|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 9. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my Spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
10. How fair is thy love, my sister, my Spouse! How much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments, than all spices!
Although what Christ hath spoken in the former verse be wonderful, yet these expressions, verse 9,10, being spoken by Jesus Christ to a poor sinful creature, passeth admiration: they may be looked on as the reason of his former call and promise, he thus seriously invites her to come to him, because he cannot want her company; for, his heart is ravished with her. The scope in both verses is the same, but is more clearly expressed, verse 10. Not so much setting forth the church's loveliness (though that is not to be excluded) as his loving-kindness, who is admirably affected towards her, as every word in matter and manner of both shews. In them consider, 1, The titles given her, which are the same in both verses. 2. What is asserted, and that is, that his heart is ravished. 3. The manner how this is expressed, in a sort of holy passion, doubling the expression. 4. Wherewith it is his heart is so ravished, it is (saith he) 'with one of thine eyes,' &c. in the end of the 9th verse, and more fully amplified, verse 10.
The titles are two; one of them, namely that she is his 'Spouse,' hath been spoken of; but his repeating of it, shews a kind of glorying in it, as being very much delighted therewith. The other title, 'my sister,' is added, and it doth import these five things, 1. A condescending upon Christ's part to be thus joined in kindred to the believer, and so it takes in his incarnation, whereby he was made 'in all things like to his brethren,' Heb. 2:17. Our blessed Lord Jesus is man, believers are his brethren and sisters, they are bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh; and for his Bride's consolation this is asserted. 2. A privilege whereto she is advanced upon her part, and that is, that by adoption believers are become sons and daughters to the Lord God Almighty, not only friends but children, and so 'heirs,' and 'joint heirs' with Jesus Christ, Rom. 8:17. So as now they are as brethren and sisters, which is an unspeakable advancement. 3. It imports a change of nature, as well as of state in believers, so that they partake of the divine nature and Spirit with Christ Jesus, as it is, Heb. 2:11, 'He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are of one;' which is a special ground of his sibness and kindred to believers, not common to others, but special to them, and founded on their sanctification. 4. It implies sympathy, friendliness, and a kindly esteem in him that takes her up and speaks of her, and to her, in all the most sweet relations of 'mother sister, Spouse,' &c. Matt. 12:ult. 5. It shews his owning of all these relations; he is not ashamed to call believers, 'sisters' and 'brethren,' Heb. 2:11. Observe. 1. There are many wonderful, near, and sweet relations betwixt Christ and the believer. 2. Christ is the most faithful owner of them, and is in a most friendly way forth-coming to them, according to them all.
2. The thing asserted here, is, 'Thou hast ravished my heart:' The word in the first language is one, and it signifieth, 'Thou hast hearted me,' or so to speak, 'Thou hast unhearted me;' it is no where in scripture, but here; Christ's unspeakable love, as it were, coins new words to discover itself by, it is so unexpressible: The word is borrowed from the passionateness of love, when it seizes deeply on a man, it leaves him not master of his own heart, but the object loved hath it, and (as it were) possesseth it, and commands it more than the man himself; so the gospel saith, 'where a man's treasure is' (that is, the thing a man esteems most of) 'there' (as it were) 'his heart is,' and not in the party that loves. Matt. 8:21. So the common phrase is, such a man hath my heart, when he is dearly beloved; and thus in a subtile way, Absalom is said to have 'stolen away the hearts of the people from his Father.' It is in sum, 'my Spouse thou hast my heart,' thou hast won it, and as it were by violence taken it away, I am not master of it, I cannot but love thee.
It is hard to draw observations, that may suitably express the thing here spoken of; only we may hint at these things. 1. Love in Christ to a believer, hath strong and wonderful effects on him, in reference to them. 2. The believer hath Christ's heart, he hath a seat in his affection, he possesseth his love (for no other thing hath his heart) and he may promise himself from Christ, whatever he can desire for his good, even as if be had his heart under his command; for (so to speak) he can refuse believers nothing, which they seek, and which he knows to be for their good. 3. Love in Christ to a believer, it is at a height, or, it is a love of the highest degree: there is no greater intenseness thereof imaginable; for to have the 'heart ravished,' is the expression of the greatest love.
3. The manner how he expreseth this, is by doubling the expression, 'Thou hast ravished my heartthou hast ravished my heart:' and this is to shew, that this word fell not rashly from him, but was drawn out by the vehemency of affection in him. 2. That he allows believers to believe this great love and affection he hath to them, and would have them dwelling on the believing thoughts of it; and therefore, he doubles the expression while he intimates his love unto them: only remember there are no disorderly passions in Christ, as in us; yet, that there is sympathy and love in him, and passionate effects of love from him, cannot be denied.
The fourth thing is, wherewith it is his heart is so ravished: it may be thought it is some great thing that thus prevails over Christ: now what it is, is set down in two expressions, which are joined to the former, to make this love of his the more wonderful; that which was conquered, or ravished, was 'his heart;' that which doth it, is her eye, the eye or the look of a poor sinful creature, even of such a person as maybe despised in the world, and Lazarus full of sores, and not admitted to men's company. It is not with 'both her eyes,' but (saith he) with 'one of thine eyes,' that is (as it were) with a squint-look; a side-look of the Bride prevailed thus with him. One eye is not there mentioned, as preferring the beauty of one of her eyes to the other; but to shew what excellent beauty is in her, and much more what infinite love is in him, that he could not (because he would not) resist a look of one of her eyes cast toward him. We shew what is understood by eyes, verse 1, and it is explained in the following verse, to hold forth love especially here, (lovers using to signify affection by their eyes) yet it takes in knowledge, as being presupposed; and faith as going along with it. The second expression is, 'with one chain of thy neck:' these chains are spoken of, chap. 1:10. Whereby we shew, was signified her inherent holiness, with imputed righteousness, which by faith she possessed; and so here also it signifies her graces, especially her exercising faith on him, for so the neck was expounded, verse 9, to be understood of faith, which joined the believer to Christ as his head: and it is said to have chains, because it never wants excellent fruits, wherewith it is adorned, when it is exercised. One chain is spoken of, not as if she had not had more, or as if he did not respect them all, but to hold forth this, that one of her chains (as it were) did overcome him; and so it maybe gathered, what will both eyes do, and more chains, when one so prevails.
The scope then here doth shew, 1. That Christ is easily prevailed with by his people, O how easily is he overcome by them, who have love to him, and faith in him! 2. That Christ stands not on the degree of his people's graces, nor doth he suspend his love and acceptation of a person, upon such or such a degree; but wherever reality and sincerity are, if it were in the meanest degree, and but one look, or one chain, he will yield to it, and accept of it. 3. It is to provoke and encourage believers to cast a look to Christ, when they find their faith to be so weak that they can do no more; and to confirm them in the expectation of good from him freely, without any rigid reckoning; it is not only the strong believer, and the strong acts of faith and love, that prevail with Christ, but he condescends to be overcome, even by the weakest, with whom the sincerity of these graces is to be found.
This is further followed and explicated, verse 10, and that two ways, 1. By an indefinite question, 'how fair is thy love!' 2 By two comparative questions, whereby in two similitudes, her love is preferred to the most excellent things, 'how much better,' &c. The thing commended, is, 'her love,' that is, the love wherewith she loves him, wherewith her heart breathes after him, delights in him, esteems him, and is zealous to please him, &c. The commendation he gives her love, is, that it is 'fair.' And by the way we may observe, that this clearly shews, that by all the former parts of her beauty, are understood spiritual graces: now (saith he) 'thy love is fair,' that is, it is lovely and acceptable to me: as beauty and fairness are much esteemed among men: so this grace of love is a beautiful thing in Christ's Bride. The manner of the expression is by way of question, and admiration, 'how fair!' I can get nothing (saith he) to compare it with a wonder, that Christ should be so taken with the love of sinners, as to admire it, or think that their love exceeds all expression; for, so men use to express what they cannot express: but this doth indeed shew, that the height and depth, and length and breadth of that love, which Christ hath to believing sinners, passeth all knowledge, and is beyond all words. Observe. 1. That a believer is one that loves Christ, and true faith hath always this grace of love joined to it. 2. That love where it is sincere and true, is a property of Christ's Bride and Spouse, there are no other in the world who love him, but those who are espoused to him. 3. Where love to Christ is, there Christ loves; he cannot but love them, that love him, and there is nothing more acceptable to him, than the faith that is working by love. 4. Our Lord Jesus takes special notice of the frame of the heart, and what seat he hath in the affections of his people, he lays more weight on their love, than on their work, though true love can never be without works.
The second way how he explains and illustrates this, is more particular, by two comparisons, yet keeping still the former manner of expression, by way of question and ,admiration: the first is, 'how much better is thy love than wine!' Wine may be looked on in two respects, 1. As it is useful in man's life, and refreshful, Psalm 104:15, 'It maketh glad the heart of man, and Eccles. 5:19, 'It maketh the heart merry:' wine is one of the most comfortable creatures, therefore she calls 'his love better than wine,' chap. 1:2. Thus observe, 1. Christ will not be behind with his people, neither in kindness, nor in the expressions of it; for, this is beyond hers, chap. 1. 2. Not that he hath a better object to love, but because the love wherewith he loves her, is like himself, and more excellent than hers. 3. There is no such refreshful thing in all the work of creation to Christ, no such feast, as the warming of a sinner's heart with love to him is: this (Luke 7:47.) is thought more of by Christ in a poor woman, than all the great feast be was invited unto by the rich Pharisee.
Again, we may look on wine as used in the ceremonial services and drink-offerings, Levit. 23:13, &c. Thus the meaning is, thy love is preferable to all outward performances and sacrifices, as Hos. 6:7. Love being the principle within, from which all our performances should flow, it is not opposed to sacrifice simply or to obedience; but, 1. Supposing these to be separate, he prefers love; if it were to cast in but a mite of duty out of love, it will be more acceptable than the greatest bulk of duties without love, as is clear in the case of the widow, Luke 21. Yea, if men would 'give their bodies to be burnt,' with out this, 1 Cor. 13:3. it will avail nothing. 2. It saith, that where both the inward principles, and the outward fruit or work are, the Lord respects that more than this, and he respects this in a manner but for that.
The second comparison is to the same purpose in these words, 'and the smell of thine ointments than all spices.' Ointments typified the graces of the Spirit,' the pouring out whereof, is called, 'the unction,' John 2:20, and 'the oil of joy,' Psalm 45:7. The 'smell' thereof signifieth the acceptableness of these graces, when in exercise: our Lord Jesus finds a sweet savour in them, as ointments cast a smell that is refreshful to men (as we said upon chap. 3:6.) the grace of love mentioned before is here included; but under 'ointments' there is more comprehended, to shew, 1. That where one grace is, there are all the rest of the graces of the Spirit to found. 2. That love to Christ, and zeal for him, holds believers stirring, and makes them send forth a sweet and savoury smell. This smell is preferred 'to all spices,' not to one or two, but to all: spices were either used as gifts, because they were precious and costly; so the queen of Sheba propined Solomon with them, 2 Kings 10:2, and the wise men offered such to Christ, Matt. 2:11. And so it saith, there is no such propine can be offered to Christ, as love, and the graces of the Spirit, when they are in exercise. Again, spices were used in the Levitical services, and holy oil, Exod. 30:23, 24, and so they are to be considered as wine was in the last sense formerly spoken of, and it shews how preferable the inward exercise of grace, is to all external duties. Lastly, They are not only preferred while he saith, 'thy love is better,' &c. but as passing comparison, they are extolled far above all these things with which they are compared, How fair, or how much better is thy love than wine! &c. O my Spouse (saith he) it is not to be wondered that thy love ravishes my heart; for, there no is created thing so precious, nor any external service so acceptable to me, as it is. Hence observe, 1. That inward love, or the inward exercise of grace, and outward performances are separable. 2. That when outward performances are separate from the inward exercise of love and other graces, the Lord respects them not. 3. That love is a good and necessary principle of all duties and especially of the duties of worship. 4. Those who have any thing of the lively exercise of love to Christ, want never a propine that will be acceptable to him; if it were but a mite, or a cup of cold water, or a look to Christ, if love be the principle from which these flow, they will be very acceptable with him.
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