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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Four Verse 16

by James Durham


Verse 16. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

Christ having now been large in commending the Bride, she steps to in this verse (as it were, taking the opportunity of his nearness) and puts up her desires to to him, briefly in two suits, which are grounded on the commendation that he gives her, and shews what is the great design that she aims at now when she hath Christ's ear; and she follows these suits so, as she acknowledgeth all her fruitfulness (for which she is commended) to flow from him, and to depend on him, who is therefore so much the more to be commended and extolled himself. In sum, the sense is this, though I be a garden (saith she) and have good plants, habitually in me, yet will they not bud nor flow, nor can they be fruitful except the Spirit (which is as the stream from Lebanon) blow to make them so; therefore, O Spirit come, and let me partake of thy influences and breathings, that my beloved may have an invitation thereby, to come; and when come, may be entertained upon his own fruits.

The first petition is, for liveliness and fruitfulness: the second is, for the beloved's presence, which is the end of the former. And these two, life and sense, are (as it were) the air that kindly-believers love to breathe into. That both these are the Bride's words, may thus be collected. 1. Because they look prayer-like, and it is more suitable to her to say, 'come,' than for him: yea the Spirit being invited, 'to come,' to the garden, it is clear the party that speaks hath need of his presence: and that it is not said go, but 'come,' with reference to the necessity of the party that speaks, doth make it evident, that it cannot be spoken by the Bridegroom, but by the Bride; for, so the phrase every where, and in the next, words, 'let my beloved come,' imports. 2. That the last part of the verse is her suit, none can deny; and there is no reason to conceive two different parties, seeing both the matter of the suits, and the manner of speaking, will agree to the same party.

In the first petition, we may consider these two, 1. The thing sought. 2. The end wherefore that which she seeks and prays for, is held forth, as it were, in three steps or degrees, in three expressions, 'awake, O north wind, come thou south, blow upon my garden.' For understanding whereof, we are to look, 1. What these 'winds' signify. 2. What this 'garden' is. And, 3. What these acts, of 'awaking, coming' and 'blowing' are. By winds often in scripture is understood the Spirit of God in his mighty operations, as Ezek. 37:3, and 14. And the special work and operation of the Spirit is compared to wind, 1. For its purifying nature. 2. For its cooling, comforting, refreshing power and efficacy. 3. For its fructifying virtue, winds being especially in those hot countries, both exceeding refreshful, and also useful to make trees and gardens fruitful. Lastly, for its undiscernible manner of working, as John 2:6, 'the wind blows where it listeth,' &c. yet hath this operation real effects with it. And it is clear that the Spirit is here intended, because it is the Spirit's blowing that only can make the spices or graces of a believer to flow, as the wind doth the seeds and flowers in a garden. Next, by 'north and south wind,' are understood the same Spirit, being conceived and taken up in respect of his divers operations (as it's, 1 Cor. 12:6,7,8, &c. and therefore called 'the seven Spirits of God,' Rev. 1:4,) sometimes cooling, and in a sharper manner nipping, as the north-wind, sometimes working in his people more softly and warmly, and in a still and quiet manner like the south-wind; yet, as both winds are useful, for the purging and making fruitful of a garden; so are the divers operations of the Spirit, to the souls of believers. In a word, hereby is understood, the different operations of the Spirit, whether convincing and mortifying, or quickening and comforting, &c. both which contribute to make her lively and fruitful, which is the scope of her petition.

2. By 'garden,' is understood the believer, called a garden, verse 12, and an orchard, verse. 13, because the believer doth abound in divers graces, as a garden doth in many flowers. And she calls it 'my garden,' as he calleth the plants her plants, that were planted there, verse 13, and as she called the vineyard hers, chap. 1:6. and 8:12, which also is his, verse 11, as also this garden is called his in the following words, chap. 6:1. It is his by propriety, as the heritor and purchaser: as also, all these grace, in her are hers as being the servant that hath the oversight of them, and who hath gotten them as talents to trade with for the Master's use. All that we have, viz. a soul, gifts, graces, &c. are given to us as talents, which we are to dress for bringing forth fruit to the owner, as the following words do clear.

3. The actings and workings of the Spirit, are held forth in three words, which are so many branches of her petition. The first is, 'awake.' This word is often used by God's people in dealing with him, 'awake, put on thy strength, O arm of the Lord,' &c. Isa. 51:9. It is not as if the Spirit were at any time a-sleeping, but she desires that by some effects, sensible to her, he would let it be known he is stirring. The second word, 'come,' is to the same purpose: the Spirit considered in himself, cannot be said to come or go, being every where present; but this is to be understood, in respect of the effects of his presence, and so he is said to come and go: thus, while she saith, 'come,' the meaning is, let me find some sign of thy presence, quickening and stirring my graces. The last word is, 'blow upon my garden:' blowing holds forth the operation, whereby the Spirit produceth his effects in believers; It is not the Spirit himself, nor the fruits of the Spirit that are in believers, that are here understood, but the operation of the Spirit, whereby, he influenceth, or (if we may so speak) infuseth them (as God breathed into Adam the breath of life) and whereby he stirs, excites, and quickens them for acting. The prayer then, is directed to the Spirit (as Rev. 1:14.) considering the Spirit essentially as the same God with the Father and Son, (in which respect, to pray by name to one person of the Godhead, is to pray to all the three, who in our worship are not to be divided) that he would by his operations (which are divers and various for believers' good) so stir and quicken his own graces in her, that, seeing she is a garden wherein the Beloved takes pleasure, her graces for his satisfaction may be exercised, and made to savour, to the end that he may the more manifest himself in sweet communion with her.

Next, The end wherefore she presseth this suit so much, is, that her spices may flow out: in a word it is, that she might be fruitful; for, though there were many graces in her, yet, without the Spirit's breathing and influences, they should be as unbeaten spices, that did not send forth their smell.

Observe. 1. Although a believer have grace, yet it is not always in exercise; yea, it may be, and often is interrupted in its exercise, 2. That the believer's great desire is to be fruitful, and to have grace in exercise, that he may be delighted in by Christ: it is not only his desire to have grace habitually, but actually to have it in exercise. 3. There is nothing can make a believer lively and fruitful, but the influences of the Spirit: and that same Spirit, that works grace, must quicken it and keep it in exercise. 4. There may be an interruption of the influences of the Spirit, so as his blowing may in a great measure cease. 5. The same Spirit hath divers operations, and divers ways of working and manifesting himself: sometimes as the south wind, more smoothly; sometimes as the north wind, more sharply. 6. All his operations, how rough soever some of them may appear, are always useful to believers, and tend to make them fruitful: and to this end the most sharp influences contribute, as well as the more comfortable. 7. Believers should walk under the conviction of their own inability to act their graces, and of the necessity of the Spirit's influences, for drawing them forth to acting and exercise. 8. They, who are thus sensible, may seek after the Spirit for that end: and it is a good frame in order to the obtaining of life and quickening by the Spirit of Christ, when the sense of their own inability, their love of fruitfulness, and the faith of attaining it by his Spirit, puts them to seek after it, 9. Prayer is a necessary and excellent means for stirring up one in a secure frame, and for attaining the Spirit to revive and quicken the work of his grace. 10. Believers may beg the Spirit to quicken them, when they find themselves lifeless; as well as they may ask pardon, when they find themselves under guilt. 11. Believers will be, and should be as desirous of liveliness and fruitfulness, as of sense yea, this is the order by which they must come, and should seek to come to the obtaining of sensible presence. 12. No commendation of any attainment in believers, nor any clearness of interest, should make them sit down on their attainments, or become negligent; but, on the contrary, should stir them up to aim at the more liveliness and spiritualness, that they may be answerable to that interest they have in him, and to the commendation he allows upon them: for which cause, this petition follows immediately upon the former commendation.

The second petition, which goes along with the former, is for the Beloved's presence, 'Let my beloved,' (saith she) 'come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits:' her desire here, is twofold, 1. That Christ would 'come:' this doth respect a greater degree of nearness, notwithstanding of any thing she enjoyed. 2. That he would 'eat his pleasant fruits,' that is, familiarly, and friendly delight in his own graces; and therefore it was she prayed for the influences of the Spirit, that there might be abundance of fruits for his satisfaction. The way she presseth this petition is very kindly, though the words be short. 1. She presseth it from the relation she had to him, 'Let my Beloved' (saith she) 'come:' this makes her request and invitation warm and kindly. 2. From the kind of the fruits; they are 'pleasant fruits,' that is, delectable in themselves, and acceptable to him. But, 3. Lest this should derogate from him, and arrogate to herself, she adds 'his pleasant fruits;' they are 'his,' and that makes them pleasant, so that he cannot but accept them: they are 'his' being purchased by him, wrought by him, kept in life by him; though he hath made me the garden (saith she) wherein they grow (and the garden, as it hath weeds, is hers) yet all the good fruits, in so far as any of them are to be found in me, are his: in sum, all my desire is this, 1. To be fruitful, then 2. To have Christ's company, shewing himself pleased and present with me. Observe. 1. Whatever believers have, they neither will, nor can rest upon it; nay, not in the most eminent measures of holiness attainable here away, without Christ's presence and company. 2, Fruitfulness and liveliness help and contribute much to the enjoyment of Christ's manifestations, John 14:21, 23. 3. Believers, that aim seriously at the exercise of grace in themselves, may confidently invite Christ to come, and may expect his presence. 4. All believers' fruits, even when quickened by the Spirit, are Christ's. 5. This should be acknowledged, and when we are most fruitful, we should look on our fruits, not as our own, but as his still. 6. Christ will feed or delight in nothing, but what is his own; and is acknowledged by his people to be so and there can be nothing, which he will accept of set before him, but such. 7. Believers' end and design, in pursuing liveliness and fruitfulness, is not, and ought not so much to be their own satisfaction, and the feeding of themselves, as the satisfaction of Christ, and the pleasing of him; for, that is his eating his pleasant fruits; which is the Bride's great desire and design, when she calls for the north and south wind to blow upon her garden.



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