Chapter 5 The Lover Of My Soul

O Thou whom my soul loveth (Song of Solomon 1:7).

“Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” So wrote the Apostle Paul in the best-known love chapter in the Scriptures. It is difficult to define love. We may describe it and delight in it, but find it difficult to define. Charity was the ancient word for love and was so when the King James Version was written in A.D. 1611. But charity has now become a synonym for almsgiving, so we use the word love in place of charity.

Faith is vital to Christian experience, and hope is necessary to our comfort. But faith and hope are vanities of the mind unless there is love for the Lord Himself. The bride-elect in this song of love has, at this point, lost something of the sensible presence of her Bridegroom-Lover, and her heart cries out for a new discovery of Him. In a previous verse she has confessed the neglect of her own vineyard. This often happens when we are taken up with men, or contest for the peculiar doctrines of men, or fight for the cause of men. Then, lo, we sadly discover loss in that close and intimate relationship with our Lord into which His love has brought us. “My own vineyard have I not kept.”

Her Singular Esteem of Him

“O Thou!” We have come to days when it has become common to address the Lord by the plural “You.” There is more than a grammatical nicety, however, to the elect bride’s cry for a new manifestation and expression of her Bridegroom-Lover’s love. She may have been somewhat neglectful, but she has no doubt about whom she loves. There is no need for her to mention His name. He stands alone—”O Thou!” “You” is a plural word, but this bride has not two lovers. She is not a harlot whose door is open to many lovers. Her heart’s affections are wrapped around One only. The streams of her affections flow only in one direction and toward one object—one glorious Person. There is no rival.

But is this true of us? There is a great deal of sentimentalism abroad today, and with it a vicious criticism of those who love the Lord Jesus supremely to the seeming neglect of those near and dear after the flesh. But, says our Lord, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37-38). The history of the Church is replete with martyrs who laid down their lives for the Lord’s sake though it meant parting with all loved ones. There could be no rival to challenge their love of Him.

I recall my own mother saying to me when the Lord was directing me to China: “Could you not serve the Lord here in the homeland?” No! I recall another missionary friend whose mother said to her: “If you go to China, it will be over my dead body.” And it happened that way! There must be no competitor to the soul’s devotion to the Saviour.

Her Confession of Love to Him

“O Thou whom my soul loveth.” “Loveth” is in the present tense. She does not say she loved Him ten years ago, or that she will love Him ten years hence. She loves Him in this present. Here was unfeigned and sincere affection toward Him. There may have been some withdrawal of His sensible presence from her because of her weakness in performing works, or defending the doctrines of men. She may have been a little weakened in her spiritual affections by some temporary lapse, yet she could put her hand upon her heart and say with Peter, “Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:17).

What a heart-rending cry this is—“O Thou whom my soul loveth.” She desires Him with all her heart. She can go no further without some new expression of His nearness and communion. She cares not how He chooses to come to her, but she will make this her plea until she comes into the full enjoyment of His presence again.

And can we go on without some real manifestation of His love and grace? We may say we cannot. But do we pant for Him like this? Here in this bride-elect we feel something of the vehemence of desire. How much her heart was set upon her Wellbeloved! How eagerly she desired His coming to her in the way of manifestation! Then let this cry be our cry—that He would come and break into our lives afresh, somehow, with His grace and love, and fully satisfy the deep longings of our souls.

Jesus, Thou Joy of loving hearts,
Thou Fount of life, Thou Light of men,
From the best bliss that earth imparts,
We turn unfilled to Thee again.

We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the Fountain Head,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill!

Our eager spirits yearn for Thee,
Where’er our changeful lot is cast;
Glad since Thy gracious smile we see,
Blest, when our faith can hold Thee fast.

Bernard of Clairvaux