|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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by James Durham
Verse 11. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.
12. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.
13. The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.
When she hath laid down this ground of her interest in him, she proceeds to improve it, verse 11, by giving him a kindly and familiar invitation, which she, first, qualifies in the end of the eleventh verse, and beginning of the twelfth, and then in what followeth, adds some motives to press it. The similitude of a loving wife's carriage to a kind husband is continued, as if such a loving wife, desirous of her husband's company, did invite him to the fields, thereby in a retired way to be solaced with his company, especially by going abroad with him in a pleasant spring time, and staying some nights in villages for that end, and that they might the more seriously and comfortably view the state of their orchards and gardens, which is both pleasant, profitable, and delightsome to be done in the husband's company, even so doth the Bride follow the similitude, to shew what she desired from Christ in desiring of his company, and for what end, to wit, both for the profit and comfort she expected to reap thereby.
The invitation she gives him, is, 'Come, my Beloved;' Come, is a word much used betwixt Christ and the believer, and is a kindly word. He saith, 'Come,' chap. 2:10, and now she useth the same word; her putting up this desire, expresseth a desire of communion and nearness with him, and also much affection, and is the language both of the Spirit and the Bride, who saith 'Come,' Rev. 22:17, here it imports a petition, pressing for a greater degree of communion, which, by comparing this with the former words, may be gathered; for, she possessed it in a good measure for the time, and yet here she saith, 'Come:' First, considering this invitation in itself, we may observe, that communion with Christ is the one, principal, and common suit of the believer, wherein he is never satisfied till it be perfected. Next, comparing these words with the preceding, Observe. 1. The more that Christ be manifested to his people, the more near they be admitted to him, and the better that their frame be, and the more clear they be anent their interest in him, the greater will their desire be of more near communion with him. 2. Clearness of interest in him, when it is solid, is a good ground to press for his fellowship, and still it presseth the person who hath it to pursue after more full manifestations of Christ. Again, considering these words as they respect his promise, verse 8, 'I said' (saith he) 'I will go up to the palm tree,' &c. Now she having heard it, layeth hold on this promise, and is not long in saying, 'Come.' Observe. 1. That believers should improve the promises they have, for attaining what is promised in them, and should not suffer promises to lie by them not made use of. 2. What is promised to a believer may, and should be prayed for by him. 3. Believers in their prayers and suits to Christ, should have a special respect to the promises, not only to conform their desires to them, but to ground them upon them. 4. The more tender believers be in their frame, they will the more carefully gather up all Christ's words and promises, and strengthen their faith thereby in their dealing with him.
Next, she contents not herself to put up this suit, but she further qualifies it, in several repeated petitions (whereby the ardency of her desire, and the strength of her faith doth appear) all which are recorded, both as a pattern to teach believers how they should carry in prayer, and also as evidences what will be their way and manner in that duty, when their spirit is in a good condition. The first qualification of the former petition is, 'Let us go forth into the field.' Going forth into the field, holds forth these two, 1. The extent of her desire, she would have him at home and abroad also, she desires not to go out of doors without him. 2. A desire of retiredness with him, that she might be alone in his company, as a wife going abroad to the fields alone with her husband, as Gen. 24:63, it is said, that 'Isaac went out to the fields to pray:' that is, that he might be the more retired in that duty. Observe. 1. That where desire of fellowship with Christ is right, it breathes after a walk with him every where, at home and abroad, they cannot endure to go out at doors, or to the fields without him. 2. Delight in Christ's company seeks to be retired with him, to be alone with him, to be freed from all other companies, and abstracted from all distraction, the more freely to be solaced with him.
Again, the pronoun, 'us,' 'let us go,' is not without good purpose added: it is not, go thou, nor, I will go; but, 'Let us go,' as bearing in it a double motive, and evidence of her affection. 1. That she offers herself to bear him company. Observe. When Christ's company is loved and respected, the soul will be content to leave all others, and go with him, for the entertaining of it. 2. It implies, that though she had an errand, and desire to be abroad yet, she could not endure to go about it without him; therefore (saith she) 'Let us go.' Observe. 1. The fields, and most pleasant recreations, are heartless and wearisome without Christ's company in the believer's esteem. 2. His company is the believer's great encouragement to undertake any thing, and that which makes his out-going and in-coming pleasant: she is content to go with him, and cannot aide to go without him. Lastly, It shews her respecting that which was her part in the exercise, as well as his, and her resolution to conform her practice to her prayers; for, as she desires him to go, so she is willing to go herself: if we would expect the answer of prayer, our practices should be like our prayers.
The second qualification is, 'Let us lodge in the villages.' Villages are rural, or land-ward places, by that name distinguished from towns or cities; in these, men travelling, or continuing a time in the fields for their recreation or business, do lodge, as retired from their ordinary vocations in cities. Her desire, 'let us lodge' in these (or, as the word is, let us night or dwell there) shews that she desired him abroad with her, nor for a piece of a day, to return at night, but for a greater length and continuance of time, as loving rather to lodge with him in the villages, and to take what might be had in his company, for lengthening their retirement, than to return hastily to the city, or business whereby she might be distracted, and in hazard of an interruption of her communion with him. Observe. 1. True desire of communion with Christ in the enjoyment of his presence, as it presseth for retiredness with him, so is it desirous to have that lengthened, and cannot endure to think of parting with him, when it gets him in a corner. 2. A back-side, or a corner alone with Christ's company, is good lodging to a lover of Christ: solitariness with his presence, is more frequented and delighted in by such, than more public fellowship and societies.
In the twelfth verse we have some more qualifications of her petition, and some of the motives, that press her to seek after Christ's company. The third qualification is in these words, 'Let us go up early to the vineyards:' the similitude is continued, but this word 'early,' is added, and it implies (as it is used in scripture,) 1. Timeliness, so the women came to Christ's grave 'early,' Luke 24:1, 'while it was dark.' 2. Seasonableness, so it is taken in that expression, 'the Lord will help, and that right early,' Psalm 46:5. 3. Seriousness, so Hos. 5:15. 'They shall seek me early,' that is, seriously. Here it implieth, that she, as one impatient of delays, desires to go with expedition, and for that end offers him her company. Observe. 1. Sincere desire of fellowship with Christ cannot endure delays, but would presently be at enjoyment. 2. There is a season of earliness, a fit opportunity of keeping company with Christ, and that should not be neglected. 3. As privacy is a great friend to communion with Christ, so is earliness and timeliness in setting to it: the more early one begin, they may expect to speed the better. 4. As no duty should be put off, or delayed, so especially this great and concerning duty of endeavouring for fellowship with Christ, should by no means be delayed or shifted, but early and promptly should be gone about.
The fourth qualification follows in the motives, that she might see how the several fruits budded: and it shews, that she desired not his company only for her satisfaction, but, for her profit also, that thereby she might he helped to thrive in her spiritual condition, and might be enabled the better to do her duty.
Observe. A sincere and right desire of communion with Christ, studieth to improve it for spiritual advantage, when it is attained, So then, all these put together, shew, that she desires Christ's presence retiredly, constantly, promptly, and in order to her spiritual advantage and profit: this last will appear more in the motives, especially the first. This is indeed a main desire, and therefore, in what follows she presseth it with motives, which put her to it, and also (as being well pleasing to him) give her ground to expect it from him and though she useth these motives, as if they were arguments to induce him to grant her desire, yet they are mainly for strengthening her own faith in pressing her suit. The using of motives, and her thus qualifying of her desire, with, that believers in their petitions, should insist and press them: for, although Christ be not informed by words, nor persuaded by our arguments, yet this both helps to warm the affections, and strengthen the faith of the believer himself, and is becoming believers in their prayers to him, who calls for, and admits of reasonable service. The motives in particular are four, the first is taken from the end of her petition, which is to see how her graces prosper: the similitude continues, as a wife intending to visit her husbandry (to say so) is helped and encouraged therein by her husband's presence, and therefore desires his company; so, the believer hath a husbandry, 'vineyards, grapes, pomegranates,' and divers plants to oversee, which are the graces of the Spirit, and divers duties committed to him (as was said upon chap. 4:12,13, and 6:11,) and his visiting of these, is the taking of a reflect view of himself, in an abstracted retired condition, that thereby he may be distinctly acquainted how it is with him, and with his graces: in following of which duty, Christ's presence in some secret corner is exceeding helpful; therefore, for that end doth the Bride seek it, and makes use of this motive to press it, because it is a duty of concernment to her to search herself; it is pleasing to him, and a thing that she would be at, yet, cannot win to it in a common ordinary frame, it is so difficult; therefore doth she propose this (which is her end) as that which would be respected and well taken off her hand by him. Observe. 1. Believers have a task, and husbandry committed to them to manage, that is, several duties and graces, holden forth under the similitude of 'vines, pomegranates,' &c. which they are carefully to notice. 2. It is necessary, in the managing of this task, for a believer to be well acquainted with the condition of his graces, and it is his duty to be reflecting on himself for that end; and if men ought to look to the state of their flocks and herds, Prov. 27:23, how much more ought they carefully to look to this. 3. This duty should be purposely, retiredly, and deliberately intended, undertaken, and gone about, with a resolute design for attaining to the discovery of her own case, as she doth here. 4. This duty hath difficulties in it, and ordinarily the heart is not prevailed with to be kept serious about it, except the frame thereof be more tender than ordinary. 5. To a tender believer it will be a great favour to get this duty of self-examination profitably and unbiassedly discharged it is a mercy worth the seeking from God, and the more tender believers be, they will be the more in this. 6. Although believers be clear as to their interest (as the Bride was, verse 10,) yet may they be indistinct as to the knowledge of their own condition, and therefore ought not to neglect this duty of self-examination: but where clearness is solid, they will be the more careful in the searching of themselves. 7. Christ's presence, as it is a notable help to all duties, so particularly it is in a special way helpful to believers in searching themselves, by making the heart willing and pliable, to follow it sweetly, by discovering things as they are, and by making the eye single, rightly to judge of every thing, and impartially to take with that which is discovered: much presence should encourage the Lord's people to follow this duty, which otherwise is gone about in a heartless way. 8. It is a good use of Christ's presence and company, when it is improved for attaining of more thorough and distinct knowledge of our own condition; and then especially believers should take the opportunity of putting themselves to trial. 9. A believer, when tender, will be particular in his search. He will search even to the least, he will not disapprove any thing of God's grace that is real, although it be weak and tender, therefore she looks to buds, as well as more mature fruit, and acknowledgeth them, because Christ doth so, chap. 6:11. 10. Believers promise not much in themselves, or, they expect not great things anent their own fruitfulness; therefore, it is to see what is budding or appearing, rather than what is ripe, which she proposeth here to herself, as her design. 11. A tender believer will esteem much of little grace where it is real, a bud is much to him, if it look fruit-like, as it is the evidence of Christ's Spirit in him, and the work of his grace: he that is humble will have a high esteem of it, though he expect no great thing, nor yet think much of it, as it is inherent in him, yet he will not cast what is least, if solid. 12. The more tender one is, he will be the more desirous to search his own condition, as being unsatisfied with what he hath attained. Again, if we compare this with chap. 6:11, where it is said 'He went down to his garden' for this very end, for which she desires his presence; we may see, 1. A co-incidence betwixt Christ's work and the believer's (to say so) they have one task. 2. A going alongst both of their ends and ways to attain them; he takes pains on his people by the means of his grace to make them fruitful, and they diligently haunt and improve the means for that same end, And, Christ's words are near the same with hers, the more to strengthen their faith in obtaining what she sought, when it so concurred with his design: a believer that aims at fruitfulness and tenderness by Christ's company in the means and ordinances, may expect to obtain his desire; for, that same is his work, which he drives by the means of grace amongst his people.
The second motive which makes her press for Christ's company in this retired way, is in these words, 'There will I give thee my loves;' that is (in short) as in retirements the Bridegroom and the Bride rejoice together, in the expressions of their mutual love, with more than ordinary familiarity: so (saith she) let me have thy company continued with me, that thereby my heart being warmed, I may get opportunity to let out my love in a lively manner on thee. By 'loves' here, love simply is not meant, but love in the highest degree of it, manifesting itself in the most sensible manner, when the heart is melted, as it were, and made free to pour out itself in love to him: it is therefore called 'loves' in the plural number, to shew the many ways it will vent itself, as, in thoughts delightsomely making the heart glad, in cheerful exulting in him, and affectionate embracing him in its arms, feeding and delighting on him, and such like ways; there is nothing kept up from him, and all doors, whereby love useth to vent, are opened. While she saith, 'I will give thee my loves,' it is not to be understood, as if then she would begin to love him, (for, the thing that made her put up this suit was her love to him) but that then she would with more freedom do it, and with ease and delight get it done, which now would not do for her, (till his presence warned her) at least in the manner she would be at. The word, 'there,' that in the latter relates to the 'fields, villages,' &c. is to be understood of that retirement in fellowship, which she desired with him; in the scope it looks to his secret manifesting of himself to her, in admitting of her to his bosom; O! saith she, come, my heart longs to be near thee; and this advantage I expect from it, I would then get my heart drawn from idols, and my affections engaged unto thee, which in thy absence I cannot get done so as I would: as a person cannot vent love so in company, as when he is alone in solitariness with his bosom friend: thus Joseph, being to manifest his love to his brethren, Gen. 45:1, commanded all to go out, that so he might with the greater freedom let forth his affections on them: and as Jonathan sent away his boy, when he was to embrace David in the fields, 1. Sam. 20:40, &c. so here, the secret manifestations of Christ, by his Spirit to his people, being that which gives them liberty to let forth their hearts on him, especially in their unknown access to him, to which no man is witness, are by this word 'there,' signified. Observe. 1. There are many more good things than one which accompanies Christ's presence: and where love is in a believer's heart, there will be no scarcity of arguments to hold forth the advantage thereof. 2. As there are some more than ordinary manifestations of love from Christ to his people, which are not constant; so, there are some more than ordinary flowings of the love of believers towards him; there are some times, and cases, wherein especially the heart will melt in affection to him, and wherein it will be made to pour out itself with ease and delight upon him. 3. It's no less the desire of believers to love Christ, and to have their affections flowing on him, than to have the manifestations of his love to them; therefore speaks she of this as of a benefit she exceedingly desired, to get leave to pour her heart out in love upon him. 4. Believers that love Christ, will not be satisfied with the degree of their own love, but will be desirous to have it more withdrawn from other things, and more fully venting on him. 5. Altho' sometimes, yea, oftentimes, the believer's heart comes not up that length in love to Christ that he would have it, yet he designs to set it on Christ alone, and there is none that willingly he gives it unto with consent but Christ, it is on him only he allows it. 6. There is no greater gift can be given to Christ, than his people's love; this is therefore the motive that is proposed by the Bride in her dealing with him, as holding forth the propine or entertainment which he should receive. 7. Christ's presence, and the manifestations of his love conduceth notably unto, and hath great influence upon, the gaining of our affections to him; it doth not only, (as it were) give us the opportunity of his company, but it gains the heart, softens it, ravisheth it, and heightens the esteem of Christ in it, (which no report of him can do so effectually as his own presence) and also it oileth all the affections, that they have a freedom to flow out (like the ice before the sun) which otherwise are key-cold. 8. Love to Christ, loves solitariness and retirements with him; it is neither so stirred itself as when it is alone with him, nor are the men of the world able to bear, or understand the intimate familiarity, that will be in the flowings of the love of Christ to a believer, or of a believer's liberty and holy boldness with Christ; nor were it meet, that they should be witnesses of the love-secrets that are betwixt him and them. 9. It is an evidence of single love to Christ, when his presence is longed for, that we may the more ardently and affectionately love him, and when all opportunities are sought for that may increase this; this is singleness and spiritualness in a great length, when this makes us glory in Christ's love to us, and desire the manifestations thereof, that we may have access thereby to love him: a believer will love heaven, because there he will have access fully to love Christ, as well as to be loved of him; and will abhor hell, not only because there are no intimations of Christ's love there, but also because there is no access to love him there: to get the heart loving Christ is indeed the believer's great delight, and in a manner his heaven. 10. Love in a believer to Christ, is the result or reflex of Christ's love to him, it is the sun which begets this heat in the soul that loves him: and the more brightly he shines on believers, the more is their love hot toward him; for 'here is love, not that we loved him, but that be loved us' first. 11. It's an evidence of true love to Christ, and esteem of him, when the heart is longing, praying and using means that it may love him, and get its love to him heightened till it be all bestowed on him allenarly.
In the thirteenth verse, we have the third and fourth motives, whereby the Bride presseth her suit: the third is, 'The mandrakes give a smell,' &c. It is like that motive which he useth in pressing her to hearken to his call, chap. 2:12, 'The flowers appear on the earth,' &c. The graces of the Spirit, growing up (as in a garden) in the believer's walk with Christ, are like flowers in the spring, which by their pleasantness and savour, invite men to the fields: thus the sense of this motive comes to this, all things (saith the Bride) are in a good condition, and there is a thriving amongst my graces, which are for pleasantness as flowers; therefore come. This avowing of the flourishing of her graces, is not from any vain boasting, but in humble sincerity, acknowledging what she found in herself to his praise, and what she knew to be acceptable to him, as a confirmation to her faith in the expectation of what she prayed for; for (which is a lesson we should learn) although the goodness of our condition can merit nothing which we pray for, yet, it may give us confidence and boldness in prayer, when we have a good conscience and testimony within us, I John 3:20, this fruitfulness of hers is four ways set forth, 1. That these her fruits are ripe, and in their flower, 'the mandrakes give a smell:' mandrakes were much longed for by Rachel, Gen. 30:14, and by their savouriness of taste there, and of smell here, it appears that they were some lovely fruit, and now in their prime most pleasant, because they give their smell. 2. Her fruitfulness is set forth in its comprehensiveness and variety, she is adorned 'with all manner of pleasant fruits;' whereby is holden forth, that as believers have many divers graces, like variety of spices, chap. 4:13,14, which they should entertain, so all of them were in good case with her. 3. These fruits were 'new and old,' whereby the plenty of the same kind is set forth, both (to say so) of this and the former year's growth; whereby is signified, a thriving or increase of the believer's grace, there being a new degree of faith and love, &c. of this year, added to the former degree she attained before: she preserves the old, and she brings forth new, as Matt. 13:52, the scribe, taught in the kingdom of God, 'brings out things new and old;' he hath the old stock, and the new increase, the talents that were given him, and five more gained by them. 4. These fruits are said to be 'at our gates;' this looks most simply to signify this, that it is pleasant to have such fruits at the doors, and it betokens a frequency or plenty, and great abundanoe of them, when not only in the garden, but at the gates they so abound; so this abounding of grace in a believer, makes (to say so) Christ's entry savoury and pleasant, and shews, that all things are in a good readiness for him, as the last motive (that they are laid up for him, even while they are at the gates) doth shew: in sum, all things (saith she) are in readiness, and for thee only my beloved; although not in perfection, yet in sincerity, provision is made for thy entertainment.
Observe. 1. There are many various kinds of graces in a believer; and when it's right with one, or when one of them is thriving, it is ordinarily so with all. 2. Grace hath its growth, and should be increased by new additions, where it is begun; and when it goes well with the believer, there will be of these spiritual fruits, 'both new and old.' 3. There is no keeping in good case of the old stock of grace, but by continuing and growing in fruitfulness; where the old is preserved, there will be found new also, otherwise, what seemed once to blossom, becomes almost withered. 4. Those who are seriously desirous of Christ's, company, should be making ready for him, by liveliness of all manner of graces, new and old; and they who aim at such a condition, may with some confidence expect his presence and company. 5. Believers who seriously, tenderly, and humbly follow holiness, may attain a great length in it, as this expression of her case signifies: and therefore, the blame is only our own, that our attainments in grace are so small.
The last motive is in the last words, these are the fruits (saith she) 'which I have laid up for thee, O my Beloved;' these fruits are many, and at the doors, yet they are laid up for him; they are then such fruits, as are reserved for Christ. And this motive completes the former, whereby having asserted her fruitfulness, lest she should seem to boast of it, that her graces did so abound, whatever increase they have made, O my Beloved (saith she) I have devoted them to thee; they shall not be for my own satisfaction or boast, but for thy glory; therefore (saith she) come: as one would say, I have such good fruits of purpose kept for thee, which no other shall share of, and therefore I invite thee to come and enjoy them which is a kind invitation, turning over the acknowledgment of what she had on Christ, as indeed belonging to him, and as only to be made use of for his honour: so then, to lay up, signifies, 1. A carefulness and solicitousness, carefully to gather together as covetous worldly men use to lay up riches, and to gather them together. 2. It signifies the success which she had in her endeavour, that there was much gathered, a store of fruits, as in a treasure; so we find laying up, to have this sense, Psalm 31:19, 'How great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up,' as it were in store, &c. 3. It signifies a setting apart of that store from common uses, as men do what they lay up, and a reserving of it for some peculiar use. And the peculiar uses for which she laid them up, follows in these words, 'for thee, O my beloved!' which implies, 1. That in her gathering and storing up, respect was had to Christ; and that her provision was not to rest herself upon it, but to honour him with it. 2. That even when it was attained, she was denied to it, and did not look upon it as if it could be any stock to herself to live upon, but that she had prepared it as an offering to present or entertain him with: even as a kind wife would provide what might be for the husband's refreshment and honour, and would be still laying up for his return, aiming singly to satisfy and entertain him with it; (so saith the Bride) this store is for satisfying and honouring of thee, and for thee only, O my Beloved! It is for thy cause, because thou commandest it, lovest it, and art honoured by it. 'O my Beloved,' is added, to shew how affectionately she insisted in this discourse; and in particular, how well bestowed she thought all that she had laid up was, when it was bestowed upon him; 'O my Beloved!' it is for thee, and I have willingly and affectionately laid it up, for that use, therefore come and lodge, and dwell with me, which is the scope. Observe. 1. Increasing in fruitfulness, or growing in holiness, is a work that will not be done in one day; but it will take time, and both carefulness and diligence to gather together and lay up these spiritual fruits. 2. When Christ is absent to sense, it is a suitable and seasonable duty to be laying up provision by fruitfulness in holiness, for his coming and return: or, when Christ seems not presently to come and accept of a believer's prayers, duties, or graces, yet are they not to be rejected, and cast at, as null and useless; nor is the believer to desist from performing of them, but to continue and persevere in stirring himself up in the exercise of graces and duties, until he come. 3. Although Christ come not at the first, but suffer many of the believer's duties, and the exercise of his graces (if we may say so) to lie long on his hand, yet they are not lost, but laid up (and grace is no ill treasure) and Christ will one time or other come and make good use of them. 4. It is no less practick (to say so) or it is no less difficult in believers' walk, to reserve what store they have gathered for Christ's use alone, and to be denied to it themselves, than to get duties performed, and spiritual provision laid up. 5. It is not enough to do duties, and to lay up fruits, unless they be laid up for Christ; and this is no less a duty than the former. 6. It is no small attainment in a believer, and a strong motive for attaining of Christ's company (without which all will be nothing) when not only he hath store of fruits, and is painful in holiness, but also is denied to these, as to any use-making of them for his own ends, more than if he had never been taken up in attaining them, and when he reserves the praise of them to Christ Jesus alone, that they may be subservient to his honour; this laying up of fruits for him, is opposite to the laying up for ourselves, as living, eating, fasting, &c. to him, 2 Cor. 5:15; Zech. 7:5, 6, are opposite to living, eating, fasting to ourselves, which in God's account is to be as an empty vine, Hos. 10:l. 7. Grace is of a durable nature, it can keep, or it will endure laying up; all other treasures are fading; if men lay them up, they will rust and canker; but, the laying up of this spiritual treasure, which makes men rich in good works is profitable, commendable; and the riches thereby treasured up, are most durable.
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