|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 14. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs: let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
This 14th verse, contains the second part of Christ's sweet and comfortable sermon; wherein, besides the title which he gives his Bride, there are three things, 1. Her case. 2. The directions which he propones, as the cure of her case. 3. The motive pressing it.
The title is, 'my dove:' this hath a sweet insinuation and motive in it. Believers are styled so, 1. For their innocent nature, Matt. 10:16. 2. For their tenderness, and trembling at the word of the Lord, Hos. 11:11; Isa. 38:14. Hezekiah mourned as a dove. 3. For their beauty and purity, Psalm 68:13. 4. For their chaste adhering to their own mate, in which respect, that of Isa. 38:14, is thought to allude to the mourning of the one, after the other's death: This shews what a believer should be, and who deserves this name.
The condition of this dove is, that she is 'in the clefts of the rock, and in the secret places of the stairs:' it is ordinary for doves to hide themselves in the rocks, or holes in walls of houses; and this similitude is used sometimes in a good sense, as Isa. 60:8, sometimes in an ill sense, as pointing out infirmity, and too much fear and silliness, Hos. 7:11, Ephraim is a silly dove without heart, that goes to Egypt, &c. The Bride is here compared to a dove hiding itself, in the last sense, out of unbelief and anxiety, taking her to poor shifts for ease, and slighting Christ, as frightened doves that mistake their own windows, and fly to other hiding-places; the scope being to comfort and encourage her, and the directions calling her to holy boldness, and prayer to him (implying that these had been neglected formerly) doth confirm this. Then says the Lord, my poor heartless dove, why art thou discouraged, taking thee to holes (as it were) to hide thee, fostering misbelief and fainting? that is not the right way.
What then should she do (might it be said) seeing she is so unmeet to converse with him, or look out to the view of any that looks on? He gives two directions, holding forth what was more proper, and fit for her case, 1. Let me see thy countenance (saith he). Like one that is ashamed, thou hidest thyself as if thou durst not appear before me, but come (saith be) let me see thy countenance. This expression imports friendliness, familiarity, and boldness in her coming before him: so this phrase of seeing one's face is taken, Gen. 43:3,5, and 2 Sam. 14:32, as the not shewing of the countenance, supposeth discontent or fear; so then the Lord calls by this to holy familiarity with him, and confidence in it, in opposition to her former fainting and misbelief. The second direction is, let me hear thy voice. To make him hear the voice, is to pray, Psalm 5:3, and under it generally all the duties of religion are ofter comprehended: it is like, discouragement scared the heartless Bride from prayer, and she durst not come before him; do not (saith he) but call confidently upon me in the day of trouble, and time of need.
Observe. 1. Prayer never angers Christ (be the believer's case what it will) but forbearing of it will. 2. Discouragement when it seizes on the child of God, is not soon shaken off; and therefore he not only gives one direction upon another, but also adds encouragements and motives suitable to these directions.
And so we come to the third thing in the verse, the motives he makes use of to press his directions, which are two, 1. 'Sweet is thy voice.' 2. 'Thy countenance is comely.' What is my voice and countenance, might she say (for proud unbelief is exceeding humble, and subtile, when it is opposing, and quarreling with Christ's call) yea, (saith he) thy voice is sweet; there is no music in the world so pleasant to me, as the prayer of a poor believer. Now this doth not so much commend our prayers, as it shews his acceptation of them, and the excellency of his golden censer, that makes them with his odours so savoury before God, Rev. 8:3. And, 2, (saith he) thy countenance though there be spots on it, yet to me it is comely, therefore let me hear thy voice, let me see thy countenance. Christ had rather converse with a poor believer, than with the most gallant, stately person in all the world. Besides, Observe. 1 . Fainting may overmaster even a poor believer, and misbelief may mire him. 2. There are often foolish feckless shifts made use of by believers, for defending misbelief and discouragement, when they are under temptation. 3. Faithless fears, and discouragement may come to that height, as to scare believers from Christ's company, and mar them in prayer to him. 4. Misbelief bears out still this to a tempted soul that Christ cares not for it; yea, that he disdains such a person and his company. 5. Christ is tender of fainting believers, and of their consolation, even when they suspect him most, and when their suspicions are most unreasonable and uncharitable to him, Isa. 49:14,15. 6. Christ allows poor believers a familiar and confident walk with him; they might all be courtiers, for the access that is allowed them, if they did not refuse their allowance, and sinfully obstruct their own access thereto. 7. Christ loves to be much employed by his people, and there is nothing more pleasing to him, than frequently to hear their voice. 8. He is a sweet and gentle constructer of them, and their service; and is not rigid, even when often they have many misconstructions of him. 9. The more discouragement seizeth upon the soul, there should be the more prayer, and thronging in upon Christ; for there is no outgate to be expected, but in that way. 10. None needs to fear to put Christ on their secrets; or they need not so to fear (if they be sincere) that they spill their prayers, as thereby to be kept from prayer, or made heartless in it; for it is Christ that hears them, whose censer, Rev. 8:6, makes them savoury before God: 'let me hear thy voice,' is no little encouragement in that duty: and the right consideration of it, would help to much boldness in prayer; and especially considering, that the God who is the hearer of prayer, is our Beloved.
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