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by James Durham
DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM.
Verse 9. What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
In this 9th verse, is the third part of the chapter, where the daughters of Jerusalem are brought in speaking; where we may see what effect the Bride's serious charge had upon them: it someway surpriseth and astonisheth them, to see a person convincingly approvable in her carriage, so taken up with that which the most part of the world slights; this makes them think that he whom she asketh for, must be a person beyond ordinary, and in this they conclude right: there is much infirmity in this question (as often many professors are upon the matter really ignorant of Christ's worth) yet some honest-like things (at least) are in it. There is, 1. Respect to her as a beautiful and goodly person, even when she was thought little of by the watchmen. 2. Docileness, and a desire to know. 3. Some suspicion of their own knowledge of Christ: and, 4. Ingenuity in seeking help. All which, are good symptoms in beginners; and we will see that the question ended well with them, chap. 6:1, and it is like was awakened in them by her serious carriage. The return they make to her charge hath in it, 1. The title they gave her. 2. The question they propose to her. 3. The rise of it, or that which gives them occasion to ask, and which puts them to it. The title is excellent, 'O thou fairest among women:' it was given to the Bride by Christ himself, chap. 1:8. It implies, 1. A spiritual beauty in her who now was thought little of by the watchmen, and had her own crosses in the world, yet even in this case lovely in herself, and lovely to those daughters, Observe. 1. That believers should be eminently convincing, and commendable in their carriage even before others; they should be fairest among them, and for spiritual beauty conspicuous, as lights shining in a dark place. 2. Grace, when seriously in exercise, is that which makes any person (though outwardly mean and contemptible) truly beautiful and lovely: it makes them so really, and also in the eyes of all spiritual beholders. 3. Sometimes God will make honest seekers of him the more lovely to others, when corrupt ministers seek most to defame them: the watchmen's wounding her, mars not the daughters' estimation of her; and this shews that they did smite her without reason. Again, 2. It implies respectfulness on their part, and also honesty; for there is now no external thing to commend her to them: which saith, 1. That to the spiritual eye of honest souls, none will be so beautiful as the person that is holy; yea, sometimes holiness will have a commendation in the consciences even of them that are strangers to it. 2. Often holiness may be more esteemed of, and holy persons more respectfully dealt with, by men of little either knowledge or profession, than by those who may be much more knowing, and whose station and place calls them to be much more tender; the Bride here is like the wounded person, Luke 10:31, &c. whom the Samaritan succoured, when both the Priest and the Levite had passed by him. 3. Where grace shines, it should be highly esteemed of and respected; and such as are but babes in Christ, ought much to reverence those that are of older standing. 4. Tender souls when under exercise, if we can do no more to ease them, should he respectfully spoken unto at least: these daughters do not wound the Bride, as the watchmen did, but speak discreetly and respectfully unto her, although they can further her little. 5. The right use of freedom, and seriousness with humility in mutual fellowship, is a great help to entertain mutual respect among professors; when the weak see the strong ones not puffed up, but condescending to take their help, it will conciliate love and respect: thus the daughters meet the Bride here with respectful carriage. 6. Respectful expressions of one professor to another, with gravity and seriousness, becomes Christian fellowship well; and is a great furtherance of edification and mutual confidence; so we see here, and chap. 6:1, as also in the Bride's expressions preceding.
2. The question propounded by them is, 'What is thy Beloved?' as scarce knowing him, or acquainted with him themselves: it is not spoken out of disdain, but out of desire to know, being convinced that there behoved to be some excellency in him, beyond others, as the following effects clear. The question is proposed by way of comparison, and doubled, 'What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?' or 'the beloved of another?' By beloved, all along is understood that which the soul loves and cleaves unto; therefore Christ is sometimes designed by the one name, the soul's love; and sometimes by the other, the Beloved, as we may see by comparing chap. 3:1,2,3, with chap. 2:16,17, because he eminently and above competition had the Bride's heart. By other beloveds are understood these things that men of the world set their love and affections upon, and which bear most sway with them, as that which in a singular manner their souls love; the same that ordinarily are called idols, because they are put in God's room; there is the same reason here, why they are called other beloveds, and strange lovers elsewhere: such are the belly, Phil. 3:19, the world, 1 John 2:15,16, 'Love not the world, nor the things of it,' &c. 'the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life:' so it is as they had said, there are many things which the men of the world seek after, it is none of all these that this Bride is enquiring for, she rests not satisfied with these, nor valueth them; he must then be some excellent person, a singular and non-such Beloved, that she is so serious in the enquiry after, and therefore they desire to know from herself what he is. The question is doubled as being the result of a serious desire to know, and of high admiration, what he might be, who was thus enquired for.
3. The words added, shew what is the rise of their question and wondering, to wit, these, 1. 'That thou doest so charge us:' every word hath weight, it is 'thou,' the 'fairest among women,' who certainly can make the best choice. 2. Thou art not only in earnest thyself, but chargest us also. And, 3. Not only thou chargest us, but so vehemently, pressing, and weightily; this sure must be some excellent Beloved. This question carrieth in it not so much an enquiry who is the believer's choice, as their desire to know what Christ was indeed, in respect of his real worth, whose name only (or little more) they knew before; therefore they say not, who is, but what is thy Beloved? As knowing his name, but being much ignorant of his worth. Again, it supposeth such a question to be moved by these professors, upon occasion of her exemplary carriage; and indeed it cannot be told, what thoughts, serious challenges, and exercising questions the convincing carriage of believers will have amongst those with whom they christianly converse; and so it shews, that this seriousness in one may put others to it, to question what the matter may be, and through God's blessing may commend Christ to them in the end, which is the scope.
Observe. 1. There may be some respect to godly persons, where there is much ignorance of Christ himself. 2. Where there is esteem of godliness and of those who study it, there is some begun enquiry for Christ himself, and it leads on to further, although the beginnings be weak. 3. True tenderness in beginners, appears in nothing sooner than in respect to those who were in Christ before them; they are now but beginning, yet this shews itself in the respect they carry to the Bride. 4. It is no shame for those that are unacquainted with Christ, to enquire for him at such as know him. 5. What Christ is, and the necessity of praying for others, is a suitable subject of discourse in Christian fellowship. What is Christ say they to her; and pray for me, saith she to them. 6. Christ's name may be known to many to whom his worth is unknown, or but little known, and who are not acquainted with what he is. 7. All men naturally have some lust, idol, or beloved, that their affection is set upon besides Christ; it is some other thing, from which he is distinguished, and to which he is opposed. 8. Men lay out their affections liberally upon their idols, and upon those things their hearts cleave unto besides Christ; they are beloveds, and opposed to Christ, as being that to the men of the world, that Christ is to his own; they are as Gods and Christs to them, they run so mad upon their idols and are so joined to them, Hos. 4:17, men naturally have an high esteem of their idols, as placing some worth in them which is not, and they have a low esteem of Christ, and prefer their idols to him. 9. This mistake is a great cause of Christ's being slighted in the world, that they think other beloveds as good as he, and other lives as good as the life of holiness; therefore they go to the farm, plough, market, and make light of Christ, Matt. 22:4. 10. The questioning of this grand principle of corrupt nature, that Christ is no better than other beloveds, or the enquiring whether he be indeed better than these, is one of the first rises of a soul's making forward to enquire for him. 11. The growing of the esteem of Christ in a soul, and the decay of the esteem of all idols (formerly beloveds) go together; as the one stands, the other falls, as the one grows, the other decays. 12. The right up-taking of Christ's worth, is the great thing that commends Christ to a soul (therefore the Bride describes him afterward) and the thorough conviction of the vanity of all other things looseth the grips of our affections from them, and makes way for setting Christ more high. 13. The convincing carriage of a believer may stir and raise an exercise in those that formerly were secure: and God can make the words of a private humble Christian, the rise of a serious enquiry after Christ in another; thus her serious charging of them doth so stick to them, as if that word, 'I charge you,' had pierced them. 14. Nothing more adorns the gospel, and commends Christ, and makes him lovely to others, than the convincing, serious carriage of believers. 15. Those who are not acquaint with Christ's worth, or the exercises of believers, are ready to wonder what moves them and puts them to make such a stir about Christ, more than others, that five satisfied and contented without him.
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