In this chapter, I. Christ speaks both concerning himself and
concerning his church (v. 1, 2). II. The church speaks 1. Remembering the
pleasure and satisfaction she has in communion with Christ (v. 3, 4). 2.
Entertaining herself with the present tokens of his favour and taking care that
nothing happen to intercept them (v. 5-7). 3. Triumphing in his approaches
towards her (v. 8, 9). 4. Repeating the gracious calls he had given her to go
along with him a walking, invited by the pleasures of the returning spring (v.
10-13), out of her obscurity (v. 14), and the charge he had given to the
servants to destroy that which would be hurtful to his vineyard (v. 15). 5.
Rejoicing in her interest in him (v. 16). 6. Longing for his arrival (v. 17).
Those whose hearts are filled with love to Christ, and hope of heaven, know best
what these things mean.
See here, I. What Christ is pleased to compare himself to; and
he condescends very much in the comparison. He that is the Son of the Highest,
the bright and morning star, calls and owns himself the rose of Sharon, and
the lily of the valleys, to express his presence with his people in this
world, the easiness of their access to him, and the beauty and sweetness which
they find in him, and to teach them to adorn themselves with him, as shepherds
and shepherdesses, when they appeared gay, were decked with roses and lilies,
garlands and chaplets of flowers. The rose, for beauty and fragrance, is
the chief of flowers, and our Saviour prefers the clothing of the lily
before that of Solomon in all his glory. Christ is the rose of Sharon,
where probably the best roses grew and in most plenty, the rose of the field
(so some), denoting that the gospel salvation is a common salvation; it lies
open to all; whoever will may come and gather the rose-buds of privileges and
comforts that grow in the covenant of grace. He is not a rose locked up in a
garden, but all may come and receive benefit by him and comfort in him. He is a lily
for whiteness, a lily of the valleys for sweetness, for those which we
call so yield a strong perfume. He is a lily of the valleys, or low
places, in his humiliation, exposed to injury. Humble souls see most beauty
in him. Whatever he is to others, to those that are in the valleys he is
a lily. He is the rose, the lily; there is none besides. Whatever
excellence is in Christ, it is in him singularly and in the highest degree.
II. What he is pleased to compare his church to, v. 2. 1. She is
as a lily; he himself is the lily (v. 1), she is as the lily.
The beauty of believers consists in their conformity and resemblance to Jesus
Christ. They are his love, and so they are as lilies, for those are made like
Christ in whose hearts his love is shed abroad. 2. As a lily among
thorns, as a lily compared with thorns. The church of Christ as far
excels all other societies as a bed of roses excels a bush of thorns. As a
lily compassed with thorns. The wicked, the daughters of this
world, such as have no love to Christ, are as thorns, worthless and
useless, good for nothing but to stop a gap; nay, they are noxious and hurtful;
they came in with sin and are a fruit of the curse; they choke good seed, and
hinder good fruit, and their end is to be burned. God's people are as
lilies among them, scratched and torn, shaded and obscured, by them; they
are dear to Christ, and yet exposed to hardships and troubles in the world; they
must expect it, for they are planted among thorns (Eze. 2:6), but they
are nevertheless dear to him; he does not overlook nor undervalue any of his
lilies for their being among thorns, When they are among thorns
they must still be as lilies, must maintain their innocency and purity,
and, though they are among thorns, must not be turned into thorns,
must not render railing for railing, and, if they thus preserve their
character, they shall be still owned as conformable to Christ. Grace in the soul
is a lily among thorns; corruptions are thorns in the flesh (2 Co.
12:7), are as Canaanites to God's Israel (Jos. 23:13); but the lily
that is now among thorns shall shortly be transplanted out of this
wilderness into that paradise where there is no pricking brier nor grieving
thorn, Eze. 28:24.
Here, I. The spouse commends her beloved and prefers him before
all others: As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, which perhaps
does not grow so high, nor spread so wide, as some other trees, yet is useful
and serviceable to man, yielding pleasant and profitable fruit, while the other
trees are of little use, no, not the cedars themselves, till they are cut down, so
is my beloved among the sons, so far does he excel them all,
sons of God, the angels (that honour was put upon him which was never
designed for them, Heb. 1:4),
all the sons of men; he is fairer
than them all, fairer than the choicest of them, Ps. 45:2. Name what creature
you will, and you will find Christ has the pre-eminence above them all. The
world is a barren tree to a soul; Christ is a fruitful one.
II. She remembers the abundant comfort she has had in communion
with him: She sat down by him with great delight, as shepherds
sometimes repose themselves, sometimes converse with one another, under a tree.
A double advantage she found in sitting down so near the Lord Jesus:-1. A
refreshing shade: I sat down under his shadow, to be sheltered by him
from the scorching heat of the sun, to be cooled, and so to take some rest.
Christ is to believers as the shadow of a great tree, nay, of a great
rock in a weary land, Isa. 32:2; 25:4. When a poor soul is parched with
convictions of sin and the terrors of the law, as David (Ps. 32:4), when
fatigued with the troubles of this world, as Elijah when he sat down under a
juniper tree (1 Ki. 19:4), they find that in Christ, in his name, his
graces, his comforts, and his undertaking for poor sinners, which revives them
and keeps them from fainting; those that are weary and heavily laden may
find rest in Christ. It is not enough to pass by this shadow, but
we must sit down under it (here will I dwell, for I have desired it);
and we shall find it not like Jonah's gourd, that soon withered, and left him
in a heat, both inward and outward, but like the tree of life, the leaves
whereof were not only for shelter, but for the healing of the nations. We must sit
down under this shadow with delight, must put an entire confidence in the
protection of it (as Judges 9:15), and take an entire complacency in the
refreshment of it. But that is not all: 2. Here is pleasing nourishing food.
This tree drops its fruits to those that sit down under its shadow, and
they are welcome to them, and will find them sweet unto their taste,
whatever they are to others. Believers have tasted that the Lord Jesus is gracious
(1 Pt. 2:3); his fruits are all the precious privileges of the new
covenant, purchased by his blood and communicated by his Spirit. Promises are
sweet to a believer, yea, and precepts too. I delight in the law of God after
the inward man. Pardons are sweet, and peace of conscience is sweet,
assurances of God's love, joys of the Holy Ghost, the hopes of eternal life,
and the present earnests and foretastes of it are sweet, all sweet to those that
have their spiritual senses exercised. If our mouths be put out of taste for the
pleasure of sin, divine consolations will be sweet to our taste, sweeter than
honey and the honeycomb.
III. She owns herself obliged to Jesus Christ for all the
benefit and comfort she had in communion with him (v. 4): "I sat down
under the apple-tree, glad to be there, but he admitted me, nay, he pressed
me, to a more intimate communion with him: Come in, thou blessed of the Lord,
why standest thou without? He brought me to the house of wine, the
place where he entertains his special friends, from lower to higher measures and
degrees of comfort, from the fruit of the apple tree to the more generous
fruit of the vine."
To him that values the divine joys he has
more shall be given. One of the rabbin by the banqueting-house
understands the tabernacle of the congregation, where the interpretation of
the law was given; surely we may apply it to Christian assemblies, where the
gospel is preached and gospel-ordinances are administered, particularly the Lord's
supper, that banquet of wine, especially to the inside of those
ordinances, communion with God in them. Observe, 1. How she was introduced: "He
brought me, wrought in me an inclination to draw nigh to God, helped me over
my discouragements, took me by the hand, guided and led me, and gave me an access
with boldness to God as a Father,"
Eph. 2:18. We should never have
come into the banqueting-house, never have been acquainted with spiritual
pleasures, if Christ had not brought us, by opening for us a new and living way
and opening in us a new and living fountain. 2. How she was entertained: His
banner over me was love; he brought me in with a banner displayed over my
head, not as one he triumphed over, but as one he triumphed in, and whom he
always caused to triumph with him and in him, 2 Co. 2:14. The gospel is compared
to a banner or ensign (Isa. 11:12), and that which is represented
in the banner, written in it in letters of gold, letters of blood, is love,
love; and this is the entertainment in the banqueting-house. Christ
is the captain of our salvation, and he enlists all his soldiers under
the banner of love; in that they centre; to that they must continually
have an eye, and be animated by it. The love of Christ must constrain
them to fight manfully. When a city was taken the conqueror set up his standard
in it. "He has conquered me with his love, overcome me with kindness, and
that is the banner over me."
This she speaks of as what she had
formerly had experience of, and she remembers it with delight. Eaten bread must
not be forgotten, but remembered with thankfulness to that God who has fed us
with manna in this wilderness.
IV. She professes her strong affection and most passionate love
to Jesus Christ (v. 5): I am sick of love, overcome, overpowered, by it.
David explains this when he says (Ps. 119:20), My soul breaks for the longing
that it has unto thy judgments, and (v. 81), My soul faints for thy
salvation, languishing with care to make it sure and fear of coming short of
it. The spouse was now absent perhaps from her beloved, waiting for his return,
and cannot bear the grief of distance and delay. Oh how much better it is with
the soul when it is sick of love to Christ than when it is surfeited with
the love of this world! She cries out for cordials: "Oh stay me with
flagons, or ointments, or flowers, any thing that is reviving;
comfort me with apples, with the fruits of that apple-tree, Christ
(v. 3), with the merit and meditation of Christ and the sense of his love to my
Note, Those that are sick of love to Christ shall not want
spiritual supports, while they are yet waiting for spiritual comforts.
V. She experiences the power and tenderness of divine grace,
relieving her in her present faintings, v. 6. Though he seemed to have
withdrawn, yet he was even then a very present help, 1. To sustain the love-sick
soul, and to keep it from fainting away: "His left hand is under my
head, to bear it up, nay, as a pillow to lay it easy."
experienced God's hand upholding him then when his soul was following hard
after God (Ps. 63:8), and Job in a state of desertion yet found that God put
strength into him, Job 23:6. All his saints are in his hand, which
tenderly holds their aching heads. 2. To encourage the love-sick soul to
continue waiting till he returns: "For, in the mean time, his right hand
embraces me, and thereby gives me an unquestionable assurance of his love."
Believers owe all their strength and comfort to the supporting left hand and
embracing right hand of the Lord Jesus.
VI. Finding her beloved thus nigh unto her she is in great care
that her communion with him be not interrupted (v. 7): I charge you, O you
daughters of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the mother of us all, charges all her
daughters, the church charges all her members, the believing soul charges all
its powers and faculties, the spouse charges herself and all about her, not to stir
up, or awake, her love until he please, now that he is asleep in her arms,
as she was borne up in his, v. 6. She gives them this charge by the roes and
the hinds of the field, that is, by every thing that is amiable in their
eyes, and dear to them, as the loving hind and the pleasant roe. "My
love is to me dearer than those can be to you, and will be disturbed, like them,
with a very little noise."
Note, 1. Those that experience the sweetness of
communion with Christ, and the sensible manifestations of his love, cannot but
desire the continuance of these blessed views, these blessed visits. Pester
would make tabernacles upon the holy mount, Mt. 17:4. 2. Yet Christ will, when
he pleases, withdraw those extraordinary communications of himself, for he is a
free-agent, and the Spirit, as the wind, blows where and when it
listeth, and in his pleasure it becomes us to acquiesce. But, 3. Our care
must be that we do nothing to provoke him to withdraw and to hide his face, that
we carefully watch over our own hearts and suppress every thought that may
grieve his good Spirit. Let those that have comfort be afraid of sinning it
The church is here pleasing herself exceedingly with the
thoughts of her further communion with Christ after she has recovered from her
I. She rejoices in his approach, v. 8. 1. She hears him speak:
"It is the voice of my beloved, calling me to tell me he is coming."
Like one of his own sheep, she knows his voice before she sees him, and
can easily distinguish it from the voice of a stranger (Jn. 10:4, 5),
and, like a faithful friend of the bridegroom, she rejoices greatly because
of the bridegroom's voice, Jn. 3:29. With what an air of triumph and
exultation does she cry out, "It is the voice of my beloved, it can
be the voice of no other, for none besides can speak to the heart and make that
2. She sees him come, sees the goings of our God, our King,
Ps. 48:24. Behold, he comes. This may very well be applied to the
prospect with the Old-Testament saints had of Christ's coming in the flesh. Abraham
saw his day at a distance, and was glad. The nearer the time came the
clearer discoveries were made of it; and those that waited for the consolation
of Israel with an eye of faith saw him come, and triumphed in the sight: Behold,
he comes; for they had heard him say (Ps. 40:7), Lo, I come, to which
their faith here affixes its seal: Behold, he comes as he has promised.
(1.) He comes cheerfully and with great alacrity; he comes leaping and skipping like
a roe and like a young hart (v. 9), as one pleased with his own
undertaking, and that had his heart upon it and his delights with the sons of
men. When he came to be baptized with the baptism of blood, how was he straitened
till it was accomplished! Lu. 12:50. (2.) He comes slighting and surmounting
all the difficulties that lay in his way; he comes leaping over the
mountains, skipping over the hills (so some read it), making nothing of the
discouragements he was to break through; the curse of the law, the death of the
cross, must be undergone, all the powers of darkness must be grappled with, but,
before the resolutions of his love, these great mountains become plains.
Whatever opposition is given at any time to the deliverance of God's church,
Christ will break through it, will get over it. (3.) He comes speedily, like
a roe or a young hart; they thought the time long (every day a year),
but really he hastened; as now, so then, surely he comes quickly; he that
shall come will come, and will not tarry. When he comes for the deliverance
of his people he flies upon a cloud, and never stays beyond his time,
which is the best time. We may apply it to particular believers, who find that
even when Christ has withdrawn sensible comforts, and seems to forsake, yet it
is but for a small moment, and he will soon return with everlasting
II. She pleases herself with the glimpses she has of him, and
the glances she has of his favour: "He stands behind our wall; I
know he is there, for sometimes he looks forth at the window, or looks
in at it, and displays himself through the lattice."
the state of the Old-Testament church while it was in expectation of the coming
of the Messiah. The ceremonial law is called a wall of partition (Eph.
2:14), a veil (2 Co. 3:13); but Christ stood behind that wall. They had
him near them; they had him with them, though they could not see him clearly. He
that was the substance was not far off from the shadows, Col. 2:17. The saw him
looking through the windows of the ceremonial institutions and smiling through
those lattices; in their sacrifices and purifications Christ discovered himself
to them, and gave them intimations and earnests of his grace, both to engage and
to encourage their longings for his coming. Such is our present state in
comparison with what it will be at Christ's second coming. We now see him
through a glass darkly (the body is a wall between us and him, through the
windows of which we now and then get a sight of him), but not face to face,
as we hope to see him shortly. In the sacraments Christ is near us, but it is behind
the wall of external signs, through those lattices he manifests
himself to us; but we shall shortly see him as he is. Some understand
this of the state of a believer when he is under a cloud; Christ is out of sight
and yet not far off. See Job 34:14, and compare Job 23:8-10. She calls the
wall that interposed between her and her beloved our wall, because it is
sin, and nothing else, that separates between us and God, and that is a wall of
our own erecting (Isa. 59:1); behind that he stands, as waiting to be
gracious, and ready to be reconciled, upon our repentance. Then he looks
in at the window, observes the frame of our hearts and the working of our
souls; he looks forth at the window, and shows himself in giving them some
comfort, that they may continue hoping for his return.
III. She repeats the gracious invitation he had given her to
come a walking with him, v. 10-13. She remembers what her beloved said to her,
for it had made a very pleasing and powerful impression upon her, and the word
that quickens us we shall never forget. She relates it for the
encouragement of others, telling them what he had said to her soul and done
for her soul, Ps. 66:16.
1. He called her his love and his fair one. Whatever she is to
others, to him she is acceptable, and in his eyes she is amiable. Those that
take Christ for their beloved, he will own as his; never was any love lost that
was bestowed upon Christ. Christ, by expressing his love to believers, invites
and encourages them to follow him.
2. He called her to rise and come away, v. 10, and again
v. 13. The repetition denotes backwardness in her (we have need to be often
called to come away with Jesus Christ; precept must be upon precept and line
upon line), but it denotes earnestness in him; so much is his heart set upon
the welfare of precious souls that he importunes them most pressingly to that
which is for their own good.
3. He gave for a reason the return of the spring, and the
pleasantness of the weather.
(1.) The season is elegantly described in a great variety of
expressions. [1.] The winter is past, the dark, cold, and barren winter.
Long winters and hard ones pass away at last; they do no endure always. And the
spring would not be so pleasant as it is if it did not succeed the winter, which
is a foil to its beauty, Eccl. 7:14. Neither the face of the heavens nor that of
the earth is always the same, but subject to continual vicissitudes, diurnal and
annual. The winter is past, but has not passed away for ever; it will
come again, and we must provide for it in summer, Prov. 6:6, 8. We must weep in
winter, and rejoice in summer, as though we wept and rejoiced not, for both are
passing. [2.] The rain is over and gone, the winter-rain, the cold stormy
rain; it is over now, and the dew is as the dew of herbs. Even the rain
that drowned the world was over and gone at last (Gen. 8:1-3), and God promised
to drown the world no more, which was a type and figure of the covenant of
grace, Isa. 54:9. [3.] The flowers appear on the earth. All winter they
are dead and buried in their roots, and there is no sign of them; but in the
spring they revive, and show themselves in a wonderful variety and verdure, and,
like the dew that produces them, tarry not for man, Mic. 5:7. They
appear, but they will soon disappear again, and man in herein like the flower
of the field, Job 14:2. [4.] The time of singing of birds has come.
The little birds, which all the winter lie hid in their retirements and scarcely
live, when the spring returns forget all the calamities of the winter, and to
the best of their capacity chant forth the praises of their Creator. Doubtless
he who understands the birds that cry for want (Ps. 147:9) takes notice of those
that sing for joy Ps. 104:12. The singing of the birds may shame our
silence in God's praises, who are better fed (Mt. 6:26), and better taught
(Job 35:11), and are of more value than many sparrows. They live without
inordinate care (Mt. 6:26) and therefore they sing, while we murmur. [5.] The
voice of the turtle is heard in our land, which is one of the season-birds
mentioned Jer. 8:7, that observe the time of their coming and the time of their
singing, and so shame us who know not the judgment of the Lord,
understand not the times, nor do that which is beautiful in its season,
do not sing in singing time. [6.] The fig-tree puts forth her green figs,
by which we know that summer is nigh (Mt. 24:32), when the green figs
will be ripe figs and fit for use; and the vines with the tender grape give a
good smell. The earth produces not only flowers (v. 12), but fruits;
and the smell of the fruits, which are profitable, is to be preferred far before
that of the flowers, which are only for show and pleasure. Serpents, they say,
are driven away by the smell of the vines; and who is the old serpent, and who
the true vine, we know very well.
(2.) Now this description of the returning spring, as a reason
for coming away with Christ, is applicable [1.] To the introducing of the gospel
in the room of the Old-Testament dispensation, during which it had been winter
time with the church. Christ's gospel warms that which was cold, makes that
fruitful which before was dead and barren; when it comes to any place it puts a
beauty and glory upon that place (2 Co. 3:7, 8) and furnishes occasion for joy.
Spring-time is pleasant time, and so is gospel-time. Aspice venturo laetentur
ut omnia seclo
Behold what joy the dawning age inspires! said
Virgil, from the Sibyls, perhaps with more reference to the setting up of the
Messiah's kingdom at that time than he himself thought of. See Ps. 96:11. Arise
then, and improve this spring-time. Come away from the world and the
flesh, come into fellowship with Christ, 1 Co. 1:9. [2.] To the
delivering of the church from the power of persecuting enemies, and the
restoring of liberty and peace to it, after a severe winter of suffering and
restraint. When the storms of trouble are over and gone, when the voice of
the turtle, the joyful sound of the gospel of Christ, is again heard, and
ordinances are enjoyed with freedom, then arise and come away to improve
the happy juncture. Walk in the light of the Lord; sing in the ways of the Lord.
When the churches had rest, then were they edified, Acts 9:31. [3.] To the
conversion of sinners from a state of nature to a state of grace. That blessed
change is like the return of the spring, a universal change and a very
comfortable one; it is a new creation; it is being born again. The soul that was
hard, and cold, and frozen, and unprofitable, like the earth in winter, becomes
fruitful, like the earth in spring, and by degrees, like it, brings its fruits
to perfection. This blessed change is owing purely to the approaches and
influences of the sun of righteousness, who calls to us from heaven to arise
and come away; come, gather in summer. [4.] To the consolations of the
saints after a state of inward dejection and despondency. A child of God, under
doubts and fears, is like the earth in winter, its nights long, its days dark,
good affections chilled, nothing done, nothing got, the hand sealed up. But
comfort will return; the birds shall sing again, and the flowers appear. Arise
therefore, poor drooping soul, and come away with thy beloved. Arise,
and shake thyself from the dust, Isa. 52:2. Arise, shine, for thy light
has come (Isa. 60:1); walk in that light, Isa. 2:5. [5.] To the
resurrection of the body at the last day, and the glory to be revealed. The
bones that lay in the grave, as the roots of the plants in the ground during the
winter, shall then flourish as a herb, Isa. 66:14; 26:19. That will be an
eternal farewell to winter and a joyful entrance upon an everlasting spring.
Here is, I. The encouraging invitation which Christ gives to the
church, and every believing soul, to come into communion with him, v. 14.
1. His love is now his dove; David had called the church
God's turtle-dove (Ps. 84:19), and so she is here called; a dove for
beauty, her wings covered with silver (Ps. 18:13), for innocence and
inoffensiveness; a gracious spirit is a dove-like spirit, harmless, loving
quietness and cleanliness, and faithful to Christ, as the turtle to her mate.
The Spirit descended like a dove on Christ, and so he does on all
Christians, making them of a meek and quiet spirit. She is Christ's dove,
for he owns her and delights in her; she can find no rest but in him and his
ark, and therefore to him, as her Noah, she returns.
2. This dove is in the clefts of the rock and in the secret
places of the stairs. This speaks either, (1.) Her praise. Christ is the
rock, to whom she flies for shelter and in whom alone she can think herself safe
and find herself easy, as a dove in the hole of a rock, when struck at by the
birds of prey, Jer. 48:28. Moses was hid in a cleft of the rock, that he might
behold something of God's glory, which otherwise he could not have borne the
brightness of. She retires into the secret places of the stairs, where
she may be alone, undisturbed, and may the better commune with her own heart.
Good Christians will find time to be private. Christ often withdrew to a
mountain himself alone, to pray. Or, (2.) her blame. She crept into the clefts
of the rock, and the secret places, for fear and shame, any where to
hide her head, being heartless and discouraged, and shunning even the sight of
her beloved. Being conscious to herself of her own unfitness and unworthiness to
come into his presence, and speak to him, she drew back, and was like a silly
dove without heart, Hos. 7:11.
3. Christ graciously calls her out of her retirements: Come, let
me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice. She was mourning like a
dove (Isa. 38:14), bemoaning herself like the doves of the valleys,
where they are near the clefts of the impending rocks, mourning for her
iniquities (Eze. 7:16) and refusing to be comforted. But Christ calls her to
lift up her face without spot, being purged from an evil conscience (Job
11:15; 22:26), to come boldly to the throne of grace, having a great high
priest there (Heb. 4:16), to tell what her petition is and what her request:
Let me hear thy voice, hear what thou hast to say; what would you that
I should do unto you? Speak freely, speak up, and fear not a slight or
4. For her encouragement, he tells her the good thoughts he had
of her, whatever she thought of herself: Sweet is thy voice; thy praying
voice, though thou canst but chatter like a crane or a swallow (Isa.
38:14); it is music in God's ears. He has assured us that the prayer of the
upright is his delight; he smelled a sweet savour from Noah's sacrifice,
and the spiritual sacrifices are no less acceptable, 1 Pt. 2:5.
This does not so much commend our services as God's gracious condescension in
making the best of them, and the efficacy of the much incense which is offered
with the prayers of saints, Rev. 8:3. "That countenance of thine, which
thou art ashamed of, is comely, though now mournful, much more will it be so
when it becomes cheerful."
Then the voice of prayer is sweet and
acceptable to God when the countenance, the conversation in which we show
ourselves before men, is holy, and so comely, and agreeable to our profession.
Those that are sanctified have the best comeliness.
II. The charge which Christ gives to his servants to oppose and
suppress that which is a terror to his church and drives her, like a poor
frightened dove, into the clefts of the rock, and which is an obstruction and
prejudice to the interests of his kingdom in this world and in the heart (v.
15): Take us the foxes (take them for us, for it is good service both to
Christ and the church), the little foxes, that creep in insensibly; for,
though they are little, they do great mischief, they spoil the vines,
which they must by no means be suffered to do at any time, especially now when
our vines have tender grapes that must be preserved, or the vintage will
fail. Believers are as vines, weak but useful plants; their fruits are as tender
crops at first, which must have time to come to maturity. This charge to take
the foxes is, 1. A charge to particular believers to mortify their own
corruptions, their sinful appetites and passions, which are as foxes, little
foxes, that destroy their graces and comforts, quash good motions, crush
good beginnings, and prevent their coming to perfection. Seize the little
foxes, the first risings of sin, the littles ones of Babylon (Ps. 137:9),
those sins that seem little, for they often prove very dangerous. Whatever we
find a hindrance to us in that which is good we must put away. 2. A charge to
all in their places to oppose and prevent the spreading of all such opinions and
practices as tend to corrupt men's judgments, debauch their consciences,
perplex their minds, and discourage their inclinations to virtue and piety.
Persecutors are foxes (Lu. 13:32); false prophets are foxes, Eze. 13:4. Those
that sow the tares of heresy or schism, and, like Diotrephes, trouble the peace
of the church and obstruct the progress of the gospel, they are the foxes,
the little foxes, which must not be knocked on the head (Christ came not
to destroy men's lives), but taken, that they may be tamed, or else
restrained from doing mischief.
III. The believing profession which the church makes of her
relation to Christ, and the satisfaction she take sin her interest in him and
communion with him, v. 16. He had called her to rise and come away
with him, to let him see her face and hear her voice; now this is her answer to
that call, in which, though at present in the dark and at a distance,
1. She comforts herself with the thoughts of the mutual interest
and relation that were between her and her beloved: My beloved to me and I
to him, so the original reads it very emphatically; the conciseness of the
language speaks the largeness of her affection: "What he is to me and I to
him may better be conceived than expressed."
Note, (1.) It is the
unspeakable privilege of true believers that Christ is theirs: My beloved is
mine; this denotes not only propriety ("I have a title to him"
but possession and tenure
"I receive from his fulness."
are partakers of Christ; they have not only an interest in him, but the
enjoyment of him, are taken not only in the covenant, but into communion with
him. All the benefits of his glorious undertaking, as Mediator, are made over to
them. He is that to them which the world neither is nor can be, all that which
they need and desire, and which will make a complete happiness for them. All he
is is theirs, and all he has, all he has done, and all he is doing; all he has
promised in the gospel, all he has prepared in heaven, all is yours. (2.) It is
the undoubted character of all true believers that they are Christ's, and
then, and then only, he is theirs. They have given their own selves to him (2
Co. 8:5); they receive his doctrine and obey his laws; they bear his image and
espouse his interest; they belong to Christ. If we be his, his wholly, his only,
his for ever, we may take the comfort of his being ours.
2. She comforts herself with the thoughts of the communications
of his grace to his people: He feeds among the lilies. When she wants the
tokens of his favour to her in particular, she rejoices in the assurance of his
presence with all believers in general, who are lilies in his eyes. He feeds
among them, that is, he takes as much pleasure in them and their assemblies as a
man does in his table or in his garden, for he walks in the midst of the
golden candlesticks; he delights to converse with them, and to do them good.