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found, and would give us language such as these emotions would naturally adopt in using the words of men; so that in giving utterance to this love, the saints should not be left to the uncertainty and danger of adopting such words as human error might suggest; but have readily furnished language of precision and beauty made ready to our hands by the same Spirit who is working within us this affection. Much of the difficulty and uncertainty of metaphysical disquisitions arises from the imperfection of language, and the want of precision in its use. Words are the signs of ideas, and if the language in which we hear or speak on any subject, be imperfect, our apprehension, as thus got on that subject, must be incorrect. It is important that those who have received a spiritual discernment of the things which are freely given to us of God, should be able to speak of them, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but in words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, 1 Cor. ii. 13, that the Spirit who prompts the emotion should furnish the language in which such emotion may find suitable utterance for showing forth the praise of the Redeemer. This has been done for us in a beautiful manner in the Song of Solomon. This book is received as canonical for the following reasons.
1. We have seen that there is every ground for the presumption that the Divine Author of the Scriptures would give us a book on the subject with which this is occupied. 2. There can be no presumption against it from the nature of the book, for there are other parts of Scripture containing the same kind of illus
trations. 3. “Ezra wrote, and, we may believe, acted by the inspiration of the Most High, amid the last blaze indeed, yet in the full lustre of expiring propheсу. . And such a man would not have placed any book that was not sacred in the same volume with the law and the prophets.”* 4. The Song of Songs has always been a canonical book in the Jewish church. 5. Our Saviour and his apostles gave their sanction to the canon of the Scriptures received by the Jewish church; in that canon this book had then a place; and therefore, though not quoted by Christ and the apostles, it clearly received their sanction as canonical. 6. In his Antiquities, (viii. 2, 5,) Josephus speaks of Solomon as inspired; and in his work against Apion, gives the number of their canonical books as thirty-nine: the Song is necessary to make up this number. 7. According to Eusebius, (iv. 26, Melito, Bishop of Sardis, in the second century of the Christian era, went to Palestine for the purpose of ascertaining the sacred books of the Jewish canon, and found the Song of Solomon among the number. 8. Origen in the third century, Jerome, Augustine, and Theodoret in the fifth century, not to mention various others, all testify to the same point. The testimony of the Christian Church on this subject is uniform. This book, illustrating that love which is the very core of the believer's spiritual life, is therefore a part of the Scriptures given by inspiration.
The services of the Jewish ritual point out the way in which this newness of heart, this divine love may be attained by sinners. The Epistle to the Hebrews, as well as the general language of piety, shows how impossible it is to understand the work of Christ and the office of the Holy Spirit, without those typical allusions. The leprosy is the emblem of our spiritual state of nature; the sacrifices show the ground of pardon; the sacred anointing oil, and the water of the laver, illustrate the excellency of the Holy Spirit, and his cleansing power, in developing those fruits, the first of which is love. In the same mode, by allegorical language and emblems, the Song shows what this affection is as already formed and in operation. The heart on which the work of the Spirit has been felt to the greatest extent can best tell how much at a loss we must be in speaking of spiritual exercises and love to Jesus, were we cut off from the language of this Song. Should the soul be influenced to these feelings by the Holy Spirit, and inclined to use such expressions of devoted love, without having at the same time a knowledge of this book as given by inspiration, we would hesitate, would feel ourselves guilty of presumption, and could not answer those who might upbraid us with irreverence or fanaticism. There are persons of undoubted piety, in the early stages of the Christian life, though having long borne the profession, who are as reluctant to believe the reality of the exercises of the most advanced Christians, as is the impenitent to admit the reality of the first emotions attending a change of heart; the error in both instances arises from unwillingness
* Bishop Warburton.
to believe what has not been personally experienced. If, in consequence of having never felt such deep emotions, persons of certain attainments in piety may object to this book as using language too strong, the unrenewed heart may, with the same propriety, doubt the reality of all the exercises of religion. Beyond controversy, there are spiritual exercises which can be better and more naturally expressed in the language of this song, than in any other portion of the Scriptures. And the Holy Spirit has put into our hands this precious scroll, written full of the characters of love, and whispers to us that we can never do wrong in speaking of Jesus in these terms; and that we may judge of the nature of our love to him by our disposition to speak of him in such language, and by finding in our hearts emotions corresponding with these expressions.
The several books of the word of God have some particular aim and some leading topic. The Gospels furnish the life of God manifest in flesh; the Epistle to the Hebrews opens the doctrine of atonement as vicarious and possessing infinite value from the divine nature of Him who suffered; Proverbs embody the practical duties of daily life; the Psalms are the pious heart's language of devotion; the Song is its language of love. Devotion being the utterance of the different feelings of the soul in combination and resting with reverence on the majesty and goodness of God, and love being the bond which brings us into union with God and gives all our other powers their proper exercise, we find in the Psalms expressions
in which to embody our general feelings of repentance, contrition, trust, veneration and praise; in the Song, the expressions are restricted to the various operations of the one exercise of love. These deepest spiritual emotions of the human soul are here exhibited in a way best adapted to the comprehension and wants of man. In the portraits of Shakspeare we have veins of a profound metaphysics, never surpassed, yet so arrayed in flesh and blood, that we overlook the mental abstractions, in the beauty and attractiveness of their guise. And no metaphysical disquisition however laboured, no didactic statement however clear, could give as intelligibly as does this Song, the nature of those exalted exercises of the human soul which constitute love to our redeeming Lord.
Love to Jesus Christ becomes through sanctification, the strongest passion that can take possession of the human heart. Ambition, avarice, and passion may have more of the unnatural vigour attending fever; this carries with it the quiet, enduring energy of health, with sufficient power to consume those unhallowed principles, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Jesus. The power of this love cannot be known without being felt; and none but those who have experienced the greatest intensity of it possible on earth, can be capable judges whether any language used in expressing it may be exaggerated. The love of the pious heart to God being thus strong, and indeed not utterable even by the strongest terms; the love of God towards us