
nothingness, and ask, "Lord, what is man?"
I do remember well when God first visited me; and assuredly
it was the night of nature, of ignorance, of sin. His visit had
the same effect upon me that it had upon Saul of Tarsus when the
Lord spake to him out of heaven. He brought me down from the high
horse, and caused me to fall to the ground; by the brightness of
the light of His Spirit He made me grope in conscious blindness;
and in the brokenness of my heart I cried, "Lord, what wilt Thou
have me to do?" I felt that I had been rebelling against the Lord,
kicking against the pricks, and doing evil even as I could; and my
soul was filled with anguish at the discovery. Very searching was
the glance of the eye of Jesus, for it revealed my sin, and caused
me to go out and weep bitterly. As when the Lord visited Adam, and
called him to stand naked before Him, so was I stripped of all my
righteousness before the face of the Most High. Yet the visit
ended not there; for as the Lord God clothed our first parents in
coats of skins, so did He cover me with the righteousness of the
great sacrifice, and He gave me songs in the night It was night,
but the visit was no dream: in fact, I there and then ceased to
dream, and began to deal with the reality of things.
I think you will remember that, when the Lord first visited
you in the night, it was with you as with Peter when Jesus came to
him. He had been toiling with his net all the night, and nothing
had come of it; but when the Lord Jesus came into his boat, and
bade him launch out into the deep, and let down his net for a
draught, he caught such a great multitude of fishes that the boat
began to sink. See! the boat goes down, down, till the water
threatens to engulf it, and Peter, and the fish, and all. Then
Peter fell down at Jesus knees, and cried, "Depart from me; for I
am a sinful man, O Lord!" The presence of Jesus was too much for
him: his sense of unworthiness made him sink like his boat, and
shrink away from the Divine Lord. I remember that sensation well;
for I was half inclined to cry with the demoniac of Gadara, "What
have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high?" That
first discovery of His injured love was overpowering; its very
hopefulness increased my anguish; for then I saw that I had slain
the Lord who had come to save me. I saw that mine was the hand
which made the hammer fall, and drove the nails that fastened the
Redeemer's hands and feet to the cruel tree.
"My conscience felt and own'd the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there."
This is the sight which breeds repentance: "They shall look
upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him." When the Lord
visits us, He humbles us, removes all hardness from our hearts,
and leads us to the Saviour's feet.
When the Lord first visited us in the night it was very much
with us as with John, when the Lord visited him in the isle that
is called Patmos. He tells us, "And when I saw Him, I fell at His
feet as dead." Yes, even when we begin to see that He has put away
our sin, and removed our guilt by His death, we feel as if we
could never look up again, because we have been so cruel to our
best Friend. It is no wonder if we then say, "It is true that He
has forgiven me; but I never can forgive myself. He makes me live,
and I live in Him; but at the thought of His goodness I fall at
His feet as dead. Boasting is dead, self is dead, and all desire
for anything beyond my Lord is dead also." Well does Cowper sing
"That dear hour, that brought me to His foot,
And cut up all my follies by the root."
The process of destroying follies is more hopefully performed
at Jesus' feet than anywhere else. Oh, that the Lord would come
again to us as at the first, and like a consuming fire discover
and destroy the dross which now alloys our gold! The word visit
brings to us who travel the remembrance of the government officer
who searches our baggage; thus doth the Lord seek out our secret
things. But it also reminds us of the visits of the physician, who
not only finds out our maladies, but also removes them. Thus did
the Lord Jesus visit us at the first.
Since those early days, I hope that you and I have had many
visits from our Lord. Those first visits were, as I said, sharply
searching; but the later ones have been sweetly solacing. Some of
us have had them, especially in the night, when we have been
compelled to count the sleepless hours. "Heaven's gate opens when
this world's is shut." The night is still; everybody is away; work
is done; care is forgotten, and then the Lord Himself draws near.
Possibly there may be pain to be endured, the head may be aching,
and the heart may be throbbing; but if Jesus comes to visit us,
our bed of languishing becomes a throne of glory. Though it is
true "He giveth His beloved sleep," yet at such times He gives
them something better than sleep, namely; His own presence, and
the fulness of joy which comes with it. By night upon our bed we
have seen the unseen. I have tried sometimes not to sleep under an
excess of joy, when the company of Christ has been sweetly mine.
"Thou hast visited me in the night." Believe me, there are
such things as personal visits from Jesus to His people. He has
not left us utterly. Though He be not seen with the bodily eye by
bush or brook, nor on the mount, nor by the sea, yet doth He come
and go, observed only by the spirit, felt only by the heart. Still
he standeth behind our wall, He showeth Himself through the
"Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of Thine!
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine!
"I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
Yet art Thou oft with me,
And earth hath ne'er so dear a spot
As where I meet with Thee.
"Like some bright dream that comes unsought,
When slumbers o'er me roll,
Thine image ever fills my thought,
And charms my ravish'd soul.
"Yet though I have not seen, and still
Must rest in faith alone;
I love Thee, dearest Lord! and will,
Unseen, but not unknown."
Do you ask me to describe these manifestations of the Lord?
It were hard to tell you in words: you must know them for
yourselves. If you had never tasted sweetness, no man living could
give you an idea of honey. Yet if the honey be there, you can
"taste and see." To a man born blind, sight must be a thing past
imagination; and to one who has never known the Lord, His visits
are quite as much beyond conception.
For our Lord to visit us is something more than for us to
have the assurance of our salvation, though that is very
delightful, and none of us should rest satisfied unless we possess
it. To know that Jesus loves me, is one thing; but to be visited
by Him in love, is more.
Nor is it simply a close contemplation of Christ; for we can
picture Him as exceedingly fair and majestic, and yet not have Him
consciously near us. Delightful and instructive as it is to behold
the likeness of Christ by meditation, yet the enjoyment of His
actual presence is something more. I may wear my friend's portrait
about my person, and yet may not be able to say, "Thou hast
visited me."
It is the actual, though spiritual, coming of Christ which we
so much desire. The Romish church says much about the _real_
presence; meaning thereby, the corporeal presence of the Lord
Jesus. The priest who celebrates mass tells us that he believes in
the _real_ presence, but we reply, "Nay, you believe in knowing
Christ after the flesh, and in that sense the only real presence
is in heaven; but we firmly believe in the real presence of Christ
which is spiritual, and yet certain." By spiritual we do not mean
unreal; in fact, the spiritual takes the lead in real-ness to
spiritual men. I believe in the true and real presence of Jesus
with His people: such presence has been real to my spirit. Lord
Jesus, Thou Thyself hast visited me. As surely as the Lord Jesus
came really as to His flesh to Bethlehem and Calvary, so surely
does He come really by His Spirit to His people in the hours of
their communion with Him. We are as conscious of that presence as
of our own existence.
When the Lord visits us in the night, what is the effect upon
us? When hearts meet hearts in fellowship of love, communion
brings first peace, then rest, and then joy of soul. I am speaking
of no emotional excitement rising into fanatical rapture; but I
speak of sober fact, when I say that the Lord's great heart
touches ours, and our heart rises into sympathy with Him.
First, we experience _peace_. All war is over, and a blessed
peace is proclaimed; the peace of God keeps our heart and mind by
Christ Jesus.
"Peace! perfect peace! in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
"Peace! perfect peace! with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus' bosom nought but calm is found."
At such a time there is a delightful sense of _rest_; we have
no ambitions, no desires. A divine serenity and security envelop
us. We have no thought of foes, or fears, or afflictions, or
doubts. There is a joyous laying aside of our own will. We _are_
nothing, and we _will_ nothing: Christ is everything, and His will
is the pulse of our soul. We are perfectly content either to be
ill or to be well, to be rich or to be poor, to be slandered or to
be honoured, so that we may but abide in the love of Christ. Jesus
fills the horizon of our being.
At such a time a flood of great _joy_ will fill our minds. We
shall half wish that the morning may never break again, for fear
its light should banish the superior light of Christ's presence.
We shall wish that we could glide away with our Beloved to the
place where He feedeth among the lilies. We long to hear the
voices of the white-robed armies, that we may follow their
glorious Leader whithersoever He goeth. I am persuaded that there
is no great actual distance between earth and heaven: the distance
lies in our dull minds. When the Beloved visits us in the night,
He makes our chambers to be the vestibule of His palace-halls.
Earth rises to heaven when heaven comes down to earth.
Now, beloved friends, you may be saying to yourselves, "_We_
have not enjoyed such visits as these." You may do so. If the
Father loves you even as He loves His Son, then you are on
visiting terms with Him. If, then, He has not called upon you, you
will be wise to call on Him. Breathe a sigh to Him, and say,--
"When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
Oh come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still,
I'm blest when Thou art near.
"When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
I languish for the sight;
Ten thousand suns when Thou art hid,
Are shades instead of light.
"When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
Until Thou dost appear,
I count each moment for a day,
Each minute for a year."
"As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my
soul after Thee, O God!" If you long for Him, He much more longs
for you. Never was there a sinner that was half so eager for
Christ as Christ is eager for the sinner; nor a saint one-tenth so
anxious to behold his Lord as his Lord is to behold him. If thou
art running to Christ, He is already near thee. If thou dost sigh
for His presence, that sigh is the evidence that He is with thee.
He is with thee now: therefore be calmly glad.
Go forth, beloved, and talk with Jesus on the beach, for He
oft resorted to the sea-shore. Commune with Him amid the olive-
groves so dear to Him in many a night of wrestling prayer. If ever
there was a country in which men should see traces of Jesus, next
to the Holy Land, this Riviera is the favoured spot. It is a land
of vines, and figs, and olives, and palms; I have called it "Thy
land, O Immanuel." While in this Mentone, I often fancy that I am
looking out upon the Lake of Gennesaret, or walking at the foot of
the Mount of Olives, or peering into the mysterious gloom of the
Garden of Gethsemane. The narrow streets of the old town are such
as Jesus traversed, these villages are such as He inhabited. Have
your hearts right with Him, and He will visit you often, until
every day you shall walk with God, as Enoch did, and so turn week-
days into Sabbaths, meals into sacraments, homes into temples, and
earth into heaven. So be it with us! Amen.
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall
abide under the shadow of the Almighty."--Psalm xci. 1.
I MUST confess of my short discourse, as the man did of the axe
which fell into the stream, that it is borrowed. The outline of it
is taken from one who will never complain of me, for to the great
loss of the Church she has left these lower choirs to sing above.
Miss Havergal, last and loveliest of our modern poets, when her
tones were most mellow, and her language most sublime, has been
caught up to swell the music of heaven. Her last poems are
published with the title, "Under His Shadow," and the preface
gives the reason for the name. She said, "I should like the title
to be, 'Under His Shadow.' I seem to see four pictures suggested
by that: under the shadow of a rock, in a weary plain; under the
shadow of a tree; closer still, under the shadow of His wing;
nearest and closest, in the shadow of His hand. Surely that hand
must be the pierced hand, that may oftentimes press us sorely, and
yet evermore encircling, upholding, and shadowing."
"Under His Shadow," is our afternoon subject, and we will in
a few words enlarge on the Scriptural plan which Miss Havergal has
bequeathed to us. Our text is, "He that dwelleth in the secret
place of the most High shall abide _under the shadow_ of the
Almighty." The shadow of God is not the occasional resort, but the
constant abiding-place, of the saint. Here we find not only our
consolation, but our habitation. We ought never to be out of the
shadow of God. It is to dwellers, not to visitors, that the Lord
promises His protection. "He that _dwelleth_ in the secret place
of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty:"
and that shadow shall preserve him from nightly terror and ghostly
ill, from the arrows of war and of pestilence, from death and from
destruction. Guarded by Omnipotence, the chosen of the Lord are
always safe; for as they dwell in the holy place, hard by the
mercy-seat, where the blood was sprinkled of old, the pillar of
fire by night, the pillar of cloud by day, which ever hangs over
the sanctuary, covers them also. Is it not written, "In the time
of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret of His
tabernacle shall He hide me"? What better security can we desire?
As the people of God, we are always under the protection of the
Most High. Wherever we go, whatever we suffer, whatever may be our
difficulties, temptations, trials, or perplexities, we are always
"under the shadow of the Almighty." Over all who maintain their
fellowship with God the most tender guardian care is extended.
Their heavenly Father Himself interposes between them and their
adversaries. The experience of the saints, albeit they are all
under the shadow, yet differs as to the form in which that
protection has been enjoyed by them, hence the value of the four
figures which will now engage our attention.
I. We will begin with the first picture which Miss Havergal
mentions, namely, the rock sheltering the weary traveller:--"_The
shadow of a great rock in a weary land_" (Isaiah xxxii. 2).
Now, I take it that this is where we begin to know our Lord's
shadow. He was at the first to us _a refuge in time of trouble_.
Weary was the way, and great was the heat; our lips were parched,
and our souls were fainting; we sought for shelter, and we found
none; for we were in the wilderness of sin and condemnation, and
who could bring us deliverance, or even hope? Then we cried unto
the Lord in our trouble, and He led us to the Rock of ages, which
of old was cleft for us. We saw our interposing Mediator coming
between us and the fierce heat of justice, and we hailed the
blessed screen. The Lord Jesus was unto us a covering for sin, and
so a covert from wrath. The sense of divine displeasure, which had
beaten upon our conscience, was removed by the removal of the sin
itself, which we saw to be laid on Jesus, who in our place and
stead endured its penalty.
The shadow of a rock is remarkably cooling, and so was the
Lord Jesus eminently comforting to us. The shadow of a rock is
more dense, more complete, and more cool than any other shade; and
so the peace which Jesus gives passeth all understanding, there is
none like it. No chance beam darts through the rock-shade, nor can
the heat penetrate as it will do in a measure through the foliage
of a forest. Jesus is a complete shelter, and blessed are they who
are "under His shadow." Let them take care that they abide there,
and never venture forth to answer for themselves, or to brave the
accusations of Satan.
As with sin, so with sorrow of every sort: the Lord is the
Rock of our refuge. No sun shall smite us, nor, any heat, because
we are never out of Christ. The saints know where to fly, and they
use their privilege.
"When troubles, like a burning sun,
Beat heavy on their head,
To Christ their mighty Rock they run,
And find a pleasing shade."
There is, however, something of awe about this great shadow.
A rock is often so high as to be terrible, and we tremble in
presence of its greatness. The idea of littleness hiding behind
massive greatness is well set forth; but there is no tender
thought of fellowship, or gentleness: even so, at the first, we
view the Lord Jesus as our shelter from the consuming heat of
well-deserved punishment, and we know little more. It is most
pleasant to remember that this is only one panel of the four-fold
picture. Inexpressibly dear to my soul is the deep cool rock-shade
of my blessed Lord, as I stand in Him a sinner saved; yet is there
II. Our second picture, that of the tree, is to be found in
the Song of Solomon ii. 3:--"_As the apple tree among the trees of
the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His
shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste_."
Here we have not so much refuge from trouble as special _rest
in times of joy_. The spouse is happily wandering through a wood,
glancing at many trees, and rejoicing in the music of the birds.
One tree specially charms her: the citron with its golden fruit
wins her admiration, and she sits under its shadow with great
delight; such was her Beloved to her, the best among the good, the
fairest of the fair, the joy of her joy, the light of her delight.
Such is Jesus to the believing soul.
The sweet influences of Christ are intended to give us a
happy rest, and we ought to avail ourselves of them; "I sat down
under His shadow." This was Mary's better part, which Martha well-
nigh missed by being cumbered. That is the good old way wherein we
are to walk, the way in which we find rest unto our souls. Papists
and papistical persons, whose religion is all ceremonies, or all
working, or all groaning, or all feeling, have never come to an
end. We may say of their religion as of the law, that it made
nothing perfect; but under the gospel there is something finished,
and that something is the sum and substance of our salvation, and
therefore there is rest for us, and we ought to sing, "I sat
Dear friends, is Christ to each one of us a place of sitting
down? I do not mean a rest of idleness and self-content,--God
deliver us from that; but there is rest in a conscious grasp of
Christ, a rest of contentment with Him as our all in all. God give
us to know more of this! This shadow is also meant to yield
perpetual solace, for the spouse did not merely come under it, but
there she sat down as one who meant to stay. Continuance of repose
and joy is purchased for us by our Lord's perfected work. Under
the shadow she found food; she had no need to leave it to find a
single needful thing, for the tree which shaded also yielded
fruit; nor did she need even to rise from her rest, but sitting
still she feasted on the delicious fruit. You who know the Lord
Jesus know also what this meaneth.
The spouse never wished to go beyond her Lord. She knew no
higher life than that of sitting under the Well-beloved's shadow.
She passed the cedar, and oak, and every other goodly tree, but
the apple-tree held her, and there she sat down. "Many there be
that say, who will show us any good? But as for us, O Lord, our
heart is fixed, our heart is fixed, resting on Thee. We will go no
further, for Thou art our dwelling-place, we feel at home with
Thee, and sit down beneath Thy shadow." Some Christians cultivate
reverence at the expense of childlike love; they kneel down, but
they dare not sit down. Our Divine Friend and Lover wills not that
it should be so; He would not have us stand on ceremony with Him,
but come boldly unto Him.
"Let us be simple with Him, then,
Not backward, stiff or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sina was of old."
Let us use His sacred name as a common word, as a household
word, and run to Him as to a dear familiar friend. Under His
shadow we are to feel that we are at home, and then He will make
Himself at home to us by becoming food unto our souls, and giving
spiritual refreshment to us while we rest. The spouse does not
here say that she reached up to the tree to gather its fruit, but
she sat down on the ground in intense delight, and the fruit came
to her where she sat. It is wonderful how Christ will come down to
souls that sit beneath His shadow; if we can but be at home with
Christ, He will sweetly commune with us. Has He not said, "Delight
thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of
thine heart"?
In this second form of the sacred shadow, the sense of awe
gives place to that of restful delight in Christ. Have you ever
figured in such a scene as the sitter beneath the grateful shade
of the fruitful tree? Have you not only possessed security, but
experienced delight in Christ? Have you sung,--
"I sat down under His shadow,
Sat down with great delight;
His fruit was sweet unto my taste,
And pleasant to my sight"?
This is as necessary an experience as it is joyful: necessary
for many uses. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and it is when
we delight ourselves in the Lord that we have assurance of power
in prayer. Here faith develops, and hope grows bright, while love
sheds abroad all the fragrance of her sweet spices. Oh! get you to
the apple-tree, and find out who is the fairest among the fair.
Make the Light of heaven the delight of your heart, and then be
filled with heart's-ease, and revel in complete content.
III. The third view of the one subject is,--the shadow of his
wings,--a precious word. I think the best specimen of it, for it
occurs several times, is in that blessed Psalm, the sixty-third,
verse seven:--
"_Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of
Thy wings will I rejoice_."
Does not this set forth our Lord as _our trust in hours of
depression?_ In the Psalm now open before us, David was banished
from the means of grace to a dry and thirsty land, where no water
was. What is much worse, he was in a measure away from all
conscious enjoyment of God. He says, "Early will I seek Thee. My
soul thirsteth for Thee." He sings rather of memories than of
present communion with God. We also have come into this condition,
and have been unable to find any present comfort. "Thou hast been
my help," has been the highest note we could strike, and we have
been glad to reach to that. At such times, the light of God's face
has been withdrawn, but our faith has taught us to rejoice under
the shadow of His wings. Light there was none; we were altogether
in the shade, but it was a warm shade. We felt that God who had
been near must be near us still, and therefore we were quieted.
Our God cannot change, and therefore as He was our help He must
still be our help, our help even though He casts a shadow over us,
for it must be the shadow of His own eternal wings. The metaphor
is, of course, derived from the nestling of little birds under the
shadow of their mother's wings, and the picture is singularly
touching and comforting. The little bird is not yet able to take
care of itself, so it cowers down under the mother, and is there
happy and safe. Disturb a hen for a moment, and you will see all
the little chickens huddling together, and by their chirps making
a kind of song. Then they push their heads into her feathers, and
seem happy beyond measure in their warm abode. When we are very
sick and sore depressed, when we are worried with the care of
pining children, and the troubles of a needy household, and the
temptations of Satan, how comforting it is to run to our God,--
like the little chicks run to the hen,--and hide away near His
heart, beneath His Wings. Oh, tried ones, press closely to the
loving heart of your Lord, hide yourselves entirely beneath His
wings! Here awe has disappeared, and rest itself is enhanced by
the idea of loving trust. The little birds are safe in their
mother's love, and we, too, are beyond measure secure and happy in
the loving favour of the Lord.
IV. The last form of the shadow is that of the hand, and
this, it seems to me, points to power and position in service.
Turn to Isaiah xlix. 2:--
"_And He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow
of His hand hath He kid me, and made me a polished shaft; in His
quiver hath He hid me_."
This undoubtedly refers to the Saviour, for the passage
proceeds:--"And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in
whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I
have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my
judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God. And now, saith
the Lord that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring
Jacob again to Him, though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be
glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.
And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of
Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that
thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth." Our Lord
Jesus Christ was hidden away in the hand of Jehovah, to be used by
Him as a polished shaft for the overthrow of His enemies, and the
victory of His people. Yet, inasmuch as it is Christ, it is also
all Christ's servants, since as He is so are we also in this
world; and to make quite sure of it, we have the same expression
in the sixteenth verse of the fifty-first chapter, where, speaking
of His people, He says, "I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine
hand." Is not this an excellent minister's text? Every one of you
who will speak a word for Jesus shall have a share in it. This is
where those who are workers for Christ should long to be,--"in the
shadow of His hand," to achieve His eternal purpose. What are any
of God's servants without their Lord but weapons out of the
warrior's hand, having no power to do anything? We ought to be as
the arrows of the Lord which He shoots at His enemies; and so
great is His hand of power, and so little are we as His
instruments, that He hides us away in the hollow of His hand,
unseen until He darts us forth. As workers, we are to be hidden
away in the hand of God, or to quote the other figure, "in His
quiver hath He hid me:" we are to be unseen till He uses us. It is
impossible for us not to be known somewhat if the Lord uses us,
but we may not aim at being noticed, but, on the contrary, if we
be as much used as the very chief of the apostles, we must
truthfully add, "though I be nothing." Our desire should be that
Christ should be glorified, and that self should be concealed.
Alas! there is a way of always showing self in what we do, and we
are all too ready to fall into it. You can visit the poor in such
a way that they will feel that his lordship or her ladyship has
condescended to call upon poor Betsy; but there is another way of
doing the same thing so that the tried child of God shall know
that a brother beloved or a dear sister in Christ has shown a
fellow-feeling for her, and has talked to her heart. There is a
way of preaching, in which a great divine has evidently displayed
his vast learning and talent; and there is another way of
preaching, in which a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, depending
upon his Lord, has spoken in his Master's name, and left a rich
unction behind. Within the hand of God is the place of acceptance,
and safety; and for service it is the place of power, as well as
of concealment. God only works with those who are in His hand; and
the more we lie hidden there, the more surely will He use us ere
long. May the Lord do unto us according to His word, "I have put
My words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of My
hand." In this case we shall feel all the former emotions
combined: awe that the Lord should condescend to take us into His
hand, rest and delight that He should deign to use us, trust that
out of weakness we shall now be made strong, and to this will be
added an absolute assurance that the end of our being must be
answered, for that which is urged onward by the Almighty hand
cannot miss its mark.
These are mere surface thoughts. The subject deserves a
series of discourses. Your best course, my beloved friends, will
be to enlarge upon these hints by a long personal experience of
abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. May God the Holy Ghost
lead you into it, and keep you there, for Jesus' sake!
"I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His
fruit was sweet to my taste."--Solomon's Song ii. 3.
Christ _known should be Christ used_. The spouse knew her Beloved
to be like a fruit-bearing tree, and at once she sat under His
shadow, and fed upon His fruit. It is a pity that we know so much
about Christ, and yet enjoy Him so little. May our experience keep
pace with our knowledge, and may that experience be composed of a
practical using of our Lord! Jesus casts a shadow, let us sit
under it: Jesus yields fruit, let us taste the sweetness of it.
Depend upon it that the way to learn more is to use what you know;
and, moreover, the way to learn a truth thoroughly is to learn it
experimentally. You know a doctrine beyond all fear of
contradiction when you have proved it for yourself by personal
test and trial. The bride in the song as good as says, "I am
certain that my Beloved casts a shadow, for I have sat under it,
and I am persuaded that He bears sweet fruit, for I have tasted of
it." The best way of demonstrating the power of Christ to save is
to trust in Him and be saved yourself; and of all those who are
sure of the divinity of our holy faith, there are none so certain
as those who feel its divine power upon themselves. You may reason
yourself into a belief of the gospel, and you may by further
reasoning keep yourself orthodox; but a personal trial, and an
inward knowing of the truth, are incomparably the best evidences.
If Jesus be as an apple tree among the trees of the wood, do not
keep away from Him, but sit under His shadow, and taste His fruit.
He is a Saviour; do not believe the fact and yet remain unsaved.
As far as Christ is known to you, so far make use of Him. Is not
this sound common-sense?
We would further remark that _we are at liberty to make every
possible use of Christ_. Shadow and fruit may both be enjoyed.
Christ in His infinite condescension exists for needy souls. Oh,
let us say it over again: it is a bold word, but it is true,--as
Christ Jesus, our Lord exists for the benefit of His people. A
Saviour only exists to save. A physician lives to heal. The Good
Shepherd lives, yea, dies, for His sheep. Our Lord Jesus Christ
hath wrapped us about His heart; we are intimately interwoven with
all His offices, with all His honours, with all His traits of
character, with all that He has done, and with all that He has yet
to do. The 'sinners' Friend lives for sinners, and sinners may
have Him and use Him to the uttermost. He is as free to us as the
air we breathe. What are fountains for, but that the thirsty may
drink? What is the harbour for but that storm-tossed barques may
there find refuge? What is Christ for but that poor guilty ones
like ourselves may come to Him and look and live, and afterwards
may have all our needs supplied out of His fulness?
We have thus the door set open for us, and we pray that the
Holy Spirit may help us to enter in while we notice in the text
two things which we pray that you may enjoy to the full. First,
_the heart's rest in Christ:_ "I sat down under His shadow with
great delight." And, secondly, _the heart's refreshment in
Christ:_ "His fruit was sweet to my taste."
I. To begin with, we have here the heart's rest in Christ. To
set this forth, let us notice the character of the person who
uttered this sentence. She who said, "I sat down under His shadow
with great delight," was one who _had known before what weary
travel meant, and therefore valued rest;_ for the man who has
never laboured knows nothing of the sweetness of repose. The
loafer who has eaten bread he never earned, from whose brow there
never oozed a drop of honest sweat, does not deserve rest, and
knows not what it is. It is to the labouring man that rest is
sweet; and when at last we come, toil-worn with many miles of
weary plodding, to a shaded place where we may comfortably sit
down, then are we filled with delight.
The spouse had been seeking her Beloved, and in looking for
Him she had asked where she was likely to find Him. "Tell me,"
says she, "O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where
Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon." The answer was given to
her, "Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock." She did go
her way; but, after a while, she came to this resolution: "I will
_sit down_ under His shadow."
Many of you have been sorely wearied with going your way to
find peace. Some of you tried ceremonies, and trusted in them, and
the priest came to your help; but he mocked your heart's distress.
Others of you sought by various systems of thought to come to an
anchorage; but, tossed from billow to billow, you found no rest
upon the seething sea of speculation. More of you tried by your
good works to gain rest to your consciences. You multiplied your
prayers, you poured out floods of tears, you hoped, by almsgiving
and by the like, that some merit might accrue to you, and that
your heart might feel acceptance with God, and so have rest. You
toiled and toiled, like the men that were in the vessel with Jonah
when they rowed hard to bring their ship to land, but could not,
for the sea wrought and was tempestuous. There was no escape for
you that way, and so you were driven to another way, even to rest
in Jesus. My heart looks back to the time when I was under a sense
of sin, and sought with all my soul to find peace, but could not
discover it, high or low, in any place beneath the sky; yet when
"I saw one hanging on a tree," as the Substitute for sin, then my
heart sat down under His shadow with great delight. My heart
reasoned thus with herself,--Did Jesus suffer in my stead? Then I
shall not suffer. Did He bear my sin? Then I do not bear it. Did
God accept His Son as my Substitute? Then He will never smite
_me_. Was Jesus acceptable with God as my Sacrifice? Then what
contents the Lord may well enough content me, and so I will go no
farther, but: "sit down under His shadow," and enjoy a delightful
She who said, "I sat down under His shadow with great
delight," _could appreciate shade, for she had been sunburnt_. Did
we not read just now her exclamation,--"Look not upon me, for I am
black, because the sun hath looked upon me"? She knew what heat
meant, what the burning sun meant; and therefore shade was
pleasant to her. You know nothing about the deliciousness of shade
till you travel in a thoroughly hot country; then you are
delighted with it. Did you ever feel the heat of divine wrath? Did
the great Sun--that Sun without variableness or shadow of a
turning--ever dart upon you His hottest rays,--the rays of his
holiness and justice? Did you cower down beneath the scorching
beams of that great Light, and say, "We are consumed by Thine
anger"? If you have ever felt _that_, you have found it a very
blessed thing to come under the shadow of Christ's atoning
sacrifice. A shadow, you know, is cast by a body coming between us
and the light and heat; and our Lord's most blessed body has come
between us and the scorching sun of divine justice, so that we sit
under the shadow of His mediation with great delight.
And now, if any other sun begins to scorch us, we fly to our
Lord. If domestic trouble, or business care, or Satanic
temptation, or inward corruption, oppresses us, we hasten to
Jesus' shadow, to hide under Him, and there "sit down" in the cool
refreshment with great delight. The interposition of our blessed
Lord is the cause of our inward quiet. The sun cannot scorch _me_,
for it scorched _Him_. My troubles need not trouble me, for He has
taken my trouble, and I have left it in His hands. "I sat down
under His shadow."
Mark well these two things concerning the spouse. She knew
what it was to be weary, and she knew what it was to be sunburnt;
and just in proportion as you also know these two things, your
valuation of Christ will rise. You who have never pined under the
wrath of God have never prized the Saviour. Water is of small
value in this land of brooks and rivers, and so you commonly
sprinkle the roads with it; but I warrant you that, if you were
making a day's march over burning sand, a cup of cold water would
be worth a king's ransom; and so to thirsty souls Christ is
precious, but to none beside.
Now, when the spouse was sitting down, restful and delighted,
_she was overshadowed_. She says, "I sat down _under His shadow_."
I do not know a more delightful state of mind than to feel quite
overshadowed by our beloved Lord. Here is my black sin, but there
is His precious blood overshadowing my sin, and hiding it for
ever. Here is my condition by nature, an enemy to God; but He who
reconciled me to God by His blood has overshadowed that also, so
that I forget that I was once an enemy in the joy of being now a
friend. I am very weak; but He is strong, and His strength
overshadows my feebleness. I am very poor; but He hath all riches,
and His riches overshadow my poverty. I am most unworthy; but He
is so worthy that if I use His name I shall receive as much as if
I were worthy: His worthiness doth overshadow my unworthiness. It
is very precious to put the truth the other way, and say, If there
be anything good in me, it is not good when I compare myself with
Him, for His goodness quite eclipses and overshadows it. Can I say
I love Him? So I do, but I hardly dare call it love, for His love
overshadows it. Did I suppose that I served Him? So I would; but
my poor service is not worth mentioning in comparison with what He
has done for me. Did I think I had any degree of holiness? I must
not deny what His Spirit works in me; but when I think of His
immaculate life, and all His divine perfections, where am I? What
am I? Have you not sometimes felt this? Have you not been so
overshadowed and hidden under your Lord that you became as
nothing? I know myself what it is to feel that if I die in a
workhouse it does not matter so long as my Lord is glorified.
Mortals may cast out my name as evil, if they like; but what
matters it since His dear name shall one day be printed in stars
athwart the sky? Let Him overshadow me; I delight that it should
be so.
The spouse tells us that, when she became quite overshadowed,
then _she felt great delight_. Great "_I_" never has great
delight, for it cannot bear to own a greater than itself, but the
humble believer finds his delight in being overshadowed by his
Lord. In the shade of Jesus we have more delight than in any
fancied light of our own. The spouse had _great_ delight. I trust
that you Christian people do have great delight; and if not, you
ought to ask yourselves whether you really are the people of God.
I like to see a cheerful countenance; ay, and to hear of raptures
in the hearts of those who are God's saints! There are people who
seem to think that religion and gloom are married, and must never
be divorced. Pull down the blinds on Sunday, and darken the rooms;
if you have a garden, or a rose in flower, try to forget that
there are such beauties: are you not to serve God as dolorously as
you can? Put your book under your arm, and crawl to your place of
worship in as mournful a manner as if you were being marched to
the whipping-post. Act thus if you will; but give me that religion
which cheers my heart, fires my soul, and fills me with enthusiasm
and delight,--for that is likely to be the religion of heaven, and
it agrees with the experience of the Inspired Song.
Although I trust that we know what delight means, I question
if we have enough of it to describe ourselves as _sitting down_ in
the enjoyment of it. Do you give yourselves enough time to sit at
Jesus' feet? _There_ is the place of delight, do you abide in it?
Sit down under His shadow. "I have no leisure," cries one. Try and
make a little. Steal it from your sleep if you cannot get it
anyhow else. Grant leisure to your heart. It would be a great pity
if a man never spent five minutes with his wife, but was forced to
be always hard at work. Why, that is slavey, is it not? Shall we
not then have time to commune with our Best-beloved? Surely,
somehow or other, we can squeeze out a little season in which we
shall have nothing else to do but to sit down under His shadow
with great delight! When I take my Bible, and want to feed on it
for myself, I generally get thinking about preaching upon the
text, and what I should say to you from it. This will not do; I
must get away from that, and forget that there is a Tabernacle,
that I may sit personally at Jesus' feet. And, oh, there is an
intense delight in being overshadowed by Him! He is near you, and
you know it. His dear presence is as certainly with you as if you
could see Him, for His influence surrounds you.
Often have I felt as if Jesus leaned over me, as a friend
might look over my shoulder. Although no cool shade comes over
your brow, yet you may as much feel His shadow as if it did, for
your heart grows calm; and if you have been wearied with the
family, or troubled with the church, or vexed with yourself, you
come down from the chamber where you have seen your Lord, and you
feel braced for the battle of life, ready for its troubles and its
temptations, because you have seen the Lord. "I sat down" said
she, "under His shadow with _great delight_." How great that
delight was she could not tell, but she sat down as one
overpowered with it, needing to sit still under the load of bliss.
I do not like to talk much about the secret delights of
Christians, because there are always some around us who do not
understand our meaning; but I will venture to say this much--that
if worldlings could but even guess what are the secret joys of
believers, they would give their eyes to share with us. We have
troubles, and we admit it, we expect to have them; but we have
joys which are frequently excessive. We should not like that
others should be witnesses of the delight which now and then
tosses our soul into a very tempest of joy. You know what it
means, do you not? When you have been quite alone with the
heavenly Bridegroom, you wanted to tell the angels of the sweet
love of Christ to you, a poor unworthy one. You even wished to
teach the golden harps fresh music, for seraphs know not the
heights and depths of the grace of God as you know them.
The spouse had great delight, and we know that she had, for
this one reason, that _she did not forget it_. This verse and the
whole Song are a remembrance of what she had enjoyed. She says, "I
sat down under His shadow." It may have been a month, it may have
been years ago; but she had not forgotten it. The joys of
fellowship with God are written in marble. "Engraved as in eternal
brass" are memories of communion with Christ Jesus. "Above
fourteen years ago," says the apostle, "I knew a man." Ah, it was
worth remembering all those years! He had not told his delight,
but he had kept it stored up. He says, "I knew a man in Christ
above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or
whether out of the body, I cannot tell:)" so great had his
delights been. When we look back, we forget birthdays, holidays,
and bonfire-nights which we have spent after the manner of men,
but we readily recall our times of fellowship with the Well-
beloved. We have known our Tabors, our times of transfiguration
fellowship, and like Peter we remember when we were "with Him in
the holy mount." Our head has leaned upon the Master's bosom, and
we can never forget the intense delight; nor will we fail to put
on record for the good of others the joys with which we have been
Now I leave this first part of the subject, only noticing how
beautifully natural it is. There was a tree, and she sat down
under the shadow: there was nothing strained, nothing formal. So
ought true piety ever to be consistent with common-sense, with
that which seems most fitting, most comely, most wise, and most
natural. There is Christ, we may enjoy Him, let us not despise the
II. The second part of our subject is, the heart's
refreshment in Christ. His fruit was sweet to my taste. Here I
will not enlarge, but give you thoughts in brief which you can
beat out afterwards. _She did not feast upon the fruit of the tree
till first she was under the shadow of it._ There is no knowing
the excellent things of Christ till you trust Him. Not a single
sweet apple shall fall to the lot of those who are outside the
shadow. Come and trust Christ, and then all that there is in
Christ shall be enjoyed by you. O unbelievers, what you miss! If
you will but sit down under His shadow, you shall have all things;
but if you will not, neither shall any good thing of Christ's be
_But as soon as ever she was under the shadow, then the fruit
was all hers_. "I sat down under His shadow," saith she, and then,
"His fruit was sweet to my taste." Dost thou believe in Jesus,
friend? Then Jesus Christ Himself is thine; and if thou dost own
the tree, thou mayest well eat the fruit. Since He Himself becomes
thine altogether, then His redemption and the pardon that comes of
it, His living power, His mighty intercession, the glories of His
Second Advent, and all that belong to Him are made over to thee
for thy personal and present use and enjoyment. All things are
yours, since Christ is yours. Only mind you imitate the spouse:
_when she found that the fruit was hers, she ate it_. Copy her
closely in this. It is a great fault in many believers, that they
do not appropriate the promises, and feed on them. Do not err as
they do. Under the shadow you have a right to eat the fruit. Deny
not yourselves the sacred entertainment.
Now, it would appear, as we read the text, that _she obtained
this fruit without effort_. The proverb says, "He who would gain
the fruit must climb the tree." But she did not climb, for she
says, "I sat down under His shadow." I suppose the fruit dropped
down to her. I know that it is so with us. We no longer spend our
money for that which is not bread, and our labour for that which
satisfieth not; but we sit under our Lord's shadow, and we eat
that which is good, and our soul delights itself in sweetness.
Come Christian, enter into the calm rest of faith, by sitting down
beneath the cross, and thou shalt be fed even to the full.
_The spouse rested while feasting:_ she sat and ate. So, O
true believer, rest whilst thou art feeding upon Christ! The
spouse says, "I sat, and I ate." Had she not told us in the former
chapter that the King _sat_ at His table? See how like the Church
is to her Lord, and the believer to his Saviour! We sit down also,
and we eat, even as the King doth. Right royally are we
entertained. His joy is in us, and His peace keeps our hearts and
Further, notice that, _as the spouse fed upon this fruit, she
had a relish for it._ It is not every palate that likes every
fruit. Never dispute with other people about tastes of any sort,
for agreement is not possible. That dainty which to one person is
the most delicious is to another nauseous; and if there were a
competition as to which fruit is preferable to all the rest, there
would probably be almost as many opinions as there are fruits. But
blessed is he who hath a relish for Christ Jesus! Dear hearer, is
He sweet to you? Then He is yours. There never was a heart that
did relish Christ but what Christ belonged to that heart. If thou
hast been feeding on Him, and He is sweet to thee, go on feasting,
for He who gave thee a relish gives thee Himself to satisfy thine
What are the fruits which come from Christ? Are they not
peace with God, renewal of heart, joy in the Holy Ghost, love to
the brethren? Are they not regeneration, justification,
sanctification, adoption, and all the blessings of the covenant of
grace? And are they not each and all sweet to our taste? As we
have fed upon them, have we not said, "Yes, these things are
pleasant indeed. There is none like them. Let us live upon them
evermore"? Now, sit down, sit down and feed. It seems a strange
thing that we should have to persuade people to do that, but in
the spiritual world things are very different from what they are
in the natural. In the case of most men, if you put a joint of
meat before them, and a knife and fork, they do not need many
arguments to persuade them to fall to. But I will tell you when
they will not do it, and that is when they are full: and I will
also tell you when they will do it, and that is when they are
hungry. Even so, if thy soul is weary after Christ the Saviour,
thou wilt feed on Him; but if not, it is useless for me to preach
to thee, or bid thee come. However, thou that art there, sitting
under His shadow, thou mayest hear Him utter these words: "Eat, O
friend: drink, yea, drink abundantly." Thou canst not have too
much of these good things: the more of Christ, the better the
We know that the spouse feasted herself right heartily with
this food from the tree of life, for _in after days she wanted
more_. Will you kindly read on in the fourth verse? The verse
which contains our text describes, as it were, her first love to
her Lord, her country love, her rustic love. She went to the wood,
and she found Him there like an apple tree, and she enjoyed Him as
one relishes a ripe apple in the country. But she grew in grace,
she learned more of her Lord, and she found that her Best-beloved
was a King. I should not wonder but what she learned the doctrine
of the Second Advent, for then she began to sing, "He brought me
to the banqueting house." As much as to say,--He did not merely
let me know Him out in the fields as the Christ in His
humiliation, but He brought me into the royal palace; and, since
He is a King, He brought forth a banner with His own brave
escutcheon, and He waved it over me while I was sitting at the
table, and the motto of that banneret was love.
She grew very full of this. It was such a grand thing to find
a great Saviour, a triumphant Saviour, an exalted Saviour! But it
was too much for her, and she became sick of soul with the
excessive glory of what she had learned; and do you see what her
heart craves for? She longs for her first simple joys, those
countrified delights. "Comfort me with apples," she says. Nothing
but the old joys will revive her. Did you ever feel like that? I
have been satiated with delight in the love of Christ as a
glorious exalted Saviour when I have seen Him riding on His white
horse, and going forth conquering and to conquer; I have been
overwhelmed when I have beheld Him in the midst of the throne,
with all the brilliant assembly of angels and archangels adoring
Him, and my thought has gone forward to the day when He shall
descend with all the pomp of God, and make all kings and princes
shrink into nothingness before the infinite majesty of His glory.
Then I have felt as though, at the sight of Him, I must fall at
His feet as dead; and I have wanted somebody to come and tell me
over again "the old, old story" of how He died in order that I
might be saved. His throne overpowers me, let me gather fruit from
His cross. Bring me apples from "the tree" again. I am awe-struck
while in the palace, let me get away to the woods again. Give me
an apple plucked from the tree, such as I have given out to boys
and girls in His family, such an apple as this, "Come unto Me all
ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Or
this: "This man receiveth sinners." Give me a promise from the
basket of the covenant. Give me the simplicity of Christ, let me
be a child and feast on apples again, if Jesus be the apple tree.
I would fain go back to Christ on the tree in my stead, Christ
overshadowing me, Christ feeding me. This is the happiest state to
live in. Lord, evermore give us these apples! You recollect the
old story we told, years ago, of Jack the huckster who used to
"I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
Those who knew him were astonished at his constant composure.
They had a world of doubts and fears, and so they asked him why he
never doubted. "Well," said he, "I can't doubt but what I am a
poor sinner, and nothing at all, for I know that, and feel it
every day. And why should I doubt that Jesus Christ is my all in
all? for He says He is." "Oh!" said his questioner, "I have my ups
and downs." "I don't," says Jack;" I can never go up, for I am a
poor sinner, and nothing at all; and I cannot go down, for Jesus
Christ is my all in all." He wanted to join the church, and they
said he must tell his experience. He said, "All my experience is
that I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all, and Jesus Christ is
my all in all." "Well," they said, "when you come before the
church-meeting, the minister may ask you questions." "I can't help
it," said Jack, "all I know I will tell you; and that is all I
"'I'm a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.'"
He was admitted into the church, and continued with the
brethren, walking in holiness; but that was still all his
experience, and you could not get him beyond it. "Why," said one
brother, "I sometimes feel so full of grace, I feel so advanced in
sanctification, that I begin to be very happy." "I never do," said
Jack; "I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all." "But then," said
the other, "I go down again, and think I am not saved, because I
am not as sanctified as I used to be." "But I never doubt my
salvation," said Jack, "because Jesus Christ is my all in all, and
He never alters." That simple story is grandly instructive, for it
sets forth a plain man's faith in a plain salvation; it is the
likeness of a soul under the apple tree, resting in the shade, and
feasting on the fruit.
Now, at this time I want you to think of Jesus, not as a
Prince, but as an apple tree; and when this is done, I pray you to
_sit down under His shadow_. It is not much to do. Any child, when
it is hot, can sit down in a shadow. I want you next to feed on
Jesus: any simpleton can eat apples when they are ripe upon the
tree. Come and take Christ, then. You who never came before, come
now. Come and welcome. You who have come often, and have entered
into the palace, and are reclining at the banqueting table, you
lords and peers of Christianity, come to the common wood and to
the common apple tree where poor saints are shaded and fed. You
had better come under the apple tree, like poor sinners such as I
am, and be once more shaded with boughs and comforted with apples,
for else you may faint beneath the palace glories. The best of
saints are never better than when they eat their first fare, and
are comforted with the apples which were their first gospel feast.
The Lord Himself bring forth His own sweet fruit to you!
"My Beloved is mine, and I am His: He feedeth among the
lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my
Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains
of Bether."--Solomon's Song ii. 16, 17.
IT may be that there are saints who are always at their best, and
are happy enough never to lose the light of their Father's
countenance. I am not sure that there are such persons, for those
believers with whom I have been most intimate have had a varied
experience; and those whom I have known, who have boasted of their
constant perfectness, have not been the most reliable of
individuals. I hope there is a spiritual region attainable where
there are no clouds to hide the Sun of our soul; but I cannot
speak with positiveness, for I have not traversed that happy land.
Every year of my life has had a winter as well as a summer, and
every day its night. I have hitherto seen clear shinings and heavy
rains, and felt warm breezes and fierce winds. Speaking for the
many of my brethren, I confess that though the substance be in us,
as in the teil-tree and the oak, yet we do lose our leaves, and
the sap within us does not flow with equal vigour at all seasons.
We have our downs as well as our ups, our valleys as well as our
hills. We are not always rejoicing; we are sometimes in heaviness
through manifold trials. Alas! we are grieved to confess that our
fellowship with the Well-beloved is not always that of rapturous
delight; but we have at times to seek Him, and cry, "Oh, that I
knew where I might find Him!" This appears to me to have been in a
measure the condition of the spouse when she cried, "Until the day
break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved."
I. These words teach us, first, that communion may be broken.
The spouse had lost the company of her Bridegroom: conscious
communion with Him was gone, though she loved her Lord, and sighed
for Him. In her loneliness she was sorrowful; but _she had by no
means ceased to love Him_, for she calls Him her Beloved, and
speaks as one who felt no doubt upon that point. Love to the Lord
Jesus may be quite as true, and perhaps quite as strong, when we
sit in darkness as when we walk in the light. Nay, _she had not
last her assurance of His love to her_, and of their mutual
interest in one another; for she says, "My Beloved is mine, and I
am His;" and yet she adds, "Turn, my Beloved." The condition of
our graces does not always coincide with the state of our joys. We
may be rich in faith and love, and yet have so low an esteem of
ourselves as to be much depressed.
It is plain, from this Sacred Canticle, that the spouse may
love and be loved, may be confident in her Lord, and be fully
assured of her possession of Him, and yet there may for the
present be mountains between her and Him. Yes, we may even be far
advanced in the divine life, and yet be exiled for a while from
conscious fellowship. There are nights for men as well as babes,
and the strong know that the sun is hidden quite as well as do the
sick and the feeble. Do not, therefore, condemn yourself, my
brother, because a cloud is over you; cast not away your
confidence; but the rather let faith burn up in the gloom, and let
your love resolve to come at your Lord again whatever be the
barriers which divide you from Him.
When Jesus is absent from a true heir of heaven, sorrow will
ensue. The healthier our condition, the sooner will that absence
be perceived, and the more deeply will it be lamented. This sorrow
is described in the text as darkness; this is implied in the
expression, "_Until the day break_." Till Christ appears, no day
has dawned for us. We dwell in midnight darkness; the stars of the
promises and the moon of experience yield no light of comfort till
our Lord, like the sun, arises and ends the night. We must have
Christ with us, or we are benighted: we grope like blind men for
the wall, and wander in dismay.
The spouse also speaks of shadows. "Until the day break, _and
the shadows flee away_." Shadows are multiplied by the departure
of the sun, and these are apt to distress the timid. We are not
afraid of real enemies when Jesus is with us; but when we miss
Him, we tremble at a shade. How sweet is that song, "Yea, though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no
evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort
me!" But we change our note when midnight is now come, and Jesus
is not with us: then we people the night with terrors: spectres,
demons, hobgoblins, and things that never existed save in fancy,
are apt to swarm about us; and we are in fear where no fear is.
The spouse's worst trouble was that _the back of her Beloved
was turned to her_, and so she cried, "Turn, my Beloved." When His
face is towards her, she suns herself in His love; but if the
light of His countenance is withdrawn, she is sorely troubled. Our
Lord turns His face from His people though He never turns His
heart from His people. He may even close His eyes in sleep when
the vessel is tossed by the tempest, but His heart is awake all
the while. Still, it is pain enough to have grieved Him in any
degree: it cuts us to the quick to think that we have wounded His
tender heart. He is jealous, but never without cause. If He turns
His back upon us for a while, He has doubtless a more than
sufficient reason. He would not walk contrary to us if we had not
walked contrary to Him. Ah, it is sad work this! The presence of
the Lord makes this life the preface to the life celestial; but
His absence leaves us pining and fainting, neither doth any
comfort remain in the land of our banishment. The Scriptures and
the ordinances, private devotion and public worship, are all as
sun-dials,--most excellent when the sun shines, but of small avail
in the dark. O Lord Jesus, nothing can compensate us for Thy loss!
Draw near to Thy beloved yet again, for without Thee our night
will never end.
"See! I repent, and vex my soul,
That I should leave Thee so!
Where will those vile affections roll
That let my Saviour go?"
When communion with Christ is broken, in all true hearts
_there is a strong desire to win it back again_. The man who has
known the joy of communion with Christ, if he loses it, will never
be content until it is restored. Hast thou ever entertained the
Prince Emmanuel? Is He gone elsewhere? Thy chamber will be dreary
till He comes back again. "Give me Christ or else I die," is the
cry of every spirit that has lost, the dear companionship of
Jesus. We do not part with such heavenly delights without many a
pang. It is not with us a matter of "maybe He will return, and we
hope He will;" but it must be, or we faint and die. We cannot live
without Him; and this is a cheering sign; for the soul that cannot
live without Him shall not live without Him: He comes speedily
where life and death hang on His coming. If you must have Christ
you shall have Him. This is just how the matter stands: we must
drink of this well or die of thirst; we must feed upon Jesus or
our spirit will famish.
II. We will now advance a step, and say that when communion
with Christ is broken, there are great difficulties in the way of
its renewal. It is much easier to go down hill than to climb to
the same height again. It is far easier to lose joy in God than to
find the lost jewel. The spouse speaks of "mountains" dividing her
from her Beloved: she means that _the difficulties were great_.
They were not little hills, but mountains, that closed up her way.
Mountains of remembered sin, Alps of backsliding, dread ranges of
forgetfulness, ingratitude, worldliness, coldness in prayer,
frivolity, pride, unbelief. Ah me, I cannot teach you all the dark
geography of this sad experience! Giant walls rose before her like
the towering steeps of Lebanon. How could she come at her Beloved?
_The dividing difficulties were many_ as well as great. She
does not speak of "a mountain", but of "mountains": Alps rose on
Alps, wall after wall. She was distressed to think that in so
short a time so much could come between her and Him of whom she
sang just now, "His left hand is under my head, and His right hand
doth embrace me." Alas, we multiply these mountains of Bether with
a sad rapidity! Our Lord is jealous, and we give Him far too much
reason, for hiding His face. A fault, which seemed so small at the
time we committed it, is seen in the light of its own
consequences, and then it grows and swells till it towers aloft,
and hides the face of the Beloved. Then has our sun gone down, and
fear whispers, "Will His light ever return? Will it ever be
daybreak? Will the shadows ever flee away?" It is easy to grieve
away the heavenly sunlight, but ah, how hard to clear the skies,
and regain the unclouded brightness!
Perhaps the worst thought of all to the spouse was the dread
that _the dividing barrier might be permanent_. It was high, but
it might dissolve; the walls were many, but they might fall; but,
alas, they were mountains, and these stand fast for ages! She felt
like the Psalmist, when he cried, "My sin is ever before me." The
pain of our Lord's absence becomes: intolerable when we fear that
we are hopelessly shut out from Him. A night one can bear, hoping
for the morning; but what if the day should never break? And you
and I, if we have wandered away from Christ, and feel that there
are ranges of immovable mountains between Him and us, will feel
sick at heart. We try to pray, but devotion dies on our lips. We
attempt to approach the Lord at the communion table, but we feel
more like Judas than John. At such times we have felt that we
would give our eyes once more to behold the Bridegroom's face, and
to know that He delights in us as in happier days. Still there
stand the awful mountains, black, threatening, impassable; and in
the far-off land the Life of our life is away, and grieved.
So the spouse seems to have come to the conclusion that _the
difficulties in her way were insurmountable by her own power_. She
does not even think of herself going over the mountains to her
Beloved, but she cries, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee
away, turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart
upon the mountains of Bether." She will not try to climb the
mountains, she knows she cannot: if they had been less high, she
might have attempted it; but their summits reach to heaven. If
they had been less craggy or difficult, she might have tried to
scale them; but these mountains are terrible, and no foot may
stand upon their lone crags. Oh, the mercy of utter self-despair!
I love to see a soul driven into that close corner, and forced
therefore to look to God alone. The end of the creature is the
beginning of the Creator. Where the sinner ends the Saviour
begins. If the mountains can be climbed, we shall have to climb
them; but if they are quite impassable, then the soul cries out
with the prophet, "Oh, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that
Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy
presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the
waters to boil, to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that
the nations may tremble at Thy presence. When Thou didst terrible
things which we looked not for, Thou camest down, the mountains
flowed down at Thy presence." Our souls are lame, they cannot move
to Christ, and we turn our strong desires to Him, and fix our
hopes alone upon Him; will He not remember us in love, and fly to
us as He did to His servant of old when He rode upon a cherub, and
did fly, yea, He did fly upon the wings of the wind?
III. Here arises that prayer of the text which fully meets
the case. "Turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young
hart upon the mountains of division." Jesus can come to us when we
cannot go to Him. The roe and the young hart, or, as you may read
it, the gazelle and the ibex, live among the crags of the
mountains, and leap across the abyss with amazing agility. For
swiftness and sure-footedness they are unrivalled. The sacred poet
said, "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my
high places," alluding to the feet of those creatures which are so
fitted to stand securely on the mountain's side. Our blessed Lord
is called, in the title of the twenty-second Psalm, "the Hind of
the morning "; and the spouse in this golden Canticle sings, "My
Beloved is like a roe or a young hart; behold He cometh, leaping
upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills."
Here I would remind you that this prayer is one that we may
fairly offer, because _it is the way of Christ to come to us_ when
our coming to Him is out of the question. "How?" say you. I answer
that of old He did this; for we remember "His great love wherewith
He loved us even when we were dead in trespasses and in sins." His
first coming into the world in human form, was it not because man
could never come to God until God had come to him? I hear of no
tears, or prayers, or entreaties after God on the part of our
first parents; but the offended Lord spontaneously gave the
promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's
head. Our Lord's coming into the world was unbought, unsought,
unthought of; he came altogether of His own free will, delighting
to redeem.
"With pitying eyes, the Prince of grace
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and (oh, amazing love!)
He ran to our relief."
His incarnation was a type of the way in which He comes to us
by His Spirit. He saw us cast out, polluted, shameful, perishing;
and as He passed by, His tender lips said, "Live!" In us is
fulfilled that word, "I am found of them that sought Me not." We
were too averse to holiness, too much in bondage to sin, ever to
have returned to Him if He had not turned to us. What think you?
Did He come to us when we were enemies, and will He not visit us
now that we are friends? Did He come to us when we were dead
sinners, and will He not hear us now that we are weeping saints?
If Christ's coming to the earth was after this manner, and if His
coming to each one of us was after this style, we may well hope
that now He will come to us in like fashion, like the dew which
refreshes the grass, and waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for
the sons of men. Besides, He is coming again in person, in the
latter-day, and mountains of sin, and error, and idolatry, and
superstition, and oppression stand in the way of His kingdom; but
He will surely come and overturn, and overturn, till He shall
reign over all. He will come in the latter-days, I say, though He
shall leap the hills to do it, and because of that I am sure we
may comfortably conclude that He will draw near to us who mourn
His absence so bitterly. Then let us bow our heads a moment, and
silently present to His most excellent Majesty the petition of our
text: "Turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart
upon the mountains of division."
Our text gives us sweet assurance that _our Lord is at home
with those difficulties_ which are quite insurmountable by us.
Just as the roe or the young hart knows the passes of the
mountains, and the stepping-places among the rugged rocks, and is
void of all fear among the ravines and the precipices, so does our
Lord know the heights and depths, the torrents and the caverns of
our sin and sorrow. He carried the whole of our transgression, and
so became aware of the tremendous load of our guilt. He is quite
at home with the infirmities of our nature; He knew temptation in
the wilderness, heart-break in the garden, desertion on the cross.
He is quite at home with pain and weakness, for "Himself took our
infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." He is at home with
despondency, for He was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with
grief." He is at home even with death, for He gave up the ghost,
and passed through the sepulchre to resurrection. O yawning gulfs
and frowning steeps of woe, our Beloved, like hind or hart, has
traversed your glooms! O my Lord, Thou knowest all that divides me
from Thee; and Thou knowest also that I am far too feeble to climb
these dividing mountains, so that I may come at Thee; therefore, I
pray Thee, come Thou over the mountains to meet my longing spirit!
Thou knowest each yawning gulf and slippery steep, but none of
these can stay Thee; haste Thou to me, Thy servant, Thy beloved,
and let me again live by Thy presence.
_It is easy, too, for Christ to come over the mountains for
our relief_. It is easy for the gazelle to cross the mountains, it
is made for that end; so is it easy for Jesus, for to this purpose
was He ordained from of old that He might come to man in his worst
estate, and bring with Him the Father's love. What is it that
separates us from Christ? Is it a sense of sin? You have been
pardoned once, and Jesus can renew most vividly a sense of full
forgiveness. But you say, "Alas! I have sinned again: fresh guilt
alarms me." He can remove it in an instant, for the fountain
appointed for that purpose is opened, and is still full. It is
easy for the dear lips of redeeming love to put away the child's
offences, since He has already obtained pardon for the criminal's
iniquities. If with His heart's blood He won our pardon from our
Judge, he can easily enough bring us the forgiveness of our
Father. Oh, yes, it is easy enough for Christ to say again, "Thy
sins be forgiven"! "But I feel so unfit, so unable to enjoy
communion." He that healed all manner of bodily diseases can heal
with a word your spiritual infirmities. Remember the man whose
ankle-bones received strength, so that he ran and leaped; and her
who was sick of a fever, and was healed at once, and arose, and
ministered unto her Lord. "My grace is sufficient for thee; for My
strength is made perfect in weakness." "But I have such
afflictions, such troubles, such sorrows, that I am weighted down,
and cannot rise into joyful fellowship." Yes, but Jesus can make
every burden light, and cause each yoke to be easy. Your trials
can be made to aid yo
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