OF THE BOOK OF
I went down
into the garden of nuts, to see the fruits of the valley,
and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates
are either the words of the church, or of Christ: Some take them to be the words of the church, who not finding Christ on earth, sought him in the heavenly paradise, which they understand by this nut-garden; and by her going down into it, ,he lively exercise of her faith on the unseen joys and glories of it, in looking to them, seeking of them, and pressing after them: though others who also understand them as the words of the church; yet think that they represent her as giving a reason why, upon his departure from her, she went not only into the city, but also into the fields, and that in the night-season, which might not appear so reputable to one of her sex; therefore to wipe off all reproach, and to remove all suspicion of evil designs in her, as well as to inform him now she had employed herself during his absence, she tells him that she went into the nut-garden, to inspect the fruits of it, and to see in what case the vines and pomegranates were. Tho' I rather think that they are the words of Christ, declaring to his church where he went, and what he employed himself about, when he departed from her; and that he was not even then altogether unmindful of her; but narrowly looked into the state and case of her, and her members, when she thought he was at a distance from her: and this agrees with what Christ had said, in chapter 5:1, “I am come into my garden,” etc. and also confirms what she had said, in 5:2, of this chapter, “My beloved is gone down into his garden,” etc. Besides, it best suits with him, who is the owner of the garden, to look after the fruits of it, and to see in what case it stands: moreover, this was the usual place of Christ's residence. Taking them then to be the words of Christ, there are two things to be considered.
I. Want is meant by this “garden of nuts,” into which, Christ says, he “went down.”
II. The tact of his going there; which is threefold. 1st, “To see the fruits of the valley.” 2dly, “To see whether the vine flourished.” 3dly, Whether “the pomegranates budded.”
I. I shall inquire what is meant by this “garden of nuts,” into which Christ is said to go Some Jewish interpreter, understand by it, the second temple, which was built by the commandment of Cyrus king of Persia; but it seems better to understand it of the church of Christ, which is compared to a garden, in chapter 4:12, and for what reasons has been there shown; and Christ being said to go down into it, may be an allusion to Solomon's gardens, which lay low, and required a descent unto them from his palace; and thus not only is expressive of the state and condition of Christ's church, but also of his condescension in visiting it, as has been observed on verse 2. Now this garden here, is said to be a “garden of nuts;” a garden where nut-trees only grew; for the ancients had places appropriated to such trees, and with propriety might be called nut-gardens; tho', by what follows, there seem to be vines and pomegranates, and other fruits, as well as nuts in this garden; nuts might be the principal tree whence it had its name. The words are by some translated, “the pruned gardens,” or “the gardens of pruning or shearing:” deriving the word from a root, which signifies to cut or sheer; and so signifies that it is a garden well dressed, and pruned, and kept in good order: and so indeed is Christ's church; and therefore is opposite to, and different from the field and vineyard of the sluggard (Prov. 24:30, 31), which was neither in good order, without nor within; without, its stone-wall, its fence, was broken down; and within, it was all overrun with thorns and nettles: but Christ's garden is in a much better case; for, 1. It is well fenced with sovereign powerful and distinguishing grace; nay, God himself is “a wall of fire” about it, and has appointed ‘salvation for walls and bulwarks” all around it; so that it is strongly enclosed, and well secured from the “boar out of the wood” wasting it, and from “ the wild beast of the field” devouring it. 2. It is well planted; it is not an empty garden within, but is well stored with plants of all sorts, and those the most excellent, as appears from chap. 4:13,14, it is filled with “trees of righteousness,” which are laden with the fruit thereof, and therefore are very valuable. 3. It is well pruned; for as Christ is the vine, the principal plant in this garden, on which all others grow, and from whence they receive their life and nourishment; so Christ's “Father is the husbandman, the vine-dresser, the keeper of the garden, and he keeps the plants in good order; for “every branch that beareth not fruit,” he lops it off, and taketh it away; and “every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth,” or pruneth it, “that it may bring forth more fruit (John 15:1, 2). 4. It is well watered; as the Lord is the keeper of it, so he “waters it every moment” with the refreshing dews and delightful showers of divine line and grace; there as a fountain in the midst of it to water all the beds, and this is Christ himself; who therefore, in chapter 4:15, is called the “fountain of gardens;” who also is the “well of living waters;” and whose grace is as ‘streams from Lebanon:” so that every” particular believer, every plant here, is “like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.” 5. It is well weeded; there are tares grow up in Christ's field, and weeds in his garden, such as hypocrites and carnal professors; and Christ sometimes weeds his garden of many of these; and that by causing the sun of persecution to arise upon them, which scorches and burns them up, they not having root in themselves; he sometimes takes his fan in his hand, and with it purges his flower of the chaff, and clears his churches of such sort of persons as these; but this he will do more effectually at the last day, when he shall send his angels to “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity,” (Matthew 13:41).
Moreover, by these well-dressed or pruned gardens may be meant, those particular churches of Christ, which are regularly formed, are in good order, and are well disciplined; whose members are lively in the exercise of their faith, walk agreeably in their lives and conversations; are zealous for the truths of the gospel, and for the maintaining the ordinances of it in their purity; and are not remiss in dealing with offenders, whether they be immoral in their lives, or erroneous in their principles, such were. in a great measure, the churches of Ephesus, and Colosse (see Rev. 2:3; Col. 2:5), and with such churches Christ delights to be; and these may expect his presence.
But the word, though only used in this place, is by Jewish writers generally rendered a nut; and so it is by the Septuagint, as well as by our translators and others: this is very properly taken notice of in this love-poem; it being usual for new-married persons to get nuts, and throw them among children to make pastime; and to signify, among other things, that they now renounced childish things. And by the garden, is meant the church of Christ, as has been observed before; and by the nuts which grow in this garden, from whence it has the name of a nut-garden, are meant believers; who may be called so, for the following reasons: 1. Because though they are mean and abject without, yet are glorious and valuable within: the “king's daughter is all glorious;” the inside of a believer, like that of the nut, is the best part of him: the outward appearance of saints is but mean, and the world judging according to that, not capable of seeing any farther, look upon them as the off-scouring of all things: but Christ, who knows their inside as well as their outside, knows what they are by his grace, as well as what they are by nature, that though they are black in themselves, yet are comely in him; he reckons them the excellent in the earth, in whom is all his delight. 2. Because of their several coverings: in the nut there are the husk and shell, and besides these, an inward covering; believers have several coverings; they have the robe of Christ's righteousness to cover them, which may answer the shell of the nut; being lasting and durable, will abide for ever, and will bring the soul that is enwrapped in it safe to glory: there is also “the new man,” or garment of sanctification, which is put on by the believer; and this may answer the inward covering of the nut, as being more thin and tender, weak and imperfect: and then there is likewise the outward garment of a gospel-conversation; and this may answer the husk of the nut, as being the coarser and more imperfect covering, which, continually needs washing in Christ's blood. 3. Because of their hardiness in enduring afflictions: they wade through a sea of troubles in this world, before they enter the kingdom; and this they do with becoming cheerfulness, patience, courage, and magnanimity of mind; they “are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed,” (2 Cor. 4:8, 9) and that because they are supported under all these trials and exercises, and carried above them by a superior power. 4. Because of their hiddenness; the best part of the nut is hid: the saints are hid from everlasting, in the bosom of the Father, in the hands of the Son, and in the everlasting covenant of grace; until they are made openly to appear to be the people of God, by powerful and efficacious grace in conversion, and therefore are called God's “hidden ones;” and after conversion they are hid from the men of the world; the work of grace upon their souls is hid from them, and therefore called “the hidden man of the heart;” their joys and comforts are hid from them, and so indeed is their whole life of grace here, as well as their life of glory hereafter: for though they are “the sons of God, yet it does not appear” so fully to themselves, much less to the men of the world, “what they shall be.” 5. Because of the safety and security both of their persons and their graces: nuts, in the greatest showers of rain, have only their outside washed the more, but their inside remains untouched, and is no ways hurt; so saints are safe and secure, notwithstanding all the floods, storms, and tempests of temptations, persecutions and afflictions; being built upon the rock, Christ Jesus, and hid in him, the ark of the covenant; the inward principle of grace in them cannot be lost; that hidden seed is incorruptible, and will abide so for ever. 6. Nuts often grow in clusters; which may not only denote the multitude of believers, and their close adherence to Christ, his gospel, cause and interest; but also their unity among themselves: and as it is a very pleasant and delightful sight to see nuts grow in clusters; so it is much more to see “brethren dwell together in unity.” 7. Saints being compared to nuts, and to those of the best sort which grow in gardens, shows, that they have not only the shell of an outward profession, but also the kernel of true grace: some have only “the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof; profess to know God in words, but in works deny him;” have a name to live, but yet are dead; but such are not these who are here compared to nuts. 8. Their being compared to nuts, may denote their preservation from the pollution of the world, though in the midst of them: as a nut, though it may fall into the mire and dirt, yet the inside is no ways defiled therewith; so R. Solomon Jarchi, out of the Midrashes explains these words of the impollution of the works of the Israelites, when they were in captivity among the nations of the world. 9. The kernel of the nut does not appear, until the shell be broke: the graces of God's children generally show themselves most when they are under afflictions; for “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope;” that is, makes those graces to appear more in their lively exercise; even as spice smells most when beaten in a mortar: moreover, this rich treasure of divine grace, which is put into our “earthen vessels,” will not be so clearly seen, until these vessels are broken in pieces; nor will the soul appear so beautiful and glorious, being clothed with Christ's righteousness, and adorned with the graces of his Spirit, as when it is dislodged from “the earthly house of its tabernacle,” and is joined with the ‘spirits of just men made perfect.” 10. Some think, that not the common nuts, but the fruit, which we call nutmegs, are here intended; but such nuts grew not in those parts: rather, walnuts are meant, which the Arabs call gauz or geuz, which is the same word that is here used; as walnuts were in great esteem in the eastern countries, among the gardens Solomon had (Eccl. 2:7), one might be appropriated to these; and at Etham, about two miles from Jerusalem, Solomon had gardens, into which he had used to go early in a morning, as Josephus relates: pistacia-nuts were well known in Syria, which joined to Judea, and which might have a part in this garden: nuts grew in Judea, of which Josephus makes mention, as in great plenty; and they are reckoned among the beat fruits of the land of Canaan (Gen. 43:11), and if nutmegs were designed, they might be expressive of the fragrancy and sweet odor of the saints, as they are clothed with Christ's garments which ‘smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia;” and as they are perfumed with “his ointments,” which are exceeding savory. But,
II. Let us consider the end of Christ's going down into this garden of nuts; which is,
1st, “To see the fruits of the valley.” By fruits, are meant the graces of the Spirit; the growth, actings and exercises of which, Christ went down to take notice of: and these are said to be the “fruits of the valley,” because they grow upon humble souls, with whom Christ delights to be, and on whom he bestows more grace; though it is a wonderful instance of his grace and condescension to vouchsafe a regard to such poor, low, mean, and worthless creatures (see Isa. 57:15, 66:1, 2). Some interpreters translate the words, “the shoots or fruits of the brook or river; agreeable enough to the Hebrew word, which signifies a torrent, as well as a valley; and so are expressive of the fertile soil in which believers are planted, and which is the occasion of their fruitfulness (see Ps. 1:3).
2dly, “To see whether the vine flourished.” In what sense particular churches or believers in Christ may be compared to vines, has been shown on chapter 2:13, who may be said to flourish, when they increase in number, gifts and grace, and become fruitful in every good word and work, which Christ much looks after in his churches and in particular persons.
3dly, To see whether “the pomegranates budded.” By pomegranates are meant believers; see chapter 4:13, and by their budding, the beginnings or first putting forth of grace in them; which Christ takes much notice of, and is highly well pleased with. And from all this may be observed, 1. The particular care and notice which Christ takes of his plants; he misses none, but goes from one to another; observes them all in what case they are, takes notice of the meanest, as well as the greatest; the fruits of the valley, as well as the vines and pomegranates. 2. That Christ is well pleased with the fruitfulness of them; he has been at a great deal of labor and expense to make them so; for this purpose he has made, planted, dunged and watered this garden: and now it must be some pleasure to him, to ‘see of the travail of his soul, and to have the pleasure of the Lord prosper in his hands;” for as herein is his Father glorified, so herein is he well pleased, that his people “bring forth much fruit,” (see John 15:8; Col. 1:10). 3. That he particularly takes notice of the first appearances and budding of grace in young converts; these he has a tender regard for, and takes a more than ordinary care of; see chapter 2:15, Isaiah 40:11 and 42:3. 4. That Christ has plants of various sorts and different growths in his garden; some vines, some pomegranates, and some nut-trees: all have gifts and grace differing one from another; some have ripe fruit upon them, others are blossoming, and some are but just budding forth. 5. Yet they are all fruit-bearing trees in Christ's garden: there are none else mentioned here; and there are none in it, which are of his planting, but what are fruitful. Seeing then that Christ does so narrowly inspect the plants and trees in his garden, and expects fruit from every one of them; how much should we be concerned to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness!” lest when he comes into his garden, and finds no fruit upon us, neither in the blossom nor in the bud, he should give orders to cut us down for cumber-ground (Luke 12:6, 7).
 Diodat. in loc.
 Theodoret. in loc. & Tres Patres in Ib. So Athanasius Synops. Sacr Script, 50:16, interprets it of Jerusalem, the church, who observing the faith of the children, and the philanthropy of the Word says this; and by the garden of nuts, he understands the scriptures, which are hard without, but spiritual within: and the Ethiopic version renders the words, My beloved is gone down, etc,
 Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi in loc. Lyra interprets it of the temple of Solo-mon, but the Cabalistic doctors interpret it of malcuth or the congregation of Israel, Lexic. Cabal. p. 24, 240.
 Quicquid nobile pontieis, nuuncetis Statii Syiva, 50:1 ode 6. 5:12.
 Ad norcos putatos, Junius & Tremellius; toasionis, Piscator; hortum putationis, Marckius.
 ˆwga tng la eiv kh~pon karuav, Sept. in hortum nucum, Vulg. Latin version; ad hortum nucum, Cocceius, Tigurine version; in hortum nucis, Mercerus; ad hortum nucis, Montanus.
 Sparge marite nuces, etc. Virgil. Bucolic. eclog. 8. 5:30. Da nuces pueris, Catulli Juliae Epithalam. ep. 59. v 131. Et nucibus relictis, Perfii Satyr. 1. 5:10. Vid. Plin. 50:17. c. 22. Chartar. de. Iniag. Deorum, p. 87. & Kipping. Antiq. Ram. 1. 4 c. 2 P. 697'
 Vid. T. Bab. Chagigah, fol. 15. 2. & Shirhashirim Rabba in loc.
 Vid. R. Aben Ezra in loc. who also applies the words to the Israelites.
 Diodat. & Ainsworth in loc. Nux odorata, nux myristica, Buxtorf. Talmud Lexic. col. 21;.
 Antiquitat. 1. 8, c. 7. s. 3.
 Plin Nat. Hist. 50:13. c. 5. Athenaei Deipnosophist. 1. 14. c. 17. P. 649.
 De Bello Jud. 1. 3. c. 9. s. 8.
 lhnh ybab twarl idein en gennhmasi tou ceimarrou, Sept. idein ton karpon twn ceimarron, Al. Interp. apud. Flam. Nobil. Not. in Vat. Lect, Sept. Interp. Ut spectarem virentes plantas ad torrentem, Tig. version.
 lhb vallis, torrens per vallem dicurrens, Buxtorf.