Having completed his consideration of Canticles 4:16, Awake, O North wind he comes to answer:
Now, upon the church’s invitation for Christ to come into his garden, follows his gracious answer unto the church’s desire, in the first verse of this fifth chapter:
‘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,’ Cant. 5:1.
Having made some introductory observations, Sibbes comes to his exegesis
The first point is that Christ comes into this garden. Although Sibbes does not directly address this point, he seems to have this concept in mind: What would God have to do with sinful men? As it reads in Psalm 5:4 (AV), “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.”
God loves his Church and then makes it lovely:
First of all, God makes his church lovely, planteth good things therein, and then stirs up in her good desires: both fitness to pray from an inward gracious disposition, and holy desires; after which, Christ hearing the voice of his own Spirit in her, and regarding his own preparations, he answers them graciously. Whence, in the first place, we may observe, that,
God makes us good, stirs up holy desires in us, and then answers the desires of his holy Spirit in us.
This is paralleled in Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5:25-27:
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
The love of Christ does not leave as we were, but the relentless action of the Holy Spirit works upon us to make more lovely to Christ. Because have been redeemed we are transformed; because of his love, we are made lovely.
This incidentally, is the place upon which the Protestant and the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox differ, this matter of justification and sanctification. And while this subject is far too great to be handled in three sentences, there is a picture here of the distinction. As Thomas Brooks said, you are wise and know how to apply it.
This transformation of the heart worked by the love of God helps us to understand a wildly misapplied verse :
Psalm 37:4 (AV)
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
If I delight myself in the Lord, then he is the desire of my heart. God stirs us up to the best desire and then meets that desire.
But Sibbes takes the application in a different direction and considers the question of prayer:
A notable place for this we have, Ps. 10:17, which shews how God first prepares the heart to pray, and then hears these desires of the soul stirred up by his own Spirit, ‘Lord, thou hast heard the desires of the humble.’ None are fit to pray but the humble, such as discern their own wants: ‘Thou wilt prepare their hearts, thou wilt make thine ear to hear.’ So Rom. 8:26, it is said, ‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.’ Thus the Spirit not only stirs up our heart to pray, but also prepares our hearts unto it.
God must work in our hearts to prepare and deliver our prayer, because we would not have such in ourselves.
Sibbes then turns to the matter of why God hearing our prayers. But since that is a topic onto itself, it will come next.