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The Church as the Bride and Sister of Christ

The Church as the Bride and Sister of Christ

One of the very first books ever issued by the Banner of Truth was the commentary on the Song of Solomon by George Burrowes. It was Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who recommended this book and wrote the foreword. There, he stated that this book was “one of the most exquisite expositions of the relationship between the believer and his Lord.”

Unfortunately, this book has gone out of print and is not easily found without paying a bit more than I would like. But, some time ago, I did find a fairly inexpensive, ex-library copy without the dust jacket. I always like having the dust jacket, but don’t really want to pay $20 more for the pleasure.

I have been reading this commentary like a devotional, starting at the beginning and reading straight through, rather than the way I usually do commentaries, by reading here or there as needed. I feel like this is necessary for a commentary on Song of Solomon because it is such a different kind of literature than most of us are used to. This is especially true in these days of the crass consumerism and blatant sensuality that masquerade as “worship.”

This morning, in reading Burrowes’ comments on Chapter 4, verse 9, I was particularly impressed – so much so, that I decided to write this article in order to share his insights with anyone else who might be interested. I found the last paragraph to be especially good in summing up the idea of Christ’s love for his people.

Thou has ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. – Song of Solomon 4:9

The idea is, that even a partial glimpse of the beauties and ornaments of the bride had so filled the heart of the beloved with intense affection, as to unheart, unman him…

We imagine the appellation of ‘sister’ is here used for expressing more perfectly than ‘spouse’ alone would do, the relation of Jesus and his people. Language can at best give us only a very imperfect expression of spiritual and heavenly things. Hence the necessity for multiplying types, illustrations, and epithets in the Scriptures.

The union between Christ and his people is one combining the purest and noblest characteristics of both the unions just mentioned, separated from everything earthly and sensual, having the ardour of affection and the oneness of the marriage relation, with the purity and sacredness of a brother’s and sister’s love. This is a distinction of very great importance for understanding rightly the Song.

Many pitiable interpretations put by excellent men on some passages show the necessity there was for closing the door against those unfortunate misapprehensions which this single word ‘sister’ thus introduced and thus repeated, was intended to prevent.

…he seems to use this language as the best mode of setting forth the delight had in her beauty. The heart was ravished by merely a partial view of her loveliness…

From this we may understand with what a heart-warm welcome Jesus will gather us to his bosom, when we withdraw to meet him at the throne of grace. In coming to the mercy-seat we are apt to draw near rather with a feeling that our Lord permits it, than with the impression he is deeply anxious to receive us and meet us with delight. Through lingering unbelief, the sense of unworthiness makes us think he can hardly rejoice to meet us. But, ‘Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways.’ (Isaiah 46:5). Our besetting sin, the desire for merit, makes us hesitate. Jesus will love us no better in heaven than he loves us now. Merit in us, personal excellence, has nothing to do with his love. This will be no stronger towards us when invested with the spiritual body in glory than it is at present, amid our infirmities and imperfect sanctifications. The spring and strength of his affection is entirely apart from us and independent of anything like goodness in ourselves. His love cannot know increase or diminution. He cannot welcome us with any stronger affection to heaven than that with which he now welcomes us to the throne of grace. The words of this verse are but another mode of expressing the greatness of the love of Christ, and his readiness to receive us, as a motive for our coming with ‘boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16).