Song of Solomon 4:16 (AV)
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.
From the verse quoted, Sibbes meditates upon it means for the wind to blow upon the garden. In both Hebrew and Greek, the same word can be used for “wind” and “spirit”. You can see interesting example of this in John 3:8
John 3:8 (NASB95) “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Where the word “wind” and the word “Spirit” are the same word.
Thus, the mention of winds in Canticles 4:16 suggests such a reading, even though the poem uses specific words for “north wind” and “south wind”, rather than the word which can mean spirit or wind.
Why would God call the Spirit to blow into and through the Garden? Here is where Sibbes may seem different from what we would “normally” consider in an expository sermon. The exposition would be about the meaning of the phrase, which is quite clear. Sibbes asks a different question, “Why? Why is the wind called to blow?”
He begins with an observation about desire:
The church being sensible of some deadness of spirit, secretly desires some further quickening. Christ then answers those desires by commanding the winds to blow upon her. For ordinarily Christ first stirs up desires, and then answers the desires of his own Spirit by further increase, as here, ‘Awake, thou north wind; and come, thou south; and blow upon my garden,’ &c.
He first notes the basis for the image: Christ has control over all things, even the wind. Matt. 8:72. “The wind is nature’s fan. What winds are to the garden, that the Spirit of Christ, in the use of means, is to the soul. From comparison fetched from Christ’s commanding the winds, we may in general observe, that all creatures stand in obedience to Christ, as ready at a word, whensoever he speaks to them.”
He then makes an application (note that he does not wait until the end of the sermon to make some general application). An all-controlling Christ is a great comfort to us.
Next he notes the north and south wind blow, “winds contrary to one another.” This is because we need more correction and encouragement. This shows the wisdom of God in providing various remedies. For sometimes we are full and sluggish and thus need to be moved along. At other times, we are weak and need more strength. Since Christ is in control of both comfort and pruning, we need to acknowledge his presence in both difficult and pleasant places. “Therefore, we must acknowledge him in want or plenty of means. The Spirit of Christ in the use of means is a free agent, sometimes blows strongly, sometimes more mildly, sometimes not at all.”
He then thinks of all the ways in which the Spirit is like the wind. This section is not strictly exegetical, but it is interesting. By pondering the nature of the wind, we gain an understanding of the nature of the Spirit: not that the Spirit is limited to the operation of the wind. Rather, Sibbes uses the metaphor to understand the original. I found this to be a useful item on the list:
5. The wind being subtle, searcheth into every corner and cranny. So the Spirit likewise is of a searching nature, and discerneth betwixt the joints and the marrow, betwixt the flesh and the Spirit, &c., searching those hidden corruptions, that nature could never have found out.
If the Spirit is the wind, what does it mean to say that the wind will blow upon the garden (the Church?):
And we need blowing: our spirits will be becalmed else, and stand at a stay; and Satan will be sure by himself, and such as are his bellows, to blow up the seeds of sinful lusts in us. For there are two spirits in the church, the one always blowing against the other. Therefore, the best had need to be stirred up; otherwise, with Moses, Exod. 17:12, their hands will be ready to fall down, and abate in their affection. Therefore we need blowing—
1. In regard of our natural inability.
2. In regard of our dulness and heaviness, cleaving to nature occasionally.
3. In regard of contrary winds from without.
Satan hath his bellows filled with his spirit, that hinders the work of grace all they can; so that we need not only Christ’s blowing, but also his stopping other contrary winds, that they blow not, Rev. 7:1.
4. In regard of the estate and condition of the new Covenant, wherein all beginning, growth, and ending, is from grace, and nothing but grace.
5. Because old grace, without a fresh supply, will not hold against new crosses and temptations.
Use. Therefore when Christ draws, let us run after him; when he blows, let us open unto him. It may be the last blast that ever we shall have from him. And let us set upon duties with this encouragement, that Christ will blow upon us, not only to prevent us, but also to maintain his own graces in us. But O! where is this stirring up of ourselves, and one another, upon these grounds!
Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 2 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet And Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 7–10.