OF THE BOOK OF
watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said,
Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?
church continues to give an account of her adventure, and what befell her when in the streets and broad ways of the city; as how she was found by the watchmen, whose business is to take up and examine persons that they meet with in the night; of whom she inquires after her lost spouse, but for the present can have no tidings of him. In these words we shall, I. Inquire who are meant by “the watchmen,”
II. What by their “finding” of her.
III. Consider the question proposed by her to them; “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?”
IV. Shew why no answer is mentioned, as returned to this question.
I. It will be proper to inquire who are meant by the watchmen here: and by them we are not to understand angels, as some; though these are thought to be called watchers, in Daniel 4:13, 17 and are the saints' life-guards, attend upon their persons, watch over them, and encamp about them: nor the princes and great men of the world, who have the care and government of kingdoms, provinces and cities; but are ignorant of Christ, and know not the “Lord of glory,” as others: nor false teachers who are called, Isaiah 56:10 “blind watchmen, dumb dogs that cannot bark:” but rather, the true ministers of the Gospel; the prophets under the Old Testament, and the apostles and faithful teachers under the New, who frequently bear the title of watchmen in Scripture (see Isa. 52:8, 62:6; Ezek. 33:7). The Jewish writers interpret these words of Moses and Aaron with the Levites, who kept the watch of the tabernacle. The ministers of the Gospel are called watchmen, either in allusion to shepherds, who watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8) or else, to watchmen in cities, as here; and their work may be considered,
1. With regard to themselves: they are to watch over themselves as well as others; they are to watch over their Conversations, that they be as become the Gospel they preach, and so that they may give no ill examples to others, nor cause the ways and doctrines of Christ to be evil spoken of, and render their ministry useless; they are to watch over their doctrines, and take heed that they be agreeable to the oracles of God; that they deliver nothing but the “wholesome words of Christ Jesus,” and such as may be for the edifying of their hearers, and suitable to the cases of souls; they are to watch all opportunities to preach this gospel, as the apostle says (2 Tim. 4:2) to, “be instant in season and out of season;” and then they are to watch and observe the success of it, and how it is blessed and made useful to souls: moreover, they ought to have a very great guard upon themselves; for if the enemy can but surprise, decoy or corrupt them, it turns much to his advantage. Now ministers of the Gospel should take heed to themselves, lest they fall asleep, or grow careless and indifferent in the work of the Lord; or are diverted from it through the frowns or flatteries of the world; or be corrupted with errors and false doctrines; for these things tend much to the ruin of Christ's kingdom and interest.
2. With regard to others, their work is, 1. To give the
time of night, as in Isaiah 21:11, 12. the question is put, “Watchman, what of
the night? Watchman, what of the night?” the answer is, “the morning cometh,
and also the night.” Sometimes it is night with the church; she is fallen
asleep upon a bed of security: the wise virgins sleep as well as the foolish; it
is then the work of ministers to give the time of the night, to. apprize the
church what a condition she is in, and to endeavor to awake her out of it:
though sometimes the ministers, the watchmen, are asleep, as well as the
churches, and know not what time of the night it is, which is a dreadful case;
and then are the churches of Christ in a poor plight and condition indeed. 2.
Their work is to give notice of approaching danger; they are to give notice of
the danger that sinners are in, who ate walking in the broad road to
destruction; and also the danger that churches may be in through errors and
heresies springing up among them, as well as by indulging themselves in any
vicious practices, which they are severely to check and reprehend. Now this work
requires vigilance, prudence, courage and faithfulness; and also shews the
necessity and usefulness of the public ministry, which can no more be dispensed
with than watchmen in a city; and likewise what care the Lord has of his
churches, in placing such officers in them, as well as the awfulness of the work
they are concerned in; for if the watchman does not discharge his duty, the
blood of those he has to do with will be required of him. These watchmen are
farther described by their “going about the city:” by the city, we are to
understand the church of God, as in the former verse: and their “going about”
it, is mentioned to distinguish them from those that were upon the walls, who
kept their stands, and did not stir from their places; and also to shew their
proper work and business, which, as it appears from hence, they are diligent in;
and so it proves them to be true watchmen and faithful ministers of the Gospel,
who, in imitation of Christ their Lord and master, go about doing good to the
souls of men.
II. Being thus in the discharge of their duty, and using diligence therein, they found the church; which is the next thing to be inquired into: they found me; that is, they fell upon the subject of my case and condition, in their sermons, and exactly took notice of and spoke to my case, as if somebody had told them of it beforehand, and as if they had particularly designed me above all the rest of their audience; which shews the power of the word, and its piercing and penetrating nature; it often finds out particular sinners in a congregation, and points out their particular sins unto them; it searches into the inward recesses of their hearts, brings secret sins to light, sets them in order before them, and brings them to an open and ingenuous confession of them; likewise it finds and points, out the particular cases of believers, oftentimes tin-known to the minister, and unlooked for by the believer, which seems to be the church's case here. It is amazing how this is sometimes effected; insomuch that some have thought that some friend or other, to whom they have communicated, their cases, have told the minister, and he has purposely treated on such a subject to meet with them; though when they have more narrowly inquired into it, have found it otherwise, to their great surprise; nay, sometimes a minister, by stepping out of the way, going off from his subject, and making a digression, has met with souls, and hit their case, as Austin did with the Manichee. God has given many instances of the secret energy of the word, and the mighty power and grace of the Spirit, in applying it to the different cases of persons. But,
III. Having met with something under the ministry of the word suitable to her case, she is encouraged to take her opportunity, after public worship was over, to speak privately to the ministers, and propose this question to them: “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” in which may be observed, 1. The person concerning whom she inquires, and that is, him whom her soul loveth. Christ is still the subject of her discourse and inquiry; whether she talks with ministers or private Christians, she is upon the search after him; and though she cannot as yet find him, she is not discouraged from seeking; nor is her love and affection towards him abated, though she cannot see him. 2. The manner in which she proposes this question, and that is very abrupt; for, without giving them an opportunity to speak to her first, or using any preface to excuse her freedom with them, she immediately puts the question, as soon as she came up to them, “Saw ye him,” etc. where it may also be observed, as has been already on chapter 1. 2. that She uses the relative him without an antecedent, and does not express the person's name whom she inquires about; which shews the singular excellency of Christ, that he was to her the only him in the world; and likewise the singular esteem she had for him, the strength of her affection to him, how much her thoughts were upon him, and her desires after him; insomuch that she thought every body must know whom she meant, and whom she loved, without mentioning his name; and more especially it supposes, that she concluded that these, ministers knew whom she meant. 3. Her putting this question to them, shews, (1.) That she had a value for them, had entertained a good opinion of them, and judged them proper persons to apply to; which might arise from what she had met with under their public ministry. (2.) That she was unwilling to let any opportunity slip, in which there was any likelihood of finding Christ; therefore she will not only hear the ministers publicly, but converse with them privately; and such a practice is highly commendable in, and to be imitated by all the saints; oftentimes much is lost by missing an opportunity: What did Thomas lose by not being; with the rest of the disciples when Christ appeared to them? Why, a sight of Christ; and not only so, but also fell into a fit of unbelief. (3.) That when persons apply to ministers, they should keep close to their own souls cases, as the church does here, and not trouble them with long and tedious discourses, filled up with invectives against their fellow Christians, and animadversions upon their weaknesses and imperfections; but their chief concern should be the ease of their own souls; and the subject of their discourse, Christ and his grace. (4.) That ministers had need to be well acquainted with the various cases of souls, that they may know how to speak aptly to them, and communicate a word in season to their refreshment; which, when fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver But,
IV. Here is no answer returned to this question, that is here recorded; the reason of which is, not because they could not give one; nor were those blind watchmen, which were without the light of faith and experience themselves; those dumb dogs which cannot bark, and know not how to speak to the cases of souls, being unacquainted with them, of which we read in Isaiah 56:10 nor, it may be, was it because they did not return an answer, though she has not recorded it; and if they did not, it might be owing to her overhaste in not waiting for one; or if they did, yet she not being able to apply it with comfort to her own soul, takes no notice of it; and this might be, to let her see the need of a divine blessing upon means, and the power and grace of the blessed Spirit to attend them: but yet, though she did not find immediate comfort and relief, she might get something from them, which was afterwards useful to her as seems to appear from the following verse; for oftentimes the Spirit of God brings to our remembrance, and sets home, with power upon our souls, things which have been dropped in the ministry of the word, or in private conversation, which were of no use in the hearing of them.
 Foliot & Sanct. in loc.
 Diodat. in loc.
 Mercer. in verse 4. R.
 Targum. Sol. Jarchi, and R. Aben Ezra in loc. So Lyra.