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by Gavin Parker
from the 1840 Edition
The Theological works of Durham I have long considered among the very best productions of our Scottish Divines of the seventeenth century.
In his exposition of the sacred writings he excels in powerful, luminous, and faithful statements.
He exhibits also superior skill in discriminating the characters of men: and, as one taught by the Spirit of God, he clearly marks the distinctions between the precious and the vile.
Many of the more serious and spiritually minded in our land are well acquainted with his writings.
He possessed talents and learning--especially very extensive knowledge of sound Theology, by which he was well qualified to grapple with difficult portions of the lively oracles of God.
His Work on the Book of Revelation is a masterly production, and sufficient of itself to gain the author an honourable name among those who have been, and those who now are, mighty in the Scriptures.
His "Exposition of the Song of Solomon" is unquestionably very excellent. Those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, esteem it highly, and receive from it many feasts upon Divine truth and upon the rich grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
They may be pronounced blessed who understand and who relish the Song itself.
They do love, they do admire this wonderful production of the Holy Spirit: and to them, the Exposition by Mr. Durham will be welcome as a precious auxiliary to conduct them to the treasures of truth and of love which the inspired Song contains. The Key prefixed is also excellent, and must prove useful in making the words of the Holy Spirit more intelligible to many sanctified minds.
It is evident that the author had given deep attention to the inspired words of this Song, and that in answer to prayer the Holy Spirit had guided him to correct knowledge of what is here written for the benefit of the church of God.
We have every reason to believe also, that it was the author's desire that many others should enjoy the light that shined from heaven into his own soul.
All who love God and truth, and salvation through Christ may now, and for ages to come, consult this Exposition, that they may with more advantage "Hear," and understand what the Spirit still speaks to the churches from this book of Divine inspiration.
As to the Song itself-the inspired subject of the Exposition-it would be difficult to give it too high a recommendation, it would be difficult to express in words one ten-thousandth part of its value. There is much cause for regret that even believers in Christ, enlightened in part by the Spirit of God, should be tempted to cherish prejudices against this precious portion of Divine revelation, or treat it with cold indifference.
The unrenewed, or those not taught by the Spirit of God, but still of the carnal mind--some of whom, even professing christianity--have in great numbers, and for long time, made light of it: yet, while the "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God," those who are spiritual know all the things, and relish and esteem all the. things which are freely given them of God: to them this Book will be precious.
It is recommended by the Spirit of God in the opening words of the Book:--"The Song of Songs which is Solomon's."
Songs are lofty productions expressing elevation of thought, of imagination, feeling, desire, and enjoyment. A Song from heaven must be peculiarly sublime and animating. This is the Song of Songs, the most exalted of all the sublime productions of the Holy Spirit. In Scripture there are many Songs, even books of Songs besides this, but this Book contains the most excellent of them all. As the house of God excels all other houses, or as the trees of God excel all other trees, so the one Song in this Book excels every other Song in the Book of God. Let no critic, let no man of talent, or literature, or science despise this Song,--IT IS SOLOMON'S! Solomon was the wisest of mere men: he was well taught: he studied much: he wrote much on many subjects: he was no novice in writing Songs:--his Songs were one thousand and five--but this is the best of them all. Perhaps none of the rest had Divine inspiration to give any one of them authority among men. This Song written by Solomon is inspired by the Spirit of God. This Song therefore comes to the church with all the authority of Divine inspiration, and with all the weight of character possessed by Solomon, the man of wisdom, the anointed king of Israel, an eminent type of Messiah who is the light and joy of heaven and who announced himself as the light of the world.
The transcendant excellence of this Song appears in the varied and interesting subjects of which it treats. Although the name of God be not in it, his love to his people is described as powerful, tender, and immutable. In the person of the Redeemer--the beloved of God and of the church, Divine love enlivens a great proportion of the Song.
The kindness, the forbearance, the condescension, the intimacy, the faithfulness, the fervent zeal, the perfect wisdom, and the heavenly dignity and holiness of the Beloved Head of the Church, so frequently expressed and so clearly illustrated in this Song, do exhibit him as the Friend who loveth at all times.
The riches of Divine grace are here opened up as at the disposal of a king perfect in wisdom and righteousness; and who only waits for fit opportunities to satisfy the hungry soul with abundance of delights.
The nature of communion with God, by the mediation of Jesus Christ, is here explained as what is real, and practical, and useful, and conducive to peace and hope and joy.
The necessary influences and operations of the Holy Spirit are not only admitted, but also beautifully described: he gives life and vigour to the soul: be spreads loveliness over the garden and the fields: he gives progress to the flowers: and he prepares pleasant fruits for the people beloved of Jehovah.
The whole Song illustrates a life of faith on the Son of God. There are troubles and enemies: there are sorrows, and fears, and hopes, and pleasures to which others are strangers. Even "daughters of Jerusalem,"--persons very near in outward circumstances--do not intermeddle with the joys of believers although they may profess themselves expectants of the same salvation, and of the same heaven.
The song is excellent on account of the views which it opens up into the heaven of heavens. Believers now wonder at themselves as the objects of the sovereign love of God while here below, and though they do not know what they shall be, yet this Song affords assurance that they shall be near unto Jehovah,--not to be treated with indifference or coldness, but to be the objects of his peculiar love and the happy recipients of his bounty to eternal ages. The Song is pastoral; it places before us many a scene of loveliness: and all these scenes will be exhibited and enjoyed in the paradise of God. The fruits of grace on earth are excellent, but they point to far higher excellence in the heavenly paradise where the tree of life continually blossoms, and affords all varieties of pleasant fruits, to feast, to cheer, and to delight the redeemed of the Lord.
Yet let it be observed, that to enjoy the friendship described in this Book, it is necessary to have Christ revealed in the soul: it is necessary to approve of his character, to love him, to esteem him, to desire him above all created things: it is also necessary to be united to him by a true and living faith. Sinners for all that they may pretend, are cold hearted toward the holy Saviour, until they see his glory, and taste that the Lord is gracious, and enjoy communion with him as their beloved and esteemed friend. A believer cannot have delight in Jesus himself, nor yet in the Songs which celebrate his peculiar excellence until with decision and with experience he can say, "My Beloved is mine and his desire is towards me."
This inspired Song has been but little esteemed and enjoyed in the visible church. Many who profess to love Christ see little in it to admire. But in this apathy, or blindness, or dislike, is exhibited the very same spirit of the daughters of Jerusalem who said, "What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?"
We have reason however to believe that this neglected part of Divine revelation shall be brought from obscurity and shall shine as a brighter light in the world during the millennial ages. We are encouraged to expect more abundant effusions of the Holy Spirit than have ever been received on the earth, and more numerous conversions to God. Every convert illumined by the Holy Spirit will love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. The portions of Scripture by which the Holy Spirit takes of the things of Christ to show to believers will be more studied and the rich treasures of grace and of truth contained in them will be the more eagerly welcomed and the more abundantly enjoyed. Then this Song--"The Song of the Lamb"--the Song that describes the glory and the grace of the Lamb's person and the righteousness and the faithfulness of his ways shall be much read and studied and sung by living Christians in the church of God.
After the shaking of nations and of churches; and when the sincere followers of Jesus shall have got liberty to break away from the abominations of corrupted christianity, when the God of salvation shall have given them fortitude to keep by themselves as a people distinct from the other religious people of the world, they shall be seen by the inhabitants of heaven as so many conquering heroes, who through grace had obtained "the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name." They shall stand in the view of all heaven, and near many of the inhabitants of the earth, having the harps of God. In that place of splendour, light, and purity, as represented by the Holy Spirit, "they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints." The song of Moses has long been esteemed in the visible church. The triumph of Divine Almighty power over the enemies of the church has been frequently sung. But the time is coming when the bold and triumphant notes of praise in the song of war shall be accompanied or followed and sweetened with more gentle and peaceful sounds, by celebrating, as in this Song of the Lamb, the glory and grace, the righteousness and truth of Immanuel the King of saints, whom Jehovah hath appointed HEAD over all things to the church.
In writing and preparing for publication, this Exposition of the Song, it may be said that the esteemed author did sow the good seed. Yet in our land there are many who make light of salvation. The seed was sown as by the way side: birds of the air devoured it. While many men cared little about it, Satan, as the leader of all who hate spirituality and holiness in religion, had got it almost out of sight. It was cast into the shade; it was little known; and but few enquired after it. There was difficulty in procuring a copy; and perhaps greater difficulty in getting many people to bestow on it a careful perusal. Some thought it heavy and fanciful, and many saw no need for consulting any exposition of the Song of Solomon. Some people however do esteem this work, and among these are some of the excellent of the earth.
Those who love God will feel obliged to Mr. King for venturing, at his own expense, to send forth a new and beautiful Edition. It is to be hoped, and prayed for, that, by the sovereign grace of God granted to many who peruse this work, it may be made highly useful in the church of Christ, as a means of awakening many who have sat down at ease under a superficial profession of Christianity, and of encouraging those who have no evidence of vital interest in the Lord Jesus Christ to flee to him as the only sure refuge of the guilty and to accept him with humility and gratitude as a compassionate and benevolent and all-sufficient Saviour.
But I deem it altogether uncalled for, to add another word in recommendation of this Work. The truth in it will speak for itself.
May the Great Teacher, promised to the church--the Spirit of Truth--take of the things of Christ contained in this inspired Song, and so exhibit them to the understanding and to the heart, as to guide every inquirer to the saving knowledge of all the truths revealed from heaven!
Aberdeen, 14th March, 1840.
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