The Authority Of It Is Established And Vindicated
Objections, Both Ancient And Modern; Several Versions
Compared With The Original Text; The Different Senses Both Of
Jewish And Christian Interpreters Considered, And The Whole
Opened And Explained In Proper And Useful Observations.
BY JOHN GILL, D. D.
Cantitum canticorum spiritualis
quaedam sanctarum est voluptas
mentium, in conjugio illius regis & reginae civiitatis, quod est Christus &
ecclesia; sed haec voluptas allegoricis tegminibus involuta est, ut
desideretur ardentius, nudeturque jucundius, & appareat sponsus, cui
dicitur in codem cantico, aequitas dilexit te, & sponsa quae ibi audit,
charitas in deliciis tuis. AUG. de Civ. Dei, 1. 17. c. 20.
following Exposition was delivered in one hundred and twenty-two Sermons, to the Congregation where God his providence has placed me, and were designed only for their use, profit, and education. Had I had any thoughts of publishing it to the world when I entered upon it, perhaps it might have appeared with some little more advantage than now it does; nor had it appeared now, had not the importunity of the people to whom I minister, with others, obliged me to it; to which I the more readily complied, considering that the authority and usefulness of this book are called in question in this loose and degenerate age; in which, not only this, but all scripture is ridiculed and burlesqued, and the great doctrines of faith therein contained treated with the utmost sneer and contempt; and therefore would willingly contribute all I can towards the vindicating of this, or any other part of the sacred writings; which, being given by inspiration of God, are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.”
I have in the performance of this work, consulted the original text, with the versions of several learned men; and have taken notice of them where they have differed from our translation, or have furnished out a proper and useful observation. I have also inspected several interpreters upon this book, both Jewish and Christian, and have collected their several senses together; and generally, if not always, have humbly given my opinion which is the most eligible. The versions which I have made use of, are those of the Septuagint, the Vulgate Latin, the Tigurine, Junius and Tremellius, Arias Montanus, Pagninus, etc. The writings and interpreters which I have consulted, of the Jewish, are Shirhashirim Rabba, Targum, Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Alshech and Yalcut Simeoni, together with the books of Zohar and Rabboth, which are interspersed with the senses of various passages in this book. Of Christian interpreters, Alcuin, Foliot, Mercerus, Cocceius, Sanctius, Ainsworth, Brightman, Cotton, Durham, Patrick, etc. from all which I have received profit and advantage; and from none more than from the short notes of the incomparable Ainsworth, and the sweet observations of the excellent Durham: I mention these authors, not by way of ostentation, but as in duty bound to acknowledge by whom I have profited; for, as Pliny says, Est benignum et plenum ingenui pudoris, fateri per quos profeceris. Where two or more senses of any passage have offered agreeable to the analogy of faith, I have considered them all, and have made what improvement of them I was capable of, leaving the reader to judge for himself, which of them is most preferable; this I thought to be a much better way than to be too positive and dogmatical in the sense of a text, especially in such a part of scripture, which is so very mystical and abstruse. If I should be thought in any part of this work to have stretched the metaphors too far, I hope it will be imputed to an honest zeal, and a hearty desire to set forth the glory of Christ's person; and his exceeding great love to his church and people; to do which, all tropes and figures, all the flowers of rhetoric fall abundantly short. I have been obliged to contract what I delivered sermon-wise, lest the work should swell to too large a bulk, but the substance of it is here contained.
I would only observe, as to this edition of the work, that I have made various additions to it; having, since the publication of the second edition, met with an objection or two to the antiquity and authority of the book itself, I thought it necessary to consider them, and remove them; being unwilling that any thing should lie against a book so grand, so sacred and useful. I have also given a summary of the contents of each chapter, which was wanting in the former editions: and though I had in many parts of the work, attended to the literal sense of passages, yet not so frequently as I have in my shorter notes on this book-published in my Exposition of the whole Bible: I have therefore inserted from thence many things relating to the literal sense, with many others added, which will greatly enrich this edition, and make it more entertaining; and will greatly serve to shew the propriety of the allusions, figures, and metaphors made use of throughout the whole; and to illustrate and confirm the spiritual meaning of this sublime and mysterious book. I have left out at the end of it, the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase, with my notes thereon, which were in the former editions, they being of little use and benefit; especially to common readers.
 Prefat. in Nat. Hist.
 Preface to third edition.