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  • CHAPTER 1.
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    In this chapter, after the general title of the book, verse 1 the church expresses her strong desires and most ardent wishes for some fresh discoveries of the love of Christ to her, and for communion with him, verse 2. and having tasted of his love, and smelled a sweet savor in his grace, and enjoyed fellowship with him in his house, verses 3, 4. she observes her blackness and uncomeliness in herself, and comeliness in him, the trials and afflictions she met with from others, and her carelessness and negligence of her own affairs, verses 5, 6. and intreats her beloved to direct her, where she might meet with him feeding his flocks and giving them rest; to which he returns a kind and gracious answer, and gives proper instructions where to find him, verses 7, 8. and then commends her beauty, sets forth her amiableness and loveliness by various metaphors, and makes promises of more grace and good things to her, verses 9, 10, 11. when she declares what a value she had for Christ her beloved; and how precious he was unto her, like a bundle of myrrh, and a cluster of camphire, verses 12, 13, 14. and Christ again praises her beauty, and particularly takes notice of her eyes, and her modest look, verse 15. and she returns the encomium back to him, and expresses her pleasure and satisfaction in the house he had built for her, and the furniture of it, verses 16, 17.

    VERSE 1. The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s. INTENDING, by the assistance of God, to open and explain this mysterious part of the sacred writings, it will be proper, I. To enquire into, and establish the authority of this book.

    II. Shew the nature of it; it being a Song .

    III. The excellency of it. it being called the Song of Songs IV. The penman of it; which is Solomon .

    I. I shall endeavor to prove the divine authority of this book, and vindicate it from those exceptions which are made against it: and, 1st, It was always received by the ancient Jews, to whom the oracles of God were committed , as a very valuable part of the sacred writings; and has been continued in the canon of the scriptures by the Christians in all ages to this very day The Jews had always a very venerable esteem of it, calling it, the holy of holies ; forbidding their children the reading thereof, as well as the first chapter of Genesis , and the beginning and end of the prophecy of Ezekiel , until they were of thirty years of age, because of the mysteriousness and sublimity of it. They say, that Solomon when he was old and near death, the Holy Ghost dwelt upon him, and he composed the books of Proverbs , Song of Songs , and Ecclesiastes . Their ancient book of Zohar asserts, that Solomon composed it “by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit;” as does also the Targum upon this book, and R. Solomon Jarchi , and R. Alben Ezra , in their prefaces to their commentaries upon it; the latter of which has these words; “God forbid, God forbid, says he, that the Song of songs should be written or understood of things obscene; but it is entirely parabolical, and had it not been of very great excellency, it had not been written in the catalogue of the holy scriptures; for of it there has been no controversy, that it defiles the hands:” f6 for though there was once a controversy among the wise men concerning the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes , who afterwards, as it became them, changed their minds; yet there never was any concerning this, as appears from their Mirnah ; where they say that “all the scriptures are holy, but the Song of songs is the holy of holies; and if the wise men have had any controversy, it has been only concerning Ecclesiastes :” so that this book appears to be authentic, according to the mind of the ancient as well as of the modern Jews; and as for the Christians, they have always looked upon it as a part of the holy scripture, a few only excepted, and have all along continued it in the canon as they found and received it.

    The ancient fathers and councils have always esteemed it sacred and venerable, not to take notice of authorities of a later date. The opinion of Theodorus of Mopsuest , who called the divine authority of this book into question, was condemned in the second council of Constantinople , which was held about the year 553. This book also appears in the catalogue of the canonical books of scripture, established in the council of Laodicea , Can. 59. held about the year 364. It is likewise in Origen’s catalogue, recorded by Eusebius , as well as in that which Melito brought from the East, and sent to his friend Onesimu s, who flourished about the year 140. So that thus far, at least, we can trace up the authority of this book among the Christians: Not to take notice of the canons of the Apostles, in which it stands as a part of canonical scripture: nor the Constitutions of the Apostles with the larger epistles of Ignatius , in which citations are made from this book; which, if genuine, would prove the reception of it in the Christian church still more early; but because they are generally looked upon to be spurious, they are not to be insisted on. And it may be farther observed, that not only Origen , but Hippolytus in the third century, f11 Carpathius, Gregory Nyssene in the fourth, and Theodoret in the fifth, and others in the following centuries, wrote commentaries upon this book; and Eusebius ascribes it to Solomon, and so does Athanasius. f13 2dly, This book was wrote by one that was qeopneusov , divinely inspired; as appears by his being the penman of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes ; for why he should not be under the inspiration of the same Spirit in writing this, as he was in writing those, there appears no reason to conclude. The objection against it, taken from his great fall into lewdness and idolatry, produced by a late author, avails but little; especially, if, as some think, it should appear that it was written before; or if, with others, it is taken to be wrote after his fall, it will lie as strongly against the book of Ecclesiastes, which is generally allowed to be wrote after, as it does against this: Besides, it has pleased the all-wise God, who gives no account of his matters to his creatures, to make use of men, after very great falls into sin, as Amanuenses of his Holy Spirit, and penmen of the sacred scriptures, as David and Peter. 3dly, The dignity and sublimity of the matter contained herein, shew it to be no human composure; for never man spake or wrote like unto it; it is therefore called the Song of songs , being the most excellent of Songs; which cannot be equaled by any, but surpasses all others, not only human but divine; it is preferred to all scriptural songs, which, as one observes, would be blasphemous to do, was it not of a divine rise and authority. 4thly, The majesty of its style bears a testimony to the divine original of it, which cannot be equaled by the most elaborate performances; it defies all the art and wisdom of man to come near it; and plainly shews itself to be the language of God himself, whose voice is powerful and full of majesty . 5thly, The power and efficacy which it has in and over the hearts of men, is another evidence of its being the word of God; which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This book has been profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness ; which are so many arguments of its being given by inspiration of God ; it effectually works in them that believe ; it has been useful to thousands who have had their spiritual senses exercised, for the comfort of their souls, the raising of their affections, the increase of their faith, and their instruction in divine things: the reading and expounding of this excellent portion of scripture have been owned by God for the good of multitudes, who are so many sealing evidences of the authority of it. 6thly, The impartiality of it is another evidence of its divine original: the bride is here frequently introduced proclaiming her own weaknesses and infirmities, as in chapter 1:5, 6. and 3:1. and 5:2, 3. Now was it a mere human composure of Solomon’s , celebrating the amours between him and Pharaoh’s daughter, would it be reasonable to suppose, that he should so manifestly and openly declare the defects and imperfections of his bride?

    But to consider it as a divine poem, expressing the mutual love between Christ and his church, it agrees very well with the other parts of the sacred writings, wherein the infirmities of God’s own people are not concealed; not even of those who were themselves the penmen of them; which is a strong proof of their divine authority. 7thly, There is a very great agreement between this and other portions of scripture. Now this has been always looked upon as a considerable evidence of the authority of the sacred writings, that though they have been delivered at sundry times, and in divers manners , yet there has been always an entire harmony between them; the which also appears in this part of scripture; for though it is delivered in a mysterious and figurative style, yet it admits of senses which are very agreeable to the proportion or analogy of faith ; nay, in many places of the New Testament, there seems to be manifest allusions to this song, as will be hereafter more particularly observed: but notwithstanding all these evidences of its divine original, there have not been wanting persons who have called in question its sacred authority; as Theodorus of Mopsuest, whose opinion was, that it was not wrote by inspiration, but was only designed by Solomon to celebrate his amours between him and Pharaoh’s daughter; which opinion of his was condemned in the sixth century by the second council of Constantinople, as has been before observed: Castalio in the sixteenth century was condemned for the same opinion, by the senate of Geneva, and was ordered to depart the city upon it: Grotius in the last century seemed to be much of the same mind; and Mr. Whiston in this has attempted in a set tract to weaken the authority of it, and make it appear to be a loose, profane and amorous song: His proposition is this; “The book of Canticles is not a sacred book of the Old Testament; nor was it originally esteemed as such, either by the Jewish or Christian church;” with what truth this is asserted, will in some measure appear from what has been already said. The arguments by which he endeavors to confirm and establish this proposition, are as follow, which I shall particularly consider. 1. Because as he asserts, “It was not written in his younger days, or when he was the good, the wise, the chaste, and the religious man; but long afterwards, when he was become wicked and foolish, and lascivious, and idolatrous.”

    And he affirms, that there are some very plain and particular chronological characters in this book, which determine it to belong to the latter and worser part of his life, and to that only. And, The first passage in it, which he mentions to confirm this, is Song of Solomon 1:9. where the church is compared to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots ; which he imagines refers to those horses and chariots which Solomon, contrary to an express command, Deuteronomy 17:16 had brought unto him out of Egypt, 1 Kings 10:28,29 when he began to degenerate from his former piety: In answer to which, it may be replied, that the comparison in the text under consideration, is not made to a company of horses brought out of Egypt, which ran in Solomon’s chariots; but to a company of horses in Egypt, which ran in Pharaoh’s chariots; so that this text falls very much short of proving what it is produced for.

    His other chronological evidence of this book’s belonging to the loose and vicious part of Solomon’s life, is Song of Solomon 7:12. where mention is made of the chariots of Amminadib ; in which he supposes there are more proofs than one of what he contends for; the first is, that here are chariots referred to, as used in Judea, which, he says, we only meet with once before, since the days of Moses, namely, 2 Samuel 8:4 though that appears to be a mistake; for Absalom prepared himself chariots and horsemen, 2 Samuel 15:1 as did also Adonijah, 1 Kings 1:5 both which were before Solomon’s accession to the throne. His other proof from this text is, that this Amminadib was one of the twelve rulers of provinces, who married Taphath the daughter of Solomon, 1 Kings 4:11 and therefore he concludes that Solomon could not be a very young man when he wrote this book. To which I answer, 1st , That it is not Amminadib but Abinadab, that is there mentioned. 2dly , That it was not Abinadab, but the son of Abinadab, that married Solomon’s daughter. 3dly , It is not likely that King Solomon’s son-in-law should be a chariot driver, as this Amminadib is thought to be by many interpreters, who was famous for his skill, courage, and swiftness in driving. 4thly , This is not the proper name of any person, but are two words, as R. Aben Ezra, and R. Solomon Jarchi observe, and should be rendered, the chariots of my free or princely people; and therefore afford no chronological character of any part of Solomon’s life whatever.

    The last chronological evidence he mentions, page 10, and which he takes to be the principal and most evident one, which shews in what particular time of Solomon’s life this book was written, is chapter 6:8, 9 where mention is made of sixty queens , and eighty concubines , and virgins without number ; which he thinks refers to Solomon’s wicked practice of polygamy, expressly forbidden Deuteronomy 17:17. To which I reply, 1st, That the allusion does not seem to be made to the number of Solomon’s queens and concubines, but to the custom of some princes in the East, which Solomon had in view; for the number of queens and concubines here does not agree with the number of Solomon’s, recorded 1 Kings 11:3 where he is said to have seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines , which is vastly different from the account which is given here: and if it should be said, that though when he wrote this book, he had not arrived to that prodigious pitch of wickedness in the practice of polygamy, to which he afterwards did; yet he had begun, and gone a great way in it, and had at the time he wrote it, such a number of wives and concubines as are here mentioned, which he refers to. I answer, 2dly, That it is not likely that Solomon should prefer one of his wives, and praise her above all the rest; which would have been the way to have alienated their affections from him, and made her the object of their envy, as well as have raised such domestic feuds and quarrels; which would not easily be laid. Besides, 3dly, It does net seem reasonable to suppose that those other queens and concubines of Solomon’s should speak so much in the praise and commendation of his lawful wife, as these are said to do here; which is not usual for such sort of persons to do. As to those other texts referred to, namely, chapter 1:3, 5 and 2:7 and 3:5, 10, 11 and 5:8, 16 and 6:9 and 8:4, 6, 7 produced by Mr. Whiston, to prove that the person, who is the bridegroom in this song, loved many other women and virgins, of which his spouse is jealous; I need only say, that those texts do indeed express the love of the daughters of Jerusalem to him, and the notice which the spouse took of them, for whom she appears to have a very great value and affection, to whom she often points out her beloved, and directs them to observe the transcendent excellencies and beauties of his person, as well as strictly charges them to give him no disturbance: yet she also signifies her very great love and regard to him; but no where insinuates any wandering affection or wanton love in him unto others, or that she was jealous of him upon that account. 2. His next reason, page 12, 13 is, “that there is no foundation for an allegorical, or mystical sense of this book; there being not the least sign of a sober, virtuous, or divine meaning therein, nor any thing that in the least concerns morality or virtue, God or religion, the Messiah or his kingdom;” which, if true, would indeed go a great way against the authority of it; but I hope the following Exposition will make it appear that there is a good foundation in it for a mystical or allegorical sense, agreeable enough to the analogy of faith; as well as shew that there are many things in it which encourage morality and virtue, promote the cause of God and religion, and concern the Messiah and his kingdom; and Mr Whiston has not thought fit to give any one instance which discover, the contrary. 3. He says, page 13, that “the introduction of double or mystical senses of scripture among the Jews, is much later than the days of Solomon, and cannot therefore be supposed to belong to any book of his writing:” but this does not appear to be true, for surely the speech of Jotham to the men of Shechem, recorded in Judges 9 must be understood in an allegorical or mystical sense; and Nathan’s parable, 2 Samuel 12:1 which was delivered before Solomon’s time. Moreover, the forty-fifth Psalm is of the very same strain, and bears a very near resemblance with this song, which was wrote by David, Solomon’s father: besides, suppose this allegorical and mystical way of writing had not been used before by the inspired writers, it is no argument that it should not be used now, as it was afterwards in the writings of the New Testament, as Mr. Whiston confesses, page 22. 4. Another reason which he produces, page 23, is, that “neither the contemporary nor succeeding writers of the Old Testament, ever quote or allude to this book of Canticles, nor to any part thereof, upon any occasion whatsoever.”

    The same may be said of many other books of the Old Testament, whose authority was never yet called in question; nor can this be looked upon by judicious persons, a sufficient reason why any of them should. 5. He says, page 24, “The apocryphal writers of the Old Testament, never quote nor allude to this book, nor to any part thereof, upon any occasion whatsoever.”

    Which I persuade myself, wilt he no wars shocking or stumbling to any thoughtful Christian, nor belooked upon by them as a sufficient objection against the authority of it; had they expressly opposed it, it could not have been very considerably improved against it, much less will their silence have any force to explode it; and yet after all, in Eccl. 47:18. Solomon is admired for his Songs, Proverbs, and Parables. 6. He urges, page 25, that “Philo, the eminent Alexandrian Jew, who was contemporary with Christ and his earliest apostles, and who was prodigious fond of mystical or allegorical senses of scripture, does yet never cite nor allude to this book of Canticles, nor to any part of it, on any occasion whatsoever.”

    Be it so, that it is not once cited or alluded to in his writings; for though they are voluminous, there are but few citations of scripture in them; yet it does not follow from thence that it must be spurious. Many books in the canon of scripture, whose authority is unquestionable, would yet stand upon a very precarious foundation, if citations out of them and allusions to them in human writings, were absolutely necessary to their continuance in it. 7. What he lays a considerable stress upon, and makes the main foundation for the exclusion of this book, is, that Josephus not only neither cites nor alludes to it, but has also left it out in his catalogue of the sacred writings.

    That he should neither cite nor allude unto it, in writing a history, need not be wondered at; but if it can be made to appear that it is not to be found in his catalogue, it will indeed be a considerable objection against it. Now the account which Josephus gives of the sacred writings among the Jews is only this, namely, that they had only two and twenty books, five of which are books of Moses, thirteen wrote by the prophets, and the other four contained holy hymns and moral precepts. Now in this account he seems to have regard to the division of the books of the Old Testament into three parts, used by the Jews: which was first, the Law; secondly, the Prophets; and thirdly, the Hagiographa; which our Lord also takes notice of, Luke 24:44 where he saith, These are the words which I spake unto you: while 1 was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me; where by the Psalms is meant the whole third part called the Hagiographa, because it began with that book; which also contained the most plain and manifest testimonies, of the person, office, and sufferings of Christ; more than any other book in that part did. Now the order of the books, according to this division of them, which Josephus has a regard to, was this, namely, In the Law, which was the first division, stood These are the five books of Moses, according to Josephus. 1. Genesis. 2. Exodus. 3. Leviticus. 4. Numbers. 5. Deuteronomy.

    In the Prophets, which was the second division, stood These are the thirteen books of the prophets, according to Josephus. 1. Joshua. 2. Judges, with Ruth; which make but one book. 3. Samuel 1 and 2 but one book, hence Samuel is called a prophet, Acts 13:20. 4. Kings 1 and 2 but one book. 5. Isaiah. 6. Jeremiah, with the Lamentations, but one book. 7. Ezekiel. 8. Daniel. 9. The twelve minor prophets, but one book. See Mark 1:2; Acts 7:42. 10. Job. 11. Ezra and Nehemiah, but one book. 12. Esther. 13. Chronicles 1 and 2 but one book.

    In the Hagiographa, which was the third division, stood These are the four books containing holy hymns and moral precepts, according to Josephus. 1. Psalms. 2 . Proverbs. 3. Ecclesiastes. 4. Solomon’s Song; in all twenty-two.

    From hence it appears, that there is no force in this objection; nor has Mr.

    Whiston any reason to charge Dean Prideaux with forcing this book of Solomon’s Song into Josephus’s catalogue; for his twenty-two books cannot be made up without it; though the Dean had no manner of reason to leave out the book of Chronicles, seeing Ezra and Nehemiah, which he makes to be two books, are comprehended in one by the Jews, which he himself also observes. The Jews indeed, at this present time, reckon the books of the Old Testament to be twenty-four, and that by making Ruth, which is a continuation of the history of the book of Judges and the Lamentations, which were wrote by Jeremy; and so properly belong to him, two books distinct by themselves; and even in this account of theirs of the sacred writings, this book of Canticles keeps its place, nor did they ever pretend to exclude it. 8. Another argument used by Mr. Whiston, page 29, is, that “our blessed Savior himself does never once make the least allusion to this book, or to any part of it, on any occasion whatsoever.”

    To this I reply, that it appears plain and manifest, that several phrases used by our Savior bear a near resemblance with, are allusions to, and seem to be taken out of this book: thus the efficacious grace of God is expressed by drawing, John 6:44 agreeable to Song of Solomon 1:4. In his discourse with Nicodemus, he compares the Holy Spirit to the wind, John 3:8 which metaphor is used Song of Solomon 4:16, likewise he seems manifestly to allude in Matthew 13:52 where the instructed Scribe is said to bring forth things new and old , to Song of Solomon 7:13 where the very phrase is used: as also his comparing the church to a vineyard, and letting it out to husbandmen, are very agreeable to, and are the very phrases used Song of Solomon 8:11, 12. To all which might be added, several other resemblances and allusions, which are to be found in the evangelic history, as Matthew 25:1,5 compared with Song of Solomon 5:2 and Matthew 9:13; John 3:29, where Christ is called the bridegroom , and the disciples the children of the bride-chamber , agreeable to the several parties in this song. 9. He says, page 30, that “when St John, the beloved disciple, came at the end of his Revelation, to this very matter of the marriage of the Lamb , or Messias; yet have we not a word of it; that is, this book, nor the least allusion to it, nor to any part of it, whatsoever.”

    That John, in his book of Revelation, refers and alludes to this of Solomon’s song, seems undeniable; every one may easily observe what a likeness and resemblance there is between the description which the spouse gives of her beloved in Song of Solomon 5 and that which John gives of Christ in Revelation 1. Moreover, the phrase of Christ’s standing at the door, and knocking , Revelation 3:20. manifestly refers unto and plainly appears to be taken out of Song of Solomon 5:2. where the spouse says, It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, etc .

    Besides, what John says of the marriage of the Lamb, and the preparation of the bride for it if it is not an allusion to, yet it is a confirmation of what is said in this book, where the church is represented as beautifully arrayed and adorned, and as passionately wishing for the consummation of the marriage; nay, this, is spoken of as completed, Song of Solomon 2:16 and the glory and pomp of the solemnity described, Song of Solomon 3:11 with the joy that was expressed on that occasion; for there the day of his espousals is called the day of the gladness of his heart : also it deserves our notice, that those two books of Revelation and Solomon’s Song, conclude much in the same manner. John closes his book of the Revelation, and with it the canon of the scriptures, with a passionate wish for Christ’s second coming, saying, Amen: even so, come, Lord Jesus : and the church concludes the book of Solomon’s Song thus; Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices . 10. As what he thinks will much prejudice the authority of this book, he says, page 30, that “the writers of the known books of the New Testament, with their earliest companions the apostolical fathers of the first century; St Matthew, St John, St Peter, St Paul, St Mark, St Luke, St James, St Jude, St Clement in his epistles, St Barnabas, that prodigious allegorizer, and St Hermas: I may add, says he, and St Polycarp also, one of their later companions, do never once cite or allude to this book of Canticles, or to any part of it, on any occasion whatsoever.”

    That the evangelists, Matthew and John, either in using their own, or in recording the words of Christ, have alluded to some passages in this book, I have already shewn; and the same may be said of the other evangelists, Mark and Luke, who mention several of the very same things; for which see Mark 2:19,20 and 12:1; Luke 5:34,35 and 20:9, and it seems very evident, the apostle Paul has reference to it in many passages of his writings, as wilt appear from comparing 2 Corinthians 2:14,15,16; Ephesians 5:2 with Song of Solomon 1:3 as also Colossians 2:16,17; Hebrews 10:1 with Song of Solomon 2:17 and 4:6 to which may be added Ephesians 5:27 compared with Song of Solomon 4:7. So that seeing there are so many passages in several of the writers of the known books of the New Testament, which bear so near a resemblance, and have so manifest an allusion to some parts of this book, it need not much concern us that Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, and Polycarp take no notice of it. 11. What he thinks will much prejudice the authority of this book, is, “that the Apostolical Constitutions give no manner of reason to suppose that this book of Canticles was then looked upon as a book of scripture, but the direct contrary.”

    Now those books called The Constitutions of the Apostles, by Clement, Mr Whiston looks upon to be truly authentic and apostolical; when they appear manifestly to be spurious, entirely destitute of apostolical authority, are of a much later date than the times of the apostles, and contain several things and doctrines directly opposite unto them. As for instance, praying with the face to the East is enjoined, 1. 2. c. 57. and 1. 7. c. 44. Trigamy is asserted to be an indication of incontinency; and such marriages as are beyond the third, are called manifest fornication, and unquestionable uncleanness, 1. 3. c. 2. Anointing with oil in baptism is enjoined, 1. 3. c. 15, 16, and 1. 7. c. 27, 41, 42. The keeping of the day of Christ’s nativity, Epiphany, the Quadragesima, or Lent, the feast of the passover, and the festivals of the apostles,1. 5. c. 13 and 1. 8. c. 33. Fasting on the fourth and sixth days of the week,1,5. c. 15. Baptizing of infants,1. 6. c. 15.

    Singing for the dead, and honoring of their relics, 1. 6, c. 30. Nay, praying for saints departed, 1. 8. c. 41, 42, 43, 44. As also crossing with the sign of the cross in the forehead,1. 8. c. 12. Moreover the Lord’s Supper is called an unbloody sacrifice,1. 6. c. 23 and 1. 8. c. 5, 46. It is likewise asserted, that Christ, in the celebration of that ordinance, mixed wine and water in the cup,1. 8. c. 12. Nay, concubines, continuing so, are allowed an admittance to a participation of that sacred ordinance,1. 8 c. 32 with many other things which appear foreign enough from the simplicity of the apostolic age, doctrine, and practice. And now who that reads and considers these things, will ever think that those writings can furnish out an argument sufficient to prejudice the authority of the book of Solomon’s Song? Had any thing been said in them, which was expressly against it, it would scarce have deserved consideration, much less should their silence about it be improved as an evidence against it. And yet after all, it is pretty to observe how much Mr Whiston himself is foiled with two passages in them, which appear to be allusions and references to a passage in this book; the one is in 1. 6. c. 13. where the false apostles are called alwpe>kwn meridev kai< camaizh>lwn anwn ajfanisai> , the portion of foxes, and the spoilers of the low vineyards: And again, in the same book, c. 18. where those same persons are said to spoil the church of God, wjv ajlw>pekev mikroi> ajmpelw~nav , as the little foxes do the vineyards; which are manifest references to Song of Solomon 2:15, and over-against the later of which passages Mr Whiston himself has placed this text as referring to it in the edition of the Constitutions which he has published. Now to evade the force of this, he is obliged to make this part of the work to be of a later date than the rest, even later than the destruction of Jerusalem; lest this book of Canticles should appear to have obtained authority too early in the world. He acknowledges that it is in the catalogue of the sacred writings mentioned in the Canons of the Apostles, Can. which he looks upon to be genuine and authentic, though he questions its being in the original copies of those Canons; he allows, that Ignatius, in his larger epistle to the Ephesians, cites Song of Solomon 1:3, 4, and is very willing to grant it a place in Melito’s catalogue, which I have before mentioned: So that from the whole it appears, that the Apostolical Constitutions are so far from making against the authority of this book, that they rather make for it; though their testimony is good for nothing, the whole being a spurious work, and carries in it evident marks of falsehood and impiety, and was condemned as false and heretical by the sixth general synod held at Constantinople about the year 680. Thus have I considered the several arguments and objections produced by Mr Whiston to disprove the sacred authority of this book, which, notwithstanding, appears to have a divine stamp upon it. There is one objection more made against it, which I think Mr Whiston has took no notice of, and that is, that no proper name of God is to be found in this Song. To which I reply, in the words of Mr Durham f21 1. “That it is so also in other scriptures, as in the book of Esther; the scripture’s authority doth not depend on naming the name of God, but on having his warrant and authority. 2. This Song being allegorical and figurative, it is not so meet nor consistent with its stile, to have God named under proper names, as in other scriptures: Yet, 3. There are titles and descriptions here given to an excellent person, which can agree to none other but Christ, the eternal Son of God; as, The King; O thou whom my soul loveth; the chief of ten thousands; the Rose of Sharon, and the like; whereby his eminency is “singularly set out above all others in the world.”

    And yet after all, the name of God, Jah, the same with Jehovah, and a contraction of that, is mentioned in it, which is the greatest of the divine names, and is expressive of the being, eternity, and immutability of God. It is in chapter 8:6. hyAtbhlç the flame of God, or Jehovah, which we render a most vehement flame; the sense being increased by the word Jah being added, as the word God to mountains and cedars, in Psalm 36:6 and Psalm 80:10 for these are not one word as Ben Asher thinks, but two according to Ben Naphtali and Aben Ezra; see the exposition of the place.

    Since the second edition of this Exposition was published in 1751, I have met with two learned gentlemen, I am sorry for it, and that I am obliged to take notice of them, who think that this book is of a later date than the times of Solomon, and so of course none of his, and which must sap the authority of it. The one observes that the word David, from its first appearance in Ruth, where it is written drd without the yod, continues to be so written through the books of Samuel, Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, but appears with a yod dyrd in the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zechariah; wherefore he suggests, that if it was customary to write this word without a yod till the captivity, and with one after it; then he thinks a strong argument may be drawn from hence against the antiquity of the Canticles, and its being made by Solomon, since this name is written with a yod in Song of Solomon 4:4 the only place in it in which it is used: But in answer to this, it must be said, it is not fact that the word is universally used without the yod in the books mentioned, particularly in the book of Kings: for the authors of the Masorah have observed on 1 Kings 3:14 that it is five times written full, as they call it, that is, with a yod, dyrd three of the places in the book of Kings I have traced out, 1 Kings 3:14; and 11:4, 36 and have found it so written in all the printed copies I have seen; and so it is read by the Eastern Jews in Ezekiel 37:24 and in several printed editions of Ezekiel 34:23. This learned man is aware that it is so written once in Hosea, and twice in Amos; books written two hundred years before the captivity; but then he observes that in the two last places in Bomberg’s edition it has a little circle (o) to mark it for an error, or a faulty word, though none over the word in Hosea: But it should be known, that that circle in hundreds of places is not used to point out any thing faulty in the copy, but is only a mark referring to the margin, and to what is observed there: and be it, that it does point out an error or a faulty word, the same circle is over the word in Canticles, and consequently shews it to be faulty there, and to be corrected and read without the yod, which observation destroys the argument from it; and so it is read in that place in the Talmud without it, and in the ancient book of Zohar; and indeed it seems as if it was read without the yod in the copies seen by the authors of the Masorah, since in their note on 1 Kings 3:14 besides the five places where it is written full, or with the yod, they say it is so written throughout the Chronicles, the twelve minor prophets, and Ezra, which includes Nehemiah, but make no mention of Solomon’s Song; which one would think they would have done, had it been so written there in the copy or copies before them: so that upon the whole, the argument, if it has any force in it, turns out for, and not against the antiquity of Solomon’s Song.

    But this matter stands in a dearer light by observing the larger Masorah on 1 Kings 11:4 and on Ezekiel 34:23 in which the five places are mentioned where this word is written full, 1 Kings 3:14 and 11:4, 36, Song of Solomon 4:4, Ezekiel 34:23, in which places this word was originally so written, as well as throughout Chronicles, the twelve prophets, and Ezra; so that in all these places it is marked not as a faulty word, but as rightly written, though different from what it is in other places. The other learned man forms his argument from the use of the word tbhlç in Job 15:30, and in this Song, chapter 8:6 his words are, “I am much deceived if this word be not a strong proof of the age of this poem, (the book of Job) for it is not found but in Ezekiel and the Song of Solomon, the one written during the captivity, and the other after it.”

    This proceeds upon a false piece of criticism in a twofold respect; for he adds, “its construction which is evidently ç for rça , and tbhl the constructive form of hbhl flamma, shews very clearly its age; since that manner of abbreviation is not found in the books undoubtedly “written before the captivity.”

    For, 1st, this abbreviation appears in books much more ancient than that, not only in the book of Solomon’s Song, the antiquity of which is not to be set aside by this observation, but frequently in the book of Ecclesiastes, undoubtedly written by Solomon, and in the Psalms of David his father before him; for it is not only in psalms without a title, all which are supposed by some to be David’s, as in <19C906> Psalm 129:6,7; 135:2, 8, 10; 136:23, and 146:5 but also in psalms which bear his name, as in <19C203> Psalm 122:3,4; 124:2, 6; <19D302> 133:2, 3 and 144:15; yea it was in use long before the times of David, even in the times of the Judges. Deborah has it in her song, ytmqç ytmqç d[ , Judges 5:7 and in other places in that book, chapter 6:17 and 7:12 and 8:26. 2dly, It is a mistake that the construction of the word tbhlç is ç for rça ; and tbhl ; for ç ; in that word is not servile, but radical, as Aben Ezra and Ben Melech observe; it is an addition to the Hebrew word after the Chaldee manner, and has its derivation from a root in the Chaldee or Syriac language, bhlç , which signifies to kindle, inflame, and burn, as appears, not only from all the Syriac and Chaldee Lexicons, but from the frequent use of the word in the Syriac version of the Old Testament; nor is this the only Chaldee or Syriac word in Solomon’s Song; see chapter 1:17 and 2:11. Though perhaps as this writer from the Chaldaisms, Syriasms, and Arabisms in the book of Job, argues its being a production of a later age than what is usually assigned to it; so another of the same way of thinking and reasoning may conclude from some Chaldee words used in Solomon’s Song that it must be of a later age than his: but why may not Solomon be thought to make use of Chaldee or Syriac words as wall as his father David, who makes use of words in the Syriac signification of them, as in Psalm 51:4 compared with Romans 3:4 and Psalm 60:4 and with Syro-chaldaic affixes, <19A303> Psalm 103:3,4,5 and 115:7, 10? and why may not David and Solomon be thought to understand Chaldee or Syriac as well as Hezekiah’s courtiers? see 2 Kings 18:26 and certainly Solomon must understand it, if what is said of him is true, though I lay no stress upon it, that he wrote the book of Wisdom in the Chaldee language though not by inspiration. Moreover, since the Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, etc. are supposed to be dialects of the same language, why may not a word in one dialect less frequently, used in a book appear in it without determining the age of it? since one dialect may be as early or nearly as early as another, and can be no evidence of a book being of a later production than is generally thought, or of its being written when the purity of the Hebrew language began to decline, and after the dispersion of the Jews throughout the East, when it began to receive a taint of the other dialects, as this writer suggests; for what taint of the other dialects, as he calls it, did the Hebrew language receive in the captivity, and by the dispersion of the Jews? what appearance is there of Chaldaisms, Syriasms, etc. in the book of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, excepting the names of the months, books written after the captivity, more than in any books before, or even so much? are they not written in as pure Hebrew as any of those books, which may be thought to be written when that language was in its greatest purity? and if so, a few words in another dialect here and there in a book, is no rule to judge of a book by, and determine the age of it. Upon the whole, it is irresistably clear, that the sacred and divine authority of this book remains firm and unshaken, notwithstanding the above objections made against it; nor is there any reason for persons to scruple it, much less to reject it from the canon of the scriptures, nor to question in the least the antiquity and authenticity of it. I proceed, II. To consider the nature and subject of this book; it being a Song in which the bride and bridegroom, with their friends and companions, the daughters of Jerusalem, bear their several parts; and it being a divine song, is, no doubt, intended for the glorifying of Christ, the chearing and refreshing of his church, and also the edification of others; for it is the duty of saints to be teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing with grace in their hearts to the Lord.

    I shall not enter into the consideration of the controversy, whether singing of the praises of God vocally, is an ordinance to be used under the New Testament, though I firmly believe it to be so; nay, that it is one of the most noble, and most glorious branches of religious worship, it being that which comes nearest to the employment of saints in a glorified state; and what requires a great deal of light, knowledge, experience, faith, and love to perform in a right way and manner; nor shall I need to observe those several cases of conscience concerning singing, which have a very good solution from this tong; such as these, namely, whether the distressed cases of God’s children may be sung, or they sing when in distressed circumstances: whether complaints of their sins, failings and infirmities, may be put into their songs: whether eases different from theirs, yea, such as they have not attained unto, may be sung; as also whether it is lawful to sing the praises of God in mixed assemblies; all which may be answered in the affirmative, and for which this song affords a sufficient foundation; the church here bringing net sorrows and distresses into this song as well as her comforts and privileges, chapter 1:6 and <220301> 3:1 and 5:7; nay, her sins and failings, chapter 1:5, 6 and 5:2, 3, 4. Very different cases are also here sung; yea, such, which, if taken in a strict sense, she had not fully attained to, as in chapter 8:12. Moreover, she sings in the presence of, and joins with the virgins, the daughters of Jerusalem, who seemed in a great measure to be ignorant of Christ, chapter 5:8, 9 and 6:8, 9, 10, all which are largely and judiciously insisted upon by the excellent Mr Durham, in his Exposition of this place, to which I refer the reader: I proceed more particularly to consider the nature and subject of this song; which, 1st, Is not a celebration of the amours between Solomon, and Pharoah’s daughter, which has been the opinion of some, as has been already observed; for there are some things in it which are spoken of this bridegroom, which cannot be applied to Solomon, as that he was both a king and a shepherd, as in chapter 1:4 compared with 5:7 that he was his wife’s brother, and she his sister, chapter 5:2 and <220801> 8:1. Nor is it likely that Solomon would ever give such commendations of himself, as are mentioned in chapter 5:10, etc. There are also many things spoken of the bride, which by no means agree with Pharoah’s daughter, as that she was a keeper of the vineyards, chapter 1:6 and yet a prince’s daughter, chapter <0220701> 7:1 that she should be represented as running about the streets in the night, unattended, chapter 3:2 and be exposed to the blows and contempt of the watchmen, chapter 5:7; besides, several of the descriptions here given of her, if taken in a literal sense, would rather make her appear to be a monster than a beauty, as chapter <220401> 4:1-5 and chapter <220701> 7:1-5 all which agree very well, when understood of Christ and his Church. Nor, 2dly, Is it typical, that is to say, this book does not express the amours and marriage of Solomon and Pharoah’s daughter, as typical of that inexpressible love and marriage-union between Christ and his church; it is true, there is some resemblance between natural and spiritual marriage, as is manifest from Ephesians 5:23,24,25,29,31,32 nor is it altogether to be denied, that Solomon was a type of Christ, in some respects, in his marriage of that person; but that this book is an epithalamium, or nuptial song composed by him on that occasion, and that in such a manner, as at the same time also to be expressive of the love of Christ to his church, must be denied; for Solomon’s marriage with Pharoah’s daughter was at least twenty years before this book was wrote, as appears from chapter 7:4 where mention is made of the tower of Lebanon, by which seems to be meant, the house of the forests of Lebanon: or some tower near unto it; now he was seven years in building the temple, 1 Kings 6:38 and thirteen more in building his own house, 1 Kings 7:1 after which he built this, 5:2. From hence it may be reasonably concluded, that this book was not penned on any such occasion; for Solomon would never write a nuptial song twenty years after his marriage, which should have been sung the same night he was married. M. Bossuet has an ingenious conjecture, though it seems to be without a solid foundation, that whereas the nuptial feast with the Hebrews was kept seven days, this song is to be distributed into seven parts, a part to be sung on each day during the celebration.

    The first day, chapter <220101> 1:— 2:6, the second day, chapter 2:7-17, the third day, <220301> chapter 3: — 5:1, the fourth day, chapter 5:2 — 6:9, the fifth day, chapter 6:10 — 7:11, the sixth day, chapter 7:12. — 8:3, the seventh day, chapter 8:4-14.

    Nor, 3dly. Is this book prophetic, expressing the state of the church and kingdom of Christ in the several ages of the world, with regard to particular historical facts and events, which had befel or should befal it, either under the Old or New Testament-dispensation; this way indeed go most of the Jewish interpreters, as the Targum, R. Solomon Jarchi, and R.

    Aben Ezra; who have been followed by many Christian writers, though with more judgment and greater regard to the analogy of faith, as well as to the times of the New Testament: and who consider this book as describing the state of the church of God, whether the church under the legal dispensation, from the times of David and Solomon; and before, and in, and after the captivity to the birth and death of Christ; or the church under the gospel-dispensation,, in its beginning, progress, various changes, and consummation, as Brightman and Cotton. Others interpret this book as pointing to the several ages and periods of the Christian church, in agreement with the seven churches of Asia, as Cocceius, and those that follow him, Hor-chius, Hofman, and Hennischius; which last writer makes this distribution of them: 1. The church at Ephesus, Song of Soloman 1:5- 17 from the ascension of Christ to heaven, A.C. 33 to 370. 2. The church at Smyrna, Song of Solomon 2:1-17 from A.C. 371 to 707. 3. The church at Pergamos, Song of Solomon 3:1-11 from A.C. 708 to 1045. 4. The church at Thyatira, Song of Solomon 4:1 to chapter 5:1 from A.C. 1046 to 1383. 5. The church at Sardis, Song of Solomon 5:2 to chapter 6:8 from A.C. 1384 to 1721. 6. The church at Philadelphia, Song of Solomon 6:9 to chapter 7:14 from A.C. 1722 to 2059. 7. The church at Laodicea, Song of Solomon 8:1-14 from A.C. 2060, and onwards. But hereby the book is made liable to arbitrary, groundless, and uncertain conjectures, as well as its usefulness for the instruction and consolation of believers, in a great measure, is laid aside; for then such and such parts of it, which regard the church and believers, in such an age or period of time, can only be applied to them that lived at that time, and not to others; whereas all, and every part of this song, the first as well as the last, is applicable to believers in alleges of the world, which is a manifest proof that it cannot be historical, or prophetical. But, 4thly, The whole is figurative and allegorical, abounding with a variety of lively metaphors, and allusions to natural things; and so may be illustrated by the various things of nature, from whence the metaphors are taken, and to which the allusions be, and by the language and behavior of natural lovers to each others and which are to be observed in love-poems, though here expressed more decently and beautifully. This divine poem sets forth in a most striking manner the mutual love, unions and communion, which are between Christ and his church; also expresses the several different frames, cases and circumstances which attend believers in this life; so that they can come into no state or condition, but here is something in this song suited to their experience: which serves much to recommend it to believers, and discovers the excellency of it. Which, III. Comes next to be considered, it being called the Song of songs, for this reason, because it is the most excellent of songs; so the holy of holies is used for the most holy, and the King of kings and Lord of lords, for the greatest King and chiefest Lord. This song. is more excellent than all human songs; there is no comparison between them, either in the subject, stile, or manner of composition: it has the ascendant of all those thousand and five songs which Solomon himself made, of which we read 1 Kings 4:32 nay, is preferable to all scriptural songs; the subject of it being wholly and purposely the love of Christ to his church, its stile is lovely and majestic; the manner of its composition neat and beautiful; and the matter of it full and comprehensive, being suited to all believers, and their several cases: This song indeed contains all others in it, and has nothing wanting and deficient therein. The Jews say in their ancient book of Zohar that “this song comprehends the whole law; the whole work of the creation; the secret of the fathers; the captivity of Egypt, and the coming out of Israel from thence; the song that was sung at the sea; the covenant of mount Sinai; the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness; their entrance into the land of Canaan; the building of the temple; the crown of the holy name; the captivity of Israel among the nations, and their redemption; the resurrection of the dead; and the sabbath of the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come.”

    IV. The author or penman of this song is said to be Solomon; the Song of songs, which is Solomon’s, that is, which is of, or concerning Solomon, f30 as the words may be rendered; and so respect the subject of this song, which is Christ, the true Solomon, of whom Solomon was an eminent type, as is at large shewn in several particulars, on chapter 3:7. Now it is he that this song treats of; the transcendent glories and excellencies of his person; his inexpressible love unto, care of, and concern for his church and people, together with the nearness of access unto and sweet communion and fellowship with himself, which he indulges them with, are here particularly expressed and set forth; so that it may well be called the Song of songs, which is concerning Solomon; though, perhaps, the words may regard Solomon as the author and penman of it, who was used by the Holy Ghost as his amanuensis therein, which was no small honor to him; his wisdom, riches, and grandeur, did not set him above an employment of this nature; nay, his, being concerned herein, was a greater honor to him than all the rest: and it may not be amiss to observe, that his royal title, as king of Israel, is here omitted, which yet is put at the beginning of both his other books, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; the reason may be, either because such a title, expressive of majesty, would not so well have suited a song of loves; or else it is purposely omitted, lest he should be thought to be the king, so frequently spoken of in this song; or rather because that the subject of this song is the King of kings; and therefore, whilst he is speaking of the things which he had made, touching the Mug, he lays aside his own royal title, veils his majesty, and casts his crown at the feet of Him, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice. The time of his writing this book does not appear very manifest; some think that he wrote it in his youthful days, the subject being love, and the manner of its writing being poetry, both which the youthful age mostly inclines to, and delights in; but it appears from what has been already said, that it was not wrote until twenty years after his marriage, when he could not be a very young man; and so might be written in the middle part of his life, when in the most flourishing circumstances as to body, mind, and estate. Dr Lightfoot is of opinion it might be written in the thirtieth year of his reign, about ten years before his death, after he had built his summerhouse in Lebanon, to which he supposes he alludes in chapter 4:3 and 7:4 and upon his bringing Pharaoh’s daughter to the house prepared for her, 1 Kings 9:24. The Jewish chronologer says, that the books of Proverbs, the Song of songs, and Ecclesiastes, were all written in his old age, as indeed the last seems to be; and perhaps he wrote this also a little before his death, after his fall and repentance, when he had had a larger discovery of the love of God unto his own soul, notwithstanding all his sins, failings, and infirmities; and so a proper person for the Holy Ghost to use in setting forth the greatness of Christ’s love to his people, and the several different states, conditions, cases and circumstances, which they are, at one time or another, brought into in this life, of which he had had a very great experience. But from the title, I shall now proceed to the consideration of the book itself; which thus begins, VERSE 2. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for thy love is better than wine. HAVING considered the title, now follows the song itself, which begins with these words; and it being dialogue-wise, where several parties are concerned, and do interchangeably speak, it will be therefore necessary, in order to explain them, to consider, I. Who the person is that speaks and begins the song.

    II. To whom this speech is directed.

    III. The nature of the request that is made. And, IV. The reason of it.

    I. Let us consider who the person is that speaks; it appears dearly to be the church and bride of Christ, who here begins and continues speaking to verse 8. She first directs her speech to Christ, in this and the two following verses; in verses 5, 6 she turns herself to the daughters of Jerusalem; and then again to Christ, in verse 7 she begins the song, which, 1st, Does not suppose that she was first in her love to Christ: she was not beforehand with him, neither in her love nor in the expressions, and manifestations of it; for he had loved her with an everlasting love, and therefore had thus sweetly drawn her with the bands of love, to himself.

    Christ is first, both in his love and in the discovery of it; for we love him because he first loved us; it is the manifestation of Christ’s love to our souls, which causes us to love him again, and in some way or other to shew it. 2dly, Neither does it suppose, that her love to Christ, and desires of his presence and company, were more ardent than his were to her; for as Christ’s love is prior to ours, so it far exceeds, and is much superior to it; neither can believers be more desirous of Christ’s company than he is of theirs. But, 3dly, It shews that she was impatient of delay, and could not bear his absence any longer; she was sick of love; for hope deferred maketh the heart sick; she had, perhaps, been hoping, waiting for, and expecting his presence a considerable time, and he was not come; therefore growing impatient., breaks out in this abrupt manner, Let him kiss, etc. or, “O that he would kiss me with one of the kisses of his month! I cannot be easy unless he does.” 4thly, She speaks as one who had had experience of Christ’s love; she knew how sweet the kisses of his mouth were, and how delightful his company had been to her in time past; she, had tasted that the Lord was gracious; and therefore was so earnestly desirous of the returns of these love-visits, venting her heart and soul in these passionate wishes and desires. And, 5thly, Though Christ gives the first discoveries of love on his part; yet when the church is espoused unto him, it highly becomes her to shew an affectionate regard unto him, and strong desire after his company.

    II. It will be proper to take notice of the person to whom this speech is directed, and that is Christ; and the form of speech here used, is also worthy our regard; here is no particular mention made of any person; no one particularly named, whose company she desired; but only him, let him kiss me, etc. it is a relative without an antecedent, of which we have many instances in scripture, as Psalm 87:1, Isaiah 53:2, Lamentations 3:1 unless we suppose that the antecedent to it is Solomon, in verse 1, let him, that is, Solomon, or Christ, who is Solomon’s antitype, whose song this is, and who is the subject of it; Let him, I say, kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; though the connection seems rather to be with the thoughts of her heart, than with any words before expressed: she had had him so much in her thoughts, and her love was so fixed on him, she knew him so well, and had had so much converse with him, that she thought there was no need to mention his name; but that every one must very well know who she designed; as Mary Magdalen, at Christ’s sepulcher, when Jesus said unto her, ‘Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?’ she supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, ‘Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away,’ John 20:15.

    Suppose he had been the gardener, how should he have known who this him was she meant? But she was much in the same frame as the church is here, who speaks of Christ as if there was no other in the world besides him; and indeed he is a nonsuch, the most eminent person in the world, in the believer’s esteem; whose language is, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee,’ Psalm 73:25. Christ then is the person here spoken of, whom she intends, and to whom she directs her speech.

    III. Having taken notice of the person speaking, and to whom this speech is directed, we will now consider the request itself, which is here made, ‘Let him kiss me,’ etc. and this may be considered, either, First, As the request of the church under the Old Testament. And that, 1st, For the manifestation of Christ in the flesh; than which nothing was more passionately longed for, and earnestly desired; many kings and prophets greatly desired it; yea, all the Old Testament saints did more or less pray, as David did, ‘O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion,’ Psalm 14:7, and this they were so vehemently desirous of, because they knew hereby redemption from all evil would be obtained, the curse removed, and all spiritual blessings procured for then; Christ’s incarnation being, like kisses, a pledge and indication of his love, was very desirable to the church, and as appears by her expressions, would be exceeding grateful to all those who were ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel:’ He had sent his prophets, and by them had spoken unto her ‘at sundry times, and in divers manners;’ yet she is not easy and contented herewith, but would have greater displays of his grace, by his appearing in his own person to kiss her with the kisses of his mouth. 2dly, For the doctrines of the gospel, in opposition to the law. Most of the Jewish writers understand, by the kisses of his mouth, the words of the law, which God spake to the people face to face; but that dispensation was not so desirable an one, for ‘they that heard that voice of words, intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more; for they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die,’ Exodus 20:19. The words of the law contain sharp and severe rebukes for sin; pronounce the sinner guilty before God; curse and condemn him, and are the killing letter to him; therefore these are not the kisses of Christ’s mouth, which the church here desires; but rather they are the sweet and comfortable doctrines of the gospel, which may be so called, 1. Because they come from him; they are the words of his mouth, which drop from him ‘like sweet smelling myrrh;’ he is the author of them, he has spoke and delivered them; they proceed alone from him, and it is he that owns, blesses, and makes them useful to men. 2. As kisses they carry in them intimations of his love to souls, to whom they come in power, and in the Holy Ghost; the love of Christ is the great subject of the gospel; it fills all the doctrines thereof, which give a noble display of it, and lead into a farther acquaintance with it. 3. As the kisses of a friend, they are grateful and acceptable to believers; they are more valuable to them than their necessary food, and are preferred by them to all that is dear in life, yea, to life itself, however they are slighted and despised by the men of the world. 4. As kisses, they raise the affections and fill the soul with love to Christ; kisses, as they are indications of, so they are incentives to love.

    When the truths of the gospel come with power upon a sinner’s heart, they let in, not only a great deal of light, but also a large measure of love; faith comes hereby, and that works by love, both to Christ and to his gospel. Or, Secondly, We may consider this request as the request of the church, or of every particular believer, for the enjoyments and manifestations of Christ’s love. The manifestation of Christ’s love is very desirable to believers, who would always have it if they could; this is their heaven on earth, and the beginning of glory to them; this comforts them in all their troubles, and is preferred by them to all earthly enjoyments; and may be called the kisses of Christ’s mouth, 1st, Because kisses are evidences and pledges of love amongst nearest relations: Christ stands in, and fills up all relations to his people, and has affections for them suitable to them all; he is a kind and indulgent father, a tender husband, an affectionate brother, and loving friend; of all which he has given, and continues to give, full, and incontestible proofs; of which the kisses of his mouth are plain and undeniable evidences. 2dly, Kisses are tokens of reconciliation and agreement. Now though reconciliation is made by the blood of Christ, rand believers have the comfortable application of it to their souls; yet every time that Christ withdraws his presence from them, they are ready to think that he is angry with them, and is not reconciled unto them; but when he shews himself again, and manifests his love, then they can behold him, and God in him, as reconciled unto them. 3dly, Kisses are incentives to love: there is nothing raises believers love higher to Christ, than the flowing in of his love into their souls; this warms it when cold and chill, raises it to a flame, quickens it when dull, puts it in motion, and sets it at work. 4thly, By this expression the church intends that nearness and familiarity in communion with Christ, which her soul wanted; which was not only to shew himself to her, feed and feast her, and take his walks with her; by all which phrases communion with Christ is sometimes expressed; but to be kissed with the kisses of his mouth, which is yet nearer still: well may the saints be said to be ‘a people near to the Lord;’ what wondrous and surprising grace is this, that Christ should condescend to kiss such vile and sinful creatures as we be! to receive us into such near communion with himself! It is a bold request the church makes, and yet she is in it no bolder than welcome. These are called kisses, in the plural number. 1. To shew the various ways Christ has to manifest his love, sometimes by one providence, and sometimes by another! sometimes in one ordinance, and sometimes in another; he is not tied to one way, but has divers ways, and makes use of various means to shew himself unto his people; he is never at a loss when he thinks fit to do it. 2. To denote the frequent and repeated actings of his love to her soul which she was desirous of; she was for having, not one kiss, but many; one discovery and manifestation of his love and grace after another; yea, many visits from him, until she arrived to the full enjoyment of his love, with himself, in glory. Or, 3. The words may be read thus, Let him kiss me with one of the kisses of his mouth. See chapter 4:9 and then the sense is, “O that I had but one glimpse, one view, one discovery more of his love and grace unto my soul, but one kiss more from his mouth, which is most sweet, and altogether lovely; how great a satisfaction would it be to me, could I have but this request granted!” which way of speaking shews how exceeding grateful the manifestations of Christ’s love are to believers. Moreover it may be observed, that kisses with the ancients were not frequent, but rarely used, and but once when persons were espoused, and as a token of that; and then they were reckoned as husband and wife; on which account it may be it is here desired; since it was after this we hear of the spouse being brought into the nuptial chamber, and of the keeping of the nuptial feast, verse 4-12. Again, These are also said to be the ‘kisses of his mouth;’ which is not to be looked upon as a mere Hebraism, or as a redundancy in expression; but this heaping up of words shews, (1.) The vehemency of her affection, how much her heart was set upon, and how eagerly desirous she was of, communion with Christ; and therefore pours out words, that she might fully express her mind; ‘for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.’ (2.) She mentions the kisses of ‘his mouth,’ in contradistinction to any other; she valued the kisses of no other mouth but Christ’s: the kisses of any mouth were not desirable to her, none but the kisses of his mouth were. (3.) She hereby expresses the singular satisfaction she should take herein; ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth;’ “his mouth, which is sweet and delightful to me; his mouth, whom my soul loves, whom I value and esteem above all others, and in the enjoyment of whom I place my chiefest happiness.” Or, (4). It may point out that particular way and manner in which she was desirous that he would manifest his love unto her, that is, by his word of promise in the gospel; as if she should say, “O that he would manifest himself, and break up his love and grace to my soul, in some kind promise or other, which may drop from his mouth, and be brought home unto me by the Spirit of grace.”

    IV. She assigns a reason for this request, ‘for thy love is better than wine;’ here is a sudden change of person, from the third to the second; before she said, ‘let him kiss me,’ etc. now she says, ‘for thy love,’ etc. the reason of which, perhaps, is, because he was absent before, but now present; she had lost sight of him, and speaks of him as at a distance from her; but now he is in view, at the very sight of whom her faith is increased, and her soul fired with love; and having greater nearness to him, grows in her familiarity and boldness with him.

    Here we shall, 1. Take notice of the love of Christ, and give some account of the nature and excellency, of it: And, 2. Shew in what respects it is preferable to wine .

    First Let us consider this love of Christ, which is so highly commended by the church; in the Hebrew text it is in the plural number, loves to shew, 1st, The various ways in which Christ has discovered it; he shewed it by his suretyship-engagements for the elect in the everlasting covenant of grace and peace, of which he is the surety, mediator, and messenger; he showed it in his assumption of human nature in time; he has given a full display o£ it, in laying down his life for the sheep, in giving himself a ransom for many, and in offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of all his chosen ones; he has loved them and died for them, loved them and shed his precious blood for them, and in that blood, has washed them from all their sins; he now shews that he loves them, by appearing in the presence of God for them, acting as an advocate with the Father, and preparing’ glory for them; and he will, ere long, come again to take them to himself, that where he is, there they may be also. 2dly, It may intend the various effects of it; all the blessings of grace flow from it, such as vocation, sanctification, justification, adoption, and glorification; all spring from this boundless and matchless love of Christ. 3dly, Being in the plural number, may denote the aboundings of it; it is superabounding love; love that has heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths; it is immeasurable and unconceiveable; it passeth the perfect knowledge of men and angels. 4thly, The frequent discoveries of it, which are made to the saints; and which, like the waters in Ezekiel’s vision, increase and rise from the ancles to the knees, and from the knees to the loins, and from thence become waters to swim in, a river, an ocean of love which cannot be passed over. 5thly, The great esteem the church had of Christ’s love, which she shows by calling it ‘loves,’ in the plural number, as well as by saying that it was ‘better than wine:’ the excellency of which will farther appear, if we consider the nature and properties of it, which are as follow: 1. As to the original of it, it is free and sovereign; it does not take its rise from any thing in us, or done by us, nothing of this nature moved him to it, but he loved us, because he would love us; nothing out of himself moved him to it; it was not because we were better than others, for we are by nature children of wrath, even as others; he loved us when unlovely; he died for us while we were yet sinners, and ungodly in ourselves, and enemies to himself; our love to him is not the cause of his loving us, but his love to us is the cause of ours: in this he is entirely free and sovereign; he has pitched his love and grace on whom he will, and these he loves freely; he was not moved or influenced by foreseen faith or works, or any deservings of ours whatever; for we neither deserved nor desired his love, neither indeed could we have expected it. 2. As to the time of its commencement, it is from eternity; before the mountains were formed, and the highest part of the dust of the earth was made, he was ‘rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and his delights were with the sons of men:’ that he loved his people from eternity, is manifest from his engaging as a surety for them; his becoming the mediator of an everlasting covenant; in which he agreed to take care of their persons, and by dying to redeem their lives from destruction, and to bring them to eternal glory; as also from his receiving all grace for them before the world began; all which manifestly shew that he had a love for them; for all the after-actings of his love and grace are but the openings and breakings forth of this love of his, which he bore towards them from everlasting. 3. As to its duration, it is to eternity; ‘having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end,’ John 13:1, his love is invariable, unalterable, and unchangeable; it is like himself, ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;’ all the waters of sin and corruption cannot extinguish it; nor can any creature in heaven, earth, or hell, separate his people from it. 4. As to the degree of it, it is the greatest love, ‘greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,’ John 15:13, but Christ’s love is greater than this, for he hath laid down his life for enemies, and even whilst they were such: here is great love for great sinners, shewn by a great person, one who ‘thought it no robbery to be equal with God:’ and this he shewed by giving himself a ransom for them; such is the greatness of this love, that it cannot fully be expressed by men or angels. 5. As to the quality of it, it is the nearest; that of the nearest relations and friends to each other as of a parent to a child, of an husband to a wife, of brothers, or friends, to each other, are but faint resemblances and mere shadows of this; all fall short of painting and expressing to the life the nature of this love. 6. As to the pattern or form of it, it is as the Father’s love to him; ‘as the Father hath loved me; (says he) so have I loved you,’ John 15:9, as the Father loves Christ, as mediator, with an everlasting, unchangeable, and inseparable love, so does Christ love his people. What surprising grace is this, that Christ should love us with such a love! when there is no comparison between him, who is the object of the one, and them, who are the objects of the other; when we contemplate this amazing love, conceptions fail us to comprehend it, words fall short of expressing it; in eternity only will those surprizing mysteries of grace be unfolded to us. 7. As to any instance of love, none can be compared: with it, it is unparalleled; that of Jonathan’s to David, of one friend’s dying for another, and of those brave Romans who died for their country, which history furnishes us withal, can by no means equal or come near it; scarcely for a righteous man will one die, peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die, says the apostle, Romans 5:7,8 where he alludes to the division of the Jewish nation into three parts, which were these; First, There were µyqydx , or righteous persons, who kept to the external letter of the law, and did, as they imagined, what that required, but would do no more.

    Secondly, There were others called µydysj , or good men, who were bountiful and liberal to the poor, and did more than the law required in repairing the temple and maintaining of sacrifices, etc. But, Thirdly, there were another sort who were called µy[çr , or wicked and ungodly persons, who had no regard to the law, profligate wretches, the refuse of the people.

    Now for one of these righteous ones, says the apostle, scarce any would die, because what he had done, he was obliged by the law to do; peradventure for one of these good men, one to whom he had been kind and liberal, a person would even dare to die; but who will die for the other sort, the wicked and ungodly? not one; but God commendeth his love towards us, in that while-we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; O matchless and unparalleled love! 8. As to its effect upon the hearts of sinners, it is surprising, comfortable, and rejoicing; for souls, when but just let into it, begin that wonder which will last through out an endless eternity; they now place an ecce, a behold before it, and say as the Jews did of Christ, in regard to Lazarus, behold how he loved him! O how has he loved me, and me! says one and the other; what manner of love is this! it is surprising, wonderful, passing the love of women, as David said concerning Jonathan’s; and it being shed abroad in the heart by the Spirit of God, fills the soul with an universal pleasure, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory; the manifestations and discovery of it bear up the soul under all the trials of life, and make it long to be in glory, that it may have its fill thereof, wherefore it is no wonder the church here prefers it to wine, which, Secondly, We shall now consider, The church had a real value for Christ’s person, and therefore must needs esteem his love; his person being, to her, the chiefest among ten thousands, his love must be preferable to all others; she hath tasted a real sweetness in it, and hath seen the vanity and emptiness of all earthly enjoyments, and therefore prefers it to wine; by which. is intended the most sumptuous banquet, with all the dainties, and delightful entertainments thereof: nothing is so valuable as the love of Christ; O how excellent is thy loving kindness! says the Psalmist, it is better than life, Psalm 36:7. and 63:3. and all the comforts, pleasures, and profits thereof. I will now endeavor to shew, in a few particulars, wherein this love of Christ is better than wine. 1st, It is preferable to it for its antiquity; good old wine is accounted the best; and therefore Christ says, No man having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new: for he saith, the old is better, Luke 5:39.

    Age makes wine better, but not oil, as Plutarch observes. Now no wine is comparable to this of Christ’s love, for its antiquity; for, as has been already shewn, it is a love which commences from everlasting; it does not bear date with time, but was before time was, and will be when time shall be no more. The Jews often speak of wine, that has been reserved in the grape ever since the creation of the world, which, they imagine, they shall drink in the earthly kingdom of the Messiah; but this wine of divine love was laid up and reserved in the heart of Christ long before the creation of the world: this excels all other wine for its antiquity. 2dly, It is preferable to wine for its purity; no wine so pure and unmixed as this of Christ’s love; it is wine on the lees well refined, free from all the dregs of deceit, hypocrisy, and dissimulation; it is a love unfeigned, a pure river of water of life. 3dly, It is better than wine, and is preferable to it for its freeness and cheapness; wine is not every one’s liquor, every one’s purse cannot reach it, especially in some countries; but this wine of Christ’s love, is to be had without money, and without price, than which nothing can be cheaper; nor is any thing freer, for it is freely shed abroad in the hearts of God’s people, by the Spirit. 4thly, For the plenty of it, it is preferable to wine; wine, as it is dear, so it is scarce in some places; but this, as it is cheap, and to be had freely, so there is plenty of it: in the marriage at Cana of Galilee, there was want of wine; but there is no want thereof in this feast of love, which Christ has made for his spouse and bride: this is a river, nay, an ocean of love, which flows forth in plentiful streams to poor sinners. 5thly, It is preferable to wine in the effects of it. 1. Wine will revive and chear a man that is of an heavy heart, and therefore it is advised to be given to such, Proverbs 31:6, yet it will not bring a man to life that is dead; but such is the nature of Christ’s love, that when it is conveyed into the heart of a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, it makes him alive; for whenever it is a time of love to a poor sinner, it is also a time of life; nay, it not only conveys life, but it maintains and supports it and keeps souls from dying; he that has had it shed abroad in his heart, by the Spirit, shall never die the second death. 2. Wine may remove a worldly heaviness, or a sorrow on the account of worldly things, the things of time; but not of spiritual heaviness, or a sorrow on the account of the things or another world, the things of eternity; but the manifestation of Christ’s love to the soul, can remove this sorrow and heaviness, and fill it with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, and give him that ease, comfort, and satisfaction of mind, he is wishing for: 3. If a man drinks never such large draughts of the wine of Christ’s love, it will never hurt him, when other wine, with excessive drinking of it, not only wastes the estates, but consumes the bodies, and destroys the health of men; but of this a man may drink freely and plentifully, without doing himself any hurt; nay, it will be of considerable advantage to him, and therefore says Christ, in chapter <220501> 5:1. Eat, O friends, yea, drink abundantly, O my beloved.

    No wonder then that the church was so desirous of enjoying Christ’s presence, and having the manifestations of his love to her soul, seeing his tore is thus better than wine; besides, it may be observed that she makes use of this as an argument with him to obtain her request; and in so doing, shews what a value she had for the love of Christ, how much she esteemed it, as also what it was she expected and sought after, in desiring communion with him.

    VERSE 3. Because of the savor of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee THE church having mentioned the excellency of Christ’s love, as the reason why she desired such intimate communion with him, proceeds in these words to take notice of his savory ointments and precious name; which were both so delightful, fragrant, and odorous, that even the Virgins, those chaste creatures, were ravished, and had fallen in love with him; and therefore it was no wonder that she, who was his spouse and bride, should express her love to him, and be so desirous of his company. In these words we have, I. The savor of Christ’s ointments expressed.

    II. The fragrancy and preciousness of Christ’s name declared:

    III. The influence that all this has upon the hearts of the virgins, in attracting their love to Christ: therefore do the virgins love thee.

    I. The savor of Christ’s ointments is here expressed by the church, as having knowledge of them herself, and as having observed the effect of them upon the hearts of others. By ointments we are to understand the graces of the Spirit of God, that oil of gladness with which Christ, as mediator, is anointed above his fellows; this was poured out without measure upon him; it is like the precious ointment upon Aaron’s head, that ran down upon his beard, and went down to the skirts of his garments; for this being poured upon Christ, the head, descends to all his members, from him they receive that anointing, which teacheth all things. In explaining these words, I will endeavor, First, T o shew why the graces of the Spirit in Christ, or in his members, are compared to ointments.

    Secondly, Why they are called Christ’s ointments.

    Thirdly, In what sense they are said to be good. And, Fourthly, What is meant by the savor of them.

    First, I shall endeavor to shew why the graces of the Spirit, either in Christ or in saints, are compared to ointments. 1st, With the holy anointing oil, which was made according to a divine prescription and direction, kings, priests, and prophets were formerly anointed, and thereby installed into their several offices: thus Saul, David and Solomon were anointed to be kings; thus Aaron and his sons were anointed to be priests; and thus E1isha was anointed prophet in the room of Elijah: now, as with this anointing oil these were anointed, and thereby installed into their offices; so Christ, with the anointing oil of the Spirit, was anointed, and thereby installed into those offices which he has taken upon him, and bears for the good of his people; it is with this he is anointed to be king, and is set over God’s holy hill of Zion; it is with this he is consecrated a priest for evermore, to offer sacrifice, and make intercession for transgressors; and this same Spirit being upon him, he is anointed therewith a prophet to ‘preach good tidings to the meek.’ Christ: as the glorious God-man, was anointed and installed into his office as mediator, from eternity; his human nature was anointed with the Holy Ghost, at the time of its conception in the virgin’s womb; and more visibly at his baptism, when the Spirit descended upon him as a dove; and still more gloriously at his ascension to, and session at the Father’s right hand, when he received from him the promise of the Spirit, and was made or declared to be both Lord and Christ: and it is with the same unction that saints are by him made kings and priests unto God; kings, because grace reigns in their hearts now, and they shall reign with Christ in glory, for ever hereafter; priests, ‘to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.’ 2dly, With this holy anointing oil, all the vessels of the tabernacle were anointed and made fit for use; to which saints may be compared, who are chosen vessels, vessels of mercy, that were fore-ordained for glory; now these, in their natural state, are not fit for their master’s use; yet when anointed with this unction, they are not only fit for their master’s present use here,, but are prepared for glory hereafter; the saints having the oil of grace, as well as the lamps of profession, are ready to go in with the bridegroom, whenever he comes and calls for them. 3dly, Anointing with oil was made use of for ornament; ‘it makes the face to shine,’ as the Psalmist says, <19A415> Psalm 104:15. Christ, as man and mediator, is adorned with the grace of the Spirit; he is ‘fairer than the children of men;’ and the reason is, because ‘grace is poured into his lips;’ he has a larger measure of this ‘oil of gladness’ than others, and therefore is ‘the perfection of beauty;’ he is ‘white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand;’ and as Christ is, so the saints are adorned herewith, and become beautiful in his eye, being “all glorious within:” by this grace they are purified and prepared, and so presented as a chaste and beautiful virgin to Christ. 4thly, Anointing with oils or ointments was used for chearing and refreshing guests at festivals, being very useful for this purpose in hot countries; the smell of which was very delightful and pleasing; hence Solomon says, ‘Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart,’ Proverbs 27:9.; and for this reason Mary brought ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus, to cool and refresh them while he sat at meat: these ointments, or graces of the Spirit, are the oil of gladness, both to Christ and to his people; in the exercise of them, he, as man, was delighted and refreshed, and so are his saints; the grace of the Spirit is, to them; the oil of joy for mourning; he, by his sweet influences and delightful operations on their souls, powerfully draws forth grace into exercise, and thereby administers much comfort to them; they are oftentimes filled with joy and peace in believing, being made to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. 5thly, Ointments are useful for mollifying and healing wounds, Isaiah 1:6. these being applied, soften hard tumors, break them, and then heal them; the hearts of sinners are hard and obdurate, being swelled with pride, vanity, and conceit of themselves; bat the ointments of divine grace being applied, softens them, breaks these hard swellings, makes their hearts contrite, and then heals them: Christ, the great physician, acting herein, like the good Samaritan, who had compassion on the wounded man, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.

    Secondly, We will now consider why these ointments are said to be Christ’s. 1st, They are of his making; as he is God, he has an all-sufficiency of grace in himself, underived from any other, and is the author of all grace; this excellent composition is all his own; this ointment is made and prepared by his own hand; the holy anointing oil, though of God’s prescribing,.yet it was not of his making, though according to the composition of it, no other was to be made; but these ointments are not only prescribed, but made by him, that is God; and none can make, according to the composition thereof; which shews the excellency of them. 2dly, He is the subject of them; as God, he is the author and maker, but, as mediator, they are communicated to him; they are poured into him, and upon him without measure; it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; they are his, not only because made by him, but because they are in his possession; he is anointed with them above his fellows . 3dly, They are his, because he has a right to dispose of them;they are his own as God, being the maker of them; and they are his own as mediator, being given to him; wherefore he may do what he will with them, as indeed he does; he gives these ointments to whom he will, and he gives them freely and plentifully; he has a fullness of all grace in himself, and from thence saints receive grace for grace. This ointment being poured plentifully upon the head, runs down freely to all the members; these ointments are first Christ’s, and then they are ours; he composed them as God, for our use and service, and they were given to him as mediator, for that purpose; grace in Christ, and grace in us, are of the same nature, though not of the same degree: grace in us is as in its streams, but grace in Christ is as in its fountain; it is but a small measure we have, but it is an infinite, and inexhaustible fullness that is in him; which may serve to recommend Christ to us, and direct us where to go for these oils or ointments.

    Thirdly, They are said to be good ointments, or oils; some oils are better than others, and some places produced better than others: Tekoah was the chief place for oil in Judea, and the next to it was Regab beyond Jordan; no doubt but Solomon had the best. The oils or ointments of the true Solomon are best of all. And of ointments there were various sorts, f42a as of roses, lilies, almonds, nard, myrrh, saffron, etc. and Syria, a neighboring country to Judea, was famous for some sorts of ointments, from whence Solomon might be supplied. 1st, They are good in their own nature — are an excellent composition, there is no ingredient in them but what is good; grace, as wrought in us, is called some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel; it is a good work, which being begun, shall be performed until the day of Christ. 2dly, These ointments are both made, and applied by a good hand; for he that has made them,, and he that anoints us with them, is God: The ingredients are net only good, but they are put together by a skillful hand; this unction is made by, and received from the Holy One. 3dly, They are good in their effects: they are good to make the face to shine, to adorn the saints, revive and refresh them; they are good to soften hard hearts, and heal wounded spirits; they are good to anoint the eyes with, and thereby recover, continue, and increase sight. 4thly, They are good in the believers esteem; they have had experience of their nature and effects; and can write probatum est upon each of them; and therefore highly value them, and with very good reason. For, 5thly, These ointments are exceeding rich and costly. The holy anointing oil was rich and cosily, being made of the. principle spices, but not to be comps, red with these; the ingredients of which are preferable to gold and silver, to rubies, and all things that can be thought of or desired; these are precious, rich, and costly ointments indeed. 6thly, Which makes them still more valuable, they never lose their efficacy; dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor; corrupt it so that it loses its virtue, and becomes good for nothing; grace cannot be lost and perish in the saints; the anointing, which they receive, abides in them; it is. an immortal seed, a well of living water, springing up into eternal life; and notwithstanding the dead flies of their sins and corruptions, yet they cannot make the ointment of grace send forth a stinking savor; corruptions do, but grace never will; it is not indeed always in exercise, but it never will lose its nature or its virtue; the saints lamps shall never go out, being supplied with oil from that fullness of it that is in Christ; Fourthly, These ointments are said to have a savor in them; precious ointments have a fragrancy a sweet savor in them, very delightful; a greater savor has the grace of Christ to a believer, who savors not the things of men, but the things of God; for, as the natural man, he receiveth not, that is, he savors not, the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness, unsavory and insipid things unto him: these ointments can no more be savory to a carnal man, than food can be relishing to a man of a vitiated taste, or music be delightful to a deaf man, or colors pleasant to one that is blind; for as the one wants his taste, the other his hearing, and the third his sight, so this man wants his smelling, and therefore these ointments cannot be savory to him; but they are so to the believer, who has his spiritual smelling; now by the savor of these ointments, is intended the manifestation of Christ’s grace unto the soul; the sense and perception which souls have of it, and their interest in it, fill them with pleasure and delight; and it was this which made the virgins love Christ, and the church so desirous of his company. There is an emphasis on the word thy; thy good ointments, none so odorous, so savory, and of so grateful a smell as his; as lovers used to admire and commend each others ointments, by which they sought to recommend themselves. f43 II. The church in these words declares the fragrancy and preciouness of Christ’s name, when she says, that his name is as ointment poured forth. It will be proper to enquire what is intended by the name of Christ, and in what sense that may be said to be as ointment poured forth. 1st, By the name of Christ may be meant his person, this being not an unusual way of speaking in the scripture; thus in Revelation 3:4. ‘Thou hast a few frames,’ that is, persons, ‘even in Sardis,’ etc. and in Matthew 12:21 ‘and in his name shall the Gentiles trust,’ that is, in the person of Christ shall the Gentiles trust; so here thy name is as ointment poured forth, that is, thy person is as delightful, grateful, and odorous to me, as the pouring forth a box of ointment; thou art altogether lovely to me, thy whole person is so; every thing in thee is engaging, and thou hast every thing to render thee desirable to me; all beauty, power, wisdom, and grace, are in thee, that it is no wonder the virgins love thee; for not only thy mouth, but all of thee is lovely and desirable. 2dly, By it may be intended some one, or any of those names by which he is called. As, 1. The Messiah or Christ, which signifies anointed. So that in comparing it to ointment, there may be an allusion to the signification of the name itself, and may more particularly point out which name is intended, even the name Messiah, to which Christ, in the New Testament, answers; which, though not very frequently met with in the Old Testament, yet was well known to the ancient Jews, as appears from their Targums, where it is made use of in upwards of sixty places, in which the Redeemer is treated of; and as it was well known, so it was highly esteemed of by them; they expected him who was to redeem Israel, under this title and character; and when he was come, and had revealed himself unto some, in an exulting manner they said one to another, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ; that name had been always precious to the saints, who waited for the consolation of Israel, and was then like a box of ointment poured forth, exceeding grateful, delightful, and refreshing to them. 2. Another name by which Christ is called, and which may be said to be as ‘ointment poured forth,’ is the name Jesus, which signifies a Savior, and was given him, because he ‘saves his people from their sins.’ Christ is, in the everlasting gospel, revealed as a Savior; it is therein declared, that the design of his coming into the world was to save sinners, and that he has obtained eternal salvation for them, and is both able and willing to save the chief of them; the discovery the gospel makes of him is exceeding delightful and pleasant to awakened sinners. This name Jesus, a Savior, how sweet is it to such who have seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin, themselves lost and undone thereby, and in a perishing state and condition! the news of a Savior are good news and glad ‘tidings of great joy’ unto them; the discovery of it is like the breaking open a box of ointment, and pouring it out; it at once removes the filthy stench of sin from the sinners nostrils, and that sadness and sorrow of heart which arise from the guilt of it upon the conscience. 3. Christ’s name, Immanuel, may be said to be as ‘ointment poured forth,’ which signifies ‘God with us;’ and there are two things in it which make it like ‘ointment poured forth,’ that is, exceeding odorous and grateful to believers. (1.) That he is God; hence they know, and are well assured, that he is able to save them; that the work is not too heavy for him; that he has not undertaken that which he is not able to accomplish, which they would have reason to believe, if he was only a creature: from hence they comfortably conclude, as well they may, that all he did was efficacious, and answered the purposes for which it was done; as that his sacrifice was effectual to atone for and expiate sin; his blood to procure the pardon of it, and thoroughly cleanse from it; his righteousness to justify from all sin, and render them acceptable in the sight of God; and all this, because they are the sacrifice, blood, and righteousness of one that is God. From this name they also gather, that he having taken the care and charge of them, is able to keep them from falling; and that none is able to pluck them out of his hands, no more than they can separate them from his heart, which they could not be so assured of, was he a creature. (2.) Another thing which makes this name like ‘ointment poured forth,’ is, that he is ‘God with us;’ God dwelling and conversing with us, God in our nature, God manifest in the flesh; hence it appears, that he who is the great God, and our Savior, is near akin to us, and we to him; being ‘flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone,’ we are both of one and the same nature, and therefore he is not ashamed to call us brethren; and his assuming our nature, gives him a right, as well as makes him a proper person to be our Goel or Redeemer, whereby all the blessings, which he procured in this nature, are communicated to us, and not to angels; now what makes this name still more sweet, savory and delightful, is, that he, who is Immanuel, God with us, God in our nature, is, and will be on our side; and if God be with us, and for us, who shall be against us? 4. Christ’s name, ‘the Lord our righteousness,’ may be said to be as ‘ointment poured forth,’ by which he is called, Jeremiah 23:6 this is exceeding grateful, sweet and precious to a poor sinner; one who has seen his own righteousness as filthy rags, and as an unclean thing, how does he value Christ as the Lord his righteousness! he counts all things but loss and dung, in comparison of him, and desires only to be found in him, and in his righteousness, and not in his own; but what makes this so exceeding precious to him, is, because it acquits from all sin, and secures from all wrath and condemnation, and renders him spotless, unblameable, and irreproveable in the sight of God. 5. Any, or all of those names of Christ, in Isaiah 9:6 may be said to be as ‘ointment poured forth,’ they being exceeding precious and delightful to believers; such as wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, and prince of peace. Christ’s name ‘Wonderful,’ is so; he being wonderful in his incarnation and grace, in his person and offices, in his works, relations and characters; this emits a sweet odor to believers, even like a box of ointment opened to them: and so is his name ‘counsellor;’ under which character he acted from everlasting, consulting with the other two persons, our eternal welfare in the ancient council of peace; and still continues to Bear this character, which he makes good, by giving to us the best advice and most wholesome counsel, and this he does freely and faithfully: his name, ‘the mighty God,’ carries in it as much sweetness and comfort to the believer, as it does greatness and majesty; and that endearing title, the ‘everlasting Father,’ who, as such, loves his children with an everlasting love, and has made everlasting provisions for them, and takes everlasting care of them, fills those he stands thus related to, with the utmost pleasure: and that noble character, the ‘Prince of Peace,’ which he bears on the account of his having, obtained peace by ‘the blood of his cross,’ for rebellious sinners, so sweetly diffuses the odor of his grace, that it charms and captivates the believer’s heart. The names of true lovers are dear to each other, to which the allusion is; they love to hear their names mentioned, which are as precious ointment, as delicious nectar. Or else, 3dly, By Christ’s name, we may understand his Gospel; thus, the apostle Paul is said to be a chosen vessel, to bear the name of Christ before the Gentiles, that is, to preach his gospel to them; he was a vessel full of the precious ointment of the gospel, and his preaching of it was the pouring of it forth, which was exceeding grateful to poor sinners, The gospel to some, is like a box of ointment shut up; it is hid unto them, they know it not, it is a sealed book, a hidden mystery, an unpleasant story, and unsavory words; it sends forth no other savor than that ‘of death unto death;’ but unto others, it is like a box of ointment opened, and poured forth, which diffuses and spreads a sweet and delightful odor abroad. The ministers of the gospel make manifest the savor of Christ’s knowledge in every place where they are sent, and become to some the ‘savor of life unto life;’ they open the box, and pour forth the ointment of the gospel, which coming with power, is received with pleasure; and being ‘worthy of acceptation,’ it sheets with it in the hearts of awakened sinners. 4thly, By the name of Christ, may be intended the fame which was, and still is spread abroad of him: some Jewish writer, expound it of a good name or good report, which Solomon says, ‘is better than precious ointment,’ Ecclesiastes 7:1, and then the sense is this, “such is the fame that is spread abroad of thee, of thy greatness and goodness, of thy beauties and excellencies, that even those who have only heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, and to whom, at present, thou art not known by sight, have fallen in love with thee.”

    In the days of Christ’s flesh, his name was renowned, his fame was spread far and near, for the good he did to mankind, in healing the sick, and curing all manner of diseases; for the surprising miracles which he wrought, and for the work of the ministry, which he was engaged in; his matter being excellent and divine, words of grace and wisdom, such as ‘never man spake;’ and his manner of delivery being with power and authority: and now his fame is great, and an excellent report is spread abroad of him, through the preaching of the everlasting gospel, for the mighty achievements of his grace, and what his arm of Almighty power has done, in working out, and bringing in salvation for poor sinners; as also for those peculiar blessings of grace, which souls daily receive from him, as well as for those personal excellencies which are in him; now such a report’ going abroad of him, his name being thus ‘as ointment poured forth,’ the virgins love him, souls flock after him, and come unto him. Which brings me to consider, III. The influence that all this has upon the hearts of others; ‘therefore do the virgins love thee.’ In explaining which clause, I shall endeavor, 1st, To show who are meant by the virgins. 2dly, Give some account of the nature of their love and affection to Christ. 1st, Let us consider who are intended by the virgins. Some think carnal professors are here meant, who are called virgins in scripture, though foolish ones; but their, love is not real, such as this seems to be in the text: others have thought that they are the uncalled and unconverted among the Gentiles, who are not yet espoused to Christ; but they rather appear to be true believers in Christ, by their love to him, for ‘faith works by love;’ and, perhaps, persons lately converted are intended, whose love to Christ is generally warm and lively, and their affections strong, not having as yet met with those chills, nor attended with that coldness and indifference, which too often, and too soon befal God’s children: the first love is the best and strongest, but oftentimes cloth not last tong warm and lively, being gradually chilled with the aboundings of corruption within, and the snares of the world without; though, perhaps, all true believers, whether of a later or of a longer standing, may be understood here, and may be justly called virgins, 1. For their chaste and strict adherence to Christ, their only husband, to whom they are espoused; ‘I have espoused you to one husband,’ says the apostle, ‘that I might present you a chaste virgin to Christ,’ Corinthians 11:2; these being betrothed to him in righteousness, in lovingkindness, in mercies, and in faithfulness, know, own and acknowledge him as their Lord and husband, and stedfastly adhere to him as such; he is a head, both of eminence and influence to them; to him they hold, and him alone they submit unto as such; he is the Savior of the body, the church, and they acknowledge him to be theirs, and will have no other. Their language is, ‘Ashur ahall not save us, neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods.’ They make use of none, as the mediator between God and them, either as a mediator of redemption, or of intercession, but the Lord Jesus Christ; him they know and love, to him they have given up themselves, and by him they will abide, as their head and husband, their Savior and Mediator. 2. For the singleness of their love and affection to Christ. Their love is not common to all; it is not bestowed upon any creature, but purely reserved for him who alone deserves it; they can every one of them say, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides thee,’ Psalm 73:25. Christ requires all their love, he will admit of no rival in it, and they are heartily willing to bestow it all upon him. Those who love any creature, or creature-enjoyment more than Christ, or equally with him, are not worthy of him, nor worthy to be called by the name of virgins. 3. For their incorruptness in the doctrine of faith: this is what the apostle seems to have a regard to, when he declared his fervent desire to present the Corinthians, as a chaste virgin to Christ; he was jealous, lest they should be seduced through the subtilty and craftiness of ill-designing men, and their pure minds be corrupted and drawn aside ‘from the simplicity that is in Christ;’ lest they should be polluted with error, and so not answer the character of virgins, which they had hitherto borne, and which he earnestly wished might continue with them. Now virgins are such, who having received, ‘hold fast the faithful word, as they have been taught;’ whose souls having been nourished up in the words of faith, and of good doctrines and established therein, cannot be moved from thence, but will earnestly contend, and strive together ‘for the faith once delivered to the saints.’ 4. For the truth and sincerity of their worship: they are such who ‘worship God in spirit and in truth;’ who make the word of God, and his will therein revealed, the rule to act by, in all solemn and social worship, and not the authorities, customs, and inventions of men; and when they are concerned in any part of religious worship, their desires are, that their hearts and souls may be engaged therein, they are not of those who draw near to God with their mouths, and with their lips honor him, but have removed their hearts far from him, and their fear towards him, taught by the precepts of ‘men;’ for as they have not committed spiritual whoredom, which is idolatry, so they serve the Lord with pure spirits; they desire that whatsoever they do, more especially in divine worship, might be done in faith, from a principle of love to God, and according to his word and will: these are they who are said not to be defiled with women, for they are virgins; ‘these are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,’ Revelation 14:4; in every ordinance and institution of his, which he in his word has pointed out unto them, and marked out for them. 5. For the purity of their lives and conversations; they hold ‘the mystery of the faith,’ not merely notionally and y a profession of it, but ‘in a pure conscience,’ and hereby ‘adorn the doctrine of God, our Savior;’ their garments are, in some measure, kept from being spotted with the ‘pollutions of the world,’ and which they also frequently wash and make ‘white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Besides, that ‘grace of God, which bringeth salvation,’ Titus 2:11,12, that is, the doctrines of grace, which bring the news of salvation by Christ, to poor sinners, ‘teach them, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;’ which, through the mighty power of God’s grace, they are in some measure enabled to do. 6. For their fairness and beauty. Virgins being fair and beautiful, believers are therefore compared unto them; for though they are black in themselves, yet they are comely in Christ; though full of spots in themselves, yet, as considered in him, they are ‘all fair, and there is no spot’ in them: through that comeliness, which he has put upon them, they are a perfection of beauty, and being so, are the delight of Christ, and wonder of angels. 7. For their gay and costly attire; and yet modest behaviour. Virgins, in their youthful days, if modest, though their attire is gay and splendid, suitable to their age; yet are of a decent and becoming behavior. Believers are richly attired: these virgins appear in cloth of gold, ‘in raiment of needlework,’ curiously wrought, which cannot be matched; they are decked with all kinds of ornaments, with bracelets, chains, rings, and jewels; they have on the glorious robe of Christ’s righteousness, and are adorned with the various graces of the Spirit, which make their behavior decent and modest; for they are not proud and haughty, one of their ornaments being that ‘of a meek and quiet spirit;’ they have low, mean; and humble thoughts of themselves; suitable to their character is their carriage and deportment; for though they are so richly clothed, and so nearly related to the King of kings, yet, like their Lord, are meek and lowly.

    Secondly, I shall now proceed to give some account of the love which these virgins bear to Christ: in doing which I shall, 1st, Give some account of the nature of it. 2dly, Shew from whence it arises. And, 3dly, How it manifests itself. 1st, Let us consider the nature and properties of it, 1. It is a superlative love which souls bear to Christ; it: exceeds and excels their love to all creatures, or creature-enjoyments. Christ loves them above all others, and they love him more than all persons or things besides; of all that claim a share in their love, as none deserves, so none has a greater interest therein than himself, 2. It is universal; they love all of Christ, and all that belong to him; they love him in his person, and in all his offices, relations, and characters, which he has took upon him, and by which he is pleased to manifest himself unto them: they love all his saints, be they high or low, rich or poor, and by whatsoever character or denomination, they are distinguished, if it appears that his grace is but wrought in their hearts, and they bear his image and superscription; they love all his commands, ordinances, and institutions; they ‘esteem his precepts concerning all things, to be right,’ and are not partial in their obedience thereunto, 3. It is, or at least ought to be, constant and faithful, as his is to them, and as Jonathan’s was to David: we should love him in adversity, as well as in prosperity, at all times; nothing should separate our love from Christ, as nothing can separate his love from us. 4. It is, or ought to be, fervent and ardent; and so it is usually at first conversion, as has been already observed; and this is called in scripture, the ‘first love,’ which the church at Ephesus was blamed for leaving: not that she had lost her love to Christ, but the fervency thereof was much abated; she began to grow cold and lukewarm in her affections, which is too often the case of God’s people, through the prevailing of corruptions, and an immoderate desire and pursuit after the things of this world; ‘because iniquity shall abound,’ says Christ, ‘the love of many shall wax cold,’ Matthew 24:12. 5. Where there is true love to Christ, it is always hearty and unfeigned: the virgins, true believers, love him ‘with all their heart, and with all their soul;’ they love him ‘in sincerity,’ and from their very hearts can appeal to Him, who is the heart-searching and rein-trying God, as Peter did, and say, ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee,’ John 21:17. Here is no deceit, dissimulation or hypocrisy in their love; though it may be sometimes weak and languid, yet whenever it exerts and shews itself, it is real and hearty; these love not ‘in word only,’ ‘neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.’ 2dly , It will be proper to enquire into the springs and causes of this love, and to observe from whence it arises. And, 1. It springs and arises from a sight of Christ’s loveliness: an unbeliever sees no beauty in Christ, wherefore he should desire him; there is nothing in him lovely to a carnal eye; but one that is ‘made light in the Lord,’ and has but a glimpse of ‘the King in his beauty,’ his heart is won, his soul is ravished and drawn forth in love to him; he admires and desires him above all, and cannot be easy without an interest in him. 2. From a view of his suitableness, as a Savior; the believer not only sees personal and transcendent excellencies in him, which ravish him, but special blessings, which are proper for him; he beholds him as ‘full of grace and truth;’ he smells a sweet savor in his ointments, and that name Jesus , a Savior, becomes exceeding precious to him; he views all righteousness and strength, peace and pardon, light and life, joy and comfort, grace and glory, and all things appertaining: to salvation, every thing to make him comfortable here, and. happy hereafter, in Christ; and therefore says, as David did, ‘I will love thee, O Lord, my strength,’ Psalm 18:1. 3. From a sense of his love and manifestation of it to their souls; ‘we love him,’ says the apostle, ‘because he first loved us,’ 1 John 4:19; our love is not the cause of his, but his is the cause of ours; and it is not merely his loving us, bur the shedding it abroad in our hearts by his Spirit, which draws out our love to him; for though he loved us, yet if he had not some way or other manifested it to us, andovercome our hearts with it, we should still have remained enemies to him; but his giving us the sense and perception of it in our hearts, is what has drawn us to himself, and will keep us there. 4. From a view of union and relation to him; how can persons do otherwise than love him, when they see themselves so nearly united to him, as to be ‘members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones?’ How can they but love him, when they view him standing in and filling up the relations of an indulgent father, a tender husband, a loving brother, and faithful friend unto them? 5. This is more and more increased by enjoying communion with him; the more intimate a believer is with Christ, the oftener he sees him, the more frequent visits he receives from him, and the greater acquaintance and fellowship he has with him, the more he loves him; every sight of him, visit from him, and enjoyment of his presence, add fresh strength and fervency to his love; John, the beloved disciple, who leaned on Christ’s bosom, and had intimate communion with him, had his heart filled with love to him, and wrote the rues; largely of it. But, 3dly , I shall now endeavor to shew how this love manifests itself: and it does so, 1. By a regard to Christ’s commands and ordinances; ‘If ye love me,’ says Christ, keep my commandments; for he that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me,’ John 14:15-21, that is, he that hath my commandments written upon his heart, by the finger of the Spirit, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace, and is enabled to keep them by the assistance of my grace and Spirit, he it is that shews his love to me; and therefore, as you say, you love me, shew it by an observance of my commands: and all that love Christ will do so, according to the measure of grace received; they will love the place of divine worship, and have a respect to all his ordinances and institutions; for all his tabernacles are amiable and lovely to them. 2. By a regard, to his truths, the doctrines of the gospel; they receive the truth in the love of it, and value it more than their ‘necessary food;’ they highly esteem the preachers of it. and cannot bear to hear one truth of the gospel spoken against. 3. By a regard to his people; they love the saints, who love Christ, they delight in their company, and take pleasure in conversing with them; they are the ‘excellent in the earth, in whom is all their delight,’ and indeed, where there is no love to the saints, there can be no true love to Christ; for, as the apostle John says, ‘he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?’ 1 John 4:20. 4. By a regard to his presence; a soul that loves Christ, values the presence of Christ; nothing so desirable to him as that is: and when he has lost sight of Christ, cannot be easy without him, but seeks here and there until he has found him whom his soul loves: he thinks himself never more happy, than when he has Christ’s presence, and never worse than when he is without it. 5. This love manifests itself, by parting with and bearing all for Christ: a soul that truly loves Christ, will part with all that is near and clear to him, for him; he will forsake his own kindred, and his father’s house; he counts Christ ‘the pearl of great price,’ and is therefore willing to quit all he has, that he may but enjoy that; he leaves all, as the disciples did, and follows Christ;and resolves, some what will, that Christ’s God shall be his God, and Christ’s people his people, and where Christ lodges he will lodge, and where he goes he will follow, and cleave close to him, as Ruth did to Naomi. Moreover, he is not only willing to leave and lose all for Christ, but also to bear all for him, that he is pleased to lay upon him, and call him to; he is willing to suffer reproaches, afflictions, and persecutions for the sake of him and his gospel, and to bear any cross whatever he thinks fit to enjoin him; all which he would never be willing to submit to, was not his soul filled with love to Christ; and such a love as this, which springs from such causes, and manifests itself in these ways, is exceeding grateful to Christ, as appears from chapter 4:10.

    VERSE Draw me, we will run after thee: The King hath brought me into his chambers. We will be glad and rejoice in thee: We will remember thy love more than wine; The upright love thee.

    THE church having taken notice of the excellency of Christ’s love, the savor of his ointments, and preciousness of his name, which made the virgins, her companions, love him; she persists in and continues her request, for communion with him, in these words; in which we have, I. A petition; ‘draw me.’

    II. An argument which she makes use of to obtain this request; ‘we will run after thee.’

    III. The request granted to her, which is acknowledged by her; ‘the King hath brought me into his chambers.’

    IV. The effects thereof, or the influence which this had upon her; ‘we will rejoice,’ etc.

    I. Here is a request or petition made by the church to Christ; ‘draw me.’

    What she intends hereby will be proper to consider. And, 1st, There is a powerful efficacious drawing of soul to Christ, at conversion, when God calls a poor sinner by his grace, brings him to Christ, enables him to venture upon him, and believe in him for life and salvation; which is what Christ speaks of in John 6:44 when he says, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me, draw him.’

    A soul’s coming to Christ for life, is not the produce of power and free-will in man, but of the grace of God in drawing, though it is not effected by force or compulsion; it is true, the sinner, in his natural estate, ‘is stouthearted, and ‘far from righteousness,’ averse to Christ and the way of salvation by him; but by mighty grace, this stout heart is brought down. and made willing to submit to God’s way of salvation; this obduracy is removed, and hardness of heart taken away by him, who has promised to take away the stony heart, and give an heart of flesh.’ Unconverted sinners are indeed unwilling to come to Christ for life; but those who belong to the election of grace, are made ‘willing in the day of Christ’s power:’ the manslayer did not more willingly flee from the avenger of blood, to the city of refuge, than a sinner, sensible of sin, and the danger of his state, does to Christ for salvation; for though a soul is not brought to Christ; by the power of his free-will, yet he is not brought against his will: drawing does not always suppose force and compulsion; there are other ways of drawing besides that. Thus the fame of a skillful physician draws many people to him; thus music draws the ear; love the heart; and pleasure the mind; as the poet says, ‘Trahit sua quemque voluptas.’ Nor is this done by mere moral suasion, which is what ministers use; knowing the terrors of the Lord, they persuade men: but if the mighty power of grace does not attend their ministry, not one soul will ever be converted; though they represent the joys of heaven and the terrors of hell, in never such a lively manner; speak in never such moving strains, and use the most powerful arguments to win upon souls; yet they will stretch out their ‘hands all the day, to a gainsaying and disobedient people;’ they will return with a ‘who hath believed our report?’ the arm of the Lord not being revealed unto them. God does not act as a mere moral cause in man’s conversion; he does not only propose an object, and then leave the will to choose, but powerfully and effectually works both to will and to do of his own good pleasure; for this drawing is accomplished by the secret and invisible power of his mighty grace: and in this sense is the word used, in Judges 4:7 when Deborah tells Barak, that the Lord had promised, saying, ‘I will DRAW unto thee, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitudes, and I will deliver him into thine hands;’ that is, ‘I will have the hearts of kings, generals, and captains of armies in my hands, and can turn them as the rivers of waters, whithersoever I will,’ will powerfully and invisibly work upon, move and incline Sisera’s heart to lead his army to the river Kishon, where I will give an instance of my power and goodness in delivering him into thine hands. Thus God powerfully and invisibly works upon the hearts of sinners, bends their wills, slays the enmity of their minds, allures and draws them to Christ, ‘suavi omnipotentia, & omnipotente suavitate,’ ‘by a sweet omnipotence, and an omnipotent sweetness;’ and this he does by revealing Christ unto them, in all his beauty and loveliness, discovering the love of Christ unto their souls; by the kind invitations of his grace, the precious and encouraging promises of the gospel, and the special teachings of his Spirit; all which is an evidence of his everlasting love; for it is, because he hath ‘loved them with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness’ he hath ‘drawn’ them; this is also a fruit of Christ’s death; ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth,’ says he, meaning his elevation upon the cross, ‘wilt draw all men unto me,’ John 12:32; that is, all that the Father hath given me, and has promised, shall be gathered to me, and whom I shall shed my blood for. Moreover, it is likewise an indication of the weakness and impotence of sinners, seeing they cannot come unless they are drawn; and sufficiently destroys the notion which advances the free-will and power of the creature in conversion: but I apprehend that this is not the drawing intended in this petition, for thus the church had been already drawn.

    The Septuagint read it, ‘They have drawn thee: at the smell of thine Ointments, will we run’; that is, the virgins have loved thee, and shewn their love to thee; and this has so took with thine heart, that it has drawn thee after them, they have thy company, which I want; but by the smell of those ointments, which thou carriest about with thee, I, and others, will run after thee, till we find thee: so that Christ, according to this version and sense of the words, is the person drawn, and not the person petitioned to, to draw; though the latter seems best to agree both with the Hebrew text, and the sense of the words.

    R. Aben Ezra thinks that they are the words of the virgins, who, every one of them, desire, saying, ‘draw me;’ we,’ every one of us, ‘will run after thee;’ but they seem rather to be the words of the church, desirous of more intimate communion with Christ; for there is, 2dly, A drawing to nearer communion with Christ, which believers oftentimes want, and are desirous of, and which the church had enjoyed; as appears from the following clause in this verse; in which she declares that ‘the king had brought her into his chambers,’ where he conversed with her, and disclosed the secrets of his heart to her: now this petition of hers for nearer communion with him, supposes, 1. A distance between Christ and her; not a distance with regard to union; for believers being one with Christ, they never are, nor can be distanced from him; they are always in this sense, ‘a people near unto the Lord;’ nor is there a distance of affection, for ‘having loved his own, which were in the world, he loves them to the end;’ they can never be separated from his love, seeing they are engraven as a seal upon his heart: but this is a distance as to communion; and, in this sense, Christ does sometimes stand at a distance, and hides himself from his people; as appears by their frequent complaints of it, they then thinking themselves forsaken and. forgotten by him. 2. This petition shews her uneasiness in this condition, and therefore she says, ‘draw me;’ not but that sometimes believers are lukewarm and indifferent; for falling asleep upon a bed of security, they become insensible of their condition, and therefore unconcerned about it; but when they are awakened, and find their beloved gone, their souls are troubled, and being impatient of delay, though in the night, as the church in chapter 3 arise from their beds, and in ‘the streets and broad ways’ seek him, whom their souls love. 3. This request shews the sense she had of her own inability to attain to a state of nearer communion with him: ‘when he hides his face, who can behold him?’ when he stands at a distance, who can come near him? if he is pleased to withdraw his presence, there is no commanding it; the light of his countenance, the enjoyment of his presence, and fellowship with him, are as much the instances of his distinguishing and sovereign grace, and as much depend upon his sovereign pleasure, as the first workings of grace itself; we can no more enjoy the one at pleasure, than we could effect the other; the same Spirit that wrought grace in us at first, must give us access into Christ’s presence; we need now the same bands and cords of love to draw us to Christ, as then we did. 4. It signifies the apprehension she seems to have of danger; draw me, or I shall be drawn away: believers may be sometimes under fearful apprehensions of being drawn away by the corruptions of their nature, the snares of the world, and the temptations of Satan; though they can never be drawn totally and finally from Christ. He has, by the cords of love, drawn them to himself; and though they may not always experience it, yet he will never leave his people till he has brought them safe to glory. 5. It shews that high value and esteem she had for communion with Christ, which makes her so earnestly importune that blessing, and use such pressing and repeated instances for the enjoyment of it; this was the ‘one thing’ she earnestly desired and sought for, yea, preferred to all other enjoyments. Moreover, II. Here is an argument made use of to obtain this request; ‘We will run after thee:’ or else it may be considered as the end of her asking this favor; ‘draw me,’ that we may ‘run after thee.’ Lord, do thou draw, that we may run, which we cannot do, unless thou dost; but if thou wilt, we shall run after thee. Here is a change of persons in these words; first she says, draw me, and then we will run after thee; by whom are meant, she, and the virgins her companions; the church, and particular members: every one in their stations would act with more life and vigor upon such drawings. ‘We will run after thee;’ this is not a running to Christ, as sinners do under apprehension of danger, as to a city of refuge, and saints, as to a place of protection, safety and security; but this is a running after him: Christ is the fore-runner who has gone before us, and left us an example, both in doing and suffering, as the fulfiller of righteousness, and the great captain of our salvation; and we must follow him the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth; and not only follow, but run. Our life is frequently, in scripture, called a race; Christ is the mark we must press after; heaven is the prize we should have in view; and the way or stadium in which we should run, are Christ’s commandments; though our running therein, or performing them, is not the cause of our obtaining the prize; for ‘it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that ‘sheweth mercy;’ yet running herein is our duty; which supposes, 1st, Chearfulness, readiness, and willingness; then, says David, ‘will I run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart,’ <19B932> Psalm 119:32.; that is, I shall observe them more chearfully, readily and willingly; it will remove that backwardness that is in me to duty. 2dly, Swiftness; ‘I made haste, and delayed not, to keen thy commandments,’ <19B960> Psalm 119:60 says the same psalmist such obedience as this, though far more perfectly than we are capable of, do the angels perform in heaven. 3dly, Strength; and this we have not; but there is fullness of it with Christ; who, whilst we are waiting on him, is pleased to renew our strength, so that we ‘mount up with wings as eagles, and run and are not weary, and walk and do not faint.’ Now this is the effect of that drawing, without which there is no running; we cannot set one step forward unless he speak to us, much less can we run, unless he draw us.

    III. Here is an account of the request being granted, which she observes with pleasure, ‘the King hath brought me into his chambers;’ though others read it, ‘Let the King bring me, or, O! that the King would bring me, etc.’ and so take it as a continuation of her desires after communion with Christ; but this is for want of knowledge in the Hebrew language, as Mercer observes: others think that the past tense is put for the future, and so read it, ‘The King shall or wilt bring me,’ etc as being expressive of her faith, that she should enjoy what she was desirous of. Junius renders it, ‘When the King shall have brought me,’ etc. and so carries in it the nature of a promise, as to her and her virgins future behavior upon the enjoyment of such a blessing; though I think it is much better rendered by our translators, ‘The King hath brought me,’ etc. and so signifies her enjoyment of the mercy she sought after. Wherein are three things to be considered, 1st, Who this King is, that brought her into his chambers. 2dly, What chambers those are, which he brought her into. 3dly, What is meant by his bringing there, or what this phrase is expressive of. 1st, Who this King is, not Solomon, for ‘a greater than Solomon is here,’ but the Lord Jesus Christ, who is kat ejxochwhole world, the King of the kings of the world, and the king of saints; he has, as he is God, an universal empire over all worlds, heaven, earth, and hell; and, as Mediator, has a kingdom given him by his Father, which he has purchased with his own blood, and by the mighty conquests of his grace, has brought into subjection to himself; in this kingdom he enacts laws for the subjects thereof, by which they are governed and kept in order; he subdues all their enemies, sin, Satan, and the world, protects them from all dangers; encourages his loyal and faithful subjects; courteously receives them, graciously takes notice of all their petitions, and supplies them with every thing needful for them: now this kingdom, which Christ, as Mediator, is possessed of, is of a spiritual nature, and managed in a spiritual way; it is kept in peace, being governed in wisdom and righteousness; and will continue for ever, when all other rule and authority shall be thrown down.

    But, 2dly, What chambers are these which this king is said to bring her into?

    Not the temple, into which Solomon introduced the people of Israel, which is the sense some give of the words; though there may be an allusion to the temple, and the chambers thereof, of which mention is made, Chronicles 28:11, 12 and more especially to the holy of holies, which was inaccessible to any but the high priest; as that, which was typified by it, is to any but Christ the high priest, and those who belong to him, to whom he gives access, and who have boldness and liberty to enter into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus: nor do I think that by them are meant those everlasting mansions of peace and rest, which are in Christ’s Father’s house, which he is preparing for his spouse, and bride, and into which he, ere long, will introduce her, where they will keep an everlasting nuptial feast; for at present she could not say, that she was brought thither, though she might be assured of it, that she should, by those kind intimations of his love unto her; therefore it seems better to understand them either, 1. Of those chambers of intimate communion and fellowship; which Christ sometimes brings his people into, and of which they are exceeding desirous: this inestimable blessing Christ frequently grants to his people in his ordinances; for he does not always suffer them to stand without, in the outer courts, but sometimes takes them into his inner chambers, where he discloses the secrets of his heart unto them, gives evident intimations of his love, and fills their souls with divine consolation: or else, 2. The doctrines of the gospel, which contain the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the mysteries of his grace) which he brings his people gradually into, and shews them those things which eye hath not seen, neither hath ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived of: He took me, as if she should say, into his chambers, and there more thoroughly instructed me into his mind and will; gave me to know more fully the mysteries of the kingdom; opened all the treasures of his grace, and shewed me all his riches, and glory contained therein. Now this sense suits well with a practice much used by the Jews, who frequently taught in chambers, where they also met together to converse about, and determine matters in religion, as fully appears from their writings; and we have many hints in the New Testament, which confirm it; it was in such a chamber that Christ kept the passover, and instituted the Lord’s Supper, and gave there a discovery of the nature of his death and sufferings to his disciples: in such a room the disciples met together, after his ascension; and in such an one Paul preached till midnight. But, 3dly, What is meant by being brought into these chambers; or what does this phrase import, or express? 1. On Christ’s part. (1.) An acknowledgement of her to be his bride; he having espoused her to himself, and solemnized the marriage among her friends, which was the Jewish custom, takes her home to himself as his spouse and bride, to live and converse with him; leads her into his chambers, and there unlocks all his treasures; shews her all his riches and glory, and puts her into the possession of them. (2.) It imports wonderful condescension in him, that he, who is the King of kings, should vouchsafe to regard such a worthless creature, as the church is in herself; and much more espouse her to himself, and in such a kind, loving and familiar manner, give her access to his person, and all he has, and grant her such intimate communion and fellowship with him. (3.) It shews us, that all our nearness to, and communion with God, are in and through Christ; it is he that gives us ‘access into the grace wherein we stand,’ and leads us into the presence of his Father; he is our only way of access unto him, and acceptance with him. 2. On her part; they being her words, shew, (1.) That she does not ascribe this to herself, but to his powerful and efficacious grace; she was conscious of her own inability, and therefore makes application to him, and, having obtained her desires, acknowledges it to the glory of his grace; who ‘brought, or caused her to come,’ as the word may be rendered, notwithstanding all difficulties and obstructions which lay in the way. (2.) This she does with thankfulness, in an exulting manner, as this way of speaking testifies, and the following words declare: what was before matter of prayer, is now the subject of praise; she owns, with gratitude, as became her, the mercy she had received. (3.) It seems to be in a boasting way and manner that she speaks.

    Believers are allowed to glory in the Lord, and boast of what he has done for them, and manifests to them, that his grace may be magnified, others take notice of it, and they be encouraged in their addresses to him: the church here might have an eye to the virgins or daughters of Jerusalem.

    IV. We have, in these words, the effects or consequences of the church’s enjoying this valuable blessing, as they appear in her or her members, or her daughters, ‘the virgins.’ 1st, Gladness and rejoicing in Christ; ‘we will be glad and rejoice in thee.’

    The several clauses of this text, some think, should be considered thus; f56 the first clause, ‘Draw me,’ as the words of the church; the next, ‘We will run after thee,’ the chorus of the virgins; then the church again says, ‘The King hath brought me into his chambers;’ and after that the virgins, ‘We will be glad, etc.’ but whether the church, or the virgins, or both, are here intended, it is certain, that this is the language of believers, of whose joy Christ is the object: they rejoice, not in themselves, neither in their works, nor graces, nor frames, but in the Lord Jesus Christ: this is one part of the character which the apostle gives of true believers; they are such who ‘rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,’ Philippians 3:3. 1. They rejoice in his person, in his greatness, fitness, fulness, and glory, as he is God and man in one person; for, being so, he is able to be their Savior, a proper person to be a Mediator, has all fullness of grace treasured up in him, and appears to be ‘the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person;’ a view of, and communion with, such an one, must needs fill the believer with ‘a joy unspeakable and full of glory,’ 2. They rejoice in what he has done for them; he is the Lord Jehovah, ‘who has done great things for them, whereof they are glad;’ he engaged as their surety in the everlasting covenant, and in the ‘ullness of time’ assumed their nature, finished and made reconciliation for their sins, satisfied Divine Justice, fulfilled a righteous law, brought in and clothed them with an everlasting righteousness, procured the pardon of all their sins; and, in short, has secured all grace and glory for them;and when they consider all this, they cannot but be glad and rejoice in him. 3. They rejoice also in what he is unto them, as well as in what he has done for them; he stands in and fills up all relations to them; he is their ‘everlasting Father,’ their kind and loving brother, their tender and indulgent husband, their constant and faithful friend, and indeed, their ‘all in all;’ he is every thing unto them, for he ‘of God is made unto them, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;’ and when they consider him under all these endearing characters and relations, it is no wonder that they are heard to say, ‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in the God of my salvation, etc.’ 2dly, Another effect of the church enjoying such intimate communion with Christ, is a remembrance of his love; ‘We will remember thy love more than wine.’ I have already, on verse 2. shewn you the preferableness of Christ’s love to wine and shall not here repeat it, but only shew, 1. What it is to remember Christ’s love. 2. Why we should, and why every believer will do so. 1. What it is to remember it. (1.) It is so to record it in our minds, as not to forget it we should, with David, call upon our ‘souls, and all that is within us, to bless his holy name, and forget not all his benefits,’ <19A301> Psalm 103:1,2; and more especially we should not forget his love, from whence they all spring. (2.) We should often meditate upon it; which would not only serve to advance the glory of divine love; but would sweetly ravish our souls, raise our affections, inflame our love, and quicken our faith. (3.) We should constantly observe that ordinance, which Christ has appointed for this purpose, namely, the Lord’s Supper; it being his design in the institution of it, that we should remember him, his broken body and precious blood, and particularly his special love, which appeared in all. (4.) We should so remember it, as to have our desires more strongly after it, and our affections more firmly fixed upon it: Christ’s love is excellent and valuable; it is preferable to life itself, and all the comforts of it; and a frequent revolving it in our minds will enlarge our desires after a greater knowledge of it, and heighten our value for, and esteem of it. (5.) We should so remember it, as to exercise faith in it; for it will bring us but little comfort, and do us but little service, unless we can, in some measure, appropriate it to ourselves, saying, with the apostle, ‘He hath loved me, and hath given himself for me;’ it will afford us no solid joy and comfort, that he has loved others, if we have no reason to hope and believe that he hath loved us; for it is faith’s viewing a peculiar interest in this love, that fixes a sense of it more firmly upon the mind. (6.) It then appears, that this is uppermost in our minds, when we speak and make mention of it to others; and, indeed, that should be the subject of our discourse now, which will be the delightful theme of glorified saints to all eternity. But, 2. Why should we, and why will every believer remember Christ’s love, value and esteem it more than wine? 1. Because it is worthy of remembrance, in its own nature, and in its effects, as has been already shewn; it is ‘better than wine;’ it is great and glorious, stupendous and unparalleled, matchless and boundless, everlasting and unchangeable; it ‘passeth knowledge, and is the source and spring of all the grace we now receive, and of all the glory we are expectants of.’ 2. It would be ungrateful in us not to remember it; should we be unmindful of, and forget this love, and the benefits which spring from it, we should be justly chargeable with the vile sin of ingratitude; and it might be very pertinently returned upon us, what Absalom said to Hushai, ‘Is this thy kindness to thy friend?’ 2 Samuel 16:17. 3. Because he hath remembered us, and that ‘in our low estate, because his mercy endureth for ever;’ even when we were in the depths of sin and misery, could not help ourselves, and were so far from having any love to him, that we were in open rebellion against him; yet such was his amazing love to us, that he raised us ‘beggars from the dunghill, washed us from our sins in his own blood,’ and made ‘us kings and priests to God and his Father; and shall we not remember? can we be forgetful of this love? 4. A remembrance of it promotes our own comfort and edification, serves to make sin odious and detestable, and is oftentimes useful to excite and revive grace, to banish our doubts and fears, and make the person of Christ more precious to us. 3dly, Another effect or consequence of the church’s being brought into the chambers of near fellowship and communion with Christ, is, that the love of his church and people is the more drawn forth to him, who here go under the character of upright ones, ‘the upright love thee;’ or, according to the Hebrew text, ‘uprightnesses love thee;’ the abstract for the concrete; which intends upright men, or men of uprightness, as being the persons who love Christ; unless with R. Sol. Jarchi, we take it to be expressive of the sincerity of their love, and so read it, ‘in uprightnesses, or with an uptight love they love thee:’ R. Aben Ezra thinks it is the adjective of wine, before-mentioned, and intends the excellency, sweetness, and incorruptness of it, as in chapter 7:9 and the sense then is this, ‘we will remember thy love more than wine, yea, more than uptight wine,’ or wine that goes down sweetly, ‘do they love thee:’ though I rather think it intends the character of the persons who love Christ. I have already, on the preceding verse, shewn the nature of this love, with which souls love Christ, from whence it springs, and how it manifests itself; and shall now only consider the character of those persons who are here said to love him, namely, upright ones; and they are, 1. Such who are said to be ‘upright in heart,’ of whom mention is made in <19C404> Psalm 124:4. ‘Do good, O Lord, to them that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts;’ such are they who have a work of grace wrought upon their souls; whose hearts are right with God, and desire to worship him with their whole hearts; who live by faith on Christ, and his righteousness, and whose words and actions are without dissimulation; such are ‘Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile.’ 2. Who are of an upright conversation, as in Psalm 37:14. These are they who walk according to the rule of God’s word; they are not partial in their observance of his commands, but have a regard to them all; they make a conscience of avoiding lesser, as well as greater sins; and in all their obedience to the divine will, seek the honor and glory of God; and what they do, they do in faith, and from a principle of love to God and Christ. Junius understands this clause of the sincerity and uprightness of the love of the church and her friends to Christ, and reads it in connection with the former thus, ‘We will remember thy love more than wine, and whosoever most uprightly love thee;’ that is, whoever bear a sincere affection to thee will do the same.

    VERSE 5. I am black, but comely; O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. THE church in the preceding verses had directed her speech to Christ, where we have observed the request she makes, and the success of it, and also the comfortable and grateful frame of Spirit produced by it: here she turns herself to ‘the daughters of Jerusalem,’ and gives an account of her person and state, and delivers her mind to them in this and the following verse. Wherein may be considered, I. The persons she speaks to, ‘the daughters of Jerusalem.’

    II. The character which she gives of her herself.

    III. The reason of her so doing.

    I. The persons she speaks to, are ‘the daughters of Jerusalem:’ and seeing these are frequently mentioned in this Song, it will be necessary to consider who are meant by them. R. Sol. Jarchi would have them to be the Gentiles, who, he says, are so called, because Jerusalem shall be the metropolis of all nations, according to Ezekiel 16:61. ‘I will give them unto thee for daughters;’ and that they are, in the same sense, ‘the daughters of Jerusalem,’ as the towns of Ekron are called in Joshua 15:45. ‘the daughters of Ekron; but it is much better to understand them of particular churches, of which, ‘Jerusalem that is above,’ or that ‘general assembly, and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven,’ is the mother; though I rather think, young converts are intended by them, who, perhaps, had not as yet joined themselves to the church, though they had a very great respect for her, as is manifest from chapter 5:9 they seem to be very weak, and their knowledge of Christ but small, yet desirous of knowing him and seeking him with her. (See chapters 5:8 and <220601> 6:1) And it is very evident, that not only the church, but Christ also, had a very great respect for them, from chapter 3:9, 10, 11. They were her friends and companions, distinct from mother’s children, mentioned in the following verse, and were far from being enemies either to Christ or his church.

    II. To these persons she gives a character of herself. 1st, She makes a concession that she was black. 2dly, Notwithstanding asserts that she is comely. And, 3dly, Uses some similies to express both by, ‘as the tents of Kedar, the curtains of Solomon.’ 1st, She ingenuously and frankly acknowledges that she was black. This is not to be understood literally of Pharaoh’s daughter, whom Solomon had married; and whose mother, Grotius conjectures, might be an Arabian, and so these words be expressive of her natural complexion; but this is not intended, nor, perhaps, is there so much as an allusion to it; but rather to a shepherdess, or keeper of vineyards, made black by lying in the fields, as the following verse seems to intimate. The Targum applies it to the people of Israel, when they made the calf, and says, that then ‘their faces became as black as the Ethiopians, that dwell in the tents of Kedar; but when they returned, by repentance, and were forgiven, the brightness of the glory of their countenances was increased, as the angels:’ but the words are expressive of the spiritual estate and complexion of the church of Christ, and of all believers in him; who may be said to be black, and comely; black by sin, comely by grace: Black, 1. Upon the account of the many spots, blemishes, and infirmities; for though they are fair and spotless, as considered in Christ, yet they are black and full of spots, as considered in themselves; sin dwells in them and they are sometimes overcome, and carried captive by it; it is always present with them; this body of sin and death, they carry about as their burden; neither will they be rid of it in this life; for ‘if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’; the most holy and righteous man on earth is not without it; every one is both disturbed and defiled with it, and therefore in this sense may be said to be black; and so the Jewish doctors expound it, of the sinful actions and evil works of the congregation of Israel. 2. The church of Christ may be said to be black, oftentimes on the account of those swarms of hypocrites and heretics that appear in it; there have always been more or less of them in the church, in all ages, which have been ‘spots in their feasts of charity.’ There was a Cain in Adam’s family, a Ham in Noah’s, an Ishmael in Abraham’s, an Esau in Isaac’s, and a Judas among Christ’s disciples; these goats have always been among Christ’s sheep, these tares grow up among his wheat, and will do so, till he shall divide the sheep from the goats, and take his fan in his hand, and thoroughly purge his floor. Now upon the account of these, and the several heresies, schisms, and divisions, which frequently arise, and are made in the church of Christ, she may be said to be black: And also, 3. By reason of the persecutions and reproaches of the world, which the church of Christ, and all believers in him sustain; for they that ‘will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution’ of one kind or another; if not confiscation of goods, fines, imprisonments, racks, tortures, yea death itself, which in some ages of the world, have been the lot of God’s children, yet, at least, loss of their good name, credit, and reputation; for if they are loved by Christ, they must expect to be hated by men; if they have peace in him, in the world they must have tribulation; they may be sure of being vilified by the world, and backbited and reproached by carnal professors; and this is what the church seems to ascribe her blackness to, in the following verse. So in Zohar, this blackness is, by the Jews, expounded of the captivity of the people of Israel. 4. She may be said to be black, with sorrow and mourning; black color not only being the habit of mourners, but does also, in scripture, express grief and sorrow itself. See Jeremiah 8:21 and Jeremiah 14:2. The sins and corruptions of God’s people, oftentimes put them in this mourning habit; as David says, when he was under a sense of his manifold iniquities, ‘I go mourning all the day long,’ Psalm 38:6 or nearer the Hebrew, ‘I go in black all the day long;’ the coldness, hypocrisy, and formality of professors, give them much uneasiness: the many errors and heresies among them, and the persecutions and reproaches, both of the world and carnal professors, produce this black hue and mournful color. 5. They are black in the eyes of the world, which indeed is no wonder; for the men of the world see no beauty nor comeliness in Christ himself, and therefore not any in his people; they being, in their eyes, mean, abject, and contemptible, despised by them, and accounted as the refuse and ‘offscouring of all things.’ But notwithstanding all this she could say, 2dly, That she was comely, that is, beautiful and desireable, having graceful features, and a just symmetry and proportion. Now the church, and every believer in Christ, may be said to be comely. 1. By the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, whereby they are justified from all sin, and stand spotless and irreprovable in God’s sight; their own righteousness is as filthy rags, and rather detracts from, than adds to their comeliness; but Christ’s righteousness being that ‘fine linen, clean, and white,’ with which being arrayed, they are ‘adorned as a bride for her husband,’ they appear perfectly comely through the comeliness which Christ has put upon them; they are no ways comely in themselves, but in Christ they are a perfection of beauty. 2. By the sanctifying grace of the Spirit, whereby they are made new creatures; Christ is formed in their hearts, and they are conformed to him, who is the ‘first born among many brethren;’ his image is impressed upon them, and all the parts of the new man are in a just proportion in them, though not grown up to their perfection; and thus being made partakers of the divine nature, and appearing in the beauties of holiness, they are all glorious and comely within. 3. Believers are so in their church-state, having fellowship with Christ,and with one another, walking together in, and according to the commands and ordinances of Christ Jesus: a church of Christ, in gospel order, is beautiful for situation; all her tabernacles are amiable and lovely; and enjoying the presence of Christ in them, is ‘beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army with banners.’ O how comely are the saints in their goings in Zion! a more lovely sight than this can scarce be seen; they are then like a ‘company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.’ 4. However black believers may be in the eyes of the world, they are certainly comely in the eyes of Christ; who often, in this song, calls his church his ‘fair one,’ and ‘the fairest among women;’ however undesirable she was to others, she was very desirable to him; her eyes, cheeks, lips, teeth, head, hair, neck, etc. are commended and praised by him; so much beauty and comeliness appeared in her, that his heart was even ravished with her; and so long as he thinks her comely, it matters not what opinion others entertain of her. 3dly, She makes use of some similies to express both her blackness and her comeliness, ‘as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.’ Some think that these refer to both parts of her character; and suppose that the tents of Kedar, though they were mean and abject without, yet were full of wealth and riches within; and a number of them together made a fine appearance, as Dr Shaw relates they now do; and that Solomon’s curtains or hangings had an outward covering, which was not so rich and valuable as that within; and so are both designed by the church to represent unto us, that though she was mean and abject in the eyes of the world, yet she was rich, glorious, and beautiful within: the outside of a believer is only seen by the world, and they judge of him accordingly; his inside is hid from them, as the riches of Kedar’s tents, and the fineness of Solomon’s curtains were from those who viewed the outside only; though I rather think her blackness is designed by the one, and her comeliness by the other. 1. For her blackness she compares herself to the tents of Kedar. Kedar was the second son of Ishmael, Genesis 24:13 whose posterity dwelt in the deserts of Arabia, Isaiah 42:11 and their employment being to feed cattle, Isaiah 60:7 they dwelt in tents, <19C004> Psalm 120:4,5 which were made of hair-cloth, and that of goats hair; which being always exposed to the sun and rain, were very black, looked very mean and contemptible: f66 they had no other houses but these; and because they always, dwelt in them, removing and pitching them at pleasure, therefore they were called Scenites. Now the church compares herself to these mean, black and despicable tents, on the account of the sins and infirmities of herself, the carnality and hypocrisy of others, the many errors and heresies she was vexed with, as well as the persecutions and reproaches of men, which oftentimes oppressed her, as has been already observed. 2. For her comeliness, she compares herself to the curtains of Solomon.

    The Septuagint read it, wjv derreiv Salwmw>n , as the skins of Solomon; and so the Vulgate Latin likewise; which version Gilbert Foliot f68 following, in his Exposition of this place, says, it is not to be understood of the skins of sheep, goats, or any other animal, but of the very skin of Solomon himself; who being a rich king, and living deliciously, he supposes was very comely and beautiful; to whose fine skin he thinks the church here compares herself, to set forth her comeliness: but this is much better referred by Alcuin, his countryman, to the skins of slain beasts, of which, he thinks, Solomon made tents for himself; though it seems rather to intend those rich hangings of tapestry, which Solomon had, either about his bed, or in the several apartments of his house; which, no doubt, were very rich, costly, and glorious, he being so great and wealthy a prince: or his garments, as Theodoret, see Matthew 6:29; and therefore the church, on the account of her perfect comeliness, thro’ Christ’s righteousness put upon her, and the curious and embroidered work of the Spirit of God in her, as also her walk in gospel-order, compares herself to these curtains or hangings. Moreover, by a metonymy, may be understood, both in this and the preceding comparison, the persons who dwelt in Kedar’s tents, and Solomon’s courtiers, who lived in those apartments of his which were so richly hung; the former being black, and the latter dwelling in the palace of a wealthy king, and faring deliciously, were no doubt, plump and comely: though neither Solomon nor any of his courtiers, could come near the church for beauty and comeliness; and to this sense agrees Junius’s version of the text. But, III. Let us now consider the reason of her giving this account of herself to the daughters of Jerusalem: her design seems to be to obviate what might be objected by, and remove whatever might be discouraging in her to the daughters of Jerusalem, those young converts; they might object to her, Thou talkest of being brought into the king’s chambers, and having nearness of access unto him, how can it be, that one so black as thou art, should be taken notice of by so great a person, and have such nearness to him, who appears to be so mean and so unworthy thereof? To this she answers, by granting, that she was black in herself, but yet was comely, through his comeliness; in him she was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and it was this that gave her the favor and acceptance she had with him.

    Again, It might be objected, How canst thou be cheerful, when thou art so black, loaded with persecutions and afflictions, and hated and despised by all? This she obviates by observing, that the world could not see her inward glory, and therefore passed a wrong judgment upon her; and that the unseen glory, riches, beauty, and perfection in Christ, supported her under all reflections, persecutions, and reproaches.

    Also the sins and infirmities which they saw in her, as well as the sufferings she was exposed unto, might stumble those young converts, and be a means to deter them from the ways of Christ, and joining with his church and people; and seeing there was danger of this, therefore she informs them of her beauty as well as of her blackness; of her grace, as welt as of her corruptions; of her glory, as well as of her sufferings; and in doing this, her design is to engage and encourage them to go with her; in all which, she discovers her strength of faith in Christ, and his righteousness, notwithstanding all her sins and sufferings; of which she gives a farther account in the following verse.

    VERSE 6.

    Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: My mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards but mine own vineyard have I not kept.

    THE church, here continues her discourse to the daughters of Jerusalem: And, I. Desires of them, not to look upon her.

    II. Gives a reason why she would not have them do so, because I am black; of which blackness she assigns several causes; some of which are mot, near, others more remote. 1st, ‘Because the sun had looked upon her.’ 2dly, ‘Her mother’s children were angry with her.’ 3dly, ‘They had made her the keeper of the vineyards.’ 4thly, This occasioned a neglect of her own; mine own vineyard have I not kept; all which produced this blackness in her; for it was not her true and native color.

    I. She desires the daughters of Jerusalem not to look upon her; which may be understood, either, 1. Of a look of scorn and disdain: she was now in suffering circumstances, surrounded with a variety of enemies, exposed to a multitude of troubles, and liable to many failings and infirmities; for which reasons she might be jealous of falling under their scorn and contempt, and therefore says, Look not upon me. The meanness, poverty, and sufferings of the saints, render them contemptible to the world; and the failures and imperfections of their lives are oftentimes thrown in their teeth, and this, too often, by professors themselves; but this we should be very careful of, that we do not treat our fellow-Christians after such a manner: we should be far from slighting a believer under sufferings, or carrying with a disdainful air to a fallen saint; for we should consider, that we also are in the body, and liable to the same temptations. Or else, 2. It means a curious and prying look into her failings and infirmities; conscious she was to herself of them, but knew it was not their duty, tho’ perhaps they too often made it their business, to look into them. There are some who are never better, than when thus employed, in exposing of the saints; they watch for their haltings, and are glad to report and spread a tale of the infirmities of their brethren; their eyes pierce like vultures, and fasten upon nothing else but corruption: but such a curious, prying look as this, is condemned by Christ, Matthew 7:3,4,5. ‘And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye,’ etc. If God did as strictly observe and mark our iniquities, as we are too apt to mark one another’s, what would become of us! This consideration should deter us from a practice so vile in itself, so dishonorable to religion, and which is so highly resented by Christ. 3. It may also signify a looking with delight and pleasure at her afflictions and falls, which, perhaps, she was suspicious of: this was what Edom was blamed for, in Obadiah v. 12, 13. ‘but thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother,’ that is, with joy and pleasure, as the following words shew; ‘neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah, in the day of their destruction,’ etc. believers should be so far from such a temper as this is, that they should rather sympathize with them in their sufferings and fails, than triumph over them; for ‘let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.’ Or, 4. She would not have them look upon her as persons astonished and amazed at her present sufferings, as though some strange and unaccountable thing had happened to her; for they need not be surprised, when they consider, that Christ, her head and husband, the holy and the harmless one, was treated after the same, yea, after a much worse manner; that the sufferings which she underwent, were but what were appointed for her, and would all end in God’s glory, and her own good; therefore she would have them not be startled at them, nor be discouraged by them from joining with her. 5. She would have them not to look at her blackness only, but also at her beauty; it is true, she was black in herself, and that she acknowledges; but then she was comely in Christ, and that she would have them take notice of, as well as the other: she would have them look upon Christ, who is ‘white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand,’ who is altogether lovely and exceeding comely, and consider her in him, and not as she was in herself, for that might be frightening and discouraging to them.

    II. She proceeds to give the reason why she would not have them look upon her, because, says she, ‘I am black;’ she had said this before; but here she uses the same word in another form, which some think is to diminish the signification of it, and that she was not so black as they thought her to be, or had represented her; and read it ‘blackish,’ or ‘somewhat black’; f71 though the doubling of the radicals seems rather to increase the signification, as in other places, see Psalm 45:5; Proverbs 8:31 and therefore should be read, ‘because I am very black or exceeding black; f72 and this she here mentions again with this addition, that she might have an opportunity to give an account of the particular reasons thereof; which reasons are as follow: 1st, She declares, that one reason of her blackness was, ‘because the sun had looked upon her.’ The Ethiopic version has it, ‘because the sun hath not looked upon me,’ that is, not kindly and gently, which would be pleasant and delightful; but severely, as to scorch her, and therefore looked black: and so Ambrose reads the words; but interprets them of the Sun of righteousness, who had not shone upon her, being deprived of which she had not attended to her devotion and observance of the commands, which had brought blackness upon her. 1. The Targum expounds this of the congregation of Israel, which was made black by the idolatrous worship of the sun and moon; against this, a law was provided, it was strictly prohibited by God, Deuteronomy 17:3 but yet was very early in the world; most nations under the sun fell into it; some worshipped the sun under one name, and some under another, and all paid a regard unto it; this idolatrous worship seems to have obtained in Job’s time, see Job 31:26,27 and the Jewish nation was not exempt from it; they frequently fell into it. and were blackened by it, see Kings 23:5-11, Ezekiel 8:16, for idolatry, error, and superstition, will make the church black. 2. Others understand it of Christ, ‘the Sun of righteousness;’ and that she was made black, either by suffering for him, or else by being in his company, in whose presence, all other beauty, but his oxen, vanishes and disappears. Thus a person that is not of a fair complexion, being in the company of one that is, looks abundantly worse than if viewed alone:

    Christ’s beauty infinitely exceeds any that is in us; there is no comparison between them; we look black, exceeding black, when compared to Christ.

    But, 3. I should rather choose to understand it of the sun of persecution, for under this name it goes in Matthew 13:6 compared with v. 21, and this seems to suit better with the church’s present state and circumstances; and, indeed, every one ‘that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution,’ from the tongues, if not from the hands of men: and this persecution, which the church underwent, seems to be a very vehement one, in that she compares it to the looks and scorchings of the sun; and it must continue some time upon her, to make and leave such visible marks and impressions upon it; and yet she patiently endured all, and bravely ‘bore the heat and burden of the day,’ and seems to be no more ashamed of her sufferings, than she was of the person and cause for whom she suffered. The allusion is to persons burnt with the sun, and so made black or swarthy, as in some countries; and especially to such who are much in the fields, and employed in rural work, as the church is represented as a keeper of vineyards and of flocks of sheep, in the following words. 2dly, Her “mother’s children were angry with her.” To her outward persecutions were added intestine broils; it is therefore no wonder she looked so black as she did: oftentimes a man’s worst enemies are those of his own house. The Targum by mother’s children understands the false prophets, who taught the congregation of Israel to serve idols, and walk in the statutes of the people; by reason of which, she served not the Lord, neither walked in his statutes, nor kept his precepts and his laws. R. Sol.

    Jarchi thinks the Egyptians are intended, among whom the Israelites were brought up; many of whom came along with them out of Egypt, and were frequently the cause of their falling into sin: but rather we are to understand by mother’s children, either, 1. Indwelling sins and corruptions, which are produced with nature; lust conceived, as soon as we were conceived; nay, we were conceived with it, and in it, as the Psalmist says, Psalm 51:5. “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;” which brought forth sin in us, as soon as we were brought forth into the world: and these indwelling lusts and corruptions proclaim war against us; these war against the soul, and sometimes “bring it into captivity to the law of sin which is in the members;” they frequently draw us away to the performance of sinful actions, making us the keepers of other vineyards, and often divert us from our duty, and cause us to neglect it; they hinder us from doing the good we would; for “when we would do goods evil is present with us;” and so we may be said not to keep our own vineyard Or else, 2. Carnal professors may be here intended, who are members of the same society, externally children of the same mother, who profess themselves of the holy city, are pretenders to godliness, but enemies to it; such are they, who have “a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof,” in themselves, and hate it in others; which, perhaps, may be one reason why these children that were born after the flesh, these false brethren, were angry with the church here; as they frequently are at her zealous defense and vindication of gospel-truths and ordinances, in the power and purity of them, and at her faithful reproofs and admonitions to them and others, throwing all the scandal and reproach upon her that possibly they can: now these are generally her most bitter and implacable enemies, are thorns in her side, and give her the greatest uneasiness; causing more grief and trouble to her, than all her sufferings and persecution from the world; for hereby they blacken and lessen her reputation and character, more than any other whatever; and yet bear it she must, and patiently she ought to endure it; Christ himself was not free from it; for who were more bitter and implacable enemies to him and his gospel, than the Jews, God’s professing people, and the chief among them, the high-priests and Pharisees? 3dly, She says ‘they made her the keeper of the vineyards,’ as an effect of their anger to her, and this, no doubt, added to her blackness; for being obliged to lie abroad in the fields, to keep the vineyards, she was exposed to the scorching sunbeams, and thereby got the hue she appeared with; this employment being not only very slavish, but base, mean, and reproachful; it was what was usually done by the poorer sort, and was much below the honor and dignity she was raised unto. By vineyards may be meant false churches; and by her keeping them, her falling in with their corrupt worship, and observance of the vain traditions and ordinances of men; which Christ complains of, and condemns in the Jewish church, who ‘made the commandment of God of none effect by their traditions:’ But this the church was obliged unto by her mother’s children; her compliance does not seem to be voluntary, but forced, and she complains of it as an imposition; ‘they made me,’ that is, forced and obliged me to do it. And this produced, 4thly, A neglect of her own vineyard, ‘but mine own vineyard have I not kept;’ which still increased her blackness through outward persecution, intestine broils, and a sinful compliance to human traditions, arising either from fear or weakness, or both, her own vineyard, the church, or her own soul, was neglected, and the affairs of it; her duty and business incumbent on her, the religious exercise she ought to have been employed in: with the Romans, neglect of fields and vineyards came under the notice of the censors, and did not go unpunished. Every believer has talents more or less given him to occupy, grace to exercise, gifts to use, and a part assigned him in the Lord’s vineyard, to labor in; and when these things are neglected by him, either through the fear of men, or the corruptions of his own heart, he may be said, not to have kept his vineyard; which, perhaps, sometimes is like his who was ‘void of understanding, which was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof;’ but when he is sensible of it, he will acknowledge and bewail it, as the church does here; she does not go about to extenuate her sin, by the anger of her mother’s children, nor by their obliging her to keep other vineyards, but ingenuously acknowledges that it was her fault to neglect her own; which, as it was prejudicial to herself, so it was highly resented by Christ, who thereupon removed his presence from her; for she seems to be at a loss to know where he was, as is manifest from the following words.

    VERSE 7.

    Tell me, (O thou whom my soul loveth), where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon: For why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions.

    THE church having, in the two former verses, directed her speech to the daughters of Jerusalem, and given them an account of herself, and present condition, with the reasons thereof, which she did, in order to solve their objections, and remove all discouragements from them that might arise from thence; and being sensible of her weaknesss and sinfulness in complying with, and embracing the traditions and doctrines of men, in which she found no solid food for her soul; she therefore makes application to Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep, that he would feed, refresh, guide, direct, and restore her wandering soul. In these words are, I. A request made unto him.

    II. Some arguments used by her to prevail upon him.

    I. Here is a request made by the church of Christ, which consists of two parts.

    First. To know where he feedeth; ‘Tell me where thou feedest.’

    Secondly, That he would inform her where he rested and refreshed his flock in the heat of the day, ‘where thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon;’ both which we shall enter into a consideration of.

    First, She desires to know where Christ fed; which is to be understood not passively, where he himself was fed, or where he fed himself; but actively, where he fed others, namely his flock; which, though not expressed in the original text, must be understood; and it may be observed here, that God’s own children sometimes may be at a loss to know where Christ feeds; which may arise, either from the prevailings of corruptions in them, whereby they have stepped out of the ways of Christ; or from the hidings of God’s face, and the withdrawings of the Sun of righteousness, or from the violent temptations of Satan, and fierce persecutions of the world; but when they are hungry, and desirous of spiritual food, they will enquire after it, and are very jealous, lest they should not be fed by Christ, and with the wholesome words of faith and sound doctrine; therefore in these straits they make their application to Christ, and him only, who ‘feeds his flock like a shepherd;’ which branch of Christ’s work and office we shall now consider; and shall endeavor to shew, 1st , What this phrase supposes and intends, as referred to Christ. 2dly, What he feeds his flock with. 3dly, How, after what manner, and by what means he feeds them. 4thly , Where he does so. 1st, It will be proper to enquire what is supposed and intended by Christ’s feeding souls. 1. It supposes that Christ is a shepherd; and he frequently calls himself so, in John 10. The scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, do abundantly testify that he bears this character, and stands in this relation to his people, where he is called God’s shepherd, ‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts,’ Zechariah 13:7 now he is so called because he is the shepherd, whom God the Father hath approved of, chosen, appointed, set up, and sent to be the shepherd of the sheep; who, as such, died for the sheep and rose again, and as such must give an account unto the Father, of all the sheep which he has intrusted him with; he must bring in the full number, yea, must not have one of them wanting. He is also called the chief shepherd; ‘And when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, which fadeth not away,’ 1 Peter 5:4 which title he well deserves; for he that is God’s shepherd, is also God’s fellow, entirely equal to him in the dignity of his nature, and in the fullness of his power and glory; all other shepherds are under him, they receive their commissions from him, have their several flocks assigned to them by him, are furnished with abilities from him to feed them; to him, at last, must they give an account of themselves, their work, and the flocks that were put under their care, and from him shall they receive the never-fading crown of glory. He likewise calls himself the good shepherd; ‘I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep,’ John 10:11, and he may very justly call himself so, for so he was to him that employed him, and so he is to those who are made his care and charge; he was faithful to his Father, that appointed him, and is merciful and compassionate to, careful and tender of the sheep committed to his trust; of which, a greater proof cannot be given, than his laying down his life for them. He is called the great shepherd; ‘Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep,’ Hebrews 13:20 which will manifestly appear, if we consider the dignity of his person, being the Son of God; the nature of his flock, the souls of men, therefore he is called ‘the shepherd and bishop of souls;’ and also the largeness of his abilities for this work: he has an exquisite knowledge of them, he can call them all by name; he is endued with infinite wisdom and prudence to manage and order his flock aright; has an almighty arm to protect and defend them from all their enemies; is furnished with large supplies of grace for them, and bears an inexpressible love unto them. Finally, he is the one, and the only shepherd; ‘I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them,’ Ezekiel 34:23, not but that there are other shepherds, which are under Christ, and whom he employs in his service, to feed his flock; but Christ is the chief and principle; God the Father never did, nor ever will set up any other; he is the only shepherd that owns the flock, having purchased it with his own blood, and he alone is able to take care of it. 2. Feeding being applied to Christ, not only supposes that he is a shepherd, but also that he has a flock to feed; ‘He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,’ Isaiah 40:11. All the elect are Christ’s flock, they are ‘his people, and the sheep of his pasture;’ the Father has given them to him, and has put them into his hands; he has also purchased them with his blood, and calls them by his grace: hence they know his voice, follow his steps, believe in him, and therefore shall never perish, but have everlasting life. Which flock is, 1. A distinct one; it is distinguished from all others, by electing, redeeming, and efficacious grace; Christ’s sheep are distinct from the world’s goats, and Satan’s wolves in sheeps clothing, and will one day be separated and manifestly distinguished, not only from the open enemies of Christ, but also from all painted hypocrites, and carnal professors, 2. Though this flock is divided into many parts and branches, yet it is but one flock; for, as there are but ‘one fold, and one shepherd,’ so there is but one flock under the care of this shepherd; though there are many particular flocks or churches here on earth, yet there is but one general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven.’ 3. This is but a little flock; ‘Fear not, little flock, etc.’ Luke 12:32.

    Christ’s cote of sheep are little and contemptible in the eyes of the world; and are low and mean in their own eyes; they are few in number, when compared with the world’s goats, though when all appear together in glory, they will be a ‘great multitude, which no man can number.’ 4. It is called a flock of slaughter: Thus said the Father to the Son, ‘Feed the flock of the slaughter,’ and he replied, ‘I will feed the flock of the slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock,’ Zechariah 11:4-7, and it is so called, because it is exposed to the cruelty and barbarity of open and avowed enemies, and to the ravenings of wolves in sheeps clothing; the saints, for the sake of Christ and his gospel, have been ‘killed all the day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter,’ Romans 8:36. 5. Nevertheless it is a beautiful flock, as the people of the Jews are called in Jeremiah 13:20; the saints are beautiful in Christ’s eyes, being clothed with his spotless righteousness, washed in his precious blood, and sanctified by his Spirit; therefore, however black they may be in their own eyes, or in the eyes of others, they are comely and delightful in the eyes of Christ. 3. This act of feeding, takes in and comprehends the whole work and business of a faithful shepherd towards his flock; all which Christ fully and exactly performs, 1. He knows them distinctly, and takes a particular account of them; he knows them so, that he can call them all by name; he knew them full well in his father’s gift of them to him, and so he did when he shed his precious blood for them; he knew distinctly all that he died fort and in effectual calling, he sets his mark, stamps his image on them, that it may also appear, both to themselves and others, to whose flock they belong; he took a particular account of them, when the Father put them into his hands, and made them his care and charge, and they shall ‘again pass under the hands of him that telleth them;’ for he will take care that not one of them shall be lost, but shall be all safely folded in heaven. 2. He not only, as a shepherd, takes a particular account of his flock, but he also leads them out, goes before them, and they follow him; he leads them out of the barren pastures of sin, and leads them into the green pastures of his love and grace; he goes before them as an example to the flock, of love, meekness, humility, patience, etc. and they follow him, in an observance of his ordinances, and in an obedience to his commands, till he has safely conducted them to glory. 3. He protects them from all their enemies; Christ’s flock is exposed unto, and surrounded by many a roaring lion; ravenous wolves, and snarling dogs stand ready to devour it, had they but as large a permission, and as good an opportunity as they desire; but as David defended his father’s sheep from the lion and the bear, so does Christ defend his; he has power enough to do it, and there is not wanting in him, either will, courage, or diligence. 4. He restores his sheep, when they have wandered and strayed from the fold; as it is natural for sheep to go astray, so at as common to Christ’s sheep, not only before, but after conversion; ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep,’ says David, <19B9176> Psalm 119:176. ‘seek thy servant;’ Christ does so, when his sheep go astray, he seeks every where until he has found them; when he lays them upon his shoulders, and brings them into his fold again, rejoicing; he restores their souls to their former life and liveliness, and ‘leads them in the paths of righteousness, for his own name’s sake.’ 5. He heals all their diseases; there are many diseases which sheep are liable to, and therefore had need to be well looked after; so there are many diseases which Christ’s sheep are liable to, but they are all healed by him; he binds up the broken hearted, strengthens the weak, heals the sick and wounded; none ever die of their diseases; he is a sovereign, free, universal and infallible physician. 6. He watches over them in the night seasons, as the shepherds of Bethlehem did over their flocks; he watches over them night and day, in the dark and cloudy day, in the night of affliction, temptation and desertion; he never leaves them, nor forsakes them. 7. In short, he makes all necessary provisions for them; so that they shall not, neither can they want any good thing; he takes care that they shall have the best of food, and what is most suitable and proper for them; he has all fullness of grace treasured up in him, and he freely distributes it among them as they stand in need.

    Having thus taken notice of what is supposed and intended in this act of feeding, I shall now consider, 2dly, ‘What Christ feeds his flock with,’ and that is, 1. With himself, who is ‘the bread of life,’ which being fed upon by faith, supports and maintains the life of God’s children; and such are the nature, virtue, and efficacy of it, that if a man eat thereof, he shall never hunger after the sinful pleasures of this life, so as he has heretofore done; he shall also never die the second death, but shall live spiritually here, and eternally with Christ hereafter. Christ’s ‘flesh is meat’ indeed, and ‘his blood is drink indeed;’ and the believing soul tastes a sweetness therein, and receives nourishment from hence. Christ is the hidden manna, the food of the wilderness, which faith lives upon, whilst travelling through it. O how richly are the saints fed, whose food is Christ himself! 2. He feeds them with the gospel, the doctrines and promises of it; the doctrines of the gospel are ‘the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ in which believers are nourished up; these are sweet to their taste, the joy and rejoicing of their hearts, and are esteemed by them more than their necessary food; the promises of the gospel are ‘exceedingly great and precious;’ faith often lives upon them; the whole gospel furnishes the believer with a variety of food; in it are milk for babes and meat for strong men; there is what is suitable to the dispositions, tastes, and constitutions of all God’s children. 3. He feeds them with the discoveries of his love and grace; he brings them into his ‘banqueting-house,’ and his ‘banner over them is love;’ there he gives his best wine, and revives and refreshes their fainting and drooping souls with it; he not only feeds them with himself, ‘the bread of life,’ but he also sheds abroad his love in their hearts, which is ‘better than wine;’ and thus, with both these, from time to time, does he regale them; and in making such comfortable repasts for them, which they largely feed upon, they ‘grow stronger and stronger,’ until, at length, they become perfect men in Christ Jesus. But, 3dly, ‘How, after what manner, and by what means does Christ feed his flock?’ This is the part of the church’s request; for so the words may be read, ‘Tell me how thou feedest, and how thou makest thy flocks to rest at noon. Now, Christ feeds his flock: 1. By his ministers, who are his under-shepherds, to whom he gives commissions to feed his flock, saying, as he did to Peter, John 21:15,16,17: ‘Feed my lambs, feed my sheep;’ who receive food from Christ, the great Shepherd, and have suitable gifts and graces bestowed upon them, that they may feed souls ‘with knowledge and understanding,’ that is, with the doctrines of the gospel; which is the food Christ would have his fed with, as has been shewn already. 2. He feeds them by his ordinances, which are ‘breasts of consolation’ to his people, out of which they suck, and are satisfied. Christ oftentimes makes a feast for his people, in his ordinances, and bids them welcome, and says, ‘Eat, O friends, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved;’ and their faith feeds heartily upon ‘the goodness and fatness of his house.’ 3. He does all this by his Spirit; it is the Spirit of Christ that takes Christ, and the things of Christ, and sets them before us, for faith to feed and live upon; it is he that applies the doctrines, and seals the promises of the gospel to us; and it is he that sheds abroad the love of Christ in us; the ministry of the word, and the ordinances of the gospel, are the means of feeding souls; but these would be dry breasts, and would fall short of satisfying and refreshing them; were they not attended with the Spirit of Christ. 4thly, The last enquiry is, Where does Christ feed? To this I answer, in the gardens, his several and particular churches, according to chapter 6:2. ‘My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens.’ Would any, with the church, know where Christ feeds? It is where his gospel is powerfully preached, his ordinances purely administered, and the laws of his house faithfully put in execution: this may then serve as a direction to such enquiring souls, who would be glad to know where Christ feeds, that they may feed with him; let such seek after a gospel ministry and sit under it; or a church in gospel-order, and give up themselves unto it, to walk with the saints, in all the ordinances, and commands of Christ. So much for the first part of the request. It remains to be observed, Secondly, That the church is also desirous to know where Christ ‘makes his flock to rest at noon;’ and there was a great deal of reason for her to make such a request as this, for it was noon with her; the sun was in its meridian, in its full strength, and had looked upon her, as she declares in the former verse. The allusion is to shepherds in hot countries, leading their flocks to some shady place, where they may be sheltered from the scorching heat of the sun; which, as Virgil says, was at the fourth hour, or ten o’clock, two hours before noon. We read of prozatinoon understand the noon of the everlasting day of the saints’ happiness and felicity in heaven, where Christ feeds his elect with joys that will never end; ‘leads them to fountains of living water, wipes all tears from their eyes,’ and gives them an everlasting rest from all their toil and labor; but I think, by it we are rather to understand, either, 1. The noon of temptation, which is sometimes very hot, fierce and violent; Satan throws his fiery darts, thick and fast, which oftentimes give the believer much uneasiness; he is ‘in heaviness through manifold temptations;’ but Christ makes him to lie down quietly, and rest safely; which he does, either by shading him from the violent heat thereof, or by supporting him under it, or else by giving him deliverance from it. Christ has sweet resting-places for his people, in the time of temptation, and would you know where and what they are? I answer, the fullness and allsufficiency of grace, which is in him, is what he makes a believing soul sweetly to rest in, at such a time; when he is pleased to say unto it, as he did to the apostle Paul, when in such a case, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee:’ such sweet resting-places, in times of temptation, are also his precious blood, which always speaks peace and pardon, and is of an eternal efficacy; his spotless righteousness, in which, as neither law nor justice, so neither can Satan find any flaw; as likewise, his atoning sacrifice, by which he has effectually ‘put away sin,’ and perfected for ever them that are sanctified; and so is his advocateship and intercession, in the discharge of which, he pleads the believer’s cause, answers all Satan’s charges and accusations exhibited against him, and prays for him, ‘that his faith fail not;’ moreover, the covenant of grace is another resting-place, which stands firm and sure, and the promises thereof are absolute, unconditional, and shall never fail. Now these are some of those sweet resting-places, in which Christ causes his people to lie down and rest in the noon-time of temptation: or else, by noon may be meant, 2. The noon of affliction, which is sometimes very sharp and severe upon God’s children; so that as Job says, chapter 30:30. their skin is black upon them, and their bones are burnt with the heat thereof;’ they have generally a large share of afflictions in this world; this sun oftentimes smites them very severely: but Christ has his resting-places for them, where he makes them lie down and rest, which are such as the world know nothing of; he grants them his presences and goes along with them, when they walk through the fire, or through the water, so that the one shall not kindle upon them, nor the other overflow them; he puts underneath his everlasting arms, and supports them under all their trials; he makes their beds in their affliction, so that it becomes easy to them; he discovers his love and grace to their souls, and gives them views of their interest in him; he remembers his word of promise to them, on which he has caused them to hope; lets them see that all their afflictions are in love, that they are all working for their good, and when he thinks proper, he delivers them; and upon such pillows, and in such resting-places as these, does he cause his people to lie down, where ‘he gives his beloved sleep,’ in the noon-time of affliction: Or else, 3. By the noon may be meant the noon of persecution; and this, indeed, seems to be the case of the church here; the sun of persecution had scorched her; and her ‘mother’s children were angry with her;’ and therefore, being in distress and anguish of soul, she desires to know unto what cooling and refreshing shades Christ used to lead his flock at such a time. It is an allusion to shepherds, as before observed, who, in those hot countries, used to lead their flocks in the heat of the day, which is at noon, to some cool and shady place, where they might repose themselves, and be preserved from the vehemence of the scorching sun. Most of the Jewish writers interpret it of the captivity o£ the people of Israel, which was a time of tribulation and distress unto them: the heat of persecution seems chiefly intended, which fiery trial oftentimes befalls God’s children; but Christ has his resting-places for them, at such a time, and under such a trial; he will ‘recompense tribulation to them that trouble his people,’ but to those that are troubled, that is, with persecution, he will ‘give rest with us,’ says the apostle, 2 Thessalonians 1:6,7: rest here, and rest hereafter; he gives liberty of soul when in prison, and fills with an unspeakable joy, even when both their goods and good names are spoiled, and taken away from them; he gives them a peace under all the racks and tortures, cruelty and barbarity that are exercised upon them by their enemies, which passeth all understanding; they find such rest, satisfaction, and contentment in the person, blood, and righteousness of Christ, that they choose rather with Moses, ‘to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season,’ Hebrews 11:25.

    Thirdly, The arguments she makes use of to obtain her request, which are these, 1st, She argues from her strong love and affection to him; ‘Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth:’ it is true, these words may be considered as an endearing title which she gave to him; but yet they seem more strongly to express her singular esteem of him, and her sincere and unfeigned love and affection to him, than those usual titles, my love, or my beloved, do; which love of hers might be very well improved as an argument to obtain her request, thus. ‘O thou who art the great Shepherd of the sheep, tell me in what pastures thou art graciously pleased to feed thy flock, and to what cooling shades thou dost lead them, in the heat of the day, to screen them from the scorching sun. She who makes this humble request unto thee, though mean and unworthy of thy notice, yet is one that loves thee with all her heart and soul; who, though of late, through the weakness and sinfulness of her own heart, and through the fear and force of others, has stepped aside from thy commandments to the doctrines and traditions of men; yet, being made sensible of her weakness and folly therein, cannot be easy to continue among those false teachers and worshippers; and therefore, from a real love to thy person, a respect to thine ordinances, and a regard to thy glory, humbly desires to be informed of these things.’

    Now, though the church knew full well that her love to Christ could merit nothing, nor deserve a gracious answer from him; yet she was sensible that expressions of love were very pleasing to him, and therefore she takes this method. The nature, causes and actings of a soul’s love to Christ have been shewn on verse 3. 2dly, She argues and expostulates with him, on the account of her present case, and what was likely to befal her, if he did not give her some speedy directions; ‘for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?’ There is much difficulty and difference in the rendering of the Hebrew word, which we translate ‘as one that turneth aside’; f83 some render it ‘as one that covereth herself, or is covered’, either as an harlot; so Tamar covered herself, which made Judah take her to be an harlot, Genesis 38:14, or as a widow in mourning, it being the custom of mourners to cover themselves, Ezekiel 24:17,22, and then the sense is, ‘Why should I be suspected to be an harlot, and looked upon as an unchaste woman, that has left her own husband to follow strangers; when thou, who art the searcher of hearts and trier of reins, knowest that I love thee in sincerity, and am heartily desirous of following thee in thine own ways:’ or se the sense is, ‘Why should I appear in a widow’s dress, and go mourning and sorrowing as if I had no husband: O tell me where thou art, and where I may enjoy thy presence, and be delighted with thy company.’ Junius and Tremellius translate the words thus, ‘Why should I be as one that spreadeth the tent with the flocks of thy companions;’ and give this as the sense, ‘Why should I? I would not, though but for a time, have any conversation with such persons, who pretend to be thy friends, and are not; I cannot bear it, my soul abhors and detests the thoughts of it, though, perhaps, thro’ my weakness and infirmities, I may do it; O therefore tell me quickly, speedily, where thou feedest.’ Others render it ‘as one that wanders about, declinest or turns aside by the flocks of thy companions’: this agrees with our version; and from these words we may observe, 1. That there are some who would be the associates and companions of Christ, who indeed are not; these were not really so, but usurped to themselves an equal power and authority with Christ: such are those who take upon them an arbitrary and lordly government of Christ’s flock, who make and impose laws on the consciences of men, which Christ never established, and who teach doctrines contrary to those which Christ taught, and which are derogatory to his honor and glory: such rivals with. and pretended companions of Christ, are, the pope of Rome, who exalts himself above all that is called God; Arians, who deny Christ’s divinity; Socinians, that oppose his satisfaction; and all self-justiciaries, that advance the doctrine of justification by works, in opposition to justification by his imputed righteousness: but such Christ will not own as his friends, nor suffer to be his rivals and companions; for as his own arm brought salvation to him, so the government is alone upon his shoulders; as he was alone in the purchase and salvation of his flock, so he will be in the government and feeding of it; for his glory, which arises from thence, he will not give to another. Christ never did, nor never will impower any to make new laws, nor coin new doctrines for his church and people. 2. These false and pretended friends and companions of Christ, who are no other than wolves in sheeps clothing, have their flocks. Heretics and false teachers, in all ages, have had their followers, and sometimes large numbers have been drawn away after them; and this God suffers in a judicial way; he gives men up to believe a lie, because they love not the truth; but having itching ears, grew weary of it and want something new: also these are permitted to have their flocks, by themselves, that Christ’s little flock might be distinguished from them, and that those who are chosen, loved, and approved by God, might be made manifest; as also to animate and excite the faithful ministers of the gospel to be constant and assiduous, bold and faithful to preach the doctrines of Christ. and to oppose errors. 3. Believers are very fearful, lest they should, and are very desirous that they might not go aside from the ways of Christ; they are jealous of their own hearts, and are sensible that there is in them a propensity thereunto; they know that Satan uses all the crafty methods, and takes all the opportunities he can to draw them aside, and corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ; they are apprized of their own weakness, and know that they are not kept by their own power, but that if they are left to themselves, they shall soon divert to crooked paths: and the present case of the church also manifestly shews that God may, for a time, suffer his own children to be carried away with the error of the wicked; but when they are made sensible of it, they will be filled with an holy indignation against it, and make it their principal request at the throne of grace to be delivered out of it, and that their feet may be guided and directed in the paths of Christ: now those who are desirous that they may be kept from turning aside unto, and joining with the flocks of false teachers, who vainly pretend to be the friends and companions of Christ, should abide in the Lord’s inheritance, keep close to Christ’s ways and ordinances, and not believe every spirit, but try them according to the word of God, as the noble Bereans did; they should earnestly beg that the gospel which is preached unto them might effectually work in them, and make deep impressions upon them; so shall they not be ‘like children tossed about with every wind of doctrine.’ But let us hear what directions Christ himself gives to the church in the following words.

    VERSE 8.

    If thou know not (O thou fairest amonng women!) go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds tents.

    SOME think that these are the words of the chorus of virgins or daughters of Jerusalem, by whom she is called ‘the fairest among women,’ in chapters 5:9 and <220601> 6:1 who here instruct and direct her where she might find and come at the sight of her beloved; but the note of R.

    Solomon Jarchi is much preferable, which is, that ‘this is the answer of the shepherd;’ for it was to him, and not to the virgins, that she made her application; nor were they capable of giving her any directions in this case, but rather stood in need of some from her, as is manifest from chapters 5:9 and 6:1. In this answer of Christ’s unto the church, are these three things:

    I. The commendation he gives her; ‘O thou fairest among women!’

    II. A supposition of her ignorance: ‘if thou know not.’

    III. A direction to her; ‘go thy way,’ etc.

    I. Christ in these words gives the church an excellent commendation, ‘O thou fairest among women;’ in what sense the church is fair and comely has been shown, on verse 5 who, thu’ black in herself, and in her own eyes, yet having Christ’s righteousness imputed to her, and his grace wrought in her, is fair and comely: which commendation here, both in itself. and as it follows upon the account which she gave of herself and state, in the preceding verses, may teach us the following things: 1. That the beauty of the church is very great and exceedingly admired by Christ; as some men are eminent for their strength, courage, and valor, so are some women for their beauty and comeliness; and she being said to be ‘the fairest among women,’ shews that her beauty must be excellent rind surpassing; as he is fairer in her eyes than all the sons, so she is fairer in his than all the daughters of Adam. 2. That believers are fairest in Christ’s eyes, when blackest in their own: she had asserted of herself, in verse 5 that she was black; but here Christ says, that she was ‘the fairest among women.’ The humble believer that has low and mean thoughts of himself, on the account of the. corruption of his nature, the imperfection of his obedience, the weakness and insufficiency of his righteousness, is much more esteemed and valued by Christ, than the proud, haughty and vain-glorious Pharisee; an instance of this we have in Luke 18:13,14. An humble soul is one that looks upon itself as the least of saints, and the chief of sinners; the countenance of such an one blushing at its sins and infirmities, is beautiful and comely in the eyes of Christ, and is a sight exceeding desirable to him; and therefore he says, in chapter 2:14, ‘Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.’ 3. That Christ’s thoughts of believers are not according to those which they have of themselves, nor according to those which the world entertains of them; he ‘seeth not as man seeth,’ neither does he look upon, or judge according to the outward appearance: the believer oftentimes looks upon, and judges of himself, according to his indwelling corruptions, and the inward frames of his soul, and draws black conclusions against himself: the world looks upon the outward, mean, and abject appearance of the saints, and so they become black and contemptible in their eyes; but Christ views them in himself, and in his own righteousness, and considers them in all that glory in which he saw them in the glass of his Father’s purposes and decrees, which glory he has fully, resolved on, and designed to bring them to the actual possession of; and on this account they appear exceeding fair and beautiful in his eyes,4. This excellent commendation of the church given by Christ, shews his amazing and unalterable love to her; he loved her now as well as ever; notwithstanding all her blackness thro’ sins and sufferings, she was as fair in his eyes as ever, nay surpassingly fair, fairer than all others; though she had been negligent of her duty, and had sinfully complied with false and superstitious worship, with the doctrines and traditions of men, and thereby wandered from Christ and his ways, and knew not where he fed and caused his flock to rest; yet upon her first application to him, he gives her such a character, as expresses much love and tenderness, as well as manifests a very great regard to her, in directing and instructing of her: O matchless love! boundless grace!

    II. Here is a supposition of her ignorance, ‘if thou know not:’ which is not to be understood, either by way of hesitation or reprehension, as if Christ either doubted of her ignorance, or reproved her for it, but by way of inference from what she had suggested; for this particle if , is not always hypothetic or conditional, but is sometimes illative, see Philippians 2:1, and thus the words may be rendered, ‘seeing thou knowest not,’ so Junius; or ‘because thou knowest not;’ and may be considered as a reason why Christ gave her the following direction and advice, and will lead us to observe these two things: 1. That believers may, in some measure, be ignorant of a great many things in this life; this life is a state of imperfection, both with respect to holiness and knowledge; the greatest believer knows but in part, and sees things but through a glass, darkly; he is ignorant of himself in a great measure, though he may know much of the plague of his own heart, of the corruptions and treachery of it, yet he does not know all; for the heart is ‘deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?’

    These words may be rendered from the Hebrew text, thus, ‘If thou know not to thee, or, for thyself,’ so Ainsworth; or, ‘if thou knowest not thyself;’ it is generally looked upon as a pleonasm, yet it may intend,not only the ignorance which was in herself, but also her ignorance of herself.

    Again, a believer maybe in some measure ignorant of Christ and his gospel; he may not so fully know his relation and union to him, and interest in him: many of those truths, which concern Christ’s person, grace, and kingdom, may be but obscurely revealed unto him; he may have but a small insight into them: tho’ he may have been long in Christ’s school, yet he may be but a babe in knowledge, and need to be taught ‘the first principles of the oracles of God:’ our knowledge of these things at best is but imperfect, and when compared with that which saints shall have in glory, is very dark and obscure: also believers sometimes may be at a very great loss to know where Christ feeds his church and people; and this has been the case of the saints, as it was the church here, in times of persecution, darkness, and surperstition; they have not only been at a loss for his presence, but they have also been at a loss for his ordinances; they have not only been ignorant where he was, but also they have not known where his gospel was preached in the power, and his ordinances administered in the purity of them. 2. That though Christ’s people are ignorant of a great many things, and of such which, as one would think, they should not be ignorant of, but should make it their principal business to be acquainted with, yet Christ does not upbraid them with it; for ‘he has compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way;’ as their merciful and faithful high priest, he has atoned for their sins, both of ignorance and presumption; and as their prophet he instructs them by his word and Spirit, and ‘guides their feet in the way of peace;’ and therefore the most ignorant soul need not be discouraged from going to Christ for wisdom, counsel and direction; but let him that ‘lacketh wisdom, ask it of him, who giveth liberally to all men, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him,’ James 1:6.

    III. Here is a direction which Christ gives her, in answer to her request, which consists of two parts; First, To ‘go forth by the footsteps of the flock.

    Secondly, To ‘feed her kids beside the shepherds’ tents.’

    First, The first thing which Christ directs and advises her to, is, to ‘go her way forth by the footsteps of the flock.’ Some consider these words, not as a direction to the church, but as spoken by way of resentment to her.

    Christ, observing the church was growing uneasy under her trials and temptations, and, as it were, threatening that if he did not relieve her, she would join herself to the flocks of his companions; being ignorant, both of her own beauty, which she had received from him, and of that relation which she stood in to him; as also, that she must expect to meet with more troubles, temptations and trials with him and for him; Christ, I say, observing and resenting this froward temper of hers, and the ignorance that was in her, bids her be gone from his presence, and follow the steps of those flocks which she had mentioned, and see what would be the consequence of it, and whether she would find her account in it or no; and ‘feed her kids,’ that is, give a loose to, and indulge her carnal lusts and corruptions among those persons whom she seemed to have an inclination to: but they seem rather to be spoken by way of direction than resentment; and there are some, who, though they look upon the words as a direction of Christ to the church, yet by ‘the footsteps of the flock,’ understand the paths and ways of those sheep and shepherds, among whom she was, and by whom she was in danger of being carried away, and read the words thus, ‘Go out of those footsteps of the flock, so Junius and Tremellius.

    But though, no doubt, the church is here directed and exhorted to depart from the ways of sin, to leave all superstition and idolatry, and come out from among false worshippers; yet I cannot but think that the ‘footsteps of the flock’ are the rule and mark by which she was to go, and keep her eye upon, in finding Christ: and it may be enquired, 1st, What is meant by ‘the flock.’ 2dly, What by ‘the footsteps’ of it, by, and in which the church was to go. 1st, What is meant by ‘the flock;’ and by it we are to understand, the flock which the Father has committed into the hands of Christ, which he has purchased with his own bloods and continually feeds like a shepherd; this is called a flock in the singular number, in opposition to the numerous flocks of those other shepherds mentioned in verse 7, for as there is but one shepherd, who is Christ, so there is but one flock, which is the church; of which flock I have given a more large account on the former verse. 2dly, By ‘the footsteps of the flock,’ are meant the ways and ordinances in which saints by faith walk, in obedience to Christ Jesus; he has left us an example that we should follow his steps; so far as believers walk therein, we should follow and walk in the steps of the same faith which they have done, and in so doing, may, and shall find the presence of Christ Jesus.

    From whence may be observed, 1. That we have no reason to expect a new gospel nor new ordinances; but we should enquire for the good old way, which the saints in all ages have trod; no new lights nor new revelations, that have no foundation in the word of God, are to be regarded by us; for ‘we have a more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well if we take heed.’ Christ has in his word established the order of his churches, fixed the ordinances thereof, till his second coming, and marked out the paths in which he would have his people walk; and these are the footsteps of the flock, which saints in all ages should go by. 2. That the faith and obedience of God’s children, as to the substance of them, have been the same in all ages: There is but ‘one faith, one Lord, one baptism;’ the object of faith has been always the same; so have the Spirit and Author of faith, and also the grace itself, as to its nature and actings: there has been but one Lord, who has established laws and ordinances, has a power to require obedience, and to whom, in all ages, it has been given by his saints, both in a way of doing and suffering. 3. That the practices of former saints, both as to their faith and obedience, are to be imitated by us: see Hebrews 6:12 and Hebrews 13:7. but always with this limitation, given by the apostle Paul, ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,’ 1 Corinthians 11:1, and indeed, no farther should we follow the most eminent saints, for faith and holiness, than as they have trod in those steps which Christ has marked out for them and us. 4. In so doing, we may expect to have our souls fed and nourished, as theirs were, and to enjoy the presence of Christ, as they did; for though our faith and obedience deserve none of all this, yet in walking in Christ’s ways, we have most reason to expect it, being encouraged both by Christ’s promises, and by those many instances and clouds of witnesses that have gone before us. The Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi, understand this part of the direction, of the righteous, in whose steps those that come after should tread.

    Secondly, The other part of the direction is, to feed her kids beside the shepherds’ tents. It was common in the eastern countries, as Philo says of the Arabs, not for men only to keep flocks, but women also and young virgins; of women keeping flocks, see Genesis 29:2, Exodus 2:16, the same Josephus says of the Troglodites; and it was an early custom for shepherds to have tents where they fed their flocks: they were as early as the days of Jabal, who was the inventor of them, Genesis 4:20.

    Hence the Arabian shepherds, who dwelt in tents, and moved them from place to place for the sake of pasturage, were called Scenites; and, 1st, By shepherds may be meant such who are called the companions of Christ in verse 7. who only had the appearance of shepherds, but were inwardly ravenous wolves: the words may be rendered, ‘Feed thy kids above the shepherds tents, or above the tents of other shepherds;’ so R.

    Aben Ezra and Junius; that is, go beyond their tents, and do not pitch thine where theirs are, but carry thy kids farther, into other pastures, and feed them with better and more wholesome food than they give: or else, by them, may be meant the ministers of the gospel, who are Christ’s undershepherds, whose business is to feed Christ’s sheep and lambs, with the soul-refreshing doctrines of the everlasting gospel; who receive their commission from Christ to feed the flock, are furnished with abilities from him for that work, and must give an account unto him; and by, or near the tents of these shepherds, the church is directed to feed her kids. 2. By the tents of these shepherds, may be meant those places of divine worship, where the ministers of Christ usually preach his gospel, and administer his ordinances; which tents or tabernacles are amiable and lovely to believers: the Jewish writers generally understand them of their schools or synagogues. It is an allusion to shepherds’ tents, which are usually pitched where they feed their flocks. 3. By kids may be meant young converts, who, though they are desirous of the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby, yet are but weak in faith, and have but a small degree of knowledge; and therefore should be near the shepherds’ tents, that they may be under their immediate care and inspection; as Christ himself has the strongest affection for these, and takes a special care of them, as in Isaiah 40:11, so he would have his ministers and churches be particularly careful and tender of them: these kids R. Aben Ezra calls hnma ykfq ojligopi>vouv , ‘persons of little faith;’ the very character which Christ gives of his disciples, Matthew 6:30, young converts are not only called kids, because of their faith and knowledge; but kids being young goats, lascivious and of an ill smell f97 may intimate, that notwithstanding the grace which is wrought in them at conversion, yet there still remains sin and corruption in them, disagreeable to themselves and others; as also, that being called by divine grace out of the world, and having separated from the men of it, they did male olere, smell ill, and were become abominable and contemptible to them; and therefore needed much refreshment and encouragement from the church and ministers) that they might not be discouraged and cast down at their own corruptions, nor at the frowns and reproaches of the world. This direction to the church, to feed her kids beside the shepherds tents, where the gospel was preached by Christ’s ministers, shews the necessity and perpetuity of a gospel-ministry, and of gospel-ordinances; and what a value saints should have for them, and also what use they should make of them, as well as informs us of the wretched mistake of those persons who think themselves above hearing the word, and regarding ordinances.

    VERSE 9.

    I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots. CHRIST having returned a suitable answer, and given proper directions to the church in her present difficulties, enters upon a commendation of her, which is begun in this verse, and continued in the following one. In these words are, I. An affectionate title given to her; ‘O my love.’

    II. A comparison which Christ makes of her, ‘to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.’ And, III. It may be enquired why such a comparison is made and mentioned in this place.

    I. Here is a very loving and endearing title given unto her, · my love;’ it may be rendered ‘my friend’; there is a mutual friendship between Christ and believers; the church owns Christ to be her beloved and her friend, and Christ welcomes his church and people to the entertainments of his grace, under the characters of his beloved, and his friends, saying, ‘Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved:’ and he not only calls them so, but uses and treats them as such; he converses with them, and discloses the secrets of his heart unto them; he is a friend to them at all times, in adversity as well as prosperity, and has given the most incontestible proofs of it in his suffering and dying for them. The Septuagint render it, ‘my neighbor:’ the church is Christ’s neighbor; they dwell near to each other; he dwells in their hearts by faith, and they by faith dwell in him: he shews, that he regards his church as his neighbor, by loving her as himself; nay, he has so loved her, as to give himself for her. Again, if we consider this title, according to our version, it well suits the church, who is Christ’s love. 1. Objectively; She is the object of his love, was so from eternity, will be so throughout all time, and when time shall be no more; he has given the fullest proofs of it in his undertaking, as a surety for her, in his assumption of her nature, in dying in her room and stead, and in making satisfaction for all her transgressions. The nature of this love has been shewn already on Song of Solomon 1:2 2. She is Christ’s love subjectively; Christ’s love is fixed upon her, and is shed abroad in her heart, by the Spirit, and this causes love in her soul to him; that so as Christ loves her, she loves him, with a real, hearty, sincere, and superlative love; she is therefore Christ’s love, both because he loves her, and also because she loves him.

    II. Here is made, by Christ, a comparison of her, ‘to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots: I have compared thee, O my love, etc.’ that is, I thought and imagined thee to be like unto them, or I have made thee like unto them; which shews that she was not only like unto them, he having asserted her to be so, who must certainly know, but also that this was owing to him, that shew as so: or to my mare, as some render it, f100 which being a present by Pharoah to Solomon, he might have a particular regard for it; nor is such a comparison of a woman a disagreeable one; many women have had their names from this creature, from some celebrated excellence in them, as Hippo, Hippe, Hippia, etc. and the same figure is made use of by various writers. Now the church is compared to a company of horses, to set forth her greatness and excellency, and to Egyptian ones, which were esteemed the best, and to those in Pharoah’s chariots, which, no doubt, were best of all: all believers may very well be compared ‘to a company of horses in Pharoah’s chariots;’ 1. Because the horses in Pharoah’s chariots were a choice and select company, picked and singled out from others, peculiarly for his service: so R. Sol. Jarchi interprets it, ‘a collection of horses,’ which, no doubt, was a choice and curious one; for if there were any more than others, it is very reasonable to suppose, that they were in Pharaoh’s chariots. The church of Christ is a ‘chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, and a peculiar people;’ they are distinguished and separated from others, by electing, redeeming, and. calling grace; they are a collection from the rest of mankind, made by the free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace of God; they are ‘a remnant: according to the election of grace,’ chosen and singled out from others in Christ, before the foundation of the world; they are ‘redeemed from among men, and that out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation;’ whom God is pleased by his mighty, powerful, and efficacious grace to call, even, one of a city, and two of a family, and bring to the participation of peculiar favors and privileges, thro’ Christ, in the church on earth, and with Christ for ever in glory. 2. These horses in Pharoah’s chariots were, no doubt, bought at a very great price; Egyptian horses went at a very great price, in Solomon’s time; a single one was valued at an hundred and fifty shekels of silver: see Kings 10:29. and therefore these, which were bought for Pharaoh’s service, who was king of Egypt, being the best, must be supposed to be bought at a very great price. The church and people of God are bought with a price, and that with a very great one indeed, such a one, that angels and men could never have given; they are purchased, not with ‘corruptible things; as silver and gold;’ no, all the riches in the world amassed together, could not have purchased a single soul, nor have given to God a ransom for it: ‘but they are bought with the precious blood’ of the unblemished and unspotted Son of God; they are bought for the service of the King of kings, and at no less a rate, than at the expence of his own blood and life; the ransom which is given for them is himself; O how valuable must they be to Christ, and how much must they be esteemed by him! 3. These horses, being well fed, looked very beautiful and pleasant.

    Believers are fed with the finest of the wheat, with Christ and his fullness; Christ himself is the bread of life, and the hidden manna, which being fed upon by faith, removes hunger, supports life, and preserves from the second death; his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed, which give spiritual and divine refreshment to believers; his grace is represented by wine, milk, and honey, on which his people feeding plentifully, grow and look exceeding delightful and beautiful in his sight. 4. These horses, being the king’s horses, as they were well fed, so, no doubt, they were well taken care of; they had proper persons appointed on purpose to attend upon them, and to supply them with what was necessary for them. Believers in Christ have a guard of angels to attend upon them, who encamp about them, and minister to them; for those ‘ministering spirits are sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation;’ also the ministers of the gospel, being furnished with suitable grace and abilities, are appointed to feed them with the doctrines of the everlasting gospel, and to give to every one ‘their portion of meat in due season.’ Moreover they are not left merely to the care of angels and ministers, but the Lord himself likewise concerns himself for them; when his church is represented as a vineyard, he is said to be the keeper of it, who ‘watches over it night and day lest any hurt it;’ when it is compared to a city, he is the wall of fire round about it; and when to a flock of sheep, he is the shepherd of it; and being here compared to a company of horses, it is owing to the food that he gives them, and the care he takes of them, that they appear ‘as his goodly horse in the battle,’ Zechariah 10:3,5. Horses have been and are much delighted in by princes; and there is no reason to question but that those which ran in Pharaoh’s chariots were so by him; Solomon’s fancy and inclinations ran so strongly this way, and he took so great a delight in those creatures, that he broke through a divine command, Deuteronomy 17:16 compared with 1 Kings 10:29 to satisfy and indulge his carnal pleasure; and many other princes have run prodigious and excessive lengths this way. Julius Caesar set up a marble effigy of his horse in the temple; Antoninus Verus erected a golden image for his. Nero clothed his with a senator’s robe, and told him out a weekly stipend; Poppea Sabina, Nero’s wife, had golden shoes made for hers; Caligula used to invite his to supper, and held out his golden cups to him; he would have made him a consul, as he afterwards made himself a priest, and his horse his colleague; Alexander the great built a city in honor of his Bucephalus; Cimon the Athenian buried his mares by his own sepulcher; and Commodus the emperor buried his horse in the Vatican.

    These instances, though vain and sinful, and not to be imitated, yet shew how much some princes have delighted in this sort of creatures. Now, as these creatures were the delight of princes, and, perhaps, of Pharaoh, so are believers the delight of Christ; he first makes them beautiful, and then delights in that beauty which he has put upon them; ‘the Lord taketh pleasure in his people, he will beautify the meek with salvation;’ his heart is often ravished with his own grace in them, and his soul delights in that which he himself has given them; there is nothing in them of their own which can render them acceptable to him, and yet they are his jewels, the apple of his eye, and the delight of his heart. 6. Horses are stately and majestic creatures, especially a company of choice and well fed ones, that run in a chariot, as these were. There is a stateliness and majesty in believers, especially when they are united together in gospel-order, in a church-state: and the majesty, stateliness, and glory of a church of Christ, do not consist in the multitude of members, nor in their outward riches, pomp, and splendor; but in their being all clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and possessed of his grace; in the enjoyment of his presence in ordinances; in their walking in love and unity with each other, and wisely towards them that are without; in having their conversation as becometh the gospel of Christ, and the profession which they make of it, and in shewing a becoming zeal for the truths and ordinances thereof; being thus blessed with these things, they may be truly said to be as stately and majestic as ‘a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots,’ which were well fed, and harnessed in a splendid manner. 7. Horses are very strong creatures, especially, a company of them joined together, as these were; concerning the strength of the horse, the Lord says to Job, chapter 39:19. ‘Hast thou given the horse strength; hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?’ Believers are strong, not in themselves, but in Christ; their strength lies in their head, and in their union to him; they can do nothing of themselves, but’ can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth them;’ having strength communicated to them from him, they can endure all hardships, go through all difficulties, withstand all temptations, and perform all duties which he calls them to: and next to their union to Christ, the strength of a society and company of believers, or a church of Christ, lies in their union and close adherence to each other; they are like the bundle of sticks in the fable, which, whilst kept bound together, could not easily be broke, but when separated from each other, were soon snapped asunder; which consideration should excite mutual love among believers, and an endeavor ‘to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace;’ by doing which, they will not so easily fall a prey to their enemies, but will appear ‘terrible as an army with banners.’ 8. Horses are of an undaunted courage, especially such as are well fed, as these were; an elegant description of the majesty, and undaunted courage of the horse, as given by God himself, may be read in Job 39:20-25.

    Believers in Christ ‘are bold as a lion; whilst the wicked flee, whim no man pursueth;’ they remain undaunted at all the reproaches, threatenings, and menaces of men, and cannot be deterred thereby, from the service of Christ; they fear not the wrath of kings and princes; neither can confiscation of goods, imprisonment of body, racks, tortures, or death itself, scare them from a profession of Christ and his gospel; but viewing all these with an undaunted courage, say, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ instances of this we have in Daniel and his companions, the apostles of Christ, the believing Hebrews, whom Paul wrote to, and thousands of martyrs for, and confessors of the truth in all ages. 9. These horses were not employed in ordinary service, in mere drudgery, but were selected for the service of Pharaoh, to run in his chariots. The elect of God being called by divine grace, are not, or at least, they should not be employed in the service and drudgery of sin and Satan; but being subjected to Christ, whom they acknowledge to be their Lord and King, are directed and guided by him, into those paths in which he would have them go, and so readily, chearfully, and swiftly, ‘run the ways of his commandments.’ These are not common, servile horses, which the church is here compared to, but royal ones, such that were in the service of a king. 10. These horses were not wild, nor loose, running at random, but being fitted for service, were joined and coupled together, and so peaceably and orderly drew one way; and perhaps, were all of the same color, and of an equal size and bigness, which is usual in the chariots of princes. The church is not a company of wild and unconverted sinners, running loose, and enjoying their carnal liberty; but of persons, who, by divine grace, are put under the yoke of Christ, being joined together in gospel-bonds, and ‘strive together for the faith of the gospel, worshipping the Lord with one shoulder and one consent;’ and when they are all of the same faith, of the same mind and judgment, speak the same things, and harmoniously agree together, without disorders, contentions, and divisions, then may they be said to be like ‘a company of horses in Pharoah’s chariots.’ But, III. It may be inquired, why this comparison is made and mentioned here; which was, 1. To comfort and support her under the mean apprehensions she had of herself, and also to strengthen her against the reproach and scandal that was thrown upon her by others; therefore Christ lets her know, that tho’ she was black in her own eyes, and slighted and despised by her mother’s children, yet she was glorious in his, for he had compared her to a ‘company of horses,’ etc. 2. To inform her, that she was in a militant state, and that she must not expect much ease and rest, which she seemed to be seeking for in verse 7, and therefore he would have her know, that this was a time for fighting the Lord’s battles against sin, Satan, and the world; and for that purpose he had ‘made her as his goodly horse in the battle,’ Zechariah 10:3. 3. Christ having directed her to tread in the ‘footsteps of the flock,’ and to feed her kids beside the shepherds’ tents, would have her consider, that she must expect trouble, persecution, and opposition from those other shepherds, whose flocks are mentioned as distinct from Christ’s, in verse 7. and therefore to support her under, and comfort her against these, he tells her, that he had ‘compared her, or made her like to a company of horses,’ stout, strong, courageous, warlike, and victorious; and therefore, seeing he had ‘not given her the Spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,’ she should not be discouraged and dismayed at these troubles and afflictions that came upon her.

    VERSE 10. Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold. CHRIST in these words continues to give an account of the church’s beauty and glory; and that either in opposition to what she had said in verses 5 & 6, and assures her, that her cheeks and neck were not so black as she imagined; but were like the blushing cheeks of a beautiful woman, adorned with jewels, and her fair neck adorned with bracelets, necklaces and chains of gold or pearl; see Ezekiel 16:11,12; or else he continues the metaphor used in the preceding verse, where he compares her to a ‘company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots’ whose bridles being richly adorned, having chains of gold hung about their necks, as the camels of the kings of Midian had, Judges 8:26, gloriously set forth the beauty of the church; and perhaps, the church’s glory under the Old Testament dispensation is represented in this verse, and a farther increase and display of it under the New Testament dispensation promised in the text. And here, I. Her cheeks are said to be ‘comely, with rows of jewels.’

    II. Her ‘neck with chains of gold.’

    I. Her cheeks are said to ‘be comely with rows of Jewels:’ the word jewels is not in the Hebrew text, but supplied by our translators; and the word Torim, translated rows, sometimes signifies turtles, which gave occasion to the Septuagint to render the words thus: ‘How beautiful are thy cheeks, as the turtle dove’s.’ R. Aben Ezra thinks that the bridles of those horses, to which she is compared, had the images of turtles upon them; others, f103 that these were some ornaments of women, as jewels and ear-rings, which had the figures of turtles upon them, and therefore were called turtles, or turturellas, according to Drusius; even as those pieces of money, which had the figure of a lamb upon them, are called lambs, Genesis 33:19, Job 42:11. Now the cheeks of the church being said to be comely with these, shew her innocency and harmlessness, her love, chastity, faithfulness and beauty; all which appear in this creature. The Targum renders it bridles, and very well refers it to the law given on mount Sinai to the people of Israel; which is as a bridle, both to restrain persons from sin, who are by nature as the horse and mule, without understanding, and also to guide and direct them in the right way, that they may not depart from it; and on these bridles were rows of jewels or precious stones. The word Tor, which is the singular of this in our text, signifies an order, or disposition, and course of things; see Esther 2:12,15 and is not amiss rendered by our translators, rows, that is, of jewels, or precious stones; and by them are intended, either, 1st, The precepts of the moral law; which, 1. Are beautifully ranked and disposed in order; the precepts thereof are so strictly and closely joined together, that he that offends in one point, breaks the link, and so is guilty of all. 2. These are so many rows of jewels, valuable and excellent, and are ‘more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold.’ Or else, 2dly, The ordinances of the ceremonial law; which may be compared to rows of jewels,1. For the variety of them; this law is ‘a law of commandments,’ of many commandments, ‘contained in ordinances,’ which, as they were carnal, so they were divers, see Ephesians 2:15, Hebrews 9:10. 2. For the excellency of them, as they prefigured the Lord Jesus Christ; it is true, after Christ the substance was come, they were ‘weak and beggarly elements,’ useless and insignificant; but before Christ’s coming, they were lively representations of him, exceeding useful to the saints, and highly valued by them.

    Now the church’s cheeks, that is, the outward face and appearance of the church, were comely and desireable in the eyes of Christ, being adorned with these rows of jewels; her outward conversation being according to the laws of God, she appeared beautiful and delightful, for ‘holiness becomes the house of God’ for ever: there was a beauty in ceremonial worship; the tabernacles of God were amiable to the saints, and the saints themselves were so to Christ, in their attendance on the service and ordinances of God: the statutes and ordinances with which the external face of the church was beautified, were such as were not given to other people during that dispensation; which manifestly shewed that God had a peculiar regard for them.

    II. Her neck is said to ‘be comely with chains of gold.’ The word gold is not in the Hebrew text, but supplied by our translators, and the word Charuzim, which is only found in this place, is generally interpreted by the Jewish doctors, chains of gold, or jewels and precious stones bored through and hung in a string, to be wore about the neck. A pearl necklace was in use with great personages; so the eldest daughter of Priamus had collo monile baccatum, a pearl necklace, which A Eneas made a present of to Dido; and such like was the chain of gold beset with amber, presented to Penelope by her suitors, which shone like the sun. And, 1st , I shall enquire what is meant by the church’s neck. 2dly , What by those chains of gold, or precious stones, with which it is adorned and made comely. 1st, By her neck may be meant, either the grace of faith, by which the church cleaves to Christ the head, and exalts him; this is also accompanied with other graces, which are linked together as a chain, and is attended with good works: or else, by it is meant the ministers of the gospel, f109 who, as the neck, are placed in the most eminent part of the body, the church, and are the means of conveying spiritual food from Christ the head, to the members thereof. But of this, see more on chapter 4:4. 2dly, By those chains of gold, with which the church’s neck is beautified and adorned, may be meant, 1. The laws and ordinances of God; which the ministers of the gospel, and members of churches should be careful to observe; and are, as Solomon says, Proverbs 1:9 ‘an ornament of grace unto the head, and chains about the neck,’ of those who regard them. Or, 2. Those diversities of gifts which are bestowed on the ministers of Christ, by which they are made ‘able ministers of the New Testament; and so become useful to many, and appear comely and beautiful, both in the eyes of Christ, and of such souls to whom they minister.’ Or, 3. The various graces of the Spirit, with which, not only ministers, but all believers are adorned; for as sins and vices are so chained and linked together, that where there is one, there is all; so the graces of the Spirit are like chains of gold, which are so closely linked together, that they cannot be separated, but where there is one grace there is every grace, which very much beautify and adorn the believerse This golden chain of grace which is put about the church’s neck, consists of these ten links: the first is faith, that precious pearl and valuable jewel, which is alike precious in all saints, as to its nature and object; the fruit of electing love, the Father’s gift, the Son’s grace, and the Spirit’s work. The second is hope, which is called, ‘good hope thro’ grace;’ this carries the soul chearfully through all the difficulties of life, and makes not ashamed at death; it is both the Christian’s anchor and his helmet; it is valuable in its nature, and useful in its actings. The third link in this golden chain is love, which is ‘the fulfilling of the law;’ this is highly valued, by Christ, see chapter 4:10, and is of so great a price, that if a man ‘would give all the substance of his house for it, it would utterly be contemned,’ chapter 8:7. The fourth is humility; which is, in ‘the sight of God, of great price;’ and the believer, being clothed with it, appears very beautiful and comely; it is a sparkling gem in this necklace. The fifth is patience, which is of exceeding use in the believer’s life, much recommends his character and profession, and is greatly taken notice of by Christ; see Revelation 2:2,3,19. The sixth is self-denial, which is required of, and should be in exercise in all Christ’s followers, but seldom appears in its lustre and splendor, being frequently sullied by carnal and selfish principles and actions. The seventh is contentment in every state of life; this is an exceeding great rarity; few persons are possessed of this jewel; the apostle Paul had it, as appears from what he says. ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’ The eighth is a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ; this is eternal life itself, and is by believers preferred to all the things of this life; who, with the apostle, ‘count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, their Lord.’ The ninth is long-suffering and forbearance, whereby saints are not easily provoked, and do readily forgive those who have offended them; this gives great grace, and is exceeding ornamental to the believerse The tenth, and last link in this golden chain is sincerity; this runs through all other graces, and makes them so glorious as they are; this was exceeding bright, and shone with a great deal of lustre in Nathaniel, of whom Christ said, ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.’ Or, 4. Those blessings of grace which are laid up in an everlasting covenant, come through the blood of Christ, and are communicated to all his people, may be meant by these chains; they go inseparably together; where a person is blessed with one, he is blessed with all; for though our interest in them may be gradually discovered to us, yet are we blessed at once, ‘with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.’ Not one of these links can be broken; this golden chain of grace and salvation is excellently described by the apostle, when he says, Romans 8:30. ‘Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified;’ where we may observe, how all the blessings of grace are inseparably linked together; and which being put about the believer’s neck, must needs make him look very beautiful and comely.

    VERSE 11. We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver. CHRIST having described the church’s comeliness in the former verse, as she was beautiful under the legaI dispensation, with the precepts of the moral and ceremonial law, and with that measure of grace which was then bestowed on her, proceeds in this verse to promise in his own, and in the name of the other two persons, a greater glory, and a larger measure of grace unto her, under the gospel dispensation. And, I. The thing promised is, to ‘make her borders of gold, with studs of silver.’

    II. The persons by whom this is to be performed, who are more than one; ‘We will make thee,’ etc.

    I. The thing promised is, that she shall have borders of gold, with studs of silver’ made her: some read it, ‘turtles of gold:’ the Septuagint render it ‘similitudes, or likenesses of gold’; and it is probable they mean the images of some things, perhaps turtles, which might be wrought in silver studs, with pieces, or plates of gold, which also R. Aben Ezra seems to intimate; others translate it, ‘rows of gold’, as in the former verse, it being the same word which is used there; our translators render it borders, respecting the borders of garments, where the Jews wore their fringes, and which, in Christ’s time, the Pharisees, who were ambitious of being esteemed more holy than others, wore very large. Now a promise of golden borders may here intend the glorious righteousness of Christ; that golden and silver studded work of his, that raiment and needlework and curious piece of embroidery, with which the church and all believers are beautified and adorned; in which the church, the queen, stands at the right hand of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, as one clad in gold of Ophir.

    Moreover, by these ‘borders, or rows of gold, with studs of silver,’ may be meant, either, 1st, The ordinances of the gospel, which are far preferable to those under the law; the church’s cheeks and neck were comely with these rows and chains, under the legal dispensation; but these are not said to be rows or chains of gold; the words jewels and gold are not in the original, but supplied by our translators, as has been there observed; but when he speaks of gospel-ordinances, which he would appoint, and his church should enjoy under the gospel-dispensation, he makes mention of gold and silver; as the Lord does in the prophecy of Isaiah, when he is speaking of, and promising glory to the church in those times, saying, Isaiah 60:17. ‘For brass, I will bring gold; and for iron, I will bring silver; and for wood, brass; and for stone, iron.’ Gospel ordinances are preferable to the law: 1. They are more easy, pleasant, and delightful; the ceremonial law was a yoke of bondage, and some of the ordinances of it intolerable; but Christ’s yoke, under the gospel dispensation, ‘is easy, and his burden is light;’ those ways were ‘ways of pleasantness,’ in which God would have his people walk under the law, much more are those which they are directed to under the gospel; if those statutes and carnal ordinances were ‘more to be desired than gold, yea, than fine gold,’ much more are those which believers enjoy now; the ordinances of that legal dispensation were servile and slavish, and suited to persons who were under a spirit of bondage; but those of the gospel became Christ’s freemen, to be found in obedience to, and are no ways an infringement of their spiritual liberty, but rather an advancement of it; these commandments are no ways grievous, but every way delightful and pleasant, and are suited to a free, ingenuous, and gospel-spirit. 2. They are more lasting and durable; the ordinances of the Mosaic dispensation were imposed upon the Jewish church until ‘the time of reformation,’ that is, until the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the oblation of his sacrifice; for when he, the substance of all those shadows, was come, they vanished and disappeared; ‘the middle wall of partition is now broken down; the taw of commandments, contained in ordinances,’ is entirely abolished, and the whole economy is at an end but the ordinances of the gospel will last till time shall be no more; when there will be no more need of such helps as these to assist our sight, or such lights as these to direct us in our way; they will last till the coming of Christ, till the ‘Sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings:’ these are things which will remain, till then, unshaken and immoveable; the gospel-dispensation is a ‘kingdom which cannot be moved,’ in opposition to the legal one, which is already moved, and entirely abrogated. 3. They are more clear and perspicuous; there was a great deal of obscurity in the legal dispensation; the faith of God’s children was led to Christ through dark representations and cloudy types and figures; but now, under the gospel dispensation, we all with open face beholding through those ordinances, which we now enjoy, ‘as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.’ 4. They are more spiritual; the ordinances of the ceremonial law are called carnal ordinances, Hebrews 9:10. The external worship of the Jews was attended with a great deal of pomp and splendor, but not with so much spirituality and power of godliness as that of believers under the gospel, who ‘worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’ 5. The obedience which was performed under the legal dispensation, was not so free and ingenuous as this, which is performed by believers under the gospel; that sprang from fear, and was performed under a spirit of bondage, but this from principles of love and grace. Believers, in their obedience to Christ, as under the constraints of love, are guided, influenced, and assisted by the Spirit of God, who is a free Spirit, or a spirit of liberty; for ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ Or else, 2dly , The doctrines of the gospel may be here intended; which being ‘words fitly spoken, are like apples of gold in pictures of silver:’ these may be called ‘rows, or borders of gold studded with silver;’ for the doctrines of grace are by the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 3:12, compared to gold, silver, and precious stones, as are the doctrines of man’s invention to wood, hay, and stubble. Now these may be very well called ‘borders of gold studded with silver,’ 1. For their valuableness; they are valued by souls who have tasted the sweetness, and felt the power of them, more than ‘thousands of gold and silver,’ yea, more than their necessary food, nay, more than life itself; they contain riches of grace and glory, yea, ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ 2. For the glory and splendor of them; they give a glorious display of the divine perfections, and in a resplendent manner represent the glory of Christ’s person, office, and grace; and therefore the gospel is called the ‘glorious gospel of God and Christ, 1 Timothy 1:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4. 3. For their being tried ones; ‘The words of the Lord,’ says the Psalmist, Psalm 12:6. ‘are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times:’ they have been tried by saints, and have never failed to support and comfort them, nor to guide and direct them in the right way; they have been tried by enemies, and have stood the brunt of all their rage, malice, and persecution. 4. For their durableness: they are as lasting as ‘borders of gold studded with silver.’ Attempts have been made to destroy the gospel, and remove it out of the world, but have all proved abortive; it is an ever-lasting gospel, it is immoveable, a burdensome stone to all those who endeavor to subvert or remove it; though all things in nature are fading, perishing, and subject to change and alteration, yet ‘the word of God liveth and abideth for ever.’ 5. They may be called ‘rows of gold,’ for their orderly disposition and connection; there is an entire harmony and agreement between the truths of the gospel; one truth has an entire dependance upon another, and they have all close connection with each other; this is what the apostle calls the proportion or analogy of faith, Romans 12:6. 6. The gospel is full of the silver specks or studs of exceeding great and precious promises; it abounds with them, and is delightfully studded by them; it is filled with such a variety of them as are both useful and pleasant to believers.

    Now there being such a display of the doctrines of grace, under the gospel dispensation, it appears to be far more glorious than the legal one; it is true, the law had a glory attending it, but the gospel has an excelling one; the law was ‘the killing letter, and the ministration of death,’ but the gospel is the ministration of life, ‘the spirit that quickens;’ the law is the ‘ministration of condemnation,’ but the gospel is the ‘ministration of righteousness;’ the law is that ‘which is done away,’ but the gospel is that ‘which remaineth,’ and will abide for ever. Or else, 3dly , By these ‘borders of gold, with studs of silver,’ may be meant the rich and glorious graces of the blessed Spirit, and a larger increase of them under the gospel-dispensation; which are, 1. Rich and enriching, excellent and valuable as gold and silver; nay, grace is ‘much more precious than gold that perisheth;’ it is rich in its own nature, and enriches all that are possessed of it; therefore, says Christ, Revelation 3:18. ‘I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayst be rich.’ 2. The graces of the Spirit adorn and beautify a soul, as much, nay, more than ‘borders of gold studded with silver’ do the body; on the account of these the church is said to be ‘all glorious within;’ and though believers in their nature-state were black, like those who ‘have been among the pots,’ yet being called by, and adorned with the grace of God, are like ‘the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.’ 3. The graces of the Spirit, are us lasting and durable as golden borders with silver studs; nay, more so, they shall not perish, can never be lost; grace is an immortal and incorruptible seed, which remains in the believer, and shall do so for ever. 4. A larger measure of grace is dispensed under the gospel-dispensation than was under the legal one; it was neither so clearly revealed, nor so largely communicated before Christ appeared in the flesh, ‘full of grace and truth,’ as it was afterwards; and such a larger revelation and increase of grace must needs make the church look more glorious under the one than it did under the other. Or else, 4thly , These ‘borders of gold’ intend the ground-work of a believers faith and hope, which is Christ, as ‘Jehovah our righteousness,’ who is the only sure and safe foundation, and the ‘chief corner stone;’ and the ‘silver studs’ may the curious work of sanctification, with all the delightful fruits thereof, even those ‘beauties of holiness’ which are so ornamental to, and do so much become the believer; Christ’s righteousness, imputed to us, is the ground-work and foundation of faith and hope; and his grace imparted to and wrought in us, is the superstructure that is raised upon it; the one the golden ‘borders,’ the other the silver ‘studs.’ Or, 5thly , Souls called by divine grace are meant, even the ‘precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold;’ and as a great number of these being called in, enlarge the borders of the church, so they likewise increase the glory of it; this is one way by which Christ ‘beautifies the place of his sanctuary, and makes the place of his feet glorious.’ Or, 6thly , and lastly, The glories of heaven may be here intended; for as Christ gives his people grace here, so he will give them glory hereafter, which he and the other two persons are preparing and making ready for them; and we need not wonder that these heavenly glories are represented by ‘borders of gold studded with silver; when the new Jerusalem is described, Revelation 21:18,19,21 as a ‘city of pure gold, like unto clear glass, and the street of it pure gold, as transparent glass, the wall of it of jasper, the foundations thereof garnished with all manner of precious stones, and the twelve gates, said to be twelve pearls.’ Can any thing appear more glorious and magnificent than this account of that city, which has ‘foundations whose builder and maker is God?’ and those, who are enriched by divine grace here, need not doubt of being partakers of the celestial glory hereafter. But let us now consider who they are that promise and will perform all this. For, II. As the things promised are here mentioned, which are ‘borders of gold with studs of silver;’ so the persons who promise to make these, are intimated in those words, ‘we will make thee,’ etc. It is not the chorus of virgins, or the daughters of Jerusalem, who here speak; nor angels, who are both incapable of and unfit for such an undertaking; nor is God introduced here speaking regio more, in the manner of kings who sometimes use to speak in the plural number, when they only mean themselves; but a trinity of persons is, no doubt, here intended, even ‘the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, which three are one,’ and are jointly concerned in all the works of grace, as they were in the works of creation: it is a way of speaking much like that in Genesis 1:26. R. Solomon Jarchi paraphrases it thus, “I and my house of judgment,” as he also does Genesis 19:24.

    Now the ancient Jews by this speech meant a trinity of persons, though the modern unbelieving.ones, as Ainsworth observes, are ignorant of it; yet still retain the phrase, and use it as the forementioned Rabbi does, in those places where a trinity of persons manifestly appears: for the house of judgment never consisted of less than three persons. Now this work may very well be ascribed to them; for, 1st , The ordinances of the gospel are the institutions of all the three persons; divine adoration is given to them in all; and they are enjoined on believers, and are regarded by them, as being all equally concerned in authorizing them, and in sharing the glory which arises from them; thus for instance, baptism is required to be performed ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ Matthew 28:19 and accordingly is performed in this manner, 2dly , The gospel itself is the work of all the three persons; God the Father is the author of it, and therefore it is called the ‘gospel of God,’ Romans 1:1, and so is Christ, hence it is also called his, verse 16. and so is the Spirit, and therefore it is called ‘the ministration of the spirit,’ Corinthians 3:8. The grace of all the three persons is discovered by it, and the glory of them all concerned in it; the Father sends it, Christ is the sum and substance of it, and the Spirit powerfully applies it. 3dly , The work of grace upon the soul is performed by all the three persons; thus the regeneration and quickening of a sinner, ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ is ascribed to God the Father, 1 Peter 1:3 to the Son, John 5:21, and to the Spirit, John 3:5. 4thly , The increase of grace, which seems to be the thing here intended, is owing to them all; thus grace and peace, that is, a larger measure of them, is wished and prayed for by John for the seven churches of Asia, from all the three persons, Revelation 1:4,5. 5thly , All that glory which saints shall have hereafter, is procured and prepared by them all; the Father, he has prepared the kingdom for them from the foundation of the world, and it is his pleasure to give it to them; the Son he has opened the way to it with his blood, and is gone to prepare a place for them; and the Spirit, he is the earnest and pledge of it, he discovers the invisible glories of it to them, and will never leave them till he has made them meet for, and brought them into the enjoyment of them. So that all the three persons, in all these senses, may be very well understood as promising to make for the church these ‘borders of gold with studs of silver:’ which shews, 1. That believers should have a great value for the gospel, and the ordinances thereof; seeing they are not only so valuable in themselves, being preferable to gold and silver, and are so useful and ornamental to the church, but are also the work of all the three persons, 2. That the work of grace upon the heart of a sinner, and the carrying it on to perfection, is done by an almighty power, and is the work of the eternal Three; the renewing of men requires the same power, and is effected by the same hands, as the first making of them did; those who said at the creation of man, ‘Let us make man,’ say at this new creation, and in the carrying on and perfecting of the work, ‘We will make thee borders of gold,’ etc. as they were all jointly concerned in the one, so they are in the other, which shows the greatness and glory of it. 3. That all these ‘borders of gold studded with silvers,’ are made for the comfort, glory, and happiness of the church, ‘We will make thee, or for thee,’ etc. the whole gospel, with all its doctrines and promises, are given for their instruction and consolation; all the ordinances thereof, for their comfort and improvement, as well as for God’s glory; all the grace which is provided in Christ, wrought by the Spirit in their hearts, as well as the glory which is laid up in heaven; all, I say, is to make them ‘a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.’

    VERSE 12. While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. CHRIST having given very large commendations of his church, and promised a great deal of grace and glory to her; she in this and the two following verses, declares what advantages she received by him, how lovely his person, and how delightful his company were to her. These words may be understood either, First, Of the time of Christ’s not being manifested in the flesh, after the promise of it, and of the exercise of the faith, hope, love, desire, expectation, etc. of the Old Testament-saints, respecting his coming in the flesh: and then the sense is this, Whilst he, who is constituted king of saints, is appointed to be the mediator between God and man, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world, is With God, as ‘the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father,’ and not yet manifested in the flesh; ‘my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof,’ that is, my grace is in exercise; my soul is breathing with earnest desires after him; I long for his coming, and am in earnest expectation of it; I live in the hope of enjoying this valuable blessing; I firmly believe that he will come according to the divine promise, though his stay is long, and therefore will patiently wait the appointed time. Christ did exist from eternity, as the Son of God; was set up as the head and mediator of God’s elect, and was appointed and constituted king over God’s ‘holy hill of Zion.’ He bore this character throughout all the Old-Testament-dispensation; and being promised to be the Messiah and Savior of sinners, from the time of the first declaration and publication of it, the Old-Testament-saints lived in the faith, hope, and earnest expectation of his coming in the flesh. Or else, Secondly, They may be understood of the time of Christ’s being in the temple, or in Jerusalem, or in the land of Judea; during which time the gospel was preached, and the sweet odor of it diffused throughout all the parts thereof. Christ was promised to come into the world as the church’s King; ‘behold thy King cometh,’ etc. Zechariah 9:9, and as such he did come; the wise men of the East sought him under the character of ‘the King of the Jews:’ He was accused of making himself King, and for it was put to death: Hence this superscription was wrote on the cross, ‘This is the King of the Jews;’ though most were ignorant of the nature of his office and kingdom, which were ‘not of this world.’ Now whilst this great King was here on earth, the savor of the gospel was spread abroad; it was preached by Christ himself, in the temple, in the synagogues of the Jews, and in several parts of the land; for he was ‘not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel:’ He sent out his disciples to preach it, but limited them to Judea’s land, and forbad them to ‘go in the way of the Gentiles,’ or enter into any of the cities of the Samaritans. So that the sweet odor was then confined within that land; though after his resurrection he enlarged the commission of his disciples, and bid them go and preach the gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem; which they accordingly did, and their ministry was owned for the conversion of many. but afterwards being rejected by the Jews, they turned to the Gentiles; for it was proper and necessary, that the word should be first preached to them, that ‘out of Zion might go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ Or, Thirdly, These words may be understood of Christ’s being now in heaven, whither, after his resurrection, he ascended, where he now is, and he will continue till his second coming, ‘whom the heaven must receive, until the times of the restitution of all things;’ it is from thence that saints expect him: Now these words, ‘while the King sitteth at his table,’ very well suit with Christ’s exalted state in heaven; his kingly office and power appear more manifest, he is now declared to be ‘both Lord and Christ;’ his posture there is, ‘sitting at the right hand of God,’ where he is ‘in his circuit’ as the words may be read; it being the usual custom anciently among the Jews, to sit at table in a circular form, 1 Samuel 16:11. Christ being in heaven, is ‘in his circuit,’ encompassed about with angels and glorified saints; thus in Revelation 5:6-11,12, a large number of angels and saints are said to be ‘round about the throne,’ (and Christ, the lamb, in the midst of them) singing his praises, and feasting with him on those joys which will never end.

    Now, whilst Christ is thus solacing himself with saints above, at such a distance from his church below, he is not unmindful of her, but gives such large communications of his grace, as cause her ‘spikenard’ to ‘send forth the smell thereof:’ Which may be meant, either, 1st, Of the graces of the church being in exercise on Christ: Christ, though now in heaven, and so invisible to the bodily eye, yet is the object of faith, love, hope, and joy; ‘whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,’ 1 Peter 1:8. The distance of place no way hinders either the communications of grace to us from Christ, or the exercise of our grace on him; but while he is there, he is giving it forth to us, and we are exercising it upon him; it is the manifestation of Christ’s love and grace to us that makes our spikenard send forth its smell. Or else, 2dly, The prayers of the saints may be intended by it; which are odorous, and of a sweet-smelling savor to God, being perfumed with Christ’s mediation, and offered up with his ‘much incense;’ and therefore says David, <19E102> Psalm 141:2; ‘let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.’

    R. Aben Ezra thinks, that by the smell of the spikenard, is meant the smell of the incense, which was burnt under the law. Now while Christ is in heaven, the saints put their prayers into his hands, who takes notice of them, and is always ready, with his golden censer, to offer them up to his Father on the golden altar, in which he smells a sweet savor; and therefore the prayers of the saints are called odors, Revelation 5:8. See also Revelation 8:3,4. Or rather, 3dly, This may be expressive of the gospel, and the sweet ‘savor of the knowledge’ of Christ, which by it is made ‘manifest in every place,’ wherever it comes, 2 Corinthians 2:14. Now the gospel may be compared to spikenard, 1. Spikenard is but a small, low plant or shrub; the gospel is mean and contemptible in the eyes of the world; it is accounted foolishness by them, and the preachers of it are abject and despicable persons in their esteem.

    Yet, 2. It is very excellent; it is by Pliny accounted the chief and principal ingredient in ointments; and therefore, John 12:3, the ointment of spikenard, which Mary took and anointed the feet of Christ with, is said to be ‘very precious and costly:’ The gospel is valuable and excellent, both in its nature and effects; it is a rich and an enriching gospel; and therefore called ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ,’ an exceeding.valuable treasure, that is put in earthen vessels; it is a revelation and declaration of the riches of grace, which Christ bestows upon sinners here, and of those riches of glory which saints shall be made partakers of hereafter. 3. It is of an exceeding sweet smell, so is the gospel; there is such an efficacy in the odor of it, that it enlivens dead sinners, and therefore is said to be the ‘savor of life unto life,’ and will revive the spirits of fainting believers: though it is reported of spikenard, that by its being carried over sea it grows mouldy and rots, whereby it loses its sweet smell, and stinks exceedingly; so the gospel, to those that perish, is not only of an ill smell, and abhorred by them, but is ‘the savor of death unto death.’ Many of the Jewish writers understand the smell of the spikenard here as an ill one. 4. Spikenard is of a hot nature and digestive of cold humours; it is hot in the first, and dry in the second degree: The gospel being powerfully applied by the Spirit of God, warms the hearts of God’s children, makes them burn within, and drives away luke-warmness, deadness and dulness, occasioned by indwelling sin. 5. It is of a very comforting and strengthening nature to the stomach, it exhilarates the spirits; so are the doctrines and promises of the gospel to the souls of believers; these strengthen and nourish, comfort and refresh them; they, like Jeremiah, find the word and eat it, and it is ‘the joy and rejoicing of their hearts.’ For these reasons the gospel may be compared to spikenard; which some of the Jewish writers think is musk, others a kind of spice somewhat like saffron; but it is best to understand it of nard, of which there are many sorts; the best of which is that which grows up in spikes, and therefore is called spikenard, which is what is here intended. Again, Fourthly, These words may be understood of Christ’s feasting with his saints here below, during which time their grace is in exercise; there is a mutual feasting between Christ and believers, he sups with them, and they with him; Christ has furnished a table for his people in this wilderness, with plenty, and variety of suitable food; and though he is a King, constituted by his Father, and acknowledged by his church, yet he sits at this table, with poor, mean, and worthless creatures, and welcomes them to those sweet provisions, saying, ‘Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.’ Moreover, Christ’s presence with his people, and his grace manifested to them, have a mighty influence to draw forth their graces into exercise, even as the rising sun opens the flowers, and exhales the odor thereof, and agreeable breezes spread it abroad. Thus when the graces of believers are in exercise under the influences of Christ, and the enjoyment of his presence, they are exceeding odorous, both to Christ and others; their spikenard may then be said to ‘send forth the sweet smell thereof:’ On this table, which is sometimes called ‘the table of the Lord,’ are set the body and blood of Christ, whose ‘flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed;’ on which believers, being encouraged by Christ’s presence, and assisted by his Spirit, feed plentifully; and he sits there and delights himself by viewing the graces of his own Spirit in exercise: thus at this table they are both mutually feasted and delighted. Yet there seems to be an emphasis on the phrase his table, as if it was a table peculiar to himself; and it was usual with great personages, and at grand entertainments, for the master of the feast and each of his guests to have separate tables, though together in the same room; this was formerly a custom with the Jews though now disused, and with the ancient Greeks, and with the old Germans also, and it seems with the Romans, but this did not hinder their mutual pleasure.

    The conjecture of a certain Expositor, f125 that Christ himself is intended by the spikenard, is not to be slighted, he being called a ‘bundle of myrrh,’ and a ‘cluster of camphire,’ in the following verses: It was usual in feasts to anoint the head and hair as well as feet of persons invited thereunto; and ointment of spikenard was often used, as is manifest from Mark 14:3, John 12:3; to this custom the Psalmist alludes, Psalm 23:5. At royal banquets in Syria, as this here was one, it was usual to go round the guests and sprinkle them with Babylonian ointment. Now the church was at table with Christ as a guest, and was entertained with the most delicious fare; here was nothing wanting to render the entertainment delightful and pleasant; Christ himself, as he is both the master and the feast, so he is the ointment of spikenard to his guests: and it is as if she should say, “I am now at a sweet and heavenly repast with my beloved, he sits at the table, and I with him; and as he is my food, so he is my spikenard; he is my ‘all in all;’ as long as he is here I need no flowers to delight me, no spikenard, myrrh, cypress, or unguents made of these to refresh me, for he is all this, and much more unto me.”

    Christ’s person and grace, his sacrifice, blood and righteousness, are, like spikenard, of an exceeding sweet smell; his person is ‘altogether lovely; the savor of his graces or ointments’ attract the love of his people; his ‘sacrifice is of a sweet-smelling savor to God,’ and to all believers; his garments, or robe of righteousness, ‘smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia,’ and in them believers are acceptable and well-pleasing to God.

    VERSE 13. A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. THE church in these words continues the account of that comfort, delight and satisfaction which she had in Christ, expressing the greatest love and strongest affection for him: and therefore she compares him to the very best herbs and spices, and declares that if her spikenard, or the graces of the spirit in her sent forth an agreeable smell to him, whilst he was at his table, much more grateful and odorous was he, being as ‘a bundle of myrrh’ unto her, I. Here is a title or character which she gives him; ‘my well beloved.’

    II. What Christ is unto her; ‘a bundle of myrrh.’

    III. The entertainment she is resolved to give him; ‘he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts,’ I. Here is a title or character which she gives unto him, ‘my well beloved.’

    Ainsworth observes, that the Hebrew word Dodi, which is thus translated, is written with the same letters as David is, a name which is frequently given to Christ in the Old Testament. See Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23,24; Hosea 3:5. David was a type of Christ, and of him, according to the flesh, he came; for he is ‘the root and offspring of David;’ as he is God, he is David’s Lord; and as he is man, David’s son; both words, Dodi and David, signify beloved, and both David and Christ are beloved of God. ‘David was a man after God’s own heart,’ and Christ his ‘beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased,’ and both of them beloved of God’s people. The Septuagint render it by a word which signifies a nephew, a brother or sister’s son, Christ is near akin to his church, he is partaker of the same flesh and blood as they are, is of the same nature with them; they are ‘members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones;’ the Hebrew word Goel, which is frequently rendered a Redeemer, signifies also a near kinsman; and being applied to Christ; as it is in Job 19:25, shews, that he, who is our Redeemer, is also our near kinsman: but the word is very well rendered here, ‘my beloved, or well beloved,’ and is expressive, 1st , Of Christ’s love to the church; he is her ‘well beloved,’ and has shewn his love by undertaking her cause, espousing her person, assuming her nature, and dying in her room and stead; which love of his is eternal, free, sovereign, unchangeable and unparalleled, and is the strongest motive to, and has the greatest influence upon her love to him; therefore she may well call him her ‘well beloved.’ 2dly , It is expressive of her love to Christ, which springs and arises from the manifestations of his love to her, for ‘we love him, because he first loved us;’ which love was now in exercise in her soul, he being present with her; and therefore she gives him this affectionate title as an evidence of it. 3dly , It shews that she had a sense of her interest in him, and his love; a greater blessing a soul cannot be possessed of, than an interest in Christ and his love, whose person is ‘the chiefest among ten thousand, and whose loving-kindness is better than life,’ and all the comforts and blessings of it; and next to this is a knowledge and sense of it; a soul may have an interest in Christ, and yet not have the sense of it; the former renders this state safe and secure, the latter makes his life comfortable and pleasant, and is an additional blessing and favor; for a person is then able to say, he ‘hath loved me, and hath given himself for me.’

    II. She declares that Christ her ‘well beloved, was a bundle of myrrh unto her.’ By ‘a bundle of myrrh,’ we are not, I think, to understand the twigs or branches of the myrrh-tree bound up in faggots, which the Arabians used to make fires with, the fumes whereof were very noxious and pernicious, as the historian tells us, and unless they burnt the gum, called storax, would produce incurable diseases; but either the little sprigs or flowers thereof bound up together, and put in the bosom as a pleasant nosegay to smell to, may be meant; for Christ is exceeding sweet and delightful to the believer, being ‘the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the vallies:’ or else the gum stacte, which springs from the myrrh-tree, and so the Septuagint read it, ‘a bundle of stacte;’ or liquid myrrh, which sweats from the tree of its own accord, without incision, and is accounted the best: and then by a bundle of it is meant a bag, or bottle of it, the same word which is used is translated a bag, in Haggai 1:6; Job 14:17, and is an allusion to persons who carry bags of perfumes, and sweet powders, or smelling-bottles in their bosoms, for the reviving of their spirits; now what these are to such persons, that and much more is Christ to his church. R.. David Kinchi relates out of Midrash Chazith, that Abraham, the father of the faithful, is there compared to myrrh; but Christ, who was the object of Abraham’s faith and joy, may be much better and more aptly compared thereunto which I shall now consider. And, 1st, Christ may be compared to myrrh, if we regard the nature and properties of it; it being, 1. An excellent spice, and one of the most precious and principal spices; it is reckoned among the chief spices, chapter 4:14, and as such Moses is ordered to use it in the anointing oil, Exodus 30:23. Christ is ‘the chiefest among ten thousands,’ and exceeding precious to every believer, in his person, office and grace; there is none among the angels in heaven, or saints on earth, so desirable to them as he is; nor none who deserves to have the preeminence in, and over all things, as he does; seeing he is ‘the image of the invisible God, and the first-born of every creature.’ 2. It is very odorous, it is called ‘sweet-smelling myrrh,’ chapter 5:5, and the church is said to be perfumed with it, chapter 3:6. Christ, in his person, sacrifice, and righteousness, is of a sweet-smelling savor, both to God and believers, as has been shewn on verse 12. Believers smell a sweet smell in all his offices, characters and relations; he is in all these as a bundle of myrrh, exceeding delightful to them. 3. Yet it is somewhat bitter in taste, it is gustu leniter amara, as Pliny f134 observes; which may be expressive, (1.) Of the sufferings of Christ; which, though they were grateful, and of a sweet-smelling savor to God, for it pleased the Lord to bruise him; here was not only voluntas Dei, the will of God, but here was also voluptas Dei, the pleasure of God; yet they were bitter to Christ, witness his agonies in the garden, his sorrows on the cross, and the spirtings, buffettings, scourgings, and revilings of his enemies; his head being crowned with thorns, and his hands and feet pierced with nails; being forsaken by his God, and by his friends, could not be grateful and pleasant to him: but though these were so bitter to Christ, yet, like myrrh, how sweet and odorous is a crucified Christ to believers! they desire to know none but Christ, and him crucified; the bitter cup, which he drank, is the ground of their joy and triumph; his death and sufferings are the foundation of their comfort, and which only can secure them against the fears of hell and wrath; it is this which embitters sin unto them; sin never appears more odious than in the glass of Christ’s sufferings; and they never mourn for it in a better or truer sense, than when they ‘look upon him whom they have pierced;’ repentance is a tear that drops from faith’s eye, and is never more evangelic than when faith views a sin-bearing and sin-atoning Savior; now from the sufferings of Christ, or from a crucified Christ, distil and drop down the sweet-smelling myrrh of spiritual blessings, as justification, sanctification, adoption, pardon of sin, peace, reconciliation, and a right to eternal glory; all which come to us through the blood, sufferings, and death of a crucified Jesus. (2) The myrrh, being bitter in taste, though sweet in smell, may shew, that the cross goes along with Christ; for as Luther says, Christianus estcrucianus, a Christian is a cross-bearer; it is required of every one that will follow Christ, that he take up the cross; for he that would wear the crown, must bear the cross; and he who would have the sweet, must have the bitter; indeed, the Christian generally has his share of afflictions, crosses and trials in this life. The passover-lamb was eaten with bitter herbs, to shew, that he that ‘will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution;’ yet so sweet is Christ, this bundle of myrrh, to believers, and communion with him, under all afflictions, so delightful, that they would not be without him, though they might be freed from them; this tree of life sweetens these bitter waters of Marah; they have peace in him, when in the world they have tribulation: they are contented with, and rejoice in their portion, and are willing to have the bitter, so they may have but the sweet; for these bitter afflictions and tribulations which they endure for Christ’s sake, distil and drop down some precious gums of faith, patience, experience, and hope; see Romans 5:3,4,5. 2dly, Christ may be compared to myrrh, for the use that has been made of it. 1. It being very valuable, and highly esteemed of, was used in gifts and presents to great persons; thus we find it in the present that Jacob made to his son unknown, then governor of Egypt, Genesis 43:11, and it was part of that which the wise men of the East brought to Christ at his incarnation, Matthew 2:11. Christ is the great gift of God’s grace to sinners, and an unspeakable one he is, which does not go alone, for ‘with him he freely gives all things:’ When God gave Christ, he gave a manifest proof of his greatness and goodness; he gave like himself, and what was statable to us sinners; a favor which we neither deserved, desired, nor expected. O boundless grace! amazing love! 2. It was used, and was a principal ingredient in the anointing oil; see Exodus 30:23. and may signify that ‘oil of gladness which Christ is anointed with above his fellows,’ which being poured upon his head, in its fullness, ran down to all his members, like the oil on Aaron’s head, which ran clown to the skirts of his garments; for it is from him that we receive that ‘anointing which teacheth all things.’ 3. The stacte, which is the gum that drops from the myrrh-tree, was used in the sweet incense; see Exodus 30:34. and may represent the intercession of Christ, who stands at the golden altar, with a golden censor in his hand, to offer up the prayers of all his people, which he perfumes with his much incense; which is exceeding grateful and odorous, like sweet-smelling myrrh unto the saints. 4. It was used to render persons comely and acceptable in the eyes of others; thus Esther, and the rest of the maidens, were purified with oil of myrrh, for their admission into the presence of king Ahasuerus, Esther 2:12, it is in Christ the beloved, that saints only are accepted with God, being cloathed with those garments of his, which ‘smell of myrrh, alloes and cassia:’ Thus they have liberty of access into God’s presence now, and shall have a ready admittance into his kingdom and glory hereafter. 5. It was used in the embalming of dead bodies, being useful to keep them from putrefaction and corruption; for this purpose Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to preserve the body of Jesus, John 19:39,40, an interest in Christ, this ‘bundle of myrrh,’ and an application of him to our souls, will secure us from going down into the ‘pit of corruption,’ and will eternally save us from perishing; nothing safer and better them to have this in our bosoms, without which sinners, ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ will rot and putrify. 6. It is very useful in healing wounds and ulcers. Christ is the great physician that heals all the diseases of his people, freely, perfectly, and infallibly, which he does in an uncommon and unusual way; he performs his cures by his blood and stripes; his blood is a panacea, a sovereign medicine for all diseases, and ‘by his stripes we are healed,’ Isaiah 53:5. 3dly, Christ may be compared to ‘a bundle of myrrh.’ 1. To denote the abundance of the spiritual odors of divine grace in him, he is ‘full of grace and truth,’ as a man and mediator; ‘for it hath pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell in him;’ which is communicated to believers, as they stand in need of it; who sometimes receive such large measures of it, that they can say, ‘the grace of our Lord is exceeding abundant’ in them; Christ is ‘a bundle of myrrh’ unto them; they have large views of his love, and sweet communications of his grace. 2. To shew the security of this grace in Christ; our life is sure in Christ’s hands, being bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord our God, ‘with all the mercies and blessings of it, both for time and eternity; therefore they are called ‘the sure mercies, of David, being hid with Christ in God, so that they can never be taken away from us. 3. To shew the inseparableness of Christ and his grace; Christ and the blessings of his grace never go separate; where God gives his Son, he gives all things with him; and where a soul enjoys Christ, he possesses all things; peace, pardon, righteousness, and life are all in Christ; and the believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places in him.

    Now. Christ is not so to all persons, only to them that ‘believe he is precious,’ and to none but them; Christ is a ‘bundle of myrrh’ to none but his church; ‘my beloved, is unto me, etc.; which shews not only the strength of her affection to Christ, the value that she had for him, and the delight she took in him; but also a particular application of him by faith, to her own soul; which is also expressed in the following verse, ‘my beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire, etc.’

    III. In these words we have also the entertainment which she resolves to give him; ‘he shall lie all night betwixt my’ breasts:’. Wherein is to be considered, 1st , The place she appoints him, ‘betwixt her breasts.’ 2dly , How long we would have him lie there, ‘all night.’, And, 3dly , For what ends and purposes. 1st, The place allotted Christ by the church is, ‘betwixt her breasts.’ R.

    Aben Ezra understands by them the two cherubim., or the midst of the camp of Israel; R. Solomon Jarchi, the two bars of the ark; but it would be much better to understand them either of the two Testaments, the Old and New, which are both full of Christ, where he is to be found, and does abide; or else of the two ordinances of the gospel, baptism and the Lord’s supper, which may be called the church’s ‘breasts of consolation;’ see chapter 4:5; in these ordinances Christ shews himself, and grants his presence to his people: or rather by Christ’s lying ‘betwixt her breasts,’ is meant his dwelling in her heart by faith, than which nothing, is more desirable to the saints; they have no better room than their own hearts, and therefore are desirous that he would lodge there; as Christ lays them in his bosom to testify his love to them, so they would have him dwell in their hearts to testify their love to him; and a wonderful condescension it is in Christ, who is ‘the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity,’ to take up with such a residence as this. So R. Alshech explains the phrase ‘betwixt her breasts,’ of being ‘in her heart.’ 2dly, The time she mentions, is all night; by which may be meant the night of affliction, temptation, etc, it being in Christ alone that she could meet with any relief or comfort, under such dispensations; or else it means that she would have him with her, not as a stranger, sojourner, or guest for a short time, but would have him dwell in her heart, lie in her bosom, and grant her intimate communion with. himself, all the night of this life, until the everlasting day of glory breaks: communion with Christ here is frequently interrupted, which the church had a long experience of, to her grief and sorrow: and therefore she desires to enjoy it without interruption. 3dly, The ends and purposes for which she was desirous that he should lie all night betwixt her breasts, were, 1. For ornament; sweet flowers in the bosom are ornamental and are placed there often for that purpose. Christ ‘the rose of Sharon and the lily of the vallies,’ being carried in the hand of faith, or in the bosom of love, exceedingly adorns the believer. 2. For delight, pleasure, and refreshment; nosegays are carried in the bosom, to delight the eye and refresh the spirits. Nothing more delightful to the eye of faith than Christ; and nothing more savory and of a sweeter smell to a believer, than his person, blood, and righteousness; the most delightful and sweet-smelling flowers fail short of expressing Christ’s beauty and savor. 3. That she might always have him in her eye, mind, and memory; persons out of sight are too apt to be forgotten, even our dearest friends and best enjoyments: The church had, no doubt, some experience of this, and therefore to remedy it, she would have Christ, this bundle of myrrh, always in her bosom, and in her sight, to contemplate upon and wonder at; as the Psalmist did, who says, Psalm 16:8. ‘I have set the Lord always before me.’ 4. That she might keep him safe; thus persons often put things into their bosoms; which they would not lose; she had often lost a sight of Christ, and been without an enjoyment of his presence, which had given her a great deal of uneasiness; and for the future was therefore resolved to be more careful in keeping him, and for that reason would have him lie in her bosom. 5. To shew her singular value for Christ, and her invaluable chastity to him; she sets him in the highest places and gives him the best entertainment; she gives him admittance where she would allow none else; he, and none but he, ‘shall lie all night between nay breasts;’ these were inaccessible to any but to Christ.

    VERSE 14. My beloved is unto me at a cluster of camphire, in the vineyards of Engedi. THE church having had such sweet communion with Christ at his table, verse 12, which excited and drew forth her grace into exercise, enters into a commendation of him, verse 13, and finding so much sweetness in him, she scarcely knew what was excellent enough to compare him to, that thereby she might express his excellency, in himself, his usefulness to her, and that delight and pleasure which she took in him; having declared that he was ‘a bundle of myrrh’ to her, which she desired might always have a place in her bosom, she does, in these words, compare him to ‘a cluster of camphire.’

    I. She gives him the same title or character as before; ‘my beloved.’

    II. Says that he was, to her, ‘as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.’

    I. She gives the same title or character to Christ here, which she had in the former verse, ‘my beloved;’ which teaches us, 1. That Christ being once the believer’s beloved, is always so; he has always an interest in Christ, and can never lose it; it is true, he may not always have the manifestations of Christ’s love, but he has always an interest in him, as his beloved; for nothing can ‘separate him from the love of Christ.’ 2. This shews, that her faith in him, and her love towards him, still continued; these two graces are never separate; they are implanted in the heart at one and the same time; they grow up and increase together, ‘faith works by love;’ they continue together, and can never be lost; they are not indeed always alike in exercise, but they are always in being; but here they were in exercise as before, and rather increased, while she was contemplating and commending her beloved’s excellencies. 3. From hence it appears, that she was not ashamed of Christ under this character, and therefore she repeats it, and indeed she had no reason: for her Maker was her husband, ‘the Lord of hosts is his name, the God of the whole earth shall he be called;’ he had more reason to be ashamed of her, she being a poor, sinful, and despicable creature in herself, and he the Creator of all things, and the holy One of Israel; and indeed, she was so far from being ashamed of Christ as her beloved, that she took a pleasure in looking on him, and conversing with him as such. 4. Her repeating it, shews not only the vehemence of her love to him, but also the singular esteem that she had for him; that he was her beloved, and none else; that she chose, approved of, and valued him above all others; he was to her ‘the chiefest among ten thousands,’ and preferable to all other beloveds.

    II. She compares him to ‘a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of Engedi:’ it is somewhat puzzling and perplexing to interpreters, to know what this copher, which is translated camphire, was.

    First, It is, by the Septuagint, rendered Cyprus, by which is meant either the island so called, of which we read, Acts 11:19,20 and 27:4, and then we must understand, by ‘a cluster of Cyprus,’ a cluster of the grapes of those vines which grew in Cyprus, which were the best and largest vines, as Pliny observes; and these being said to be in the vineyards of Engedi, mean either those vines that were brought from Cyprus, perhaps, in Solomon’s time, and planted in the vineyards of Engedi; or else, some of the best vines in the land of Canaan, which were much like to those in Cyprus: The land of Canaan was very fruitful of vines, and some of the best sort, which bore very large dusters; such an one was that which was carried by. two men upon a staff, who were sent by Moses to spy the land, Numbers 13:23,24, in memory of which the place from whence it was taken was called Eshcol, the same word that in this text is rendered a cluster; and it is highly probable, that those vines, which grew in the vineyards of Engedi, were the best of all: R. Solomon Jarchi relates, out of the Agadah, that these vineyards brought forth fruit four or five times a year, and R. Alshech says seven times. Now Christ may be compared to a cluster of grapes, which grew in these vineyards; he compares himself to a vine, John 15:1, and therefore may be very well compared to a cluster of grapes that grew upon the vine. And that, 1st, For the number of berries that there are in a cluster of them. 1. In Christ is a cluster of divine and human perfections; ‘in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily; every divine perfection is to be found in him; eternity, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. are as it were in a cluster in him: and as all divine, so all human perfections are in him; for he is perfectly man, as well as perfectly God; he is ‘God manifest in the flesh;’ he was made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted, which is the greatest imperfection of human nature. 2. In Christ is a cluster of all spiritual graces; he is ‘full of grace and truth;’ he is full of grace to communicate to others, as Mediator and has all grace habitually in his human nature, God having not given ‘the Spirit by measure’ to him; for he is ‘anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;’ a cluster of the graces of the Spirit, which are in the human nature of Christ, may be seen in Isaiah 11:1-3. The Jews used to call such men who had all excellencies and virtues in them, twlwkça esbcoloth, clusters; hence they have a saying that’“ after the death of Jose Ben Joezer, a man of Tzereda, and Jose Ben Jochanan, a man of Jerusalem, the clusters ceased, according to Micah 7:1” and say they “what is lwkça esjcol, a cluster! why say they, “it is wb lkhç çya ish shehaccol bo, a man that has all things in him,” that is, that has all virtues, a perfect knowledge of the law, etc. Now Christ is such a cluster that has all moral and spiritual perfections in him; all virtues and every grace are clustered together in him. 3. In Christ is a cluster of all spiritual blessings; all the blessings of the everlasting covenant are in his hands, and at his dispose; and saints are ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him; he is the believer’s ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption;’ there is not a mercy we want, but, is in him; nor a blessing we enjoy, but what we have received from him; he is the believer’s ‘all in all.’ 4. In Christ is a cluster of ‘exceeding great and precious promises,’ all suited to the various cases of God’s children, and to advance his glory; for ‘in him are all the promises, yea, and in him, amen, to the glory of God by us;’ and these look like ‘a cluster’ of grapes growing in the vineyards of Engedi.’ 2dly, Christ may be compared to a cluster of grapes for the abundance of juice that is in them, 1. The cluster is squeezed and pressed, that the juice may be obtained; so Christ was ‘wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, under the severest strokes of justice, and pressure of his Father’s wrath; for ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise him,’ and all this for our good, that our sins might be expiated, our souls comforted, and persons accepted with God. 2. The juice squeezed out of this cluster may denote the blood of Christ and the efficacy of it; which being ‘shed for the remission of sin,’ perfectly procured it; it ‘cleanseth from all sin,’ and purgeth ‘the conscience from dead works,’ and has an influence in our justification, and in every other blessing of grace. 3. As the wine, which is the blood of the grape, is of a chearing and refreshing nature, so is a crucified Christ to a poor sinner; that there are salvation, righteousness, peace, and pardon through his blood, for the chief of sinners, is a reviving cordial to those that see themselves so, and the best and most acceptable news that they can hear of; this is more chearing and refreshing than the choicest wine. Or else, By Cyprus is meant the Cyprus-tree, which grew upon the banks of the Nile, and at Ascalon in Judea, and very probably in the vineyards of Engedi, here mentioned, as it did also in the island of Cyprus, from whence, perhaps, it had its name. The word Copher is used in the Misnah and translated Cyprus; and Maimon and Bartenora say, it is the same which in Arabic is called anhla , the Alhenna, and refer to this place; and observe, that there are some that say it is the spice called the clove. Of the Alhenna Dr Shaw says,” this beautiful and odoriferous plant, if it is not annually cut and kept low, grows ten or twelve feet high, putting out its little flowers in clusters, which yield a most grateful smell, like camphire.”

    There seems to have been a likeness between the Cyprus-tree and the vine, especially in their flowering; and it is said to bear a flowery fruit like a grape in flower; and hence as vines when they flower are said to Cyprize, as in the Greek version of chapter 2:15, so a bunch of Cyprus-flowers in likeness to the vine, is called here a cluster; and with propriety is the flower of the Cyprus referred to, since it induces sleep; see verse 13.

    And, 1. The seed of the Cyprus-tree is much like a coriander seed, which the manna also resembled, Numbers 11:7, which was typical of Christ, who is called ‘the hidden manna,’ Revelation 2:17, being exceeding sweet, delightful, pleasant, and nourishing to believers. 2. The flower of this Cyprus-tree which may be chiefly designed, is of a white color, and a sweet smell; and may denote the purity of Christ’s nature, and the innocence and holiness of his life, who in both appeared to be ‘holy, harmless and undefiled;’ as also the sweet fragrancy of his person, blood, sacrifice and righteousness. 3. The leaves thereof are good for the healing of ulcers, etc. ‘So the leaves of the tree of life,’ which is Jesus Christ, are said to be ‘for the healing of the nations;’ that is, for the healing of their spiritual maladies and diseases. 4. An excellent oil was made out of it; and of this with other things was made an ointment, which by Pliny, is called the royal ointment.

    Christ is by the holy Spirit anointed above measure with the ‘oil of gladness,’ and is possessed of those good ointments which are exceeding savory; and from him do saints receive that ‘anointing, which teacheth all things.’

    Secondly, Some think that the Cyprus or Cypirus, of which Pliny writes, lib. 21. c. 18 is here meant, which is a kind of rush or sword-grass, is of a sweet smell, and has bulbous roots, to which it is thought the allusion is here made. And, 1. The smell of it, as Pliny, in the place before cited, writes, is much like that of spikenard; and for the same reasons that Christ may be compared to the spikenard, in verse 12, may he be compared to the cyperus here. 2. The smell of it, as the same naturalist observes, makes men vegetiores et firmiores , more lively and strong, active and robust: in Christ is all a believer’s strength, and from him they receive fresh supplies of it; and the more they exercise faith on him, the stronger they are; so that though they are poor weak creatures in themselves, yet they ‘can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth them.’ 3. The root of it, as is observed by the same author, is good against the bitings of serpents, especially scorpions. Christ, who is ‘the root of Jesse,’ was typified by the brazen serpent, which Moses, by a divine command, erected upon a pole, that every Israelite that was bitten by the fiery serpents, might look to it and have a cure, Christ was lifted up on the cross, and now is in the gospel, that whosoever looks unto him may live and not perish; see John 3:14,15 he is a sovereign and infallible remedy against the bitings of those fiery serpents, within, our own sins and corruptions, and of that old serpent without, the Devil.

    Thirdly, Others have thought that a cluster of dates, the fruit of the palmtree, is here intended, which is the opinion of R. Aben Ezra and other Jewish writers; and indeed Engedi, as is manifest from Pliny, was famous for those sort of trees, as was Jericho, which is therefore called the city of the palm-trees, Deuteronomy 34:3, and it is very probable that Engedi was called Hazzazon-tamar, as it is 2 Chronicles 20:2, for the same reason: also the fruit of this tree grows in clusters, and is very sweet and luscious, and may be expressive of Christ, and the fruits of divine grace, which souls receive in clusters from him, and are exceeding sweet to their taste.

    Fourthly, Others think, and particularly Sanctius, that the balsam-tree is here intended, which only grew in the land of Judea: this place Engedi, was remarkably famous both for that and palm-trees; so Origen observes, that Engaddi abounded not so much with vines, as with balsams;. the vine-dressers in Jeremiah 52:16 are interpreted by R.

    Joseph, of the gatherers of balsam, from Engedi to Ramatha; and places where those trees grew might with propriety be called vineyards, since the balsam-trees were like to vines, and were cultivated after the manner of vines. From this tree dropped the precious balsam, which was of a sweet smell, and of an healing nature; to which Christ may be very well compared, who is the great and only physician of souls, whose blood is a balsam for every sore, and has virtue to cure every disease.

    Fifthly, The word Copher is by our translators rendered camphire, and so it is by ‘Pagnine, David de Ponsis,’ and others; which is of a sweet smell, is a very good remedy against the pains and aches of the head, a reviver of the spirits, and a refresher of the brain; and, if intended here, may be expressive of that sweet consolation and divine refreshment which believers enjoy, resulting from views of acceptance in Christ’s person, pardon through his blood, and justification by his righteousness. Though what we call camphire, seems not to be known to the ancients, nor does it grow in clusters; but is the tear or gum, or something of a resinous nature, which drops from an Indian tree.

    Sixthly, There is one thing more to be remarked, and that is, that the Hebrew word rpk copher signifies ‘an atonement or propitiation;’ and so may very well be applied to Christ, who is ‘the propitiation for our sins,’ and has made full atonement for them by ‘the blood of his cross.’ Bishop Patrick observes, that the ancient Hebrew doctors, by dividing the first word lkça ‘eshcol a cluster,’ found out the mystery of the Messiah in these words, and considered them as if they were read as, rpwk lk çya ish col copher ‘my beloved is unto me the man that propitiates or expiates all things,’ that is all sins and transgressions. In the Talmud it is explained, “He whose all things are, has atoned for my iniquity.” Both the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi carry it in the sense of atonement, though not as made by the Messiah: but it is certain that the great atonement for sin was to be, and is completely made by the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Messiah; in which appeared a cluster of all the divine perfections, shining in equal glory; here grace and mercy, justice and holiness, truth and faithfulness, sweetly joined and harmonised together; whereby also a cluster of divine blessings was procured and eternally secured to all his redeemed ones, such as peace, pardon, justification, etc. all which are sweet and comfortable, and fill them with unspeakable joy and pleasure.

    VERSE 15. Behold, thou art fair, my love: Behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes. THE church having spoken in the three former verses of the glory, excellency and sweetness, which she saw and experienced in Christ; he reassumes his part in this verse, and sets off the fairness and beauty of the church. In which, I. Is a general assertion that she is fair; ‘Behold, thou art fair, my love:

    Behold, thou art fair.

    II. A particular instance of her beauty given; ‘Thou hast doves’ eyes.’

    I. Here is a general assertion of her fairness: In which we have, 1st, The thing asserted, that she is fair. 2dly, An ‘ecce, a behold,’ prefixed to it; ‘behold thou art fair.’ 3dly, A loving character given, ‘my love.’ 4thly, The assertion repeated. 1st, The general assertion is, that she is ‘fair;’ not on the account of her good works, or any righteousness performed by her, which is as filthy rags and ‘an unclean thing,’ as the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi interpret it; but on the account of her being clothed with Christ’s righteousness, washed in his blood, and sanctified by his Spirit, as has been shewn on verse 5. 2dly, To this general assertion is prefixed an ecce a behold; which is sometimes, 1. A note of attention; and may be here designed to stir her up more seriously to consider her own beauty, which she had in and from him: believers are too apt to keep their eyes upon their blackness, sins and imperfections, which fills them with sorrow, weakens their faith, and inclines them to diffidence; and though a consideration of this is sometimes necessary for the humbling of our souls, and the magnifying of divine grace; yet we should not have our eyes so fixed upon these things, as to be unmindful of and not regard our perfection, completeness, beauty and comeliness, we have in Christ, who is both our ‘sanctification and our righteousness.’ 2. It is sometimes a note of admiration: Christ here, setting forth the greatness and excellency of the church’s beauty, is introduced wondering at that ‘comeliness’ which he himself had put upon her, she being in his eyes ‘the fairest among women;’ and much more reason have we to wonder at it, that we who are ‘by nature children of, wrath,’ whose natures are corrupted and depraved, who are both by actual and original sin, black, uncomely and deformed, yet are now fair and beautiful in Christ, through his blood and righteousness; that we, who were clothed with the rags of sin, are now arrayed with ‘the sun of righteousness; that we who were cast out into the open field, to the lothing of our persons, in the day that we were born, yet now should be clothed with raiment of fine linen, silk, and broidered work,’ and be adorned with bracelets, chains, jewels, and earrings; O stupendous grace! astonishing love! 3. It is sometimes a note of asseveration; and may be so used here, to assure her of the truth of what he asserted concerning her. Believers are very apt to call in question their fairness and completeness in Christ; and to indulge themselves in fears, doubts and unbelief about it, especially when they consider how full they are of imperfections, sins and spots; in the view of which they are very hardly brought to believe, that they are ‘all fair, and there is no spot in them:’ Christ therefore to remove his church’s doubts and fears, banish her unbelief, and strengthen her faith, uses this way of speaking. 3dly, Christ gives his church here a very affectionate title, ‘my love,’ which has been already considered and explained on verse 9 and is here mentioned again to let her know, that she was still the object of his love, pleasure, and delight that his love towards her was great, strong, lasting, and unchangeable; as also how much his heart was ravished with her. 4thly, This assertion of Christ’s, respecting the church’s beauty, is repeated, ‘behold thou art fair;’ which repetition is, 1. To shew the exceeding greatness of it: she was ‘fair, fair,’ that is, exceeding fair; no such beauty to be found in any as in Christ, he is ‘fairer than the children of men;’ and next to him is the church; she is ‘the fairest among women;’ it is a superlative, surpassing and excelling beauty that she is possessed of. 2. It being repeated, shews the reality of it; this is inward and real, and not merely outward, nor painted: outward favor is deceitful, and natural beauty is vain; but such is not the church’s, which is supernatural, spiritual, glorious, and perfect. 3. It manifests the great value and esteem which Christ has for her, and her beauty, and how much he desired it; none so beautiful in his sight as she is; nor any beauty so desirable to him as hers; his thoughts are fixed upon, his eyes are sweetly delighted, and his heart surprisingly and divinely ravished with it; therefore he repeats it here and elsewhere, again and again in this Song. 4. It is repeated to shew that she was both inwardly and outwardly fair; she was fair, both with respect to justification and sanctification.

    II. He gives a particular instance of her beauty, ‘thou hast doves eyes,’ or eyes like doves: her eyes are taken notice of, because much beauty lies in the eyes, either in the size or color of them; and the eyes of doves are observed, because of some distinguished properties in them: the dove is a creature which furnishes out much matter for poets, which they apply to lovers. By her eyes may be meant, either, 1st, The ministers of the gospel; who are that to Christ’s body, the church, as eyes are to an human body; and what Job says of himself, may, with as much justness, be applied to them: ‘I was,’ says he, Job 29:15. ‘eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame;’ and the apostle seems to intimate this in 1 Corinthians 12:16-21. Now these may be called the church’s eyes,1. Because as the eyes are placed in the eminent part of the body, so are ministers set in the highest post and place in the church; and therefore are said, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, to be over others in the Lord; and it is as necessary and proper that they should be so, as it is, that the eyes should be in the head. 2. As the eyes are set there to watch and observe lest any hurt comes to the body, so ministers of the gospel are placed in the church for much the same purpose; for this reason they are frequently called watchmen, and their business represented to be a watching for or over the souls of men committed to their care, and to give them warning and notice of any danger that is like to befal them; of which we have instances both in the Old and New Testament; see Isaiah 52:8 and 62:6, Ezekiel 33:7-9, Hebrews 13:17, 2 Timothy 4:5. 3. They may be called the church’s eyes, because they pry, search into, and make a discovery of gospel-truths to others; for which reason they are called the ‘light of the world,’ and more especially are the lights of the church: they are the stars which Christ holds in his right hand, and. maker. use of to hold forth the ‘word of life’ and light to others; they shine not in their own, but in a borrowed light; they receive all from Christ; they would not be capable of looking into and discovering the precious truths of the gospel, nor be able to shew to others the way of salvation, did not the Spirit of truth, oJdhlh>sei , go before, lead the way, and guide into all truth. 4. As the eyes observe, order, and direct the members of the body in their several actions; so the ministers of the gospel, being appointed inspectors and overseers, observe the life and conversations of the members of the church; and if any thing disorderly appears, in a proper way correct, admonish, and reprove them for it; they make it their business to teach the whole church all things which Christ has commanded; to guide, direct, and instruct them how to behave themselves in their whole walk and conversation, both in the church and towards them that are without.

    Now these eyes of the church may be very fitly compared to doves,1. For clearness and perspicuity; the eyes of doves are clear and sharp, sighted, so are ministers to search and penetrate into gospeltruths: it is with much more clearness they behold, and plainness they deliver gospel-truths now, than they could under the legal dispensation; and there is a time coming, when they shall do it with much greater evidence and perspicuity, when ‘the watchmen shall see eye to eye;’ though in this imperfect state we know but in part, and prophesy but in part, and see through a glass darkly, in comparison of that light and evidence, in which those glorious truths shall appear to all believers in another world. 2. For their sincerity and simplicity; when Christ sent forth his disciples to preach the gospel, he bid them be ‘wise as serpents, and harmless as doves:’ those who are his faithful ministers, act with all simplicity and godly sincerity, and dare not, ‘as many, corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak they in Christ:’ they use no artful methods to conceal their principles, and bring off persons from the plain truths of the gospel into a reception of erroneous doctrines; but they are such who have ‘renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, commending themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God:’ they are exceeding careful and jealous lest souls, who are under their care, and are made their charge, should by any means be ‘corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ 3. For bringing in the olive-leaf of the gospel; Noah’s dove brought an olive-leaf in its mouth, which was an indication that the waters of the flood were abated: the ministers of the gospel bring the good tidings of good things; they publish salvation by Christ, and bring the news of peace and pardon by his blood, justification by his righteousness, life through his death, and acceptance in his person. 4. For those dove-like gifts of the Spirit, with which they are endowed, and by which they are qualified for that work which they are called unto; there are diversities of them, of which one and the same spirit is the author, and these being given unto them, make them able ministers of the New Testament; so that they become both useful and beautiful.

    The Jews interpret those eyes of the Sanhedrim. Or else, 2dly, By the church’s eyes may be meant the eyes of ‘her understanding being enlightened’ by the Spirit of God; and more especially the eye of faith, by which a soul takes a view of Christ’s glory, fullness, and suitableness, and looks unto him alone for life and salvation; which may be compared to doves eyes: 1. For the clearness and.perspicuity of it; the dove, as has been already observed, is a quick and sharp sighted creature; the eve of faith penetrates into those things ‘within the vail,’ brings distant things near, and makes unseen things manifest unto the soul; for it is ‘the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen:’ the things which the eye of nature and carnal reason could never take cognisance of, are observed by faith; whose object is an unseen Christ, and the invisible things of another world, which ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.’ 2. For its singleness and simplicity in looking only to Christ: the dove is an exceeding chaste and loving creature to its mate; the eyes of doves look only to their mates, to whom they keep an inviolable chastity: faith looks only to Christ, and nothing else; it looks only to his person for acceptance with God, and not either to its duties or its graces; it looks only to Christ’s righteousness for justification, and not to its own works, whether they be moral or evangelical, works done before or after conversion; it looks only to his blood for pardon and cleansing, and not to its tears of humiliation and repentance; it looks not to its frames, nor grace received, for its supply and support, but to an all-sufficient and inexhaustible fullness of grace in Christ: now this is the pure, single, and chaste look of faith, which is so pleasant and delightful to Christ Jesus. 3. For finding out, and feeding upon the pure and wholesome doctrines of the gospel: the dove singles out and feeds upon only pure seed and grain, and rejects all other, as not being agreeable and proper food; so a believing soul cannot feed and live upon any thing; he cannot live upon the husks which swine eat, but upon the ‘wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ;’ any food will not do, none but the ‘bread of life and the hidden manna;’ it is the earnest desire of such a soul, that the ‘life which he lives in the flesh, might be by the faith of the Son of God;’ he would always live on Christ and with Christ, and cannot be satisfied with any thing short of him; for having once tasted ‘that the Lord is gracious,’ he evermore desires this bread. 4. For the exceeding beautifulness of it an Christ’s eye; as the eyes of doves are beautiful and delightful, so as this eye of faith to Christ, his heart is even ravished with it; ‘thou hast ravished my heart,’ says he, in chapter 4:9. ‘with one of thine eyes:’ Christ’s eyes, for the beauty and glory of them, are said to be, in chapter 5:12. ‘as the eyes of doves; by the rivers of water, washed with milk, and fitly set;’ and so are the church’s here; nothing more beautiful than the eye of faith. 5. For the meekness and humility of it; doves eyes are meek and humble, not fiery, fierce, and furious, as some creatures’, nor proud and lofty as others. Faith is a low and humble grace, it takes nothing to itself, but ascribes all the glory to Christ; it renders the disposition of a soul possessed of it mild and meek, not fierce and cruel, for ‘faith works by love:’ a fiery temper, and a furious disposition do not become a believer; nor is it either excited or encouraged by faith; which promotes a meek, humble, and lowly spirit, of which Christ, the object of faith, is the best example, who says, ‘learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart;’ who checks the furious, and resists the proud, but takes delight and pleasure in the humble soul, whose eyes are up unto him alone.

    VERSE 16. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our bed is green. THE church having heard her own praises in the former verse, and being conscious to herself of her sins and infirmities, and that what beauty was in her came from her beloved; she, as it were, breaks in upon his discourse, and ascribes it all to him; and it is as if she should say, Dost thou say that I am fair? thou only art eminently, essentially, and originally so; for all the beauty which I am possessed of, as it is by way of eminency in thee, so it is derived from thee; therefore the praise of it is not due to me, but to thyself, to whom be all the glory. In these words, I. The same thing is asserted by the church concerning Christ, which he had asserted concerning her in the former verse; ‘behold, thou art fair, my beloved.’

    II. An addition to it, ‘yea, pleasant.’

    III. That their bed, which belonged in common to them both, ‘was green.’

    I. The same thing is here asserted by the church concerning Christ, which he had asserted concerning her, and that much in the same manner. For, 1st, The title which he gave her is, ‘my love,’ and that which she here gives him is, ‘my beloved.’ They seem, not only in these two verses, but indeed throughout the whole Song, to be, as it were, attiring to outdo each other in their mutual expressions of love; but this title has been already explained on verse 13. 2dly, She asserts of this beloved of hers in the very same words, that he is fair; she returns it to him, to whom she judged it more properly belonged; whose beauty is natural and essential, hers not so; his original and underived, but hers derived from him; his infinite, inconceivable, inexpressible, and transcending all others, but hers of an inferior nature.

    Now her returning the same commendation back to Christ, shews that she not only looked on her beauty as far inferior to Christ’s, and not to be mentioned with it; as also that it was derived from him; and that if she was in any sense comely, it was through that comeliness which he had put upon her; but likewise it shews her modesty and humility, as well as the nature of true faith, which gives all the glory of what the soul is, or has, to Christ and his grace; its usual and common language is, ‘not I, but the grace of God which was with me, and it is by the grace of God I am what I am.’ Now Christ may be said to be fair, 1st, As he is man; and so he is, both in body and soul, that body which was prepared him by the Father, and which was in an unspeakable and surprising manner conceived in the Virgin’s womb by the power of the Holy Ghost, as it was free from sin, so was no doubt free from all the blemishes and defects of nature; and in this sense, as well as in some other, may he be said to be ‘fairer than the children of Adam;’ and more especially he was so at his transfiguration, when ‘his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light;’ though what with sorrows and sufferings, with tears, dust, sweat, and blood, ‘his visage was marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men;’ yet now being raised from the dead, and exalted at his Father’s right hand, is beautiful and glorious; for that same human nature, which here below was the ridicule of men, is now the wonder of angels; that head which ‘was crowned with thorns, is now ‘crowned with glory and honor;’ and that face which was spit upon, will be the delightful object of the saints’ everlasting vision, after the resurrection morn; when with their bodily eyes they shall gaze on the glory of Christ’s human nature, who they ‘shall see for themselves, and not another:’ in short, Christ’s glorious human body will then be the pattern and exemplar, to which our bodies shall then be fashioned and made like.

    Moreover, as he is fair in his human body, so likewise in his soul; the powers and faculties of which act in an agreeable order, nothing being misplaced, nor any disorder in the whole frame or contexture of it, being free from all sin, and full of every grace: holiness here appears in its beauty, and knowledge and wisdom in their perfection; all which were manifest and evident throughout the whole of his life. In short, the whole human nature had an immeasurable unction of the Holy Spirit, on the account of which he is said to be fairer than others; he was ‘anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;’ grace was poured plentifully into his lips, from whence it freely dropped like ‘sweet smelling myrrh.’ 2dly, He may be said to be fair, as God-man and Mediator, which I suppose is chiefly designed here; for as such, this branch of the Lord is exceeding beautiful and glorious in the eyes of believers. For, 1. The glory of all the divine perfections is resplendent in him; as such, he is ‘the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person;’ all God’s creatures, works, and actions, shew forth the glory of his perfections in some measure; but they are no where so clearly discerned, nor so gloriously displayed, as they are in the person and office of Christ as Mediator; for ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God’ is given us in the face, or person of Jesus Christ; and a glorious, delightful, and ravishing sight it is to a believer. 2. There is a mediatorial glory which he is possessed of, which makes him look exceeding fair and beautiful; this is what was given him before the world began, when he first entered into covenant with his Father, became our surety, and was set up as the Mediator of God’s elect; which, when he had finished his work, he desired might be given to him, that is, might be more clearly manifested, and a greater display of it given to the world, and is what shall feed the eyes of his saints with wonder and pleasure to all eternity. This is what Christ desires that they may be with him for, namely, ‘to behold his glory,’ for then indeed shall they ‘see him as he is:’ now, in the glass of the gospel, saints behold a great deal of the glory of Christ Jesus, which gives them much pleasure and delight; but this is but little in comparison of What they shall be everlastingly indulged with. 3. Christ appears with much fairness and beauty to believers, as he is possessed of all grace; this was the glorious and soul-ravishing sight which the evangelist John, together with others, had of him, which he takes notice of, saying, John 1:14. ‘we beheld his glory, the glory as of the onlybegotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;’ and what makes it still more delightful is, that all this grace is treasured up in him for them, that they from ‘his fullness may receive, and grace for grace:’ there is every thing in him that souls want, and every thing they want they may have from him, for ‘he is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption,’ which consideration must needs render him fair, beautiful, and delightful in the believer’s eye. 4. Christ is fair in believers eyes, in all he is unto them, or has done and suffered for them; their souls are delighted in the views of him, as their prophet to teach and instruct them, whose ‘lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh’ of gospel doctrines, counsels, and promises; as their priest, who by his active and passive obedience, has made full satisfaction to the righteous law, an atonement for their sins by his blood, and is now interceding for them in heaven, and therefore, his ‘hands are as gold rings set with the beryl; and his legs as pillars of marble set upon sockets of fine gold;’ and as their king, to rule, govern, protect and defend them, whose head ‘is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.’

    Moreover, he is exceeding fair and beautiful in their eyes, considered in all the relations he bears to them; as he is their indulgent Father, their tender husband, loving brother, and faithful friend; and so he is to them, in all that he has done and suffered for them: it is an exceeding delightful sight to view him undertaking their cause, espousing their persons, assuming their name, bleeding and dying in their room and stead, arising again as a victorious conqueror sitting at God’s right hand, where he ever lives to make intercession for transgressors. 3dly, The same word behold, is prefixed by the church to this commendation, as was to the other by Christ, as wondering at that beauty she saw in him, and that one so fair should take any notice of her; and being affected with his glory herself, she stirs up others to a contemplation of it; for all have reason, upon a view thereof, to say, ‘how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty,’ Zechariah 9:17.

    II. She not only asserts the same of him as he had done of her, but also makes an addition to his character, saying, ‘behold, thou art fair, yea pleasant.’ This shews the exceeding great value and esteem that she had for him, and that she found it difficult to find words fully expressive of his excellency; and indeed all words fall short of expressing his worth. She was not contented with the former commendation of him, and therefore adds another word, striving, as it were, to exceed him in her commendations.

    They were not mere words of compliment she used, for her heart and affections went along with them; nay, she labored under a difficulty of finding out words, apt, strong, and full enough to express the real and just sentiments of her mind concerning him, and therefore, as she thought one word was not enough, she adds another, ‘yea, pleasant.’ 1. The person of Christ is so to a believer: He looks pleasantly upon believers with an eye of love and grace, ‘his eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water, washed with milk, and fitly set’ upon them, He does not look upon them in a frowning, furious, and angry manner, but as having the greatest respect for, and taking the greatest delight in them; and whilst they are enabled by faith to view him with love in his heart and smiles in his countenance their souls are filled with an universal pleasure; for if it is ‘a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun’ in the firmament, it is much more pleasant to behold the ‘Sun of righteousness arising with healing in his wings; to see our acceptance in his person, pardon, through his blood, justification by his righteousness, reconciliation with God through his atoning sacrifice, and every needful supply of grace from his infinite fullness: O how pleasant must Christ be to a believer under all these sweet considerations! 2. Christ’s covenant and promises are exceeding pleasant to them. What can be a more delightful sight, than to view Christ as the Mediator, surety, and messenger of the covenant of grace; to see all the blessings, and the ‘exceeding great and precious promises’ of it, all secured in his hands; as also their interest in it, and in him as their covenant-head? so that they can say, as David did, 2 Samuel 23:5. ‘although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this; all my salvation and all my desire, although he make it not to grow;’ it is this will give satisfaction and content, under all the troubles and exercises of life, and fortify against the fears of death. 3. The doctrines of Christ are pleasant to believers. ‘Pleasant words are as an honey-comb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones;’ such are the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus, the doctrines of the everlasting gospel; these are sweeter to a believer’s taste than ‘the honey, or the honeycomb;’ they are saltitary and nourishing, and therefore valued by him more than his necessary food; he often, with Jeremiah, finds these words, and eats them, and they are to him ‘the joy and rejoicing of his heart.’ 4. The ordinances of Christ are pleasant to them. The commands of Christ are far from being grievous, his ‘yoke is easy and his burden light;’ all his tabernacles are amiable and lovely, his ‘ways are ways of pleasantness, and his paths are paths of peace,’ especially when they enjoy his presence, have communion with him, and are assisted by his Spirit in an attendance on them. 5. Christ’s company and conversation are exceeding pleasant and delectable; no fellowship like ‘fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.’ This is the believer’s peculiar privilege, his sole delight, and the matter of his glorying: no presence like the presence of Christ, ‘in whose presence is fullness of joy; and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ Communion with angels, and fellowship with saints, must needs be very pleasant and delightful to believers; but not to be compared with the enjoyment of his presence, who is the head of angels, and the king of saints; this is the saints’ comfort here, and will be their eternal happiness hereafter.

    III. Having thus given this great and glorious commendation of her beloved, she asserts that their bed, which was common to them, and which made for the glory of them both, green; also our bed is green: where we are to consider, 1st , What this bed is. 2dly , Whose it is. And, 3dly , What is said of it. 1st, It will be proper to inquire what is meant by this bed. R. Solomon Jarchi observes, that the tabernacle and temple were called so; and for this purpose cites Song of Solomon 3:7, 2 Kings 11:2,3, and so it is explained in Yalkut. Theodoret thinks that the scriptures are here intended, which are oftentimes the instrumental means of begetting souls to Christ; see James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23. But it seems better to understand it of the church itself, and the seat of it; where Christ and believers comfortably rest together, enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with each other, and where many souls are begotten and born again; for ‘of Zion it shall be said, this and that man was born in her.’ 2dly, Whose bed is this; she calls it our bed, which denotes a mutual property and interest that Christ and believers have in the church; it is what the Father has given him, which he has purchased with his blood, and is the author and maker of; ‘behold his bed, which is Solomon’s:’ this he has chosen for his rest, solace and refreshment, saying, ‘this is my rest for ever, here will I dwell.’ Moreover, it is the bed which believers have a right to, and therefore are admitted to all the privileges of it; here they enjoy the presence and company of Christ their beloved, they have an interest in him; therefore the apostle says, ‘if Christ be yours, all things are yours.’ 3dly, It is said of this bed. that it is green, that is, flourishing and fruitful; so the word is used in Daniel 4:4, Psalm 52:8, and 37:35, and intends either, 1. The fruitfulness of the saints in grace and holiness, who being ‘planted in the house of the Lord, flourish in the courts of our God,’ as trees of righteousness, which are filled and laden with the fruits thereof; which is owing to the refreshing dews and influences of divine grace. Or else, 2. The numerous increase of converts in the church; and so the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi explain it: and it may be an allusion to a custom used in the eastern nations, in strewing the nuptial bed with green leaves and flowers; and with the Latins, torus, a bed, is so called from tortis herbis f171 from herbs writhed and twisted together, and put under the shoulders of those that lay on them; and it was usual to strew them with green herbs, grass, and leaves of trees. A numerous increase of converts, which makes the bed, the church, look so green and flourishing, was frequently promised and prophesied of in the Old-Testament; and had a glorious fulfillment in the first dawn of the gospel, when three thousand souls were converted under one sermon; and will be gloriously and completely fulfilled in the latter day, when the church shall say, ‘the place is too strait for me, give place to me that I may dwell.’

    VERSE 17. The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir. THESE are either the words of Christ, inviting the church into their house, which was so firmly and delightfully built; or else the words of the church, continuing the praise of Christ, and all that were about him, or belonging unto him; or rather, they are the words of the bride and bridegroom, and the virgins her companions, all joining together in a chorus, to set forth the glory and excellency of the church. in which may be considered, I. What is meant by this house, which they seem to have a common interest in, and therefore call it ‘our house.’

    II. What those beams are which are said to be cedar.

    III. What those rafters are which are said to be of fir.

    I. I shall consider what is meant by the ‘house, whose beams are cedar,’ and whose rafters are of fir. R. Sol. Jarchi understands it of the tabernacle, the glory and praise of which, he thinks, is here set forth; and so the Targum refers it to the temple built by Solomon, but yet acknowledges that that which shall be built in the days of the king Messiah, shall be much more glorious and beautiful. But it is much better to understand it, either, 1st, Of ‘our house, which is from heaven’; which saints know that after their dissolution they shall enter into. The word in the Hebrew is in the plural number’ our houses,’ and so may intend those many mansions which are in Christ’s Father’s house, preparing by him for all his people for their everlasting entertainment; and the beams and rafters of these houses being of cedar and fir, which are trees of a sweet smell and durable nature, may represent that fullness of joy, and those delightful pleasures which are in’ Christ’s presence, and at his right hand for evermore:’ it shews that this ‘house is not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens;’ that these habitations which Christ has prepared for them, and will bring them into, are everlasting; and that that inheritance which they are born heirs unto, and shall certainly enjoy, is ‘incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away.’

    Now if we suppose these to be the words of Christ, his design then seems to be, by commending the endless joys and never-ceasing pleasures of the saints above, to raise the affections, and quicken the desires of his church after the enjoyment of the same, that they with him may enter the nuptial chamber, and spend an eternity in everlasting communion with each other: but if they are the words of the church, then they seem to intimate the comfortable views she had of the heavenly joys, and her interest in them; she knew that when this ‘earthly house was dissolved, she had an house not made with hands,’ firmly built and delightfully furnished, which she should have admittance into, and which is ‘eternal in the heavens;’ as also, the earnest desires of her soul to be there; she saw this house afar off, what a goodly structure it was, what soul-ravishing delights it was filled with, therefore longed to be within the walls of it, and ‘groaned earnestly, being burdened with a body of sin and death, desiring to be clothed upon with her house, which is from heaven; likewise she seems to speak of this house with the utmost thankfulness to her Lord and spouse, and adoration of his grace, that had provided so convenient and delightful an habitation for her.

    Or else, 2dly, By this house may be meant the church of God here below, which seems most agreeable; for so it is called in 1 Timothy 3:15 where the apostle promises Timothy to instruct him how he should ‘behave himself in the house of God, which, says he, is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth;’ and so believers are said to be Christ’s house, in Hebrews 3:6. ‘but Christ, as a son over his own house, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.’ Now the church may be said to be Christ’s house,1. Because it is of his building: the ministers of the gospel are instruments in building up his church; but he is the great master-builder: the materials of this building are ‘lively stones,’ which are the saints; but he himself is both the ‘foundation and the corner-stone; it is upon this rock he builds his church, and the gates of hell shall not be able to prevail against it.’ 2. Having built it, he dwells in it, and makes it the place of his residence: the church is the habitation of all the Three Persons, and particularly of Jesus Christ; saints are built up ‘for an habitation of God through the Spirit; they are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and in their hearts Christ dwells by faith: the church is the habitation of his holiness, and the place where his honor dwelleth; here he delights to be, and condescends to shew himself; here souls may expect to find him, and enjoy his presence; for he has promised to be here until the end of time. 3. Here he eats, feeds, and feasts with his people; it is not an empty house he keeps, but having built it, he furnishes it with suitable provisions, which are called ‘the goodness and fatness of his house; here he makes a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refilled: this is his banqueting house,’ into which he brings his people, and sups with them, and they with him. 4. Here he takes his rest with the church, his bride: ‘this, says he, is my rest for ever; here wilt I dwell, for I have desired it;’ here he solaces himself, and takes the utmost delight and pleasure; as houses are not only to feed in, but to rest in, so this use does Christ make of his church. 5. Here he lays up his treasure, and what he esteems his portion, and the chief part of his riches; for ‘the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance;’ the saints are his jewels and peculiar treasure, and these he brings into and preserves safe in his house below, until he removes them into his house above. 6. As his house, he fills, repairs, and beautifies it at pleasure; he fills it with members, and these he fills with gifts and grace suitable to their places in this house, for he is ‘ascended to fill all things;’ when any breaches are made, he makes them up; when it is fallen to decay, he repairs it, by bringing in a large number of converts, and beautifies this house of his glory with his own presence. 7. He is the master of it, and manages all the affairs of it; the key of it is in his hands, and the government of it upon his shoulders; he is sole king and ruler here; he enacts laws, demands obedience to them, and places officers here to see them put in execution; he is ‘the high priest over this house of God,’ and transacts all affairs between God and his people; he is the great prophet that teaches and instructs them; the careful husband and indulgent father that provides all for them; in short, ‘of him the whole family in heaven and earth is named;’ so that the church may be very well called Christ’s house.

    But then this house is said to be the church’s also; ‘the beams of our house,’ etc. Saints are the materials of this house; Christ is the builder, the foundation, and the corner-stone: but they are the lively stones which are laid on this foundation, and so ‘are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; they have a right to, and are in the enjoyment of all the privileges of this house; they are ‘fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;’ here they are born and brought up, have their food and education; ‘thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side,’ Isaiah 60:4; here they dwell, rest, feed, feast, and enjoy sweet communion with Christ Jesus; and therefore they may say, as David did, <19D404> Psalm 134:4. ‘blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will be still praising thee;’ as they have a great deal of reason so to do.

    Also the word being in the plural number, and rendered, our houses, may intend the particular churches of Christ, which are all his houses, where he dwells; his golden candlesticks, among whom he walks, which hold forth the word of light and life to others; and his gardens, where he delights to be, eating those pleasant fruits, and feeding among those lilies, which grow there; for there is but one ‘general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, yet there are many particular churches and congregations of saints here on earth.’

    II. The beams of this house are said to be of cedar. By cedar beams we are not to understand angels, who encamp about, protect and bear up the saints, and are ministring spirits to them, which is the opinion of some; f175 but rather, the ministers of the gospel who may be called pillars in Christ’s house, as James, Cephas, and John were; who by their exemplary lives, savory doctrines, and undaunted courage, add much strength and glory to the church of Christ; as by rafters afterwards may be meant weaker believers, who have all their proper places, work, and usefulness in the house of God: or else, by cedar beams may be meant in general, the saints and; people of God, which are all beams and pillars in this house, and serve to support it; for being ‘fitly framed, together, they grow up unto an holy temple in the Lord;’ and being joined and cemented to each other in faith and love, they worship the Lord ‘with one shoulder, or with one consent;’ and these are compared to cedars in scripture; see Psalm 92:12, Numbers 24:5,6, and may be very well compared unto them, 1. For the height and tallness of them; the cedar-tree is a very tall tree, as may be learnt from 2 Kings 19:23, Amos 2:9. The saints, though they are mean, abject, poor, and low by nature, even beggars on the dunghill, yet by divine grace they are raised on high, set among princes, and made to inherit the throne of glory; they are higher than others in their gifts and graces, faith, knowledge and experience, as well as in their privileges and attainments; they are growing up higher still in their head Christ Jesus, and are reaching forwards and upwards in their affections and desires, in hope of enjoying ‘the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ 2. For their straightness and uprightness; for which reason perhaps the righteous are said to grow, not only like the palm-tree, but also like the cedar in Lebanon: the saints are upright, both in heart and conversation; they both speak and walk uprightly. 3. For its durableness; Pliny ascribes even eternity unto it; it is used for immortality; it will not rot, nor admit any worm into it: the saints will endure for ever; for though they have much corruption in them, yet they themselves shall never corrupt; they have that grace in them which will keep them from putrefaction, and which will never decay itself; for it is incorruptible, immortal, and never-dying seed. 4. For the sweet odor which it sends forth; it is of an excellent smell; so are the persons of the saints to God the Father, being clothed with the garments of salvation, and robe of Christ’s righteousness, which ‘smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia;’ so are the graces which are wrought in them by the Spirit to Christ himself; see chapter 4:10, and so are all their sacrifices of a sweet-smelling savor, being offered up in Christ’s name, and perfumed with the sweet incense of his mediation. 5. The cedar-tree is well rooted, always green, and the older the more fruitful: believers are rooted in Christ Jesus, so as all the winds and storms of sin and temptation cannot tear them up; they are always green, and their leaf doth not wither, because they are ‘planted by rivers of water;’ where, being refreshed with continued supplies of divine grace, they bring forth fruit in old age, because the Lord, he is upright, he is their rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

    III. The rafters of this house are said to be of fir. By rafters may be meant the ordinances of the gospel, which are administered in the church, and are for the comfort and edification of it. The Hebrew word here, translated rafters, is in Genesis 30:38-41 and Exodus 2:16 rendered gutters and troughs of water, where sheep used to be watered; and some of the Jewish writers would have it understood in this sense here. R. Aben Ezra observes, that if it is taken in this sense, then the word rendered fir, should signify marble stone, and be read thus, ‘our canals are of marble stone.’ f182 Now these canals or gutters of water are called µyfjr rehatim from the Chaldee word fhr rehat, which signifies to run, because waters run in them. The grace of the Spirit is frequently, both in the Old and New Testament, represented by water; which, for its purity and purifying nature, is called clean water; for its quickening virtue and efficacy, water of life and living water; and for its plenty and abundance, ‘rivers of water:’ this grace is commonly conveyed and communicated to us in the use of ordinances; these are the canals or conduit-pipes in which this water rune, and is brought unto us; the first conveyance of it is usually this way; faith, conversion, and every grace that attends it, come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God; and as this, so other ordinances are the means of increasing faith, joy and comfort, and of conveying fresh supplies of grace and strength. Christ’s fulness is the fountain from whence all grace springs; and his ordinances are the golden pipes, through which the golden oil and grace of divine love run and empty themselves into our souls. Also the same word is translated galleries, in chapter 7:5, ‘the king is held in the galleries.’ R. David Kimchi says, that they were buildings in high houses, in which they walked from house to house, or from one part of the house to the other; they were such as our balconies: and and they may be called by this name, because they run along the sides of houses: agreeable to this, Junius and Tremellius translate it, ambulachra nostra, our walkingplaces.

    Now the ordinances are the galleries, or walking-places, where Christ and believers walk and converse together; here he grants them fellowship with himself, tells them all his mind, and discloses the secrets of his heart unto them: in these galleries they behold ‘the king in his beauty;’ here he shews them his covenant-love and grace, and from hence they take a prospect of the good ‘land that is very far off.’ But the word may be very well translated rafters, which are joined together, and run in each other; and so the Targum renders it; and in this sense is the word used both in the Misnah and in the Midrash. Now as rafters are for the strength and support of buildings, so are the ordinances to the church of Christ; by them oftentimes saints are supported and refreshed; and, whilst they are waiting on Christ in them, they renew their strength, they mount up with wings as eagles, they run and are not weary, they walk and faint not, as it is promised to them in Isaiah 40:31.

    Now these rafters are said to be of fir. The word is only used in this place, and is so rendered by Arias Montanus, Pagnine, and others, and is so understood by most of the Jewish writers; the word being by the change of a single letter, to wit, ç into t , which is used in the Chaldee and Syriac languages, the same with that which is commonly used for the fir; and this, Pliny says, is the best and strongest wood for roofing or faltering’: now these rafters, the ordinances of the gospel, may be said to be of this, because, 1. The fir-tree is hilaris aspeceu of a pleasant, chearful, and delightful look; the ordinances of the gospel are exceeding delightful to believers, when they have the presence of Christ with them, and the communications of his love unto them; then are those tabernacles amiable and lovely; wisdom’s ways are then ways of pleasantness; their souls are filled with joy and pleasure; nothing so desirable to them as these, neither does any thing give them such satisfaction and contentment; and therefore with the disciples they think it is good for them to be here, and would always abide under such a roof as this, whose rafters are of fir. 2. It is a very shady, tree, folio pinnato densa, ut umbres non transmittat; at is so thick with leaves, that it will not let through showers of rain: the ordinances of Christ are a delightful shade, under which saints oftentimes sit with pleasure, have much spiritual consolation and refreshment; in which, being protected from the enemies of their souls, they serve the Lord with liberty and enlargement of heart. 3. It is always green, and never casts its leaf, and therefore is called the ‘green fir-tree,’ in Hosea 14:8. Ordinances are those green pastures, into which the great Shepherd leads his sheep, and in which he causes them to lie down; which being blessed and owned by the Spirit of grace unto believers, make them fat and flourishing, fruitful in every good work, even in old age; so that their leaf does not wither in the winter season.

    Others think that the cypress-tree is here intended, and so read the words, and our rafters or galleries of cypress; so the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Tugurine versions, David de Petals, and others. Now these rafters may be said to be of this wood, because the cypress-wood is very lasting and durable; it admits of no worms, it will not rot, nor is it sensible of old age; which may be expressive of the durableness and continuance of gospel.ordinances, until the second coming of Christ; for as long as Christ has an house on earth, these cypress-rafters will last, it will never need new roofing; as long as there is a church, there will be those ordinances, Which are now in force, and will continue so to the end of time, without any change or alteration in them. This wood is also of a very pleasant smell; f193 which may signify the delight and pleasure which believers take in ordinances, and how grateful they are to them.

    Others think that the brutine-tree is meant; so Ainsworth, Brightman, Junius, Cocceis, and Michaelis; and it may be that which Pliny calls bruta, which some take to be the tree of Paradise; and its name is near in sound to the Hebrew word brotim here used, the singular of which is brot; which, Pliny says, is much like the cypress, and of a smell like cedar; and being applied to the ordinances of the gospel, may signify, as before, the durableness and delightfulness of them; and now who but would desire to dwell in such an house, and under such a roof as this? What encouragement is here, and what an inducement should this be, to souls to come into the house of the Lord, and wait upon him there, the beams of whose house are cedar, and the rafters of fir?

    CHAPTER 2.

    Here begins a new colloquy between Christ and his church; in which they alternately set forth the excellencies of each other, and express their mutual affection for, and the delight and pleasure they take in each other’s company. Christ seems to begin, in an account of himself and his own excellencies, and of the church in her present state, verses 1, 2. Then she in her turn praises him, and commends him above all others; relates some clear proofs she had of his love to her, and communion with him in his house and ordinances, to such a degree as to overcome her, verses 3-6. and then either he or she gives a charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, not to disturb either the one or the other in their sweet repose, verse 7. Next the church relates how she heard the voice of Christ, and had a sight of him on the hills and mountains at some distance; then more nearly behind her wall, and through the lattices, verses 8, 9, and expresses the very words in which he spake to her, and gave her a call to come away with him; making use of arguments from the season of the year, the signs of which are beautifully described, verses 10-13, and requests that she would come out of her solitude, that he might enjoy her company, whose countenance and voice were so delightful to him; and gives a charge to her and her friends, to seize on such as were hurtful and prejudicial to their mutual property, verses 14, 15, and she closes the chapter with expressing her faith of interest in Christ; and with a petition for his speedy approach to her, and continued presence with her, verses 16, 17.

    VERSE 1. I am the rose of Sharon; and the lily of the vallies. HERE begins a new colloquy between Christ and his church, in which they alternately set forth the praises and excellencies of each other, discover the strength of their mutual affection, and express the delight and pleasure they take in each other’s company: but who begins this colloquy is not so easily determined. What is here said, may he applied either to Christ or to the church; and therefore I shall consider the words in both senses.

    First, The words may be considered, as the words of the church, expressing the excellency of her grace, loveliness, and beauty, which she had received from Christ; and at the same time intimating her being exposed in the open field and low rallies to many dangers and enemies; and therefore tacitly desires his protection over her, which he seems to promise in verse 2. That these are the words of the church, seems to be the general opinion of the Jewish doctors, and is also embraced by some Christian interpreters. And, 1st, The church may be compared to ‘the rose,’ 1. For beauty; it is called the beautiful flower its color is beautiful and delightful: the figure is exceeding just; nothing is more common in poems of this kind, than to set forth the beauty of women by the rose; such as Hero, Aspasia, and others; some have had the name of Rhoda from hence; and Helena for her beauty was called Podocrwv The church may be fitly compared to it; no ‘rose of Sharon’ can be more beautiful in color, and delightful to the eye, than the church is in the eyes of Christ; as she is clothed with his pure and spotless righteousness, adorned with the graces of his Spirit, and standing at his right-hand in cloth of gold, bespangled with the sparkling gems of divine grace; her beauty is desirable to him, she being in his eye “the fairest among women.’ 2. For its sweet odor; the church and all believers are as the fragrant and sweet-smelling rose; their persons are so as considered in Christ; and all their graces, especially when in exercise; and all their duties and services, when performed in faith, and perfumed with Christ’s mediation; see chapter 4:10, Philippians 4:18, Revelation 5:8, and 8:3, 4. 3. For its delight in sunny places; it thrives and flourishes the best there, and has the most fragrant smell: Christ is ‘the sun of righteousness,’ under whose warming, comforting and refreshing beams, believers delight to be, and under which their souls grow, thrive, blossom exceedingly, and bring forth much fruit. 4. For its blossoming and flourishing, ‘the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;’ the church may be said to do so, when there is a large increase of members, and these much in the exercise of grace, and ‘fruitful in every good work;’ then may the church be said to be as the blossoming rose. 2dly, She may be compared to the ‘lily of the rallies:’ some women have their name from the lily, as Susanna; and so Sysigambis is the name of the mother of Darius which signifies the white lily to which for beauty women are sometimes compared; and with propriety enough may the church be called a lily. She is compared to the ‘lily among thorns’ in the next verse, and saints are frequently compared to lilies in this Song. And, 1. She may be likened to a lily for the glory, beauty and sweet odor of it.

    Christ says, Matthew 6:29, of the lilies of the field, that ‘Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these;’ and for the same reasons that she is compared to the beautiful and sweet smelling rose, is she likewise to the lily; which Pliny says, rosae nobilitate proximum est, ‘is next in nobleness and excellency to the rose.’ 2. For its whiteness; there are various sorts of lilies, and they are of different colors; some are of red and purple colors, others are white; and it seems to be the white lily which is intended here, for this seems best to express her beauty; for the red rose and the white lily make her look somewhat like her beloved, ‘white and ruddy,’ a perfect beauty; and of the white lily, Pliny says, candor ejus eximius, that ‘its whiteness is singularly excellent; the church, and all believers in Christ, are very aptly resembled by the white lily, who are clothed with ‘fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints,’ wrought out by Christ, imputed by God the Father, and laid hold on by faith; this is so exceeding white, that being arrayed with it, they are all fair, and ‘there is no spot in them.’ 3. For its fruitfulness; Pliny says, nihil est foecundius, us radice quinquagenos saepe emittente bulbos: ‘nothing is more fruitful, for oftentimes one root sends forth fifty bulbs:’ and as fruitful are believers when the Sun of righteousness shines upon them, and Christ is as the dew unto them; for then ‘they grow as the lily, and cast forth their roots as Lebanon; their branches spread, and their beauty is as the olive tree.’ The church brings forth many souls to Christ; and these bring forth much fruit, to the glory both of him and his father. 4. For its height, for which it is commended: the lily grows very high; Pliny says, nec ulli florum excelsitar major, interdiu cubitorum trium; ‘no flower exceeds it in height; for in the day-time,’ (that is, when it erects itself,) ‘it is three cubits high.’ Believers are trees of righteousness; and plants of Christ’s Father’s planting, which do not run along the ground, and cleave to earthly things, but lift up their heads heavenwards, and grow up on high in their desires and affections, having their hearts above, where their treasure is: believers are like the flowers of the lily, open towards heaven, but shut towards the earth. 5. For the weakness of its body, and largeness of its head: Pliny says of the lily, languido semper collo et non sufficiente capitis oneri; that it has ‘a weak neck, or body, which is not sufficient to bear the weight of the head.’ Christ is the head of the body, the church, and far greater than that; he is not supported by it, but he supports it: the church’s strength lies in her head, as Samson’s did in his locks; she is weak in herself, but strong in Christ her head, and therefore says, ‘surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.’ 6. The church may be compared, not only to a lily, but to ‘a lily of the vallies:’ there is a lily which is called lilium convallium, ‘the lily of the vallies:’ but this seems not so much to intend the distinguishing name of some particular lily, as it does the place where it grows. And, 1. Vallies are low places; and, when the church is called ‘the lily of the rallies,’ it may be expressive of the low estate and condition which she is sometimes in: believers are Christ’s myrtle-trees, and these are sometimes in the bottom, in a low condition; but he grants his presence with them, and the discoveries of his love to them; they are his doves, and they are often ‘like doves of the rallies, mourning every one for their iniquity, being humbled and, pressed down in their souls under a sense of sin and unworthiness; they are not only humble in themselves, and low in their own eyes, but are often in the deeps of affliction, sorrow, and distress, and out of these depths cry unto the Lord; see <19D001> Psalm 130:1. 2. Lilies that grow in the rallies are exposed to danger; they are liable to be plucked up by every one that passes by, to be trodden upon, and eaten by the beasts that feed there, and also to be washed away, and destroyed by hasty showers of rain, that run from the hills and mountains down into the vallies with force and violence; so the church of Christ here on earth, in her low estate, is exposed to the rage of her adversaries, to be trodden under the feet, and torn in pieces by the teeth of those bulls of Bashan, that beset her around, and to be carried away by the flood of persecution, which ‘Satan the old serpent casts out of his mouth after her.’ Now it is a glorious instance of God’s mighty grace and power in protecting and defending his church, that this lily grows and abides in the rallies, notwithstanding all this danger. 3. Lilies of the rallies have more moisture, verdure, and greenness in them, than those upon the hills and mountains; because the sun has not that power over them, as R. Sol. Jarchi observes, to scorch and dry them up, and therefore are much more beautiful and excellent: so believers, being planted by ‘rivers of water,’ are green, flourishing, and fruitful; whilst others look like ‘the heath in the desert,’ dried and parched up. Christ is to the saints as ‘rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land;’ by the one he refreshes them, and makes them fruitful; and by being the other he shades from that which would scorch them, and make them barren and unfruitful: and thus is the church the ‘lily of the vallies,’ as well as ‘the rose of Sharon.’ And the Targum here renders it, ‘the rose in the plain of the garden of Eden;’ and some interpreters think the rose is meant; and we sometimes read of roses in vallies and certain it is there were roses in the vale of Sharon. But, Secondly, The more commonly received opinion is, that these words are the words of Christ, owning all the glory and praises the church had given him in the former chapter, and setting forth more largely the beauties and excellencies of his person, the more to affect, enamor, and ravish her soul, and make her seek and long for him: and indeed it seems best to understand them of Christ, for self-commendation does not so well agree with the church as with him. What Solomon says, Proverbs 27:2, is worth regarding, ‘let another praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips:’ though it is lawful for the saints to speak of their glory, beauty, and excellency, as considered in Christ, in order to magnify the riches of his grace, for the instruction and encouragement of others, and in vindication of themselves against the calumnies of the world, and to obviate their mistakes concerning them, as in chapter 1:5, she says, ‘I am black but comely;’ but her chief province and design in this Song appears to be, to set forth his praises, and not her own; and indeed the majesty and agreeableness of the stile with Christ’s language in the New Testament, such as, ‘I am the door, I am the good shepherd, I am the vine, I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ etc. as well as the connection of the words with the following verse, as one well observes, manifestly bespeak them to be the words of Christ, who may very well be called, 1st, ‘The rose of Sharon.’ Christ fitly compares himself to a rose, which, as Bishop Patrick observes, is still one of the goodliest things to which a great prince can be likened in those Eastern countries; and gives an instance of it in the great Mogul complimenting one of our kings, as being like a rose in a garden: in the Misnah, mention is made of the king’s lily, or the king’s rose, being the king of flowers, and fit for a King, and an emblem of one; so the men of the great congregation of Ezra are compared to roses, in the Targum of Song of Solomon 7:2 and the ancestors of Melissus the Theban, after many calamities, are compared to the flourishing rose, for the height of honor and power they arrived unto. Nor is this simile unfitly used by the bridegroom of himself, since it is sometimes given to men by their lovers;’ and is very properly used in a Song of love, as this is; seeing the rose, as Philostratus calls it, is erwtov futon , the plant of love; and Anacreon calls it to rodon twn erwtwn , the rose of loves: it was sacred to love; the graces are represented, one of them as having a rose, another a myrtle-branch; and a crown of roses was consecrated to the muses; all this because of the beauty and loveliness of the plant. And to it Christ may be compared, 1. Because of its red color; which may be expressive of the truth of his humanity, and signify that he is really and truly man. having ‘taken part of the same flesh and blood,’ that his people are partakers of; as also of his bloody sufferings in the same nature, on the account of which he is said to be ‘red in his apparel:’ likewise both these together, the red rose and the white lily, make up that character which is given him, chapter 5:10 that he is ‘white and ruddy,’ a compleat beauty, like the charming lily and blushing rose, ‘fairer than the children of men.’ 2. He may be compared to the rose for its sweet smell, as for the same reason he is in the former chapter to spikenard, myrrh, and camphire; his person, sacrifice, grace and righteousness, have a delightful odor in them; no rose smells so sweet, as Christ does to believers; this Sharon-rose refreshes them, quickens their spiritual senses, and ravishes and delights their souls. 3. The rose is of a cooling nature, and therefore useful in burning fevers, inflammations, etc. Christ, by the effusion of his blood, by the oblation of himself, and by his dying in the room and stead of sinners, has appeased and removed his Father’s fierce and burning wrath from them; and it is only an application of this Sharon-rose, the person, blood and righteousness of Christ, which can cool and comfort the conscience of a sinner set on fire, and terrified by the law of God; the discoveries of his love and grace can only remove those dreadful terrors, and fire of divine wrath, which is kindled by a ‘fiery law,’ and cure those inflammations raised thereby. 4. He is called ‘the Rose of Sharon,’ for the excellency of it; the roses which grew there perhaps were the best of any. Sharon is the name of a fruitful plain or country, where herds and flocks were kept, as appears from 1 Chronicles 27:29, Isaiah 35:2, and 65:10; this plain or country lay between Caesarea and Joppa, beginning at Lydda; hence they are joined together; Acts 9:35, and reaching to the Mediterranean sea: hence the Jews in their writings say from Lydda to the sea in the vale; and this was so very fruitful, that the Targumist on this place renders it, ‘by the garden of Eden:’ and Sharon is described in the Jewish map as fat and fertile, having in it very desirable fields, fruitful vines, and abounding with flowers and roses. There are various sorts of roses in different places, some better than others; those of the first class with the Greeks were those of Olenum, and next those of Megara Nisea, and then those of Phaselis, and then of others; with the Romans, the best were those of Praeneste and Campania, and then others: but of the roses in Judea, the rose of Sharon seems to have been the best, and therefore to that the comparison is made; there was a garden of roses in Jerusalem but not to them, but to those in Sharon is the allusion. The word for a rose is only used in this place and in Isaiah 35:1 and is so called, either from the collection and compression of leaves in it, or from the shadow of it; for the word seems to be compounded of one that signifies to hide and cover, and another that signifies a shadow; so Gussetius and so may be rendered, ‘the covering shadow:’ but why a rose should be so.called is not easy to say; unless it can be thought to have the figure of an umbrella, or that the rose of Sharon was so large as to be remarkable for its shadow, like that Montfaucon saw in a garden at Ravenna, under the shadow of the branches of which more than forty men could stand. Christ is sometimes compared to trees for their shadow, which is pleasant and reviving, as in verse 3. Hosea 14:7, but he here seems to be compared to the rose of Sharon on another account, even the excellency and fragrancy of it; for, Pliny says that the rose does not delight in fat soils, rich clays, or wellwatered grounds, but thrives the best in poor lean ground; and that those are of the sweetest smell which grow in dry places, for ruderatum agrum amat, ‘it loves rubbish earth.’ Now such dry and rubbish earth was that which was about the city of Sharon; for we read of such a place as inhabited, Acts 9:35 as the Talmudic doctors assert; who also tell us that those who built a brick house in Sharon, had no benefit of the law, mentioned in Deuteronomy 20:3 because the earth thereabout was not fit to make bricks of, nor would houses made of them continue long.

    Hence they also say that the high priest, on the day of atonement, prayed particularly for the Sharonites, that their houses might not become their graves. Now these being the best and sweetest roses which grew in this soil, and Christ being compared to one of them, denotes the excellency and preferableness of Christ to all others.

    Some think that some other plant or flower is here intended; the Targum renders it, ‘the narcissus;’ of which some are white, having white leaves surrounding a yellow flower and some of a purple color and which Pliny calls purple lilies: he says there are two sorts of them, one that has a purple flower, and the other is of the grass kind; some, he says have a white flower and a purple cup. The heathens used to call the narcissus the ancient crown of their superior deities and it was reckoned a beautiful flower, and of a sweet smell and for beauty Christ may be compared unto it: its white color may denote the purity of Christ; and the purple, his royalty, or rather his purple blood and sufferings of death. The Septuagint translate the words thus, ‘I am the flower of the field;’ as do also the Vulgate Latin and Pagnine. Now Christ may be called so, 1. Kat ejxochn , by way of eminency, as being the chiefest and most excellent flower in the field; there is no such flower in the heavenly paradise as he is; among all the holy angels and glorified saints, there are none to be compared with him; and in his garden here below, no such flower grows as this; he is ‘the flower,’ the choicest, the best, and the most excellent in the whole field or garden. 2. The flower of the field is liable to be plucked up or trodden under feet by beasts; Christ was exposed to the rage and fury of his enemies, those ‘strong bulls of Bashan’ of which he complains, Psalm 22:13,14. This sweet flower was laid hold on by ‘wicked hands,’ and cropped; and still his precious person, blood and righteousness, are slighted, contemned, and ‘trodden under foot’ by Christless and unconverted sinners. 3. This may be expressive of the meanness of Christ in the esteem of the world; a field-flower is little regarded; Christ is as ‘a root out of a dry ground,’ and therefore they say, ‘he hath no form not comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him: hence he is despised and rejected of men,’ they not knowing the real worth and value of this precious flower; see Isaiah 53:2,3. 4. The flower of the field is not of man’s planting, nor is it raised by his care and industry: Christ was conceived in the womb of a virgin, and born of her without the help of man; as the flower of the field, he had no father but his Father in heaven, and no mother but the virgin on earth; and so was Melchisedek’s antitype, ‘without father as man, and without mother as God.’ 5. The flower of the field is open to all; whoever will may come to Christ for life and salvation; there is liberty of access to all sorts of sinners, to come to him and partake of his sweetness and benefits; he is not a flower in an inclosed garden, that cannot be come at, but stands in the open field; every sinner that labors under a sense of sin, and is heavy laden with the weight and burden of it, may come to him, and not fear a rejection from him; he is not ‘a fountain sealed, but opened to the house of David, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.’ 2dly, Christ may be very well compared to ‘the lily of the vallies,’ 1. For its whiteness; the lily, as has been already observed, is exceeding white, which may intend the purity and holiness of Christ, who both in nature and life is ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; he is the lamb without blemish and without spot,’ without the blemish of original or spot of actual sin; for he never knew it in his nature, nor did he ever commit it in his life, either in thought, word, or deed: or else the whiteness of the lily may signify his eternity; for so his head and his hairs are described by John, Revelation 1:14 to be ‘white like wool, as white as snow;’ which represents him as the ancient of days, and as existing from everlasting to everlasting. 2. For its tallness; the lily grows up very high, as has been taken notice of Christ, as mediator, is ‘the rock that is higher than we are; from whence the waters of divine grace flow, to the refreshment of our souls, when overwhelmed ‘he is higher than the kings of the earth; nay, he is higher than the heavens,’ and all the angels there; for he is ‘set far above all principality and power, and night, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,’ Ephesians 1:21. 3. For its fruitfulness; the lily is very fruitful, as has been before observed.

    Christ is ‘filled with all the fruits of righteousness,’ and is possessed of all the blessings of grace; he is like a tree richly laden with fruit, and therefore is compared to an apple tree, in verse 3. all the church’s fruit and fruitfulness come from him; he is the green fir-tree, from whom all her ‘fruit is found.’ 4. He may be compared to the lily for its excellency and glory; it being the next flower to the rose, and which is preferred by Christ to the glory of Solomon. Christ is the brightness of his father’s glory; is now, in our nature, ‘crowned with glory and honor;’ and will shortly appear in his own glory, and in the glory of his Father, and of the holy angels. 5. He may be said to be the lily of the vallies, because of his wonderful humility and condescension, in assuming our nature, suffering in our stead, and in humbling himself unto the death of the cross for us; his whole life was one continued series of humility, as was his death an undeniable instance of it: Christ here on earth did not appear as the lofty cedar, but as the lowly lily, and that not of the mountains, but of the vallies; and it is with humble souls he delights to dwell; for though he is the high and lofty one, in his divine nature, yet he condescends to dwell with such who are of an humble and contrite spirit.

    VERSE 2. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. THOUGH it may not be so evident whose are the former words, whether Christ’s or the church’s, yet these manifestly appear to be his: and if we take the preceding verse as the words of the church, then we may consider this as the words of Christ, either owning and confirming what she had said of herself in it; as that she was indeed the most beautiful of all the roses and lilies which grew in fields and rallies, and that all others were but like thorns and briars when compared to her; and also, at the same time that he owns and commends her beauty, puts her in mind of her present state and condition in this life, as being attended with afflictions, sorrows, and sufferings: or else the words may be regarded as the answer of Christ to her complaint in the former verse, where she says, that she was indeed the blushing rose and charming lily, but then she was as the rose and lily in the open fields and vallies, liable to be plucked up by every one that passed by, and to be devoured or trodden under feet by the beasts of the field; to this Christ replies here, by owning it all to be true, and promising that he will keep and preserve her safe in the midst of her enemies, ‘as the lily among thorns;’ nay, that her very enemies should be her protection, these thorns should be as an hedge about her. But if we take the former verse:o be the words of Christ, which seems most agreeable, then we are to consider these as his also; who, having in the former verse set forth his own beauties and excellencies, which was proper to be done in the first place, does in this set forth his church’s, in which may be observed, I. What he compares her to; ‘a lily among thorns.’

    II. The title which he gives her, ‘my love;’ which discovers his regard unto her, and affection for her.

    III. Her excellency and preferableness to all others in his esteem.

    I. The church is here compared by Christ to ‘a lily among thorns.’ The Targum renders it, the rose; and so it is in Zohar; and that this is intended, some strenuously contend for, which, and not the lily, they say, grows among thorns: Ainsworth would have what we call the woodbind or honey-suckle here meant, which grows in hedges; and indeed this is sometimes called lilium inter spinas, ‘the lily among thorns to which the church may be compared, because of its sweet smell; the flower of it gives an exceeding sweet smell; and makes those fields where it grows in abundance very delightful: believers in their persons, grace, and conversation, are like the ‘smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed;’ being clothed with the sweet-smelling garments of Christ’s righteousness, and anointed with the savory ointments of the Spirit’s grace. Also the woodbind or honey-suckle cannot bear up itself, but has its depeadance on others; it does not grow up erect, but for its support wraps itself about the body, branches and twigs of other trees, convolvens se adminculis quibuscunque, as Pliny observes; therefore we call it woodbind, from its binding about other trees; and for the same reason it is in Greek called periclymenon, which is also used by Latin writers: believers are weak, and cannot support themselves, and therefore by faith lean on Christ, who is their beloved; and are upheld by him with the right-hand of his righteousness; they cleave close unto him, and depend upon him for all grace here, and for glory hereafter. But the word will very well bear to be translated a lily, being the same that is so in the former verse; where it has been shewn in what sense the church may be compared to one; and therefore I shall only observe, 1. That Christ and the church bear the same names; Is he a lily? so is she; the church being married to Christ, and they too becoming one flesh, have one and the same name; hence the church is called Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12, so the same name, Jehovah, our righteousness, which Christ is called by, Jeremiah 23:6, is given to her in chapter 33:16. Again, Christ is called Israel, Isaiah 49:3, which is the name of his church and people; for being espoused together, and having partook of each other’s natures, they also bear each other’s names. 2. That there is a very great likeness and near resemblance between Christ and his church; for when he says, she is ‘as the lily,’ he means, she is as himself, who is ‘the lily of the vallies,’ verse 1. and therefore, as one well observes he does not say she is the lily, but as or like the lily; for as he is; so are we, that is, believers, in this world. Christ and the church are both lilies in God’s eye, and are loved by him with the same love: believers bear the image of Christ, wear his righteousness, have the same spirit, though in measure, and are exposed to the same hatred, malice, and persecution of the world, being wounded with those thorns even as he was: and they shall be much more like him in another world; for they shall then be like him, and see him as he is; they shall then have everlasting and transforming views of him, which will change them into the same image, from glory to glory; for as they will then have more communion with him, so they will have a greater conformity to him, who is ‘the first-born among many brethren.’ 3. That all the church’s beauty and loveliness come from Christ: it is because he is the lily, that she looks like one; her beauty is not natural to her, but is derived from him, who is her head and husband; she is indeed a perfect beauty, but then it arises from that comeliness Which he has put upon her.

    Moreover she is not only said to be as the lily, but ‘as the lily among thorns.’ By thorns may be meant, 1. Wicked and ungodly men, sons of Belial, which are ‘as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands,’ 2 Samuel 23:6, these, like thorns and briars, are the curse of the earth; are worthless and unfruitful in themselves, and hurtful and grieving to the saints: David, Isaiah, and others have complained of them; righteous Lot was pricked with these thorns; his soul was vexed and grieved from day to day with their unlawful deeds: also like thorns, their end is to be burned, and that by the fierceness and fury of God’s wrath, who says, in Isaiah 27:4 ‘Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together;’ which he will do at the last day, when he will bind up those thorns in bundles, and cast them into ‘the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone;’ where ‘the people shall be as the burnings of lime; as thorns cut up, shall they be burnt in the fire;’ the terror of which sometimes surprises the sinners in Zion, who therefore say, ‘who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’ Isaiah 33:12-14. 2. By thorns may be meant the reproaches, revilings, and persecutions of wicked men, whereby they afflict and disturb the saints; the Targum explains these thorns, of the wicked edicts and decrees of princes, by which the congregation of Israel was oppressed in captivity: the prophet Ezekiel is encouraged by the Lord faithfully to deliver his message to the people of Israel, the briars and thorns were with him, and though he had his dwelling among scorpions, that is, though he was reproached, reviled, and persecuted by them for it. Christ’s lily in all ages has more or less been attended with, and has grown up, among such thorns as these; for every, one that will live godly in Christ Jesus. shall suffer persecution of one kind or another; and yet they abide like ‘the lily among thorns,’ in their faith, purity, and holiness; so that neither the frowns nor flatteries of the world can prevail upon them to desert the Redeemer’s interest, forsake the gospel, nor turn aside from the true worship of God; to which agrees R.

    Sol. Jarchi’s gloss on the text, which is this: ‘As the lily among thorns, which prick it, yet stands continually in its beauty and redness; so is my love among the daughters, who intice her to follow after them, and go a whoring after other gods, but yet continues in her religion.’ 3. By thorns may be meant heretics and heretical doctrines, which pierce, prick, and grieve the children of God: now these false teachers, these wolves in sheeps clothing, may be known by their fruits, which are none at all, that are good for any thing; for, ‘do men gather grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles!’ there is no fruit of faith, sound doctrine, or a gospelconversation to be found upon them; but are like unfruitful thorns, whom God suffers to grow up in his churches, that those which are filled with the fruits of righteousness might be made manifest; and in all ages, more or less, Christ’s lily, the church, has grown up among, and been pricked by, and pestered with such thorns as these. 4. The corruptions of our nature may be called so: these Canaanites remaining in the land, dwelling in our hearts, are pricks in our eyes, and thorns in our sides; these grieve and disturb us, and they make us groan with the anguish our souls are filled with by them. Perhaps the breaking forth of some corruption is intended by the thorn in the flesh, and messenger of Satan, that the apostle speaks of, 2 Corinthians 12:7, though the temptations of Satan may also be called by these names, which often give the saints a great deal of uneasiness, and throw them into much heaviness; and it may be that both the corruption of nature, and the temptations of Satan, which the apostle might labor under, are intended; and the thorn in the flesh may be expressive of the breaking out of some corruption; and the messenger of Satan may intend his temptations, by which it was stirred up and encouraged: though I rather think that both phrases are only expressive of the corruption of nature, which was wont to be called by the Jews, the messenger of hell; a phrase much like this used by the apostle. So in Mi-rash Hanneelam we read that R. Hona, in his sermons, used to advise persons thus, ‘O ye children of men, take care of the messenger of hell: but who is this? The evil imagination, (by which the Jews always intend the vitiosity of nature) is the messenger of hell. Now this being a phrase that was well known, the apostle adds it by way of opposition to the thorn in the flesh, as explanative of it, Moreover, world]y cares are compared to thorns which choke the word; they are pernicious .to saints, and make them barren and unfruitful, as well as grieve and disturb them, Matthew 13:22, but tho’ Christ’s lilies here on earth grow up among, and are annoyed by those thorns of sin and corruption; yet when they are transplanted into Christ’s garden above, ‘there shall be no more a pricking briar, nor a grieving thorn,’ to give them the least disturbance.

    II. Whilst Christ is comparing his church to a ‘lily among thorns,’ he gives her a loving and affectionate title, my love, which has been already explained in chapter 1:9 and his mentioning it here shews, that even in her present state and condition she was a beauty in his eye; and that her being among thorns, was so far from detracting from it, that it rather served as a foil to set it off the more; as also, that she was still the object of his love, though in the midst of wicked and ungodly men, men of unclean lips and lives, haters of peace, religion, and godliness; though she was reviled, reproached, and persecuted. by them, yet she was loved, valued, and esteemed by him; nay, though she was attended with many infirmities, sins, and corruptions, that were grieving to her, and dishonoring to him, yet neither these, nor any thing else, should ever separate her from his love: she was Christ’s love and lily still, tho’ among thorns. The lily is often made use of in this love-song, to set forth the beauty of the church and of the saints in the eye of Christ; and his great love. to them, and delight in them, and very justly f243.

    III. He sets forth her excellency and preferableness to all the daughters.

    By whom we are to understand the nations and men of the world; for it is usual in the Hebrew tongue to call the inhabitants of countries the daughters thereof; thus we read of the daughters of Tyre, Edom, Babylon, etc. none of which are to be compared with the church; these are like thorns to Christ’s lily: or else carnal, hypocritical, and formal professors may be intended, whom she calls in chapter 1:6 mother’s children; who made an external profession of religions but wanted that real and internal beauty which she was possessed of, and differed only in name from the rest of the sons and daughters of fallen Adam; but she, being distinguished by divine grace from them all, was preferable to them, 1. In beauty; these looked like thorns, she like a lily; they were black and uncomely, she the perfection of beauty, and the fairest among women. 2. In harmlessness; though there are thorns about, yet none upon the lily: ungodly persons are not only uncomely in themselves, but like thorns, pricking and hurtful to others; but as for the saints, they are ‘blameless and harmless, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,’ like lilies among thorns. 3. In fruitfulness: no fruit grows on thorns, but on Christ’s lilies grow all sorts of precious fruit; they are laden with them. 4. In their last end Christ’s lilies will be gathered by himself and his angels, and be put in his garden above; but the wicked, which are Satan’s tares and thorns, shall be bundled together, and cast into everlasting burnings; the one being highly valued and prized by Christ. the other hated and rejected by him; for as much as the lily exceeds the thorns which grow about it, so much does the church o£ Christ excel the men of the world among; whom it is here on earth; and as there is a difference now between them, though growing up together, so there will be one, and that far greater and more visible when separated; the one will be everlastingly glorified, the other everlastingly punished.

    VERSE 3.

    As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons: I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

    CHRIST having commended the church in the former verse, and declared that she was as preferable to all others, as the lily was to the thorns; she in this verse returns the commendation to him, and asserts that he as much excelled all the sons, as the fruitful apple-tree did the wild and barren trees of the wood; and at the same time gives an account of that sweet experience she had of his excellency, preciousness, and usefulness to her.

    Now in the words may be observed, I. A comparison which she makes of him to an apple-tree; in which she sets forth his excellency and preferableness to all others.

    II. She instances in two particular things; in which, by good experience, she found him to be so to her own soul.

    First, The shadow of this apple-tree was delightful to her; ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight.’

    Secondly, The fruit thereof was exceeding sweet to her; ‘his fruit was sweet to my taste.’

    I. She compares him to an apple-tree, and that no doubt of the best sort.

    The Targum renders it, a pome-citron, or citron-apple, tree: which, 1. Is a very large tree; and so may be fitly used to express the greatness and excellency of Christ, who is possessed of all divine perfections, and is ‘over all, God blessed for ever.’ He is a Savior, and a great One; who has, as an instance of his great love, condescension and power, wrought out a great salvation for great sinners. He is an high priest, and he is a great one, both in the glory of his person, and in the virtue and efficacy of his sacrifice and intercession. He is the king of saints, and as such is higher than the kings of the earth: He is equal with God, therefore greater than angels, and more excellent than all the sons of men. 2. It is a very fruitful tree; it is sometimes so full of fruit, that it is even pressed down with the weight thereof and is, as Pliny says omnibus boris pomifera, ‘ always hearing fruit:’ it has at one and the same time flowers, ripe and unripe fruit; whilst some are putting forth, others are dropping off; so Christ abounds with the fruits of divine grace; he is not the barren fig-tree, but the green fir-tree, from whom our fruit is found, and that at all times; for he is that ‘tree of life which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations,’ Revelation 22:2. Here may believers come at all times, and pluck and eat; for here is not any deficiency of fruit, it is always growing, always plucking, and yet never lessened. 3. The fruit of this tree is of a bitter taste, but of an exceeding sweet smell, as are also the leaves; which being put among garments, not only give them a delightful odor, but also drive away noxious creatures from them; for the same reason is Christ compared to myrrh in chapter 1:13; for tho’ his sacrifice, death and sufferings, are sweet and savory, both to his Father and to his people, yet they were bitter unto him, who not only tasted of, but drank up the whole cup of his Father’s wrath: and though the blessings which spring from hence are of a sweet smell, exceeding grateful and delightful to believers, yet are they enjoyed in this life with a variety of crosses, afflictions, and: tribulations; this passover-lamb is eaten with bitter herbs. 4. It is an excellent remedy against poison. Sin is that poison of asps which has in.. fected all human nature, and spread itself over all the powers and faculties of the souls of men, as well as over all the members of their bodies: now Christ is the sovereign antidote against it; this fruit of the citron-apple-tree is the most pro, per remedy for it; his righteousness justifies, his blood cleanses, and his grace will eternally clear his people from their sins. 5. It is very good for shortness of breath, and to remove a stinking one; f250 hence the Parthian nobles used to boil the kernels of it in their food for that purpose: it is the presence of Christ, and communion with him, that only can cure our panting souls when we are wearied, and almost out of breath in seeking him; and it is the sweet incense of his mediation that perfumes our prayers, which are the breath of our souls, and which otherwise would be so far from being grateful to God, that it would be strange unto him.

    And thus may Christ be compared to a citron-apple-tree; though perhaps the common apple-tree is here intended, which the Talmud interprets of the Israelites, but R. Aben Ezra understands it of the shecinah, as do the Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi of the holy and blessed God, and Lord of the world; as also does R. Chaya, in the book Zohar: who says, that the congregation of Israel set forth the praises of the holy and blessed God by an apple, because of its colors, smell and taste; so the Cabalistic doctors interpret it of tiphereth, or the bridegroom,, because of the same. Christ is this shecinah, the holy and blessed God, and Lord of the world, who may be compared to an apple-tree, (1.) Because it is a very fruitful tree. There are various sorts of fruit which it bears; Christ is full of fruit; he is Joseph’s antitype, who is called ‘a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the mall:’ all the fruits of righteousness grow on him, every grace is in him; he is that ‘tree of life which bears twelve manner of fruits;’ there are justifying and pardoning grace, sanctifying and adopting grace in him; all that a believer can want here, and all that can make him happy hereafter: and as fruitful boughs bend downwards, being laden with fruit, and may be easily reached, so Christ, being full of grace and truth, gives to sinners the utmost liberty of access to him for grace from him; for though as God, he is ‘the high and lofty one,’ yet as man and mediator, he is meek and lowly, and condescends to take notice of, and admits into familiarity, poor, mean, and abject creatures; he gives them a gracious allowance to approach near unto him; that apple-tree, whose fruitful boughs of divine grace hang so low, that the hand of faith may easily reach them, where the poor sinner is heartily welcome to pluck and eat at pleasure. (2.) It is of a very beautiful aspect when laden with fruit, and especially as growing among the trees of the forest. Some have thought that the fruit of this tree is what was forbidden our first parents; which being so ‘pleasant to the eyes,’ was a temptation to the woman to eat thereof; therefore is in Latin called malum, evil, because sin entered into the world hereby: though others think it was another sort of fruit. The Jewish writers differ much about it; some say it was the fig-tree, so R.

    Sol. Jarchi, and some others in R. Aben Ezra on Genesis 3:6 which they gather from Adam and Eve’s immediate sewing of fig-leaves together, as soon as they had sinned, to cover themselves with: others, that it was the pome-citron, or citron-apple tree, so Baal Hatturim in Genesis 1:29 but the same author on Numbers 5:3, seems to intimate as if it was the grape, the fruit of the vine; which is also the opinion of the Jews in Zohar who think that it is particularly the black grape: though others have thought it to be the apple, as the author of the old Nizzachon which was either his own and the opinion of some other Jews, or else he took it from the common notion of Christians. But whether it was the apple-tree or no, which was so pleasant and desirable to the eyes of the woman, yet it is certain that this is very pleasant and delightful to the sight, when laden with fruit.

    Christ as mediator is a beautiful sight to believers, as he stands in all his endearing characters and relations; as he may be viewed undertaking their cause, assuming their nature, suffering, bleeding, and dying in their stead, rising again for their justification, ascending into heavens and entering there with their names and persons upon his hearts and there ever living to make intercession for them: Christ, as possessed of all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, being the surety, mediator, and messenger of it., is exceeding delightful to the eye of faith; ‘his glory is as the glory of the only begotten of the Fathers’ when he appears to souls full of grace and truth. (3.) The fruit which grows upon the apple-tree, as it is of various sorts, and of a beautiful aspect to the eye, so it is of a cooling and comforting nature. Christ has cooled, turned away, and appeased the fierceness of his father’s fiery wrath, by his death and blood; and does by his mighty grace sweetly cool and refresh the heart of a poor sinner, inflamed by a fiery law, and commands serenity and peace in its conscience, filled with wrath and terror; and when his people are ready to faint and sink, he comforts them with his apples, the sweet discoveries of his love and grace, of which the church having had some experience, and desiring some renewed instances thereof, says, in verse 5 ‘comfort me with apples;’ where I shall more largely take notice of this, as well as of their pleasant and delightful smell. (4.) The apple-tree has been accounted an hieroglyphic of love; f256 under it lovers used to meet, with the fruit thereof they entertained each other, under its delightful shade they sat; to which perhaps an allusion is not only made in this verse, but also in chapter 8:5. ‘I raised thee up under the apple-tree.’ Christ and his church are throughout this song introduced as lovers, and the subject of their whole conversation is love: He who if the apple-tree is the church’s beloved, whom she loves and prefers before all others; it is his love her soul is ravished with; his fruit she feeds upon; his shade that she with so much content and pleasure sits under, where she is delighted with his love and grace, and sensibly feels her soul all enamored with him, Some other things might have been taken notice of, particularly the fruit and shadow of this tree, which are both mentioned in the text; but these will be considered under another head.

    Now Christ, whom the church here compares to an apple-tree, is by her preferred to all others; and she signifies, that as much as the apple-tree excels the wild and unfruitful trees of the wood, so much does Christ excel all the sons: by whom may be meant either the angels, so the Targum, who are by creation the sons of God; but not in so high and eminent a sense as Christ is: he has a more excellent name and nature than they; as God, he is their Lord and Creator, and the object of their highest worship and adoration; and as Mediator, they are obliged unto him, being upheld and secured by his grace in that state wherein they are; and though in his human nature he was made a little lower than they, yet now an the very same nature he is exalted above them; for ‘to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit at my right-hand.’ Or else by them may be meant the saints, who are the sons of God by adopting grace: Christ, the eternal son of God has the preeminence in, and over these; he is their Creator and Redeemer, their lord and king, their head and husband, their everlasting father and glorious mediator, to whom they are infinitely obliged for all the needful supplies of grace here, and for all the glory they expect hereafter. Or else by them may be meant the men of the world, the sons of Adam; and these Christ infinitely excels, as much as the apple-tree does the trees of the wood; for he is ‘fairer than the children of men;’ there is none like him in all the armies of heaven, nor any to be compared with him among all the inhabitants of the earth; if both worlds were to be searched with the utmost scrutiny, not one single individual person could be found comparable to him: and perhaps, particularly by these may be meant the great princes and monarchs of the world, who are sometimes in scripture compared to large and lofty trees; see Ezekiel 31:3,5,6,8, Daniel 4:20-22. But Christ is far preferable to these in beauty, glory and majesty; he is ‘higher than the kings of the earth, they receive their crowns and kingdoms from him;’ they are at his command, and under his dominion; he sets them up, and puts them down at pleasure; these must all submit to his awful judgment, even as the poorest peasant; and will be equally as fearful of ‘the great day of his wrath,’ which when come, they will call to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of this omnipotent Judge. Moreover, with respect to the saints, the fruits of Christ’s grace are to them far preferable to the kingdoms, crowns, and sceptres of the greatest monarchs, nay, reproach, for Christ’s sake, is more highly esteemed of by them, and accounted greater riches than all the treasures of this world. Though it seems as well to be understood in general of all wicked, Christless, and unconverted sinners, who are like to the trees of the wood, wild, barren, and unfruitful; and what fruit they do bring forth, is sour, wild, and unprofitable; and though like the trees of the wood, they may run up a great height, yet they shall be cut down and thrown into everlasting burnings: for, ‘the ax is laid to the root of the trees; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire,’ Matthew 3:10. Thus the church, by this comparison, sets forth the excellency and preferableness of Christ to all others. But, II. She instances in two excellent properties of this apple-tree, of which she had had some comfortable experience.

    First, The shade of it was delightful to her; ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight.’

    Secondly, The fruit of it was sweet unto her; ‘his fruit was sweet to my taste.’

    First, The shade of this apple-tree was very delightful to her; ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight:’ in which may be inquired, 1st, What is meant by the shadow under which she sat. 2dly, What her sitting there intends or supposes. 3dly, What she desired to sit there for. 4thly, From whence that pleasure and delight arose, which she was filled with. 1st, It will be proper to inquire what is meant by the shadow of Christ, under which she sat. Some have thought that the ceremonial law, with its festivals, is here intended, which was a shadow of good things to come, of which Christ was the sum and substance; under this shadow the Old Testament saints sat during the legal dispensation:, where their souls were much delighted and sweetly refreshed by viewing Christ, represented in the types and sacrifices of that law. The Targum understands it of the shadow of God’s shechinah, or divine majesty, under which the congregation of Israel desired to sit, when God gave the law on mount Sinai: but that dispensation was not so desirable; the law which was then given, was a fiery one; and the words which were then spoke were such, that they that heard them, intreated that they should not be spoken to them any more: therefore it may be better understood of the gospel and the ordinances of it, than either of the moral or ceremonial law; under this refreshing shadow saints delight to sit; here they enjoy sweet communion and fellowship with Christ; the sound of the gospel is joyful to them; the truths and doctrines of it are nourishing; the ordinances of it are comfortable and delightful; these tabernacles are amiable and lovely; and all wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness; and therefore it is no wonder that souls desire to sit under this shadow, and when they do, it is with delight.

    Moreover, some think that an allusion is here made to the nuptial ceremony of spreading the skirt; used by the Jews at the time of marriage; of which, see Ruth 3:9 and to which an allusion is made in Ezekiel 16:8 or to that veil; which being borne up with four rods or staves, was carried over the heads of the new-married couple, at the time that the bridegroom brought home the bride into his own house, where the whole solemnity was finished; this nuptial ceremony perhaps may give the best light to Luke 1:35 ‘the Holy’ Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee:’ so that this phrase of sitting under Christ’s shadow, may be expressive of the church’s being married to Christ, and of that delightful communion which she enjoys with him as her husband, when brought home to his own house; of which we have an account an the next verse, where she is entertained after a noble manner; and has as much of his love manifested to her, as she is capable of bearing, nay so much, that she is overcome with it. But! rather think that the metaphor is continued from the former part of the verse; and that the allusion is made to the shadow of an apple-tree, such an one as Christ was; whose shadow arises from his person, blood and righteousness; which shadow is, 1. A protecting one from heat; such as Jonah’s gourd was to him, or as the pillar of cloud was to the Israelites in the wilderness, or as a great rock to a weary traveler in a hot country. Christ and his righteousness are a shadow, which protect souls from the heat of his Father’s wrath; he, by making atonement for sin, and satisfaction to divine justice, hath delivered his own people from the wrath to come, and will eternally screen them from it; for though showers of divine. wrath will fall on Christless sinners, yet those that are under this shadow of Christ’s righteousness, shall not have one drop of it fall on them; for being justified by his blood, they shall be saved from wrath through him; also it is this, laid hold on by faith, which screens from the curses of a fiery law, and from the heat of that wrath which it sometimes works in the conscience; which is only rightly removed by the sprinklings of that blood which speaks peace and pardon, and by the application of that righteousness which justifies £rom all sin, and produces a peace which passeth all understanding: likewise Christ is the shadow which protects and shelters from the fiery darts of Satan; he is as a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones, those fiends of hell, is as a storm against the wall; his blood and righteousness keep off Satan’s fiery darts, preserve from his suggestions, and protect from the violence of his temptations; and the soul is still more secured by the prevalent mediation, and intercession of Christ in heaven, which is founded upon his blood and righteousness; so that what faith makes use of on earth to oppose to Satan’s temptations, Christ does in heaven to secure his people from his false charges and accusations: to this might also be added, that he is the shadow which protects from the heat of persecution, under which he causes his flock to rest at noon; when this sun smites them with the greatest violence, he is then their shade on their right hand, so that the sun shall not smite them by day; and this is their comfort and support under all their fiery trials, that they have such a shadow to have recourse to. 2. It is also a refreshing one; for if it is a shadow from the heat of God’s wrath, the terrors of the law, the temptations of Satan, and the persecutions of the world, it must needs be so; what can be more refreshing to a weary traveler, that is almost scorched, and ready to faint with heat, than a cooling and delightful shade? So refreshing is Christ to poor sinners, who is as ‘the shadow of a great rock in a weary land;’ nay, is a large spreading apple-tree, that at once furnishes them with an agreeable shelter and suitable provisions. 3. It is a fructifying one; the shadows of some trees, as Pliny informs us, are very hurtful and noxious to some plants that grow under them, and others are very nourishing and fructifying: Christ’s shadow is such an one; for ‘they that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon,’ Hosea 14:8 and indeed all the fruitfulness of those who are the Lord’s planting comes from Christ; for, unless they abide in and under him, they can bring forth no fruit. The shadows of some trees are injurious to men that lie under them; not so Christ’s shadow; but there are others very delightful and wholesome, to which he may be compared. 2dly, It may also be inquired what her sitting under this shadow is expressive of, or does suppose. And, 1. It shews the sense she had of herself, and present condition, and the need she stood in of Christ as a shadow; she was not only scorched with the sun of persecution, with afflictions, temptations, etc. but she was likewise sensible thereof, and therefore betook herself to a proper shade. 2. It manifestly appears from her sitting under this shadow, that she looked upon Christ to be a suitable one for her in such cases; and that as the idolaters in Hosea 4:13. sacrificed on mountains, and burnt incense under oaks, poplars and elms, ‘because the shadow thereof was good;’ so the church here sat under this shadow of Christ’s, because she looked upon it to be a good one, and preferable to all others. 3. It is expressive of her faith and confidence in Christ: the vain confidence of the Israelites in an arm of flesh, is called their ‘trust in the shadow of Egypt,’ Isaiah 30:2,3. and the holy confidence and faith of God’s children in him, is frequently called a ‘trusting in the shadow of his wings;’ see Psalm. 36:7 and 57:1 which seems to be the same with sitting under it here: the church did not sit idle under Christ, but her faith was in exercise upon him; and she was rejoicing alone in him, having ‘no confidence in the flesh.’ 4. It seems to intimate that security, peace, quietness, and satisfaction of soul, she enjoyed; here she sat as under her own vine and fig-tree, and none to make her afraid; where, being safe and secure from all her enemies, she solaced herself under this delightful shade, enjoying much peace of conscience, and satisfaction of mind; for she did not sit here with any manner of uneasiness, but with the utmost delight and pleasure. 5. It denotes her continuance here; faith takes up its dwelling in Christ; it will not move from hence, and is desirous of always enjoying sensible communion with him; ‘he that dwelleth in the secret of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,’ Psalm 91:1. But, 3dly, What was it she desired to sit here for? For thus may the words be rendered, ‘I desired, and I sat down’; that is, I desired to sit down, and I did sit down, I had what I wished for; and what was that? no doubt, protection from heat, rest and refreshment for her weary and fainting soul; that she might be comforted with those apples which grew on this tree, and be revived by tasting of and feeding upon the sweet fruit thereof, as well as be comforted with its delightful shade. 4thly, She sat here with delight; and indeed it could not be otherwise when its shade was so agreeable, and the fruit so sweet: this pleasure and delight of hers arose from the enjoyment of Christ’s presence, ‘in whose presence is fullness of joy, and at whose tight-hand are pleasures for evermore;’ from the discoveries of his love to her soul, which is better than life, and all the comforts of it; and were had in the exercise of faith upon him, in the actings of which grace the soul is filled with ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.’

    Secondly, The fruit of this apple-tree was sweet unto her taste: by this fruit are either meant the fruit of his doings, what his hands have wrought out, and his blood has procured for sinners, even all the blessings of grace, such as peace and reconciliation, justification, sanctification, pardon of sin, adoption, nearness of access to God, etc. or else, the fruit of his lips; such as his word and gospel, preached by himself, which is sweet to a believer’s taste, and is preferred to his necessary food; his promises, which are exceeding great and precious, and are highly valued by believers, for his mouth is most sweet, from whence they proceed; and his ordinances and corn, mands, in which they enjoy sweet communion with him, and have the discoveries of his love to their souls; and therefore ‘are more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than the honey or the honey-comb.’

    These are called his fruits; they are his in a covenant-way; all the blessings of grace, which make up the everlasting covenant, are in Christ’s hands, and at his dispose, being placed there for that purpose by God the Father; and they are also his, being procured by him; for though they are all the gifts of free grace, yet are they all obtained by Christ, and come to us through his blood: likewise they may be said to be his, because in his possession; every grace in its fullness is in him, he is full of grace and truth, and is communicated to us from him, for from him all our fruit is found; remission of sin, justifying righteousness, adopting grace, etc. come to us through and by him; and we are indulged with the gospel-promises and ordinances, as instances of his grace to us.

    Now these are all sweet to the taste of a believer, though not to a natural man who hath a vitiated taste, and calls evil good, and good evil; puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter; he savors the things of the flesh; sin is his food, from whence he receives an imaginary pleasure; and therefore disrelishes all spiritual things, looks upon them as poor and insipid, and finds no more taste in them than in the white of an egg; which arises from the predominancy of sin, that hinders from tasting any sweetness in divine things, and will do so whilst their taste remains in them; and their scent is not changed: but as for a spiritual man he savors the things of the Spirit, and disrelishes others; sin is rendered odious, bitter, and unpleasant to him; it is in some measure expelled, so that he can taste that the Lord is gracious; and therefore every thing he says or does is sweet unto him; for as his taste can discern perverse things, so it can relish spiritual ones; such as the fruit before-mentioned is, which grows upon and drops from the apple-tree, Christ Jesus: this delightful shade and excellent fruit, which believers find in Christ, render him very acceptable to them, and preferable to all others. Now when souls at any time have some experience of Christ’s love and grace, in such a way and manner, it is very proper to speak of it, for the glory of Christ, and the encouragement of other souls, as the church does here; which she also continues to do in the following verse, where she meets with a larger display of it.

    VERSE 4. He brought me to the banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love. THE church here goes on to give an account of some larger experiences of Christ’s love, which she had met with from him; for she is not only indulged with his shadow, and refreshed with his fruit, as in the former verse, but is also brought into his banqueting-house, where she is entertained by him, of which she gives an account in this: where may be observed, I. What is meant by the banqueting-house.

    II. What by being brought into it.

    III. The manner in which she was brought; ‘his banner over me was love.’

    I. I shall inquire what is meant by the ‘banqueting-house, into which the church was brought; it is in the Hebrew text, a house of wine; by which may be meant, either the wine-cellar, the place where wine is kept under ground; or else the place where wine is poured out, and where it is drank, according to R. Aben Ezra; and so may very well be rendered a banqueting-house. Thus we read of a banquet of wine, which Esther invited king Ahasuerus and Haman to; and wine being much used at feasts, may be put synechdochically, for all the other accommodations thereof; by which we may understand either, 1st, The covenant of grace; this is built for a banqueting house for souls; it is a superstructure of grace and mercy, whose foundation is the person of Christ; it is well stored with all needful provisions for a nobler entertainment; it is ‘ordered in all things, and sure;’ it is full of Christ, his love and grace; it is well stored with spiritual blessings, and precious promises, which will serve as an everlasting banquet for those who are interested in it. Or else, 2dly, The Sacred Scripture, which is a true banqueting house; here is a variety of food, and plenty of it; here is milk for babes, and meat for strong men; which is exceeding pleasant and delicious, sweeter to the taste than the honey or the honey-comb; revives and refreshes those who participate thereof, and is also exceeding wholesome to the souls of men: though there are vast numbers daily feasted here, yet there is no want; it abounds with the bread of gospel-truths, with the wine of gospel-promises, and is full of Christ, the hidden manna, who is also the bread of life; he is the alpha and omega of the Scriptures, the sum and substance of them, on whom faith. lives, and by whom, from time to time, it is sweetly refreshed. Or else, 3dly, The church is this banqueting house. The Targum refers it to the house of the school, where the Israelites learnt; the law at mount Sinai from the mouth of Moses; R. Alshech understands by it Sinai itself, and so it is interpreted in Yalkut; R. Sol. Jarchi thinks the tabernacle of the congregation is intended where the senses and explanations of the law were given: but it may much better be understood of the church of Christ, which is a house built by wisdom, and furnished with all the necessary provisions of grace; here is ‘a feast of fat things prepared of wines on the lees well refined.’ Christ is the master and provider of the feast, and he himself is the chief entertainment; his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; to all which he gives his people an hearty welcome; meets them himself at his well furnished table, and feasts with them; gives them spiritual appetites, and blesses all the provisions of his grace to them: hence those are the blessed persons who have admittance into, and a dwelling-place in this house, for these shall be continually ‘satisfied with the goodness and fatness thereof;’ hence it is that souls are so desirous of being here, and are so well pleased with their habitation, because it is a banqueting-house unto them; and no wonder then is it, that those who are ‘planted in the house of the Lord, flourish in the courts of our God.’

    II. What it is to be ‘brought into this banqueting-house;’ which may be considered according to the several senses before given. And, 1st, Seeing by the banqueting-house may be meant the covenant of grace, it may be proper to inquire, What it is to be brought into that, and by what means? And now here observe, that water-baptism, and a submission to it under the New-Testament, give a person no right unto, nor interest him in the covenant of grace, even as circumcision did not, nor could under the Old; instances of both might be given of persons, where there is no reason to believe they have any share or lot in this matter: neither does churchfellowship bring a person into it, nor a mere submission to any or all the ordinances of the gospel, for ‘they are not all Israel which are of Israel:’ nor are they all instances of covenant-grace, who are church-members; for there are tares as well as wheat grow in Christ’s field below; and goats as well as sheep are folded in his fold on earth, the church; there are foolish as well as wise virgins, and there are ‘sinners in Zion,’ as well as the ‘living in Jerusalem” neither are faith and repentance terms and conditions of a man’s entering into this covenant; for they are some of the blessings of grace contained in it; they do not bring a person into it, but are evidences of his being there before; but what brings a person into it, is an act of sovereign and unchangeable grace before all time; all, interested in the everlasting covenant, before the world began, did by electing grace ‘pass under the rod of him that telleth them;’ for when God made a covenant of grace with his Son on the account of these chosen ones, he brought them all into the bond of it, and put all grace and blessings into the hands of his Son for them. Now the Spirit of God in time does in conversion take and apply this covenant grace to those persons, for the quickening, pardoning, justifying and sanctifying them; he shews them the covenant, and their interest in it, and enables them to lay hold upon it; and every time he does do so, he may be said to bring a soul into the covenant, as an effect and fruit of that original, ancient act, made before the world began; which is what the church might experience here, to wit, a fresh manifestation of her covenant-interest; for ‘the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant:’ Christ led her into his banquetinghouse, and there feasted her with his royal dainties; for to bring, is to lead one to an entertainment. f267 2dly, If we understand the scripture by the banqueting-house; then to be brought into it, is to have the Understanding opened, so as to behold wondrous things out of it; the heart affected with the glorious truths thereof, so as to taste the sweetness of the ‘sincere milk of the word;’ and distinguish the doctrines of the gospel from those which are not so, and be capable of appropriating the promises of it to the comfort and satisfaction of our souls; and when we are enabled thus to do: we shall find the scripture to be a delightful banqueting-house indeed! Now all this Christ does by his Spirit; who is the Spirit of truth, who guides and leads his people into all truth. But, 3dly, If by the banqueting-house we understand the church of Christ; then to be brought Unto it, is to be made a partaker of all the privileges of it, as those who are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God. Christ first calls men by his grace, then by his ministers invites them to come in, that this house may be filled; and by his Spirit powerfully works upon their souls; sweetly inclining them not only to give up themselves to him, but likewise to one another by. the will of God; he, as an instance of his distinguishing grace, takes one of a city, and two of a family, and brings them to Zion, where he invests them with all the privileges and immunities thereof; here he grants them his gracious presence, sheds abroad his love in their hearts, and often entertains them with a delightful banquet. Now Christ’s thus bringing his church into his banqueting-house, shews, 1. Inability on her part; we cannot bring ourselves into the covenant of grace, nor can we take Views of our interest in it at pleasure; but he who of his own grace placed us there, must shew it us: nor can we of ourselves know the depths and mysteries of the sacred writings; they will remain a sealed book to us, unless the Spirit of Christ open the book, and our understandings to look into it: nor will his church, with all the ordinances of it, be a banqueting-house unto us, unless he himself be present with us. 2. Wonderful grace and condescension on his side; that he, Who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, should take one thus mean into his own apartments, and there entertain her with the best his house could afford.

    But this will still appear more manifestly, if we consider, III. The manner in which she was brought; ‘his banner over me was love.’

    It was in a very stately and majestic manner, as well as a loving one, that she was brought; and for the illustration of this, it will be proper to consider the use of banners, and how they may be applied here. And, 1st, The use of banners, standards, or ensigns, is to gather and keep persons together: thus Christ himself was lift up on the cross, and is now lift up in the gospel, as an ensign to gather souls unto him; and so his love, being displayed in the preaching of the gospel, has a power and efficacy in it to draw souls after him; for, as a fruit and effect of everlasting love, ‘with loving kindness’ he draws them: and in the same way and manner Christ here drew the church unto himself, and held her fast; and constrained her to keep close to him, and follow hard after him; see 2 Corinthians 5:14. 2dly, A banner displayed, or a standard set up, is an indication of war; it is to prepare for it, and to animate to it see Jeremiah 51:12,27. This may serve to inform us, that the church of Christ here on earth is militant, and therefore in chapter 6:4 is represented as formidable and terrible as an army with banners: she has many enemies to engage with, as sin, Satan, and the world, and yet has the greatest encouragement to fight, for she is bannered under the Lord of hosts; Christ is commander in chief; he is given to be a leader and commander of the people, and is every way fit for it; he has courage enough to appear at the head of his armies, and conduct enough to lead them on, and bring them off at pleasure: those that are under him are well provided for; their bread is given them in due season, and their water is sure; they are furnished with the panoplia , or whole armor of God; they may be assured of a crown and kingdom as soon as the battle is over, and even of victory beforehand, for they are more than conquerors through him that hath loved them; likewise the motto, which is written upon the banner, under which they are, is love: and if all this will not encourage them to fight, what will? 3dly, A banner displayed is also a sign of victory; sometimes when a town, city, or castle, is taken, the flag is hung out as an indication of it; see Jeremiah 1:2. Christ has got the victory over all his and our enemies; he has conquered sin, Satan, and the world; and given his church and people a share in all his conquests; and, as an evidence of it, has set up his banner over them. Or this may principally intend the conquest, which he, by love, had got over her heart; she surrendered herself into the victor’s hands; and now, as an instance of his mighty grace, he introduces her into his own house, under the banner of love, by which she was conquered. 4thly, A banner is for protection and defense; hence Moses built an altar, and called it Jehovah nissi, that is, the Lord is my banner; because the Lord had been on the side of him and the people of Israel, and defended them from the Amalekites. The church was now enjoying sweet communion with Christ in his banqueting-house; and that she might be safe and secure from her enemies, and abide there during his pleasure, without any molestation or disturbance, he sets up his banner over her: thus, ‘when the enemy comes in like a flood,’ to disturb our peace, joy and comfort, ‘the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against him,’ Isaiah 59:19. 5thy, It is to direct soldiers where to stand, when to march, and whom to follow; see Numbers 1:52 and Numbers 2:2 which may teach us, who are enlisted in Christ’s service, not to fly from our colors, but adhere closely to Christ and his gospel, his cause and interest, his church and people, and to follow him, the standard-bearer, wherever he goes; and nothing can more strongly engage us to do so than love’, which is the motto of his banner; this first drew us to him, this animates us in his service? and keeps us close to his person and interest. 6thly, It is to distinguish one band from another; see Numbers 2:2. As one band has one motto upon its banner or ensign, by which it is distinguished from another; so the’ motto on Christ’s banner is love, by which his band or core-pany is distinguished from all others: it is this which has made them to differ from others; has distinguished them in electing, redeeming, and calling grace; and will keep them a distinct and peculiar people to all eternity: it is not any works which they have done, but Christ’s boundless love and grace alone, that make the difference between them and others. The allusion may be to the names of generals being inscribed on the banners of their armies; so Vespasian’s name was inscribed on the banners throughout his armies. f269 VERSE 5.

    Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love. THE church being brought into Christ’s banqueting-house, or house of wine, and having there such large discoveries of his love, she falls into a deliquium or fainting fit, not being able to bear up under the present enjoyment; and therefore calls to her friends and acquaintance that were about her, to give her their assistance in her present circumstances. In these words may be considered, I. The church’s case and condition in which she was; ‘sick of love.’

    II. What relief she asks for. 1st, To be ‘stayed with slagons,’ 2dly, To be ‘comforted with apples.’

    III. Who the persons are to whom she makes application.

    I. We have in these words the present case and condition in which the church was; she was sick of love: this was a sickness of the sou!, and not of the body; though the one has oftentimes an influence upon the other; for as there are various bodily sicknesses and diseases, so there are various spiritual ones. 1. There is the sickness of sin, which, if mighty grace prevent not, is a sickness unto death; it is in its own nature mortal, and can only be cured by Christ, the great physician, who heals diseases by forgiving iniquity: this is what is natural and hereditary to us; we bring it into the world with us; for we are all ‘shapen in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us: it is an epidemical distemper, which has infected all human nature; all are diseased with it, though all are not sensible of it; and it has overspread all the powers and faculties of the souls of men, as well as all the members of the body; so that there is no part nor place exempted from it; for the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint: but this is not the sickness intended here. 2. There is a sickness which souls are incident to, that arises from a sense of sin, want of the fresh manifestations of pardoning grace, absence of Christ Jesus, and a longing after the enjoyment of his person, and the discoveries of his love; which though it is not a ,sickness unto death, yet it is very painful and afflicting, and can only be cured by the enjoyment of the object loved: this discovers itself by a violent panting after Christ; a carefulness and activity in the use of means, to enjoy his presence and company; a resolution to go through all difficulties for the sake of him, and an uneasiness until i receives some instances of favor from him: with such souls, Christ is the subject of all their discourse; they love to hear his name mentioned, especially with commendation, their thoughts are continually upon him, and their minds are not easy till they enjoy him; this is the sickness which the church was attended with in chapter 5:8. where see more of it. 3. There is a sickness which springs from views of Christ’s person, discoveries of his love, and manifestations of his grace; which sometimes over-power the soul, and throw it into the utmost amazement, at the consideration of the greatness of Christ’s person and grace, and its unworthiness to be interested in it; so that it becomes like the queen of Sheba; who, when she saw the riches, glory, and wisdom of Solomon, it is said of her, that ‘there was no more spirit in her.’ And this I take to be the case of the church here: it did not arise from the want of Christ’s presence, or discoveries of his love, but from the enjoyment of them both; he had introduced her in a most stately manner into his banqueting-house, and gave her a noble entertainment; yea, he had plentifully shed abroad his love in her heart, which occasioned her to speak after this manner: his person appeared glorious and lovely, the entertainment was so large and sumptuous, the motto of love upon the banner so bright and glittering, and what she felt in her own soul so powerful and inconceivable, that she was quite overcome therewith; she was sick through love;’ or, as the Septuagint renders it, she was ‘wounded with love:’ not that this arises from the nature of love itself, which is not painful and grievous, but is owing to our weakness and imperfection, who cannot bear large views, nor support up under the mighty power of boundless love; we are but poor narrow earthen vessels, that can receive and retain but little of it: this was that pressure under which she now labored, and for which she seeks relief; which brings me, II. To consider what it is she calls for to relieve her at this time. 1st, She desires to be ‘stayed with flagons.’ 2. To be ‘comforted with apples.’ 1st, Her request is, that some person or other would stay her with flagons.

    The word translated flagons is differently rendered by interpreters; some render it flowers, as Jerom and the Vulgate Latin; and so she may be considered as having reference to sweet flowers bound up in nosegays, the odor of which is very refreshing and reviving; or, ‘make me to lie down in flowers,’ so Symmachus; according to Plato love delights to be in odoriferous places; where there are sweet-smelling flowers, there is its habitation, and there it abides. Now the church being in love, says, stay me, revive, or support me with flowers; perhaps chiefly regarding Christ, who is the only strength and support of believers, who only can keep them both from failing and fainting; for having heard him speak of himself under the names of those delightful flowers, the rose and lily, in verse 1. she is desirous that she might be stayed by, and supported with them’: the Septuagint render the words thus, ‘strengthen me with ointments;’ by which may be meant the graces of Christ, which are called so in chapter 1:3 ointments were used at feasts, and are of a chearing, reviving, and strengthening nature; and may very well express the grace of Christ, by which souls are cheared, revived, established, strengthened and settled: our translators have rendered it flagons, and that very well; for according to the best Jewish writers it signifies vessels in which either wine or fine flower are put; and perhaps may be comprehensive of all the entertainments of a banquet, which are proper to satisfy, delight, and exhilarate; and wine being a principal one, may chiefly intend flagons of that; see Chronicles 16:3, Hosea 3:10; flagons are, by a metonymy, put for wine contained in them, as the cup is, Luke 22:20, for the church was desirous of those that were full and not empty; such as were full of the wine of Christ’s love, which is as reviving, cheating, and refreshing as the best wine; and which greatly strengthens and supports the animal spirits.

    In what sense Christ’s love may be compared to wine, and is preferable to it, has been shewn on chapter 1:2, and by flagons of it may be meant the doctrines of grace, in which Christ’s love is displayed; or the ordinances of the gospel, by which it is communicated to the saints; and may also intimate, that though the love and grace of Christ are given forth in measure to them, yet that they are large measures, which believers are desirous of receiving; those who have most grace, would have still more; and those who have the greatest sense of Christ’s love, would have a larger experience of it, and are not content without it; they are like ‘the two daughters of the horse-leech, crying, give, give:’ and it may be also, that the church may have in view the glories and joys of another world; where she should have her fill of love, drink freely and plentifully of this wine new with Christ in his Father’s kingdom, and continue in the uninterrupted enjoyment of his presence. Now it ought to be observed, that she is desirous of more of that which had brought her into this condition: Christ’s love had wounded her, and that only could heal her; what had brought her into this sick and fainting condition, could only bring her out of it; this wounds and heals, kills and makes alive, and is the only reviving cordial. 2dly, She desires that she might be ‘comforted with apples;’ as in the former request, she had a regard to the banqueting-house, where she now was; so in this to the apple-tree, whose delicious fruit she had lately tasted, Apples are of a cooling and comforting nature, and are good against a syncope and palpitation of the heart, and the smell of them is very reviving:

    Solinus tells us of a certain people who eat no food, but odore vivunt pomorum sylvestrium, live by the smell of apples that grow in woods; and that when they go long journies, carry them with them, ut olfactu alantur, that by the smell of them they may be nourished and sustained. The words may be rendered, ‘strew me with apples’; strew them about me, and strew them under me: the apple was an emblem of love, as before observed; to send or throw an apple to another, was a sign of love and must be still more so, to strew them about in quantities. By these apples may be meant, either the blessings of grace procured by the blood of Christ, which remove the fierceness of divine wrath, and being powerfully applied by the Spirit of God, do abundantly comfort and refresh the soul: or else the doctrines of the gospel, when fitly spoken, and fitly applied, are like ‘apples of gold in pictures of silver;’ how comfortable and reviving are the doctrines of justification, pardon, perseverance! etc. the church had found them so by good experience, and therefore desires them. The Targum, by flagons, understands the words of the law; and by apples, the interpretations of them; which, it says, are sweet to the taste as the apples of the garden of Eden: but it is much better to understand the,n, as we have done, of the doctrines of the gospel, which have often been experienced to have relieved persons in a fainting condition, such as the church was now in; and who knowing the virtue and efficacy thereof, calls for them. And, III. The persons she makes application to, the word being in the plural number, are either the chorus of virgins, or daughters of Jerusalem, her dear friends and. acquaintance, to whom she often told her case, especially when in distress, and desired their assistance, who seem to be near to her, by that solemn adjuration given unto them in verse 7, or else, any other Christian friends that might be standing by her; for they that fear the Lord, speak often one to another, converse together, and comfort each other: or rather the ministers of the gospel, who, by preaching the glorious doctrines of it, are instrumental in the hand of the Spirit.for comforting the distressed, and reviving the fainting souls of God’s children; the’ perhaps she principally intended Christ, who we find immediately came to her relief, as appears from the following verse, VERSE 6. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me. THESE are still the words of the church, declaring what experience she had of Christ’s grace and presence; who immediately upon the notice she gave of her distress, came to her assistance, and with both hands supported her in her fainting fit, and brought her out of it. And it may be observed, that she called to others for relief in the former verse, but it was Christ only that could help her: the flagons and apples of a gospel-ministry and gospelordinances will not be effectual to comfort and sustain the saints in such circumstances, unless Christ himself appears in them, and gives a blessing to them; which is what the church comfortably experienced here, and therefore speaks of it. And, I. I shall consider what these words are expressive of.

    II. In what manner they are delivered by her.

    III. To whom they are directed, and for what reasons.

    I. It may be proper to consider what Christ’s left hand being under her head, and his right hand being said to embrace her, are expressive of. And, 1st, They are expressive of Christ’s tender love unto, care of, and regard for his church and people; he acts the part of a loving husband, who, seeing his bride and spouse ready to, sink and faint, hastens to her relief, embraces her in his arms, lays her in his bosom, and discovers the strongest and most endeared affection to her: Christ had a love for his church from all eternity; his heart was then ravished with her, and he took the utmost delight in her, viewing her in all the glory his Father meant to bring her to; and therefore requested of his Father that she might be his spouse and bride, which was, accordingly granted to him; who has ever since remained faithful and loving husband, and has given her the fullest and most incontestible proofs of it; he has assumed her nature, died in her room and stead, paid all her debts, procured every needful blessing for her, has given her right unto, and wilt put her into the possession of all that he has; he has raised her from the dunghill, the depths of sin and misery, taken oily her filthy garments, clothed her in rich attire and royal apparel, and set her at his own right hand, in gold of Ophir.

    This love of his remains the same as ever it was, and will do so for ever, notwithstanding all her failings and infirmities, her revoltings from him, and unkindness to him; for he is Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever:’ though it is true, he does not always manifest his love to his people, but sometimes hides his face from them, and kindly chides them for their good, and his own glory; yet he cannot always withhold his love in the manifestations of it to their souls; for though he seems to treat them severely for a while, yet his heart is fall of love, pity, and concern; his bowels yearn., and, Joseph-like, cannot refrain himself, but must make himself known unto his brethren. Christ now has various ways of shewing his love to his people, which he does the most suitably and seasonably; when tempted, he succours them; when disconsolate, he comforts them; and when afflicted, he sympathizes with them; when hungry, he feeds them; when naked, he clothes them; when sick, he, as the great physician, heals them; when weak, he supports and upholds them with the right hand of his righteousness; and when fainting, he cheers and revives them; ‘he giveth power to the faint, and to them who have no might, he increases strength;’ and this he does by patting his left hand under their head, and by embracing them with his right hand; the doing of which is an amazing and surprising instance of his grace. 2dly, These phrases are expressive of that near fellowship and communion the church has with Christ; which is variously expressed in scripture, as by supping, and walking with him, and leaning on his bosom, and here by lying in his arms; which is an indication of very near and intimate communion indeed: to be admitted into Christ’s banqueting-house, and there sit with him at his table, or into his privy chambers, and there have converse and communion with him, argue great nearness to him, and intimacy with him; but to lie in his arms, and have a place in his bosom, what can be nearer? This is the effect of that near and indissoluble union souls have with Christ; and what, by divine grace, they are called to the enjoyment of; are frequently indulged with in their attendance on ordinances; and is that one thing they are desirous of, and uneasy without; but which, when obtained, gives them the greatest pleasure and highest satisfaction. 3dly, They are expressive of the enjoyment of blessings from Christ, in whose right hand is length of days, and in whose left hand are riches and honor. Temporal mercies are Christ’s left hand blessings; and such a measure of them Christ hands forth to his people in a covenant way, as will be needful for them to support them whilst in, and comfortably carry them through this wilderness; but Christ’s right hand blessings are of a spiritual nature, such as a justifying righteousness, pardon of sin, peace and reconciliation by his blood, and adoption; all which being, by Christ’s hand, applied unto his saints, cheer, revive, and comfort, when ready to faint; and which sustain, uphold, and strengthen them, when ready to sink and die away. 4thly, They are expressive of the safety and security of the church: they must needs be safe from all enemies, and secure from falling, who are incircled in the arms of almighty grace, sustained by Christ’s left hand, and embraced by his right hand, for out of his hands none can pluck them: such are, and will be preserved in Christ Jesus, until they are safely brought to glory. The Targum and R. Sol. Jarchi expound these words of the divine care and protection which the Israelites enjoyed in the wilderness; whereby they were not only provided with every thing that was useful and necessary, but also defended from every thing that was noxious and hurtful.

    II. We may now consider the manner in which these words Were delivered; and that they may be considered, either, 1. As a prayer, and be read thus, ‘O that his left hand was under my head, and that his right hand would embrace me!’ and suppose her still in the same case in which she was in the former verse; and seem to intimate, that she had a sense of her present state and condition, and a desire to be out of it; also, that she was without Christ’s presence and communion with him, though she had a value for it, and an earnest desire after it, and did firmly believe that the enjoyment of it would relieve her. Or, 2. They may be considered as spoken in the strength of faith, that it would be so; and then the words may be read thus, ‘his left hand will be under my head, and his right hand will embrace me;’ and the sense of them is, as if she should say, It is true I am now in a very weak, feeble, and fainting condition; yet I know I shall not totally sink, fail and perish; for he will hold me up and support me, so that I shall not be moved: the words seem then to be spoke much in the same manner, and to argue the same strength of faith, as those spoke by the church in Micah 8:7, 8. Or else, 3. As expressing her present experience that it was so; and then the words may be read as they are rendered by our translators, ‘his left hand is under my head,’ etc. which experience of hers she mentions with thankfulness, as she ought to do, to the glory of his love and grace, who had so kindly and graciously appeared for her in a time of distress; and this she does also in an exulting manner, and with a kind of boasting; for though we are not allowed to glory in ourselves, nor have any reason to boast of any thing which we have done, yet we may glory in Christ, and boast of what he is unto us, and has done for us, III. The persons to whom she speaks, are either the ministers of the gospel, whose assistance she had desired; and having enjoyed the comforting and supporting presence of Christ, in the ordinances, and under the ministry of the word, she lets them know of it, to encourage them in their work, and that they, with her, might bless the Lord for it: or else, the daughters of Jerusalem, whom she adjures in the following verse; who are persons newly converted, to whom she directs her discourse, and gives them this account of her experience, that she might allure them to the ordinances, and encourage them to walk in the ways of Christ, as well as engage them to join with her in giving thanks to him for the reception of so great a mercy; which is very agreeable to David’s practice, in Psalm 34:2,3. ‘My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.’

    VERSE 7.

    I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir net up, nor awake my love, till he please.

    THERE is some difficulty in these words concerning the person speaking, who it is, whether Christ or the church: interpreters are divided about it; and there are reasons, not to be despised, given on both sides.

    Some think that they are the words of the church, charging the daughters of Jerusalem to give no disturbance to Christ, her love, and cause him to depart from her, with whom she now was, enjoying sweet communion with him; which seems to be the sense of our translators: and this sense of the words bids fair, if we consider, 1. The persons to whom these words are spoken, ‘the daughters of Jerusalem;’ who were the friends of the church, ‘the virgins, her companions;’ who attended and waited upon her: Christ is represented in this Song as having his friends with him; and the church, as having hers with her, and that in allusion to a nuptial entertainment; and therefore it seems most reasonable that she should speak to her friends, and not his. 2. In all other places, where these words are used, they seem to be the words of the church, and not of Christ; see chapter 3:5 and 8:4. 3. The manner of the speech shews it, which is not by way of command, which is proper to Christ; but by way of adjuration, or giving a charge with an oath, which is usual with the church to these persons; for which, beside the places before-mentioned, see chap, 5:8. 4. If we also consider the matter, it suits well with the church’s language; the character, ‘my love,’ is very applicable to Christ, he being the person whom her soul loved; the charge that this love should not be stirred up, but at pleasure, agrees with Christ, who is endued with sovereignty, and ought to be at his own liberty to stay with, or remove from his people when he pleases. 5. It suits with the context and scope of the place: the church was now in Christ’s arms, where she lay with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction; and being willing to have communion with Christ continued, and not interrupted by these persons, she solemnly adjures them after this manner; which carefulness and solicitude of hers seems also to be the scope and design of those other places: chapter 3:5 and 8:4.

    But there are others who think that they are the words of Christ, and not without some reason; for, 1. It was the church, Who having solace and ease in Christ’s arms, was fallen asleep there, and not he in hers; and therefore, that she might have no disturbance, he charges the daughters of Jerusalem by no means to awake her, till she herself thought meet. 2. The church in this Song, when she gives Christ a character, which is expressive of her love, does not use this word hbha ahabah, love, which is of the feminine gender; but another, ydwd dodi, my beloved, or wellbeloved, which is of the masculine; but Christ makes use of this same word in giving a loving title to his church, as in chapter 7:6, and therefore they seem to be the words of Christ, speaking concerning and in behalf of his church. 3. Both the word jbha ahabah, love, and xpht techphatz, which is in construction with it, and is rendered he please, are both of the feminine gender, and so best agree with her and may be rendered, ‘that ye stir not up nor awake my love till she please.’ 4. The following words seem to confirm this sense, ‘the voice of my beloved!’ What voice was this she heard? Why, the charge he gave to the daughters of Jerusalem not to disturb her; which discovered so much love and goodness in him, and her heart was so much affected with it, that she breaks out into this pathetic exclamation, ‘the voice of my beloved!’

    And now though the former sense is not to be despised, yet I must confess I chiefly incline to the latter, and having thus considered whose words they are, I shall now consider the words themselves; in which may be observed, I. The charge given; not to ‘stir up nor awake the love till he or she please.’

    II. The persons to whom this charge is given; ‘the daughters of Jerusalem.’

    III. The manner in which it is delivered; ‘I charge you by the roes and by the hinds of the field.

    I. Here is a solemn charge given not to ‘stir up nor awake the love,’ or ‘this love,’ the well-known love, ‘till he, or she please;’ which I have observed may be understood, either as the church’s charge to these persons not to disturb Christ, in whose company she now was; or else, as Christ’s charge to them, not to awake the church, who was now sleeping in his arms; and both these senses being pressed with such reasons as have been before observed, I shall consider the words both ways: and then if we consider them as the church’s charge, not to disturb Christ her love, they will lead us to observe, 1. That Christ is the object of the church’s love, and of all true believers; there is none in heaven or on earth, that has so great a share in their love as he has; they love hint with all their hearts and souls, and above all things else whatever; and that so sincerely and unfeignedly, that they can appeal, with Peter, to the searcher of hearts, and say, ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee;’ which arises from the discoveries of Christ’s love to them, and the views which they have of his loveliness; and is still more and more increased, by having nearer communion, and more intimacy and acquaintance with him. 2. That Christ sleeps and takes his rest among his church and people; this is manifest from her carefulness not to have him stirred up and awaked; the Lord is sometimes said to sleep, and not to awake, when he does not arise to deliver his people from danger, or out of the hands of their enemies; see Psalm 35:22,23, and 44:22, 23 and sometimes when he grants his presence to them and communion with them, as here: the church is Christ’s resting-place, where he ‘rests in his love’ towards his people, grants his presence to them, converses with them, and ‘lies all night betwixt their breasts.’ 3. That Christ may be disturbed, and raised up from hence by the sins of his people; their vexatious contentions one with another, their unfriendly and ungrateful carriage to him, often provoke him to remove from them; they grieve his spirit, and cause him to hide his face, which is no ways for their honor or comfort. 4. That believers should be very careful that they do not provoke Christ to depart from them; and therefore should watch against the very first motions of sin, and ‘abstain from all appearance of it;’ for sinful thoughts, as well as sinful actions, are an abomination to him, and lead on to the commission of them; and it is the desire of believers, under the influences and by the as asstance of the Spirit of grace, so to do; which shews that communion with Christ is highly valued by them, and what they would not have by any means interrupted. 5. That communion which souls have with Christ, is entirely at his pleasure; they cannot have it, when and as long as they please, but when and as long as he pleases; for ‘when he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? so when he hideth his face, who then can behold him?’ as Elihu says, Job 34:29. The discoveries of Christ’s love and grace to his people; the grants of his presence to them, and communion with them, as much depend upon his sovereign will and pleasure, as the first actings of his grace towards and upon sinners do: he may withdraw from his people without any provocation, as he sometimes does; for he is a God that ‘hideth his face from the house of Jacob;’ and is not obliged to give any reason for it, but his own sovereign will; though he always designs their good, and his own glory by it; yet he is oftener caused to arise, and remove from them, through their carnality, lukewarmness, ingratitude and unbelief.

    But if we consider the words as the charge of Christ to the daughters of Jerusalem, not to disturb the church, then we may observe, 1. That the church is Christ’s love; she is frequently called so by him in this Song, as in chapters 1:9, 15 and 2:10 and in other places: she has the greatest share in his affections, as he has in hers, and has given the fullest proofs of his love to her; which put it beyond all dispute, that she is the object of it, and will always continue so, notwithstanding all her failings and infirmities. 2. That the church sleeps and takes her rest in Christ’s arms; there is a sleepiness or drowsiness which attends God’s children, that is a sinful one; when they fold their own arms together, and do not lie in Christ’s; in this frame was the church, chapters <220301> 3:1 and 5:2, but this here is a rest which Christ gives, a sleep which he brings his into, when he puts under his everlasting arms, and embraces them in his bosom; for ‘so he giveth his beloved sleep,’ <19C702> Psalm 127:2. 3. That Christ values the company and conversation of his children: these are ‘the excellent in the earth, in whom is all his delight;’ he loves to see their persons, and hear their voice; the actings of their grace upon him are exceeding delightful to him, and therefore would not have them be disturbed, hence it can never be a work well-pleasing to Christ, for any to sadden the hearts, lessen the joys, and weaken the faith of God’s children. 4. That Christ would not have his church’s peace disturbed; though it oftentimes is by ‘quarrelsome and contentious persons,’ who are always uneasy themselves, and endeavor to make others so; by ‘carnal professors, whose lives and conversations are wounding and grieving to pious souls;’ by ‘errors and heresies,’ which, ‘springing up’ in churches, trouble some, and defile others; and often by ‘inward corruptions,’ those domestic enemies, which are of all the worst and most afflicting; as well as by Satan, that unwearied enemy, who, though he cannot devour, yea will disturb; but whether this be done one way or other, it is no ways pleasing and grateful to Christ. 5. Though believers, when under the gracious influences of the blessed Spirit, are desirous of communion with Christ; and if they might have it as long as they please, they would have it always, and say, as the disciples did, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here;’ yet when they begin to be sleepy and drowsy, they grow careless and indifferent about it; which justly provokes Christ to deprive them of it. So much for the charge itself.

    II. The persons to whom this charge is given, are the ‘daughters of Jerusalem;’ by whom we are to understand young converts, as has been observed in chapter 1:5. Now these are very apt to disturb Christ by their impatience; who, like new born babes, are unwilling to wait till their food is prepared for them; till Christ’s own time is come, when he will more fully reveal himself unto them, and give them large discoveries of his love: and also by their frowardness who, when their food is prepared for them, grow sullen and will not eat it; and, like Rachel of old, ‘refuse to be comforted;’ or else, through ‘the weakness of their faith, and living upon their frames,’ which young converts are very apt to do; for no longer than they have the discoveries of Christ’s love, and sensible communion with him, can they believe their interest in him; and therefore, like froward and impatient children, or poor weaklings, give him a great deal of disturbance: and so taking them as the words of the church, she seems here to act the part of a mother; and charges these her children to be still and quiet, and give her loving husband no disturbance, whilst she enjoyed his delightful company.

    Moreover, these.daughters of Jerusalem, or young converts, are very apt to give the church disturbance; and therefore Christ may be represented as charging them not to do it: this they sometimes do through weakness, not being able to bear the doctrines of the gospel; such some of the Corinthians were, who were ‘babes in Christ,’ and therefore the apostle fed them with milk, and not with meat, for they ‘were not able to bear it;’ by reason of which, many contentions, divisions and disturbances, were raised in that church: as also, sometimes through’ ignorance of gospel-order,’ not being so well versed in, and acquainted with the rules, laws and ordinances of Christ’s house; so that oftentimes, for want of knowledge in gospeldiscipline, as well as in gospel-doctrine, they give disturbance to the church of Christ; all which; Christ knowing full well, gives them this solemn charge.

    III. The manner in which this charge is given, which is very’ solemn and awful; it is with an oath, ‘I adjure you, or I cause you to swear by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye give no disturbance to my love; creatures which ran in fields, forests and woods, and were their native places. The meaning is, not as if either Christ or his church swore by those creatures; for swearing by heaven or earth, or by any creature in them, is condemned by Christ, Matthew 5:34-37, an oath ought not to be taken in trifling cases, nor in any other name than in the name of God; which perhaps is the reason why the Targum thus paraphrases the words here: ‘I adjure you, O ye congregation of Israel, by the Lord of hosts,’ or Tzebaoth, which same word is used for roes here, and by the strengths or fortresses of the land of Israel, etc. And either, 1. The words may be paraphrased thus, I charge you, who are among the toes and hinds of the fields, you daughters of Jerusalem, who are shepherdesses, and keep your flocks where toes and hinds skip and play; or who love to hunt them, and delight in such exercises; I charge you, that you give my love no disturbance. Or else, 2. Thus, I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, that ye remain or abide with the roes and hinds of the field, so Junius; mind your own business, keep your flocks, stand without whilst I and my love enjoy each others delightful conversation, without any interruption or molestation from you.

    Or, 3. Those creatures, the roes and hinds, it may be, are called in as witnesses to this solemn charge, and to be produced against them, if ever they should break it; as to which sometimes heaven and earth, animate and inanimate creatures, are called in scripture; see Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:27. Or, 4. This adjuration or charge is made by all that is dear, the toes and hinds being pleasant and lovely creatures, as in Proverbs 5:19 as if he or she should say, I charge you, O ye lovely daughters of Jerusalem, by the hinds and roes, which for beauty and loveliness are like to you, as R. Aben Ezra observes; if, O ye lovely ones, ye have any love for me, I beg, I earnestly intreat of you, that you will cause neither me nor my love any interruption.

    Or, 5. It may be considered as a severe threatening to those persons, if they should be unmindful of the charge given; and it is as if he should say, I swear, that if you stir up, or awake my love, that you shall be food as common to all, as the toes and hinds are; to which purpose as R. Sol.

    Jarchi’s gloss: and these creatures being very swift ones; may note the suddenness and swiftness of those judgments which should come upon them in case of disobedience. Or, 6. The sense may be this: that as ye would, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, be cautious how you start those timorous creatures, the roes and hinds; so would I have you be as cautious how you stir up and awake my love, which is as easily and as quickly done. Or, 7. and lastly, I charge you, for the sake of these toes and hinds, the Gentiles and nations of the world, that ye do not disturb the peace of my church, by fomenting and increasing divisions in it; and so cause my name to be dishonored, my ways to be spoken evil of, and me to depart from you; but rather keep peace within, and ‘walk in wisdom towards them that are without;’ and by so doing, you will gratify me, and allure these Gentiles to your society and fellowship; who otherwise, like timorous roes and hinds, will be frighted and scared from it.

    VERSE 8. The voice of my beloved! behold! he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. THOUGH there was some difficulty in understanding the former words, whose they were, whether Christ’s or the church’s; yet it is certain that these are spoken by the church, who hearing Christ, her beloved, give such a solemn charge to the daughters of Jerusalem, not to awake her, is so affected with his love to her, and care of her, that she could not forbear breaking out into this pathetic exclamation upon it; and not only takes notice of this, but also of some other instances of his love and regard unto her; or else it may be supposed, that the sweet and comfortable communion which she had before enjoyed with Christ, mentioned in the preceding verses, had been for some time interrupted, he having withdrawn himself and she being fallen into a spiritual drowsiness; but he returning again to her, and calling her out of this state, as in ver. 10. she awakes, and takes notice of the several steps and procedures of his grace, and records several instances of his love unto her; two of which are mentioned in these words.

    I. He calls unto her, and she hears and knows his voice and says, It is ‘the voice of my beloved.’

    II. He not only calls, but comes, and she spies him coming; the manner of which she describes to be, ‘leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.’

    I. The first thing she remarks is his voice, with which she seems to be wonderfully affected ‘the voice of my beloved!’ Some Jewish writers f287 interpret this of the voice of the Messiah; by which may be meant, the gospel of Christ in which he speaks both to saints and sinners; and which has a virtue and efficacy in it to quicken dead sinners, and comfort living saints; for though it is powerful, yet alluring; though full of majesty, yet soft and charming, and makes delightful music in the ears of believers; concerning which may be observed, 1st, That the voice of Christ is known and distinguished by believers from the voice of others: the church was capable of doing this, and therefore says, ‘the voice of my beloved!’ she could know it to be his voice, and distinguish it from another’s even though but just raised out of her sleep; flay, she could do this when she was as it were between sleeping and waking; when indulging herself in drowsiness and security, as in Chapter 5:2 and thus Christ says, John 10:4,5 of all his sheep, that they not only heard his voice, but knew it, and therefore followed him and not strangers; for, says he, ‘the voice of strangers they know not.’ Now if any should ask how Christ’s voice can be known and distinguished from others; I answer, 1. By the majesty of it; by this we know the scriptures to be the word of God, there appearing such a shine of majesty in them, as does not in any other writings; and hereby we know the gospel to be the voice of Christ, and can distinguish it from that which is not so: Christ speaks in the gospel, ‘as one having authority, and not as the scribes;’ there is a vast difference between ‘the words which man’s wisdom teacheth,’ and those ‘which the Holy Ghost teacheth;’ the one are low, mean, dead, and lifeless; the other not only come with evidence, and ‘the demonstration of the spirit and of power’ to believers, but even fasten convictions of the original and authority of them upon the minds of wicked men; see 1 Corinthians 14:24,25. 2. By the power and efficacy of it: the gospel which is Christ’s voice comes ‘not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost;’ and so not only reaches the ear, but also the heart; it opens blind eyes, unstops deaf ears, quickens dead sinners, awakes sleepy, and comforts distressed saints, and is in fine, ‘the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes.’ 3. By the spiritual food and divine refreshment it affords to believers; who find Christ’s word and eat it, and it becomes ‘the joy and rejoicing’ of their hearts; that which is not Christ’s word and gospel, is like the chaff to this wheat; and that which is opposite to those ‘wholesome words of our Lord Jesus;’ instead of nourishing and refreshing, as these do, ‘eat as doth a canker.’ 4. Believers know this voice of Christ, and can distinguish it from others, by its bringing them to him, and not sending them from him; that voice which sends me to my own righteousness, and not to Christ’s, for acceptance with God and justification before him; which sends me to my tears of repentance, and not to Christ’s blood, for pardon and cleansing, can never be the voice of Christ; that voice which bids me keep off from Christ, till I have prepared and qualified myself for him, by my own acts of humiliation and obedience, is contrary to that voice of Christ which bids me come to him as a poor, vile, filthy, and perishing sinner in myself, without him; and venture on him for life and salvation; and therefore that cannot be the voice of Christ: thus may it be known from the voice of a stranger. 5. Believers have the spirit of Christ, who is ‘the spirit of truth,’ whose work and office it is to ‘guide them into all truth,’ and enable them to distinguish truth from error; and this he accordingly does, for he ‘searches the deep things of God,’ and reveals them to the saints, and abides in them as a ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation; in the knowledge of Christ. 6. They know it by the scriptures of truth, which they dill-gently search, and by which they examine every doctrine; and whatsoever sound or language is disagreeable thereunto, they reject, as not being the voice of Christ; ‘to the law and to the testimony’ they appeal, and whosoever does not ‘speak according to this word,’ they judge ‘it is because there is no light in them,’ Isaiah 8:20. 2dly, It may be observed that this voice of Christ, as it may be known and distinguished by believers from the voice of others, so it is exceeding pleasant and delightful to them. The church seems to speak of it as being so to her; and no wonder at was, for it is, 1. A voice of love, grace, and mercy to poor sinners; it is not like the law, a voice of terror, wrath, and fury; no, it speaks peace and pardon to rebellious creatures, and publishes life and salvation to lost sinners. Christ came leaping and skipping like a roe or a young hart; or, as it is said of Naphtali, like ‘a hind let loose, who giveth goodly words;’ and no wonder then that his voice was so delightful. 2. It was also the voice of her beloved one, who dearly loved her, and had given incontestible proofs of it, and whom she loved with all her heart and soul; and therefore his voice, as well as his countenance and person, was sweet unto her; it was the voice of the bridegroom, and therefore need not be thought strange that the bride, as well as her friends should rejoice at it. 3dly, We may learn from hence, that Christ’s voice may be heard before he is seen: the church first heard his voice, and then she saw him come leaping and skipping over the mountains and hills; and this indeed is one way by which souls are brought to a sight of Christ, viz. by the preaching of the gospel; nay, believers, even when they are without sights of Christ, and sensible communion with him; yet, in hearing the word, can distinguish Christ’s voice, and can set to their seals that it is his, though perhaps they cannot immediately take in the comfort of it. 4thly, Believers would have others know Christ’s voice as well as they: the church knew this to be the voice of Christ; but she is not content with the knowledge of it herself, and therefore speaks of it for the information of the daughters of Jerusalem. But, II. She not only heard his voice, but also spied him coming to her, though at some distance; and perhaps as soon as ever she had heard his voice, or the noise of his feet, as R. Aben Ezra explains it, she lift up her eyes, or turned herself, and saw him upon the march towards her. Here must be considered, 1st , What is meant by his coming. 2dly , The manner of it, ‘leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills.’ 3dly , Why she prefixes an ecce, or a behold unto it ‘behold he cometh,’ etc. 1st, It will be proper to consider what is here meant by Christ’s coming; which must be understood, either of his com-tug in the flesh, which the church had then a distant sight of and is since accomplished: this coming of Christ from heaven, and out of his Father’s bosom, into this sinful world, was not by a change of place, but by assumption of nature; whose great end in it was to save sinners, which is intirely answered: now, as this had been long promised, frequently prophesied of, and nothing was more earnestly expected, and passionately wished and prayed for, so nothing was more delightful to the Old-Testament saints, than the near approach of it, nor more welcome than when it was accomplished. Or else by his coming here, may be meant his spiritual coming; for though he withdraws and absents himself from his people for a time, yet he will not leave them altogether, and always comfortless, but will come unto them: and the church’s spying him as coming, supposes that he was at some distance from her, with respect to sensible communion or enjoyment of his presence, though not with respect, either to union or affection; for in this sense she is always near unto him: and also, that he was upon the return to her, whom faith spied, though at a distance, which is agreeable enough to the nature of it; this filled her soul with joy and pleasure; for even distant sights of Christ are pleasant, though his nearer approaches give a greater satisfaction: his presence is always welcome to a believer, and there is a great deal of reason for it; for he always brings something along with him, and never comes empty handed; yea, never visits without leaving something behind him. 2dly, The manner of his coming is expressed by ‘leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills:’ the allusion is to the leaping of a roe or a young hart, as in the next verse, remarkable for leaping, even one just yeaned; so a young hart is described as leaping to its dam; the leap of one of these creatures is very extraordinary; which, if understood of Christ’s coming in the flesh, shews, 1. That there were many difficulties in the way, and such that were comparable to hills and mountains: the greatness of his person was no inconsiderable one; nay, such an one, that it could never have been thought that it should have been got over, had not God himself declared it should be; and we have undeniable evidence that it has been; for God to become man, the Creator a creature, and the Word to be made flesh, and dwell among us, is such an amazing stoop of deity, and surprising instance of divine condescension, that it is even the wonder of men and angels: also the greatness of the work he was to do, when come, was no small difficulty; here was a broken law to fulfill, angry justice to satisfy, sin to atone for, the wrath of God to bear, many enemies to grapple with, and a cursed death to undergo; and all this for the vilest of miscreants, the worst of creatures, whose characters are sinners, ungodly persons, and such who were enemies to him in their minds by wicked works. Yet, 2. These difficulties which seem insuperable to us, were easily surmounted by him; he leaped and skipped over those mountains and hills, which all became a plain before our great Zerubbabel; what appear mountains to us, were mole-hills to him: therefore he readily engaged, and voluntarily undertook before time to assume human nature, which in time he did with the utmost chearfulness; and shewed his eager desires after it. long before his incarnation, in often appearing in art human form; and when he was actually become incarnate, how eager was he for the accomplishment of the work he came about! how easily did he break through all difficulties, discouragements, and impediments, that lay in his way! and no-. thing could stop him till he could say the work was finished which he undertook; and thus, with the utmost swiftness and celerity, he came ‘leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills.’ If we understand it of his spiritual coming, it shews, 1. That there are impediments in the way of Christ’s visiting his people; such as their unbelief carnality and lukewarmness, their want of faith in him, and affection to him, their backslidings from him, and ingratitude towards him; yet. all these mountains and hills he leaps and skips over, resolving that nothing shall separate him and them. 2. That Christ’s coming to his people in a way of grace, is very conspicuous to them; the eye of faith spies him at a distance, as it were, upon the mountains: and also, that it is very glorious and beautiful; for if ‘beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth glad tidings,’ much more beautiful must the feet of Christ, or Christ himself be, when he comes and grants his gracious presence to his people. 3. It denotes the speediness, swiftness, and readiness of Christ, to help his people; he makes haste and delays not, and therefore is said to leap and skip; his heart is set upon it; and nothing shall prevent him, though mountains and hills are between them. 3dly, She prefixes an ecce, a behold, to this coming of Christ unto her; which, if applied to his coming in the flesh, may be considered, either, 1. As a note of admiration; as in Isaiah 7:14. ‘Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son:’ the incarnation of Christ, though it was confirmed to the church by promises, types and prophecies, yet was so strange and stupendous a thing, that nothing but faith could receive it, and that with the most profound admiration. 2. As a note of attention or asseveration; and so is used by her to stir up the daughters of Jerusalem to an observation of his near approach, and to encourage them in their faith and expectation of it, as well as that they might participate of her joy in the views thereof; see Zechariah 9:9.

    Again, if we understand it of Christ’s spiritual coming; this is, (1.). Matter of admiration, and therefore may well have an ecce, a behold, prefixed to it; we have all, who know any thing of this, reason to say with Judas, not Iscariot, in John 14:22 ‘Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ (2.) It is also worthy of observation. Christ’s special grace and favor in this regard ought not to be carelessly overlooked; but we should take notice of it with thankfulness, and wonder at it ourselves, and remark it to others, that they may join with us in magnifying the Lord on such an occasion, as the Psalmist did, in Psalm 34:1-3 who, as the church here, was so affected with the loving-kindness of the Lord, in this instance of it, that he tells it to others for this purpose.

    VERSE 9.

    My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart: behold he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the window, shewing himself through the lattice.

    THE church continues her discourse concerning Christ, and takes notice of the several steps he took in manifesting himself unto her.

    I. She compares him to ‘a roe or a young hart.’

    II. Declares the several gradual discoveries of himself unto her.

    I. She compares him to ‘a roe, or a young hart;’ which seems to be occasioned by his swift and speedy approach unto her, mentioned in the former verse; for these are creatures remarkable for their swiftness; see 2 Samuel 2:18. and may have reference to Christ’s celerity in his coming in the flesh who, as soon as ever ‘the fullness of time’ was come, made no delay, but immediately clothed himself with human nature, in order to dispatch, with the utmost speed, the work which he had agreed to do; and with no less speed does he haste to the assistance of his people, when under trials, desertions, temptations and afflictions, and shews himself to be ‘a very present help in trouble:’ likewise his second coming to raise the dead, judge the world, reward his saints and punish his enemies, will be equally as swift and sudden; for which reason it is compared, Matthew 24:29, to ‘the lightning which cometh out of the east,’ and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, ‘shineth even unto the west:’ but besides the swiftness of these creatures, Christ may be compared to them, or be said to be like to them on some other accounts; as, 1. For their pleasantness and lovingness; they are pleasant and loving creatures, as appears from Proverbs 5:19. Christ is pleasant and desirable in his person to his people, being ‘white and ruddy, and the chiefest among ten thousand; he is loving in his carriage and deportment to them, and has given the most undeniable proofs of the reality, sincerity, strength and immutability of his love, in shedding his blood, and by giving his life for them. 2. For their choiceness and excellency, as R. Sol. Jarchi observes; young roes and harts being the most choice and excellent: Christ is so in his nature, person, office, people, and ordinances; he is so in the esteem of his Father, and in the esteem of men and angels; for though he is disallowed by some, yet he is highly valued by others. 3. For the antipathy there is between these creatures and serpents: historians report of them, that they search out the lurking-places of serpents, and not being able to come at them in their holes, do: by the very breath of their nostrils, draw them out from thence and then trample upon them, tear them in pieces, and eat them: this may an some measure represent that enmity there is between that old serpent Satan, and Christ Jesus, the seed of the woman, who was manifested in human nature, to break his head, and destroy his works, which he has accordingly done. It is also farther reported of the hart, that after eating serpents, it grows prodigious thirsty, which occasions dreadful cries and lamentations, and violent pantings after the water-brooks; to which an allusion is made in Psalm 42:1, and yet knowing, by an instinct in nature, that it is dangerous to drink until it has digested them, forbears a while: Thus Christ when he destroyed that old serpent the Devil, sustained the weight of his Father’s wrath, which occasioned a bloody sweat in the garden, piteous moans upon the cross, a violent consumption of the radical moisture; so that his ‘strength was dried up like a potsherd,’ and his ‘tongue cleaved to his jaws,’ with the violent thirst that was upon him; such an one he had, as is manifest from those words of his, when suffering upon the cross, I thirst.

    Moreover, it is reported in Lybia, where there is a great number of serpents, that when they see a hart lying alone, will, in great numbers at once, attack him; some wrapping themselves about his feet, others about his horns, his neck and belly, and bite him dreadfully; upon which he gets up and runs about, here and there, in great distress, but at length throws himself upon his back; some he rubs to death, and others he devours, and then hastens to the water-brooks to cleanse and refresh himself: thus Christ was beset by all the infernal powers, yet spoiled them all, got an entire victory over them, and now enjoys the glories of it. These were creatures fit for food, and were allowed to be so by the Levitical law; naturalists say that by their being hunted, their flesh becomes softer: Christ is ‘the bread of life,’ and the ‘hidden manna;’ he is very agreeable food for souls; his flesh is meat indeed,’ and his ‘blood is drink indeed;’ and by reason of the sufferings which he underwent in our nature, is become very suitable food for faith. 4. These creatures are long-lived ones: it is reported that Alexander the Great, having taken some of them, put golden chains about them, with which they were found, covered with fat, a hundred years afterwards, and scarce any appearance of old age in them. Christ lives, and will live for ever; he died once for the sins of men, but will never die more; ‘I am he,’ says he, ‘that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore,’ Revelation 1:18 for such reasons as these, and perhaps some others, Christ may be said to be ‘like a roe or a young hart.’ The Septuagint here adds, ‘upon the mountains of Bethel,’ which is not in the Hebrew text.

    II. She declares the several gradual discoveries of himself unto her. In the former verse, she tells us, that she first heard his voice, and then saw him come ‘leaping upon the mountains,’ and ‘skipping upon the hills;’ and here she observes some nearer approaches of him to her. 1st, She says, that he stood behind their wall. 2dly, Looked forth at the windows. 3dly, Shewed himself through the lattice. 1st, She says, that he stood behind their wall; by which is meant, either, 1. The incarnation of Christ, whose glorious Deity was covered and hid under the wall of our humanity; which is called our wall, because he was made partaker of the same flesh and blood with us. Or, 2. The walls of our hearts, of which we read, Jeremiah 4:19. ‘I am pained at my very heart;’ in the Hebrew, it is, ‘I am pained at the walls of my heart;’ such are our sins and transgressions, which are as so many as walls of separation between Christ and us, particularly unbelief, lukewarmness, carnal reasonings, etc. behind which Christ stands; and which, by the mighty power of his grace and spirit, he batters down and demands an entrance. Or else, 3. The ceremonial law, which the apostle call, Ephesians 2:14, ‘the middle wall of partition:’ this separated between Jew and Gentile, and was made up of many hard and difficult precepts; behind this wall Christ stood under the Old Testament dispensation, and shewed himself to his people in types and figures, though but darkly and obscurely in comparison of the gospel revelation. Or else, 4. By it may be meant the church’s defence and protection: the church is a city, and a walled one; God himself is a wall of fire round about it; and has also appointed salvation for wails and bulwarks; his ministring servants, he has not only set upon Zion’s walls, but has made them as walls of brass unto them; he has set them both for the defense of the church and of the gospel: now Christ’s standing behind her wall, may shew that he is ready to protect his people, redress their grievances, and revenge himself upon their enemies. Or rather, 5. In general it shews, that Christ was nearer unto her than he had been before; she then saw him, but at some distance, upon the hills and mountains afar off; but now he was come nearer, even to her very home, and stands behind her wall, being desirous to enter in; but still there was some distance of communion, a wall between them, and a wall of her own building: it was owing to her own infidelity, carnality, and sleep;. hess, that Christ stood at a distance, and drew no nearer than he was; and yet notwithstanding this, he stands waiting as it were for invitation to enter in. 2dly, She takes notice of a farther discovery of himself: he comes from behind her wall and looks in at the windows, to see in what posture his church was, and how things were managed in his house. The allusion is to the quicksighted roe or young hart; which, as it is remarkable for its swiftness, as in verse 8, so for the sharpness of its sight; Pliny says it is never dim sighted; it has its name dorcas in Greek, from its sharp sight. f301 By windows, we are not to understand the windows of the heavens, through which the Lord looks down upon his people, and beholds them under all their afflictions, and in their several cases and circumstances, as some of the Jewish writers do; but rather, the ordinances of the gospel, which are that to the church, as windows are to a house, they let in light to souls; which windows, for the glory and excellency of them, are said, Isaiah 54:12 to be as agates. Christ looks forth at these; and shews himself in his glory and beamy to his saints; even as kings and great men look forth at the windows to be seen in their majesty and splendor by their people: also in at these windows Christ looks, and takes notice how his children behave themselves under the ordinances; with what reverence and attention, faith and affection, they hear the word; and in what becoming manner they carry themselves at the table of the Lord; and there is not the least motion of the heart that escapes his notice. 3dly, She takes notice of his shewing himself through the lattices; which seems to intend a more clear and glorious discovery of himself in the means and ordinances of the gospel; though indeed, our clearest sights of Christ here, are but as through a glass darkly, through windows and lattices, and not face to face, as they will be in another world: and it may be observed from hence, that unless Christ shews himself unto us, we can get no sight of him; for ‘when he hideth his face, who then can behold him?’ as also, that Christ usually discovers himself in the use of means through the ordinances; and therefore these are to be observed carefully, and attended on constantly. Moreover, a behold is prefixed to all these gradual manifestations of himself; which shews us, that Christ’s discoveries of himself to his people are exceeding wonderful and ravishing; a glimpse of him behind the wall, is a surprising instance of his grace, much more his looking forth at the windows; and his shewing or flourishing himself. in all his beauty and glory, through the lattices, as the word signifies; this is enough to throw us into the greatest raptures and extasies of mind, and fill us with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.

    VERSE 10. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. CHRIST having made so near an approach to his church, as to come to her very wall, nay, to look in at the windows, and shew himself to her through the lattess, calls aloud to her to arise from her sleep, and come away with him; which she distinctly heard and understood, and therefore relates the very words he said to her, which she might be capable of; for if she could say it was the voice of her beloved, when he was a great way of, at a distance from her, upon the hills and mountains; she must needs know and understand distinctly what he said now, when he was so near her. These then are the words of the church, giving an account of what her beloved said to her, when he made her this kind and indulgent visit; in which may be considered, I. The preface to the following discourse; ‘my beloved spake, and said unto me.’

    II. The exhortation which he presses a compliance to; rise up, and come way.’

    III. Some affectionate titles which he gives her: ‘my love, my fair one.’

    I. The preface which she makes to this discourse of Christ to her, of which she gives an account in this and the following verses, is, ‘my beloved spake, and said unto me:’ in which may be considered, 1. The person speaking, ‘my beloved;’ which title has been frequently met with and explained, particularly in chapter 1:13. 2 . The mode of expression in this preface, which in the Hebrew text is thus, ‘my beloved an. swered, and said unto me;’ which mode of speaking is frequently made use of by Christ in the New Testament; and perhaps is an hebraism in all those places where it is there used; but here it seems to be expressive of an answer to a secret petition of hers. There is undoubtedly such a thing as mental, as well as vocal prayer, in which the desires of the soul are put up to God; and that under the influences of the Spirit, who maketh intercession for the saints, With groanings which cannot be uttered: and such mental petitions and desires are heard, regarded, and answered by Christ Jesus, who is privy to the secret motions of our souls Godward, and understands full well the language of a sigh and groan; which shews him to be the omniscient God; gives a manifest proof of his deity; as well as evidences his tender regard to his people, and his readiness to help them under all their distresses. 3. The notice which she takes of it. As Christ is not always much, but opens his mouth, and returns suitable answer, gives proper directions and instructions, and speaks peace and consolation to his people; so they are not always deaf, but have ears to hear, they listen to what he says; and as they can distinguish his voice from another’s, so they regard it above all others: what he speaks unto them, is received with much pleasure and delight; his words are not harsh and austere, but full of love, grace, pity, and compassion. Now it may be observed from hence, that there is such a thing, as souls being satisfied when Christ speaks to them, and that it is not n delusion: the church knew that it was her beloved that spake, and not another; and that he spake to her in particular, ‘my beloved spake, and said unto me:’ and so every believer may, in some measure, know when Christ speaks unto him, and that it is not a delusion; as when it makes us love Christ more, and quickens us to our duty; or when it discovers Christ’s love to us, and our interest an him; when it excites our faith, our hope, and joy, has a tendency to promote holiness of heart and life, puts us upon glorifying Christ, and makes us more active and vigorous in his service; all which seem to be the effect of Christ’s speaking to the church here. But, II. What Christ says unto her is by way of exhortation which consists of two parts, 1st , To rise up. 2dly , To come away. 1st, He exhorts her to rise up, and that in the most tender and affectionate manner, as will be observed hereafter; which supposes, either, that she was asleep upon a bed of carnal security, indulging herself in ease and sloth; or else, that she was cast down in her soul under a sense of sin, and for want of his presence, sitting in darkness, without the light of his countenance, bemoaning her sorrowful and disconsolate condition: as also, that walking in the path of faith, and running in the ways of Christ’s commandments, better became her, than sitting still and being indolent; and likewise, that to lift up the head, and to be of a chearful spirit, better suited with the spouse of Christ, than a sad and dejected countenance; who had no need to sit in the dust, and clothe herself with sackcloth and ashes, when she is the king’s daughter, nay, the queen herself, whose clothing is the gold of Ophir: so that neither an indolent and unactive, nor a sorrowful and dejected spirit, become the people of God and spouse of Christ. 2dly, He exhorts her also to come away; from whence? why, from off her sluggish bed, or from out of her prison of darkness and unbelief, or from the company and conversation of wicked and ungodly men; and, in short, from every thing that might bring a dishonor to him, or be prejudicial to herself; which shews the great regard that Christ had for her. But whether would he have her come? why, to himself, where she might have peace and comfort, enjoy sweet communion with him, be out of the reach of enemies, and free from danger by them; he would have her quit her former companions, her former ease and pleasures, and go with him, where she should enjoy ease, pleasure and conversation, superior to these; he would have her be up and about her duty, following him, the lamb, whithersoever he went: in giving which advice, he sought her own good and comfort, as well as his own glory. The Jewish writers understand it as God’s call to the people of Israel to come out of Egypt.

    III. The loving and affectionate titles which he gives her, are, 1. ‘My love,’ which has been already explained in chapter 1:9. 2. ‘My fair one;’ in what sense the church is fair and comely, has been shewn in chapter 1:5, the church is Christ’s fair one; not upon the account of her works of righteousness, as the Targum explains it; but upon the account of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the pardon of her sins thro’ his blood, and the sanctification of his Spirit. The Septuagint add a third character, ‘my dove;’ but this is not in the Hebrew text. Now he uses these titles, (1.) To shew her his ardent love and tender affections to her; that though she was in a carnal and secure frame, and negligent in her duty, yet she was his love and fair one still. (2.) To remove all discouragements from her that might arise from the consideration of her present state and condition. (3.) To prevail upon her arise and go with him; and indeed an exhortation, expressed in such moving language, delivered in such an affectionate manner, one would think, could not fail of succeeding, especially when pressed with a claim of interest in her, my love, and my fair one; as also when designed for her own good, for so the words may be read, ‘rise up for thyself, and come away for thyself;’ it will turn to thy advantage, if thou dost do so; if not, it will be detrimental to thee. What other arguments he makes use of to enforce this upon her, will be seen in the following verses.

    VERSE 11. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. CHRIST here presses upon and encourages his church to rise up from her present state of sleep and sloth, and come away with him, where she might enjoy peace and pleasure! and this he does by informing her, that it was now spring-time; that the winter was past, and the spring was come, in which every thing looked gay, pleasant, and delightful; the rain was over and gone, which made journies difficult, and rivers unpassable, and in the room of it, fair and sunshine weather; that that time of the year was over which was bad to travel in, as Christ says, ‘pray ye that your flight be not in the winter;’ and therefore she might without fear, and with the utmost safety as well as pleasure, venture abroad with him. Winter and rain are very properly put together, since rain is frequent in the winter-season; and hence it has the name of imbrifer from it. Now by this winter, which is said to be past, and the rain that is said to be over and gone, may be meant, either, First, The state and condition both of the Jews and Gentiles, before the coming of Christ in the flesh, when it was a winter, a rainy and stormy dispensation with both of them. Winter is used by some writers, not for the season of the year, but for a storm and tempest; and figuratively, for some calamity, as war, etc. And, 1st, It may be expressive of the state of the Jews before Christ’s coming It is true, they were a people peculiarly chosen by God, and were indulged by him with special favors above the Gentiles; they had the knowledge of the true God, and were instructed in his mind and will; for he gave them his law to direct them, and sent his prophets time after time to inform, teach, rebuke, warn and admonish them; whilst the Gentiles lived without the law, and had only the dim fight of nature to guide them: and yet the dispensation which the Jews were under, before Christ’s coming, when compared with the gospel-dispensation, may be said to be a winter, a rainy and stormy one; which began when the law was given on mount Sinai, which was attended with blackness, darkness, and tempest. These people were all along treated by God, as if they had been under a covenant of works; for whilst they lived in obedience to the divine will, they enjoyed without disturbance their civil and religious privileges; but when they broke and transgressed the divine laws, the clouds of God’s wrath gathered thick and black about them, and stormy judgments descended on them, which begat in them a spirit of bondage; so that their services which they performed to God, were not attended with that spirit of liberty and ingenuity, with that faith and chearfulness, as now appear in the saints in this spring-time of the gospel: it was a time of coldness and barrenness, the sun of righteousness not having as yet arisen in their horizon, with his warming and fructifying influences as he has done since: it was a time of much darkness and obscurity; for though there were some discoveries of Christ and his grace to believers then, yet these were made through dark shadows, cloudy and smoaky sacrifices: a little before Christ’s coming in the flesh, and appearing in his public ministry, there was a violent rain, nay, a flood of error, infidelity and profaneness, came pouring in among them; the law of God was corrupted with false glosses, his institutions and ordinances changed and altered, and his temple profaned; one sort set up the traditions of the elders, against the positive commands of God; another denied the resurrection of the dead, and a future judgment; and both obstinately persisted in their infidelity concerning the Messiah, when he appeared among them. This was the face of things when Christ was manifested in the flesh; who, by his ministry, checked the infidelity and profaneness of the age; and, by his death, put a period to the Mosaic dispensation: so that now those cloudy and shadowish ceremonies are gone; the night of Jewish darkness is ended, and the old covenant is waxen old, and vanished away. 2dly, It may also point out the state and condition of the Gentiles before Christ’s coming. The times before the gospel came among them, were times of ignorance; they were strangers to the knowledge of the true God, to his mind, will, and worship; darkness covered them, yea, gross darkness was all, around them; storms of divine wrath hang over their heads; they were under the manifest tokens of God’s displeasure, being given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart, and were shut up in sin and unbelief; their hearts were frozen up; and seemed scarce capable of having any impressions made upon them; the Gentile world looked like an heath, a desert, or a wilderness, all barren and unfruitful, like the earth in winter time; an impetuous rain and flood of profaneness, error and seduction, overflowed it: God suffered them to walk in their own ways, and to follow the imaginations of their own hearts; they were left to worship birds, fourfooted beasts, and creeping things; to fall down to stocks and stones, and graven images, and pray to a god that could not save: but when the gospel was sent among them by Christ, the face of the Gentile world was quite altered, and appeared like the earth after a winter season, upon the returning spring; gospel light diffused itself through all the parts thereof, and dispelled the shades of darkness, blindness, ignorance, profaneness, and infidelity; gospel grace, with its warming influences, thawed their frozen hearts, and left some deep and lasting impressions on them; that which looked like a wilderness, is become a fruitful field; and that which was as a desert, now appears as the garden of the Lord: such a mighty change has the spring-time of the gospel made in the Gentile world! Or else, Secondly, This winter and rain, which Christ says were past and gone, may be understood of the spiritual state of souls; mad that either before or after conversion. The state of believers before conversion, may be represented by it, which is a time of darkness, deadness, coldness, barrenness, and unfruitfulness, and is only removed by the powerful and effica-claus grace of Christ; and often after conversion, is a winter season with them; they are frequently annoyed with the blustering winds and rains of Satan’s temptations, which beat upon them like a storm against a wall: this enemy of their souls often comes in like a flood upon them: and would bear them away, were it not for the power and grace of the Spirit of God, which are opposed unto it; they are often under the fearful apprehensions of storms of impending wrath, for their sins and transgressions against God; they are seldom free from sharp crosses and afflictions, and are often under the nipping blasts of persecution; which may be compared to the winter season for its sharpness and severity, though exceeding wholesome.

    Moreover they are sometimes in a great deal of darkness of soul; the clouds interpose between Christ and them, so as they cannot behold him, and their interest in him; their hearts are often hard and frozen up, so as no impressions are made either by the preaching of the word, or by the providences of God; a great deal of coldness .frequently attends them; there is a chill upon their love to God, to Christ, to his people, ordinances, cause and interest, which is occasioned by the prevailings of sin and corruption in them: sometimes they look like trees in winter, barren and unfruitful, with no appearance of the fruit of grace, nor leaves of profession, but as if they were intirely dead and lifeless; and when this is their case, it may be said to be a winter-season with them: but though this is sometimes their case, it is not always; they have their returning seasons of peace, joy and comfort, when it may be said, ‘the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone;’ then light breaks in upon their souls, and their hearts are melted with a sense of divine love; they become lively in their frames, and in the exercise of their grace, and fruitful in every good word and work; calmness and serenity of mind, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are the delightful blessings which the soul now enjoys: all these, and much more, does the sun of righteousness bring along with him, and produce in us, when he arises with healing in his wings, and turns a cold and nipping winter into a pleasant and delightful spring. But when it is a winter-season with believers, they have little or no communion with Christ, which was the church’s case here the rains that fall, and the floods occasioned thereby, interrupt their fellowship; and the clouds of darkness and doubts and fears, which hang over their heads, hinder them from beholding; Christ, and their interest in him: now this must needs be a very melancholy and uncomfortable time unto them; and therefore to hear that the winter is past, and the spring is come, that the rain is over and gone, that the clouds are dispersed, and the air is clear, bright and serene, must needs.be good news and glad tidings to them. Moreover, souls, whilst in such a state, are usually indolent and inactive; they have neither hearts nor hands to work, but both are sealed up; they are neither diligent in the way of their duty, nor active in the exercise of grace, as the church appears to be here: also they are ready to think that the winter is not over when it. is, but fear that there are more storms behind; not only of crosses, afflictions, persecutions and temptations; but which are worse than all the rest, that there are storms of divine wrath and anger behind, which will fall upon them; though these have been all borne by Christ, and are effectually and eternally removed by him; and believers may be assured of this, whatever their fears are, that not a drop of wrath shall fall upon them; for Christ has satisfied law and justice, and so hath delivered them from the wrath which is to come; and he that has done this, says, the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone: this is the voice of the gospel, and a joyful sound it is. The Jewish writers interpret this of the bondage of the people of Israel in Egypt, and their deliverance out of it; as do stone Christian interpreters f312 of the Babylonish captivity, and the Jews deliverance from thence; it being a Chaldee word that is here used to express the season of the year by: but the senses before given, seem to be much preferable to either of them; though it is true, that the two former deliverances did produce a springtime of joy and rejoicing after a cold and nipping winter of trouble and sorrow; and were indeed wrought in the spring of the year,as was also our redemption by Christ Jesus, they were typical of.

    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. THE church 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 travelling 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. 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:’ 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: 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 intirely referred to the divine Spirit by the royal Psalmist, thus, <19A430> 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 gaity and chearfullness, 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. Some 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; 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, 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 some to the gathering of flowers, making of garlands, etc. as well as applied by others 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 writers 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 him he says, that ‘the voice of the turtle was heard in their land;’ which is a kind of dove, that, as naturalists 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. By which may be meant, either the church, which is compared to a turtle-dove, <19C401> Psalm 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, 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 others understand it of the Messiah himself: or else, the voice of Christ himself, preaching the everlasting gospel; R. Simeon Ben Jochai 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.

    VERSE 13.

    The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

    TO the three former evidences of the spring, here are added two more.

    I. ‘The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs.’

    II. ‘The vines with the tender grape give a good smell.’ As also, III. The former call is repeated, ‘Arise my love, my fair one, and come away.’

    I. As a fourth evidence of the winter being over, and the spring being come, Christ tells his church, that the fig tree was putting forth her green figs; which is a full confirmation of its being come, nay, of its being pretty well advanced; for Christ, in Matthew 24:32. makes it a sign of the summer’s being at hand, when the fig-tree shoots out its tender branches, and puts forth its leaves: Theopompus speaks of figs in the middle of the spring; and Plutarch, of the vernal leaves of the fig-tree R. Aben Ezra thinks, that the word translated, ‘putteth forth,’ signifies the sweetening of the figs, and so points out the time when the green or unripe figs begin to grow sweet and eatable: so that as the flowery fields would be delightful to her eye, and the chirping birds affect her ear; there were also figs ripening apace to please her taste; as the vines with the tender grape in the following instance, would give a refreshing odor to her smell; all which would be very entertaining to her, and one would think enough to invite her to arise and go with him. By the fig-tree, both the Targum and R. Aben Ezra understand the congregation of Israel; who they say, is here compared unto it; as indeed Israel is to the first ripe fruit of this tree, Hosea 9:10 and the godly among the captive Jews are, in Jeremiah 24:2-5. and therefore by. it may be meant the saints, putting forth their grace in exercise on Christ; who may be compared to fig-trees for the following reasons. 1. The fig-tree is a tree full of large leaves, so large, that our first parents, after their fall, by sewing them together, made themselves aprons to cover their nakedness; which may be an emblem of a profession of religion, and of a conversation agreeable to it; which, though they ought to be found in us, yet are not sufficient to cover us; for we must also have Christ’s righteousness put upon us, and his grace wrought in us, otherwise we shall be like the fig-tree, to which Christ came, Matthew 21:19 ‘and found nothing thereon but leaves only,’ And therefore, as the saints are like figtrees that have the large ever-green and flourishing leaves of a Christian profession and gospel-conversation upon them; so, 2. They may be compared to them for their fruitfulness: the fig-tree is a tree that bears fruit as well as leaves, and that which is very wholesome, pleasant, and delightful; and if the Egyptian fig-tree is meant, that is said to bear fruit seven times a year, and as soon as you gather one fig, immediately there is another: it is true, there are barren fig-trees, that have no fruit upon them; such an one is mentioned in Luke 13:6,7, as there are also barren professors; but such are not the saints, who are filled and laden with the fruits of righteousness, and graces of the spirit, which they receive from Christ Jesus, from whom all their fruit is found: now as this is to be found from none but him, so neither is it found in any but in them; for, ‘do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ it is impossible; this fruit appears upon no other tree but the fig-tree, and therefore by their fruits ye may know them. 3. It is a tree that puts forth its fruit before its leaves which shews us, that though we ought to have the leaves of profession upon us yet the fruit of grace ought to precede it; and therefore when persons take upon them a profession of religion, and submit to the ordinances of Christ, care should be taken that they, as John says, Matthew 3:7, both have and bring forth fruits meet for repentance: there must be faith in the heart, as well as a confession of it in the mouth; and the one ought to go before the other; and both these make souls to appear honorable believers and professors; and such Christ’s fig- trees are. 4. It may not be amiss to observe, that the Egyptian fig-tree, which is no other than the sycamore, into which Zaccheus climbed to see Christ, Luke 19:4 may be here intended, seeing that there was great plenty of them in Judea, as is manifest from 1 Kings 10:27 though it is true, another word is used here, than what is there. Now of this tree, Pliny says that when it is cut down and cast into the water, it sinks, being dry; but when it is thorough wet, it will swim: so saints, when they first enter the waters of affliction, like Peter, they sink; but when they have been more used to them, they lift up their heads above the waters of tribulation; and as good soldiers, with courage and magnanimity of mind, endure hardness; and do not sink in their spirits under the weight of reproaches, persecutions, and afflictions, laid upon them, being supported and borne up by Christ and his grace,5. The same author says, that this kind of fig-tree will not ripen any other way than by scratching it with iron hooks: men do not begin to grow in grace, or become fruitful in good works, until their hearts are pricked with the goads and nails of God’s word, or till the fallow ground of their hearts is thrown up by the Spirit of God; nor will they grow afterwards to any purpose, unless Christ’s Father, who is the husbandman, takes his pruning-knife in his hand, and uses it: and indeed some saints never grow better than when they are attended with tribulations and afflictions, like the people of Israel, in Egypt, or like. Christ’s lilies among thorns.

    Moreover the green figs, which the fig-tree is said to put forth may intend, (1.) The beginnings of grace in the soul, which are like the young, green and unripe figs: that the fig, tree first puts forth; such as stirrings of affection to Christ, desires after a saving knowledge of him, and interest in him, pantings and breathings after the ordinances of Christ, and love to his people: all which appear very soon in the soul, and discover the work of grace begun, though as yet it is but very imperfect. For, (2.) These green and unripe figs shew the imperfection of grace in the saints; grace in the best is very imperfect in this state of life, much more must it be when it is first put forth; the work of grace in us, though it will be performed, yet at present is but a begun one, and not a finished one: saints are not arrived to the perfection they shall; they are but like green figs, and especially young converts. (3.) These beginnings of grace in the soul, being compared to green figs, shew, that grace is liable to be lost, and would be so, was it not for the almighty power which preserves it and increases it; for of all fruit, none is more easily shaken off by the wind and lost, than green and unripe figs are; see Nahum 3:12. it is no less than a miracle of grace, that those first impressions are not wholly erased by the impetuous force of corruptions within; or that these precious blossoms are not intirely blown off by the blustering winds of Satan’s temptations; or that our naughty hearts do not of themselves, as the figtree, cast off this unripe fruit: this is all owing to mighty, powerful, and efficacious grace. (4.) It may also be observed, that grace, though imperfect, is taken notice of by Christ; yea, in the very infancy of it, as soon as ever it begins to appear, even when in its bud and blossom: so far is he from despising the day of small things; where there is but little grace and little strength, as in the church of Philadelphia, he observes it, and does not crush it, but increases it; for ‘a bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoaking flax shall he not quench,’ Isaiah 42:3. (5.) It may be remarked from hence, that grace being in exercise in others, though weak, should be an argument and motive to excite and stir up ours; and indeed it is disgraceful and dishonorable to old professors, for young converts to be more active and lively in the exercise of grace than they. Christ seems to press this argument here upon the church.

    Again, the putting forth these green figs, signifies the exercise of grace on Christ, which saints put forth unto him, not by virtue of a power of their own, hut by virtue of his grace, which enables them to do it; for the putting forth of these green figs, is owing to the warming and quickening influences of the Sun of righteousness: the beginning, increase, and perfection of grace, are all from Christ; the implantation of it in the soul, and the exercise of it, depend upon him. But, II. As a fifth and last evidence of the spring’s being come and which puts it beyond all doubt, is, the flourishing of the vines, ‘the vines, with the tender grape, give a good smell.’ Fig-trees and vines are frequently mentioned together in scripture, as in <19A533> Psalm 105:33. Micah 4:4 and in many other places; and one reason is, because they grew together; for fig-trees were planted in vineyards, as is manifest from Luke 13:6. nay, it is judged by naturalists, to be very proper they should grow together: one sort of figs, the black fig, is called the sister of the vine. f338 By vines may be meant, the several distinct congregated churches of Christ, or else particular believers, see Psalm 80:14,15. Isaiah 5:7 and 27:3 who may be called so, 1. Because of their fruitfulness: the vine is a fruit-bearing tree, it produces very fine and excellent fruit; especially the vines in the land of Canaan did, of which there is a famous instance in Numbers 13:23 saints being ingrafted in Christ Jesus, the true vine, and receiving life and nourishment from him, do, by abiding in him, bring forth much fruit, and such as is not to be found in others; not wild and sour grapes, such as Christ’s Father takes no delight in,but such as he is pleased with, and glorified by. 2. Because of their dependence on Christ: the vine-tree does not grow up erect of itself; for if it is not fixed to a wall with nails or supported by something else which it lays hold on, it creeps along the ground: saints do not grow up erect of themselves, but lean upon Christ, are supported by him, and so grow up in him. 3. For their tallness in Christ: vines being propped, will run up a great height; saints being ingrafted in, and upheld by Christ, who is himself higher than the heavens, grow up from shrubs to taller trees; from babes in Christ, to ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;’ and, by virtue of grace and strength, received from him, arise from a low and mean state and condition unto a much higher one, until at length they arrive unto the full possession of the ‘prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ 4. For their weakness and unusefulness in themselves; the vine is a weak tree, and, as has been observed, cannot bear up itself: saints, they are weak in themselves, though strong in Christ; they can do nothing of themselves; neither perform duties, subdue corruptions, nor withstand temptations; but they’ can do all things through Christ strengthening them.’ The wood of the vine is of very little worth or use, as appears from Ezekiel 15:2,3 and is obvious enough to every one’s observation: saints are but poor, worthless, and unprofitable creatures of themselves; their best works and most excellent performances, are neither profitable to God, nor can they procure salvation to themselves; but are all as an unclean thing, and as filthy rags; they are unworthy of the least mercy they enjoy, and therefore it is a wonder of grace that God should in any respect be mindful of them. 5. For their durableness: though the wood of the vine is but weak and worthless, yet it is said to be very lasting and durable; Pliny ascribes eternity to it, and says of it f339a nec est ligno ulli aternior natura, no wood is of a more eternal or durable nature than this is: saints, however weak and worthless in themselves, yet shall continue and abide for ever in Christ; they are born of an incorruptible seed; they are built upon a rock, and secured by almighty power, so as they shall never perish, but shall for ever enjoy the incorruptible inheritance that is reserved for them.

    Also these vines are said to have the tender grape upon them. The word translated the tender grape, is only used in this song, and that but in two other places besides this, viz. verse 15. of this chapter, and chapter 7:12 but is used both in the Targum and Misnah in the same sense. Most of the Jewish writers think, that by it is meant the small and tender grape, which appears as soon as ever the flower is fallen off, when the vines begin to knot, and one grape can be known, and may be distinguished from another; which sense our version expresses. But I am rather inclined to think that it means the flower itself; for in the Targum on Isaiah 18:5 this word rdms smadar, is used to express the Hebrew word hxn nitzab, which signifies a flower; and not only Pliny and others, but the scriptures also testify, that vines do blossom and flower, as in the aforementioned place, Isaiah 18:5 and in Genesis 40:10 and the good smell which these vines are said to give, seems best to be understood of their time of flowering, than of any other time; for it is reported of some vines and perhaps may be true of the vines which grew in Judea, seeing that the wine of Lebanon is commended for its agreeable odor, Hosea 14:7. I say, It is reported of some vines, that in the time of their flowering they send forth so sweet a smell, that not only the vineyards themselves, but the country round about is refreshed with the sweet savor thereof; so that walking or sitting among them is both wholesome and delightful; nay, that the smell of them is so great, that serpents and other venomous creatures are driven away by it. So then the words may be rendered thus, ‘the vines, being in flower, give a good smell.’ How by these tender grapes, flowers, or blossoms of the vines, may be meant, either the graces of the Spirit in their first appearance, as before; or else, young converts, to which I rather incline, who are the fruit of Christ’s vine, the church; and though very weak and tender, yet are very dear unto, and are much regarded by Christ; and when there is a large appearance, of them, it is a great encouragement to the church, and promises a glorious vintage: so the Targum interprets it of young men and babes praising the Lord at the Red Sea, for their deliverance out of the hands of the Egyptians: and R. Sol.

    Jarchi says, it is explained of repenting sinners, in an ancient book of theirs, called Pesikta; and so I find it is also in another book of theirs, called Raya Mehimna. f346 Moreover, these vines having their tender grapes upon them, or being in flower, are said to give a good smell; which must be understood of the fragrancy of the persons of believers, being clothed with the sweet-smelling garments of Christ’s righteousness, and the delightful odor, of their graces being exercised on his person; as well as of their sweet savor, Which their pious and godly conversations send forth to all that know them, or are about them.

    III. Christ having given such full demonstrations of the spring being come, renews his call to the church, and says again, ‘Arise, my love; my fair one, and come away;’ which repetition shews, 1. Our backwardness and sluggishness: we need one call after another, one exhortation upon another, and all will not do, unless the power of divine grace is exerted; for alter repeated calls, we shall sleep on and take no notice, as the disciples did, being overborne with a body of sin and death. 2. It manifests the exceeding greatness of his love to us, and care of us; that though we have backslidden from him, yet he calls us back again; and though backward to his calls, yet he persists in them, and all along uses the most endearing and tender language to work upon us: he gives no other words but such as these, ‘my love, and my fair one.’ 3. It is a plain indication that he is unwilling that we should be without him, or he without us; and therefore having taken the most winning methods, and used the most prevailing arguments, he repeats the call. 4. It shews his importunity, and that he will have no denial; and indeed one would think there could be none given, when both our pleasure and profit are so much concerned in it; and what he calls us to, tends so much to advance both; and there will be none, and can be none, when he exerts the mighty power of his grace.

    VERSE 14.

    O my dove! that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs: let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, thy countenance is comely.

    THESE are the words of Christ to his church; and may be considered either as coming immediately out of his own mouth; or else, as recorded and related by her, as the former were: in which may be considered; I. The title or character which Christ gives to his church; ‘my dove.’

    II. Her then present place of residence; ‘in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs.’

    III. A request which he makes, which consists of two parts. 1st , That he might see her countenance. 2dly , Hear her voice.

    IV. The motives or arguments that he makes use of to prevail with her; which are also of two sorts, suited to both parts of the request, 1st , Because her voice was sweet. 2dly , Her countenance was comely.

    I. Here we meet with a new title or character given by Christ to his church, ‘my dove;’ an epithet sometimes used by lovers: he had called her his love and his fair one before, but not his dove, till now; though it is true, he had compared her eyes to doves eyes, in chapter 1:15. Now the church may be compared to the dove, for the following reasons: 1. The dove is a very beautiful creature; so is the church, as she is washed in Christ’s blood, justified by his righteousness, and sanctified by his grace; for though, while in a state of nature, she lay among the pots, and so looked black and uncomely; yet now being called by, and made a partaker of divine grace, she looks like ‘the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.’ 2. It is a very cleanly creature; it loves cleanliness; it keeps its own body clean, and teaches its young to carry their dung out of their nests; it feeds only upon pure grain, and delights in clean water: the church, or believers in Christ, are not only clean through the word which Christ has spoken, but also have their hearts ‘purified by faith in his blood, and delight in purity of life and conversation. 3. It is a very innocent and harmless creature; and therefore Christ says to his disciples, Matthew 10:16. ‘Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves:’ believers are, or at least should be, ‘blameless, harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation;’ they should live not only inoffensive to the world, but also peaceably and quietly among themselves; not biting and devouring one another; not acting the part of wolves and tygers; but behaving themselves as Christ’s innocent sheep and harmless doves. 4. It is an exceeding loving and chaste creature to its mate; it inviolably keeps its conjugal faith; adultery is rarely known among these creatures, and, whenever committed, is punished with death; for males will tear a male to pieces, and a female a female that is found guilty of it: it is also reported of the turtle-dove that upon the loss of its mate, it remains inconsolable; does not couple again, but continues a widow, and lives a mournful and sorrowful life, avoiding every thing that;night tend to remove it, and create pleasure; and that whereas before it delighted in pure and clean water, it now will not drink until it has first bemudded it; nor will it sit upon green and flourishing, but upon dry and withered branches of trees — all which is a lively emblem of the church, who is presented as a chaste virgin to Christ, Who bears an exceeding great love and affection to him, and whose absence is what she cannot bear, 5. It is a very fruitful creature; tho’ it has not many young ones, at a time yet has them very often; AElianus says that it has young ones ten times in a year; nay, in Egypt, twelve times: the church, who is married to Christ, is not only fruit, ful in grace and good works, but also brings forth many souls unto him, which has been and will be still more eminently seen in the Gentile church; see Isaiah 54:1. 6. It is a sociable creature; doves flock together as birds of a feather usually do: so saints delight to be in each other’s company; they join in fellowship one with another, and carry on a social worship together; and do not forsake the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some too often is. 7. It is a weak and impotent creature, and is often oppressed by birds of prey: the church is often distressed and persecuted by the men of the world, and forced to fly into holes and corners, as the dove does. 8. It is a very fearful and timorous creature; hence Ephraim is compared to the trembling dove in Hosea 11:11 saints are often in trembling fits, at the word of God, and in the exercise of their faith on Christ;under a sense of their own vileness, and in the apprehension of their weakness and want of power to keep and preserve themselves. 9. It has a mournful voice: saints are like doves of the vallies, mourning every one for their iniquities; and often for the loss of Christ’s presence, which they are frequently deprived of, through their unbecoming carriage to him. 10. It feeds only upon pure grain: the church feeds only on Christ, and on the wholesome words or comfortable doctrines of the everlasting gospel; she cannot live upon husks that swine eat, nor will she be fed with the chaff of man’s invention. 11. It is also very swift in flying; and therefore David wished for the wings of a dove, that he might flee away, and be at rest: souls, in their fleeing to Christ for life and salvation, move as swift as the manslayer did from the avenger of blood to the city of refuge; and afterwards, under all their trials and afflictions, he is the strong tower, whither they run and are safe: and then more especially, may they be said to be as doves, when they are upon the wing of faith, and mount up as eagles do, run and are not weary, and walk and faint not. Lastly, It is reported of the dove that it will allure wild doves by its familiar converses into the dove-house with it: those who are called by grace, will use all proper ways and methods to allure and gain others to Christ, and to a compliance with his ways and ordinances, as the church does the daughters of Jerusalem in this Song; she being a great lover of the society of saints, and of the glory of Christ therein; as the dove is of its own country, particularly of its own dove-house, and especially when near the habitations of men.

    Now Christ’s calling the church by this name, ‘my dove,’ not only shews his interest in her, but also his affection to her and perhaps the principal thing he had in view, was to assure her of it, and to encourage her in her present condition; though she was in the cleft of the rock, in a poor, desolate, and forlorn condition, yet she was his dove still; which is the next thing to be considered. For, II. She is said to be ‘in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs;’ which may be understood, either in allusion to the usual place where the dove makes her nest, which is in the rock and ‘in the sides of the hole’s mouth,’ see Jeremiah 48:28 and Adrichomius tells us, that there was a stone tower near Jerusalem, southward of the mount of Olives, called Petra Columbarum, ‘ the rock of the doves,’ where often five thousand doves were kept at one time; and perhaps here maybe an allusion to it: or else, it may be understood of the place where doves are forced to fly, when pursued by the hawk, even into a hollow rock, as described by Homer: and so may be expressive of the state of the church under persecution, when saints are forced to flee into holes and corners, and cannot openly and publicly, worship God, as they used to do, according to his mind and will; but even then God has his hiding-places for them, where he protects and preserves them until the heat of the persecution is over; for at such a time God will have a church, it shall never be entirely rooted out; neither shall hi people be without his presence, and some visible manifestations of himself unto them; for he has as great a love for them as ever: the church is his dove then, and her countenance is as comely, and her voice as sweet as ever; nor would he have her be disconsolate and disheartened in her present condition. Most of the Jewish writers refer the words to the condition that the people of Israel were in, when they were pursued by Pharaoh at the Red Sea; which seems, in some measure, to agree with the former sense which has been given. Or else, by the clefts of the rock, may be meant, either, 1. The eternal decree of election, in which, as in an immoveable and inaccessible rock, the church dwelt from all eternity, and will do so unto all eternity; which is the sense that Junius. gives of these words; God’s eternal decree of election is as immoveable as a rock; it is a foundation that stands sure, being laid, not upon the conditions of faith and holiness in the creature, but upon the sovereign will and pleasure of that God, who, ‘will have mercy on whom he will have mercy,’ and ‘will be gracious to whom he will be gracious; whose purposes cannot be disannulled, nor his counsel made void, nor he ever be frustrated of his end, for the thoughts of his heart shall stand to all generations; and as the decree of election is immoveable, irrevocable, and cannot be altered, so the doctrine of it will stand, maugre all opposition, and will prove a burdensome stone to all those that set themselves against it. Now in the clefts of this rock, the people of God dwell as in a hidden and secret place before conversion; it being neither known to themselves nor others, that they are the objects of it, until called by divine grace; and here they dwell secure, and are safely preserved, notwithstanding the fill of Adam, and their own actual sins and transgressions, until the grace that is laid up for them is actually bestowed upon them; for every one that dwells here, shall be called and sanctified, and at last eternally glorified; not one shall be lost, nor any one link in the golden chain of salvation ever be broken; of which we have an account in Romans 8:30. ‘Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified: them he also glorified:’ moreover, these persons are and ever were the objects of Christ’s love, and so they ever shall be; his love was set upon them, and his delights were with them before the world began; these are his doves, and this the place of their habitation. Or else, 2. By this rock may be meant Christ, who frequently bears this character in scripture, and particularly is said, 1 Corinthians 10:4. to be that spiritual rock, of which the Jews drank in the wilderness: and by the clefts thereof, may be meant the wounds of Christ, which were opened for the salvation of sinners, and in which believers dwell by faith; and perhaps to this the allusion is made in Exodus 33:22 where it is said, that God put Moses into the cleft of the rock, and made his glory to pass before him; for the glory of all the divine perfections is no where so manifestly seen as in a crucified Christ. Now saints are the inhabitants of this rock; here Christ’s church dwells, and that safely, being built upon a rock, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail; this is her fortress and strong-hold, where she need not be afraid of any enemy whatever, for her place of defense is the munition of rocks; and therefore, whenever under any apprehension of danger, she betakes herself to her stronghold, to Christ, the rock that is higher than she. Moreover, the church being said to dwell here, not only shews the safety of her state, but also her majesty and greatness, and her exaltation above others; see Jeremiah 49:16 for dwelling in a rock, she dwells on high; she is not now in the miry clay, but her feet are set upon a rock and her goings are established; she is not now upon the dunghill, but upon the throne; not in a mean cottage, but in a well-built, strong, and fortified castle. Indeed the other phrase, the secret of the stairs, seems to denote abasement and humiliation; though it may be better understood of Christ; as the former expression seems robe; for Christ is the stairs or ladder which Jacob saw in a vision, which reached from earth to heaven; he being God and man in one person, has, by his, mediation, blood and sacrifice, made peace between God and sinful, man, reconciled those two contending parties, brought heaven and earth as it were together, and filled up that vast distance that there was between them; he is the ladder or those stairs also, on which the angels of God ascended and descended; see Genesis 28:12 compared with John 1:51 he is likewise our way of access to God, by whom, as by steps, we ascend to him, have admittance into his presence, and are indulged with communion with him: now in the secret of these stairs or steps, did the church lie, as the dove is said to do in some hidden place during the winter season; which was the case of Christ’s dove here, (see verse 11) for Christ is the ‘hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest;’ and if any thing is particularly intended by the secret of the stairs, Christ’s; justifying righteousness seems not unlikely; which is secret and hidden to the men of the world, and is only revealed in the gospel from faith to faith: hither souls betake themselves in times of distress and, by it they are screened and sheltered from sin, law, hell and death; and dwelling here, they are in safety; for ‘he that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.’ The Ethiopic version renders it, in the shadow of the rock to which Christ is compared, Isaiah 32:2 and so the Septuagint version, in the covering of the rock; which is the shade of it: which seems to be a better sense than what some Jewish writers give of the words, who interpret them of the sanctuary or temple, and of the holy of holies, which was in it. But, III. I shall now consider the request which he makes unto her, which consists of two parts, 1st , That he might ‘see her countenance,’ 2dly , ‘Hear her voice.’ 1st, He desires that she would shew him her countenance; which supposes that she had either covered her face, as mourners do, and was bemoaning her present state and condition, bewailing her inward corruptions, as well as her outward afflictions: or else, that she was filled with shame, under a sense of sin, and blushed, as Ezra did, and could not lift up her head and eyes to Christ; but smiting upon her breast, like the poor publican, discovered the inward confusion of her mind: or else, that she was attended with fear, and that not so much with a fear of her enemies, as of his displeasure; being conscious to herself that she had acted an unbecoming part towards him: or rather, that she was filled with shamefacedness and bashfulness, and could not, with an holy boldness and an allowed freedom, approach his presence: unless we understand it of the state of the church under the Old Testament, in opposition to this under the New; when the face of the church was veiled, and she only saw Christ through dark shadows and typical ordinances; whereas we now, ‘with open face, behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord;’ And now, what Christ would have her do in opposition to all this, is, to lift up her head with joy, exercise faith upon him; use freedom with him, come with boldness to him, and look him full in the face, and keep always looking to him for every fresh supply of grace, and whatever she might stand in need-of; he would not have her be shy and bashful, fearful and faithless; but free and familiar with him, with whom he would assure her she, might. Unless we would rather understand it of his desire, that she would appear more publicly in his worship, and not lurk in holes and corners, in the clefts of rocks, and under dusty stairs; but shew ‘herself in his house, and in the courts of it, and ‘present herself a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which was but ‘her reasonable service;’ and especially seeing there was now no danger, for the storms were over, ‘the winter was past, and the rain was over and gone.’ 2dly, He desires that he might hear her voice. Believers should not be dumb when Christ would have them speak: there is a dumbness or silence which is laudable, and that is, either when they are under the afflicting hand of God, or are vilified and reproached for the sake of Christ and his gospel; but then there is a dumbness which is not so: for as there is a time to keep silence, so there is ‘a time to speak.’ 1. Believers should speak of Christ; of what he is in himself, of the glory of his person, the excellency of his righteousness the efficacy of his blood, and the sufficiency of his, grace; they should also speak of what he is unto them, being of God made unto them, ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption;’ of what characters he bears, and of what relations he stands in to them, as well as of what he has done for them, in redeeming them, and calling them by a his grace. 2. They should speak for Christ, as well as of him; and as he is a person that is much spoken against by the men of the world, therefore believers should speak for him, in vindication of his person, cause and interest; boldly assert the truths of his gospel; bravely bear a testimony against all errors, both in doctrine and worship; and not be afraid of men or their revilings. 3. They should speak to Christ; and this perhaps is the voice which Christ more especially desired to hear; they should speak to him in prayer, in praises and thanksgivings, and ascribe all the glory of their salvation to him; which is but just and reasonable in itself, becoming them, and makes for the advancement Of Christ’s glory.

    IV. The motives or arguments he makes use of to prevail upon her, to grant him what he desired of her, are these two; 1st , The sweetness of her voice. 2dly ; The comeliness of her countenance: which he mentions, not only to shew what induced him to make the request; but also to encourage her to grant it. 1st, He says, that her ‘voice was sweet;’ that is, grateful, acceptable, and exceeding well-pleasing; and therefore he desired to hear it; which she had no reason to be ashamed of. Herodotus makes mention of a dove that spoke with an human voice; such a voice Christ’s dove speaks with, and is very grateful to him; the voice as well as the countenance of lovers, is very pleasing; and such was the voice of the church,1. In speaking ofChrist, of what he is in himself and what he is to her, and has done for her, is sweet unto him; he loves to hear his people streak of these things; we are told, Malachi 3:16, that ‘they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another;’ and what did they speak of? no doubt of the excellency of Christ of what he had done for, shewn unto, and wrought in them: now what acceptance did this meet with from him? why, ‘he hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him’ of all they spake of one to another, 2. Her voice in speaking for him, confessing his name, and bearing a testimony to his truths, is sweet unto him; for he says, Matthew 10:32 that ‘whosoever shall confess him before men, him will he confess before dis father which is in heaven;’ but as for those who are ‘ashamed of him and of his words’ here on earth, he highly resents, and will be ashamed of them another day, and in another world. 3. Her voice in speaking to Christ is sweet; whether it be in prayer or in praise; her voice in prayer is so; and thus the Targum. paraphrases the words, ‘let me hear thy voice, for thy voice is sweet in prayer in the house of the little sanctuary.’ The prayer of a poor believer makes sweet music in Christ’s ears; nothing is so delightful to him; so little reason have souls to be discouraged, or fear a kind reception of their petitions with him: and so her voice in praise and thanksgiving is sweet unto him; praise is not only pleasant in itself, and comely in us, but is also exceeding delightful to him; this ‘pleases the Lord better than an ox or bullock that has horns and hoofs,’ Psalm 69:30,31. 2dly, He tells her, that her ‘countenance was comely;’ that is, beautiful, and much to be desired; and this Christ says, not only in opposition to what she was in the esteem of the world, who counted her as the offscouring of it, but also to what he was in her esteem, who looked upon herself as black and uncomely, and therefore was ashamed to lift up her head, or to have her countenance seen by him; therefore, in order to remove her unbelief, bashfulness, and misgivings of hearty he declares what she was in his esteem, whose judgment is preferable to her own, and to all others beside; for in his opinion, she was ‘the fairest among women,’ of a beautiful aspect and comely countenance, being made perfectly comely through that comeliness which he had put upon her: he saw no iniquity in her, nor any spot upon her, as clothed with his righteousness; she was in his eye a ‘perfection of beauty;’ having the most just symmetry and proportion of parts, the most agreeable shape, and the most lovely features in her face; her cheeks, being ‘comely with rows of jewels, and her neck with chains of gold,’ as in chapter 1:10. Faith is most properly the believer’s face or countenance, by which he looks on. Christ, and views a fullness and suitableness in him, and expects all needful supplies from him; which look of faith on Christ, for life and salvation, is exceeding pleasant, nay, ravishing to him; and therefore he would have his church behold him again and again; for saints never appear more comely in Christ’s, eye, than when they take a full view of him.

    VERSE 15. Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. WHETHER these words are the words of Christ or of the church, is not so manifest. Some think that they are the words of the church, to whom the care of the vineyard was committed; which, though she had in some measure neglected, as appears from chapter 1:6, yet now is heartily concerned for the flourishing of it; and therefore calls upon her attendants and companions to assist in destroying those noxious creatures the foxes, which did so much mischief to the vines that grew in it; though they rather seem to be. the words of Christ, who is the owner of the vineyard, and has an authoritative power over the officers of the church, and ministers of the gospel, to stir them up to be sedulous and careful in the. discharge of their work; for the words seem to be directed, not to angels, nor to his bride, the church, nor to the civil magistrate, but to ministers, who are more particularly employed in the care of Christ’s vineyard: and if we take them to be the words of Christ, it not only shews the power and authority of Christ over those he speaks to, and lays his commands on in so strict a manner; but also his love to, and care of his vines, the several churches, which his own right hand has planted: though perhaps they may be the words of them both jointly together; for the church, with Christ, and under him, has a right to stir up her officers to perform their work, and fulfill their ministry, which they have received of the Lord Jesus; the doing of which will redound to his glory, and her good; they both having an interest in the vines here mentioned; also the foxes, which they are ordered to take, were common enemies; both to Christ and his church; and therefore it is not said, ‘take for me or thee, but take for us the foxes.’ In these words may be observed, I. A command that is laid upon the ministers of the gospel, to ‘take the foxes, even the little foxes.’

    II. Some arguments or motives proposed to stir them up to an observance of it.

    I. The thing enjoined them is, to ‘take the foxes.’ By foxes we are to understand, either, 1st, The sins and corruptions of our nature, which may be compared unto them for the following reasons: 1. As foxes have their lurking-holes in the earth, so have these in the hearts of men, where they lie a long time undiscovered; and that not only in the hearts of wicked men, but also in the hearts of God’s own people; and therefore, says David, Psalm 19:12. ‘Who can under, stand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults;’ now it is only the Spirit of God, who ‘searcheth the deep things of God,’ that can search the inmost recesses of our hearts, discover our vile corruptions, bring them out of their lurkingholes, and slay them by the mighty power of his grace. 2. The sins and corruptions of our nature may be compared to foxes for their deceitfulness, therefore are they called ‘deceitful lusts;’ and wed they may, for we are often imposed upon by them, and deceived with them, and that under the notion either of pleasure, profit, or honor, which they promise to us, but leave us intirely short of: there is a deceitfulness in sin, which makes our hearts so deceitful, and desperately wicked as they be. 3. For the crooked ways which they take: the fox does not walk straight forward, but with several windings and turnings; the ways of sin are all crooked ways; they are so many distortions from the ways of God and godliness which are straight and even; and are so many aberrations from the divine law, which is the rule of our obedience unto God. 4. For making places barren and desert wherever they come: sin makes persons barren and. unfruitful, both in the knowledge of Christ, and in the performance of duty; so that they look like ‘the heath in the desart,’ and like ‘parched places in the wilderness.’ 5. For their friendship with serpents: there is a secret correspondence held between Satan, that old serpent, and the corruptions of our nature; by virtue of which he often compasses his end, and gains his purpose, which he could not do on Christ, there being no such matter for him to work upon; he had none of his old friends there to let him in, as he has in our hearts.

    Now the ministers of the gospel may be said to take these foxes, when they lift up their voices like a trumpet, and exclaim against them, expose the Wickedness and deceitfulness of them and shew souls the danger they are in by them; when they are made useful to bring persons under a conviction of them, and, as it were, to ferret them out of their lurking-holes: moreover,’ by the power of the Spirit of God attending the ministry, the ‘strong-holds of sin’ are pulled down, and the vain imaginations, of mens hearts subdued, and every vile thought brought ‘into captivity, to the obedience of Christ,’ and a revenge taken upon all disobedience. Not but that private Christians, as well as ministers, should watch and pray against them; fight in order to take them, and, when taken, should bring them to Christ, as his and their enemies, to be slain by the mighty power of his grace; and not only gross sins, but even ‘little foxes,’ the very first motions of sin, are to be watched against and struck at; we should abstain from all appearance of it,’ knowing that lesser sins will bring us into the commission of greater, and insensibly grow upon us; so R. Alshech interprets these little foxes of little sins. Or else, 2dly, By these foxes may be meant false teachers or heretics; so the false prophets in Ezekiel’s time were called by him, Ezekiel 13:3,4. ‘O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the desarts;’ and so may false apostles and false teachers now, and that for the following reasons; 1. For their craftiness, and subtilty. The fox is remarkable for its cunning and craftiness, of which some writers give us many instances: sometimes he feigns himself dead, lies upon his back, with his mouth open, and his tongue out, so that he looks every way as a dead carcase; by which means he invites the fowls of the air to feed upon him, but when come, devours them with open mouth; for the same purpose, at other times, he rolls himself in the red earth, that he might appear as bloody, and then, as before, lays himself down upon the ground as dead, and thereby lays a bait for the unwary birds: so when he is taken in a snare, and finds that there is no escaping, he prostrates himself upon the ground, holds his breath, and in all appearance seems dead, which the snare-setter supposing to be real, looses the snare, without any suspicion of his escaping; but finding himself free, gets upon his legs, and away he hans: also when hunted, he will run among a flock of sheep or goats, and leap upon the back of some one of them, which puts the whole flock into a fright, and causes them to run one after another, and, for fear of damage, the huntsman is obliged to call in his dogs: these, with many other instances of his subtilty, as his artful method of catching crabs and lobsters with his tail: destroying of wasps, clearing himself of fleas, tricking the hedge-hog, revenging himself upon the badger, and catching of hares, are recorded by several writers. Hence false teachers may be very fitly compared unto them, who act in disguise, lie in wait to deceive, walk in craftiness, and handle the word of God deceitfully, speak lies in hypocrisy, use good words and fair speeches, and thereby deceive the hearts of the simple. 2. For their malignity: foxes are cruel as well as cunning, they are very noxious and hurtful creatures; and so are false teachers, they are wolves though in sheeps Clothing; their heresies are damnable, their doctrines are pernicious, and their words eat as doth a canker; they subvert the faith of some, and bring ruin and destruction upon themselves and others, 3. For their hunger and voraciousness: all the cunning ned cruelty that the fox uses, is to satisfy his greedy appetite; and so the principal end of false teachers, is not to serve Christ, but their own bellies; to devour widows’ houses, and making merchandise of others, to enrich themselves, and indulge their own pride and vanity. 4. For their feigning themselves to be domestics: it is reported of the fox that when it draws nigh to a farm-house, it will mimic the barking of a dog, which the hens and geese being used to, walk about with less guards and with more confidence approach to him, and so are surprised and devoured by him; so false teachers put on sheeps clothing, transform themselves into angels of light, as their master before them has done; mimic the voice of Christ’s ministers; use some phrases and expressions which they do, which serve as a blind to the people; and so craftily do they put their words together, that it is not an easy thing to discover them. 5. As foxes are filthy, abominable, and stinking creatures, so are these, not only to God, but to his people; and therefore are also compared to wolves and dogs; and are not so much as to be received into the houses of good people, nor to be hid God-speed by them.

    Now the ministers of the gospel are to take these foxes; they being overseers of the flock, and keepers of Christ’s vineyard; are to watch against them, and make a discovery of them, they are to oppose and refute their erroneous doctrines; and being detected, and convicted of heresies, they are with the church after proper admonitions given, to reject and cut them off from the church, and communion with it: it is true, they are not to take away their lives, but they are to exclude them, from fellowship with them, and not suffer them to continue with them, either as members or officers; nay; even the little foxes are to be taken. Heresy is compared to leaven; the erroneous doctrines of the Scribes and Pharisees are called so, and ‘a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.’ Heresies and heretics are to be nipped in the bud,, otherwise they will increase to more ungodliness; great things have rose from small beginnings: these things should be taken in time; for errors, seemingly small at first, have grown larger, have spread themselves, and have been very fatal to the churches of Christ; therefore no error or heresy should be connived at, under a notion of its being a small or a harmless one; for even little foxes are to be taken. Some connect the word little with the vines next mentioned; and so it strengthens the reason, why care should be taken to preserve them from the foxes, since they are small and tender. 3dly, Here are motives and arguments proposed to induce a compliance to this command of Christ’s. 1. The mischief Which these foxes do to the vines, is made use of as one, which spoil the vines: it has been observed by many that these kind of creatures do hurt to the vines; and that by destroying the fences, knawing the branches, biting the bark, making bare the roots of the vines, devouring the ripe grapes thereof, and infecting all with their noxious teeth and vicious breath: so heretics and false teachers break down the church’s fence, by making schisms and divisions, make bare her roots, sap the very foundation of religion, by corrupting the word of God, and denying the great doctrines of the gospel; and hurt her fruit, by disturbing the peace of her members, unsettling some, and subverting others. 2. Another argument that is made use of to stir them up to diligence in taking the foxes, is, because the vines have tender grapes; by vines are meant the several distinct congregated churches of Christ; by the tender grapes or flowers thereof, we are to understand young converts, whom Christ is very tender of, and has a particular regard unto; see Isaiah 40:11 and 42:3 and these having buts small degree of faith, knowledge, and experience, like children, are more easily tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness of these foxes, whereby they lie in wait to deceive: now generally they make their onset upon these, as being more easily wrought upon, and by whom they can with more facility compass their end; and this being then the case, the ministers of Christ ought to be more sedulous and diligent in the discovering of those foxes, from whom so much,mischief may be expected, and more bold, vigorous, and courageous in opposing and rejecting them; seeing the churches of Christ are like to sustain so considerable a loss by them, and in danger of having a promising vintage spoiled. It is true, the foxes love the ripe grapes and devour them, and not when they are, blossoming and knotting; which shews Christ’s care of his vines, to be the greater, that he would have little foxes taken .while the vines were blowing; for by such time, as the grapes were ripe, these little foxes would be great ones, and would be capable of doing more damage, and not so easy to be taken neither; so that the consideration also of there being less difficulty now, than there would be hereafter, might animate them to set about the work immediately. 3. Christ seems to intimate as if they had some interest in these vines; for which reason they ought to be the more heartily and vigorously concerned for the welfare of them; therefore they are called our vines: it is true, Christ has a sole right unto, and property in the vineyard; the vines are all of his planting, and the fruit of them belongs to him; yet those to whom the vineyard is let out, who are intrusted with the care of the vines, and who must give an account of them to the chief and principal owner, have also an interest therein; for though our great Solomon must have a thousand, whose the vineyard is; yet ‘those that keep the fruit thereof must have two hundred,’ Song of Solomon 8:11, 12, so that if they should be