OF THE BOOK OF
that went about the city, found me; they smote me,
they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from
church in the former verse gives an account of the wretched disappointment she met with, when she opened the door to her beloved, who had withdrawn himself, and was gone; at which she fell into a fainting fit, out of which, when she was a little recovered, she resolved not to stay at the door, lamenting the loss of her spouse, but to go out in search of him, which she did, but with no success; and she does in these words give an account of what she met with in the adventure; how she was taken up by the watch, and evilly treated by them. Where we have to consider,
I. Her being found by “the watchmen that went about the city, and “keepers of the walls.”
II. Their treatment of her, and carriage to her.
I. In this search of her beloved, she falls into the hands of the watchmen that went about the city, and the keepers of the walls thereof; who were officers of the church, set for the defense of it, and for the administration of those ordinances, in which she sought her beloved; and the description of them, or these titles and characters which they bear, may lead us to observe,
1st, That the church is a city: and no doubt is called so, in allusion to the city of Jerusalem, which was builded as a city that is compact together; it was the metropolis of the land of Judea, where Solomon kept his court, was well fortified, and delightfully situated; and therefore the church militant, as well as the church triumphant, is called by the same name; which is the city of God; of which the psalmist says (Ps. 87:3). Glorious things are spoken; it is the place of the residence of the King of kings; where his honor dwells, where he keeps his court, and has his palace; and therefore is called the city of the great King, in whose palaces God is known for a refuge; here he shows himself, here he maybe seen; therefore she was in the right of it to seek him here: in this city are all needful and delightful accommodations; it is beautiful for situation, a river of boundless love and grace runs through it, whose streams supply, refresh, and make glad the inhabitants of it; here are the best provisions to be had, which are called the goodness and fatness of God's house; here are the most delightful company, and agreeable conversation; here souls have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ; those who are brought unto, and are made inhabitants of this city of the living God, have communion with an innumerable company of angels, and spirits of just men made perfect by Christ's righteousness: in this city are many special and peculiar privileges and immunities, which the inhabitants of it enjoy; for being Christ's freemen, and freemen of this city, they have a right to all the ordinances of the gospel, and share in all the promises which concern the grace and presence of Christ; they are under no obligation to any other laws but those of Christ's, and are freed from the curses and condemnation of the law of works; so that to be a citizen of this city, and a fellow-citizen of the saints, is no, small privilege (see Eph. 2:19; Rev. 3:12); But of the church's being compared to a city, see mote on chapter 3:2.
2dly, Mention being made of the keepers of the walls of this city, shews us, that this city of God is a walled one; it is a fortified place, even as Jerusalem was, to which the allusion is made, when the church of God is spoken of; as in Psalm 51:18, and 122:7, and it may be proper to inquire what are the walls of the church, which render it strong and impregnable. And, 1. God himself is the wall of it, according to what he himself says, Zechariah 2:5, “For I, saith the Lord, will be a wall of fire round about it, and will be the glory in the midst of her;” he is not only a wall that keeps the enemy from entrance into the city, but a wall of fire that consumes and destroys all that make near approaches to it; all the divine perfections are as so many walls, which encompass and defend the church; especially that of Almighty power, by which saints are kept as in a garrison, through faith unto salvation: Jerusalem was fortified, not only by art, but also by nature, not only with walls, but with mountains; and “as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round. about his people, from henceforth, even for ever,” (Ps. 125:2). 2. Salvation by Christ is the church's wall, which render it strong and impregnable: hence we read, in Isaiah 26:1. In that day, that is, in the gospel day, when salvation is accomplished by Christ, “shall this song be sung in the land of Judah, We have a strong city; “But what is it which makes it so? salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks: and, this song will be sung more clearly in the latter day, when the church shall call her walls, salvation, and her gates, praise: salvation wrought out by Christ, is the church's protection from all enemies; hereby believers are screened and secured from sin and Satan, law, hell, and wrath to come; no enemy” can destroy them, no condemnation reach them, nor any wrath fall on them; but they shall be “saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.” 3. Ministers may be called so, who are set for the defense of the gospel: so the Lord told Jeremiah, chapter 1:18, that he had made him a defensed city, an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land; though they seem not to be intended here, because they are called the keepers of the walls, and not the walls themselves. Now the city of God being thus walled and fortified, shows, (1.) That it would otherwise be in danger from enemies: for the church of Christ has many enemies, who are lively and strong, crafty and cunning, vigilant and active, seeking all opportunities to get within, and there make disturbance, and do mischief: but this city is so well walled and firmly built, that let Satan, with all his emissaries, use all their power and cunning, and lay the closest siege unto it, the gates of hell will never be able to prevail against it. (2.) The great care which God takes of his church and people; for as birds flying or fluttering over and about their nest, in order to preserve their young, when they are in danger of being taken away from them; “ so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also, he will deliver it; and passing over, he will preserve it,” as it is said in Isaiah 31:5, which care for their preservation, is manifestly seen in his placing such walls about it.
3dly, In this city are proper officers appointed and set to watch over and guard it; and these go under two titles or characters in the text. 1. They are called “watchmen that went about the city:” these are the ministers of the church, who are called so both in the Old and New Testament; because they ought to watch over themselves, their doctrine and conversation, and to watch over others, who are made their care and charge: the business of watchmen is also to give the time of night, to give notice of present or approaching danger, either by fire or by thieves and robbers, and to take up disorderly persons, and bring them to correction: so the ministers of the gospel give notice what time of clay or night it is with the churches of Christ; they give notice to sinners of the danger which they are in, whilst in a state of nature; and also what danger churches may be in, through contentious persons and heretics, who endeavor to sow the seeds of discord, error and heresy among them; likewise their business is to awake and arouse sleepy professors, who are indulging themselves in carnal ease and security in the streets of Zion; and to admonish, reprove, and rebuke all that stand in need thereof, and so bring them under the notice and censure of the church. These are said to go about the city, (1.) To distinguish them from those upon the walls: those that went about the city, were to take care of the peace and safety of the city within; the keepers of the walls were to descry an enemy without, observe his motions, repel him, if able, and to give notice to those within of danger from him; the one was a running watch, the other a standing one. (2.) To show the nature of their work, and their diligence in it: it was the business of the keepers of the walls, to keep their stands, and not stir from their places; but the work of these was to go from place to place, to see that all was in peace and safety; but of these watchmen, see more in chapter 3:3. 2. These officers are called “keepers of the walls;” by “which some understand angels, who encamp about, and protect the people of God; others, civil magistrates, who, the apostle says, Romans 13:3,4 are not “ terrors to good works, but to the evil;” and that “he is the minister of God for good, and beareth not the sword in vain:” but if these were civil magistrates, they terrified the church in the way of her duty, and discouraged her in it; nay, turned the point of their swords against her, as often the princes of this world do, being ignorant of Christ and his church: but I rather think church-officers are here intended, and that they are the same with the watch-men who went about the city; only they may be expressive of different branches in the ministry, or of different talents which ministers have, and are to use in the discharge of their work: some, their work chiefly lies in comforting and establishing the church, in answering cases of conscience, and keeping peace and order within; and they have gifts suitable thereunto; and these may be called watchmen that go about the city: others, their work lies chiefly in defending the gospel against the avowed enemies of it; these keep the outworks good, and repel the enemy, whenever he makes an attack upon any doctrine of the gospel; and these may be called “the keepers or watchmen of the walls;” and so ministers are called in Isaiah 62:6. The Jews in Shirhashirim Rabba, and in Yalkut on the place, understand by these keepers, the tribe of Levi, the keepers of the walls of the law.
But it may now be inquired, whether these were the true ministers of Christ, or no: some think that they were; they are called watchmen, and watchmen in the city, the church, though it is true, false teachers may bear the same name as true ones, and be in office in the church as well as they; but what seems most to strengthen this opinion, is, that they Mere about their work, and in the discharge of their office; the watchmen were going about the city, as they should do, and the keepers of the walls were upon their stands, as they ought to be: others think that they were not the true and faithful ministers of the gospel; but such who are called “blind watchmen, etc.” in Isaiah 56:10, 11, and that, (1.) Because the church makes no inquiry of them, nor any application to them, which she did in a like case to the watchmen, in Song of Solomon 3:3, and therefore it seems to intimate, that she, not looking upon them as ministers of Christ, had nothing to say to them, but would have shunned them if she could. (2.) Because of their cruelty to her: they are not so pitiful, compassionate and tender, as becomes the ministers of Christ to be to souls in such cases; they seem rather to be ravenous wolves, than faithful shepherds or watchmen, and are most like those in Ezekiel 34:2-21. Plato says, keepers of cities should be mild and gentle towards their own, but to enemies rough and severe.
Now these found the church seeking and inquiring for her beloved; which shows, that she was in the city, in the streets and broad ways of it: she searched all over the city, where the watchmen that went about it, found her; and, escaping from them with blows and wounds, finding that her beloved was not there, she makes to the outparts of the city, perhaps designing to go without the city in search of him, where she fell into the hands of the keepers of the walls. This finding of her, also appears to be accidental and at an unawares; they were not seeking her, nor was she inquiring after them; it was on a sudden that they found her; and as soon as they did find her, they fell upon her, and took her up for a stroller or night-walker; and by their treatment of her, manifestly showed that they found her, not as a friend, but as an enemy; and therefore did not let her go safe, but with blows, wounds, and the loss of her veil. Which brings us to consider,
II. Their treatment of her, and carriage to her. And,
1st, “The watchmen, that went about the city, smote and wounded her;” which, if we understand of the true ministers of the gospel (though I rather think that others are intended) must be meant, either of their upbraiding and reproaching her for her former unkindness to Christ, and negligence of her duty; when they told her, and hit her in the teeth of her former sins and miscarriages, they smote and cut her to the heart, opened the wound, and made it bleed afresh; and so, like Job's friends, proved miserable comforters, who broke him in pieces with words, with words both of reproof and reproach they laid open her sins to her, and sharply reproved her for them, when they should have comforted her with the doctrines of justification by Christ's righteousness, and pardon by his blood; for Christ's own ministers may sometimes be mistaken in timing reproofs and corrections; or else, she being under the ministry of the word, and hearing some sweet discourses concerning Christ's person and grace, her heart was smitten and wounded therewith, which made her charge the daughters of Jerusalem, in the following verse, that when they found her beloved, they would tell him, that she was sick of, or wounded with love. But if we understand it of false teachers, which seems most agreeable; then by those smitings and woundings, are meant, the scandalous lives of such persons, the rents and divisions they make, the false doctrines which they preach; and those human traditions, which with force, they impose upon the consciences of men, being assisted by civil magistrates, whom they stir up to make penal laws, and put them in execution against the saints; by all which means they make the hearts of the righteous sad, and wound the consciences of God's children. One of the Greek versions is, “they scourged me,” whipped her till she was black and blue; as the Jews did the first Christians in their synagogues.
2dly, “The keepers of the walls took away her veil from her:” veils were used by women in those countries: sometimes for ornament (Isa. 3:23), sometimes as a token of modesty; thus Rebekah, when she found that Isaac was coming to meet her, covered herself with a veil (Gen. 24:65), and sometimes as a token of subjection to the husband; for which the apostle argues, that women ought to be covered (1 Cor. 11:6-10), at marriage, it was customary with the Grecians, to give a veil to the new-married bride ; the bridegroom, with the Romans, used to give the bride a veil, called flammeum, from its being of a flame-color, either yellow or red, expressive of the blushing and modesty of the new bride; and the like custom might obtain with the Jews. Now for the keepers to take away her veil from her, was to strip her of her ornaments, and expose her frailties and infirmities, which ought to be covered; it was to disown her as the spouse of Christ, and to represent her as a whorish and impudent woman; and, whereas she professed herself to be Christ's, to serve him in the way of his appointments; they endeavored to “corrupt her from the simplicity that is in Christ,” and to draw her aside to a reception of false doctrines, and to a compliance with human traditions: and then more especially, may they be said to take away her veil, when they oppose and endeavor to subvert or remove the doctrine of imputed righteousness by Christ; Christ's righteousness is the believer's veil or covering; this is “the wedding garment, perizolaion numfikon, the nuptial robe, as Gregory Nyssen calls the veil here; and when persons attempt to take away this doctrine, they do as much as in them lies to take away the church's veil. And now all this cruelty was exercised by persons professing religion, under a mask of godliness; by those who were officers in the church, from whom she might have expected a quite different treatment; and indeed, who were more bitter enemies to Christ and his apostles, than the priests and Pharisees were? and who have more cruelly persecuted in after-ages, than those who have professed Christianity! The church thus escaping from the watchmen and keepers, with blows, wounds, and the loss of her veil, meets with the daughters of Jerusalem, to whom she speaks in the following manner.
 Tou<v ejn dunamei Qrouroumenouv, praesidio Dei circumvallamur; metaphora a castris vallo & fossis undique muntis, ut nulla hostlum vi vel astutia expugnari possint, Paraeus in 1 Peter 1:5.
 Ambros. in Psalm 118. octon. 7. col. 933. Psellus, & Tres Patre, apud Theodoret. in loc. Foliot & R. Sol. Jarchi in loc.
 Theodoret in Sanct. in loc. & Diodat. in loc.
 Greg. Beda, Bernard. Aquin. in Sanct. in loc. Isidore, Foliot, Alcuin in loc.
 Ainsworth & Mercer. in loc.
 De Legibus, 50:2. p. 602.
 Emwlwpesan me, Aquila.
 Homer. Iliad. 22. 5:470.
 Lucea demissos velarunt flammea vultus, Lucan. Pharasal. 1. 2. 5:361. Ubi tibi corycio glomerarem flammea luto, Virgil. Cyris. Vid! Barth. ad Claudian. Fescen. ode 4. 5:4. & Plin. 1. 21. c. 8.
 Vid Chartar. de Imag. Deorum, p. 84, 89. & Kippiug. Antiq. Romans 1. 4. c. 2. p. 695,696.
 Homil. in Cant. 21. p. 651.