Preface to the Song of Solomon
Henry Law, Commentary of the Song of Solomon- 1879
The aim of this volume is simple, yet sublime--lowly, yet rising above earth. Its desire is to promote and elevate and sanctify the communion of families with heaven; to give wings to piety, and warm utterance to prayer. This exercise requires watchful care--the often recurrence militates against impression. An object always present to the eyes scarcely arrests notice. The lull of one repeated note will wrap the senses in forgetfulness. Hence fruitless formality may creep in, and dull routine may slowly move where liveliness should burn. True worship is the heavenward elevation of the soul. To obtain this benefit is worth all efforts.
A family thus spiritually engaged is a blessed company. It basks in heaven's sunshine. It breathes celestial atmosphere. Its influence extends far beyond a narrow circle. It shines as a beacon on some eminence. Before the daily work begins, it seeks God's arm to protect, and His eye to guide; it puts on the armor of faith, it girds up the loins to climb the upward path, and when evening brings employments to a close, it gives floods of praises for overflowing mercies, and washes in the blood which cannot fail to cleanse.
Lessons from the Bible are an essential ingredient in such exercise. This book utters God's voice, proclaims His salvation, reveals His will, and issues His commands. Thus it prepares the heart for near approach, and tunes the instrument for harmonious sound. In this treasury the Song of Solomon is a bright jewel. From the day when first the Holy Spirit gave it to the world, it has rightfully received co-equal rank with kindred books. From its birth its sacred origin has been indubitably maintained. The pen which wrote the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes gave this likewise to the sacred Canon. Our Church, also, has without hesitation enrolled it in this heaven-born company.
Moreover, to outward authority internal evidence adds its assuring weight. Believers' hearts in every age and place have recognized in it the voice of God speaking in terms indubitably divine. Such streams of consolation, comfort, and instruction, could only flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Its channel is too deep--its waters are too full for human origin. Its tender whispers have cheered the disconsolate--upheld the tottering--revived the fainting--strengthened the weak--confirmed the wavering--wiped many a weeping eye--and soothed many a sighing breast. In hours of pain and weariness and solitude, its voice has sounded as the melody of heaven. When love has languished, its breath has fanned the sparks into a flame. Refreshed in this vestibule, how many have exclaimed, "This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" The eye of faith has seen the Savior drawing near, "leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills." If this blessed book had not been given, many harps of delight might often have hung on the willows of disconsolation. But all praise to heavenly grace, it has been given, and we possess it. Let us then prize it, and devoutly use it.
There is, also, proof in passages not few that the same Spirit which composed other Scriptures is the writer here. The unity of expressive terms shows this truth in full clearness. Let a brief exemplification be adjoined. The Spirit is invoked in this book as the wind. The lips of Jesus adopt the same similitude. Here, and in other Scriptures, the attraction of the soul is described by the term "to draw." Similarly, "things new and things old" are words adopted to describe the comprehensive fullness of the heavenly treasure. The description of Bride and Bridegroom--of the Church as a vineyard--of Christ standing at the door--so conspicuous here, are as rays of light in other Scriptures. This book terminates by importunately calling upon Christ to come. The Revelation closes with the same petition. The conclusion cannot be gainsaid. Unity of thought and vocabulary establishes unity of authorship--and the Author is the Holy Spirit. Thus the Song of Solomon is the offspring of eternal wisdom.
Let it, also, be noted that in this Song we find the expansion of David's Hymn of Loves. The sweet singer of Israel in the forty-fifth Psalm draws the miniature--his son supplies the life-size portrait. We gain entrance into the palace which Solomon constructed, by a key thus previously provided by his inspired father. An acorn falls to the ground, and here an oak of widespread branches is the produce. A little rill widens into a flood of waters. The key-note sounds, and a melodious hymn of many notes is sung.
The significance of this portion of the inspired volume stands on a pinnacle of clearness. It is conspicuous as a cloudless sun. It exhibits the mystery of mysteries--the Heavenly Bridegroom's love--and the response of the believer's heart. It may without irreverence be said, that the Holy Spirit could not find a worthier theme. Heaven alone can embrace its breadth and length, its depth and height. It baffles all power of human mind to conceive it. No tongue of eloquence can express it. Wondering angels desire to measure its boundless infinitudes. To grasp its history requires super-human mind.
But its consideration has a mighty power to elevate and transform. It changes the whole inner man. It transports to regions above earth. It causes old things to pass away; it makes all things new. To view it is heaven begun.
In this Song this mutual love is exhibited in a series of diversified similitudes. A train in beauteous procession passes before the eye. Allegory follows on to allegory. Sometimes the portions are brought together as parts of a continued drama. Sometimes dissimilarity and disparity break every link of connection. But throughout the teaching is uniform. From the opening to the close, bridal love occupies the scene. It gives one relish to the overflowing goblet. The pictures may be generally rich in ornament, and choice embellishments may decorate the landscape. The forms and figures may be richly clad. In this exposition, attempts to deduce dogmatic teaching from such drapery has been deliberately shunned. Such introduction would be wholly adverse to the plan. The main desire has been to put aside all dubious and earth-born thoughts, and to proclaim exclusively how Christ loves the Church, and gives Himself for it; and how the Church loves Christ, and gives herself to Him.
It is undoubted wisdom to keep the eye fixed on the main feature of heavenly love. Let it be repeated, it might be difficult, and would be inconsistent with the present design, to endeavor to establish clear connection between the varied parts. Thus they are here viewed as a series of detached representations. May they give refreshment like the exuberant flowers, which diffuse fragrance in a well-stocked garden!
As the sublime subject is one, some monotony might arise from continuous and unbroken perusal. The book is therefore divided into fifty-two portions. The purpose is, that each should give contemplation to the assembled family as each Lord's-day of the year moves on. It is hoped that the hallowed hours may become more hallowed by realizing the eternal and unchangeable love of Christ. It should be happiness congenial with the day, to draw water with joy from this well of salvation. The contemplation of this holy and most blessed truth, should alike exhilarate and sanctify.
May the Holy Spirit, who here reveals the glories of Christ Jesus, ride forth in a chariot of light! May no earth-born mists obscure the grand intent! May devout hearts open their portals to receive pure truth! If any, heretofore, have paused with hesitation at its threshold, may they advance with confidence in the persuasion, that sanctifying grace will meet them here, as in other Scriptures! May they find that this Song is a chaste prelude to the chorus of the white-robed multitude!