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by James Durham
Verse 5. I rose up to open to my Beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
There are two steps of her carriage, or effects of the Spirit's work, verse 5. The first is, her bowels being thus stirred and moved, she ariseth to open, as being sorry she had lien still and shifted him so long; 'I rose up:' this is opposite to her former lying still, and refusing to give him entry; now she yields, and begins to bestir herself, to draw her clothes to her, &c. Which imports not only more diligence as to the matter of duty, but much seriousness as to the manner: it seems to differ from opening (which is the actual receiving of Christ into the heart when all things are ready and prepared) not as if it were simply contradistinguished from faith (for, this being a fruit of her repentance, and he acknowledged to be her Beloved, there behoved to be faith in it) but only, as one degree or act of faith is distinguished from another, as, Luke 15 in the prodigal's case, it is said, after he came to himself, before he act, he deliberates and stirs himself; so this holds forth, her rousing and quickening herself, for receiving Christ, which is not separate in time, either from her repentance in the former words, or her faith in those that follow; she 'rose to open,' that shows her design, that she resolved now not to stand at, but to go over her former reasonings; and purposed by this stirring, to have the way rid for Christ's entry, and to make him welcome; which shews, it was no confused exercise that her repentance put her unto, but distinct and digested, like the prodigal's , I will arise, and go to my Father, and say,' &c.
Observe. 1. Repentance will put the securest sinners to their feet, when it is real. 2. There is no settling of an exercised mind, but in receiving of Christ, and in making of him welcome. 3. When the heart is affected with the sense of sin, and desire to have Christ, it is not time to delay or dispute what to do, but to rise and open, and by faith to receive Christ. 4. Where a soul hath been plunged in security, or (like the prodigal, Luke 15) in profanity, there will be need of gathering, composing and rousing of itself, for exercising of faith in Christ; this is not from any difficulty that is on grace's side to receive a sinner, but from the difficulty that is on the sinner's side, in acting of grace, who being at a low ebb, must by several steps of grace ascend out of it, with a kind of violence to corruption, discouragement and unbelief, from under the power of which the penitent must arise, when they combine to entangle and detain him, as she doth here. 5. Believers should be distinct in their exercises, especially in reference to their end and design, that in their activity and stirrings it may be discerned by themselves what they would be at: some exercises are confused, neither having a distinct cause, nor a distinct end; kindly exercise hath both, though much confusion may be with it. 6. Faith in Christ, and making way for him into the heart, should be, and is the native end of all inward exercises, diligence in duties, &c. This must be the great scope of all pains whatsoever; those stings of exercise that put not the soul to open to him, though they put the person through other, are not to be fostered, nor laid much weight upon. 7. Though faith and duty differ, and the most active frame is not to be rested on without faith, yet activity in duty, and liveliness in the exercise of faith go together: as her rising and opening do, even as before, her lying still, and the keeping of him out, went together. Yea, 8. This activeness runs especially to perform what he called to: he called to open, and she accordingly riseth to open; which shews, that the penitent's activity doth principally bend itself towards those duties that Christ in a more especial manner calls for.
She proceeds to set down her experience which she found when she had risen, which is the third effect of the work of grace on her by Christ's putting in his hand: when she arose to open, her hands and fingers dropped 'sweet smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock:' she continues the comparison of opening a shut door, he, as it were, put in the key without, and she came to draw the handle or slot within (as is usual in some locks.) The door is the heart, as Psalm 24:7, called 'the everlasting doors:' The lock that closeth, is unbelief and security, indisposition and declining in the exercise of grace; whereby, as by a fast lock, Christ in his access to the heart is kept out: now she puts to her hands and fingers to the lock within, which imports her stirring herself again in the exercise of faith and diligence, being now arisen to open. Therefore by faith we are said to grip and take hold of Christ, and to work righteousness, and by it the heart is opened to him, as follows. This 'sweet smelling myrrh' that drops, is the flowing of habitual grace, which formerly was not vigorous and active, but now it flows and vents, and is to the heart as oil applied to moisten and make easy a rusted lock, to make it open without difficulty: this grace is ordinarily compared to myrrh, and the anointing typical oil was made of it and of other spices, Exod. 30:23. It is said here, to drop, from her 'fingers,' implying the active stirring of her faith; because when faith becomes lively, it puts all other graces to exercise, and thereby (as it were by oil) her former hardness and indisposition was softened and removed, and her heart made meet to act lively. In sum, it is this, that when she, in the exercise of faith and holiness, set herself seriously and effectually to make way for Christ, and to remove what formerly had kept him out, through her indisposition, unexpectedly she found, that by his putting in of his hand, it went much more easily and sweetly than she expected, all had been so anointed and quickened; and thus conduced to the opening of her heart, as dropping of oil doth to the easy opening of a lock: which shews, 1. That the work of grace upon the heart, being applied by Christ from without, doth leave an inward fitness on the heart within for the opening of itself to him: grace infused and quickened by Christ's Spirit, will make the most indisposed and secure heart to open to him heartsomely. 2. That though Christ apply grace from without to open the heart, yet will he have the heart formally opening itself to him; and though the heart open itself formally to him, yet it is by the virtue of his application from without; for, this putting to of her hand, and its dropping myrrh, is the effect of his putting in his hand first. 3. Often when the most spiritual and difficult duties (if it were even faith itself) are essayed, they will be found more easy than was expected, and none can tell how they will go with them, till they undertake and set about them. She, while lying in her security, thought it impossible to get this done, yet now it goes easily and sweetly with her. O! but when grace goes along and flows, the exercise of a duty is a sweet and easy work. 4. Although the exercise of grace make duties easy, and a supply of help be given thereby for doing of spiritual duties, yet the Lord will have the person essaying duty ere he find it so; nor can he find or expect that supply that will facilitate duties to him, till he first set himself about them, as she first rises to open before her fingers drop with myrrh. 5. Those that set themselves to open to Christ, and mind that singly from the sense of their need of him, and being affected for wronging of him, will not find grace wanting and deficient to help them; and by this all the mouths of unbelievers will be stopped, that are ready to say, and usually say, they had not grace to open. 6. Faith in exercise hath a great influence on the keeping of all other graces in a believer fresh and green; because it acts by Christ's strength, and therefore when it is in exercise, it makes all the rest to 'drop' as it were, with sweet smelling myrrh.'
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