I am My Beloved'sRichard Sibbes (1577-1635) - One of the most eloquent and deep puritans.
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“Those that look to be happy must first look to be holy.”
Sibbes’ masterfully deals with the Song of Songs and how we are Christ’s.
“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine; he feedeth among the lilies.” Song of Songs 6:8
These words are a kind of triumphant acclamation upon all the former passages; as it were, the foot of the song. For when the church had spoken formerly of her ill-dealing with Christ, and how he thereupon absented himself from her, with many other passages, she shuts up all at last with this, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’
Now she begins to feel some comfort from Christ, who had estranged himself from her. O! saith she, notwithstanding all my sufferings, desertions, crosses, and the like, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,’ words expressing the wondrous comfort, joy, and contentment the church now had in Christ; having her heart inflamed with love unto him, upon his manifesting of himself to her soul. ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.’
There is a mutual intercourse and vicissitude of claiming interest betwixt Christ and his church. I am Christ’s, and Christ is mine. ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’
From the dependence and order of the words coming in after a desertion for a while, observe,
That Christ will not be long from his church.
The spiritual desertions (forsakings, as we use to call them), howsoever they be very irksome to the church (that loves communion with Christ), and to a loving soul to be deprived of the sense of her beloved, yet notwithstanding they are but short. Christ will not be long from his church. His love and her desire will not let him. They offer violence. Why art thou absent? say they. why art thou so far off, and hidest thyself? Joseph may conceal himself for a space, but he will have much ado so to hold long, to be straitened to his brethren. Passion will break out. So Christ may seem hard to be entreated, and to cross his own sweet disposition, as to the woman of Canaan, but he will not long keep at this distance. He is soon overcome. ‘O! woman, great is thy faith; have what thou wilt,’ Mat. xv. 28. When she strove with him a little (as faith is a striving grace), see how she did win upon him! So the angel and Jacob may strive for a while, but Jacob at the length proves Israel; he prevails with God, Gen. xxxii. 24, seq. So it is with the Christian soul and Christ. Howsoever there be desertion, for causes before mentioned, because the church was negligent, as we hear, and partly for the time to come, that Christ, by his estrangement, might sweeten his coming again howsoever there may be strangeness for a time, yet Christ will return again to his spouse.
Use 1. The use should be not only for comfort to stay us in such times, but to teach us likewise to wait, and never give over. If the church had given over here, she had not had such gracious manifestations of Christ to her. Learn hence, therefore, this use, to wait God’s leisure. God will wait to do good to them that wait on him, Isa. xxx. 18. If we wait his leisure, he will wait an opportunity of doing good to us. when God seems not to answer our prayers, let us yet wait. We shall not lose by our tarrying. He will wait to do us good.
Use 2. In the next place, observe, after this temporary desertion, Christ visits his church with more abundant comfort than ever before.
Now, the church cannot hold, ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his;’ and Christ cannot hold, but falls into a large commendation of his spouse back again. As she was large in his commendations, so he is large in hers, and more large. He will have the last word. Therefore, learn by this experience, ‘that all things work together for the best to them that love God,’ Rom. viii. 28. All things. what? evil? Ay, evil. why, even sin turns to their humiliation; yea, and desertion (those spiritual ills), turns to their good; for Christ seems to forsake for a while, that he may come after with more abundance of comfort. when once he hath enlarged the soul before with a spacious desire of his coming, to say, O! that he would come; when the soul is thus stretched with desire in the sense of want, then he ills it again till it burst forth, ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his.’ It was a good experiment of Bernard, an holy man in ill times, tibi accidit, &c., speaking of Christ’s dealing with his church. He comes and he goeth away for thy good. He comes for thy good to comfort thee; after which, if thou be not careful to maintain communion with him, then he goeth away for thy good, to correct thy error, and to enlarge thy desire of him again, to teach thee to lay sure and faster hold upon him when thou hast him, not to let him go again.
If you would see a parallel place to this, look in Cant. iii., where there is the like case of the spouse and Christ, ‘By night on my bed I sought him.’ The church sought Christ not only by day, but by night, ‘I sought him whom my soul loved.’ Though she wanted him, yet her soul loved him constantly. Though a Christian’s soul have not present communion with Christ, yet he may truly say, My soul loves him, because he seeks him diligently and constantly in the use of all the means. So we see the church, before my text, calls him my beloved still, though she wanted communion with him. Well, she goes on, ‘I sought him, but I found him not.’ Would the church give over there? No; then she riseth and goeth about the city, and about the streets, and ‘seeks him whom her soul loved,’ seeks him, and will not give over. So I sought him, but I wanted the issue of my seeking, I found him not. What comes upon that? ‘The watchmen go about the city, and find her.’ Of whom, when by her own seeking she could not find Christ, she inquires, ‘Saw you him whom my soul loveth?’ She inquires of the watchmen, the guides of God’s people, who could not satisfy her fully. She could not find her beloved, yet what doth she, she shews, verse 4. It was but a little that she stayed, after she had used all means, private and public—in her bed, out of her bed—by the watchmen and others, yet, saith she, it was but a little that I was past from them. She had not an answer presently, though the watchmen gave her some good counsel. It was not presently, yet not long after. Christ will exercise us a while with waiting: ‘It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loved.’ After all our seeking, there must be waiting, and then we shall find him whom our soul loveth. Perhaps we have used all means, private and public, and yet find not that comfort we look for. Oh, but wait a while I God hath a long time waited for thee. Be thou content to wait a while for him. We shall not lose by it, for it follows in the next verse; after she had found him whom her soul loved, ‘I held him, I would not let him go.’ So this is the issue of desertions. They stir up diligence and searching, in the use of means, private and public; and exercise patience to wait God’s leisure, who will not suffer a gracious soul to fail of its expectation. At length he will fulfill the desires of them that fear him, Ps. cxlv. 19; and this comes of their patience. Grace grows greater and stronger. ‘I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him unto my mother’s house.’ Thus you see how the Spirit expresseth the same truth in another state of the church. Compare place with place. To go on.
‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’ The words themselves are a passionate expression of long-looked-for consolation. Affections have eloquence of their own beyond words. Fear hath a proper expression. Love vents itself in broken words and sighs, delighting in a peculiar eloquence suitable to the height and pitch of the affection, that no words can reach unto. So that here is more in the words breathed from such an inflamed heart, than in ordinary construction can be picked out, ‘I am my beloved’s,’ &c., coming from a fall and large heart, expressing the union and communion between Christ and the church, especially after a desertion.. ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
First, I say, the union, viz., the union of persons, which is before all comfort and communion of graces, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’ Christ’s person is ours, and our persons are his. For, as it is in marriage, if the person of the husband be not the wife’s, his goods are not hers, nor his titles of honour; for these come all to her, because his person is hers: he having passed over the right of his own body and of his person to his wife, as she hath passed over all the right of herself to her husband. So it is in this mystical marriage. That that entitles us to communion of graces is union of persons between Christ and his church. ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved himself is mine.’ And indeed nothing else will content a Christian’s heart. He would not care so much for heaven itself, if he had not Christ there. The sacrament, word, and comforts, why doth he esteem them? As they come from Christ, and as they lead to Christ. It is but an adulterous and base affection to love anything severed from Christ.
Now, from this union of persons comes a communion of all other things whatsoever. ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’ If Christ himself be mine, then all is mine (u). What he hath done, what he hath suffered, is mine; the benefit of all is mine. What he hath is mine. His prerogatives and privileges to be the Son of God, and heir of heaven, and the like, all is mine. why? Himself is mine. Union is the foundation of communion. So it is here with the church, ‘I am my beloved’s.’ My person is his, my life is his, to glorify him, and to lay it down when he will. My goods are his, my reputation his. I am content to sacrifice all for him. I am his, all mine is his. So you see there is union and communion mutually, between Christ and his church. The original and spring hereof is Christ’s uniting and communicating himself to his church first. The spring begins to (That is, “originates, or gives its beginning to.” -Ed.) the stream. What hath the stream or cistern in it, but what is had from the spring? First we love him, because he loved us first, 1 John iv. 19. It was a true speech of Augustine, Quicquid bonum, &c.: whatsoever is good in the world or lovely, it is either God or from God; it is either Christ or from Christ. He begins it. It is said in nature, love descends. The father and the mother love the child before the child can love them. Love, indeed, is of a fiery nature. Only here is the dissimilitude, fire ascends, love descends. It is stronger, descending from the greater to the less, than ascending up from the meaner to the greater, and that for this amongst other reasons,
Because the greater person looks upon the lesser as a piece of himself—sees himself in it. The father and mother see themselves in their child. So God loves us more than we can love him, because he sees his Image in us. Neither is there only a priority of order. He loves us first, and then we love him. But also of causality. He is the cause of our love, not by way of motive only. He loves us, and therefore from an ingenuous spirit we must love him again. But he gives us his Spirit, circumciseth our hearts to love him, Deut. xxx. 6; for all the motives or moral persuasions in the world, without the Spirit, cannot make us love, 1 Thess. iv. 9. We are taught of God to love one another, our brethren whom we see daily, saith Paul, much more need we to be taught to love him whom we never saw, so that his love kindles ours by way of reflection.
In the new covenant God works both parts, his own and our parts too. Our love to him, our fear of him, our faith in him, he works all, even as he shews his own love to us.
If God love us thus, what must we do? Meditate upon his love. Let our hearts be warmed with the consideration of it. Let us bring them to that fire of his love, and then they will wax hot within us, and beg the Spirit, ‘Lord, thou hast promised to give thy Spirit to them that ask it,’ Luke xi. 10, and to circumcise our hearts to love thee, and to love one another, ‘give thy Holy Spirit, as thou hast promised.’
In a word, these words, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,’ to join them both together.
1. They imply a mutual propriety, (That is, “property.” -G.) Christ hath a propriety in me, and I in Christ. Peculiar propriety. Christ is mine, so as I have none in the world. So mine, ‘ whom have I in heaven but Christ ?’ and what is there in earth in comparison of him? He is mine, and mine in a peculiar manner, and I am his in a peculiar manner. There is propriety with peculiarity.
2. Then, again, these words, ‘ I am his,’ implies mutual love. All is mutual in them, mutual propriety, mutual peculiarity, and mutual love. I love Christ so as I love nothing else. There is nothing above him in my heart, as Christ loves me more than anything else, saith the church, and every Christian. He loves all, and gives outward benefits to all, but to me he hath given himself, so love I him. As the husband loves all in the family, his cattle and his servants, but he gives himself to his spouse. So Christ is mine, himself is mine, and myself am Christ’s. He hath my soul, my affections, my body, and all. He hath a propriety in me, and a peculiarity in me. He hath my affection and love to the uttermost, as I have his, for there is an intercourse in these words.
3. Then, again, they imply mutual familiarity. Christ is familiar to my soul, and I to Christ. He discovers himself to me in the secret of his love, and I discover myself to him in prayer and meditation, opening my soul to him upon all occasions. God’s children have a spirit of prayer, which is a spirit of fellowship, and talks, as it were, to God in Christ. It is the language of a new-born Christian. He cries to his Father. There is a kind of familiarity between him and his God in Christ, who gives the entrance and access to God. So that where there is not a kind of familiarity in prayer and opening of the soul to Christ upon all occasions, there is not this holy communion. Those that are not given to prayer, they cannot in truth speak these words, as the church doth here, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,’ for they imply sweet familiarity.
4. Then, again, they imply mutual likeness one to another. He is mine, and I am his. The one is a glass to the other. Christ sees himself in me, I see myself in him. For this is the issue of spiritual love, especially, that it breeds likeness and resemblance of the party loved in the soul that loveth; for love frameth the soul to the likeness of the party loved. I am his, I resemble him. I am his, I have given myself to him. I carry his picture and resemblance in my soul, for they are words of mutual conformity. Christ, out of love, became like me in all things, wherein I am not like the devil, that is, sin excepted. If he became like me, taking my nature that I might be near him in the fellowship of grace, ‘My beloved is mine,’ I will be as like him as possibly I can, I am his. Every Christian carries a character of Christ’s disposition as far as weakness will suffer. You may know Christ in every Christian; for as the king’s coin carries the stamp of the king (Caesar’s coin bears Caesar’s superscription), so every Christian soul is God’s coin, and he sets his own stamp upon it. If we be Christ’s, there is a mutual conformity betwixt him and us.
Now, where you see a malicious, unclean, worldly spirit, know that is a stamp of the devil, none of Christ’s. He that hath not the Spirit of God is none of his. Now, where the Spirit of Christ is, it stamps Christ’s likeness upon the soul. Therefore we are exhorted, Phil. ii. 5, to be likeminded to Christ.
5. Again, these words, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,’ imply a mutual care that Christ and the soul have of the good of one another, of each other’s honour and reputation. As Christ hath a care of our good, so a Christian soul, if it can say with truth and sincerity I am Christ’s, it must needs have care of Christ’s good, of his children, religion, and truth. What! will such a soul say, Shall Christ care for my body, soul, and salvation, and stoop to come from heaven to save me, and shall I have no care for him and his glory? He hath left his truth and his church behind him, and shall not I defend his truth, and stand for the poor church to the utmost of my power against all contrary power? Shall not I stand for religion’. Shall it be all one to me what opinions are held? Shall I pretend he cares for me, and shall I not care for that I should care for? Is it not an honour to me that he hath trusted me to care for anything? that he will be honoured by my care? Beloved, it is an honour for us that we may speak a good word for religion, for Christ’s cause, for his church, against maligners and opposers; and we shall know one day that Christ will be a rewarder of every good word. Where this is said in sincerity, that Christ is mine, and I am Christ’s, there will be this mutual care.
6. Likewise there is implied a mutual complacency in these words. By a complacency I mean a resting, contenting love. Christ hath a complacency and resting in the church; and the church hath a sweet resting. contentment in Christ. Christ in us and we in him. A true Christian soul that hath yielded up its consent to Christ, when it is beaten in the world, vexed and turmoiled, it can rely on this, ‘I have yet a loving husband;’ yet I have Christ.
Let this put us upon a search into ourselves, what we retire to, when we meet with afflictions. Those that have brutish and beastly souls retire to carnal contentments, to good fellowship; forget, besot, and fly away from themselves; their own consciences and thought of their own trouble. whereas a soul that hath any acquaintance with God in Christ, or any interest into Christ, so that it may say, that Christ is mine, and lam Christ’s, there will be contentment and rest in such a soul, whatsoever it meets with in the world.
7. The last thing implied is courage, a branch of the former. Say all against it what they can, saith the resolved soul, I will be Christ’s. Here is courage with resolution. Agreeable hereto is that, ‘One shall say I am the Lord’s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; another shall subscribe and surname himself by the name of Israel,’ Isa. xliv. 5. Where there is not this resolution in good causes, there is not the Spirit of Christ; there is no interest into Christ. It is but a delusion and self-flattery to say I am Christ’s, when there is not resolution to stand to Christ. These words are the expression of a resolved heart, I am, and I will be Christ’s; I am not ashamed of my bargain; of the consent I have given him; lam and I will be his. You have the like in Micah iv. 5,’ All people will walk every one in the name of his god, they will resolve on that, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and for ever.’ So that where these words are spoken in truth, that ‘I am Christ’s,’ there is necessarily implied, I will own him and his cause for ever and ever.
He hath married me for ever and ever; therefore, if I hope to have interest in him for comfort for ever and ever, I must be sure to yield myself to him for ever and ever; and stand for his cause, in all oppositions, against all enemies whatsoever. These and such like places in Scripture run parallel with this in the text, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,’ not only holding in the person, but in the cause of Christ. Every man hopes his god will stand for him against the devil, who accuseth us daily. If we will have Christ to stand for us, and to be an advocate to plead our cause as he doth in heaven, we must resolve to stand for him against all enemies, heretics, schismatics, persecutors whatsoever; that we will walk in the name of our God for ever and ever.
Quest. But when the ease is not thus with us, and that neither we can feel comfort from Christ, nor have this assurance of his love to us, what should we judge of such?
Solution. We should not wonder to see poor souls distempered when they are in spiritual desertions, considering how the spouse cannot endure the absence of Christ. It is out of love therefore in the deepest plunge she hath this in her mouth, ‘my beloved.’ Therefore let us not judge amiss of ourselves or others, when we are impatient in this kind.
But for a more full answer, in want of feeling of the love of Christ in regard of that measure we would (for there is never altogether a want of feeling, there is so much as keeps from despair alway, yet), if we carry a constant love towards him, mourn to him and seek after him as the church here; if the desire of our souls be after him, that we make after him in the use of means, and are willing to speak of him as the church here, feel or feel not, we are his, and he will at length discover himself to us.
Let such drooping spirits consider, that as he will not be long from us, nor wholly, so it shall not be for our disadvantage that he retires at all. His absence at length will end in a sweet discovery of himself more abundantly than before. He absents himself for our good, to make us more humble and watchful for the time to come; more pitiful to others; more to prize our former condition; to justify the ways of God more strictly; to walk with him; to regain that sweet communion which by our negligence and security we lost. when we are thus prepared by his absence, there ensues a more satisfying discovery of himself than ever before.
But when is the time that he comes? Compare this with the former chapter. He comes after long waiting for him. The church waited for him, and waited in the use of all means. She runs to the watchmen, and then inquires after him of the daughters of Jerusalem. After this she finds him. After we have waited and expected Christ in the use of means, Christ at length will discover himself to us; and yet more immediately, it was after the church had so deservedly exalted him in such lofty praises, ‘This is my beloved, the chief of ten thousand; he is altogether lovely.’ when we set our hearts to the high exaltation of Christ above all things in the world, proclaiming him ‘the chief of ten thousand,’ this at the last breeds a gracious discovery, ‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,’ for Christ when he sees us faithful, and so loving that we will not endure his absence, and so constantly loving, that we love him notwithstanding some discouragements, it melts him at the last, as Joseph was melted by his brethren.
‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’
In the words, you see a mutual interest and owning between Christ and the church. Howsoever in the order of words, the church saith, ‘I am my beloved’s’ first, yet in order of nature Christ is ours first, though not in order of discovery. There is one order of knowing, and another order of causing. Many things are known by the effect, but they issue from a cause. I know he is mine, because I am his. I have given myself to him. I know it is day, because the sun is up. There is a proof from the effect. So I know a man is alive, because he walks. There is a proof of the cause by the effect. ‘I am his;’ I have grace to give myself up to him. Therefore I know he loves me. He is mine. Thus I say in order of discovery; but in order of nature, he is first mine, and then I am his.
‘My beloved is mine, and I am my beloved’s.’
The union and communion betwixt us and Christ hath been already spoken of.
Now to speak of the branches, ‘lam my beloved’s, and my beloved is That Christ is first ours; and then we are his, because he is ours; and the wondrous comfort that issues hence—that Christ himself is ours.
How comes Christ to be ours? (1.) Christ is ours by his Father’s gift. God hath given him for us. (2.) Christ is ours by his own gift. He hath given himself for us. (3.) And Christ is ours by his Spirit that witnesseth so much to our spirits. For the Spirit is given for this purpose, to shew us all things that are given us of God, whereof Christ is the chief. Therefore the Spirit of Christ tells us that Christ is ours; and Christ being ours, all that he hath is ours.
If he be ours, if we have the field, we have all the treasures in the field. If we have him, we have all his. He was born for us; his birth was for us; he became man for us; he was given to death for us. And so likewise, he is ours in his other estate of exaltation. His rising is for our good. He will cause us to rise also, and ascend with him, and sit in heavenly places, judging the world and the angels. We recover in this second, what we lost in the first, Adam.
Use 1. This is a point of wondrous comfort to shew the’ riches of a Christian, his high estate, that Christ is his.
And Christ being ours, God the Father and the Holy Spirit and all things else in the world, the rich promises, are ours; for in Christ they are all made, and for him they shall be performed. For, indeed, he is the chief promise of all himself, and all are ‘yea and amen in him,’ 2 Cor. i. 20. Can we want righteousness, while we have Christ’s righteousness? Is not his garment large enough for himself and us, too? Is not his obedience enough for us? Shall we need to patch it up with our own righteousness? He is ours, therefore his obedience is ours.
Use 2. And this should be a ground likewise of contentation (that is, “contentment” -G.) in our condition and state whatsoever, —Christ himself is ours. In the dividing of all things, some men have wealth, honours, friends, and greatness, but not Christ, nor the love of God in Christ, and therefore they have nothing in mercy. But a Christian, he hath Christ himself. Christ is his by faith and by the Spirit’s witness. Therefore, what if he want those appendencies, (that is, “additions” -G.) the lesser things? He hath the main; what if he want a riveret, a stream? He hath the spring, the ocean; him, in whom all things are, and shall he not be content? put case a man be very covetous, yet God might satisfy him. What! should anxious thoughts disquiet us, when we have such bills, such obligations from him who is faithfulness itself? When a Christian cannot. say, honour, favour, or great persons are his, yet he can say, he hath that that is worth all, more than all; Christ is his.
Obj. Oh! may some say, this is but a speculation, —Christ is yours. A man may want and be in misery for all that.
Ans. No; it is a reality. Christ is ours, and all things else are ours. He that can command all things is mine. Why then, do I want other things? Because he sees they are not for my good. If they were, he would not withhold them from me. If there were none to be had without a miracle, no comfort, no friends, he could and would make new out of nothing, nay, out of contraries, were it not better for me to be without them.
Use 3. That you may the more fully feed on this comfort, study the excellencies of Christ in the Scripture, the riches and honour that he hath, the favour he is in with his Father, with the intercession that he makes in heaven, John xvii. Study his mercy, goodness, offices, power, &c., and then come home to yourselves, ‘All this is mine, for he is mine; the love of God is mine.’ God loves him, and therefore he loves me, because we are both one. He loves me with the same love that he loves his Son. Thus we should make use of this, that Christ is ours. I come to the second.
‘I am my beloved’s.’
This is a speech of reflection, second in nature, though first in place and in discovery to us. Sometimes we can know our own love, when we feel not so much the love of Christ, but Christ’s love must be there first ‘I am my beloved’s,’ 1 John iv 19
How are we Christ’s beloved?
1. We are his, first of all, by his Father’s gift; for God in his eternal purpose gave him for us, and gives us to him, as it is in the excellent prayer, ‘Father, thine they were, and thou gavest them me,’ John xvii. 6. I had not them of myself first, but thine they were before all worlds were. Thou gavest them me to redeem them, and my commission doth not extend beyond thy gift. I die for all those that thou gavest me. I sanctify myself for them, that they may be sanctified. So we are Christ’s in his Father’s gift. But that is not all, though it be the chief, fundamental principal ground of all.
For, 2. We are his likewise by redemption. Christ took our nature, that he might die for us, to purchase us. We cost him dear. We are a bloody spouse to Christ. As that froward woman wrongfully said to Moses, ‘Thou art a bloody husband unto me,’ Exod. iv. 25, so Christ may without wrong say to the church, ‘Thou art a spouse of blood to me.’ We were, indeed, to be his spouse, but first he must win us by conquest in regard of Satan, and then satisfy justice. We were in such debt by sin, lying under God’s wrath, so as, till all debts were paid, we could not in the way of justice be given as a spouse to Christ.
3. Nor is this all; but we are Christ’s by marriage also. For when he purchased us, and paid so dear for us, when he died and satisfied divine justice, he did it with a purpose to marry us to himself. We have nothing to bring him but debt and misery; yet he took upon him our nature to discharge all, that he might marry us, and take us to himself. So we are his by marriage.
4. Then again, we are his by consent. We have passed ourselves over unto him. He hath given himself to us, and we have given ourselves to him back again. To come to some use of it, if we be Christ’s, as Christ is ours.
Use 1. First, it is a point of wondrous comfort. God will not suffer his own to want. He is worse than an infidel that will suffer his family to perish. When we are once of Christ’s family, and not only of his family, but of his body, his spouse, can we think he will suffer us to want that which is needful?
2. Then again, as it comforts us against want, so it likewise fenceth us against all the accusations of Satan. I am Christ’s; I am Christ’s. If he have anything to say, lo! we may bid him go to Christ. If the creditor comes to the wife, she is not liable to pay her own debts, but saith, Go to my husband. So in all temptations, learn hence to send Satan whither he should be sent. When we cannot answer him, send him to Christ
3. And for the time to come, what a ground of comfort is this, that we are Christ’s, as well as he is ours. What a plea doth this put in to our mouths for all things that are beneficial to us. ‘Lord, I am thine; save me,’ saith the psalmist. Why? ‘Save me, because I am thine, I am thine; Lord, teach me and direct me,’ Ps. xxvii. 11. The husband is to direct the spouse. The head should direct all the senses. All the treasures of wisdom are in Christ, as all the senses are in the head for the good of the body. All fulness dwells in him. Therefore, plead with him, I want wisdom; teach me and instruct me how to behave myself in troubles, in dangers, in fears. If it be an argument strong enough amongst men, weak men, I am thine, I am thy child, I am thy spouse, &c, shall we attribute more pity and mercy to ourselves than to the God of mercy and comfort, who planted these affections in the creature? Shall he make men tender and careful over others, and shall not he himself be careful of his own flock? Do we think that he will neglect his jewels, his spouse, his diadem, and crown? Isa. lxii. 3. He will not.
But you will urge experience. We see how the church is used, even as a forlorn widow, as if she had no husband in the world, as an orphan that had no father. Therefore, how doth this stand good?
Ans. I. The answer is, all that the church or any particular Christian suffers in this world, it is but that there may be a conformity between the spouse and the husband. The Head wore a crown of thorns, and went to heaven and happiness through a great deal of misery and abasement in the world, the lowest that ever was. And it is not meet that the church should go to heaven another way.
Ans. 2. Then again, all this is but to fashion the spouse to be like to Christ, but to bring the church and Christ nearer together. That is all the hurt they do, to drive the church nearer to Christ than before. Christ is as near to his church as ever in the greatest afflictions, by his Spirit. Christ cries out on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. It is a strange voice, that God should be his God, and yet, notwithstanding, seem to forsake him. But God was never more his God than at that present. Indeed, he was not his God in regard of some feelings that he had enjoyed in former times. He seemed to be forsaken in regard of some sense, as Christ seems to forsake the church in regard of some sense and feeling, but yet his God still. So the church may say, I am thine still. Though she seem to be forsaken in regard of some feelings, yet she is not deserted in regard of God’s care for support of the inward man and fashioning to Christ. The church hath never sweeter communion with Christ than under the greatest crosses; and, therefore, they many times have proved the ground of the greatest comforts. For Christ leads the church into the wilderness, and then speaks to her heart, Hos. ii. 14. Christ speaks to the heart of his spouse in the wilderness, that is, in a place of no comfort. There are no orchards or pleasures, but all discomforts there. A man must have it from heaven, if he have any good in the wilderness. In that wilderness, that is, in a desolate, disconsolate estate, Christ speaks to the heart of his children. There is in the wilderness oftentimes a sweet intercourse of love, incomparably beyond the time of prosperity.
Ans. 3 Again, to stay your hearts, know this will not be long; as we see here, the church seemed to be forsaken and neglected, fell into the hands of cruel watchmen, and was fain to go through this and that means, but it was not long ere she met with him whom she sought after. It may be midnight at this time, but the night continues not long; it will be morning ere long. Therefore the church may well say, ‘Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; for though I be fallen, I shall rise again; though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me’ as it is Mic.vii.8. It shall not be always ill with the church. Those that survive us shall see other manner of days than we see yet, whatsoever we shall ourselves.
4. Hence we have also an use of trial. Whosoever are Christ’s, they have hearts to give themselves to him. As he gives himself, not his goods or his honours, but himself for his church, so the church gives herself to Christ. My delight is in him; he hath myself, my heart, my love and affection, my joy and delight, and all with myself. If I have any honour, he shall have it. I will use it for his glory. My riches I will give them to him and his church and ministry and children, as occasion shall serve. I am his, therefore all that I have is his, if he ask it at my hands. It is said of the Macedonians, they gave themselves to Christ, and then their riches and goods, 2 Cor. viii. 5. It is an easy matter to give our riches to Christ when we have given ourselves first. A Christian, as soon as ever he becomes a Christian, and ever after, to death, and in death too, he gives up himself to Christ. They that stand with Christ, and will give this or that particular, will part only with idle things that they may spare, are they Christ’s? No. A Christian gives himself and all his to Christ. So we see here what we should do if Christ be ours. Let us give up ourselves to him, as it is Rom. xii. 1. The issue of all that learned profound discourse in the former part of the epistle, that Christ justifieth us by his righteousness and merit, and sanctifies us by his Spirit, and hath predestinated and elected us, and refused others, is this, ‘I beseech you, give up your bodies and souls, and all as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.
In brief, these words imply renunciation and resignation. ‘I am his,’ that is, I have given up myself to him, therefore I renounce all others that stand not with his love and liking. I am not only his by way of service, which I owe him above all that call for it, but I am his by way of resignation. If he will have me die, I will die. If he will have me live here, I will. I have not myself to dispose of any longer. I have altogether alienated myself from myself. I am his to serve him, his to be disposed of by him. I have renounced all other.
Therefore here we have another answer to Satan, if he come to us and solicit us to sin. Let the Christian’s heart make this answer, I am not mine own. What hath Satan and his instruments to do with me? Is my body his to defile? Is my tongue his to swear at his pleasure? Shall I make the temple of God the member of an harlot? As the apostle reasons, ‘Shall I defile my vessel with sin?’ 1 Cor. vi. 15. What saith converted Ephraim? ‘What have I any more to do with idols? for I have seen and observed him?’ Hos. xiv. 8. We ought to have such resolutions ready in our hearts. Indeed, when a Christian is resolute, the world counts such to be lost. He is gone. We have lost him, say your dissolute, profane persons. It is true they have lost him indeed, for he is not his own, much less theirs, any longer. But he is found to God and himself and the church. Thus we see what springs from this, that Christ is ours, and that we are Christ’s back again. Let us carry this with us even to death; and if times should come that God should honour us by serving himself of us in our lives, if Christ will have us spend our blood, consider this, I am not mine own in life nor death, and it is my happiness that I am not my own. For if I were mine own, what should I do with myself? I should lose myself, as Adam did. It is therefore my happiness that I am not mine own, that I am not the world’s, that I am not the devil’s, that none else hath to do with me, to claim any interest in me, but I am Christ’s. If I do anything for others, it is for Christ’s sake. Remember this for the time to come. If there be anything that we will not part with for Christ’s sake, it will be our bane. We shall lose Christ and it too. If we will not say with a perfect spirit, I am his, my life, my credit, my person is his, anything his; look what we will not give for him, at length we shall lose and part with it and him too.