|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 7. Tell me (O thou whom my soul loveth) where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
In the seventh verse, we have the third part of the Bride's first speech; in which she turneth herself from the daughters to the Bridegroom; and the scope of what she speaks here, is, that by applying herself by prayer and faith to Christ Jesus (who is, and whom she for comfort acknowledges to be, the great and good Shepherd of his sheep, John 10:11,) she may be guarded against the hurtful effects of those two evils which she acknowledged in the former verse, viz. afflictions and sinful infirmities; in respect of the one, she desires Christ's guiding and in respect of the other, his consolation; that so she being under his charge, may be upheld by him, and kept from miscarrying. that this is the scope, and so depends upon the former verse, especially the last part of it, will be clear by comparing the last part of this verse, and the last part of the former together. There are these three in it, 1. The title given to Christ. 2. The petition, or thing sought. 3. The argument whereby it is enforced.
1. The title is a sweet and affectionate one, 'O thou whom my soul loveth.' In this title these things are implied, 1. A loveliness in Christ, and such a soul-affecting and ravishing loveliness, as no creature-beauty hath, or can have. 2. An ardent and vehement love in her towards him, so that she might say, her soul loved, honoured, desired, and esteemed him. 3. A disrelishing of all things besides Christ, as nothing; he is the only object her soul loves, he alone hath her heart, and is in the throne as chief in her affections, and hath no allowed co-partner there, to whom this title may be applied. 4. It is implied, what tide Christ will best accept of, even that which bears out most affection to him; there can be no greater honour, or more acceptable piece of respect put on him by a believer, than this, to own him, and avow him as the only object of his soul's love; as the Bride doth here, 'O thou whom my soul loveth!'
2. The thing that is here sought by the Bride, is set down in two petitions, meeting with the two-fold strait she was in, viz. of crosses and infirmities; and because fear of sin weighted her most, she begins with the suit that might guard against that, and in the reason presseth it most. The first petition then is, 'tell me where thou feedest,' (to wit, thy flock,) for 'feeding' here, is to be understood actively, that is, where he feeds others: and not passively (as in other places) where he feeds and delights himself. The second petition is, 'Tell me where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon:' that is, make me know where and how thou comfortest and refreshest thy people, under scorching persecutions and trials: so these petitions go upon the relation that is between Christ and his people, of shepherd and flock, which is frequent in scripture. In sum, that which she seeks, is this, thou who guidest all thine, as a shepherd doth a flock, let me know how thou orderest thy people, and carriest them through in times of snares, and where thou refreshest them in times of trouble: these being the two great duties of a shepherd, are well performed by Christ. 1. It's his work to feed them, and lead them in wholesome and safe pastures, Psalm 23. And, 2. To give them quiet and cool resting places in the time of heat, when the sun becomes scorching; and therefore prayeth she to him, seeing thou dost both these to thine, let me know the right way of partaking of the benefit of thy care. Which two petitions imply, 1. That there is a near relation betwixt Christ and all believers; he is the Shepherd, and they the flock, Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:11,12; Psalm 23:1,2. 2. That Christ's flock may be, yea, usually are in hazard both of sin or straying, and also of affliction. 3. That Christ Jesus is tender of his people, in reference to any hazard they are in of sin or suffering; he is 'the good Shepherd,' John 10:11, 'He carries the lambs in his bosom,' Isa. 40:11. 'He stands and feeds his flock,' Mic. 5:4. 4. That he hath resting places, and shadows for refreshing and hiding his people, in all the storms and heats they may meet with. 5. That believers sometimes under straits, may not know well how either to rid themselves out of temptations, or to quiet themselves under crosses, till he help them with light and strength: they cannot know the well whence their supply and consolation cometh, till it be discovered, as it was to Hagar. 6. That even then, when they know not how to be guarded against sin, and shadowed under suffering, Christ knows both, and hath help in both these cases provided for them. 7. That as it is he who must guide them in snares, and support them in sufferings; so believers, when they are at their own wit's end in respect of both, ought even then to look for help and direction in these from him.
The reason presseth for his guiding, with a great weight; 'for why' (saith she) 'should I be as one that turneth aside, by the flocks of thy companions?' in which these things are implied, 1. That Christ may have companions, (not who are indeed so, but) such who set themselves up equally beside him, and make it their design to have others to follow them, but do not follow Christ themselves; thus heretics, false Christs, Matt. 24:23,24, lusts, idols, or whatever is equalled or preferred to Christ, and not subjected to him, is made, as it were, his companion: sure, the scope shews, they were not friendly companions; but it speaks the nature of corrupt men, who are seducers, and the sin of seduced people, that the one seek to themselves, and the other attributes to them, too much. 2. That these companions may have flocks, and many followers, even as our Lord Jesus hath, so Matt. 24:23; 2. Peter 2:1, &c. 3. That believers, if not by Christ's care prevented, may go astray after some of these companions, and throng on in a way of error and defection with them. 4. That believers will be afraid of this ill, and also sensible of their own propensness to it. 5. It imports an abhorrency and indignation at that evil, of being carried away a-whoring from Christ, 'why' (saith she) 'should I be,' &c.? 6. She accounts it a great mercy to be kept in Christ's way, and makes it a main piece of her prayer, that this may be granted to her as her mercy. 7. She exercises faith on Christ, and vents her requests by prayer to him, concern-every thing she wants; he wanting what [he] will, she betakes herself to him, for the obtaining of it. 8. Where there is a loathness to go astray, or fall in snares, it will stir up to serious wrestling with Christ to prevent it. 9. Hazard of sin to believers, (who are sensible of their inclination to go astray) and weakness to hold on in God's way, is a great motive, that being made use of in prayer, hath much weight for obtaining direction, and an hearing from Christ; as it is a notable spur to stir up to pray seriously, 'for' (saith she) 'why should I be,' &c. which speaketh forth her indignation against every wrong way, and her expectation, that if any thing prevailed with him, that would; and so we will find her success in this suit, to follow in the next words.
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