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Chapter 5 Verse 8

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.

first wordchurch having met with a disappointment, as has been observed in verse 6 by her beloved’s withdrawing-himself from her; but resolving to find him, if possible, she seeks for him in the public ordinances; where she is taken notice of by the officers of the church, “the watchmen of the city, and keepers of the walls;” who very much abuse her; “smite and wound” her, and take away her veil from her; by reason of which, she making a hideous outcry in the streets, the “daughters of Jerusalem,” the wise virgins, who were then sleeping and slumbering on their beds, were awakened and alarmed, and rose up to know what was the matter; who being observed by the church, had the charge in the text given unto them by her. In which we have,

I.The persons whom she addresses, and in this solemn manner adjures; “the daughters of Jerusalem.”

II.The charge itself, which she gives them; which is, to tell her beloved, when found by” them, that she was “sick of love.”

III.The condition of this charge; “if ye find my beloved.”

IV.The manner in which this charge is given, which is very solemn and serious.

I.The persons to whom she gives this charge; “the daughters of Jerusalem:” by whom we are not to understand the prophets, as the Targum does; though these were proper persons for the church to make application to in her present condition; but having been so evilly treated by the watchmen and keepers of the walls, she had but little encouragement to go to them: nor are angels here meant, as some646646Foliot in loc. & Psellus apud Theodoret in loc. think though they are “ministering, spirits, sent to the heirs of salvation,” and are often useful to the saints on many accounts; yet it does not seem to be their business, nor are they capable of assisting and relieving souls in such a case as this of the church’s: nor are “saints departed” meant, as some popish interpreters647647Vid. Sanct. in loc. imagine: as if the church desired their prayers for her, who are uncapable, of giving her any assistance: but by them we are to understand saints here on earth, the friends and companions of the church, which bel;ong to that Jerusalem, which “is free, and is the mother of us all;” these were fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” perhaps were young converts, as has been observed in other places of this Song; and it is certain, that they were believers of the weaker sort; their knowledge of Christ was but small, though they had a great respect for the church, and a desire of sucking Christ with her, verse 9 and Song of Solomon 6:1. The church now making application to these persons in her disconsolate condition, shows, 1. Her humility: that she is willing to be assisted by mean Christians or weak believers, who were much inferior to her in faith and knowledge; it is the nature of grace, and the tendency of such trying dispensations as these, in which the church was, to make and keep souls humble; the more grace they have, the more humble they will be; the greatest believer reckoned himself the “least of saints, and the chief of sinners,” and is willing to be instructed and admonished by the meanest saint (see Ps. 141:5); and is glad of the prayers and assistance of weak believers, when in distress. 2. Her resolution to use all means to find her beloved, as Job did, Job 23:8,9, she will leave no stone unturned, nor let slip any opportunity, where there was any probability or possibility of finding him; she had sought him in public ordinances, but with no success; nay, had met with ill treatment front church-officers; yet she is not discouraged, but is resolved to persist in her search of him; she had spread her case before Christ in prayer, and could get no answer; and now she betakes herself to the company of private Christians, that by conference with them, and through their prayers for her, she might be brought to the enjoyment of what she was seeking after. 3. That communion and conversation with saints is a very proper method to be taken by believers in such cases; conversing together about the things of God, is very acceptable and well-pleasing to him: it is said, Malachi 3:16, of the saints, who “spake often one to another, that the Lord hearkened and heard, listened as it were unto it, and took such notice of it, that “a book of remembrance was written before him” for them; he did, as it were, take notes and minutes of what they said and thought, and laid them up: as we should spread our cases before God; so it is very proper, and often very useful, to spread our case before one another; and therefore there should not be a “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but so much the more should” we assemble together, as our various wants and cases require. 4. That when souls are in distress, it is their duty and interest to make application to others; they should not only pray for themselves, which should be done in the first place, but they should also desire the prayers of others for them; for “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much:” and it is no disgrace nor dishonor for a person superior in office, gifts, and graces to others, to desire their assistance by their prayers for him at the throne of grace; instances of this we have, not only in the church here, but in that great man of God, and instance of grace, the apostle Paul, who frequently desired the prayers of meaner saints for him (see Eph. 6:19; 1 Thess. 3:1, 2). 5. That it is the duty of saints to be assisting to each other in their distresses, as much as in them lies; by singing the praises of God together, by praying one with and for another, and by conferring with each other about divine things, and so building up one another on their most holy faith: there ought to be a sympathizing spirit in the saints; they should “bear one another’s burdens, and should mutually help each other; they should weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice.” But,

II.Let us consider the charge itself, which is given to them by her; and that is to tell her beloved, when they found him, that she was sick of love. This does not suppose that he was ignorant or unmindful of her present state; he heard her, though he would not answer; he knew that she was inquiring after him, and what hardships she underwent in doing it; and also, how much her soul was filled with love to him, and longed for the enjoyment of him; though he would not immediately show himself, intending a little longer to chastise her for her former carriage to him: but the words shew the ardency of her love to Christ, and that she would have them declare this to him, in their prayers for her, which she thought might be a means to induce him to manifest himself to her; as also they show what familiarity souls may use at the throne of grace what freedom they may take with Christ, when they come into his presence, “tell him that I am sick of love.” They may tell him their own cases, and the cases of others, as one friend may tell another, or as a child may tell its father; they may go with boldness to him, and spread their own and others cases before him, without fear of being chided or upbraided by him; and indeed it is their duty to bear upon their minds, at the throne of grace, not only their own cases, and the cases of the churches in general, as the apostle Paul frequently did; but also the cases of particular persons, whom they know to be in distress; therefore Christ taught his disciples to pray after this manner, “Our Father, etc. and forgive us our debts, etc.” to show that they should be concerned for others in prayer, as well as for themselves. The words in the Hebrew text may be rendered thus, “What shall ye, or should ye tell him?”648648wl wrybt hm ti ajpagteilhte aujtw. Sept. Quid indicaretis ei? Junius; Quid, parrabitis ei? Pagninus, Michaelis; Quid. indicabitis ei? Montanus, Mercerus, Marckius, so Ainsworth. as if she should say, Do not tell him the blows and wounds that I have received from the watchmen; nor desire him to revenge the injuries and affronts they have given me, I freely forgive them; nor am I so much concerned at the sufferings that I undergo, as I am for the loss of him: “What shall ye tell him ?” Tell him that which lies most upon my heart, under which I shall sink and die, if he does not relieve me; “tell him that I am sick of love.” Again, What shall ye tell him? Tell him that which will be the most acceptable and agreeable to him; tell him I love him so, that I cannot live without him: she knew that he valued her love, and that his heart would be ravished with it, from what he had said, Song of Solomon 4:9,10, and therefore would have this told him. Again, “What shall ye tell him?” What shall I say to you to tell him? I have a great many things to tell him of; but I will not overburden your memories, but I will give you my mind in a few words, in the most concise manner, “tell him that I am sick of love;” and when I meet with him myself, I will tell him all my mind; but for the present, only tell him this. But let us a little more particularly consider the matter of this charge, or what the church would have the daughters of Jerusalem tell Christ, when they found him; which is, that she was “sick of love.” And it will be proper to inquire,

1st, The causes of this sickness; which sometimes are, 1. A want of the views of pardoning grace, under a sense of sin, which perhaps was the case of the church here; she had sinned against Christ, in neglecting to arise and open to him; and she was now sensible of it, but wanted the manifestations of pardon; and was therefore in a languishing and fainting condition on the account of it; and it is only this which will cure this sickness: “The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick;” Why so? “the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity;” that is, they shall have the manifestations of pardoning grace to their souls, which shall cure them of their sicknesses and maladies; which was what the church here wanted. 2. The absence of Christ is sometimes the cause of this sickness; and this also was the church’s case: Christ had “withdrawn himself from her, and was gone, as in Song of Solomon 5:6, and though she had diligently sought him, yet she could not find him, nor hear any thing of him; and this brought this sickness upon her. 3. An eager longing after Christ’s presence, and the discoveries of his love, is another cause of it: when a soul has sought Christ a long time in ordinances, and cannot find him; has lived in the hope and expectation of enjoying his presence time after time, and yet is still at a loss for him, then comes this sickness upon it; for, as Solomon says (Prov. 13:12), “hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” 4. Sometimes the large discoveries of love which believers have, cause a sickness, which may be called a love-sickness; and this is what the church speaks of, in Song of Solomon 2:5, “stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love:” she had been with Christ in his wine-cellar or banqueting-house, and had as much of his love let into her soul, as sloe could hold, nay, more; she was overpowered with it; “his banner over” her had been love. But this was not the church’s case here; her sickness here arises rather from the aforesaid causes, and chiefly from a want of that love which she had such large discoveries of there.

2dly, It may not be amiss to consider the nature and properties of this sickness. And, 1. It is not a sickness unto death; none ever died of this sickness; Christ will never suffer any to die with love for him; for he “loves them that love him,” and will cause them “to inherit substance;” to enjoy himself, the substance of all felicity; and to inherit eternal glory, which is the better and the “more enduring substance;” where they shall have sweet and uninterrupted communion with him. Yet, 2. It is a very sore and painful sickness; like Hezekiah’s, it is a pining one; and oftentimes wastes the body, as well as affects the mind: The Septuagint render it, “for I am wounded with love;” which gave her a great deal of pain and uneasiness; for “love is as strong as death.” 3. It is an immedicable sickness without the enjoyment of Christ, the object loved; bodily physicians cannot cure it; these are in this case, like Job’s physicians, of no value; merry companions are of no service to remove it; the enjoyment of another beloved will not do; the language of a soul in such a case, is, None but Christ, none but Christ; give me Christ, or I die; I cannot live without him: this sickness can only be cured by the object loved, and this infallibly cures; for, “as hope deferred maketh the heart sick, so when the desire cometh it is a tree of life.”

3rdly, We may now consider the evidences of this love-sickness, or how it manifests itself: and, 1. There is in souls that labor under it, a violent pulsation and punting of the heart after Christ, even “as the heart panteth after the water-brooks;” they are restless and uneasy without him; their thoughts are continually running upon him; the desire of their souls, night and day, “is to his name, and to the remembrance of him.” 2. They are prodigious jealous of him and his love; and this is exceeding afflicting to them; for “jealousy is as cruel as the grave:” they are exceedingly afraid that he does not love them or that he loves others better than them; for, as the poet649649Ovid. says, Res est soliciti plena timoris amor. 3. They are very active and diligent, careful and industrious to gain his love; they use all the methods and stratagems they can devise; are bold and resolute, are not discouraged at any difficulties, bat are willing to run all risks for the enjoyment of him. 4. They love to hear his name mentioned, and especially to be spoken well of; his name to them is “as ointment poured forth,” exceeding grateful; it attracts their love, “therefore do the virgins love” him; they love his ways, his ordinances and his doctrines, and cannot bear to hear them spoken against; they love to look upon and converse with his people, because they are like him, and bear a resemblance to him.

III.The condition of this charge is, “if ye find him;” which shews, 1. That at present these daughters of Jerusalem had not any sight of Christ, nor communion with him; and this appears also manifestly from the following verse, where they inquire of her concerning him. 2. That it was possible that they might find him before she did; for Christ is sometimes “found of them that sought him not,” and is “made manifest unto them that asked not after” him; she was inquiring after Christ but found him not; and yet it was possible that they might find him before her, who had not been seeking after him: also Christ may manifest himself to poor, mean, and weak believers, when he does not to some that are superior to them in faith, light, and knowledge; he showed himself after his resurrection to a poor woman, to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast seven devils, before he did to his disciples. 3. That when they did find Christ, and had liberty of access to his presence, that they would then spread her sorrowful case before him, and use their interest with him, to take pity and compassion on her; who was “sick of love” for him; she entreats them to do such a favor for her, as Joseph requested of the chief butler, when he should be restored to his place; says he Genesis 40:12. “But think on me, when it shall be well with thee; and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me; and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house.” So the church would have these virgins, when it was well with them when they enjoyed the presence of. Christ, to think on her and her sorrowful case, and make mention of it to him.

IV.This charge is delivered in a very solemn manner; “I adjure you650650yt[bçh w{rkisa, Sept. adjuro, Vulg. Lat. Cocceius, Pagninus, Merce-rus, Junius: obtestor, Tigurine version. ,” or “I put you to your oath, I make you swear,” as the word signifies, that when you find him, you will tell him what I have said to you; I have given you your oath to do it: and now as you will answer it before God, in whose name and presence you have taken it, that you will carefully observe what I say to you, and faithfully deliver the message; if you have any regard to this solemn oath you have taken, or any love to me, I beg you will tell him that I am sick of love. She delivers herself in this solemn manner, not only to show the strength of her love to him, and that she was hearty and sincere in her search and inquiries after him: but also that she was serious in what she said to them, and would have them be serious, diligent, and faithful in telling her case to Christ. The answer returned by them, is as follows.

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