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Chapter 2 Verse 5
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love.
church being brought into Christ’s banqueting-house, or house of wine, and having there such large discoveries of his love, she falls into a deliquium or fainting fit, not being able to bear up under the present enjoyment; and therefore calls to her friends and acquaintance that were about her, to give her their assistance in her present circumstances. In these words may be considered,
I.The church’s case and condition in which she was; “sick of love.”
II.What relief she asks for. 1st, To be “stayed with flagons,” 2dly, To be “comforted with apples.”
III.Who the persons are to whom she makes application.
I.We have in these words the present case and condition in which the church was; she was sick of love: this was a sickness of the soul, and not of the body; though the one has oftentimes an influence upon the other; for as there are various bodily sicknesses and diseases, so there are various spiritual ones. 1. There is the sickness of sin, which, if mighty grace prevent not, is a sickness unto death; it is in its own nature mortal, and can only be cured by Christ, the great physician, who heals diseases by forgiving iniquity: this is what is natural and hereditary to us; we bring it into the world with us; for we are all “shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us: it is an epidemical distemper, which has infected all human nature; all are diseased with it, though all are not sensible of it; and it has overspread all the powers and faculties of the souls of men, as well as all the members of the body; so that there is no part nor place exempted from it; for the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint: but this is not the sickness intended here. 2. There is a sickness which souls are incident to, that arises from a sense of sin, want of the fresh manifestations of pardoning grace, absence of Christ Jesus, and a longing after the enjoyment of his person, and the discoveries of his love; which though it is not a ,sickness unto death, yet it is very painful and afflicting, and can only be cured by the enjoyment of the object loved: this discovers itself by a violent panting after Christ; a carefulness and activity in the use of means, to enjoy his presence and company; a resolution to go through all difficulties for the sake of him, and an uneasiness until it receives some instances of favor from him: with such souls, Christ is the subject of all their discourse; they love to hear his name mentioned, especially with commendation, their thoughts are continually upon him, and their minds are not easy till they enjoy him; this is the sickness which the church was attended with in chapter 5:8. where see more of it. 3. There is a sickness which springs from views of Christ’s person, discoveries of his love, and manifestations of his grace; which sometimes over-power the soul, and throw it into the utmost amazement, at the consideration of the greatness of Christ’s person and grace, and its unworthiness to be interested in it; so that it becomes like the queen of Sheba; who, when she saw the riches, glory, and wisdom of Solomon, it is said of her, that “there was no more spirit in her.” And this I take to be the case of the church here: it did not arise from the want of Christ’s presence, or discoveries of his love, but from the enjoyment of them both; he had introduced her in a most stately manner into his banqueting-house, and gave her a noble entertainment; yea, he had plentifully shed abroad his love in her heart, which occasioned her to speak after this manner: his person appeared glorious and lovely, the entertainment was so large and sumptuous, the motto of love upon the banner so bright and glittering, and what she felt in her own soul so powerful and inconceivable, that she was quite overcome therewith; she was sick through love;” or, as the Septuagint270270Terwmh>mh ajga>phv, Sept. amore langueo, V.L. so Michaelis;aegrotus is used in this sense in Terent. Heautont. L. I. The Tigurine version renders the words thus, Quia infirma sum dilectione, because I am weak in love; and under stands it in the same sense as when persons are said to be weak in faith, and therefore need support. renders it, she was “wounded with love:” not that this arises from the nature of love itself, which is not painful and grievous, but is owing to our weakness and imperfection, who cannot bear large views, nor support up under the mighty power of boundless love; we are but poor narrow earthen vessels, that can receive and retain but little of it: this was that pressure under which she now labored, and for which she seeks relief; which brings me,
II.To consider what it is she calls for to relieve her at this time. 1st, She desires to be “stayed with flagons.” 2. To be “comforted with apples.”
1st, Her request is, that some person or other would stay her with flagons. The word translated flagons is differently rendered by interpreters; some render it flowers, as Jerom and the Vulgate Latin; and so she may be considered as having reference to sweet flowers bound up in nosegays, the odor of which is very refreshing and reviving; or, “make me to lie down in flowers,” so Symmachus; according to Plato271271Symposium,: 118; love delights to be in odoriferous places; where there are sweet-smelling flowers, there is its habitation, and there it abides. Now the church being in love, says, stay me, revive, or support me with flowers; perhaps chiefly regarding Christ, who is the only strength and support of believers, who only can keep them both from failing and fainting; for having heard him speak of himself under the names of those delightful flowers, the rose and lily, in verse 1. she is desirous that she might be stayed by, and supported with them”: the Septuagint render the words thus, “strengthen me with ointments;”272272Steri>sate> me ejn mu>roiv, Sept. by which may be meant the graces of Christ, which are called so in chapter 1:3 ointments were used at feasts, and are of a cheering, reviving, and strengthening nature; and may very well express the grace of Christ, by which souls are cheered, revived, established, strengthened and settled: our translators have rendered it flagons, and that very well; for according to the best Jewish writers273273R. SoL Jarchi & R. Abn Ezra in loc. R. David Kimchi in lib. shorash. rad. çça. it signifies vessels in which either wine or fine flower are put; and perhaps may be comprehensive of all the entertainments of a banquet, which are proper to satisfy, delight, and exhilarate; and wine being a principal one, may chiefly intend flagons of that (see 1 Chron. 16:3; Hosea 3:10); flagons are, by a metonymy, put for wine contained in them, as the cup is (Luke 22:20), for the church was desirous of those that were full and not empty; such as were full of the wine of Christ’s love, which is as reviving, cheating, and refreshing as the best wine; and which greatly strengthens and supports the animal spirits.274274Vino sulcire venas cadentes, Seneca, ep. 95. In what sense Christ’s love may be compared to wine, and is preferable to it, has been shewn on chapter 1:2, and by flagons of it may be meant the doctrines of grace, in which Christ’s love is displayed; or the ordinances of the gospel, by which it is communicated to the saints; and may also intimate, that though the love and grace of Christ are given forth in measure to them, yet that they are large measures, which believers are desirous of receiving; those who have most grace, would have still more; and those who have the greatest sense of Christ’s love, would have a larger experience of it, and are not content without it; they are like “the two daughters of the horse-leech, crying, give, give:” and it may be also, that the church may have in view the glories and joys of another world; where she should have her fill of love, drink freely and plentifully of this wine new with Christ in his Father’s kingdom, and continue in the uninterrupted enjoyment of his presence. Now it ought to be observed, that she is desirous of more of that which had brought her into this condition: Christ’s love had wounded her, and that only could heal her; what had brought her into this sick and fainting condition, could only bring her out of it; this wounds and heals, kills and makes alive, and is the only reviving cordial.
2dly, She desires that she might be “comforted with apples;” as in the former request, she had a regard to the banqueting-house, where she now was; so in this to the apple-tree, whose delicious fruit she had lately tasted, Apples are of a cooling and comforting nature,275275Fernel. method. medend. 1. 5. c. 6, 21..385 and are good against a syncope and palpitation of the heart, and the smell of them is very reviving: Solinus276276Polyhist. c. 61. tells us of a certain people who eat no food, but odore vivunt pomorum sylvestrium, live by the smell of apples that grow in woods; and that when they go long journeys, carry them with them, ut olfactu alantur, that by the smell of them they may be nourished and sustained. The words may be rendered, “strew me with apples”;277277ynrdpr sternite ante me, so some in Vatablus; substernite mihi, Tigurine version, Piscator. strew them about me, and strew them under me: the apple was an emblem of love, as before observed; to send or throw an apple to another, was a sign of love278278Melo Galatea petit. Virgil. Bucol. eclog. 3. verse 64. Vid. Theocrit. Idyll 3. 5:10, 40, 41. & Idyll. 6. 5:6. 7. & Suidam in voce Mhlon. and must be still more so, to strew them about in quantities. By these apples may be meant, either the blessings of grace procured by the blood of Christ, which remove the fierceness of divine wrath, and being powerfully applied by the Spirit of God, do abundantly comfort and refresh the soul: or else the doctrines of the gospel, when fitly spoken, and fitly applied, are like “apples of gold in pictures of silver;” how comfortable and reviving are the doctrines of justification, pardon, perseverance! etc. the church had found them so by good experience, and therefore desires them. The Targum, by flagons, understands the words of the law; and by apples, the interpretations of them; which, it says, are sweet to the taste as the apples of the garden of Eden: but it is much better to understand then, as we have done, of the doctrines of the gospel, which have often been experienced to have relieved persons in a fainting condition, such as the church was now in; and who knowing the virtue and efficacy thereof, calls for them. And,
III.The persons she makes application to, the word being in the plural number, are either the chorus of virgins, or daughters of Jerusalem, her dear friends and. acquaintance, to whom she often told her case, especially when in distress, and desired their assistance, who seem to be near to her, by that solemn adjuration given unto them in verse 7, or else, any other Christian friends that might be standing by her; for they that fear the Lord, speak often one to another, converse together, and comfort each other: or rather the ministers of the gospel, who, by preaching the glorious doctrines of it, are instrumental in the hand of the Spirit for comforting the distressed, and reviving the fainting souls of God’s children; the” perhaps she principally intended Christ, who we find immediately came to her relief, as appears from the following verse,
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