OF THE BOOK OF
cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if
a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would
utterly be contemned.
these words are some further commendations of love, which,
I. Is represented as inextinguishable and insuperable; many “waters cannot quench it, neither can the floods drown it.”
II. As exceeding valuable and inestimable; “if a man would give all the substance of his house for it, it would utterly be contemned:” Which may be understood, either of Christ's love to his church, or of the church's love to Christ; for as these words stand connected with the former, and are spoken by the same person, they must be interpreted the same way; and I shall first consider them as they may be expressive of the excellency of Christ's love: which,
I. Is inextinguishable and insuperable; it cannot be quenched by many waters; nor drowned by all the floods,
1st, Of sin and corruption, which have overflowed all human nature; for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God:” sin, like a mighty torrent, or rather inundation, has entered into the world, and brought death along with it, upon all the posterity of Adam; it has drowned them in destruction and perdition, as all hurtful and foolish lusts do. Now the elect of God themselves are not exempted from this universal deluge; but though these waters of sin have come into their souls and overrun all the powers and faculties thereof; yet they have not extinguished Christ's love towards them; nor in the least alienated his affections from them it is true, when he first loved them, he saw them in all that glory and perfection, which his Father designed to bring them to, and which they will appear in, in another world; yet when the great council was held concerning their redemption, they were presented to him as plunged into the depths of sin and misery; which was so far from setting his heart against them, that it rather moved his pity and compassion for them, and gave him an opportunity of showing the exceeding greatness of his love towards them; for upon this, he readily and cheerfully became their surety, engaged to assume their nature, lay down his life for them, and thereby satisfy law and justice in their room and stead; all which agreements were to a tittle made good by him, in the fullness of time, for all the elect of God, notwithstanding their after-fall in Adam, and their actual rebellion against him, as they appeared upon the stage of the world; nay, though their innumerable evils compassed him about like floods of water, and brought death and the curse upon him; these being imputed to him, and laid upon him by his Father; and with which, standing charged by divine justice, he suffered to the uttermost that they deserved; yet his love continued the same towards his people; for, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end,” (John 13:1). For,
2dly, By these “waters and floods,” may be meant the several afflictions and sufferings which Christ underwent for the sins of his own people; by which they are expressed (Ps. 69:1, 2), where Christ is introduced thus speaking, “Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul; I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.” Hence it is, that his sufferings are called a baptism, in Luke 12:50, under which may be comprehended these following things: 1. “The floods of ungodly men,” which compassed him about; some of whom reviled him, others spit upon him, others buffeted him, others crucified him, and pierced his hands, feet and side; yet his love to his people remained firm and unconquerable: nay, though the whole infernal posse of devils was let loose upon him, and exercised all their rage and cunning; yet as neither “life nor death,” that is, all his sufferings, both in life and death, could separate his people from his love; so neither could angels, wicked angels, nor “principalities and powers.” 2. Floods of reproaches were poured into his bosom on the account of his birth, parentage, and education, his public ministry, the miracles which he wrought, and the free courteous, and affable conversation, he used with sinners: He was spit upon in Pilate's hall, and mocked at when upon the cross, in the utmost misery; yet he bore all this “contradiction of sinners against himself,” with an uncommon patience; despising all the shame that attended these reproaches, for the “joy that was set before him,” of having all his people with him in glory. 3. The vials of his Father's wrath were also poured forth upon him; for though, as God's Son, he was always the object of his love, yet, as the sinners surety, suffering in their room and stead, he was “cast off and abhorred;” for God was wroth with his anointed or Messiah; “terrors took hold on him as waters;” when only some few drops of divine wrath fell upon him, he “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; his soul became exceeding sorrowful unto death; his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground;” then was it that “the waters began to come into his soul,” which kept flowing in until the measure was quite filled up; yet all these waters and floods could not quench nor drown his love towards his people; his affections to them, as well as his regard to his Father's will in their salvation, continued the same; as appears from those words of his to his Father, in the midst of his agony, “not my will, but thine be done.” 4. All the sorrows and sufferings of Christ, from his cradle to his cross, may be included herein; for his whole life was one continued series of suffering, which ended in an accursed and ignominious death, to which he voluntarily submitted; that so his people might be set free by justice, and delivered from death and condemnation.
3dly, As the love of Christ cannot be extinguished and overcome by all the waters and all the floods of sin and corruption in them, nor by all the sorrows and sufferings which he has underwent in his own person for their sins; so neither can it, by all their water-floods and billows of sufferings and afflictions which pass over his members; these indeed make them appear mean and abject in the eye of the world, and render them the object of their scorn and contempt: yet nevertheless, though the sun of persecution has looked upon them, and made them black, they are comely in Christ's eye; his heart is not set against them, nor his love alienated from them upon that account; for when they “pass through such waters,” he will be with them; nay, he chooses, approves of, and delights in them, when “in the furnace of affliction,” and will purify them thereby; so that though they “have lain among the pots,” and are become black and sooty; yet they “shall be as the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold,” (Ps. 68:13).
II. This love of Christ to his church is also exceeding valuable and inestimable; “if a man would give all the substance of his house for it, it would utterly be contemned.” For; 1. This is not to be procured by money, if any should offer to purchase the favor of Christ at any such rate, he would be treated with the utmost contempt, as Simon Magus was by the apostles, of whom he would have bought the gift of the Holy Ghost with money; to whom Peter said (Acts 8:18-20), “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money:” Christ and his love are of greater value, than to be obtained in such a manner; for not only the substance of a single person's house, but even the riches of the whole world, and the most precious things in nature, are not equal to them (see Job 28:12, 13, 15-19; Prov. 8:11, 19). 2. Riches will not entitle men to the love and favor of Christ; he does not regard them on the account of these; though perhaps too many, like Haman, are apt to say (Esther 6:6), “to whom would the king delight to do honor, more than to myself?” and so “trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches,” to a neglect of divine Providence, and concern about their immortal souls; such would do well to consider, that “not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the poor of this world,” whom it hath pleased him that the gospel should be preached unto. 3. Riches will not procure Christ's love, favor and regard, neither at the hour of death, nor in the day of judgment: when “he takes thee away with his stroke,” that is, of death, then “a great ransom cannot deliver thee;” all thy bags of money will not buy off thy life one hour, much less secure his favor to eternity; for, “Will he esteem thy riches? no, nor gold, nor all the forces of strength,” (Job 36:19, 20), which will be much the same case at the day of judgment; for the righteous judge, who will then sit upon the bench, will not be bribed, nor can his favor be procured by any such methods: “riches profit not in the day of wrath;” for if a man “gain the whole world, and lose his own soul,” there will be no recovering it; for nothing will be given, nor will be taken “in exchange for it.” 4. Therefore the love and favor of Christ should be preferred by us to all temporal enjoyments; for if his “loving-kindness is better than life,” then it is better than all the temporal comforts and enjoyments of it: we should not covet to have our portion here, nor boast ourselves of our wisdom, strength, or riches; but “glory in this,” that we know the Lord, who “exerciseth loving-kindness in the earth.” Thus much may suffice for the first sense of the words. I shall now proceed to consider them as they may be expressive of the church's love to Christ; which also is,
First, Inextinguishable and insuperable; it cannot be quenched nor drowned by many waters, nor all the floods, 1. Of wicked and ungodly men; the people and nations of the world, who are frequently compared to many waters (see Isa. 17:12, 13; Rev. 17:1, 15), and so most of the Jewish  writers understand them here: for the nations of the world, and the great men thereof, have not been able, either by force or flattery, by cruel edicts or fair promises, to alienate the church's love from Christ, nor tempt her to desert his cause and interest. 2. It cannot be quenched nor drowned by all the waters and floods of persecutions,  which wicked men, by the instigation of Satan, have brought upon the people of God thus we read, in Revelation 12:15, that the serpent, which is the devil, “cast out of his month water as a flood, after the woman,” which is the church, “that he might cause her to be carried away of it:” by which flood cast out of the serpent's mouth, must be meant, either a flood of heresies brought into the church to disturb her, and draw her off from Christ, her head, through the cunning craft of Satan; or else, a flood of persecutions, introduced by wicked and ungodly men, through his instigation, in order to affright, scare, and turn her aside from the pure ways of Christ, but all in vain; for (Rom. 8:33, 37). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us:” nay, death itself attended with the most exquisite torments and barbarous cruelties that hell can devise, cannot do it; for saints count not their lives dear to themselves, so that they may but “finish their course with joy,” and bear a noble testimony to “the gospel of the grace of God.” 3. The love of believers to Christ is not quenched nor drowned by all the waters and floods of affliction, which God is pleased to bring upon them: they generally have a large share of them; “waters of a full cup are wrung out unto them:” yet these, though they are not “joyous, but grievous,” do not alienate their affections from Christ, but rather fix them more strongly on him; whilst they view all their afflictions as covenant-mercies, the effects of wisdom, love and faithfulness, and designed for their good, profit and advantage. 4. Neither can their love be quenched nor drowned by the many waters and floods of their own sins and corruptions: it is true, these are most likely to extinguish this fire and flame above all things else, and often do strike a damp upon it; for through the “aboundings of iniquity,” love oftentimes waxeth cold; but yet it is not drenched and drowned there may be a leaving the first love; some degrees of heat in it may be remitted, but there is no such thing as losing the grace of love entirely; for it is an immortal seed, of a lasting, yea, of an everlasting nature. 5. Nor can it be quenched nor drowned by all the waters and floods of Satan's temptations this enemy of believers oftentimes “comes in like a flood” upon them, by filling their souls with blasphemous thoughts, vile suggestions, and wicked insinuations; in all endeavoring to draw off their love, and alienate their affections from Christ; which he sometimes attempts by fair words, shewing them “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,” as he did Christ, and promising to give them to them, which is more than he can perform, if they will but turn their backs on Christ, and his ways; at other times he sets before them all the hardships, difficulties, reproaches and persecutions, which they will be exposed unto, if they persist therein; and yet all these floods cannot quench nor drown their love to Christ. Nor, 6. Can this be effected by divine desertions, which are compared to “waves, billows and water-spouts,” (Ps. 42:5-7), for though these much weaken the faith, and disturb the peace of God's children, yet they do not destroy their love: Christ's absence gives much uneasiness to believers, brings much darkness upon them, and raises many doubts, fears and misgivings of heart in them; they cannot, it may be, say at such times with the church, “My beloved is mine, and I am his;” yet they can say with her, when in the same condition with them, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” 7. The terrors of the law, and the apprehensions of Goal's wrath which believers are sometimes filled with, are set forth by waves and floods of water, in Psalm 88:6, 7, 15-17, under which, though there may be but little faith, and less joy; yet there may be much love to Christ, great longings and earnest desires after the enjoyment of his presence; as appears from the case of the Psalmist, now referred to. 8. and lastly, All the hardships, difficulties, pressures and reproaches, which may attend believers in their Christian race, are so far from destroying their love to, and alienating their affections from Christ, that they do but rather endear him the more unto them; and make heaven, and the enjoyment of Christ there, the more desirable to them now, and the more welcome to them hereafter.
Secondly, This love of believers to Christ is exceeding valuable; for “if a man would give all the substance of his house for it, it would utterly be contemned:” for, 1. This is not to be bought with money, no more than the love of Christ is; no gift nor grace of the Spirit can be procured any such way: it is true, race is compared to “gold tried in the fire,” which we are advised to buy of Christ; but then it is to be “bought without money, and without price.” 2. As this grace cannot be bought with money, so neither will it be parted with for it: a Judas indeed, for thirty pieces of silver, forsook his master, and betrayed him into his enemies hands; as Demas also deserted the apostles, and cause of Christ, “having loved this present world;” but these things cannot prevail upon true believers to do the like. For, 3. The offers of a man's whole estate, nay of the riches of the Indies, or vast treasures of the whole globe, if made on terms and conditions of parting with Christ, or deserting his cause and interest, would be treated with the utmost disdain and contempt; they would “utterly be contemned;” or, “in despising they would despise” it, as the words may be read from the Hebrew text. For, 4. The things of this world appear but mean in the believer's eye; who “counts all things but loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus:” nay, he is willing to part with all for Christ, and does, when called to it, “take joyfully the spoiling of his goods, knowing that he has in heaven a better and a more enduring substance.” 5. The sense of this clause is thus given by some:  that those who spend their substance, their time, their strength, nay, their very lives, for the love they bear to God, Christ, his ways, cause and interest, are but laughed at, despised, and set at nought by those who are destitute of it; which sense is favored by the Septuagint version, which renders the words thus; “If a man would give all his living away in love, or charity, in despising they would despise him.” Now the constancy and insuperableness of this precious and valuable grace of love in her soul to Christ, is improved by the church to obtain the former request; “set me as a seal upon thine heart,” etc. for my soul is all in flames of love for thee, which cannot be extinguished by all I suffer on thy account, nor will be parted with for all that the world can give me; which love of hers discovers itself, not only in a regard to Christ, but also in a concern for others, as appears from the following words.
 Targum, Shirhashirim Rabba. R. Sol. Jarchi, & R. Aben Ezra, & Yalkut in loc. Shemoth Rabba, parash. 49.
 Se R. Alshech in loc.
 So Theodoret. in loc.