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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Four Verse 12

by James Durham

Verse 12. A garden inclosed is my Sister, my Spouse: a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Having thus summed up her carriage in the former three-fold commendation, now he proceeds both to describe and commend her, by a seven-fold comparison, wherein (to say so) the rhetoric of our Lord's love abounds: each of them may point out these three things, 1. They describe somewhat the nature of a believer, or Christ's Bride. 2. They evidence Christ's love and care, which he hath to ward her. 3. They hold forth her duty in reference to herself. We shall shortly explain them, as they relate to this scope.

In this 12th verse, we have three of these comparisons, whereby she is described and commended. 1. She is compared to a 'garden enclosed:' a garden is a plot of ground, separate from other places, for delight and recreation of the owner, having many flowers in it, and much pains taken on it: so believers are, 1. Set a-part by God beside all others in the world, and much pains is taken on them; the trees in Christ's garden are digged about and dunged, Luke 13:8. 2. They are his delight, being separate from others for his own use, with whom he dwells, in whom he takes pleasure, and amongst whom he feeds, chap. 6:2. 3. They are furnished with many excellent graces, fruits of the Spirit, which are planted in them as flowers in a garden, Gal. 5:21. Next, this garden is 'inclosed:' it is a special property of gardens to be so. To be inclosed, is by a wall or hedge to be fenced from the trampling and eating up of beasts, and also from the hazard of winds; so, Isa. 5:2, the 'vineyard of the Lord of hosts,' (which is his church) is said to be fenced, a wall is built about it, to defend it from the danger of beasts, and storms. And this sheweth, 1. His care of her, in watching over her, Isa. 27:23. And, 2. Her watchfulness over herself, whereby she is not common or accessible to every one; but as she is defended by his care, so also she hath a watch herself at the door of her lips, of her eyes, of her ears, &c. she is not like a city without walls, obnoxious to every assault and temptation, but hath a hedge of divine protection, which is as a wall of fire about her to defend her; and also a guard of watchfulness and holy fear, in the exercise of which the believer hath rule over his own spirit, which (Prov. 25:28) is implied to be as strong walls about a city.

The second similitude wherewith she is compared, is 'a spring shut up:' springs were of great price in those hot countries, and served much for making gardens fruitful, as is implied, Isa. 58:11, where it is promised to the church, 'thou shalt be as a watered garden:' hence the righteous is called, 'like a tree planted by the rivers of waters,' Psalm 1:3, and on the contrary, the barren condition of his people is described, Isa. 1:30, by the similitude of 'a garden, that hath no water.' In a word, she is not only a garden, but a spring, that is furnished with moisture and water, for making her fruitful. More particularly, by this may be set out the graces of the Spirit, compared to waters, John 7:38, 39, and said to become 'a well of water' in those that believe in Christ, John 4:14, for, these graces of the Spirit, and his influence on them, doth keep all things in the believer's soul's case fresh and lively, as a spring doth make a garden green and fruitful. Next, this spring is 'shut up,' for so were springs in these countries, where they were rare, as we see by Jacob's rolling the stone away, Gen. 29:8. And this kept the waters from being corrupted by the sun, and also from being bemudded by beasts: this signifieth the preciousness of the graces and influences of the Spirit, wherewith believers are furnished. 2. Pureness and clearness in them, as in waters that are not bemudded. 3. A care she hath to keep them pure from carnal passions, or fruits of her own spirit, that would bemud all.

The third comparison is on the matter the same, but adds a further degree to the former; she is (saith he) 'a fountain sealed:' a fountain may signify waters springing in greater abundance; and sealing doth signify not only shutting up, but securing it by a seal, after it is shut up so the den of lions was sealed, after Daniel was cast into it, Dan. 6:17. And the stone was sealed, that was put on Christ's grave, that so it might not be opened by any, but by those that sealed it. And though there be other uses of sealing, yet we conceive that which is aimed at here, is, 1. To shew that the church is not common, but well kept and sealed, so that none can trouble believers' peace without Christ's leave, who hath 'sealed them by his Spirit to the day of redemption,' Eph. 4:30, &c. 2. To shew Christ's particular right to the church and her graces, and his owning of her and them, she bears his seal (as the one hundred and forty four thousand, Rev. 7, are sealed) there is none but himself, that hath access to these waters; her graces and fruits are all reserved for him, chap. 7:13. 3. It shews (to say so) her closeness, and resolute watchfulness, so that there is no gaining upon her to bemud her condition without advertency and observation, more than waters can be drawn from a sealed fountain, the seal not being broken: like that phrase, Prov. 5:15, 'Drink out of thine own cistern, let them be thine own,' &c. She hath her own distinct fountain, from which she draws influences, and that she preserves and secures to herself. 4. It shews a kind of sacredness in this fountain, so that nothing may meddle with it, more than that which is marked and separated by a seal. In sum, the first comparison shews that Christ's Bride or the believer is to be fruitful. The second, what makes her fruitful, the spring of the Spirit. The third shews her care to keep it clear, and to have it running and flowing, that she may be fruitful.



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