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Christ is the Spouse of the Soul

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

“I WILL betroth thee unto Me forever” (Hos. ii. 19), says Christ to the faithful soul. Christ desired to be present at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (John ii. 2), so as to show us that He had come to the earth to celebrate His spiritual nuptials with believing souls. Rejoice greatly in the Lord and be joyful in thy God, O faithful soul, for He hath clothed thee with the garments of salvation, He hath covered thee with the robe of righteousness, as a bride adorneth herself with jewels (Is. lxi. 2). Rejoice because of the distinguished honor of thy Spouse; rejoice because of the surpassing beauty of thy Spouse; rejoice because of His marvelous love toward thee. His honor is the very greatest, for He is true God, blessed forever (Rom. ix. 5). How great then is the dignity and worth of the soul, since the Creator Himself wishes to espouse it to Himself! His beauty is the very greatest; for His form is fairer than the children of men (Ps. xiv. 2); since they “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father” (John i. 14); “His face did shine as the sun” (Matt. xvii. 2); “and His raiment was white as snow” (Mark ix. 3); “grace is poured into His lips” (Ps. xiv. 3); “He is crowned with glory and honor” (Ps. viii. 6). How wonderful then His mercy, that, though He is the perfection of beauty, He does not disdain to choose for His spiritual bride the soul of the sinner, all stained and defiled with sin though it be. Here is the height of majesty in the Bridegroom and the depth of lowliness in the bride; surpassing beauty in the Bridegroom, forbidding deformity in the bride; and yet greater is the Bridegroom’s love towards His bride than hers towards her most majestic and most beautiful Spouse.

Consider, O faithful soul, His immeasurable love towards thee! A love that brought Him from heaven to earth; a love that bound Him to the post to be scourged; a love that nailed Him to the cross; a love that enclosed Him in the sepulcher; a love that dragged Him down to hell! What led Him to suffer all this, but a tender love for His spouse? And our hearts must be harder than stone and lead if such mighty love as this does not draw them upwards to God, from whom it first drew God Himself down to men. The bride was naked and bare (Ez. xvi. 22); nor could she thus appear in the royal palace of the heavenly King; but He clothed her with the garments of salvation, and covered her with the robe of righteousness (Is. lxi. 10). When she lay wrapped in the filthy garments of her sins and in the shameful rags of her iniquities, He gave me linen, clean and white, in which she might clothe herself; for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints (Rev. xix. 8). This garment is the righteousness of her Spouse, procured by His death and passion.

Jacob served fourteen years to win Rachel for his wife; but Christ for nearly thirty years endured hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, ignominy, reproaches, bonds, the scourge, the vinegar and gall, and the awful death of the cross, that He might prepare for Himself and win as His bride the believing soul. Samson went down and sought a wife from among the Philistines, a people devoted to destruction (Judges xiv. 3), but the Son of God came down from heaven to choose His bride from among men condemned and devoted to eternal death. The whole race to which the bride belonged was hostile to the heavenly Father, but He reconciled it to His Father by His most bitter passion. The bride was polluted in her own blood (Ez. xvi. 22), and was cast out upon the face of the earth; but He washed her in the water of baptism, and cleansed her in the most holy laver of regeneration (Eph. v. 26); her bloody stains He cleansed with His own blood, for the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin (1 John i. 7). Foul and defiled was His bride, but He anointed her with the oil of His mercy and grace (Ez. xvi. 9). She was not honorably attired as His spouse, but He decked her with ornaments (Ez. xvi. 11), and adorned her with the varied virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. She was wretchedly poor, so that she could bring Him no dower, so He mercifully gave her the earnest of His Spirit (Eph. i. 14), and accepted from her the earnest of her flesh, and carried it with Him into heaven. He found His bride famishing with hunger, and He gave her to eat fine wheat and honey and oil (Ez. xvi. 19), and with His own body and blood He continues to feed her unto eternal life. She is often disobedient and unfaithful to her marriage vow to Christ, her heavenly Bridegroom, in her unholy alliance with the world and the devil, but He, out of His abundant love, receives her again whenever she returns to Him in true penitence.

Acknowledge, O faithful soul, these many marvelous instances of Christ’s love to thee; cherish thou the love of Him, who for love of thee entered the virgin’s womb. We ought to love Him as much more than we love ourselves, as He who gave Himself for us is greater than we. We ought to yield our whole life unto Him, who for love of us yielded Himself up wholly unto us. He who does not love the Christ who first loved him, must be deservedly held as basely ungrateful. O how much we ought to love Him who for pure love of us laid aside, as it were, His divine majesty! O happy soul, that is united to Christ by the bonds of this spiritual marriage! Thou mayst securely and confidently appropriate to thyself all the benefits of Christ’s redemption, just as a wife shines resplendently in the glory that belongs to her husband.

It is by faith alone that we are made partakers of this blessed spiritual union, as it is written, “I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness” (Hos. ii. 19). By faith we are engrafted as branches into Christ, the spiritual vine (John xv. 2), so that we derive all our life and strength from Him; and as those united in marriage are no longer twain but one flesh (Matt. xix. 6), so “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. vi. 17), because Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. iii. 17). Faith, if it is genuine, worketh by love (Gal. v. 6). Just as the high priests, in the old economy, were obliged to marry virgins, so this heavenly High Priest unites to Himself in spiritual union such souls as keep themselves pure and unspotted from the embraces of the world and the flesh and the devil. O Christ, do Thou graciously make us worthy to be admitted finally to the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. xix. 7). Amen.

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