|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 8. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.
When this means fails her, she gives not over, but betakes herself to the use of mutual fellowship with the saints (which is the third step of her carriage) verse 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 believer: this sickness implies pain as of a woman in travail, whose showers 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 ardent love to him, so that she could not endure to want him. 2. Much heart-affectedness following upon that ardent desire, which (under her former disappointments) did beget such pain and fainting, that it was as a sore sickness, tho' not dangerous: this sickness differs from that spoken of, chap. 2:5, as the scope shews; that is like the pain procured by an overset of the stomach; so the sense of his love being let out in a very great measure, was like to master her; not, that sense of his love is simply or in itself burdensome, but she is weak like an old bottle, or a queasy and weak stomach 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 desire, and at last breeds fainting and sickness. This shews, 1. That love to Christ, where it is sincere, is a most sensitive thing. 2. That the more 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 maketh the heart sick, especially when the sweetness of Christ's presence hath been felt, and his absence distinctly discerned. 4. That Christ's presence is the soul's health, and his absence its sickness, have else what it will. 5. That love to Christ will sometimes, especially after challenges and disappointments, so overpower the soul, that it cannot to its own sense (at least) act under it, or sustain it (it seems so heavy a burden) as sickness will do to the body, if it get not an outgate.
The way she takes to obtain Christ, after all other means fail her, is by making her application to the daughters of Jerusalem: indeed it is 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, John 20:12,13, 'Why weepest thou?' (say the angels) 'Why?' (saith she) 'they have taken away my Lord.' In this consider, 1. The parties she betakes herself to, 'the daughters of Jerusalem,' spoken of, chap. 1:5, professors not of the worst stamp; yet (as after appears) under much ignorance of Christ, and of spiritual exercise: this is the means she goes now unto. Where observe, 1. Spiritual communion, amongst professors or believers, is not only a duty, but a special means, 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 means, by desiring other's help; and for their own ease and furtherance in meeting with Christ, by communicating their case to them, as she doth here. 3. Even the strongest believers (whom the Bride represents) may be helped by those that are much weaker than themselves in gifts, grace, and experience; as the daughters of Jerusalem 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) 'that I am sick of love;' make my ease known to him, and hold it up by prayer: she had been doing so herself, and had not come speed, and therefore she puts them upon it, that they might help her to obtain an answer. Observe. 1. That prayer for one another, is a duty of mutual fellowship, especially for those that are exercised others should be in that exercise with them, James 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 ourselves, and desiring of help from others, should go together; or, it will give most clearness 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 says, 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 folk's 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 e news to him. 6. Such a case as love-sickness is a good motive, upon which to press for the help of others' prayers, and that which may also give confidence to any, to bear such a message to Christ. 7. Believers, in their communion with others, should more insist upon their own cases, than on the faults of ministers, or miscarriages of others: although she was formerly 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 Jerusalem, 'If ye find him:' that is, if ye get access, which now she thinks herself excluded from. And it imports, 1. That there is a peculiar finding of, and access unto Christ at one time beyond another. 2. That a weak believer may sometimes have much more access to Christ, and sensible communion with him, than others of greater parts and experience: she supposes that they might find, while she did not. 3. That when any get access 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 access, remember my case she would share of the fruit of their most warm enjoyments. 4. She doth not resent nor envy this, or become jealous of it, but humbly 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 proposed 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 seriousness in her; the matter of Christian fellowship, and our desiring of the help of others' prayers, is no matter of compliment, but should in earnest besought for. 2. She desires seriousness in them, in their discharge of this duty: in our praying for others, conscience should be made of it, as seriously as for ourselves, and we should beware of superficialness and overliness in it. 3. Our expressions in our fellowship, especially concerning the most serious purposes, should be suitably serious. A light manner of speaking in serious things often spills the beauty of them, mars edification, and diminisheth from the weight of the matters themselves.
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