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Commentary on the Song of Songs, Chapter Five Verse 4

by James Durham

Verse 4. My Beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.

There follows in this fourth verse, a second step of Christ's carriage, with the effects of it: he gives not over, but puts in his finger, and powerfully makes application to her, by a saving work of the Spirit upon her heart, which hath the desired and designed effect following upon it she riseth and openeth.

In this we have, 1. The means applied and made use of. 2. The manner of application, (for that the worker is the Beloved himself, is clear; the means is his hand, which in scripture signifieth three things, when attributed to God, 1. His omnipotency, whereby he doth what he pleaseth, Exod. 15:6, 'Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power,' Exod. 8:19, it is said 'This is the finger of God,' that is, his power. 2. It is taken for the Spirit, or the common operations of the Spirit, whereby miracles, beyond the power of man are wrought; as by comparing Matt. 12:28, with Luke 11:20, will be clear. 3. It is taken for the saving work of the Spirit, applied for the working of faith in the elect at the first, or renewing and confirming of it afterward in believers; as, Acts 11:21, 'The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed.' This is it which is pointed at, Isa. 53:1, where, 'who hath believed?' and 'to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?' are made of equal extent and so especially it is to be taken here, as the scope clears, to wit, for the immediate powerful work of the Spirit, made use of in the working of faith, as a key is made use of for the opening of a door.

The way of applying this means, is, be 'put in his hand by the hole of the door:' where (following the similitude of a husband's standing at a shut door, and not getting entry) he shews what he did, when knocking prevailed not; to wit, he took an effectual way of opening it himself, which is ordinary by putting in the key or somewhat else at the hole of the door: so Christ by his Spirit made open the heart, in a kindly native way, not by breaking open, but by opening; he indeed having the key by which hearts are opened, even 'the key of David, that opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens,' Rev. 3:7. Which words do shew, 1. That besides the call of the word, and any common conviction that is thereby wrought in the heart, there is in the conversion of sinners, an immediate, real, powerful, and peculiar work of the Spirit that accompanies the word. 2. That the application of this is necessary, and that men being now asleep, and dead in sin, cannot without that be stirred and quickened by the most powerful external ordinances, or common operations: nay, even to the believer's reviving, from his backslidden and drowsy case, this work of omnipotency is needful. 3. This work of the Spirit is effectual, and when peculiarly applied by Christ, cannot be frustrated; for, he 'puts in his hand,' and the effect follows. 4. Although it be a most powerful work, yet it works kindly, and brings about the effect without wronging of the natural faculties of the soul, but makes use of them formally for bringing forth the effect, as one that openeth the door by the lock, makes use of a key, but doth not hurt nor destroy the lock: there is therefore no inconsistency betwixt Christ's opening and ours; for, he co-acts not, nor forceth the will, but sweetly determines it, so that it cannot but be willing; he takes away unwillingness from it, and makes it willing, Psalm 110:3. Christ hath the keys of hearts, and can open and shut at his pleasure, without wronging of them. 5. Grace being the work of a high hand, it cannot be easy to procure welcome to Jesus Christ even amongst believers, and much less with others, who have no principle of grace within to cooperate with Christ. 6. Christ Jesus as be is a most powerful worker, so is the work of his power most free, sovereign, and wonderful; which clearly appeareth in that it is applied on the back of such a slighting answer, and not before: yea, 7. Oftentimes the work of grace surpriseth his own, when they are in a most unsuitable case, and when in respect of their deserving they might have expected the quite contrary; certainly, we are not obliged to our free-will for our conversion, but to his Spirit; nor to our predispositions for his applying of it, but to his own grace, who in his gracious way of dealing with his people, comes over many obstructions, and packs up (to say so) many affronts and injuries.

If any should ask, why Christ did not apply this work, and put in his hand at first, but suspends it till he had gotten a refusal, and be now at the very withdrawing? Answer. 1. He doth this to shew the sovereignty of grace, that works as well when it will, as on whom it will: grace must not be limited by us in the manner or time of its working, more than in its work, or subject-matter upon which it worketh. 2. By this he discovereth, what believers would be without his grace (and so would teach them to walk humbly) which otherwise had not so well appeared. 3. His wisdom and tenderness appear herein, that he will not withdraw from her, and leave her lifeless too, but ere he awake challenges in her, he will make her lively in the exercise of her graces: otherwise she might have lien still in her deadness: Christ times his operations, his appearings and withdrawings with much tenderness, wisdom, and discretion.

This work of the Spirit puts a stir in the Bride, which vents itself it four steps. 1. Her bowels are moved 2. She ariseth. 3. Her fingers drop with myrrh. 4. She opens. All which may be considered, either, 1. As effects following the work of the Spirit, whereby she is recovered from such a condition: or, 2. As duties lying on a believer: or, 3. As they hold out the order of the effects wrought by the Spirit. In general, it holds forth, 1. That the work of the Spirit, when it is effectually applied, makes a very great, palpable, and universal change upon the persons in whom it works: there is a great difference betwixt the Bride's carriage here, and what it was, verse 3. 2. Although it be not absolutely necessary, nor ordinary for a believer, to know the instant of his conversion: yet when the change is sudden, and from an extremity of a sinful condition, it will be discernible, and the fruits following the change will be the more palpable. 3. A believer should endeavour to be clear in the change of his condition; and when this clearness is attained by the distinct uptaking of the several fruits of the change, it is very useful and profitable for establishing the believer in the confidence of his interest in Christ, and that there is a saving change wrought in him; so here, the Bride both asserts him to be her Beloved, and likewise the reality of the change he had wrought in her.

The first effect is, 'my bowels were moved for him;' Which, in short, holds forth the kindly exercise of serious repentance, affecting and stinging (as it were) the very inward bowels, for slighting Christ so long: which will be cleared by considering, 1. What is meant by bowels. 2. What by moving of the bowels. 3. What that is, 'for him.' By bowels, are understood either sorrow, and that in an intense degree, as, Job 30:27, 'my bowels boiled,' Lam. 1:20. 'My bowels are troubled.' And Jer. 4:19, 'My bowels, my bowels, I am pained at the very heart:' Or, bowels are taken for affection and tender love in the highest degree, such as mothers have to the children of their womb, Philip. 2:1,2, 'If there be any bowels.' And Philemon, 12, 'Receive him that is my own bowels.' Thus they are taken, Isa. 63:15, 'Where are thy bowels?' and frequently else where, both in the Old and New Testament. By 'moving of the bowels' (or sounding or making a noise, as the word is elsewhere translated, Isa. 16:11, and 63:15,) is understood a sensible stirring of the affections, when they begin to stound, and that kindly, and in a most affectionate manner, either severally, or jointly, such as is the 'turning of the bowels,' Hos. 11, and the 'troubling of the bowels,' Jer. 31:18, 19, 20. It is even such as is kindly sympathy with persons that are dearly beloved, when any sad change befals them: it is called the yearning of the bowels, spoken of that mother, 1 Kings 3:26, who was so affected towards her child, out of love to him, that she had rather quit him to the other woman, that was not his mother, than see him divided, her bowels were so hot towards him; (another thing than was in any onlooker) it is the same word here, which shews, that this motion of the Bride's bowels proceeded from love to Christ, and from sorrow for wronging of him, which two jumbled her within, and pierced and stounded her to the heart, as a kindly parent useth to be for the death or distress of his only child, which is the character of true repentance, Zech. 12:10,11. 3. 'For him,' holds out, 1. The procuring cause of this trouble, that it was for wronging of Christ, and the slighting of so kind an husband and friend, that stounded her at the heart above all, as, Zech. 12:10. 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn for him.' 2. It holds forth the final cause wherefore she was so stirred and moved; it it was 'for him,' that is, that she might enjoy him, as the word is, Hos, 7:14, 'They assemble themselves for corn and wine,' that is, to obtain them: so her bowels were moved for or after him, to obtain and enjoy him and thus, sense of the wrong done to him, in her bye-past unkindly carriage to him, and desire to recover him again, so affects her, as if it were the pangs of a travailing woman, till Christ be again formed in her heart.

Observe. 1. The first work of the Spirit, is, by powerful convictions to beget evangelic repentance in the heart, and to make the soul sensible of bye-past failings, Acts 2:37. This although it be not in time before faith, nor in nature (for, seeing it proceeds from love, it supposeth faith) yet it is the first sensible effect, that sinners (surprised in a sinful condition) are touched with, and it is never separate from, but always joined with, the exercise of faith, Zech. 12:10. 2. This work of repentance is necessary to be renewed, even in believers after their failings, and it is the way by which they recover; Christ's Bride is thus affected, and it becomes them well who have sin, to be deeply moved and afflicted with the sense of it. Where most love to Christ is, and where most sincerity hath been, when awakening comes, it will be the more sensible, and affect the heart the more throughly. Particularly, we may gather hence these properties of true repentance or godly sorrow. 1. Godly sorrow is no fruit of nature, but is a work and effect of the Spirit of Christ, and a peculiar saving grace, beyond common conviction, and a believer is not the worker of it in himself. 2. This sorrow consists most in the inward pangs and stings of the heart, wherein love to Christ, and indignation against ourselves for wronging of him, struggle, and put all within in a stir. 3. True repentance is different from, and beyond convictions, and challenges (which the Bride had before when this was wanting in her) and makes another kind of impression, and a more sensible touch upon the heart and inward bowels I say not that it is always terrible; for, that is accidental to it, but sensible it is. 4. Though this godly sorrow affect the heart deeply, yet doth it work kindly, sweetly and affectionately, as a mother's affection warms to her child, or, as a man is troubled for his first-born: love hath a main influence upon, and goeth along in this godly sorrow; both in the rise of it, love kindles this heart-indignation, and also in the exercise of it, love to Christ keeps it lively; and in the manner how it vents itself, it makes it a kindly and no torturing or terrible exercise. 5. Nothing more affects a kindly repenting heart, truly touched with godly sorrow, than that it should have sinned against Christ; its own hazard is not the predominant cause of this sorrow (she is clear of her interest still (nor is it any sad event that might follow, which so affects her (though she was not senseless as to these) but it is 'for him,' and his cause and not her own, that she is thus moved: the Spirit's conviction, John 16:8, is, 'because they believe not on me.' 6. Considering the words with what follows, 'I rose,' &c. and comparing them with what went before, Observe, that true repentance brings forth always a change in a believer's carriage to the better, in those things by which Christ their Beloved was formerly provoked; and it doth stir up to universal activeness, in the study of holiness: this makes her arise from the laziness in which she formerly was. 7. Consider, that she rests not till first she open to Christ, and thereafter obtain his presence; which sheweth, that where true repentance is, the soul will never sit down on challenges, convictions, or making amends in the conversation, or any thing in itself; but it will be restless until by faith it close with Christ; yea, it will be pressing after the intimation of his favour, on the back of any peace attained in closing with him, as David doth, Psalm 51.



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