OF THE BOOK OF
have a little sister, and she hath no breasts:
What shall we do for our sister, in the day when she shall be spoken for ?
are either the words of the daughters of Jerusalem,  who were concerned for the welfare of the church; or else of Christ,  being solicitous for the conversion of the elect uncalled; or rather of the church,  who, having in the preceding verse discovered a very strong affection to Christ, here signifies her hearty concern for the good of others, which go under the appellation of a little sister; an own sister, near and dear to her,  a loving expression; by whom may be meant, either the unconverted elect in general; or else, some new church that was to be set up in some certain age or period of time; or rather, the whole Gentile church, who is called so by the Jewish church: so that they seem to be the words of the old Jewish church, signifying her affection to and concern for the Gentile church, which was then uncalled. In which may be observed,
I. That the Jewish church asserts and owns the relation that the Gentile church stood in, both to her and Christ, at that present time; “we have a little sister.”
II. She describes her, 1st, By her being little, 2dly, By her having “no breasts.”
III. She manifests her concern for her; “what shall we do for our sister, in the day when she shall be spoken for?”
I. The old Jewish church asserts and owns the relation, in which the Gentile church, though uncalled, stood in both to her and Christ; “we have a little sister.” In which may be considered, 1st, In what sense the Gentile church is sister to the Jewish church. 2dly, How she appears to stand in the same relation to Christ. 3dly, How she could be said to be so at that present time.
1st, The Gentile church may be said to be a sister to the Jewish church, for these following reasons: 1. In a more general sense; because Jews and Gentiles are both of one and the same blood; for God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” (Acts 17:26), 2. On the account of their being neighbors: thus Samaria and Sodom are said to be sisters to Jerusalem; the one the elder, the other the younger (Ezek. 16:46). 3. Because, in a spiritual sense, those who are Christ's, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, are Abraham's seed (Gal. 3:28, 29). 4. The elect of God, whether among the Jews or Gentiles, belong unto, and are interested in one and the same covenant of grace (Isa. 42:6, 49:6). 5. Believers in Christ, of either race, are born of one and the same Father, brought up in one and the same family, and are heirs together of the grace of life (Eph. 2:19, 4:4). 6. Christ stands in the relation of an elder brother to the Gentile, as well as to the Jewish church; and therefore these two must be sisters (Rom. 8:29). 7. The church catholic or universal, with respect to its several parts, is called a mother, and that frequently in this song; see chapter 1:6 and 3:4 and 8:2 and so agreeably, the parts of it, with respect to themselves, may be called sisters, being mothers children. 8. They are of the same faith and religion, as to the substance of it: it is true, there is some difference as to the circumstantials of worship, which are now laid aside; but the true spiritual nature and object of it are the same: the Old Testament saints “eat the same spiritual meat, and drank the same spiritual drink,” as saints do under the New; the articles of their faith are the same; for converted Gentiles believe “none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come,” relating to Christ's person, grace, work and office.
2dly, The Gentile church is not only a sister to the Jewish church, but also to Christ; therefore she does not say, I have a little sister, but we have one; which way of speaking perhaps she purposely makes use of, that she might stir up his affection and concern for her the more, she being as much related to him as she was herself: and it may be observed, that Christ is not ashamed to own his church, whether of the Jewish or Gentile race, as standing in this relation to him; nay, rather seems to take pleasure in viewing her under this consideration, as appears from his frequent use of it, in chapter 4:9, 10 and 5:1, 2, where this character is more largely opened.
2dly, There remains a difficulty in this clause to be removed; and that is, how the Gentile church could be said be£ore calling to stand in the relation of a sister, either to Christ or to the Jewish church; for she expresses herself in the present tense, we have a little sister: which difficulty will be removed, if we consider these following things; 1. She was so in divine predestination; just as the elect uncalled are said to be Christ's sheep before conversion (John 10:16), “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring in:” by which are particularly meant the Gentiles; who were sheep, though wandering, though not yet brought in by grace, nor folded in a church-state: the same are called, “the children of God” before conversion (John 11:52), though scattered abroad, and not openly and visibly appearing to be “fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God;” for though they are not in the possession of adopting grace, yet: they are “predestinated unto the adoption of children;” on the account of which they may truly be said to be related to the saints, who are called by grace, 2. The Gentile church was brought into this relation in the everlasting covenant; in which Christ not only stood as an elder brother and glorious representative to both churches, but also espoused them both to himself; so that they stood in the relations of sister and spouse to him, and of sisters one to another: thus Christ is said to be the husband of the Gentile church, before her calling and conversion (Isa. 54:5), “Thy maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is his name.” 3. The calling of the Gentiles being sure and certain in God's promises, all whose “promises are yea and amen in Christ,” it is represented as if it was already done: as things only promised anal prophesied of, though not yet fulfilled, frequently are in scripture (see Isa. 9:6, 53:3-5). 4. The Gentile church was a sister in the faith of the Jewish Church, who viewed her future calling as present; which agrees with the nature of faith, defined by the apostle (Heb. 11:1), to be “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen?”
II. She describes this sister of hers: 1st, By her littleness. 2dly, By her having no breasts,
1st, She calls her “a little sister;” so the Gentile church was to the Jewish church, 1. In respect of age, being a younger sister: the Jewish church was first called, and then the Gentile; which is very fully and aptly expressed in the parable of the two sons, the elder and the younger, as is thought by some (Luke 15:12-25), the elder signifying the Jewish church at that time, which murmured at the grace of God bestowed upon the Gentiles; the younger, the Gentiles, who had lived in all manner of sin and wickedness, and was disregarded of God, but was now embraced with all demonstrations of joy, affection, and tenderness. 2. She is called so as being in some respects, less honorable than the Jewish church; “Who are Israelis,” as the apostle says (Rom. 9:4, 5, 3:1, 2), “to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came therefore,” as he says, the Jew has the advantage of the Gentile, and that much every way; but chiefly, because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3. The Jewish church calling the Gentile church “a little sister,” may express her pity and compassion towards her, being like a young and tender infant, that is in a forlorn and helpless condition (see Ezek. 16:4, 5). 4. She may be called so with regard to her number of converts, either at that time, which were very few, few proselytes being then made among the Gentiles to the Jewish religion; or else, at the time when the gospel first came among them; “for this sect was every where spoken against;” and indeed the whole number of Christ's sheep, either among Jews or Gentiles, are but a “little flock, when compared with the world.” 5. She was then more especially, as also at her first calling, but little in spiritual stature; her light, knowledge and faith, being but small, not having as yet arrived “to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” she was to grow up unto.
2dly, She says, that “she has no breasts;” that is, 1. She was not arrived to years of ripeness; she was not marriageable; her “breasts were not fashioned,” as in Ezekiel 16:7, the time of her open espousal to Christ, by the preaching of the gospel, was not yet come. I call it the time of her open espousal to him; for she, as well as the Jewish church, her elder sister, was secretly espoused to Christ in the everlasting covenant (see Isa. 54:5), but she was not yet espoused to him in that sense in which the apostle Paul says (2 Cor. 11:2), of the Corinthian, which was a Gentile church, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you a chaste virgin to Christ;” the time fixed upon for it in ancient council not being yet come; 2. She had “no breasts;” that is, at this time she had no ministers nor ordinances, from whence she might suck and be satisfied, with the sincere milk of the word: moreover, it was some time after the gospel came among the Gentiles, that they had a settled ministry; which was fixed by the apostles, who “ordained elders in every city.”
III. The Jewish church signifies her very great concern for the Gentile church, being thus little, and without breasts, saying, “What shall we do,” or “shall be done for our sister?” Which shews, 1. That this little sister was in a state of nature, uncalled, unconverted, poor, miserable, forlorn and helpless. 2. That the Jewish church was concerned for her, was moved with pity and compassion towards her; and would gladly contribute all she could towards her everlasting salvation; as the apostle Paul was for his unconverted kinsmen and relations (Rom. 9:1-3). 3. That she not only wished her well, but was willing to do any thing for her that lay in her power; though she seems, in some measure, to be at a loss what to do; and indeed the converted Jews were very much assisting to the spreading of the gospel among the Gentiles: they were Jews who first carried the gospel into the Gentile world; for it was proper that “out of Zion should go forth the law or doctrine, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem;” and when tidings of the Gentiles reception of the gospel “came to the ears of the church at Jerusalem,” they sent forth others also on the same errand; nay, supplied them with money, that so they might not be burdensome to the Gentiles, nor give them any occasion to reproach the gospel; for the fund or stock, which was raised at Jerusalem by the believing Jews, who knew that their land would be laid waste, and their city destroyed in a little time, and therefore sold their lands and possessions, and put the money into the apostles hands; this, I say, seems to be designed, not only for their own use, but for the service of God in spreading the gospel among the Gentiles; who, when they had churches settled among them, upon that consideration were called upon to make collections for these poor saints at Jerusalem. 4. She is not forgetful of the main and principal agent in this work, who is Christ; therefore she says, what shall we do? she was willing to do what she could; but she knew that all her endeavors would be of little significance, without his agency and blessing: she could send her ministers; but if Christ did not: go along with them, and bless them, they would meet but with little success; as it is said, “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted,” says Paul; “Apollos watered, but God gave the increase,” (1 Cor. 3:5, 6).
The time that the Jewish church had in view, and is concerned what should be done for her then, is, “the day when she shall be spoken for, or with.” By which may be meant, either, 1. The time of the first preaching of the gospel among them, which, to them, was the “accepted time and day of salvation” when Christ, by his ministers, spoke to and for them, wooed and beseeched them; treated and communed with them, as David with Abigail, about openly espousing them before the world: it seems to be an allusion to persons treating either with virgins themselves, or with their parents,  about their marriage. Or, 2. It may refer to the fame that was spread abroad of the conversion of the Gentiles: when it was first effected, it made a great noise in the world; the faith of a single church, the church at Rome, was “spoken of throughout the whole world:” thus the clause may be rendered, “In the day when she shall be spoken of;” that is, when her fame shall be spread far and near; and some will say one thing of her, and some another: now the Jewish church seems to be concerned how she would behave herself under all this noise and talk about her. Or else, 3. The words may be rendered, “When she shall be spoken against:” this has been the common lot of God's children; this sect, as it is called, has been in all ages and in all places spoken against; and no wonder, for Christ himself is “set for a sign, which shall be spoken against:” now the old church might be concerned for this new church of the Gentiles; that she might be able to stand firm and constant to her profession, notwithstanding all the reviling, reproaches and persecutions of men. Or, 4. They may be read thus, “When she shall be spoken to;” that is, when the great men of the world, as Nero, and other heathen emperors, shall call her before them, and tempt her, either by fair words or severe menaces, to desert the faith, of Christ: O! that she might stand fast then, as if the church should say, and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel; neither be frightened by their threatenings, nor deluded by their promises: she was jealous of her, as the apostle Paul was of the Corinthian church, lest she “should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Now this should teach us in general, from the example of the Jewish church here, to be concerned for all the elect of God uncalled, and particularly for those among the Jews; we should earnestly pray for them, and use all proper means and methods to bring them to the knowledge of Christ: the time is coming, when they shall be spoken for, shall be called by grace, and openly espoused to Christ; and seeing they were so much concerned for us, when we were little, and had no breasts, we should be as much concerned for them, they being now in the same case and circumstances.
 So Sanctius in loc.
 Alcuin in loc.
 So Theodoret. Tres Patres, & alii in loc.
 Germana mea sororclua Plauti Fragment. Cistellar, 5:15.
 hb rbdyç µwyb en huera h ean lalhqh en auth~, Sept. In dic quarrier sermo in ca, Montanus; quando ei colloquendum erit, Figurine version.
 Vid. Aben Ezram in loc.
 Die quo sermo fict de ca, Mercerus Junius, Brightman; in die quo verba fient de ea, Cocceius.
 Vil. Targum, Shirhashirim Rabba, & Jarchi in loc. & Bereshit Rabba parash. 39. fol. 34. I.
 In die quando alolquenda est, Vulgate Laria version.