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Chapter 4 Verses 13, 14
Thy plants are
an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits,
camphor with spikenard.
Spikenard and saffron, calamus and
cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all
the chief spices.
having compared his church to a garden, and observed that it was well watered, having in it a spring and fountain; he proceeds to shew the fruitfulness of it, that it abounded with the choicest trees, the most pleasant fruits, and the chief of spices. In explaining these words, it will be proper,
I.To inquire what are intended by the church’s plants.
II.Why these plants are said to be “an orchard of pomegranates.”
III.Take notice of the several trees, fruits, and spices here mentioned, and what may be meant by them.
I.Who are meant by the church’s plants. The Targum and Jarchi expound it of the young men in Israel; and it is nor. unusual in scripture to call children plants (see Ps. 128:3, 144:12); therefore, by her plants, may be intended the members of the church, her children, young converts, believers in Christ, who are “planted in the house of the Lord, and flourish in the courts of our God:” these are not mere education plants, who spring up in churches, and join themselves to them, because their parents did; and espouse religion, because they were brought up in it: these are not mere outward profession-plants, who have a name to live, and are dead; have lamps, but no oil in their lamps; and have a form of godliness, fruit but deny the power thereof, such plants as these are fruitless ones; they are like the barren fig-tree, from which three years successively fruit was sought, but none found; if ever there was any appearance of fruit on them, it never came to any thing, but withered away; and whatsoever fruit they do bring forth, it is to themselves, and not to God; like Israel of whom it is said (Hosea 10:1), that he is “an empty vine, and brings forth fruit, to himself:” and the reason of this is, because they have not the root of the matter in them; nor are they engrafted into, and rooted in Christ Jesus; and therefore are like the stony ground-hearers, who heard and received the word with joy, but it did not last long, because they had no root in themselves; and such being none of the Father’s planting, shall be plucked up, according to what Christ says (Matthew 15:13). Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up;” and shall be bundled together, as fit fuel for the fire, like the unfruitful and withered branches, or like the tares in the end of the world: but these plants in the text, are such who, 1. Are by divine grace transplanted from the wilderness of the world, they are Christ’s vines, which he brings out of Egypt; his fir and myrtle trees, which he causes to spring up instead of briars and thorns; these he either takes out of the wilderness, or else makes it a fruitful garden by planting them there; he calls them out of the world, and translates them into his own kingdom, whereby he enlarges his church, and of a garden makes it an orchard. 2. Who have the grace of the Spirit planted in their hearts; who works in them every sort of grace, which he raises, cherishes, and at last brings to perfection. 3. Who are engrafted into Christ Jesus: by nature they belong to, and grow upon the wild olive: but are by grace broken off from that, and are engrafted into the true olive, Christ Jesus; they are planted into the likeness of his death, and into the likeness of his resurrection, and so receive the benefits of both; they abide in him, as the branch in the vine, and, receiving sap and nourishment from him, become fruitful souls. 4. They are such who have received the engrafted word; it has been planted in them, and powerfully impressed upon them; they have received it in the love of it; it has effectually wrought in them, and brought forth fruit in them from the very day they heard and received it. 5. Such as these who are transplanted from the wilderness of the world, and are planted in Christ, and have had his word and grace planted in their souls, have a right to be planted ministerially in his church; and being planted there, will grow and flourish. Now such plants as these are choice and select ones; they are plants of renown, and pleasant ones to God and Christ; they are planted in a fruitful soil, and by rivers of water, therefore their leaf is always green; neither do they cease from yielding fruit; hence they shall never be plucked up; neither sin, nor Satan, nor the world can do it; and Christ Jesus never will; for they are his Father’s planting, in whom he is, and will be glorified, and then is he so when they bring forth much fruit.
II.These plants are said to be an orchard, or like unto an orchard of pomegranates. The word for plants, is by the Cabalistic doctors554554Lexic. Cabal. p. 237. , rendered waterings or rivulets; which, being derived, make her a garden of pomegranates, as full as an orchard is of them: and it may be rendered gardens555555Vid. Gaisium in Misn. Sheniieh, c. 2. 8. 2. ; particular churches, which make an orchard, or are like one; even a paradise, .as the word is rendered by the Septuagint, and in other versions556556srrp paraseisov, Sept paradiaus, Pagnius, Montanus, Tigur. version, Cozceius, Marckius, Michaelis. ; it is generally thought to be a Persiac word (see Neh. 2:8); but Hillerus557557Gnonmastic. Sacr. p. 291. derives it from drp to separate; it being a garden separate and enclosed, as before one like Eden’s garden, exceeding pleasant and delightful; and not like an orchard of any sort of trees, but of pomegranates; of which there were plenty in the land of Canaan; called “a land of pomegranates,” (Deut. 8:8) many places in it had their names from thence (Josh. 15:32, 19:13, 21:24). And the church558558Poseunt haec etiam in ecclesia intilligi, ut ca melius accipiamus tanquam prophetica indicia precedentia futurorum; paradisum scilicet ipsam ecclesiam, sicut de illa legitur in Cantico Canticorum; quatuar autem paradisi fumina, quatuar evangelia; ligna fructifera, Sanctos; fructus outem corum, opera eorum; lignum vitae, sanctum sanctorum, utique Christum: lignum sciennae boni & mali, proprium voluntatie abitrium. Aug. de Civit. Dei. 50:13 c. 21. , with her plants, may be called so, in allusion to the garden of Eden, the earthly paradise of our first parents; where the “Lord God made to grow every tree that was pleasant to the sight, and good for food;” in the midst of it stood the tree of life, and out of it went a river to water all the garden, and was on all accounts exceeding pleasant and delightful: in Christ’s garden, the church, are planted all manner of trees of righteousness, which are both pleasant and profitable; God, stands the tree of life, in the midst of this paradise of Christ Jesus; but with this difference from the tree of life in Eden’s garden; for Adam might not put forth his hand, and take of that; but of this, whosoever will, may pluck and eat, and happy is every one that does so: here runs a river of boundless love and grace, the streams whereof water and refresh all the plants herein; and upon all accounts is an Eden of pleasure, a paradise which Christ has made for his own pleasure and delight559559sdrp para>deisov, paradisus, pomarium, voluptatis & amoenitatis causa consitum, Buxtorf. , and for that reason bears this name: but these plants are not only said to be an orchard, but an orchard or paradise of pomegranates, that is, in which pomegranates grew in great plenty. The church, like the land of Canaan, is a land or orchard of pomegranates; and the church’s plants, believers in Christ, who are planted and grow there, may be compared to pomegranates, that is, not to the fruit and shell, as in verse 3 but to the trees, 1. Because there are various sorts of them560560vid. Plin. 50:13. c. 19. , which bear fruit differing from each other; which may denote the difference there is in saints, by reason of their gifts and graces; they have grace and gifts differing from each other; one has more grace and larger gifts than other’s have; they are not all of an equal size and bigness; they have not all a like measure of the Spirit, and yet they are all pomegranates, trees of righteousness, of the right planting. 2. Pomegranate-trees in some countries are very large; and so they were in the land of Canaan, as appears from 1 Samuel 14:2 and perhaps may here denote such who excel others in gifts and grace; who are officers in churches, and are set over others in and by the Lord; as by the other trees, fruits and spices, after mentioned, may be intended lesser saints, who are of a lower form in the church of Christ. 3. They are very fruitful trees: the fruit they bear, as it is full of a delightful juice, so of grains or kernels; which may denote the saints being full of grace, and all the fruits of righteousness and good works, as the Targum and Jarchi observe here. 4. They grow up straight and upright, and so denote the saints uprightness, both in heart and life; they are men of upright hearts, and of upright conversations; are looking upwards to, and growing up into their head, Christ Jesus. 5. They do not grow any where, in any soil; the wilderness, through which the Israelites traveled, could not furnish them with any, though the land of Canaan could when they came thither: these plants or trees of righteousness, do not grow any where; they are not to be found every where; they grow in Christ’s garden; in his house they are planted, and in his courts they flourish.
III.Here are several other trees, fruits and spices, which are said to be in this garden or orchard; for it is added, with all pleasant fruits; that is, whatsoever is valuable, precious, and desirable, such as those after mentioned; as camphor with spikenard; both these have been observed in chapter 1:12,14. but are here mentioned in the plural number, cypresses, or cyprusses with nards561561So Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. ; the camphor, or cypress, on the account of its fruits or berries; and the spikenard, because there are various sorts of it, as nardus Italica, nardus Celtica, and nardus Indica, which last is the right spikenard; and it may be, because the leaves which grow out of the root, are like a bunch of ears of corn: saffron; it is no where else mentioned in scripture; we call it by this name from the Arabic, zaffran; it is called so on account of its yellow and golden color; its nature and usefulness are well known among us; according to Schindler562562Lexic. Pentaglott. col 910, , it seems to have been read carcos, the same with crocus, which has its name from Corycus563563Coryell pressura croci, Lucan, Pharsal. 1. 9- 5:8,9. Hic Cilico crocus editus arvo, Virgil Culex. , a mountain in Cilisia; so Pliny, lib, 21. c. 6. where it grew, and was the best; it is properly joined with spikenard, since itself is a spice, and is called spica Cilissa564564Ovid. Fast. 1. 1. 5:76. in Ibim. 5:200. Propert 50:4 eleg. 6. 5:74. ; it bears a blue flower, in the midst of which are three stylets, or little threads, of a fine red color, which are what is called saffron: calamus and cinnamon; both these were ingredients in the holy anointing oil, Exodus 30:23, both grow an India, and in Arabia565565Plin. 1. 12. c. 19, 22. Strabo, 1. 15. p, 478. Herodot, Thata, c. 107. anamomi & multi pastor odoris Arabs, Propert, 50:4. eleg. 13. 5:8. , and in Ethiopia; calamus is the sweet cane, mentioned in Isaiah 43:24, it grows in India and Arabia; and is said to scent the air, where and while it is growing, with a fragrant smell; and cinnamon is the middlemost bark of a tree, that grows in Ceylon in the East Indies; it is mentioned in Proverbs 7:17, as the harlot’s perfume, and in Revelation 18:13, as part of the wares or merchandise of the whore of Babylon: some say566566Vel. Reland. de Vet. Ling. Ind. s. 10. p. 216 , what we call cinnamon is the cassia of the ancients; Herolotus567567sive 50:3. III, Vid. Plin. 50:12.c. 19, fabulously relates, what, from the Phoenicians, is called cinnamon, are stalks or barks, which the Arabs say, are found in the nests of certain birds. “With all trees of frankincense, myrrh;” frankincense chiefly grew in one of the Arabias, hence called thurisera;568568Plin. 13. and is said to come out of Syria;569569Hermippus apud Athem Deipnosoph. 1. 10:c. 21. p. 22. it was used in the holy perfume, as was myrrh in the anointing oil, Exodus 30:23-34 which is a gum, from a shrub in Arabia, of a bitter taste, but fragrant; and with both these the church is said to be perfumed, chapter 3:6 and aloes; either the ling-aloes, so the Targum here, of which mention is made in Numbers 24:6. called agallocbium, an aromatic plant, which grows in India and Arabia, and is of a sweet odor, as Isidore570570Origin. l, 17. c. 8. says; or the herb aloes, which is of a bitter taste, but of a sweet smell, and with which garments were perfumed, Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17 together with all chief spices, or precious ones; Solomon’s gardens might be furnished with these from Arabia Felix, where all sorts of spices grew, hence called aromatifera, the spice country:571571Strabo, 1. 16. p. 538 vid. p. 335. and be they what they will, they are all to be found in Christ’s garden, or what is answerable to them. Now by these may be meant, the several graces of the Spirit, which are to be found in all those who are plants or members in Christ’s church; which are called by these names, and compared to these fruits, herbs, and spices, 1. Because the graces of the Spirit are many, and therefore many herbs and spices are mentioned (see Gal. 5:22). 2. They are various, of different sorts; for as it makes for the pleasantness of a garden or orchard to have many trees, plants, herbs, and flowers, so to have them of different sorts; for if there were never so many, and all of one sort, it would not be so delightful: the church of Christ, and believers in Christ, as they have many, so they have various graces; there are faith, hope, love, etc. faith is a grace differing from hope, and hope differs from faith, and love from them both. 3. They are rare and excellent: the herbs and spices here mentioned, such as spikenard, saffron, camphor, cinnamon, etc. are not to be found everywhere; they do not grow in every garden; they are very rarely to be met with: the graces of the Spirit do not grow any where, in any heart; there are but few that have them; they are exceeding rare, valuable and precious. 4. These herbs and spices are all of them of a sweet smell: and so are the graces of the Spirit to Christ; they are a sweet perfume to him; the smell of these ointments is preferred by him to all spices, in verse 10. 5. Some of these herbs and plants cheer the heart,572572Fernel; Method, Medend. 50:6. c. 7. & 1. 5, c 17; 21 and revive the spirits, as saffron, cinnamon, and camphor: the Spirit of God, in his operations of grace, and in exciting and drawing forth grace into exercise, wonderfully cheats our hearts, revives our spirits, and keeps us from fainting and swooning fits: in the multitude of our thoughts within us, his comforts delight our souls. 6. Some of them preserve from putrefaction, as myrrh and aloes; and therefore were used in embalming dead bodies (John 19:39), the grace of the Spirit is of such a nature; it is by this our dead souls are quickened, by this they are kept in life, and are preserved from putrefying and rotting in sin. 7. Some of them are green in winter-time; as saffron and the aloe:573573Plin. 1. 21. c.. 6. grace is always dive, and ever green, even in winter-storms and tempests, though it does not always appear so to us; it is an immortal seed which never dies. 8. Some of these grow up higher and taller than others; the calamus,574574Ibid 1. 12. c. 19. & Solin. c. 43. & 46. cinnamon, myrrh, and ethers, grow up taller than the spikenard and saffron: now these may intend the graces of faith, hope, and love, which rise upwards in their actings on the Lord Jesus Christ; and the latter, the graces of humility, meekness, lowliness of mind, etc. 9. All these emit the most fragrant odor, when they are either cut, bruised, or burnt; so do the graces of the Spirit, when they are exercised and tried in the furnace of affliction, 10. They are all, one way or another, more or less medicinal, and are healthful to the bodies of men; and so are the graces of the Spirit to the souls of men. Solomon understood the nature of all sorts of herbs and plants, and no doubt these are aptly chosen to set forth the graces of the Spirit by; and had we but his wisdom, we should know better how to apply them.
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