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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter One Verse 4

by James Durham

Verse 4. Draw me, we will run after thee. The king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

Being now more confirmed in her desire, from the reasons she hath laid down, she comes in the 4th verse more directly to propound and press her suit: for rationally insisting upon the grounds of grace, in pressing a petition, both sharpens desire, and strengthens the soul with more vigour and boldness, to pursue its desires by prayer. In the words we may consider, 1. The petition. 2. The motive made use of to press it. 3. The answer, or grant of what was sought. 4. The effects of the answer following on her part, suitable someway to her engagement.

The petition is 'draw me,' a word used in the gospel, to set forth the efficacious work of the Spirit of God upon the heart, engaging the soul in a most sweet, powerful, and effectual way to Jesus Christ; 'None can come to me' (saith Christ) 'except the Father draw him,' John 6:44. It is used here, to set forth the Bride's desire to be brought into fellowship with Christ by the power of this same Spirit, that as she desires a visit from Christ, so she desires his Spirit, that he may by his powerful operations draw her near to him. And although a believer be not at a total distance from Christ, and so needs not renovation as one in nature doth; yet considering that a believer may fall into a deadness of frame, as to the lively exercise of grace, and a great distance, as to any sensible sweet communion with Jesus Christ, and that it must be by the power of that same Spirit (without which even these that are in Christ can do nothing) that they must be recovered, and again brought to taste of the joy of his salvation (as is clear from David's prayer, Psalm 51:10, to have 'a clean heart created in him,' see ver. 12, of that Psalm.) And that there are degrees of communion with him, and nearness to him, none of which can be got at without the Spirit's drawing, more than being made near at the first in respect of state: I say all these things being considered, it is clear, that this petition is very pertinent, even to the Bride, and doth import these particulars: 1. A distance, or ceasing of correspondence for a time, and in part, betwixt Christ and her. 2. Her sense and resentment of it, so that she cannot quietly rest in it, being much unsatisfied with her present case. 3. An esteem of Christ and union with him, and a desire to be near, even very near him; which is the scope of her petition, to be drawn unto him, that she may have (as it were) her head in his bosom. 4. A sense of self-insufficiency, and that she had nothing of her own to help her to this nearness, and so a denying of all ability for that in herself. 5. A general faith, that Christ can do what she cannot do, and that there is help to be gotten from him (upon whom the help of his people is laid) for acting spiritual life, and recovering her to a condition of nearness with himself. 6. An actual putting at him (so to speak) and making use of him by faith, for obtaining from him, and by him, quickening, efficacious and soul-recovering influences, which she could not otherwise win at. 7. Diligence in prayer; she prays much, and cries for help when she can do no more.

II. The motive whereby she presseth this petition is, 'We will run after thee:' wherein we are to consider these three things, 1. What this is to run: which is, in short, to make progress Christ-ward, and advance in the way of holiness, with cheerfulness and alacrity (having her heart lifted up in the ways of the Lord) for the believer's life is a race, heaven is the prize, 1 Cor. 9:24 and Phil. 3:13,14, &c. and the graces and influences of the Spirit give legs, strength, and vigour to the inner-man to run, as wind doth to a ship, to cause her make way; as it is, Psalm 119:23, 'Then I shall run in the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart,' which is, on the matter, the same with drawing here. And this running is opposed to deadness, or slowness in her progress before: now (saith she) I make no way, but draw me, and we shall go swiftly, speedily, willingly, and cheerfully. Hence we may gather:

l. That often when there is desertion as to Christ's presence, that there is an up-sitting in duty and the exercise of grace. 2. That bonds in duty are as observable and heavy to believers, as want of comfort. 3. That there is in them an high estimation, and a serious desire of enlargement in duty, or of liberty to run in the way of God's commandments. 4. This desire is very acceptable with Jesus Christ, and therefore is made use of as a motive in pressing her petition before him: he takes it well, when a believer is like to lie by and sit up, that he look up to him, and pray and pant for help, to set him to his feet again.

2. Consider why the person is changed, 'draw me,' (saith she) and 'we' shall run: if we take the church collectively under 'me,' then 'we' will set out the particular members; and it is this much, do me good, or pour thy Spirit on the church, and we shall run in our stations who are members: it is the better with all the members, when it is well with the church in general. But it would seem to look to particular believers, the effect of drawing being most proper and peculiar on them: and so it is to be understood thus, if thou wilt draw me, and by the power of thy grace work effectually upon me, then many more shall get advantage by it: which holds true, partly, by reason of the sympathy that is amongst the members of that one body; partly, because a work of grace fits and engages one the more to be forth-coming for the good of others: partly, because of the influence which liveliness in one, may have upon the quickening and stirring up of others: even as often, when deadness begins in one, it leaveneth and infecteth more; so by God's blessing may liveliness do. This same argument is made use of by David, Psalm, 51, when he is dealing for the establishment and liberty of God's Spirit, then (saith he) ver. 12, 13, 'I will teach sinners thy way, and they shall be converted unto thee.' He was not only purposed to stir up himself, and walk tenderly in the strength he should receive, but that he would lay out himself for the good of others, and he promiseth himself success therein through the grace of God. And so Joshua, 24:15, 'I and my house will serve the Lord:' which speaks, that his serving the Lord, would have influence upon his house. Experience doth often make out, that a lively soul in a congregation or family, will readily occasion and provoke others, to stir and seek with them.

3. The force of the reason, in the connexion it hath with the petition, imports, 1. That she was much in love with holiness, and had an ardent desire after more of it. 2. That she resolved to improve her receipts, for the edification of others. 3. That these designs were very acceptable to Christ. 4. That except she were drawn, she would come short of both. 5. A cheerful engaging to be forth-coming to his honour and the good of others, and to undertake what he shall call to, and fit for: these go well together, that when we see and are sensible, that we of ourselves, as of ourselves, can do nothing. 2. Cor. 3:5. Yet we may humbly engage, 'To do all things through Christ strengthening us:' in a word, I have need (would she say) to be drawn, if holiness be needful: and I hope, thou who respectest holiness in me and others of thy people, will grant what I seek. Her engaging to run, if he would draw, is no vain undertaking; but a humble pressing motive, holding forth some sincerity given from him, but no ability in herself, but as he who hath given her to will, must also work in her to do.

III. The third thing in the verse, is the return, or grant of this suit; the King (saith she) 'hath brought me into his chambers,' he hath indeed brought me where I was desirous to be. The words, 'he hath brought me,' being compared with the petition, 'draw me,' and the effects following, whereby she changeth from praying to praising, and that with expressions holding forth a kind of surprisal, do evidence this to be a real return to her prayer, and a comfortable alteration upon, and change in her condition.

In this answer, consider, 1. What she receives, a noble privilege; she is admitted into the king's chamber to nearness with Him, which she longed for, and now she hath it. Chambers are the most intimate places of familiar fellowship, especially with kings, where none but courtiers indeed come. They were the places where the Bridegroom and the Bride rejoiced together; and it hath a tacit opposition to a salutation by the way, or admission to outer rooms, this to which she is admitted is more, yet is it something here attainable; which we conceive, is the enjoying of that love she formerly sought for, and which afterward she engaged to remember, as having now obtained it. In a word, she is where she would be, as the effects shew.

2. Consider who brought her into these chambers; it is 'the King,' even Him she prayed unto, to draw her, he hath heard her: this King (as being the chief of all that ever bare that name) is called the King by way of eminency; and so, Psalm 45:1,2, and Zech. 4:9. He is not only King, and supreme as God, having the same essential dominion with the Father, over all the creatures; but also, (which is here especially meant) as Mediator, he is a King by donation, Psalm 2:6,7, and also by conquest, having purchased his kingdom with his blood, and by the power of his spiritual arms that are effectual upon the hearts of sinners, brings them subject to him, Psalm 45:5. So he confesseth himself to be a King before Pontius Pilate, John 18:36, 37, although his kingdom be not of this world. It is he, who by his blood hath made access for believers to nearness with God, as it is, Eph. 2:18: through that 'new and living way,' Heb. 10:19,20: so that she may well say, he brought her in. She attributes this to him expressly, 1. For his commendation, and to give him the acknowledgment due to him in this work, which would never have been wrought without him: all nearness and access to God, all progress in holiness, and comfort in duties, should not only be sought by, and from Christ; but he acknowledged for these, and the praise of them returned to him.

2. She observes the return of her prayer, and his readiness to be entreated, I prayed to him to draw (saith she) and he did it effectually; he drew me, and brought me into his chambers. Here we may say, Christ is easily entreated, Isa. 65:24, 'Before they call, I will answer.' 2. Believers should observe returns of prayer, and bless Christ for them. 3. She acknowledgeth he had brought her into the chambers, to magnify and to commend the mercy the more: it is the greater honour, that not only she is there, but that the King himself (like the prodigal's father) met her, and took her in: Christ's convoy is much worth, and sinners may hazard forward with it, and not despair of access. 4. She attributes it to him, that she may keep mind of his grace, whereby she stands and enjoys these privileges; and that she may be still humble under them, as having none of these from herself: it is much, under sense and a fair gale of flowing love, to carry even, and to be humble: and it is rare to be full of this new wine, and bear it well.

3. Consider the importance of the word in the original, it is here translated, 'he brought me in,' as it is, chap. 2:4; but the word in that conjugation, in which it is used in the first language, signifieth, he made me come, or go in; implying, 1. A sort of averseness, and inability in herself. 2. Many difficulties in the way. 3. An efficacious work overcoming all these, and effectually bringing her over all, as the same word is used, Psalm 78:71, where God's bringing David from the fold to be king, over so many difficulties, is spoken of.

IV. The last thing in the verse is, the effect following on this her admission, which is both exceeding great, spiritual cheerfulness in herself, and gladness of heart also in others, whereby both her own, and their hearts were much enlarged in duty, as she undertook (and therefore the person from 'me' to 'we' is changed again) for before (she saith) ,he brought me,' &c. but now, 'we will be glad,' &c. The effects by way of gratitude, are in two expressions, 1. 'We will rejoice and be glad in thee.' And 2. 'We will remember thy love more than wine:' and as she took her motive, while she desired Christ's love, from that esteem which all believers (under the title of virgins) had of it, so now, having obtained what she sought, she confirms her estimation of that enjoyment, from the experience of the same believers, under the name of 'upright;' that by such an universal testimony in both assertions, she might the more confirm her faith anent the reality of Christ's worth, seeing her esteem of him did flow from no deluded sense in her, but was built on such solid reasons, as she durst appeal to the experience of all believers, who thought Christ well worthy the loving: and so this is not only brought in here to shew the nature of believers, whose disposition inclines them natively to love Christ; but also to shew the excellent loveliness of Christ, as an object worthy to be loved, in the conviction of all that ever knew him.

The first expression holds forth a warm change upon her affections; no sooner is she admitted into the chambers, but she crieth out, 'O we will rejoice and be glad in thee.' Where, 1. Ye have her exercise and frame; it is to rejoice and be glad: cheerfulness and joy, disposing the heart to praise, are sometimes called for as well as prayer. If we look on this joy as it stands here, it says, 1. There are degrees and steps in communion with Christ; and the saints are sometimes admitted to higher degrees thereof, than at other times; sure it is a heartsome life to be near Christ, and in his chambers. 2. This joy, and that nearness with Christ, which is the ground of it, are both often the effect of prayer, and follow upon it, when faith is in a lively way exercised in that duty. 3. That faith exercised on Christ, can make a sudden change to the better in a believer's case, Psalm 30:6,7, &c. 4. That a believer should observe the changes of Christ's dispensations, the returns of their own prayer, and be suitably affected with them, whether he delay the answer, or give them a present return.

The second thing in the expression, is the subject of this joy, it's 'in thee,' not in corn, or wine; not in their present sense, but in him as the Author of their present comfortable condition, and as being himself their happiness, even in their greatest enjoyments, according to that word, 1. Cor. 1:31, 'Let him that rejoiceth, rejoice in the Lord:' and this qualifies joy, and keeps it from degenerating into carnal delight., when he 'that rejoiceth, rejoiceth in the Lord;' and it is a good character to try such joy with, as may warrantably pass under that name of the joy of the Lord, and as will have that effect with it, to strengthen us in his way, Neh. 8:10.

3. We may consider a twofold change of the number in the Bride's speaking, it is 'we,' which was 'me;' 'the King brought me,' (said she) but now 'we' will rejoice. The reasons were given on the petition; and further, we may add here, that it is to show her being conformed in her practice to her undertaking; and to show that that admission of hers redounded to the good of more, and ought to take them up in praise with her. The other change of the person is, from the third to the second, from 'he,' the 'King,' to 'thee,' in the second person (we will rejoice in 'thee') which shews a holy complacency and delight, sometimes making her to speak of him, sometimes to him, yet so, as she loves to have Christ both the object and subject of her discourse, and the more he is to her, she is the more satisfied: this being another character of spiritual joy and exulting in Christ, it still makes him to be the more to them, and they are still pressing under it, to be the nearer to him.

The second effect is, 'we will remember thy love more than wine.' What is understood by 'love' and 'wine,' as also, why the number is changed from the singular to the plural, hath been formerly cleared. The word 'remember,' doth import these three things, I. A thankful acknowledgment of the favour received, and a making of it to be remembered to his praise; this remembering is opposite to forgetting, Psalm 103:2, from which we may observe two things, 1. The acknowledgment of the mercies we have received, is a necessary piece of the duty of praise; they will never praise for a mercy, who will not acknowledge they have received it: forgetfulness and unbelief do much mar praise. 2. They that pray most for any mercy, will most really praise when it is received; and this last is a duty as well as the former, but is not made conscience of, nor suitably performed, but by hearts that acknowledge God's goodness to themselves. II. It imports, a recording of this experience of God's goodness, for her own profit for the time to come: thus every manifestation of his grace is to be kept as an experience for afterwards, when that frame may be away, and be may hide his face, whereupon there will follow a change in the believer's frame: it is good keeping the impression of his kind manifestations still upon the heart; so the Psalmist endeavoured, Psalm 119:93, 'I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou halt quickened me.' III. It imports, the doing of both these with delight, 'we will remember thy love' (saith she) 'more than wine,' that is, the thoughts of Christ's love doth and shall relish more sweetly than wine, or any comforts amongst creatures; the very thoughts of it are, and will be so cordial and refreshful.

The last expression, 'the upright love thee,' is added for comfirmation, as was said on verse 3, and may be looked upon as brought in by way of obviating an objection. Who (might it be said to the Bride) will so rejoice in Christ with thee? She answers, whatever the most part of the world do, yet those who have spiritual senses, love Christ as I do. The difference betwixt this and the former expression, in the end of the third verse, is in two, 1. Though the persons be the same, yet she gives them different styles; there she calls them 'virgins,' as being chaste in their love, not joining themselves to idols, nor going a whoring after creatures: here she calls them 'upright,' as being sincere, neither dissemblers, nor hypocrites, but such as were really that which they appeared to be, having a practice suitable to their profession; such was Job, Job. 1:1. 'An upright man;' such was Nathanael, John 1:47, 'An Israelite indeed.' these have not double ends, nor double hearts, but are straight, and may abide the touch-stone, their practice being their very heart turned outward. The other difference is in the scope: formerly they were brought in, as being desirous of Christ, as she was; here as delighted with Christ when he is enjoyed, both go together: and whoever are desirous after him, will be delighted in him, while present; and afflicted for, and affected with his absence: in both she evidenceth a suitableness in her frame to the generation of God's people, and cares not from whom she may differ, if she be conformed to them.

Observe. 1. Where there is love to Christ, there is sincerity in practice; neither is there true love to be found in any hypocrite; for, sincerity and love to Christ go together. 2. Sincerity is a characteristic of a virgin, and true believer: if we would know who are the 'virgins' spoken of, verse 3; she tells us here, they are the 'upright.' 3. All who are sincere, or upright, come in one category and reckoning; they are all of the same spiritual nature, or disposition, and what may be said of one of them (as to that) may be said of them all. 4. God reckons believers, not by the degree of their progress, but by the kind and nature of their walk, if it be sincere, or not; that is, if they be straight as to their ends, motives, and manner in duties, or not. 5. These characters which agree in common to believers as such, and these cases which agree with the ordinary way of all the saints in scripture, are solid, and weight may be laid upon them in concluding our sincerity, or the goodness of our state; but peculiar evidences, or singular experience, should not be leaned unto in that, as if our uprightness, or the goodness of our state, could not be made out without these, wherein possibly an hypocrite can go nearer to resemble a child of God, than in that which is more ordinary to saints as such.



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