OF THE BOOK OF
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
here presses upon and encourages his church to rise up from her present state of sleep and sloth, and come away with him, where she might enjoy peace and pleasure! and this he does by informing her, that it was now spring-time; that the winter was past, and the spring was come, in which every thing looked gay, pleasant, and delightful; the rain was over and gone, which made journeys difficult, and rivers unpassable, and in the room of it, fair and sunshine weather; that that time of the year was over which was bad to travel in, as Christ says, “pray ye that your flight be not in the winter;” and therefore she might without fear, and with the utmost safety as well as pleasure, venture abroad with him. Winter and rain are very properly put together, since rain is frequent in the winter-season; and hence it has the name of imbrifer from it. Now by this winter, which is said to be past, and the rain that is said to be over and gone, may be meant, either,
First, The state and condition both of the Jews and Gentiles, before the coming of Christ in the flesh, when it was a winter, a rainy and stormy dispensation with both of them. Winter is used by some writers, not for the season of the year, but for a storm and tempest; and figuratively, for some calamity, as war, etc. And,
1st, It may be expressive of the state of the Jews before Christ's coming It is true, they were a people peculiarly chosen by God, and were indulged by him with special favors above the Gentiles; they had the knowledge of the true God, and were instructed in his mind and will; for he gave them his law to direct them, and sent his prophets time after time to inform, teach, rebuke, warn and admonish them; whilst the Gentiles lived without the law, and had only the dim fight of nature to guide them: and yet the dispensation which the Jews were under, before Christ's coming, when compared with the gospel-dispensation, may be said to be a winter, a rainy and stormy one; which began when the law was given on mount Sinai, which was attended with blackness, darkness, and tempest. These people were all along treated by God, as if they had been under a covenant of works; for whilst they lived in obedience to the divine will, they enjoyed without disturbance their civil and religious privileges; but when they broke and transgressed the divine laws, the clouds of God's wrath gathered thick and black about them, and stormy judgments descended on them, which begat in them a spirit of bondage; so that their services which they performed to God, were not attended with that spirit of liberty and ingenuity, with that faith and cheerfulness, as now appear in the saints in this spring-time of the gospel: it was a time of coldness and barrenness, the sun of righteousness not having as yet arisen in their horizon, with his warming and fructifying influences as he has done since: it was a time of much darkness and obscurity; for though there were some discoveries of Christ and his grace to believers then, yet these were made through dark shadows, cloudy and smoky sacrifices: a little before Christ's coming in the flesh, and appearing in his public ministry, there was a violent rain, nay, a flood of error, infidelity and profaneness, came pouring in among them; the law of God was corrupted with false glosses, his institutions and ordinances changed and altered, and his temple profaned; one sort set up the traditions of the elders, against the positive commands of God; another denied the resurrection of the dead, and a future judgment; and both obstinately persisted in their infidelity concerning the Messiah, when he appeared among them. This was the face of things when Christ was manifested in the flesh; who, by his ministry, checked the infidelity and profaneness of the age; and, by his death, put a period to the Mosaic dispensation: so that now those cloudy and shadowish ceremonies are gone; the night of Jewish darkness is ended, and the old covenant is waxen old, and vanished away.
2dly, It may also point out the state and condition of the Gentiles before Christ's coming. The times before the gospel came among them, were times of ignorance; they were strangers to the knowledge of the true God, to his mind, will, and worship; darkness covered them, yea, gross darkness was all, around them; storms of divine wrath hang over their heads; they were under the manifest tokens of God's displeasure, being given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart, and were shut up in sin and unbelief; their hearts were frozen up; and seemed scarce capable of having any impressions made upon them; the Gentile world looked like an heath, a desert, or a wilderness, all barren and unfruitful, like the earth in winter time; an impetuous rain and flood of profaneness, error and seduction, overflowed it: God suffered them to walk in their own ways, and to follow the imaginations of their own hearts; they were left to worship birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things; to fall down to stocks and stones, and graven images, and pray to a god that could not save: but when the gospel was sent among them by Christ, the face of the Gentile world was quite altered, and appeared like the earth after a winter season, upon the returning spring; gospel light diffused itself through all the parts thereof, and dispelled the shades of darkness, blindness, ignorance, profaneness, and infidelity; gospel grace, with its warming influences, thawed their frozen hearts, and left some deep and lasting impressions on them; that which looked like a wilderness, is become a fruitful field; and that which was as a desert, now appears as the garden of the Lord: such a mighty change has the spring-time of the gospel made in the Gentile world! Or else,
Secondly, This winter and rain, which Christ says were past and gone, may be understood of the spiritual state of souls; mad that either before or after conversion. The state of believers before conversion, may be represented by it, which is a time of darkness, deadness, coldness, barrenness, and un-fruitfulness, and is only removed by the powerful and efficacious grace of Christ; and often after conversion, is a winter season with them; they are frequently annoyed with the blustering winds and rains of Satan's temptations, which beat upon them like a storm against a wall: this enemy of their souls often comes in like a flood upon them: and would bear them away, were it not for the power and grace of the Spirit of God, which are opposed unto it; they are often under the fearful apprehensions of storms of impending wrath, for their sins and transgressions against God; they are seldom free from sharp crosses and afflictions, and are often under the nipping blasts of persecution; which may be compared to the winter season for its sharpness and severity, though exceeding wholesome.
Moreover they are sometimes in a great deal of darkness of soul; the clouds interpose between Christ and them, so as they cannot behold him, and their interest in him; their hearts are often hard and frozen up, so as no impressions are made either by the preaching of the word, or by the providences of God; a great deal of coldness .frequently attends them; there is a chill upon their love to God, to Christ, to his people, ordinances, cause and interest, which is occasioned by the prevailings of sin and corruption in them: sometimes they look like trees in winter, barren and unfruitful, with no appearance of the fruit of grace, nor leaves of profession, but as if they were entirely dead and lifeless; and when this is their case, it may be said to be a winter-season with them: but though this is sometimes their case, it is not always; they have their returning seasons of peace, joy and comfort, when it may be said, “the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone;” then light breaks in upon their souls, and their hearts are melted with a sense of divine love; they become lively in their frames, and in the exercise of their grace, and fruitful in every good word and work; calmness and serenity of mind, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are the delightful blessings which the soul now enjoys: all these, and much more, does the sun of righteousness bring along with him, and produce in us, when he arises with healing in his wings, and turns a cold and nipping winter into a pleasant and delightful spring. But when it is a winter-season with believers, they have little or no communion with Christ, which was the church's case here the rains that fall, and the floods occasioned thereby, interrupt their fellowship; and the clouds of darkness and doubts and fears, which hang over their heads, hinder them from beholding; Christ, and their interest in him: now this must needs be a very melancholy and uncomfortable time unto them; and therefore to hear that the winter is past, and the spring is come, that the rain is over and gone, that the clouds are dispersed, and the air is clear, bright and serene, must needs be good news and glad tidings to them. Moreover, souls, whilst in such a state, are usually indolent and inactive; they have neither hearts nor hands to work, but both are sealed up; they are neither diligent in the way of their duty, nor active in the exercise of grace, as the church appears to be here: also they are ready to think that the winter is not over when it. is, but fear that there are more storms behind; not only of crosses, afflictions, persecutions and temptations; but which are worse than all the rest, that there are storms of divine wrath and anger behind, which will fall upon them; though these have been all borne by Christ, and are effectually and eternally removed by him; and believers may be assured of this, whatever their fears are, that not a drop of wrath shall fall upon them; for Christ has satisfied law and justice, and so hath delivered them from the wrath which is to come; and he that has done this, says, the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone: this is the voice of the gospel, and a joyful sound it is. The Jewish writers interpret this of the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt, and their deliverance out of it; as do stone Christian interpreters of the Babylonish captivity, and the Jews deliverance from thence; it being a Chaldee word that is here used to express the season of the year by: but the senses before given, seem to be much preferable to either of them; though it is true, that the two former deliverances did produce a spring-time of joy and rejoicing after a cold and nipping winter of trouble and sorrow; and were indeed wrought in the spring of the year, as was also our redemption by Christ Jesus, they were typical of.
 Hyems imbrifera,. Sil. ltal.1. 31. 5:197- Pinviosa hyems, Pliny Nat. Hist. 1. 18. c. 25.
 Emissamque hyemem sensit Neptunus, Virgil AEneid.1. 1. 5:129. Miseranda rogabo unam hyemem, Statii Achill. 1. 1. 5:50. 51. Vid. Val. Flacc.1. 1.v. 197.
 Nifav polemoioceimerion xofon, Pindar. Isthm. ode 4.
 Ante adventure Christi' hyems erat, venit Christus, fecit aestatem, Ambros. Eaarrat. in Psalm 118 octon. 7. p. 921. Vid. Isidor. in loc.
 Targum, R. Sol. Jarchi, and R. Aben Ezra in loc. and so Lyre.
 Brightman and Cotton in loc.
 rts quod legitur quasi wyts scriberetur, alibi in scriptura non invenitur, est autem vox Chaldaica arts pro Hebraea rdj hyems, Mercer in loc. Vid. Vitringam in Jes. 4, 6.