|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 4. It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
The beginning of this verse, contains the last step of the Bride's carriage, and also her desired success, She went 'a little' further, and 'but a little,' and she finds him whom her soul loveth: public ordinances and fellowship with godly men, are very useful and necessary, but not to be rested on; and they who find not the desired outgate by these, should not immediately give over the business as desperate and hopeless; for, there is something even beyond these to be aimed at, 'a little further' must be gone, which is the first thing in the verse: and we conceive it doth import these two, 1. A more immediate going to Christ himself, (as if the ministers had said) ye must go over and beyond means, to Christ himself, and denying these, lean and rest, and that wholly on him: they go beyond means, that rest not on them, and are denied to them in the use of them, as that man, Matt. 17:14, that brought his son to the disciples, to get the Devil cast out, and when they did it not, he went not away, but stayed for Christ himself, and told the case to him: Christ can do when means fail, and we should trust him, when they seem to disappoint us how feckless are the best of ministers, when himself is not present? 2. This going 'a little further,' doth not import the doing of any duties she had not done, but a more vigorous and lively manner of going about these. There had some heartlessness, unbelief, and indisposition stuck to her, in all the former steps and strugglings; now she steps further in, and goes further in the use of these same means; and not speaking to the minister, when she finds that the moving of his lips cannot assuage her grief, she looks through to the Master, and vigorously addresses herself to the exercise of faith in him, and of prayer to him, &c. in a more serious way than she had done before Observe. 1. Sometimes believers may lay too much weight on outward and public means; they may rest too much there, and go on further than these. 2. It is God's goodness, by disappointment in means, to train his people on to a further length of power and life in their practice. 3. It may be when a believer hath satisfied himself in going about all external means, and that in the due order, hath neglected none of them, that there is still somewhat more to do, as to the bettering of his inward frame. 4. It is not a desperate business, nor are believers forthwith to conclude that their hope is perished, because they have not attained their desire in the use of means for a time. 5. It is not a less practise in the soul-exercises, to go over and beyond means and ordinances in suing for Christ, than to go about them; and the last is no less necessary than the first. 6. Believers in the use of means, should join these three together, 1. Making conscience of means; and yet, 2. For the success, looking higher than they; and, 3. Not standing when they find not instantly ease, or satisfaction by them.
The second thing here, is her success, which is according to her desire, 'I found him' (saith she); when I had pressed but a little further, he sensibly and surprisingly made himself known to me. Observe. 1. Christ is not far off from his people when they are seeking him, whatever they may think when he hides himself. 2. They who love Christ, and conscionably follow all means for obtaining him are not far from finding, nor he far from manifesting himself to them. 3. They who sincerely press forward to the life of ordinances beyond the form, and by faith take themselves to Christ himself for the blessing, not resting on their performances will not long miss Christ, yea, it may be, he will give them a sensible manifestation of himself sooner than they are aware; for, 'the Spirit is obtained, not by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith,' Gal. 3:2. 4. A soul that sincerely loves Christ, should not, and when in a right frame will not give over seeking Christ till it find him, whatever disappointment it meets with; and sure such will find him at last. 5. Christ found after much search, will be very welcome, and his presence then will be most discernible. 6. Believers should no less observe, and acknowledge their good success in the means, than their disappointments; there are many who often make regrets of their bonds, that are deficient in acknowledging God's goodness when they get liberty.
Next, In this verse we have her carriage set down, when she hath found him; she doth not then lay by diligence, as if all were done, but is of new taken up, with as great care to retain and improve this mercy, as before she was solicitous to attain it: whether a believer want or have; whether he be seeking, or enjoying, there is still matter of exercise for him in his condition. This her care to retain Christ (which is the fourth thing in the first part of this chapter) is laid down in three steps. 1. She endeavours to hold him that she again lose not the ground she had gained. 2. She seeks to have other members of that same church getting good of Christ also: and these two are in this verse. 3. When his presence is brought back to the church and ordinances, her care is to admonish, yea, charge that he be entertained well with them, lest they should provoke him to be gone, verse 5.
The first step then of her care is, 'I held him and would not let him go:' as a wife having found her husband, whom she much longed for, hangs on him lest he depart again, so doth she; which is an expression both of her fear, love, care, and faith. This holding of Christ, and not letting him go, imports, 1. A holy kind of violence, more than an ordinary, wherewith the Bride strives and wrestles to retain him. 2. That Christ (as it were) waits for the believer's consent in this wrestling, as he saith to Jacob, Gen. 32:26, 'I pray thee, let me go:' which upon the matter seems to say, I will not go, if thou wilt hold me, and have me stay. 3. It imports an importunate adhering to him, and not consenting upon any terms to quit him. And lastly it imports the singular and inexpressible satisfaction she had in him; her very life lay in the keeping him still with her, and therefore she holds him, and cannot think of parting with him. Now this presence of Christ (being spiritual) cannot be understood in a carnal way, nor can they be carnal grips that retain him; and his power being omnipotent, it cannot be the force of a frail creature that prevails, but it is here as in Hos. 12:2,3, In Jacob's prevailing, 'he wept and made supplication,' that is, an humble, ardent suing to him by prayer, with a lively exercise of faith on his promises (whereby he allows his people to be pressing) engageth him to stay; he is tied by his own love that is in his heart, and his faithfulness in his promises, that he will not withdraw, and deny them that, for which they made supplication to him, more than if he were by their strength prevailed over, and overcome; as a little weeping child will hold its mother or nurse, not because it is stronger than she, but because the mother's bowels so constrain her, as she cannot almost, though she would, leave that child; so Christ's bowels yearning over a believer, are that which here hold him, that he cannot go; he cannot go, because he will not. Here we have ground to observe the importunateness of sincere love, which is such, as with an holy wilfulness it holds to Christ and will not quit him, as Jacob said, 'I will not let thee go.' 2. We may observe here the power of lively faith (to which nothing is impossible) love and faith will stick to Christ against his own seeming entreaties, till they gain their point, and will prevail, Gen. 32:28. 3. See here the condescending, the wonderful condescending of the Almighty, to be held by his own creature, to be, as it were, at their disposal, '.1 pray thee, let me go,' Gen. 32:26, and Exod. 32:10, 'Let me alone, Moses;' so long as a believer will not consent to quit Christ, so long keeps their faith grip of him, and he will not offend at this importunity; yea, he is exceedingly well pleased with it: it cannot be told how effectual prayer and faith would be, if fervent and vigorous.
The second step of her carriage, which is the scope of the former; namely of her holding him, is in these words, 'till I had brought him to my mother's house to the chambers of her that conceived me.' By 'mother' in scripture is understood the visible church, which is even the believer's mother, Hos. 2:1, 'Say to Ammi (my people) 'plead with your mother.' So chap. 1:6, this mother hath children, both after the flesh and after the spirit, the former hating the latter; and chap. 8:5. It is the mother that hath ordinances, for the Bride's instruction. The church visible is called the mother, because, 1. By the immortal seed of the word, the Lord begets believers in his church, to which he is Husband, and the Father of these children; she is the Wife and Mother that conceives them, and brings them up. 2. Because of the covenant tie that stands betwixt God and the visible church, whereby she may claim right to him as her husband (the covenant being the marriage contract betwixt God and the church) which is therefore the ground of the former relation of mother. Again, Christ is said to be brought into the church not only when his ordinances are pure in her, (which is supposed to be here already; for verse 3, there were watchmen doing their duty, and dispensing pure ordinances) but when there is life in them, the presence and countenance of his Spirit going along with them, that they may be powerful for the end appointed: as it was one thing to have the temple, the type of his church, and another, to have God's presence singularly in it; so it is one thing to have pure ordinances set up in the church, and another, to have Christ's presence filling them with power: now (saith she) when I got Christ, I knew there were many fellow-members of that same church, that had need of him, and I was importunate that he might manifest himself in his ordinances there, for their and my good. Church ordinances, are the allowed and ordinary means of keeping fellowship with Christ, and they are all empty when he is not there. Observe. 1. That even true believers have the visible church for their mother, and it is written of them as their privilege, that they were born there, Psalm 87:4,5. 2. Believers should not disclaim the church in which they are spiritually begotten and born, nor their fellow-members therein; but reverence her as the mother that gave them life, and carry respectfully toward her as such; 'honour thy father and mother' being a moral command, and the first with promise. See Psalm 122:3,6. 3. When believers get nearest Christ for themselves, it is then the fit time to deal with him for others, especially for the church whereof they are members; it is Moses' only express suit, Exod. 34:9, when God admits him to his company (in presenting whereof it is said, verse 8, he made haste) 'I pray thee, O Lord, go amongst us.' 4. It is true tenderness, when one is admitted to more nearness with God than others, not to separate from the church whereof they are members, and as it were to carry Christ to their own chamber; but to endeavour to have Christ brought also to the church, that what is wanting of life amongst her members, or the rest of the children, may be made up by his presence. 5. They who are tender of their own comfort, and of retaining Christ's presence with themselves, will be careful to have others, not yet sensible of their need of it, nor acquaint with it, made partakers thereof also. 6. Believers in their serious applications to Christ for the church whereof they are members may prevail much, and have much influence for obtaining his presence there, and for the putting of every thing in a better frame for the good of others. 7. A kindly member of the church, is brought up ordinarily in that church, and by that mother, where she was conceived, therefore she goes back to her mother's house, for thev have breasts to nourish, who have a womb to bring forth in this respect, and yet here were both children that hated her, chap. 1:6, and watchmen that smote her, chap. 5:7, yet to this mother's house she goes. In a word, this is, as a kind spouse living in her mother's house, having after long seeking found her husband, will be desirous to have him home with her, not only for their mutual solace, but for the comfort of all the family; so do believers, living yet in the church, desire to improve their credit and court with Christ, for the good of the whole church, that where she was conceived, others may be conceived also: where Christ's ordinances are, there ordinarily are children begotten of God; and where a church conceives seed, and brings forth to him, it is a token he hath not given her a bill of divorce, nor will disclaim her to be his wife; so much less, the children ought not to disclaim her as their mother: it is a shame that many who profess to be children, either are not yet conceived, or the mother that conceived them, is despised by them; it is strange if the father will own such as children, who not only cry out against, but curse their mother, and place a piece of religion in this.
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