|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM.
Verse 1. Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? That we may seek him with thee.
The sweet conference begun in verse 8, of the former chapter, and continued to the end thereof, betwixt the Bride and the daughters of Jerusalem, is further drawn out in this chapter; and first they return a new serious question, verse 1. In the second place she replies, verses 2 and 3. After which, in the third place, the Bridegroom himself comes in, with a notable expression of his love to his Bride, and an affectionate commendation of her graces: and so, according to the number of the parties that speak, we have three parts of the chapter.
The question proposed by the daughters of Jerusalem, is verse 1, and it supposeth them to be convinced of Christ's worth, by the former discourse; and that they now are provoked, as being deeply in love with him, to desire and thirst after him, and communion with him. Now, as it depends upon the former discourse, and this is the continuance thereof, it gives ground to observe, 1. That serious and faithful endeavours to gain those that are weak, are often followed with a blessing on those upon whom such pains are taken; for, now the daughters are engaged to seek him with the Bride: and this should notably encourage to the discharge of this duty. 2. As it is the duty of one to admonish and instruct another, so it is all men's duty to accept of admonition and instruction from others, and in the Lord to yield themselves thereunto, as these daughters do. 3. It makes Christian fellowship sweet and pleasant, where there is faithful tenderness upon the one side, and submissive yielding on the other: 'A wise reprover upon an obedient ear, is an excellent jewel, even as an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold;' Prov. 25:11. 4. Yielding to instruction, and acknowledging of a conviction after a mistake (especially concerning Christ) is one of the first things, whereby desire of obtaining Christ doth appear; whereas such grumblings, as, 'Who made thee a reprover, or instructor?' &c. evidence an unhumbled frame, out of case for any true desire after Christ. 5. This may give some directions for Christians' profitable conversing one with another: as, 1. A necessary and profitable subject should be proposed to be spoken of; for, so much the matter of the daughters' question imports. 2. It should be entertained by both sides when once tabled, and all diversions barred out, and the subject proposed, closely followed with answers suitable to it. 3. The end designed should be practice and edification (for, so it is here, to seek him with them) and not a mere notional contemplation. 4. The manner should be grave and serious, suitable to the matter. 5. Compellations, and expressions that are used, should be respectful of each one to another. 6. Those who are weak should not shun to speak, and move questions, in those things that may edify them, as, we may see in the daughters' carriage here. 7. They who have knowledge should not despise those who are weak, but condescend unto them. 8. It is sometimes useful to suspend explicit following of our own case, (especially when those who are present seem strangers to it) and to condescend to insist upon the case of others for their edification: thus doth the Bride with the daughters.
More particularly in the words of verse 1 consider 1. The title which the daughters give the Bride, 'O thou fairest among women:' It is the same which was, chap. 5:9, but here it shews their continuing in respect to her, which they vent by suitable grave expressions; it is not much at the beginning to carry respectfully to the lovers of Christ, but it is much after some familiar acquaintance to continue so doing, which is the lesson that may be learned here. 2. Consider the question, 'whither is thy Beloved gone?' and it is repeated, to shew how serious they were in it, and how desirous of an answer. 3. There is the end, or motive, that draws this question from them, and that is, 'That we may seek him with thee.'
She had told them that her Beloved was withdrawn; now they when convinced of his worth) ask, 'whither?' &c., which is a farther step of their desire of being acquaint with Christ and his way, than what was holden out in their question, chap. 5:9, yet having infirmity also: and it shews, 1. That where there is any conviction of what Christ is, then the great design and main enquiry should be to know where he is, and how he may be attained. 2. There may be some acknowledgment of Christ's worth, and affection to him, where yet there is much ignorance of the way how to come by him. 3. It is no less necessary for a person to know rightly where and how to seek Christ, than to know what he is. 4. There may be some honesty of desire after, and love to Christ, where faith dare not claim his as the believer's own; for, say they, where is thy Beloved? They say not, where is our Beloved? Beginners are often very anxious and afraid to make this application, although it may be, before their conviction and conversion, they did never question it.
Next, we would consider, that the daughters here leave the Bride's case, and enquire for instructing of themselves, whence Observe, 1. Whosover have any affection to Christ, and any opportunity to be instructed anent him, should thriftily improve it; if they had but the fellowship of an intelligent private Christian, it should be made good use of to that purpose. 2. Young beginners often forget all others cases but their own, and the more experienced should bear with that, and for others' good pass over their own case, and be content it be laid aside and forgotten for a time. 3. They ask this, that they may be the more enabled to sympathize, and concur with her, in what she required of them which teacheth, that they can be most useful to others, that have some distinctness in their own condition: for, confusion in our own condition doth much obstruct the sympathy, faithful burden-bearing that we owe to others in theirs.
The end they propose, is 'That we may seek him with thee:' which may be considered, first, as their end in enquiring; Tell us (as if they had said) for, we ask not for curiosity, but to be helped in practice. Whence observe, 1. The great end and design of all endeavours for knowledge, should not be to rest in speculation, but to be furthered in practice. 2. It saith, no sooner should folk be clear in a duty but instantly should they set about the practice of it. 3. Men's practice should be according to their knowledge; their seeking, and knowing where to seek, should go together. 4. The finding of Christ is the great end of all religious duties, wherein we are to seek him, as these duties are the end of knowledge. 5. Often good desires after Christ, are much impeded by ignorance and confusion, even in the judgments of those that affectionately love him.
Again, we may consider the words as a motive proposed to the Bride, to make her to answer; which is, shew us we pray thee where we may find him; for we are in earnest, and would gladly seek him with thee. And from the words so considered, Observe, 1. Nothing will nor should more prevail with a tender believer, to move him to be helpful to others, than this, that they are serious and yet weak: yea, 2. Singleness of desire to profit by the means, is a piece of that frame that is necessary in order to our edification by them; for, thus they strengthen themselves in the expectation of an edifying answer, which otherwise they could not have expected; they who are serious and single, though feckless, may look for God's guiding of them.
3. These words may be considered, as holding forth the daughters' purpose, and (as it were) an obligation that they come under; tell us (say they) 'and we will seek him with thee:' And this teacheth, that humble, single purposes, are neither unsuitable, nor unprofitable to beginners: yea, it is very necessary, that they seriously devote, and engage themselves in that blessed work of seeking after Jesus Christ.
Further, the words, 'we will seek him with thee,' considered in themselves, import not only a seeking, but a joint seeking with her, as coming in to share in the same exercise that she was taken up with. Which shews 1. That they acquiesced in the same way of religion, which they that were in Christ before them did follow. 2. That there is an union to be kept amongst the worshippers of Christ, and a joint cordial concurrence in going about of duties. 3. That this united, or joint-way is profitable to all, both to beginners, and to those that are more experienced; otherwise it would not be such a motive, as it is here held forth to be. 4. Although believers, and all professors, have an union and communion amongst themselves (as the Bride had formerly kept with the daughter's of Jerusalem) yet when sincerity is begun to be more fresh and lively, or when it is begotten where it was not before, there follows a more near union and communion than that which was before: now they mind another joint-way of seeking him, than formerly they had done. 5. Often the persons, by whom souls have gotten good, are very dear to them, and in much respect with them, so that their way hath a testimony from them, as approvable; for (saith the daughters) we will seek him with thee, who instructed us. It is true, that this may sometimes degenerate (so that folks may drink in the dregs from such persons with their wine) yet it seems, in the main principle of practical godliness, not to be unsafe: as, Heb. 13:7,8. 6. The great, main and native use of what is spoken of Christ's excellency, is to have souls brought in love with him; and engaged to seek him; and if this be not gained, any other effect of what is spoken, is little worth, as to what mainly concerns themselves. As this was the scope of all the Bride spoke concerning Christ, so it is attained on these daughters to whom she spoke; and it is the great thing we should aim at, when either we speak of Christ's worth, or hear it spoken of.
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