OF THE BOOK OF
I opened to my
beloved, but my beloved had withdrawn himself,
and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I
could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
these words are,
I. A fourth and last effect of Christ's “putting in his hand by the hole of the door;” she opened to him.
II. The wretched disappointment she had met with; he “had withdrawn himself, and was gone.”
III. What effect this disappointment had upon her; her soul failed when he spake.
IV. Her endeavors to find her lost spouse.
I. Here is a fourth and last effect of Christ's “putting in his hand by the hole of the door,” which is the exertion of his mighty and efficacious grace, “I opened to my beloved.” This was what her beloved desired of her, and called for, in verse 2, and which was his principal end in exerting the power of his grace. Now this opening to him, is to be understood of the exercise of her faith, by which her heart was enlarged and dilated to receive Christ: faith is the eye, the ear, the mouth and hand of the soul; faith's eye being opened, sees the beauties and glories of Christ's person, and spies wondrous things in his gospel; its ear being open to discipline, listens to what Christ says in his promises and commands, and takes in the comfort of the one, and carefully observes the other; its mouth being opened, speaks of the promises of Christ, the glory of his person, office and undertakings; and its hand being opened, receives and embraces him, opens the door, and lets him in. From this act of the church, in opening to her beloved, may be observed, 1. That Christ had not only wrought in her a will, but had also given her a power to open to him; once she seemed to have but little inclination; her will did not seem so very free, being overpowered with sleep and sloth; and if her spirit was willing, yet it appears manifest that the flesh was weak; if she had a will to open, how to do it she knew not; but now, as by her rising off her bed, coming to the door, and putting her hands and fingers upon the handles of the lock, in order to draw it back, she showed that Christ had wrought in her to will; so by her actual opening to him, she made it appear that he had also wrought in her “to do of his good pleasure.” 2. That she being assisted in this act by the mighty grace of Christ, is said to do that which is sometimes ascribed to God himself; thus in Acts 16:14, the Lord is said to open the heart of Lydia: it is true, there is a great difference between the opening of a sinner's heart at conversion, which is entirely shut against Christ; and the opening of a believer's, which is in part only shut and closed through unbelief, negligence, and carnal security: in the one, there were no principles of grace, previous to the opening of it; but in the other there are, though they lie dormant, and are not in exercise; but yet a believer, without the grace and power of Christ, can no more open his heart to him, when in such a case, than he could at first conversion: this work is attended with difficulties insuperable without the strength of Christ; therefore, whilst on her bed, she thought it impossible for her to do it, and unreasonable in him to desire it; till he put in his hand, and left such an abundance of the sweet-smelling myrrh of his grace, by which being assisted, she is said to do it. 3. That the heart of a believer is only patent and open to the Lord Jesus Christ, “I opened to my beloved;” though it is sometimes, an a great measure, dosed and shut unto him; yet when it is opened, it is only opened to him; he is the only object of a believer's faith and love: the church here did not open to strangers, only to her beloved, being espoused as a chaste virgin” to him; therefore, in chapter 4:12, she is said to be “a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” 4. Her opening to Christ, supposes that she thought Christ still at the door; so she did when she got off her bed to open to him; and so she did when she put her hands upon the handles of the lock; and perhaps was more confirmed in her thoughts, that he was still there, when she found such an abundance of his sweet-swelling myrrh in the lock, and upon the handles of it; but she was very much mistaken, as she afterwards found. For,
II. Her “beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone;” a very great disappointment indeed! she expected, that as soon as ever the door was open, she should have seen him, and that he would have received her in his arms, and embraced her in his bosom; but instead of that, he was gone, and she could neither have any sight, nor hear any tidings of him. Here it may be inquired, 1st, What is meant by Christ's withdrawing himself from his church and people? 2dly, Why he did now with withdraw himself from the church? And, 3dly, Why she makes use of two words to express his departure from her, and what they import?
1st, It may be inquired what is meant by Christ's withdrawing himself from his church and people? And, 1. It is not to be understood of him as the omnipresent God, who is every where, and fills heaven and earth with his presence; for as there is no fleeing from it, so there is no withdrawing of it, as David says (Ps. 139:7), “Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I fly from thy presence?” there is no place exempted from it, nor can be; he does not move from place to place, nor from person to person; nor is he sometimes with a person, and sometimes not; for if so, he would not be the omnipresent God. Nor, 2. Is it to be understood of the dissolution of a believer's covenant-interest in Christ, and union to him: a believer may lose sight of Christ for a time, but he can never lose his interest in him: the relation between them can never cease; the marriage-knot can never be untied, nor the union-bonds be, ever broken; for Christ has said, Hosea 2:19. “I will betroth thee unto me for ever:” the union between Christ and believers is in some measure like to that between the Father and the Son; and I will venture to say, that the one may as soon be dissolved as the other (see John 17:22, 23). Nor, 3. Is it to be understood of a withdrawing of his love and affection from them; for though they may sometimes think he has, yet he never does, nor never will withdraw it; his love to them is as unchangeable as himself; it is the “ same yesterday, today, and for ever;” for “having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them to the end;” he has given his word, that though he, “for a small moment forsakes them, yet with everlasting kindness will he have mercy on them;” and as if this was not enough, he joins his oath to it, and swears, that he “would not be wroth with them, nor rebuke them;” and declares, that his kindness and his covenant are as immoveable as, nay, more than mountains and hills; which, one would think, is enough to banish all doubts and fears from believers, and fill them with as firm a persuasion as the apostle Paul was possessed of, when he says, “I am persuaded that neither life nor death,” etc. “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But, 4. It is to be understood of the withdrawing of the sensible manifestations of his presence and love: and this is what the church has experienced in all ages; for he is a God that “hideth his face from the house of Jacob;” and what particular believers have met with, as is manifest from David, Heman, and others. And this was what the church wanted, even some sensible enjoyments of Christ's presence and grace; she had his strengthening and supporting presence, which enabled her to rise and open; but she wanted his comforting and soul-rejoicing presence, and sensible communion with him; Christ's love is always the same, but the sense of it in believers is variable; the one is sometimes withdrawn, the other never.
2dly, It may seem a little strange, and almost unaccountable, that Christ at this instant should withdraw himself from his church; seeing he had so importunately desired her to arise and open to him; had used all methods to win upon her, find by his grace had enabled her to do it; and yet now it is done, he withdraws himself and is gone: and therefore it is proper to inquire why he should do so; which was perhaps, 1. To chastise her for her former carriage to him: had he, as soon as she had opened the door, shown himself to her, and received her with all tokens of love and joy; she would not have thought the offense so great, nor that he was so much provoked by it, and did so highly resent it as he did; therefore to bring her to a sense of it, and to correct her for it, by suffering the loss of his company, he withdraws himself. 2. To try the truth and strength of her grace: her grace was now in exercise, as appears by her rising and opening; and now, the more to exercise it, and prove the strength of it, he with. draws himself: thus all our afflictions, temptations and desertions, are for the trial of our faith, and other graces; which being tried, appear “much more precious than of gold that perisheth.” 3. To enflame her love, and sharpen her desires the more after him; which effect his withdrawing from her, in Song of Solomon 3:1-3, had upon her; and so it had here: many such instances we have in Job, David, and others; who, being without the presence of God, have the more earnestly wished for, vehemently thirsted, punted and breathed after a re-enjoyment of it (see Job 23:2; Ps. 43:1,2, 63:1); and it is usually so, that the want of a blessing, not only brings us under a conviction of the worth of it, and so draws out our affections to it, but also enlarges and increases our desires after it. 4. To endear his presence the more, when she came to enjoy it: when a soul has been destitute of Christ's presence for a time, and come to enjoy it again, O how sweet, ravishing and delightful is it to him! and how much it is valued by him! the disciples were without Christ's bodily presence but a few days; and when he appeared to them, we are told (John 20:20), that “then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord;” and what expressions of joy, and intimations of esteem for Christ's presence, does the church give, in Song of Solomon 3:4, when she had found her lost spouse? 5. To keep her humble: had she immediately enjoyed his presence upon her rising and opening to him, she might dare thought that she had, by those actions of hers, deserved such a favor at his hands; therefore, to hide pride from her, and to let her know the nothingness of all her doings, and that they fell abundantly short of meriting such a blessing, he withdraws himself: our enjoyment of Christ's presence, and the communications of his love and grace to us, as much depend on his free and sovereign will, as the first display of his grace to us; he gives these favors at pleasure, and that to whom, when, and where he pleases. 6. To show her the odious nature of sin, which was the cause of this.; and that she might, through grace, be more upon her guard against it, and be more cautious of provoking him to it again: it was sin that was the cause of the angel's being turned out of heaven, the place of the divine abode; and of Adam's being drove out of Eden, from the presence of the Lord God; and though sin cannot dissolve the union that is between Christ and a believer, nor destroy his covenant-interest in him; yet it is often the cause of God's hiding his face, and Christ's withdrawing his presence from him; “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you,” says the prophet Isaiah 59:2, to the people of Israel; and it was the church's unbecoming carriage to Christ, which was the cause of his withdrawing from her now; and therefore to bring here to a sense of it, and to see the odious nature thereof, he withdraws himself; that when she enjoyed it again, she might be more careful not to provoke him again by such steps as these: and such an effect it had upon her, in Song of Solomon 3:4,5, where she not only held him fast herself, and would not let him go; but also charges the daughters of Jerusalem to give him no molestation or disturbance.
3dly, The church makes use of two words here to express Christ's departure from her, “My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone,” which signify and import, 1. That this was done suddenly and secretly, unseen, at an unawares to her, and unexpected by her; so the word translated, “had withdrawn himself,”, signifies a doing it secretly; he “turned himself about, and was gone” in a moment; he withdrew himself privately from the door, and passed by the window, and was gone; so that she could not set eyes upon him, nor hear any tidings of him. 2. That he was gone at a very great distance in her apprehensions: so believers think sometimes, when Christ has withdrawn himself from them, that he is gone a great way off, is not within call, and will never return more (see Ps. 10:1); and this is thought by some, to be the import of the first word; and the other, being added to it, heightens the sense. 3. That he was really gone: it was not u mere imagination of hers, but it was certainly so; which she found to her great grief and sorrow. 4. The doubling of the words, or her using those two words without a copulative, he “had withdrawn himself, was gone,” which she seems to speak in the utmost haste and confusion, represent the strength of her passion, the greatness of her sorrow, what a wretched disappointment she met with; and as if she was wringing her hands, and crying outs “He is gone, he is gone, he is gone.” Which brings us to consider,
III. What effect this disappointment had upon her; “my soul,” says she, “failed when he spoke,” or went out; I was as one dead, I immediately fell into a swoon, and was as one whose life and soul departed. Some think that the church in these words excuses herself from the blame of not rising and opening to him sooner; as if she should say, I am not so much to be blamed, nor has my beloved so much reason to be provoked at, nor so highly to resent my not rising and opening sooner; for as soon as ever I heard his voice, saying, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove,” etc., it overcame my heart, my soul failed at these words of his; I immediately fell into a swoon, and lay as one lifeless and helpless, and was not able to rise and open to him; but as soon as ever I came to my senses, and was recovered a little out of this fit, I arose and opened to him: but it does not appear from the context, that side did fall into such a fit at his calling to her, or was rendered non combos mentis; for she was capable all the while of observing all his words and ways; how he carried himself to her, and proceeded with her; what steps he took, and methods he used, till he had brought her to arise and open, Therefore the words seem rather to be expressive of that confusion of mind she was thrown into, when she found he was gone; even as it is said of the queen of Sheba, that “there was no more spirit in her;” occasioned through wonder and surprise in beholding Solomon's wisdom, and the order and management of his house and servants, that she knew not what to think or what to say: so the church here being surprised at Christ's absence, her soul fails her, no spirit is left in her; she knew not what to think, say, or do: or else they are expressive of the exceeding grief and sorrow that she was overwhelmed with; “my soul failed when he spoke,” or “at his word”; that is, at the remembrance of it: O! now I call to mind how lovingly, kindly, and tenderly he spoke to me, when he said, “Open to me, my sister, my love,” etc., yet, vile, ungrateful wretch, as I am, I took no notice of it; I put him off with idle excuses, I kept my bed and indulged myself in sloth and ease; but now it cuts me to the heart, it grieves me, t cannot bear up under it; when I remember his love, and my unkindness, I sink, I faint, I die; I cannot live without his presence; his absence is death unto me; my soul fails at his words of love and grace which he spoke to me, and at his word of command which he enjoined me; to which, being disobedient, I have now lost his company, which is intolerable to me. She seems to be much in the same case that the Psalmist was, when he said (Ps. 143:7), “Hear me speedily, O Lord, my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.”
IV. Being somewhat recovered out of her fainting fit, she rallied together all the spirit and strength she had, and out she goes in search of her lost spouse; the methods she took, and how she succeeded therein, are as follow:
1st, She sought him, namely, in the public ordinances, “in the streets and broad ways of the city,” as she had done before, in Song of Solomon 3:2, and that with the same success; “she sought him, but found him not.” The nature of seeking a lost Christ, and how to be performed, as also why the church succeeded no better, have been there shown; which will equally serve to explain and illustrate this.
2dly, She called him, to wit, by name, as she went along the streets and broad ways; that is, she prayed unto him, that he would manifest himself to her in his own ordinances; and no doubt but the method she took was right, and may serve to instruct us, that we should not only before we attended upon an ordinance, pray for the presence of Christ in it; but also, when we are attending, our souls should be breathing after, and secretly begging for it. But how did she succeed herein? she “called him, but he gave her no answer;” resolving still to chastise her for her former ingratitude; to try her faith, and exercise her patience; to enflame her love to him, and increase her desires after communion with him. But, 1. This seems contrary to those kind promises; “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, etc. call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee,” etc. but she asked, and it was not given to her what she asked for; she sought, but found not; she called, but no answer is returned: to which it may be replied, that God does, and certainly will make good his own promises, and fulfill the petitions of his people; yet he does not always answer immediately, nor just in that way which they are desirous of the church had his upholding presence, though not sensible communion with him; she was so far answered, as to be “strengthened with strength in her soul,” to continue in her search and inquiries after him; though she had not those manifestations of his grace and love, which she was desirous of. 2. It is a very great affliction to a believer, when he labors under such apprehensions, that his prayers are not heard and answered; the church mentions this among her sore afflictions, in Lamentations 3:8,44, that God had “shut out her prayer,” and had “covered himself with a cloud, that her prayer should not pass through:” unconverted men, hypocrites and carnal professors, are not concerned about the answer of their prayers; it is enough to them to perform these duties; but believers are concerned about the returns of prayer, and, are grieved to the heart, as the church here was, when they cannot observe any. 3. Christ here treats her just in the same way in which she had treated him; she is paid in her own coin; he had called to her, but she disregarded him, and turned a deaf ear to him, and returned him no answer, that deserved the name of one; she now calls to him, but he disregards her, turns a deaf ear to her, and gives her no answer; he treats her here, not in a way of vindictive wrath and punishment, as he will do the wicked at the last day (see Prov. 1:24-28); but in a way of chastisement and correction. What success she afterwards met with, will be seen in the following verses.
 Vid. R. Sol. Jarchium in 1oc.
 Vid. Cocceium is foe. R. David Kimchi in 1ib. Shorash. rad. qmj and to this purpose Montanus and Pagnine translate it; the one renders it, circuierat, the other, verteret se.
 Vid, R. Aben Ezra and Brightman in loc.
 ta[y exhlqen, Sept. exhrceto, Symmachus; egressa est, Pagninus, Montanus, Marckius.
 Vid. Sanct. in 1oc.
 wrbrb en logw autou, Sept. lalountov autou, Symmachus; in 1oquela ejus; Marckius.