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Chapter 1 Verse 17
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.
are either the words of Christ, inviting the church into their house, which was so firmly and delightfully built; or else the words of the church, continuing the praise of Christ, and all that were about him, or belonging unto him; or rather, they are the words of the bride and bridegroom, and the virgins her companions, all joining together in a chorus, to set forth the glory and excellency of the church. in which may be considered,
I.What is meant by this house, which they seem to have a common interest in, and therefore call it “our house.”
II.What those beams are which are said to be cedar.
III.What those rafters are which are said to be of fir.
I.I shall consider what is meant by the “house, whose beams are cedar,” and whose rafters are of fir. R. Sol. Jarchi understands it of the tabernacle, the glory and praise of which, he thinks, is here set forth; and so the Targum refers it to the temple built by Solomon, but yet acknowledges that that which shall be built in the days of the king Messiah, shall be much more glorious and beautiful. But it is much better to understand it, either,
1st, Of “our house, which is from heaven”;173173So Cocceius in loc. which saints know that after their dissolution they shall enter into. The word in the Hebrew is in the plural number” our houses,”174174wnytb domorum nostrarum, V. L, Pagninaus, Montanus, etc. aedium nostrarum, Marckius. and so may intend those many mansions which are in Christ’s Father’s house, preparing by him for all his people for their everlasting entertainment; and the beams and rafters of these houses being of cedar and fir, which are trees of a sweet smell and durable nature, may represent that fullness of joy, and those delightful pleasures which are in” Christ’s presence, and at his right hand for evermore:” it shews that this “house is not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens;” that these habitations which Christ has prepared for them, and will bring them into, are everlasting; and that that inheritance which they are born heirs unto, and shall certainly enjoy, is “incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away.”
Now if we suppose these to be the words of Christ, his design then seems to be, by commending the endless joys and never-ceasing pleasures of the saints above, to raise the affections, and quicken the desires of his church after the enjoyment of the same, that they with him may enter the nuptial chamber, and spend an eternity in everlasting communion with each other: but if they are the words of the church, then they seem to intimate the comfortable views she had of the heavenly joys, and her interest in them; she knew that when this “earthly house was dissolved, she had an house not made with hands,” firmly built and delightfully furnished, which she should have admittance into, and which is “eternal in the heavens;” as also, the earnest desires of her soul to be there; she saw this house afar off, what a goodly structure it was, what soul-ravishing delights it was filled with, therefore longed to be within the walls of it, and “groaned earnestly, being burdened with a body of sin and death, desiring to be clothed upon with her house, which is from heaven; likewise she seems to speak of this house with the utmost thankfulness to her Lord and spouse, and adoration of his grace, that had provided so convenient and delightful an habitation for her. Or else,
2dly, By this house may be meant the church of God here below, which seems most agreeable; for so it is called in 1 Timothy 3:15 where the apostle promises Timothy to instruct him how he should “behave himself in the house of God, which, says he, is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth;” and so believers are said to be Christ’s house, in Hebrews 3:6, “but Christ, as a son over his own house, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Now the church may be said to be Christ’s house, 1. Because it is of his building: the ministers of the gospel are instruments in building up his church; but he is the great master-builder: the materials of this building are “lively stones,” which are the saints; but he himself is both the “foundation and the corner-stone; it is upon this rock he builds his church, and the gates of hell shall not be able to prevail against it.” 2. Having built it, he dwells in it, and makes it the place of his residence: the church is the habitation of all the Three Persons, and particularly of Jesus Christ; saints are built up “for an habitation of God through the Spirit; they are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and in their hearts Christ dwells by faith: the church is the habitation of his holiness, and the place where his honor dwelleth; here he delights to be, and condescends to shew himself; here souls may expect to find him, and enjoy his presence; for he has promised to be here until the end of time. 3. Here he eats, feeds, and feasts with his people; it is not an empty house he keeps, but having built it, he furnishes it with suitable provisions, which are called “the goodness and fatness of his house; here he makes a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refilled: this is his banqueting house,” into which he brings his people, and sups with them, and they with him. 4. Here he takes his rest with the church, his bride: “this, says he, is my rest for ever; here wilt I dwell, for I have desired it;” here he solaces himself, and takes the utmost delight and pleasure; as houses are not only to feed in, but to rest in, so this use does Christ make of his church. 5. Here he lays up his treasure, and what he esteems his portion, and the chief part of his riches; for “the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance;” the saints are his jewels and peculiar treasure, and these he brings into and preserves safe in his house below, until he removes them into his house above. 6. As his house, he fills, repairs, and beautifies it at pleasure; he fills it with members, and these he fills with gifts and grace suitable to their places in this house, for he is “ascended to fill all things;” when any breaches are made, he makes them up; when it is fallen to decay, he repairs it, by bringing in a large number of converts, and beautifies this house of his glory with his own presence. 7. He is the master of it, and manages all the affairs of it; the key of it is in his hands, and the government of it upon his shoulders; he is sole king and ruler here; he enacts laws, demands obedience to them, and places officers here to see them put in execution; he is “the high priest over this house of God,” and transacts all affairs between God and his people; he is the great prophet that teaches and instructs them; the careful husband and indulgent father that provides all for them; in short, “of him the whole family in heaven and earth is named;” so that the church may be very well called Christ’s house.
But then this house is said to be the church’s also; “the beams of our house,” etc. Saints are the materials of this house; Christ is the builder, the foundation, and the corner-stone: but they are the lively stones which are laid on this foundation, and so “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; they have a right to, and are in the enjoyment of all the privileges of this house; they are “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” here they are born and brought up, have their food and education; “thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side,” (Isa. 60:4); here they dwell, rest, feed, feast, and enjoy sweet communion with Christ Jesus; and therefore they may say, as David did (Ps. 134:4), “blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will be still praising thee;” as they have a great deal of reason so to do.
Also the word being in the plural number, and rendered, our houses, may intend the particular churches of Christ, which are all his houses, where he dwells; his golden candlesticks, among whom he walks, which hold forth the word of light and life to others; and his gardens, where he delights to be, eating those pleasant fruits, and feeding among those lilies, which grow there; for there is but one “general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, yet there are many particular churches and congregations of saints here on earth.”
II.The beams of this house are said to be of cedar. By cedar beams we are not to understand angels, who encamp about, protect and bear up the saints, and are ministering spirits to them, which is the opinion of some;175175Foliot. in loc. but rather, the ministers of the gospel176176So Isidore, Alcain, and others in loc. because they are “planted by rivers of water;” where, being... who may be called pillars in Christ’s house, as James, Cephas, and John were; who by their exemplary lives, savory doctrines, and undaunted courage, add much strength and glory to the church of Christ; as by rafters afterwards may be meant weaker believers, who have all their proper places, work, and usefulness in the house of God: or else, by cedar beams may be meant in general, the saints and; people of God, which are all beams and pillars in this house, and serve to support it; for being “fitly framed, together, they grow up unto an holy temple in the Lord;” and being joined and cemented to each other in faith and love, they worship the Lord “with one shoulder, or with one consent;” and these are compared to cedars in scripture (see Ps. 92:12; Num. 24:5, 6); and may be very well compared unto them, 1. For the height and tallness of them; the cedar-tree is a very tall tree, as may be learnt from 2 Kings 19:23, Amos 2:9. The saints, though they are mean, abject, poor, and low by nature, even beggars on the dunghill, yet by divine grace they are raised on high, set among princes, and made to inherit the throne of glory; they are higher than others in their gifts and graces, faith, knowledge and experience, as well as in their privileges and attainments; they are growing up higher still in their head Christ Jesus, and are reaching forwards and upwards in their affections and desires, in hope of enjoying “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” 2. For their straightness and uprightness; for which reason perhaps the righteous are said to grow, not only like the palm-tree, but also like the cedar in Lebanon: the saints are upright, both in heart and conversation; they both speak and walk uprightly. 3. For its durableness; Pliny177177Lib. 13. c. 5, 13. & l. 16. c. 40. ascribes even eternity unto it; it is used for immortality;178178Et cedro digna locutus, pers. satyr, 1. 5:42. it will not rot, nor admit any worm into it: the saints will endure for ever; for though they have much corruption in them, yet they themselves shall never corrupt; they have that grace in them which will keep them from putrefaction, and which will never decay itself; for it is incorruptible, immortal, and never-dying seed. 4. For the sweet odor which it sends forth;179179Plin.1. 13. c. 5. Odoratam stabulis acccendere cedrum Virg. Georg,1. 3. 5:414. it is of an excellent smell; so are the persons of the saints to God the Father, being clothed with the garments of salvation, and robe of Christ’s righteousness, which “smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia;” so are the graces which are wrought in them by the Spirit to Christ himself; see chapter 4:10, and so are all their sacrifices of a sweet-smelling savor, being offered up in Christ’s name, and perfumed with the sweet incense of his mediation. 5. The cedar-tree is well rooted,180180Pliny l. 16. c. 21. always green, and the older the more fruitful: believers are rooted in Christ Jesus, so as all the winds and storms of sin and temptation cannot tear them up; they are always green, and their leaf doth not wither, because they are “planted by rivers of water;” where, being refreshed with continued supplies of divine grace, they bring forth fruit in old age, because the Lord, he is upright, he is their rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
III.The rafters of this house are said to be of fir. By rafters may be meant the ordinances of the gospel, which are administered in the church, and are for the comfort and edification of it. The Hebrew word here, translated rafters, is in Genesis 30:38-41 and Exodus 2:16 rendered gutters and troughs of water, where sheep used to be watered; and some of the Jewish writers181181R. Aben Ezra in loc. R. Jonah in R. David Kimeh;, lib. shorash, rad. fhrVid. David de Pomis Lex. Hebrews rad. fhrand so the Tigurine version renders it. would have it understood in this sense here. R. Aben Ezra observes, that if it is taken in this sense, then the word rendered fir, should signify marble stone, and be read thus, “our canals are of marble stone.”182182rnyfhrw canales nostri, Tigurine version, so some in Vatablus; impluvium nostrum, Hiller. de Keri & Kethib. p. 84. Now these canals or gutters of water are called µyfjr rehatim183183Vid. Elias Levit. Methurgeman, rad, fhr. from the Chaldee word fhr rehat, which signifies to run, because waters run in them. The grace of the Spirit is frequently, both in the Old and New Testament, represented by water; which, for its purity and purifying nature, is called clean water; for its quickening virtue and efficacy, water of life and living water; and for its plenty and abundance, “rivers of water:” this grace is commonly conveyed and communicated to us in the use of ordinances; these are the canals or conduit-pipes in which this water rune, and is brought unto us; the first conveyance of it is usually this way; faith, conversion, and every grace that attends it, come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; and as this, so other ordinances are the means of increasing faith, joy and comfort, and of conveying fresh supplies of grace and strength. Christ’s fullness is the fountain from whence all grace springs; and his ordinances are the golden pipes, through which the golden oil and grace of divine love run and empty themselves into our souls. Also the same word is translated galleries, in chapter 7:5, “the king is held in the galleries.” R. David Kimchi says,184184In lib. shorash rad, fhr. that they were buildings in high houses, in which they walked from house to house, or from one part of the house to the other; they were such as our balconies: and they may be called by this name, because they run along the sides of houses: agreeable to this, Junius and Tremellius translate it, ambulachra nostra, our walking-places. Now the ordinances are the galleries, or walking-places, where Christ and believers walk and converse together; here he grants them fellowship with himself, tells them all his mind, and discloses the secrets of his heart unto them: in these galleries they behold “the king in his beauty;” here he shews them his covenant-love and grace, and from hence they take a prospect of the good “land that is very far off.” But the word may be very well translated rafters, which are joined together, and run in each other; and so the Targum renders it; and in this sense is the word used both in the Misnah185185As quoted by R. Sol. Jarchi in loc. and in the Midrash.186186In R. David Kimchi, lib. shorash. rad. fhr Now as rafters are for the strength and support of buildings, so are the ordinances to the church of Christ; by them oftentimes saints are supported and refreshed; and, whilst they are waiting on Christ in them, they renew their strength, they mount up with wings as eagles, they run and are not weary, they walk and faint not, as it is promised to them in Isaiah 40:31.
Now these rafters are said to be of fir. The word is only used in this place, and is so rendered by Arias Montanus, Pagnine, and others, and is so understood by most of the Jewish writers;187187Vid. R. Aben Ezram in loc. R. David Kimchium in lib. shoraah. rad. trb & Elias Levit. Methurgeman. the word being by the change of a single letter, to wit, ç into t, which is used in the Chaldee and Syriac languages, the same with that which is commonly used for the fir; and this, Pliny says,188188Lib. 16. c. 42. is the best and strongest wood for roofing or faltering”: now these rafters, the ordinances of the gospel, may be said to be of this, because, 1. The fir-tree is hilaris aspeceu189189Pliny 1, 16. c. 10. of a pleasant, cheerful, and delightful look; the ordinances of the gospel are exceeding delightful to believers, when they have the presence of Christ with them, and the communications of his love unto them; then are those tabernacles amiable and lovely; wisdom’s ways are then ways of pleasantness; their souls are filled with joy and pleasure; nothing so desirable to them as these, neither does any thing give them such satisfaction and contentment; and therefore with the disciples they think it is good for them to be here, and would always abide under such a roof as this, whose rafters are of fir. 2. It is a very shady, tree, folio pinnato densa, ut umbres non transmittat;190190Ibid. at is so thick with leaves, that it will not let through showers of rain: the ordinances of Christ are a delightful shade, under which saints oftentimes sit with pleasure, have much spiritual consolation and refreshment; in which, being protected from the enemies of their souls, they serve the Lord with liberty and enlargement of heart. 3. It is always green,191191Pliny 1. 16. c. 21. and never casts its leaf, and therefore is called the “green fir-tree,” in Hosea 14:8. Ordinances are those green pastures, into which the great Shepherd leads his sheep, and in which he causes them to lie down; which being blessed and owned by the Spirit of grace unto believers, make them fat and flourishing, fruitful in every good work, even in old age; so that their leaf does not wither in the winter season.
Others think that the cypress-tree is here intended, and so read the words, and our rafters or galleries of cypress; so the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Tugurine versions, David de Petals, and others. Now these rafters may be said to be of this wood, because the cypress-wood192192Ibid. c. 40, 42. Hence monuments to perpetuate the memory of things were made of it, Plato de leg. “L 5. p. 848. is very lasting and durable; it admits of no worms, it will not rot, nor is it sensible of old age; which may be expressive of the durableness and continuance of gospel ordinances, until the second coming of Christ; for as long as Christ has an house on earth, these cypress-rafters will last, it will never need new roofing; as long as there is a church, there will be those ordinances, Which are now in force, and will continue so to the end of time, without any change or alteration in them. This wood is also of a very pleasant smell;193193Pliny1. 16. c. 33” Euwdes kuparissw, Theocrit. epigram, 4. 5:7. which may signify the delight and pleasure which believers take in ordinances, and how grateful they are to them.
Others think that the brutine-tree is meant; so Ainsworth, Brightman, Junius, Cocceis, and Michaelis; and it may be that which Pliny194194Lib. 12. c. 17. calls bruta, which some take to be the tree of Paradise; and its name is near in sound to the Hebrew word brotim here used, the singular of which is brot; which, Pliny says, is much like the cypress, and of a smell like cedar; and being applied to the ordinances of the gospel, may signify, as before, the durableness and delightfulness of them; and now who but would desire to dwell in such an house, and under such a roof as this? What encouragement is here, and what an inducement should this be, to souls to come into the house of the Lord, and wait upon him there, the beams of whose house are cedar, and the rafters of fir?
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