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Chapter 8 Verse 13

Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken
to thy voice: cause me to hear it.

first word once thought, as some have,10301030So Theodoret. & Tres Patres in loc. that these words were the words of the church of Christ, whose dwelling-place is in his gardens, the churches; to whose voice in the everlasting gospel, the companions, or young converts, Listen with great attention and affection; which the church observing, stirred up in her earnest desires to hear the same with more power and efficacy, life and liveliness: but having considered the original text, I find it will by no means bear this sense; for the word translated, “thou that dwellest,” is in the feminine gender, and so regards the bride, and may well be rendered, “O thou inhabitress of the gardens”10311031µynnb tbçwyh quae habitas in hortis, Vulgate Latin version, Michaelis; O quae habitas in hortis! Pagninus Brightman; O quae habitas in istis hortis! Junius; quae, O tu quae in hortis habitas! Mercerus; quae sedes in hortis, Cocceius, so the Targum. I though the Septuagint and Ambrose render it in the masculine gender,10321032O kaqhmenov Sept. qui sedes, Ambros, in Psalm 118, octon. 22. col. 1088. but Symmachus and Aquila, as he observes, quae sedes. but wrongly, for the word is certainly feminine: hence it appears, that the words are the words of Christ, directed unto his bride, the church. In which may be considered,

I.The title and appellation which is given her; “thou that dwellest in the gardens.”

II.The notice which the companions take of her; “the companions hearken to thy voice.”

III.The request which Christ makes unto her; “cause me to hear it.”

I.The title and appellation given her by Christ, is, “Thou that dwellest in the gardens;” or, “O thou inhabitress of the gardens!” Where by the gardens, must be understood particular congregated churches, as has been observed on chapter 6:2, of which the church universal is made up, and wherein it may be said to dwell; the Jewish10331033Targum, Shirhashirim Rabba, Jarchi, & Alshech in loc. Vid. T. Bah. Sabbat. fol. 63. 1. & Gloss. in Ibid, writers interpret them of the schools and congregations where the law was taught. Now her dwelling in those gardens is expressive, 1. Of the work she is employed about there; she does not dwell there idle; there is work for her to do, which is the reason of her dwelling there; and that is, to plant, water, prune and dress the gardens, which she does by her ministers: her business here also is to attend upon the ministry of the word, and all other ordinances of the gospel, where she frequently meets with her beloved; for “he feeds in the gardens, and gathers lilies.” 2. It denotes her diligence, constancy, and assiduity, in attendance on public ordinances: she not only attended now and then, but always; she dwelt in the gardens; and like the first Christians, “continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” (Acts 2:42). 3. It shows the delight she took in being there, seeing she had taken up her dwelling there: “the tabernacles of God were amiable to her; a day in his courts was better than a thousand elsewhere: this was the one thing she desired of the Lord,” (Ps. 27:4), and what, with a great deal of application she sought for; namely, to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of her life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple;” because, with the disciples, she judged it was good for her to be there; where she enjoyed the presence of Christ, had the assistance of his Spirit, and the discoveries of his love. 4. It also appears evident from hence, that she made an open profession of Christ; she did not creep into those gardens now and then, as it were by stealth, but she dwelt in them; she was not like Nicodemus, who came to Christ by night; nor those other Jews, who believed in him, but were afraid to confess him, for fear-of being put out of the synagogue; nor like many in our days, who will not enter into church communion, because of being exposed to the reproach of the world; “though with the mouth confession should be made unto salvation, as well as with the heart man should believe unto righteousness,” (Rom. 10:10), for as the one is necessary for the comfort of the believer, the other is as necessary for the glory of Christ. 5. Her dwelling here expresses her steadfast adherence to the profession she had made, as well as her constant attendance on gospel-ordinances; she was not as many who “forsake the assembling of themselves together;” but cleaved unto the Lord and to his churches with full purpose of heart, having an affectionate concern for them all; and in this respect she dwelt in them: it may be said of her on some accounts, as the apostle said of himself (2 Cor. 11:28), that “the care of all the churches was upon him;” as appears from chapter 7:12 and 8:8.

Moreover, from Christ’s giving her this title, may be observed, 1. That her dwelling in the gardens, was what he approved of, and was well pleasing to him; it is his will that saints should incorporate into churches, and those who are converted, give themselves up to them and continue with them; as appears from his blessing of them, when they are there, with greater measures of grace, light and knowledge, larger supplies of his Spirit, and sweet enjoyments of his presence, 2. That this is a title of honor, and is expressive of what dignity she was advanced unto; and indeed it is no small honor which saints have, to “have a name and a place in God’s house, which is better than sons and daughters:” David thought so when he envied the very sparrow and swallow, which had made their nests, as he says, “even near thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God!” and then adds, blessed are they that dwell in thine house, they will be still praising thee (Ps. 84:3, 4), their work, their employ-merit, as well as their place, is honorable and glorious. 3. That it was for her profit, as well as for her honor, to dwell here for these gardens are stored with all manner of precious fruits and above all, there stands in the midst of them the apple-tree, Christ Jesus, which is richly laden with a variety of excellent fruit, mentioned chapter 2:3, under the shadow of which the church frequently sits with great delight, and plucks and eats, and the fruit thereof is sweet unto her taste. 4. That she should always continue and abide there; he does not say, “thou that didst dwell, or shalt dwell in the gardens;” but “thou that dwellest,” denoting her continued abode there: there is no fear of her being turned out of these gardens, as Adam was out of his Eden, “so he drove out the man,” (Gen. 3:24), nor are there any cherubim, nor a “flaming sword to keep the way of the tree of life;” but all free and open, and nothing terrifying and menacing: it is true, every plant which Christ’s heavenly father has not planted, shall be rooted up; all those who are in churches only by a mere visible profession without the truth of grace, shall be turned out, with a “Friend, how earnest thou in hither?” but as for all true believers, they shall continue and abide, until they are transplanted into the heavenly paradise above;

II.The notice which the companions take of her; they hearken to her voice: in which may be inquired, 1st, Who are meant by the companions, 2dly, What by their hearkening to her voice.

1st, These companions may be taken either in a bad sense or in a good sense. If in a bad sense, as in chapter 1:7, then by them we are to understand false teachers, who pretend to be the companions and friends of Christ; who artfully insinuate themselves into churches, and would have them believe, they “are aiming at the advancement of the same cause and interest,” and mean the game thing as they do; and thus, with feigned words, they introduce their damnable heresies, and make merchandise of the souls of men; they listen to the church’s words and doctrines, to catch and carp at, wrest and pervert, use and improve, to answer their own ends and purposes: now these words may be considered as a caution given by Christ to the church to beware of them, as he did to his disciples (Matthew 7:15) and as Paul did to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:29, 31), seeing they were listening to what she said, not out of good, but ill will; yet notwithstanding he would not have her be silent, but, says he, cause me to hear it, or cause to hear me; that is, preach me boldly and openly, in no wise being afraid of them; for he would not have her speak so softly to him, that the companions which listened might not hear, as R. Aben Ezra on the text observes; no; for, says he, “what I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops,” (Matthew 10:27), but yet with a proper guard, upon themselves, both with respect to open and secret enemies. Though I rather think, that we are to understand these companions in a good sense: by whom may be meant, either, 1. God the Father, and God the Holy Ghost;10341034So Piscator in loc. who are both the companions of Christ; for “there are three that hear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one,” (1 John 5:7), they are of one nature and essence, possess the same perfections, are partners in the same works both of nature and grace, and equally share the glory which results from thence; now these divine persons listen to what the church and poor believers say; “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it,” (Mal. 3:16). Or else; 2. The holy angels may be here intended, as many interpreters, 10351035Shirhashirim Rabba, R. Sol. Jarchi, R. Aben Ezra, lsidore, Alcuin, Foliot, Lyra, Sanctius, & Diodat. in loc. both Jewish and Christian, think; these are the friends and companions of the saints; as well as of Christ; they are reconciled to them through Christ; are willing to perform all the offices of friendship to them; they rejoice at their conversion, bring messages of peace and comfort to them; acknowledge themselves to be their fellow-servants, and are ministering spirits unto those who are the heirs of salvation: not to enter upon the consideration of that question, whether every man hath his angel to attend upon him; which I must confess I am somewhat inclined to believe, there being some scriptures which seem to furnish us with some proofs of it, as Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:15, however this appears certain, that the saints have the angels of God attending on them; he hath given his angels charge concerning them; they encamp round about those that fear him; they are the guardians and companions of the saints in life, and at death carry their souls to glory; now these listen to what they say in their closets; in their families, in their private or public conversation, as seems manifest from Ecclesiastes 5:6, they wait upon the public assemblies of the saints, and hearken to the voice of the gospel, as delivered by the ministers of it; hence that direction is given by the apostle (1 Cor. 11:10), for the woman to cover her head in the time of public worship: the angels get much of their knowledge in, and acquaintance with the great mysteries of grace and salvation, from what they hear from the church (Eph. 3:10), and it is with much constancy, diligence, and earnestness, that they desire to look into these things (1 Peter 1:12). Or else rather, 3. By these companions may be meant the daughters of Jerusalem, who all along attended the bride in this song; who are the virgins, her companions, as they are called (Ps. 45:14), by which young converts more especially may be understood; who listen with a great deal of affection and attention to what the church, or older and more experienced Christians say; though all believers in general may well come under this title of companions, as it is given to them (Ps. 122:8), for David, though he was so great a man, and in such an exalted station of life, yet did not disdain to be called “a companion of all them that fear God,” (Ps. 119:63). Now the saints may be said to be companions of each other for these following reasons: (1.) Because they are interested in one and the same covenant, of which Christ is the head, surety, and mediator; and have an equal right and claim to all the blessings and promises of it. (2.) They have all one and the same Savior, are all saved in one way, and share alike in the same salvation; for which reason it is called “the common salvation,” (Jude 3), not that it is common to all the world, bat only to the elect of God, who are called to be saints. (3.) They are partakers of the same grace, particularly that of faith; for the meanest saint obtains like precious faith with the greatest; the same may be said of all other graces of the Spirit; for indeed as there is but one body, of which they are all members: so there is but one spirit which actuates them all, even as they are also called in one hope of their calling (Eph. 4:4). (4.) They are partners, and share alike in the same privileges of the gospel, to which they have all an equal right; for they are all “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (5.) As companions, they frequently converse together; “they that feared the Lord, spoke often one to another;” they meet in private, and take sweet counsel together, as well as walk unto the house of God in company; they sympathize with each other in all conditions, both outward and inward; they “weep with them that weep, and rejoice with them that rejoice; they bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6.) They are here companions together in tribulation and sufferings, as John says (Rev. 1:9), and shall be partners together in heaven, where they shall enjoy that glorious inheritance which lies among them that are sanctified.

2dly, Now these companions hearken to the voice of the church: by which may be meant, either, 1. The gospel, as preached by her ministers; which is a joyful sound, and makes delightful music in the ears of believers, which are opened and unstopped by the Spirit of God. Or, 2. The admonitions of the church, which ought to be hearkened to (Matthew 18:15-17), and will be regarded by all those who wish well to Zion, who have a value and esteem for the authority of churches, and entertain mean and humble thoughts of themselves (Ps. 141:5). 3. The voice of the church in all other ordinances, and particularly that of singing, may be here intended; for the church was now bearing her part in this song with Christ; with whose voice these virgins her companions were charmed; which made them get the nearer, and more carefully listen to her: thus saints should be “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord,” (Col. 3:16). 4. The voice of the church, and of true believers in private conversation, is listened to by young, converts; because it is that which is good; to the use of edifying, and what ministers grace unto the hearers.

III.The request which Christ makes to his church, is; cause me to hear it; that is, thy voice, which is exceeding sweet and charming to Christ, as appears from chapter 2:14, where he says, “let me hear thy voice;” a phrase exactly agreeable to this, and which is there more largely explained, and the reason there given, why he makes such a request, is, “because sweet is thy voice:” so is the voice of the church, in praying to him, praising of him: speaking largely of his person, grace and office; as well as boldly confessing of him before men. Though the word here used may as well be rendered, cause me to hear me;10361036yn[ymçh predica nae, Junius & Tremellius. that is, preach me, as Junius translates it: and the meaning is, seeing the companions thus flock unto thee, and listen with the utmost attention and satisfaction to thy voice; take the opportunity of preaching me unto them; let my person, blood, righteousness, and grace, be the subject of thy ministry. And thus indeed it was in the primitive times; for, says the apostle Paul, “I determined not to know,” that is, to make known “any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” (1 Cor. 2:2). The first ministers of the gospel did not preach themselves nor others, but Christ Jesus the Lord; he was the sum and substance of their ministry; and now though this way of preaching was “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness;” yet it was owned of God, for the conversion of sinners, and the comfort of saints; and has been more or less so in all ages of the world, and will be continued to be practiced until the second coming of Christ; which he may perhaps here intend, and is what the church earnestly prays for in the following verse.

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