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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Three Verses 1-2

by James Durham


Verse 1. By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.
2. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.

This chapter hath three parts, 1. The Bride's sad exercise under the want of Christ, and in seeking after him till she find him, to verse 6. 2. The daughters of Jerusalem come in, commending the Bride, verse 6. 3. The Bride, from verse 7, to the end, returns to discourse of, and commend the excellency and amiableness of Christ.

In her exercise consider, 1. Her case. 2. Her carriage in several steps. 3. Her success in every step. 4. Her practice when she hath obtained her desire: or, we may take them up in these two, 1. Her sad condition, and her carriage under it. 2. Her outgate and her carriage suitable thereto. Her case is implied in two words, in the beginning of verse 1. 1. It was night with her. 2. She was on 'her bed.' By 'night,' is ordinarily understood darkness and affliction, opposite to light of day and joy; and here her exercise being spiritual, it must imply some spiritual affliction, or soul-sad spiritual exercise. So 'night' is taken, Psalm 42:8. 'He will command his lovingkindness in the day, and in the night' (while the day comes, that his loving kindness be intimated) this song shall be with me,' &c: The scope shows, that it is a night of desertion she is under, through the want of Christ's presence whom she loves: his presence, who is the Sun of righteousness with healing under his wings, makes the believer's day; and his absence is their night, and makes them droop, as being under a sad night of soul affliction; therefore is it, that she seeks so carefully after his presence. 2. Her being 'on her bed,' is not taken here, as implying nearness with him, for the scope shows he is absent; but a laziness of frame on her spirit, opposite to activeness and diligence, as it is taken, chap. 5, verse 3, and so it is opposed to her after-rising and diligence, and therefore it is also called 'my bed,' implying that she was here alone in a secure comfortless frame, and therefore for this, it is distinguished from 'our bed,' chap. 1:16, and 'his bed' afterward, verse 7, where she is allowed rest, and spiritual ease, and solace in his company; but here on her bed she hath no such allowance, whatever carnal ease and rest she takes to herself; believers have their own fits of carnal security, when they give their corruptions rest, that is, their own bed: and it is a heartless lair (to speak so) to lie alone and want the Beloved: this is her case, wanting Christ, yet lying too still, as contented some way in that condition; though it cannot continue so with believers, it will turn heavy and perplexing at last to them, as it doth here to the Bride: and sure, the easiest time under security is not so comfortable and profitable to believers, as is an exercise that takes them more up; therefore afterward she prefers rising and seeking, to this woful rest. It shows, 1. That believers' distance and darkness may grow; for, in the former chapter, Christ was absent, yet, as through a window or lattice, there were some glimpses of him; but here it's 'night,' and there is not so much as a twilight discovery of him. 2. Often, distance with Christ, and security and deadness (as to our spiritual life) go together: when Christ is absent, believers then usually fall from activity in their duty, Isa. 64:7. 'No man stirreth up himself to lay hold on thee,' and the reason is, 'thou hast hid thy face,' &c. Matt. 25:5, 'While the Bridegroom tarried,' even the wise virgins 'slumbered and slept.'

Her carriage, or way that she takes in this case, is set out in four steps: The 1. Is in these words, 'I sought him, whom my soul loveth.' Consider here, I. The title Christ gets, 'him, whom,' &c. Christ got this name before, and now several times she repeats it, And it holds forth, 1. The sincerity of her love, it was her soul and heart that loved him. 2. The degree and singularity of it, no other thing was admitted in her heart to compare with him, he bears the alone sway there in respect of the affection she had to him, it is he and none other, upon whom her soul's love is set, otherwise, this title would not suitably designate him; Christ loves well to have such titles given to him, as may import the heart's special esteem of him. 3. It shews, that even in believers' lowest conditions, there remains some secret soul-esteem of Christ, and that in their judgment he is still their choice and wale above all the world. Yet, 4. That their practice while security prevails, is most unsuitable to their convictions and judgment.

II. Consider her practice and carriage. While Christ is absent her practice is not altogether a lying by, without the form of religion; for, (saith she) on my bed 'I sought him,' that is, I prayed and used some means, but in a lazy way, not stirring up my self vigorously in it. Observe. 1. Believers in a secure frame, may keep some form of duty, yet their duties are like the frame of their heart, lifeless and hypocritical. 2. There is much of believers' practice, such as themselves will find fault with, when they come to look rightly upon it; yea, even much of their way, while they keep up the form of duty, is but like the sluggard, Prov. 26:14, turning themselves upon their beds, as the door upon the hinges; not lying still nor altogether daring to give over the form, yet little better on the matter, because they make no effectual progress, nor can they say their soul is in and with their service, which they perform. 3. Her success, as to this step, is, 'But I have found him not,' that is, I was nothing the better, these sluggish endeavours did not my business: every form of seeking will not obtain, and one may seek Christ long in their ordinary formal way, ere they find him; yet it is good not to give over, but to observe the form: life and love is not altogether gone, when one discerns absence and their own laziness, with discontent.

When this doth not reach her design, she proceeds to a more lively step, verse 2, and that is, to get up, and seek him in a more active and stirring way: which says, 1. She observed the continuance of her distance, and, what came of her prayers and seeking: which is a good beginning of one's recovery, and winning to their feet after a fit of security and decay. 2. It says, it is often good for a believer, as to his rousing, and his recovering of spiritual life, that sense is not always easily obtained; this activity had not followed (readily) had not Christ constrained her to it, by cross dispensations and disappointments. In this step we have, 1. Her resolving to fall about a more active way in seeking him. 2. Her performance. 3. Her success. First, Her resolution is, 'I will rise now' (saith she) and go about the streets,' &c. In which there are these three, 1. What she resolves to do; not to give over (for that should never be given way to) but to bestir herself more actively in duty, 'I will rise and go' from the bed to the streets of the city and seek him there. By 'city' is understood the church, whereof all members are 'fellow-citizens,' Eph. 2:19. It is called so, 1. For its order and government; so the church is as a city, that hath watchmen and laws. 2. For its unity; it is one commonwealth and incorporation, Eph. 2:12. This Jerusalem is a city compacted together, Psalm 122:3. 3. For its privileges, whereof all believers (who are the burgesses and fellow-citizens) are partakers, Eph, 2:19, and unto which all others who are without, are strangers.

Her 'going into the city,' suppones a communicating of her case to others for help, and her using of more public means, opposite to her private dealing with herself on her bed, verse 1. even as rising imports a stirring of herself to more activity in the manner of performing, these duties, opposite to her seeking him formerly while she lay still on her bed: the thing then resolved upon is to this sense, what am I doing? Are there not more means, in the use of which I may seek Christ? Is there not another way of enquiring after him, than this lazy formal way? I will up and essay it. There are many means given for a believer's help, and when one fails, another may be blessed, and therefore, believers are still to follow from one to another; and where true love to Christ is, it will make them do so, and spare no pains till they meet with him. Again, verse 2. Ere she gets to her feet, and goes to the streets, &c. she deliberately resolves it, 'I will rise,' &c. which shows, 1. That her former disappointment did put her to a consultation what to do, and made her more serious; and this is the use that ought to be made of disappointments in the duties of religion. 2. That there will be heart-deliberations in a christian walk, when it is serious; and they are the best performances and duties, that are'the results of those. 3. Serious resolutions are often very useful, and helpful in duty; for, they are engagements, and spurs to stir up to duty, when we are indisposed for it. 4. It is good cordially to resolve upon duty, when the practice of it is somewhat difficult or obstructed; for, this both speaks sincerity, and also helps to lessen the difficulty which is in the way of duty. 5. Resolutions to set about duty are sometimes the greatest length believers can win at, while under indisposition; and this much is better than nothing, because it draws on more.

This resolution is qualified, 'I will rise now' (saith she); that is, seeing these sluggish endeavours doth not avail me, I will delay no longer, but will now presently fall about it in more earnest. It is the sign of a sincere resolution, when it doth not put off or shift duty, but engageth the soul in a present undertaking of it, Psalm 119:59,60.

Next, her performance, or her putting this resolution in practice, doth accordingly follow instantly, 'I sought him' (said she) that is, in the streets, &c. Observe. 1. It is not a resolution worth the mentioning, that hath not practice following; for every honest resolution is followed with practice, whatever shortcoming wait upon it. 2. Honest resolutions are often to duty, like a needle that draws the thread after it; and believers should not fear to resolve on duty from fear of coming short in performance, if their resolutions be undertaken in the strength of Christ, as this was, as is clear by considering her former frame, which was such as would give no great encouragement to self undertakings in duties.

Lastly. Her success, or rather her disappointment follows in these words, 'but I found him not,' even then when I was most serious in seeking him, I missed him still; which is not only spoken to show the event, but also by way of regret, she is deeply affected with it. Observe. 1. When the Lord's people have been formerly lazy, Christ may keep up himself, even when they become more active, rather hereby chastening their former negligence, than being offended at their present diligence in duty. 2. It is sad when Christ is missed even in duty, and that once and again. 3. She continues to be a distinct observer of the fruits both of public and private duties which is a commendable practice, and to be made conscience of by all the seekers of his face.




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