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Chapter 3 Verse 2
I will rise
now, and go about the city, in the streets, and in the
broad ways; I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him,
but I found him not.
church, finding that the former methods she had taken were not attended with success, consults others, being sensible that she was wrong before, which she resolves to pursue without any more delay. In these words we have,
I.The church’s resolution, which consists of three parts: 1st, To “rise now,” immediately. 2dly, To “go about the city.” 3dly, To seek Christ in the streets and broad ways” thereof.
II.Her performance of this resolution; “I sought him.”
III.Her success in it, which was as before; “but I found him not.”
I.Here is the resolution of the church, to take other methods than what she had done before, in order to find her absent beloved; which shews, not only that she was sensible that she had taken some wrong ones before; and that no good was to be obtained that war, for Christ would not be found in such a Way of seeking him as upon the bed; but also, that her former disappointment had not discouraged her from pursuing her search of him; nay, it had made her more lively and active, zealous and vigorous in it, as appears from this new resolution of hers, and her putting it into practice; which consists of the three following things.
1st, She resolves now to rise, that is, from her bed of sloth and carnal ease, and to appear more vigorous; and that now, without any more delay; for resolutions are not to be breathed upon; no time should be allowed them but the present; we should immediately proceed to the performance of them, otherwise flesh and blood, which are too often consulted in such cases, will find many ways to elude them; but these, as they are not to be made in our own strength, so neither are we to expect the performance of them by it; but, however, the church resolving to quit her bed, and forego her own carnal ease and pleasure in search of Christ, and that she might enjoy his presence and company, not only shews the exceeding greatness of her love to him, and the reality and sincerity of it, but also the uneasiness of her soul, and the distress of mind she was in; she could not be easy and contented without him, and therefore resolves to seek until she found him.
2dly, She not only resolves to rise, and that directly, but also to “go about the city.” Her design in rising, was not to seek him in a superficial manner, but search the city, the streets thereof, and thus seek him whom her soul loved. By city is here meant the church of God, which is frequently called so in scripture (see Ps. 87:3; Heb. 12:22, 23), and no doubt but here is a regard had to the city of Jerusalem, by which name the church often goes, and to which it is frequently compared in scripture; but why it is so, will be shewn on chapter 6:4, and therefore I shall only at present shew in what sense and for what reasons the church may be said to be a city, which are as follows: 1. Cities being large and populous, and having in them great and spacious buildings, are generally built where there is a good foundation: the church of God is a city that is well founded; for “the Lord himself hath founded Zion, and the foundation which he has laid there is a sure one; and that is Christ himself, who is able to support the whole building, and will never fail; for he is that rock upon which his church being built, “the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.” 2. Cities are commonly delight, fully situated, upon an eminence, in a good air, and by a pleasant river: the church of God is “beautiful for situation;” it stands upon rising ground; this” mountain of the Lord’s house is established upon the top of the mountains;” it is in a good air, and is comfortably fanned with the gentle and refreshing breezes of the blessed Spirit; it is situated by a pleasant river, even the river of God’s boundless love and grace: “the streams whereof make glad this city of our God.” 3. In cities are usually fine, large, and magnificent buildings: the ,church is God’s architecture; it is of his building, and therefore must needs be well built; every believer is a temple, and that a temple of the, Holy Ghost’s; there is a great deal of glory, beauty, and excellency in these buildings, as well as strength and firmness (see Isa. 54:11, 12; Rev. 21:10, 11, 12, 18, 21). 4. Cities are very populous and numerous; there are a great many inhabitants in them; so is the church of God: it is true, it is called but a little flock, when compared with the world, but yet, considered by itself, it is very large and numerous; John saw at once, after he had beheld the forty and four thousand, “a great multitude, which no man could number,” and that of such who belonged to Christ, and were saved by him; and so will the church, even on earth, appear very numerous, when those prophecies are fulfilled, which you may read in Isaiah 49:19, 20 and Isaiah 60:4-8. 5. In cities; as there are large numbers of inhabitants, so there is a diversity of them, as rich and poor, good and bad: in Christ’s church here on earth, there is a very great difference of its members; some have greater gifts, and more grace than others have; some are more public-spirited than others, and so of greater usefulness; some are real and hearty believers, others are only painted hypocrites; for there has been always tares among Christ’s wheat, wolves and goats among his sheep, and some who have had a name and place in this city, whose names were never “written among the living in Jerusalem.” 6. In well regulated cities there is a good order and decorum kept; there are good laws made, and proper officers appointed to put them in execution; as well as a good watch and guard provided for the security of the inhabitants: in the church of God, there are good and wholesome laws enacted by the great legislator, which concern the admission of persona into this city, their behavior whilst in it, and their removal from it, if disagreeable; and these are preferable to all others, not only because God is the author of them, but also, because they are written upon the hearts of all those who are true citizens, according to that promise (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts:” moreover, here are proper officers appointed, such as ministers of the gospel, who are to see that these laws are carefully observed and exactly complied with; who also bear the character of watchmen in the next verse, being set as well for the defense of the church, as to give direction and instruction to her. 7. In cities there are peculiar privileges which belong to the citizens thereof; and so there are in the church of God:-all, who are Christ’s freemen, and are “fellow citizens of the saints, have a right to all the ordinances of the gospel, to all the privileges and immunities of Christ’s house: they shall never be arrested by justice, nor be brought into a state of condemnation; nor is it possible for them ever to lose their freedom.
Now her “going about the city,” is, (1.) Expressive of her diligence and industry in seeking Christ; she lost no opportunity; she sought in all other places, as well as in the open streets, wherever she thought he might be found, or there was any probability of hearing of high. (2.) It shews the pains she took, as well as the diligence she used in seeking; for it must be very” painful and laborious to go round about or all over a city, especially a large one, such an one as Jerusalem was, to which the allusion is here made; her search was as sorrowful and as fatiguing, as that of Joseph and Mary, who, after three days search, in their company, among their kindred, and about the city, at length found Christ in the temple: but all this toil and labor she regarded not, so she could but find him whom her soul loved. (3.) This being done in the night, which was an unseasonable time to walk about the city in, especially for women, is a farther indication of the strength of her affection to him, in that she did not value the reproach that might attend her. (4.) She not only ran the risk of reproach and scandal, but also of danger and mischief, which the night-season exposed her to; and which she experienced in chapter 5:7, but being fired with love and fearless of danger387387Audacem faciebat amor, Ovid. Metamorph.1. 4- fab. 4. she puts all to the hazard, regarding no inconveniencies that might ensue; for her heart was so set upon finding Christ, that she was resolved to try all ways, whatever she suffered in the experiment.
3dly, She resolves to seek “him in the streets and broad ways;” where we have, 1. The person whom she was resolved to seek described, him “whom my soul loveth;” which is the character she gives of him in the former verse; and shews that her love to him was still the same, was not abated, though she had been disappointed of finding him; nay, that it was rather increased, and therefore she repeats this over and over, as not knowing how to speak of him any other way: 2. The particular places in the city, where she resolved to seek him, “in the streets and in the broad ways;” by which we are not to understand places388388Vid. Sanct. in loc. and Ambros. in ibid. where worldly business is transacted, and to which crowds of people flock for the same purpose, as the court, the market-place, or the exchange; for Christ is not to be found there; worldly employments, especially when, immoderately pursued, rather draw souls from him than bring them near to him: nor are the books, writings, and tenets389389Alcuin in loc. of the Gentile philosophers here intended; for she could not expect to find him there, where he was never known or heard of: but by them we are to understand, either the Jewish synagogues, where .prayer was wont to be made, and the word of God preached, there being a probability of finding him there; or rather, the public ordinances of the gospel, which are the ‘streets and broad ways of this city,” the church, in which Christ walks, and often shews himself to his people; and in seeking him here, she sought aright; though, for reasons hereafter to be mentioned, she did not meet with immediate success. But these phrases may in general intend the diligence and exquisiteness of her search, as in Jeremiah 5:1. So some cities are described as having broad ways in them, as Troy390390Poliv euruaguia, Homer. Iliad. z. 5:29, 66, 141, 329. and 14. 5:88. Odyss. 2. 5:230.
II.She gives an account of her performance of this resolution; “I sought him,” says she: she not only resolved upon it, but also did it; nay, she no sooner said it, but likewise did it. Resolutions, without putting, them in practice, avail little; and unless they are made in the strength of Christ, and are performed by the same, are never performed, neither aright, nor to any good purpose; but this of hers was quickly performed; she was soon enabled to set about it, being assisted by divine grace, and not left to consult with “flesh and blood.”
III.Her success is also mentioned by her, “but I found him not:” which she seems to take notice of with much sorrow and concern; that though she had such an earnest desire after, so strong an affection for, and had been so diligent in her search of him, had spared no pains, and had run all risks of losing her good name, and of being exposed to danger, and yet he would not shew himself to her; she could not get sight of, nor hear any tidings concerning him; and this still shews that strong was her love; for had she not dearly loved him, she would not have been so much concerned at her disappointment in not finding him. And now this was, 1. To chastise her for her former negligence in duty, and for her indulging herself in carnal ease and security; for he seems resolved, that as she had lost him through her ease, she should not find him without “trouble;” for we are not to suppose that he resented her present way of seeking, nor her present behavior to him, which seems very agreeable; but this he does to shew how much he was affronted with her former carriage. 2. To exercise her faith, and try her patience: thus when the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:8, 9) was sorely buffeted by Satan, he “besought the Lord thrice that he might depart from him;” but all the answer he could for the present obtain, was, “my grace is sufficient for thee.” 3. To shew that even means themselves, though they are to be used, are not to be depended on; these cannot help souls to a sight of Christ, unless he is pleased in them to reveal himself; for, “when he hideth his face, who then can behold him?” yet nevertheless, they are to be carefully observed and diligently used by us.
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