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Chapter 5 Verse 3
have put off my coat, how shall I put it on?
I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?
sleepy and lazy frame which the church had fallen into, together with Christ’s carriage and behavior towards her in that condition, has been considered in the preceding verse; and in this we have the effect which Christ calls and knocks, his melting language, and moving expostulations had upon her: all the answer he obtains from her, are only some idle excuses and frivolous shifts to put him off. Some interpreters620620Vid. Sanct. in loc. har, in Deuteronomy fol. 126. 3. it is observed that it should be so read. indeed have attempted to vindicate the church from slothfulness and rudeness, and would have this ascribed to her modesty, which would not admit her to appear before so great a person in such a disagreeable dress: but if this had been the case, he would never have resented her behavior to him, as he did by withdrawing from her; he would never have suffered her to wander about the city in quest of him, as she did; nor would he have permitted the watchmen to abuse leer, as they did, by smiting, wounding, and unveiling her; nor should she have gone so long, until she was sick of love, before she found him, had net all this been to chastise her for her former slothfulness and rudeness. Nor are we to consider these words as of one asking for information sake, how she should do this and the other thing, as Being willing to comply with the request made to her, if she knew but how; for she had no desire to do it; her chief design being to keep her bed, her ease and rest, if possible; therefore, though she is not so rude as to say, that she would not arise and let him in; yet her words and actions manifestly shew that she had no design to do it, and therefore makes the excuses she does; which are to be looked upon as an absolute denial, and were so interpreted by Christ; and may be paralleled with that answer which the man gave to his friend, who came at midnight to borrow loaves of him, which, in Luke 11:7, you will find to be this, “Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.” Having given you this general view of the words, I wilt now consider the parts of them, or the particular excuses that she makes.
First, She says, “I have put off my coat,” and from thence argues,” how shall I put it on?” It will be proper to consider what is meant by her putting off her coat; and also what the argument she forms upon it, or the conclusion she draws from it, intends, 1. The believer’s coat is Christ and his righteousness: his clothing is the garments of salvation, and his covering the robe of righteousness; all which he has from Christ, who is Jehovah, our righteousness; whose righteousness is the saints wedding-garment; which being made of fine linen, clean and white, and put upon them, they are clothed as with the sun; their own garments, whether of sin or righteousness, are filthy ones; in the room of which, is given to them change of raiment. Now this coat or garment of justifying righteousness, being wrought out by Christ, and brought to the soul by the Spirit of God, faith puts on, according to Romans 13:14. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, the righteousness of Christ; which faith puts on, as a man does his clothes: and for this reason we are said to be justified by faith; not that faith, by virtue of its own, has an influence in our justification, or is a part of it; for we are no otherwise justified by it, than as it apprehends, lays hold, and puts on Christ for righteousness. Now this coat or garment being once put on, the believer can never be disrobed of it; it as an everlasting righteousness; it will never wear out, nor can it be lost, nor will it ever be taken away from him: Adam lost the righteousness in which he was created, but the believer’s can never be lost; for it is not the righteousness of a creature, but of God; those who once have on Christ’s righteousness, always have; for being once justified by it, they will always be so; nor must it he imagined, that ever a true believer will be left to despise and reject this righteousness: there is nothing dearer to him, and more valued by him than this is; he often thinks of it in himself, and frequently speaks of it to others; he desires to be always found in it, living and dying; but yet sometimes his faith may be remiss about it; may lie dormant, and be very little exercised on this glorious object: sometimes a believer is got into such a carnal, secure, and lazy frame of spirit, as the church here was, that he contents himself with the bare performance of external duties, without having his soul affected with, or his faith concerned about Christ, as the Lord his righteousness; nay, sometimes when he is not in such a frame, he is too apt to dwell upon his own heart, his graces, his frames, his duties; there is a great deal of legality sometimes in believers, and their practice runs contrary to their light and judgment. Now so far as we rest in ourselves in our duties and performances, or dwell in our graces and our frames; so far we may be said to have put off our coat, or to have laid aside and neglected the righteousness of Christ; tho” it is certain, believers cannot be really disrobed of it; and perhaps this may be the sense of these words.621621Vid. Brightman in loc. Or else, 2. They may intend her leaving her first love; as her faith in Christ’s righteousness was very low, so her love to Christ, his people, ways and ordinances, was very cold; there is such a thing as leaving, though not losing our first love, for which the church at Ephesus was blamed (Rev. 2:4), now when saints are in the exercise of this grace of love to Christ or his people, they may be said to put it on, as the apostle exhorts, in Colossians 3:14. “And above all these things, put on charity, or love, which is the bond of perfectness,” and when they grow remiss and cold in it, they may be said to put it off. 3. These words may also represent her neglect of her duty; for she had not only dropped in a great measure the exercise of grace, but likewise the performance of duty; she was grown slothful and inactive; she had put off her clothes, as having done working, and therefore takes to her bed, and composes herself to rest: thus, as a performance of duties may be called a putting of them on; see Colossians 3:12, so a neglect of them may be called a putting of them off; which Eliphaz, in Job 15:4. calls a casting off fear before God; for he intends thereby a disregard to religious exercises, which he supposed Job chargeable with. 4. These words manifestly shew, that she was in a sleepy, drowsy frame; had put off her clothes, and was gone to bed; that she was now off her guard, and had dropped her spiritual watchfulness: thus, as putting and keeping on of clothes is a sign of watchfulness (see Neh. 4:23; Rev. 16:15); so putting them off is an indication of the contrary; and she having done so, is not only exposed to danger, but to shame, disgrace, and scandal. 5. Being now free from troubles, afflictions and persecutions, she puts off her coat, and betakes herself to a bed of cage; and though Christ calls, yet she is unwilling to arise and go along with him, lest she should meet with the same trials and sufferings as before, for the sake of him and his gospel; so much does the love of worldly ease prevail over God’s own children, that they are sometimes loath to arise and follow Christ in his own ways.
Now from hence she argues, and thus she concludes, that seeing she had put off her coat, how should she put it on? Which discovers, (1.) That she was apprehensive of difficulty in doing it, “How shall I etc. that is, how difficult will it be for me to do it?” and indeed it is easier dropping, the exercise of a grace, or the performance of a duty, than it is to take it up again after we have so done; and when grace is called to exert itself, or a duty is presented to be performed, carnal reason raises a thousand difficulties as insuperable, which faith only gets over. (2.) This way of arguing shews her sluggishness, and her love of ease; a sluggard thinks there is danger if he arises and goes into the streets, saying, “There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets;” and he is so wretchedly slothful, that having “hid his hand in his bosom, it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth:” so she, having put off her coat, was so exceeding slothful and sluggish, that she was loath, it grieved her, it went to her very heart, she did not know how to bring herself to it, to put it on again. (3). Nay there was not only a loathness, but an aversion to it; the carnal and fleshly part in the believer is entirely averse, either to the exercise of grace, or to the discharge of duty; it lusteth against the spirit; though there is a willingness in the regenerate part thereunto, for he delights in the law of God, after the inward man: but the former seems to have the ascendant in the church here, which makes her say, “How shall I, etc.” I am averse unto it. (4.) It intimates as though she thought it unreasonable in him to desire it, seeing her clothes were off, and she was now in bed; for him to desire her to arise and open, and let him in, was, what she thought, an unreasonable request, and therefore says, “How shall I put it on?” that is, How canst thou desire it of me? though this which Christ called her to, and indeed, had it been much more difficult than it was, but her reasonable service. (5.) It supposes that she was apprehensive of danger by doing it; that it would be incommodious and detrimental to her, break her rest, disturb her ease, and be prejudicial to her health; there being danger of it, as she imagined, by rising out of her bed, and putting on her clothes to let him in. Now arguments taken from, and formed upon such selfish principles, are much made use of by carnal reason, and are pleaded with a great deal of force and vehemence by it, against the observance of an ordinance or performance of a duty: it was upon this foot that those who were bidden to the wedding, excused themselves; it was against their worldly profit and pleasure to comply with the invitation; one had bought a piece of ground, another, five yoke of oxen, and a third had married a wife, and therefore they could not come; and in so doing, declared that they valued their worldly interest before the blessings of grace in Christ; as the church here in saying, “How shall I put it on?” shews, that she preferred her worldly ease to Christ’s company, and that she sought more her “own things, than the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (6.) It may also signify that she knew not how to do it, because of that shame and confusion which attended her on the account of her sins and transgressions against him; being conscious to herself of these things she blushed and was ashamed, not knowing how to shew her face, and appear before him with any confidence, and therefore puts him off with these excuses; and so it oftentimes with believers, who, when they have fallen into sin neglect their duty through shame, and so add sin to sin, as the. church did here: and this sense the Targum gives of this part of the words after this manner: “The congregation of Israel answered and said before the prophets, Lo, now I have removed from me the yoke of his precepts, and have served the idols of the people; and how can I have the face to return unto him?” though it makes the latter part of the text to be, not the words of the church, but of the Lord; who makes answer to her, and lets her know, that as he had removed his divine presence from her, because of her sins, how should he return to her again? Which other part of the words come now to be considered.
Secondly, She urges that she had washed her feet; and therefore how could she “defile them.” Washing of feet was a custom much used in the eastern countries, where they wore not shoes, but sandals, and therefore contracted a great deal of soil, especially in travelling, after which it was usual to wash them; which not only removed the filth from them, but much comforted and refreshed them: instances of this we have in Abraham and Lot, who desired that water might be brought to wash the feet of the angels, whom they thought to be men, also in Abraham’s servant, in Joseph’s brethren, and in Christ’s washing the feet of his disciples a little before his death: washing of feet was also used before going to bed622622Aponiyate, katqete d j eunhn, Homer. Odyss. 1.19. 5:317. Vid 5:343,351,376,387. , which is what is here referred to. Now this is to be understood, not of the washing of regeneration, with which no doubt she was washed, being Christ’s spouse and bride, as well as washed in his blood; for that is the work of the spirit of God, in his mighty operations of his grace upon her; but this appears to be something of her own doing, “I have washed my feet, etc.” nor is it meant of the purity of her outward conversation; though feet and walking, when applied to the saints, do in a spiritual sense, intend this oftentimes, but it does not intend it here; for her outward conversation does not appear to be so clean and pure, and so becoming the gospel, and her profession of it, as it should be. But, 1. It may be observed, that she had plucked off her shoes or sandals, which are the gospel, and a conversation agreeable to it, according to Ephesians 6:15. “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Now when the believer’s feet are shod thus, that is, when he holds “the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,” then may it be said of him, as in chapter 7:1. “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O princes daughter!” but now the church here had plucked off hers, in order to wash her feet; that is, she was grown very careless about the doctrines of the gospel, and very negligent in keeping up a conversation answerable to them. 2. This phrase shows that she was grown weary of spiritual exercises, so persons when they are weary of work or travelling, used to wash their feet, and go to rest. She was grown weary of well-doing, and was much like those in Malachi 1:13, who said, in regard to the performance of religious exercises, “Behold, what a weariness is it!” and therefore washes her feet, lays aside an observance of ordinances and duties, and betakes herself to her carnal ease and rest; and being called from thence, she argues, “I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them;” which intimates as before, a loathness, an aversion to it; and as though she thought it unreasonable in him to desire it, and criminal in her to comply with it. Where observe her wretched mistake, in imagining that hearkening to, and obeying Christ’s commands, would be a defiling her; and it also shews us what poor, little trifling excuses, persons in such a condition will make, to keep themselves in their carnal ease and peace, in a state of slothfulness and inactivity; nay, these excuses of hers were not only idle and frivolous, as the putting on of her coat, and defiling her feet, but likewise vile and sinful, as will appear from the following considerations. (1.) She had slighted the means which Christ had made use of to awake her; she had made them null and void, and of no effect; he had called to her by the ministry of the word, and had knocked in a providential way, and yet to no purpose; she withstands both his knocks and calls, which must needs be an aggravation of her sin. (2.) She sinned against light and knowledge; she knew that it was the voice of her beloved that called unto her, and acknowledges it to be so; and yet she sleeps on, and makes these idle excuses as she does, which must needs increase her guilt. (3.) She had invited him to come but a little before, as in chapter 4:16. “Let my beloved come into his garden;” accordingly he did come; and as soon as he was come, she falls asleep, and treats him after this base and disingenuous manner. (4.) She had purposely composed herself to sleep; it does not seem to have fallen upon her at an unawares; but she as it were sought it, and for this reason put off her coat, and washed her feet, that she might be the more fit for rest, and take it more easily. (5.) Yet she endeavors to shift the blame from off herself, as if she was no ways in the fault, but that the thing was either difficult and unreasonable, or else unlawful to be done; and therefore she says, “How shall I, etc.” (6.) She appears in all this to be guilty of the greatest ingratitude; she fell into this sleepy and lazy frame after this and a noble entertainment and sumptuous feast that Christ had made for her; she continues herein, notwithstanding the most affectionate characters he gives her, and the most powerful arguments he uses with her; she sleeps on, though he lets her know that his “head was filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night:” though he had suffered and undergone so much on her account, yet, O vile ingratitude! she is unwilling to be at the trouble of putting on a coat on his account, or to run the risk of defiling her feet for his sake. (7.) She also discovers the highest folly, in that she prefers her present ease to Christ’s company. Well, but how does Christ take this? How can he bear to be affronted after this rate? Does he not highly resent it? Yes; but this will farther appear in the consideration of the following verses.
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