Of Mr. John Hunt’s open disparagement’s of the love of Christ.

Next to what I have said in Vindicating of the Excellency of the Person of Christ, I must proceed to vindicate the Excellency of the Love of Christ from some disparaging reflections cast upon that endearing Attribute of God, as exerted towards us in, Ezek.16:8, by, and through the Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ. Two passages more especially of this kind I blame, as obnoxious in the treatise, which I must bring under correction. The first is, that there is almost no love lost between Christ and his Spouse. The second is this, if thou prayest &c., thou mayest be dear to Christ. I begin with the first of these.

Take his words as they lie together, in the comparison of loves between Christ and the Spouse, and they are these. “In this Song of Songs we have, saith he, an account of the dear love Christ bears to his spouse; how fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse? Thou hast ravished my heart, &c., and in this we have an account of the inward breathing of the spouse after her Beloved; and I had almost said there is no Love lost between Christ and his Spouse; for you will find both as it were striving, as to who shall express their love to the highest strains. I grant indeed that the saints love to Christ is not commensurate to the love Christ bears to them, yet in some things there is a dark resemblance.” Almost all good, but one passage spoils all, and ‘twas too gross to mend it.

Observe that when he had almost choked himself, he is fain in eating his words, to mince them smaller, he would persuade us out of our wits, to construe his “I had almost said there’s no love lost between Christ and his spouse,” and his both striving as to who shall express their love in the highest strains, to be only thus, in English; that in some things there is a dark resemblance. As if a dark resemblance had warranted him to run it up thus, till he had almost driven and fixed it into an impious, open comparison. I shall prove that he hath run it up so far, as to carry it into an open disparagement of the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ. This may be laid open two ways; the one is by some other passages in his own inconsistent book, James 3:11, and the other by arguing from the vehemency of the Love of Christ Himself, and his Superlative Affection towards the Spouse, with the Mystery of that Love.

1. It is a contradiction to the title of his book, which he hath branched out into these encomiums or commendations of Christ; a discourse concerning the Glory and Excellency of the Person of Christ; also, Christ the Most Excellent, or the Glory of Christ Unveiled, as his words are, and these are the titles of his book. But now does not he presently, at one of the first strokes, make them flattering titles? For, if in the Title-page, and all through the leaves above he meant thus of Christ in good earnest {as I hope he did} alas! How doth this ‘almost’ blasphemy, {“I had almost said there is no love lost between Christ and his spouse,”} of a sudden, change them into flattering titles! To say, suppose of a person, the most excellent, who is not so, is flattering; or, as we may say a complement, in complying with the persons expectations of being called what indeed belongeth not to him. Again, to say of Christ who is so, Christ the most Excellent, and yet in one of the first breaths depart from it, so as in point of love to bring in another person, Psal.73:25, and write over both their heads, “I had almost said there is no love lost between them;” is to flatter, if you speak of the Excellency of the Person of Christ, in point of his Love. Besides, it must argue very great inconstancy, levity of thought, lack of judgment, and strange forgetfulness, Isa.17:10, to bring in a piece of nonsense so soon! Is the title too, in every leaf, the Glory of Christ Unveiled? And doth he take it to be an unveiling of Christ’s glory, to go and take off the veil of the spouse, and put her openly to the blush? ‘Tis said of Rebekah, when she saw Isaac, she “took a veil, and covered herself,” Gen.24:65, and sure, if this man had seen it was her Lord and Bridegroom, even the Lord from Heaven, I Cor.15:47, coming forth to meet her, he would have taken a veil in some agreeableness to the spouse’s own behavior in this Song, Song.5:7, and have covered the Church’s face with a more modest expression. The seraphims or glorious angels, called seraphims from their burning love to Christ, Psal.104.4, had fixed wings in that Vision, and yet with Twain each one covered his face, Isa.6:2, as unable to look into the Glorious Mystery of his “Incarnation, whilst the Son of God was so gloriously represented there, filling the Temple of his Human Nature with Divine Glory, when the Fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him Bodily.”1

It is an Inconsistence and Contradiction to this book, in some overthrowing passages of the same. As, 1., it is inconsistent with the honesty of phrase in his saying, “I had almost said,” what I have believed to be a truth of the Gospel. {“I believed, and therefore have I spoken,” II Cor.4:13, not I believed, and therefore have I almost spoken.} For, if no truth, then it was too much almost to say it; if a truth believed, it was too little to have said it but almost. Almost? Why not altogether, if it was put into his message? And if not put into his message, it was the bolder stroke in the messenger to bring it along with his credentials. And then, 2., it is but a little farther that he takes the liberty of contradiction to himself by an open argument, and the argument he gives us, why the words of his text, “I am the Rose of Sharon,” cannot be understood of the Bride, or Church in this Song; “which, says he, will appear, if we consider the person here speaking speaketh in self-commendation. Now though Christ may without pride or presumption speak in his own praise; yet it no ways becomes a Saint to be the trumpeter of his own praise, Prov.27:2, let another praise thee, and not thy own mouth.” Well, be it so, and let us abide by this rule; that what is his, {“I had almost said, there is no love lost between Christ and the spouse,”} but blowing the trumpet of her praise, almost as high as the blast can carry it? So that he speaks as one that is faulty, II Sam.14:13, is it not almost saying what he is arguing against, to wit, that she herself is the Rose of Sharon? Now why doth our author trumpet his own praise? Could he not let another have praised him as he argues, II Cor.10:18; Rom.2:29, and not his own mouth? For virtually he has praised himself, in surplus saying, “there is no love lost between Christ and his spouse.” The construction will hold the praise of himself, “I had almost said, there is no love lost between Christ and me;” for, if the author be a Saint indeed and a member of that Body which is the Bride of Christ, or Spouse, he may then, within the bounds of his proportion, say it almost of himself, as well as almost of her. Every Saint may put in with the Spouse of Christ, putting in what is truth; because every saint helps to make her up a complete spouse, Eph.1:23, who, being so completed, is the Mystical Body of Christ; and then be sure, what she may not do for herself, no member of her ought to do for her. It’s an open disparagement therefore he useth, a mere reflection, which he has unwittingly cast upon our Lord Christ! And I make no doubt of it but ‘tis so, if we argue it under the form of his own consideration, that it no ways becomes a saint to be the trumpeter of his own praise. 3. Lastly, he has contradicted himself in as plain words as he could almost express, when he was gone 60 pages off, quite out of his memory, and had forgotten his old blast of his trumpet. “For, says he, it would be no small disparagement to Christ for us once to suppose, there can be as much in the work of his hands, as in himself.” And pray let him only tell us whether he does not suppose Christ’s Spouse to be the work of Christ’s hands? And then, whether it be not quite a contradiction, II Cor.1:19, almost to say that “there is no love lost between Christ and his spouse?” And, whether it be not a gross inconsistence for the work of his hands, the vessel, to strive with the Potter who shall love one another most, the Potter the clay, or the clay the Potter? And yet his words concerning Christ and the Spouse are, “both as it were striving as to who shall express their love in the brightest strains.” “But now, O LORD, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” {Isa.64:8}

And now let me more directly exalt the Lord Jesus, in the Matter of his Love, as it is superlative, and infinitely beyond all strains and strivings in the spouse. And I question not, but it will appear so to all those saints, who by reason of use as the Apostle says, “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” Heb.5:14; and that as the Love of Christ is in other parts of the Scripture, it will hold to be the same, in the Song of Solomon, transcendently great beyond the spouse’s love to him. Consequently, this bold-faced untruth of our author will be found to be an open disparagement of Christ. I will labor to do it briefly, for it is a copious argument.

First Argument: Christ can command his own Love to his spouse. “The LORD will command his loving-kindness in the daytime.” {Psal.42:8} And did he not command his loving kindness in the daytime in this Song? To make her so many kind visits; to bestow on her so many costly and enduring tokens of his love; to put so much beauty on her; and then commend her by setting her out from top to toe? What Power had he over his Love, that he would not be overcome by her unkind usage thereof! “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” {I Jn.4:10} Wet in his locks at midnight; Song.5:2, praying solitarily for her on the mountains of the deserts, when she was snoring in her bed! Knocking at her door to be entertained, and yet she in her self-love-ease pleads, Song.5:3, the putting off of her coat! How should she put it on? The washing of her feet, how should she defile them, by stepping off her lazy beds side? And so her Lord was turned off to go seek his lodging in another place; and notwithstanding all this disobedience of the spouse by night on her bed, yet the Lord will command his loving kindness in the day time! Psal.42:8. He will be found of her upon her first convictions of the fault, and her early seeking him in the streets! He will overcome the affront, put it up, and put it off with power! He has power over his own displeasure, and can still command his own love, in the out-goings, Song.6:4, &c., of his heart to her! Whereas, on the contrary, the Spouse of Christ hath no commanding power of her love, but whensoever she acts graciously, and loves the Lord Jesus, ‘tis by constraints of his over-ruling Influence. Hereby she loveth much, Lk.7:47, for “the love of Christ constraineth us,” II Cor.5:14, but what comparison now can be made between commanding Love and a Love that must be constrained? The Church loves Christ by Dependence, but Christ loves the Church by Supreme Commanding of his own love for her; and yet our author hath put in a bold and blind stroke, as if Christ and the Spouse stood almost upon equal grounds, and had Power in Grace almost alike in loving.

Second Argument: Christ can secure, establish and lengthen out his own Love unto the spouse, through the Vehemency and Superlative Affection he beareth unto her. “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” {Jn.13:1} Whereas she, the Spouse of Christ, cannot secure, II Cor.3:5, establish or preserve her own love to him, but relies upon her Maker’s Good Pleasure, who is her Husband. “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.” {Isa.54:5} “And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the LORD.” {Hos.2:19-20} “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love,” Jn.15:9, your duty is continuance in my love, but your strength must be my Spirit for it, as appears thus by expounding it in John 15:6, last words, “for without me ye can do nothing.” Then, if without Christ the Spouse cannot love Christ, we may be confident, that the utmost flowings out of her borrowed love through the Book of Canticles, being but the rays and sun-beam reflections of his own communicated love unto her, I Cor.4:7, ought not to be represented by an almost saying, that there is no love lost between Christ and his Spouse, and a quite saying, that you will find both as it were striving who shall express their love in the highest strains. For, between that Love that secures love, and that love that is secured by it, there is no almost-comparison, Job 40:4-5, no as it were both striving alike. There is but one highest strain, and that is of Christ’s side. It is a contradiction in terms to say two superlative degrees in one matter; two highest strains in love. Now, if the Church’s strain be as he hath laid it, the highest strain, he hath laid his measures despairingly enough, according to the rules of comparison. What! Make the Church’s strain of love, because of her striving for the highest strain, higher than Christ’s strain of love! Oh; the wretched strains that are set out in this authors, Rom.12:6, striving to go beside the rule!

Third Argument: Christ’s love of the Spouse is as God’s love; “I and my Father are one,” Jn.10:30; one in Love, as well as one in Essence and Being. Whatsoever is said of God’s Love in the Person of the Father, proper to the Father, is said also of God’s Love in the Person of the Son, proper to the Son. Now in the Person of the Father, thus it is said of God’s Love, “herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” I Jn.4:10. I, {you’ll say, ‘tis true,} we loved not God at all before he sent his Son; but yet may we not almost compare the spouse’s Love to God’s, after she is a spouse to Christ’s? No; for, has she done anything in her love comparable to God’s Love in sending his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins? No, no; again, what is it that is said of God’s Love in the Person of the Son, the Bridegroom, who is the Husband of the Spouse? Why, that Christ’s Love of the Spouse rises up into a Comparison with God’s Love of Christ, “as the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love,” Jn.15:9, that is, as the Father hath loved me in the Everlasting Union, and loved you with an Everlasting Love, Jer.31:3, in the Everlasting Relation unto Me, so have I loved you. Thus Christ’s loving the Spouse will compare with God’s loving Christ, and with God’s loving her too in a relation unto him, “as the Father hath loved me,” ‘me,’ as Christ, ‘me’ as the first Image of God, above all his other works. This is a high and very Glorious Mystery! I would speak something of it, as I, a poor worm, am enabled! And what am I able to say thereof, any further than led into it, Rom.8:14, by God the Spirit from the Father and Christ! The Comforter, Jn.16:7, being come unto me through Him who is gone unto the Father, Jn.14:12, and He also, as it hath pleased Him, hath brought me by his Grace, out of Darkness into some of this Marvelous Light. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” {Col.1:13} “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” {I Pet.2:9}

1 John Owen, “Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ, God and Man,” 1679, pg.29.