|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 1. Oh that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother I when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.
2. I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother's house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.
This chapter carries on the copy of that spiritual communion, which is betwixt Christ and the believer; the Bride speaks most here, and the nearer she comes to a close, her expressions become the more massy. It may be divided into these parts, 1. The Bride continueth, and heightens her one great request, of more intimate familiarity with Christ: which is propounded, amplified and pressed, with the insinuation of her success, and after-carriage in the first four verses. 2. The daughters of Jerusalem being charged by her, verse 4, break out with a commendation of her, verse 5. 3. She forbears to own them, but proceeds, verse 5, to speak to him (as loath to be interrupted or diverted) with two further petitions: the first whereof, is for fixedness in her fellowship with him, that it be not liable to the frequent interruptions of a declining heart, verses 6,7. The second, is for those not yet brought in, verse 8. 4. The Bridegroom replies to this last suit, in good words and comfortable, verse 9. From which, in the fifth place, she gathers a comfortable conclusion to herself, verse 10, which she con firms, verses 11, and 12. 6. The Bridegroom gives his farewell-request unto her, verse 13. Which, seventhly and lastly, she meets with the ardent expression and putting up of her first, last, and great suit to him, to wit, that he would 'make haste,' that is, haste his coming for completing her happiness, beyond which she hath nothing to say, and until which, she is never silent, Rev. 22:17, so then, this chapter doth consist of seven parts, according to the several intercourses of the speakers.
In the first part, the Bride first propounds, and amplifies, or qualifies her suit, verse 1. 2. It is pressed with motives, verses l,2. 3. Her attainment and success in her suit is mentioned, verses 3,4. And 4. her care of entertaining Christ, is recorded, verse 4.
The suit is in the first words, 'O that thou wert as my brother:' this I conceive looks not mainly to Christ's incarnation, but to something that might have been by believers obtained even then before his incarnation, and may yet be desired by those who now love him: but, that which is chiefly intended in these words, is the following forth of the love strain of a heart longing for Christ's company, in the terms and expressions that are in use amongst men: it hath been ever thought unseemly for virgins, too familiarly to converse with men that are strangers, even though they were suited for by them, this path been cause of reproach to many: but, for brethren and sisters to be familiar, hath not been subject to mistakes; they who are in that relation may use more freedom, than without offence can be used by others; therefore, Abraham fearing to call Sarah his wife, gave her out to be his sister, that their conversing together might be the less suspected; thus, the scope here is to press, that Christ would condescend to be so homely with her, as she with boldness and without fear might converse with him O! (saith she) that thou wert so familiar with me, that I might confidently converse with thee, as a woman may do with her brother: and because, there is great odds betwixt brethren that are of the same father, yet born of divers mothers (as Joseph, Simeon, and Judah were) and brethren that are also of the same mother (as Joseph and Benjamin were, who therefore more dearly loved one another) she doth therefore add that qualification, 'that sucked the breasts of my mother,' that is, such a brother as hath been conceived in the same womb, and nourished by the same breasts (mothers being then both mothers and nurses to their own children) whereby, a brother in the most near and warm relation is signified: in sum, the sense is this, O! if thou wert to me so condescending, as a brother is to one born of the same womb with him, that I might with the more freedom, boldness, and confidence, and sensible out-letting of my affections, converse with thee: such sensible breaking forth of affections, we find to have been betwixt Joseph and Benjamin, Gen. 43:34. She looks upon all the familiarity that she had attained, but as that which might be amongst strangers, in respect of that which she longed for and expected: and that this is the scope of this part of the allegory, the words after do clear, 'then I would kiss thee, and not be despised,' or reproached for it; whereas now in her present condition, which had much of estrangement in it, any claim she made to Christ, was by tentation cast in her teeth, and she upbraided, as if it were unsuitable for her to carry so to him: but (saith she) if thou wilt condescend to me, and be familiar with me as a brother, I would not be ashamed for any challenge of that kind.
This suit, and its qualification, import, 1. That there should be much loving tenderness betwixt those that are in so near a relation as this, to be born of one mother, &c. 2. That mothers who bear children, and are fitted to give suck, should not decline that duty to their children; the giving of suck being a duty no less natural, than bringing forth, where the Lord hath put no impediment to the contrary in the way. 3. It imports, that there are steps of access to Christ, and degrees of fellowship with him, beyond any thing that the most grown believers have attained: there is somewhat of this, even bv the Bride to be wished for, that she hath not yet attained. 4. There ought to be no halting or sitting down in any attainment of nearness with Christ, till it be brought to that measure that no more can be enjoyed, and till it be at the utmost height that is possible to be attained. 5. To have sensible warmliness, and condescending familiarity from Christ, and confident freedom with him, is the believer's great design; that is, to have him as a brother: and these two, to wit, confident freedom with Christ, and his warm condescending to them, go together; which the reasons following will clear. They are set down in seven motives, or advantages, which his being as a brother would bring along with it to her; and hereby it will be further cleared, what it is that is here intended. The first is hinted at in these words, 'When I should find thee without:' when, is supplied, and the words read in the original, 'I would find thee without:' now (saith she) I have sought thee often without, and have for a long time not found thee (chap. 3:2,3, and 5:6,7) but if thou wert thus familiar with me, I would have thy company every where, and think no shame of it. This suppons, 1. That Christ may be without, or at a distance, even with his own sister and spouse: the most sensible manifestations have interruptions: 2. When Christ is without, or at a distance, then the believer's work is to seek him till he find him; he loves not to be separated from Christ, and therefore he pants after his manifestations: an absent Christ, and a seeking, painful, diligent believer, should go together. 3. That where Christ is familiar, all interruptions of presence are easily superable, yea, more easily superable than to others, with whom he is not so familiar and intimate: he may be found by them even without, that is, in cases that have in them some obstructions unto intimate fellowship, as without is a place that is not convenient for familiar communion. 4. It is a great benefit to a believer, to have Christ's presence easily recoverable, or recovered; it is no small mercy to find him when he is sought. Other things rising from this expression may be gathered from chap. 3:2,3, and 5:6,7. In general, from all these arguments we may observe, that they all include advantages to the believer, yet she makes use of them as motives to press her suit; which says, that whatever may be any real advantage to a believer, doth sway much with Christ.
The second reason why she desires this, is, that she may embrace and kiss him, and it follows on the former (as each of them depends upon another) I would find thee without (saith she) and 'I would kiss thee,' having found him, she would with delight let out her affections on him. Kisses amongst men, are the most kindly evidences of their love, as was cleared, chap. 1 verse 1, upon these words, 'Let him kiss me:' his kisses are kindly intimations of his love to her; and therefore her kissing of him must be a most sensible flowing and abounding out-letting of her affections on him, as affectionate relations do when they kiss one another. It is much to the same purpose, with what she said, chap. 7:12, 'There will I give thee my loves:' in sum, if thou wert familiar with me (saith she) when I find thee, I would sensibly, confidently, and with freedom solace myself in thee, which now I dare scarce do when I find thee, being possessed with fear of thy removal. The difference between this expression, and that in chap. 7:12, seems to be this; there, she desired communion with him, that her heart might be by his presence disposed (to say so) for letting out her love on him, and that she might have the opportunity to do it: here, she desires that he would manifest himself more familiarly, that with the greater holy boldness and confidence, she might satisfy herself in pouring forth her love, by spiritual soul-embracings, and kissings of him whom she loved. This imports, 1. That there are degrees in the way of believers' letting out their love on Christ, as there is in his manifesting of himself to them; there are some times they 'give him their love,' when they have no access to kiss him; and other times they are admitted to kissing of him, as at some times he doth them. 2. The more familiarly his love lets out itself on them, the more doth their love flow out on him. 3. It is a mercy to the believer, and highly prized by him, to have access to kiss Christ, and to let out his heart and love on him. 4. It says, that at all times believers will not get themselves solaced in Christ; this is an exercise to which their hearts doth not frame, till he familiarly manifest himself; they cannot kiss and embrace him, until his embracements come first. More particularly, if we consider the scope of these words, 'I would kiss thee,' and that, 'without:' they imply, 1. A more present sensible object, such as may be kissed: whence, observe Christ's familiar out-letting of himself, that makes him exceedingly obvious unto the believer; it makes him so sensibly present as he may be in a spiritual way embraced and kissed. 2. It holds out the out-letting of the believer's love on him: from which, Observe 1. The great duty of one that finds Christ, is to love him, and to let the heart flow out on him. 2. This should be done whenever, or wherever, Christ is found; and so soon as opportunity is offered, the heart should close with it without delay. 3. Familiarity with Christ will not be displeasing to him, but exceedingly acceptable; otherwise, this could be no motive to press her suit.
3. Kissing him, imports, both a holy confidence, and satisfaction or delight, in her letting out her heart upon him: which shews, that it is sweet not only to have Christ loving us, but to get him loved; and so this is both satisfying to her, and acceptable to him.
The third motive or reason (which depends on the former two) is, 'Yet, I should not be despised,' or, they should not despise me: that is, although I found thee without, and were seen kissing thee, and by confident boldness delighting in thee; yet, if thou wert familiar with me as 'my brother,' and according to the nearness of that relation would familiarly own me, neither men, devils, temptations, nor any thing else, would have access to despise, upbraid, or reproach me for it, I would be confident against all; as a virgin that is shewing her respect to her own born brother, needs fear no reproach from that. Observe. 1. Believers are subject to be despised, even the beloved Bride of Jesus Christ is not freed from this trial, to be little esteemed of, even as the off scourings of all things, to be reproached and shamed by men (as she was, chap. 5:7.) to be baffled (to say so) as an hypocrite, by the devil and temptation, as Job was, Job, chap. 1 and 2:2. Believers are not senseless or stupid; when reproached or despised, they may be affected with it, and may endeavour rightly to have it prevented or removed. 3. Often the more tenderly that believers let out their affection on Christ, or their zeal for him, they are the more subject to be despised; for, when she kisses Christ, she looks upon despising then as waiting on her, if he prevent it not. 4. Christ's familiar presence, or, his being as a brother owning his Bride, is the great thing that guards off, and prevents despising, and procures freedom from reproach, or at least is a bulwark to the soul against reproaches: it is no little advantage that familiarity with Christ brings along with it; for, by his owning of believers, either their carriage is made so convincing, that malicious mouths are stopped, as having nothing to say against them; or they are so sustained, under all these outward or inward despisings, that they trouble them not, and so they are to them as if they were not. 5. Christ's keeping up of himself, is the dispensation under which the believer is most obnoxious to be despised: the devil, temptations, and men, usually cast up to them then, 'Where is their God?' Psalm 42:9,10, and that pierces them: so our Lord was dealt with on the cross; Job calls this the Lord's renewing of his witnesses against him, whereby (as it were) temptation is confirmed in what is asserted.
There follows in the second verse, four more arguments, she makes use of to press her suit: we heard of three in the first verse; the fourth is in these words, 'I would lead thee:' the word in the original signifies such a leading as useth to be in triumph, a leading that is joined with respect and honour to the person who is led. Christ leads his people as a shepherd doth his flock, or a nurse her child; and this signifies tenderness in him, and weakness in them: the believer again, leads Christ, as a servant or usher doth the master, or as men do kings and victorious conquerors whom they honour; and this supposes stateliness in him, and respect and attendance in the Bride, she looks upon him as a glorious, magnificent person, in whom, and with whom, she desires only to triumph. In sum, the meaning is this, If (saith she) thou wert as my brother, when I found thee myself, I would not soon quit thee, but wait with all honourable attendance upon thee. Observe. 1. Honourable attendance on Christ, and respectful service, is a duty that well becomes believers. 2. To give him this honour, is a thing which they mainly aim at. 3. It is a great mercy to them (and they will so look upon it) when they are helped, in a way suitable to his majesty and stateliness, to wait upon him, and do him service. 4. Christ's familiar presence, both gives believers the occasion, and also the fitness and disposition, for giving him this honourable attendance; she speaks here, as if one would say to another whom they respected, if thou wert in our quarters, I would wait on thee, and think it a favour to have the opportunity to do so: this, or the like, is alluded unto here.
The fifth argument follows on this, and it is, 'I would bring thee into my mother's house:' this is a resolution, to perform what she had practised, chap. 3:4, and was spoken to there: the sense is, if thou wert familiar with me (saith she) I would usher thee into the church, whereof I am a member, for the good of all the family; as if a virgin, living in her mother's house, should press one whom she loved, and with whom she might be familiar as with a brother, when she had found him without, to go in and abide with her in her mother's house, as the greatest evidence of her respect, and that they of the family might have the benefit of his company, as well as she: so it is here. And it shews, 1. That she would leave no respect, that was possible to her, unexercised towards Christ; she would not only honour him herself, but she would endeavour to have him made known to others, that they might have a high esteem of him also; believers whom Christ is familiar with, they will not be satisfied with any respect they can put upon him, but are careful to have him known and honoured by all others that live in the church with them. 2. That in her seeking for him, she minded the public good of the church, as well as her own which teacheth us, to purpose to ourselves the public good, as well as our own particular advantage, whenever we haunt the means, wherein we are called to seek him. 3. That she thought it a great mercy, to be any ways useful for the good of her mother's house: and so believers will look upon it, not only as their duty, but also as their mercy, to. be useful to others. 4. That Christ's presence familiarly manifested to particular believers, doth exceedingly capacitate them, for being usefully instrumental in the church wherein they live.
The sixth argument amplifies this, from the benefit that she would have by his being brought into her mother's house, in these words, 'who would instruct me;' that is, then she would instruct me, if thou wert there: the ordinances in the church, whereby believers are edified and instructed, would then be lively and profitable, in a greater measure than formerly: whereby it appears, that by 'mother,' is understood the visible church; for, there only are the ordinances which do instruct; and by the Bride, is understood particular believers, because it is to them that these ordinances become 'the power of God unto salvation:' or, the words may be read, thou wouldst instruct me; that is, if thou wert brought to the church, thou by thy ordinances wouldst teach me. The scope in both these readings is one, to shew, that by Christ's presence in the church, she expected to be taught, which she looked for no otherwise, nor by any immediate way, therefore, she would have him there. Observe. 1. The most grown believer needs instruction, and is still a scholar while he is in the church upon earth. 2. The ordinances in the visible church, are the means, whereby Christ ordinarily teacheth his people; otherwise, there were no force in this reasoning, to desire him to her mother's house, that she might be instructed. 3. The most eminent believer, even the Bride of Jesus Christ, is not above the reach of ordinances, but is to he instructed by them in the visible church. 4. Believers should endeavour the enjoyment of Christ's company in the same church that was their mother, and seek to he instructed there, and should not endeavour to carry Christ away from their mother-church. 5. Christ hath a more full way of manifesting his presence in his church at one time than at another; even as also at different times, there are different measures of his manifestations to particular believers. 6. Christ's presence in his church and with his people, singularly furthers their edification and instruction, and gives a blessing to the ordinances. 7. Believers, when in a right frame, will account it no little mercy to be instructed by Christ in his ordinances, and to have the word blessed unto them. 8. The most sensible and full manifestations of Christ, should not, yea will not, lessen the esteem of the ordinances; but both should, and will put the Lord's people in a capacity to be edified by them, and will incline and fit them to profit under them.
The last motive is taken from the entertainment she would give him; if (saith she) thou wouldst familiarly manifest thyself, and if once I had found thee, and gotten thee brought to my mother's house, then 'I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate:' in a word, I would entertain thee as well as I might, and thou shouldst be very welcome, and kindly taken with, as guests who are respected, use to be. By 'spiced wine,' and 'the juice of the pomegranate,' is understood the most excellent entertainment; as in these countries, it is like (as we may see from Prov. 9:2, and Song, chap. 5:1.) they used to mix the wine they gave their friends, that it might be the more savoury. Now through this Song, by such similitudes are understood the graces that are in believers; as, chap. 4:10, 13, &c. chap. 5:1, and in sum, the sense comes to this, if thou wert familiar with me, and by thy presence in my mother's house, were making the ordinances lively, then I would feast thee on my graces, and my love, faith, hope, &c. (which are to thee, more savoury than wine, with which men use to entertain their most special friends) should flow out abundantly on thee. Hence, Observe. 1. That believers' design and aim at the feasting and entertaining of Christ, when they have his company, as well as to be entertained there by themselves. 2. It is no little mercy to get respect to Christ discharged; and a believing soul will think it no small privilege to get him to entertain, if he have where with to entertain him. 3. Christ's coming to a soul brings sufficient provision for his own entertainment: the Bride makes no question, but there shall be a feast, if he will come; and if he come not, there will he nothing but emptiness there: she doubts not, but if once he would come to her mother's house, his presence would make enough of good provision. 4. The Lord respects, even the offer of welcome from his people, when he is not actually entertained as they would: or though they be not in case for the time to entertain him, yet their serious desire to do it, is very acceptable to him; otherwise, this would be no argument for our Lord Jesus, to grant her suit.
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