|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
PART I. CHRIST'S WORDS.
Verse 1. I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
2. As the lily among thorns so is my love among the daughters.
This second chapter contains the same scope, and runs in the same strain with the former. It hath two principal parts: in the first, Christ speaks in the first two verses. In the second, the Bride continues, to the end.
Again, in these two verses, Christ doth first commend himself, verses 1,2. He describes his Bride, verse 2. That it is he who speaks, appears thus; 1. It is clear, at first looking upon the words, that he speaks in the second verse, and who else can be thought to speak in the first? He is the 'I' in the first verse, who claims the Bride by this possessive particle 'my' in the second. 2. The words, 'I am the rose of Sharon,' &c. are stately, becoming him alone to speak them: like these, 'I am the true vine,' 'I am the bread of life,' &c. And so majestic is the commendation, that it can agree to none other, but to him. 3. The Bride's work is to commend him, and not herself, especially with a commendation, beyond what he giveth her, verse 2, and therefore the first verse must be Christ's words, not hers.
The scope is, (for her instruction and comfort now in affliction,) that he may make her know himself:, the very knowing of Christ is comfortable, and it is one of the most excellent, rare, and ravishing things he can show his Bride, to show her himself, or to make her know him: neither can he choose a subject more profitable in itself, or more welcome to her, to insist on, than to display his own beauty, whereby she may see her blessedness in such a match.
In the first verse then, Christ comes in commending himself, 'I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.' The rose is a sweet savouring flower, and so is the lily: Sharon and the valleys are added, because the roses and lilies that grew there, were the best that were to be found. He is said to be that 'rose,' or 'the rose' and 'the lily,' as if there were no other, to distinguish him, as excellent and singular from all others. He thus sets forth himself to show, 1. That Christ Jesus hath a most lovely savour, and a most delightful and refreshful smell, to them that have spiritual senses to discern what is in him. 2. That there is nothing refreshful in creatures, but is more eminently and infinitely in him; therefore he is called the rose and the lily. 3. That whatever excellency is in Christ, is singularly and incomparably in him; there is no other rose, or lily but he; and what excellency is to be found in others, doth not deserve the name, being compared with him. 4. That he is never suitably commended, till he be lifted up above all. 5. That none can commend Christ to purpose but himself; he takes it therefore on him, 'I am,' &c. He can indeed commend himself effectually and none but he can do it. 6. That he manifests more of his loveliness to those who have gotten a begun sight and esteem of it: for, she had been commending it formerly, and now he discovers more of it to her. 7. That it is one of Christ's greatest favours to his Bride, and one of the special effects of his love, to set out himself as lovely to her, and to bear in his loveliness upon her heart; and this is the scope here.
In the second verse, he describes his Bride. Here we have these things to consider, 1. What she is; a 'lily.' 2. What others of the world beside are called here; the 'daughters' (so men without the church are to the church, and corrupt men in the church are to believers) that is, daughters of their mother the world; no kindly daughters to her, they are thorns. 3. The posture of Christ's Spouse, she is 'as a lily among thorns,' a strange posture and soil, for our Lord's love and lily to grow in.
The lily is pleasant, savoury, and harmless; thorns are worthless, unpleasant and hurtful. The lily's being compared with them, and placed amongst them, sets out both her excellency above them, and her sufferings from them. In general, Observe. 1. Christ draws his own beauty and the Bride's together, thereby to show their kindred and sibness (so to speak) she is not rightly taken up, but when she is looked upon as standing by him; and he not fully set forth, nor known without her. 2. He took two titles to himself, and he gives one of them to the Bride, the 'lily;' but with this difference, that he is 'the lily,' she 'as' or 'like the lily:' setting forth, 1. Wherein her beauty consists, it is in likeness to him. 2. From whom it comes, it is from him, her being his love, makes her like the lily. 3. The nearness of the mystical union, that is between Christ and his Bride; it is such, that thereby they some way share names, Jer. 23:6, and chap. 33:16. 4. He intermixes her beauty and crosses together, drawing them on one table, to give her a view of both; and that for her humbling, and also for her comfort; it is not good for believers, to look only to the one without the other.
More particularly, Observe. 1. Christ's Bride is very lovely and beautiful. 2. The children of the world are natively hurtful to her. 3. In Christ's account the believer is exceedingly preferable to all others, of whatsoever place, or qualifications in the world. 4. Christ's relation and affection, doth not always keep off outward afflictions from his own Bride. 5. It is native to believers to have a crossed life in the world, their plantation here among thorns speaks it. 6. That the crosses are of more kinds than one, which believers are environed with, thorns grow on all hands beside Christ's lily. 7. Holiness and innocency will not always prevent wrongs and injuries from others, thorns will wrong even the lily. 8. Christ observes here, how she looks in her sufferings, and so he takes special notice, how his people carry in a suffering lot. 9. It is commendable to keep clean under sufferings, and to be lily-like, even amongst thorns.
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