While looking for more interesting quotes about the Song of Songs in order to update a previous blog post I found through the Lord’s providence a 550+ page commentary on the Song of Songs by Alexander Moody Stuart which contains a very interesting section wherein are shown side by side verses in Song of Songs and other Old Testament verses containing similar symbolic language. I could not resist posting this information since I hope it will help godly, serious Bible students properly look at the Song of Songs, called by Charles Spurgeon “the Holy of holies” of the Bible. That’s not a light statement. When large numbers of both Calvinists and Arminians, of both conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants, of both Baptists and pedobaptists, of both charismatics and cessationists, of both Jews and Christians, of both married and unmarried, of both evangelists and theologians, of both past* and present and of both dispensationalists and adherents to covenant theology can all agree on one same point – namely that the Song of Songs should ultimately be (in part or in whole) understood mystically or allegorically of God’s love for His chosen people – that should show you that the study and handling of this book is not unimportant. If Charles Spurgeon bothered to preach at least 60 times on verses found in Song of Songs that should tell you something.
Here’s a list of names of Baptists and Protestants I found** who espoused (in varying degrees of course) the allegorical approach to Song of Songs: Charles Spurgeon, writers of Westminster Confession of Faith, writers of 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Jonathan Edwards, Arno Gaebelein, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Arthur W. Pink, John Owen, John Trapp, Henry Law, J. C. Ryle, A. W. Tozer, Patrick Fairbairn, Thomas Watson, Louis Gaussen, E. W. Hengstenberg, Thomas Adams, Charles Hodge, J. A. Alexander, John Newton, Horatius Bonar, Henry Ainsworth, Philip Doddridge, Alexander Moody Stuart, Charles Bridges, Heinrich Bullinger, J. A. Wylie, Thomas Manton, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Boston, Jeremiah Burroughs, William Kelly, Richard Baxter, John Wesley, John Gill, Thomas Scott, Christopher Wordsworth, Joseph Benson, G. Campbell Morgan, Charles Simeon, Joseph Angus, C. I. Scofield, Albert Barnes, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary, writers of Geneva Bible notes, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Halley’s Bible handbook, J. Sidlow Baxter, Harry Ironside, Hudson Taylor, E. M. Bounds, George Whitefield, Isaac Watts, Paul Washer, Leonard Ravenhill, Robert Murray McCheyne, James Durham, Theodore Beza, Pierre Jurieu, Ruben Saillens, F. W. Krummacher, Robert Haldane, Pierre Dumoulin, Adolphe Monod, David Wilkerson, Jean Daillé, Samuel Rutherford, Benjamin Keach, Don Fortner and Wilhelmus à Brakel. Impressive collection of names, right? Bible commentators, theologians, evangelists, pastors, missionaries and hymn writers. Either what they had to say concerning the allegorical approach to the book was of “the voice of the Spirit” or they are all simultaneously wrong and we should just consider the Bible as 65 books about Christ plus one book written by a polygamous king supposedly in order to give advice about human monogamous marriage and sexuality. In that case we might as well just listen to Mark Driscoll’s strictly literal, sexually-charged take on the book rather than look at what the previously mentioned godly men had to say about it. Who would you rather have to preach to you? Charles Spurgeon or Mark Driscoll? Who would you rather have to teach theology to you? Jonathan Edwards or Mark Driscoll? Who would you rather have to exhort you to holiness and piety? J. C. Ryle or Mark Driscoll? I think I’ll trust Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards and J. C. Ryle over Mark Driscoll concerning the proper interpretation of Song of Songs. You shall know them by their fruits.
* since early days of Christianity… many early Church writers could be mentioned (e.g. Augustine, Jerome, Theodoret)
** I’m sure if I digged harder I could uncover more (e.g. more of the Puritans?, George Muller?, other Reformers?, other hymn writers?, other evangelists?)
If one thinks that the language used in Song of Solomon is inappropriate for describing allegorically the relationship between Christ and the Church (elect from all eras) then may I suggest they read Ezekiel chapter 16 which uses similar language? Who is to judge what language is “inappropriate” for the Bible? By what absolute standard can we judge the Word of God? It’s God’s Word that judges us and illuminates us.
I will now quote from Alexander Moody’s Stuart book. These paragraphs are taken from the chapter titled “THE SONG OF SONGS – THE CENTRE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES” (pages 45 to 52 of the book):
THE main difficulty with many, as regards both the inspiration of the Song of Solomon and its spiritual meaning, arises from the circumstance of there being no express quotation from it in the pages of the New Testament, whatever allusions there may be to its language and its imagery. But this want is amply supplied by the central place which the Song occupies in the Old Testament.
If the Song of Solomon were abstracted from the Bible of the Hebrews, the volume would fall in pieces; each portion would retain its own inherent value, but the unity of the book as a whole would be dissolved. In the noble arch of the Old Testament Scriptures, if the Books of Moses form the foundation on which all the structure rests, the Song of Songs is the keystone. It is indeed the beautiful apex of the whole, the crown on which the builder has lavished the most skilful profusion of curious tracery and ornament, leaving the rest comparatively unadorned, especially as it descends toward the base on either side. Yet this headstone, so exquisitely wrought, is no mere decoration that may be broken off without further injury to the structure, than marring its symmetry and defacing its beauty. The loss of any other poetic or prophetic portion of these Scriptures, however great in itself, would not remarkably affect the parts that remain, but would leave a blank to be regretted chiefly for its own sake. But the crowning block of marble, whose surface is so richly adorned with pictorial carving, is the keystone of the arch, by the removal of which the whole will tumble into disjointed fragments.
These paragraphs are taken from the chapter titled “THE SONG OF SONGS WITH OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCES” (pages 53 to 66 of the book) :
HAVING considered the place which the Song of Solomon occupies in the Old Testament, it may be useful to compare it throughout with corresponding passages in the other books. This will serve to show how closely it is interwoven with the other words of the Holy Ghost, employed by preceding or following writers, and how sanctified its language, even where its first aspect is merely natural.
The Spirit of God, in anointing men to utter his mind, ever so imbues them with his thoughts already revealed, as to create a marked agreement in all the words of inspiration, passing through whatever lips. Isaiah, the next to Solomon among the prophets of Judah, is the most remarkable for kindred thoughts. The literal outward affinity, between the Song of Solomon and the Prophecies of Isaiah in our Bibles, is scarcely closer than the mental and spiritual affinity between the two inspired writers. In the earlier and the latter portions of Isaiah, there is scarcely a page without reference, more or less direct, to the Song of Solomon. Their utterances, however, are often in the way of contrast; and the whole of the fifty-third of Isaiah appears to be the inspired outburst of a full heart, that had been deeply meditating on the beauty of Immanuel, as portrayed in the fifth chapter of the Song of Solomon: ‘ My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand, yea altogether lovely: (yet) who hath believed our report ? for he hath no form, nor comeliness, and no beauty that we should desire him.’ ’
In the following references, some are marked with an asterisk as contrasts and not parallels, but not the less designed on that account ; while others are merely kindred or illustrative expressions, without any direct allusion. One or two of the texts are from the New Testament, but of an Old Testament character.
Here are a few screen captures of pages from the same chapter which made me “salivate” as a Bible student: