OF THE BOOK OF
I rose up to
open to my beloved, and my hands dropped with
myrrh, and my fingers with sweet, smelling, myrrh, upon the
handles of the lock.
these words the church gives an account of a second and a third effect of Christ's “putting in his hand by the hole of the door.”
I. She “rose to open to him”.
II. Having done so, she laid hold on the “handles of the lock,” in order to draw it back; and before she proceeds to take notice of any other steps she took, with the success thereof, she stops to give an account of a sweet piece of experience she met with, when she put her hands “upon the handles of the lock; My hands, says she, dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet-swelling myrrh.”
I. She says, that she “rose to open to her beloved.” This is opposed to her former slothfulness and sleepiness; before she lay still and slept on, notwithstanding Christ's calls and knocks, his melting words and moving language; but now being touched by his hand of mighty and powerful grace, she shakes off her sluggishness, and arises to open to him, which is more than a mere resolution to do it; such an one as she made in chapter 3:2, and the prodigal in Luke 15:18. Now these resolutions were made in the strength of grace; and being assisted by divine grace to perform them, were quickly put in execution; though otherwise, resolutions made in our own strength, are seldom or never made good: but this was more than a mere resolution, it was an actual performance of it; not but that she resolved no doubt in her mind, to do it before she did it; but the dispatch was so quick, and there being so little time between the making and the execution of it, she had neither leisure nor room to regard it; “I rose to open to my beloved;” which act of hers shows, 1. That her design and intention to open to Christ, was real and hearty: had she lain upon her bed, and made ever such fair promises, that she would arise and open to him, and yet have kept her bed and slept on; there would have been but very little proof that she really and heartily designed it; but her rising in order to it, is a full indication of it; even as Abraham's rising up early, saddling his asses taking his own and only son Isaac with him, and going to the place which the Lord directed him to; his putting the wood in order, binding his son, and laying him upon it; his taking the knife, and stretching out his hand to slay his son, manifestly showed that he really intended to obey the divine command, though so disagreeable to flesh and blood. 2. That her concern at her base and unbecoming carriage to him was sincere and unfeigned; the effects show that her sorrow was of a godly sort; seeing it wrought in her carefulness to obey his will, zeal for his honor and glory, fear and reverence of his person, a vehement desire after the enjoyment of his presence and company, and an indignation at her own sin and folly; see 2 Corinthians 7:10,11. The repentance appears to be true and genuine, because it brought forth “fruits meet for it.” 3. That she did not stay to confer with flesh and blood, but immediately arose, as soon as touched by the hand of mighty grace; had she done so, she would have argued thus with herself, “yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep,” and then I will arise and open to him; no, for though she put him off before with idle excuses, having consulted her own carnal ease; yet now, being under the influence of powerful grace, she cannot defer it any longer, but without delay, uses to open to him. 4. That when a soul, in such a case as hers, is made sensible of it, it cannot rest easy upon a bed of carnal security; it may, with David, for a time be senseless, stupid, and unconcerned; and with Jonah, lie fast asleep in the sides of the ship, careless, thoughtless, and unconcerned; yet when awaked from hence, anguish and distress seize it; and it cannot be easy without some returning visits of love, some views of Christ's person, and some enjoy, merit of his presence; and therefore will arise and go out in quest of him: and now no difficulties discourage such a soul, as none did the church; when, she was upon her bed of ease, every little thing was difficult to her; her language was that of the sluggard's, “There is a lion in the way, a lion is in the streets;” it was then a trouble to her to put on her coat, and an intolerable hardship to defile her feet; but now neither the one nor the other hinder her; but she rises, opens, and ventures herself alone in the streets, runs among the watchmen of the city, and keepers of the walls. And from thence to the daughters of Jerusalem, to inquire of her beloved. 5. It also supposes that she thought Christ still at the door; though no sooner had he put in his hand, but he was gone, being willing to let her know, though he loved her, yet he resented her carriage to him, and here we may observe, that God's children may he mistaken sometimes about the presence of Christ; sometimes he is present with them and they know it not, as, Jacob said, Genesis 28:16, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not;” and at other times, when they are got into such careless, secure, and unconcerned frames of soul, like Samson, the Lord is departed from them, and they wist not, that is, know not that the Lord is departed from them. 6. This shows the power of mighty and efficacious grace, and that she was under the influence of it; though perhaps the spirit was willing before, yet the flesh was weak; though she might have a will to open to Christ, yet how to perform it she knew not; though indeed her will seemed to be very indifferent about it; there appeared a lothness in her, and a kind of unwillingness to it; but now she is made both able and “willing in the day of his power,” to arise and open to him.
II. Having rose to open to Christ, she puts her hand “upon the handles of the lock,” to draw it back, and let him in; which, in order, is the third effect of Christ's “putting in his hand by the hole of the door.” Now though this is not in so many words expressed in the text, yet it is manifestly implied; for if her “hands dropped with myrrh, and her fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock;” it then supposes, that her hands and fingers must first lay hold upon the lock-handles, which was also absolutely necessary to do, in order to open the door. It will be proper here to consider, 1st, What we are to understand by the lock, and the handles of it. 2dly, What by her hands and fingers, which laid hold on these handles to draw back the lock, and in what sense they might do it.
1st, It is needful to inquire what may be meant by the lock, and the handles of it: and as by the door, I suppose is meant the heart of a believer, so by the lock, which fastens and keeps this door shut, may be meant unbelief; by which, as all by nature are locked and shut up in the state they are; so believers sometimes by it are so straitened, confined, and shut up in their souls, that they cannot come forth in the free exercise of faith, in which they are at other times found: and the handles of this lock may be lukewarmness and indifference of soul with regard to duty, a sluggishness and loathness to come to it, which oftentimes bring the soul at last to a neglect of it; for, first, persons grow indifferent about the performance of duties, or attendance on ordinances; do not care whether they perform them, or attend on them, or no; then they begin to be “slothful in business, not serving the Lord” with that fervency of Spirit which they have heretofore done; and at last wholly neglect them; which brings them into a carnal, secure and unconcerned frame of spirit; and all this strengthens unbelief, and keeps the door the closer shut against Christ; which seems to have been the case of the church here, and of that of Laodicea, in Revelation 3, when Christ stood at her door and knocked.
2dly, By her hands and fingers may be meant her faith in its exercise and operation, attended with the fruits thereof. Faith is usually represented in scripture as the hand of the soul by which it receives Christ, as the Father's free gift; embraces him as the only Savior; lays hold upon and retains him, as he stands in all the endearing characters and relations which he appears in to his own people, Now this faith is not idle and inactive, but “works by love” to Christ and his people, to his ways and ordinances; it has its fruits, and is attended with the performance of good works,, and will put the person that is possessed of it, on the discharge of his duty; it put the church here upon attempting to draw back the lock of unbelief; faith laid its hands and fingers upon the handles of it, and used all its might, power and diligence to do it: but it may be asked, How could the church be able, with all her faith, industry and diligence, to draw back this lock? I answer, Faith cannot do this of itself; unbelief is a “sin which easily besets us,” but it is not so easily got rid of; it is a weight, that the hand of faith of itself, cannot lift and lay aside; the believer must say, even in the exercise of faith, with the poor man in the gospel, Mark 9:24. “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief;” this lock. grows too hard for faith to draw it back of itself; but yet faith's looking to, and dealing with Christ's person, blood, and righteousness, much weakens unbelief. When an unbelieving Thomas was indulged with a sight of Christ's pierced hands and feet, and was enabled to thrust his hand into his side; his unbelief immediately vanished and disappeared, and he could say, “My Lord, and my God:” it is certain, that the stronger faith grows, lukewarmness, indolence, and carnal security decay; and the soul is quickened, stirred up, and put upon the performance of duty: and what is it that a soul is not enabled, to do in the exercise of faith? difficulties which are insuperable to carnal sense and reason, are got over by faith; read ever the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, and you will see what heroic acts have been performed by faith though the strength in which these things have been performed, did not arise from the grace itself, but from Christ, the object of it, whose “strength is made in faith's weakness;” for without him we can do nothing, but his “grace is sufficient to enable us to do all things.”
Now before she proceeds to tell how she succeeded in this attempt: she gives an account of a piece of sweet experience she met with, whilst she was trying to draw back the lock; “my hands,” says she, “dropped with myrrh, and my fingers, with sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock.” By myrrh, is meant grace, in its aboundings and overflowings: but it may be inquired, From whence this myrrh came, and by whom it was brought? If we understand it of the church's myrrh or grace, as brought here by herself, as some think; who may be represented as taking up a pot of myrrh, intending with it to anoint end refresh his head which was wet with dew; which she either unawares or else designedly broke; or else, being :in a panic fear, her hand shook, and the myrrh ran over her hands and fingers; or rather, not having time to perfume her garments with it, as was usual (see Ps. 45:8); she dipped her fingers in a pot of myrrh, to ingratiate and render herself acceptable to her beloved; supposing that he might be full of resentment on the account of her carriage and behavior towards him: and then taking it in this sense, it will teach us these things following; 1. That her grace was now in exercise, it was flowing; this oil of myrrh before was as it were congealed; but now it is become liquid; it is upon the flow, and flows in such abundance, that it ran off her hands and lingers upon the handles of the lock. 2. Her hands and fingers, dropping with it, show that these actions and good works of hers, intended by her hands and fingers, being performed in faith, were odorous and grateful to Christ: so the prayers of the saints are called odors, in Revelation 5:8, and some mean and small services of the Philippians, are called an odor of a sweet smell (Phil. 4:18). 3. That When grace is in exercise, duty is both easy and pleasant: Christ's commands then are not grievous, but his “ways are ways of pleasantness, and his paths, paths of peace:” before, nothing more unpleasant than to arise and open to him; but now, nothing more easy and delightful; her “hands drop with myrrh;” etc. But I rather think, that the myrrh or grace of Christ is here meant, which was brought and left here by him; when he “put in his hand by the hole of the door,” he then put in this myrrh he had gathered, verse 1, and left it in the lock-hole; which she found in such abundance when she came to open, that her hands and fingers dropped with it: the allusion seems to be to lovers shut out, who used to cover the threshold of the door with flowers, and anoint the door-posts with sweet-smelling ointment. Taking the words in this sense, we may observe that grace is called so, (1.) For the preciousness of it; myrrh is a precious spice, and one of the principal spices; and this in the text is the best of myrrh, there was a sort of myrrh called odoraria, sweet-smelling: the word translated ‘sweet-smelling myrrh,” signifies “passing or current myrrh;” it being vendible or saleable, not in the least damaged, but what will pass; and so is in the same sense current, as money is said to be (Gen. 23:16), or else, it is called “passing myrrh,” because it diffuses its odor on every side; so R. Solomon Jarchi thinks: or, rather because it is that myrrh which bleeds or weeps, or drops from the tree of itself, which is always esteemed the best myrrh: and this sets forth the exceeding preciousness of Christ's grace, which is more valuable than all things else. (2.) It sets forth the abundance of it: if there was such an abundance of it brought by Christ, and left in the lock-hole, so that it ran in such plenty over her hands and fingers, as to drop from thence; What an abundance? what an overflow of it must there be in himself, who is “full of grace and truth?” if there is a super-abounding of grace in those in whom sin has abounded; What an overflowing fullness of it must there be in him, in whom is no sin, and who is the fountain from whence all grace flows, and is communicated to his people? (3.) It is expressive of the odorousness of it: there is such a sweet savor in the grace of Christ, as it is in himself, that the love of the virgins is drawn forth to him by it; and it emits so fragrant an odor, as it is in believers, that Christ himself is delighted with it (see Song 1:3, 4:10).
Moreover, seeing it appears that this myrrh was brought unto, and left in the lock-hole by Christ; it may be asked, for what purpose it was brought and left there? which was, (1.) To draw and allure her heart unto him: the same grace that draws a soul to Christ at first conversion, draws it to him when it has declined and back-slidden from him; Christ uses the same methods, and puts forth the same grace at one time as at the other; he draws “with the cords of love, and bands of a man.” (2.) To supple and soften her hard heart, and make this rusty lock go easy: this oil of myrrh being left there, removed the hardness of her heart, the stiffness of her will, and the rustiness of her affections; this melted her hard heart, made her stubborn will pliable, set her affections on the flow, her faith in exercise, and made the lock of unbelief draw back more easy. (3.) To exercise and stir up her grace; it is Christ's grace, manifested and applied unto us, that excites ours; it is his love “shed abroad in our hearts by his Spirit,” that raises ours; for “we love him, because he first loved us.” Now all these ends were answered hereby; it was this grace, this myrrh, left in the handles of the lock, that fetched her off her bed, that softened the hardness of her heart and affections to him, that removed the bars and bolts that kept him out, and drew forth her grace into exercise.
Again, the church's hands and fingers being said to drop with myrrh, which Christ had put into the lock-hole, shows, 1. That all the grace, all the myrrh, that a believer has, comes from Christ; it is from “his fullness we receive grace for grace,” that is, all sorts of grace. 2. That a believer has most reason to expect a larger measure of grace from Christ, when he is in the way of his duty; whilst the church was sluggish and slothful, negligent of her duty, and taking her ease upon a bed of security, there is no mention of the flowings of this myrrh into her or upon her; but now she is up, and in the way of her duty, her hands drop with myrrh, and her fingers with sweet-smelling myrrh:” not that our duties are deserving of any thing at Christ's hands, much less such large measures and over-flowings of grace as these; yet Christ has been graciously pleased, for an encouragement, to grant the promise of his presence, and the communications of his grace to us, when found in the way of our duty, though not for the performance of it. How the church succeeded in this attempt of hers, in opening the door, may be seen in the following words.
 Vid. Sanct. and Bishop Patrick in loc.
 At lachrymans exclusus amator — postempue superbos unguit amaricino, Lucret. 1. 4. prope finem.
 Plin. Nat. Hist. 1. 12. c. 16.
 rb[ rwm myrrham transeuntem, Pagninus, Mon-tanus: etc, lachrymantem, Bochart. vid. Mercer. and Bishop Patrick in loc.