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as a seal upon thine arm;’ the heart is the fountain, but close and hidden; the arm is manifestation and power. Let, saith the spouse, thy love be modifested to me in thy tender and powerful persuasion of me. Two things are evident in this request; the continual mindfulness of Christ of the soul, as having its condition still in his eye, engraven on his arm; Isa. xlix. 15, 16. with the exalting of his power for the preservation of it, suitable to the love of his heart unto it, and the manifestation of the hidden love and care of the heart of Christ unto the soul, being made visible on his arm, or evident by the fruit of it. This is that which she would be assured of; and without a sense whereof, there is no rest to be obtained. The reason she gives of this earnestness in her supplications, is that which principally evinces her delight in him. “Love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave, or hard as hell.’ This is the intendment of what is so loftily set out by so many metaphors in this and the following verse. I am not able to bear the workings of my love to thee, unless I may always have society and fellowship with thee; there is no satisfying of my love without it, it is as the ‘grave that still says give, give. Death is not satisfied without its prey; if it have not all, it hath nothing; let what will happen, if death hath not its whole desire it hath nothing at all. Nor can it be withstood in its appointed season; no ransom will be taken. So is my love, if I have thee not wholly, I have nothing, nor can all the world bribe it to a diversion; it will be no more turned aside than death in its time. Also, I am not able to bear my jealous thoughts; I fear thou dost not love me, that thou hast forsaken me, because I know I deserve not to be beloved. These thoughts are hard as hell; they give no rest to my soul; if I find not myself on thy heart and arm, I am as one that lies down in a bed of coals. This also argues a holy greediness of delight. . 3dly. She farther manifests this by her solicitousness, trouble, and perplexity, in his loss and withdrawings. Men bewail the loss of that whose whole enjoyment they delight in ; we easily bear the absence of that, whose presence is not delightful. This state of the spouse is discovered chap.
iii. 1–3. ‘By "night on my bed I sought him whom” my soul loved: I sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways: I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw you him whom my soul loveth ?’ It is night now with the soul, a time of darkness and trouble, or affliction. Whenever Christ is absent it is night with a believer. He is they sun; if he go down upon them, if his beams be eclipsed, if in his light they see no light, it is all darkness with them. Here, whether the coming of the night of any trouble on her, made her discover Christ's absence, or the absence of Christ made it night with her, is not expressed. I rather think the latter; because setting that aside, all things seem to be well with her. The absence of Christ will indeed make it night, dark as darkness itself in the midst of all other glowing consolations. But is the spouse contented with this dispensation? She is upon her bed; that is, of ease; the bed indeed sometimes signifies tribulation; Rev. ii. 22. but in this book every where rest and contentment: here is not the least intimation of any tribulation but what is in the want of Christ; but in the greatest peace and opportunity of ease and rest, a believer finds none in the absence of Christ'; though he be on his bed, having nothing to disquiet him, he rests not, if Christ his rest be not there. She sought him; seeking of Christ by night, on the bed, that is, alone, in immediate inquest, and in the dark, hath two parts; searching of our own souls for the cause of his absence; secondly, searching the promises for his presence. (1.) The soul finding not Christ present in his wonted manner, warming, cherishing, reviving it with love, nigh to it, supping with it, always filling its thoughts with himself, dropping myrrh and sweet tastes of love into it, but on the contrary that other thoughts crowd in and perplex the heart, and Christ is not nigh when inquired after; it presently inquires into the cause of all this,” calls itself to an account,
* Isa. l. 10. * Eleganter periphrasi utitur loco nominis proprii, ut vim amoris suiexprimat. Merc. Ista repetitio assensum indicat et studium quo eum quarebat, et moerorem quo angebatur, quodoc currere non posset, idem. y Mal. iv. 3. z 2 Cor, xiii. 5.
what it hath done, how it hath behaved itself, that it is not with it, as at other times; that Christ hath withdrawn himself, and is not nigh to it, in the wonted manner. Here it accomplisheth a diligent search ; it considers the love, tenderness, and kindness of the Lord Jesus; what delight he takes in abiding with his saints; so that his departure is not without cause and provocation. How, saith it, have I demeaned myself, that I have lost my beloved? where have I been wandering after other lovers ? and when the miscarriage is found out, it abounds in revenge and indignation. . (2.) Having driven this to some issue, the soul applieth itself to the promises of the covenant wherein Christ is most graciously exhibited unto it; considers one, ponders another, to find a taste of him; it considers diligently if it can see the delightful countenance and favour of Christ in them or no. But now, if (as it often falls out) the soul finds nothing but the carcase, but the bare letter in the promise ; ifit come to it as to the grave of Christ, of which it may be said (not in itself, but in respect of the seeking soul), he is risen, he is not here,' this amazes the soul, and it knows not what to do. As a man that hath a jewel of great price having no occasion to use it, lays it aside as he supposes in a safe place; in an agony and extremity of want going to seek for his jewel, he finds it not in the place he expected, and is filled with amazement, and knows not what to do; so is it with this pearl of the gospel ; 'after a man hath sold all that he hath for it, and enjoyed it for a season, then to have it missing at a time of need, it must needs perplex him. So was it with the spouse here, I sought him,' saith she, but I found him not; a thing which not seldom befalls us in our communion with Christ.
But what doth she now do? doth she give over and search no more ? nay, but says she, ver. 2. ‘I will arise;' I will not so give over, I must have Christ or die, 'I will now arise,' or ' let me arise,' and go about this business. ' : [1.] She resolves to put herself upon another course, a more vigorous inquest; I will arise and make use of other means besides those of private prayer, meditation, selfsearching, and inquiring into the promises, which she had insisted on before. It carries
(1st.) Resolution, and a zealous, violent casting off that
frame wherein she had lost her love. “I” will arise,' I will not rest in this frame; I am undone if I do. So sometimes God calls his church to arise and shake itself out of the Just : abide not in that condition.
(2dly.) Diligence. I will now take another course, I will leave no way unattempted, no means untried, whereby I may possibly recover communion with my beloved.
This is the condition of a soul that finds not the wonted presence of Christ in its private and more retired inquiries. Dull in prayer, wandering in meditations, rare in thoughts of him; I will not bear this frame, whatever way God hath appointed, I will in his strength vigorously pursue until this frame be altered, and I find my beloved.
 Then, the way she puts herself upon, is to go about the city. Not to insist upon particulars, nor to strain the parts of the allegory too far, the city here intended is the city of God, the church; and the passing through the broad and narrow streets, is the diligent inquiry, that the spouse makes in all the paths and ordinances given unto it. This then is the next thing the soul addresses itself unto, in the want of Christ; when it finds him not in any private endeavours, it makes vigorous application to the ordinances of public worship ; in prayer, in preaching, in administration of the seals doth it look after Christ. Indeed the great inquiry the souls of believers make in every ordinance is after Christ; so much as they find of him, so much sweetness and refreshment have they, and no more. Especially when under any desertion they rise up to this inquiry; they listen to every word, to every prayer, to find if any thing of Christ, any light from him, any life, any love, appears to them. Oh that Christ would at length meet me in this or that sermon, and recover my poor heart to some sight of his love, to some taste of kindness! The solicitousness of a believer in his inquest after Christ, when he finds not his presence, either for grace or consolation as in former days, is indeed inexpressible. Much of the frame of such a heart is couched in the redoubling of the expression, ‘I sought him, I sought him;’ setting out an inconceivable passion, and suitably industrious desire. Thus being disappointed at home, the spouse proceeds.
* Isa. lii. 2. lx. 1.
But yet see the event of this also; she sought him, but found him not. It doth sometimes so fall out, all will not do, 'they shall seek him and not find him ;' they shall not come nigh him: let them that enjoy any thing of the presence of Christ, take heed what they do; if they provoke him to depart, if they lose him, it may cost them many a bitter inquiry before they find him again. When a soul prays and meditates, searches the promises in private, when it with earnestness and diligence attends all ordinances in public, and all to get one glimpse of the face of Jesus Christ, and all in vain, it is a sad condition.
What now follows in this estate? ver. 3. "The watchmen found me,' &c. That these watchmen of the city of God are the watchmen and officers of the church, is confessed ; and it is of sad consideration that the Holy Ghost doth sometimes in this book take notice of them on no good account; plainly, chap. v. 7. they turn persecutors. It was Luther's saying, 'nunquam periclitatur religio nisi inter reverendissimos. Here they are of a more gentle temper, and seeing the poor disconsolate soul, they seem to take notice of her condition.
It is the duty indeed of faithful watchmen to take notice of poor, troubled, deserted souls; not to keep at a distance, but to be willing to assist. And a truly pressed soul on the account of Christ's absence cannot cover its love, but must be inquiring after him; 'saw you him whom my soul loveth?' This is my condition, I have had sweet enjoyment of my blessed Jesus, he is now withdrawn from me; can you help me ? can you guide me to my consolation ? what acquaintance have you with him ? when saw you him? how did he manifest himself to you, and wherein? All these labourings in his absence sufficiently discover the soul's delight in the presence of Christ. Go one step farther to the discovery that it made of him once again, and it will yet be more evident; ver. 4, 5. “It was but a little while that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me: I charge ye, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,' &c.
1st. She tells you how she came to him ; she found him: what ways and by what means is not expressed. It often so