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Chapter 2 Verse 12

The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing

of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

first wordchurch goes on to give an account of the pressing instances that Christ made unto her, to arise and come away; which he had done in the former verse, by assuring her that the winter was past, and therefore she need not be afraid of nipping blasts and blustering storms, nor of heavy rains, which would make traveling difficult, as well as unpleasant; and here he encourages her to arise and come with him, from the pleasantness of the spring, of which he gives the following account, in this and the next verse, enough to tempt her to a compliance; and which is very pleasant and inviting to lovers.314314Vere gaudet Venus, Ovid. In this verse he says,

I.That “the flowers appear on the earth;”

II.That “the time of the singing of birds was come.”

III.That “the voice of the turtle was heard in their land.” All which are so many evident demonstrations of the springtime of the year; which of all others is the most pleasant.

I.The first sign of the spring, and which he mentions to prevail upon her to quit her present place and posture, and go with him, is, that “the flowers appear on the earth:”315315Vere florifero, Senecae Oedipus, 5:649. Vet praebet flores, Ovid. De Remed. Amor. 1. 1. 5:188. Omnia tum florent, Ovid. Metamorph. l.15. fab. 3. Vernus fequitur color, omnis in herbas turget humus, Claudian. de Rapt. Proferp. 1. 2. 5:90. So flowers are called tekna earov, the children of the spring, in Athenaei Deipnosophist.1. 13. c, 9. p. 608. Whatever was flowery, used to be called spring, because of the nature of it, Orpheus apud Clement. Alex. Stromat. 1. 5. p. 571. in the winter-season the earth appears barren and unfruitful, being nipped with cold winds, frost and rain; but when the sun returns with its warming influences, it quickens those herbs and plants which before lay hid, and causes them to spring forth and flourish; so that the fields and meadows, as well as gardens, are covered with a variety of herbs, plants and beautiful flowers, which are very pleasant to the eye, and cause walking in the fields to be very delightful. Some Jewish writers, as Jarchi and Alshech, interpret them of the two messiahs, the Jews dream of, and vainly expect; it is much better to interpret them of the one and only true Messiah, who appeared on earth in the spring of the acceptable year of the Lord; and who is compared to various flowers in this book, particularly to the rose and lily, verse 1. which are both spring-flowers:316316Cum rosam viderit, tunc incipere, ver arbitrabatur, Cicero. in Verrem, erat. 7. Rosa verna, Propert. 1. 3. eleg. 5. 5:22. So it is represented by Anacreon as a spring-flower; and by Pancrates, apud Athen. Deipnos. 1. 15. c. 6. p. 677. So Seneca calls the lily, florem vernum, a spring-flower, epist, 122. Spring-flowers are various; some grow in fields, meadows, vales, hills, and banks of rivers; some in gardens, as the violet, crocus, hyacinth, narcissus, role and lily, vide Athen. Deipnosophist.1. 15. c. 8. p. 681, 682. of which the violet, rose and lily, were preferred for their beauty and smell, Theocrit, Idyll. 24. 5:29- 31. but rather, by these flowers may be meant, either “the graces of the spirit” in the saints, which, when it is a winter-season with them, lie dormant, and are as it were dead and lifeless, and are scarcely discernible either to themselves or others; but upon the return of “the sun of righteousness,” they revive and shew themselves in all their glory, send forth a grateful odor, and give a delightful prospect to all beholders; such are those Flowers of faith, hope, love, humility, self-denial, patience, long-suffering, forbearance with and forgiveness of each other: or else, by “these flowers may be meant the saints themselves. The Targum interprets them of Moses and Aaron; but R. Aben Ezra thinks that all the righteous men of Israel are intended; and it is best to understand them of all the saints, especially when in a flourishing condition, and in the exercise of grace; who may be compared to the flowers of the field, 1. For the production of them: the covering of the earth with grass, herbs, plants, and beautiful flowers, in the spring-season, is a great instance of God’s mighty power; it is no other than a kind of a recreation; this strange, though common change that is made in the earth by the returning spring, is elegantly described, as well as entirely referred to the divine Spirit by the royal Psalmist, thus, Psalm 104:30. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth:” saints are flowers, not of man’s, but of God’s raising; they are not born of the will of man, nor of the “will of the flesh, but of God;” their grace, and all the flourishings of it, are not owing to their own care, diligence and industry, but to the power and spirit of God, who “worketh in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure; for this work of grace upon their souls, is a work of Almighty power, and is no less than a new creation; and whether we consider it in its first beginning, or in its after-growth and increase, it must be referred to a power superior to ours. 2. For their fragrancy: the persons of believers are of a sweet-smelling savor, being perfumed with Christ’s mediation, and covered with the sweet-smelling garments of Christ’s righteousness; and so are their services, their prayers and praises, put up and performed in the faith of Jesus. 3. For their beauty and ornament: how beautiful and glorious must those fields look, where roses are, and lilies grow; which in glory are equal with, nay, superior to the greatest of princes; for “Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these;” such as Sharon’s field, and the roses and lilies there, which are here alluded to: saints are exceeding beautiful and glorious in Christ, and ornamental to him, being sanctified by his Spirit, and clothed with his righteousness. 4. Saints may be compared to flowers which appear on the earth in the spring-season with an air of gaiety and cheerfulness, on the account of that joy and consolation which their souls are possessed of when their grace is revived and in exercise; particularly when faith is, and when Christ returns to them, and they enjoy his presence; thus the blossoming and flourishing estate of the church is joined with joy and rejoicing, in Isaiah 35:1, 2. Now all this fragrancy, beauty, and flourishing condition of the saints, are owing to the arising of the sun of righteousness upon them, to the dews of divine grace, showers of boundless love, frequent waterings Of heaven, and to their being planted and growing in a fruitful soil, Christ Jesus: and perhaps it may not be amiss to interpret this of that large production and conversion of souls to Christ, and of that appearance of many beautiful flowers in the church of Christ in the first ages of Christianity; when saints appeared “in the beauties of holiness,” and Christ had “the clew of his youth;” and which time was a delightful spring-season, after a long winter of Jewish and Gentile darkness.

II.Another indication of the spring’s being come, and which Christ makes use of as an argument to induce the church to arise and come away, is, that “the time of the singing of birds was come;” the spring, when birds begin to chirp and sing, to couple and build their nests; hence the spring is called ver nidificum.317317Senecaea Medea, 5:713. Some318318Plerique in Sanct. in loc. Vide R. .Aben Ezra in loc. understand this of the time of cutting and pruning vines, or lopping trees; and to this purpose the Septuagint read the words thus, the time of cutting is come;319319Kairo>v th~v tomh~v e>fqake, Sept. Tempus putationis advenit, V. L. Pagninus, so the Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic versions. which agrees well enough with the first times of the gospel, when Christ’s Father acted the part of an husband.. man, and lopped off the unfruitful branches the Jews, engrafted the Gentiles, caused them to bring forth fruit, and pruned them, that they might bring forth more; which seems well enough to agree with the season of the year,320320Pliny 1. 17. c. 22. Hence says the poet; e{arov neo>n ijsame>noio, th>n fqa>menov, o]inav peritamne>men, w~v a]meinon, Hesiod. Opera & Dies, 1. 2. the spring, at which time, especially at the beginning of it, vines were usually cut and pruned; some object to this as unseasonable: by the Targum, it is referred to the “time of cutting, or gathering in the first fruits; as it is also by some321321Greg. Nysen. & Pselius in Sanct. in loc. to the gathering of flowers, making of garlands, etc. as well as applied by others322322Sanct. in loc. to the time of making incisures in the Balsam or Cyprus-trees in the vineyards of Engedi: but nothing is more agreeable than our version, and which is the sense that is gluten of the word by several Jewish writers323323R. Sol. Jarchi, R. Aben Ezra, & R. Sol. Ben Melech in loc. Zohar. In Genesis fol. 29. 2. and 65. 2. and 121. 3 .though the other sense of cutting or pruning seems to be intended, in Zohar in Genesis fol. 3- 4. and in Leviticus fol. 2. 1. and exactly suits with the gospel-dispensation, in which, “from the uttermost parts of the earth, songs are heard,” sung in warbling notes and tuneful lays. by souls called by divine grace; whose usual themes are, the grace and mercy of God the Father, the redeeming love of God the Son, the spiritual blessings in him; the glory of his righteousness to justify them, and the fullness of his grace and power to keep and preserve them: like little birds, they sit and chirp and sing the praises of the Lord, “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual song;, making melody in their hearts unto him;” and this they do as well as they can in this imperfect life, though their hearts are often out of tune, and they sing with faint and feeble notes; but the time is coming, when they shall be clothed in white, have harps in their hands, hallelujahs in their mouths, and be employed in this delightful service for evermore. But however, this present gospel-dispensation may well be called a “time of the singing of birds,” a time of joy and rejoicing, in comparison of the legal one, in which was heard, not the chirping and singing of birds, but “the sound of a trumpet,” and “the voice of words,” which were awful and terrible. This may not be ·unfitly applied to the singing of the angelic host those heavenly choiristers, at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:13, 14).

III.As a farther evidence of the spring’s being come, and the more to allure her to arise and go with him324324Thus one part of rural pleasure is described by the poet a]eidon ko>rudoi ki< ajkanqidev e]vene trugw>n Theocrit. Idyll. 7. he says, that “the voice of the turtle was heard in their land;” which is a kind of dove, that, as naturalists325325Pliny 1. 10. c. 24. & 18. 28. tell us, lies hid in the winter-time, and appears in the sprang; its voice is never heard in winter, unless on a fine clay.326326Myndius apud Athen. Deipnosophist. 1. 9. c. 11. p. 394. So Pliny, Hyeme mutis, vere vocalibus, 1. 10. c. 35. The turtle appears in summer, in winter it disappears, Aristot. Hist. Animal. 1. 8. c. 3. By which may be meant, either the church, which is compared to a turtle-dove (Ps. 124:19). whose voice is heard in prayer to Christ; and who, in the preaching of the gospel, speaks of him, and in the public profession of his cause and interest, speaks for him; which voice, in verse 14. is very pleasant to him: or else, the voice of the Holy Ghost, according to the Targum, who once appeared in the form of a dove, and whose voice in the hearts of believers is very comfortable; for he speaks peace and pardon through Christ’s blood, bears witness to our sonship, and is the pledge of our future inheritance: or the voice of God the Father, declaring his well-pleasedness in Christ, which was heard in Judea, both at his baptism and at his transfiguration upon the mount: or the voice of John the Baptist,327327Psellus & Tres Patres in loc. who was the forerunner of Christ, and declared him to be at hand; and so R. Alshech interprets it, of Elijah, that was to come before the Messiah, and cites the passage in Malachi 4:5 and others328328Pesikta in Yalkut in toc. understand it of the Messiah himself: or else, the voice of Christ himself, preaching the everlasting gospel;329329So Isidore in loc. R. Simeon Ben Jochai330330In Zohar in Genesis fol. 121. 3. understands it of the voice of the law in the days of the Messiah: but rather the gospel itself, that joyful sound of peace, pardon, righteousness, life and salvation by Christ, is meant; which was heard for a while only in Judea, which perhaps is the land here intended, called, by way of eminency and speciality, “our land;” though afterwards this voice was heard throughout the Gentile world: for Christ gave his disciples a commission to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; who accordingly did, and their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world: and a joyful season it was, and still is to the poor Gentiles, where this voice is heard; and blessed be God, it is heard in our land.

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