“He that has the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29).
The Bridegroom’s possession of the bride is absolute and exclusive, for the relationship is inviolate, none may interfere.
Other ideas may present themselves, those of fitness and affection, but this is the chief. The bride is the absolute and inalienable property and possession of the bridegroom. And such possession carries its own peculiar joy to his heart. He sees in her an helpmeet for himself, his counterpart, his intelligent and loving co-partner who can not only share his joys and sorrows, but who feels that they are her own. Union produces identification, there is perfect community of interest, there is full reciprocity of wish and action, and that on account of the existing union between the two.
Now, Christ is presented, amid other relations, as the Bridegroom, and the church—not the individual saint—is spoken of as His bride, His wife. Given to Him of the Father, purchased by His precious blood, and the object of His special affection, she is His peculiar property, and belongs to Him alone. She is, par excellence, “His Own.” He loves her to the end. As in the case of ordinary marriage a man shall leave his father and mother, the otherwise strongest of links, and shall cleave unto his wife. For this is the original institution as ordained by the Creator, and intended by Him to be maintained in all the sacredness of the tie. It is under His authority as Creator, and is to be disregarded at the peril of the offender. He shall “cleave unto his wife.” This was the divine decree in the brief day of innocence, when discord was unknown; it is the decree of God today, when sin, alas! has created such a host of difficulties, but when, at the same time, grace is well able to make the tie as strong and tender as at first. Oh! how admirably does Christ make good His part in this mystic union? How true and tender, how patient and faithful is He!
Now, as to the reality of this relationship let us look first at Matthew 22. There we read of a certain King who made a marriage for His Son, and who sent forth His servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding. This is, no doubt, the gospel-call. The servants are sent out to invite to a wedding. They share in the joy of the King and of His Son. They are in that exquisite secret. They have before them not only the happiness of the guests, but they have the gladness of the Bridegroom. He is a poor evangelist (it may be said in passing) who has only the good of the sinner before him. To have that is well, but to have the joy of Christ in His coming nuptial-day is far better. Let us realize the value of souls increasingly, but let us also have that day clearly in view, and think of the pleasure that the Son shall have when He shall survey His fair and glorious bride “unblemished in His sight.” This is a wondrous stimulus to the servant in his oft-weary labour, viz. that he can beget such joy to his Lord. The grand objective of the gospel should fill his heart with its infinite gratification to Christ.
Then in Matthew 25 we have the “midnight cry” which awakens all the sleepers, wise and foolish alike, and leads, consequently, to the definite and final separation of the two companies from each other. That cry is, “Behold the Bridegroom.” It implies His advent no doubt, but attention is drawn, not so much to that, as to Himself—the one commanding theme of the Spirit of God.
Of the bride nothing is said here, for all interest centres in the Bridegroom, and it is the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whatsoever character or glory, that produces the greatest effect and leaves the deepest impression.
Elsewhere it is, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world;” or only, “Behold the Lamb of God;” or again, “Behold the Man.” Here it is, “Behold the Bridegroom!” And at length He comes, and they that are ready go in with Him to the marriage—to the moment of His joy—and the door is shut. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Now let us learn from 2 Corinthians 11 the sanctifying power of this truth: “I am jealous over you,” says the Apostle Paul, “with a godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
This beautiful simile is in keeping with all that has preceded. Paul had the grand design of the gospel before him—the marriage of the King’s Son. His consuming desire was to present the church all pure and chaste, detached in heart and life from the snares of Satan and the power of evil, to Christ, as to “one husband.” He laboured for fidelity on her part to the rightful claims of this one Husband, that she might respond, in all her ways, creditably to such a relationship. Could any appeal be more affecting? He saw the seductions around, and he pleaded for the exercise of those sacred affections which should ever burn in the bosom of the faithful bride, and express themselves in her conduct.
Then Ephesians 5:27-32 gives us the result in the presentation to Himself of that church which Christ not only gave Himself for, but which He also sanctified and cleansed, with such infinite patience all her journey through that she is seen at last “glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.” It is the bride that is here depicted.
She is seen to be the product of the work of Christ from the cross right on to the day of presentation. To Him she owes all her beauty.
We pass on to Revelation 19:7-9, to “the marriage of the Lamb”—the consummation of all! “His wife,” we read, “has made herself ready; and to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.” She is credited with such, and is granted thus to be arrayed—pure and bright, and made ready for the nuptial day. The joy on each side is complete.
Then a thousand years pass away, and she is seen in the figure of a city (Rev. 20:10-24), descending out of heaven from God, but still prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Time leaves no scar; the wrinkle, once effaced, never returns; the bridal beauty remains. The city is resplendent, the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Defilement is excluded for evermore. Glorious prospect!
Arise, Thou bright Morning Star, bright Herald of the day, and touch the chord which will cause “the Spirit and the bride” to say, in deep and rich union, “Come” to Thyself, the longed-for heavenly Bridegroom—Thou “conspicuous among myriads”—Thou “altogether lovely” who hast won the affections of these myriads by a love which, for them, has passed through death’s dark waters and sin’s heavy judgment, and which lives on today and for ever; nor shall it rest until Thy blood-bought bride is with thee in eternal glory. Again, “Even so come, Lord Jesus.”
“From the dateless timeless periods,
He has loved us without cause,
And for all His blood-bought myriads
His is love that knows no pause.
Changeless as the eternal laws.”