Tuesday 10 January 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Song of Songs

It is remarkable that the Westminster assembly held to a Christological line on The Song of Songs. It is what we expect but this fact is often overlooked. How do we know that this is the line of interpretation for that Book of Scripture? It is from the proof texts that are used to support various doctrines. Indeed we could say that the Westminster divines held a Trinitarian and Christological line for this book. Let me give you the citations in the Westminster Standards.

1:4 "Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers".

This is cited in chapter 10:1 of the Confession in relation to the doctrine of effectual calling. That is that we as hardened sinners, we are made willing to come to the Lord by the sovereign grace of God.

The Duty of Christians after the Lord's Supper (Westminster Larger Catechism, question 175).

3:4 "Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me".

I love this phrase here that says "I held him, and would not let him go". What a delightful idea and something for us to consider if it describes our own present spiritual condition and our communion with Christ Jesus.

The Perseverance of the Saints, Assurance of Grace and Salvation and the duty of Christians after the Lord's Supper

5:2 "I slept, but my heart was awake. A sound! My beloved is knocking. 'Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night'. I had put off my garment; how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them? My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, on the handles of the bolt. I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer".

It is beyond the scope of this blog post today to fully expound this text from the Song. I hope that you can see its relevance to the way it is cited. For example, with respect to the assurance of grace, there is a serious warning given in the Westminster Confession, one drawn from Scripture, of neglecting the means of grace. It states in Chapter 18:4

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers
[various] ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted [temporarily
lost]; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special
sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some
sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of
His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in
darkness and to have no light: yet are they never so utterly destitute
of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the
brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which,
by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be
revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported
from utter despair.

May we ensure that we do not neglect the means of grace appointed to be administered through the church and public worship. Namely, the preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the Sacraments and prayer.

My conclusion is that in various places that the Song of Songs was clearly believed to be understood in a spiritual sense as a portrait of the life of the believer and the church, in their union and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is compelling evidence for this line of interpretation.

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