Dear Elder: There is a friend here who begs an explanation of Songs 4:16: “Awake, O North wind; and come, thou South; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.” Is the North wind the law, and the South the gospel? Or does God bring his children again under the law of sin and death after they can say by faith, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” This friend has lately come out of a great storm, wherein his soul reeled and staggered, and he was at his wits end. He thought God had brought the law to bear again upon him, and this storm was the law. Now he appeals to you, as a father in Israel, hoping that you will instruct him according to the wisdom given to you. By complying with his request, you will greatly oblige one whom I believe is a dear brother.
Reply: It will afford us great pleasure to comply with the request of our tried and tempest-tossed friend; and if anything we may say shall serve to relieve, enlighten or comfort him, perhaps the same may also be interesting to our readers generally. We will first give our views on the text proposed, and then offer some remarks on the peculiar trials of our friend and his conflict with the law.
Among the many beautiful figures employed by the Holy Spirit in this Song of Songs illustrative of the spiritual things of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the church is compared to a garden, and the Spirit’s operations on the church to make her fruitful is compared to the North and South winds blowing upon a garden of spices, and causing their delicious odors to flow out. We have not understood the North wind to represent the law of sin and death from the power of which Christ has redeemed his church, nor the South wind to designate the gospel in distinction from the law, although the figures might not be wholly inappropriate, if so designed. But in the general application of the wind in the scriptures, it is used to represent the Spirit of God. As in John 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” So also on the day of Pentecost, when that day had fully come, and the disciples were all with one accord in one place. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting (Acts 2:1-2).” There are many particulars in which the wind is emblematic of the Spirit. First, it is invisible. No mortal eye has ever seen the wind, nor can the Spirit of God, or any of the things of the Spirit be seen or known but by its own revelation. As the natural sun in the heavens can only be seen by its own light. All the flaming torches or gas lights which nature can afford, or art devise, cannot aid our vision to see that glorious orb, the fountain and fullness of light. Just so the lights of nature, art and science fails to reveal to us the Spirit, and the things of the Spirit, which are only spiritually discerned. Second, its power can be felt by those whose eyes cannot see the wind. So the power of the Spirit is felt by every one that is born of it; but whence it came, or whither it goeth, none can see. Third, the wind is sovereign in its course. It bloweth where it listeth. Not all the power of kings or potentates of the earth can change its course. So it is with the Spirit of our God, it can never be diverted from its course, or varied in the least from the execution of its immutable purpose. Fourth, the wind is also irresistible in its power. The towering cedars and the sturdy oaks bow their majestic heads submissive to its might. Thus the Spirit is omnipotent and irresistible in all its operations. It brings down the lofty imaginations of men, and subdues every power in the children of God to the obedience of faith.
The North and the South winds are the same winds, though they blow from opposite points of the compass. It is the wind that bloweth, whether it be from North or South, and it would be absurd for us to say, because the South wind is warm, and the North is cold, that it is therefore not the same wind. The Christian, also led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (where Jesus was led to fast for forty tedious days and nights and to be tempted of the Devil) and will be severely tempted concerning their relation to God, by the tempter’s cruel ifs. If thou be the Son, or if thou be a child of God, thus he may feel so chilled and benumbed by the trial as to doubt seriously whether he were led to the dreary wilderness by the same Spirit that had led Jesus to Jordan’s banks, or to Zion’s open gates. But we are told that our Leader was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. It was the same Spirit of the Lord God which was upon him, and which descended upon him at his baptism, like a dove, which led him to that dreadful scene of conflict in the wilderness. And as followers of the Lamb, we must be led by the Spirit through conflicts, darkness, tribulations, persecutions, and many a fasting wilderness conflict with a tempting Devil; how else are we to be his followers? If we suffer with him, we shall also be partakers with him of his glory.
But our figure of the North and South wind has a still more forcible and appropriate application when considered as applied in our text to its effects upon a garden. The church of Christ is the garden, as the figure is used throughout this delightful Song; and the members of Christ are the pleasant plants; the graces, or fruits of the Spirit, abiding in the saints, are the spices which flow out. The figure is so applied in the verses preceding our text. “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse.” None but the bride, the Lamb’s wife, are ever so addressed by him. He calls his church his love, his dove, his undefiled, and he also calls her his sister and his spouse; and as his sister and spouse she is a garden enclosed; and he says to her, “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits, camphire, with spikenard, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices. A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” The church is the garden of the Lord, and by the pen of the prophet, Isaiah 61, he says that he is anointed with the Spirit of the Lord God, to preach good tidings to the meek, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. The trees of this garden are those who bear the characteristics named, the meek, broken hearted, captives, prisoners, mourners, mourning in Zion, and oppressed with the spirit of heaviness; for the most bruised plants exhale the sweetest odor. But they are in Zion, that is, in the garden of the Lord, and are there known as trees which the Lord himself has planted. These comprise all the people of Zion to whom God has said in Isaiah 60, “Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” Who else has the power or right to plant in the Lord’s garden? Jesus has said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” The good seed are the children of the kingdom, and he that sowed them is the Son of man. The garden then clearly is the church of Christ, and the plants, as trees of righteousness, are the children of the kingdom, whom God has planted there, in a soil which he has provided and prepared, in a garden which he has enclosed, and around which he is himself a wall of fire, and the glory in the midst. Those who are familiar with the figure know that for the growth of plants or trees something more is required than the enclosure, the prepared soil, and the planting of trees and plants. To flourish, a garden must be well watered; this garden cannot lack for moisture, for she is a fountain sealed, a spring shut up. She is a well of living water, and streams from Lebanon.
“And all the springs of Zion flow,
To make this young plantation grow.”
The genial rays of the sun, and the dews of the night, are abundantly supplied. Upon all these plants in Zion the Sun of Righteousness has arisen, with healing in his wings. And his Spirit, like precious ointment, descends as the dew of Herman descended upon the mountains of Zion, where God commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.
Still, in nature, the watered garden, supplied with sun and shade, requires the North and the South wind, for the following reasons:
First, the soft South winds are necessary to start the sap, the life or vitality, up from the root that it may be diffused to all the branches, swelling the buds, and opening the blossoms, as also to mature and ripen the fruit in its season. And the North winds are required when the autumn rolls around, and the fruits are gathered, to send back the sap into the roots, and the wintery blasts of North wind to so shake the trees as to cause their roots to take deeper and wider hold upon the soil by which they are to be nourished and supplied. Indeed, it would be hard to tell which is the more essential to the trees, the North or the South wind.
Certainly the application of this figure to the dealings of the Spirit with the saints is very easy. Should the winds of the Spirit only operate on us experimentally in its soft South breath, like zephyrs from a sunny clime, the plants would always be shooting upward - tall and spindling, and for want of sufficient root, they would become top-heavy, and bear very little, if any, fruit; to take root downward, and bear fruit upward requires the action of both the North and the South wind. Now mark the Christian who is never chilled with the northern blasts; he has no winter, no severe trials, temptations, doubts or fears; is he able to succour the tried and tempted of the saints? No; he is a stranger to their complaints. Peter must needs be sifted as wheat before he could comfort his brethren, and our dear Redeemer himself, as the Captain of our salvation, was made perfect through sufferings; he knoweth how to succour them that are tempted, having been tempted in all points as they are. For such an high priest becomes us, who is easily touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Our health, vigor, fruitfulness and well being all require that we shall have our trials as well as joys, downs as well as ups, seed time as well as harvests, North winds as well as our South winds, cold as well as melting seasons; for we must drink our wine with our milk, and eat our honeycomb with our honey, our bitter herbs with our Passover lamb.
Second, the North and the South winds are required to waft abroad the delicious odors of the garden of the Lord. It is for this purpose the desire is expressed by the spouse in our text, “Awake, O North wind, and come, thou South; blow upon my garden, that the spices may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.” The rich fragrance of a garden of spices and of frankincense would never bless the surrounding regions if there were no winds to convey it abroad. The North and South winds of the Spirit, as we have noticed, blew upon the garden of the Lord on the day of Pentecost, causing the spices to flow out, as the apostle Paul has explained in II Corinthians 2:15, “For we are unto God, a sweet savor of Christ,” etc. This savor was sent abroad by the descent of the Holy Ghost like a mighty rushing wind from heaven, upon the apostles and primitive disciples. Moved by the wind of the Spirit, the apostles and New Testament saints exhaled the odoriferous savor of the gospel of Christ far abroad, even among the Gentiles. The prayers, the songs, and all the devotion of the saints arise as sweet smelling incense from his church; but that they may flow out, the Spirit must operate upon the plants which God has set in his garden. The North winds of afflictions, tribulations, losses, crosses, disappointments, and sometimes bitter persecutions, have the same tendency to draw out our humble aspirations of prayer to God that the South winds of comfort and joy in the Holy Ghost have to tune our songs of praise and thanksgiving to God and the Lamb. “And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:7-10).” From these scriptures, with many others, we learn that the spiritual worship of God, from those who are led by the Spirit, is compared to sweet incense flowing from the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord. But our experience tells us that these fragrant spices never flow out from the plants of Zion except when the Spirit blows upon the garden.
Again, all the fruits of the Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, are productions of the Lord’s garden, and are borne only by the plants which he has planted, and the delightful perfume of them, like that of the precious ointment poured upon the head of Aaron, fills the whole house of God, the savor whereof transports the saints with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
And will any experienced child of God doubt that the North as well as the South wind is required to send forth these rich perfumes from the garden of our Lord? Joy and peace, and even gentleness and faith may be richly developed as fruits of the Spirit, grown in the Lord’s garden, by the gentle, warm and refreshing South breezes of the Spirit, acting gently, softly and agreeably upon the trees of righteousness. But meekness, patience, humility, contrition and self-abasement require the cold North wind to send the sap down to the roots of the plants to make them vigorous and deep rooted.
By our application of the figure of the North and South winds to the operations of the Spirit, we do not mean that the Spirit is changeable, sometimes cold and stormy, and anon soft, warm and melting; but rather that its operations are suited to the necessities of the plants. There are diversity of operations, but one Spirit. The same Spirit that leads the saints to feel their poverty, also leads them to hope in God, who is the health of their countenance and their God. The desire of the spouse, in the closing words of our text: “Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat of his pleasant fruits,” receives a gracious response in the next verse of the song: “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk; eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.” As he has eaten his honeycomb with his honey, and drank his wine with his milk, so he has spread the banquet for his friends. So also must they eat the bitter with the sweet, and the milk for nourishment, as well as the wine for exhilaration. Of all the provisions he has spread upon his table the saints may eat freely, without fear of famine or want, for his resources are inexhaustible, and all that he has blessed is wholesome. And all who are hungry may freely eat; for every soul who has a relish for the food, it is provided. All who are his friends are bidden. The poor who have no money or treasure wherewith to buy, shall be supplied without money and without price.
The Law. We cannot conceive it possible that one who is redeemed from the dominion of the law, by the blood of Christ, and by the law of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, made free from the law of sin and death, should ever be brought again under the power and dominion of that law. It has been held and taught by very many that Christ only redeemed his people from the curse of the law, leaving them still under its dominion, as a rule of life; but nothing can be found in the scriptures to sustain that position. Indeed the testimony of the apostles most clearly prove the very reverse; for the apostle most positively affirms that, “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” We cannot therefore be under its dominion and free from its curse. What the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. If then we be under the dominion of the law, we are guilty before God; as the apostle adds, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20).” The perfect redemption and deliverance of God’s people from the dominion of the law is thus forcibly illustrated: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God (Romans 7:1-4).” Our connection with and subjection to the law is thus compared to the relationship of a wife to her husband. Our obligations to the law forbid our union to Christ as long as the law’s claim on us remained uncanceled. Until the last jot and tittle of the law was fulfilled, it was adultery to be married to Christ. Hence the necessity of redemption. To remove this impediment out of the way, Christ, whose claim to us was prior to that of the law, came himself under the law, by being made of a woman, or by being made flesh; for it was in our fleshly nature the law held dominion over us. So Christ was made under the law to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil (Hebrews 2:14).” As the head and embodiment of his church, now identified with them in the flesh and under the law, he was delivered up for our transgression; he died our death. When he died for us all, then were we all dead, and buried with him by baptism into death; that like as he was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life. That is, in the newness of his resurrection life; being risen with him, quickened together with him, and raised up with him, now completely and forever delivered from the law by the body of Christ, dead to the old husband, and married, and one flesh or one body with the risen Christ; and therefore no more under the law, but under grace. That law under which we were held being now dead to us, as a husband, or as holding dominion over us, the legal impediment to our marriage to the Lamb is removed, the marriage is consummated in our resurrection with Christ to newness of life, we are no more under the law of sin and death, but under the law to Christ. We are dead to the dominion and claims of the dead husband, and under law to our living husband. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [or by a sacrifice for sin, as it reads in the margin], condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:1-5).” It is not possible that those who are dead to the law and married to Christ should ever die to Christ, and be re-united with the law; for the deliverance from the law was and is by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which is an immortal life that cannot die, and as the marriage to Christ cannot be annulled but by death, and the power of an endless life, makes it impossible that death, or life, or angels, or things present, or to come, shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. It is altogether impossible that we can ever be placed back in that former relationship to the law of sin and death.
As to the conflicts of our friend with legality, we suspect that he, with very many, if not all, of the redeemed saints has become entangled with the yoke of bondage, by walking after the flesh, as did the Galatian brethren when they were bewitched by the heresy of Judaizing teachers. So far as we are led by the Spirit, we are led into the liberty of the sons of God; for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But our fleshly nature is still full of legality, and its inclinations are to adhere only to that law, which we see in our members, which brings us into bondage. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Our earthly bodies and carnal minds being born of the flesh are after the flesh; but that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit, and that Spirit, being born of God, is after God, created in righteousness and true holiness. Therefore, to be carnally minded is death; for there is no spiritual life or immortality in our flesh; for the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. From the opposite and belligerent propensities of the flesh and Spirit, in every Christian arises the warfare, the flesh striving against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would. All our doubtings, unbelief, darkness, murmurings, unreconciliation to God, and opposition to his word, all our fear and discontentment as Christians arises from the flesh; and we are called on to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. The leadings of the Spirit incline us to deny ourselves of ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. Our fleshly bodies, though sealed with the Spirit of adoption, are not yet adopted; but the sealing gives assurance that they shall be delivered from their corruptions, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. When that deliverance shall come there will be no more groaning or warfare, for mortality shall be swallowed up of life. But whatever may be our conflicts, we who are born of God, and by the immortal life implanted in us made free from the law of sin and death, can never be unborn and replaced under that law from which we were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. In our wanderings, as led by the flesh, we may become entangled with the yoke of bondage, and terrified by frightful images, painted by our imagination. “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: The Lord knoweth them that are his.”
December 1, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 268 - 278