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Chapter 4 Verse 12
garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse;
a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
having admired his church’s faith and love, her language and her dress; proceeds to give farther commendations of her, and makes use of new metaphors to describe her by; in which he represents her as a well-watered and fruitful garden. First, He says, she is, “a garden enclosed:” the titles he gives her, “my sister, my spouse, have been explained in verse 8, 9. I shall only here inquire why she is called a garden, and that an enclosed one. And she is said to be a garden, 1. Because a garden is a piece of ground distinguished and separated from others for the owner’s use: the church of Christ is distinguished and separated from others by electing and redeeming grace; by efficacious calling grace saints are also made to differ from others, and do in their lives and conversation live separate from them; and being set apart for God’s own use, service, and glory, are a peculiar people to himself. 2. In a garden is a variety of flowers, herbs and plants: in Christ’s church are many members, and those of different sorts; they have gifts differing from one another, and grace also; some have greater gifts, and larger measures of grace than others have; Put in them all there are many of those sweet flowers and precious plants. 3. In a garden, flowers, herbs and plants, do not grow up naturally of themselves, but are either set or sown; nothing but weeds grow up of themselves; so in Christ’s garden, the church, and in the members of it, the graces of the Spirit do not grow up of themselves; they are sown, planted, and raised up by the Spirit of God; for in their hearts naturally grow nothing but the weeds of sin and corruption. 4. The ground must be dug and prepared far the setting of plants and herbs therein: the hearts of God’s people before conversion are like fallow-ground; God is the husbandman, and they are his husbandry, this ground must be dunged, as well as dug, before it becomes good ground, or ever these flowers, herbs, and plants will grow there, which method Christ takes with his garden, and the several parts thereof. 5. To keep a garden in order, requires a deal of labor and care; the stones must be gathered out, the plants must be watered, the trees pruned, the ground dunged, and the fences kept up: all this, and much more, does Christ to his garden, the church; he gathers out those things which offend and hinder the growth of his plants; he watches over them night and day, and waters them, every moment; he lops off the fruitless branches, and prunes those that are fruitful, that they may bring forth more fruit, and keep up the fences thereof, that “the wild boar of the forest” may not enter in, and destroy his garden. 6. Gardens are places where persons delight to walk: Christ walks in his garden, the church; in the midst of his golden candlesticks; you frequently hear of him in this song, that “he is gone down into his garden, to feed” there, and “to gather lilies;” nay, he not only takes his walks, but takes up his residence in his church. 7. A garden is usually but a small piece of ground; and so is Christ’s church, in comparison of the wilderness and waste places of the world; it is a little flock, a small remnant, a few that shall be saved. 8. A fruitful and pleasant place; and so is the church, when compared with the world, “which lieth in wickedness,” and is overrun with the briars and thorns of sin.
Also the church is said to be a garden enclosed, (1.) For distinction-sake: the church is by God distinguished from others; the fence with which it is enclosed, and by which it is made to differ from others, is the free, special, and distinguishing grace of God. (2.) For protection: Christ’s church, as it is distinguished by God’s grace, so it is protected by his power; he is “a wall of fire round about it, and the glory in the midst of” it; a noble fence indeed! a glorious enclosure! Jerusalem with all its mountains, and Zion with all its bulwarks, were not so well fenced as this. (3.) For secrecy: it is hidden from, and is not seen and known by the world; it is like a garden that is walled around, and closely locked and.5 barred545545vid. R. Aben Ezram in loc. whose flowers emit a sweet and fragrant odor, but are not seen; the saints, though they are exceeding useful in the world, yet are not known by the world; but are hid and shut up till the resurrection-morn, when it shall appear what they really are, for at present it does not. (4.) It is compared to a garden enclosed, or locked and barred; for so the word546546l[b clausit, obseravit, pessulum obdidit, Buxtorf. properly signifies, because it is not pervious to every one, neither ought it to be; every one has not a right to enter there, it should remain enclosed, bolted and barred, to all but those who believe in Christ; none ought to walk here but those who come in at the right door, Christ Jesus and every one that climbs up, and gets into this garden any other way, is reckoned by Christ as a thief and a robber. (5.) It is said to be a garden enclosed or locked up, because it is only for Christ’s use; therefore, in verse 16 she desires him to come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruit:” for this garden is only, his, and the fruits of it for his use alone: in chapter 5:1 agreeable to her request, he tells her, that he was come into his garden, had gathered the fruits of it, and had eat; it being his sole property, which others had no right unto, he keeps it enclosed, locked and bolted. The allusion perhaps is to a garden near Jerusalem, which Adrichomius547547Hortus regius, qui hortus conclusus dicitur; hortus erat in suburbauis Jerusalem muri; undique septus & obsirntatas; atque sicut paradisus aroormn, fructicum, herbarum, aromatum, florum, fructuumque ubertate amoenus; mulcendis-que ac fovendis sensibus conveniens, & ad recessas voluptuarios idoneus; in quo erat inclytus ille fons Rogel & lapis Zoeleth, etc. Adrichomii Theatrum Terra, Sanctae, p. 170. I. Vid. 2 Samuel 17:17. 2 Kings 25:4. calls hortus regius, the king’s garden, which was shut up, and was only for his use and pleasure; which is much more likely than what Mr. Maundrei relates548548Journey from Aleppo etc. 89. edit, 7. , that at a little distance from Bethlehem, are pools of water; and below those runs a narrow, rocky valley, enclosed on both sides with high mountains; which the friars will have to be the enclosed garden alluded to.
Secondary, He says that she is “a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed:” I put these two together, because they seem to intend much one and the same thing; though perhaps the one may be more strongly expressive of the church’s fullness and excellency than the other; a fountain may intimate a larger quantity of water than a spring, and sealing signify a stronger security than bare shutting; but are both designed to inform us, that Christ’s garden was well watered, and that there is, no danger of the herbs, flowers, and plants withering and perishing.
The Septuagint render the first of these expressions as before, kh~pov kekleisme>nov, “a garden enclosed, or shut up;” and so do the Vulgate 6 Latin and Tigurine versions, reading ^n for ln; Cocceius translates, “a heap locked up;” and thinks the church is compared to a heap of spices or fruits, which are locked up in a private place, that they may not be spoiled nor stolen away from the owner: Christ’s church congregated together is a heap, but not a confused one; it is like an heap of spice or fruit laid in order; nor is it a heap of any thing, but of sweet-smelling spices and pleasant fruits, such as are mentioned in verses 13, 14 to which add also, it is an heap that is valued and cared for, and therefore kept up safe under lock and key. The other version of “a spring shut up,” is more usually received and acknowledged, both by Jewish549549R. Sol. Jarchi, R. Ahen Ezra in loc.& R. David Kimchi in lib. Shorash, rad. llg. and Christian Expositors, which also our Translators follow.
Now the church is said to be a spring and fountain from whence waters flow, to water all the plants in Christ’s garden; which are either, 1. The graces of the Spirit, which are in her as “a well, and rivers of living water, springing up unto eternal life,” John 4:14. and 7:38,39 and are called waters, because they are of a fructifying and reviving nature; the plants in Christ’s garden being watered with these, revive and lift up their heads, become green, flourishing and fruitful; the souls of God’s children drinking them in, and being filled with them, become like a watered garden, whose springs fail not. Or else, 2. The doctrines of the gospel: the gospel is thought to be the fountain, spoken of in Joel 3:18 which should “come forth of the house of the Lord, and water the valley of Shittim:” it is with its gracious truths that the faithful ministers of the gospel water Christ’s garden; the spirit of grace does it efficaciously, they do it ministerially; Paul plants, and Apollos waters, but God gives the increase; the doctrines of grace oftentimes flow in the ministry of the word, like floods of water upon the dry and parched ground, which soften, moisten, and make it fruitful; souls are refreshed, grow, and flourish thereby; their graces are revived, quickened and drawn forth into exercise, and every thing looks gay and beautiful, as in a fruitful and pleasant garden. Now we are not to suppose that the church is so properly this spring or fountain, as Christ and his Spirit are; she has not an indeficient supply in herself, she receives all from another; but because of the abundance of grace, and the means of it, which Christ is pleased to grant unto his church, therefore he calls her a spring and fountain; though she has grace enough to ascribe all the glory to him, and own him to be the alone spring and fountain from whence she is supplied, as in verse 15 will be made more manifestly to appear.
Moreover, the church is said to be “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;” springs and wells of water being highly esteemed, and much valued in those hot countries, were highly preserved; they used to roll a large stone at the mouth of them, and, for farther security, seal it; as that stone was which was laid at the month of the lions den, in which Daniel was cast; and that at the sepulcher in which Christ was buried: now these fountains were shut up and sealed, not only that the waters might not be bemudded by beasts, but also that they might not be converted to the use of others; thus it is reported, that, among the Persians550550Athen. Deiphosophist. 1. 12. c. 2. p. 515. were such fountains that only the king and his eldest son might drink of; it being a capital punishment for any others to do so: and perhaps Solomon might have such a spring and fountain in his garden, which was shut up and sealed, and kept for his own private use, to which the allusion is here made; either at Jerusalem, or at Ethan, where he had a pleasure-house; which, for the delicate gardens, walks and fountains, and the fruitfulness of the place, he took great delight in551551Joseph. Antiquitat. 1. 8. c. 7. s. 3. : and near the pools at some distance from Bethlehem, supposed to be his, is a fountain, which the friars will have to be the sealed fountain, here alluded to; and to confirm which, they pretend a tradition, that Solomon shut up these springs, and kept the door of them sealed with his signet, to preserve the waters for his own drinking: and Mr. Maundrel552552Journey from Aleppo, p. 88, 89. , who saw them, says, it was not difficult to secure them; they rising under ground, and having no avenue to them, but by a little hole, like to the mouth of a narrow well.
And if we apply this to the doctrine of the gospel, it intends, 1. The secrecy and hiddenness of them to the men of the world; “for if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, whom the god of this world hath blinded,” says the apostle, in 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4 it is an hidden gospel to some, a book sealed both to the learned and unlearned, who are in a carnal and unconverted state: from many it is hidden, as to the external ministry of it; and to others it remains a secret, in the midst of the clearest light, and most powerful ministrations of it; it is shut up in parables, and appears to be nothing else but dark sayings to a mere natural man. 2. That they are peculiarly intended and designed for the elect of God: it is for their sakes he has sent it into the world; and for their sakes he will continue to keep it there, maugre all opposition, until every one of them are called by powerful and efficacious grace; “I endure all things,” says the apostle (2 Tim. 2:10), “for the elects sake, that they may also obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory;” that is, I preach the gospel: and in doing it, undergo all the sufferings I do, purely upon their account; that salvation may be brought unto them, and they brought at last into the eternal possession of it: and as it is sent into, and continued in the world for their sakes, so it is only blessed to them for conversion and consolation: though the gospel is preached to others, as well as to them, yet it does not Become profitable to them, because it is not mixed with faith by them; for whilst it is the “savor of life unto life” to some, it is the “savor of death unto death” to others; and though these waters of gospel-doctrines flow to, and fall upon others; yet it is but like water that falls upon a rock, that quickly glides away, and makes no impression; and not like streams of water which run about the plants, and soak to the very root. The elect of God are only savingly converted, refreshed, and comforted by gospel-doctrines; they are peculiarly designed for them, and eminently blessed to them; they are only for their use, and are to them “a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed.” And if we apply it to the grace of the Spirit, it denotes, 1. That it is hidden, unknown, and is not communicated to any but to the elect of God: the natural man knows not the things of the Spirit, namely, the grace of the Spirit in regeneration and effectual vocation; these things are mysteries to him; he is a stranger to them, and unacquainted with them; they are only communicated to, and wrought in those to whom God would make known the exceeding riches of his grace: thus things are said to be shut and sealed up, which are kept secret and hidden, and are not conveyed to the knowledge of persons, as in Esther 8:16; Daniel 12:4-9. 2. That it is safe and secure: the grace of God’s people is shut up and scaled; it can never be taken away from them; their life, and all their grace, and the fullness of it, “are hid with Christ in God”; and what is given forth unto them, and wrought in them, is an immortal seed and that good part which cannot be taken away. 3. It may intend the confirmation of it to the saints; so things are said to be sealed, when they are ratified, confirmed and made sure; grace and glory are both so to the saints; the Spirit is the author of their grace, and the earnest and pledge of their glory, by whom they are “sealed unto the day of redemption.” 4. It may signify Christ’s special property in his church, and her inviolable chastity to him; and this I take to be the most proper sense of all these expressions; she is “a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;” she is Christ’s garden and none but his; Christ’s spring and fountain, to which none has a right but himself; she is his spouse and bride, and no other’s; and being espoused unto him, as a chaste virgin, by mighty grace is kept so. The Jewish writers553553Targum. R. Sol. Jarchi, & R. Aben Ezra in loc. T.B. Yoma, fol. 75. apud Wagenseil. Sotah, p. 240. Seder Tephillot, fol. 203. 1. ed. Basil Addison’s present state of the Jews, c. 5. p. 50. generally understand it of the modesty and chastity of the daughters of Israel; and this sense seems to be abundantly confirmed from Proverbs 5:15-18. “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well,” etc. Let thy fountain be blessed and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
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