Clavis Cantici (1)

This is a summary of ‘Clavis Cantici: or, a Key of the Song, Useful for Opening Up thereof.’ It is James Durham’s introductory material to his commentary on the Song of Songs, including his explanation of the allegorical method of interpretation of it.

There are not many who venture to explore the book of Song of Solomon because it is not easy to be understood. Yet we are still going to interpret it based on the following considerations:

  1. It is part of Scripture
  2. Its subject is divine, of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride.
  3. Its style is divine and excellent, because of the affections contained in it.
  4. Just as any other poetical pieces in Scripture, it is commended by the Spirit.
  5. Its language is spiritual in the sense of experience, affections, fellowship.

The author is Solomon. It is written after he learned that everything under the sun is vanity without the fear of the Lord (Eccl. 12:13).

The means of interpreting it:

  1. Familiarity with the whole Bible, especially Psalms, and other Songs, and the Gospel.
  2. Experience of the way of God in his heart and others.
  3. Watchfulness over ourselves, lively exercise of Grace, and the fear of God.
  4. Much prayer.

Some propositions:

  1. This Song is a piece of divine Scripture, for,
    1. It is canonical. It was never questioned by the Jews, and thus transmitted to the Gentiles, and so universally received by Christians.
    2. It carries the authority of the Spirit, in matter, style, and power; and it is Christ that speaks.


    1. There are no citations of it in the New Testament. Answer: Scriptures are cited as having authority, not to get it. However, it can be said that there are resemblances in the New Testament of this Song.
    2. No proper name of God is found in it. Answer: The book of Esther contains no names of God, too. The authority of Scripture does not depend on the naming of God, but on having His authority; this Song being allegorical and figurative, it is not consistent with its style to have the name of God; yet, there are titles given to Christ.
  2. This Song is to be taken spiritually, figuratively, and allegorically, not properly as the words do at first sound/appear to be. Reasons:
    1. There can be no edification if it is understood properly as human love
    2. Only Christ and the Bride fit into this Song
    3. Such ravishing love is not commendable to be given to any creatures
    4. Inconsistent with modesty that is required in human love

(to be continued…)


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