THis Chapter hath four parts, according to the parties that successivly speak. In the first part, vers. 1. Christ speaks: And that it is he who speaks, doth at the first reading appear, they are kindly words, well becoming him, and are the answer of her suit in the former words: And so depend on them (for the division of this Song, as also of other Scriptures into Chapters, not being done by the Penmen of the Holy Ghost, but by the Translators, is not to be stuck on where there is no questi∣on in the matter) she desired him, verse last, of the former Chap∣ter, to come, and now in this verse, Behold I am come, saith he, &c. In it we have, 1. His yielding to come. 2. His carriage when he is come, as to himself: And also his intimation of both. 3. His invitation to others, which may be also a part of his carriage when come, taken up in three. 1. He makes himself welcome; and, 2. Others, 3. He intimats it.
The title being spoken of formerly, the first thing is, I am come into my Garden (as thou desired) my sister, &c. Hence ob∣serve, 1. Christ hath particular and peculiar wayes, of coming to his people, and of nearnesse with them, even as he hath of with∣drawing from them. 2. There are some peculiar times, wherein Page 249 he is more near than at other times. 3. Sometimes he will not only draw near to his people, but let them know he is near, and put them out of doubt that he is come.
Again, if we look to this as the answer of the former prayer, we will see, 1. Christ is easily invited and prevailed with to come to his people; and sometimes there will not be long betwixt their prayer and his answer, it's the very next word. 2. Few words may be an effectual prayer to Christ (as the former suit was) a breathing or sigh will not be rejected by him, where sincerity is. 3. Christ will sometimes not only answer prayer in the thing sought, but he will intimate, and let his people know that he hath answered it.
More particularly, we may consider the answer, 1. As it agrees with her prayer, 2. As it •ems defective. 3. As it's beyond it.
First, It agrees fully to her last suit, she prayed he would come and eat, he comes and eats. Obs. Christ will carve and shape out sometimes his answer, even according to his peoples desires, as if they had the power of prescribing their own answers. For, when our prayers make for our good, Christ will alter nothing in them, but will grant them in the very terms in which they are put up.
Again, I say there seems to be somewhat defective, there is no return recorded of the first suit for livelinesse; and her drousie, lazy case, vers. 2, 3. gives ground to think, that that petition was not as yet answered. Obs. 1. Christ may be particular in answe∣ring one petition of the same prayer, when yet he may for a time suspend an answer to another, in it self as acceptable to him. Yea, 2. He may answer the last prayer, and seem to passe over somewhat formerly sought for.
Finally, compare this answer with her last suit, he doth more than she required; for, she desired him only to come and eat, but he comes, eats, gathers, &c. Christ will often stuff in more in the answer, than was in the desire of his people; and will do above what they asked or thought, Eph. 3. 20.
Next, his carriage (as to his own satisfaction) is in three steps, 1. I have gathered my Myrrhe, with my spice: Myrrhe and spice signify (as hath been often said) the graces that grow in believers, who are this Garden: His gathering of them is his pulling (to say Page 250 so) and dressing of them, as Gardeners do their herbs and fruits, for making them useful; Here ere he eat he gathers, signifying, that as the spices are his, so he must prepare them for himself; She cannot prepare what provision Christ gives her, till he do it: She cannot put forth to exercise the grace she hath received, till he breath on it.
2. I have eaten my honey-comb with my honey: When he hath prepared, he eats: By honey-comb and honey, is signified the same thing (as Chap. 4. vers. 11.) because as that was savory and whole∣some food in these dayes and places, so are believers graces a feast to Christ.
3. I have drunk my wine with my milk: Milk was for nourish∣ing, wine for refreshing; Christ mentions drinking of both, to shew, how aboundantly he was satis••, 〈◊〉, and fully feasted, both for meat and drink; and how heartsomely he entertained himself on it, as a friend that thinks himself very welcome. Consider here, 1. Meat and drink are mentioned; Christ will not want entertainment where he is, he will invite and treat himself, where he gets welcome: Where Christ gets welcome, he will never complain of the want of fare, he hath there a feast. 2. He accepts all heartsomly; as Christ is easily invited, so is he chearful and plea∣sant company: where he comes, he takes what there is to give him, he is not sour and ill to please. 3. There is Myrrhe and spice, milk and honey and wine; which is not only to shew that there are di∣versities of graces, but that Christ casts at nothing of grace that is found in his people, he takes the milk as well as the wine; he makes much of the weaker grace, as well as of the most lively. 4. He gathers and eats; As Christ provides food for himself, so (to speak with reverence) he is his own Cook, none can dresse dishes for Christ, but himself. 5. Where he gets the most seri∣ous invitation to come, there may be much unpreparednesse for him when he comes, until he right it, and prepare his own en∣tertainment himself. 6. Though things be not prepared for him, yet sometimes he will not suspend his coming on that, nor will it ma•• his chearfulnesse in his carriage, when he comes and is made welcome, He dresseth and eateth. 7. He intimates all this: Some∣times Christ may be well-pleased with believers, and be feasting Page 251 himself on their graces, and yet they not discern it, nor believe it, until he intimate it and make it known to them: And there∣fore that their joy may be full, he graciously condescends now and then to put them upon the knowledge of it, and perswades their hearts of it.
The last thing, is his invitation to his Friends to eat with him, which is pressed, 1. By kindly compellations, Friends and Beloved. 2. By three words, eat, drink, and that aboundantly. By Friends and Beloved, are understood believers, there are none other ca∣pable of these titles, and it was she that prayed, that is here un∣derstood by Friends and Beloved, and so he answers her. Hence we see, the believer is 〈◊〉 Friend, as Abraham, Jam. 2. 23. and Lazarus, Joh. 11. 11. were called. It imports, 1. A privi∣ledge on the believers part, to be admitted to special league of friendship with him, when others are slaves or enemies. 2. A special friendlinesse in Christ's carriage to them; familiarly, free∣ly telling them all his mind, so far as is needful for them to know, Ioh. 15. 15. and lovingly manifesting himself to them, as one doth to his friend. 3. It holds out a duty lying on the believer, to carry friendly to Christ and them that are his, Ioh. 15. 14. A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly (Prov. 18. 24.) to them: And seing he trusts them, and expects no ill from them, they would be like Christ's friends, answerable to their trust. They are also beloved, the title that the husband gives the wife, for evidencing special love: All Christ's friends are beloved, and believers are (whatever they be as to their desert, or in the eyes of men) both friends and beloved: No friend hath such bowels for his friends, as Christ hath for his friends. Friends and be∣loved are in the plural, 1. To shew he excludes no believer, but includes all, and that with the same seriousness he invites and makes them all welcome to feast with him, whether they be strong or weak. 2. Because his mercy to one may be cheering to many, and he allows and would have others of his people to be cheerful, because of his kindnesse and mercy manifested to one.
His intertaining of them is held out in three words. 1. Eat, that declares his desire to have believers partaking with him in the soul-refreshing blessings of his purchase, by their reflecting act Page 252 of faith comforting themselves in the priviledges, promises and mercies allowed on them. Obs. 1. The same feast, is a feast to Christ and believers both. 2. Where he is cheerful, they should be so also. The second word is, drink: He drinks, that is, sa∣tisfies himself as fully feasted, to wit, with the graces of his people (such is the complacency he hath in them, when he stirs them up to any livelinesse of exercise) and he allows them in this case to be refreshed, satisfied and feasted also: It becomes them to drink when he drinks, and bids them drink. The third word is, drink abundantly: that shews the largenesse of his allowance, and the heartinesse of his welcome, as a gladsome Hoast, so che∣rishes he his ghuests; and all this is 〈◊〉 be understood spiritually, of the joy and comfort which he allows on his people, even to be filled with the Spirit, in opposition to wine, Eph. 5. 18. which is more satisfying, cheering and refreshing to the inner-man, than wine is to the body. The scope and dependence, points out these things. 1. There is much notable soul-refreshing to be had in Christ's company; where-ever he is, there is a feast, Rev. 3. 20. 2. He allows his people largely to share of it; yea, it is his will that all should liberally improve this allowance, he willeth it. 3. If our joy run in a spiritual channel, there cannot be excesse in it, if it were to be drunken with it, so as to forget our proverty, and to remember our misery no more. 4. Christ is never fully satisfied at his own feast, till he get his friends feasted and cheered also: He eats not his morsels alone, but is desirous to commu∣nicat his good things, according as they are communicable. 5. Christ's preparing and dressing is rather for the welcoming of his friends, than for himself I have gathered, eat ye, saith he. 6. Christ is a most heartsome distributer to others, and inter∣tainer of his friends: There needs be no sparing to eat where he invites. 7. Believers, even Christ's friends, needs invitation, by reason of unbelief, sense of unworthinesse (which makes them sin∣fully modest) and the dulnesse of their spiritual appetite; and therefore they will need (to say so) bidding and intreaty often∣times to eat their meat, and to chear themselves in him, and he will not let them want that. 8. Where-ever Christ is present, there is a feast with him for them that are in his company, he Page 253 sups with them, and makes them sup with him; and all is his own, and of his own dressing. 9. It's a gift of Christ's mercy, not only to have grounds of consolation, but to be inabled to comfort our selves in these grounds; (as in outward things, it is one gift to have, and another to have the cheerful use of that which we have) for, the believer may have the one when he wants the other; and when he hath the one, to have the other added is a double mercy, as the exhortation, eat, drink, &c. imports: 10. It is not every one who is Christ's friend, nor every one that hath that honour to comfort and feast themselves with him; it's a priviledge that is peculiar to them who are his friends indeed.
From vers. 2. unto the ninth (which is the second part of the Chapter) the Bride speaks, and sets down a very complex piece of her condition, which we take up in these three. 1. Her condition is shortly set down. 2. The mutual carriage of the Bridegroom and Bride are recorded; wherein (as it were) grace and loving kindnesse in him, and unkindnesse in her, are wrestling together for a time. 3. The out-gate, and the way how she at∣tained it, by several steps on his side, and hers, are particularly insisted on from vers. 4. with what followed thereupon.
Her case is in short, I sleep, but my heart waketh, or (as it is in the Original) I sleeping, my heart waking: It's made up of contraries, and seeming paradoxes; she is distinguished from her Page 254 heart, and the sleeping of the one is opposed to the waking of the other: Both this sleeping and waking are spiritually to be understood; The first signifies a ceasing from spiritual duties, or a suspension of the acting of spiritual life, by arising of some in∣ward corruption, that dulls and binds up the spiritual senses, as in natural sleep the external senses are dulled and bound up: So 1 Thess. 5. 6. and Rom. 13. 11. Let us not sleep, but watch and be sober. This is a further degree of spiritual distemper, beyond what was Chap. 3. 1, 2. where she was on bed, and yet seeking, but here she sleeps and lyes still, as we see, vers. 3. It imports, 1. An interruption of livelinesse and actual exercising of grace. 2. An indisposition and lazinesse in the frame of the spirit, added to that. 3. A sort of acquiescing and resting securely in that indis∣position, with a loathnesse to stir and be interrupted, such as useth to be in the bodily sleep, and such as appears to be here from the following verse: It's sleepinesse, or to be given to sleep, such as the sluggard is subject unto, who sleepeth exces∣sively, and out of due time. This I that sleepeth, is the be∣liever, but considered in so far as unregenerat; as, Rom. 7. 18. I know, that in me (that is, in my flesh) there dwelleth no good thing: For, as the believer hath two different natures, which have oppo∣sit actings; so are they considered as two different persons. Hence in that, Rom. 7. 1, yet not I, &c. by which Paul as renewed, is distinguished from himself as unrenewed. By waking, is under∣stood, some livelinesse and sensiblenesse, or at least life, in oppo∣sition to the former deadnesse and dulnesse, as, Rom. 13. 11. It's high time to awake: And, 1 Thess. 5. 6. Let us watch, and be sober; which is opposit to that spiritual drousinesse, wherein we are scarce at our selves. My heart, looks to the renewed part, which is often called the Spirit, that lusteth against the flesh, as, Gal. 5. 17. and the law in the mind, Rom. 7. circumcision in the heart, Rom. 2. 25. the new heart in the Covenant, Ezek. 36. In sum, it is this, Things are not right with me, and indisposition to duty or lifelessnesse in it, is great (as it is with one that is in a sleep) yet even then there is some inward stirring of life, ap∣pearing in conviction of judgement, challenges, purposes, prote∣stations of the inward-man, against this dead and lazy frame, as Page 255 not delighting in it, but displeased with it, &c. wherein the new nature wrestles and yeilds not, nor gives it self leave to consent to it, although it can act nothing, at least in a lively way, under this condition: Thus she is sleeping, because she acts nothing; yet, the heart is waking, because it's kept from being involved in that security, though it be bound up, and over-powered with corruption, that it cannot win to act according to the light and inclination that it hath within. Hence observe, 1. That the be∣liever hath two different and opposite natures and principles with∣in him, leading him diverse wayes; the carnal and sleeping I, and the renewed and waking heart. 2. They may be both at one time acting oppositly, the one lusting against the other, Gal. 5. 17. 3. Sometimes corruption may prevail far over believers that have grace, and lay them (though not quite dead, yet) fast asleep for a time, and mar in a great measure the exercise of their grace. 4. Believers at their lowest, have life in them, and (by reason of their new nature) are not totally and fully involved in their se∣curity and back-sliding conditions. 5. There may be some in∣ward apprehending of our hazard, and dangerous condition, when it is very sad and low, so as believers may know it is not right with them, and yet (as it's here with the Bride) may continue under it, and lye still. 6. Spiritual lazinesse and security is inci∣dent to the strongest believers: The wise virgins may slumber, and sleep, Matth. 25. 7. Yea, after the greatest manifestations, and often on the back of the fullest intimations of Christ's love, and the most sweet invitations they have from him, and most joy∣ful feastings with him, they may be thus overtaken, as the words preceeding bear out: The Disciples •ell in this distemper, that same night after the Lord's Supper. 8. Believers may fall over and over again in the same condition of sinful security, even after they have been rouzed and raised out of it, as this, being com∣pared with chap. 3. will clear. 9. The more frequently believ∣ers (or any other) relapse in the same sin, they will go the great∣er length readily in it, and by falling more dangerously, be more hardly recovered than formerly: Now she sleeps, and when put at, will not rise, but shifts, which is a further step than was chap. 3. 10. Lazy fits of indisposition and omissions of duty, do more fre∣quently Page 256 steal in upon believers, than positive out-breakings and commissions, and they are more ready to please themselves in them, and to ly still under them. 11. Believers should be so acquaint with their own condition, as to be able to tell how it is with them, whether as to their unrenewed or renewed part; So here, I sleep, but my heart waketh. 12. Believers in taking up their condition, would advert both to their corruptions and graces; and in their reckoning, would put a distinction betwixt these two, otherwayes they will misreckon on the one side or other: They would not reckon themselves wholly by the actings of nature, lest they disclaim their graces; nor yet their renewed part, lest they forget their unrenewed nature; but they would attribute every effect in them to it's own cause and principle, where-from it proceeds. 13. It's good for a believer when overcome with corruption, and captivate by it, to disallow and disown it from the heart, as not allowing what they do, and to present this to God, as a protestation entered against their prevailing lusts. In some sense a believer may both condemn himself as sinful, and ab∣solve himself as delighting in the law of God, at one and the same time; and where he allowes not his corruption; but positively dissents from it, he may disclaim it as not being his deed.
This being her case, follows the Bridegrooms carriage: Which is expressed in the rest of vers. 2. and her carriage (implyed only in this verse) is more fully expressed, vers. 3. His carriage holds out the great design he drives, and that is to have accesse to her, and to have her roused up: for attaining of which, 1. He doth something, and that is, knocks at the door. 2. He endures and suffers dew and drops in the cold night, and yet doth not give over. 3. He speaks, and useth many perswasive arguments for that end: All which she observes, and yet lyes still. It is in sum, as if a lo∣ving husband, that is shut out by a lazy, yet a beloved wife, would knock, call, and waiting on still, use many arguments to perswade her to open; so doth our Spiritual Bridegroom, wait upon be∣lievers whom he loves, to have them brought again to the lively exercise of faith in him, and to a frame of spirit meet for commu∣nion with him. To take the words as they ly, there is, 1. The Brides observation (as it were in her sleep) of the Beloveds cal∣ling Page 257 at the door. 2. There is set down his call. 3. The argu∣ments he useth for prevailing with her. By knocking is under∣stood the inward touches of the Word upon the conscience, when the efficacy of the Spirit goeth alongst, which raps at the Brides heart, as knocking doth at a door, and is the mean of awaking her from spiritual sleep, as knocking at a door is a mean of awaking from bodily sleep: So it is, Rev. 3. 20. Behold I stand at the door and knock: In which sense the word is compared to a ham∣mer, Jer. 23. 29. It takes in these three, 1. A seriousnesse in him that so knocks. 2. A power and efficacy in the word, that some-way affects the heart, and moves it. 3. It implyes some ef∣fect it hath upon the heart, as being somewhat affected with that touch; Therefore it's his voice or word that not only calleth, but knocketh, implying some force it had upon her: By voice is understood the Word, as Chap. 2. 8. 10. yet, as backed with the Spirit and power, and as commended thereby to the conscience, 1 Cor. 2. 4. and convincingly demonstrated to be the very voice of Christ; yet, so as rods inward and outward, and other means may have their own place, being made use of by him, yet still accor∣ding to the word. His great end for which he knocks, is in that word open; which, as it implyes her case, that her heart was in a great measure shut upon him, and that by some carnal indisposi∣tion he was kept out of it, and was not made welcome; So it re∣quires the removing of all that stopt his way, and the casting open of the heart by saith to receive his Word, and by love to receive himself: and in these two especially, this opening doth consist, 1. In the exercise of faith, Act. 16. 14. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, and that is expounded, she gave heed unto these things which Paul spoke. 2. An inlarging and warming of the affections towards him (which ever comprehends the former) as, Psalm 81. 10. Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it: What that is, the refusal following declares, my people would not hear, (that is, believe) Israel would none of me, or loved not me (as the words in the Original import) they cared not for me, they desi∣red me not, and would not quite their Idols, as in the foregoing words, vers. 9. is mentioned. 3. There resulteth from these two a mutual familiarity, as Rev. 3. 20. If any man will open, I will Page 258 come in and sup with him, and he with me. This opening then, imports the removing of every thing that marred fellowship with Christ, and the doing of every thing that might dispose for injoy∣ing of it, as awaking, rising, &c. all which follows in the 4. vers. and while he commands to open, he calls for the entertaining of fellowship with him, which now is by her drousinesse interrupted: Which two parts of the verse put together, hold forth, 1. That Christ's own Bride may shut the door on him, and so make a sad separation betwixt him and her. 2. Christ's word is the great and ordinary external mean, whereby he knocks at mens hearts, and which he makes use of for begetting faith in them. 3. That in a believers secure condition, there will be sometimes more than ordinary convictions, stirrings and motions by the Word. 4. That the Word of God, backed with power, will reach the securest heart and affect it. 5. That believers will discern Christ's voice and call, when their condition is very low. 6. It will be refreshful to them to have him knocking; she looks on it as a kindly thing, even to have his knock bearing-in convictions, challenges, or some∣what else on her; though it please not her flesh, yet in as far as she is renewed, it will be the voice of her Beloved to her. 7. Christ hath a way of following his own, even when they are become se∣cure; and sometimes then, will make his call, challenges or con∣victions pursue more hotly and pressingly than at other times. 8. When Christ knocketh and presseth hardest, it's for our own good, and it's a token of love in him to do so; for, there is no∣thing more deplorable, than when he faith to one under indispo∣sition, and in an evil case, let him alone. 9. When Christ calls by his Word, it is then our duty to open to him, and to receive him; and this can no more be slighted without sin, than prayer, mortification and other commanded duties; can be neglected or slighted without sin. 10. Christ may call very pressingly, and his Word may have some work on the conscience and affections of hearers, and they be some-way affected with it, and yet the Word be rejected, and the heart not made open to Christ; as here she sleeps still notwithstanding; and the following verse confirms it. 11. There are some operations of the Spirit, which though they be more than a common work on the generality of hearers, yet Page 259 are not saving, and may be, and often are, even by believers frust∣rate for a time, and by others for ever; for, this knocking gets a refusal, vers. 3. So deceiving, beguiling and dangerous are com∣mon motions to rest on, when the finger of gracious Omnipoten∣cy is not applyed, as vers. 4. 12. Christ's design when he knocks fastest, is friendly, and yet it sometimes sayeth, things are not right: This is the end of all his knocking and speaking to a people, and then it is plainest when he speaks most powerfully.
2. The way how Christ presseth this, is, 1. By shewing who he was, it's me, open to me: There can be no greater commendation given to Christ, nor weightier argument used for him, than to make it known that it's he, the Husband, Lord, &c. whose the house is, and to whom entry by right from the wife ought to be given. 2. By giving her loving titles, and claiming her as his in many relations, as my sister, love, dove; and (which was not men∣tioned before) undefiled is added, that is, my perfect one, or up∣right sincere one, as it is often rendered. These titles given now, and so many at once, shew, 1. That believers when secure, have very much need of the Spirit to rouze and stir them up: Souls are not easily perswaded to receive Christ. 2. There is wonder∣full love in Christ, that condescends so to intreat his people when in such a secure case: even then he changes not her name, no more than if all things were in good case; for, our relation to him, de∣pends not on our case. 3. Christ will sometimes very lovingly deal, even with secure souls in his way, for obtaining entry, and perswading them to open to him, and sometimes will apply the most refreshful Gospel-offers and invitations, and use the most kind∣ly compellations for that end. 4. Christ sometimes will over∣look the lazy distempers of his people, and not alwayes chide with them for these, but give them their wonted stiles notwithstanding. 5. The kind dealing of Christ to his people, will ever prove love to be on his side, but will not alwayes prove that the persons so dealt with are presently in a good condition; for, he may accept their persons, and speak comfortably as to their state, although he approve not their present condition, as here. 6. We may see that Christ's love is not founded on our merit, nor is up and down according to our variable disposition, but he prevents both Page 260 in his dealing with his people. These titles being made use of as a motive to answer his call, and to open to him, shew, 1. That the perswasion of Christ's love in souls, is a main thing to make way for their entertaining of him. 2. That it is a shame for a belie∣ver so beloved of Christ, to hold him without at the door, when he knocketh to be in. Grace would make a heart to blush, and in a manner look it out of countenance, that would refuse his kindnesse.
The third and great argument, is, for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night: Very shame might pre∣vail with the wife, when the Husband useth such an argument as this: It's even as if a husband, standing long without doors in a tempestuous night, should use this motive with his wife to per∣swade her to let him in, it will be very prejudicial and hurtful to my health, if thou open not unto me; for, I have stood long with∣out: This may no doubt be presumed to be a very strong and prevalent argument with a loving wife; yet, it gets but a poor and very unsuitable answer from the Bride. By dew, drops and night-time, are understood, afflictions, external crosses and low∣nesse: So, Daniel 4. that King is said to be wet with the dew of heaven in his low condition, as having no house to shelter himself in, but being obnoxious to all changes and injuries of weather: and Iacob mentions it as a part of the toilsome labour, that he had with Laban, I did endure the heat of the Sun in the day, and the cold in the night, that is, he was ever watchful, and spared not himself for the hurt of either day or night: Here Christ's spiritual sufferings also may come in, whereby he made himself obnoxious to the Fathers wrath and curse, that he might have accesse to communion with his people; and the account that he hath of being kept out by his people, as a new piece of his suffering, or as a painful reviving of the remembrance of his old sufferings. The scope is to shew, that as a kindly husband, will so deal with a beloved wife, and expect to prevail, being put to this strait; so doth Christ with his people, being no lesse desirous of a room in their hearts, and being as much troubled by their unbelief, as any man is when put to stand in the cold night, under dew and rain at his own door. This way of arguing saith, 1. That the be∣liever, Page 261 as such, loves and respects Christ, and would not have him suffering, as a kind wise would be loath to hazard her husbands health. 2. That Christ expounds her so, even when she is lazy and keeps him out, otherwise this argument would be of no force, nor would he have used it; He will see much evil (to speak so) ere he notice it in a believer; and is not suspicious, even when occasions are given. 3. Believers are often exceeding un∣answerable to the relation that is betwixt Christ and them, and may suffer Christ to stand long waiting without. 4. It affects Christ much (and is a suffering to him, and a kind of putting him to open shame, and a crucifying again of the Son of God) to be kept out of hearts by unbelief, and there can be no pardonable sin that hath moe and greater aggravations than this; for, it is cruelty to kind Jesus Christ. 5. Believers, even when Christ is in good terms with them, may fall in this fault. 6. Christ is a most affectionat suiter, and patient Husband, that thus waits on even when he is affronted, and gives not over his kind suit: Who would bear with this, that he bears with and passeth by, and con∣tinues kindly notwithstanding? Many strange and uncouth things are comported with, and over-looked betwixt him and believers without hearing, that the world could not digest. 7. Out Lord Jesus hath not spared himself, nor shunned sufferings, for doing of his people good: Iacob's care of, and suffering for Labans flocks, and Nebuchadnezzar his humiliation was nothing to this. 8. The love of Christ is manifested in nothing more for his people than in his sufferings for them, and in his patient on-waiting to have the benefits thereof applyed to them. 9. Christ's sufferings, and his affectionat way of pleading from them, should melt hearts in love to him, and in desire of union with him, and will make the refusal exceeding sinful and shameful▪ where it is given; O so strong arguments as Christ hath, to be in on the hearts of his people! and how many things are there, to plead for that?
The Brides answer is here set down, but O! how unsuitable to that which was his carriage? He stands, she lyes; He without, she within; He calls friendly; she ungrately shifts it, at best: As if a wife should answer her husband so calling, I am now in bed, and have put off my cloaths, and washen my feet, and so have composed my self to rest, I cannot rise, it would hurt me to rise: So doth the Bride thus unreasonably, and absurdly put back this fair call, upon a twofold shift, both which are spiritually to be understood, as the sleep and opening, formerly mentioned, were. In it consider, 1. The answer. 2. The manner of it. 3. The particular grounds which she layeth down to build it on. And, 4. The faults of this reasoning of hers, which at first may be concluded to be unsound. The answer in general, is a denyal, as the event clears; and it's like that, Luk. 11. 7. I am in bed, and my children with me, trouble me not, &c. Yea, how can I put them on? These words (being the in¦terrogatinonot of one doubting, but of one shifting) imply a vehe∣hement denyal, as if it were a most unreasonable and impossible thing for her to give obedience to what was called for: which shews, that Christ may get most undiscreet refusals to his fairest calls: Which refusal is thus aggreged, 1 It was against most powerful and plain means: The most powerful external Ordinances may be frustrat even Christ himself in his Word, when he preached in the dayes of his flesh, had not alwayes successe. 2. It was against her light, she knew it was Christ's call: Even believers may fit challenges against their light, and sin wittingly through the violence of ten∣tations, though not wholly willingly. 3. She had invited him by prayer, Chap. 4. 16. yet now lyes still: Which lets us see, 1. That believers in their carriage, are often unsuitable to their prayers: There may be, and is often a great discrepancy betwixt these. And, 2. Often believers may be more desirous of an opportunity Page 263 of meeting with Christ, or any other mercy, when they want it, than watchful to make the right use of it, when they have got∣ten it.
Her way is to give some reasons for her refusal, as if she could do no otherwayes, and were not to be blamed so much for her shifting of Christ, as the words how can I, &c. import. Observe, 1. The flesh will be bruidy and quick in inventing shifts for main∣taining of it self, even against the clearest convictions and duties. 2. It's ill to debate or reason a clear duty, often Satan and the flesh gets advantage by it. 3. Folks are oft-times very partial in examining their own reasons, and are hardly put from their own grounds once laid, although they be not solid; and the most foolish reasons will be convincing to a spiritual sluggard, who in fostering his ease, seems wiser to himself, than one who can ren∣der the most concludent arguments, and strongest reasons to the contrary, Prov. 26. 16. The opening of the particular reasons will clear this; The first is, I have put off my coat, and the con∣clusion is, how can I put it on? Putting off the cloaths is an evi∣dence 〈◊〉 betaking themselves to rest, as keeping them on, is a sign of watching, as in Nehemiah 4. 23. None of us put off cloaths, 〈◊〉 to washing; Hence keeping on of the cloaths is bor∣rowed, to set out spiritual watchfulnesse, and hiding of spiritual nakednesse, as Rev. 16. 15. Blessed is he that watcheth and keep∣eth his garments, lest he walk naked: And on the contrary put∣ting off of cloaths, signifieth not only a spiritual drousinesse, but a high degree of it; as having put off, and fallen from that ten∣dernesse and watchfulnesse in her walk, wherewith she was cloath∣ed, Chap. 4. 11. and is now somewhat setled in her carnal ease and security. From this she argueth, how shall I put it on? The force of the reason may be three wayes considered, 1. As it im∣ports a difficulty in the thing, how shall I do it? O it's difficult! 2. As it imports an aversnesse to it, in her self: It stands against her heart, as a seeming unreasonable thing, as Gen. 39. How shall I do this great wickednesse, &c.? 3. A sort of shame may be in it, I am now out of a posture, and I think shame to rise, and to be seen: Which shews, 1. That it's hard to raise one that hath fal∣len into security. 2. To lazy souls every thing looks like an in∣superable Page 264 difficulty, their way to duty is as an hedge of thorns, Prov. 15. 19. and there is a lyon in their streets, and sometimes, as it were, even in the house-floor, when any duty is pressed upon them that would rob them of their carnal ease, Prov, 26. 13. and 22. 13. 3. It's much for one in a secure frame to wrestle with their own indisposition, it's a wearinesse then to take the hand out of the bosome, Prov. 26. 15. 4. It's not a commendable shame∣fastnesse, but must needs be a very sinful modesty, that keeps one from duty: It was indeed more shameful to lye still, than to rise.
Her second ground is of the same nature, I have washed my feet: washing the feet, fitted and prepared for rest; mens feet in these countries, being, by walking bare-footed, someway stiffened, beaten and bruised, which by washing were eased and refreshed, as we may see, Gen. 18. 19. in Abraham and Lots carriage to the Angels, supposing them to be men: So here, it is, I have fitted and composed my self for rest, as being wearied with the painful∣nesse of holy duties, and now she cannot endure to stir her self toward these, as if that would again defile her: In 〈◊〉 reason∣ing, there are these faults, 1. That she doth at all offer to debate a clear duty, this makes way for the snare. 2. That she interprets the study of holinesse, and communion with Christ to be a trouble, and carnal security to be an ease: There will be strange misrepre∣sentations sometimes, both of our faults and failings, and of Christ's worth and excellency, which have much influence on our deadnesse and sinful distempers. 3. She makes one sinful action the cause of her continuance in another: There is often a con∣nexion amongst •ins, and one draws on another; the premisses that the flesh layes down as principles, will still bear conclusions like themselves: It's unsound and unsafe reasoning from these. 4. That which should stir and perswade her to rise, to wit, that she was not right, she makes a motive of it to strengthen her self in her lazy inclination to lye still; Carnal sense draws conclusions most unreasonable in every thing, and tends still to foster it self, whereas faith and tendernesse would reason the quite contrary. 5. She puts too honest a name upon her security, and calleth it the washing of her feet, which was indeed the polluting of them: Page 265 Fairding and plaistering over our own evils, is a great fostering of security, yet too common; as to call unbelief humility, pre∣sumption faith, security peace, &c. We give to sin the name of vertue, and then without a challenge maintain it; which is a degree of putting darknesse for light, and bitter for sweet, and a sort of calling evil good, which brings under the hazard of the pronounced wo, Isa. 5. 20. 6. She fails here, that she expects more ease in lying still, than in opening to Christ, whereas it is but the flesh that is troubled at Christ's presence; but, solid satis∣faction is only to be had in his company: Flesh hath ever secret fears of Christ's company, as if it were intollerable, irksome and troublesome to be a Christian in earnest; and these whisperings, and wicked suggestions of the flesh, may have sometimes too much weight with a believer. 7. She mistakes Christ's word, which pressed that he might be admitted, who was a most loving hus∣band, and had suffered so much in waiting for entry; but, she states the matter otherwayes, if she that was at ease should trouble her self, that so the shift might seem reasonable; Though Christ be not directly and down-right refused, and the heart dar not un∣der convictions adventure on that, yet by opposing respect to our selves to him, and by shifting to open to him when he knocks, many are guilty upon the matter of refusing and slighting Christ himself, when they think they slight not him, but would only shun something that is troublesome to themselves: These words are not so to be looked on, as if explicitly believers would so ar∣gue, but that in their lazy and drousie spiritual distempers there is such arguing on the matter, and such or such like shifts prevails often to make them keep out Christ, when directly they dar not refuse him; which doth evidence the power and subtility of corruption, even in a believer, and the greatnesse of the love of Christ that passeth it by.
If it should be asked, Why is this sinful distemper of hers re∣gistrat, and put upon record? Why say, 1. For her own good; It's profitable for believers to mind and record their miscar∣riages to Christ, as well as his kind dealings with them. 2. It's for the honour of the Bridegroom, whose love appears and shines most brightly, when it is set for-against her miscarriage; believers Page 266 would acknowledge their infirmities and failings, as well as their mercies and graces, when it may make to the Bridegrooms com∣mendation. 3. It's for the edification of others; often one believers infirmities, through Gods blessing, may prove edifying to others, for making them watchful, and bidding them stand, and sustaining of them when fallen: The infirmities of Iob un∣der his fore tryals, have strengthened many, as his patience hath convinced them.
In sum, this reasoning is indirect and frivolous, shewing in the general, 1. That men incline to cover their secret misregard of Christ, as if it were rather tendernesse to themselves, than in∣discreet disrespect to him, yet he expounds it so: as, Mat. 22. 5. when they alledge it as a necessary excuse, that they behoved to wait on their farm and merchandise, he interprets it, they made light of the invitation to the marriage of the Kings Son. 2. It shewes, that the shifts whereby men put back Christ, are exceeding frivolous, there can be no strong nor relevant reason alledged for our slighting Christ, and for our ruining our selves in slighting of him in the offers of his grace in the Gospel; although corrupt nature exercise and rack it's invention, to find out reasons to plead our excuse, yet when such reasonings are examined, they will not abide the tryal. 3. That when mens hearts are in a de∣clining frame, very trivial and weightlesse arguments will pre∣vail to make them keep out Christ; and for as trivial as they are, they would prevail even with believers, did not grace refute them, and make way for his entry into the soul.
There follow; in this fourth verse, a second step of Christ's carriage, with the effects of it: He gives not over, but puts in his finger, and powerfully makes application to her, by a saving Page 267 work of the Spirit upon her heart, which hath the desired and designed effect following upon it; she riseth and openeth.
In this we have, 1. The mean applyed and made use of. 2. The manner of application. (for that the worker is the Beloved him∣self, is clear) The mean in his hand, which in Scripture signifieth three things, when attributed to God, 1. His Omnipotency, whereby he doth what he pleaseth, Exod. 15. 6. Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: And, Exod. 8. 19. it's said, This is the finger of God, that is, his power. 2. It's taken for the Spirit, or the common operations of the Spirit, whereby miracles, beyond the power of man are wrought; as by comparing Matth. 12. 28. with Luke 11. 20. will be clear. 3. It's taken for the sa∣ving work of the Spirit, applyed for the working of faith in the elect at the first, or renewing and confirming of it afterward in believers; as, Acts 11. 21. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed. This is it which is pointed at, Isa. 53. 1. where, Who hath believed? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? are made of equal extent: And so especially it's to be taken here, as the scope clears, to wit, for the immediat power∣full work of the Spirit, made use of in the working of faith, as a key is made use of for the opening of a door.
The way of applying this mean, is, he put in his hand by the hole of the door: where (following the similitude of a husbands stand∣ing at a shut door, and not geting entry) he shews what he did, when knocking prevailed not; to wit, he took an effectual way of opening it himself, which is ordinary by putting in the key, or somewhat else at the hole of the door: So Christ by his Spi∣rit made open the heart, in a kindly native way, not by breaking open, but by opening; he indeed having the key by which hearts are opened, even the key of David, that opens and no man shuts, and shuts •and no man opens, Rev. 3. 7. Which words do shew, 1. That beside the call of the word, and any common conviction that is thereby wrought in the heart, there is in the conversion of sinners, an immediat, real, powerful and peculiar work of the Spirit that accompanies the word. 2. That the application of this is necessary, and that men being now asleep, and dead in sin, cannot without that be stirred and quickned by the most power∣ful Page 268 external Ordinances, or common operations: Nay, even to the believers reviving, from his backslidden and drousie case, this work if omnipotency is needful. 3. This work of the Spi∣rit is effectual, and when peculiarly applyed by Christ, cannot be frustrat; for, he puts in his hand, and the effect follows. 4. Al∣though it be a most powerful work, yet it works kindly, and brings about the effect without wronging of the natural faculties of the soul, but makes use of them formally for bringing forth the effect, as one that openeth a door by the lock, makes use of a key, but doth not hurt nor destroy the lock: There is therefore no inconsistency betwixt Christ's opening and ours; for, he co-acts not nor forceth the will, but sweetly determins it, so that it can∣not but be willing; he takes away unwillingness from it, and makes it willing, Psal. 110. 3. Christ hath the keyes of hearts, and can open and shut at his pleasure, without wronging of them. 5. Grace being the work of a high-hand, it cannot be easie to procure wel∣come to Jesus Christ even amongst believers, and much lesse with others, who have no principle of grace within to co-operat with Christ. 6. Christ Jesus as he is a most powerful worker, so is the work of his power most free, soveraign and wonderful; which clearly appeareth in that it is applyed on the back of such a slight∣ing answer, and not before: Yea, 7. Often-times the work of grace surprizeth his own, when they are in a most unsuitable case, and when in respect of their deserving they might have expected the quite contrary; certainly, we are not obliged to our free∣will for our conversion, but to his Spirit; nor to our predisposi∣tions for his applying of it, but to his own grace, who in his gra∣cious way of dealing with his people, comes over many obstructi∣ons, and packs up (to say so) many affronts and injuries.
If any should ask, why Christ did not apply this work, and put in his hand at first, but suspends it till he had gotten a refusal, and be now at the very withdrawing? Answ. 1. He doth this to shew the Soveraignty of grace, that works as well when it will, as on whom it will: Grace must not be limited by us in the manner or time of it's working, more than in it's work, or subject matter upon which it worketh. 2. By this he discovereth, what belie∣vers would be without his grace (and so would teach them to Page 269 walk humbly) which otherwise had not so well appeared. 3. His wisdom and tendernesse appears herein, that he will not withdraw from her, and leave her lifelesse too, but ere he awake challenges in her, he will make her lively in the exercise of her graces; o∣therwise she might have lyen still in her deadnesse: Christ times his operations, his appearings and withdrawings with much ten∣dernesse, wisdom and discretion.
This work of the Spirit puts a stir in the Bride, which vents it self in four steps. 1. Her bowels are moved. 2. She ariseth. 3. Her fingers drop with Myrrhe. 4. She opens. All which may be considered, either, 1. As effects following the work of the Spirit, whereby she is recovered from such a condition: Or, 2. As duties lying on a believer: Or, 3. As they hold out the order of the effects wrought by the Spirit. In general, it holds forth, 1. That the work of the Spirit, when it's effectually apply∣ed, makes a very great, palpable and universal change upon the persons in whom it works: There is a great difference betwixt the Brides carriage here, and what it was, vers. 3. 2. Although it be not absolutly necessary, nor ordinary for a believer, to know the instant of his conversion; yet, when the change is suddain, and from an extremity of a sinful condition, it will be discernable, and the fruits following the change will be the more palpable. 3. A believer would endeavour to be clear in the change of his condition; and when this clearnesse is at∣tained by the distinct uptaking of the several fruits of the change, it is very useful and profitable for establishing the believer in the confidence of his interest in Christ, and that there is a saving change wrought in him; So here, the Bride both asserts him to be her beloved, and likewise the reality of the change he had wrought in her.
The first effect, is, my bowels were moved for him; Which, in short, holds forth the kindly exercise of serious repentance, af∣fecting and stinging (as it were) the very inward bowels, for slighting Christ so long: which will be cleared by considering, 1. What is meant by bowels. 2. What by moving of the bowels. 3. What that is, for him. By bowels, are understood either sor∣row, and that in an intense degree, as, Iob 30. 27. my bowels Page 270 boyled. Lam. 1. 20. My bowels are troubled. And Ier. 4. 19. My bowels, my bowels, I am pained at the very heart: Or, bowels are taken for affection and tender love in the highest degree, such as mothers have to the children of their womb, Philip. 2. 1, 2. If there be any bowels. And Philemon, v. 12. Receive him that is my own bowels. Thus they are taken, Isa. 63. 15. Where are thy bow∣els? and frequently elsewhere, both in the Old and New Testa∣ment. By moving of the bowels (or sounding, or making a noise, as the word is elsewhere trauslated, Isa. 10. 11. and 63. 15.) is understood a sensible stirring of the affections, when they begin to stound, and that kindly, and in a most affectionat manner, either severally, or jointly, such as is the turning of the bowels, Hos. 11. and the troubling of the bowels, Jer. 31. 18, 19, 20. It's even such as is kindly sympathy with persons that are dearly beloved, when any sad change befalls them: It's called the yerning of the bow∣els, spoken of that mother, 1 King. 3. 26. who was so affected to∣wards her child, out of love to him, that she had rather quite him to the other woman that was not his mother, than see him di∣vided, her bowels were so hot towards him; (another thing than was in any on-looker) It's the same word here, which shews, that this motion of the Brides bowels proceeded from love to Christ, and from sorrow for wronging of him, which two jumbled her with∣in, and pierced and stounded her to the heart, as a kindly parent useth to be for the death or distresse of his only child, which is the character of true repentance, Zech. 12. 10, 11. 3. For him, holds out, 1. The procuring-cause of this trouble, that it was for wronging of Christ, and the slighting of so kind an husband and friend, that, that stounded her at the heart above all, as, Zech. 12. 10. They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn for him. 2. It holds forth the final cause wherefore she was so stirred and moved; It was for him, that is, that she might injoy him, as the word is, Hos. 7. 14. They assemble themselves for corn and wine, that is, to obtain them: So her bowels were moved for, or after him, to obtain and injoy him: And thus, sense of the wrong done to him, in her by-past unkindly carriage to him, and desire to re∣cover him again, so affects her, as if it were the pangs of a travel∣ling woman, till Christ be again formed in her heart. Obs. 1. The Page 271 first work of the Spirit, is, by powerful convictions to beget evange∣lick repentance in the heart, and to make the soul sensible of by∣past failings, Act. 2. 37. This although it be not in time before faith, nor in nature (for, seing it proceeds from love, it suppo∣seth faith) yet it's the first sensible effect, that sinners (surprised in a sinful condition) are touched with, and it's never separat from, but alwayes joined with, the exercise of faith, Zech. 12. 10. 2. This work of repentance is necessary to be renewed, even in believers after their failings, and it is the way by which they re∣cover; Christ's Bride is thus affected, and it becomes them well who have sin, to be deeply moved and afflicted with the sense of it. 3. Where most love to Christ is, and where most sincerity hath been, when a wakening comes, it will be the more sensible, and affect the heart the more throughly. Particularly, we may gather hence these properties of true repentance or godly sor∣row. 1. Godly sorrow is no fruit of nature, but is a work and effect of the Spirit of Christ, and a peculiar saving grace, beyond common conviction, and a believer is not the worker of it in himself. 2. This sorrow consists most in the inward pangs and stings of the heart, wherein love to Christ, and indignation against our selves for wronging of him, strugle, and put all within, in a stir. 3. True repentance is different from, and beyond convicti∣ons, and challenges (which the Bride had before when this was wanting in her) and makes another kind of impression, and a more sensible touch upon the heart and inward bowels: I say not that it's alway terrible; for, that is accidental to it, but sensible it is. 4. Though this godly sorrow affect the heart deeply, yet doth it work kindly, sweetly and affectionatly, as a mothers affection warms to her child, or, as a man is troubled for his first-born: Love hath a main influence upon, and goeth alongst in, this godly sorrow, both in the rise of it, love kindles this heart-indignation; and also in the exercise of it, love to Christ keeps it lively; and in the manner how it vents it self, it makes it a kindly and no torturing or terrible exercise. 5. Nothing more affects a kindly repenting heart, truly touched with godly sorrow, than that it should have sinned against Christ It's own hazard is not the predo∣minant cause of this sorrow (she is clear of her interest still) nor Page 272 is it any sad event that might follow, which so affects her (though she was not senselesse as to these) but it is for him, and his cause, and not her own, that she is thus moved: The Spirits conviction, Ioh. 16. 8. is, because they believe not on me. 6. Considering the words with what follows, I rose, &c. and comparing them with what went before, Observe, That true repentance brings forth alwayes a change in a believers carriage to the better, in those things by which Christ their Beloved was formerly provocked; and it doth stir up to universal activenesse, in the study of holi∣nesse: This makes her arise from the lazinesse in which she for∣merly was. 7. Consider, that she rests not till first she open to Christ, and thereafter obtain his presence, which sheweth, that where true repentance is, the soul will never sit down on challenges, con∣victions, or making a-mends in the conversation, or any thing in self; but it will be restlesse until by faith it close with Christ; yea, it will be pressing after the intimation of his favour, on the back of any peace attained in closing with him, as David doth, Psal. 51.
There are two steps of her carriage, or effects of the Spirit's work, vers. 5. The first is, her bowels being thus stirred and moved, she ariseth to open, as being sorry she had lyen still and shifted him so long: I rose up; This is opposit to her former lying still, and refusing to give him entry; now she yields, and begins to bestir her self, to draw her cloaths to her, &c. Which imports not only more diligence as to the matter of duty, but much seriousnesse as to the manner: It seems to differ from opening (which is the actual receiving of Christ into the heart, when all things are ready and prepared) not as if it were simply contradistinguished from faith (for, this being a fruit of her re∣pentance, Page 273 and he acknowledged to be her beloved, there behoved to be faith in it) but only, as one degree or act of faith is distin∣guished from another, as, Luk. 15. In the Prodigals case, it's said, after he came to himself, before he act, he deliberats and stirs himself; So this holds forth, her rousing and quickning her self, for receiving Christ, which is not separat in time, either from her repentance in the former words, or her faith in these that follow; she rose to open, that shews her design, that she resolved now not to stand at, but to go over her former reasonings; and purposed by this stirring, to have the way rid for Christ's entry, and to make him welcome; which shews, it was no confused ex∣ercise that her repentance put her unto, but distinct and di∣gested, like the Prodigals, I will arise, and go to my Father, and say, &c.
Obs. 1. Repentance will put the securest sinners to their feet, when it is real. 2. There is no settling of an exercised mind, but in receiving of Christ, and in making of him welcome. 3. When the heart is affected with the sense of sin, and desire to have Christ, it's not time to delay or dispute what to do, but to rise and open, and by faith to receive Christ. 4. Where a soul hath been plun∣ged in security, or (like the Prodigal, Luke 15.) in prophanity, there will be need of gathering, composing and rousing of it self, for exercising of faith in Christ; this is not from any difficulty that is on graces-side to receive a sinner, but from the difficulty that is on the sinners side, in acting of grace, who being at a low ebb, must by several steps of grace ascend out of it, with a kind of violence to corruption, discouragement and unbelief, from under the power of which the penitent must arise, when they combine to intangle and detain him, as she doth here. 5. Believers would be distinct in their exercises, especially in reference to their end and design, that in their activity and stirrings it may be discerned by themselves what they would be at: Some exercises are confu∣sed, neither having a distinct cause, nor a distinct end; kindly ex∣ercise hath both, though much confusion may be with it. 6. Faith in Christ, and making way for him into the heart, should be, and is the native end of all inward exercises, diligence in duties, &c. This must be the great scope of all pains whatsoever; these stings Page 274 of exercise that put not the soul to open to him, though they put the person thorow other, are not to be fostered, nor laid much weight upon. 7. Though faith and duty differ, and the most active frame is not to be rested on without faith, yet activity in duty, and livelinesse in the exercise of faith go together: as her rising and opening do, even as before, her lying still, and the keep∣ing of him out, went together. Yea, 8. This activenesse runs es∣pecially to perform what he called to: He called to open, and she accordingly riseth to open; which shews, that the penitents acti∣vity doth principally bend it self towards these duties, that Christ in a more especial manner calls for.
She proceeds to set down her experience which she found when she had risen, which is the third effect of the work of grace on her by Christ's putting in his hand, when she arose to open: Her hands and fingers dropped sweet smelling Myrrhe upon the handles of the lock: She continues the comparison of opening a shut door, he, as it were, put in the key without, and she came to draw the handle or slot within. (as is usual in some locks) The door is the heart, as Psal. 24. 7. called, the everlasting doors: The lock that closeth, is unbelief and security, indisposition and declining in the exercise of grace, whereby, as by a fast lock, Christ in his accesse to the heart is kept out: Now she puts-to her hands and fingers to the sock within, which imports her stirring her self again in the exercise of faith and diligence, being now arisen to open; There∣fore by faith we are said to grip and take hold of Christ, and to work righteousnesse, and by it the heart is opened to him, as fol∣lowes. This sweet smelling Myrrhe that drops, is the flowing of habitual grace, which formerly was not vigorous and active, but now it flowes and vents, and is to the heart as oyl applyed to moisten and make easie a rousted lock, to make it open without difficulty: This grace is ordinarily compared to Myrrhe, and the anointing typical oyl was made of it and of other spices, Exod. 30. 23. It's said here, to drop from her fingers, implying the active stirring of her faith, because when faith becomes lively, it puts all other graces to exercise, and thereby (as it were by oyl) her former hardnesse and indisposition was softned and removed, and her heart made meet to act lively. In sum it's this, That Page 275 when she in the exercise of faith and holinesse, set her self seriously and effectually to make way for Christ, and to remove what for∣merly had kept him out through her indisposition, unexpected∣ly she found, that by his putting in of his hand, it went much more easily and sweetly than she expected, all had been so anointed and quickned; and thus conduced to the opening of her heart, as dropping of oyl doth to the easie opening of a lock: Which shews, 1. That the work of grace upon the heart, being applyed by Christ from without, doth leave an inward fitnesse on the heart within for the opening of it self to him: Grace infused and quick∣ned by Christ's Spirit, will make the most indisposed and secure heart to open to him heartsomly. 2. That though Christ apply grace from without to open the heart, yet will he have the heart formally opening it self to him; and though the heart open it self formally to him, yet it's by the vertue of his application from without; for, this putting-to of her hand, and it's dropping Myrrhe, is the effect of his putting in his hand, first. 3. Often when the most spiritual and difficult duties (if it were even faith it self) are e••ayed, they will be found more easie, than was expect∣ed, and none can tell how they will go with them, till they un∣dertake and set about them. She, while lying in her security, thought it impossible to get this done, yet now it goes easily and sweetly with her. O! but when grace goes along and flows, the exercise of duty is a sweet, and easie work. 4. Although the ex∣ercise of grace make duties easy, and a supply of help be given thereby for doing of spiritual duties, yet the Lord will have the person assaying duty ere he find it so; nor can he find or expect that supply that will facilitat duties to him, till he first set himself about them, as she first rises to open, before her fingers drop with Myrrhe. 5. These that set themselves to open to Christ, and minde that singly from the sense of their need of him, and being affected for wronging of him, will not find grace wanting and defi∣cient to help them; and by this all the mouths of unbelievers will be stopped, that are ready to say, and usually say they had not grace to open. 6. Faith in exercise hath a great influence on the keeping of all other graces in a believer fresh and green, be∣cause Page 276 it acts by Christ's strength, and therefore when it is in ex∣ercise, it makes all the rest to drop, as it were, with sweet smelling Myrrhe.
This 6. vers. contains five particulars of the Brides experience in this case: The first of them, I opened, &c. is the last effect fol∣lowing upon his putting in his hand vers. 4. This work of grace left her not in an indifferency, whether to open or not, but having given her to will in the former verse, now he gives also to do, and actually determins the will, or makes it determine it self to receive him: but now Christ is found to be absent, whereupon follows the other steps of her carriage, and the disappointments that she met with in seeking of him. This opening is the very thing called for by him, vers. 2. which (considering the words following) is espe∣cially to be understood of her exercising of faith in him, whereby the heart is delated to receive him, hence believing is called, a re∣ceiving of Christ, Joh. 1. 12. And it being a heart-receiving, it must be the very thing understood here by opening. Now al∣though faith according to it's several acts, may be several wayes considered, yet that act of faith whereby the heart consents to re∣ceive Christ, and to rest on him, is that which is mainly here aimed at, 1. Because this opening, is opposed to refusing, Psal. 81. 10, 11. It must therefore be consenting. 2. It's not giving of consent, that mainly keeps Christ at a distance from souls, or keeps them without interest in him, as opening to him, or receiving of him intitles them to him, Ioh. 1. 11, 12. and Acts 16. 14. 3. This opening is both different from conviction, resolutions, repentance Page 277 and what may be supposed to preceed; these were in the words going before: and is also distinguished from sense and the fruits of believing, which follow after: It must therefore be the hearts yielding to Christ's call, and submitting thereunto, Rom. 10. 3. as actually consenting to be his: Yet all these acts would not be looked on as distinct in respect of time, as they proceed from grace (which puts all together) but in nature, and in respect of the distinct uptaking of the same grace, in it's effects: In a word, saith the Bride, the Lord having applyed the work of his Spirit to me, it effectuated one step after another, and left me not untill I yielded my self to him to be his, as a mansion for him to dwell in. Which shews, 1. That grace doth not only work upon the under∣standing to enlighten it, but that it doth also immediatly work on the will, and determins it; for, this opening of the heart, is an effect of that work of grace, vers. 4. as the former steps were. 2. The act of believing and opening to Christ is both the effect of grace, and also the work formally of the believer: Therefore the Lord is said to open the heart, Act. 16. 14. because the effect flows from his putting to his hand; and the Bride is said to open her own heart, because she formerly brought forth, or elicited the act of faith, by the strength of grace. 3. This (being compared with his call, vers. 3.) shews, that it's by faith that way is made for Christ into the heart, and it's that which especially intitles one to Christ, closes with his call, receives him, and enters Cove∣nant with him; for, if opening or believing be that which he calls for, as giving him accesse to the hearts of his people, then belie∣ving, being the performance of that called-for condition, must unite the soul to him, and enter him into the heart. 4. There is some peculiar efficacy in faith, in the uniting of one to Christ, in accepting of Christ's call, and making way for him to come in∣to the heart, which is not in any other grace: Or, it hath a pe∣culiar way of concurring, in effectuating the persons union with Christ (and so in Justification) which no other grace hath: Hence this opening is peculiarly to be attributed to it, and is distinct from repentance spoken of before, vers. 4. and from other duties mentioned in the words following. 5. Whoever honestly, from the sense of sin and need of Christ and desire to have him to sup∣ply Page 278 their need, essayes believing and opening their heart to him, shall certainly come good speed, and without fail attain their de∣sign; I rose to open (saith she) and I opened. 6. Although the distinct exercise of saith be not attained instantly, (but there must be first a rising, and an offering of violence to our corruptions in the pursueing thereof, before we win to the distinct opening of the heart) yet it should be prosecute till it be perfected. 7. Some∣times the exercise of faith will be distinct and discernable, so that a believer can tell he hath believed; and it's no lesse comfortable to be clear from serious reflecting on our selves, that we have in∣deed by faith yielded to Christ, than to be clear of it by the fruits following thereupon: For she is clear and confident in this, that she had opened to him.
Having opened, now the Beloved is gone, like as a husband, being offended at his wifes disrespect to him, should withdraw, when she at length with much adoe were brought to rise; So our Lord Jesus takes that way of rebuking kindly the former unkind∣linesse of believers, by after-desertions and withdrawings. The word is doubled, but my Beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone, or, he was gone, he was gone; which doth not only import in his carriage a sad withdrawing, and on hers an observation of it; but also a sorrowful regrate and weightednesse, as having met with a sad disappointment (as the following words clear) as if she had said, at last I opened, but alace he was gone and away! What this withdrawing of Christ is, we may know by considering what his being present is, which is not to be understood of the omni-presence of his God-head, there being no coming nor going that can be attributed to that infinit Essence, which is every-where at all times present; but it is in respect of the out-letting of his especial love, and that in the peculiar way of manifesting it to his people, and not in regard of his love it self, or of their interest in him; for, here her interest stands in him, and faith in him is ex∣ercised, and the lifelesnesse that she was under is removed, so that now she is acting faith, and there is a presence o•grace making her active and lively, even under this withdrawing: The thing then which is wanting, is a sensible manifestation of Christ's love to her, which now upon her yielding to open, she expected to have been Page 279 filled with, as a wife opening to her husband should expect his embracements, and yet in place thereof, find that he were gone: This withdrawing is no real alteration on Christ's side, nor are we to look upon it as if now she had lesse than before she believed and bestirred her self; for, her union with him, and the influence of his grace on her remained: But, 1. She missed that comfortable and sweet sense of love that she expected from him; that was kept up. 2. She was then more sensible that he was provoked, and found that her peace was not so well grounded, which formerly she pleased her self with, as she conceived. 3. Upon this also follow∣ed some kindly exercise, whereby Christ might make his dissatis∣faction known, as a husband doth his, by his withdrawing; so that although interest be not disputed, and the heart be kept in the exercise of duties, yet disquietnesse may grow above what it was: and Christ wisely times this sense of his absence now, with the pre∣sence of his grace, because she might both better endure it, and it would also be more profitable thus to chasten her now, than if he had done it in her dead condition. Hence, Observe, 1. That believers, in the lively exercise of faith and duty, may have many moe exercises, and sharper spiritual dispensations, than they had formerly in their security. 2. Christ hath a peculiar way both of presence with, and absence from his own. 3. Often believers when they are in the exercise of faith and duty, expect satisfying manifestations of Christ to their sense; for, it is supponed here, that she looked for him this way, when she opened. 4. Sometimes Christ will keep up the sense of his love, and withdraw himself from his own, even when in the exercise of faith and duty. 5. Christ's withdrawing is not alwayes an evidence of the worst frame, even as his presence doth not speak out his satisfaction every way with his peoples condition, but these are often acts of Soveraignty, timed according to his good pleasure; for, she is now in better case than formerly, and yet he is withdrawn and gone. 6. Christ by his withdrawing may be chastning for some former sin or disrespect, done to him before the believer became lively, who yet for good ends did suspend the taking notice of that sin, till he was in a frame to bear it, and profite by it. 7. Christ's withdrawings ought to be observed by his people, as Page 280 well as other pieces of their own experience: It's profitable to know what he doth, as well as what they do themselves. 8. There is a great difference betwixt faith and sense; yea, betwixt clear∣nesse of interest, and sensible presence, the one may be in a great measure, where the other is not, as in this case here. 9. It's the exercise of faith in Christ, that makes his absence to be discerned: (for that is not known here, till the door be opened) And the more lively a person be in the exercise of grace, the more will Christ's absence be marked and regrated; whereas in a belie∣ver's secure frame, or in a person still unacquainted with Christ, his absence is not discerned nor laid to heart. 10. Although sense be not satisfied, yet believers should not disclaim their faith when it is real, but acknowledge that they do believe, and open to Christ when they do it: So it is here, I opened, or yielded by faith to him, even when he was gone, and I could not find him.
What effect this disappointment had upon her part, follows, my soul failed when he spake: This effect is sad and heavy, the sense of her sin, and the apprehension of her grieving of him, kindled by love to him, pierceth and stoundeth her so to the heart, that it becomes almost lifelesse: So the word is used, Gen. 42. 28. of Iacobs sons, when they found the money in their sacks mouths, they were sore afraid, and their hearts failed them, or, went out of them; It's a surprizing unexpected heavinesse, and that in a high degree, holding forth, how de•ply believers will be affected, when disappointed of the expected presence of Christ, and that by their own guilt: The cause or occasion of this failing of heart, is in these words, when he spake, which look to the time past, though the effect was present; and they may be two wayes un∣derstood, 1. As being a remembring how it was with her while he spake (for now he speaks not) she now observes, and calls to mind, that when he called and she shifted, yet even then her heart was affected with his word, and this smites her now, that she should have so long smotherd so much kindnesse, and have brought all this upon her self; It's like that of the Disciples, Luk. 24. 32. who after Christ was gone, say one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and opened up to us the Scriptures; though before they little heeded it, yet after∣ward Page 281 they observe, and when they recollect themselves, it be∣comes more distinct than it was in the time. 2. It may be lookt on as being the present effect of the words formerly spoken, which although they did not so sensibly affect her when he spoke them, yet now being brought to her remembrance (as, Ioh. 14. 26.) they pierce her, that she should have slighted and neglected them, as, Matth. 26. when Peter is admonished, the word for the time affects not, but afterward, vers. 75. when he remembers it (as challenges brings back words formerly spoken) he went out and wept bitterly; So her resentment of what she formerly slighted is now bitter. Obs. 1. The time of Christ's absence is a time when by-gone challenges, or challenges for by-past offences, use to re∣cur. 2. Often believers when brought through a secure fit, will find some stirrings and effects of the grace of Christ to have been in them, even then, which were not so discernable to them while they were under their distemper. 3. Christ's word may have ef∣fects long after it is spoken and heard; yea, a word long since heard, may be an after-remembrance (being brought again to mind by the Spirit) Ioh. 14. 26. and have operation more than at first; or, although for a time it have had none at all, but may be as seed under the ground, till the Spirit blow on it to bring it above, yet, afterward by the the Spirit's influence, it may have many blessed effects. 4. There is nothing that will affect a graci∣ous soul more, than to misse Christ's presence, when the disap∣pointment hath been procured by it's own sin, if it be but a with∣drawing for a time, that will make the hearts of his own even to fail, but O! if it be eternal, by reason of sinners constant slighting of him now in the offers of his grace, what desperate anguish will it produce? And there is none that slights Christ's call now and puts him away, but one time or other it will be heavy to them and cost them dear. 5. It's a kindly thing, when a believer misses Christ, and wants presence, to be affected with it; and it's unkindly to discern absence, and not to be affected. 6. Repen∣tance where it's kindly, or right heart-sorrow will have it's con∣tinuance and growth from one degree to another: This failing of heart is a continued, but a further step of the moving of her bowels, vers. 4. 7. Although interest in Christ be clear, and matters Page 282 otherwise not in an evil case, yet want of Christ's presence for the time, and the remembrance of by-gone guilt, will be a very sad exercise to the believer, and affect his heart very much.
This is a sad posture, yet she gives not over, notwithstanding of this or any following disappointments, till she obtain the holy design she drives: Where faith and love are exercised together, for attaining Christ, nothing will scar nor discourage the soul in it's pursuit of him. Her carriage follows in four steps (whereby she endeavours to recover him) with the successe that she found in each of them. 1. She gives private diligence. 2. She applyes her self to publick Ordinances, vers. 7. When that also fails, she, 3. betakes her self to the exercise of mutual fellowship with the daughters of Ierusalem, and seeks their help, vers. 8. and at last rests on the exercise of faith in him, Chap. 6. 3. Her secret pain∣fulnesse, with the fruit thereof, is set down in two steps, in the rest of this verse, 1. I sought him, that is, painfully used all means to meet with him, as one searcheth earnestly for what he wants; so the word is taken, Prov. 15. 14. It shews her seriousnesse as to the end, and also her holy solicitude in the manner of pursuing it: But (saith she) I found him not, he was now obtained, but she con∣tinueth still under the want of the sensible manifestations of his presence. Again, the 2. is, I called him, that is, prayed to him, but (saith she) he gave me no answer, that is, I had no sensible ease, and return of prayer; though the prayer was not altogether unheard; for, her continuing to seek after him, shews that she was answered with strength in her soul, Psal. 138. 3. There was sustain∣ing-grace even then, though there were not the soul-satisfying and comforting inlargements, or sensible embracements of Christ, and his warm-speaking of peace to her heart, which she aimed at; and the greatnesse of her bensil after these, makes her think that she had received no answer at all. It's in sum, as if a wife, by search and running to and fro, did seek her husband, and when that suc∣ceeds not, she calls him by his name: So did she leave no mean unessayed, but did not obtain what she sought. Which shews, 1. That God often blesseth want of sense to a believer, to be a spur to much diligence. 2. When desertions are most sensible, then ought the believer to be most diligent in the use of all Page 283 means, especially of prayer, for an outgate. 3. There may be much life in duty, even then when there is little sense and satis∣faction as to the event; there is here seeking and calling on him, though she found him not, and he gave her no answer. 4. It's a blessed heart-sorrow that vents in diligence and prayer to God for his presence. 5. The remembrance and resentment of our by-gone wrongs to Christ, should not so affect, as to scar us from him, but should presse us to seek to be again in his company; otherwise, if we scar at him, or bide away from him, because of the sense of guilt, it will be the mending of one fault with ano∣ther: It's ever best reckoning our own guilt, when he is present. 6. Christ's presence is the only cordial that can satisfie a soul, fainting under the sense of the wrongs it hath done to Christ: therefore when her heart fails, she sits not down under it for ease, but seeks and calls for himself and his own presence. 7. There may be much seeking and prayer, which may be so indeed, and ac∣cepted of by God, and yet his comfortable presence be kept up, and the particular sought-for suspended. 8. Often the having of our eye in prayer upon one particular (suppose upon one com∣fort) may make us construct our prayers, to have lesse of an an∣swer than they have, whileas indeed they are not fruitlesse, but may be answered in other things, which we do not observe. 9. The Lord may deny comfort when it is sought, and yet shew his grace in sustaining his people, and quickning them to follow him in their duty, when they in the mean time may take it for a sort of refu∣sal, 2 Cor. 12. 9, 10. It is ever good for believers to reflect on their duty, and on the successe of it, whatever it be; and that not in one step only, but in the whole tract of their way. 10. If we compare this with her former carnally easie and secure condi∣tion, vers. 2, 3. we see, that sensible desertion, when a believer is holily active under it, is no ill condition; comparatively it's bet∣ter with her now when she is swounding and fainting without Christ, than when she did ly still carelessly without him; grace is working more actively now (as from vers. 4. is clear) and she is nearer unto him, and hath much more solid ground of peace than she had at that time.
When private means do not the businesse, the Bride betakes her to publick Ordinances, and frequents them: And this 7. vers. shews what she found in the use of that mean, a sad disappoint∣ment also, which is several wayes aggreged: Christ's presence is easily lost, but it is not easily recovered; This will cost much pains, and the enduring of many perplexing disappointments: It is much more difficult to win to injoy Christ, than it is to lose him: Lying on the bed in ease may bring on that, which much la∣bour and watching will not remove.
That this verse points at her going about the publick Ordinan∣ces, the scope makes clear, that being the next ordinary mean used for enquiring after an absent Christ, when private diligence hath had little successe. The matter of the words, as was cleared in Chap. 3. 3. doth also evidence this; The Church is the City which hath walls (that is, the Ordinances) for preventing her hurt, and promoving of her edification: The watchmen are her Ministers, appointed and designed to keep the walls, and to go about the City: They are said to go about the City, in respect of their care and solicitude to prevent inward difficulties and hazards, and are called keepers of the walls, as they stand to repel what from without may disturb the Churches edification, and ecclesiastick peace: In a word, they are the same by office, that these were, Chap. 3. 3. but their carriage to her is more unlike the relation they stood in: Which is set forth in four steps, all which are to be looked on as a special piece of untendernesse in them, and of suffering in her; which now the Lord in his wisdom permits her to meet with, that so she may find how unwisely she had done to neglect Christ's kind call, vers. 2. when as now other hands deal Page 285 more roughly with her: The reasons hinted, Chap. 3. 3. do con∣firm this; beside, there being so much spoken of their wounding of her, either she or they must be wrong; Now she is (for the main) in her duty, and under a fainting condition, seeking after Christ, and there is no warrand to wound a poor seeker of Christ in such a condition, even where there have been former failings, (2 Cor. 2. 7. The Apostle will have the incestuous person in such a case tenderly dealt with, lest he should be swallowed up) but it's duty rather to bind up their wounds, and to pour oyl into them, by speaking a word in season to such weary souls. This was, no doubt, their duty, and the Lord himself doth so, Isa. 50. 4. Nei∣ther could her former security be a ground to reach her such blows now, especially her offence being betwixt Christ and her their alones, and so no object of publick reproof; and she being a burthen to her self, ought not to have been made more heavy by them: Beside, Chap. 3. 4. the watchmen dealt more tenderly with her, when yet she had been in security also. This dealing of theirs cannot be to speak a word in season to the weary soul of a tender person, whose carriage is so convincing even to others, that vers. 9. they give her a high commendation, which is a clear testi∣mony against the malignity of these watchmen; they must there∣fore be lookt on as untender, or unskilful, or both, who do thus misapply the Word contrary to the end for which it is appointed, and as miserable comforters talk to the grief of such as he hath wounded. The first step is, They found me: It is not the finding of a friend, as Chap. 3. 3. but (as the effects clear) the finding of an enemy, and is as if a Minister should digresse of purpose, to take in the case of some poor tender soul, that he might reach it a blow, though beside his Text: Thus, Ezek. 34. 21. The Idol∣shepherds (who it may be, had a true external call) are said to thrust with the side and shoulder, and push all the diseased with the horns: And, vers. 4. to rule with force and cruelty: And in Ezek. 13. 20. they are said to hunt the souls of God's people: A part of which cruelty and oppression, is vers. 22. in making the righteous sad: This is their finding, a seeking occasion to load them with bitter invectives, and reproaches. It's observable also, that here at the very first finding they hurt her, without so much as suffe∣ring Page 286 her to tell her own case, as she did to the watchmen, Chap. 3. 3. So that without taking notice of her condition, they presently fall upon her; which saith, that in their smiting her, they did not respect her case. 2. They smote her, that is, more gently at first; however, they suffer no occasion to slip, whereby they have any accesse to give a wipe to such heart-exercised souls, but it's laid hold upon; and what infirmity is in any of them, or inconsiderat∣nesse in their zeal, that is casten up, and often somewhat of lesse moment is much aggreged. The word takes in also wronging with the tongue, Ier. 18. 18. Come, let us smite Ieremiah with the tongue: and it's like, by the words following in that verse, the prophane Priests had no little accession to it. 3. They wound her: This is a further step, and imports such a smiting as continues till the person be wounded, denoting a higher degree of cruelty, such as is the persecuting of these whom God hath smitten, and talk∣ing to their grief, Psal. 69. 26. which will exceedingly wound a tender exercised soul, who is soon affected; and the Psalm espe∣cially points at Iudas, who, Ioh. 12. 4, 5, 6. was ready to con∣demn the holy zeal of an honest soul, which our Lord vindicats and leaves on record to her eternal commendation. 4. The last step is, They took away my vail from me: The word that's rende∣red vail, comes from a root that signifieth to subdue, it's that fame word which we have, Psal. 144. 2. who subdues the people, &c. It had a threefold use, 1. For decorement, as Isa. 3. 23. 2. For a sign of modesty, pleaded for by the Apostle, 1 Cor. 11. 6. 3. And mainly, for a sign of womens subjection to their own husbands; for which cause Rebekah puts on her vail, when she meets Isaac, Gen. 24. 65. And therefore it's called power, as being the sign of the wifes being under the power of her husband, 1 Cor. 11. 10. Here, her vail is the tendernesse of her profession, whereby in a decent, modest and humble way, she profest her self to be a be∣liever, seeking after Christ Jesus, as one bearing the b•dge of sub∣jection to him as her husband. The taking away of the vail, is their wronging of that honest profession she had, and the giving of her out, not to be that which she profest her self to be, and so not worthy of a vail; but that her profession was hypocrisie, her painfulnesse and tendernesse, conceitinesse, even as Iudas, Joh. 12. 5. Page 287 nicknames that good work wrought upon Christ by that honest woman, calling it wastry: And by these and such other means, often tender souls are affronted, and proposed as a reproach to the multitude; even as if a wife that is chast, were denuded of her vail, and reputed as an gadding harlot, while she is seeking her own husband: So when the Lord threatens his people, that their le•d∣nesse should be made to appear, he useth this expression, Ezek. 23. 26, 27. They shall stripe thee out of thy cloaths, &c. that being a manifest shame to a woman, that should be covered, 1 Cor. 11. 6. This is added, to shew that they pretend they have reason for their smiting: They disgrace her, and take away her vail, that they may not be thought to smite holinesse or tendernesse, but a hypocrite under such a vail, or a whore more decently adorned than became her to be.
This is the sum, when I prevailed not in privat diligence, I frequented the publick Ordinances; but these who were watch∣men and healers by office, being untender (as if they had intend∣ed it) did by malice, or want of affection, or through unskilful∣nesse and want of experience, so apply the word, that they sowed pillows under the arm-holes of the prophane, and made the righ∣teous sad: Whereby I was not only nothing profited, but re∣turned more weighted and ashamed, and had no encouragement to seek any more of their help, as I had done, Chap. 3. 3. but was necessitat to turn to others: Which shews, that she accounts them untender, and therefore, sets it down here as a piece of her sad tryal; whereas, had it been the wounding of a friend, it had been a kindnesse to her, Psal. 141. 5. and would have ingaged her to fol∣low on for healing from that same hand, so far would it have been from being the matter of her complaint, neither would it have been complained of by her.
These words afford many such doctrines, as, Chap. 3. 3. As, 1. The visible Church is a distinct incorporation by it self, and all it's members have right to it's priviledges, to wit, such whereof they are capable: It's the City, and they are the Citizens, Eph. 2. 19. 2. Its a City that is not without fear and hazard, though it have walls; but it had need to be watched both within and without: Or, the visible Church hath many enemies, she is in Page 288 constant war: Hence therefore, is she called the militant Church; and for this cause, she hath walls and watchmen. 3. The Lord hath provided her with sufficient means against all assaults. 4. A lawfully-called ministery, or watch-men peculiarly defigned for that end, are the great mean Christ hath appointed for preventing the hurt, and promoving the good and edification of his Church, Eph. 2. 12, 13. They are as the sentinels, which he hath set on the walls for giving advertisement and warning; and this well becomes their office, Isa. 62. 6. Ezek. 3. and 33. Chapters, and elsewhere. 5. Tender believers will put a great price upon publick Ordinan∣ces, even when they seem to themselves to come little speed in their privat duties; privat diligence furthers publick, and pub∣lick furthers privat: These two ought not to be, neither will they, be separat in a tender person, but go together. 6. Tender believers may have weights added to their exercise, and a load put above a burden, even by these whose stations and relations call for much more sympathy and healing. 7. Publick Ordinan∣ces may be sometimes unfruitful to believers, even when they have great need, and are under great sense of need. 8. When one that is tender gets no good nor ease by publick Ordinances, often there is an addition made to his burden thereby. 9. Untender, unskilful and unfaithful men may creep in, and be admitted to the ministery, and to watching over the Church, as Iudas was. 10. When such are gifted, and (as to order) lawfully called, they are truly ministers, though not true ministers, and have authority for discharging of all duties; and duties discharged, or Ordinan∣ces dispensed by them according to Christ's warrand, are valide, and the word from their mouth, is to be received as from him; Therefore they are called watchmen, which imports them to be really in office, which could not be if the former assertions were not true. 11. Very often, tender believers in their exercises, suffer much from such ministers: Or an untender minister, is often a great affliction to tender exercised believers; yea, of all men, these prove most sadly afflicting to them; no man wounds godlinesse more, or wounds and affronts the profession thereof more in them that are the most real and tender professors, than a gifted untender minister may do, and often doth; though some∣times Page 289 the Lord will make use of him for their good, to humble them, yet more to provoke them to the study of more serious∣nesse in secret duties, and to more closse and constant waiting on the Lord himself. 12. Where enmity against godlinesse once a∣riseth and vents it self against the godly, it often grows from one degree to another, as here; Men, especially Ministers once ingaged in it, are not easily recovered and brought out of that evil, but are carried, yea, often hurried from one step to another: yet, she accounts them watchmen, as holding out the respect she bare to their office, even then: Whence observe, 13. That it is a piece of spiritual wisdom and tendernesse, to distinguish care∣fully betwixt the office of the Ministery, or the Ordinance it self, and the faults and untendernesse of persons, who may miscarry in the exercise of that office; and not to fall from the esteem of the Ordinance because of them, or of what faults may be in them, but even then to respect the Ordinance out of respect to Christ, and his institution and appointment. 14. Believers would ob∣serve the fruit of publick Ordinances, as well as of secret diligence, as the Bride here doth.
When this mean fails her, she gives not over, but betakes her self to the use of mutual fellowship with the Saints (which is the third step of her carriage) v. 8. that she may have their help for recovering of Christ's presence: She propounds her case to them, and presseth for their bearing burden with her; Her case is in the last words, I am sick of love: a strange disease, yet kindly to a be∣liever: This sicknesse implyes pain as of a woman in travel, whose showres are sharp, and pangs vehement till she bring forth: The same word is used to this purpose, Isa. 26. 17. Like as a woman that draweth near her delivery, is in pain, &c. And it imports in this place, these two, 1. Vehement desire after Christ, from ar∣dent. Page 290 love to him, so that she could not indure to want him. 2. Much heart-affectednesse following upon that ardent desire, which (under her former disappointments) did beget such pain and fainting, that it was as a sore sicknesse, though not danger∣ous; This sicknesse differs from that spoken of, Chap. 2. 5. as the scope shews: That is like the pain procured by an overset of the stomack, so the sense of his love being let out in a very great mea∣sure, was like to master her; not that sense of his love is simply or in it self burdensome, but she is weak like an old bottle, or a queasie and weak stomack that cannot bear much: But this is like the pain that proceeds from hunger, and a strong appetite, when that which is longed-for is not obtained, which augments the de∣sire, and at last breeds fainting and sicknesse. This shews, 1. That love to Christ where it is sincere, is a most sensible thing. 2. That the moe disappointments it meets with, in seeking after sensible manifestations of Christ, it grows the more vehement. 3. That continued absence to a tender soul, will be exceeding heavy and painful; hope deferred makes the heart sick, especially when the sweetnesse of Christ's presence hath been felt, and his absence di∣stinctly discerned. 4. That Christ's presence is the souls health, and his absence it's sicknesse, have else what it will. 5. That love to Christ will sometimes, especially after challenges and disap∣pointments, so over-power the soul, that it cannot to it's own sense (at least) act under it, or sustain it (it seems so heavy a bur∣den) as sicknesse will do to the body, if it get not an out-gate.
The way she takes to obtain Christ after all other means fail her, is by making her application to the daughters of Ierusalem: Indeed it's Christ, and not they that can cure her, he is the only medicine for a sick soul; therefore, her design is not to rest in their company, but to make use of it for obtaining his company: For, the company, although it were even of Angels, will not be satisfying to a soul that seeks Christ, the best fellowship is empty without him, Ioh. 20, 12. 13. Why weepest thou? (say the Angels) Why? (saith she) they have taken away my Lord. In this consi∣der, 1. The parties she betakes her self to, the daughters of Ieru∣salem, spoken of chap. 1. 5. Professors not of the worst stamp; yet (as after appears) under much ignorance of Christ, and of spiritual Page 291 exercise: This is the mean she goes now unto. Where observe, 1. Spiritual communion amongst professors or believers, is not only a duty, but a special mean, being rightly made use of, to further our fellowship with Christ. 2. Believers in their sad cases, may, and ought freely to make use of this mean, by desiring others help; and for their own case and furtherance in meeting with Christ, by communicating their case to them, as she doth here. 3. Even the strongest believers (whom the Bride repre∣sents) may be helped by these, that are much weaker than them∣selves in gifts, grace and experience; as the daughters of Ieru∣salem are here: And so Paul often requires of others, inferior to, and much short of him, the help of their prayers. Consider, 2. her desire to them, Tell him (saith she) I am sick of love, make my case known to him, and hold it up by prayer: She had been doing so her self, and had not come speed, and therefore she puts them upon it, that they might help her to obtain an an∣swer. Obs. 1. That prayer for one another, is a duty of mutual fel∣lowship, especially for these that are exercised: others should be in that exercise with them, Iam. 5. 17. 2. Believers sometimes will not trust themselves with the opening of their own case to Christ, and will not be satisfied with their own way, but will think others can do it much better. 3. Praying for our selves, and desiring of help from others should go together; Or, it will give most clear∣nesse and peace to believers, to desire the help of others, when they have been serious in the use of all means by themselves, as she had been. 4. It sayes, That believers holding up the case of another, will be very acceptable to Christ. And, 5. That there is nothing we can tell Christ, of our own or other folks case, that will be more pleasant to, and taking with him, than this, that we are they who are sick of love to him: This is propounded, as that which may and will be most acceptable to him: what shall ye tell him? (so the words run) these are the best and most acceptable news to him. 6. Such a ca•e as love-sicknesse is a good motive, upon which to presse for the help of others pray∣ers, and that which may also give confidence to any, to bear such a message to Christ. 7. Believers in their communion with o∣thers, would more insist upon their own cases, than on the faults Page 292 of Ministers, or miscarriages of others: Although she was for∣merly smitten by the watchmen, yet this is the great thing she propounds to them. Consider, 3. a qualification, put in her suit to the daughters of Ierusalem; If ye find him: That is, If ye get accesse, which now she thinks her self excluded from. And it imports, 1. That there is a peculiar finding of, and accesse un∣to Christ at one time beyond another. 2. That a weak believer may sometimes have much more accesse to Christ, and sensible communion with him, than others of greater parts and experi∣ence: She suppones that they might find, while she did not. 3. That when any gets accesse for themselves, then especially they should remember others, and improve their court with Christ, for their good who may be in bonds, and under sad exercise: Then (saith she) when ye get accesse, remember my case: She would share of the fruit of their most warm injoyments. 4. She doth not resent nor envy this, or become jealous of it, but hum∣bly submits to be helped by them; Christ will have every one useful to another, and the strongest should not disdain to be in the common of the weakest.
The last thing is the manner of her proposing of it, I charge or adjure you (saith she) which hath the force of an oath pro∣posed to others, as if she had sworn them that they should do it: The same charge or adjuration is set down, Chap. 2. 7. and 3. 4. She puts them to it, as they will be answerable. Which shews, 1. Great seriousnesse in her; the matter of Christian-fellowship, and our desiring of the help of others prayers, is no matter of complement, but should in earnest be sought for. 2. She desires seriousnesse in them, in their discharge of this duty: In our pray∣ing for others, conscience would be made of it, as seriously as for our selves, and we would beware of superficialnesse and overlinesse in it. 3. Our expressions in our fellowship, especially concerning the most serious purposes, would be suitably serious: A light manner of speaking in serious things, often spills the beauty of them, marrs edification, and diminisheth from the weight of the matters themselves.
Daughters of Ierusalem.
In this 9. vers. is the third part of the Chapter, where the daughters of Ierusalem are brought in speaking: where we may see what effect the Brides serious charge had upon them: It some∣way surprizeth and astonisheth them, to see a person convincingly approveable in her carriage, so taken up with that which the most part of the world slights; This makes them think that he whom she asketh for, must be a person beyond ordinary, and in this they conclude right: There is much infirmity in this question (as of∣ten many professors are upon the matter really ignorant of Christ's worth) yet some honest-like things (at least) are in it. There is, 1. respect to her as a beautiful and goodly person, even when she was thought little of by the watchmen. 2. Docilenesse, and a de∣sire to know. 3. Some suspition of their own knowledge of Christ: And, 4. Ingenuity in seeking help. All which, are good symp∣tomes in beginners, and we will see that the question ended well with them, Chap. 6. 1. and it's like was awakened in them by her serious carriage. The return they make to her charge hath in it, 1. The title they give her. 2. The question they propose to her. 3. The rise of it, or that which gives them occasion to ask, and which puts them to it. The title is excellent, O thou fairest a∣mong women: It was given to the Bride by Christ himself, Chap. 1. 8. It implyes, 1. A spiritual beauty in her who now was thought little of by the watchmen, and had her own crosses in the world, yet even in this case lovely in her self, and lovely to these daugh∣ters. Observe, 1. That believers should be eminently convin∣cing, and commendable in their carriage even before others; Page 294 They should be fairest among them, and for spiritual beauty con∣spicuous, as lights shining in a dark place. 2. Grace when seriously in exercise, is that which makes any person (though outwardly mean and contemptible) truly beautiful and lovely; It makes them so really, and also in the eyes of all spiritual beholders. 3. Sometimes God will make honest seekers of him the more lovely to others, when corrupt Ministers seek most to defame them; The watchmens wounding her, marrs not the daughters estimation of her; and this shews that they did smite her with∣out reason. Again, 2. It implyes respectiveness on their part, and also honesty; for, there is now no external thing to commend her to them: Which saith, 1. That to the spiritual eye of honest souls, none will be so beautiful as the person that is holy; yea, sometimes holinesse will have a commendation in the consciences even of them that are strangers to it. 2. Often holinesse may be more esteemed of, and holy persons more respectively dealt with, by men of little either knowledge or profession, than by these who may be much more knowing, and whose station and place calls them to be more tender: The Bride here is like the wounded person, Luke 10. 31, &c. whom the Samaritan succoured, when both the Priest and the Levite had passed by him. 3. Where grace shines, it would be highly esteemed of and respected; and such as are but babes in Christ, ought much to reverence these that are of older standing. 4. Tender souls when under exercise, if we can do no more to ease them, would be respectively spoken unto at least: These daughters do not wound the Bride, as the watch∣men did, but speak discreetly and respectively to her, although they can further her little. 5. The right use of freedom, and se∣riousnesse with humility in mutual fellowship, is a great help to entertain mutual respect amongst professors; when the weak see the strong ones not puft up, but condescending to take their help, it will conciliat love and respect: Thus the daughters meet the Bride here with respective carriage. 6. Respective expressions of one professor to another, with gravity and seriousnesse, becomes Christian-fellowship well; and is a great furtherance of edification and mutual confidence: So we see here, and Chap. 6. 1. as also in the Brides expressions preceeding.
Page 295 2. The question propounded by them is, what is thy Beloved? as scarce knowing him, or acquainted with him themselves: It is not spoken out of disdain, but out of desire to know, being con∣vinced that there behoved to be some excellency in him, beyond others, as the following effects clear. The question is proposed by way of comparison, and doubled, What is thy Beloved more than another beloved? or the beloved of another? By beloved, all alongst is understood that which the soul loves and cleaves unto; There∣fore Christ is sometimes designed by the one name, the souls love; and sometimes by the other, the Beloved; as we may see by com∣paring Chap. 3. 1, 2, 3. with Chap. 2. 16, 17. because he eminently and above competition had the Brides heart. By other beloveds are understood these things that men of the world set their love and affections upon, and which bears most sway with them, as that which in a singular manner their soul loveth; the same that or∣dinarily are called Idols, because they are put in Gods room; There is the same reason here, why they are called other beloveds, and strange lovers else-where: Such are the belly, Phil. 3. 19. the world, 1 Joh. 2. 15, 16. Love not the world, nor the things of it, &c. the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life: So it's as if they had said, There are many things which the men of the world seek after, it's none of all these that this Bride is enquiring for, she rests not satisfied with these, nor valueth them; He must then be some excellent person, a singular and non-such Beloved that she is so serious in the enquiry after, and therefore they desire to know from her self what he is. The question is doubled as being the result of a serious desire to know, and of high admiration, what he might be who was thus enquired for.
3. The words added, shew what is the rise of her question and wondering, to wit, these, That thou dost so charge us: Every word hath weight, it's thou, the fairest among Women, who certainly can make the best choice. 2. Thou art not only in earnest thy self, but chargest us also. And, 3. Not only thou chargest us, but so vehemently, pressingly and weightily; This, sure, must be some ex∣cellent Beloved. This question carrieth in it not so much an en∣quiry who is the believers choice, as their desire to know what Christ was indeed, in respect of his real worth, whose Name only Page 296 (or little more) they knew before; Therefore they say not, who is, but what is thy Beloved? as knowing his Name, but being much ignorant of his worth. Again, it supposeth such a question to be moved by these professors, upon occasion of her exemplary car∣riage: And indeed it cannot be told, what thoughts, serious chal∣lenges, and exercising questions the convincing carriage of belie∣vers will have amongst those with whom they christianly converse; and so it shews, that this seriousnesse in one may put others to it, to question what the matter may be, and through Gods blessing may commend Christ to them in the end, which is the scope.
Obs. 1. There may be some respect to godly persons, where there is much ignorance of Christ himself. 2. Where there is esteem of godlinesse and of these who study it, there is some be∣gun inquiry for Christ himself, and it leads on to further, although the beginnings be weak. 3. True tendernesse in beginners ap∣pears in nothing sooner, than in respect to these who were in Christ before them; They are now but a-beginning, yet this shews it self in the respect they carry to the Bride. 4. It's no shame for these that are unacquainted with Christ, to inquire for him at such as know him. 5. What Christ is, and the necessity of praying for others, is a suitable subject of discourse in Christian-fellowship; what is Christ? say they to her; and pray for me, saith she to them. 6. Christ's Name may be known to many, to whom his worth is unknown, or but little known, and who are not acquain∣ted with what he is. 7. All men naturally have some lust, idol, or beloved, that their affection is set upon beside Christ; It's some other thing, from which he is distinguished, and to which he is opposed. 8. Men lay out their affections liberally upon their idols, and upon these things that their heart cleaves unto beside Christ; They are beloveds, and opposed to Christ, as being that to the men of the world, that Christ is to his own; they are as Gods and Christs to them, they run so mad upon their idols, and are so joyned to them, Hos. 4. 17. men naturally have an high esteem of their idols, as placing some worth in them which is not, and they have a low esteem of Christ, and prefer their idols to him. 9. This mistake is a great cause of Christ's being slighted in the world, that they think other beloveds as good as he, and Page 297 other lifes as good as the life of holinesse; therefore they go to the farm, plough, market, and make light of Christ, Matth. 22. 4. 10. The questioning of this grand principle of corrupt nature, that Christ is no better than other beloveds, or the inquiring whether he be indeed better than these, is one of the first rises of a souls making forward to enquire for him. 11. The growing of the esteem of Christ in a soul, and the decay of the esteem of all idols (formerly beloveds) go together; as the one stands, the other falls, as the one grows, the other decayes. 12. The right up-taking of Christ's worth, is the great thing that commends Christ to a soul (therefore the Bride describes him afterward) and the through conviction of the vanity of all other things, loos∣eth the grips of our affections from them, and makes way for set∣ting up Christ more high. 13. The convincing-carriage of a be∣liever may stir and raise an exercise in these that formerly were se∣cure: And God can make the words of a private humble Chri∣stian, the rise of a serious enquiry after Christ in another; Thus her serious charging of them doth so stick to them, as if that word, I charge you, had pierced them. 14. Nothing more adorns the Gospel, and commends Christ, and makes him lovely to others, than the convincing, serious carriage of believers. 15. These who are not acquaint with Christ's worth, or the exercises of believers, are ready to wonder what moves them and puts them to make such a stir about Christ, more than others that live satisfied and contented without him.
From vers. 10. to the end (which contains the fourth part of the Chapter) the Bride speaks: and (in answer to the daughters of Ierusalem their question) in a sweet, pithy, taking-manner commends her Beloved. She is not long in returning answer to their question, as being fully clear and ready to demonstrate Christ Page 298 her Beloved his worth above all; and as impatient that any other should be put in competition with him, (especially by the daugh∣ters of Ierusalem, whose edification she studies by this to pro∣move) instantly she steps in with a large commendation of Christ, (though in few words) whereby, she doth so demonstrate him to be an Object infinitly worthy to be her souls Beloved beyond all others, that Chap. 6. 1. they as convinced yield, acknowledging that her Beloved was preferable to all other beloveds, and that therefore they are ingaged to love and seek him with her.
In this commendation, she, 1. asserts Christ's preferablenesse in the general, vers. 10. 2. She confirmes and illustrates it in particulars, to vers. 16. And then, 3. Vers. 16. sums it up in an universal expression, as being in it's particulars inexpressible. Lastly, Having fully proved her assertion, she resumes the conclu∣sion as unanswerable, This (saith she) is my beloved, a singular be∣loved indeed, and therefore it's no wonder that I am so serious in pursuing after him, and so sick of love to him, and so much pained at the very heart for the want of him.
The first general in this 10. vers. sets out Christ positively, and comparatively: Do you ask (saith she) what my Beloved is? he is a non-such, an incomparable Beloved, he is white and ruddy, O so lovely as he is in himself! and being compared with all others, he hath the preheminence by far, as being the chiefest among ten thou∣sands, By white and ruddy, we are to conceive Christ's qualifica∣tions, according to the strain of the Allegory, there being no bo∣dily qualification set out here, Christ at that time not being in∣carnat, yet even then was he white and ruddy: The due and just mixture of these colours maketh a man lovely, and evidenceth a good complexion of body; so by them in Christ is understood a concurrence of all fit qualifications and excellencies, that may make him lovely to the soul, when by faith looked upon, and taken up; there is sweet beauty and comelinesse, or a comely, beauti∣ful sweetnesse that lusters and shines in him, through the excellent qualifications wherewith he is furnished, as the Husband of his Church, that ravisheth spiritual affections far beyond the greatest beauty that can be in the fairest face; for, indeed he is fairer than the sons of men, There is nothing that may make a Mediator Page 299 lovely but it is here. Again, as if that did not fully set out his amiablenesse, she adds, He is the chiefest among ten thousand: This is a definite great number for an indefinite; In sum it's this, there are many beloveds indeed in the world, but compare them all with Christ, they are nothing to him, without all controversie he is the chiefest, 1 Cor. 8. 5, 6. For, though there be gods many, and lords many (to the world) yet to us there is but one God, and one Lord Iesus; in all the world there is but one Christ. The word used here is, He is the standart-bearer, or it may be rende∣red passively, He is standarted above ten thousand; all tending to the same scope: Love ky•hes it's •ethorick in seeking words to prefer Christ, as having indignation that his precedency and prehe∣minence (who is above all things, Col. 1. 17.) should so much as once be questioned: It's like, that in these times the most come∣ly persons were chosen to carry the standart, a piece of dignity being thereby put upon them; So then, if all the most choice, comely, and excellent persons in the world were mustered toge∣ther, Christ would be preferred eminently and deservedly above them all. Whence, Observe, 1. That Christ is the most lovely and excellent Object that men can set their eyes on, that they can cast their love and affection upon: There is not such 〈◊〉 one as Christ, either for the spiritual soul-ravishing beauty that is in him, or the excellent desirable effects that flow from him. O what a singular description is it which follows, if it were understood •2. Christ is the most singularly excellent Husband that ever was closed with: Under that relation he is commended here, as singu∣larly lovely, and loving; It's a most honorable, comfortable, happy, and every way satisfying match to have him for a Husband. 3. Christ's worth in it self is not expressible, and whatever he can be compared with, he doth exceedingly surpasse it. 4. Where right thoghts of Christ are, there is nothing admitted to compete with him, other excellencies and beloveds are in their greatest beauty darkned beside him; he is set up as chief, and they are not to be taken notice of beside him, but to be accounted losse and dung. 5. Christ's absence, when believers are right, will never lessen their esteem of him, but even then believers will be warm and fresh in their love to him, and high in their esteem of him. Page 300 6. Neither will the great mistakes of others, shake believers that have a through esteem of Christ's worth, but will rather with holy zeal awake them to commend him the more. 7. As where there is true love to Christ, there Christ will be lovely; so when he is looked on as lovely, that makes the heart to flow and abound with holy rhethorick in commendations of him. 8. True love to Christ, and to others for his sake, will not suffer one to despise the weaknesse of another, but make them rather take occasion from it, to honour him and edifie them so much the more, as the Bride doth he•e in answering the question proposed. 9. The more neerly and fully any thing be compared with Christ, though it be otherwise lovely, yet then it will be seen to be nothing, he so infinitly excells all things he can be compared with; and it's ignorance of him that makes other things get such a place in mens affections: but, when once they are set for-against him, he is found preferable, as incomparably chief, for dignity, riches, and satis∣faction, or whatsoever is delightsome, desirable and truly excellent, vers. 11, 12, 13. &c.
She passeth from the general, to demonstrat it in par∣ticulars, and therein she insists in the following verses. If it should be asked, why she descends into particulars, espe∣cially now, considering her deserted case? I answer, for these good reasons, 1. That she might the more fully demonstrat, and the more satisfyingly unfold Christ's worth; For, his worth can∣not be soon nor easily told, nor conceived, nor soon believed by others, it needs to be demonstrated, amplified and insisted upon; yet, his worth can bide the tryal: There is no truth may more fully and demonstratively be made out than this, that Christ is a most excellent object of love, and infinitly preferable to all o∣thers. 2. This is for the edifying of the daughters of Ierusalem, and in reference to their question, that they might be the more convinced and satisfied anent the incomparable worth and match∣lesse excellency of her beloved, she brancheth it forth and insists upon it, that so a deeper impression of it might be left upon their hearts. Obs. 1. There is nothing more useful for the gaining and edifying of others, than to help them to the right uptaking of Christ's worth. 2. That is a great part of the work that should Page 301 take up Christians in their fellowship together, to be spending their mutual conferences on that subject for one anothers instru∣ction. 3. To edifie another, is no diversion from pursuing after him, to souls that love Christ, and would be helped by others to meet with him; This is well consistent with her pursuing after sensible presence for her self, to stay a while instructing them. A third reason of her insisting is, that it's suitable unto, and agrees well with her own sad condition, when he is away, she loves to think and speak of him, and of his lovelinesse, and that gives her some ease. Obs. Where love to Christ is, there will be a delight in speaking of him, and setting out his commendation, even when he is absent; it's a kind of ease to tell over his qualifications when he is absent. 2. It's a good diversion under a deserted con∣dition, and a suitable way to an outgate, to be dwelling rather upon the excellency of Christ, than on the comfortlesse aggrava∣tions of our own sad condition; this is more honourable to Christ, more edifying to others, and more pleasant to our selves: O, it's sweet to think of him! It's more useful also for confirming of our faith in him, for warming our affections to him, and for keeping the mind stayed in dependence on him for the outgate: Every attribute or property of his, is a cordial to a soul fainting under a deserted case. 4. Her insisting on this subject, shews the nature of true love to Christ, that a soul affected with it, being once en∣tered to speak of this theme or subject (namely the excellency of Christ) it expatiats in it, and is not soon withdrawn from it: This (to say so) is the very native element of it, and it doth the heart good to enumerat, and tell over distinctly the commen∣dable qualifications and excellencies of Christ: all which (being his own) are unspeakably delightsome and refreshing to reckon: If there were any good measure of love to Christ in mens hearts, they would not be easily withdrawn from meditating on him, nor from speaking of him; and the great haunt that other things have in our heart, and the rarity of any expression that tends to Christ's commendation, shews plainly that there are (alace!) o∣ther beloveds abounding with us beside him.
In opening of the following particulars, we would consider, 1. The scope, which is to demonstrat, that Christ Jesus is alto∣gether Page 302 lovely and desirable beyond all other things, that the hearts of men are set upon; The question proposed, vers. 9. and the closing answer to it, vers. 16. makes this clear. This then being the scope, these particulars must be so taken up, as they best contribute to clear this scope, and so must necessarily imply the excellencies that are in Jesus Christ; The Mediator himself be∣ing as the body, and the several qualifications, properties and excellencies wherewith he is furnished, being as the several mem∣bers, and parts of that body. Now, seing Jesus Christ is so ex∣cellent himself, and these being instanced as the choice excellen∣cies that are in him, they must needs be exceeding and passing excellent, as the aggreging and heightning of every commendation doth shew: There will be need therefore of much sobriety, holy admiration and reverence, in the opening of them, lest we spill so excellent a subject as is the transcendent excellency of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2. That the Spirit intends by these parts, distinct considerations of Christ's lovelinesse in so many distinct particu∣lars, seems also to be without all question; for, the particular enumeration is brought in to demonstrat this general, that he is the chiefest among ten thousand, which is done (as it were) by an induction of so many commendable things that are in him: Beside in other Scriptures, and especially, Rev. 1. 13, 14. where our Lord is thus considered, and also in the second and third Chapter of that book of the Revelation, particular respect is had to the foresaid description, and these parts are there (being equivalent to them that are here mentioned) expounded of di∣verse attributes and properties of his, and not unlike in many things to the description following, as the particulars will clear. Consider, 3. that it is both difficult and dangerous to be perem∣ptory in the application of these particulars to the object describ∣ed, it being so exceeding glorious, and the Spirits expressions so very comprehensive, we dar not so limit the words to one thing, as if they were exclusive of another, nor say this is meant and no other thing; although such and such things as have a necessary connexion with the scope to confirm it, may warrantably be in∣cluded, and for instances pitched upon, especially when from the Analogy that is in the expressions which are borrowed, and from Page 303 other Scriptures, we have some ground to fix upon: but to be sure, the words would be so taken up as they best afford the most solid general doctrines, which are sometimes (because of our darknesse, and to prevent our curiosity) to be rested in; for, whatever be meant, it's Christ, and he by these commendations is set forth as most excellent: That all these are to describe a di∣vine person, and no humane body, we conceive so clear that it needs no advertisement. 4. All these parts hold him forth, not only as excellent in himself, but as lovely to his people, and as making up their priviledge and happinesse in having an interest in him to be theirs; and therefore as this is the scope, so it's to be applyed as setting out his excellency, and the blessednesse of all that have him for theirs; as on the contrary, to cry down all be∣loveds of the world, of whom these things cannot be said, for they are singularly peculiar to him.
There are ten parts mentioned, that are brought in as proofs of Christ's singular excellency, each of them almost having a double commendation: two of them are in the 11. verse. The first is, his head, the most eminent part of the body; that fur∣nisheth influence and direction to all the rest: It may signfie (if we dar adventure) these three in Christ, 1. His Godhead, which is the most eminent nature of Christ's person, sustaining the other, and furnishing it for it's offices; Thus, 1 Cor. 11. 3 as the head of the woman is the man, in respect of his dignity; so the head of Christ is God, as the Godhead dwells in him bodily, Col. 2. 9. by a won∣derful and unspeakable personal union, the like whereof is not to be found in any other. 2. It may hold out Christ's headship, or soveraignty which he hath as Mediator, being made head of the body, the Church, and over all things for the Church, Eph. 1. 12. and his instalment into this office, is the rise of all the other com∣mendations that follow, which are as parts thereof: Thus Nebu∣chad-nezzarsPage 304 soveraignity, as being a King of Kings, is set out by a head of Gold, Dan. 2. 32, 38. 3. It may signifie the qualifi∣cations, wherewith he, as head to the body, is furnished for it's be∣hove and good: So he is an excellent head, for contriving of what is for the good of the body, and for furnishing life and mo∣tion to all his members; Thus, Eph. 4. 16. he is the head, from whom the whole body, being fitly compacted together, doth make in∣crease of it self in love: And to this purpose, a man of a great reach and profound wit, useth to be called a great head. All these agree with the scope, being instances of Christ's excellencies, and also with the commendation following; yet, the first seems most agreeable to the Analogy of head and members, and it is not un∣like that Christ's Godhead is begun-at in his commendation; surely it cannot be excluded, seing, in Rev. 1. 14. by his head (as there described) is set forth his eternity, the same nature may well be here understood, though Christ be otherwayes re∣presented in the colour of his locks, because here he is described as a lovely Bridegroom, there as coming to judge, as also in Dan. 7. But it must be some excellent thing that is meant, as the com∣mendation annexed cleares. His head is as the most fine Gold: In the Original, there are two words indifferently made use of, to signifie God, the first because of it's shining brightnesse and beauty; The second is applyed to it, because of it's solidity and firmnesse; so it runs, his head is Gold of Gold, or Gold and Gold, or fine shining and solid Gold, as if Gold were not enough to set out the excellency of this head: Gold is rich in the quality, so∣lid and strong as to the efficacy, (as in chap. 3. 10.) soveraign as to usefulnesse and profitablenesse; It's above other metals, and so in the heavenly Ierusalem, the streets are said to be of pure Gold, Rev. 21. 21. Therefore that dominion of Nebuchad-nezzars, spoken of, Dan. 2. 32. is compared to a head of Gold, for it's excellency a∣bove the rest that followed, and especially for the shelter that the Church of God had under it: And this being Gold of Gold, must hold forth such soveraignty, riches of grace, solidity and happinesse, as is unsearchable; Gold cannot reach it, no not Gold raised to the highest worth conceivable.
This first particular may put us to a stand, when (as it were) Page 305 the Bride is at a stand in the commendation, and must double the word, as Gold, Gold, and it's hard to draw observations from it, yet warrantably this may be said, 1. Christ hath a head (however we take it) that is exceedingly excellent, he is God, and in that re∣spect is unsearchable, being the brightnesse of the Fathers glory, and the expresse image of his person, Heb. 1. 3. He, as Mediator, is fur∣nished with soveraignty and eminent graces for the good of the body; and these, as they are for their nature most solid and excel∣lent, so as to their vertue they are most efficacious and quick∣ning. 2. If we take it in general, Obs. That the excellencies wherewith Christ is furnished, are in the highest degree of excel∣lency; Therefore it's Gold of Gold, what ever it be, and this general will necessarily infer the former, that he is God and Me∣diator, and in such and such offices furnished for the good of his people, and the former doctrine is the proof of this: all Christ's properties, wisdom, love, counsel, &c. are of more than an ordi∣nary depth, being in him to the very uttermost, Heb. 7. 25. and without measure, Joh. 3. 34. 3. Christ's excellency is not only lovely in it self, but useful to others; he is not only rich in him∣self, but inriching these that possesse him, as Gold doth inrich the owners of it: Christ is a golden possession where there is a well grounded claim to him. 4. Gold and all external riches, are empty things to a spiritual discerner of Christ's worth; as it were, a new sort of Gold must be invented, or imagined, to shadow forth the excellencies of Christ, Gold it self is but an insufficient and dark shadow to represent him; who ever loves Gold, may have (and that freely) the most fine and choice Gold in him. Yea, 5. this is peculiar to him, in opposition to all other be∣loveds, mens idols and other beloveds may be gilded, like the whores cup, spoken of, Rev. 17. 4. but Christ only is the golden be∣loved; for, this is so attributed to him, as it's denyed to them, which are but clay, or thick clay-beloveds, Hab. 2. 6.
The second thing commended is his locks, which are no essen∣tial part of the body, yet are (when lovely) a special decore∣ment, and ever have been so esteemed: The signification of locks (being joyned to the head) will be so much the more clear if we consider the commendation given them, which is threefold, Page 306 1. They are bushie, or curled, not such as old men have, hairs here and there, but his are bushie, thick and handsome, such as young men in the flower and vigour of their youth use to have. 2. They are black; and that, 3. as a Raven: Black hair in these times and places was comely in men, and betokens strength of youth, and vigour of age, Therefore the same word which is here blacknesse, signifieth youth also in the Hebrew, as Eccles. 11. 10. childehood and youth, &c. So black hair here, is opposed to white hairs, whereby decay is signified (as Hos. 7. 9. by gray hairs on Ephraim, is understood) and thus all other idols gets a dash, as if they were gray haired, decaying beloveds; but Christ is alwise in youth and vigour, He continues alway vigorous, as his love is alway green. They are compared to the blacknesse of a Raven, because that is native black, and lovely beyond other things that are black. As by Christ's head then was signified that which is in Christ (to speak so) most intrinsickly excellent; So here, by locks we under∣stand the most extrinsick thing that is in him (if we may say any thing of Christ is so) that is, if any thing seem lesse necessary than another, yet is it in it self excellent, and serves to commend Christ to others. And again, by bushinesse and blacknesse, we understand the vigour and perfection of Christ's lovely and desirable excel∣lencies, that as lovelinesse and desirablenesse are in a man, when in his youth, at their height and perfection, so are they in Christ, with all commendable aggravations, as in their very prime and vigour. Gold did set forth the intrinsick worth of Christ's quali∣fications, this aggreges it so, that it lifts up that worth to the highest pitch that is conceivable: As a lovely man is yet loveliest in the flower of his age and youth, so it's with Christ, his perfecti∣ons are ever in their flower, and never decayes, nor does he ever fail in the exercising of them for his peoples good, Isa. 42. 4. He shall not fail nor be discouraged; and, as Rev. 1. 12. Christ's eter∣nity is holden forth by white hairs, so by black hairs is signified his continuing young, vigorous and flourishing (to say so) through all eternity; which serves much to the scope of commending Christ; for, whatever is attributed to him, is in an implyed way denied to all other beloveds: otherwise he were not the chiefest among them, and preferable to them all, which is the scope. Page 307Obs. 1. There is nothing for compleating Christ's beauty but it is in him; yea, even these things in him, that are least taken no∣tice of by us (though nothing in him be little in it self) they are in themselves, and in their use when discerned, exceeding lovely; his locks, yea, all his garments are so, Psa. 45. 8. There is nothing superfluous, and uselesse in our blessed Bridegroom. 2. What perfections are in Christ (as there are none wanting) they are in him in their perfection: What unspeakable commendation is here? 1. He hath infinite numbers of perfections. 2. All these are rich, like the most fine Gold 3. If there be a season (to speak so) wherein these perfections may be conceived more lovely and shining than another (for in themselves they are ever the same) they are so in our Lord Jesus Christ; It's ever Harvest, Summer and Youth with him; he is that tree spoken of, Rev. 22. 2. which bears fruit alwayes; this Sun is ever at the height, and never goes down: Christ's perfections are continuing per∣fections, he is a beloved that never decayes, that never waxeth sick, weak nor old, but is ever in youth with his hair black, al∣though he be eternal, and the Ancient of dayes, for all his pro∣perties are unchangably in him, and ever agree to him, even now as well as in Solomon's time, and will do so for ever: This is good and very comfortable to his people, Christ fits not up nor fails, his Spouse weeps not for the death, decay, or waxing old of her beloved and husband, which can be said of no other. 3. All other beloveds beside Christ, are decaying beloveds, they evanish and are growing gray-headed; even all this clay-world shall wax old as doth a garment, and the beauty of it shall be stained, and it will become weak, like an old dying harlot with whom many hath gone a whoring; for, if this, to be black and bushy, be pe∣culiar to Christ, it cannot agree to them, for, they shall wax old, but he is the same, Psa. 102. 27. which words are peculiarly ap∣plyed to Christ, Heb. 1. 10. 4. This continued flourishing of Christ's excellency in it's perfection, doth put Christ superemi∣nently above all compare, as having no match amongst all be∣loveds; they decay, but he is the same; they are broken cisterns, and can hold no water of comfort, and appear with no beauty at death and judgement, and through eternity they will be as Page 308 cloaths worn and failed; but, Christ is fresh and vigorous at death to the believer, and will be so for ever: How blessed are they, when they come to eat of the tree of life that never wants fruit, to possesse him who is yesterday, to day, and for ever the same, God over all, blessed for evermore! O the happinesse! the eternal happinesse, that there is in being espoused to Christ, when the breath of all clay-idols and beloveds will be out, and Christ still fresh in the communicating of his fulnesse to his peo∣ple! O what a sad heart will many have, who have forsaken this fountain of living-waters, and chosen such broken cisterns to themselves as the creatures are, that have set their heart on that which is not. Prov. 23. 5. and laboured for the wind, Eccles. 5. 16. loading themselves with thick clay, Hab. 2. 6. and have neglected him who gave, and who continues the being of all things, and who then will be, when they will not be found, or have a being! In sum (saith she) my beloved is the golden beloved, others are but of clay and earth; my beloved is in his flower, and youth; other beloveds are decaying, waxing old, and drawing to their grave, therefore is he incomparable beyond them all.
The third thing commended in him, is in vers. 12. and it is his eyes, which are several wayes described: Eyes in the natural body are the Organs, whereby we discern external objects; the Lord as he is a Spirit, hath nobody, nor bodily members, but eyes are attributed to him, to hold forth his Omniscience, who having formed the eye, cannot but see, Psal. 94. 9. and therefore eminently is said to see, in opposition to the idols, who have eyes and see not, Psa. 151. 5. This then, sets out our Lords Omnisci∣ence, before whom, all things are naked and open, Heb. 4. 3. even the most secret things are open to his view, as if by the most Page 309 sharp-sighted bodily eye he did behold them, and much more; So, Prov. 15. 3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good: And, Prov. 5. 21. The wayes of man are be∣fore the eyes of the Lord, he knows them, as if he were looking on them with eyes, all things are so naked and discernable to him: This agrees also with that, Rev. 2. 18. where Christ is said to have eyes as a flame of fire: which title, vers. 23. is expounded, (as all these titles throughout these Epistles are) and said to be given him, that men may know that he searcheth the heart, and tryeth the reins,; even the most inward things are fully reached by his Al∣seeing eye.
The excellency of his eyes (or Omnisciency thereby pointed out) is held forth under several similitudes, 1. They are as Doves eyes, such as were attribute to the Bride, Chap. 4. 1. that is, eyes that are quick, lovely and loving, having much affection in them to his own. 2. They are, as Doves eyes by the rivers of water, where Doves are most lovely after their washing, or bathing and beeking of themselves at river-sides. 3. They are washen with milk, that is, most clean, white and pure. 4. They are fitly set, or (as the word is) set in fulness, like the stones in Aarons breast∣plate, Exod. 39. 10. (where the same word is) signifying that there is no deformity in them, but like curious Jewels, they are most equally and beautifully set, being neither too hollow, nor sticking too far out, which are the two extream deformities in eyes. In sum, it saith, 1. That Christ's knowledge is sharp and peircing. 2. Pure and clean. 3. Pleasant to his people to look on. And, 4. that it's kindly vented, and well qualified for the good of his people, whereby he is made exceeding lovely to them. These notes are sure here, 1. That our Lord Jesus is Omniscient, know∣ing all the designes of enemies, knowing all the straits and necessi∣ties of his people, he actually takes notice of all these. 2. Christ's Omniscience is one of his chiefest excellencies, that qualifies him for the good and comfort of his people, and doth exceedingly commend him to them above all others: It's a very present com∣fort to his people, especially in the time of trouble, that their Beloved knows all, what we are, what we have need of, and what is good for us, and what is designed to our prejudice by any of all Page 310 our adversaries, and cannot mistake. 3. Christ's Omniscience, though it be terrible to his enemies (so his eyes are as a flame of fire) yet it is very amiable to his people, his eyes to them are as Doves eyes, his Al-seeing knowledge is kindly and comfortable, and exercised for their good (as all his other attributes are) and is still on work for their good and advantage, 2 Chron. 16. 9. His eyes run to and fro throughout the earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them, whose heart is perfect towards him: He takes no∣tice of the case of his own, that he may succour them in their wants, as he takes notice of his enemies, that he may disappoint and bring them down. 4. When the eye of the Covenant with Christ is once fastened, these attributes in him which are most terrible to flesh, and to men in nature, are exceeding lovely, and make Christ beautiful to his people, as his Omniscience, Justice, Faithfulnesse, &c. 5. As it is our duty, so it's our advantage to walk under the conviction of Christ's Omniscience, and to con∣verse before him with the faith of his beholding what we are do∣ing. 6. It's a good evidence of sincerity, when his Omniscience becomes delightsome to us, and when the heart is made glad with this, that Christ knowes the secrets thereof, as Peter speaks, John 21. 17. Thou that knowest all things, knowest that I love thee: It's much to abide Christ's search, as Omniscient, contentedly. 7. All other idols and beloveds are blind, they have no eyes, or though they seem to have, they see not, Psal. 115. 5. that is, they can take no notice of, nor give any succour to, their worshippers: Our Lord's eyes, that are upon his people, make him singularly preferable to all that come in competition with him. 8. It is a singular commendation of Christ's knowledge, that it is pure and holy, that it cannot approve of sin, nor take any complacency in it; for, his eyes are as Doves eyes, by the rivers of waters, washen with milk: He is of purer eyes than that he can behold iniquity, O how doth he delight in purity! and what a strong motive may and ought this to be with his people, to make a covenant with their eyes, that they get not leave to wander and gadd on sinfull objects?
The fourth and fifth instances of Christ's lovelinesse, are in this verse. The fourth is, that his cheeks are as a bed of Spices, as sweet flowers: The cheeks being comely, are a special part of the love∣linesse of the face: His cheeks are here commended from two things, first, they are as a bed of Spices, that is, like garden-beds furnished with excellent smelling and refreshful Spices: It sets out 1. A proportionable hight of them, as cheeks are in the face, and as beds are higher than the rest of the ground. 2. A precious∣nesse and sweetnesse of Spirit-refreshing savour, as such beds use to yield to these who walk in a garden. The second commenda∣tion is, as sweet flowers, or as the words may be read, as towers of perfume: It tends to the same purpose, but holds forth an abun∣dance of delight, to the spiritual sense of smelling in the believer, when Christ is made the Object of it; O the sweet savour he finds in him! It's fit to be sober here, these excellencies being myste∣ries: It's not unlike, that lesser glimpses of Christ's manifestati∣ons, whereby he makes himself known, may be understood here; as if she said, he is so lovely, that the least glimpse or wa••e of him, when it is seen, if it were but of his cheek, is very delightsome: And this sense may be gathered, 1. From this, that the cheek is a part of the face and countenance, yet not the full countenance; now by seeing his face and beholding his countenance, often in Scripture (and it's like also, vers. 15.) is understood his most sen∣sible manifestations of himself to his people; by proportion then the cheeks would hold forth the same, though in a lesser measur• and lower degree. 2. It makes well for the scope of commending Christ above all, whose incomparable worth by his manifestations, is much evidenced and confirmed to his people, and when a little glimpse of him doth this, how much more would a full view of him demonstrate it? and indeed such a view doth effectually de∣monstrate Page 312 it to these who have experimentally known the excel∣lency that is in him, although others who are unacquaint with his face, do therefore undervalue him, which may be hinted at as a cause of their so doing. 3. This agrees with the commendation, which sets him forth in this as pleasant to the spiritual sense of smelling, and so would imply, that it must be somewhat whereby Christ becomes sensibly sweet and refreshful, as his sensible mani∣festations make him more delightsome and refreshing to the souls senses, than towers of perfume are to the bodily senses; There∣fore is his love compared to ointment, Chap. 1. 3. and else-where: However, these things are certain, 1. That the least glimpse of Christ's countenance is exceeding refreshful and savory to the spi∣ritual senses. 2. That Christ's excellencies are delightsome to all the spiritual senses, to the smell as well as to the eye, ear, &c. the whole soul, and all it's faculties have abundant matter in him, for delighting and refreshing them all. 3. The moe senses be exercised on Christ, and the more sensible (to speak so) he be∣come unto us, he will be the more lovely and pleasant; beds of Spices, and towers of perfume in a garden, to them that lye amongst them, are not so savory as Christ is, when the senses of the soul are exercised to discern him.
The fifth thing instanced, is, his lips, The Brides lips were spo∣ken of, Chap. 4. 3, 11. and cleared to signifie her speech: By pro∣portion they hold forth in him the lovelinesse of his Word, where∣in he is especially lovely, in that he magnifies it above all his Name, Psal. 138. 2. and makes it often sweet as the honey and the honey∣comb to his people. This may be looked on, 1. as it respects the matter spoken by him, out of whose mouth many gracious words proceeded (while in the flesh) even to the admiration of his hearers, Luke 4. 22. So that upon conviction they say, never man spoke as this man speaks, Joh. 7. 46. Or, 2. It may look to Christ's manner of speaking, and his fitnesse to communicate his mind to his people, (as lips are the organs of speaking) so he hath grace poured into his lips, Psal. 45. 2. that makes all his words gracious, as being formed or anointed by it. Thus it takes in that holy Art, skil and dexterity wherewith Christ is furnished, to speak for the consolation of believer, especially under sad ex∣ercises, Page 313 as it is, Isa. 50. 4. He hath the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that is weary: Both these in the re∣sult come to one; and this being a special piece of Christ's love∣linesse to his people, conducing exceedingly to the Brides scope here, and the Analogy being clear, and lips being frequently made use of in Scripture to signifie speech or words, we conceive that they may well be taken to here, especially considering, that all the parts of the commendation will agree well to his words. 1. They are like Lilies, that is, pleasant and savory; so words spoken in sea∣son, are often called pleasant and sweet like honey, Prov. 16. 24. yea, they are said to be like apples of gold in pictures of silver, Prov. 25. 11. His words then may well be compared to Lilies. 2. They are not common words, therefore it must not be ordinary Lilies that will set them forth, but they are like Lilies dropping sweet∣smelling Myrrhe: such Lilies we are not acquaint with, and nature, though excellent in it's effects, yet comes short in furnishing fit resemblances to represent Christ, and what is in him to the full: These Lilies dropping Myrrhe, signifie, 1. A favorinesse and cor∣dial efficacy in the matter, like Myrrhe proving comfortable to these it falls or drops upon. 2. Dropping shews abundance, sea∣sonablenesse, and continuednesse therein, so as he still furnisheth such strengthning efficacy and influence, as if it were ever drop∣ping, and never dryed up, as the phrase was, Chap. 4. 11. All these agree well, either to Christ the speaker, who never wants a seaso∣nable word; or, to the word spoken, which in respect of it's effects, endures for ever. This must be an excellent Beloved (saith she) who speaks much, and never a word falls from his lips, but it's precious and savory, like any cordial to the souls of his people, especially in their fainting fits; and there is ever some good word to be gotten from him, far from the rough speeches that many uses, but O so pleasant and kindly as all his words are! Obs. 1. There is a special lovelinesse in our Lord Jesus words to his people; how much of this appears throughout the 4. Chap∣ter of this Song? and what love appears in all his promises? yea, in the titles that he gives his people, every one is (as it were) big with childe of strong consolation to them. 2. Christ's words have a special refreshing efficacy in them, and can comfort, refresh Page 314 and sustain drooping sick souls; he sends out his Word and it healeth them. 3. These who love Christ himself truly, have also an high esteem of his Word, and are much delighted with that; and where there is little esteem of his Word, there is but little esteem of himself: They who have tasted the sweetnesse of the Word, do highly esteem of Christ himself. 4. The word of Christ is as Christ's own lips, and doth sweetly set out his thoughts of love to sinners; It's good reading of Christ's lovelinesse out of his own Word, and from his own mouth. 5. Where there hath been a sweetnesse felt in the Word, it should be turned over to the commendation of Christ that spoke it, as a proof of the reality of his excellent worth. 6. The Word is never right∣ly made use of, though it should fill the head with knowledge, till it be savory to the inward man and spiritual senses; and it's that which makes it lovely, when the vertue and consolation that flowes from it is felt. 7. All the consolations of the Word, they come not out at once, neither can we so receive them, but it drops by little and little in continuance; and therefore daily should men draw from these wells of Salvation. 8. Observe from the scope, that Christ's Word known by experience, will lift and set Christ up in the heart beyond all beloveds; and that the un∣acquaintednesse of many with Christ's lips, and the consolations that abound in his Word, makes them so ready to •light him, and set up their idols above him. The scope saith further, that she was acquaint with his words, and the refreshfulnesse of them, and in this she is differenced from others. Whence, Observe. 9. that believers are acquaint with the sweetness of Christ's Words, other∣wise than any in the world are; Christ is another thing to them, and his Word is so also, than to all the world beside: It's a good sign, where Christ's lips are so lovely.
The sixth and seventh particulars instanced to commend Christ, are in vers. 14. The sixth is, his hands: The hands are the in∣struments of action, as the lips are of speaking: They are com∣mended, that they are as Gold-rings, that is, as men or womens hands are adorned with Gold-rings, so his hands have a native lovelinesse beyond these: yet, this commendation (as all the for∣mer) answers not fully, therefore it's added, they are set with Beryl: This was a precious stone put in Aaron's breast-plate, Exod. 39. 13. To be set with it, signifies, as preciousnesse, so rare artifice, and such is seen in the right setting of precious stones. By our Lord's hands, may be understood that powerfull activity whereby he is fitted to bring about what he pleaseth, and that power which he exerciseth especially in the works of grace, as on vers. 4. was cleared: Or, we may understand the effects produced by that his power, or his works which are exceeding glorious, as, Psal. 109. 27. That they may know, O Lord, that this is thy hand, that is, that thou Lord hast done it: So his hands sig∣nifie such works especially wherein his Divine power, art and skill doth manifest themselves for the good of his people: Both agree well together; for, excellent power and skill produce excellent effects, and excellent effects demonstrat the excellent qualifica∣tions of the worker; this being a main piece of Christ's com∣mendation, and which doth hold him forth to be exceeding love∣ly above all to the believer (which is the scope) may well be taken here as the meaning, especially being subjoined to the com∣mendation of his words; for, our Lord Jesus doth not only say well, but also doth well: he is a prophet, mighty both in word and deed, Luk. 24. 19.
The commendation suits with his works, as if there were none of them, but what are adorned (as it were) with excellent Gold-rings, Page 316 there being much glory, grace, wisdom and skill shining in them all, they are honourable and glorious, Psal. 111. 3. Yea, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord God Almighty, Rev. 15. 4. These are the deserved epithets of his actions: In sum, it is, as if she had said, Ask ye what my beloved is, more than others? If ye saw but a glimpse of the white and red that is in his cheeks, and if ye heard the sweet words that proceed from his mouth, and if ye knew the excellent works which he hath performed, even to admiration, for the good of his people, and how much loveli∣nesse appears in all these, ye would (no doubt) say with me, He is the chiefest among ten thousand.
Obs. 1. Christ is an active husband, having hands, and working with them for the good of his Bride: A piece of his work we heard of, chap. 3. 9. in that noble Chariot: He is no idle specta∣tor; he worketh hitherto, Joh. 5. 17. 2. All our Lord Jesus his works, are exceeding excellent and beautiful, and when rightly discerned, they will appear wonderful, honourable and glorious, as proceeding from him who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, Isa. 28. 29. What a curious and excellent piece of work is that Chariot, or the Covenant of Redemption signified thereby, chap. 3. 9? There are many shining well-set Jewels, and Rings upon every finger of his hands: There is nothing that can be done better than what he hath done. The works of Christ in our redemption, do hold forth infinit skill, and gloriousnesse to be in the worker, all of them are so wisely contrived, and exqui∣sitly execute. 3. Christ's works do exceedingly endear him, and that deservedly to his people, and do infallibly demonstrate his worth above all beloveds in the world; Who is like unto him? and who can do great works, such as he hath done? This makes heaven to resound with the praises of what this beloved hath done for his people. 4. Believers would be acquaint both with Christ's words and his works, and would be well vers'd in the knowledge of the excellencies that are in them both, that so they may be the more affected with him themselves, and be more able to commend him to others. 5. Where Christ is lovely, all his works will be delightsome: and it's by acquaintance with, and observation of, his excellent works, that the hearts of his people Page 317 come to take him up, and to be rightly affected with him. 6. As ig∣norance of the excellency of Christ's works (especially of the work of Redemption) makes many slight Christ, and prefer others to him (for, she would discover the daughters of Jerusalem their mistake of him, by instancing this amongst other things) so it's a kindly-like thing, to have a honourable esteem of Christ's works in the heart. 7. Although the devil and mens idols seem to pro∣mise much to their lovers, when they suit and intice them; yet never one indeed can equal Christ, or compare with him, in re∣spect of what he hath done for his Bride; and this sets him up incomparably above them all: His hands, in respect of his mag∣nificent works, are adorned, as it were, with Gold-rings; whereas they have hands, but work not for the help and relief of their lovers, Psa. 115. 7.
The seventh part of this demonstration of Christs worth, is from his belly: The word in the Original is the same word, which, vers. 4. is rendered bowels, and we rather use it so here as it signifieth bowels, the native signification of it, as not knowing why it should be altered in this verse; especially considering, that wherever it is attributed to God, it's translated bowels, as, Isa. 63. 15. where is the sounding of thy bowels? and, Ier. 31. 20. my bowels are moved for him: Reading it then thus, his bowels are as bright ivory, &c. The words at the very first, would seem to signifie the intense love and tender affection, wherewith our Lord Jesus (who is full of grace) is filled and stuffed (to say so) for the behove and good of his people, so that no mother is so compassionatly affected towards the fruit of her womb, as he is toward his own. This exposition is, 1. confirmed from the or∣dinary signification of the word bowels, when it is applyed to God, as, Isa. 63. 15. and, Ier. 31. 20. and it is borrowed from the affection that mothers have to their children, whose bowels yerns on them, as, 1 King. 3. 26. and so Ioseph was affected to∣ward his brethren, Gen. 43. 30. Hence the word, both in the He∣brew and Greek, in the Old and New Testament, which is made use of to set forth the Lords tender compassion, flowes from a root that signifieth bowels. 2. The scope will confirm this: for, is there any thing that makes Christ more lovely and admirable Page 318 than his love? which makes the Prophet cry out, Mic. 7. 18. who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity? &c. because thou delights in mercy; or, is there any other thing that more com∣mends him as a beloved preferable to all, than his love? Love in a husband is a special property. Now Christ loved his Church, and gave himself for it, Eph. 5. 25. it is not like therefore, that this is omitted: And, 3. it followes well on the commendation of his works for, and about, his people, as shewing the fountain from whence they proceed; The commendation of this is excel∣lent. 1. It is as bright Ivory: Ivory is rarely and singularly pure and pleasant, being made of Elephants teeth: bright, is added, to shew, that it's of the best sort, as all that is in Christ is. 2. It's overlaid with Saphires; that was a stone in Aarons breast plate, and also is reckoned one of the foundation-stones of the new Ierusa∣lem, Rev. 21. 19. which shews, that it is very precious, though we know not the particular properties of it: The word overlaid, may be from the Original rendered curiously set, or, enambled: In sum, here, his love is described as most lovely, clean and plea∣sant, like Ivory; rich and precious like Saphires; and well or∣dered and wisely vented for the good of his people, as bright Ivory curiously enambled with Saphires: His love is a most ex∣cellent, curious and pleasant object, the like whereof is not to be found amongst all the beloveds of the world. This verse com∣mends Christ's heart and in-side, which is unsearchable as to it's heighth, depth, breadth, and length: It may therefore be hard, and some way hazardous to offer doctrines on, or to form expres∣sions concerning, that which passeth knowledge, Eph. 3. 18, 19. the comprehending experimental knowledge of it, will be the best commentary on it; yet these things are clear and safe,
1. There is singular love, affection and bowels in our Lord Je∣sus to his people; so singular, that there is none can compare with him in this, no husband, nay nor wife, it passeth the love of women; No tender-hearted mother, and much lesse any idol can compet with him in this; It's inconceivable in it self, and it's wonderful in it's effects. 2. There is nothing that will contri∣bute more to make believers see Jesus Christ as admirable in himself, and lovely to them, than the right apprehension of his Page 319 love: This is the constraining, ravishing, ingaging, and soul-in-ebriating consideration of Christ, the conceiving of him rightly in his admirable love; and they will never esteem of Christ rightly, who discerns not that, it is (as it were) his crown; and the be∣lieving of it, is in a sort the putting of the crown on his head: Amongst all his excellencies, none takes the believer more up than his love, and nothing is more remarkable in him than that, and right thoughts of Christ's love is no ill token. 3. Our Lord Je∣sus his love and bowels are a rich Jewel when seen, a precious stately sight; bright Ivory overlaid with Saphires is but a small and dark shaddow of it; Christ's love is a possession beyond Jew∣els, a very beautiful object to look on, beyond the most excel∣lent creature: It's both a wonder and a heart-break that it is so little thought of, and that men are not more delighted in it.
4. Although there be much in many mouths of Christ's love, yet there are few that really knows and believes the love that he hath to his people, 1 Ioh 3. 1. As this is the cause that so few loves him, and why so many sets up other beloveds beside him; so, the solid faith of this, and the expectation of good from him, hath a great ingaging vertue to draw sinners to him, Heb. 11. 6. and for that end it's made use of here. 5. Whatever seeming smiles, idols may give to their lovers, yet will they not prove lovers in the end to them; for, that is proper to Christ, he only hath strong love and bow∣els of affection to his own to the end, but other lovers in the end will fail men, Only our Lord Jesus continueth a loving Husband to the end; for, whom he loves, he loves to the end. 6. It is be∣yond all peradventure, good and desirable to be matched with Je∣sus Christ, where so much honour, riches, power, wisdom, loveli∣nesse and love meet all together; for, the scope of this, and of all the rest of the commendations, is to ingage sinners to match with him. 7. There is no cause to be jealous of Christ's love, his people have a most loving Husband, and never a sport or ground of jealousie hath defiled his bowels since the world began, but they to this day are, and will be for ever as bright Ivory. 8. Christ's love is excellent in it self, and is also excellent in the way of it's communicating it self to his people; therefore it's not as Saphires that are confusedly casten together, but that are artificially set; Page 320 or, our Lord Jesus vents not his love fondly (to speak with reve∣rence) or imprudently, but most wisely, skilfully, and seasonably, so as it may be for the good of his people; not as a fond and too indulgent mother, that gives that which is even hurtful because the childe desires it, but as a wise father who gives that which is useful, though it be unpleasant: He guids his love by discretion, and according to expediency, as Ioh. 16. 7. It's expedient for you that I go, and therefore he will go, though they were even made sad with it. 9. Although some pieces of Christ's love, being con∣sidered in themselves, seem not so pleasant and lovely, like preci∣ous stones not rightly set, yet when all are seen together, and every thing taken up as in it's own place, and proportionably corresponding with one another, and especially in respect of the fountain of love from which they come, they will then (being all lookt on together) be seen to be very beautiful and pleasant and well ordered, like bright Ivory, that is regularly and curiously enambled, or indented with Saphires: The time comes, when Christ's love will be thought to be exquisitly and wisely let out and conveyed, even in these things wherein it is most suspected now by his own.
The eighth and ninth particulars of Christ's commendation, are in vers. 15. The first of them here commended is his legs: The word legs, comes from a root in the Original, that signifieth to walk; and so takes in things and feet, which are also useful in motion. In Scripture, and by Analogy, they are made use of to signifie these two, 1. A mans way in the series of his carriage and deportment, as ordinarily his life is called a walk: So, Eccl. 5. 1. Take heed unto thy feet, that is, to thy carriage; Hence the ini∣quities Page 321 of the heels are spoken of, Psal. 49. 5. to set out mens defects, that cleave to them in their conversation, as their feet leave prints or footsteps behind them in their walking. 2. This metaphor signifieth strength and activity, as Psal. 147. 10. The Lord delights not in the strength of an horse, nor in the legs of a man; wherefore (very probably) Eccles. 12. 3. they are called the strong men, because they sustain or bear up the body: Here be∣ing applyed to Christ, we conceive they signifie his way, or admi∣nistration of providence, which he useth with his people, it being by his dispensations that he walks amongst them. Hence the series of common providence is so often in Scripture called the way of the Lord, as Ezek. 18. 25. The Lords way is equal, his carriage in his dispensations is still just, opposite to their way, or walk, which is there called unequal: And the dispensation of grace is called a way, Rom. 11. 33. How unsearchable are his judgements, and his wayes past finding out; which take-in the contrivance, and admi∣nistration of his grace, as the scope there doth clear. His way is more general and comprehensive than his works, and takes-in these three (for which it is called a way.) 1. His design and end, that he proposeth to himself. 2. His wise and powerful plot in con∣triving and applying means suitable thereunto, for bringing it about, especially the principle (to say so) by which he walks and works, to wit, hs wisdom, power and love. 3. His convoy of, and the progresse which he makes in, these, by which he is ever proceeding towards his end, as a man doth in his way by walking with his legs: In all these respects, the Lords way of carrying on his design is said to be unsearchable: This we take as intended here, to set forth and commend the gracious and glorious steps of the Lord, in the administration of his grace, both in it's con∣trivance and application amongst his people, whereby his wisdom, power and goodnesse, are in these paths of his (that are all mercy and truth to his own, Psal. 25. 10.) made exceeding lovely and stately, as the commendation following imports. This is con∣firmed, 1. by the Analogy that is betwixt the legs and walking, and the frequent use that the Scripture makes of this similitude for that end, and no other thing can suit so well. 2. In Rev. 2. 18. Where Christ's legs and feet are spoken of, with a commendation Page 322 not unlike what follows here, namely, that they are like fine brass, as his eyes are expounded, vers. 23. by this, that he searcheth the heart, and tryeth the reins; so his feet are set out by this, that he renders to every one according to their works, that is, he keeps an equal and just way in his administration towards every one. 3. The scope likewise confirms this, Christ being by his way to his people commendable above all, and this being a special commendation of his, that all his works are perfect, and all his wayes are judge∣ment, Deut. 32. 4. As also the property attributed to his legs, and from which they are commended, will clear this, which is, that they are like pillars of Marble: Marble is a stone that is firm, good and pleasant, therefore was it prepared by David, for the Temple, 1 Chron. 29. 2. Pillars signifie strength, orderlinesse and beauty, as was cleared on Chap. 3. 10. which may be applyed here: So pillars of Marble say, that his wayes are curiously, skilfully and sickerly contrived; and wisely, dexterously and infallibly exe∣cuted, and firmly settled like pillars, and that of Marble, for un∣moveablenesse: The amplification of the commendation con∣firms this also, they are not only like pillars of Marble, but also like pillars set on sockets of fine Gold; pillars are durable, according to the bases or foundation upon which they are set and founded, Now Gold (as often hath been said) signifieth preciousnesse and solidity, so all of them are setled and fixed on a good and preci∣ous ground, which cannot fail, and therefore they cannot shake, slide, nor slip, but prosper he must in his wayes, and nothing can mar his design, for he is of one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, that he doth, Job 23. 13. Yet not only are his feet or legs of brasse, (which shews severity against enemies, in his troding on them, Dan. 10. 6.) but the sockets are of Gold, as his head was, vers. 11. all is of Gold that is in him, he is a golden Mediator and Beloved from head to foot, whereas others are clay-beloveds: The sockets are of Gold, to shew his graciousnesse to his people, as Psalm 25. 10. all his wayes are setled on mercy and truth, all his decrees anent them are made lovely and sure by grace, and so cannot be but precious and excellent as to them.
Observ. 1. Our Lord Jesus hath a design, a gracious design, that he is carrying on amongst his people, and he is ever promoving Page 323 therein for the end which he hath proposed; he is not like the idols of the Gentiles, Psal. 115. 7. which have feet and walk not, but as he sees with his eyes, and works with his hands, so doth he walk and make progresse with his legs. 2. Christ's way with his people, is a most excellent and stately way; or, in all his convoy of grace towards his people, there is a special excellency shining; All his ways and works are holy and righteous, Psal. 145. 17. Iust and true, Rev. 15. 3. Gracious and loving, even all mercy and truth, Psal. 25. 10. This King of Saints is marvelous in his way of grace, as he is in all his works. 3. Christ's purpose cannot •ail, neither can his design be altered, the contrivance thereof is so wise, and the execution so powerful, he cannot but attain his point. 4. However men may quarrel with Christ's way, and say it's not equal, as Ezek. 18. 25. And although his way may be sometimes in the deep waters, and not discernable, Psal. 77. 19. yet, it is ever ordered in deep wisdom, that there can be nothing more just, holy and glorious, so that there is no reason to com∣plain thereof; and this holds, not only in one step or two, but in the whole series of his way. 5. A right sight of Christ's wise, glorious and Omnipotent way of grace, will make him singular in the estimation of his people, and put him above all other be∣loveds, whose ways are neither for wisdom, nor stability, any way comparable to his; for, all the counsels and designs of the world beside his, will come to nought, and be made, nill they will they, subservient to his: clay-idols have their breath in their nostrils, and in that same very day when it goeth out, their thoughts perish, Psal. 146. 4. but it is not so with his, they are more so∣lidly founded, and these strong legs, that are of Marble, can nei∣ther be bowed nor broken: It must then be most sure and safe for the Lord's people to drive this as their design, to side and share with Christ in his designs; and it must be a most desperat thing to drive contrary designs to him, whose legs are as pillars of Marble, and before whom none can stand. 6. Where there is respect to Christ, there will be an high estimation of his way; and it's a good sign of an especial esteem of Christ, when his ways are admi∣red and loved.
The ninth particular instance, brought to prove that he is the Page 324 chiefest among ten thousand, is, that his countenance is like Leba∣non: The word countenance, as it is in the Original, comes from a root that signifieth to see, therefore countenance is used in Scripture, not only to signifie the face, but the whole stature and presentation of a person, or that which gives a full sight of one in all his parts together; and so it's here, and differs from the cheeks mentioned, vers. 13. as being more extensive and comprehensive: Therefore that phrase, which, 2 Sam. 23. 21. is rendered a goodly man, or man of countenance (as it's in the Original) is, 1 Chron. 11. 23. (where that same story is recorded) expressed by this, that the Egyptian was a man of stature, as if it were said, a brave personage of a man, and so it takes-in face, legs, body and altoge∣ther, when all these are so proportioned, as they make one, a per∣son goodly to be seen and lookt on: Now this being applyed to Christ, as subjoyned to the particulars formerly mentioned, we conceive it takes-in his matchless stateliness, as it results from all his properties together, so that not only this or that part of Christ is lovely, but whole Christ, when seen, is exceeding stately and love∣ly to the view and faith of a discerning believer, whatever others think of him; So then, the meaning is, ask ye what my Beloved is? (saith she) as all his parts are beautiful severally considered, so all being put together, he is a most stately and lovely Object to behold, when he gives a full view of his countenance. It sets out then, a more full view of Christ, or Christ in a more full view, as if not only a mans head or legs were seen, but his whole stature, whereby he is more fully discernable: Thus Christ's countenance in Scripture, is put to signifie his manifestations to his people; and here being subjoyned to the cheeks, as more extensive, it signifieth more full manifestations, whereby a view (as it were) of whole Christ is attained at once by the believers faith, as by faith, Heb. 11. 27. Moses is said to have seen him that is invisible: And this will agree well with the scope, and the commendation following, which is in two things, 1. It is as Lebanon, a most plea∣sant, stately hill, and therefore that which is excellent, is often compared to it, as was said on Chap. 4. 8. 11. 15. 2. It's ampli∣fied, that it is excellent as the Cedars: They were useful, stately and tal• trees, especially these that grew in Lebanon; The word is, Page 325elect, or choice as the Cedars, which agrees well with a goodly pre∣sentation, to be tal, straight and stately, as they were: Therefore the Brides stature is compared to a palm-tree, Chap. 7. 7. In a word, my Beloved (when seen) looks excellently and passing-well (saith she) so as there is no other Beloved in the world that hath such an aspect as he; who can look on him and not love him?
Observ. 1. Although there is no fully comprehensive view of Christ to be gotten here, even by the faith of a believer (while we are upon the earth we cannot see him as he is, that being re∣served for heaven) yet there are more full up-takings of him at∣tainable, even here-away, than ordinarily believers meet with; yea, such full views of him are to be had, which in respect of our other ordinary attainments may be called a beholding of his coun∣tenance, whereas these are but a beholding of his cheeks, for he hath a countenance which is discernable: neither doth the Bride speak of that she never saw, but of what she hath seen; and it im∣ports a more full, near, thorow and distinct •ight of him than is usual. 2. There is no such lovely, delightsome, spiritually gal∣lant, stately and glorious Object, as our Lord Jesus, complexly considered as in himself; and there will be no sight more satisfy∣ing to a believer than this, when admitted to behold it. 3. All other beloveds, whatever they be in themselves, are yet exceed∣ingly, nay infinitly short of him when he is seen; this differenceth him from them all, the more and the better other beloveds be seen, they are found to be the more fecklesse, insignificant and little worth; but the more full view be gotten of Christ, he is found to be the more excellent. 4. Slight and passing views of Christ, makes men think the lesse of him, whereas more full, di∣stinct and near beholding of him, doth highten the esteem of him, and lessen the esteem of all others beside him. 5. Faith in Christ will make a real impression of him, and of his excellency upon the heart of a believer▪ even as if he had been seen by sense: there∣fore she speaks so of his countenance; and it's a good sign, to be distinct and confident in our apprehensions of Christ's excellen∣cies.
The tenth and last particular commended in him, is in the be∣ginning of the 16. vers. and it is his mouth, which is compared to sweetnesse, or sweetnesses in the plural number. By mouth some∣times is understood the words of the mouth, but it's not so used in this Song: The Brides words, and his also are set out by their lips, and it's not like, that that being spoken of, vers. 13. is re∣peated here. Again, the mouth, and it's sweetnesse especially, may be mentioned to signifie friendlinesse and love, or rather the sensible manifestations of these, as the husband doth by kissing his wife; and in this sense is taken, Chap. 1. 2. and we take that to be aimed at here, to wit, the sweetnesse of Christ's more immediat manifestations of himself unto the spiritual sense of his people, by shedding the love of God abroad in their hearts, by the Holy Ghost, Rom. 5. 5. For, this sensible manifestation of his love, is a thing that much commends him to his people, and is their satisfaction, in opposition to all the creature-satisfactions that others have, Psalm▪ 4. 6, 7. therefore it agrees well with the scope. Again, it's a different commendation from any that is mentioned, 1. It dif∣fers from his lips, or the comfort that one hath from the Word, as from the Word (though it is not to be separate from that, but to carry that alongst with it) yet this is more immediat and sensible, and that is mediate, though real and sure unto •aith. 2. It differs from seeing his cheeks, in that this is more full, near and immediate also, she being, as it were, admitted to enjoy Christ's sweet embracements. 3. It differs from beholding his countenance, because that may be, and only can be taken up by faith, beholding him in his excellent qualifications and offices; but this is discernable to the believers spiritual sense, when Christ Page 327 applyeth his love, as Chap. 1. 2. In which (to say so) we are more passive, as being fed by him, and having it infused and shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit. If we may in a holy way follow the similitude in a spiritual sense (which is necessary for understand∣ing of the thing) kisses of his mouth, are his applying and venting of his love, as one doth by kissing another; this also will agree with the commendation, it's most sweet, it's but one word in the Original, in the abstract, and that in the plural number, sweetnes∣ses, to shew the exceeding sweetnesse and lovelinesse, the soul-ra∣vishing delight that is in that, to which no similitude or compa∣rison can come up, clearly and perfectly to resemble it, it is very sweetnesse it self. If we might allude to what Philosophers say of fire in it's element, or water in it's element, that being there, they are more properly and eminently fire and water; so sweetnesse is in it's element here; or, Christ's mouth is the very element thereof, in respect of it's sensible refreshfulnesse to the spiritual senses of his people, to whom he manifests it. Ask ye then what my Beloved is? (saith she) he is indeed stately to look on, but his mouth when it's felt in his kissing of his own Bride, by manifest∣ing his love to her sense, there, there, O there, exceeding unex∣pressible and unconceivable delight and satisfaction is to be found!
Observ. 1. Christ hath more near and sensible ways of mani∣festing himself to the spiritual sense of his people, as if he had a mouth to kisse them. 2. There is nothing comparable to the re∣freshing sweetnesse, that these manifestations have with them; It's a peace that passeth understanding, Phil. 4. 7. and a joy that is un∣speakable and full of glory, 1 Pet. 1. 8. 3. This sensible feeling of the sweetnesse of Christ's mouth, should be ai••ed at, and sought after by believers, although the manner, measure, time, and other circumstances thereof should be submitted to him, yet this is not only commendable in it self, but also as such, is proposed and commended to the daughters of Ierusalem, to be sought after by them. 4. The experimental feeling of this, doth notably demonstrate Christ's worth to the soul that enjoyes it, and makes him incomparably sweet and lovely above all things whatsoever, Psal. 4. 7. 5. There is no other thing can have any such sweet∣nesse or relish to a believer as Christ hath; and to a spiritual Page 328 taste, the excellency of all created beloveds will be as the white of an egg in comparison of this. Only Christ's mouth is sweetness; and so he differs from all others: And it's a good sign, when our affections, or spiritual senses, can relish nothing but Christ.
Next, it is added; yea, he is altogether lovely: Although she hath spent many sweet words (and indeed there hath been no straitning in her) in commending Christ, and although all her words be sweet, and especially when she drawes near the close, her expressions be the more massy and significant, yet as being neces∣sitate to succumb under the great task of describing the excel∣lency of her Beloved, she must give over particulars, and conclude with a general, as if she would say, would ye know him? O, I, even I cannot tell you all his excellent properties; for, he is most justly called wonderful, Isa. 9. 6. but in sum, I may say, he is altogether lovely: The word is, he is all desires, or, all he desires: The word that is rendered lovely, comes from a root that signifieth to co∣vet, as in Ioshua 7. 21. It is said of Achan, when he saw the wedge of gold, that he coveted it, so it's such a desire as ardently covets the thing desired: And thus Christ is not simply lovely, but of such an attractive excellency, as makes him the proper Object of the most ardent and holy-cove•ing desires, or after which all de∣sires should go forth, as towards the best and most desirable Ob∣ject: The words are mean to expresse somewhat that is not ex∣pressible, or rather the unexpressiblenesse of that Beloved she had been commending, lest they should think she were satisfied, as if she had fully described him. We may consider the words several wayes, 1. Negatively, as they shew there is nothing in him, but what is desirable: As if she said, all he is desires, there is no∣thing of any other nature in him, but such as I have mentioned, he is a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he. 2. Take them positively, and so they shew whatever is in him, is exceeding desirable; go through all his parts, qualifications, attri∣butes and works, whereof I have given you but a hint (saith she) and ye will see them all exceedingly desirable. 3. Take them conclusively or comprehensively, and so while she saith, he is all desires, the meaning is, there is nothing truly desirable, but it is to be found in him, the soul cannot rationally imagine that satis∣faction Page 329 that is not to be found in Christ, otherwise all desires were not in him; this is sweet, even very•sweet, what idol is perfect? there are many defects in all other beloveds, but (saith she) my Beloved is perfect: All the beauties and perfections that are scat∣tered amongst all creatures, are in an eminent and transcendent way gathered together, contracted and to be found in him at once, so that whatever can be desired, whether it be for this life, or that which is to come, whether for sanctification, justification, or consolation, it's eminently to be found in our Lord Jesus, in whom all fulnesse dwells, Col. 1. 19. and who alone is all and in all to his own, as being full of grace and truth, Joh. 1. 14. 4. We may take them exclusively, or privatively, as they deny any thing desirable to be in any beloved, but in Christ, he is all, and so con∣sequently they must be nothing, he is altogether lovely, and so they must be altogether loathsome: Christ is never rightly con∣ceived of, nor commended, but where other things come down, evanish and disappear, when compared with him; Whom have I in heaven but thee? and I desire none on earth beside thee, saith the Psalmist, Psal. 73. 25. as having full satisfaction, and all that can be wished for in him. It's hard to observe what may be suitable to Christ's lovelinesse, when the Bride gives it over: But we may say, 1. The more that believers insist on Christ's lovelinesse, their hearts will warm the more with it, and it will be found to be the greater depth; for, now her expressions grow, till at last they be swallowed up. 2. Where there is true respect to Christ, no commendation of Christ that believers can invent (whatever it be) will be satisfying to them: For, there have been, 1. many excellent commendations given of Christ, as being like Gold, Myrrhe, Spices, &c. Yea, 2. like such Gold, Lilies and Ivory, as are not in the world; and finally she hath left and given over com∣parisons, and betaken her self to the abstract, sweetnesse it self; yet all comes short, and she must quite the thing as unexpressible: It's the very hight of souls love-rhethorick, to close with a kind of holy amazement and admiration, which ends in silence, because they cannot say enough, when they have said all they can say. O what a lovely Object then must Christ Jesus be! They never knew him rightly, who were satisfied with their own apprehensions of Page 330 him, or expressions concerning him. 3. There is an universal lovelinesse in Christ, whole Christ is lovely, neither is he to be divided in our apprehension and esteem, but as every thing in him is wonderful and lovely, so is it to be admired and loved; even his lowest sufferings, and seeming infirmities, his frowns and seeming greater austerity, are lovely and profitable; he is altoge∣ther lovely. 4. There is a wonderful desirablenesse in our Lord Jesus, and incomparable satisfaction to be gotten in him; there can be nothing more to draw a soul to love it, than what is here, whatever may be attractive, is here; and there is nothing wanting to satisfie the soul that injoyes him, and hath yielded to his call, to such he is all desires. 5. Christ is never rightly taken up, so long as any thing desirable is supponed to be gotten elsewhere, he must be all desires: and therefore, where any thing hath the least share of the affections beside him, he hath not his own place. 6. Empty and undesirable are all beloveds in the world befide Christ, and broken cisterns will they all prove; and it's no mar∣vel; for, all desires are in him, and therefore, not one desirable thing is or can be found in them. 7. They have a good bargain who have Christ; It's the short cut (to say so) and compendious way to happinesse, and to the inheriting of all things, to unit with Christ by faith, and to possesse him; for, all desires are in him: and miserable will the persons be who shall misse Christ, although they were gainers of the whole world.
Having somewhat answered the daughters of Ierusalem their question, by insisting in this excellent description of Christ, now by way of application and holy boasting in the close of the verse, she reasons thus: Ye asked what my beloved was more than o∣ther beloveds? and for your satisfaction, I have described him as I can many several ways, though all fall very far short of full expressing of his matchlesse worth: Now (saith she) this excellent person is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Ierusa∣lem; bring all other beloveds, and compare them with him, and see if he be not the chiefest and standard-bearer amongst them all; and in this confident boasting of the excellency of her beloved, she closes: Which sweet discourse wants not it's fruit on them, as we will see in the Chapter following. Consider the words Page 331 four wayes, 1. In the matter, they hold forth two sweet relati∣ons betwixt Christ and the believer, and this sweetens all, not only that this beloved is an excellent person, but that he was hers, she saith, he is my beloved, and also my friend; he is her friend (as she is his friend, vers. 1.) that is, one that is friendly to her, and will do for her, beyond what a brother, or mother, or the nearest of all relations will or can do; he is one that is born for the day of her adversity, and one whom she trusts as her own soul, he is so dear to her, and she to him; for, this •ye of friendship is mutual betwixt them. In a word (saith she) he is much in himself, and much to me, unspeakably excellent in him∣self, and very dear and precious to me, my husband, and my friend: In sum, my friendly husband, and my loving friend.
Obs. 1. There are many sweet relations that Christ •stands in to the believer, as husband, friend, brother, &c. even as there are many relations that she stands in to him, as spouse, sister, dove, &c. 2. Christ fills all the relations that he stands in to his people, and that exceedingly well; he is a singularly loving, faithful, kind and tender husband; and a singularly kind, faithful & unchange∣able friend, the best friend that ever a believer had; for, the ex∣pression, this is, &c. saith, that what Christ is, he is indeed, and singu∣larly so, as having no equal, he is a matchlesse husband and friend, this is the scope. 3. Christ and the believer are upon one side, they are friends, there is a league of friendship betwixt them, and they have common friends, and common• ad•ersries. 4. These who are Christ's friends (as vers. 1. eat, O friends) Christ may be claimed by them as their friend, and what▪ that can•infer▪ they may expect from him; for, he hath no bare title, neither sustains he any empty relation. 5. Believers should lean much to Christ, trust him, and expect good from him, as their friend. 6. It's a notable and singular consolation for solks to have Christ their friend, it's comfortable in life, death▪ and judgement, in prospe∣rity and adversity. It implyes these things in which he is forth∣coming to his friends, 1. Constant kindnesse and faithfulnesse at all times, he loves at all times, Prov. 17. 17. and, chap. 18. last: he never fails, nor can at any time be charged with that which Absalom casts up to Hushai, 2 Sam. 16. 17. Is this thy kindnesse Page 332 to thy friend? 2. Sympathy, and condescending to supply their wants, he cleaves closer than a brother, Prov. 18. 24. It's such a love, as one hath who aimeth at his friends good, as well as his own. 3. Familiarity in mutual communion, as useth to be be∣twixt friends, and freedom in conversing, as, Exod. 33. 11. the Lord spoke with Moses as a man doth with his friend. 4. It takes in a mutual confidence that one may have in another, as in his very own self, and more than in any other; all which are eminently in Christ, as ointment and per•ume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweet∣nesse of a man's friend, and eminently of this friend, by hearty counsel, Prov. 27. 9. No other friends are comparable to this friend, happy, happy for evermore are they, whose friend Christ Jesus is. 7. Where Christ is a friend, there is he also the souls beloved; or, believers choising of Christ for their beloved, and his being kindly to them as a friend, go together; these two re∣lations, my beloved; and my friend are never separat. Now to be the souls beloved, implyes these things, 1. That comparatively, Christ is eminently and only loved by his people, and nothing is admitted to share in their affections with him, Phil. 3. 8. 2. That there is in the soul an high esteem of him, which begets this love. 3. That there is such an ardent affection to him, as makes them long for union with him, as love naturally desires union with that which it loves, it desires to be with Christ here, and hereafter, as that which is far the best of all, Philip. 1. 23. 4. It suppons a de∣light and 〈…〉 that their souls take in Christ, and expect from union with him; their happinesse lyes in it, and they are disquieted, and someway holily discontented and weighted, when they misse it, and under desertion and absence, easily fear, lest their heart beguile and de•ude them in that concerning-matter, as the scope of this place, and her present exercise shews. 5. It suppones a kindlinesse in their love, and a well groundednesse, such as a wife hath to her husband, and not such as it betwixt the adulteresse and the adulterer, which is all the love that the men of the world have to their idols, but the love that the Bride hath to Christ, is a native and avowed love, of which she hath no reason to be ashamed (as men will one day be of all their idols) but to boast and glory in him; and Christ is to the be∣liever, Page 333 not what idols are to the men of the world, but what a most loving husband is to his wife, being the object of her heart∣contenting and satisfying love: where ever these properties of true love to Christ are, there may the soul lay claim to him as it's friend, and be confident to find him it's true and kindly friend; for, where he is the souls beloved, he is the souls friend. 8. This is implyed, that whatever other beloveds men set their love upon beside Christ, they will prove un•ound, and unfaithfull friends in the time of need; or, confidence in any thing but Christ, will •ail a man at the last; for, he is their friend, and no other beloved deserves that name, all other things will be like a broken tooth, or a foot out of joint, Prov. 25. 19. or like pools in the wildernesse, that run dry in the heat, and makes the way∣faring men ashamed, such as Iob's friends did prove to him, Iob 6. 15. miserable comforters will they be to men, in the day of their greatest need, but then especially will Christ Jesus be found to be a friend indeed; for, there is an excellency in Christ in every relation which he stands under to his people, and an infinite disproportion betwixt him and all creatures, in respect of this.
A second way that we may consider the words, is as they re∣late to the daughters of Ierusalem their question, vers. 9. ye ask what he is more than other beloveds? now (saith she) this is he, who is singular and matchlesse in all his properties; and so, it looks not only to her choice of him, to be her beloved and her friend, but saith also, that he is singularly and matchlesly such, even a non-such beloved and friend, and one who will be found, after tryal, only worthy to be chosen and closed with as such. Obs. 1. Be∣lievers in their answers to others, would, as particularly as may be, bring home what they say to some edifying use (for, this best clears any question proposed) and would not insist on generals, much lesse evanish in empty speculations, but would lavel at edification, and frame what they say, so, as it may best reach that end, and therefore she applyes her answer to their question. 2. When Christ in his excellency and worth is a little insisted and dwelt on, he will be found to be incomparable; and the more souls search into him, the more confidently may they assert his incom∣parable excellency; this, she here doth, and saith, as it were, Is Page 334 he not, and see ye him not now to be the chiefest among ten thousand, and more excellent than all others? as having made her assertion demonstrative, and undenyable. 3. Christ's worth can bide the tryal, and there are, and may be gotten, good grounds to prove that he is well worthy of all the respect, that can be put upon him; and in reason, his worth and excellency may be made convincing unto others, and it may be demonstrat to consciences, that Christ is of more worth than all the world; and her resuming of it thus, supposeth it now to be so clear, that they could say nothing against it, as appears more fully from the words following. 4. No other beloved, nor friend that men choose beside Christ, can abide the tryal; the more they are in∣quired into, and searched out, they will be found to be of the lesse worth: therefore she appeals (as it were) all men to bring their beloveds before Christ, if they durst compare with him, as being confident none durst enter the lists, purposly and professed∣ly to compete with him.
3. We may consider these words, as her application made to the daughters of Ierusalem, holding forth her scope, to edifie them by this description of Christ, and pressingly (for their good) to bear it in upon them, that they might be made to fall in love with this Christ, that had so high a room in her heart; for, so the very strain of the words seem to run. Hence, Observe, 1. These who love Christ themselves, will be desirous to have others knowing and loving him also: and this may be a mark of love to Christ, an earnest desire to have him esteemed of, and loved by others. 2. These who love Christ and others truly, will endea∣vour nothing more, than to have Christ made known to them, and to have them divorced from their idols, and ingaged to him; thus love to them, as well as to him, manifests it self. 3. It's a piece of the duty of mutual communion to which the Lords people are oblieged, to instruct others in the knowledge of the excellencies of Christ, that they may be brought in love with him; and where that end is proposed, according to mens several places and stations, no opportunity would be missed, nor pains spared, which may attain it. 4. That this duty of commending Christ to others, so as it may be profitable, would be exceeding Page 335 warrily and circumspectly gone about, as all the Brides strain clears; For, she goes about it, 1. Tenderly, not upbraiding their ignorance. 2. Lovingly, speaking still to them as friends. 3. Wisely and seasonably, taking the fit opportunity of their que∣stion. 4. Fully, solidly and judiciously, bearing forth the main things of Christ to them. 5. Affectionatly and gravely, as being affected with the thing, and in love with Christ her self. 6. Ex∣emplarly and convincingly, as going before them in the practice of that her self, which she endeavours to presse upon them; that is, by loving and seeking Christ above all, her self, she studies to commend that to others the more effectually. 5. Obs. That the right uptaking of Christ in his excellency, and the pressing of him upon the heart, is the most solid way of wearing all other beloveds out of request with the soul: If he once get room, the esteem of other things will quickly blow up; and there is no way to have the heart weaned from them, but to have Christ great in the af∣fections of his people; therefore, when they ask, what he is more than other beloveds? she answers, not by crying them down, or by discovering their worthlessenesse, but by the describing of his worth, and thereby giving them a solid proof of his excellency to be a ground of their faith, which doth necessarily in•er the o∣ther; for, who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Iesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5. 5.
4. We may consider this close, as it holds forth the holy in∣sulting, and boasting of her soul in Christ, who is so far in excel∣lency beyond all others: This is clear from her claiming of in∣terest in him, and her repeating of the phrase, this, this singular this, is my beloved; and again, this, is my friend; especially compared with the scope, whereby now she holds him out, not on∣ly as a matchless beloved and friend, but to be hers, and she thinks no shame of him; her heart with holy gladness and joy doth exult in this excellent choise of hers above all others: As if she said, Ask ye what he is? this now so described, is he that is mine, he is not like the worthlesse, empty and stinking beloveds, which others have, I avow him, and count my self happy, and well come to in him, the contentment I have in him is incomparably beyond the counterfiet contentment, that all other beloveds can give. Page 336 This the manner of expression, and the frame of her heart in the utering of it, and the scope (which is to shew her confidence in this his commendation, as most worthy to be commended) do imply. Observ. 1. That there is matter of boasting, and holy bragging in Christ Jesus, whether we consider the excellency that is in himself, or the confidence that his people may have in him, as one who will make all that is in him forthcoming to the out∣most, for the good of his own. 2. That there is nothing beside him, that one can confidently boast of; for, this her boasting is so appropriate to him, as it's implyed, to be utterly unsuitable that men should boast of any other thing, Let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord, that is, in him, and in no other thing beside him. 3. That believers who have interest in him, and have ta∣ken him to be their Beloved and their Friend, may make their boast in him, Psal. 34. 2. may glory in him, Isa. 45. 25. and may blesse themselves, as happy eternally in him, Isa. 65. 16. This holy boasting implyeth, 1. an high estimation of him. 2. Con∣fidence in him, without fear. 3. Satisfaction with him, and ha∣ving full contentment in him. 4. An eminent joy resulting from these, which cannot be shaken, all the former being in an eminent degree. 4. Obs. That it is incumbent to the believer who hath chosen Christ, sometimes to boast in him, and in a lovely and holy way to vaunt and boast (if we may so speak) of him above all, so are we commanded, to glory in his holy Name, Psal. 105. 3. and this is one of the wayes we are to commend him, and Christ will take it as a piece of notable respect put upon him, when it is se∣riously done. 5. When a believer is in a right frame, and clear anent his interest, he will boast himself in Christ, as having the lines fallen to him in pleasant places, Psal. 16. 6. whatever else be his lot in the world: Christ is a bargain, that one day will be found worth the boasting of.