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Chapter 2 Verse 8
voice of my beloved! behold!
he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
there was some difficulty in understanding the former words, whose they were, whether Christ’s or the church’s; yet it is certain that these are spoken by the church, who hearing Christ, her beloved, give such a solemn charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, not to awake her, is so affected with his love to her, and care of her, that she could not forbear breaking out into this pathetic exclamation upon it; and not only takes notice of this, but also of some other instances of his love and regard unto her; or else it may be supposed, that the sweet and comfortable communion which she had before enjoyed with Christ, mentioned in the preceding verses, had been for some time interrupted, he having withdrawn himself and she being fallen into a spiritual drowsiness; but he returning again to her, and calling her out of this state, as in verse 10, she awakes, and takes notice of the several steps and procedures of his grace, and records several instances of his love unto her; two of which are mentioned in these words.
I.He calls unto her, and she hears and knows his voice and says, It is “the voice of my beloved.”
II.He not only calls, but comes, and she spies him coming; the manner of which she describes to be, “leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.”
I.The first thing she remarks is his voice, with which she seems to be wonderfully affected “the voice of my beloved!” Some Jewish writers287287Persikta in Yalkcut in loc. interpret this of the voice of the Messiah; by which may be meant, the gospel of Christ in which he speaks both to saints and sinners; and which has a virtue and efficacy in it to quicken dead sinners, and comfort living saints; for though it is powerful, yet alluring; though full of majesty, yet soft and charming, and makes delightful music in the ears of believers; concerning which may be observed,
1st, That the voice of Christ is known and distinguished by believers from the voice of others: the church was capable of doing this, and therefore says, “the voice of my beloved!” she could know it to be his voice, and distinguish it from another’s even though but just raised out of her sleep; flay, she could do this when she was as it were between sleeping and waking; when indulging herself in drowsiness and security, as in Chapter 5:2 and thus Christ says, John 10:4, 5 of all his sheep, that they not only heard his voice, but knew it, and therefore followed him and not strangers; for, says he, “the voice of strangers they know not.” Now if any should ask how Christ’s voice can be known and distinguished from others; I answer, 1. By the majesty of it; by this we know the scriptures to be the word of God, there appearing such a shine of majesty in them, as does not in any other writings; and hereby we know the gospel to be the voice of Christ, and can distinguish it from that which is not so: Christ speaks in the gospel, “as one having authority, and not as the scribes;” there is a vast difference between “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth,” and those “which the Holy Ghost teacheth;” the one are low, mean, dead, and lifeless; the other not only come with evidence, and “the demonstration of the spirit and of power” to believers, but even fasten convictions of the original and authority of them upon the minds of wicked men (see 1 Cor. 14:24, 25). 2. By the power and efficacy of it: the gospel which is Christ’s voice comes “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost;” and so not only reaches the ear, but also the heart; it opens blind eyes, unstops deaf ears, quickens dead sinners, awakes sleepy, and comforts distressed saints, and is in fine, “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes.” 3. By the spiritual food and divine refreshment it affords to believers; who find Christ’s word and eat it, and it becomes “the joy and rejoicing” of their hearts; that which is not Christ’s word and gospel, is like the chaff to this wheat; and that which is opposite to those “wholesome words of our Lord Jesus;” instead of nourishing and refreshing, as these do, “eat as doth a canker.” 4. Believers know this voice of Christ, and can distinguish it from others, by its bringing them to him, and not sending them from him; that voice which sends me to my own righteousness, and not to Christ’s, for acceptance with God and justification before him; which sends me to my tears of repentance, and not to Christ’s blood, for pardon and cleansing, can never be the voice of Christ; that voice which bids me keep off from Christ, till I have prepared and qualified myself for him, by my own acts of humiliation and obedience, is contrary to that voice of Christ which bids me come to him as a poor, vile, filthy, and perishing sinner in myself, without him; and venture on him for life and salvation; and therefore that cannot be the voice of Christ: thus may it be known from the voice of a stranger. 5. Believers have the spirit of Christ, who is “the spirit of truth,” whose work and office it is to “guide them into all truth,” and enable them to distinguish truth from error; and this he accordingly does, for he “searches the deep things of God,” and reveals them to the saints, and abides in them as a “spirit of wisdom and revelation; in the knowledge of Christ. 6. They know it by the scriptures of truth, which they dill-gently search, and by which they examine every doctrine; and whatsoever sound or language is disagreeable thereunto, they reject, as not being the voice of Christ; “to the law and to the testimony” they appeal, and whosoever does not “speak according to this word,” they judge “it is because there is no light in them,” (Isa. 8:20).
2dly, It may be observed that this voice of Christ, as it may be known and distinguished by believers from the voice of others, so it is exceeding pleasant and delightful to them. The church seems to speak of it as being so to her; and no wonder at was, for it is, 1. A voice of love, grace, and mercy to poor sinners; it is not like the law, a voice of terror, wrath, and fury; no, it speaks peace and pardon to rebellious creatures, and publishes life and salvation to lost sinners. Christ came leaping and skipping like a roe or a young hart; or, as it is said of Naphtali, like “a hind let loose, who giveth goodly words;” and no wonder then that his voice was so delightful. 2. It was also the voice of her beloved one, who dearly loved her, and had given incontestable proofs of it, and whom she loved with all her heart and soul; and therefore his voice, as well as his countenance and person, was sweet unto her; it was the voice of the bridegroom, and therefore need not be thought strange that the bride, as well as her friends should rejoice at it.
3dly, We may learn from hence, that Christ’s voice may be heard before he is seen: the church first heard his voice, and then she saw him come leaping and skipping over the mountains and hills; and this indeed is one way by which souls are brought to a sight of Christ, viz. by the preaching of the gospel; nay, believers, even when they are without sights of Christ, and sensible communion with him; yet, in hearing the word, can distinguish Christ’s voice, and can set to their seals that it is his, though perhaps they cannot immediately take in the comfort of it.
4thly, Believers would have others know Christ’s voice as well as they: the church knew this to be the voice of Christ; but she is not content with the knowledge of it herself, and therefore speaks of it for the information of the daughters of Jerusalem. But,
II.She not only heard his voice, but also spied him coming to her, though at some distance; and perhaps as soon as ever she had heard his voice, or the noise of his feet, as R. Aben Ezra explains it, she lift up her eyes, or turned herself, and saw him upon the march towards her. Here must be considered, 1st, What is meant by his coming. 2dly, The manner of it, “leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills.” 3dly, Why she prefixes an ecce, or a behold unto it “behold he cometh,” etc.
1st, It will be proper to consider what is here meant by Christ’s coming; which must be understood, either of his com-tug in the flesh, which the church had then a distant sight of and is since accomplished: this coming of Christ from heaven, and out of his Father’s bosom, into this sinful world, was not by a change of place, but by assumption of nature; whose great end in it was to save sinners, which is entirely answered: now, as this had been long promised, frequently prophesied of, and nothing was more earnestly expected, and passionately wished and prayed for, so nothing was more delightful to the Old-Testament saints, than the near approach of it, nor more welcome than when it was accomplished. Or else by his coming here, may be meant his spiritual coming; for though he withdraws and absents himself from his people for a time, yet he will not leave them altogether, and always comfortless, but will come unto them: and the church’s spying him as coming, supposes that he was at some distance from her, with respect to sensible communion or enjoyment of his presence, though not with respect, either to union or affection; for in this sense she is always near unto him: and also, that he was upon the return to her, whom faith spied, though at a distance, which is agreeable enough to the nature of it; this filled her soul with joy and pleasure; for even distant sights of Christ are pleasant, though his nearer approaches give a greater satisfaction: his presence is always welcome to a believer, and there is a great deal of reason for it; for he always brings something along with him, and never comes empty handed; yea, never visits without leaving something behind him.
2dly, The manner of his coming is expressed by “leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills:” the allusion is to the leaping of a roe or a young hart, as in the next verse, remarkable for leaping, even one just yeaned;288288Vid. Dionys. Prieg. p. 843, 844. so a young hart is described as leaping to its dam;289289Nebrov aloito, etc. Theocrit, Idyll. 8, prope finem. the leap of one of these creatures is very extraordinary;290290The hart is said to leap sixty feet at a leap, Bochart-Hicrozoic. par. 1. 1. 3. 5:17. col 882. which, if understood of Christ’s coming in the flesh, shews, 1. That there were many difficulties in the way, and such that were comparable to hills and mountains: the greatness of his person was no inconsiderable one; nay, such an one, that it could never have been thought that it should have been got over, had not God himself declared it should be; and we have undeniable evidence that it has been; for God to become man, the Creator a creature, and the Word to be made flesh, and dwell among us, is such an amazing stoop of deity, and surprising instance of divine condescension, that it is even the wonder of men and angels: also the greatness of the work he was to do, when come, was no small difficulty; here was a broken law to fulfill, angry justice to satisfy, sin to atone for, the wrath of God to bear, many enemies to grapple with, and a cursed death to undergo; and all this for the vilest of miscreants, the worst of creatures, whose characters are sinners, ungodly persons, and such who were enemies to him in their minds by wicked works. Yet, 2. These difficulties which seem insuperable to us, were easily surmounted by him; he leaped and skipped over those mountains and hills, which all became a plain before our great Zerubbabel; what appear mountains to us, were mole-hills to him: therefore he readily engaged, and voluntarily undertook before time to assume human nature, which in time he did with the utmost cheerfulness; and shewed his eager desires after it. long before his incarnation, in often appearing in art human form; and when he was actually become incarnate, how eager was he for the accomplishment of the work he came about! how easily did he break through all difficulties, discouragements, and impediments, that lay in his way! and nothing could stop him till he could say the work was finished which he undertook; and thus, with the utmost swiftness and celerity, he came “leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills.” If we understand it of his spiritual coming, it shews, 1. That there are impediments in the way of Christ’s visiting his people; such as their unbelief carnality and lukewarmness, their want of faith in him, and affection to him, their backslidings from him, and ingratitude towards him; yet. all these mountains and hills he leaps and skips over, resolving that nothing shall separate him and them. 2. That Christ’s coming to his people in a way of grace, is very conspicuous to them; the eye of faith spies him at a distance, as it were, upon the mountains: and also, that it is very glorious and beautiful; for if “beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth glad tidings,” much more beautiful must the feet of Christ, or Christ himself be, when he comes and grants his gracious presence to his people. 3. It denotes the speediness, swiftness, and readiness of Christ, to help his people; he makes haste and delays not, and therefore is said to leap and skip; his heart is set upon it; and nothing shall prevent him, though mountains and hills are between them.
3dly, She prefixes an ecce, a behold, to this coming of Christ unto her; which, if applied to his coming in the flesh, may be considered, either, 1. As a note of admiration; as in Isaiah 7:14. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son:” the incarnation of Christ, though it was confirmed to the church by promises, types and prophecies, yet was so strange and stupendous a thing, that nothing but faith could receive it, and that with the most profound admiration. 2. As a note of attention or asseveration; and so is used by her to stir up the daughters of Jerusalem to an observation of his near approach, and to encourage them in their faith and expectation of it, as well as that they might participate of her joy in the views thereof (see Zech. 9:9).
Again, if we understand it of Christ’s spiritual coming; this is, (1.). Matter of admiration, and therefore may well have an ecce, a behold, prefixed to it; we have all, who know any thing of this, reason to say with Judas, not Iscariot, in John 14:22 “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?” (2.) It is also worthy of observation. Christ’s special grace and favor in this regard ought not to be carelessly overlooked; but we should take notice of it with thankfulness, and wonder at it ourselves, and remark it to others, that they may join with us in magnifying the Lord on such an occasion, as the Psalmist did, in Psalm 34:1-3 who, as the church here, was so affected with the loving-kindness of the Lord, in this instance of it, that he tells it to others for this purpose.
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