|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 13. Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.
The thirteenth and fourteenth verses contain the last part of this kindly conference, that hath been betwixt these two loving parties, and express their farewell and last suits, which each of them hath to the other. He speaks in this verse, and being to close, as a kind husband, leaving his beloved wife for a time, he desires to hear frequently from her till he return; this is his suit: and she, like a loving wife, entreats him to hasten his return, in the next verse, and this is the scope of both these verses. That the words in this thirteenth verse are spoken by him, appears by the title he gives the Bride, 'Thou that dwellest in the gardens,' which in the original, is in the feminine gender, as if one would say, 'thou woman,' or, 'thou Bride,' or, 'thou my wife:' or, take it in one word, as it is in the original, it may he rendered, 'O inhabitress of the gardens;' which can be applied to none other, but to her; and therefore, these words must be spoken by him to her, and thus the scope laid down is clear.
There are three parts in the verse, 1. The title he gives her. 2. A commendation, that is insinuated. 3. A request made to her, or duty laid on her. The title is, 'Thou that dwellest in the gardens:' by gardens, in the plural number, we understand (as chap. 6:2.) particular congregations, where the ordinances are administered, called gardens in the plural number, as contradistinguished from the catholic church, and from a particular believer, who are also called a garden in the singular number. To 'dwell in,' or inhabit these gardens, imports three things, 1. A frequenting of these meetings. 2. A continuance in them ordinarily, as if there were her residence. 3. A delight in them, and in the exercises of his worship and service there. And in sum, the meaning is, 'thou, my Bride, who frequentest and lovest the assemblies of my people, and my public ordinances,' &c. Observe. 1. That Christ Jesus loveth to leave his people comforted, and therefore, is distinct in this his farewell, that there be no mistakes of him in his absence: and this way he used also with his apostles, John 14:13,14,15, &c. before his ascension. 2. Christ hath ordinarily ever preserved the public ordinances, by particular assemblies, in his church. See, chap. 6:2. 3. Where God's people are in good case, there the public ordinances are most frequented and esteemed of; and still the better in case they he, the ordinances are the more prized, and haunted by them; for, this is a special character and property of such, that they love to dwell among the ordinances, Psalm 27:4. Also, this is pleasant and acceptable to Jesus Christ, and the title he gives the Bride here, shews his approbation thereof.
The second part of the verse, namely the commendation he gives her, is insinuated in these words, 'The companions hearken to thy voice.' By companions here, are understood particular believers, members of the church, called also 'brethren' and 'companions,' Psalm 122:8, and the 'brotherhood,' 1 Pet. 2:17, so also, Psalm 45:14, and 119:63. 'I am a companion of all that fear thee,' &c. and this title is given them for these two reasons, 1. Because there is a jointness and communion amongst them, in all their interests, both of duties and privileges, and also in sufferings, &c. and so John, Rev. 19 calls himself their brother and companion in tribulation: they are all fellow-citizens of one city, Eph. 2. And, 2. Because they have a familiar way of living together, according to that joint interest, by sympathizing with each other, freedom to each other, and kindness of affection to one another, opposite to that strangeness and particularness that is amongst the men of the world: and this is the right improving of the former, and results from it. Next, by the Bride's 'voice,' is here understood her instructions, admonitions, and such parts of Christian fellowship, which tend to edification, wherein that companionry (so to speak) doth most appear: an example whereof we find in the instructions she gave to the daughters, chap. 5. The companions, their hearkening to her voice, is more than simple hearing (for hearkening and hearing are much different, and have different words in the original) and it implieth, their laying weight on what she said, by pondering of it, and yielding to it, as the daughters did, chap. 6:1, to which this may relate. And so the meaning is, thy fellow-worshippers (saith he) with reverence and respect, receive thy words, thou speakest so weightily unto them. And this doth import not only the practice and duty of the Bride and her companions, but also a commendation of them, both which we may take up in the doctrines. Observe. 1. That there is a most friendly union and familiar relation amongst all believers; they are companions in this respect, though there may be many differences in externals, which this takes not away. 2. Believers ought to walk friendly together, according to that relation; and it is pleasant when they converse together as such, Psalm 133:3. Believers ought not to be useless in their fellowship and mutual conversing one with another, hut should be speaking, by instructions, admonitions, and exhortations, that others with whom they converse may hear their voice. 4. Believers should not only hearken to public ordinances, and the word spoken by the office-bearers in the church, but also to that which is spoken by a companion when it is edifying. 5. It is a thing pleasant to Jesus Christ (who takes notice how companions walk together) when there is conscience made of mutual fellowship, with fruit and freedom amongst his people: this were good company. 6. God's making the stamp of his Spirit on a particular believer to have weight on others, so as their fellowship with them hath success, should provoke the believer to pursue more after fellowship with Christ himself; which is the scope of this part of the verse, compared with that which follows.
The last part of the verse, containing his desire to her, or the duty he layeth on her, is in these words, 'Cause me to hear it.' The words, as they are in the original, are, 'Cause to hear me:' which occasioneth a twofold reading. 1. 'Cause me to be heard,' and let me be the subject of thy discourse to others, seeing they give ear unto thee, improve that credit which thou halt with them for that end: thus this same phrase is rendered, Psalm 66:8, 'Make the voice of his praise to be heard,' or, as it is in the original, 'Cause to be heard the voice,' &c. 2. They may be read as they here stand, 'Cause me to hear it;' and thus Christ desires, he may be the object spoken unto, as by the former reading he is to be the subject spoken of; so this same phrase is rendered, Psalm 143, 'Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness:' and this translation agrees well with the scope here, where before he brake off communing with the Bride, as in the first part of the verse he had commended her for her frequenting of public ordinances, and in the second, for her keeping fellowship with others, in both which her duty is insinuated; so here he calls for her keeping of fellowship with himself, by her sending frequent messages to him in prayer; which he not only requires as a duty, but now requests as a favour (to speak so) that he may hear often from her, which he will account as much of, as any man will do of hearing from his wife in his absence. And, thus, to make him hear her voice, is by frequent prayer to make addresses to him, as, Psalm 5:3. 'In the morning shalt thou hear my voice:' and, chap. 2:14, of this song, speaking to the Bride, 'Let me hear thy voice,' saith be. Observe. 1. That though Jesus be a great Prince, and sometimes be absent to the sense of his people, yet hath he laid down a way how his Bride may keep correspondence with him, and let him hear from her when she will, in his greatest distance: he hath, as it were, provided posts for that end, prayers, ejaculations, thoughts, looks, if wakened by his Spirit, which will carry their message very speedily and faithfully. 2. The Bride ought to be frequent in sending posts and messages to her blessed Bridegroom, that he may hear from her; and both duty and affection call for this. 3. Messages from the believer are most welcome and acceptable to Jesus Christ, they are as messages from a loving wife to an husband at a distance, and believers may expect that such messages shall be well entertained; they cannot be too frequent in suits and prayers to him, when these duties are rightly discharged; and there will be no letter sent to him so short, or ill written, but he will read it: and sure, the neglecting of this, is a sin doth exceedingly displease and wound our kind Bridegroom. 4. In this verse, frequenting public ordinances, fellowship with believers, and much corresponding with Christ in secret prayer, are all put together, to shew, that they who rightly discharge the duties of public worship, and the duties of mutual fellowship, and the duties of communion and corresponding with Christ in prayer, must necessarily join all together; and when it goes well with a believer in one of these, they will all be made conscience of; and this last is subjoined, as the life of both the former, without which they will never be accepted by him.
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