Espoused to One Husband

What a change it makes in a Christian's outlook when he discovers the fact that he is loved by the Lord and that he is precious and desirable in His sight. When this knowledge comes to us — and it is true of every one who has owned the Lord's claims and trusted Him as Saviour — we are lifted on to a new plane in our thoughts of Him. We shall not think less of all that He has done for us, instead, we shall begin to understand the greatness of this better; and we shall still be grateful for all His ways of grace with us, and shall often tell Him of them, but the dominant thing will be rest in His love and, what goes along with that, love to Him in response to it. We shall become conscious that we stand in an hitherto undreamt of relationship to Him, a relationship in which mutual love has the chief place. This is the day of our espousals. Can we reverently contemplate the meaning of this?

This is not mere poetic imagery, for we read in the Scriptures, and wonderful are the words, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:2). What does this mean? It can only have one meaning. We have been affianced to Christ. He loves us and has chosen us for Himself, and He has made the appeal of love to us, and we have said "Yes" to Him. The marriage day has not yet come, but it is coming, and we may read about it in Ephesians 5:25-27, and Revelation 19:7-9.

These are the days of the espousals, and we have been espoused to a PERSON. It is on our hearts to press this, for we fear that the Lord Jesus is not a living, bright reality to many Christians. "Christian Science" is spreading, and though no true child of God could follow the delusions of that cult, yet the spirit of it is abroad, — an evil, seducing and anti-Christian spirit that would persuade us that Christ is a divine principle or spirit operating in the lives of men, instead of a living Person who can fill and satisfy the heart. "What matters it" say some, "whether Jesus rose from the dead or not so long as His spirit permeates society?" And Satan beguiles many unwary souls by this sort of thing, and the very heart is taken out of their faith, and the Lord Jesus becomes to them intangible, vague and impersonal, and if we lose sight of Him then God Himself becomes shadowy and distant. if there is one thing we desire above another in issuing Scripture Truth mouth by month it is that we may be able to keep before our readers the fact that Christ is a living Person, who loves us, and cares for us and delights in our love to Him and service for Him: a risen, glorified Saviour who desires that we should have part with Him, and hold communion with Him by the Holy Spirit, who has been given unto us.

The joy and beauty of our relationship to Christ is illustrated for us in a wonderful way in the Song of Solomon. Every chapter is fragrant with love, and if we read it, and are taught by the Holy Spirit as we read it, we shall find that the language, though figurative, describes the Lord's delight in us and ours in Him, when we know Him in this sweet relationship. Take the 2nd chapter. There the bride-to-be has discovered that she is beloved, and that the one who loves her delights in her. She is precious to him; this she has learnt, and she exclaims: "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." These were not high thoughts of herself. The rose of Sharon was not the gorgeous flower that we call the rose; more likely than not it was the narcissus, a flower of the field, a fragrant flower no doubt, but not obtrusive and gay; and the lily of the valleys grew in lowly places and out of sight, and had to be sought for by the one who valued it. But these were Spring flowers, this must be noted first, and the fragrant hope of Spring was in them. As they bloomed in the valleys they told of a time when the summer's glory would crown the hills. They figured forth the beginnings of love, but they were prophetic of the time when love would come to its fullness on the marriage day.

Upon this maiden the king's choice had fallen, she was to share his crown and kingdom, but not of this does she think and sing, she is inwardly conscious of something greater than all the display of glory that was to come to her; the king loved her, this was her joy; she was precious to him, this filled her with a glad surprise; and without fear or reserve, she tells out to him what she knows she is to him. Have we reached this point in our secret experience of soul with the Lord? We can only learn it as we are near to Him, for who could teach us this but Himself? This is the beginning of love, it is "first love." It is more than what He has done for us, it is Himself who has done it. We do not lose the benefaction, but we have the Benefactor. We are one spirit with the Lord, for "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17). The freshness and the hope of the spring flowers are in this experience, and in it there is the pledge that the day will surely come when He will present the church to Himself "a glorious church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing."

But hear the answer that this great lover gives to his chosen bride. He takes up her own words, but he adds to them. He adorns them and makes them glow with his love. He makes them the opportunity of showing her the great proof of his great love for her, and so increases her confidence in him and enlarges her affection for him. "As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters," he says. Let us get at the heart of this, and understand what it means for us in our relationship with the Lord. Dr. Thompson in his well-known book "The Land and the Book," says of the lily: "Our flower delights most in the valleys; but it is found also on the mountains. It grows among thorns, and I have sadly lacerated my hands in extricating it from them." Does the fact that the lily grew among the thorns need any interpretation? If we can say, "I am the lily of the valleys," if we know that we are this to Christ, His answer is, "Yes, but the lily among the thorns." He would have us remember that it cost Him something to secure us for Himself. How lacerated was He in extricating us from the tangled thorns in which we grew! He showed to His disciples His hands and side, when He came to them in resurrection. Nothing could drive the cold unbelief from the soul of Thomas, but a sight of His wounds. And He would not that we should forget them. It is as though He said to us: —

"Behold, with what labour I won thee
  Behold in My hands and My feet
The tale of My measureless sorrow,
  The love that made suffering sweet."

His body was lacerated, but His soul was lacerated too, for before He could have His lilies for Himself and extricate them from the thorns, His soul was made an offering for sin. Can anything move the heart like this? We do not love Him and adore Him because the brightest crowns of heaven shine upon His worthy brow; we are glad that He is crowned with glory, but it is not that that won our hearts: we love Him because that same brow was crowned with thorns, and because He was put to shame upon a cross when He came forth in His great love to tread the thorny way to save us for Himself. To the utmost His love was tried, and it stood the test. It passeth knowledge. When we realize this, and the wonder of it fills our souls, we do not say, "Thank God, WE are saved!" Setting the "we" in the centre of our sentence and thoughts; but we say, "Oh, what it cost HIM to make us His." He is the centre of our sentence, and relief and thanksgiving deepen into wonder and worship.

The suffering is all past but His love abides, and the suffering will not be forgotten, for when the great marriage day comes, and all heaven rejoices in the gladness of it, it is the marriage of the Lamb that is celebrated (Rev. 19), and the bride is the Lamb's wife (Rev. 21). Thus are the sorrows of the cross and the joys of love's consummation joined the one to the other; the Lamb who suffered is the one who will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied on that great day. But while we wait for that day, the love of Christ is a present reality, and we who are espoused to Him may have the joy of communion with Him in it all.

In this communion of love the maiden responds to the king, not now to speak of herself, but of him who fills her thoughts. Her words are great words, and the music of pure love wells in them. "As the apple tree among the trees of the word," she says, "so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me into his banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." Have we so learnt Christ? If so our vagrant desires, our restlessness of spirit have ceased and we have found satisfaction and a great hope. It was thus with Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus, hearing His word, and pouring out her precious ointment upon Him; and with John, the beloved, leaning his head upon Jesus' breast at supper; and with Thomas, of the doubtful mind, when he cried, "My Lord and my God"; and with Paul the Apostle when he exclaimed, "The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." What a blessed experience this is, and the more deeply it is known in its present joy, the more will the heart long for the day of presentation. Then there will be no more need for watchfulness; faithfulness to Christ in a hostile and seductive world will be called for no more. We shall have reached eternal rest.

We shall be beyond the reach of Satan's beguilings then, but now there is nothing he hates more than this personal intimacy with and joy in Christ. Hence the fear expressed by the apostle in those words of warning. "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from simplicity as to Christ." His purpose is to draw us away from this "first love." How often he succeeds to our shame, and if the backsliding is not arrested how soon we become neither "cold nor hot," a state of heart that is obnoxious to the Lord.

We would not willingly be untrue to Christ; but Satan is subtle, and if we are to be kept from his snares we must depend upon our Lord. "He brought me into his banqueting house, and his banner over me is love." To abide there is to abide in a safe place, and to be satisfied with Him.